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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Why Cloudy Crystals Turn Clear

This week we're going to talk about a question that I get a lot. I decided to make a short blog post out of the answer to help.

Why do cloudy crystals turn clear?

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Virgin Scrying?

Did you know that it was once thought advantageous to use virgins for scrying? While crystal balls are probably the most common form of scrying known now, and maybe second to that mirrors (you probably know John Dee's famous mirror). But other reflective surfaces have been used, including onychomancy (divination by a polished fingernail).

Claire Fanger makes a good argument for the late medieval link between scrying and summoning spirits. While summoning angels and binding demons might appear on the surface to be completely different skill sets or activities, clearly the two are easily linked because of the cosmological outlook both share:

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Santeria Envy, or: What Do You Say When You Hear Thunder?

Sometimes you can't help but be jealous.

Guillermo was born in Havana, so naturally our conversation eventually turned to Santeria. Like most New Pagans, I've got a pretty pronounced case of Santeria envy.

Guillermo grew up surrounded by the Way of the Saints but doesn't really practice it any more.

“I still find myself saying Eparreí Changó whenever I hear thunder, though,” he said, laughing. “Some things you never lose.”

Oh, those fortunate intact cultures.

What do you say when you hear that first peal (or rumble, or crash) of Thunder in a storm? Certainly it calls for some sort of response. When someone you love and respect calls to you from across the room, do you ignore it and say nothing? Probably not.

In the old days, pretty much all cultures had a healthy respect for the Thunderer. It's hard not to. He's big, he's loud, he's powerful, and we couldn't get along without him. 1400 years ago, the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce—the original Tribe of Witches—called Him Þunor.

We call Him Thunder today. When I first hear His voice, I've taken to greeting Him by Name, along with a vocable: a word without literal meaning that signifies nonetheless.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes says #
    I say: "Hail, Taranis!"
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Honestly my usual response is: "was that thunder, or did someone crash their truck?"

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Cool Food for Hot Days

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Is Witchcraft a Religion?

According to the Twitter witches, witchcraft isn't a religion, it's a magical technology.

According to Margaret Murray, Gerald Gardner, and several million Wiccans worldwide, witchcraft is primarily a religion with a strong grounding in magical practice.

So who's right?

If I had to pick a side of the hedge to stand on—I can scarcely believe that I'm saying this—I would be among the nimble-thumbed Twitterians. But let me add a caveat.

As I see it, the Craft is an inherited magical technology. It's the ancestral magical technology of the Tribe of Witches. As such, it does not per se constitute a religion.

But here's the caveat: just like everything else, magical technologies are not culturally freestanding. Every magical technology is, of necessity, grounded in a particular culture.

Ours roots in the tribal culture of the Tribe of Witches, in which—like pretty much every other pre-modern culture—religion and everyday life are so thoroughly interlaced as to be indistinguishable from one another. There's no separate word for “religion” in the old Witch language.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I would have said that witchcraft is a way of looking at and interacting with the world that is contrary to the general beliefs of
Tribe of Witches, or: Which Witch is Whitch?

I wish I could remember which book I first read it in.

(A friend later confirmed for me that he, too, had read the same book, and mentioned some details that I had forgotten, so I know that I'm not making this up. Alas, he couldn't remember what book it was either.)

(I'm pretty sure it was one of the Second Generation of Craft books, and that it was by one of the Mothers of the Modern Craft: probably Doreen Valiente or Pat Crowther. Anyone?)

So: supposedly, there's this group (read: coven) out there that claims descent from the Hwicce, the original Anglo-Saxon Tribe of Witches. They claim to be practicing the old tribal religion. When you're initiated into this group, you become a member of the tribe, and a participant in the ongoing life of the tribe.

Now, I have to say: If true, this is one of the most compelling stories that I've come across so far in the modern pagan narrative. Everybody wants a tribe to belong to, pagans as much as anybody.

In 2008 maverick British archaeologist Stephen J. Yeates published his Tribe of Witches: The Religion of the Dobunni and Hwicce, which makes a similar claim: that modern witchcraft descends from the old tribal ways of the Hwicce: Goddess, Horned God, and all.

Personally, I'm not convinced of the historicity of this claim. It looks to me as if Yeates started, not with the Hwicce, but with modern Wicca, and worked backward. The Wikipedia article on the Hwicce even cites me on this.

Linguists mostly agree that witch and Hwicce come from different roots. Exactly what the tribe's name originally meant is unclear. What we can say is that hwicce is also a common noun in Anglo-Saxon meaning “chest, barrel.” (This seems an unlikely source for an ethnonym, but who knows?) In fact, this word survived into Middle and Early Modern English as whitch. Draw your own conclusions.

The Anglo-Saxon Hwicce inhabited the basin of the Severn River. (The Severn is still counted as the Sacred River of the Witches, and we still name our daughters Sabrina in her honor.) As it happens, we can make both an archaeological and a genetic case for continuity of both population and culture between them and the Keltic Dobunni, who lived in the same area. According to novelist Parke Godwin, Artos the Bear—him that the cowans call King Arthur—was himself a Dobunni lad. J. R. R. Tolkien, in a letter to one of his sons, claimed Hwiccan ancestry (from Wychwood, no less: the "forest of the Hwicce"). Some of my own family hail from that part of the world, for what it's worth.

So the historical Tribe of Witches (or Whitches) was a mixed people, Keltic and Anglian, just as the modern Wheel of the Year (for example) is a mixture of Keltic and Germanic. Well.

Now, tribes are interesting things. You can be born into a tribe, but that's not the only way to belong. You can marry in, you can adopt in, you can initiate in, or you can enculturate in.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I finally got a copy of "The Tribe of Witches: The Religion of the Dobunni and Hwicce" by Stephen J. Yeates. It was interesting.

Are you a gun owner and Pagan? If your weapon is for self-defense (as opposed to, for example, hunting), please participate in this survey.

 

Its purpose is show a diversity of personal opinions, as well as their commonalities. I don’t believe personal viewpoints can ever  represent how other people should think or act. Instead, my hope is that folks sharing about the intersection of gun ownership and Paganism in their own lives will provide food for thought for folks who read this post, including those taking the survey. This mental stimulus might help someone gain greater clarity about what that intersection currently is in their own lives, whether they want to change it and, if so, what they want it to become.

 

Since I’m hoping to show diversity, some people might be puzzled by my not creating another survey for those who don’t own guns. My reason is twofold:

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Hi there. If you want to do an actual survey, I'd recommend posting a link to a survey. If you just want comments, here's mine. I'

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