Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Floki In the Temple

''Stop making sence they said, as the wild ones danced in the sky''.

On the mystery of Spiritual Awareness ~

I am a harmonious one,
A clear singer seeing,
I am the greeness of the growing earth,
blue depth of sky, a spirit with the freeing,
I am a wielder of the words that beget worlds,
A dancing that is advancing, a myth for the time being,
I am the unseen, a serpent of the air,
A dragon distributing keys to the temples of meaning,
I am the birds and the soul of the bees,
Ever sacred trees, paths to the stars and beyond all of these,
I am the speaker concealed in the heart
And I am to be found before riddle of minds start.

c.Celestial Elf 2014
Narrated in the voice of 'Floki'.

Life is complicated and we sometimes need a compass or guide to chart the many storms and challenges set before us.This poem is just such a spiritual compass or sunstone - it descibes the perspective of being in tune with the inner self of thought and memory, balanced with the outer self of nature and cosmos. it is a poetic device to orient oneself to the sacred, a very powerful blessing.

In the television series Vikings, Floki
Is a boat builder and incorrigible trickster, who also happens to be Ragnar Lothbrok's eccentric and closest friend. Committed to helping Ragnar sail west, he secretly designs and builds a new generation of Viking longboats for their voyage across the ocean westward.

He also does seem to embody many characteristics of his nearly namesake Loki.
While treated as a nominal member of the Aesir tribe of gods in the Eddas and Sagas, Loki occupies a highly ambivalent and ultimately solitary position amongst the gods, giants, and the other classes of invisible beings that populate the traditional spirituality of the Norse and other Germanic peoples.

Our Floki character appears to be based on  
Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson...

Flóki Vilgerðarson 
9thC Common Era, was the first Norseman to deliberately sail to Iceland. His story is documented in the Landnámabók manuscript. He heard good news of a new land to the west, then known as Garðarshólmi. He wanted to settle in this new land and so he took his family and livestock with him.
From Western Norway he set sail to the Shetland Islands where it is said his daughter drowned. He continued his journey and landed in the Faroe Islands where another of his daughters was wed. There he took three ravens to help him find his way to Iceland, and thus, he was nicknamed Raven-Floki (Norse and Icelandic; Hrafna-Flóki) and he is commonly remembered by that name.

Three Ravens Print by Dona Reed

Loki and moral ambiguity;
Loki, famously ambivalent, is perhaps best known for his malevolent role in The Death of Baldur.
We may wonder why the Scandinavians had such an apparently wicked god in their mythology at all?
Loki features so prominently in the tales of Norse mythology because these tales explore the inner meanings of the physical realm that we still inhabit.  In earlier times the Northern peoples did not share the conceptions of  absolute moral 'good' or 'evil' that have been employed to various ends since the rise of christian dominated societies. Some values and actions were appropriate for some people and situations; others were inappropriate for those same people and situations but might be appropriate for other people and other situations.

This was not however the dangerous free-for-all of moral relativism that it sounds. In traditional Germanic society, a person who occupied a particular social role and was a devotee of that role’s corresponding god or goddess could rightly be held to the standard of conduct appropriate for that role and its divinity. Thus, while most Viking Age men were held to the standards of honor and manliness exemplified by such figures as Tyr, Thor, or Freyr, for example, not everyone was necessarily held to these standards.
Devotees of Odin, for example, followed a path of ecstatic and creative self-actualization that often seemed fickle, ruthless, irresponsible, and even shameful by the standards of, say, a man of Thor.

Wether they accept it or not, many people appear to share a mercurial and self interested mindset as exemplified by Loki. Loki features prominently in the tales of Norse mythology precisely because these tales explore the inner meanings of the physical realm that we still inhabit. Loki is an example of one of the countless, often opposing and contradictory principles and meanings of which life consists. Approaching life with such an informed and conscious perspective, that accepts both light and dark as parts of a unified whole, even (f)Loki's irreverence is a spiritual expression, sincere in its whimsical way and worthy of respect. Irreverance then may be the outward display of the Universe at play, dancing in abandon. Although adversity may be the flipside of advantage, and sorrow of joy, viewed in the round these apsects create a greater whole which needs all of its constituents to create meaning.

Grateful thanks to my source for this research;
Dan McCoy - Norse Mythology for Smart People./Loki

 Ásáheil og Vána!
May the Blessing of Aesir and Vanir
Ever Be With You!


Friday, 19 December 2014

The Thirteen days of Midwinter Solstice

Yule has its roots in the old-Nordic word 'iul' or the Anglo-Saxon 'hweol', both meaning 'wheel', which points to the ever turning year and natures cycle of life, death and rebirth.
The lunar calendar, which has a powerful influence over the growing things upon the Earth, leaves about 12 days left over each year, the thirteenth day signifies the start of the new cycle. So the twelve nights of Yule were considered neither part of the old year, nor part of the new year.  These days being outside of the year establish a liminal time when the veil between the worlds is thin, a time when the gods walk the earth and people may see the elves or other spirits that live around us.

Yule begins on Mother Night or 'Módraniht' (December 20th) and ends 12 days later on 'Yule Night' (1st January) also known as Twelfth Night. Most pre-Christian mystery cults celebrated the Mother Goddess and mothers everywhere as creatrixes of all life. On Mother night, the longest night of the year, we make a feast to honor the protective feminine ancestors that watch over us. Nature is now sleeping and the newborn Solstice Sun is the gift of the Mother Goddess to the world which then prepares for the bright and warmth of the coming spring, the next step in the great circle dance of life. At the culmination of this time we celebrate the beginning of the new year.

