windsor forest

There is an old tale goes that Herne the hunter,
Sometime a keeper here in Windsor forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns;
And there he blasts the tree and takes the cattle
And makes milch-kine yield blood and shakes a chain
In a most hideous and dreadful manner:
You have heard of such a spirit, and well you know
The superstitious idle-headed eld
Received and did deliver to our age
This tale of Herne the hunter for a truth.
—  The Merry Wives of Windsor  Act 4, Scene 4
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John Linnell (16 June 1792 – 20 January 1882) 

English landscape and portrait painter and engraver. He also associated with William Blake, to whom he introduced Samuel Palmer and others of the Ancients. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: 1. Frontispiece “John Linnell as a Young Man. (From an unfinished drawing by himself.)  2. “Windsor Forest. (From a Water-colour Study made in 1815)”  3. “William Blake. (From a Pencil Drawing by John Linnell)”  4. Frontispiece “John Linnell, Aetat. 76. (From an oil-painting by himself.)” from The Life of John Linnell By Alfred T. Story. In Two Volumes. Vol. I & II. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1892.

Basic Wicca: An Introduction to Aspects

One topic that often confuses Wicca newbies is what aspects of the deities actually are, and what the term means. 

An Aspect is, in simple terms, a specific part of a deity that reflects certain elements of that deity within itself. Traditionally, Wicca has two deities (the Triple Goddess and the Horned God), who have three and two aspects respectively. 

The Triple Goddess

The Goddess (also known as the Lady), is often known as the triple goddess as a reflection of her aspects, and what they represent. The Goddess is a deity of moon and night, and her aspects are representative of that nature because the represent the phases of the moon. 

As the moon waxes from new to gibbous, the Goddess is in her Maiden aspect. This is also the aspect of late winter and spring. The Maiden represents childhood, innocence, young love, rebirth (especially after death), new fertility, the prospect of growth, and hope for the future. The things of springtime are the things of the Maiden, such as early-blooming flowers like daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses; eggs and milk; new leaves and buds; yearling meat from lambs and calves. 

From gibbous to gibbous, across the full moon, the Goddess is in her Mother aspect. This is also the aspect of summer and early autumn. The Mother represents maternal love, adulthood and growth, childbirth and childcaring, investments realised, care for others, and life flourishing. The things of summertime are the things of the Mother, such as harvested crops; fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers in bloom, fish and meat, leafy green branches, and other things of growth and summer.

As the moon wanes from gibbous to new, the Goddess is in her Crone Aspect until the cycle repeats. This is also the aspect of late autumn and winter. The Crone represents aging and the closing of one’s life, but also represents the past and contemplation, wisdom and knowledge, loss and death, and the chance of rebirth once more come the spring. The things of autumn are the things of the Crone, such as berries and nuts, late-ripening vegetables such as squash and pumpkins, fat and preserved foods, bulbs of flowers, garlic and the like.

Of course, the solar year cycle isn’t exact, and is dependent on what the life is doing at that time too. The Goddess is a deity of life and growth, and so if the summer hangs on late then so will the Mother, for example.


The Horned God

The God is traditionally depicted with two aspects that revolve around the solar cycle. They fight for dominance every 6 months, and create their respective seasons as they rule over the land. These are the Holly and Oaks Kings, who represent winter and summer respectively.

At the autumnal equinox, the Oak king has been banished underground to rejuvenate for his fight next year. The Holly king takes his throne, and rules over a land of cold and dying back for 3 whole months unchallenged. At Yule, the winter solstice, the Oak king’s power begins to wax as the Holly king’s power begins to wane, and by the vernal equinox the Oak king has risen from the ground, fought the Holly king, and banished him to lick his wounds for another 3 months underground. The Oak king rules for 3 months unchallenged, over a land of heat and growth, and at Litha his own power starts to fade. The two fight once more at Mabon, and the cycle starts over again.

The symbols of the Oak king are, of course, oaken branches laden with green leaves, often woven into a crown, but also all the trappings of summertime. The Oak king is sometimes equated with the Green Man of the Forest, with Lugh, and with Herne the Hunter (often thought to be a pagan deity who was “Christianised” into a ghost of Windsor Forest). 

The symbols of the Holly king are branches of fresh holly, often bearing red berries on green leaves, sometimes woven into a crown of their own. He is also represented by evergreen bows, commonly woven into a Yuletide wreath such as the ones we now associate with Christmas. He is sometimes equated to winter figures such as Jack Frost, Morozko, Old Man Winter, and the old Norse god Odin. He is also associated due to similar times with Father Christmas (Santa Claus).

The groves of Eden, vanish’d now so long,
Live in description, and look green in song:
These, were my breast inspir’d with equal flame,
Like them in beauty, should be like in fame.
Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain,
Here earth and water, seem to strive again;
Not Chaos like together crush’d and bruis’d,
But as the world, harmoniously confus’d:
Where order in variety we see,
And where, tho’ all things differ, all agree.
Here waving groves a checquer’d scene display,
And part admit, and part exclude the day;
As some coy nymph her lover’s warm address
Nor quite indulges, nor can quite repress.
—  excerpt from the poem Windsor Forest by Alexander Pope
Herne the Hunter (entries from The Wordswoth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable)

The Wild Huntsman

A spectral hunter of a medieval legend, who with a pack of spectral dogs frequents certain forests and occasionally appears to mortals. It takes numerous forms in Germany, France, and England, and the wild huntsman is often identified with various heroes of national legend. In England there is notably Herne the Hunter, one-time keeper in Windsor Forest. Shakespeare says he “walks” in winter-time, about midnight, blasts trees and takes cattle. He wears horns and rattles a chain (Merry Wives of Windsor, IV, iv). Herene is also featured in Harrison Ainsworth’s Windsor Castle.

Herne’s Oak

An Oak in Windsor Great Park, reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Herne the Hunter. It was supposed to be 650 years old when blown down in 1863. Queen Victoria planted a young oak on the site.