Category Archives: Cultural practices
This is is very interesting book that covers and obscure religious and spiritual practice. This book is not like anything else on the market related to Celtic traditions. This book is very unique, and while it does cover Celtic spirituality and Druidry it does some from the tradition of the Picts. Most books on Celtic Paganism or Druidry cover Irish or Welsch traditions. Very few touch on the Picts and their tradition.
The author covers this tradition from the way it was taught in his family. In places where his family tradition had gaps the author did his best with research into history and lore to complete the tradition. This book is his way of preserving his view and style of Pictish Druidry.
This book is not really broken into chapters but parts with related sections. Aside from the introduction there are eight sections in the book. Each section focuses on unique aspects of this tradition providing information on lore and history as well as theory and practice of ritual and magical workings.
In the Introduction the author starts by presenting several common terms and definitions used within the book and Pagan traditions and spirituality. Next the author explains his approach to reconstructing religious and spiritual traditions. This is essential to understand as the practices in the book are a mixture of reconstructed practices and traditions passed down in his family. The introduction concludes with a summary of principles. Here the author also outlines what exactly he considers Pictish Tradition to entails.
The first section of the book is entitled Pictish Orthodoxy. This section begins with an overview of Celtic spiritual traditions and the different forms out there. The author presents an argument for Pictish Tradition origins and how we does have information to build a base on. This section here is also where we are introduced to the Gods.
The section on the Gods covers a basic introduction to the world view. It covers several of the spirit concepts as well as the type of Polytheism that Pictish tradition followed. Here the author introduces the idea that the Picts would have adopted some Norse traditions.
Here the author covers information on the various Gods of the Pict tradition. He gives their names and attributes. The author covers three different “tribes” or types of Gods worshiped. There are the Greater Gods, the Brethren Gods (Norse Gods), and the Tuatha DeDannan. Through the categorization of the Gods we get a view for the complex syncretic path that is the Pictish Tradition.
The section ends with a discussion on the concept of the trinity and the sacred three. Here we learn about the Celtic three other worlds and the Celtic Knot. The author also explains through this sacred three why certain deities are seen as a Triad. To tie in the Norse tradition with the exploration of the Celtic other worlds (3) the author lists the Nine Norse Realms.
The section part in the book is called Awen. This section is about taking action and how worship is through action. Here the author covers the sacred Holidays. The section on the holidays is rather small. It does present a few examples of how those sacred days could be honored through actions and activities rather than ritual.
The third part of the book is one of the most interesting. This is the section on the Faerie faith. Many spiritual traditions work with beings called the Fae. This section is about the Pictish tradition and their take on the Fae. Here we get a taste for ritual work and how the Picts dealt with contact with spirits.
This chapter had some of the most useful information. It starts out by explains what the faerie spirits really are and how the modern view of fairy’s is actually quite far from the historical perspective. The author explains that he believes this would have been the practice of the common folk and was less to deal with Gods and was more animistic in nature.
After giving brief examples of offerings and how the Faerie Faith may have been practiced the author begins to discuss the different types of Fae. Here we see the variety of spiritual forces found within the Pictish tradition beyond the Gods. The author gives several different types of fae including descriptions of Norse Fae.
Once we are familiar with types of Fae we get into the first practical bit of spiritual work within the book. Here we are learning how to set up an altar to suit the practice of the Faerie faith. The author covers three different types of altars to the Faerie people and the types of fae best honored at each.
The chapter ends with ideas on how to make contact with the Fae. Here the author covers plant talismans and flowers in your garden that could attract the fae. The author also presents a detailed guided meditation to use meditative techniques to meet fae and work with them. In all reality the section on the Faerie faith could be a book in its own right. The author does a great job of presenting information that gives an introduction to the practice within the context of this particular cultural view.
The fourth section of the book is about the priesthood. Here we find out the authors view on Priesthood and why its not a mantle to be taken up easily. The author covers the different types of priests and Druids in this chapter. With each type of druid or priest the author covers the roles they had and how they worked for the Gods and the community. Here the author also covers the various Norse Priests that would have filled similar roles to the Druids. The author makes it clear that for him priesthood and ministry are the same thing.
The fifth section is where we first get introduced to the practice of magic. The practice of magic is one of the main draws to practices like Druidry, Shamanism, and witchcraft. The idea of being able to perform rituals and take specific actions to create change in ones life is very appealing. So it is important to cover the use of magic and the theories behind it.
In this section the author covers the hows and whys of magic. Before getting into magical laws and theory the author outlines the phases and steps involved in spell casting. He explains several magical laws and magical theories. This gives you the basis to start exploring the magic discussed later.
The majority of the section on magic focuses specifically on the Druid practice of magic. The author gives examples of types of magic he calls Low, Middle, and High. In each section of low, middle or high there are examples of types of magical workings and practices that would fit within those concepts.
