Thursday, 24 November 2016

Requiem Aeternam Dona Eis: Some Thoughts on Misruletide

’Tis the season.  But what season?  This is an interesting time of year.

Winter.

A time of rest.

The land stands fallow and sleeping.

The days shorten, the nights lengthen.

The shadows stretch, the darkness grows.

What season?

There is a time, a time outside of time.  A season?  Certainly.  Better, a time, a tide.

A time outside of time.  The Time of Misrule.  The Tide of Misrule.  Misruletide.

I’m not talking just about the Christmastime, Christmastide, celebration by this name, but the portion of time starting at All Saint’s or All Hallow’s and extending to Candlemas.  I’m talking of a year ending at Hallowtide and starting at Candletide.  The year has ended.  The year has not yet began.

It is a time of rest.  Certainly.  A rest for whom?  The land, well, yes, but who else?  If it is the Time of Misrule, the Season of Misrule, the Tide of Misrule, we should start with what Misrule is, both in the festival use of the word and how we mean it here.

I won’t go much into the festivities or history, but the tradition of Feast of Fools and similar celebrations on Christmas and around that part of the year, was a celebration where everything was turned on its head, socially.  It was a time or revelry and irreverence, a time of no rules, or, namely, misrule.  Depending on where and when, it was sometimes a large scale celebration and sometimes a private affair.  Regardless, the “ruler” over the festivities was among the peasantry or the lower clergy, taking the role of king or abbot.  In Britain, the Lord of Misrule.  One aspect of this, anything trying to hurt or cause problems for those higher in society would be mislead into going after those low in society as well.  I can’t rule out that this aspect was not a part of things as well.

This is the sense I am using for this part of the year, from its end at Hallowmas to its beginning at Candlemas.  The Time of Misrule, the time when the normal order of things is tipped on its head.

It is during this time of year, at various points, in various forms, that we see lore of the Wild Hunt and traditions and folktales that have descended from the Hunt.  In its many forms, the faeries or the dead or witches or other beings ride abroad.  They are lead by various figures, Öðinn, Frigg, Frey, Freyja, Holda, Frau Holle, Berchta, Diana, Gwydion, King Arthur, Nuada, Herne, the Devil, Sir Francis Drake, Manannán, Arawn, Nicnevin, Ankow, and many others.  The Wild Hunt is said to occur, depending on the lore, on All Hallow’s Eve, on Midwinter’s Eve, on Christmas Eve, or on Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), or simple during the winter months, during the Misruletide we are discussing.

The variations veil and hide things, for it is the nature of lore to shift, but under it all, we see a Hunt lead by a figure, or two figures, and a host of the Dead or of spirits.  It is interesting to note that the lore of All Hallow’s Eve is of a time when the Dead or spirits roam in the world of the living.  This is not the “normal” state of things, it doesn’t follow the normal rule.  And many of the figures seen leading the Hunt are either dead folk heroes or gods or goddesses of death.

If we consider the parallel of a time when the Dead walk lead by a lord or lady of death with the Feast of Fools led by the Lord of Misrule, the idea becomes apparent.

Consider for the moment an image.

See a woman dressed in black robes with a red veil hiding her face.  She stands in a stone chamber deep beneath the ground, a round chamber with stone benches carved in the sides.  There are two thresholds in the room, an empty doorway with no door to her right, and a pair of massive doors to her left.  A figure stands before the black doors, watching her, still as death, silent as the grave.  In front of her is a black altar, a cube of unworked black stone, the colour of deepest night, deepest shadow.  A body rests on this altar, or a Thread, there is less difference than there seems.  The body is familiar.  In one shrivaled hand, she holds a rod or wand, wood, made of a blackthorn root.  In the other, she holds a knife.

When the time becomes full, when the tide is complete, the knife drops, the Thread is cut, the blood flows from the body, blood black in the shadows, covering the black altar.  This time has ended, the Thread cut, the Cutter’s knife has fallen.

The woman raises the rod and points at the doors, and the figure before it moves.  The figure it tall and thin, covered in black tattered robes.  His face is hidden in the shadowed cowl.  Folded at his back is a pair of skeletal wings with shadow stretched between the bones.  His hands, sticking from the arms of the robes, are nothing but bone.  In one hand, he holds a book, chained to his wrist.  His other hand is em

When the woman raises the rod, the winged figure wipes a line from his book with one skeletal finger.  The ink flows like smoke off the page and a figure rises from the body and joins it, the two becoming one, a spectral image of the body still on the altar.  The figure reaches and opens the doors wide.  Beyond, it is both as dark as the night and bright beyond imagination.  A wind fills the cavern, and the body crumbles to dust and blows away.

The figure beacons, silent, and the spectre walks through the Gates of Life and Death, which are closed fast behind them.

It is finished.

This is the normal rule, the Quick die, becomes the Dead, cross through the Gates, and rest until the time comes for them to return, becoming Quick again.  But this is the time of Misrule, the Dead don’t always stay dead, sometimes the Wild Hunt rides.

