The Runes: Feoh (Wealth)

feohIn this blog series, we will go through the runes as they are recorded in the Anglo-Saxon or Old English Rune Poem. The first rune in the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc is Feoh. Feoh translates as cattle, and in Anglo-Saxon culture cattle meant wealth, so this is the modern interpretation of the rune. It is the root of our word, “fee” with regards to money.[1] The segment of the Rune Poem reads thus:

Wealth (Feoh) is a comfort to any man

yet each person must share it out well

if he wants to win a good name before his lord.[2]

To pronounce the name of this rune, you’ll need to get a little continental in your throat. The first part is easy, fay. The second part uses a glottal stop at the end similar to the word loch pronounced with a Scottish accent, but much softer. Just slightly close off the back of your throat when you end saying och and you’ll have it. Fay-och. You can also bypass this, if it is troublesome, by pronouncing an “h” sound at the end. Fay-o-hhh, but this technically isn’t perfect.

Cattle, whether in the form of cows, sheep, goats, etc. were a major part of Anglo-Saxon economy. In a cash poor society, where few people had many gold or silver coins, your wealth was determined by how much you could sustain yourself and your community. If you had cattle, you had dairy and meat, as well as the offspring with which you could barter, trade or even sell for coin. Cattle is wealth that is moveable, as opposed to inherited wealth such as a building, home or farmland. Feoh’s meaning is deeper than simply wealth however, for it is wealth that has to be looked after, wealth that has to be managed. Cattle don’t just take care of themselves on the farm. Feoh is wealth that is earned from hard work. It is not a gift, like the rune gyfu which we will look at later in this series. Rance states that Feoh may have been the first rune in the Futhorc because of the importance between keeping cattle and agriculture, and the development of writing.[3]

Yet Feoh does not just mean wealth alone; wealth must move, it must be put for the benefit of everyone, and not hoarded solely for personal use. Wealth occurs when we have an excess of something, an abundance of a resource. If our needs are just being met, we are sustained and sustainable, but not wealthy. If we have an abundance, then sharing that excess helps everyone achieve a sustainable state. We see this happening in nature, where through underground networks of roots and funghi trees can help other trees to grow when they are placed in less favourable positions regarding sunlight or water. A community is stronger when wealth is shared, rather than the fewest having the most, (which sadly the latter is the norm for today’s society). The rune poem admonishes hoarding, and tells us that each person must share in their wealth if they want a good reputation in the eyes of others. In the class system that existed in Anglo-Saxon culture, a lord ruled over the land, and if he/she was a good lord, they demonstrated the Anglo-Saxon virtue of sharing with gifts, which then in turn help the barons and other nobles to be able to share their wealth with the common folk, who then shared their wealth in turn. It wasn’t a perfect system by any means, and we must remember that slavery was a thing back then, so it wasn’t all mead and roses. However, what we can take from Feoh today is that we must put back into whatever system we live in, or give back to our family, friends and community with the wealth or abundance that we have, in order for the ecosystem that we live in to thrive.

When meditating upon the shape of the rune, you can see both the meaning of cattle and the meaning of sharing wealth. The two upright branches can resemble cow or oxen horns in profile. It can also look like a person in profile, either giving or receiving something with arms outstretched. I have used the rune Feoh in trance posture, either sitting or standing with arms outstretched before me, palms facing each other. It provides a feeling of well-being, and brings energy to the head area especially, giving a sense of fullness and comfort, just like the Rune Poem states.

I’ve meditated upon the wealth in my life, while gazing or holding this rune in the palm of my hand. I look for ways to share that wealth, so that I am a contributing member of my community and ecosystem, rather than simply taking and consuming resources all the time. Feoh is giving with arms outstretched, and also learning to receive wealth with grace. All too often, we dismiss our many talents and what may come from them, and in doing so we do ourselves a disservice. The work that we do should provide benefit, and in that benefit we are hopefully able to share back.

