At the end of the fighting season

At the end of the fighting season…

The autumn is closing in rapidly around here, it is wet, getting colder and I get up for work and it’s still dark.  Samhain approaches and my Pagan friends are looking towards the turn of the year.  In the earlier times, that our modern paganism often looks back towards, this was the last gasp before the plunge into winter.  With the harvest almost gathered there was still time for the flurry of activity to prepare for the months ahead.  But what about warriors?  What would this time of year mean to them?  This is something I find myself reflecting on at this time of year.

Until fairly modern times, warfare was seasonal.  Because when winter came survival was a big enough task, fighting would tail off in time for the harvest to be got in.  If it didn’t there wasn’t much point to the fighting as you’d be starving by February.   In the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1746 the harvest was not collected throughout the highlands and oats, wheat and barley spoiled in the fields.  The region had seen the passage of armies for over a year  who sustained themselves by foraging (which is a euphemism for stealing), so meat, ale and flour was in short supply. Shortages caused by the passage of armies through the highlands became famine.  Famine killed people regardless of their faith, politics or loyalties.

For the leaders this was a busy time and the longer view had to be considered.  What was the plan (or likely plan) for Spring? Could a peace be organised over Winter? Would it hold come the Spring or would fighting have to be resumed? How bad had things got? Would bitterness and honour drive winter raiding?  Who held the initiative?  All of this had to be sorted out before practical steps could be taken to stand the warriors down (or in more modern times to turn the army into winter quarters).  Many a late night council would be held and midnight oil burned, but this would have to fitted in around the mourning and recognition for the fallen, reports up the chain of command and the normal busy routines of society.

The first question would be how many warriors to retain under arms and how much manpower could be released to prepare for winter.  Where warriors were also farmers and some might be fighters you had ‘turned out’ (that is pressed into arms), they had probably already gone, the call of their land and harvest being too much.  It was possible to fight in a limited manner at this time of year, raiding and ambushing, so it was too early to let down your guard and stand all of your force down.  An aggressive war leader might work in a few raids and cattle drives to insulate against deprivation, but the risk had to be considered.  Losses would have to be made good and  the youth coming of age would be considered, who was in training, who had cut their teeth and needed recognising?  How many would need to start training now, not for next year but the year after?  Who would need to be invalided out? Egos soothed, pride allowed for, new jobs given to avoid feuding.  What about weaponry? What could be repaired or made new in house, what would require purchasing in?  Likewise armour and consumables like arrows, powder and shot.  Then there was the less sexy and glamourous things, boots, horse trappings, blankets, spoons.

A lord’s steward or seneschal might be keen to see the warband stood down, the cost for sustaining them physically and psychologically, transferred onto others.  Traditionally warriors (and soldiers in the modern era) were not billeted on a civilian population until the last possible time, as soon as this was done, problems started, which would occupy the leaders more and more until Spring.  So this was also the time of make work to keep the warriors out of trouble, patrols, hunting, guard duties, errands, exercise and training.

What can all this inform us as modern pagans who are drawn to warrior? It would be unrealistic to model our behaviour on this too closely.  In today’s modern times warfare and fighting does not cease with winter, modern armies train and fight in almost any conditions to horrific cost on civilian populations. Fascists still march (it is in fact the traditional fascist torch lit parade season through much of Europe).  In the west we are unused to seasonal shortages, cooperating and planning ahead to avoid famine.  I find I am drawn to make, to repair and audit my gear.  Make my domestic arrangements for winter (which increasingly here in the UK means lots and lots of rain).   I invariably think about training, the idea being to insulate myself against the worst effects of over-indulgence over the winter (definitely a first world problem).  I try to think about what skills I need to keep sharp and what new things I need to learn while I have the chance.  I take time to reacquaint with old comrades who might be involved with events in the year ahead.  Now I’m not immune to motivation crisis I feel the abuse I have subjected my body to over the years and I can afford to be complacent because I live in the UK in the 21st Century.  So reflecting on what this time of year meant for warriors in the past and what was at stake is a powerful motivator to get off my ass and be active.  For me this time of year is one of remembrance and there is an important social element.  I might get together with members of my old war band, where we share food and drink and reminisce.  To the outsider it may look like the telling of a lot of tall stories, but it’s difficult to talk to people about certain things, unless they already know the ground.  Within the tall tales, there is a lot of fear, tragedy and loss.  It is, I suppose a form of group therapy, an annual release.  A mechanism of regrouping and healing old wounds a little at a time.

My pagan practice then, forming a warrior cycle of the year, starts with a look back on the previous year and further back.  Reflecting and remembering events recent and ancient that exert their weight across any distance of time.  It also is a time for looking forwards, to orientate and plan for the future.  While being ready for action if your enemies (or life’s vicissitudes) attempt to surprise you now.  With events here in the ‘civilised’ west so tumultuous and scary I see people are battered by events.  Off balance and fearful of the future.  This now, at autumn, is the appropriate time to do as older generations of warriors and fighters would at the end of the war season and reorganise.  Look forward and plan for taking the initiative.  For the campaign ahead.  Think about who you want with you and tell them, make your appreciation and have some hope, because you survived another year to fight again and soon it will be spring.

(c) Rob Preece – October 2017

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So you want to do magic? by Sharon Preece

So you want to do magic right? Here are some things to try;

Make someone laugh so hard, that tears roll down their face and their sides hurt. Be there and listen when someone’s world falls apart, hold their hand, if they ask you to. Teach someone to do something that will make their walk in the world easier (without pay that makes it a job). Say something to someone that will make them stand a little taller, feel a little stronger.

See in the dawn and see out the dusk, in the same day. Witness the start of a life and the end of another. Share memories with someone you’ve never met before and someone who knows you well. Share food with friends, that you have made yourself and food with someone who would otherwise go hungry.

Make something with your hands, write something from your heart. Love someone so much, it hurts your heart a little, just thinking about it. Hate something so much, it burns to your very soul. Spend a day doing nothing but thinking about yourself. Spend a day doing nothing but good for others. Run with the crowd, shout and dance with them, but learn to stand alone. Be the voice of reason and the call to arms, a distraction and a motivation.

Sit so still that the birds brave your shadow, dance like the world is watching, until you can’t dance anymore. Sing like you are the only one who dares. Watch the moon wax and wane. Step outside to smell the seasons. Feel the frost bite your fingers, the sun warm you skin. Dance to the tune of thunder, in the summer rain. Listen to the mist turn your shouts to whispers. Soothe your soul, with the morning dew. Witness the turning of the world. Be the shade in the burning sunlight and the looked for light in the lonely darkness.

Don’t do magic. Be magic.

 

(c) Sharon Preece – 27th August 2017

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Three Paths, One Purpose by Morgan Daimler

12076537_10206739153311181_1519930415_oThe witchcraft community is a varied and diverse place, just like the people who belong to it. It can generally be said thought that there are three main approaches to witchcraft, once labeled white, gray, and black. The vast majority of people prefer to identify as white or benevolent witches, those who focus only on positive energy, healing, blessing, and connecting to nature; they usually strongly emphasize the light. The second largest group are the gray or moderate witches who favor a balance between dark and light; they generally seem to prefer the positive but are willing to use the negative methods when necessary. Finally there are the black or dark witches who are the fewest in number, publicly at least, and who focus on the darkness and on knowledge of hexing and destructive magics.

Obviously this is something of an over-simplification, as very few people are limited to only one view and each tends to blend into the others to some degree. And naturally in discussing it the different paths must be generalized – there will of course be exceptions and slightly different views in each one. It’s also important to note that each approach, light, gray, and dark, all can have followers who use their witchcraft in abusive ways. While it’s easy enough to picture the dark witch as someone who is simply cruel and enjoys hurting people, those same qualities can be found in those who follow the light exclusively. All approaches have benefits and risks. For those of us drawn to honor the Morrigan, undeniably a complex Goddess herself, it is worth taking the time to look at the different paths and how we relate to them.

The most popular path – publicly at least – is the light path. People drawn to this approach tend to see witchcraft as a tool for improving the world, for healing, blessing, and protecting. The light is a path rooted in love and so its emphasis tends to be on manifesting love; people who follow this path generally also follow the Wiccan Rede “an ye harm none, do as ye will”, the three-fold law, and karma. The Wiccan Rede can be interpreted in different ways, from forbidding all harm of any sort under any circumstances, to suggesting that no action should be taken without great consideration of the consequences first. The three-fold law, sometimes also called the law of return, states that the energy we put out returns to us, so that those who do good receive good. The western-ized idea of karma goes along with this and encourages people to be responsible for their actions through the belief that actions create similar responses; those who do good things have good karma and good things happen to them, or on a wider scale in the next life they bring this good energy forward with them. Light witches often refuse to do specific kinds of magic that are considered manipulative, believing that it is wrong to interfere with another person’s free will.

The strength of this path is that it encourages kindness and gentleness. It is a path of love and it encourages people to be positive and loving in life, to heal themselves and others, to bring happiness and optimism into the world. Spirits are dealt with, but usually only those perceived of as entirely beneficial or helpful to people. Plants need sunlight to grow and the world needs light witches to nurture and nourish that fragile sense of joy that is so easily lost. The weakness of this path is that it can tend towards intolerance of those who are not similarly inclined towards unadulterated “goodness”. It can also encourage a rejection of non-light oriented methods that can result in fear and judgment of those methods. Many people are drawn to this path because of its focus on positive things but is often misunderstood by those who don’t follow it who may believe it is shallow, fluffy, or too passive.

Those who follow the Morrigan and walk a light path may find it especially challenging to reconcile her harsher aspects with their rejection of anything harmful or manipulative. There may instead be an emphasis on the Morrigan’s sovereignty, prophecy, and land goddess aspects.

The second most popular path is the gray. A gray witch straddles both the light and the dark emphasizing balance between the two. Gray witches tend to reject either extreme and instead seek to walk in moderation, although in actual practice they tend more towards favoring a light point of view. Some gray witches do follow the Wiccan Rede or believe in the rule of three, but others prefer a morality based in the idea that if you need to cause harm you will, if you have no other choice and with an understanding that there will be repercussions to you. The common sayings which appeal in this path

is “you can’t heal if you can’t hex” and “only act if you are willing to pay the cost”. Gray witches tend to respect both life and death as powerful forces and emphasize the importance of incorporating both sides of human nature into the witch’s practice. Some people practice gray witchcraft as a blend of both light and dark, taking practices from both, while others see it as the line between the two. Magical practices in gray witchcraft often emphasize what may otherwise be labeled Hedge witchcraft, Green witchcraft, or wild crafting, with an emphasis on connecting to the spiritworld through a variety of practices and on applying magic in diverse ways. The gray witch may or may not work to help the larger community or be more personally focused.

The strength of this path is its avoidance of extremes and its willingness to explore a variety of methods and options. Gray witches tend to be open minded and appreciate open mindedness in others. Spirits are dealt with that are mostly benevolent towards people but those that are more ambivalent may also be worked with. The gray witch is necessary in the community because they serve as a bridge between the light and the dark and they, in many ways, represent the most organic approach to witchcraft. The weakness of this path is that moderation can sometimes feel like stagnation and there may be a struggle with feelings of indecision as the gray witch’s morality and practice is not necessarily rigidly set, leading to a need for situational ethics. Many people who follow this path are drawn to its moderate approach, but it can be misunderstood by outsiders as being both hard to define ethically and also reflecting an unwillingness to commit to one side or the other. Some people may criticize gray witches for wanting the public acceptance of the white witch while also having the darker magic of the dark witch.

Followers of the Morrigan who are drawn to gray witchcraft often like to focus on her connections to the Fey, who are also ambiguous in nature, and her psychopomp and justice aspects. Gray witches generally have no issues with any of the Morrigan’s associations and may find honoring her empowering.

The final category is dark witchcraft, the smallest public group and the most misunderstood. Dark witches themselves fall into a variety of sub-groups, but generally people are drawn to this approach because it doesn’t shy away from using the types of magic others consider dangerous. Witches who follow this path often prefer to rely on their own judgment to decide right from wrong. Consequences from actions are seen as the direct results of the actions themselves, rather than an energetic return and value is often placed on doing what is best for the self and those closest to the witch, rather than a more nebulous greater good. Magic and spellcraft are viewed as utilitarian tools, which like an ax or knife can, help or harm depending on how they are used. Knowledge is often valued, even of things viewed as dangerous or unpleasant. As with gray witches the belief is often that you should be willing to pay the cost of any action taken, but where a gray witch may feel that you can’t heal without knowing how to hex a dark witch might say you shouldn’t know how to hex if you aren’t willing to use what you know when needed. Although they tend to have a negative reputation few Dark witches will cause harm without a strong motivation to do so; understanding things like pain and suffering and having an affinity for understanding the darkness in others tends to engender a sympathy towards others along with a cynicism. Dark path witches generally believe that only by confronting and accepting the darkness can a person find strength and overcome fear. Things that other people may avoid or find uncomfortable like death, decay, and negative emotions are things that dark witches are often drawn to; where, for example light witches are empowered by sunlight or moonlight, dark witches look to the darkness and shadows for peace and empowerment. Dark witches often practice some form of necromancy, and emphasize working with the dead, spirits of various sorts, and protective magics.

The strength of this approach is its willingness to confront what others avoid and to deal with the darker aspects of life and of magic. Dark witches tend to be extremely open minded and accepting of people’s eccentricities and flaws, but also tend towards cynicism and introversion; this can be a strength or a weakness. Dark witches who work with spirits will usually work with a wide variety of types,

including those others might avoid. Dark witchcraft also has a strength in its emphasis on the importance of facing and overcoming our own negative qualities. People may be drawn to this path for different reasons, including a personal preference for the macabre, a desire to confront their own fears, or a need to feel empowered. A major weakness of this path is a risk of arrogance in the practitioner and a possibility of becoming too focused on power. This path is often misunderstood by others as being nothing but shock value, evil, or focused on malicious harm for its own sake.

Followers of the Morrigan who are dark witches may tend to focus on her war and battle aspects along with her role as washer-at-the-ford; her lighter aspects such as fertility are less emphasized. Dark witches who honor her may also acknowledge her aspects relating to madness, battle magic, and cursing.

These three paths, light, gray, and dark, have many differences and many similarities – but ultimately for those of us who share honoring the Morrigan her worship should be something which holds us together. We should learn to see beyond the differences in approach and philosophy to the person and the ways that we all ultimately seek the same thing. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to justify our own beliefs that we lose sight of the value in other people’s, and also the truism that there is no one way that is ideal for everyone. As Nietzsche said: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist”.

And as to me, well I spent many years as a light-path witch and then, to quote Pratchett and Gaiman’s book “Good Omens” I “sauntered vaguely downwards” into dark witchcraft with a brief stopover in gray witchcraft. That, however, is another story.

(Read more from Morgan on her personal path in the post Reflecting Darkness on her blog Living Liminally.)

About: Morgan Daimler has been a witch since 1991, an Irish reconstructionist since about 1994, and heathen since 2006. She also practice seidhr. She loves studying other paths and other ways of doing things, and enjoys discussing religion, philosophy and spirituality with people from diverse paths.

She is the author of a number of books, including The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens, Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism, and The Treasure of the Tuatha De Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myth. See more about her and a full listing of her work on her Amazon author page.

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Cord Cutting, Web Weaving, and the Morrigan

One of my first experiences of the Morrigan was when She came to put right a pattern in my soul tapestry, one that I’d been working with for some time, but was stuck on – a strong pattern of mother-daughter violence that ran painfully through my personal life experience, and my ancestral lines. It was given to me to hold a point of healing for these – and, quite honestly, I was really struggling with it.

I am a healer. I work with the Morrigan frequently in my healing work for others as well as my healing for myself. She is a guide for me (or it might be more accurate to say She works through me), in many parts of this, including soul weaving and soul healing.

Here’s the thing: this stuff works. It works in a big way. It can heal things within us that we never imagined could be healed.

But also, for precisely this reason, this work needs to be treated with respect. It can harm as well as heal, through carelessness or inexperience even when there is no intention to cause harm.

I don’t want to put anyone off from working with cord cutting or any other technique. What I  would say is that if it is something you want to work with – especially if you want to work with it powerfully – take the time to learn about it, and treat it, and yourself, and the cords you are working with, with due respect.

If we have a pain in our bodies, we don’t typically grab a knife and hack away at it (or at least I don’t). Our soul stuff – and the energy lines that run between us and other people and situations – deserve equal care and awareness. Yes, you can grab that knife and hack, but why would you? And even if you did take a knife and cut away a pain in your body, you very well could be causing more trouble for yourself, right? It’s also possible for this to happen with soul and power work.12027276_10204876113278755_9120665887598788752_o

In terms of cord cutting and web-weaving, I’m always learning new pieces. I work with a number of guides, and the subtley and ruthlessness of the work fascinates me. It is an art. Like any art, we can grow into it and come to excel at it over time, with patience and practice.

You can certainly get help with this, (see your trusted local priest, healer, or shamanic practioner), or you can also do it yourself. For all of us, there are times when one or the other option will be most appropriate. If you are brand new to it, it is a good idea to begin with some help or teaching – whether this is from your guides or from another person who is experienced in these techniques (ideally over time you’d have both).

In all cases, here are some things it is worth knowing before you begin:

(1) It is possible to cut ‘negative’ cords or attachments to a person or situation without cutting away all attachment or connection to that person or thing. Often indeed this is exactly what is needed.

(2) Cord cutting works best when it is done under guidance – ideally with a guide who knows about weaving and working in soul tapestries and the web.

(3) If/when you cut cords, do it with the clear intention of working for the highest good of all concerned – send love, blessing, forgiveness, healing energy through that cord before you cut, and cut only in the moment when the balance is right. This is not new-age-y ‘all is love and light’, but clean practice and good sense if you are a healer working with intention (not a dabbler).

(4) You can ask your guides to cut or re-weave for you – sometimes they will. Thank them if they do, and follow up with any further instructions they offer.

(5) Cord cutting is not necessarily the first, the best, or the only way to work with a relationship or situation. (My early experience with the Morrigan was not a cutting, but a restoration of power into threads that sent a shockwave through the tapestry, transforming patterns and resonance). It can however be fabulously effective when used wisely and well.

For me, working with the Morrigan, and serving Her, is a living practice. The idea of personal sovereignty underlies and runs through everything in terms of my life and work with Her. Working consciously and consistently within my own soul tapestry and the web – sometimes under Her guidance, sometimes with others, for myself – are a part of this living practice, and a part of the blessing of working from a space of sovereignty.

This time of year is a great one for cord cutting, weaving and re-weaving, righting the balance of things as we move a step closer towards our winter dreaming. Blessings on your autumn cuttings, weavings, and re-weavings.

 

About the author: Rebecca Wright is a shamanic healer and teacher, and a daughter and priestess of the Morrigan. She is one of the founders of the Call of the Morrigan Facebook group, and this blog. Come and meet and work with her at the Call of the Morrigan UK retreat.

 

 

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