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Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Making of a War Goddess

Last June, I had a dream that I was a young war goddess in training.  I won’t repeat it here, but I described it in this post:

http://muninnskiss.livejournal.com/135624.html

I was discussing it with a friend the other day and something was pointed out to me.  In the dream, I had two things: a sword and wings.  She pointed out that these allow me to do two things.  The sword allows me to fight. The wings allow me to fly.  Pretty obvious so far, but what I didn’t notice is these two are the instinctual responses to danger:  fight or flight.  Now, I have a tendency to withdraw inside myself when confronted with conflict.  I hide.  I cower.  I don’t fight.  I don’t leave (flight).

I have issues with saying no.  People tell me to do something (or ask in a why I feel doesn’t give me a choice), and I do it to avoid the conflict and to try to make people happy.  Saying no would lead to conflict.  Conflict means I either have to fight or leave.  And I avoid that.  Not saying no is part of my reaction of hiding.

In the dream, I don’t have the sword or the wings at the beginning.  I found the sword, my ability to fight.  I was given the wings, my ability for flight.  It is interesting that I was supposed to present myself to the group of women and didn’t.  And then I went to them for a different reason, and they gave me the wings (which were weapons, too).  The room where the women were was underground.  It was a round chamber carved from grey stone, lit by candles or torches or some other source of low light.  It was very shadowy.  The women sat around the outside of the chamber and the other girls and I were in the middle.

The idea that I didn’t have the sword or the wings, but found and received them is important, I think.  As are the circle of women.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

Image by Luis Royo
Fight or Flight
By Muninn’s Kiss

There she sits,
Upon the floor,
A child,
A girl,
Cowering,
Waiting,
For them to tell her,
Do this,
Do that,
She can’t say no.

There she sits,
Behind the child,
A woman,
A warrior,
Black wings,
Silver sword,
Hiding,
Behind the girl,
Afraid to fly away,
Afraid to fight,
She can’t say no.

There she sits,
My child self,
Cowering,
Helpless,
Weak,
Afraid.

There she sits,
My warrior self,
Hiding,
Strong,
Independent,
Afraid.

The warrior rises,
War goddess,
Valkyrie,
Wings spread,
Sword raised.

To fly or to fight?
To fight or to fly?
To lift the child to safety?
To stand in front and protect?
Either way,
Any way,
Is better than cowering,
Is better than hiding.

I rise.

Image by Luis Royo
Mighty Warrior
By Muninn’s Kiss

I raise my sword above my head,
And show my mighty strength.
My slight body wire thin,
No muscles for to show.

Upon my arms the elegant blades,
I spread my arms for flight.
The wings they come upon my back,
Like two huge raven wings.

Do I fight, my sword in hand,
Upon the battle field?
Or do I fly, great wings spread,
To fight again some day?

But here I stand unsure of myself,
Not ready to fight or fly.
The mighty warrior lost in thought,
Unsure what she should do.

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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Will the world end tomorrow (May 21)?

Image entitled End of the World
(I’m pretty sure it’s really a screen
shot of Hell in the movie Constantine)
from  XarJ blog.

There’s a lot of hype right now about tomorrow being the end of the world.  Some people are laughing at the idea, while others are deadly serious.  I had mostly just heard it mentioned that “the world is going to end May 21, not December 21” and read jokes about the rapture on Twitter, but didn’t know what this was really about.  Was it a New Age prediction that Christians had latched on to and associated with the rapture?  Was it a small group of fanatical Christians?  Where did this idea come from?  I honestly didn’t care and didn’t take the time to look it up.

Today, I got curious and did a Google search and read the following “tract” and laughed:

http://www.ebiblefellowship.com/outreach/tracts/may21/

The people pushing this idea (both this website and others) aren’t saying May 21 is the end of the world, they’re saying it’s the “rapture” and the closing of the doors of salvation.  Everyone who isn’t a Christian on that day is doomed, they say.  The end of the world is October 21, destruction in fire.

I put tract in quotes because when I was a new Christian back in 1995 in a church that actively used tracts, a tract was a small folded paper with a short message on it, used to try to get a spiritual truth across or to try to “lead someone to Jesus”.  It’s small so it’s easy to pass out or leave somewhere and easy for someone to pick up.  It usually has pictures on it, both to make it look more attractive and to get across the point.  This is on a website, and if you print it out, it’s a full 8″X14″ legal sheet, which isn’t easily passed out or kept.  Though in the history of religious and political tracts, they’ve been much bigger.

Anyway, back to the “tract”.  The part that immediately made me laugh were the following, especially in light of what’s actually said in the rest of the tract:

The Bible’s calendar of history is completely accurate and trustworthy.

and

Since this Bible calendar is given by God in His Word, it can be trusted wholeheartedly.

Image from Regnum Christi.

If you read the pamphlet, it’s supposition, interpretation of Bible verses with no support beyond the ones used.  Whether you believe the Bible is the Word of God and 100% accurate and infallible or not, this isn’t things that are said right out in the Bible, they are conclusions based on how the author (and his/her sources) read those verses.  While that doesn’t mean the conclusions are false, it does mean that you should think about it and come to your own conclusions, not trust it wholeheartedly or take it as “completely accurate and trustworthy”.  As human’s we have a rational, reasoning brain for a reason.  It doesn’t take rational thought to believe everything you are told unquestioningly.  To use a (Christian) Bible verse to show what I’m saying:

“As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” ~Acts 17:10-11

The Bereans are praised for not just taking what Paul said as Truth but examined the Tanahk (Jewish scriptures) to see if what he said was true.

