Saturday, 15 December 2012

We Wish You A Merry Christmas




Excited by the coming Winter Solstice and the Yuletide Season of Good will, or perhaps just the figgy pudding ahead, Celestial Elf does a happy dance.

The tradition of Carol singing or wassailing falls into two distinct categories: The House-Visiting wassail and the Orchard-Visiting wassail. House-Visiting wassail, caroling by any other name, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols. The word Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon toast Wæs þu hæl, "be thou hale" — i.e., "be in good health". The practice has its roots in the middle ages as a reciprocal exchange between the feudal lords and their peasants as a form of recipient initiated charitable giving, to be distinguished from begging. This point is made in the song "Here We Come A-Wassailing", when the wassailers inform the lord of the house that
"we are not daily beggars that beg from door to door but we are friendly neighbours whom you have seen before."


  
The lord of the manor would give food and drink to the peasants in exchange for their blessing and goodwill, which would be given in the form of the song being sung. Wassailing is the background practice against which an English carol such as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" dating back to sixteenth century England, can be made sense of.[4] The carol lies in the English tradition where wealthy people of the community gave Christmas treats to the carolers on Christmas Eve such as 'figgy puddings. 

 
 
~ **We wish you a Merry Christmas ** ~

 We wish you a Merry Christmas (x3)
and a Happy New Year.

REFRAIN 
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Now! bring us some figgy pudding (x3)
and bring some out here. (or, and bring it us here)

REFRAIN 
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

For we all like figgy pudding (x3)
so bring some out here.

REFRAIN 
 Good tidings we bring to you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

And we won't go until we've got some (x3)
so bring some out here.

REFRAIN 
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


It's a season for music (x3)
and a time of good Cheer.

REFRAIN
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

(Some versions print the refrain as "Glad tidings" instead of "Good tidings')


~ * Figgy Pudding Recipe * ~


Figgy Pudding



1 cup suet
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons rum
1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 pound dried figs, ground or finely chopped
Grated peel of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large egg whites, stiffly beaten

Grease a two-quart mold.
Cream together butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, egg yolks, milk, extract, apple, figs, lemon and orange peel. Add next 6 ingredients, mixing well. Fold stiffly beaten egg whites into mixture.
Pour into two-quart buttered bowl or mold and place into large shallow pan and steam for four hours.

Custard Sauce
2 cups milk
1 large egg
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
In saucepan, scald milk and allow to cool.
Mix together remaining ingredients, except for butter. Add to cooled milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, mixing well.
Serve pudding warm with custard sauce or sweetened whipped cream.


 We All Want Figgy Pudding
 & A Happy New Year



Rituals for Yule


SUPPLIES: Yule log (oak or pine) with white, red and black candles on it (set it in the fireplace), chalice of wine, small piece of paper and pencil for each person.

The altar is adorned with evergreens such as pine, rosemary, bay, juniper and cedar, and the same can be laid to mark the Circle.

~* Ritual for Yule *~

After casting the circle the Priestess should say:

"Since the beginning of time, we have gathered in this season to
celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.
On the Winter Solstice, the darkest of nights,
The Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again
gives birth to the Sun and the new yearly cycle,
Bringing new light and hope to all on Earth.
On the longest night of winter,
and the dark night of our souls,
there springs the new spark of hope,
the Sacred Fire,
the Light of the World.
We gather tonight to await the new light.
On this night, the Maiden, who is also Mother
and Crone, prepares to welcome the Sun.
Let's now prepare to welcome the new light within."

~Invocation to the Goddess and God:

(Priest) "I light this fire in your honor Mother Goddess
You have created life from death, warmth from cold
The Sun lives once again, the time of light is waxing.
We invite you, Great Mother, to our circle
Bring us new light, the light of your glorious Son."

(Priestess light the white candle on the Yule log and say):

"I come to you as Maiden
Young and free, fresh as springtime
Yet within me a yearning stirs to create and share
and so I become...

(Light the red candle) The Mother

I bring forth the fruit of my creativity
Yet an ancient prophet once told me, as I stood with my son,
A sword shall pierce through thy own heart also
And I knew that I must become...

(Light the black candle) The Crone

The ancient wise one, Lady of Darkness
We three - in - one who brought forth that special child
as long ago, also anointed him for burial-
A bright light that grew and was sacrificed to be reborn
as a new light."

(Priest) "Ancient God of the forest, we welcome you

Return from the shadows, O Lord of Light.
The wheel has turned. We call you back to warm us.
Great God of the Sun
I welcome your return
May you shine brightly upon the Earth."

~Consecration of the Yule Log

(Priestess) "Yule is the end of the old solar year and the beginning
of the new one. Traditionally, the end of the year is a time
to look back and reflect. It is a time to look ahead
to the future, to make plans and set goals."

On your piece of paper, write something you hope to accomplish during the coming year. 

When you are finished, attach the slip of paper to the Yule Log.

Priest picks up the chalice and says:

"We toast the new year (sprinkles wine on the log) and in token
of its promise, we consecrate this sacred wood as a focus for the
energies through which we accomplish our tasks and manifest our
desires during the coming cycle."

~All drink from the chalice.


(Priestess) "You who have died are now reborn. Lend us your light through
the winter months as we await the spring. 
Let us now light the Yule Log.
Once having burned with the Yule fire, 

these candles will contain the luck of the log 
throughout the coming year."
(remember to save a small piece of the log for next Yule 

or save the ashes or the candles.)

~Priest and Priestess light the Yule log together.


~Closing:

(Priestess - extinguishing the God taper)
"Thank you Bright Lord
for the light you have brought to us this night
May we carry it within us throughout the coming year."

(Priest - extinguishing the Goddess taper)

"Thank you most gracious Lady
for your freshness of spirit, your nurturing care
your infinite wisdom
Live within us throughout the coming year.
So mote it be."

~Close the circle the way you usually do.~


My thanks to The White Goddess for this ritual.


~* A Solitary Yule Invocation *~

Morning light will flood the chamber
- winter solstice sun.

 
Energy unfolding,

Saturn’s rule has just begun.

 
Crystals formed of ice and frost
freeze field and forest green.

 
While Mighty Oak and Holly
Fight for favours from our Queen.

 
The Great Wheel brings conception,
birth, and death as days of yore.

 
Each bonfire on a leyline
honours what has gone before.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres,
seven gates swing open.

 
I lift my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
I conjure water spirits,
Pour forth the sacred winds
come hither, O great fire!
The magick now begins!

 
Solar vapors, starry heavens
clouds and earth and waves
unite in your perfection
on this shortest solstice day!

 
I hold the key of secrets
and the phantoms will avail
the crossroads shimmer open
as the rod connects to grail.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres,
seven gates swing open.

 
I list my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
Beribboned Yule logs burning
each spark a blessing brings.

 
Red and green, the sacred blood
of past and future kings.

 
Mistletoe and bayberry,
winter’s leaves and resin.

 
Spice and myrrh and evergreen
connect the Earth to heaven.

 
Through scented smoke and sacred prayer
I manifest good will.

 
Bring peace and joy to hearth and home
and every wish fulfill.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres
seven gates swing open

I lift my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
Author Unknown ~


May The Sun Shine Upon Your Life
~ * Blessed Yule To You * ~


Baba Yaga Reclaimed


 I came across this interesting account and wanted to share it;

''Once Upon a Time, there lives an elder named Baba Jaga, she was a loving woman and very powerful shaman, respected by all the rand tribes people. But one day, vampires of earth came, men who lead large armies under the Vatican's command. 700 years ago, and when the demon warriors of the church, came, they were only following the orders of their Vatican leaders.

And they wanted Baba Yaga dead in
the Slavic and Balkan lands, so first they destroyed her reputation as a Grandmother, a sin under the heaven and earth, that reaps a most severe punishment from the primordial grandmothers who are eternal.

Then they made up lies about Baba eating babies and stealing children, the second sin they committed, then they killed her women, her medicine and her soul, the third. These demons raged through the villages, forest and mountain to kill all Baba healers,who were wise sages before religion had ever touched these sacred lands, and then they destroyed her teachings and finally her original myth as shaman and wind whisperer, until all that was left, was her corpse, laying in the mud, raped and beaten.
Then the church tortured and raped her until only her name would be spoken in vain and images of her would only carry their darkness on her face. They even killed and destroyed the most sacred alkonost's, siren's and magpie women.


After 700 years of this oppression Baba Yaga is finally returning to wholeness, for Spring always returns in the circle of life and Mother Earth has commanded her wisest Baba's to restore what was corrupted. She gladly said yes with a song in her sweet voice. Knowing that sending Demons to hell is one of her favorite jobs.''
  * * *

In response to queries over the nature and orientation of Baba Yaga, was she not fearsome before she was demonized by Christian orders, I have researched further. Even when Baba Yaga appears in the most unfavorable light and has a ferocity of nature, she still knows the future, has countless treasures, and knows secret knowledge - all typical aspects in the portrayal Shamanic Wise Women and Healers.
Often she is said to live in the densest forest, which further scared people and added to the mystery and fear surrounding her because the forest is perceived as the boundary between the world of the dead and the living. No wonder then that her hut is surrounded by a palisade of human bones and skulls and that in many fairy tales, Baba Yaga eats human flesh.


Incidentally many magical practitioners of various sorts have employed aspects of death such as use of skull or grave dirt etc in their work of divination and beyond, including the pre Buddhist Bon magicians of Tibet (whilst Tibetan monks have also been known to use goblets carved from human skulls) and a 'symbolic' eating of flesh (usually by the super-natural entity) is well attested in accounts of Cunning folk and their familiar or faery spirit helpers, as well as in many forms of Christianity.

The Entsiklopediya mythology also claims that originally Baba Yaga has been a god of death: a woman with a snake tail, who guarded the entrance to the underworld and accompanied the deceased souls of the dead on their journey. This is somewhat reminiscent of the ancient Greek maiden-snake. According to ancient myths, from his marriage to Heracles Echidna gave birth to the Scythians, and the Scythians are considered the earliest ancestors of the Slavs -

Therefore whilst Baba Yaga may indeed have been a fearsome old woman that lived in a house made of bones before further demonisation by the Church, these aspects of her status as a healer and Wise Woman need not be in conflict to any extent at all. 


Blessed Be those that See xx ~

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

On Familiar Spirits;

Familiar Spirits have existed throughout man’s history. From the ecstatic rituals of Siberian Shaman, to John Dee adviser to the Queen Elizabeth I. of England and Cunning Folk across time, from Odin's two ravens and his supernatural consultations in the North, to Sorcerers, Shaman and Medicine Men of various cultures  around the world, all have consulted and employed the spirits of their ancestors, local spirits and animals for their wisdom and assistance in magickal undertakings.

