Compassion Shares

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

—The Charge of the Goddess

Here continues a series of blog entries undertaking to examine each of the eight qualities that our Great Mother advises us to cherish in our hearts.

What Is Compassion?

As has become my habit, I begin with the word itself. Its medieval meaning in old French is defined as sympathy or pity…from a Latin word having the same meaning, and that originates from from the Latin word roots, com “together” and pati “to suffer.” At its root, compassion is constructed from Latin roots meaning to suffer together.

When it comes to suffering, our first thought is of bodily suffering:  ill health, injury, and death.

NZ funeral procession

New Zealand spontaneous funeral procession

NOLAJazzFuneral

New Orleans jazz funeral procession—marching band & horse-drawn hearse

In our mundane lives, there are commercial sympathy cards to send after a death. Like compassion, the roots of the word sympathy mean a community of feeling, from the older Greek language rather than Latin. Wakes & funerals, memorials & “celebrations of life”—all of these human mourning rituals center around sharing the suffering, expressing the grief, supporting the most-stricken. Suffering togetherEmpathy is a term often used today to describe this sort of fellow-feeling.

Compassion Without

To paraphrase Albert Schweitzer (writing in Kulturphilosophie, 1923), “Until we extend the circle of our compassion to all living things, we will not ourselves find peace.”

“The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.” ~ Thomas Merton 1968

Fellow-feeling is not limited to the compassion humans show other humans:

  • The very first Society for the Prevention of Cruety to Animals was founded in the UK in 1824. There are now dozens, perhaps hundreds, of SPCA organizations aroImage result for oil spill animal rescueund the globe.
  • International Bird Rescue was founded in 1971 to address the plight of oiled birds and animals fouled by oil spills at sea and along shore.
  • Notecards of sympathy for accident or illness are popularly known as get-well cards. And so commonplace are they that commercial publishers routinely stock co-worker cards, family-member cards, accident cards, illness cards, etc.
  • Guest housing at no cost is made available by hospitals for family supporting inpatients having major treatment therein. In February 2014, I stayed in such when I was my sister’s driver and “coach” for a total knee replacement hours away from my home and hers.

Hundreds, even thousands, of organizations non-profit or religious or community-based, exist to support every sort of ailment, accident, ecological mishap, and ever-diminishing wild lands and wildlife. The fact that so many exist is tribute to the generosity of human spirit.

https://i1.wp.com/www.cowichanvalleymuseum.bc.ca/archival-collection/gallery/Potlatches/1982.11.1.1.jpg

Potlatch mask dancers

It is community that makes grief in the face of death & tragedy bearable. “Crying together” as an author described it, sharing memories and faux pas, hearing tales from friends or family that bereaved others had never heard. Whether the community of death takes the form of an Irish wake, or Tlingit funeral potlatch, a New Orleans jazz funeral or the ballyhooed first responder’s death-on-duty funeral with its national attendance and miles-long procession of firefighter and LEO vehicles—it is the community, that fellow-feeling, that supports the spirits when one’s own are at their lowest ebb.

 

Compassion in the Occult

One of the first things witches use magic for is healing. They are often asked to aid non-witches, and within the many traditions of Wicca, word will spread rapidly when a serious illness or injury affects one of our own. I have personally done healing work, alone and with a full coven, for the benefit of witchy-kin with colon repair, thyroid cancer,  heart attack, and a diabetic struck ambulance-hard with influenza. In my turn, I received considerable magical support when I suffered a disabling stroke (“cardiovascular accident”) at the young age of fifty…and a week following my admittance to hospital (where I spent 5 days), I was able to attend the planned first of a series of Intro to Wicca classes long-planned. I have seen my share of intentional miracles. It is less than a year since I burned my candle on behalf of another well-known witch stroke-struck, and I’m happy to say that person was a scant two days in hospital and much faster rehab.

Image result for Robin Wood Tarot celtic cross spread

Because birth families usually control the handling of body disposition and public funeral rites, often in religious formats far removed from Wicca, Witches usually hold their own ”crossing rites” for their dear departed—circles in which a deceased coven member is mourned, remembered, waked, and sometimes offered the opportunity to share departing messages through divinatory tools or a mediumistic coven-mate. Quoted below is a short segment of the closing to such a crossing rite, penned at the outset of 2001, and used by me in both personal and public crossing rites since then.