The chapter ends with a discussion on Druid rituals, tools and the organizations. With the information on ritual and tools the reader now has enough information to create simple spells and workings within this magical paradigm. It is here that we have really begun to be able to piece together a practice from the material presented.
The sixth section in the book is on Magical languages. Here the author introduces Ogham and symbols that are used in magical ritual. The author covers tattoos and scarification rituals as ways that the Picts used magical symbolism on their body. The section on magical languages ends with a brief introduction to Runes and Runic magic.
The seventh part of the book is dedicated to Runes. This is one area of the book that is entirely dedicated to a Nordic aspect of the tradition. Here the author covers the Rune poems and the three different Rune systems. He covers the use in magic and the use in divination. The author even covers creating your own traditional Rune staves and doing traditional Runic readings. This section and the Faerie faith chapter are the two section of the book with the most practical information and the most unique information.
The author ends the book covering a variety of related spiritual traditions. The author begins the section by covering different Druid and Celtic traditions and organizations. Here the author covers traditions like Shamanism, Wicca, and general Witchcraft. This shows that the author not only respects these other spiritual traditions but he also sees how they are connected and possibly related to his own traditions and practices.
Overall the book provides great insight into this spiritual tradition. There is enough information that the reader could decide to explore the practice for themselves personally. The author gave enough information to form a workable practice without doing all of the work for you. He allows the reader to start with this information and work with the spirits and Gods through personal work to develop their priesthood and their practice.
I would recommended this book to people interested in both Celtic and Norse Pagan traditions. While I may not agree with all of the information presented on the Norse traditions, I feel that the author did an excellent way of presenting how the Picts would have adapted the Norse Gods and practices into their traditions.
The Candle and the Crossroads:
A book of Appalachian Conjure And Southern Rootwork
This is one of the most powerful books I have read in recent history on spirituality in general. While yes the book focuses on Rootwork and Conjure as the author knows them, the book is highly spiritually focused. For me even if I don’t put all of the information into practice, the components of the book that made me question spirituality and what it means were well worth the investment.
So to begin my review I have to say that even if you don’t follow any magical spiritual path as a guide for spirituality any one of any path can get something out of it. I would even recommend this book to Christians who are looking to deepen their personal spirituality and connection to their religion. Everyone on any path in life can get something out of this book. The connection to your own spirit that this book teaches us to develop is important for everyone and everything.
If you are looking for a book on spells you wont find them in this book. There are several workings discussed but actual spell work for money, wealth, love, etc are not really seen in this book. There are magical techniques for baths and creating mojos as well as connecting to spirits in this book. So there is magic with in the book but not necessarily spells for luck, love or mney drawing as most people are familiar with.
The focus on this book is the spiritual component of Hoodoo and Conjure rather than the spells. Too often people want to jump into the spells and workings of magic without the spirit component and thus they miss a huge part of the Southern Conjure traditions. This book provides that spiritual information. It is that focus which sets this book aside from others.
This is one book I am going to be referencing again and again. There are several exercises, meditations, and self questions that I am going to be looking at periodically. There are many things in this book that made me think and start to evaluate my personal path and practices. For this reason I am going to be using this as a reference and guide to develop my own connection to my spirituality and my own personal spirit.
The first chapter in the book is all about the foundation of this practice. Here we learn the authors experiences and his history with the practice as he knows it. This is where we see how his experiences and lessons in life and explains the reasons why he wrote this book. He mentions what the foundations of his personal magical practice are. By knowing this information you can better understand the worldview and practices presented in the rest of the book.
The second chapter is about the starting of finding your paths to the spirit that is you. The core teaching of this book is that humans are spirits as well. We are spirits having a physical existence as humans. In the teachings of this book and worldview if you start to realize this you will not only come into your own power but also start be be more whole yourself. This chapter starts a basic discussion on types of spirits that walk with us as well as types of spiritual paths. After talking about the paths there are also descriptions on how we are called to find our paths including symptoms of the different calls.
The third chapter is short but very important. Here is where we get into the history of the actual practices that formed Southern Conjure as the author knows it. The author mentions slavery and African traditions and their importance in the tradition. Here we see what Conjure really is about and how it survives over the years. There are warnings in this chapter about working with the spirits of Conjure and how powerful they are. There is a quote that illustrates the power and spirirt of Conjure work very well that I am going to share with you here.:
“If you are not willing to cry for, be angry for, pray for, and ask help of its spirits, then stay away from this work. These spirits went through hell when they first came to America in boats of flesh. No one can change this root, and why would we want to?
If you want to find the root that cannot be bound, then then root spirit of conjure is for you. If you want to grow your spirit from a place of truth and spirit power then conjure is for you. If you want to reach deep and pray high, then welcome to this deep well of spirit and spiritual nuturance.
