Vouchsafing

“Love all, trust a few …” (W.S. All’s Well that Ends Well. 1.1.61.)

Article Photo for SAFE

While I realize that most Pagans in America practice in solitary, there are still a good number of folks that practice in groups: covens, kindred, tribes, groves, councils, etc. When we do this, we make ourselves vulnerable in a lot of ways. For this reason, many groups employ a policy of “vouchsafing.” (I’ll likely address the etymology of it at The Big Bad Words Blog.) This means that someone within the group meets newcomers to assure everyone’s welfare.[1] It helps everyone within the group feel comfortable with the newcomer and it guarantees that the newcomer is familiar with at least one person at the gathering—likely an unfamiliar experience.

This is on my mind because the last few weeks have included several opportunities to vouchsafe new attendees, an energy-packed ritual and gathering—which is our primary motivation for vouchsafing, and a notable increase in “Catfishing”—that which we vouchsafe to prevent.[2]

Firstly, the “Catfishing.” It’s odd how, periodically, we get upsurges of requests from clearly fabricated Facebook profiles. They tend to be brand-spankin’-new profiles with an obviously fictitious name, a photo that reeks of being stolen from some teenager’s Instagram attention-mongering or deviantArt mythical creature over-identification, no friends, no photos, and no other activities. Given the history we’ve experienced with cyber-stalkers and harassment, we are guarded. I like to think that these are truly well-meaning folks who are trying to establish a Pagan profile for networking; but I realize that at least a fraction of these are just silliness. They arrive daily for about two weeks and then cease for a few months, rinse, repeat. No harm is done, I just find it curious how they come in waves.

It was during one of these waves that we received a request to join us physically for Imbolc. It was the next week before we could meet someone who turned out to be what seems to be an absolutely perfect match for our group: academic and looking for solidly founded theology and practice, compassionate, and properly nerdy. It was the best case scenario.

safeThere have been situations where we have met with people requesting invitations to our events and have had to decline. A few times we have invited people and had to discontinue future invitations based on their behavior. Some people are simply unthewful (unethical), frithless (unfriendly), or simply unwilling to contribute to the group welfare in a meaningful way. But mostly, it is those people who act in such a way that makes the existing membership “creeped-out” that causes us to cease invitations. When we gather for “family dinner,” we let our hair down, let our defenses down, and hold nothing back from each other. When we do ritual-work together, we get ourselves into a spiritually vulnerable state; there’s no room for “the willies.” Not to mention nosey-bodies and lookie-loos. That’s never good.

seidrFor example, let me tell you about Imbolc in very general terms (to protect anonymity and all). We had three new attendees, two “significant-other” guests, and a non-member-repeat-attendee (that is to say he’s not new but he’s not a formal member—we call these “Friends of The Tribe”), as well as most of our regular members. The three new attendees as well as the significant others were vouchsafed by existing members of the tribe. We took responsibility for their guidance through protocols and ritual. But, the night took several weird turns. Almost right at the onset, we were called upon to do an emergency protection rite for one of our members. Watching a horde of Heathens hammer and hallow away in unison can be skeery to an outsider under any circumstances—when you add the fact that we are a seið-working group? If we had not vouchsafed these individuals and prepared them for what was happening, we could have done some psycho-spiritual damage to them on accident.

Add to that, our resident oracle did her thing and—of course—focused in on a newcomer. (Who had just been completely “opened up” by one of our Reiki Masters—all things work together even if we don’t know we are doing them, no?) Not on purpose, of course—we don’t get to pick and choose what messages come through, right? It was intense, far more intense and specific than usual. A bit of an initiation, you might say. Two other newcomers, a couple, sat in on the drum circle and had the opportunity to feel the energy we raise. Had they not known what they were getting into, this could have been, um, awkward. And, there is, yet another reason to make sure there is a contained and secure environment—you never know when a novice is going to tap into the ambient energy and spontaneously exhibit latent witchy abilities. I won’t go into that part of the evening except to say, I’m still finding glass.

I often felt apprehensive that we might be encouraging insularity or exclusivity with our policy of vouchsafing. But this recent experience has proven to me that all of the reasons for which we put the policy in place are valid.

And I’ve learned a subsidiary lesson. There is a limit to unknown variables that can be prudently merged into an existing spiritual-ecosystem before it becomes destabilized.[3] So—that means that not being able to vouchsafe the “absolutely perfect match for our group” until after Imbolc turned out to be the best case scenario—again.

As ever, I’ll let you know how Ostara goes.spindle2

 

[1] In our kindred bylaws, we state that, “If a potential attendee has never celebrated with us before, we insist on meeting with him/her in person before including him/her in a ritual event. If that isn’t feasible he/she will need to be vouchsafed (referred by a third party, someone known by the Kindred) before we will extend an invitation to attend a ritual event…. However, once a guest is welcomed they should be offered food and drink as well as all the comforts typically afforded a visitor.”

[2] Our Facebook page even has an Anti-“Catfishing” policy—here are the basics:

“Given the number of fabricated profiles that appear on social media and given the vulnerability we face on Pagan-related Facebook groups …. in order to keep a peaceful and nurturing atmosphere, free of unnecessary spectacle, we must vouchsafe those who would like to be part of our Facebook presence…. Anyone asking to be added … on Facebook must be a ‘known-person.’ This is to say that we must verify that there is an actual person of good intent behind the profile with which they request membership. While everyone is welcome in our kindred group, anyone who has an unknown or anonymous profile will need to be vouchsafed (referred by a known third party).”

[3] My estimate is somewhere around 10% of the total attendance. No kidding.

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Every Human Effort

I was having a conversation with a student about how I don’t really “do magic” as often as I used to. And that got me t’ruminating.

I was thinking, “Well, I don’t actually need to ‘do magic’ as often as I used to, because lately life just seems to iron everything out if I am patient.” Not always the way I expect that it will, but I really love the universe’s  ability to provide while employing the element of surprise.

Irony is often my favorite outcome.

But in the past few months, I have started to miss “doing magic.” Just the pure drama of outcomes. Then I remember the power of “pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result” and I shush. No need to start tossing all that energy around just out of boredom or impatience. Tends to water things down. And enough water can put out even the most vigorous blaze.

I don’t mean the “drive-by” kind of uncontrolled tossing all the papers out of somebody’s hands in the midst of an emotional snit-fit. I still do that from time to time, though far less frequently than I did in my youth–I try to keep a reign on it since that is simply *not cool* and it really diminishes the power behind actual magic.

I’ve always been of the (fairly traditional) mind that one does not simply “cast” for results unless one has exhausted every human effort to attain the thing in question. I have pissed off more than one client who came to me looking for a magical-quick-fix when I gave them the mandatory “to-do list” that accompanies my willing assistance. It might not fall under the category “unthewful,” but to me, it seems downright rude and fairly presumptuous to ask the universe to provide a thing through magical means if one is not willing to do some basic (and often, not-so-basic) tasks and lay out some human energy to attain the same ends.

I honestly get a kick out of those who say I must have no magical power because I have to resort to mundane work in order to make things happen. (Yup, it’s been said.) Thing is, I have grown to see “mundane” acts as potentially magical. You see, when I was younger, I observed each turn of the moon on my own and celebrated the turning of the wheel. There was a lot of ebb and flow in my first two-decades of serious occult investigation. (This is, aside from the first 17 years in a highly spiritual life–having been introduced to profound spirituality in early childhood.) When I hit my mid-30s, I also hit a stride of daily devotions and constant magical practice. Not so much “spell-casting,” but Ceremonial Magic. Around-about 2007 I began in earnest to make real magical practice and spiritual devotions a regular part of my everyday life; it took about nine-months to sink in, but it finally did. And now it just feels like breathing. Air: in and out. Ond, exchanging energy, letting it flow, building maegen. As natural and as simple (only not simple at all) as blowing out a candle-flame.

Thus, after five or six years of such constancy, I do not separate what I do in the garden, in the kitchen, or in the bedroom from what I do in the temple, in the hof, or at the harrow. My life has become my altar. Every act has become part of The Great Work. To me, nothing is supernatural–as they say, “Magic is just stuff science hasn’t made boring yet.” Don’t get me wrong, I believe in divinity. I just see The Divine and nature as symbiotic manifestations of the same. I only “work” or “cast” or “conjure” when I’ve exhausted every human effort–and I’m pretty inventive when it comes to exhaustion.

And I find that I don’t have to resort to pull-out-all-the-stops spell-casting anymore. Roads open (and close) as easily with well-timed phone calls and properly filed paperwork. Like a good helping of earth tossed on a campfire. The last year or so has only left me with the need to employ “crafted” spellwork for others–those under crossed conditions, those who need a response from an unforthcoming employer, those that need special protections, those that need, you know, stuff. I didn’t realize it while I was doing the early work, but now I understand that it is for these folks that I built up sacral gefrain (if I may coin a phrase to mean god-gefrain used for the benefit of those under one’s sacral leadership), so that I can work on behalf of those that need me–who need the benefits that derive from the years of work I have already done.

So, I retract my statement that “I don’t really ‘do magic’ as often as I used to” and assert that I (try to) do magic with my every act: those that employ public policy, those that employ technology, those that employ the legal system, those that employ established systems of commerce, etc. To those who would claim that “she must have no magical power because she has to resort to mundane work in order to make things happen,” I ask, “How small is your imagination?”

Waes hael!

 

PBP Week 30-31: O—Ordeals

I keep wanting to write a post about ordeal work in the heathen community (I tried a little herebut I keep finding that I don’t have anything to say.

That’s not true—I have lots to say. But I would never presume to interject myself or my views into the relationships of others and their gods. No matter how little those relationships resemble my experiences and ongoing relationships with gods who identify by the same names.

And I find that’s exactly what happens when heathens start talking about ordeal work: everyone wants to tell someone else that they are doing it wrong.

Instead, I thought I’d share some lovely art and odd images.[1]

swiped from yuleshamanism.com

“Odin Hanging on the World-Tree” from Franz Stassen, Illustrations for Die Edda (1920), found at germanicmythology.com/

 

Totally cool engraving of a god in a tree

Image from BME.com

The “thirsting dance” of the Plains people. nativesofcanada.tripod.com/

Vision quest of The Mandan people of North Dakota. freewebs.com/mandans/

The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan–caption intact. esask.uregina.ca

 

Michael Harkins “Computer Shaman” NYU–I don’t think the image is original, but the content on the page is pretty interesting if you want a basic textbook overview. http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/nature/harkins.htm

 

In the end, each of us has to tread the path laid before our own feet, no?

Waes thu hael,

E

 

 

pbp4

This post is part of a year-long project, The Pagan Blog Project, “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing your spiritual and magickal path. . . . Each week there is a specific prompt for you to work with in writing your post, a prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet . . . .” (http://paganblogproject/)


[1] I wanted to show some bodmod, but that got gruesome.

Niþing and Holmgang

I seem to be back to writing daily blog posts. It’s because I’ve been carrying all this around in my head all summer and finally have a chance to spit it out. Plus, I’m going through a thing: an ongoing domestic thing that has me living in my head. So I’m writing. A lot.

This past weekend, some of the kindred went to a beekeeping extravaganza together, followed by lunch and conversation. We mostly joked around but we did touch on something that I want to treat seriously for half-a-minute: beot, scop, skald, oathmaking/breaking, nīþing, and holmgang.

“Nidstang – A powerful curse: In the days when the runic knowledge was still alive, there was the curse Nidstang be extremely strong against the enemy. A rod that was about three feet high and was equipped with a horse’s skull, was erected against the sky direction in which the enemy was located. On the bar nasty insults and curses were inscribed in runic script and consecrated with blood ” (Translated from http://www.neuseddin.eu/nidstang.html).

The conversation started when we made some comments about last year’s sumbl and the break-out-beot in which we engaged. One kindred member admitted, “I haven’t been as fastidious at language-study as I said I would be.”

To this I teased, “Then we will have to nith you!”

In his defense, another said, “Don’t be too harsh. I was supposed to lose 30 pounds!”

The truth of the matter is that the point of beot in our tribe’s culture is to pronounce our goals so that we can support each other. Obviously, we haven’t goaded each other enough toward these goals. That’s a tough one for me to admit.[1] My uppermost desire for our kindred is for us to act in unison to hold each other to higher standards and then to lift each other up so that we can attain those standards. But that’s beside the point. Where was I?

A brief word-horde?

A beot is a vow, by way of the obsolete word behight.

Scop (like skald) is the verb for poetry-making and story-telling as well as the noun for the poetry and stories themself.[2] Scop became scoff and skald became scold.

That brings me to nīþ: in various forms meaning envy, malice, and villainy. According to Bosworth-Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: “a villain, one who commits a vile action.” Contemporary use translates to “a coward, a villain; a person who breaks the law or a code of honour; an outlaw.”

A nīþstang is, therefore, a tool used for nīþing. More about that later.

And then to holmgang or “trial by combat.”

Historically nīþ (also nīð—both pronounced “nith”) was a social stigma indicating a severe loss of honor—enough so to denote the reputation of a villain. A nīþing or nīþgæst (denoting the “spirit” of the person) is perpetually considered lower (as in “’neath”—beneath) than those around him. Nīþings were ritualistically “scolded.” The folk would shout derogatory terms in an attempt to break any spell concealed thereby forcing the true nature of the nīþ to reveal itself. I reckon our ancestors saw the best in people and assumed that there had to be some overarching something that cause their kindred to act like arsehats. Their first line of fire was to try to remove the hex and free their kin. If that didn’t work, the nīþ was ostracized and, in extreme circumstances, exiled from the community.

The number of Rick Perry memes out there is astounding. The number of Rick Perry memes that include the word “vagina” is equally astounding. Go on, GoogleImage it, I’ll wait.

Aside from vocal scolding, folks could use deprecatory visual portrayals. Think of this as the same as our contemporary memes. We show our disapproval for social pariahs (or at least those we find to be scoundrels) by circulating disparaging images on social media.

The prominent image used to indicate the person being nīþed is a nīþstang or nīþing pole, a pole with a carved head upon which a horse’s head was impaled. Ew.

Curses.

They can get real gross, real fast.

In the case of a nīþstang, a the curse itself could be inscribed on the pole.[3]

Now, say for instance one is publicly nīþed and feels that said nīþing is unfair. In such a case, the nīþ may call for holmgang. A holmgang, trial by combat, could be fought to settle the dispute over honor, property, debts, or even vengeance.[4] Holmgang were originally a fight to the death but they eventually became ritualistic.  

It’s rather like a heathen Thunderdome—two enter, one leave.[5]

It seems to me that we should be able to take the premise of a holmgang challenge and apply it to today’s needs for conflict resolution.[6] I kinda love what Lucius Svartwulf Helsen had to say about the matter.  “People are more polite when there is a greater risk to being impolite. Back in the days of the holmgang, if you were rude to someone, you could literally find yourself putting your life on the line, and losing it.” No kidding. There are folks out there who act like arsehats—literally vilifying others with no cause. If there were to be a real penalty for effing around with other people’s reputation (something a more hard-core than a libel or slander suit), I think folks might hold their tongues (and keyboards) a little.

Then again, maybe not.

Assholes will be assholes after all.

But alas—and this is an important point. Though there was a trial by ordeal—a pretty horrible process, even for someone who sort-of-condones “The Ordeal” (depending on how it’s defined)—trials by combat were know only Germanic and Nordic peoples but they were not known to Anglo-Saxons (and Romans and several Middle-Eastern cultures).[7] Because we try to live by an Anglo-Saxon ethic, this makes holmgang, um, moot.

So what am I to do with this concept? It seems to have such promise, but I guess a fight to the death is too medieval at that. Better to just rely on the courts.

Nīþing is something we actually do in American culture—even if it doesn’t have the highly ceremonial component it once had. I think I’ll spend a little more time contemplating this over the weekend. I know that there are some groups that actively engage in formal nīþing; I’ll look at that in detail later and I’ll be sure to share.

For now, I wish you all a happy commemoration-of-writing-a-document-with-intentions-of-expelling-tyrannical-forces day. I’m celebrating one of my own.
Explode safely!
Wæs Þu hæl,
~E


[1] Tis true. I am *not* the world’s best disciplinarian. On account o’ I’m the *only* disciplinarian in the house and I do get sick of playing bad cop. I was really good at disciplining children, but now that I have a household of adults? I’d really rather not. 14-19 years of setting the lines and making everyone tow them? Feck that noise. I’m done. Someone else’s turn.

[2] Somehow, I think there is a connection between beot and brag but I certainly know that Bragi, husband to Idunna of the apples, is the name of the god of poetry.

[3] Read this for more information about nithing and magic.

[4] Of course the rules changed from time to time and town to town, but here are the rules (according to the 13th century Hednalagen):

  • The holmgang takes place where three roads meet.
  • If you are the person who did the insulting (and was then challenged to prove your claim) and you don’t show up for the holmgang, the person you offended is considered right. As a result, you are no longer allowed to vote or swear oaths. In short, if you are indisposed to defend your claim, you have no honor.
  • If you are the offended party and you do not turn up for the holmgang, it is concluded that the niþing was correct. In this case, you, the nīþ, could be called “outlaw” and perhaps exiled.
  • You can let someone serve as your proxy.
  • If both parties show up and the insulted party loses, this means the insult will be considered true.
  • If the insulting person loses, it is deemed that the insults were false and then the insulter is considered the worst-of-the-worst.
  • Stepping out of borders and running away means cowardice.

[5] The first rule of holmgang is “Don’t talk about holmgang.”

[6] As much as I’d love to see this happen with hand-to-hand combat, I don’t think that’s legal—even under Free Exercise. But what are we to do? Backgammon?

[7] Palgrave, Francis. The Rise and Progress of the English Commonwealth: Anglo-Saxon Period. John Murray, London: 1832. xviii.

Toxicodendron Radicans (Poison Ivy) and Magic

As I write this blog, I notice that it winds around like a vine, wrapping itself around whatever it grabs hold of, climbing into crevices where I couldn’t have foreseen it would grow. There should be a joke about irritation here—but I’ll leave it to you to make.

The Wild Hunt by Peter Nicholai Arbo

As we were clearing land for the kindred hof and ve, my husband got into some poison ivy[1] and spent a week learning about cortisol while he was in Scandinavia. As we piled wood for the fire, we had to check to make sure we weren’t sending toxins airborne. Plus, a thing about poison ivy is that the toxin is carried in a non-water-soluble oil, so if you try washing the affected area with water, you will just spread the irritant further.

What’s this got to do with magic?” you ask?

Nothing really. It’s just one of those “timing” things.

Last Friday our kindred hosted a clever teacher for an enchanting workshop on wands. Gypsey Teague,

Some of Gypsey’s Wands

author, artist, librarian, witch, superhero, and all around wonderful person, trekked to The Bamas to teach us a thing or three about wood and its magical properties. One of the most spellbinding items Gypsey brought along was a wand made of poison ivy.[2] It seems she sells out of her carefully constrained inventory[3] of poison ivy wands at a premium cost—about six-times what she charges for pine or birch or ash or, you know, woods without the word “poison” in it. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why folks would want a wand made of poison oil.

So, I did what Gypsey suggested: I sat down and talked to the plant.[4]

Let me tell you what I learned.[5]

There’s a reason why Poison Ivy such a troublemaker for Batman and Robin. Preoccupied with safeguarding the natural environment, she makes a perfect archnemesis for Bruce Wayne, ultra-wealthy business magnate and entrepreneur, and his ward, Dick Grayson, The Boy Wonder. He’s all about acquisition–gimme-gimme-gimme. She’s all about shelter.

“Shelter?” you ask. “Poison ivy is such an irritating plant; how can it be a protestess?”

Well, if you think of a female protective spirit as warm and fuzzy like the angel on the bridge or the sexxxy images of deviantART-style Valkyrie (instead of the ferocious Valkyrie of the Wild Hunt, above), you’ve never met Palden Lhamo (below), a (real) Norse Shieldmaiden, or even the terrifying side of Galadrial from Tolkien’s tales.

Not all guardians are appealing—that’s kinda the point. The message of the guardian is: “You are not welcome!” “Turn back!” and “Go away!” This makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

And it brings me back around to poison ivy.

Poison ivy is most common at the edges of the woods. Poison ivy is a protectress to the depths of the forest. Birds and other mammals, for the most part, have no negative consequences whatsoever if they come into contact with her, um, charms. The message poison ivy sends is sent directly to humans. When poison ivy creeps along the edge of the forest, she seals it off and guards its edges from encroaching bipeds. Let’s face it, humans contribute to erosion, deforestation, and pollution. Poison ivy protects her territory from intruders.

Cedar at The Vine tells us:

What is a warning to some can be a teasing invitation to others. If we heed Poison Ivy’s message to tread lightly in these sensitive areas . . . she will often lead us to places of beauty seldom seen by two leggers. Once we have been initiated into this process, she may also lead us . . . [to] exquisite discoveries . . . . [T]his injection of knowledge . . . is sometimes painful to the recipient. . . . Her teachings therefore speak to the gaining of insight and compassion through the process of Regret. Poison Ivy can help up with regret, loss, and grieving. . . . Poison Ivy shows herself to be sacred to Hecate [the goddess of the crossroads], who rules most of the baneful, toxic, and entheogenic herbs. . . . If we find ourselves at a crossroads in life, with a difficult choice to make, perhaps Poison Ivy’s link to Hecate can be availed. . . . Planting Poison Ivy can be a truly revolutionary, enwildening action, politically, personally, and spiritually, and will certainly strengthen the bond between you and this powerful Plant Ally.

I love the way she says, “Once we have been initiated” by poison ivy. I thought about this for a good long time.

Initiation is not supposed to be easy—if it is, you prolly did something wrong or weren’t fully invested. After all, receiving wisdom is almost always associated with pain, poison, and even near-death experiences. I think about the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the snakes of the Minoan Serpent Goddess (like the protection of Wadjet); these seem to me to be like the unsympathetic trials of ayahuasca.[6]

Just as the simplest identification of poison ivy—“leaves of three”—is triadic, so is the image of the triple goddess. Like her, poison ivy can keep a place virginal, can initiate as the mother, and grant wisdom like the crone.

Hecate, Mór-ríoghain, The Norns, The Moirai, The Erinnyes.

And if that wasn’t cool enough, wait—there’s more.

The oil that makes poison ivy such a pain in the, um, wrists and ankles mostly, is called urushiol. It’s also found in poison oak, some variety of sumacs, mango, a tree (ironically) called “soapberry,” cashew, and pistachio (the trees, that is). As it turns out, the word urushiol has nothing to do with the Hebrew underworld, Sheol, my first instinct.[7] The origin of the name is “urushi,” a material gathered and refined from Asian trees, meaning lacquer.

It’s that shiny, shiny gloss that we are used to seeing on Classical Japanese and Korean art.

But that’s not even the punchline.

Shugendō Buddhist monks mummified themselves alive by using urushiol in a practice called Sokushinbutsu. Basically, what happens is the monk practices 1000 days (2¾ years) of extreme fasting followed by 1000 days of bodily purgation; this is followed by another 1000 days of self-poisoning with the lacquer/oil which renders the body too toxic for maggots. In this state, he sits in the lotus position until he dies. He would ring a bell every day to indicate that he was still alive; once the bell stops ringing, he is sealed in his tomb for a final 1000 days where his remains are mummified.

It hasn’t always worked.

So, what then is the message of this use of urushiol?

Wouldn’t you say it was about the same? The message of the crossroads is always one of sacrifice for knowledge. The monks’ ordeal was geared toward Enlightenment—a wisdom for which he gave his life.

In The Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky wrote: “in all the ancient cosmogonies light comes from darkness.” In Hebrew lore, Adam and Eve traded innocence and immortality for the knowledge of good and evil; Odin traded his eye for wisdom; the oracles of old put their lives at risk for a glimpse into the underworld. The agnishvattas “fell” so that they might bring “light.” Likewise Prometheus. Hermes himself is the god of both trade and wisdom—you see, there is an ineradicable connection between the two concepts.

What will you sacrifice for knowledge? Nothing? Good luck with that.

The pain and danger of poison ivy seems to me to stand guard between “safety” and the kind of enlightenment which requires a spiritual (and physical!) sacrifice.

Tread carefully.

~E


[1] It’s never bothered him before. Maybe this is why it got him this year.

[2] Truthfully, she brought three.

[3] I think she said six a year.

[4] I collected it in what looked like a hazmat suit and a lot, a lot, a lot of plastic and cardboard. All while articulating supplications.

[5] And it’s a good thing I did. One of my seidrlings has decided to make urushiol oil and poison ivy wands on her own. I want to get a “leg up” on the info to help her out. Turns out? You only need about 0.25 ounce (7 grams) of  pure urushiol oil to inflame every living human being on the entire planet! Plus, the oil can stay active for up to 5 years. I’m vaguely less worried about the magical repercussions than the straight-up physical ones.

[6] Or the less exotic diliriants found in this particular psychonaut’s yard: belladonna, trumpet flower, datura, henbane, mandrake, moonflower, morning glory, and tobacco (which doesn’t look like it’s coming back this year).

[7] I mean, it is chthonic—and hellish at that.

A Note on Walpurgisnacht

I got a question on Facebook concerning the Heathen celebration of Walpurgisnacht. The question was something along the lines of, “If this is a holiday named for a Roman Catholic saint, why do pagans celebrate it?”

The short answer is that Northern Europeans celebrated the coming sun on May Eve, though no “original” name remains. There were likely all sorts of various tribal names, but we don’t have any strong evidence for a singular name for the festival.

The name for Walpurgisnacht, when fires burn (even still in Scandinavia) to usher in warmer weather, comes from a saint, yes–but she was also a female mystic. Of course, the RCC claimed her for themselves and beatified her on a day to coincide with the pagan celebration.

Prior to Saint Walpurg, there was a great seeress named Waluburg who was commemorated on or around May Eve. Therefore the Catholic (female mystic) “saint” Volborg/Walpurg was Beatified near that date in order to subsume the holiday, like so many others.

A Teutonic prophetess from the Second-Century Semnones tribe, Waluburg is historically known as having served as a Roman sibyl in Egypt. We have an inscription of her name that reads: “Waluburg, seer of the tribe of Semnones” (translated).

Her name means walu-“rod” from Indo-European uel-“turn” (Walus also derives here). Vǫlr  is the Old Norse term. Therefore walu-bera is “rod carrier.” Wand-carrier, völva-kona. This is the quintessence of the völva. The rod is an attribute and character of the “profession” and instrument of magic and mantic practices of the Germanic seers (Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern MythologyTrans. Angela Hall. 2007).

So, tonight we celebrate the völva. We pay homage to oracular practice and seiðr.

Tonight the völur of my tribe will gather to dedicate a mound to the goddesses of seiðr, the völva who came before us, our sisters (and brothers!) in the craft, and each other.

Walpurgisnacht blessings and Beltane blessings to you all!

Wæs Þu hæl!

~Ehsha

P.S. I forgot to add that there is a legend that “hexe,” witches, gathered on Harz Mountain in Germany on Walpurgisnacht. Here’s a groovy article.

A roof in the Harz Mountains

A roof in the Harz Mountains

PBP – Week 3-4: B – Berkana

This weekend is our first galdr workshop for the Ulfvolk seidr-group. We will work toward creating a galdr that we can use as we journey. One of the runes I’d like to work with is Berkana.

Some of the images that come to mind when I meditate on Berkana are:

The Birch Grove
The First Tree to Awaken in the Spring
Sanctuary
Concealment and Protection
Secrecy and The Mastery of Silence
Maternity
Life-Giving
Cycle of Birth, Death, and Rebirth
Enviable Feminine Power
Wisdom

I’m excited to see how we work together to come up with a galdr. Have I mentioned that I love Anglo-Saxon poetry? Kennings, alliteration, caesura, awesomeness.

If we get real brave, we may make an attempt at vordlokkur.

Wish us luck?

Waes hael,

~Ehsha

This post is part of a year-long project, The Pagan Blog Project, “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing your spiritual and magickal path. . . . Each week there is a specific prompt for you to work with in writing your post, a prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet . . . .”