Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter: A Study Of Folklore and Legend For Gnostics, Occultists and Crafters

It may come as no surprise to those familiar with my dual-faith teachings, that I believe Easter to be a a feast that should be acknowledged and celebrated by mystics, Gnostics and occultists regardless of their religious persuasions. While literalist Christians celebrate a “real” resurrection of Christ at this time those of a mystical persuasion must look deep into this mythos and discover the real meanings behind it. In our search let us look first to the date of Easter. Easter is one of the moveable holidays in Christendom. The date is calculated be looking at the date of Passover, due to the fact that the Easter story was supposed to have taken place at this time.  That is to say, Passover as it was believed to fall by early European Christians. Passover begins on the eve of the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. The Hebrew calendar is a lunar one and each month begins the day that the first sliver of the moon can be seen following a new moon. This typically places Passover just following the full moon of Nissan. Easter falls on the Sunday following this date (or the Sunday during Passover) in some years.  In other years the two can be a nearly a month apart.  To simplify the calculation for those not familiar with lunar calendars, Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox (known in the west today to be the first day of spring.) Easter, therefore, follows closer to early pagan celebrations of Eostre.  Easter, thus can fall on any Sunday as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th. The date of this festival, therefore fell very close to Teutonic spring fertility festivals that had been celebrated at this time of year. As Christianity moved through the Roman Empire it began to encounter these cultures and many of their customs were assimilated. It bears mentioning that Easter was not even originally called such, but rather Pasch or Paschal which it is often called to this day in non English speaking countries.

The Goddess of Light and Life

According to the Venerable Bede the festival derives it's name from Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring fertility and light. A late variation of this goddess may be found in Grimm when he writes of the spirit Austra. She may be able to be traced back to the Greek dawn goddess Eos and some have speculated that her origins may be further east in Babylon as the fertility goddess Ishtar! Beyond even this the we can trace her to India and the word usr, meaning dawn. In Anglo-Saxon countries the month that corresponded with what would become the Gregorian April was named for this goddess and called Eostremonat. As with many late Christian feasts, the church adopted both the name and many of the customs associated with the springtime fertility revelries.
When we stop and take a look at what the very word “light” means to the mystic and magical mind, we get a clearer look at who this “Dawn Goddess” might truly be.  Light, of course, is a metaphor for mystical knowledge or gnosis. Thus the light bearing goddess of the spring is also the bearer of knowledge! In this way she is Sophia, the feminine, wisdom bearing principle of the Godhead to the Gnostic, otherwise known as the Holy Spirit. Sophia, much as Christ, had both her spiritual principle as well as an earthly one. In her earthly body she is Mother Earth and the cthonic goddess of death and the underworld (a highly initiatory station!) In her transcendent body Sophia becomes the bestower of light (Holy Spirit,) the Star Goddess and Queen of Heaven. In this representation we see the great mother goddess present in the forms of the Virgin Mary, Isis, Ishtar, Astarte and Eos. Also we see her dark side as the cthonic Hel, Holda or Kolyo. In her wisdom we see her reflected as the Tree of Knowledge, which it has been said that Sophia took the form of, and which the first humans ate of.  This leads us to our next revelation of the Easter season.

The Living and Dying God of the Sun

For those on a mystical or occult path it is no new revelation that Jesus, as we are told of him today, is an amalgam of various deities from the ancient solar and agrarian mystery religions. Osiris, Mithras, Dionysus, Baal... the list goes on and all are living and dying gods of ancient mystery cults. Jesus is but the latest of these. The word Christ is derived from the Greek kristos meaning “anointed one” literally “the messiah,” as it were. Anointed being one who has been blessed or initiated by holy oil. Within Gnostic traditions there are those who have associated the Christ with divine fire, and thus gnosis as well. In this way Christ is represented by the sun (appropriate as He is an ancient solar deity) which sheds light upon the Tree of Life. This is telling as to the relationship between the “Son” and “Holy Spirit” in regard to our own gnosis and initiations. Of course, the old mystery traditions were concerned, often, with agrarian symbols, and thus this solar deity becomes important.
In these mysteries the Living and Dying God (or Christ as it were) dies that the people might live by the grain and vine. So it is with the Jesus myth. Jesus dies to save the souls of sinners in the literalist version of the myth. In reality this is an allegory that we can use for our own “salvation.” Man has always striven to be as god. According to the ancient wisdom the soul and spirit are not as one, as we are taught in the modern day.
The soul contained the being as born in a human body, the spirit was just that, a spirit independent of the mortal coil. This spirit would correspond to what most in the modern world would deem to be the guardian angel. When the mortal coil died this guide would move on to guide a new body and fulfill it's fate. Now, the ultimate goal of these spirits is to reunite a Godhead that was shattered at the dawn of existence by overcoming “fate” or “karma” as many understand it today. This can be accomplished by uniting the soul, which exists only while the body lives and is the essence of every person, with the spirit. Here is the secret of all of the tales of wizards attempting rituals to become immortal. It was never meant to mean a physical immortality, but one meant to carry on a repository of knowledge and fate in future lives to aid in the recovery of the True God. This is the truth, as well, of what is called the “sacred marriage.” Within some sects this sacred union is the Cross itself and is represented by the sexual union and man and woman, tying us once again to fertility rites! How, might one ask are these feats achieved and in what secret rituals? It is simple indeed, the rituals meant to unite soul and spirit are hidden in plain sight with the Sacrament of Bread and Wine (body and blood) or Eucharist. This rite is an emulation of the death and resurrection of the Living and Dying God, or Yeshua/Jesus Christ. So we have one of the ancient mysteries revealed! Thus we see that the resurrection story is a mythical guide for the mystic or magician to follow.
Further illumination of this topic is revealed in certain Gnostic ideals in which we see, within The Secret Book of John, the goddess Sophia becoming the Tree of Knowledge itself. In Gnostic thought we see that the Tree of Knowledge and the True Cross are one and the same! This Gnosis and the Crucifixion are the same! The “lost” Gospel of Truth has this to say of the Crucifixion:

For this reason error was angry with him, so it persecuted him. It was distressed by him, so it made him powerless. He was nailed to a cross. He became a fruit of the knowledge of the Father. He did not, however, destroy them because they ate of it. He rather caused those who ate of it to be joyful because of this discovery.”

Thus we are led to the occult truth of the matter.

Symbols and Customs of Easter

So we come to the seemingly secular items found in our Easter tide, though secular they are not! The first of these that we shall delve into is that of the Easter Bunny, or more appropriately, the Easter Hare. Hares and rabbits were seen, in the old time, as symbols of fertility based upon their rampant reproduction. At one time, we are told, hares were considered to be an animal sacred to Eostre, and so figure prominently in her fertility rites. According to folklore the moon hare was supposed to have laid the great egg from which creation came. This bit survived as a curious piece of lore, for in some regions people believed that hares laid eggs for some time! Thus bringing us to our next Easter symbol.
Eggs may well be the most popular Easter symbol the world over. The origins of the Easter egg custom stem from two sources. The first being the obvious pagan fertility symbol, as one of the hangers on that made it's way into the celebrations after the conversion of the European peoples. This fits in very nicely with the studies that we have already made. The second reason for eggs at Easter (and why we hard boil them) is a bit more obscure. This has to do with the lenten fast. During the middle ages in Europe eggs were forbidden along with meats. So that people would not lose their eggs the would boil them and preserve them in other ways, thus when Easter Sunday arrived, eggs featured prominently into the feasts. Events such as egg rolling and Easter egg hunts date back to this early time period and it's festivities. The painting of eggs has many different sources. The most well know of egg dying traditions (that is, outside of the realm of mass produced egg dying kits in industrialized countries) is that of Pysanky. Pysanky is the method by which the people of Poland and the Ukraine dye their eggs using wax to preserve patterns and coloration.
Yet another custom, often forgotten in the modern world, is that of the Easter Fires. The Easter Fires are one of many customs which most assuredly come from the pagan solar feasts. A fire was lit on Easter Sunday to honor the return of the sun. Later the Church adopted the custom (unable to stop it entirely) and made it to symbolize the resurrection. In some regions of Europe and effigy was burnt representing winter. In other areas the effigy symbolized Judas. In yet other regions this effigy was burnt upon a cross and called the “Easter Man.” Upon Easter Monday the ashes from the fire which had consumed the Easter Man would be strewn about the fields to make them fertile.
In some parishes the fires would be lit on Easter Eve instead of the Easter Morn. In these services all fires are extinguished within the parish. A candle known as the Paschal candle is lit from a great fire and used to relight all of the candles and lights within the church. The congregation bring sticks of beech, walnut or oak which they char in the fire. This is then used as an amulet to guard the congregant's home from lightning strikes and fires. The stick would be kept through the year and be burnt in the following year's Easter fire.

