Monday, April 25, 2005

PUF The Magic Festival...:Part I, In Which We Study Heathenry And Sing Songs

OK. Sounds like my loyal readers want the whole thing.


Since the group was basically going up there en masse, we all stayed at CDHSarah's the night before we left. So I woke up Thursday morning, already basically packed since I was riding with the Artist, and showed off the "We're Going To PUF" mix CD -- featuring such greats as "Whiskey in the Jar" (real one, not Metallica), "Scotland the Brave", "You're Drunk", "Pick a Bale of Cotton" -- good roading songs -- along with classics like "Fire Water Burn" and "Many Men (Wish Death)", and new ones like the Bauhaus version of "Spirit in the Sky".

We were basically ready to go an hour before we left. I came home, gave the kitties last-minute, emergency skritches, picked up an extra blanky or two, and hopped in the Artist's car.

The campsite is less than an hour outside Nashville, close to Dickson, at Montgomery Bell State Park. We got there, said "Hello" to BitchGoddessTysh (who is married to Patrick, who will figure in this tale later) and asked where she thought our group should go, with 2 large tents, a hammock, and a pavilion tent.

We snagged a key spot inside a circle of trees right next to the shower rooms. I was sleeping in the pavilion, which had not yet arrived, so I sat on my yoga mat and read The Boomer Bible for a while.

PerryFromTheArmy showed up and tented near the Artist's hammock -- he's a former scout, now a call center slave by myself, who came up to take some classes and experiment a bit with his path. He's probably going to be the next member of the group if he wants to be. We hung out and talked stuff until the pavilion tent showed up. Once we got that in place, we all just kind of wandered about, running into people, talking about how we were going to juggle the children for maximum class-availability. Not a lot goes on Thursdays as a rule, and we found out the stove won't get quite hot enough to boil water when our macaroni was an hour late. We also saw the rain coming in and ended up in the pavilion tent quite early, just hanging out and talking with PftA, and eventually I crashed, to wake up and have the beautiful shower to which I made reference.


Friday was busy-busy -- we got up early, had bread and fruit for breakfast, and headed over to the Children's Cabin to get child-care started and kids checked in. Once checkin was over, I headed out to Germanic heathenry class, taught by Swain Wodening. This was a basic class, but I still have an assload of notes (mostly for the Artist's benefit, as he was going to the ritual construction class and I wanted to trade), and I'll try to condense.

Heathen derives from the Latin for Country Dweller. Germanic heathenry covers a lot of different groups -- the pre-Norman Angles and Saxons, the Icelanders -- a whole list of groups my pen gave out in the middle of. There's not a plethora of information on this stuff because of monastic repression and later CoE interference with the same monks who had copies of the sagas, etcetera. These people use a Norse pantheon and have 2 major rituals, the blót (sacrifice ritual, either blood or mead, usually the latter in modern times), and the symbelle, which is not precisely a deity-based ritual but instead a community-building ritual, where the community gathers to toast first the Gods, then their ancestors, then their friends and family, and continues with the toasting as long as the spirit moves. (I successfully compared this to a Quaker meeting w/o all the silence, and made Swain laugh.) The toasts after that fall into 2 groups: gielp (from which we get the word "yelp"), meaning "bragging", where one recites one's family line and one's great deeds (Swain said a lot of the hall scenes in Beowulf contain classic examples of gielp, but I haven't read it since 8th grade), and beot are things you wish to do, which you commit to by stating them at symbelle (which binds your community both to help you, and to give you encouragement if you begin to fail, forget or back out. Information about the blót comes primarily from the History of the Danish Kings, and shows up in the arrangement of Anglo-Saxon Christian feast days prior to the Norman invasion...they blended Catholicism with their own rituals, and were "corrected" later by the Normans, who wrote down a lot of the "corrections" they imposed, which allows modern scholars to trace back exaclly what was going on.

The Germanic peoples had 3 primary "holy ties", or feast times -- Winter Nights, which lasted 4-5 days around October, Summer Day, which is pretty much Beltane and became Walpurgisnacht in the Christian feast calendar, and Yule, which they celebrated for 12 nights, beginning with Matersnacht, Mother's Night.

Roman soldiers in the area, the "Celtic" peoples, and the Germanic also shared the "Cults of the Mothers," altars featuring matrilineal histories of tribes which appear on Hadrian's Wall, as well as in about 1000 other scattered sites, often with the same names in different languages. Swain also discussed types of deities in Germanic tradition, letting us know that while the assir (sky gods -- Thor, Woden, &c) were the same across a large geographical area with only slight differences in pronunciation, the vanir (fertility gods -- Frigg, Freya) had less crossover and were more likely to be localized, and that went double for the landsvaater (elementals and nature deities), some of which also became Christianized saints later, including St. Walpurga and St. Lucia.

The Maypole that one still finds for Summer Day or MayDay was probably the irmunsul, or holy site of the Sky Father -- we have records of them being cut down, and villages used to steal them from each other.

He discussed in brief saythe, which is not precisely a heathen rite and comes from only one Icelandic saga which only gives the outline -- it's a divinatory rite involving semi-possession by the Gods (similar to the priestesses of the Delphic oracle, except theirs was a primary possession where the God speaking spoke in first person, and saythe involves a communion, with the person's individual spirit still present.) This rite belonged primarily to women, because women are all holy in the Germanic tradition -- at symbelle women must touch and drink the mead first before it's served, to sanctify it. A holy woman experienced in saythe (there's a name, but I wrote it down phonetically), advised people re: wyrd orlog and the future.

Wyrd is a hard concept, because it means both the Void and something similar to "world's karma. -- it's controlled by the Norns, similar to Fates, who are Wyrd (what has come), Werthende (that which is becoming), and Scyeld (that which is obligated). The Norns hang around the World Tree, Yggdrasil, and water it from one of the three wells at its base, Wyrdsbyrn. While watering it each day, they "speak orlog", which sets basically the primary layer of reality with which the people of the world will cope that day (it's a neat tie-up of free-will vs. predestination IMHO, because orlog is predetermined but what you do with it is not.). The deeds you have already done go into the well, which means at some point they will be drawn up again and you will face them and their consequences. The Norns also attend most births to set a person's individual orlog (except for certain heros where the Norns got overruled by the assir), This is the Old Norse model; the Angles and Saxons had the "loom model", more similar to the Greco-Roman Fates -- the Goddess Frigga spins the threads of life (or so we infer, as we have nothing that states that directly) and gives them to Norns to weave. Because your thread can be woven back into the tapestry once it's cut, there is a primitive form of reincarnation, where a descendant may receive an ancestor's orlog and fetch (totemic spirit) -- their soul was complex, so orlog and fetch could be passed on while main stayed unchanged in Valhalla.

That's most of the information I got from that class, which was a shitload. After that, I went on child care until lunch, and that's really boring. I colored a Green Man and helped make crafts, then went and ate turkey and cheese sammiches in the pavilion and dried out my socks.

After lunch it was back to child care again, this time with BellyDancingShamanismLady and BigMrChris: we sang "The Waves Over the Ocean Roll" and painted faces, and just about the time my head was about to explode, it was time for the "Conversations with an Eclectic Black Witch" class.

This was not really a class, just a discussion of EphiTraditionWitch's class, and of what she's experienced of the racial rift in the Pagan community -- it is a truth that there are very few people of color who come out to participate in things like PUF, or shop at some of the local stores. She talked about Ephi (I think that's the spelling) which is the base religion from which Santeria, Vodon, and those Diaspora religions come, in very, very brief, but more than that she wanted to talk about her personal path, and where she has been led by allowing herself to listen to orisha (spirit) -- how she didn't even want to come here, but once she accepted it, the situations fell out so that she basically had to show up and teach. Ephi is very like many other pagan tradtions -- use of herbs, importance of solar and lunar time, and candle magic. That class got truncated by an extreme blowing wind, so I spent more time talking to her over the course of the weekend, and we have a tentative date to sit and discuss Ephi in more detail, which I will, of course, share. Patrick got there about then -- way back in what seems like a previous life, Patrick was my boss; I worked for his smoke shop -- and there was kissing. I heart Patrick and have missed him more than I realized.

I got back to get the kids packed off to dinner, went down, ate tacos, and went and got the pavilion tent ready for more rain (predicted) before the nightly ritual, which was a non-blood-related blót done with mead. Swain and his wife, whose name I do not recall at the moment, did the ritual with some help from BDSL and a few other folks -- the circle was cast to Thor and Ing, we were all cleansed with mead (thrown off a clump of leaves), and then the horn was passed by the horn maidens, and we all said Wassail about fifty million times. The Artist was very blessed by this (he had been in a bad mood alllll day because after his nap he woke up with an insect sting that swelled his lip up to twice its normal size). It was a good ritual, but after that I was so tired I almost skipped drum circle. Which would have been a mistake.

The weather was clear, so we went down to the firepit beside the lake for drum circle. One of our friends, the before-mentioned Champion, was the facilitator, with CDHSarah and StarFucksGod casting a simple circle before then. The Artist had brought "drum lubricant" (blackberry wine, kasher for Pesach), of which I, of course, only had the TINIEST bit, and the Champion talked about how we were creatures meant to make noise before we drummed for 2 1/2, 3 hours. We did the Fire Chant 2 or 3 times. We did "We All Come From the Goddess", which is kind of the Pagan-campfire version of Kum Ba Yah in that everyone pretty much knows it or can learn it in under five minutes. I thought I was tired. Then I danced, and when I was too tired to dance and my hands too sore to drum, I fell into a chair, was handed the tambourine, and beat it on myself, and CDHSarah's ass, and the Artist, and anything in reach. The rain gave us a false start, which was enough to end drum circle so the drums didn't get ruined. At literally the last minute, I got told that BDSL and the rest of the "Moonie" camp (they believe in the showing of man-ass over at that camp) had invited me to come smoke shisha, the fruit-molasses dipped tobacco I haven't gotten to smoke in forever. which is smoked through a hookah. Between the blót and the fire dancing, the Artist's lip stopped swelling and returned to its proper size.

Since that was technically Saturday, you'll have to wait until next post to find out about ZebraShadows the Nutbar and all the other good stuff from Saturday and Sunday. I need to get dressed and go get something for this cough.


At 1:41 PM, Anonymous CDHSarah said...

yoyoyo...starfucksgod? how far did you dig up your ass to come up with THAT one? ;-)
Weel, as I am proudly known as CDHSarah, I will not complain. Though I don't think you quite did PUF justice...then again you could write a damn encyclopedia and it would not be bravo on attempting the task!
"Walting Godzilla..Waltzing Godzilla"
hhmmm...btw, did I ever mention to you what Patrick said about the...less modest activities in the camp? I must inform you later....

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Thank so much about that stuff. I've never heard any of it, and now I must think it over. It sounds incredibly exciting!

At 7:26 PM, Blogger Gothamimage said...

I will have to re-read this a few times to absorb all this. You are a terrific writer.

What do you think of the potential destruction of Tara in Ireland? It's in today's Times op-ed.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger parcequilfaut said...

Ladies and gentlemen....CDHSarah. (And you know your husband is the God of Starfucks...would you like me to rename him?)

WhCa, get me a link. NYT online doesn't work well for me.


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