But who sides at the front of the Hunt?  Who leads the Dead?  Death.  Like Hel leading the people of her domain in Ragnorak, like the Queen of Faerie leading the people of her domain forth, like Odin or Freyja leading the Dead they have gathered forth, Like King Arthur leading the knights that died, Death rides forth at the front of the Host.

But, if Death leads the Hunt, who guards the Gates?  Ah.  The Time of Misrule.  The Quick caught up in the Host become Dead, and the Dead beyond the Gates can walk.  This is Misruletide.  Among other things.

Now, when the Keeper of the Lost sits as Regent, and the Quick and the Dead can switch station, now is when things aren’t always what they seem.

So, what do we have at Hallowtide?  Not just All Hallow’s Eve.  It is the Eve of All Hallows, of course, All Hallow’s Day, All Saint’s Day, which is followed by All Soul’s Day.  Three days focussed on the Dead, in different ways.  But let’s look specifically at All Soul’s Day.

This is of course best known in the part of the world I live in as the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when masks are worn and feasts and presents are prepared for the Dead, often at grave sites, is a similar fashion to the tradition practiced by many of my Craft brothers and sisters in a Dumb Supper on All Hallow’s Eve.  The giving of food to the Dead is present in many cultures throughout the world and throughout time, though not always this time of year.  It is common this time of year, however.

In Catholic practice, All Soul’s Day is a day of commemoration for the “faithful departed”.  This is a somewhat enigmatic phrase to many.  It’s taken to mean those who have died and are in Purgatory.  The phrase is, “fidelium animae”, fidelium, fidelis, fides, faith/belief/trust/confidence, so faithful, believing, or trustable, animae, anima, soul/spirit/life/air/breeze/breath, so spirit of the dead in this context.  Those that believe but haven’t obtained heaven, basically.

Misruletide begins with a focus on the dead, and another use of the phase “fidelium animae” gives some interesting things to consider.  A prayer has been commonly prayed for the “faithful departed” is as follows:

English:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.  And let the perpetual light shine upon them.  And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Latin:
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.  Et lux perpetua luceat eis.  Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

The last phrase, many of us are familiar with, at least in English, “rest in peace”.  This has become the most common expression for those who have died, though if you read lore of the dead from many times past, this directive implies a desire for the Dead not to be unrestful, not to rise.  The Dead don’t always rest peacefully, that the Gates aren’t always sealed, as we’ve been discussing.

Consider this phrase in Latin for a moment, "requiescant in pace”.  “Pace” is “pax”, meaning peace or harmony.  The sense is not in terms of no war, like we often see in in English, it’s the sense of being silent, not being dissident, not conflicting.  “Pax!” was also used like we would use, “Be silent!”, or “Hush!”.  “Requiescant" is “requiesco”, to rest or repose or sleep.  Rest in peace, sleep peacefully and don’t cause me trouble.  If you pardon my humour.

But “requiesco” is “re-“ and “quiesco”.  “Re-“ means back, backwards, or again.  Basically, to go back to a previous state.  “Quiesco” means to rest, cease, sleep, repose, abstain, cease, stop, and similar ideas.  It is from “quies” and “-sco”.  “-sco” changes a verb to have a meaning of starting to or beginning to.  “Quies” means to rest, repose, quiet, and figuratively, to dream.  So, getting to the root, we have the same meaning as we started with, but the combination implies a bit more specific sense than we saw with the original meaning.  “Quiesco” would be, to begin or start to rest, repose, or be quiet.  “Requisco” would be, to return to a state of beginning or starting to rest, repose, or be quiet.  But beginning to rest or repose would be to go to sleep, basically, and to begin to be quiet would be to stop making noise.  So, returning to these would be to go back to sleep, or to become quiet again.  A returning to a previous state of sleep or quietness.

This brings to mind discussions of Charon the ferryman being silent, and of the Dead being silent until Odysseus provides blood, and other stories relating to the silent dead being given speak though blood or other methods.  Bran the Blessed’s cauldron returned the Dead to life, but they were silent, unable to speak.  This is common in much of the lore, the Dead cannot speak, they are silent, unless voice is brought by some means.  To be Dead is to be Silent.  “Requiesco” implies a return to a state of sleep and silence, a return to death.

In modern Catholic context, the prayer implies those in Purgatory moving on quickly to Heaven, but the wording has other repercussions, and begs the question, as this prayer was introduced by St. Benedict in the sixth century and is believed to be older still, was the meaning always what it is now seen as?  The formalized beliefs concerning Purgatory were much later, though the concept existed in deferent forms back before Benedict.  It seems possible, though, that the implications of the prayer as that to keep the Dead at rest is not impossible.

"Requiem aeternam” is of note.  “Requiem” is of course from requies, also, a “place of rest”.  “Aeternam”, “arternus”, is translated as permanent, lasting, eternal, endless, immortal.  Hence, eternal rest, or an eternal resting place.  The second word comes from “-rnus”, making it an adjective, and “aetus”, meaning lifetime or age.  The root meaning is more about a resting place that will last a lifetime than the modern sense of eternity.

