TRAVELLING WITH THE NORSE GODS

 

Yggsdrasil

Yggsdrasil

On the 8th July the Grove enjoyed the hospitality of D2 (nee Zhukov) at his place in deepest, darkest Nottingham (it must be deep and dark because my satnav froze on me, refusing to tell me how to get there; it had to be coaxed into giving me the final directions – and I encountered several neanderthal drivers en route). We were pleased to welcome Greenfingers to our gathering, but we were not prepared to divulge the role of the radishes in initiation for him. Lord Locksley, unusually, was not present for he was elsewhere following his thespian bent, but the rest of us were treated to a talk on the Norse Gods and their mythology – a multi-media presentation, no less, with video and whiteboard and stuff. Wondering how to condense such a vast subject into one short evening, D2 chose to structure his talk with reference to Yggdsasil the World Ash (looking remarkably like a traditional German Christmas Tree, with pointy bits and everything). Upon this D2 showed us and then explained how the ‘nine’ worlds were arranged, and how these related to the various ‘peoples’ of Norse mythology.

 I won’t repeat the whole of D2’s interesting talk, first because then those who wer640px-Urnes_animalsen’t there would otherwise reap the benefit with no effort on their part, and second because I’ve forgotten a lot of it (not D2’s fault, just my faulty memory), but here’s a sample. At the top of Yggsdrasil lies Asgard, the home of the Aesir (gods). This is where Odin and Frig rule, and where Odin’s mead hall Valhalla is to be found. Because we are the kind of people who have spent much of our lives reading ‘historical’ works of dubious provenance, comics and fairly awful D-movie retellings of tales, we all ‘knew’ that Valhalla is where all the warriors who died in battle go, there to fight all day and, restored to a full complement of arms, legs and heads, to eat, drink and be merry in the evening (thereby prefiguring re-enactment by many centuries). What we didn’t know, and this was the first of several surprises, is that it is Frig who gets first dibs on the dead, and therefore the cream of the crop, and Odin gets the rest. Frig’s warriors get to lounge about in a field in Asgard, chillin’, catching a few rays, and, as a bonus, they even get to have their families with them. It’s only the meatheads that go to Valhalla. There’s an interesting thought to ponder; what might be the mythological ‘truths’ buried in that small detail? It just further reinforces my view that ‘warrior heroes’ are little more than meatheads.

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Freyr

 There is also a second cohort of gods and goddesses known as the Vanir who live in Vanaheim (or Vanaheimr), located a little below Asgard. These two, the Aesir and Vanir, have a long history of grudge, duffing each other up in futile wars, which they then conclude with treaties and exchange of hostages. It was at this point that D2 introduced the cunningly wrought audio-visual aid in form of a heroically orchestrated short film. Marvellous! Then D2 explained that the Vanir are the ‘old’ gods of the Norse, although the two clans are also contemporaneous with one another. However, where the Aesir are certainly embodiments of power and war, the Vanir are more related to fertility and cultivation. In fact the Vanir are related to fertility, wisdom, nature, magic, and the ability to see the future. D2 explained that the Vanir are Bronze Age gods and the Aesir are Iron Age. It makes me wonder if the mythological fisticuffs between the two clans is actually a mythologised memory of the uneasy changes that occurred in the transition between the bronze and iron ages.

Thor_and_Hymir

Thor and Hymir

Horns of Odin bw 2

Horns of Odin

D2 told us a lot more, including the nature of Midgard (where we live), Heimdall and the Rainbow Bridge (which Strider suggested was really a wormhole created by Dr. Who) the Giants of Jotunheim, the Dark and Light Elves, Nidhug the serpent coiled around the roots of Yggsdrasil who drinks the blood of us mere mortals (presumably not warriors) so that we may join the army of the dead and help attack Asgard at Ragnarok, the roots of Yggsdrasil which are located oddly in the canopy, and the curious offspring of Loki: Fenrir the wolf, Jormungand the world serpent (who lies coiled around Midgard and has a long standing enmity with Thor), his literally half dead daughter Hel and the eight legged horse Sleipnir (of whom he is the mother). Loki had some seriously confused DNA there! Again, what to make of it mythologically? It was amusing to hear how Loki made a ‘gift’ of Sleipnir to Odin; Odin, it seems, decided it would be a gift whether Loki liked it or not.

