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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review - the Druid's Primer

   There are many books on the market that aim to introduce the seeker to the basics of Druidism, but The Druid's Primer by Luke Eastwood is perhaps the single best introduction book I have read. It's greatest strength is that it manages to present a great deal of modern Druidic material fairly and with clear references to the sources. The author has done a great deal of research into the historic material, which is also presented well and in an easily accessible manner.
   The book begins with a chapter that summerizes the historic material. This was very well done, with the material being covered thoroughly but concisely. This section touches on everything from the early Celtic period and what we have from seocndary sources such as Pliny and Caesar up to the modern era revival. Although not gone into as deeply as in other books the single chapter effectively summerizes the highlights and is more than enough to get a beginner started or serve as a basic refresher for a more experienced person.
   The next chapter tackles possibly the most complex subject in modern Druidism, defining what a Druid is. The book does an excellent job of presenting the different current theories fairly, including the possible etymologies of the word "druid" itself. The different historical sources are once again drawn upon including Irish mythology and the later Barddas, which the text acknowledges as a well known forgery but also influencial on the revivalist period. The author also discusses his own view of what a Druid does and who a Druid is, creating a fascinating and complex picture of the modern Druid.
   From here the next 7 chapters discuss: Gods & Goddesses, Myth & Legend, Elemental Forces, Cosmology, Inspiration, Imramma, and Animism & Animal Worship. Each chapter is a blend of well-researched history and modern application that manages to offer a balanced view of modern Druidism without favoring any one particular path or focus. In most cases multiple views are offered for the reader to consider with sources given so that the reader may further pursue anything of interest.
   This is followed by a section, Cycles of the Sun, Moon and Earth, that looks at the historic and modern way that Druids would honor the passing of time and holy days. The author discusses a system of lunar rituals based on Alexei Kondratiev's book the Apple Branch that could be used by modern Druids seeking to connect to the moon. This is followed by a discussion of the solar year and it's holidays, including all of the eight holidays of the modern pagan wheel of the year.
   Next is a section on tools, which looks at the tools historically attributed to the Druids. It begins by discussing clothing, rather in depth, including the colors likely worn and the Irish legal texts refering to dress and color. Sickles, wands, staffs, the Druid egg, cauldron/chalice, magical branch, musical instruments, the crane bag, and sword are discussed. The four treasures of the Tuatha de Danann are also mentioned in a modern context as tools that Druids today may choose to use, although they have no historic basis in that context.
   The final four chapters look at divination, the Ogham, medicine & healing, and justice & wisdom. Each of these was important in some way to the historic Druids and so each chapter looks at how the subject relates to historic Druidism and how these can relate to modern practice.
    Overall this book is more than worth the money and certainly the best book to begin with if one is interested in learning about the path of Druidism. It is full of the history of Druidism and also shows the wide array of modern possibilities that are open to new seekers. For more experienced Druids this book will serve as a great refresher or reference.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Celtic Ways of Seeing

So now that we've covered some different aspects of seidhr historically and how I am trying to reconstruct and practice them let's look at the Irish side of things. Now we know that there were some very specific methods used by the File during the transition period between paganism and Christianity because two of those methods were outlawed for calling on pagan gods - which for our purposes is a good thing because it means they were written about. There were three specific practices so written about and these were imbas forosna - "manifesting knowledge", tenm laida "illumination of song", and dichetal do chennaib "extemporaneous poetry" (Celtic Seers Sourcebook, 1999). Imbas forosnai involves preparing and eating meat (referenced as pig, cat, or dog specifically), making an offering to the Gods with specific chants and then lying down with the hands covering the eyes and sleeping or meditating for up to three days undisturbed to recieve knowledge or an answer. Another well known version of this may be the tarbh feis which involves the sacrfice of a bull, eating its flesh and then wrapping up in its hide for the same purpose. Tenm laida seems to be, based on its appearance in myths, a type of light trance that a person could enter to answer specific questions, sometimes associated with touching the object directly and others with putting the tips of your fingers or thumb in your mouth, such as in the stories of Finn mac Cool. In some stories it appears as a method to read the past or identify a body, although this also appears to be a type of Seership practiced by both Scathach and Fidelm in mythology when answering questions about the future (Celtic Seers Sourcebook, 1999). Both of these methods were outlawed by the Christian Church for calling on "idols"; the third method is dichetal do chenaib which seems to resemble tenm laida but involve a deeper trance and the spontaneous speaking of poetry to answer the question. Perhaps the Prophecy of the Morrigan could be veiwed as this type of method. Dichetal do chenaib was not outlawed as it didn't directly call on pagan deities or spirits and was seen as a part of the poet's art.
  Of these methods I see the most direct similarities to Norse practice in the imbas forosnai. The practice of retreating into a dark room, wrapped in a cloak to recieve inspiration - possibly a later version of imbas forosnai, I think - was seen in the Scottish Highlands until a few hundred years ago (Descritpion of the Western Isles of Scotland, 1695). Interestingly during the conversion period in Iceland, when it looked like civil war was immenant a leader used a similar method - laying down beneath his cloak - to find a compromise that would save the country. And in seidhr the Seer is veiled when on the high seat.
    Additionally we know that the ancient Celts, in general, used particular types of divination such as casting lots and a variety of omens including ornithomancy, or divination by observing the flight of birds. Ornithomancy was in fact so important that it continued in folk practice pretty much into the modern period with the Carmina Gadelica noting several omens that can be taken from the flight or call of certain birds. For example swans are considered very lucky, especially when seen flying, as it was believed that a swan was often an Otherworldly being in disguise, but to see or hear an owl, especially during the day was considered unlucky (Carmina Gadelica, 1900). There is an excellent book called Birds of Ireland Facts, Folklore, and History by Anderson that includes a lot of the older folklore about each type of bird that I have found invaluable for working up a system of bird omens to use. The Gadelica also discusses divination practices linked to the harvest, were the harvesting tools would be tossed in the air and how they landed would indicate something about the fate of the person who owned the tool. The direction of the wind was also an omen, particularly on certain holy days (Silver Bough, 1959).
   One method of augury that is mentioned in enough detail to be used within the Gadelica is as follows: "THE 'frith,'* augury, was a species of divination enabling the 'frithir,' augurer, to see into the unseen. This divination was made to ascertain the position and condition of the absent and the lost, and was applied to man and beast. The augury was made on the first Monday of the quarter and immediately before sunrise. The augurer, fasting, and with bare feet, bare head, and closed eyes, went to the doorstep and placed a hand on each jamb. Mentally beseeching the God of the unseen to show him his quest and to grant him his augury, the augurer opened his eyes and looked steadfastly straight in front of him. From the nature and position of the objects within his sight, he drew his conclusions" (Carmina Gadelica, 1900). The text is followed by a chant to be recited before opening the eyes; I have made my own version which is both more pagan and Irish deity specific. It is:
   "Gods over me, Gods under me
     Gods before me, Gods behind me
    I am on Your path, O  Gods of life
     and You are in my steps
   The augury Morrighan made at the battle's end
   The offering made of Brigid through Her palm
  Did the spirits witness it?
    The spirits did witness it.

   The augury made by Morrighan about Her people
  When the battle ended peace was made,
   Knowledge of truth, not knowledge of falsehood,
      That I shall see truly all my quest.

  Kindly spirits and Gods of life,
    May You give me eyes to see all I seek,
  With sight that shall never fail, before me,
      That shall never quench or dim." (By Land, Sea, and Sky, 2010)

  This is, of course, only a small fraction of the Celtic practices especailly where omens and augury are concerned, but these represent specific areas that I am personally working on reconstructing or learning. I have had the most direct practice with tenm laida, as I understand it, and with working on learning omens and augury. I have used versions of the more modern style imbas forosnai, but have not yet tried the dichetal do chenaib. I feel more comfortable, in general, with the Norse divination pratices but I am trying to get more active with trying to use what I know about the Celtic.

A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland circa 1695
By Land, Sea, and Sky, 2010
Celtic Seers Sourcebook, 1999
Carmina Gadelica, 1900
Silver Bough, volume 1, 1959

* from the Carmina Gadelica "The 'frith' of the Celt is akin to the 'frett' of the Norseman. Probably the surnames Freer, Frere, are modifications of 'frithir,' augurer."

Monday, February 6, 2012

the Havamal

Since my planned blog for today is being pre-empted due to illness in the family, I offer you the public domain version of the Havamal, Bellows translation, from 1936. It's found in the Poetic Edda by Snorri and is a great text.

1. Within the gates | ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows | where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

2. Hail to the giver! | a guest has come;
Where shall the stranger sit?
Swift shall he be who, | with swords shall try
The proof of his might to make

3. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.

4. Water and towels | and welcoming speech
Should he find who comes, to the feast;
If renown he would get, | and again be greeted,
Wisely and well must he act.

5. Wits must he have | who wanders wide,
But all is easy at home;
At the witless man | the wise shall wink
When among such men he sits.

6. A man shall not boast | of his keenness of mind,
But keep it close in his breast;
To the silent and wise | does ill come seldom
When he goes as guest to a house;
(For a faster friend | one never finds
Than wisdom tried and true.)

7. The knowing guest | who goes to the feast,
In silent attention sits;
With his ears he hears, | with his eyes he watches,
Thus wary are wise men all.

8. Happy the one | who wins for himself
Favor and praises fair;
Less safe by far | is the wisdom found
That is hid in another's heart.

9. Happy the man | who has while he lives
Wisdom and praise as well,
For evil counsel | a man full oft
Has from another's heart.

10. A better burden | may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
It is better than wealth | on unknown ways,
And in grief a refuge it gives.

11. A better burden | may no man bear
For wanderings wide than wisdom;
Worse food for the journey | he brings not afield
Than an over-drinking of ale.

12. Less good there lies | than most believe
In ale for mortal men;
For the more he drinks | the less does man
Of his mind the mastery hold

13. Over beer the bird | of forgetfulness broods,
And steals the minds of men;
With the heron's feathers | fettered I lay
And in Gunnloth's house was held.

14. Drunk I was, | I was dead-drunk,
When with Fjalar wise I was;
'Tis the best of drinking | if back one brings
His wisdom with him home.

15. The son of a king | shall be silent and wise,
And bold in battle as well;
Bravely and gladly | a man shall go,
Till the day of his death is come.

16. The sluggard believes | he shall live forever,
If the fight he faces not;
But age shall not grant him | the gift of peace,
Though spears may spare his life.

17. The fool is agape | when he comes to the feast,
He stammers or else is still;
But soon if he gets | a drink is it seen
What the mind of the man is like.

18. He alone is aware | who has wandered wide,
And far abroad has fared,
How great a mind | is guided by him
That wealth of wisdom has.

19. Shun not the mead, | but drink in measure;
Speak to the point or be still;
For rudeness none | shall rightly blame thee
If soon thy bed thou seekest.

20. The greedy man, | if his mind be vague,
Will eat till sick he is;
The vulgar man, | when among the wise,
To scorn by his belly is brought.

21. The herds know well | when home they shall fare,
And then from the grass they go;
But the foolish man | his belly's measure
Shall never know aright.

22. A paltry man | and poor of mind
At all things ever mocks;
For never he knows, | what he ought to know,
That he is not free from faults.

23. The witless man | is awake all night,
Thinking of many things;
Care-worn he is | when the morning comes,
And his woe is just as it was.

24. The foolish man | for friends all those
Who laugh at him will hold;
When among the wise | he marks it not
Though hatred of him they speak.

25. The foolish man | for friends all those
Who laugh at him will hold;
But the truth when he comes | to the council he learns,
That few in his favor will speak.

26. An ignorant man | thinks that all he knows,
When he sits by himself in a corner;
But never what answer | to make he knows,
When others with questions come.

27. A witless man, | when he meets with men,
Had best in silence abide;
For no one shall find | that nothing he knows,
If his mouth is not open too much.
(But a man knows not, | if nothing he knows,
When his mouth has been open too much.)

28. Wise shall he seem | who well can question,
And also answer well;
Nought is concealed | that men may say
Among the sons of men.

29. Often he speaks | who never is still
With words that win no faith;
The babbling tongue, | if a bridle it find not,
Oft for itself sings ill.

30. In mockery no one | a man shall hold,
Although he fare to the feast;
Wise seems one oft, | if nought he is asked,
And safely he sits dry-skinned.

31. Wise a guest holds it | to take to his heels,
When mock of another he makes;
But little he knows | who laughs at the feast,
Though he mocks in the midst of his foes.

32. Friendly of mind | are many men,
Till feasting they mock at their friends;
To mankind a bane | must it ever be
When guests together strive.

33. Oft should one make | an early meal,
Nor fasting come to the feast;
Else he sits and chews | as if he would choke,
And little is able to ask.

34. Crooked and far | is the road to a foe,
Though his house on the highway be;
But wide and straight | is the way to a friend,
Though far away he fare.

35. Forth shall one go, | nor stay as a guest
In a single spot forever;
Love becomes loathing | if long one sits
By the hearth in another's home.

36. Better a house, | though a hut it be,
A man is master at home;
A pair of goats | and a patched-up roof
Are better far than begging.

37. Better a house, | though a hut it be,
A man is master at home;
His heart is bleeding | who needs must beg
When food he fain would have.

38. Away from his arms | in the open field
A man should fare not a foot;
For never he knows | when the need for a spear
Shall arise on the distant road.

39. If wealth a man | has won for himself,
Let him never suffer in need;
Oft he saves for a foe | what he plans for a friend,
For much goes worse than we wish.

40. None so free with gifts | or food have I found
That gladly he took not a gift,
Nor one who so widely | scattered his wealth
That of recompense hatred he had.

41. Friends shall gladden each other | with arms and garments,
As each for himself can see;
Gift-givers' friendships | are longest found,
If fair their fates may be.

42. To his friend a man | a friend shall prove,
And gifts with gifts requite;
But men shall mocking | with mockery answer,
And fraud with falsehood meet.

43. To his friend a man | a friend shall prove,
To him and the friend of his friend;
But never a man | shall friendship make
With one of his foeman's friends.

44. If a friend thou hast | whom thou fully wilt trust,
And good from him wouldst get,
Thy thoughts with his mingle, | and gifts shalt thou make,
And fare to find him oft.

45. If another thou hast | whom thou hardly wilt trust,
Yet good from him wouldst get,
Thou shalt speak him fair, | but falsely think,
And fraud with falsehood requite.

46. So is it with him | whom thou hardly wilt trust,
And whose mind thou mayst not know;
Laugh with him mayst thou, | but speak not thy mind,
Like gifts to his shalt thou give.

47. Young was I once, | and wandered alone,
And nought of the road I knew;
Rich did I feel | when a comrade I found,
For man is man's delight.

48. The lives of the brave | and noble are best,
Sorrows they seldom feed;
But the coward fear | of all things feels,
And not gladly the niggard gives.

49. My garments once | in a field I gave
To a pair of carven poles;
Heroes they seemed | when clothes they had,
But the naked man is nought.

50. On the hillside drear | the fir-tree dies,
All bootless its needles and bark;
It is like a man | whom no one loves,--
Why should his life be long?

51. Hotter than fire | between false friends
Does friendship five days burn;
When the sixth day comes | the fire cools,
And ended is all the love.

52. No great thing needs | a man to give,
Oft little will purchase praise;
With half a loaf | and a half-filled cup
A friend full fast I made.

53. A little sand | has a little sea,
And small are the minds of men;
Though all men are not | equal in wisdom,
Yet half-wise only are all.

54. A measure of wisdom | each man shall have,
But never too much let him know;
The fairest lives | do those men live
Whose wisdom wide has grown.

55. A measure of wisdom | each man shall have,
But never too much let him know;
For the wise man's heart | is seldom happy,
If wisdom too great he has won.

56. A measure of wisdom | each man shall have,
But never too much let him know;
Let no man the fate | before him see,
For so is he freest from sorrow.

57. A brand from a brand | is kindled and burned,
And fire from fire begotten;
And man by his speech | is known to men,
And the stupid by their stillness.

58. He must early go forth | who fain the blood
Or the goods of another would get;
The wolf that lies idle | shall win little meat,
Or the sleeping man success.

59. He must early go forth | whose workers are few,
Himself his work to seek;
Much remains undone | for the morning-sleeper,
For the swift is wealth half won.

60. Of seasoned shingles | and strips of bark
For the thatch let one know his need,
And how much of wood | he must have for a month,
Or in half a year he will use.

61. Washed and fed | to the council fare,
But care not too much for thy clothes;
Let none be ashamed | of his shoes and hose,
Less still of the steed he rides,
(Though poor be the horse he has.)

62. When the eagle comes | to the ancient sea,
He snaps and hangs his head;
So is a man | in the midst of a throng,
Who few to speak for him finds.

63. To question and answer | must all be ready
Who wish to be known as wise;
Tell one thy thoughts, | but beware of two,--
All know what is known to three.

64. The man who is prudent | a measured use
Of the might he has will make;
He finds when among | the brave he fares
That the boldest he may not be.

65.     .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
Oft for the words | that to others one speaks
He will get but an evil gift.

66. Too early to many | a meeting I came,
And some too late have I sought;
The beer was all drunk, | or not yet brewed;
Little the loathed man finds.

67. To their homes men would bid | me hither and yon,
If at meal-time I needed no meat,
Or would hang two hams | in my true friend's house,
Where only one I had eaten.

68. Fire for men | is the fairest gift,
And power to see the sun;
Health as well, | if a man may have it,
And a life not stained with sin.

69. All wretched is no man, | though never so sick;
Some from their sons have joy,
Some win it from kinsmen, | and some from their wealth,
And some from worthy works.

70. It is better to live | than to lie a corpse,
The live man catches the cow;
I saw flames rise | for the rich man's pyre,
And before his door he lay dead.

71. The lame rides a horse, | the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better | than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse.

72. A son is better, | though late he be born,
And his father to death have fared;
Memory-stones | seldom stand by the road
Save when kinsman honors his kin.

73. Two make a battle, | the tongue slays the head;
In each furry coat | a fist I look for.

74. He welcomes the night | whose fare is enough,
(Short are the yards of a ship,)
Uneasy are autumn nights;
Full oft does the weather | change in a week,
And more in a month's time.

75. A man knows not, | if nothing he knows,
That gold oft apes begets;
One man is wealthy | and one is poor,
Yet scorn for him none should know.

76. Among Fitjung's sons | saw I well-stocked folds,--
Now bear they the beggar's staff;
Wealth is as swift | as a winking eye,
Of friends the falsest it is.

77. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
But a noble name | will never die,
If good renown one gets.

78. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
One thing now | that never dies,
The fame of a dead man's deeds.

79. Certain is that | which is sought from runes,
That the gods so great have made,
And the Master-Poet painted;
.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
.    .    .    .    .     of the race of gods:
Silence is safest and best.

80. An unwise man, | if a maiden's love
Or wealth he chances to win
His pride will wax, but his wisdom never,
Straight forward he fares in conceit.

81. Give praise to the day at evening, | to a woman on her pyre,
To a weapon which is tried, | to a maid at wed lock,
To ice when it is crossed, | to ale that is drunk.

82. When the gale blows hew wood, | in fair winds seek the water;
Sport with maidens at dusk, | for day's eyes are many;
From the ship seek swiftness, | from the shield protection,
Cuts from the sword, | from the maiden kisses.

83. By the fire drink ale, | over ice go on skates;
Buy a steed that is lean, | and a sword when tarnished,
The horse at home fatten, | the hound in thy dwelling.

84. A man shall trust not | the oath of a maid,
Nor the word a woman speaks;
For their hearts on a whirling | wheel were fashioned,
And fickle their breasts were formed.

85. In a breaking bow | or a burning flame,
A ravening wolf | or a croaking raven,
In a grunting boar, | a tree with roots broken,
In billowy seas | or a bubbling kettle,

86. In a flying arrow | or falling waters,
In ice new formed | or the serpent's folds,
In a bride's bed-speech | or a broken sword,
In the sport of bears | or in sons of kings,

87. In a calf that is sick | or a stubborn thrall,
A flattering witch | or a foe new slain.

88. In a brother's slayer, | if thou meet him abroad,
In a half-burned house, | in a horse full swift--
One leg is hurt | and the horse is useless--
None had ever such faith | as to trust in them all.

89. Hope not too surely | for early harvest,
Nor trust too soon in thy son;
The field needs good weather, | the son needs wisdom,
And oft is either denied.
*    *    *
90. The love of women | fickle of will
Is like starting o'er ice | with a steed unshod,
A two-year-old restive | and little tamed,
Or steering a rudderless | ship in a storm,
Or, lame, hunting reindeer | on slippery rocks.
*    *    *
91. Clear now will I speak, | for I know them both,
Men false to women are found;
When fairest we speak, | then falsest we think,
Against wisdom we work with deceit.

92. Soft words shall he speak | and wealth shall he offer
Who longs for a maiden's love,
And the beauty praise | of the maiden bright;
He wins whose wooing is best

93. Fault for loving | let no man find
Ever with any other;
Oft the wise are fettered, | where fools go free,
By beauty that breeds desire.

94. Fault with another | let no man find
For what touches many a man;
Wise men oft | into witless fools
Are made by mighty love.

95. The head alone knows | what dwells near the heart,
A man knows his mind alone;
No sickness is worse | to one who is wise
Than to lack the longed-for joy.

96. This found I myself, | when I sat in the reeds,
And long my love awaited;
As my life the maiden | wise I loved,
Yet her I never had.

97. Billing's daughter | I found on her bed,
In slumber bright as the sun;
Empty appeared | an earl's estate
Without that form so fair.

98. "Othin, again | at evening come,
If a woman thou wouldst win;
Evil it were | if others than we
Should know of such a sin."

99. Away I hastened, | hoping for joy,
And careless of counsel wise;
Well I believed | that soon I should win
Measureless joy with the maid.

100. So came I next | when night it was,
The warriors all were awake;
With burning lights | and waving brands
I learned my luckess way.

101. At morning then, | when once more I came,
And all were sleeping still,
A dog found | in the fair one's place,
Bound there upon her bed.

102. Many fair maids, | if a man but tries them,
False to a lover are found;
That did I learn | when I longed to gain
With wiles the maiden wise;
Foul scorn was my meed | from the crafty maid,
And nought from the woman I won.
*    *    *
103. Though glad at home, | and merry with guests,
A man shall be wary and wise;
The sage and shrewd, | wide wisdom seeking,
Must see that his speech be fair;
A fool is he named | who nought can say,
For such is the way of the witless.

104. I found the old giant, | now back have I fared,
Small gain from silence I got;
Full many a word, | my will to get,
I spoke in Suttung's hall.

105. The mouth of Rati | made room for my passage,
And space in the stone he gnawed;
Above and below | the giants' paths lay,
So rashly I risked my head.

106. Gunnloth gave | on a golden stool
A drink of the marvelous mead;
A harsh reward | did I let her have
For her heroic heart,
And her spirit troubled sore.

107. The well-earned beauty | well I enjoyed,
Little the wise man lacks;
So Othrörir now | has up been brought
To the midst of the men of earth.

108. Hardly, methinks, | would I home have come,
And left the giants' land,
Had not Gunnloth helped me, | the maiden good,
Whose arms about me had been.

109. The day that followed, | the frost-giants came,
Some word of Hor to win,
(And into the hall of Hor;)
Of Bolverk they asked, | were he back midst the gods,
Or had Suttung slain him there?

110. On his ring swore Othin | the oath, methinks;
Who now his troth shall trust?
Suttung's betrayal | he sought with drink,
And Gunnloth to grief he left.
*    *    *
111. It is time to chant | from the chanter's stool;
By the wells of Urth I was,
I saw and was silent, | I saw and thought,
And heard the speech of Hor.
(Of runes heard I words, | nor were counsels wanting,
At the hall of Hor,
In the hall of Hor;
Such was the speech I heard.)

112. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,---
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Rise not at night, | save if news thou seekest,
Or fain to the outhouse wouldst fare.

113. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Beware of sleep | on a witch's bosom,
Nor let her limbs ensnare thee.

114. Such is her might | that thou hast no mind
For the council or meeting of men;
Meat thou hatest, | joy thou hast not,
And sadly to slumber thou farest.

115. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Seek never to win | the wife of another,
Or long for her secret love.

116. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
If o'er mountains or gulfs | thou fain wouldst go,
Look well to thy food for the way.

117. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
An evil man | thou must not let
Bring aught of ill to thee;
For an evil man | will never make
Reward for a worthy thought.

118. I saw a man | who was wounded sore
By an evil woman's word;
A lying tongue | his death-blow launched,
And no word of truth there was.

119. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
If a friend thou hast | whom thou fully wilt trust,
Then fare to find him oft;
For brambles grow | and waving grass
On the rarely trodden road.

120. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
A good man find | to hold in friendship,
And give heed to his healing charms.

121. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,-
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Be never the first | to break with thy friend
The bond that holds you both;
Care eats the heart | if thou canst not speak
To another all thy thought.

122. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Exchange of words | with a witless ape
Thou must not ever make.

123. For never thou mayst | from an evil man
A good requital get;
But a good man oft | the greatest love
Through words of praise will win thee.

124. Mingled is love | when a man can speak
To another all his thought;
Nought is so bad | as false to be,
No friend speaks only fair.

125. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
With a worse man speak not | three words in dispute,
Ill fares the better oft
When the worse man wields a sword.

126. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,-
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
A shoemaker be, | or a maker of shafts,
For only thy single self;
If the shoe is ill made, | or the shaft prove false,
Then evil of thee men think.

127. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
If evil thou knowest, | as evil proclaim it,
And make no friendship with foes.

128. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
In evil never | joy shalt thou know,
But glad the good shall make thee.

129. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Look not up | when the battle is on,--
(Like madmen the sons | of men become,--)
Lest men bewitch thy wits.

130. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,-
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
If thou fain wouldst win | a woman's love,
And gladness get from her,
Fair be thy promise | and well fulfilled;
None loathes what good he gets.

131. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,-
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
I bid thee be wary, | but be not fearful;
(Beware most with ale or another's wife,
And third beware | lest a thief outwit thee.)

132. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,-
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Scorn or mocking | ne'er shalt thou make
Of a guest or a journey-goer.

133. Oft scarcely he knows | who sits in the house
What kind is the man who comes;
None so good is found | that faults he has not,
Nor so wicked that nought he is worth.

134. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Scorn not ever | the gray-haired singer,
Oft do the old speak good;
(Oft from shrivelled skin | come skillful counsels,
Though it hang with the hides,
And flap with the pelts,
And is blown with the bellies.)

135. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Curse not thy guest, | nor show him thy gate,
Deal well with a man in want.

136. Strong is the beam | that raised must be
To give an entrance to all;
Give it a ring, | or grim will be
The wish it would work on thee.

137. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
When ale thou drinkest) | seek might of earth,
(For earth cures drink, | and fire cures ills,
The oak cures tightness, | the ear cures magic,
Rye cures rupture, | the moon cures rage,
Grass cures the scab, | and runes the sword-cut;)
The field absorbs the flood.

138. Now are Hor's words | spoken in the hall,
Kind for the kindred of men,
Cursed for the kindred of giants:
Hail to the speaker, | and to him who learns!
Profit be his who has them!
Hail to them who hearken!
*    *    *
139. I ween that I hung | on the windy tree,
Hung there for nights full nine;
With the spear I was wounded, | and offered I was
To Othin, myself to myself,
On the tree that none | may ever know
What root beneath it runs.

140. None made me happy | with loaf or horn,
And there below I looked;
I took up the runes, | shrieking I took them,
And forthwith back I fell.

141. Nine mighty songs | I got from the son
Of Bolthorn, Bestla's father;
And a drink I got | of the goodly mead
Poured out from Othrörir.

142. Then began I to thrive, | and wisdom to get,
I grew and well I was;
Each word led me on | to another word,
Each deed to another deed.

143. Runes shalt thou find, | and fateful signs,
That the king of singers colored,
And the mighty gods have made;
Full strong the signs, | full mighty the signs
That the ruler of gods doth write.

144. Othin for the gods, | Dain for the elves,
And Dvalin for the dwarfs,
Alsvith for giants | and all mankind,
And some myself I wrote.

145. Knowest how one shall write, | knowest how one shall rede?
Knowest how one shall tint, | knowest how one makes trial?
Knowest how one shall ask, | knowest how one shall offer?
Knowest how one shall send, | knowest how one shall sacrifice?

146. Better no prayer | than too big an offering,
By thy getting measure thy gift;
Better is none | than too big a sacrifice,
.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
So Thund of old wrote | ere man's race began,
Where he rose on high | when home he came.
*    *    *
147. The songs I know | that king's wives know not,
Nor men that are sons of men;
The first is called help, | and help it can bring thee
In sorrow and pain and sickness.

148. A second I know, | that men shall need
Who leechcraft long to use;
149. A third I know, | if great is my need
Of fetters to hold my foe;
Blunt do I make | mine enemy's blade,
Nor bites his sword or staff.

150. A fourth I know, | if men shall fasten
Bonds on my bended legs;
So great is the charm | that forth I may go,
The fetters spring from my feet,
Broken the bonds from my hands.

151. A fifth I know, | if I see from afar
An arrow fly 'gainst the folk;
It flies not so swift | that I stop it not,
If ever my eyes behold it.

152. A sixth I know, | if harm one seeks
With a sapling's roots to send me;
The hero himself | who wreaks his hate
Shall taste the ill ere I.

153. A seventh I know, | if I see in flames
The hall o'er my comrades' heads;
It burns not so wide | that I will not quench it,
I know that song to sing.

154. An eighth I know, | that is to all
Of greatest good to learn;
When hatred grows | among heroes' sons,
I soon can set it right.

155. A ninth I know, | if need there comes
To shelter my ship on the flood;
The wind I calm | upon the waves,
And the sea I put to sleep.

156. A tenth I know, | what time I see
House-riders flying on high;
So can I work | that wildly they go,
Showing their true shapes,
Hence to their own homes.

157. An eleventh I know, | if needs I must lead
To the fight my long-loved friends;
I sing in the shields, | and in strength they go
Whole to the field of fight,
Whole from the field of fight,
And whole they come thence home.

158. A twelfth I know, | if high on a tree
I see a hanged man swing;
So do I write | and color the runes
That forth he fares,
And to me talks.

159. A thirteenth I know, | if a thane full young
With water I sprinkle well;
He shall not fall, | though he fares mid the host,
Nor sink beneath the swords.

160. A fourteenth I know, | if fain I would name
To men the mighty gods;
All know I well | of the gods and elves,
Few be the fools know this.

161. A fifteenth I know, | that before the doors
Of Delling sang Thjothrörir the dwarf;
Might he sang for the gods, | and glory for elves,
And wisdom for Hroptatyr wise.

162. A sixteenth I know, | if I seek delight
To win from a maiden wise;
The mind I turn | of the white-armed maid,
And thus change all her thoughts.

163. A seventeenth I know, | so that seldom shall go
A maiden young from me;
.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
164. Long these songs | thou shalt, Loddfafnir,
Seek in vain to sing;
Yet good it were | if thou mightest get them,
Well, if thou wouldst them learn,
Help, if thou hadst them.

165. An eighteenth I know, | that ne'er will I tell
To maiden or wife of man,--
The best is what none | but one's self doth know,
So comes the end of the songs,--
Save only to her | in whose arms I lie,
Or who else my sister is.

For Bellows commemntary on the passages see here:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gettin' Seidhr-y With It

 Since my last blog touched on some of the historic tidbits that contribute to the reconstruction aspects of seidhr and Irish magical practices, a couple of quick points before we get into what I actually do on the Norse end. Firstly to clarify terms: seidhr is a Norse word with an uncertain meaning that is often translated as witchcraft, or less commonly as shamanism (I favor the witchcraft translation although neither is really a good English descriptor for what seidhr work encompasses). As I mentioned last time seidhr had something of a bad reputation so seidhr might also be called spá or spae (interestingly spae is actually the Scottish version of the word...). There was a slight technical nuance between the two in terms of oracular work, as a spae worker intiuted information in a manner strongly reminiscent of Celtic forms of divination like tenm laida or imbas forosnai while a seidhr worker called spirits to herself to answer questions (see the link to the Viking Answer Lady below for more on this). In terms of my own practice I do both but I have a bad habit of using the term spae for all oracular work even that which should technically be considered seidhr. Secondly both seidhr and spae involve practices that can be seen as manipulative of other people to various degrees. I am well aware of this and I am comfortable with my own ethics and take responsibility for my actions and the outcomes, which is my way of saying that I understand that these things offend some neo-pagans' morals but I follow a different morality. I believe in the end all magic is neutral and it is through our own perception that it is judged as good or bad, and I'm okay with trusting my own judgment. Thirdly, yes I actually use these methods; this isn't just academic discussion for me. I have spent over a decade - nearly two at this point - learning and practicing these things. I truly believe in them, and I really do them.
   Well first off any type of seidhr work, to me, involves some level of trance work and so needs to be done carefully and with protection. That may mean different things for different people and groups; to me it means warding the space when doing deeper work, especially oracular work, and having allies to watch my back. I am dedicated to Odin, who knows seidhr work, and I have a shrine to Freya, who they say was the first to teach seidhr to the Aesir. Before any planned working I offer to them both, as well as to a certain obscure Germano-Celtic goddess who took an interest in what I do (is anyone really surprised that when I started doing this I had a Germano-Celtic goddess show up?). I offer to my ancestors and to other particular spirits I work with when doing this type of work. For less intense daily work I trust to my personal wards and protection. If you don't know what that is or how to do it then you aren't ready to be doing any of this type of trance work.
  Now things like weather work and shapeshifting I generally do when I am alone; it was common in both traditiona seidhr as well as some types of Irish magic like the tarbh feis for the person working to withdraw to a quiet place alone and lay or sit with their head covered. In seidhr work this is called going under the cloak and was also used by skalds (poets); it is a type of meditation that can be used for a variety of purposes from spellcasting, spirit journeying, to contacting spirits and recieving prophecies and poetic inspiration. I have found that even putting my hands over my eyes is effective for entering a trance. Influencing the weather is not my forte, although I've had success with it; it takes alot of energy and concentration and is usually done in a lighter trance. It involves, for me, going to where I want the change to manifest and then visualizing that change for as long as I can. It is a very tiring thing to do though and I have only ever focused on very slight changes in localized areas. Calling storms is a seidhr practice that I have never done, although I have diverted the damage of a storm around my home. Shapeshifting can occur in any level of awareness, but I find I use it most often when my spirit is journeying outside my body, particularly when travelling in the Otherworld (hedgewitches call this "crossing the Hedge"). Such travelling, at least in human shape, seems to be common in modern seidhr, especially oracular work as many groups use a method where they journey to the gates of Hel or to the Well of Wyrd to answer questions. I haven't seen similar accounts in the lore, accept in the case of one story where a man sent his spirit in the form of a bear to fight against some other men - the bear disappeared when the man was awakened from his trance.
   When alone or with my own group I tend to use this travelling method to go find answers. Now my personal preference for a public oracular method is different, based on what I have reconstructed from the story of the spae worker in Eric the Red's Saga. I sit in a seat before the gathered people, with my face covered*, and in my mind I recite a chant I have written to call any goodly inclined, helpful spirits to me to answer the questions that will be asked. This does involve going into a deeper trance and after the session I will not remember anything that was said, by myself or others, although so far the results have been very good. I do not personally use drumming, although I can work and have worked with someone using drumming; it's just not something that I need. I am contemplating adding the use of a staff though, both to hold and to tap on the floor, so that might be the next experiment. Most of what I do at this point is the result of years of trial and error learning and it is still evolving as I learn new methods.
  Another seidhr practice is called sjonhverfing, or "deceiving of the sight". This is roughly equivalent to Irish glamour or fith fath, where you make others see or percieve what you want them to instead of what is really there. An example of this type of seidhr magic is seen in Eyrbyggja Saga where a seidhr worker saves a man who is being chased by making the men chasing him see only a household object (a staff if I remember correctly) where the man is sitting. I have been doing this type of magic for far longer than any other of the skills listed under the auspices of seidhr, and of all the practices I think this one is the most directly similar between the Irish and Norse. You simply focus on the other person or people seeing what you want them to see, and act as if you are fully confident that they see it. The real trick for me is to pay attention and only do it when I want to, because it's very inconvenient to accidently influence things. And probably irresponsible, but nobody is perfect, and like anything else getting control of this is a matter of practice and time.
  A final well known seidhr practice is utisetta, or sitting out. Utisetta is done to contact the spirits of the dead, by sitting out on a grave or mound wrapped in a cloak. As with the Irish tales of those who choose to sleep on a fairy mound, utisetta in the lore could be very dangerous but could also offer many rewards, especially through new knowledge and prophecy, which the Norse believed could be given by the dead. I have used utisetta with the dead in a cemetary only once; generally I use it to contact the land vaettir and alfar(daione si by another name). Works perfectly well for that, and I suppose the way I do it is truly a synchretic practice as I am using a Norse method for a Celtic end....
  The next installment will look at the flip side of this blog, the Celtic oracular and magical practices and how I do them.

further reading on historic and modern seidhr:  

* most modern seidhr workers that I know of use a veil to cover their face during oracular work. I use a bear skin, with the face covering my own, because that's how I was told to do it. I don't argue with the People who have my back. By a wyrd coincidence the bear was given to me by a family member shortly after I was told I needed one, after it had spent many years as a rug; since acquiring it I made some offerings to it's spirit we are all copacetic.