Questions


In my opinion, the most important thing a witch or a pagan can do is ask questions.  Not just of others, but also of yourself and the path that you are on.  I have been a pagan now for eight years, and through the years have found that some of what I originally thought was correct turned out to be incorrect.

My stance has changed because I have read various books or had discussions with people, asked myself questions and came to a different answer than one I had originally.  Or my deities have told me differently.

If someone asks you a question it does not necessarily mean that they disagree with you.  They may be asking because they are trying to figure out what you have said, for curiosity or to see if what you have said has any relevance to them and their path.

Sometimes I ask myself questions and come to the same answer as I had before.  It’s never time wasted, because then I have thought through the answer and therefore I know that what I am doing is right.  Then it’s not something someone else has told me, it’s something that I know.  There is nothing wrong with learning from others, but I make sure I understand and therefore know what I have been told, whether it’s from people or deities.  If I don’t, I ask questions till I do.

There are always fools who will shout “you’re questioning my path!!!” loudly when you ask them a question.  In my opinion, they are insecure about themselves and what they are (or most probably are not) doing.  I stay clear of these people, because how can you grow in your path if you don’t ask questions?

I like people asking me questions because it makes me think about my path, and sometimes think about something which I’ve never thought of before, as others will have a different perspective on things.

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The Book of the Dead


For my birthday we went to The British Museum to see an exhibition on the Egyptian text The Book of the Dead.

The Book of the Dead is a text that was first inscribed on coffins and then put into the coffins of Egyptian mummies.  It contains instructions for the ba, or soul of the dead person to get beyond the various protectors of the afterlife, which once passed become guardians.

It also has many protective spells for the dead.  Most of these are protection against various beasts, for example crocodiles and snakes, and these spells could be used in life as well as in the afterlife.

It turns out that there were multiple books of the dead, as some scribes were merely copyists and copied from a faulty master copy.  Other scribes could understand the whole text and at times amended it.  In later centuries the book of the dead was shortened.

This exhibition cost £12 to get into and is detailed, scholarly and well worth the price.  The audio guides cost £4.50, but half of the commentary is from the museum director, so I also thought it was well worth the price.  The exhibition as a whole is a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in Egypt.  There is also a book accompanying the exhibition http://www.amazon.co.uk/Journey-Through-Afterlife-Ancient-Egyptian/dp/0714119938/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290191759&sr=1-2 which I am planning to buy.

The exhibit is open till 6th March, children and members have free admission.

Netiquette, or Forum Etiquette


I have been on forums since 2002 and have been (and in one case still am) a mod.  A lot of people come on forums who have no idea how to behave which is why I’m writing this guide.

The most important thing to do is to read the rules.  Yes, it’s really boring, but the rules tell you what is expected, and not expected of your behaviour on the forums.  Sometimes there are rules there that I didn’t expect.  For example, one forum I am on doesn’t allow links in messages.

If you don’t intend to obey the rules of the forum, then please do everyone, including yourself, a favour and don’t join.  If you ignore the rules then it will take about a month for the mods to throw you out and you will have gone through a lot of aggravation by then.

If there is an introduction forum then the next most important thing to do is to introduce yourself before posting anything else.  In an introduction, the best thing to be is yourself.  If you pretend to be a hereditary witch with a couple of decades’ experience then you will be found out within your first few posts.  We all had to start somewhere and we were all once new to witchcraft and/or paganism at some point.

A few dos and don’ts : when typing a post please don’t use text speak as us oldies can’t understand it.  Also please post in a colour that makes it easy for people to read.  For example, yellow writing on a white background is very difficult for anyone to read.  If you type in capitals, that will be deemed as shouting.  And lastly, but most importantly : don’t put any of your phone numbers, home address or email address on a forum where anyone can read them.  It’s really not safe, and if you need to give someone any of this information send them a private message.

In most forums it’s quite acceptable to lurk and read messages until you get the hang of things.  Also remember that no-one on any forum knows everything.  One person may have a lot of herbal knowledge while another will be great at spells.  When I first came on to forums I thought that the mods were all-wise and all-knowing and within my first year I realised that a lot of them had become mods because they were friends of other mods and didn’t actually know a lot!

Quatrains


Quatrains are a form of Irish poetry, written with four verses to a line.  They combine a fixed line length with a polysyllabic rhyming scheme.  I have recently finished my first quatrain, and I don’t mind telling you that it has taken me two months to write.

I chose to write a quatrain as part of a ritual to bind a tree to my tribe.  It was the goddess Sianon who told me to do this and guided me to our tree, which is an ash tree.

I had downloaded an article from the net a while back on writing quatrains and since Sianon is an Irish deity I thought it would be appropriate to write a quatrain.

My quatrain is only one verse (more would have taken far too long and if you’re new to a thing it’s best to keep it simple) but it is the most powerful thing I have written to date.

The Irish poets and druids could curse people with poetry; making satires against people they did not like.  There is a form in the texts called “Glám Diceann” and this form would probably have used quatrains. The Glám Diceann is a curse declaimed by a poet when standing on one leg, closing one eye and extending one arm.  This form of poetry was a potent curse which could blister an opponent’s face or lose him his life.  In addition, a victim of Glám Diceann would be shunned by the community.

I’ve used a form of quatrain called “Ae Freslighe” in which all the lines have seven syllables.  The first and the third verses must rhyme and have at the end of their lines a word which is the length of three syllables.  The second and fourth lines must also rhyme and have at the end of their lines a word which is the length of two syllables.  On top of this the first word in the poem must also be the last word of the poem.

This is why it took me two months to write four lines of poetry.  I’ve had experience writing haikus and my non-ritualistic and non-magic poetry is better when it’s in a constrained form, so that did not give me much trouble.  It was the rhymes that I found very difficult to write as I’m not used to rhymes.

I was introduced to rhyming when I started writing spells and now I’m pretty comfortable rhyming with monosyllabic words, but if it’s more than one syllable I find it difficult.  But just because something’s difficult doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done.  Sometimes the rewards are well worth the trouble gone to to do it.

Samhain and Wayland’s Smithy


Samhain is the Irish name for this festival, which modern-day wiccans have appropriated.  The Welsh name is Calan Gaeaf.

For Samhain we went to Wayland’s Smithy, which is an iron age burial mound.  Neither of us have family graves/ashes for a good few hundred miles, so we honour the dead there.

Previous people had lit a candle in the chamber.  We made offerings of hair and my betrothed suggested an offering of two tuppenny pieces, which we pushed into the stones.  Afterwards the car did get re-shoed (new tyre put on that day got a flat) but we need to see what the garage say to decide whether that was a normal or occult experience.  More on this later.

The next day was Samhain itself.  We lit candles in the kitchen and had our food there, while telling stories about our dead relatives and dead cats.  We also performed the dumb supper.

The dumb supper is when you lay out a place for your dead relatives with all the food and drink you would eat.  You have your meal and then throw away any uneaten food.

We also did a dead roll, which is when you recite the names of dead relatives (we also added the names of dead cats) and I used it to invite them in.  We didn’t see any of the dead this year, but hopefully we will next year.

The Druids


This is a book on the druids as seen by the Roman Empire.  It compares and contrasts accounts of the druids from the Graeco-Roman period and also concerns itself about what was going on in that period of the time.

This book will be very interesting to anyone who has studied accounts of druids by the Graeco-Romans, but unfortunately this is the first book I have read on the druids and I found myself losing interest in the book.  Obviously I need to read more about what was written about the druids by the Graeco-Romans and then come back to this book.

I did find the part on the etymology of the word “druid” interesting: it seems that scholars have cast doubt on the fact that it is tied to the oak.

This book is interesting from a scholarly perspective; from a pagan perspective it will not do anything to improve your practice of paganism.