Friday, 24 March 2017

Moots, Markets and the Vernal Equinox (2017)


For many of us, the latter part of March has been characterised by a general build up towards the Vernal Equinox. This for us in the Hearth of the Turning Wheel, began even before our moot on Thursday 16th, held in an excellent public house in Derby called the Exeter Arms.


Our moots are not open to the public, invitations are automatic for those who are members of the Inner Court, the Outer Court and Friends of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel. Other invitations are made in person, privately via Facebook or via email The FotHTW is our Facebook presence, our public manifestation representing our actual working group.


The Exeter Arms lies on the edge of the city centre, on the east side of the river and close to one of the main roads that enter Derby itself. It is on the outside an unassuming, modest building in a rather sadly neglected part of the city. Not that Derby is a ‘real’ city, more an overlarge market town that lacks a market of note.


Inside the building we discover that the Exeter Arms is a hidden gem. A rather basic set up; bare floors and wooden tables, with decorations of a rather traditional theme, all merge to create a ‘country pub’ atmosphere. The pub is out of place, it doesn’t belong here but in the Peak District, nestled in a village catering for tourists and locals. The use of the word catering is deliberate, the pub has won numerous awards for its atmosphere and its quality food. The Exeter Arms is a real ale pub, serving fine beers and ciders to those of a more discerning palate. The staff are efficient and extraordinarily polite.


Being somewhat crowded for a Thursday I walked to the back of the pub, to a room known as the cottage and found friends already waiting for me. Soon more arrived and we soon realised we had a surprisingly good turnout for what is a private, invitation only moot. It should be noted that any number above six is considered satisfactory when a moot is invitation only and not advertised publicly, one does not expect a packed house. We are deliberately select and make no apologies for it.


We were honoured to welcome to our merry gathering two guests from Staffordshire, journeying a not inconsiderable distance to join us for dinner. Since these guests were knowledgeable traditionalists and practitioners of the Cornish Witchcraft Tradition, the talk naturally drifted towards the matter of circles, the compass, totems and eventually books.


This discussion was perhaps rather more detailed than usual and stimulated interest across the table as the question of different approaches was touched upon. My own praxis that has influenced the HTW, shares two totems with the Cornish Tradition, the hare and the crow. My other influences as should be obvious, include Cochrane.


When I first encountered the use of the term Compass, I wrongly assumed that it was an alternative name for a circle. It is not. Whereas a cycle can both contain power and keep the unwanted out, a compass has a very different methodology. There is no barrier as the map stretches to the horizon, above and below. The Compass does not necessarily prevent admittance but rather enable the land to remain intrinsic to the working area.


Since half of those present had more than a passing interest in herbalism, it wasn’t long before that subject became the focus. This came the Defender of the Hearth an opportunity to one of his favourite stories, about the time I (mildly) poisoned myself when I was away camping with him on pilgrimage. I will not tell that story here, I will not spoil his tale for future moots. It is far more humorous when he tells it.


I had as usual taken a few books with me for attendees to examine and discuss, specifically three small volumes published by Troy of Cornwall. I was able to share with those present details of my own most recent purchases, the complete works of Shakespeare and a vintage copy of the Mabinogion. This particular volume was printed in 1910 and is a charming pocket book, in exceptionally good condition.


It was a late night, the food, the drink and the company made the time fly past and closing time came far too quickly. As we said goodbye to our guests and one member of the Inner Court about to move to Alba, we could reflect deeply on the meaning of friendship. The joy of company and companies of worth, bonds of faith and virtue. I am already anticipating excitedly our April moot.


That weekend I should have been attending the Original Re-enactors Market (TORM) near Coventry. Unfortunately the friend I should have been travelling with and our designated driver, was called into work to cover sickness and our plans were cancelled. I very much enjoy my infrequent trips to such markets and fairs, one is able to view, handle and purchase many replica items, often of museum standard in accuracy. I particularly enjoy the weaponry, the jewellery and the many handcrafted items. Often the stall holders are in costume, indeed it is the norm.


Why buy an athame with a cheap resin handle, when you can buy a bollock dagger or an antler handled seax? At many re-enactment fairs and markets, the goods are simply of better quality and of greater authenticity than most outlets available.


I had prior to the weekend, arranged to collect mead from one of the stall holders and now, finding myself unable to travel. I was beginning the embarrassing email to cancel the order. Fortunately I received a telephone call from Carol who with her husband, had arrived at the market. Carol very kindly offered to collect my half dozen bottles and would bring them with her to the next moot. Every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.


