Archive for the ‘Points to Ponder’ Category

Is the earth alive?

Read the short article on NPR

“Tim’s own work is a masterful display of the power of modeling to elucidate the coupling of life with the environment. Firmly based on data, he claims that we should look at Earth as a living thing, just as James Lovelock, his mentor, has argued in the Gaia Hypothesis.

At CERN, Tim told us that “you can pick up Earth’s breathing from the CO2 captured by detectors spread around the planet, a rhythm that moves with night and day.” What a staggeringly beautiful revelation.

Life regulates the stability of the atmosphere so that it can survive. It’s not a purposeful directive, but one that resulted from millions of years of interactions between life and Earth’s atmosphere; one cannot be seen without the other. Life and Earth are one.

I couldn’t think of a more fitting scientific topic to be discussed in this most revered cathedral of reductionism.

It all starts with electrons, quarks and the Higgs boson. But even if all living entities are assemblies of such particles, life is much more than its parts. New laws are needed to describe how matter interacts to become ever more complex; from molecules to cells to organisms to minds, all coupled to their environment.”

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help, protect, and defend thy Brothers and Sisters of the Art

There is an ancient story that in days long ago Wytches met in secret.  That to come among them, you swore a fearsome Oath.  Your measure was taken, with cord Hallow and Mighty, upon your promise to “keep Secret” and “Protect” the Art and those who practiced it.

A dread Oath to swear.  For, if the oath be broken by a Witch, his or her cord was buried with curses, so that as it rotted the traitor would too.

How many of you have mused on that time, and imagined yourself called to betray the names of your coven or your neighbors?  Would you…under torture, speak their names?

Bessie Dunloptumblr_m5gzspxhAN1qatqtto1_400

Elizabeth Knap

Marigje Arriens

Johann Albrecht Adelgrief

Goodwife Bassett

Giovanna Bonanno

George Burroughs

Lasses Birgitta

Michée Chauderon

Nyzette Cheveron

Elizabeth Clarke

Helena Curtens

Jean Delvaux

Catherine Deshayes

Thomas Doughty

Anna Eriksdotter

Ann Glover


Perhaps we understand, all too well, what heinous physical cruelty these healers, midwives, cunning folk, and mystics endured.

                       Perhaps we hold mercy for those who screamed the names of others.

But in our day and age?

What is our modern equivalent?

A subpoena?

Would you “out” your brothers and sisters if a court demanded it?

What of MONEY?

Would you make known the secrets of the Art for payment?

What of prestige?

“I am High Muckety Muck Raven Claw” …. “I was told by the Goddess Spank Me that THIS is the only correct way”

I am a Witch heart-broken, enraged, and determined.  Someone has revealed.  Someone has made known.  Someone has not protected her brothers and sisters of the Art.

What would you do?

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Thinking about it from the standpoint of the history of philosophy, it was once a “given” in philosophical thought that all things had a sort of inner spirit or purpose for being. When certain “advances” in human civilization occurred (e.g. the Enlightenment), the ensouled view of matter was thrown out in favor of a disenchanted and mechanistic one. It was no longer proper to speak of all things as having a teleological purpose. So in at least some contexts, animism does not particularly describe a religious belief at all, but a philosophical position. It could be seen, in a religious context, as similar to polytheism.

By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents — or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognised. . . . The Enemy in successive forms is always ‘naturally’ concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines. – JRR Tolkien

A natural history which is composed for its own sake s not like one that is collected to supply the understanding with information for the building up of philosophy. They differ in many ways, but especially in this: that the former contains the variety o f natural species only, and not experiments of the mechanical arts. For even as in the business of life a man’s disposition and the secret workings of his mind and affections are better discovered when he is in trouble than at other times; so likewise the secrets of nature reveal themselves more readily under the vexation of art [i.e., artisanry, technology] than when they go their own way. – Francis Bacon, Aphorism XCVIII

Although Bacon’s identification of knowledge with industrial utility and his grappling with the concept of experiment based on technology certainly underlie much of our current scientific thought,m the implications drawn from the Cartesian corpus exercised a staggering impact on the subsequent history of Western consciousness and (despite the differences with Bacon) served to confirm the technological paradigm–indeed,, even helped to launch it on its way. Man’s activity as a thinking being–and that is his essence, according to Descartes–is purely mechanical. The mind is in possession of a certain method. It confronts the world as a separate object. It applies this method to the object, again and again and again, and eventually it will know all there is to know. The method, furthermore, is also mechanical. The problem is broken down into its components, and the simple act of cognition (the direct perception) has the same relationship to the knowledge of the whole problem that, let us say, an inch has to a foot: one measures (perceives) a number of times, and then sums the results. Subdivide, measure, combine; subdivide, measure, combine. – Morris Berman, The Reenchantment of the World.

