Clan of Ysgithyrwyn
The Clan of Ysgithyrwyn was founded in 1998 as an eclectic, non-hierarchic coven of independent hedge Witches, non-aligned Pagans, friends and family.
Where does the name of our Clan come from?
Why Ysgithyrwyn? If you think we’re being pretentious because we chose a name of Celtic derivation for a neo-Pagan coven in Africa, you’re probably right. We affirm thereby our collective ancestral European origins in a very African animal, the Bush pig, a powerful cousin of the Boar of Europe and Britain. The Bush pig, like its European cousin Boar, is known for its courage, its familial bonds and its tenacity for survival. Our European ancestors saw in the Boar an agile and powerful symbol for the warrior.
The Tale of Ysgithyrwyn is told in the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen. It is succinctly retold here by Philip Palmer.
Culhwch and Olwen
Cylidd Wledig marries Goleuddydd. During her pregnancy she ‘loses her sanity’ and when she gives birth to the child in a pig-run. The boy is named Culhwch. As the first-cousin of king Arthur, he is brought up in secret by a swineherd. Goleuddydd dies soon after his birth and looking for another wife, Cilydd kills king Doged and takes his wife and daughter as his own.
The new queen isn’t happy because Cylidd doesn’t have a direct heir and when she finds out about Culhwch she calls him to court. She suggests that Culhwch should marry her daughter, which would guarantee succession not only within the king’s family, but her own as well. Culhwch refuses to marry the queen’s daughter and she curses him for foiling her plan: he’ll never marry until he marries Olwen, the daughter of Ysbaddaden, king of Giants.
Cilydd sends Culhwch to Arthur’s court in the hope that Arthur will help him in his search for Olwen. Unfortunately, Arthur doesn’t know who Olwen is, but he sends out scouts to find her. They search for a year, but can find no sign of her. Culhwch’s friend Cei suggests that they go looking for Olwen themselves when Arthur’s scouts fail to find her. Arthur picks a band of men to go with them, all chosen for their special skills and powers.
They find the fort of Ysbaddaden, but every day they travel towards it, they get further away from it. They stay at a shepherd’s house and the shepherd’s wife (who is Culhwch’s aunt, his mad mother’s sister) tries to discourage Culhwch from searching for Olwen. She explains that all men that look for her are never seen again. Culhwch won’t be dissuaded and the shepherd’s wife tells him that every Saturday Olwen comes to their house to wash her hair.
When she comes to the house, wherever she walks on the grass, white flowers spring up in her footprints (hence her name, Olwen meaning ‘white track’). Culhwch is stunned by her beauty and falls in love with her instantly. She tells Culhwch that the only way he’ll be allowed to marry her is to go to Ysbaddaden and ask him for permission. She explains that before he can marry her, her father will give Culhwch a list of tasks, which will be almost impossible to carry out. Culhwch and his men follow Olwen back to the castle to see Ysbaddaden.
The next day they come back and Ysbaddaden gives Culhwch a large list of things to do before he can marry Olwen. The final tasks on the list that Culhwch must complete are to cut Ysbaddaden’s hair and shave his beard. But before he can do that he needs to: obtain the blood of the Black Witch to soften his beard; to kill the wildest boar in the land, Ysgithyrwyn, as his tusk is the only thing sharp enough to cut Ysbaddaden’s beard; and to catch Twrch Trwyth, an Irish king who has been turned into an angry boar, for the scissors and comb that lie between his ears as they’re the only ones which will cut his hair. Before that he must find the hound, Drudwyn to catch Twrch Trwyth; and before that he must find Mabon, who was taken from his mother when he was three days old, as he’s the only man who can handle Drudwyn. But before all of these tasks can be completed he must get the sword of Wrnach the Giant, the only sword that will kill Twrch Trwyth.
They set off to find the sword of Wrnach first. When they find Wrnach, Cei persuades him that his sword needs sharpening. When the giant hands over his sword, Cei beheads him. They look for Mabon, son of Modron next and find him held prisoner in a dungeon in Gloucester. The only way to free him is with a large army, so they go back to ask Arthur for help. Arthur attacks Gloucester and Mabon is freed. With the hound, Drudwyn, they hunt and kill Ysgithyrwyn the wild boar and take his tusk. Arthur’s army follow Twrch Trwyth to Ireland, but he escapes to north Wales (Preseli) and in a chase across the country Arthur loses many men in fights with the boar. Twrch Trwyth is trapped on the banks of the River Severn and the shears and *comb taken from between his ears. Finally, Arthur himself kills the Black Witch. Culhwch heads back and cuts Ysbaddaden’s hair and shaves his beard to the bone. He dies and, thanks in part to Arthur, Culhwch and Olwen are able to get married.
