Archive for mythology

Helrunar

Posted in Art, Folklore, History, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2016 by manxwytch

My personal rune set is also the first one I ever made: small tiles of green granite, cut, polished and carved over thirty years ago. I’ve carved many sets since then, in different materials; my favourites have been on slates gathered from a beach at the Calf of Mann, and quartz pebbles from the seam of that white stone that stretches the length of the Isle from the Calf to the Point of Ayre.

All the runes I’ve carved since that first set have been gifted to others.

In recent years I’ve had the urge to carve a new set for myself, in bone. Specifically rib bones, the rib cage being that vault protecting and containing the beating heart, and making possible each life-sustaining breath.
A few years ago I obtained some rib bones, and in recent months I began their transformation into a set of rune staves.
Once cut to length, I began working on caps for the cut ends. These I carved from ash wood, to link these runes physically to the World Tree, as the ribs themselves are joined to the spinal column of the body. This may become more significant in the future, as we lose the ash trees in Europe and now in North America, due to a combination of disease and foreign insect depredation. We may live to see a time when Yggdrasil as ash tree will exist in memory and historical record alone and future generations may not know it as a living presence in the world.
Bone will connect with the otherworldly powers of one who has passed through the gates of Death, crossed the bridge to the Other Side, and will function as eidolon to bring insight and information from that realm to back into this world.
It was the Gallows God who brought the runes out of the darkness through self-sacrifice, and these runes are intended to invoke that power and wisdom.

The inscribed runes that survive on the Isle of Mann show elements of both the Elder and Younger Futharks, in both ‘Long Twig’ and ‘Short Twig’ forms, though none remains extant as a complete set. At the time of Kermode’s writing in 1907, 15 runes were clearly identifiable, though he believed that others were also used on the Isle, and that the 15 we have today are merely what remain physically of all the rune carved stones on the Isle.

bonerunes1

The runic sigils I have used reflect those found on Mann – some of the Younger Futhark and some of the Elder; as my intention is to use this set primarily for divinatory, in addition to specific magickal workings. What is of significance in divination are the ideas and influences represented by the runes, more than each physical shape, so I am comfortable with taking some artistic license in the style and shape of the runes in my personal set.
The dense bone of the ribs is too thin to allow carving of the rune symbols into their surface, so I have burned them into the bone, invoking fire as power to charge the runes as well as to define them, and referencing fire as the catalyst between different phases of being, facilitating the transformation of the material basis into its spiritual potential.

Once marked by fire, I rubrified the runes with heme iron in a protein based colloid suspension. Then sealed them with a blend of oils, beeswax  and resin.

rune-set-close

Mindful of the divinatory aspect of these runes, the energies, purposes and associations therewith; and taking a page from Richard Gavin’s, Benighted Path, these runes, carved and consecrated shall never be profaned by exposure to the rude light of day. Their work will be dedicated to and accomplished in darkness, their illumination sidereal: the light of moon, dream, baalfire and candle glow. The sacred Void will be their womb, the darkness wherein all things become undifferentiated and returned to their unified source, to speak directly to the Night mind that precedes and subsumes again the diurnal conscious awareness.

To this end, I fashioned a bi-layered pouch in which a liner extends beyond the top of a deerskin sack, to ensure that even when open the runes would be protected from exposure, and that the rune reader must, as Glapsviðr did,  reach deep into Ginnungagap to extract the runes. This bag I bound with antique silk and metallic thread ribbon, and a working cord, both inherited from my Initiator into the Manx Tradition.

Once made, I assembled the runes into their cycle and found that again this time, as with the last set I carved, one rune had hidden itself through the process. It demanded to be completed on its own, with my focus solely on it. There are many steps involved in making and finishing the rune set, and many opportunities to discover a miscount or omission. Inasmuch as these omissions occur unasked for, and unintentionally, and elude discovery at multiple steps in the process, I consider them to be significant, an indicator of the guiding Spirit of the rune set as a whole. In this case, I also chose to make it of different materials than the others – antler rather than bone, with an end cap of yew wood, as befits this rune.

rune-set-with-bag

Laa Luanys – Lugh’s Fair Day

Posted in Folklore, History, Poetry, Storytelling with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by manxwytch

Laa Luanys (Laa Lunys) – August 1 (August 12th Old Calendar) is the Day of Lammas, which was moved to the first Sunday in August by the Bishop of Mann in an attempt to eradicate the lewd festivities of its original pagan festival of Lughnasadh, the Festival of the God Lugh, Foster Son of Manannan.[1]  Some interpret Laa Luanys as the ‘Day of Lugh’ substituting Luans or Lunys as Lug, Lleu, or Lugh.  Academics and historians of Religion know that Christianity ‘borrowed’ many religious days and festivals from various religions and cultures including the elder Celtic Calendral Cycles in an attempt to obtain converts and destroy the Old Faiths and practices.  For instance, St. Patrick replaced Lugh in Sunday Services.  On Ellan Vannin, Lugh’s festival, rife with apparent lewd behaviour on the mountains, seemed to be one of the most pernicious practices to destroy, with Christian priests complaining of its remnants even up until the late 18th century.

“The curates and wardens represent to the court that there is a superstitious custom, which is yearly continued and practiced in this and the neighbouring parishes by many young people (and some of riper age) going to the top of Snaefell Mountain upon the first Sunday in August, where (as they are informed) they behave themselves very rudely and indecently for the greater part of that day.”  Pg 70 Manx Calendar Customs

First Sunday after Old Lammas: This was Lhuany’s Day, the day of a festival dedicated to the god Lugh. An orgy was held at the top of Snaefell.” ( http://www.isleofman.com/heritage/epedia/arts/calendars/customscalendar.aspx)

Now, to be clear here, the above quotes are as biased toward Christianity as the Manxwytch Tales are toward the Old Faith; so take it all with a grain of salt.  However, it seemed to take many years for such an enjoyable tradition to die out… though I’ve heard the coals are still kept warm.  The last reports of such open activities on Snaefell[2] were said to have occurred in 1870.  More exclusive celebrations were whispered to have continued in homes, fields and keeils, away from the eyes of prudish priests and those who “spend more time on their knees in church than their backs in bed.”[3]

Various attempts were made by the Parish to end the “profane customs” practiced and handed down through generations of Manx families.  One of the most outright offensive attempts was when the church sent Ministers[4] up to the top of Snaefell and South Barrule to collect alms for the Church and to read aloud both the Nicene Creed and the story of Jephthah and his Daughter from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament.  Briefly the story of Jephthah is that the Israelites were no longer worshiping God again and he got angry and gave them to the Ammonites.  Jephthah was born illegitimately and had only an un-named Daughter.  He becomes a leader and defeats the Ammonites and makes some kind of vow to God that whoever exits the door of his house upon his return will be sacrificed as a burnt offering to God on the altar.  And, since Jephthah’s wife is never mentioned, we can only assume that he might of known who would exit the door to greet him upon return home.  He bewails meeting his Daughter, but must keep his vow to God and sacrifice her.  She cries at the loss of her virginity (!?) (some scholars interpret this as that she mourns that she will never marry) and asks for a couple months leeway to prepare herself.  Then Jephthah carries out the deed and sacrifices her on the fiery altar, burning her to a crisp and all the women remember her for four days each year.   But pay close attention to the story and you might read how it fits what was going on at the top of Snaefell[5].  Worship of a god other than YHVH, sexual theme, sacrifice and mourning.  This all appears to fit quite well with the Day of Lugh.  Despite this dour story being read, I understand that the real killjoy was the demand for alms for the church.  Nothing kills a good ale drinking, laughing, singing, frolicking orgy than some Priest expecting cash!

There are many stories of Lugh in both Welsh and Irish mythology but I will emphasise the Manx legends as they are scantily discussed.  Lugh was the bright Solar Warrior God of the sun, corn and as mentioned earlier, Foster-Son to the great Wizard King Manannan.  Lugh was said to have spent his youth with Manannan on Ellan Vannin and it was here that he was trained in poetry, philosophy, music, smith craft, skill in battle, love and war, sailing, craftsmanship skills and cunning magic, all tutored by the Wizard King.  When his training was complete and Lugh was ready to fulfill his destiny as a warrior of epic renown, Manannan gave to Lugh his own great sword Fragarach, (the Answerer), whose power  forced anyone at whose throat it was held, to speak only the truth when questioned.[6]  Fragarach also bestowed command of the four winds to its owner and any piercing from its blade would deal a mortal wound that would never heal.  Manannan also gave Lugh flashing armour that could not be penetrated and a helmet that could not be broken.  For Lugh’s journey from the Isle, Manannan summoned from the depths of the underworld sea, a swift floating coracle called the Wave-Sweeper and lent to him his prized mare from his royal stables, the horse Aenbharr (Enbarr) whose hooves travelled as easily on water as on land.

