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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Hwicce

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Stands-In-the-Sky

In the old language of the Witches, frith means “peace.”

They say that it's also the name of the Goddess of the Rainbow.

Why? Not difficult.

Daughter of Sun and Thunder, contentious couple that they are, she is child of their reconciliation.

Last new moon I set out for our coven meeting just before sunset. Although the day had been gray and rainy throughout, suddenly the clouds parted and everything began to glow with a long, red equinox light.

And there in the east She stood in the sky with Her twin sister, vast and shining.

I live in a gritty urban neighborhood where it's sound practice to be a little chary of people you pass on the street.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Sacred River of the Witches

If you look at a map of England, you'll see on the southwestern side of the island, between Cornwall and Wales, a large waterway reaching inland from the Atlantic. This is the Estuary (in Witch, it would be “Firth”) of the River Severn.

The Severn, Britain's longest river, is traditionally considered a “female” river, its patron deity a goddess.

In its valley and throughout its watershed there dwelt, some 1300 years ago, the Anglo-Saxon tribe known as the Hwicce, from whom, some would say, derive the witches of today. And indeed, plenty of witches still live along the Lady Severn, though most of us now live elsewhere.

In any given landscape, the names of the largest rivers will always give access to the oldest reachable underlying linguistic substratum. (Think of the Mississippi, Ojibwe for “Big River.”) And so it is for the Severn.

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Earth and Her Two Husbands: A Folk-Tale of the Latter-Day Hwicce

Well now, Earth had a dilemma on her hands, and no mistake.

Two she loved, and how to choose between them?

Sun: so beautiful, so steady, him of the piercing insight.

And Thunder: so passionate and irascible, so wild and unpredictable.

And how to choose between the two?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Milk of the Mother

Taste the milk, the milk of the Mother:

drink from the fountain, the fountain of life.

(Paganistani chant)

Roughly 9000 years ago, some of my ancestors underwent a genetic mutation that enabled them to continue drinking milk into adulthood.

Boy, am I ever glad that they did.

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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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