The Powers and the Great Court

Who are the gods of Landcrafting?

Landcrafting is a spirit-based path. We feel very strongly that this land is haunted by spirits, fairies, forgotten gods; and we sense their presence when we walk in the wild. It recognises no "gods", but many mighty Powers (some of whom may also be gods). Some of these Powers are written about in myth, history, legend and tradition - we look at the folklore of Britain for clues of spirits to interact with. Most are not - we rely on our sense of wonder to guide us to places where we feel a great peace and beauty, to work with the many nameless spirits of the land.

We refer to the collective sense that Something is here - something ancient, and nameless, and powerful - as the Landweird, and working to see it more clearly is the path of Fencraft.

Because the Powers interact with each other and us in a manner resembling a number of feudal barons, the Powers as a group are known as the Court. This mirrors the stories of the Fairy Queen and King Arthur, the branches of the Mabinogion, the coming of the Tuatha de Danaan - all of which describe supernatural powers like mortal courts and kingdoms.

Each Landcrafter will have a different personal Court, depending on the Powers they recognise and interact with.

What's the cosmology? What's the legend?

England has forgotten its gods. We have lost their names - if they ever had them. All we have left is an incredible sense of awe, a reverance - and terror - whenever we walk abroad. We refer to this collective uncanny as the landweird. Even non-Fencrafters have a sense of the landweird, if you leave them alone in the centre of a wood at midnight, or cast them adrift in a dinghy on the open sea. It is here, and we have no idea what it is - but we are trying to perceive it more clearly.

We see the land has many great Powers, ruling over large principalities, holding the land in truce together. Some of these principalities are places - Sherwood Forest, the River Thames - some are roles or times of year. Beneath them, there are smaller duchesses, barons and guardians, who may have rulership over the length of your street, or a single tree. Some, you will know their names. Others have no names, or have been forgotten. Together, they form a sort of Great Court, of greater and lesser powers working together or against each other, united by their connection to this land.

Fencraft deliberately rejects writing a mythology to explain how they work together. We are aware of a great many spirits in this Land; we are officially unsure how it all fits together, but you may discover it for yourself. We know the Landweird to be true, but cannot be sure if all the Powers are aspects of a single being, or of lost pantheons. When Powers appear, there is usually something more ancient behind it, going backwards in layers of mystery to the wordless gods. Mystics may enjoy meditating on these Mysteries and slowly trying to discover more; the more pragmatic will take the Powers at face value, and just work with them as they seem, without venturing deeper into the strange.

This faith is not interested in who created the world, or what happens after we die - only what we can observe to be true around us. It happens now.

What is a Court?

The term "court" is used in three ways.

Who is in the Court?

The key theory of Landcrafting is as follows. We have lost touch with the Gods of ancient Britain. Some memories of them have survived in tales of heroes, and folklore. We revere these folkloric figures, because we know they are surviving links to something real and powerful. In Landcrafting, a fairy could be a fairy - or the remnant of an ancient god. Discovering this is part of your work as a witch, the "mystery" you seek to discover. In one sense, we are pop culture Paganism - for pop culture that's centuries old. In another sense, we are Reconstrutionist - reconstructing things that may never have existed, or are based on exceptionally tenuous evidence.

(This feeling, incidentally, was a major reason that Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings and his Middle Earth legendarium. Grief, that England had somehow lost its myths and had no cycle of great tales surviving to rival that of the Greeks or Norse. And a deep sense that something WAS there. We are working with what fragments we have to rediscover our lost gods)

You can find members of the Great Court in folklore and history:

Others are figures from fantasy or history which form part of the British cultural imagination:

These are valid figures to work with because they express something of the character of this land and its people. There are also the Guardian:

If you come from a Wiccan background, you may be familiar with revering the Crone or the Hunter. Landcrafting expands this beyond roles related to age or gender, to any role in society (but normally ones with a link to the ancient world, because romanticising the past is part of the Pagan experience).

Some you will simply find as you walk:

Because so much of our folklore is "lost", we are also positive about pop culture Paganism. We see that many artists have been influenced by the Land, and engaging with the images they have created are pathways into discovering deeper mysteries:

Expect your personal Court to be highly individual.

What ARE the Powers?

