Bela Bartok: Powers in the Land

Bela BartokI didn’t intend to write a separate post about the composer of Bluebeard’s Castle, but WordPress has its limitations. Among them the impossibility of adding to a the bottom of a post once it has an image or a video on it.

This is just for those who might be interested to know A bit about Bartok and his influences. Since folk music, folk tales an fairy tales have had such a profound influence on my Magical progression, I find Bartok’s inspiration in Hungarian and Bulgarian folk music runs along the same lines.

Folk Music as Magical Inspiration

Why? Folk music comes from the deep primal layers of the soul. I believe this very early music was a gift from the spirits of the land, that the  rhythms and melodies express the energies of a particular place in its natural state. As industrialization takes over, the links between human and Faery are cut. Music itself becomes more industrial, divorced from the rays, currents, and tides that make magic possible. Bartok, in seeking to unlock the old folk songs of Central Europe, perhaps came into contact with these long exiled spirits. They came to hm and inspired his only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, about a souls in tormented isolation who seeks, through the mediation of his wives, to re-merge with the patterns and cycles of Nature.

For one with the Witchblood, this urge is so deep inside you, that one cannot help but identify with Bartok’s alienated Bluebeard, filled with the same longing to return to what once was before the ways and portals of Faery were broken by metal and machines.

Biography and Musical Influences

The piece below is just pulled form Wikipedia as I can’t say it any better. Look him up there for more details.

The native form of this personal name is Bartók Béla. This article uses the Western name order.

Béla Viktor János Bartók (Hungarian: IPA: [ˈbeːlɒ ˈbɒrtoːk]) (March 25, 1881–September 26, 1945) was a Hungarian composer and pianist, considered to be one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of ethnomusicology.

In 1907, Bartók began teaching as a piano professor at the Royal Academy. This position freed him from touring Europe as a pianist and enabled him to stay in Hungary. Among his notable students were Fritz Reiner, Sir Georg Solti, György Sándor, Ernő Balogh, Lili Kraus, and, after Bartók moved to the United States, Jack Beeson and Violet Archer.

In 1908, inspired by both their own interest in folk music and by the contemporary resurgence of interest in traditional national culture, he and Kodály travelled into the countryside to collect and research old Magyar folk melodies. Their findings came as a surprise: Magyar folk music had previously been categorised as Gypsy music. The classic example of this misconception is Franz Liszt’s famous Hungarian Rhapsodies for piano, which were based on popular art-songs performed by Gypsy bands of the time. In contrast, the old Magyar folk melodies discovered by Bartók and Kodály bore little resemblance to the popular music performed by these Gypsy bands. Instead, they found that many of the folk-songs are based on pentatonic scales similar to those in Oriental folk traditions, such as those of Central Asia and Siberia.

Bartók and Kodály quickly set about incorporating elements of real Magyar peasant music into their compositions. Both Bartók and Kodály frequently quoted folk songs verbatim and wrote pieces derived entirely from authentic folk melodies. An example is his two volumes entitled For Children for solo piano containing 80 folk tunes to which he wrote accompaniment. Bartók’s style in his art music compositions was a synthesis of folk music, classicism, and modernism. His melodic and harmonic sense was profoundly influenced by the folk music of Hungary, Romania, and many other nations, and he was especially fond of the asymmetrical dance rhythms and pungent harmonies found in Bulgarian music. Most of his early compositions offer a blend of nationalist and late Romanticism elements.

Bluebeard’s Castle

Bartók wrote what was to be his only opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, dedicated to his wife Márta. This suggests to me that he may indeed have identified more than  a little with the inner struggle of his protagonist.

He entered it for a prize awarded by the Hungarian Fine Arts Commission, which rejected it out of hand as un-stageworthy. In 1917 Bartók revised the score in preparation for the 1918 première, for which he rewrote the ending. Following the 1919 revolution, he was pressured by the government to remove the name of the blacklisted librettist Béla Balázs (by then a refugee in Vienna) from the opera.

Bluebeard’s Castle received only one revival, in 1936, before Bartók emigrated. For the remainder of his life, although he was passionately devoted to Hungary, its people and its culture, he never felt much loyalty to its government or its official establishments.

Personal Note: The Golden Stair

I was fascinated with Bartok’s use of Central European folk music in composing Bluebeard’s Castle, as well the Ottoman inspired staging of the 2004 production I found on UTube.

My unpublished (but hopefully not for long) novel The Golden Stair is based on Rapunzel but form the Point of view of the Witch. It is Grimm’s fairy tale, but I set in 15th century Royal Hungary at the height of the Ottoman wars. A battle with the Turkish invaders is the turning point of the book.

This is perhaps why I have been so thrilled with this opera. Not just because I love fairy tales, but because Bartok drew on the same current that motivated my own creative project.

Kay Nielsen, Bluebeard

Kay Nielsen, Bluebeard

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Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Bluebeard’s Castle: The Opera

Agnes Zwierko and Martin Gurbal’ as Judit and Bluebeard in fragments of DUKE BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE 2004

For those of you who may want to hear the music composed by Bela Bartok for Bluebeard’s Castle, I found this one from 2004. Musically, I feel this is the best. the revolving churn of the orchestra, and the dark voices singing in that wonderfully weird language, Hungarian, conjure up an atmosphere of dread. The sets have an woodsy Grimm’s fairy tale quality.

I think you must agree that Agnes Zweirko’s singing is spine chilling!

The extra videos of this opera are worth watching too and are more cinematic. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Here is the last scene of the libretto when Judit opens the seventh door. It has been translated into English form Hungarian by Boosey and Hawkes

JUDIT
(She frees herself from his embrace.)
Open the seventh and last door!
(He remains silent.)
I have guessed your secret, Bluebeard.
I can guess what you are hiding.
Bloodstain on your warrior’s weapons,
Blood upon your crown of glory.
Red the soil around your flowers.
Red the shade your cloud was throwing.
Now I know it all, oh, Bluebeard,
Know whose weeping filled your white lake.
All your former wives have suffer’d,
Suffer’d murder, brutal, bloody.
Ah, those rumours, truthful rumours!

BLUEBEARD
Judith!

JUDITH
Truthful, truthful!
I must prove them, ev’ry detail.
Open for me the last of your doorways!

BLUEBEARD
Take it, take it. Here’s the seventh and last key.
(Judith stands rigid, gazing at him. She does not put out her hand for the key.)
Open now the door and see them.
All my former wives await thee.
(Far a while she stands motionless then she takes the key with a faltering hand, and goes, her body swaying slightly, to the Seventh Door. When the lock snaps the Fifth and Sixth Doors swing to with a gentle sighing sound. It becomes much darker. Only the opposite four open doorways illuminate the hall with their beams of coloured light.
And now the Seventh Door opens and a long, tapering beam of silvery moonshine reaches out from the aperture and bathes the faces of Judith and Bluebeard in its silvery light.)
Hearts that I have loved and cherished!
See, my former loves, sweet Judith.

JUDITH
(shrinks back astounded and horrified)
Living, breathing. They live here!
(Through the Seventh Door his former wives come forth. They are three in number. They wear crowns on their heads and their bodies are ablaze with priceless gems. Pale of face but with proud and haughty gait they step forward one after the other, and stand before Bluebeard who sinks to his knees in homage.)

BLUEBEARD
(As though in a trance he stretches out his arms to them.)
Radiant, royal! Matchless beauty!
They shall ever live immortal.
They have gathered all my riches.
They have bled to feed my flowers.
Yea, they have enlarged my kingdom.
All is theirs now, all my treasures.

JUDITH
(She stands with the others so as to make the fourth in the line, looks broken in spirit and afraid.)
Dazzling beauty past believing.
Oh, compared with these I’m nothing.

BLUEBEARD
(rises to his feet and whispers intently to Judith)
The first I found at daybreak,
Crimson, fragrant early morning.
Hers is now the swelling sunrise.
Hers its cool and coloured mantle,
Hers its gleaming crown of silver,
Hers the dawn of ev’ry new day.

JUDITH
Ah, she’s richer far than I am!
(The first wife slowly returns whence she came.)

BLUEBEARD
The second one I found at noon,
Silent, flaming, golden-haired noon.
Hers is ev’ry noon hereafter.
Hers their heavy burning mantle.
Hers their golden crown of glory.
Hers the blaze of ev’ry midday.

JUDITH
Ah, she’s fairer far than I am!
(The second wife goes back through the door.)

BLUEBEARD
The third I found at evening.
Quiet, languid, sombre twilight.
Hers is each returning sunset.
Hers that grave and umber mantle.
Hers is ev’ry solemn sunset.

JUDITH
Fairer, richer far than I am!
(The third wife returns.)
(Far a long time Bluebeard stands confronting Judith in silence. They gaze into each other’s eyes. The Fourth Door closes slowly.)

BLUEBEARD
The fourth I found at midnight.

JUDITH
No more, no more, Bluebeard, no more.

BLUEBEARD
Starry ebon-mantled midnight.

JUDITH
No more, no more, I am still here.

BLUEBEARD
Thy pale face was all a-glimmer.
Splendid was thy silky brown hair.
Ev’ry night is thine hereafter.
(He goes to the Third Door and brings forth the crown, cloak and jewels, that Judith had placed on the threshold. The Third Door closes. He lays the cloak over Judith’s shoulders .)
Thine is now the starry mantle.

JUDITH
Bluebeard, Bluebeard, spare me, spare me.

BLUEBEARD
(He places the crown on her head.)
Thine is now the crown of diamonds.

JUDITH
Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

BLUEBEARD
(He hangs the jewels round her neck.)
Thine is the wealth of my kingdom.

JUDITH
Spare me, oh it is too heavy.

BLUEBEARD
Thou art lovely, passing lovely,
Thou art queen of all my women,
My best and fairest!
(They gaze into each other’s eyes. Bowed down by the weight of the cloak, her head dropping, Judith goes the way of the other women, walking along the beam of moonlight toward the Seventh Door. She enters, and it closes after her.)
Henceforth all shall be darkness,
Darkness, darkness.
(The stage is slowly plunged into total darkness, blotting Bluebeard from sight.)

