Posts Tagged ‘Shaman’

Flight of the Shamanic Santa

 

Two great Tenger, Keiden Khan and Usan Khan, 

Talked about the old things 

Of long long ago,

When the heavens swirled with bright fog above 

and the earth did not have any corners below.

The grasess had not yet begun to grow, the great stag still a fawn,

the giant snake a worm, it was a beautiful time to look and to learn.

 

But times have changed, and now even the star people are troubled.

   

Gal Nurma Khan, a fearsome sorcerer has arisen to destroy the Earth.

Snarling his dark oath; ”Mankind will die in one generation!”

Gal Nurma Khan went to the land of the yellow lake,

Where he prepared three hundred evil spirits and thirty demons 

to lead them,

With yellow spotted horses, beards, and robes, 

Yellow lice for their food.

Then he traveled to the land of the blue lake,

And prepared there three hundred evil spirits with thirty demons 

to lead them,

With blue spotted horses, beards and robes, 

Blue lice for their food.

Going further to the land of the black lake.

He prepared three hundred evil spirits, with thirty demons 

to lead them,

With black spotted horses, beards and robes, 

Black lice for their food.

 

Nine hundred evil spirits and Ninety demons now lay waste to the Earth 

Their damage acute,

Flowing waters they poison at source, 

Growing plants they pollute at their root,

The land infested by their snakes of suffering,  

The Earth dying, her people crying.

Anthrax and plague killing them cold, 

Sickness dances with hunger and need takes both young and old.

The people and creatures die, by day, by dusk and by night 

Sad spirits fly.

 

Altai Ulaan, Shaman of the North, 

Heard the cries of the suffering all around him.

From the city of Ultima Thule where they call him 

SantaHo ClausHeim,

To consult with the Council of Stars – 

Where they call him Little Jolnir Longbeard the fine,

And to Keiden Khan and Usan Khan, where they call him Friend.

 

In the bleak mid-winter – on Earth hard as iron,

With the wild wind wasailing all round us.

Walking outwards and onwards and father and further,

Walking onwards As Snow falls on snowfalls.

Long time was our Altai travelling thgrough fields and towns,

Passed woodland glades where there was dancing,

Over barren planes and all kinds of strange,

To the Great Forest of the formlessness found him.

 

Here these Tenger greet Altai Ulaan with delight,

They made a feast that lasted eight days and forty two nights.

On the ninth day they talked about the important things due,

Things which have changed and which should never be true.

It was decided to take their message through the skies to the Stars,

And to the great Grandmother Manzan Gurme, Ancestor of ours.

 

And Altai Ulaan asked his friends then 

“Will you give me the four magic breaths for my journey as wren?”

Keiden Khan looked to Usan Khan and after a moment  

“We Will Give Them!” they said.

And Altai Ulaan grinned and then he said 

“Will you give me the white steed to cross the ten thousand realms?”

And they gulped 

“We Will Give It!” as his forebearance overwhelms.

Altai paused and then whispered aloud 

“Will you give the healing heartmind that is placed on the crown of the brow?”

And they gasped 

“We Will Give It!”  as the heavens allow…

Then Altai laughed 

“I will climb the thousand storms, take our message through the sky to the Stars 

And to Grandmother, give I!”

Keiden Khan and Usan Khan  heard his wise decision with gladness, 

And they confirmed it just so to defeat the bad badness.

 

Riding his drum, his shamans journey begun, 

Altai Ulaan began his transcending.

With thirteen magicks on his palm and twenty-three on his fingers,

Into trance he advanced crossing one realm into another, 

Past many countless ringers.

Be wary here lest lost in fear the path without a footfall beyond all going,

Ride on Altai Ulaan and rise on and rise up, 

Follow the way of the spirits formless flowing.

To Grandmother Gurme – Altai Ulaan was shamanizing…….

 

And he called through the skies, to the great yurt beyond sighs,

”Grandmother Gurme please do arise!

You who gave birth to the ten thousand most freely,

Now Nine hundred evil and Ninety demons beseige we.

And Gal Nurma Khan – his wickedness deceives us,

Our flowing waters pollute, our plants uproot, our existence by maggots  is eaten and moot.

My message I send, fly straight to the end, 

To my Grandmother the Great Manzan Gurme!”

       

This message overflowing with illness and disease tumbled up directly

On Altai’s heart breeze,

To Grandmother Gurme who 

Was filled with amazement and with woe……..

 

Looking in her magic mirror she saw the Earth world below:

And the ninety demons and the nine hundred spirits 

Of Gal Nurma Khan grow.

Their noses like stovepipes running strings – bubbling snots,

Eating Black pots of lumpy disgusting things and foul blots.

Walking upright – topless hats on their heads, soleless boots on their feet,

Riding tailless horses raising black fogs over Earth’s pathways and streets.

Slithering like worms and swarming like flies,

They trample the animals and peoples to die.

 

Grandmother sipped from her cup of reflection,

And then she said, with a powerful inflection;

“The orphaned and the lonely, and the people of the Earth,

Tormented and dying and passing away.

Being mowed down like hay, and broken like reeds,

Those who travel out destroyed on the road,

Those who remain home decayed all the same.

It is your fault foul Gal Nurma Khan –

And You will correct it as soon as you can!”

Having said her say under a dark stormy sky,

She went back to her home and the messengers fly.

 

Sent out in the ten thousand directions 

Of the dark-bright-heavens twinkling,

To call a meeting of Stars to make a wise decision for the unjinxing.

We meet on the moon to make a beautiful decision true,

The Stars, Gal Nurma Khan, will keep no place for you.

You will change now, or you will ever be banished.

And as you are vanished we recover our kinfolk,

We send sacred starlight to heal them from your yoke.

 

 

Altai Ulaan returned to his friends,

On a comet his spirit  traveled in reverse of acsend.

And the three great spirits greeted each other again,

With joy and delight to his earthly needs tend.

Altai Ulaan brought them gifts from above,

The certainty of change and the promise of love.

With the steadfast knowledge that all will eventually be well,

Now that Star nations to Earth’s needs abseil.

 

Knowing that it was now soon, the time to be leaving,

Before sadness came to Keiden Khan and Usan Khan grieving,

Altai Ulaan, Shaman and friend beset him away,

With a blessing and a laughter that you can still hear, to this day…..

 

c.Celestial Elf. 2013.

 Inspired by and adapted from aspects and characters in The Epic of King Gesar

 

 

 

 

Santa Claus Origins in the North;

Most religious historians agree that during the Christianization of Northern Europe local traditions were incorporated into the new Christian holidays to make them more acceptable to the new converts, thus Saint Nicholas was elevated for his kindness to the poor and Santa Claus was created, a Christianized version of earlier Pagan gods.

In support of this view, Santa researchers agree that many aspects of Santa derive from The Norse mythology.

Thor was the god of the peasants and the common people, represented as an elderly man, jovial and friendly, with a long white beard. His element was the fire, his color red and his chariot was drawn by two white goats (Cracker and Gnasher). He was fighting the giants of ice and snow, and thus became the Yule-god.

Contrastingly,  the Prose Edda, written in the 13th C, describes Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir (Santa originally had eight reindeers, Rudolph was nine) that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus’s reindeer. Tradition has it that Odin led the souls of the dead on a furious cross-country ride during the twelve ‘bad’ days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6). The resulting gale carried along the seeds of the produce of the fields, stimulating fertility. The apples, nuts, and other autumn produce given around St. Nicholas Day were symbols of fertility and by giving the Gods these symbolic presents during the cold, dark winter days would result in increased fertility for man, animal, and soil.

 

According to religious historians & astrologists, Santa’s magical journey on his sleigh around the whole planet in a single night, is apparently developed from the ‘heavenly chariot’ used by many Gods from whom Santa and other shamanic figures are descended.

 

The Shaman traditionally undertake vision quests into many spirit realms to communicate with Gods, Nature Spirits and even deceased people on behalf of an individuals need or for the community – a literal paralell to Santa’s allegoric flight around the world. Shamen also return with gifts, not toys, but messages for the individuals and the tribe, concerning the year to come, their hunts and harvests, the fate of their world.( more here )

 

Shamanic Healing;

Shamans gain their knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spirit dimensions by means of trance like states induced by repetitive drumming, and plants with psychotropic qualities to further their altered perceptions of reality beyond the physical constraints of normal reality in the earth plane. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in his/her travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only encounter them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him/her to enter the spiritual dimension and thuis t gain the wisdom or undderstanding he needs to help or heal the individual or society. In shamanism it is believed that part of the human soul is free to leave the body. The soul is the axis mundi, the center of the shamanic healing arts. Shamans change their state of consciousness allowing their free soul to travel and retrieve ancient wisdom, gods and great spirits of nature.

 

 

Mongolian Tenger, Chotgor, and other Nature Spirits;

There are many different types of spirits in the sky and in nature recognised in Shaman spiritual awareness; some are very strong and cannot be mastered by shamans, others are relatively easy to control. No spirit should be disturbed or controlled unless for the purpose of restoring balance, and not for any frivolous purpose. Spirits are not greater or lesser than living things with bodies, only different in essence, and should be treated with the same respect as humans or animals. The strongest of the nature spirits are the sky spirits, tenger, who live at each of the four directions. Tenger are very powerful and cannot be controlled, but they can be called for assistance during shamanist rituals. The greatest of the western tenger is Ulgen, son of Father Heaven and lord of the spirits of the upper world. The greatest of the eastern tenger is Erleg Khan, Ulgen’s brother and lord of the spirits of the lower world. Usan Khan, the lord of the water spirits, is invoked from the southern direction; Keiden, also known as Tatai Tenger, is invoked from the north, he is the controller of violent weather, lightning, and tornadoes.

 

The sky is also home to the Endur spirits, who are the suns souls of humans that have lived such outstanding lives that they do not return to the lower world. They are not as powerful as tenger, but live in clouds and cause rain to fall.

 

The Earth is home to a great variety of spirits, including chotgor, ozoor, ongon, burhan, and gazriin ezen spirits. Among many Siberian tribes these nature spirits are known collectively as the ayyy. Chotgor spirits, also known as kut or abaasy, are frequently the cause of disease, mental illness, or confusion. Some chotgor are the suns spirits of dead people who did not find their way to the lower world or came back from the lower world. In such cases a shaman simply needs to send them to their proper home. Other troublesome spirits have never been incarnated but simply exist in nature. After being mastered by a shaman they can become helper spirits. ( more here )

 

 

Santa Claus Gift to you;

The true gift of Santa Claus then, lies not in the fraught or hopeful exchange of gifts or toys, but in celebrating our individual health and community health and well being, priceless gifts from Divine Nature:The gifts, of perception and awareness, that allow us to witness the beauty of this life and its many wonders, of seeing the solstice sun, or hearing joy in the voices of our children and friends, of love…..

So when the jolly Shaman gifts you with his blessings this year, remember that the Nature which expresses itself in endless galaxies of light and wonder, also celebrates its existence in you and through you, that is his real gift…..

 

Blessed Be By Starlight and True Sight,

May you Ever Share Infinities Delight.

Ho Ho Ho.

 

 

c.Celestial Elf. 2013.

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Baba Yaga Reclaimed

 I came across this interesting account and wanted to share it;
 

Once Upon a Time, there lives an elder named Baba Jaga, she was a loving woman and very powerful shaman, respected by all the rand tribes people. But one day, vampires of earth came, men who lead large armies under the Vatican’s command. 700 years ago, and when the demon warriors of the church, came, they were only following the orders of their Vatican leaders.

And they wanted Baba Yaga dead in the Slavic and Balkan lands, so first they destroyed her reputation as a Grandmother, a sin under the heaven and earth, that reaps a most severe punishment from the primordial grandmothers who are eternal.

Then they made up lies about Baba eating babies and stealing children, the second sin they committed, then they killed her women, her medicine and her soul, the third. These demons raged through the villages, forest and mountain to kill all Baba healers,who were wise sages before religion had ever touched these sacred lands, and then they destroyed her teachings and finally her original myth as shaman and wind whisperer, until all that was left, was her corpse, laying in the mud, raped and beaten.
Then the church tortured and raped her until only her name would be spoken in vain and images of her would only carry their darkness on her face. They even killed and destroyed the most sacred alkonost’s, siren’s and magpie women.

After 700 years of this oppression Baba Yaga is finally returning to wholeness, for Spring always returns in the circle of life and Mother Earth has commanded her wisest Baba’s to restore what was corrupted. She gladly said yes with a song in her sweet voice. Knowing that sending Demons to hell is one of her favorite jobs.”
  * * *
In response to queries over the nature and orientation of Baba Yaga, was she not fearsome before she was demonized by Christian orders, I have researched further. Even when Baba Yaga appears in the most unfavorable light and has a ferocity of nature, she still knows the future, has countless treasures, and knows secret knowledge – all typical aspects in the portrayal Shamanic Wise Women and Healers.
Often she is said to live in the densest forest, which further scared people and added to the mystery and fear surrounding her because the forest is perceived as the boundary between the world of the dead and the living. No wonder then that her hut is surrounded by a palisade of human bones and skulls and that in many fairy tales, Baba Yaga eats human flesh.

Incidentally many magical practitioners of various sorts have employed aspects of death such as use of skull or grave dirt etc in their work of divination and beyond, including the pre Buddhist Bon magicians of Tibet (whilst Tibetan monks have also been known to use goblets carved from human skulls) and a ‘symbolic’ eating of flesh (usually by the super-natural entity) is well attested in accounts of Cunning folk and their familiar or faery spirit helpers, as well as in many forms of Christianity.

The Entsiklopediya mythology also claims that originally Baba Yaga has been a god of death: a woman with a snake tail, who guarded the entrance to the underworld and accompanied the deceased souls of the dead on their journey. This is somewhat reminiscent of the ancient Greek maiden-snake. According to ancient myths, from his marriage to Heracles Echidna gave birth to the Scythians, and the Scythians are considered the earliest ancestors of the Slavs –

Therefore whilst Baba Yaga may indeed have been a fearsome old woman that lived in a house made of bones before further demonisation by the Church, these aspects of her status as a healer and Wise Woman need not be in conflict to any extent at all. 

Blessed Be those that See xx ~

On Familiar Spirits;

Familiar Spirits have existed throughout man’s history. From the ecstatic rituals of Siberian Shaman, to John Dee adviser to the Queen Elizabeth I. of England and Cunning Folk across time, from Odin’s two ravens and his supernatural consultations in the North, to Sorcerers, Shaman and Medicine Men of various cultures  around the world, all have consulted and employed the spirits of their ancestors, local spirits and animals for their wisdom and assistance in magickal undertakings.

Yet despite the positive traditions, the most commonly shared and widely recognized archetype of familiar spirits, stemming from European fairy-tales, still have their roots in the Christian fear and prejudice of the Dark Ages, and have little in common with the real  familiars of both ancient times or modern.

During the horrific Witchcraft Trials and hysteria of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, evidence for consorting with the devil often included accounts of the accused keeping company with an animal,  many a lonely old woman was executed as a witch because of her fondness for her pet. If so much as a fly buzzed in the window while someone suspected of being a witch was being tried, it was said to be their familiar and evidence that they had made a pact with the devil.. Familiar spirits were considered by the Christian authorities as hellish imps given by Satan to his faithful followers to assist in their evil deeds.

Familiars were given names like any household pet, which many probably were. Perhaps the best known familiars name is ‘Pyewackett’, famous as the Witch’s cat in the movie Bell, Book and Candle, and a familiars name that dates back to Renaissance England. Pyewackett, said Matthew Hopkins (the infamous Witch hunter) was a name ‘no mortal could invent’ and thus his case against her owner was irrefutably proven…….

It’s interesting to note that, while Witches’ familiars were considered evil during the early modern period, the harnessing of spirits was acceptable in certain circumstances.
Outside of Witch trials, more benevolent familiars were believed to exist serving Wizards, Wise men and Women (Wiccan’s and Cunning Folk) who were magicians or village healers, indeed to deny their existence would also call into question the Christian faith in divine spirits, so belief in the one naturally included belief in the other. Needless to say, the common people held these spiritual guides in a different view than that of Christian orthodoxy and often considered them as or equivalent to angelic assistants sent from god. The familiar’s helped diagnose illnesses and the sources of bewitchment and were used for divining and finding lost objects and treasures. Magicians conjured them in rituals, then locked then in bottles, rings and stones. They sometimes sold them as charms, claiming the spirits would ensure success in gambling, love, business or whatever the customer wanted.
This sort of familiar was technically not illegal; England’s Witchcraft Act of 1604 prohibited only evil and wicked spirits. Some familiars were said to be Faeries. Oberon was a popular name for fairy familiars in 15th and 16th century England.
Similarly the Christian Church itself during this period also sold indulgences or permissions which granted the buyer a limited forgiveness for sins yet to be committed, ie a sinners diplomatic passport of sorts. It seems  a case of double standards then, as consorting with the spirits was permissible as long as the spirits were considered benevolent by the Christian authorities irrespective of their effect upon the people ie healing or helping, which reputedly many wicked spirits did do, whilst Christian authorized spirits might infact follow a different path.

There is a little evidence of familiars in early American Witch trials. However one case is representative of the prejudicial perspective shared with Europe, in the Salem Trials, 1692, John Bradsheet was indicted for “inciting a dog to afflict.” The dog was tried and hanged as a Witch…..

Familiars reputedly are sensitive to psychic vibrations and power and are welcomed partners inside the magic circle and other magical work. They also serve as psychic radar, reacting visibly to the presence of any negative or evil energy, whether it be an unseen force or a person who dabbles in the wrong kind of magic. Familiars are also given psychic protection by their Witches.
Many modern Witches have animal familiars, often cats – sometimes dogs, birds, snakes or toads, as their magical helpers. Witches do not believe the familiars are “demons” or spirits in animal form but simply animals whose psychic attunement makes them ideal partners in magical workings.
Some folk it seems also use the term familiar to describe thought-forms created magically and empowered to carry out a certain task on the astral plane.

In Shamanism, a novice shaman acquires his familiar spirits, usually manifesting in animal, reptile or bird shapes, when he completes his initiation. He or she may send them out to do battle in his or her place, but if they die, so can the shaman. Familiars usually stay with their shaman until death, then disappear.

Traditional Animal Familiars;

*Badger – Tenacity and courage. The badger will teach you perseverance and endurance in the face of adversity. The badger is a powerful protector of both material possessions and ideals held close to your heart.
*Bear – Strength, stamina, healing, medical diagnosis, strength
*Bee – The bee is industriousness, hardworking, community, work, industry, organization
*Blackbird – Enchantment, work between the worlds
*Boar – Sacred, cunning, ferocious, warrior spirit, leadership, strength
*Bull – Strength, potency, symbol of mobile power, ability to expand opportunities, creativity
*Butterfly – If a butterfly is seen while vision questing, no negative energy will be in the immediate area. Transformation, artistic endeavors.
*Crane – The crane is the bird of the Moon, magick, shamanic travel, secrets and reaching deep mysteries. The crane also represents the logical mind as well as patience while healing occurs.
*Crow – The Crow is a symbol of conflict, war and death. Its skill is wisdom with trickery. It is also a protector of scared records.
*Deer or Stag – The white Stag is a messenger from the otherworld, following the animal often leads to a quest through the Otherworld. The deer represents grace, swiftness and gentleness.
*Dog – Underworld hounds are white with red ears, they hunt and punish the guilty, they represent tracking skills and companionship as well as Loving protection.
*Dragon (lizards) – Wealth, raw powers of nature, the treasures of the unconscious mind.
*Eagle – Wisdom and long life, Keen sight, Knowledge of magick and swiftness, the eagle is a strong ally when traveling into new territory.
*Eel – Adaptability, Wisdom, Inspiration and defense.
*Fox – Cunning, slyness, Perceptive, makes fools of those who chase it.
*Frog – Shamanism, Magick, Nasty illusion with something wonderful hidden inside.
* Hare – considered fleet and swift, symbols of diligence, can also aid people in recognizing the signs around them by attuning to lunar cycles and understanding the tides of movement in their own lives.
*Hawk – Clear sightedness, teaches how to receive and interpret inner and outer signals.
*Heron – Of the Moon and magick, shamanic travel, secrets, the logical mind, through the heron one can find magick in nature.
*Horse – Stamina, endurance, and faithfulness, the horse was a faithful guide to the otherworlds.
*Magpie – Omens and prophecies.
*Mouse – Secrets, cunning, shyness, the ability to hide. If you see a mouse in a vision quest—pay attention to details.
*Otter – Enjoying life, recovering from a crisis, faithfulness, friendliness, and being helpful to others. The otter provides valuable assistance in the otherworlds.
*Owl – Teaches us to silently observe life, and gather information to gain understanding.
* Rabbit – clever, fast, coming and going as if by magic, classic tricksters, representing the triumph and joy in life, and success.
*Raven – The battle cry of an upcoming life crisis, it is a powerful protector if one can gain its favor.
*Snakes – Wisdom, reincarnation and cunning. If you see a snake while vision questing, be prepared for the power of transformation to enter your life. The snake represents the life-death-rebirth cycle.
*Swan – Helps to interpret dream symbols, smooths transitions and spiritual evolution.
*Wren – Also a symbol of Druidry for its wisdom, the wren’s song was used in divination, the power of strengthening and cleansing.

A simple invocation to call a familiar spirit;

To call a magickal animal or familiar spirit you need to focus your spiritual and mental energy upon the kind of creature that you wish to engage and you need to become receptive, aware of subtelties that might evade your daily perspective.
You will create a magic circle about yourself to aid your focus as well as to assist the spirit to find you in.
You will need a Totem of some sort for the familiar to enter into, and could spend a little time researching these before you begin, then ideally make one from suitable materials ie of feathers if winged spirit be called, of fur if mammal etc.
Once about your evocation, burn an incense which reminds you of the creature or spirit you are calling.
You should also have a drum of any sort, drumming a rythmn appropriate to the animal you seek: a timid sound brings a timid animal such as a mouse, a broken rhythm may bring a cunning stealthy fox, a loud rhythm could summon loud creatures like a bear or boar.
Finally, you will need a candle which will reveal to you by its flame and flicker (other than in breezy times) the presence or absence of any spirit guests.
– Prepare the time and location, full moon is best, still and untroubled, a peaceful night free from storms.
– Cast your circle about you and light your incense and your candle.
– Beat on the drum to the rhythm of your heart, thus the rhythm is known to the spirits who may approach.
– Continue for at least five minutes to draw the attention of the spirit, and to approach a state of trance or of ‘monotonous focus’ in which the spirits all around may be better perceived.
– After you have raised both your perceptive levels and the spirit energy about you and once you feel aware of the presence of potential familiars around you, whilst still drumming, chant in time with your heartbeat and your drum something like this or similar;
I call to the creatures hereby gathered,
Who dwell within the earth and air, the wind and waters turning.
I call to the spirits of fur, fin and feather,
Come to my side, join in my learning.
I call to the creatures listening closely,
To the creature you are to the one here who knows.
I call to the divine within the spirits now near me,
Follow my heart as our energy grows.

I call to the creature who has chosen to know me,
Let your bright self manifest,
And reveal to me now,
A true bond of friendship across eternity blessed. Less important the exact words,
of key importance the heart & spirit in which they are spoken or chanted.
– Stop drumming with the last words of the invocation
– Perceive the spirit by either sight of eyes or inner light if they have not manifest physically before you.
If no spirit has presented themselves, they may choose to reveal themselves to you in a vision/dream, or they may be waiting for the best time to cross the realms between…
If no spirit comes, then try again on the next full moon.
Spirit Be from Eternity
Blessed & True
Help Me See
* ~

Faery Folk Envisioned, Britain’s Numinous Mystics Restored.

My Review of Cunning Folk And Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions In Early Modern British Witchcraft And Magic by Emma Wilby.

This book is a remarkable and in-depth academic study of early modern English cunning-folk and witches involvement with Familiar Spirits such as Tewhit, Greedigut, Vinegar Tom, Jack Robin and Wag At The Wa, with boggles and puckles, hob gobblins, hell waines and firedrakes. Wilby proposes that early-modern witches and cunning-folk had relationships with spiritual beings similar to those of shaman in other traditional societies, such as finding stolen items, curing illnesses or causing it and providing all sorts of advice as needed.
Whilst ”Most people today would consider themselves to have little or no knowledge about early modern familiars.  In reality, however, the basic dynamics of the relationship between a cunning woman or witch, and her spirit ally, is easily recognizable to all of us, being encapsulated in narrative themes running through traditional folk tales and myths from throughout the world. Classics such as Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots, the Frog Prince and so on, are representative…These fairy stories and myths originate from the same reservoir of folk belief as the descriptions of familiar-encounters given by the cunning folk and witches in early modern Britain.”

 Written in three main sections, the first summarizes the animistic popular world view of early modern Britain. Presenting the illiterate or semi-literate common people as uneducated in the Christian orthodoxy and regarding the earlier ‘unintelligible’ Latin Catholic rituals and later Christian religious practices as ancillary to their folk beliefs, living cheek to jowl beside and within a world populated with very real spirits of various origin, influence and intent. Drawing on Christian heresy trial accounts as well as popular folk accounts Wilby then describes these spirit-allies and their differences between those identified with ‘witches – the demon familiars, and those who assisted ‘cunning folk’- the fairy familiars.

The quality of faery nature is well expressed in this popular rhyme which recorded in 19thC is likely to be much older;
”Gin ye ca’ me imp or elf, I rede ye look weel to yourself;
Gin ye ca’ me fairy, I’ll work ye muckle tarrie;
Gin guid neibour ye ca’ me; Then guid neibor I will be;
But gin ye ca’ me seelie wicht, I’ll be you freend baith day and nicht.”
The rhyme implies that the definition of the faery was dependent upon the actions of their human allies. In other words, the human could choose to employ the same fairy to good or evil ends, and it was the moral position of the spirit’s user rather than that of the spirit itself which determined the latter’s moral status at any given time.” Many comments recorded in Emma’s study of the confessions of cunning folk convicted of witchcraft suggest that this ambiguous amorality of the familiar spirit may have been standard. The familiars remained cooperative provided their ‘contract’ was honored – that their human partner would provide respect, or food and shelter, or in some cases promise of the soul…

In the second part of the book the argument is presented that most previous studies of cunning folk and witchcraft in Britain have tended to prioritize the social role, of healing, divination etc, over any thorough examination of the relationship between the practitioner and their fairy familiar or spirit guide.
Here the author draws compelling parallels between traditional shamanism as practiced in North America, Central Asia and Siberia, with the British practitioners experience as revealed through the evidence of both witch-trials and folk accounts. ”The relationship between shamans and their spirits is like the relationship between cunning folk or witches and their familiars…”  although they could indeed represent themselves as a man or woman, or an animal such as a dog, stereotypical cat, raven or toad, they also could be entirely immaterial and perceived only in the ‘flight’ to the other and inner realms of trance states.
The ambiguity remains consistent however wherever the spirits may be based as the author quotes Ronald Hutton historian’s notes that ”among traditional Siberian cultures some spirits were regarded with ‘respect, affection, solicitude’ while others were seen as ‘groups of efficient but untrustworthy thugs….and would punish with death any human master or mistress who shirked the duties of the shamanic vocation”. That witches generally first encountered a familiar or demon spirit during a pivotal moment of extreme stress, they may have for example family members may have fallen seriously sick – which happened often in earlier times, or they may have lost a farm animal to illness – which could lead to ruin or even death in a poor agricultural farming society. Wilby compares these pressures and threats to the sort of preparation to encounter a guiding spirit that shaman in traditional societies undertake – fasting, depriving themselves of sleep, and creating other physical extremes.
Wilby also argues that the concept of traveling to a sabbat is often seen to be the Christian interrogating authorities interpretation of the witch accompanying a fairy into fairyland, where they may learn magical such as how to use medicinal plants to heal, however this interpretation of the evidence as biased by elite intervention may not necessarily be correct due to the peoples own obfuscation of any clear boundaries between the folk faith and Christian church orthodoxy as it was(n’t) understood.

In the final section of the book Wilby considers whether the evidence suggests that peoples encounter experiences were primarily visionary and trance derived via a number of diverse methods, or alternately more paraphsyical than psycho-spiritual in nature and presents Paracelsus claim for the latter that ”Everyone may educate and regulate his imagination so as to come thereby into contact with spirits, and be taught by them”….This view in no way negates the reality of Familiar and Faery spirits, but rather places their existence in the shamanic realm of trance and ecstasy, the trance is not necessarily of the ”all fall down…”variety.
That similar beliefs may have also existed on a popular level are suggested by Robert Kirk’s claim ( author of The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies) that perception of a spirit will continue so long as the seer can keep their eye steady without twinkling. Thus relatively ordinary activities could mask powerful contemplative techniques which developed a sustained ‘monotonous focus’ in which state the hidden realms all around us may be perceived. Employing ‘monotonous focus’ and ‘psychic destabilization’ like the shaman, the common and unlettered folk – women, children and poor men, were capable then of skills as intimated by the sixteenth century German magician Cornellius Agrippa. In support of such views and highlighting the similarities between early modern cunning folk and witches and the encounter experiences of Siberian and Native American shamans, she references Mircea Eliade’s claim (author Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy and much more) that shamanism is at root a psychological tendency rather than a religious belief…”we see no reason for regarding is as the result of a specific historical movement…as produced by a certain form of civilization. Rather, we would consider it fundamental in the human condition”. Despite the Victorian, early twentieth century and even relatively recent historiographical tendency to ‘pathologize’ and thereby dismiss as unimportant the visionary dimension of the familiar encounter, as boastings and ravings of the half crazy, and strange, mad outpourings, nightmares and collective fantasies, of mental illness and schizophrenia, Wilby points out that since the 1950’s advances in psychology, ethnography and comparative religion have rendered such simplistic diagnosis untenable. That ”magical cures of cunning folk were effective on many levels…that charms prayers and ritual were effective in curing psychosomatic aspects…divinitary techniques may have led the client to subconsciously reveal their wishes or suspicions…” Earlier and reductionist views such as those of Sir James Frazer who held that tribal magico-religious belief systems were (merely) an amalgamation of cause and effect magical technologies designed to meet basic survival needs, have been eloquently dismissed by subsequent academics such as the prominent scholar of religion Ninia Smart ”Frazer’s theory neglects the perception of the numinous…” It has become clear that the range of potentially healthy states of consciousness is considerably broader than previously imagined, that there is more to the experience of spirits and faeries than self delusion and misrepresentation, here we discover genuine spiritual experiences of envisioned guides and sacred beings.
To conclude her study ”because there has been little attempt to analyze the ‘fantasies’ of cunning folk and witches in relation to visionary experience as it is found in magical belief systems and religions throughout the world including Christianity…” Wilby examines a variety of comparative religious perspectives and their similarities with the narrative encounters of early modern cunning folk and witches. Despite their acknowledged moral ambiguity – they are not characterized by any Christian anti worldly ‘moral purity’ of action or intent but display the full range of human motivations, their widespread theatricality such as dressing in dark gowns or carrying ominous stave’s ”carved with heads like those of satyrs” and their use of deception, the cunning folk and witch visionaries are portrayed as Britain’s ‘unrecognized mystics’ who experienced spiritual revelations of a higher dimension. In this context Wilby’s assessment of Christianity and other religions suppression of unorthodox spiritual perception and practice (outside of their own orthodox canon of wise men, miracles, healing powers and prophecies ) is seen to be about the Church and State avoiding loss of authority and of maintaining a monopoly over all things psychic and spiritual – at any cost. This position was contrary to the common folk belief that magical practitioners skills sprung from a divine origin ”It is a gift which God hath given her…(by virtue of this gift, she) doth more good in one yeere then all these Scripture men will doe so long as they live.” Indeed, after the Reformation, cunning folk even took on the role previously played by the Catholic Saints and had been compared to Christ himself. The author also portrays the similarities between Christian (and Old Testament) mystics and their visionary relationships with Angels and Christ, and the cunning folk and shaman envisioned encounters, that essentially derive from the same numinous origins and are clothed in the imaginal furnishings of the ‘seer’ and their psycho-spiritual and cultural environment. In our modern world with the decline of Christianity and contrasting rise of interest in many ancient traditions and folk beliefs, it is indeed fascinating to see how ”a mysticism unsupported by societal organizations and which was upheld by no sacred buildings, no visible iconography, no sacred books, no formalized doctrine or cosmology and no institutionalized ritual…how such formless and invisible constructs could have challenged the Christian Church for the hearts and minds of ordinary people”, yet they have done so and the invisible faery spirits of folk legends, faery tales and the cunning folk-witch encounter narratives, are revealed to be within reach once again.

Wilby’s hypothesis then is that the fairy encounter narratives of cunning folk and witches recorded in the early modern witch trials evidence a surviving trend of folk beliefs extending unbroken from a pre christian shamanic world view. Shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award, 2006, the author makes an overwhelming case for the long term existence of an ancient British-Shamanic tradition. She also re-configures our understanding of witches and cunning folk as animist shamans embedded in local communities. This is an iconoclastic reversal of modern academic opinion that witches experience of spirits and their attested narratives were either the product of mental illness or more likely perhaps an enforced or contrived collusion between the often illiterate prisoner and their elite and educated religious inquisitor. That magical practitioners across the length and breadth of Britain had stood up in courtrooms and ” ‘persisted in telling long and involved stories about faries’ despite the fact that in doing so they often knowingly condemned themselves to death” demonstrates in a definite way as could be possible the conviction, integrity and respect with which the cunning folk regarded their familiar spirits.

Emma Wilby’s book is a remarkable, timely and novel way of looking at them (Cunning Folk And Familiar Spirits ), and one of the most courageous yet attempted. (Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol)
Fascinating and well researched … a genuine contribution to what is known about cunning folk and lays very solid foundations for future work on the subject. (Brian Hoggard, White Dragon)
Emma Wilby s conclusions and her explanation of how she drew them, laid down here in the commendable modern academic tendency towards plain English that has moved away from the previous generations overly complex sentence structure, is worth its weight in gold. (Ian Read, Runa).

Anyone with a genuine interest in Faeries and Spirits, Cunning Folk and Witches, Shamanism and Native British Spirituality both early-modern and contemporary, should turn off their electricity for a while, take a long tiring walk in the forests, hills and glades – or a series of them,
and then by candle bright some magic night
should read this book with deep delight,
the end.
(Celestial Elf).
If Faerie spirit thou wouldst see, look inside the air and be, 
beyond the realm of earthly need, 
the magic of divinity ~

On A Modern Druid’s Education

Having an interest in The Druids, Nature and the Ancient Ways, I have from time to time been asked whether I could recommend any books for beginners or others to get a sense of what modern Druidry may entail…


The role of Druids in Celtic society was a broad and influential one that included Teachers, Healers , Bardic-Poets, Musicians, Shaman, Priests, Astrologers, Historians, Judges and Advisers to Kings.
Following the etymology of the name Druid, dru as ‘oak’ or ‘doorway’ and wid as ‘to see’ or ‘wisdom’, the name means ‘oak-wisdom’, although Irish druí and Welsh dryw could also refer to the wren, connected with an association of that bird with augury bird in Irish and Welsh tradition, thus the Druid is someone wise in the ways of nature, the seen and unseen.
Inspired by these traditions and the pre-Christian Celtic folktales, legends and mythologies which valued the spiritual within nature, some modern Druids commit to a guardianship of our environment and planet, to practise the ideals of the sacred and the spiritual by honoring the natural world.

In the past, a Druid’s education may have taken anywhere from 12 to 20 years, beginning around the age of five or soon after any person was deemed gifted by the divine, it began with a study of the tales and traditions, included Poetry, Nature and Law and continued with Communication and Music, a set of skills not unfamiliar to the teachings of similar cultural leaders in the classical antiquity of ancient Greece and Rome..

Today some Neo Druid and Reconstructionist Druid groups offer an education in these traditional subjects, giving tutored instruction progressing from the training of a Bard, moving through the Ovate grade to culminate in the ultimate achievement of becoming a Druid. Such tuition is naturally embellished by their own school of thought and necessarily funded by subscription to pay for the tutors guidance and support. But because there is no single sacred text or surviving body of doctrine upon which to base such teaching, whilst some of the books and course material used may be widely available from libraries and shops, others may be exclusive and available only from the organization involved..

Not all Druids today however believe the same things, or in the same routes of learning.
Some believe that the spirit is led by higher powers along its path to the gods, to apprehend the spirits and faerie folk, to travel the inner paths to the other-worlds, and to manifest healing and wisdom upon the earth.

Many who have not followed any formalized training nevertheless do also have powerful skills, and for them the distinction between the roles or formal acknowledgement of achievement is less important than the insight and abilities themselves.
The difference between these two approaches to Druidry could be considered the same as that between a college education and a vocational apprenticeship. In learning to practice such wisdom intuitively, they have learned the secret of setting aside worldly concerns and by embracing all that life has to offer have discovered the many truths transcending all.
Bringing this inner light back to the people, interacting with all things respectfully and as an act of devotion, this is the sign of a true Druid.

Central to modern Druidic belief is a love of nature combined with a pragmatic understanding that spiritual insight be expressed by responsible action in our daily life, shared with and on behalf of the community for its greater good.


To support an understanding of how we may continue to honor the ancestral spirits and follow the traditional paths of wisdom,
I have gathered here a short reading list for any who may wish to add an academic or historical basis to their insights and practice of Druidry.

However I would mention that whilst rooted in the traditional Druidic lore of yore, this list also establishes a clear link between reflection on the ancient paths and action in this modern world.


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Introductory;


”The Trials of Arthur” Arthur Pendragon and CJ Stone.

Detailing the return of England’s Ancient Leader, King Arthur.A Hearty and Heartfelt account full of derring do and of Down To Earth Druidry, following the path of Action and introducing the aims of the Loyal Arthurian Warband Order of Druids,The L.A.W. Arthur has risen to meet the challenges before him with delight and good humor, Recommended.
Reading Level: Standard


”The Apple Branch;A Path to Celtic Ritual” Alexei Kondratiev

Nicely written introduction to Celtic-inspired rituals and ceremonies. The author has done a lot of research and understands Celtic society and culture. It could be argued that Kondratiev’s NeoWiccan background throws things off a bit – but it’s still worth reading, because Kondratiev manages to avoid a lot of the overly-romanticized fluff that appears in many of the books purporting to be about Celtic Paganism.
Reading Level: Intermediate

”The Stations of the Sun” Ronald Hutton

Comprehensive and engaging, this colourful study covers the whole sweep of ritual history from the earliest written records to the present day. From May Day revels and Midsummer fires, to Harvest Home and Hallowe’en, to the twelve days of Christmas, Ronald Hutton takes us on a fascinating journey through the ritual year in Britain. He challenges many common assumptions about the customs of the past, and debunks many myths surrounding festivals of the present, to illuminate the history of the calendar year we live by today.
Reading Level: Advanced

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Historical;

”The Celts: A Very Short Introduction” Barry Cunliffe.

The Celts have long been a subject of fascination, speculation, and misunderstanding. From the ancient Romans to the present day, their real nature has been obscured by a tangled web of preconceived ideas and stereotypes.Cunliffe seeks to reveal this fascinating people using an impressive range of evidence, and exploring subjects such as trade, migration, and the evolution of Celtic traditions. Along the way, he exposes the way in which society’s needs have shaped our visions of the Celts, and examines such colorful characters as St. Patrick, Cu Chulainn, and Boudica.
Reading Level: Standard

”A Brief History of the Druids” Peter Beresford Ellis.

Contrary to the portrayal of them that we see in a lot of New Age books, the Druids were not a bunch of tree-hugging “get in touch with your feelings” peaceful clerics. They were in fact the intellectual social class of the Celts -Judges, Bards, Astronomers, Physicians and Philosophers. Although there is no written first-hand record of their activities, Ellis delves into the writings of contemporaries from other societies such as Pliny the Elder and Julius Caesar, whose Commentaries whilst politically partisan, do include frequent first hand references to the people he encountered in the British Isles.
Reading Level: Intermediate


“Women of the Celts” Jean Markale

Jean Markale takes an in-depth look at the society of the early Celtic tribes, and focuses on the role of women within that societal framework. There’s not a lot of information on Celtic mythology – but there’s a treasure trove of background on Celtic society, sociological theory, sexual standards, and economics. He also discusses legal issues that permitted the women of the Celts so much more freedom than their counterparts in other regions of the world, particularly the patriachalist Rome.
Reading Level: Advanced

”Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain” Ronald Hutton

This book is, quite simply, a tour de force. Interpretations of Druidry through the ages, treated to scrupulous scholarly dissection, in a masterly fashion. From Caesar, a truly machiavellian author, onwards, a succession of agenda-laden activists, scholars and authors have fashioned an image of druids for the popular imagination to suit the political and cultural points they are making. By examining all these written sources in the context of the social, economic, political standpoint of the various authors, a magnificent tapestry is gradually woven of English history and the men who have affected it; with. always, the misty figure of the druid just glimpsed to colour the narrative. Through the chapters we run – through the ages, and the gamut of emotional responses to the term druid; from disgust and vilification for a blood-soaked and savage priesthood to awe and wonder at the disseminators of the mystical wisdom of nature, pausing in admiration for them as radical freedom fighters along the way.
Reading Level: Graduate

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Poetical;

”The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales”

There are numerous translations available of The Mabinogion, which is the Welsh mythic cycle. However, Patrick Ford’s is one of the best. Many modern translations of the work are heavily influenced by a blend of Victorian romance, French Arthurian tales and New Age imagery. Ford leaves all of that out, and offers a faithful yet eminently readable version of the four tales of the Mabinogi, as well as three other stories from the myth cycle of the early Welsh legends. This is a primary source of Celtic legend and myth, so if you’re interested in the exploits of the gods and goddesses, as well as the mortals and demigods of folklore, this is a great resource to use.
Reading Level: Standard

”Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” Burton Raffel (Translator), Neil D. Isaacs

One of the greatest works of the Middle Ages, in a marvelous new verse translation Composed in the fourteenth century, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is as beloved as it is venerable, combining the hallmarks of medieval romance-pageantry, chivalry, and courtly love-with the charm of fairy tales and heroic sagas. Blending Celtic myth and Christian faith, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English masterpiece of magic, chivalry, and seduction.
Reading Level: Standard

”Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman” John Matthews

Taliesin, Chief Bard of Britain and Celtic shaman, was an historical figure who lived in Wales during the latter half of the sixth century. Encoded within his work are the ancestral beliefs of the Celtic and pre-Celtic peoples. In addition, his verse is established as a direct precursor to the Arthurian legends – and Taliesin himself, shaman and shapeshifter, is said to be the direct forebear to Merlin. Matthews sheds new light on the poems of Taliesin and on the vast body of allusion, story and myth that grew from his body of work and shamanic practice. This book reveals Druidic prophecy, methods of divination and the rites, rituals and beliefs that were essential to Celtic spiritual practice. It also features Taliesin’s works as keys to the Arthurian legends.
Reading Level: Intermediate


”The Bardic Handbook The Complete Manual for the 21st Century Bard” Kevan Manwaring

This complete manual for the Twenty-First-Century Bard contains all you need to know to start you on the Bardic Path. Here you will find inspiration and instruction, whether you want to dedicate yourself to the Way of Awen, or simply wish to improve your public-speaking skills and be able to express yourself with confidence. Learn how to enchant an audience with gramarye, through poetry, storytelling and songcraft, and how to use the magic of words to bless, honour, heal and celebrate your identity, community and heritage.With an easy-to-follow 12 month self-study programme and week-by-week exercises and mini-lessons about bardic lore, this book will lead you along the Way of Awen.
Reading Level: Advanced

”The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth” Robert Graves

This labyrinthine and extraordinary book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making, was the outcome of Graves’s vast reading and curious research into strange territories of folklore, mythology, religion and magic. Erudite and impassioned, it is a scholar-poet’s quest for the meaning of European myths, a polemic about the relations between man and woman, and also an intensely personal document in which Graves explored the sources of his own inspiration and, as he believed, all true poetry.
Reading Level: Graduate


”Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being” Ted Hughes

Might best be compared to Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess in terms of its scope and intent, it is a rich book filled with what I would call poetic as well as literary insights (like Graves’ work). The section where Hughes breaks down Shakespeare’s language showing how within each contrasting set of phrases he was communicating both to the rabble on the floor and the intellectuals in the gods is stunning. A worthwhile read for anyone who loves to spend time at the juncture between myth, literature and poetry, remarkable.
Reading Level: Graduate

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Spiritual;

”Way of the Peaceful Warrior” Dan Millman

You’ve learned body control and even some mind control, but your heart has not yet opened. Your goal should not be invulnerability, but vulnerability – to the world, to life, and therefore, to the Presence you felt. I’ve tried to show you by example that a warrior’s life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is the warrior’s sword; wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death.’ This is a book I would give to anyone to read for pleasure and to those following the path of the spiritual warrior. It demonstrates that the true essence of a champion is indeed the culmination of a strong body, mind, as well as spirit.
Reading Level: Standard

”The Complete Illuminated Books William Blake” John Commander (Foreword by), David Bindman (Introduction)

In his Illuminated Books Blake combined text and imagery on a single page in a way that had not been done since the Middle Ages. For Blake, religion and politics, intellect and emotion, mind and body were both unified and in conflict with each other. There is no comparison with reading books such as Jerusalem, America, and Songs of Innocence and of Experience in Blake’s own medium, infused with his sublime and exhilarating colors. Tiny figures and forms dance among the lines of the text, flames appear to burn up the page, and dense passages of Biblical-sounding text are brought to a jarring halt by startling images of death, destruction, and liberation.Blake often spoke of Albion, England’s great, mythological past, ruled by Druids. To quote Peter Ackroyd: “All his life, Blake was entranced and persuaded by the idea of a deeply spiritual past, and he continually alluded to the possibility of ancient lore and arcane myths that could be employed to reveal previously hidden truths.”
Reading Level: Intermediate


”Sun of gOd: Discover the Self-Organizing Consciousness That Underlies Everything” by Gregory Sams.
“Sun of gOd presents a perfectly outrageous hypothesis: The sun is a conscious, living organism residing in a thriving galactic community, thinking stellar thoughts that span the entire universe. Surely this is nonsense. Except that the more you read the more a conscious universe begins to make sense. Gregory Sams’ book is a clearly written and persuasively reasoned argument to think about the sun in a radically new and refreshing way.” -Dean Radin, PhD, Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Reading Level: Advanced


”Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics” Emma Restall Orr

Living With Honour is a provocative and uncompromising exploration of how Paganism can provide the philosophical guidance to live honorably in a twenty-first Western society. Part One explores the history of Paganism, its undercurrents of anarchy, heresy, environmentalism and animism, finding its place within the history of Western philosophy. Part Two addresses key moral issues from that animistic perspective, beginning with the foundation of human relationships and attitudes towards the Other. It book explores how we value life, and firstly human life, looking at dying, suicide and euthanasia, birth, abortion and IVF. It then examines the human abuse of nonhuman animals, discussing sentience, personhood and inherent value. Finally, it focuses on current global crises, exploring need as opposed to desire.’This is an excellent pioneering work, erudite, courageous and imaginative, that provides a new kind of ethics, linked to a newly appeared complex of religions, which are founded on some very old human truths.’ Professor Ronald Hutton, world expert on paganism and author of The Triumph of the Moon and many other studies.
Reading Level: Advanced


”The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion” Mircea Eliade

In the “Sacred and the Profane”, Mircea Eliade describes two fundamentally different modes of experience: the traditional and the modern. Traditional man or “homo religious” is open to experiencing the world as sacred. Modern man however, is closed to these kinds of experiences. For him the world is experienced only as profane. It is the burden of the book to show in what these fundamentally opposed experiences consist. Traditional man often expresses this opposition as real vs. unreal or pseudoreal and he seeks as much as possible to live his life within the sacred, to saturate himself in reality. According to Eliade the sacred becomes known to man because it manifests itself as different from the profane world. This manifestation of the sacred Eliade calls “hierophany”. For Eliade this is a fundamental concept in the study of the sacred and his book returns to it again and again.The “Sacred and the Profane” is divided into four chapters dealing with space, time, nature, and man. To these is appended a “Chronological Survey Of the History of Religions as a Branch of Knowledge.”
Reading Level: Graduate

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Environmental;


”Copse: Cartoon Book of Tree Protesting” Kate Evans

The rise of the environmental direct action movement in Britain in the 1990s is documented nowhere as well as it is here. Kate Evans was at most of the major protests, and tells her own story, but also uses interviews with more than 50 others who were there too. All the warmth, the drive, the integrity and drama of these extraordinary events is told with a disarming honesty and and involving humanity. It becomes clear that these were no heroes of the mass-media’s ‘eco-warrior’ stories; these were simply people with a will to affect the things that affect them, and who realised that morals and motivation are enough.The book does much to break down the barrier of spectator and participant, making you realise the ordinariness of the campaigners, and also encouraging you with a comprehensive ‘how to’ section at the back and a massive list of relevant contactsIf you want to understand what it’s all been about, this book is as accessible as it is comprehensive.
Reading Level: Standard

“Small is Beautiful” E.F. Schumacher.

Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered is a collection of essays by British economist E. F. Schumacher. The phrase “Small Is Beautiful” is often used to champion small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as “bigger is better”. The point of this book is to assault what is meant by progress and try and understand what has gone wrong when we live in almost obscene wealth while large parts of the planet barely get by. This book is a call to arms, to understand things we all seem to have forgotten: what is value? what actually matters in life? should the means always justify the ends? what is work for? and who put all these economists in charge?
The Times Literary Supplement ranked Small Is Beautiful among the 100 most influential books published since World War II.
Reading Level: Intermediate


”This Borrowed Earth” Robert Emmet Herna.

Lessons from the Fifteen Worst Environmental Disasters around the WorldOver the last century mankind has irrevocably damaged the environment through the unscrupulous greed of big business and our own willful ignorance. Here are the strikingly poignant accounts of disasters whose names live in infamy: Chernobyl, Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Love Canal, Minamata, and others. And with these, the extraordinary and inspirational stories of the countless men and women who fought bravely to protect the communities and environments at risk.
Reading Level: Intermediate

”No Logo” Naomi Klein.

In the last decade, No Logo has become a cultural manifesto for the critics of unfettered capitalism worldwide. As the world faces a second economic depression, No Logo’s analysis of our corporate and branded world is as timely and powerful as ever. Klein also looks at the workers who keep these companies running, most of whom never share in any of the great rewards. The president of Borders, when asked whether the bookstore chain could pay its clerks a “living wage” wrote that “while the concept is romantically appealing, it ignores the practicalities and realities of our business environment”. Those clerks should probably just be grateful they’re not stuck in an Asian sweatshop, making pennies an hour to produce Nike sneakers or other must-have fashion items.

Throughout the four parts (“No Space”, “No Choice”, “No Jobs”, and “No Logo”), Klein writes about issues such as sweatshops in the Americas and Asia, culture jamming, corporate censorship, and Reclaim the Streets.

Reading Level: Advanced

”Landscape and Memory” Simon Schama.

An extraordinary survey of European attitudes to and conceptualizations of nature over the course of the last 500 years or so, and how our ideas of nature have shaped how we interact with it. In a wide sweep of history that encompassess as unlikely a set of figures as Varus, a Roman general responsible for a catastrophic lost battle in the Black Forest and a 19th century French founder of the concept of “eco-rambling”, Schama has produced a stunning work that seeks to answer the central question: is our view of nature ruled by the mind, or by magical human interpretations? There are few books that could match this pyrotechnic display of learning and exposition of aesthetic views of nature that have shaped warfare,politics,religion and modern ecology. It is impossible to view today’s environmentalism before reading this provocative and insightful book the same way as when one puts it down. Reasonably scholarly but still quite readable.
Reading Level: Graduate

Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher.

William Wordsworth. ~


Compiled by Celestial Elf /|\

Father Christmas & The Shamanta Clause…

The appearance of Father Christmas dates back at least as far as the 17th century in Britain,
pictures of him from that era portray him as a jolly, bearded man dressed in a long, green cloak.
He typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, as the “Ghost of Christmas Present“, in Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, where he takes a miserly Scrooge on an emotionally re-energizing expedition through London on Christmas morning, his goodwill overflowing all around.

In 1931 however, the Coca Cola company redressed this classic figure with the Red Robes of Santa Claus,
co-opting him in promotional service of their product.
Subsequently in his examinations of cultural iconography, the renowned anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss wrote in his analysis of Father Christmas:
“Father Christmas is dressed in scarlet: he is a king. His white beard, his furs and his boots, the sleigh in which he travels evoke winter. He is called “Father” and he is an old man, thus he incarnates the benevolent form of the authority of the ancients.”

Thus we see the Father Christmas tradition although diverted to secular ends, still embodies deeper cultural values…..

* * * *

Whilst Father Christmas has become the most beloved of Christmas symbols and traditions,
his origins are not clear….

*

On Father Christmas’ ‘Christian’ Origins;

The Catholic Saint Nicholas Myra is one of the key inspirations for ‘Santa Claus’.
He was a 4thC Greek Christian bishop of Myra, Byzantine in Turkey, famous for his generous gifts to the poor.
His cult spread quickly and he became the patron saint of many groups, including judges, criminals, merchants, sailors, travelers, the poor, & children.
According to St. Nicholas historian, Charles W. Jones,
“. . . the cult of St. Nicholas was, before the Reformation, the most intensive of any nonbiblical saint in Christendom. . . there were 2,137 ecclesiastical dedications [churches] to Nicholas in France, Germany, and the Low Countries alone before the year 1500.”
(Jones, Charles. W. “Knickerbocker Santa Claus.” The New-York Historical Society Quarterly, October 1954, Volume XXXVIII Number Four, p.357)

Saint Nicholas is also the most revered saint in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church’ christianized replacement of the native people’s local Shaman….

In The Netherlands and Belgium, Saint Nicolas is aided by helpers commonly known as Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) in Dutch or “Père Fouettard” in French, or in Switzerland, the Krampus, a scary demon who would just as easily take people away to punish them with a birch stick beating, as give a gift to reward their good year.

The European Father Christmas became more world widespread In 1626 when a ship with settlers from the Netherlands arrived in America bearing these traditions of the Dutch “Sinter Claes,” or Saint Nickolas the patron saint of sailors, and their custom of celebrating the Winter Solstice….

. . . .

Whilst Father Christmas has become a secular representation of Christmas, a number of primarily Protestant fundamentalist Christian churches object to the materialist focus that his gift giving brings to this holiday.
This condemnation of Christmas originated with some 16th C Protestant groups, and was prevalent among the Puritans of 17th C England & America who banned the holiday as either Pagan (which means ‘of nature’) or Roman Catholic.
Christmas was made legal again with the Restoration of 1660, despite Puritan opposition in New England USA which persisted for almost two centuries….

* * * *

But Who Is Father Christmas Really?….

Whilst most religious historians agree that St Nicholas as Santa Claus did not actually exist as a real person,
during the Christianization of Northern Europe local traditions were incorporated into the new Christian holidays to make them more acceptable to the new converts, & thus Santa Claus was created, a Christianized version of earlier Pagan gods.
In support of this view, nearly all Santa researchers agree that many aspects of Santa derive from The Norse mythology.

Mythologist Helene Adeline Guerber suggests the Northern traditions indicate Santa as the Norse god Thor;
Thor was the god of the peasants and the common people, represented as an elderly man, jovial and friendly, with a long white beard. His element was the fire, his color red.
The rumble and roar of thunder were said to be caused by the rolling of his chariot …drawn by two white goats (called Cracker and Gnasher).
He was fighting the giants of ice and snow, and thus became the Yule-god.
He was said to live in the “Northland” where he had his palace among icebergs.
By our pagan forefathers he was considered as the cheerful and friendly god…
The fireplace in every home was especially sacred to him, and he was said to come down through the chimney into his element, the fire.
(Guerber, H.A. Myths of Northern Lands. New York: American Book Company, 1895, p. 61)

It is also worth mentioning that Thor’s helpers were elves and like Santa’s elves, Thor’s elves were skilled craftsman.
It was the elves who created Thor’s magic hammer.

Contrastingly,
Two books from Iceland, the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier sources,
and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th C,
describe Odin as riding an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir (Santa originally had eight reindeers, Rudolph was nine) that could leap great distances, giving rise to comparisons to Santa Claus’s reindeer.
Tradition has it that Odin led the souls of the dead on a furious cross-country ride during the twelve ‘bad’ days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6).
The resulting gale carried along the seeds of the produce of the fields, stimulating fertility.
The apples, nuts, and other autumn produce given around St. Nicholas Day were symbols of fertility and by giving the Gods these symbolic presents during the cold, dark winter days would result in increased fertility for man, animal, and soil.

Odin was also accompanied by his servant, Eckhard, the forerunner of Black Peter, who carried a rod.
As recently as the Middle Ages, it was the popular belief that certain trees and plants could render humans fertile and that merely striking a woman with a branch of such a tree could make her pregnant.

* * * *

Of Santa’s Shamanic Sources…

Religious historians & astrologists appear to have combined forces to consider the matter of Father Christmas incredible voyage outside of time…
Santa’s magical journey on his sleigh around the whole planet in a single night, is apparently developed from the ‘heavenly chariot’ used by many Gods from whom Santa and other shamanic figures are descended.
The chariot of Odin, Thor and even the Egyptian god Osiris is now known as the star constellation the Big Dipper, which circles around the North Star in a 24-hour period… thus the flight of the stars portrayed the flight of the God(s), and in turn of Santa Claus.

The Shamanic Flight of the Mushroom….

The Shaman, who was the highly regarded healer, seer, herbalist and counselor of his people, employed trance like states induced by repetitive drumming, and plants with psychotropic qualities to further their altered perceptions of reality beyond the physical constraints of normal reality in the earth plane.

These vision quests were serious undertakings embarked on with ritual and purpose to discover the causes of illness, or to reveal the best courses of action for the community to pursue over any given matter, and often involved communing with deceased, and Otherworldy Spirits or Gods.

Specifically the Northern Shamen are reputed to have eaten Amanita Mushrooms, more commonly known as Fly Agaric, the Red/White spotted poisonous Magical Mushroom of many fairy-stories and folk legends.
Entering into Mushroom induced trance and riding the regular beat of their drum, these Shamen ‘climbed’ up the world tree to commune with the spirits & return with gifts , not toys, but messages for individuals and the tribe, concerning the year to come, their hunts and harvests, the fate of their world.

* * * *

Of Father Christmas Elven Affiliations…

St. Nicholas is not only assisted by elves, but is possibly an Elf himself if an authors license is to be believed…
In the Famous Poem written by Clement Clark Moore, ‘The Night Before Christmas’ – The author calls Santa a ‘ Jolly Old Elf’.

Yet, Clark Moore’s theory is supported by later academic research into the Nordic Mythologies..
“… Saint Nicholas was an absorbed pagan deity. Our modern version of this personage is an amalagation of many old personifications of a very old elf. Yes, elf. In ancient times, it was believed that an elf came and delivered gifts to those who left him porridge. Indeed, the popular figure of Santa Claus actually owes more to the god Odin than he does the Christian saint called Nicholas. He dresses in red, a colour symbolic of the Teutonic Alfs, or elves. He has one eye with which he can give knowledge with a single wink. He has a long white beard and hails from the ancient lands of the frozen north…”
(Santa Claus, the Yule Elf, and Odi by Kimberly Moore)

Elven or otherwise, the mysterious nature of Father Christmas draws on many sources but resonates with a timeless quality outside of them all.

* * * *

On The Meaning Of It All…..

Some psychologists suggest ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ which occurs when children are encouraged to believe in the existence of Santa Claus, only to have their parents reveal the ‘lie’ when they are older….
Yet such parents, perhaps victims of church led re-assignations of cultural meanings, are mistaken, as much psychological and spiritual truth does reside in these deep rooted mytho-historic traditions.
By better understanding such Nature-Al truths, we may better understand our modern world, and its relationship to the greater panorama of Nature’s endless cycles and within that our own bright season of life.

The true spirit of Father Christmas then, lies not in the fraught or hopeful exchange of gifts or toys,
but in celebrating our gifts from Divine Nature:The gifts, of perception and awareness, that allow us to witness the beauty of this life and its many wonders, of seeing the solstice sun, or hearing joy in the voices of our children and friends, of love…..

So when the jolly Shaman gifts you with his blessings this year,
remember that the Nature which expresses itself in endless galaxies of light and wonder, also celebrates its existence through you, that is his real gift…..

* * * *

A Visit From St. Nicholas/’Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

(by Clement Clarke Moore)

HoHoHo!

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