THE KALEVALA. PROEM.

•June 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

MASTERED by desire impulsive,
By a mighty inward urging,
I am ready now for singing,
Ready to begin the chanting
Of our nation’s ancient folk-song
Handed down from by-gone ages.
In my mouth the words are melting,
From my lips the tones are gliding,
From my tongue they wish to hasten;
When my willing teeth are parted,
When my ready mouth is opened,
Songs of ancient wit and wisdom
Hasten from me not unwilling.

Golden friend, and dearest brother,
Brother dear of mine in childhood,
Come and sing with me the stories,
Come and chant with me the legends,
Legends of the times forgotten,
Since we now are here together,
Come together from our roamings.
Seldom do we come for singing,
Seldom to the one, the other,
O’er this cold and cruel country,
O’er the poor soil of the Northland.
Let us clasp our hands together
That we thus may best remember.
Join we now in merry singing,
Chant we now the oldest folk-lore,
That the dear ones all may hear them,
That the well-inclined may hear them,
Of this rising generation.

 


These are words in childhood taught me,
Songs preserved from distant ages,
Legends they that once were taken
From the belt of Wainamoinen,
From the forge of Ilmarinen,
From the sword of Kaukomieli,
From the bow of Youkahainen,
From the pastures of the Northland,
From the meads of Kalevala.
These my dear old father sang me
When at work with knife and hatchet
These my tender mother taught me
When she twirled the flying spindle,
When a child upon the matting
By her feet I rolled and tumbled.

Incantations were not wanting
Over Sampo and o’er Louhi,
Sampo growing old in singing,
Louhi ceasing her enchantment.
In the songs died wise Wipunen,
At the games died Lemminkainen.
There are many other legends,
Incantations that were taught me,
That I found along the wayside,
Gathered in the fragrant copses,
Blown me from the forest branches,
Culled among the plumes of pine-trees,
Scented from the vines and flowers,
Whispered to me as I followed
Flocks in land of honeyed meadows,
Over hillocks green and golden,
After sable-haired Murikki,
And the many-colored Kimmo.
Many runes the cold has told me,
Many lays the rain has brought me,
Other songs the winds have sung me;
Many birds from many forests,
Oft have sung me lays n concord
Waves of sea, and ocean billows,
Music from the many waters,
Music from the whole creation,
Oft have been my guide and master.


Sentences the trees created,
Rolled together into bundles,
Moved them to my ancient dwelling,
On the sledges to my cottage,
Tied them to my garret rafters,
Hung them on my dwelling-portals,
Laid them in a chest of boxes,
Boxes lined with shining copper.
Long they lay within my dwelling
Through the chilling winds of winter,
In my dwelling-place for ages.

Shall I bring these songs together
From the cold and frost collect them?
Shall I bring this nest of boxes,
Keepers of these golden legends,
To the table in my cabin,
Underneath the painted rafters,
In this house renowned and ancient?
Shall I now these boxes open,
Boxes filled with wondrous stories?
Shall I now the end unfasten
Of this ball of ancient wisdom,
These ancestral lays unravel?
Let me sing an old-time legend,
That shall echo forth the praises
Of the beer that I have tasted,
Of the sparkling beer of barley.
Bring to me a foaming goblet
Of the barley of my fathers,
Lest my singing grow too weary,
Singing from the water only.
Bring me too a cup of strong-beer,
It will add to our enchantment,
To the pleasure of the evening,
Northland’s long and dreary evening,
For the beauty of the day-dawn,
For the pleasure of the morning,
The beginning of the new-day.

 

Often I have heard them chanting,
Often I have heard them singing,
That the nights come to us singly,
That the Moon beams on us singly,
That the Sun shines on us singly;
Singly also, Wainamoinen,
The renowned and wise enchanter,
Born from everlasting Ether
Of his mother, Ether’s daughter.

Text from Sacred Texts

Images from Sacred Texts and Pinterest

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The Knife

•April 30, 2018 • 1 Comment

The Knife

Much has been said on the Stang, but very little has been explored regarding the Knife.

Robert Cochrane believed that when placed and used in conjunction with the (whet)stone, the cord, the cup and the staff, a powerful and magical mandala was generated. He also believed the correct preparation of these tools was essential prior to any and all rituals.

As the Foundation of Wisdom, the Stang is established as a combination of the Masculine and Feminine up to Death. Thereafter, it becomes the Pure Path of Enlightenment; the Goddess and The GODDESS are lower and higher aspects of One Source. Also described as ‘the Supreme Instrument, the Gateway, it is at the base of physical experience. The Chariot at the centre because it is the power and the treble. Horns at the top, the High Spiritual endeavour.

It forges the pathway through the Mysteries as the entwining of Love, Beauty and Mercy, a three-fold magical binding of the Supreme Triadic Virtue it represents. It is phallic and represents Hermes the Guide. As the steed of Oðhin and Hermes, it is the winds that pulls and push us forth, elevating us towards the forked crown of choice that is Life and Fate or Death and Destruction of Fate, since to achieve the Highest, one must pass the Lowest the Passage of Time, “In this aspect it becomes Lethe, Chronos, in fact Mercy and Chronos in One.  The next attribute at the Horns is mystical and may not be written.”

In the Transcript for their Midsummer Ritual, Cochrane provides instruction for the ritual purification and preparation of the site and of the self. Amongst the tools, he emphasises the purpose of the knife in conjunction with the staff and knotted cord, the hangman’s noose, used as a personal rosary and ‘meditation device’ to shift consciousness out and beyond the Round of Life: The Round of Life as agreed upon, represents not the actual aspects of the Round, but the Power The Goddess, as primal movement, has over them. As the supreme tool of balance, it is used in the ‘ring’ which can be aspected as the ‘threshing floor’ or the ‘dancing ground.’ Small knives may be substituted for three nails in acts of cursing. Its wielder holds the powers of life or death, justice or mercy….therefore it is temperance. [fire] and of the Masculine Mysteries incorporating the Order of the Sun and the Grail Mysteries. (Ref: Tubelo’s Green Fire). Beyond the physical ‘cutting’ purpose of the knife are its spiritual attributes.

Cochrane writes:

Knife: This is the masculine Tree, and such represents Intellect, or the actual search for wisdom, experience and knowledge. Basically then, it represents these aspects. Wisdom. Love physical. Mercy and generosity. Victory and conflict. And as such when sharpened against the Stone of the Mysteries (the Gateway….Malkuth) it represents our passage through time and space on our search.

Stone: Any stone will do providing it is square and natural. The Stone represents the Stone of the Mysteries and it is three-fold. I will not explain in the letter, but examine the Triad at its highest level.

I can keep on explaining but I think you find everything interlocks and forms One Whole. I know it is a lot to remember but I have a career and considerable responsibilities external to Witchcraft. Incidentally, before anyone starts to say that I am complicating things have a look at my original letter. You will find that we all agreed to a common symbolism, and these symbols are historically valid and correct. It was what the true witch used to believe in, no simpleton by any means. Now work before the ritual. Each night a small amount of time will have to be spent upon these things.

(a) Consecrating each of the tools.

This is done simply by imagining yourself filled with the highest power from above, bringing that power down to the base of the spine and lighting the basic fires there, bring it up to the right hand, externalise it and bless each tool in the name of the Goddess (anyone will do) in its particular aspect. ie. The Knife

Invocation to Hermes:

Hermes. Hermes.  Thou Bright Light leading us through the Gateway of Death. Thou Guardian of the Portholes, Fashioner of all Skills and Knowledge. Torchbearer, here me! I pray for Thy assistance in my trade. Thou who burnest as Love Physical, Thou who bearest the entwined snakes, Thou who knowest all things, who was born from the Union of the North Wind and Darkness. Here me. Here me. Here me. Hermes bless this Knife make it all Thou Art. May it fashion my art for me may it protect me from ill doers, may it lighten the way for me…. Amen.

And so on. It should be simple to prepare a personal consecration for each tool.  The Goddess is the Highest aspect, image Her transformed into each of the Forces you invoke.

Words should be whispered to achieve a state of group or self-hypnosis the words also have great relative meaning at certain parts of the ceremony.  And then by being whispered, act as a depressant to oxygen supply to the head. The dance steps and movements with the tools are also important. The totality of all these movements is to produce a great ‘whoosh’ of directed Will and power to the object desired.

After some time spent discussing Natural Magick with Bill Gray, Cochrane summarised the process to him, explaining that, “Midsummer is my big night, or the nearest I can get to it. Quite simply our ritual falls into this pattern:

 

This is the Taper that lights the way.

This is the Cloak that covers the Stone,

That sharpens the Knife

That cuts the Cord That Binds the Staff

That’s owned by the Maid Who tends the fire

That boils the Pot That scalds the Sword

That fashions the Bridge That crosses the ditch

That Compasses the Hand That knocks the Door,

That fetches the Watch That releases the Man

That turns the Mill

That Grinds the Corn That makes the Cake

That feeds the Hound That Guards the Gate

That hides the Maze That’s worth a light

And into the Castle that Jack built.

To those of his Clan, he’d explained these as: “The Preliminaries.  I am sorry if they are complicated, but there is no simple way to do them. It is all time and Will, day in day out.” After the rite had taken place, he questioned their grasp of its concepts:

 You will notice that it contains considerable chunks of philosophy: for instance, why should the cord bind the staff, and why should the knife cut it? There is a lot more in it, and basically it represents both Jane’s and my total knowledge upon witchcraft.

Meantime, in another letter, he continued his discussion of these principles to Bill Gray:

As you can see, it is a child’s game, but one that works. We use a skull as much in the same fashion as the Knights Templars, but Mithraic worship is out for us, two differing concepts. The druids, however, were eastern in origin, they again superimposed a different pattern upon the aboriginal gods of the Kelts. They were supposed by the Romans to have more magic than the rest put together, however they were a bloody-minded lot. It you want to use nature magic, then you must work outside, preferably by running water, or failing that, as high as you can get. It must be open to the four winds, since they carry the seeds of life and destruction, and they represent your four elements.

There are no hard and fast rules, it must be played by ear. The sense of power is usually denoted by a sensation of extreme panic, then comes the ‘gathering’ in you feel that you are being surrounded by hosts of ‘watchers’. You may possibly see them out of the corner of your eye, these must be ignored, and the panic overcome.

Then there comes a cold blast of wind, and the power which is being asked for begins the manifestation, this will appear in the form that you expect to see, the main difficulty is in holding it, since (and I speak from experience) it is rather like being hit with a hammer. Usually green, brilliant lights flash on and off in the centre of the working space. ….Whatever you do, resist the temptation to panic or to feel that ‘everything is going wrong’ The Farmer has a reputation for affecting human beings in this fashion (hence the words ‘panic’, ‘pandemonium’, etc.)

Here is a short prayer that may help to consolidate:

 

My Lord …..

Here I be stripped of all finery.

No clothes, lover or home have I Excepting by thy Grace

Master, I have descended the Paths towards Thy gates …

Leaving all but my truthful spirit behind me.

Here am I as naked as the sea, as the sky ,

As grave winter itself.

I pray Thee take pity on me and listen unto my prayer.

Basically nature magick is very simple, it is as simple as doing it , but like all simple things, it has some fantastic fortifications behind it. Witches believe that all things are One and joined, there is no singular (except human beings – Law of correspondence).  To create spiritual effect, – one must create physical effect, and to work nature magic, you must first do natural things. There are dangers though, these are in effect leaving anything undone. Once you have achieved your purpose, leave everything as you found it, or else you will spend some uncomfortable nights with nature spooks clomping around your room, taking it out of you for disturbing them.

Cochrane stressed here a rather distinct application of the principles of Natural Magick as the theology of (religious) science; crucially he was extremely keen to avoid what he perceived as generic practical demonstrations of it as superstition, found in both positive magics (sorcery), and negative magics (taboo).

He believed that true magick crosses all boundaries of theory, science, sorcery, taboo, religion and art, to be acts of desire, fuelled by the human instinct to ‘overcome’ Fate. In the field of animism, we pitch ‘Will,’ in accordance with Wyrd—the grand conjunction where human force merges with the cosmic force of The ‘Natural’ World, as understood by Agrippa. There is no point of separation, and no part of us that is not, ‘of ’ it.

 

Cochrane asserted that the state of being in alignment with one’s Fate to the extent we may anticipate it, judge, dodge, assess, pre-empt, prepare and advance our own causality. Precognitive attunement and unsubtle sentience together, form the twin-edged blades of the sword we carry as spirit, honed in focus, to battle against apathy and despair. Balance, wrought only within the field of Nature, is where ‘Will’ staves all too briefly, the onslaught of an unrelenting Fate.

And the knife is ultimately the pure form of that virtue – the pure force of Will as the vehicle for Wisdom.

All acts of magick become an act of Will, specifically of True Will. Complete surrender evokes complete absorption of the lesser will, allowing us to act freely and spontaneously without fear of conflict.

Gnosis is not a rejection of the world, but an awareness of the dual gifts of our humanity and divinity, their harmony and symbiosis. Successful symbiance is reliant upon this premise. Complete detachment defeats the purpose of life.

Guénon understood that no-thing and no-one is of consequence, yet truth or wisdom gained, is always of consequence. That all may act according to their nature, is to be accepted, and all responses should be our own, and not another’s.

So we come to the heart of the People, a belief that is based upon eternity, and not upon social needs or pressures—the ‘witch’ belief then is concerned with wisdom, our true name then is the Wise People, and wisdom is our aim.

………………………………………………………………………………..

All texts are from ‘The Star-Crossed Serpent III The Letters of Robert Cochrane Revealed’ by Shani Oates, published by Mandrake of Oxford 2016

Photos of Ritual Tools artifacts and sacred places are copyright of Shani Oates, the dancers and the mare are on wiki commons.

 

Better by You, Better than Me

•December 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

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Encountering yet another, ‘how to’ book on the Craft (albeit this time on Traditional Craft), I wearily resigned myself to the fact that years on, beyond the known and respected few, hardly anyone appears to be teaching, at least, that is, in the ‘Traditional’ way. To me it seems a shame that people are either unable or unwilling to find a group in which they can safely enter the Craft and learn its principles free of charge. Maybe the problem is simply one of communication? But if we must refer to books then personally, I would recommend the many excellent books authored by Joseph Campbell, Lex Hixon, and Henry Corbin or modern authors of equal calibre. These are I feel, increasingly neglected and yet infinitely more useful being either source and resource books, or poetic, inspiring catalysts.  These are substantially more enjoyable than much of the questionable rubbish all too readily available on the internet. I have to admit that I personally never use it.

Both these media have limitations (‘how to’ books and the ‘net’), subject as they often are to various inaccuracies, whether by accident or design. Yet the greater problem lies in their remote inaccessibility. But more than this, because people are rarely ‘truly’ connected to their material, they commonly avoid discussing what should be the very basic tenets of the Traditions they espouse, not least of which is humility. Virtue is oft quoted but rarely applied. How grand they some may seem, hidden behind their onerous psychobabble.

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Yet, in reality,  Cuveen leaders are really just ordinary people, unnoticeable in a crowd, bereft of glamour, just people getting on with life, not trying to impress, or be part of what is now, the popular cult of the ‘personality’. They are just ‘people’, leaders yes, but not ‘in the lead’; which can of course lead to problems when persons of little integrity are involved. As ordinary people, they should not be looked upon as being different to any one else outside their circles of arte and dancing grounds. The real difference lies within those arenas, during actual ritual. Only there, do they ‘become’ the focus of what they claim to represent.  Mark this; it is not as people, nor in their personalities, their ‘power’ lies, but in and as the ‘tools’ or locus of force they embody. We must all see beyond what is apparent, for what is apparent is often the illusion and this is the key. Just as all the other component parts of ritual, the totems, the markings and totems, the banners, the lay-out of sacred space that collectively create the map, all as partial guides to ‘another world’, if you like.  For those who can read this map, the further down the rabbit hole they may go, the more they will understand.

But again I ramble; I do tend to drift off. The Maid (focus) and Magister (intermediary) serve the Clan, never the other way round. Another point, often over looked, concerns basic Craft Law, and is a matter considerably distinct to the laws that govern Wicca. This law applies when a past leader imbues another with their ‘virtue,’ at which point they become revered elders, having passed on all said work on to the new caretakers. As such, they remain secure in a non-elective position, accessible even after death. This has to do with the Mysteries of the dirty rascal, the King of the Castle and the Devil. Of high regard and inestimable esteem, they are not discarded, nor are they ignored. The central Core must and does always remain at the point of origin, at source. The tree is maintained through its roots, grounded as they are deep within the earth. Titles are empty unless enfleshed with the spiritual egregore of the Clan or Family, which unlike Wicca is not self –perpetuating through separate Initiatory lines.

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Yet to have been blessed with this baton, wherein we are enjoined within the ‘Source’, that I personally call the ‘Great Maa’, is an inexpressible gift. The nearest articulation would be peace, or bliss, in the fullest and truest sense. To risk all and lose this, is indeed ‘girt terror and fearful dread’, unless of course you neither believe it nor have experienced it. To be cast out, is to be with the dead, but not the quick. Therefore, for this most profound of reasons, I don’t believe the Craft can be demonstrated from the pages of a book or any internet site. For the most part it is experiential.  Folklore, crafts, superstitions, basic ritual can all be laid out, but only in one-to-one teaching can each aspect and reason be fully explained. But this also requires commitment, something which is sadly, very thin on the ground. It also requires absolute and unwavering dedication, not to the Maid and Magister, but to the Tutelary Gods of that Clan or Family. Ancestral spirits readily recognise integrity and will; and they do respond in like manner, (theatre may fool the people, bull shit can and does baffle brains, but you cannot fool the divine). Pure mind, speech and heart are essential for spiritual advancement.

Fire is the divine sun and smoke, the divine moon; those that learn this law will pass through the fire that does not burn. Apart from the ‘Od’ exception, many of us need a guide through these praxis.  I, like Evan John Jones and Robert Cochrane, consider myself to be ‘Od’s’ man, except in my case, ‘Od’s man signifies a layer of devotion to Kali. Od is, Sanskrit for [black] ink – She is the shadow-less black light of purity, of unsullied awe. Sentient contact cannot be taught, it has to be awakened by ritualised experience, induced by the act of surrender to forces engaged during initiatory procedure, between mortal flesh and the spirit forces of the ‘other.’ We believe that ultimately, ‘seeing’ beyond deific and spirit forms, be they Elves, Fairies, or whatever any of us are culturally conditioned to see, is to remove the self-imposed limitations that concourse with these enigmatic, archaic forms, generate for us, within and without us. There is more than this, much more. True absorption induces a mystical sophistication, a spiritual assurance characterised by the maturity and majesty of the prime potencies (Assar, Huzzar, Blessings upon His name).

6th_century_Mother_Goddess_Matrika_murti,_India

Like everything else, of real worth, this aspect of the Craft cannot be taught in book form, certainly not on its own. Only a ‘real’ teacher (fully present) can demonstrate the various ways that lead from one point to another, make a pattern, form a key, to knock upon and open the door. One has to go beyond what can easily be seen. Only then, in solitary thought, are they able to begin the journey into themselves, beyond all bounds of matter. One has to learn to live within this world, in order to excel beyond it. There is a need to learn through experience, only then will the knowledge of Truth, of egolessness, pilgrimage, and realisation restore the beauty of the ‘gift’. To see life clearly or to be blind, that remains the choice of all. For it is only then we may learn that of all the gateways, woman is the most important, whose role is to first increase all vision, then actuality, as the very portal of release. In nature it is she who manifests the compassion of Nirvana. As He is the positive power, she is the negative, and as a living image of the wonder of this world in which we live, She is the ferry and the destination all in one. This is the weight and purpose of the Maid in ritual, she represents the hidden female essence of absolute sentience, the mirage of the projected world, revealing the hidden divine beyond everything. Ramprasad Sen states that though ‘She’ is hidden in all things, that self does not shine out, yet can ‘She’ be seen by subtle seers, with superior and subtle intellect.

This purity of virtue is evident too within the new born who are so much closer to the source than we; thus the morally great person is the one who has managed throughout their life, even into later years, to keep the heart of a child – (Any one who knew Evan John Jones, or Doreen Valiente, will have seen exactly that) ‘Show me your face, the one you had before you were born’. Within the Clan, candidates are requested to undertake pilgrimage and to maintain all night vigils, in order to experience the sensation of loneliness, loss, and separation from the Clan. Then, a specific initiation ritual returns them into the Clan, to rejoin and continue their own unique and spiritual quest.

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mcai280271, Fri Apr 21, 2006, 3:59:47 PM, 16C, 3240×3292, (2813+4562), 100%, bent 6 stops, 1/25 s, R70.1, G58.0, B71.7

It is the purpose of Mystery Religions to re-organize the misaligned principals that impede our spiritual growth, to re-smelt the individual into gold, to achieve the aim of becoming a raindrop in the ocean, to enable the wonders of the beyond that ignite the soul. The goal of all true magic and religion is not ritual alone, for that is but a simple prop, a tool through which we direct our will towards contact – proof as opposed to mere faith. Those who live for myth and superstition alone are being deceived, and labouring under such restriction, will ultimately lose faith, unless cajoled or threatened. But the Underground Stream employs none of these methodologies. Everyone is encouraged to experience for themselves the face of the faceless one.

After all, myths are just a way of explaining how the formless one can be under stood, they cannot explain the agonies of the quest, nor the painful stripping away of the self, not even the rapture of revelation, which is not of death, but of life, here, now and beyond. This returns us to the point yet again of ignorance, of being distanced (exiled) from the Truth, the following repeated directive ‘you eat this bread in the devils name with girt terror and fearful dread’ stresses its real significance and one that is often overlooked. To thine own end be true.

Omnia Vanitas (1848) William Dyce. Vanity of vanities all is vanity

Sing me a song all you singers, do me no wrong, be your mind full of evil; a closed mind will make you a taker, the dancer is ever the maker…. and it goes on and on, and on and on…oh Yeah.”

Two lines from the Craft law of our Tradition state:

‘Take all you are given.’

‘Give all of yourself.’

Each of us is given choice in this world, not necessarily true or total ‘Free Will,’ an altogether different subject for another time perhaps?  But we can all chose between Heaven (divine inspired guidance), Hell (the place of transformation) and the pit (of despair – a delusional reality borne most commonly of Greed, sometimes ignorance). Each pathway is no harder than another, for all are beset with their own challenges and are all guided and guarded by daemons of the spiritual mind, the rational mind and the irrational mind.  Yet the intrinsic codes of honour and camaraderie that underpin old Craft ethics within genuine praxis hold fast to specific ideals, of encoded symbology that mark and mask the chambers of higher gnosis. More than a Round of Life, more than the symbols upon the door, these are the very keys that open gates without locks, forging mind and body, fused as one in their singular purpose. Such keys slough the body and scour the flesh, beating it to a malleable form, ripe with new potential. This fluidity allows for shifts between states, freely and without hindrance in form. All that is limiting then is the mind itself.

True annealing occurs here in force only.  So when we return to the realm of illusion we are battle hardened for the fray.  Within these choices a genuine understanding of life unfurls that separates the wheat from the chaff, and yet, all is grist to The Mill. Charlatans and Carpet Baggers, Snake Oil Salesmen and Con Merchants need not apply to this School of Life, for they heed not its lessons. Old Craft families applaud ingenuity along with sincerity for they believe that any system (be it made-up tomorrow), if based on truth and honour is more genuine than one fallen to corruption be it 2000 years old.  Judge no-one by their shameless acts of self-promotion; pay no heed to their relentless self-praising and indulgent espousals. Consider only their deeds and works, which stand alone. And so to those drawn to emulation, plagiarism, bastardization and irreverent dissemination, I offer a piece of ‘Northern’ advice, a little tongue in cheek – “The WINTER of hardship and discontent IS COMING.”

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Symbolism is I believe, truly the Sonics of the Divine and has always fascinated me greatly. It is the language of the Disir, of ancestral shades who will guide us through the vast realms. Understanding them is the grand ‘arte.’ Some time ago, upon greeting someone I did not know, I commented to them “now that is a most interesting pendant, it is the symbol of the void is it not?” And though he refrained from actually agreeing, the person went on to assure me it was no such thing. This reveals that he either he did not know, or did not care to share his knowledge, preferring discretion. Bravo! Of course there is also the point that symbols can mean different things to many people and all will be no more ‘correct’ than the next. But still, ‘Universal Symbology’ remains just that. It never changes.

There is the symbol of the self, that each of us must seek out for ourselves. There is the symbol of the place we are, now, within the moment.  Each totem holds the symbol of the daemon for the level each of us seeks, and the symbol of the Disir that will ultimately take us, when time ceases its shift in the sand-glass of the soul’s sojourn in this realm of matter. Better then learn, seek, grasp all you, we, are given. Hold it fast.  Understand all crafted in gyfu especially.  The reason we are considered  ‘Leaper’s’ in the first place,  is due to our propensity to explore, to exert, to seek, to wander, to set ourselves forward and backward in our hungry search for Truth. These higher mysteries oft quoted yet so little acted upon are not to be discovered within the realms of fantasy and fiction. All magics there belong to the world of the charlatan, of smoking mirrors and table rappers.  In this realm of life, reality brings forth the true meaning of magic, and its tenets are always correlated without recourse to romance and wishful thinking.

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This is where faith departs and certainty begins. Understand only that there is no such thing as death, that the mind is not held captive to delusion, that we are free to wander beyond ourselves, free to embrace all life’s force and form around and within ourselves. When next you visit the ‘Mound’ of your Ancestors, listen to their forgotten lore and wisdoms, allow them to be a part of you and to show you the things that truly matter. The experience may well be as intense as it will be overwhelming. You may also prefer the dizzying heights of delusion only folly and illusion induce. But then, that again is your choice. And Truth is ever about Choice.

From here we may move onto the importance and relevance of Oaths, a thorny and contentious issue. In the Clan, we all swear individual devotion to our specific Tutelary deity. The purpose in this is dedication, an honouring, an offering and a promise to be ‘something’, to do ‘something’, all specific to the Clan. Outside of this personal Covenant with that sentience, we have NO secrets. We all swear to adhere to laws of discretion and respect for our activities and others involved with them. But nothing we do could ever be considered ‘secret,’ the only real secret is that never mentioned, and never known. It cannot be otherwise – ‘There is nothing new under the Sun’ – for sure, a statement as true now as when it was recorded in the Old Testament so many hundreds of years ago.

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None of us should presume to have the answers to the world’s mysteries, only individual or specific ways to explore and engage in them. All we can offer is guidance along a path someone before us stumbled upon and has offered us, the next generation an opportunity to follow. But, we all have to do the actual work ourselves. Nothing is given. No-one can gift to us the magics and spirituality that body and soul crave. Therefore, ultimately there can be no secrets, none at all. These ideas are taught along with evolving techniques in order to assist each seeker towards their own realisation of power and purpose. This is the sacred duty of a Maid and Magister. To do less denudes the office they hold. Hopefully, all will be worthy. Sadly, this will never prevent others claiming otherwise, for and against. We must all be wary of those who have little or nothing to share and who are generally the ones who are the first to hide behind the cloak of supposed ‘secrecy.’ The first to say, ‘my oath prevents me’… all too often an excuse for having nothing of worth to offer at all.

A mere glance through craft history should prove to all that almost every perceived ‘secret’ we could possibly think of has almost certainly been stolen somehow been worked into a book. And yet the Mysteries remain. Sadly of course, our quests will always expose us to shady confidence tricksters, the undesirable, the insincere, who think to ‘steal’ what cannot be taken, who think to own what cannot be owned and who then deign to sell what cannot be sold. Should, this stop us from openly sharing this knowledge? No, I do not believe it should. The best of us will always be deceived and the worst of us will exploit everything. As for me, I am happy to say, I know almost nothing. I’m still learning. I hope I always will. Some protection is offered within a group, but not always. But alone with a book and a monitor, what do any of you really have? In buying into the ruse of ‘secrecy,’ you are inadvertently giving the unscrupulous a shield to hide behind. There is no easy answer. We must take comfort in the fact that the real secrets are not ours to reveal. As for discretion, only the honourable will consider fully its worth, the unprincipled will care nothing for its virtue.

frontispiece-engraving-from-urban-hjacc88rne-actorum-chemicorum-holmiensium-1753

 Often, I have smiled when listening to a conversation in which some real knowledge is requested, and should be discussed, when the famous exclamation ‘aaah, secret’ pops out. If one truly knows their subject (and some do), then it should be easy enough to explain without giving away unnecessary details as to how things are done exactly, or what is done specifically, or even what is meant literally! Obviously these things belong to the sacred mysteries and cannot be revealed in discourse anyway. In this way, I believe the genuine may be recognised.  Mystics and the truly wise have announced for many thousands of years that there can be no secrets, only the foolish believe in them and the wise have no need of them. So let’s all put our heads together to see if we can find a suitable answer, together. Oaths then, are for truth, honour, allegiance and promise to ones Gods, for compacts, therein and between kindred souls. Beware of people with oaths of secrecy which prevent them from providing sensible back ground knowledge, keep looking, keep searching, for knowledge is freedom and the truth sets all of us free.

All else is but Vanity!

 ~ Robin-the-dart~

MAY THE WORD PROTECT YOU FROM THE LIE!

Giovanni_Bellini_-_Giovane_donna_nuda_allo_specchio

 

Revised Text by Robin-the-dart, 2017

Images -Wiki commons.

The Irony of Sophistication

•October 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The Irony of Sophistication or the arte of being ‘magnolia’ in an extreme world of extreme environments, opinions and beliefs (the art of being a fence-sitter, with no ethical stance) .

Sophists – Clever people who prided themselves in the ability to prove contradictory statements with convincing argument for opposing views (without conviction to either cause).

Sophistication – The state of being sceptical regarding all claims to an ‘absolute truth,’ being flexible enough in one’s opinion to accommodate whatever ideology reigns supreme(the art of spin  – the avoidance of commitment, enabling the jump across all principle in all realms of life, from paradigm to regime) .

(Image: Jacques-Louis David – The Death of Socrates)

“The Greek σοφός (sophos), related to the noun σοφία (sophia), had the meaning ‘skilled’ or ‘wise’ since the time of the poet Homer and originally was used to describe anyone with expertise in a specific domain of knowledge or craft. For example, a charioteer, a sculptor or a warrior could be described as sophoi in their occupations. Gradually, however, the word also came to denote general wisdom and especially wisdom about human affairs (for example, in politics, ethics, or household management). This was the meaning ascribed to the Greek Seven Sages of 7th and 6th century BC (like Solon and Thales), and it was the meaning that appeared in the histories of Herodotus. Richard Martin refers to the seven sages as ‘performers of political poetry.’

From the word σοφός (sophos) is derived the verb σοφίζω (sophizo), which means ‘to instruct or make learned.’ but which in the passive voice means ‘to become or be wise,’ or ‘to be clever or skilled in a thing.’ In turn, from this verb is derived the noun σοφιστής (sophistes), which originally meant “a master of one’s craft” but later came to mean ‘a prudent man’ or ‘wise man.’ The word for ‘sophist’ in various languages comes from sophistes.

In the second half of the 5th century BCE, particularly at Athens, ‘sophist’ came to denote a class of mostly itinerant intellectuals who taught courses in various subjects, speculated about the nature of language and culture and employed rhetoric to achieve their purposes, generally to persuade or convince others: ‘Sophists did, however, have one important thing in common: whatever else they did or did not claim to know, they characteristically had a great understanding of what words would entertain or impress or persuade an audience.’

 

Most sophists claimed to teach arête (‘excellence’ or ‘virtue’) in the management and administration of not only one’s affairs, but the city’s as well. Before the fifth century B.C., it was believed that aristocratic birth qualified a person for arête and politics. However, Protagoras, who is regarded as the first Sophist, explained that arête is the result of training rather than birth. Protagoras was one of the best-known and most successful teachers. He taught his students the necessary skills and knowledge for a successful life, particularly in politics, rather than philosophy. He trained his pupils to argue from both points of view because he believed that truth could not be limited to just one side of the argument. The works of Plato and Aristotle have had much influence on the modern view of the ‘sophist’ as a greedy instructor who uses rhetorical sleight-of-hand and ambiguities of language in order to deceive, or to support fallacious reasoning. In this view, the sophist is not concerned with truth and justice, but instead seeks power.Protagoras wrote about a variety of subjects and some fragments of his work survived. He is the author of the famous saying, ‘Man is the measure of all things,’ (meaning Man decides for himself what he is going to believe), which is the opening sentence of a work called Truth.

 

Many sophists taught their skills for a price. Due to the importance of such skills in the litigious social life of Athens, practitioners often commanded very high fees. The sophists’ practice of questioning the existence and roles of traditional deities and investigating into the nature of the heavens and the earth prompted a popular reaction against them. The attacks of some of their followers against Socrates prompted a vigorous condemnation from his followers, including Plato and Xenophon, as there was a popular view of Socrates as a sophist. For example, the comic playwright Aristophanes criticizes the sophists as hair-splitting wordsmiths, and makes Socrates their representative. Their attitude, coupled with the wealth garnered by many of the sophists, eventually led to popular resentment against sophist practitioners and the ideas and writings associated with sophism.

In comparison, Socrates accepted no fee, instead professed a self-effacing posture, which he exemplified by Socratic questioning (i.e., the Socratic method, although Diogenes Laertius wrote that Protagoras—a sophist—invented the ‘Socratic’ method. His attitude towards the Sophists was by no means oppositional; in one dialogue Socrates even stated that the Sophists were better educators than he was, which he validated by sending one of his students to study under a sophist. W. K. C. Guthrie classified Socrates as a Sophist in his History of Greek Philosophy. An ongoing debate is centered on the interpretation between the sophists who charged for their services and Socrates who did not.

Before the writing of Plato, the word ‘sophist’ could be used as either a respectful or contemptuous title, much like the word ‘intellectual’ can be used today. It was in Plato’s dialogue, Sophist, that the first record of an attempt to answer the question ‘What is a Sophist?’ is made. Plato described Sophists as paid hunters after the young and wealthy, as merchants of knowledge, as athletes in a contest of words, and purgers of souls. From Plato’s assessment of Sophists it could be concluded that Sophists do not offer true knowledge, but only an opinion of things.

Plato describes them as shadows of the true early Sophists and wrote, ‘…the art of contradiction making, descended from an insincere kind of conceited mimicry, of the semblance-making breed, derived from image making, distinguished as portion, not divine but human, of production, that presents, a shadow play of words—such are the blood and the lineage which can, with perfect truth, be assigned to the authentic Sophist.’ Plato sought to separate the Sophist from the Philosopher. Where a Sophist was a person who makes his living through deception, a philosopher was a lover of wisdom who sought truth. To give the Philosophers greater credence, the Sophists had to receive a negative connotation.

 

Some scholars, such as Ugo Zilioli argue that the sophists held a relativistic view on cognition and knowledge. However, this may involve the Greek word ‘doxa,’ which means ‘culturally shared belief’ rather than ‘individual opinion.’ Their philosophy contains criticism of religion, law, and ethics. Though many sophists were apparently as religious as their contemporaries, some held atheistic or agnostic views (for example, Protagoras and Diagoras of Melos).

In addition, Sophists had great impact on the early development of law, as the sophists were the first lawyers in the world. Their status as lawyers was a result of their highly developed skills in argument.

In modern usage, sophism, sophist and sophistry are redefined and used disparagingly. A sophism is a specious argument for displaying ingenuity in reasoning or for deceiving someone. A sophist is a person who reasons with clever but fallacious and deceptive arguments.

Hume’s empiricist approach to philosophy places him with John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes as a British Empiricist. Beginning with his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Against philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passion rather than reason governs human behaviour and argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge is ultimately founded solely in experience; Hume thus held that genuine knowledge must either be directly traceable to objects perceived in experience, or result from abstract reasoning about relations between ideas which are derived from experience, calling the rest ‘nothing but sophistry and illusion,’ a dichotomy later given the name Hume’s fork.”

(quoted text from wiki – Sophistry)

So, ultimately, in the search for Truth we will all encounter both the noble and the ignoble sophist, the deceiver, the egotist, the self-server, the smooth talker – most of whom will be those wielding political power . These are only the most obvious. Many, many others others take many many forms, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, and they all wish to mold and shape your thinking. Symbology is the most powerful method of manipulation, saturating with the greatest impression. Beware of social media – Be aware of what truly are YOUR thoughts. Suspend automatic belief, acquire discretion, discernment and observe the caveat to know.

Seek gnosis.

In support of Free Roaming:Sacred Landscape: Scotland

•July 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

~The Jewels of Alba~

~loch craignish~

 

Homeland poem

fur Dennis Canavan MSP wha defendit

the inalienable richt o Scottish folk

tae mak free progess ower the land

 

Hameland

for Dennis Canavan MSP for his defence

of the inalienable right of Scotland’s people

to free, unfettered access to her lands

~Invergarry~

She birls tae her ain sang

ay haudit shair by birthin staur star

whit bairned the burnin hert o her.

 

She dances to her own song

held close by the birthing star

that fired her burning heart.

~ Castle Sween~

Turnin time pit oan her flesh,

glaciers chippit oot her glens,

saft rains timmed fu her lochs.

 

Shifting time formed her flesh,

glaciers carved her valleys,

soft rain filled up her lakes.

~loch fyne~

Whaur bens fauld ahint sherp nicht

an mune keeks oot fae watter,

yin giant alane stalks staury heichts

 

Where hills fold behind sharp night

and moon stares up from water,

one giant alone stalks starry heights

~Duncraigaig standing stones~

 

yit onybody kin walk the yirth

fur we are born tae her breist,

nae pooch nor micht will chynge it.

 

yet anyone can walk the earth

for we are born to her breast,

no pocket or might will change that.

~Shiel Island~

Nae mannie reart thae mountains,

conceivit yit yin blade ae gress;

it isnae we are cried oan.

 

No human raised those mountains,

nor yet conceived one blade of grass

and we are never called on

 

~Kilmartin~

 

when she waants a shift o claes.

Mind oan that afore yeese try

tae thirl her tae fawse law

 

when she wants a change of dress.

Remember that before you would

subject her to false law

~Dunadd Fort – Inauguration Stone of the Dál Riata ~

 

wha filled oor bellies, slaked

oor thirst, wha gied us shelter,

set oor hauns an minds tae wark.

 

who filled our stomachs, slaked

our thirst, who gave us shelter,

set our hands and minds to work.

~Kilmory Knapp Chapel~

 

Wha weets oor bairnies heids,

wha is it lifts oor een an herts,

redd oot the grund ablow oor feet?

 

Who wets our children’s heads,

who is it lifts our eyes and heart,

spread the ground beneath our feet?

~Cross- Knapdale/Crinan~

 

Nae thievin wratch in foosty haw

connivin tae fence aff the warld;

hoo wee an feart they are wha think

 

No thieving wretch in dusty hall

conspiring to fence in the world;

how small and scared they are to think

~ Caerlaverock Castle~

a poke o siller wid even dunt

the yirth oan which we staun.

Like fitprint merk in saun or snaw

 

a bag of silver can impact on

the earth on which we stand.

Like footprint made in sand or snow.

~ Bridge over the Atlantic- Shiel~

 

when oor short stook is cut,

we are taen back intae the dirt,

oor hauf-meenut done. Think oan

 

when our short stalk is cut,

we are drawn back into the dirt,

our half-minute done. Think on

~Princess Margaret’s Tomb: Collegiate Church- Holywood~

 

doon burn, strath, brae an sea

as watter tummles tae braid firth,

we are aw ettled tae stravaig

 

down stream, plain, slope and sea

as water rushes to estuary,

we are all meant to roam.

~St Columba’s Cove~

 

birlin tae oor ain bit sang

while land itsell maks birth, braith,

bluid, bane, daith, an ay bides oan.

[Janet Paisley]

 

dancing to our own brief song

while the land owns birth, breath,

blood, bone, death, and will live on.

[translated by Janet Paisley]

Reproduced by permission of the author.

http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry/poems/ceann-loch-aoineart

~Easdale – Slate Quarry~

Ceann Loch Aoineartpoem

Còmhlan bheanntan, stòiteachd bheanntan,

còrr-lios bheanntan fàsmhor,

cruinneachadh mhullaichean, thulaichean, shlèibhtean

tighinn sa bheucaich ghàbhaidh.

 

Kinloch Ainort

A company of mountains, an upthrust of mountains,

a great garth of growing mountains,

a concourse of summits, of knolls, of hills

coming on with a fearsome roaring.

~Easdale~

Èirigh ghleanntan, choireachan ùdlaidh,

laighe sa bhùirich chràcaich;

sìneadh chluaineagan, shuaineagan srùthlach,

brìodal san dùbhlachd àrsaidh.

 

A rising of glens, of gloomy corries,

a lying down in the antlered bellowing;

a stretching of green nooks, of brook mazes,

prattling in the age-old mid-winter.

 

~St Columbas Cave – Lochead~

 

Eachraidh bheanntan, marcachd mhullaichean,

deann-ruith shruthanach càthair,

sleamhnachd leacannan, seangachd chreachainnean,

srannraich leacanach àrd-bheann.

 

A cavalry of mountains, horse-riding summits,

a streaming headlong haste of foam,

a slipperiness of smooth flat rocks, small-bellied bare summits,

flat-rock snoring of high mountains.

 

~ Kilmartin~

 

Onfhadh-chrios mhullaichean,

confhadh-shlios thulaichean,

monmhar luim thurraidean màrsail,

gorm-shliosan Mhosgaraidh,

stoirm-shliosan mosganach,

borb-bhiodan mhonaidhean àrda.

[Sorley MacLean]

 

A surge-belt of hill-tops,

impetuous thigh of peaks,

the murmuring bareness of marching turrets,

green flanks of Mosgary,

crumbling storm-flanks,

barbarous pinnacles of high moorlands.

[translated by Sorley MacLean]

From Caoir Gheal Leumraich / White Leaping Flame: collected poems in Gaelic with English translations, edited by Christopher Whyte and Emma Dymock (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2011)

Reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press.

~Twelve Apostles – Lincluden~

Copyright of all images : Shani Oates July 2017

Dream of the Rood

•July 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

 

Caedmon’s Holy Rood: A Dream 

(the two evangelists, and john the baptist with the angus dei)

What I wish to say of the best of dreams,

what came to me in the middle of the night

after the speech-bearers abode at rest! (1-3)

It seemed to me that I saw the greatest tree

conducted to the sky, bewound in light,

the brightest of beams.

That beacon was entirely adorned with gold.

Gemstones stood fairly at the corners of the earth—

likewise there were five upon the span of its shoulders.

All the angels of the Lord

held it there, beautifully through its creation.

( the archer, and the visitation)

 

Indeed, nor was it the gallows of the wicked there,

yet there they held it there, the holy spirits

for men across the earth, and all this noted creation. (4-12)

Excellent was this tree of victory, and I was splattered with sins—

wounded throughout with faults. I saw this tree of glory,

well-worthied in its dressing, shining in delights,

geared with gold. The gemstones had

clothed honorably the Sovereign’s tree.

Nevertheless I could perceive through all that gold

the wretched and ancient struggle, so that it first began

to sweat blood on its right side. I was entirely disturbed with my sorrows—

I was fearful for that lovely sight. Then I saw that eager beacon

alter its appearance and hue: at times it was steamy with bloody wet,

stained with the course of gore; at other times it was sparkling with treasure. (13-23)

(the annunciation and the crucifixion)

 

Yet I, lying there for a long while,

beheld sorrow-caring the tree of the Savior

until I heard it speak.

Then the best of wood said in words: (24-27)

 

“It happened long ago—I remember it still—

I was hewn down at the holt’s end

stirred from my dreaming.

Strong foes seized me there,

worked me into spectacular form,

ordered me to heave up their criminals.

Those warriors bore me on the shoulders,

until they set me down upon a mountain.

Enemies enough fastened me there.

I saw then the Lord of Mankind

hasten with much courage,

willing to mount up upon me. (28-34)

 

 

(tendril, birds and vines)

 

“There I did not dare beyond the Lord’s word

to bow or burst apart—then I saw the corners of the earth

tremor—I could have felled all those foemen,

nevertheless I stood fast. (35-38)

“The young warrior stripped himself then—

that was God Almighty—strong and resolute—

he climbed up onto the high gallows,

mindful in the sight of many,

when he wished to redeem mankind.

I quaked when the warrior embraced me—

yet I dared not bow down to the ground,

fall down to earthly regions,

but I must stand there firm.

The rood was reared. I heaved the mighty king,

the Lord of Heaven—I did not dare to lean. (39-45)

(scriptorial motifs)

 

“They pierced me with dark nails.

On me the wounds were easy to see,

treacherous strokes gaping wide.

I dared injure none of them.

They shamed us both together.

I was besplattered with blood,

sprayed out from the man’s side,

after he had sent forth his soul. (46-49)

 

(breaking bread in the desert with st anthony)

 

“Many vicious events have I experienced on that hill—

I saw the God of Hosts severely stretched out.

Darkness had covered over with clouds

the corpse of the Sovereign, shadows oppressed

the brightest splendor, black under stormclouds.

All of creation wept, mourning the king’s fall—

Christ was upon the cross. (50-56)

“However people came hurrying from afar

there to that noble man.

I saw it all.

I was sorely pained with sorrows—

yet I bowed down

to the hands of those men,

humble-minded with much courage.

They took up there Almighty God,

lifting up him up

from that ponderous torment.

Those war-men left me

to stand, dripping with blood—

I was entirely wounded with arrows.

They laid down the limb-weary there,

standing at the head of his corpse,

beholding there the Lord of Heaven,

and he rested there awhile,

exhausted after those mighty tortures. (57-65a)

 

(Christ glorified)

 

“Then they wrought him an earthen hall,

the warriors within sight of his killer.

They carved it from the brightest stone,

setting therein the Wielder of Victories.

Then they began to sing a mournful song,

miserable in the eventide,

when they wished to venture forth,

weary, from the famous Prince.

He rested there with a meager host. (65b-69)

“However, we, weeping there,

stood a good while in that place,

after the voices of war-men had departed.

The corpse cooled,

the fair hall of the spirit.

Then someone felled us both,

entirely to the earth.

That was a terrifying event!

Someone buried us in a deep pit.

Nevertheless, allies,

thanes of the Lord, found me there

and wrapped me up in gold and in silver. (70-77)

(parables)

 

“Now you could hear, my dear man,

that I have experienced the deeds of the bale-dwelling,

of painful sorrows. Now the time has come

that men across the earth, broad and wide,

and all this famous creation worthy me,

praying to this beacon. On me, the Child of God

suffered awhile. Therefore I, triumphant

now tower under the heavens, able to heal

any one of them, those who stand in terror of me.

Long ago I was made into the hardest of torments,

most hateful to men, until I made roomy

the righteous way of life for them,

for those bearing speech. Listen—

the Lord of Glory honored me then

over all forested trees, the Warden of Heaven’s Realm!

Likewise Almighty God exalted his own mother,

Mary herself, before all humanity,

over all the kindred of women. (78-94)

“Now I bid you, my dear man,

to speak of this vision to all men

unwrap it word fully, that it is the Tree of Glory,

that the Almighty God suffered upon

for the sake of the manifold sins of mankind,

and the ancient deeds of Adam.

Death he tasted there, yet the Lord arose

amid his mighty power, as a help to men.

Then he mounted up into heaven. Hither he will come again,

into this middle-earth, seeking mankind

on the Day of Doom, the Lord himself,

Almighty God, and his angels with him,

wishing to judge them then—he that owns the right to judge

every one of them—upon these deserts

as they have earned previously here in this life. (95-109)

( decorative motifs)

 

“Nor can any remain unafraid there

before that word that the Wielder will speak.

He will ask before the multitude where that man may be,

who for the name of the Lord wished to taste

the bitterness of death, as he did before on the Cross.

Yet they will fear him then, and few will think

what they should begin to say unto Christ.

There will be no need to be afraid there at that moment

for those who already bear in their breast the best of signs,

yet every soul ought to seek through the Rood

the holy realm from the ways of earth—

those who intend to dwell with their Sovereign.” (110-21)

I prayed to that tree with a blissful heart,

great courage, where I was alone,

with a meager host. My heart’s close was

eager for the forth-way, suffering many

moments of longing. Now my hope for life

is that I am allowed to seek that victorious tree,

more often lonely than all other men,

to worthy it well. The desire to do so

is strong in my heart, and my guardian

is righteous in the Rood. I am not wealthy

with many friends on this earth,

yet they departed from here from the joys of the world,

seeking the King of Glory—now they live

in heaven with the High-Father, dwelling in magnificence,

and I hope for myself upon each and every day

for that moment when the Rood of the Lord,

that I espied here upon the earth,

shall ferry me from this loaned life

and bring me then where there is great bliss,

joys in heaven, where there are the people of the Lord,

seated at the feast, where there is everlasting happiness

and seat me where I will be allowed afterwards

to dwell in glory, brooking joys well amid the sainted.

May the Lord be my friend, who suffered before

here on earth, on the gallows-tree for the sins of man. (122-46)

He redeemed us and gave us life,

a heavenly home. Hope was renewed

with buds and with bliss for those suffered the burning.

The Son was victory-fast upon his journey,

powerful and able, when he came with his multitudes,

the army of souls, into the realm of God,

the Almighty Ruler, as a bliss for the angels

and all of the holy, those who dwelt in glory

before in heaven, when their Sovereign came home,

Almighty God, where his homeland was. (147-56)

 

…………………………..

The Ruthwell Cross

An 8th century Northumbrian runic cross is now embraced within a small chapel in Ruthwell parish, Dumfries. This marvellous structure is a testament to resilience and enduring appreciation for all things antiquarian. Decimated in the 17th century, it was beautifully restored in the 19th century.  A visual masterpiece raised almost to its former glory, it stands over 7 metres tall. Bas-reliefs, sculpt its four sides, interspaced with Latin and Runic inscriptions, the latter bears a section of the above poem ‘The Dream of the Rood.’ [The Lay of the Rood’] lines 35-77, highlighted in the above text in charcoal grey.

An alternative translation renders the runes as follows:

 

GIRDED HIM THEN, GOD ALMIGHTY

WHEN HE WOULD STEP ON THE GALLOWS

FORE ALL MANKIND, MINDFAST, FEARLESS,

BOW ME DURST I NOT.

ROOD WAS I REARED NOW, RICH KING HEAVING

THE LORD OF LIGHT REALMS: LEAN ME I DURST NOT.

US BOTH THEY BASELY MOCKED AND HANDLED,

WAS I THERE WITH BLOOD BEDABBLED,

GUSHING GRIEVOUS FROM HIS DEAR SIDE,

WHEN HIS GHOST HE HAD UPRENDERED.

CHRIST WAS ON ROOD TREE, BUT FAST FROM AFAR,

HIS FRIENDS HURRIED AID THEIR ATHELING (PRINCE).

EVERYTHING I SAW.

SORELY WAS I WITH SORROWS HARROWED.

With shafts was I all wounded

How on that hill have I throwed dole the direst,

For days, viewed I hanging the god of Hosts,

Gloomy and swarthy clouds had covered

Had covered the corse of the Waldend,

O’er the sheer shine-path, shadows fell heavy,

Wan neath the welkin. Wept all creation,

Wail’d the fall of their king!

Yet humbly I inclined

To the hands of his servants,

Striving with might to aid him.

With streals was I all wounded.

Down they laid him limb-weary,

O’er his life-less head then stood they

Heavily gazing at heaven’s chieftain.

 

It has long been hailed as a monument of defiance, a Columban symbol of a pre-catholic Christianity. Designed as a preaching cross, it illustrates the narratives of exile (the flight into Egypt), nativity, baptism, annunciation, humility, eucharist, healing the blind and the crucifixion. It bears the eagle motif of John the Evangelist, an archer,  newts, foxes, squirrels, leaves and tendrils that frame the sermons visually narrated here of miracles and parables.

Mary receives her Annunciation from an angelic being:

‘And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.’

ET INGRESSUS ANGELUS AD EAM DIXIT; AVE GRATIA PLENA; DOMINUS TE-CUM; BENEDICTA TU IN MULIERIBUS

 

Magdalene washes Christ’s feet:

‘She brought an alabaster cruse of ointment, and standing behind at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head.’

ATTULIT ALABASTRUM UNGUENTI ET STANS RETROSECUS PEDED EJUS LACRIMIS COPEIT RIGARE PEDES EJUS ET CAPILLIS CAPITIS SUI TERGEBAT

 

 

All photographs are copyright of Shani Oates 2017

Text of Caedmon, is courtesy of:

https://anglosaxonpoetry.camden.rutgers.edu/dream-of-the-rood/

 

Anglo Saxon Living History: Part Two: Funeral Pyre / Boat Burial

•July 11, 2017 • 1 Comment

 

Anglo Saxon Living History: Part Two: Funeral Pyre / Boat Burial

 

Set in the early part of the 6th century, the heroic epic, Beowulf, is an Old English poem set in Denmark and Sweden. Immediately, it grabs the reader’s attention with a poignant description of a sovereign ship burial, including the gifts and treasure laid upon it.  It then shifts to open a window into the probable life and experiences of a warrior king in those times, describing the ritual of the mead, the scald, and of the fate of all things.

“Lo, there do I see my father.

Lo, there do I see my mother,

and my sisters, and my brothers.

Lo, there do I see the line of my people,

Back to the beginning!

Lo, they do call to me.

They bid me take my place among them,

In the halls of Valhalla!

Where the brave may live forever!” [i]

These images example perfectly the 7th century helmet and shield style of ship burials in Vendel, Sweden. It may illustrate the peak of this type of demonstrative burial before conversion to Christianity generated a natural dwindling of such lavish, pagan practises. Valsgärde graves of this era often included small artefacts, (examples of exotic trade such as glassware, beads, silver coins, icons), and sacrificed animals, which may have been favoured companions above others used in hunting, guarding, riding etc.   Earlier burials mounds, most notable in Uppsala, were not boat burials; these occurred later and are confined largely to Norway, eastern Sweden and East Anglia.

Evidence from Sutton Hoo, a 7th century burial mound in England reveal comparable funeral practises, and almost identical grave goods stylistically to those found at Vendel in Sweden, though the latter are by no means as lavish.  Many other similar sites also feature boat burials within mounds or chambered tombs.

 

 

This contrasts somewhat with the boat-burning rituals said to have been favoured in later centuries by Scandinavians.  Although actual Royal Graves are extremely scarce, those discovered to date are all accompanied with sumptuous grave goods, a few of truly opulent style. Items generally included most of the following: domestic implements such as iron griddles, cauldrons, chain, drinking horns and plate, items of personal grooming, clothing, furs, woven textiles, musical instruments, jewellery, silver coin and weaponry. All are of incredible beauty and craftsmanship, decorated and inlaid with small jewels and precious metals.

The so-called “Buddha bucket” (Buddha-bøtte), a brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket (pail) handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs.

Recognising the perfect medium of exchange, the Nordic traders became quickly attracted to silver. Denied them as a natural resource in the northern climes, they followed the money trail across the Baltic, Caspian and Black seas, inland to the heart of the mercantile world, around modern day turkey and Iran.

 

This diverse region was also the centre of cultural, linguistic and religious studies, the focal point of Arabic trade and influence out into the western world.  By the end of the 9th century, the eastern regions around the Volga had amassed great wealth. In fact, throughout Scandinavia these fascinating explorations reaped many exotic items within burial finds, and modern day excavations.

Tumuli and Rune-stones were raised over stone and wooden ships as memorials to those they considered the most valorous. The finest of these may be found in Jelling and Lindholm Høje (Denmark); Birka (Sweden) and Borre (Norway).[ii]

Within these earthen mounds, an exceptional boat burial as described in the 6-7th century Anglo-Saxon site at Sutton Hoo, though extravagant, represents a common format within chambered tombs/mound burials, and bears striking resemblance to that described in Beowulf.

Intriguingly, however these grave goods suggest artistic motifs very much in common with Scandinavian styles of the same era, noted in the Norwegian ship burial at Oseburg. Reading within the literary epic Beowulf, we discover a tradition where sons of client kings, were typically reared by a higher king or relative, in order to ensure loyalty into the next generation.  The similarity of cultural design here may signify why Scandinavian objects and artistic motifs embellish the grave of a ranking Anglo-Saxon.

“Along the wall was a long square-sectioned whetstone, tapered at either end and carved with human faces on each side. A ring mount, topped by a bronze antlered stag figurine, was fixed to the upper end, possibly made to resemble a late Roman consular sceptre. The purpose of the sceptre has generated considerable debate and a number of theories, some of which point to the potential religious significance of the stag. South of the sceptre was an iron-bound wooden bucket, one of several in the grave.

 

In the south-west corner was a group of objects which may have been hung up, but when discovered, were compressed together. They included a Coptic or eastern Mediterranean bronze bowl with drop handles and figures of animals, found below a badly deformed six-stringed Anglo-Saxon lyre in a beaver-skin bag, of a Germanic type found in wealthy Anglo-Saxon and north European graves of this date. Uppermost was a large and exceptionally elaborate three-hooked hanging bowl of Insular production, with champleve enamel and millefiori mounts showing fine-line spiral ornament and red cross motifs and with an enamelled metal fish mounted to swivel on a pin within the bowl.” [iii]

In a later 10th account given by Ibn Fadlan who had encountered Varangians, a term used reserved specifically for Scandinavians traders and warriors whose movements were focussed largely across the middle- east and the Steppes. His commentary brings to life the wonderful and unique journey Ibn Fadlan shared and recorded as he accompanied them on a trading mission along the Volga. He describes them as ‘Rus,’ regardless of ethnic attribution (Norse, Slavic or otherwise) and the attribution is still disputed. It may possibly have derived from Rūsiyyah, or  from Ruosti, which may describe Sweden according to West Finnic language. Indeed, it may have even originated there.

We know that contemporary Byzantine and Arab writers and historians generally referred to Swedish and Norwegian traders as Rus, a term that also applied to those who settled in those lands, especially around the key ports of Novgorod and Kiev (Rūsiyyah), to become wealthy and influential princes there. Others aligned themselves to eastern, Byzantine princes as elite guards. [iv]

 

 

Ibn Fadlan’s journal in particular, confirms certain cultural characteristics apparent in other historical references afforded by several Arab merchants.  Their observations into patterns of behaviour exhibited by the Rus, were considerably at odds with their own; even so, what they were inclined to preserve offers a unique insight we might not otherwise have.  Most curious of all is a reference he makes to their appearance, which I believe has hitherto gone unnoticed.

“I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blond and ruddy,” he wrote. “Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife and keeps each by him at all times.” The men, he observed, were tattooed with dark-green figures “from fingernails to neck.” [v]

Aside from the obvious reflection upon the spirit of the forest, the animistic presence of viridios, poetically depicted everywhere from India to the fair isles of Albion, there is the added consideration of the impact this would have upon the Arab traders, with regard to al-Khidir, their own spirit of life and wisdom, virility and luck.Ibn Fadlan describes in detail how valour takes form to settle dispute.

“When two people among them quarrel and the dissention is prolonged and the king is unable to reconcile them, he commands that they fight with swords; he who wins is right.”[vi]

Also noted are religious practices, objects of worship, the role of shamen, of sacrifice and an elite priesthood. Amongst these writings, is a protracted observation of a chieftain’s funeral.  One contentious issue states that slaves (thralls) were sometimes sacrificed with their beloved masters. This practise may or may not have been common, or continuous within the same region. Comment upon it is scarce and evidence more so. Gifts that accompanied the dead in contra-distinction, were consistent and widespread, irrespective of whether the dead were buried within the earth, or flamed atop a pyre.

Instructions for the number of slaves to be sacrificed for the funeral of the hero Sigurd, are announced through the Valkyrie Brynhildr, noting attention as to their placement upon the funeral pyre.

Því at hánum fylgja

fimm ambáttir,

átta þjónar,

eðlum góðir,

fóstrman mitt

ok faðerni,

þat er Buðli gaf

barni sínu.

 

Bond-women five

shall follow him,

And eight of my thralls,

well-born are they,

Children with me,

and mine they were

As gifts that Budhli

his daughter gave.[vii]

During the ‘Viking era,’ it is alleged that a widow was occasionally sacrificed in similar form to the Indian practise of Suttee at her husband’s funeral.

Viking funerals were a costly demonstration of homage and social status of the deceased and of their descendants. As indeed were incarcerations within tumuli. Powerful Norse clans, for example, Yngling dynasty, generated an awesome visual impact across ‘monumental grave fields, in this instance,’ the Borre mound cemetery in Vestfold.

“Thus he (Odin) established by law that all dead men should be burned, and their belongings laid with them upon the pile, and the ashes be cast into the sea or buried in the earth. Thus, said he, every one will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him upon the pile; and he would also enjoy whatever he himself had buried in the earth. For men of consequence a mound should be raised to their memory, and for all other warriors who had been distinguished for manhood a standing stone; which custom remained long after Odin’s time.”[viii]

Ibn Fadlan poignantly recalls such a pagan funeral – a boat burning ritual for which some historians of that era branded them as ‘fire-worshippers.’ Loaded with death gifts and symbols of wealth and status, the corpse was reverentially laid out in style upon a sea-worthy craft, cast upon the waters and finally torched some distance from the shore with flaming arrows.

My days/ have gone as fate willed, . . .

As I knew how, swearing no unholy oaths,

Seeking no lying wars. I can leave

This life happy; I can die, here,

Knowing the Lord of all life has never

Watched me wash my sword in blood

Born of my own family.” [ix]

“The dead chieftain was put in a temporary grave, which was covered for ten days until they had sewn new clothes for him. One of his thrall women volunteered to join him in the afterlife and she was guarded day and night, being given a great amount of intoxicating drinks while she sang happily. When the time had arrived for cremation, they pulled his long-ship ashore and put it on a platform of wood, and they made a bed for the dead chieftain on the ship. Thereafter, an old woman referred to as the “Angel of Death” put cushions on the bed. She was responsible for the ritual.

Then they disinterred the chieftain and gave him new clothes.”

The preparation for the funeral exacted gravid offerings from kith and kin.

“I am, …. I bring Furs to keep Aelfric warm.”

“I am, …. I bring meat and a bronze cooking pot, to feed Aelfric.”

“I am, …. I bring a bone comb and fine garments to keep Aelfric well groomed.”

“I am, …. I bring a fine sword that Aelfric ‘s status should be noted.”

“I am,…. I bring a swift spear, that Aelfric be armed.”

“I am,…. I bring a strong shield, that Aelfric be protected.”

“In his grave, he thus received intoxicating drinks, fruits, and a stringed instrument. The chieftain was put into his bed with all his weapons and grave offerings around him. Then they had two horses run themselves sweaty, cut them to pieces, and threw the meat into the ship. Finally, they sacrificed a hen and a cock.”

“Meanwhile, the thrall girl went from one tent to the other and had sexual intercourse with the men. Every man told her: “Tell your master that I did this because of my love to him.” In the afternoon, they moved the thrall girl to something that looked like a door frame, where she was lifted on the palms of the men three times. Every time, the girl told them what she saw.

The first time, she saw her father and mother.

The second time, she saw all her relatives;

And the third time she saw her master in the after-world.

There, it was green and beautiful and together with him.

She saw men and young boys. She saw that her master beckoned for her.

By using intoxicating drinks, they thought to put the thrall girl in an ecstatic trance that made her psychic and through the symbolic action with the door frame, she would then see into the realm of the dead. The same ritual also appears in the Icelandic short story ‘Völsa þáttr,’ where two pagan Norwegian men lift the lady of the household over a door frame to help her look into the otherworld.

Thereafter, the thrall girl was taken away to the ship. She removed her bracelets and gave them to the old woman. Thereafter she removed her finger rings and gave them to the old woman’s daughters, who had guarded her. Then they took her aboard the ship, but they did not allow her to enter the tent where the dead chieftain lay. The girl received several vessels of intoxicating drinks and she sang and bade her friends farewell.

Then the girl was pulled into the tent and the men started to beat on the shields so her screams could not be heard. Six men entered the tent to have intercourse with the girl, after which they forced her onto her master’s bed. Two men grabbed her hands, and two men her wrists. The angel of death put a rope around her neck and while two men pulled the rope, the old woman stabbed the girl between her ribs with a knife. ”

“Thereafter, the relatives of the dead chieftain arrived with a burning torch and set the ship aflame.”

Seven days after the burning, a funerary Symbel was held. Named ‘sjaund,’ it signified the sacred journey of the dead to the Halls of the Mighty Ones, and was loudly celebrated in great revelry as a ‘wake,’ a sacred event where all were required to bring honour to the dead with drinking and eating, toasting the empty High Seat, where he once sat. This separated the duties of relatives towards the head of that family or Clan, from those duties thereafter claimed as due, by succession of the former chieftain’s heirs, which in some cases was the widow or his daughter/s. The High Seat would once again be occupied.

“It is said that the fire facilitates the voyage to the realm of the dead. Afterwards, a round barrow was built over the ashes, and in the centre of the mound they erected a staff of birch wood, where they carved the names of the dead chieftain and his king. Then they departed in their ships”[x]

“The old man’s mouth was silent, spoke

No more, had said as much as it could;

 He would sleep in the fire, soon. His soul

Left his flesh, flew to glory.”  [xi]

 

[i] Michael Crichton’s 1976 novel ‘Eaters of the Dead ‘ sets the theme plundered from the account of a 10th century Arab explorer Ibn Fadlan,  into the Movie – ‘The Thirteenth Warrior.’  Michael Alexander, ‘Risen from Ashes’ – These beautiful poetical phrases are also adapted from Ibn Fadlan’s inspiring journal,.

[ii] Stone ships at the foot of Anundshög (Anund’s Mound) in Sweden. This was a Thing place and dates to between 210 – 540 CE

[iii] Wiki: Sutton Hoo

[iv] https://www.realmofhistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/10_Varangian_Guard-facts_Byzantine_1.jpg

Interestingly, the very term Varangian (Old Norse: Væringjar; Greek: Βάραγγοι, or Varangoi) is open for etymological debate. Though most scholars tend to agree that it is derived from Old Norse væringi, which is a compound of vár ‘pledge or vow of fidelity’ and gengi ‘companion or fellowship’. Simply put, the term Varangian can be roughly translated to ‘sworn companion’ – which proved to be an apt categorization, as later history was witness to their glorious feats.

[v] http://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/199906/among.the.norse.tribes-the.remarkable.account.of.ibn.fadlan.htm  Judith Gabriel, a Norwegian-American journalist who writes about the Middle East and Scandinavia. She is a contributing editor of both the Los Angeles quarterly Al Jadid and the New York weekly Norway Times. This article appeared on pages 36-42 of the November/December 1999 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

[vi] Gabriel. Op cit.

[vii]  Stanzas extracted from Sigurðarkviða hin skamma

[viii] Extract from Ynglinga Saga

[ix] https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/b/beowulf/study-help/famous-quotes-from-beowulf

[x] Stein & Montgomery at Wiki

[xi] https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/b/beowulf/study-help/famous-quotes-from-beowulf

 

…………………..

Resources:

Regia Anglorum  at https://regia.org/home.php

Thynghowe is a Viking Assembly site in Sherwood Forest and was used for gatherings and settling disputes. https://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/BEEH-AKAEX5

Swedish History MuseumStockholm A drinking scene on an image stone from Gotland, Sweden, in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquitiesin Stockholm.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/ascp/a15.htm

http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Anglo-Saxons

http://www.shmoop.com/beowulf/tradition-customs-quotes-2.html

https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/b/beowulf/study-help/famous-quotes-from-beowulf

http://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/199906/among.the.norse.tribes-the.remarkable.account.of.ibn.fadlan.htm

……………….

all images and photos from wiki commons except those of Regia Anglorum  enactment of a boat burial which are copyright of shani oates.

all text is my own except for stanzas and where quotations are employed.

 
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