END

© 1952 Boosey and Hawkes

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The Dark Side of Faery Tales: Bluebeard’s Castle

Faery Tales and the Subconscious Mind

The evocative images in Faery Tales have animated my subconscious imagination since early childhood. I have not just been influenced by the wish-fulfilling, romantic-expectation fantasy aspect of Fairy Tales that has been criticized as the bane of young women by some feminists. It is the dark, disturbing elements that move me. The numinous edge that is the threshold of the Otherworld stirs my blood and draws me in.
Why should that be? After spending many years pondering this issue, I have come to believe that what is consigned (by society) to the dark is Taboo, and Taboos invite curiosity. That which is dark and hidden, especially forbidden, seethes with danger. Why would one be drawn to investigate what is dangerous? To bring something to light, perhaps, and dissipate its fearful hold over you? Over society? Perhaps there is an innate desire to redeem that which has been misunderstood and cast out.

The darkness accumulates magnetic power because it has been left alone. We live in a world of duality where what has been ignored must seek reunion, recognition, integration.

The Mysterious Domain

There is an undercurrent of dark mystery in Faery Tales that is their source of supernatural wonder. These have been suspected, in Christian cultures, of being the matrix of evil forces that must be subdued. Much of this matrix has to do with nature and its power over of our lives. I always wonder what these tales were like before the churchmen got their hands on them. Were there always heroes  destroying the Big Bad Wolves and Evil Queens? Were the so-called villians always taught the error of their ways? Were  the Enchanters, and the Enchanted, always portrayed in a negative light by peasants telling stories beside the fire on cold winter nights? Perhaps this uneasy undercurrent has to do with fear of Faery and its unexpected intrusion into the mundane order of our lives.

La Belle et La Bette, Cocteau

Many of the dark, disturbing elements of Faery Tales often revolve around sexuality, whether it comes in bestial form, as the Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, or the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, or in the machinations of the Dark Mother, the Wicked Witch, or Evil Sorceress who seeks to destroy the fledgling beauty before she wakes up to her womanhood.

Sometimes it is the displacement into another world that is disturbing. This brings up fear of the unknown, dread of what is unfamiliar, and the sense of trespass into a forbidden realm. These realms  may also have to do with sexuality, for they are beyond the pale, or outside the boundaries of civilized, acceptable society. There, sexual diversions of all kinds may encountered with beings who may not be like us, or are under some kind of enchantment.

Bluebeard, Dore

Bluebeard, Dore

Bluebeard

The  story of Bluebeard includes all of these murky elements. Based on the life of the infamous Gilles de Rais, commander of Joan d’Arc’s army, and  aristocratic murderer of young boys, Bluebeard is not really a fairy tale. It was not collected by the Grimm Brothers, was never a folktale, but a work of literature. Why is it part of the Fairy Tale cannon then? Is it because of its chilling undercurrent, its remote, haunted realm, and the equally haunted soul of Bluebeard with his chilling secret chamber that deeply disturbs us and draws us in? Are we not like the Bride, on fire with curiosity to peer into the dark places that are not meant to be seen?

The inclusion of a story as horrific as Bluebeard among the classic Fairy Tales proves that what pulls us into these stories again and again is our desire, like the questing heroes of old, to penetrate the darkest mysteries and come return with a shimmering gift.

In the original Tale of Bluebeard by Perrault, a young girl is married to an extraordinarily wealthy, worldly man who sports a beastial blue beard. He carries her off to his remote chateau beside the sea. The castle is filled with luxuries, but is empty and cold, filling the young Bride with doubt about  her future happiness with her husband. Very soon, Bluebeard announces that must go away on business, and leaves her in charge of large ring of keys.
“Go into any room you want,” he tells her. “Explore your new home to your heart’s content, but under no circumstances use this little golden key.”
He dangles it in front of her, and then goes on to tell her exactly which door it fits, and where it is.
Naturally, while he is away, the bored and wondering Bride, locates the door. Unable to resist, she slips the key into the lock. It turns! It is only one small step over the threshold and —–
We know what she finds. All the dead bodies of Bluebeard’s previous wives.

Bluebeard, Matt Mahurin

Bluebeard, Matt Mahurin


Bluebeard’s Castle: An Opera by Bela Bartok, 1911

As a lover of Faery tales, I was extremely fortunate to see Robert Lepage’s production of Bluebeard’s Castle at Seattle Opera recently. Known for his work with Cirque du Soleil, he originally directed this piece for the Canadian Opera Company. In Seattle the director’s post was taken over by Francois Racine.
Bluebeard was played by John Relyea with great pathos and magnificent voice.
The Bride, Judit, was played by Malgorzata Walewska. Her voice was gorgeous and her acting sensitive.
I am no critic of classical singing. I loved them both. I am interested in the story and the images that stir the imagination and lie there seeding…

