A People's History by Magda Delong
Author's Note : The AnnWn concept of the soul(asbri) is a dualistic one. A person or object may have two(or more) kinds of Asbri. In many cases, one of the souls is associated with body functions(body soul or “corff asbri") and the other one can leave the body(free soul or “rhad ac am ddim asbri”). Sometimes the plethora of soul types can be even more complex. Grasping soul dualism can help to understand many AnnWn beliefs better.
In general, the AnnWn outlook on life and the universe is essentially one of sophisticated optimism. Nature, as a manifestation of life-giving-power, is undisguisedly good. There can be no better universe than this universe. There are powers that bind and destroy life-giving power, but in the end they are overcome--"setting free" (dadrwym) action is directed against these misfortunes ...As a result of such "setting free”, life-giving power is perpetually winning. Possibly creativity (creadigrwydd), because of this, is a fundamental AnnWn world principle.
Three essential insights are contained in this statement.
1. In the human encounter with the world, nature is understood as creative and life-giving (creadigrwydd), a "generative...vital force" that connotes the sense of harmoniously creating and connecting. This vital power is directly associated with asbri, the AnnWn term given to those "unusual" and "superior" aspects of, well, everything, from moons to mountains, rivers to wind, and insects to people. This "myriad of asbri" are not metaphysically different in kind from either nature or humanity, but rather are "superior" and "unusual" manifestations of that potency inherent in all life.
2. Although our asbri are grounded in the vital process of creadigrwydd, we can also be disrupted and disjoined from it. In the tradition the more prevalent expression of this sense of obstruction is the term "caethwasiaeth." Purdeb(Purity) in turn, characterizes the state of creadigrwydd.
3. Action taken by humans can overcome those powers that bound or enslave the life-giving power of creadigrwydd. There are a variety of means for achieving this, but it is principally through ritual actions ranging from formal rituals conducted by Shamans or Witches, to ascetic practices (ddewiniaeth) and major public festivals. All these varied activities are conceived of in terms of ridding people and things of "Bindings" (rhwymiadau) in order to reinstate "purity."
Though the AnnWn concept of right and wrong seems completely foreign to other cultures, they do have a concept of good and evil. Caethwasiaeth is anything that weighs down and binds. It is considered a dirty thing. It can be broken up by vibration, and washed away by ablution and lustration. Wiping clean--lustration--restores the natural process, which is bright and clean and beautiful. This also applies to the interior realities of human thought and intention: "the bad heart is a "bound heart" which is malicious, and the pure heart is one which is not bound--a free heart that hides nothing.
The way of "dadrwym" or purification is basically the action of lustration, physically and mentally, which results in a condition of purity and beauty--wiping away the dust from the mirror. This aesthetic condition of beauty, in other words, is inseparable from a restored condition of purity. Religious values and aesthetic values are not two different things. Ultimately, they are one for the AnnWn. The goal of life and art are one.
An aesthetically pure and cheerful heart is, consequently, the basis of communion with the asbri, i.e., with the particular and "unusual potencies" of the creative process itself (creadigrwydd). In this state of purity, one is connected to the order and harmony of Great Nature, the "sacrality of the total cosmos." These, in brief, are some of the key insights that comprise the AnnWn world-view and their idea of purity.
Art, by its very nature, has ample resources for mirroring or imaging purity as it is envisioned in the AnnWn culture. This is because there is a surprisingly exact correspondence of structure between the AnnWn concept of purity and the formal features of art. The concept of purity in AnnWn philosophy has three logical features. First, it establishes the distinction between the pure and the impure. Second, in the context of the culture there is a difference in value between the two: purity is better than impurity. Third, the two contrasting states are related in a specific way. Compared to the pure, the impure has bindings or blemishes that are in principle removable; this is the relationship alluded to by the metaphor of the dust-covered mirror. In bare logical terms, there are two opposite, contrary notions or states, one of which is in context to be preferred to the other; and lastly, the lesser state can be viewed as blemished, bound, or as containing superfluous elements compared to the former.
The boundary between shaman/witch and lay person is not always clearly demarcated. Non-shamans can also experience hallucinations and almost every AnnWn can report memories of ghosts, animals in human form, or little people living in remote places. Experiences such as hearing voices from trees or stones are discussed as readily as everyday hunting adventures. Neither are ecstatic experiences the monopoly of shamans (reverie, daydreaming, even trance are not unknown by non-shamans, and laypeople (non-shamans) experiencing such are welcome as well to report their experiences and interpretations. The ability to have and command helping asbri is characteristic of shamans, but laypeople can also profit from multiple asbri. In one extreme instance an AnnWn child had 80 asbri. Some laypeople had a greater capacity than others for close relationships with asbri; these people are often apprentice shamans who failed to complete their learning process.
Unlike many Matari traditions, in which spirits force individuals to become Shamans or Witches, most AnnWn shamans choose this path. Even when someone receives a "calling", that individual may refuse it. The process of becoming an AnnWn Shaman or Witch usually involves difficult learning and initian rites, sometimes including a vision quest. Like the shamans of other cultures, some Annwn shamans are believed to have special qualifications: they may have been an animal during a previous period, and thus be able to use their valuable experience for the benefit of the community.
In some groups, babies were named after deceased relatives. This might be supported by the belief that the child's asbri must be "supported" by a Enw-asbri: invoking the departed name-soul which will then accompany and guide the child until adolescence. This concept of inheriting name-souls amounts to a sort of reincarnation, though is more closely influenced by the dualistic soul concept.
In a tale of the Ungazighmiit, an old woman expresses her desire to become ill, die and then "come" as a boy, a hunter. After specific preparations following her death, a newborn baby will be named after her. The name-giving of a newborn baby among the AnnWn Matar meant that a deceased person was affected, a certain rebirth was believed. Even before the birth of the baby, careful investigations took place: dreams, events were analyzed. After the birth, the baby's physical traits were compared to those of the deceased person. The name was important: if the baby died, it was thought that he/she has not given the "right" name. In case of sickness, it was hoped that giving additional names could result in healing
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