Friday, 3 July 2015

Owning your path...

If there's one thing I have learned during the Ovate work of the OBOD Gwersi it is best summed up by this quote about ritual
"you enter Druidry for yourself, not to be part of a club. Clubs have rules and procedures. Druidry does not. The Gwers are there to help you express Your Druidry. Not mine or anyone else's. If your idea of ritual is sitting at home or under a tree mulling over the words and intent of a ritual, then so be it. That's fine. Just make the ritual your own. And yes (horror of horrors!), if you don't like ritual, don't do it! There is nothing in Druidry that says you have to. Just accept that some people find it deeply meaningful and helpful."

But above all, at all times, be your own Druid.

Which links into this quote from Monty Python's Life of Brian "You've got to work it out for yourselves..." because this is not a path where some representative of a doctrine is authorised by the powers of that doctrine to tell you how to act, interact and think. You have to take responsibility for your doctrine, your own thoughts and represent that doctrine with how you choose to live your life in your actions and interactions. You can't abdicate that responsibility, and your freedom, to another being. This is both empowering and harder at the same time. Much like life generally empowerment only comes through effort. From a Gewessi perspective I don't think that the gods want passive sheep, we honour and respect the gods. By being empowered individuals we earn their respect and honour.

Effort is uncomfortable and the greatest rewards are in hindsight, whilst at the time every atom of your being was not enjoying the moment. That your will power overcame the negative wilfulness to achieve the rewards is the key. This ties into the Willa, from my post on the Northern Soul, in the bright Willa brings power in the murk it brings weakness.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Litha seed thoughts

May the smoke bless us and the fire light joy in our hearts

take time to enjoy the moment, smell the roses and be rewarded for your efforts. The days are warming and lots of sunlight means the whole of nature is busy outside maximising the moment and so should you.

When the Long Man of Wilmington leaps into vision of a morning,
when the rising Sunna soaks the Downs in gold,
then you ken the gates are open
and thats a vision for the mind to hold.

I was at a concert, an amateur choir and orchestra with professional leads, performed a Ralph Vaughan Williams programme. Serendipitously it covered the Druidic elements of earth, Towards the Unknown Region, air, The Lark Ascending, and finally the sea with a Sea Symphony. Instead of railing that it meant I would be too tired for an early Solstice dawn I realised that Druidry is about being in the here and now. I was in an architecturally and acoustically fascinating late Victorian Arts and Crafts church listening to a Surrey composer with a Sussex choir and an orchestra from Kent. Gewessi is about the spirit of place and nothing can be more related to the spirit of south east England than that mix.

Prefaced to Vaughan Williams' score of The Lark Ascending is this poem from George Meredith...
He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound.
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
For singing till his heaven fills,
'Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley in his golden cup,
And he with win which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes.

'Till lost on his aerial rings
in light, and then the fancy sings.
Hear the Skylark here which is the sound of summer across the South Downs and from my garden. If Yule is about hearth and family then I think Litha is about getting out and enjoying arts and culture be it a festival, concert or any event that means you appreciate the long days.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Northern Soul - an essay on my view

Introduction

Extending existing heathen research

This essay aims to explore the concepts of the Soul in Heathen terms. Diana L.Paxton, Swain Wodening and the Troth (Ragnar and Rurik) have done much work on this. The term Northern Soul comes from my perception of the commonality between the tribes of Northern Europe whom I group under the term the 'Northern Tribes'. Within this group are the Norse, Germanic, Slavic and Celtic tribes who met in the cultural melting pot of the early medieval period (400CE – 900CE). Evidence to prove this convergence of tribes can be seen most clearly in modern day Scotland where Pictish, Irish, Saxon and Norse people traded, raided and intermingled. In modern times Scotland is regarded as a Celtic nation however during this period it was a mix of the nations of Dalriada (Irish Gaels), Pictland (Proto-Celts?), Strathclyde (Romano-British Celts), and Lothian (Angles/Saxons) but then later on the Vikings (Danes, Norwegians and Swedish) overlaid this by taking control of the Northern and Western isles. I believe that this intermingling of cultures occurred across Europe through trade, marriage and war. This work builds and extends, in my opinion, the work of those mentioned above. It aims to provide a structure for improvement and rune work that will prove useful to other OBOD members following a heathen path. I have also chosen a title that has another meaning, or kenning, here in the UK: "The simplest definition of 'Northern Soul' is Black American Soul music which became popular in a sub-culture in the North of England." A cross-cultural fertilisation in modern times.

Overall Concept

How the Gods created Man

Fundamental to this is the Voluspa of the Poetic Edda where it is described how the Gods created Man. Within this context Man is it's true Anglo-Saxon meaning of person, the word Man is probably derived from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word for Mind/Soul/Spirit. Below are two translations of the Poetic Edda text:

Standard translation

Voluspá" (17-18, Hollander's translation)

 17. Until there came three mighty and benevolent

 Æsir to the world from their assembly.

 They found on earth, nearly powerless,

 Ask and Embla, void of destiny.

 

 To the coast then came, kind and mighty

 from the gathered gods three great Æsir;

 on the land they found, of little strength,

 Ask and Embla, unfated yet.

 

 18. Spirit they possessed not,  sense they had not, blood nor motive powers, nor goodly colour.

 Spirit gave Odin, sense gave Hoenir,  blood gave Lodur and goodly colour.

 Sense they possessed not,  soul they had not,

 being nor bearing, nor blooming hue;

 soul [ond] gave Öthinn,

 sense [oðr] gave Hoenir,

 being gave Lódhur and blooming hue [lá, læti, litr].

To modern people Odin is the one-eyed All Father and leader of the Norse Pantheon in the Icelandic tradition, Tolkien certainly took many characteristics for Gandalf from Odin.  Hoenir is a little known God who was renowned for his silence.  Lodur is only mentioned in this passage but many, myself included, think that Lodur is another name for Loki.  This triad of Gods (Odin, Hoenir and Loki) appears several times in the Norse myths so it would fit the pattern if Lodur was Loki.

From this we gain a triple view of Man - which we all know of as Mind, Body and Soul.  I have translated this into the concepts of Intellectual Capacity, Physical Capacity and Spiritual Capacity. .  However this is still too simplistic to describe the complexities of the Soul and the Heathen view of the Soul.   A first clue is given in Beowulf:
"ðæs mannes sáwl hæfþ on hire þreö þing, öæt is gemynd and andgit and willa. ðurh öæt gemynd se man geþencþ öa þing öe he gehýrde oòòe geseah oòòe geleornode
man's soul has in it three things, that is memory and understanding and will. By the memory a man recollects the things that he has heard or seen or learned, Homl. Th. i. 288, 18-21: 28."  This triplicate relates to Man's intellectual capacity.  There are other Anglo-Saxon words, besides sáwl/soul that also relate to their view of the soul in it's spiritual capacity:

Fylgja a spirit, often of the opposite sex to the person to which it was attached, which is similar to Jung's Anime/Animus and
Hamingja which is like a guardian angel associated with the luck of an individual or clan.

The various essays on the soul mentioned above combine to produce an emerging picture of the Northern Soul as a 3 x 3 pattern where each of the Capacities is sub-divided into 3 :

Intellect

Memory

Will power

Breath

Spirit

Luck

Body

Skin / Hide

Health

What is foremost here is that the whole is made up of 9. Within Heathen terms 9 is the most powerful of numbers - there are 9 worlds on the World Tree, Odin's ring Draupnir drops 8 rings (which plus itself makes 9) every 9 nights and Thor takes 9 steps at Ragnarok before dying. In these circumstances it is a logical extension that the soul should contain 9 interactive components.

The 3 Parts of Intellectual Capacity

Hyge - Intellect

hyge m: thought, mind, heart, disposition

In Modern English Hyge can best be translated as 'reason'. The definition of reason is a philosophical and psychological question of the highest order and one that I shall not define here. This essay is not about the methods of reason but the view of reason with regards to this heathen's viewpoint on the Soul. How do we view reason? We talk of a person's intellect in terms of bright, dim, strong, weak, quick, slow, shallow or deep. This provides a clue on the person and how we view them. Some people are 'too clever by half' which shows a level of distrust that is mirrored in the Havamal verse (“It is best for a man to be middle wise”).

The Northern view of the intellect should be like Odin's Raven Hugin - our thoughts travel the ether. A Raven flies directly to and from its destination and with its piercing eyes can see all. In this respect the Hyge is our external or conscious representation of intellect. Within working with your own Hyge it is necessary to know yourself. Using a bird analogy is a useful tool to reach this understanding. Consider what sort of bird are you?
An Eagle, lofty, with a keen eye for the bigger picture but not getting involved unless it is to snatch your prey;

A Magpie that is quick and detailed but prone to distraction from bright ideas that pique your interest;

Or maybe you're a Wren busily working on the detail but with little overview for the bigger picture.

To summarize the Hyge is the external representation of one's intellectual capacity. Another theorist, Raymond Cattell, described intelligence as having two distinct factors. The first he called Crystallized Intelligence, representing acquired knowledge, and second, Fluid Intelligence, or our ability to use this knowledge. This reflect the Odin's ravens; If Fluid Intelligence is our Hugin then Acquired Intelligence is the Munin….

Mynd - Memory

gemynd f: memory, consciousness, mind
gemyndig adj: (with gen.) mindful of, remembering, thinking of
The other of Odin's Ravens is called Munin, or Memory, and so between Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) Odin sees all that occurs in the world. If the memory is a carcass Munin picks over the pieces and retrieves the best morsels for Odin. For most people it is the disorganized state of their connections that means things are forgotten. The process of mind mapping (see links), which is also utilised in the OBOD Gwers, is one to improve the structure of the connections so that they can be searched more efficiently thus improving memory.

The memory is separated into two main parts - the short-term memory and the long-term memory. The short term is said to have a capacity of 7 +/- 2 things. This gives a maximum of 9 and minimum of 5 - things, some people will be able to cope with more, some with less and this will vary depending upon many other factors such as stress, tiredness etc…. These things to remember can be activities, tasks and all the other multitude of things that man has to remember. Once the short-term memory reaches it's maximum it starts to drop things from the list, or in other words, you start to forget things. The long-term memory is where you store all that knowledge that you've learnt. Association is the tree by which the branches and nodes connect to retrieve stored long-term memories.

Your memory is where all you have learnt is stored, parts of the OBOD Gwers are related to improving your memory, it is thought that the Ogham were the basis of a mind mapping system for the Druids. This would explain why there are so many lists of relationships for each of the Ogham. Each of these relationships can extended to create a searchable tree starting at each Ogham letter and then branching onwards. Similarly the Runes can be viewed in the same way - the Ogham tracts include Runes amongst the Ogham. For a non-literate society the memory is important in a way that a literate society finds hard to understand. The third and final aspect of our intellectual capacity is the power that controls the Hyge and Mynd….

Willa - Will

Willa Will is defined as:

  1. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action: championed freedom of will against a doctrine of predetermination
  2. The act of exercising the will
  3. Diligent purposefulness; determination: an athlete with the will to win
  4. Self-control; self-discipline: lacked the will to overcome the addiction

It has been said that our forebears in the Northern Tribes believed in predetermination because of the existence of the Norns, the 3 weaving women, who knew the future and fate of all things. However throughout the Norse literature there is the thread that individual will and action could affect the outcome of the future and even of fate itself. The Norns maybe weaving the strands of the future but they, and only they, could know all the outcomes. Not even Odin seems to know all there is of the future.

However the will is an essential part of the soul. If one's intellectual capacity is a sword then the Mynd is the material of the sword: stone, bronze, iron or steel, the Hyge is the blade: dull or sharp whilst the handle is the Willa. Some handles are perfect and will work all day whilst others are fragile and collapse under the first strain. The emotions have a direct link to the will - how you feel about something is directly involved with the amount of effort put into it and pleasure received from it. If you enjoy doing something then the will is in harmony with the task.

This is also where it ties into Hoenir's gift. Rydberg best explains this concept: " they received from Hoenir the gift which is called óður. In signification this word corresponds most closely to the Latin mens that material which forms the kernel of a human personality, its ego, and whose manifestations are understanding, memory, fancy, and will.

Vigfusson has called attention to the fact that the epithet langifótur and aurkonungr, "Long-leg" and "Mire-king" applied to Hoenir, is applicable to the stork, and that this cannot be an accident, as the very name Hænir suggests a bird, and is related to the Greek kuknos and the Sanscrit sakunas (Corpus Poet. Bor., i. p. cii.).

There is a story of the creation of man by three wandering gods, who become in mediaeval stories Jesus and SS. Peter and Paul walking among men, as in Champfleury's pretty apologue of the bonhomme misere, so beautifully illustrated by Legros. In the eddic legend one of these gods is called Hæne; he is the speech-giver of Wolospa, and is described in praises taken from lost poems as "the long-legged one" [langifótr], "the lord of the ooze" [aurkonungr]. Strange epithets, but easily explainable when one gets at the etymology of Hæne = hohni = Sansc. sakunas = Gr. kuknos = the white bird, swan, or stork, that stalks along in the mud, lord of the marsh; and it is now easy to see that this bird is the Creator walking in chaos, brooding over the primitive mish-mash or tohu-bohu, and finally hatching the egg of the world. Hohni is also, one would fancy, to be identified with Heimdall, the walker, who is also a creator-god, who sleeps more lightly than a bird, who is also the "fair Anse," and the "whitest of the Anses," the "waker of the gods," a celestial chanticleer as it were (Vigfusson, Corpus Poeticum Boreale, vol. i., Introduction, p. cii., quoted by the translator).

It should be borne in mind in this connection that the stork even to this day is regarded as a sacred and protected bird, and that among Scandinavians and Germans there still exists a nursery tale telling how the stork takes from some saga-pond the little fruits of man and brings them to their mothers. The tale which now belongs to the nursery has its root in the myth, where Hoenir gives our first parents that very gift which in a spiritual sense makes them human beings and contains the personal ego." Quoted from Viktor Rydberg, pg 95.

The 3 Parts of Spiritual Capacity

Ond - Breath

Ond can be translated as 'breath' but really means 'inspiration' as in 'to breathe into' or 'give life to', and in the sense of being poetically, religiously (etc.) 'inspired'. Ond is the gift of life and all that means in terms of desire, vitality and existence.

Rydberg states that it was an old German custom for a father to breathe into his newborn child's mouth. He was thus, symbolically, re-enacting Odin's gift of life to man. In English the term 'to breathe life into', meaning regeneration, is still used. In this respect the heathen and yogic worlds refer to the same Proto-Indo-European heritage.

" Breathing is so simple and so obvious we often take it for granted, ignoring the power it has to affect body, mind and spirit. With each inhale we bring oxygen into the body and spark the transformation of nutrients into fuel. Each exhale purges the body of carbon dioxide, a toxic waste. Breathing also affects our state of mind. It can make us excited or calm, tense or relaxed. It can make our thinking confused or clear. What's more, in the yogic tradition, air is the primary source of prana or life force, a psycho-physio-spiritual force that permeates the universe." Taken from www.yogasite.com

Odin is the giver of Ond and thus life. This is why he is the all-father. His name means furious-inspiration or ecstatic-consciousness, which is similar to the Welsh Awen or Irish Imbas Forosnai. This is all done through the breath - within yogic tradition various breathing exercises can be used to control or balance our state of mind. It is in this respect the relationship between how (and what) we breathe and our state of mind that Ond is important within the soul. This spiritual aspect can thus be seen as the connective point between the Lich, or body, and the Hyge, or mind. The breath is also linked to the voice - singers and in older days speakers (including the Celtic Druids and Heathen Skalds) were taught how to breath and speak; oratory. It is within the breath that the power of the voice can come through.

Like the Hyge the Ond thus becomes the external representation of our spiritual capacity which is why they appear on the same axis.

Fylgja - Spirit

Fylgja(literally: she, who follows) is a supernatural being which accompanies a person.

It could be conceived of as a person's ethereal spirit that was separated from the body. However it could also be conceived of as a guardian angel (often a female ancestor) who protects one during their life. The fylgja could appear in a form that was most appropriate to the need. A warlike man consequently could have a wolf, boar or a bear for a fylgja. The fylgja appeared during sleep either in dreams or physically, but the sagas relate that they could appear when a person was awake as well. Seeing one's fylgja was an omen of one's death c.f. doppelganger. Many modern heathens, inspired by Jung, see the fylgja as ones anima / animus. In these terms it is the complementary inner workings of the external person. This is why it is the opposite gender to the physical person.

