Tag Archives: paganism

Magic Pigs

I originally wrote this for the blog of the Grove of the Corieltauvi. If you would like to read more on what we have done you can view it here.

Meeting took place on Thursday 12/04/18. 3rd Waning Crescent

Attendees: Danceswithweasels (welcome back!), Greenfingers, Locksley, Teller and Vyvyan (Darth Vyv). Big thank you to Teller and Vyvyan, for allowing us to use their place for hosting and for supplying bacon cobs after my talk. Especially when Teller is veggie. For those not familiar with East Midlands speak, “Cobs” are the local term for rounded bread rolls. Some other places call these “baps”, “rolls”, “buns”, or as my family in Sheffield call them “Bread-Cakes”. To any of the readers outside of the UK….. you wouldn’t BELIEVE how many arguments this causes…..

Anyway, Locksley, shut up and get on with the post!

Title Photo Credit goes to Greenfingers for allowing me to use his photograph.

Introduction

In all honesty? I thought it would be a laugh. At the AGM, I was handing Green Fingers our actual Magic Pig (a little bag for which we use for the collection of subs for us to purchase anything The Grove needs). I realised then that I actually hadn’t taken a meeting in a long time and wanted to do a talk on something and Magic Pig seemed to be as good as any. That and it seems to be a creature associated with many gods and heroes within Celtic mythology. Why was this?

Our Porcine Friends

Starting at the beginning, I read out the description of Sow from the Druid Animal Oracle. To make it fair, I read out both upright and reversed meanings. So we see the Pig as being associated with abundance and plenty, nourishment and sustenance, renewal and creativity.

The Reverse of this gives us a warning against relying on our vanity and “Pig Ignorance” to take other people for their worth, not just, their looks. Danceswithweasels quite rightly corrected me this was Sow and not Pig. True, but I wanted to keep it as the positive aspect of the animal, for the time being. Especially when we have a lovely picture showing said sow pretty much smiling as her litter run around and eat Beech nuts.

My original deck just had a small box and a booklet with the brief descriptions. I now have a second identical deck with a larger box and a book that goes into more detail…. Even telling of the sow, Henwen being linked to Ceridwen. More on this later.

Pigs are evolved from the Boar, which still exist today, they are intelligent, omnivorous and can have litters of up to a dozen piglets. Like us, they can adapt to any environment, and affect the local environment. If there are too many wild pigs foraging, then the nutrition count in the local area drops. This has a detrimental effect on the plant lives and eco systems of said area. If the nutrient levels return, then pigs will increase in population. No wonder we started eating them!

Grave Offerings

Whilst Boar bones are a rarity at burial sites, it appears pig bones and even joints of roasted pork were buried with the chiefs and warrior elite.

Professor Ann Ross writes:

… as suggested by the evidence from graves, where the placing of joints of pork beside the elaborately equipped chieftains indicates that this was intended to be the food for the feast beyond the grave, is bourne out to a striking degree in the Irish Tales. Here pork is the proper food to be served at the feast and in the ritual of hospitality in the courts of kings, and in the dwellings of the gods.”

It would seem that if pork was the best meat for the ruling and warrior castes of Celtic society, then it was good enough for the gods and for giving to be eaten in the Otherworld when the person is reborn in that world. Bit chewy for a newborn…. a gift for the family on the Otherside perhaps?

From The Otherworld

According to Irish myth, Pigs were brought with the Tuatha Dé Danaan, both The Dagda and Brigid kept pigs and boars. Considering the Boar was around in Both Great Britain and Ireland at the time, it would be interesting to see when breeds of pigs were introduced. Even if the Tuatha Dé Danaan didn’t bring pigs with them, somebody did…..

In Welsh myth, It was Gwydion who told Math, Son of Mathonwy of these strange little creatures called “pigs” or “hobeu”. They were the property of Pryderi, son of Pwyll, who was given this gift of pigs by Arawn, the lord of Annwfn (a realm of the Otherworld). So in both Irish and Welsh myths, we see pigs as being the property of supernatural beings, therefore linked with the supernatural in themselves.

Indeed, pigs in Celtic mythology seem to have magical abilities of their own:

Henwen– (Ancient White One) a sow under the protection of the Powerful Swineherd (Pryderi?) goes into the sea. She then comes to land and is not only pregnant, but brings both wheat and a bee to Gwent. She then goes to Llonion in Pembroke where she brings grains of wheat and Barley.

Pursued by King Arthur, she is never obtained by the King or his men, but she gives birth to a wolf cub and an eagle and a kitten. Each of these is given to a Prince, bad luck befalls each person who raises them. There are two Triads describing this tale, one tells of Henwen, being protected by the Powerful Swineherd (and in typical classical Celtic fashion, is not very clear on this title as being one person or three!) and that King Arthur is unable to obtain even one of the pigs through force or guile. The other describes Arthur as being after Henwen in order to kill her for carrying the ‘Womb-Burden’. But nowhere does the tale link with Ceridwen, at all. Vyvyan pointed out that it was Robert Graves, who had linked Ceridwen with Henwen. Personally, I think her name has more of a connection to the moon than the pig. Especially when her name can translate as either “Crooked (bent) Woman”, “Crooked Fair/white” or even “Poem Blessed”.

Pig of Duis– In the ‘Sons of Tuirenn’, the Sons attack Cian, father of Lugh (who tries to escape in the shape of a pig) but they murder him. As a fine for this, Lugh, chief of the Tuatha Dé Danaan charges them with the task of finding the skin of the Pig of Duis described as:

The skin of the pig is that owned by Duis, King of Greece. In whatever stream that pig walked, the water turned into wine, and the wounded and the sick became well when they drank it.”

The skin is also said to be as thick as two oxen hides, perhaps this is also a reference to death and burial rites once associated with the graves of warriors and chiefs?

Cormac’s Glossary describes pigs (especially red ones) as included amongst the animals whose flesh (along with cats and dogs) could be used for a method of divination called the Himbas Forosnai. This practice involves the chewing of the meat of one of the animals, puts an incantation on it and offers it to the gods and leaves it on the threshold of the door. Calling spirits, the poet is supposed to gain knowledge to what they seek. If that doesn’t work he says incantations over his palms, calls his spirits to help him and puts the palms over his to fall into a trance in order to gain the visions he seeks. The idea was to gain glimpses of the future through dreams.

Regenerating Pigs

Other magical pigs include the ability to be regenerated whole the day after being slaughtered and eaten. The Dagda supposedly had pigs and fruits that when roasted never diminished.

