Thursday, 8 September 2016

Deus sive Natura

"God is Nature, as Nature is God".Spinoza
  Thoughts on Nina Lyon's 'Uprooted' on the trail of the green man. 
It is weird hearing about integral events in your life, such as the rave scene & the 1988 Summer of Love and its impact on the modern world from the perspective of someone 10 years younger, your life as history.  That's getting old I guess. Being taught by people younger than you, whilst in your head you're the same age as them.

What is interesting, I find, is kicking against the perception that each generation grows up thinking it can change the world.    Mine didn't, I remember our head of History a young 30 year old, so ancient to our 17 year old minds, railing at our cynicism & belief that little we did would change the world.  We'd seen the various waves of young adults like the hippies, punks and others fight the system, the man and seemingly lose or even worse become ' the man'. 

O Fuck it, we weren't gonna do that.  I became an 80's yuppie by day and raver by night.  There were a lot of us, ecstasy was our drug & it turned haters into friends, opened closed minds & we became one people.  Then we discovered we had power.  The police had to be cautious of violently break up a rave of 1000s of people from all levels of society - there were Lords & Ladies, children of judges alongside those from the poorest estates, gay's with straights, Chelsea and Arsenal fans hugged.  Everyone was behaving peaceably, loved up and would be dressed in anything from DJ and ball gown to a fully fluorescent outfit.  No one cared, the dance was everything.  A few police couldn't incite us as the repercussions of attacking a mob high on amphetamines would've been too great.  Many of us were the children of the Tory establishment not poor Labour miners who they could brutally attack & then lie in the media to get away with it.

The establishment were scared.  They changed the rules, allowing night clubs to stay open all night as well as banning raves to remove the reasons for raves to happen.  The world was changed, football violence declined, it was a step change in the acceptance of being different.  There's some power in a youth movement not thinking they can change their world and managing it by accident, only realising it as the world turns and they look back.

As we reach the equinox, the time when the Green Man dies in some traditions, it is appropriate to think of these transitions.  As I move into my Gold Days/Golden years so my son moves into his Beltaine years.  The cycle within & without a cycle.
I liked the book, it reminded me of ZAMM , Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but for a neo pagan world.  A philosophical critique of where it is right now, as well as a warning for the future.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

St. Nectan and his glen

Now if you listen to Druidcast you may have come across St. Nectan, where you can hear the wonderful vocal tones of Roland Rotherham talk about him it starts at Druidcast 99, and I had the joy of visiting his legendary glen. It sits between Tintagel and Boscastle, between the myths of the ancient British King Arthur and the Witches museum. Walking up to the glen brought back memories of playing in Cornwall's granite and quartz laden streams, there is even traces of gold in the rocks too.

Nectan is also a water deity within the Irish mythology. Which would make the waterfall at St. Nectan's Cleave or Glen a pool of the well of wisdom. It is certainly a place of pilgrimage to many folk who visit. In this respect it has been treated as a Clootie Well for healing and spiritual help.

It is undoubtedly a place of magic and mystery, although we failed to get down to Rocky Valley

, pics from here, due to the lateness of the hour when we left the Glen. The carvings are Neolithic, 4000 years old, and provide links between ancient Crete and Glastonbury too.

The stacks of 'fairy' rock formations within the glen add to the magical feeling as you walk to and from the waterfall.

Ultimately for the strong spirited the waterfall and it's cold, cleansing waters are the main attraction:
This is the upper part of the waterfall, the plunge pool is shallow enough to stand in but deep enough to become immersed in the water. The afternoon we spent there was certainly a special one. Whilst there is a car park where you can walk to the Glen for the stronger walkers I would recommend it as an essential mid-walk stop on the coastal path between Boscastle and Tintagel.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Belated Lughnasadh seed thought - being happy in the moment

The Lughnasadh period is a busy one for anniversaries; Lughnasadh itself is my wedding anniversary, with a break for the 2nd August and then in sequence my departed Father's birthday, a good friend's birthday, my wife's best friend deathday and then a breather until my birthday. Which this year was a significant one. As it also aligns to summer holidays it is a busy time of year.

Whilst mindfulness has now become a widely known meme, as such ripe for parody, it is still a useful technique for dealing with stress. I have become unemployed for the first time in my life and as such it is easy to become prey to anxiety and my internal negativity. It was as I contemplated the garden, the worry of still not having a job lurked like a sinister mould at the back of the fridge, that I remembered to focus in the moment. It was sunny, I had completed many of the jobs in the garden and I had applied for a number of jobs. There's enough money in the bank too, so I was...

