A Lame Goat, a Crooked Furrow and a Horned King

•August 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

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Classical paganism in which the earth and its bounty are honoured through Ceres as the Harvest Mother and Kore as the Harvest Maid, differs from heathenism wherein a pragmatic, yet more personal sense of imminence is conveyed. Though both share a reverence for the divine feminine as a fecund virtue, the mediation of it shifts significantly across the belief systems that developed in the Roman world with that of the so called heathen Barbarians.  These diverse foundations led to separate traditions that crossed first in the Romanisation of Europe and then again in the Christianisation of Europe and finally in the re-introduction of classical paganism as a Romantic movement in the 18th century. Cross-cultural influences no doubt occurred, yet the distinct traditions of the British Isles have retained a fierce loyalty to the folkloric diffused beliefs of our heathen ancestors.

We briefly explore a nostalgic overview of the origins and patterns of quaint folk customs and traditions developed within the British Isles over many centuries concerning the relationship between a people and the land shared inspired by a belief in a divine agent. Social Bonding through festival and celebration has long been established as a way communities have come together to survive and thrive against adversity. Local customs reflect those behavioural patterns. Sadly, crises of self-identity through a loss of ‘Community,’ is not an uncommon feature in modern times. Yet if we consider the purpose of Harvest and of Thanksgiving festivals, they celebrate far more than bounty. What they offer besides abundant ample food, is a brief pause, a temporary freedom from toil to celebrate our humanity and its visceral needs pertaining to life and its celebration, primarily as a gift from the gods.

The principal feast of the Virgin Mary celebrates her departure from this life and the assumption of her body into Heaven on the 15th August as ‘Féile Mhuire ‘sa bhFomhar.’ Commonly known as The Festival of Our Lady the Harvest, it is held as a holy day of obligation in the Irish calendar. In the Scottish Highlands, Her feast is also known as  Là Féill Moire, the Feast day of Mary the Great. Early in the morning Barley Bannocks are baked on an open fire, fuelled by rowan wood, after being hand ground on stone querns and kneaded on sheepskins by the lady of the house. The husbandman breaks the bannock – The ‘Moilean Moire,’ or ‘fatling of Mary’.  into pieces for his wife and each child in descending order, hailing their abundance as a merciful gift from the mother, whom they hope will shield them from harm from cradle to grave. While singing  ‘The Paean of Mary Mother,’ known as raising the ‘Iolach Mhoire Mhathàir,’ the family walk sun-wise round the fire, the father leading, the mother following, and the children following in descending order – oldest to youngest.

Image result for bannocks on wiki commonsAcross England, various revels take place throughout the Summer held around this time that honour a Maid, prized for her charity and gifts of abundance.  A beautiful example of this is the Marhamchurch in Cornwall founded initially as a monastic settlement by 5th St. Morwenna (cognate with Welsh morwyn  – maiden).

A Queen of the Revel is elected from amongst the young girls of the village and later crowned by Father Time in front of St. Morwenna’s church. The newly crowned Queen riding on horseback, leads the procession through the village to the Revel Ground where villagers are entertained with games, contests, wrestling and other festivities.

Sharing that gift of life within the community is a sacred act once recognised in subtle contrast to Mary’s blessing above, as the aegis of the chieftain or tribal leader, Earls and later of Kings. In fact, the essence of Germanic sacred kingship is expressed as a gift of good fortune and fate, an archaic principle of cultic belief in his divine descendency from the gods within a faith where he is both subject and object. But it is a position earned and maintained on merit. Failure on his part resulted in dire consequences for his people who might starve or be overcome in battle.

Deemed as void of the blessing of the (female) fates, and the (female) spirits of the land, and of the (female) spirits of the ancestors within their burial mounds, 5th and 6th century Germanic kings were deposed when the harvests were lost to ill weather. Without the waters of fecundity, the ground remained arid, too much water and the crops were spoiled.

