Friday, 4 December 2009

An Unconformity

I have been particularly quiet of late.

Busy in work, occupied outside of work and a healthy dose of lethargy are to blame. I shall be back with something reasonably soon.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Some late night rambling

Last night - Sunday – I went out into the garden at my mother's house. It was about 9pm, there was a little light from the street lamps but as she lives on the edge of town overlooking the harbour and open Irish Sea it was pretty dark. The sky was filled with stars; the plough, the north star, cassiopea and the pleiadies all stood out among the millions of pin pricks of shining light. I stood there with a large rum and coke and made three toasts each followed by pouring a libation into the ground, nicely, it ran off and into a crack in the patio and soaked into the soil beneath.

Seeing the stars again like this after such a long time of virtually nothing in the night sky but the moon, the odd star and innumerable aeroplanes on their approach to Heathrow airport only reaffirms my thoughts of something missing as a result of living in London. It is another piece of the whole I feel I am not connecting with whilst living in the city.

I cant help but wonder what people living here a thousand or two thousand years ago thought when the looked up into the sky, what they saw the countless stars as as they watched over them and slowly paraded across the heavens. Were they kings or gods? ancestors or inanimate? It is impossible to know and can be nothing more than wild stabbing in the dark to guess.

Aside from the truth of them being mind bogglingly large balls of burning gas countless billions of miles away, what do they mean to me? What do I think and feel about them?

I have watched the progress of Orion across the winter sky; each night is circuit and that circuit shift as the weeks went by. As the earth spins and circles the sun, as the world blossoms, fruits and dies with the seasons so do the stars. Like some great cosmic mirror reflecting down onto us the happenings of the little blue planet as they appear to the infinite cosmos. Microcosm made macrocosm and reflected back on itself.

Its funny how there is the potential for so much microcosm and macrocosm interaction and reflection there is, like some great cosmic lensing system reflecting, mixing and superimposing. I see it in Wicca and I see it in my more personal work. I wonder what we would find if we looked into that point where all these microcosms and macrocosms intersected? Does God dwell in that place where the universe has folded itself over and in and out on itself so many times it becomes indistinguishable from itself?

Saturday, 7 November 2009

All Hallows

Winter's coming has been sharp and decisive; the lingering mildness of autumn and its flushes of warmth have been sent hurtling over the horizon by the teeth of winter which seems to have come in with a vengeance – a vengeance born on cold winds and freezing rain. Autumnal trees and their golden dressing have been ravaged lately and been left bare and black. This kind of sharp change is welcome, the clarity of transition has been a welcome change from the strange smear that has occurred in the past.

I had plans to do something at Nos Calan Gaeaf at a similar time with other members of Brython, as it happened I had some problems which scuppered that plan and has thrown a minor spanner in the works and has really left me thinking. Part of the process was 'toasting' the local ancestors and spirits – the thing is, I am struggling to get anything in this area. I live in London; about 300 miles from any kind of ancestral connections. So to make a connection in London with 'ancestors' is a bit like grabbing a floating beach ball at arms length. That said I am back in Wales now and that feeling is there; having spent time with family, shared in bad news and hysterical laughing with them I 'feel' that ancestral connection as part of the place I am in. So, I will be doing my 'Halloween thing' over the time I am here.

The littlest things reaffirm everything I have been writing – I have put this blogasm together over a couple of days – such as driving don the unlit country roads and realising it has been such a long time since I have seen what the world looks like in headlights. I am reliving perspectives I have known before and it is all coming flooding back in a wave of familiarity and connection. This just isnt something I get in London, certainly not to the same extent. Perhaps I get something like this when near the Thames – it is probably one of the only parts of London I 'get something' off of. Anyway, this just reaffirms I need to work on plenty when I get back to London and the Thames is the ideal place to begin. Perhaps also I will go back to that little church – St Brides - I visited last Imbolc.

Witchcraft and spellcraft. Two words that conjure very mixed thoughts and feelings in me at the best of times, but something I slip back into with an ease which has surprised me this week. I found out when I got back that my cousin has stomach cancer. The thing is to say 'my cousin' doesnt begin to get close to the kind of relationship that part of my father's family has with each other. They are like brothers and sisters rather than cousins, all due to the situations surrounding my Nana and her husband back when my dad was a baby ( I think this is something I will come back to soon as it concerns issues such as ancestors and their acknowledgement or non-acknowledgement even). Anyhow, the thing is, he cant die. It just isnt an option, I wont let that happen to my father and my sick cousins wife (who I am very find of). So on hearing he is ill within seconds I had already in my head a form of witchcraft with which to set at this tumour. Suffice to say it involves a lemon and some big wicked thorns – maybe nails is thorns aren't too easy come to get hold of this wet weekend. It was the way I slipped into this mode and had things worked out in my head before I knew I had done it which has got me thinking, it has become almost instinctive and only it seems when it needs to be. Nice.

I have had one of my hiatuses again it seems – sounds almost medical really – so it is time to settle down for a winter of cold and wind and woolly jumpers, a chance to do some reflecting, thinking and planning and of course I should set it all down in little ones and zeros and slap it up on the net.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It's funny how it happens, but..

.. I am finding that the creation myth I invented with some inspriation and assistance from others is weedling it's way into my way of doing things.

I find myself wanting to get hold of a pair of antlers and use them to build some sort of altar representative of the cosmology hinted at in the invented myth. Some inspriation from Traditional Witchraft got me thinking of an outdoors altar with antlers on a stang with a cauldron at the base; the three realms in microcosm. In terms of a personal altar I was thinking the two antlers side by side pointing upwards like two supports, a nice broad wooden bowl for 'stuff' and them various amulets, symbols etc hung from the antlers like stars set in place for/by the gods.

I am tempted to think that on a personal level this myth of pure invention is taking on a life of it's own.

Funny that.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Camulaunos pt.3

Camulaunos fled for his life, his very being and the lives of his family-tribe. With the white sow trailing him he fled across the plains of the land of the gods and began his descent down the mountain upon which the plains rested. All the while he could hear the rolling of thunder behind him, the clatter of wheels upon rocks and the rumble of huge hooves racing to catch him. Angry voices filled with rage and fire carried on the wind to him, threats unspeakable assaulted his mind and fear gripped his body.

Onwards he went, through the lands of the north, through valleys and woodlands – all the while the rage of the gods pursued him.

Soon, in the distance, the settlement of his family-tribe appeared. At the sight of this strange and unknown place Senua Vinda took fright and in her panic gave birth to three bees. These first of bees in the lands of men made their hives and were fruitful in their offspring; their honey was sweet and golden.

Onwards they went until the burning of wood smoke from the settlement could be scented on the air, the sound of activity carried to them. Once more Senua Vinda took fright and this time gave birth to three ears of grain; one each of rye, wheat and barley. These first of grains took root and produced fine stands of grain, each with fat ears that would hang heavily in the late summer sunshine.

Still onwards fled Camulaunos and with him Senua Vinda until they reached the threshold of the settlement where the family-tribe of Camulaunos saw him bearing this shining white sow. Behind them the sky had darkened and the clouds rolled over the chilled landscape like floodwaters across a field. Thunder and lightning assaulted the sky and the cries of the gods shook the very ground. At the sight of these unfamiliar things Senua Vinda gave birth a final time and this time it was of nine piglets.

The settlement shook and the winds howled, the ground shook as the host of gods encircled the settlement and made of cries of destruction to Camulaunos and his people.

The God Ambactonos descended on the settlement; aboard in a cart pulled by two huge horned cattle. A mighty, swarthy man of huge stature he was. He seized up the white sow from Camulaunos hold and she was swept away by him. Voices from around that place, unseen voices, made calls for the death of these people, punishment for their deeds; for stealing from the very gods and trespassing on their lands. Though not all of the voices called for such things; some called for mercy for Camulaunos’ people.

