Monday, 1 February 2016

Imbolc Seed thought - Quality over Quantity

Do what you can with what you have...

The recent deaths of many iconic people; Motorhead's Lemmy, David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Alan Rickman has brought focus, for me, not on their deaths but how they lived their lives. This quote from Glenn Frey's obituary could (I think) be applied to any of them they all had "a work ethic that wouldn’t quit. He was funny, bullheaded, mercurial, generous, deeply talented and driven."

All of them were true stars in a world of celebrity. Bowie, as ever ahead of the game, seemed to recognise this in the way he retreated from public life as celebrity culture rose to prominence. He learnt to toy with the digital age by recording 'The Next Day' in complete secret at a time when Tarantino's script was released into the social media 'digiverse'. He then goes onto completely stage manage his own death as art and neatly side-steps the mawkishness of a funeral turned into a digital-media feeding frenzy by having a quick, unattended cremation without friends and family in attendance. His last image then become his climbing, miming reverse into the cupboard at the end of Lazarus. A perfectly scripted, from this pagan's perspective, passing with a respectful control over his death in comparison to Outside's dystopian view of 'death as art'#. His is a positive message about managing to die with dignity.

Similarly Lemmy never compromised, unless you count moving to vodka & orange from JD & Coke, and was the ultimate rock & roll star to the end. Although his funeral had the full digital coverage it avoided the fake sentimentality by sticking to it's core rock'n'roll, coke'n'hookers, live fast and fuck the consequences ethos.

They all lived quality lives & rather than fading through dementia into nursing home twilight were still doing what they loved until the end. So if there's a particular seed thought for this Imbolc it's around Quality over Quantity; living a life that is driven creatively and allows you to honour your principles yet generously gives back to society.

# For 'Hello Spaceboy' Bowie played just after Oasis, Oasis had recently been slagging Bowie off as past it and not rock'n'roll; with that performance he slayed them, particularly as their performance was lacklustre

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Imbolc Waka

Oestre rises earlier,
Noticeably higher,
Songbirds trill a merrier
Tune. Lighter heels, brighter
Hills. All aspects jauntier.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Laughing Gnome and me

Due to my older sisters I became a fan of David Bowie very young. I remember being wowed by seeing & hearing Space Oddity on Top of the Pops, it must have been the 1975 re-release I guess as I would have been far too young at the age of just over 3 for the original release. Before then, as a child I mostly remember hearing the Laughing Gnome which I loved for it's humour. This is the sort of Gnome that I think of in the lyrics...

From here
Which led me to the Gillie Dubh of Scotland and the Hyter/Hikey Sprites of Norfolk

So from that early beginning David Bowie has produced the soundtrack of my life, and in my opinion, heavily influenced our modern western liberal society. The first time I heard gay people being mentioned was in the lyrics of 'Five Years' on Ziggy Stardust, he made it acceptable to be weird, queer and geeky to a whole generation growing up in the 1970's. I missed out on seeing him during the Serious Moonlight tour because, as I was 15 and work was hard to find in my village at 15, I couldn't afford the ticket. That summer was spent sailing and listening to "Let's Dance" in my future brother in law's car. At college a few years later I lost my virginity to the sounds of 'Stay' from Station to Station. The album 'Low' was the soundscape for failed relationships, angst and depression. When I finally managed to see the maestro in Cardiff on the 'Glass Spider Tour' it was brilliant - it may not have been his best or the critics favourite but it was so special to me. Then my rave years of madness where 'Outside' re-ignited my love and belief in him as a musician. From then 'Heathen' seemed to reflect my move into paganism with those themes echoed in the 'Next Day' and now 'Blackstar' prepares me to move into the latter period of my life; the sage years.

Within meditation my own little laughing gnome, a Pine Marten called 'Fougou', has appeared. He reminds me that life doesn't have to be all serious and grim and is better dealt with lightly with a laugh.

Farewell David Jones, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, David Bowie and Thank You

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Xmas Eve

Our Glory Father glows
As the sun, invictus, grows
All Mother prepares her Runes
And galdr sings her tunes
For Mother's Night feast follows

Monday, 21 December 2015

Yule seed thought : Wuldor

Wuldor has been nagging at my subconscious for a few years now. At this time of year when I see the Turneresque-light that word comes forward into my minds-eye like an overlayed image.

A voice booms deep into my subconscious with the name. The light is so different at Yule with the sun low in the sky it is just glorious to see the gold against the deep purple and dark greys of the winter landscape.

What or who is Wuldor? The dictionary says it means "Glory or Splendour" which fits with the light at this time. Modern historians make the Anglo-Saxon Wuldor cognate with the Norse Ullr. Ullr is the god of hunting & skiing and his sacred tree was the Yew as it is used in making bows. In Griminsmal Ullr's home is named a Ydalir, yew-dale. The age of references to Ullr suggest that he was a significant older god perhaps, like Tiw, somewhat overtaken in the later mythology. One of the earliest runic writings is dedicated to Wuldor/Ullr. There is also reference to Ullr taking over the leadership from Odin when Odin was exiled. However, within the Anglo-Saxon world there is little or no mention of Wuldor but wuldor is used extensively within Christian Anglo-Saxon texts as alternate names for God such as wuldor-cyning "king of glory" and wuldor-dreám, es; m. Joy in the glory of heaven, celestial joy. Wuldor, Ullr is also well known for his alters being filled with oath-rings.

So what can a modern Gewessi learn from this? Wuldor seems to have been an important concept to the Anglo-Saxons, this suggests that he may well have been a god. Within England there is continuity around the Yew having been important, some of the older churches, likely to have been built on previously pagan sacred ground, have Yews that are older than the church. Wuldor, assuming he was similar to Ullr was also likely to have been a winter god and god of the hunt or feast. The modern Ullr is the Nordic patron of skiing but this seems to fit less well with Wuldor as England is not known for its long skiing season. Which brings us to Father Christmas in England.

Father Christmas, before he became synonymous with Santa Claus (the Americanized Sinterklaas), was the English bringer of feasts; the twelve days of Christmas being a time of feasting. Whereas the modern Santa Claus is all about gifts for the children, I hear many say "Oh Christmas is for the children" as if it's unimportant for adults, this Father Christmas is all about the community feast which is a much more important affair. This fits with Wuldor as huntsman, master of the feast and god of oaths. At the sacred-feast, or blót, there was the tradition of exchanging gifts to bond friendship and it included sacred oath taking. During the Christmas period in the later Medieval period and into Tudor times there is a long tradition of the Lord of Misrule or Master of Merrymaking taking over from the village Lord for the Xmas period. This is reminiscent of Ullr taking Odin's throne as described in Saxo Grammaticus' "Gesta Danorum".

My personal gnosis would put the Wuldor-faeder as Father Christmas, the god who takes over from Woden for the 12 days of Yule: from the 21st December until the 1st January. He is the huntsman who brings the feast with him, who is the god of gift giving. His Rune would be Gebo which is the X in Xmas and he oversees the oaths given on New Years Eve.

Finally, I have been mulling this over for the past few days but it was in the forefront of my mind as I rode for my Yule ritual to greet the dawn.

I was cycling in good weather and as Sunna crested the hills to the South-East I rode looking at a rainbow to the North-East; suggesting that Heimdall had opened the gate to Asgard. A romantic would think it was a sign that my personal gnosis was being affirmed by the Gods, Wuldor is Father Christmas, the Yew-king. When I got home the heavens opened; I had seen the best of the day.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Pantheist Metaphysics

So picking through my Notes from the year I came across this which I don't think I've blogged, although I am getting old and notice that I repeat myself...

The Gods : What are they, and where do they come from?

Whilst the Jungian Collective Unconscious theory from psychiatry is appealing and has some validity within a view of the gods, I think it only represents one side of the coin. If the coin has two faces and a middle, the middle being the relationship between the 2 faces, then it can represent the middle view of the gods. If you interpret the collective unconscious with a cultural explanation - that each culture has it's own Collective Unconsciousness, which in day to day language is explained by cultural stereotyping. I don't think it explains the other faces, the god/esses face OR an individuals own viewpoint.

Which then raises the question of their origin - are they purely human constructs, which supports the Collective Unconscious theory, or natural phenomena that humans interpret as Gods? I tend towards the natural phenomena theory on most days (other days I tend towards the Jungian Collective Unconscious). I'll probably cover whether the gods are 'real' in another post as that leads straight into what is real and what is the nature of reality which as the link shows is a big, big subject.
To continue the coin analogy this means that the gods themselves are a natural phenomena, whilst our interpretation is individual but filtered through our Collective Unconscious which is represented by our language and cultural bias.

Do the myths reflect their origins?

Not in detail, the Norse creation myth has large gaps around the genealogy of many of the Gods - particularly Mimir and Frige but also Hana/Hoenir. There is no Celtic creation myth so that it is unknowable. Particularly if some deities seem to have had human avatars/incarnations such as the Celtic Taliesin or the Norse Rig (thought to be Heimdall) additionally things can get confusing when our culture has been overlaid with monotheism and the cultural filter has been biased by a coherent view of a single god.
I think the myths reflect a culture's relationship with their Gods and how they've listened to their Gods.

How are the gods of different pantheons related?

If the Gods are a natural phenomenon then their appearance will be impacted by their location. Just as my behaviour is different at work and at home, or in a foreign clime I think so are theirs. So are the Celtic Taranis, Ango-Saxon Thunor and Norse Thor one and the same? To be honest I don't know - I suspect that in the same land they are one and the same but the names reflect their appearance at different times viewed through their relationship with a different Collective Unconsciousness.
Is the Greek Zeus the same as the Italian Jupiter or the Celtic Dagda and the Norse Odin? Personally I don't think so or rather we should certainly not treat them so, the differences are too great in both the landscape and the Collective Unconsciousness that they relate to.
Which raises the question, which Neil Gaiman uses as the conceit for his book American Gods, is someone working with Thor in the US working with the same Thor as someone in Sweden?
Are they one and the same or different? The American working with the North American Thunder God whom they have called Thor, the Swede working with the original Norse Thunder God known, amongst other names, as Thor.
I think I tend to believe the latter situation - so for me there is the Gewessi Thunder God in Southern Britain, I feel that his range covers to the south of Brittany in Northern France and North up to the Borders of Britain, in the west it's Wales (it could extend to Ireland but I've never been there) and in the East across to Germany. He has many names, I know him best as Thunor but often use the name Thor as everyone knows that name and few know him as Thunor. Thunor is different to the Nordic Thor but they are more similar than the Thunder God of the American Plains.
Part of the reason, in the example above, the Thunder god is different is because their wives, as Goddesses of the land, are quite different. To take Zeus and Odin as an example Hera, possibly started as a corn goddess, is epitomised as the jealous wife, whilst Frige, whose home in Fensalir suggests a more generic fertility role, is known as the wise wife out-smarting her husband. This may well also drive the differences between the two societies in how women were treated.
Within the Northern tribes and the Indo-European tradition there is the Father Sky - Mother Earth model, and the deities mostly worked in pairs so within the Indo-European tradition I think what we know from both the Celtic and Germanic traditions show similarities to the Shiva/Shakti Hindu tradition e.g. this would relate to the passive feminine Sunna and active male solar energy in Balder, with Mani as the passive male lunar whilst the Disir or possibly Freyja (I would argue) represent the active female lunar energy. The Celtic may have a similar view if we return to the Breton Legend of St. Anne and update it with a pagan Celtic view
“In the beginning there was Annwn, Gwynvyd and Abred and within Gwynvyd there was heaven and earth. And the earth (Anne, Anu or Danu) was without form and void (Anne, Anu or Danu was barren). And darkness (affliction and confusion) was upon the face of the deep (on the face of Anne), and the Spirit of Heaven (Joachim, Beli Mawr or the"Fair Shining One") moved upon the face of the waters (the waters of Anne’s tears to console her). And He said, ‘Let there be light (Mary, the great music or Oran Mor) … and the gathering together of the waters (the gathering of the graces) they called maria (the seas, Mor or Mary).”

How do they interact?

With whom? On an individual basis they appear during meditation, dreams and via natural coincidence or synchronisity. They are the transrational within the patterns of our lives.
On a macro level through their influence on our language and culture they have wider influences which may explain differences between the historical role of women in the Gewessi lands and other lands, such as the eastern Mediterranean. These patterns ripple down to us through history. I would argue that the Northwest European cultures have had a much more equal bias with women than the Classical and Middle Eastern cultures due to this influence, but that is another post.

What is the significance of & the relationship between the natural and cultural attributes they are associated with?

My personal perspective is that the natural and cultural attributes control the perspective that we understand them by - this enables the follower of a pantheon to interpret and gain wisdom by understanding their interactions. The nature of the interactions between land, sea and the sky and the wider natural cycles provide clues to their attributes. For me I think the Gods choose you, not the other way round. Exploring why a God/ess is important to me has enabled me to deepen understanding of myself. This all started, for me, when I chose to be pagan. I verbally and emotionally renounced being a Xtian and chose a pagan path, that seemed to be the invite that brought my pagan pantheon to me. At the time I was naive, cynical and with only an intellectual grasp of natural philosophy as an abstract concept. Events and coincidences which could be wrapped up as 'life lessons' appeared. Loca or Loki, my pagan tutor had turned up, but I didn't know it and was a slow learner, he was a harsh tutor from the school of hard knocks. It took me a couple of years to work out who 'he' was! I'd always felt the energy of the Green Man, who to me is known as Ingvi-Freyr or The Lord (which is always useful at Xtian festivals) once Loca had got me started on this Gewessi path Ingvi then worked with me to deepen my understanding of the gods and the land. Finally when it came to knowing myself my main tutor has been Frige who, turns up unexpectedly and usually within my home - her area of influence.
And yet Zeus, Thor, Thunor, Taranis, Indra, Jupiter and many others could be distinct entities.

What is the function/identity of a thunder god in relation to natural storms?

In my epxerpience Thunderstorms are naturally different in their formation and effect and this is different in different parts of the world and happen at different times of the year. The typical thunderstorm in southern Britain is an exciting event, often providing release from oppressive summer weather and one you'd stay up for and watch - at the right time it provides the water needed to ripen the harvest and at the wrong time can damage the harvest. A typical thunderstorm in Texas is a very different affair, a bigger (well everything is bigger in Texas) and more violent event that you might see from a distance but probably don't want to get caught in.

And to other thunder gods of other cultures?

So Zeus (I'm not lived in Greece and so this is conjecture) is much more of a mightily smiting God and friend to the Aristocracy whilst Thor, although he mightily smites the Jotuns, is seen as a benevolent God who is responsible for the fertility of the land and is a friend to the common farmer.

What is their relationship to the land and ancestry?

Personally I think that the relationship of the Gods is part of understanding a natural landscape and environment. It takes walking through the land, understanding the history of your landscape and feeling the land to understand that relationship - then going to other lands (for example on holiday) and doing the same in a new landscape to realise there is a difference. It goes back to the concept of the male-female energy working together to produce a unique
I think the view of a pantheon is related to a cultural ancestry rather than a biological one. I don't think the gods of the Northern Tribes care too much about our modern racial views of ancestry.
And finally, are these things important to consider or does a simple belief/experience of them suffice? Yes I think they are important to consider so that you can know your own mind and beliefs as a pagan. To know thyself, which I think is one root of modern paganism, you need to understand and. be able to answer questions from outsiders, these questions will tend to relate to your pantheon and the nature of the Gods. If each Pagan owns their relationship with Gods/Goddesses/Spirit or is an atheist it is necessary to understand and be able to articulate your beliefs.

Of course all of this is just my personal view - I could be utterly and completely wrong

Friday, 11 December 2015

Yule approaches

Winter Waka

Bare branches reach to drag
Irminsul round.
Twig fingers shiver in the wind,
As crow caws amid Jack Frost lines
Morning star shines.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Notes on the origins of Jack Frost/Jokul Frosti

As we've just had the first decent frost of the winter my thoughts have turned to Jack Frost who was a much larger character in my childhood than he is now. When his fingers regularly trace lines on the inside of your window he becomes more important. I've not lived in a place that cold since I was a student! With climate change our winters are milder and wetter it seems and so Jack is in retreat. However, who is Jack Frost and where did he come from?

Our modern view seems to have been invented late 19th Century, a little later than Jack-in-the-Green was created by chimney sweeps for some charity to last them throughout the summer. This is when he starts to appear in literature and images as a mischievous sprite. His name leads us to Jack (Jack as a cultural hero figure) where it may come from the Norse Hjaki - Jack & Jill. The Jokul Frosti name used in Norse seems to have a more ancient link so I went looking for references to Jokul...