Art by Remedious Varo

Yet despite the positive traditions, the most commonly shared and widely recognized archetype of familiar spirits, stemming from European fairy-tales, still have their roots in the Christian fear and prejudice of the Dark Ages, and have little in common with the real  familiars of both ancient times or modern.

During the horrific Witchcraft Trials and hysteria of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, evidence for consorting with the devil often included accounts of the accused keeping company with an animal,  many a lonely old woman was executed as a witch because of her fondness for her pet. If so much as a fly buzzed in the window while someone suspected of being a witch was being tried, it was said to be their familiar and evidence that they had made a pact with the devil.. Familiar spirits were considered by the Christian authorities as hellish imps given by Satan to his faithful followers to assist in their evil deeds.

Art by Hieronymous Bosch

Familiars were given names like any household pet, which many probably were. Perhaps the best known familiars name is 'Pyewackett', famous as the Witch’s cat in the movie Bell, Book and Candle, and a familiars name that dates back to Renaissance England. Pyewackett, said Matthew Hopkins (the infamous Witch hunter) was a name 'no mortal could invent' and thus his case against her owner was irrefutably proven.......

Art by Kathleen Lolley

It’s interesting to note that, while Witches’ familiars were considered evil during the early modern period, the harnessing of spirits was acceptable in certain circumstances.
Outside of Witch trials, more benevolent familiars were believed to exist serving Wizards, Wise men and Women (Wiccan's and Cunning Folk) who were magicians or village healers, indeed to deny their existence would also call into question the Christian faith in divine spirits, so belief in the one naturally included belief in the other. Needless to say, the common people held these spiritual guides in a different view than that of Christian orthodoxy and often considered them as or equivalent to angelic assistants sent from god. The familiar's helped diagnose illnesses and the sources of bewitchment and were used for divining and finding lost objects and treasures. Magicians conjured them in rituals, then locked then in bottles, rings and stones. They sometimes sold them as charms, claiming the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business or whatever the customer wanted.
This sort of familiar was technically not illegal; England’s Witchcraft Act of 1604 prohibited only evil and wicked spirits. Some familiars were said to be Faeries. Oberon was a popular name for fairy familiars in 15th and 16th century England.
Similarly the Christian Church itself during this period also sold indulgences or permissions which granted the buyer a limited forgiveness for sins yet to be committed, ie a sinners diplomatic passport of sorts. It seems  a case of double standards then, as consorting with the spirits was permissible as long as the spirits were considered benevolent by the Christian authorities irrespective of their effect upon the people ie healing or helping, which reputedly many wicked spirits did do, whilst Christian authorized spirits might infact follow a different path.


There is a little evidence of familiars in early American Witch trials. However one case is representative of the prejudicial perspective shared with Europe, in the Salem Trials, 1692, John Bradsheet was indicted for “inciting a dog to afflict.” The dog was tried and hanged as a Witch.....

Familiars reputedly are sensitive to psychic vibrations and power and are welcomed partners inside the magic circle and other magical work. They also serve as psychic radar, reacting visibly to the presence of any negative or evil energy, whether it be an unseen force or a person who dabbles in the wrong kind of magic. Familiars are also given psychic protection by their Witches.
Many modern Witches have animal familiars, often cats - sometimes dogs, birds, snakes or toads, as their magical helpers. Witches do not believe the familiars are “demons” or spirits in animal form but simply animals whose psychic attunement makes them ideal partners in magical workings.
Some folk it seems also use the term familiar to describe thought-forms created magically and empowered to carry out a certain task on the astral plane.

In Shamanism, a novice shaman acquires his familiar spirits, usually manifesting in animal, reptile or bird shapes, when he completes his initiation. He or she may send them out to do battle in his or her place, but if they die, so can the shaman. Familiars usually stay with their shaman until death, then disappear.

Owl by James Browne

Traditional Animal Familiars;

*Badger - Tenacity and courage. The badger will teach you perseverance and endurance in the face of adversity. The badger is a powerful protector of both material possessions and ideals held close to your heart.
*Bear – Strength, stamina, healing, medical diagnosis, strength
*Bee - The bee is industriousness, hardworking, community, work, industry, organization
*Blackbird - Enchantment, work between the worlds
*Boar – Sacred, cunning, ferocious, warrior spirit, leadership, strength
*Bull – Strength, potency, symbol of mobile power, ability to expand opportunities, creativity
*Butterfly - If a butterfly is seen while vision questing, no negative energy will be in the immediate area. Transformation, artistic endeavors.
*Crane - The crane is the bird of the Moon, magick, shamanic travel, secrets and reaching deep mysteries. The crane also represents the logical mind as well as patience while healing occurs.
*Crow - The Crow is a symbol of conflict, war and death. Its skill is wisdom with trickery. It is also a protector of scared records.
*Deer or Stag - The white Stag is a messenger from the otherworld, following the animal often leads to a quest through the Otherworld. The deer represents grace, swiftness and gentleness.
*Dog - Underworld hounds are white with red ears, they hunt and punish the guilty, they represent tracking skills and companionship as well as Loving protection.
*Dragon (lizards) - Wealth, raw powers of nature, the treasures of the unconscious mind.
*Eagle - Wisdom and long life, Keen sight, Knowledge of magick and swiftness, the eagle is a strong ally when traveling into new territory.
*Eel - Adaptability, Wisdom, Inspiration and defense.
*Fox - Cunning, slyness, Perceptive, makes fools of those who chase it.
*Frog - Shamanism, Magick, Nasty illusion with something wonderful hidden inside.
* Hare - considered fleet and swift, symbols of diligence, can also aid people in recognizing the signs around them by attuning to lunar cycles and understanding the tides of movement in their own lives.
*Hawk - Clear sightedness, teaches how to receive and interpret inner and outer signals.
*Heron - Of the Moon and magick, shamanic travel, secrets, the logical mind, through the heron one can find magick in nature.
*Horse - Stamina, endurance, and faithfulness, the horse was a faithful guide to the otherworlds.
*Magpie - Omens and prophecies.
*Mouse - Secrets, cunning, shyness, the ability to hide. If you see a mouse in a vision quest—pay attention to details.
*Otter - Enjoying life, recovering from a crisis, faithfulness, friendliness, and being helpful to others. The otter provides valuable assistance in the otherworlds.
*Owl - Teaches us to silently observe life, and gather information to gain understanding.
* Rabbit - clever, fast, coming and going as if by magic, classic tricksters, representing the triumph and joy in life, and success.
*Raven - The battle cry of an upcoming life crisis, it is a powerful protector if one can gain its favor.
*Snakes - Wisdom, reincarnation and cunning. If you see a snake while vision questing, be prepared for the power of transformation to enter your life. The snake represents the life-death-rebirth cycle.
*Swan - Helps to interpret dream symbols, smooths transitions and spiritual evolution.
*Wren - Also a symbol of Druidry for its wisdom, the wren’s song was used in divination, the power of strengthening and cleansing.