Of body & bone, of earth & stone, of things once owned, be free!
Of blood & tears, of weary years, of ancient fears, be free!
Of passions tamed, rage unrestrained, of ancient pain, be free!
Of words unspoken, visions broken, of memory’s token, be free!

—©2001–2017, D. Snavely

Compassion Within

“…. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.  …”          Desiderata—M. Ehrmann, 1927

Mundane life is full of dark. “News” headlines are virtually written in blood. Turn on the radio during drive time and chaos from the next block to the next continent will swamp you. Our own human natures find gloom more seductive than the greatest joy, unless we choose to let it go. Memorable disasters, death anniversaries, worrisome woes, those downers make up far too much of everyday gossip. Seek out your own compassion, share it when and with whom it you feel it’s needed…and spread the rest of it like balm on your own spirit.

Be blessed!

 

 

 

Spinning a Spell

Fiber Correspondences

Historical clothing is a major interest of mine: not the elaborate costumes of court, cathedral, and carnival that are badly redesigned in Cecil B. deMille epics, or even well-represented in the better theater and film efforts of more recent years; no, my interest is in the everyday clothing of the ordinary person, such as I might have been if I lived a dozen centuries ago. As I became involved in the Craft, I found that there are correspondence lists for almost every class of substance I could dream up—herb, color, and musical pitch, rocks, crystals, and precious stones, planets, stars, and constellations—but nothing I’ve read treats at all with the everyday take-it-for-granted magic of fiber, clothing, and garments. In the course of developing some classes that apply textile and costume history to pagan clothing, I’ve developed the following fiber correspondences.
There are four major natural fibers used now and historically in Western clothing manufacture: linen, wool, cotton, and silk. Among these four, I find several polarities. Linen and cotton are vegetable fibers and generally cooler to wear, while wool and silk are animal fibers and insulate the wearer, so that in Northern climes they are used to warm, while in the tropics they serve to cool. I associate the vegetable fibers with Mother Gaia and the Green Man, while the animal fibers evoke Herne the Hunter and Clothos. The sturdier fibers, linen and wool, correspond to the feminine, while the more ephemeral cotton and silk correspond to the masculine.
Earth
Linen is the natural bast fiber prepared from the long, pointed leaves of the flax plant, family Linaceae. Flax seed and linseed oil are all flax products. Linen fiber is tough, downright rugged. It requires extensive treatments from the leaf to a fiber that one can spin. There’s drying and beating and soaking and rotting (retting is the industry term) and beating and combing…the minimal prcess takes 13 steps, commercially it takes at least 29 steps. The resulting

irish-linen-process

long, sturdy fibers explain the folk tale descriptions of women spinning until their

fingers bled. Such fiiber naturally makes a strong thread and stronger fabric which softens only slowly with wear. Linen has been historically used for rope before hemp was available. Linen sheets require ironing to smooth them into a surface comfortable for sleep. The newest steam-iron still gives “linen” for its hottest temperature setting—and even so, most linen needs to be ironed damp in order to relax the fibers and smooth the surface. Like the element of Earth, linen is tough stuff.

Caption: This composite photo illustrates many steps of making Irish linen.

Linen goods, like all household fabric goods, were valued highly over the past millenia. Victorian households inventoried them, sent them for laundering with a laundry list to prevent theft, and repaired them regularly. Long before that, in medieval households, linens were inventoried, itemized, valued, and specifically distributed to heirs in wills. Household linens spun or woven, decorated or collected by young girls formed a substantial part of their dowries among working and professional classes. Between linen fiber’s toughness to prepare, resistance to change, longevity in use, and value to owners, it becomes evident that the element of Earth is its native home.
Water
Wool is the long hair of sheep and other hairy mammals—cashmere is the hair of the cashmere goat, angora the hair of angora rabbits and goats, and camel’s hair is just that. Almost any long-haired domesticated animal around the world has been shorn or combed for its wool: musk ox, llama, dog, rabbit. Just as these coats and fleeces insulate and protect the animals from cold or wet, strong sunlight or high winds, so do those shorn fleeces and clipped hair provide humans with fibers able to lend us those same protections.half-shornsheep
Wool has the significant virtue of keeping one warm even when wet. Lanolin, the natural fat present in sheep’s wool (unless scoured out), is water-repellent, for one thing. Moreover, the microscopically kinked and scaled fiber surfaces maintain trapped air pockets throughout the fiber, which act as insulation regardless of how wet it is. Such insulation effects historically have served inhabitants of Saharan regions against the desert heat and chill, as well as inhabitants of the sea-faring peoples of the British Isles and Europe.

Caption: A half-shorn sheep [left] demonstrates the amount of wool produced by one sheep in a single year.
Wool is also naturally fire-resistant. Wool fiber and fabric is difficult to light on fire and tends to self-extinguish, lending extra effectiveness to the historical fire-fighting technique of smothering or beating out small blazes with a wool blanket or rug. In similar fashion, the historic hearth-rug is a sheepskin fleece or heavy wool rug, on which hearth-fire sparks smolder quickly out. (Unfortunately, the synthetic fibers often used instead of wool are the very opposite of fire-safe, taking a spark or flame easily. Even those that resist the first heat, often do worse, flaring when they catch, and melting into goo that adheres to flesh in a fashion nastily reminiscent of napalm. Ask any burn-unit nurse about debriding a polyester burn and watch them shudder.)
Thus, a defining quality of wool is its antipathy to fire and flame and ability to retain or protect against heat. Taken together with its ability to insulate human and animal against the chill of wet weather, Water is its innate element. Remember, Water is the polar opposite of Fire.
Fire
The cotton boll is the fibrous outer coating of the seed pod of a genus of tropical mallow plants, Gossypium, requiring tropical climates, or hot subtropical, to flourish. Its light, open structure burns easily, cleanly, and quickly.          Caption: Cotton ready for harvest.cotton-boll
The fine, light cellulose fibers of the cotton boll form the means of wind-distribution to spread those seeds. That same fineness enables the spinning of extremely fine threads. Such fine threads in turn allow such closely woven lightweight fabrics. Such finely woven cloth makes up into cool, breathable clothing and bed-clothes. Modern cotton sheets often specify the thread-count per square inch on their packaging.
Egyptian cotton, an extra long staple (natural fiber length) cotton, was used in clothing from at least as early as 3600 BCE. Our very word gauze is believed to originate with an Arabic word, and physically, gauze weaves of cotton resemble the “mist linen” worn by Pharoahnic Egyptian nobles, as depicted in a goodly number of tomb paintings there.
Similar quality long-staple Pima cotton was grown for clothing and decoration among the pre-Columbian peoples in south America—surviving examples of Pima cotton textiles there date to as early as 4400 BCE.
Today, hot- and warm-weather garments are almost exclusively made of cotton fabrics. Absorbent cotton has allowed humans to work in tropically hot and humid conditions, such as the British Raj in India, exhibiting almost a magical affinity to both use heat and protect one from heat. And candle and lamp wicks are now made of cotton almost exclusively. This affinity for Fire defines the native elemental correspondence of cotton.
Air
Commercial silk is the fiber spun by the larvae of an Asian moth, Bombyx mori, when it becomes a pupa, spinning as much as a mile in a single cocoon. The fineness of the silk fiber when unravelled is so great that a single filament of silk was used to create one standard (a denier, used to measure linear mass density) for comparing fibers. An airborne creature for the element of air—seems obvious, no?
Most sericultured (the technical term for raising Bombyx for silk) silk is made from killed cocoons, though silk noil or raw silk is made from hatched cocoons, as is wild silk. Those intact cocoons allow the thinnest of fibers, sometimes as fine as a mere three filaments to a single thread (before spinning or plying).     Caption: A handful of cocoons ready to unreel.silkcocoonshand [At left]
If you’ve ever handled the type of silk fabric called habotai, or the silk kerchiefs used by jugglers, you’ll have a sense. And those kerchiefs seem to defy gravity as they take their time when novice jugglers learn how to snap their wrists with each toss upwards, allowing the kerchief to expand in its own breeze and thus drift, not drop, earthward again.
The silk fiber consists of a continuous protein chain, making it extremely strong for its weight. Spider silk, at about one-tenth the denier and one-fourth the diameter of silk, is considered to be the world’s strongest natural substance, based on materials standards of tensile strength-to-weight ratios. This extreme light weight and equally extreme strength of silk made it the fiber (and thus fabric) of choice when early experiments with lighter-than-air craft took place in the early 19th century.
L. Frank Baum’s 1904 description of the Wizard’s vari-colored green balloon in the first Oz novel specifies panels of fine silk fabric. The term “parachute silk” is still used in some circles, although nylon supplanted silk in parachutes and similar applications during the Second World War.
Silk fabrics can be extremely lightweight and compressible. So much so that a 19th-century test for lingerie quality was to pass a woman’s full-skirted, many-tiered silk petticoat completely through a wedding ring. At the same time, silk woven into heavier fabrics (noil, dupioni, etc.) such as are used in suiting or upholstery resembles wool in its ability to insulate against warmth or cool.
Just as young spiders disperse from their hatch sites by spinning a bit of gossamer to the breeze and riding the flying filament(s) to their new homes, a living bit of thistledown, so does the silk gossamer of the Bombyx moth enable it to fly to its native element of Air.