At the end of harvest, here in England we celebrate Harvest Home, which is today a church service usually followed by a supper. In ancient times, the last grain of wheat or barley left at the end of harvest was left out for Woden’s steed. In East Anglia, there is the tradition of leaving a small portion or corner of the field unharvested, for the land/nature spirits, or for the Devil himself as it is now known as The Devil’s Plantation. Where do you have abundance in your life, and where can you give back? Where is the line between holding a good relationship with your family/friends/community/ecosystem, and martyrdom? Do you give too much? Remember, there is nothing wrong with comfort, as long as there is reciprocity. Wealth also takes many forms, and does not just mean monetary wealth.

Feoh is useful in spellcrafting for monetary purposes, but remember: you have to work for your wealth. It will not just land in your lap. In divination, it can mean all of the above, with the importance of sharing something underlying the outcome.[4] It may ask that you reassess what is valuable in your life, or what skills you have in abundance. Chanting the rune while standing in the posture which emulates this rune can help you do discover more about the wealth in your life, and what you need to do to achieve it and subsequently share it so that everyone benefits. There is an element of reputation with regards to this rune, which is something that our Anglo-Saxon forebears held highly in esteem. No one would want to be seen as miserly. Remember, wealth is an abundance of a skill or resource, and so share wisely.

 

[1] Pollington, S. Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books (2011), p.17

[2] Translation by Stephen Pollington, from Rudiments of Runelore, Anglo-Saxon Books (2011), p.45

[3] Rance, S. The English Runes, Secrets of Magic, Spells and Divination, Anglo Saxon Books (2017), p.19

[4] Albertsson, A. Wyrdworking: The Path of the Saxon Sorcerer, Llewellyn (2011), p.114

New Podcast Now Up!

Here is the latest in the Elements podcast mini-series, where we look at the element of fire. Hope you enjoy! You can download the entire podcast series, as well as everything else on my Bandcamp page, with a subscription.

Imbolc Protection Ritual

Snowdrops ButleyThis rite uses what is commonly known as “The Descent of Brighid” from the Carmina Gadelica. This rite specifically calls upon the powers of the goddess Brighid, and cannot be used interchangeably with another goddess. If you honour or work with other deities, you might consider using the poem as an example to write your own spell or charm of protection. Alternatively, you might just leave out all the references to deity. At the end of the poem, we find the term luatha-luis, whose meaning is not wholly clear, and which is open to interpretation. It may mean a fast-acting, possibly poisonous plant. Luis is the rowan or mountain ash, a powerful and magical tree, whose berries are poisonous when raw, but delicious and nutritious when cooked.
You can perform this ritual every Imbolc, especially if you are a follower or would like to honour Brighid. Or you can simply use it as a rite of protection. You can perform this rite after undergoing a purification such as smudging or saining yourself with smoke from mugwort or vervain.
For this ritual, I would strongly encourage the entire formality of designating sacred space. This will lend focus to your intention, as well as inviting the powers of the ancestors, the three realms, the spirits of place and more to your rite. Choose something that symbolises protection for you, a talisman if you will: something strong and durable, something that will “shield” you physically, spiritually and psychically. You can make a shield yourself, using whatever materials you prefer. This doesn’t have to be a full-body protecting hunk of steel, but again can be symbolic; you can make one out of papier maché to keep near your altar, should you so wish. You might wish to use something natural that you can carry with you, such as a stone or crystal, or even say the poem over a pendant bearing the triskele or triquetra symbol, reflecting the triple nature of Brighid. There are many ways you can use this; be creative!

Rite of Protection Using the Shield of Brighid

Set up and designate your sacred space. Once you have done so, sit or stand for a moment and breathe, focusing your intention on what is to come. Visualise a glowing light beginning to emanate from within, centred on your chest. This light reflects the light of the moon, or the light upon water, or the light of a flame. The energy from this light is not hot, but cool, flowing through you and filling you with strength and confidence, as well as compassion and love. Raise your arms to the sky, drawing down the power of the sky and the full moon. Then hold your hands out in front of you, and draw in the power of the sea, and the highest tide. Finally, hold your hands to the ground, and draw the power of the land into yourself, the serpent energy that courses and connects everything to each other. Stand fully upright once more, noting how the light emanating from within you is even brighter now. Take that light within your mind, and form it into a circle or sphere of light around you. Visualise that light encompassing you, shielding you. If you have a talisman to represent the shield, hold this aloft and still visualise the circle around you. Then say the following words, from “The Descent of Brighid” from the Carmina Gadelica, feeling free to adapt or leave out the Christian influence:

Brigit daughter of Dugall the Brown
Son of Aodh son of Art son of Conn
Son of Criara son of Cairbre son of Cas
Son of Cormac son of Cartach son of Conn.

