Pagan Pride

eburacum

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There is some debate about the origin of the term 'pagan'. According to Ronald Hutton in his recent book Pagan Britain, Christian writers started using the term in about the 4th century when Rome adopted Christianity. The word seems to be related to the term 'pagus', which means countryside, village, or locality; the idea a few years ago was that the term referred to local faiths held by simple countryfolk.

But by the 4th century it appears that the use of 'pagus' had changed; it seems to have been used by the army of that time to refer to 'civilians' in general, so 'pagan' might mean civilian, that is to say 'not in the army of Christ'.

Recently opinion has changed again, and now it seems 'pagan' was a term for 'provincial' by the time this usage emerged, so it probably means 'provincial faiths'; nothing really to be ashamed of.
 

FrKadash

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Imbolc, Feb 2 (1972) by Ithell Colquhoun, from Grimoire of the Entangled Thicket - ''Part of a series of 22 poems - the thirteen months and the nine yearly festivals; in some the Tree Month speaks as an oracle, in others it is invoked. Also contains some artwork based on décalcomania, evoking the spirit of various trees.''

 
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Happy Imbolc!

Druids and Celtic gods paraded through the streets of a northern English village as locals gathered to watch a ritual battle between winter and spring unfold in an ancient ritual with roots dating back to pre-Roman times.



The Imbolc fire festival is one of four major holidays in paganism that fall between seasonal solstices. It marks a return of light and the end of winter.

The festival features a clash between two giant figures — an icy Jack Frost and a leaf-covered Green Man.

The festival in Marsden, West Yorkshire, began with a procession of villagers dressed as druids and gods.

Festival organiser Freyja Boycott-Garnett said spring officially began when the Green Man defeated Jack Frost.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-...imbolc-marks-end-of-winter-in-britain/9394498

Vid at link.
 

skinny

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One wonders how long this "indigenous" cultural observance has been going. One suspects for less than 50 years. The recovery of something far older is interesting, though the cornstalk helmets seem a pretty universal phenomenon. Something to keep the hands warm during the winter downtime?

 

Skrymr

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Sadly Hilmarsson and his organisation have a somewhat mendacious but innocuous approach regarding their doltish interpretation of the Ásatrú/Heathen path. But at the end of the day they have my support as they're active & passionate, so blessings be upon them. :)
If there's only one thing Ásatrúar can agree on, we're all doing it wrong! :)
 

skinny

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Gotthard Base Tunnel
The tunnel was officially inaugurated on 1 June 2016.... The first journey carried hundreds of Swiss citizens who had won tickets in a draw, while the assembled guests in Erstfeld, including the Federal Council in corpore, heads of state and government from neighbouring countries and transport ministers from European countries, attended the opening show Sacre del Gottardo by Volker Hesse featuring 600 dancers, acrobats, singers and musicians celebrating Alpine culture and myths around the Gotthard.[73]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotthard_Base_Tunnel#Opening_events
:cshock:
 

Mikefule

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The Imbolc fire festival is one of four major holidays in paganism that fall between seasonal solstices. It marks a return of light and the end of winter.

The festival features a clash between two giant figures — an icy Jack Frost and a leaf-covered Green Man.

...

Festival organiser Freyja Boycott-Garnett said spring officially began when the Green Man defeated Jack Frost.
A major difference between modern paganism and the sort of paganism that developed naturally over centuries is the simplistic nature of the modern rituals. I'm reminded of the Christian mass where the bread "is the body" and the wine "is the blood" and at various times, Christians have spent far too much time worrying whether this is only symbolic, or is literally true (transubstantiation) or is literally true in a mystical way (consubstantiation). I've been to modern pagan weddings where the congregation has been told X represent A and Y represents B in a definite 1:1 relationship.

Look back at historical pagan myths and you will always find that there are several versions of every story, and that multiple parallel and overlapping relationships between ideas and concepts are implied and suggested and understood rather than being laid out in almost diagrammatical form.

I stumbled across the word "polysemic" the other day: a good word meaning, approximately, "capable of having several simultaneous meanings".

Example: As a Morris dancer, I think of the Morris stick partly as a fertility symbol, partly as a symbol of strength, and partly just as something to make a noise with. It is not just one thing with one meaning.

When I come across a modern festival in which I am told that X defeats Y and this means Z, I am sceptical.

