Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

Excerpts From The Pook Of Pok

Pok the Bard introduces himself , enchanter and poet of the fae, he portrays the beauties of this magic land and all the beings herein, explaining how he has protected this wonder for us, bids us enter in. Dancing his words past riddles clothed in myth and mystery, Pok evokes and invocates in us new senses, empowering us with love to break the bonds that beset the beauty of this realm, to mend an earth and set sacred spirit to reign….

Summon Sorcerers
From Ancient depths of myth 

An incarnate joy
Where combined troubadours Run circus rings
Where ripples run from drop
And I appear
Dealing chessboards
MET 

Where stretch the squares
The black the white
Journey of vivid logic
To teach of life’s cause
And the opposition of fates
Begin Oh Tournament
It’s A Game…

Thus it was at Goatstone Rounds
Pok first proclaimed these feiry sounds
His love of Her
His loth of war
True he hopes you will do him proud
To speak out loud
Declare beneath any tree
Your loves
For they are worthwhile
Acts live and acts inspire
And as story fires are rising higher
Make a fun that once begun
Will spread like wild about this land
Breathe a world that joyous sings
In market place where prophets
Bring their offerings
And ours for you
For is there any we can loose?

Speak We Gnomes
Sat, each our pipe in hand
On dice
Calling you to our ring of eyes
The twirl of minds wrist is our work
The slip of tricks that soar us from the mundane
In circles dream emerging
Our construction from talksome shiftstick spins
Maker, that portrays lavish dreams
And founds them here
So as we sit
We throw our glory into life
Dreams that stir from these depths alight
Bringing their fantastic visions
So hopscotch we between black and white
As dazzled we be in door’s open light

It is I Pok who speak
Who fell from Bok
To scream
At first
Then tell tales
Who calls earth She
And nestles ‘neath the old oak tree

So now we stand at place entrance
Where Pokke sometimes does he dance
Shows y through his sparrow’s eye
His intimate bower
It’s walls and towers
Murals, flowers
Balustrades, a rose and eldern crosses
Bracken, briar and moistly mosses
Courts within a garden glade
I’ll show you round, it is ok
I have kept safe an ancient land
Draw now near and understand
That I will let you in my gate
Between two hills the worlds relate
Hear the cittern’s magic drone
Feel the pull, moon’s magic moan.
Feeling tears of diamond rain
Falling on our brows again

Now

Open door you star clad guide
Let us the magic dragon ride

Those two hills
The Goatstone Rounds
Are places where we make our sounds
Are bowers, you should understand
Were worms of earth do song the land

And for Pok
True, no sword
But Elfin silver gauntlet drew
And down it threw.
Here is faith a riddle round
A pooka place a peace palace
Where worlds of words entreat
A dodman root
In glades of games of life we meet
These will echo down the wastes
To true Kingdoms
Earth-heart’s prize of timely wealth
And each a ley through stones old throat
This ancient land in stars so cloaked
Is blessed with poklamations croak
A trumpet for a new dawn’s hope

It is the Buddha’s will
And we sit with him
Within circles concentric
The five point star
And lotos fall
How star wondered
Patterns
On Taleteller’s brow
Sacred diamonds or Egyptian curls
Take us there
Remind us
Somehow
This is how we do it

And you have been led by tragedies first prankster
Come to where Pokke old crow now bows
His body pulsing with other lights
Through his eye sparrowhawk spies
Who undefined and of no fleshes but voice only
Has described a glorious ark
Which, it is agreed, it is assured
Will sail you through new senses
To see truths in strange verse
That will remain when spell is broken
Mend an earth when words are spoken

Who does work now crisis come
With gourd and voice and beaten drum?
With Deva, Sylph and Dragon King
Flaming Centaurs and wild dancers
Weave and wield
A cloth where is none
Weave and wield
Take to the field
With love magics
To break a sterner enchantment.

To play Musics in this Sacred Place

And

Put an End

To War’s Disgrace.

 Excerpts from the Pook of Pok, written, narrated and music by Pok The Bard

Explanation Of The Verse;

Pok tells us what its all about and sets off revolutions of love beneath all and every tree of his domain, setting off story fires and fun that spreads like wild, that are offered about the world we live in.

It flows out like waves and tendrils spreading out from the source. Its the circus people jugglers and clowns, minstrels and acrobats busking the streets, reaching people.

