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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in folkways

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

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“The only magic we have is what we make in ourselves, the muscles we build up on the inside, the sense of belief we create from nothing.”
― Dorothy Allison
 
“Note to self: remember
What Emerson said
Of Thoreau-
That he loved the low
In nature:
          Muskrats
And crickets, suckers
And frogs.   
          Not stars.
 
Songs of the carnal,
Songs of what we are.”
― Greg Orr, River Inside the River

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Beautifully written - my father's people lived in the small mining/logging communities in the Trinity Mountains of CA, having migr

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  • Necole Witcher
    Necole Witcher says #
    Thank you for this. For someone that spends profuse time in graveyards this provides a lot of information. Consider doing anothe

Traditional wisdom ranging from a bevy of global cultures—including Native American, Taoist, and West African groups—calls for honoring one’s ancestors to a specific generational threshold. I’ve most frequently heard talk of remembering to ‘seven generations,’ and trying to learn the names of one’s family up to that level. Doing the math, if you start with yourself as the first generation (1) and go back seven steps, at level seven there are 64 individuals, for a total of 127 names, lives, and personalities to remember. If you start at your parents (2), the top level has 128 people, and the total runs up to 254 persons of note. That’s only counting direct ancestors, one mother and one father for each person, with no account for brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, stepparents, adoptive family, etc. While it is certainly not impossible to remember a roster of names to that length—recitations of lineage are common in a number of cultures which rely on oral transmission of lore—it can be difficult for people in a literate society to manage. Moreover, for those of us who like to maintain ancestral altars,  keeping physical representations of between 128 and 254 people on our altar spaces can be unwieldy.

So what are our options, if we recognize the importance of maintaining an ancestral presence in our lives? Today I want to look at some of the ways we can encompass our forebears without crowding out an entire room of the house with representative knick-knacks (if you do maintain such a room, kudos to  you and I would love to visit, as that would be an intensely powerful space, I think!).

Genealogy

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Or, Material Culture without Materialism.

“’[W]hen a bear has been killed the Ainu sit down and admire it, make their salaams to it, worship it, and offer presents of inao ; when a bear is trapped or wounded by an arrow, the hunters go through an apologetic or propitiatory ceremony.’ The skulls of slain bears receive a place of honour in their huts, or are set up on sacred posts outside the huts, and are treated with much respect: libations of millet beer, and of sake, an intoxicating liquor, are offered to them; and they are addressed as ‘divine preservers’ or ‘precious divinities.’ The skulls of foxes are also fastened to the sacred posts outside the huts; they are regarded as charms against evil spirits, and are consulted as oracles.” (James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough).

 In the Book of Acts, Christian legend recounts the near-disastrous riot caused by a conflict between St. Paul and an Ephesian silversmith named Demetrius. Demetrius made his living crafting statues of Artemis, and Paul’s decrying of the idolatry in Ephesus meant an end to his lucrative trade. So the jeweler roused a crowd to religious fervor to the point where local authorities had to step in and Paul’s disciples had to restrain him from being martyred by the crowd.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In the library of the University of South Carolina, you can peruse—with the help of a librarian and a pair of cotton gloves—a rare and marvelous text called Joshua Gordon’s Commonplace Book, which dates to 1784. Gordon’s little tome contains herbal remedies, recipes for treating livestock and human ailments, and a number of magical charms which call upon Christian concepts—the Trinity, the name of God, etc.—to do everything from revealing a thief to treating demonic torment to dealing with cuts, scrapes, and bruises. In 1820, John George Hohman produced a now (semi-)famous book called The Long Lost Friend, which outlined a number of cures from the Pennsylvania-Dutch tradition, as well as methods for magically gaining a dog’s loyalty, treating skin lesions with homemade salves, helping cherries maintain a longer shelf (or branch) life, and a method for guaranteeing a good catch while fishing which involves rose seed, mustard seed, and “the foot of a weasel.” Some houses in Berks, Lancaster, and York Counties, Pennsylvania would have had copies of Hohman’s book, and some would have manufactured their own collections of spells and recipes more in line with what Gordon did. In some places, the possession of a strange and mysterious publication known as The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses provided a person with magical powers by mere virtue of the book’s ownership—the spells within being an added bonus.

When I was training with a Gardenerian Outer Court (and I should emphasize that I never went beyond the dedicant phase, and so the inner workings of that tradition are not expressed here), I remember the concept of the Book of Shadows being explained to me as a sort of hand-copied and inherited text. Each new initiate would likely have copied down his or her own version of the High Priest and/or High Priestess’ book, and perhaps have added to it over time with new spells and rituals. Over time, the book could evolve and change, but the process would be slow and meticulous, growing with the tradition itself.

At the other end of the spectrum from the hand-copied books are the mass-marketed spellbooks available from publishers like Llewellyn or Weiser, which may cover only a set of thirty love spells or which may be encyclopedic in their scope. A few artisan publishers produce excellent and lovingly crafted grimoires which have their own life force from the moment you remove them from their slipcovers (Xoanon’s Cultus Sabbati books or the range of gorgeous texts from Scarlet Imprint are fine examples). In these cases, the spells come pret-a-porter, but may already have the essence of magic in them by dint of their ink, book boards, and binding.

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  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette says #
    What a great post! I'm a bit of a journal junkie , and of course my grimoire is most special to me, so I've thought about it a lot
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Lovely, Cory. Thanks!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Leaving the Bhrat in the Yard

I'm one of the facilitators for a day-long Brigid retreat on Saturday and am priestessing our Mother Grove public ritual that night.  What that means in practical terms is that my car is full of boxes and cloutie trees, and the dining room table is also covered with material for one thing or the other.

Have you been spending the week getting ready for this lovely holy day, those of you who honor it?  Have you cleared and reset your altar?  Put some oats and whiskey out for Bride and her white cow?

The thing I almost forgot was the bhrat--that length of cotton cloth that goes out onto the Earth tonight to catch the dew or the rain. I use cotton because it's easy to rip into clouties or cut into squares for healing work.

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