PaganSquare


PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in language of witchcraft

 Fossil Fly (Diptera) With Eggs In Baltic Amber (#207478) For Sale -  FossilEra.com

Litha or Lithe?

 

Back in the 80s, many Wiccans started calling the Summer Sunstead Litha. In a sense, they've got history on their side.

(That's LEE-thuh, with the “soft” th of leather, not the “hard” th of think, though I've also heard LITH-uh, with a "short" i and "hard" th.)*

In the old Anglo-Saxon calendar, June was known as ærra Líða, “before Litha” and July aeftera Líða, “after Litha”. (J. R. R. Tolkien, a proud Hwiccan** lad himself, modernizes these as Forelithe and Aerlithe, but I'll get back to that.) What comes between June and July? Well, given a little wiggle room, and the fact that the Anglo-Saxons reckoned by moons, not by calendar months, it seems fair to assign the word Litha to the summer solstice.

(In the same calendar, December and January were aerra Geol—Foreyule—and aeftera Geol—Aeryule—respectively.)

What the word originally meant, and why it should be assigned to this particular season of the year, is another matter altogether.

 

Unclear Origins

 

As an adjective, OE líðe meant “gentle, soft, calm, mild.” I suppose one could read this meteorologically, though personally, I find this (if you'll pardon my earthiness) a pretty limpdick explanation. As a verb—líðan—it means “to go, travel, sail.” Bede of Jarrow mocks up a reading here, claiming that the calm seas of solstice-tide usher in the sailing season. Sorry, sounds contrived to me.

I think that the most solid conclusion to draw here—considering the fact that, folk derivations aside, we don't know where the word “Yule” came from either—would be that Litha's etymology remains unclear.

Still, considering that Midwinter has a folksy by-name of its own—Yule—it's somehow satisfying that Midsummer should have one as well.

(For what it's worth, my own linguist's intuition here is that both Yule and Lithe derive from some solstice-celebrating pre-Germanic cultural substratum, and that neither word has a convincing Germanic derivation precisely because they're non-Germanic in origin. Perhaps time and future research will tell.)

 

The Lure of the Exotic

 

It certainly wouldn't be the first Old English word to be adopted lock, stock, and barrel into the Modern Witch vocabulary, Wicca and Eostre being two other prime examples. I strongly suspect that many Wiccans actually like the sense of mystery and exoticism that such archaic forms impart. Still, to my ear, there's something affected, something inauthentic, about using such words in everyday speech.

As a name for the Summer Yule, Líða didn't survive into modern times. If it had, though, and had undergone all the usual sound-changes through the course of the last 1000 years, we can say exactly what it would have sounded like today: Lithe (rhymes with blithe).

 

Shire-Reckoning

 

In fact, that's exactly what J. R. R. Tolkien does call it in Lord of the Rings.

The Shire-year of the hobbits features two extended periods of celebration: Yule and Lithe, with the (summer) sunstead itself being known specifically as Midyear's Day. Both holidays are characterized by extended festal periods, known respectively as the Yuledays and the Lithedays.

Though Tolkien himself doesn't use it, I think we can feel justified in coining, by analogy with Yuletide, the term Lithetide: the period of extended celebration between the astronomical solstice and Old Midsummer's Day, what we now celebrate as the Fourth of July. Lithe's thirteen days thus parallel those of Yule.

 

A Craft of Now

 

Well, lots of Wiccans apparently like feeling exotic. (Who doesn't like to feel special?) If you want to live in a museum—or, worse, on Renn Fest grounds—year-round, that's up to you.

Me, though, I'm with the hobbits here. I'm all for a Craft that we live and do everyday, not just when we're in circle.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Wedding Besom Jumping Broom  in your choice of Natural image 1

 

I have a sacred word to teach you.

At a Jewish wedding, when the groom (or whoever) stomps the glass, everyone shouts: Mazel tov!

At a pagan wedding, when the couple jumps the broom everyone shouts: Hurrahya!

Hoo-RYE-yuh, it's pronounced—rye like the grain—and better it be if you rrroll the R. It's an old Witch word, an exclamation of joy. It's one of that odd class of words called vocables, words that connote but do not denote. It doesn't really “mean” anything, but through such words we enter into that archaic, pre-verbal state of mind that characterizes animal calls, infant sounds, and cultic cries such as Euoi!

The rubrics of the Rites of Handfasting don't specify a call as people jump the broom—the broom that represents, inter alia, the threshold of the new life into which the couple are entering together—but Hurrahya! is what you shout as someones leaps a bonfire, so it makes a deal of sense for handfasting as well. Hey, what's good for the witch is good for the warlock.

As to where the word comes from: Reply hazy, try again later. This amateur linguist's guess would be that it's related to hurrah, another common vocable used by cowan and pagan alike. Hurrahya, though, is the Witches-only version.

In my role as wise old sage (i.e. bullshitter) I should probably be telling you that Hurrahya was originally some ancient god-name. (With that explosive hur- at the beginning, and the nice open -ya at the end, I'll leave it to you to guess Who.) Well, you can believe that if you want to. When, at the handfasting later today, I pass along just that story, I plan to be wearing a wry twist of the lips as I do so. Caveat credente: let the believer beware.

Last modified on

 Killing a Grizzly the Old-Fashioned Way: With a Longbow and a Stone-Point  Arrowhead

Dear Boss Warlock:

Help! I've been a witch for 25 years but, come December, what with all the presents, trees, and parties, I keep hearing the C-word slip out of my mouth when what I really mean is "Yule". The other night, one of my students actually corrected me. It's humiliating. What can I do to exorcise this foul demon?

Retrogressive in Raleigh

 

Dear Retro:

I hear your pain. Verbal precision is one of the truest arrows in the witch's quiver.

Here in the US, the C-word is so pervasive that to eliminate it requires an act of will, if not one of magic. Fortunately, you're a witch, so you've got plenty of both.

After all, what's the witch's most important tool? (If you're thinking “athame,” think again.)

As pagans, of course, we're so often out of synch with the overculture that, come Yule, it's easy to stop swimming and just let ourselves drift along on the current for a while. But, in fact, despite the overlap of season and a certain amount of iconography, our Yule and theirs are really two very different holidays. (I mean, really, just look at the names: Yule and C-day. One is taut, muscular, sexy; the other slack, hissy, frumpy.) It's vital here always to remember that Yule came first. That's historic fact. Yule isn't our C-day; C-day is their Yule.

Last modified on

 

 

The advantage of any given language is that, in it, you will always be able to draw distinctions that you couldn't make in any other language.”

(Deer Stands Up, 1996)

 

OK class, take out your Witch-English dictionaries, please.

Now: I want everyone on this side of the room to look up Lede: L-E-D-E, lede.

On this side, Thede: T-H-E-D-E, thede.

Ready? Go.

Got it? Good. Rowan, would you give us the definition of lede, please?

OK, everybody got that? “A tribe, a people, a nation.”

Fritha, have you got a definition for “thede” for us?

Good. “A tribe, a people, a nation.” Two words, same definition. Now, we know that, in any given language, there are no true synonyms; all synonyms are only partially synonymous. There's always a shade of difference between the two: otherwise, why have two words?

So what's the difference here? How is a thede different from a lede?

Well, let's take a specific example. Robin, what's our thede?

Right: we're Witches, of the Tribe of Witches.

Ash, what's our lede, then?

Pagan, yes. We're Witch by thede, Pagan by lede. So “thede” is a sub-group of “lede.” Both are peoples, categories of being, but one term is more inclusive than the other. In any given lede, there will always be many different thedes.

Siffrith? Oh, good question. Did everybody hear that? If in any given language there are no true synonyms, then what's the distinction between “thede” and “tribe”?

Last modified on

Manitoba Moose Survey Results - Manitoba Wildlife Federation

 

The plural of tooth is teeth,

and the plural of goose is geese.

