After my late night with Bast on Friday, I did not make it to the morning session I had planned to attend, “Dark Goddess Tarot” by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. I heard it was great, though, and I did look through her tarot deck of the same name.
Braucherei (and Hexerei) in the Urglaawe Context, by Robert Schreiwer
The “Urglaawe context” refers to the Heathenry revival within the Deitsch (Pennsylvania Dutch) community, and braucherei and hexerei are both Deitsch words for witchcraft, though the exact meaning of the terms varies according to local custom. In general, where the two words refer to different things (in some places, one of the words refers to everything under the witchcraft umbrella), “braucherei” refers to things like energy healing, herbalism, fertility charms, and protective magic, whereas “hexerei” refers to less savory things, like hexes and curses.
Robert started off with a brief history of braucherei, and of the Deitsch people in general, including their immigration to the US. Braucherei post-dates the conversion to Christianity, and the Deitsch came to the US after the 30 years war, so much of the practice has Christian and Gnostic influences, though Robert has managed to trace a lot of the roots back to pre-Christian traditions. (For instance, Frigga and the Gnostic Sophia seem to be heavily conflated in Deitsch traditions). After they came to the US, the Deitsch had a lot of contact with the Lenape, and they shared a lot of knowledge back and forth. One of the things the Deitsch learned from them was the medicinal use of local plants, many of which are very different from the plants in Central Europe.
Robert is a Braucher, and currently has several students. A lot of the practice is Verbots, or forbidden/taboo to discuss with those outside the practice, but as an insider Robert is in an excellent position to discuss braucherei with other practitioners. He has been travelling to visit older practitioners, and hear their stories, and discuss the practice, so that he can record as much as possible, to help with the revival. He’s trying to find practices in common across various geographic regions in the US, and follow threads of Heathenry back to their origins. He’s found some use of runes, and the names of Germanic gods, and he and others are hard at work reconstructing more following the threads they’ve uncovered.
It was a fascinating presentation, and his handout listed a lot of places to follow his work and find more resources:
Sisters in Shadow and Light: A Ritual for Nephthys and Isis, by Helena Domenic
I was hoping for a Kemetic ritual, but this was more a Wiccan ritual to Kemetic gods with a little local flavour, if that makes sense. Still, I enjoyed it and I was glad I attended. The premise of the ritual was that each participant would choose from whom they wished to receive healing: Isis, with healing light, or Nephthys, with healing darkness. Each participant then annointed themselves, and went to speak with the priestess channeling the goddess they had chosen, to ask for what they wished to heal, and to receive a message. I chose Nephthys because I wished to be rid of something, and I received a message in turn that was so powerful and personal that I have no doubt the channel was truly possessed by the goddess she represented. I will not, however, recount that message here. I hope you understand.
Once each participant had finished their moment with the channel they had chosen, the attendees chanted to raise Osiris, as the sisters do in the myths, and his rebirth, as performed by another channel, became our transmutation. It was a powerful rite, and it left many in tears.
Hellenic Oracles, by Gwendolyn Reece
The first part of Gwendolyn’s presentation was on the history and locations of various oracles in the ancient Hellenic world. This is information that was not new to me, and I did not take very many notes – it’s important background information, to be sure, but fairly accessible thanks to the many written records left behind. (She quoted Plutarch more than a few times.) Her basic definition of oracle (mantike in Greek), is a cult, located in a particular place, in which a god (usually Apollon) possesses a vehicle (usually human). Gwendolyn herself has been preparing to be that vehicle (a mantis in Greek) for Apollon for a temple she is founding in DC. The temple is called Theophania, named after the festival that welcomed Apollon back to the Oracle at Delphi at its reopening in the spring. I knew about the temple, but I had not known about her oracular work, and I have to say I was equal parts astounded and elated. Bast and I have been working towards an oracular-possessory relationship, and while I attended Diana Paxson’s workshop last year on Oracular Seidh and bought her book, a traveling Norse seeress is not exactly the same sort of thing as a priestess at a grand state temple in Egypt. A Hellenic mantis would be much, much closer. Needless to say, I listened to the rest of the presentation on the edge of my seat, took pages of notes, and had a question for afterwards on the tip of my tongue.
Gwendolyn explained that she is a hard polytheist, and that this means that she believes the gods are individual persons with agendas, and so she thought it was worth explaining to us what she thought Apollon’s agenda was. As she understands it, he is a law giver, he is very fond of humanity, and he wants to give us advice. She explained a bit more about how he is kind, and a deity of civilization, and I summed this up as an alignment: Lawful Good. Giving oracular counsel is an extension of his Light and Healer aspects, illumination of the Truth and using the Truth to set us on our right course. He is trying to help us avoid our hamartia, a tragic mistake that can define us in negative ways. Apollon wants us to find the clearest path through our fate, and mitigate as much damage as possible. As Gwendolyn said, not everything can be mitigated completely, but nothing is entirely predestined. A choice must always be made, somewhere.
Gwendolyn understands oracular revelations as part of a spectrum of divine responses to human attempts at conversation. Prayer, sacrifices, and offerings are all ways to speak to the gods; omens, divination, dream/trance theophany, oracles, and full theophany are all ways of hearing what they say back. The spectrum goes from omens, which require the least energy and are the most frequently misunderstood, to full theophany (where the gods appear in the flesh), which requires the most energy and has the least chance of being misunderstood. She mentioned that a lot of people in ancient times asked oracles about personal matters, even if the best-remembered stories are all about city-states asking political questions. In her opinion, it is a good idea to consult an oracle in the following cases: 1) when you have a choice to make and reason is insufficient; 2) if the choice means a major change or upheaval; 3) at any indication of miasma negatively affecting your life; 4) any question about your relationship with the gods; or 5) anything that weighs very heavily on your heart. In her personal work she said she tries to focus on teh big picture stuff, but she’s had people come and ask personal questions, too. Sometimes Apollon answers the question the querent should have asked instead of the one they did. One of the big picture messages that she has recently received from him and is trying to spread knowledge of, is that in order to help with climate change and prevent calamity, we need to focus our efforts on healing the world’s oceans. He says we have about 20 years to get things moving in the right direction, or it will be too late.
One evening in which Gwendolyn was sitting down to talk to Apollon (as she tries to do daily as part of her mantis training) she found herself complaining about her day and then caught herself and apologized, and he gave her a very important lesson that resonated with me, and I think it will resonate with some of you. When she apologized for wasting his time with her complaining, he said “I’m not that small.” At first she didn’t understand, but then he helped her to see that he had no problem being there in intimate friendship with her, hearing about her day, and also doing his cosmic duties. He could be there, that close, paying attention to each of his followers all at the same time and never be distracted. He’s not that small. None of the gods are. And I think we, as devotees, need to be reminded of that now and again. The gods do not have to suffer, but they chose to do so by entering into relationships with us – they choose to feel our pain, and to see the world through us as much as we see the world through them.
Only one more day to go! And I must say, re-reading my notes and typing them up for you has really helped me process the events of the conference. Hopefully you got something out of it, too!
[Day 1 Here]
[Day 2 Here]
[Day 4 Here]