Usually there were conditions:

Cormac and the Fairy Branch: Pig, When King Cormac MacArt foolishly traded his family for a magical stick, he goes in search of his family and finds himself in the Otherworld. Invited into a hall, before him stands a man with an axe, a log and a pig. The man cuts the pig into four pieces with the axe and places the log under a cauldron of water. The man explains he helped a farmer regain his cows and that the farmer had given the pig, the log and the axe as a reward. The man tells King Cormac, that if he cuts the pig with the axe, and speaks a truth over the log, then, it will cook the pig and he shall have both again the next day.

Pigs of Essach– were slaughtered every night and cooked, but as long as their bones were whole and not gnawed upon, they would be alive again the next day.

We’re Going On A Boar Hunt…

Boars were seen as more aggressive and warlike. Indeed their physicality is different from pigs they have tusks, spiky hair and are sleeker in their build. Pigs have more fat whereas boars are leaner.

Boars in Celtic myth were described as fearsome creatures with tall black/dusky/even purple bristles on their backs, some had up to nine tusks in their jaws. Often a trail of destruction followed them, killing 50 warriors and 50 hounds in their wake. All the more terrifying as if to paint why the creature had to be stopped. The boar hunt was seen as one of ultimate skill, in some cases it was the initiation rite for the new chief…. if the stories are anything to go by, boars fought back!

Certainly, the Hero’s Portion was the prime cut of pork served at the feast to be given to the best warrior. The chief would take the next best, cementing that pork was the food of the chief and warrior classes before anyone else could have some. It is fitting then that boar imagery featured regularly on Celtic coins, weapons, altars, armour and even cauldrons.

The Boar hunt can be epitomised in the story of Culhwch and Olwen: Culhwch is charged by the terrible giant Ysbaddaden Pencaw (with no intention of these being possible so Culhwch cannot marry his daughter, Olwen) with many tasks. One of these was to hunt the dread boar, Twrch Trwyth, in order to obtain the razor and shears behind the creatures ears. Twrch Trwyth was a badass! Culhwch had to leave Wales for Ireland with King Arthur and a lot of his men in order to find him. Twrch Trwyth was kept for a time by Brigid along with two oxen, even in this form he was still fierce and ill-tempered (and responsible for some kind of weird demonic noises). Culhwch, Arthur and the men chased him around Ireland, back to Britain and Wales and after a huge fight resulting in the death of Twrch Trwyth’s piglets and plenty of Arthur’s forces the boar runs off into the sea. Turns out that Twrch Trwyth was actually a Chief who was turned into a boar for his wickedness, the same with his sons, yet was regarded chief of the otherworld boars. This entertained Teller no end as he quipped “I’ll still be a king even when I’m a boar, fuck you!” or something to that effect.

Bizarrely enough Culhwch’s name may have been an indication as to what his destiny held…. Culhwch’s name translates as “Pig-Run”!

In the Welsh tales, Gwydion after telling Math he will return with the pigs, goes to Pryderi with a band of travelling bards. Approaching Pryderi, Gwydion asks him for the pigs only for to be refused the request as they cannot be given until they are double their number. Gwydion then convinces Pryderi to exchange the pigs for twelve magnificent black and white horses, twelve magnificent white-breasted hounds and twelve magnificent golden shields as an exchange. The problem being that Gwydion had conjured up this illusion, which will last only a day. Pryderi pursues but was by Gwydion in single combat…. only Gwydion had used his magic once again to deceive so he could deliver the coup-de-gras. In this tale, the boar hunt is twisted into an act of cunning and deceit rather than skill. Certainly, this is an act of dishonour, resulting in the death of part of the three-fold Powerful Swineherd.

Also, the hero Diarmaid was fatally linked to the Boar he kills…. only to kill himself in the process as their lives were bound. The boar was in fact Diarmaid’s illegitimate half-brother who was magically changed into a boar by Roc, the boy’s father. Roc had been having an affair with Diarmaid’s mother and was shocked to see the boy flee a pair of hounds by going through Diarmaid’s father’s legs. In a moment of harboured jealousy, Diarmaid’s father began to crush the boy. Roc, using a magic wand turned the boy into a young boar-piglet and uttered a curse that the boy would grow into a fearsome vengeful boar and that Diarmaid would hunt him…. only to be killed by one of the bristles on the boars back. Bit harsh, especially when Roc could have used the wand to have healed his son instead of transmogrifying him.

So, forget turning people into toads, kids! Turning people into boars is where it’s at and this leads very well into the next part….

Shape-Shifting

Changing into other creatures is something that happened a lot in the old myths, the tale of Ceridwen and Gwion Bach, for e.g. has plenty of shape-shifting in it. In the tale: ‘The Sons of Tuirenn’, Cian shape-shifted into a pig, in order to escape his attack.

As we have seen, pigs and boars were a favourite creature to turn people into as punishment. Which implies an execution of sorts: their fate was to be killed in the hunt.

Twrch Trwyth was originally a king, but he and his sons were turned into boars for some unmentioned misdeeds. Despite being kept by Brigid, Herself, he still became the chief of the otherworld boars.

Gwydion, as punishment for both murdering Pyderi and for the rape of the maiden Goewin, was cursed into the form of a stag; along with his brother and accomplice, Gilfaethwy, a hind and they procreated. After that they were turned into a sow and a boar, repeating the cycle of bestial reproduction, taking turns on being male and female.

Madness

Speaking of shapeshifters, the wizard, Merlin, went mad for a time, the only creature he would talk to and with was a small piglet, to this pig, he shared his prophecy:

Listen, little pig,

Don’t sleep yet!

Rumours reach me

Of perjured chieftains,

And tight fisted farmers.

Soon, over the sea,

Shall come men in armour,

Two-faced men,

On armoured horses,

With destroying spears.

When that happens,

War will come,

Fields will be ploughed

But never reaped….

Listen, little pig,

Oh pig of Truth!

The Sybil has told me

A wondrous tale.

I predict a summer full of fury,

Treachery between brothers.

A pledge of peace will be required

From Gwynedd,

Seven hundred ships from Gynt

Blown in by the North wind.

In Aber Dyn they will confer.

Supposedly, this madness was brought on by grief, making Merlin live for a time in the woodlands where he would speak only to the animals he came across.

