Marry Me And Be My Wife

marriage

Yours truly about to get married 20 years ago

Since I started with songs from the 80ies as titles for my blog posts in my last one (a reference to Losing my Religion by R.E.M. – at least one reader got it) I thought I keep going with this idea and used a line from a song by the Psychedelic Furs for this one.

So…marriage, huh?

Recently, a post appeared on one of the pagan Facebook groups, where someone happily announced their engagement, and asked for ideas for the planned hand-fasting. They haven’t done, or participated in, one ever, and because the guests won’t be pagans either, the poster asked for ideas. What followed was a litany of lovely comments, thanks to all Gods old and new, congratulating and offering advice.

Except for one. Not that this comment was negative or berating. Just a question. “Did pagans get married in ancient times?” Someone responded they thought hand-fasting is a modern construct, and so the querent let us know that anything modern makes him ill.
I thought it would be good to shed some light and mentioned the old — pagan — Irish Brehon laws regulating marriage, and divorce (e.g. a woman could divorce a man if he was too overweight) and that there is an abundance of lore singing of the bonds of matrimony between Goddesses and Gods. Just as an example. That was laughed off.

There are two issues here.

One is something I encounter more often than I care for these days, which is people derailing a discussion by simply questioning everything. Now, I might be a bit older, but I, too, grew up learning that one should question information one gets exposed to. This is generally good advice. I even took an ethics in science class at university where I learned that the philosopher Sir Karl Popper said that a theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified.

Please do note the words “theory” and “falsified”. That means when you state something, or question someone’s statement, you need to know stuff. Just asking arbitrarily questioning something generally agreeable (like marriage in pagan times), or disagreeing without sound backup knowledge, is absolutely meaningless. It really only exposes that the one questioning didn’t do their homework. If they had done just that, they would have come across a few indicators revealing a very high likelihood that marriage was a thing in pagan times.

Such as the Irish Brehon laws I mentioned already . They were obviously only relevant for Ireland, but they did regulate marriage quite a bit. Not in a way we would consider entirely up to our ethical standards today. For example, a number of ways were mentioned how a couple becomes married. Other than the perfect version, where both, bride and groom were willing and happy to tie the knot, and their parents were, too, elopement was also a way of marriage. And weirdly enough, rape. If you did that, you were married. Not quite the deterrent one would like to see, but there were at least some consequences to be faced by the perpetrator. One would wonder, though, if that was in the best interest of the woman?

May that as it was 2,000 years ago, the fact remains that marriage was something that the pagan Irish before the Common Era were actively pursuing and regulating.

And not only they. While there may have been less developed rules and guidelines in other pagan peoples (Germans, Gaulles, Slavs to name a few),  marriage had a very important societal function aside from love and making children. Through marriage, lineage was determined, and inheritance. Only children springing from marriage had a claim to title and land (if there was one to inherit). Those born out of wedlock, the bastards, didn’t. Kingship was sometimes transferred from father to the legitimate son, and in some tribes a ruler had to married to be accepted as the leader of the people.

The tale of Fionn mac Cumhail tells us of his wedding to a young woman, who leaves him for her lover right away. The Prince of Prwydd was married to Rhiannon, according to the Mabinogi. Agamemnon to Helena, and her breaking her vow caused the Trojan War. Yes, stories. But also reflections of life back then.

When it comes to what marriage meant in ancient pagan times, this institution might have been somewhat different than what we associate with it in our modern, heavily Christian-influence thinking and laws. The general approach to sex seems to have been much more relaxed, period. It wasn’t viewed as dirty, it wasn’t demonized, and people didn’t feel guilty having sex. The Irish Ulster Cycle tells us of Queen Medb (the intoxicated, if we were to defer anything from her name) of Connacht, who was married (see!) to King Ailill (amongst many others), and who (Medb) was known to be rather generous to men at her court with the “gift of her thighs.” Marriage seems to have been less about who you can and can’t have sex with, and more about land, title, property, and who inherits it.

And talking about sex brings me to the second issue: Sex.

When I see someone questioning the existence of marriage in pagan times, alarm bells go off. Because I see, behind this innocent question about the pagan history of marriage a possible attempt to seek confirmation that sex should be a free-for-all in the pagan community. Because, you know, they didn’t have any back then, so why should we have any rules now? Especially if paganism is all about not having rules, any rules, as some insist.
They had rules and laws and a moral compass, and saying otherwise is just fake-lore.

And if I haven’t heard so many accounts of young pagans being coerced into sexual acts with this fake-lore, there wouldn’t be any alarm bells. But it happened a lot in the 1960ies and 1970ies, during the “sexual revolution”, and as far as I hear, it’s still happening now. You might want to read Sarah Ann Lawless’ blog article “For Sale Neopaganism As is” and subsequent entries of hers to get a detailed picture (careful, the picture, actual images and what she describes, is rather graphic).

By all means, do go out and woo a person you find attractive, hopefully not only on the physical level. Show your best — that is honest and noble — game in hopes of the other person becoming attracted to you, too. Just never, ever use fake-lore to trick someone into becoming an object of your desires.

That’s not what “no rules in paganism, being pagan means. At all. Other words come to mind, though.


Actual meaningful pagan practice found in Alpine customs can be found in my book “Mountain Magic”, available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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Choosing My Religion

Weisswand

When reading through blogs and social media these days, I see a lot of posts in which people ask how they should go about choosing their faith. Particularly, folks seem to struggle with the choice of converting from one faith to another. Or some are not completely convinced that their last choice was the correct one, and contemplate reverting back to an earlier one.

I empathize with that struggle. Even though the answer for me is crystal clear now, I completely understand that this is a question that people have, contemplate, even wrestle with. Because it for sure is one thing: what spiritual path you walk is one of the big defining elements of your “Who am I?”. It’s part of your core identity.

Don’t let a label define you

That said, however, there is no need to stick a label on your back from the get-go, and to desperately strive to fit into the framework that label indicates. Insofar, I will not advise you what religion you should or shouldn’t choose in this article, but I will, if I may, offer some thoughts how you could go about choosing it.

Let me rewind the clock by about 50 years, when I entered grad school in Austria. There, like in many European country, Religion was a school subject much as math, German, and physical exercise. And at some point in religion class, I learned that, in the Catholic world, you may not eat meat on Fridays. I also learned that in this very same faith, fish is not meat. Made absolutely no sense to me. I guess it was my first conscious encounter with people making up rules that serve only them, in this case Church dignitaries. So that they can gorge on in what really is meat on Fridays, by just declaring it’s not.

It’s a struggle for everyone

Did I change my religion back then? Hell no. I was six! Didn’t even cross my mind as something that one can choose to do. For at least 20 more years. On the other hand, was I a faithful Christian, ever? Hell no. Church was a social event and I can’t even count the times I was sent out of Religion class for this or the other snotty remark. Religion played no role in my life other than at Christmas, when church was a way to get us kids out of the house so my parents could do last preparations for the Christmas dinner. Which was when my Grandparents came over and my father’s mom would run her finger over the piano top to check if it was dusted well enough. My mom loved that! But I digress.

So how did I become a pagan? Well, rather than asking someone else what to do — especially since social media didn’t even exist —  I changed somehow. Slowly. And not by actively choosing, but rather by easing into it.
Today, for folks who are inquiring what and how to choose, I have this advice:

Don’t ask yourself “What faith should I have, what path should I follow?” in the beginning. You will find the answer at some point, but not by brooding over this big, big question. Remember, your spirituality is a significant component of your Self. Too significant, in my opinion, to expect an easy answer like to the question what shoes should I wear today. Or even what house or apartment should I buy or rent.

Think from the top down, then work from the bottom up

What you could do is use a process called “Theory of Change.” In it, you would put your top goal on — well — the top (of a sheet of paper, for example). But instead of having the top goal as “I want to be X”, it would be “My goal is to fine out/decide on what faith I should follow”. In other words, work towards it, but keep the result of the work wide open.
And then, below that top goal, you put steps that you believe will bring you to the point of realization, to an answer to your question. So the second level would be something like “What is it that informs my decision?” This could be knowledge, how practicing your faith should make you feel, and what’s the practice like. The latter, for me, is the key element. I like to be intellectually stimulated, for instance, but the practice must fit my needs as well. I guess that’s why I’ve never clicked with Buddhism, even though it tickles my mind. I need earthy, hands on, practical things to do rather than sit in meditation. I need Magic.

So once you have mapped out what the steps are, for you personally, that will bring you to a decision, you start at the bottom, with the easy, low hanging fruit so to speak. But I would advise against reading up on what faith does what, and then practice it a while to see what it means to you. That’s too mechanical, too shopping mall-like.
Instead you could do different things and see how they feel. For example, take a walk in a forest. Does that inspire you? Do you run on and off the trail, attracted by a mushroom here and a bird feather there? Or are you more the type who walks briskly along, head down, contemplating the latest encounter at the coffee shop, or the differences of economic theories.

Learn how you would like to connect with your spirituality most. Do you enjoy creating beautiful altars? Do you change them with the seasons, or based on other time markers? What do you like to put on them?
Or do you fancy sitting in a chair, breathing, and clearing your mind to see what comes up for your spiritual practice? Do you enjoy sitting in majestic, ornate buildings, listening to liturgy and stories revealing a slice of truth?

Later on, you could try to find out where you see the divine and how you perceive it. Is it one distinct entity dwelling in a distinct place, even though that is not in the apparent world? Is there a group of deities you are drawn to? Do you experience being called by one or more? Or do you see anything and everything containing a divine spark, an animus, a soul?

The important factor here is not to be guided by instructions (e.g. a Christian does this, a pagan does that, and a Jew the other), but rather do, act, practice the way it feels best for you.

Study myth. Books, talks, the Internet all keep a treasure chest of mythology. About a Jewish preacher riding on a donkey; about a Magician who appeases the dragons under a tower; a poet sucking searing hot drops of potion from his thumb; a sage hanging on the world tree for nine days to find a system of letters. See what captures your attention. What can you retain with ease, and where do you struggle remembering what you just read a paragraph above.?

Find other things that can help you answer your top question.

It is in the very end of that process, once you are settled in your practice, in your understanding of the divine, after you have fallen in love with stories of old, when you finally are in the position to match up your personal practice with the framework of a faith. Any faith.

You may just realize that by now, after all that time of practice and studying, the big question is not so immensely important anymore. You may even realize that you can’t even answer this question one way or another. That your path is a hybrid of some sort. But now you no longer mind. Knowing what label is attached to your faith, to your practice, may just not be so essential for the definition of your Self, of who your are, any more.

And that’s absolutely ok.


Read up on one practice found in Alpine customs in my book “Mountain Magic” available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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What to Wear?

Tracht

Yours truly at a Druid gathering, wearing the traditional Pfoad (linen shirt, buttoned only halfway, mimicking the ancient simple hole for the head in the folded cloth), Lederhosen with the front flap reminiscent of ancient Celtic undergarment; the belt called Ranzen (meaning “bag” actually, for it once had a pouch); and the Ischler hat (hats often telling you what region one is from).

The question what to wear in ritual and when working Magic comes up frequently on social media. Far from wanting to opine on this one way or another, I still would like to offer some thoughts on this subject.

Personally, I am very much drawn to aesthetics of all sorts and kinds. May be a Libra thing. Maybe because I grew up in a household that upheld fine arts very much, and being surrounded by visually pleasing stuff gives me a feeling of belonging.

This includes, obviously, regalia worn when practicing my Druidry. But aesthetics is absolutely not the end only layer my reasoning for wearing certain clothes is based.
Another, and far more important reason for me to choose particular clothing in ritual is rooted in an experience I had many years ago when talking with Mongolian shamans. When they did their magical work, they put on rather heavy long, maroon coats, on which a number of items were fastened, most prominently plastic snakes and bells. The shamans told us that when they drum, standing up (as it is their custom), and rotate their upper body back and forth, these items begin to swing and “catch the spirits” that way. Additionally, the shamans informed us that just putting on their coats, feeling the weight of the fabric and the gadgets on them, already put them into a higher state of consciousness. Now they were no longer mere people, but already travelers ready to enter the Otherworld.

This change of settings, internally and externally, is pure applied Magic. even though Mongolians wouldn’t use that term. The intent, to work shamanically on behalf of the people that came to visit them, was manifested already in the simple act of putting on special attire. It’s as simple as that.
Now, it was obviously not the only component they used to transient into the Otherworld. They used the sound of their drums; they wore head ear with eagle feathers that connected them to their spirit animals and guides; they had litte gadgets hanging from these head gears in front of their eyes to purposefully blur their vision in the apparent world; and they talked with what they called “demons” in Russian (which they had to speak instead of their native language, so an interpreter could tell us what they were saying). And since attire wasn’t the only component, I saw one of them doing some quick work on a fellow visitor while still wearing his grey soviet-issue suit. Garment was not required, but typically used to enhance the work.

For me, seeing folks, who have lived a live embedded in ancient shamanic practice, wear “work clothes”, has since been reason enough to believe that what’s good for them should be good for me.

But what to wear?

As a Western European, I obviously do not want to appropriate Mongolian shamans’ attire and practice, so the only choice I had was to go local.
See, I grew up in the Alps, in Austria, where we have, next to formal attire (suits and ties, pantsuits, dresses and skirts) – and casual wear (jeans and t-shirts and sweaters) a third option, the so called “Tracht“. Yes, it’s that rough guttural “ch”-sound that makes German so lovely. Lederhosen and the folk dress known as Dirndl are as much Tracht as the suit jackets with the green collars and deer antler buttons, worn for example by Captain von Trapp in Sound of Music.

So, it’s almost self-evident that one like me would choose Tracht as my ritual clothing rather than for example robes as many on the Druid path do. (Although, there are rare, high official ceremonies where I don a robe. Reluctantly, almost, but that’s another tale).

Yet, it’s not the connection to my homeland alone that compels me to wear my Lederhose and other Trachten-clothes. It’s a bit deeper than that.
One angle is that Tracht was mainly worn by the rural population, was the attire of the farmers. Guilds had also special garb,  typically supporting the profession (e.g. the baker’s guild wore aprons and special hats. Chefs in modern cuisine still often do so.)
But I am particularly drawn to farming, which for me, as a Druid, holds a special place in  my heart. The farmers (especially organic farmers) are the ones who put the good food on our tables. If you’d ever have a chance to purchase produce, bread or dairy products directly from a small Alpine farm, you’d know what I mean.

Insofar, our lives and wellbeing depends on the farmers, and through them on the Land. I can be as green, politically, as they come, and personally interested in growing stuff and identifying what I forage out in nature, I still couldn’t compete with the knowledge of the Land a farmer has. Wearing Lederhosen and a country hat does not give me that knowledge, obviously, but it does connect me to these fine folks on an almost energetic level.

Also, much of Druid practice — and other spiritual paths — is done with, or supported by, the ancestors; actual family as well as cultural forebears. Wearing something that has been donned — at least in a similar fashion — by my ancestors over many generations before me alone is a great way to connect with them just by virtue of attire.

SitulaKuffern

The “Situla of Kuffern”, found in Lower Austria. This 5th century BCE relief on a bronze bucket shows Celtic people in simple shirts and most prominently the broad-rimmed hats that are still fashioned in Tirol.

This connection to my ancestors goes back quite far. In the case of Alpine Tracht actually as far as to the Celts dwelling in that area even, roughly from 800 BCE to 500 CE. For example, reliefs found in and on top of Celtic grave sites in what was once the Celtic Kingdom of Noricum, and in the tribal lands of the Boii (in which I was born), the Raetii, and the Helvetii, show our Celtic forbears wearing quite distinct hats. The traditional Pfoad, once undergarment, now an often intricately ornamented shirt, seems to stem from very simple pieces of cloth folded in half, with a hole in the fold for the head; the Leibl of the Dirndl was in Celtic times fabric wrapped around the chest, and only over the centuries was connected with the skirt; and finally the flap that makes the Lederhose so distinct is a remainder of a piece of cloth that was rapped around men’s hips, then pulled from behind through the crotch and up to be stuffed into the wrapped-around part, covering the men’s private parts.

Thus, my Lederhose, in all actuality, connects me 2,000+ years back to my early Celtic ancestors, maybe even to the man Artebudz Brogdui, whose name appears on an inscription found south of the Alps in Slovenia, one of the very few remainders of the language spoken in the ancient Celtic kingdom of Noricum.

Wearing something special at ritual, or when doing Magic, can become meaningful once we take the time and effort to find such meaning.


Read more about interesting facts for your practice found in Alpine customs in my book “Mountain Magic” available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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Protecting Forests with Magic

SkogurVerndari

There was an uproar recently in the environmentally concerned community as well as in some pagan groups about the German government allowing a coal digging corporation access to an old European forest. The forest is called Hambacher Forst and is the last remnant of a vast ancient forest that once spanned Europe after the end of the most recent Ice Age.

This ghastly news threw me right back into 1984, when the Austrian (my home country’s) government voted to allow a water powerplant to be built right in one of Europe’s rare floodplain forest with its intricate biodiversity. Back then, I hopped in my bright yellow VW beetle and drove about 45 minutes to join the crowd shouting at construction workers and cops. Later on, I helped getting as many signatures in my home town to protest against the project and force the legislator to reverse their decision. It worked. The floodplain forest, the Hainburger Au, still exists as a nature sanctuary.

Nowadays, I live in the US, over 3,000 miles away from this more recent call for action to save yet another forest. I could hop into a more robust car than my old rickety yellow VW Beetle any more, but what would that help with an ocean between me an the endangered Hambacher Forst? Yet, I still feel the strong urge to be doing something.

What has also changed since then is that I’m a Druid ow and have developed some skills that I can use to help my Druid colleagues in Germany to fight for the protection of the Hambacher Forest over distance.

A recent trip to Iceland exposed me to something the old Ostmen living there, better known as Vikings, used for their Magic: staves. So many know the “Helm of Awe”, Ægishjálmur, these days, and some even Vegvísir, the magical compass. There are many more very interesting staves, but none of them specifically to protect a forest from coal miners.

Yet a few years ago I met with some folks in Glastonbury, UK, who called themselves “The Warrior’s Call – Pagans United Against Fracking”. They had their own sigil to protect the land from being blasted deep down in Earth’s shell. And…they came up with that sigil through their own meditative process.

Putting this memory together with what I learned in Iceland, I went to work. Did my typical Druid ritual to set the atmosphere for meditative work, cleared my mind, and off I went in search of a sigil in the form of Viking style staves that can be used to protect the Hambacher Forst, any forest actually.

Obviously, the staves that were found in Iceland were not randomly put together, but each line, each circle has a very specific meaning. Yes, many look like snowflakes. Surprise…they are from Iceland. But even so, I would very much assume that whoever came up with these staves, didn’t just copy snowflakes, but rather put elements together into a form, with the elements manifesting the intent behind the staff.

That’s exactly what I did. Formulated my intent and, with substantial otherworldly help , obviously, came up with this.
So, here is what I learned the lines in my sigil mean:

  • The ring in the center is the forest that needs protection.
  • The four small rings around it represent the groups that help protect the forest.
  • They are four for symmetry reasons only, the sigil remains the same whether there are less or more than four groups.
  • The groups are connected with the straight lines that cross each other in the center circle. They indicate the connection between the groups as well as that only the protectors have true access to the core of the forest.
  • The groups have created a wall of protection around the ring/forest, indicated by the square. There is a bow-like line at each corner of the square, which represent “the fetters of the Gods”. Pretty strong ties, I’d say.
  • The three little perpendicular lines on each of the cross lines, between the wall and the group circles, are a protection for the groups against any adversaries.

This is absolutely not “my” staff, rune, sigil. As with so many things in Druid work, I am but a vehicle for the knowledge provided by the Universe, the Divine. No copyright here.

Thus, please use it. Widely and rigorously. To protect that batch of trees against a building development, or the entire Amazon rain forest. The more we all use it, the stronger it will get. Just be sensible where you draw or carve it; as in don’t carve it into the bark of a live tree. But an old dead stump, absolutely. Paint or scratch it on pebbles and drop them as you wander through the forest. Or bury a bigger rock with the staff on it inconspicuously in the woods. Take a stick and “draw” it on the forest floor, knowing that the elements will eventually make it disappear into the ground. Which is an awesome process on it’s own.

Only thing that needs to be done is: actually doing it.


More Magic for your practice found in Alpine customs in my book “Mountain Magic” available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

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Conservative, Progressive Pagans?

In the political environment in the United States, where I currently live, but also in my home country in the center of Europe, Austria, and her neighbors as far West as the United Kingdom, the chasm between the conservative and progressive political views has widened considerably. (I am using progressive here and not liberal, because the latter has different meanings on the different continents.)

Do we even have to talk about politics? What about the notion that politics and religion should not be discussed? Well, politics quite literally means “of, for, or relating to citizens“. So yes, it has always been meant to be discussed amongst each other.

BartolomaeusnachtDiscussed. Debated even, maybe. Not used as a reason to yell at each other in disagreement. As a society we can honestly say, “Been there, done that.” See picture. Not necessary to go back there.

And the divide, together with the animosities people hurtle at each other, has definitely infiltrated pagan social media groups and the blogging scene. Having read something in that respect in a blog article recently — something that clearly showed that the writer of that blog, like so many others, aren’t clear about the definitions of terms, let alone political and economic theories and philosophies — compelled me to finally post some of my own thoughts.

The author of the blog article in question, a self declared conservative, ripped apart the writing of another blogger who, the readers were told, showed his progressive bias when elaborating on different social and economic topics, apparently being judgmental towards conservative readers. At least that was the judgment of the conservative blogger.

What was striking in this blog posting, and is in so many a social media conversation, are not the opinions conservatives have, but that there are so many, often contradicting opinions what “conservative” actually is. Obviously, there are different types of conservatisms, such as fiscal conservatives (even those are divided into no-tax/no debt conservatives vs. laissez-faire conservatives (those who oppose any and all government regulations, even if they protect the conservatives opposing them (think clean air, clean water etc.)). There are social conservatives who oppose particular social progress, may that be the notion that anybody, no matter their sexual preference and identity, must have the same rights (from purchasing goods to being safe in public to enjoy the benefits of marriage). Or the opposed issue may be for a  woman to choose carrying out a pregnancy. There are so many social issues that can — and need to — be leveled out if (and only if) a society truly embraces the notion of equality, and wants to adhere to a constitution that calls for equality amongst all people it governs.

And let’s not forget the conservatives who would like to bring back feudalism. For them, all the conservatives mentioned above are as progressive/liberal as they come. Democracy? Republic? Self-governance of “the people”, low-born commoners, sounds as crazy for them as free market capitalism, the idea of non-nobles owning anything beyond the filthy rags on their backs.

Clearly, while conservatism wants to hold on to, conserve, some values of old, these values progress throughout time as well. And thus, my question is not, “Are you a conservative?” but “What is it that you want to conserve? And does that make sense?”

I am happy do debate each and every one of the political angles of conservative vs. progressive ideas. Another day, at another place. Maybe in a pub over a beer or two. But here, we are actually talking about a spiritual movement, not a political one.

There is a conservative element to paganism. The movement embraces a (very) old worldview, wants to re-connect with, and hold on to, values and procedures and pantheons and morals and art and garment and and and from roughly 1,500 and more years ago. What the Old Faith, the pre-Christian spirituality paganism invokes is what draws me and so many others to it. Insofar, paganism is, per definitionem (Latin, very conservative), spiritually conservative.

While that’s pretty much straight forward, we are, as a species, also political, and therefore more complex. And complicated. Obviously, each and everyone of us has the freedom to choose, for oneself, which values one should embrace and uphold. However, when we combine our spiritual value set with our political one, we all have to be clear about that any value, and personal right, that came about after the rise of Christianity, is a progressive/liberal idea relative to pagan times. Freedom of speech, the right to vote and participate in the political process?  A fair trial? Any sense of equality or the notion that all have the same opportunities? Not in pagan times. Unless you belonged to the few that were nobility, you had to shut up and work until you dropped. Land ownership? Pffft. Taxes yes, but a tax code regulating what you ought to pay? Ha! Not being judged? Forget that.

Clearly, reconciling political and spiritual conservatism under these aspects is not that easy. One would need to define the latter exactly, all the while knowing that one’s social conservatism is not rooted in pagan times. Any choice of post-pagan conservative value therefore seems almost arbitrary. For example, the nowadays deemed conservative value of being pro life (as the blog writer mentioned above claimed to be) is not an originally pagan value. Back then, women knew which plants to consume as a contraceptive, and which one to abort a pregnancy. The “day-after-pill was a nightshade growing at the edge of the forest, available to everyone (dispensed by the knowledgeable witch, though). What to collect and how to process was knowledge handed down from generation to generation. It was as little an issue as setting out unwanted newborns in the wilderness. Such was the practice in pagan times.
Which is not what I am not advertising here, by all that is fair and free! I m just pointing out that we shan’t be carried away in our romantic embrace of the good old times too much.

Insofar, the idea of the Christian Church to forbid contraception and  abortion, to regulate a woman’s reproductive choices, was outlandishly and outrageously progressive for the pagans of old, and fought against openly and subversively.

Again, I am not here to convince anyone to choose one value set over the other, or to drop what they’ve held dear all their lives. My mission is to make sure folks understand the complexity of their choices. In other words, all this is not to say one shouldn’t be “conservative”. Whatever works for you. As everybody else, I obviously have my opinions about these issues, and reserve the right to keep, and utter, them when asked.

So, when I claim here that I do not — nor should I or anyone else — mind that folks have quite opposing views on how our species should best negotiate living together somewhat harmoniously in this herd of about seven billion heads, I will at the same time say that I very much mind the manner of the discourse. Especially when such discourse is conducted without any manners.

But while I obviously cannot patronize everybody into a behavior to my liking, I would like to offer a thought on how we, pagans of seemingly opposite worldviews, are, when you think about it, closer to each other than our opinions, and how we utter them, often suggest.

When you think about conservative and progressive being the opposing endpoints of a line, you have the typical way of depicting that seemingly unresolvable conundrum.

