“Let the water settle; you will see the moon and stars mirrored in your being.”Rumi
Artwork by Radissonclaire
The three witches of William Shakespeare’s play, “Macbeth” are rather famous figures, both for their role in the play itself and for the portrayal of witchraft therein. They are also identified in the play as the ‘Weird Sisters’, and, through their prophecy, plant the idea of becoming king in Macbeth’s mind, though they notably never tell him how to accomplish this, nor even fully and unambiguously encourage him to commit murder (though their delight in stirring up mischief is evident from the beginning of the play).
In creating the Weird Sisters it is also well known that Shakespeare’s sources included not only Raphael Holinshed’s ‘Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland’, but also possibly beliefs about witchcraft current in England and Scotland partially as a result of King James VI of Scotland and I of England’s anti-witchcraft stance and own writings against witches.
For example in the play, the witches boil concoctions in cauldrons, chanting rhymes over it, and plan to sail to sea as a rat using a sieve as a boat, and some of the aspects of their character are similar to the behaviour of accused ‘witches’ during the Scottish with trials in the late sixteenth century. However, not only do the Weird Sisters as a phenomenon appear in English and Scottish literature long before the first appearance of Shakespeare’s play some time around the early 1600s, but they are also significantly regarded as separate from witches in several texts.
The first time the Weird Sisters appear alongside Macbeth is in the ‘Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’, a metrical work in Scots which purports to relate the history of Scotland from the time of Adam and Eve, and was likely composed some time in the first half of the 1420s by Andrew Wyntoun, prior of Loch Leven. In Wyntoun’s narrative, Macbeth has a dream wherein he is seated alongside Duncan I during a hunt, holding the leashes of two greyhounds, when three women pass by.
As the appearance of these women is brief, I’ll quote it in full here:
‘He sawe thre wemen by gangand,
And thai wemen than thowcht he,
Thre werd Systrys mast lyk to be;
The first he hard say gangand by,
‘Lo yhondyr the Thayne off Crwmbachty!’
The tothir woman sayd agayne,
‘Off Moraye yhondyre I se the Thayne.’
The thryd than sayd, ‘I se the Kyng.’
All this he herd in his dremyng;’
He saw three women going by
And those women then thought he,
Three weird sisters most likely to be;
The first he heard say while going by,
‘Lo yonder the Thane of Cromarty!’
The other woman said in reply,
‘Of Moray yonder I see thee thane.’
The third then said, ‘I see thee king.’
All this he heard in his dreaming.’
Shortly after this event Macbeth is made thane and soon begins to covet the crown. As you can see, though skeletal, this version of Macbeth’s encounter with the Weird Sisters, who here inhabit the dream world, does vaguely echo the more famous lines in Shakespeare, with the exception of the locations mentioned (though the large regions of Cromarty and Moray bear a much greater resemblance to the territory of the historical Macbeth than Glamis- in Angus- and Cawdor). In other places, Wyntoun uses the word ‘weird’ (’werd’) in its original sene of ‘fate’ and, since Wyntoun’s work was the first substantial history of Scotland written in Scots, it is unsurprising that this would be the first to associate Macbeth with the ‘weird-sisters’, whose name seems ultimately derived from Old English, though John of Fordun, who wrote a Latin history of Scotland just before Wyntoun’s work, does not mention any prophetic visions regarding Macbeth (Wyntoun and Fordun were apparently unaware of each other’s chronicles, but their works seem to have been based on similar sources, many of which are now lost). Wherever the addition of the weird-sisters came from- and remember Andrew Wyntoun was writing almost four hundred years after the time of the historical Macbeth- it is interesting that they enter the work at around the same time as the story is put into the Scots language, though, as will be discussed below, they are also connected to a wider continental tradition and, while the ‘Orygynale Cronykil’ is the first time they appear alongside Macbeth, it is not quite the earliest use of the term ‘weird-sister’.
Sueno’s Stone, in Forres, Moray, to which many dubious legends have been attached, including one about Macbeth and the weird sisters, as well as various others.
Both John of Fordun and Andrew Wyntoun’s works seem to have been used as source material by Hector Boece, the first principal of the University of Aberdeen, whose ‘Historia Gentis Scotorum’, written in the late 1520s during the reign of King James V, is the next major appearance of the weird sisters alongside Macbeth.
Boece was writing in Latin, so he himself does not refer to ‘Weird’ sisters, though in the 1530s James V commissioned two translations of the work into Scots, with the makar William Stewart rendering it into poetic form and John Bellenden into prose, and both of these versions refer to ‘weird sisters’. Boece’s version of events differs importantly from Wyntoun’s, and Bellenden in turn added some of his own material in his translation but in all three versions the story of Macbeth is much closer to that which we know today.