Lugh

As a corn (grain) and solar Deity, it is little wonder that the word lugh in Manx Gaelic means mouse.  The mouse, as a totemic animal of Lugh makes obvious sense when one examines the Celtic Harvest Festival named after him, Lughnasadh.

As well, we can possibly see fragments of the relationship between the solar harvest god who dies and is reborn, Lugh’s magical spear and John Barlycorn, though this song is not particular to Mann, it was still sung in a few pubs… and may still be.

John Barleycorn: By Robert Burns

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on’
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong:
His head weel arm’d wi pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bendin joints and drooping head
Show’d he began to fail.

His colour sicken’d more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
They ty’d him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell’d him full sore.
They hung him up before the storm,
And turn’d him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim,
They heav’d in John Barleycorn-
There, let him sink or swim!

They laid him upon the floor,
To work him farther woe;
And still, as signs of life appear’d,
They toss’d him to and fro.

They wasted o’er a scorching flame
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us’d him worst of all,
For he crush’d him between two atones.

And they hae taen his very hero blood
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise.

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

As has been noted, the pilgrimage to mountaintops was important on Mann to celebrate Lugh, light, the corn and the first harvest.  But this was only one of two pilgrimages on Laa Luanys, the second of which was to the Holy Wells.  For some reason, perhaps related to Manannan, it was important to visit the known healing wells, in particular Maughold[7], Laxey[8], and St. Patrick’s[9] though there were many others, these three appear prominent.  It was said that the curative powers of the wells were more accessible at this time and offerings were made to the Genius Loci of the well and its particular power.  This was often done by the exchange of a pin or a silver coin for its curative spirit.  During the offering, a prayer was made invoking the healing property to cure whatever the ailment was.  Once accomplished, the well was often circled three times and then dressed in ribbons, and flowers.[10]

There is so much that could be told of Lughnasadh, Lugh and his Harvest Festival but I will leave that for another time.  What we can see, is that on a tellurian level, the celebration took place both in the heights and in the deeps.  The very same locations  where the spiritual celebration of this Great Sabbat is held for all witches.

If you are really interested in reading further I suggest obtaining a copy of Marie Mac Neill’s book, written in 1962, titled ‘The festival of Lughnasa: a study of the survival of the Celtic festival of the beginning of harvest‘ and published by Oxford University Press.

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FOOTNOTES


[1] There was for many years a harvest fair that continued in the Parish of Santon.  Further there was a Laxey Fair, a Maughold Fair and a Fair at Ballasalla.  Take note of this as you will see, it is important because these were also places of prominent healing wells.

[2] Snaefell is the Isle of Mann’s tallest mountain and therefore those who celebrated Laa Lunys on its summit were as close to the sun as possible.  On a clear day you can see all seven kingdoms – meaning Ellan Vannin, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, the kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of the Sea.  From here, it was easy to give thanks for the harvest and all that could be seen.  Nowadays it’s tough to find a day without rain!  The jaunt up the summit is made easier by the electric train which takes you easily to the top where there’s a good cafe house / tourist shop.  As well, there is almost always someone flying off the peak in a chute.  I prefer to climb the way my Elder taught me, which is by an old footpath straight up from the Mountain Road.  It’s far more fulfilling for the spirit.  Besides this, he was climbing that mountain until well over the age of 75 and I feel that his pilgrimages added to his longevity, happiness and wellbeing.  I can only pray to reach his age and vigour!

[3] Perhaps you recognized it.  An altered quote taken from the classic movie The Wickerman in the extended version.  Apropos for this blog entry I would think.

[4] Ministers Parick Beg and William Giek in the mid 1800s.

[5] Also, there was said to be people who climbed South Barrule and other mountains on Mann but Snaefell seems to be the most prominent at this time.

[6] Magical items that force people to speak the truth are particularly emphasised in Manx folklore.  More on this in another post.

[7] A legendary witches’ haunt.

[8] At the foot of Snaefell, as it is at the beginning of the electric tram.

[9] Obviously re-named from an older Celtic Deity.  Possibly Lugh, as we know the Church replaced Lugh with Patrick during the festival.

[10] It is believed that as the bouquets fade, so too does the disease.

