The following charm appears in a manuscript that dates to the 12th century (BL Royal MS 4 A xiv). It tries to cajole and threaten a wen (“a lump or protuberance on the body” per the Oxford English Dictionary) to take up residence elsewhere and leave the afflicted person.The tokens of the wolf and the eagle may well have been used in the healer’s ceremony—many scholars believe the Anglo-Saxons to have had a shamanic tradition. This charm can easily be adapted to remove from your life any unwelcome presence (and works well, in my experience!). Underlines indicate the alliterating pairs of words: the primary arrangement of Anglo-Saxon poetry is repeated sounds at the beginning of words (as opposed to end rhyme, the more familiar "moon/june" type of rhyming). It helps that any vowel alliterates with any other vowel.
Wenne, wenne, wenchichenne,
Her ne scealt þu timbrien, ne nenne tun haben,
Ac þu scealt norþ eonene to þan nihgan berhge,
Þer þu havest, ermig, enne broþer.
He þe sceal legge leaf et heafde.
Under fot volmes, under veþer earnes,
Under earnes clea, a þu geweornie.
Cling þu alwsa col on heorþe,
Scring þu alswa scerne awage,
And weorne alswa weter on anbre.
Swa litel þu gewurþe alswa linsetcorn,
And miccli lesse alswa anes handwurmes hupeban,*
And alswa litel þu gewurþe þet þu nawiht gewurþe.
Wen, wen wee little wen,
Here shall you not build nor have any home.
Rather shall you go north to that nearby hill,
Where you have, wretched thing, a brother.
He shall lay a upon you a leaf upon your head.
Under the foot of the wolf, under the feather of the eagle,
Under the eagle’s claw, ever may you wither.
May you shrink like coal on a hearth;
May you shrivel away like dung;
And evaporate like water in a pot.
You shall become as little as a linseed,
And much smaller than a hand-worm’s hipbone,
And you shall become so small, that you shall become nothing.
*No alliterating pair here: possibly a corruption of the manuscript, scribal error, or a loss through oral transmission. You’ll notice that the second half line creates its own alliteration, as if to make up for the absence.
If you enjoy my columns, you may enjoy reading some of my fiction as well, much of which deals with magic (not always seriously).
For better and worse, Aleister Crowley is one of the pivotal figures in the recent history of magic. He is also one of the more inscrutable, and the difficulties of his deliberate misdirections are multiplied by the revulsion that his actions and ideas can create. He proclaimed himself the divinely inspired messenger of a vast cultural shift and a magician of the highest achievement, but was widely reviled and - much worse from his perspective - often ignored. Capturing the breadth of these paradoxes in a single personality is not easy, and Sutin tackles it well in his biography of Crowley, which makes an excellent introduction for anyone trying to gain the necessary perspective on Crowley and his work.
This is the third posting of the (en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses Series
The Muse, Clio is considered the Muse of History. Her name, sometimes spelled Kleio is a form of the greek verb, “Kleo” which means to make famous, to recall or to celebrate. She makes full use of her birth right as the daughter of Mnemosyne (Goddess of Remembrance) as memory is a key component that every historian must rely upon to accurately give account of events, people and places. Unlike her sisters, who are more directly related to the act of inspiring whatever their specialty is, Clio works at the level of codifying and giving durability to what is the product of those inspirations.
The versatility of her nature and governance is seen in the epithets for her which include: Daughter of the Lord of Cloud-capped Heaven, Giver of Sweetness, High-Throned, Queen of Song, Flowering, and Unforgetting. The Greek lyric poet, Pindar says of Clio and her influence on the bringing to renown those who would be so honored:
"Of song grant, of my skill, full measure. Strike, O daughter of the lord of cloud-capped heaven, chords to his honour; mine to wed them with the youthful voices and with the lyre . . . In your honour then, if high-throned Kleio (Clio) wills, for your proud spirit of conquest." 1.
Clio is often depicted holding many scrolls or a single open scroll, and in more recent times with books sitting at her feet. Hers is not only the gift of recording those events which are to be celebrated and added as markers of history but also that of the retelling of those events, so they may be the source of inspiring those who would through their actions be the future creators of history yet unwritten. The Greek historian, Diodorus speaks of Kleio (Clio) in this way:
“To each of the Mousai (Muses) men assign her special aptitude for one of the branches of the liberal arts, such as poetry, song, pantomimic dancing, the round dance with music, the study of the stars, and the other liberal arts . . . For the name of each Mousa, they say, men have found a reason appropriate to her . . . Kleio (Clio) is so named because the praise which poets sing in their encomia bestows great glory (kleos) upon those who are praised." 2.
Another of her names was that of “the Proclaimer”. This nomenclature was exemplified in the story recounting that Clio openly declared her disapproval of the Goddess Aphrodite’s pursuit of Adonis; whom Clio had been having affairs with secretly. In retaliation, Aphrodite crafted a curse that made Clio fall in love with the King of Macedonia, Pierus and forget her infatuation with Adonis. A son was supposedly born of that union named Hyacinthus who was renown for his grace and beauty. His lover the God Apollo killed Hyacinthus, and, it is said that where his blood lay, flowers arose of great beauty as tribute to his love and purity. These are the perennials, Hyacinths noted for their sweet and intoxicating fragrance and of notable fame in the quote by Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier’s:
“If thou of fortune be bereft, and in thy store there be but left two loaves, sell one, and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.” 3.
Clio had a second son, Hymenaios who was the God of marriage, epic feasts and songs. The officiating nature of his Mother, Clio is seen in the magnitude of the types of events her son presided over. His was the governance of those times that would become part of the history of those for whom these auspicious events occurred.
Time and again, through art and literature, politics and education, Clio’s hand has been the underlying energy that gives timeless meaning and importance to whatever it is applied to. The 17th Century Dutch Painter, Johannes Vermeer, makes reference to Clio in his painting The Art of Painting. In this painting she depicted wearing standard garb of the time, a laurel wreath adorning her head, and carrying a trumpet. The wreath and trumpet both symbols of triumph and the jubilant announcement of that status.
Image: Detail of The Art of Painting
“ The artist observes his model, who is dressed as Clio, the muse of history. As he records her image carefully on his canvas, he is not so much the recipient of the muse's inspiration as the agent through whom she takes on life and significance. Clio wears a crown of laurel on her head to denote honor, glory, and eternal life. In one hand she holds a trumpet, which stands for fame, and in the other she clasps a thick folio, perhaps a volume of Thucydides, which symbolizes history. These were the attributes ascribed to her by Cesare Ripa in his Iconologia, a sixteenth-century book of emblems and personifications that was widely used by artists.” 2.
Image: The Art of Painting
Another depiction of Clio is found in a mosaic of the poet Virgil, who is seen in process of writing his epic poem, The Aenid in the presence of two of the Muses. In this scene “ the Roman poet Virgil, seated with a sheet of scrolls in his hand, is attended by two Mousai, Kleio the Muse of history with a scroll, and Melpomene the Muse of tragedy with a tragic mask.”
Image: VIRGIL & THE MOUSAI
And, finally, a more modern testament to the lasting influence of the Muse of History and the need for the recording of its facts is the representation of Clio found in the National Statuary Hall of the capital building in Washington, DC. Gracing the doorway into this illustrious hall that served as meeting place for the decisive and historical actions of the House of Representatives from 1807 to 1857 is the Car of History designed by sculptor Carlo Franzoni in 1819. Clio stands within a winged chariot that serves as the vehicle and personification that represents the passing of history through the ages. In place of the ancient scroll, she holds her book of remembrance and records the events of history as they unfold. The chariot has a singular wheel that is a clock representing the passage of time in the hours and minutes of the days. The Chariot sits atop a marble globe which has the signs of the Zodiac on it completing the reference to the eternal and cyclical nature of time, events and the never ending history that is created by its turning.
Image: The Car of History
Remembering Your Own History:
I purposely held this post for Mother’s Day 2014. When I consider the gifts of Clio I am reminded of my own personal history; in particular what I have learned from my Mother. My history is rich in strong women who shouldered responsibility, accepting all that came their way and making at times difficult choices to insure that there was a roof overhead, food on the table and a better life for their children than what they had endured. I am reminded of the history that I have helped to create for my own family and children and the opportunity to call upon Clio’s energy of celebration and lessons earned from past experience to write a new script if needed that is more positively filled.