 

©Deborah Snavely, 2006, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Perfect Love & Perfect Trust

The phrase “perfect love and perfect trust” comes directly—like the term Wica (Wicca)—from Gardnerian practice and through its many derivative traditions. In published British Traditional Wicca (BTW) sources, the phrase “perfect love” and “perfect trust” appears in only one place: in the phrase that a candidate for initiation gives upon requesting entrance to the initiatory circle. [i], [ii] , [iii], [iv]

Period.

(Very likely the phrase occurs in other traditional practices, depending on when or where the source custom evolved, but no published BTW source, at least, includes the terms in any “law.”)

The published discussions of perfect love and perfect trust, whether in BTW published sources or in eclectic sources, seem to have seized on the words and assumed that modern meanings of those words apply. All arguments about the origins of BTW practice aside, there seems to be some reason to believe that significant elements of surviving magical folklore persist within the practices that are currently being expanded beyond Gardner’s wildest dreams.

If there are survivals of older practice within modern Craft, this phrase perhaps being one of them, does it mean the same thing that it meant to its originators? Words today morph meanings in a matter of hours, or weeks. Many English words have come to mean the very opposite of their original meanings (look up the oldest meaning of pompous, some time).

So, let’s take a look at the words themselves, and their roots. Plain, historical, mundane definitions provide a reality check. Even the current-day commonest usage definition of a word can mean less (or more) than most folks think. In this case, I will focus on the earliest definition of each word because other meanings often drift from the central point of a word.

Let us review the word “perfect” to begin with. I will also pursue the “See XXX” references for the word roots, just to provide context for root meanings.[v], [vi]

Perfect

Perfect, a. [OE. parfit, OF. parfit, parfet, parfait, F. parfait, L. perfectus, p.p. of perficere to carry to the end, to perform, finish,
perfect; per (see Per-) + facere to make, do. See Fact.]

  1. Brought to consummation or completeness; completed; not defective nor redundant; having all the properties or qualities requisite to its nature and kind; without flaw, fault, or blemish; without error; mature; whole; pure; sound; right; correct.

Per-, A prefix used to signify through, throughout, by, for, or as an intensive as perhaps, by hap or chance; perennial, that lasts throughout the year; perforce, through or by force; perfoliate, perforate; perspicuous, evident throughout or very evident; perplex, literally, to entangle very much.

Fact, n. [L. factum, fr. facere to make or do.] A doing, making, or preparing. [Obs.]

When we look at the roots of a word, the source language(s) often give us hints to the heart of the word’s basic concepts: “to carry [on] to the end.”

Looking at the two Latin roots (Per and Fact) of the word “perfect,” we could define it as meaning “an act carried through.” In modern slang, one might define “perfect” as an adjective meaning, “take it to the limit.” Hmmm, something to chew on. For that matter, the sports term “follow-through” comes to mind rather vividly—a term I use in magic, too.

Next? Oh, yes, “love.”

Love

Love, n. [OE. love, luve, AS. lufe, lufu; akin to E. lief, believe, L.
lubet, libet, it pleases, Skr. lubh to be lustful.]

  1. A feeling of strong attachment induced by that which delights or commands admiration; preëminent kindness or devotion to another; affection; tenderness; as, the love of brothers and sisters.
  2. To regard with passionate and devoted affection, as that of one sex for the other.

I think it’s important to note that the older definition comes first, the “brotherly love” definition (there’s probably another whole essay in that simple fact). In the source language list, the Sanskrit source-word definition clearly indicates that both the “brotherly love” and “sexual love” definitions have accompanied this word across its usage through ages and language families. Nonetheless, the “feeling of strong attachment” is the older definition of the English word. OK, now we have enough information to take a look at the first part of the password: “perfect love.”

Perfect Love Is…

Assembling the definition of definitions, we read:

A feeling of strong attachment, carried through or intensified.

In fact, Gardner wrote of his own strong attachments to the New Forest Coven folks, partly related to their feelings that they had shared history in past lives. That perceived connection with reincarnated companions was a piece of the path that led him into the Craft in the first place. Gardner also wrote of the strong feelings that individuals working magic together can develop, something that, in my opinion, qualifies as another aspect of “perfect love.”

But there’s another, more important, aspect to this definition: it describes the operative force behind magic itself. Emotion, intent, direction, and follow-through: these are the cornerstones of what makes magic work. So in the phrase “perfect love” we have encoded how to work magic!

Trust

All right, moving on; here’s the definition of “trust”:

Trust, n. [OE. trust, trost, Icel. traust confidence, security; akin to Dan. & Sw. tröst comfort, consolation, G. trost, Goth. trausti a convention, covenant, and E. true. See True, and cf. Tryst.]

  1. Assured resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle, of another person; confidence; reliance; reliance.

See true and tryst? Let’s check those out, just to see how they relate to all of this.

True, a. [Compar. Truer; superl. Truest.] [OE. trewe, AS. Treówe faithful, true, from treów fidelity, faith, troth; akin to OFries. triuwe, adj., treuwa, n., OS. triuwi, adj., trewa, n., D. trouw, adj. & n., G. treu, adj., treue, n., OHG. gitriuwi, adj., triuwa, n., Icel. tryggr, adj., Dan. tro, adj. & n., Sw. trogen, adj., tro, n., Goth. triggws, adj., triggwa, n., trauan to trust, OPruss druwis faith.] Conformable to fact; in accordance with the actual state of things; correct; not false, erroneous, inaccurate, or the like; as, a true relation or narration; a true history; a declaration is true when it states the facts.

Tryst, n. [OE. trist, tryst, a variant of trust; cf. Icel. treysta to make trusty, fr. traust confidence, security.]

  1. Trust. [Obs.]
  2. An appointment to meet; also, an appointed place or time of meeting; as, to keep tryst; to break tryst. [Scot. Or Poetic] To bide tryst, to wait, at the appointed time, for one with whom a tryst or engagement is made; to keep an engagement or appointment.

Surprise! Here’s a still-older—and much more concrete—meaning of trust, embedded under tryst. Why does that matter? Because I’m looking at the roots of the words, to see just what solid matter may underlie all the conceptual hot air expended on these terms.

Trust is an extremely abstract concept in its modern meaning. Almost every term used to define it is abstract. Worse still, it takes a lot of these abstract terms to try to define it! “Assured resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle, of another person…” That’s quite a string. It’s important to note that the examples used in the definition for trust do not lump all the exemplary “sound principles” into the definition:

trust means: counting on someone for integrity (wholeness) or veracity (truthfulness) or justice (even-handedness?) or friendship…not necessarily all of the above.

In more mundane terms, trust means being able to count on another person for some specific, positive quality (sound principle) or behavior.

Perfect Trust Is…

Hence, “perfect trust” becomes “being able to count on someone carrying through on a principle or behavior“…or, equally, “being able to count absolutely on someone’s principle or behavior.” Given the embedded meaning of tryst, a key behavior is that of keeping appointments.

In a broader sense, looking at the intertwined meanings of true and trust, here are some other definitions of the phrase perfect trust to consider:

  • speaking only [magical] facts (the power of words)
  • keeping one’s [magical] appointments (esbats and sabbats)

Perfect Love And Perfect Trust Are?

Now where are we?

  • Perfect love = feelings of strong attachment, carried through.
  • Perfect trust = being able to rely on someone in the extreme.

And when you put them together, you combine the familiar (family-type) ties of relationship (plus the emotional capability for magic) with the reliable opportunity to gather together (to work magic): the crucial ingredients for a magic-working group or family…encoded into a pair of passwords. Paying special heed to the point where this password is introduced, we note that it applies specifically to the locale of a magical meeting: the circle.

Taking all of this together, I see three very important points that little resemble some of the more New Age–style expositions on this topic:

  • Perfect love and perfect trust apply within a magical circle.
  • Perfect love and perfect trust are goals.
  • Perfect love and perfect trust encode within them the essence of magical witchcraft practice.

Footnotes

[i] Gardner, Gerald B., Witchcraft Today

[ii] Ibid., The Meaning of Witchcraft.

[iii] Farrar, Stewart and Janet, The Witches’ Bible Compleat.

[iv] Internet Sacred Text Archive, http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos360.htm

[v] Webster’s Revised Unabridged, 1913 edition, online version. http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?action=search&word=&resource=Webster%27s&quicksearch=on

[vi] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition