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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Hwicce
To Those Who Would Ask, “But is It Historical?”

 Well now, there's history

and history. And if it were

indeed that we were once

one people, of this-and-so

a time, and this-and-so

a place: now, would that not

be a fine and shining fire

to warm your heart at,

Last modified on
A Silver Stater of the Dobunni, Circa 300 CE

 Heads: the diademed Silver Lady,

Mother, looks to the left.

Tails: tails flying, Sire,

the Stallion of Three Tails

gallops to the right.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
In Praise of Cackling

Zombies shamble. Werewolves howl. Witches cackle.

I'm not sure just when witches first began to cackle. Personally, I suspect the cackling witch to be a fairly recent development, perhaps even as late as the “Twentieth” Century. It may even be that we owe our cackling—as with so much else—to the Great Green-Faced Mother of Us All, the immortal St. Margaret Hamilton.

Still, whenever it is that we first began to cackle, we've made the sound our own. You hear “cackle” and you think “witch.” It's pretty delightful to have a verb of one's own.

It was not always thus. “Cackle” is an old word—all the Germanic languages have some version of it—denoting (probably imitatively) the sound made by a hen when she lays an egg.

The ancestors were astute observers of the world around them. If you've ever actually heard a hen cackle, you know what a distinctive sound it is: shrill, brittle, with a note of triumph to it.

The underlying metaphor here, then, is witch : hen. This actually makes a good deal of mythological sense. The sacred bird of the God of Witches is the—well, let me be coy here and say “rooster.” A cock's head figures on the coinage of the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe ancestral to the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce, the original Tribe of Witches. Witches, so they say, are hens to the Devil's cock, cows to the Devil's bull.

Oh, those earthy ancestors.

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The Tribe of Witches: A Story for Our Day

This is the story of the Tribe of Witches.

Five hundred generations ago, a people called the Hwicce (HWICH-eh) lived in the basin of the River Severn in what is now England.

Their forebears, mostly Angles speaking a Germanic language, had come from the Continent, and settled in the tribal territory of a Keltic-speaking people called the Dobunni, the “People of the Two Tribes.”

In time, as is the way of things, these two peoples became one people: and this was the making of us. For from their union, some say, Kelt and German, sprang those that today we call the Tribe of Witches; and, indeed, we still bear their name.

And this is the main thing: that from our very beginning, we have been a mixed people.

Look at the Wheel of our Year: sunsteads, evendays, and cross-farthings together: the Keltic with the Germanic. We are a mixture of peoples, and our lore a mixture of lores.

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Was the Wansdyke Originally Built to Keep Out the Tribe of Witches?

The Wansdyke is an early medieval earthen wall-and-ditch—clearly a defensive fortification—that extends for miles across the southern English counties of Wiltshire and Somerset.

The Anglo-Saxons later named the mighty earthwork after the chieftain of their gods—Wódnes díc, Woden's ditch, of which the modern name is an eroded form—but the fortification was built, not by Saxons, but by Britons.

Traditionally the Wansdyke was thought to have been raised by southern Kelts against incursions from the West Saxons to the north but, in their 2017 The Complete King Arthur, husband-and-wife team John and Caitlin Matthews make another suggestion: that it was originally built to keep out the Witches.

It would seem that the Wansdyke marks the old border between two late Keltic tribal territories: the Durotriges to the south and the Dobunni to the north (51-2).

The Dobunni are the Keltic predecessors to the later Anglo-Saxon tribe (and kingdom) of the Hwicce, whom maverick archaeologist Stephen P. Yeates identifies as the original Tribe of Witches. He makes a strong case for cultural and ethnic continuity between the Dobunni and the Hwicce, which has been borne out by subsequent archaeological finds and genetic studies.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
If Paganism Had a Motto...

In the Old Language of the Witches, a verbal artist (i.e. a bard) was called a sceop: literally, a “shaper.”

Likewise, “creation” was sceopung, shaping; “creator” scieppand, a shaper. (In Modern Witch, we would say sheppend.)

For the ancestors, to make was to shape: to mold what already is. This view of art—and of creation generally—stands at variance with the more recent notion of creation ex nihilo: from nothing.

As myself a shaper, and long-time observer of the creative process, I find it axiomatic that, in fact, nothing comes from nothing. Even the most original art always derives from what went before, if only by reaction.

As the ancestors saw it, the artist's work is to shape the old to the new, and the new to the old.

In this way, the present becomes a conversation of past with future.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    No indeed. As the Egyptian tells Big Anna in Edgar Jepson's Horned Shepherd, "All the world is the country of the Wise": there are
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    "In the Old Language of the Witches" Witches weren't confined to speakers of Old English.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
One for the Price of Three

A witch once came before a king bearing three books.

“Sire,” she said, “I have here three books of prophecies. I will sell them all to you for ten thousand gold pieces.”

“Ten thousand gold pieces for three books?” said the king. “Good mother, have you taken leave of your senses?”

“Let a brazier of fire be brought,” said the witch.

A brazier of fire was brought, and the witch proceeded to burn one of the books to ashes.

“Sire,” she said, “I have here two books of prophecies. I will sell them both to you for ten thousand gold pieces.”

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    You've got a good memory, Anthony. I first came across the story back in Latin 1--though I think it was the Senate that the Sybil
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I have read this story before. As I recall it was the Sybil who presented the king of Rome with three books and the king only bou

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