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Craft of the Wise

December, 03, 2004

Earthwisdom takes up the banner of providing the pagan community a central portal on the myth, magick, ledgend, herstory, and history of the ancient Craft of the Wise. Here is the realm where the deep and rich heritage of both ancient and modern forms of the Old Religion of the Earth will be explored. We shall wander through both the academic and non-academic traditions in search of the truth of our ancient heritage. To understand what it means to be a member of the Earth Religious community in a world community that seems both politically and socially unable to discover how to live together on this planet. Does the Craft of the Wise offer an alternative to the present malaise in our post-modern cultural shift? Can we as a community begin to understand the deeper and abiding truths that shaped our ancient ancestors and take those truths and apply them in our lives today? We at Earthwisdom feel it is necessary to grasp the past, present, and future of our ancient religous traditions and shape our high standards on a solid understanding of this vital and living heritage. So come and explore with us the worlds of the Old Religion of the Craft over the next few months and years. For now enjoy the personal essay below as an introduction to my own quest to understand and be a part of this great community...

Honor, Integrity and Accountability

Anyone who has been on the Internet for a length of time will know that it is shaping and re-shaping the way we perceive and live our lives on Mother Earth. In many ways the Internet has collapsed the borders of time and space. It has brought together diverse groups that in times past would not have ever known nor touched each others lives. Many serious games are being played out within this electronic dreamland.The Internet is a realm of masks and drama. It is a realm where individuals can either invent or recreate themselves at will. They can become true shapeshifters of the imagination, and for good or ill they can enter this virtual realm as shapers of life or death. >> essay I posted on Witches' Voice: read more...

Earth Religion in the Modern World

A dear friend of mine asked me a simple question the other day: "You always speak of the Old Religion of the Earth as if it were something that everyone should know exists. So tell me: what exactly is this Old Religion? Does it have a founder like the religions of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and the Moslem? When did it begin? Does it have a literature? And, one more thing: what impact for good or ill has it had on your personal life; has it helped you survive the daily onslaught of the world?"

Boy, I was astounded, here was a close friend who had known me for many years; and, even though we have had to continue our friendship by phone due to work changes and lifestyles, I had never been asked these kinds of question by her before. She'd just accepted me for who I was. Now she was seeking answers: trying to understand exactly what it was that this Old Religion of the Earth represented, and who were its authorities, and spokespersons; and, what did it have to offer her that other religions didn't already offer. Did it have a literature: a bible, an explicatory and expository canon, a tradition of poets, artists, writers who have come down to us from antiquity like the traditions of the Western Canon. All of these are good questions; and, to tell the truth, I was taken aback: I didn't have any clear cut answer for her. I remember now describing the only essential truth that I could relate: the old religion was real for me because I'd felt the presence of the goddess in my personal life. But how could I translate that into something rational, explain it with words that would truly cross the divide of our disparate culture and have meaning in the context of our world's social, economic, political, religious, and cultural mind set.

Oh, how language sunders us from ourselves, how it wanders among meanings like a lost tribe of elves, seeking the lands of youth, wandering through time picking up stories and tales of wonder along the way, but never coming to the final destination: home. I was dumbfounded, could not come up a rational set of beliefs to giver her, beyond the typical shibboleths of the tradition I'd learned ages ago in my early apprenticeship into the Wiccan Tradition of modern Witchcraft. I could not tell her that we had a founder like Buddha, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed... that our way was different, that we did not have prophets, or religious founders: but, that we had poets, dreamers, visionaries; myth, legends, tales, and poems. Ours was essentially a hidden tradition that had been forced to go underground because of those very powerful religions of the One True God who through all ages was a jealous god that would have no other before him. All the monotheistic faiths seemed unable to accept a pluralistic worldview; they sought a unity, a framework based of hierarchy with God at the top and all others under his tutelage and command. Can anyone say why this came about? Does anyone truly have an answer?

I've pondered these questions for 30 years and still only grasp certain definable truths. Being like many other men in this western cultural complex that is America I was raised up with Christian values and beliefs; yet, with one difference: my Mother hid her true self, her essential beliefs, he knowledge of the old ways that had been passed down to her by the elder women in our own clan. She'd come out of old Pennsylvanian stock, been raised with cunning women and men who knew the secret byways of the earth, soil, and land; who were farmers and crafters, skilled in the old ways of earth and tribe: their ancient German heritage shining through clearly and distinctly in the ethic of hard work, social gatherings at the markings of the farming year, planting by the moon, and living with a deep knowledge of the traditions of their forbears reaching back into a dim time and age. These were people had learned their way by mouth to hand: pragmatic learning shaped by an agricultural worldview that is now almost gone from our earth (due to the giant mega farming machines of our era: but this is another tale).

I remember the first time I was touched by the power of magick. As a child, we used to play games at the family table during the long winters to pass the time. One night my mother brought out some blank paper, a pen, a piece of string, and a little musical pendent for a weight. She told us a story that her Great Aunt had told her long ago:

"Once upon a time in an age before our age a woman lived on the edge of a dark forest full of wolves, and bears, and all things wild. She had a daughter whose name was Altheia, who would wander alone in the woods unafraid of beast or man. One day this little girl happened on a little man who was sitting by a stream as if pondering the deepest mysteries of the universe. He did not look up as the little girl approached; yet, he spoke softly to her, without ever turning his head: "Oh, so you have come at last. Now that you are here, you can begin gathering fruit for my basket." The little girl laughed, astonished to see such a little man dressed in red and green and golden cloth, his eyes full of gleeful mischief, his great frizz of yellow hair flowing round his shoulders, and a blue cap with a white feather rising out of it like some beautiful and exotic bird."

"The little girl answered the wee man like this: "I'm sorry, but I do not have any fruit to fill your basket. There is no fruit in this forest, but the blackberries and wild strawberries, which the great black bear eats for his pleasure during the late summer. And the little man looked up at last, with a wee winkle in his eye, laughing, said: 'Oh, but there is, my dear, for I know a tree that bares a special fruit hidden in the center of the forest.' The little girl look quizzically at him and smiled, speaking: 'And, perchance, will you show me this wondrous tree and its fruit.' The wee man, laughed, got up from his toadstool and proceeded to walk off down a dark path deeper and deeper into the forest. Not a word did he speak to the little girl, but began singing a little ditty, an old tune full of light and the sun's laughter. The little girl stood there perplexed for a moment, and then proceeded to follow the wee man into the dark forest."

"They walked for some time. She intently watched the little man as he hopped and skipped, sang and danced to his tunes of merriment. And, before long they entered a large clearing at the center of the forest that was surrounded by large oaks and willows and thickets wild full of thorns and nettles. This was no ordinary place the little girl felt, she knew instinctively that this was a place of magic, full of mystery and strange music. Yet, she felt at home in this wild place, felt that for the first time in her life she was in the presence of a power that was in harmony with her own wild and untamed nature. She began to laugh and dance around the green ring that surrounded the great temple of trees. She felt all warm and alive inside, as if she were sitting by the cozy hearth in her mother's home. She felt at peace with all living things. She continued to dance around and around the bright green ring until she suddenly saw the little white tree at the center of the clearing. She could see the bright red fruit hanging down from its branches within easy reach of her little hands. She ran up and plucked a juicy red morsel and bit into it's sweet flesh so quickly that the wee man who had been watching her all this time from a distance was unable to speak quickly enough to dissuade her from such a foolish act. However, the deed was done; there was no turning back now. She stood there smiling, full of the wild pulp of this soft and fleshy fruit, letting its juices dribble down her soft cheek onto her clean white dress. The taste of the fruit was both sweet and bitter at the same time. She could feel its power warming to her like the distant glow of ancient stars rising over unknown seas, it liquid fire slowly unfolding within her its deep magick. She felt as if she were beginning to awaken from a long sleep, as if she had been in a trance all of her young life, and only now had the golden key that would unlock the secrets of her inner self. But for the moment it didn't matter to her, she was so full of wonder and bliss that nothing would ever bother her again. Then it happened. One moment she was standing there alone with the wee man in the green ring at the center of the deep wild wood enjoying bliss, the next she heard the laughter of the others..."

"She stopped chewing on the bright red fruit, opened her eyes and gazed at the new world that had suddenly sprung up around her. What she saw was amazing. Dancing and prancing in laughter and glee were the smallest people she'd ever seen. The whole ring fort was filled with beings of every sort and size: gnomes with their funny hats and beards, playing flutes and drums; pixies and brownies hopping back and forth over little fires full of strange myst; and, above all the fair ones, the Tuatha de Danaan, who were dressed in elegant robes of silver, white, and gold their bright eyes full of laughter and sadness; and, not least, on the edge of the dark ring were water sprites, and even a glastig jumping over a rainbow waterfall; next, came the the wisps of fire feys, flitting round and round in circles spraying the darkness with faërie stars; and, finally, a great drachen, red and fierce looking, lifted his sheathed wings into the air and brought a sparkle to the night sky that amazed all the fair crowd. She'd been so involved in watching this marvelous parade of faëries that she'd almost forgotten about the little man who'd brought her there in the first place. Then she felt someone pull her hair from behind and turned to find at the center of the ring, the wee little man, their king standing eyeing her with a stern eye, which just as fast turned to a smile of merriment, saying: "Well now my little one you have come home to us again from your travels in the world of men. Now you must choose: to stay or go back to the world of men. Do not choose too quickly little one; for your choice will have lasting repercussions. For, you see, we are the little people, the fair folk, and we live in the wild woods protecting all natural things from the onslaught of men who would destroy the earth and her children of the forest, glen, and deep woods. And, you, my dear, are one of our progeny, a changeling left at the door of men to grow among them and show them the ways of our Queen, the White Lady of the Forest."

"The little girl was not surprised. She felt something stir in her inner self, a deep echo of acknowledgement, a recognition: "Yes, I am an elven queen." She knew natively what she must do, and spoke thusly: "I will return to the world of men. I will teach them the ways of the fair folk. Show them the natural ways of earth, water, fire, and air: open there minds to the old ways of our kind. Some will listen and tell others. Yes, some will even begin to realize that they too are all changelings lost among the dark hollows of this bright earth, their deeper selves unknown, asleep. Yes, I must awaken them from their long sleep and give them back the dream of earth. Teach them the ways of the goddess, our mother."

"The King of the Elves laughed in glee as the little girl disappeared from view going back into the world of men with the good news that the Old Ways of the Earth are still alive and full of magic and mystery."

When my mother finished with this tale I remember feeling something stir deep inside me, something was awakening for the first time in long time: a sleeping self at the center of my being had suddenly opened his eyes from a long sleep of time... from that moment on I began a quest to understand this deep heritage of our ancient guardians of the wild places. And, my secret companion has been with me ever since...

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