Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Harvest Season

It is harvest season. I have moved away from the notion of a single celebration at the beginning of August (though happened to be in Italy with a group of witches who held an Italian style harvest ritual: Priapus statue procession, figs, olive oil and wine and a lot of sunshine), and am taking part in a number of festivals marking harvests across the late-summer months. I did some writing about this on the Brython Blog out of interest.

Autumn Equinox is coming up in a few weeks and i am writing the ritual for our coven. The standard fare of balance between light and dark is a bit insipid to me - it isn't really something to celebrate in my mind, so have written the ritual as another harvest ritual but with more focus on the other harvests; fruits, nuts, hedgerow harvest and the like.

This is the perfect chance for me to begin working on and actually enacting the Horse Sacrifice Ritual I have had fermenting in my mind for a number of years. Back then, I had it in mind that rather than use the ritual to inaugurate a new sovereign as was done in the past, use it to affirm sovereignty has been granted at the harvest; the land is fruitful and supplying life and sustenance, so we enact the ritual not only to affirm that relationship with the gods and the land but also as a reminder of what is happening out there.

All this food, all this sustenance comes at a cost; all life springs from death. We kill and bring a small shred of entropy and chaos into being so that we transform it into life and growth. In the same way the mythic Dyeus is killed and has his very being torn to shreds to create the cosmos, we repeat that life-from-death cycle over and over. Now, I don't literally think the cosmos was formed from the body of a colossal cosmic father, but our own planet formed in the dust of the creation of our sun, and that sun coalesced from dust and debris from other stars dying and obliterating their own solar systems (and possibly life); death-life-death and onwards until our own sun goes supernova and obliterates the planet we live on. That dust will seed the galaxy and one day form new suns, new planets and new life.

By sacrificing the Horse, we ritualise this process; we are acknowledging that the land provides through its own death what it is we need to live on. The land doesn't 'die' for ever, but is itself sustained by a thousand small deaths and decompositions. 

Anyway, the ritual is almost written and as seems to happen when needed, a hymn came forward from 'I can guess where';




A Grey Mare lies in the sun,
Body heaving under his warm caress.
A single exhalation under the burning gaze.

Upon her flank a thousand wheaten shades of gold,
Upon her shoulder orchards heave with fruit,
Her brow is crowned with every blackened-red of berry 
As her thigh browns under groaning hazels.
With slow exhalation her body ripens.
The sun to catch her final breath;
As wine flows from her throat
Her tears brim with swimming silver bodies
And her flesh bears fat roots and tubers.

A White Mare rises in the twilight
Bone and skin a broken mass,
Bare browed and hollow bodied,
Holding Her breath.


Monday, 6 June 2016

This is what I am taking away from the sunken lands

I.
The gods come and go. Sometimes they drift in, make themselves known and cause a flurry of interest and relationship for a few months and then drift on out again. Sometimes they stay and other times they hang about in the background waiting for the right moment known only to them.

II.
My favourite part of ritual is trance possession, for those moments you are either a vessel for the gods or sit before someone who isn't entirely themselves and is speaking words they have no say in. For those minutes, you are before the gods in a way it is rare to find yourself in otherwise. For me, I see and feel them coming; my upper body reverberates in a way I have never felt before and I am totally guided by someone else.

The purpose of this is to convey something to the other people gathered there. I only do this with gods I have some sort of relationship with or if the person I am trancing with has a relationship with them. Recently, I had cause to seek out a particular god for a particular purpose, he was someone I had poured out libations for and made oblations to in the past, but wasn't a god I was very well acquainted with. It doesn't matter who, because on the way to the gathering, a different god who I do have a longer and more fruitful relationship with stuck his oar in and pretty much said “Nah, it’s me you are after for this”, being sensible about this sort of thing I changed my plans to accommodate.

Anyway, the short version is that he came across in a very different way to what I know and what might be expected; this was an agricultural god who made himself very clearly as a boar. What was once a ‘man’ with a plough tending the fields and bringing from them fruitfulness and life, became a huge tusked boar gouging and tearing up the soil and shitting our fertility in the trenches he left behind. In the cold of winter he took that which was dead and lifeless and started moulding it into something else - something with potential. What strikes me about this is that this almost exactly how I have perceived Mokkonos; the swine god. Almost forgotten Mokkonos who survives only as Moccus-Mercury in Roman Gaul.



Both he, and to a similar extent the divine ploughman, had drifted into the background by the time I had begun exploring the Indo-European cultures and sources for my own religious praxis, and now that I am more acquainted with them, the connections between the ploughman and the boar are glaringly obvious.

III.
The sunken lands around this island tell a very simple message; this is not how things have always been. This land has been older, this land has been different, and the hidden and invisible history is still there - beneath the surface. The landscape was not lost in an eye blink, it was swallowed and consumed slowly by the seas - tide by tide, wave by wave.

The gods; century by century, generation by generation were lost or transformed. Nodens becomes Nudd who becomes Lludd.

Lludd is the landscape we see before us now, the shoreline is where he slips into Nudd and just beneath the breaking waves we get a glimpse of Nodens. The question is though; after a storm, who do we see exposed by the seas violence? When the sands of the shore are churned and stripped back, who will we find washed up like an ancient antlered skull?

Amaethon wasn't always a plough-man, a storm in my past has washed up and uncovered a Great Black Boar with a bristling hide and shining sickle tusks.

People have been on this island before it was an island, when it was a peninsula. They knew of the gods that formed the landscape they lived on, they knew their names and gave them animal masks of a sort to clothe themselves in. The masks were handed down through the generations - the first people here are the ancestors of the people still here now, there was no great washing away and repopulating. The masks were passed on from generation to generation, the gods they clothed changed with the people and the landscape.



IV.
Nodens is a patina on a mask. He is covered with the patinas of Nudd and Lludd, and under him are more gods hidden away by time.


These gods are there, buried by time and tide. But they are still there, they just need a storm to scratch away the names we have remembered to show us the faces we have forgotten.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Sometimes the world really does try to get your attention

More of the submerged land starts to be revealed

Friday, 6 May 2016

Children of the Submerged Woodland

Out of curiosity about the inundation of the lands lost following the Ice Age, I came across a couple of articles about submerged forests being exposed in Pembrokeshire (my home area) following the 2014 storms.  I had totally forgotten about them and their impact; Newgale beach, which I used to spend nearly all of my summers every year on with my family, was almost demolished and he valley behind it almost entirely returned to the sea. It seems that these storms turned up the inundated landscape too.  



Newgale before the storm



 Newgale after the storm




The exposed peatlands from the submerged land

Then I remembered being told when I was a child about the sunken forests off another beach around the coast from us at Abermawr beach. In these latter two, the exposure is less wood and tree stump and more of a peat soil surface which gets exposed, the age is more Mesolithic but with some Palaeolithic beneath it – including stone tools. Hazelnuts and other fruits can be found in the peat. What appears to have happened is that following the glacial retreat, there were a few thousand years of land exposed here, enough to lay down peat and have woodland covering. Then, from about 5000 to 2000 BCE the sea advanced and these lands were eventually lost completely and we get the coastline as we see it today pretty much.


The same sort of peaty exposure at Abrmawr



I had also been doing some reading up on 'fairy' folklore from my area in north Pembrokeshire. There are stories about a group of 'people' who were known as the Plant Rhys Dwyfn, who lived under the sea in Cardigan Bay and used to go to the market in Newport. They would always pay well and as one of the merchants there gave them good quality goods for which they paid a good price. Eventually other salesmen started trying to get more money from them by inflating their prices and so the undersea folk stopped going to the market and started frequenting Fishguard (my hometown) on marketday. There is also a tradition amongst fishermen in the area that they would see the fields and pastures of these Underseaworlds beneath the waves.

What makes me wonder, is the possible link between the stories of these cardigan bay Plant Rhys Dwyfn, the submerged landscape and the inundation itself. 

Was the inundation preserved in story? What is the relationship between the sunken lands and the Plant Rhys Dwyfn for instance?  Did the occasional exposure of the landscape inspire stories about sunken lands and people who still live there?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Land Under Wave

‘When waves crashed on the sea-shore
with thunder in its wake
The bells of Cantre'r Gwaelod
are silent 'neath the wave’
(from Clychau Cantre'r Gwaelod JJ Williams (1869–1954))

I am sure I have said something before how everything seems to come together at some point and scream “Look At Me!” and the only reasonable thing to do is to pay attention.

Recently I bought a copy of Gordon White’s Star.Ships. I won’t go into a full review here because it has been done  better  elsewhere, suffice to say the take home messages from it that strike a chord with me are;

1.    Human ‘civilisation’ is a lot older than we think and prehistoric man was every bit as complex as we are today and capable of great feats

2.      Ancient history – we are talking ice age levels of prehistory here - can be and is remembered in myth. The notable one here is the flood myth, which White makes a compelling case for being a remembrance of the post Ice Age sea level rises.

It is the post Ice Age flooding which stands out to me here. Britain is well known to have been connected to mainland Europe curing the Ice Age and it was only as the sea levels rose that the landmass known as Doggerland for instance, sank beneath the waves. There is an increasing collection of remains and artefacts – human and other animal – displaying the sorts of ecosystems that have been lost. Also, at the same time, Wales was connected to Ireland by a landmass now beneath the Irish Sea.



There has been a recent spate of news items about submerged objects being exposed by storms in the Cardigan Bay area; 4000 year old stag antlers for instance, plus the semi-regular occurrence of submerged prehistoric forests being exposed by low tides or storms.

Lorna and Crychydd have been blogging over the past few months about Cantre Gwaelod; the 'legendary' story about a settlement whihc was lost beneath the waves. There are a couple of versions of the story, but the most compelling is about Mereid; a cup bearer and well maiden who neglected her duties and caused the well to overflow thus drowning the land for ever (or at least until the next big storm).

The version I learned at school was that there was a great party and the guards at the gate who were responsible for closing the gates against the incoming tide, had gotten drunk and fallen asleep.

What stands out with the Mereid story is that it has all manner of echoes of the remnant practice of cup bearing women who were of huge and significant importance to ruling bodies. They were representations of sovereignty, oracular and seemingly human stand-in for the goddess of sovereignty such as Rosmerta in Gaul and probably Rigantona in Britain. This story also has echoes of the Irish Boand too and similar stories involving inundations from Italy.

So, what are we to make of this?

Well, Mereid bears some striking resemblance to the cupbearer discussed in Michael Enright’s ‘Lady With a Mead Cup’, with her association with sovereignty and its inevitable loss as the lands are sunk it may be that we have the older remembered historical event of the Cardigan Bay area sinking beneath the sea tied up with stories of sovereignty and the people’s place in the landscape and the possibility for that place to be lost.
Lorna discussed the events of the story of Taliesin and the cauldron of Cerridwen poisoning the landscape after it split open, and how this too might relate to an historical mining disaster in the area. It occurred to me that another possibility is that the inundation of the land would also ‘poison’ it over the years as such a process occurred. It is unlikely to have been a one day flooding of Hollywood scale, more a creeping loss of pasture and home to the waves.

Either way, what is important here is that real world events have been remembered and passed on in myth. The things we think of as myths tend to have a general feel as being ‘not real but carrying something important’, like Aesop’s fables, we don’t think a crow got busy with stones and a jug of water (though knowing corvids, it is entirely possible) but the message being conveyed is what we should be focussing on. These stories of Cantre Gwaelod and Gwyddno Garanhir (and Gwyn of course!) need another looking at, as do other similar stories because we could quite literally be missing some important information hidden in plain sight under the guise of ‘just a myth’.

Monday, 25 April 2016

A Brythonic Polytheist Blog

So, we have set up a Brython blog to have a steady stream of content being created out there. It is also a much better way of disseminating and sharing information and praxis as folk can follow it rather than checking up on a website periodically.



Monday, 11 April 2016

Jon Randall

On Sunday morning, about 8am, a man named Jon Randall died.

I hadn't spoken to him in a couple of years, he had mentioned me in a comment on Facebook only the day before but I didn't reply or respond. I hadn't spoken to him in years because I didn't think he was a good person to be around. He could be brilliant and wonderful to know, but also at times toxic.

Jon and his wife initiated me into Wicca.

Jon and his wife were the people who introduced me to some of the most important people in my life, they are the primary reason I came to London. They are the reason I met the person who eventually led me to join a different coven in Wiltshire. Without Jon and his wife I definitely wouldn't be where I am today.

I made the right decision for me in cutting off contact with him, but now find I wish I had spoken to him one last time, told him that I am good where I am and perhaps started to have some contact again.



A friend Dewi wrote a nice comment that sums Jon up perfectly;

I heard this morning that Jon Randall had suddenly, shockingly died.
He was a witch. He wasn't "also a witch", nor did he just "call himself a witch". Everything he did grew from his witchcraft. He was a stage magician, a writer, a web designer, a programmer, a political campaigner. But primarily a witch, with all of the positive and negative connotations that that entails.
He taught me a lot. Not every lesson was pleasant. Many of the lessons were distinctly unpleasant, but each one was important.



It is only now he is dead that I recognise I owed him a lot more than I realised.

He will go on my ancestor altar, I will drink cider and remember the many, many good times. I will start to loosen my memory on the bad times.


Baph

Roots

The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a kickstart at getting me to write something here. So, it began with a visit to Preston and the surrounding area to spend a weekend with Lorna and Heron. The plan being to meet up and have some discussions about Brython (spangly website update and a new blog incoming) and generally have a catch up. I will probably do a write up of that another time. Suffice to say coming away from that weekend I had something confirmed what I had probably been aware of it a roundabout way; I don’t feel and sense of roots to a place any more.

I grew up in Fishguard on the west coast of Wales; lots of history, much of it prehistoric and a long family history on that patch of land (300 years I can find in genealogical documents and 2000 years from Y chromosome analysis). When I was living there and for the first few years after moving away, it had a strong and definite sense of home to me. Since leaving almost 18 years ago, I have lived in Cardiff and Portsmouth for a few years each and have been in London now for 9 years. In London though I still don’t feel a strong sense of belonging to the place and am definitely leaving in the next couple of years to move to a more rural or at least much less urban area – I am not meant for long term city living. I find the one place I know about the landscape; know its history, its stories and have a sense of connection to the landscape itself is the one place I don’t live and wouldn't really consider to ever go back to living in again.