The Rite of Eostre

Armed with the preceding information a group of properly trained occultists or witches might be able to perform the following rite in honor of Easter tide.

Ritual Preparation: All lights should be put out, save for those that are absolutely necessary to get about and, if needed, read. A fire should be built, but not lit, in the east or center. Sticks may be brought by each member of the coven/congregation if desired, for charring as protective charms. Following the ritual an egg should be buried on any members land whom will grow produce in the coming year.

The Compass is Drawn as normal

Invocation of the Master

Magister steps forward and rings the bell to the north:

Prince of the air,
You who baptize by holy fire,
Son of I Am,
Golden born Horn Child
That dies and descends into Hell,
To rise again, and remember
King of Hell and Lord of Light,
Oh Great He on the Tree,
I call to you with sorcerous words,
I call to you of many names;
Hesus, Osiris, Mithras, Jesus, Dionysus, Attis,
Adonis, Woden, Indra, Baal, Quirinus, Thulis,
Sakia, Quetzacotl, Ascended Pythagoras, Prometheus
I beseech you risen Devil, King of Faerie,
Come let us adore you,
That we might learn your ways,
And our spirits become as your own!


Invocation of Eostre

Eostre,
Dawn Maiden,
Herald of the coming season
Nurturer of all that grows,
Wake now from winter’s slumber,
I call to you with sorcerous words
Dawn Maid, Hare Queen I call:
Eos, Eos Ostara; Eos Eos Eostre!
I beseech you Queen of Hares,
Come Let us adore you,
That we might bask in the glow of summer’s rays,
And our spirits fly to the Sabbath Grave!

The Arrival of Eostre

The Magister steps toward the fire and speaks:

Long and cold has the winter been. Long have we awaited the warmth of the spring. Now we gather to celebrate the dawn upon the green Earth and the waking of the world. Now is the coming of Eostre, the Dawn Maiden. We celebrate as she wakens the sleeping Earth from winter’s waste. Behold, Spring is come!

The Maid gestures toward the fire and says:

Behold Dawn is come! Spring is come! Eostre has returned to the children of the green Earth!

All draw three crosses before the fire. Candles are lit from the fire to illuminate the Compass. All who wish then proceed to the Eostre fire with their sticks in hand. The sticks are put into the fire briefly to be charred. The charred sticks are then taken and kept in the home for the next year as charms against fire and lightning.

All may then chant, or if chanting is not desired the Summoner or Magister may read:

Greet we now our Lady,
Returning with the Spring.
Bringing back the greening,
Swift and Swallows Wing,

Blessed now the hilltop,
Blessed now the stream.
Oak, ash and elder wood,
Wake from winter’s dream.
Wake ye mystic rowan,
Enchanted hazel, HO!
Slumber not old willow
Nor dread mistletoe.

A Mill is here tread while chanting:

Eos, Eos, Ostara

Eggs are here blessed by the Magister and an offering given to the fire.

The Sacrament of Bread and wine is here performed.


Ending Declaration:

The Rites of Eostre are over,
Go now with the blessing of the Spring
And bound to the Risen Horned Master.
The Earth wakens in the dawn!
She shall feed Her children!

The Compass is swept away and implements retrieved.

Following the Rite the Magister may "anoint" the foreheads of the each attendee with ash from the fire to give Eostre’s Blessings

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick and the Serpent of Wisdom



Most people in the west are familiar with the story of St. Patrick driving the “serpents” out of Ireland, thus becoming a patron saint of the Irish. St. Patrick, however, was actually a Roman born in what is now Great Britain. He was the son of Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britain in charge of the colonies. Calpurnius, himself, the son of a priest by the name of Potitus. As a youth Patrick lived in the town of Bannaventa Berniae. It was in this town, that before the age of sixteen, Patrick was abducted and taken to Ireland as a slave. Patrick, later in life, came to the belief that he and the other slaves deserved to suffer as they had “turned their backs on God.” It was in captivity, however, that he turned to the Catholic faith. During his captivity he wrote: The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same." He also wrote of his mystical experience in relation to this: "I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain." When Patrick was twenty he had a dream in which his God spoke to him and told him to flee by reaching the coast. Patrick did as instructed and found sailors who took him back to Britain where he was reunited with his family. He then had another dream, this time of the people of Ireland saying: “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more." Before returning to Ireland Patrick began his studies to become a priest. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre. Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. According to the lore, Patrick was soon confronted by a chieftain named Dichu who attempted to kill him. A miracle happened and Dichu was unable to raise his arm against the bishop and converted to Christianity. Patrick worked to convert the Irish for forty years using the three leafed shamrock to as a symbol to explain the Trinity. In his confessions the one thing that Patrick seemed to regret was that he was ill educated.
If one follows the lore one begins to see the tale of St. Patrick driving the serpents out of Ireland. We have one piece of lore stating that the wand he used to drive the serpents into the sea was of hazel wood. It is said that with such a wand a person might draw a magic circle which no ill spirit can enter be it fairy, demon or any other mischievous spirit. In regard to driving out the snakes Lady Wilde had this bit of lore:


“There is a lake in one of the Galtee mountains where there is a great serpent chained to a rock, and he may be heard constantly crying out, "O Patrick, is the Luan, or Monday, long from us?" For when St. Patrick cast this serpent into the lake he bade him be chained to the rock till La-an-Luan (The Day of Judgment). But the serpent mistook the word, and thought the saint meant Luan, Monday.
So he still expects to be freed from one Monday to another, and the clanking of his chains on that day is awful to hear as he strives to break them and get free.
In another lake there is a huge-winged creature, it is said, which escaped the power of St. Patrick, and when he gambols in the water such storms arise that no boat can withstand the tumult of the waves.”

Many people today, however, are also aware that the story, historically, is either bunk or a code. We know that there were no snakes in Ireland. It has been put forth in recent times that the driving out of serpents was actually a code referring to his conversion of the pagans in Ireland. This is only partially accurate, if this is the real meaning, as certain pagan beliefs persisted there long after Patrick's demise. It is a likely explanation, however.
Interestingly, however, there may be a metaphysical explanation to this association with serpents. That is to say that the ancient spiritual entity associated with the serpent by animistic cultures may be surviving within the worship of Patrick, and that the story of the serpents is but a sign to guide those who seek it's wisdom or light. This entity may be most commonly observed as Ouroboros, the serpent who bites it's own tail, representing infinity, amongst other mysteries. To the ancient Celts the serpent was a complex animal. It's associations were creation, fertility, rebirth and healing. This is interesting as the Vodoun Lwa Damballah, a serpent deity, is also associated with creation and fertility as well as wisdom. Wisdom, of course being the main correspondence of the serpent mentioned in the Book of Genesis that gave the gift of knowledge and wisdom to mankind. According to Vodoun tradition he is the creator god, as demonstrated here:

Long ago, the serpent spirit Damballah created the world. Damballah used his 7,000 coils to form the star sand the planets in the heavens and to shape the hills and valleys on earth. By shedding the serpent skin Damballah created all the waters on the earth. And when the sun showed through mist settling on the plants and trees a rainbow was born. Her name was Ayida Wedo. Damballah loved her and made her his wife. They are still together today, the serpent and the rainbow. Damballah and Ayida Wedo.

