Sunday, December 23, 2012

Montol Eve

The main event of the festival is Montol Eve on the 21st of December every year. During the evening processions of individuals known as Geeze dancers can be seen throughout the town, carrying lanterns, wearing masks and traditional costumes.

The Lord of Misrule is chosen from among the masked revelers.

During this midwinter festival the spirit of the dark half of the year is known as Bucca Dhu the dark spirit who plays with the Mare of winter solstice.

 The Mock is the Cornish Yule Log, a member of the public is chosen to mark the Mock with a stick man. In tradition this represents either the Christ Child or Old Father Time marking the death of the year, or the celebration of the birth of Christ "the light of the world".

To learn more:Living History in Cornwall and Cornish Culture

Photos curtosy of Wikipedia:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Household Spirits

A household spirit protects one's home.  They can be described as a spirit bonded to the family as a whole or even to individual members.  They are steadfast in their duties but can appear fragile in appearance and emotion.

Within traditional Pagan folklore, there are two types; house spirits and hearth deities, sometimes described as domestic goddesses.  This is a common belief in Irish, Norse and Greek mythology along with many cultures of the past. Examples include: Brighid, a goddess in Celtic paganism; Frigg of the Norse; Hestia, a hearth goddess to the Greeks; Vesta of the traditional Roman region; Gabija of Baltic paganism and Matka Gabia in Slavic lands.  Temples and shrines have housed representations of these deities throughout the world.

A second type of household deity is honored within the home itself opposed to a separate temple being constructed for them.  The observance takes place on the household hearth making it the focus of adoration and gratitude.  Within some family traditions the god or spirit of the hearth is invited to join in at meals with the family itself.  In other traditions or at specific times of the year offerings of food and drink, many times milk and a small cake, are left on the hearth or mantle acknowledging the spirit's need for privacy.

Found in the north and midlands of England, a spirit known as a Hob is invited to live in the garden or in the house by the family residing there.  Many times permission is widened allowing travel between the land, farm and the home.  A Hob, like Dobby in the Harry Potter movies, may reside with a given family for generations.  They can be helpful as in the  famous account of a Hob called the 'Hobthrust' lived near Runswick Bay in a 'hobhole', and was said to be able to cure whooping cough. However, if offended, Hobs and other household spirits can create havoc.  There are further accounts in folklore of a set of new clothes being given to the troublesome Hob as a symbol of their freedom, granted by the family and signaling the end of any further household service.

Brownies is the most industrious of the household spirits.  Well known in the country of Scotland, they will help with farm work, tending animals needs, cleaning barn and house Alike. Kitchen work as in the task of helping grind grain to flour, sweeping the floor, tidying up after everyone has gone to bed, really anything you or I might find tedious, is of no bother to them whatsoever. The only payment that would be accepted without insult is a small cup of fine cream, milk and a bit of cake or bread.

The 'cofgoda, meaning house-god in Old English, is the forerunner of the Hob or Brownie.  A derivation of the word Hob is hobgoblin, is a fond title used by English gypsies.

Dísir (sing. dís) a term for 'woman' or 'sister' is known as a household guardian in both Scandinavian and Norse folklore and myth. They differ from the faerie of common folklore in that they are the human-spirits of the deceased kin who remain behind to watch over their loved ones. H.R. Ellis-Davidson describes them thus:

'Evidently such female guardian spirits are not linked with the land like the Vanir or land-spirits, since they may travel over the sea to reach the men they are protecting. Their link is rather with a particular family, and they seem to symbolize the luck which can be passed on from one generation to another.'

Below a prayer from Sigrdrífumál St. 11, advises expectant mothers to seek their aid:

'Learn help runes eke, if help thou wilt
a woman to bring forth her babe;
on they palms wear them and grasp her wrists,
and ask the dísir's aid.'

 Within English tradition milk and bread are taken to the hearth on the Solstice night.  A candle is carried and lit on the hearth or mantle.  A small empty bowl is placed there allowing each member of the house to pour a wee bit of milk into it followed by dropping in a small piece of the bread.  The eldest female family member then speaks to the spirits by addressing the departed kin; thanking them for their steadfast watchfulness and care over the past year. She asks that this offering be accepted and that their protection and aid may continue into the year to come.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wildwood Lord

The Wild-wood Lord is the energy of the land. Although antlered and animal-like, there is a human quality that startles and beckons the crafter into a different woodland glade.

The Wild-wood Lord is nature at it's core. There is no father-figure here. Standing off at a distance his gaze is fixed, eyes feral, his breath hot and rhythmic. Humbled, your heartbeat quickens, you dare not pull your gaze for fear he might leap beyond your comfortable boundary, to what end you cannot predict.

As witches, we understand this figure as the true and vital force of nature in the raw. No climbing into this All-Father's lap for comfort; for this is not the Hero of the Forest as told in popular myth. Dealings with this unvarnished aspect of the land can be dangerous for those who think that their relationship will be different, or safe. Caution is the action to keep foremost in ones' mind.

There are two cycles to his lordship outside of the guardian of the animals, field and stream.  They are similar in their title but not in aspect. Known as reign of the Winter and Summer Kings, their royal authority in this form does not change at the popular solstice celebrations marked by modern Wiccan calendars. As with the shifting of seasonal tides, they change as nature changes, in an authentic way, not light for dark or dark for light, but by a subtle shifting, a gradual integration called Tides.

Holly and the Oak are the mantles this aspect dons. The timing of this exchange is through the demonstration of the oak. Looking to the holly through the seasons of a given year we see it as unchanging, an evergreen whose subtle increase or decline of power is hidden from us. The oak on the other hand is a deciduous tree and this is the herald of the exchange of crowns.

Within the Old Ways many view this rulership beginning in the spring, when buds appear, and the summer half of the light-divided year begins anew. What better time than at this, known as Roodmas, to become a King and rule the land with vitality. His reign ends when leaves turn ruddy-brown, dropping to the ground and the first frost covers the fields.

With the arrival of summer's end he removes his oak circlet; standing stiff in sinew and bone, the Holly King rules the windswept field and leafless branch. Now, hollow-eyed,  breath, sharp, smelling of death and decay, his attention fixed on the purpose ahead; to gather up the wandering spirits of the passing year.  With a spectral group of huntsman by his side, phantasmal horses with wild mane and blowing steam shift their weight, hounds race forward in mad pursuit across the hardened ground.  This is the frenzied clamor and thunder hooves of The Wild Hunt of Souls.

My path as a witch is one trodden with eyes wide open, not impaired by a long ago child's innocence. There are no faery glittered glades with toadstool pixies whispering tidings of good cheer in the woods I wander.  No bother, I prefer the eldrich-kind of shadowy glen and weird forgotten hollow.

As a witch I touch, smell and taste life, unafraid knowing full well what the Wild-wood Lord embodies, and I accept it without objection.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Lady

The Lady is Life, from birth through recycled remains.  As nature is her ensemble, all the aspects within nature are part of her train; they trail in her wake glistening with beauty and death.  The Lady is Youth, Maturity and Decay.The lessons we are taught are divulged through the stages of life; all life, not just the egocentric lives of man and woman-kind.  She is not maiden, mother and crone for these are figures neatly structured to meet our expectations which is clearly not her station.

Our education at her knee contains nurture and wrath; how we perceive this is ours alone,for life, full of the energy-force, merely 'is'.  She is the power of the seasons we call the 'Tides', not the dropping leaves of autumn, but the force that makes them fall.

We are the stumbling interpreters, arms and hands outstretched, fingers wiggling, tripping over obstacles until we learn how to navigate the darkened room which is her realm.  She is there, in the dark, watching; never fully revealed. The Lady is the faint aroma that fades the instant we think we can identify its source and the texture of something 'more' contained in the soil that slips through our eager fingers.

As a mother in the wild She can suckle us and devour us.... sometimes in the same moment. 

She waits patiently as the Lady of the Cauldron; helping us to descend into the cosmic ooze housed in Her Castle of Roses to live, love, and be reborn another day, in another way.  The Lady is the power of 'Will' and The Lord is that which 'Manifests'.

Although the world evolves and changes the Lady remains. She does not follow.  Her methods may reveal aspects and abilities that are not predictable ....... ones we are not comfortable witnessing or experiencing.  She will make you change whether you come to it through surrender or kicking and screaming.  For what is change really?  What is easy may not be what is best and what is best may not be easy. Change happens...

The Ruby-Mouthed Lady is the 'Unstoppable Continuation of Nature'.  With this understanding we never underestimate the power in Her hands.

" Beloved Blood-Mother of my especial breed, 

Welcome me at this moment with your willing womb.....
for no one has lifted your veil, seen your face...and lived"

Quote from Witchcraft a Tradition Renewed - Doreen Valiente & Evan John Jones

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Betwixt and Between

As I walk along the shore I'm aware of forces that have accumulated in varied levels of intensity just beneath the ground. I pause and using my senses I connect through my inner compass called my gut.  Utilizing earthly forces takes a competence which I have only attained through devoted practice, allowing intuition to become sharpened by time.  There are no short cuts in developing the technique, at least none that I have found personally. 

As an animist I understand the relationship between a physical object or location and its animaistic nature.  Because I relate to the world in this way my senses are acute and I have a deep respect for the forces present in most things.   I am not unique.  Many individuals have this ability.
When I come across energy that is flowing and abundant enough to be gathered I use a particular instrument to aid me in harnessing these forces. The process I use for finding such places of power is called mapping the grid.  Once located the atmosphere from which it emanates I refer to as the 'betwixt and between'.

In the area between land and water runs what is known as the telluric current. Pulsating at a lower and slower vibration due to the distance it has traveled it is markedly different from the energy I have experienced when walking among stone alignments at Carnac Brittany, Avebury England, the Cuillin Hills of Scotland or through the desert and red rock of Arizona.  That being said, the telluric currents here in Maine, are still viable.  
There are various names for the power within the land.  Many refer to it as the  serpentine path, earth energy, benker or ley lines, black streams or sprowl.  In the British Isles and Ireland power paths have been called Faery Paths and Holy Lines to God. The Greeks called them the Sacred Roads of Hermes, to the Chinese, who related them to the power of the earth dragon, this power had the ability to change the contours of the land.  Ley lines connect standing stone circles, ancient burial grounds and holy places strewn intact or in ruin across the landscape of the globe; it is little wonder that so many flock to these sites for healing and introspection.
Where the shore meets the sea is beloved to me.  I respect it in all its forms; calm, pensive or savage. There, where the trees are tethered only by grace to the rocky outreach, I willingly stand buffeted by the scent of soil and saline, a palpable and rich perfume.  Subtle and not-so-subtle forces dance between rock and sea foam, streaming and pulsating under the phases of the moon.  When gathered, it can be used to imbue objects, aid meditation, used in healing and ritual work.  Wisely coaxed and kneaded into prayer and invocation it is partnered to a given purpose by those who indulge in this kind of magic. 

Instinct and humility are the attitudes beneficial when dealing and working with chthonic currents.  Harnessed for benefit or destruction, ever coursing, pooling, waiting, never still, it resides where the twilight dwells and the old ones whisper.

Serpent of the Land

Movements felt in blood and bone
Awake thy breath
and by thy power