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 Hwicce

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 WINTER SUN AND SUMMER FLOWERS – Orkney International Science Festival

 

A Tale of the Latter-Day Hwicce

 

Why the young warrior was out that night, the stories don't say, but there he was, on his own, when a fierce great blizzard blew up. After a time, he couldn't see a spear's throw before him, so hard was the snow driving, but he pushed on into the fury, looking for shelter. You do that, or you die.

Well, out of the driving white comes looming a great mound, all white with snow, and in it a door, and before the door, four young men standing.

“Come in to our fire,” they tell him.

So he goes into the mound with them, having little choice in the matter, and isn't there a fine hall there, with a great fire blazing on the hearth. The four young warriors take his clothes to dry them, and feed him well, and for four nights he sleeps warm and dry with those men in their hall, while that great storm blows itself out.

On the fifth morning, the Sun is shining, and when the young warrior wakes he sees with him in the mound not four young warriors, but four young wolves, but he knows that they're the same.

“Remember what we have given you,” they tell him, and they teach him a dance.

Last modified on

 

 

A Tale of the Latter-Day Hwicce

 

They say there was once a woman who went to live with the wolves.

I don't why she did that. Maybe things were bad at home. Maybe it was a time of hunger. Maybe she fell in love.

Here's what I know. Some time after, a hunter comes across a she-wolf laying in the sun outside a wolves' den, and she's suckling two bairns: twin boys, they were. So he kills the she-wolf and takes the boys home.

(No, I don't think it was the mother that he killed, shape-shifted. I think she was probably kin to the boys' father, a sister, maybe: wolves do that, you know, take care of one another's young. Maybe the mother was dead. Leastways, she didn't come after them, as you might have expected.)

Well, he raises those boys himself, that hunter, and don't they grow up to be fine hunters too, men of meat, the both of them.

That's where Wolf Clan comes from, of course.

Last modified on

 

 

I never had a son or a daughter; gay men of my generation mostly didn't. (Talk about a failure of imagination.) But if I had, I have a pretty good idea what I would have wanted to name them, assuming it had been up to me to do so.

What do you want from a good name? Well, you want 1) something unique, but not weird enough to encourage teasing. You want 2) something with some history, some myth, to it: an old name in modern form. And you want 3) something that gives the kid a context, a sense of the culture that he or she is born into.

So, unsurprisingly, I would have wanted to give them names from the old dialect spoken by the Hwicce, the original Tribe of Witches. (Ah, the down-side of having a linguist parent.) This would have been by way of saying to them: Your life is your own, to do with as you wish, but you have a culture that's yours by right of inheritance, and always will be, whatever you may or may not choose to do with it.

 

Frytha. My daughter I would have wanted to name Frytha ("soft" -th, as in “breathe”): “peace.” Unlike speakers of modern English, who make do (or, just as often, don't make do) with only one kind of peace, the ancestors had different names for different kinds of peace; frith (“hard” -th, as in “breath”), the base-word from which the name derives, means “peace within a given community.”

Girls were still named Frith in East Anglia well into the early “20th” century. Frytha is a variant used—perhaps created—by one of my favorite (and formative) writers, novelist Rosemary Sutcliff; it's the name given to the bow-maid viewpoint character of her 1956 teen novel The Shield Ring. It's not a form that would have made sense to the Anglian-speaking ancestors, for whom -a was a masculine ending, but that's surely acceptable. As Mordechai Kaplan says, the ancestors get a vote, but not a veto.

So, welcome Frytha.

 

Siffrith. My son, I would name for a hero: a dragon-slaying hero, in fact.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 How and Why You Should Add a Hedgerow to Your Farm

On this Midsummer's Day

 

If, 1400 years ago, you had asked a woman of the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce tribe—what maverick archaeologist Stephen J. Yeates calls the original Tribe of Witches—what was her léafa (roughly, “religion”), had she deigned to answer such an absurd question (what else could it possibly be?) her answer would likely have been: þéodisc léafa: “my people's religion.”

1400 years later, some of us would still say the same. We're Theedish: tribal witches. Our Craft is a tribal Craft, a People's Witchery.

