Monday, 31 December 2012

Hammer and Anvil: The Smith and the Craft

I've been thinking of Witch as Smith.  He (using male pronouns here but "she" is equally true and brings us to Brigid or Athena rather than Weyland or Hephaestus) is truly the master of all four classical elements (ignoring Spirit or Ether here, but if included, this would be the Smith himself).  Earth is the hammer and anvil, and the metal he works, but more elementally, earth is used in the annealing process to cool slowly verses water's fast cooling.  Air is the bellows, heating the fire hotter.  Fire is the heat, the shaper and temperer.  Water is the cooler and quencher, causing hardening.

The process of smithing shows a lot of things about the Smith and about the weapons and tools he makes.  It's interesting to see Witch as the Warrior (Hercules) that uses the weapons (Kornephoros, the Club Bearer) the Smith forges, the Hunter (Orion) using the weapons (ensis, the Sword, consisting of Theta Orionis C, Hatsya, and the Great Orion Nebula, and the Club, consisting on Betelgeuse [Orion's hand], Nu Orionis, Xi Orionis, Chi1 Orionis, and Chi2 Orionis) to hunt, and also the Ploughman (Bootes) using the plough (Ursa Major, the Big Bear, also called the Big Dipper, but in this context, the Plough pushed by Bootes).  Orion is significant to me this time around, because of an encounter during my recent bone rite, which I won't discuss here.  Bootes, the Ploughman, is significant, as several British traditions see him as Cain, who holds much significance in their mythos.  And Hercules is significant since a large portion of the constellations we have today are based on the myths relating to him.

So, what is a smith?  The English word smith comes from the Old English smið, meaning, not surprisingly, "one who works in metal".  This comes from the reconstructed Proto Germanic *smithaz, "skilled worker", from the reconstructed Proto Indo European *smei-, "to carve, cut".  So we could say a smith is one who carves or cuts to make something.  A stonemason could be called a stonesmith.  One who works with the Threads of Fate could be called a wyrdsmith or weirdsmith or fatesmith.  This is Witch.  Tin is white metal, so a tinsmith is a whitesmith.  Iron is black metal, so a ironsmith or steelsmith is a blacksmith.

Looking primarily with iron and steel smithing, blacksmithing, though much applies to other metals, here's a basic discussion of the stops.  A bit simplified, and written by myself who has never done any smithing, so don't use it as a guide.  This summary is for discussion sake.

First you take the iron or steel and heat it in fire and coals, using the bellows (Air) to raise the heat until the metal glows bright red.  Then you hammer the metal into the needed shape with the hammer on the anvil, heating it again periodically when it cools.  This is forging.

Next you anneal it, a process that decreases ductility, the compression of the metal under stress, and increase hardness, by aligning the metal.  This is done by burying the hot item in soil, in earth, until it cools slowly and naturally to a temperature that's cool to the touch.  This is repeated several times, heating the metal in a lower temperature fire than the forging process.

Third, you sharpen it if needed (some weapons and tools need sharpening, some don't), on a whetstone or file, or some other controlled grinding tool.

Once sharpening is done, it's time to demagnetize the item.  This keeps the filings from sharpening from sticking to the item, allowing the unneeded pieces to fall away instead of staying part of the item.  This is done by repeatedly heating the metal to an orange colour, then slowly heating it above red until a magnet won't stick to it.

The fifth part is quenching.  This is in water, oil, or brine, all Water for out purposes.  The item is quickly doused into the Water, cooling it rapidly.  It is left in the Water until it completely cools, resulting in through-hardening.

Next is tempering.  This is done by heating the item from the spine (the part away from the edge, the thickest part) until the spine glows yellow (so not as hot as the orange and a long way from the red).  This makes the item more flexible, so less brittle and less chance of it breaking.

Next you mount it if you need a handle or other wooden control piece.  This is typically done by heating the tang, the part the handle fits on, and using it to burn the hole needed into the wood.

The final step is polishing.  While this might seem needed for, say, a ploughhead, the purpose isn't purely ascetics.  This is the process of working out the imperfections and textures of the metal.  A rough plough will have more resistance in the soil and be harder to clean.  Basically, this is just sanding off the roughness, starting with course sandpaper or stone and working to finer and finer to make it as smooth as possible.

Let's look specifically at several of the Smith's tools.  Of note are the hammer and anvil, the forge and bellows, the whetstone and tongs, and the quencher and mound.  There are a number of other tools, and some of these are more representative than actual.  But they help in the current discussion.

And hammer and anvil tend to be the symbol most used for smithing.  Who doesn't think of them when they think of a smith?  The large man standing with a hammer in his hand, the metal on the anvil, striking it over and over.  The words of the English folksong, "Blacksmith", call out in the voice of Steeleye Span:

A blacksmith courted me
Nine months and better
He fairly won my heart
Wrote me a letter.
With his hammer in his hand
He looked so clever
And if I was with my love
I would live forever.