One wonders how long this "indigenous" cultural observance has been going. One suspects for less than 50 years. The recovery of something far older is interesting,
Consider how little we really know about actual pagan practices. The Romans and the Christians wrote about them from a biased perspective. The pagans themselves kept few if any written records, and would be unlikely to write down descriptions either of their secret rites, or of their rites that were so public that everyone in their culture knew them. The later Christians had a vested interest in misdescribing something that they wanted to suppress. I doubt that modern pagans are "recovering" much.

That is not to say that what they are creating or developing has no value of its own.
 

Vardoger

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Example: As a Morris dancer, I think of the Morris stick partly as a fertility symbol, partly as a symbol of strength, and partly just as something to make a noise with. It is not just one thing with one meaning.
A good look at a Morris dancing makes me think it's ritualized fighting and the stick is a symbolic weapon. Perhaps it once was a ritual dance where two tribes were dancing against each other to replace wars.
*Thinking very loudly and speculating too much*
 

Mikefule

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A good look at a Morris dancing makes me think it's ritualized fighting and the stick is a symbolic weapon. Perhaps it once was a ritual dance where two tribes were dancing against each other to replace wars.
*Thinking very loudly and speculating too much*
(Writing here mainly of Cotswold dances — that's the style with straw hats, hankies, bells and sticks.) Genuinely, some of the dances are "fighting dances" in that the stick movements mimic either a stylised sword fight or quarter staff fight. One or two of the dances even have names that allude to fighting, such as "Skirmish" and some are danced to military marches. These marches are not ancient tunes, though: old but not ancient.

However, the typical format of a dance is figure, chorus, figure, chorus, figure, chorus. Within each local tradition, the figures are consistent and are simple things like "back to back" and owe more to styles of social or courtly dance such as (what we now call) Playford. The chorus is what makes each dance unique. In fact, purists would use the expression "distinctive figure" rather than "chorus". So, whilst some choruses have a definite aspect of fighting to them, the dance itself does not have any sort of symbolic or representational aspect all the way through.

With a tiny number of exceptions, our dances do not "tell a story" or "represent" anything. Of course, that does not stop us saying otherwise in our hilarious introductory announcements.

As for the "two tribes" part of your speculation: the simplest response is "No." We have records of Morris dancing going back 400 or so years, and some reason to believe it is older, but it was always in the context of a small team from one village or area putting on a performance.

A lot — most, but not all — of what you would see today is a modern interpretation following a period of "discovery" collection, dissemination and revival of the dances in the very early 1900s. This was done by a coterie of educated middle class people with late Victorian sensibilities, and a whole load of ideas of "Merrie England" and "ancient pagan fertility ritual" were grafted onto something that in reality was no more than a display and a celebration.

Ask anyone with an interest in the subject and they are likely to tell you that Morris was danced by farm workers on May Day to encourage fertility in the crops. However, the Morris was "discovered" by Cecil Sharp on Boxing Day 1899 being danced by out of work labourers hoping to raise a bit of money.

There are other forms of Morris dancing from various regions of England and Wales and the differences are so fundamental that it is clear that they had different origins. While many of them could be seen as a display of overt "masculinity" (lots of clashing of sticks or metal blades, or stomping of clogs) none of them could reasonably be seen as a surviving fighting ritual as a replacement for actual warfare. ("Masculinity" in quotes because these days, more than half of Morris dancers are female.)

Vardoger: this may be a longer and more pedantic response than you wanted, but as a Forteans, I am interested not only in "what ifs" but also in how easy it is for us to let our preconceptions and whimsical speculations lead us not only beyond the data, but sometimes in the opposite direction. The common thread of much of Forteana is that we would all like it to be true, whether it is in a pet theory, a pagan survival, an anomalous phenomenon, or a cryptid. :)
 

Vardoger

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(Writing here mainly of Cotswold dances — that's the style with straw hats, hankies, bells and sticks.) Genuinely, some of the dances are "fighting dances" in that the stick movements mimic either a stylised sword fight or quarter staff fight. One or two of the dances even have names that allude to fighting, such as "Skirmish" and some are danced to military marches. These marches are not ancient tunes, though: old but not ancient.