Being where you need to be

If you are, like me, something of a mental list maker then you can become subject to the tyranny of the to do list. Whilst a list can be useful in knowing what to do next it must not be allowed to ruin the moment with self negativity. I used to do this a lot, particularly around the garden...I should have planted those seeds, weeded that border...aarrrgh the hedge needs pruning.... Who was I hoping to please with this? Me, the kids don't care, my wife cares about the garden sporadically and only the bit she can see. The hedges don't care if they look neat to the human eye and we will not starve if I forgot to plant the brassica's. I've earned the money sitting in the bank so I can live without a job for a few months (not that I intend to do that) so I can...

Allow yourself

The garden is not perfect and is not finished, I've not written a blog post for a few weeks and probably gamed a little too much but I've not had a whole summer off in 30 years. I think the last summer I had off was in 1985 when I spent much of it sailing, including racing J24 yachts.

So for Lughnasadh choose a day to throw off the shackles of the mental to do list, enjoy the moment and prepare for the work of the harvest.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Belated Litha Seed thought - Of grief and hate

The Cycle of Grief

I have decided the so called newspaper that many people read online should be renamed as the Daily Hate-Mail

So I was planning to write up a seed thought for Litha. Except that British politics took over, the Brexit vote was intellectually not a massive surprise but emotionally & sub-consciously I'd not expected it. I am ashamed to be English and have been grieving for Britain. So before the vote I was in Denial of how serious it was and Bargaining with all and sundry for Remain. When the result hit on Friday I sank into Depression which transformed into Anger over the weekend. Monday there was some Acceptance. I started supporting France in the Euro's football competition
Then the cycle begins again, Denial is rife on social media with demands for a second referendum now the Brexit lies have been exposed, particularly as the Bargaining with the rest of Europe begins. Then there will be Depression and Anger again, I think this country has been so divided by this issue that the British psyche will take years to reach full Acceptance. If the British Psyche, a product of the United Kingdom, survives that is. We seem to be at a crucial point in our history where the dark forces of hate and nationalism feel they have a majority.
In response I think that Bob Marley expressed it better than I can..

"Get Up, Stand Up"

Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!

Preacherman, don't tell me,
Heaven is under the earth.
I know you don't know
What life is really worth.
It's not all that glitters is gold;
'Alf the story has never been told:
So now you see the light, eh!
Stand up for your rights. Come on!

Chorus

Most people think,
Great God will come from the skies,
Take away everything
And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light,
You stand up for your rights. Jah!

Chorus
We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, Lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty God is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (What you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (Yeah, yeah, yeah!)

And yet the Dog Rose is flowering which reminds us that the Rose, like the Lotus, brings beauty from dung

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Bourne Trees

With the changes mentioned in previous posts I have, for the first time, become the owner of a dog. Not the "needs little exercise will sleep most of the time" breed that my wife told me she'd look after! No, after a weekend of 'just looking' round various dog home's we came home with Brodie...

He's a mongrel perhaps but one that so resembles the New Zealand Huntaway that I suspect that is what he is; especially as there was a breeder of Huntaway's in Sussex around the time he was born! He is apparently a one-man dog needing lots of exercise....

The Tree Ogham

However, I had been missing cycling commuting in all weathers since my supervisor took umbrage at my kit drying under my desk. This has meant the past year has been missing a regular contact with nature. Early morning walkies have provided a recent replacement and time to contemplate nature. I realise this land of the Alder Bourne is not like other parts of Sussex I have known. It has the Oak and Ash as expected but few Birches and no Beeches. Instead it has the Willow and Grey Poplar. The Grey Poplar being a cross of the Aspen and the White Alder. It is one of those Druidic coincidences that these trees are reaching out to me at this cross-roads in life when I am between work and torn between financial and spiritual imperatives. Using Coleen Whittaker's excellent resource here is what it says...

Saille / Willow

The willow is another water loving tree. Willow bark contains Salicin which is used in the treatment of rheumatic fever and various damp diseases. Her catkins, which appear in early spring before her leaves, attract bees to start the cycle of pollination. She indicates cycles, rhythms and the ebb and flux.
Physical: A comfortable relationship to the material world is full of lessons and cycles of changing values. Change is necessary for growth, and values are no exception to the rule.
Mental: To gain understanding of a particular concept, a steady accumulation of facts is the foundation that brings understanding. All cannot be learned in one lesson. Repetition is the key.
Spiritual: This is a period of taking it easy rather than full speed ahead. Learn to play with the cyclical nature of things.

