Festival of Cybele

Cybele or Kybele, an ancient Greek goddess was known for her rejection of the Greek god Zeus who lusted after her.
According to Greek Mythology Even after Cybele’s refusal to procreate with Zeus the philanderer figured out a way of seducing her.
Cybele was impregnated by Zeus and birthed a hermaphrodite demon named Agdistis. She was a wild child, so feral that all the other gods feared her. They were so frightened of the child they conspired against Agdistis and pruned off her genitals.
Legend has it from Agdistis blood loss popped an Almond tree. Later the Romans adapted their own version of Cybele and Attis.
Cybele is noted as Gaia, Earth’s oldest goddess or forest witch. Cybele’s cult is one of the oldest religions. She may have her origins in Ancient Turkey and Middle East. The Romans named her Magna Mater meaning Great Mother. and the Antoloians called her Mountain Mother. Cybele has her own tale that she was raised by Leopards in the wild after her mother abandoned her in the wilderness. Over time Cybele practiced magic becoming a forest witch and then evolving into a much revered goddess.
Above: Phrygian statue of Agdistis from mid-6th century BCE at or near Hattusa.
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Source & Reference:
*Ancient History Encyclopedia online by Donald L. Wasson
*Walton, Francis Redding (1996). “Agdistis“. In Hornblower, Simon. Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
* All Photos in Public Domain at Wikipedia
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Winter Solstice: The Yule Log

In Scandinavian countries each year during the Winter Solstice it was tradition to heave a huge log into a large hearth to commemorate the sun’s return.

Picture of Yule log courtesy of Rocksweeper.

The Yule log was usually an Oak log however, Ash was also used in order to grant wisdom and good fortune.

The women would gather to bless and cleanse the home from negative spirits. The oldest male and family members would seek out the ideal large Yule log for the hearth. They would have to anchor large ropes around it and drag it back to their home. It was considered a bad omen to cut the log from a living tree.

The Yule log was rubbed with ale, mead or whiskey and dressed with greenery.

Ornamental shapes were carved into the log, often in the image of Holda or Cailleach for the Celts, her image represented the cold, darkness and death, once tossed upon the hearth winter was exchanged for heat, light and life.

The Yule log was kept lit throughout the Winter Solstice to prevent evil spirits from entering the home and represent welcoming the Solar year.

Many ghost tales were told in front of the warm fire as well as toasts and wishes made. Over the years folks often tie their prayers and petitions to the Yule log before it is tossed into the fire. Sometimes part of the Yule log is saved for the next winter.

Source & Reference:

*Grimm, Jacob (James Steven Stallybrass Trans.) (1882). Teutonic Mythology: Translated from the Fourth Edition with Notes and Appendix Vol. I. London: George Bell and Sons.

*Picture of Yule log cutting in Public Domain.

Opera dei Pupi

Sicilian Puppet Theatre, Opera dei Pupi
dates back to the 15th century. Traditional Sicilian Folk Art uses wooden marionettes on strings and metal wires instead of hand puppets.
These marionettes vary in size from small to large.

They comprise Frankish romantic poems one for example is The Song of Roland.

The donkey carts that are used are painted with detailed scenes for the various tales that are performed by these colourful wooden marionettes.

Presently there are only a few troubadours that still travel and perform.

Source & Reference:

  • Giuseppe Guarraci “Ernesto Puzzo e l’opera dei pupi nel siracusano” AICS 2011
  • Pictures in Public Domain

Jataka Tale: The Hare in The Moon

Jataka Tales are folk tales from India, they tell of the reincarnated lives of Guatama Buddha who was the founder of Buddhism, he taught over a 45 year period. He lived in the eastern part of India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. His given first name was Siddhartha a Prince, who came from a royal family. He could not stand to see the suffering and toil of the poor and wished to help them.

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Guatama Buddha taught a Middle Way between drastic self-restraint and extreme permissiveness. He is the main character in Buddhism. He ascended to peak illumination he had accomplished Buddhahood. He shared his teachings to his students to help stop the suffering and rebirth in this world. He passed down oral tradition and writings of these teachings and tales were written 400 years later.

The Jataka Tales from India tell of the many previous lives of Buddha. They teach morals similar to the Greek Aesop’s Fables. In these tales Guatama Buddha is referred to as Bodhisattva,” since he has not yet accomplished his full-blown Buddha enlightenment. The Hare in The Moon originated from the Pali Canon as the Sasa Jataka and in the Jatakamala of Arya Sura. The famous Man in the Moon that forms the moon’s face was seen as a Hare image in the moon in Asian culture.

Sit back and enjoy this endearing tale of a very charitable Hare and his three friends.

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The Hare in The Moon

Once upon a time the Bodhisattva was reincarnated as a hare. He inhabited a lush green forest among soft grass and fancy ferns, amidst crawling vines and succulent indigeous orchids. The lush beryl woods was framed by a beautiful blue-green river like an Aquamarine gem stone.