Which leads on to the next thing I want to mention. Lorna has a VERY strong sense of the landscape and it’s hidden history, she showed us around, showed us the lane the faery funerals walked, where the springs were than were broken up and the aquifer that was killed…all tied together by Mary of the Marshes. When I got back to London I did a little searching to see if I could recall some of the similar stories about my hometown – the one story that keeps coming up isn't so much as folkloric or mythic but is rooted in historical fact; the Last Invasion of Britain.

Back in 1797 the French had a go at invading Britain via my hometown. They were foiled by a local shoemaker called Jemima Nicholas. She and the local ladies scared off the French who were about to land by wearing their traditional costume (red and black) which the French mistook at a distance for British soldiers. They landed further round the coast, looted a farm, got pissed and were rounded up and forced to surrender by Jemima and her cohort.

Local lady becomes Folk heroine. 

There was a huge bicentenary celebration back in 1997, a 100ft tapestry made by the locals to mark the story and its events (very Bayeux Tapestry) and a woman from the town ‘voted’ as Jemima Nicholas. She spent years wearing the costume, being something of a tourist attraction in and of herself whilst also working for charity – kind of like a really awesome mascot and figurehead for the town. I knew of the lady in question, Yvonne Fox, and she was a bit of a character. What I know of Yvonne and how she came to be this badass historical lady has made me think that the ‘Jemima’ of them is worthy of being on my ancestor altar.

I might well have written about this before, but I have a problem with ancestors; most of them were very devout Catholic or Baptist, so the notion of ancestor veneration seems inappropriate. Sure, we could do the condescending thing of saying “Oh, but they know better now” but that really doesn’t lie well with me. To me, my more recent ancestors are best honoured by my genealogical work, remembering them, who they were and how they lived.

Jemima is more of a tribal ancestor; not direct but embodying something important. Yvonne – she died a few years ago too embodies something of the spirit of my hometown; that slightly badass and strong female character I know of in many other women from Fishguard.


I found a photo the other day of Yvonne as Jemima and it is beautiful. This is going to go my altar and drinks – Yvonne liked a drink – will be raised for her.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Gwyn ap Nudd, the Dead and the Koryos

This is a tough review to write; the book in question which I briefly mentioned before, is a fat, academic text which covers a metric shit-load of information in a particularly dense manner. There are years of work in here, so to pull it all out and present it is way beyond what I can do in this blog. Particularly as my work is with science texts, which tend to be a bit less dense and shorter than this when in the primary literature, working on humanities monographs like this is a big jump for me.

Everything below is either lifted directly from the text or is paraphrased by myself directly from the text. It captures the core of the thesis put forward; though I need to point out that all the points are well fleshed out with textual evidence and are better supported than my flat out statements here.

_______

Among the Indo-Europeans had a prevailing attitude; their dead are honoured ancestors, but they are more; they are the Immortals, in whom the life-force, the divine spark, is far more potent and efficacious as they are no longer mortal.

At some point before puberty, young boys were taken away from the village and training in fighting skills and the lore of their people and initiated into the world of men. They would be the scouts, the guerilla fighters; highly mobile bands of ecstatic warriors who would fling themselves first into the fray. These bands are the Koryos.  In joining the koryos, he would have been initiated and undergone a ritual death, he would then belong to the dead ancestors, to the Immortals.

At certain festivals associated with the dead, these bands would become the dead; ecstatic or possessed, masked or painted with ash or gypsum. As the dead they care about their descendants and make visitations to guard the order which they themselves established. In every land where the koryos appears; they are responsible for social and civic order. The dead require devotion; they must be fed and offered drink and so when the Koryos come to town they must be propitiated. The ancestors also bring blessings, fertility and as such are welcomed even though their arrival also brings chaos.
There is a strong association of dogs and wolves (indistinguishable in IE cultures and therefore interchangeable) with dead, the dead and with warriors. We find this association in later myths regarding the Wild Hunt. There is also archaeological evidence of midwinter sacrifices of dogs from the IE heartlands; possibly indicating the sacrifice formed part of the initiation rituals of the young men into the Koryos.

In several of the IE daughter peoples we have evidence of ecstatic armed dancers. The origins of these weapon dancers certainly lie in the training-in-arms of the youthful warrior band. Since these were cultic warriors; everything they did was religious.
The Koryos (the youth outsider) is everything the teuta (the man in society) is not; he has no land, no cattle, no wife, no weapon (figuratively speaking), he has no clan; he is a true outsider and lives in the woods, hunting and living off the land in total opposition to those people living as part of the social order in the village. This opposition between wood and village is a very IE thing. The boundary between the two is invested with social and religious significance. Forest, hunting, cattle herding (and rustling) and young men go together all over Indo-Europa.

