The Fool

Let’s start 2019 on the right foot with a post on the tarot.

The Fool

Le Matt, The Inner Child, The Student

Upright – Beginnings, Spontaneity, Innocence, Freedom, the start of a journey, unformed potential

Reverse – Naivety, Foolishness, Recklessness, acting without care or thought, taking unnecessary risk

The Fool of the Rider-Waite-Smith

The Fool stands in the centre of the card, face upturned and filled with unconcerned anticipation as he journeys towards the edge of the precipice without heed of the barking hound at his feet.

The Fool represents be beginning of things, his potential as yet unformed and unrealised, but there is complete confidence that the choices made are the right ones. He heads towards initiation of sorts, an initiation by air which is an initiation of trust. Air is the element of the Fool and is indicated by the cliff, feather and the predominance of the colour yellow.

Key Symbols

The Staff

The Fool carries a staff, and symbol which is seen throughout the major arcana, but rather than using it to aid his step or show his power the Fool uses it to carry his pack, which in a sense is a misuse of his power.

The Knapsack

At the end of the staff, the Fool carries a travel pack. The pack is small and can be taken to indicate that the Fool has either discarded all but that which is necessary to his journey or has planned for his journey poorly.

The Dog

The little white dog follows his master and faithfully, regardless of his actions and decision. Hrs mirrors his master in his blind faith and his colouring is a reminder of the purity of the Fool’s thoughts and intention. The dog can also be interpreted as attempting to get the Fool’s attention, warning him of the dangers ahead. In this interpretation, the dog becomes a representation of the people around the Fool, who may be giving both good and bad advice in equal measure.

The Apprentice of the Arcana

In the Arcana deck, the Fool card is also called the Apprentice and this is the only card within the deck that does not have an animal image to represent the card. This is because this is the card that represents the playable character in the game and so the developers did not want to create preconceptions regarding the age, sex or gender of the person ‘taking the journey’. In the same way, the card represents the querent without the presumption.

Of the key symbols retained from the Rider-Waite-Smith, the element of Air is heavily emphasised by the presence of large whispy clouds in the distance whilst the cliff remains in the foreground reminding us of a leap into the unknown future.

The Sun, which is also prevalent in the Rider-Waite-Smith Fool (though not discussed here), is represented stylistically with the 5 rayed sun in the centre of the image. If the arms of the sun are projected there would be 12 in total, reminiscent of the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The rays, touching the middle distance in the image, are a reminder that an important interpretation of this card is as a beginning of a journey from innocence and ignorance into power and knowledge, which very much the journey of the Apprentice through the game itself.

I quite like that this card is so far open to interpretation if for no other reason it reminds me that the energies it represents are so unformed as to have no form at all. The potential energy is there but no steps have been taken mould it in many ways. Equally, I have always found the court cards as significators problematic as they attempt to cram people into boxes which may not be entirely relevant in this day and age. The fluidity of the Arcana’s Apprentice card as a catch-all significator appeals to my intuition fully.

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Goodbye 2018 Hello 2019

2018 is rapidly drawing to a close and it’s time to take a look back at all that has taken place like I always do. Knot Magick was born into this world during the last weeks of December so is as much a celebration of the blog it’s self as the year that has past. In addition to my run through the Sabbats I’ve also explored Goetic working and despite my silence in recent months a lot of that work is still ongoing. I’ve also researched really interesting historical and archaeological topics surrounding Hekate as well as share snippets about my own personal doings from time to time. Something else I did this year, but won’t be replicating in 2019, was participate in the Attic 24 Woodland CAL. I will be making an Attic 24 blanket n the new year but it won’t be the Sweet Pea project. I fell in love the Dune colour palate Lucy shared on her own page so I will be making these colours up into a neat wave, a stitch I’ve not done before but I have been trying it out on a short repeat colour wash which I am calling my Arcarna Pallet.

New for 2019
Playing with my demons did one thing, it through the tarot directly into my face and jailbroke it for me. All it took was was a relationship sim to do it for me.

No, that isn’t a joke; the Arcana romance sim presented a way of reading tarot to me which actually made sense and since that door was open for me other things have fallen into place. I don’t have a physical Arcana deck just yet as it hasn’t been published yet, the designers have a deck with the printer but there is a chance that, with demand so high, I won’t get a first print run so I have prepared a template to print them up. I will be printing on labels so that I can add them to cardstock and then carefully cut them to size before adding the reverse before backing each card with sticky back plastic. Art Attack eat your heart out.

The deck I make will be for personal use, and I have every intention of purchasing a deck as soon as I am able, so I am trying to assuage my copyright guilt.

I am still having to learn the tarot because after 20 years of practice I’ve managed to pick almost nothing up about it. The Arcana deck is presented very intuitively in the game and this opened a whole avenue of interpretation I had never applied to tarot. At the same time, it has pips based minor arcana and although I was initially daunted by this I soon realised through a couple of YouTube videos that it might not be as scary as I first thought. Learning the numerology of the pips is actually easier for my brain for some reason because I don’t get an overload from the cards themselves, frying my brain and blocking a reading.

So in 2019, I am going to bringing tarot to the blog. The first way will be through sharing the work I have been doing in comparing the Arcana game deck to the Rider-Waite-Smith. I decided to do this as part of the generation learning process, matching the rich imagery of RWS with the more streamlined Arcana. I started doing this a month or so ago and whilst it hasn’t progressed as quickly as I would I will be concentrating on it in 2019. I will also be putting the learning into practice by doing a couple of 30-day challenges, mainly hybrids of things I have found around the interweb. I’m not going to attempt to draw it out or post daily, so I’ll just post a round-up with pictures from my journal. Then there is all the stuff I didn’t get posted in my one said week routine, not to mention all the inspirations and ideas sat in my phone waiting for my own actions on. Writing and researching from a phone is a laborious process at the best of times but it is impossible for me to edit larger posts on such a small device so the stuff that has made it to the blog is only part of what has been written this year. They will do until I have time to edit them, or at least become so relevant that I can’t put off publishing them. I’m also planning a couple of trips on occult matters including my first ever trip to the Glastonbury Occult Conference so there will be no shortage of topics for next year. In fact, the biggest dilemma will be how to research and write it all and settle into my new job (starting in April 2019). If 2018 was a year to be wyrd then this 2019 is to find a good word/work/home life balance which has all the hallmarks of being really fun.

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Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

  • Also known as: Yule, Yuletide, Midwinter, Alban Arthuan, Saturnalia
  • Pronounced: Yule (pronounced: Yool)

Dates

  • 20th to 23rd December (Northern Hemisphere)
  • 20th to 22nd June (Southern Hemisphere)

Season

  • Winter

Zodiac Aspect

0 degrees Capricorn

Themes

  • rebirth
  • quiet introspection
  • new year
  • hope
  • setting intentions
  • celebration of light

Meanings

And so the year has turned and we finally reach the Winter Solstice, the night may be darkest but the promise of light has returned to the world once more, the days imperceptibly getting longer with each sun rise and sun set from this point onward. The darkness is still oppressive, and the weather in the northern hemisphere cold and biting. Traditionally this is the season of deep snow and ice but in our more modern climate we may not see such things until as late as February or March.

Despite the vagrancy of the climate nature is as much as a standstill as the sun in the sky. Animals are hibernating bet they can and many birds have flows south for the winter. This brings a quiet to the natural world, reflected in the lack of growth and deciduous green in the landscape, which we also reflect in our day to day life.  We withdraw to our homes and hearth, and even during the high celebrations of the Solstice we often keep on family and friends and there are many seasonal celebrations which share the same timings which have these associations.

 

In my personal praxis winter solstice is not just a tine for celebrating with living family members, it is also a time where I take a moment to remember those who have gone before. Because this is a personal praxis of mine this ancestor worship does not feature within the core of modern pagan interpretation however the is a sound argument, based on both archaeology and anthropology, that the Celebratory focus of Stonehenge was not the Summer Solstice as many modern Pagans understand but in fact was the Winter Solstice as a celebration of the ancestor. This is based on the extensive work of the University of Sheffield Riverside Project which you can see in summary here though I do recommend reviewing their public publications of the project overall.


Still, these long, cold nights lend themselves well to log periods of reflection on the self, what has past and what is to come. Quite often the light and life in potential are used as a focus for intention setting, and many a with will set their resolutions for the year ahead during a Solstice celebration.

 

Depending on the tradition Winter Solstice may be seen as the end of the ritual cycle or the beginning. If a tradition views Samhain as the death of the God then Yule is is the time of his rebirth and the promise of Beltane fulfilled. There are some traditions which hold Winter Solstice as the time when the God descends into the Underworld, with the inception of  light belonging to the Son-Consort lies within the womb of the Goddess awaiting birth during Imbolc, thus placing conception during Summer Solstice. Conversely the Goddess is either celebrating the arrival of her consort-son or she is mourning the passing of one and awaiting on the birth of the other. In either scenarios she has not begun to shake away her raiment’s of mourning and it will be some time before she is read to welcome life and new growth into the world.

A lot gets bandied about about the connection between the old seasonal celebrations and modern Christianity, the link between Ostara and Easter, Samhain and All Saints Day. Needless to say Winter Solstice is another of those times. I don’t really want to get into the debate of who stole what from who, as with many of our modern traditions the synchronisation runs deep. Needless to say the themes of light, birth,  celebration and cycles being upended begun again are very consistent. It really doesn’t matter if you envisage the Coca-Cola Santa, Father Christmas, Odin, Saturn or Jesus at the centre of the season, it is a season where a good time can be had by all.

 

Ritual Idea

Winter Solstice is one of those celebrations where people like to go all out, decorating not only the altar but the home as well. Evergreens such as fir, holly and mistletoe are all appropriate, reminding us of the life that remains in the world even as the coldest days draw to a close.

One of the more famous traditions of the winter season is the bringing in and burning of the Yule log. The log was usually a large branch, if not trunk, of a hard slow burning wood such as oak, which was brought into the house and set alight and allowed to burn down over the festive period. In one telling the final flames of the log were saved and preserved through out the year, passing from one lighting of the hearth fire to another, until it could be used to light the next yule log. Whilst it is more than possible to keep a lick of flame going for such a period of time using bushcraft techniques such as keeping fire in a horn other telling of the tradition also suggest that it was the ash that was kept safe and were used in the preparation of the laying of the following years yule log. Both practices were carried out to bring good luck to the household throughout the year ahead.

Regardless of which is true the latter is a little more practical and one ritual idea would be to gather, with appropriate reference and respect, a small branch or twig of oak and burn it on your altar as part of your ritual. At the end gather the remains in a container and hide about your altar to promote good fortune and protection in the next year.

This might be a little awkward, especially if you don’t have anywhere safe to burn the wood, so a simple alternative is to place a lit candle in an east facing window at solstice eve and keep it burning through the night until dawn of the day of solstice. Again, keep fire safety in mind. If you have animals or small children, or even curtains with drapes, you may want to ensure that the flame is enclosed in a lantern or placed well out of harms way.

Craft Idea

There are so many craft ideas for Winter Solstice it is almost impossible to choose which to promote today so I will follow my stomach.

Chocolate Yule Logs make a great addition to the ritual feast and if you are up to making your own Swiss roll then you can cheat and pick up a prepare chocolate roll from the supermarket. Decorate with evergreens like holly and fir, though don’t be afraid to use false greens if that is all that is available. It’s much nicer to eat cake than set it on fire so instead of generally setting such things on fire place three candles (birthday size are fine) and ritually light then to welcome in the reborn sun. Allow the candles to burn down and keep the stubs until next Winter Solstice when they can be replaced for good luck in the year ahead.

If you are looking for something for your tree, or even to give as gifts, then maybe you may want to consider spell baubles. You can pick you plain glass baubles at most hobby stores or from major online retailers which you can fill with charged herbs and things representing your hopes and wishes for the year ahead. If you don’t want to leave them plain you can decorate them with nail polish. There are a couple of different methods including the pour and swish and the pour and dip both of which are really fun activities for kids. Neither method entirely coats the bauble so it will leave the recipient with a nice bauble after they have removed their gift of herbs and wishes.