But come through the door blessing and praying for the ancestors that suffered. This builds a bridge of grace to the spirit world and begins to establish the essence and flavor of the spirits that come when you conjure.”-Orion Foxwood Conjure and the Crossroads
The rest of the chapter focused on what the Root of conjure and the cultural mixtures that made up his conjure. The author mentions honoring his own Roots and how he works with them. After mentioning the spirits of African, Native American, and European folk practices who settled in that area he goes into the roles that Conjure played in that culture and still continues to play to this day.
The fourth chapter is about the Nature and Power of conjure. Here the author gets into the fact that Conjure does have ties to Christian spirituality and Christian religions. He addresses that many conjures use words like God and Creator and occasionally Maker. Here we see the power in conjure comes from the source of creation and the power to create which resides in our own personal spirit. The author gets into a few types of spirits that are connected to this power. One of them being the God of Christianity and divine beings. The author is specific in that for the reader and seeker that it doesn’t have to be the God of Christianity but it is the Source of all creation and all essence which is a spirit of sorts.
This is where we first start to actually get introduced into some of the techniques in this practice. The author goes into several different ways that conjure works with spirit. These include prayer, baths, blessings, healing, and cleansing. After starting the basics on techniques we are introduced to a few of the different types of spirits that are worked with in conjure.
Chapter five was probably my favorite chapter in the book. Its for me really the most important chapter in the book. This is the chapter that focuses on growing our spirit. The author had previously mentioned that working with ones own spirit and knowing ones own spirit was the most important thing in conjure. Here we finally learn to address the spirit and work with our spirit.
The best part of this chapter was the checklist on the attumement to our spirit. Not only does the author give a list of questions and symptoms of disconnect with our spirit but he provides remedies to help fix the situation. For me this was really the way for me to start to see how connected I am to my own spirit and what I can do to fix it. The author does mention that some of those ailments are actual symptoms of health issues (depression, anxiety and other mental health issues) and if you answered yes to many of them that you should seek professional help. For me that disclaimer and statement shows the connection between the mind, the body, and the spirit and how mental health can effect spiritual health.
This section provided me with the most enlightenment. It gave me tools to adjust and start working on my own personal spiritual path and development. One of the reasons I had started to explore Conjure and Rootwork was for a spiritual connection and a way to deepen and develop my spirituality beyond the basic 101 books. Here I have tools to find what I was missing and develop my path. The chapter ends with providing you with the steps to growing in your spirit which is what you need to do after you start the work of attuning to your own spirit.
Chapter six is about maintain spiritual health. The main focus on this chapter is spiritual cleansing and cleaning. The author explains how important is is to cleanse ourselves from the different forces in our lives that can cause spiritual clutter. He told a story of a client that his mother had to illustrate the issue. The author ends with a working for spiritual cleansing. This provides the start of our practical conjure spirit workings.
Chapter seven is about fixing or attracting good spirits to you. Here we learn how actions we take and the way we live our life sends signals to spirit. One of the first lessons in this chapter is that often we focus on our lack of something when we want something then more often than not we are going to be stuck with more of what we do not have. The author then begins to go into how we send images and messages to spirit so we can attract what we actually want.
The author then starts getting information on working on attracting the right spirits. The first real focus is on a prosperity spirit. The author provides a recipe or a ritual working outline to attract a prosperous spirit. One thing this working outlines is that in Conjure everything is spirit and everything has spirit. If you can accept that view and work with it then you are going to work conjure.
After the pot the author talks about maintain the spirit and provides steps and techniques to keep spirit alive. The first part of this practice is the establishment of an altar. The author continues with a ritual working for the altar set up and the consecration of the altar, yourself, and your home. While the workings are not exact they provide you an outline to make the conjure your own. In the end you must be the one to do the work.
Chapter eight was probably my second favorite chapter in the book. One thing I have personally been interested in for years has been working with graveyards and various forms of graveyard magic. This book is the first book I have seen that addresses this practice. Its considered Taboo in many modern magical traditions yet many acknowledge that there is strong power in the graveyard. Finding this chapter thrilled me to the core. It started to lift the veil on these workings.
There is so much in this chapter that covering the techniques and information would be a review in itself. I will say the author provides information on the power of the graveyard works and why we should work with graveyards. He provides information on working with graveyard spirits as well as how to gather graveyard dirt and work with graveyard dirt. The author spends the other half of the chapter talking about working with our ancestors and providing ways to honor them and work with them in our home and life.
Chapter nine is an interesting chapter. It covers ways to enter into the spirit world as well as working with a spirit unique to his tradition and practice. The technique discussed I found most interesting and will most likely try myself was the concept of tapping or knocking. Its essentially like you are knocking on the door to the spirit world like you would a regular door. After tapping and knocking he covers river magic as well as fire and candle access to the spirit world. Here there is a working for river magic specifically outlined.
