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.