Fire festivals, celebrating the rebirth of the Sun, held on the Winter's Solstice can be found throughout the ancient world. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on the winter solstice, boughs of evergreen trees and bushes would decorate the house, gifts where exchanged and normal business was suspended. The Persian Mithraists held December 25th as sacred to the birth of their Sun God, Mithras, and celebrated it as a victory of light over darkness. In Sweden, December 13th was sacred to the Goddess Lucina, Shining One, and was a celebration of the return of the light. On Yule itself, around the 21st, bonfires were lit to honour Odin and Thor.

This festive poem/song was written with inspiration drawn across diverse world traditions and mystery religions to portray a path to fullfilment. Adapting the lovely pealing qualites of ‘The 13 Days of Solstice’ by Pashta MaryMoon, with its lines culminating each verse in an accrued repetition of the gifts that have been given, I followed an old poetic tradition in rewriting this song. It is now both shorter - easier to manage, and contains a seed of inspirational meanings for those with enquiring minds to follow. I have mixed the nature reverencing and magical memes of ‘neo-pagan’ lore with the northern, sometimes Norse traditions of yore to create a hopeful outlook for all folk evermore.


The Thirteen Days of Midwinter Solstice

On the First Day of Solstice the Goddess sent to me
The Wiccan Rede known as 'Harm Ye None'...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
On Mother’s Night will become a Cherished One.

On the Second Day of Solstice the Goddess gave to me,
The God and Goddess Blessings....
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
On Winter Solstice will Be in Glad Joy Dressing.

On the Third Day of Solstice the Goddess revealed to me
The Eternal Three Fold Law...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
By their Courage they will be Worthy Evermore.

On the Fourth Day of Solstice the Goddess showed to me
The Four Directions called....
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
In Truth they shall be Ever Enthralled.

On the Fifth Day of Solstice the Goddess gifted me,
The Five Pointed Pentagram...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
Natures Honor shall they share as Spirit tall shall Stand.

On the Sixth Day of Solstice the Goddess gave to me
Six Rays Of Sunlight...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
In Understanding shall their Ever Shine Bright.

On the Seventh Day of Solstice the Goddess explained to me
Seven Secrets of the Septagram...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
Love be thine - the Elves ever will raise a Dram.

On the Eight Day of Solstice the Goddess showed to me,
The Eight Sacred Sabbats...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
With Delight will Dance the Seasons Holy Habits.

On the Ninth Day of Solstice the Goddess heaped on me,
Nine Noble Virtues....
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
By Industriousness will they Nurture the True.

On the Tenth Day of Solstice the Goddess saw in me
Ten Transformations...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
By Self-Reliance will they always Walk the Sacred Way.

On the Eleventh Day of Solstice the Goddess illumined me,
With the Eleven Runes of Power...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
In Perseverance across Time will they Always Flower.

On the Twelfth Day of Solstice the Goddess conveyed to me
Twelve Heavenly Signs..
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
On the Twelfth Night will Understand the Heart’s Designs.

On the Thirteenth Day of Solstice the Goddess granted me
Thirteen Full Moons Shinning...
Who hears my Carol and takes it away,
Radiant and Luminous in Laughter shall they be with wonder Entwining.

c. Titus.L 2014.
The References Explained;
‘The Thirteen Days’ in the title and verses, rather than the twelve days of the more widely known christian carol, are used because in the folk traditions I have drawn upon the thirteen lunar months hold sway over nature and her seasons, causing the comings and goings of the tides of life.
The Wiccan Rede of ‘Harm Ye None’ was written by Doreen Valiente in 1964 and includes the phrase ‘’Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust. Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.’’ It is this clear intention to the good which I evoke here.
‘Mothers Night’ is the first night of Yule, (& is also known as Modranecht) in which reverence is shown for the Female Deities, Ancestors, and for All Living Women, those who have protected and nurtured us all. 
‘The God and Goddess Blessings’ is a reference to the eternal principles of yin/yan dark/light male/female which when united create all things. These principles are found across most world religions and historical traditions.
‘The Three Fold Rule’ is a religious tenet held by some ‘Wiccans’ and ‘neo-pagans’ which states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times over. The suggestion here for those who wish to survive is that we put out only good energy that all might joyfully thrive.
‘The Four Directions Called’ refers to the fact that throughout history Native American, Peruvian, Mexican, Siberian, Celtic and Nordic people, to name but a few, have practiced honoring the four directions as part of their culture’s connection to well-being, nature and spiritual harmony. The Four Directions are also known as The Four Sacred Directions, and the Four Winds. These Four Sacred Directions of North, South, East and West correspond to the four natural elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air), and depending on the tradition, tend to vary in their correlation. This has been called by some Earth astrology. When life calls for a ceremony to honour and bless a birth, death, marriage, community gathering, prayer or meditation and the Four Directions are called upon, permission is being asked from the local spirits, the mountains and Mother Earth to perform a ceremony in their sacred space. 
‘The Five Pointed Pentagram’ was used in ancient Chinese and Japanese religions to symbolize the five elements of life. Christian-influenced academia in Europe during the Enlightenment re-discovered Pythagoras’ interest in the pentagram, which contains the Golden Ratio. Pythagoras’ study went beyond mathematics, though, as he assigned the five ancient elements to the five points of the star: earth, water, air, and fire on the four lower points; and Spirit on the topmost point and it is this meaning of the five elements which is employed here.
‘The Six rays of Sunlight’ sets itself as being before the esoteric and christian ‘Seven rays of Sunshine’ which are evidenced in the Roman Emperor Julian’s Hymn to the Solemn Sun, and to the Mother of the Gods in which he spoke of "unspeakable mysteries hidden from the crowd... concerning the god of the seven rays." Here our rays convey the life giving light of the Celestial Sun itself.
‘The Septagram’ or seven-pointed star, has accumulated many levels of meaning over the centuries. One of the oldest recorded meanings given to this star may be found within Kabbalistic tradition, where it represents the sphere of Venus and the power of love. It is also found within Christian tradition as a symbol of protection, the seven points representing the perfection of God and the seven days of creation. I offer it here as a symbol of Love.
‘The Eight Sacred Sabbats’ comprise the Old Traditions and early religion’s ‘Wheel of the Year’ - an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed now by many ‘neo-pagans’. It consists of eight festivals: the solstices and equinoxes of sun and moon, known as the "quarter days", and the four midpoints between, known as the "cross quarter days" by which farmers planned their annual activities and communities preapred for the times to follow.
‘The Nine Noble Virtues’ are a set of moral ethical guidelines originating in the Northern religious traditions of Odinism and Asatru and are based on the virtues found in historical Norse literature including the Poetic Edda. They are Courage, Truth, Honour, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness and Perseverance. 
‘The Ten Transformations’ refers to the fact that the number Ten symbolizes the completion of a cycle. It is the number of Heaven and the World and Universal Creation. Number Ten was therfore the holiest of numbers according to the Pythagoreans. Here we look for Ten changes in our lives to take us to the path of well being in this life and the hereafter.
‘The Elven Runes of Power’ refers firstly to the Elves who are semi divine magical beings that may bless and assist us in this life. For me they symbolize a purer energy being. The Runes are the inscribed Norse language which may carry blessings across time and space. Power is simply self knowledge and how we may manage our lives to our fullest potential.
Of ‘The Twelve Heavenly Signs’, Twelve is a number of significance in terms of the zodiac its meaning. From Earth, the Sun appears to move across the ecliptic in one year. This circle of 360 degrees is divided into 12 equal sectors of 30 degrees each. Each of these segments is represented by one zodiac sign. The question of whether star signs present meaningful information will always be subject to debate. However, the designation and employment of the zodiac is a matter of astronomical, historical and cultural significance. I employ it here as a mytho-poetical metaphor for the meanings hidden in our hearts/reflected in our stars.
The ‘Thirteen Full Moons Shinning’ refers to the lunar calendar which is based on cycles of the Moon’s phases (synodic months) as opposed to solar calenders based on the solar year. In ancient times calendars served as a link between the Divine universe and humankind, they were often held as sacred tools or sources of information. These early calendars provided instructions for when to plant, hunt or migrate between cold and warm climates. In traditional folk rituals and planting of seeds, the moon has been thought to hold great influence and is evoked here as it completes the cycle of a day and also draws forth new life thus symbolising new beginings. 

Happy Yuletide All!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

On The Yule Tree and her Greenery;

The peoples mid winter celebrations of life with evergreen plants is an ancient tradition in which folk decorate their homes with winter greenery and berries.
As an evergreen of protection, Holly's spiky bristles repel unwanted spirits. Holly, sacred to Holle, the Germanic underworld goddess, symbolizes everlasting life, goodwill and potent life energy. Its red berries represent feminine blood. Together, mistletoe and holly represent the Sacred Marriage at this time of year with the mid winter Solstice, the re-birth of the Sun.

The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is in terms of sunlight the shortest day in the year and the longest night (December 22/23). Religious ceremonies are held att this time in honour of the return of the Sun which at the Winter Solstice begins to regain its power and to ascend on the horizon. Bonfires are lit in the fields and crops and trees are 'wassailed' with carols sung to wish them good healthas they are toasted with cups of spiced cider. Apples and oranges which represent the sun, are laid in baskets of evergreen boughs, to be shared with friends and neighbours.

The ancient Celts believed that the first humans were descended from trees and as such trees were highly revered by them, particularly the mighty Oak tree.
Evergreens were also sacred to the Celts, because they did not 'die' they thereby represented the eternal aspect of the goddess. Their greenery was also symbolic of the hope for the suns return and with it the life abundant of all growing things. At Winter Solstice they therfore decorated their trees with images of the things they wished for the waxing year to bring them - fruits for a successful harvest, charms for love, nuts for fertility and coins for wealth...

At this time, the Earth spirits are at rest, preparing for the hard work ahead, of replenishing the Earth with new life in the coming spring and naturally, celebrations are held in honor of these worthy spirits.

In Scandinavia, Yule trees were first brought into homes, decorated with bells, candles and ribbons to attract these spirits, to provide shelter through the winter. Bread, fruit and nuts were hung from the branches to provide food for them in the trees.

The evergreen tree has also been long associated with gift giving as citizens of ancient Rome celebrated the 'Saturnalia', a week long December festival honoring the God Saturnus, by exchanging gifts attached to evergreen branches.