Damballah's color is white and so is offered white things, most notably white eggs. It is also interesting to note that Damballah is represented by St. Patrick in Vodou. This all gives a bit to ponder on whether “St. Patrick” as a legendary figure is in fact a representation of The Great White Serpent of Light.
We can look closer still to see the connection of this entity to creation in the old testament. When the people of Israel were plagued with “fiery” serpents and were filled with their venom, Moses was told to erect a pole (often depicted as a tau cross) and “lift up” or hang a serpent of bronze upon it (the Brazen Serpent.) When the people beheld this graven image they would be healed. Links between the Brazen Serpent and Jesus Christ have been made in sermons for over one hundred years. We can see this demonstrated in the sermon  The Mysteries of the Brazen Serpent, delivered on September 27, 1857, by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon in which he says:

“Allow me, then, dear friends, to describe first, the people in the wilderness—the representatives of men who are sinners. Let me describe next, the brazen serpent—the type of Jesus Christ crucified. Let me then note what was to be done with the brazen serpent—it was to be lifted up; and so was Christ to be lifted up. And then let us notice what was to be done by the people who were bitten—they were to look at the serpent; and so sinners must believe in Christ.”
The Bible itself compares the two stating:

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."—John 3:14.

Woodcut of the Brazen Serpent



Vodoun Veves of Damballah

With these connections we can clearly see the connection of the serpent to a creative, healing and fertility deity! Let us remember that Jesus Christ is the Christian variant of the Living and Dying Sun God who governs the fertility of the crops in the agrarian mystery traditions!
I suppose that the next topic in regard to St. Patrick and the serpent (or St. Patrick the serpent) is the question, what can the mystic or magician do in honor of this entity/saint should they choose to? Well, for one who is either Catholic or Vodoun this has easy answers within their own traditions. For others the answer may be harder to answer. The magician from a family of Irish descent may choose to honor this entity, and what to do then? Well, we can attempt to synthetically utilize information that we have already covered. Firstly, as a simple form of communion one could leave an offering appropriate to the serpent. As noted before, in the Vodoun tradition the serpent likes things that are white. A traditional offering is that of a bowl of white flour with and egg in the center, both being symbols of creation. The former offering is a symbol of the work and creation made by mankind, the later a symbol of the divine creation of the universe. Very appropriate for such a deity! To further correlate this offering with out saint/entity we could make this offering upon St. Patrick's Day (March 17th.) Another way of honoring the saint may be to add his own prayer to one's spiritual devotions. It is known as "St. Patrick's Breast-Plate.” It is said that it was composed and prayed when he prepared to confront and convert the Celtic pagans of Ireland. It can, by the magician and mystic, be used in a slightly different manner, as we shall see.

St. Patrick's Breast-Plate

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgment Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of Seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.




If we are to remove the following superstitious lines: 

Against the black laws of heathenism, Against the false laws of heresy, Against the deceits of idolatry,”

we end up with a very good incantation for the magus and mystic alike! With these lines in proper interpretation the prayer could remain intact. Even the segment which states “ Against the spells...” can be a good protection to the practitioner. A portion may even be vaguely familiar to the practicing magician today, beginning with “Christ with me...” as similar directional devotions can be found in the old grimoires and the pentagram rituals of the Golden Dawn. In addition to these things, even calling upon Patrick in prayer and ritual as both saint and serpent may allow a level of communion and allow the light of truth to be known to the practitioner. That, after all is the true purpose of gnosis and mystical light.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Meaning of Lent and Fasting to the Occultist, Mystic and Gnostic

    I begin this writing on the day before Ash Wednesday. It is known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day, Goodish Day, Paczki Day, Mardi Gras and various other names depending upon where you are and who you might happen to ask. The commonality held between the varying traditions of this day is excess. That's right, excess. Let us look a a local custom from my home region of Detroit, MI. The tradition of Paczki Day or Fat Tuesday comes from the local Polish Catholic community, but has moved on to be a tradition followed by most locals. This day we indulge in paczki's (pronounced poonch-kee.) A paczki is a pastry, not unlike a doughnut, filled with either jellies, cream cheese or custard. The little pastry has enough fat and calories to give an elephant a heart attack, so one is typically enough indulgence for one day. Paczki's are also a seasonal food, typically only made on this day and the days leading up to it. In addition to sweets and fatty foods, many old traditions hold carnivals and games upon this day as well. So, the key to this celebration is indulgence. Now we get to the point, why all of these feasts of excess?
    This brings us to the point of Lent itself. The word Lent seems to have it's origin in a Teutonic wording meaning Spring. Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, meditation and penitence to prepare the individual for the coming of Holy Week and Easter, according to Christian tradition. Thus Shrove Tuesday was acknowledge, by church officials, as a day for the people to be “shriven” of their sins in preparation of this time. As we have already seen, the common folk seem to have always had another agenda when it came to the day before a fast. To the Christian world the fast last for forty-seven days (from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday.)   The actual duration is rounded to forty days, as Sundays are not counted and, though the fast continues, the official end of Lent is on Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter.)  The fasting (or rather abstaining) for forty days is done in direct imitation of Christ's forty day fast in the desert. There were traditionally three different facets to the practices found in Lent. The first is prayer or Justice Toward God. The second is fasting or Justice Toward Self. The Third is alms giving or Justice Toward Neighbors. The chief amongst these that is practiced by people today is fasting, prayer being a day to day practice of faithful persons. It was, at one time prescribed that abstaining from meat products be done during Lent, hence the popularity of “Fish Fry's” during this time and the popularity of fish sandwiches on fast food menus. This prescription was later lifted and enforced only on Fridays. Orthodox Churches hold a five degree system when it comes to fasting.

I Abstaining from meat
II Abstaining from meat, eggs, milk, butter, and cheese
III Abstaining from meat, eggs, milk, butter, cheese and fish
IV Abstaining from meat, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, fish, oil, and wine
V Abstaining from all foods and beverages except bread, water, juices, honey, and nuts

    Now we come to the point. The spiritual discipline of fasting is something that should be experienced and practiced by all spiritual disciples, whatever their faith. The Gnostic Christian, the witch, the mystic and the magician alike should all look to fasting as a practice to help lead them to light. In fact there are prescriptions for fasting found in several of the old grimoires. The act of fasting meditation and prayer during the lenten season might lead any spiritual person to a greater understanding of the mysteries. It has also been theorized that fasting as a spiritual discipline can lead to a greater level of communion with one's own spirit, that which has been variously called the Holy Guardian Angel, the Higher Self, the Fetch, the Daimon, etc. This in turn can lead us to a greater understanding and communion with our god(s) and with the Godhead itself. This might be amplified by fasting in such a way during the season of Lent, as it leads to the resurrection of the Son of God (Sun God) and Living and Dying King, whom the mystery traditions might prescribe that we all emulate in order that we might live and die and live again and remember what had passed before. If this is not enough the will power needed to fast and it's development should be a desire of all students of the mystery's as well as occultists! It is, in all ways an exercise in the mystical betterment of the self. Thus I call to all mystics, Gnostics, occultists and other students of the Art to join with me in the Lenten season and fast, as we should, to better ourselves and be closer to the world of spirit. After all, is not fasting a long honored spiritual discipline in traditions the world over?
   I do not prescribe beginning with such fasts as the Orthodox Church prescribes above, but rather abstaining from one thing that is a commonality in your life. This should be a thing that the practitioner enjoys greatly and partakes of on a regular basis, at least once a week to once or more times a day. Foods are always a good way to go, as we develop cravings for foods that we enjoy on a regular basis. Once the thing has been picked it must be gone without for the forty days of Lent. Once Lent has begun whenever a craving, desire or even the opportunity to partake of he chosen thing arises , it should be replaced with prayer, meditation or a spiritual/magical exercise. This brings us closer to spirit and farther from the material world. On a more base level this practice makes the individual more disciplined in all things. Using these guidelines I ask the reader to partake in this spiritual fast every Lent, and see what light can be gleaned from the practice.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Candlemas and The Land Ceremonies Charm



