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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Witchcraft, Acceptability Politics, and Defiance

I've often said that I think witchcraft, specifically American neopagan witchcraft, is a victim of its own public relations. This is something we can see more and more clearly as different divides appear within the wider community, often over core issues of inclusion or exclusion. Why do these things happen in witchcraft which is at its core something that should be amorphous enough to hold a place for everyone?
Because, I think, we have forgotten where witchcraft came from, where its power is rooted.

There's been a push for decades, since the 1950's at least in my opinion, towards mainstreaming witchcraft and painting a picture of it as gentle and kind. Reimagining witchcraft as the domain of the white middle class, literally recasting the witch as a young and white and female - and of course beautiful. Harmless. And intending no harm either.
This idea has been pushed so hard and for so long that many of us have started to believe it ourselves, and there's a whole generation of witches now who see witchcraft as an aesthetic of young, beautiful, spooky (but harmless!) people. Looking like Wednesday Addams but with candles and a cat.

Maybe there's nothing wrong with that, and I have no issue with people whose witchcraft is gentle or based on lighting candles and thinking good thoughts. Witchcraft is expansive, it can fit these new people in.
But.
But we have lost and intentionally subsumed the other (and the Other for that matter) along the way. We have accepted a certain degree of trendy outsider but only so far, only what is still acceptable to the wider mainstream. We hate being embarrassed by those people*, the ones who make us all look bad by going too far, by being too queer, too ethnic, too macabre, too spirit-ridden, too dramatic, too big, too different, too outside the norm. Too much. Satan? Definitely off limits. Making pacts with spirits? So early modern witchcraft-ish. Necromancy? Too Hollywood. Oh mainstream witches may talk about all of these things repackaged into more palatable forms but the real gritty bloody practices no. And then there's the people who we politely segregate, the ones we suggest make their own spaces and get out of ours, the people of color, the transpeople, the gender non-conforming, people from specific cultures. Actual inclusion is too messy. Too intersectional and difficult and requires making space and letting people speak for themselves instead of speaking for them.

We talk a lot about spirits and Gods but we don't seem to actual live that talk. There's no teeth to the belief.

We have forgotten the power of feasting with the Devil and dancing with the Queen of Elphame.
We have forgotten the need to heal with magic when there is no money to heal with doctors.
We have forgotten the rage of the unheard victim who knows they will find no justice in any court and turns instead to a moonless night and thorns and clay.
Well...some of us have forgotten.
Because it's easy when we live in relative comfort and safety, when danger is an idea rather than a reality, to forget the visceral needs that drove and still drive people to feast and dance and heal and hex. It's easy to forget when we are part of the comfortable majority, in any sense, what it's like for those of us who are not, who live on the fringes. Who don't choose witchcraft for for gentle reasons but for survival and defiance. The disabled, the queer, the marginalized, the unwanted. And the people for whom witchcraft isn't a choice but an inheritance, a culture, a way of life. People for whom witchcraft is about power.
We need to remember all of these things.

Its time and past time to stop worrying so much about what the mainstream thinks. They will never stop trying to make us like them and they will never accept us based on our attempts to be just like them unless we sell our souls to their God. It's time to start living in our own power, to get our hands dirty and bloody again, to go out under that dark moon and feast and dance - or at the very least to accept that some of our witchcraft kin do so and that they are witches as much as anyone else is. To embrace defiance.
Acceptability politics won't save us. Witchcraft that is inclusive and wild just might.


*my usual disclaimer that no I do not mean actual predators or dangerous people here. They deserve to be shunned and should be

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kionan's First Solstice - A Between the World's Short Story

In canon short story from my Between the Worlds series. Taking place after the events in book #7 Desire and Ashes this is a a solstice story in the spirit of the stories in the Fairy Gifts anthology.
It was written initially for a few friends and shared with a social media fan group but now I'd like to share it here for anyone who follows my blog and enjoys my fiction. It runs around 3700 words.




