Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Good Folk

It's interesting so many people do so much to invoke the fae, but historically, the widespread charms were to keep them out of placate them rather than draw them.

There are examples in older surviving texts of people talking to them, but none I know of that imply invoking them or calling them to you by whatever means.  If there are, I'd love to hear about them.

Talking to them is not the same as inviting them into your home. As they say, good fences make good neighbours (1). And they are likely already there anyway. No need to invoke more, just need eyes to See what's already there.

I had a conversation related to this with a friend a few days ago and I'd like to share my thoughts here.

I'm not trying to disparage or say anything negative about authors, teachers, and practitioners who recommend seeking contact and invoking the fae, or do so themselves.  I just recommend caution and a good dose of self possession.  While I won't say their approach is wrong, I would say I don't see much evidence of such active seeking in the materials that have survived from earlier time, and I think the reason for that is valid.

The Victorian view of the fae did a lot to defang them in the eyes of the general populace, and this is both good and bad.  I'll leave the good for a different discussion.  The bad is the lack of caution that has resulted.

The fae were not called the Good Folk because they were benevolent, kind, or forces of good fighting evil in the world any more than calling mafia good fellas implies upright morals.  It was to avoid offending, because of the result if you do.

The thing to remember about the fae is that they don't see anything through human eyes.  Their ideas of ethics and morals, good and evil, right and wrong, and benevolence and malevolence are different from ours.  Even those that might wish us good aren't thinking what we are.  Accomplishing your goal but dying in the process might be seen as your own good, for example.

The thing to remember is you are in charge of your own life (this is much of what makes a witch), you are responsible for your decisions and actions, and you must not submit your life force to another (2).

Point being, make no deal you can't live with the consequences of, agree to no condition you aren't willing to meet, and don't assume you must do what they say.  While I'm against attempts to enslave them (which will end badly regardless), I also caution not to allow yourself to be enslaved to them.

~Muninn's Kiss

(1) This is an old adage, now famous from Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall.
(2) As Victor Anderson put it.  Or, as Robert Cochrane put it:

"In fate, and the overcoming of fate is the true Graal, for from this inspiration comes, and death is defeated. There is no fate so terrible that it cannot be overcome - whether by a literal victory gained by action and in time, or the deeper victory of spirit in the lonely battle of the self, Fate is the trial, the Castle Perilous in which we all meet to win or to die"

Saturday, 1 March 2014

On Doing the Work

Training is good, yes.

Books are good, yes.

But you can be trained in formal training for twenty years and never "get it", and you can go out your back door with no training or knowledge at all and just "get it".  There is no guaranties, and none of it is where you actually get experience and wisdom.  You get those from doing it.

If I went through the best medical school in the world, I wouldn't be able to go straight in and be able to do everything day one.  As an example, I want into the emergency room for something.  The doctor was concerned about something else because he hadn't ever seen it, but the nurse told him, no, that isn't normal, but it's not abnormal, and convince him not to worry about it.  He had far more formal training than she did, but she had worked in the ER for many years and seen much more than he had.  He had more knowledge, but she had more experience.  In general, nurses see more and experience more because they handle most things that don't require the expertise the doctor has because of training, so have more wisdom to see things as they really are and know what to do in a lot more circumstances.

I read a quote in a book last night, Witches, Midwives, and Nurse: A History of Women Healers.  "If a woman dare to cure without having studies she is a witch and must die."  Note the emphasis on studying (indicating training, not reading, in this context).  While the restriction of women in medical schools and the prevalence of women over men in folk practice was an issue at the time, it was more about credentials vs no credentials than about gender.  The doctors felt only they should be able to heal because they were the ones with training, who had put in the time and effort to be trained, and could prove they were training.  Not really different from today when the main argument against alternative medicine in the US is not about if it works or not, but about lack of a medical degree.

Back to the craft, same thing.

Training is good, and is required in some *traditions* to practice that *tradition*, for very good reasons, but is not required to practice the craft, and doesn't guaranty success in it, any more than reading books do.  It's the experience that builds wisdom, and if you don't do anything until you have learned sufficiently to make no mistakes and always be good at it, you'll never reach that.

Read what you can, sure.

Get the formal, or informal, training if you can, sure.

But are real teachers are the spirits, our experiences, and our own self, seen through a mirror darkly.

~Muninn's Kiss

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Rite of Pacific Storms

I have many friends on the West Coast of the United States who are talking of the draught in that region at the moment, both in the Pacific Northwest and in California, possibly up and down the coast of Mexico, Canada, and Alaska as well, I'm not certain.  The rest of the US is being hit hard, colder temperatures than most can remember, and a lot of snowfall and rainfall.  The snowpacks reached 110% in December, quite early.  There is unlikely to be drought conditions in the rest of the country this year, and similar in Europe, it seems.  But the West Coast is suffering, with a very mild winter and much less rain and snow than normal.  The storms are all hitting further east.

I said flippantly that I would try to do something, but I didn't mean it as flippantly as I said it.  I have called winds, and called and raised storms, usually with some success, most of my life, but it would do little good to call them from here in the Rockies, as I'm more likely to draw them away from the coast than to it.  As such, I'm sharing the following rite, for those that would like to try it and live in the area it is crafted for.

Feel free to adapt it.  It is crafted from my practice, and might need modification for you.  And the wording or details might need changing, as each of us are different.  The important part is the binding done when the shell is driven down, the rest can change as needed.  I've made it as simple as possible, both for ease of use, ease of adaptation, and to minimize the need to bring anything but what is needed with you.  It could also very easily be adapted and expanded to a group rite.

This rite would be best done this coming Dark Moon in March, on the first, though you can do it at a different time if you prefer or have a reason.  It is best done on the shore, preferably in a sandy area, or at least soft soil or mud, for practical reasons.  It is best done at the low tide closest to that Dark Moon, at night, near the water's edge, on land that is usually water.  But this, too, can be done otherwise if there is a reason.  But near the water's edge at low tide on the night of the Dark Moon on March 1 is best.  Preferably a shore facing out to sea, west or northwest being best.

Most important item you will need is a shell.  Preferably, find this on the shore sometime before the rite.  You want a shell you can easily stab into the sand, so one with a sharp tip or edge is best.

Some red thread, string, or yarn is a plus, but not necessary.

You don't need anything else but yourself.

Stand facing the water's edge, preferably facing west or northwest.  Hold the shell in one hand, whichever feels best (typically the hand you give or send with, but not always).  If you have string or yarn, hold it in the other hand.

Raise your hands over your head, closed palms outward toward the shore (you objects in your hands facing the sea, the backs of your hands away).  Close your eyes and feel the wind on you.  Where does it come from?  Which direction?  How strong is it?  How wet?  Keep your attention on the wind.

Speak the following (or an adaptation of it) to the wind:
Bringer of storms,
Bringer of moisture,
Bringer of wind,
I call you.
Come to me.
If you have string or thread, bring your hands down and tie it around the shell, saying:
What begins here,
I do bind with this thread,
What I have, I hold.
After tying it, return your hands to where they were.

Repeat the following:
Let the storms come!
Let the the moisture fall!
Let the wind blow!
I call the storms to these shores,
I bind and fix them here!
With the last line, bend down and bury in one action the shell as deep in the sand as you can.

Turn and leave the shore, not looking back, knowing the waves with cover the shell, the shell that binds the storms and moisture and wind to the earth and sea, the sand and waves.

And the storms will come.

~Muninn's Kiss

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Coming Year

With Bride's Day and Candlemas, my New Year, coming up, I've been looking back at the last, a year of change.  It was a year of starting new things, of revelation and contemplation, of moves and reorganization.  A year of flux.

And I consider the coming year, what is in store, what I can expect, where my focus will be.

I don't really do New Years resolutions, regardless of what New Year I'm talking about.  But having some areas to focus on throughout the year is always a good thing.  Here are the areas I am planning on focusing.

Being more open and authentic to who I am.

This affects many areas of my life.  A lot of the time, I hide parts of myself because I'm not sure how people will respond to them.  Not because I think they will judge me, nor that they would be upset at me, but because I am afraid it would hurt them or disturb them, that they would worry or not know how to handle it.  So I lock off parts of my life based on possible issues revealing them could cause.  Which, in trying to avoid hurting people often hurts me or ends up hurting them anyway, likely in ways that telling them never would.

This doesn't just mean over all, it also means in the moment.  There are parts of me that change, cycles and shifts.  These aren't constant, they are fluid.  Being open and authentic doesn't just mean being such to the stable, static aspects (though nothing is really static, just the life cycles of them are much longer), but to the changing, dynamic aspects as well.

This also doesn't mean telling everyone everything.  I'm focusing on avoiding hiding parts of me, avoiding not being true to who I am, but that doesn't mean I need to advertise and promote it either.  That is no more authentic than the hiding is.  The goal is a general shift to hiding less and being more open and true.  Of giving others the chance to accept who I am instead of taking that from them.

Understand my own cycles.

To do this, an important part is understanding those cycles.  I spent much of the last two years working to understand the cycles of the land, the seasons, the moons.  Now I need to add to that an understanding of my own cycles, those of my body, my mind, my souls.  How do I change with time?  What cycles exist?  Are they regular or are the influenced by outside things?  I need to know me before I can be true, authentic, and open about it.  I have a fair understanding of myself, of the various aspects, of what changes and what stays basically the same.  But I know these things in the moment, not how I get to them, what patterns exist in the shifts.  It's time to identify these.

Learning to be an oral storyteller.

I have many stories I know, enough to fill several lifetimes of telling, and more keep coming.  As Lorekeeper, I keeper the lore I am given and am responsible for getting it to those that need to hear it.  I'm a decent writer, I think, and good at crafting stories.  But presenting them to others orally, not so much.  I can speak, I can share, but I don't have the skills to bring them alive.

This year, I'm going to focus on developing those skills.  Learn what those skills are.  Learn how to learn to use them.  Learn how to use them.  Practice and hone them.  It won't be finished in a year obviously, but I can begin the journey, I can actively pursue it, I can make choices that will bring it to me.

Hone my skills at and determine if I can start doing readings for others.

I've found over the last year I'm decent at doing readings, not just for myself, but also for others.  I've used readings to determine what people need, and present that in a form they can relate to.  I don't know if I could make money with it or not, or if I could do it actively enough to make it a thing I do, whether I'm paid or not.  This year, I want to focus on honing my skills at it in relation to others, as most of my experience is for myself, and look into what directions it can take beyond what I do now, whether it could be a business or a community service, whether there are other related areas or techniques I need to learn, and what form it might take in whatever direction I take it.

Just as understanding my cycles relates to being authentic, this relates to storytelling.  For reading for someone else is essentially telling the story.  I can say all I want, this card typically means this, and in this position it usually means this, but a reading is so much more meaningful if you bring it to life.  It's fortunetelling, not fortune-analyzing.  I'm good at the analytical side, it's time to learn the telling side.

Additionally, I want to practice dowsing more in the coming year.  I re-awoke it this last year after not doing it since my father taught me as a child.  Now I need to practice and hone it.  And to determine what uses I can put it to for others, whether pro bono or for money.

So, four areas:

Understanding Personal Cycles

We'll see where this all leads and its effect on the rest of my practice, life, and future.

~Muninn's Kiss

Friday, 3 January 2014

Stoicism, Denial, and the Craft: A look at self-imposed hardship, in particular, fasting

Self imposed suffering and denial, purposeful tribulation and ordeal, has a long history, and if present in different forms in just about if not all cultures.  It serves many purposes depending on the context, but it typically of a ritualistic, ceremonial, religious, spiritual, or magical nature, breaking down the physical or ego in some way to allow something of a spiritual, magical, or religious nature to occur.

We use the word "stoic" or "stoicism" for these practices, a name that traces back to Ancient Greece.  The Stoics, Στωικοί, were a sect in Ancient Greece who followed the teachings of Zeno of Citium, who believed that it was our mistakes, our poor choices, that resulted in negative emotions, and that it was important to use logic, knowledge, and ethics to prevent this to a level that you never experiences these.  In later times, the term took on a different meaning, to prevent happiness, pleasure, and enjoyment, rather than anger, fear, and hate.  In effect, the emotions seen by the original Stoics as positive and allowed were grouped in with the negative emotions, in the understanding people had, and have, of the term.  This is not to say all those who were considered Stoics in later time would have agreed and didn't experience these.

Stoicism, referring to post-Greek stoicism, and things that could be referred to by the term in older times, has taken many forms.