Candlemas and Brigid

    Where can one begin in relation to this rich subject?  I suppose that one would begin with the old festival of Imbolc (also Imbolg and Oimelc,) literally, “ewe's milk,” celebrated on February first.  This would mark the time when the ewe's were milked at the beginning of spring.  It has been suggested by some authors, that the name implies purification, which many of it's rites have included, based upon the theory that the word used to denote milking is derived from an Indo-European root word meaning purification, but I have seen no evidence of this. 

    Regardless of the origins of this feast day it later became dedicated to the goddess/saint Brigid/Brigid/Bridget/Bride.  Brigid was, and is a patron goddess/saint of poetry, the hearth, family, healing, metal-working (thus making her important within smith honoring Craft traditions,) fire, and education.  In certain regions she also seems to have held an association with battle, animals and nature in general.  It bears mentioning that there have recently been several authors to question her relation to fire. All associations aside, it is somewhat unclear how the goddess/saint became linked with the festival.  What we can be sure of, is that she was most certainly associated with the day by the dawn of the modern era. 

    By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries tradition held that Brigid would visit the homes of the virtuous on the eve before her feast day.  During this time it was customary to place a cloth, ribbon, garment, etc. upon the window-sill overnight to be blessed by the goddess/saint in her passing.  Supposedly, this would then protect the wearer from headaches. It was also customary to hold a formal dinner to mark the passing of winter on her feast day.  A portion of this feast, often bread or a cake, was placed on the same sill as an offering to the passing goddess/saint.  St. Brigid's Crosses were also woven from rushes and hung over doorways or in rafters as a greeting to her on her holy day.  These crosses have four equal arms and bear some resemblance to the swastika.

    Another custom celebrating Brigid was to dress straw doll in clothing and decorate it with shells, stones, crystals, flowers and jewelry.  These decorations would be added to the doll as it was taken in a procession from house to house where homage was paid to it.  In some regions the procession was conducted by the young women who would wear all white as a sign of their purity and youth.  The elder women would have a bed made, often of straw, for the effigy of the “Bride” next to which a wand made of a “feminine wood” was placed. A chant would accompany this in similar manner to: “Brigit, Brigit, come over, thy bed is ready,” “Bride, Bride, come over and make your bed,” or “Bride, Bride, come in, thy bed is made. Preserve the house for the Trinity.”  The morning following this celebration the ashes of the fire would be studied to see if the goddess/saint had truly visited the household.  If a mark was found, it was a good sign. If no sign of the Bride was seen it was an ill omen.  The remedy for such an ill fate was to bury a cock at the crossing of three streams and to then burn incense on the household fire before next laying down to bed.  

    In England, it should be noted that this day is associated with the stirring of hibernating snakes.  A charm against such goes like so:

Today is the day of Bride,
The serpent shall come from the hole,
The queen will come from the mound,
I will not molest the serpent,
The serpent will not molest me.

    To the witch there is obvious symbolism found herein.  The queen coming from the mound is the resurrection or reincarnation of the spring goddess upon the Earth.  The serpent in this instance could be an actual serpent, or on a more esoteric level, symbolize a “second winter.”  This charm would be a call to the emerging goddess to guard the land against the second winter (or late ending winter) or else protect the petitioner against the fangs of snakes.  On a note that will sound closer to home for some traditional crafters, this could also be the queen coming forth as the spring goddess and the serpent representing something more positive, the revitalization of the power of the Land.

    In later times these St. Brigid's Day customs were often celebrated in conjunction with the festival of lights, Candlemas, honoring the purification of the Virgin Mary on February second.  This day was said to mark the return of Mary to the temple in Jerusalem to be purified after giving birth to Jesus Christ. On Candlemas day, new candles would be blessed upon the high altar in the church.  Some of these candles would be burnt before the image of the Virgin, while others were taken home and burnt to protect against storms and sickness. From these customs we get our name “Candlemas.” This custom may be traced back to Roman times when people would process through the streets (not unlike the Bride custom) bearing candles and torches in honor of the goddess Februa (namesake of the month February) who was the mother or Mars.  This practice was eventually banned by the Church and the custom of lighting candles for the Virgin was thus instated.  This was also seen as a time for purifying the self.  Brand has this to say of the adaptation of the custom in his Popular Antiquities: “he (the Pope) thought to undo this foule use and custom, and turn it into God's worship and that of our Lady's.”  Somehow this was supposed to have “hallowed” the old Roman festival. There was a  particular divination associated with Candlemas night and the held in Ireland.  On Candlemas night candles are named after each member of a family and then lit.  The first to burn out is the first to die, and so on to the last.

    In the northern countries the Anglo-Saxons would give offerings of cakes to their gods during the month of February which they called “Sol-monath” or “Cake Month.”  I have also seen this festival referred to as “Disting.”  This custom can be seen in the “Land Ceremonies Charm” of the eleventh century.  It bears mention that this could be the origin of the customary leaving a cake or loaf of bread for Brigid. The festival of lights, however, had much appeal upon it's arrival in these northern countries where the winters were quite dark and cold, more so than in Mediterranean Rome.

     The whole of the Candlemas celebration was meant to honor the first stirrings of spring, though spring does not always stir at this time of year in the temperate regions of the world.  Because of this association, much weather lore has become associated with these days.  The most popular bit of lore in my native North America, is that of Groundhog Day.  On February second, the legend says, the small groundhog shall emerge from his home in the earth from a long winter of hibernation.  If he sees his shadow and flees back into his home, six more weeks of winter are said to follow.  If, on the other hand our rodent protagonist does not flee but stays out and about, an early spring will befall us.  There is another adage that states:

If Candlemas be fair and clear,
Two winters will you have this year.

    Winter on continental Europe may well be on it's way to ending by this time, but in America, it is not always so.  Those born in my native Michigan, or on the New England coast can testify that there have been many winters in which fair whether has broken in February only to lead to more harsh blizzards following into the early so called “spring.”  There is a rhyme which warns the farmer of this “second winter” and have him take the proper precautions:

Half the wood and half the hay
You should have on Candlemas Day.

    This is a very true statement in the northern continental states.  These fortifications would be very necessary for the early American farmer to survive the foul “second winter” so common to our shores. This weather lore may quite possibly bear a connection to the emergence of the spring goddess or Bride of antiquity!

    It is worth mentioning that the festival of lights falls at a time when, although frigid in northern climes, the days begin to become noticeably longer, thus we get the celebration of the waxing light or festival of lights.  In many Craft communities this waxing of light heralds the coming of spring and so Candlemas/Imbolc, though still in the heart of winter's bitter cold, marks the beginning of the spring quarter and is marked by the sigil of the five branched stave which represents the hand held up with five fingers raised.  In some covens the festival of Candlemas also marks the beginning of the ritual year.  In certain variations of the myth of the coming of spring from winter the hag goddess imprisons the maiden goddess of the spring in the late autumn only to find her rescued by a gallant knight when the tide of Candlemas arrives. While in other tales they are the same goddess who grows old in the autumn twilight and is made youthful again at Candlemas by drinking from a well of youth or some other mystical means.