In the Celtic tradition the boar symbolizes raw power. “In the Irish Book of Invasions there is the Orc Triath, a huge and destructive boar. In the Fionn Cycle of stories there is Formael, who viciously kills fifty soldiers and fifty hounds in a single day. In the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, two boars play a central role; Ysgithyrwyn, Chief Boar and Twrch Trwyth must both be defeated by the hero Culhwch to win the right to marry Olwen, the daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden. *The comb is a symbol that has been associated with the boar for thousands of years. The ancient rock-carvings in Scotland depict both combs and mirrors beside boars. The boar was used as an emblem on helmets and as a mouthpiece on battlehorns, depicted on swords and bronze shields to invoke the power of the boar to protect the warrior and to instill in him its supernatural vigour and fierceness.” (Philip Palmer)
The Clan of the ‘Chief White Boar’ (Ysgithyrwyn) interpret our assumed roles as protectors of the environment in which we live as a sacred one. The preservation of our mountains, forests, valleys, lakes, rivers and coastline, and the protection of the animals with whom we share this environment is a sacred calling for us. We see our role as environmental watch-dogs as a natural extension of our neo-Pagan world-view. We honour the bonds of community, value cooperation above competition, treasure the vision of inter-species dignity and respect, and honour the divine source of That Which Is, as the Great Mother Goddess, in all things.
‘All who approach Sacred Knowledge are changed by It.’
The Occult Path
The Occult Path is often mistaken for purely left-hand fringe psychobabble, but it is in fact a convergence of several noble traditions of esoteric and mystical exploration, a convergence that includes Witchcraft.
‘The Path itself begins with a never-ending quest
for the inner self and ends
with the discovery of the Divine within.’
Sympathetic Witchcraft is not strictly speaking a mystery religion although Wicca does claim to be a mystery religion. In common with occult mystery religions of the ancient world, the Clan of Ysgithyrwyn employs the praxis of a mystery religion, including apprenticeship, magic ritual, religious ceremony and an initiatory rite of passage. We quest for Sacred Knowledge and seek always to strengthen our personal communion with the Inner Divine. Our Path is an expression of Spiritual Alchemy. Our goal is to live in harmony with the Divine within and in Nature.
‘The Truth Is Always Hidden In Plain Sight’
What is Witchcraft?
Witchcraft is a spiritual ‘shamanic’ system
that employs the use of divination and sympathetic magic .
In practice modern Witchcraft is expressed in diverse ways by very diverse peoples. The word itself carries many stereotypes; inaccuracies based on misconception and often hostile prejudice motivated by the fear of the unknown.
Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary derives the term witch from medieval English ‘wicche’, formerly Anglo-Saxon masculine ‘wicca’ and feminine ‘wicce’, a corruption of ‘witega’, meaning ‘a seer’ or ‘diviner’. A Witch is then someone who sees the esoteric (inner spiritual reality) and knows the occult (that which is hidden from plain sight).
Witchcraft employs the use of divination, herbalism, astrology and natural magic. Sympathetic magic operates on an understanding of the sacred relationships (correspondences of sympathy and antipathy) between all things and on the hidden knowledge of how to harmoniously alter these relationships in order to bring about a desired effect, one planned to coincide with a forseen opportunity for such action. Witches intuit these totemic relationships in very different ways and different Witches may use diverse means to manipulate natural forces.
Our Clan regards nature as sacred and our approach to manipulating natural forces is therefore always respectful of this inherent sanctity. Our personal religious belief system is not a written doctrine. It is a life changing and all embracing life-style, one ever mindful of the divine nature and divine qualities of All That Is. We honour this all-encompassing divinity as the Great Mother Goddess; She is the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of all things. The Great Mother, as Diviner Architect, is inherent in All that She has created. She is the Divine Mind inhabiting every aspect of Creation. She is the Cauldron of Divine Beneficence.
We are mindful of the laws of the land in which we live and proud to be South Africans and Africans. We are tolerant of religious and racial diversity and sexual orientation. We consider our small role in building community and in contributing toward the building of the Ideal of the Rainbow-Nation an important one.
Our Clan’s collective theology is one of Reverence and Respect for Life and Truth. We believe that by living with reverence and respect for life, for the dead and the living, we affirm our sacred bond with the Earth Goddess, our collective planetary Mother. We believe that by searching always for Truth and by being always truthful, we affirm our aspiration to be worthy of the Mysteries of Her Cauldron.
Occult Heritage Month is a celebration not just of the various, and numerous, Occult paths, but of their beginnings and inceptions in South Africa too. It is a month dedicated to the rich esoteric history of all Occult faiths, paths, traditions and religions.
We want to hear your stories: how did you begin on your path, what are the origins of your tradition, how did your coven start out, what are the beginnings of your beliefs. We want to see your personal anecdotes, essays on religions, traditions and paths, information on how your group started and what makes it unique.
Send your stories, essays and pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.