The stage is framed with golden tiles reminiscent of the art of Gustave Klimt. This sets up the idea of the stage as a living painting. Bartok was influenced by the French Symbolists. Knowing that helps one to appreciate the slow pace, and absorb the poetic images as one would a work of visual art.
Otherwise the stage is dark but for a castle, far away, golden, and revolving in the murk as in a dream. Here is the enticement to enter a realm that is dark, magnetic, alluring, inviting penetration of its mystery.
So does Bluebeard.
The one act opera, Bluebeard’s Castle, departs from Perrault’s storyline to give us a psychological encounter with the lure of darkness. The Bride, Judit, comes into her new home, the gloomy Castle, stunned but determined to adjust. She loves Bluebeard, pities his deep loneliness, and unrelenting sadness.
At last, unable to cope with the brooding melancholy of the place, Judit fixates on a row of large keyholes along the wall through the light is shining through. Hopeing for her happily-ever-after, she decides that  if only this light could be let in, Bluebeard’s depression would be releived, and their love would bloom.

Tormented by doubt that she will not be able to accept what she finds behind the doors, Bluebeard struggles with Judit to keep the doors closed. She persists, determined to heal her beloved’s darkness. One by one she opens the locks, and one by one, the doors open to let in streams of dazzling light.
But, once her eyes adjust to the light, Judit find to her dismay that the first door opens on a torture chamber, awash with blood.  The second door reveals Bluebeard’s armory, also drenched with blood. Undaunted like a true fairy tale heroine, Judit continues opening the doors while Bluebeard cringes at her discoveries, hating himself. and fearing the loss of her love.
At the third door, Judit rallies for it  holds a mountain of sparkling jewels! But these too are soaked with blood. The fourth door opens on a garden — golden leaves float out and land gently surround the Bride who is overjoyed to find this evidence of beauty in Bluebeard’s soul. Her reverie comes to stop when  she notices  the hem of her skirts are saturated with blood that has run out of the garden to pool at her feet. The fifth door opens on a vista of conquered lands. Bluebeard, certian she will impressed, brags about his empire. But his joy is shortlived, for the clouds above those lands are roiling with blood.

The climax is a wonder! When Judit opens the sixth door, a river runs out and crosses the front of the stage. She walks in the water, wondering how it got there. Bluebeard tells her it is a Lake of Tears. He breaks down, defeated, for she has in getting so close to discovering his true dark secret. Like everything else, the Lake of Tears turns to blood.

When Judit opens the final door, we see the first wife rising out of the lake. When she stands up, she is clothed from head to foot in brilliant red. He wet gown clings, drags and drips like fresh blood. Slow as a sleepwalker, she moves across the Lake of Blood and Tears, followed by the second blood soaked wife, and then a third. They leave the lake and move upstag,e to stand in three corners while Bluebeard sings about their fates. The first wife is the Dawn, the second is the Day, and the third is Twilight. All his life, Bluebeard has been waiting for the most beautiful wife, Judit, who from now on will be the Night.

Bluebeard's Castle

As the scene fades we see the far away Castle turning in the dark,  as in a dream. Judit could not bring the light, but rather became one with the unremitting Night. Bluebeard is left alone. His inner darkness comes down like a curtain,

The images are profoundly poetic and hypnotic. The light flooding into the shadowy castle hall with its strong bars across the exit, undulated with vivid colors suggesting what the audience could not see behind the doors. Lurid reflections moved over the opposite wall as the light struck it and told the whole story.

This was so beautiful it had me coming out in a rash! Sorry, but I get that way sometimes.

Insider aside: The actresses actually swam onto the stage through a tank of water. When they stood up these marvelous soaking wet, scarlet costumes dragged behind them and clung like fresh blood.

The wetness of Judit’s wedding gown was as expressive as anything else on the stage. Surreal, romantic, claustrophobic and Kafka-esque, I hope I never forget it.

I am not a music critic, so for those who would like to know I have quoted a review by David Stabler of the Oregonian newspaper:

The score is rich in Debussian declamation and surging Straussian color. It packs a wallop that is almost physical, without one sustained aria. The orchestral motif associated with dripping blood is a minor second, a crimped interval of anguish, but Bartok uses it many ways, building the taut score to a climax of overwhelming power before sinking back into gloom.

Door No. 5 is the climax, a searing orgasm in C Major that draws a drawn-out scream from Judith, who stands in a radiance of white light as the orchestra bucks beneath her. Polish mezzo Malgorzata Walewska was magnificent throughout – alluring, supple in voice and limb — but that moment belongs to the orchestra in all its hammering glory.

Just as magnificent was John Relyea’s Bluebeard, a demon with a sympathetic heart and a sonorous bass that contained rage and despair, seemingly pulled from the depths of the earth. His singing was emotionally expansive, at times thundering, consoling and traumatized.

Arthur Woodley animated the spoken Prologue with a storyteller’s expressive power.

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Witch’s Familiars: Animal Spirits and Their Charms

What is a Witch’s Familiar?

I have written about the subject of Witches Familiars, but have not provided a definition. Some people may  not know this term, or not be aware of the special relationship that witches have had with animals since time began. There are quite a few layers of meaning to explore here, and  I will begin with something little discussed in this context.


Lady of the Beasts

From ancient times, the Great Goddess has appeared in animal guise. As far back in time as the pre-historic Lascaux cave paintings, she has been depicted wearing horns or antlers that rise like the crescent moon above her head. In my prior blog article, “Witch’s Familiars and Their Charms: Witchery of the Hare”, I discuss the connection of the Moon and procreation. As Great Mother, the Goddess is at one with the Moon.

(The Moon reflects the image of the Goddess down the levels throughout the sublunar realms, until her power becomes manifest on Earth. In that form, she can be petitioned for favors by the Witch or Mage as she fertilizes all of Nature with her life-giving power.)

Many are the Forms of the Primal Mother:

The Goddess of the Witches, Diana has been called Lady of the Wild Beasts. As Diana the many Breasted,  she nourishes all of the life forms that she has given life to. The animals surround her, follow her, and accompany her on the Wild Hunt.  As Mother of all of Life, Diana is able to transform herself into the many guises of her children.

The sacred cats of Egypt such as Sekmet, or Bast, are embodiments of the Divine Mother.  The swan and the dove belong of the Love Goddess Aphrodite as Mistress of Love and Death. The vultures and ravens of the battlefield are forms taken by the Triple Goddess’s  Hecate and the Morrigan. The serpent Goddess’s of Wisdom is a familiar of Athena. Hathor, Isis and Nut of Egypt were known to take the maternal and lunar shapes of cows and bulls. One school of thought would call these animal shapes icons, another animal totems. We of the Witch Way know them as ‘familiars.’

Witchery and Shamanism:

Though it was not called “Shamanism” in Europe, Witchcraft has deep roots in practices very similar to Shamans, and Shamans have long worked with animal spirits. Whether the need was to encourage procreation in the animal kingdoms, or to enlist the aid of animal spirits their special talents by identifying closely with them, Shamans have traditionally been able to communicate telepathically with wild creatures, and sometimes even shape-shift into the forms of wild beasts.  Judging by the early cave paintings and the activities of surviving Shamanically based cultures, fertility rites directed toward wild animals, even those where the goal was to acquire an animal skill such as the far seeing of the hawk, or the speed of the jaguar, were for the purposes of hunting. Animals are food, so great energy was expended to insure their plentiful numbers.

Pets as “Familiars”:

Women, as keepers of the house, have had a special relationship with domesticated animals. Women were perhaps the first keepers of pets, or animal companions with whom they share an emotional bond. It is highly likely that old women, often living alone, had very close relationships with their pets, as many do today. When Christian clerics began intruding into village life to gain converts, they certainly observed this phenomenon. Part of the Christian conversion program included a divide and conquer strategy — divide the people from the spirits of the land, the Great Mother, and her consorts by equating them with the Devil. A second strategy was to undermine the healing role of Cunning Folk, midwives, herbalists, and seers. It wasn’t long before the village wise woman and her pets were demonized, and lurid and degrading stories were spread about elderly Crones and their beastly ‘familiars’.

One story the Churchmen concocted was that witches kept domesticated animals, not out of love, but a as helpers in the spread of disease and death. Witches were apparently observed by these clerics going out at night under the full moon and transforming themselves into cats, crows, mice, or toads to poison wells, curdle milk, blight the crops, steal children for the faeries, and other assorted evils. A Witch kept her familiars and  ‘imps’ loyal by feeding them with her blood. The animals were said to suck blood from her fingers or from an unusually placed nipple on her body.

Persecution of Witches and Their Familiars

By the 1640’s, when the WitchFinder General, Mathew Hopkins came along, the possession of these ‘witches teats’ or ‘marks’ had become an irrefutable sign that the person was a devotee of the Devil. The witches marks were thought to be insensitive to pain, so to test the accused, long needles were inserted into these marks. If the accused cried out, he or she was innocent. To fail to react was proof of guilt.

Once this insensitive teat was found, the witch  was subjected to other, more intense, interrogation methods to extract a more detailed ‘confession.’

In 1164, Mathew Hopkins interrogated a witch in Essex, England. After much heavy torture, the witch spilled the names of her animal familiars: Pywakit, Pecke in the Crown, Griezzel, and Greedigutt were most likely cats.

In William Shakespeare’s play ‘MacBeth’ the three witches call for their familiars at the start of the play:

First Witch: I come, Graymalkin!

Second Witch: Paddock calls.

Third Witch: Anon.

ALL: Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Exeunt

(Three is the number of the Moon Goddess. Graymalkin is a cat and Paddock is a frog or toad.)

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Wicca: The Charge of the Goddess

Alexandrian Coven

Alexandrian Coven

Wicca was born in the 1930’s.

Organized Wicca was begun by Gerald Gardener who, influenced by Margaret Murray’s disputed yet evocative books, God of the Witches, The Witch Cult in Western Europe, and Aradia: Goddess of the Witches by Geoffrey Leland, began putting together the first Book of Shadows, a compendium of spells and rituals that he gathered together in an effort to revive the ‘Old Religion’. Also included in this book were bits from the sensationalist priest, Montague Summers, and the Great Beast, Aleister Crowely. He claimed to have initiated into witchcraft by a band of hereditary witches in the New Forest, granting him the authority to create his own coven of thirteen magical practitioners.

Doreen Valiente

Doreen Valiente

Wicca is a fertility religion with a Priest and High Priestess who enact a rite of sacred sex for the benefit of the generative forces of all of nature. Gardener’s first High Priestess was a mysterious lady called Dafo.
Gardener initiated Doreen Valiente into his Bricket Wood Coven in 1953. She was to become his greatest High Priestes. She refined the Book of Shadows and created a sense of mystery  and beauty with her fine poetry such as The Witches Rune, The Wiccan Rede, and The Charge of the Goddess. She is considered the Mother of Modern Wicca.

The Charge of the Goddess is commonly used to open Wiccan rituals invoking the Great Goddess. It has been adapted Starhawk, author of The Spiral Dance, a highly influential handbook of Faery Magic and one of the first serious books I read in the late 1970’s that stirred my Witchblood and taught me the poetry of Wicca. Though I am not initiated into any Wiccan group, I respect and admire much of what they do. As a carrier of the Witchblood, my initiation came about before I was born.

Charge of the Goddess

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:

Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of all the Wise.

You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:

I Who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,

I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

Diana of the Moon and Hunt

Diana of the Moon and Hunt

Don’t forget to check out my novella Salome: The Seventh Queen. I have just added another scene.

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Mysteries of the Tarot: The Ship of Fools

The Ship of Fools: Heironymous Bosch

Ship of Fools, by Heironymous Bosch

As a great fan of Heironymous Bosch, I could not help posting a whole boatload of Fools! Note the little head in the tree!

I found an interesting source for the idea of the painting in a book called Dreamtime: Concerning the Boundary Between Wilderness and Civilization by Hans Peter Duerr.


The Fool has a lot of resonance with Dionysus, God of Divine Madness.
Here it is:
“The maenads of Zagreus–Dionysus were closely related to the Couretes, and probably had the same roots. The Meanads were the ‘grasping ones’, the ‘tearers’, even more closely than the Couretes bearing traces of the Wild Hunt. Like the Erinys of Artemis, these ecstatic huntresses were spirits of the dead who raged through the land ‘between the times’, clad in the skins of panthers, deer or foxes, carrying the thyrsus and suckling wolf pups. they were given death offerings usually of milk and honey. The same offerings were later given to  the ‘bonnes dames’ and the ‘naht-frouwen’, the women of the night. On choes, the second day of the of the Anthesteria festival, Dionysus, the ‘great loosener’, the ‘god of blossoms’, rolled through the streets and alleys of Athens, seated on his ship cart. The cart was drawn by two satyrs, and the god was accompanied by the souls of the dead, who on this day arrived from the swamps of Lerna, the door to the underworld, to visit the mortals.
When a ship rolls on land, all matters are turned upside down. the rule of the masters did not prevail on choes, and the slaves were free and could do as they pleased. As late as 1133, a wooden ship on wheels traveled from Cornelimunster to Tongern and Looz via Achen and Maastrischt, where it was fitted out out with sails and mast. Wherever the ship haulted, women were overcome by wild ecstasy. half-naked or clad in short shifts, their hair loose, they danced around the ship and later engaged in behavior about which a monk who reported the event maintained he could only weep or be silent. Regrettably for posterity, he did not write while weeping, so we are left in ignorance as to what might taken place around the ship after nightfall.
Ships float in water, in no-man’s-land, as it were, not subject to the laws of one particular country. it is understandable, therefore, that in the latter part of the Middle Ages, ‘lawless’ fools were often represented on ships. If the ship then traveled over ‘someone’s land’, this was chaos overcoming order.”

The images here are amazing. If you read this paragraph slowly, allowing the images of the Maenads, the ship, the mad Fools to play in your imagination, you will see how one simple image of the Fool resonates, like fine poetry, into the deepest levels of the unconscious and tap into the Ancestral Memory where the Ship of Fools still exists as a ‘reality’.
This is how Tarot works. Images and symbolic keys to deeper meanings, many unseen, not obvious, require meditation to reveal themselves. Images from the Ancient Mysteries transmit core energies from the Soul of the World, fertilizing and ordering the imagination so that it becomes a mediator between times, dimensions, and levels of consciousness beyond the boundaries of the known.
For this to happen, you must do something that has gone out of fashion — you must slow down, savor, brood upon an image until it falls into your bloodstream and becomes part of you. Then, when you read the cards they will come to life and speak in ways no instruction manual can teach.
Next post will give a definition of Tarot with a few ideas on how to consecrate a Tarot deck.
Peter Breugel, Carnival

Peter Breugel, Carnival

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Mysteries of the Tarot: The Fool

The Fool

“...but we will speak only of those things which are difficult, and not to be grasped by the senses, but, indeed, which are almost contrary to the evidence of the senses.”
Paracelsus, Archidoxi Magica


Using my own handpainted Holy Grail Tarot, I will use this blog to teach the definitions of the cards and explore their deeper meaning. Their part in the Grail Legend will also be told, using the literary sources that inspired the outer images. I say outer images, for this Tarot deck is the result of an Initiation, and the real images came to me directly from the UnderWorld of Faery.
When I embarked on my visits to the Kingdom of Faery, I was no more sensible of the dangers and rewards than this Fool you see here blithely walking off a cliff. Heaven and Earth attempt to warn him to watch his step…but the Fool’s way is to venture into the unknown because there is no other way  for him to learn but through experience.
David Ovason, in his book The Zelator: the Secret Journals of Mark Hedsel,Way of the Fool.
“The Way of the Fool is the way of the independent traveler on the Path of Initiation. Such a traveler may study under a variety of Masters, yet will strive always to preserve his or her own identity, and rarely undertakes vows of silence which will bind his or her being to a particular school or teaching. The fact that this traveling Fool is on a Path is meant to reflect that he or she is following the way of experience, which in ancient Greek was termed pathein.”
He goes on to say that the Path of the Fool is about development of the higher Ego, or the Self. This is the Self that Jung talks about, “the droplet of Godhead which has sought experience through involvement in matter.” The  part of us that that knows itself to be divine. The Divine Fool is one whose folly is to surrender  to this Godhead. He is motivated by his desire for life beyond earthly existence. To find it, he steps into the unseen and therefore begins an journey into the unknown. But in his surrender to trust in the divine pattern of his life, he knows perfect freedom.


The meanings of the Fool card in Tarot are more complex than they seem. The symbol of the 0 is rich with meaning. As a newly incarnate soul, the Fool is the baby that has passed through the 0 of the birth canal, coming from the spiritual dimension into the world of matter. His consciousness is raw, full of sensations and visions of a former life of complete security, enclosed in warmth and darkness. He is jolted awake by pain and blood and light, beginning the journey of the Fool from the second the umbilicus is cut. He has no name and knows nothing. In many respects he is an empty 0 waiting to be filled.
In the Middle Ages, the Fool was known as the Lord of Misrule; he was unpredictable, anarchic, arcahic, somehow ‘inferior’ to us in his instictual abandon.  This uncouth manner is symbolized in traditonal Tarot cards by the Fool’s cap and bell, a residue of the old crown of asses ears that resonates so well with the sin-burdened scapegoat. To say it simply, civilized people sometimes long to return to the raw, unconscious, instictual stage of infancy expressd in the madness of the Fool. Because they fear a break down of their inner control, they joy in having someone else act it out for them. In ancient times it is easy to consider that the one who played the Fool too well was cast out or killed so that society could rid itself of these base desires for the rest of the year.

The Lord of Misrule


The little dog barking at the Fool to watch his step  symbolizes the  internalized, positive side of an instictual, natural response to life. Attuned to nature,  this instinct builds in protection when it is needed at the most dangerus junctions of the Path.
In his sack, the Fool carries his unknown Self, or Shadow. He doesn’t think he wants what is in that sack, yet he needs it, and it can never be left behind. It can be seen as a bag of Karma, that which must be paid out by the end of life. In my deck, the Fool, Parzifal, carries a bag of black and white squares, signifying his inability to see the shades of grey. Black and white thinking blocks subtle awareness, depth of perception and openess to the contradictions through which the Mysteries are revealed. It suggests that even as free as the Fool’s mind is, his clinging to easy answers causes him to fail to ask the questions that would bring the Wasteland to life again. In a sense, black and white thinking is the sign of an inner wasteland — an utter lack of imagination. In the legend of his life, Parzifal was raised alone by his mother in the deep forest. All she supplied him with was a set of rules. His story shows that blind reliance on the rules can bring disaster when creative solutions are called for.
It is not hard to see that the sack and staff have phallic conotations. In traditional decks, the sack dangles at the end of the stick which is over the Fool’s shoulder visually severing his head from his body. There is no more apt arrangement of symbols to suggest that much of the Fools’ instinctual bad behavior, and much of his mania, is sexual. On another level, this sexual imagery has less to do with sexual acts than with fertility of ideas, creative energy as yet unformed, direct from a source close to the divine.

” The Way of the Fool is a sort of balancing act on a tightrope. While the Fool has no wish to lose contact with his Higher Self, he or she wishes to gain experience of life…”
Though my Fool, Parzifal wears no Fool’s cap or horns, or asses ears, the trees behind him mimic those shapes. They are part of nature. This Fool is already partly redeemed, for  he wears the royal purple emblazoned with butterflies of transmutation, his bare head shines with gold and is free to recieve the angel’s blessings from above. He is wrapped in the yellow cloak of the mind in harmony with the body it floats around and supports like wings.
Parzifal walks out of the starry night of the forest  toward an abyss of stars in the UnderWorld, for unlike our forebears, we have seen the Earth floating in space; we know the earth is as divine as any other celestial body.  He is drawn to the wider world by a vision of ‘angels’– an encounter with the Knights of the Round Table whose armor shone in the sunshine like gold. Therefore, his motivation is a spiritual search.
The motley magpies represent  and gathering of bright things, also in their constant chattering, the Mystery Language of the Birds.  In the far distance the rising sun shines over the sea of origin, the source of all life.

Tarot meanings: Ignorance, naivete, entering the unknown, higher guidance, Idea, thought, that which endeavors to rise above the material, spiritual aspiration. In a reading about material concerns it shows folly, stupidity, eccentricity and mania unless balanced by very strong cards that stabilize.

To see the complete Tarot of the Holy Grail, go to www.whiteswan-tarot.com and look under Photo Gallery.

My services are also listed at that website.

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The Celestial UnderWorld

Final Frontier by George Grie

Final Frontier by George Grie

When the our ancestors thought the world was flat, the celestial realms were called ‘Heaven above’, and whatever was underground was ‘Hell below’. Heaven was a sparkling place full of light, visible,  showed the patterns of the seasons, weather, and time events that the ancients depended upon  for survival. Being ‘above’, the Heavens were thought to be superior. Because water sprang up from under the earth, and such creatures as serpents lived down there, in the dark, in the unseen, and because the ground was ‘below’, it was thought of as secret, dark, unknowable, threatening, and ‘inferior.’
Traditionally the Realm of Faery has been thought of as the Realm of the Dead, being underground where the ‘dead’ are buried. But it is more than that — it is Realm of the Ancestors who, being ‘dead’ actually live in a dimension parallel to our own, and invisible to most of us.
Now we know for certain that the Earth is not a platter floating between Heaven and Hell, but a celestial body, a star among stars. For the Faery Seer, one who three-hundred years ago would have suffered under accusations of witchcraft, an image  of the Earth, like that posted here, shows that there is no above or below, no Paradisal/Infernal opposed to each other, but a rotating orb wrapped in a sea of stars.
In the UnderWorld shine the Sun, Moon, and Stars, though not the ones that we see, that emit a light of their own…

Just a thought…

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How to Know if Your House is Haunted

How to Tell if Your House is Haunted

by Lucifera, Queen of Elfhame

You can find my stuff elsewhere on the web. At EHow.com I write humorous paranormal articles under the name Lucifera, Queen of Elfhame.  This is my first post ever online. It has been very popular. If you like this let me know and I will write some more. Better yet, you can find more in this vein at EHow.com.

Could it be? Could it be?

When we move into a new house, we have so many concerns, that the atmosphere of the place may be the last thing we consider. The rent is so affordable, the rooms so spacious,and the location so perfect that we ignore the clotted shadows in the corners, the creaking basement stairs plunging into darkness, the dead, evil tree leaning near the front door. But, once we settle in, an unaccustomed weariness overtakes us. We have nightmares, or see strange lights floating in the air, hear cries and moans in the night. We tell ourselves these are merely symptoms of the house settling. Yet, we jump when we glimpse a sudden movement at the corner of our eye! We wake to find the kettle boiling on the stove, or dishes lying broken on the floor. We cannot blame the cat for she has fled…
In time, depression sets in; we have a run of bad luck. Somehow, home becomes the last place we want to be.
The back of our neck prickles. “The house is haunted,” our mind whispers. But we don’t believe in ghosts…

Surely, it is just our own problems assailing us. But how do we know for sure?
Below is one method that has worked for me.

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Instructions

Difficulty: Challenging

Things You’ll Need:

  • Courage
  • Mirror

  • White Candle
Step1

no, no, no no, no, no

Do not use a ouija board in such a place! Do not check yourself into a mental ward! Use the following methods in your investigation. They are safer.

Step2

Realize that ghosts cannot hurt you physically. Their power lies in the way they effect your subconscious mind.
Knowing this, resolve to prevent your imagination taking over. Be strong.

Step3

Ghosts live in the in-between, therefore, learn to look through your eyes using your peripheral vision. Gaze at the empty spaces between solid objects. An empty doorway is always good, as is an empty corner of the room, or the empty air at the end of your bed. Still your racing pulse, be receptive. Use all of your six senses…

Step4

You can detect them best in the night, for they are of the night. Determine to stay awake until sunrise.

Step5

Light a candle. Place a mirror flat in front of it. If the flame flickers and flares up, you can be sure the ghost is nigh. Look down into the mirror. If fear creeps up your spine, the ghost is there!
Do not react. Simply say, “Hello”.

Step6

With practice, you will notice things. Like the shadowy shape that stands up when you enter a room. It was sitting in your favorite chair! Or that at 3:00 AM you are awakened by a spectre standing at the foot of your bed.

Tips & Warnings

  • You may have noticed that the neighbors shun you. When they see you, they cross the road. Their children run to the edge of the yard and stare at you silently when you come out of the door. A sure sign that the house is wrong! Ask someone, if they will speak to you, what they know about the place. Even if they say nothing, you will be able to tell by the look in their eyes that they know the whole story.
  • Realize, beyond the shadow of a doubt, if you can see them, they can see you… How do you get rid of ghosts? Before you move out, read my next article: “How to Politely Ask a Ghost to Go Away!”

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