Nine Nights

Posted in Art, Folklore, Poetry with tags , , , on April 22, 2012 by manxwytch

Odin’s Initiation

Artist:  Adam Scott Miller http://adamscottmiller.com/

“I know that I hung on a windy tree,

nine long nights,

wounded with a spear,

dedicated to Odin,

Myself to Myself,

On that Tree of which no man knows

from where its roots run.”

From the Havamal: The Sayings of the High Ones.  The Poetic Edda

The Feats of Manannan

Posted in Folklore, Poetry with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2012 by manxwytch

Mylechairane,1859

“Manannan beg va Mac y Leirr,
Shen yn chied er ec row rieau ee.”*1

*1 Manannan the little was son of Leirr,
He was the first man that ever had her.”

HAST thou not heard the feats of Man’nan*2 sung,
Who o’er this Isle a silver mist-shroud flung,
To veil the treasure from Sea-rovers’ eyes,
Searching the waters for his fairy-prize ?

This Merchant Manxman of the solemn smile,
First legislator of our rock-throned Isle,
Dwelt in a fort (withdrawn from vulgar sight),
Cloud-capp’d BAROOLE*3 upon thy lofty height.

From New-year-tide round to the ides of Yule,
Nature submitted to his wizard rule:
Her secret force he could, with charms, compel
To brew a storm or raging tempests quell;
Make one man seem like twenty in a fray,
And drive the Stranger*4 over seas away.

But they who read our Island lore aright,
Know that this curious Myth the fact bedight,
How that one Manxman, erst, was worth a score
Of savage Warriors from rude Scotia’s*5 shore.

 

*1 Translation “Manannan the little was son of Leirr, He was the first man that ever had her.” Meaning the Island. Island is feminine in Manx.

*2,The Manx believe Mannan Mac Lear, to have been their first legislator, and hold him in great reputation for his wisdom.” SACHEVEREL.

*3 ,On the highest point of South Baroole are the ruins of walls of most unusual magnitude. On the steepest and least accessible side the walls are of inferior strength, but on the northern side they are 27 feet in thickness.”- KERRUISH’S Guide, p. 186.

*4 ” Our most Gratious and excellent Lord, Sir John Stanley, King of Man and the Isles. In the Vigill of your Lady Set. Mary, Anno Domini 1422, att his Castle of Rushen, &C., &C., gave for Law, that ‘Alsoe that all Scotts avoid the Land with the next Vessell that goeth into Scotland, upon Paine of Forfeiture of their Goods, and their Bodys to Prison.’ “-Ordinances and Statutes of the Isle of Man previous to the Revestment (MILLS), p. 27.

*5 In the “good old times,” the Manx law permitted a native of the Isle to kill a Scotchman, provided he afterwards went over to Scotland and stole a white skin, meaning a white goat, and so giving the Scotch an opportunity of retaliating (by killing him) ; or he was to forfeit three white goats-plentiful in those days as sheep are in these.

The Moddey Dhoo

Posted in Folklore, Storytelling with tags , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2012 by manxwytch

The Black Dog of Mann

Somewhere between folk tale and legend, the Moddey Dhoo  haunts the lore of Ellan Vannin from ancient times.  Black Dogs have a special place in many Celtic and European legends as both guardians of the sacred and profane; theurgic messengers from the Otherworld.  Different localities have given them different names, many are known as Ghost Dogs and their apparitions are often harbingers of death and doom to the person that encounters them.

Peel Castle is a beautiful red stoned ruined castle on a wee island off of the main town of Peel.  This island is now called St. Patrick’s Isle, but it was once a holy isle of the ancient pagan peoples of Ellan Vanin, the Druids, cunning folk and of course the early Vikings.  We all know that the  Christians appropriated all the sacred sites that they could in their thirst for dominion and power and they renamed everything under the names of their Saints, hoping that time would at some point wash away all memory of the Old Religions.  In many places, it did… but not on Mann…

Now the Old Moddey Dhoo as I’ve said, was a guardian of the sacred isle.  He watched over the graves of the pagan ancestors and protected their bones and sanctity.  When the Christians came, and took over everything, bringing with them their hierarchy and military institutions, their greed and their disrespect for the land, sea and sky… well, you can imagine, he was plenty worked!