This particular jungle was a spiritual refuge for mystics who wander far away from the world to heed their spiritual calling and to reflect on it. These mystics survived on the food given to them by the benevolent villagers. The villagers gave alms joyfully as it was considered their divine duty.

The Bodhisattva hare was blessed with three companions, an otter, a monkey and a jackal (sometimes a fox in other versions) The three friends looked to the hare as their leader. The wise hare taught them the gravity of the giving of alms, how to observe the holy days and keep the moral laws. The Hare on the Hallowday encouraged his friends to be generous and give their own food when a hungry person in need asked for food.

One Hallowday Sakra, lord of devas observed the four companions from his lofty, palace made from marble built on the peak of Mount Meru. Sakra made a decision to test the friends virtue.  During that day the four companions decided to separate in search for food. The otter discovered seven redfish on a riverbank; the monkey picked mangoes from the trees while the jackal came across a lizard resting beside an abandoned container of sour milk.

Sakra transformed into a Brahman (priest) and he said to the otter, “I am hungry friend. I need some food so I can achieve my priestly duties. Can you help me? The kind otter offered the seven redfish that he had collected for his own meal.

Next the Brahman went to the monkey and said ” I am hungry friend, I need food so I can achieve my priestly duties. Can you help me?The generous monkey donated to the Brahman the ripe mangoes that he had desired to eat for himself.

Again, the Brahman went to the jackal and said ” I am hungry friend, I need food so I can achieve my priestly duties. Can you help me?The benevolent jackal donated to the Brahman the sour milk and the lizard which he had planned to eat for his own meal.

Soon after, the Brahman went to the hare and asked for food, but the hare had no food. The hare only ate the lush green grass that grew in the forest. So the Bodhisattva told the Brahman to build a  fire, and when the fire began burning , he said “I have nothing to give you to eat but myself!” Then the unselfish hare hopped into the fire.

Sakra was still disguised as a Brahman. He was totally surprised and deeply touched by the hare’s chivalrous act. He immediately quenched the fire so the dear hare was not burned from the flames. Sakra revealed his true form to the noble hare. “Dear friend,” he said, “Your virtue will be remembered throughout the ages.” Next, Sakra painted the enlightened hare’s image on the pale face of the Moon for everyone to view forever.

Sakra returned to his magnificent palace on Mount Meru, and the four furry friends lived  out their long and happy lives in the lush green forest. To this day, when you look up at the full moon you can see the image of the self-sacrificing hare.

The End.

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Indian Hare Photo above: credit to N.A Nazeer  Public Domain

 

 

 

 

Sources & References:

*John Strong (2004). Relics of the Buddha. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11764-0.

*All Pictures and Photos in the Public Domain

 

 

 

 

Icelandic Body Folklore: Necropants

Icelandic Body Folklore of the Nábrók and the Nábrókarstafur.

There are two sides to Folklore. One is light and cheerful like folk dancing and some folk music. Then there is a dark side that presents itself as sheer terrifying like this  Icelandic folklore about real human necropants.
Nábrók means “death underpants!” (No I’m not joking!)
They’re a pair of pants made from the skin of a dead man, according to Icelandic witchcraft, generates a limitless money cache.

The photo below is a replica of a pair of nábrók at The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft.

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The Magick Ritual:
Legend dictates, in order create your own necropants or nábrók, one has to attain approval from the living person in order to use their skin for this ritual after they have expired.

This gruesome ritual states once the deceased man has been buried, he must be dug up and excoriate in one piece his skin from the waist down.

When you step into the skin of the cadaver the Nábrók will fuse itself to your lower body.

Next, you must pillage a coin from a poor widow and place in the scrotum with the magical sigil,  nábrókarstafur, penned on a scrap of paper.

Then, the coin will attract money continuously into the scrotum as long as no one disturbs the initial coin.

The Christian twist to this is for one that desires to attain salvation, the owner of the necropants must convince an unwary male to accept ownership of the nábrók and pop into the pants immediately.

The nábrók will continue producing coins for ages.
Icelandic Sigil of the nábrókarstafur.

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The magical symbol above, is part of the ritual and at its feet are coins.

-Written by NiftyBuckles©2018

 

 

Source and References:

Sigurður, Atlason (14 November 2005). “Stave for Necropants”. Strandagaldur, Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft.

Puffins in Folklore

When we think of Puffins we visualize a funny, colorful bird wearing a small clown costume. Did you know that Puffins appeared in the thirteenth century Icelandic book Snorra-Edda? Puffins are called lundi by Icelanders and refers to lend, meaning ( lower back and hips) and lund ( muscle that parallels the spine.)

Puffin art by J. Dawson 1980.

puffins

The Puffin/lundi were once hunted for food and they were hit over the head with large clubs. The Puffin population was dwindling much like the now extinct Dodo bird. Historically, the Dodo was a non-flying bird that lived on the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It became extinct in the mid seventeenth century during the colonization of the island by the Dutch.

John Tenniel’s illustration of the Dodo in “A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale”. An illustration from Alice in Wonderland. Public Domain

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According to Icelandic folklore, Puffins or lundi are able to predict stormy weather. They will fly onto the land two to three days before a gale. Many fishermen would watch the Puffins/lundi to see where they dove into the water, this was a sure sign that many fish were located at that site.

In Inuit culture some tribes would collect Puffin bills and create a musical instrument called “a shaker,” that had magical powers to heal the sick.

The Irish revered the Puffin and would not eat them. The Puffin was believed to be a sacred bird that the reincarnated souls of monks dwelt in them.

According to Scottish folklore back in the nineteenth century a man that was a bit daft was named a Tammie-Norrie, which is a pet name of a Puffin/lundi. In Cornish folklore King Arthur was a reincarnated Raven or Puffin. Legend says King Arthur would appear in said forms to his favorite places.

Photo: Puffins  (public domain)

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Source and Reference:

Petersen, Aevar (1976). “Size variables in puffins Fratercula arctica from Iceland, and bill features as criteria of age. Ornis Scandinavica. 7 (2): 185–192. doi:10.2307/3676188. JSTOR 3676188.

Lockwood, W. B. (1993). The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names. Oxford University Press. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-19-866196-2.

 

Beannaichte Hogmanay! Celtic Traditions to Welcome The New Year.

Beannaichte Hogmanay!

Happy Hogmanay!

Happy New Year!

Hogmanaybagpipes

The Scottish celebration of Hogmanay is close at hand. Hogmanay is the Gaelic word for the last day of the year, celebrated on New Year’s eve.

This is the time of year when Celtic folks in Scotland gather together to welcome in the New Year and say Farewell or in Scot’s Gaelic, Soraidh, to the old year.

Several sources cite that Gaelic origins grew from French or Norse language or an older version of gaelic. New year ceremonies and mid-winter observance were natural in both Gaelic and Norse traditions. Hogmanay is a larger celebration in Scotland and predates the Christian Christmas. According to Scotland’s own website Scotland.org  The Word Hogmany originated from the Norman French from hoguinan (a New Year’s gift). They  also mention it’s a modification of the Gaelic og maidne (new morning), the Flemish hoog min dag (day or love) or, an Anglo Saxon haleg monath (holy month). The largest Hogmany festival is held in Edinburgh.

Historians also believe Hogmanay originated from a winter solstice festival introduced by the Vikings, for whom the passing of the shortest day was a cause for celebration, given how far north they lived. This Viking influence combined with the existing Gaelic pagan traditions to form the climactic torch parades through Edinburgh and other Scottish cities.

 First Footing:

According to Scotland.org  The ‘First Footing’ – “the ‘first foot’ in the house after midnight is still very common is Scotland. To ensure good luck, a first footer should be a dark-haired male. Fair-haired first footers were not particularly welcome after the Viking invasions of ancient times. Traditional gifts include a lump of coal to lovingly place on the host’s fire, along with shortbread, a black bun and whisky to toast to a Happy New Year.”

Remember to always bring a gift and have dark hair when first footing a home. It will bring good luck!

Redding the House:

Similar to the west’s spring cleaning rituals when a main clean-up is done to prepare the house for the New Year. Sweeping or cleaning out one’s  chimney was a paramount tradition. ‘Out with the Old and In with the New!’ Some folks are skilled in reading the ashes, similar to  tea leaf readings. This is a critical time of year when fire plays a huge vast part in celebrations, it’s only natural to bring a bit of it into the house.

The Saining of the House:

Once the house was clean, the woman of the house would carry a smoking Juniper branch. This is termed smudging or cleansing the home of negative energy or evil spirits that could cause illness.

 Fire Festivals & Bon Fires:

The Vikings may have introduced the use of fire to purify and banish evil spirits which is an ancient custom. Fire is at the center of several Hogmanay celebrations in Biggar, Comrie, Stonehaven, and the largest is at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival.

Hogmanay

Auld Lang Syne:

Hogmanay in Scotland includes a warm rendition of Auld Lang Syne, of this endearing poem by the Scottish national bard, Robert Burns or Rabbie Burns. The Scots link arms and hands while they sing this famous poem.

Tradition dictates that arms are only linked at the start of the final verse. Folks link hands and arms in a circle, they rush to the middle of the circle while still holding hands at the end of the song. Many other English speaking cultures now practice this tradition.

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The Scottish lyrics of Auld lang Syne by Robert Burns in 1788, set to the melody of the traditional folk song Raud.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!

and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,

frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

Here is the English Version.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne? (long, long, ago)

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!

and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,

and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,

from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!

And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

 

 

Sources & Reference:

Scotland.org website

The Concise Scots Dictionary Cambers (1985) ISBN 0-08-028491-4

“The Origins, History and Traditions of Hogmanay”, The British Newspaper Archive