Sleipnir

Sleipnir: a ‘gift’ to Odin

 I’ve left a lot out, and so did D2 because there was the powerful need of drinks and refreshments and use of the facility to take into account. But D2 will have his arm twisted to deliver part two sometime in the future.

 It was a splendid evening, a great talk, and wonderful sausages. We concluded it all by chanting the ‘sacred vow’ and the Awen, and after gassing for another prolonged period, we left to wend our various ways back home, happy and satisfied.


 I don’t know what you think of Wikis, but the following have some useful information on the subject if you feel like following it up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanir

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asgard

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Norse_gods_and_goddesses

The_children_of_Loki_by_Willy_Pogany

Loki’s Children: A family to be proud of

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Alban Heruin 2014

Originally written on Saturday 21st June…

What a glorious day today’s Midsummer was!
We actually had sunshine, a gorgeous sunrise (or so I’m told as I was asleep at the time) and warmness throughout the day.

There was only a few of us tonight, but our thoughts went to those who couldn’t make it.

Swithland wood was our designated ceremonial area, seeming that the Hearth Grove wasn’t available.  We had Léithin Cluan join us which was very exciting!  We even thrust our new member, Greenfingers, into the deep end and had him call one of the quarters on his first ever ritual.  Because we’re that mean!
He did splendidly by the way.

Luch Dorca was MC for this occasion and began with a speech from the character of Puck, from William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ He then went into the themes of light and darkness, of how one leads into the other.  That on this the longest day, we can share some of that light with the world around us.
He then guided us through a magical practice where we drew in the light of the sun into our hearts and poured some of it into a shiny coin.  The idea is to spread some light into the world by passing on the coins to people when we encounter them.  This could be specific or not, I settled with “To anyone who needs it”.
The light we kept for ourselves was drawn into us to help give light to something we wanted help in gaining something for the next year.  This could be a goal, a healing, I immediately said “For my new life.”

After that we reflected on what the Solstice at midsummer meant for us: the Sun’s strength, the imagery of the Green Man and the fact it could possibly be the modern resurgence of something our ancestors knew only too well.

Back at the car park, we settled down for a picnic and a good old natter…. whilst in the back ground, towards the end, we heard the screaming of children- weird indeed!

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OBOD 50th Anniversary Gathering : 6-9 June 2014

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After months of eager anticipation, Cymro ap Arthan and I set out last Friday on our road trip to Glastonbury for the OBOD 50th Anniversary Summer Gathering. We were joined there by Leaf and her husband. So there we were with our Corieltauvi banner, along with 400 other Druids in mass celebration and what a celebration it was!!
Spread over 4 days instead of the customary 2, the programme included ceremonies, talks, workshops, Eisteddfod and fireworks and plenty of opportunity to socialise with other Druids. With a packed programme, choices had to be made as to which events to attend; without a time-turner, we couldn’t do it all.

Friday

After arriving Friday lunchtime and checking in with the brilliant ‘Dagdas’ welcoming Druids at the Town Hall, we moved to the George and Pilgrim for a well earned pint. Armed with our programme we planned our campaign. Cymro ap Arthan hadn’t visited Glastonbury before, so I gave him a brief orientation tour and led him to spend his pennies in some of the esoteric shops. Apparently I’m a bad influence that way ;)

