Thursday, November 11, 2010

You Can Count on the Poets

Photo by Liam Quin

Finding lore on appropriate practice can sometimes be difficult for Reconstructionist Pagans and Traditional Witches alike. That’s why I squeal like a school girl when I stumble upon the right books.

I recently bought a yummy, yummy book from one of our local thrift shops {perhaps the last pockets where one can find something of value for next to nothing, without breaking the law!} called 1000 Years of Irish Poetry edited by Kathleen Hoagland.

It is a pretty thick book and I have already spent hours getting sucked into it. I love a lot of the poetry in it, but the two following pretties are good examples of why I was extra giddy to find this book:

Song of the Forest Trees

O man that for Fergus of the feasts dost kindle fir,
Whether afloat or ashore burn not the king of woods.

Monarch of Innisfail’s forests the woodbine is, whom none may hold captive;
No feeble sovereign’s effort is it to hug all tough trees in his embrace.

The pliant woodbine if thou burn, wailings for misfortune will abound,
Dire extremity at weapons’ points or drowning in great waves will follow.

Burn not the precious apple-tree of spreading and lowsweeping bough;
Tree ever decked in bloom of white, against whose fair head all men put forth the hand.

The surly blackthorn is a wanderer, a wood that the artificer burns not;
Throughout his body, though it be scanty, birds in their flocks warble.

The noble willow burn not, a tree sacred to poems;
Within his bloom bees are a-sucking, all love the little cage.

The graceful tree with the berries, the wizard’s tree, the rowan, burn;
But spare the limber tree; burn not the slender hazel.

Dark is the colour of the ash; timber that makes the wheels to go;
Rods he furnishes for horsemen’s hands, his form turns battle into flight.

Tenterhook among woods the spiteful briar is, burn him that is so keen and green;
He cuts, he flays the foot, him that would advance forcibly drags backward.

Fiercest heat-giver of all the timber is green oak, from him none may escape unhurt;
By partiality for him the head is set of aching, and by his acrid embers the eye is made sore.

Alder, very battle-witch of all woods, tree that is hottest in the fight---
Undoubtedly burn at thy discretion both the alder and the white-thorn {hawthorn}.

Holly, burn it green; holly burn it dry;
Of all trees whatsoever the critically best is holly.

Elder that hath tough bark, tree that in truth hurts sore;
Him that furnishes horses to the armies from the sidh burn so that he be charred.

The birch as well, if he be laid low, promises abiding fortune;
Burn up most sure and certainly the stalks that bear the constant pods.

Suffer, if it so please thee, the russet aspen to come headlong down;
Burn, be it late or early, the tree with palsied branch.

Patriarch of the long-lasting woods is the yew, sacred to feasts, as is well-known;
Of him now build ye dark-red vats of goodly size.

Ferdedh, thou faithful one, wouldst thou but do my behest:
To thy soul as to thy body, O man, ‘twould work advantage.

~translated by Standish Hayes O’Grady {by an anonymous poet, 13th century}.

The following are different types of love magic that what I presume mostly women and girls might have tried.

The Midnight Court

…After all I have spent upon readers of palms
And tellers of tea-leaves and sellers of charms.
There isn’t a plan you can conceive
For Christmas or Easter or All Saint’s Eve,
At the moon’s eclipse or the New Year’s chime
That I haven’t attempted time on time.
I never would sleep a night in bed
Without fruit-stuffed stocking beneath my head,
I would steep my shift in the millstream deep
And await the vows of my spouse in sleep,
With broom I brushed the barn as bid,
My nails and hair in ashpit hid,
Beneath the hearth the flail I laid,
Below my pillow placed the spade,
My distaff in the graveyard’s bed,
In lime-kiln low my ball of thread,
The flax I strewed amid the dust,
A cabbage-head in bed-straw thrust…

…A potent charm as I have heard
Is putrid herbs well stewed and stirred,
I know the sort and will proceed
To make it aid me in my need.
A subtle spell that succour brings
Is orchid’s leaves and dung fly’s wings
And root of figwort powdered well
With more besides I may not tell.
‘Twas wondered everywhere of late
How yonder maid secured a mate,
At Shrove her secret she confessed
And Hallow E’en has seen her braced,
For water-spiders soaked in beer
And withered grass formed all her fare…

~by Brian Merriman, 1780 {excerpts from the poem}.

I am off to read some more. ;)




Bek said...

Hehe, excellent!

I am always tempted by the 'local interest' section in Oxfam Books - just for the old Devon/Cornwall lore and accompanying vernacular!

Mórag said...

I've got this book and found it used as well. It has come in very useful over the years. Celtic poetry (of all stripes) is fantastic, especially when peppered with mythological and folkloric references. If you're interested in a similar book but with a Scottish focus look for The Triumph Tree ed. by Thomas Owen Clancy.

PS: Really enjoy the blog! :)

FreeDragon said...

I read once that Elders decided to hide the magic in plain sight- in the poetry and nursey rhymes

nefaeria said...

Bek: Thanks! :) I bet there would be tonnes of cool lore to find out from your area!

Mórag: Thanks for the kind words! :) And thank you for the book suggestion...another to add to my 'wish list'. ;)

FreeDragon: Neat! There seems to be a lot of interesting lore on the elder tree from Scandinavian and Germanic folktales and legends. :)

Medusae said...

I feel your love for books matches mine! What a treasure! Just to hold it..... ahhhhhhhh

Did you type out all the passages? Such dedication! :D

Truly lovely.

nefaeria said...

Medusae: You should definitely come this way some time and we can do some book shopping together! Between our thrift stores, Gulliver's Books, & Allison the Bookman there is hours {if not days!} of adventure! :D

Hertha said...

This sounds like a wonderful book! I love the first poem.