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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in cattle raids

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Your Craft Is Too Small

When first I came to the Craft years ago, we were all young in it together, so I suppose it's something to be said that we now have old farts in our midst.

I suppose.

One such was overheard at a recent event to say that by now he'd learned all that the Craft had to teach.

I don't know which is the more striking about this statement: the arrogance, or the ignorance.

Me, I've been doing this for nigh on 50 years now and, frankly, I sometimes still feel like a beginner. For me, the Craft is an endless Sea: you could swim in it forever, but you'll never come to an end. It's deep, so deep, and it goes on forever, this Craft of ours.

Oh, the years have been hard, and sure, much has been lost. Sometimes then we must look elsewhere to find what we've lost, what was taken away. Then and there, we'll recognize it when we find it, ours to us. Then it's our work to bring it home, to bring it back home to the Craft.

But that's neither to impugn the Craft, nor to steal from someone else. When you try to live in someone else's lore, that's stealing. When you learn about your own lore from someone else's, that's Wisdom.

The Craft goes on forever. It's bigger than me, it's bigger than you, and there's never an end to it.

So to any old fart (or young one, for that matter) out there who thinks to have come to the end of the Craft, I can only say:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Cow-Count

Well, it could have been a game that Indo-European children played 6000 years ago as they rode out in wagons with their families to conquer most of the known world.

Although I doubt it.

“Why don't you two 'count cows'?” my father would say to my sister and I in the car. He'd played the game himself as a child.

Whoever ends up with the most cows wins, of course. All cows on your side of the road belong to you. With herds, this can mean some quick tabulation. You have to count out loud, and you can only keep counting while the cows are still in sight. Don't even think of cheating: there are other eyes on your cows as well.

As for the bad news: whenever you pass a graveyard on your side, you lose all your cows, and have to start over again from nothing. Like most games, it enacts the story of life itself.

By its very nature, this game can hardly have preceded the automobile. I strongly suspect that my grandparents made it up to keep fractious children distracted during long road trips.

And yet. And yet: those primal, primal images. Cows and graveyards, life and death: prima materia indeed.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Going Viking

The sad, sorry truth is that none of the old ways have come down to us intact.

None of them.

That's why we go viking.

The way of the shaper, who makes the new, is good.

The way of the merchant, who buys and sells, is also good.

But when you can't make for yourself, and there's none to be had by honest means, then betimes needs must set sails.

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There is No Life Without Cattle: A Maasai Tale

When the missionaries first came to Maasai, one clan headman asked them: How many of my favorite cattle will I be able to take to heaven with me?

To traditional Maasai, cattle are considered almost as members of the family.

None, said the missionaries. Animals can't go to heaven; they don't have souls.

That's ridiculous, said the headman. You call that eternal happiness? There is no life without cattle.

To the clan he said: There's no point listening to these guys. They don't know what they're talking about.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

As a storyteller, I tend to do much of my thinking through stories. In the ongoing discussion of cultural appropriation it seemed to me that abstract theorizing may well benefit from the wisdom of narrative. So I began casting about for a story that addressed the subject.

Theorist Cei Serith says, “When confronted with a new situation, first consult ancestral precedent.” The Received Tradition (or at least those portions of it with which I am personally conversant), has little to say on the topic of cultural appropriation directly, but in fact the practice has a surprising number of parallels with the grand old Keltic pastime (one could almost call it a sport) of the táin, the cattle-raid. The Kelts came by cattle-rustling honestly (so to speak): it would seem, in fact, to have been an ancient tradition of many Indo-European peoples (and, indeed, of pastoral cultures in general: compare the current problems with the self-same practice in South Sudan).

We have, to the best of our knowledge, no surviving mythology from the Dobunni, the Keltic tribe that inhabited the Severn basin and Cotswolds in what is now the south-west Midlands of England. (The “creation myth” that Stephen Yeates “recreates” in A Dreaming for the Witches cannot truly be called a story.) There seems to be good genetic and archaeological evidence to indicate that Dobunni population and culture survived into Anglo-Saxon times as the tribe known as the Hwicce. Maverick archaeologist Stephen Yeates would contend that the tribal religion of the Hwicce, with its strong continuities with the preceding Dobunni religion, is in fact what would become historic Witchcraft (and later, Wicca). Historical or not, it's a powerful story, for which I will admit a certain personal fondness, perhaps because some of my own ancestors hail from this same region.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    One wonders to what degree (if at all) memory of the tain remained current in 19th century Irish popular culture (before the liter
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Interestingly, I've suspected that the cattle-rustling in the American West, carried out in large part by Irish cowboys, was a cul
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks and hail, daughter of Dobunnia. Kindly give my regards to the Severn.
  • Danu Forest
    Danu Forest says #
    great stuff thanks for posting! the dobunni are thought to be the tribe where i actually live! hail the storyteller! ;-)

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