''The Ojibway word “totem” originally refers to a plant or animal symbol for a specific family or clan...In the last century however “totem” has increasingly come to refer to an individual’s particular spirit helpers''...


Art by Kathleen Lolley

A simple invocation to call a familiar spirit;

To call a magickal animal or familiar spirit you need to focus your spiritual and mental energy upon the kind of creature that you wish to engage and you need to become receptive, aware of subtelties that might evade your daily perspective.
You will create a magic circle about yourself to aid your focus as well as to assist the spirit to find you in. 
You will need a Totem of some sort for the familiar to enter into, and could spend a little time researching these before you begin, then ideally make one from suitable materials ie of feathers if winged spirit be called, of fur if mammal etc.

Once about your evocation, burn an incense which reminds you of the creature or spirit you are calling.
You should also have a drum of any sort, drumming a rythmn appropriate to the animal you seek: a timid sound brings a timid animal such as a mouse, a broken rhythm may bring a cunning stealthy fox, a loud rhythm could summon loud creatures like a bear or boar. 
Finally, you will need a candle which will reveal to you by its flame and flicker (other than in breezy times) the presence or absence of any spirit guests.

- Prepare the time and location, full moon is best, still and untroubled, a peaceful night free from storms.
- Cast your circle about you and light your incense and your candle.
- Beat on the drum to the rhythm of your heart, thus the rhythm is known to the spirits who may approach.
- Continue for at least five minutes to draw the attention of the spirit, and to approach a state of trance or of 'monotonous focus' in which the spirits all around may be better perceived.
- After you have raised both your perceptive levels and the spirit energy about you and once you feel aware of the presence of potential familiars around you, whilst still drumming, chant in time with your heartbeat and your drum something like this or similar;

I call to the creatures who are gathered here,
Of earth and air, wind and water fair.
I call to the spirits of feather, fin and fur,
Heed me here and I will aid thee there.

I call to the creatures who are listening close,
To the one who knows the how and way the most.
I call to the divine within the spirits now near,
Follow my heart and come through the air.

I call to the creature who has chosen me,
Show your bright self now and reveal to me.
Our friendship bound across eternity blessed,
 United in spirit our magical quest.

Less important the exact words,
of key importance the heart & spirit in which they are spoken or chanted.


- Stop drumming with the last words of the invocation
- Perceive the spirit by either sight of eyes or inner light if they have not manifest physically before you.
If no spirit has presented themselves, they may choose to reveal themselves to you in a vision/dream, or they may be waiting for the best time to cross the realms between...

If no spirit comes, then try again on the next full moon.

Art by Nethersphere
Spirit Be from Eternity
Blessed & True
Help Me See
* ~

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Faery Folk Envisioned, Britain's Numinous Mystics Restored.

My Review of Cunning Folk And Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions In Early Modern British Witchcraft And Magic by Emma Wilby.


This book is a remarkable and in-depth academic study of early modern English cunning-folk and witches involvement with Familiar Spirits such as Tewhit, Greedigut, Vinegar Tom, Jack Robin and Wag At The Wa, with boggles and puckles, hob gobblins, hell waines and firedrakes. Wilby proposes that early-modern witches and cunning-folk had relationships with spiritual beings similar to those of shaman in other traditional societies, such as finding stolen items, curing illnesses or causing it and providing all sorts of advice as needed.

Whilst ''Most people today would consider themselves to have little or no knowledge about early modern familiars.  In reality, however, the basic dynamics of the relationship between a cunning woman or witch, and her spirit ally, is easily recognizable to all of us, being encapsulated in narrative themes running through traditional folk tales and myths from throughout the world. Classics such as Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots, the Frog Prince and so on, are representative...These fairy stories and myths originate from the same reservoir of folk belief as the descriptions of familiar-encounters given by the cunning folk and witches in early modern Britain.''


Written in three main sections, the first summarizes the animistic popular world view of early modern Britain. Presenting the illiterate or semi-literate common people as uneducated in the Christian orthodoxy and regarding the earlier 'unintelligible' Latin Catholic rituals and later Christian religious practices as ancillary to their folk beliefs, living cheek to jowl beside and within a world populated with very real spirits of various origin, influence and intent. Drawing on Christian heresy trial accounts as well as popular folk accounts Wilby then describes these spirit-allies and their differences between those identified with 'witches - the demon familiars, and those who assisted 'cunning folk'- the fairy familiars.
The quality of faery nature is well expressed in this popular rhyme which recorded in 19thC is likely to be much older;

''Gin ye ca' me imp or elf, I rede ye look weel to yourself;
Gin ye ca' me fairy, I'll work ye muckle tarrie;
Gin guid neibour ye ca' me; Then guid neibor I will be;
But gin ye ca' me seelie wicht, I'll be you freend baith day and nicht.''

The rhyme implies that the definition of the faery was dependent upon the actions of their human allies. In other words, the human could choose to employ the same fairy to good or evil ends, and it was the moral position of the spirit's user rather than that of the spirit itself which determined the latter's moral status at any given time.'' Many comments recorded in Emma's study of the confessions of cunning folk convicted of witchcraft suggest that this ambiguous amorality of the familiar spirit may have been standard. The familiars remained cooperative provided their 'contract' was honored - that their human partner would provide respect, or food and shelter, or in some cases promise of the soul...


In the second part of the book the argument is presented that most previous studies of cunning folk and witchcraft in Britain have tended to prioritize the social role, of healing, divination etc, over any thorough examination of the relationship between the practitioner and their fairy familiar or spirit guide.
Here the author draws compelling parallels between traditional shamanism as practiced in North America, Central Asia and Siberia, with the British practitioners experience as revealed through the evidence of both witch-trials and folk accounts. ''The relationship between shamans and their spirits is like the relationship between cunning folk or witches and their familiars...''  although they could indeed represent themselves as a man or woman, or an animal such as a dog, stereotypical cat, raven or toad, they also could be entirely immaterial and perceived only in the 'flight' to the other and inner realms of trance states.

The ambiguity remains consistent however wherever the spirits may be based as the author quotes Ronald Hutton historian's notes that ''among traditional Siberian cultures some spirits were regarded with 'respect, affection, solicitude' while others were seen as 'groups of efficient but untrustworthy thugs....and would punish with death any human master or mistress who shirked the duties of the shamanic vocation''. That witches generally first encountered a familiar or demon spirit during a pivotal moment of extreme stress, they may have for example family members may have fallen seriously sick - which happened often in earlier times, or they may have lost a farm animal to illness - which could lead to ruin or even death in a poor agricultural farming society. Wilby compares these pressures and threats to the sort of preparation to encounter a guiding spirit that shaman in traditional societies undertake - fasting, depriving themselves of sleep, and creating other physical extremes.

Wilby also argues that the concept of traveling to a sabbat is often seen to be the Christian interrogating authorities interpretation of the witch accompanying a fairy into fairyland, where they may learn magical such as how to use medicinal plants to heal, however this interpretation of the evidence as biased by elite intervention may not necessarily be correct due to the peoples own obfuscation of any clear boundaries between the folk faith and Christian church orthodoxy as it was(n't) understood.


In the final section of the book Wilby considers whether the evidence suggests that peoples encounter experiences were primarily visionary and trance derived via a number of diverse methods, or alternately more paraphsyical than psycho-spiritual in nature and presents Paracelsus claim for the latter that ''Everyone may educate and regulate his imagination so as to come thereby into contact with spirits, and be taught by them''....This view in no way negates the reality of Familiar and Faery spirits, but rather places their existence in the shamanic realm of trance and ecstasy, the trance is not necessarily of the ''all fall down...''variety. 
That similar beliefs may have also existed on a popular level are suggested by Robert Kirk's claim ( author of The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies) that perception of a spirit will continue so long as the seer can keep their eye steady without twinkling. Thus relatively ordinary activities could mask powerful contemplative techniques which developed a sustained 'monotonous focus' in which state the hidden realms all around us may be perceived. 

Employing 'monotonous focus' and 'psychic destabilization' like the shaman, the common and unlettered folk - women, children and poor men, were capable then of skills as intimated by the sixteenth century German magician Cornellius Agrippa. In support of such views and highlighting the similarities between early modern cunning folk and witches and the encounter experiences of Siberian and Native American shamans, she references Mircea Eliade's claim (author Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy and much more) that shamanism is at root a psychological tendency rather than a religious belief...''we see no reason for regarding is as the result of a specific historical movement...as produced by a certain form of civilization. Rather, we would consider it fundamental in the human condition''. 

Despite the Victorian, early twentieth century and even relatively recent historiographical tendency to 'pathologize' and thereby dismiss as unimportant the visionary dimension of the familiar encounter, as boastings and ravings of the half crazy, and strange, mad outpourings, nightmares and collective fantasies, of mental illness and schizophrenia, Wilby points out that since the 1950's advances in psychology, ethnography and comparative religion have rendered such simplistic diagnosis untenable. That ''magical cures of cunning folk were effective on many levels...that charms prayers and ritual were effective in curing psychosomatic aspects...divinitary techniques may have led the client to subconsciously reveal their wishes or suspicions...'' Earlier and reductionist views such as those of Sir James Frazer who held that tribal magico-religious belief systems were (merely) an amalgamation of cause and effect magical technologies designed to meet basic survival needs, have been eloquently dismissed by subsequent academics such as the prominent scholar of religion Ninia Smart ''Frazer's theory neglects the perception of the numinous...'' 

It has become clear that the range of potentially healthy states of consciousness is considerably broader than previously imagined, that there is more to the experience of spirits and faeries than self delusion and misrepresentation, here we discover genuine spiritual experiences of envisioned guides and sacred beings.



To conclude her study ''because there has been little attempt to analyze the 'fantasies' of cunning folk and witches in relation to visionary experience as it is found in magical belief systems and religions throughout the world including Christianity...'' Wilby examines a variety of comparative religious perspectives and their similarities with the narrative encounters of early modern cunning folk and witches. Despite their acknowledged moral ambiguity - they are not characterized by any Christian anti worldly 'moral purity' of action or intent but display the full range of human motivations, their widespread theatricality such as dressing in dark gowns or carrying ominous stave's ''carved with heads like those of satyrs'' and their use of deception, the cunning folk and witch visionaries are portrayed as Britain's 'unrecognized mystics' who experienced spiritual revelations of a higher dimension. In this context Wilby's assessment of Christianity and other religions suppression of unorthodox spiritual perception and practice (outside of their own orthodox canon of wise men, miracles, healing powers and prophecies ) is seen to be about the Church and State avoiding loss of authority and of maintaining a monopoly over all things psychic and spiritual - at any cost.

This position was contrary to the common folk belief that magical practitioners skills sprung from a divine origin ''It is a gift which God hath given her...(by virtue of this gift, she) doth more good in one yeere then all these Scripture men will doe so long as they live.'' Indeed, after the Reformation, cunning folk even took on the role previously played by the Catholic Saints and had been compared to Christ himself. The author also portrays the similarities between Christian (and Old Testament) mystics and their visionary relationships with Angels and Christ, and the cunning folk and shaman envisioned encounters, that essentially derive from the same numinous origins and are clothed in the imaginal furnishings of the 'seer' and their psycho-spiritual and cultural environment. 

In our modern world with the decline of Christianity and contrasting rise of interest in many ancient traditions and folk beliefs, it is indeed fascinating to see how ''a mysticism unsupported by societal organizations and which was upheld by no sacred buildings, no visible iconography, no sacred books, no formalized doctrine or cosmology and no institutionalized ritual...how such formless and invisible constructs could have challenged the Christian Church for the hearts and minds of ordinary people'', yet they have done so and the invisible faery spirits of folk legends, faery tales and the cunning folk-witch encounter narratives, are revealed to be within reach once again.



Wilby's hypothesis then is that the fairy encounter narratives of cunning folk and witches recorded in the early modern witch trials evidence a surviving trend of folk beliefs extending unbroken from a pre christian shamanic world view. Shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award, 2006, the author makes an overwhelming case for the long term existence of an ancient British-Shamanic tradition. She also re-configures our understanding of witches and cunning folk as animist shamans embedded in local communities. This is an iconoclastic reversal of modern academic opinion that witches experience of spirits and their attested narratives were either the product of mental illness or more likely perhaps an enforced or contrived collusion between the often illiterate prisoner and their elite and educated religious inquisitor. That magical practitioners across the length and breadth of Britain had stood up in courtrooms and '' 'persisted in telling long and involved stories about faries' despite the fact that in doing so they often knowingly condemned themselves to death'' demonstrates in a definite way as could be possible the conviction, integrity and respect with which the cunning folk regarded their familiar spirits.


Emma Wilby's book is a remarkable, timely and novel way of looking at them (Cunning Folk And Familiar Spirits ), and one of the most courageous yet attempted. (Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol)
Fascinating and well researched ... a genuine contribution to what is known about cunning folk and lays very solid foundations for future work on the subject. (Brian Hoggard, White Dragon)
Emma Wilby s conclusions and her explanation of how she drew them, laid down here in the commendable modern academic tendency towards plain English that has moved away from the previous generations overly complex sentence structure, is worth its weight in gold. (Ian Read, Runa).

Anyone with a genuine interest in Faeries and Spirits, Cunning Folk and Witches, Shamanism and Native British Spirituality both early-modern and contemporary, should turn off their electricity for a while, take a long tiring walk in the forests, hills and glades - or a series of them,
and then by candle bright some magic night
should read this book with deep delight,
the end. 
(Celestial Elf).


If Faerie spirit thou wouldst see, look inside the air and be, 
beyond the realm of earthly need, 
the magic of divinity ~

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Wicca Refreshed; Likely Lineage Revealed

My Review of
Wicca Magical Beginnings - The history and origins of the rituals and other practices found in the Book of Shadows of Gerald Gardner and other traditions of modern initiatory Pagan Witchcraft
Sorita d'Este (Author), David Rankine (Author)

Wicca Refreshed; Likely Lineage Revealed.

   
This book entails a refreshing and objective overview of the plausible origins and developments of many magickal aspects and their development into modern Wiccan traditions. Chapter by chapter the authors examine individual practices and their developments over time such as the Magick circle, Wiccan Rede and Witches Athame for example.


Having recently read Ronald Hutton's research in The Triumph of the Moon, which seems to demonstrate that despite the history of Cunning Folk, Wise Women and many others, that Wicca as it exists today has little or no direct connection with any magick traditions of earlier times, this book - if we are able to join the dots between movements and grimoires, convincingly portrays an opposite view. Here we see that the Wiccan traditions do indeed follow a historical lineage, even if individual practices have understandably changed over time - by which mean we may see that they are living traditions rather than archived curiosities, that the spirit of magick has maintained a constant and responsive cultural presence, possibly since very ancient times. This book also explores how Gerald Gardener, the apparent father of modern Wicca, may owe more than is usually stated to Aleister Crowley, Charles Leland, the Key of Solomon and Frazier's Golden Bough among others.


The co author's Sorita D'este and David Rankine provide numerous references in an extensive bibliography for the academically determined to double check their assertions and contexts, some good humored asides of interest and some objective conjecture that invites an opened mind to assess for themselves- based on the evidences gathered - the likely origins of each aspect under consideration.

As a believer in informed understanding I would therefore recommend this book, to be considered in conjunction with other authors research, to any who seek a practical view of the possible lineage of Wicca and Magickal traditions in Britain and the World today.


Bright Blessings to those who follow Truth.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Mead Of Poetry



The Mead of Poetry (Old Norse skáldskapar mjaðar), also known as Mead of Suttungr is a mythical beverage that whomsoever drinks becomes a skald or scholar, imbued with wisdom, able to recite any poem and answer any question. The drink is a vivid metaphor for poetic inspiration, often associated with Odin the God of 'possession' via berserker rage or poetic inspiration.



A Word On Odin in the context of Poetry;
Odin ; The Old Norse noun Óðr may be the origin of the theonym Óðinn (Anglicized as Odin), and it means "mind", "soul" or "spirit" (so used in stanza 18.1 of the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá). In addition, Óðr can also mean "song", "poetry" and "inspiration", and as noted has connotations of  'possession'.


The Mead of Poetry

Mead Of Poetry           all men makes wise.
Mimir's Knowledge      harbors secrets.
Odin by Charms           calls insights forth.
The Dew of Truth        and destiny.

Aesir Vanir                  abjure their war.
In bond of Gods           good Kvasir sired.
Wielding Knowledge    he wisdom shares,
Traveling far               teaching freely.

Fjalar Galar                 two ghastly Dwarves.
Resentment grew        into darkness...
They killed Kvasir        but kept his blood,
With honey brewed     poetry's mead.

Fjalar Galar                 a Giant's bane
His wife they slayed     bloodthirsty brood.
Sutting the Giant         weregild Dwarves mead,
Three barrels hid         beneath mountain.

Without delay              departing hence,
To  taste the mead      inspiration...
Odin he sought            Sutting's brother,
Baugi his name            mead will bring him.

Odin intent                  inveigled plan,
Workmen discord        will die fighting.
Baugi becalmed           Odin burst in,
As Bolverk garbed       he was disguised.

Bolverk struck deal      Baugi defray,
Harvest he'd take         for taste of mead.
Once work was done   Bolverk's demand,
Sutting refused            mead denied him.

Odin inverse                initiate,
The mead to man        poetry's gate.
Bolverk with wiles      wheedled Baugi,
Into Mountain              he drilled a hole.


Odin stole in                with stealth of snake,
As quiet as snow         heartbeats halted.
Gunnlod asleep            as mead she guards,
Sutting's daughter        should be watchful. 

Odin moon-eyed          found magic mead
Then Gunnlod gasped   in her waking.
Odin had changed        handsome young giant,
Under his charm          she was heedless.

Odin thrice kissed        three barrels quaff,
And Gunnlod lost         the magic mead.
Sutting startled            by Gunnlods scream,
As Odin flew                with his treasure.

Odin escaped               on eagles wing,
Riding the winds          to his country.
Sutting he seethed        searching he flew,
Chasing Odin                into Asgard.

When eagle saw           Aesir approached,
Odin's return                would bring blessing.
Down Odin flew           in flash arrived,
With barrels three        he would share them.

On Sutting shone          sun rays of dawn,
His eagle fell,               to stone transformed.
And Odin spake            So Shall It Be,
Sunlight Strike Down    Those Darkness Leads!

No silent gold               nor silver grasp,
To wisdom voice          shall insight see.
They then rejoiced       themselves to drink,
The magic mead          of poetry.

The Mead Of Poetry c Celestial Elf 2012.
A new poetic account of an ancient Norse tale, inspired by Tolkien and written in the old Norse form of Fornyrdislag.


Odin with wings, he thinks of things.

About The Mead Of Poetry;

After the Aesir-Vanir War, the Gods sealed their truce by creating a man named Kvasir to share their blessings. He was so wise that there were no questions he could not answer. He traveled around the world to give knowledge to mankind.


The Fellowship of Kvasir

Unfortunately two dwarves, Fjalar and Galar, who were jealous of Kvasir's wisdom and thought to profit by Kvasir’s death, killed him. They then mixed his blood with honey and created the magical mead of inspiration which endowed anyone who drank it with the gift of world-renowned poetry and wisdom. They explained to the Gods that Kvasir had suffocated in intelligence..


These same dwarves also took it upon themselves to drown a Giant named Gilling, and when they told his wife of the dreadful accident, to silence her wails of grief they killed her too.

When Gilling's son Sutting learned what had happened, he went to take his revenge on the dwarves. To save their lives they offered him the magical mead in compensation for his father's death (a compensation payment for death was known at this time as 'weregild' and was employed to reduce socially destructive family feuds that could plague generations). Sutting accepted the mead because he knew of its magical properties and that the Aesir would want it. He kept the three barrels of the precious mead in his halls beneath Hnitbjorg mountain where his daughter Gunnlod was locked in to guard it.

