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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Hwicce
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.

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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.”

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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

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How Do You Say 'Religion' in Witch?

A friend once asked me why I don't capitalize 'pagan.'

Here's why.

 

Back in the old days, we didn't have a separate word for 'religion.'

We didn't know that we needed one.

In those days, religion interlaced with everyday life and behavior like intertwining patterns on a runestone.

In the language of the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce—the original Tribe of Witches—the word þéaw (today we say thew) meant “tradition, custom, usage, habit, conduct.” In the plural it meant “virtues, manners, morals, morality.”

But that was as close as we got to 'religion.'

That's why we had to import the foreign word.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Name (Tribe)

There's a conventional usage in the First Nations press which I think, for various reasons, would be a good fit for the pagan community as well.

There it's customary to identify someone both by name and by tribal affiliation:

Winona la Duke (Anishinabe)

Arvol Looking Horse (Dakota)

This makes perfect sense. In traditional societies, you don't just need to know who someone is; you need to know who her people are as well. In traditional Dine (Navajo) culture, when introducing yourself to a fellow Dine, you mention not just your own name, but your maternal and paternal clans as well. This gives you not just an identity, but a context.

Since pagans come in different kinds, it seems to me that this makes sense for us, too:

Isaac Bonewits (Druid)

Alison Harlow (Feri)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Happy Summersend

We don't know whether or not the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce—the original Tribe of Witches—celebrated Samhain.

If they did, we don't know what they called it.

It's generally acknowledged by historians that, both demographically and culturally, the Hwicce emerged from a Keltic-Germanic meld. If so, and if they kept Samhain, they may well have called it something like Samonios.

Among their latter-day descendants, the November quarter-day generally goes by one of two names: Keltic Samhain and Germanic Hallows.

Samhain (however you choose to pronounce it) is an Irish name for an Irish festival. The word's original meaning is not entirely clear; likely it derives from samh, “summer.” Folk etymology would read it as “summer ends” or “summers' end.”

It's a good name, an ancient name, but it is and will always be an import.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Nicely put, Courtney; I thoroughly agree. Our work, it seems to me, is not just to know and to transmit the Lore faithfully, but a
  • Courtney
    Courtney says #
    I've always been okay with the name Samhain b/c half of the modern Wheel came from the big Celtic festivals. But I'm also not look

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