Witchdom of the True by Edred Thorsson: Discussion Part 2: Ritual/ Practice & the Gods

Hello everyone & welcome back for part 2. In our last discussion, I think we concluded the modern Wicca has no direct links to the ancient Anglo-Saxons or Celts. However, some of the folk practices that Gardner would have had some knowledge of may have originated from the ancients. In this discussion, I hope to take a closer examination of the practices that aren't Masonic or Thelemic (which is a good bit Masonic as well) & instead, try to separate what is Celtic from Anglo-Saxon. Let's wish each other luck & may good conversation commence.

In "Witchdom of the True" circular dancing is brought up quite a bit, which, is why I included the videos of Maypole dances & Beltaine fire dancers. It is all indeed circular. In the book (Witchdom of the True) Edred has this to say:

"One etymology connects it to the idea of twisting or turning, and links it to other words such as "wicker" and so derives from Proto-Germanic *wic-. This may be in reference to the circular or turning dance used in the practice of witchcraft. Another etymology connects it to the Proto-Germanic root wih- 'sacred'- which connotes something set apart from the profane. Semantically these two etymologies reconstruct an enclosure- perhaps made of wicker-work-used as a way to set apart sacred space and inside of which a circular dance was performed in order to excite the vital energies necessary to the performance of the operative acts." pg. 71

"The Work is really more a "play of creation." It consist of a circle or ring dance accompanied by a magical chant, by which power is raised." pg. 66

This next comment was made in regards to Freyja:

"Hers is the magic of the pure holy sign and song, the witchcraft of the offerings, dance and orgy and other means of raising ecstatic states." pg. 37

Now here, I'm going to do a little comparison to another author's writings. These next few quotes will be coming from Raymond Buckland's, "Wicca For Life":

"There they each (including HP and HPS) take the end of a ribbon and dance around deosil, sing the "May Eve Chant" or another song." pg. 248

"At a signal from the HPS, every other person (possibly alternate males and females) turns about and the dancing continues with two teams going in opposite dierections, ducking under one another as they go, to intertwine the ribbons." pgs. 248-249

"All accept the HP and one male sit in a Circle. HP dances, deosil, around the outside of the seated circle of Wiccans." pg. 255

"Coveners, led by HPS, dance all around the outside area, winding around, in and out, back and forth. Any small drums, tambourines, bells or similar instruments may be piled outside the Circle to be picked up now and used during the dance. pgs. 251, 243, 239 & 235 (Ray must have discovered copy & paste)

"Coveners, led by the HP and HPS, take up the poles, broomsticks, and pitchforks and riding them like hobby horses, dance all around the outside area, winding around, in and out, back and forth, jumping and leaping in the air as they dance." pg. 246

You can go to any Native American Pow Wow and see circular dancing. So it can't be uncommon in other indigenous practices around the world. Islam has it Suffis, also known as twirling dervishes, that spin and dance circularly. So, the first question is, is there any evidence of the Anglos, Saxons or Jutes doing this? What about the Celts?

Now another interesting aspect brought up by Mr. Thorsson is the calling of the four directions. He does it in the myth about how Freyja obtained Brisingamen. So, from "Witchdom of the True":

"There were some men in Asia, one of whom was called Alfrig, another Dvalinn, a third Berlingr and a fourth Grerr." pg. 51

"On one level the dwarves mentioned may be identified with the four dwarves at the four cardinal points of the world: Nordi, Austri, Sudri and Vestri (whose names oviousley mean the four directions: north, east, south and west). The names are different here, but such is often the case" pg. 52

He has a point about the names being different when you consider kenning was used through out the many poems written.

For the sake of those starting off in this, I give this quote about the four directions from Raymond Buckland's, "The Witch Book":

"Watchtowers are associated with the four directions- east, south, west and north- in the Wiccan ritual Circle." pg. 500

Other than what Edred mentioned, was any attention paid to the four directions in ancient Anglo-Saxon/Jute practices? What about the Celts?

