Yet what is lost seems also too harsh a price; a way of life connected to the elements, where subtleties are still felt and Nature's sacred blessings abound. Thus my newest writing project, a collection of everyday blessings; I'll share some here, as I did in the last post. Reading the Carmina spurs me on; I feel, perhaps, the accumulation of thousands of years of human living in the lore recorded there, brushed aside in the last few hundred by the Enlightenment, scientism, and technology. I consider one of the crucial tasks humankind faces in this time to be that of choosing wisely between the old and the new, rather than throwing out the baby with the bathwater. When we understand what's been lost, we can make wise decisions about how to alot our hours, our energies, our minds and hearts and bodies; choosing between the petroleum-driven ways of contemporary American culture, and the old ways close to the bone, where daily tasks are opportunities for blessing, where work is an opportunity to align oneself, one's family, one's community and therefore All with grace, peace, abundance, faith- with love.
Again, there are no ideal situations; that's not what I'm on about. However, from the standpoint of choice, Americans of my demographic have unprecedented opportunity. I can obtain flour from the local podunk grocery store and support local small business; there I can get bleached, unbleached, I can get Bob's Red Mill. If I use my gas powered vehicle I can get some of it (specifically whole wheat) much, much cheaper 30 miles away- at WalMart. I can order some styles (affordable rye, buckwheat, gram flour etc.) on line, and have it delivered within a few days to my home.
Or I can grind my own.
And of course, that's an option, just as folks in my society believe that they are made secure with compulsive rituals like watching the news and ingesting scientifically "proven" facts and drugs, by purchasing and using the latest technological gadgets like GPS and cell phones. However, when you look at the old blessings recorded in the Carmina and elsewhere (such as in the old alchemical "fairy tales" I interpret), it's obvious they are meant in their highest sense to harmonize, to sacralize, to remind us of the grace and abundance that's found in living life close to the Truth that's behind each and every manifestation on Earth. They remind us that it's not what you do, after all, but who you are when you do it. If we believe in life as struggle to survive, we will act in desperation, superstitiously. However, I see the religious option of nature based spirituality found in such prayer and ritual once common in Euro-Western domestic life as aimed at claiming, maintaining, and optimizing our cocreative power. When we know that, we will use blessings and rituals to take responsibility for our part in the Earth-project, to more finely tune our own voice in the choir.
So that's my motivation for this new collection, which is inspired by the old British Isles part-pagan lore, a bit of Norse (love the eddas) as well as the lore preserved from Greco-Roman culture, available to us thanks to the Roman obsession with recording. I've a lifelong affinity for these stories and divinities; the image of Ceres, goddess of grain and abundance, sits above. From my perspective, gods and goddesses are no more than place holders of sacred powers as they manifest in human experience on Earth. It's our personal decision how to relate to the cocreated place holder, both within and without.
It's also my opinion that the widespread lack of love for the abundance and love such earth goddesses represent leads to an imbalance in whatever they represent. When we don't give back the love, it's a one way street- taking and taking on the part of humanity. Of course there are still plenty of folks worldwide who keep up the conversation, are still thanking and honoring Earth and her gifts. At this time, there's an epidemic of gluten intolerance in my culture; the very protein which this goddess represents has turned on us. Not that it can do that in a physical sense; it's an internalized relationship issue. It's like a bad marriage in the psyche and therefore the body, one full of fear, and thus the body (immune system) misinterprets the protein as dangerous, just as my culture tends to misinterpret the feminine ways of knowing and being as dangerous. The love is gone; we are out of alignment with the beauty and abundance that grain represents in Euro-Western culture from the energetic perspective. Prehistoric pacts with all that supports our days and nights here, plant and animal, earth and sea, are dishonored, as surely as are the treaties colonializing Whites signed with the tribal cultures of the Americas.
Lovely! See the cloud, the cloud appear!
Lovely! see the rain, see the rain cloud draw near!
'Twas the little corn ear
High on the tip of the stalk
"Ah, maybe the rains move near"
"Ah, may the soft gentle clouds come here"
Notice it reiterates a conversation. It's a conversation between the rainclouds and the ear of corn, who obviously yearn for each other, who are partnered. This is manifestation magic; an event is spoken of, yearned for, over and over in order to encourage its manifestation. If you want to hear some Navajo songs of this sort, there's a Folkways album on Youtube, wherein "The lifestyles, philosophies, and traditions of the Navajo nation are represented by songs for herding, planting, harvesting, hunting, blessing hogans, and soothing children. The 1933 and 1940 field recordings from settlements in New Mexico and Arizona beautifully document a music largely vocal and highly melodic with relatively short song phrases repeated, divided, and combined in intriguingly complex ways."
I like looking at Curtis's amazing photography, am enchanted by its window on the past. I think folks of European descent are likewise often enchanted by the naturecentric ways of the folks who got to the Americas way before they did. The incarnate human soul, like mine, always loves connection with Earth's soul, its power and beauty. And many of these wistful Euro-Westerners are unaware that their own ancestors likewise acted with respect for the elements, for Sun and Moon, for the grain, the fire, the sea. Their ancestors used prayers and blessings to align with the spirit world, to heal the mind, body, and soul, to live lives in close connection with Earth's sacred cycles of growth and development.
In the first volume of the Carmina, Carmichael records some stories of everyday suppression by the Christian priesthood in the British Isles. Most of the blessings and invocations he records are completely Christianized; it's those which still bear the pagan mark I love. Older Celtic religion is recognizable by dense, paradoxical poetry, by mention of the elements and their powers, by the presence of earthly denizens beyond humankind. The same is true of the alchemical tales I interpret, for their aim also is to enter the inner gates beyond scientism's fact-based, linear, mundane consciousness, where misinterpreted old wisdom is wive's tales and the blessings of Death have been lost in a desperate shuffle to avoid its scythe- unless we're killing others, those we are at war with or the nonhuman denizens of Earth we exploit directly and indirectly, from tree to tiger, bee to shark! Then death seems righteous.
What I originally meant to say was- back in the day, women (mostly) often ground the family's grain. I assume there were also large mills you could pay for the grinding of it, and surely depending on where you lived and your economic status, a family decided what they'd grind at home and what would be jobbed out. I discovered in my roaming that, at least in some regions of the British Isles, "the authorities" (colonializing Brits?) appropriated domestic querns, intending to force people to use the commercial mills (a way to garner tax monies?). Some who were unable to pay due to location/financial status would go to old dump sites and retrieve ancient pre-quern stones just like the metate and mano the Hopis use(d), for it was the use of the quern which was banned. The advent of the commercial mill was apparently, like European medieval change from mostly barter economy to monetary, met with some resistance by folks who found the autonomy and intimacy of the old ways destructive to their society and culture. The miller took a place in symbolic literature as a greedy man who feels entitled to the power of the divine feminine water element (supposing it's a water mill), as in Rumpelstiltskin.
While the quern stone is turned, the pre-19th C. woman (or women) thus employed could bless the experience with a song such as this translation from Carmichael's collection;
p. 255 Quern blessing
On Ash Eve, we shall have flesh
We should have that
We should have that.
The cheek of hen,
Two bits of barley,
That were enough
That were enough.
We shall have mead,
We shall have spruce,
We shall have wine,
We shall have feast,
We shall have sweetness and milk produce,
Honey and milk,
Abundance of that,
Abundance of that.
We shall have (small) harp,
We shall have (pedal) harp,
We shall have lute,
We shall have horn.
We shall have sweet psaltery
Of the melodious strings
Of the regal lyre,
Of the songs we shall have
Of the songs we shall have.
The calm fair Bride will be with us,
The gentle Mary mother will be with us.
Michael the chief
Of glancing glaves,
And the King of Kings,
And Jesus Christ,
And the Spirit of peace
And of grace will be with us,
Of grace will be with us.
"Glaves" are swords.
Since Ash Eve is the night before Lent begins, it's like Fat Tuesday, when abundance is indulged in before the Lenten fast. Here's a quick all purpose grain blessing of my own fashioning, honoring the Nature's ways of development and abundance;
Rain and Sun fall on the Earth
Each seed brings forth an ear of grain
In Erda’s womb each tiny soul
Does yearn to see the Sun again.
Some to the thresh, some saved be
Till spring will warm their grateful backs
Some seed wild fowl and mouse do feed
Both friend and foe are kept from lack.
Seedcorn, scythe, thresh and mill
The gift of life stored in the seed
May we know this gift is rare
May earthly souls be free of need.
Amen. And so it is.
The end! Except for this little video of a dude who found a quern at a yard sale ( think that's what he says)...wish I could do the same! Sadly I suppose there's tremendous odds against it in Michigan...but I'll keep me eyes peeled! The sound of stone on stone was a common one back in the olden day I guess...