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An ordinary girl: what godspouses can learn from Anne Boleyn

(As readers of my Wytch of the North blog know, Queen Anne Boleyn is the most prominent member of a group of spirits I refer to as "The Queens"--since they literally are the spirits of dead queens--whom I have adopted as my Disir, and who have adopted me in turn and are kind enough to favor me with Their advice and support.  I may cover the story of how Anne first came into my life in another post, but for now I would like to share the below thoughts that were inspired by my Work with Her.  Probably this is more or less common knowledge, but for those who may not know, Anne Boleyn was beheaded by her husband, Henry VIII of England, on May 19th 1536, on false charges of adultery and incest.  Thus, I have set aside May 19th each year as Queen Anne's Day, which I observe by processing to our local Owen Memorial Rose Garden here in Eugene, where I leave gifts and offer prayers for her, and then at home I prepare a Tudor-era inspired feast in her honor.  This year, I will also be presenting prayers and poetry submitted as gifts for her by my readers.  Anne's death was a great tragedy, but as I commented recently on my blog, I think it's important to remember how she lived--boldly, with style and aplomb--and not just how she died.)

This week, in my search for Anne Boleyn-themed viewing material that I had not yet seen, I ended up borrowing (from our amazing local library) a BBC production of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl.  (Which is also available on YouTube here.)  Many of you are doubtless familiar with the Hollywood adaptation of this story, featuring Natalie Portman.  (I watched this again recently too, and to my surprise found that the theatrical release doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense if you aren't already familiar with the novel; this must be due to bad editing and too many deleted scenes, as the plotline--which was fine in the book--just does not hang together well.)  I have to admit, although I love Philippa Gregory, especially her books about the queens involved in the Wars of the Roses (aka "the Cousins' War"), I am not a fan of The Other Boleyn Girl.  Gregory does seem to have a distinctly pro-Catholic bias in her novels, and when writing about the Reformation, that bias translates into an anti-Anne bias.  In The Other Boleyn Girl, Mary is the good girl who compromises her purity for the sake of her family's ambition, then ends up falling in love with the king despite herself, only to be foisted from his bed by the heartless Anne, who coldly connives her way to the throne and stops just short of committing incest with her own brother in a last-ditch effort to conceive the male child that would have saved her life.  (Gregory's treatment of Anne's daughter, Elizabeth the great Protestant Queen,  in later books is not terribly flattering either.)  In historical reality, on the other hand, Mary was more of a good-time girl than a "good" girl (the King of France, one of her many conquests prior to Henry, referred to her as his "English mare,") and Anne was very likely a virgin at the time of her marriage, although on the topic of whether or not she actually loved Henry there are as many opinions as there are writers to offer them.  (The Lady herself says that she did, and does, which makes her story all the more tragic.)

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  • Beth Lynch
    Beth Lynch says #
    Very interesting! There is also a novel that I quite enjoyed reading, called Threads: the Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, about her
  • Schreiber
    Schreiber says #
    You might be interested in knowing that there is a radio play, "In the Real World" currently in the works. It centers on a man wh
  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    As you already know, the Tudor time period is basically a time period that is a bit more recent than I'm generally interested in.

Traditional wisdom ranging from a bevy of global cultures—including Native American, Taoist, and West African groups—calls for honoring one’s ancestors to a specific generational threshold. I’ve most frequently heard talk of remembering to ‘seven generations,’ and trying to learn the names of one’s family up to that level. Doing the math, if you start with yourself as the first generation (1) and go back seven steps, at level seven there are 64 individuals, for a total of 127 names, lives, and personalities to remember. If you start at your parents (2), the top level has 128 people, and the total runs up to 254 persons of note. That’s only counting direct ancestors, one mother and one father for each person, with no account for brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, stepparents, adoptive family, etc. While it is certainly not impossible to remember a roster of names to that length—recitations of lineage are common in a number of cultures which rely on oral transmission of lore—it can be difficult for people in a literate society to manage. Moreover, for those of us who like to maintain ancestral altars,  keeping physical representations of between 128 and 254 people on our altar spaces can be unwieldy.