P-C Line

Yet, if you think about how much of our lives isn’t happening on straight lines, but much P-C Circlerather in circles, go ahead and bend that line with these opposing end points into one. Not surprisingly, conservative and progressive are all of the sudden very close to each other. If you were to zoom in, you just might notice that there is a little space between the two ends of the line. This is the place where we pagans mingle, the space betwixt and between, where the veil to the Otherworld is thinnest, where we meet Gods and Goddesses, Spirits and Guides, Faeries and AnglesP-C Middle and Selkies, Gnomes, Elves and Dwarfs. And each other. Just seems that our values and issues are not only in the same place, really. Relative to who else is hanging around in that magical space, our views and beliefs, as opposing as they are, also appear rather close to each other.

This is a good place, one in which we all feel comfortable. And since it’s so small, and so close to the divine, to the Magic, we all have the responsibility to keep it “clean” and welcoming.

IMG_0399So why not, rather than verbally maim each other not unlike it is shown for real in the clash of faiths — the conservative Catholics vs. the progressive Huguenots — in the first picture way above, discuss our thoughts and move on in merriment, like the picture — also showing a quite traditional human interaction — here suggests?


This blog writer is also the author of “Mountain Magic”, a book on how one can integrate Alpine customs and lore into one’s personal maical practice. Available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com

 

Posted in Druid Contemplation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Eco – Paganism. Choice or Mandate?

dachsteingletschervergleich

Dachstein Glacier; the most eastern Glacier in the Alps. The early Celtic settlers in the Hallstatt saw it from their huts. (© Sammlung Gesellschaft für ökologische Forschung / Wolfgang Zängl)

In a previous blog article I touched upon the idea of creating spells by using a pattern that seemingly was utilized in pagan times in Europe. Here is the link to the full article, but I shall just give a short overview here.

Very old spells seem to have had four components. I colored them to identify them more easily in the spell.

  1. A story that contains an analogy to the situation at hand and invokes deities
  2. What’s wrong
  3. What rights the wrong
  4. An affirmation

One benefit of styling a spell that way is that, through the story, the outcome is predestined, and unintended consequences are virtually ruled out. Also, asking the Gods and Goddesses helps with the strength of the spell.

The spell is also very clear and explicit about what needs to be addressed, how it is being addressed, and that all of it is an affirmed intent.

The problem is, that most stories of old deal with age old human conditions and situations: love, poverty, treasures and riches, magical powers, what have you. What you won’t find that easily in the better known tales are very modern needs and .

Like Climate Change, as a reader of my article from down under asked in a comment. What would be a good story that can be used to work against climate change, or for environmental issues in general?

Climate change, environmental problems – a concern for pagans?

At first glance, one would assume that stands without question. After all, paganism is very much a nature-connected movement, an umbrella for many old earthbound faiths and religions. But not everyone in the movement feels that way, and as their are climate change deniers amongst muggles, so there are in the pagan community.

For me, the latter lacks a sense of logic. For my own path, Druidry, nature, the forest grove, is quasi the temple. An expression I am not too fond of, for the Druids of old didn’t use the concept of temples, even though they probably knew about them from their own travels into the southern, Mediterranean regions of Europe, or from stories they heard. May that as it be, the forest was holy ground, and keeping it intact, was a Druids’ concern back then as it is now. Also, it was and has been since a resource for fire wood, building material, and food.
Another, later group, was also much dependent on what nature delivered. Witches, all of them having used herbs collected out in nature back then and now, must have an interest that the ingredients for their potions and spells must be of good quality, and not tampered with chemicals or disappearing from the landscape.

It’s not unicorn fluff – an intact natural environment is quintessential for any pagan work

Being that environmental issues are a big concern of mine — and of many other Druids, pagans — I went on a mission to find an old tale that can be used to create a spell addressing Global Warming. It’s real. The picture at the beginning of the article shows oetzione of the many glaciers in the Alps that have retreated visibly since the beginning of the Industrialization Era. Ötzi, the man that was swallowed up by a glacier some 5,000 years ago, and spit out only a couple of decades past, is a real sign of retreating glaciers. Some scientists believe, that there will be no more glaciers in the Alps by the end of this century.

There is a lot we can do to minimize the negative impact of our human activity on the environment. And then there is an additional one that the particular skillsets many on the pagan paths have allow us to do: ritual. Including, but not limited to, casting spells. And here is a suggestion on how to go about it, old pagan style.

In the back of my mind I remembered a story Philipp Carr-Gomm (current Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) tells on occasion. A story about a king kidnapping and raping maidens who are the protectors of a well that provides water, and prosperity, to the kingdom, the Land. The king and his men’s transgression lead to the drying up of the well and the withering of the Land.

King Arthur to the rescue!

After some research, I found a version of the tale, “The Elucidation”, a “brief” prologue to Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval from the Arthurian Cycle. I have posted the full length script below, but here I want to highlight a few passages that could be relevant to a spell that includes that story and its outcome to make sure that your spell has similar outcomes.

Line 62 ff talk about the violation of the Maidens who protect — are, really — the Land

King Amangon was the first to violate their hospitality:
He behaved wickedly and underhandedly;
Afterwards many others did likewise
Because of the example given
By the king who should have protected the maidens
And guarded and kept them safe.
He forced himself upon one of the maidens
And deflowered her against her will
And took the golden bowl from her
And carried it off along with the girl,
Then had her serve him ever afterwards.

Then, lines 89 ff describe what the effect of this King and his men’s violation of the Maidens had on the Land:

Know that this is the truth.
My lords, in this way
The land went into decline
And the king who had so wronged them
And those who’d followed his example
All met a dreadful end.
The land was so wasted
That no tree ever bloomed there again,
The grasses and flowers withered,
And the streams dried up.

Clearly, there is a modern equivalence to this old tale, where mistaken politicians, their greedy corporate followers, and the careless people who’d follow [their] example rape the environment with the same arrogant feeling of entitlement.

But there is a silver lining on the horizon. There are people who take upon themselves to protect the Land, the environment. They are not fluffy unicorn folks. They are knights of King Arthur’s Round Table, as lines 116ff tell us

The peers of the Round Table
Came there in the time of King Arthur;
None so good have been seen since then.
These were such good knights,
So worthy and so strong and so bold,
So sturdy and so brave,
That as soon as they heard
Tell of the adventures
They wished to restore the wells.
They all swore an oath together
To protect by their arms
The maidens who’d come forth
And the bowls they’d be carrying,
And to destroy the lineage
Of those who had so harmed them
That they had stopped
Coming forth from the wells.

Now, not everyone needs to be a knight and have no resources other than slaying and hanging everyone they captured (please do not view my writing as a suggestion for that). What I am suggesting here is to use our powers and skills, casting spells being one of them, to keep the people who don’t understand from willfully mistreating the Land.

Of course, a spell needs to be more concise than lengthy, so our next task is to bring the three quoted passages down to four to six lines. Not unlike expressing some complex information in a tweet limited to 280 characters.

So, the story part of the spell could sound something like this:

Once King Amangon failed his duty
And he and his wicked followers
violated the Maidens protecting the well.
The Land was wasted, the Land withered,
And the streams dried up.

The next step is to state what’s wrong. In a sense, the story part itself hinted at the situation already, but we also want make sure that we explicitly say that we are facing a similar situation today

And like it was then, greedy and wicked people
Exploit and destroy the Land today,
Carelessly laying waste to Mother Earth,
Violating the Goddess and her domain.

Not only have we explicitly mentioned now what needs to be taken care of, we also have invoked a deity, ensuring a more powerful outcome of the spell.

Thirdly, we need to suggest what needs to be done. When it said in the ancient spell I mentioned in the other article that “if the bones are broken … bone to bone”, we now have to declare that

Thus, I/we <enter here what is being done>
To restore the health of the Land
To protect the Goddess and her children

From those who harm them
So I swear
Like the brave knights
From King Arthur’s Round Table.

A few suggestions for what could be entered into the placeholder above would be — if you want to go a little dark — to bind someone (that could be a whole organization), to freeze assets, to make machinery inoperable, whatever is needed and you feel comfortable doing. Alternatively, and a little lighter, you could compel people or organizations to understand science, to come to the negotiating table, or to change their ways. Whichever way you go, there will be some who will feel shortchanged by your spell, by your Magic and will claim that they’re being harmed. Yet, this issue, the health of our planet, is such a greater good that financial or other material loss for the perpetrators is absolutely warranted.

There are also a few accounts later on in the story that tell of the deeds of the knights, when they for example captured some kidnappers and sent one of them to King Arthur, to surrender to the monarch, to turn his (the kidnapper’s) back on his wicked ways.

This is just a suggestion, but one I gladly share with anyone. Be creative, and be epic with your new spell to save the planet!


More Magic for your practice found in Alpine customs in my book “Mountain Magic” available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com


Full version of The Elucidation as translated by William W. Kibler, posted by the Robbins Library’s Digital Camelot Project of the University of Rochester, NY:

For a noble beginning
A romance can begin worthily
With the most enjoyable tale there is:
That is, the [Story of the] Grail, whose secret
No one should ever reveal or recount;
For the story might reveal so much
Before it’s recited to the end
That someone could suffer for it
Who had not violated the secret;
The wise thing, then, is to leave it
And simply pass it by;
For, unless Master Blihis is lying,
No one should reveal the secret.
Now listen to me one and all
And you will hear a tale
That will be a delight to listen to,
For in it will be the seven guards,
Who throughout the world have charge
Of all the good stories that have ever been told.
These writings will recount
What sort of people the seven guards are,
How [they act] and what end they will come to;
For you have never heard the story
Told or recounted truthfully;
Yet how and why the powerful country
Of Logres was destroyed
Was noised and bruited widely;
Time was, it was much discussed.
The kingdom went to ruin,
The land was so dead and desolate
That it wasn’t worth two bits;
They lost the voices of the wells
And the maidens who dwelled in them.
Indeed, the maidens served a very important purpose:
No one who wandered the highways,
Whether at night or in the morning,
Ever needed to alter his route
In order to find food or drink;
He had only go to one of the wells.
He could ask for nothing
In the way of fine and pleasing food
That he would not have forthwith,
Provided he asked reasonably.
At once a damsel would come forth
From the well, as I understand:
Travelers could not have asked for one more beautiful!
In her hand she’d be bearing a golden cup
With bacon, meat pies, and bread.
Another maiden would come carrying
A white towel and a gold and silver
Platter, in which was
The food that had been requested
By the man who’d come to be fed.
He was warmly received at the well;
And if this food did not please him,
She would bring a number of others,
Joyfully and generously,
According to his desires.
One and all, the maidens
Happily and properly served
All those who wandered the highways
And came to the wells for food.
King Amangon was the first to violate their hospitality:
He behaved wickedly and underhandedly;
Afterwards many others did likewise
Because of the example given
By the king who should have protected the maidens
And guarded and kept them safe.
He forced himself upon one of the maidens
And deflowered her against her will
And took the golden bowl from her
And carried it off along with the girl,
Then had her serve him ever afterwards.
Ill luck was to come of it,
For no maiden served again
Or came forth from that well
To help any man who happened by
And requested sustenance there;
And all other [travelers] followed [the king’s example].
God! Why didn’t the other vassals
Act according to their honor?
When they saw that their lord
Was raping the maidens
Because of their beauty,
They likewise raped them
and carried off the golden bowls.
Never afterwards did any maiden serve
Or come forth from any of the wells;
Know that this is the truth.
My lords, in this way
The land went into decline
And the king who had so wronged them
And those who’d followed his example
All met a dreadful end.
The land was so wasted
That no tree ever bloomed there again,
The grasses and flowers withered,
And the streams dried up.
Afterwards no one could locate
The court of the Rich Fisher,
Which had made the land resplendent
With gold and silver, splendid furs,
Precious brocaded silks,
Fine foodstuffs and cloth,
Gerfalcons and merlins,
Goshawks, sparrowhawks, and falcons.
In earlier days, when the court could be found,
There was throughout the land
Such an abundance of riches,
Of all those I’ve named here,
That everyone, rich or poor,
Was awestruck at the wealth.
But now it has lost everything.
In the kingdom of Logres
Were all the riches of the world;
The peers of the Round Table
Came there in the time of King Arthur;
None so good have been seen since then.
These were such good knights,
So worthy and so strong and so bold,
So sturdy and so brave,
That as soon as they heard
Tell of the adventures
They wished to restore the wells.
They all swore an oath together
To protect by their arms
The maidens who’d come forth
And the bowls they’d be carrying,
And to destroy the lineage
Of those who had so harmed them
That they had stopped
Coming forth from the wells.
Whenever they captured one
They had him hanged or slain.
The knights gave alms and prayed
To God that He might restore
The wells to the state
In which they had been originally;
And for the honor they would thus pay them
They intended to request their service.
But no matter how hard they searched
They could never find them;
They could never hear any voices
And no maiden ever ventured forth.
Yet they did find something
That greatly amazed them,
For in the forests they found maidens
More beautiful than you could wish;
With them were knights
Heavily armed and on their chargers;
They stood beside the maidens
And fought against anyone
Who wished to carry them off,
Killing many a knight.
Because of the maidens, I believe,
There were many battles in the land.
King Arthur could not keep
From losing many a good knight there,
But he gained many a good one too,
As the story will tell you.
The first knight captured
Was named Blihos Bliheris;
Sir Gawain captured him,
Thanks to the great prowess he possessed,
And sent him to surrender to Arthur.
Blihos mounted his horse and rode without delay
To the court, where he surrendered.
But the king did not recognize him,
Nor did anyone else;
Yet such good stories did he tell
That no one grew tired
Of listening to his words.
The members of court asked him
About the maidens who rode
Through the forest; since they’d never
Been there, they had every reason
To ask and inquire.
The knight told his stories so well
That they gladly listened to him,
And the maidens and knights
Stayed awake many a night
To hear and question him.
He said to them: “You wonder indeed
About the maidens you see
Going through these forests,
And you can’t stop asking
Where we were born.
I’ll tell you the truth:
We are all offspring of the damsels—
There will never be any more beautiful in the world—
Whom King Amangon raped.
The wrong will not be righted
So long as this world lasts.
The peers of the Round Table
In their nobility and honor,
In their worthiness and strength,
Made a great effort to restore
The wells that the squires,
The knights and the gentlemen—
I’ll just tell you the essentials—
The men all travel together,
Along with the maidens
Who have returned to that land.
Through forest and countryside
They must to wander thus
Until God allows them to find
The court from which will emanate the joy
That will bring splendor back to this land.
Such adventures will come to those
Who seek the court
As were never before experienced
Or recounted in this land.”
What he told and related to them
Was most pleasing and agreeable to all.
Soon afterward
The good knights of the court
Met to discuss this matter:
Let each knight equip himself,
Then all will seek earnestly
For the court of the Rich Fisher,
Who was so skilled in magic
That he could take on a hundred shapes;
Some would seek him in one guise
And others in another.
My lord Gawain found the Rich Fisher
During the reign of King Arthur,
And truly went to his court.
Later you will be told
Of the joy he brought about there,
Which restored the whole kingdom.
But even before Gawain
A very young knight
Had discovered it first,
And no one could find in all the world
A braver knight than he.
Afterwards the young man of whom
I’ve just spoken came to the Round Table;
His deeds outshone those
Of all knights who’d come before
Or who could still be found in all the world.
First he was held in low esteem,
Then found to be of noble estate;
The knight who was seeking the court
Sought so long throughout the land
That he found it, it’s true,
And many among you know of him:
He was Perceval the Welshman.
He asked what purpose the Grail
Served, but he failed to ask
Why the lance bled
When he saw it, or about the sword
Of which half was missing
And the remainder lay in the bier
Upon the corpse, or the manner
Of the great disappearance.
But I tell you in no uncertain terms
That he asked who the dead man
Was who was in the room
And about the precious silver cross
That led the procession.
Three times a day for three hours
There were such loud lamentations
In the room that no man would have been so brave
As not to have been frightened by the noise.
Then, after they had finished the service,
They hung four censers
On four precious candelabra,
Which stood at the corners of the bier.
The cries immediately ceased;
At that point, everyone lay in a faint.
The long and wide room
Remained empty and frightful;
The stream of blood flowed
From a vase that held the lance
Through the precious silver conduit.
Then the palace completely filled
With people and knights
And the most sumptuous feast
In all the world was prepared.
Then the unknown king
Came forth in splendid array;
He came forth attired from a chamber.
He arrived so magnificently attired
That no one could describe
His robe or adornments,
So splendid were they;
On his finger he had a beautiful ring;
His sleeves were tightly laced
And on his head was a golden circlet—
Its stones were worth a fortune;
He wore a belt with a beautiful buckle;
No one could ever find
A more handsome man alive.
Anyone who had seen him earlier
That day dressed as a fisher
Would rightly be uneasy.
As soon as the king took his seat
You would have seen all the knights
Seated at the other tables.
The bread was served immediately
And the wine set before them
In large gold and silver bowls.
Afterwards you would have seen the Grail
Come through a chamber door
Without servant or attendant
And serve from itself most properly
Onto precious gold platters
Worth a great fortune.
It placed the first course
Before the king, then served
All the others who were present;
The courses that it brought them
And the foodstuffs it gave them
Were a marvel to behold.
Then came the great marvel
To which no other can compare.
But you’ll never hear me speak of it
Because Perceval must tell it
Later in the story.
It’s a great crime and great shame
To break up such a good story
And not tell it properly.
When the good knight comes
Who found the court three times,
Then will you hear me relate
Point by point, omitting nothing,
The truth about whom the wells served
Where the knights were,
And what purpose the Grail served;
And I’ll tell you everything
About the bleeding lance
And why the sword was in
The bier—I’ll tell you everything
And leave nothing out.
I’ll explain to the people
Who had never heard anything about them
Both the grief and the disappearing,
Just as this process is meant to unfold.
My lords, it is the proven truth
That the court was found seven times
In the seven branches of the story;
But you do not know what this means.
Understand that the seven branches
Are in truth the seven guards;
Each guard will tell for himself
That he found the court;
It should not be told in advance.
Now in this composition it is time
For me to identify each of the seven guards;
I do not want to omit any one,
But must identify and tell about them,
Just as they are, from beginning to end.
The seventh branch, the most pleasing,
Is entirely about the lance
With which Longinus struck the side
Of the King of Holy Majesty.
The sixth, without a doubt,
Is about the great struggle, the great torment.
The fifth will tell you in its turn
About the wrath and loss of Husdent.
The fourth is the Story of the Swan:
No coward was Carahet,
That dead knight in the skiff
Who first came to Glamorgan.
Next is the third, about the goshawk
Which so frightened Castrar;
Pecorin, Amangon’s son, always
Bore the wound upon his forehead;
Now I’ve named the third for you.
The second, according to the good story-tellers,
Is not in verse;
It is the Story of the Great Sorrows,
How Lancelot of the Lake came
To the place where he lost his strength.
Finally, there is the last story:
Since I have embarked on this task
I have to tell about it,
And you’ll not hear me put it off;
It is the Adventure of the Shield—
And there’s never been a better one!
These are seven genuine stories
That all proceed from the Grail.
This adventure brought about
Joy, whereby the population multiplied
After the great destruction.
Through these adventures the court
And the Grail were truly found again,
And through them the kingdom was so replenished
That the streams that had stopped flowing
And the springs that had surged forth
Long ago but were now dried up
All flowed again through the meadows;
The grass was once more green and thick
And the woods leafy and shaded.
On the day the court was found again,
Throughout all the land
The forests became so dense and deep
And so beautiful and thickly grown
That everyone who was traveling
Through the land marveled.
But then there returned a band of people
Full of bitter resentment:
Those who had come from the wells
But were not recognized.
They built castles and cities,
Towns, villages and strongholds,
And for the damsels they built
The magnificent Castle of Maidens;
They built the Perilous Bridge
And the great Proud Castle;
Nobly and graciously
They set over them a troop
Of peers from the rich household;
In their great pride they set up
In opposition to the Round Table;
This became known to everyone.
Within the castle each knight had his ladylove;
They led a splendid existence.
There were three hundred sixty-six
Defenders of the castle,
And each of these had lordship
Over twenty knights;
The total number I’ll not fail
To give: they came to
Seven thousand six hundred eighty-six.
They exerted themselves mightily, but in vain;
Know well, all you who live in the world,
That you wouldn’t find any of them alive today.
They rode through that land
And made war on King Arthur;
The good knights left the court
To fight against them;
I know that when they captured one
They held him prisoner rather than free him.
King Arthur wanted to go there
To sap and destroy the castle;
But everyone who hated him in those days
Attacked him at that point
And made mighty war against him.
It was pointless to seek war elsewhere.
At that time the wars were so intense
That they lasted a good four years—
So the story tells us,
As does he who wrote the book.
I tell them to you one by one
Because he wishes to show each of you
What purpose the Grail served,
For the service it performed
Was revealed to him by the good master.
The good purpose it served will no longer
Be hushed or hidden, for he will
Teach it openly to all.
So you have heard from me
About King Arthur, how he
Was at war for four years
Against the people of his land;
But he brought all this to an end
In such a way that no vassal or neighbor
Failed thereafter to do his will,
Either freely or by force;
This is the proven truth.
Know, moreover, that the war
Redounded to the king’s honor
And to their shame, as most people know.
Then on that day the rich household
Took leave of the court
And went to hunt in the forests.
Those who wished to fish
Followed the good rivers.
This was how they comported themselves:
Some spent time playing at love,
Some passed their time in other ways.
They relaxed thus the entire winter
Until the summer came.
Now Chrétien will relate here
The exemplum you have heard;
Then Chrétien will not have wasted
His effort, for he’ll have aimed and striven
By command of the count
To put into rhyme the best story
That’s ever been told in royal court:
It is the Story of the Grail,
The book of which was given him by the count.
Now you’ll hear how he acquits himself.

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Celebrating Imbolc? Here’s an Idea!

schwarzesschafPeople often ask me what they should do to celebrate the Cross Quarter Days such as the one upcoming, Imbolc. It seems that the type of people who ask that question have already a rite or some kind of ceremony at hand, even know it in and out  — i.e. are not completely new to their path — but feel they could do more. But what? Well, why don’t we explore what more can be done.

Let’s start with looking at why we celebrate festivals like the cross quarter days in the first place. And here, I don’t want to go into detail of what each one of them means, what the background of the individual festival is. Rather, I would like to take a step back and look at this more conceptually, almost from a cultural anthropology point of view.

When the European people of old — of whose festivals we are talking about here — began to settle from their nomadic life, growing crops became a major occupation for everyone in the tribe, paired with taking care of life stock. While the life of a nomad is already driven by the seasons — different game is available at different times of the year in different places — the observation of the farming aspects of the seasons became crucial for these new farmers. With that came a deep awareness of the cyclical nature of the Land, and how their work needs to be in tune with these changes. Obviously, people knew already back then, this cycle and the gifts available in each of them must be given by some sort of divine power. Because why on Earth would, shortly after you drop a kernel of seed on the ploughed crust of the soil, a small plant shoot up? It’s Magic, and where there is Magic, the Gods are not far away.

So, now you have to make sure that the Gods and the Goddesses are actually willing to continue to gift you with their treasures, Sun turn after Sun turn. And how better to do that by worshipping them, humbly requesting their goodwill, and by giving back to them what you yourself crafted, or brought up by the sweat of their brows? Prayers and sacrifices are what we are talking about here; the means to appease the deities and ensure that the cycles keep turning.

Today, we feel secure that this cycle will continue, because science tells us all about the correlation of the seasons with our planet’s rotation around the Sun, and draws a meticulous picture how the cells in the kernel of corn multiply to grow a plant we later harvest.  Yet still, some of us have an awareness that all what’s going on out there on the Land is animated, has some form of consciousness, is a function of the will of the Gods. We are part of it, we need it more than it needs us. It seems to still be a good idea to tune in, to worship, to humbly request, and thank for, the gifts of the Goddess.

Whether we celebrate this attunement by socializing in a group ritual and maybe a feast afterwards, or our need for peace and quiet leads us to withdraw to a place where we feel safe and secluded, where we can conduct our own hedge ritual to spin the Wheel of the Year forward, the important charge is that we actually do it.

And this is where we are: we celebrate the turn of the seasons, have our rituals honoring the Goddesses and Gods relevant to the next season, thank those of the last, give our offerings and call upon the powers of star and stone, of the four directions, the elements and what have you. And that’s all good.
It’s also where some of us feel we could do more. Not like in grander with more shiny props. Instead, more in the sense of adding some kind of service element to the whole shebang. This would actually be entirely Druidic, to not only celebrate for and amongst people on the same — or at least similar — path, but take it up a notch, go out there and connect with the people who originally depended on these turning-the-wheel celebrations the most, the farming community.

So, let’s take Imbolc’s deep agricultural connection, it’s linkage to the lactating of the ewes, the female sheep, heralding the birth of the first lambs this year. Why not find a farm or coop that breeds sheep in your area, and offer the owners to do a blessing of their live stock? You could combine the Imbolc rite in however way you usually do with an actual meeting the flock of sheep, possibly even blessing them. Be creative with the procedure. You could go traditional and herd the animals between two people forming a gate, with burning incense creating a veil through which the sheep walk and get cleansed. While that might sound awesome, a ceremony like this needs some major preparation, not only on your, but also on the farmer’s side. In some areas, rituals like that might be common, or at least known, even though for other animals (this is done for cattle on some remoter areas of the British Isles as well as in the Alps), but for much of the world the sheep owners might scratch their heads when faced with such a request and might recommend simpler solutions.

When I organized such an Imbolc rite for my Druid Grove (that’s how some of us call our groups) at an animal sanctuary a couple of years back, we settled for just walking amongst these beautiful creatures. I must admit that the sheep were not as willing to cooperate as much as I hoped they would — they obviously didn’t know us and kept running away — but with the help of the sanctuary owners we were able to reign them in and bless them as a whole flock. And then the horses and other animals that lived out their lives there.

It was a great experience for all of us, and made us feel that our ritual, our attempt to attune to the change of the season, was not only shared amongst us, and self-serving, but also a service to the animals and the wider community.

Yes, this is just a little more, a small add-on to your typical cross quarter day rite. But, over time, if you make that a habit, other ideas may come to mind, and you could begin cooperating with the farming community around you. And that’s what really would be so much more.

A side note: My article Vaselen – Awakening The Spring Maiden introduces an additional element you could integrate into an Imbolc rite.



Read about other tools for your practice found in Alpine customs And in my book “Mountain Magic” available at lulu.com (preferred) and distributers such as amazon.com I write about other traditional Alpine traditions related to the cross quarter days.

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