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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Anglo Saxon Lyre

The Tale of Osred Gleeman

 

In the days of Osbert, King of the Hwicce, there was among his hearth-companions a certain man who knew no songs, and indeed, was wholly lacking in gleecraft, and the name of this man was Osred.

When, at a feast, he would see the harp approaching, when each would take it in turn to sing for the others, he would arise, and leave the beer-hall, and go to sleep in the cow-byre instead.

On one such occasion, he went to the cow-byre, and there fell asleep. There he dreamt that someone stood before him, and addressed him, and called him by name.

Osred, he said, sing me something.

He answered, saying, I cannot sing. That is why I left the beer-hall and came here: because I cannot sing.

Once again the speaker said, Nevertheless, you must sing for me.

Of what shall I sing? asked Osred.

Sing to me of Beowulf, he said.

Thereupon, he began to sing, and this is what he sang:

 

Beowulf I sing, best of kings,

guest of Hrothgar, Grendel's bane:

of all kings, keenest to glory,

of all men, liefest to love.

 

When he awoke, he remembered this stave, to which he soon added more staves in a like manner.

Then he arose, and went to his lord at his gift-stool, and told him of this dream, and of the gift which he had received. Then he sang for him the staves which he had made, and all who heard them wondered at their sweetness and beauty.

Sing to me of Sigemund Wyrm's-bane, said the king, and so he undertook the task and went away, and in the morning he sang to them of Sigemund and of his mighty wyrm-slaying.

Sing to me now of Shield Sheaving, said the king, and so, in the next morning, he did.

So it is that Osred received the gift of gleecraft, which consisted of this: that whatever tale he heard, he could in one night turn it into the finest staves, such that all who heard them marveled and longed to hear more, like some prize cow who grazes and, chewing her cud, in the morning produces the sweetest and creamiest milk, which all long to drink.

Long years he dwelt in the hall of Osbert, King of the Hwicce, and was accounted among the foremost of gleemen, and many rings he received from him.

Indeed, do we not sing his songs to this very day?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Celtic Knife, Handmade, Forged ...

A Saga of the Latter-Day Hwicce

 

Here's the conceit: that modern-day witches derive (at some remove or other) "off of" the old Hwicce tribe (and kingdom) of Anglo-Saxon days. Historical or not, be it admitted, it does make one fine story.

Welcome to the life of a full-time witch and amateur linguist.

Some time back, I'd riffed, along these lines, off of the first line of Beowulf:

 

Hwaet, wé Seax-Hwicca in [something, begins with S]-dagum...

Lo, we Knife-Witches in [something, begins with S]-days...

 

I knew that the word that I couldn't remember had to begin with S, because it needed to alliterate with seax: that's how ancient Germanic poetry works, by initial rhyme. But what that word was, I couldn't remember.

(Why “Knife-Witches”? Well, the context required a weapon—“Lo, we Spear-Danes” is how Beowulf begins—and modern witches are preeminently a People of the Knife, which we generally call “athame.” Of course, the old Hwicce were a People of the Knife as well; their kinfolk the Saxons were named precisely for their characteristic knife, the seax. It's also an hommage of sorts to the original Anglo-Saxon witchery of modern times, Uncle Bucky's Seax-Wicca.)*

Seeking the phrase, I search my computer files.

Nada.

Fine. I search my on-line posts on the topic, certain that I've used the phrase as a tantalizing epigraph somewhere or other.

Gornisht.

In increasing desperation, I pick up my little black sketchbook and scan entries on the left-hand side, working (in proper witchly fashion) backwards in time, from the most recent back to the beginning of the volume.

(The left-hand side is where I jot phrases and seed ideas; the right is for longer and more developed thoughts.)

Af klum.

Grinding my teeth, I reverse, scanning entries on the right-hand pages, working from the beginning. It's a slow and difficult process; I keep getting distracted by memorable phrases and ideas that I'd like to expand on.

Finally, about 20 pages in, I give up. “I'm turning in,” I think. “I'll keep going in the morning.”

At that very moment I find what I'm looking for, there at the bottom of the page.

 

Hwaet, wé Seax-Hwicca in síð-dagum...

Lo, we Knife-Witches in these latter days...

 

Sometimes the gods speak through meaningful coincidence.

But wait: there's more.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Yom Kippur and the unique ceremony of the two goats | All Israel News

 “Ah, that was a proper nine-cow, that was.”

 

Thank Goddess, the ritual is finally over.

The friend standing beside me turns and whispers in my ear: “Two goats.”

I smile and nod.

If anything, she's being generous. Me, I'm thinking chickens, myself.

 

Back in the days when Witches were Hwicce, we counted our wealth in livestock. Our modern word fee (1500 years ago, it was feoh) originally meant “cow.”

That's why rituals are rated in animals.

What my friend was talking about is the fee—number of animals—you would have had to pay the ritual specialist in order to get a ritual of comparable quality back in old tribal days.

These days, when you see online reviews of rituals, they'll sometimes be accompanied by little pictures of animals: chickens, goats, cows.

Think of it as a Star-rating for ritual.

 

Cows are the best: the more the better.

The best possible ritual is a nine-cow ritual. That's the one that, for the very best of reasons, you'll remember for the rest of your life, the one that they'll still be talking about 100 years from now.

The ratings go down from there. Even a one-cow ritual is still a good ritual.

 

Considerably less prestigious than cows are goats.

(Depending on where and when we've talking, a good milch cow would have brought you anywhere between 20 and 50 goats apiece.)

A nine-goat ritual, well...let me be generous and say that it's better than a two-goat ritual.

 

Then there are the real stinkers: the ones you'll remember for the rest of your life, but for the very worst of reasons.

Those are the ones that are rated in chickens.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

In the Forest of the Hwicce

 

Place-names have a long memory.

Six surviving place-names in modern Britain preserve the memory of the Hwicce, the original Anglo-Saxon Tribe of Witches, who for some 225 years inhabited a territory in the Cotswolds and Severn Basin of what is now southwestern England: Whichford (Warwickshire), Wichenford, Wychbury Hill, Wyche, and Droitwich (Worcestershire), and Wychwood (Oxfordshire). Unsurprisingly, with one exception, all of them lie within the boundaries of the original Kingdom (or occasionally—witches being witches—Queendom) of the Witches.

Wychwood, the “forest of the Hwicce,” is the anomalous outlier.

Not all witches, of course, are witches. With trees, in particular, you have to be careful. Both the witch elm and witch hazel originally had nothing to do with witches of our sort, but derive instead from yet another Anglo-Saxon root (wice) meaning “bendable, pliable.” (The same root survives in “wicker.”)

Flexible as we may be, though, historical data makes it clear that the witches of Wychwood were originally the H-and-Two-C, and not the No-H-and-One-C, kind.

So how did Hwicce end up in non-Hwicce territory?

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    I would say as neopagans we are constructing our futures rather than reconstructing THE future. I'm not sure if we are in the proc
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Victoria: good eye. I praise your thoroughness. My friend and colleague Volkhvy always says, "We're not reconstructing th
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    You are conflating the OE wicce/wicca with the tribal name Hwicce,. The tribal name Hwicce is attested in Latin and OE sources as

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Flamenco Nut <hr id=

 “Second, Mother of Third”

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 To Pagan Friends, Going to the City of Hekate

 

They worship the Moon here, just like we do at home.”

—Osred Osbertson to his brother Oswin, King of the Hwicce

 

Remember.

Remember, it is not to Istanbul that you go, neither to Constantinople.

Rather, you go to Byzantium: pagan Byzantium, City of Hekate, City of the Moon.

She, Threefold Lady, was the city's patron in its youth. Now, in its age, she is its patron still. From each mosque, her crescents proclaim her; let them say what they will.

There is no Moon but Her.

(Whose sacred dogs still rule those streets by night?)

Say what they will, Holy Wisdom is hers, as it was and always shall be. From the ancients we know that, among its columns, columns from the far-famed temple of Artemis of Ephesus, wonder of the world, still stand, remembering. Find them, feel them, remember.

(We of the Old Ways remember that things might have been far otherwise. We remember, and we tell those tales, remembering.)

She waxes, she wanes, she waxes again. What was hers, is still, and ever shall be.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Snowdrops: These Little Flowers Don't Care if it's Still Winter • GreenView

On February Eve, we sing a song to honor the snowdrop (galanthus nivalis, "milk-flower of the snows"), first flower of Spring.

It's a simple song, simple-minded, even: a children's song. We've sung this song, or one like it, for hundreds—maybe thousands—of years, at this time in the year's turning, to honor the courage and the promise of the year's First Blooming.

 

Snowdrop, snowdrop, little drop of snow,

what will you do when the cold winds blow?

I'll hide my little head, and say:

Cold wind, cold wind, go away.

 

Here in the Witch diaspora, in the Midwest's Upper Mississippi Valley, we're still knee-deep in Winter. We'll see no snowdrops here for another two moons, maybe three.

But a world away, on the banks of another great river, the Severn, the snowdrops are blooming even as we sing.

These were the lands where, fourteen hundred years ago, a people not yet called the Witches—they knew themselves as the Hwicce—dwelt.

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