Would somebody kindly

explain to me, please,

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Good old English. She's taken many lovers, down the long years.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think we borrowed the word moose from the Algonquin, it's not an English word.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

None of the ancient pagan languages with which I'm familiar had a word for 'amen', but after a thousand-some years of Christianity here in the West, we've gotten used to having one. So it's well worth asking: How do you say 'amen' in Pagan?

Amen. Yes, Robert Graves uses it to end a prayer in Seven Days in New Crete, his dystopian novel of the Goddess-worshiping future, but otherwise—so far as I can tell—there's consensus across Pagandom that we need a term of our own. (Consensus among pagans. Fancy that.)

So Be It. Well, if you must. Colorful, though, it isn't. Sorry, folks, I think we can do better than this.

Ho! No. No. No, no, no. Ripping off a Lakota verbal affirmation is not the direction we want to take here. As pagans, First Nations/Indigenous people are our spirit-kin. We are the last people that should be pillaging Native culture of anything. Learn from Native people, yes. Be informed by Native people, yes. Steal from Native people, no.

Blessed Be. I've met a number of Wiccans who use 'Blessed Be' as other folks use 'Amen'. Well, OK, but it seems to me that this phrase already means so many other things in the context of Wiccan culture—Hello and Good-bye among them—that it might be nice to have something a little more, shall we say, situationally specific.

So Mote It Be. First off, some back-story. Gerald Gardner took the term from the vocabulary of Masonry, which uses it pretty much as Wicca does: as an emphatic phrase of final affirmation. Think of it as a verbal capstone, or seal.

Yes, it's Wiccan, right out of the B of S. I know non-Wiccans who eschew the term for this very reason. Here's what I like about 'So mote it be'.

Last modified on
Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I'll stick with Amen. If I'm feeling cantankerous I might say Amen-Ra, but that's it.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for merriment, and making merry—and let us take a moment to savor that fine old phrase, and consider the implications: “merry” isn't something that you are, it's something that you do—is a fine old Yuletide thew (that's “custom” in Witch).

Still, there's something about the greeting “Merry Yule” that, like a shot of vinegar, sets my teeth on edge.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you why. To my ear, it smacks of keeping up with the cowans, which (in my experience) is rarely the best modus operandi. Yule is Yule, its own thing, not something that you write in, having erased “Christmas.”

So, if not a merry one, then what kind of Yule do we wish one another?

The default adjective for holiday salutations in English is, of course, “happy.” There are worse things than a Happy Yule. Colorful, though, it's not. Likewise, since the greeting is often yoked with “and a Happy New Year,” you've suddenly got a “happy-happy” pairing which is, to say the least, infelicitous. Then there's that clunky BUM-bum-BUM meter to it. “Happy Yule” may do the job, but dance on the tongue it doesn't.

Well, when in doubt, consult the kinfolk. Norwegians wish one another a Gledelig Jul, and Danes a Glaedelig Jul: a Glad Yule. (Icelandic is similar: Gledileg Jól.) Now, a glad Yule certainly beats a sad one, but in English there's something forced about the phrase, almost pretentious. It sounds like Translation-ese, which—of course—is exactly what it is. Cognate-for-cognate isn't necessarily best translation strategy.

For Swedes, though, it's God Jul: a Good Yule. Now that I like. Forceful, firm, terse even. (It's cold up here in the North Country: you don't want to go letting all that cold air in. Hence our proverbial Northron taciturnity.) Metrically, it's got that nice, assertive spondee: BUM-BUM. A Good Yule doesn't mess around. A Good Yule tells you what's what. It goes in, does what needs to be done, and gets out again. A Good Yule is lean, and sinewy, and oh-so honey-sweet on the tongue.

It's worth noting that up in Scotland where Yule's Yule and no one has ever bothered with that newfangled Christmas business, it's still Guid Yule, short and sweet.

Well, in the pagan world you'll make up your own mind, and glad I am of it. If you wish me a Merry Yule, or a Happy one, or even a Glad one, I'll gladly take it—as witches say—with both hands.

Last modified on

Additional information