Returning from the war with the Norwegians, Macbeth and Banquo are on their way to Forres in Moray (Bellenden) or are travelling through a deep forest (Stewart) when three women, who were according to Bellenden assumed to be ‘weird sisteris’ by the ordinary people, appear before them (Stewart does not quite use the term weird sisters in that order, but he frequently refers to them as sisters and as laying down a ‘werd’). The women are ‘clothit in elrage and uncouth weid’ (’clothed in eldritch and uncouth dress’) or ‘cleithing quihilk wes of elritche hew’ (’clothing which was of eldritch hue’) and deliver various prophecies to Macbeth and Banquo. In Macbeth’s case, they claim to have foreseen that he shall be thane of Glamis, thane of Cawdor, and eventually king, while Banquo is to be the progenitor of a line of kings. This done they vanish into thin air, and do not return to advise Macbeth at any further point in the tale. It is the urging of Macbeth’s wife which helps convince him to kill Duncan, while in Bellenden’s prose account, Banquo assists in the murder. Thus, as in Shakespeare’s play, the Weird Sisters prophecies are not necessarily intended to encourage violence in themselves, but simply provide a spur to the characters’ own ambitions, though in Boece and his translators’ version the sisters are far more morally ambiguous and do not display their sense of mischief from the beginning as in Shakespeare.
The story continues much as we might expect, though with some additions. Having reigned well for some time, introducing many good laws, Macbeth begins to fear Banquo as a result of the prophecy concerning his offspring, and sends a band of armed men to assassinate Banquo and his son Fleance. Fleance, of course, escapes, has some adventures in Wales and, before being executed himself, fathers a son named Walter there, this son being conflated with the historical Walter Fitzalan, the founder of the Stewart dynasty (this false origin story may simply have been a confusion between the names Fleance and Flaald, or perhaps a more intentional confusion- in any case, the Stewarts traced their ancestry back to Brittany not Banquo, though the area around the Welsh March also comes into the story). In the meantime, Macbeth has received more prophecies though not, significantly, from the Weird Sisters. Growing tyrannical, Macbeth regularly consorts with warlocks and witches (or, in Bellenden’s version, one particular witch) and consequently has no fear of death, having been delivered the well-known prophecy that he will not be killed by any man born of woman nor before Birnam wood moved to Dunsinane. Unfortunately for him, when he targets the thane of Fife, Macduff, for failing to provide supplies for the building of a castle at Dunsinane, and destroys his family, he seals his own fate. When MacDuff returns in the following of Malcolm Ceann Mor, it is revealed that he was ‘schorne out of my moderis wambe’ and so Macbeth meets his end. Though the story is thus broadly familiar to us, the categories of weird sister and witch are still very clearly separate in the accounts of Boece and his translators, though they are also clearly supernatural beings of the real world, rather than being part of the dreamworld that Wyntoun described.
It was likely through John Bellenden’s translation that Boece’s version of the Macbeth story, along with the translator’s additions, filtered through to the English writer Raphael Holinshed. Here the weird sisters again appear in ‘strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of elder world’ and Holinshed writes that common opinion concerning their identities was that:
‘these women were either the weird sisters, that is (as ye would say) the goddesses of destinie, or else some nymphs or feiries, indued with knowledge of prophesie by their necromanticall science’
Thus the weird sisters are both associated with the Fates and with nymphs and fairies (an association which, at least in the latter case, might also have been apparent in the Scottish mythos), but are given a more sinister aspect through the accusation of their having dabbled in necromancy, rather than just being somewhat mysterious and ambiguous spirits. Again though, they largely disappear as the narrative continue. Holinshed’s account is very similar to Bellenden’s- almost word for word in some places- and whilst the effects of the weird sisters’ prophecies linger throughout the tale, they themselves do not reappear. Macbeth puts faith in prophecy after that of the weird sisters is proven true, but he instead seeks out wizards to advise him, and is told the manner of his death by ‘a certeine witch’. Holinshed’s Chronicles, as pointed out above, were in turn a major source for William Shakespeare, and though there are a couple of theories as to Shakespeare having heard of various other fortune-telling women in contemporary plays, his use of the weird sisters does seem to rest to a large degree on Holinshed. However another major source was likely the witch trials of late sixteenth century Scotland and the various literature about witchcraft circulating as a result, in particular King James VI’s own ‘Daemonologie’. Shakespeare smoothed out the narrative and cut out the difference between weird sister and witch, imbuing the former with many of the attributes of witchcraft as given in the ‘Daemonologie’. Nowadays, the ‘witches’ in Macbeth and the weird sisters are interchangeable figures, being explicitly one and the same in the play. And after the publication of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the early seventeenth century, the rest is quite literally history.
