Lore-What it is and why it’s important
Many people talk about mythology and folklore and how they study them to gain ideas and insights about their religious paths and practices. Today witches actually have a plethora of lore that we have access to. For many people this is a problem as there is so much lore out there they don’t know where to go looking for lore and they don’t know what to do with it once they have found the lore. This blog entry is going to cover a few of those concepts.
The goal of this blog is to help witches and pagans know just how much lore there is for them to sort through. Part of that process is going to be giving examples of lore and how I have started to study and interpret folklore. The following concepts will be outlined and discussed in this blog entry:
- What defines Lore
- Where to find Lore
- How to decide what lore to use
- Interpreting Lore
- Why we use lore
- Applying lore to practice
- Writing your own Lore
What defines Lore
There are many different ways that people define lore. For myself I define lore as sets of oral and written stories and practices that inspire the practices of various witches and pagans. Many people often forget that family recipes and traditions are also different types of lore that can be included into their practices. For myself there are family traditions that I have started to incorporate into my practices. For example every year for Christmas my mother makes Meat Pie which is a throw back to her family’s French Canadian roots. As a pagan and witch I have added this to my Winter Solstice as well as my Yule celebrations. Freyr was worshiped by the Franks (French and Yule is his holiday) and meat pie as made by my family mixes beef and pork. So for me baking a pie for the Solstice and for Yule are perfectly acceptable lore additions to my practice.
Where to find Lore
One of the things when I first started to practice witchcraft I found was that there were no specific myths for my practice. While many neo-pagan witchcraft books contain a basic mythos for the sabbats and the wheel of the year I often found that concept to be rather incomplete. There were no specific myths written out that I could find that described the events in the wheel of the year. For a time I went with what was told and figured that was all there was to the concept. Then when I started to actually do more in depth research I found a few authors who actually gave a few of the fairy tales and myths associated with various spirits and analyzed them. Then I started to really look.
So where can you find lore? The answer is every where. There is lore in poetry, songs, plays, little sayings, old traditions that no one seems to remember where they come from, history, and anything far and in between. Fairy tales are rich sources of lore. Myths from various cultures can be fascinating pieces of lore as well. Old stories and tales often considered “legends” often have deep traces of lore in them. Believe it or not the book “Hammer of the witches” along with the accounts of the witch trials are actually full of lore. Some of it can be pure hate based, but there are aspects of gold in there.
yes I did just say that you can use the witch trials as sources of lore. Now why would I as a modern witch even think of using hate based lore? The simple fact of the matter is that the stuff about witches shape shifting is true, but not in the literal sense. The same thing goes about the witches sabbats. Often times there were and still are sexual themes and uses of substances to enhance the ritual trances and achieve unions with the divine. You just need to know how to read and look through the lore.
Deciding What Lore to use
This is a very personal thing that only you can really decide. There have been bits of lore that I have accepted and there are bits of lore I have not accepted for my practice. In the end while I can give you some advice it is a personal choice what you use for the lore that make up your unique practice. No matter what any one else says there will always be something unique about your practice. So now on to how we pick out which lore you will use.
The first thing you need to do is read any and all lore that you can get your hand into. Once you start reading the lore you need to pick up a notebook to write down any and all thoughts that you have after you read the lore. After you read the lore look at your thoughts and your emotional reactions to the lore. If the symbolism in the myths and lore relates to how you view and understand the world than you should add it to your personal collection of lore. If the symbols and the theme of the tale doesn’t relate to your views than you can simply not work with that lore.
Like everything else you need to work with that which makes sense and works for you. One of the first things you will need to do before you can work with lore is have some sort of understanding of your own beliefs and views of the world. If you dont know what you believe you wont be able to gain insight from lore. our beliefs are what form the basis of our practices and the understandings we have about the world around us.
Over the last few years I have spent several semesters studying various stories and myths. One of the things literature classes teach their students is how to analyze the literature that they read. A key thing in analyzing and interpreting lore is being able to back up what you get from the tale. For example I did a paper on Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher” and I compared the story to Poe’s real life and I used it as an example of sickness. Through out the paper I used quotes from the story and his own life to support the views.
When a person starts to interpret lore there are many things that need to be taken into consideration. The first thing is cultural research and historical information. By looking into the history and culture of an area you can gain a better insight as to what they symbols may have meant to the people who originally read or told the stories. By looking at the culture context becomes clear and the meanings of stories become more obvious.
Context is key in interpreting lore. Once you have context you can start to apply personal meaning to the deeper messages and thus start to gain a deeper practice. Personal meaning comes from the reflections and thoughts that a person has after they read or hear the lore. Interpreting Lore is something that takes a bit of meditation and work, but the rewards are worth it.
Why we use Lore
There are many reasons why witches and pagans use and study lore. The most basic reason is that lore provides insight as to why things are done the way they are. Lore can also provide keys for the deeper mysteries that provide the gateway to ascension and higher spiritual evolution. Lore provides understanding to the personalities and the interests of the various spirits. It gives ideas as to what we can use for offerings and what is sacred to these beings.
Applying Lore to practice
In the previous sections I mentioned that one of the uses of lore is to gain an understanding as to what the various deities and spirits may enjoy for offerings and sacrifices. One of the things that is essential to have a successful practice that is very fulfilling you need to have a connection to the deities and spirits. The best way to establish these relationships is through sacrifices, offerings, prayer, meditation, and contact. The best way to learn these things is through reading and researching lore.
Once you start reading the lore you will find some practices and myths that relate to your practice. You take your information gained from reading and your own thoughts and combine the two together. Once combined you are then well on your way to having a nice and well rounded practice that will be supported with references and research.
Writing your own Lore
One of the things I have started to do is write my own lore based on my experiences in my trances. I use these experiences to create the myths that work for myself. I use these myths to round out my practice. It takes a long time of piecing together experiences and rituals to have a setup where you can write lore that works for you.
What counts as writing your own lore? writing poems, stories, and anything that is done in honor of the spirits and deities that you work with. Once you start writing your own lore you’ll be able to really piece together your own practice based wholly on your own personal experiences and nothing more or less. The first and most important step here is for you to write down all your thoughts, experiences and the like.
Additional reading and sources:
Hedge Rider by Eric De Vres
Witching Way of the Hollow Hill By Robin Artisson
Posted on June 15, 2012, in Cultural practices, Folklore, Pagan Blog Project, Religion, Sacred Symbols and tagged cosmology, God or Goddess, Pagan Blog Project. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.