The Land Ceremonies Charm of the Anglo-Saxons

    The Land Ceremonies Charm is often quoted or misquoted in modern pagan ritual and magic, though I wonder how many of these would be magicians know the origins of the words that they speak.  For any educated pagan, some of the words found within this charm should seem familiar.  The charm itself dates back, at least, to the early eleventh century.  It may well be that this was a series of separate charms strung together to make one great and impressive ritual.  The purpose of the rite would seem to be an assurance that a crop would thrive.  Many pagan elements would seem to be present in the rite, though the written variation which survives today is very much a Christian one, going as far as to require a  mass priest to fulfill certain functions.  I will here summarize the rite. 

    The Land Ceremonies Charm begins by stating that it is a remedy to improve crops and land that will not properly produce, or to remove any ill tidings and bewitchments placed upon the land.  It then goes on to state that one should go by night and dig up four tufts of earth, one from each corner of the land to be cured.  It then states that honey, oil, milk, and yeast from each beast living upon the land (livestock) and one sprig of each “nameable” plant growing upon the land excepting the buck-bean.  Holy water is then to be applied and allowed to drip three times upon the underside of the tufts.  Then the practitioner must say: Grow and multiply and fill the earth, followed by three Our Father's.
       
    Following this the tufts must be taken to a church and the “mass-priest” must sing four masses over the tufts while the green side faces the altar.  The tufts are then returned to their places of origin upon the land before the sun sets and one aspen cross is placed beneath each.  Upon the four arms of each cross must be written “Mathew, Mark, Luke and John.”  These crosses are placed in the bottom of each hole and the tufts are placed over them.  The words Cross of Matthew... and likewise for each are are uttered over the  crosses before placing the tufts over them.  Following these steps the words “Grow, etc...” are said nine times followed by an equal number of Our Father's.  Then the practitioner must bow nine times to the east and say:

Eastwards I stand, for favors I ask,
I ask the glorious Lord, I ask the great God,
I ask the Holy Guardian of Heaven,
I ask the earth and heaven above
and the just, holy Mary
and the heaven's might and the high hall,
that I might be able this charm, by the grace of God
with my teeth intone with fixed purpose
make these crops start growing for our benefit,
fill the earth with firm faith
beautify the surface for the prophet said
that he should have recompense on earth who alms
distributed justly according to the Lord's will.

    Following this the practitioner must turn thrice clockwise then lie down at full length, recite the Litany followed by the Sanctus.  Then the Benedicite must be chanted with arms outstretched followed by the Magnificat and the Lord's Prayer, thrice.  The land must then be commended to Christ and Mary and to the honor of the land owner. 

    As if this were not elaborate enough, there is more to follow.  An unidentified seed must be taken from “a charity seeker” and paid twice what it is worth.  All of the ploughing gear is gathered together and in the wood is inserted the seed, frankincense, fennel, hallowed paste, and hallowed salt.  This would take the place of some form of plough blessing.  The seed is placed in the body of the plough and is done lastly with the words:

Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth
may the Almighty, the Eternal Lord, grant you
fields growing and thriving
increasing and strengthening,
tall stems, fine crops
both the broad barley
and the fair wheat
and all of the crops of the earth.
May God eternal grant
and his saints that are in heaven,
that his crops be protected against any and all enemies,
and be guarded against ills of any kind,
against the sorcery spread throughout the land.
Now I pray the Creator who made the world
that there should be no woman so word-skilled, no man so cunning
as to be able to change the words thus spoken.

The plough is then driven forth to cut the first furrow while saying:

Greetings to you, earth, mother of men!
May you be full of growth in God's protecting arms,
filled with food for the benefit of mankind.

Then meal of each type grown upon the land is taken and a loaf of bread as broad as the palm of a hand is baked, kneaded with mild and holy water and lain in the first furrow.  This is then recited:

Field full of food for man,
brightly seeding, you shall be blessed
in the holy name that created this heaven
and this earth that we live on;
may the god who made these grounds grant us the gift of growth
so that for us each grain shall come to fulfillment.

Then the following is said thrice: Grow in the name of the Father, be blessed. Amen. Followed by the Lord's Prayer thrice.  With this the charm is done.

    The pagan and Christian elements are both obvious in the rite, and it is quite likely an old pagan rite later claimed by the Church.  One can see by reading this rite how it might be appropriate to the festival of Candlemas and the waxing light.  It is only appropriate for such a fertility rite to take place in the dawn of the season of fertility and planting.  This was one of my first impressions when I first came into contact with this rite.  As such, I have adopted it's use as an agrarian ritual for use within traditional covens at the tide of Candlemas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mother Nights Spiral: A Rite To Be Performed In Winter While the Sun Stands Still


A Compass Round or Ring of Art is not necessary to perform this rite. A spiral of evergreen boughs is created and should be connected, in some way, to the Underworld. At the center of this stands the Maid or Magister with a candle from which all other candles shall be lit. It can be adapted for personal use by simply lighting a candle in the center.

Invocation of the Master:

Magister steps forward and rings the bell to the north:
Master
Lord of the World Below, I invoke you
I call you to bear witness to the Art,
Come to bear witness to the praise of you merry band,
It is the Sabbath!
Now is the time of the primal Misrule!
I call you to rise here, great Devil,
I call to you as a witch,
I call to you as a sorcerer calls,
Bound by oath and blood and mark to you.
Come hither, I call in your name!

Acknowledgment of Fate

Maid says:
I come in the name of She that is All!
I stand between worlds!
I stand within the Castle the turns without motion,
Beyond the great River,
Beyond the Hedge,
In the Land of the Pale Folk!
I stand before Her throne!
I come before Holda,
She that rides upon the Goose,
And spreads snow across the Earth,
And know that I am but a strand of She.



Acknowledgment of Misrule


Summoner:
Now is the time of Misrule! Now is the end of the year! The time that reminds us, we are at in the wee hours of dawn, a time of primordial Misrule, before the birth of a new aeon! Now is the time of Chaos, a time between times, when the Sun stands still! No we are reminded of the time before times, when Chaos reigned, before the gods struck against the chaotic forces, oft called giants. Now is the time when the Lord of Misrule reigns, and know that in the past it was so! In the times before, when the Sun stood still, Misrule and Chaos ruled in the cities of men, and all was reversed, for the gates of life and death stand open at this time. The Wild Hunt rides the night skies, and spirits walk the earth! So do we honor Misrule, for we are between times, and He reminds us of the times that came before, and gives we of the shunned ways hope for the new aeon!

Treading the Spiral

Magister stands before the entrance of the Spiral:
In this time of Misrule, as the Sun stands still, we must guide those of spirit home to us, and show them the way back to the Underworld. So we gather here, before this crooked road, a Spiral which descends down and around and within, to the very depths of Hel! Within we shall find the Castle, and within, the Lady. Each shall bring forth the Need Fire from the Underworld to light the way home, for both Sun and spirit! Come forth, you who would call yourselves witch, come and bring light to the spirits that walk the cold dead Earth!

All congregants gather at the entrance to the Spiral. The Magister admits them, a few at a time to tread widdershins inward until they have reached the center. Each, in turn, will then light a candle given to them by the Mother in the center. She lights each candle and as the congregants tread outward, deosil, the will pick a spot at the edge of the Spiral to set the light down. While the Spiral is being tread, congregants on the outside may sing songs appropriate for such a rite. When all are finished the Magister enters and he followed by the Mother exit the Spiral in the same way , leaving their own candles.


The Magister Speaks:
It is done! Behold the Spiral is alight! The road home is clearly shown! Let the Sun return, and the dead with it! The time of Misrule will come to pass, and all will be as it should be.

The Maid Speaks:
Come now, and feast with us, in honor of those who have gone before, and those who now ride in the Wild Hunt, across the clear night sky!