The Weird Sisters do not only appear in conjunction with Macbeth in pre-Shakespearian British literature, and though for the most part they are only referenced briefly, these brief references sometimes tell us a lot. They also make at least one significant literary appearance in a Scots poem from at least thirty years before the Union of the Crowns, which is particularly interesting given that it relates to Hallowe’en (which I hope everyone is enjoying). Before this though it would perhaps also be useful to put the Weird sisters briefly in a wider context, both Scottish and continental.
Scottish folklore has rather more than its fair share of witches and spae-wives, mysterious hags, ghostly washerwomen, giantesses, fairy queens, glaistigs and green ladies. These figures may have either Celtic or Germanic roots, but the importance of old, vulgar, or unconventional women in Scotland’s folk culture is very evident, and even the words ‘cailleach’ and ‘carline’- from Gaelic and Scots respectively- have cultural implications that go far beyond their strictly literal meaning of ‘old woman’. In the case of the weird sisters, they give off an air of mystery closer to that of a variety of figures ranging from the bean nighe to the Cailleach, rather than the more witchy or malevolent Gyre-Carline or Nicnevin (though, as seen below, the weird sisters could be exceedingly abusive in their manner at times and were capable of cursing unfortunates out to an extreme degree). Thus there is certainly precedent for shadowy, ambiguous figures such as the weird sisters throughout Scottish folklore and literature. But there is also a wider context- that of the Fates, or any group of women (usually three in number) who foretell destiny in a variety of European cultures, and probably further afield as well. As pointed out earlier, ‘weird’ is an Old English-derived word, originally approximating to ‘fate’. Thus from very early in the Middle Ages, people in both England and Scotland were translating the Roman Parcae or Greek Moriae (i.e., the Fates) as ‘weirds’, or some variation on the term. Geoffrey Chaucer, for example, in his work ‘The Legend of Good Women’, uses the term ‘the werdys’ to refer to the Greek Fates, while the earliest Scottish use of the phrase ‘weird sister’ is from around 1400, in the fragmentary ‘Troy Book’, a metrical Scots account of the Trojan War (which was a highly popular subject among Scottish writers at this point). In 1483, the English-Latin dictionary Catholicanum Anglicum translated ‘parce’ as ‘weird sister’ while the early sixteenth century romance ‘Clariodus’ (a Scots version of the story of ‘Cleriadus et Meliadice’, telling the story of a son of the Count of Asturias, in Spain) mentions the weird sisters as having laid out the hero’s ‘weird’ or destiny at his birth, appearing in a role similar to that of the Fates. Gavin Douglas’ landmark translation of the Aeneid also mentions weird sisters several times. As well as the Classical model of the Fates however, there may also be a connection to the Norns of Norse mythology (again similar to the Fates, but with their own subtleties, such as sometimes being viewed as giantesses, and there being a number of Norns besides the main three), as Scotland’s links to Scandinavia ran deep even in the fifteenth century.
(A sixteenth century representation of the Greek Fates from a Flemish tapestry)
The model of the Fates thus perhaps accounts for the tradition of the weird sisters to a large extent, but at some point the Scottish weird sisters appear to have acquired characteristics and tales of their own (whether this was mirrored in England or if weird sister continued to simply mean one of the Fates, I am unsure). Though most of our examples come from the Scottish literary sphere, with the weird sisters making an appearance in strictly literary circles, there are indications that they had also entered the wider folklore of the country, at least the Lowland part of it. For example, in c.1549, the Complaynt of Scotland made reference to ‘the Tale of the Three Weird Sisters’, though we have little indication of what this tale involved, or if it had any link to the weird sisters’ role in the Macbeth story, as already covered. But if the weird sisters’ place in Scottish folklore is as mysterious as the sisters themselves, they still seem to have found their place in at least one important piece of literature from the period, the late sixteenth century ‘flyting’ of Patrick Hume of Polwarth and Alexander Montgomerie- two prominent poets at the court of James VI.
