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On Veils and Webs and Hedges…

Much folklore, tradition, and mythology talk of a boundary, an edge, a division between worlds. Why this is common should be fairly evident. If there is an Otherworld, Underworld, any type of world beyond ours, if there was no separation, there would be no other world, the two would be one. For the two to be distinct, or function as distinct, something must divide them.

There are different words in different languages and cultures, different meanings, different methods to cross this boundary. But the boundary is constant, because it has to be. If there’s another world, there is a boundary making these worlds distinct.

One common word used in English is the Veil. This is the term I most commonly use. As do many others.

The term brings to mind for some the veils of nuns or brides, the veils of mourners, the veils of Islamic women. For others, it brings to mind the veils of belly dancers, or harems, or erotic chambers. For others still, it brings to mind the curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem, and of the verse in the New Testament of that veil torn in two from top to bottom.

These imaginings of the Veil are useful, of course they are. But how accurate are they? Why do we use the term, and do our images match the reality the term is trying to describe.

Lets start with the meaning of Veil, and it’s origins.

veil (n.)
c.1200, “nun’s head covering,” from Anglo-French and Old North French veil (12c., Modern French voile) “a head-covering,” also “a sail, a curtain,” from Latin vela, plural of velum “sail, curtain, covering,” from PIE root *weg- (1) “to weave a web.” Vela was mistaken in Vulgar Latin for a feminine singular noun. To take the veil “become a nun” is attested from early 14c.

The beginning of this description of course is some of the uses we described above, a head covering, a curtain. But note first the Latin vela, velum. Despite it’s use as singular, vela is plural, and that is the word we get veil from, not the singular. Of interest, though, is that the Latin velum also becomes the English velum, which is the soft palate, the roof of the mouth. A veil is thin and covers, but it isn’t necessarily cloth or fragile.

Of more interest is the fact that Velum comes the reconstructed *weg- meaning “to weave a web”. It is the image of a spider’s web across a surface or over an opening. Have you ever walked into a room or cave or cavern or between trees and walked right into a spider web at face level? That is a veil.

Web comes from the same word and so does weave. These two retained that meaning well. Most of the words coming from this root mean something along the lines of entwined, interlaced, woven.

But, as words do change meaning over time, do these meanings hold relevance to our Veil, the way we use it in the context of this discussion?

Consider for a moment, the idea of the endless Web of Fate I have described elsewhere. Each being, human or not, has a knot of Threads at their core, that tie them to everything else. These Threads interconnect with other Threads of those we encounter and interact with, and to our ancestors by blood, lore, or past lives. These form a multidimensional Web, woven by the one who weaves. I describe the web like this:

“Picture a spider web, a huge orb web, threads of web radiating out in all directions on a plane from a central point. Picture those threads connected to other threads between them, forming circles, spirals, curves around that centre. Picture the log thread stretching from the central point out to infinity in all directions, an infinite web. Picture the way the light shines through and across those threads, sometimes making them shine like glass, sometimes hiding them from view. Sometimes you see one thread, or three, or ten, sometimes just the part of the web near you. Lift your head, change the angle. You see the whole web sprawling out to eternity in the direction you are looking.”

What if this Web I describe is the boundary between worlds? What if it is our woven interconnectedness throughout Time and Space that separates us from that which is outside our Time and Space? If this is the case, the Web that binds us together holds us in what we think is reality. This would make crossing over that boundary very difficult, because we ourselves become the sentilils and guards, the Guardians of the Gate if you will. All our experiences and pasts and futures and interactions in this world tie us deeper into the Web and more to what we think is reality. People tend to see what they expect to see.

But, then, crossing that boundary also would mean being disentangled from it. Not necessarily cut free (after the one who cuts cuts our Thread, we cross the Gates of Life and Death; completely cut free of the Web is freedom from this world and our bodies, for the Threads are what knits flesh and spirit, spirit and flesh) but loosed. So, to cross over, the knots that hold us to what we know and expect of reality must be loosened and the Threads allowed to bend. The Threads of Fate but be bent, Fate must be bent.

Consider for a moment the word “warp”. In most common usages in Modern English, it is to “to bend, twist, distort”. This word is believed to come from the reconstructed Proto-Indoeuropian *werp- meaning “to turn or bend”. In weaving, it is used in contrast to “woof”, the woof being the set threads in the loom, the warp twisting and turning through the woof, bending it, to create a fabric. “Woof” comes from *webh- meaning “to weave”, which is the source of both our English weave, web, and wave.

If the Web of Fate is the boundary between worlds, and the All as a loom, and we see it as the woof in that loom, the threads that aren’t connected to the woof that twist and turn between them and bend them become the warp. The warp bends the woof, the weave, the Web. Without a warp in a loom, there is no fabric. Cut the ends and the woof is a pile of strings. But with the warp wove through the woof, a fabric forms. The warp hold the woof in place, and of course gives it colour and pattern. The woof is the foundation, but the warp defines its form.

Some Celtic sources describe the worlds as the Endless Knot, two separate lines interwoven but never connecting. The is of course the two worlds, the world we know, and the Otherworld. The two are seen as being tied together in certain places, and the Veil being thinnest there. Places meaning points on the earth, spatial places, and points in time, temporal places. At certain locations, the Veil is very thin because the worlds are so close. At certain times, liminal times, the worlds draw close, and the Veil thins. This idea of two interwoven worlds fits well the idea of the fabric of the Veil being the interweaving of the woof, our world, and the Threads that connect us, and the warp, the Otherworld and the Threads that connect those that live beyond the Veil, beyond the Gloom out in the endless Gleam.

Then, expanding the metaphor, and the reality it describes, crossing over is a matter of being tied to that other Web, that is the warp, which would mean that those who cross over are tied to both webs, that the Threads at their core run both out into the Woof Web of Fate and the Warp Web of Fate. They span the worlds, are the Gates, and guardians thereof, they are of both worlds, so not fully of either.

It’s by no accident that one of the folk etymologies for “witch” is that it came from a word meaning “to bend or turn”. Especially when we consider that the English “weird”, from the Germanic “wyrd”, urdr, ultimately meaning Fate, and is the name of one of the three Norns in Norse myth, comes from *wert-, from *wer-, the origin of *werp- we discussed above, “to bend or turn”. The warp of the loom, the wyrd, the fate, the Norns who decide the fate of all beings, the Spinner who spins the Thread, the Weaver who weaves it into the Webs, and the Cutter who cuts to on the Black Altar. The Grimr.

Moving on from weaving and webs and veils, let’s consider another common term for the boundary between worlds, the Hedge.

The image here is English style hedgerows of the type that separate fields or surround a residence. These form a living, wild boundary between two fields, or between what is inside and what is outside. For metaphoric purposes, we can use the image of a hedge around a residence, separating the inside and the outside.

Taking this idea back, and looking at the residence with a hedge around as an extension of the hill fort with a baracade or the castle or city with a wall, the inside becomes “us” and the outside “them”, the hedge as protection from the Other beyond it. Inside, we cultivate and control, we build and grow crops, we live life in relative safety. Outside, there’s uncertainty, danger, the settled, civilized farming settlement with the dangerous dark wood beyond, the image of the shift from nomadic to settled life.

The hedge is a wild and dangerous place, but intentionally so. There’s a reason two of the most common hedge trees are the whitethorn (hawthorn) and blackthorn (sloethorn). While pretty trees, and both producing fruit (the haws and sloes) that provide food for those within and without alike, and to birds and rodents and other animals, the thorns are the important part. These are thicket forming trees with long, dangerous thorns. The blackthorn’s thorns will cause nasty infections, and both are long and very sharp. You can’t cross the hedge without a lot of pain and threat to your body. Among the thorns creatures live and other plants, including other trees, grow intermixed. The result is a very dense wild boundary almost impossible to cross.

The hedge, though, being a wild space, also becomes a space where many herbs and other plants grow, giving rise to one of the two major modern usages of the term “hedgewitch”. The second meaning relates more to the hedge metaphor I’m going toward than the mundane hedgerows.

Often stiles are built where passage is needed. Stairs up one side and down the other, these triangular constructions allow passage over the hedge, the only safe passage. And these often can be gated at the top, and also mean limited known ingress and egress points.

Our hedge is like that, a wild space that both keeps us in, we that live in the Dreaming, the reserve if you will, and keeps the Other out, the deadly things that roam the Gleam, dangerous things our hedge protects us from. The hedge itself is dangerous to both, but limited and defined, a wild place that keeps the inward inward and outward outward.

The thin spots we talked about above function similar to stiles, but it should be remembered that what allows one to go outside the hedge also allows one to come inside the hedge. The stiles both allow passage out into the Gleam through the Gloom and become a dangerous gateway for things to possibly come into the Dreaming.

Just like with the mundane hedgerow, there are things in this hedge that can provide healing and nourishment, and things that are poisonous or deadly. Those who enter the hedge can gain much for it, but also must be cautious. And those that cross completely through or over the hedge instead of riding it must be very careful, because there’s a reason we live inside the hedge. The risk can definitely be worth it, though.

~Lorekeeper, Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on July 24, 2015 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?

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in muninnskiss


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Those Who Pray, Those Who Fight, Those Who Work: Musings About Labor Day

Yesterday was Labor Day in the US, in a lot of ways the Twin of Memorial Day.  Labor Day is the first Monday of September and Memorial Day the last Monday of May.  If you consider March, April, and May as Spring, June, July, and August as Summer, and September, October, and November as Autumn, Labor Day and Memorial Day mirror each other, exactly thirteen weeks apart, a quarter of a year.

But it’s not the date that makes them Twins, that ties them together, but their nature.  There’s two parts to this, the original intention, and the organic evolution.

Though it has evolved, Memorial Day is and always has been, throughout its history, a day of remembering those who died serving in the United States armed forces.  It is ultimately a day of mourning for the fallen, characterized by visiting graves and laying flowers and other offerings on the graves.  It has evolved in that people don’t only visit military dead, but family as well in a lot of cases.  It has become almost the US’s Dia de los Muertos.

Unlike Memorial Day, Labor Day is a celebration, not mourning.  It was a day created to honour the contributions of workers to the economy and society.  However, seldom is that element mentioned at this point.  It is seen as a reward for laborers, giving them a day off, laborers used to mean all those who have jobs, though I don’t think management and others that aren’t laborers in the traditional sense.  It is normally celebrated with picnics and barbecues, the last weekend of the summer season.  It is celebrated with family.

You have several levels, as I said, that make these two holidays Twins.  The first is obvious.  Memorial Day is a day for the military, Labor Day is a day for civilians.  This has been a strong dichotomy throughout history, with the addition of a third group, which I will get to in a moment.  Rome had a strong division between the civilians and the soldiers.  Civilians where pretty much set in their place unless they became soldiers.  You were either a citizen by birth, or you became one serving as a soldier.  There were other groups as well, but these were the largest two.  Medieval thought described the three estates, Oratores, “those who pray”, Bellatores, “those who fight”, and Laboratores, “those who work”.  A simplified summary of India’s caste system has four main castes, with the outcasts as a fifth.  These are: Brahman, “priests”, Kshatriyas, “warriors”, Vaishyas, “traders”, Shudras, “workmen”, and Panchama, “the fifth”.  Traders are of not, because as the Borges developed in Europe into a Middle Class, it was traders that they were.  But priests and traders are smaller portions of society, by their nature.  Fighters and laborers are the largest portions in all societies that have try classes or castes.  And they are very much opposites in their nature, but both essential for society.

On a deeper level, the two holidays represent life and death.  Memorial Day is a day of mourning the dead.  Labor Day is a celebration of life.  Memorial Day is visiting the dead.  Labor Day is spending time with family, the place our life came from.  Life and Death.  What is curious, these days, opposite on the calender and opposite in nature, are opposite of the older holidays, holy days.  Spring is normally a time of rebirth and life, Candlemas and May Day, the length of days growing.  Autumn is normally a time of death, harvest, Samhain.  But these two are opposite that.  Why?

If you think about Labor Day from an agricultural point of view, you realize Labor Day is during harvest time, and in many parts of the US, the end of harvest.  It’s appropriate that laborer’s would be celebrated after harvest, after the hard work they have done.  So Labor Day is easy to see as a traditional harvest festival, especially with the focus on the family gathering around food.  And the food from harvest, though often seen as dying, is the life that gets people through the winter.

But what about Memorial Day?  It’s important to note that the current Memorial Day comes from the Northern date after the Civil War.  The Southern equivalant occurred on May 1, May Day.  The secret here comes from a detail of the ceremony of visiting the graves.  The practice of laying flowers on the graves.  This practice is very ancient and didn’t start with the holiday.  The holiday determined a specific day for an older custom.  Now May is well known as the month flowers bloom (though it’s not as set as customs imply).  May Day is most commonly celebrated with gathering and giving of flowers.  Flowers on graves probably came from creating a place for the dead that was like where they would go in death, in the belief it would make that place better.  Just like the Egyptians filling tomes with what the dead would need.  So, if the intended custom was the placement of flowers (and the original name was Decoration Day because of this custom), it only makes sense that it would need to be at a time when flowers bloom.  Suddenly, Memorial Day becomes a flower ceremony, the placing of flowers on graves becomes a ceremony of planting, just as the body placed in the ground is the seed, the death that will bring life.

So the two Twins do in fact fit their seasons.  Memorial Day, a day of death, is a day of planting.  Labor Day, a day of life, is a day of harvest.

To get back to Labor Day specifically, lets look at labour itself.  In Kabbalah, this is Olam HaAssaiah, the World of Action.  It’s the world where things happen.  It isn’t the World of Planning or the World of thinking.  It’s the World of Action.  Priests in most cultures deal with spiritual things.  They are the ones who pray, not the ones who act.  Traders typically take the things made by laborers and transport them then trade them with others.  They distribute the result of others actions, don’t act themselves in the way we’re discussing.  But both laborers and warriors act and change the world, laborers typically by creating and building, warriors by killing and destroying.  Ultimately, labour is action, and action is the stuff of this world and the only way to change the higher worlds.  This is why down to earth, salt of the earth, people are the ones who labour, the farmers and ranchers that produce our food, the construction workers that produce our shelter and roads, the steel workers building skeletons of our cities and the cars we drive, the miners and droppers and rig workers who give us energy for our electronics and our heat, that provide the iron and copper, the lumberjacks that provide the wood for our houses, the teamsters who get our things from one place to another.

Part of the reason the craft has always been made up of outsiders is because we span the classes and castes above.  We work.  You can’t be a witch if you don’t do the work.  We trade.  On multiple levels.  On a mundane level, most magical services were bartered and traded for.  A charm in exchange for food, a curse in exchange for repairing my fence, an amulet for a bushel of wood.  On a spiritual level, much of magic is trade with the spirits, giving them something in exchange for a service or information from them.  Witches tend to be excellent traders.  We fight.  As Victor Anderson said, the craft is martial and a warrior tradition.  It’s not coincidence that many folk tales are about witches flying to fight spirits in the night.  As Cochrane said, “What I have, I hold!”  What can you hold if you don’t fight for it?  And we pray.  All spells are truly prayers, but more specifically, we are Priests and Priestesses.  We form the Bridge between the people and the gods, between the Kingdom and the King, between the mundane and the Divine, between this world and the otherworld, between heaven and earth, between this world and the underworld, between life and death.  We are the Bridge because we stand between worlds.  We are liminal, neither here nor there, but both, so can connect the worlds for others.  We are Priests, Warriors, Traders, Workers.  We are all things.  Liminal.  So we become the Fifth, the untouchables.  Because we can’t be contained in category because we claim them all.  So we become outsiders, Other, Monster, untouchable.

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in muninnskiss


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The Seed of Inspiriation

In Kabbalah, there are four worlds, the World of Emanations, the World of Creation, the World of Forms (if you know Plato, you’ll get that one), and the World of Action.  We live in the World of Action, which is the world change occurs in, and those changes ripple back up to the higher worlds.  Everything in our world begins in the the World of Emanations as seeds of an idea.  You can see these as pre-thoughts, pre-ideas.  This is the Yod floating in the Zoid that will become creation.  In that Yod are all the letters.  It is the seed from which everything comes, the DNA of the universe, if you will.  From the seed of an idea in the World of Emanations grows an idea fully formed.  This idea is in the World of Creation.  This idea grows into a plan, in the World of Forms.  The World of Forms, or Plato’s World of the From, is the blueprint for what’s in our world.  And the plan is put into action in the World of Action.  All Hebrew roots are verbs, not nouns.

The Gather has spent generations gathering berries, gathering nuts, gathering herbs.  She (or he) has seen that the seed falls to the ground, and that from it grows a new plant.  This is the seed (ha!) of an idea, the World of Emanations.  It dawns on her one day, after all those generations, that maybe the seeds she gathers can be grown, so she doesn’t have to worry about where to find them.  This is the idea, the World of Creation.  She decides to try it, decides which seed to try, where to plant them.  This is the plan, the World of Forms (I typed World of Farms; lol).  She gathers them and plants them and they grow.  The action in the World Of Action.  Previous generations might have had the seed, but never had the idea.  They might have had the idea but never formed the plan.  They might have made a plan but never put it into action.

The Gather is now the Farmer.  She watches the plants grow.  And one day, made her, maybe a later generation, notices that when one left or branch becomes sick, it spreads through the plant.  There is another seed.  She realizes maybe she can cut the deceased leaf or branch off to save the rest.  Another idea.  She figures out she can use the knife she uses to skin animals or cut herbs to cut off the leaf or branch.  Another plan.  She does so.  Another action, and pruning becomes part of life.  And so on.

The Hunter has been watching the wolf hunt for generations.  He (or she) has learned from it, improved how he hunts, generation by generation.  One day, he wonders what it would be like to hunt with the wolf instead of watch, instead of hunt apart from the wolf.  This is the seed of an idea, the World of Emanations.  He wonders if he can catch the wolf, and train it to hunt with him.  This is the idea, the World of Creation.  He makes a plan to lure the wolf in with food, get the wolf comfortable with him.  This is the plan, the World of Forms.  He does it, and ends up with a wolf half trusting him, eventually hunting with him, sharing life and food with him.  The action in the World of Action.  And, once again, each step might have happened in previous generations, but it wasn’t until him that it was carried out.

And he or his descendant observes the wolf, seeing it’s strengths, it’s weaknesses.  And they make the connection that with humans, a strong father usually has stronger children, a smart, sunning father usually has smarter children than the ones that aren’t as bright.  This is another seed.  He wonders if he got two wolves with the strengths he wants with another one with the same strengths whether the pups would be better than normal. Another idea.  He decides to observe more wolves, either wild ones or the ones he’s hunted with, find the ones with the strengths he wants, and get them together to bred.  Another plan.  And he does so.  Another action.  And so on.

A man named J. H. Muller, in 1786, wondered if a mechanical machine, a difference engine, could be designed that could do calculations for him.  This was the seed of an idea, the World of Emanations.  A man named Charles Babbage proposed such a machine in 1822 and set about doing so, designed an analytical engine and an improved difference engine.   They were built but too expensive to manufacture.  This was the idea, the World of Creation.  A man named Konrad Zuse in 1936 designed a new machine from the idea of a difference engine.  His design didn’t do one operation, or several operations like the ones before, but could be programmed to do different things.  This was the plan, the world of Forms.  And from there, the modern computer evolves, the action in the World of Action.

I could go on, but my point is that an idea forms that leads eventually to an action.  The idea comes first, not the technology.  Sometimes the idea is successful, sometimes not, but often the failure leads to new seeds, which lead to new ideas.  In scientific terms, the seed is a question, the idea is a hypothesis, the plan is the design of the experiment, and the action is the experiment itself.  And it’s our culture, our lifestyle, our setting (which is the term I use in my Social Dynamics) that provides the experiences that bring about the seed of an idea.  Our Gatherer wouldn’t have thought to plant seeds if she didn’t gather them first.  Our Hunter wouldn’t have thought to domesticate a wolf if he hadn’t been following the same herds.  Muller, and engineer in the Hessian army, wouldn’t have thought of building the difference engine if he hadn’t seen the steam powered machines of his time.  He also, by the way, designed and built and improved version of Leibniz’ adding machine. Leibniz added division and multiplication to Pascal’s calculator and invented the first mass produced calculator.  Without Pascal’s seeds, ideas, plans, and actions, Leibniz couldn’t have done what he did.  Without Leibniz, Muller couldn’t have done what he did.  All this lead to the first computer, which changed the world.  So the seeds that brought about the computer, the ideas, the culture, started at the latest in 1642 with Pascal’s mechanical calculator.  The ideas that led to the computer took almost three hundred years to get to the first computer and it’s been almost 80 years to get where we are.  Technology comes from ideas.  Then technology spawns new ideas, which spawn new technology, and so one.  A cycle, a process, thought begets change, change begets thought.  Technology doesn’t develop apart from thought, in isolation from an idea that came from the culture and the setting of the culture.

The question is, why the ‘sudden’ change?  Why, after thousands and thousands of years, generations and generations of observing these same things, living this same way, with little change, why, ‘suddenly’ does someone change all that?  What plants the seed of an idea in the first place, since it never happened before that point?  Around the same time, independently, in at least six places, the change occurs, the seed is planted, germinates, and grows, and the world is never the same.
The changes that occurring in lifestyle and technology (the square house, the domestication, the pottery, the metal working, the walls), and the supposition made from these of the changes in thinking, the changes in world view, all these things are interesting but don’t get us to the meat of it.  These things are the elements, the symbols, in the Mystery Traditions, the elements the initiate sees when they’re ready, be it the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Dionysian Mysteries, the Arcadian Mysteries (my personal favourite), the Mithraic Mysteries, the Orphic Mysteries, the Isis Mysteries, early Christianity, or even modern Feri.  The element, the symbol, the Key, only has meaning to the initiate because they are ready for the Mystery they point to.  This is the heart of mysticism, moving beyond the symbols and elements to the Mystery behind them.  To me, the societal changes are only interesting in that they point to the changes in thinking to brought them about and that they brought about, and those changes are only interesting because the point to the Mystery that caused the initial change, the Catalyst, the planting of that seed of an idea.
Something changed.  Something in six places (is there a seventh we’re missing, I wonder) about the same time, after generations upon generations, thousands upon thousands of years (Carl Sagan is saying billions and billions in my head right now).  Was it greed that lead to stockpiling, and that to the rest?  I think not.  The first things they started stockpiling were food, plants and animals, but you couldn’t do that without first domesticating them.  It was the realization that they could domesticate that came first, then the action, and only then did greed come in.
But what changed?  Someone drank from the Welsh Cauldron of Inspiration.  Someone was given fire by Promethius.  Someone gave up an eye to drink of the Well of Wisdom.  Someone saw a burning bush and turned aside.  Someone ate from a forbidden tree and gained knowledge.  Someone was baptised in the River Jordan and had the Spirit descend on them like a dove.  Someone was sitting by a river beneath a tree and realized there was another way.  Someone wrestled with G-d in the night.  Someone was taught by angels.  Something happened, and someone, well, at least six someones, realized there was another way beyond what had always been true, the way things had always been.
Not saying it was G-d or a god coming to them, or anything else particularly, just that something changed, something planted that seed, and everything changed, first with them, then their family, then their neighbours and so on.  Not in everyone, of course, but it rippled out like a still pond when a rock is thrown in.  And once that seed of an idea was planted, nothing could ever go back.
From Cain’s, the farmer’s, line, not from the nomad line, Lamech’s wife Adah gave birth to Jabal and Jubal, and his wife Ziilah gave birth to Tubal-Cain and Naamah.  Jabal is said to be the father of all who live in tents and raise livestock, the nomad herders we’ve talked about.  Jubal is the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.  Tubal-Cain to all those who forge tools of bronze and iron (and weapons).  And by Jewish tradition, Naamah is the mother of all demons.  Many British traditions look to this passage.  Hence, the Clan of Tubal-Cain, which the association with metal working.  There’s a change here. the beginning of stringed instruments, the beginning of forging.  And these things are in the line of Cain, the farmer, who is contrasted with the line of Seth which is seen as the good line.  The author(s) of Genesis seem to think the change brought about in the Neolithic Revolution was a bad thing, just as eating of the Tree and gaining Knowledge is shown as bad.  But the witchcraft traditions usually look to Cain and the line of Cain.  I find that interesting.
From a 1600s York manuscript:

“Before Noah flood there was a man called Lamech as is written in the Scriptures in ye Chatr of Genesis And this Lamech had two wives ye one named Adah by whome he had two sons ye one named Jabell ye other named Jubell And his other wife was called Zillah by whome he had one son named Tubelcaine & one Daughter named Naamah & these four children founded ye beginnings of all ye Sciences in ye world viz Jabell ye oldest Sone found out ye Science of Geomatre he was a keepr of flocks and sheep Lands in the Fields as it is noted in ye Chaptr before sd And his bother Jubell found ye Science of Musicke Song of the Tongue harpe & organ And ye third brother Tuball Caine found ye Science called Smith Craft of Gold Silvr Iron Coppr & Steele & ye daughter found ye ara of Weaving And these persons knowing right well yt God would take vengencance for sinne either by fire or water wherefore they writt their severall Sciences yt they had found in two pillars of stone yt might be found aftr Noah his Flood And ye one stonbe would not burn wth fire & ye othr called Lternes because it would not dround wth wtr etc.”

Four children, the Herdsman or Horseman, the Musician or Bard, the Smith, and the Weaver.  All of these hold importance in the later witchcraft of Europe and the British Isles.

The other common thing in many witchcraft traditions is the Watchers, coming down and teaching mankind all sciences and magic, including the things listed in the previous quote.  The story is of the Watchers watching humans and falling in love with the women (from Genesis and from Sumerian myths) and having children, the giants and men of renown in the Tanakh, the “witchblood” in some witch traditions.  And they taught man these things.  Science and math, forging and weaving, magic and witchcraft, domestication and farming.  Basically, that the Neolithic Revolution came about from their teaching.  The seed of the idea.  The fire from heaven.  The Inspiration.  In Sumerian myth, the Apkallu were seven, associated with seven stars.  They are the Watchers and taught mankind, bringing about the first civilization, Sumer.  In Cochrane’s Basic Structure of the Craft, there are seven wind gods, the sons of Night and Man, the seven stars.  In Feri, there are seven Guardians, who are the true teachers of the witch.  They are the watchers, and they are seven stars.
Regardless of whether there were watchers or whatever, that point, that seed, that inspiration, that formed in six places around the same time is ingrained in the psyche, the cultural memory, of the people of the earth, and seems present in one form or another in the myths of people throughout the world.  That moment that began the Neolithic Revolution that is such a Mystery is remembered and engraved in all of us.
And that, I think, is the important part of the study of the Neolithic Revolution.  And the ultimate goal and central pillar of mysticism.  And the essence of witchcraft.
~Muninn’s Kiss
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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in muninnskiss


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Gnomeo and Juliet: From Fiction to Feri Tales

Gnomeo and Juliet.
Image from

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:

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?

~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in muninnskiss


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