In my spiritual work, I call upon Clio to remind me of the history of my spiritual path and those who paved the way, the sacrifices made and the eternal wisdom that has become the foundation of my teachings and learning. I call upon Clio to help me keep my intentions in order so that those who follow in my footsteps may benefit from the history I will someday leave.
In my mundane life, I call upon Clio to remind me that each action I take and each person with whom I interact has a piece of his or her own history to share. This is often not something that is overtly elicited but if I remain poised with metaphorical pen and book of remembrance in hand, the synthesis of our time together will write a new history that each of us will collectively call our own.
The next post will focus on the Muse, Erato and her gifts of Lyrical Poetry
1. Pindar, Nemean Ode 3. 10 & 82 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.).
2. From: Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 7. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.).
3. Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., ed., Johannes Vermeer [Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Mauritshuis, The Hague] (Washington, 1995).
4. John Greenleaf Whittier. Quaker Poet 1807-1892.
Statuary of Clio: The Vatican Museum.Rome
Detail and Full Painting: The Art of Painting by Johannes Vermeer
The Art of Painting, c. 1666, oil on canvas. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Image: VIRGIL & THE MOUSAI, Mosiac
Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia
Image: The Car of History
Carlo Franzoni. 1819. National Statuary Hall
The strength of clan relationships is the bedrock of the family sagas. To be an enemy to one person is to be the enemy of their family and close friends as well. Gunnar survived as long as he did because Njal remained his staunch friend as did his sons and son in law. In the Laxdæla Saga, Guðrún's brother ignites the flame of enmity in the simmering ambiance of mistrust by stealing then discarding Kjartan's sword. After that, everything unravels and many bloody deaths ensue.
Original Norse text via Heimskringla.
Scholarly edition consulted: Hávamál, ed. David A. H. Evans (Viking Society for Northern Research, 1987).
skal-a gestr vera
ey í einum stað;
ljúfr verðr leiðr,
ef lengi sitr
annars fletjum á.
Go shall the guest
and not stay long in one place;
the loved one becomes loathed
if he sits too long
on another's bench.
The important thing about hospitality -- that measure of a man or a woman and their home -- is the assumption that such largesse will not be taxed or taken for granted. Long visits were a big part of the wealthy in Iceland, but they had to be planned for and stocks set by. Unexpected guests were given good welcome, but part of the unspoken agreement is that a visitor would know when to move on.
Bú er betra,
þótt lítit sé,
halr er heima hverr;
þótt tvær geitr eigi
ok taugreftan sal,
þat er þó betra en bæn.
Home is better
though it be little
a free man is he at home;
though he owns but two goats
and roofed with willow thatch,
it's better than begging a boon.
Not surprisingly the independence of the viking life made one's own home a castle even if it were little more than a small house with simple furnishings and just enough livestock to support your needs. There's a certain pride in self-sufficiency that makes sense in the harsh northern climate. To be free and to have any spot to call your own was freedom enough.
Bú er betra,
þótt lítit sé,
halr er heima hverr;
blóðugt er hjarta,
þeim er biðja skal
sér í mál hvert matar.
Home is better,
though it tiny be,
a free man is he at home;
bloody is the heart of he
who must beg meat for every meal.
And a good thought is always worth repeating: to beg for food or to live off the kindness of others quickly becomes an untenable existence. For a culture accustomed to the warrior life, the image of the bleeding heart has a very real and lethal meaning. Begging isn't just a sign of desperation, it's seen as a kind of self-injury, too.
skal-a maðr velli á
feti ganga framar,
því at óvíst er at vita,
nær verðr á vegum úti
geirs of þörf guma.
A man should never stir
one foot abroad
without his weapons,
for one cannot know for certain
where there arises on the way,
a man's need for a spear.
We live in a time where fearmongers try to make us think we are always in danger of something, though in the west we are safer overall than we have ever been (fear sells us a lot of useless products). It's always good to remember that death and violence were not just anxieties for the people in the north but a daily reality; if you escaped dangerous animals and desperate people, there was always the elements to put your existence in peril.
Fannk-a ek mildan mann
eða svá matar góðan,
at væri-t þiggja þegit,
eða síns féar
at leið sé laun, ef þægi.
I have not found a mild man
or one so generous with food
that accepting it was not a gift of promise,
or of his possessions so ungenerous
that he disliked repayment if he could get it.
Hospitality wasn't just a magnanimous gesture, but a debt of honour and a recognition that he who had abundance to give generously might be in need on another day. The harsh climate and the agrarian lifestyle made everyone vulnerable to shifts in weather as well as fate. Few would ever be foolish enough to turn down a gift simply because they were in plenty, though any tendency toward hoarding was looked upon with derision. Sufficiency was the aim, abundance a chance to share with valued friends.
In Canada we call November 11th “Remembrance Day” and it’s a pretty big deal for us culturally. It’s not just a bank holiday, like Veteran’s Day in the US. Though it is that, we also take time as a culture, in our schools prior to it and at our daily grind otherwise, to observe a moment of silence for the dead of our many World Wars, to which we now must add the Gulf War and the War in Afghanistan. As children in school, we make construction paper poppies and listen to the stories of soldiers. As adults, often we stand in the rain as our veterans stand solemnly in their uniforms and their medals, and we try to give their experience meaning and find hope in a time of darkness.
I think as Pagans, it is especially important that we engage in this practice of remembrance. Whatever your view on war (some traditions strongly respecting the warrior path, such as the Asatru; some being adamantly opposed to war, such as Reclaiming Witches,) our empathy for the experience of it is a valuable service we can contribute to our culture and the world. The many reasons connect to the uniquely Pagan experience of our spirituality. Now granted, these are all generalizations; and as such, not everyone will fit these moulds. But we seem to have these commonalities that make remembrance, especially of powerful and terrible events such as war, much more immediate and intense.
Many of us are called to Pagan paths because we feel a strong ancestral connection. Even the modern religion of Wicca draws its roots from the ancient Pagan practices of Europe. All but the most dedicated Reconstructionists agree we can’t exactly practice the same religion that our ancestors did; cultural and historical context, technology and needs are completely different. But something about those “Ancient Ways” draws us anyway.
For that reason, we have a natural connection to those ancestors that I believe gives us a special respect for the reality of their experience. To Pagans, history isn't an intellectual exercise. It is a process of evolution that shapes who we are now as much as personal history and psychology do. Historical events aren't just a series of statistics for us, and our ancestors aren't just names; we know they were real people, just like us, who suffered and bled and loved and lived. So we internalize and appreciate some of their experiences in a way that many paths, especially in North America, often do not. And because we look to our roots to understand why we are the way we are, we also ask ourselves why our ancestors were the way they were. This particular approach seems to be unique to the shamanic and earth-centered paths of the world. The other faiths who do it are the one we would often include among our definitions of “Pagan.”
Most of us have a strong ethical code regarding war. Either we tend to embrace the code of the warrior or we tend to be strongly opposed. This alone makes the remembrance of war a more vivid experience for Pagans, as we either honor the brave dead or mourn the horrific suffering; and often, both at once!
Much of the modern Pagan movement is informed by (and rooted in) the spiritualist movement. Spiritualism postulates that we continue after death and can communicate with the living, especially those trained in (or born to) mediumship. Spiritualism also postulates that we reincarnate. Most Pagans share these beliefs (but certainly not all) and we have a great deal of respect for that element of our tradition(s). I don’t know of any Pagan tradition that does not make a point of having at least one holiday that honors the dead, whether that is Samhain or Einherjar.
I’ll be frank: I believe both in ghosts and in reincarnation. My personal experiences have borne up this belief. And I had a metaphysical store which happened to be located next to a place called “Cenotaph Park.” Around this time of year, the spirits of dead soldiers often wander by. I help them as best I can. Sometimes it’s about making contact with loved ones. Most often it’s about recognizing that they are dead and accepting that.
At a Samhain festival last year, after a whole weekend of ritual we had a Dumb Supper. Both of my grandfathers, and my great uncles, all of whom were war vets and only one of whom I really knew when they were living, came to hang out with me and let me know they were proud of me. It was a powerful ritual that I will not soon forget.
Because of these experiences, the reality of war is perhaps more real to me than those who have not had such experiences. Even if you haven’t had such things happen to you, if you’re a Pagan you probably know someone who has (or believe s/he has, if your beliefs don’t support that.) And that makes things a little more immediate.
Let’s face it: as Pagans, we’re highly empathic and we believe in personal gnosis and value personal understanding and practice. This is entirely my observation, but I believe that as a general rule, we experience life and emotion more intensely than the average soul. We’re pretty good at walking a mile in another’s shoes. We’re not very good at emotional distance.
It’s a thin line, and again it’s based in my personal observations, but I believe that Pagans are often more willing to accept the dark than many other paths of faith. Many others with spiritualist leanings are so adamantly opposed to warfare that they are opposed to warriors. For the most part, even the most dedicated anti-war activist among us can accept and understand that soldiers sometimes have no choice but to fight – or, at the very least, believe that they don’t. We accept that there is suffering in this world and embrace it as a crucible of the soul and a chance to become better people, rather than deny it and try to pretend it doesn’t exist. And that makes it possible for us to truly grasp (some might say “grok”) the circumstances of the people who lived in those times, and to communicate that tragedy and experience of suffering to other people in a way that makes it real.
I mentioned in my last article at Patheos.com that the Druids knew that the part of the mind that inspires bards and holy people is the same part, and they called it Awen. Consequently, Pagans are creative. Visualization is a skill that we teach and practice; and so many of us engage in artistic pursuits. That means that rather than reciting statistics, we can make a story live and breathe; and whether we do it through music, writing, or intensive ritual, the result is the same.
Make sure you spend a moment today to honor your beloved dead, and the Mighty Dead if your tradition accepts that. Lest we forget.
Simultaneously posted to the "Seekers and Guides" column in the Agora blog at Patheos.com, where it has apparently started an all-out war in regards to my use of the phrase "bank holiday". To clarify: I do not mean that America does not honour or respect its veterans, but I believe that the "cultural focus" on the holiday is considerably less than that of Canada's; possibly because the US also has Memorial Day, which we do not. I am concerned about us forgetting our veterans and I hope to help change that. Though I admit my phrasing is poor and, reading it in retrospect, it might imply contempt, which I did not intend. Mea culpa.
Here are a few more stanzas in my ongoing project examining the verses of Hávamál, the medieval Norse gnomic verses of wisdom and advice, copied down in Iceland centuries ago.
sá er flótta tekr,
gestr at gest hæðinn;
sá er of verði glissir,
þótt hann með grömum glami.
Wise he thinks himself to be,
The guest who takes to sneering at [another] guest.
He doesn't know,
The one who mocks at meals,
Though he scoffs noisily.
The etiquette of the hall remains the uppermost concern. Among the many admonishments to maintain a thoughtful and watchful mien is this advice to avoid boisterous and juvenile mocking. You can see how the difference between the High One who speaks and the guest who believes himself clever for sneering at another only brings himself down in others' estimation.
en at virði vrekask;
þat mun æ vera,
órir gestr við gest.
Are completely loyal to one another
Until they cause a quarrel.
Strife among men
Shall there ever be
If guest squabble with guest.
Continuing the theme, we can see how quickly long time friends fall out over the idle talk at meals. One who does not guard his speech is much more likely to find he has lost friends as well as the support of the truly wise if his tongue lap more than his eyes are watchful. Under the benefit of hospitality, serve your host well by avoiding sparking fights.
skyli maðr oft fáa,
nema til kynnis komi:
sitr ok snópir,
lætr sem solginn sé
ok kann fregna at fáu.
An early meal
Should a man often get for himself
Before he visits kin.
Otherwise he sits and grumbles
Allowing himself to be famished,
And can't ask for anything.
Not everyone lives up to the obligation for hospitality; if you know in advance that you will be visiting those who are cavalier about offering their food, prepare for it. Rather than sit and grumble while your belly growls, anticipate those with whom you have connections but who demonstrate little in the way of simple respect.
er til ills vinar,
þótt á brautu búi,
en til góðs vinar
þótt hann sé firr farinn.
Is the path to a false friend
Though he lives up the road.
But the way to the good friend
Lies directly ahead
Though he may live far off.
The value of a good friend is a theme the verses return to repeatedly; the proof of your discernment shows in the people whom you take as friends. The false friend lies along a meandering path of many bad judgements, false hopes and poor choices. The true friend however should be clear at once, a person who speaks wisely in measured words and acts according to those words. He or she is something to find -- and also to be.
Original Norse text via Heimskringla.
Scholarly edition consulted: Hávamál, ed. David A. H. Evans
NB: As a Samhain gift to readers, my collection ROOK CHANT will be free on Amazon for the last few days of October. Get yourself a copy and please leave a review if you can.