In practice, while that image does hold, it's simplistic.  First off, it was common to have a striker, who was an assistant, often an apprentice, who swung the sledge hammer when it was needed.  The smith, the master, would hold the metal in the tongs and direct the striker where it hit.  In addition to the sledge hammer, there were smaller hammers, which is where the image described above comes from.  There were often several for different jobs, and these were used along with many punches, used to create holes, chisels, used to chip at the metal, and other tools called swages, used to shape the metal.  There is also a hammer called a fuller or a creaser, a rounded hammer used to create grooves and to spread the metal.

An anvil is basically just a large, hard block of iron, tempered to handle the force of the shaping done against it.  It was primarily used during the forging process, when the metal is very hot and the force against it is hard.  Once the shaping began, the swage block was used instead.  A swage block is perforated and used for more fine work and finishing work.

Next we have the forge and the bellows, Fire and Air.  These are the heating part of the process.  The forge heats the metal, the bellows heat the fire, or more accurately, the bellows provide more oxygen to feed the fire of the forge, causing it to burn richer, and therefore hotter.  The forge is the heart of the smithy, and the bellows are it's lungs.  Without the forge, you can't smith.  Without the bellows, the forge can't be raised to the temperatures necessary for ironwork.  Another related craft to smithing is casting.  His also uses a forge, but requires much hotter temperatures, because instead of softening the iron or steel (or other metal), you need to completely melt it to pour it into a cast, giving its shape through fluid pouring then cooling instead of my solid pressure from the hammer.

The whetstone and the tongs aren't related in the way the hammer and anvil, and forge and bellows are, but they are two tools that are distinct from the others.

The tongs, obviously, are used to hold the hot metal.  You can't reach into the forge and pull out the metal with your hands, nor can you hold it in place when it's being hammered and worked while hot with your hands.  The tongs serve as an extension of your hand, fireproof and stable.

I use whetstone here to represent several different types of tools.  Not all smithies contain the same assortment, and different types of work require different assortments.  All are used for grinding and sharpening.  They are course, to different degrees, and all are used to remove, not to shape.  Shaping implies changing of what's there into a different form.  These tools remove excess to give a new form.  Chisels could be placed here as well by that description, but there's another characteristic of these tools: friction.  They are used to remove through rubbing, not chipping.  These tools include the literal whetstone, which is a piece of actual stone that's harder than iron and rough in texture, files, which are rough metal tools for grinding, sandpaper, which is paper with some type of grit on it to wear off the metal, and grinding machines, basically a stone wheel turned by a mechanism similar to a mill stone, which the metal is held against to grind.

Finally, the mound and the quencher, Earth and Water.  As the forge and bellows heat, the mound and quencher cool.

Mound I'm using symbolically; there isn't a mound of earth in most smithies.  I'm referring to process of burying the item to slow cool it in the anneal process.  Sometimes the heating during the anneal process is done in a separate fire outside the forge, then the whole fire buried in earth, other times, the forge or a secondary forge is used to heat it without using the bellows to raise the temperature, then the item is buried in a pit, or sometimes an actual mound.

The quencher is a barrel or trough or similar container filled with the oil or brine or water, used for, obviously, quenching.  The difference in fluid is due to the boiling points needed to effectively cool the metal quickly.  If the boiling point is too high, the metal will cool too quickly and likely crack.  Water has the lowest boiling point, so cools faster as the heat vaporizes it.  It is sometimes used for iron, but sometimes cools too fast.  When it does, brine is often used.  Brine is in effect salt water.  Adding the salt raises the boiling point.  Steel requires slower cooling than iron, so often requires oil, which has a much higher boiling point than water or brine.  For "oil" this varies from vegetable or animal fat oil to petroleum based fluids like transmission fluid or petroleum oil.  Of course, in the days before wide spread petroleum availability, plant or animal oils were primarily used.

Now that we've looked at the tools, let's look at the process from an esoteric viewpoint.  Here's the steps outlined above:

1) Forging
2) Annealing
3) Sharpening
4) Demagnetizing
5) Quenching
6) Tempering
7) Mounting
8) Polishing

Forging, as discussed, is the process of softening the metal and shaping it with tools.  It is fire of the forge, air of the bellows, and earth of the hammers, tongs, anvils, and related tools.  Fire, air, and earth.  Softening and shaping.  Think about these in your life.  What heats things up?  How does it soften you, making you malleable so you can be shaped?  What shapes you?  In what ways?  In the military, this is Basic Training, the initial training that shapes you into a soldier.  Looking deeper, think of the mysteries.  What stage is this?  This is the teaching phase, the prep work, the daily practice, the period of observation and learning.  It is the time of the student and teacher, the period where you get a taste of the tradition and that taste changes you.  This is Gwion stirring the Cauldron of Ceridwen and finally getting a drop in his mouth.  It is a time of hard work, of sweat and tears.

Annealing, that which makes the metal ductible, and hence unable (or as close as possible) to break under pressure.  This is the process after it is the right shape to avoid it losing that shape.  The setting of it in that shape.  This is, as stated, the process of burying to cool, heating, cooling, and so on.  Earth to cool, fire to heat.  Earth and fire.  Making ductible.  Think about this in your life.  The process of shaping you creates rapidity, afterward, you have to be made to handle pressure or you will crack.  You see this in the military, where the initial training hardens you and sets you in a certain shape.  Following that, the soldier responds by muscle memory and reflex, which is often necessary, but makes it harder to make a decision outside the training when needed.  The period afterwards requires adapting that training to an active process, if the soldier is to become an officer or any type of leader.  Otherwise, you will crack under pressure, because once you reach the end of what you were trained for, you have nothing left.  Looking deeper, think of the mysteries.  What stage is this?  Often the later period of training is different from the first, a period of testing where the teacher analyzes if the student is ready.  During this time, you are made to be able to handle the pressure that will come later.  In the tale of Taliesin, this is the period after Gwion drinks the drop.  Ceridwen is chasing him, trying to kill him.  He must change and adapt or die.  This is shown in the shapeshifting contest, Gwion changing into forms to get away, and Ceridwen changing into forms to catch him.

Sharpening, the grinding stone, where anything not needed is stripped away.  This is earth and only earth.  Forging starts with fire, air, and earth, air is removed for annealing, now fire is removed.  Earth.  Removing.  Think about this in your life.  Once you are able to handle pressure, unneeded things can be stripped away.  Before, the lose of them might break you.  In the military, this is your first battle or series of battles.  Once in the fight, your shape (training) and ductibility (ability to adapt) are tested and anything unneeded is stripped away.  At this point, either the the training and ability to adapt serve you well, or you die.  Looking deeper, think of the mysteries.  What stage is this?  This is initiation, in whatever form it takes.  In a very real way, that which isn't needed is stripped away in death, and what is needed emerges from the other side.  In the tale of Taliesin, this is Gwion becoming a grain, and Ceridwen into a hen and eating him.

Demagnetising, the reforming and realigning of the metal so it won't hold onto what was removed in sharpening.  This is done with fire and only fire.  The metal is heated, let to cool some, heated, let to cool some, and so on.  Fire.  Letting go of what was removed.  Think about this in your life.  After the unnecessary things are removed, how hard is it to really let go of them?  What has to happen to really move on?  I'll leave the soldier analogy behind at this point, as, never having been a soldier, I'm not sure how these steps apply at this point onward.  Digging deeper, think about the mysteries.  What stage is this?  After initiation, in the period following, many people feel lost, because they haven't let go of what was removed, but haven't come to terms with the changes that occurred.  It's a transitory time, a birthing you could say, with initiation being the time of conception.  And this parallels Taliesin's tale.  Ceridwen is pregnant after eating the grain, and gives birth to Taliesin nine months later, Gwion reborn.

Quenching, the hardening process, by which the metal is made to be strong enough to hold off any impact (or as close as possible).  This is a water only process, if you view water, brine, and oil all as water, which they have the characteristics of.  Water.  Hardening.  Think about this in your own life.  The point following the final letting go of the things you've lost tends to be an emotionally null time, a quenching of your emotions, a hardening of your spirit.  This is necessary to hold onto what is needed after losing what is not.  "What  have, I hold!" as Cochrane would say.  Which leads us into the mysteries.  What phase is this?  After we've come to terms with the changes, we have to apply them.  This requires determination and persistence, and force of will.  A quenching of our desire, so we can do what's necessary.  Not a period that lasts forever, but a necessary period.  In the tale of Taliesin, this is Ceridwen, who had intended to kill him when he was born, tying him in a bag and setting him adrift in the sea.  his period, floating on the sea, was a time of hardening, and directly visible as being quenched in water, since he was put in the sea.

Tempering, heating the blade once more to make it flexible.  This once again is fire only, but a lighter, milder fire, not heating as hot.  Fire.  Flexibility.  How does this apply to your life?  Hardening after loss tends to lead to rigidity, and while necessary for a time, this is bad in the long term.  Once that phase has passed, you need to regain flexibility so you can weather any future trouble.  Your heart has cooled in hardness, now it's time to warm it back up, not to the point of forging, but from where it is.  Looking deeper, how does this apply to the mysteries?  What phase is this?  That initial digging in and hardening must be followed by a more flexible time.  Hardening applies what you learn, growing flexible makes it yours, adapts it to you.  It's a period of renewed growth.  Growth doesn't end with initiation.  In Taliesin's tale, this is the period following him being found among the salmon as a child, during which he grew up.