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Theogony – Challenging My Interpretation

Why do I do this to myself? Why? Why? Why?

What started out as a bit of a twee tumbler challenge to rewrite a favourite bit of Mythology ended up being an exercise in challenging my interpretation of Hesiod’s Theogony as handed to me by various mass market sources.

The theory of Hesiod as a singing peasant, or at least a noble who wishes to highlight and elevate this social class, is a strong one amongst many. Coupled with the idea that the length and disruptive nature of the passage, which is best described as being a hymn due to its form, length and structure, is a display of either family or personal devotion and the so called biographical interpretation is a rather neat one which answers three important “why” questions;

  1. Why Hekate?
  2. Why is the passage so long and detailed?
  3. Why is it located in the middle of the poem?

As for the first, the explanation is simply that Hekate is the Goddess most venerated because she is the personal deity of Hesiod and his kin, as evidenced by the naming of his brother Perseus, thus she is deserving of such recognition.

Secondly, if the first is true then it is understandable that the personal praise of a beloved Goddess could become a hymodic in nature, explaining the length and detail accorded to Hekate throughout. The explanation runs that Hesiod seeks to promote either a regional or personal cult to the Goddess to the audience to further her appeal across the pan-Hellenic world by presenting Her as the Goddess of the Everyman, even as Hesiod attempts to present himself in the same manner.

Finally, as the last born Titan Hekate appears in a rational chronological order within the text however the strength of devotion and desire to elevate her status is so strong that Hesiod has chosen to disrupt the flow of the poem to include it.

Now I will admit that this is a rather nice package, and it is one that I have presented to people in both this blog and talks but it is always good to challenge your understandings of familiar concepts and there are a couple of issues with the bibliographical interpretation.

  • There is no really strong evidence that Hesiod did hold personal veneration for Hekate. The statement assumes a lot about a historical figure.

 

  • If we undermine the idea that the hymn represents personal devotion we immediately eliminate the possibility that the length and detail are explained away by the same. Hesiod the Everyman is not in evidence, particularly given the time he spent in the royal houses and honours he received from them, and beyond his hymn there is no evidence that Hekate was considered the Goddess of such either.

 

  • Similarly, if there is not no reason to honour Hekate above all others there is no reason to hitch her star to the centre of the piece and significantly disrupt the flow. Even if you want to hold to the idea of personal devotion the location of the hymn can still be questioned because she could have easily been included in the opening Hymn to the Muses at the beginning of Theogony.

 

But What Now?

It’s always good to challenge your understandings of concepts but there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The biographical explanation is weak on examination, and results from a rather old school interpretation of the character and identity of Hesiod which is increasingly unsupportable. That being said, there is no reason to devalue the importance of the Hymn to Hekate, particularly if an alternative interpretation can be found. Any alternative interpretation has to readdress the three above questions and some of the more recent hypotheses not only do they address the issues better than the biographical one, they do so in a way which magnifies Hekate to a whole new level.

There are a number of different proposals from more recent scholarship and whilst I could try and summarise them I would do it badly, so I would encourage the dear reader to read The Narrative Voice in the Theogony of Hesiod by Kathryn Stoddard (pages 6-15) for themselves. This section is handily available to you via Google books here.

What I will do is pick up on one or two elements which particularly jumped out at me as I read it, in particular Hekate’s role as a Wilful Goddess and her relationship between the old and new orders of the Titans and Olympians.

Hymn to the Wilful Goddess

For those in the back that may have missed it, ancient Greece was not always a single homogenised state. It was a collection of city states which were more often in conflict with each other than in harmony. The concept of a pan-Hellenic identity did not really start to emerge until around the time of the 7th – 8th Century BCE and Theogony was likely Hesiod’s response to this emerging identity. All the gods and concepts contained within Theogony would have existed around the Greek world, but each region would have had identified the gods involved slightly differently, holding some in higher veneration than others. Hesiod wanted to create a level of unity, and where once there were many myths telling of the birth and lives of the God’s Theogony presented a single explanation for the creation of all things from Chaos, the rise of the races of Gods and the eventual succession of Zeus. So successful was he that it is Hesiod’s Theogony that we teach in school today.

Having said that, Hesiod didn’t create his Theogony out of thin air, if he had it wouldn’t have been so readily accepted or easily preserved for posterity. The names, motifs and stories had to be consistent and recognisable across the disparate city states and one of the explanations for the content and duration of the Hymn to Hekate revolves around this point. In particular the proponents highlight the following passage as evidence that Hekate was not simply a deity of local importance but was actually a Pan Hellenic Goddess without whom sacrifice was doomed to fail.

“ For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for flavor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honour comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favourably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her. For as many as were born of Earth and Ocean amongst all these she has her due portion. ”

According to the theory Hekate is presented as a pan-Hellenic deity who, in one form or another, was invoked by all men participating in sacrifice as a standard part of the ritual form. No sacrifice within the Greek would could conceivably take place without reference to her because without the aid of Hekate the petition would not reach the ear of the Gods. It is from this ability to decide whether or not a request is fulfilled the term “wilful” is drawn from as the interpretation relies heavily on the etymological explanation of the word ἐκητι as meaning ‘by the will of’.

This is not too dissimilar to the neo-platonic concept of Hekate as an intermediary deity associated with the realm of the Moon, where she ruled over the daemons who carried communications between men, within the realm of Earth, and Gods, located in the realm of the Sun.

The remaining portion of the hymn also goes some way to supporting the “wilful” nature of Hekate, indicating that not only was it in her power to allow or deny a petition to pass to the ears of the God by her own desire and opinion but that she had the ability to remove the favours once granted should she so wish. As Theogony says;

“Easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will.”

If it is the case that Hekate already held a pan-Hellenic identity that could serve as a point on which to unite the people of Greece it makes sense that her identity and presence within the poem is highlighted by an poet who was striving to create such an identity. Even though the concept of Hekate as wilful, even capricious, goddess isn’t one that might immediately resonate with the modern devotees, it is entirely consistent with the Green understanding of the personalities of the Gods. Lets put these perhaps uncomfortable notions to one side for the moment, but don’t discard them as they are relevant to some of the other scholarly opinions regarding the role of Hekate within the wider poem.

Hymn of Transition

The placement of the hymn is a strange one. It appears roughly at the halfway point in the poem overall and at the end of the genealogy of the race of the Titans. Although there are other deities born of the Titans following this episode in a chronological sequence Hekate is the last Titan to be born prior to the rise of the Olympians and the ascent of Zeus to the role of rule of the Gods. In a sense Hekate becomes a transition point between the old order, in the form of the Titans, and the rise of the new, Olympian order. Hekate becomes a representative of Her race, summing up all that went before whilst casting her into a bridging role which was acceptable and honoured by Zeus and therefore the Greeks as a whole.

Of all the Titanesses Hekate might well be compared with her ultimate Grandmother. Gaia is the first female power to be mentioned in the cosmology that Hesiod is spinning and one which spends a lot of her time in opposition with the masculine principle, as represented by Zeus. Even though she eventually enters the Olympian sphere it is in a weakened form with many of her aspects, such as role as a oracular goddess, passed on to other deities. In comparison Zeus not only honours and upholds the dominion accorded to Hekate as a Titaness he enriches them.

In truth, of all the Gods it is Hekate which most closely resembles Zeus in her range of powers and honours and some scholars have seen her as representing all the benevolent functions of Zeus in a female form. As a goddess upon who all levels of men, be they kings or paupers, can prevail upon to enrich their lives she is performing a similar role to that of Zeus, who bestows honours and dominion to those gods and men he finds favour with. Case in point; Hekate herself.

That’s not to suggest that Hekate’s relationship with Zeus is one born of duty or subservience due because of these honours. Although she is described in some mythologies as his daughter this kind of relationship is not evidenced in Theogony. Instead there is the suggestion that she has received confirmation of her due because she has given Zeus something that he needed – a connection to and therefore ability to superseded the Titans. To quote Boedeker;

“Moreover, she does not even serve Zeus’ interests, like Styx (397-98) or Gaia (883-85). All Hecate does is accept the timai [honor] Zeus adds to her original lot, without losing any of her earlier honors (421-28). We might conclude that somehow Zeus needs her more than she needs him, although undoubtedly his own power and prestige are increased when he bestows timê on another god.”

D Boedeker Hecate: A Transfunctional Goddess in the Theogony?

 

Musings

I have rather enjoyed following through on the sources highlighted in Stoddart’s piece, such as Jenny Straus Clay’s The Hecate of the Theogony, as far as I can (not being a fluent reader of French and German was something of a hindrance) because it gave me the opportunity to reassess my understanding of my favourite piece of mythology. The biggest blow to my understanding of the Hymn was having to regretfully give up the biographical explanation as to the hymns form and existence. It is a really neat package, but easy doesn’t always equal right.

I will be honest, I rather like the suggestion that perhaps the Olympians needed Hekate rather than the other way around, but I doubt Hesiod was trying to make a statement which was that strong. Rather, I think Hekate presented a convenient point at which to hang the transition from old order to the new and that the hymn like quality was a poetic device to both bring the attention of the audience back to the story and create a pan-Hellenic unity amongst what might have been a divergent audience. Whether Hesiod was doing this from the perspective of personal devotion, poetic aesthetics or even because of the politics of culture or social structure in Greece at the time the end result is a hymn which presents a strong aspect of Hekate on which to draw.

My opinions about the importance of the hymn to modern devotees hasn’t really changed all that much if truth be told. Looking at Hekate through the lenses of scholars such as Boedeker has shown her to me in a different light, but it is a light which has been magnified through the confirmation of my own personal bias. The description of Hekate as a pan-Hellenic goddess, with the power to ensure the voices of men might be heard by the Gods and that her ability to bestow honour and glory set her on a level with Zeus himself, enriched my understanding of Her in new and interesting ways.

 

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Maskelli Maskello 

The Maskelli Maskello formula appears in PGM IV. 2708-84 (lines 2752-55) where Hekate is directly invoked by the formula…

“Come, Hekate, of flaming council, I call you to my sacred chants MASKELLI MASKELLO PhNOUNKENTABAÔTh OREOBAZAGRA who bursts forth from the earth, / earth mare, OREOPEGANYX MORMORON TOKOUMBAI (add the usual).”

In his glossary (p336) Betz renders the formula as

MASKELLI MASKELLÔ PhNOUNKENTABAÔTh OREOBAZAGRA RÊXIChThÔN HIPPOChThÔN PYRPÊGANYX

Voces Magicae explains the formula a number of ways but primarily as an invocation of both Hekate and the Idaean Dactyls guardians of the newborn Zeus and master smiths associated with subterranean fires. The Dactyls are also invoked alongside Hekate in the Grammata of PGM LXX 4-25 so I decided to incorporate it into my daily devotions with an interpretation of the formula based on the information from Voces Magicae.

Sing the song of wisdom o’ hosts of hades; speak, o’ oracle of the mountains, and call forth the children of the earth mare, come split the earth asunder o’ Lords of Fire.
©Vicky Newton 2018

Curetes and the birth of Athena

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Summoning the Spirits

I know of witches who whistle at different pitches, calling things that don’t have names.

Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching

Whistling is a common power attributed to the historical Witch, whether it be linked to the calling of spirits or the brewing of storms and winds. Like anything attributed to a witch it is described as being a power which can bring both great harm and great good depending on the intent of the person who wields that power.

Whistling Up a Wind

Sailors and farmers alike lived at the mercy of the winds and the storms they might bring. A warm gentle wind might be exactly what the land needs in order to dry out a sodden landscape in order for the crop to grow but equally an ill wind may be whipped up to drawn down a dreadful storm to flatten flatten a crop and bring ruin and famine in its wake. Equally a sailor’s live/livelihood was entirely dependant on the wind. A wind, or lack of it, at the wrong moment could spell disaster.

My favourite, albeit fictional, description of a Witch whistling up a wind can be found in Philippa Gregory’s book the White Queen, where Elizabeth Woodville and her mother Jacquetta of Luxembourg whistle up a storm to trouble the Duke of Clarence as he flees to Calis. The scene is fiction but the storm, and the labour of Isabel Duchess of Clarence at sea which resulted in the death of the child, were very real events and both Jacquetta and her daughter were accused of Witchcraft in their own time.

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Bone Sheep Whistle – Museum of Witchcraft

Calling the Spirits

Whistling was the kind of activity which could get a woman in to trouble, particularly in Puritan circles. Such a noise making was considered unseemly and the preserve of men and at best it was the act of a woman thumbing her nose at the god given authority of the men around her. At worst the whistling as a sign that she was using Witchcraft, particularly malicious magic intended to cause harm.

On a sympathy level the association of whistling and wind makes a great deal of sense. Like calls like, and by imitating the wind with their own breath the operator draws the wind towards them. The other reason that whistling works so well is the attention getting nature of the piercing pitch of a well blown whistle, and by whistling the Witch is perceived as summoning familiar spirits to do their bidding, whether that be to drive the wind or carry their spells.

Whistle Up a Wind

The process of whistling up a wind is almost as easy as Gregory depicts in her book. Pick the direction from which you wish the wind to come from, pucker up and blow. The whistle should imitate the kind of wind you are trying to generate. Long, low and gentle for a soft breeze or high, sharp and loud for a windstorm.

Directionality is also important on two fronts. Firstly, it is important to face the direction from which you want the wind to blow. It is like calling a dog to you, you are more likely to get their attention if you are facing them when you issue the summons. Secondly, direction is also an important consideration when deciding on what kind of wind you want to generate. This is going to largely depend on your locality but for myself in middle England I would whistle to the North for a cold wind, the West or East for something wet or South for a warm wind etc. If I wanted to dry out the land I wouldn’t be whistling up the North, East or West.

Don’t worry if you never mastered whistling, you can use actual whistles, or even penny whistles, to achieve the same and there is always the bullroarer.

The Roar of the Bull

It’s amazing what you can achieve with a stick on a string, which effectively all a bullroarer is. The ‘stick’ is usually a rhombus shape (from which the Greek word for the tool is taken, rhombos) and when twirled on a long string it produces a noise which is a long low roaring whirr which is likened to the bellow of a bull, hence the name given to it in English. The rhombus was famously used in Dionysian rituals;

“And bull-voices roar thereto from somewhere out of the unseen, there are fearful semblances…  From an image as it were the sound of thunder underground is borne on the air heavy with dread.”
Aeschylus, describing the sound of the bullroarer in the rituals of the Orphic-Dionysian mystery cult.

Thought the design and use may vary this ritual tool appears all over the world, from Australia to American. For example the Tupi culture of South America uses the hori hori in religious rituals whilst the Māori use the pūrerehua for healing and bringing rains. A number of aboriginal groups in Australia use this tool in their rituals and initiations to ward away bad spirits and their use is restricted to initiated men, with their handling by women, children and non- initiates being deeply taboo. On the flip side various North American tribes allow these tools to be used as toys by children as well as using them as ritual items.

As such it is possible to divide the use of the bullroarer into four main categories;

  • Weather Control
  • Spirit Calling/Aversion
  • Healing
  • Toys

It is hard to say if the bullroarer had a presence in the lands now known as the United Kingdom. Certainly it isn’t until the age of the antiquarian that we find written and literary references of natives of Britain and Ireland making use of bullroarers or “boomers” as either toy or ritual tool. Alfred C Haddon makes mention of the bullroarer in Britain twice in his book The Study of Man, firstly as a method of averting lightening and also as a “sacred thing” but only after concentration (pages 222 and 225).

Whether their use is an ancient one or something that same about after the age of colonialism, and the collections that emerged as a result of this is not clear. 

Today there are some witches that use the bullroarer in their own practice and do so in a way consistent with older practices from around the world. In particular they are used to to raise up the spirits of the land, create sacred spaces and/or send spells upon the wind.