Evidence of this can be found on Swedish rune-stones of the 7th and 8th centuries, from Stentoften and possibly Sparlösa where the Kings are depicted ‘giving the harvest,’ and of divine ancestry. As the mediator of fate amongst his people, the King was responsible for the weather and the harvest as well as for external and internal peace. In Christian times skaldic poetry referred to this perfunctory mediation as the duty of the saints who thereafter dispensed those sacred duties, ensuring  ar ok friðr – peace and good year/harvest.

This principle is at the heart of reciprocity by which a leader of a community is the Drighton lord, that is the one who provides for his people and is rewarded by their loyalty. Their mutual bond creates and serves – community. It is this relationship and sacred dynamic deemed co-existent between fate, the dead and the living that fuelled the auspices of a people, of folk whose customs and traditions protect and preserve the lawful balance that staves chaos and all that it invites.

The Drighton Lord is a role adopted by the Lords of the Harvest, of Misrule, of the May and of the Mound or Hunt. He is partnered by a Mistress whose role is to mediate the sacred element of fate imparted to him through the land wights, and ancestral forms. Her presence is the assurance of the divine blessing from the gods that inspires the people of his community and himself as Drighten Lord to serves them truly in return, ensuring and their faith in him will not be unrewarded. Veneration, blot, sumble, libation and Houzle are sacred rites that have evolved around the sharing of bread and mead, or wine – they are always conducted by the women of the house.

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And so, throughout the folklore calendar, predicated upon a round of feasting events, that relationship and principle of provision is projected onto the main characters of those events, from Mummery to Morris, and most especially within the Harvest traditions. The central features of all Harvest festivals are: feasting, joviality, song, laughter and the vital interplay with physical contests of speed, agility and strength to build the rites and festival of life and thanksgiving celebration for it around the world. But how did it all begin?

Cultivation of cereals crops such as barley, and early strains of wheat: einkorn, emmer and spelt, then later oats and rye, helped humans transit from hunting and gathering to agriculture.  Archaeologists have discovered the oldest evidence of bread dating back 14 back over 14,000 years – predating farming. As the origins of domesticated cereals, wild seeds and grains were ground, sieved and kneaded prior to cooking as unleavened flatbreads identified at several Neolithic and Roman sites in Europe and Turkey, produced long before the development of farming.

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Bronze-age myths of Inanna and Dumuzi were formulated in the region later named Mesopotamia. These and other classical descent myths such as The Eleusinian Mysteries were introduced in the 18th century as part of the pagan revival that blossomed in art and literature, especially poetry. Though these clearly influenced James Frazer they do not reflect the rural traditions of Britain, which follow a different origin, as noted above.

The word ‘harvest’ is from the Old English word ‘hærfest’, meaning ‘autumn’. It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other cultivated products. Poor folk especially have long depended upon a staple diet of bread, beer, porridge or oatcakes, a subsistence that hovered between life and death, as this succinct ditty illustrates:

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“The wheat and the barley, as much as the corn

Have kept us alive, ever since we were born.

But unless we had turned them in to flour and bread,

Few would be living, and many’d be dead!”

 

 

First of three main harvests of grain, fruit and meat, Lammas,  is Anglo Saxon for ‘loaf-mass.’  Earlier pagan and heathen celebrations often took place on the last day of July and again marked the first grain harvest. The success of the harvests determined the quality of life through the long winter months. Some Irish and Scottish customs are linked through the ancestry of Celtic speaking peoples, and share the celebration known as Lughnasadh that many presume is named after a Sun god, bearing the name Lugh.

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Traditionally, Lammas marked the culmination of the growing season.’ Lammas is recognised today as a Christian holy day. Since medieval times, loaves of bread baked from the first grain harvest were laid on the church altars as offerings. It was the custom in past centuries to eat them as a celebratory feast, served with early potatoes, boiled over an open fire in a huge pot, then mashed and flavoured with freshly churned butter, or even with other seasonal vegetables and herbs. Wild garlic, leeks and cabbage were common choices available to the poor.

Further north in the Shetland Isles, barley and oats ripened later, around September. Blessing rituals were performed there upon the harvest and upon the entire farming community. Shetland crofters believed the grain harvest and October potato crop (as well as the cutting of peats for winter fires) should take place during a waning moon, during an ebbing sea tide. Food crops are at the mercy of weather so harvesting can be an unpredictable operation. Our ancestors observed the seasons very carefully, monitoring each fluctuation in the weather very carefully.