Kionan's First Solstice


Winter Solstice

Allie jerked awake to the realization that she was alone in bed and the sun was up. These two things were both unusual – normally Kionan woke her up before dawn and although Jess sometimes did get up early Bleidd slept in if he had any choice. Realizing she was by herself and it was nearly seven a.m. was concerning and she propped herself up on one elbow, shoving the mess of her unbrushed hair out of her face. There was nothing but silence and she was certain that neither Kionan nor either of her spouses was in the attached nursery which only increased her concern.
Trying not to panic she sat up, pulling at the oversized tshirt she slept in which had twisted around her body as she slept. With a careful effort to control her emotions she reached out to Jess and Bleidd, “Guys? Where are you? Where’s the baby? Is everything okay?”
She felt Bleidd’s amusement washing over her, even as Jess answered, his voice chagrined, “Sorry my heart we didn’t mean to worry you. You were sleeping so soundly when Kionan got up we thought it would be a kindness to let you keep sleeping. So we got up with him and brought him downstairs.”
Another panicked thought chased away the concern over why they weren’t in the bedroom, “Oh! You didn’t open any of his gifts with him did you?”
Now Bleidd was laughing, the feeling tickling through her mind, “Of course not Allie. We’re in the kitchen feeding him porridge and watching Luath through the window. He’s getting a kick out of watching her play in the snow.
Indeed,” Jess agreed, sounding less amused. “I’m afraid he’s wearing more food than he’s eating.
Ah, okay,” Allie thought back, blushing and glad they couldn’t see it. She should have known they wouldn’t get up with him on his first winter solstice and start opening gifts without her. “Let me hit the bathroom and then I’ll be right down.”
Allie struggled the rest of the way out of bed, stretching, then stumbled to the bathroom. Her bad ankle was stiff although not overly so, but she still took a few seconds to roll her foot around trying to loosen up the muscles. It was always hard to get started in the morning, even after almost two years living with the injury. Returning to the bed she sat and rubbed her left foot and leg for a minute, knowing it wouldn’t help but reassured by the action anyway. When felt like it was as good as it was going to get she reluctantly slipped on her titanium ankle brace, the silk padding cool enough to make her shiver. After several months wearing the brace she fastened it quickly without paying much attention to the action or the slight easing of the perpetual ache as the unstable joint was supported.
Before heading downstairs she also took some time to brush her hair out, although she didn’t bother to pull it up or get dressed beyond the shirt she slept in. All of her roommates were gone, spending the holiday this year with their respective families or significant others, so it was only her little family in the house. Leaving her blackthorn walking stick leaning against the wall she hurried to join her family.
She limped down to the kitchen following the alluring smell of coffee and the sound of her 7 month old son laughing hysterically. The coffee smell was promising but she knew from experience that the laughter meant a big mess. Kionan’s favorite pass time at the moment was making messes, and he enjoyed them most when they involved food. This was a hobby that Allie’s fairy hound appreciated, but no one else in the house liked, especially as he had an uncanny ability to get food in people’s hair. She almost felt bad for her spouses. Almost.
Entering the kitchen she found Bleidd and Jess both doing their best to get a spoonful of porridge into Kionan’s mouth – Bleidd holding the spoon, Jess acting as a distraction - as the baby laughed and tried to grab the spoon. Both adults were wearing a good amount of the food, and the table, floor, and wall were liberally splattered as well. Allie smothered her own laughter at the looks of intense focus on the men’s faces and turned to get herself some coffee. “I don’t suppose you’ve gotten any of that into him have you?”
“You’d be surprised,” Bleidd said, dodging a chubby fist and managing to get half a spoonful between Kionan’s gums. The baby swallowed dutifully, making happy noises, then before Bleidd could be too proud of his success grabbed the spoon and sent the rest of its contents flying across the table.
Allie took a big gulp of coffee to avoid laughing out loud. Jess sighed heavily. Taking pity on them, and grateful that they’d let her sleep, she said, “Okay well, you know what, I think he’s done, and you two are, umm, well why don’t you guys go grab a quick shower and I’ll get the kitchen cleaned up okay?”
Jess hesitated but Bleidd didn’t, setting the spoon down and grabbing Jess’s hand. “We’ll be quick.” He paused, giving Jess an appraising look as he pulled the other elf to his feet. “Well, we won’t be too long anyway. Then we can open presents. I know you’ve been very excited about Kionan’s first holiday.”
“And our wedding anniversary,” Allie reminded him smiling and hoping their shower shenanigans weren’t too distracting to her while she was watching the baby. She moved over to the table, grudgingly impressed with the sheer level of mess such a small baby could create.
“Ah, yes,” Jess said, leaning in to give Allie a kiss without getting any of Kionan’s breakfast on her. “Happy anniversary my love.”
“Hard to believe its been a year already,” Bleidd said, tugging on Jess’s hand. “We’ll be back. Try not to have too much fun without us.”
“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?” Allie quipped as they disappeared down the hall into the bathroom. Smiling she grabbed a kitchen towel and started getting Kionan cleaned up. By some solstice miracle he had managed not to get any food on his own clothes or in his high chair, so once his face and hands were cleaned she left him sitting there and quickly got the rest of the room straightened up. As she worked Luath came in, panting slightly from her run outside. The dark hound yipped when she saw Allie and then joined her at the table licking up any porridge she could reach. This delighted Kionan who bounced in his chair and shrieked. Allie gave them both an affectionate glance as she cleaned porridge off the wall. “You two are conspiring together aren’t you?”
Luath yipped again, her tail wagging slowly, then she yawned and stretched watching Allie for a cue. Allie scooped the baby out of the high chair, mess adequately cleaned up, and balanced his weight carefully on one hip. “Okay guys let’s go into the living room and get a fire started and turn on the tree lights. We can’t open any presents yet but we can look at them.”
Luath’s tail wagged harder for a moment then she trotted ahead to the living room, Allie and Kionan trailing behind. Allie moved a bit faster down the hall than she usually would have, trying to ignore the emotional energy coming from the bathroom, glad that Jess and Bleidd were enjoying themselves but not wanting to get sucked into their activities. Her control was much better than it had been but it wasn’t perfect.
In the living room Luath trotted over to lay down in front of one of the couches and Allie set Kionan down in his playpen, wincing at the pain that shot through her ankle, then moved over to turn on the lights on the tree. That done she headed over to the fireplace to get a fire going. In her grandmother’s time the fireplace had been more decorative than anything else but since Jess had moved in it saw regular use, even in the summer. Allie suspected that it was habit for him because he was so used to using fireplaces in Fairy or even in the Outpost, although her house – their house she reminded herself – had a furnace and oil heat. But the truth was she enjoyed the fires and the cozy feeling it gave the living room which had always seemed like such a formal place. As she worked to get the fire to catch she glanced over and saw that Kionan had managed to get himself into a sitting position, a skill he had only just mastered, and she grinned at the baby.
Starting the fire proved harder than she’d expected and after a dozen failed attempts she sat back glaring at the still un-burning kindling. She shook her head then glanced around, feeling like she was doing something inappropriate even though she knew she wasn’t. It was the subconscious knowledge that her grandmother and her cousin wouldn’t approve, but at that point even if their ghosts were watching she didn’t have the patience to keep wasting time. With a last furtive look around she traced an elven rune in the air over the wood piled in the fireplace and muttered ‘tihne’.
With a soft whoomp the wood caught fire, crackling cheerfully a few seconds later. Allie sagged as the energy needed for the spell rushed out of her, but it was worth it. Closing the bronze chainmail-like fire screen that hung down over the fireplace she crawled over to the playpen and sat next to Kionan, “Not too bad a job by your old mom, huh Kion?”
“I wasn’t aware you knew that spell,” Bleidd said from the doorway.
Allie jumped slightly, turning to see both Jess and Bleidd standing regarding her. Their hair was dry, probably courtesy of Belidd’s magic since he never hesitated to use it even on small things, and they were wearing the loose pants and shirts they slept in. Jess was looking thoughtfully at the fire; Bleidd’s eyes were locked with Allie’s, his expression amused.
She blushed. “I read about it in a book. It’s pretty useful, though.”
“Indeed,” Bleidd agreed crossing over to join them. “I use it regularly, as I lack the patience to try the more mundane method.”
She snorted slightly, not doubting him for a minute. “So, are we ready to open presents?”
Jess had remained standing, and at her words he shook himself slightly, as if he’d been lost in thought, then smiled widely. “Certainly. How should we start?”
“Let’s get Kionan out and he can open his first,” Allie suggested. Before she could stand Bleidd had risen to his feet and lifted Kionan out, placing him in Allie’s lap with a smoothness of motion she could only envy. Jess picked one of Kionan’s gifts from under the tree and they got started with the traditional gift opening, although it was more the adults opening and Kionan watching than anything else. Still Allie enjoyed it, both the feeling of family celebration that came with the tradition as well as watching her son touch, smack, and drool on his new toys.
By the time they were finished with Kionan’s gifts he was doing the slow blink that Allie knew by now meant a nap was coming on. She stood carefully, picked him up just as carefully,  and laid him back down in the playpen, tucking his new fleece blanket around him. He yawned and stuffed the corner of the blanket into his mouth, sucking happily on the fabric as he dozed off.
She sat back down, shaking her head slightly, “We really are lucky that he’s such a good baby, you know.”
Jess and Bleidd both gave her puzzled looks, so she elaborated, “Most babies aren’t nearly this easy about things like naps.”
They exchanged a baffled look between them then shrugged, making Allie giggle slightly. Kionan was the sum total of their experience with babies after all so they had nothing to compare him to. Not that Allie had any more experience than they did, but she had gotten more than enough stories from customers and friends, as well as reading every baby book her store carried, to feel like she had some sense of babies more generally. Before she could start to expound on the subject though Jess had moved to the tree and returned with another gift, which he handed to her. She took the box and immediately knew that it was a book, which intrigued her. She had no idea what book Jess would have gotten for her.
“Happy solstice, and happy anniversary,” he said, sitting down on the floor with them. “I wasn’t sure what sort of gift would be appropriate for an anniversary so I hope this suits both occasions.”
“It’s okay Jess I know that its confusing,” Allie said beginning to carefully peel back the shiny wrapping paper.
Bleidd snorted, “Yes humans do love any excuse to give gifts.”
Allie paused in her unwrapping, “I don’t hear you complaining when you’re the one getting the gifts.”
His eyes twinkled in the reflected tree light. “Its one thing from you or someone else – Jason perhaps – that I have some meaningful connection to. But the reciprocal obligations of this obsessive gift giving are mind boggling.”
She giggled, not sure how serious he was being, and finished opening the present. The book was heavy and leather bound and the title was written in Elvish. “Oh! ‘The Study of Magic in the Borderlands’, this is Jaerillys’s treatise on magic since the Sundering! Wow. Thank you so much, Jess, I love it.”
She caught the look of raw envy that Bleidd was giving the book in her hands, a new, and by elven standards rare, work by a well-known mage from Jess’s clan, “Don’t worry Bleidd you can borrow it to read as soon as I’m done with it.”
He smirked at her, raising an eyebrow to acknowledge that she’d caught him in a moment of open jealousy. Before he could come up with a clever diverting joke, Jess had turned to him and handed him a gift as well. “For you Gadreene.”
 Bleidd opened the present with a careless ripping of paper, his expression flippant – until he saw what Jess had given him. Incredulous he looked at his spouse. “Jess?
“Do you like it?” Jess asked shyly, as Allie craned her head to see what Bleidd was holding. In his palm was a pendant on a silver chain. The pendant itself looked like it had been carved from bone in the shape of an owl with a single pale opal-like stone set in the middle.
“What is it?” Allie asked, curious.
“It’s a protection amulet,” Bleidd said, his expression oddly vulnerable. “High level magic, and hard to come by because they are neither cheap nor easy to make.”
Allie and Bleidd both looked at Jess, who was positively beaming. “It was luck and synchronicity that I came across it, truly, and I had the chance to purchase it from a human, if you’ll believe it, who didn’t even know what they were selling. But I knew when I saw it that it would be ideal for you – you can keep it charged and it will protect you from physical harm to a degree.”
Allie looked at Jess in open mouthed awe, impressed that he’d managed to find something so perfect, something that would be useful to Bleidd and also set her own mind more at ease over Bleidd being back in the Guard. “For someone who doesn’t know much about gift giving holidays, you are really, really good at this.”
He laughed, pleased at the compliment, and the sound seemed to free Bleidd from whatever paralysis that had held him. He slid the pendant over his head, sliding it into his shirt, then leaned over and pulled Jess into a tight embrace. When he finally pulled back Allie would almost swear he was blinking back tears, but she and Jess both carefully avoided drawing any attention to the emotions, as they knew that Bleidd didn’t like open vulnerability. Allie found herself wondering if anyone before Jess and herself had ever expressed real concern for his safety.
Untangling himself Bleidd stood and went to the tree, returning with two small gifts. He handed one to Allie and one to Jess before sitting back down. Jess opened his first, revealing an ornately hilted dagger. Bleidd smiled as Jess unsheathed the blade, and Allie could feel the magic in the small weapon. “I enchanted it myself,” Bleidd said proudly. “It won’t ever lose its edge and any wound caused by it will be difficult to heal and prone to bleed freely.”
Allie looked at her husband in real surprise, caught off guard by the viciousness, but Jess was obviously thrilled. He resheathed the weapon carefully then reached out to pull Bleidd in for a quick hug. “An excellent gift love, I’ll treasure it. I can wear it with my uniform and it will surely be useful.”
They turned to Allie who shook away the reminder that elves were extreme in all things and carefully opened her own gift. Inside a small white box she found a silver necklace, a triple spiral pendant with stones at the end of each line and in the center. After a moment she decided the stones were moonstone, and as with his gift to Jess she could feel the slight tingle of magic in it. “In an enchanting mood this holiday were we?”
He grinned broadly, reaching out and taking the necklace which he clasped around her throat. It hung just above her collarbone. “The four stones reminded me of us, you, me, Jess, and Kionan. And yes I did enchant it. Why not when I can? As long as you are wearing it you won’t feel cold.”
“I won’t- wow. That’s pretty cool,” Allie admitted. “That’s a major enchantment.”
“Yes, it took me all year to set,” he admitted.
“Wow,” she said again, impressed that he’d gone to the effort. She knew that as these things went in Fairy it wasn’t considered that important, but to her it meant a lot. And it was certainly not something she’d ever have been able to afford to get herself. “This is great, Bleidd.”
He smiled and hugged her, and she could feel how genuinely happy he was. She pulled back then struggled to her feet, glancing at Kionan who was still soundly asleep. “Well compared to both of you my gifts probably won’t seem that impressive, but it took me forever to pick them out so that should count for something.”
She limped over to the tree as behind her Jess said, “Whatever you have gotten us I am sure we will be pleased my heart.”
She looked where she’d left the gifts but they weren’t there. Confused she searched the area under and around the tree. Finally Bleidd asked, “Is something wrong?”
“Well, ah, I can’t find them,” Allie admitted. “I left them both right here…but they aren’t where I put them”
Frowning Bleidd and then Jess joined her, all of them looking around for any more gifts. “It’s not like they got up and walked away,” Allie said, frustrated. “They must still be here.”
“What did the paper look like,” Jess asked.
“Ummm, red with holly leaves on it.”
“Like this?” Bleidd said straightening up next to the couch holding some shredded paper.
“Yes! Wait – oh no….Luath you didn’t.”
“Didn’t what?”
“Didn’t eat the presents,” Allie said, her heart sinking.
Next to the couch the fairy hound looked from Bleidd holding the shredded paper to Allie and whimpered, tucking her head under her paws.
“Oh no,” Allie said again, sinking to the floor. “Of all the gifts why did you have to eat mine?”
“Allie!” Bleidd snorted, indignant but also amused.
“Well,” she said, as Jess sat down next to her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
Bleidd joined them, “Will these gifts be reappearing in a few hours?”
“Ew, no,” Allie said, making a face. “Thankfully we won’t have to be trying to recover them. they were paper so they are really gone-gone.”
“Can the gifts be replaced?”
“Yes but it won’t be the same giving it to you later.”
“It’s alright, its will still be the same gift.”
“Why don’t you tell us what you got us?” Jess said, trying to comfort her as she glared at Luath who whimpered again, sensing Allie’s displeasure.
“It just…I guess I might as well. I mean it’ll take time to replace things…Bleidd I got you tickets to see that band you like, Mortal Coil, when they come to Grisburg. I thought we could make a date of it the three of us, if Jess wanted to go too, or if you don’t want to go Jess, since you don’t really like heavy metal, Bleidd you could invite whoever else you wanted. And Jess I got you season tickets to the theater here in town. I know you’d mentioned wanting to get more human culture and I thought going to see plays would be a fun way for you to do that.”
“Those are very thoughtful gifts Allie,” Bleidd said gently.
“Well currently they’re being digested,” she griped. “But I can get everything replaced. Thanks for understanding.”
“I think the theater sounds very interesting,” Jess said, hugging her closer.
Allie shook her head, then started giggling quietly, “You know only we could end up having gifts eaten by a hound on our first family solstice.”
“I’m not sure about that, but when you think about it, it is rather funny,” Bleidd said, smiling. “And I for one am just as glad it wasn’t mine or Jess’s that she ate.”
“Very good point. And I guess we may as well laugh about it,” Allie agreed still giggling as she leaned against Jess. “Happy solstice guys. And Luath you stay away from my new book.”
The hound wagged her tail slowly as Allie kissed first Bleidd then Jess. I guess this was a pretty good holiday she thought to herself surrounded by their love and hopefully the first of many more.