The last part of the chapter includes a ritual and a poem I am likely to work into ritual work. Here is where the author teaches us about the Dark Ridder and gives us a way to introduce ourselves to him and work with him. The spirit known as the dark rider had been mentioned earlier in the book as a traditional spirit but not much was told about him until now. The author does make it clear that what he shows us is not the full formula for encountering this spirit. The working he provides is an introduction to the spirit and nothing more.
Chapter ten is the final chapter in the book. In some ways it works very much like a conclusion focusing on working the Root or working the spirit which is the force of Conjure and Root work. This is how the chapter starts anyway. It is here we see the final outline of the techniques and practices covered in the book to develop and connect with our spirit. The chapter ends with talking about a few specific plant spirits and with a formula for making a spirit bag.
This book provides several powerful tools for any spiritual tradition. In the end this book illustrates not only the power of Conjure and Southern Rootwork but also the power of working from your own spirit. The author provides an excellent introduction to the spiritual components of Rootwork and Conjure while also providing a few practical workings in the magical sense.
Book Review: Trolldom: Spells and Methods of the Norse Folk Magic Tradition by Johannes Björn Gårdbäck
Over the last year and a half my magical practices have started to take a change towards more folk magic systems. To me the lack of formalized ritual for spells is much more appealing than the need to invoke deities for every spell or magical action I perform. In many ways folk magic traditions relate to me more than most of the modern witchcraft practices as they do not make magic separate from day to day life. Magic in this instance was a tool for life nothing more or less. Folk magic simply was and is The Magic of the people.
I’ve been focusing on Hoodoo which is an American system of folk magic created during the slave era and deeply tied into African American culture and Southern Culture in general. I figured as an American I might as well look into a system of magic that was born here in this country. Often times I get mixed views on my interest in Hoodoo as I am not Black nor am I from the south. I am a Northerner. I am from Maine and I have never lived outside of Maine. So for some of them I was participating in cultural appropriation. Not being from the South or Black how could I understand all the intracices of the culture? How could I honor those ancestors?
One common theme of advice I was given was to look into my own personal heritage and see what sort of folk magic traditions I could explore. I’d be honoring my ancestors and I would be staying within specific cultural guidelines. For this reason I looked up and did some searching on Germanic or Norse style of Folk Magic. Trolldom was the topic that came up. So when I was given an opportunity to read a book on my own ancestral practices and traditions I was all over it. It felt right to be reading that book and to start looking at adding some of the workings into my own practice.
If you are expecting spells and forumulas that deal with the Norse Gods you wont find a lot in this tome. Most of the spells either deal with a land spirit or they call on Jesus, God,Mary,The Holy Spirit, or the Devil. Like most folk traditions alot of the pagan elements are still there but you will have a hard time to find specific workings with the Norse Gods. There are plenty of books on the market for Nordic witchcraft and magic that deals with those deities.
This is the magic of the people. We are lead to believe that all the magic died out when the Norse Culture became Christianized. That is simply not the case. In fact many of the old workings which dealt with the old gods were simply modified to deal with the spirits and the religion of Christianity. Knowing this now I am still quite happy with the material in this book as I feel it still connects me to those ancestors. Afterall my most recent ancestors would have been Christian. So if they practiced this craft or if they had a family style of Trolldom it is the Christian spells and spirits they would have worked with.
For the reasons above I have read and enjoyed reading Trolldom. It took a long time to read. This book is intense and full of information. I spent a lot of my early days with the book just going back and forth with the glossary at the beginning of the book. There were so many new terms and phrases to learn and understand. The language component in this book is one of the most important elements but it is also one of the most difficult components to deal with.
The language barrier involved in this project is the reason there are two sections based on language. You have a glossary (which is right after the dedication) and then you have a section on different terms for different practices within this particular set of workings and systems. Trolldom encompass more than just Norway and Icelandic magic which is why the language issue is present. This book actually ecompases quite a few different “Nordic” cultures. It covers Norway, Iceland, Sweeden, and Finland as well as having a bit of Anglo-Saxon and some Lore preserved in Powwow or the Pennsylvania Dutch traditions. For this reason the section for the glossary and on the terms is not only important to mark and return to throughout the book, but is an essential part of understanding this practice.
This book is broken into a few different sections. First is the glossary which was the most difficult to get through. The second section is about the History. Here the author showed how and where Trolldom survived. I find it interesting to note one of the places visited and mentioned in the book is in my Home state of Maine. Its not a town I have been to or near but it in some ways brings this book and its workings closer to home. I feel better knowing that there are places in my home region where this practice was passed on in some manner.
After history you had the terms. This section was about how different regions had different names for the practice of Trolldom and the practitioners of Trolldom. Here we also got into the discussion about how one learned Trolldom and how you could become a professional in the art of Trolldom. In this culture Trolldom was not just a practice it was an honored profession that many people would take advantage of. You had your specialists and a few generalists each with unique skills and practices as well as a unique term for their practice.
The next section was on divination on the two different terms and styles mentioned. For me the importance divination plays in Trolldom shows me a relationship with Hoodoo. Trolldom has infact been called the Norse Hoodoo, so I would say that the use of divination in magical practices and how they dictate the works to be done is a key component in folk magic. It seems today more and more people are just doing what ever type of working seems to be the best for them and their situation without taking the time to check the source of the problem or situation.
Finally we get into the workings or the methods. These spells are called Formulas. The book has many different sections from Health and healing, to hunting, protection, curses, and even a group of miscellaneous spells. What I liked best about this section of the book was the fact that there was the English spoken components translated but you could also see the original language as well. For me this shows just the amount of work that went into this tome.
I will say there are several spells and workings that are basically included only for historical accuracy. Some items listed in spells like animal parts or human bones are not as easy to get a hold of as they may have been at one point in time. There are some spells that mention digging up and harvesting things like bones of dead men or going to hanging sites. Many of these practices are not readily acceptable in the world we live in today. However if you wish to understand a tradition that has been around for centuries you really need to understand these historical spells. There is enough material that you can find spells and formulas that are suitable for today’s society.
I hope that the author will continue the work and write a book just on the herbal charms and herbal uses in this book. While you can find several herbs mentioned in the folk name as well as botanical and a common name, only a small selection of the possible herbal charms are even shown in this work. For many people who practice folk magic Herbal magic is a huge part of the practice. So I would encourage the author to work on an herbal trolldom book.
This book is not exactly what I expected. However Mama Starr didn’t leave me without wisdom and insight. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure exactly what I thought I was getting when I got this book. I knew there would be folk remedies in there but that was about it. It was actually for the folk remedies that I bought this book.
The introduction of this book is actually very uplifting. This section should not be ignored. It contains the reason why she wrote this book and a cleansing exercise for the readers to do if they are ready to start making changes in their lives. Its simple exercises and affirmations that really make the meat of this book. The introduction cleansing rite is just the first to open the doors.
Prior to really getting into the meat of the word Mama Starr provides associations for candle colors and other magical and spiritual associations for the days of the week. The first section of this books covers daily affirmations. There is an affirmation or “daily wisdom” for each and every day of the year. Each month starts out with the Herb of the month, basic month trivia, sacred stone for the month and birthstone for the month.
The second part of the book is full of folk magic and healing remedies. She starts this section off with a fair warning that she does not expect anyone to try these themselves but if they do each individual must take their own responsibility for any averse effects that the treatments may have. She is not a doctor after all. These are just things that her family did while she was growing up to treat various ailments as they had no money to go to the doctor.
This is the reason why I bought this book. This section covers a small variety of the remedies that she used growing up and continues to use them. From earaches to dipper rash, nightmares and spirit removal this small section of the book covers many remedies that have proven to be effective. Some of these remedies are things I had seen elsewhere like the earaches with garlic oil.
Finally she ends the book with resources and references that readers may find useful. She also includes her own websites on there for further references as well as many other well known and trusted Conjure resources.
So if you are looking for a book of simple daily wisdom this is it.
For many years the only definition of heathen was one who was not Christian. If you look in the dictionary you will still find that as part of the definition of heathen. Today however I am not talking about the dictionary definition. I am talking about how it relates to the modern Pagan culture and the culture of Germanic pagans. My heathenism studies have been a major influence in my path and on my craft as a witch.
The heathens of today are often hard to define. For some people it is an umbrella term for an eclectic Germanic recon path. For other people is a very specific tradition with in the label of Germanic religions. I consider it to be a term for an eclectic approach to being a semi Recon based practitioner.
You may be thinking wait a minute you can’t be both eclectic and a Reconstruction can you? When it comes to the Germanic religions it is more possible. There are several Germanic cultures to choose from. You have the Angels and the Saxons, The Danish, The Norse, The Icelandic, the Franks, and several other tribes. Each tribe had slightly different lore. By studying the lore of all the paths and tribes a person can gain a fuller insight into the lore for Germanic paganism.
It is the Nordic lore which we have the most information from. It was also in Norway and Iceland where the religious practices of the Germanic tribes lasted the longest. Several of the sagas that many heathens use as source texts for their practices and understanding of the culture are preserved in a book titled The Sagas of the Icelanders. These sagas tell of the social structure and the social etiquette. From these sagas we learn how they lived. That is why they are excellent sources to use. The other books which provide sagas and lore about the Gods are:
Right now I am in the process of reading Heimskringla. I’ve already gotten some information about lore but not a whole lot. Snorri used the same tale about Odin founding the Kingdom of the Norse in both the prose Edda and in Heimskringla. Both tales are very interesting and explain a bit of the culture of the Gods. Yet my preference is for the origins discussed in the poetic Edda.
