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Archive for the ‘Witchcraft’ Category

the Urban Hedge

Living in Ireland is one thing, living in an American city quite another.  I find city magic different from the magic of the countryside.  I also find central Texas magic different from southern Irish magic.  This is common sense really, as there are different partners in the work.

The energy of the American city  I live within is one of motion, and literal energy generation.  Perhaps it is more like a stellar nursery, or star-forming region: a dense area of exotic cosmic brew.

I don’t work with the entire city.  I build relationship with the area I can –and regularly do– walk the bounds of.  Boundary walking, and tending, is the age-old habit of the witch.  It’s where we draw our power.  During the liminal times of day, it is easy to find the urban Hedge.  Within my own bounds, those are odd crossroads, where odd numbers of pathways or streets intersect.  Also, the alleyways.

In any Hedge crossing endeavor, caution is needed.  Persons of dubious nature are attracted to liminal spaces, and times.  Do not trust every Person you meet, corporeal or not!  Victor H. Anderson cautioned his students to make such journeys with their Lights on.  That is, have a strong and direct relationship with your own Godsoul, the ancestral spirit directly connected to you.

Also, test the spirits.

Just because some non-material dude chats you up, doesn’t mean you should give him your number.

During urban hedge crossing, I do not sit and trance.  I walk.  This is a skill I developed working with the Reclaiming Pagan Cluster, and learning to use my magic during direct action protest.  I also carry a protective talisman in my pocket, or on my person.  I set an intention, whether that be exploratory or specific.  These forays are not for entertainment.  They are for the purpose of accomplishing my will, and my work.

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The danger in possession is if you let alien beings in to use you — and there are plenty out there that will. They’ll split your personality. They’ll touch certain parts of your personality that you don’t even know you have. And then, you won’t be able to consciously remember when one takes over or when one doesn’t, even though it’s all you. That’s the danger of possession. Another danger is that they can come in with cruel and terrible ideas and infect you with them. Because when someone knocks at your door, and I’m not just speaking about spirits, don’t let them in unless you know who they are. You turn on the light first and that light is right above your head. — Victor Anderson, The Heart of the Initiate: Feri Lessons

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Red Rite

Of all the strange and terrible powers among which we move unknowingly, sex is the most potent. Conceived in the orgasm of birth, we burst forth in agony and ecstasy from the Center of Creation. Time and again we return to that fountain, lose ourselves in the fires of being, unite for a moment with the eternal force and return renewed and refreshed as from a miraculous sacrament. Then, at the last, our life closes in the orgasm of death. Sex, typified as love, is at the heart of every mystery, at the center of every secret. It is this splendid and subtle serpent that twines about the cross and coils in the heart of the mystic rose. -Jack Parsons

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from Ultra Culture: UK censorship of a esoteric sites

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I  am an initiate and abiding student of the Faery Tradition of witchcraft (also known as Feri), which was passed through Victor and Cora Anderson.  This tradition is a beautiful, and uniquely American, order of Old Craft.  There are many things I feel and believe about my practice of Faery witchcraft, and I do not speak much publicly about those.  However, I want to express a few things I feel are important, and make them available publicly in the event they prove helpful to someone seeking out this tradition.

1.  There is no ‘one’ way of practicing Faery.  There really aren’t any agreed upon ‘core’ beliefs or practices within the tradition.  The only fundamental and congruous element is the unique Faery Current.  However, having said that, each initiate has a very specific way of working and practicing, and anyone studying with an initiate will first learn their way of practice, just like the old apprentice model.

2.  The majority of Faery initiates teach for free, in a rather old school ‘in-person’ way, or at least more one-on-one. There are a handful of very public initiates who teach according to a large classroom model, some of whom teach via the internet and charge a fee. [Edit: There are, within the handful of more public initiates, those who teach fewer students, using various methods, and charge a fee.]  But most initiates within the tradition are more private, and take students as they meet them, or not at all.

3.  Since the fundamental thread of the tradition is built around a living current, in-person contact with an initiate is paramount.  My one and only advice to anyone interested in this tradition of witchcraft is to ASK, ask, ASK if an initiate lives anywhere near you and contact them directly, or indirectly (through an initiate willing to make introductions) if they are private.

