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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Hwicce

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The People of the Waters

In 1653, Swedish witch Karin Persdotter confessed to having learned her magic from a male water spirit, called variously the "man of the stream" (strömkarlen), "the river" (älven), and the "nix" (näcken) (Hall 32).

 

Readers of the Brothers Grimm will recognize this latter term: the nix (masculine) and nixie (feminine) (German nix and nixe) have haunted the rivers, lakes, and ponds of folk tales for (apparently) several millennia at least. They are, in effect, fresh water merfolk.

 

The Hwicce, the Anglo-Saxon tribe ancestral (some say) to today's witches knew a similar species. Their nicor survived in English folklore as the nicker or knucker. The youthful Beowulf was said to have wrestled with several while swimming.

 

In fact, all these names descend from the same ancestor: proto-Germanic *nikwiz, *nikwuz (Watkins 59). To judge by surviving folklore, all the Indo-European-speaking peoples knew of the People of the Waters. But of course, other peoples know them too; everyone knows them. Here in Minnesota, the Anishinabe (Ojibway) call them nebaunaubaequaewuk.

 

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Becoming Flame: A Folk-Tale of the Latter-Day Hwicce

One day the youngest warlock goes to the oldest and says:

 

I don't understand. I sing the songs, I make the offerings, I dance the prayers. But in my heart, I am not there. What more should I be doing that I am not already doing?

 

The eldest rises, lifts his hands, and splays his fingers. At the tip of each finger licks a tongue of fire.

 

My son, he says, If you will, you can become entirely flame.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Oh Hell

Oh, go to Heaven!”

(Witch Hazel [Mama Cass Elliot], Pufnstuf)

It is an altogether remarkable fact that the language of Christianity should so faithfully have preserved the name of the ancient Indo-European Underworld, and (just possibly) of its goddess.

Hell.

Both Old English hell and its Norse cognate hel derive from Common Germanic *haljô. This in turn comes from a verbal root meaning “cover, conceal.” (The same root gives us hall, hull, hold, helmet, and Valhalla.) Apparently Hell has been the “concealed [place]” for a long, long time: when Ulifilas translated the Bible into Gothic, he used the word halja to translate Greek Hades and Hebrew She'ol.

Like its Greek counterpart Hades, the Old Norse name does double duty, naming both the Underworld and its mistress, the goddess of death. Whether this was also the case among speakers of Old English, we do not know. It's certainly possible: the Old English noun is feminine in gender. It must be admitted, though, that the Hel of Norse literature has a pronouncedly “literary” feel to her; she strikes one as more a personification than as an actual personality.

So we can say for sure that the Hwicce, the Old English Tribe of Witches, knew of Hell as the Underworld. Whether they also knew of Hell as Lady of the Underworld we simply do not know.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Bred in the Bone

Why are some people witches and some not?

Well, it's easy, really: we were born this way.

He sired us himself.

Yes, you are as you are because he overshadowed your father at your very begetting.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Critter
    Critter says #
    So I have this terrible knee-jerk reaction to blanket statements made about witches: don't tell me who I am. If not being born by
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My, my, my. Let's hear it for the Wild Ride!
  • Angela
    Angela says #
    I asked my mother if she knew the circumstances around my conception. She paused a moment in thought and said that yes, she knew

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Repaganization

Part of the underlying strategy for the Repaganization of the West is, shall we say...selective replacement.

Consider the so-called “Adam's apple.” A nasty bit of someone else's mythology has, mutatis mutandis, become attached to a perfectly innocuous part of the human body. What to do?

In this particular instance, at least, there's not far to look.

The old Witch word for the (to give it its technical name) laryngeal thyroid cartilege is thrapple: a contraction of “throat apple,” the apple being, of course, the prime sacred fruit of the Tribe of Witches (and, in fact, of Northern Europe generally).

A while back I was dishing with my friend “Granny” Ro NicBourne.

“Do you know such-and-so?” I asked.

“Wouldn't know him from Ash,” she deadpanned.*

 

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    I love the term thrapple and will be using it henceforth. Remember we still have Achilles tendon. What a force our beloved Spark

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
How Do You Say "Karma" in Witch?

Belief in reincarnation came into the modern Craft—probably via Theosophy—with Gerald Gardner.

Interestingly, though, there does seem to have been a word for 'karma' in old Witch vocabulary.

Karma in Sanskrit means simply 'act, deed, work,' from the verb karoti, 'he makes,' 'he does,' but has come to mean by extension the sum total of actions throughout one's various lives, and the effect of these deeds on one's present and future lives.

Similar in meaning is the Old Norse word ørlög, usually translated 'fate' or 'destiny.' Ørlög is the sum total of actions and events: everything that has gone on before which brings to bear on events of the present. To the Northrons of old, as in contemporary heathen thought, in addition to ørlög writ large, individuals, families, and nations all had their own ørlögs.

This seems an eminently pragmatic way in which to view the world. What is done is done, shapes everything that comes after it, and cannot be changed. But likewise, every new deed that is done lays down ørlög of its own. 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Thews of Witchdom

The old-time Tribe of Witches didn't have a separate word for “religion.”

Or “tradition.”

Or “morals.”

They had one word for them all.

The Hwicce—the Anglo-Saxon tribe (and later, kingdom) that (according to some) gave rise to the name and lore of today's witches—spoke their own dialect of Old English, the language which (after a crossbow marriage with Norman French) gave rise to Modern English.

Living in a state of cultural wholeness that we can only fantasize about today—what culture critic Stephen Flowers would call “integral culture”—their word ðéaw denoted many of the shared things that together make a people a people: Religion. Custom. Tradition. Usage. Virtue. Conduct. In the plural, it also meant virtues, (good) manners, morals, morality.

Imagine a world in which all these things were the same thing. That was the world of the witches.

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