Epic

Lessons from the Embalmed Heads

20171117_072310_hdrIf you haunt archaeology twitter or other outlets of that kind, you probably heard about the new evidence that the Gauls practiced a type of embalming with the severed heads of their enemies. And if you haven’t, well my friend! It looks like we have tangible evidence of the written accounts of the Gauls embalming their severed heads. Aren’t you excited?!

It’s a really interesting article and one that spawned some thoughts in my brain that I thought I would share. The topic of head hunting, and the trophies that they made, is one that I have been fascinated by since I first read about it when I was a child. The way the history books and Roman historians painted the picture of this practice with equal parts disgust and awe was to be frank appealing to me. Many years later there is a lot of be said about the political agenda of the historians, to cast conquered people in a negative, uncivilized light, and how that is still seen everywhere around us and a practice that people in power still use today.

But today I want to focus on a different aspect, on what lessons that I might be able to glean from this practice and bring forth into my own modern life. Naturally, I’m not suggesting decapitating my enemies and embalming their heads (tempting though it may be). In so many things with history, there doesn’t have to be a one to one correlation, there can still be meaningful lessons and practices.

The statement that really jumped out at me when reading the articles, was the value that these embalmed heads are proclaimed to have. Several articles paraphrase Strabos on the matter and I felt like I needed to read what the actual quote from the old Roman historian said.

“The heads of enemies of high repute, however, they used to embalm in cedar-oil and exhibit to strangers, and they would not deign to give them back even for a ransom of an equal weight of gold.” – pg 249 the Geography of Strabo published in Vol. II of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1923

They will not part with them for their equal weight in gold. Now, this is very likely an exaggeration, again we have to take into account that our writer here has an agenda and wants to paint a very particular picture. That being, “Oh isn’t it a good then that Rome came in and brought civilization to these barbarians who kill in all these OUTRAGEOUS ways? P.s. buy my book for graphic details. ” Just because something is ancient doesn’t mean that it isn’t a form of sensationalism. That being said, in light of the tangible evidence to back up the embalming practice, we can assume that there is thread of truth in this statement. These heads were valued and likely not something easily parted with.

Why? That’s the natural next question. One that there isn’t a way to get an absolute for certain answer. There is no way to interview an Ancient Gaulish warrior and get their intent, purpose, and meaning. We can try and imagine. The article puts forth the hypothesis that this practice was rooted from wanting to preserve the recognition of the person. This seems pretty solid common sense wise. The reason you would use preservation techniques is to keep the appearance of the head, instead of letting it rot to a mere skull who could be passed off as anyone. The value then is being able to point to your enemies head and have them recognized for who they were in life, and have all who look on it know, that you killed them. You overcame them. You were victorious. It’s not just a story or a boast. The evidence is right there.

I can easily see the value in that.

On the mundane level, it is proof of your power/strength/cunning. On the spiritual level, well it can be a talisman of that power/strength/cunning, perhaps even amplifying and adding to it. Afterall it is a belief in many parts of history and cultures that overcoming your enemy can give you their power and strength. We see it in stories and even in the modern acquisitions and buyouts of companies it is a truth that millions and billions of dollars is staked on.

I can also imagine there is a deeper blow than just the killing blow being made here. Let’s suppose that the mere act of keeping this grisly talisman of victory of an enemy is also keeping that enemy from some comfort or honor in death and/or the journey after death. Again, if we go back to Strabo’s quote, and taking it at face value, there were people (presumably the people of the enemy) that wanted those heads back and where willing to pay for them. They were denied.  It’s possible they wanted the heads to complete a funeral rite, and the victor wanted to deny their enemy even that. Depending on the beliefs in play about what happens after death and what needs to happen to secure and afterlife or transition, that has a HUGE ramifications for the spirit of the enemy. Not to mention the morale and grief this would have on their enemy’s family and people.

I’m not an expert on Gaulish spiritual belief, but if we assume that they had a type of animism in their practice, then sitting here with the idea of embalming the head of your enemy and the mundane and spiritual power play that evokes added to the notion that the head holds a spirit even after death, I am struck with how this is a very powerful violent act that has ramifications in this world and any spirit or afterlife, and just fucking damn.

What can we pull out of this for our own lessons? Clearly, do not fuck with a Gaul is one. We already pulled off the table the idea of beheading your enemies and making necromantic talismans of them. However, I think some interesting and deep modes of cursing are pretty self evident here for those that care to look.

Pulling it farther into the abstract and towards tools that can be used for self practice, there is a lesson on the value of your victories, reminding yourself of them, and not hiding them from others.

In the United States there is a culture that for whatever reason, tends to speed on by people’s everyday accomplishments, there may be a brief window where it is allowed to celebrate them but then that time is over and you are expected to move on. If you are a fairly self aware human who cares about people and strives to be a good person then there is a good chance you worry about appearing too boastful. You don’t want to toot your own horn. It’s better to be humble. Which can express itself in the development of inner voices that undercut your accomplishments so you don’t get a big head. At some point someone in my inner circle (and my apologies for not knowing who for proper credit!) called these voices brain weasels and pointed out how they lie.  What I have witnessed this to mean is that we in general do not spend near enough time acknowledging our accomplishments and getting the emotional, mental and spiritual benefit from those accomplishments. We let it pass by and turn on to the next thing without seeing the full picture of how much we have gained. How much stronger we are.

Right now, I’m struggling under the weight of living up to my expectations of taking care of my household. Money has always been a hard topic for me and it is the current monster I am trying to conquer or redefine my relationship with at least. In short, things a little hard and I’m not in a great mental place about myself. I think it’s time for me to take stock and really look at the things I have already conquered in my life, in the last five years, etc and the enemies to my own well being that I have already beheaded and remember. It seems like there is a benefit in the visual reminder and I will think about ways to incorporate that. Whether that takes to form of magical charm, or a piece of artwork, or something else entirely. It just seems like this a good time to apply this lesson and help bolster my spirit against the challenges I am currently facing.

The other part of this lesson that I think will be useful to me is the visual exercise. I have been suffering from waking up with anxious thoughts. My mind just starts listing out and fretting over all the things I have to do and all the ways things won’t add up. It’s not great for my sleep cycle and stress in general is just not helpful when you need to get shit done. This morning when I woke up yet again with the diatribe of endless todo’s and worries, I thought about this blog post and went through the mental visualization of slaying my current enemies (this morning it was financial insecurity) and beheading it.  This probably isn’t an exercise for everyone, and I mean your brain might work differently but for me it was not only satisfying but focusing on making things symbolic and in the form of imagery really helped to stop the anxious thoughts and hopefully help me to manifest my goals for success and victory.

I realize this is likely one of the stranger blog posts that I have published, but these are the thoughts that have been brewing in my head and on the off chance that it helps someone else find some tools and understanding to use in their practice, then it’s worth it. The thing I really love and cherish about my practice is that I can find new inspiration, tools, and perspective every day. There is always something more to learn and analyze. There is always another layer of myself to question.

And now, if you will excuse me, I’m off to go embalm the head of my enemy.

 

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A Little bit of Epic: Halloween Edition

It’s been a long while since I have seen a video on the interwebs that has made me think it was worthy of being posted in my little bit of Epic portions. But my older brother should me this very talented fellow while on vacation and then lo he appears again in my feed with a pretty amazing Halloween Thriller video.

So Happy Hauntings everyone, and enjoy!

 

The Feast of the Dagda

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast (2)

For several years now I have been wanting to hold a feast in honor of the Dagda. Several different variations went through my mind, but for whatever reason they just never came to past. Then in my public priestess community of CAYA Coven I was presented with the opportunity to lead a ritual feast in his honor. Even more exciting this could be an outdoor feast! Early in the year I started plotting out the best way to introduce the Good God to a group of people who may or may not have ever heard of him. How best to honor his name and ensure a good time had by all.

Luckily I had an amazing crew, all of the initiates who are training to be public clergy in CAYA. They all went above and beyond and put such heart into their work it was really touching.

We were gathered in one of my favorite parks where there lives a 100 year old Oak tree. A wonderful tree that I sadly did not get to go visit this trip but love none the less. We spent the day grilling and playing games. Coconut shotput and Tug of Way being the highlights. I had originally dreamed of having a whole pig to roast for the feast but alas my budget at present did not allow for it. However I did go out and purchase the biggest shoulder pork roast I could from the local butcher, ethically sources and top quality. I decided to start cooking it the night before to ensure that it would be done in time for the Feast, and would finish it off over the open flames basting it in fresh apple juice. I have to say that I think it turned out delicious and since there were literally no leftovers and many folks asking for seconds, I think that is a far judgement lol. I will be making that pork again once I get a grill here at the house.

I kept telling myself that it would be a small crowd. Our outdoor rituals are usually smaller more 30-40 people than our indoor rituals that get more 60-80 people. Yet I was surprised, we had quite a turn out! I didn’t do an official head count but I think we were in the 50-60 range. Yet with great joy we made room for all. With equal joy we had more than enough food. There is nothing so sad as a feast where there isn’t enough food for people to eat their fill. And at a Dagda feast? Unthinkable!

There was a fire that was kindled with prayers and juniper burnt upon it for blessing. Offerings were made to the Dagda by all with wonderful words of praise spoken with adoration. There was beer and water on every table. The first round was served, food for everyone and then the stories began. They were tales of hospitality and lessons being generous. Songs were sung and the guitar AND violin played. Seconds and third helpings were served along with a delicious tasty dessert. Divination was cast to see if our offerings were received well and with blessing and what the next months held for the community.  There was much laughter, much conversation, and much enjoyment

I was so pleased and still am. For a public feast I do not think it could have gone any smoother. Thank you again to anyone who attended, to all the lovely people who pitched in and helped to make this dream a reality. Thanks to my beloved Dagda for continuing to teach me the ways of leadership, hospitality and enjoying the lust for life. May I continue to bring you honor and raise your name high. Looking forward to sharing more celebrations and joy with the community and for continued joy in devotion to the Good God.

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast (1)

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast - 5

 

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast - 3

 

Wisdom of the serpent be
Wisdom of bull be thine,
Wisdom of valiant eagle.
Voice of swan be thine,
Voice of honey be thine
Voice of the Shining Youth.
Bounty of sea be thine,
Bounty of land be thine
Bounty of the All Father, ever sustaining.

Adapted from the Carmina Gadelica

Revelations at the Sea

It’s been a while blog. Such is the way of life that things have just gotten complicated and I haven’t felt the inspiration or need to sit down and enter the login information that would bring me here and write, until today. Spiritually and just in general things got hard, and my treading water in the storms that have arisen have demanded all my attention. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details but as this is a spiritual blog for the most part I will talk about the spiritual side of the coin.

About the time that this little blog became dormant the Morrighan had made it known to me that the accordance we had agreed to prior and had put the nebulous stamp of “someday” on  was changed to “Now or Never”. At that point I went into a state of self analysis and processing because frankly that is a hefty thing to have to face. While my choice was fairly self evident to me; do the work, be the person that she expects me to be, or be a worm. I say that and I know that many people may infer some melodrama on my part, or attempts at sensationalism. All I can do is assure that is the actual feelings and breadth of the situation. Although to me it was a non-choice that I was going to accept the path before me, it still took an amount of gearing up and adjusting to the “someday” being “now”.

In the taking up this mantle it meant a pretty heavy overhaul of life style, and doing that has taken up a lot of my time and attention. Which meant that the stand still of spiritual life settled into that standard of layman.

