Thursday, 13 May 2010

Rituals of Sovereignty

So, onto this sovereignty matter and the use of ritual.

I was on the bus home today and the Catholic mass come to mind – as it can do at times – and especially the part with the Eucharist and holy communion. It appears that this really is the crux of the mass – and something similar features within Wiccan ritual. It is if you like, the part of the mass that the mass has been created for. It has purpose and of course meaning, it could be said it is the legacy of JC himself and what he was building up to (certainly in the case of Catholicism). And so it is that every Sunday (or Saturday evening if you were more into that kind of timing for your masses) that this element of the mass recreates something that was first established by the son of god himself, he explicitly requested they do this symbolic ritual in order to maintain the connection between God and the faithful.

This re-creative thing could be something upon which to build in terms of a ritual of renewal of sovereignty. Something done in a group setting, where the group collectively renews the sovereignty bestowed onto them by the goddess in question. This renewal is for both group and individual renewal. I cant see how the place of a sovereign can be established and his function fulfilled, I suppose this is one of those changes made to older ideas to be more in line with the 21st century we all live in, not to diminish the process, but more of adapting to work in a modern world.

The question really is; how do you know if Rigantona has granted you sovereignty? Do you assume she is hunky-dory or go in for divination of some sort? I can envisage some sort of divinatory event or events in which the 'message' is transmitted, and if favourable a feast prepared when the tribe gather. Foods cooked by those attending brought together and cooked - perhaps a loaf of home made bread in the form of a horse is included – and the finest part set aside for Her. Offerings of food and drink are made; what we have received from the and, we now offer back to complete the circle. The horse is killed, it's head dipped into red wine and offered. The rest torn up and shared between those attending. In doing so we have offered back what we have taken in hope of the obligation of return in the coming year. We have taken the form of the land and torn her body up to be shared between us, we take her away as part of us only to bring her back again a year hence and once again remake the circle.

Simple, symbolic and potential a powerful and moving ritual if performed with fitting liturgy.

Interestingly while I was looking for some images to add to this I stumbled across this link describing a Siberian horse sacrifice ritual.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


This is of course a matter of sovereignty and its place within contemporary paganism, primarily so those strands which have a strong focus upon the relationship between the landscape, the people and the gods and how all three come together as one in a form of meta-ecosystem. This isn't about political sovereignty, the role of the state or head thereof – the Queen in the case of the United Kingdom – as we live in a larger society and these concepts have their place in a society-wide framework. This is really more about a kind of religo-magical sovereignty; the relationship between the person and the landscape.

There are a couple of things I just want to throw in at this point without going into in detail right now (I can refer back to the courses when needed and if needed);

1. the place of horses as representations of landscape and their part in views of sovereignty
2. the marriage of king and mare followed by mating and eating of the mare
3. the horse associated goddess Riannon in the mabinogi, her role within sovereignty and the effect of her mistreatment and disappearance
Mitra-Varuna/Odhinn-Tyr/Lugus-Nodens as embodiments of how the human component functions within the sovereign relationship

The religo-magical component has been all but removed from sovereignty in the modern world, if it does exist it is in a merely vestigial form. Politics, law and the place of The State have come to primacy. The landscape is a belonging, an asset almost, of the state and the people which they have a legal right to make use of and exploit. It has pretty much become a commodity. This mindset is now inescapable in the modern world and trying to get away from it is an exercise in futility.

So, to quote someone who has already expressed it in a clear and expressive manner (Deiniol):

"sovereignty" is not an inherent power or attribute of a tribe: it has to be granted by its proper owner. Without the sovereignty, the tribe has no right to live on the land: it is not theirs to possess or use or rule over. Therefore, to me, "sovereignty" could be defined as "the gift of place". I am not a Brython because I was born in these islands, nor because my ancestors have lived here for generations. That's not important. I belong to Britain, and Britain belongs to me, because the sovereignty goddess allows it: it is solely by her grace (to use the Christian term) that I can interact with the land."

The goddess of sovereignty, in my world-view; Rigantona, forms that connection of proper person and proper power via the king or ruler in a tribal society. As a group of people spread out in the landscape such an arrangement falters, so a slightly different method of obtaining the right to live on the land must be sought and obtained but on an individual basis. I do also wonder if perhaps it is something that could be sought as a group; a group where a common understanding of what is required and expected is met and as such taken on by individuals and a group at the same time. Effectively, sovereignty is granted to the group as a whole and to the people as individuals. A burden then lies on those individuals to uphold their responsibility for their own sake and the sake of the group.

From what I have been reading of late, the role of a Mitra-Varuna pairing also come into play with regards to the functioning of this relationship. I think it might be something to come back to later. In addition 'how' this sovereignty is obtained and divulged to the group/individuals needs some thought.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Calan Mai

The word around me is fresh green and cream. The trees have been pushing out new growth with a vengeance and the blossom on the Prunus is everywhere. London is looking pretty. It means that the windows in my flat are open 24 hours a day leaving the place feeling and smelling fresh, something which is surprising for London, but then I suppose it should be ‘London fresh’ which is probably a shade or two further down the fresh spectrum that other parts of the country. This is my kind of spring and the kind of summer I would want; warm, sunny yet not too hot and humid. Fingers crossed.

The wheel is turning and we are well into the season of sunshine and growth; soon will be an appropriate time to mark this change and celebrate the calends of May. 

I spent the first weekend of May in Snowdonia with other people from Brython. I have met some of them before; though meeting the others was perhaps the most important part of the weekend for me. To go from online interaction to a face to face ‘format’ is hugely valuable, itself as an experience and also for future contact; having a voice, a face and a way of talking to apply to otherwise anonymous communication is fantastic.

We spent the first night camping out in a field on the banks of the Conwy, a bit chilly – colder than a witch’s tit to be accurate – but a nice way of easing out of urban life. An early start the next day and we were climbing into the mountains. Everything about the landscape there reminds me of home: the hills, the peaks, and the rolling heath-land. I could just as well have been in north Pembs for all I knew. I think was the biggest kick for me; the feeling of being back in a familiar place, the ‘hiraeth’. Lately I have been almost pining to move back into a more rural setting or at least on the very hinterland between rural and urban.

We walked for a few hours up into the mountains along what I presume is a fairly old track; winding up into the hills and with wayside sheep folds that would have been the peeling off point for farmers making this trip to maintain their very livelihood. The showers that fell from the sky occasionally were welcome in some respect to cool me off – a rucksack with an additional 5kg of fuel on your back for an uphill climb can get the internal furnace firing up.

There was a weird juxtaposition between frogspawn in the puddles, fledging skylarks and the snow that still clung on it the highest peaks. It was as if there was a very literal intermingling of spring and winter, the weather only went to enhance that.

Twenty four hours later we walked down from that wild, windy and lonely place. As Potia has described; it was very much a case of going up there in winter and coming down in spring.

I had expectations of that weekend, they weren’t realised but I think what I got out of ti was far more important; spending time with a community; building those community bonds which we hope only to strengthen. And of course being there alongside someone making a very real journey; far more than a simple trek into the mountains. It seems almost surreal in some respects, as if she underwent the journey and we were pulled along with her into it as guides/support/companions. I think I know what my place was in those events and I am pleased and honoured to be part of it. More so because of the lessons I have learned as a result.

There has been a bit of a hiatus on here of late, I have things I want to expunge but am totally lethargic about. I think sovereignty will feature in the next couple of posts as it is something that needs addressing.