Uruz and Fehu

When I first learned about runes in the 80s, I learned to use them as a magical tool rather than a tool for divination. They remain one of the most useful tools in my arsenal. It’s easy to hang a rune sign out in the open without anyone asking any questions. I’ve made rune glyphs for my daughter’s saddle, for my front door, for a friend’s new abode, for well, just about everything.

I never really learned to “read” them until about a decade later. But despite the fact that I knew Vitki, the art of using runes within Seiðr, it wasn’t until last year that I really started making and using runes specifically for divination.

Let me tell you why.
Because I was a fool.
Plain and simple.

Runes were “too primitive” and “not esoteric enough” to strike my fancy. They were too simple and straightforward and made too much “common sense” for a sorceress who looked for “challenge.”

Derp.

As I embarked on the prospect of learning Teutonic Shamanism, I learned that it’s the graceful simplicity of runes—not to mention the familiarity of the language—that reaches the subconscious of an English-speaker in the way that the intensely archetypal images of the Tarot do.

Here, let me show you. Keeping in mind that the “thorn” (þ) makes the “th” sound—not a “p” sound, can you make any sense of these sentences? (Courtesy of Bruce Mitchell’s An Invitation to Old English &Anglo-Saxon England, 1995.)

His linen socc feoll ofer bord in þæt wæter and scranc.
Hwær is his cþýþþ and cynn?
Se cniht is on þære bryge.

All you have to do is look at Jera to see the give-and-take of seed and harvest; Nauthiz to see “need” (as the two stick rub together to create need-fire) and friction; Pertho to see everything represented by the “chalice” of other traditions (‘cept Pertho has legs); Gebo to see fairness and equal-exchange—after all, we still use the X to symbolize a kiss; and Tiwaz, well—look for yourself: ↑.

So, I spent some time this week really thinking about why Uruz and Fehu look so different from one another on account of they both represent “cattle” of one sort or another. (I’m not the only one to compare these two runes; it seems a no brainer. Have a look: here and at Wandering Woman Wondering (she has some other great bits–you should go have a look for yourself). But let me break it down for you, “Ehsha style.”

Uruz—Aurochs (an extinct paleolithic wild ox, not unlike a bison)
Fehu—Domesticated cattle
The accepted meaning of Uruz is strength and Fehu is understood to indicate wealth and luck.[1]

My meditations on Uruz have always revealed “survival” and “instinct” along with “strength” and “power”; whereas my meditations on Fehu have always revealed “transitory-ness” and “that-which-is-subject-to something outside itself.” To me, the latter is not unlike bondage. I keep going back to the difference between wolves and beagles. A different set of instincts, a different way of communicating, a different set of drives. The wolf is ferocious, strong, and free (and nearly extinct as a result—and more valuable as a subsequent result); the beagle brays at everything, is vulnerable, and wants nothing more than to get his belly rubbed by his owners. Yeah, they both bite—but you don’t bring a beagle to a wolf pack and expect it to fit in. You can prolly expect it to be eaten alive.

The same goes for the ox and cow. Wild ox are ferocious, strong, and free (also extinct as a result—and more valuable as a subsequent result); cows are, well, they are “mooish.” They are vulnerable, and tip-able. And well—ever meet a cow? Both are good for food, but one is a little harder to catch. Or was. It is, perhaps ironically to this post, the trials inherent in catching the ox that led our ancestors to domesticate cattle. Easy pickin’s.

Some of the things I have been thinking about in terms of “cattle-wealth” is that the herd is less mobile than a wild herd. When I’ve had to move a few horses from one farm to another, it took a team of people, special vehicles, and a day or two off from work. When Curly showed Billy Crystal how to move a herd of cattle, we all got to watch as he learned the Hermetic lesson of “just one thing” along the way. And we got to see that it takes a little more than moving a few horses.

Now imagine driving wild oxen.

So, by “wealth,” I think of domesticated, controllable, and fairly immobile. Wealth, yes—but limited. I also think of the skills set associated with wealth. I know that some people see Fehu as meaning a skills-set that can be applied across the board. Like—if I have the skills-set to be a cattle farmer, this doesn’t go away. If I move to another place, I will still know how to be a cattle farmer. Perhaps I can even apply what I know about cows to something else.

But then I started thinking—yes, you know how to be a cattle farmer; but how useful is this off the farm? There is little need for cattle farmers in the city. I best keep my nary’ass on my own farm and keep to my own bovine herd. Right?

But the wild ox. Hmmm. That’s a little different. No one can get rich off the wild ox because it can’t be tamed. Because it don’t make no nevermind to the ox whether it’s got humans to housebreak it or not. I take that back. A wild ox would impale someone who tried breaking its spirit in an effort to add to the wealth of a cattle farm.

So then what? The ox gets hunted for its pelts because it can’t be reined in—just like the wolf? Yup.

But, fortunately, the runes keep a sacred space for this animal in Uruz. Here, the Aurochs-ox is not extinct. In this rune, the Aurochs-ox runs free and is unyoked by the need of those that would domesticate him, tame him, limit him, make profit from him. And the Aurochs-ox is mobile; he goes where his instincts take him, rather than being fattened up for the slaughter.

See, when I compare these two runes in my mind, they are like comparing apples to oranges, wolves to beagles, heifers to bison. The cattle of Fehu applies to the owner of the herd whereas the ox of Uruz applies to the animal itself. (And as Dora told you, I always want to be “the thing itself.”)

Plus, there’s this linguistic thing. To cow someone is to intimidate, to coerce, to force them into service.[2] That’s a way to wealth and transitory popularity—lots of property and an ability to coerce herds. (And the best way to coerce herd animals is to make them feel safe. Right up to the point where you slit their throats. Tell them all about the wolves outside the farm; tell them about the plentiful grain in the slop bucket. Hell, yea, domesticated beasts will sit down and set-a-spell for a full trough.) But it’s indicative of having others in a thralldom that’s so bound and unnatural to my Heathen soul.

Let me have the role of ox any day. Let me be a killer-wolf over a crated, fenced, processed kibble-eating beagle any day. I may have to forage and scrape for my sustenance. But I will be free. I know I will continually have to fight off the slings and arrows of the hunters who are after my hide. Likely they’d like to don it for a ritual in which they pretend to be me. But I will be free. And I am fortunate in that the hunters these days have poor eyesight—they are nearly blind. And their arrows come no nearer piercing my hide, made tough from my existence in the wild—made tough by the necessity of avoiding the hunters,[3] than they are to being anything other than cattle themselves. But I will be free.

Today, I represent the enduring spirit of Uruz. And the cows out there can suck my sheath.

B, Q, 93,

TBW

 

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://paganblogproject/).


[1] Some folks see Fehu and Uruz and “brains and brawn” respectively, but I have a problem with that interpretation.

[2] It likely has something to do with the Old English cu and Old Norse kyr being related to the Old Norse kuga—meaning “to oppress.” But no one knows f’sure.

[3] See the Catch 22? My hide wouldn’t be nearly as strong if hunters hadn’t made me that way.

Hel and Back

This one spans three decades and may take a minute. Grab a drink and put your feet up.

It was 1980 and I sat in the church van with Maria Villalobos-Ramirez, Lourdes Bacardo, Anita Rodriguez, and Dolores Ortega. Between the five of us we had gone through all of the butane in Anita’s Clicker portable curling iron, half-a-bottle of Love’s Baby Soft, a tin of grape Lip Lickers, and a full eyeliner pencil and a lighter.

We were headed to camp (yes, think Jesus Camp only less affluent) and we were singing. Songs that started out about roadtrips, “Lonely days turn to lonely nights, you take a trip to the city lights,” “Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends / I found myself further and further from my home,” and “I gotta be cool, relax, get hip, get on my tracks. Take a back seat, hitch-hike. . .,” disintegrated into, “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight,”[1] “I wanna kiss you all over,” “Oi, oi . . . I’m a powerload . . . watch me explode!” That’s about when Brother Preacherman said enough was enough and that we should sing gospel songs instead.

That’s when TBW decided to rebel. I parodied a choir-girl stance and began, “Hey Momma, look at me, I’m on my way to the Promised Land.” Right on cue, the other girls chimed in, “We’re on a highway to Hell!”

Brother Preacherman was too tolerant of my bad behaviors.

We think of going to Hel as a bad thing. We tell the feckheads in our lives to go to Hel. Some of us even provide directions. But as someone who’s been to Hel and back, I can tell you that the ride sucks, but the return has its rewards.

Let me explain.