4.  There are now Feri initiates located all over the world.  If you have heard of this wild, queer, androgynous, non-degree system of witchcraft, and are drawn to it, I suggest you ASK, ask, ASK until you find an initiate close enough to your location to visit in person, and contact them. [Edit: Since the majority of initiates are private, you won’t be able to find them doing a google search.  You will need to ask around.  You can even email a more public initiate and ask them to introduce you to an initiate living closer to your area.  We initiates have ways of contacting each other.]

Luminous : Æ

Luminous : Æ

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Professor Fergus Kelly’s (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) presentation on Early Irish Charms for Animals came with an extensive reference handout.  Because the two keynote speakers had run over time, Prof. Kelly sped through his offering.  I would have enjoyed hearing more from this distinguished scholar, but I am thankful to have his list of sources.

The thrust of the presentation concerned the narrative of a hunter-gatherer people, transitioning and transitioned to a life dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry.  Where once the herd animals had been robust in size and number, with domestication, their physical size and numbers were reduced.  This necessarily increased concern over disease, which was directly linked to domestication.

This new concern can be seen in the highly significant burden placed upon local Kings, which tied the health of the land and animal population to the King’s justice, as well as the compensation an animal healer was entitled to, as outlined in the law tracts (1/4 of the wound price).  It is from this concern that the use of animal charms arises.

Language of the Literary Sources:

Seirthech, a disese of horses (seir ‘heel, hock’)

Sinech, a disease of cattle, perhaps ‘cow-pox’ (sine, ‘teat’)

Conach ‘rabies’ (disease affecting dogs, cattle, pigs, poultry, etc.), derivative of cú, con ‘dog’

Liaig ‘animal doctor’

gono míl, orgo míl, marbu míl  “I would the worm, I strike the worm, I kill the worm”

Milliud ‘destruction, bewitching’

mart leicter la sruth .i. ar g(l)einntlecht leicter ‘an animal which was swept away in a stream, i.e. it is swept away by sorcery with g(l)einntlecht being associated with paganism

mimir do cor do coin ‘giving a bad morsel to a dog’; froma uptha dus inbud amainsi: lethdiri ind, uair ni fo fath narbtha .i. fromad felmais .i. fromad na pisoc, anfot indethbiri he ‘trying out the spell to find out whether it is magic: half penalty-fine for that, because it is not with the intention of killing, i.e. trying out a magic spell i.e. testing the charms, and that is culpable inadvertence’

amainse ‘magic’

felmas ‘spell’

pisóc ‘charm’

Other Charms

There was mention of the use of charms, in general, with an interesting note concerning marriage.

bean dia tabair a ceile upta oca guide co mbeir for druis “a wife whose husband gives her love charms while wooing her so that he brings her to lust” is entitled to a divorce, and to keep her bride price!

Corrguine(ch) ‘crane / heron-slayer, sorcerer’ could be one who practices the crane stance, etc.

Herbs in Charms

An incredibly interesting portion of the talk skimmed over the different uses of herbs, specifically, that each class used a different herb for the same problem.  There is an indication that certain plants were only used for the noble class, etc.

Ar ni inun cosc sair [] dair [] leth[s]air: ‘for the prevention of [the evil eye from ?] the noble and base and half-noble is not the same’

Tri losa atheclthar and: righlus [] tarblus [] aitheclus: righlus do righaibh guna comhgradhaibh [] tarblus do gradhaibh flatha, aitheclus do gradaib deine “Three herbs are recognised here: royal herb and bull herb and plebeian herb: royal herb for kings and those of equal rank with them, bull herb for the grades of lord, and plebeian herb for the grades of commoner’

Time, and it’s connection with Charms

Another topic, which could have received its own treatment, was the notion that time mattered: that when you plucked or cut an herb was associated with status, of the herb and the person it was to be used on.

is ed dleghar a buain ‘maseach [] in lus resa[rai]ter is ed dleghar a buain cach nuairi do ‘it should be plucked in turn and the herb which is said [to correspond to his rank ?] is that which should be plucked every time for him’

[] is airi danither sen mada teccmadh a athair do gradhaibh flatha [] a mathair do gradhaibh feine ‘and it is for that reason that that is done, if his father should belong to the grades of lord, and his mother to the grades of commoner’

Agricultural Year ?