Why madness? The female pig can attack piglets in times of great stress, sometimes even eating them. According to Wikipedia, 50% of piglet deaths are caused by the mothering sow either attacking them or unintentionally crushing them. During these times of stress, perhaps people saw them as being mad…. another trait comparable to Humans.

In Conclusion

Both the Pig and the boar were seen in great esteem by our Celtic ancestors. They were respected for their fierce natures and strength. They were prized for their meat and fertility of litters. Neither was seen as a filthy, stupid animal The fact wild pigs and boars can have a negative effect on the land if they become too populous probably gave rise to descriptions of the destruction they supposedly brought with them. Hereby making an occasional cull of the species not only a necessity, but one to be seen as a test of strength, skill and courage.

As for the associations of the Otherworld, especially when the Boar was already native to Britain and Ireland, perhaps there is some truth in pigs being brought over, even if the memory had faded as to who this new breed came with. I think Anne Ross puts it best with her comment:

The favourite food of pigs is the acorn, and their passion for the fruit of this most venerated tree, the oak, must have increased their supernatural associations in the popular mind.”

Especially when we consider the oak as not only being revered, but was thought to represent the god Bilé, whose name means ‘Tree’, the consort of Danu. It was Bilé who brought the souls of the dead to Her.

Sources:

Books:

DAVIES, SIONED, The Mabinogion, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008.

ELLIS, PETER BERRESFORD, The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends, Constable & Robinson Ltd, London, 2002 ed.

GOMM, PHILLIP & STEPHANIE, The Drud Animal Oracle Deck, Illustrated by Bill Worthington, Connections Book Publishing Ltd, London 2005 ed.

HAMILTON, CLAIRE, Tales of the Celtic Bards: Myth and Music, O Books, Ropley, 2003.

MATTHEWS, JOHN, The Little Book of Athurian Wisdom, Element Books Ltd, Dorset, 1997 ed.

MATTHEWS, JOHN & CAITLIN, Celtic Myth and Legend: A definitive source book of magic, vision and lore- compiled, edited and translated by the Matthews, BCA, 2004 ed

ROSS, ANNE, Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and Tradition, Cardinal, London, 1974 ed.

Internet Links:

https://www.behindthename.com/name/ceridwen

https://www.ciwf.org.uk/farm-animals/pigs/

https://www.timelessmyths.com/arthurian/merlin.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceridwen

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig

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A Cardinal Point

It’s been a week since ‘The Beast From the East’ hit Great Britain and Ireland. When I was originally typing this on Tuesday there wasn’t much evidence of the snow as it had either melted or had been washed away by the rain. Only sludge remained. Now, it’s completely gone.

Now, it’s not often we get snow in our country anymore. At least, nothing thick or what you would call ‘Proper Snow’. I remember as a kid back in the 1980’s of trying to build an igloo with my cousins, or even school being cancelled because the teachers couldn’t get there….. last week’s snow was a rarity.

In both Modern Druidry and the Western Magical Tradition the Cardinal Directions of the ceremonial circle are often associated with the following Alchemical Elements and a season:

East: Air (Spring)

South: Fire (Summer)

West: Water (Autumn)

North: Earth (Winter).

For those already familiar with this, so far so ordinary, right? Let me offer an alternative angle…..

Surely it makes more sense to have the element of water to go with Winter and for the element of earth to go with Autumn? At Autumn, that’s when it’s all about harvesting fruit and vegetables from the plants and the ground, right? Then there’s the leaves falling to the earth, that will then become mulch. You can even smell the decomposition.

At Winter, there is rain, fog, frost, snow and ice. There was even icicles last week, I haven’t seen icicles in decades! Also, for the Celts, water and fog were seen as portals to the Otherworld. As well as being a time of hardship and difficulty, Winter would have been a season when not everyone would have survived until snowmelt. Supposedly, the Gallic name for February translated as “The Month when no one travels.” ….. because the snow would have made it hazardous to trade. And if you were caught out in a blizzard and couldn’t find your way……

Ah, but Locksley, what are you saying? Have you not considered the geographical settings: the warm winds of the East, the warmer it gets the farther South you go, the Atlantic ocean to the west and the highlands of Scotland to the North?

Yes, yes of course I have, but let’s not forget that the Cardinal Points in this respect are flexible to the physical geography around them, too. Posing a question about this to my Grove-mates, Strider revealed he had attended a ceremony where the traditional elements of East and West were swapped around. Going one further, he suggested the directions of the Lincolnshire coast could go something like this: West as Earth (The Wolds, North as air (sky in this case) and East as water (the sea).

Either way, this all goes to show if a ritualistic act is going to be nature based, then it should be organically changed to suit the local environment.

Link to Part 2: The Fabulous Four Cities of the Tuatha Dè Danaan

Midwinter Solstice 2017- Lessons from the dark

I was going to put the ‘Yule’ chapter of my Wheel of the Year series as this festival’s entry, but it needs one hell of a re-write and, quite frankly, I’m not in the mood to rewrite pages of material.

Thursday marked the Winter Solstice and it was a dark, damp cloudy day. I was inspired! I wrote a piece for all my friends in Facebook land, I like to spread hope where I can.

Light, dark, balance is what counts. Lean too much towards the former and we see everything with rose-tinted glasses. There is no wrong in the world. Ignorance is bliss. Lean too much towards the latter and, well, there is everything wrong with the world.

I managed to get out of the house to take a walk in Highfields Park, just outside of Beeston, Notts. Although by the time I got there, the sun had already set and dusk would soon give way to night. This reminded me of the Owl card that I had drawn at the beginning of 2017. The concept of ‘Owl Time‘ was not lost on me.

Realising I was rushing through. I stopped and took in 9 deep breaths and closing my eyes. After that, I heard the sound of something in the lake. I turned and found a whole group of ducks swimming by the side of the man in the wheelchair being pushed by another. The ducks recognised him and were expecting to be fed…. their disappointment was evident when they started waddling along the embankment and quacking amongst themselves. A black bird with a white bill and stripe on its forehead ‘Pinged’ at the ducks. The scene was reminiscent of a uniformed official trying to keep order of loud football fans and the fans ignoring him as they pass him by.

Later, as I walked, it was getting darker but I could see to my right two white specks moving uphill. Two hares making their way. Do hares hibernate? I didn’t think so.

I went onto the small island where, surrounded by six tall Yew trees, I performed my ‘Five Senses Meditation’. By now it was dark and yet through the clouds, I could see cracks of a lighter sky. Night had not yet fallen.