The Old English noun þéod, “tribe, people,” along with its adjectival form þéodisc, “tribal,” didn't survive into Modern English. (Tolkien's King Theoden comes from the same root: "lord of the tribe.") The word fell out of use because, with the rise of the centralized state, tribal identity was no longer a going concern. When scholars latterly needed a name for the concept, they borrowed the Latin word “tribe” instead.

But if the word had indeed survived in current use to the present, we would today say thede (or theed: personally, I prefer the former spelling because it looks less like an escapee from a Dr. Seuss book) and thedish (or theedish).

In Contemporary Heathenry, Theodism is the movement which seeks to reconstitute the tribes of the Germanic past, complete with culture and religion. In the end, all paganism is tribal, a people's religion: all realized paganism, anyway.

But here's the difference between Theodish and Theedish. The Old Ways did not survive, but—rather than reconstituting them as they were, the latter asks the question: If they had survived into modern times, what would they now have become? To answer such a question (not to mention to actualize it) requires a pretty audacious act of imagination.

You could even call it a spell.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

What makes something truly distinctive?

The newly-designed Witches' Blood tartan, the world's first official Witch plaid, is largely black, with red and gray “piping.” From a distance, aptly enough, this reads as undifferentiated black.

In this, the witches' tartan is unlike other clan tartans, which are, of course, designed to be identifiable from a distance.

(In the warrior-driven Indo-European world, where plaids are an immemorial tradition, it's always best to know who is coming at you before they get within striking range.)

I think of the legendary thief who had his fingerprints removed with acid. Ironically, of course, the fact that he now lacked fingerprints gave him the most distinctive fingerprints in the world.

It's a nice, witchy twist to the tale. The mysterious Witches' tartan distinguishes itself by its very lack of distinction: this for the Craft known also as the Nameless Art.

What is't you do?

A deed without a name.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Witches of Now

Witch?

It's a tribal name—theedish, we would say. (In Witch, a thede is a tribe.)

Some 50 generations gone, a people called the Hwicce lived along the River Severn in what is now south-west England. (1400 years later, we still name our daughters Sabrina in Her honor.)

The Hwicce of then, you see, are the Witches of now.

It's not all lineal descent, of course. There are ways and ways of belonging, and bloodlines only one.

(You can adopt in, you can marry in. You can initiate in, acculturate in. Peoples have always been porous around the edges.)

We have our own tribal religion, though it's not witchcraft per se. (Witchcraft is our magic.) Not all Witches practice, of course, but if you're a Witch, it's your religion (and your magic), to hold to or not, as you yourself see fit.

Is it historical, you ask: Old Hwicce to New Witch?

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Victoria
    Victoria says #
    Is it historical, you ask: Old Hwicce to New Witch? Sorry to be blunt but no it isn't; not historically nor from an etymological
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Check out maverick archaeologist Stephen J. Yeates' The Tribe of Witches: The Religion of the Dobunni and the Hwicce (2008) and A
  • Julie Lovejoy
    Julie Lovejoy says #
    Steven, this is some fascinating information about Hwicce. Would you share sources, please? Many thanks, Julie
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Yeates, of course, is writing from an outsider's perspective. For more from the Inside, web-search my name, "Paganistan," and "Hwi

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Tribe of Witches: A Tale of the Bear Clan

While discussing the origin-stories of the Deer and Seal clans of the Hwicce (Tribe of Witches) a few posts back, I was struck by the similarities between the two stories. In both—though circumstances differ somewhat—a human man takes a non-human woman to wife.

This made me wonder if it sometimes works the other way, too.

In fact, it does. Shame upon me, I don't know the origin-stories of all the clans of the tribe of Witches, whether elder (historical) or younger (reconstituted)—alas, I can't even name all the clans themselves, so much has been lost to time—but I can tell you that with the Bear Clan, it's the other way around: a human woman who marries a non-human man.

It seems that a certain woman of the Hwicce once took a bear to husband. Authorities differ on the degree of agency here. Some say that Bear abducted her; others, that she went with him willingly.

Whichever it was, the young woman's brothers were displeased by this out-match. They tracked down the bear, killed him, and brought their sister back to the family hearth-side.

Last modified on

Additional information