We see John the Baptist, dressed in camel hair, living on only locusts and honey in the wilderness.  Camel hair is very course, much like wearing burlap.  I've worn a burlap robe.  John wearing camel hair constantly would mean rashes and calloused skin, for the movement would never allow your skin to get used to it.  Locusts and honey is of course a very limited diet.  He was likely very thin and somewhat malnourished, as it would take too many locusts and too much honey to not be so.  He was in the wilderness near the River Jordan, and the wilderness of Judea, modern day Israel, is very unforgiving, with wild animals and physical dangers, and hot sun beating down.  He would have had leather skin, tight, wiry muscles, be thin and gnarled, a wild man.  But people came to him to hear his message because he spoke with the Divine, and connected with the spiritual in a way few others could.

We see similar from the Desert Mothers and Desert Fathers of the following few centuries, who gave up everything and went to live out in the desert.  This is what the part in Life of Brian, where Brian falls in the hole where a hermit with a vow of silence is living and spoke for the first time because of it was making fun of.  The hermits went out to live in the desert and devote themselves to God, putting various restrictions on themselves.  But people began to flock out to find them, as they were thought to speak for God because of their stoic life.

One such example if Saint Benedict, who, finding he had a large group of followers after trying to be alone, realized there was no order and it would go bad quick without some, so he wrote what is now called the Rule of Saint Benedict (possibly orally and later wrote down or dictated and recorded by one of his followers), outlining how the people should live,  This became the basis for the monastic movement that followed, where orders and monasteries were established for people to be alone with God (monastic from monasticus, ultimately from monos, alone).  Each order had vows, which were of a stoic nature.  They varied order by order, and sometimes monastery to monastery.

Vows of chastity, vows of poverty, vows of silence, vows of temperance, were all to be found, and others.  Each of these is a denial, a taboo.  Chastity is to abstain from sex.  Poverty is to abstain from ownership, in some cases everything but your robe or smock, a staff, and sandles (following what was stated in Mark 6:8-9: "He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.") and in other cases, just a limiting of possessions.  A vow of poverty also sometimes prescribed eating only what was begged for, to be like the poor that are poor without choice or vow.  Silence is not speaking, sometime like what was shown in Life of Brian, never speaking, sometimes only speaking at prescribed times, like meals, sometimes just a limiting of speech or of what could be spoken of.  Temperance is the abstaining from alcohol, one of the least common, as the Eucharist used wine for the Blood of Christ, though some monasteries had vows that only allowed this communion wine, no other alcohol.

Later, there was a movement called Anchorism, where the devote who had taken no vows and weren't part of an order wished to remain in the presence of the Lord, so were bricked in to a portion of the church.  They did not leave, and remained there until death, their needs for food and water being brought to them.  It is a very curious tradition, as most other examples of living on church grounds before and after were that of a priest or friar or monk who was the caretaker for the building or site.  Anchorism was laity with no tasks to do, living out life in a bricked in cell in the church.

One of the most wide spread forms of stoicism, is fasting.  Fasting, though sometimes applied to other things, is very specifically abstaining from food, just as chastity is from sex and temperance is from alcohol.  It is a very specific act, it is a temporary giving up, for a specific reason, not a purging of things to be got rid of completely, which is either cleansing or sacrifice, to me, cleansing when it is getting rid of the bad, sacrifice when it is giving of something valued.  Fasting can be a sacrifice, and can be used as a means to cleanse, but it isn't the same as either.

Fasting has been around since time began, to all indication.  It is used in may cultures before various rites, and has a direct line of practice and theology and lore tied to it, from Ancient Judaism through Modern Judaism and Christianity.  It is one of the few traditions with that type of longevity with little variance.  This is important.

From a more Craft context, considering a historical viewpoint, both modern ceremonial magic (meaning Dr. Dee and forward) and the examples normally looked at as witchcraft before 1900 like cunningfolk and the like, grew up in Christian context, usually what we now call dual-faith if not fully seen as Christian. Fasting has been an important idea in Christianity since the beginning, though its importance has faded more recently. As it was most often seen as a means to get closer to God, or to show suffering or purity to get God to answer prayer, it likely held similar importance in various magical practices, be they ceremonial or folk practices. As such, they were very likely used in the context we're talking, and likely as a means to either get closer to the spirits, earn their trust, open to them, or get them to do what the practitioner wanted. As such, I suspect it was used both for what I use it for, some spirit contact, divination, and personal soul searching, and for what CMs use it for, preparation for ceremonies or workings, among cunningfolk and other folk practitioners.  I can also see the use of it after a working, for a time specific working, fasting until the time it will manifest.