Eadha / Poplar

The Poplar flourishes beside rivers, in marshes and in other watery areas. The pith is star shaped. The upper leaves are green, the underside is silver. The wood was used in the making of shields. Leaves move with every puff of wind. It is commonly referred to as the talking, whispering and quivering tree. The Poplar's ability to resist and to shield, its association with speech, language and the Winds indicates an ability to endure and conquer.
Physical: Whatever challenge you now face, you will endure and conquer with determination. You can bend and not break.
Mental: Shield your thoughts from the fears and doubts about the odds you must overcome. A positive attitude will prevail.
Spiritual: Do not give in to worldly pressures, great assistance is yours on your journey to rebirth.

Koad / Grove

Certain groups or groves of trees have always been revered. Their branches are never pruned or loped. It is assumed these are the remnants of Druidic Groves. These groves contained various types of trees, among them the Oak, and were by a stream. It is here all meetings by the Druids were held 'in the face of the Sun and in the eye of Light". Here grievances were heard and judgements rendered that would settle issues. Grove indicates all knowledge, past, present and future, where all are linked in unity, and the resolution of conflict.
Physical: You may be participating in a resolution of conflict.
Mental: Misunderstandings can be ironed out if all parties will meet, work towards this.
Spiritual: You must try to hold the energy of judgement, of life aligned to the values that are above reproach. By example do we teach others.

The reason to include Koad is that the Grey Poplar forms groves where all the trees are linked by a common root stock. The suckers/scions of the tree root system spread out to propagate it. Pando an Aspen colony, is thought to be one of the largest living organisms. It is amazing to think that this enormous grove could be 10,000 years old and the heaviest organism on the planet, something that is central to Druidry is the power of the trees.

That these three Ogham reach out to me as Brodie and I make our circuit around the fields at this time is interesting. The messages from the Ogham align with the messages I've been giving myself whilst I search for a new job and plan for the future. Another advantage of the regular dog walks in the country is that it has improved both my core & leg strength so my body is more balanced.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

All Change

The wheel has been turning and a cycle comes to an end. With the ending of any cycle there is always some sense of loss with tears watering the ground for new growth to appear. So it is with this cycle of change but of all the things coming to an end, the most recognised and awaited often hits the hardest.

Puss-shka

A skinny waif came awaiting a way
into a home, hearth a place to rest a head
an independent spirit, stubborn, her self.

Always hungry with inexpensive tastes
and a super-furry soft expansive stomach
that perfectly vibrated a purry performance.

Occasionally happy to halt upon a lap
when cold, or clammy or ineffably kind
unless she was not and remained her self.

Always around unless elsewhere
exuding Mephistophelean ease
as she reappeared extemporanously.

In later years, introvert and internal
contemplating cautiously the nature of cat
statically she maintained a vortex of suspicion.

Of her names she cared not a whit;
the loving Puss, Pussy or Pushka
the mocking Fatso and Weepoo
or the universal Cat yet
She was Her Self.

Her self is no more, her vortex a hole
the space that is left, leaves little to console.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Beltaine Seedthough - A Gardener's Prayer

A BLESSING ON THE GARDEN

Each day within my garth
They will all be mixed together,
In the name of Ingwine & Gerðr,
Who gave them growth.

Fruit, and veg, and flower,
The good produce of our own earth,
There shall be no dearth in our land,
Nor in our dwelling.

In the name of the Alfar of my love,
Who bequeathed to us the power,
With the blessing of the Land,
And Mother Frige.