"The persona, the ideal picture of a man as he should be, is inwardly compensated by feminine weakness, and as the individual outwardly plays the strong man, so he becomes inwardly a woman, i.e., the anima, for it is the anima that reacts to the persona. But because the inner world is dark and invisible . . . and because a man is all the less capable of conceiving his weaknesses the more he is identified with the persona, the persona's counterpart, the anima, remains completely in the dark and is at once projected, so that our hero comes under the heel of his wife's slipper.[Jung, "Anima and Animus," CW 7, par. 309.]"

within the terminology here it can be seen as the core self of the individual. It is the basic guts of the spirit or soul, in other words the 'astral body' of the person. This would be the ancestral, spiritual element that is brought to an individual as well as the non-physical energy of the individual. The astral body travels with the mynd and hamr during sleep.

"No man is an island." We are the product of millennia of people, generation upon generation, that have come to fruition in a single person. Whether the fylgja is some sort of internal, instinctive link to ourselves and our ancestors or an actual presence within the world is not the focus of this essay. That it does exist and is an element to be understood and related to is the focus of this essay. The more this element is repressed by the conscious persona the more it retreats into the dark, unconscious world where it's workings cannot be understood.

In this respect the Fylgja is also the physical ancestral memory of the individual - which is why Fylgja is on the same axis as the Mynd.

Hamingja - Luck

Hamingja is a kind of female guardian angel in Scandinavian mythology. It was believed to accompany a person and to decide his luck and happiness.

Consequently, the name was also used to signify happiness, and this is what it means in modern day Icelandic. When a person died, the hamingja passed to a dear relative and so the hamingja accompanied a family during several generations and decided its luck and happiness.

The luck of a person was central to their Orlog and Wyrd, or karma and fate in more modern parlance however the Hamingja could be inherited from the clan or tribe. However what is 'luck' - some people are born lucky whilst others make their own luck. However luck has been described as the place where 'opportunity meets ability' - this seems to sum it up. A family with a strong Hamingja will probably be a family that encourages opportunity but it will require an individual with strong ability to be exceptionally lucky. Equally an individual can increase their ability to such a level that they seem exceptionally lucky whilst nominally coming from an unlucky family.

The main effect of the Hamingja is upon one's attention and focus. True happiness has been described as that moment when you are fully and totally engaged in the moment within time and space. In many respects the Hamingja is similar to what sports psychologists call 'the zone'. The zone has been described as 'the place where the mind and body are united in purpose' also as the 'ultimate in human experience'. The Hamingja is the representation of this ineffable quality. Within the modern world it can be seen that instead of the clan or tribe having a group Hamingja it can be applied to teams or other groupings of people. Within sports it can be seen how the Hamingja can affect a team and how team's have their own Hamingja, usually grouped around certain emotional leaders within the team. These emotional leaders have strong Hamingja.

When a person has lost contact with their Hamingja then they remain unfocussed on the essence of the here and now and, in Hindu terms, are subject to the illusions of their existence. This is why the Hamingja is thought of as a 'female guardian angel' or Disir. I have taken Disir to mean a female ancestral spirit who acts as a guardian over the individual. Obviously this will often be a grandmother or great-grandmother but can also be a mother or an even older ancestral spirit. A mother makes a powerful Disir. If one's actions upset or anger the Disir then bad luck is sure to follow and, in extreme cases, death. In Fornaldar Sögur: Hálf's Saga (XV) it says:
Dead must be

All your dísir

Luck is gone, I say,

From Hálfr's warriors,

I dreamed this morning

That our powers

Vanquished yours

When they met together.
It is these aspects where the Hamingja is the ineffable spiritual quality within an individual it is aligned with the Willa as the ineffable intellectual quality.

The 3 Parts of Physical Capacity

Lich - Body

lík, n. (1) the living body (við þat l. at lifa); (2) the dead body, corpse (jarða l. e-s).

Whilst not used in the Eddas I've used this to mean the outward physical appearance of a person. Although the literal translation is blood and blooming hue within the Eddas the translation appears to mean those physical aspects of a person. The physical aspects of a person are those things that you are born with. This outward appearance has archetypes associated with it that affects all people as they grow - the cute blonde, the concorde nose, the hare lip or other physical difference affect the individual and the external worlds reaction to them.

The physical aspects can be changed such as hair-style and colour, clothing and all the other things that our consumer body conscious culture provides - contact lenses to change eye colour, fake tans and designer clothing. These can change the outward appearance but none of them are long lasting or, as with cosmetic surgery, completely integrated into the whole person.

It is dangerous though to underestimate the power of the lich. Whilst people who are obsessive about their outward appearance are thought of as vain and shallow, the effect of changing the lich can be tremendous. The archetype of the ugly duckling that wears drab, dowdy clothing being turned into the swan is a powerful one with good reason. Sometimes changing the physical aspect of the lich can have profound affects on the whole spirit. Just like dressing up in your 'glad rags' to go out will improve one's mood and dressing in a uniform can affect a person's whole bearing. Similarly growing or cutting the hair can have a dramatic affect upon how one is perceived - a long hair and beard gives a 'wild man' appearance whilst a smooth face and short hair cut is regarded as professional.

It is this external representation of one's physical appearance that aligns the Lich with the Ond and Hyge.

Hamr - Hide

hamr (-s, -ir)m. (1) skin, slough; hleypa hömum, to cast the slough (of snakes); (2) shape, form; skipta hömum, to change one’s shape.

In this essay Hamr will mean the underlying physique & chemistry of a person. However there is also a non-physical aspect to the hamr. The can be viewed not only as their physiology but also their charisma. The physiology contains such things as the pheromones and your body type - whether you are an ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph - which not only affect your inner world but also affect how the external world views you.

Everyone, despite what some dictionaries may say, has charisma. However a great leader will have innate positive charisma whilst a great actor is able to manipulate and project charisma. A good way to understand the Hamr is via acting. The greatest actors, like Kevin Spacey for example, can manipulate their hamr to really 'become' the part they are playing so that the audience believes in their portrayal. Celebrity actors, such as Sylvester Stallone, can only affect their Lich whilst all along the audience can see through to their hamr and see the celebrity playing a part.

Some people have negative charisma - those who come across as smelly, slimy or untrustworthy reflect this - but the Hamr can be changed. Physical training can change your physique and physiology from a 'lard-arse' to a 'racing snake'. This has affects on your body chemistry and charisma.

There is one final part that relates to the Hamr and that is muscle memory. It is where repetition of physical exercise becomes ingrained into the body so that it can be performed sub- consciously. Within the martial art of Karate Kata aims to achieve this. This is also why the Hamr is on the same line as the Mynd and Fylgja.

Feorh - Health

feorh(1) life, soul, spirit (2)a living being, person (3)life-blood feonda feorum, 'with the life-blood of foes'

Here the term feorh is taken to mean life-blood in respects to the physical well being and health of the person. The blood affects the health in many ways - an endurance athlete's body will produce and contain more blood than an average person. This is a physiological affect from their training. However the health can also be called a person's physical constitution - they can be as 'strong as an ox' or as 'frail as a bird'.

Once again one's basic health is not something that can be changed. However outside factors such as training, diet and lifestyle have been proven to have large effects upon health. Within Yogic and ancient Greek Epicurean thought 'you are what you eat' was one of their driving principles. It is as true today as then with the 'fast food' culture being pointed to as the source of our modern obesity problems. As we learn more about allergies and illness it can be viewed that we are organisms within the world we live. Every teaspoon of earth-soil has more living bacteria than there are people on the earth-planet. In this respect the 50's anti-bacterial, over- cleanliness culture created an unnatural environment where a child's body is not trained to be healthy in the world. We now seem to be learning that a sanitised, centrally-heated / air- conditioned environment is both unnatural and unhealthy.

Those with ox like constitutions are often brought up in a natural warts-and-all household that prepares them for the temperature changes, bugs and challenges that Mother Earth provides. However one's health is the ineffable individual physical quality - which aligns it with the Hamingja and Willa.

Working with the elements of Northern Soul

Relationships between them

The next thing is to evaluate these 9 parts and the relationships between them. A good way to start is to use a SWAT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Advantages, Threats) analysis of each of these parts. The next aim is to achieve a balance of the whole. The aim has to be to develop the weakest parts up to the same level and then the whole can be worked upon. The other concept to understand is that each part is in a constant state of flux. Our natural biorhythms will affect it, the growing up and aging process will affect it and one's life events will alter it. In this respect the OBOD Gwers provide lessons on developing many aspects of the Northern Soul, but not all. In concept this all seems easy, in reality the stresses and strains of everyday life make this balancing act akin to plate spinning (a circus act where the performer balances spinning plates on top of poles).

Unlike plate spinning each of these parts has an impact, like the ripples from a stone dropped in a pond, on the others around it. I shall describe some examples to explain the point:

  • A strong Mynd will directly influence the Willa and Hyge and Fylgja - the strength of memory means that lessons learnt are remembered better - this strong memory means that outwardly it is perceived that your are smart or clever. This is its affect on the Hyge. The strong memory feeds the Willa; meaning that the memory of the pain of past lapses of will encourages the growth of willpower in the future. Having strong memories of childhood, grandparents and ones wider ancestry provides a greater connection and interaction with the fylgja. This is aids in the knowledge of who you are and how you got here.
  • A weak Feorh will mean that energy levels are low, this shows in the Hamr as lethargy. Due to bad health it feels like the Hamingja is lacking, when you are ill you become clumsy and unlucky. Similarly the Fylgja becomes depressed, introverted and weak.
  • A strong Fylgja can almost override any weakness in the other parts - it is the sign of what Xtians would call a saint, such as Mother Theresa, who have an internal aura that shows through the other parts.
  • A beautiful Lich will encourage the individual to develop their Hamr to keep themselves good looking. As they are attractive their Ond will be often be attractive to others and will give them confidence to speak, also this beauty will affect how people behave towards them and this will affect the development of their Fylgja.

The theory is that each section affects most heavily those surrounding it - this is why the Fylgja affects all the other parts. On the second level of separation it depends upon the effect upon the first level section and the strength of that section.

It is necessary for each individual to examine their self and understand, in an analytical way, their strengths and weaknesses. Obviously this is a hard thing to do and often it is only by using each part that one can understand it. I firmly believe that each part can be developed though and that in developing each part the whole is strengthened. Like a plant though it is the weakest parts that need the hardest work. There is a difficulty and risk within this though - to fully understand an aspect of yourself it is often necessary to push that aspect to its limits. Pushing yourself to your limits, in whatever respect, contains risk but as Nietzsche said "there's no gain without pain".

Developing them

Once the Self-SWAT analysis has been investigated then it is time to see which areas need to be balanced. I have listed this with a view to Advice and Guidance for individuals to find their own path. It is impossible to guess what is best for an individual; only that individual or their close circle of friends and family will be able to understand them well enough to make the choice. These choices will also change over time either through desire, growth or other necessity. Below are some paths that I have either tried or had close contact and communication with people who have followed these paths.

Meditation

Meditation can be done in many ways - obviously OBOD has it's own ways of meditating whilst Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Yoga all have their own influences. The Heathen type of meditation can best be summed up in the old proverb "Sometimes I sits and thinks, sometimes I just sits." Within the Epicureans of ancient Greece they also understood that time to contemplate the past, present and future is necessary to a human's well being. If someone is uncomfortable with prescribed meditation they could try finding somewhere with a beautiful view, sitting down and watching the world go by for sometime.

This will develop the Willa to control the constant chatter of the mind that comes from the Hyge and Mynd. Meditation can also develop the Ond via it's concentration on breath control during some sorts of meditation. I see the deeper purpose of meditation is greater connection with the Fylgja through the Willa. Obviously as you practice more meditation becomes ingrained into the Mynd and the calmness it produces affects the Hamingja.

Puzzles, Games and Learning

Rather than sitting in front of the television why not do something else - the benefits are proven that reading, learning new things, playing puzzles and other games are proven to stem the onsets of aging. All of these things help keep the Hyge sharp and the Mynd in use. This is why they are important in child development but it is dangerous to think that "I'm an adult and don't need to do them" as that is the way of stagnation and dis-ease. As with all things it seems that "use it or lose it" is the order of the day and so it is necessary to build them into your lifestyle in order to keep growing.

Physical Training

Exercise, in it's many forms, obviously develops the Hamr and can develop the Ond. It will also affect the Feorh and Lich - the body (Lich, Hamr and Feorh) can be seen as an engine. If any engine is left unused or un-maintained then it doesn't function effectively. Over time it becomes clogged up and eventually performance is irrevocably damaged.

Humans are efficient by being like water - they find the path of least resistance - which is a great survival trait in a harsh, unforgiving world but in the modern western world it leads to dis-ease. In many respects this is what the pain of exercise is - the lazy body complaining. Once past that pain pleasure comes from the release of endorphins and adrenaline. This advice comes with the cautionary message about being able to recognise between the types of physical pain. Sharp-stabbing pain is bad and it is usually best to stop doing the exercise if you receive a sharp, stabbing pain. If it's a fatigue like pain (within the first half-hour of exercising) this is often just the body being lazy. As with all exercise no program should be started without consulting your doctor or proper training from a professional. With all physical training it's important to find something:
a) You enjoy

b) Fits in with your lifestyle - ideally something that you can do daily.

Stretching

I've deliberately separated this from physical training as in many respects they are quite separate. Usually a physical exercise program includes some stretching but only stretching relating to that sport. Most low-impact exercise systems such as Tai Chi, Yoga or Pilates include an all over holistic stretching programme. This holistic approach to the body is important in keeping balance overall.

During youth this does not seem important as the body remains supple and recovers quickly, however, it is also important in avoiding injury & muscle imbalance at all ages. With the onset of maturity and older age gradual imbalances in the holistic body can become the source of chronic pain symptoms. Regular use of an exercise system can help control this and encourage the body to recover.

There is an added advantage to a holistic stretching programme - they usually strengthen the inner core body. This inner core contains the deep, underlying muscles that support us each and every day - our head, pelvis and back. These are the muscles that could be related, in yogic terms, to your Kundalini power. Physical training is usually about training the outer muscles, in doing this they incidentally train the inner core, but the holistic strengthening of the inner core is essential to every day well being in a way that physical training is not.

Chi / Qi / Nwyvre

The Chi of Taoist thought would correspond directly, in my opinion, to the following sections: Ond, Mynd, Hamingja, Hamr and of course Fylgja. That is Breath, Memory, Luck, Physique and Spirit. However the martial artists develop Ond, Mynd, Hamingja, Hamr in order to perform their feats of agility, strength and power. By developing these four aspects they enhance / tap into the Fylgja. This doesn't mean that you must immediately take up Kung-fu or Karate! There are many other ways of developing it. Any physical activity can develop the Qi, such things as singing will develop the Breath & Memory whilst not necessarily influencing one's luck and physique.

Obviously Tai Chi is directly aimed at the development of this. Yoga is another form of development through the Asanas (Yoga posture), Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Meditation. Any programme to develop Chi relates not only to physical training but is a holistic approach to physical and spiritual well-being and development.

Ritual & Runework

Ritual

The power of ritual is used within all cultures – even non-religious organisations (such as communist ones) use ritual. Within the Heathen view the Blot (a religious ceremony) can be used to connect with and strengthen the Fylgja & Hamingja, exercises like the Light-Body exercise also do this. Ritual is dealt with extensively elsewhere and is specific to one’s path or organisation (such as the OBOD Gwers) I am noting here it’s aspect which it primarily influences.

Runework

Within runework I have found that picking 9 runes and placing them in a deosil spiral, corresponding to the 9 parts and starting at the Hyge, then the Mynd, Willa, Hamingja, Feorh, Hamr, Lich, Ond and finally the Fylgja provides a good reading. There is an assumption here that the reader will already know and understand the Runes and my intention is only to give some advice and guidance on things to look for in the patterns.

First analyse each rune and it's position, then analyse the patterns and the relationships in the patterns. Think about how the Rune relates to that position and what it could be saying. Once this has been done it's best to look at the patterns and relationships of the Runes to one another. There are 9 patterns to view:

The Horizontal Patterns

  • The Intellect - Hyge, Mynd, Willa
  • The Spiritual - Ond, Fylgja, Hamingja
  • The Physical - Lich, Hamr, Feorh

The Vertical Patterns

  • The External - Hyge, Ond and Lich
  • The Ethereal - Mynd, Fylgja and Hamr
  • The Internal - Willa, Hamingja and Feorh

The Complex Patterns

  • The Chi - Ond, Mynd, Hamingja and Hamr
  • The Pentagon - Hyge, Willa, Feorh, Lich and Fylgja
  • The Soul - all 9 runes laid out

Via the Blog I would be interested in hearing other Runeworkers experiences in this.
Has it been helpful, worthwhile or not?

Does this just work for me or more generally?

What insights has it given (if any)?

And finally...

Conclusion

Whilst this does not intend to be the all and end all on the subject I hope it's provided food for thought. I have found it beneficial in use for myself and as a model it has been useful within self-analysis. I find it's cheaper than a psychotherapist ;-) Within Runework I have found it to fit naturally into my method of usage which is why I am curious as to whether this is a purely personal approach or would have a wider benefit. I believe that each person's interaction with the Runes is unique and subjective and so any feedback both positive and negative would be useful.

In the advice and guidance above I have not mentioned the Stav Academy which is a holistic training programme within the Runes that includes Yoga like stances and healing knowledge. The reason I've not mentioned it is that I've not met anyone who uses it. However for further information please go to Stav International.

Links

Friday, 22 May 2015

A whale shaped hill

Whilst out riding I looked back,
I didn't just see, I saw
and remembered.
The post I posted,
but a few months ago
I did not know
My Sussex ancestors revered whale
like hills for holy harrows.

Wolstonbury Hill sacred to me
swims free of its Downland pod,
like a barnacled Bowhead.
In that moment, I saw
and remembered.
We cannot know,
but I feel my Sussex ancestors
had Wolstonbury harrows...

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Beltaine seed thoughts

From my notes here are a few poems and seed thoughts..

Beacons at Bealtaine

by Seamus Heaney

Uisce: water. And fionn: the water's clear.
But dip and find this Gaelic water Greek:
A phoenix flames upon fionn uisce here.
Strangers were barbaroi to the Greek ear.
Now let the heirs of all who could not speak
The language, whose ba-babbling was unclear,
Come with their gift of tongues past each frontier
And find the answering voices that they seek
As fionn and uisce answer phoenix here.
The May Day hills were burning, far and near,
When our land's first footers beached boats in the creek
In uisce, fionn, strange words that soon grew clear;
So on a day when newcomers appear
Let it be a homecoming and let us speak
The unstrange word, as it behoves us here,
Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare
Like ancient beacons signalling, peak to peak,
From middle sea to north sea, shining clear
As phoenix flame upon fionn uisce here.

In the Celtic calendar that once regulated the seasons in many parts of Europe, May Day, known in Irish as Bealtaine, was the feast of bright fire, the first of summer, one of the four great quarter days of the year. The early Irish Leabhar Gabhála (The Book of Invasions), tells us that the first magical inhabitants of the country, the Tuatha Dé Danaan, arrived on the feast of Bealtaine, and a ninth century text indicates that on the same day the druids drove flocks out to pasture between two bonfires. So there is something auspicious about the fact that a new flocking together of the old European nations happens on this day of mythic arrival in Ireland; and it is even more auspicious that we celebrate it in a park named after the mythic bird that represents the possibility of ongoing renewal. But there are those who say that the name Phoenix Park is derived from the Irish words, fionn uisce, meaning "clear water" and that coincidence of language gave me the idea for this poem. It's what the poet Horace might have called a carmen sæculare, a poem to salute and celebrate an historic turn in the sæculum, the age.

Beacons at Bealtaine source text is here Phoenix Park, May Day, 2004
One ancient Irish name for Beltaine was Cedsoman, which today has become Ceadamh, meaning literally "the first summer". In Irish, May Day is La Bealtaine. The name Beltaine contains the element taine, which means "fire". The first element is that of the solar deity who is called variously Beli, Belinus, and often closely associated with Lugh,

And as Nigel Pennick surmises, in Pagan Book of Days:
The Celtic willow month of Saille ends on 12 May, followed by the hawthorn month, Huath. This brings protection of the inner and outer realms and is sacred to the hammer gods of thunder, Taranis, Thunor, and Thor. Its sacred color is purple.

Rain in May assists the full growth of the crops. This is recorded in the country adages "Water in May, bread all the year" and :
Mist in May, heat in June
Make the harvest come right soon.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Of Nimrodel & Asphodel an Eostre Soul Ride

As I travel through the woodlands throughout the Eostre period I have a recurring meme that pops into my head. It's 'of Nimrodel and Asphodel' from the Lord of the Rings (LotR). I can't remember whether it's a chapter name or referred to in dialogue or whether I have made it up! For me the Wood Anemone's are Nimrodel and Lesser Celandine are Asphodel. Here's a view of the Wood Anemone's in the local woods

It has been running around my head for several years, writing this blog has encouraged me to use the powers of Google to search the one Wiki to rule them all...

And I find that Nimrodel is a Wood Elf who is beguiled by the stars into a deep sleep and loses her lover. So that explains why my subconscious had linked the white star flowers of the Wood Anemone with Nimrodel. Now to Asphodel, which I discover is a yellow-white flower that Frodo and Sam come across in Ithilien. Which would link the yellow of the Celandine with the white of the Anemone. Here's the Celandine:

Eostre is traditionally the time when I renew my commitment to the Gewessi path, it's become traditional for me to do this atop Wolstonbury Hill by a Hawthorn and Elder tree. This year I was a bit late as Eostre itself I met up with old friends for a great ride in the west, a circuit from Cocking looping by the Devil's Jumps.

The Devil's Jumps sit on Treyford Hill, they are a sequence of 5 ancient bell barrows. Now the view up on them hills is lovely and the woodland forms a circle creating a peaceful place where Thor himself used to sit and ponder what Giants, over in the East, to hammer next. Thor dozed off...
thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump
Thor was jiggered and opened an eye to see the Devil hisself jumping from barrow to barrow and he was boco mispleased at this willicky behaviour
"Oi Devil, you dursn't leap from those totties. Garn with you, surelye waken the dead."
The Devil jeered back "Ha old man bet you're too old to have leaping fun"
Thor looked down and found a gurt big slab of flint, he hoisted it in his mighty hand and threw it hard at the Devil. As the Devil was mid-jump it caught him hard in the midriff. The Devil hit the ground hard and cursing set off towards Merricur as fast as if a swarm a humbledore's was after 'im. From the woods there was the sound of Yaffle's laughing.

Today I finally got up to Wolstonbury and had a brief moment to cast the circle, touch base with those two trees, internally remark on the difference this year to previous years and re-affirm my commitment to the Gewessi path. The circuit round Wolstonbury is hard, dry, bumpy from all the horses but marvellously fantastic. Big soul happy grins and quick photo' of the gorgeous diddy Cowslips that cover these hills at this time (that'll be my glove next to it and I don't have big hands)

Friday, 10 April 2015

Musings on the Hearg

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Harrow Hill, the holy Hearg in the open landscape. Sussex Archaeology have more detail here. It is likely the Anglo-Saxon Hearg stood within the late Bronze age square hill fort. There is a possibility that our Briton ancestors used it for ritual purposes, which provides an intriguing possibility of a continuum of worship there from the Bronze age through to the late Iron age/early Medieval period. The final piece of folklore about Harrow Hill is that it's the last place that fairies lived in the whole of England. I was brought up with the folklore that as Sussex was the last place in England to convert to Christianity it has kept more of it's heathen superstitions which would explain why the last of the fairies are here.

The question that I'm interested in is who was it that our Anglo-Saxon ancestors worshipped there?
There are clues I think in the landscape and the folklore, unlike Thundersbarrow Hill where Thunders links it to Thunor or Thor, there's no clue in the name. I think the clue is in it's location and that piece of folklore. The land is also not great arable land but is good for livestock; horses and cattle. So I am looking for a heathen deity who is a leader of the fairy folk, holds horses and cattle dear to them and has holy places within enclosures.

Within Bede's history there is a story of the conversion of a heathen priest, called Coifi, who goes back and then destroys the temples sacred to the heathen gods. As Coifi was not allowed to carry weapons or ride horses it is thought he was a priest to Ingvi-Freyr. It is known that horses were kept in sacred places and that the horse was central to heathen religion. There are tales of horse phalli (phalluses?) being used in heathen ritual and the original Saxon leaders Hengist and Horsa's names mean stallion and horse. Ingvi-Freyr's Hall within Asgard is known as Alfheim, the home of the Elves who we now think of as the fae-folk or fairies. There are also linguistically many places across the Nordic countries that indicate Freyr's sacred places were fields, ancient or enclosures. Ingvi-Freyr is also attested as being worshipped in mounds. Harrow Hill is an ancient mound, home to faeries and a suitable place for cattle and horses to live.

So in a moment of wod, odr or awen it is interesting to think that Harrow Hill could have been sacred to Ingui Frea, the Lord Ing, the horse lord and leader of the fairies.

References:
Ingvi-Freyr's "earthly avatars were worshipped within the mound, just as the alfs were. Through his role as god of the barrow and fro of Alf-Home, Fro Ing is also tied to the living might of our fore-gone kin and to the inheritance of udal lands. In the sagas, his friendship preserves the lands of his followers; but when his wrath is roused, he drives men from their lands." from Teutonic Religion by Kvedulf Gundarsson
For a circular walk that passes Harrow Hill have a look here

Turn the Cup Over... a Sussex Drinking Song

appropriate for Eostre when the weather opens up and travel becomes possible again...
I've been to Haarlem,
I've been to Dover
I've travelled this
Wide world all over
Over, over, three times over
Drink a glass of lemonade
And turn the glasses over
Sailing east, sailing west,
Sailing over the ocean
Better watch out when
The boat begins to rock
Or you'll lose your partner
In the ocean

Thread from http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=110318

Friday, 6 March 2015

Cissbury Ring and its location in the landscape

So I was back working with the National Trust at Cissbury Ring, clearing scrub to allow cattle grazing and a restoration back to it's managed environment.
To the North, on the horizon, you can see the beech hanger that is Chanctonbury Ring a Romano-British temple and thus the temple for the people who built Cissbury. The suffix bury, in this context, comes from the term Burgh to denote a fortified place. Chancton may well come from the Old English meaning Chanc's ton where ton mean farmstead. Cissbury means Cissa's burgh, Cissa is one of the legendary three sons of the South Saxon leader Ælle who is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle as invading in CE 477.

The use of Burgh may well denote their implementation by King Alfred the Great as fortified places to halt the Viking incursions. Cissbury is a defensible high point where the views to the East, South and West would provide good warning of any attacks. Chanctonbury, to the North, has views right across the Weald to the North Downs. There is a clear track, almost a cursus, between the two places and it would seem sensible for our ancestors to combine their need for defense with a their spiritual needs. Cissbury itself is very ancient and was first a centre for Flint mining before the defensive ramparts were built in the Iron Age.

Eastwards you can vaguely see the rise that is the next old hillfort at Devils Dyke. A couple of hours by mountain bike and a fairly hard walk for most people even along the relatively easy South Downs Way.

Southwards the view is over the coastal towns of Lancing and Worthing, the -ing suffix denoting their pagan Anglo-Saxon origins, and the sea of the English Channel. Which would give plenty of warning of any coastal raiders.

Westwards you can see the Long Furlong and then onwards towards Harrow Hill, Harrow probably coming from the Anglo-Saxon hearg meaning a holy sanctuary it does have the following features in addition to an ancient enclosure where evidence of Anglo-Saxon ritual feasting has been found. "One of the distinctive features of what seem to be genuine heargs is that they are prominent hills. And these hills are often, though not always, of a distinctive 'beached whale' shape...The hearg seems to have constituted a naturally significant location that formed a place of gathering and ritual for many generations over a long period of time." from here You can also see Sullington Hill along the South Downs Way, a similar distance to Devil Dyke, which has a series of Cross Dykes that are thought to be defensive structures controlling the boundaries or trade routes.