In an old Norse tradition, the evergreens were burned to encourage the return of the Sun. A direct descendant of this practice still carried out today is the burning of the Yule log. The ceremonial Yule log, ideally of Ash - from the Norse world tree Yggdrassil, is the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance with tradition the Yule log must either be harvested from the householder's land or given as a gift, but never be bought. Once dragged into the fireplace it is decorated with seasonal greenery, blessed with cider or ale and set ablaze by a piece of last years log which has been kept for just this purpose. The log will then burn through the night, smolder for 12 days and will be ceremonially extinguished. The Yule log's role is one of bringing prosperity and protection from evil, as a magical protective amulet - by keeping the remnant of the log all the year long the protection of warmth and light will remain throughout the year.

Putting the Solstice sun and sacred trees together we have the waxing and the waning of the sun ritualized therough the death and rebirth (resurrection) of the trees and their respective Kings of their seasons.

The hanging of robin and wren ornaments on the Yule tree commemorates these deeper meanings as the robin is the animal equivalent of the Oak King, the wren of the Holly King. Each Yule and Midsummer they play out the same battle as the two kings battle for the season.The robin - ie Oak King, symbolically kills the wren to signify the return of light - the end of the reign of the Holly King presiding over the darker part of the year. A contemporary reminder of this is the tradition of the wren boys, celebrated on 26 December (also St. Stephen's Day). The tradition consists of 'hunting' a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole. Then the crowds of mummers or strawboys celebrate by dressing up in masks, straw suits and colourful motley clothing and, accompanied by traditional ceilidh bands, parade through the towns and villages.

Strong opposition to Christmas trees by Puritan settlers kept the Christmas tree tradition out of America until the nineteenth century, when German settlers bringing their own seasonal celebrations popularized the tradition.

Gradually the sacred tree and its traditions have been absorbed, its meanings minimalized by the pervasive christian and ensuing materialistic culture. But our collective unconscious naturally returns to the deeper significance of the evergreen tree and its promise of life renewed as we decorate our Yule Trees.

In practicing this ritual of dressing the Yule Tree/Christmas Tree, we are celebrating the turning of the great wheel of the year, the return of the sun at midwinters solstice time, our thanks for the forces of nature that bless us and our joy at the life it brings to us all.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Claife Crier:

I make animations to reveal the light behind all things, I re-present legends and myths which have often been missunderstood as fearful when in fact they are tales of delight that lead us out of our worldly constraints into a greater reality. My new poem and film, a ghost story from Windemere in the Lake District, is such a tale transformed.....

A monk from Furness Abbey thought, to save fallen women, but fell -
He followed back to her Claife Heights home, 
because he loved her, so well.

On western shore near Windemere, she abjured his advances, ailing -
Unrequited and blighted night and day he fell about, 
keening and railing.

Soon he died of broken heart - and of his own endlessness of wailing.
But his ghost remained, as if detained, his tragedy proclaiming!

As time rolls by, with it many years fly -
The monks story quite grew into legend.
As the ferrymen tell, after nightime has fell,
His howling from Far Sawey sends a supernatural spell.

Hailed the monk
'' Ferryman, Ferryman, Ferry me hither,
For Loves sake Ferryman, can you come no quicker?!!''

At the Ferry Nab the ferrymen gab and frowning as one, 
would not take the fare - ever!
For they knew full well, it was the ghostly monk burdened with care
so - they did beware.

But along came a boatman, new young and keen,
To him the old legend his common sense demean!

Cried out the cold crier
''Ferryman, Ferryman, Ferryman, Fly!
Ferryman save me, lest heart broken I die!''

Uptook himself the boatman and hied himself hither,
With a glint in his eye to collect the gold giver.

And the night was dark, and the winds were strong, 
as the new recruit ferryman rowed fiercely along -
But he did not return till the following day, if you listen carefully 
you will hear what he had to say...

''Over lake, over wave, over fell, marsh and brier,
Quick as horse, faster than fire,
Mayhap a rook or babbling brook,
I chased before morning along pathways forsook!''

Stark raving-mad, or so it would seem,
The young returned ferryman with staring eyes appears 
lost in a dream.

''Audacious, outrageous, unspeakably spoken,
before a thought, word or deed, but with laughter as token,
through hither, through thither, through widdershins and beyonder,
It cannot be so, yet cannot assunder!'

Ranting-delerious, as if witless, and yet....
Something he says, I cannot forget!

''By sunshine, by moonbeam, by starlight and shinning!!
Possibly near and possibly farling...
could it be real, or implausibly vague?
Undoubted a riddle, a vision arcane!''

Methinks the young boatman some secrtes did see,
Of the love lorn monk from the twelfth century -
His account although rambling, incoherant and wild,
Reveals thatalong Lakeside strange magic was styled.

The ghost, I reveal, was meerely a shade,
A sad memory left behind - in love's grief it was made.
For the young boatman has described in no uncertain detail,
That Robin Goodfellow himself has taken the old monk through the veil!

Ponder then, if as you live you do wonder -
Where do they go - those whom love takes assunder.
And though shadows may fall and shades reach very tall,
Beyond every kind of knowing, 
to the green of the growing 
we are all in thrall.

c.Celestial Elf 2014.

A Ghostly Tale of the Lake District, rewritten.

Original poem written and narrated by Celestial Elf, adapted from a Lake District legend.

The ghost was formerly a monk in Medieval times from Furness Abbey, his mission had been the rescue of a fallen women. He however fell completely in love with one such woman, whose rejection sent him madly crying his anguish on the heights of Claife, until he died of a broken heart and his ghost has haunted the region ever since.

Whilst the local ferrymen knew not to collect his fare across the lake after dark, many years later a new ferryman with little belief in the old legends mistook his cry for a call, and he went out for the fare. When he returned however, his hair had turned white, he never spoke again and died soon after. In the original story, soon after this a priest came and contained the ghostly presence to a cavern where he still may be.

In my adaptation of this tale I have allowed for the young ferryman to rant and rave about what he saw, which had clearly unsettled him, as any experience with the supernatural is likely to do to most folks. Here, the ghost remains, but he is meerely a shadow cast by the grief that killed the monk. I have introduced 'Robin Goodfellow' to explain how despite its ghostly origins this is nevertheless a love story. The monk's spirit has infact been taken away to realms beyond the real, love is a magical story after all...

Photograph; Windemere co Andy Naler.

About Furness Abbey

Furness Abbey, or St. Mary of Furness is a former monastery located in the northern outskirts of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, founded in 1123 by Stephen, Count of Boulogne for the Order of Savigny. Located in the 'Vale of Nightshade', south of Dalton-in-Furness, Furness Abbey was once the second wealthiest and most powerful Cistercian monastery in the country.
The monks of the abbey were large landowners, and the most powerful body in what was then a remote border territory. In particular, they were heavily influential on the Isle of Man.

Being about 70 miles down the coast from Scotland, the monks occasionally found themselves in between the regularly warring Scots and English. When Robert the Bruce invaded England, the abbot paid to lodge and support him, rather than risk losing the wealth and power of the abbey.
The Abbey was disestablished and destroyed in 1537 during the English Reformation under the order of Henry VIII.

Ghosts At The Abbey

There are many stories and sightings claiming that Furness Abbey is haunted, with three main ghosts;
Firstly, one of the monks that was brutally murdered in the Reformation is said to be seen climbing one of the staircases in the Abbey. The figure appears to be leaning on the banister as being pulled up the stairs. 
Another sighting is that of a squire's daughter and her partner. These figures were known for attempting to repair the Abbey ruins after the Reformation, one day her partner took a journey out to sea from which he never returned. It is thought that the girl went back to the Abbey every day until her death to take in the site she and her partner once loved, the track she walked is today still known as "My Lady's Walk." There have also been many sightings of a White Lady, although it is unknown whether the White lady and the ghost of the squire's daughter are the same person or not. 

Possibly the most famous ghost of Furness Abbey is a headless monk on horseback, who rides underneath the sandstone arch near the Abbey Tavern, this death of this individual is also likely to be attributed to the Reformation.

Of “Robin Goodfellow”

Robin Goodfellow” or Puck as he has been known since medieval times, is one of the most popular characters in English and Celtic folklore, being a faerie, elf or hobgoblin  famous for shape-shifting and misleading travellers, but also known to sometimes be a helpful domestic sprite. ( More about Puck through the Ages here ).

Puck's euphemistic 'disguised' name is "Robin Goodfellow" or Hobgoblin, in which "Hob" may substitute for "Rob" or simply refer to the "Goblin of the Hearth" the Hob. The earliest reference to Robin Goodfellow as such is from 1531. However, after Meyerbeer's successful opera Robert le Diable (1831), neo-medievalists and occultists began to apply the name of Robin Goodfellow to the (christian) Devil, with appropriately extravagant imagery. Puritans, like Robert Burton, felt fairies were devils, including "Hobgoblins, & Robin Goodfellows". In his Anatomy of Melancholy , Burton writes "Terrestrial devils, are those Lares, Genii , Faunes, Satyrs, Wood-nymphs, Foliots, Fairies, Robin Goodfellowes , Trulli, etc. which as they are most conversant with men, so they do them most harme." (Quoted in A Dictionary of Fairies by Katharine Briggs, p.53)

Robin Goodfellow's Dream of Fairyland · John Franklin
Aside from William Shakespeare's famous use of Robin Goodfellow in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream, many other writers have referred to him as well, including Ben Jonson in his 1612 masque Love Restored which is a 'vindication of love from wealth - a defense of the court revels against the strictures of the puritan city.'.  Jonson describes Puck/Robin Goodfellow as the emissary of Oberon, the Fairy King of the Night, inspiring night-terrors in old women but also carding their wool while they sleep, leading travelers astray, taking the shape of animals, blowing out the candles to kiss the girls in the darkness, twitching off their bedclothes, or making them fall out of bed on the cold floor, tattling secrets, and changing babes in cradles with elflings. All his work is done by moonlight, and his mocking, echoing laugh is "Ho ho ho!" 

Ever mysterious, both young and old - sometimes male, sometimes female, with his capricious wit, magical fancy and fun-loving spirit, he plays with mortals as if they were mere puppets. Yet at the end of Shakespeares's Midsummmer Nights Dream (in the epilogue), Puck's speech explaining his actions compares the audience to the lovers whom in the play did awaken from the mad happenings of the fairy world as if from a dream; 

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear;
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I’m an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.”

(W.Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act IV, scene II).  

Puck's quote above is perfect as an allegory of this mortal coil. As in Jonson's play, Shakespeare and others have taken pains to make clear that whilst Robin Goodfellow is indeed mischevious and mercurial, an embodiment of the power of magic, he also represents the difficulties of love which elevate our human selves beyond the mundane of our mortal lives. In our love then, were we said to die to our old life and discover another, we might apprehend the worlds where magical beings reside, such as Puck perhaps, to join with them in a dance of the mysterium ad infinitum. 

In this vein I found the spirit of Robin Goodfellow to be dancing through the Claife Crier ghost story which although tragic, is afterall still a love story of sorts. Puck has whispered in my ear, that despite appearances to the contrary, those whom love has led awry will never be abandoned in their ardour. Though the object of their affections may turn aside, if love is true, they will indeed be spirited away - to awaken in a higher realm where their heart has led them. 
For any who are curious to learn more about the ways of the fay, the enchanted realms and how to apprehend them, I can do no better than to highly recommend
The Faery Faith: An Integration of Science with Spirit.

Fear not mortal folk, your human heart cannot betray you, 
but by beinge truye will lead you through,
Another world awaits you.

~ Bernard Sleigh ~ The Horns of Elfland Faintly Blowing ~ 1900 ~

From Puck, Good Luck ~

Friday, 3 October 2014

Preparing for the Samhain BoneFire

Crops and the bones of animals which had been culled were burnt in the Samhain fires at this festival as offerings once lighted on every hilltop in Britain and Ireland as soon as the sun set on October 30th - Samhain Eve, and were the center piece of community festivities and celebrations that could carry on throughout the night.. Our modern word, 'bonfire', comes from the words bone and fire meaning "fire of bones" and refers to this practice. Personal and symbolic items were also burned as offerings for relief from sickness or bad fortune. 

After the presiding Druid, Wise Women or elders lit the fires, the people wore costumes, and danced around their bonfire. Many of the dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle of Wheel of Life. The costumes worn were adorned for three primary reasons;

''The first was to honor the dead who were allowed to rise from the Otherworld. The Celts believed that souls were set free from the land of the dead during the eve of Samhain. Those that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead and sent to their new incarnations. The wearing of these costumes signified the release of these souls into the physical world.

Not all of these souls were honored and respected. Some were also feared as they would return to the physical world and destroy crops, hide livestock or 'haunt' the living who may have done them wrong. The second reason for these traditional costumes was to hide from these malevolent spirits to escape their trickery.

The final representation was a method to honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of the harvest, fields and flocks. Giving thanks and homage to those deities who assisted the village or clan through the trials and tribulations of the previous year. And to ask for their favor during the coming year and the harsh winter months that were approaching.'' More details here -

When the community celebration was over, each family would take a torch or burning ember from the sacred bonfire and return to their own home. The home fires that has been extinguished during the day were re-lit by the flame of the sacred bonfire to help protect the dwelling and it's inhabitants during the coming winter. These fires were kept burning night and day during the next several months. It was believed that if a home lost it's fire, tragedy and troubles would soon follow.

Protect then your sacred Samhain fires 
& may only blessings follow ~

Soul Cakes for Samhain - the origins of Trick Or Treat!!

picture co lostpastremembered
In medieval Catholic and Orthodox Europe, the attempt to divorce respect for the dead from the traditions of the Old Ways failed completely. The departed souls so people believed, were allowed home, albeit from a christian purgatory rather than eternal Summerlands, for two days. Candles were lit on their graves and in the windows of houses to light them home. Fires were kept burning to warm their cold bones. Food and drink were left ready and they were invited to attend the feasts held in their honour.

In Britain, the christianised version of this tradition entailed almsgiving to others as an act of virtue on behalf of the deceased - to alleviate their suffering in purgatory. These alms took the form not of cash for candles as in many Church sanctioned transferals of custom from the earlier pagan to later christian, but of cake. Bands of 'soulers' went from house to house singing ancient 'souling' rhymes; and small loaves, quickbreads or cakes were handed out to them to be eaten hot while saying a prayer for the departed. Even after the Reformation, when prayers were officially no longer thought necessary to ease the passage of souls to Heaven, the idea that the giving and receiving of food by the living somehow benefited or pleased the dead persisted, for 'souling' continued, although the souling rhymes became straight begging-songs.

The tradition of giving Soul Cakes at Halloween then, which is one of the origins of today's Halloween trick-or-treating, has been celebrated in Britain since at least as early as the Middle Ages when it took over from earlier pagan Samhain feasts. The cakes were usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or other sweet spices, raisins or currants, and before baking were topped with the mark of a cross to signify that these were alms. They were traditionally set out with glasses of wine on All Hallows' Eve. On All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day children would go "souling", or ritually begging with song, for cakes, from door to door.

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

How To Make a Soul Cake for Samhain;

Quickie Shortbread Soul Cakes -

1 stick of butter, softened
4 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 C flour

Cream together the butter and sugar. Use a flour sifter to add the flour to the bowl, and mix until it's smooth. Divide the dough into two parts, and shape each half into a flat circle about half an inch thick. Put them on an ungreased baking sheet (baking stones are really nice for this) and poke lines with the tines of a fork, making eight separate wedges in each cake. Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown at 350 degrees.

Buttery Soul Cakes -

Two sticks butter, softened
3 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg & saffron
1 tsp each cinnamon & allspice
2 eggs
2 tsp malt vinegar
Powdered sugar

Cut the butter into the flour with a large fork. Mix in the sugar, nutmeg, saffron, cinammon and allspice. Lightly beat eggs, and add to flour mixture. Add malt vinegar. Mix until you have a stiff dough. Knead for a while, then roll out until 1/4" thick. Use a floured glass to cut out 3" circles. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while the cakes are still warm.
Thanks to 'recepies for a pagan soul' for the recepies, more here .

Wishing you a Sacred Samhain ~

Saturday, 5 July 2014

On the Seven Gifts of Druidry

Australian Standing Stones Glenn Innes - New South Wales
It is often said - usually by those who have not studied the subject - that the world-view and philosophy of the old Druids is lost beyond recall... [but] it is by no means impossible to regain in the present age the spirit of original Druid philosophy. It is essential indeed to do so; for a revival of the old Druidic way of thought, acknowledging the sanctity of the living earth and all its creatures, seems the only alternative to planetary dissolution.
John Michell Stonehenge

Today our biggest problem is that we have separated ourselves from Nature - so much that there is a risk we may not survive as a species. We need philosophies, spiritualities, ideas, that can help us get back in touch with Nature again - our spirituality must become ecological. Prince Philip, in a speech to a Washington conference on religion and ecology controversially pointed to the direction in which we should look, when he said: "It is now apparent that the ecological pragmatism of the so-called pagan religions...was a great deal more realistic in terms of conservation ethics than the more intellectual monotheistic philosophies of the revealed religions."

It now seems that the Old Ways, reinterpreted for our times, can offer us the kind of spirituality that we need to heal the separation that has occurred between ourselves and our environment. Druidry is one such Way, and although at first sight it might appear to be just an old curiosity, a quaint memory from the distant past, if we take the time to look at it more closely, we will discover a treasure-chest just waiting to be opened. And in this chest we can find at least seven gifts that Druidry brings to our modern world:

The first gift is a Philosophy: which emphasizes the sacredness of all life, and our part in the great web of creation. It cares passionately about the preservation and protection of the environment, and offers a worldview, which is ecological, geocentric, pragmatic, idealistic, spiritual and romantic. It does not separate Spirit and Matter - it offers a sensuous spirituality that celebrates physical life.

The second gift puts us back in touch with Nature: with a set of practices that help us feel at one again with Nature, our ancestors, our own bodies, and our sense of Spirit, by working with plants, trees, animals, stones, and ancestral stories. Eight seasonal celebrations help us attune to the natural cycle, and help us to structure our lives through the year, and to develop a sense of community with all living beings.

The third gift brings Healing: with practices that promote healing and rejuvenation, using spiritual and physical methods in a holistic way to promote health and longevity.

The fourth gift affirms our life as a Journey: with rites of passage: for the blessing and naming of children, for marriage, for death, and for other times of initiation, when it is helpful to ritually and symbolically mark our passage from one state to another.

The fifth gift opens us to other Realities: with techniques for exploring other states of consciousness, other realities, the Otherworld. Some of these are also used by other spiritual traditions, and include meditation, visualization, shamanic journeying, and the use of ceremony, music, chanting and sweathouses, but they are all grounded in specifically Celtic and Druidic imagery and tradition.

The sixth gift develops our Potential: Druidry as it is practiced today offers a path of self-development that encourages our creative potential, our psychic and intuitive abilities, and fosters our intellectual and spiritual growth.

The seventh gift of Druidry is the gift of Magic: it teaches the art of how we can open to the magic of being alive, the art of how we can bring ideas into manifestation, and the art of journeying in quest of wisdom, healing and inspiration. 

Grateful thanks to The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids for the account from their website.

The Druid’s Prayer

Grant, O Gods and Goddesses, thy protection,
and in protection, strength,
and in strength, understanding,
and in understanding, knowledge,
and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice,
and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it,
and in the love of it, the love of all existences,
and in the love of all existences,
the love of the Gods and Goddesses and all goodness.

Awen ~


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Watts' Nirvana

In the Buddhist context Nirvana or moksha,  is described as the extinguishing of the fires that cause suffering. These fires are typically identified as the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya). When the fires are extinguished, suffering (dukkha) comes to an end. The cessation of suffering is described as complete peace. Thus nirvana refers to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished.
In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the divine ground of existence Brahman (Supreme Being) and the experience of blissful egolessness.

Alan Wilson Watts (1915-973) was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience.
Watts's fascination with the Zen developed because that tradition embodied the spiritual, interwoven with the practical, as exemplified in the subtitle of his Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work, and Art in the Far East. "Work," "life," and "art" were not demoted due to a spiritual focus.
Watts equated mystical experience with ecological awareness, and typically emphasized whichever approach seemed best suited to the audience he was addressing.

Watts felt that absolute morality had nothing to do with the fundamental realization of one's deep spiritual identity. He advocated social rather than personal ethics. In his writings, Watts was increasingly concerned with ethics applied to relations between humanity and the natural environment and between governments and citizens.

In several of his later publications, especially Beyond Theology and The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Watts put forward a worldview, drawing on Hinduism, Chinese philosophy, panentheism, and modern science, in which he maintains that the whole universe consists of a cosmic self playing hide-and-seek (Lila), hiding from itself (Maya) by becoming all the living and non-living things in the universe, forgetting what it really is; the upshot being that we are all IT in disguise. In this worldview, Watts asserts that our conception of ourselves as an "ego in a bag of skin" is a myth; the entities we call the separate "things" are merely processes of the whole.

Watts also argues that Eastern philosophy and religion are not necessarily spiritual and world denying. For instance, the non-dualistic interpretation of Vedanta (the philosophy of the Upanishads) implies a kind of pantheism. The divine is identical with the material universe and with each individual being. The goal of religion is the mystical experience of our oneness with the divine/cosmos. This experience may require asceticism and contemplation. But it can just as well be spontaneous and effortless. It can hit you in the marketplace, on the battlefield, or in your turnip patch.
 Mahayana Buddhism, moreover, stresses the unity of samsara and nirvana. Nirvana is not blissful annihilation, but a change of attitude in this life that allows freedom and detachment in the whirl and rush of material existence.

Watts had no patience with what he called “the aching legs school of Buddhism”, whose practicioners were prideful of their long, silent sittings. When the legs start to ache, he would say slyly, I prefer to get up and dance.

The Book On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are' HERE 

Was Watts an Environmentalist? 

Some have commented that Watts concern to clear away philosophical hubris over spiritual existence negated as valueless any concern for environmental destruction at the hands of mankind.
By contrast with these views, Watts dialogue and books show how the illusion of the ego is linked with environmental destruction - in essence then if we orient our 'selves' rightly, that this will include caring for the Earth and co citizen species correctly.

 As a result of having a false sense of identity, we act in a way that is inappropriate to our environment, and when that inappropriate action is magnified by a very powerful technology, we swiftly begin to see the results of a profound discord between man and nature.  As is well-known, we are now in the process of destroying our environment…

It should be obvious however that the human being goes with the rest of the universe, even though we say in popular speech ‘I came into this world’.  Now it is not true that you came into this world.  You came out of it, in the same way as a flower comes out of a plant or a fruit comes out of a tree.  And as an apple tree ‘apples’, the solar system in which we live, and therefore the galaxy in which we live, and therefore the system of galaxies in which we live, that system ‘peoples’.  If people are intelligent – and I suppose we have to grant that ‘if’ – the energy which people express must also be intelligent, because one does not gather figs from thistles or grapes from thorns.

But it does not occur to the ordinary person to regard himself or herself as an expression of the whole universe.  It should be obvious that we cannot exist except in an environment of air, earth, water and solar temperature, that all these things go with us and are as important to us as our internal organs such as our heart, brain, stomach and so forth.

“Man as an organism is to the world outside like a whirlpool is to a river: man and world are a single natural process, but we are behaving as if we were invaders and plunderers in a foreign territory.

Dissarming the pseudo philosophical and religious intellectual nerosis of word play and mind games that may sound sensible but are actually meaningless, Watts empowers the receptive among us to freedom from endless obfuscation. In so doing, Watts provides a clear outline for the notion of thinking globally and taking action at a personal level, locally - in ones very orientation to life and the world around us.

Whilst Watts discouraged the chasing of philosophical devils because as he saw it the excercise is fundamentally futile, in terms of protecting the environment, I would say that he was one of its key facilitators.  

Watts provided a holisitc 'eco-spiritual framework' which enabled many to understand our place in life, an explanation of how the environment and human existence are not seperate items, but coexistant expressions of the infinite and incomprehensible cosmos. 

To destroy our own home, the life support system of our environment - is not simply to rob 'our world' of its is incomparable beauty, rather that it is to destroy our very selves.

Some of my favourite Watts' quotes

“The special branch of science which studies the relation of living beings to their environments – ecology – shows beyond doubt that the individual organism and its environment are a continuous stream, or field, of energy. To draw a new moral from the bees and the flowers: the two organisms are very different, for one is rooted in the ground and broadcasts perfume, while the other moves freely in the air and buzzes. But because they cannot exist without each other, it makes real sense to say that they are in fact two aspects of a single organism. Our heads are very different in appearance from our feet, but we recognize them as belonging to one individual because they are obviously connected by skin and bones. But less obvious connections are no less real…”

Civilized human beings are alarmingly ignorant of the fact that they are continuous with their natural surroundings. It is as necessary to have air, water, plants, insects, birds, fish, and mammals as it is to have brains, hearts, lungs, and stomachs. The former are our external organs in the same way that the latter are our internal organs. (…) The sun, the earth, and the forests are just as much features of your own body as your brain. Erosion of the soil is as much a personal disease as leprosy, and many ‘growing communities’ are as disastrous as cancer. That we do not feel this to be obvious is the result of centuries of habituation to the idea that oneself is only the envelope of skin and its contents, the inside but not the outside. The extreme folly of this notion becomes clear as soon as you try to imagine an inside with no outside, or an outside with no inside.” 

“Civilization, as we have worked it out, is a system of screens which conceal the connections between events. (…) Bacon, as found packaged in the supermarket, gives no intimation of pig, and steaks appear as if they were entities like apples, having no relation to the slicing of dead cattle. To remove such screens is held to be as offensive and vulgar as to relieve one’s bowels in the gutter of a public street.” 
Alan Watts; Does It Matter? Essays on Man’s Relation to Materiality.

“We do not "come into" this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.”

At the risk of sounding strangely self serving then, 
Blessed Be Every Body ~