Mimir's head

When Odin found out about the existence of the magic mead through the head of Mimir, he set out the next day to obtain it. He came to Sutting's Castle and planned how to recover the mead. First he set Sutting's brother's nine farmers to argue amongst themselves with the result that they killed each other, which left Baugi without enough hands for his harvest. Then Odin disguised himself as 'Bolverk' a wandering workman and offered to do the work in return for a taste of the mead, to which Baugi agreed.

However after the harvest, Sutting did not agree to Baugi's deal with Bolverk and refused to give a taste of the mead to the workman. Bolverk then tricked Baugi  into boring a hole through a wall of the treasure chamber where the mead was kept without his brother's knowledge. Once the hole was made, Bolverk turned into a snake and went through the hole. Realizing his mistake Baugi tried to kill the snake but failed.

Bolverk convinces Baugi to drill a hole
Now inside the treasure chamber, Odin found Gunnlod, Sutting's daughter. He turned himself into a handsome young giant and with three kisses coaxed her into allowing him to drink the three barrels of mead.

 Odin drinks the Mead of Poetry with Gunnlod

Then Odin  got her to open the door of the chamber, whereupon he immediately turned into an eagle and flew away. Realizing that she had fallen into his trap, Gunnlod screamed and Sutting hearing her came running. When Suttung discovered the theft, he turned himself into an eagle and chased after Odin.

When the Aesir saw Odin's eagle approaching, they took out three large barrels for him. But Suttung was so close to Odin that he let some mead fall away, which anybody can drink this part is known as the 'rhymester's share'. Odin then landed with a  flash and emerged with the three barrels full of the magic Mead Of Poetry. As the rising sun rose its beams touched the wings of Sutting's pursuing eagle, which immediately turned into stone and plummeted down to the ground.
Then Odin said, 'So shall it be with all the Giant kind. If the sun shines upon them in the holy land of Asgard, the evil that is in them shall weigh them down, and they will turn into stone.'

And so the Aesir celebrated as they each took a drink of the magical mead, Odin's gift to the Gods and to  men gifted in poetry, the mead of poetry.

This story survives both in fragmentary form in the Havamal, and in a more complete form in Snorri Sturluson's Skaldskaparmal. The story is old, picture stones illustrating the story existed more than four centuries before Snorri wrote the story down.



About Norse Poetry; & The Fornyrdislag Form.

Poetry played an important role in the social and religious world of the Vikings. In Norse mythology, Skáldskaparmál  tells the story of how Odin brought the Mead of Poetry to Asgard, which is an indicator of the significance of poetry within the ancient Scandinavian culture.


Old Norse poetry is conventionally split into two types, Eddaic poetry (also known as Eddic poetry) and Skaldic poetry.  Eddic and Skaldic poetry are meant for oral delivery and as such, more meaning is contained in the sounds and rhythms of the voice than may be apparent on the page.
Eddic poems are usually mythological, or heroic in content. Most are in the Fornyrðislag form (pronounced FORT-near-this-lahg), while málaháttr ( speech meter ) is a common variation. The rest, about a quarter, are composed in ljóðaháttr. The language of the poems is usually clear and relatively unadorned. While Kennings are employed, they do not rise to the frequency or complexity found in Skaldic poetry. Kennings are a poetic rewrite of a word ( i.e. a corps' sea = blood, wound-wand = sword ). They could be even more complex, with rewrites of rewrites and no limits to the words that were used to describe a single word...
Skaldic verse is usually created as a tribute to a specific Jarl or King, follows very strict rules and employs many Kennings which can make them hard to understand.
By contrast, most English poetry is dominated by a single form, the 'end-rhyme' in which the final word of each line rhymes with one or more other lines; the exact lines in a stanza which are paired or grouped in rhyme differ according to the specific form, giving us such end-rhyme forms as doggerel, limericks, and sonnets.


Fornyrðislag has two stressed syllables per half line, with two or three (sometimes one) unstressed syllables. Its name means 'the metre of ancient word' and it is an old Norse poetic form introduced in Snorre's Old Norse Poetic Eddas. The Norse poets tended to break up their verses into stanzas of from two to eight lines (or more), rather than writing continuous verse after the Old English model and used used Alliteration instead of rhyme (syllables alliterate when they begin with the same sound). The loss of unstressed syllables makes these verses seem denser and more emphatic. The Norse poets, unlike the Old English poets, tended to make each line a complete syntactic unit, avoiding enjambment where a thought begun on one line continues through the following lines; only seldom do they begin a new sentence in the second half-line. Often these poems also use 'Heiti', which is a poetic word (synonym) that was used when other words could not fit into the strict form (some times they also made up new words).



J.R.R. Tolkien, Author, philologist and expert on Anglo-Saxon and Middle English also made use of the Fornyrðislag in his narrative poem The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, based upon the poetry of the Elder Edda and written to retell the Norse saga of Sigurd and the fall of the Niflungs.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun
''When ancient German, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon bards sat by the hearthfire of a night-dark hall, holding their harps and singing of heroes, monsters, and gods mastered by fate, this is the style that they used. And just as Tolkien loved the ancient Germanic tales, so also the world he created echoes them: Tolkien's Middle Earth, like Norse Midgard, is a realm ruled by fate, a world of Elves and dwarves and men...''
( Forgotten Ground Regained ©1999, Paul Deane ).
Tolkien's sources of inspiration also included Norse sagas such as the Volsunga saga and the Hervarar saga, the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and numerous other culturally related works.



By Stone and Star
Blessed Be ~