So what are our options, if we recognize the importance of maintaining an ancestral presence in our lives? Today I want to look at some of the ways we can encompass our forebears without crowding out an entire room of the house with representative knick-knacks (if you do maintain such a room, kudos to  you and I would love to visit, as that would be an intensely powerful space, I think!).

Genealogy

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Samhaintable2_sm.jpgAs I write this, Samhain has just passed. I think about my maternal grandfather who left his family in Boston because he was tired of being beaten over a badly recited catechism. He fled north to Maine where he must have helped one of the locals work the fields in exchange for room and board. He was listed on the 1910 census and then dropped off the radar for a while as he traveled around the country doing whatever job came his way. He did stone masonry and lumbering, and worked the railroads, and eventually made it back to Maine where he married my “Old Maid” grandmother. I never knew him, and barely knew her before she developed dementia.

Connecting with them is a challenge. Grandpa is a bit easier because mom was close to him and I have more stories. I like to do things with stone and wood as he did, and I often feel him near me when I am building rough stone walls or doing carpentry. Grandma is tougher. Mom found her critical and doesn’t talk about her much. But I know she cooked. And I know she canned food because some of the jars are still in the basement, 50 years later.

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  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin says #
    Thank you! I came into this for my health as well, and found that it connected me in a very deep way to my spiritual values. I ser
  • Soli
    Soli says #
    Really? I have to admit that I have been quiet about my spiritual life around real food folks because so many of the ones I know t
  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin says #
    Please note that I live in a very blue state, and am self employed, so my risk was relatively low. Coming out is a very personal c

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Turning to the East

I've been wearing a little necklace since sometime in October--a pendant that looks like the cover of the Chalice Well in Glastonbury. A charm really, and each time I caught my reflection in the mirror and saw it, I'd tap it with my forefinger in the same way as you'd set a glamour. "Pick me," I'd say to myself. "Pick me."

I got word today that they did indeed pick me and I'll be at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in late July and will do a workshop of deep grounding techniques.  It's an honor, of course, but it also means I get to be in Glastonbury again, this time in the summer.

We first went there in September, I think, and the weather was wet and cold. We stayed in a b&b at the foot of the Tor where they fed badgers in the evening. I spent time at the Chalice Well and its gardens but fell in love with the Somerset Rural Life Museum, which has one of the most beautiful barns I've ever seen.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
A Living Legacy

 

The sacred legacy of the past is important, but the legacy that we gift to the future is a more loyal way to honor those that came before us. We are here because many of our ancestors did whatever they could in the name of hope for those that were the family they knew and hope for those that would be born past their dying day. I would honor their hope and their forward looking perspective by taking the torch of legacy and carrying the light forwards. 

 

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  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus says #
    This "cultural" part of our spiritual ancestry, as modern Pagans, is extremely important. A lot of this cultural legacy gets subsu

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Gold and Red..Imbolc is Coming

We spent part of the afternoon at Mother Grove rearranging the entry room--a tiny space I call the "lounge." We moved the coffee-and-tea tables onto another wall and covered them in some plain black fabric. Looks sleek and modern.

Since there were several of us playing interior designer, a couple of us started stripping the main altar and replacing tealights on the other three.  The Ancestors had been exiled in their niche, covered with a black lace veil with no candles or wine or treats and it was also time to open up their area and fill their goblet and out a little something sweet on their plate.

It's time now to move all the Brigid stuff from the South altar and honor our gold-red Woman.  We're big on our Bridey at Mother Grove--She's one of the reasons we decided to work on creating a Goddess temple here.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Do you remember when you first stepped onto the Pagan path? Perhaps more years ago than you care to recall, perhaps only recently. But no doubt books and websites were raided for information, ideas, ways to practice, paths to investigate. We truly are blessed with a wealth of information these days, after all.

