“[A] symptom of enlightenment is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous.” (Deepak Chopra)
A Common Hex Sign Design–Anybody from 9WK see what I see? Am I making it up?
I have pagan kin crawling out of the woodwork again. Over the past week, I’ve uncovered two more pagan cousins–or they uncovered me–or we uncovered each other, I donno.
The first and his wife live near Chicago where we all grew up together. Well, he grew up with my older brothers and sisters. I lagged them all by a decade. They are biker-folk who make chainmail jewelry; how entirely cool is that? They were on to me when I posted a friend’s Ostara eggs on FB. I was on to them when I saw their jewelry–nothing specific, just an inking. This was confirmed when I saw a necklace with a spiral goddess pendant. I popped him a PM on FB and that was that. One of few cousins close enough to still call me names like “Squirt” and “Shrimp,” he teased me: “We aren’t exactly in the closet about it.”
How do I keep missing this? Is it too close to home for me to pick up on the signals? I wish I had known sooner. I mean, growing up thinking I was “the only one” in my whole family was tense.
What I find most magical about all this is that during our Midsummer faining I honored my uncle “Jimmy,” this cousin’s late-papa. For no particular reason, just because I was thinking about my uncle who I loved so well. And then-pow-here’s a pagan cousin to play with. That’s how gebo works for sho!
In the last couple years I’ve learned that plenty of my kin are old-time root workers. Yes, yes–Hoodoo is predominantly Christian, but still. It would have been good to learn more than “how to play an excellent prank” from these folk. All that “Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, knowwhatImean, knowwhatImean, saynomore, saynomore,” was lost on me. Or was it? Maybe the things I seem to know out of the blue are actually memories of things I learned and didn’t realize I was learning.
Wash the floor. Paint the fence. Wax the car.
Makes sense. We learn best by just doing.
Let me throw some Old Testament scripture at you, ones my mother always favored, and see if they stick to this narrative.
- “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV.)
- “But if it doesn’t please you to worship [Y**H], choose for yourselves today the one you will worship: the gods your fathers worshiped . . . . As for me and my family, we will worship [Y**H].” (Joshua 24:15, Holman Christian Standard Bible, 2009.)
- “Impress [religious beliefs] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9, NIV.)
I keep thinking about these verses and the idea that Theodish heathen folk wanted more than anything to be reincarnated back into their own tribes. There was nothing worse than to die and be forever bereft from one’s folk. I’m starting to feel like the more I learn about my ancestors, the more I learn about my religious path. Like they go hand in hand. And that path? It’s not Christian. I feel as thought it is my ancestry that is bound to my hands and forehead and doorframe and gate–that I have chosen the gods of my “fathers” and that, in subtleties, my parents and aunts and uncles trained me up in the way I should go. Because the further I go down this path, the more I find that it’s an old path.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NIV.)
Here’s the part where I tell you a bifurcated story that is related in my head and I just hope that I can translate that relation into your head.
Last weekend I was sitting on the porch with the husband and a student. We were talking about some sad cockadoody that has befallen a few of the pagan groups in the area. We concluded that some bad-crafter had slung some shite and it stuck where it could. It turns out that one of the people was a lot less practiced than we originally believed and another was a lot less ethical than we originally believed. The third–well, we’ve got their number. Always have. Anyway, I said something like, “With all of these folks getting caught with their drawers down it makes you wonder about the strength of their wards. For some namby-pamby bitchcraft to hit them like a ton of bricks,you have to wonder if they really know what they’re doing.” Then it happened. I continued, “I guess since we are totally unphased by all this, that must attest to the fact that I am the real-deal and that we are doing good work here.” I didn’t mean it as a boast. It was actually a realizing-something-and-saying-it-out-loud sort of thing. All of those years spent wearing the guise of The Bad Witch has taken a toll on my self-confidence.
Add to that. I’ve been making the “syllabus” for next year’s magical training session. I’ve had these folks in my tutelage for almost a year now.[3b] And I keep wondering when I’m going to feel “caught up.” I keep teaching them things and thinking “there’s so much more!” I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what I want to teach them. But I can’t. Like the Sufi teacher Idries Shah said, “Enlightenment must come little by little – otherwise it would overwhelm.” I kinda want to Vulcan Mind Meld them so that we can all be on the same page. But then again, I wouldn’t do that to anyone–all that initiation at once? That’s just cruel.
As it turns out, at every turn, I am stockpiling more confidence in myself and my work as “the real deal.”[3c] And once again, I am excited to be taking a new turn in this ever winding path toward spiritual enlightenment. As Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh wrote: “One thing: you have to walk, and create the way by your walking; you will not find a ready-made path. . . . You will have to create the path by walking yourself; the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you.” I find that I have family entrenched in the practices I’ve been piecing together from former training, from new scholarship, and from personal gnosis. The path isn’t ready made–but it’s not as untrodden as I feared. You see, not only does it turn out that I have relatives who study “shamanism,” relatives that do root work, relatives that run covens, relatives that (gee, I don’t even know what their practice is yet—the conversation is so new), I’ve just found out that I also have relatives that do something delightfully similar to what we do here at our hoff and ve.
When I started working with Bertie, one of the greatest attractions was that, among the South Side Irish, we had found kindred spirits from German ancestry. As far as I know, we are *not* related consanguineously; but our families traveled along the same route—hers picking up some Irish and Lithuanian along the way while mine picked up Norwegian, Dutch, Cherokee, and, with my momma, Scot and Creek.
Hang on to that info—it’s gonna come in handy.
Back in January 2012 I wrote a post about different kinds of heathenry and I said:
Urglaawe is new to me and I’m not sure how to pronounce it. But I think I likes it. It is. . .“a North American tradition within Heathenry and bears some affinity with other traditions related to historical Continental Germanic paganism [that] derives its core from the Deitsch healing practice of Braucherei, from Deitsch folklore and customs, and from other Germanic and Scandinavian sources. Urglaawe uses both the English and Deitsch languages.”
Deitsch, btw, is Pennsylvania Dutch.
My ancestors were New England Quakers, but derived from Bavarian Anabaptists or Hutterites and Palatine Mennonites. How they relate to the Dutch is a little beyond my (current) ken. [edited in:] I have since figured it out in great detail.
And since then, I’ve figured out even more.
- First, it’s oor-glow. Not glow like a glowing fire, but ow like damn, that hurt.
- Second, it’s Deitsch, not Dutch. We say Pennsylvania Dutch–but it’s German, as in Deutsch–only not.
- My ancestors were Quakers but none of those other things–they were “Fancy Dutch.” Who knew we started out Fancy!? I’ll explain that in a minute.
- I do have Dutch ancestry, but that’s purely coincidental.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
The hex symbol I made on a gut instinct back in October for my daughter’s rabbit’s “play-house.” You can read about it by clicking the image.
See also Jacob Zook’s: http://www.hexsigns.com/
This I knew: My ancestors come from a place called Oppau, in what was a Palatinate during the Palatinate Wars. They were anti-Catholic in a time when the RCC was trying to reestablish Catholic as the national religion in Germany. As a result, they jumped on William Penn’s coattails (via The Queen Ann) and headed to The New World. The settled in Germantown and lived there between 1732 and 1741 (at the latest) when the family moved to South Carolina.
This is new: Unlike many of their neighbors who were Old Tradition Mennonites, they were (this makes me giggle) Fancy Folk or Fancy Dutch. The Fancy Dutch are parallel to the Plain Dutch. “Plain Dutch” are those we associate with Kelly McGillis and Viggo Mortenson in Witness. Fancy Dutch are the Pow-Wow, Long Lost Friends folks–the ones who made/make the groovy hex-signs and get bad names from movies like Donald Southerland’s Apprentice to Murder (which I have pulled up in the next tab and plan to watch after I’m done here).
I new this part too: They lived there for about a decade after the Seven Years War , from which–according to a family historian–fallout made life untenable; they eventually settled for good in North Alabama where many, many, many of their descendants remain. My dad was there until he moved from NE AL to Chicago in the late 1950s. For over 200 years, my kin have lived in this little pocket of caves and lakes and mountains. It’s magical there.
A photo my daughter snapped at our visit to the family cemetery.
I was doing some straight-up non-deliberately-magic-related genealogy when I started talking to a third-cousin in New England. When I did that DNA test with Ancestry, I was put in touch with literally hundreds of second and third cousins and even more “distant cousins.”[4b] It’s crazy-cool. This cousin dropped a few hints about speilwerk. She didn’t call it that at first but eventually she used more overt words. It started with the word, “healing,” when we were talking about—of all things—gardening. When I heard that, I wanted someone to smack me with an obvious stick.
Then I mentioned the Vé and our harrow to Hella. She asked, “Holle?”
My heathen radar is currently dead broke, y’all.
Anyway, long story short we’ve talked about Urglaawe for three days via email and Skype. Since she doesn’t consider herself a teacher at all, she gave me a book list, a blog list, a video list, and a homework assignment. HA! If that’s not teaching . . .
At first she asked me about my tradition and when I tried explaining to her that it was a syncretic heathenry, she said, “Yes, so are we.” I asked how it was syncretized and she talked a lot about Algonquin “medicine.” (Waaaaaay cool.) It’s not exactly the same as what little I know about what I think is passed on from Muskogee (who can really know the answers to chicken-or-egg questions) but it’s damned close.
I said something like, “Well, we do, you know, what they call ‘shamanic’ stuff too.”
Then she taught me the word “braucherei”—turns out that’s almost *exactly* what Bertie taught me–but without all the cool Deitsch lingo. I’m kinda feeling embarrassed that I didn’t ever pursue this line of practice. Mainly because I mistook it for Amish-ness. I mean, I like electricity.
Then I mentioned my interest in hoodoo. “Oh, she said, so you are a Hoodoo Heathen!” An Urglaawe who moved to Appalachia and soaked up the red clay and mountains in her soul over eight generations? Yup. Hoodoo Heathenry.
Really it’s called “German Appalachian Folkways” by bookish folk, but who wouldn’t prefer to be called a Hoodoo Heathen? Oh, wait–my mom. Dad. Aunts. Uncles. Nevermind.
There’s sooooo much more to the story but I have to go do a parenting thing followed by a beer thing and that movie I have open in the next tab. As ever, I’ll let you know more as I go. Whatever you do–don’t let me forget to tell you about Urglawee version of The Wild Hunt. Those of you who celebrated Walpurgisnacht with me this past year will say, “No. Way.,” “Spot. On.,” and “Too. Cool.”
 That makes two friends who make legitimate chainmail.
 Or is it that I am looking for “Pagan signals” and when I see “family signals” and they look the same, I pass them off?
 Masons, I knew. Mason-jars? Hmmm. What was in all those “special” jars? My memory is that they look an awful lot like the mason jars in my winda’sill.
My current kitchen collection.
[3b] I’ve been teaching since 2008 but I’ve never had anyone stick around for more than their year-and-a-day. Not because we have a falling-out or because I don’t have more to offer. Just because, as it does in moments of initiation, their lives take turns that lead them away from my locale.
Right now I have one darling who is happily settled in Daphne; she and I spoke on the phone just this morning when she asked when I was going to go house hunting by her. Oooh, I’d love to be by water again. Believe it or not, one misses The Great Lakes. I have another who is watching the brouhaha in Brazil and sending me periodic texts to let me know he’s safe and that he’s found a Santerian mentor. Another who is entrenched in college life in FLA and not doing much more than advanced cellular biology. Of course there is the one that decided the pagan path was not hers and the boy who never writes home anymore.
[3c] It’s like when I first had my doctorate, I experienced what one of my teachers called “impostor syndrome.” I felt like I would be “found out” as a PhD poser. Then one day someone asked me a very technical question related to my specialism and I went on for a good while quoting folks and giving references and stating historical data right off the cuff. At that moment my confidence in myself as a gender theorist was born. That’s how it is now. I haven’t had many folks with whom I could spout *real* conversation points about paganism (in person, that is), so I could never test the waters, as they say. Finally it’s happening. And I am in my element.
 He moved back in the 90s and lives in NW AL now.
[4b] My family is huge; Mother is the youngest of 11 and Father is 5th of 22, yes he has 21 brothers and sisters (all live births, same parents, no twins, only one infant mortality).
 When I was learning German the teacher gave us gruesome children’s tales to translate. One of those was Frau Holle—a favorite. Look it up, it’s a common-enough archetype story. Like Cinderella—but with an underworld. Plus there’s the “good daughter” and “bad daughter” story line–the bad girl who ends up with her hair stuck to her head with pitch. Everything is coming back around to me now.
 Which is funny since I see “witchyness” wherever I look. We went to a bee-thing and I saw a tree branch and thought, “What a nice besom.” No. Just no.
 I made some sort of joke about going to pagan festivals and hawking our wares and the punch-line became “Hoodoo Hippy Heathens.”
 I had read this book by Gerald Milnes about Mountain sayings back in the day. Someone had given it to me with a book of Jeff Foxworthy jokes when I moved to Alabama. Turns out, he has another book: Signs, Cures, and Witchery: German Appalachian Folklore. She lent it to me on my Kindle.