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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in ancestors

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The unexpected death of a friend this week brought into sharp relief the differences between traditions around death and grief, not only between different communities but also between different generations. How we handle the dead and our sorrow shows a lot about our culture.

For the Anglo-Saxons, much of what we know of their material culture -- apart descriptions in poems and histories -- come from discovered burials. But burial wasn't always the norm. We have a magnificent pagan shipboard funeral of a king in the opening lines of Beowulf. For a long time people dismissed it as a rather fanciful thing.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    My condolences on your loss, Kate; I thank you for sharing your wisdom and reflections with our community.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Thanks so much, Anne. The power of community in bad times reflects the strength of its joy in good times. And the fluctuation betw
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Thank you, my dear. It's never easy, but the weight becomes more familiar as we age, alas. It's the first time I have felt 'away'

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In the first article for this blog I mentioned the Löwenmensch, a 32-35,000 year old mammoth tusk carving found in Germany. Archaeologists assembled this beautiful statuette of a lion-headed human from hundreds of fragments. And in recent years it has become the eye of a storm of debate about the gender politics of Stone Age shamanism.

Although heavily critiqued in the last forty years, the notion that Europe's first human denizens were socially and spiritually matriarchal is still popular. Some proponents of this view argue that the Löwenmensch is in fact a female, not a male. And inferring from this theory, a few of them have gone so far as to argue that shamanic practice in the distant European past was practiced exclusively by women.

This is an incredibly strained inference. To make a statement about thousands of years of spiritual culture based on a theory about the gender of a single archaeological find seems rather farfetched. After all, though it seems likely, we cannot even really know if it held a religious significance to its makers. Nor can we know whether it was in any way representative of broader trends or patterns, being as it is a unique find.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I've returned today from performing a Handfasting with my partner - not unusual at this time of year. But this was our first on a beach.

Yes, this is Britain. Yes, we've just had semi-monsoon conditions for the last few months. Summer was rumoured to have been cancelled. So much could have gone wrong.

It was beautiful. Golden sands, blue sky, bright sun, lush green grasses and flowers on the path leading from the couple's home to the beach itself... everyone commented that you couldn't have wished for a better day.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Paganism is one of the most democratic of spiritualities, right? It allows each of us to maintain and explore our own relationship with deity, practice pretty much as we like, and generally find like-minded people to work with along the way.
Except that it's not that simple (of course). We like to think that it's all sweetness, light and friendship, but as with any human philosophy, there are speed-bumps on the road that we're travelling.
 
Something that I've been really coming up against in recent months is the issue of hierarchy. If Pagans can each hold their own method of worship, then why do we even need leaders? Perhaps rather naively, I used to assume that each person understood that following a spiritual path involved investigation, constant challenging of the self and their chosen Way - otherwise it'd be far simpler to just find one of those other faiths with a set doctrine and follow that (less thought and effort required all round).
 
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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I've just come back from a busy trip to London, on a three-day signing and workshopping visit. Hosted by the gorgeous Treadwells bookshop, I met many new people, caught up with old friends and talked a lot about my own particular style of Druidry. Lots of anecdotes and a few practical tools. And I sold out of the copies of my book that I had brought (hurrah!).

Years ago, I studied at a University just outside London, on a site that sadly no longer exists as teaching space. I found a job and a partner and stayed for about 8 years, commuting daily into the Big City, to offices in St Pauls, Oxford Circus and other such bustling locations.

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  • Michael
    Michael says #
    Cat, I am only now beginning my path into Druidry, I am studying for my Bardic.I must say I enjoy your articles and have become a

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

This week, I was acting as Public Druid at two (fortunately) well-attended events. The first was a talk I was giving on Paganism at a local University, as part of their Equality & Diversity initiative; the second, the launch of my first book.

Two very different situations, but in both, I was clearly The Pagan in The Room. Even though I was dressed relatively normally at both (jeans and neutral blouse), people were aware of me and my role, and viewed me accordingly.

Now, I'm not just trying to give myself airs, as my ancestors might have said. I try my damnedest not to be one of those egotistical 'Big Nose Pagans' that everyone knows about; I'm just me, doing my thing, and trying to represent Druidry and Paganism as well as I can, as a real person, not a stereotype.

Officiating at a Handfasting (photograph © J. Baxter)

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Last time we looked at diagnosis of symptoms in Anglo-Saxon magic: now onto materials!

Once the culprit was identified it was essential to gather the materials for the charm. In most cases this meant herbs. Potions and poultices were the central part of charm remedies. One needed to remember the properties of all the herb, the best time for harvesting them, and the extent of the their interactions. Poems like the "Nine Herbs Charm" helped people memorize the properties of the most common healing herbs. In addition to herbs, there were bodily fluids like blood and spit and—well, other less charming substances.

Breath too proved an important component in charms, representing of course the substance of life itself. The church supplied additional helpful items such as communion wafers and holy water (though some church fathers might have frowned at their use in these charms).

More homey materials like milk and honey showed up in charms as well; honey is especially important because it is the basis of mead, the favorite drink of the Anglo-Saxons. Mead itself—along with wine and ale—provided a better tasting concoction with which to drink down the herbs. Of course if the herbs were made into a poultice or salve, you would need oil or wax to bind the materials together. Naturally, you would need bowls and other utensils to mix all the items together, and sometimes bandages to apply the mixture.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Brilliant, brilliant! It's just what I do--ah, well, with some exceptions. I'm working up my own (Appalachian) version of the Ni
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Grand to hear that! I look forward to hearing a regional version of a classic. A living history is magic, one that will continue.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In your dreams, dawn on the Summer Solstice is a beautiful thing. And it can be, certainly. Watching the colours change in the sky, clouds parting to reveal the sun as the Earth moves beneath your feet... marvellous.

However. This being one of the wettest Junes on record in the UK, I woke up on Solstice morning to discover that I had somehow been transported to Silent Hill. My partner and I ventured out - and 200 metres down the road, we could no longer see the house.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Sounds like our Oregon (ahem) summer. Growing up in the Pacific Northwe(s)t, we always knew that summer didn't arrive until (at le

The charms of Anglo-Saxon England consisted of words, herbs and actions. The folks who lived in the period after the Roman era and before the Norman Invasion of 1066 believed that words had a magic of their own especially when spoken aloud, but that the application of the right herbs would help the healing processes along, too. Sometimes other actions were required to create the right atmosphere or to move bad luck along to someone else. All three techniques used together was simply magic.

Among the most common uses for magic was for healing. Lacking any kind of organized medical care system, they pieced together charms and poultices to take care of the common health problems. But they also used charms to protect, both themselves and their belongings. Chief amongst their property was cattle. The Anglo-Saxon word for "cattle" (feoh) is the same as the word for "wealth" which shows how important cattle were. Charms also came in handy to enhance good luck and increase one's bounty.

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  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    At the risk of being pedantic, the Ango-Saxon for cattle and movable property is "feoh". "Fé" is the Old Norse version of the word
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    You're right, of course! I go back and forth between OE and ON so much, I slip up on words from time to time. Good to know I've go
  • mary widner
    mary widner says #
    i enjoy reading this

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

If I seem food obsessed, please understand that in the normal stretch of human history, I am quite normal. My blog postings often come back to the kitchen, the hearth. And when that is the case, it is because this is where my explorations of what it means to be nourished have lead me. In our modern culture, what you eat only matters if it will make you fat. Appearance is an obsession of the wider culture, one which Pagans have, for the most part, been successful at resisting. What matters to us is connection, integrity, and celebration.

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  • Larksong
    Larksong says #
    Hi Selina, Great article. When your ready for your next post I've installed a new blog system. Its working, thou I'm still working

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