My quest began before the Internet. My recollection is of picking up 'A Witch's Bible' - that lovely, slightly scary-looking black tome, scavenged easily enough from the shelves of Borders bookstore - and seeing the pictures inside. The photographs from the 1970s of Janet Farrar, beautiful and resplendent in ritual, performing the symbolic Great Rite proudly and publicly. And, of course, very very naked.

Then came that word: 'Priestess'. Not just in Wicca, but everywhere I looked, the goal of all Pagans appeared to be the Priesthood. You were still just learning until you had finally achieved the right to that title. This was just around the time when folks were starting to self-initiate, so the controversy was relatively new.

b2ap3_thumbnail_high-priestess.jpg

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  • Lauren DeVoe
    Lauren DeVoe says #
    I'm curious about the books and articles that you've come across. I would love to read some of them for myself, suggestions? Thank

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_cauldron.jpgLately I’ve been contemplating the title of my blog. Cauldron is magikal space. The theta wave brain state where we access guides, ancestors, and deities stands in contrast the kitchen, mundane space. Many Pagans struggle in mundane space. But even those of us that function effectively in the world outside the circle or festival, often find ourselves longing for that place of magik and connection.

We all know how hard it can be to keep swimming in the cauldron when the kids or boss is screaming, and bookkeeping (my personal nemesis) is looming. I go to a yearly festival, and, in the last few years, weekend conferences here and there. For the first few years of attending Rites of Spring, I would return home feeling torn and saddened. At the closing ritual, we were invited to take the magik back out into the world and that just seemed so impossible. But I kept working on it.

Food has been my main focus, and examining how my connection to the great unseen relates to what I put in my mouth has been an exercise in expanding connections. How much more grounded can you get than food? But food is easy compared to bookkeeping, or picking up after my family (I don’t work full-time so I get the job) both of which I really do not enjoy. But then again, I didn’t enjoy cooking when I started either.

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This is going to be a fairly short and sweet post. I’ve been getting the same question via email again and again –and it’s a good question, don’t’ get me wrong---so I figure I should probably answer it. Lately everyone is asking me what to do with offerings be it to the ancestors, the Gods, or the house spirits once you’ve put them out.  

It really is a good question the answer to which I tend to take for granted as a given. It’s not though and since most of us don’t grow up (yet) in families that make regular offerings, there’s no reason that we should automatically know what to do with them. There’s so much about religious traditions and culture that we learn by observation, experience, and osmosis as we grow after all, and we’re not yet at that point as a community. I think in time we will be, but for now, thank the Gods for books, blogs, and teachers!

That being said, here’s what I was taught about disposing of offerings.  Ideally, one can do any of the following:

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  • Anomalous Thracian
    Anomalous Thracian says #
    Very good topic, Galina. I like how you point out the practicality of these practices -- that is essential. "Tradition serves life

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_decorated-witchhazel-2012.jpg

 

The old agricultural year is winding down to its usual conclusion. This time of the Long Dying is still vibrant here in the southern highlands of the Appalachian mountains.  Today began in thick fog and reached a temperature nearly 20 degrees higher than the average for this day. Warm, light breeze, perfect for outside work in the garden.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    It has been unseasonably warm here, too -- but we are getting monsoons of hard rain which I can't really object to, since we had a

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the Brigid altar at the Association for the Study of Women and Mythology conference, 2010

 

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  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    So very sad to hear this.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

I went out this evening to have a quick drink with a friend, in honor of Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night. She's waiting on her visa so that she can join her English husband in the UK. We talked about kids and adult children and college loans and the Rollright Stones.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
When the young leave us

Last night, like so many others, I tuned into the stillness and silence of the chilling autumn to honor those who have passed into the Otherworld. Every year my coven hosts an intimate dumb supper at my home. This year we had seventeen people crammed into my small urban duplex. The potluck dishes were everywhere; the counters, all the tables, and even on the piano. It struck me as interesting that so many people took the time to come out to something that did not feature a flashy ritual or a raging social party. Many came with a sincere interest in giving thinks to the Mighty Dead. Others probably came with a secret desire to chance a whisper from a deceased loved one during the time of silence the supper brings. In any case, the reverence at the event was permeable.

