EXCERPT: Our Plow, It is Made of the White Quicken Tree

EXCERPT - Our Plow, It is Made of the White Quicken Tree:

An Interview with “Paganistani” Poet 
Steven Posch

by Johnny Deer

Introduction

Photo of Steven Posch

Steven Posch

I met with “Paganistani” poet and scholar Steven Posch in his Minneapolis home one blustery morning in early December 2012. As I've come to expect in polytheist cultural discourse, our conversation was far-ranging, but we kept returning to the concept of the Received Tradition, the inherited corpus of lore that functions as “scripture” for virtually all traditional religion.

Posch discussed the legendary Seven Hundred Sacred Songs of the Welsh and the similar body of songs, known humorously as the “Devil's Psalter,” that serves the same function among Old Style witches. “The old ways weren't just handed down informally by granny at the kitchen table,” he said, “the prime mode of lore transmission in oral cultures has always been through the passing down of songs and poetry.” The ingathering of this scattered corpus has been Posch's life work.

“Over the course of our 30+ years together, we have amassed almost 200 Yule carols, both old and new. What strikes me most about the Received Tradition is that this is no closed canon. We're adding good, new material all the time.”

He sang for me his most recent composition, a carol with a deeply archaic feel to it.

“My friend and colleague Bruner Soderberg once said to me 'I love things that look old and new at the same time,'” Posch told me. “That's our cultural touchstone, the aesthetic of this entire movement -- old and new at the same time.”

Interview

Johnny Deer: Steven, anyone that's ever heard a Christmas carol is familiar with the word “wassail,” but where does it come from and what does it mean?

Steven Posch: Isn't it interesting how holiday lore so often preserves the really ancient stuff? “Wassail” is the modern reflex of a 1500-year old Anglo-Saxon blessing: Wes hāl, literally “Be hale!” Haleness—the term rings pretty archaically on the ear these days—means physical health; to be “hale and hearty” is to be both physically and emotionally sound. It's part of a whole constellation of related words from the same Old Germanic root: heal, health, whole, hail (as in “hail and farewell”), even holy. That all these concepts are etymologically so closely related tells us a lot about how the ancestors thought. Every word is a story.
By medieval times, “wassail"....

Continued in Issue #43 of Keltria Journal.


Cover of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue. Is available in its entirety from MagCloud.

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Poetry: The Plowman’s Wassail

The Plowman’s Wassail

by Steven Posch

[Sung to the tune of Gloucester Wassail. -ed]

Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

Farmer plowing

So here's to the plow, boys, so sturdy and strong,
to plow a fine furrow and give us good corn;
our plow, it is made of the white quicken tree:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the plowman and to his left stone,
to plow a fine furrow, the seed for to sow,
the seed for to sow till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to Old Blackie and to his right horn,
to plow a fine furrow and give us good corn,
to give us good corn till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to Red Jenkin and to his long tail,
to plow a fine furrow that never shall fail,
that never shall fail till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the furrow so lovely to see,
as yielding an acre as ever shall be,
to yield us good corn till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the seed and so lovely to sow,
so heavy and golden and goodly to grow,
so goodly to grow till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the Sun and so goodly to shine,
to sprout the good seed, so fair and so fine,
so fair and so fine till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the Rain and so goodly to fall,
to grow us good corn, the joy of us all,
the joy of us all till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the Earth that makes us to thrive,
so broad and so bearing and goodly to give,
so goodly to give till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

So here's to the plow, boys, so sturdy and strong,
to plow a fine furrow and give us good corn;
our plow, it is made of the white quicken tree:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.


Read Steven's Blog Posts


 Originally published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick

Cover of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue. Is available in its entirety from MagCloud.

Books & Music by Steven Posch

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Keltria Journal #43 – From the Editor

The following is the complete text of "From the Editor" from Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue.  This issue is available in its entirety from MagCloud


From the Editor

Photo of Tony Taylor

Tony Taylor, Editor
Keltria Journal

When I was young, my ideas regarding heroes were ill considered. Micky Mantle and Roger Maris were great ball players, but they really weren’t true heroes. By the time I reached the “age of reason,” I realized that a hero is someone who lives with integrity and teaches with both words and actions – not merely a celebrity.

The character that came the closest to fulfilling my idea of a hero was Paladin of the series “Have Gun Will Travel.” He had a classy, even an aristocratic air; and yet, he was never condescending. He always distinguished right from wrong, and was never mean or spiteful. Snobs and bigots were distasteful to him and he always helped the exploited or downtrodden. Paladin’s religious proclivities were decidedly nebulous, although he demonstrated knowledge and acceptance of all religions. First airing in the late 1950’s, this program’s scripts were conceived long before the era of “political correctness,” and yet Paladin quoted Kahlil Gibran even though I noted Gibran was a personage of the 20th century and not the 19th. The fact that Richard Boone, who played the part, had a physical resemblance to my much-admired grandfather impressed me as well.

When I began on the path of Celtic spirituality and Druidism, I found that many of the Celtic heroes and heroines share characteristics with Paladin. They often displayed their human aspects in that they didn’t always act heroically. When they didn’t it was usually because some sort of geis has been laid upon them. The ancient Celtic heroes’ actions should demonstrate how to act and react to situations with honor.

Read the heroic stories in Celtic mythology, particularly Cú Chulainn’s and Finn’s stories, and consider whether they behave as true heroes or are they acting without honor? Do the gods teach them lessons? Would Paladin be proud of them?

About this issue

Cover -- Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Welcome to Issue 43 of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magic. The theme of this issue is Celtic Heroes and Heroines.

I have often read stories of the Bards of old satirizing kings and royalty effectively destroying their reputations. Although clear examples of that skill are few and far between, Jenne Micale draws our attention to the stories of Briciu, an ancient anti-hero. Bricriu may certainly be thought of as the original “jerk” as Jenne shows us in “Just Saying: Satirists as Catalysts and (Anti) Heroes.”

Jenne’s poem, “Leborcham lies to Conchobar,” pairs well with her article illustrating that what may seem to be lies are really truth.

Sharynne MacLeod NicMhacha encourages us to understand the many roles of women in Celtic society in her article, “Druidess, Priestess, Poet & Seer: Women’s Historical Roles in Celtic Religion.” From the treacherous Cartimandua and the fierce warrior Boadicea, to the gentle herbalists, “Druidess, Priestess, Poet & Seer” provides insight to Celtic women and their place in Celtic society.

Cover - Keltria Journal #42

Keltria Journal #42

Steven Posch is a well-known storyteller in the Midwest. I have known him Steven since the mid 1980’s. When I received the interview, “Our Plow, It Is Made of the White Quicken Tree,” I was pleased to include it in this issue. This interview was originally submitted for inclusion with our “Storytelling” issue (#42); however, because the interview is so focused upon Yule and “wassail,” I decided to wait until this issue, which is much closer to Yule. Johnny Deer is Steven’s alter ego and fulfills the role of interviewer. Steven, like Jenne, also has included a poem, “Plowman’s Wassail,” which can be sung to a traditional tune.

Cú Chulainn and Finn are, arguably, the greatest of the Celtic Heroes. Saigh Kym Lambert leads us through a comparison and a contrast between these two heroes in “The Heroes Betwixt and Between.”

Please send your thoughts and opinions regarding this issue, future themes, or other comments to letterstotheeditor@keltria.org.

-tt


Cover of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue.  Is available in its entirety from MagCloud.

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