Following tempering, is mounting, the putting of a handle or hilt on the metal.  This is often done, once more, with fire alone.  Fire.  Mounting.  How does this apply to your life?  A tool can't be used without a way to hold it or attach it.  The same is true of our lives.  There is always a bit more pain before we are ready for what is to come.  This is preparation.  Digging a bit deeper, how does this apply to the mysteries?  What phase does this represent?  In the Eleusinian Mysteries, this is the Greater Mysteries.  The initiate, after passing through the Lesser Mysteries which were initiation, then can enter the Greater Mysteries, a second initiation in some way, yet different from the first.  This is preparation for the real work, the first initiation and the period between the preparation for this.  This holds true for other types of initiation as well.  Initiation prepares you for the rest of the process, but there comes a time of change that prepares you for the actual work.  In the tale of Taliesin, this is his exploits in court, where he has to outsmart the others involved to save what is dear to him.

The final phase is polishing.  The metal at this point is perfectly formed, shaped, ductible, flexible, and strong, but it's rough.  The imperfections are removed by polishing it, giving it's final look.  This is a process of only earth, and is fine and careful work, persistence without a heavy hand.  How does this apply to your life?  The only thing left after you are prepared for what will follow a time of loss to to smooth out the rough edges so you don't get stuck on things that might hold you back.  The same is true in the mysteries.  The last stage is the years of polishing all your imperfections out, so you don't get caught up on things that might hold you back from the great work.  For Taliesin, this is his travels as a bard after the tale is done.  He's doing the work everything before has prepared him for, polishing his skills as he goes.

And so it goes, as with the Smith, so with the Witch, as with the craft, so with the Craft.  For, the Craft is the Craft of all Crafts.

~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Causes, Effects, and Responsibility in the Environment and in the Craft

This morning on the way to work, there was a discussion on the radio with an environmental expert regarding caring for the environment, motivations, and causes.  The statement was made that we shouldn't worry about is climate change man made or is it mother nature.  He discussed a couple examples.

One type of bird is breeding much earlier because spring comes earlier, and people are worried, thinking the bird shouldn't have to change the breeding times to adapt.  He said there's nothing wrong.  Adaptation is natural and there's nothing to worry about.

Another type of bird lives near the polar ice cap.  It gets its food from the edge of the ice, flying out, then bringing the fish back to its young.  It is now having to fly over 100 miles each direction, and can't keep up to keep its young fed.  He said this is a problem, because it's not adaptation, but being unable to adapt enough.  He said if we value the species, we should do so because of that, not because of climate change being caused by man or not caused by man.

That was his general premise over all.  If a species or habitat or resource is important to us, we shouldn't worry about what's natural and what isn't, we should take steps to preserve it.

While I agree that is is just as dangerous to assume all changes are man made and therefore try to stop them in all cases as it is to assume all changes are natural and should be let to happen regardless of the consequences, the idea we should intervene for those things we value and let those we don't be lost seems just as dangerous.  Are we able to truly make that decision?  I've seen examples of both the first two, living in the west.

For decades upon decades, the Forest Service fought every fire that started, putting out all of them they could.  This was bad because fire is a natural way that the forest rejuvenates itself, destroying the old and dead and deceased, and stimulating new growth.  In response to the realization of this, there was a swing to a "let it burn" policy, where fires were only fought when they directly threatened buildings and homes.  This was equally as bad, especially after years of putting out all the fires.  The fires spread out of control and were disastrous.

Another example is logging in Oregon.  For years, the big companies over-logged, clear cutting huge areas and not replanting.  The small companies cut much smaller areas and replanted because they couldn't afford the fines, but the big companies found it cheaper at that scale to pay the fines than to replant.  In response, the spotted owl was found as a reason to stop logging of old growth forests (I won't go into the issues of that, as, if it wasn't the owl, it would have been something else). The results?  Small companies went out of business because they couldn't afford to replace their equipment to handle smaller trees.  The big companies could, so continued to overcut and not replant but now had less competition.  The net result was preservation of old growth, but heavier impacts on the environment as a whole and expansion of big business.

And, an example of focusing on what "we" (in this case, people not living anywhere near enough to be impacted) value is the wolves in Yellowstone.  The environment had been without that type of predator for over 100 years if not longer.  The wolves were hunted down in Canada with helicopters, some mated pairs were separated, and the wolves were dumped into an environment they weren't used and wasn't used to them.  They multipled much quicker than expected because they had a tremendous food supply and no competition or threat.  Livestock were killed and ranchers retaliated, often in horrible or unnecessary ways.  A local wolf species vanished.  Several species suffered greatly.  In short, it was a mess.

The issue is, if we make decisions based on what things we like, we will most likely make things worse.  As Cochrane said, "Do not do what you desire, do what is necessary."  We need to analyze and understand before we act.  We need to minimize our impact on the environment, both when we would harm it and when we attempt to fix it.  Yes, we need to act to save and preserve in some cases, and definitely need to cut back on the damage we do, but to subjectively save things we like and let things we don't be lost can impact things in very destructive ways.  Imagine if we said, "we don't like stinging things or spiders, so we'll less all bees and spiders die out, maybe even try to kill them off."  The impact of that would be unimaginable.  Yes, that's an extreme, but we need to be concious of the effects of our actions, regardless of our intensions.