So, my tongue and cheek transition:
A place to sleep until we all die, O Lord please give them, and let the uninterrupted light shine on them, and those of the Dead who are trustworthy, by the mercy of God, keep quiet and not bother us.  Amen.

Misruletide is a time when the Dead can walk among the Quick, and when much of the feasts, fasts, celebrations, measures, folk traditions, and rituals are concerned with keeping them from doing so, or misdirecting them so they don’t succeed in whatever they seek to do.

And, I say:

Hail, oh Builder of Storms, Keeper of the Lost, Regent of the North, Ruler of the Time of Misrule, bringer of Change.

Hail, oh Cutter, you whose Knife cuts every Thread when the time comes, the Last Witness, Priestess of the Black Altar.

Hail, oh Guardian of the Gates of Life and Death, Darkling Twin, Shadow of the World, Keeper of the Book in which all is written and all is erased.

May the Time of Misrule bring its secrets and lore and surprises, may the storms bring the life of spring, may the Dead speak when speech is needed, be silent when it is not, ride forth when it is time, and rest in peace when all is accomplished.

Dance, oh Spirits of Misruletide, dance through the long dark nights, and may the lights of the new year find us when Candletide comes again.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.  Et lux perpetua luceat eis.  Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Stories from the Gleam


Stories.

Tales.

Myths.

Stories draw from the Gleam, and the combination of that source, the storyteller's blood, sweat, and tears, and the fascination or emotional reaction of the listener becomes something living, like a egregore but free willed.

The Gleam is a place of danger, the endless plains and forests and oceans.  Beyond the Veil, beyond the Gloom, the Gleam is endless.  It is dangerous, deadly, because there are no safe guards like there are here in the Dreamings we mistakenly call reality.

Many things live in the Gleam, for an endlessness contains no end of things.  There is a paradox where it's impossible to know, does the Dreamer, do the dreams and imaginings and fears, of the Dreaming populate the Gleam, or are the dreams and imaginings and fears of the Dreamer the echo or remembrance or viewing of the Gleam?  Do dreams and imaginings flow from the Gleam to the Dreaming, of the Dreaming to the Gleam?  Or both for that matter?

Stories draw from the Gleam.  In the Gleam, all stories are real, in some sense.  Some stories are distorted, warped images seem through the Gloom darkly.  Some stories are all too close to their source.  Does the Storyteller create the stories that are acted out in the Gleam, or view or receive the stories played out there and relate them?  Does it matter?

Stories draw from the Gleam.  Whether in Dream or Imagination, whether in vision or experience, whether reflected into happenings in the Dreaming, they draw the the Gleam.

The Gleam is a place of power, infinite, endless, forevermore.  The Gleam is power.  And stories, drawing from the Gleam, draw from that power, are energized, are made of the stuff of that power, the stuff of the Gleam.

Stories draw from the Gleam.  Stories innately contain power, are power.  The Story is the Gleam, and the Gleam is the Story.  The Storyteller is the Story, the Story is the Storyteller.  The Storyteller is the Gleam, the Gleam is the Storyteller.  The conduit.  The bridge.

Stories draw from the Gleam.  The Storyteller takes those stories, births them.  Tales are birthed, brought forth, manifest.  They are birthed in blood, sweat, and tears.  Nothing is born without effort.  Nothing is born without pain.  The Storyteller brings forth the story from the Gleam.

You get out of something what you put into it.  Nothing comes for free.  The work, the blood, sweat, and tears, is the cost, and the gift.  A gift for a gift.  The Storyteller gives of herself, the Gleam gives back.  The Story is born.

You get out of something what you put into it.  The blood, sweat, and tears of the Storyteller puts power into the Story, adds to the power from the Gleam.  The power grows.  The Story grows.  Life is breathed into the think that is not Dead, but have never lived.

A Story isn't a Story without a Listener.  A Storyteller isn't a Storyteller without a Listener.  A Story kept to yourself is a Dream.  A Storyteller without a Listener is a Dreamer.  But in the telling, the Dream becomes a Story.  In the transmission, the sharing, the teaching.  It matters not if the Story is spoken or written, until it is heard or read, it is the Dream.  When the Dream is shared, it becomes the Story.

The Listener is not listening, is not the Listener, if the listening is passive.  The Listener hears, listens, comes to know.  The Listener receives the story.  In the receiving, the Story is no longer just the Storyteller's.  The Storyteller and the Listener both hold the Story.  The Dream made flesh, the Dream manifest as Story.

In the Listener, fascination is born.  In the Listener, emotions are born.  This fascination, these emotions, feed the Story, it grows in power, it grows.  The Story becomes more than a Story.  The Story takes on Life, Spirit.  The Story breathes.  The Story takes on a spirit of its own, becomes a spirit,  The Dream became the Story, the Story became the Spirit, the Spirit lives.

But Spirits are living things, and living things like to continue living.  If the Spirit only exists between the Storyteller and the Listener, the Spirit dies with them when both are gone.  Or when the Spirit is forgotten, for while it lives, it lives on Memory.  Memory is in the Bone, enlived by the Blood.  The Spirit is in the Memory, the Memory of the Story, the Story of the Dream, the Dream of the Gleam.  Like all living things, the Spirit desires to survive.