Humble us in this garden,
Be thine own sanctuary around us,
Ward from us spectre, sprite, oppression,
And preserve us.

adapted from Carmina Goidelica 78

Friday, 29 April 2016

The Cauldron of Poetry and the Romantic Continuum

From the Venerable Bard to the Wandering Minstrel

What is the difference between the Celtic Bard and the Medieval Minstrel?
I think the difference is that the Celtic Bard seems, like the Fili/Filidh in Ireland, to have had a formal instruction and a formal role in ancient and early medieval societies. Similar to the Norse Skjald and the Anglo-Saxon Scop, whose roles seem & training seem to have been less formal, the Bard maintained the history of the tribe which included spiritual, ancestral and legal knowledge. In this respect they came from a pre-Christian culture & their ability to hold an audience (via their performance) and play an instrument were by-products of their function. They had a high office within the society as keepers of the people's knowledge. The leaders of the people needed to refer to them in many matters and they were often protected by law.
The Minstrel, or Old English Gleeman, from the later medieval Christian Feudal culture was more of a performer and musician. Their function was merely to entertain the audience in an informal way, often whilst referring to the news and issues of the day. Most of the powerful functions of spiritual and ancestral knowledge were now held by the clergy and with the written word there was development of the legal profession. The leaders no longer needed to refer to the Bards but for the folk, now demoted from free men to serfs they provided an essential source of news.
However, as the later medieval Christian Feudal culture took over from the early Medieval Pagan culture it would seem that many of the earlier Bards accepted their loss of social status and became wandering Minstrels. It was probably a gradual decline that took place over several generations.

The intriguing part, I find, is with the Angevin Queen (you could almost say Empress) Eleanor of Aquitaine. She created the model Medieval court and brought in learned people and Minstrels, many of whom seem to come from Brittanny. They (and this is conjecture) may well have been from families that were historically British (Welsh) or even Irish Bards. These Minstrels took the ancient Celtic Myths and forged them into the Arthurian Legends and helped to define the Chivalric code, which has many parallels into Celtic ideas of Good Kingship but within a Christian context. It was at this court, which became a cauldron of culture, that the Celtic world mixed with the love stories from Moorish scholars of the Mediterranean and the Germanic feudal culture of England and France. Here are a series of quotes from sites about this legendary court...

Romanz

" William IX, Duke of Aquitaine one of the first troubadour poets "from here It was defined by the use of the Latin word Romanz as distinct from what was known as ‘real’ literature, which was ironically written in Latin. Romanz with its captivating themes of love, ladies and passion in the courts of Europe it was not long before it became known as romantic literature. Eleanor had grown up at the court of her father William X Duke of Aquitaine, but she was really a chip off the old block of her grandfather (William IX).
"Of all her influence on culture, Eleanor's time in Poitiers between 1168 and 1173 was perhaps the most critical, yet very little is known about it. Henry II was elsewhere, attending to his own affairs after escorting Eleanor there. Some believe that Eleanor’s court in Poitiers was the "Court of Love", where Eleanor and her daughter Marie meshed and encouraged the ideas of troubadours, chivalry, and courtly love into a single court. It may have been largely to teach manners, as the French courts would be known for in later generations. The existence and reasons for this court are debated."

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Court of Love

"Eleanor’s time as mistress of her own lands in Poitiers (1168-1173) established the legend of the Court of Love, where she is reputed to have encouraged a culture of chivalry among her courtiers that had far-reaching influence on literature, poetry, music and folklore. Although some facts about the court remain in dispute amidst centuries of accumulated legend and myth, it seems that Eleanor, possibly accompanied by her daughter Marie, established a court that was largely focused on courtly love and symbolic ritual that was eagerly taken up by the troubadours and writers of the day and promulgated through poetry and song. This court was reported to have attracted artists and poets, and to have contributed to a flowering of culture and the arts. But to whatever extent such a court existed, it appears not to have survived Eleanor’s later capture and imprisonment, which effectively removed her from any position of power and influence for the next 16 years."

Troubadours

Troubadours: "They flourished between 1100 and 1350 and were attached to various courts in the south of France. The troubadours wrote almost entirely about sexual love and developed the concept and practice of courtly love There was no tradition of passionate love literature in the European middle ages before the twelfth century, although there was such a tradition in Arabic-speaking Spain and Sicily. This Arab love poetry was readily accessible to Europeans living in Italy and Spain and was a major source of the Troubadour-developed cult of courtly love.
Troubadour love poetry, although conceptually adulterous, inspired the man (and perhaps the woman) and ennobled the lover's character. Eleanor set up a court controlled by women which aimed at "civilizing" the rather rough society of the area. Many gifted poets and scholars came to her court at Poitiers. A unique situation where wealthy powerful women were able to create their own environment. The doctrine of Courtly Love was designed to teach courtiers how to be lovely, charming and delightful. Its basic premise was that being in love would teach you how to be loveable and pleasing; so love taught courtesy."