Ancestor-cult and the cult of the dead are often closely bound up with youth-consecration, and with this, as well, all the magical practices that are supposed to promote rain, sunshine, and growth. The close coherence between worship of the dead and vegetation rites are universally known. The consecrated members of the koryos and immortal and are one with the spirits of the dead.
The connection with wolves and dogs is integral and deeply interwoven with the koryos; this gets stated again and again.


 _______

I firmly believe that Gwyn ap Nudd is the god who has taken the mantle of the Koryonos; the god of the Koryos.


Originally the Wild Hunt was an actual religo-magical practice; of the Koryos coming amongst the people of the village from the woods to bring the various blessings and to integrate the forest and town for a time as a single extended family. Over time, this practice was lost and became mythical with the leader remaining, the association with hounds, huntsmen and horses being retained. In Gwyn we also find echoes of his role of ruling or guarding over the dead with the andedion and the later stories of the ‘faeries’.

Because it is such an important condensate of the text, here is the previous blogasm quote again:

When we look for the god of the *koryos we will do well to keep in mind these words of Gernet: "in general, in ancient cults, it is not the personality of the god which is the point of departure, is from the cult itself that the god derives his being." (Gernet 192) In our case, we will be looking for associations with war, death, the wolf and the dog, with ecstatic states, with initiations and the winter solstice, and, where these do not coincide, with the changing year. We will expect him to share the ambiguity of the *koryos itself and to appear sometimes good, sometimes evil, and always at least potentially dangerous.



Reference

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Ridgeway

For a few years I  have wanted to walk the Ridgeway; an 87 mile path along the South Downs from Invighoe Beacon in the West of England across to West Kennet in Wiltshire. An 87 mile trek along a ridge of chalk highland into which the White horses have been carved. At Brigantica this year, I promised Epona-Rigantona I would do this as something for Her.

And so it was that last Tuesday morning I set off; rucksack, pop-up tent and as little as I thought I could get by with on my back and I made a start. I took a train just beyond Reading and walked the 4km along the road and up the flank of the Downs to reach the point where the Ridgeway crosses the road and my journey begins. It was a relief to get to the trackway, not only because the hill up to it is a pig to walk up, but also because the feel underfoot was totally different from tarmac; much more comfortable. I had a set of ‘prayer beads’ I had made in the preceding days in my pack so fished them out and hung them from my waistband as something to have to hand, make use of and in somehow mark this journey out as different and not for my own purposes.

I spent the next 3 days in that landscape; flanked by cow parsley, birdsong and for the larger part serenaded by skylarks and awed by views of mile upon mile of Downland and the Vale of the White Horse. I walked as far as the Uffington White Horse that first day and did it way faster than I would have expected, so I got to spend 3 hours before it started to darken sat atop that hill gazing across the reddening land, watching crows fly, red kites circle and just exist in a landscape of sunshine, bird and insect life and do so upon that spot where She was carved into the chalk. I spent the night in Uffington castle; the Iron Age fort atop the hill the horse is carved into. As I was putting up my tent (hurrah for pop-up tents) I saw what I think is the third hare of my life, making its way up to the summit of the hillside – the same hare I also saw the next morning when taking down my tent, as it made the same journey summitward. It wasn't the most comfortable night of sleep and I was up by 5am, pack on my back and again on the Ridgeway track headed towards Wayland’s Smithy.





This long barrow sits in a glade of beech trees and was cool, quiet and peaceful at 6am. It seemed appropriate to walk sun wise circuit of the glade before moving on again. The track from where  I joined the Ridgeway, along to the horse and beyond Wayland’s Smithy that day was the part of the walk that felt the most exhilarating; swathed in cow parsley on either side and with a distinct white spine of chalk to walk upon – like walking along the back of Rigantona herself. At the end of day two the track changes; less chalk and more human activity, I had to cross more roads (admittedly little more than tarmacked lanes). It was on day two that the most unpleasant experience occurred; I had spent a few hours walking along a much more wooded part of the Ridgeway as it eventually meets – and crosses – the M4. Approaching and crossing over 6 lanes was horrific; the noise, the movement, the sudden return to civilisation. It was a blessing to get past it and head up the hill to Liddington castle. From there it was more field side walking  and more chalky downland until Avebury.

I spent the following day at Avebury; walking down to Swallowhead spring and across the field between the stone circle and the monuments just South of it.