In modern Wicca, the God, is usually called 'The Horned God' in most Wiccan literature. In "The Witch Book" it says:

"The Horned God is very much a god of fertility and, from the earliest paintings, is frequently depicted as an ithyphallic figure." pg. 241

Edred Thorsson seems convinced that Freyr is that Horned God. In "Witchdom of the True" he states:

"Three symbolic animals are associated with Freyr: the horse, the boar and the stag." pg. 40

"But he was also (or alternatively) the Horned God associated with the hart or stag. In the myth recounted in chapter 4 about Freyr's wooing of Gerdr, he is said to give up his sword- and so is left with only a hart's horn with which to fight at Ragnarok. With this horn, or antler, Freyr is also said to kill the giant Beli (Prose Edda, "Gylfainning" ch. 23). The mythic Vanic King Frodi was said to have been killed when he was gored by a hart or the horns of a "sea cow". Heroes attached to Horned Gods often are said to be killed by horns or tusk. In this way the God is "reclaiming" them. So Freyr is also the "Horned God". There are also several associations of Freyr with horned cattle." pg. 40-41

"A famous image of Freyr shows his erect phallus, and the description of the temple at Uppsala says of the image of Fricco, or Freyr, as "cum ingenti priapo,"- with a enormous priapus." pg. 39

Is having a large penis and having a horn/ antler for a weapon enough symbolism to be a Horned God?

Wiccans often proclaim their goddess to be a Triple Goddess (of course a lot of the Eclectic Wiccans go on to say she every goddess). In "Witchdom of the True", Edred does not bring up the Triple Goddess idea at all. However, he does tell of a myth, that at least to me, screams out here's your Triple Goddess origins. Here are some excerpts:

"She was not greeted well by the Aesir in Odinn's hall. They tried to kill her with spears and after piercing her- they burned her body. But after they had killed her and burned her she rose up again and made herself known. So again the Gods pierced her body with spears and again they burned her. However, even after this she rose up once more for a third time." pg. 50

"But who was the mysterious Goddess from the Vanir, at first known as Gullveig and later a Heith? The answer might be clarified once one realizes that Freyja- who is always counted with the Vanir who now lives among the Aesir- is not one of the deities exchanged in the truce negotiations." pg. 50

Am I stretching it in thinking that resurrecting three times could make Freyja the Triple Goddess? However, isn't also true that the Celts had more than one example of a Triple Goddess?

Another point of interest concerning these deities:

"The winter is of the Lady, but ruled over by the Lord, while the summer is of the Lord but ruled over by the Lady." pg. 59 Witchdom of the True

"His symbol is the Sun, as the Goddess's symbol is the Moon. He rules over the "dark half of the year"- the winter months- while the Goddess rules over the summer months." pg. 241 The Witch Book

What do you think?

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Comment by Leitonellos Tarvogenos on July 19, 2014 at 3:03am

I'll have to answer as the answers come. I'd also like to apologise for replying so late. As far as the Celts, there isn't much about a Triple Goddess. The Irish have three aspects of Brighid. The poet, the smith, the healer, I believe. In Brythonic custom, she is a goddess of home and hearth, though. But there aren't a lot of hard and fast rules, as less is attested about her from them. There also isn't really much known, from an ancient knowledge of the Celts, about any religious observances in relation to the cardinal directions. There is mention of Three Realms: Land, Sea, and Sky. Even that may not be ancient. However, it does seem in line with the animistic aspect of their beliefs. As far as Horned Gods, Cernunnos is the Celtic one, Brythonic and Gaulish. I don't know if the Irish have an equivalent there, at least as far as my readings go, they don't. The Germanic side of this discussion has been covered rather thoroughly, so I figured I'd add my piece.

Comment by Barry J King on July 19, 2014 at 12:15pm
Thanks for your reply Chad. What about circular dances?
Comment by Leitonellos Tarvogenos on July 19, 2014 at 11:48pm

I think in Ireland. Any time I answer these types of questions, I recheck sources just to be sure. Ireland is the only place I've heard of it in regards to Celts.

Comment by Barry J King on July 20, 2014 at 8:00pm

Thanks again Chad. It makes me curious when the accounts of Irish Celts dancing in circles was recorded, pre- AS or post- AS.

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