Copyright Morgan Daimler 2018

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Selkie Resistance Agenda

Today's post is meant just for fun (mostly) and is based off something a few of my friends came up with a while ago, the Selkie Resistance, which is in part about loving the ocean and hating modern society's aesthetic standards.
I'm trying to keep this humorous, hence the format, and what follows is entirely my own opinion. I do not speak for the entire Selkie Resistance ;) And yes I realize this isn't really an agenda per se.

Always dive deeply
Be true to yourself
Curiosity is a gift
Devour their hearts
Enjoy what you can
Find your flow
Go where the waves call you
Home is where you find rest
Its alright to let the water carry you
Joy doesn't need an excuse
Keep swimming
Learn your own tides
Making waves is okay
Nothing is really permanent
Oceans exist inside and out
Play whenever you can
Quests don't always end well
Rage heals; so does rest
Selkies of the world unite
Tears have power too
Value the worth not the weight
Water is always the answer
You are beautiful



Friday, November 23, 2018

Evolution of My Spirituality

I was asked on social media to talk a bit about my personal practice, so I thought a short blog about it would be a good approach. I've been pagan now for nearly 30 years and in that time my approach to everything has changed drastically more than once so its interesting to answer this question now, knowing what I say will be different than what I would have said 10 or 20 years ago and what I might say 10 or 20 years from now.


When I first started out in this spirituality I was very young and mostly modeling my practice from what I could glean out of available books. The result was a very stylized, formal, and rigid structure. At first I would follow a book exactly to make sure I was doing it correctly, dog-earing pages so I could flip between sections as I performed each part of a ritual or spell. Later as I shifted into a more reconstructionist approach I became more comfortable innovating but I carried forward a sense that a good ritual or even spell needed formality and rigidity. This was exacerbated as I joined Druidic groups which also focused on very formal, complex ritual structures. When I later began exploring Heathenry I was introduced to the idea that ritual could be simple and effective and this led me into a deep dive on older ritual structures including Celtic cultural feasting practices which were very eye opening for me*. In turn this influenced my personal approach to witchcraft and the Fairy Faith.

Ironically as I began to see the value and power in simplified ritual and to understand why we did each part of the structure - and so what in my own practice of it was actually essential and what wasn't - I ended up returning to a closer approximation of what I had done when I was much younger before I had stumbled across the idea of formalized spirituality at all. Nonetheless when I wrote down the outline of my own witchcraft practices in my book in 2013 I kept a slightly more formalized approach in there knowing that such structure had been comforting and necessary to me at one point and that especially when I'd been starting out on my path connecting my witchcraft to Fairy that more formal structure had its value. I mention that here because while I don't personally follow the same approach anymore I do still think that's a good place for people to begin, especially if they are coming from neopaganism more generally, and that aspects of that structure offer a level of safety my current approach does not.

