Now for something completely different… Amateur Religious Ethnography Botched, Or the Pagan Interviews, Part 10

Skepoet: What is your religious background and how did you come to it?

 Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: I practice traditional Cornish Wytchcraeft, which is an animist faith that draws upon the folk traditions of the British ‘Cunning Folk’ of south western England. Basically, in many ways it is a region based, reconstructionalist path that seeks to revive the religious beliefs and practices of my ancestors. Because of this ethnographic and historiographical texts play major role in the understanding of my ancestors and my faith.

For those who are not familiar with the term ‘Cunning Folk’ basically a cunning person is essentially a traditional folk-magic practitioner who draws their traditions from the rural practices of the United Kingdom. As whole the cunning folk work with the genuis loci, familiar spirits, and regional divinities.

Unlike modern traditions such as Neo-Paganism, Wicca-Craft, or other earth centered Goddess paths during our spirit work we  do not work with elemental spirits, watch towers, etc. but rather we focus on our shamanistic roots and work with animal totems, our ancestors, etc.

In the case of the Cornish cunning folk we focus our worship on a local deity called ‘The Bucca’. Also, the ancestors and local divinities play major role in worship.

In regards to how I came into my ‘craft’ it is simple. My mother and grandmother were both Pellars and by proxy I am a hereditary pellar and have practiced this faith all my life; However, as this is a reconstructionalist faith I am always learning and discovering new as historians bring new information to light.

Skepoet: What is your academic background?

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: I attended Middle Tennessee State University for my Bachelors of Arts in Ethnographic History and did study abroad at Exeter University in Cornwall where I focused on researching church history and while at Exeter doing my own research on traditional Cornish wytchcraeft and pagan cults in Pre-Christian Ireland.

Currently, I am working on my PhD/Masters (dual program) in History at Vanderbilt and my thesis paper is “West Country Witchcraft: Pellars, Cunning Folk, and Charms 1400-1900

Skepoet: How do you see these interacting with each other?

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: I believe as a heathen and historian it is my job to practice, record, and educate the public on the way my ancestors traditionally practiced. I believe there is a large amount of misinformation propagated by the social media. Basically, being a historian and heathen has no difference for me; I see the two as linked.

Skepoet: Can you tell me more about ‘The Bucca?

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: From an ethnographic perspective, the term Bucca refers in Cornwall to several things. First of all it was common for the fisher folk of Newlyn, Moueshole and Penzance to set aside three fish from their catch to placate the Sea god Bucca Dhu who was said to be the herald and originator of storms, particularly violent storms. In Newlyn their were a number of sites that were associated with this spirits veneration including the Tolcarne, which was said to have where the Bucca foretold the Spanish Raid on Mount’s Bay in 1595.

Another place was the Park an Growse or field of the cross which was situated east of the now large Council estate gwavas. The Rev Lach-Szyrma of St Peters Newlyn considered the Bucca to be the remnant of ancient Cornish sea god a view shared by other antiquarians associated with the Cornish revival. The famous Cornish Folk Story “Duffy and the Bucca” or Duffy and the Devil is based on a different version of the Bucca who was seen riding the moors of Cornwall with a wild hunt of flame eyes dogs in attendance, sometimes known as the Devil and his Dandy Dog’s or East Cornwall, Dando and his dogs.

William Bottrell in 1890 described the Bucca.”The old people spoke of a Bucka Gwidden and a Bucka Dhu – by the former they meant good god, and by the latter an evil one, now known as Bucka boo. I have been told, by persons of credit, that within the last forty years it was a usual practice with Newlyn and Mousehole fishermen to leave on the sand at night a portion of their catch for Bucka.

From a heathen perspective, the Horned One is held as the chief Witch-divinitie in most old cunning traditions and is the vary Initiator of the cunning path.To the traditional witches and cunning folk of Cornwall ‘The Horned One’ is known as Bucca or Buckie in west Devon. ‘The Horned one’ is also ‘ The Horned two’ in the mystic duality of Bucca dhu and Bucca Widden.

Bucca Widden,is the fair god, and may be invoked by the cunning folk for workings of genertive magic,protection,fair weather and nourshing rains. The White Bucca is also associated with the full moon .The White Bucca rules over the ‘light’ part of the year from May’s Eve to Allentide, Bucca white is also associated with the full moon.

Bucca dhu , is the dark god, and my be referred to as Bucca Boo and as Devil. The Black Bucca is associated with all of the workings of spirit communication,blasting,inner worlds,emotions, mind control and dark defensive magic. Much of the Witchs magick involves working with spirits,controling magick,and the inner world,  so thus Bucca dhu appears to be more connected to witchcraft.Bucca dhu rules the ‘dark’ part of the year form Allentide to May Eve, Bucca black is also associated with the dark side of the moon

Now not only is The Bucca ‘The Horned One’ and ‘The Horned Two’ The Bucca is also ‘The Horned Three’ for Bucca dhu and Bucca widden is just two faces of the same deity called Bucca Gam or , The Grand Bucca . Bucca gam is the sabbatic goat of the witches, the resolver of dualities between male and female ,Light and dark, life and death and so on , and a divine androgyne/hermephadite .

Skepoet: As a historian are you familiar with Ronald Hutton’s work on Druidism and Wicca? If you are, how do you feel about it?

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: Yes, I am familiar with it but yo be honest as I am working intensely on my own research regarding the heathen practices of the Cornish I haven’t read much on it. Typically speaking I don’t read much about modern pagan traditions. If we are speaking about historians of interest when it comes to witchcraft, folk-magic, and lore or even church history when speaking about the cunning-craft Owen Davies is much better.

When reading about the cunning-craft I focus mostly on reading books from Owen Davies, Emma Wilby, Gemma Gary, and Nigel Jackson. Also, reading books on wortcunning, the ‘farms alamanc’, and herbalism plays a even larger role in my approach to the traditional craft.

Skepoet: As a reconstructionist, what do you see as a valid philosophical or religious grounding for justifying a pagan practice?

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: In my opinion we have to have some evidence from folklore, primary documentation, or interviews that are affirmed by research that say a particular practice or belief was common amongst a group of people. Without this we are practicing what I term as ‘fake-lore’, which is a common problem found in most books on the market.

Skepoet: Why do you think reconstructing such views are important?

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: Well,  I believe a connection to our ancestors is essential and the only way to do so is to practice the way they did. This requires reconstruction, research, and documentation. If there are gaps I don’t believe in substituting as it defeats the purpose of reconstructionalist faiths.

Skepoet: How do you see people getting involved in a craft if they are not scholars? 

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: You don’t have to be a scholar but just do your own research and use common sense (i.e. comparative analysis) when coming to conclusions about historical practices. In our modern society there is a whole plethora of forums, databases, and online scans of reading material. We also have inter-library loans and many, many scholars who are just a e-mail away to answer your questions. So, no you don’t have to be a scholar but you do have to be honest. Again, without honesty it’s merely ‘fake-lore’.

Skepoet: Do you see some traditions are being nearly un-reconstructable due to lack of sources? 

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: Yes, there are many cultures that have merely died out or didn’t have a writing system to keep records. From the perspective of a historian the practices of so-called neo-lithic peoples worldwide are unreconstructable. Even within our own culture its hard to say. In the case of south west England at one time we had the people of Devon, or Devonians, and I can only assume that their heathen practices much like their language have disappeared and are able to be reconstructed. However, again without good research the issue of fake-lore.

Other examples are shamanistic practices from Metis societies, Indo-Arabic pagan practices, etc.

Skepoet: Do what do you think of using say other Indo-European religions such as Vedic hinduism as a way to fill in knowledge camps in Recon religions? (The ADF does this a good deal).

Dárroçh Dubhghlas Greagoir: Well, as I said before I don’t think substituting for lack of information is beneficial for reconstructionalist religions. If we fall into that pitfall we are only a step away from substituting folklore for ‘fake-lore’.

There prior interviews in this series can be found here, here, herehereherehere,  herehere, and here


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