Pok dances in the Goatstones and they travel though dimensions.

The gnomes come by one by one to form a ring (of eyes) entering into that location from their realm somewhere else.

A council of gnomes whom, we must assume, are sage and up to the moment on current affairs. The dice they sit on are big, at least 6 feet on their side, six sided dice with dots for numbers.

Their talksome shift stick is based on the talking stick from rainbow circles, where the stick is passed round and the holder of it speaks their mind. Here it is sort of a spinning of creativity, born from the gnomes ‘construction’ in our real world, the place we are gathered, the Sacred space. These lavish dreams are being brought into the real world. Dreams alight, they take off, it seems into more visions. But what else can this be in a poem? And what are our visions? what do we envision?

As we follow this vision, Pok plays hopscotch down the squares directly towards the open door of light, and others follow.. The doors are but a third open and letting in a lot of light. Pok dances up first and closes the door so that only a chink of light comes through. We have arrived at an important location. This is the ‘place entrance’ the threshold to the Citadel.

((This is a missing detail here, where Pok is reticent at first to let his guests into the Pook. On the threshold he lectures his listeners on their shortcomings (he is a spacegoat of course, not human, or only a third human) Pok holds the door to his eager curious guests, making them have to wait while he tells the story of his birth.))

The creation of Pok. Bok is a vast spirit, a daemon beyond speech. He oozzes with energy and the first drop falls from him causing ripples in the nothingness, causes the first vibration which was the voice of Bok via his more streamlined off-spurt, Pok.

This terrible exposure causes the screams of Pok,

but he reconditions himself to refine these raw feelings into somethin more accessable…into tales.

Pok makes it clear that he is aligned to the Goddess and that he is somewhat of a hedger and we are soon to be taken into the heart of the Pook.

The listeners are still waiting at the doors. At first Pok only permits a glimpse ‘Shows y through his sparrows eye’ he is lookin through an ‘eye’ made by making the shape of one between your thumb and first finger and peekin through it. ‘Draw now near and understand’ …he still hasn’t let them in!!

Now a funny thing happens, the door gets called a gate, then it becomes 2 hills. These are regular smooth roundball hills, not two high, with a cleft between them. Not exactly like a generous pair of breasts yet reminiscent of such. Strange weather is happening behind them, we hear the cittern, see the moon and yes, a storm – the diamond rain falls on us all.

The doors are flung wide, dimension travel, dragons and giant space worms offer their backs to riders. We see the landscape we have travelled lighting up along the leylines where we have made songlines.

Pok then throws down the gauntlet to minds willing to go on from here. A Pook is made here, the ‘peace palace/gay marquee’…(just like at a festival) a pledge for himself and a call out for others, a call that itself is an inner or outer temple formed from these declarations.  All it is made of here, is words and games.

A dodman is an old word for a snail. The snail’s eye stalks are like the geomancer’s two rods, hence the ley energy moving through the stones….Trumpets herald a fanfare and smash our preconceptions like the sea crashing against the rocks and cliffs, and we are transported into the next location, a fully far gone zone -maybe also temporally connected to the Goatstone Rounds. Like the barbury ring crop circle, the wisdom of Buddha speaking though tales from antiquity, Egypt and the stars. Like concentric rings floatings in space with crop circles and other geometric images, the pentacle and petals if you will.

It is the cosmic node of knowing , the seat of lion kings, the initiatory self dissolver that sends you to your zodiac mother and gives you your next real name.

Finally Pok bows to his listeners, telling them of the efficacious nature of what he has described and constructed with words that are his only flesh, and he is dematerialising.

Pok asks who will take up this cause, to work with the devic forces, to make a fabric out of nothing,  to wield this, which is what one does with a weapon. To go out in the world and take to the field with these love magics we have found here…..

You can read more of Pok The Bard’s poetry at his Blog

Blessed Be The Bard and Thee ~

The Faery Faith: Book Review ~

The Faery Faith: An Integration of Science with Spirit; 
A book about the worldview of people who experience faery reality.

After a brief outline of her scientific outlook into the pineal gland and its psi capabilities, Serena Roney-Dougal who has a PhD in Parapsychology(the exploration of psychic phenomena; telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis etc) , demonstrates her parameters in this book to be of intuition rather than slavish adherence to facts alone, that ”Seeing the Other-world is dependent on being able to see with one’s mind’s eye…not bound by the senses, but sensitive to vision, to dream…”. In this sense the book was a delight because Serena fears not to tread where others pause to proselytize about the different names given or inflections of pronunciation applied for example to the widespread existence of goddess or horned gods in ancient cultures and thus appear to refute their self evident similarities of spiritual identity.
I found her method at times to be both entertaining and pushing at the bounds of credibility, her employment of extended conjectures, stepping lithely from one circumstance to extrapolate that this means another thing and was likely therefore to support her thesis that a third or further outcome was probable. But as noted, this work follows paths of intuition rather than a rigorous fact based liturgy and as such her method is redolent of her subject, the paranormal worlds of Fae and elven enchantment do indeed push at the bounds of a possibly humdrum credibility. If you are not open to the limitless range of possibilities in a remarkable universe, then you might never see them after all – and if you do by some chance you will rationalize them out of all meaningfulness…

Whilst Serena is a qualified researcher in parapsychology and does by the way provide relevant references in the extensive index of her book, she also succinctly and simply portrays an enlightening insight into how the myths and legends of yore present an insight into other levels and realms of existence coexisting with our own reality. The book goes on to provide many inspiring accounts of how the same Fae and elven energies of earth and beyond are now resurgent in more modern myths and experiences of fairy and elven visitations, ghostly presences and Ufo abductions.
I particularly liked this quote that she included which describes a ‘place’ outside of physical space ‘Faeryland exists as a super-normal state of consciousness into which people may enter in dreams, trance, ecstatic condition or for an indefinite period at death…it can have no other limits than that of the universe itself’ (Lady Gregory 1979).
Incorporating her accounts of the latest views of quantum science, which identifies that our own cognition is a causative effect influencing the outcome of physical events, with the earlier magickal traditions which by various means sought to interact and cooperate with these energies at an elemental level and beyond, drawing on her scientific work with the pineal gland sometimes called the third eye, and the body’s natural cycles and other possible brain states that make us receptive to signals and vibrations of unseen or parallel worlds, Serena provides some scientific validation of the basis for these psychic phenomena and much food for thought.

In my opinion Serena successfully portrays the result that the many ancient mythological and modern accounts as well as the scientifically studied psychic phenomena do demonstrate when considered together, that each of us is potentially aware at some level of the natural magic and interconnectedness of ourselves with the earth and infinite universe. ”I feel the faery faith today to be a resurgence in animism, a love of the earth, of nature, aware of spirit immanent in all matter, aware that my body is the temple of my soul, that I am spirit made manifest, that everything I do reverberates throughout the whole universe, that I am a part of the whole and contain the whole within me…. (&) the deities are understood in their abstract mythical form…”
Clearly and coherently joining the spiritual, metaphysical and psychological dots with their manifestations in the physical realms, presenting the faery faith as an awareness of and cooperation with the subliminal and super natural forces of which we are also made and that are virulent in nature and across the universe,

I recommend this accessible book to everyone who has ever wondered, 
and who is able to follow Fae reasoning as it skips 
into the new vistas of the para-normal.
Enchanted We Are
& Blessed Be

The Triumph Of The Moon; A Review ~

Intrigued by Ronald Hutton’s assertion that “Wicca” (meaning the wiseones) is the first all British religion given to the world, I approached his book The Triumph of the Moon as my first serious study of Wicca and Witchcraft with an objective attitude and without any preconceived perspectives on the matter. As anyone who has read any Hutton will already know, his books are academic, copiously referenced and invariably not a light read.

 

Art by Alexis Mackenzie

Of The Origins of Modern Perspectives 
On Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism In Britain;
Restricting his research to Great Britain, the book opens with an exploration of prevailing attitudes towards Paganism in the late 19th – early 20thC, asserting that Wiccan belief and practice owe much to the scholars, novelists and poets who resurrected Pan and the Goddess in the Victorian and Edwardian culture, and identifying the four key perspectives of the period;
First, a belief that all Pagans, both of European prehistory and of contemporary tribal peoples represented a religious expression of humanity’s ignorance and savagery.
Second, that derived from the religion and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, the Pagans were noble and admirable people but essentially remained inferior to Christianity in their ethics and spiritual values.
Third, that some writers considered Paganism superior to Christianity, being a life affirming and joyous alternative approach to religion which respects all of nature and seeks to integrate our lives with it.
Fourth, that a number of thinkers, writers and poets with connections to the Romantic movement such as Shelley, Leigh Hunt and Thomas Love Peacock, considered Paganism a remnant of a great universal religion of the distant past, elements of which were to be found in all the major religions practice by civilized humanity, from which contemporary NeoPaganism is descended.

Hutton then explored in greater depth the various strands of Romantic literary Paganism, the Frazerian Anthropology, Folklorism, Freemasonry, Theosophy, the revival of Ritual Magic and of Ceremonial magic, Thelema, and Woodcraft Chivalry, among others.
I found his research into the varieties of ‘Cunning Folk’ and other groups including ‘The Toadmen’ (still around in 1938) and a Masonic styled secret society called ‘The Horseman’s Word’ in the 19th century to be particularly enjoyable and informative reading.
To introduce them briefly, the ‘Cunning Folk’ were professional or semi-professional practitioners of magic active from at least the fifteenth up until the early twentieth century who practiced folk magic – also known as “low magic” – although often combined this with elements of “high” or ceremonial magic. In earlier times, the witch’s power to harm people, livestock, and crops was greatly feared: for this reason country people consulted with the ‘Cunning Men’ and ‘Wise Women’ who had the power to negate their spells with counter-magic.  Cunning-folk practitioners were also consulted for love spells, to find lost property or missing persons, exorcise ghosts and banish evil spirits.
Ronald Hutton suggests that the ‘Cunning Craft’, rather than dying out, had changed character by being subsequently absorbed into other magical currents.
The decline of the cunning craft in Britain was not however indicative of other European nations: in Italy for example, cunning practitioners continued operating right into the early twenty-first century.

Nevertheless, the author portrays that through the increasing interest in ancient Paganism and survival of traditional magical practices like charms during the 19thC, there came about in the 20thC what amounts to a new religion.

Laurie Lipton. The Black Sun

Of The Rise of Modern Wicca, 
Witchcraft and Paganism in Britain;
The second half of this book traces in greater depth the modern history of that new religion, of Paganism and Wicca, with particular focus on Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions of Wicca and examines the personalities involved in launching modern pagan witchcraft, including Gerald Gardner, Sanders, Valiente, the Crowthers, Pickingill and others.
Hutton says that Wicca was introduced by Gerald Gardener in the mid to late 1950’s shortly after Britain repealed their anti-witchcraft laws. Gardener had claimed that he became acquainted with a group of Rosicrucian actors who introduced him to an ancient surviving craft and that Dorothy Clutterbuck, their priestess, initiated him into their coven.
However, Hutton also argues that Wicca’s origins go well beyond Gardener claiming that Gardener was influenced not only by Ancient Hinduism following his period of civil service in India, but also a diverse collection of sources including 17th and 18th century fraternal organizations, 19th century esoteric societies including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis  and Freemasonry from whom he borrowed Wicca’s ritual structure, initiations, handshakes and passwords. The author makes clear that Gardener also derived inspiration and some practices from the Occultist Aleister Crowley and Romantic literary authors including Yeats, Frazer and Graves as well as the Back-To-Nature movement.

Despite Gardener’s claimed introduction to an older craft group – which Hutton points out is contested, and because of Gardener’s own subsequent gathering of sources and resources such as The Book Of Shadows, his forming of Covens and publicizing of his new organization, Gardener is nevertheless portrayed as the founding father of modern Wicca.
Whilst this early NeoPaganism may appear a socially or politically subversive movement, particularly because of its secrecy and the reversal of cultural norms such as that some aspects of ritual were to be carried out naked, the point is made that at this stage the movement was not of a socially minded reactionary nature at all. Several of its founding figures were deeply conservative (and politically Conservative), and their quarrel was not with social and economic status quo, but rather against the unnaturalness and destruction of traditional patterns of life and societies deep involvement with nature that characterized the rising industrial modernity.

On the one hand then Hutton appears to make the argument that early modern Pagan Witchcraft did not stem from any unbroken lines of succession and does not represent a survival of ancient forms of indigenous religious practice, but equivocally he also states that various forms of earlier practice such as the Cunning Craft, Wise Women and others had been subsumed and evolved into the new forms of neo Paganism and Wicca…



Of the Modern World View 
& American Feminist  Remodeling of Paganism and Wicca;
Moving on to consider the more recent developments in Wicca and Paganism, Hutton presents the modern world phenomenon of Witchcraft and of Paganism as having developed in Great Britain and been exported to USA where they were taken up by feminist pagans who massively popularized the concepts as well as imbued them with a more socialistic communal minded orientation. After this socialization the author says  a “new and improved” Wicca made the jump back across the pond to England in the early 1980’s, that Paganism and Wicca have returned with greater prominence and popularity to Great Britain in large part via the books of such authors as Starhawk, Z. Budapest and others who have provided a number of self initiation and guide books for the growing number of solitary practitioners or hedge witches. Hutton portrays then the development of an essentially a politically conservative religious movement evolving into a liberal/progressive movement prioritization feminist issues, promoting a progressive social policy, and advocating self-help/group therapies. The author rounds out his voluminous research with an interesting personal account of what in his view the principle precepts of modern Paganism and Wicca entail.

 

Of the Authors Conjectural Conclusions 
And Their Ultimate Uncertainty;
Despite the apparent academic objectivity of Ronald Hutton’s research which I have thoroughly enjoyed in a number of his studies, I found in this work an ambivalence and lack of clear resolution on a number of occasions. Mr Hutton seems to present an evidence based case as far as it would go and then implies the ensuing conjecture without the definitive evidence for the the implied conclusions, a practice which he points out in others as imaginative if academically erroneous. I find myself further intrigued by such deft footwork from an academic author and because of these misgivings I have looked about for other reviewers opinions. Of the many such reviews that I found among those who were not too overwhelmed, like myself, by all the cross references and closely written and basically bewildering panoramic scope of fine details, some appear to see the wood through the trees, claiming that the authors main pitch in this work, that Wicca and NeoPaganism do not carry any unbroken lineage to antiquity, are partisan perspectives that the author has impelled his evidence to support. These views of Ronald Hutton as expressed in The Triumph Of The Moon have then provoked a certain amount of debate from both sides of the camp so to speak. In response to such perspectives, Hutton frequently hints that there is more to this story, but states that without definitive evidence we cannot be sure and then proceeds present to his own conjectured conclusion almost as a definitive orthodoxy.

 

 

Of The Debate over Authorial Objectivity in 
The Triumph Of The Moon;
For a balanced review of The Triumph Of The Moon,  I have include a few quotes here from a well argued case against Ronald Hutton’s conjecture that there is no ancient lineage of Witchcraft or Paganism in Britain, from the author of the website ‘e g r e g o r e s‘ under the title of
The Recantations of Ronald Hutton;
”In Triumph of the Moon, Ronald Hutton triumphantly claimed that the whole notion of the Old Religion had been “swept away” by a “tidal wave” of research…Hutton had spent a decade studying the question of the relationship between modern Paganism and ancient forms of religion…Hutton had reached the conclusion that no such relationship existed whatsoever, and that no one could be taken seriously who believed otherwise, explicitly including anyone who so much as “suggest[ed] that there might be some truth” in the notion of the Old Religion.
The only problem was that the whole time Hutton had, now by his own admission, been systematically ignoring “certain types of ancient religion” which just so happened to be precisely the ones which most “closely resembled [modern] Paganism, had certainly influenced it, and had certain linear connections with it”! And why did he ignore the one place he should have been looking all along? Because it was “in every sense marginal to my own preoccupations.”
Hutton was by his own admission preoccupied then with his own proposition that “the paganism of today has virtually nothing in common with that of the past except the name.”

 

 

In Conclusion;
As I have previously held no particular view over the ancient lineage claims for Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism in Great Britain, and their authenticity or lack thereof, and because I have followed a largely intuitive path similar perhaps to that of a Hedge-Druid in my relative independence of groups and traditions as regards my own awareness of Pagan and nature reverencing issues and of what I shall term Supernature and its apprehension in daily life, I have found this volume to be informative, enjoyable and unexpectedly provocative. That there ensues some degree of partisan prejudice was almost to be expected, as the wider public may still hold various oppositional perspectives based on an until recently dominant Christian cultural ideology and its ensuing misinformation against Paganism and Witchcraft in particular. That such views should apparently inform an objective academic in his choice of how to handle his subject matter is not a question that I am well enough equipped to consider. I would surmise however by saying that I have learned a lot by reading this work, both within the tome itself and further by becoming aware of sensible and informed dissent without.

For all of these reasons I recommend this study to any who would consider the origins and developments of Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism in modern Britain today, with the caveat that there may indeed be more to this story than meets the eye or is presented here.

So Mote It Be ~

From Community To Individual and Back Again; On The Seasonal Festival ~

Ronald Hutton’s The Stations of The Sun, A Review;

                                                                        
At the outset I had hoped for a more ‘traditionally’ pagan account of the ancient seasonal festivals, their origins and meanings.
I was initially surprised and eventually delighted to find however that although this work is more of an Academic compote of facts and dates and included ongoing assessment of earlier authors often unfounded but sometimes inspirational conjecture than I had anticipated (of Sir James Frazer et al) nevertheless this is a very enjoyable, remarkably researched and admirably objective book-collection of essays.

That much of this morass concerns the developments and impacts of constantly changing traditions due to Christian Reformation and Counter Reformation (certainly comedic at this distance in time), the ongoing process a seminal crucible (reminding me of both grail and cauldron) proved revealing, as the general view of folk traditions and their origins seems to usually favor the more arcane sources, this book by contrast documents only definite evidence, largely that of written records, of church, kirk and council across the land.

Toasting The Yule Log

With a nod to the Scandinavian Yuil, as well as the Roman Kalendae, we embark on an exploration of the traditions of Christmastide, the Twelve Days, the Rites of Celebration, Purification and of Charity which included the remarkable Clementing, Elementing and Souling, even Thomasing, Gooding, Mumping and Corning (as well as more) regional begging customs, by which means the poor would recant rhymes for contribution of food for a feast of their own.
 

A Heaving

Similar appeals for reward included the Hocktide ‘heaving’ at Easter, in which gangs of men assaulted women for favor and groups of women also pursued and caught men for same, at its best a raising up on a lifted chair as proxy ‘Lord’ to commemorate the ascent of Easter, the surrogate released upon a reward of money or a kiss, at its worst a mere grasping by hands and throwing upwards as an occasion for assault and robbery.
The ongoing exposition of numerous social customs of this kind, both dazzle the mind with their quantity, as well as provides a clear insight into how poverty was communally accepted, dealt with by innovative appeals to the community at large and that these were often ‘sanctioned’ by inclusion of some short Christian phrase in the introductory verse or chant.

Medieval Carolers Singing

The author traces the development of such customs and portrays their eventual descent into more high spirited, reckless and even angry demands for assistance that could be met with threats and violence if not accepted.
Once national schools were established and later a more centralized protection for the poor was introduced, such earlier community traditions dissipated further, demonstrating the authors argument throughout this book of the movement from a community sharing seasonal rituals and traditions including those aspects of display that were geared to earn rewards, to the de-socialization of such community into a society characterized by its more insular and private approach to seasons and their festivals or traditions.

A Solitary Witch

The Christianization of earlier traditions also has its place in this book, as for example the feast marking the end of winter and start of the summer months ahead at February 1st, Imbolc (the etymology of its name relating to ewes milk and thus new life) initially dedicated to the Irish goddess Brigid, but who was later morphed into the Christian St Bride.
This is an important theme of both this book and of the mythological psycho-social developments of these Isles. Most surprisingly the often claimed genesis or inception of many Christian traditions in the pre Christian, infact seems to have increasingly worked in reverse. As religious conflicts in the land over changing orthodoxies developed, the Catholic tradition with its wealth of near magical rituals was vigorously being uprooted from the public and community sphere of practice by the ascent of the puritan Protestant, the ensuing personal spiritual void resulted in many cases in the earlier magical Catholic rituals being carried on privately at home and eventually (d)evolving into allegedly ancient ‘survivalist’ ‘folk-traditions’. Conversely, some of the Christianized traditions do appear to have had earlier sources such as the Rogationtide and Pentecost processions, at which time the people marched en mass around the crop fields, singing hymns at chosen stop points as the church ministers blessed the crops.

Beating The Bounds

The book does feature ancient  tradition where evidence has supported this, such as for example the affirmation of the Beltane as an accepted fire festival in certain regions of Northern Europe and the outlaying regions of the British Isles (unlike the later Samhain, for which evidence of a major ‘Celtic’ fire festival is less apparent). With greater detail due to the weight of evidence available however, Hutton explores the cultural progress towards our more modern current perspectives, for example plotting the development of the ‘May‘ (which unsurprisingly did have ancient antecedents in the delight of Spring returned) as people initially adorned self and home with garlands and greenery, which in time became a tradition of young women selling garlands, later children took over this role, and in their turn both to manage the unruly and the revenue these were eventually taken over by schools and local institutions. By contrast, the Mummers Plays with their essentially Christian derived themes of battle, death and resurrection, were more officially sanctioned groups from the outset and had less to do with earlier pre Christian traditions.

Group of Mummers

                                                                     

Raising The May Pole

Despite growing religious and institutional involvement in previously communal activities and traditions, the populace applied themselves with great enthusiasm to any occasion of social bonding, often at some cost to the societies they lived in (other than merely of money or means) such as the many community Maypoles stolen by rival villages and towns resulting in pitched battles between the two, the anarchic Saturnalia of Misrule as witnessed at the Shrovetide street ‘foot-ball’ games played across whole towns which could involve thousands of people and provided an occasion for licensed misrule resulting in damage to property and individual (although less violent than the serious riot and rebellion which was reserved for the Summer games as a time more suited for battle on the streets or field).

 The Church Ales or festivals also developed their Abbots of Unreason and a myriad practices of inversion and nonsense (Samuel Butler now we know where your inspiration came from).
 Charting how an apparently arcane ‘folk tradition’ once also considered a surviving pagan fertility rite had originated in high social circles of the Royal Courts and devolved into the rural communities, Hutton’s’ research into the Morris dancers is fascinating for its explanation of how we may create ‘new’ ancient traditions.

Modern Jack in The Green, Hastings

Perhaps my favorite exposition in this work is that of the origins and evolution of The Jack in the Green, identified as a ‘survival’ of an ancient pagan fertility rite by the Frazerite Lady Raglan of the Folklore society in 1939, established on her view linking the dancing Green-Man in May day processions with the foliage faces on church walls. This was a lineage unresolved till 1979 Roy Judges study revealed the true origins to be somewhat less arcane, and linked them to a more traditional social ritual evolved as so many traditional customs of display were, to celebrate the new season with a display deigned to garner reward.
To explain, during the17thC, London milkmaids danced the streets on May Day with their pails covered in flowers which symbolized the Springs new growth and so presented the promise of new grass for the cattle thus promising fresh milk, cream and butter. These displays earned them money as reward and therefore can be seen to serve a double purpose, of advertising their wares, as well a gathering much needed financial support after a lengthy winter without much income. They later left the pails for lighter wooden frames similarly covered in flowers and greenery, and later still were imitated in their greenery attired frames and street dancing display by the London Chimney sweeps whose claim for sympathy at this time was based on the end of winter cold meaning no more fires or work for them till next fall.

May Day Jack In The Green

Hutton surmises this work with a number of provocative and insightful observations, for example that the notion of a distinctive ‘Celtic’ ritual year with four festivals at the quarter days and an opening at Samhain, is a scholastic construction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which should now be considerably revised or even abandoned altogether.
Whilst the debt to a medieval, magical Catholicism seems to be growing apparent in my reading of serious studies of the origin of neo-pagan traditions, Hutton’s final words over the changing Christian influence upon the traditional festivals of the year are revelatory.
He establishes that soon as the system of salvation through ritual was scrapped at the Reformation, the merry making began to be regarded as a liability by the social and religious elites….thus the
evolution of a religious ideology …(had) produced a society imbued with a general taste for ceremony and acted as a means to endorsement of secular festivity.
In other words, Merry England was inspired by the fires of hell

Finally that ‘the rhythms of the British year are timeless and impose certain patterns on the calendar customs’, to celebrate spring, to make merry in summer and draw close at fall, despite government and mass media atomization of community, seems a fair conclusion.
Overall this book suggests to me that whilst certain traditions may not have an established ancient provenance, nevertheless because people are increasingly applying such meanings to the seasons cycles as an inherent pagan response to nature itself, we may now be seeing a further reversal of the community oriented neglect of seasonal festivals and a resurgence of a more nature based community oriented society at large.

Not a book for the exclusively poetic or mythologically minded, but if read in the objective manner with which it is presented, this book provides a wealth of insight and understanding into the seasonal festivities as they have evolved in these British Isles and the influence they bear on modern pagan perspectives, Recommended.


Happy Reading,  
Celestial Elf ~

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