H is for Here Be Dragons!
There are recurrent themes in my Pagan Blog Project A to Z blogs, many of which are concepts and many of which are symbols; they occasionally connect and they frequently overlap. A lot of them make almost complete sense and a lot of them describe through vagaries something more cosmic than I can as yet fit concisely into words. A lot of what I am writing blends scholarly (which means both 'school-ish' and 'wholesome-assimilation-of-many-sources') or academic (which means both 'irrelevant' and 'institutionally esteemed') pursuits with experienced insights and inspirations.
Every once in awhile I write something of which I am proud, and this following essay is one of those. That is not to say it is among my best work, because I am too close to the result to be able to see it clearly enough to judge. I learned that as a visual artist. I also learned as a visual artist that if you are not sure what to do next, then you have to leave it alone; any further work at this stage will overwork and ruin it.
'Here be Dragons' is famous expression allegedly used on old maps, of which I have seen never once in all my years of studying old maps, including time spent working as a cartographer for the Ministry of Defense, in a purely civilian role I hasten to add. The expression means 'wild, unknown territories; be warned' and in their infinite wisdom, the fabled map-makers of old, when assigning flags to nations, they stuck a dragon on the flag of Wales where I live. I use the phrase tongue-in-cheek because I never really outgrew that childhood fascination with Dragons, ever since I first encountered Smaug in the Misty Mountains. Dragons were never really something that I sought to kill, ride, or be; the usual reactions to them; nor even to encounter. Despite this, they have still somehow managed to work their way into my life to such extent that this is my second blog relating to them.
There are no turtles living in the frozen North where they have 40 words for different qualities of snow, yet only one word for vegetation. Yet the lessons I have experience into use of a turtle shell with its segmented shell pattern, as symbolic of the Earth as manifest by living events (see D is for Dragon/Dream of White Turtles); very equally applies to the brickwork built igloo’s. And by extension to the medicine wheel of tipi dwellings.
The elements are very simple in the harsh frozen environment. There is fire, there is ice, frozen water. There are some animals and some plants. People can only live there because beneath the ice there is ocean and in the ocean are fish.
The elements available to shaman of this culture are few and important. It is a basic ecology. Remove one part of the ecology, and Life fails to be sustainable.
Here we see the value of every element, as a teacher, as a Way.
Fire and Ice were taught to me as remembered by the Saxon tradition of shamanism. I apply them here to the frozen North in pursuit of greater atmosphere and storytelling. Storytelling is of course the greater part of culture here in the frozen region, as is Dreaming. And so you can see why, despite its harsh nature and almost impossible lifestyle, this climate is given to shamanic experiences. It creates shamen.
Where I habitually live is further south, in the old green lands before the world tilted on its magnetic axis sometime just after the year 2000 by the digital clock reckoning inside your computer. It does snow here, often grinding this island Britain to a halt because despite the hardship brought on by snow, the country is not geared up to the reality of its weather. Most of the time, we have rain. I live in Wales. It rains most days. The green of this beautiful and more extravagantly elemental country is entirely due to the surplus of quality soil that we have here. Soil and constant rain equals mud. We have mud, most days.
And we have dragons. To be precise they are Wyvern, two-winged and two-legged serpents, not the classical English crap that you will see on the Welsh flag. There are loads of them, they are mean hearted, ferocious, vicious bastards, although occasionally one of them will share the passionate heat of their heart with a chosen human male. Wyverns are shape-shifters, they disguise as women. The word is also Saxon, it means Witch-Wyrm. They are as as hard and as brittle as slate, and as dark and rough as coal, both of which Welsh mountains are made. Compressed coal turns into crystal, and that’s a secret of dealing with wyvern, who being a species of dragon, are fond of their diamonds-in-the-rough.
I grew up on the very southern border of Wales, a part of the nation that the Northerners call England. Wales is split in two; with the Brecon Beacon wild moors in the heart of it. The moors are misty swamps and all the advice is to stay out of them unless you want to disappear. If I want to travel fifty miles by train from south-west Wales to mid-west Wales, then I have to go east and north into England (Shropshire) and then north and west and south, because the landscape is so difficult for transport to manage. It is a long journey.
Where I grew up used also to be swamp, on the shore of the river Severn, which is a Saxon word meaning Sea-wyrm. Wyrm means dragon in Saxon. I schooled on the river Wye, meaning witch. It used to be swampland until the Cistercian monks of Tintern converted it to agricultural use by digging ‘reens’; irrigation channels with embankments lined with Willow. Willow can be pollarded for poles, and the bark turned into a foul smelling, foul tasting medicine for the arthritis brought on by living in a cold, wet environment. All of the willows across this region are from the same original tree; they are genetically still the same original tree. If you follow the research of Dr Emoto into the spirit of plants, you will be aware of the impact of this.
Before the monks, the early settlers used to hunt wild Auroch here, driving the giant cows into the swamps for food. They were driven to extinction and ceased existing until genetic science brought them back again in 2011 by crossbreeding remains of their dna with some of the largest species of existing, related cows. Where I grew up on the marshes has a red clay soil. There are many reasons why I associate blood with earth. For me, this is a part of what the Dragon symbol on the Welsh flag means.
The farmer across the road from my childhood home had his cows destroyed when then English prime minister Tony Blair made good on his pre-electoral promise to “end agriculture in Britain”. Two months before the Foot & Mouth outbreaks during his ministry, vials of the ‘easily curable with antibiotics’ disease stored in a lab since an outbreak during the 1970’s, went missing. One month before the outbreak, flyers were printed up stating; “Keep Out Of Countryside Danger Foot And Mouth” The farm across the road were savvy; their prize winning herd was destroyed, only to be restored because they had the foresight and finances to have had sperm frozen from their award winning bulls. This truly is the era of genetic sciences.
This is my personal journey as a spokesperson and Shaman from South Wales uk. I have lived all along on both sides of the river Severn and toward its source, so I feel equally as within my rights to claim my shamanic roots to the Severn Estuary, the Sea-Dragon of Britain, as I do to any particular part of the island. You will be beginning to follow the logic internal to my symbolism, which of course is rooted in sound common sense of obvious associations that have been highlighted to me throughout my observations on my journey as much as they have been influenced by my studies of the traditions of shamanic cultures. Here in Wales, shamanism and witchcraft are living traditions. They are making a powerful comeback despite the ravages of Christendom during the preceding centuries. I am glad about this because it is only in Archaic Revivalism that we can return our societies back to living in harmony with nature. If we do not, then the world will remain out of balance and it will topple. Nature will take care of the balancing act, by destroying the cause of the imbalance. The survivors are the ones who have already returned to living a balance.
I should return to the header topic; Fire and Ice. These potent symbols can be used to explain the imbalance and how to medicine it. The Fire is the Dragon; is the blood, the earth, the life force. Its specific meaning has made a transition down here in the south. In the frozen North, ice is the physical world. You can see immediately the difference in climate and ecology is associated with how the elements are mixed. In terms of Jungian archetypes, this makes a world of difference.
One proud lesson that has been almost forgotten in today’s teachings, is that Druidry, the old religion in these parts, especially in North Wales, was designed to mutate. Its core teachings are the same as are found in every culture worldwide; transmigration of the soul, worship of natural balance. Here in an then ecologically rich and traditionally stable ecology, the nomads found it full of diverse species of flora and fauna, the Wild Wood: before the forest’s tree’s were felled in the name of ‘progress’, rounded up into tiny patches of tamed woods. The environment was very different to today’s post- field&hedgrow* agriculture. The Druids watched the transition from wild-wood to agriculture, but were themselves extinct by the next transition which came with the development of the City, and industrial technology. Today’s Druids are essentially about re-planting, and re-connecting with nature. A return to us of the knowledge that was lost, as we return to the lifestyles forsaken. Taliesin teaches us of what Ceridwen taught him.
*yes I did purposefully spell hedge row as hej-raoh, you need to study Egyptology to learn where the Druids secrets mutated from.