This is true in magic and witchcraft as well.  Magic and witchcraft are the process of creating change, and those changes ripple out.  There are effects of every action, even if it's a metaphysical or supernatural action, and they don't all become obvious right away.  We need to think through our magic before doing it, observe the results, both direct and indirect, and learn from those observations for future workings.  Caution and attention is necessary, magic should not be done unthinking and without observation.  Not to say that means to avoid all workings, just to be concious of our actions and of the effects, and to take responsibility for what we do.

~Muninn's Kiss

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Five Rivers Past the Gates of Death

Last July, I wrote a post concerning death called Close the world, Open the Next: a Requiem for Life, a Soliloquy for Death (Blogger, Wordpress, LiveJournal).  Within it, in a small section concerning the Song Of Amergin, I made the following statement concerning the River Styx:
The Hawk, according to Graves and the myths he connects to the Cliff, is on the Cliffs of Nonacris, in Arcadia (because everything comes back to Arcadia).  From the Cliffs flows the headwaters of the River Styx, one of the rivers of the Underworld.  In some myths, it is the River Styx that Charon ferries the dead across.  Styx is firmly rooted in Death, and is where the gods go to make oaths, swearing them on the waters.  Styx is Hate, and it's followed by Sorrow, the Tear that the Sun lets fall.  Cochrane said, "A Crafter is born not made, or if one is to be made, then tears are spilt before the Moon can be Drawn."  Sorrow and Tears are necessary ingredients to Witch.  The Tears fall for the desolate world, the Wasteland.
To expand a bit on this statement, I'd like to discuss the five main rivers of the underworld discussed in Greek myth.

Styx, Στύξ, in Greek literally means "hate" or "detestation", that which we despise and reject, the abject.

The River Acheron is literally the River of Sorrow, or River of Woe.

The River Cocytus is literally the River of Cries, or River of Lamentation.

This leaves two other rivers, the River Phlegethon, the Flaming River, and the River Lethe, the River of Forgetfulness, or River of Oblivion, or River of Concealment.

It's said Styx loved Phlegethon, but his fire burned her and killed her, that's how she ended up in the Underworld.  Phlegethon is said to coil around the earth, much as Loki's son in Norse mythology does, then flows into the depths of Tartarus.  There, Styx and Phlegethon were allowed to unite, flowing together, fire and water.

The River Lethe is of course the river souls drink from to forget the pains and sorrows of life.  The Eleusinian Mysteries and a few others taught their initiates how to find the pool or river Mnemosyne, Memory, instead.

Styx (Hate) leads to Acheron (Sorrow).  Acheron leads to Cocytus (Tears).  Cocytus leads to Phlegethon (the fire that burns away the chaff).  And Phlegethon leads to Lethe (Forgetfulness) or Mnemosyne (Memory).

But this is easier to see when we think of Styx as the abject, the casting off of what we hate in ourselves, rather than the hate itself.

Through the Gates of Death, we first cast off that which we hated about ourselves in life.  Then we feel the loss of that which we loved in life, this is our sorrow.  This leads to tears, lamenting the loss of all we thought he had in life, after we've cast off both what we hated and what we loved, all our attachments.  But then we burn off even the sorrow and lamentation, leaving nothing but our unbiased memory of what came before.  We then stand at a crossroads.  Do we drink of forgetfulness and lose even the memory of things past, starting with a clean slate, but losing also that which we learned, or do we drink from memory and hold onto that last part of the life we lived before, remembering the lessons and wisdom, learning from them in that which we now enter?

This is paralleled in the Descent of Inanna, of course.

This is of course the course not of just physical death, but of all try initiation.  And it the path we take to fully realize what it is to be Witch.

~Muninn's Kiss

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Craft of All Crafts

Plato talked of what he called the World of the Forms.  Unlike Aristotle, who would say a chair (or whatever item you choose) is called a chair and is recognizable as a chair because it is the essence of chairness, that it's very existence makes it what it is, Plato would say we recognize it as a chair because it is modeled after the ideal chair in the World of the Forms.  We recognize it as a chair based recognizing it for something following the plan for what a chair should be.

Both these viewpoints have merit, and both can be seen as simultaneously true if you can grasp paradox.  Aristotle's chair is a very real, physical chair, concrete and tangible.  Plato's chair is a reflection, an image, an illusion you could say.  Seen together, you get the model of most esoteric understandings of the universe, from the Hindu Maya, the Dream, to the Taoist Yin and Yang out of Tao and Te, from the Kabbalist upper and lower heavens and earths, and the Sepherot and Qippot, to the Celtic world and otherworld.

These themes run strong in many forms of traditional witchcraft, but especially in Grimr.  While some take on only Plato's view, seeing the material world as an illusion to be rejected, others take on Aristotle's view, seeing the otherworld as within us, to teach us about the outer world which is the only reality.  Grimr holds Plato's and Aristotle's views in paradox.  In some ways, the material world is an illusion, a reflection of worlds beyond, seen through a mirror darkly.  In other ways, the material is very real, and any rejection of it is embracing illusion and moving away from Truth.  For the separation of the worlds is the true illusion, and the Threads stretch through all worlds and the Tree and River and Web reach in both directions.

Looking at Plato's view more closely, specifically in the context of what is often called the Craft, we see a pattern take form.  It is significant that it almost seems each medieval craft had mystic and esoteric teachings and practice as part of their guilds and societies.

We see, most significantly and surviving, the Freemasons.  There was a time it was made up of actual stone masons performing their trade, though it's more often symbolic and esoteric masonry today.  The esoteric secrets and understandings are crouched in stone mason terminology and techniques, and the legends and myths are set in this context.

Another often commented on example is the Horsemen's Word, primarily in Scotland, which was strong and thriving from all evidence around the time of the turn of the 1900s, but has since died out.  There are some surviving accounts and descriptions pointing to an esoteric tradition of Cainite nature focused around horses and their training and care.

Smiths were thought to be magical in their craft, turning raw metal into weapons and tools and other useful forms.  It's no coincidence that many cultures had smithing gods and goddesses.  Smiths were treated with awe ranging from respect to fear.  There's some evidence of lore passed down master to apprentice in at least some cases that went beyond just the practical elements of their craft.

Weavers have always been associated with Fate, most cultures having weaver and weaving gods and goddesses who were usually tied to Fate or Destiny in some way.  In most of the Middles Ages, and also outside that era depending on location, weaving was a male profession.  Weavers seemed to have had a similar awe as smiths in many places, transforming plants into cloth and clothes, something people depended on as much as what the smith created.  But the respect seems less, and the fear closer to distrust.  In many areas, weavers were trusted about as much as gypsies, in other words not much.  There seems to have also been esoteric lore related to weaving passed down.

You see similar things with potters, with sailors, with tinkers.  Each skilled profession, each group that can be called a craft, seems to have had their lore and myth and secrets, specific to their craft.  There's a saying in Hawaii, 'a'ohe pau ka 'ike i ia hā lau ho'okahi, all knowledge is not taught in one shed.  Each craft, each profession, teaches that which relates to their field, their understanding, their craft.  The truths shown in how a thread is spun are meaningless to a mason, and a weaver knows nothing of plumbing a wall.

To come back to Plato's idea, each of these professions, each of these crafts, reflects the ideal Craft in the World of the Forms.  Each is made after the original, but none can fully capture that original, for they are but reflections.  The ideal Craft, the perfect Craft, can be seen through each craft, they can each teach part of it, but none are the Craft, the Craft of all crafts.

There's a reason witchcraft is so hard to define.  A mason works with stone.  A carpenter works with wood.  A smith works with metal.  I weaver works with thread and twine.  A husbandman works with animals.  But what does a witch work with?  Power?  Energy?  Spirits?  Fate?  It can't be defined because it's not a simple craft, it is the Craft, the Craft of all crafts, that which all other crafts flow out of and are a reflection of.

We don't practice a craft.  We practice THE Craft.  The Craft of all crafts.

~Muninn's Kiss

Friday, 14 December 2012

Kickstarter Campaign a No-Go but Book Still in the Works

Okay, I think I timed my kickstarter campaign for my book poorly. The campaign ends tomorrow, but with work changes, I haven't had any time to promote it or give updates, and I haven't received a single pledge. At this point, any pledges 
won't be enough, so no one will be charged anything and no money will come to me, even if people pledge in the next day. So if you were thinking about it, don't worry about it. I'll either find a cheaper or non-self funded method of publishing or it will be released later. I'm still going to try to complete it before summer, but publication will probably be further out. This probably just means it wasn't time for the book yet, which I'm fine with. I'll keep everyone updated as I progress and as I find other options if there's a better way to do it. Any advise is appreciated. You can still read the campaign, but please don't pledge on it at this point, as it won't help and will just take your time that would be better used elsewhere.

Discs, Coins, and Pentacles: A Look at Money and Esoteric Traditions

There's an interesting dance among the the modern esoteric, occult, and pagan communities when it comes to money that is a bit contradictory. On one hand, many in the communities believe a practitioner should never charge for their services, and a teacher should never charge their students. On the other hand, many in the community are adamant that any unauthorised reproduction of books or other material of a magic, pagan, or occult nature is the worst sin ever, that an author deserves money for every copy of their book. Often, these authors that should get money for their books are also teachers who shouldn't charge to teach, or practitioners who shouldn't charge for their services. But this seems a bit schizophrenia  Why are written teachings supposed to be paid for but charging for oral teachings anathema? Why are writings okay to charge for, but workings not? Is writing a profession but teaching or workings hobbies? I'd like to consider these things a bit.

