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Requiem Aeternam Dona Eis: Some Thoughts on Misruletide

’Tis the season. But what season? This is an interesting time of year.

Winter.

A time of rest.

The land stands fallow and sleeping.

The days shorten, the nights lengthen.

The shadows stretch, the darkness grows.

What season?

There is a time, a time outside of time. A season? Certainly. Better, a time, a tide.

A time outside of time. The Time of Misrule. The Tide of Misrule. Misruletide.

I’m not talking just about the Christmastime, Christmastide, celebration by this name, but the portion of time starting at All Saint’s or All Hallow’s and extending to Candlemas. I’m talking of a year ending at Hallowtide and starting at Candletide. The year has ended. The year has not yet began.

It is a time of rest. Certainly. A rest for whom? The land, well, yes, but who else? If it is the Time of Misrule, the Season of Misrule, the Tide of Misrule, we should start with what Misrule is, both in the festival use of the word and how we mean it here.

I won’t go much into the festivities or history, but the tradition of Feast of Fools and similar celebrations on Christmas and around that part of the year, was a celebration where everything was turned on its head, socially. It was a time or revelry and irreverence, a time of no rules, or, namely, misrule. Depending on where and when, it was sometimes a large scale celebration and sometimes a private affair. Regardless, the “ruler” over the festivities was among the peasantry or the lower clergy, taking the role of king or abbot. In Britain, the Lord of Misrule. One aspect of this, anything trying to hurt or cause problems for those higher in society would be mislead into going after those low in society as well. I can’t rule out that this aspect was not a part of things as well.

This is the sense I am using for this part of the year, from its end at Hallowmas to its beginning at Candlemas. The Time of Misrule, the time when the normal order of things is tipped on its head.

It is during this time of year, at various points, in various forms, that we see lore of the Wild Hunt and traditions and folktales that have descended from the Hunt. In its many forms, the faeries or the dead or witches or other beings ride abroad. They are lead by various figures, Öðinn, Frigg, Frey, Freyja, Holda, Frau Holle, Berchta, Diana, Gwydion, King Arthur, Nuada, Herne, the Devil, Sir Francis Drake, Manannán, Arawn, Nicnevin, Ankow, and many others. The Wild Hunt is said to occur, depending on the lore, on All Hallow’s Eve, on Midwinter’s Eve, on Christmas Eve, or on Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), or simple during the winter months, during the Misruletide we are discussing.

The variations veil and hide things, for it is the nature of lore to shift, but under it all, we see a Hunt lead by a figure, or two figures, and a host of the Dead or of spirits. It is interesting to note that the lore of All Hallow’s Eve is of a time when the Dead or spirits roam in the world of the living. This is not the “normal” state of things, it doesn’t follow the normal rule. And many of the figures seen leading the Hunt are either dead folk heroes or gods or goddesses of death.

If we consider the parallel of a time when the Dead walk lead by a lord or lady of death with the Feast of Fools led by the Lord of Misrule, the idea becomes apparent.

Consider for the moment an image.

See a woman dressed in black robes with a red veil hiding her face. She stands in a stone chamber deep beneath the ground, a round chamber with stone benches carved in the sides. There are two thresholds in the room, an empty doorway with no door to her right, and a pair of massive doors to her left. A figure stands before the black doors, watching her, still as death, silent as the grave. In front of her is a black altar, a cube of unworked black stone, the colour of deepest night, deepest shadow. A body rests on this altar, or a Thread, there is less difference than there seems. The body is familiar. In one shrivaled hand, she holds a rod or wand, wood, made of a blackthorn root. In the other, she holds a knife.

When the time becomes full, when the tide is complete, the knife drops, the Thread is cut, the blood flows from the body, blood black in the shadows, covering the black altar. This time has ended, the Thread cut, the Cutter’s knife has fallen.

The woman raises the rod and points at the doors, and the figure before it moves. The figure it tall and thin, covered in black tattered robes. His face is hidden in the shadowed cowl. Folded at his back is a pair of skeletal wings with shadow stretched between the bones. His hands, sticking from the arms of the robes, are nothing but bone. In one hand, he holds a book, chained to his wrist. His other hand is em

When the woman raises the rod, the winged figure wipes a line from his book with one skeletal finger. The ink flows like smoke off the page and a figure rises from the body and joins it, the two becoming one, a spectral image of the body still on the altar. The figure reaches and opens the doors wide. Beyond, it is both as dark as the night and bright beyond imagination. A wind fills the cavern, and the body crumbles to dust and blows away.

The figure beacons, silent, and the spectre walks through the Gates of Life and Death, which are closed fast behind them.

It is finished.

This is the normal rule, the Quick die, becomes the Dead, cross through the Gates, and rest until the time comes for them to return, becoming Quick again. But this is the time of Misrule, the Dead don’t always stay dead, sometimes the Wild Hunt rides.

But who sides at the front of the Hunt? Who leads the Dead? Death. Like Hel leading the people of her domain in Ragnorak, like the Queen of Faerie leading the people of her domain forth, like Odin or Freyja leading the Dead they have gathered forth, Like King Arthur leading the knights that died, Death rides forth at the front of the Host.

But, if Death leads the Hunt, who guards the Gates? Ah. The Time of Misrule. The Quick caught up in the Host become Dead, and the Dead beyond the Gates can walk. This is Misruletide. Among other things.

Now, when the Keeper of the Lost sits as Regent, and the Quick and the Dead can switch station, now is when things aren’t always what they seem.

So, what do we have at Hallowtide? Not just All Hallow’s Eve. It is the Eve of All Hallows, of course, All Hallow’s Day, All Saint’s Day, which is followed by All Soul’s Day. Three days focussed on the Dead, in different ways. But let’s look specifically at All Soul’s Day.

This is of course best known in the part of the world I live in as the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when masks are worn and feasts and presents are prepared for the Dead, often at grave sites, is a similar fashion to the tradition practiced by many of my Craft brothers and sisters in a Dumb Supper on All Hallow’s Eve. The giving of food to the Dead is present in many cultures throughout the world and throughout time, though not always this time of year. It is common this time of year, however.

In Catholic practice, All Soul’s Day is a day of commemoration for the “faithful departed”. This is a somewhat enigmatic phrase to many. It’s taken to mean those who have died and are in Purgatory. The phrase is, “fidelium animae”, fidelium, fidelis, fides, faith/belief/trust/confidence, so faithful, believing, or trustable, animae, anima, soul/spirit/life/air/breeze/breath, so spirit of the dead in this context. Those that believe but haven’t obtained heaven, basically.

Misruletide begins with a focus on the dead, and another use of the phase “fidelium animae” gives some interesting things to consider. A prayer has been commonly prayed for the “faithful departed” is as follows:

English:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Latin:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

The last phrase, many of us are familiar with, at least in English, “rest in peace”. This has become the most common expression for those who have died, though if you read lore of the dead from many times past, this directive implies a desire for the Dead not to be unrestful, not to rise. The Dead don’t always rest peacefully, that the Gates aren’t always sealed, as we’ve been discussing.

Consider this phrase in Latin for a moment, “requiescant in pace”. “Pace” is “pax”, meaning peace or harmony. The sense is not in terms of no war, like we often see in in English, it’s the sense of being silent, not being dissident, not conflicting. “Pax!” was also used like we would use, “Be silent!”, or “Hush!”. “Requiescant” is “requiesco”, to rest or repose or sleep. Rest in peace, sleep peacefully and don’t cause me trouble. If you pardon my humour.

But “requiesco” is “re-“ and “quiesco”. “Re-“ means back, backwards, or again. Basically, to go back to a previous state. “Quiesco” means to rest, cease, sleep, repose, abstain, cease, stop, and similar ideas. It is from “quies” and “-sco”. “-sco” changes a verb to have a meaning of starting to or beginning to. “Quies” means to rest, repose, quiet, and figuratively, to dream. So, getting to the root, we have the same meaning as we started with, but the combination implies a bit more specific sense than we saw with the original meaning. “Quiesco” would be, to begin or start to rest, repose, or be quiet. “Requisco” would be, to return to a state of beginning or starting to rest, repose, or be quiet. But beginning to rest or repose would be to go to sleep, basically, and to begin to be quiet would be to stop making noise. So, returning to these would be to go back to sleep, or to become quiet again. A returning to a previous state of sleep or quietness.