A sacrament of wine and bread can here be performed in honor of those who ride the night skies, if it is so desire, or a plate can be set for them during a group feast, so long as the are acknowledged and given proper tribute.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Review: "Balkan Traditional Witchcraft" By Radomir Ristic

I had long been awaiting the publication of this book.  After several years of waiting for the English language edition, I am not the least bit let down by it. Not only does this book give many examples of the folk magic side of witchcraft in the Balkan's, the studies given in the book show a philosophical side to the approach that may astound any reader familiar with British Traditional Craft. That is to say, astounded, not so much in surprise, but rather by the similarities in the philosophical bent of both witch cults. This work proves that the witchcult of Europe has roots in a core tradition. Those familiar with the British witches' worship of the Horned God and Mother Goddess figures will see here that this belief stretched across Europe. In addition the author interviews, as well as photographs, old practitioners of Balkan craft. In some instances entire traditional rituals are revealed to the reader. There is also a wealth of correspondence in this book, from herblore to the lore of color and number. This book comes with the highest kudos from this author!

 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Fetch: The True Spirit and the Meaning of Life

This is the second post in relation to the human soul complex.  This was intended to be the third chapter in aforementioned book.

The Fetch:
The True Spirit and the Meaning of Life

The fetch has been known and misunderstood under many guises that we as humans have ascribed to it. The following are just a few of our (mis)conceptions of this entity: The Holy Guardian Angel of Ceremonial Magick, The anima/us of C.G. Jung, the fylgja of Germanic lore, the personal god of Victor Anderson’s teachings, the spirit, the genius, the daemon, the double, the higher self of the new age and so on. So that I make myself clear the fetch, as I will continue to refer to it through the scope of traditional witchcraft and northern Germanic lore, is the true spirit of each person. I will go a step further into animism and state that each and every naturally occuring thing must have a fetch of sorts. The fetch is the portion of the soul complex that truly lives on after we are no more. It is what truly carries wyrd from life to life. As we have seen in the last chapter, the soul and the spirit must be different from each other, contrary to popular belief in the modern world. I also believe that many today that write on the fetch oversimplify what it truly is. The focus of much of the magical work that I have performed in my lifetime has been devoted to understanding the soul complex as it truly is, and in doing so I have come up with some similar, though sometimes decidedly different viewpoints on the functions and essences of these bodies.
The fetch is indeed the spirit, but it is just that a spirit. It is an entity separate from us, not merely our double or soul, as other works often claim. It is a spirit. We only exist because of it! The fetch is closer to the Truth of Godhead than we can ever be as human beings. It is a fragment of the “shattered” Godhead that can understand what it must do in order to restore the Godhead to wholeness. It is the guide that we must contact in order to fulfill the Great Work. It is our guardian, because it needs us to complete it’s work. It is everything to human life, indeed to life itself. In short, we need our fetch, but our fetch also needs us. Confused yet? Allow me to explain.

A Brief Look Behind the Veil of “Reality” and the Meaning of Life

As I have already discussed, when the Godhead became aware of itself, in a way, it splintered or shattered. This gave rise to creation and evolution. The fetch, as a strand of Fate, is a portion of the Godhead, and thus close to the Truth, but not quite there. This entity knows what must be done to “end existence” as we know it and restore the Godhead to It’s original state of being (The True Great Work.) Each fetch is a guide to someone or something existing upon the physical plane of existence. For every lich, a fetch. The fetch guides it’s lich through life, attempting to guide the body in a way that will bring the Godhead closer to wholeness. To accomplish this the fetch affects the physical life, thoughts and decisions of the individual as much as it can to keep it on the proper path to accomplish what it must in life. This would be what we might call fate or karma. When something must be done in life, the individual may feel compelled to take a certain action. This is essentially Fate acting through the fetch to cause the individual to fulfill their fate. So the fetch is each individuals own personal emissary of Fate. Now, in less spiritually evolved persons the fetch will affect them exactly as mentioned above through “intuition.” In a normal human being this form of “intuitive contact” is rare and typically comes only at key points in the individual’s life. However, in individuals that have evolved mentally or spiritually beyond the normal human scope the fetch may have a more direct contact with them. This contact can be established either by the fetch or the individual, as in the case of a magician.
We have mention in mythology of the fetch speaking to heroes and magicians in their dreams. Sometimes this is done to protect the individual, sometimes to give them information. We also have record of the fetch preceding the lich in order to act as a sort of scout and protector. In addition we know that certain cultures believed that the fetch would reside near and protect the lich of an individual for anywhere from thirty to forty days following death. This may be a precaution in case the individual’s fate and affairs were unresolved and the soul needed to return to the body. We might interpret this as being what people today call a “near death experience.”
Going back for a moment we might ask, “How does the fetch know what must be done in the life of the individuals that it guides?” The answer is this, the fetch acts as a repository for all the combined fate, both hamingja and orlog, that is gathered throughout the lives that it has “reincarnated” in. This is how fate or “karma,” as many feel the need to call it in the occult today, moves from life to life. We have all heard of the idea that what one does in life comes back to them “in this life or the next.” This is the actual way that this phenomenon works. The fetch must resolve all of the fate that becomes attached to it so that it might return, fully, to the Godhead and let Fate be whole again. We now understand the meaning of life which many have wasted their lives attempting to discover, thinking it to be a more complicated conundrum. The meaning of life is just what is described above. The Godhead is not whole and must be whole again. Fetches are the workers that must see this task is accomplished. The fetch cannot resolve fate on it’s own, it is only spirit, it requires an entire “soul complex” to do it’s work. This is the reason that we exist. Midgard, or the physical plane of existence that we might call “reality” is the game board where fate is played out until the end of time. We are the game pieces, moved by fate through the fetch. In this way we help to shape the future of the universe by our “decisions.” Each action that is taken in life either resolves or creates fate/karma/destiny.

The Three Faces of the Fetch

The fetch has three aspects normally associated with it in traditional lore. These three aspects have different ways of interacting with the human sorcerer or magician that attempts to speak with them. Each appears in a different way and has different “uses” within the magician’s practice. I shall describe the three faces of the fetch and their basic functions below.

The Fetch Beast

Perhaps the most common aspect of the fetch is that of the fetch beast. This is the theriomorphic version of the fetch that might appear to the individual in the form of an animal. This animal may be one that the individual has always had an affinity for, this is sometimes the case for the magical practitioner. Other times the fetch of an individual appears in an unexpected form. Regardless of if the form is expected or not, the fetch’s animal form will be one symbolic of the life and fate of the individual that it is attached to. In fact we have classic examples of the fetch in the form of animals both real and imagined. Some examples of known classical fetches are wolves, owls, eagles, lions, dragons, crows and lynx. This is, of course, not an exhaustive list. I have seen confusion when it comes to this aspect of the being, as some seem to believe that the fetch beast is the witch in “flight” in the form of an animal. As anyone can tell from my previous description, this is far from the truth. This form of the fetch is that which most experience in otherworldly journeying and has given rise to the idea of an animal spirit guide. It may be noted that this is the portion of the fetch which is often seen as going forth before the individual as a protective guide. There is evidence of this in The Saga of Thorstein with the Cow’s Foot. In this tale Thorstein, while still a child goes to the house of his true family and trips as he enters a room. His grandfather happens to be in this room and tells him that he observed the child tripping over a white bear. We may do well to observe this shamanic view of the familiar as an animal spirit guide and note that this would seem to be the origination of the idea of the animal familiar. The god, Odin, was said to have had two such followers, his ravens, Huginn and Muninn (thought and memory, this should give pause to reexamine certain passages from the previous chapter.) Similarly, it was said that Aristeus of Prokennessos would send his spirit from his body in the form of a crow that would exit via his mouth when he would enter an ecstatic trance. The Finns have other such accounts that state that the henki may leave the body of a sleeper, via the mouth, in the form of a small beast, such as an insect or bird.
This portion of the fetch has, in certain cultures, been seen to dwell within the body of the practitioner released in animal form after death. This was true in Egypt where the spirit was seen as a bird which stayed with the body for a certain period of time. We also have evidences in Italian witchcraft of the spirit leaving the body of the individual through the mouth in the form of a red mouse, which has similarities to the story of Aristeus. This is interesting as the Carelians call this aspect of spirit the elohiiri or “vital mouse.” It might be noted that occasionally this form of the fetch would then attach itself to another individual, perhaps to transfer the power and fate of the previous witch into the body of another.