To put it briefly, a flyting is a poetic war of insults, a slanging match which might take place in the street, but was also the name of a more polished- though no less vulgar and rowdy- and highly performative brand of poetry which served as entertainment at the royal court (and in which at least one king, James V, took part at some point). The most famous example is probably that of William Dunbar and Walter Kennedy (though for all the extremely offensive language and insinuations hurled at each other, the two makars didn’t necessarily have to dislike each other personally), but another notable piece is that of Polwarth and Montgomerie, with the latter poet delivering a particularly fine argument. In insulting his adversary, Montgomerie narrates a (clearly fictional and scurrilous) version of Polwarth’s life, from his conception and baptism. He claims that, “In the hinder end of harvest, on Alhallow even/When our good nighbours doe ryd’, an elf and an ape copulated and conceived the unlucky Polwarth, leaving him in a bush.
Soon thereafter the Weird Sisters ‘wandring, as they were wont then’, arrive on the scene. Disgusted by the unfortunate unchristened bairn’s ugliness and deformity, they first guess at where it has come from and then curse it roundly, laying upon it misfortune after misfortune in (brilliantly) alliterative verse in complete contrast to their role at heroes’ births. Polwarth is to be suckled twice, at least once by Nicnevin (and the emphasis placed on the implications and symbolism of nursing in medieval and early modern culture as represented here could be an essay in itself), will be beset by many illnesses and will later consort with outlaws and the like. As their cursing draws to a close, they speak in turn, one sister after the other, in a manner similar to the way in which they deliver the prophecies to Macbeth, though these are rather less promising, finishing by listing methods of death:
Fra the sisters had seene the shape of that shit,
‘Little lucke bee thy lot, there where thou lyes.
Thy fowmart face,’ quoith the first, ‘to flyt sal be fit.’
‘Nicneuin,’ quoith the next, ‘sall norish thee twyse;
To ride post to Elphin nane abler nor it.’
‘To drive dogs but to drit,’ the third can devyse:
‘All thy day sall thou bee of an bodie bot a bit.
Also such is this sentence, as sharpe is thy syse.’
Syne duelie they deemde, what death it sould die.
The first said, ‘surelie of a shot;’
The second, ‘of a running knot;’
The third, ‘be throwing of the throate,
Like a tyke ouer a tree.
With this the Weird Sisters depart, but for all their raw-mouthed reviling and terrible curses, they are still somehow portrayed as not especially evil by the standards of the piece- it is, by contrast, the hellish figures who look after Polwarth that are considered really demonic. Almost immediately after the sisters’ departure, Nicnevin appears on the scene, surrounded by her ‘nymphs’, importantly identified as witches and something approaching fairy., and it is these figures who decide to nurture Polwarth. Thus into the late sixteenth century, though the weird sisters could be omens of ill, and were thoroughly foul-mouthed in at least one particular piece of literature, they are explicitly considered different from witches and even somewhat detached from the fairy world. Whether an indication of a more general presence of the weird sisters in Scottish folklore or not though, Montgomerie’s use of the weird sisters as a literary device is an important representation of the characters outside of the Macbeth legend, and throws a different light onto the representation of the weirds in Scottish culture several decades before their most famous appearance in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’.
This post is (unfortunately) not a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the texts mentioned, however, it does give something of an introduction to the few appearances of the weird sisters in Scottish literature and elsewhere prior to Shakespeare’s play. Their place in a wider European tradition and links to the Fates of continental mythology, perhaps with a dash of native Celtic and Germanic influence, or the evolution of their role in the Macbeth legend from fleeting walk-on roles in a dream to taking on the mantle of witchcraft in Shakespeare, or their important appearance in literature without Macbeth as contrasted to their possible role in wider folk tradition- all are very interesting aspects of the mysterious legend of the weird sisters.
‘The Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’ by Andrew Wyntoun, eds. David Laing
“Scotorum Historiae a Prima Gentis Origine…”, by Hector Boece
“The Buik of the Croniclis of Scotland”, by William Stewart
John Bellenden’s Scots translation of Hector Boece’s Scottish Chronicles
List of stories from “The Complaynt of Scotland”
The Poems of Alexander Montgomerie, edited by John Cranstoun
“The Weird Sisters Wandering: Burlesque Witchery in Montgomerie’s Flyting”, by Jacqueline Simpson in Folklore (106, 1995)
“We Three: The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters”, L.A. Shamas
“If you would look down from the moon…and see the innumerable broils of mortals, you would think you were looking at a great cloud of flies or gnats, quarelling among themselves, warring, plotting, plundering, playing, frisking, being born, declining, dying. It is downright incredible what tumults, what tragedies can be stirred up by such tiny creatures, so frail and short-lived.”
