Tag Archives: celtic

The Watchers, the Fey, and the Witch: A Study of Blood

Let’s consider for a moment several bits of myth and several bits of lore, and how mythic history interweaves with how things work in the craft.

The general starting point is the often misunderstood or misrepresented concept of witch-blood. I’m going to start from a mythic understanding here, with the warning that confusing myth and science can be damaging to one’s mental processes. Work with me here.

Starting with the premise that all who work the craft have witch-blood, that all witches are of the blood, you might say. Now, those with witch-blood have the Sight. The Sight, as folktales and folklore and myth and lore will tell you, is the ability to see what’s truly there, to see through glamour and see the true form of those who have assumed another shape, shapeshifters if you will, and other such things where the average observer doesn’t see what’s really there. People tend to see what they expect to see. The Sight shows otherwise.

Now there’s lore, a myth, of the Founders. I won’t go into it here, but the witch-blood comes from the Founders, and to them from the Daughters, and to them from the Watchers. And through the Ninth Mother to those with that witch-blood. So that’s the start of it.

So, the Sight, True Sight, being that which, in Celtic folktales, allows those with it to see through the glamour of the Fey. Now, if the witch-blood gives the Sight, and that blood comes from the Blood of the Watchers, the Sight comes from their blood. Now if the Sight is the seeing through the glamour of the Fey, it has power over their glamour. It would make sense that that which is greater trumps that which is lesser, so the witch-blood must be greater than the glamour of the Fey.

Now, consider the connection of the Fey to burial mounds and corpse roads, and other bits and pieces, and what this and other things imply. Now one group of the Fey are of interest here, at least in Ireland, which is the location I want to focus on here, the Sidhe.

Now Sidhe did not indicate a people originally, it means mound, as in a burial mound. And the stories are of them living in Hollow Hills. I’ll leave the connection between the two to you.

Now it was Manannán, son of Lir, that great sorcerer and shapeshifter, who was powerful in glamour among many other things, raised the Veil that separated Ireland into that above and that below, and the Tuatha De Danann went into the Hollow Hills. This was when it became obvious the Milesians, who myth says became the later Irish, would defeat the Tuatha. It’s not a huge leap to consider the possibility that the Tuatha are the Sidhe.

Note Manannán’s shapeshifting and glamour, and other abilities, this might be important.

Now, the Tuatha De Danann are often described as very tall, giants if you will, as were the Fir Bolg. The Fir Bolg were the people who living in Ireland when the Tuatha invaded, and the two fought for some time until the Tuatha ended up victors. Some descriptions, however, show the De Danann being a sect or offshoot of the Fir Bolg.

Consider, then, the Nephilim. “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Or, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.” It is not a stretch to link the descriptions of the Nephilim, the children of the Watchers and the Daughters, with the Fir Bold and De Danann. Other tales around the world similarly fit this parallel.

Now if Manannán’s powers, most of which are later seen in witch trial accounts and folktales of witches, and in various cultures around the world including modern trad craft, came from his bloodline, and his people, his blood, comes from the Nephilim, and hence from the Watchers, and if those are the same powers that witches possess, consider again the Sight, and who the Fey are.

Is it impossible that the Fey, especially the Sidhe, are the Mighty Dead, those of Watcher descent, of the witch-blood, who have passed beyond the Veil? And this Veil being the same that separates the two Irelands in the story of the descent of the Tuatha De Danann into the Hollow Hills?

Now, those living can see through the glamour of those who have passed if this is the case, and the blood is the source of Sight as we said, and also of the glamour and shapeshifting and other abilities the tales ascribe to Manannán and later the Fey and to witches.

Now blood is iron and blood is life. The dead have no blood, as we all know, as they have died, hence they have in much of the lore an aversion to iron, which is, as we said, of the blood. This is the reason it runs red.

So the power of the Fey is the result of blood no longer there, but for the power of a witch, the blood is still there. So the blood has power over the dead who have no blood, as the Sight of the witch overcomes the glamour of the Fey.

So the blood is the difference. The witch-blood. If you get my meaning.

~Lorekeeper/Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on January 23, 2017 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.

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in muninnskiss


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Beltaine: Snows of Winter, Heat of Summer

“What potent blood hath modest May.” ~Ralph W. Emerson

Image from MySimpleLife blog

The first of May, May Day, Beltaine.  Fertility, sex, the light half of the year, the beginning of the reign of the Summer King, the celebration of spring and approaching summer.  A happy day, a party day, a day of sunlight and warmth.  Rebirth after the long winter.  All things bright and warm.  Buds and leaves on trees, bright green grass, flowers coming up.

My dog and my
hike yesterday

But I let the dog out at six this morning to find snow on the ground.  The wind was cold, the air chilly.  Not a bud on any tree.  The grass is still brown.  At least there aren’t snow banks and below zero weather at noon like Beltaine last year.  It’s hard to think of May Day as a time of rebirth when the land is still dead.  Hard to think of warmth, sunlight, coming summer, in the bitter wind.  Winter is dying here at 7200 feet in Wyoming, but it isn’t dead yet, and Summer hasn’t yet rose and is still a ways off.

I didn’t do anything to celebrate, really, nor ritual, nor magic.  It was a day like any other.  I went to bed at five this morning and got up at six, since the dog wanted out, then kept whining in her crate.  I went out to the living room and let her out, then slept on the coach until after noon.  We went with a friend out for lunch and I had a Philly with no cheese (if it’s still a Philly with no cheese).  We went to his house and played some video games.  We went home to let the puppy out, then went to some friends’ house for a group of us that meet each week and ate there.  Then we came home and are watching Game of Thrones.  Nothing of Beltaine in any of that.

Image from Scenic Reflections

Wiccans and many neo-pagans celebrate Beltaine on the first of May, but not everyone does.  Nor do everyone celebrate it under that name.  Some, Christian or not, celebrate Roodmas, the Feast of the Cross, on May 3, though others in September.  There is a lot of esoteric symbolism associated with Roodmas, though I won’t go into it here.  Others celebrate Beltaine on the astronomical midpoint between the equinox and the solstice, around the 5th or 7th of May, depending on the year.  To the Celts, Beltaine was the month corresponding to May, and was celebrated at the beginning of that month with a feast.  So the first of May, except of course, like with all things, that month doesn’t line up with ours.  For some, it’s the tides that matter, not a specific day.  In communist nations, the first of May is Labour Day, the day to celebrate workers, a very important thing in a communist society.  To the Romans, it was the celebration of Flora, Goddess of Flowers.  To the Roman Catholics, May is the Mary’s month, and many celebrate May Day as a celebration of her.  Either way, this time of year was, and still is, important in many cultures.  There is a spiritual importance to this day or the time close to it, whether the importance came from the power in the time, or the time came from the power that has been at that time.

Image from
Arthurian Adventure

Beltaine, by whatever name, by whatever date, is a liminal point, especially in much of Europe, a point of transition, just as Samhaine is.  Many believe that on such days, the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thinnest.  It’s a time when things can cross over.  This is important in tales of faeries.  It also is a time when things from this world can cross over easier.  It’s a time of magic.

The seasons and the tides, solar, lunar, and stellar, pull on us.  They effect our emotions, they effect our minds, they effect our souls.  Our society today tend to try to ignore the natural rhythms, the pull of the tides on our souls.  We want to be in charge of our own destinies and try to do it by ignoring Fate.  But to ignore her is not to overcome her, but to put her manacles on us.

From MADD About You blog

Though I don’t worship nature and “Mother Earth”, I think we need to learn from and listen to her rhythms, to what she has to teach us.  Listen to when spring comes, and summer, and learn from the world around you, what sprouts when, what buds when.  How the snows of winter bring the water that allows the hay fields and prairie to grow.  And watch people.  My sister didn’t believe the moon effected people until she became a teacher and found that the children were wilder at the full moon and calmer at the new moon.  We can learn a lot from the world around us, if we open our eyes and ears.

The answers to all things are in the Air – Inspiration, and the Winds will bring you news and knowledge if you ask them properly. The Trees of the Wood will give you power, and the Waters of the Sea will give you patience and omninesense, since the Sea is a womb that contains a memory of all things. ~Robert Cochrane, third letter to Joe Wilson

Image from SodaHead

Witchcraft isn’t found in books and secrets.  It is there for anyone to learn, through sight, through hearing, through smell, through taste, through touch.  And through the senses beyond the physical.  There is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed.  Let he who has eyes see.  Let he who has ears hear.

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in muninnskiss


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