Early fruits, gooseberries, red and blackcurrents, raspberries, then strawberries, bilberries and bramble berries were gathered as soon as they were ripe, providing valuable source dietary supplements. Some were dried along with herbs gathered at their peak.

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The Harvest Moon is the full moon that rises nearest the autumnal equinox, therefore, Harvest Festivals are traditionally held on or near to the Sunday of that moon as it blooms full. Once every three years or so, this moon rises later, in October. Food production is dictated by season, hence the importance of seasonal rites. But due to modern trends like polytunnels that help delay or speed up growth, so many of our seasonal traditions and customs are now sadly redundant. New potatoes can be lifted as early as April and root vegetables are available all year round. We need to re-introduce the rhythmic growth cycles celebrated by our forebears if we are to understand the traditional customs they constructed their lives around.

Harvesting Crops

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To some extent, being so out of touch with those cycles, modern pagans have lost sight of just how wide-ranging the crops harvested were, and of their value to the livelihood and well-being of the common folk who devised the lore and customs around them accordingly. Harvesting of these vital resources began in June with the first apple crop and hay load, and did not cease until December with the last crop of apples and root vegetables. Apples grown for Cider-making created a lucrative trade and business for the apple blessed counties of the UK. During a waning moon, animal parts and even nitrogen rich blood was added to the barrels of raw pomace to ensure fermentation.  Each round of cider given to the workers, was passed sun-wise around the men, with the last man pouring a little onto the ground as “a drap t’ t’ owd mon.”

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The grain harvest and its attendant lore concerning John Barleycorn, was made popular by James Frazer’s promotion of the mythic cycle of a dying and resurrected King. The myth of John Barleycorn properly refers to the magical brewing of beer and its communal consumption, and is not classical at all. We should remember that August is just one month which falls midway in this extended preparation for the long winter ahead. Now remote from this reality, we are no longer sensitive to the ebb and flow of seasonal tides of land and of celestial orbits.

 

In July, sheep shearing, sheep fairs and mop fairs begin, signalling the influx of labour needed for the forthcoming hop-picking events of Kent and parts of the Welsh borderland counties, Herefordshire, Shropshire and parts of Worcestershire. Hops were picked by hand until 1960s from middle of August through into mid-September, providing employment for local and non-local labourers. For the duration of the harvest, urban working class people from the Midlands were drafted en-masse, into the countryside on trains chartered by the farmers, as seasonal labour.  Exacting, arduous graft, it was nonetheless the closest the urban poor ever came to experiencing a holiday. Moreover, the summer weeks given over to this task generated the long break in schools and factories that once ‘shutdown’ for the summer to enable the free- flow of labourers to the countryside to bring in the harvests.

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One man recalled that it was:

“Lovely in th’ ‘opyard. Everybody was a-singin’.

You sung while you were pullin’ the ‘ops off.

“We ‘ad sing-songs round the fire.

I’ve ad some good times down th’ ‘opyards.

I ‘ardly missed a year.

 It was the best o’ my days”

 Observing a natural camaraderie, a custom arose known as ‘cribbing;’ it was much frowned upon by the farmers. Some of the men, fresh from the cities, were seized by women and thrown in to the ‘hop cribs,’ which were effectively, large cradles constructed out of sacking and wooden frames. Enveloped with hops, the young man was held captive until he’d kissed all the women party to his predicament who then released him only after providing the ring leader with enough money to buy them all a drink.

Once the hop-picking was over, any young lady a lad had taken a fancy to might expect to be treated in like manner, but where the lad himself would join her in the cradle, both covered in hop bines. This relaxation of strict social conduct between the sexes exhibits a lifting of the taboos normally imposed through gender motivated behaviour. For a few brief weeks, women could act with the same free license as men.  During the picking season, the man and woman elected as King and Queen had to goad and chide the workers, tease and torment them, keep spirits high and the load moving, driving them towards a fruitful conclusion.

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An informal procession of pickers and sack bearers each bedecked with hop sprays, signalled the end of that harvest. The chief hop picker bore a pole garlanded with hops, leading them all to the farmhouse where they could expect a lavish feast presided over by the ‘King and Queen’ of the hop pickers. In order to avert ill fortune or ill luck from the evil eye, or sprites, the King and Queen caused confusion by exchanging their clothing. Cross-dressing during a celebration is yet another peculiar custom of the British Isles that has it origins in the superstitions that surround the fear of misfortune importuned upon them by non-human beings and forms. Everyone raised the first toast to the farmer and his wife for the feast’s provision.

Rush-bearing ceremonies also occur in August, although this is now commemorative rather than functional, though reeds gathered from the fenland reed-beds remain essential roofing and thatching materials. In the Middle Ages, rushes were strewn across cold flag floors to bear the bulk of dirt trodden in from muddy streets.

Towards the end of August and into September, coppiced hazel poles from managed woodlands were harvested and made into essential baskets for the fruit harvests, and hurdles for the sheep and cattle corals and pens.

Under the right to forage laws within the forests, fallen branches were gathered, dried and stored for winter fuel. This supplemented the gorse, bracken and peat gathered in July, used for fuel, baking ovens and thatches. Acorns, beech-mast and cobnuts, beans and barley spears were gathered by the poor to sell to farmers as winter feed for the pigs.

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Brambles and other late soft fruit, including wild bilberries and sloes were gathered along the lanes and hedgerows to eat, preserve or dry. It was a common superstition that after the 29th September, they were not fit for eating as the Old Devil had either spat upon them or trodden them with his dirty hooves. Turning now to folklore and tradition connected to the harvesting of grain, we find an even greater association with the King and Queen of the Harvest as purveyors of abundance.

The Harvest Lord

Seasonal harvesting was a prized skill and a good crew could command a healthy stipend. Carried out by travelling bands of casual labourers, Reaping gangs toured local farms announcing their arrival by scraping their scythes on farm yard cobbles. The most skilled reaper was elected as Harvest Lord who negotiated rates of pay for reaping, carting and stacking of the grain and for gloves to protect hands against thistles and thorns. The contract was sealed by a token payment of 1 shilling and a pint of ale per head. Newcomers to the crew, especially if unseasoned, or from out of town, could expect an ‘initiation.’

Undertaken by the Lord, this took the form of a simple charming secured by scraping the soles of the newcomer’s boots with a stone, ‘to ground’ any unfavourable sprite activity, or ill-luck brought there from outside the ‘consecrated’ gang members. Ably assisted by his Harvest Queen, the work began in earnest as soon as the corn was deemed ripe. It was her role to ensure each man received his allotted cider allowance of 8 pints per day and sandwiches and small pies to keep them going until sundown. Caraway seed cake was a popular treat served to the workers because the seeds were deemed to provide strength whilst securing their loyalty from other farmers wishing to lure away a proficient gang with the prospect of better pay.

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No time was wasted in their wandering off to find food and drink – it was brought to them. The race was on to harvest whilst the grain was dry and before it could deteriorate or spoil. A prolonged wet spell at the critical time could – and still can – cost an entire harvest. While the weather held, every able-bodied man, woman and child would be out in the fields. Harvest was a time of social bonding.  On fine days, work began at dawn around 4am and continued well into the evening as the Harvest Moon rises very close to sunset providing a few hours more of valuable extra light.

Sporting his conspicuous rushen hat entwined with green bindweed, interlaced with wild red poppies, the Harvest Lord opened the day’s work, setting the pace at an acre a day per man in each field tackled. Working in lines known as ‘flights,’ the men advanced through the swaying corn armed only with hand sickles or scythes, laying out the cut sheaves across the field ready for binding. The cut must be swift and sure, if manoeuvred incorrectly, the blade would knock back the stems, flattening them, rendering them useless.  To help counter this, the juice form the wild Arum lily was rubbed over the blades at intervals to retain sharpness and charm away ill strokes. Each field was cut in a circle, from the outside in.

Related imageAble-bodied youths followed behind the Reapers binding the corn sheaves with wisps of straw. An efficient binder was able to bind the sheaves for three Reapers; these were then stacked, or ‘shucked’ in pairs to dry for several days before taking them to the winnowing barns.

There was intense rivalry and competition between Reaping gangs, all desperate to prove their superiority, thus retaining the title of top gang which ensured their Lord could secure the best fee for them at the next year’s harvest tide. Singing loudly, folk songs echoed out across the busy landscape, each gang showing their prowess keeping up the pace and rhythm whilst giving good voice. In the Hebrides, this rivalry manifested in the creation of the Gobhar Bhacach -‘Lame Goat,’ fashioned intentionally to lay low the prowess of rival gangs. Once completed, the figure was hurled into the field where Reapers were yet to finish.  Tossed back and forth along the line to the last man reaping his own acre, fighting often erupted as a result of this grave insult.  No one wanted this misfortune, for it meant that perceived as lazy, he would not be hired in next year’s gang, and would find labour elsewhere hard to come by and he and his family might starve in the winter. There was a hardened incentive then to work hard in order to survive.

The Last Sheaf

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Deemed sacred, the last sheaf of corn left standing in the last field, known as the Mare or the Nack was believed to shelter the retreating corn spirit, which attracted several customs attached to its culling. Cutting this final sheaf was therefore subject to great ceremony and reverence.  Known as ‘Crying the Nack,’ the reluctance to cut this blessed last sheaf was never lightly broached.

In many cases, the reapers would encircle it backwards (so as not to be ‘seen’), and throw their sickles up and over from a safe but close distance, each man pitching for the prize. Once won, it was raised up with great pomp to “Holla the Nack,” the winner declaring “Arnack, Arnack, Arnack! We hav’en, we hav’en, we hav’en!” This was quickly fashioned into an intricate knot known as a corn dolly and tied with ribbons.

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A very similar rite took place in Hertfordshire called ‘Crying the Mare;’ using variations on the calls, including the following one, the Sheaf was fashioned into a four legged figure, with the ears of corn falling as a mane:

 

“Master he’s got in his corn
Well mawn, well shorn
Ne’er heeled over, ne’ stuck fast
Harvest he’s come home.”

The Reaper claiming that prize was awarded a place of honour at the supper table opposite the ‘Maister’ or ‘Lord.’  As so much of this lore is created to stave or assuage ill luck befalling the farm, the land and its produce, we can see how the Harvest King and Queen were substitutes for the farmer and his wife, who were the real patrons of the feast and the couple obliged to the Reapers for their labour. Diverting attention to them, and their antics, the ill-luck was distracted and lost to that subterfuge.

In the Scottish highlands, the youngest member of the team was given the dubious honour of culling the last sheaf, named the Maiden if the harvest was plentiful, or the Hag (Cailleach) Hag if the harvest was poor. In other places, she was referred to as the Kern Babby, plaited and knotted to form a female figure, which may even be ‘dressed’ later by the harvest Queen. It was deemed an ill omen if the Kern Babby got wet on its way to the Barn, the person guilty of that transgression was duty bound to forfeit any drinks owed to them by the rest of their gang members.

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The Mare, Nack, Kern Babby, Maiden or Hag, brought its own blessing to the household that held it, to maintain the flow of good luck upon and across that threshold. It was dispatched in several different ways according to local custom, via a complimentary rite that again, invited further blessings upon the land. They could be hung up by the farm house hearth, ploughed into the field on Plough Monday, hung out on New Year’s Day to feed the birds, fed to the horses or burned and trampled into the ground by horses hooves during the next year’s harvest when a new one was fashioned. When ploughing began in the New Year, a crooked furrow was tilled near the farm house to ensure any malicious intent from the faerie folk or curmudgeonly mortal was averted away from its hearth.

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The Hay Wain

The end of the grain harvest was cause for great celebration. A procession of the horse led hay wain, laden with the Harvest Lord/Maister his Lady/Dame, the exhausted Reapers, trundled triumphantly in the fading light back to the farm, bedecked with ears of corn, ribbons, corn flowers and poppies amidst much jubilation.

