Weaving has long been a winter activity. As the last vestiges of the cold hang on hereabouts, the thought of spring still seems distant. But friends have been sharing pictures of their new lambs so it's coming nonetheless. The whole cycle from wool to woven begins again.
There has long been an association of magic with weaving. While dismissed as 'women's work' often, its intricacies inspire wonder at its mysteries. If you don't know how to do a thing, the process can look like magic. Indeed the association goes back to the Moirai, the Parcae, the Norns and even Macbeth's three witches. The threads they weave, measure and cut -- how do they affect our fates? And what are the incantations they mutter over the threads?
I'm teaching a course this semester called 'Witches, Healers & Saints' mostly so I could teach a lot about witches. One of the themes developing in all my courses is how the few people with power often abuse it (honestly, it's always been there -- I'm just making it more overt now), but a major theme in this class is magic as technology.
My aim is to get away from the modern impulse to see magic only as 'superstition'; our belief in our superiority to the past causes us to dismiss too many things. If you think of magic as the best knowledge available at the time about some very mysterious things, it's easier to understand the role it played. I'm introducing the students to sympathetic magic and the power of charms (like the Anglo-Saxon Charm for Bees or the Charm against a Wen).
This week's Water Wednesday takes a look at how the Pagan community is relating to the overculture at large. Read more to learn about the history of Pagan music or how best to engage with non-Pagans about religious subjects.
I thought I'd get the jump on Beltane and talk about everyone's favourite May Day song (even if you're not on Summer Isle) as it is a great piece of history. 'Sumer is icumen in' also known as the 'cuckoo song' embodies that glorious sense of happiness that the first real warm days offer us. Here in the north we still can't quite believe that summer is a-coming, which makes me want to sing it even more.
This is the earliest secular song recorded in English in the Middle Ages and appears in a 13th century manuscript along with a Latin version. Here's the original lyrics:
It's Faithful Friday, and we have a cascade of articles on how faith — Pagan, Heathen, polytheist, or Christian, Muslim, Buddhist -- affects our lives, our planet, our societies. Theology of Ebola, What Would Krishna Do?, introverted Paganism, honoring our ancestors, and a Pagan Time Capsule fill this edition. Enjoy your weekend!
Is sickness an indication of divine wrath? It's not a trivial question, as demonstrated in this article from Slate on how the Ebola outbreak in Africa is influenced by belief in the omnipotence of the Almighty.
The Anglo-Saxons often explained disease and inflammation by the presence of small creatures or their “weapons.”A well-known charm seeks to remove the evil influence of “elf-shot” and several others fight the effects of other poisonous arrows.This may seem quaint to our modern sensibilities—unless we consider this to be a metaphorical understanding of germs and viruses. Maybe our medieval forebears weren’t so naïve after all.
The following charm appears in a manuscript that dates to the 12th century (BL Royal MS 4 A xiv).It tries to cajole and threaten a wen (“a lump or protuberance on the body” per the Oxford English Dictionary) to take up residence elsewhere and leave the afflicted person.The tokens of the wolf and the eagle may well have been used in the healer’s ceremony—many scholars believe the Anglo-Saxons to have had a shamanictradition.This charm can easily be adapted to remove from your life any unwelcome presence (and works well, in my experience!).Underlines indicate the alliterating pairs of words: the primary arrangement of Anglo-Saxon poetry is repeated sounds at the beginning of words (as opposed to end rhyme, the more familiar "moon/june" type of rhyming). It helps that any vowel alliterates with any other vowel.