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from Sheffield Hallam University, Jenny Blain, author of Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic (Routledge, 2002).

She says that wight can be a synonym of “beings” or “persons”, but, more usefully, that it refers to “sentient beings for which we don’t have other words”. Derived from an old English word (with cognates in Old Norse), wiht, the word seems much more useful that the word “spirit”. Too many people, anthropologists included, add the word “spirit” where it really isn’t needed. If trees, rocks, clouds or animals are persons, then it doesn’t help to speak of them as “tree spirits”, etc., unless you want to confuse people into thinking you are making claims about some spiritualised, metaphysical or non-empirical reality. It is only useful to speak of “tree persons” and so on because we need to educate ourselves and other heirs/victims of modernism to find different ways to perceive and relate to other-than-human persons.

(The term “other-than-human persons”, was created by Irving Hallowell to say what his Ojibwe hosts had taught him)

Wights seems useful too in more poetic circumstances and one’s in which we’re happy to expect people to ask what we mean. It has become an important part of the language of contemporary Heathens.

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“Wherever the poetry of the myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky. Furthermore, it is never difficult to demonstrate that as science and history mythology is absurd. When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives is dissolved. Such a blight has certainly descended on the Bible and on a great part of the Christian cult.” Joseph Campbell

I know several people who would be upset with me for saying this, or at least disagree; but, the same is true with much of Paganism. People are taking ancient Myths and attempting to interpret them as custom, even taking the characters and elevating them to the status of gods. I’ll tell you….I don’t see a lot of (though there is some) overlap between what is found in the archeological record here in Ireland and what is actually recorded in its Mythical manuscript tradition.

“To bring the images back to life, one has to seek, not interesting applications to modern affairs, but illuminating hints from the inspired past. When these are found, vast areas of half-dead iconography disclose against permanent human meaning.” Joseph Campbell

Myth speaks to us on a subconscious level. As tempting as it is – especially for me – to look for cues to folk and lifeways within the narrative tradition, I remind myself to let go, and allow the images to dance – revealing hints of ancestral whispers and wisdom.

“…according to this view it appears that the wonder tales – which pretend to describe the lives of legendary heroes, the power of divinities of nature, the spirits of the dead, and the totem ancestors of the group – symbolic expression is given to the unconscious desires, fears and tensions that underlie the conscious patterns of human behaviour. Mythology, in other words, is psychology misread as biography, history, and cosmology.” Joseph Campbell

Myth and folklore are therapeutic narrative. Let them seep in and share their wisdom, but let your Talker mind, with its search for puzzle and answer, sleep.


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[text copied in its entirety from Irish folklore list to be used for my research in the future]

>Rathraige or Roithrige or Rothraige or Rodraige [Rathan] als. Corce Roide:
>Nine men of the son (sons) of Glaschach, son of Mug Ruith from whom
>are the Rodraige. Genealogical Tracts: Three sons of Mug Nuadat.
>One of the Achedtuatha.
>Dal ua Corp (Corb?) were: Dal nUiste; Fedraige, Gabraige, Glasraige,
>Gregraige, Grandraige, Lugraige, Lusfraige, Mendraige *Mennraige*,
>Mendtraige, Rathraige, Rochraige, Seinraige, Sodraige, Tradraige,
>Uaraige, RC xx 336

This is very useful. So as far as I can see the reference to Mug Ruith as an
eponymous ancestor of the Rodraige is taken from The Expulsion of the Déisi
which has been dated to the 8th century so right near our earliest
references to him. The narrative breaks off at various points to explore
separate stories of individuals in the text and there are battles, druíd and
magic but Mug Ruith remains undeveloped in the text appearing towards the
end in a long list of the various subsets of the Déisi. 

When I try to find references to genealogies of Mug Nuadat I am not finding
a Mog Ruith connection, instead I am only finding Eochaid Rothán listed as
an alternative eponymous ancestor of the Rothrige but I'm still looking for
a date for the composition. Have I missed something? 

At any rate it does seem to verify our assumption that Mog Ruith was linked
from some of his earliest references to the Rothraige (of various spellings)
but we seem to have an alternative in Eochaid Rothán also being put forward.
We also have an earlier background for some of the narrative ideas in the
Siege story and although we cannot push the date of its composition back any
further we can see that it expands on a story of the Déisi and Cormac mac
Airt that goes back to the 8th century. 

Looking at the Déisi story I came across a neat summary in a book by Will
Parker called The Four Branches of the Mabinogi which looks very interesting
so I'm quite grateful to this thread for bringing this to my attention - he
explores various Irish texts in the book and their meaning in the Irish /
Welsh context :) and I shall be looking to get this book in the near future:

"Before we explore the other main themes in the Third Branch, the Wasteland
Myth and the figure of the ‘Un-King’, we need to understand the background
of the particular group that settled in Dyfed. These are identified in the
medieval tradition as the Déisi or Dessi, a parallel branch of which
inhabited a small tribal kingdom in the eastern coastlands of present day
County Cork.

According to an Old Irish text (dated by Meyer to the late eight century
AD),666 the Déisi were a vassal people whose homeland was originally in the
Meath area. In the reign of Cormac they suffered abuse at the hands of the
high king’s son, and were subsequently forced into exile. In the course of
their wanderings they spent some time in Leinster, before being moved on
again in the time of the
reign of the High King Crimthann. They were then moved on to the South,
where they eventually established a territory among the peoples of Munster.

The Expulsion of the Déisi, though an unremarkable tribal-historical tract
in many respects, does include some interesting features. Telling as it does
the story of a ‘wandering people’ (immerge), the Expulsion is perhaps
necessarily anti-heroic. Throughout the story the Déisi are continually
harried, routed and moved on by neighbouring tribal groups – resulting in
their perpetual itinerant, landless
status. While they are not portrayed as weak or cowardly, they are
represented as suffering more than their fair-share of animosity and
ill-fortune: a state of affairs that begins with the rape of one of their
daughters by the High King Cormac’s son.

It is interesting to note that one of leading protagonists from among the
Déisi is a rather sinister female druidic figure, known as Eithne Uathach
‘Eithne Dread’ who was ‘reared on the flesh of little boys’ to ensure her
preternatural growth. It was prophesied that through Eithne the Déisi would
eventually ‘seize land on which they shall dwell’. And indeed, this proves
to be the case. Eithne first
marries the High King of the Mumu (Munster), then negotiates a homeland for
the Déisi, her mother’s people. But this homeland is only secured when the
Osraige (‘Deer-People’), rival claimants to the land, are finally overcome.
This victory itself is again largely the work of Eithne, following a
prophetic vision induced by ‘two jars full of wine … from the lands of Gaul’.

In this vision, the Déisi receive the rather unheroic injunction that as
long as they do not strike the first blow, victory will be theirs. To this
end, they magically transform a passing serf into the shape of a ‘red,
hornless cow’ and send this hapless proxy over to where the Osraige were
advancing, who
kill it before they realise ‘it was man that had been slain’. After this
follows one of the few military victories achieved by the Déisi throughout
this tribal-historic account, with the Osraige turning and running ‘like
deer’. After this, the Déisi divide up the newly won territories, to be held
‘until the day of Judgement’.

We are less concerned with the historical reality or otherwise of this
mythico-legal tract. It was probably constructed largely to explain the
presence of tribal groups with the name ‘Déisi’ in various parts of central,
eastern and southern Ireland and to qualify the nature of the relationship
of this last group with the high kings of Cashel (the Eoganachta of Mumu).
It is an almost parenthetic reference to a fourth offshoot of the Déisi
tribe – this time over the Irish Sea – that interests us in this particular
context. This is mentioned shortly after the birth of Eithne, just as the
Déisi are attempting to find a foothold in the South:

Eochiad, son of Artchorp, went over the sea with his descendants into the
territory of the Demed [i.e. Dyfed], and it is there that his sons and
grandsons died. And from them is the race of Crimthann over there, of which
there is Tualodor son of Rigin, son of Catacuin, son of Caittien, son of
Clotenn, son of
Naee, son of Artuir, son of Retheoir, son of Congair, son of Gartbuir, son
of Alchoil, son of Trestin, son of Aed Brosc, son of Corath, son of Eochaid
Allmuir, son of Artchorp.