The weekend was as expected busy, I was preparing myself and the house for visitors. We in the Hearth of the Turning Wheel do have our own rather idiosyncratic interpretation of the significance of the Equinox. This is reflected in my discussion pertaining the significance of the triadic grouping of Robin Hood, Little John and Guy of Gisbourne in my monograph ‘Pagan symbolism within the Sherwood Legends’ and the link is below.


The important element within our own approach is seeing the time of balance and shifted balance, as being specifically that point of symbolic change between the Kings. In many groups the Solstices are regarded as being the points of change but our approach is quite distinct. To us it seems anomalous that the Holly King should reign at Summer Solstice when the light is still dominant although diminishing. Equally anomalous is the concept that the Oak King should reign at the Yuletide, when darkness is strong and the tree itself is asleep.


The Solstices are symbolically times of ‘birth,’ as either the Holly King or Oak King begin their respective journeys. The Solstices are also the times when one or other King reigns at his peak. It is the Equinoxal points that see the shift from light to dark or dark to light, so for us the Equinoxes are when the crown is passed.


We met for our Vernal Equinox observance on the Eve of the Equinox. Partly a deliberate choice to emphasise the significance of the coming dawn, partly a recognition that childcare and family commitments have to be allowed for today.


Prior to the meeting I had purchased a dozen chocolate eggs and I had taped to the outside, verses chosen randomly from the Anglo Saxon Rune Poem. The link to this poem on another blog post, can once again be found below. The verses or stanzas are attached to the eggs with the wording hidden, this creates our own version of a fortune cookie. These were placed in a bowl on the altar and horseshoes were used to mark the cardinal points. I give the basic text of our ritual below, a very simple rite which I hope readers will find of value.



The Rite if the Vernal Equinox 2017

This ritual is based upon the Ostara Meeting of 2012 written by the Chattering Magpie and is in turn adapted from the Hearth of the Turning Wheel Alban Eilir Ritual of 2007, that was originally written by K. Clegg.

Group gather in a circle and one person says:

“Hail, Guardian Spirits of this place,
We ask for your blessings on this our rite.
We come here to celebrate the Spring Equinox.
We ask, in peace and with respect,
That you might accept our presence.”

Group gather in a circle and placing their hands upon the Hearthsword, the Druid Oath is intoned three times:

“We swear, by peace and love to stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand
Mark, O Spirit and hear us now
Confirming this, our sacred vow.”

Male: “Beloved Bloodmother of this our clan. Welcome us at this time, with your heart and womb. Let us learn to live in love with all you are and so our seeking spirit shall serve the Sacred Wood.”

Female: “Beloved Father, speak to us in vision and do not abandon us to the grave. Nor hand us over to Hard Fate utterly, nor those whom our love protects.”

All in unison: “We call thee, we call thee, we call thee. By flesh, blood and bone we call thee.”

Take a suitable oil and using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless this oil, to drive out all impurities and make fit for use in this our rite.”

Each person will anoint the person to their left with this sign (the rune Sigel) while saying: 


“You have walked this path in spirit (and) now (you) do so in flesh.” The words in brackets are optional.

Light the incense, using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless thee O' elements of air and fire, to drive out all impurities and make thee fit for use in this our rite.”

Put three pinches of salt into the water, using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless thee O' elements of water and earth, to drive out all impurities and make thee fit for use in this our rite.”

Pick up the incense and say: “I scent this circle with air and warm this circle with fire. This I do in the name and power of our God the Lord of the Greenwood.”

The compass points are scented, north, south, east and then west

Pick up the bowl of salt-water and say: “With water and salt the symbol of our labour. I cleanse and bless this place in the name and power of our Goddess the Lady of the Light.”

Sprinkle a little salt-water at each compass point, north, south, east and then west.

Time for talking stick and the insertion of suitable prayers.

One individual reads (Adapted from Duff G. (2002) The wheel of the Wiccan year. Rider.):

“Ostara is new light, soft sweet air, the running hare and spring flowers.

The bursting of buds and the straight following of new paths.

May the spirits of the air guide our thoughts when we set out on new paths.

May the spirits of the Sun and fire give us vitality and passion to make new ventures successful.

May the spirits of water help us to tread new paths with balanced emotions.