At this point in my life my own magical work and spiritual practice is more spontaneous and fluid. I do love having set holidays to celebrate and I think holidays and holiday traditions are very important both in passing on beliefs and in creating connection between us and the Other (or Gods, spirits, ancestors, seasons, or what have you). Previously my holiday schedule was fairly reconstructionist in nature but as those who follow my blog and Patreon know that has recently been changing as I feel my way to a new cycle. Exciting times.

My approach to the rituals themselves is fairly simple and organic for the most part and usually just involves casting a compass with fresh water opening the rite and creating a space between worlds, calling in the spirits, making offerings, speaking to the spirits as needed, doing divination as needed, finishing with more offerings (think of it like welcome gifts and parting gifts), asking for peace between myself and whatever showed up as I say goodbye, then returning the space to its former state. I use this structure for holidays and for dark moon rituals although for dark moons I may also include meditation or journeywork. For spells or magic I would only go to those lengths if I was doing something major. Usually magic is a matter of simple actions and words, often involving yarn or fire.

I do have set things I say or repeat in these rituals and spells because words have power and repeated words gain power over time in my opinion. I'm a collector of old folk spells and charms and I also write my own and use them over time, and as well I've had things come to me in dreams or visions that I use. I also will use spontaneous speech when needed so not everything is old, traditional, or something I've been using for years. Sometimes the most powerful magic can come from words uttered in the moment when magic is being cast.

Daily practices are also generally simple and include small offerings and focused awareness. Focused awareness is a state of mind I try to have where I pay attention to potential omens, messages, just basically try to listen more than I talk if that makes sense. Talking to the spirits is easy but listening isn't always something people think to do, not really, so I have found it helpful to make an effort to throughout the day no matter how chaotic or hectic it is. And yes I often end up doing this in places like the bathroom, or while I'm cooking, or out walking, or while everyone else is watching tv. I make note of my dreams and if I remember them I write them down, as I believe that some dreams are actually the spirit wandering out and should be treated as real. I try to engage on some level with the beings who I feel are my allies or friends (if you will) as often as possible. I pay attention to the Otherworldly things I might See or experience and try to note patterns or trends as well as work, daily, to keep things in my general area and home smooth with Them.

I'm not trying to say any of this is easy, its not, and I want to emphasize here that this is distilled practice after almost three decades so please don't anyone use me as a measuring stick - there's many ways I could do better and things I've gotten pretty well dialed in now. I also, I've mentioned in other blogs about my particular fairy priestessing, don't necessarily recommend my personal path to anyone. Certainly the wider tradition of blending witchcraft with fairywork I do recommend which is why write about it, but the specific dedication and service to Themselves I advise caution with as it is consuming. I think some of that is reflected in my daily practices and I'm not even getting into the details of dietary things or personal taboos. 

So this is where I am currently at with my personal practice. I feel like every change has helped me grow closer and deeper into my work and I am glad for that. In many ways I wish that I didn't have to stumble along creating this as I go but I have tried many other traditions along the way - and learned a lot from each experience - and I have never found anything yet that is suite right for what I'm looking for except what I do myself. My witchcraft isn't something that fits well in the ceremonial magic structure or the neopagan one that comes from it, its far closer to early modern witchcraft. My spirituality isn't easily fit into CR, Irish-focused neopaganism, or Heathenry although it looks to all three. My focus on the Good People is something I've only found, minus the religious overtones, in the traditional beliefs of Ireland and those people who were once known to be away with the fairies. Which leaves me with no choice but to forge ahead as best I can.

And so I do. And I change and grow and try to learn and do the best I can to honour the Other and to serve Them, and to preserve and continue the traditional beliefs respectfully.

I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, or even perhaps 5 years ago, and that is alright. As the saying goes that which isn't growing is dying. I'm sure I contradict things I've said and opinions I've had before, do things now I probably once told other people never to do, and that's also alright. To quote Walt Whitman: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.". Opinions change, people change, and we should never be afraid to acknowledge that.
I'm not the same person I was even 2 years ago - I went into the sidhe at Cruachan and I came out a different person, I stood on Tlachtga surrounded by fires and walked away a different person.
And I've learned to love the person I am now.




*I highly recommend Lady With A Mead Cup by enright for more on this

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Celebrating a New Holiday

When I was in Iceland I had an intense personal experience, shared with several friends, which later had me reassessing the way that I approach celebrating holidays and the entire cycle of holy days in the year. This has led me to trying an experimental year where I am celebrating times that are especially in sync with the Pleiades because I believe these times are more important to the Othercrowd than I had previously realized. The first of these dates was on yesterday, 21 November, a time when the star cluster culminates or is at its highest point in the sky at exactly midnight. I had designed a ritual to honor this specific time which I had share don my Patreon recently. Last night I went out and celebrated it.

Full moon over Eyjafordur in Iceland 9/2018
Going out under the November sky last night in America was strongly reminiscent of being out at night in Iceland for me. It was unusually cold and windy, the air having that sharpness that it gets when the temperature is a good amount below freezing.

I had intended to make offerings of honey cakes which I have used before on major holidays but there was an odd amount of apple synchronicity going on during the day so after some divination work I ended up making an apple spice cake instead. There seemed to be a very strong apple theme all around which is something I will certainly keep in mind next year. As it was I moved out into the darkness of the late night carrying fresh water and apple cake to offer, searching the sky for the blue glow of the Pleiades. Since the full moon was also high in the sky I had some trouble finding the stars but I did eventually locate them and I set up in what I felt was a good spot.

I cast my compass using some of the water, not for protection but asking that the way between worlds be opened. I spoke the beginning portion of the ritual, inviting in the Otherworldly powers, and froze as the sound of bells and uncanny music floated on the wind. It was unnerving; the last time I'd heard anything like that when the Slua Sidhe was nearby and I can't quite put into words the way it makes you feel terrified and thrilled all at once. I stood my ground and went on to the next part trying to ignore the sound of shuffling footsteps in the leaves around me. After that section I did pause again to make sure there weren't any animals nearby as I wasn't eager to be surprised by - or surprise - any local wildlife. Suffice to say that it wasn't wildlife making the noises so I continued on with the rest of it.

At the very end as I was closing up there was a particularly large gust of wind then everything went very still. It felt good in that moment, the whole ritual felt good if a bit wild and certainly eldritch in the old sense.

My husband would tell me later that while I was outside our entire house shook in a way that made him think a branch had fallen on the roof although there was no accompanying noise with it and no damage or sign of anything amiss today. I had strange dreams last night and today has been an interesting day overall but again nothing bad just a bit more intensely Otherworldly than usual.

We are finishing out our new holiday celebration with a feast incorporating apples in as many ways as I can manage. Some of this will also be left out as an offering of course.

Overall I feel that this was successful and intend to celebrate it again next year. Now I will start thinking about what the next logical holy day would be and how to approach that one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cowalkers, Fetches, and Fylgjas

I often see a lot of confusion in modern paganism between three related but distinct concepts: the co-walker, fetch, and fylgja. These three concepts come from different cultures and can be described by some contemporary writers as equivalents however when we look more closely at the concepts within the root cultures it becomes clear that they are not so much equivalents as loosely similar concepts.

The Co-walker - This concept comes to us from the writings of rev. Robert Kirk who is clear that the Co-walker is a type of fairy being attached to but separate from a human being. Kirk describes the Co-walker as looking identical to a living human and being seen by other humans both during the  lifetime of the person they are attached to as well as after the human dies although they eventually return to their own people (Kirk & Lang, 1893). While Kirk doesn't describe the Co-walker as being dangerous, or indeed as doing much more than occasionally being seen by other humans as an omen that the living human would be arriving at that location soon, he does make it clear that people with the Second Sight abstained from eating meat at funerals or banquets to avoid sharing a meal with a Co-walker (Kirk & Lang, 1893). Kirk says that people who are able to see such spirits and distinguish them from living humans saw them among the pallbearers carrying the casket at funerals as well as eating at funerals and feasts, implying perhaps that such spirits used their form to move unnoticed among humans. Kirk himself had no idea why the Co-walkers chose to attach to humans saying "It accompanied that person so long and frequently, for ends best known to itself, whether to guard him from the secret assaults of some of its own folks, or only as a sportful mimicry to counterfeit all his actions." (Kirk & Lang, 1893, pages 43 -44 language updated by me)

Fetch - A concept in England that is rather obscure in nature the Fetch in folklore is a copy or duplicate of a person which appears as an ill omen, usually of death (Briggs, 1976). Also called a wraith or double the Fetch would be seen by the living person or those who knew them, generally right before they died (Harper, 2018). In more recent material the Fetch has been given many of the qualities and abilities of the Fylgja, although in older folklore it is clear that the Fetch or wraith was only viewed as a death omen.

Fylgja - A Norse concept, a fylgja may be an independent protective spirit or a projected part of the person's own soul; when it is the person's own soul it usually takes an animal form. Fylgja can follow family lines and there are examples in Norse myth, such as in Hallfraedarsaga, of Fylgja who were inherited through generations  or seemed to be primarily attached to one individual but would also aid family members (Gundarsson, 2007). In modern books Fylgja are often compared to or equated to Fetches, but they lack any sense of ill-omen; the Fylgja was viewed as positive and seen as both protective and luck-bearing. It was common for a person's Fylgja to be of the opposite gender although we should note that in tales this occurs most often with men having female Fylgja and sexual elements or relationships were not uncommon between a man and his fylgja-woman. Fylgja may mean 'follower' or 'following' and they can act in decisive ways to aid the human they are connected to, providing knowledge as well as physical protection (Gundarsson, 2007). Claude Lecouteux strongly connects the Norse concept of the Fylgja to fairies, arguing that Celtic examples of fairy women who act as tutelary spirits and protectors of family lines as well as those who attach themselves to individual humans are the same beings that the Norse would label as Fylgjas (Lecouteux, 1992). He refers to these spirits as 'Doubles' and points out their many similar characteristics and functions to Fylgja.

It is understandable why there is such confusion between these terms, especially as all three are sometimes called 'doubles' in English. I have myself used and written about the term Fetch in a more Fylgja sense based off what was written in the book Our Troth volume 1 (generally a good source) something that I am now less comfortable using. The more I've researched it the more I've found a clear association with the Fetch as a death-omen rather than a helper spirit. Similarly a Co-walker is clearly not a Fetch - Kirk writes about those under the name wraiths later in the same section of his book - and does not fit the description of a Fylgja. I would also note, to avoid further confusion, that these spirits are not what we would term Familiar spirits either, as the Fylgja either attaches to family lines or a person at or before birth, the Fetch is a double of a living person, and the Co-Walker duplicates a living person for its own obscure reasons while the Familiar spirit is given to or chooses a person later in life and acts as a mediator and aid in their magical and spiritual work. I think for myself I might start using the term 'Follower' to describe in English the type of guardian/guide spirit that we see in some folklore and stories and which fits the category of the Fylgja to avoid this confusion of terms.


References
Gundarsson, K., (2007) Elves, Wights, and Trolls
Briggs, K., (1967) A Dictionary of Fairies
Kirk, R., and Lang A., (1893) The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies
Lecouteux, C., (1992) Witches, Werewolves, and Fairies
Harper, D., (2018) Fetch; Online Etymology Dictionary

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Personal Gnosis and Research

I am asked on occasion how I balance out personal gnosis and research.

Honestly for me I see the two things as complementary so they just go together naturally for me. I know that there can be a perception that gnosis and existing mythology or folklore don't get along or aren't necessary to each other but for me I can't imagine having one without the other. The corpus of existing beliefs and myths are the bedrock for me and everything else comes from and is built on that. But just like an actual structure you need more than just a slab of rock and that's where the personal gnosis comes in, that's what builds things up and decorates it.

Mythology and folklore I think are indispensable and vital to my practice probably because my own life tends to have such a strong metaphysical or mystic bent to it. Researching and having knowledge of the existing folklore and the stories is an essential checks and balances system for me to help me validate things I see or experience and also to help me innovate in my own rituals and magic. And of course the beliefs of the living culture and of the written records form the bulk of my own beliefs and understanding of cosmology and theology. Researching these things can be time consuming and tedious but since we don't live in a pagan dominated culture anymore where these beliefs and stories are the norm its important to immerse ourselves as much as possible. Research becomes a way to make these things so deeply ingrained in our minds that we don't just believe them but we know them to our core, reflexively. We have to make it so that 'thinking pagan', if you will, is our natural state and that does take effort even if we aren't undoing decades of indoctrination in another religion (and I know many people are) because we live in a culture that every day reinforces materialism, monotheism, and disenchantment which are all the antithesis of animism and a polytheistic worldview.

The flip side of that is the personal gnosis, which makes up more of my daily spirituality than people might see from the outside. My spirituality is a very experiential thing but having a strong grounding in the folklore helps me filter out what is legitimate and what is just my head talking to itself. I think anytime personal gnosis is involved there is always a very real concern of both the gnosis overwhelming the person and also of a person misinterpreting the message; and of course it's very easy to convince ourselves that we are receiving something from outside that is actually just our own will or desire in one form or another. This is where its so helpful to look at the existing mythology and folklore to help filter out what is likely genuine from what is likely not. For example if I have a vision of the Morrigan urging me to be more passive and just let other people have their way with things knowing what I do of the mythology I'd be highly suspicious that this was just my head trying to give me an easy way out of a situation.

So for me research and knowledge of the mythology and folklore are less about balancing gnosis as they are about complimenting it. The two work together and guide my spirituality together. When they come into conflict its a chance for me to grow and reflect on why and how I am going to respond to that conflict.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Good Translations of Irish Myths

Responding to another social media question: what are my favorite translations of [old/middle] Irish material?

I don't know that I necessarily have favorite translations, per se, so much as favorite translators. So if I have a choice I tend to look for work by Kuno Meyers or Elizabeth Gray when possible because they are two of my favorites. Meyers because he footnoted like nobody's business and he's very good about discussing alternate possible reads which I really appreciate. Gray because her work is newer and so incorporates newer understandings of the language. Macalister isn't bad and his work on the Lebor Gabala Erenn is valuable especially for the notes and appendices, but he tends to take the easiest English translation option rather than (in my opinion) what might be the most accurate. Dunn's Tain Bo Cuiligne is decent although like most translators especially of his period he tends to add material. I abhor Whitley Stokes and may never forgive him for his appalling treatment of the Cath Maige Tuired.

Whitley Stokes is actually the reason I started teaching myself old/middle Irish, so that I could read the Cath Maige Tuired for myself after I realized how much he was both adding in and editing out. And that sort of thing is exactly why you have to be very careful about translations especially of this material. Older Irish doesn't lend itself to literal translation to English because to an English speaker what is rendered tends to look clunky and redundant, however in altering the material to better suit an English language audience the feel and spirit of the original is, again in my opinion, often lost. What we are left with my seem beautiful in English but it may not reflect the original story, only the translators opinion of the spirit of the original story and that quickly becomes perspective and opinion.

I highly recommend checking out University College Cork's Irish Sagas Online which includes side by side renderings of many important texts in the original older Irish, modern Irish, and English.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Why Is Macha Considered One of the Morrigan and Not Nemain?

For day four of my 30 Day Content Challenge I'm answering another question from social media - why Macha and not Nemain?

I'm interpreting this question to mean why is Macha considered one of the Morrigan and Nemain isn't, which is both a straightforward question and also a layered one.

The simple answer is that we know Macha is one of the three Morrigan because she is referred to explicitly as such in several of the glossaries and we know Nemain isn't because she is at no point in the source material called the Morrigan or one of the Morrigan.

The complicated answer is that while Macha's connection to the Morrigan is easy to establish and fairly clear - she is repeatedly referred to as one of the three daughters of Ernmas with the Morrigan and Badb, is listed as one of the three Morrigans with the same two sisters, and acts along with them in stories - Nemain's connection is more convoluted. We can clearly say that she is a war and battle goddess and she acts in ways that are similar to what we see the Morrigan doing. She is also very closely tied to Badb, who is one of the Morrigan. In fact some scholars including RAS Macalister have theorized that Badb and Nemain originally formed a grouping together and only later did Badb become associated with the Morrigan, and then even later the Morrigan and Badb became connected to Macha.

Badb and Nemain share similar epithets including 'red' and 'red mouthed' and Nemain is sometimes referred to as 'Nemain, that is the Badb' or 'Nemain that is the Badb Catha'. It is likely that Badb's name like the Morrigan is also a title but in this case we can see the use of it applied to Nemain indicating their close ties to each other. Nemain is also referred to as Be Neit which may mean wife of Net* or woman of battle and is itself a name or title we see applied to other war goddesses. Nemain is said to be the wife of Net along with Badb in some sources, while others say she is his wife along with her sister Fea; unlike the three daughters of Ernmas Fea and Nemain are daughters of Elcmar. This is not a clear subject however, with some scholars like Heidja favoring the idea that Nemain is Badb's true name, while others like Gulermovich-Epstien seeing Nemain as one of the multitude of Morrigan goddesses but indirectly connected.

Pagans often tend to view Nemain as one of the three Morrigan because she is listed as such in modern books, possibly because a late 19th century book by Hennessey on the Morrigan discussed Nemain quite a bit. We can say with certainty that she is not one of the three if we are looking specifically at that specific grouping, but we can also say that she does appear together with Badb inciting battle and causing strife. While we can confidently include her among Irish war goddesses whether or not she is one of the Morrigan per se will probably always be an open question.


*Net is an obscure war god

Friday, November 2, 2018

Calling The Othercrowd Back

Recently the inestimable Seo Helrune wrote a post titled 'Restoration Not Re-enchantment' which made the point that much of our out-of-sync-ness now with the Otherworld is a direct result of christian, particularly protestant, efforts to drive off the Good Neighbours who they believed were demons. Reading her blog has had me thinking over the past week about the deep implications of this for those of us who live in Christian held lands. If we are in places where the dominant religion has been and may still be actively working to drive out the spirits that we in turn are allied with, what does that mean?



She makes a good argument in her post and certainly there's abundant evidence that some Christian traditions did indeed view the Othercrowd as demonic and classified them as demons; we see as much in witchcraft trial accounts where a person who spoke of fairy familiars and dealing with the Queen of Elfame was described by judges as dealing with devils and Satan. There are many examples where terms like elf or goblin are glossed as imp or incubus, going back at least to the 15th century in England and found in the American colonies from their inception.

Related to this is a pervasive campaign of propaganda saying that priests and other such religious men had driven out the Good People through their faith, despite continuous anecdotes and folklore to the contrary. One can argue that these stories of the religious men forcing out the fairies is another means to try to effect their removal by weakening people's belief in them and removing the power of folkloric stories tying fairies to places, as well as eroding practices designed to honor them.
For example:
Canterbury Tales, 'the Wife of Bath's Tale' 14th century:
"In the days of King Arthur, Britain was full of fairies. The elf queen danced in meadows with her companions. This is what I read, anyway. Now, no one sees elves any more, because of the prayers of friars. These friars search all over the land, blessing every building and house, with the result that there are no more fairies. Where elves used to walk, the friar himself now goes at all times of the day, saying his prayers. Women can walk anywhere they want without fearing anyone but the friar, who will only dishonor them, rather than beget demon children upon them." (Chaucer)
In Bishop Richard Corbet's 16th century poem 'Farewell, Rewards, and Fairies' he says that the fairies tolerated Catholics well enough but have all fled to other lands to get away from Protestant religion, which is why none can now be found. In a similar vein several anecdotes beginning in the 17th century mention fairies fleeing any area where church bells rang, apparently unable to tolerate the sound (Briggs, 1976). 

Perhaps we can still see echoes of this effort today not only in the disenchantment of the world and the places where the spirits have in fact been driven off but also in the wider cultural views that see the world around us as un-inspirited and empty. In the way that the dominant narrative may try to describe all things within their own cosmology only as if there could be no other possible options. 

So getting back to my opening question - for those of us who operate in a very different paradigm and for whom interacting with Otherworldly spirits, or any spirits really, is an intrinsic aspect of what we do how do we respond to this?

I think we fight back. I think we fight fire with fire, propaganda with propaganda. We spread our own stories and our own truth and talk about the reality of the spirits that are there in defiance of that dominant narrative. And if they call them demons then let them call them demons. I think we look at the world around us and see it as it is, alive and inspirited, and we learn to be aware if we aren't already of the Othercrowd when they are around us. But most essentially like repairing a rip in a tapestry I think we must actively work to fix what's been done over the centuries to, as Seo Helrune put it, restore the Othercrowd to their place in our world. And yes they can be and often are dangerous; so are wolves and bears and poisonous snakes but our world needs those as well.  

I believe we need to restore the balance that was by returning things to the way they used to be when the world was full of spirits. And I think we can do this. We can call them back. We can reopen the old pathways. We can re-find the old practices and ways. We can re-align ourselves with the Good Neighbours and restore the balance by undoing what the protestant church did when they drove those beings out.

It won't be safe but its essential.


Copyright 2018 Morgan Daimler
Find more of my work at https://www.patreon.com/morgandaimler 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

When What You See Has No Name

I had a dream last night that involved, among other things, seeing a group of small birdlike beings with fangs. They were about the size of ducks, covered in soft fuzzy white-grey downy feathers all over and where their beaks would have been instead they had muzzles full of a multitude of sharp fangs.
I have no idea what exactly they were although I feel that they were Otherworldly. They were also clearly dangerous.

Why am I sharing this story? I often have people come to me with encounters they've had with various beings, looking for names for what they've encountered. It's understandable. It's human nature to want names for things and to seek understand what we've experienced by relating it to a body of existing knowledge. When we first see a new animal we might have the same urge to find a name for it and seek out basic information about it. The problem we can run into though with beings not from our world is that even with the amazing store of folklore we have sometimes we encounter things that have no names and no known stories.

When people run into these unnamed or unknown* spirits and realize that they are unknown there is often a tendency to react by doubting themselves. As if just because the spirit they encountered can't be easily named and categorized the person themselves can no longer trust what they experienced. I think we need to be careful not to fall into that mindset that the only spirits and Otherworldly beings who exist are the ones who have already been recorded and defined by previous human generations; remember that even in the mortal world humans still sometimes discover new species. In the same way when we encounter the Otherworld and its inhabitants we should keep in mind that not everything there is known and defined by human understanding - indeed I would argue that its hubris to think that humans have such a complete understanding of the Otherworld as all that.

We also need to keep in mind that when it comes to the Other we aren't just talking about a single 'place' as it were or type of being. For myself I can speak with some confidence about whether something was likely a human ghost, and about a variety of types of fairies, especially from Irish, Scottish, and some Germanic cultures. But there are many, many other types of Otherworldly beings besides those, and beyond that there are many types of beings that are Other but not fairy necessarily. I doubt highly that anyone could identify beings across the entire range of possibilities. Instead a person would need to specialize and when someone encounters a being they may need to research or ask around across a variety possibilities before you may find what you encountered. And even then you may not have a name for it.

And that's still alright. A personal experience is no less valid just because what you saw or experienced can't be found in a book or wasn't shared by other people you know. I'd suggest (as always) making notes about the experience, what you saw, how it acted, what happened, and so on because that might be useful later in discerning at least the nature of what you encountered. But don't worry that just because you can't find it in a folklore book or grimoire that it doesn't exist. There's a lot more out there than can be found between the pages of books.


*for the record I don't believe they are actually truly unknown. I suspect the knowledge or stories of them have either been lost or is simply not readily available to the person

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Chilling Adventure of Sabrina - One Witch's Thoughts

Netflix recently released a new series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, based on the comic book series of the same name. I don't generally get into television much but I decided to give this show a try for three reasons: it's a sort of spin off of Riverdale which is one of my oldest child's favorite shows, pre-release buzz said there'd be a non-binary character in the show, and the previews seemed to depict an intriguingly dark story (I love horror). It came out on 26 October and had 10 episodes.

So, first a bit of content warning. The show is firmly in the horror genre in my opinion and it has graphic violence that might be upsetting to some people. This includes hanging/lynching, throat slitting, suicide, and cannibalism including of a child. There is also a fairly graphic autopsy scene, and some bullying of a gender non-conforming student which includes physical assault.

The premise of the show is that the main character, Sabrina, is a half witch and half mortal who is supposed to fully commit to the witch side of her nature but doesn't want to give up her mortal life and friends. In the show witches are clearly defined as supernatural beings who live much longer than humans and have supernatural powers, taking them out of the realm of reality and into fantasy. In this aspect it reminded me of some urban fantasy I have read. The witches in Sabrina's world are not in any way pagan or neopagan witches but are based solidly in Christian mythology, fashioned from historic diabolism and theistic Satanism with some early modern witchcraft elements, which I liked. The course of the season follows Sabrina's life as she struggles to deal with this conflict, while being pressured to conform to her family, manipulated by outside forces to follow a certain path, and while she is trying to hide her secret from her friends while also trying to help them in various situations.

The show is set in a timeless period that evokes earlier America of the 50's through 70's without quite being specific. It is styled well and has a great soundtrack which is one of the best I've heard for being perfectly fit to the mood and feel of the show. It also isn't afraid of humour, both subtle and more obvious, and there's a lot of popculture and comic references worked in. The show more generally has a macabre and snarky humour to it that I really appreciated and doesn't seem afraid of mocking itself or the topics its featuring. I particularly love the little idioms the witches use that reflect their own culture yet are mirrors of the dominant Christian one they are clearly created to reflect, darkly as it were.

Before we get further into why I like the show let's look at a few cons. There are a few scenes that include partial nudity of the actresses which I did not like in a show where we are supposed to believe these characters are 15 and 16 year old children. I'm well aware the actors are all over 18, but the idea that they are playing younger teenagers still bothered me in context. It was unnecessary. I also felt like naming the school's women's group W.I.C.C.A. was unnecessary and while I'm sure it was supposed to be some sort of joke I found it annoying especially in context. Generally the special effects were good but there are points where they are so bad it's obvious, such as the apple trees (in full flower and with barely any apples, during apple picking supposedly in late October?). There are also a couple plot holes that really nagged at me, I don't want to post spoilers, so I'll only offer this small example: how is there a list of well known familiars and named familiars in books if they die when their witch dies? Finally there are some glaring mispronunciations including Samhain and Macha, which I would have expected to be correct in a production like this.

So that's some of my criticism. You'll notice I'm not criticizing the Satanic/Diabolic elements and that's because those things don't bother me. Firstly because its framed as clearly fantastical - I mean seriously people come back from the dead - and I give fantasy a freer reign in creating its world. Secondly though and just as importantly because those elements, at least the ones that aren't pure fiction or commentary on fundamentalist religion, are based on history and folklore. The idea of witches marks that don't bleed? The idea of blood pacts with Satan? Cannibalism? Those really are from historic witch hunting texts and accounts of diabolism. There are witches who worship Satan as the fallen angel who challenged the Christian God and who follow a real world religion based on what is shown in the show, minus the murder and mayhem. There are other aspects that reflect early modern witchcraft and practices that people who identify as witches today may still engage in. 'Goblins' (aka fairies) as familiar spirits who take animals shapes to aid the witch? Blood pacts with spirits? Cursing ones enemies? All things we find in history and folklore.

In fact the show includes quite a lot of genuine folk magic and folklore which was a nice change from most witchy tv that's pure made up nonsense. I loved seeing all the yarn magic. Without the horror aspects the magic and witchcraft here is closer to my own than anything in Charmed or Bewitched and I honestly enjoyed seeing it, seeing a tv witch using eggs to divine if a curse was placed, and using protecting charms, and looking to little folk omens to foretell the future. I get that the witchcraft in this show isn't everyone's cup of tea, but quite frankly - just like tea - witchcraft is too diverse for any one flavor to please everyone. I don't get into the Satan worship or diabolism for myself (I take my tea without sugar) but I loved seeing the early modern witchcraft aspects and the folk magic. I also quite enjoyed the Latin and the occult references that are worked in.

Now as to what I liked. The cast is very diverse, and the show really emphasizes women and women's power. There's a refreshingly good number of people of color and particularly women of color in the show and two of these are significant and powerful characters (Roz and Prudence). The show embraces various expressions of sexuality from the expected heterosexuality to pansexuality and queerness which I loved; it even touches on monogamy and polyamory. There is one character who struggles with their gender identity and we get to follow that struggle through the episodes, as they slowly seem to embrace who they are. It challenges ideas about free will and choice in our lives and questions what it means to be a good person in an ambiguous world. In making the witches and their Church of Night just as rigid and religious as any Christian fundamentalist the show makes some very good commentary on the dangers of blindly following any tradition for its own sake and of trusting a higher power or authority figure that has its own agenda. The story arc is strong and builds well over the episodes and I think that the characters themselves are well developed within what is a fairly short amount of time. But most of all I loved the message - verbalized in the final episode - to "own your power" because that is something we all need to hear right now.

I'll finish this out by saying, for those of you who have watched the show - my two favorite characters are Ambrose and Hilda ;)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Rabbit Bone Divination - Developing a System


I little while I go I started feeling a nudge to create my own divination system with bones. I was driving home and the idea came to me, and I tried to push it aside because it seemed too complicated for me to take on right now, but the idea just kept lingering. I kept getting the idea of using rabbit bones* for this purpose and it just wouldn't go from my mind. I finally asked for some kind of omen and as I crested a hill a wild rabbit hopped into the road in front of me; I slowed and the rabbit looked right at me before slowly hopping back the way he'd come. My feeling with this was that he was trying to get my attention, but I wasn't totally clear on the purpose so I risked asking for clarification - and turned a corner only to have a second wild rabbit run next to my car in someone's yard for about 30 feet before breaking off.
To me this was a definitive sign that I should pursue this new divination method, even though I was very uncertain about how it would actually work.

I took a leap of faith and started moving forward with the project. I got a selection of small rabbit bones (from the feet) and I put them on my altar. I sat with them and meditated on how this should functionally work. My feeling was that it would be a system involving throwing bones down on a cloth, but nothing else was really coming to me for it. I decided that a good approach would be to ask for a bit of assistance.

Last night before I went to bed I repeated three times:
"Coinín, coinín, coinín
Speak to me truly
Coinín, coinín, coinín
Tell me what I need to know"



I woke up with the image of bones being shaken and thrown down in my mind, and these words:
"One for fate
Two for chance
Three for loss
Four for romance
Five for life
Six for death
Seven for the Fair Folk
Who steal your breath
Eight for dark
Nine for light
Ten for aid
Eleven for spite
Twelve for health and
Blessings felt
Thirteen for fate
Yet undealt."

Each line, to me, represents a specific possible answer to a person's future although I also think this charm could have other uses**. What I gained from this was the idea to use thirteen bones and throw them down onto a small cloth marked with a circle and then look at how they fall and how many fall within the circle. I will chant the charm before I throw the bones.

Meditating on this later today I also got the impression to burn one side of each bone, so that one side would be dark and the other plain. This could be used for yes/no questions or other points where clarification is needed as well as to indicate the overall tone of a result.


*I am using roadkill bones for this purpose. My general preference with bones is to use those that are found rather than, shall we say, otherwise acquired.
**another obvious use is as a simple omen where anything that appears in numbers would be counted and the count compared to that line of the charm

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Miscellaneous Q & A


I thought it would be fun to do another question and answer blog today so I asked for questions on social media and here they are along with my answers:


Rei asks: On the subject of fairies, do you think there are wildly different beings in different parts of the world with different 'rules of engagement' as it were? I've had some experiences here in Appalachia that do not seem to hold to the same rules like for example apologizing/thanking seems OK even polite depending who you're dealing with.
My answer: wildly different no, but different yes. I think we can find beings throughout the world that might fit the wider definition of what we would call in English 'fairies', that is Otherworldly beings that come into our world and follow specific patterns of behavior including interacting with humans in specific ways. When it comes to the etiquette I like to compare it to human culture. If you travel around the world what is good manners in one place may actually be rude somewhere else, so it's always good to try to learn the local customs as it were.


Rebecca asks: Do you have any fairy resources that are not Irish? I have some Scottish based books that I got from your bibliographies but can't find much on Welsh or general British.
My answer: there's an older book called 'British Goblins: Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends, and Traditions' by Wirt Sykes. I would also recommend checking out this site http://www.fairyist.com/fairy-places/welsh-fairies/
For British I'd recommend British Fairies by John Kruse as well as the blog of the same name here https://britishfairies.wordpress.com/


David asks: In old Irish tradition the good people like the finer things which were available at the time; cream, butter, meat and so on.
If we accept for arguments sake that they exist in a different time realm, so to speak, then would you say that today's offerings should now also be the finer things available to us, such as champagne, fine wine, delicacies and so on?
My answer: I tend to think the times change but their preference for quality hasn't. But then I also think that the whole point was always twofold - to make sure humans remembered that the Good Neighbours were owed a portion, and that they expected the top of the harvest not the bottom. Or put another way I'd never risk giving skimmed milk


Maggie asks: Are there any references to Brighid and fairies?
My answer: Not that I know of but I will dig a bit deeper and see what I can find


Pamela asks: I know there's lots of theories as to why they dislike iron, l was wondering what your personal opinion is about why they dislike it so much?
My answer: my personal theory is that iron is very grounding and disrupts their magic. They avoid it because it reduces their ability to effect the world and control things and may also be directly harmful to them. Rev. Kirk theorized their bodies were partially made of energy and if he is right then a grounding material like iron might physically harm them. Although I'm starting to wonder if it may not be a more straightforward and literal allergy to the metal, but I also tend to believe they are or can be physical beings as much as tehy are or can be non-physical beings. 


Eliza Marie asks: What are your thoughts on comparisons between older accounts of encounters with the Gentry and modern day "alien abduction" experiences?
My answer: I personally think that alien encounters are modern interpretations of fairy encounters. I think that as humans stopped believing in fairies as real powers who were dangerous and could take people, and started to believe in dangers from other planets we start to see fairy abductions and encounters shifting into alien ones. Since fairies have always been known for using glamour to effect what humans see and perceive it would make sense that humans expecting outer space monsters would get them.

Kathryn asks:Do you have an suggestions for further research on Yeats and the Fellowship of the Four Jewels?
My answer: Not something I'm familiar with relating to Yeats, but looking into Ella Young's writings may prove more fruitful. If you haven't already I'd read Graf's book 'W. B. Yeats Twentieth Century Magus: An In-Depth Study of Yeats's Esoteric Practices & Beliefs, Including Excerpts from His Magical Diaries.'

Pamela asks: In the remscéla where the Morrigan meets Cuchulainn and has the one legged horse with chariot pole sticking through it's head, do you have any idea what that description is supposed to translate to the reader other than super otherworld weird?
My answer: The Tain Bo Regamna is one of my favorite stories. Often in mythology we see one eyed, one limbed beings as symbolic of cthonic forces - for example the Fomorians are described this way in some instances. We also see the corrguinecht or crane-wounding-magic being done in a position of standing on one foot with one hand behind the back and one eye closed. To me this indicates that not only is the horse clearly Otherworldly but it is also rather ill-aspected, either cthonic in nature or sinister. I suspect a person hearing the story told would have immediately identified this description with a being that is unsainly or otherwise of a dangerous Otherworldly nature, foreshadowing what happens later in the story. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Two Book Reviews: The Winnowing of White Witchcraft and British Fairies

Today I'd like to offer two short book reviews of texts I've recently read that I enjoyed very much. They are extremely different books, but both valuable I think in their own ways.



The first book I'd like to review today is 'The Winnowing of White Witchcraft' by Edward Poeton, with an introduction by Simon Davies.

The book is a new release of a 17th century book that had never been published. It was written as an anti-witchcraft treatise in the 1630's (exact date unknown) but is aimed less at what we might expect [read: diabolism] and more at cunningfolk and similar folk practices in England. The author was a physician and had strong opinions about the healing practices of cunningfolk which he criticized through this treatise and by trying to equate cunningfolk directly to more diabolical witches. The text is set up as a dialogue between a cleric, doctor, and uneducated country man; the country man frequents cunningfolk and the other two are set in the text to persuade him to stop by convincing him such folk are just as bad as actual witches.

Although an argument against cunningfolk it provides a good amount of information about what such people were doing at the time, as well as giving a descriptive 14 point list of what activities a witch, specifically a white witch or cunningperson, could be identified by which included being observant of "good and bad dayes, and of lucky and unlucky howers"; identifying and aiding bewitched people; divining with personal objects [psychometry]; use of spells and charms that they term prayers; and reliance on omens. It also mentions a person having a familiar spirit which they first called an angel of God then admitted was a fairy. There are small bits of folk magic practices throughout the work. The text is heavily footnoted and annotated throughout and includes a wealth of valuable material for a person studying early modern witchcraft or cunningcraft.


If this subject interests you then I'd say it's a good read with some interesting information in it, particularly as it is an original 17th century source. It was published by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and it is very well done, with an exceptional introduction and footnotes throughout. The introduction does a wonderful job of setting the cultural tone that the text was written in and establishing who the author was, both essential points.
I will however add two caveats: at $45 it is very expensive for a 77 page book and you do need a working ability to read early modern dialects, particularly those meant to be intentionally archaic and rustic. Another review I had seen of this book (which actually motivated me to find a copy) gave the impression the third speaker in the text was nearly unintelligible and while I did not find this to be so other readers may have more difficulty with his sections. A small example to illustrate: "
Cham zorry master doctor, that you shud ha zuch a conzete o mee: I tell ee truely (I thong God vort) I dee ze my prayers ery morning, whan I wash my vace an honns, An zo agen at night whan cham abed..."
[I am sorry master doctor that you should have such a conceit of me: I tell you truly (I thank God for it) I do say my prayers every morning, when I wash my face and hands, and so again at night when I am abed...]




The second book I'd like to review if 'British Fairies' by John Kruse.


I had recently become aware of a blog 'British Fairies' and then found out that the blog's author John Kruse had a book of his collected material under the same title, so I decided to seek out a copy. 


The book is divided into three parts; the first part further into three subsections. Overall there are 35 chapters and they are all fairly short and set up much as a blog article would be. This style lends itself to easier reading, which is good because the author has a more cerebral tone and approach to the subject that some readers may prefer in smaller doses. The first part is titled "the Character and Nature of British Fairies" with subsections on basic characteristics, attributes, and human relations. The second part looks at fairies in art and literature; the third focuses on "themes and theories" relating to fairies. 

The book is 186 pages and is well research and thoroughly cited and footnoted throughout.

This is a book that is going on my list of 'must reads' for fairylore. It is well written and thorough, and takes a much needed deeper look at specifically British fairylore focusing on primarily England, Cornwall, and Wales. The author touches on all of the vital areas one would hope to see in such a text, from questions about whether fairies have physical forms to how they came to be viewed as tiny childlike girls with wings. The chapters are really more like short essays on particular subjects, perhaps betraying its origins as a blog, and often include bullet point lists summarizing key points but this works to the book's advantage rather than detracting from it. One may choose to read the whole book through, read short sections at a time, or use the text as a reference for specific topics. 

The text retains a loose air of skepticism, never committing to belief or stating disbelief, however it does approach fairies through the lens of traditional folklore while tracing the shift into a very different modern understanding of who and what fairies are. The overall tone is one of exploration and seeking answers. I do not, of course, agree with everything the author believes but the material is well written and the arguments presented are persuasive and supported. There's a wealth of material in these collected essays and the format makes that material accessible while covering a lot of ground. 


I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in the subject, particularly if your focus is more on England, Wales, or Cornwall.