Ok, let's look on a more intellectual level, leading to present time application.

Fasting, like any form of stoicism, is emulation of the physical. My favourite example is anchorism, where the seeker was literally bricked in to a church so they lived in isolation but in the presence of God (not the greatest description the way I phrased it, but sufficient). It is the denial of the "flesh" to encourage the "spirit", the breaking down of the ego to get it to step aside. To an extreme, of course, it leads to a dualistic view, that the flesh is bad and should be punished or destroyed, or to health problems. We need our strength and full health for some things. To quote a common paraphrase of Aristotle, all things in moderation. Via media. Used correctly, safely, and with wisdom, it becomes a means to temporarily put the ego and general desires aside by replacing them with a baser and stronger desire based on need, in this case, food.

This can serve several purposes.

First, the distraction from every day concerns allows us to gain a new perspective, seeing things differently. This can aid in decision making, in contemplation, in self analysis, and in helping us walk the edges between worlds.

Second, the weakness created opens us up, both to receive wisdom and knowledge, and for possession and similar work, as our barriers and boundaries are weakened, allowing what couldn't pass normally to do so.

Third, the weakness can help with entering a trance state, with all the goals and uses that includes, being very useful in divination and in spirit contact.

Of course, these imply the danger as well. The distraction can cause us to miss physical issues that shouldn't be ignored. The weakness can open us up to things we don't want in us, whether ideas and opinions and suggestions, or spirits that are not of the type we want to open up to. And a trance state and weakness can both be bad in certain activities. You should avoid fasting and driving. All things with wisdom, all things in moderation.

~Muninn's Kiss

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Twenty-Four Knots on the Wheel

We are currently sitting half way between Christmas and Twelfth Night and Epiphany.  In musing about this, some patterns began to emerge.

Epiphany is of course Twelfth Day, and the Eve of Epiphany Twelfth Night. Twelfth days from Christmas, or in the older calendar, from the Solstice.

Traditionally, Jan 6 is both the day Christ was presented in the temple (hence the name Epiphany) and the day the Kings arrived, or, more accurately, they arrived the night before but were present during the day as well. Interestingly, the presentation of Christ is also connected to Candlemas, which is 40 days from Christmas, and Epiphany is also called the Day of Lights, with direct relation to the candles of Candlemas. The 40 day times in traditional usage are important, Ash Wednesday 40 days before Easter, etc. The lore of Bride's Day and Candlemas bring interesting light (no pun intended) to Twelfth Night/Day, Epiphany, and Three Kings Day.  But that's a side point.

In the Eastern Church, Epiphany is the baptism of Christ, the descent (fall?) of the Holy Spirit upon him, his manifestation as the Son of God. This is very much an initiatory event, the baptism a ritual death, the spirit descending much like the Fall of the Watchers and the settling on him as a dove much like later stories of witches and familiar spirits. This is followed, of course, by 40 days in the Wilderness/Wasteland to be tempted, an ordeal, fasting, harsh conditions. The type of thing you return dead, mad, or a poet, in the British Isles. 40 days places it on my birthday, February 15, which is Lupercalia in Rome, the Wolf Festival, a festival to Faunus/Pan, for the protection of flocks. A sacrifice was made in the cave where legend said Romulus and Remus were suckled by the wolf. The rites were said to have been brought from Arcadia (all things tie back to Acadia), the homeland of Pan. Twelve days before the Lupercalia is of course Candlemas.

That's of course using the Gregorian placement of January 6. In the Eastern Church, they use the Julian, so it lands on our January 19, and 40 days is February 28 in the Gregorian.  This places Christmas, of course, on the 6th or 7th of January, so our Epiphany is essentially their Christmas.  The shift obscures, just as the shift from the actual Solstice to what is December 25, where Christmas is celebrated and things are measured.

The 25 of December being Solstice places the 20th or 21st depending on the year as Christmas, so January 1st of 2nd as Epiphany. New Years becomes Epiphany, New Years Eve Twelfth Night. Lupercalia becomes February 10th in our calendar, Candlemas January 29th.

But in effect, the Solstice is the important date, Epiphany 12 days hence, then Bride's Day with Lupercalia 12 days hence, then the Equinox with Easter 12 days hence, then Beltaine, with Pentacost 12 days hence, then the Summer Solstice with the Fourth of July 12 days hence, then Lugh's Day, with Assumption 12 days hence, then the Equinox, with Michaelmas 12 days hence, the Samhain with Feroniae 12 days hence. Approximately. Kalends and Ides.

But, of course, that's only eight. Not the ten months of the early Roman Calendar or the later twelve months that became our own.

The 12 days of course count from the day after, to the Eve. This means approximately 14 days counting the actual days, two weeks, approximately half a moon. 28 days, you get 13 moons, 364 days. A year and a day making 365. 28 and 12 is of course 40 days, so if you take a complete moon cycle from each of the major dates, then 12 before the secondary dates, you get 40 days. So, Solstice + 12, 13 is Epiphany, Epiphany + 28 is Candlemas. Candlemas + 12, 13 is Lupercalia, and so forth. Which means 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, and so forth. 6 weeks, eight majors, you have 48 weeks, 336 days. Which of course is four weeks short, one moon. But this is because it isn't exactly what I implied.

If you add one week before each of the Solstices and Equinoxes, between them and the last marked Ides, you hit real close to the right dates, and get 364 days, 52 weeks, 13 moons.

Going backwards around, 12 days before Christmas (Solstice) is Lucie, my wife's birthday. 12 days before the Autumn Equinox, Holyrood. 12 days before the Nativity of John the Baptist (Solstice) is Whitsun. And 12 days before the Spring Equinox, Lent. The four Ember Days. 40 days before those, Samhain, Lugh's Day, Beltain, and Bride's Day. Approximately, anyway.

12 days before Bride's Day, Beltain, Samhain, Lugh's Day, and Samhain are approximately cusps of Capricorn/Aquarius, Aries/Taurus, Cancer/Leo, and Libra/Scorpio. These are one week after the Ides, and while there are rustic Roman festivals celebrated on these, they are more obscure and doing lend much.

So, Solstice, plus two weeks, Epiphany, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Candlemas, plus two weeks, Lupercalia, plus one week, Lent, plus two weeks, Equinox, plus two weeks, Easter, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Beltain, plus two weeks, Pentecost, plus one week, Whitsun, plus two weeks, Solstice, plus two weeks, the Fourth of July, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Lugh's Day, plus two weeks, Assumption, plus one week, Holyrood, plus two weeks, Equinox, plus two weeks, Michaelmas, plus two weeks, Cusp, plus two weeks, Samhain, plus two weeks, Feroniae, plus one week, Lucie, plus two weeks, Solstice.

Eight days (Solstices, Equinoxes, Bride's, Beltain, Lugh's, and Samhain), with a day twelve days before and twelve after. 24 days.

There are 24 knots in my year, not modeled after these, but it ties in nicely to mine, which are the Bright and Dark Moons closest to each 15 degrees of the Zodiac, the custs and the midpoints.  But the above is close enough to these that I think I need to work through the these and see how they relate to my own cycle, and what lore will come out of it.

~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday, 22 December 2013

That One Is More Important: A look at buildings, history, and learning to ask the right questons

"That one is more important."
"Why do I know that?"

It is important to learn to observe.  And it is important to learn to listen.  Especially when it is ourself talking.  And it is important to learn to ask the right questions.  Buildings are important.  Locations are important.  Names are important.  History is important.  Learn to observe.  Learn to listen.  Learn to ask the right questions.

On Friday, I drove into Denver with the intent to go on a tour of the Governor's Residence.  They were doing tours through that day, from 10am-2pm each week day.  This was in  relation to the Christmas decorations that were done this year by the Colorado Interior Design Coalition.  It was supposed to be beautiful.

Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion
Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion
The Governor's Residence is more properly called the Governor's Residence at the Boettcher Mansion.  Previously, it was referred to as the Governor's Mansion.  It was completed in 1908 by Walter Cheesman.  Cheesman was a druggist from Long Island originally and growing up in Chicago, working with his brother to provide the necessities in early Denver.  He made his fortune in real estate and built himself a mansion, which his widow sold to Claude Boettcher in 1923.  Boettcher came from a pioneering family who started with a hardware store selling to miners and built a fortune in many areas including sugar and cement.  The Boettcher Foundation donated the mansion as the residence for the governor in 1959.

I ran into slow traffic on my way from Longmont to Denver, and got there too late.  The tours were until 2pm, and I got to the closed gate at 2:10.  I only got to see it from the road, but it is a gorgeous building.  I walked around it and down the hill past the carriage house, then across Governor's Park below it.  I proceeded up the hill on the other side in the park, and say another mansion to the east of Boettcher Mansion.  My mind spoke, saying, "That one is more important."  I then asked the obvious next question, "Why do I know that?"  "Because it's higher" came the answer.  And I wondered why that was the reason.

High places have always been important.  As are low places.  Study many cultures and peoples in history, and this is quite evident.  There are different reasons for this, in regard to high places.  One is the military element.  A high place sees more of the surrounding area, so gives you more warning of an attack.  Build a tower or raised platform and it becomes more so.  A high place is also easier to defend.  Being above your enemy gives you the advantage, whether you are shooting (shooting arrows, throwing spears, later, shooting guns or cannons, are easier to kill with using gravity to draw them down from a height) or fighting with a melee weapon (you have an advantage swinging down, with gravity helping, over someone swinging up).  Second, there is a power and government element.  Being higher than someone by definition is superior, and this implies power over those below.  Whoever is on the hill above is easily seen as more powerful and more affluentual.  There is also a spiritual aspect, when dealing with sky gods or spirits, the high place is closest to them, just as when dealing with chthonic gods and spirits, the low place is closest, like caves and pits.

So, this second mansion is higher.  So what?  Does the idea above hold water?  Is this second mansion, which is not the Governor's, more important?  It is most definitely higher.  From the atrium of Boettcher Mansion, you can see Pike's Peak on a clear day, which is way south near Colorado Springs.  Boettcher Mansion has an amazing view.  But the balcony on the highest floor of the second mansion is a good fifty feet higher, and looks out above the roof of Boettcher Mansion.  In fact, before the much more recent apartment complexes around it were built, and before the sky scrapers in the Upper Downtown area were built, it would have been the highest point in Denver, with a view incorporating everything to the west of it all the way to the Frontrange, for an amazing panorama.  So it has the height, but was it really more important?  Is it now?

Grant-Humphreys Mansion
Grant-Humphreys Mansion
The second mansion is the Grant-Humphreys Mansion.  It was completed six years before the Boettcher Mansion, in 1902, for $35,000, which was a very large sum at the time.  The original building had 30 rooms and was much bigger than the Boettcher Mansion.  It was built by James Benton Grant.  Grant Street in downtown Denver is not named for the president as I presumed, but for this Grant.  Grant was a plantation owner in Alabama who was impoverished by the Civil War and decided to try to make it back in the mining industry.  He studied in Germany and moved to Leadville, Colorado where he made a fortune with a smelting company.  In 1917, his widow sold the mansion to Albert E. Humphreys.  Humphreys made a fortune three times, only sustaining it on the third.  One was in logging, then in mining, and finally in oil.  The mansion came under the stewardship of the Colorado Historical Society in 1976.

Now, as you can guess, smelting, in a time where mining was the biggest industry in the Frontrange, was a bit more important than, say, drugstores and hardware stores.  Likewise, an oil baron was a bit more influential than the owners of the Boettcher Mansion.  There's a reason the second mansion is larger, higher, and older than the first.

So, I observed.  I looked at two mansions and noted what I could with my senses.  I listened.  I listened to my internal voice, took note when I told myself the second mansion was more important.  And I asked the right questions.  I asked, and through those questions identified why it was so.

And named are important.  They leave legacies, and the places and streets and locations bearing the names lend clues to understanding the history, the impact, and the importance of those that bore the names.  The four names above, each to different degrees, were important in the Denver area and the history of the area.  One of the major roads in Denver was named for Grant, who served as Colorado's third governor, did much for Colorado's trade and commerce industries, and contributed to great extent to education in the state.  The neighbourhood to the east of Capital Hill, on which these two mansions are built, is named for Cheesman, including a park named for him, with many tales of being haunted and a colourful history.  Walter Cheesman has instrumental in developing Denver's water system, and was well known for using his money to help people.  The Boettcher Foundation has been responsible for aiding in many endeavors to improve Colorado, including building projects and educational scholarships.

~Muninn's Kiss

Faerie Nation Mag