May the spirits of the earth give us physical balance so we may draw life and health from the strengthening Sun.

May the Gods watch over us this Springtime and may we continually remember to give thanks to them for this new season.”

All present take an egg from the bowl or bag. The attached mottoes may then be read.

To bless the chalice and the meal together and at the same time, lift the plate or dish of food with the left hand and lift the wine with the right hand, high above the altar and read 'Sigdrifa’s Prayer' from Sigdrifasmal:

“Hail, day!
Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.

Hail to the Gods!
Ye Goddesses, hail!
And all the generous earth!
Give to us wisdom and goodly speech,
And healing hands, life-long.”

The meal is passed to the left with the words: “May you never hunger.” The person receiving the meal will take some of that offered and pass the remainder to their left with the same words.

The cup is passed to the left with the words: “May you never thirst.” The person receiving the cup will drink and pass the cup to their left with the same words.

After a pause all in unison say: “By the fire of dreams and the compulsion of sorcery. By knowledge, daring will and silence. By the tides of Earth, Sea and Sky. May all beings and powers of the visible and invisible depart in peace. By flesh, blood and bone we do thank thee.”

One solitary voice: “This rite is now ended, may all depart in peace, with our blessings.”


The stanza I found attached to my own egg is that below and with that enigmatic verse, I shall end this blog.


“The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men. Often it traverses the gannet's bath, and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith in honourable fashion.”



RITUAL REFERENCES

Artisson R.(2006) The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill: the gramaryre of the Folk who dwell below the mound. Owlblink Bookcrafting Company USA.
Bellows H.A. (trans.) The Poetic Edda. Forgotten Books.
Duff G. (2002) The wheel of the Wiccan year. Rider London.
Grey W. (nd.) cited by Jones E.J. (1990) Witchcraft: a tradition renewed. Robert Hale, London.
Jones E.J. (1994) The Roebuck in the thicket. Capall Bann.
Valiente D. (1978) Witchcraft for tomorrow. Robert Hale, London.


USEFUL WEBSITES.

The Anglo Saxon Rune Poem
http://chatteringmagpie-summonerofthehearth.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/the-anglo-saxon-rune-poem-in-modern.html

Chattering Magpie on Etsy

Exeter Arms (Derby)


Forestheart


The Hearth of the Turning Wheel (Witchvox)

The Lancashire Mead Company


Musings on the Witch Hunts of the Early Modern Period.

TORM




Spring Forward and Looking Back (March 2017)


On Saturday the 11th of March 2017 whilst in the enjoyable company of a friend, I attended a Mind, Body and Spirit (MBS) Fair at Derby County Cricket Club (DCCC). I was on annual leave, it was full moon that weekend, I had both the time and desire to explore. Not that I had any specific plans for the moon, merely an acknowledgement of the time, the approach of the Ides and Vernal Equinox.

The attendance of a MBS event is for me, a rather unusual activity. It has to be admitted whether for good or ill, that like others of my ilk, I do have a tendency to look down on such events with a polite air of condescension. I can claim two notable achievements across the internet, I coined two phrases, MBS (meaning Mindless Bull Shit) and NAG (meaning New Age Garbage). So it should be clear, I am something of a cynic and not necessarily innocent of being judgemental.


Saying that, is important to recognise that for many of us and I do include myself in this. Mind Body Spirit, Psychic Fairs and the New Age are where many of us started on our spiritual journey. Many of us will eventually move away and move on, searching for and hopefully finding something deeper and meaningful. Some unfortunately do not. They remain the dilettante, dipping their toes in the water but unable, perhaps unwilling, to take the plunge and explore the depths of the mysteries.

So although I may display this unfortunate element of superior condescension at times, it is merely a trait built upon the recognition, even if a begrudged one, that like many others I started my journey by attending a psychic fair and having a tarot reading. Therefore one cannot really dispute that such fairs have a place, a use and a benefit in the long term. Serving as a catalyst to catapult people into the unknown, on a search that eventually may lead to a new awareness. A self-awareness.


So it was that on paying our £4.75, we began our exploration of the large indoor arena, used by the DCCC for indoor practice and other sports. I am quite familiar with the building having been involved in organising events here for the Pagan Federation in 2007 and 2008 (see ‘Thoughts on my retirement’ below).