Going to the lakeside, I made sure I wasn’t giving a false impression to the ducks (no snacks from this two-legged who didn’t think to bring munchies for the birds), bent down toward the water and held my right hand over the surface. Here, I gave my respects to the Lady of the Lake. When I was done, my hand was warm. And it was time to go home to perform my Ovate ceremony to greet the Solstice.

On my way home, I could see a clearing in the clouds getting larger until I reached my front door and the clearing revealed the sky as a teal-greeny-blue, right on the clock as the Solstice begun.

I came away from the park with these two lessons:

The importance of stillness.

There is always life, both in winter and the dark.

And as I was performing my personal ceremony, I was taken by Awen as I said out aloud and made the following observations :

In the dark, there is rest.

In the dark, there is the hidden.

In the dark, there is fear.

With fear, you can either run, do nothing, or take a stand.

Sometimes we must run, there is nothing wrong with a tactical retreat to fight another day. Sometimes we can do nothing but let the threat pass over. But there comes a time when we cannot run and we cannot do nothing and we must make a stand.

I said out aloud my fear and decided to take it on with the lesson I have gained from this year: Nothing is Accomplished Without Action. It was then the candle was lit.

Sure enough, the day after the Solstice was bright, the sky was clear and the sun shone with brilliance.

Merry Yuletide, one and all!

Samhain and Halloween are related… right?

The following post comes from my attempt at an unpublished book which I never completed. I thought I could use my chapters as blog posts instead. This was originally drafted in 2013, and my writing voice was different from what it is now. I’ve edited where I could, but I didn’t fancy re-writing approx 3000 words.

The wheel turns once more bringing with it the darkness stretched shadows and weakened light. Harvest has ended, the fallen leaves turning to mulch now begin to whiten with the first frosts of the oncoming winter. Depends on the year, the October of 2017 is quite a warm one. There are skeletal trees, but there are many that are golden, orange and red.

Both Halloween and Samhain bring to mind skeletal trees standing aloft the icy mists, dusky evenings and streetlights battling against the otherworldly fog…. although today has blue skies, sunlight and children wandering around in costume on this Saturday afternoon. Saying that, as my train goes through the Peak District and there’s the fog!

For many Modern Pagans, Samhain was, and still is, the festival marking the official end of the summer season and the beginning of winter. To the mainstream consciousness, ‘Hallowe’en’ is something celebrated by children at best and a load of “Mumbo-Jumbo” or “Devil Worship” at worst. Samhain and Halloween, two totally different festivals celebrated at the same time and yet one is the evolution, if not the descendant, of the other.

Samhain by the water?

Samhain, pronounced “sow-en” (as in ‘sow’, rhyming with ‘now’), comes from the Old Irish Sam (summer) and fuin (end) and there appears to be a difference between the Samhain of back then and what Samhain means today.
Dr Ann Ross hypothesises that Samhain was a celebratory festival that took place by a local lake by the tribe or even tribes that came together for this occasion.
Great feasts supposedly took place by the local water source (such as a lake, a well, a river or the sea) giving us a possibility that it may have been seen as honouring the local goddesses. It is known the Celtic people saw the local water source as the embodiment of the goddess, the water was considered her realm. This may have been the time for giving offerings to the local deities. Celtic practice did include giving up the spoils of war such as shields, spears, swords, loot, to the river, probably in thanks for the victory they achieved in battle. This practice also included decapitated heads of the losers of battle being offered to the waters. This would have made sense to a people who saw the soul residing in the head, and considering it was one of Bilé’s duties to usher the souls of the dead back to the Mother Goddess figure, Danu, then summer’s end would have been the perfect time to do so.

According to the old stories, such as ‘The Wasting Sickness of Cuchulainn’, Samhain is described as follows:

Every year the men of Ulster were accustomed to hold festival together;
And the time when they held it was for three days before Samhain, and for
Three days after that day, and upon Samhain itself.

It was a festival of trade, feasting, drinking, boasting and games of skill and combat. These activities are found in accounts and stories of Beltane and Lughnasadh; Samhain follows suit in that regards. Where it doesn’t is its name.
Unlike Beltane and Lughnasadh, Samhain wasn’t named after any specific deity such as Bel or Lugh. In that respect, it is similar to Imbolc in that the name of the festival is descriptive (“Summer End” and Imbolc’s “Ewe’s Milk”), however there is no association with any specific deity. Instead, the stories tell us of deities, monsters, shape-shifters and ‘fairy women’ who come from the mists to terrorise or enchant the local populace:

In ‘The Wasting Sickness of Cuchulainn’ during the Samhain festival, Cuchulainn fails to catch one of the birds that come from the sky and everyone finds beautiful. To prove himself to his wife, Emer, he pursues two other beautiful birds that are held together by a red-gold chain as they fly over a lake. Failing in trying to catch them, Cuchulainn dreams of two women who curse him with a sickness for trying to attack them. Only for one of them to fall in love with him, problem being he already has a wife and the ‘fairy woman’ is married to Manannan Mac Lir, one of the Tuatha De Danaan!

The Dream of Angus’, tells of Angus Og, son of the Dagda, falling in love with a girl he dreams about. On his quest to find her, he discovers she is the daughter of another of the Tuatha De Danaan, Ethal Anbuail. He also finds that she turns into a swan for one year, then a girl the next. So, when he learns she will change into a swan that year at Samhain, he goes to the lake Loch Bél Dracon where he sees lots of swans (150 of them!) with silver and gold chains. He calls out the girl’s name, Caer, and when she comes forward in swan form, Angus turns into a swan also, before singing the song of sleeping as they fly away; beginning their elopement.

The ‘Agallamh na Senórach’ (Colloquy of the Ancients) contains a tale of the hero, Caoilte. Who, with his friends, goes to the Sidhe in order to heal an ailment. They won’t help him unless he kills three ravens that come from the Northern sea that come every Samhain and take three young boys with them.

