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 it's 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.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tribal ways

The Eagle showed me
When you rise above the mockers who mob
And climb the mountain
Then the tapestry of creation unfolds for you.

The Salmon took me
On a journey to the Sargasso sea
And back; the life cycle
Where no point in the loop is the same.

Which is the point.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Growth

Searching through my old notes on my spiritual journey I re-discovered Frank Herbert's Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from his book , Dune. In order to learn you have to fail, most people fear failure and that fear grows with age in my experience. It ties into my youthful philosophy around improving my skills as a sailor, windsurfer and cyclist - if you don't crash you're not trying hard enough. Now I'm older my body physically can't handle the crashes as well but that's no reason to stop pushing your limits, it's just about knowing where they are...

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

Monday, 2 February 2015

Imbolc blessing

Smooring the Fire

The sacred Three
To save,
To shield,
To surround
The hearth,
The house,
The household,
This eve,
This night,
Oh! this eve,
This night,
And every night,
Each single night.
Awen, Awen, Awen.

Adapted from the Carmina Gadelic number 84, I was reminded of this blessing by Michael on the OBOD forum. Our boiler had broken and it was the first time that I'd started a fire in the fireplace. This seems the correct blessing for damping down the fire before going to bed on the night of Imbolc.

Imbolc seed thought - silence

The snowdrops white flower heads are here, closed against the icy wind. The dark Hellebore flowers have just appeared and the other bulb's green shoots are nosing their way towards the light. Here in mid Sussex the sun is promising the warmth of spring whilst the north wind is keeping it's icy grip and the feeling is wintery. It is perfect Imbolc weather. The seed thought came to me yesterday morning as I rode through my local country lanes. These ancient lanes from the low Weald to the high Weald give mixed views of arable land, hedgerows and are interspersed with the narrowing vision when the sunken lanes are held deep within a tree lined tunnel. The leafless branches forming a lattice work overhead.

One of the nice things about a single-speed bicycle is that, when set up properly, they are almost silent. With gears, derailleurs and longer chains, comes flexibility and with it rattles and creaks. The tight chain line of the single geared bike has no sound. Just the occasional light clattering as it races down the pot holed, rough and loose tarmac of a downhill section. The silence of the bike gave space to hear the world, up some of the short, steep climbs of the high Weald the focus was internal - the beating of blood in my veins, the gasping for breath and the hammer of my ageing heart. On the flat all that could be heard was the whisper of my tyres, the bluster of the wind across the landscape and various songs from the birds. The bird song that reappears around Yule, having faded at Litha, now has more desire and urgency within it. Certainly not the full chorus that is here between Eostre and Beltaine but it brims full of the optimism that the returning sun brings.

In the narrow tree lined lanes, banked higher than my head with my eyes at root and burrow level I could reflect how nature rapidly breaks up mans effort to control the surface.
In the narrow lanes in this cauldron of silence, speared by the midday Imbolc sun and with the cleansing sword of an Arctic blast I could reflect upon the opening gateway to the year that is Imbolc.
I could travel in the peace of Frige
Then narrow lanes opened, revealing open countryside and the green walled vista of the South Downs and the warmth of home, the heat of the hearth and the love of my loved ones. Thankfully I could return there.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Gewessi prayer translated from Sigrdifa's invocation

Heill dagr! Hail the day!
Heilir dags synir! Hail the day's sons!
Heil nótt ok nift! Hail Darkness and her daughters!
Óreiðum augumlítið Behold us lovingly;
okkr þinigok gefið See to gift success
sitjöndum sigr! to those sitting here
   
Heilir æsir! Hail the Gods!
Heilar ásynjur! Hail the Goddesses!
Heil sjá in fjölnýta fold! Hail the excellent Earth!
Mál ok mannvit. With wit and wisdom,
gefið okkr mærum tveimok See to gift our speech
læknishendr, meðan lifum. " And life long healing hands.

Inspired from Joanna Van Der Houven's book about Solitary Druidry.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Moving through shadows, the nihilism of negativity

"the assorted activities of Druid work, provide a toolkit of stuff to move beyond blandness (or nihilism, if you wish)."
Indeed my own spiral down into darkness during the Ovate work involved interminable rounds of inner questioning "what am I doing this for, why am I following this Druid path, is it relevant" made me delve deeper and focus on what was important to me and why I started on the path in the first place. I had to learn to step back from, whilst still being in the, feeling of the moment. So that I could objectively evaluate and re-evaluate my feelings, Druidry and it's role within my life. I could then gain confidence in where I have got to as a Druid almost like spiralling back down to the start and back to where I was but within a shorter time span...

What is important to me:

  • Respect for the earth
  • Walking as lightly as I can upon the earth
  • Balancing all the aspects of my life as a human: husband, father, friend, worker, Gewessi Druid and mountain biking cyclist

How do I express this?

  • I'm a member of Greenpeace and as active as my work contract will allow. Balance this against being more active and the impact it would have on the people around me (wife & children)
  • Charities such as the Wildlife Trusts, Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts
  • Cycling, buying locally, my vegetable patch balanced against the energy I consume and my ecological footprint (I do own a car and live a modern life with electrical equipment)

Why am I a Gewessi Druid?

Druid philosophy and spirituality enhances my life. This, personally, is the key focus and the sword against which I can review my involvement. For example, must I attend group Druid ritual? Not if it detracts from my life and relationships. This sword is the edge that controls the negative inner monkey that chips away at confidence by saying "a proper Druid does xxxxx" in a whiny, nasally voice pouring the hemlock of negativity into me. It allows me to focus on the rock of my approach to being a Gewessi Druid; I follow a solitary Druid path, a Druid hermit in some respects at this moment in my life.

Because this Spiritual Order provides structure in the Wheel of the Year rituals, practice of mediation, exercising in both Yoga and Mountain Biking as well as the study of Druidry provide a focus to my life that can reign in the wild horses of my mind. These wild horses lead to the internal chaos of self-destructive behavioural patterns. The Druidry based structure controls the negative and provides a beacon of light in positivity; the answers to soul problems and bad behavioural patterns.

It furthers understanding of my life. I have built great relationships with my Pagan deities, the land I live on and with my ancestors that are important to my health and happiness as a human being. With my Gewessi deities I have a cycle where I start falling into a more atheistic view, that they are internal human brain constructs, and then a transrational experience happens and I return to my belief that there is a connection between my spirit and the universe. With the land I have much greater knowledge of the ecology of my local landscape and the spirits within that landscape such that I have tree friends (and it seems natural to talk about tree friends) and my ancestors have helped me review both my family tree heritage and my wider genetic ancestral patterns to understand with a certain humility

The whole process had moments where it was opening up old wounds, with which to scour them clean, so that they could heal properly. That healing and confidence building process has been important and painful at the same time. It has meant I have gleaned a deeper confidence in walking my spiritual path.

The triad of the tribes:
The Stag says as above so below,
The Owl says in darkness be the light,
The God/Goddess/Spirit says the mote is within me.

Reflection, think upon these when lost in the wight world.