The Fetch Wyf

The second major image of the fetch is that of the “fetch wyf” or “fairy wyf.” This would be a husband in most cases where the fetches of women are concerned. Traditionally this aspect of the fetch is seen to be a contra-sexual spirit of the person whom it guides. In fact the word fylgja literally translates as “the female follower.” In mythology we even have reference to this aspect of the entity coming in contact with the heroes of the tales. In some tales this aspect of the fetch is seen as being passed on, or attached to a family line, if the fetch has a great deal of fate in the form of hamingja attached to a bloodline. This is the truth about the idea of a family Bean Sidhe (banshee.) This can be clearly seen in the medieval tale of Melusina. The tale is a follows:

Raymond, adopted son of Emmerick the Count of Poitou, went out hunting boar with his adopted father and retinue in the forest of Colombiers. Emmerick and Raymond road ahead of the servants and failed to kill the boar. They found themselves alone in this wilderness with night fast approaching, and being lost lit a fire to wait until morning to find their way home. Without warning the great boar plunged out of the wood and attacked the Count. Raymond drew his sword, but his first blow glanced off of the boars hide and struck Emmerick. The second blow struck home and the boar lay dead. Unfortunately Emmerick’s wound had also been fatal and both beast and count lay beside one another. In utter despair and temporary madness Raymond mounted his horse and fled the scene, not knowing where he was going.
Eventually the wood thinned and both horse and rider plunged through the brush to find themselves in a moonlit glade. Mist flowed up from a natural fountain with a stream that murmured over a pebbly bed. Near the fountain sat three beautiful golden haired women in glimmering white dresses. At first Raymond mistook the women for angels and was prepared to kneel in their presence when one of the women approached him. This woman inquired as to why Raymond was so distressed, to which he recounted the dreadful tale of the evenings events. The woman told him that all he must do to avoid suspicion in the truly accidental death of the Count would be to return to the castle, as all of the other hunters have done. She assured him that the fault of the count’s death would fall on the boar, and not Raymond.
Raymond believed her instantly but desiring her for her beauty found ways to prolong conversations with her until the break of dawn. Before dawn she told him that her name was Melusina and promised to be his betrothed, on the condition that she would spend Saturday’s in seclusion and that he would never venture to disturb her on that day, lest they be parted. Melusina then told Raymond that, in truth, she was a powerful water-fay and also possessed great wealth. She then asked that he request of his foster brother, Bertram, who would now be Count, a piece of land about the fountain that could be covered by a buckskin. He consented to this and did so straight away, upon returning to the castle.
Bertram granted his foster brother’s wish, but was a bit agitated when Raymond used his cunning and cut the buckskin into threadlike strands from which he was able to make the skin cover a piece of land. Melusina used her magical gifts and created a magnificent palace in the spot that was decided upon.
Soon after the two were wed in the palace. On their wedding night
Melusina again implored her husband to not disturb her on her personal day.
Raymond, again, readily agreed to this. Melusina expanded the
borders of the palace until there were none so grand as could compare to it.
She named this glorious castle Lusinia, after herself.
In due time the Lady Melusina bore many sons to Raymond. All of these children were disfigured in some way. Two of these children were Geoffrey with the Tooth, whom had a boars tusk protruding from his jaw, and Freimund, who was very pious and entered into a monastic life. Most of the other children grew to become warriors and heroes.
Years came to pass but Raymond’s love for Melusina stayed as strong as the first night that they had met. The fortune that had come to Raymond from Melusina spread to his real brothers and true father, the Count de la Foret. The Count spent the last few years of his life living with his son
and daughter in law.
One Saturday night at dinner the Count enquired as to where the Lady went every Sabbath eve. Raymond said only that she was unavailable on Saturdays. One of Raymonds brothers then informed him that there was gossip to the effect that he should inquire as to the true nature of Melusina’s weekly retreats, if only to settle the wandering minds of the people. Raymond grew anxious at this news and rushed to Melusina’s chambers. All were empty save for a bath chamber which was locked. Raymond peered through the keyhole and saw his wife submerged in water, her legs replaced by a white and glimmering fishes tail. He immediately withdrew and never spoke a word of what he had done, for fear of losing his wife.
One fateful day a rider bore news to the Castle that Geoffrey with the Tooth had attacked the monastery of Malliers, where his brother Freimund lived, and burned it to the ground killing one hundred monks and his own brother. Raymond was beside himself. Melusina attempted to comfort her husband, but he was so distraught that upon approaching him he exclaimed, “Away ye serpent who hath contaminated my most honorable lineage!”
This gave him away and Melusina fainted. When she awoke she tearfully embraced her husband for the last time and asked that he care for the two young babes that she would be leaving in the cradle. She proceeded to tell him that though he would never see her again, she would be seen by all of his successors, hovering over the castle, whenever a new lord would come. With that she gave a long wail and swept out the window. It was later said that her form could be seen hovering above the castle each time a lord of the line would die.

We can see several telling points in the above tale which make it easy to translate as a tale of the fetch wyf. First and foremost, Raymond first sees Melusina at a fountain in the wild while in a state of distress. We can see that the state he is in at this time could send him into a trance state that he might not normally enter. The fountain that he discovers is possibly an entry point or gate to the underworld. It must be noted that waterways are traditionally seen as passages for spirits. When he meets her she automatically knows that he will not be blamed for the accidental death of the count, and that his foster brother will grant him the land that he asks for. This would be strange if she were not his fetch and already aware of Raymond’s fate. Melusina then lays down rules that Raymond must follow if they are to be “wed.” This is of course symbolic of the Sacred Marriage or Hieros Gamos, so often discussed in the occult, a topic that I have already touched upon. This is the true Sacred Marriage, the binding of the soul of the man and his fetch. It should be mentioned that such unions between a fey creature and a human being are common in folklore, and I believe them to be symbolic representations of the Sacred Marriage.
It would do well to understand that this story teaches us to listen to the advice that our fetch gives to us for living our lives. After the marriage Raymond lives quite happily, bringing wealth and comfort to his entire family. This, of course, is symbolic of being on the correct path in life and following one’s fate, never resisting what must be. When one’s fate is followed, all that one truly needs (indeed all that is intended for the individual) shall come. When Raymond goes against the wishes of his fetch, he attempts (unwittingly) to defy his fate. This brings about Melusina’s leaving and he is heartbroken. This is Raymond losing all that made him happy and content for moving against what has been laid down for him. Melusina returns to the shadows, never to present herself to Raymond again. In this way he has also been denied the realization of his fate. In the end Melusina seems to become the form of fetch that is attached to an entire familial line. This, I believe, is due to Raymond’s refusal to adhere to the advice he was given. This fate attached to his entire family (hamingja,) and so the fetch responsible for Raymond’s life attached to his decedents as well.
We can now see that this humanized aspect of the fetch is there so that we as human beings can identify with it in order to commune with it and, eventually, perform a true Hieros Gamos and wed our souls and spirits together. This is the true work of any witch, magician, sorcerer or occultist. In future chapters I shall provide methods by which this work can be accomplished.