The Scottish name for Samhain is ‘Samhuinn’, and is used as the setting for the story of ‘The Kelpie’. In this tale, a young shield-bearer called Donall, recounts the act of the Kelpie (sea dwelling creature that can change into either a horse or a handsome young man, either way its enchantment is powerful) taking all the cheiftain’s sons. Donall is sent to look for the one man who may help them, Dall, a blind man who has great wisdom. Dall tells Donall that at the midnight feast of Samhuinn, he shall go to the waters of the sea and pit his magic against the Kelpie to get the sons back. Meanwhile, the Kelpie has seduced Donall’s best friend, Dianaimh, but the spell is broken when she gazes upon the Kelpie’s true slimy, water-horse form. She says she will only go with the Kelpie if she releases the cheiftain’s sons (one of which was her brother). The Kelpie agrees but secretly makes a plan of his own. At the Samhuinn feast, the Kelpie comes and takes Dianaimh’s beautiful cousin into the sea with him. At the same time as this, Dall the Blind has gone to the sea by the castle and works his spell. The Kelpie frees the chieftain’s sons and keeps the vain, selfish girl as a slave in his under-sea kingdom, allowing the mortals to think that Dall’s “magic” was powerful indeed. Now, that’s ‘Trick or treat’ for you!

From the stories and tales, we can see the idea of Samhain being close to the Otherworld and the supernatural. If the stories actually contain a truth in the act of having the feast by a lake or the sea, then this is probably because water was seen as not only the realm of the goddess, but of the Otherworld. Usually, in Celtic myth, if water or an earth mound wasn’t the gateway to the Otherworld, then fog was. What is fog if not a form of water vapour? And in autumn and winter, the chill in the air does indeed bring fog and mist…

Apart from being an ideal time for telling stories of heroes, creatures and gods, Samhain must have also been the last great festival before the hardship of winter was to come. The harvest was already gathered and livestock that was surplus would have been killed for the good of the people. This might seem harsh, but back then when there was only a fire to keep away the cold, sustenance as well as shelter were vital for survival. Animals were not killed for the sport of it as much could be gained from its death: Meat to be cooked and salted, bones for tool handles, jewellery, drinking horns, the creatures fat used for candles and cooking with, fur and feathers for cloaks, bedding and clothes against the snow and ice, its skin used for leather for belts, clothes, shoes, shield decorations and armour. To our modern point of view this might seem brutal, but to our ancestors, it was a necessity as in winter, the cold could kill human and animal alike. And if you didn’t have enough grain to feed the excess cattle, better to use the spare animals than leave them to die of hunger and cold.

Bonfires at Blodmonath?

Coincidentally, the Anglo-Saxons shared in a celebration around the same time as Samhain, this was called ‘Blodmonath’ (Literally ‘Blood Month’) and consisted of ceremonially sacrificing the cattle for the purpose of provision and sustenance as given above. This took place in November and involved a ritualised version of animal slaughter and meat salting, with the head being given to the gods. As well the burial of these animal heads at the homestead, the Anglo-Saxons also lit bonfires; something that Modern Pagans have always ascribed to Samhain and the Celts.

Fire was (and is) seen as a deterrent for spirits of all kinds, whether they are the sprites and brownies of the woods and the home or the spirits of the dead.
There is a number of folk customs around Samhain to suggest that fire was important at this time of year. Obviously when at the end of summer and the beginning of winter, fire was a very useful thing to have. Though it is interesting to note that none of the Celtic stories above mention anything about fire playing a prime ritualistic or ceremonial feature.
Folk customs around Great Britain and Ireland are varied at the time of Samhain, not all revolve around fire, but the some do:

In Ireland, a cross made of sticks and straw called a ‘parshell’ was hung outside the entrance of people’s homes. This was meant to keep out the fairies and goblins from wreaking havoc in the homestead.

In Scotland, Sir James Frazer in his ‘The Golden Bough’ writes of a Highland custom with fires called ‘Samhnagan’, involving the burning of ferns and long grass stalks with tar.
Another tradition involves the collection of peat to make a fire for burning the burning of witches…. crikey!

He also writes of the Welsh Calan Gaef (Calends of winter) custom which happens at the same time as Samhain; this is called ‘Coel Coeth’ and involves the burning of a bonfire until it became ash. At this point each family member of the homestead places a white stone with their name attached, before going to bed. Apparently if any went missing, it meant that the individual whose stone disappeared would die before the next Halloween.

The above practices are mainly Halloween customs of the remaining Celtic lands from the past few hundred years. Though not strictly Samhain rites, there is still the element of the supernatural about them.

“Celtic New Year”

It is in Modern Paganism we find the god has now officially died. The Goddess retreats, carrying the new god within her womb until his birth/rebirth at midwinter. In this version, Samhain is seen as the ‘Celtic New Year’ and a time of ancestor worship as Pagans use this time to say farewells to family members who have died in that year or simply get together to honour their ancestors and gods.
The ancestor part of Samhain actually comes from All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Unlike the traditional Samhain connections with the Otherworld, the focus of these Christian festivals is on the dead. The Catholic emphasis was of ensuring the souls of the dead could move on from purgatory to Heaven, often enacted with the burning of fires or straw to help guide the souls of their departed loved ones.
At some point, every culture has a form of recognising the ancestors. For Samhain, is it a kind of “Chicken and Egg” scenario? who venerated their ancestors first? the Pagan Celts? the Christian Britons? Or did the Christians begin honouring their dead because the old associations with the Otherworld and Unearthly beings became seen as something “evil”, or at least ‘Non-Christian?’

And what of the ‘Celtic New Year?’ According to Ronald Hutton in his ‘Stations of the Sun’:

…the philologist Sir John Rhys, who suggested that it (Samhain) had
been the ‘Celtic’ New Year. He had not documented this from early
records, but inferred it from contemporary folklore in Wales and
Ireland, which he felt to be full of Hallowe’en customs associated
with new beginnings.

Hutton also reveals that Frazer expanded on this idea as the ‘Celtic feast of the dead’.
Indeed, in the classical Samhain, there is no mention of the festival having anything to do with the New Year, Celtic or otherwise.
One argument for this could lie in the fact that the Celts counted their days at night and their months on the New Moon (as in the dark phase of the Moon, not the first crescent it is considered now). If this model has been interpreted correctly then it would make sense for the ‘New Year’ to be placed in the beginning of the dark half of the year. Truth is, we don’t really know.