Norse - A Frost Giant.

A God of glaciers. A son of Thrym the protagonist where Thor's Hammer Mjollnir is stolen and Thor cross-dresses as Freyja to fool the Jotun and get his hammer back. Brother of Drifta, Frosti and Snoer. On occasion, called Jokul, Iokul, Iokul, Jokul, Jokul or Jokul. John Lindow has it that Jokul (Glacier) is a son of Kari (Wind), Kari son of Fornjot (a primeval father Jotun - I like the translation of his name as Ancient Screamer). Jokul's son is Snaer (Snow) who's children are a son Thorri (fourth month of winter) and daughters Fönn (Heap of Snow), Drífa (Snowdrift) and Mjöll (Fresh Powdery Snow). It's interesting to note that Kari is brother to Logi (Fire) and Aegir/Hlér (Sea). Logi and Loki have an eating contest...

Eldest of the 9 sons of Niorfe

Niorfe or Njarfi could well be the surviving son of Loki. In the saga of Thorstein Vikingsson, Thorstein's father Viking is a grandson of Logi. Here we potentially see a contest again between the descendents of Logi, Thorstein, with the descendents of Loki, Jokul. The story is a tale full of magic and wonder about the feud between these two sets of brothers. Check 'thorsteins saga vikingssonar' In which...

Dis (daugher of King Kol) married Jokul Ironback, a blue berserk. This is not the Jokul we're looking for but an interesting part of the story is one of the few mentions in any literature of a were-boar... Dis' brother Ingjald
Ingjald was out of sight, and instead of him there was a grim-looking boar, that left nothing undone as he attacked them, so they could do nothing but defend themselves. When this had been done for some time, the boar turned upon Halfdan, bearing away the whole calf of his leg. Straightway came Viking and smote the bristles of the boar, so that his back was cut in two. Then seeing that Ingjald lay dead on the spot, they kindled a fire and burned him to ashes.

The Jokul we are looking for is mentioned later on...
King Olaf had a daughter who hight Bryngerd, whom Njorfe married, took her with him, and got with her nine sons: Jokul hight the eldest of these brothers; the rest hight Olaf, Grim, Geiter, Teit, Tyrfing, Bjorn, Geir, Grane and Toke. They were all promising men, though Jokul far surpassed them all in all accomplishments...

The saga continues with an interesting bag that does relate to Jack Frost...
Now I will tell you, continued Ogautan, that I have a belg (skin-bag) called the weather- belg. If I shake it, storm and wind will blow out of it, together with such biting frost and cold that within three nights the lake shall be covered with so strong an ice that you may cross it on horseback if you wish. Said Jokul: Really you are a man of great cunning ; and this is the only way of reaching the holm, for there are no ships before you get to the sea, and nobody can carry them so far. Hereupon Ogautan took his belg and shook it, and out of it there came so fearful a snowstorm and such biting frost that nobody could be out of doors. This was a thing of great wonder to all; and after three nights every water and fjord was frozen.

In all of this there are tantalising glimpses of a Jack/Jokul who is related to cold weather, is related to the Elves or Giants and has much to do with ice and snow. Sadly with global warming most of our glaciers are retreating, I am sure that Jokul is plotting his return.

Friday, 13 November 2015

The Obsidian Mere

A still, black hole stared at my face.
Suddenly reason lost all trace.
I stared down, deep into space.
Staring, feeling was lost in pace
and my heart it started to race.

"This is the Mere" Hern murmured
"makes you feel queer?" he continued
"never mind it, here is my space
you continue here by my grace -
not only you but your whole race."

I turned and ran from the glade,
digging I did and hiding too,
but in my head a constant thread
pulled me on to constantly run
to that black pool, so dark, so dread.

Woken up to stare into the sphere,
once again by Mere I was here,
stood blank-staring no ripple shown,
reeds etched up, rushes bow down,
reflecting a dank, brooding sky.

As I stood, blank-staring eventually un-caring
of what grim fear (a head may rear) would scarily appear.
I looked in the obsidian mere, saw as She wove budding blooms;
A skull and flowers, a swan, the lovers, the pelican plucking power
and reason strode my face and my heart did hope to boom.