The Fetch God

The “fetch god” as I refer to it, is the third face of our fetch. It is by far the least relatable side to the human being. Oddly enough, when this aspect appears it is in the form of a geometric shape. This would give more credence to the theory that since there is not such thing in the (physical) universe as a perfect sphere then god (Godhead complete) is the only perfect sphere. Other spirits, such is this divine face of our own fetch, may appear as geometric shapes, but only Godhead can be a perfect sphere, for in it’s complete form it is the only perfect thing in creation. This is the face that acts as a direct repository of fate, and is closest to the godhead. It can sometimes be seen by those who possess “the sight” as a shape emerging or going out from the individual’s body, as if a protective shield. As the portion of the fetch closest in relation to godhead, it is the most difficult aspect for us, as humans, to deal with. Thus we tend to work more closely with the fetch beast and fetch wyf.

The True Familiar

It should now be noted that the fetch is the true familiar. This is not to say that other familiars cannot be acquired by the practitioner, (in fact I shall deal with this subject later in the book) but that the fetch is our true familiar. As I had stated earlier, the fetch can be asked to perform tasks that we ourselves cannot accomplish. I am of the belief that tales of witches at the Sabbath receiving their familiar’s from the Devil is a code. This, I believe, is meant to be interpreted as the witch being taught how to commune with the fetch, either by the coven’s magister, or by the Master himself while in trance. There are an abundance of tales of the Devil bestowing a familiar upon the witch. In these tales, and in the old “witch hunting” manuals, there were strange hybrid creatures that would appear as familiars, giving testimony to the fact that not all fetches fashioned themselves after real animals. One example of this was in the testimony of the witch Jane Wallis. Wallis claimed that the Devil had granted her two familiars, Grissell and Greedigut, whom came to her in the form of dogs with the bristles of hogs upon their backs. In the instance of Bessie Dunlop she was granted a familiar whom she called “Tom Reid” who appeared in the form of a contra-sexual human being. In the case of Isobel Gowdie, she named the familiars of her entire coven and all seemed to resemble contra-sexual fairies. There exists an old woodcut from 1579 that depicts a familiar in the form of a hedgehog/owl hybrid.
It was said that a witch had to “feed” the familiar as we know that fulfilling fate does. This, however, was taken literally and it was said that a witch would have a teat or mark upon their body that the familiar might suckle. This mark was said to have no feeling in it and the belief led the “witch finders” and interrogators to prod and prick the bodies of supposed witches to attempt to discover the mark. I believe this to be symbolic as well, or misunderstood. I believe that this is a reference to the “witches mark,” or “Mark of Cain” which demonstrates that one is destined to work with the spirit world. This would lead me to believe that those with the “mark” would be destined to seek spiritual council and in turn work directly with the fetch. Below I include several old woodcuts depicting witches’ familiars.



Illustration from The Wonderful Discovery of the Witchcrafts of Margaret and Phillipa Flower, daughters of Joan Flower neere Bever Castle: executed at Lincolne, March 11th 1618. J Barnes. 1619.
Illustration features all three sisters and their familiars.


The above mentioned hedgehog/owl looking hybrid familiar taken from A Rehearsal both strange and true, of heinous and horrible acts committed by Elizabeth Stile, Alice Rockingham, Mother Dutton, Mother Devell, notorious Witches, apprehended at Windsor in the County of Berks, 1579


A witch feeds her familiars, from a woodcut made in 1579



Three witches ride upon a pig-like familiar to visit an ill friend. Taken from The Witches of Northamptonshire, 1612





A practitioner rides upon the back of a goat, presumably a familiar, woodcut from 1626



A witch sends a familiar to take revenge on a neighbor, from A Rehersal both strange and true, of heinous and horrible acts committed by Elizabeth Stile, Alice Rockingham, Mother Dutton, Mother Devell, notorious witches, apprehended at Windsor in the County of Berks, 1579



A famous woodcut depicting Matthew Hopkins, “Witch Finder Generall” interrogating witches. Taken from,Select cases of conscience touching witches, 1646. In this scene we can see hybrid creatures, real animals and strange mutations. Note the bull/greyhound hybrid, called “Vinegar Tom,” and the spaniel that has no legs. We also get a plethora of the names of these familiars.


The Devil bestows a familiar upon a witch, woodcut 1720

In these woodcuts we can see examples of the practitioner with hybrid forms of the familiar, which in the fetch can be seen as the individual needing multiple aspects of the symbolism embodied by all of the animals in the hybrid. We have an image of a practitioner feeding familiars which we can interpret as the fulfilment of hamingja and orlog sustaining the fetch through the athem. In addition, in the case of multiple familiars (that is familiars which are summoned or created) the practitioner is supposed to have fed them with offerings. I will discuss this more in depth later, for now we are concerned with the fetch. Next we come to our view of three witches riding upon a familiar in the guise of a pig and the image of one witch upon a goat. Throughout the witch trials witches were seen as riding to the Sabbath on besoms, stangs and animals, most often goats. This can be viewed through the scope of sending forth the our hyde to attend the Sabbath, or make any other form of otherworldly journey. This can seen as being accomplished in one of two ways, whichever is true is not of consequence, only the result matters. The first way that is that the practitioner actually ventures forth embodied in the hyde, in this case, aware of the incident or not, the practitioner would be guided by or “riding” the fetch into realms of spirit, as a “vehicle” which can access spiritual dimensions would be necessary. The second theory as to how this would be possible would be that the practitioner would remain within the body, but have the experiences of the otherworld by experiencing what the fetch experiences while there. Both of these theories are, of course, assuming that these experiences are more than just psychological ones and are in fact “true” mystical experiences.
We also see here a witch sending forth a familiar to attack a neighbor. This idea is backed up in some of the old lore wherein we find a tale about a woman and her familiar who comes to her in the form of “a yellow dun cat.” The had first presented itself to her by the fire one evening that she was fretting over having fallen out with a neighbor, and wished vengeance for whatever wrong he had done to her (the tale is vague on this point.) This cat listened to the woman’s story and told her that he would serve her, as he had previously served a woman in Kent. He said that her neighbor had misused her and that he (the cat) would torment him. She sent this cat who then killed three of the mans pigs and one cow (it might be noted that this particular attack seems to have similarities to earlier accounts of attacks by elves and fairies.) The man, who apparently knew how to rid himself of such nuisances, burnt a pig alive and the cat could no longer torment his livestock. The cat was then sent and returned stating that he had given the man “that which he would never recover” and shortly thereafter the man passed away. It is still believed, in certain circles, that the fetch can be sent to do harm by attacking the fetch, or other spirit bodies of another individual.
In the illustration of Matthew Hopkins I have drawn attention to the familiar, Jarmara, which appeared as a legless dog, but crawled on it’s belly like a serpent. This, may well be a serpent/spaniel hybrid familiar. The purpose of such a hybrid escapes this author, though in this case the creature may be more fancy than true spirit. The second that I have drawn attention to is a bit more intriguing, however. Vinegar Tom, the ox/greyhound familiar, is a bit more interesting considering our purposes. Not only did the spirit appear in hybrid form, but was exorcized and told that it should return to the “place provided for him and his Angels.” When this was done the entity transformed into a contra-sexual spirit (a young child of four years old in this case) with no head. It turned about the house half a dozen time then disappeared at the door. This entity seems to have two of the shapes that we are looking for clearly displayed in the account, both animal and contra-sexual human forms.
In conclusion the fetch is both guide and companion to the magician, witch and occultist. It can be communicated with and acts as a teacher, friend and colleague. It, as other spirits, can be asked to do one’s bidding, but this is not the true purpose of the fetch. The true practitioner of the magical arts seeks to learn spiritual mysteries from the fetch and to forge a bond with it. This bond, of course, is the Hieros Gamos and the methods by which it can be achieved will be covered in future chapters.