How can a memory survive the one who remembers it?  Only in the sharing of it or recording of it.  But it is not a memory if it is recorded but the record is never picked up.  So, for the memory to survive, it must be either shared directly or shared indirectly.

The Spirit of the Story of the Dream of the Gleam compels the Listener to share it.  Some resist and Spirits die, living on only in the Gleam.  But many share.  In sharing, the Listener becomes the Storyteller, the Story becoming her Story, and in the telling, she once more births it anew.  The Story grows, and with it the Spirit, becoming stronger.  And the new Listener receives, as the Listener turned Storyteller did before her, as the original Storyteller received from the Gleam, through the the Gloom and the Veil.

The Story becomes the Lore with the retelling by the new Storyteller, and the Spirit of the Lore of the Story of the Dream of the Gleam is strong, and still wants to survive, to live on.

And the Lore is a very powerful Spirit.

FFF,
~Lorekeeper

Friday, 24 July 2015

On Veils and Webs and Hedges...

Much folklore, tradition, and mythology talk of a boundary, an edge, a division between worlds. Why this is common should be fairly evident. If there is an Otherworld, Underworld, any type of world beyond ours, if there was no separation, there would be no other world, the two would be one. For the two to be distinct, or function as distinct, something must divide them.

There are different words in different languages and cultures, different meanings, different methods to cross this boundary. But the boundary is constant, because it has to be. If there's another world, there is a boundary making these worlds distinct.

One common word used in English is the Veil. This is the term I most commonly use. As do many others.

The term brings to mind for some the veils of nuns or brides, the veils of mourners, the veils of Islamic women. For others, it brings to mind the veils of belly dancers, or harems, or erotic chambers. For others still, it brings to mind the curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem, and of the verse in the New Testament of that veil torn in two from top to bottom.

These imaginings of the Veil are useful, of course they are. But how accurate are they? Why do we use the term, and do our images match the reality the term is trying to describe.

Lets start with the meaning of Veil, and it's origins.

veil (n.)
c.1200, "nun's head covering," from Anglo-French and Old North French veil (12c., Modern French voile) "a head-covering," also "a sail, a curtain," from Latin vela, plural of velum "sail, curtain, covering," from PIE root *weg- (1) "to weave a web." Vela was mistaken in Vulgar Latin for a feminine singular noun. To take the veil "become a nun" is attested from early 14c.
(http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=veil)

The beginning of this description of course is some of the uses we described above, a head covering, a curtain. But note first the Latin vela, velum. Despite it's use as singular, vela is plural, and that is the word we get veil from, not the singular. Of interest, though, is that the Latin velum also becomes the English velum, which is the soft palate, the roof of the mouth. A veil is thin and covers, but it isn't necessarily cloth or fragile.

Of more interest is the fact that Velum comes the reconstructed *weg- meaning "to weave a web". It is the image of a spider's web across a surface or over an opening. Have you ever walked into a room or cave or cavern or between trees and walked right into a spider web at face level? That is a veil.

Web comes from the same word and so does weave. These two retained that meaning well. Most of the words coming from this root mean something along the lines of entwined, interlaced, woven.

But, as words do change meaning over time, do these meanings hold relevance to our Veil, the way we use it in the context of this discussion?

Consider for a moment, the idea of the endless Web of Fate I have described elsewhere.  Each being, human or not, has a knot of Threads at their core, that tie them to everything else.  These Threads interconnect with other Threads of those we encounter and interact with, and to our ancestors by blood, lore, or past lives.  These form a multidimensional Web, woven by the one who weaves.  I describe the web like this:

"Picture a spider web, a huge orb web, threads of web radiating out in all directions on a plane from a central point. Picture those threads connected to other threads between them, forming circles, spirals, curves around that centre. Picture the log thread stretching from the central point out to infinity in all directions, an infinite web. Picture the way the light shines through and across those threads, sometimes making them shine like glass, sometimes hiding them from view. Sometimes you see one thread, or three, or ten, sometimes just the part of the web near you. Lift your head, change the angle. You see the whole web sprawling out to eternity in the direction you are looking."

What if this Web I describe is the boundary between worlds?  What if it is our woven interconnectedness throughout Time and Space that separates us from that which is outside our Time and Space?  If this is the case, the Web that binds us together holds us in what we think is reality.  This would make crossing over that boundary very difficult, because we ourselves become the sentilils and guards, the Guardians of the Gate if you will.  All our experiences and pasts and futures and interactions in this world tie us deeper into the Web and more to what we think is reality.  People tend to see what they expect to see.

But, then, crossing that boundary also would mean being disentangled from it.  Not necessarily cut free (after the one who cuts cuts our Thread, we cross the Gates of Life and Death; completely cut free of the Web is freedom from this world and our bodies, for the Threads are what knits flesh and spirit, spirit and flesh) but loosed.  So, to cross over, the knots that hold us to what we know and expect of reality must be loosened and the Threads allowed to bend. The Threads of Fate but be bent, Fate must be bent.