Brigit of the mantles,
Brigit of the peat-heap,
Brigit of the twining hair,
Brigit of the augury.

Brigit of the white feet,

Brigit of calmness,
Brigit of the white palms,
Brigit of the kine.

Brigit, woman-comrade,
Brigit of the peat-heap,
Brigit, woman-helper,
Brigit, woman mild.

Brigit, own tress of Mary,
Brigit, Nurse of Christ, —
Each day and each night
That I say the Descent of Brigit,
I shall not be slain,
I shall not be wounded,
I shall not be put in cell,
I shall not be gashed,
I shall not be torn in sunder,
I shall not be despoiled,
I shall not be down-trodden,
I shall not be made naked,
I shall not be rent,
Nor will Christ
Leave me forgotten.

Nor sun shall burn me,
Nor fire shall burn me.
Nor beam shall burn me.
Nor moon shall burn me.

Nor river shall drown me.
Nor brine shall drown me.
Nor flood shall drown me.
Nor water shall drown me.

Nightmare shall not lie on me,
Black-sleep shall not lie on me.
Spell-sleep shall not lie on me,
‘ Luatha-luis ‘ shall not lie on me.

I am under the keeping
Of my Saint Mary;
My companion beloved
Is Brigit.

Let the words sink into the air around you. Let them suffuse the light that encircles you with their power. When you are ready, draw the circle of light that surrounds you back into yourself, centred on your chest. If you have a special talisman that you’d like to infuse with this energy instead, draw the circle of light that surrounds you into your talisman. When all the light has gone where it should, stand for a moment and see how this makes you feel. You can test the circle of light, by holding up your dominant hand (right if you are right-handed, left if you are left-handed) and immediately bring the circle of light back around your being. See it spring back up with ease, to surround you and protect you. If you are using a talisman, see it coming forth from the talisman. You can call and release this power as you wish, as you need. It is not something to be played with, but something real, an energy being focused around you. You are connecting with the power of Brighid.
When you are satisfied that you have the protection you need, it is time to reciprocate and leave an offering for what you have been given. As the lady of poetry, smithcraft and of healing, an offering related of one or all of these would be suitable.
Close down your ritual, and renew this rite of protection whenever you feel it necessary.

This ritual is an excerpt from my latest work, The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker, published by Llewellyn Worldwide.

(c) Joanna van der Hoeven 2019

Reviews: The Witches’ Oracle and A Spellbook for the Seasons

When I received The Witches’ Oracle, I thought that the cover looked familiar. When I opened it up, I knew why: I had this very deck that was released around twenty years ago! Originally called The Wicca Pack, this wonderful deck has been re-released by Eddison Books as The Witches’ Oracle.

In actual fact, this was the first deck that I had ever bought about a decade into my Pagan journeys. And it was so easy to work with, and so accurate for my readings, that I’ve kept it all these years. This new version comes in a beautiful box with a picture of the Witches’ goddess, Aradia on the cover. They have streamlined the book now to correlate only to the deck, and have taken out the Wiccan practices that was in the original book. This makes sense, as now there are so many good books available on Wicca that you don’t need to combine the two.

I love these cards. The artwork is by Danuta Mayer, and it was written by Sally Morningstar. The new deck has cards the same size as the old deck, but these have a nice border which means that the artwork won’t get affected as much through decades of use. It contains cards that relate to Wicca and Witchcraft, such as the ritual tools used, animals and deities. It is certainly a very “witchy” deck, and I love it.

