Instant Sumbul’s Gonna Get You

It’s the second anniversary of The Bad Witch Files.

Originally, I thought I’d write up a “retrospective” to reinforce the journey I’ve made from the Witch I was two years ago: undermined, deceived, and betrayed by the only Pagan “community” I thought I’d find in The Bamas. Two years later, having dug my heart-roots deep, my branches are starting to expand their canopy again. Rather than looking back, let’s look forward. Shall we?

Last night we had our Winternights craft circle and Disírblòt/Ælfablòt. (See my list of events (a new page to your right) for more details.)

A year ago, if someone had told me I’d have a horde of happy Heathens covered in glitter in my livingroom, I’d have called bullshit. Two years ago, I’d have shanked them for blasphemy.

But, alas. This year, I had wall-to-wall Wyrdness. Tissue-paper, feathers, ribbons, beads, and—yes—glitter.

Let me make something very, very clear. I am a talent at sewing on all levels with a particular penchant for costuming.[1] I can decorate the shit out of a house and garden (and chickencoop). I can paint, I can knit, I can solder, I can calligraphy, and I can make any piece of wood my absolute bitch.

Do not hand The Bad Witch glue sticks and glitter.

This. I cannot do.

And yet.

When one of my students, a beloved grove member, suggested a craft circle, I smiled and said, “Hokay?”[2] Then, piled high with the faces I adore more than air, I managed to make a go of it.

Then we retired to the beautiful harrow The Bad Husband arranged and had a bit of a blòt. “All Ehsha Style.” And while we had our, um, moments—we’ll go with “moments”—it was right out—here’s the word—“sanctified.” The harrow was hallowed and that’s the end of that.

Plus, when you get in your skin and learn to do what comes naturally, you learn a thing or three. Here is what The Bad Witch learned from “craft” night:

Mulled wine is oh-so-fantastically-suitable if the cat ruins the mead.
Often, the only things standing between some folks and vegetarianism are salami and bacon.
The Bad Husband never learned to braid. Who knew?
If it’s red and sticky, you should prolly put it in your mouth.
Bloody handprints don’t grow on trees.
I always forget the incense.
October ain’t no thang to mosquitos in Alabama.
If the need-fire won’t catch, use a spare ritual script as kindling.
While waiting for the need-fire to catch, Sumbul!

Included in this blòt was a spontaneous Sumbul and beot. The Sumbul reflects the strength of one of the most Heathen ethical traditions: Kindred. Again, I want to clarify that Kindred doesn’t rely on consanguinity, but on loyalty and affinity. A Sumbul is where kin sit in hall and take turns with the drinking vessel. (“No, no. That horn ain’t fit to drink from yet. Get a glass.”) The vessel serves as a bit of a “talking stick” in other cultures. In Sumbul, one can skald—tell a story—and one can beot. A beot is a ritualized boast. Not the braggadocio of conceit or egoism; a beot is a promise within the community—a sacred oath.[3] It’s not just a promise to the community, mind you. It is also a promise from the community.

For example: The Bad Husband’s beot was to improve his language skills in German to a fluid (not fluent) conversational level by the next solstice. So, not only has he promised to improve our community by adding to his communication skills (and therefore work-related skills—which in turn benefits his reputation in the broader world—this is good for our community which believes that individual health brings health to the whole). Success in this endeavor will increase his reputation in our community. Failure? Um, that’s different. But the flipside of the beot is that the community is also bound to encourage TBH to improve his German. They are to prod him and make reminders of his beot. They are oathbound to not stand in his way or make any hindrances or obstacles for him. When possible, they are to assist him. It’s all about community support.[4] In turn, TBH promised to help other members achieve their goals. Sumbul and beot is a way to let your community know what’s important to you, gain their support, and become accountable to something outside of yourself.

Our oaths got bigger as the cup passed ‘round: “Oh, I get it. The more we drink, the bigger our beot become?” What started with promises to finish this or that household project by spring ended with more serious oaths to learn languages and complete Shamanic and Hermetic training (four separate beot—each trying to one-up the other in a friendly-sort of way). But beot aren’t just promises to do things. A beot can be about something already done. Sumbul is a place to get the recognition that we deserve without the guilt manufactured by our Puritanical background. Others boasted of things like twenty years of military service (whoo-rah), a shiny new bar exam passing, a place on the dean’s list, a successfully (newly) integrated family of eight, and many other lovely things.

Today, we all have a better gauge of where each other stand and we have a clearer idea of how we can help one another. How Heathen is that?

Here are TBW’s beot. I tell you this here as a bit of cyber-Sumbul. You are my extended community and I want to include you in my support network. After all, you pushed me through two years—I’m pretty sure I can count on you to push me some more.

(And as a cyber-Sumbul, if you are someone who reads my blog just to look for ways to hinder my progress, stop reading now. When you listen to one’s sacred beot, you become enmeshed in supporting it.)

Click “more” if’n you’re willing to throw down on The Bad Witch if she get’s lazy.

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