And when in the 16oos Peel Castle became the garrison of the damned Earl of Derby’s soldiers, well the Moddey Dhoo just about had enough of them and their drinking and farting and carrying on!  So he kept a close eye on them to keep them in line and in their quarters.  He would wander into the guard room, and lay his big Moddey Head down by the fire, just as sun set to the west.  Every soldier knew he was no man’s dog.  He was that kind of otherworldly guest which makes the hair on your arms stand on end and your back prickle.  So every last one of them stayed sober around the Dhoo and not one uttered a curse word for fear of him.  Some even thought he was the Christian Devil, but we know better.

Each night, a pair of soldiers had to lock the great gates of the castle, venture through a dark passageway in a church which, as you know, was built on an ancient holy site, and leave the keys in the Captain’s Quarters.  And every time the soldiers went to leave the room, the Moddey Dhoo would rise from the hearth fire to follow and keep the fellows in line.  So scared were the soldiers to head out that they would roll dice to see who were the unlucky fellows of the eve to do the job.  No one walked alone with the Moddey Dhoo!

He prowled behind the key carriers, panting mist and smoke.  His seemed to grow larger in the dark and he made a sound like a low rumbling growl.  Some nights he just stood there baring his ivory teeth and scowling with his eyes the size of saucer plates ablaze.

And he would return with the soldiers to the guards room, lay down by the fire, and disappear at dawn without a trace!

Goodness he was a good guard dog, that black phantom!

And as it is with the world of men, they get familiar even with the uncanny after a time.  A miracle of childhood is only a sunrise in middle age.  Likewise, some men began to question their instinctual fear of the Moddey Dhoo and they started to think that he might just be a big ugly dog.  Well, you know, some people can talk themselves into any belief despite the natural wonders around them!

One soldier in particular had a real problem with the Moddey Dhoo and thought he would do best to show off that he was braver than the rest of them.  Now he was a most foul man, and it wasn’t just his smell, it was his very air and the Moddey Dhoo had been keeping one coal glowing eye on him at all times.  After calling on John Barleycorn for ample courage, this man began to boast that he wasn’t afraid of no Black Dog.

“Come on” he challenged “let’s see if you’re really a Devil or just a wee ugly pup.”

Well, what I can I say, the ancient immortal phantom just looked up and grinned like a Hell Hound.  And this drunken wanker picked up the keys and dared the Moddey Dhoo to follow him!  Some of the wiser soldiers tried to stop him but he was a big brute, drunk and was alreadypissed down at the gate.  The Moddy Dhoo just looked at the soldiers, got up from the hearth fire, sauntered out the door and prevented every last one of them from following with a haunting glare.  This set a few soldiers to all get down on their hands and knees for the foolish fellow and mutter prayers and weepings while others waited in quite fear for the outcome.  Either way, not another soldier left the guard room that night.

And there was silence.

Then from the dark came the shrieking.  The horrid screaming of the braggart guard.  A most agonizing sound in the dark to be certain.  Still not one soldier ventured out of the safety of the guard’s quarters.  They paled in fear, frozen in a grip of terror and stared wide eyed at one another.

Then, the door to the guard room swung open and standing there, was a man who was man no more.  The braggart soldier!  A man whose face twitched and contorted in dread for he had encountered the wrath of the otherworldly guardian, the Moddey Dhoo.  They helped him to sit down safelyin the room but he shook so uncontrollably that his tongue wagged out of his mouth and he was unable to speak.  He was nothing but a shivering, drooling, madman!  None of the soldiers ever learned what happened to him that night when he challenged the Ancient Guardian of Peel, and like all fools with Immortals,  he died three days later.

The  fearful fellow and the Moddey Dhoo are briefly mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in The Lay of the Last Minstrel

“For he was speechless, ghastly, wan
Like him of whom the Story ran
Who spoke the spectre hound in Mann.”

Some say, the Moddey Dhoo showed him the contents of his own soul.  Whatever the black dog did, he didn’t need to do it again.  The passageway in Peel Castle was walled up and no one was to ever venture in.

Some say that the Moddey Dhoo no longer haunts Peel Castle, but I can tell you it’s a lie.  The Moddey Dhoo is still there and I know many persons who have both seen and encountered him.

Those stories I’ll perhaps tell another day.

But this was the story as it was told to me by a Wytch of Mann.  If you want the boring old regular version of the story, you can go here.  It’ s neither as true nor as good as the Manx Wytch-Tales.

Odin

Posted in Funny with tags , , , on February 23, 2012 by manxwytch