Part One: I left the comforts of my rather insular covens and headed for The Bamas in 2002. I worked on my doctorate, raised my babies, and kept doing my thang. I tried “coming-out of the broom closet” once or twice—okay, constantly—but very few people understood what I was up to. There was an “English Graduate Organization Prom” that I attended with my new-found grad-school bestie that first year; I had only been around for a few months and I thought it would be good to mingle. I was wearing a headband right on my hairline; a die-hard-fundie (who had made off-color comments about a pentagram shirt I wore to class) asked me, “Do all of you wear those?”

“All who?”

Wicc-ahh, wit-ahh, whatever you call yourself.”

I had been pegged by a Church of Christer—but for a totally banal headband.

I threw a bang-up Samhain party (which I referred to as a “Samhain” party rather than a Halloween party—and was met with “a whaah?”) some weeks after that and all of my Witchy-Chachkas were very visible. Everyone must have thought they were décor.

Another time, a few years later, I sat on my back porch with my immediate supervisor (and friend), her fiancé, The Only Other possible-Pagan (she was ambivalent at the time), and The Bad Husband. I don’t remember what precipitated the event, but I was reading Tarot. My boss wanted to know, “Where’d you learn that?” Just as I was about to tell her everything, the other woman shot me a terrified look that said, “NO! Keep your mouth shut!” To this day, I wonder what she was afraid of?

After that, I wore pentagrams, spiral goddesses, serpents, and medicine bags to work. You name it, I tried signifying with it and no one saw me. (I still have a giant “Witch” sign over my desk—next to a rune glyph, a spiral goddess pendulum, and a little portrait pin of Marie Laveau.)

All of this is just to say that when I decided to make myself known, I had to take my stav in both hands and pound the ground. Hard.

I think I was a little out of line. Much like singing AC/DC in a church van.

Because that action set me on a road to Hel, through the fires, and into relationships with some of the Baddest Witches eveh.

Part Two: The Descent

It was Summer 2007, I had just earned a Fellowship: the department was paying me to finish my dissertation rather than teaching. The above mentioned grad-school bestie was so resentful that I had gotten the award rather than her that she “broke-up” with me. No shit.

The Only Other possible-Pagan took a job in another state and shoved off—and not on good terms.

In late-May, I set the need-fire, I took my stav, and I called for three witches that would teach me what I needed to learn from here on out.

See “The Witch’s Duh.”

I had just met a brand-spanking-new grad-student with the craziest aura I have ever seen. (She is the #2 of my “Trance” post, btw.) Having sent my children to stay with family in Chicago,[2] by July 3, I was three chapter drafts into my dissertation. There was a toga party.

That’s how it began.

After that, there were 12 months of phonecalls with her voice on the other end saying, “Oops, I ended up in bed with the wrong boy again, can you help?” and “I’m drunk and the boy I like is being mean to me, can you help?” Imagining her as salvageable, I always did. But the relationship wasn’t entirely unreciprocal. Having felt like I had bled every ounce of my person for others, I had little to no sense of self left in the cupboard. We joked that she thought she was “all that” and that I didn’t even believe I was “a bag of chips.” But her unbridled vivaciousness would not contend for her BFF (actually, this relationship was the first time I’d heard/applied this term of endearment) to be less than awesome. She said that she loved me and she brought the dead parts of me back to life.

It was February of 2008 when I decided to dust off my grimories and hit the books harder than ever.[3] By April, I was ready for my last elevation with Bertie. I graduated with a PhD in May. Over the summer, The Only Other Pagan came back to town and we made amends. She had wholeheartedly adopted Witchiness—plus she brought a friend back with her.

We were tightthighttight for three months.[4]

Then, in September/October, I got talked into rigging a Dom-Jot table. I take full responsibility for having gone along with it. I lost my mind that fall and nearly lost everything else by New Year.

Part Three: In Hel and Back Out

In January 2009, I had a Naussican spear through my chest (see “It’s a Wonderful Q” for this reference), and found myself standing at the Gates of Hel without a shovel.

I started teaching Witchcraft on a more formal basis; I knew that if I was going to have to climb my way out of Helheim, I was going to need to buckle down. I spent the next ten months mentoring Witchcraft students online and teaching a select few in person. I spent those same ten months deflecting ridiculous fallout from that fight with a Naussican. I started writing a book called The Bad Witch Files—but I never knew how it ended, so it never went very far. It still calls me in bits and spurts.

I continued teaching (secular and religious) and learning and practicing and trying to piece my life back together in some way that looked like life, even if it still smelled of sulfur.

In October 2010, I started blogging here and you can go see the milestones for yourself. I think it was summer 2011 before I realized I was on the road back from Hel. I knew the journey was going to be long. And I knew that if I was ever going to make it all the way out, I was going to need to articulate myself—use my voice.

And—here was the hardest part—then I had to work through forgiving myself.

But, in order to avoid the calm stillness and silence where certainty resides, I kept myself a moving target, often chasing my own tail. Having spun m’self round and round, I have finally come full circle after traveling to Hel and back.

Part Four: The Return

It was back in February 2012 that I finally found the new mentor I had been craving. I had studied and practiced all the Hermetics, Ceremonial Magic, Theurgy, and Goetia I wanted to alone. After ten-fricking years of going it alone, I was ready to be taught, lead, united with others.

I looked to him to teach me all about Teutonic Shamanism. Unfortunately, it didn’t take too long for me to drain him of everything he knew, leaving me back at the drawing board.[5]

Right back where I started.

Fortunately, I did not go to jail, but I did collect $200. And by “collect $200,” I mean “pulled my head out of my arse and found my voice.”

Yawp, bitches. [6]

At the beginning of that shitefeckedup four year trek, I knew I had Heathen ethics, I knew I had High Ceremonial practices, I knew I had a moral compass aligned with Matthew 25:40, I knew I had a Helluva sound occult education behind me, and I knew I had – gifts—we’ll go with “gifts.” But I had never been forced to articulate what I “was.” I always considered myself a Heathen Sorcerer, perhaps because my childhood nickname was, “Y’lil’heathen,” perhaps for more substantial reasons stemming from my appreciation of the Anglo-Saxon ethics I learned as an undergraduate. I laid claim to the title “Sorcerer” in my early 20s, before I was even a mamma.[7] But, while I knew what it meant in my body and in my soul, I was never really sure what that might mean—you know, on paper, with other people looking at it.

Polyphanes wrote a post last week that struck a chord with me. He wrote: “I’m so far over the place, hither and thither, that I break a lot of people’s definitions, preconceptions, and labels. In other words, as befitting my Hermetic nature, I’m a trickster and don’t fit into any one bin, since I’ll just flit right out and into another one. I’d be like a Schrödinger’s Cat of traditions, except with less neurotoxin.” 

I felt a little like an unexplained Copenhagen interpretation too.

I’ve given you the rundown of my Jesuit educational upbringing with Bertie. Though Bertie tried her best to balance Catholic Christianity and Occult-Paganism for me, I held on to some of the vestiges of my Evangelical fears of “evil” and “Hel” for quite a while. I’m not ashamed to admit that. But, today, it seems like a lifetime ago that I was articulating my sense of Evangelical Detox. That’s not to say I discovered it in 2010, but that I had just found the voice to articulate the experience.[8]

Perhaps the most profound experiences are what ended my ongoing tailspin in the last few months. Having gotten back in constant contact with Bertie, I was pressed *from the outside* to journey back to the inside. Having lost Brother Preacherman and Mama Lisa over the summer, I was shocked into appreciating the “call” (or were they saying “caul”?) other folks saw hovering on and about me. Having learned what I’ve learned from Maman Lee a few months back. And having been pressed by The Road Less Traveled to reeeeealy articulate the difference in several traditionssome of which are my own, some of which I didn’t understand nearly as well as I did after being asked to clearly express those distinctions—I found that my voice was there all along. It was a little browbeaten and tired, it had been vilified and colonized—but it was still audible. And it still sounded like me.

Back in December 2011, I think I busted through some hymeneal (hmmm, hymnal?) membrane when I clearly articulated my thoughts about the word “vagina.” It had been—dare I say it—pricking at me for a while. And much like really good sex, once I found the right spot, it was all over.

In February 2012, I picked up the stav I had left idle for too long and started working on Teutonic Shamanism[9]—very close to the pathworking Bertie had taught me in the 90s.[10] It was these pathwork journeys, ironically, that brought me back out of Hel. And how I found my voice.

As for the journey, it’s not at an end. But I’m glad to be trading in these uncomfortable shoes.

So here’s what I’ll tell you in the next few posts:

  • What it means to go to Hel and Back in Teutonic Shamanism
  • Why I’m settling deeper into a new path (or, really, praxis)—that’s not different, just a better amalgamation of what I always was
  • What I’m teaching in Delta, Alabama next month and in Auburn, Alabama in November and December
  • How all of this relates to Wolves and Ulfarnir
  • How you can go to Hel too!

Thanks for sticking it out for this long post.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] Which I thought was, “There’s gonna be a party tonight.”

[2] One of whom, at not quite twenty, we lost this week.

[3] Ergo the 2008 in my email address—that was the year I set “stuff” up under the name Ehsha.

[4] This is all a sort of side-story which is more of an irritation than anything real. But it bears mentioning given what I had requested—three witches to teach me. Boy howdy. Witch’s Duh.

[5] This is no disparagement on him. It’s just that everything was the same stuff I had been teaching for years myself—just with different names.

[6] Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. I’m teaching this in a few weeks. Squee.

[7] I remember the conversation with my sister. I didn’t have the language to discuss High Magic versus Low Magic yet, but I knew the connotation of “Sorcerer” versus the connotation of “Witch.” Having always understood Wicca as initiatory, I never laid claim to it as an eclectic idea. I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around non-initiatory Wicca as “Wicca.”

[8] And it seems kinda trippy to me that I started envisaging an online Pagan Seminary back in September 2008 and started actually working toward it by publishing the results here nearly three years later. Now, here at the end of 2012, it seems the time has come to fully articulate that ambition.

[9] I don’t know how many of you saw the “Wyrd Sister” page before I turned it into the retail page it is now. If you missed it back in January, it aimed at being a page which cataloged my last leg of training in Seiðr. It rapidly got too close to STFU mysteries, so I switched it.

[10] And now I have vajay and stav and pounding jokes running through my head—that’s appropriate.

Some New Baubles and Things to Share

Pimping again.

I came across Wane Wyrds not long ago via The Pagan Pages Blog Hop and really liked the way Cena explained some of the misconceptions about Vanatru. I liked it so well, that I thought I’d share her post, “Misconceptions about Vanatru: What it is and what it isn’t,” with you.

And I’ve also enjoyed several well-spent hours reading/looking at Donald L. Engstrom-Reese’s work at Walking In Beauty, where he defines Queer Spirit for a Pagan community which is, in my opinion, far too hung up on binaries for its own good. I especially like this page where he offers some terms and definitions.

I’ll have a few more to add in a few weeks as I fill you in on my new group: Ulfarnir. I’m thinkin’ maybe they might need their own page.

Which reminds me–I had the great pleasure to meet some real Timberwolves yesterday and talk with the woman who takes care of them. (“You don’t train a wild animal,” she reminded me, “you work with its instincts rather than against them.”) It was an amazing experience and I learned some valuable things. Therefore, I plan to go back and revise my post on wolves to include what I learned. Stop by and see it in a day or so.

I always tell you that I’ll get back to this subject or that subject in another post–sometimes I forget or just get sidetracked. If there was something I said I’d tell you and I haven’t, drop me a reminder. I plan to run through the last few posts and gather up the stragglers when I have a minute; until then, I’ll follow your cues.

You’ll also notice that I’ve added a button for “Heathens Against Hate.” Go poke them.

I hope you dig the new layout. It seems that the more longwinded of my posts can scroll on-and-on, so I wanted a broader middle column for ya.

And, as I’m always up for suggestions, I took a loyal reader’s advice and added a tip-jar. I weighed the decision and looked at a lot of others’ opinions (like this one). In the end, I figured–as a minister, writing at The Files is part of my job. All of the contributions go toward supporting the things I do in the Pagan community. Why would I shortchange my community of some much needed financial support? Besides, some of the blogs I respect most have a tip-jar. I reckon it’s done. If I’ve made you laugh, made you cry, pissed you off enough to make you do something productive, or just given you an idea to reflect on for a bit, consider contributing. (It will show up as Open Path Sanctuary & Templum Gnostica, the legal brainchild behind all the pixie dust.) All of the bells and whistles I am adding to the Pagan community depend on the support of readers and enthusiasts like you.

As ever, I encourage you to go visit the folks on my blogroll. And if I have been remiss in including your blog or if you have a suggestion for a Bad Blog for me to add, drop me a line (abadwitch@yahoo.com).

Blessings, Quarks, and 93!

Ehsha