Consider for a moment the word "warp".  In most common usages in Modern English, it is to "to bend, twist, distort".   This word is believed to come from the reconstructed Proto-Indoeuropian *werp- meaning "to turn or bend".  In weaving, it is used in contrast to "woof", the woof being the set threads in the loom, the warp twisting and turning through the woof, bending it, to create a fabric.  "Woof" comes from *webh- meaning "to weave", which is the source of both our English weave, web, and wave.

If the Web of Fate is the boundary between worlds, and the All as a loom, and we see it as the woof in that loom, the threads that aren't connected to the woof that twist and turn between them and bend them become the warp.  The warp bends the woof, the weave, the Web.  Without a warp in a loom, there is no fabric.  Cut the ends and the woof is a pile of strings.  But with the warp wove through the woof, a fabric forms.  The warp hold the woof in place, and of course gives it colour and pattern.  The woof is the foundation, but the warp defines its form.

Some Celtic sources describe the worlds as the Endless Knot, two separate lines interwoven but never connecting.  The is of course the two worlds, the world we know, and the Otherworld.  The two are seen as being tied together in certain places, and the Veil being thinnest there.  Places meaning points on the earth, spatial places, and points in time, temporal places.  At certain locations, the Veil is very thin because the worlds are so close.  At certain times, liminal times, the worlds draw close, and the Veil thins.  This idea of two interwoven worlds fits well the idea of the fabric of the Veil being the interweaving of the woof, our world, and the Threads that connect us, and the warp, the Otherworld and the Threads that connect those that live beyond the Veil, beyond the Gloom out in the endless Gleam.

Then, expanding the metaphor, and the reality it describes, crossing over is a matter of being tied to that other Web, that is the warp, which would mean that those who cross over are tied to both webs, that the Threads at their core run both out into the Woof Web of Fate and the Warp Web of Fate.  They span the worlds, are the Gates, and guardians thereof, they are of both worlds, so not fully of either.

It's by no accident that one of the folk etymologies for "witch" is that it came from a word meaning "to bend or turn".  Especially when we consider that the English "weird", from the Germanic "wyrd", urdr, ultimately meaning Fate, and is the name of one of the three Norns in Norse myth, comes from *wert-, from *wer-, the origin of *werp- we discussed above, "to bend or turn".  The warp of the loom, the wyrd, the fate, the Norns who decide the fate of all beings, the Spinner who spins the Thread, the Weaver who weaves it into the Webs, and the Cutter who cuts to on the Black Altar.  The Grimr.

Moving on from weaving and webs and veils, let's consider another common term for the boundary between worlds, the Hedge.

The image here is English style hedgerows of the type that separate fields or surround a residence.  These form a living, wild boundary between two fields, or between what is inside and what is outside.  For metaphoric purposes, we can use the image of a hedge around a residence, separating the inside and the outside.

Taking this idea back, and looking at the residence with a hedge around as an extension of the hill fort with a baracade or the castle or city with a wall, the inside becomes "us" and the outside "them", the hedge as protection from the Other beyond it.  Inside, we cultivate and control, we build and grow crops, we live life in relative safety.  Outside, there's uncertainty, danger, the settled, civilized farming settlement with the dangerous dark wood beyond, the image of the shift from nomadic to settled life.

The hedge is a wild and dangerous place, but intentionally so.  There's a reason two of the most common hedge trees are the whitethorn (hawthorn) and blackthorn (sloethorn).  While pretty trees, and both producing fruit (the haws and sloes) that provide food for those within and without alike, and to birds and rodents and other animals, the thorns are the important part.  These are thicket forming trees with long, dangerous thorns.  The blackthorn's thorns will cause nasty infections, and both are long and very sharp.  You can't cross the hedge without a lot of pain and threat to your body.  Among the thorns creatures live and other plants, including other trees, grow intermixed.  The result is a very dense wild boundary almost impossible to cross.

The hedge, though, being a wild space, also becomes a space where many herbs and other plants grow, giving rise to one of the two major modern usages of the term "hedgewitch".  The second meaning relates more to the hedge metaphor I'm going toward than the mundane hedgerows.

Often stiles are built where passage is needed.  Stairs up one side and down the other, these triangular constructions allow passage over the hedge, the only safe passage.  And these often can be gated at the top, and also mean limited known ingress and egress points.

Our hedge is like that, a wild space that both keeps us in, we that live in the Dreaming, the reserve if you will, and keeps the Other out, the deadly things that roam the Gleam, dangerous things our hedge protects us from.  The hedge itself is dangerous to both, but limited and defined, a wild place that keeps the inward inward and outward outward.

The thin spots we talked about above function similar to stiles, but it should be remembered that what allows one to go outside the hedge also allows one to come inside the hedge.  The stiles both allow passage out into the Gleam through the Gloom and become a dangerous gateway for things to possibly come into the Dreaming.