Now, lets look at what they actually say.

They use the date of creation at 11,013 BC and the flood at 4990 BC.  These dates are based on Harold Camping‘s estimates in 1970.  All of the idea of May 21 (rapture and closing of the doors of salvation) and October 21 (end of the world by fire) are from Camping, who now runs Family Radio which has pretty fanatical, extremist messages.  There are many other dates that have been calculated for both creation and the flood.  My first church used the Jewish dates of the world being about 6000 years old and claimed the end would be around 7000 years after creation.  The Mayan Long Count started this cycle relatively close to the Jewish date, give or take a few hundred years.  Based on the way I read dates when I was looking at it, I figured we were around 100000 years from creation based on the Bible.  Camping says about 13000 years, which is much more than anyone before him estimated, and of course much less than scientists say.  I can’t find what his method was of coming up with an exact year, but his assumption is that the genealogies aren’t literal father/son but the important persons.

The estimates of the birth and crucifixion of Christ, though not the same as other scholars, are within the proximity of what has been estimated, so I don’t really have any issues with them.

Image (probably screen shot
from movie Blood Reign) from
God Discussion.

The year 1988 for the end of the “church age” (coinciding with when Camping left his church; did he leave because he felt it was the end of the age or did he choose the date based on leaving?) and the Tribulation began, 13000 years from creation seems made up.  Did he determine that date based on creation or creation based on that date?  And why 13000 years?  That’s not a number of any importance in Christian or Jewish numerology.  It does look strikingly like the roll-over point in the Mayan Long Count, 13.0.0.0.0, but the Long Count doesn’t mean anything like 13000 or even 130000, since it’s not base 10.

The tract says 1994 was when the first 2300 days of the Tribulation ended.  I’m not sure why 2300 days, though it seems to relate to the idea of 23 years of Tribulation.  Why a power of 10 when years aren’t related to powers of 10, I don’t know.  1994 is when Camping first thought the end would come (though he said maybe 2011 instead, at the time he said 1994), so I’m guessing this is just him reworking his theories when they didn’t come to be.

May 21 of this year they say is the end of the 23 year Tribulation.  Not that the last 23 years really seem like they’ve been bad enough for the Tribulation, but whatever.  Considering that most things in Jewish traditions are in periods of 7 years (a week of years), and the traditional Christian interpretation of Revelations is 7 years of Tribulation, 23 years seems an odd number to choose.  The 7000 years from the flood (instead of the traditional 7000 years from creation) does make some numerological and mystical sense, whether it’s true or not.  And the idea of Pentacost landing on the day the flood started is great symbolism, whether there’s any basis for his calculations of not.  Why Judgement Day is five months and still called Judgement Day, I don’t know.  The idea of it lasting the same amount of time as the flood makes some sense, though it would make more sense for five months of fire rather than the things they say, if you’re drawing a parallel with the flood.

The Four Horses of the
Apocolypse.  Image from Pitch Blogs.

The argument that the Feast of Tabernacles doesn’t land at the end of the year because it’s in the seventh month shows a great lack of understanding of Hebrew calendars and the Torah.  The seventh month is based on the civil calendar, which begins around March.  The end of the year is based on the religious calendar, which begins October.  While it does make sense for the end of the world to come at the end of the religious year, their explanation for why shows a lack of understanding.

Of course, all this is null and void if you look at the end of the world based on what the Christian Bible says.  They even quote one of the verses about this:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. ~2 Peter 3:10

also:

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ~1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

and:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. ~Matthew 24:42-44

and:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” ~Mark 13:32-37

The whole point of these passages is that you don’t know when, so you need to be always ready.  Yet Camping claims we will know and now do know.  Sure.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Thor in Theaters and Lore: A Review (Warning: Contains spoilers after the first few paragraphs)

Thor in the comics.
Image from IGN.

Last night, we watched the movie Thor.  I really enjoyed it.  I knew it wouldn’t match the lore and sagas, since it’s based on the comic book.  I never read the comic books, neither the ones he appeared in or the ones specifically about him, so I don’t know how much it followed the comics.  There were similarities between the myths and the movie, and major differences.  Over all, I thought it was a good reimagining of the myths, and a well written and well executed movie.  I enjoyed the characters.  I enjoyed the plot.  I really enjoyed the images and art of the movie.  Asgard was stunning, and Jutenheim was amazingly done.  I’d recommend watching it, but don’t go into it expecting the myths you are familiar with.  Though there are things you might miss if you have no familiarity with Norse myth.  To the complete novice, it will be a fun movie.  For the more knowledgeable, it will still be fun, but you will get some things and find some things very interesting.

Before I watched it, I had seen a few previews and had read the following two reviews, from a neopagan/neoheathen point of view.

Thor: A Pagan Review of the Film (Pantheon – The Pagan Blog At Patheos)
Is “Thor” a Religious Experience? (The Wild Hunt)

They gave me some things to think about while I watched it, but they didn’t really prepare me for it.  That was a good thing.

Now I’d like to give my thoughts on the movie, based on my understanding of the sagas and lore.  I’m not an expert, so take it for what it’s worth.

*WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW*

Thor movie poster.
Image from Critics Choice.

From the previews, I thought most of the movie would take place on Earth, in Midguard, with either flash backs to Asgard and other worlds, or him returning to them.  This wasn’t the case.  The “prologue” part was them finding Thor, but then it went back and showed the original battle between the Juten and the Aesir on Earth, then showed a long section in Asgard and Jutenheim, how he ended up in Midgaurd.  Then it jumped back and forth between the two.  I think there was more of it in the other two worlds than in Midgaurd.  The previews made it look like the story would mostly be a love story between Thor and Jane, the scientist that is the “love interest”.  But that part isn’t that major.  It effects him and influences him, but the main story is between Thor, Loki, and Odin, not the humans.

My favourite character was actually Darcy, who works for Jane.

The Worlds

Asgard in the movie.
Image from ScreenRant.

As I said, Asgard is stunning.  Not necessarily the way I would have pictured it, but the feel I always got.  It was more metal and technology, whereas I pictured it with more plants and natural things.  But they did amazing.  The Bifröst was beautiful, though I never pictured it was the technological creation it was in the movie.  I loved the edge of Asgard where the Bifröst left from, basically the edge of the world with water pouring over it down into the stars below.  Very beautiful.  The stars and nebulae above and below Asgard were stunning.

Jutenheim in the movie.
Image from It Comes Naturally blog.

Jutenheim (I was impressed that they got the pronounciation of it and the Juten correct, with a English “Y” sound not “J”) had the wasteland feel I always imagined it having.  Barren ice.  It was beautiful in its own way, though very forbidding.  It was dark, kind of twilight, while I had pictured it as bright with sun, but I think I like it twilight better.  The ruins and ice crystal things really added to the feel.  I liked that it wasn’t just an ice-covered planet but was shelves and layers of ice with space underneath.  The monster running on the bottom upside down was awesome.  I always pictured it as just a flat plain of ice and snow with basically dunes, but I think I liked this better.  The Juten (frost giants) were awesome.  Not really ugly, but alien, scary, imposing.  I had always pictured them like the Dungeons & Dragons giants or the ones in Jack and the Bean Stock or Disney’s the Brave Little Tailor, but covered in ice.  In this movie, they were dark blue and more alien and thinner, leaner, wirelier.  I liked them.

I would have liked to have seen something of some of the other six worlds, but that’s okay.  They did make Asgard and Jutenheim very distinct in every way from each other and from Midguard (Earth), making the contrast between the worlds very obvious.  I loved that.

The Gods

Odin in the movie.
Image from Theiapolis.

Anthony Hopkins was awesome as Odin.  I thought he did very good at showing the character and the writing of him was very good.  You really get the feeling of him always having a plan, always doing everything for a reason.  Watching him fight was awesome.  I loved Sleipnir, but was disappointed at the notable absence of Muninn, Huginn, Geri, and Freki.  In the battle at the beginning when you first see him, and when he’s with his two young sons, I was annoyed that he had both his eyes, but he had a patch when it got to modern day, so that was okay.  There was one view with a gaping hole in his head, I forget at which point.  If you didn’t know the lore, you would think he lost it in the war.  My one objection is he seemed a little too much the loving, compassionate Father God that many Christians associates with the Father in Christianity.

Thor and Jane in the movie.
Image from Comics And…
Other Imaginary Tales blog
.

Thor was very cool.  I always imagined him more like Grimly in Lord of the Rings, more massive rather than trim, but had seen pictures even before the previews that showed him more like he was in this movie.  I had seen Marvel pictures of him, too, and he was accurate to them.  My only complaint is that Thor was always the champion of the people, and he didn’t seem to care much about them until later in the movie.  Other than that, I think they got him well, complete with the impulsive side.

Thor and Loki in the movie.
Image from Teaser Trailer.

Loki is another manner (and this is where big spoilers come into it).  You don’t hear his name until after Thor is exiled, but it was pretty obvious it was him.  When you first meet him, you see him and Thor as children and as brothers, with their father Odin.  Loki was shown as Odin’s son rather than (blood) brother.  It wasn’t until much later that you learn he’s really the son of the king of the Juten, Laufey, and Odin had brought him home along with the Casket of Ancient Winters.  I thought they did a good job with his character, despite the change in relationships.  We’re debating a bit, but I think he didn’t plan for things to go as far as it did.  Letting the frost giants in to try to get the Casket, I think, was purely to disrupt Thor being crowned.  I think he did mean to manipulate Thor into disobeying, but didn’t intend to let him get far enough to start a war or get exiled.  I think he was telling the truth when he told Thor he never actually wanted the crown, just as I don’t think Loki ever wanted to rule in the lore.  He reminded me a lot of Mordred in Excalibur, Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, and especially Harry in the Spiderman movies, curiously.

Frigga in the movie.
Image from Comic Vine.

Frigga was a disappointment, as Foster’s review said.  She looked the way I always pictured Hera in Greek mythology.  I pictured Frigga larger, but I don’t know if she was.  I haven’t read many descriptions of her.  But she was definitely too weak.  She would have fought harder against the Juten and kept fighting, not give up when she was knocked down.