To spread our Corieltauvi energy as widely as possible, Cymro ap Arthan and I then divided our efforts. I went to the Grove and Seedgroup Organisers meeting (in Cthulhudruid’s absence), which was less of a meeting, more a celebration of the diversity and number of groups present from all across the world. Cymro ap Arthan went to the first of two sacred chanting workshops, which was apparently deep and transformative. Then we were off to the pub (again) to join fellow Druids for an evening pie and pint. We spotted some well known Druid / Pagan authors gathered on one table in the pub garden – Philip Carr-Gomm; Caitlin Matthews; Ronald Hutton; Kristoffer Hughes. We acted nonchalant and sat elsewhere ;)

Saturday

Overnight, in anticipation of the events to come, Taranis blessed Glastonbury and woke us all at 4:30am when he was ‘playing’ directly overhead; just to make sure we were aware of his presence! This set the scene for the powerful morning session a ‘Celebration of the Order’ with 400 Druids who’d travelled from every continent to be there, gathered in a marquee in the Abbey grounds. After Keiron sounded the horn, Philip and Damh opened the proceedings, with Damh orchestrating a round of 9 cascading Awens. The power of 400 Druids chanting cascading Awens had to be seen, heard and felt to be believed. It was spine-tingling and emotional. We also chanted other powerful chants to raise the energy. Caitlin Matthews offered heartfelt, inspirational words on what it means to be a modern druid and Ronald Hutton spoke with his usual eloquence and humour about OBOD and Philip Carr Gomm, which earned him a standing ovation. This was followed by an exploration of the Ogham trees, with OBOD members bringing each Ogham few to life on stage.

By the afternoon, Glastonbury was once again bathed in glorious sunshine. Leaf and I climbed the Tor for the customary Solstice ceremony. There were many more Druids gathered there than usual and it was a wonderful ceremony, with the quarters marked by the stunning banners painted by Stephanie Carr-Gomm.

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That evening there was a buffet in the Town Hall, in which our fabulous Corieltauvi Grove banner, expertly crafted by Dumbledore, was displayed alongside those from other Groves. Then we all returned to the Abbey grounds for the Eisteddfod. With copious ‘Nuin’ mead, specially brewed for the 50th anniversary gathering on offer, the wheels of the evening were well oiled! There were performances ranging from a Dutch opera singer; Barry Patterson’s poetry, drumming and pipes; ZZ Birmingham and family to Damh the Bard accompanied by Paul Newman and Keiron Sibley, so there was something for everyone. Damh had got everyone up and dancing and suitably energised, when he asked us all to step outside the marquee. The grand finale was an amazing fireworks display, a fitting end to a glorious day.

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Sunday

A very early start as 100 of us travelled to Stonehenge for a morning ceremony. Another group travelled to Avebury. It’s been many years since I’ve been to a closed ceremony in Stonehenge and some in the group had never been before. It was an amazing experience for us all. Blessed by brilliant early morning sun and welcomed by the Spirits of the place (including the resident nesting jackdaws) the ceremony was deep and powerful and the circle vibrated with energy in response, welcoming us in. OBOD members who attend the summer Stonehenge ceremony regularly, said this ceremony was the most powerful in years. We left feeling very blessed to have been part of it.

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Back to Glastonbury in time for a late breakfast, we then had an opportunity to drop in to the Town Hall to meet, chat and informally explore what OBOD has to offer from groups, camps, mentors, celebrancy, interfaith, meeting the authors etc. In the afternoon, there were various talks, workshops and more retail therapy. I attended an impassioned talk from three of the leading lights from the ‘Warriors Call’ about the context and dangers of fracking and how we, as Druids, can engage, resist and raise the profile. Building on last year’s Warrior’s Call the group and Sigil has now gone global and a global event is in the planning, watch this space. The talk was to be followed later that evening by a re-dedication ceremony at the White Spring. By this time though I was on my way with Cymro ap Arthan to see Philip Carr-Gomm interview Kris Hughes (one of many ‘meet the authors’ chats Philip was doing over the weekend) which was illuminating and humorous, before we went to the second Sacred Chant workshop, an hour of blissful chants accompanied by drumming.

Monday

Awen flowed on Monday morning, when 50 of us, (Cymro ap Arthan and I included) met at Chalice Well for an hour of perpetual Awens with Barry Patterson. We could chant our Awens at our own pace, tone and time or just sit in the sound bath of the perpetual Awen. My words can’t convey how magical, inspirational and transformative this experience was, it has to be experienced personally and each of our Awen journeys was unique. But the Awen energy raised as a group was tangible and powerful. After this we wandered and meditated in Chalice Well gardens before returning to town for a final lunch before the long journey home.

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I returned home tired but very happy, enthused and full of Awen. I recall Luch Dorcha saying that a previous Glastonbury Gathering had ‘super-charged’ his Druid practice and this is how I feel following the Gathering. Cymro ap Arthan and I have both said that the weekend affirmed and strengthened our Druidic path in immeasurable ways.

So many highlights and memorable experiences, but to finish by paraphrasing Caitlin Matthews: If you’re asked by someone “So you think you’re a Druid?” You say in reply: “No, I don’t ‘think’ I’m a Druid : I AM a Druid!”

Awen

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Beltane 2014

Beltane! The beginning of summer and huge fires, young couples copulating in the woods (doggers) and bright sunny cheer…
… is normally what we are told Beltane is all about. As me and Dumbledore left Nottingham, the closer we got to the Grove hearth, the foggier and damper it became.  And actually, that was ok.  It gave atmosphere and the sense that the Otherworld was close to us on the 1st of May.
Dumbledore had volunteered to run the ceremony as it’s his favourite one and has special significance for him. 
In the middle of the circle we had a working fire! Yes a fire that actually worked (at last!) and had real flames and everything… guess we did it right this time.
Now, as Grove tradition has it, at least one of the Quarter callings gets muddled, in the Equinox ritual, I declared ‘Hail and Farwell’ in the opening, for example.  Cymro can be forgiven as it was his very first time of calling in front of us.  However EVERYONE made a mistake of some kind, during the calling.  Did it annoy us? Did it ruin the ceremony? No, it added to the mirth and acceptance of chaos that keeps our Grove alive.  And of course when things are waking up and coming to life, nature is beautiful chaos.
Dumbledore’s ceremony embraced the newness of life and of the creative flow.  I was even invited to tell the story of part of the Celtic creation myth where Danu, the Mother Goddess herself was formed from the first waters on Earth and how this gave to life being given to the land in the form of Bilé, her tree consort.

This was followed by Dumbledore’s centrepiece of the ceremony: The presentation of the Grove’s very own banner! A gorgeous hand-made gift to the Corieltauvi. 

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That’s right, we now have our own banner which will be taken to the Order’s 50th anniversary in Glastonbury.  This was ceremonially given by me as ‘Acting Herald’ (No Tatterhood, unfortunately) to one of the Elders of the Grove, Cthulhudruid, and was then blessed with fire and water as well as its dedication to the Corieltauvi itself.  It was then paraded around so we called all touch and give a part of our own energies to it.
  Creative Dumbledore had even made gifts for us all using curtain rings and green ribbon to represent the cosmic egg and tail of the sperm.  We were then invited to channel our own personal meaning into them and throw them over the fire.  I even leapt the fire too!

Cymro delivered one of his wonderful poems, he apologised for it being the same as last year’s, but that didn’t matter, it was still as evocative of summer and heartfelt as the first time.

Powering down, it was out with the wine (which I found out was all over my robes… whoops!), the cakes and the crisps followed by banter with Luch Dorca and such deep philosophical discussions as:

Breastfeeding in public: should be allowed or not?

Whitby Goth Weekend: has Goth given way to Steam punk?

Kate Beckinsale: Turns out me, Cthulhudruid and Luch Dorca are fans of hers, especially in Underworld and as a Gypsy in Van Helsing… what? It’s Beltane!

Parents: Danceswithweasels told us of her children’s escapades with her folks… and why they visit only once a year.

Titles:  Cymro had been named ‘Grove Bard’ and Briseilid took the banner in proxy for Strider who, unfortunately, couldn’t join us.  Oh and according to Cthulhudruid and Luch Dorca, anyone with titles need big, BIG hats… you have been warned!

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A Druid in the Aeon of the Child – fragment concerning emotions

Part of a discussion about emotions…

“Many people, associate emotions with sadness, stress and tears. I’m not sure why this is? As a society we tend to treat our ‘everyday or base state’ (hopefully mild happiness or contentment) as neutral/emotionless and extreme states of emotion as ‘being emotional’. I guess that sorrow/sadness (seen as undesirable, negative and dysfunctional and therefore to be feared) is the most dramatic change from the base emotional state so is the most noticeable, whereas a greater happiness is accepted as just an increase in ‘base state happiness and contentment’. We (society) view emotions in a very linear fashion with sadness one end and happiness the other, it’s programmed into us that sorrow/sadness is negative and happiness is positive, and that we must constantly strive to move away from sadness towards happiness, and that any retrograde step is to be feared, avoided and worked against. We also live in a ‘rational society’ that like to think that emotions can be controlled and subjugated by reason and rationality. Failure to ‘keep your emotions under control’ or ‘letting your emotions get the better of you’ are seen as signs of extreme weakness of character and mental capacity, society tells us that in our modern age such behaviour is undesirable, and dangerous. We must beat primal emotions down with the might of our reason. The truth, of course, is a lot more complicated. ‘Emotions’ covers many ‘states’ not just happiness and sorrow; some are desirable, some undesirable, but all of them are vital and equally important. We are creatures of emotion. Our every moment of life is an expression of emotion. We flicker between States of emotion all of the time without registering it in our conscious minds. Emotions are the expression of our subconscious, they are part of what drives our every action, intuition, decision making and survival skills. Emotions, in their varied forms, are a major and vital part of who we are. On the qabalistic tree of life emotions are part of the seventh sephiroth (Netzach) which places them ‘higher’ than rationality and logic (Hod) and closer to Tiphareth, the point of harmony in the middle pillar, and ultimately closer to Kether.”

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Some brief thoughts on North American Shamans and how they might have been regarded

On our way to a recent Grove meeting at Dances-with-Weasels place, Locksley and I had a fragmented discussion about the North American Indians and their place in world spirituality. It was fragmented because I was obliged to keep an eye on the road, the traffic being uncongenial to sober reflections. Nevertheless we shared some thoughts and ideas, and generally agreed about how Native Americans have become freighted with too much symbolic baggage, from the neediness of Westerners (mainly white) who desperately need spiritual role models for their own practice. Somehow their identity simply as people has been denied and their humanity has become subsumed into a cartoon model of ‘Spiritual Warrior’, deeply attuned to Mother Earth and bearing an almost otherworldy relation to nature itself. Quite apart from the unreality of such an image, it simultaneously denies the harsh realities of life for most Native Americans during the nineteenth century (from when most material stems), plunders their culture for our benefit not theirs, and renders their lifestyles as cartoon models for Westerners (us).

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. If this book doesn't make you angry, nothing will.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. If this book doesn’t make you angry, nothing will.

If you doubt this, take a look at some of the excellent books on the subject, especially, I would say, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I seriously doubt that even the most passionate Western ‘admirer’ of the Native Americans would be willing to give up all the material advantages they have in exchange for the simpler, more ‘spiritually attuned and ‘purer’ way of life they allegedly admire so much (me included), when the harsh realities are included. So, to redress the balance a little, here are some passages which reflect the simple humanity of North American Natives, in this case the Chiricahua Apaches.

We have been led to believe by some of the more sentimental treatments in print and film that the North American Indians held their shamans or medicine men with some special reverence. From many of the first hand accounts we have, clearly they did, but we are seduced too easily into thinking that the spiritual knowledge and practices of the shamans were accepted uncritically, forming an unquestionable central spiritual, epistemic and ontological basis for the life of the tribes regardless of practical exigencies. The following passages, taken from An Apache Life Way by Morris Edward Opler, pp 313-315, present quite a different picture. They are, of course, quite selective, and I have chosen them precisely because they offer a corrective to the over sentimentalised view and give a more particularly human impression, supporting what seems to me to be a more realistic and somewhat more detached or critical view of the shamans and their practice.