It is difficult to say if this journey was a spiritual experience; I had no grand revelations, didn't meet any gods (the only dream I recall from sleeping above the White Horse involved me and my current boss trying to fly a space shuttle and not doing very well). In terms of spending time alone, walking amongst greenery and the frothy white of late spring, being serenaded all day by sky larks or escorted by circling red kites; it was a spectacular experience which makes me want to go back out there and walk other parts of the Ridgeway. Spending time like this away from people and the buzz of life in London – is more important than a fortnight in the sun (although I had splendid weather and caught the sun a bit), it’s a tonic for the mind, body and soul. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Hunt, The Wolf, The Boundary and the Dead


A month or so ago I bit the bullet and splashed out and bought a monograph off of Amazon. I had come across the reference in a couple of papers whilst researching the Wild Hunt and after seeing it mentioned in a context that was increasingly interesting and which was tying together several strands into a single, exciting whole.

It was one of those books which had me buzzing with excitement within the first chapter; not only did it clarify some things I had come across but also linked together differing strands in a way that really paints a picture of the Wild Hunt, it’s mythic origin from within the Indo-European culture and seriously fleshes out both of these in a ritual, religious and cultural practice. It also lays out some neat ideas about the role of the Männerbünde and the dead/the ancestors.

I am going to have to do a proper essay on this whole subject, suffice to say the Koryos (the IE term for the pan-IE youth contingents) and the god of the Koryos; the Koryonos can be given a place in practice today in some form or another.

A really, really nice quote for now to leave you with:


When we look for the god of the *koryos we will do well to keep in mind these words of Gernet: "in general, in ancient cults, it is not the personality of the god which is the point of departure, is from the cult itself that the god derives his being." (Gernet 192) In our case, we will be looking for associations with war, death, the wolf and the dog, with ecstatic states, with initiations and the winter solstice, and, where these do not coincide, with the changing year. We will expect him to share the ambiguity of the *koryos itself and to appear sometimes good, sometimes evil, and always at least potentially dangerous.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A Reminder

I went back to west Wales this past week to spend some time with my family. It’s a small town on the far west coast; there is a single train line that runs into town 3 times a day. When I say single train line I mean that literally, only one train at a time can use it; there is a junction about 15 miles away up the line and when you get there you pick up the token to carry as you head to Fishguard and then hand it back when you go back east again. There is only one token, so no token, no passage; otherwise there would be a head on collision. 

I took the train back towards London this morning and spent my time gazing out of the window over the area I knew intimately but was seeing from a totally different perspective. I saw the back garden of the house I grew up in and saw the extension that has been built onto it. I went past my gran’s old house; the place I had spent every Saturday for the first 18 years of my life, along the train line we used to play on (eep) and on past the woods and river we used to play in as kids. Along the damp, boggy valleys I used to cycle through to go see my friends, the town and train line I used to walk along (eep! again) to get to the woods with my other friend to do our ‘pagan stuff’.

It was this bit that struck something in me.

There has been a lot of talk on the blogosphere, such as this. A narrative with a focus on the idea that we have been cut off, separated and disconnected from our gods and the land, by capitalism, Christianity or whatever you wish to blame.


I think that is wrong somewhat, I think it isn't that we have been cut off, more than we have forgotten. When I was 14 or and my friend and I started doing out pagan stuff we did what seemed obvious, we headed out of his town and went into the woods, always out on the hills, the woods or up on the Carnau near his farm. I think we instinctively know where to find the Gods, we instinctively know where they are waiting, where they are to be found and if and when we decide to hear them we know instinctively where to go to find them. We haven’t been cut off, we just need to remind ourselves.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Divinations

The other day, Sannion of House of Vines did a divination for me. I blogasmed the results soon after.

The divinations answered some questions I had and, more tellingly, made it clear that I lack any form or oracular means for divination at the moment. This has been on my mind and I have given thought to what I could adopt as an oracle to use alongside devotional work. 

Runes I have used before, like 15 years ago, and quite liked them at the time. I do though feel hesitant in using them as they fall outside my current cultural religious framework. I am not averse to things Scandinavian as it were, I just don’t currently worship or venerate any of those gods and taking a tool from that cultural/religious framework and slapping it into my own practice doesn't sit well with me. Ogham I just don’t like and Coelbren; no, just no fucking way. Tarot; I really struggle with remembering the meanings and making use of them.

This is where Sannion’s method comes into it – and I have blatantly and shamelessly adopted his method here – he uses dice and various Hellenic hymns (I think) to divine an answer.

Just to quickly mention the awenydd; they would go into trance and utter poetry from which meaning could be derived, so we have precedent in the ancient British cultures (hooray!) for poetry as a vehicle for oracular work.

So, I took certain poems that stood out to me as being meaningful and with the magic of excel created 200 odd lines of poetry with a mean of ‘divining’ a line from 3 rolled dice.
This evening whilst doing some other devotionals I asked Gwyn ap Nudd if monthly devotionals at the dark of the moon were an acceptable piece of praxis, his answer:

“As always, I have questions”

Taken on its own this was almost like we were having a conversation right there and then. So I rolled again to see what that question might be;

“The wren who stood upon the shoulder of a giant”
“Thy wanderings on Gwibir Vynyd”

At this point I was struggling to put these next two divinations into a context and get an interpretation (largely because I have no idea what Gwibir Vynyd means), so I asked for clarification and got;

“He will lead us to where the horizon ends”

This actually made things a lot clearer. My interpretation is that he will ask something of me – the devotionals perhaps – and in return, on my wanderings, he will lead me to where I need to be/want to be.

