How the blog works
The poems on this blog are mostly written on the basis of my historical reading and are intended to be both educational and entertaining.
Recently I have also begun posting some of my work with Anglo-Saxon charms. This work is somewhat speculative and is conducted as an amateur researcher and keen Pagan historian.
Please feel free to use anything on this site as a resource if you think that it may be relevant to your needs.
Sunday, 30 December 2012
Saturday, 29 December 2012
Friday, 28 December 2012
Thursday, 27 December 2012
Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Tuesday, 25 December 2012
Monday, 24 December 2012
Friday, 21 December 2012
Introduction to Yule (Geola)
This period, like the roman Saturnalia was between the months of December and January. All the Anglo-Saxon months followed the Luna cycle. This was a twelve day period of feasting. The fields were mostly left until February when ploughing would begin again. Compare with, for example, the Polish tradition of keeping your Christmas tree up until Candlemas. In England until recent times ploughing did not recommence until Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night.
Wuldorfadur ‘glory father’ representing the Solar Logos, was mentioned by Bede in his ‘On the Computation of Time’
Little is known about the winter goddess, but I infer from parallel Germanic traditions that it may have been Hella.
Modra Niht ’Holy Mothers' Night’ (24th Dec) was again taken from, Bede’s ‘On the computation of time. Unfortunately we don’t know what happened on this night, but by the time of Bede it had become the start of the new year.
Growing colder, by the degree.
Betwixt two months, Geola be,
Best stay inside, we doth agree,
Feast and wassail, blessing on thee.
For three short days, the sun hangs still,
In three more days, the new year’s chill.
And so let us, await until,
Wuldorfadur’s, feat to fulfil.
Rejoice us this, most sacred time,
The sun wilt soon, start his slow clime.
For twelve days feast, thy time art thine!
Raise thine goblet, sun wilt soon shine.
Winter goddess, we doth Invoke,
And leave the meads, until Imbolc.
Gather within, yon groves of oak,
And sing galdors, in hood and cloak.
Modra Niht was, Holy Mothers' Night,
Hail the Goddess, returning light.
By means of light, shalt thee invite.
Night of mothers', still secret rite,
Wheel of the year, she starts to turn,
Of summers warmth, we doth yet yearn.
The sun climes high, and starts to burn,
Wuldorfadur, thee shalt return!
Copyright Andrew Rea November 2012
Saturday, 15 December 2012
First Day of Yule (remember Yule is all about having fun at the darkest time of the year)
Winter Solstice, the First Day of Yule,
Twelve days, ending in festive misrule.
Deck the home, with ivy and mistletoe,
Erect the Yule tree, with candles aglow.
A remnant of, the previous years log,
Light, the Yule bower as the prologue.
Thunder god Thunor’s holy, tree is oak,
Blessings be on, his name by all folk.
Oak is the best, will last and burn true,
If you haven’t a log, a candle will do.
Saturnalia as, the Romans would say,
Slaves and masters, tomfoolery day.
Copyright Andrew Rea 2007
Sunday, 9 December 2012
Introduction to "Wōdnesdæg"
This poem is based on the everyday worship of Wodan by a peasant in a sacred forest clearing by an old oak tree.
While a full blot would have been attended by the whole village and led by a priest of Wodan with an animal sacrifice, here however, we see everyday worship of Wodan by a peasant asking for a favour.
The ownership of even a single cow or ox was confined to only about half the population and other livestock was too important to sacrifice except on important festivals e.g. during Blotmonath (November). So I conjecture that on this Wednesday only bread is sacrificed and mead is used for the pledge.
While some temples did exist to Wodan with enclosed spaces and statues, it was also common to Worship him in sacred groves, glades, hilltops, rivers, pools and other natural features. A priest of Wodan was not permitted to carry a sword or blade.
Liminal moments such as full moon, twilight or rising of moon were endowed with magic. Sacred oaks were used to bare witness to oaths. Wodan's two wolves and ravens manifest in name. The reference to 'Squirrel climes the tree' is a candid reference to the legend of the tree of Yggdrasil.
Galdor-cræft - conjuring spirits by chanting, singing or spell crafting
Middangeard - the realm of man
Wæs hæl - OE for wassail (your health)
Drychten - lord
Æsir - the principal gods
Asgard – the realm of the gods
Translation of the OE stanza:
Wodan make sacred!
Our Wodan that is in heaven,
Your name is holy.
What we need give us today,
Be done your will!
And yes I borrowed most of it from the Lord’s Prayer because it seemed to fit!
Knee length brown tunic, in warp and weft weaves,
Embroidered red hems, to neck and long sleeves.
Patterned belt buckle, and pointed strap-end,
Pouches and short knife, ready to attend.
No temple doth stand, within sacred glade,
No priest of Wodan, without sword and blade.
Deep in dark forest, rising of full moon,
Holy hearth clearing, rite of ritual rune.
Blot without a beast, in woodland twilight,
Loaf of best baked bread, awaiting moon light.
Half horn of mild mead, torn old ochre cloak,
An oath to exchange, at thousand year oak.
Liminal moment, charged with special power,
Offering laid down, at base of the bower.
Consecrated grove, spirit witness tree,
Healer of nine herbs, I doth invoke thee.
Wodan ure þu þe eart on heofonum,
Si þin nama gehalgod.
Hwæt we nied syle us todæg,
Gewurþe ðin willa!
Listening for Freki, in torn cloak with hood,
Middangeard doth fade, in winter's wild wood.
Leader of 'Wild Hunt’, Wodan magic lord,
Thine will be'est done, unto thine accord.
Howling wolves hard by, about on the tor,
Cracking of branches, beneath Geri's paw.
Ravens rustle trees, cold cry of Hugin,
Forest falls silent, awaiting Munin.
Raising horn wæs hæl, “Drychten I beseech",
Making Wodan pledge, as the witches teach.
Aesir in Asgard, I give thee my word,
Squirrel climes the tree, my favour is heard!
Copyright Andrew Rea October 2012
Sunday, 2 December 2012
Introduction to 'December' (Ærra Geola)
This poem describes some of the preparations for Yule (Geola) during Saxon times. Much of the material comes from 'The Good Reeve', a kind of farming handbook of late Saxon era.
December (Ærra Geola)
The Anglo-Saxon, month before Yule,
Twilight darkness, long night to rule.
The sacred time, darkest of year
Shadows shiver, have thee no fear.
In muddy mire, up with thine hood,
Fallen timber, working wild wood.
Form ash faggots, for Yuletide fire,
Half height pit hut, heave them higher.
Long winter nights, still working hard,
Corn drying kilns, warm in the yard.
Bitter coldness, becometh cruel,
Time to gather, winter's last fuel.
Yule corn to thresh, and husk winnow,
Protect thine foul, from wolves and snow.
Keep animals safe, be on thine guard,
Long winter nights, time for the bard.
Twelve days of Yule, she draweth near,
In old pit hut, we brew best beer.
Yuletide feasting, to celebrate,
Even the sun, he gets up late.
Copyright Andrew Rea November 2012
Sunday, 25 November 2012
‘Here be witches’ Introduction
This poem recalls some Anglo-Saxon place names that refer to witches.
Several old English words were often used to refer to a witch (hexe, hexen, haegtesse, hag and calliach). these names morphed over time. Walkern has been included as the name is said to have been chosen by the devil and the last person (Jane Wenham) to be condemned for witchcraft was ducked in the village pond in 1710.
Hekse and hexen, hægtesse and witch,
Since Saxon times did, our landscape enrich.
Cailleach kerling, and hag art the same,
Concealed and hidden, within a place name.
Valley of witch's, Hascombe in Surrey,
The hag she sleeps sound, no need to worry.
Still cleanses the land, no spell need she sing.
Carlinghow Yorkshire, the old woman's hill,
Much holly and oak, grows on the tor still.
Sacred oak grove, noble hag resting place,
Field names refer to, the sun and oaks grace.
Two old woman's hills, there be in Yorkshire,
This one worked iron, did hag interfere?
Coal pit long since closed, did kerling obstruct,
Flooded with water, now village is ducked.
Valley of witches, Hescombe Somerset,
Both hamlets were lost, when Black Death they met.
Now only fields on, the ground to be seen,
Removed without trace, did hex intervene.
Chosen by devil, was village Walkern,
Walk on one and all, and do not return.
The last witch was ducked, in dark village pond,
Saxon church still stands, till Jane points her wand.
Hessenford Cornwall, perhaps witch's ford?
This village still stands, ye witches ignored.
Beware of those that, thee can’t tell apart,
For they art adept, at Cornish dark art.
Copyright January 2012 Andrew Rea
Monday, 19 November 2012
This poem is my adaptation of the translation of Lacnunga CXXXIV-CXXXV, which forms part of a medical text from circa 1050. The name means against a sudden stich and could apply to anything from a stich to acute appendicitis. The words would have been use in conjunction with a herbal preparation and the use of ritual. The use of magic is apparent.
The reference to ‘a little spear’ refers to elf shot which was fired by dark elves (these were the latter day demonised version of the early Saxon light elves). The shot was forged by the Smithas.
‘The mighty women’ refers to Haegtesse (hag) which were groups of terrifying supernatural females that rode over the land causing harm, the origin of the word hag, also meaning witch.
Notice that the penultimate verse contains a lot of repartition, this was common in Anglo-Saxon galdors (spells or charms).
The last verse sets out that wherever the shot came from (man, elf or hag) that this is the cure.
With Faerstice (against a sudden stitch)
Based on: - Lacnunga CXXXIV-CXXXV
Loud were they, when they rode over the mound,
They were fierce, when they rode over the ground.
Shield thyself now, that thee this evil win.
Out now, little spear, if thee be herein!
Stood under linden, under a light shield,
Where the mighty women, their power sealed,
And their screaming spears, now to be sent.
I back to them, again another went,
A flying dart, be returned to thine kin,
Out thee little spear, if thee be herein!
Sat elfin smithy, forged he a knife long,
Little iron elf shot, in the wound strong.
Out little spear, if thou be’est herein!
Six smithies sat working, war-spears they spin.
Out thou retched spear, thou be not in spear!
If a small bit of iron, be in here.
Haegtesse thy effort, it shalt now rot,
If were in skin shot, or were in flesh shot,
Or were in blood shot, or were in bone shot,
Or were in limb shot, may thee beat her plot.
If it were sir’ shot, or it elves' shot be,
Or it were hag's shot, now I willst help thee.
This cure for ’sir shot, this cure for elves' shot,
This thine cure for hag's shot; I willst help thee.
No rest for it, into the hills It flea,
Whole be’est thee now, Divine Lord help thee!
Copyright Andrew Rea 2010
Sunday, 11 November 2012
Drawing down the moon
By the vigor of my acorns,
I do call thee down from above.
By the might of my burly bowers,
I do summon thee with my love.
By the breeze in my supple branches,
By the warmth of my growing shoots.
By the sap rising in my trunk,
By the firm earth beneath my roots.
Show yourself to us thy servants,
Draw down the moon and us address.
Reveal thine profound mystery,
Enter the body of thy priestess.
Copyright Andrew Rea March 2010
Thursday, 8 November 2012
Stir up Sunday (November 25th)
Stir up Sunday, Its Christmas pudding day,
All stir the pudding, lets go have a play.
Stir from east to west, good fortune for to be,
With 13 ingredients, a blessing unto thee.
A silver coin will bring, wealth to the finder,
Keep it safe till Christmas, who’ll be the minder?
A lucky life thimble, if thee do discover,
A ring to bring marriage, it may be thine lover.
Copyright Andrew Rea 2009
Friday, 2 November 2012
Blotmonath, the month of blood and sacrifice,
Culling the weakest, or paying the price.
Not enough fodder, in the barn to keep,
All of the animals, so we must reap.
In honour of the gods, we sacrifice,
Preparations before, the months of Ice.
Meat is laid down, for the winter and feast,
Frosty winds now blow, suns power has ceased.
But let us rejoice, mead cup bearing boys,
All join in the feast, and share in the joys.
Delight in the spread, and line the benches,
Drink hail now me lads, to those young wenches.
Spells be laid to, blunt the blade of coldness,
Darkest frosty days, where art thou boldness.
Dreadful Goblins, Grendel bog to banish,
Earthen dwarfs, in Nida’vel’lir to vanish.
Greybeards hath they, endured cruel winter tides,
In dead of night, the darkest elf now strides.
Spirit spell to cast, dark elves to Svartheim,
Let us live to see, another summer time!
Copyright Andrew Rea 2009
Monday, 22 October 2012
Here be ghosts
Introduction to ‘Here be ghosts’
This is another poem looking at places with variations of the Anglo-Saxon word for ghost in their names. It is suggested that place names form a kind of palimpsest, layered meaning to our landscape. Grimley was given to the church for absolution by a king. Grimescar wood is an as yet unexcavated Roman settlement. Skinburness slid into the sea. All that is left of Scuccan Hlau is a hole in the ground!
Here be Ghosts
The earth still abounds, with phantom’s remains,
Saxon palimpsest, ghostly village names.
Illusion or real, in name to preserve,
The ghostly remains, and spectre to serve.
Grimley from grima, Saxon for Spectre,
Ghostly woodland glade, his soul’s protector.
King of Mercians, gave up the ghost land,
So he with angels, in heaven could stand.
Yorkshire Grimescar wood, is spectre’s skerry,
Phantasm in glade, away with the fairy.
The ghosts of Romans, still trapped in the wood,
Wassailing flagons, found where they once stood.
Grimshaw in Pendle, small wood with a stream,
In centre of wood, they can’t hear thee scream.
Copse haunted by ghost, Saxon’s styled the wood,
For a thousand years, coppice it has stood.
Old Nordic skyrsi, Viking phantasm,
Skirse Gill in Yorkshire, is spectre’s chasm.
Dry stone pen over, earthly incision,
Manifestation, or ghostly vision.
Skirsgill Hill Cumbria, ancient settlement,
Its last standing stone, sings Nordic lament.
On industrial park, hidden away,
Used to be honoured, first Sunday in May.
Skinburness headland, on phantasm coast,
Saxon’s said scinna, where now we say ghost.
Village in salt marsh, with ghostly stronghold,
Then vanished under, into the sea cold.
Saxon Scuccan Hlau, was the spectre’s mound,
Became Warren farm, water hole in ground.
Fertile Nerthus earth, was taken away,
Spectres spirits ghosts, have had the last say.
Monday, 15 October 2012
Grimston a message from the past
introduction to ‘Grimston (ghost settlement) a message from the past’
This poem focuses on a hamlet and old peoples home just outside of York on the road to Stamford Bridge. The landscape around contains many towns and features called through their many Saxon names after significant constructs. For reasons of clarity all the Saxon words on the modern map are translated into modern English within the poem.
Grimston – a message from the past?
Were Yorkshire village, Grimston it was named,
Ghost wood to west dial, hast not yet been tamed.
Reduced so only, does hamlet remain,
The ghost farm hamlet, on elf friendly lane.
Lying south east dial, village of elf friends,
Where elf friendly lane, cunningly extends.
Witch friendly village, it lays to the west,
To south dial village, is death ditch possessed.
North dial witches wood, south dial witches wood,
But here thirteen hearth, ghost hall it once stood.
Death ditch to south dial, or is drake a beast?
But thirteen hearth hall, is long since deceased.
Grew ghost manor where, there once stood ghost hall,
Then ghost court arose, and manor did fall.
Now ghost court awaits, the angel of death,
And folk take their last, shallow ghostly breath.
Saxon messages, through time they have passed,
Death ditch or dragon, warning from the past?
Elves witches and ghosts, in landscape around,
Still angle of death, is to the land bound.
Copyright Andrew Rea March 2012
Thursday, 11 October 2012
Angel of death
Note: this poem was inspired by separate conversations with three nurses that had worked on terminal wards. All of which could recount several cases, as witnessed first hand, of a person who was in their last hours or days apparently seeing another person standing by their bed that was not in corporeal form to be seen by the nurse. Some nurses see this as a sign that the end is near.
In this poem we imagine ourselves back in Saxon times as the healer in the village comes to her end and is greeted by the kindly angle of death (Wodan was also called Grimr) to guild her to the other world. I have made her very old for the period, about 60. A study concluded that 97.5% of people were dead by 50 during Saxon times. The description of her abode is based on archaeological evidence. The reference to aelf shot is from medical books of the time, see Lacnunga and leech books, and refers to any disease caused by an aelf firing an invisible arrow into you, e.g. any viral infection. A galdor is a charm, spell or incantation, from galan= to sing (preserved in the word nightingale). Heofon is the forerunner to heaven. The way of Wyrd was a fatalistic world view where there was an underlying connecting principle, similar to the way of Tao.
Angel of death
Small pit hut, with reeds on the floor,
No windows but, an oaken door.
Copper cauldron, over fire stone,
Warn old thatched roof, medicinal crone.
Old wise wife man, soon to be gone,
Healing people, thirty years long.
The angel of death, now close by,
Helping her to, depart and die.
The last night tide, here at last,
Toiling in meads, forty years passed.
On wooden bed, and straw there laid,
With elder daughter, there to aid.
Herbs in mead, carefully uproot,
Fifty years finding, nuts and fruit.
Survived she war, plague and child birth,
Gaest she soon, to mother earth.
Weapon man gone, many a year,
Sixty winters, soon on her bier.
In small village, eldest was she,
But aelf shot did, she not foresee.
Daughter now older, than most folk,
Waiting for Wodan, wrapped in cloak.
Mother’s galdors, not all well learnt,
Which fragrant herbs, should beest burnt.?
Runes to charm, hot cauldron to brew,
Which herbs to keep, the mixture true.
Where when how, healing herbs to find,
No one morrow, her to remind.
Oh Heofon death, where art thy sting,
Kind angel of death, other world bring.
In the morrow, another day,
The children play, this is Wyrd’s way.
Copyright Andrew Rea 2010