The world has shifted on its magnetic axis. The poles are in the same place in relation to the Sun; but the physical planet has tilted. The effects of this on the local ecology were described to me by the coastguard of Llanelli bay in 2009; “the period between Spring and Summer is getting longer.” This Winter of 2011/12 I marveled that while half my raspberry plants had died back during Autumn, at the expected time written of in 20th century books on ecology and seasons, half of them did not die back until the Gregorian new year. Half of them are on the traditional cycle; the other half are adapting to the change in ecology. Another few generations may see diversification of species into two separate sub-species. I make a broad assumption this is happening to every species here; those that can survive the year round. What is happening to the British ecology is that the extreme cold of winter combined with the continual rain, and the extreme heat of summer that we are not used to, are ensuring the death of non-hardy species. Plants from further south that traditionally had a warmer all-round climate are dying in the winter freeze. Plants that can cope with extreme cold temperatures are dying of drought during the hot, dry summer. Only the hardiest of plants are thriving.
This includes species that are not natural to the British ecology, which have been considered a problem because we do not have their natural predators here, and they are killing off the local ecologies. Gone are nettle and bramble wild wastelands, protective of butterflies and small furry mammals and through which indigenous tree’s could safely grow; now we have Japanese knotweed that is immune to chemical sprays. These atmospheric monsters have recently had re-classified a banned-dangerous chemical, so as to deal with the problem invader. I am the only person I know of who bothered applying shamanic principle to the pest; the heart-shaped leaves, red stems and powerful root matrix all suggest it to be a blood tonic. My research has revealed this to be accurate; plus they also soak up radiation, which Wales has suffered a lot from; the highest breast cancer rates in Europe during the seventies, eighties and nineties, thanks to American nuclear tests. Ironic that the meltdown of Japanese Fukishima reactor deposited contaminated fallout all over the west coast of America.
One word for vegetation, forty words for different qualities of snow.
My original thesis for this essay was intended to be about how each igloo represented a unique scene in a story. When involved in a particular storyline, one can be said to have been ‘igloo’d’. My rationale behind this came from two sources; the first, I kept hearing the phrase in my mind in the same way I hear spirit allies whisper their nonsense in my mind when they are trying to be helpful but forget that I have no capability to second-guess their cryptic frames of reference. Yet this is how they teach. The second, is from the suspicion that when other people are working their magic rituals upon me, to give me a set of experiences, that the spell contains the sum total beginning to end of the experience, sets my mind into the required frames of reference, and thus I will live that particular series of events, through from beginning to end, if the spell was rightly cast and takes hold. The spirit voices celebrated with cheering when I probed and accepted this to be the cause.
Ig means Fire; it is from the word ignite, to cause fire to happen. An Igloo is a place where we can safely set a fire without wind, rain, the elements, coming in and preventing it. It is traditionally, symbolically, always a circle shape, a dome. You will no doubt have seen the image many times, usually in cartoons on television, even if you have never seen nor built one yourself. I have built one igloo in my life I believe it was in 1987 when my cousins from New Zealand came to Britain and the snow was legendary.
Ig is the light, the program code.
Lu is the luminous, the made known; the result of the light, the spell taking effect.
This is how the world is made when magick users meddle with the light-wire framework of experienced reality. This is why the western version of Karmic principle is erred. It does not take into account other people meddling with the fabric of your souls journey. And I assume that this is also why witches were persecuted by Christian torturers during the Dark Ages; note that Ages is plural not singular in its description, this is often overlooked by historians.
In some contemporary Wiccan schools it is taught about magick that a spell worker must never do anything that interferes with a persons free will. We have to face the fact that people do not live in isolation, and what happens by the actions of one person does affect the experiences of another person. This happens anyway, so it is impossible not to affect other people by our actions. The observer affects the observed is a proven fact in both particle physics and mysticism.
Setting a person in a psycho-somatic, symbolic igloo, isolates them from every other thread of our busy confusing post-post-modern lifestyles, and establishes that the spell cast upon them will be pure in its manifesting.