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I always say that you can't pour a proper libation if you're afraid of splashing your shoes.
It was Sparky T. Rabbit's Memorial. I had waded into the Mississippi up to my waist to release the death-ship with its garlanded standing picture, the flowers, the grave-gifts and the bowls of barley, ash, and ocher. As I pushed the ship out to catch the current, from the shore our friend Sirius poured out the grave-libation into the River. Because it was behind me, I couldn't see the libation being poured, but I could hear the voice of it as the wine kissed the water. I knew that Sirius was pouring out a full bottle of wine, but the pour just went on and on and on. I could have sworn that that bottle held three times the usual amount of wine.
And that's the right way to pour a libation.
Recently, I was, um, invited to participate in the ALS ice bucket challenge, the quirky and incredibly successful spontaneous viral outpouring of support to find a cure to a disease which has been well-known since 1939, but which still strikes down far too many people. As of this writing, the ALS Foundation is reporting that the challenge has raised $106 million this summer, a pretty big bump from the $3 million in annual donations the organization is more used to seeing.
What strikes me about this phenomenon is that this is the kind of magical work that money is intended for. Most of what I see discussed (and sold) in terms of money spells focus on, as one of my employers would put it, "Get that money, sucka." There's a flaw in that thinking, one that reminds me of a couple of friends of mine who tried to start an internet marketing business just before the Great Recession. The term internet marketing is (or maybe was) used to refer to a set of techniques used to find potential clients online (the "warm" market) and provide them with enough information that they would want to purchase your service. The problem my friends ran into is that their coach was flummoxed when he found out what they wanted to market: science lessons for curious children. Everyone else in the internet marketing field, you see, was building web sites that marketed internet marketing businesses....
As a storyteller, I tend to do much of my thinking through stories. In the ongoing discussion of cultural appropriation it seemed to me that abstract theorizing may well benefit from the wisdom of narrative. So I began casting about for a story that addressed the subject.
Theorist Cei Serith says, “When confronted with a new situation, first consult ancestral precedent.” The Received Tradition (or at least those portions of it with which I am personally conversant), has little to say on the topic of cultural appropriation directly, but in fact the practice has a surprising number of parallels with the grand old Keltic pastime (one could almost call it a sport) of the táin, the cattle-raid. The Kelts came by cattle-rustling honestly (so to speak): it would seem, in fact, to have been an ancient tradition of many Indo-European peoples (and, indeed, of pastoral cultures in general: compare the current problems with the self-same practice in South Sudan).
We have, to the best of our knowledge, no surviving mythology from the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe that inhabited the Severn basin and Cotswolds in what is now the south-west Midlands of England. (The “creation myth” that Stephen Yeates “recreates” in A Dreaming for the Witches cannot truly be called a story.) There seems to be good genetic and archaeological evidence to indicate that Dobunni population and culture survived into Anglo-Saxon times as the tribe known as the Hwicce. Maverick archaeologist Stephen Yeates would contend that the tribal religion of the Hwicce, with its strong continuities with the preceding Dobunni religion, is in fact what would become historic Witchcraft (and later, Wicca). Historical or not, it's a powerful story, for which I will admit a certain personal fondness, perhaps because some of my own ancestors hail from this same region.
What’s a magical name? How do I get one? And why are so many Wiccans named Raven?
A magical name—or craft name, as they are sometimes called—is a name you take on when you become a Wiccan, and it’s the name other Wiccans in the community will know you by and that you will use in Wiccan rituals. Some people take on a name when they first become interested in Wicca. Others wait until they dedicate themselves to the path through a self-dedication ceremony or when they are initiated into a particular Wiccan group. Some Wiccan traditions (traditions are kind of like denominations in Christianity) have special rules for when someone takes a name and what kind of name it can be, and others don’t. And in some cases your name might be bestowed on you by a teacher, but this practice is not very common anymore.
Most Wiccans who have magical names only use them in the Wiccan community, and use their legal names elsewhere. Having a second name can help protect your privacy in case there are people you don’t want to know about your Wiccan practice. However some Wiccans use their magical names all the time, even outside of the Wiccan community, and some only use theirs when they are in ritual space....