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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Robert Cochrane

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Thinking Third Thoughts

Robert Cochrane (1931-1966), father of the contemporary Old Craft movement, was wont to say that the true name of the witch goddess is Fate (Cochrane 25). Yet he writes to Joseph Wilson in 1966 that the “prime duty of the Wise” is to “overcome fate” (Cochrane 23).

What is one to make of this?

Permit me to draw on the traditional vocabulary of the Elder Witcheries and to reframe the discussion in terms of “Wyrd.” Wyrd was anciently seen both as a goddess and as the inherent pattern of things: what Is, the sum total of everything that has happened until now, and the cumulative momentum towards the future inherent in that pattern. In the most abstract sense, one could say that the witches' goddess is Being, as the witches' god is Duration: in effect, Mother Nature and Father Time.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Gidden and Two Roberts

In 2009, poet and scholar-at-large Grevel Lindop published two previously-unknown letters from Robert Cochrane (1931-1966), father of the modern Old Craft movement, to poet Robert Graves (1895-1985), whose book The White Goddess had been seminal (to say the very least) to Cochrane's thinking.

The first of these letters, unfortunately undated, begins:

I have read and re-read your book, 'The White Goddess,' with admiration, utter amazement and a taint of horror. I can see your point when you write of inspirational work, and realize that it must have resulted from quite an internal 'pressure,' since from my own experience, that is the way she works. However, I am just pointing out some other factors that might interest you in the manifestation of the 'Guiden Corn' (Lindop 6).

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Gidden and Robert Cochrane

While rereading the surviving letters of Robert Cochrane (1931-1966), the father of the contemporary Old Craft movement, I was surprised to observe (not having noticed it in previous readings) that he references the Old English word gyden (“goddess”) in at least two of them.

In his third (unfortunately undated) letter to Norman Gills, Cochrane writes:

I think a certain amount of physical discomfort is essential so that the ‘Muse,’ or to give Her proper Name, the White Goddess, can descend and inspire. Likewise the (Alba) Guiden is a harsh Mistress in return for Her gifts (149).

To avoid repeating "White Goddess" in two consecutive phrases, Cochrane (in characteristically allusive style) translates the phrase into a Latin adjective and an Old English noun.

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Gidden

On the off chance that there's still anyone left out there who would contend that there has been an ongoing tradition of Goddess-worship in the English-speaking world since antiquity, I have some bad news for you: the word “goddess” itself proves that you're wrong.

But this very fact opens the door to an exciting possibility.

Compare the words for “goddess” in Modern English and its sister Germanic languages:

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you! Gidden bless you as well!
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    According to Cleasby-Vigfusson, gyðja is the feminine form of both goð, "god" and goði, "'priest'", and so means both "goddess" (a
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Gidden. I like it. I like words. gyðja isn't a word for goddess, though. Gythia is the feminine form of godhi, meaning priest or
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Gwion, stay tuned: more tomorrow.
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Oh Stephen! How I do love the word Gidden. I just used it yesterday in a multi-traditional Pagan gathering and saw a few quizzical

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Of Arrows and Garlands

One of the signature symbols of the modern Old Craft movement is the crossed arrows and garland. It is a striking and evocative image which I find, as I peruse the literature, to have occasioned much discussion but little articulation. The symbol, however, has much to tell, to those who care to ask.

These days the garlanded arrow-cross receives attention mostly as an adornment for the stang, the standing forked pole that is the unembodied image of the Horned. Most discussion seems to center around the composition of the garland (what vegetation, at what season) and its presence or absence. Rarely do I find discussion of meaning.*

In its first appearance on the public stage, though, the symbol—though associated with the stang—is freestanding. I myself first saw it in a photograph in Justine Glass' 1973 book Witchcraft, the Sixth Sense—and You. There a rather sloppily-made mixed garland of leaves, flowers, and feathers is pierced by two diagonally-crossed arrows, one with black fletching and one with white. They would seem to be mounted on a wall above what is described as a “keppen rod.” This is clearly what would later be called a “stang,” in this case not a hayfork but a pole with a curved metal end-prong, probably used for removing pots from an oven.

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The Flame Between the Horns

In Old Craft iconography, the Old Master is sometimes depicted as a horned (or antlered) skull with a flame between its horns. He is thus the Flammifer, the líht-bera, the Lucifer.

The image takes its origin from Continental trials; French witches frequently deposed that the Devil appeared at the sabbat in the form of a He-Goat with a candle burning between his horns. This is how Jeanne Bosdeau saw him at the Puy de Dôme in 1594. The witches would then light their own tapers or torches (as we still do) from the god's fire: the Lord of the Sabbat giving illumination to his people.

The witch-fire is the power of life that burns in each of us. It is said to be threefold: the fire in the head, the fire in the heart, and the fire in the loins.

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