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 Looking for the Hidden Folk | Book by Nancy Marie Brown | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

 Reading Nancy Marie Brown's Looking for the Hidden Folk: How Iceland's Elves Can Save the Earth

 

Why do Icelanders believe in elves?

Finally, a convincing answer.

 

If, as I did, you come to Nancy Marie Brown's Looking for the Hidden Folk: How Iceland's Elves Can Save the Earth looking for tales of Iceland's huldufólk—the hidden people—you'll be disappointed. Chapter after chapter, you'll think: Ah, now we're going to get to the stories. Chapter after chapter, you'll be wrong.

But don't let that put you off. Chapter after chapter, you'll find that you keep reading anyway. Why?

If tales of elves are what you want, there are plenty of books of those out there. This book, though, is doing something else.

Robert Kirk's The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies was published in 1815. Since then, the English-reading public has seen no book of elvish theory.

Not until now.

 

Oh, there's no shortage here of elf-tales, to be sure. Many of them will sound familiar. You will have seen many different variations on a few similar themes before: the international press loves stories about Icelandic elfdom.

You know the kind of stories that I mean. The new road necessitates the removal of a boulder said to be the home of an elf. Locals keep warning work-crews that there will be trouble if the boulder is moved, but in the end—after endless break-downs of machinery—the elf-stone is shifted. As predicted, a series of terrible accidents in that particular place ensue.

Finally, the authorities wise up. They replace the boulder and re-route the road. The accidents stop, forthwith.

 

When it comes to the elves of Iceland, and media stories about them, one can't help but think of the war in Ukraine. When war comes to some Third World place where black or brown people live, well, it's tragic, but that's just how it is.

But when war comes to a First World country and people that look like us—i.e. "white" people—then we feel it personally.

Same with exotic beliefs. When they're held by people of color in some exotic locale, well...that's just what those people do.

But when Icelanders—surely the very whitest of white people—start believing in things like elves, well now: that's press-worthy.

 

Why, Brown asks, do we privilege some beliefs over others? Why does it seem perfectly ordinary when someone believes in, say, “God,” but weird-ass when they believe in elves?

Surely, this is a question well worth the asking.

 

For some reason, I'm not the kind of person that gets consulted when they're doing surveys. (Maybe that would change if I started answering calls from numbers that I don't recognize.) But whenever I read the results of surveys, I can't help but ask myself how I would answer these questions.

Usually, my response would be to ask for clarification. Surely we all stand to benefit by a clearer definition of terms.

“Do I believe in elves? Well, that depends. What do you mean by 'elves'? What do you mean by 'believe'?"

That's what Nancy Marie Brown is doing in Looking for the Hidden Folk.

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Running in Place

Having a dream about running in place, being unable to get anywhere no matter how fast you run, probably means that you are stuck in the past. Something has happened in your life that you are unable to move on from, and this dream is bringing your attention to it. Because you are not totally present in your waking life, you are missing opportunities for growth that will be necessary as you get older. In this case, running in place might represent your own stubbornness and dislike for change.

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Hermes Kriophoros (detail) | Hermes(?) carrying a ram. [Roma… | Flickr 

Tale in a Time of Plague

 

As Pausanias tells it, the god Hermes once saved the city of Tanagra, in Boeotia, from a pandemic.

At the time, the plague raged all around the city, and the Tanagrans feared it was only a matter of time until it came to their doorsteps as well. Then Hermes, that ever-young god, was seen walking the circuit of the city's walls, bearing a ram on his shoulders.

Not one Tanagran died of plague.

Ever after, Hermes Kriophóros (“the ram-bearer”) was accounted the city's patron, and on his festivals the handsomest youth in town would ceremonially walk the circuit of the city's walls, bearing a lamb on his shoulders.

(Although Pausanias does not say so, presumably the lamb would have been borne ultimately to the god's temple, and there given to him in sacrifice.)

In Classical art, Ram-Bearing Hermes became a common icon of philanthropy, humanitas, and divine protection. The motif continued into the Christian centuries and, indeed, to this very day.

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Mistletoe: What’s Love Got to do With It?

Our holiday decorations often include a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway or in the middle of a room. We may put it in place and think of the elaborate cutting ceremonies of the Druids as noted by Pliny or associate it with the Norse god Balder who was slain with it but later resurrected. Today, kissing under the mistletoe is a token of love, a wish for peace, and a bid for good luck.
        In the past in England, it was believed that sweethearts who kissed under a sprig of it were destined to marry but only if the mistletoe was burned on Twelfth Night (January 6th). A woman who was single and not kissed under it would forever be a spinster. But where did the smooching come from?
        It harkens back to the Roman Saturnalia, which generally took place from December 17th to the 23rd. Held in honor of the god Saturn, it was a celebration of the end of agricultural work for the year and the winter solstice. It was a time to kick back and enjoy revelries and excesses. There was a suspension of rules and anything goes promiscuity. Mistletoe was a prominent part of the decorations and an import symbol.
        Mistletoe was revered because of its liminal nature but even more so when it grew on an oak tree, an uncommon occurrence. Oak trees were associated with the most powerful gods in many cultures and mistletoe berries were believed to confer the power of fertility because they held the male/life force essence of the god. More than love and happiness, mistletoe symbolized the desire for fertility and not just for husband and wife. Sprigs were hung in cattle sheds, too, although I doubt that Elsie the cow received a smooch.
        As with other things, Roman customs were taken to Britain. Christmas in England was close enough to coincide with Saturnalia. The Christmas revelries went on for twelve days and was a celebration of the end of the annual agricultural work. The medieval Church put a damper on Pagan associations but people still decorated their homes with the traditional greenery, which of course, included mistletoe. Eventually, they all found their way into churches, too.
        By the eighteenth century, kissing boughs were adorning kitchens. In the nineteenth century there was a rule that a man could kiss any number of women under the mistletoe but he had to pick a berry from the bough for each kiss until there are no more left and the kissing was supposed to end.
        While we may not have mistletoe rules and the beliefs and reasons for hanging it may have changed, I think it’s nice to know that we are carrying on a very ancient Yuletide tradition. And that’s what love’s got to do with it. We’re using an ancient symbol that has been associated with love for centuries to mark our own celebrations and revelries. So, raise a glass under the kissing bough and give a toast to Yule past, present, and future.

 

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 The People Before the People

 

Mark you, lad, that little wee Saturn-planet hanging in the Yule tree's uppermost branches, rings and all: and can you guess for why?

Well, for the Saturnalia, of course: December 17th, this very day.

(Not that the Red Crests would have known their Saturn thus, mind you, but we do: for this is our remembering, not theirs.)

Not for that we keep the Saturnalia—though there be them in Romeburg as still do—nay, not with our Yule, the torch-lit Yule of the fathers and mothers in all its shining glory a few days hence, but for that we remember.

For are we not the Witches, and children of the Dobunni?

We are, and they—the Dobunni, them of the Two Bands—the People that were the People before the Hwicce, them as gave us our tribal name.

Aye, them we were, and them we are still.

 

Dobunnitas

 

For there in the South, among our old tribal hunting runs, we came early-by to Redcrest ways, even before the coming of the Redcrests themselves. Did not our own kings mint their own coins then, back in our days of freedom?

(And do we not mind still the Silver Lady and the Three-Tailed Stallion?)

And then when the Redcrests themselves were come, did not we ally ourselves with them against our foes, the Cats of War—the Catuvellauni, they were called—for that they had taken to themselves of our people's lands, and would have had more, were they not thus thwarted?

Yes, and did we not stand shield-to-shield with the Redcrests during Boudica's War, against those same Catuvellauni, in their standing by her? ('Victorious', they named her, but in the end, she knew defeat.)

So by little and little we came to Redcrest ways, what they called Romanitas; but never did we forget our own Dobunnitas.

No, nor have we ever forgotten.

 

The Witch-Year's Torch-Lit Yule

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Charging Your Jewelry with Magic

Charging a gem or crystal imbues it with your intent. Upon charging your jewelry, you can use it in spell work or anytime you want to surround yourself with the magic you put into the gemstones. While picturing your truest wish and hope, and what you ultimately want to achieve through this process, anoint a candle with an essential oil that most expresses your energy. Perhaps it is rose or, as in my case, amber. Begin by lighting the candle and gazing into the flame. Then, place the piece of jewelry in front of the candle and say aloud, “Into this jewelry, I imbue my essence and the power of this blessed earth. This gem of great hue is charged until my magic is through. So mote it be!”

You can further empower the jewel by scratching your desire into the wax of the candle. Then, each time you burn the candle, place the gem before it and think upon your quest.

...
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 BOOK OF SHADOWS Celtic Tree of Lifeby Jen Delyth - Celtic Art Leather Gifts  and Celtic Tree Gift

 

The woman four people ahead of me in line, the one with the hennaed hair, is clearly a pagan. I really wish she weren't.

I also wish she would shut up.

Ugh: evangelical pagans. Oh, I understand the sense of homecoming that finding answers to your questions can bring. There's something profoundly unpagan, though, in the wrong-headed (not to mention condescending) belief that my answers should be your answers too.

I can't help but pity the poor stranger that she's evangelizing so aggressively, who listens along politely, but is clearly wondering what she did to deserve this.

Like most bores, Henna Head leaps from topic to topic: breast-feeding, polytheism, Youtube, the Goddess, exploitation of workers in the sugar industry, the moral superiority of veganism, routine circumcision. Like most bores, she maintains the pretense of conversation as she monologues. Occasionally, she solicits agreement: Don't you think? She never pauses to listen for an answer, though. Why should she? Why listen to anyone else, when you've already got all the answers?

Gods. Was I ever this obnoxiously evangelical? (I hope not.) Was I ever this smug? (Probably.) Was I ever this predatory? (Absolutely not.)

People incapable of self-doubt always amaze me. Are they lying to themselves? Or are they too immature—or maybe just plain too stupid—to conceive the possibility that they might be wrong?

Our Pagan Preacher is wildly indignant about all the injustices of the world. I empathize, but her story is always the same story (and a non-pagan story it is at that): Us v. Them. It's Moral Dualism, Good Guys/Bad Guys all the way, with never a moment of doubt as to which Side she's on. From self-pity to self-righteousness is not very far.

From victim to perpetrator is not very far.

Evangelism, whatever the flavor, is always ugly. You'd think that pagans, of all people, would understand this.

Like the other good Minnesotans in line, I think loudly, but say nothing. Eventually the line moves on, and the nonstop Gospel According to the Goddess, mercifully, comes to an end.

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