A shining shaft of light pierced the clouds, a golden ray that burned the eyes of those who tried to look at its source. It transfixed Camulaunos in that place. And so it was that in that blindingly bright golden shaft, nobody saw a brighter shaft transfix Camulaunos, nobody saw the spear of Lugus pierce his heart and steal his life away.

Camulaunos fell to the ground, his life ebbing and his soul departing. He did not despair, he was not afraid; he had won the sow of the gods and his people would no longer fear the pains of hunger in the coldest of winters. His warriors would be strong and his children would grow tall and lean. His people would live and they would thrive and they would have full belies for a thousand generations.

Before his last breath left his body, before the last of his blood drained into the soil of his ancestors, a man walked up to that settlement; an old man, bent over with age and leaning heavily on a tall oak staff. He was not of Camulaunos’ blood and not of this land. He knelt slowly beside Camulaunos and from the folds in the greying skins he wore about him he pulled out a shining bronze knife.

‘Camulaunos, you have greatly angered some of the gods. You have taken form them the seeds of a new life. You have made a cart for your people and you have begun to lead them on to a new life. For this they killed you. For all you have given your people and their children, there is one more thing you will do for them’

And with this he set about cutting Camulaunos into pieces; he separated his arms and legs, pulled out each of his bones and both of his eyes. The old man from the skies then cast each piece up and hung them from the tines of the tines of the heavens. As he did so he told Camulaunos it was now his destiny to watch over his people and to warn them of the coming of winter. For he had not yet told them of his bargain with Mokkonos; that with the coming of winter the great black boar would come to these lands and feed on all there was in the fields, crush all that lived and leave the land churned and frozen.

And so this is how it was; how a man won grain and honey and swine from the gods.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

New Blog

I realise that posting vast tracts of invented myths will make this blog a little unwieldy and cumbersome... so have set up a new blog to house them all in!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Camulaunos pt. 2

Clearly I am having an unproductive day at work so have been completeing this myth. Opulent descriptiveness is the hardest part of this. I have in mind a couple of other iddeas for myths, one being a creation. With that in mind I have changed the 'creator' names slightly.

***

And so Camulaunos set off to the lands north of the Valley of Thorns and spent many days crossing wild lands of forest and heath. The path became rocky as the mountains of the world rose up from their roots place in the Land Behind the Land and reached for the skies where the Thunderer roamed. The snow lay thick on the cold, hard vegetation and little lived in that place. Camulaunos walked onwards and upwards till he came to the river that flowed like blood, its thick, dark waters swirled around black rocks that rose from its depths. Strange shapes swirled in its surface and something moved in its depths.

Using the black stones as footing he crossed that river and did not look down nor backwards, for he feared what he might see its depths. The land rose up further and the skies darkened. The air thinned and the biting winds knawed down to the bone, but onwards went Camulaunos clutching the three bristles of Mokkonos in his hand.

He reached the top of the mountain and instead of a high and windblown peak he saw a golden and sun drenched plain before him; golden sunlight pierced the whitest of clouds, silver light danced off the lushest of green grasses and trees smothered with fruit swayed gently in the breeze that caressed this place of the gods. He felt the cold and pain leave his body and was filled with warmth and comfort like he had never known before, not even of the warmest of late autumn evenings, not in the finest of cured hides nor in the arms of the loveliest of women.

Black ravens like the depths of night but with amber eyes wheeled overhead clucking and crocking at his movement. Deer of a kind Camulaunos has only ever dreamed of strode gracefully over the landscape, unafraid of his approach. The streams he stepped over writhed with the fattest of eels and the sparkle of salmon as big a child.

This was the land of the gods, a blessed place of the finest of things – and Camulaunos knew he was an intruder. He made his way across this wondrous place and dreamt of bringing his own family-tribe here to live like gods in peace, happiness and health. He dreamed of how grand they would be as they lived with the gods themselves and how they would shape their own destiny. All of this he dreamt and much more as he walked onwards so that he never did see the hall he approached until it was no more than a spears throw away.

Such a place had never before been seen by mortal eyes and such a place has not been seen since;

It had high circular walls four spear lengths high made of a pale dressed stone, upon that sat a tall roof made of the finest straw that shone like gold. Before him lay the doors; they reached to the eaves of the roof, a fine pair of them made from two planks of oak wood, a tree of such a size Camulaunos thought it must have been the first seed planted by Rigantona at the making of the world. Its edges were trimmed with bronze, each bolt in it made of iron and capped with bronze, two huge rings of bronze served as handles; each half a spear length across and decorated with inland patterns of swirling monsters and beasts chased by the gods themselves. Each figure picked out in gold and each eye picked out in amber. The frame and lintel surrounding the doors were each made of a single oak beam and each was intricately carved with the exploits of the gods; the Making of the World, the War of the Gods, Lugus and the Hawk, the Cursing of the Swallow and a great many things of which Camulaunos had never heard told by the fire.

Camulaunos moved towards the doors and slipped between them and into the Hall of the Gods.

He stood alone in that place, and was struck still by it. It was a huge circular room as big as the biggest settlement of Camulaunos’ people. Arranged around it were dozens of high thrones; each a great slab of black slate and each throne growing from the slab as if some strange cursed tree. Each seat high a high back and richly curving sides of which to recline. They were all swathed in fine furs and leathers, some from beasts Camulaunos himself had hunted others from things he couldn’t even begin to imagine. Each had soft pillows of pale furs on it, and some laying upon the rock beneath them. Furs and skins lay around each throne to be used when desired. Some it appeared were used as a place to lie by mighty animals at the feet of the gods. Camulaunos suspected these must have been the hunting hounds of the gods but feared all manner of unknown creatures reclined in this place too.

The centre of the room was dominated by a mighty tree that grew out from the ground and rose high to the roof and Camulaunos fancied it grew onwards still and into the sky. Its branches swept low into that hall and formed a canopy of shimmering green leaves above the heads of those who stood in that place. At it roots rested a cauldron, its surface bubbling over with crystal clear water that looked like the clearest of mountain streams, it flowed over the rim of the grand bronze cauldron and soaked into the roots of the great tree. A bronze and gold chain encircled the base of the tree and linked the pot and that tree together. Besides the tree was a long and broad table and upon it plates and bowls of meat and fruits, bottles of wines and beers, eating things of bronze and gold and a variety of platters and drinking vessels: horns, bronze goblets and the skull of some giant man-creature trimmed with gold.

Camulaunos was struck with awe and fear at that place and left it as it was, he moved off into the eastern part of the great golden plain, through filed of wheat and rye and barley, crops the like of which he had never seen and each rose up to his waist. The fat ears of golden grain knocked against him as the wind ran through them. On he went through herds of great cattle and fat strong swine. Onwards until he reached the stream Mokkonos had told him of. It looked no more than a spears length in breadth but taking the warning of the Boar in the Thorns he plucked a stone from the bank of that stream and threw it with all his strength across the narrow brook. The stone flew high into the air and landed in the middle of the stream. Hardly believing his eyes of the strength of his arm, he tried again only to see the pebble fall into the water and disappear from view in water that seemed no more than knee deep.

He took one of the bristle he carried with him and dipped it into the water, he then set it into the stream bank before his heart could beat three times that bristle had grown into a sweeping alder tree; its roots dug deep into the soil and the tips of its dropping branches brushed the grasses on the other side of the stream. He climbed up into its branches and across the sturdier of limbs to jump down onto the plain on the other side of the stream.

A short walk across the plain he came to the smaller hall of dressed limestone and golden straw that he now knew belonged to Ambactonos. Beside it he saw the oak pen and inside it he saw the well sized and fine looking sow Senua Vinda. He walked up to the pen and remembering the words of Mokkonos took a stone from the floor and made to throw it over the top of the pen, no mater how hard he threw that stone and no matter how high he tossed it, it would always fall and clatter against the side of the pen no more than half way up its side.

Again he took one of those bristles and this time wedged it into a crack on one of those poles. Within the space of three heartbeats it had grown into a fine and thick vine reaching up and over the top of the pen. Camulaunos took to its stem and climbed the oak pen. Once inside he took the last of the bristles and made to warp it around the neck of that swine to form a lead, as he did it grew in length and turned into a fine thing of leather and bronze; a soft and lengthy strap with which to lead the shining sow back to his people. Before him he found a small gate that opened with ease and so stepped back out onto the golden plains of Ambactonos with the sow at his side.

The moment she stepped out of that pen and onto the plains there was an almighty cracking sound as if the gods had seen to unmake the world and had begun tearing it to pieces; a hot wind blew through his flesh and the skies darkened over. The birds stopped their singing and it seemed as if the shine had fled from each thing in that place.

With this, Camulaunos fled.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Camulaunos pt. 1

I have been thinking about and blogasming about the idea of a new Promethean myth for the Brythonic tradition. So, inspired by some of the Joseph Cambell and Megli I have been reading I took some time to sit and write something. I am not a natural story writer - speaker, yes - so this might look and read a little clumsy.

Anyway, here is part 1:


Some time after the making of the world by the Great Father Tigernonos, the Great Mother Rigantona and their Bull-hoofed brother Taranis, the many gods of the land and the sky and the sea were born.

And so it was that after a time men came to live on the land that had been born from the sea and those men lived in the forest and on the plains. They hunted game amongst the trees and they fished great salmon from the rivers. In time they flourished and their numbers grew with each summer and waned with each winter as the cold took away the spirits of the weak and the old to the place under the land where the roots of the mountains are washed over by the birth of all rivers and streams.

Amongst these people was a family-tribe and their chief was a man named Camulaunos. He was the most favoured by the gods; he had thick dark hair the colour of an aurochs back, golden eyes like the swiftest of foxes and pale skin like the breast of the she-swallow. He was the strongest, the fastest and wisest of all the men of the tribe. Each of his hands could hold two spears, with each arm could throw three spears and he was able to wrestle down the biggest of game with ease. Not only this, but he knew every place where game went, every place where the purest of streams bubbled from the Land behind the Land and every bush that brought forth the sweetest fruits. For all the blessings the gods had seen to bestow upon Wetionos, his heart grew heavy with the passing of the seasons as he saw the people of his family-tribe grow weak and pass into the Land behind the Land when winter took hold. Some sickened and faded away, others starved and some still were taken by the wild things that lived in the forest beyond the Black Trees.

It happened that one winter when the snow was deep on the ground and the ice hung from the bones of every man, woman and child that Camulaunos made out into the forest to find game to feed his people. He strode onwards and northwards to the places his people never went to, in order to find some game that had not already been hunted or killed by the cold.

He espied in the undergrowth a boar with shining white bristles; as big as any he had ever seen and with a skin like a frost covered meadow. Its eyes burned fierce red and its tusks glinted with rime.

Camulaunos took up his greatest bronze spear and held it aloft, at this the boar saw his intentions and made to run away deeper into the forest. It plunged onwards deeper and deeper into the places where men never set foot; into those places given over to the wild things and those creatures the gods themselves have turned their gaze from. Onwards they ran; hunter and hunted until Camulaunos threw his mighty spear and pierced the flank of the shining boar. At this the boar cried out;

'Hold your blade and spare my life, and in return I will grant what you need'

‘In taking your life will gain what I seek most' replied Camulaunos

'Hold your blade and spare my life' bellowed the boar 'and I will give you the sweetest meat for roasting, the flesh that will never blacken and will satisfy all who taste it'

'Your own flesh will be the sweetest, and your own flanks will feed my family' said Camulaunos as he drew out his knife ready to slit the throat of the boar before him.

'Hold your blade and spare my life and I shall take you to Mokkonos himself'

And with this Camulaunos placed his knife back in his belt and pulled his spear from the flank of the boar. He was lead into deep valleys and across desolate hillsides for days on end by the bright boar with the bloodied flank, until they reached a wooded valley of blackthorn. From here Camulaunos pushed through the thorny growth deeper into the valley, the frosty barbs pierced his skin and tore at his clothes whilst the icy mud soaked his feet and pulled on his boots. As the braches got to their densest and the blood flowed freely from a many wounds on his skin, he emerged into a clearing. Standing in the middle of the clearing was Mokkonos.

He was twice as tall as a man and the breadth of his shoulders greater than that of any beast Camulaunos has ever seen. His legs like tree trunks dug at the heavy soil beneath his razor sharp and wickedly black hooves. Frost clung to his thick shaggy legs and sweat ran down his huge haunches, the mist from his great mouth swirled around tusks like scythes; each as thick as a man’s arm and both yellowed with great age. His eyes burned like the coals from the deepest part of the forge, his red lips dripped saliva and his tongue hung out as red as fresh blood. His entire body was swathed in thick black fur and it bristled with dozens of broken spearheads and shaft from a thousand failed hunts. Camulaunos knew that the bearers of those spears had not lived to tell the story of the monstrous boar they had seen and failed to kill, he knew that the bones that littered the muddy ground before him, and that were ground into splinters, had been those men.

Camulaunos drew himself to his full height and held his spear by his side, he addressed the monstrous beast before him’

‘Your kin promised me a great feast of boar flesh, if I were to spare his life’

The Black Boar of the Thorns pawed at the ground and spoke to the small man before him;

‘If such a deal is made then it must be honoured Camulaunos, and you of all men who live in the lands to the south of here will be the one to take such a flesh’

‘Take our your blade and cut all you can carry from my flank’

And so Camulaunos took out his bronze bladed knife and went over to Mokkonos and cut from his thick black flank a chunk of his flesh nearly too big to be carried. With this he made his way back through the thorns to his family-tribe’s settlement.

Two days passed and Camulaunos’ people were hungry again, so he went back to the valley with the thorns and the monstrous Mokkonos and took all he could carry, and Mokkonos did not appear any the slighter for it. A third time did he go back to that place and retrieve his people’s fill of boar meat and a third time did they say they were hungry soon after.

So Camulaunos went back to Mokkonos a fourth time. And this time Mokkonos refused him.

‘I spared the life of your kin and a bargain was made, Boar of the Thorns’ Camulaunos said.

‘My part of this bargain I fulfilled, your people were fed and they were no longer hungry’

‘They are hungry again and will always be hungry with each coming winter. For every winter the game leaves the land, the fish leave the rivers and the trees and bushes retreat to the Land Behind the Land to hide from the frosts that you bring’ Camulaunos told him ‘and every winter my people sicken and die and our greatest warriors thin and grow weak’

Mokkonos looked down on him with burning eyes and breathed out a great swirl of frozen mists. The icicles that hung from his shaggy black hide cracked and shattered as he shook himself down.

‘I have lived in this valley for longer than any other beast that lives on the land, I have been pursued by the greatest hunters of every people and made each of them the hunted. I have seen countless Suns born loft in the Chariot of the Thunderer and seen them sink and fade out. I have watched as the sons of Neptonos have raced up the
rivers of the world to chase the women who hide in the springs, and seen them return to the watery depths empty handed. I watched as the Great hawk flew aloft and was brought down by the spear of Lugus. I have seen all of this and many more things in my time in this valley, and there is one thing I have seen that you will desire’

'far to the north of here is a river, a wide and fast flowing thing the colour of blood. Beyond that river is a plain of golden grasses and shining flowers like no man has ever seen. Upon that golden plain is a great hall bigger and finer than any hall made by the hands of a man. Within that hall live many of the gods.