Clearly, far from being uncritical of their shamans some could be very sceptical:

‘ … any member of the tribe can be, on occasion, a sharp critic of supernatural claims. This was so clear to one shaman that he told his audience “Many of you don’t believe in what I’m doing. You think I’m a fake. I tell you to your faces that many of you will be willing to be this man when you see how I restore him.”

Importantly Opler notes why this is not always apparent in the most frequent accounts:

Criticism and scepticism are not likely to appear in stories of the acquisition and use of power, but they are revealed in casual conversations. … Religiosity is thus tempered with a saving humour and distrust which act as brakes upon unreasonable claims.   Each shaman knows there are those who believe in the efficacy of his rite and those who do not and that it is wise not to swell the number of the latter by radical departures from established custom. … undignified religious excitement is cause for humour rather than for praise.

“This is sometimes called religious excitement or religious ecstasy. It is the same as what is called crazy ceremony. … The Chiricahua believe that you get this way when you take religion too seriously. Some Chiricahua think this is funny.”

Admittedly this is a sparse selection, but it was the product of, oh, several minutes’ research at least. With somewhat more time and application, however, I am convinced that there is much more material of this kind out there in the information saturated world. But the point is made. By treating the North American Indians as ‘otherworldly’ and impossibly ‘spiritual’ whilst ignoring the reality of their lives as people, we deny their humanity and forget that they are, just like us, people first and foremost, animals for whom survival is paramount, and whose spirituality is tempered with the necessities of that survival. This does not mean that we cannot learn from them, nor does it mean that their beliefs and practices are entirely irrelevant to us. Far from it. But we should not plunder them willy nilly for our own purposes because their beliefs are born out of their own experiences, in their own environments and in relation to their own pressing priorities.

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“Expelliarmus!”- April 2014 Meeting

This post is about the meeting that took place on Tuesday 15th April… I would have done this earlier were it not for my internet connection breaking down.  Oh well.

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NB: This is the Yew wand Cymro made for me.

It was one of those days where it was cool in the air, but warm in the sun, for this meeting we actually had the Hearth Grove! It was wonderful to see it in the remaining daylight and it was the first time Dumbledore and Oak Queen had been there. The sky was all beautiful blues, glorious golds and pretty pinks as twilight approached.  I love sunsets and the dusk, its the best time to do magic… I swore I could see people or shapes out of my peripheral vision.  Looks like, spiritually, we weren’t alone!

Cthulhudruid was host for the evening and magic was indeed involved… for that nights meeting was about the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  Oh yes.
Turns out this ritual is one you can practise every day for ridding yourself of unwanted influences and negative energies.  A mind focusing ritual, a spiritual cleanser and even a form of movement meditation, I suppose you could say its even a mystical martial art.  Apparently you can even spend a lifetime trying to perfect it, I imagine you can!

Cthulhudruid demonstrated the actions as well as the sounds of the invocation of Hebrew words at each point.

Then it was our turn, I was petrified we’d just have to stand there one by one reciting all that we had seen.  Luckily for us, Cthulhudruid guided us through it.  In all honesty, I didn’t feel comfortable saying the Hebrew words, not because they weren’t familiar, but because I don’t gel with it.  Some kind of magic racism on my part? Perhaps.

Pausing for a quick break we then learned there was a Druid version, in American-Welsh.  Instead of drawing a line downwards, you split it into three, like the Awen symbol.  And instead of calling upon the angels you call upon the four Druidic elemental beasts.
As we completed that one not only did I feel really safe, but we were all facing east. By this time the sky was dark and at the finishing ‘Awen’ we were all witness to a huge, gorgeous full moon slowly rising in the sky.

Nice timing, Cthulhudruid!

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