This brings to mind discussions of Charon the ferryman being silent, and of the Dead being silent until Odysseus provides blood, and other stories relating to the silent dead being given speak though blood or other methods. Bran the Blessed’s cauldron returned the Dead to life, but they were silent, unable to speak. This is common in much of the lore, the Dead cannot speak, they are silent, unless voice is brought by some means. To be Dead is to be Silent. “Requiesco” implies a return to a state of sleep and silence, a return to death.

In modern Catholic context, the prayer implies those in Purgatory moving on quickly to Heaven, but the wording has other repercussions, and begs the question, as this prayer was introduced by St. Benedict in the sixth century and is believed to be older still, was the meaning always what it is now seen as? The formalized beliefs concerning Purgatory were much later, though the concept existed in deferent forms back before Benedict. It seems possible, though, that the implications of the prayer as that to keep the Dead at rest is not impossible.

“Requiem aeternam” is of note. “Requiem” is of course from requies, also, a “place of rest”. “Aeternam”, “arternus”, is translated as permanent, lasting, eternal, endless, immortal. Hence, eternal rest, or an eternal resting place. The second word comes from “-rnus”, making it an adjective, and “aetus”, meaning lifetime or age. The root meaning is more about a resting place that will last a lifetime than the modern sense of eternity.

So, my tongue and cheek transition:

A place to sleep until we all die, O Lord please give them, and let the uninterrupted light shine on them, and those of the Dead who are trustworthy, by the mercy of God, keep quiet and not bother us. Amen.

Misruletide is a time when the Dead can walk among the Quick, and when much of the feasts, fasts, celebrations, measures, folk traditions, and rituals are concerned with keeping them from doing so, or misdirecting them so they don’t succeed in whatever they seek to do.

And, I say:

Hail, oh Builder of Storms, Keeper of the Lost, Regent of the North, Ruler of the Time of Misrule, bringer of Change.

Hail, oh Cutter, you whose Knife cuts every Thread when the time comes, the Last Witness, Priestess of the Black Altar.

Hail, oh Guardian of the Gates of Life and Death, Darkling Twin, Shadow of the World, Keeper of the Book in which all is written and all is erased.

May the Time of Misrule bring its secrets and lore and surprises, may the storms bring the life of spring, may the Dead speak when speech is needed, be silent when it is not, ride forth when it is time, and rest in peace when all is accomplished.

Dance, oh Spirits of Misruletide, dance through the long dark nights, and may the lights of the new year find us when Candletide comes again.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in muninnskiss

 

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The Importance of Horror

This time of year, with Halloween approaching, there are a lot more horror films watched, more horror elements in television shows, and more horror books read than any other part of the year. There is a marked focus in this direction, both in those pursuing watching and reading, and in those speaking against the genre. Many of these elements spill into daily life, in costumes worn to work, parties, bars, and anywhere else people can get away with it by using the season as an excuse.

Supernatural horror the only mainstream place where the elements that are often a part of more occult and esoteric interest appear. The very fact the genre (both in film and in literature, and also in art of many other forms) exists is interesting in itself.

The reason for the absence elsewhere is that people don’t want to consider the monstrous and strange, preferring to pretend everything is safe and normal and predictable. So it’s pushed to the edges. On the edges, we don’t have to look at it. We can pretend it’s not there and go about life feeling safe.

But the presence of the supernatural horror genre in all mediums means that while it’s pushed the edges, it’s not pushed out completely. People don’t want to confront it in a “normal” context, but they also can’t completely ignore or forget it either. The genre persists because there is always a part of us that knows that the “normal” by itself is not the whole story, that there would be a lacking if the Other is completely gone.

So people seek out the monstrous and strange and dangerous on occasion, as a reminder not to forget, then return to their “normal” world, content that the stuff they push to the edges is still at the edges, so not hidden closer and waiting.

This is the place not just of the genre, but of the edges themselves. Edges and boundaries define what is part and what is not, what is Self and what is Other, what is society and what is savage, what is cultivated and what is Wasteland or Wilderness. By dividing, they define. There is no boundary or edge if there isn’t something beyond it. There is no Self without Other. There is no civilized without the Monster. If what we don’t like or are afraid of isn’t at the edge, or across the boundary, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it means it has no place to be but here, where I am. If there is no monster out there, the monster is here, or the monster is me.

The separation of worlds, the Edge and the Veil, is a separation of perception, not a gap or abyss between worlds. Our world, our Dreaming, must be safe to us, so we push what isn’t safe to the edge, make it Other, make it the otherworld. And those that live in the otherworld, at the edges by our perception, push what isn’t safe to them to the edge, to their Other, making it the otherworld for them, our world. All things not safe for us, or that we don’t want, is there. All things not safe for them, or that they don’t want, is here. Two worlds mutually populating each other with their monsters, monsters who populate their world with monsters.

But those who walk between are monsters to both worlds, Other to all Selfs. Because they can be either, so are monsters that appear as normal, no matter which world they walk. And appearing normal in both, they also see both as normal, the accept the monstrous and strange as every day, as part of what makes up the whole. They have no edges, no borders, no law, no limits.

Because edges imply two sides, boundaries and borders are between two things. Laws define what can happen and cannot, or, what can happen without being pushed to the edges. Limits define what is possible, but if you approach a limit long enough, you can’t perceive where you are from where it is, and in effect reach it. And once you realize the limit, what stops you from passing it?

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in muninnskiss

 

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The Year is Drawing Nigh, a Samhain poem

The Year is Drawing Nigh
A Samhain poem by Muninn’s Kiss
As darkness fall, the veil thin,
The year is drawing nigh.
Shadows lengthen, gather strength,
The year is drawing nigh.
The dead they stir, and look around,
The year is drawing nigh.
Tonight they walk, tonight they dine,
The year is drawing nigh.
The sinks down, she’s dying now,
The year is drawing nigh.
Beneath the hills, the dying sun,
The year is drawing nigh.
Hollow hills, they open wide,
The year is drawing nigh.
Faerie folk, the mighty dead,
The year is drawing nigh.
Samhain’s fires, burning bright,
The year is drawing nigh.
To dance around, in death’s embrace,
The year is drawing nigh.
Ancestors dead, some long gone,
The year is drawing nigh.
We tip a glass, we place a plate,
The year is drawing nigh.
Death stands up, tonight he reigns,
The year is drawing nigh.
In darkness strong, the dying year,
The year is drawing nigh.
The revelers grow deathly quiet,
The year is drawing nigh.
All knees bend and all tongue stilled,
The year is drawing nigh.
For Death takes all and all will come,
The year is drawing nigh.
The Gates of Death, they open wide,
The year is drawing nigh.
His face you meet, at Death’s great doors,
The year is drawing nigh.
A friend, a judge, a lover, a blade,
The year is drawing nigh.
His embrace is sweet, but deathly cold,
The year is drawing nigh.
In love he strips you, bone from bone,
The year is drawing nigh.
Nothing left, you pass beyond,
The year is drawing nigh.
The veil it parts, the doors swing wide,
The year is drawing nigh.
Your last strong breath, last orgasm,
The year is drawing nigh.
And through you go, to what’s beyond,
The year is drawing nigh.
But Death’s great doors and Life’s fair doors,
The year is drawing nigh.
What’s dead and gone, will be reborn,
The year is drawing nigh.
A new breath breathed, a new day dawns,
The year is drawing nigh.
Death to Life, he takes your hand,
The year is drawing nigh.
All is gone, but all in new,
The year is drawing nigh.
The new dawn’s sun, in the east,
The year is drawing nigh.
The cold it flees, the shadows hide,
The year is drawing nigh.
Dark Samhain’s night to new year’s light,
The year is drawing nigh.
What was dead has come again.
 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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