Picking up the obligatory and useful programme, listing the stalls and the itinerary of talks, we began a leisurely but systematic stroll through what was in effect, a large indoor craft market. None of the talks on offer particularly appealed to us and we decided to skip them altogether, to focus on the market itself.


I was naturally interested in the book stall, my friend Emma wanted to stock up on essentials, such as joss sticks and candles. We both wanted to look at the art, the jewellery and many hand crafted items. The amusement of finding a few books on sale by people I have either met or know via Facebook was not entirely appreciated; Emma merely commenting, “You know a lot people.”

Prior to our attendance, I had already bought a few books via the web, including a three volume set of the complete works of Shakespeare. However, one book that did catch my eye, examined the influence of historical Paganism on the Renaissance and via that movement, far beyond unto the present day.


This period of history in the early modern period, represents a second rediscovery (there was an earlier Renaissance perhaps more than one) of the art and knowledge of the past. This influence was to be felt for over a century as the aristocracy and genteel class embarked upon the European Grand Tour. Visit any art gallery, museum or country seat today, the souvenirs, commissioned copies and paintings all serve to illustrate this rediscovery of a long past age.

Both of us were quite enchanted by the stalls displaying original artworks, cards and prints. I purchased one by Jacqui de Rose from a stall overflowing with delights for the eye. This particular print depicted spiritually significant animals and plants, whose names all began with the letter D. I did not buy the print because my name is Daniel, nor because of the duck, the dragon fly or the daffodils illustrated.


Besides the obvious fact that I was drawn to the beauty of the work, I noted in particular the dog rose and the deer featured in the work. The stag is depicted as the White Hart of Fairy lore and the rose is shown in both pink and white. Both the stag and the rose, wild or cultivated although I personally do favour the wild, hold a special place within the symbolism of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel.

The stag and the white hart is the Stag Lord and therefore, one of our four primary totems. He is the Lord of the Underworld and the Lord of the Mound. He is found within the heraldry of many families across the Midlands, including the Cavendish of Chatsworth. The stag derived from the arms of that family, has found its way into the heraldry of the Derby City Council and the County Council. Indeed the historical association with Derby and Derbyshire is ancient, the name Derby is derived from the Viking root word for deer.


Over in Nottinghamshire, the famous association of Sherwood with deer has brought the animal into the heraldry of the County and various districts. Because of this important local association and the linked mythological elements, the stag is the primary symbol of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel itself, often shown flanked by two crescent moons upon our own heraldry.

The symbolism of the rose is as complex and as meaningful as the White Hart and my review of both here is hardly in-depth. The rose within the Hearth of the Turning Wheel has three separate phases or depictions, Red, White and Tudor. The Red is the symbol of the Outer Court, the White is the symbol of the Inner Court and the Tudor is another primary badge.


The five petals of the rose represent the pentagram and the five stages of existence, the red in particular is a symbol of the divine feminine. Red is flesh and blood, white is bone. White can be seen as a symbol of the divine masculine. The Tudor Rose depicts the male within the female and bone within flesh.

Our visit to the Mind, Body and Spirit Fair had been worthwhile for us both, as we had both bought items of use and of value. The book is a well written scholarly work but the print in particular, has a significance of great worth.


How appealing such an event is or remains, very much depends on the individual and their particular search. On leaving, I was reminded of how much I had changed since my early days, although this was a return to my roots, those roots no longer delve the same soil.


USEFUL LINKS AND WEBSITES.

Jacqui de Rose
https://jacqui-de-rose-art.myshopify.com/

THE SIXTH ANNIVERSARY OF THIS BLOG


Today the 24th of March 2017 is the sixth anniversary of this blog, this project, this scholarly and artistic expression of knowledge, study and experimentation. I have difficulty remembering precisely why I began the blog six years ago, I was inspired by the work of others without a doubt. In particular a writer by the name of Cunning Man (link below). Indeed some of my early posts before I found my own style, were just a little too close to his own to be comfortable.


Since then, I have of course developed my own style and presentation, variously described as pretentious, pompous, opinionated and self-confident. I have on occasion been complimented, being described as knowledgeable, a talented writer and a gifted photographer. My web-presence has also been defined as intimidating. I think all of these epithets hold some veracity and I am very likely, the most pretentious man I know.