Interestingly enough, almost precisely the same geneaological sequence is
found in the Harleian genealogies of the kings of Dyfed, based on traditions
current at the court of Owain ap Hywel, in tenth century Wales. Through
this, we can fairly confidently link the name of ‘Gartbuir son of Alchoil’
with the ‘Vorteporix Protectoris’ commemorated on the aforementioned
inscribed stone (in both
Latin and ogham characters) at Narbeth in Dyfed. Gartbuir/Vorteporix can in
turn be linked to Vortipor the tyrannus demetorium ‘the tyrant of Dyfed’ – a
figure mentioned by Gildas, his sixth century contemporary. What this tells
us is that even into the Early Middle Ages there was at least a memory of a
common tradition linking the Expulsion of the Déisi with the extensive Irish
settlements in Dyfed. It would even seem likely that the two regions
involved, Dyfed and Southern Ireland, remained in close contact for some
generations after this settlement.

The Irish presence in Dyfed is testified, as we have seen, in numerous ways:
including the presence of ogham stones and Irish-style raths as well as a
number of toponymic and linguistic indicators. Both the ogham tradition and
the raths would seem to point to a particular connection with the southern
area of Ireland: a connection which is also recognised by the medieval
tradition. While we cannot be certain about the accuracy of the origin myths
or even the genealogies involved, it is clear that these were traditions
that were recognised on both sides of the Irish Sea, even into the Early
Middle Ages. If we are looking, then, for the original Irish-Demetian
tradition on which the Third Branch probably drew, we should at first
consider this Southern Irish context, and any significant mythical parallels
that might be found in it. The latter points most heavily to the exile myth
of the Déisi outlined above, as well as the ‘un-king’ tale (with its
Wasteland associations) found also in the Irish tale Cath Maige Mucrama,
which we shall consider in due course."


It is interesting that in the Déisi story we have the same use of magic to
acquire land and that Parker notes this might be considered anti-Heroic in
the same way that Mark Williams describes the Siege story:

"The conscious manipulation of apocalyptic and apocryphal story elements
that we see in Forbuis Droma Damhghaire perhaps has a satirical purpose.
Does it diminish Mug Ruith to dress him, as it were, in the garments of
Antichrist? In Forbuis Droma Damhghaire, he is an impressive, dignified
figure, but it is possible that the very excess of magic in the text is
satirical. Magic undercuts the heroic code: enchantment diminishes. The new
synthesis that led druidic cloud-divination to emerge as a motif in the
twelfth century, or perhaps slightly before, shows us that Irish
presentations of the wonder-workers of their pagan past were certainly not
static: new elements were brought in to revivify these
literary representations. These were often remarkably ambivalent, as with
the dual influence of both Magi and diabolical magi in the creation of
néladóracht. We have seen that early Irish writers drew on Isidore as the
standard description of wicked magical practices, though they emphasized
different aspects of his account."

Williams, FIERY SHAPES (2010)

So some possible interesting emerging connections - 

- Eithne Uathach in the Déisi story and the other instances of úatha in
Irish stories and their connection with the Morrígain (cf. Borsje, The
‘terror of the night’ and the Morrígain: Shifting faces of the supernatural
at http://dare.uva.nl/document/133032)

- the idea of acquiring or defending land through magic rather than through
direct (heroic?) battle

- the Morrígain assumes the form of an eel to attack Cú Chulainn in the Táin
Bó Cúailnge and a similar (yet fatal) attack by an ally of Mog Ruith in the
Siege story. 

- the Morrígain's familial connections show a heavy leaning towards incest
and one of the unique features of the Irish Antichrist myth as opposed to
the rest of Europe is that he is to be born incestuously so it may be
significant that Irish texts place this emphasis on incest in the birth of
characters with a dread nature about them

If anything I wold say we are moving further and further away from a sun-god
connection and more to the darker side of things.

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