Painted and garlanded horns, were placed upon the head of the Harvest Lord; anointed with cider, he was then hailed as King of the Harvest. As the old folk gossiped and told stories to the young, fires were lit, the grand supper of meats, cheeses fresh bread, pies, fruits, tarts and puddings was served and the ale and cider flowed ever freely accompanied by singing that became increasingly bawdy, drinking games and much reverie.

In Wiltshire, the traditional harvest shout was:

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“Well ploughed! Well sowed!

Well harrowed! Well mowed!

All safely carted to the barn

with nary a load throwed!

Hip hip hip hooray!”

Gleaning

The woman elected as Harvest Queen or Dame, supervised the acquisition and fair distribution of the fallen ears of corn, a process called gleaning. Once grain harvest proper and the Harvest Supper over, women and children began scouring the fields for the leftover ears of corn picking up stray ears of corn from the stubble. Claimed under forage laws, all they could gather before sunset the next day was theirs to keep, an essential bonus that once ground into flour, could help provide bread during the winter months. In like manner to her Lord’s ‘initiation’ of new unseasoned Reapers, new gleaners would receive the grounding stone, tapped upon the sole of their boots before they were allowed to step foot into the fields to work.

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Once replenished with food and drink, sporting contests held the next day were favoured activities, these included football, swimming, sack races, leap frog, wrestling, tug o’ war, racing and dancing.  There was even an extraordinary broomstick dance contest, where the fittest men vied and pitted their agilities against each other, a quality that could mark them as potential Lord the following year. Gatherings of entire communities also honoured patron saints by visiting shrines and holy well, leaving tokens and making wishes for loved ones. Afflicted body parts were sometimes immersed in healing waters. Above all, the sense of a blessing, an obligation, a reciprocity, and gratitude for abundance instigated the theme for the grand fairs and events undertaken during August through to October. Celebrating community through custom and tradition, all of them involved drinking, feasting and revelry.

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In 1921, Punch published the following rhyme entitled ‘Hell in Herefordshire’ after hearing of the Bishop’s railing against the perils and consumption of cider and ale in England.

“The wild white rose is cankered
Along the Vale of Lugg,
There is poison in the tankard,
There’s murder in the mug;
Through all the pleasant valleys
Where stand the palefaced kine
Men raise the devil’s chalice
And drink this bitter wine.

Unspeakable carouses
That shame the summer sky
Take place in little houses
That look towards the Wye;
And near the Radnor border
And the dark hill of Wales
Beelzebub is warder
And sorcery prevails.

 

For spite of church and chapel
Ungodly folk there be
Who pluck the cider apple
From the cider apple tree,
And sqeeze it in their presses
Until the juice runs out,
At various addresses
That no one knows about.

And maddened by the orgies
Of that unholy brew
They slit each other’s gorges
From one a.m. till two.
Till Ledbury is a shambles
And in the dirt and mud
Where Leominster sits and gambles
The dice are stained with blood.

But still, if strength suffices
Before my day is done,
I’ll go and share the vices
Of Clungunford and Clun,
But watch the red sun sinking
Across the March again
And join the secret drinking
Of outlaws at Presteign.

Beware of farmhouse cider!”

Sadly, during the 1870s, harvest traditions changed forever when the horse-drawn reaper-binder appeared. What had once taken one man a day to reap and another to bind after him, could now be achieved by two men in an hour. Combine harvesters arrived in the 1930s which further reduced our active engagement and celebration of the land. Even so, over and over again, there are clear examples of long cherished customs preserved within the folk traditions of the British Isles, from the sacred gift of life, the divine king, the fecund queen, ancestral protection, and of camaraderie. What was once a collective effort and magical celebration of life that involved an entire community, now involved only a handful of farm workers. How much we have forgotten. How much we take for granted. How flaccid we have become. How apathetic to the chimes of Life and death? It is surely time to reclaim and revive an understanding of the customs we have lost and understand those better we continue still!

ár ok friðr! peace and good harvest!

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THE KALEVALA. PROEM.

•June 16, 2018 • 1 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

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.”

Hermod_before_Hela

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.

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 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!

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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/

 

 
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