When you research the traditions of Britain, you'll often find the same story retold in many ways. The Wild Hunt, say, has been told as a procession of gods; a procession of the dead out of their barrows; a procession of fairy folk; and a night where demons and devils roam abroad. Which is true? Is the leader of the Hunt a god, a dead thing, a fairy, or a devil?

That uncertainty is at the heart of all that we do. We aren't especially fussed to know things exactly. We understand that the terms are often interchangeable. Approaching the leader of the fairy hunt will get us different results than the leader of the divine hunt. They are probably different hunts. Or maybe they're two faces of the same hunt. Or two ideas, made up by humans, who in some sense were aware of a more ancient hunt replaying in the Landweird. We go with whichever of these interpretations seems most intuitively true as we encounter them, and are open-minded.

Who are the Greater Powers?

Some - like the Green Man, the Faery Queen or the Queen of the Witches - are the Greater Powers.

There is no definitive list of the Greater Powers, and different Landcrafters will perhaps see different Powers as greater or lesser depending on their experiences and perceptions of the world. I see the God of the Green as a Greater Power - but you may not. You may see the Green as subserviant to a Greater Power of the Land itself, alongside a Goddess of roads and of the mountains and rivers.

We may not have the same names or titles for Greater Powers as other Landcrafters, and we may not work with or revere them directly - but everyone is somewhat aware of their existence and recognise their power. When you walk into the dark forest - you know something is there, even though you may meet it on different terms to me. The Greater Powers are unfathomable, unknowable, and terrifying to love.

Who are the Lesser Powers

Others - like that spirit under the alleyway next to the Aldwych - have a very narrow source of power. These local spirits are easier to approach, keener to work with mortals, and each have their own wisdoms and powers. Like any court, there are rivalries and alliances - working with a local spirit can be a great way to gain access to the Greater Powers. Lesser Powers still have their secrets, are still ancient and worthy of respect. They're just more likely to listen to you, and respond in ways you can understand.

Is this Power Greater or Lesser?

Generally, if the Power has a given name and a single job, they are a Lesser Spirit. If the Power has a title, and an umbrella of interlinked responsibilities, they are a Greater Power. Robin Hood, Robin Goodfellow, Herne the Hunter, Gwyn Ap Nudd, Jack of the Green, Satan, Pan or Odin would be "Lesser" Powers in this understanding. A "Greater" Power would be figures like the Horned God, the Green Man, the God of the Green, or simply "God".

It can also represent rank within that Power's original myth. Satan and Odin would thus be "Greater" Powers, as would Oberon or King Arthur, compared to a hunter spirit, a demon or a fairy. This approach is more valuable if you are focused heavily on a single Court: our Powers tend to get stranger and richer the more we focus on them; as a non-devotee of Freya I have what I think is a very clear image of who and what she is, but a devotee would have a far greater awareness of the gulfs of what they do not yet understand.

Never tell a spirit you think of them as "lesser" if you value keeping your organs on the inside of your skin. This distinction is not about importance, but understanding how different spirits, from different stories and traditions, fit together and can coexist. Whether an individual spirit seems like they have a Greater, umbrella power, or a Lesser, specific/local power will be different depending on the role they play in your understanding of the land. Robin Hood is a Lesser Power, in the pantheon of Green Hunter spirits, but if your focus is heavily on the Merry Men he may be a Greater Power in your personal mystery cycle.

The distinction is important in how WE relate to them. Contacting and working directly with a named spirit or Lesser Power is often a lot easier than a Greater Power. If we are working with a particular Court, then it is usual to make close relationships with lesser spirits first and work your way up. If you are working with a Greater Power, it's often a lot easier to meet their lesser faces or recognise them in part, and rare to encounter them fully. Expect Greater Powers to be half glimpsed, half-understood, grasped in images and impressions, rarely replying clearly if at all.

You may meet a Lesser Green spirit in the shape of a man, who will talk to you in meditations and divinations; but the Greater spirit of the Green can only be experienced. Greater Powers often do not speak easily in English. The Greater Power of the storm will flood out your house and rumble on the horizon and downpour on your rituals - that is its communication. It is a storm. It exists as storm. It expresses itself as storm. Contacting a mist wight or cloud nymph is a much more reliable way to get answers in words which you understand, and make deals on a more-or-less-comprehensible-to-mortals scale. Goodness knows what the Greater Power of the Storm actually WANTS.

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