No matter what you’re experiencing right now, it’s okay to have hope. In fact, your soul is probably begging for it. Hope is expansive and allows us to receive our prayers. Sometimes, we have to become the person for whom our prayers can be answered in order to have them answered at all. The truth is, when we tighten up, contract and loose hope, we disconnect ourselves from ourselves and in doing so, we disconnect from source energy. We jump into our minds and out of our being; therefore, we can’t even SEE the answer, the subtle cues or the lit up path because we’re disengaged from our internal guidance system. Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. So, if we want to change our reality, we have to change our thinking, we have to change our consciousness and we have to be willing and vulnerable enough to relax into hope; even if it’s little at a time. In this way, hope becomes a conscious prayer that expands us into receiving mode. By allowing hope, we literally change the dial of our own frequency and create a new rhythm, the rhythm that the Universe feels, responds to, and reflects back into our experience.
Woman is not to be adored for her beauty alone, for her feminine charms. She is to be revered in all forms, from the most sublimely beautiful to the frightening, from the young girl child to the old crone, from the bloodthirsty to the motherly, from the gentle to the fierce.
I am that. I am that I am.
I am the live Essence. I am the Galactivator.
I am the human Context. I am the third eye of One.
I am the dawn of a new Era. I am the center of all Sources.
I am the intimacies of Eternity. I am the distinguisher of Realms.
I am the Light of all Luminosities. I am the the wanderer of the Path.
I am the emittance of Consciousness. I am the anima mundi of natural Worlds.
I am the consistent form of a Nebula. I am the spattered truth of Earth.
I am the ruling factor of Equation. I am the synchronization of Souls.
I am the everlasting Exoticism. I am the range of Capacities.
I am the softness of Clouds. I am the twinkle in the Eye.
I am the all Encompassing. I am the truth of Future.
I am the broken Lock. I am the Kymatica.
I am that I am. I am that. I am.
For she has returned, and her voice roaring as a thousand mighty lions, echoing for races and generations to come. No longer shall her womb be kept in chains, for her children of earth, stand in an unbreakable circle with one voice, one heartbeat and one soul united, through the darkest of hours, over the threshold, into a new dawn.
In the early hours of 1 September 1939, German troops crossed the border into Poland. At the same time in Britain, thousands of children, in cities all over the country crocodile-marched to the nearest railway station to board trains that would take them to the safety of the countryside.
Two days later, war was declared. Operation Pied Piper was the secret code name given to the mass evacuation of over 3 million children.
Given the large numbers and different social classes involved, individual experiences ran the gamut from excellent to terrible.
On 6th December, 1941, Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, reported the results of a 12-month study she had authorised. Its conclusion was that “separation from their parents was a worse shock for children than a bombing.” In the 2003 BBC Radio 4 documentary, “Evacuation: The True Story,” Steve Davis, a clinical psychologist specialising in the study of war trauma, stated that in the worst cases, “It was little more than a pedophile’s charter.”
When, lo! as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child’s Story
Many are familiar with the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Few realise however, that the story is based on real events, which evolved over the years into a fairy tale made to scare children.
For those unfamiliar with the tale, it is set in 1284 in the town of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, Germany. This town was facing a rat infestation, and a piper, dressed in a coat of many coloured, bright cloth, appeared. This piper promised to get rid of the rats in return for a payment, to which the townspeople agreed too. Although the piper got rid of the rats by leading them away with his music, the people of Hamelin reneged on their promise. The furious piper left, vowing revenge. On the 26th of July of that same year, the piper returned and led the children away, never to be seen again, just as he did the rats. Nevertheless, one or three children were left behind, depending on which version is being told. One of these children was lame, and could not keep up, another was deaf and could not hear the music, while the third one was blind and could not see where he was going.
If the children’s disappearance was not an act of revenge, then what was its cause? There have been numerous theories trying to explain what happened to the children of Hamelin. For instance, one theory suggests that the children died of some natural causes, and that the Pied Piper was the personification of Death. By associating the rats with the Black Death, it has been suggested that the children were victims of this plague. Yet, the Black Death was most severe in Europe between 1348 and 1350, more than half a century after the event in Hamelin. Another theory suggests that the children were actually sent away by their parents, due to the extreme poverty that they were living in. Yet another theory speculates that the children were participants of a doomed ‘Children’s Crusade’, and might have ended up in modern day Romania, or that the departure of Hamelin’s children is tied to the Ostsiedlung, in which a number of Germans left their homes to colonize Eastern Europe. One of the darker theories even proposes that the Pied Piper was actually a paedophile who crept into the town of Hamelin to abduct children during their sleep.
Being born in the 70s I was unaware of the name of the secret operation Pied Piper until 9th September, a special day here in England as Queen, Elizabeth Windsor became the longest ruling monarch of the United Kingdom.