Heimdall in the movie.
Image from Pie Monkey.

Heimdall was awesome.  I never pictured him like that, but I thought they did a good job with him.  The “whitest of the gods” was black skinned and dressed in darkish gold.  His eyes were very cool, though.  His personality and attitude was exactly how I imagined.  Though I never thought of him as necessarily loyal to the throne.  I pictured him as above the dealings of the Aesir, kind of independent, defending them for the greater good, not as a servant.

The Warriors Three in the movie.
Image from Vox in a Box.

Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral, the Warriors Three, are based on characters in the comic books and don’t exist in the myths.  I was bothered by Hogun being oriental in the Norse world, but in the comic, he looks Mongolian and is from a different world and isn’t Aesir, so that makes more sense.  They were amusing and added character to the movie.

Sif in the movie.
Image from Action Squirrel blog.

Sif was cute and fun.  Weird having her with black hair when one of the things she was known for was her golden hair.  There’s nothing to show Sif as a warrior in anything about the goddess that I’ve read.  She has a different role.  Also, instead of being Thor’s wife, she’s his friend.  Reading about the comics, they never married in them.  Something happened every time they got close.  I enjoyed her character, though.

The Plot

Odin’s last words to Baldr
W.G. Collingwood 1908.
Image from Julie Demboski’s
Astrology blog
.

There’s a lot I could say about the plot of the movie, in addition to the fact that I really enjoyed it, but I’m only going to talk about one thing.  Much has been said about the similarities between Baldr and Jesus (and similar myths) and between Odin and Jesus (whether the similarities or emphisis was added by the Christians recording the myths or were already there), but Thor has never been compared to Christ as far as I know.  So I was surprised to find the movie Thor being somewhat a Christ story, a parallel.  Thor comes down from heaven, god becoming man.  He learns to live as a man.  He sacrifices himself for others, dying.  The father (Odin in this case) morns for him even though it was his plan all along.  He rises from the dead, then rises up into heaven in glory.

Loki and Thor fighting on
Bifröst toward the end of the movie.

Image from Cinema Blend.

I did love Thor destroying the Bifröst to save Jutenheim, but losing the ability to return to Jane, and that that was when Odin awoke.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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The Seething Cauldron

Seidways: shaking, swaying and serpent mysteriesI just finished reading the article “Seidr and Modern Paganism” by Jan Fries in The Cauldron No. 139 (February 2011).  It raised some good points, about our understanding of ancient Seidr, about modern neopagan/neoheathen Seidr, and about magic, ritual, tradition, and religion in general.  The article is an edited extract of his book, Seidways: Shaking, Swaying and Serpent Mysteries, from Mandrake Press of Oxford.  The article makes me want to read the book in its entirety.

I guess there’s a lot of controversy from the neopagan/neoheathen community about his association of Seidr with the shaking of other shamanistic cultures in Europe.  It doesn’t match what the modern community has come to associate with the name Seidr, based on their reading of the lore and their experiences.  The article is basically his response to their objections, in summary form.

Enough with reviewing the article.  I want to discuss one specific paragraph here.  I’ll leave out the last two sentences as they aren’t related to what I want to discuss, but relates the rest of the paragraph to the flow of his argument.  I recommend reading the article in its entirety to get the context.

But seething was also part of sacrifice.  The Vikings never offered raw or burned meat to their deities.  To prepare a proper sacrifice, you suspended a cauldron on a chain from the temple roof and seethed the flesh until it was tender,  The scent arising from the sacrifice were an essential part of the sacrifice.  In Gothic the participants of the sacrifice were suthnautar, the ‘seething companions’.  So whatever else the word may have implied, there was something sacred to seething.

I want to address several things here.  These are the Cauldron, the tenderness of the meat, the aroma, and the “seething companions”.

The Seething Cauldron

I’ve talked many times about the Cauldron in many different contexts.  There is so much Mystery in it.

Image from Myths and Legends.

The Cauldron of the Welsh, Britons, and Irish became the Graal when Christianity came, and later became a cup.  Sometimes the Cauldron appears as a well, sometimes the Graal, sometimes a Cup, sometimes a pentagram.  It is Water and it is Earth.  It is the Sea and it is the Land.  It appears in many cultures, many religions, many myths, in many forms.

As I’ve discussed before, based on Cochrane’s letters, the Cauldron is Movement, this world, Fate.  The Movement inside is there to point us to the Stillness outside.  The Graal, the Cauldron, is Fate and the overcoming of Fate.  Fate is there to overcome and become what we need to become, not to be the bonds that hold us, as it is for most people.

Here, we have the Cauldron hanging from a chain from the roof, suspended over the fire.  In the Celtic myths, the Cauldron was always sitting in the flames.  I think this difference is significant.  It makes me think of Odin hanging on the tree for nine days, and of the sacrifices to him and Twr hanging on trees.  Suspended above instead of sitting in the fire, is a little cooler.  Meat heated slower becomes more tender.  The Celtic Cauldron had water, soup, stew, liquid based mixtures.  The goal is to boil the water and hence cook what’s in it.  In the  Viking Cauldron, it isn’t water but meat.  You aren’t boiling, you are simmering.  When you boil, you have the Roaring Cauldron, violently moving.  When you simmer, you have the Seething Cauldron.  But both are Movement.