The wren thing I am not sure on, though I have my suspicions. Anyway, this was fascinating and worked out really, really well. I can see me definitely making use or oracular work if things continue like they have with this though given that the poetry in question is dedicated to and features Gwyn  I think future oracular work will be via him, of course making use of the old sage request:


Gwyn ap Nudd, you who are yonder in the forest, for love of your mate, permit us to enter your dwelling


I should note, the poetry I have used comes largely from "Enchanting the Shadowlands" by Lorna. As someone who is walking the path of the awenydd, it seemed entirely appropriate to use the poetic words dedicated to Gwyn as an oracle. So huge thanks to Lorna!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Awenydd

Again I find myself posting what other people are writing, in this case though it is important enough that it should be talked about.

Without getting into nonsense about ‘Celtic Shamans’ and other such things, the closest thing we had to an indigenous mystic in pre-Christian culture, and still have to an extent, are the awenydd. It isn't something I can see me doing, certainly not in the way Lorna is for instance; my journey is headed to a similar destination but a slightly different track.

So anyway, Lorna recently posted this piece, upon first glance it looked like a transcription into English of perhaps something from the conversation between Gwyn and Gwyddno. Then I noticed the text more closely and it became clear what it was.

As a broader community who don’t share a small space on the land as would have been the case X number of years ago, I think it is important that such matters as this get spread out and about and those of us who have some sort of relationship with the gods in question are obliged to pay attention. Were it the case that we lived in family or tribal groups still, these questions asked of us by one of our gods would have been unavoidable. Nowadays it isn't so much that we can’t avoid them, but more than it can be difficult to actually run into them.


Imagine the Old North. What can it be? Can you see it in this land, from your green hill across the marsh how the ordinary people saw it?
Can you see ravens in trees amongst the crows? Was it common enough for magpies?
Can you imagine the rumours of embittered warlords and honey-tongued bards who sung their praises? 
Can you taste weak beer or braggot? 
Do you feast on dog or wild boar?
Can you imagine living in a world where the animals speak? 
How will you learn their tongues? Will they lead you into their expanses?
Your books are filled with stories. Can you imagine the ones who got away? 
How their hearts beat on river-banks and they were pierced by spears as carrion birds circled? 
How the sleek otter swept into the depths and carried their death-cries to his young? 
Can you imagine what the ravens whispered in their thatched nest?
Can you imagine the chore of bringing peace to the battle-dead?
Where all the darkness of history wanders and I hold the spirits of Annwn back… can you imagine?

What can our poetry be? A sound, a scream, a panorama of the Old North in a beam of light?

The question that stands out to me is this; Do you feast on dog or wild boar? It is the question that asks about our place in society, where do we place ourself? Are we on the outside looking in, living in he wilder spaces and not conforming as we might be asked to. Are we living in the modern world? Are we living on the inside, looking out beyond the edge of our nice and tidy life and not really engaging with or fighting for that which is beyond the town limits.

Eating the dog is to be one of Gwyn's pack, one of the Wild hunt. Eating the boar; to be comfortable, part of the everyday. Living the comfortable modern life.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Oracle Answers

I recently had an opportunity to ask three questions of an oracle, the first two were easy to formulate, the third less so, hence it seems to be clutching somewhat.

Below are the questions, with the oracular answers and his interpretations

 1. Should I continue with future Grey Mare projects? 
6-3-5: It will be better for him who obeys.
6-5-3: Await the third harvest then return. 
2-3-1: Zeus would have made it an island had he wanted to. 
My interpretation: It looks like you're struggling with some of the details. Take a break and come back to it when you're refreshed - and this time bring others into it. You'll benefit from collaboration.
This to me seems very clear, and funnily enough was something like I was thinking about 30 minutes before reading the email of responses. I have in mind two further devotional anthologies to come after the Grey Mare on The Hill, though I am pretty sketchy on the detail and how I would want to do them. One would be on Gwyn ap Nudd and the other a more liturgical work based on the Brython material. Making them both much more collaborative would be a much better idea I agree.
 2. Am I on the right track with the 'Horse Sacrifice'? 
5-3-2: Honor Herakles as a god. 
3-6-2: Fulfill your vows to the gods. 
 6-6-4: Leave the temple, veil your heads, loose your robes, and cast behind you your great mother’s bones. 
My interpretation: You're close, but you're missing an essential detail which is more a matter of interpretation and categorization than anything else. It's important what you're doing - and because of that it's important to do it right. Make sure you have all of the ritual trappings, even if you don't fully understand why - purification in particular, both during and after, will be important. Also remember that what you are doing here is a foundation for greater things to come.
The matter of purification is what stands out here, not just the purification prior to ritual (bathing etc) but also because the sacrifice of a dog or wolf as purification was a central part of these widespread horse sacrifice rituals. This part I was having some trouble with and so was thinking of leaving that aspect out, now though I think this oracle is clear in that it needs to be incorporated somehow. The answer though is very heartening.


3. Am I seeing an actual connection between Gwyn and Mokkonos? 
5-1-3: He ran round, here and there.
3-6-2: You’ve lost your wits. 
3-5-6: If you had understood how to behave as you should have. 
4-5-6: Bacchic women acting modestly.
My interpretation: I think you got caught up in something, but it has no basis in reality. I think caution is called for - this kind of impetuousness could lead you to behave in an improper manner and forget who you are.

This also nails things on the head, my thoughts regarding a connection between Gwyn and Mokkonos can be laid to rest. I was clearly clutching and this has made me question what it was I was 'seeing' as a connection.

So onwards; the horse Sacrifice ritual is going to occupy my research for a while. perhaps it is time to go back and revisit the original sources and descriptions to get a fuller and refreshed understanding before I begin laying out plans or how it will be carried out.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Lupercalia

Yesterday, the 15th february marked the Roman festival of Lupercalia.

"The young men who were Luperci underwent a part of the ritual earlier in which the blood from the sacrificed goat and dog were mixed together, dabbed on their foreheads with a knife, and then wiped off subsequently with wool dipped in milk, signifying their transition from a lawless, wild state into a settled and civilized mode of life."


" The founders of Rome, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, were raised by the Lupa (“she-wolf”) in the cave where this ritual took place, and in their lives after this, they were lawless hunter/raider warriors until their eventual foundation of the city."


These two passages taken from and article quoting P Sufenas Virius Lupus


After reading these and getting home from work, I dug out Dumezil's 'Mitra-Varuna' seeing as I can remember reading about the Luperci in that in relationship to two different yet complementary forms of sovereignty.


This counterpoint between the wild and outsider life and the civilised and societal life match up nicely with the Indo-European *koryos; the outsider youth contingents who have been posited are the forerunner to the Wild Hunt myths from across Europe. These *koryos have been found in a number of Indo-European derived cultures from India to Ireland and they also exist in mythic material from the same swathe of the Indo-European world.

The most relevant *koryos derived group is the Fianna of Fionn mac Cumhaill who nicely equates with our own Gwyn ap Nudd.

Now, what has also turned up I have found id that there is archaeological evidence of dog sacrifice and butchery from the Eurasia steppe which have been suggested were used as part of initiatory rites into a *koryos like group

“How are we to interpret this unique site?
Vedic texts refers to a group of sorcerers called ‘dog-priests’, Vrâtyas. They conducted a 12-day sacrificial ceremony at midwinter to heal nature and restore its vitality. In these texts the sacrificed victim was a cow. The winter-season ceremony at Krasnosamarskoe seems to have included both dogs and cattle. Several comparative mythologists  have suggested that this mid-winter sacrificial ceremony by dog- priests might be an ancient Indo-European one, reflected not just in Vedic myths, but also in the Roman Lupercalia, with its midwinter sacrifice of dogs; and the Scandinavian Twelve Nights of Christmas, originally a pagan festival during which the god Odin roars as a hunter through the forests with his dogs.”

Also mentioned is the process by which a boy is inducted into the world of the Indian equivalent of the *koryos; the Vratyas

“He studied with a teacher for 8 years, memorizing and reciting poetry among other tasks. As a mid-teenager he experienced a winter solstice ritual called the Ekastaka in which he ritually died to become a member of a roving warrior group, called the Vratyas. The midwinter ritual conveyed him to the world of his dead ancestors. He left the community of humans for four years to follow Rudra, the god of wildness and danger. Like Sigmund, he lived in the wild, painted his body black, and wore a black cape and a dog skin.”



There is a clear constellation here of the *koryos, the outsider group in society, dogs and dog sacrifice,  the Wild Hunt and also I think fertility.

The reason I am putting fertility into this comes partially from the Lupercalia rituals and also from the andedion (really nice article here ,also found on the Brython site. These are the spirits which appear to be the ‘demons of hell’ Gwyn rules over and contains, but who seem closely linked to chthonic spirits of fertility. Now, I am wondering if as the role of the *koryos diminished it became more of a mythic construct and the Koryonnos (god of the *koryos) and his Wild Hunt fulfilled the role of the original *koryos; an essential yet feared aspect to existence but essential in taking the 12 days around midwinter to chase off malign spirits and it some manner restore fertility to the land.

Will Parker's website with a very nice article on the andedion which inspired Lorna's linked articles can be found here.