Friday, April 20, 2012

A Putative History of the Ogham

Sorry we’ve been gone so long. It’s been a combination of illness, computer issues, and Stephen either being off with Lizet, or vainly trying trying to cure his financial inconvenience. But we’re retooling and revamping all our teaching groups. Thank you for your patience. You know, we’re not the only ones who can post to this group. Anyone in the group can post. Tegwedd has been posting her “Omens in the Gloamin’” every day for the past few months on her Facebook page under the name Teresa Reitan, and one of them is an Ogham omen. Just thought you ought to know. Our friend Len has been supplying the integration of all three Omens, and very inspired have they been, too. Aigeann, and our new friend in Mexico, Ricardo Bravo have been extremely helpful too. Len McQueed is Tegwedd’s new paduwan, and he is a very eager and apt learner. He’s only been a Pagan for a little under 4 years, but what a lot he’s picked up in a short time. We’ve mentioned before that he does the Integration of all 3 Omens, the other two of which are the Rune for the Day, and the Tarot Card for the Day, neither of which do we discuss here, except to say that he studies all three Omens, and synthesizes an Integration out of elements of all three. “I just open my mind to the Goddess, and She does the rest,” he says. So this post will be a back to basics one. Ogham comes from either Ogma (Irish) or Ogmios (Gaulish), who was a God of great eloquence. Another name for the Ogham is the Celtic Tree Alphabet, which describes a year of thirteen months, each represented by a tree. The Wikipedia gives several theories for Ogham’s origins, ranging from the probable; origin in the 1st century CE as a cryptic way to communicate by way of hand signals kept hidden from the Romans, whom the Irish feared would invade Erin, to the ridiculous, that it originated approximately 600 BCE with the fall of the Tower of Babel, and the approach of the Goidelic people from Scythia. However it originated, it soon grew into a major way of engraving on stones to mark who was buried in which grave, or an event that happened here. We urge all of you to read the Wikipedia article, and ponder the other three theories of origin. Make up your own minds, or accept all five, we don’t care, just so you think about it. Len advanced an excellent question “How can the Ogham be used in our lives today?” One way is by using the letters as a means of divination. This use is of relatively recent origins, having only emerged in the 1970s. Tegwedd read that somewhere, but it wasn’t AD Ellison who wrote it. Perhaps it was in Edred Thorsson’s “The Book of Ogham.” There are both Ogham cards (Stephen and Tegwedd each have two sets) and Ogham fews or sticks. Five years ago Tegwedd made a couple sets of Ogham fews or sticks using felt tip markers on craft sticks, one set of which she gave to Stephen when she moved in here three and a half years ago. They also each have Caitlin Matthews’ “Wisdom Sticks”, and a set Caitlin ni Manannan made for each of us out of wood people brought her when they were trimming their trees and hedges. Tegwedd uses her set each day. Her set is one of her most cherished possessions. Tegwedd uses two books as authorities on the Ogham. One is the slender hard back book by Liz and Colin Murray that comes with “The Celtic Tree Oracle.” The other reference she uses is Edred Thorsson’s (Stephen Flowers) “The Book of Ogham. There is a third book, written by Skip Ellison, ArchDruid Emeritus of the ADF. Stephen wants you to know that the thirteen tree-months of the Celtic calendar also form the basis of Celtic astrology. Robert Graves, in his “The White Goddess,” wrote extensively about the tree calendar, and the “Battle of Trees.” Stephen uses all three systems together, Ogham cards (the aforementioned “Celtic Tree Oracle”), Rune cards, and Tarot cards, and has come up with very cogent and revealing readings using them together. Besides “stem” what is the staff called that the oghams branch out from? Confused inquiring minds want to know, and we thought one or some of you might know. We have a question for all of you out there. Do your research. Was Ogham used primarily in Britain or in Ireland? Tegwedd believes it was used primarily in Ireland, but is open to being corrected if she is wrong. AbbottsInn believes that both Britain and Ireland used Ogham, as well as Gaul. “Everywhere the Celts went, the Ogham was sure to follow.” What do you, dear readers, think? However, Hallstadt and La Tene were probably too early to have had the benefits of Ogham. As was mentioned before, Tegwedd likes the theory that Ogham dates from the 1st century CE, but is open to the discovery of archaeological evidence that indicates that it developed either earlier or later. She has read dates as late as the 2nd or even the 3rd century CE. Ogham is older than the Tarot, since the Tarot dates from only about one thousand years ago, although Ogham’s use as a divinatory system, as was said before, only dates from the 1970s. This is Skip Ellison’s opinion, based upon some very compelling evidence. Skip Ellison is ArchDruid Emeritus of the ADF and wrote a book on the Ogham titled “The Druids’ Alphabet” “What Do We Know About the Oghams?” Sticks of iron or bronze that have Oghamic markings on them have been found in Druids’ graves. The sticks are the length of a man’s hands, from the tip of his middle finger, to his wrist, and thinner than his fingers. It is not known what they were used for, although theories and speculations abound. They were in sets from four to half a dozen in each grave mound. Some guess that they might have been used for some sort of sortilege-type of divination (casting lots).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know About Bards

We have been retooling and revamping Abbott’s Inn International School of Magick the last few days. Stephen is in one of his grandiose manic phases again, churning out one article, essay, blog, or discussion after another. In the past couple days he has done fourteen of them. We are going back to old groups and saying “Hi! We’re back!”

Let’s get back to basics. What is a bard? A bard is more than a poet, more than a musician. In Druid society, bards were also the genealogists and historians of their culture, tracing bloodlines back at least a thousand years. He is a music magician, who understood the magick in music. In NRDNA, Bards wear a blue robe, and are poets, musicians, shannachie, songwriters, and storytellers. The bard as a magician played a major role in Celtic mythology, such as the Dagda, also known as the “Good God,” who was a bard with a magickal harp that had a mind, so it could think. This harp could play different types of music. Each string had its own power. One string could make its listeners weep uncontrollably. One time they did, and wept so much that several people in the mead hall drowned from the flood of tears. It was called “The Lay of Sorrow.” The Lay of Joy would make people weep for joy. Then there was the “Lay of Slumber,” which put all the listeners to sleep. There was also the “Lay of Battle,” which could put blood lust into the heart of every listener. The next one was the Lay of Discovery,” which made every listener want to go adventuring.

There are many bards whom we like to talk about. There is Thomas the Rhymer, the Bard William Shakespeare, Gwydion Penderwen, Isaac Bonewits, Aigeann, Sharon Knight, the late great Leeann Hussey, Leslie Fish, Alison Harlow, Caradoc, Victor Anderson, Katherine Kurtz, Katherine Kerr, Brighde, Jen Aitch, Dylan Cook, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger,Jim Morrison the Lizard King, Gerry Rafferty, David Bowie, Donovan, Bonnie Raitt, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Leadbelly, Bruce Stringsteen, John Lennon, Elayne Hindle, and the two of us.

Thomas the Rhymer was a late period bard, spouting poetry and playing the instruments of the day. Google him, learn all you can, and post here about him. His poetry, songs, and tales were inspirations wherever he went. William Shakespeare: There are many who claim that he couldn’t have written the plays that bear his name, but we think he did, with some help from the actors. You see, in the theatre of the late 16th and early 17th century) actors would often either extemporaneously start orating, or he would cadge a speech from another play, and plug it in. So the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from “Hamlet” might well be from another play, which has not come down to us the way that Shakespeare’s plays have. Shakespeare was called “The Bard.” Stephen’s favorite Shakespearean play is “The Tempest,” and his second favorite is “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Tegwedd’s favorite play is “Macbeth,” her second favorite play is “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Which is your favorite Shakespearean play? But she wishes people would quit messing with the eras the plays are placed in. They are intended to be placed in ancient times (“Julius Caesar”) early Italian Renaissance (“Romeo and Juliet”), dark ages Scotland (“MacBeth”) or late Italian Renaissance (“Twelfth Night”). . Shakespeare’s greatest dramatic rival was Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, and only seven of his plays have come down to us, compared to Shakespeare’s 39, because Marlowe was murdered in a tavern brawl in 1593. Then there are all the great Spanish dramatists of the same period, Cervantes (Don Quixote), Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Castro (not Fidel), Mira de Amescua, Ruiz de Alarcon, Calderon, (La Vida Es Sueno “Life is a Dream”), Rojas Zorrilla, and Moreto. Okay, so Tegwedd is a Spanish literature nerd. What are ya gonna do about it? Sue her over it?

Gwydion Penderwen recorded two great albums, copies of which can still be found in Pagan and occult shops across the country, especially in Tegwedd’s and Stephen’s favorite occult shop, Ancient Ways in Oakland, CA. He had unknown stacks of unpublished music. If he hadn’t died in such an untimely manner, he probably would have had several more albums. The two albums are “Gwydion sings Songs of the Old Religion,” and “The Faery Shaman.” Stephen worked with him on two events. Gwydion was highly interested in the interlacings of Ogham, hidden notes in these lays, which conveyed hidden messages. The first event was the Witches’ Ball in the Finnish Hall which is haunted, in Oakland, CA. Because of its success, they were inspired to put on a second event. The second event they worked together on was the Midsummer Pagan Festival in the Oakland Hills, at the Meadows. Isaac Bonewits recorded one album, and Tegwedd’s favorite song on that album is “I Fell in Love with the Lady,” and she wants to write a screenplay based on that song about a Teutonic Knight who was formerly persecuting Pagans, but fell in love with the Goddess, and became a minnesinger, which is a German bard. Isaac wrote a bunch of songs, which he had planned to put in another album, if he hadn't gotten cancer and died. Aigeann integrates prose and poetry, with a great turn of phrase. Leeann Hussey used to play both others’ work such as Gwydion’s and Isaac’s songs and her own music. Leslie Fish became a staple at scifi and fantasy conventions for her hilarious and creative filk songs. A filk song is a set of original lyrics set to a familiar melody. There is “When I was a Young Man/Maid” from Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn,” set to the Welsh folk tune “The Ash Grove”. Our own national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is a filk song, set as it was to the tune of a ribald 17th century drinking song. Tegwedd heard it once, and it was pretty lewd. But in the past twenty years or so, she has turned more and more towards spiritual subjects, towards Paganism, and penned not only lyrics, but her own original tunes as well. Victor Anderson, besides founding the Feri Tradition of Wicca, penned “Poems from the Blood Rose.”

Katherine Kurtz wrote the Deryni novels and Lammas Night, which Stephen finally finished reading,, and Katherine Kerr wrote a great series based upon a land called Deverry. Mark Twain was America’s bard. He wrote dozens of novels and stories, many of which we’re all familiar with. Leadbelly was another American bard. He recorded many Delta blues and American folk songs in the 1920s and 30s.

Thus we see that there are many different kinds of bards. For all we know, you may be some kind of bards. You must be interested in bardry, or you wouldn’t have joined this group.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love & the Single Witch

Who am I? Got a few hours? Some day I’ll write my memoirs, and when I do, I’ll title it “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been,” which is a line from a Grateful Dead song, “Truckin’”. Yes, I’m from THAT generation. No, I never was a hippie. I had to work for a living, and I didn’t drop out of college. I also like taking showers and baths too much to be a hippie. I’ve been a Witch almost 38 years, maybe more. I actually sought out Witchcraft when I was in college. I started with what would in the ‘80s be called “ghost busting” and divination with playing cards.

I received my first Tarot deck for Yule, 1969, from my then boyfriend. I bought De Lawrence’s book on the Tarot, which I still have. I don’t have the deck, however, I gave it away to this gay guy I used to know. I taught myself to read Tarot from that book, but had at least three actual teachers along the way. Unfortunately, one of them is deceased. I learned a lot from her. But in early 1970, I knew only what was in that book. But it was enough to tell a cop I was dating how unethical readers bilk their clients. I can’t tell you how I knew the tricks; they just came to me.

In April of 1976, I was initiated into the 1st degree of the NROOGD tradition. In 1984, Barbara Frederick and I formed the Witchaven Society, a group (not really a coven) that grew out of her correspondence with a few prison inmates. I didn’t approve of her choice of menfolk. I’ve always been fussier about who I would be with than she has been. I wouldn’t give her choices a second look, except to think to myself “She’s seeing THAT?” She was satisfied that the guy would want to be seen with her. For me, a man had to bring some benefit to Witchaven. Our apprentices didn’t always work out. We decided to set requirements candidates had to meet in order to be taught by us. She decided to have them wait 3 or 6 months. I decided to have a task oriented set so that if they qualified, they’d have a head start on their learning. I took my cue from the Witches in the faery tales. I’ve always been fond of and came up with five tasks that the candidate had to perform to get hir dedicant necklace. I’ll list and describe them for you now.

1) Read three books from the 13 book long reading list. I prepared the reading list with care, looking for books that would give the dedicant a good idea of what Wicca was all about, at least the trad I was teaching. I didn’t have to have a formal book report, just an idea that the apprentice had read the books, and understood what was in them, and why I had assigned it.

2) Start a magickal diary/journal. This will be your lab notebook, where you will put the conditions under which you performed a given spell or ritual, and any spiritual experiences you have.

3) Write an article or poem for the Greymalkin Gazette. The poem should be at least ten well chosen lines, and spiritual, preferably Pagan in subject matter. The article should be either a “Who I Am & How I Got Here” or a how to article on some spell or tool pertaining to Wicca. One young lady did an article on how to make ritual robes. The article should be at least 300 words long and no longer than 900 words. A quick and dirty way of counting the words is to count the words in a typical line, then count the number of full lines on a page, then multiplying the number of words in a line by how many lines in a page. A line that is a half a line or fewer words long can be combined with another half line to be counted as a full line.

4) &5) These tasks go together, but are two separate steps. First identify some reason why we might not work successfully together. Such reasons can be such things as substance abuse (alcohol, nicotine or other drugs) attitude, or other. I may make it easy for you by mentioning some obstacle. Then you go directly to task #5 which is to remove that obstacle. This may be the most difficult task of all, but #4 may be tricky. If you believe that another person is your obstacle, be careful. The other person is not the obstacle, your attitude towards both the other person, and me, your teacher is the true obstacle here.

Since the Greymalkin Gazette is now a group, which I will eventually bring here, task #3 will be published in all the Greymalkin Gazette groups we have so far.

I was with my Significant Other Doc Richard Fulton for 16 years and 3 months. During that time I was deeply in love, perhaps for the first time in my life. I should have known it couldn’t last, that the Gods and Goddesses would take him away from me. I trusted him more than any man I have ever been with in my life.

As my profile will tell you, I’m a writer, a Witch, a Druid, a Thelemite, a diviner, a craftswoman, a reader and a mother. But that doesn’t really tell you much except that I like yarn, embroidery floss, beads, books, and whatever my daughter does. I’m a writer because I have to. It’s a good thing that I like to write, otherwise I might become a substance abuser, such as alcohol, as so many of my fellow writers have done, in order to escape from the compulsion. Yes, writing is a compulsion, an obsession, and an addiction. The difference between writing and other compulsions/obsessions/addictions is that nobody ever tries to keep me from doing it except when he (it’s always a he) wants me to do something else like housework. I like music. I especially like music that elicits an emotional response. I like to write to music, and have collected a library of music that will enable me to write stirring scenes. They come from several genres of music; New Age/world beat, classical, classic rock, and movie soundtracks.

What else is there about me that you’d like to know? My interests in the Wiccan field are performing spells and rituals, writing spells and rituals, and divination. I practice three main methods of divination: Tarot, Runes, and Ogham. But I do have smatterings of others such as scrying, favomancy (divination by beans), and reading scarabs and Witching Stones. I have Buzios (Brazilian reading shells, but haven’t tried them yet. I love the dance, and now that my my ankles are in better shape, I can resume it. It’s my favorite form of exercise, yes, even over sex.

I have one child, a daughter, aged 30, who is doing post doctoral work in computer cryptography at UCSD. She has taught me a lot about computers, and when she’d come to visit, she’d amuse herself by improving something on my computer. It was she who downloaded and configured Firefox, my favorite browser, on my old HP Pavilion Windows XP machine. On my new one, which I’m writing this on right now, I did all the downloads myself.
When I say I’m a Witch, I also include that I’m a shaman, because Witchcraft is European shamanism. I got this from Christopher Penczak in his book the Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft. I agree with him. Hedge Witches are very shamanic, since they use animal guides and “ride the hedges” which are the boundaries between this world and other worlds to make healing soul journeys, both to find out what steps will heal a patient, and to retrieve soul fragments. They also make tools, magickal objects, and potions, brews, incenses, and oils from found objects and plants. I think you can even be a hedge Witch in the city or suburbs. You simple make your tools and craft objects by recycling other people’s “junk.” I have a dear friend I call Snoodlady who made planters out of defunct computer monitors. You can find great treasures at garage and yard sales, flea markets, and farmers’ markets. We have a group which we’ll bring here eventually.

The other part of “we” is my friend, house mate, and partner (Business, not romantic) Stephen Abbott, aka abbottsinn. You may have heard of him. He and I are fairly notorious on the Internet. Together we run the Abbott’s Inn International School of Magick. It was started over 40 years ago, went on the Internet 9 years ago, and I joined it as his partner 3 ½ years ago. Some years ago before this, we started starting and maintaining groups on several networks, and we are hoping to bring branches of our groups here. We have over 60 titles for different groups, but I’m going to talk him out of having me start more than a few fairly representative groups. One of these is Hedgecraft 4 Us. Our groups cover a plethora of topics, from serious discussions on magick and paranormal phenomena to humor. Yes, humor is important. The best and simplest
way to banish demons and other malefic spirits is to laugh at them. They take themselves very seriously, and their only real weapon is the fear they inspire in people, so if you laugh at them, they will be unable to cope, and will go away. I’ve always had a rather playful attitude towards daemons (note the different spelling, it’s quite deliberate I assure you).

Let me tell you an illustrative story. Back in late 1986 to early 1987 I lived in a magickal household. I was between residences at the time, so was living in a small basement room with the man who would later become my third ex-hubby. In the same house, just on the other side of the bathroom lived another couple, Caitlin, a young woman who had fled her possibly abusive husband was living with Chris, a young magician, who supposedly was very intelligent. He was always calculating these complicated magickal formulae. He never did any magick, he just worked on the formulae. He also took crank, and drank, then was plagued by daemons stirred up by one of the other denizens of the house who was doing the Abra Melin Working for Knowledge and Conversation with his Holy Guardian Angel. I invited the daemons to our room, where I played with them while Delphinius was gone. We would laugh about how silly Chris was to be so afraid of them. He was too tainted by the Judeo-Christian to really understand about magick, which included Witchcraft, which is what I practiced then, as now. I think the daemons liked me and my playful humorous attitude towards them. They also, however, enjoyed tormenting Chris. I never did manage to train them to bring me money.

In closing, I want you to know that I will answer any question about myself except my age. You probably have some idea of the general range when I say that I’ve been a Pagan for almost 38 years, and that my daughter Janvier, is 30 years old. Those of you who haven’t been Witches as long as I have can ask me anything about the modern Wiccan movement, including the inception of CoG, the Covenant of the Goddess. I also have a lot of history in my head about the Reformed Druidry Movement. Some of it can be read in the Druid Chronicles, but there’s a lot that happened in California in the Bay Area in the mid- to late 70s that I was there for. What I don’t know, I can ask Stephen, who’s been a Druid four years longer than I have. And now I’ve got to read some of your blogs so that I can learn about some of you.