The modern Samhain accepts the classic idea of the ‘veil being thin’ between our world and, in this case, the world of the dead. For Modern Pagans it is a night of honouring the ancestors, even saying goodbye to those family members and even pets who had died in the year. There are many ways of doing this, some give out litanies of those who they want to acknowledge, others give offerings of food and drink. Some even honour the Cailleach (Hooded One, or Hag), the Celtic Dark Mother who is seen as the personification of Death and winter. She has been compared with the Crone aspect of the Goddess in the Western Magical Traditions, along with Cerridwen and Hecate.
Because of the associations of ‘between the veil’, Samhain is now recognised as a time for performing divination magic. Of course this varies a lot, whether its using Tarot cards, runes, pendulums, tea-leaves, even simply watching the dancing of the flames of a bonfire. There is often a ritual or prayer to deity, an offering of incense before the divinatory rite is held. The stereotype here is that witches call upon demons or the spirits of the dead to do their bidding. The reality is actually of reverence, not enforced servitude; spirits and deities are invited to come forward and give any advice should they wish to do so. Once the rite is over they are politely dismissed, or invited to stay and enjoy the energy of friendship and joy, leaving in their own time before the night is done.

So, aren’t Samhain and Halloween just the same thing?

The answer is both ‘no’ and ‘yes’. Samhain, in its classical version, as we have explored, was seen as a time when Otherworldy beings would become more active and prevalent, as if the transition from late summer to early winter created a sort of ‘doorway’ for spirits, fey people and even the deities to come and interact with the mortal realm. It wasn’t until the advent of Christianity the focus changed from one of a time of mystery to a time of honouring the dead.
Even then there are two festivals: All Hallows Eve, a festival for honouring the saints of the Roman Catholic pantheon, which in time became abridged to the shortened name ‘Halloween’. The second is All Soul’s Day, where fires used to be lit and prayers sung to guide the souls of everyone who wasn’t a saint out of Purgatory and into Heaven.
The bonfires (which may or may not have come from Pagan practice) were then employed to drive away the spirits and devils that were believed to be active at this time. In this regard, Samhain and Halloween are similar as the focus is on the supernatural and protecting people from it.
I still remember when I used to go to church and was horrified to learn they didn’t “Do Halloween”, but they did burn a bonfire for All Hallow’s Eve with the intention of driving away malignant spirits and demons.
Being a Catholic tradition, Halloween would have been taken in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries with the immigrants from Scotland and Ireland to America where it intermingled with another celebration: Dias De Los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. This is another Catholic practice, although mixed with Native American culture of the Aztecs. They believed the journey to their Underworld was a dangerous one, their gods only letting them pass with bribes. When the Spanish Catholics came, they condensed the two month festival into All Hallows and All Souls. This became Dias De Los Muertos and is celebrated for the spirits of children with candy skulls, toys and gifts. The Adult version honours the deceased with alcohol and tobacco. Both have the motif of skulls and skeletons, possibly stemming from the ‘Danse Macabre’ artwork popular in Europe around the Sixteenth to Eighteenth centuries.
It is quite easy to see how in the America’s, the Latino ‘Day of the Dead’ and the Celtic Halloween became entwined. Both were Christian festivals heavily influenced from native traditions and became festivals in their own right. Within the Twentieth Century, Halloween had become something else: it became a night for costumes and playful horror. By the time it returned to our part of the world, here in Great Britain and Ireland, Halloween became a night for dressing up ourselves as well as our homes. Folk traditions of children dressing up on All Hallows Eve with costumes and masks painted, speaking in silly voices so neighbours had to guess their identity have given way to costumes of ghosts, vampires, witches and now space aliens and pirates!
Even today, Halloween has kept some of the old influences; apple bobbing, for instance, now a game for children was originally a mild form of love divination. Originally, apples were filled with a slip of paper onto which a message would be written such as “Your love will be true” or “He will be handsome yet penniless”. Young ladies would still have to ‘bob’ their heads into the water to retrieve the apple without the use of their hands, however. In fact, a lot of the Halloween superstitions are concerned with young ladies finding out the identities of their future spouses whether gained by peeling an apple skin whole to reveal their true love’s initial, divining what kind of man they will marry by pulling out a cabbage stalk, or even combing one’s hair in front of a mirror at midnight by candle light was said to reveal the face of their future love in the mirror as though standing behind them!

In conclusion…

From (classical) Samhain we gained a time of the supernatural, which then went then became folk traditions of protection and divination. The old stories seem to paint a picture of Samhain being a feast or event taking place by the waters, whereas fire (Christian or not) was also a social hub for people to gather. The Christian element of respecting the dead has now gone full circle, Halloween is about keeping back the monsters. The Modern Samhain draws from a Catholic background with a Celtic flavour, but at the same time has links to traditions that aren’t necessarily Christian. This is why, of all the eight festivals in the Wheel of the Year, I would suggest that if Halloween isn’t the descendant of Samhain, then it is certainly its evolution. Whether Modern Pagans like it or not, Samhain today, with its focus on ancestor worship is not the Samhain of the past; with its physical games, tournaments and slaughter of cattle.

Bibliography

http://m.dictionary.com/etymology/samhain?linkid=8uxrdf&srcpage=definition&site=dictwap

Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain, CARDINAL Edition, Sphere Books, London, 1974.

Peter Berresford Ellis, A Brief History of the Druids, Constable & Robinson Ltd, London, 2002.

Ancient Irish Tales edited by T.P. Cross and C.H. Slover, 1936 used in the book: Celtic Myths, Celtic Legends, R.J. Stewart, BCA, London, 1994.

Peter Berresford Ellis, The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths And Legends, Constable & Robinson Ltd, London, reprinted 2002.

Gale R. Owen, Rites and Religions of the Anglo-Saxons, Barnes & Noble, Inc., New York, Reprinted 1996.

Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Re-issued 2001.

Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, Hertfordshire, 1993 edition.

David Clarke, Strange South Yorkshire: Myth and Magic in the Valley of the Don, Sigma Leisure, Wilmslow, Chesire, 1994.

Jennifer Cole, Ceremonies of the Seasons, Exploring and Celebrating Nature’s Eternal Cycles, Duncan Baird Publishers Ltd, London, 2007.

Anon. The Complete Book of Fortune: The Secrets of the Past, Present & Future Revealed, Blaketon Hall Ltd, Exeter, 1988.

Why perform ritual? 

“Do you perform it for their glory, or for yours?” Was the question that popped into my head as I poured the water from Monday’s ceremony into the kitchen plant. 

    A slight rewording from the question posed to Dr. Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but an effective one nonetheless. 

    That previous night had me perform a personal meditation in order to find an answer to something I was thinking through.  Well, more accurately, the meditation was the middle bit of my ceremony (to my fellow members of the Grove who wanted to know how it is I can recall the words by rote….. This is how).  And to perform the meditations and visualisations I use without the ceremonial bits feels…. Naked.

    This is how I do it: 

    1. Peace to the quarters.
    2. Cast the circle.
    3. Bless the circle with fire and water.
    4. Prayer to deity or deities.
    5. Awens.
    6. Middle bit.
    7. ‘Hour of recall….’
    8. Thanks to Deity.
    9. Uncast the circle.
    10. Declaration of the end of ceremony. 

        It’s mainly based on the general OBOD ceremonies, but I have found the form that works for me.  No flowers though.  Can’t be doing with taking from the plant realm for the sake of aesthetics!

          The Order encourages members to try things out and see how things work for them, even saying to stop something if it doesn’t work for you.  I have kept the above as it works for me.  Some of the wording is different and the words I say to deity are my own. 

        The ritual water I give to the household plants, a way of giving back and not wasting what was taken.

        There was a time I would perform this every day, and even though it did calm my being, I became stifled with the repetition.  So now, I like to do it with meaning, the ritual bringing calm and satisfaction to myself as well as honour and communication to those that are listening.  

        Do I do it for their glory?  Not really, as I have other personal rituals for giving thanks and honour.

        Do I do it for my glory?  Perhaps.  But when I perform the ceremony it isn’t for glory, it is a series of repetitious actions that allow me to enter a certain level of consciousness that allows me to find a stillness.  This stillness can be used to calm my fiery temperament, to gain insight or inspiration.  

        And even if there is no one in the ether, the ceremony still serves it’s purpose. 

        “There are FOUR lights!” Pic by Locksley2010.

        The Masculine Principle in Paganism- Part 3: The Life Force

         

        yin-yang-symbol-variant_318-50138

         

        The Life Force is what is in each one of us; it is in all living things.  Not just animals and plants, but down to our cells and all of them reproduce.  They pass on what they are to the next generation, or in some cases, simply replicate each other.  I could have just labelled this particular post as ‘Sexuality’ but that’s not just what this post is about.  Ok, I lied.  It is!

        When talking about the Life Force as procreation, most species do require male and female parts in order to procreate.  There are other species that do not.  Cells replicate their DNA asexually, as does bacteria.  Some species such Earthworms are hermaphrodites, beings that don’t require sexual partners because their biology enables them to create their own offspring.

        For the sake of this blog series, I shall be referring to the Human Condition, already aware of how complex that already is.  Yes we as a species require a sperm and egg to fertilise in order to reproduce, but not everyone who is born identifies with the simple male and female categorisations.  It does indeed appear that the Human Condition is not as binary as we originally thought, but does need binary Humans in order for the Human Race to continue.

        And reproduction was seen as the basic manifestation of the Life Force.  The model of Sky Father and Mother Earth for example is something that was big in olden times.  The sunlight and rain make the Earth fertile and grow millions of flora and fauna, feeding and housing countless species around us.  Interesting then that in some cultures the Sun is seen as female (The Irish name for the sun is Grian, a feminine word.  The Norse mythology has the sun and moon as sister and brother respectively as Sol and Mani.  In the Japanese Shinto it is the deity Amaterasu).  To counter this, some Neolithic monoliths have phallic features carved into the rock, the phallus of the earth pointing to the impregnable sky.

        We also see this in ancient statues, the Venus type, for example showing the round image of a pregnant woman.  In some cases images like these were carved to include phallic shape in order emphasise the male parts + female parts = life.

        Ain Sakhri Lovers
        Two lovers carved into a phallic object, the Ain Sakhri Lovers

         

        Ritual & Magic:

        In the Western Magical Tradition, this union of masculine and feminine energies is one of the most powerful acts of magic.  The act of placing the wand into the chalice is extremely symbolic of the penis entering the vagina in order to create a magical outcome.  Not every magical act requires this as there are thousands of ways to make a spell without any sexual connotations or symbols.  That’s right, faithful reader, anyone who practices magic isn’t just going around shagging everyone and nor should they.  Sex can be used in magic with consenting adults or just between a couple and not just limited to heterosexuals.

        Modern Paganism is filled, saturated even with sexual celebration, even if only metaphorically.  The ceremonial wheel of the year, for example, sees The Goddess bloom until the God has grown into adulthood, they marry and have sex as the Summer goes on until the God begins to wither and dies as Autumn turns to Winter, the Goddess gives birth during Midwinter after which she takes on her Crone aspect until she is reinvigorated at Spring.  The Modern Pagan version of Beltane would have us believe that May is a time of sexual awakening and the whole of summer is about the celebration of the growing energy in our part of the world.  This, despite that Human Beings don’t have a set mating season, but it’s all in the cosmology and symbolism of the Modern Pagan view of the awakening world around them.

        Of course not all Pagan spirituality follows this imagery as there are different paths and interpretations of the seasons.

        This imagery happens once again in the relatively recent personification of the Green Man entering his Oak (another phallic device, just think of the shape of an acorn) phase and as Spring grows into Summer he brings his Life Force into that of the Earth so everything comes alive.

        The Elements

        Even in the Alchemical Elements we have examples of the Life Force split into masculine and feminine in the energies of Air, Fire Water and Earth.  This is most regularly seen in the Tarot:

        Air:  Masculine:  Represented by the Swords, a piercing (phallic?) device with warlike connotations.  The realm of air is normally associated with logic, thought and ideas.  Supposedly these are the traits of the intellectual MAN.

        Fire: Masculine:  Represented by the Staff or the Wands.  A more obvious phallic device, especially when the fiery qualities of dynamism, determination, passion are thought of as traits of MAN.

        The staff has more phallic imagery behind it when we identify Bile (Tree) as being the name of the Irish father-god, the consort of the watery mother-goddess Danu.

        Water: Feminine:  Represented by the Cups or Cauldron.  The watery world of emotions, of dream, of the heart has been assigned to the qualities of WOMAN.  The Cup has been used as a device of the vulva and the Cauldron as the womb.

        Earth: Feminine:  Represented by the Stones, Coins or Pentacles, although not sexual in imagery, the stone is symbolic of the Land.  And with the land comes Sovereignty.  Mother Nature, the Mother of All: She gives and she takes.   This is the realm of the physical; the malleable and tactile.

        Interestingly, given the masculine attributes of the symbol of the sword it is in Arthurian Legend we find the sword as being temporarily given to man.  It is loaned from the Lady of the Lake and must be returned before the user dies.  The sword known as Excalibur originally came with a scabbard (vaginal device?) which protected the user from harm, but this was stolen from Arthur by Morgana La Fey.  In the story of Balin and Balan, a sword of power was drawn by Balin, a knight of Arthur and Camelot.   He was supposed to give it back to the Lady of the Lake, but in his hubris he kept it and beheaded her!  His life was then cursed until both he and his brother died fighting each other.  A prime example of the Masculine Principle being too out of flow with the Life Force and not heeding the request of giving the power back to its source, the feminine.

        Being a part of the Arthurian world, which takes its themes from the Celtic myths and legends that came before, the Lady of the Lake not only represents the Divine Feminine, she is also the Goddess and guardian of Sovereignty.  In the Celtic stories, Sovereignty could only be passed on to the chief by the Goddess.  In other words, it could not be taken, the women chose the men to give it to!

        Ultimately, when talking about the Alchemical Elements, Air, Fire, Water, Earth or even the universe itself:  Planet Earth, the moon, the sun, planets, stars….. None of these have gender.  It is only us, the Human Beings that assign such things to them.  Yes, it is fascinating when different cultures have different names for the sun or even different genders for it, but at the end of it all it is a great big star in our sky.

        What we have to bear in mind here is that this particular system of Masculine and Feminine energies became widespread among the known world during  medieval times, of which the mindset was utilised by the Church and saw Masculine as dominant and the Feminine as submissive.  Because my main spiritual focus is of the Pre-Christian peoples of this land, I can share that they saw things differently.  Both men and women could be chiefs and warriors and they could also be hunters and Druids.  Quite often in the old tales, it was the women who would initiate courtship or sexual relations.  Even the gods shared similar powers but there is one thing women could do that men could not: bear children.  For that reason alone, for the mothering of future generations, can we see why the Celts traced their blood through their mothers?  As previously mentioned, women could give their sovereignty to a man of their choosing making him chief.  Indeed, it was normal for the chief to marry the goddess of their land.  This was an act that our Celtic ancestors shared with our Germanic ones.  Our Germanic ancestors even had a magic called Seidr which was said to be for women only.  It involved speaking to the ancestors, healing and divination and was priestess led.  It was considered taboo for a man to learn this and any man who did was considered feminine.  Curiously enough, Odin, the Germanic All-Father god in his quest for wisdom learned this.   I am no expert when it comes to the Germanic lore, and if I have got this wrong, then that is my own ignorance.

        So what have we learned about the Masculine Principle in the Life-Force? According to this particular paradigm, it is but one part of a whole in our species.  The example of Balin shows what happens when the Masculine Principle becomes too dominant, it becomes aggressive.  Without the temperance and sustaining rationale of the Feminine Principle to balance the cold, hard logic and powerful dynamism, it becomes destructive and harmful.  One half is needed to balance the other, without both halves, the whole dies out.  Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the idea.

        Cormac had already lost his wife and children to The Stranger who had exacted his price, it wasn’t just his woman or his legacy that he had lost; it was what completed him.  His reason to keep going, his cause to be the best chief he could be.  Yes, he had material wealth, but what is that without his family to share with?  Only too late did he learn this, and so he went in search of them.  Not just in a rescue, but a quest.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

        Wisdom or Cliché?

        Templeofapollogtp.gr

        Image of Temple of Apollo from gtp.gr

        I recently read a blog writing about two phrases that are often parroted in modern Pagan writings.  I first came across these in my early and mid twenties and was interested by one and confused by the other. You will have come across these many times, they might mean something to you or they won’t.  But if you’ve read any blogs or books, magazines about Paganism, Occultism, New Age Philosophy, you will have encountered them:

        Know Thy Self”

        And…

        ” As Above, So Below

        I looked at them and thought to myself ‘Wow, are we still using those?” I’ll admit to being a bit jaded when I see those quotes.  It’s not so much that I don’t like them, but feel that they are often over used in forums and articles alike.  Y’know? Like a really good song with too much air time.

        What I do like about them is that for those who first come across them, they are inspirational! I mean ‘Know Thy Self’ Man! That’s deep! The phrase from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi (Used as a sign in the kitchen of the Oracle in The Matrix- Oracle of Delphi- gettit?) That challenges YOU to KNOW who YOU are.  Yet how many of us do?
        How many of us look at that phrase and actually, really examine ourselves? We are complicated meat-bags walking around with emotions and thoughts, feelings and beliefs.  But how many of ourselves actually know ourselves?

        To know yourself is to know where you come from: your background, your childhood, your parents or guardians, the environment you came from, the education you received (and what it did or didn’t do for you), the beliefs you found or were indoctrinated with.

        If you believe in anything, to know yourself is to challenge what those beliefs are to you, constantly.  How did you come to those beliefs, how did they shape you? Did you come by them yourself or were you taught? What do they mean to you now? Are they applicable to who you are anymore?

        To know yourself is to see all your strong points and accept them.  It is to also know what your weak points are and accept them too.  And if you don’t like them, what do you need to do to change them?  What are your limits? Why do you dislike something? What inspires you? What do you dream?

        To know your self is to be completely honest with yourself.  It’s no good if all you are doing is painting an image of the person you want to be or the person you are not.

        Deep huh?

        One of the things I love about studying the Bardic course in the OBOD Gwers is that you learn to know yourself before you can proceed to the Ovate and Druid grades.  Because how can you explore the deeper mysteries if you don’t understand the deepest of mysteries…. You.

        And then we go onto: “As Above, So Below” When I first saw that I eloquently came out with: ‘What the fuck does that even mean?’
        This only made sense to me if you look at it in terms of the weather: rain makes things wet or floods.  Snow clouds making the ground whiter and whiter, a sunny day makes for dry land and thriving plants, etc….
        This phrase apparently comes from the writings of Hermes Trismegistus and even then is supposedly part of what he wrote:

        That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing“*

        Yes, I’m quoting Wikipedia but only because it provides the source of that translation.
        I’d love to know more about that and also about to what Trismegistus meant by the ‘One Thing’. Creation? Life on Earth? Ponder, ponder ponder……
        It’s an absolute wonder that our planet generates its own electromagnetic field to protect its multitude of life forms from the solar radiation of our Sun.  From the collection of dust and rock of the ‘Above’ has the ‘Below’ been created.

        I’m sure there are very deep insights you can gain from either quote and when used for inspiration they do exactly that.

        Writing this post, I am very aware that I have indeed just created another article featuring both phrases.  Well at least I didn’t mention ‘Microcosm’/’Macrocosm’…… Doh!

        * https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermeticism