News of the Past

March 2015
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The Morrigan – Meeting the Great Queens, by Morgan Daimler

Reviewed by Celtic Scholar

[Snip] Much has been said and written about the Morrigan, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say much more will be written about Her, much of it will be fantasy, and some will be academically dense. This book is a very short survey of what we know about the Morrigan in an easy, presentable way. It is aimed at the person who is not ready yet to read the more dense books or needs a compas to navigate the confusing material in books and websites.

The book is made up of an Introduction and seven chapters. The Introduction starts by laying out the aim of the book and then goes into the different Morrigans, and their functions that the author will be talking about. It also discusses the different meanings that we have for the word Morrigan.

Read the full review

Images in Roman Mosaics Meant to Dispel the Envious

History of the Ancient World

Ancient literary sources and data provided by archaeology offer much information about the religious beliefs of the Romans, such as their rituals and magic or funeral practices. “With this research, we are trying to find out how these beliefs are represented in Roman mosaics throughout the Empire,” said UC3M professor of Ancient History Luz Neira, who coordinates the team of twelve researchers that recently published their findings in the book Religiosidad, rituales y prácticas mágicas en los mosaicos romanos (CVG, 2014).

The researchers stress that mosaics are not only works of art, but also documentary sources of the highest order for the study of history. Their analysis reveals the vision that the most powerful citizens had regarding these subjects, as it was mainly the elite classes who commissioned them for their domestic and private spaces. “The most common representations deal with marriage, sacrifices (the ritual act of religiosity par excellence), or scenes against the evil eye and which try to protect against envy,” explained Professor Neira.

This type of mosaic had an apotropaic effect; that is, it was a kind of defense mechanism in Roman superstition to ward off evil spirits. To protect oneself from the evil eye, for example, they resorted to the representation of an eye pierced by a lance and surrounded by animals, in some cases with inscriptions. Images of mythological characters with prominent phalli or other scenes that would drive away envious people were placed in the hallways of homes. One such depiction is in a mosaic on the island of Cephalonia, where an envious person is represented by someone writhing and strangling themselves because of the envy produced by the house they are looking at.

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How to Spot Psychic Scams and Spellcaster Frauds

By Khi Armand

[Snip] Smart people get scammed by fraudulent psychics everyday. Smart people lose precious valuables – even their life savings – to fake spellcasters everyday. It’s unfortunate, because these are sacred, necessary services. Always have been and always will be.

In a world that does everything to cut off our connection to the mystery that infuses all life, it’s probably never been easier for fraudulent psychics and fake spellcasters to flourish with claims of exclusive access to unseen information and divine knowledge.

Do curses exist? Yes. 100%. In more ways than we think.

Can jewelry be haunted? Absolutely. Just got rid of some a friend mistakenly gifted me last week.

Are egg cleansings used to remove harmful energies? They’re a tool found in folk magick and shamanic traditions all over the world, including in hoodoo rootwork.

And far more unique events can take place right in front of our eyes than blood spots and lizards coming out of a chicken’s egg. It’s not the uncanniness of it that concerns me. The problem is that it’s the oldest trick in the book for phony spellcasters, tarot readers, palm readers, and psychics (who don’t deserve these titles) to scare people and trick them into paying for services they either don’t need or do need and won’t get in the hands of these scammers.

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“In the Hilt is Fame”

Resonances of Medieval Swords and Sword-lore in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

By K.S. Whetter and R.Andrew McDonald

As part of the powerful and evocative scene in which the Company of the Nine embarks from Rivendell on the quest to return the One Ring to Mount Doom, J. R. R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings provides a detailed description of the war gear borne by each member of the Fellowship:

The Company took little gear of war, for their hope was in secrecy
not in battle. Aragorn had Anduril but no other weapon […]. Boromir
had a long sword, in fashion like Anduril but of less lineage, and he
bore also a shield and his war-horn. […]
Gimli the dwarf alone wore openly a short shirt of steel-rings […]
and in his belt was a broad-bladed axe. Legolas had a bow and a
quiver, and at his belt a long white knife. The younger hobbits wore
the swords that they had taken from the barrow; but Frodo took only
Sting […]. Gandalf bore his staff, but girt at his side was the
elven-sword Glamdring, the mate of Orcrist that lay now upon the
breast of Thorin under the Lonely Mountain. (II.iii.292-3)

Gimli’s axe and Legolas’s bow notwithstanding, the place of honor among the weapons carried by the Company is reserved for swords: swords with names, swords with lineages, swords with magical properties, and swords that herald (as Aragorn’s does) the closing of the Third Age. Clearly, then, in Middle-earth as in medieval Europe, the sword possesses what its most distinguished modern commentator, Ewart Oakeshott, describes as “a potent mystique which sets it above any other man-made object”. Considering that Tolkien’s professional life was spent immersed in Germanic, Norse, Celtic, and English medieval literature and mythology, including texts rich in swords and sword-lore, it is scarcely surprising that the characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are provided with weapons whose names, descriptions, acquisition, characteristics and lore echo those of what Tolkien called the “northern mythological imagination”. . . .

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(H/T Medievalists.net)

Exercises for Learner Druids

(Or, why I mostly don’t do that thing)

By Nimue Brown

I’m generally not a fan of little exercises for anyone, especially not delivered through this sort of medium. It’s one thing when you’re working directly with a student and helping them find things to explore, but with something like this, fired off randomly into the ether, it’s not a good idea.

Firstly we’re all different. What works for a young, bouncy, fully able person won’t necessarily work for someone with mobility issues or agoraphobia. What makes emotional sense to a westerner living in the town their family has always lived in, won’t work in the same way for someone who is a second generation immigrant in a very different climate. Each of us stands on a unique part of the world, with a unique mix of genetic and cultural heritage and little exercises tend to generalise and assume total similarity.

Then there’s the authority issue. If I tell someone to do a little exercise, I am at serious risk of asserting myself as great and wise Druid leader and teacher, and reinforcing the sense that here is an ignorant newbie who has to be spoon fed. This is the dynamic of guru and follower, and it’s not how I want to work.

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Pagan Activist Starter Kit

By Courtney Weber

There is no shortage of Pagans willing to make their world a better place. There is a shortage of practical how-to manuals that can show us how to do this work. Whenever I share a story or a statement about something that I believe needs the attention of my community, I’m often met with a worried or even cynical face that says, “But how???”

I don’t have perfect answers, but I have woven in and out of different grass-roots activist causes over the years and now I work full-time for an institution that equips faith leaders for social justice work. I made the list below in hopes it might help a few willing people get started!

The Pagan Activist Starter Kit: If you can acquire these things, you are good to go!

1.) A local cause and concrete goal

“Think globally! Act locally!” It may sound cliché, but it works. No one person can collect all the carbon emissions from the atmosphere, but one person can push a local initiative to enforce stricter fuel emission standards in their state. For years, it infuriated me that same-sex marriage was not legal in most of the country. Federal battles take years and most often respond to the will of the states. I couldn’t force fifty states to do what I want, but I could work to force my own state of New York to get on it! Once gay marriage was attained in New York, many other states followed suit. The country I live in is one step closer to being the one I want to live in because these states allow same-sex marriage.

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The Alcis: the Divine Twins Among the Germanic Peoples

By jameybmartin

[Snip] The Alcis are a pair of twin brother gods worshiped among the early Germanic peoples. They are first mentioned in Cornelius Tacitus’ 1st century work Germania, where he writes,

“The Naharvali proudly point out a grove associated with an ancient worship. The presiding priest dresses like a woman; but the deities are said to be the counterpart of our Castor and Pollux. This indicates their character, but their name is the Alcis. There are no images, and nothing to suggest that the cult is of foreign origin; but they are certainly worshiped as young men and as brothers.“

(Note: exactly what “dresses like a woman” meant is open to debate, ie. Roman filter)

The early comparison here between the Germanic Alcis and the Hellenic Dioscuri, ie. Castor and Pollux, is of course no idle one as modern Indo-European studies prove. The “Divine Twins” are believed to be very ancient, forming part of the original Proto-Indo-European religion (4th millennium Before Common Era) and remembered in their descendant cultures as, not only the Germanic Alcis and Hellenic Dioscuri (sons of God), but also as the Vedic Ashvins, the Lithuanian Asvieniai (cognate to Ashvins), the Latvian Dieva Deli (sons of God), etc. The name Alcis itself is of obscure etymology. Some link it to the word elk, while others (more insightfully IMO) link it to a group of words springing from the Proto-Indo-European *alk-, and the ideas of “sacred space” (eg. Old English – ealh) and “protection” (Old English – ealgian).

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Sacrifice Does Not Mean Deprivation

By Erin Lale

[Snip] One thing that keeps coming up, which I am writing this essay because I feel the need to refute it, is the idea that sacrifice should mean hurting yourself or your family. That sacrifice means pain and deprivation. I think that’s the opposite of what sacrifice is supposed to be about. Having a relationship with the gods, spirits, ancestors, land wights, elves, etc. is supposed to be a positive experience, to benefit you and yours and your community. It’s not supposed to mean you take away from your children and make them go hungry. It’s not supposed to be about throwing away what you need to survive.

I think what we’re missing is that in a traditional farming society that ate meat, the animals were going to be killed anyway. Doing it in a ritualistic, holy manner made an important part of the agricultural year linked to the gods and also made people feel better about what they were doing. Is it not more humane to tell your child who has named the family goat that Butty is going to Thor, not only that Butty has to be killed and eaten because the snow has come and there isn’t enough for him to eat? Is that not the primal impulse to ease the concept of death by commending the souls of those we care about to an afterlife with the gods, whether they are people or animals, whether they were people killed in war or who died of old age, whether they were animals killed for meat or pets who died of old age?

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Introduction to Intent

By Sable Aradia

[Snip] “Intent” is the Wellspring of All Magick.

I find that many people believe that they know what this means and how to do it, but in practice, forming clear and precise Intent, and willing it to happen, is not nearly as simple as it sounds. It takes training and effort and work! In order for your Intent to be effective, quite a few things must come together at once:

• You must be able to visualize, clearly and concisely, what you want, as if it has already happened;

• You must have sufficient focus to keep this clearly in your mind while performing the act of ritual that announces your Intent to the Universe; the elements we traditionally call “casting a spell”;

• You need to be able to induce just enough of an altered state of consciousness that your magickal act is happening on the astral plane as well as the physical one;

• You must have enough desire to see this fulfilled that you invest your Intent with passion and direction;

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Old Norse Elements in the Work of J.R.R. Tolkien

By Martin Wettstein

When John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was 23 Years old, he had already learned Greek, Latin, Anglo Saxon, Old English, Finnish, Welsh and Gothic and had already invented two own languages, called Nevbosh and Qenya. Together with his interest in languages there came up an interest in myths and legends of the countries behind these languages and he read eagerly all the old legends he came across. During these studies he became aware of the fact that England itself had no own mythology. There was the Celtic, the Roman, the Norse and the Christian Mythology but none especially of England. The awareness of this fact and the lack of a mythology behind his own language, Qenya, made him write poems and short stories that told of events and persons as could have taken place in an English mythology. In the invention of these stories he was inspired by the Bible, the Edda, Celtic Tales, Fairy stories and the pieces of William Shakespeare, just to name the most important sources. In this Essay I would like to focus on the Norse elements that served as sources for the ideas of Tolkien. It is not the aim of this Essay to compare each idea Tolkien had with similar elements in the Norse Mythology. there are already more than enough articles on the ring as Norse element and the attempt to apply Odin to almost each of the Ainur or Tom Bombadil. It shall simply give an idea about how much this mythology served Tolkien as a source of inspiration.

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(H/T Medievalists.net)