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Howl to the Moon for Wolfenoot

I don’t want it to be said that I have anything against modern rituals / celebrations. Wolfenoot is, to my mind, the best thing since sliced bread for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost I love wolves and anything that celebrates and honours these magnificent animals is a worthy event in my book.

Secondly, *a kid* came up with it! Imagination is a powerful tool, and for a seven year old to come up with such a well thought out and structured celebration, even if it has been his parents and the internet to help make this thing go viral, is an awesome thing. Perhaps he has the makings of a future cult leader, who knows, because his Mum (Mom?) has wisely kept his name separate from the celebrations internet presence.  

Thirdly, although Wolfenoot is not directly associated with any form of denominational belief (though is does embody everything that pagans love such as animals, spirits and cake!) it is a really good example of how “spiritual but not religious” works.

The celebration does, however, have the potential to turn into one of my biggest bugbears with the wider Pagan community. The wider collective seems to have this deep, ingrained desire to make everything we do ancient and connected to civilisations that would barely recognise our spiritual and religious practices.

The cynic in me wonders when Wolfenoot will be transformed into some kind of Native America/Norse/Celtic celebration of the Winter Wolf where we appease the spirits of Wolf and Winter for a successful year ahead.

No! That is not a suggestion because there simply isn’t the need.

There is beauty in the modern idea, even more so when it in its innocence is touches of chilling developments such as the repeal of Obama-era hunting bans which included the killing of wolf pups in the den (source 1, source 2).

The creators of Wolfenoot are refreshingly honest and open about its origins but I wonder how long it will take before such openness is lost to the sands of time. Modern celebratory creations can exist under their own sheer presence and have no need to have spurious ancient connotations attached and I truly hope that Wolfenoot can weather the storm.

How to Celebrate Wolfenoot

Let’s take the concept straight from the words of the creator.

“My son has invented a holiday called Wolfenoot.

It is when the Spirit of the Wolf brings and hides small gifts around the house for everyone. People who have, have had, or are kind to dogs get better gifts than anyone else.

You eat roast meat (because wolves eat meat) and cake decorated like a full moon.

A holiday to the spirit of wolves that celebrates people who are kind to dogs? I can 100% get behind this. So we will be celebrating Wolfenoot. It’s on the 23rd November if anyone else is moved to celebrate it. 😉 If you do, please post pics, so he can see how his idea has spread.

If you’re posting publicly about it, use #wolfenoot.”

Source

Seems straight forward right?

The Wolfenoot creators have recognised the adaptability of their creation and it is clear in their FAQ’s that they are happy for people to take this idea and run with it so long as the core purpose remains.  

Our Wolfenoot

One of my earliest guides as a callow pagan youth was the wolf, and its presence is still around me from time to time and I thought that Wolfenoot was a good time to honour and re-establish that connection. I asked the eldest if she would like to celebrate Wolfenoot with me and despite neither of us really being dog people she was more than up for it.

So, we went for beauty in simplicity in no small part because we had a very busy weekend. I spent the week leading up to the day wearing a particular wolf necklace that I own and on the day created a simple focus using the Wolf Card from Philip Carr-Gomm Druid Animal Oracle deck.

Then I attempted to lead the eldest through a meditative journey and quickly learnt that I am not able to meditate and give instructions at the same time. So, instead, I gave her a simple journey and allowed her to go into her own space with the card and (electric) candle so she could journey to meet the wolf as a spirit guide.

In addition for requesting guidance and strength for ourselves I will also incorporate a pledge of support for the species, later making a one off donation to a relevant animal charity. Unfortunately there was no cake or roast meat, though we did have our fill of both over the weekend so we probably made up for lost time at that point.

I do intend to make this an annual event in our household, writing it up into the appropriate calendar, though I will be deviating from the original purpose. I will celebrate on the November full moon, which next year will be the 12th November. I realise that this isn’t consistent with the original intent of Wolfenoot but it would fit my ritual calendar better.

So whether you were howling to the moon this Wolfenoot or not, I hope you enjoy the full moon this weekend.

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