The papers and media were full of accolades and celebrations, stories of the Queen and her achievements. One, which caught my eye in the Huffington Post.
In the last couple of weeks millions of people are migrating across the Middle East, some making treacherous journeys across the Meditteranan, children drowning, loss of life and now upon the shires of Europe, this migration is stirring much discontent.
So zooming back in time, Queen Elizabeth’s first ever public speech and address reveals a compassionate message of solidarity to child migrants. When she was just 14 – and still a princess as her father was on the throne – Elizabeth addressed the UK’s children who left their homes to escape the dangers of Word War II, on the BBC’s Children’s Hour radio slot in 1940.
Teenage Elizabeth tells the thousands of homesick children who travelled abroad to Commonwealth countries to escape the threat of German invasion and bombings that she was “not forgetting” them.
Why, was this operation named Pied Piper ? We now know from historical sources and documented evidence available in the Public Domain that this operation was planned a year before – a contingency plan. For some reason, this just does not sit right with me and I cannot put my finger on it. There are many stories about these turbulent times, some happy stories and too some very tragic. I just can not comprehend being whisked away from my parents and being sent to live with strangers who would pick you – like cattle.
I then think again of the Pied Piper and one character springs to my mind, not the fairy tale character but Russell Brand.
“More than anything else I’m the trickster” Russell Brand
Brand’s status as a pied piper of the champagne anarchist is even more ridiculous when one considers his past. The man now putting himself forward as a Shoreditch Che Guevara, a crusader against bigotry and the capitalist system, shot to fame as a presenter on Big Brother, a programme that has been blighted by racism and relies on sponsorship from firms such as TalkTalk and the Carphone Warehouse. It has also been alleged (though never proven) that his film company is bankrolled by a group of City financiers, the very people he purports to despise.
Brand claims to represent the young people of this country, those under the age of 45. Well I belong to that generation (just about) and I can categorically say this man does not represent me. Nor would I swap his tricky dicky story for the original version.
When you think about it’s weird what he/they did, taking those children away and it makes you ask questions. Why did he/they do it? Is that okay? Why did it happen? What’s the story trying to tell us? The Pied Pieper makes you think.
There’s something about it. You have your basic story: there’s a tow/country, the town has a rat problem, the town calls the Pied Piper, the Pied Piper gets rid of the rats, the town doesn’t pay the the Pied Piper and the Pied Piper takes the children. But everything else is up for grabs, you can change it, you can set it anywhere in the world, you can say it means anything you like.
I wonder what the children thought was going to happen? Being led away with music. The pipe is really significant because music is something that has a powerful effect that we can’t really understand. In itself it’s a metaphor for the other things that have an effect on us that we can’t see or even really understand.
Today, we tell the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin to our children to teach them a lesson in morality, that lesson being don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep and don’t back out on a deal. And today we usually tack on a happy ending with the children of Hamelin all being released from the cave they were being held in when their parents finally decided to keep their part of the bargain.
However, as with most fairy tales, the Pied Piper has some basis in fact, and those facts are, indeed, pretty gruesome.
Anderson, D., 2012. The Pied Piper of Hamelin: The facts behind the fairy tale. [Online] Available at: http://www.examiner.com/article/the-pied-piper-of-hamelin-the-facts-behind-the-fairy-tale
Ashliman, D. L., 2013. The Pied Piper of Hameln and related legends from other towns. [Online] Available at: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/hameln.html
Cuervo, M. J. P., 2010. The Lost Children of Hamelin. [Online] Available at: http://www.forteantimes.com/features/articles/3805/the_lost_children_of_hamelin.html
Ridley, L., Huffington Post [Online] Available at: The Queen’s First Ever Speech In 1940 Was About Child Migrants
Wikipedia, 2014. Pied Piper of Hamelin. [Online] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pied_Piper_of_Hamelin
The cosmic geography in which the Norse deities dwell encompasses nine realms of interconnected realities that are often referred to as the Nine Worlds. These realms are all linked together by the various branches of the cosmic ash tree referred to in the myths as Yggdrasil. Asgard was connected to Midgard (the Earth) by a rainbow-hued bridge called Bifrost. The Nine Worlds of the Norse cosmology are the following:
1. Asgard – the realm inhabited by the great majority of the Norse deities, and ruled by Odin and Frigga. Most of the deities have their own palace, and it’s the original home of the war-loving Aesir tribe. Asgard is described in the myths as an amazing and majestic realm of towering spires and palaces of gold and silver situated within a remarkable city. It is surrounded by miles and miles of enchanted woodlands, rivers, and seas, which are populated by a large number of life forms, many of them analogous to Earth creatures, such as dogs, cats, and horses, and others unlike anything natural to the biological fauna of Earth, including dragons and various types of sea serpents. This realm is also the original home of the Aesir, one of the two tribes of deities who merged into a single tribe, the Asgardians. A special section of Asgard called Valhalla is inhabited by the souls of heroic and virtuous mortals who followed the Norse path, and these honored dead, known collectively as the Einerjar, are ruled by Odin and Freya (each of whom rules over half of these fallen heroes).
2. Vanaheim – former home of the Vanir, a tribe of peaceful but powerful fertility deities, that went to war with the Aesir of Asgard and eventually achieved peace with them, merging and intermarrying with this other tribe, and making their home with them in Asgard. Vanaheim, like Asgard, is a spectacular realm that is dotted with vast, unspoiled forests and bodies of water, all of which are inhabited by nature spirits and equivalents of Earth animals.
3. Alfheim – the realm of the Light Elves, once ruled by the Norse god Frey in his youth (who since migrated to Asgard). The light elves are the enchanted, shape-shifting beings of great magickal power who were known to the Celtic people as the faerie folk, or faes, and Alfheim is simply another word for the twilight realm known in Ireland and Scotland as Faerieland.
4. Svartalfheim – the home of the Dark Elves, an offshoot species of the inhabitants of Alfheim, who have been known to people in the Western world as goblins, bogarts, and many other names.
Many Norse thought that dark elves were also responsible for nightmares. These dark elves were called mare. A mare would sit on a sleeping person’s chest and whisper bad dreams to haunt the person. A mare can also haunt animals, particularly horses. The dark elves can not be exposed to the sun, if the sun’s beams of light reached them they would instantly turn into stones.
5. Midgard – this word, meaning “Middle Realm,” is the Asgardian name for the Earth dimension, which is the material manifested world of humanity that we mortals inhabit. As we all know, our realm operates under a set of physical laws recognized by science, but the quantum nature of our reality enables mortals of varying skill to wield energies that can be drawn from the other, magickal realms comprising the Nine Worlds (and beyond).
6. Jotunheim – the realm of the Jotun, or Giants, a third tribe of humanoid beings of great magickal power to rival the Aesir and Vanir who never made peace with either of these other two tribes, and are considered their sworn enemies. This realm is distinguished by an extremely cold, snow-capped tundra and huge mountain ranges.
7. Nidavellir – rocky realm characterized by miles of caves whose whose lower levels are inhabited by the diminutive and elusive race of humanoid beings known as the Dwarves, where they maintain their forges that they sometimes use in the service of the deities, and occasionally for a few select mortals.
8. Helheim (Hel) – this is the twilight realm of the common dead, the souls of those mortals and deities living under the purview of the Norse cosmology who were neither truly heroic nor truly evil, and are ruled by the death goddess Hela, where her great palace resides. Helheim (not to be confused with the Hell of Biblical legend) is described as having a gray, barren, and bleak landscape.
9. Niflheim – this frozen reality of endless snowscapes is the bitter realm of the dishonored – i.e., evil dead, the relatively small number of mortal souls of those people who were truly and remorselessly malicious or murderous while alive. It’s described in the legends as being an extremely cold, frozen landscape of endless night. The souls confined to that realm are subject to frequent hardships and tortures, and also fall under the rulership of the death goddess Hela. Niflheim is the former home of Ymir, the primal frost giant, and the birthplace of the later race of giants whom he spawned during the early history of the Nine Worlds. Niflheim may also be the same dimensional plane as the afterlife realm sometimes referred to as Winterland, where a small number of Wiccans fear that the most malign amongst their number may dwell at least temporarily following their mortal demise.
What foresight Malvina Reynolds had when she composed this song is over 50 years ago.
In the 60s, this was a protest song about the development of suburbia and associated conformist middle-class attitudes reflected in the United States. It refers to suburban tract housing as “little boxes” of different colors “all made out of ticky-tacky“, and which “all look just the same.” “Ticky-tacky” is a reference to the shoddy material used in the construction of housing of that time.
I can remembering singing this song when I was in the Brownies, here in the Shire, 30 years ago. It sounds like a children’s song and to be honest 30 years ago when accompanying Brown Owl on her guitar, singing our little hearts out we did not understand what we were really singing about. It was a catchy tune with simple words to remember.
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.
And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There is no doubt that this was a view of a conformist and homogenized American society that was being portrayed in the song. Not only did Malvina Reynolds demonstrate a baby-boomer era societals need to maintain uniformity with each other, but also to base success on material and superficial things. Everyone seeking the same progressions (doctors, lawyers, business executives) and living in identical houses. This is exactly what we see now in 2015, even more so here in the United Kingdom.
As far as our values are concerned, religious affiliation is dwindling (which my expressive view is a good thing as it is indeed a control mechanism – however, this has also affected peoples decision making). Being a “good person” isn’t as important as being a rich person. Morality is changing dramatically as people put money and power over being virtuous. Individuals will behave the way they need to, to reach their desired outcome; societies perception of success. We have indeed been reduced to mere cogs in the machines… look around us at the automated, redundant, cliche, monotonous and generic society that has been built up around us. Conformity becomes us, abit like ‘Toys R Us’
This is, in my humble opinion, ticky-tacky. Until our society begins to appreciate the diverse reality of “success”, like being happy, accomplishing dreams, and being a generous and caring human being, the cookie-cutter hold, these invisible values that our Government keep on barking about, those that if you ask any citizen here in the United Kingdom about, they would look at you as though you have totally lost the plot, and they would have to actually think about what you have asked them – Mind control in its blandest form, creating predictable, simple people, with simple problems, too trapped in a maze of sameness to ever look upwards or outwards, too concentrated on the tiny problems of fitting in and making it up the corporate ladder to do much questioning of the system. Too worried about keeping up with the Jones’ to question why we’re here, what it means, and why things ended up this way.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.” – Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1929)“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.” – Edward Bernays, Propaganda (1929)
So., with this in mind., I am trying to understand the middle east crisis which is raising its ugly head once again, and is ever prevalent on our news and in the mind of the masses.
The difference between the West and East is that the West has developed science, which is objective in spirit, critical in method. Its pursuit tends to lay stress on the independence of judgment—hence, a sturdy individualism and a fierce nationalism. The drive behind science is the desire to subdue nature. Through science and its application the West has acquired enormous power over the materials and forces of nature and has built up a civilisation characterised by an economy of abundance, an ideology of unlimited progress and a fear complex which urges it ever onward to unceasing effort and sleepless vigilance (Remaining in the box)
Therefore , the concept of the supremacy of law is bound up with the ideas of equality and liberty. Equality before the law is incompatible with privilege, whether based on creed, caste, hereditary position or wealth. Liberties inhere in persona—the rights which an individual holds. TheEastern holders of persona, so far as state and society were are are concerned, as a collective village, the occupational fraternity, the family; the individual was merged in the group. Under the influence of Western law and the stress of modern socio-economic forces the individual has become emancipated. Society becomes an integration of individuals instead of being a community of communities.
Morris., talks extensively about the effects of the west on eastern philosophies on his You Tube Channel, link here.
This is an excellent video regarding the creation of the refugees.
Malvina Reynolds (Online) Accessed http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/MALVINA/mr094.htm
“The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children.“
“Originality has nothing to do with producing something ’ new’ – it is about seeking the source, the primordial ground from which you draw and have always drawn your being. It comes about when one works from one’s origins, it is the dance of the eternal return… and is as ancient as the Dreamtime.
“I’m not descended from anybody. All my ancestors are ascending from me.”
“We are a continuum. Just as we reach back to our ancestors for our fundamental values, so we, as guardians of that legacy, must reach ahead to our children and their children. And we do so with a sense of sacredness in that reaching.”
~ Paul Tsongas
Oh Mother Moon, who guides this inner world,
You are my secret dream, my hidden inmost need
Obscured by the outer facade
That keeps me shrouded in deception.
You are the gatekeeper
Of the nethermost regions of my soul.
Internal sanctums of consciousness,
Oh Luna, are your garden for my inner child.
When your luminous light shines upon me
I am naked,
Conflicted with my exoteric nature.
Oh Selene, beautiful winged Goddess!
You ride upon the intuitive waters
Of my psyche,
Expanding my resilience on golden wing,
Clipped, I am mercurial,
Quicksilver, changing from moment to moment.
Sentimental fool you take me for,
Immersing me in a pool of nostalgia
Only to rebirth the past,
Again and again.
You slumber in the dark abyss
Of my imagination, laying in wait
To reveal my aesthetic beauty.
Mother Moon, arcane enchantress,
Animating the rhythmic
Ebb and flow of all life,
Waxing maiden, waning crone,
Wandering through my clandestine realms,
Bending me to my knees, your lesson
In wholeness unravels me.
You whisper of ‘new beginnings’, forcing
Me to bury old wounds in the
Graveyard of my heart, where you stand
As guardian of my authentic Self.