My Heathen Practice
My personal heathen practice is more related to the magical practices and the crafts. Witchcraft as we know it ultimately came from the Anglo-Saxon culture. There are three primary deities associated with Magic and witchcraft Odin, Freya,and Loki. Many of the books I have read on Traditional witchcraft have had a Germanic slant. That’s one of the things that started my more invested study and practice with Germanic pagan traditions.
Aside from Raymond Buckland’s Seax Wica there are several other traditions of witchcraft which have a more Germanic leaning.. These books along with the Eddas and Sagas has helped me develop and understand how Germanic magic worked and what the culture was like. As a witch I have found this knowledge and information immensely helpful and informative. I have gained much wisdom from those practices. Yet it is not the only part of my heathen practices.
So what makes me a Heathen? Worship of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun. I have accepted the Nine Nobel virtues as part of my moral and ethical guidelines. The Germanic tribes had a concept of Fate of sorts called Wyrd. There is a lot about Wyrd I am still trying to understand and evaluate for myself, I am not discouraged by it though.
The Norse were very much a warrior culture. For them it was about honor and the battle. Yes they had head hunting and other practices that today are considered “Barbaric” but to accept the deities with out accepting an understanding of the culture which worshiped those deities is meaningless. Yes. The Germanic tribes were considered barbarians to the Romans & Greeks, but so were the Celtic tribes. It is only by understanding or trying to understand the culture in which the deities were worshiped that we can truly understand how the religion and spirituality of those times worked.
My interest as an anthropologist really plays into why I work so hard to reconstruct what I can. It is actually through historical sources such as the Sagas of the Kings and warriors and the few archeological finds that we have any concept of what that culture was like. The practice of heathenism also plays deeply into my desire to connect to something from my blood ancestry. For me it was sort of embracing a part of my history and understanding where my family origins were.
What my heathen practice entails
I have not fully developed a comprehensive unified product of witchcraft and Germanic paganism. While witchcraft is a part of my worship and practice of Germanic paganism, there is a lot more to it than that. My heathen practice entails doing a specific form of ritual called a Blot to the Gods. It involves prayers and obviously magic.
I am looking into learning more about rune lore so I can try my hand at runic magic. Working with the runes would also allow me to learn the mysteries of the Runes. Rune magic is actually one of the priary forms of magic used in Germanic paganism. It was gifted to Odin after he sacrificed himself to himself on the tree of knowledge and wisdom. There were several sets made I know of one for humans, one for the Gods, and one for the Dwarves.
My practice also entails a lot of study. There is probably more study than worship at times, and that works for me. My worship is actually often times more impromptu than it is for specific holidays or occasions. I have even developed my own ritual structure for their worship which they don’t seem to mind which is a combination of a Blot and a typical religious witchcraft ritual. One of the reasons I study so much is there is a lot of lore to pour over and assimilate and there is also a lot of history and multiple translations of sacred texts to read.
The path to wisdom is never ending. This is just one place you may also be able to find wisdom and truth.
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
What they are and the forms they can take
The overall purpose of this blog is to help seekers find simple advice on how to find their own way. I do this by providing lessons I have learned and by answering some of the most common questions I have been asked in my years of posting on message boards and e-mail lists regarding witchcraft, paganism, and spirituality. To be honest I understand the question as it was something I wondered about myself over the years, but have recently decided I have an understanding of how guides will manifest in a person’s life (and trust me they are not all what you would expect).
The questions I am referring to are:
- “What are spirit Guides?
- What forms can guides take?
- How do I contact them?
- Why do we need them?
This essay is going to focus specifically on the topics of what spiritual guides are and what some of the forms they can take. I figure this would be a good starting point. In order to contact and find out who/what your spiritual guides are you need to at least know what they are and the forms they can take. Next week I will write about why we need them and how to contact them.
Before I continue writing this post I need to explain how I define a guide in my path. The thing is I don’t limit guides to just spirits and other worldly beings that I work with and have contacted. Guides for me can come in the form of authors, teachers, poets, ect. For me a guide is any one who provides you something on a spiritual level that has an effect on the way you view the world.
So that means a guide could be basically anything right?
Yes. However the effect the being has on you should be quite profound. I can’t tell you what to classify as a profound experience. It’s one of those things you know when it happens. If the author inspires you to think about things in a new way they can be a guide. If they give you advice that seems to click with your intuition they are in many cases a guide.
To be honest I have learned somethings about nature simply by watching the world around me and it had an impact on my world view. In that way nature herself would be one of my most important spiritual guides. Yet she is not the only guide I have. I have given a few examples of people you may consider guides, but I think a more direct explanation of each of the examples is important.