However, the typical format of a dance is figure, chorus, figure, chorus, figure, chorus. Within each local tradition, the figures are consistent and are simple things like "back to back" and owe more to styles of social or courtly dance such as (what we now call) Playford. The chorus is what makes each dance unique. In fact, purists would use the expression "distinctive figure" rather than "chorus". So, whilst some choruses have a definite aspect of fighting to them, the dance itself does not have any sort of symbolic or representational aspect all the way through.

With a tiny number of exceptions, our dances do not "tell a story" or "represent" anything. Of course, that does not stop us saying otherwise in our hilarious introductory announcements.

As for the "two tribes" part of your speculation: the simplest response is "No." We have records of Morris dancing going back 400 or so years, and some reason to believe it is older, but it was always in the context of a small team from one village or area putting on a performance.

A lot — most, but not all — of what you would see today is a modern interpretation following a period of "discovery" collection, dissemination and revival of the dances in the very early 1900s. This was done by a coterie of educated middle class people with late Victorian sensibilities, and a whole load of ideas of "Merrie England" and "ancient pagan fertility ritual" were grafted onto something that in reality was no more than a display and a celebration.

Ask anyone with an interest in the subject and they are likely to tell you that Morris was danced by farm workers on May Day to encourage fertility in the crops. However, the Morris was "discovered" by Cecil Sharp on Boxing Day 1899 being danced by out of work labourers hoping to raise a bit of money.

There are other forms of Morris dancing from various regions of England and Wales and the differences are so fundamental that it is clear that they had different origins. While many of them could be seen as a display of overt "masculinity" (lots of clashing of sticks or metal blades, or stomping of clogs) none of them could reasonably be seen as a surviving fighting ritual as a replacement for actual warfare. ("Masculinity" in quotes because these days, more than half of Morris dancers are female.)

Vardoger: this may be a longer and more pedantic response than you wanted, but as a Forteans, I am interested not only in "what ifs" but also in how easy it is for us to let our preconceptions and whimsical speculations lead us not only beyond the data, but sometimes in the opposite direction. The common thread of much of Forteana is that we would all like it to be true, whether it is in a pet theory, a pagan survival, an anomalous phenomenon, or a cryptid. :)
It's strange there is no mention(written or drawn) of Morris rituals before 1458. It had probably gone on for several hundred years before that, but dancing farmers were probably not as interesting as royalty and wars for historians at the time.
 
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Mikefule

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It's strange there is no mention(written or drawn) of Morris rituals before 1548. It had probably gone on for several hundred years before that

...but dancing farmers were probably not as interesting as royalty and wars for historians at the time.
"It had probably...": we have no data on which to base an assessment of the probability. Dancing is an almost universal human activity, and certain figures and shapes are simple and obvious, and therefore common across many cultures. The similarities will often be the result of parallel development rather than implying a continuous single thread of evolution.

Today, we use "Morris" to refer to substantially different traditions including Border, Cotswold, Lichfield, Longsword, Molly, North West, and Rapper. It is a convenient modern catch all term. If we look back 500 years, or 1,000 years, we may find dances with similarities of style, context and form. It is up to us whether we decided to call them "Morris" or something else. Even if we find evidence that the people of the time called them "Morris" the meaning of words changes with time.

Common sense says that dancing was not forgotten and then reinvented afresh, and some degree of continuity is therefore likely within any one region and culture.

You are certainly right that historians have tended to place too much emphasis on kings, battles and treaties and not enough on ordinary life and culture. There has been some improvement over recent decades.

I draw a comparison between history and prehistory here. In history, we have plenty of data and evidence about kings, battles and treaties and this skews our perception of what was important about those times. In prehistory, the data and evidence are skewed by what has been preserved: stone and bronze are more commonly preserved than fabrics, hides, and wooden implements. Therefore, whole ages have been defined by the most durable materials used (stone age, bronze age) but these labels tell us nothing about the day to day life of the ordinary people.
 

AlchoPwn

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I saw a documentary regarding Carl Jung which postulated, based on his memoirs, that such performances and his family's folkloric interests were formative in his understanding of human psychology. There is something powerful about these folkloric wildman images, and the natural materials that they are made of. While this sort of tribal/shamanic tradition is common to nearly all human societies, it is a bit amazing that they survive in Europe despite centuries of religious repression.
 

skinny

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Persecution hardens the resolve. And anyway, the religious and social fascists had no idea what they were even trying to stamp out. Very hard to nail down the inscrutible, much less the intangible. These ceremonies were never the heart of the folk culture they depicted. There's tradition that seeps through families and generations remember it. That's the pure stuff.
 

skinny

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I saw a documentary regarding Carl Jung which postulated, based on his memoirs, that such performances and his family's folkloric interests were formative in his understanding of human psychology. There is something powerful about these folkloric wildman images, and the natural materials that they are made of. While this sort of tribal/shamanic tradition is common to nearly all human societies, it is a bit amazing that they survive in Europe despite centuries of religious repression.
Jung had his finger on something he never fully realised. He was a visionary. No doubt about it. I posit that psychology was a part of his own family's lore long long before there was a even a word for it.

Gordon White is one of my new friends. He's a magick practitioner and a very deeply researched historian. I recommend his podcasts and interviews on Jung's impacts. RUNE SOUP
eg
 

Mikefule

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it is a bit amazing that they survive in Europe despite centuries of religious repression.
I'd be cautious about the word "survive".

Very few old customs, pagan or otherwise, have survived unchanged for centuries.

Some have a continuous history, but have evolved so that what we see today is different from what we would have seen even a hundred years ago, never mind a thousand. After sufficient continuous development, something is no longer what it used to be. Remember my grandfathers axe: my father changed the shaft and I changed the head.

In many cases, old rituals have only been reconstructed recently. There is a whole spectrum from "an evidence-based and sincere attempt to reconstruct as accurately as possible" through to "wishful thinking and romantic idealisation". I do not believe that someone born in the modern world who then chooses to adopt an ancient belief system (real or imagined) can possibly experience that belief system in the same way as someone who was born into it and had no modern world to compare it to.

I'd also urge caution about "despite centuries of religious repression". (Or oppression or suppression.) Europe is not a homogenous whole and never has been. Parts are Roman Catholic, parts are Orthodox, England is (was?) Anglican since Henry VIII, and many regions are predominantly protestant, which includes Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterian, and numerous others*. The pre-existing pagan religions also varied regionally. It is likely that those areas where the most of the old has survived are the areas where there was the least suppression by the new.


*And lo! God said to his only son — for though He is omnipotent, for some ill-defined reason He could only have one — "Nip down there and tell them of the one God, and the one truth, and teach them the one true religion."
"Yea," replieth Jesus, "What can possibly go wrong?"
 

Mikefule

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I have said earlier I think Morris dancing looks a bit ridiculous, but this one is cool...
Firstly, an excellent video, and a great advertisement for Border Morris. Simple but dynamic and robust, and not afraid to include modern elements.

"Morris dancing looks a but ridiculous" says more about your attitude to it than it does about the dancing. Strangely, very few people make such blanket statements about Irish or Scottish dancing, or Breton, or Spanish, or Greek dancing, but the English and Welsh border traditions are fair game for easy mockery.

Yes, Morris dancing sometimes looks a bit ridiculous because, like most such things, it has a natural cycle and at the moment many of the older sides (teams) have a high average age and are not dancing as well as they used to. However, there are plenty of new young teams around performing brilliantly.

When someone makes a general comment about the Morris, they usually mean what we call Cotswold Morris: the one with hankies, sticks, bell pads on your shins, and often straw hats with flowers. However, there are many types of Morris which come from different areas of the country and are fundamentally different from each other in origin, style and general appearance. Even within the Cotswold tradition, there are massive differences in style, structure, and general appearance between dances from different villages. There is no one thing called "Morris dancing".

This is part of our national tradition, with several sides that can boast a fairly continuous history for up to 400 years, and many more modern sides celebrating anything from a couple of years to 80 or 90 years of continuous history. Some of the traditional tunes are things of great beauty and have inspired the classical repertoire. Others are simple, robust and hypnotic.

Dismissing an entire national tradition as "looking a bit ridiculous" is like dismissing Italian cuisine because you aren't keen on takeaway pizza. I'd encourage you to find out more about it. There is Border, Cotswold, Longsword, Molly, North West (formation dances in clogs), and Rapper dancing, all of which are very different. There are distinct traditions from Bacup (Lancashire), Lichfield (Staffordshire), Winster (Debyshire), Hayfield (Derbyshire) and many other places. There is step clog dancing (solo dances) and East Anglian step dancing. Some of it is simple and robust, some is complex and sophisticated, some is dynamic and aggressive, some graceful and athletic. Some is done very poorly, and some is done to a standard that rivals any traditional dance in the world.

 
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