What I mean by that is I said my prayers when I needed to, I made toast on occasion, but otherwise just lived my life. There is nothing wrong with that, just being a believer living in the world. It is the standard I held for a long time, But I am a priestess, more I am a High Priestess, and as such am required to have more of a spiritual life and practice than that. If you know me or read my blog enough you know that this then triggered another session of self analysis. I believe pretty strongly that self analysis is the tool for life fulfillment. It is time to go back and ask myself if being a Priestess is still for me? Is this a service I am still called to render? Why? What does that mean? What are the standards that I am willing to uphold? The list goes on.

While I am still in the process of  turning these questions around, I’m fairly certain that I am still able, willing, and called to serve as priestess. But obviously need to reestablish the lines of what that means, what my personal practice is in need of, and how they can be in accordance with the vows that I have made to the Gods.

Which brings us to yesterday, and the clarifying refreshing insight that the grey stormy sea gave me.

The grey skied sea

It had been a long time since I was last at the Sea. Temple and mine’s monthly dark moon trips had petered out for the same reasons that everything else had. So when a coven sister of ours revealed that she had not been to the beach in 8 or so years we knew it was time.

When we got there I was immediately hit with how incredibly good it felt to breath. No, really something as remarkably simple as that. The difference between the short shallow constrained breaths that I had been taking ever day and every night of my life recently and the soul satisfying deep all through the belly breathing that the open sky and sea air enticed into me. Even now sitting here in front of my computer far away from the crash of the waves, I remember and my breathing is better.

The sky was a glorious shade of grey. The low hanging clouds and a fine curtain of mist rolling at a steady clip across that wide sky. We had chosen our beach wisely for it’s lack of popularity, hoping for privacy. We were rewarded beautifully. After a long trek across the crab littered beach it was just us, the gulls, crows, pelicans and our various Gods.

We took our time, enjoying the lush spread of food that we had brought along. Savoring each others company and just the freedom of the sun, water and being sans four walls. Then it was time to do what we had come to do. For me that was to make my most humble offerings, with no grand design other than to say “I am still here with you”.  I had brought what felt right. An apple for my love and devotion. Oats for the sustenance that my faith has given me. Olives as the wealth that they bless. Beer for the pact between mortal and Gods as well as the pacts between mortal and mortal. And blood for the cycles and power that is in the world.

An offering of my devotions

I took my small offering further down the beach towards the stoic cliffs and felt compiled to sing. I sang my self blessing, a song I have not sung in a while. I sung loudly into the wind, my sisters each wandering off their own way on their own journeys. My self blessing is a fairly simple song that helps to connect me to the three realms. It usually goes as follows:

By the Sky, I speak truth
By the Sea, I know my beauty
By the Land, I walk my path

By the Sky, I sing your beauty
By the Sea, I know myself
By the Land I am your daughter
All Three are in me

But today that was not the order that the words came out of my mouth. Today the Sea wanted to be the path that I walked, to be the place from whence I was born from and I was happy to oblige. I made my procession around the corner of the cliffs, tide being low enough to allow. Coming face to face with the Ancient Temple sized giant that is the shear cliff side, the magnificent deep cave to the Underworld and the Sea. I will someday bring my camera to photograph the grandness of this holy sacred site, adding it to the entries of my Sacred Places. It is a Temple. On it’s rough sea hewn walls you can see where the sigils and writing would be, you can envision the regal Lion that would guard one side and the benevolent Bull on the other. Offerings in hand I sang even louder turning in time with the song to serenade each of the realms.

Chest bursting with the power and beauty of it all I carefully laid out my offerings, said my prayers and began to make the lightheaded way back to the blanket and my final offering to the Man of the Sea himself.

Land, Sea and Sky

It is the tradition of these beach trips that our Sea Gods get their own offering and time. Usually it’s a bottle of beer, today it was a bottle of Guinness. The waves were white and rough, pulling in zig zag crosses, easily warning of the deadly undertow that would be all to happy to snatch a wandering soul out to the tepid blue and the isles of the spirits. The water was not as frightening cold as I expected, and though the skies were grey the air was pleasant and humid. Without hesitation or even a hiss of pain at the cold I walked out into those waves. I sang the song of Manannán . Well…it’s not a whole song yet, but it will be, and I sang it none the less. Pouring out the heady foaming mixture into the white foamed surf. Mimic the ebb and pull of the waves to ensure that I would not also get swept away into deeper water, gasping when the inevitable excited waved came up too high and drenched me more thoroughly in thanks for my offerings.   My song soon changed to a different melody. One I had never sang before, but reminded me of many an Irish love song.

I stayed out there much longer than intended. Enjoying the flirtation with the waves, really feeling relaxed. The first time in a long time. At length I joined back up with Temple and we talked of our Sea Gods and our love of them. When our sister had completed her own workings we took her around the corner of the cliffs to see the glory of the cave to the Underworld and the Temple Cliffs. We went into the cave and stood in its dark embrace for a while, taking a few moments to chant to Persephone who much loves the place. Just as I felt the darkness pulling me in, the Sun which was beginning to hang low in the sky hit the perfect angle to shine into the cave. The darkness was lifted and I could hear the deep melodic voice calling me outside. Beckoning me back. I had been gone so long it was too soon to disappear again. In pure elation I turned from the cave to the Sun pouring down through the hazy clouds and ran out to the sea. My heart pounding, a wolf grin on my face, straight into the Sea. It was a home coming.

Sussing ourselves further on the waves, the water, the salt, and just everything, we slowly made our way back to the blanket. It was only then that the chill caught up to me, it was easily pacified with a towel but I was covered in sand and resigned to it happily. Laying on the blanket staring up at the shifting sky Temple and I do as we always do, shared.

I will take this moment to say some things that will embarrass and hopefully please my beautiful friend Temple.  I am so incredibly thankful to have her in my life and as my friend and sister. It is a rare thing in our society these days that you find more than one person to share your soul with. We are told sublimely that there is only one way to have intimacy and that is in a sexual, romantic relationship with one person. It’s just not true, nor do I think the weight and health of an entire soul can be sustained in that way. We are social creatures, I am a social creature, that craves true connection, and various types of love that life can bring. The comforting love of family, the fun love of friends, the supportive love of community, the strong connective love of people who you make the active choice to be your family, as well as the sustenance of the love of a partner who is your friend and lover. So to be blessed in this life time with so much love, and with finding a friend where there is absolute trust is just amazing.  So hear me fully and completely when I say my beautiful, kind, witty, Temple, that I love you.

Now then back to spiritual revelations on the the beach.

Sitting there watching the gulls, and the pelicans, we shared our current spiritual conundrums. How my altar has been veiled for about a month, how it was just feeling like it was trying too hard. Temple being the cleaver one who asks the right probing questions asked me what I meant by the altar “feeling it was trying too hard”? Having to put feeling into words things just started to line up for me. My altar felt like it was trying too hard because it wasn’t being what it wanted to be. It wants to be a stone slab table outside. It wants to be a flat rock in the middle of a standing stone circle. It wants to be a carved wooden statue in the center of an apple orchard. It wants to be at the base of a guardian Oak tree. It wants to be a fire pit and a hole in the ground. But it is a vanity, in a apartment, covered in man made items.

I am an Animist stuck in a bubble.

I don’t know what to do in my practice here in this urban nature. I tend my household spirits, I cleanse etc, but I don’t know what else to do. I know what I would do. On land that I owned. There would be no question of what to do because it would be everywhere all the time. The boundaries of the property would need to be walked and tended to. The harvest would need to be offered. At first bloom there would be rites that needed to happen. When the land was still and dead there would be rites. Dates on a calendar mean nothing to me, I need to be able to feel the breath of the land and just know when things need to be done. I know that this is what I would because this is what I did when we lived out in country. It was a year of watching the milk thistle grow, watching the walnut trees bear fruit, keeping an eye on the wild pigs and coyotes. It was the most spiritually fruitful time of my life. Some people feel connected to the rhythms of the city, the ebb and flow of people, of commerce. Some people feel connected to the nature of the urban forest, and the ivy that grows on the overpass, and the concrete temples that simply are. That connection is not easy for me. Lately I have fallen into staying within the confines of my four walls, cut off from the indicators of the three realms. Cut off from the messages of how to maintain the natural order in my life. I have let myself get surrounded in plastic and concrete things that are not my conductors. My roots veer off to land where the ratio of human to nature is much smaller. Where I don’t have to worry about the neighbors hearing. Where bonfires and bones are just part of the day. I need trees and forest, and hills and garden, not too far from the sea. Flowing water and just land.

All illuminating to my character. All helpful insights into “Yes, the goals you have set for yourself are good ones. Ones that will make you happy.” But in the mean time? I will have land and house, but in 5, 10, 12 years. What to do till then? How to feel connected, how to maintain my spiritual integrity with the reality of my life now. There is still work and opportunities to have here in the city. A balance must be struck.

Plotting with Temple is always helpful, and then plotting with the Lumberjack just even more so. The Lumberjack, my beloved, does not share my beliefs. He is more of an agnostic jedi scientist, but he is incredibly support of my spirituality. Actively supportive, talking things out with him telling him my revelations, he immediately added in methods and ideas to help obtain my goal. Immediately volunteered ways he could be involved in making things happen for me. Truly I am a much loved woman and I am so thankful.

The plans currently are to immediately get the Dark Moon beach trips on the calendar and started again. Getting out meeting Land, Sea and Sky at their nexus. Making offerings, that is how I maintain my own natural order. Doing the work and making monthly petitions for others as part of my Priestess service, more information on that to come. We are going to clear off and spruce up our little back porch. I’m going to get more plants, the Lumberjack is going to make a little altar table space for me out there. Then I’m just going to open the door and spend more time out there. When Temple comes over, we’ll sit out there and talk. I’m just going to go outside more. Walk more. The Lumberjack wants to take me on more camping trips, would like to find a good spot for us and Temple and the Giant to go. He’s going to help make me some items out of branches and wood to bring more of the outside onto my house altar. I’m going to cut it back, and really just put the things that connect to the realms and the Gods on there. Separate my spell work and community work for another place. At our coven’s up coming Harvest Home retreat, I’m going to spend as much time outside as possible. Temple and I are going to recruit someone into drumming for a trance ritual.

And that’s the plan thus far. Not a lot. But it’s a plan. It’s a start, and I feel good about it.

I feel good about the whole day yesterday. I feel emotional and weeping today, but I can still look back on yesterday and feel the energetic buzz. I’m sort of clinging to that at the moment. In the long run I don’t know what others might call my path, if it’s Celtic Polytheism with a Recon bent, if it’s Recon flavored Celtic Revivalism, if its just a woman grasping at feelings of rightness in order to live her life happily. I don’t really care. I’m just going to keep on remembering to breathe.

 

A Little Bit of Epic to get us going!

Hello there! No I have not abandoned this blog. You will be seeing some posts here in the next few weeks. There has been a lot of crafting going on that I will lovingly show off once the gifts have been given. In the meanwhile if you’re jones’n for this not so witty repartee then you can hop on over to my Tumblr where I post more frequently in smaller tid-bits for my amusements and hopefully yours too.

In the meanwhile I present you all with a this little bit of Epic.

A little bit of Epic

Poor blog, how you languish. Yet life has been coming too fast and hard to sit in front of the wordpress and diatribe about the mystical happenings of my world. It’s ok though little blog, there are posts that will get written and soon. Projects up the pipe-line that will get debuted! So much to look forward to. May is coming! Our favorite month of the year. So sit tight little blog, I’ll pamper and oil you up in the next few days.

In the meantime a little piece of Epic to set the mood for the things to come.