Dumb SupperOur dumb supper altar to the dead

I originally intended to connect with my grandpa who passed over the summer. But when the silence came and we began to eat our meals, a different presence came over me. Instead of feeling the many beautiful elderly people I've had in my life, I felt the memory of those youth we've lost recently and not so recently. As strange as it sounds, the candles on the ancestor altar in front of these people's photos seemed to glow bright than the others. Intrigued, I dropped down into a deep stillness and listened.

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The air is cool, the mists swirl, and the veils are thin…its the time to listen to our Ancestors as we honor our departed ones.

Many seekers of different paths honor the life/death/life process and venerate their Ancestors. Traditionally we honored our Ancestors to maintain familial relationships and heritage and also to learn-divination is performed at Samhaim and during the Day of the Dead so that we might get insight on the year ahead.

But what about getting insight into our priorities from those who have passed beyond the veil?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

October 30, 2011.The night before Samhain, and I was getting into bed: exhausted, restless and ungrounded. Thinking about the next day was stressing me out even further. I realized I was starting to dislike Halloween in the same the way many devout Christians dislike the “holiday season” of Christmas. Yup: Halloween was starting to interfere with my Samhain.

Hallowe’en has always been my favorite holiday. But these days Halloween has become hectic and hyper-commercial. Throughout late October, I was so busy I could barely stop for breath: taking my kids to parties, decorating the house, and preparing my altar. I was also reading Tarot cards at a local haunted house, which meant that I was spending my weekends listening to screaming teenagers and a constant loop of ghastly sound effects. On top of work and family responsibilities, Hallowe’en was getting to be pretty tiring, even before Samhain Eve itself rolled around.

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Simple Samhain Rites

I love this time of year. Where I live, here in upstate New York, the summer’s heat has given way to autumn’s chill, the leaves are shifting into colorful hues of yellow, orange, and red, and the farmer’s markets are filled with pumpkins ready to be carved.

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  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake says #
    Thanks! It's a great idea...and then you get to eat it, too!
  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Insightful... love cooking those ancestor dishes!

My mind shifts at this time of year from the thick-blooded heat and lethargy of summer into a fervor of magical practice. In my part of the United States, we tend to have lingering heat even into October and November, but it is tempered by the crispness of evening air. When the darker days come, I feel energized, renewed, and eager to work magic and tap into the current of enchantment which emerges when summer has been left behind. And while the greenery of the floral world retreats, a different kind of stirring seems to happen below the soil. The Dead are waking up.

It seems everyone has a festival of the dead in autumn. Of course, Halloween is probably the dominant cultural paradigm for those of us living in the United States and Canada, but Hispanic folks have Dia de (los) Muertos, people of Asian ancestry have holidays like the Ghost Festival or the Chung Yeung Festival, and Catholics have All Souls’ Day. While some cultures do not seat their ancestral reverences in autumn, so many do that working with the dead during the cooling months comes naturally to a lot of folks, myself included.

Developing an ancestral practice is, in my opinion, important to those practicing spiritual systems centered on land, folklore, history, etc. It creates a sense of family and timelessness, while acknowledging the mortality that binds every living thing together. It keeps tradition alive, while allowing for new growth and understanding as descendants adapt their practices to the era in which they live. In many cases, I’ve heard people explain that they do not work with ancestors because their predecessors would not have approved of their lifestyle, or there might be a history of abuse or harm, or perhaps they simply are not close to their family in general. However, I would argue that honoring the Dead does not necessarily mean honoring blood relatives. That may be the simplest method—and often it proves rewarding even when some family relationships have a history of bitterness in them—but it is not the only method. Why not work with deceased teachers from within your tradition? Or even culture heroes, like Black Hawk in the hoodoo traditions (a teacher-ancestor) or Johnny Appleseed if you happen to be in the Ohio Valley area (a regional/land-based ancestor)? I am not here to tell anyone how to live their spiritual life or which ancestor(s) to work with, but I do want people to understand that the Dead go beyond blood-bonds and share other ties with the living, and they are eager to work with us, especially at this time of year.

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Reading is as necessary to my life as air and water. I read lots of different genres, but one that's captivated me the last several years, in part because of the genealogical research I've been doing, is history, American history in particular. I read history in order to understand humanity and the way we humans have organized ourselves, intentionally or not, into tribes, states, nations, even neighborhoods.

I also read to try to understand the lives, the circumstances, and the motivations of my ancestors. As Samhain approaches I reflect upon the lives of some of my ancestors. For instance, my maternal grandfather's grandfather, William H. Van Tine, (pictured here) served in the Pennsylvania 58th Infantry and was killed in April 1863 in a battle in New Bern, NC, so I've been reading some Civil War history. Another ancestor, my grandmother's grandfather, The Rev. Alpha Gilruth Kynett, was, among other things, a founder of the Anti-Saloon League. His brother Harry, a medical doctor, served on the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the state of Iowa. The Sanitary Commission was a private relief organization created during the Civil War to care for sick and wounded soldiers, the precursor to the Veterans' Administration.1

Pvt. William H. Van Tine

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  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    Really appreciated the historical elements to this piece. This line in particular should be chiseled and hung somewhere: "We honor

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
And so it begins

I've written before here about how, in our household, Samhain starts early.  For us it begins at the end of September, during the week when we've repeatedly lost beloved pets and on the day when, two years ago, I pledged my service to the Wild Hunt.  This year, that day was marked with an inadvertent bloodletting when the Hunt, not satisfied with the efforts I had made thus far on their behalf, aided me in slicing open the knuckle of my right index finger almost to the bone with a pair of sewing shears.  (Followed, of course, with a expensive trip to the emergency room and several weeks of limited ability to do anything--including typing and crafting--with that hand.  The Hunt does not play.)  

It continued the following week when I made a trip to one of the city's oldest cemeteries (and bear in mind that here on the west coast, "oldest" means the 1800s, and the most ancient looking monuments, crumbling with apparent age, are not truly ancient at all but merely rain-damaged).  I brought with me home-brewed mead and bone meal, to feed the dead, and locally harvested apples for Sleipnir, Odin's giant eight-legged steed.  (Eight legs, by the way; have you ever thought about that?  Why does He--the horse, that is--have eight legs?  Spiders have eight legs.  So does a casket, when borne aloft by four mourners.  Sleipnir is, indisputably, a horse of death, a steed to carry one to the land of the dead--which, throughout the Norse myths, is exactly what He does.)  I discovered an area devoted to the Civil War dead, which startled me because it seemed the wrong coast for that, but the monument statue of a soldier in uniform and the plots of the military dead exuded an aura of welcome for me, a kinship with the "once human" contingent of the Hunt, with Odin's fallen heroes.  Here was succor and support, and so it was here that I marked the stones with my blood, freshly drawn from my finger (not the one with stitches!) using a lancet.  (The dead were especially interested in and enthusiastic about the mead, by the way!)

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  • Jolene
    Jolene says #
    Another excellent post! I'm looking forward to both our celebrations, and I'm thinking that splitting them up as we have this year
  • Soli
    Soli says #
    I found a small pomegranate at the store this weekend and bought it, so I should do something. Just no idea what. Some of it is be

 

O, yes, it is nearly Samhain. Oya is crashing north- and westward, Her winds clearing the path, driving the waters ahead of Her. And I am composing an invocation of the Morrighan and have purchased a perfect, fat pomegranate. It is so tempting to tear it open and taste the sweet wild seed-fruits, to quench my thirst as Persephone did and doom myself to a dual-life. 

The lore surrounding Persephone's descent into the underworld has come down to us in some interesting ways. One is the abduction scenario--Hades rises from a great cleft in the Earth and pulls her into his black chariot. She leaves her mother Demeter behind, bereft at the disappearance of her only child. Persephone serves as Queen of the Underworld and in the course of her time below, she eats six seeds from a pomegranate. These doom her to a bi-coastal existence--six months above ground with Mummy, six below with her husband, the Dark King.

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