‘To the east of that hall is another river, a stream that appears to be no more than the span of a single stride, but there is no man who can step over it, even with a hundred great strides. You must cross that stream and there you will find the small stone hall and well tilled land of Ambaxtonos. Around it are fields of grain like no man has ever seen; golden stems with fat shining heads of grain of every type and form, plains filled with the finest shining swine; broad and well formed flanks and strong and muscled heads pursued by throngs of perfect young, cattle so monstrous and grand as to strike fear into a man’s heart; they produce the finest of milks with which to make the sweest of drinks, or the softest and most nourishing of cheeses. These are the lands which Ambaxtonos tends and the produce of them is what feeds the gods at their nightly feasts.’

‘Beside the stone hall of Ambaxtonos is a pen of oaks posts, each seemingly no taller than a youth, yet there is no man alive who could climb over them even if given a hundred years in which to do so. You Camulaunos must climb over them.’

‘Inside that pen is the sow Senua Vinda, and it her who you seek Camulaunos, it is the farrow of that sow which will feed you and your people for evermore. Your lives and your hunters will no longer be subject to the whims of the gods, no longer will your warriors thin and weaken, and no longer will your children turn to bones before you.
If you want to give this to your people Camulaunos, then you must bring Senua Vinda back to your family-tribe and they must care for her offspring.’

‘This much I will give you freely Camulaunos, the rest will be costly; draw three bristles from my back and take them with you. They will aid you in getting to the stall of Senua Vinda. They will aid you in getting into that oaken-posted pen and they will aid you in getting back to your home from the land behind the land. For this much the sons of the gods will turn their spears on me and it will be Lugus who hunts me in the depths of winter and not your men, and it is for this which I will enact a price of you and your children;

‘No longer will I reside in this thorn-brush but will be abroad with the darkening of the skies as the Sun cools at winter. I will be at your fields Camulaunos; I will feed at your crops as and tear at your livestock. I will grind the ground beneath my hooves and freeze the very soil you wish to plough. This will be my price Camulaunos, for making myself unwelcome in the halls of the gods I will now seek sustenance from your halls instead.’

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Genivs Loci Civitatis

A discussion has been going on on Caer Feddwyd about the nature of magic (spell-craft, that kind of thing) and a point that has been raised is that the spirits of place that can be found in a town or a city are qualitatively different though not without their own potential, and perhaps not as conducive to the practice of magic. Before I moved to London and about six or more years ago I recall having a discussion with someone on the BBC pagan message boards about this and arguing, from my point of view, that spirits were scarce in cities due to their large scale separation from the 'natural world'.

I don't hold with this opinion any longer.

There are certainly genius loci in cities, though of a wholly different quality than open countryside. There are many places in central London which are positively buzzing with the accumulated echoes of history and human endeavour – small alleyways running off between tall buildings on Fleet Street, small overgrown parks within posh housing squares or the mighty Thames itself.

I wonder if the mechanism which is behind the accumulation of, and eventual 'creation' of a genius loci operates equally wherever you are but the net result is entirely different? Out in the wilds of north Wales you will get wild and free genius with no loyalty to humans and sometimes an air of mistrust or trepidation when humans interact and yet in a city where humans dominate you find genius which are far more 'human friendly' in nature? Very much a case of town mouse and country mouse.

p.s and thanks to Bo for latin lessons

Monday, 7 September 2009

Personal Pantheon

I have an inordinate fondness for organising things; knowing where things are, what they are, how they relate to one another and then for recording this information mentally and physically for future use and reference. This innate anal retentiveness and obsessive compulsion is very useful in my work seeing as it effectively constitutes what I get paid to do with fossil collections.

In some ways it is a hindrance and in others a blessing when it comes to matters of religion and spirituality. It means it can often be a problem in that I obsess over things and how they relate to one another but I other ways it means I often stop and take stock of where I am at.

It has been a while since I have done this – in some respects I think regular blogasms have replaced this urge/need – so I think it is time to begin doing so again, what with the autumn gallavanting upon us and winter not too far ahead. I have been waffling on a bit on here about things quite abstract I guess so maybe it is time to collate some thoughts and set them straight.

I shall begin with my personal pantheon; the gods with whom I have a two-way relationship and those gods who kind of drift in and out of the picture and in which sense the relationship is one way; me taking an interest and a general desire to know more about them without anything further. This will be a bit of a mix of historical factoids and personal myth and experience. As I am writing these I can feel an almost modern Wicca derived mythos slipping in no matter how hard I try to not let it, but I think it should be there. I am Wiccan and it flavours my interaction with the gods to some extent.

Rigatona
To me she embodies the landscape itself; the rolling streams, the hills, the mountains, the woodland and the heath. All the gods of those places dwell within her and we do too. She is the Grey Mare, the horse that embodies the spirit of the land and our place within it. She is sovereignty and the one who grants it; not only in the older sense of being a rightful ruler but also in a personal sense of ‘belonging’ and the proper interaction of a person with the landscape. If such a title were needed she would be the Great Mother Goddess of the British Isles.



Lugus-Belenus
My relationship with Lugus-Belenus is still rather ‘young’. Ideas of being the Sky Father figure, the one who is skilled in every craft and as such is a teacher and guide. Yet who has a mighty spear and delights in bloodletting. The Sun, the corn as it ripens, the one who spills his own blood to achieve this.

Mokkonos
A bit of a newish one; the swine god. The black boar of winter who churns the land under his hooves, whose chilling sweat is the dawn frost and whose hot breath is the winter mists. The god who is hunted and whose flesh is eaten to sustain. The one who sees us through the cold months, even as he grinds the life out of the weak and the sick.

Taranis
The sky thunderer. I saw an arrow of geese honking across the London sky this morning and it reminded me that he should be included.

Nodens
The Lord of the Waters. The spirit of the great rivers; the Severn and the Thames. A healer. There is something about him that makes me want to equate him with Teyrnon/Tigernonos of the roaring wave; the Severn and the Severn Bore. The wife of the Grey Mare; the lady of the land and the god of the water as husband and wife or merely as lovers.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Some More Dirty Words

A while ago now I had a little moan about the current dirty words in paganism, one of which was 'dogma' and the other 'worship'. There is currently a little uproar going on at – brace yourself, those of a nervous disposition might not want to click on this link and I apologise for any ill feelings that come upon you whilst there - OBOD (I say uproar, but in fact I don't think I have ever seen one there, much mutual masturbation of egos and 'personal truth/awen/inspiration/bollocks' but that is about it. It is a wonderful example of how people in groups can react so badly to something they perceive as threatening that they eventually get to the point where they have become that very same thing without realising it. In this case the need to keep away from dogma itself has become a dogma for them. Some of the people on that discussion have some good insights but unfortunately the old hands of the boards have squashed it with a lack of understanding of what is being said. Good on them!

As someone I hold in high regard once said; “dogma should be the foundation we build on, not the roof over our heads”. And he is right, dogma should be the things commonalities that bind us together not the chains that hold us captive.

There is another dirty word in paganism these days; label. Modern pagans don't like to be questioned about the labels they take for themselves or other apply to them. “I am a druid goddamitt and you cant tell me otherwise, even if I do have an athame, pentacle and use the Witches Bible”. You know the kind of thing. People will always harp on about how labels are damaging, limiting and something they really don't like. Here is something for all those people, try this word out' noun. That's it, noun. One of the essential components of almost any language you care to think or. Noun; the word that describes something so that it can be talked about and be understood. Language works because we all understand it, to go screwing about with it causes problems, exactly the kind of problems when people gather together to talk paganism. There you will find nouns turned inside out, twisted beyond recognition and used in whole new and inventive ways.

A Big Question

I find myself in familiar territory again recently, partly in writing this as it is a blogasm I have planned on and off for over a year. The reason it hasn't materialised is due to the nature of the issue itself.

I semi-regularly find myself asking “why do I do all of this ?”, “why bother?”, “what is the point?".

On each of these occasions I find myself finding some sort of suitable answer and then continue, such has been the case for years. Now I think it is time to actually take time to stop and REALLY examine my reasons and motivation and do so in a way which not only answers these questions but is something I really and truly do actually think/believe. If this post makes it into a real on-line blogasm then that will be a small miracle.

Perhaps the easiest answer for me to make is that I feel a genuine, gut urge to 'know' about these gods. There is an innate pull towards finding out about them on one level – possibly the scientist bit of me needing to know and understand – and on another for me to develop something of a relationship with some of them beyond a simple knowledge of them. This last bit can and does vary hence my relation with gods has waxed and waned in the past and I do at least think I have got something out of that experience.

That said, I think there is something stronger than that which compels me to want to get closer to the gods. I think perhaps on one level a relationship with them will act as a key to me finding my place and being content with that place in the wider scheme of things. I made mention of the idea of the 'Promethean fall' a while back and it has been a niggling little thing in the back of my mind since. I thin that at times it feels like there is a pane of glass between me/humans and the world, all of a sudden we find ourselves in the sweetshop of conciousness, self-awareness and abstract thought and realise that to step inside we had to leave something behind. That something was a place in the world we left behind; a world where we fit in, where we were a part of a huge web of interaction. I think perhaps that one of the reasons pagans today look to ancient cultures is that we somehow see that they at least were closer to this lost world of ours, they had a much closer relationship with the landscape and the gods and that since then we have continually marching onwards in our development as a species and in turn been marching away from the very thing many of us want to get back to in some way. I don't think this is necessarily a romantic view of wanting to live in huts and be farmers again but wanting to capture the relationship, the closeness and awareness that people had when they worked much closer with the land and the landscape, yet in a contemporary context. Escapism springs to mind and in some respect is appropriate, and I think that by and large, it isn't about filling a hole in our lives but us retaking our place in the hole in the landscape we left behind.

I think our drive to have a relationship with the gods is simply, initially at least, about wanting to be a part of the living landscape as a whole and develop a relationship with different aspects of it. The gods/spirits of that place are just one part of the whole.

So, could I achieve some of this without gods or spirits? I probably could. That said, I have a driving gut instinct which goads me on to have something with the gods. For now at least I will listen to what my instincts say.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

An Autumn Fingering

I have a few ideas for blogasms in mind so there will be a short flurry of blogasming over the next couple of days.

Last Thursday I spent a lovely afternoon in Cambridge. It was gloriously sunny; not the scorching hot and bright high summer sun, but more the mellower, prickly, hazy heat of a late summer. It was wonderful. This weekend just gone though the weather has taken a turn for the cooler; Saturday night was a nice clear sky and after spending the evening in a nice pub in north London the walk home was decidedly chillier than it had been for months. Sunday was much the same with sunny spells and a chill in the air. Today was bloody awful; pissing rain and windy.


Come the end of civilisation I am determined to steal this for my fortress in the wilds.

It is as if autumn is slowly sinking its claws into summer and dragging the year from its soft warm hands and getting ready to throttle it senseless over the coming weeks and months. I love this time of year, I only hope it turns out to be colder rather than wetter.

I also managed to get another kilo or so of elderberries on Sunday in a park I was having a BBQ, made all the more miraculous considering myself and two friends had downed a 1.5ltr bottle of cheap own brand gin beforehand. How we manage this feat of berry picking precision without injury or mishap is one of life's little wonders. Bank holiday Monday was spent hungover making kilos of plum chutney and some elderberry pontack (think elderberry ketchup). This whole flurry of preserving I have been doing this year has I think been one of the most rewarding things I have done in ages, not only does it mean spending time foraging with friends but I also get free food out of it. I think in future though I might limit it to what I can gather for free rather than pay for though I might let myself go a bit and buy raspberries for jamming. Like nothing else it gets you 'in tune' with what's going on around you – I was able to watch next door's elder tree blossom and bear fruit over the summer from my bathroom window every morning as a brushed my teeth – and as such I think is a valuable way of making that connection with the landscape around you, even if that landscape is central London. It is just a case of having a nose around and seeing what is there.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Some sort of Oracle

Sort of sticking with archetypes in a way, I have for a fairly long time been giving thought to the idea of an oracle of sorts. I have over the years poked about with runes, tarot and a couple of other types of divination (lit: to foresee, to be inspired by a god) but they haven't been all that good for me for one reason or another. Tarot is too much to keep in my head at one time and runes just seem...well, Heathen, and I am not. I did look into a couple of options which seem a bit more in keeping with my own practice and on one hand found a system which used 3 bones (already appealing) but after reading into it a bit more it isn't quite what I want. Then there was coelbren, I did a little work on making this more personal and use-able at one point but have abandoned it. I guess it held some appeal being on one hand a native system, and yet on the other hand its authenticity as a native system is dodgy as hell.

Then along came Bo with what he was constructing using his
archetypal tarot; incredibly personal and incredibly meaningful, though only of course to him.


What got me on to this was reading about a dream Jung had whilst meeting with Freud, in this dream Jung is in a house on the top floor – very swanky and to his taste – he goes down a floor and its a much older d├ęcor. He goes down into the basement and it is a cave dwelling from some distant ancestor, probably hunter-gatherer by the sounds of it. Dreaming of houses tends to represent oneself, you are the house. About 13 years ago I had one of my semi-typical dreams; I was in the offices of some sort of superhero agency and I was the newest superhero – I cant recall what powers I had at this point -, my first job was to descend into the basement and make my own weapon. So I go down this winding staircase deeper and darker and reach a much lower level of this house/office building. The place was like a slaughter house; it was littered with bones and body parts, blood on the walls. Proper horror movie material here. I was fine with this and proceeded to root through the bits looking for bones and whatever with which to construct my own personal weapon. In Jungian term this is rather interesting and I am sure plenty can be derived from it. It came at an important time in my life and as such I have my own meaning attached to it.


So I am thinking I might have a go at something similar to Bo's archetypal tarot – albeit totally personal and tailored to my own tastes – with personal imagery derived from a number of sources and not all of them dreams (or else Spiderman would need to feature). The second image would be the Sapphire Lady, a figure from a dream I had semi-recently involving the end of the world and the gods. Notably the end was coming and we needed the gods, we needed this Sapphire lady to call them. What stands out in this was that normally in circumstances like this I suddenly find I have the ability to stop the apocalypse or beat the hordes of monsters with superpowers of my own. In this case I surrendered to her and her gift.

Archetypes

So, I bought myself a copy of this with a view to getting my head around the concept of archetypes and how this may be applied to my own grasp on my own personal theology.

So, if my understanding of archetypes – at a simple level at least – is roughly correct then there are two immediate implications that come to mind with reference to the gods:

on the one hand they are fabrications of the human psyche in place to interact with god archetypes within the collective unconscious. As such they do not exist outside of the human mind. In this case, interaction with them is a means of interacting with and tapping into the collective unconscious.

On the other hand, it might be that they do exist as discrete entities and our interacting with them – in fact our very search for them is driven by archetypal images which we seek to fulfil. As such, we have an innate set of deities built into us which we seek out in the world around us and form relationships with. This would to some small extent go toward explaining why different cultures come up with the same types of gods albeit based upon a local experience of them. I would need to do a hell of a lot of research to support this with some solid examples, however the type of thing I am thinking about is that in different cultures, different gods of the same sort e.g. the Sun God or the Sea God have similar associations. Maybe. Or maybe not.

There is something about all of this that is fleeting at the edge of my conciousness, something I can almost see but cant quite grab hold of yet. It is there when I am trying to mentally digest Jung's concepts, like a buzzing fly I cannot yet swat. Give it time.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Today I..

.. went to a pick-your-own farm in north London. I am home now with 3k of plums, 1k of strwaberries and 10 freshly picked corn on the cobs. All for £13 and a nice day out.

I shall probably spend tonight and tomorrow jamming and chutneying.

p.s
this book is awesome and this man is God

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A Berry Good Time


Yesterday I went up to north London to spend the day with J and M and to do a little berry preserving. Picking and preserving wild and FREE food is one of those things I keep building up towards getting involved in and for some reason or another I end up missing the best opportunities and so getting annoyed at myself. However, this year has gotten off to a good start and I am going to keep up with it for once.

So to begin, I had picked some elderberries from the local park and brought them with me, we also wandered down to their local park to get some more – which we did – and we also came across a bunch of blackberries and a blackthorn groaning under the weight of sloes. We stocked up on those too.

The first thing we got on with was some Elder Rob; simmer the elderberries with enough water to cover them, once they turn to mush you strain them and return the juice to the heat with sugar (roughly 450g of sugar to 500ml of juice) and some cloves. It rapidly turns into a rich bull's blood of a liquid, and once the sugar has completely dissolved you allow it to cool. Once cool it has become elderberry cordial and can be left as it is, however to make it bit more grown up you pour in dark rum – we put in 350mlto about 900ml of the cordial – to give it extra kick, extra taste and to help preserve it. This is then bottled and kept. It is best taken with 2-3tsp in a little warm water. Not only is it very nice indeed but is good for coughs, sore throats etc as it is packed with vitamin C and soothes the throat too. The rum probably helps kill of germs too, or at least that is my theory and as far as I am concerned is good enough reason to have it.

Next was a jelly. This time with the blackberries and some of the elderberries too, simmer in a pan with only a little water till the fruit is much and the juice has been released, again strain and return to the heat but this jam with jam making sugar (for the added pectin) in the same sort of quantity for the cordial, bring to a rolling boil for about 10 mins, pour into sterilised jars and you are done. We only had enough for 2 jars of this so I need to get back out bramble hunting soon enough. I also aim to get to a pick your own farm some time over the next week or so to stock up on raspberries (for raspberry jam, gin and vodka) and plums (jam, chutney and brandy). The sloes are in the freezer for now but will soon be mixed with cheap gin and vodka and left till the spring before being bottled for drinking – or storage as it matures with age. There is so much more that can be done with these free or cheap fruits I cant imagine why people don't do more with them, I recall going bramble picking all the time when I was a kid and my mum making tarts with them

To bring this back to a spirituality angle, I was talking not so long ago about how Lammas and the grain harvest is largely irrelevant to me, I am beginning to think that this time of year could become the focus or a more personal harvest time – namely that of the fruits. I shall have to consider this some more I think and see how it fits in.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Tentative Brythonic Ritual

Ok a little more on ritual seeing as I have gotten this running through my head.

1: The Greeting - for a gathering of several people, the 'greeting' described would be an ideal kick-off either when everyone arrives or prior to getting ready for the ritual proper. Ideally it is something that is done as soon as the attendees gather – largely to blend ritual into the everyday rather than a denoted time only.

2: Preparation of the space – this is a bit of a hangover I have from Wicca, but I find it to be a very useful tool when you have several people perhaps not from a close working group as it helps centre and focus and foster a state of mind conducive to what is about to take place. Ideally a central fire or brazier – the centre and focus, the place for the gods. Anyone who has sat before or around an open fire will know the power they hold over us. Ritualise the fire making and lighting, say a few words as it is lit, invite the god or goddess of the fire to take notice of what is being done. I find that washing and certainly the preparation of the self is a useful tool in these situations. It adds a lot to the 'feel' of things. Of course do what is appropriate and possible given the circumstance.

















3: The Invitation – ask the gods to be part of the circle, ask them to the honoured guests. Ask the ancestors and local spirits to come too. Make them feel welcomed and part of proceedings. This could be a song, poetic or prose evocation.

4: The Sacrifice – though I refer to this bit as sacrifice, it is the point when offerings or libations are made. This is when food and drink is shared with those present and the gods. The first portion should be offered into the fire for the gods as honoured guests, some left out in the ground or in a bowl for the local spirits and some left for the ancestors on a plate or bowl. I like the idea of burning the gods portion, it continues the 'taking it out use' theme that you find in Iron Age water deposits, the breaking or metal offerings so that they are of no mortal use. Whilst the offering to the local spirits can be left for the local wildlife (sensible thinking here of course), the ancestors portion can be left to one side for the rest of the gathering and then perhaps left out for the wildlife too. This is also the time when other offerings can be made whether they be physcial objects made or bought or words crafted especially. I think it is useful when in a group to add words to the sacrifice or offering – it opens it up to the group.

5: A.O.B – this is the point where other things can be discussed or taken part in, oracles, divination. Things like that.

6: The Parting – whether at the very end of the ritual proper or when the gathering ends some sort of formalised and ritualised farewell should be made I think. Not sure on a format though.


Points 1 and 6 can be carried out independently of the rest if at all, I think they add to the sense of weaving ritual actions into the everyday whereas 2-5 are much more focussed on a specific ritual event, that said the ritual of lighting preparing and lighting the fire could be broken off and carried out as a stand alone.

Ok, there is my ritual blogasm for now. Lots more to think of and more to add in time.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Theology Question No. 1

WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE GODS?

I started to consolidate my thoughts on this a
while back and think it is time to move on with the topic a little.

Essentially what constitutes a god is rather arbitrary as there is no clear way to delineate between a god or a particularly powerful spirit associated with a specific place (lets say the river Severn for instance), so I guess this applies to all non-physical beings to a lesser or greater extent. In my own view (and probably one shared by many others) is that the gods can be broken down into three types:

Primal Gods: those associated with raw natural forces such as the sea, thunder or the earth and landscape. Clearly some ancestral gods and spirits of place have become associated with natural phenomenon. This might be clear in some cases and in others not so.

Ancestral Gods: those gods who appear to have once been human beings and through a process of deification via ancestor worship have become what we could call gods.

Spirits of Place: those gods who have evolved out of a localised spirit of a well or river or hill.

I used to think this was all rather clear cut and with only a hint of cross-over, however these days I think there is far more 'smearing' of the boundaries of these types and far more crossover in our perception and understanding of them and their nature. That said I think the above classes of god are useful when it comes to explain their nature.

I am loathe to begin trying to explain the mechanics of how all of this works in scientific terminology and with some semblance of scientific explanation but I think I might have a go at it as at least an attempt to offer a means of explaining this is something other than a totally spiritual world-view.




In the blog-gasm I linked t above I talked how I visualise all existence as a stream with the physical (the bed itself with pebbles, plants etc being the physical) and the spiritual (water) coming together to form the whole. I mentioned how living things can be seen as loci of disturbance in the surface of the water (not disturbance in the negative sense) which act as centres of, and for, interaction with other loci (I use ripples in my analogy).

Right then, let's crack on!

These primal gods, the roaring ones of the rivers and the booming ones of the heavens. My view is that such beings do not exist as discrete and individual beings with personalities as such and only do so in the human conciousness as a result of human interaction with them. That is, the repeated interaction of people with a specific place (now that I am on about it think the same here can be applied to spirits of place) or phenomenon so that over time and with continual physical and spiritual interaction a new locus has developed and been imprinted with those qualities imparted by humans over many years, decades and millennia. In these cases what we perceive today as personalities and idiosyncrasies often associated with a discrete individual personality are impressions left behind as 'keys' to that locus which us humans use as a means of interacting with them which we can cope with a process as (limited) human beings. I think the term 'egregore' is probably useful as a descriptor at this point. As I said ancestral gods can be substituted in and become the personality of the place or phenomenon, and as such still act as the 'key' to that locus. In this case I find it hard to distinguish whether they are simply a 'mask' or whether they as a discrete entity with their own personality have now taken up residence within the locus.

In summary gods who fit these two types are 'keys' to our accessing and interacting with the spiritual loci within the landscape we inhabit. This is beginning to raise more thoughts and questions in me, specifically, regarding this interaction as being a means of regaining our place within the world as a whole which we have slipped out of in
what has been described as 'the fall' or other suitably Promethean process. Whilst we cannot retake our place within nature as a whole in a physical sense we can make efforts to do so in a spiritual manner. Though I think this is a subject to come back to at a more appropriate time.

Ancestral Gods come into this from a slightly different angle, they are to my mind loci in the 'stream' that persist and are maintained after physical death by people and their interactions over periods of time. These are the culture gods if you will; the divine-ploughman, the divine-blacksmith, the divine-wordsmith. They are also those gods who have come to be significant and important to the localised community though I think I highly likely that several ancestral gods can merge and spread in importance; to my mind Lugus-Belenus fits this mould as he has come to represent very anthropocentric qualities (craftsman, healer etc).

As I mentioned there is a lot of smearing in this whole system and so many loci have become merged and blended into one another taking on qualities of the other, so that an ancestral locus incorporates rather primal attributes and qualities or a primal locus has an ancestral locus implanted into it.

I think that kind of covers it for now and at least addresses the question posed. I am sure some of my astute readers will point out something I have missed or a point I have failed to address.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Whats and Whys of Ritual

I have a had a little moan about public ritual and what I see in the modern pagan community as a lack of thinking behind ritual, or at least a lack of examination of the purpose of ritual. As I see it ritual is carried out too often with little thought as to its purpose or its component actions. Any old generic pagan ritual will have a standard format:

Cast a Circle: usually based upon the Wiccan format but with changes to suit the people such as who is called at each quarter. The reason often given is that it is to 'protect' those inside. The reason Wiccans cast a circle is twofold: to keep in what is raised (note how this is the exact opposite of the reason often given) and also to centre and focus those taking part in preparation for what is to come. This latter reason is hardly met with public ritual, there will be fidgeting, talking, children wandering about and a general lack of focus.

Ritual theatre: sometimes there is, and sometimes there isn't. The point being is is often amateurish to the point of absurdity and is so overtaken with being 'fun' that the whole point is missed. Ritual theatre should be conveying something of importance or significant to those attending. It isn't supposed to be pantomime. Within Wicca the main piece of ritual theatre used is to expose initiates to the mysteries and as such is a solemn event carried out in a setting pregnant with significance. Watching or even participating offers something new each time.

Cakes and Ale/bread and Wine: often this is done with the standard Wiccan 'as the athame is to the male...' wording but again the point is missed and the purpose of doing this is lost on those taking part. Ask anyone attending why they are doing this and it will be an answer of 'shared food and drink' or 'communion'... not the reasons this small ritual is performed in the Wiccan setting (and which is by the way in my opinion one of the two main reason Wiccans perform rituals).

Drawing down the Moon: this is actually the one thing common in Wiccan ritual which DOESNT happen in standard public ritual and which is the single most important part I think. So, next time you are in a public ritual held by someone claiming to be Wiccan ask them to draw down the moon, ask them to do their duty as a priest/ess.

All of this begs the question of why many modern pagans are aping Wiccan ritual with little to no understanding the whys and wherefores of it?

Surely the best thing to do is to formulate their own rituals loaded with meaning and purpose and suited to them and their path. And for those brave souls who wish to perform public ritual; ask yourself what it is you want to convey or share with those attending.

To bring this back to a Brythonic context, I guess I am still in the process of asking myself what should be part of a ritual carried out by one of the Aelweddau who form part of Brython. I think I would like to see it go something like this for starters:

*All those attending gather together in a circle around a fire or table or whatever is suitable
*The host makes some sort of customary gesture of welcoming
*The host pours some drink into a drinking cup/bowl/horn and passes it around the gathering, during which time the host talks about the place in which they are gathered.
*The host breaks bread/cake etc and offers it around the circle, as it is passed he offers some of it with some of the drink to the gods, to the spirits of that place and to the ancestors.

Perhaps this would suit for when people gather together for a day or weekend visit as the 'opening ritual' as it were and from there do whatever it is they wish whether chatting, wandering about the place etc. During meal times some sort of formal way of offering the first portion to the gods could be carried out by the host before anyone else eats.

I think I would prefer it if ritual in chunks were woven into the everyday in small ways rather than being inserted in as one lump. To this end, perhaps in our hypothetical weekend gathering of groups we have woven a little bit in here and there at specific times when appropriate rather than forcing it in because it is felt it should happen.

I am beginning to find myself wondering if ritual devoted to the gods should include ritual possession as a means of direct communication between the group and the gods. I think I will have to come back to the deity focussed side of things another time.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Art and Paganism

I am going to drop this here as something to come back to at some point perhaps and also to nicely crystallise the kind of thing I have ranted about in the past. It comes courtesy of Bo and as ever makes a superb point in style.

pagan art is often too literal--Lee, you've railed about this--too concerned with drawing deities as idealised people holding symbolic objects (egg. hammer, harp, flame, whatever). This is why they seem so childish, I often think--sacred art like orthodox iconography or hindu or Buddhist art removes deities/holy beings from the ordinary by visual clues: the elongated, austere proportions, inverted perspective, and limited palatte of byzantine art, and the multiple limbs and third eyes of Indian deity images. These bits of symbolic shorthand help to abstract images of deity, avoiding the cloying literalism that afflicts the Witchfest school of pagan aesthetics.

To end on a higer note, this is a picture I came across a while back from an album cover by a band called 'Mastodon'. With a little Microsoft Paint jiggery pokery it turns out as a brilliant representation of the Wiccan concept of the Horned God in a manner which suggests Old horny himself went to India for a make over. This image of him perfectly encapsulates the idea of wild and inhuman whilst at the same time retaining an air of anthropomorphicity, it covers areas such as new life, fruition, riches and death. It has the hunter and the hunted in one. It is a perfectly symbolic and abstract image that has done away with the realism of modern pagan art without going too overboard and becoming too abstract so as to lose the common symbolic imagery.


Theological Questions

The question of a (well) thought out pagan theology has been cropping up in a few places lately in the forum and blogospheres. It does seem to be an area that is lacking and as such is a little black cloud hanging over the modern pagan community, it does not serve us well and if anything adds to the wishy-washy poorly thought out image people have about pagans today. I am going to quote Bo here:

*What is the nature of the gods?
*What is the nature of the soul?
*In what ways might we, compellingly and with coherence, conceptualise the relationship between the gods, the soul, and the world?


These are some very important questions that need addressing and I am going to have a stab at it, if nothing else to record my thoughts at this time perhaps with a view to going back and reviewing how my perceptions have changed.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Ritual Failings

I run the risk of being incredibly bitchy and nasty here. But what the hell. The subject of ritual has come up recently on a blog and the Caer Feddwyd forum and has got me thinking. Ritual to my mind has a purpose, not just as a whole but each element of the ritual in and of itself; each part of the ritual is there for a specific reason or to achieve a specific aim rather than being filler. I have seen a fair bit of public ritual and most tend to be knock-off's of the basic Wiccan ritual format and seem to simply ape it 'because' that is is what they seem supposed to do. These public rituals really don't seem to be geared towards the key elements of the ritual; 'Cakes and Ale' and the 'Drawing down the Moon'. Where they do occur it sets me in mind of a child playing with it's mum's make-up; it know that it gets slapped on the face but not how and why and where. It strikes me that there is no thought as to what they are doing and why, rather they appear to be labouring under the impression that it all needs to be done to be 'authentic' or 'real'. One example of what I would put under this class of ritual attendee is this chap, who it appears seems to attend as many ritual happenings as possible come any festival as if the attending is the important bit rather than what is being carried out.

Lammas is kind of here again, though this year I am struggling to connect with it. Lets be honest, this festival is all about the harvest or grains and crops and the thanks that they have (a) grown and (b) not been blighted/eaten/stolen. It is a thanksgiving and a celebration that there will be food for winter. This is not at all relevant to 99% of modern pagans, and mentions of 'personal harvests' et al just wont wash.




So, is this time of year significant to me? In some ways yes, there are certain things which happen that stand out; the thunder season has begun – and this year there has been thunder and lightning of a regular basis, it is the time for the soft fruit harvests notably elderberries which I am beginning to place some significance on (along with the blossom). Other than that nothing much happening has an impact. So perhaps in future I need to examine whether the fruit and thunder season is worth marking in my calendar year, do I need to do anything? Do I have anything to give thanks for at this time?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Baphomet

I mentioned a while back about some artwork being sold by a lady associated with Midian Books, well, here is the superlative picture of hers I love.

More at Mrs Midian













© Copyright Midian Books 2009 www.occultartists.co.uk

Thursday, 23 July 2009

All Bo's fault

In my last post Bo posted a comment making a number of points and questions. They pretty much get to the heart of the kinds of questions I keep asking myself but never really find myself answering in a full and satisfactory way, namely addressing and finding some sort of resolution on what I see as the relationship between us and the gods and what purpose, if any, the relationship serves.


* What do you think a god can do for you? Is a god an invisible, powerful, yet circumscribed superbeing which can intervene in the real world--the real world, that is, of job centres, skill sets, interview panels, application forms, office politics and credit crunches--to get you a job?

I think that they have a different skill-set from me and both skill-sets combined can achieve results desirable for both sides. I have come to think that what we lack they can provide and when they lack we can provide. A nice symbiotic relationship is probably the ideal outcome. It is probably worth saying this is a simplified version of these thoughts.


* If so--and your lines about Lugus-Belenus being all take and no give imply that this is how you envision him--do you think that the gods (which gods?!) actively run the show like middle management executives, rather than being culturally-determined but nevertheless living symbols of the creative power and beauty continually astir in the world?

Nope I don't see them as running the show, more as characters within the show. Albeit with skills at their disposal that I do not have. To put is crassly; they are classmates who can help with my maths homework as I'm utter shit at trigonometry.


Is the do-ut-des formula of Roman religion--and ancient religion more generally--an appropriate way to relate to divine powers in our post-Freudian, post-Jungian, post-Tillich and Bonhoeffer world? I'm not sure I'd want a god who was the divine equivalent of an African tribal Boss Man, to whom you give a backhander to get something done.

I don't know if it is appropriate, I do know it has been appropriate for humans in their interactions with their gods since humans appeared on earth, so see no reason why this should suddenly change. It has worked for me in the past and I don't see how an essentially key function in the interaction of man and god can be suddenly made redundant or invalid. It has always been part of the system, continues to be part of the system in most religions today and probably always will be.


If you accept that Lugus is more powerful than you--as you clearly do, because you believe he can and should have helped you--does that mean that you also think his divine consciousness is less limited than your human consciousness? In other words, is Lugus perhaps able to perceive what is good and necessary for you at this point in your life better that you are? If yes, you should trust him. If no, then you are treating him like a bellhop who's been insufficiently grateful for the dollar you handed him.


This is always something I come back to, the idea that they know better and I should trust in their judgement even when it negates those things which I desire. Whilst I certainly do trust their judgement, I struggle with the idea my wishes and desires will be left to one side because 'they know better'. I guess it could be said that we arent left to make our own mistakes and learn from them. It is a tough one for sure.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Myths

I am struggling with the creation myth. I have ideas about the oceans giving birth to the land, or at least being tricked into forming it somehow. I have ideas about horses being the ones to do the tricking and being the ones responsible for forming the landscape. I have ideas about other gods becoming involved somehow. These ideas though are all in the air.

The Promethean myth on the other hand is a bit more promising; I think it useful to draw on mythic themes already explored and remembered in Brythonic legend and story.

At a very broad outline at this stage;

mankind lives as hunter gatherers, struggling through hard times and enjoying bountiful ones too. Our hero lives in a time when it is a particularly harsh winter, he sees his family and his tribe dying and starving and so he calls on his gods – I'm thinking horse here as the goddess of the land itself upon which he lives – and she takes pity and reveals that the gods feast well on the meat of an animal know to them as a swine. Our hero makes his way to the realms of the gods and takes a pregnant sow from them – Hen Wen perhaps to pull an idea from existing legend and to fit in with the theme – which he takes back to his tribe and from this sow springs the fruits of agriculture. A quick diversion here; agriculture marks a pivotal point in the developmental history of humans, it is the point where we stop being controlled by the forces of nature around us and begin to take control of our own destiny, settling down, the first towns and cities, the beginnings of our divorce from 'the natural order' (clumsily put I know).

So the gods are mightily pissed off at this point; Belenus scorches the earth to kill the crops, Nodens causes the rivers to burst their banks flooding and killing crops and livestock, disease etc strike.

Here I have begun to lose it, I'm not sure if perhaps tour hero petitions the gods and they take pity, or perhaps they demand something in return or even there is some sort of separation between man and gods. Perhaps Ambactonos steps in. perhaps there is even a split between the gods with some taking pity and others wanting revenge – it might lead to ideas like occasional bad harvests and spoiling being wrought by some of the gods at times.

So much to think about.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Golden



This is the rather ugly rendition (in the ever versatile though never graceful)in Microsoft Paint of something I have just agreed to as part of a deal that I have struck with a god. The inscritiption is 'Viridios Belenus-Lugus'; 'the great god Belenus-Lugus'. I hope that is a reasonable passing of the appropriate Romano-British-Latin!

I mentioned a while back about an
agreement I struck with Belenus this time last year - which he fulfilled on his part and I am currently in the process of fulfilling on mine.

Again this is a work related petition; same employer, different position and far better pay etc. Similar deal in many respects, though mainly ensuring any hurdles are not a problem and that once sorted the blasted paperwork with HR doesn't take as long to sort out - will be interesting to see if the number four recurs again.

This all falls within a 3 weeks period of daily devotionals I am carrying out directed toward Belenus-Lugus. I will do something on that when it isn't as late.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Prometheus

So, this new myth thing I have been posting about. Two spring to mind that could be useful; a creation myth and a 'Promethean' myth. The idea of the Promethean myth (as in Adam and Eve or Prometheus himself) is that of something gained by humanity but at a great loss (whether it being kicked out from the Eden Project or being hepatically challenged) to them at the same time. To quote Bo:

“Either way, we transgressed somehow; deep in us, there is an obscure and lingering guilt--for being animals and yet not being animals, for being so clever, so rootless and questing, for having the power of speech and symbol-making; and, ultimately, a shadowy guilt for being conscious at all.”

It is this idea that we are on the one hand part of nature and the ecosystem but on the other separate from it, no longer as bound by it and free to go against it if we choose. Some of the very fundamentals of nature we have distanced ourselves from entirely: the predator-prey interaction and 'survival of the fittest' for example. I wonder if this guilt and this feeling of separation are at the heart of many of the pagan religions? With their emphasis on landscape, spirits and gods being all around us and our kinship with the natural world? I wonder if the surge in neo-paganisms is a reaction to our onward march away from the Garden of Eden, in vehicles powered by that Promethean flame?

Our conciousness, our ability for abstract thought and our self awareness mark us out as different – more specifically it is the ability to think in abstracts that really set us apart from the other animals, some of whom have conciousness and self-awareness to some degrees – and as such it marks a fundamental and monumental shift in our place in the world. Such a thing should be marked in myth; a moment when we took up the flame and stood out in the world, became who we are today (this we should celebrate) and in doing so we lost something (this we should mourn). Any new myth of this sort should be both a celebration and a mourning and also a story of hope for us as a species and what we can move onto and achieve.

A creation myth of sorts is vital, no other mythic type acts as such a strong glue in placing a people in the landscape and forging the initial links between them and the gods.