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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in medieval

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Lammas

Most people are familiar with the Celtic name for August 1st, Lughnasadh. Across the water it's known as Lammas Day.

From Leechdom, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, a compendium of wonderful folk knowledge of early Anglo-Saxon England, here's a fragment of a charm using bread [hláf] hallowed on 'hláfmæsse-dæg' the traditional grain harvest day:

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  • Chathol-linn
    Chathol-linn says #
    Oh, one more thing. I went to the supermarket today looking for some appropriate flowers for the Lammas table. The local Wegman'
  • Chathol-linn
    Chathol-linn says #
    Hello. I am relatively new to Pagans and Witches. I’m glad I picked Lammas Day to join. My modest celebration of this cross quart

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál: 76-80

 

76.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál: 66-70

 

Here are a few more verse in my ongoing translation and discussion of the Old Norse poem:

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  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    I am working on scripts too. Hmmm. Are we feeling a need to drag more folks into the ritual?
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Brilliant. I feel a play coming on....

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Get Charming

I'm teaching a course this semester called 'Witches, Healers & Saints' mostly so I could teach a lot about witches. One of the themes developing in all my courses is how the few people with power often abuse it (honestly, it's always been there -- I'm just making it more overt now), but a major theme in this class is magic as technology.

My aim is to get away from the modern impulse to see magic only as 'superstition'; our belief in our superiority to the past causes us to dismiss too many things. If you think of magic as the best knowledge available at the time about some very mysterious things, it's easier to understand the role it played. I'm introducing the students to sympathetic magic and the power of charms (like the Anglo-Saxon Charm for Bees or the Charm against a Wen).

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    I'd like to take that class.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    That would be fun!
Burchard's Corrector: Rooting Out Medieval Magic

This week in my Women as Witches, Saints & Healers course, we read the Corrector of Buchard of Worms. This early 11th century handbook guided priests with questions they ought to ask their confessing parishioners in order to root out bad behaviour -- and a lot of the bad behaviour was pre-Christian practices that persisted. The insight these questions offer is rather magical, but the style of his rhetoric makes this much more fun to read than the usual sort of penitential.

Here are a few snippets to entertain you:

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  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener says #
    I'm glad to see I'm not the only person interested in these sorts of texts as source material for modern Heathenism or Paganism. I
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    That's very good to hear!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Disreputable English Magic

To assuage the sadness of knowing there is no more Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell to come (or perhaps there is a but a long way off), I have been thinking about how English magic did fall into disrepute so that a man of Norrell's character found it necessary to make it respectable once more. One of the first examples to occur to me is Chaucer's Canon's Yeoman's Tale (hereafter CYT because I will tire of spelling it out).

CYT features one of the belated arrivals to pilgrimage in The Canterbury Tales. The canon and his yeoman catch up to the pilgrims and the yeoman launches into a recital of the canon's alchemical life that soon makes his boss leave in a huff. The yeoman takes this opportunity to show that the canon is a scoundrel in this 'elvysshe craft' known as alchemy

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    May be it that craft is so easy to learn? I'm sorry you're sad about your show but so glad to read this!
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    I think it's easier to learn the form of it -- appearance of it? -- and then feel frustrated that one doesn't know more. I'm think

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Great Conflation

I am looking forward to the final episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell on Sunday (I think it's begun in the States more recently). It's been fun seeing an 'alternate' history of magic, though I will be sad to see it end. It got me thinking about a period in history that leads to a lot of confusion. When people say 'witch hunts' most people still seem to think of the Middle Ages, though the worst years were part of the Early Modern era, sometimes known as the Renaissance (a much disputed term for a variety of reasons). While many see the dividing line as the Reformation, the roots of that change can be see in Wycliffe and the Lollards in the 14th century. I tend to see Gutenberg's innovation as a technological change, though even there printing existed before his moveable type -- but the speed of the technology has all kinds of impacts as we know in the internet age.

We may not think of magic as technology, but all knowledge is technology. A revolution in technology may be regarded as good or bad or something in between, but it usually hard to deny once it happens. A big change happened in the history of magic that had a huge impact that leads to the widespread witch hunts of the Early Modern era (and on into the so-called Age of Enlightenment). For background, I highly recommend you get Michael D. Bailey's Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages. Perhaps easier to obtain is his briefer essay, 'The Feminization of Magic and the Emerging Idea of the Female Witch in the Late Middle Ages' (available via Project Muse in many libraries).

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