If the Cauldron is Water and Earth, the flames are Fire.  Suspended, the Cauldron is in Air.

In the Seething Cauldron, we have primarily meat.  This is a sacrifice, not a normal meal.  The meat represents life.  The animal is killed, it’s life taken, life becomes death.  The dead animal goes in the Cauldron.  The whole process is the sacrifice.  First the killing, the taking of the life, giving the life to the god.  Then the seething, the simmering, preparing the meat, creating a meal for the god.  The Seething Cauldron prepares the meat for the god.  Just as this world, and Fate, prepares us, simmers us until we’re ready for the gods.

Bran’s Cauldron also has dead meat put in it.  If you put dead humans in it, they came back alive, though they couldn’t talk.  The Cauldron broke when Bran pretended to be dead and was put into it alive.  Life comes from the Cauldron, but only if death goes in.  The sacrifice must be killed before it goes in the Cauldron.

The Tender Meat

As I said, the Cauldron is used to prepare the meat, change it from the dead animal that was sacrificed and into a meal for the gods.  The tenderness is key.  It is the reason for the seething, for the simmering.  Why tender?  Well, who wants to eat tough, chew meat?  People want meat to melt in their mouth, not chew it for three years.  But there’s symbolism here as well.  Tenderness is about being soft.

Going back to the idea of this world and Fate, the Cauldron, preparing us to be ready for the gods, this world makes us “tender” for the gods.  If we’re “tough and chewy”, we won’t listen.  If we don’t listen, we can’t change.  What’s tender is flexible.  We need flexibility to change.

The Aroma

Aromas and smells rising have meaning in many cultures and religions.  This might be from incense and meat.  It rising up connects earth up to heaven, the sacrificer to the god.  It might be symbolic of prayer or praise, but it is usually seen as pleasing to the god.  An example from a Hebrew perspective comes from Leviticus 1:

1And the LORD called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying,
 2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.
 3If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD.
 4And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.
 5And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
 6And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces.
 7And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire:
 8And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
 9But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
 10And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.
 11And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.
 12And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
 13But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
 14And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the LORD be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
 15And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:
 16And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:
 17And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

This sweet savour from the burnt offering is what we find with the Viking sacrifice with the smell, the aroma, rising off the seething meat.  I suspect the symbolism is similar.  The aroma rising off the meat is the worship of the people, their prayers, their praise, rising up from Midgard to Asgard.

The Seething Companions

Are the participants in the sacrifice called Seething because they are companions to the Seething Cauldron, to the sacrifice, or because they move like the contents?  Fries seems to think the later.  I get the image of the participants in the temple dancing, moving, as Fries says, shaking, around the Cauldron, like the images of Africans dancing around a fire, or like the images of Native Americans doing the same, or like Mummers, dancing in Britain.  They are moving like the contents of the Cauldron are moving.  They are companions to the contents, but they are one with the contents, moving like the contents, becoming the contents.  The contents and they are one.  There isn’t a separation between the sacrificer and the sacrifice.  They are one.

We are the animal, the sacrifice.  We are the temple, the chain, the Cauldron, the fire.  We are the meat in the Cauldron, and the aroma rising from the meat.  All is one.  A meal for the god, for the gods.

Ritual in Witchcraft

Ritual connects us to the gods.  It always includes sacrifice, but not always in a tangible way.  Sacrifice is life, death, and rebirth, the Cauldron.  And ritual unites us with that, and through that with the gods.  Like with the Viking sacrifice we’ve been discussing, the ritual isn’t something that we do, something separate from us.  The ritual is us and we are the ritual.  We are the sacrifice, what is given to the gods or spirits.  Without the connection between us and the sacrifice, the sacrifice has no meaning.

What is consumed becomes one with the consumer.  We are what we eat.  The sacrifice of the Vikings is a meal for the gods.  It becomes one with the gods.  The sacrificers and the sacrifice are one.  When the gods consume the sacrifice, the gods and the sacrifice become one, so the gods and the sacrificer become one.

This is what ritual is all about.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Plants and Creation: Two New Books

I just ordered two books from Amazon that should be interesting.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=technolog0fcb-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0299159043&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr Plants of Life, Plants of Death by Frederick J. Simoons was recommended to me by a friend on one of the Yahoo! lists I’m on.  It’s basically a social history about plants.  Here’s what the product description on Amazon says:

Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician, did not himself eat fava beans in any form; in fact, he banned his followers from eating them. Cultural geographer Frederick Simoons disputes the contention that Pythagoras established that ban because he recognized the danger of favism, a disease that afflicts genetically-predisposed individuals who consume fava beans. Contradicting more deterministic explanations of history, Simoons argues that ritual considerations led to the Pythagorean ban.

In his fascinating and thorough new study, Simoons examines plants associated with ritual purity, fertility, prosperity, and life, on the one hand, or with ritual impurity, sickness, ill fate, and death, on the other. Plants of Life, Plants of Death offers a wealth of detail from not only history, ethnography, religious studies, classics, and folklore, but also from ethnobotany and medicine. Simoons surveys a vast geographical region extending from Europe through the Near East to India and China. He tells the story of India’s giant sacred fig trees, the pipal and the banyan, and their changing role in ritual, religion, and as objects of pilgrimage from antiquity to the present day; the history of mandrake and ginseng, “man roots” whose uses from Europe to China have been shaped by the perception that they are human in form; and the story of garlic and onions as impure foods of bad odor in that same broad region.

Simoons also identifies and discusses physical characteristics of plants that have contributed to their contrasting ritual roles, and he emphasizes the point that the ritual roles of plants are also shaped by basic human concerns-desire for good health and prosperity, hopes for fertility and offspring, fear of violence, evil and death-that were as important in antiquity as they are today.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=technolog0fcb-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0060675012&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrPrimal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World by Barbara C. Sprout is a collection of creation myths from cultures and religions in every part of the world.  The myth I’m most interested in is the Mongolian myth about a Lama coming down from heaven and stirring the waters to bring about the world.  There’s a brief summary of it on Wikipedia and I wanted to read more.  I think it would be interesting to write a post relating it and the Cauldron in Robert Cochrane’s writings.  The other myths sound interesting as well.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Buddhism and Witchcraft, Part 1, Suffering and Desire

“The teachings of Buddha are eternal, but even then Buddha did not proclaim them to be infallible. The religion of Buddha has the capacity to change according to times, a quality which no other religion can claim to have…Now what is the basis of Buddhism? If you study carefully, you will see that Buddhism is based on reason. There is an element of flexibility inherent in it, which is not found in any other religion.”
~Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

Gautama Buddha.
Image from History Simplified.

Two days ago is the date celebrated in much of Asia as the birthday of the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, believed to be the latest of many, many Buddhas, called the Thousand Buddhas, but specifically the 28th of the Buddhas whose names are “known”.  (Some areas celebrate his death and enlightenment on that day as well, and some areas celebrate it on other dates.  For more information, see here.)  By tradition, he was born 2555 years ago.  Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the world today.  (Fifth or sixth, depending on how you do the counting.  See this page for details.)

The general story of his life is that he was born a prince.  His father wanted him to be a great king and isolated him from suffering and aging.  One day, he saw something, probably an old man, and realized that the sheltered life of privilege and wealth he had lived wasn’t all there was. After seeing some other things, he snuck out and went to find an end to suffering.

He lived as an ascetic, trying to completely deny the body, thinking that was the way.  He withered away to almost nothing.  At the lowest, he was bathing and collapsed in the river and almost drowned.  He reconsidered and decided deprivation wasn’t the answer either.

Recalling a memory of watching his father as a child, he decided to try contemplation.  This was the Middle Way, not privilege and wealth, and not asceticism and deprivation, but a way between them.  He went and sat below a tree by a river in contemplation.  After 49 days, he obtained Enlightenment.

He debated whether he should teach others the way to Enlightenment or not.  He finally decided to teach and spent the rest of his life teaching.

Thomas the Rhymer by Kinuko Craft.
Image from Lionheart Designs.

When I read about the Middle Way, I think of the 17th century poem, Thomas the Rhymer.  When Thomas is riding with the Queen of Elfland they stop in a desert place and she says to him:

‘Light down, light down now, true Thomas,
  And lean your head upon my knee;
Abide ye there a little space,
  And I will show you ferlies three.  40

‘O see ye not yon narrow road,
  So thick beset wi’ thorns and briers?
That is the Path of Righteousness,
  Though after it but few inquires.

‘And see ye not yon braid, braid road,  45
  That lies across the lily leven?
That is the Path of Wickedness,
  Though some call it the Road to Heaven.

‘And see ye not yon bonny road
  That winds about the fernie brae?  50
That is the Road to fair Elfland,
  Where thou and I this night maun gae.

I always imagined it being the Path of Righteous on my left hand, the Path of Wickedness on my left, and the Road to Elfland being between the two in front of me, the Middle Way.  Many neopagans, Wiccans, and witches have made a lot of this set of verses, but I won’t talk more on it right now, since this is a bunny trail, not the subject I want to write on.

What I do want to discuss is the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, believed to have been taught by the Buddha.  In simple terms, they are:

  1. Suffering does exist
  2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
  3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
  4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

No one who has lived long in this world would doubt the first Truth.  Yes, there is suffering in this world.  Even look at Christianity.  There are people who think a Christian doesn’t suffer, that God would protect them from suffering, that after becoming a Christian, all is prosperity and happiness.  But Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33 NIV)  He gives hope of an end to suffering, but promises that there will be suffering in this world.

Detail of Tryptich by Johfra
Bosschart.  Image from
The Witch of Forest Grove blog.

It’s on the second and third point that I diverge.  In my “religion”, desire is the purest of emotions and the thing that brings us to “Enlightenment”, that brings us to the Divine.  I’ve written about Desire a fair amount in the past, so I won’t reiterate it all here, but I’ll say a few things.  The world comes into being through the Desire of the Divine.  In Feri, this is the Star Goddess, God Herself, seeing Herself in the dark mirror of space and, feeling Desire for Herself, makes love to Herself.  From Her esctasy, from that first Divine Orgasm, the world is made (one way to view the myth anyway).  In Kabbalah as I know it, this is G-d having Desire for something else, and this Desire is the Tzimtzum, the Contraction, G-d withdrawing and creating a space that isn’t Him so that the world could exist.  It is Night in Robert Cochrane’s Basic Structure of the Craft, Desiring union and hence creating the masculine.  This Desire is reflected in the Neshamah, the Godself.  She is said to be female because she has a hollow space in her that wants to be filled, like the womb in a woman.  The hollow place is her Desire for the Divine.  This Desire is what makes her not content with the way things are, it’s what moves us to do something, to find something, to change.  It’s what drives us not to be static and stale.  Desire is the drive that moves us toward the Divine, that causes us to walk the Path.