Just like with the mundane hedgerow, there are things in this hedge that can provide healing and nourishment, and things that are poisonous or deadly.  Those who enter the hedge can gain much for it, but also must be cautious.  And those that cross completely through or over the hedge instead of riding it must be very careful, because there's a reason we live inside the hedge.  The risk can definitely be worth it, though.

FFF,
~Lorekeeper, Muninn's Kiss

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Cauldron of Annwfn

The following is Preiddeu Annwyn, the Raid of Annwyn, the Raid of the Otherworld, part XXX (30) of the Book of Taliesin, as related by William F. Skene in 1868 in his The Four Ancient Books of Wales.  In it is related the Caer Sidi, Caer Pedrycan, Caer Vedwyd, Caer Rigor, Caer Wydyr, Caer Golud, Caer Vandwy, and Caer Ochren, familiar to readers of the White Goddess by Robert Graves, and the Cauldron of Annwyn, referenced by Robert Cochrane when we asked Taliesin’s question, what two words are not spoken from the Cauldron.

Note that it is nine maidens whose breath it was warmed by.  Those who know Norse myth might get a parallel.  Those who know Greek myth might get another.  Not the question, “what is its intention”.  Those that know Arthurian legend, specifically of the Graal, might get a parallel.  Also note the Cauldron is lined with Pearl.  Some might get where I’m leading there.

FFF,
~Lorekeeper, Muninn’s Kiss


I WILL praise the sovereign, supreme king of the land,
Who hath extended his dominion over the shore of the world.
Complete was the prison of Gweir in Caer Sidi,
Through the spite of Pwyll and Pryderi.
No one before him went into it.
The heavy blue chain held the faithful youth,
And before the spoils of Annwvn woefully he sings,
And till doom shall continue a bard of prayer.
Thrice enough to fill Prydwen, we went into it;
Except seven, none returned from Caer Sidi

Am I not a candidate for fame, if a song is heard?
In Caer Pedryvan, four its revolutions;
In the first word from the cauldron when spoken,
From the breath of nine maidens it was gently warmed.
Is it not the cauldron of the chief of Annwvn? What is its intention?
A ridge about its edge and pearls.
It will not boil the food of a coward, that has not been sworn,
A sword bright gleaming to him was raised,
And in the hand of Lleminawg it was left.
And before the door of the gate of Uffern [hell] the lamp was burning.
And when we went with Arthur; a splendid labour,
Except seven, none returned from Caer Vedwyd.

Am I not a candidate for fame with the listened song
In Caer Pedryvan, in the isle of the strong door?
The twilight and pitchy darkness were mixed together.
Bright wine their liquor before their retinue.
Thrice enough to fill Prydwen we went on the sea,
Except seven, none returned from Caer Rigor.

I shall not deserve much from the ruler of literature,
Beyond Caer Wydyr they saw not the prowess of Arthur.
Three score Canhwr stood on the wall,
Difficult was a conversation with its sentinel.
Thrice enough to fill Prydwen there went with Arthur,
Except seven, none returned from Caer Golud.

I shall not deserve much from those with long shields.
They know not what day, who the causer,
What hour in the serene day Cwy was born.
Who caused that he should not go to the dales of Devwy.
They know not the brindled ox, thick his head-band.
Seven score knobs in his collar.
And when we went with Arthur of anxious memory,
Except seven, none returned from Caer Vandwy.

I shall not deserve much from those of loose bias,
They know not what day the chief was caused.
What hour in the serene day the owner was born.
What animal they keep, silver its head.
When we went with Arthur of anxious contention,
Except seven, none returned from Caer Ochren.

Monks congregate like dogs in a kennel,
From contact with their superiors they acquire knowledge,
Is one the course of the wind, is one the water of the sea?
Is one the spark of the fire, of unrestrainable tumult?
Monks congregate like wolves,
From contact with their superiors they acquire knowledge.
They know not when the deep night and dawn divide.
Nor what is the course of the wind, or who agitates it,
In what place it dies away, on what land it roars.
The grave of the saint is vanishing from the altar-tomb.
I will pray to the Lord, the great supreme,
That I be not wretched. Christ be my portion.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Dance Under Starless Skies, Fair King of the Pictish Witches

As more and more of a generation crosses the Veil, those of us left, both those of the generation that brought us to were where are and those of us that inherit their legacy and lore, contemplate mortality in ways that weren’t as literal not long ago.  I could talk of many of the elders in our traditions and stream who have passed over the years and especially in recent years, but I’ll take the liberty of talking of one in particular.

On the Dark of the Moon this last Friday, Tony Spurlock, Brian DRGN, King of the Picts in Exile (no longer), and the founder and High Mojomuck of The First Church of The Doors, passed from the land of the living, leaving those of us remaining to mourn our loss and celebrate his gain.  As has been noted, the King of Dead, long Live the King.

The timing saddens me, as I was possibly going to be in San Francisco later this month and was hoping to finally meet him in person, but it’s too late now.  May he dance under starless skies. I would not be where I am or who I am if it was not for him, great soul.  I will miss him greatly, and I know many others will.  The Mighty and Blessed Dead embrace him, as he joins the Dragons who went before.

I have known DRGN only a short time, all said.  Many who grieve have known him longer.  I met him online five years ago, in 2009, on the 1734 list he had just joined, which I had been a member of for some time.  At the time, I asked if he would be willing to teach me Anderson craft.  He declined, not out of unwillingness, but because he felt he could not well teach it remotely.  Over the years since, we shared much conversation, and I think I can honestly say that even though he wasn’t teaching me, per se, I learned more of my craft from him than any other, and wouldn’t be who I am or what I am today without him.  And, though he felt in exile at times from the tradition, I think I can say the tradition would not be what it is today without him.  And I’m talking the Heart of the tradition, that which will sustain and survive any tribulations the tradition may suffer, that which is true Feri by whatever name, that which is Anderson Craft.

It was with a heavy heart that I heard of his passing, and I do truly mourn, as do many.  I truly wish I had met him in the flesh, and hope to meet him in spirit.  I will always cherish the lore and insights and knowledge and understanding and wisdom he shared with me, and friendship and connection we shared.

Hold your head high, DRGN, King of the Pictish Witches!  Dance, dance for joy, dance for sorrow, dance for all that was and is and will ever be.

"Forget the night.
Live with us in forests of azure.
Out here on the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned - immaculate.”

"For seven years, I dwelt
In the loose palace of exile
Playing strange games with the girls of the island
Now, I have come again
To the land of the fair, and the strong, and the wise
Brothers and sisters of the pale forest
Children of night
Who among you will run with the hunt?
Now night arrives with her purple legion
Retire now to your tents and to your dreams
Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth
I want to be ready.”

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss/Lorekeeper

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Forming a New Working Group

What follows is a brief outline of an approach to forming a new working group.  I have deliberately attempted to make it general and not path, stream, or tradition specific.  These are mostly off the top of my head, so their usefulness for others might or might not be significant.  I’ve tried to include all the things I see as necessary and essential, and encourage the reader to think about these and determine what is useful and what isn’t.  Adapt it, re-work it, expand it, prune it.  I put it out for anyone to work with, as is.  Your mileage may vary and use it at your own risk.  I may later expand this into a more substantial work, I’m not certain.  I’ve given an attempt at defining a few terms at the end.



  1. The Virtue, the essence, the stream should be present first.  This is the guiding force on where the group goes and is essential for focus and success.  Those seeking to form a group need to establish this first.  The Virtue includes the lore, ethics, methods, spirits, and members, both living and dead, depending on the age of the group, and more than these things.  Without those elements, the Virtue is demonstrably absent, though the details will vary for each group.

  2. The Call, the sending out of the draw to bring those needed to the group, should be performed early, after the Virtue is present but before trying to get started.  The specifics of this will be specific to the stream and Virtue, and involve the spirits and the lore, and all the founding members of the new group.

  3. A vetting process, a way to weed out those that are called from those that are curious, those that meld well with the Virtue from those that do not, is necessary before taking in members.  Those starting the group should determine how they want to approach this.  This of course requires the Sight, decrement, and observation.  This should point toward an approach, as each of those seeking to form the group, presuming there isn’t just one, will have different skills.

  4. Clear goals for the group, what is the intent, and how to approach it, is necessary before inviting those called into the group, as these should be clearly described and enumerated to those coming in.  This does not mean those who are still in the vetting process, which could be quick or over time depending on the skills and needs of the group, don’t necessarily need this knowledge.  It should be clear to those starting the group, however, before that vetting process begins, so should be outlined prior, even if there is no one yet to share it with.  These should flow out of the Virtue, and relate to how the Call is conducted.

  5. The ethics of the group, stemming from the Virtue and consistent with the goals, should be clear and known to all members, possibly even those in the vetting process.  Their willingness to conform to these ethics should be part of that process, and should also connect with the way the Call is conducted.

  6. Commitment and dedication are necessary.  The bringing of new people into the group should include some type of agreement both on the group’s responsibility to the new member and the new member’s responsibility to the group.  This may take different forms, depending on the makeup of the group, the Virtue involved, and the cultural context the group exists within.  This should be outlined and refined before it is needed, based on the vetting process, ethics, goals, Call, and Virtue.

  7. Evolving methods are important.  The group should have an initial basis for working, built on the Virtue, Call, goals, and ethics.  This should be flexible and adaptable enough to begin to grow and evolve with the group needs, not set in stone.  To begin with, this is a framework, a skeleton, a place to start working from.

  8. The Initiation or Ordeal should be outlines.  This will vary greatly depending on stream and region, and should be based on spirit guidance and the lore.  It should not be something easy for the new member, should provide a clear transition into the group, include opportunity for the spirits to contribute, and be impactful, something not easily forgotten.  This doesn’t have to be the same for each new member, but there should be clear connections with different types of initiations and ordeals to each other, the lore, and the Virtue.