The Romantic Continuum

What we see in Eleanor is a medieval Queen who set up a court and created the rules to empower women in what had previously been a purely patriarchal society. As her various sons, including Richard the Lionheart and King John, grew to age the society reverted back to its patriarchal ways but the shining light of her legendary court lived on in the Romantic stories of the day. These continued to inspire subsequent stories, kept alive in the hearts of the people by the wandering minstrels and troubadours until the printing press could disseminate them more widely.
What we see in the bards and troubadours is that, like the folk they represented, their position in society may have declined with feudalism but the themes of love, justice, honour and virtue still resonated with aspirational yet human characters searching for an idealized future. As the role of the folk in society rose during the Renaissance, Enlightenment and into the Modern world each age generated and continues to generate it's own Bards and Troubadours who learn from and re-visit those continuous themes.

I viewed Prince as a modern day romantic and troubadour R.I.P.

Friday, 8 April 2016

The role of a Gothi / Gythja

This was prompted as a follow on to the post on Lordship and from the discussions on the role of Heathen Guru's or Priests - The Gothi .
"The Gothi leads the ceremonies. That is fairly vague. Also stated was that the Gothi was a respected member of the group. Again, vague, but telling more. If you want to be a Gothi, you will have to be respected by an Asatru group and know enough to lead ceremonies." from here.
So from a Gewessi point of view think about the personal growth part of this; to be a Gothi to yourself you need to respect, love and understand yourself. You need to understand ritual, sacrifice and be knowledgeable on the lore of your land.   As Woden did upon Yggdrasil...
I trow I hung on that windy Tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself to mine own self given,
high on that Tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven.

You will need to learn about all of the seasonal blóts and symbels, as well as days dedicated to the Gods and Goddesses and ancient heroes to honour. There may also be ceremonies particular to your group (even a solitary like me has links to groups or tribes) if you are a member of one, such as its founding or the birthday of its founder, and you will need to know those. For a solitary it's important to know and develop your own, these are mine:

  1. Ritual Year - the 8 fold cycle from modern paganism and particularly Druidry
  2. Full Moon Meditation - Druidry meditation on peace and healing to the worlds
  3. Festum Prophetae - 17th June road ride to honour Eddy Merckx and road cycling
  4. Virum Honorem - 24th August MTB ride to honour Jason McRoy
  5. Life Events - these are ad-hoc
Rituals should involve either a Blót or a Symbel. Here is a prayer
When ale thou quaffest, call upon earth's might --
'tis earth drinks in the floods.
Earth prevails o'er drink, but fire o'er sickness,
the oak o'er binding, the earcorn o'er witchcraft,
the rye spur o'er rupture, the moon o'er rages,
herb o'er cattle plagues, runes o'er harm.

A Gewessi must decide when & know when to hold them and the difference between a Symbel or ritual feast where you need to give a toast, a boast & a promise, and a blót or sacrifice (ritual times of year & ad-hoc) - the text here is a Blót description:
To this festival all the men brought ale with them; and all kinds of cattle, as well as horses, were slaughtered, and all the blood that came from them was called "hlaut", and the vessels in which it was collected were called hlaut-vessels. Hlaut-staves were made, like sprinkling brushes, with which the whole of the altars and the temple walls, both outside and inside, were sprinkled over, and also the people were sprinkled with the blood; but the flesh was boiled into savoury meat for those present. The fire was in the middle of the floor of the temple, and over it hung the kettles,
which then moves onto a Symbel description...
and the full goblets were handed across the fire; and he who made the feast, and was a chief, blessed the full goblets, and all the meat of the sacrifice. And first Odin's goblet was emptied for victory and power to his king; thereafter, Niord's and Freyja's goblets for peace and a good season. Then it was the custom of many to empty the brage-goblet (Brage is a poem often to the departed); and then the guests emptied a goblet to the memory of departed friends, called the remembrance goblet.
This is a historical account, in our modern world I do not think that re-construction is appropriate with its unlicensed butchery and spraying blood everywhere! In our modern age alcohol such as beer, wine or vodka could be used or smudging with incense smoke. Most of all the sense you get from the lore is that this is not a puritanical, staid and boring experience but one of joy, laughter and good-natured flyting which in the modern world we call banter.

To sum up being your own Gothi or Gythja

you need knowledge of ritual and when to perform it, experience of working with your Gods and finally, but most importantly, the personal growth to have confidence and respect in yourself as your Gothi/Gythja.