While the second and third Truths are true, it’s the judgement of them I disagree with.  Yes, suffering is a result of desire, but does that make desire bad?  I don’t think so.  Because desire is also the cause of joy.  And in both suffering and joy, Truth, Wisdom, Divinity, can be found.  It isn’t by eliminating desire, but by embracing it.  Not the small, fleeting desires, but True Desire, the Desire for the Divine.  The small desires are the things Cochrane addresses in his witch ‘Law’, “Do not do what you desire, do what is necessary.”  And these desires do lead to suffering and do lead away from the Divine.  Maybe these are what Buddha saw.  But to do away with all desire won’t lead you to Enlightenment, but to a world that is just grey with no colour, no joy, no Beauty.  For Beauty is the Divine, and Beauty is what I long for above all and what I seek in all things.

Dharma Wheel.
When it has eight spokes,
they represent the Eightfold Path.
Image from the Middle Way blog.

Though I disagree with the need to do away with all desire, or even all suffering, coming back to the fourth Truth, I do agree, not with it being the path to do away with desire, but with the Eightfold Path leading in the right direction.  The Path is thus:

  1. Right understanding
  2. Right intention
  3. Right speech
  4. Right action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

I think these things mesh with witchcraft quite nicely.  But only if you define what is right by what comes from yourself, the gods, and the spirits, not social norms.  But even Buddhism has teachings that address this.  One text (I read about it today, but don’t remember where now) talks about doing everything possible to thwart social norms.

Death by baldrakul
on Photobucket.

One last point.  Buddhism treats aging and death as part of suffering, part of what needs to be overcome.  Witchcraft, however, sees death very differently, as I’ve talked in a couple posts lately.  The last line of Cochrane’s witch ‘Law’ would be very foreign to traditional Buddhism, at least if I understand Buddhism correctly:  “When all else is lost, and not until then, prepare to die with dignity.”

Image from À Sombra do Freixo
(In the Shadow of Ash) blog
.
Desire
By Muninn’s Kiss

I desire you, oh Great Goddess,
Mother of all there is.
I desire you, oh Quakoralina,
Black Virgin of Outer Space.

My heart cries out, my soul cries out,
My longing is all for you.
Toward you is all I am,
You who walks amongst the stars.

I desire to desire,
I long to long,
I lust to lust,
All for you, oh Sugmad.

All I am is burnt away,
All I am is blown away,
All I am is washed away,
All I am crumbs away.

And Desire is all that’s left.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Gnomeo and Juliet: From Fiction to Feri Tales

Gnomeo and Juliet.
Image from top10movie.net.

Having just seen the funny, cute, crazy movie, Gnomeo and Juliet, I was looking up the the history of garden gnomes.

Gnome from
the books.
Image from
Tolkien Gallery.

When I was a kid, we went to a huge used bookstore in Eugene, OR very often as we lived forty miles from Eugene.  In the Smith Family Bookstore, I stumbled upon some old books about gnomes.  The art fascinated me, and the books talked about the ecology and habits of gnomes.  Pure fantasy, of course, but ever since, when the word gnome is mentioned (or Nome, Alaska for that matter), those pictures are what I thought of, even when playing role playing games, where the gnomes are much different.  The books were GnomesSecrets of the Gnomes, The Secret Book of Gnomes and/or related books.  There were several there I looked at and I know Gnomes was one of them, but I’m unsure which other ones.  There was a cartoon series based on them as well, but I don’t think I actually say it, just saw clips.  When I saw the ads for the movie, I thought it was based off these books because the gnomes looked so much like the ones in the book.  I have never seen an actual garden gnome, in person or in a picture, just cartoon ones like the Travelocity “travelling gnome”.  But in the movie, they were definitely ceramic garden gnomes, not the living, breathing humanoids in the books.

Garden gnomes.
Image from The Artistic Garden.

Garden gnomes originally came from Germany, but spread from there.  They were very popular in the 19th century but went out of favour.  They made a comeback at the end of World War II and have been popular ever since, though the looks of them have changed.  In the 60s and 70s, they changed to be modeled more like the seven dwarfs in the Disney movie, but ended up modelling them after the books I remember.  No wonder they looked like those pictures to me.

Wikipedia describes the origins of “gnome” thus:

Paracelsus.
Image from Inky Fool blog.

The word comes from Renaissance Latin gnomus, which first appears in the works of 16th Century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus. He is perhaps deriving the term from Latin gēnomos (itself representing a Greek γη-νομος, literally “earth-dweller”). In this case, the omission of the ē is, as the OED calls it, a blunder. Alternatively, the term may be an original invention of Paracelsus.

Paracelsus uses Gnomi as a synonym of Pygmæi, and classifies them as earth elementals. He describes them as two spans high, very reluctant to interact with humans, and able to move through solid earth as easily as humans move through air.

The chthonic spirit has precedents in numerous ancient and medieval mythologies, often guarding mines and precious underground treasures, notably in the Germanic dwarves and the Greek Chalybes, Telchines or Dactyls.

The description of them moving through earth as if through air brought to mind what Cora Anderson said about gnomes in Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition moving through earth like fish in water:

The realm of Fairy (Feri) exists in what we call the etheric region. The name Fairy applies here to certain well-defined classes of nature spirits. These include the Gnomes who live in the soil and within the body of the Earth. There are several races of these charming little people. I will describe one kind of Gnome here. They look like tiny brown human-shaped creatures with blunt pointed caps. These are not caps but the way their little heads are shaped. They are bisexual, but their sexuality is more like that of young boys with some female overtones. They are sexually very active with each other as they release life force into the soil. They seem never to fly about in the air as freely as the Sylphs and Peris, both of which are spirits of the air and look like a child’s idea of miniature angels. Gnomes do move about freely in the earth in all three dimensions like fish in water. The Gnome’s average life span is one hundred and sixty-two years. At the end of this time they shed their very earthy etheric bodies and enter into other Gnomes to be born or change into one of the kinds of water spirits. The Gnome’s body is very close to dense matter. They reproduce by fission and do not become pregnant through sex, which exists among them for its own sake and to vitalize the soil. This type of Gnome is about five inches tall, but there are other spirits. Gnomes take part in decay and recycling of organic matter, including the dead bodies of animals and even ourselves.

Cora Anderson, Grandmaster of Feri
Image from Harpy Books
Taken by Valerie Walker

I doubt Cora took her description from Wil Huygen’s books I saw as a kid, nor from garden gnome designs.  The impression I got reading the book was that she had actually seen them.  The passage below from her book Childhood Memories reinforces this.  The pointed head is the part that makes me wonder on the source of the garden gnomes and Gnome books.  The Greek descriptions of the Pygmæi don’t seem to say anything about the shape of their head.  Cora’s description is much shorter than the Greek description and the description in the Gnome books, though.  Maybe the other descriptions are on of the other types of gnomes she mentions.

A True Fairy Tale by Cora Anderson (excerpt from Childhood Memories copyright 2007 Cora Anderson and Victor E. Anderson)

For most of my childhood, I lived on a small farm in Alabama. My father worked in the coal mines, and we grew corn and vegetables to help make a living. We were very poor and seldom saw any money. Everyday on my way to school, I talked to the flowers, watched the birds build their nests, and played leapfrog over the stones in the small streams. I became so close to nature that I could see the elemental spirits. The fairies and gnomes were my favorites.

We had long conversations. One of my favorite questions was, “Where do you live?” The answer was always the same, “Out of the air, into the air and everywhere.” I played games with them, too. They told me to look for a special stone or flower. Most of the time I found them, but once in a while I heard a thin sweet laugh and the words “April fool”.

At school, I returned to reality and the cold world about me. The children teased me. The teachers ignored me because I had no books or school supplies. Lunchtime was the hardest to bear. Most of the children brought a good lunch. If I had any, it would be cold biscuits without butter or jam. I wished that I had a good lunch. Some of the children had candy they had bought at the general store. The candy looked so delicious—peppermint sticks, all-day suckers, and jawbreakers—all were bright colored and made my mouth water with envy. Once I asked for a bite, and all the children teased me. One girl asked me why my mother didn’t buy me some. This really hurt.

One day when everything went wrong at school, I was especially sad. All the way home from school, I wished for a nickel so I could buy some candy.

That night I had a very strange experience. I lay on my bed, half-awake and half-asleep. I glanced toward the window and saw a most delightful sight—there was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. Before me was a real fairy. She was about a foot tall and very slender. She looked like a tiny golden girl with blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. I asked her where her wand was, and it appeared in her hand. She spoke in a clear high voice, “Tonight I am your special fairy. Listen carefully to what I say. On your way to school tomorrow, look under the big rock bluff. There you will find a nickel. Take it, buy some candy, and enjoy it.” She smiled and was gone before I could say a word.

The next morning, I remembered the fairy visit. I hurried to the rock bluff. I looked and sure enough, there was the nickel. I felt the presence of my fairy and knew she was smiling. I blew her a kiss and said, “Thank you with all the love a little girl can give.”

An artist’s interpretation
of the four worlds
of Kabbalah and the elements.
Image from Ann Skea’s website.

I find it interesting that Cora talks about how at the end of gnomes’ lifespans, they are reborn as water spirits. She goes on to mention the “order of the elements” and lists them as earth, water, air, and fire.  The order makes sense, since each one is less “physical” than the last.  Also I find it interesting that in Kabbalah, earth is only found in our world, the World of Action, in combination with the other three, but as you go to the upper worlds, the World of Forms is water, the World of Creation is air, and the World of Emanations is fire.  The same order.  Anyway, the mention of the earth spirits (gnomes) being reborn into water spirits right before the mention of the order of the elements made me wonder if it’s a progression or a cycle, though I’m leaning towards progression because she says gnomes reproduce asexually.  So we have gnomes coming from fission from other gnomes, then water spirits being gnomes reborn.  But there’s no mention of where air spirits or fire spirits come from.  I wonder if water spirits are reborn as air spirits and air spirits as fire spirits?

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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