  9. The Pact or Oath should be defined.  This may or may not include an actual oath, depending on the stream, tradition, background, and ethics of those forming the group, and is different from the commitment and dedication, as this isn’t a pact or oath with the group, but with the spirits tied to the Virtue and participating in the Call.  This is the agreement between the spirits and the new member of the group.  This is important because you are not looking for, in the forming of a group, a clergy and a laity.  You want each member to have their own connection to the spirits, and thereby to the stream and Virtue.  This doesn’t need to be defined as an exact agreement or oath, the form should be defined, the purpose should be defined, but the specifics typically are better the new member’s own words unless the stream already has predefined words, as this makes it the new member’s own. The Pact or Oath can be part of the Initiation or Ordeal, or immediately following it, or as part of a ceremony or ritual later.  I favor the idea of during.


These last two parts aren’t just for new members, part of the receiving of Virtue involves Ordeal and Pact as well, and the new members are being connected to the existing Virtue through the act.

A few definitions that might or might not help:


  • Call - The sending out of a beacon, basically, to draw those that resonate with the group to the group, or to the founding member or members.  It both draws those that need to come to come, and establishes the group in the place it is performed.  The details and methods will vary based on tradition.

  • Initiation - The beginning of things, the rite or experience that brings a new member into the group, and, more importantly, introduces them to the spirits and the lore.  Often the same as an Ordeal, but can be separate.

  • Oath - A sworn agreement with the spirits or with the spirits as witness, with major consequences on breaking them.  Different from a Pact in that the one swearing is bound by the Oath, not the other party, whereas a Pact is mutually.  An Oath says, this is my commitment, a Pact says, if you will do thus, I will do thus.  In some cases, both will be present, in others one or the other.

  • Ordeal - An experience that has to be passed through, suffered, or survived in order to join the group.  Often the same as an Initiation, but can be separate.

  • Pact - An agreement between a person and the spirits, for mutual benefit, usually with both conditions for ending the Pact (if possible) and with the results of breaking the agreement.

  • Virtue - the essence and sum total of the group, stream, or tradition, including the lore and spirits, the Thread of Fate making up said stream, those that came before, are present, and will be part of it.  This is the life force or egregore of the group, but more than these.


FFF,
~Muninn's Kiss

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

An Abstract on Abstraction

The focus on the abstract and the symbolic in many modern traditions is a bit odd in my opinion.  Not that the abstract and symbolic don't have a place or value, of course.  As a born mystic, these things have always intrigued and interested me.  It's the amount of focus and the importance placed that I think is a harmful thing for really growing and practicing.

As a specific example, my main objection to the Classic elements in folk magic is the lack of practical application to the real work.  I can't hold elemental Fire or Water or Earth or Air in my hands, I can't mix them and make something out of them.  But I can take the soil of the land and mix it with water from creek or pond or river or lake, to make mud, and form it into a figure of someone or something or a tablet or a disc for an amulet, and can sit it out for the wind and sun to dry.

You won't hear a farmer use a blessing like, "may you have water and air and earth."  That is too abstract to be meaningful.  You would hear something closer to, "may you have rain or irrigation water to water the crops, may you have fresh air to breathe and wind to blow away harmful insects, may your land be fertile and rich and produce."  Or something more along those more practical lines.

This holds true in many areas.  What good does a symbol do if it isn't applicable in a material or at least methodical way?  The Work is about doing the work, not about symbols that can be meditated on but have no pragmatic purpose.

The toad bone was not obtained by some because it symbolized all the things it can be seen to symbolize.  These symbols aren't of no importance, nor are they not real, but they aren't the point.  The toad bone was obtained for very specific purposes, to control animals, to have power over people, and others.  Read Andrew Chumbley's The Leaper Between, and you will see the application is the major focus, not the symbolism, though that exists as well.

I come from simple people, even if I work in an industry far from that, and move at times in higher society.  My ancestors on both sides were mostly farms, and when not farmers, still working class people.  Salt of the earth, honest folk.  This is why my grandpa lost everything twice, as to him, a handshake was a deal.  This is why my father always felt more comfortable out with his drilling team in the forest pulling up rock core samples than in the office with those who were more concerned with politics than the work.  My father tastes dirt to know what it is made of.  My grandpa on my mother’s side worked the ground most of his life, as his father did, and his, all the way back to Germany and Prussia.  I come from simple, working class, people, not academics or philosophers, not politicians or old money.  And when you live that life, or come from that seed, or do that work, you do what needs to be done, rather than worrying what it means.

Both my father and my mother’s father were water witchers, and could find whatever they were looking for beneath the ground with their skill. It didn’t mater what the meaning of anything was, it mattered that it worked and they could find what they needed.  My father used that skill with the drilling team, and they always hit the vein they were trying for when he told them where to drill.  There was no symbolism, no hidden meaning, just a skill others couldn’t use that was accurate and got the job done.

Except among philosophers and theologians, symbols and meanings are secondary to what you can use the thing for.  The Classical elements are great for discussion and even as symbols in ritual, but, as Bearwalker would say, you can you grow corn in them?  The abstraction from the physical things that we interact with when we get our hands dirty to the philosophers’ symbols and metaphors is often a distraction from the work, work that only truly gets done when we get our hands dirty and do the work.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

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