Truthfully, the reasons behind the blog are as one would expect, not as simplistic as first appearances may suggest. The work here aims to reach people, to share ideas and interpretations that may not necessarily be found elsewhere. Material that is published on the blog, is not necessarily meant for publication in a printed source but designed perhaps, to reach a different audience. Part of the work is to express ideas outside of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel, part is express ideas that influence the work of the Hearth itself. There is a balance sought between my own personal praxis and the ethos of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel.


Looking back now at this the six year point, I cannot be certain that everyone who has read my blog, may understand these aims or even the content. This cannot be helped. Some have suggested that my posts are over long and others it is clear, struggle to see beyond the rather ‘flowery’ style of writing. A lapwing nests in plain view, it is not my obligation to stop someone walking past blindly and distracted by the mundane.


Importantly I can say with some pride, that today I have a blog that is known and valued by a select few. I have only sixty three official followers but my reach appears to be beyond that small number. My posts, now totalling two hundred and seventeen, have gained one hundred and fourteen thousand ‘hits’ in those six years. That is now an average of a little under twenty thousand ‘reads’ per year. I have no idea if that is particularly good or bad, it pleases me and that is enough.


Surprisingly and this is an illustration of the reach of the Internet, more than half my ‘hits’ are from outside the United Kingdom. Here I sit at a replica Victorian desk (I said I was pretentious), a middle aged Englishman in a middle aged English house, bemused by the discovery that two thirds of my ‘readership’ is overseas. What is it that I have to say, that is of interest to such an audience? Whatever it is, I sincerely hope I can carry on with it.

By flesh, blood and bone, the Chattering Magpie.


The Cunning Man


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem (In Modern English)


Wealth is a comfort to all men; yet must every man bestow it freely, if he wish to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

The aurochs is proud and has great horns; it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns; a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.

The thorn is exceedingly sharp, an evil thing for any knight to touch, uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.

The mouth is the source of all language, a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men, a blessing and a joy to every knight.

Riding seems easy to every warrior while he is indoors and very courageous to him who traverses the high-roads on the back of a stout horse.

The torch is known to every living man by its pale, bright flame; it always burns where princes sit within.

Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one's dignity; it furnishes help and subsistence to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.

Bliss he enjoys who knows not suffering, sorrow nor anxiety, and has prosperity and happiness and a good enough house.

Hail is the whitest of grain; it is whirled from the vault of heaven and is tossed about by gusts of wind and then it melts into water.

Trouble is oppressive to the heart; yet often it proves a source of help and salvation to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.

Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery; it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems; it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.

Summer is a joy to men, when God, the holy King of Heaven, suffers the earth to bring forth shining fruits for rich and poor alike.

The yew is a tree with rough bark, hard and fast in the earth, supported by its roots, a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.

Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great, where warriors sit blithely together in the banqueting-hall.

The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh; it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound, covering with blood every warrior who touches it.

The sun is ever a joy in the hopes of seafarers when they journey away over the fishes' bath, until the courser of the deep bears them to land.

Tiw is a guiding star; well does it keep faith with princes; it is ever on its course over the mists of night and never fails.

The poplar bears no fruit; yet without seed it brings forth suckers, for it is generated from its leaves. Splendid are its branches and gloriously adorned its lofty crown which reaches to the skies.

The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors. A steed in the pride of its hoofs, when rich men on horseback bandy words about it; and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.

The joyous man is dear to his kinsmen; yet every man is doomed to fail his fellow, since the Lord by his decree will commit the vile carrion to the earth.

The ocean seems interminable to men, if they venture on the rolling bark and the waves of the sea terrify them and the courser of the deep heed not its bridle.

Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes, till, followed by his chariot, he departed eastwards over the waves. So the Heardingas named the hero.

An estate is very dear to every man, if he can enjoy there in his house whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.

Day, the glorious light of the Creator, is sent by the Lord; it is beloved of men, a source of hope and happiness to rich and poor, and of service to all.

The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men. Often it traverses the gannet's bath, and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith in honourable fashion.

The ash is exceedingly high and precious to men. With its sturdy trunk it offers a stubborn resistance, though attacked by many a man.

Yr is a source of joy and honour to every prince and knight; it looks well on a horse and is a reliable equipment for a journey.

Iar is a river fish and yet it always feeds on land; it has a fair abode encompassed by water, where it lives in happiness.

The grave is horrible to every knight, when the corpse quickly begins to cool and is laid in the bosom of the dark earth. Prosperity declines, happiness passes away and covenants are broken.



The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem (In Modern English)
http://www.ragweedforge.com/rpae.html