The book does contain a little more information than just the cards and their interpretation, such as a short history and tradition section, before diving right into the card meanings. There’s a final section on how to use different spreads. All in all, this is a wonderful deck, and I love both versions that I now have J

I also received A Spellbook for the Seasons, by Tudorbeth (aka Sarah Coyne). I have to say, I LOVE what they are doing with books these days. They are making books so beautiful again! This lovely hardcover comes filled with gorgeous artwork inside, and it truly is a pretty thing to have and to hold.

The layout of this book is quite different from other compendiums I have come across. It contains the usual material, such as the Wheel of the Year and the festivals, along with spellwork. What is different is that the author has chosen a different pantheon of deities for each section, such as Norse for winter, Celtic for spring, Greek for summer and Roman for autumn. This is a good introduction to different deities and allows the opportunity to work with different pantheons each season, and may bring new gods and goddesses into your work that you have never come across.

This book contains ceremonies that are coven-based, but which can be adapted for solitaries. Other ideas you might find in this book are things like a Sage Water House Cleanse for autumn, or a Sun Day Love Spell for summer. There’s an Ostara Magic Salt, and a Winter’s Morn strength spell. There’s a seasonal garden section, and a crystal section. All in all, this is a very attractive book, which may inspire you on your own magical journeys through the seasons, and is just a delight to flip through on a rainy day to cheer up the heart as well.

New YouTube series!

Hi all – just to let you know that I’ve got a new YouTube series, where I talk about the “witchier” side of my spirituality, what I do as a Witch and how I work with the forces of nature 🙂 Something similar, yet different, from my Druid work!

Simple Imbolc Celebration and Magic

Cover high resHere is an extract from my upcoming book, “The Hedge Druid’s Craft“, which is another introductory Pagan Portals book and is now available for pre-order.

Imbolc

Imbolc is a gentle festival, where we honour the first signs of Spring after a long winter. It has long been dedicated to the goddess Brighid who has associations with fire and water. Allow this time of year to fill your soul, the air still cold but the warmth of the light from the strengthening sun inspiring you to go out into the worlds and do the work that you have to do. You can light a candle to dedicate yourself at this time to your work, having spent the winter months thinking long and deeply about it. Now is the time to state your intention clearly. You can carve words or symbols into the candle that represent your work, and strew herbs around it to lend their energies (see A Basic Candle Spell below). As you light the candle, state your intention clearly, calling upon the ancestors and the Fair Folk, the gods and goddesses to bear witness. This is not an oath to be made lightly.

Meditate upon the candle’s flame for as long as you wish. Then take a bowl of spring water and anoint yourself with it. I like to collect water from Chalice Well and the White Spring in Glastonbury every time I visit, and I use this special, holy water for use in rituals and in spellcraft. You can draw the shape of a crescent moon upon your brow with the water, or place any other symbols which have meaning to you upon your body. It is also a good time for healing work, and anointing yourself with sacred water on areas of your body that need healing can kick-start the process (as well as following good medical and spiritual advice).

A Basic Candle Spell

Take a candle of an appropriate colour to use in your work. As a very basic guide, red is for love and passion, pink for emotions, blue for healing, green for the environment, brown for animals, yellow for inspiration, purple for magical strength, black for release of negativity. White candles are used for purification, as well as can be used to replace any other colour that you may not be able to obtain.

Sit with your candle and meditate upon the work that you wish to achieve. Then, stating your intention clearly, pour your energy into the candle. Allow energy to flow from your hands into the candle. When you have poured enough into the candle, you can then add more strength to it by carving words or symbols into it, still holding your intention. Then, place the candle it a holder and light it with a match. As you strike the match, keep your intention in your mind, and as you bring the match to the candle’s wick, visualise the power of fire igniting your work. Sit before the candle and meditate upon the flame, still holding your visualisation of the end result of your spellwork coming to fruition. You can add herbs around the base of the candle, if you so wish, to allow them to add their magical energy to your work. You can infuse the herbs with your intention and energy in exactly the same way as you did the candle. See with your mind’s eye a cone of power rising from the herbs around the candle, blending with the candle’s flame and sending the power out into the world.

Druid Magic

magic circleDruids aren’t associated with magic in the same way that other Pagan traditions, such as Wicca or Witchcraft seem to be.  Yet I’ve found that in every spiritual path, there are elements of magic contained within that are often very similar in nature.

What is Druid magic? Do Druids cast spells? Have magical tools? Do we think of Gandalf, brandishing his staff and saying mightily “You Shall Not Pass!” or his mushroom-addled fellow, Radagast, who lives in the woods, talks to animals and, according to the latest Hobbit films, has a rabbit-powered all-terrain sleigh and brings hedgehogs back from the dead?

Of course it’s none of these things. It would be pretty cool if it were. But Druid magic, like all magic, is subtler than what we see on the screen or read in books.  There isn’t lightning shooting from fingertips or fire balls sparking from one’s eyes.  In fact, many modern Druids don’t use magic at all, or don’t call it magic.

So what is magic? It has often been quoted these days as manipulating the natural forces of energy within nature to provide a desired result.  This could have many interpretations.  Flicking a switch and having my living room lit up at night could fall within this category, but I’m being a bit facetious. It is also often said that magic should be the last recourse after having tried all mundane means of solving a problem.  So how do Druids use magic, if at all?

There is a growing trend of blending Wicca and Druidry, as in Philip Carr-Gomm’s new book, Druidcraft.  This is a lovely way of expressing the divide between two very similar paths; kind of bridging the gap that lies between.  I thought the book, especially the audio book, was brilliant, and yet I’m still not one to perform spells on a regular basis.  Why is that?

As stated previously, magic is often the last recourse to a situation.  If all other means have been tried, and I’m plum run out of ideas, then I might turn to magic. I might equally turn to prayer. Praying for some guidance, asking the gods, the spirits, the ancestors for a little advice when I’m stuck could be called a spell – it could also be called a prayer.  Lighting a candle and some incense, meditating and then seeking some clarification or inspiration from the ancestors could indeed look like the workings of a magical spell. I think perhaps the difference is in the intention – in both magic and prayer, we are hoping for a result, but the results are often different.

In prayer, asking for the gods to solve a problem for us rarely, if ever, works in my own experience.  I prefer to ask them for inspiration on how to get through this, or my spirit guides on where to go to next in order to resolve and issue.  Casting a spell bypasses the question, in a way, and seeks to get an answer to a question not asked.  Perhaps this is why I resort to magic so little, I always like to ask the input of others to seek out different perspectives on a situation. Again, this is only my own personal views, and others may have other ways of both prayer and spell-casting that are vastly different to my own.

For me, as a Druid I am always questing the awen – for me, awen is the Grail.  Inspiration, flowing spirit – it is such a beautiful word from the Welsh language that has so many different meanings.  To me, awen is magic, though perhaps not in the spellcaster’s sense of the word.  It is energy, it is flowing, it is the Tao and The Force of the Jedi Knight.  It is something to be tapped into in order to gain a new perspective, to see the bigger picture, to obtain compassion. Awen is Buddhist enlightenment.  It is the Christian “God is Love”.

Instead of performing a magic spell, I might wander the heathland or forest, looking for inspiration around me. I might find a place to pray, using that inspiration to guide my prayers to better understanding of myself, the situation, the world.  When all other recourses have failed, then I might try magic – the last recourse.

I feel that magic is something special, something not to be abused or overused.  We often hear the term “god-bothering” and magic may indeed be another form of “bothering” – whether it is the elements, the energy of nature, or something else entirely. I feel that Druids on the whole would turn to awen rather than magic, but perhaps with the blending of Druidry and other traditions this could indeed change, or maybe even change back to the way Druidry used to be – who knows?

Perhaps my quest for awen is my magic.  Magic includes transformation, and questing the awen will indeed change someone.  None of the knights on the Grail quest were ever the same.  None who seek enlightenment will ever be the same person they were before. We are constantly changing anyways, living a life of impermanence and fluidity, of change and flux.

Perhaps just tapping into that idea is magic, is awen.

(Reblogged from my channel at SageWoman: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/SageWoman-Blogs/druid-magic.html)