Prof. Kelly mentioned the lack of information present in early Irish MS regarding cereal crops.  He indicated that the climate here was never fit for them, and even the more hearty barley can be a struggle.  It is interesting to me that there should be a lack of literary reference to cereal crops in the early period, when they seem to overshadow the current practitioner (pagan) mindset of an agricultural (harvest based) year.  It puts me in mind of the theory espoused by Barry Cuncliffe of the university of Oxford and Social anthropologist Lionel Sims, that the transition to agriculture from a hunter-gather way of life was motivated by a reduction in large game after the last ice-age, and that turning to stationary lifestyles which required more intensive periods of work, and dependence on climate, was resisted.  This subject needs further practitioner (pagan) scholarship, if it has not already been done. 

A modern festival which I had read about previously was mentioned: Féil na nairemon ‘the festival of the ploughmen’  Prof Kelly indicated that this festival took place in mid June, when the crops had reached full growth, after 3 months of tending.

Additional Time related activities mentioned by audience members:

At Bealtaine – hawthorn was collected after sunset, placed on house before sunrise.

Vervaine is only collected when Sirius is rising, which is sometime in July.

Roots are collected after the November full moon.

Sources:

The majority of Irish texts cited are from Corpus iuris hibernici  (Dublin 1978)  D.A. Binchy

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Charm-of-the-Sprain

Barbara Hillers (Harvard University) gave a wonderful presentation, entitled “Joint to joint and sinew to sinew”: an international healing charm in medieval Irish literature and modern folklore.  She began the talk discussing the connection between mythology and folklore, reminding us of the use of the bone charm in Miach’s cure in the Irish mythological cycle — pointing out that this tale comes from a single 16th century MS that uses some 9th century language.  This charm is also found in Germanic and Vedic sources.

There was some time spent dissecting the structure of charms and folk prayers.  Namely, that in charms the speaker affects the cure, aided by supernatural powers, and in folk prayers the cure is accomplished by the supernatural power.  The bone to bone charm is an epic, or narrative, charm.  The event or story told around the charm, which includes its narrative structure, is actually part of the charm itself, and includes formula transference where the speaker – the charmer — impersonates a divine being.

Part of Professor Hillers focus was in connecting the bone charm to IndoEuropean roots.  She explained that within scholarship three cultural sources are needed to substantiate such a connection.  The charm is found in Germanic, Vedic, and Irish sources, though scholars do not view the Irish source as ‘distinct.’  There is an additional Hittite variant of the charm, but it is not similar enough to supply the needed third cultural connection because it combines parts from different bodies, while the other two share the same function – repairing a single body.

Looking at the charm from a modern ethnographic perspective, we see more of a fusion of the charm across Europe, which indicates a non-IndoEuropean root.  The Irish folkloric sources are underwhelming. It is found in clusters in the SW and North of the country, which links it to Viking settlement areas.  This is important, because Scandinavia has a predominance of the charm; indicating a Viking source with diffusion spreading the charm in Europe.

I.  Irish Source

Miach went to the hand which had been replaced by Diancecht, and he said, ‘Joint to joint of it and sinew to sinew,’ and he healed Nuada in thrice three days and nights.
 The Second Battle of Moytura

II. Germanic Source

Phol and Wodan rode into the woods,
There Balder’s foal sprained its foot.
It was charmed by Sinthgunt, her sister Sunna;
It was charmed by Frija, her sister Volla;
It was charmed by Wodan, as he well knew how:
Bone-sprain, like blood-sprain,
Like limb-sprain:
Bone to bone; blood to blood;
Limb to limb — like they were glued.
second Merseburg Incantation  (another source: wikipedia)

III.  Vedic Source

Let marrow be put together with marrow,
let bone grow over with bone;
we put together sinew with sinew,
let skin grow with skin
Atharva Veda 4.15.2=4.12.4

NOTE:

The identification of Scandinavia (and Vikings) as a source for this charm is significant when you consider the political discourse of the “stranger” and “foreigner” so prevalent in the narrative of the 2nd Battle of Moytura.  If you have not listened to the Story Archeology podcast which covers Lugh’s identity as a ‘shiny foreigner’ (i.e. non-Irish origin), I highly recommend it!! 

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