In thinking about money, the suits of the Tarot comes to mind. While most modern decks contain wands, swords, cups, and pentacles, older decks commonly had rods or staves instead of wands and discs of coins instead of pentacles. The modern names tie heavily to ceremonial magic, of course. A pentacle for protection, a wand for directing energy and power, a sword for the masculine, a cup for the feminine. The sword is often tied to Excalibur, and cup with the Graal. Ceremonial magic then ties them to elements and understands them based on ceremonial usage of the tools, and on the understanding of the corresponding element. The pentacle becomes earth, the cup water, and the sword and wand becomes fire and air, though which is which can vary. Talking in generalities of course, as each tradition varies. But the Tarot are usually seen through these eyes.

Other modern readers use Jung's ideas and work with them as archetypes psychological constructs. Pentacles become material concerns, employment or financial. Cups become emotion and romance. Wands become intellectual and thought. Swords become action and will.

But it must be remembered that the Tarot didn't appear in Europe in a ceremonial magic context, and psychology and archetype theory developed later.

To understand the suits, a good place to look is the Three Estates of the Middle Ages, those who pray, those who fight, and those who labour. Basically, clergy, nobles, and peasants. But as the Middle Ages drew to a close, classes changed. The nobles drew further and further away from fighting, and the bourgeoisie developed. The Tarot was more a court and merchant thing than a peasant thing, and appeared in the days of bourgeoisie, so this seems a likely context to understand the it.

Looking at the suits, we can see some clear connections. A rod is probably a sceptre, the symbol of rulership, so the wands, the staves and rods, become those who rule, symbolising the governmental influence on life. A cup is the sacramental chalice, the symbol of the Church, so cups become those who pray, symbolising the spiritual and religious influence on life. A sword in the symbol of the military, those who fight, symbolising the influence of war and conflict on life. And a coin is the symbol of merchants, those who buy and sell, the middle class, the bourgeoisie, symbolising the influence of money and goods on life.

Interestingly, during that period, Mercury is used to designate trade and merchants and goods and money. Mercury/Hermes is the crosser between places, just as merchants cross between cities, between nations and kingdoms. But Mercury is never associated with earth, as Pentacles are now. Both god and planet is air, and the metal mercury. The goddess referenced for commerce was Minerva (Athena of the Greeks).

Mars was of course the god associated with fighting and wars. He is fire to most modern ideas, but he is iron, and while fire shapes iron, iron itself is a thing of earth. Iron comes from earth, and when used as a weapon, sends people back to the earth. War brings fallow fields, it's impact is on the earth itself.

Modern interpretation of cups as romance would put Venus (Aphrodite) and Cupid (Eros) there, but the cups as the Church brings a more chaste perspective. The classical image isn't that of Aphrodite and Eros bringing love and sex, but of the Vestal Virgins changed to male priests with vows. The chalice of the Church isn't a chalice of water but one in which wine becomes blood. Alcohol and blood are both more often linked to fire than water, but by their red colour (red wine is used in sacrament), and by their heat. The chalice of blood easily can be seen as the Vestial fires and the fires of Hestia.

Last we have wands, rods, staves, sceptres. We have secular authority which is rulership and royalty, government and kingship. This becomes Zeus quit easily, king of the gods. And Zeus' sceptre is a bolt of lightning, and Zeus is a storm god, and the very storm, the bringer of rain. This links wands nicely with water.

But, back to money and esoteric, occult, and pagan services. As far as I can tell, the idea that a magic practitioner's magic will only work if they don't take money for it is a very new concept, maybe originating in the Golden Dawn proviso against the use of magic to bring material wealth, as this is often associated with the pleasures of the earth, and the Golden Dawn, much like the gnostics, focuses on rising out of the physical onto the spiritual. Most records, myths, legends, and folktales concerning magic users, however, seem to describe it being a profession, their main source of income or provision, their main contribution to their communities. As far as teaching goes, apprenticeships to magic workers seems to have worked the same as other apprenticeships, in what I've read. The parents of the prospective apprenticeship bought the apprenticeship, paying the master. Definitely money for teaching.

In societies without currency, of course, payment was in goods or services, but this was true for any profession. If there's no physical money, goods and services are the only possible payment, and goods are the only wealth, as services can't be stored. Currency developed as a means to set rates and values of diverse things. The old metaphor, comparing apples and oranges is literal if you are trading them. How many apples is orange worth? How many oranges is an apple worth? You can barter, work out a deal, but what if you need 100 apples and live half a day's travel from where you will trade your oranges for the apples? How many oranges do you need to bring? Currency solves this, as it's easier to bring enough coins. Bartering was still the norm, but you bartered to sell what you could bring, then battered to buy what you needed. You didn't need to worry about exchanging between the types of goods. But the real reason for currency is governmental and religious. Taxes and offerings are easier in currency. As a temple or church or government gets large, what are they going to do with the large amount of grain or animals or whatever? Currency makes this easier, both for storing and for accounting.

Exchange of goods and services could work in our society, if those using the services of the magic user gave toward a need in response. "I'll pay your rent in exchange for delivering our baby." "In exchange for that charm for love, I'll bring groceries and come over and cook you dinner." Same for teaching, it's entirely possible to exchange. "I'll mow your lawn every week if you'll teach me every week." "I'll update your website in exchange for being taught." "I'll buy you dinner once a week and you can teach me while we eat."

In societies that didn't have a concept of trade, all things were held in common by definition, regardless of what role you served. In this case, the magic user tended to be in a role like a medicine man, or a shaman, or a priest, sometimes a governmental or military type leader as well. Basically the village doctor and preacher in one, or those plus the chief or warband leader. They provided a need, and the village provided for their needs. If the magic worker or teacher was completely taken care of by the pagan or occult community, there would be much less need to charge for services. The community would care for their physical needs, and they would care for the community's religious, spiritual, magical, and healing needs. They would teach others' their skills as the need grows and to carry on the service. The students wouldn't pay per se, the training would be part of the service in exchange for being provided for.

So there are options going back to older ideas, but why should the magic user or teacher function differently than the rest of the community? Do those in the same community that have "mundane" jobs, the programmers, the system administrators, the plumbers, the mechanics, the school teachers, the college professors, the nurses, the doctors, the lawyers, the architects, the engineers, the construction workers, the editors, the writers, and all the other professions, do all these work only for goods and services, or do they work for free, with the needs outside their profession met by the community?

Not to say it's wrong for magic users or teachers to serve for free if they choose, but why is it okay to require them to, while not requiring it of other professions? It's something to think about.

Back to the original comparison, what about writing? There's a strong reaction in the community against pirating, though a lot of it goes on. The statement made, which is legitimate, is that when a book is pirated, and distributed, the author gets no money for these, and that a writer can't survive without the income from their books, that they should be paid for their work.

Three points seem to be ignored.

The first is that resold copies at high prices on the Internet of out of print books is considered horrible, while buying them in used bookstores are trumpeted. However, neither of these, nor loaning or giving copies legally bought, give anything to author. The author only makes money from the initial sell. If one copy is sold, then passed around to a thousand people, the author makes the same thing as if one copy is bought, scanned, then passed out on the Internet to a thousand people. The first is legal and not critisized, and the second is illegal, piracy, and copyright infringement. Yet both hurt the author just as much. Not to say the second is good and should be done, but the finances of the author is obviously not relevant to what is right or wrong or good or bad.

Second, the initial question of this article, if piracy is wrong because the author deserves pay for her work, why doesn't she deserve pay for magical work or teacher-student training? Why is the same information portrayed in a book worth money, but not presented orally or privately? Esoteric, occult, and pagan traditions tend to talk a lot about oral tradition being better than writing, yet at the same time belie this by saying you should get paid for your writing but not your oral teaching.

Third, what is the purpose of publishing esoteric or occult books? Is it to provide the material to larger audiences than you can in person? Is it to cast it out into the world so a few that are meant to have it will find it? Is it for the purpose of funding your magic work and teaching? Is it to make as much money as you can?

Piracy helps the first two but hurts the second two. Same with selling copies used, loaning them out, or passing them on. So if either of the first two are your main goal, piracy should be seen as a good thing to the author, as it widens distribution beyond what traditional sales can do.

If your main goal is funding your magic work and teaching, how is that different from charging for those services? It's not as direct, true, but presumably your book is consistent with your teaching and informed by your practice. How can it be seen as a separate entity from either?

And if your main purpose is purely bringing in money, it's hard not to fall into the trap of mass production and following the latest trend. This would of course diminish quality, and doesn't seem to be something anyone serious in the esoteric or occult community would laud and encourage.

Ultimately, the question becomes, do you reject the physical world and wealth and money with it, or do you consider the physical, along with money and wealth, to be equal to the spiritual? If the first, it seems consistent to not charge for magic work or teaching, but also to provide books and writing for free, not charging for these either. This would make sense for gnostic oriented traditions, like many ceremonial traditions, mystery schools, and mystery-based witchcraft traditions. But for those that consider themselves earth-based religions or traditions that don't reject the physical, charging for magic work or teaching doesn't seem like something to fight or criticize any more than charging for books.

~Muninn's Kiss

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Cold Hearts and Circuits of Power

Just a brief rant.  Those who know what it's in relation to will understand better what I'm saying.  Anyone that knows me knows I am not cold-hearted, that quite the opposite is true.  I take on too much emotion.  My empathy, not as a descriptor for understanding someone, but as my ability to really feel their emotions, is through the roof.  I take on everything.  Both in person and over written communication and sometimes even with no communication or contact.  Distance is no barrier.  If you feel it while interacting with me, I feel it.  All of it.  Believe me, if you experienced me cold-hearted, you would know it.  Power flows both directions.  If you change the polarity of an electric DC circuit, the power will run the opposite direction.  This isn't just true with electricity.  If I can feel your emotions with no filter from a thousand miles away, there is connection, there is a current.  I give with my right hand and receive with my left.  Just because I normally receive does not mean I can't send.  Believe me, if you experienced me cold-hearted, you would know it.

~Muninn's Kiss

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