I’ll start with the obvious concept of teachers being guides. To be honest one of my guides in recent history has become my first philosophy teacher. He is the one who has basically told me to start writing. He also suggested that I do something with my passion for philosophy, anthropology, religion, mythology, and metaphysics into something I can do with my life. He also said that I need to get into academia.
He has encouraged me to work on my dream. That’s one of the reasons I have started this project. It has helped me work on polishing my writing and getting my thoughts out clearer. It also gets my name and voice out there. Even though this information is given freely, it is still published. The material is still out there and accessible for any one who desires it.
Next you have authors. Many people read a lot of books when they are starting out. I was no different and to be honest I still read as much as I can. I have found that there are some authors who have influenced me more than others. I consider those authors to also be guides as they are providing me with text and information that I have been able to apply to my spiritual development and growth. I have been taking classes with one of those authors who is now a teacher.
If that writers work clicks with you and you suddenly seem to have a better understanding of something you have been struggling with that would be an author I would consider a guide. Now this can be poets, musicians, fictional authors, neo-pagan authors, philosophers, myths or what not. In the end what matters is if the work has an effect on your path and understanding of the universe.
Finally in the physical world you have your role models. To me a role model is someone you look up to and you try to be like. They have inspired you in some way to be the person you want to be, and you feel that they have had an impact on your life. Role models come in all shapes and sizes, and to be honest I have a few myself though if you were to ask me it would take me a minute to tell you one of them.
So far guides have essentially been people who has changed your life in some way. That’s true. They have pinpointed you and helped you out. A guide should never give you the answers and advice you seek directly. They should provide hints or insight into their own struggles or opinions, but in the end you are the one who has to do the work. This is more prevalent when you are dealing with “spirit guides”.
The key term in spirit guide is the word spirit. It has come to the point in the essay where I must actually get into the metaphysical aspect. I am ending with this so I can start the essay with a review of what spirits are and then get onto how to contact them and end with why they are so important.
So what is a spirit?
To me there are many types of spirits. I essentially see them as beings that live in this worlds and in the other worlds that do not have a physical form as we understand it in this world. They are the elves, faes and the ghosts. These are the dragons and gnomes, slyphs and undines, and angels as well. Any being mentioned in lore that does not exist in this physical world but in the spirit world are spirits.
When you deal with spirit guides there are things you need to keep in mind. The first thing is they they will trick you occasionally as a test of your own wisdom and intuition. They will also speak in riddles. Some times there are no words spoken, but you get images or sensations. The communication is going to come in which ever way they feel will get their messages across to you in a way that you will understand. You also have to know that they are no infallible. Spirits don’t know everything and its absurd to think that they do. They may have insight that we don’t due to the nature of what they are and their existence, but they don’t know everything.
Ok. So what forms can spirit guides take?
The most common form aside from an angel is that of an animal. Some people would call these beings your totems, but I do not as totem is a term that applies specifically to a Native American practice. Other paths have other terms for animal guides. Myself I just think of them as my animal guides.
The animal guide or guides you have are typically aspects of yourself that are hidden or that you need to understand. Many people have guides that represent aspects of themselves that they need to face up to and confront, others the animals have special meanings to the person. The first assumption that many people have is that the animal guide will appear in the form of an animal you like or enjoy. The fact is there is no guarantee of that fact. Your guide may be an animal that you hate, and if that is the case there is a lesson there for you.
One form that is common amongst those who follow a more ancestral worship path is to have an ancestor actually be one of your guides. Maybe this ancestor is a recently passed loved one, or maybe it’s a few further generations back. This is an ancestor that has come to help you on your way. In either case if your guide is a family member and not some magnificent being be respectful. To be honest I would prefer to have ancestral guides than an other being as they are actually tied to my blood and my wyrd and thus my fate.
There are angels. Angels are any beings that serve as messengers to the gods. They are intermediaries between the Gods and us at times. They also have wills of their owns at times. They can choose their friends and teach them their crafts. Angels are beings of mass power and should be respected as such.
There are many other beings that can be your guides over the years. Some people believe that Matron and Patron Gods can be guides, but I see that differently. Divine beings are more than guides. They are divine beings and are Gods. They rule many things and have more important things to do than to teach you. They may have lessons for you, but in the end its a riddle what those things are.
The list could go on. I have covered some of the most common guides that people see. I hope that this has been a helpful essay and will provide you with a lot of insight. Next week you will be able to have some technique and tips on how to contact the guides and why they are important. Even if you don’t know your guides right now, you do have them.
Fairy Tales and Folk Lore
For many years my only sources for the mythology of witchcraft as a religion came from the typical Neo-Pagan Eclectic witchcraft books. I felt that they were lacking in many areas. For a time I thought I could force the myths of other deities into the 8 Sabbats I was following as a witch. While the practice worked for a while, it was unsatisfactory. I felt as if the Gods were hearing me, but were telling that there is more to do and elsewhere to look.
For a long time I had considered looking into fairy tales for the missing pieces of the mythology and lore I was looking for. At the time I was of the mindset that fairy tales were for children. After being exposed to the Disneyfied fairy tales for so long it seemed to me that the only reason an adult had to think about fairy tales was for their small children and not for fun.
A friend of mine told me that if I was interested in the path of Traditional witchcraft beyond what I had read in Artisson and other places I should look into fairy tales. He even gave me a few to look into. That was when I first started to consider it. yet at the time I still couldn’t figure out the connection myself. So I waited and the answer did come to me.
Ok. You may be thinking whats the connection? Witches in many fairy tales are nasty things. Why would looking into fairy tales and folklore be beneficial to a new witch or even an experienced witch?
The simple answer is that the lore found with in many folktales about elves and dwarves contain a lot of lore that is applicable to the understanding of the beings that traditional witches work with, as well as witches in general. Many ideas of the Witches Goddess can be found in folk lore and fairy tales. There are hints at what these beings are like, what the role of witches are and why witches do the things they do.
I have found that Robin Artisson’s The Withching Way of the Hollow Hill to be very useful in understanding the importance of reading folk lore and fairy tales. In Artisson’s other book The Horn of Evenwood he also continues to explore the importance of folk lore and fairy tales as sources of a witches knowledge and wisdom. HedgeRiderby Eric De Vres is also another book that goes into details about the importance of fairy tales and folklore.
Those were the Pagan author who have helped me to see the importance of fairy tales and folklore. Last semester in school I took a local inspired fairy tale and folklore class (New England Folklore and Mythology). That class has inspired me to learn more about folklore. I became adept at analyzing and studying folklore for any of the possible myths and fairy tales I have read over the years. This had confirmed my position on continuing the path of a philosopher, folklorist, and anthropologist.
While I am still sorting through and coming to my own analysis of various tales and folklore that I will eventually pass on to my own students, I have started to gain a deeper understanding of the path of the witch and the various roles we have had over the years.
Ok. So what does folklore entail?
Folklore contains local legends and superstitions. I can be simple things that people grow up doing because every one does it in an area but doesn’t know why. It can be legends of people that lived there who were either detested or respected. They can be practices and customs. Folklore comes in many forms.
Many people wouldn’t consider the witch trials to be a source of lore and wisdom for witches. This is actually quite far from the truth. While I have not read many of the transcripts of the witch trials, I have learned much from books which have cited trials as sources for lore and practices. While that was a dark time for witches (and most if not all of the people accused were not witches at all) and the craft, it still has rich history and events that can become a part of witch lore.
Fairy tales by their very nature are magical and thus hold keys to the mysteries of the magic out there. They provide clues to how the magic was worked and those who ruled magic. There were only a few of the adults that ever remembered their entrances into the fairyland, and these became the magicians/witches and the storytellers.
So, I see how they can be useful. What sorts of fairy tales should we be looking into?
That depends on what cultural background you are coming from. Strega witches will use Italian folklore, fairy tales, and mythology to form the basis of their practices. If you are practicing a Celtic form of Witchcraft you would work with that mythology, fairy tales, and folklore setting. If you are an eclectic witch you would work with which ever cultures you chose to work with. I myself use the Germanic fairy tales and folklore most because that is my ancestry, and those have been the tales which have given me the most insight into my own beliefs and practices.
While you should start with a specific culture in mind, that doesn’t mean it should be your only source of information. I also use English fairy tales and folklore. I also find inspiration in rewritten fairy tales and folklore such as the tale of bearskin. I just said you should have a single culture as a starting point.
I have covered why I read and adapt folklore to my path. As for when I first started to use and truly understand the role of folklore and practices in my own path, that is harder to pinpoint. I think it’s started to happen slowly over time since I took that folklore class and started to look at fairy tales in a new light. Still there is much more for me to learn and explore.
There are many great books out there. I suggest starting with Grimms Fairy tales as they are the most well known. It is in the unknown fairy tales found within those books that you might find the most interest in. Once you have done that you can start looking at any fairy tales from any culture. They may still provide you insight.
For moral and ethical tales Aesop’s fables are an excellent source of ethics and morals or important lessons that should be learned. In many ways the very first stories that children are exposed to such as fairy godmothers, and the like will come back to be the source for hidden wisdom and insight found within those tales.
While they may be dark, you should still read them. Darkness and depression are simply parts of life. In many cases in the darker tales the more important lessons are learned. It is not a requirement, but again simply advice. After all life is not all roses and sunshine. Life is confusing and painful. The fairy tales that include those aspects of human life are just as important as the ones that focus on intense happiness and joy.