This post is part of a project to rediscover the Myth in Ritual Magic. Should you wonder what the Tale of the Bear's Son has to do with ritual or visionary magic you might want to read this introduction first. Otherwise go ahead and jump right in... But be careful - you might just fall in love with Bear's Son like I did. There is a lot he can teach us about our approach to magic and living in harmony with the land. But let's listen to his long-lost tale first...
LVX, Frater Acher
Once upon a time there was a woman who got lost in the woods. She wandered through the forests, over hills and through valleys until night fell. She still hadn't found her way again. She curled up on a bed of moss and fell asleep. When she awoke it was deep in the night and she found herself in the cave of a bear. The bear had rolled a huge stone in front of the entrance of the cave so his new wife couldn’t escape. The woman had a good life in the cave. The bear took care of her, fed her and kept her safe from other animals in the wild. After nine months the woman gave birth to a boy. He was half man and half bear. His name was Bearson.
Bearson grew quickly and became stronger by the day. Once he had fully grown he took his mother and escaped from the cave of the bear. They wandered through the woods until they found the way the mother had lost long ago. They followed the path. After a long walk they emerged from the woods. They returned to the farm where the woman had lived before. Bearson lived among his mother and her husband and their servants and continued to grow. Most of the time Bearson lay on the wooden platform above the stove and slept, often for days at a time.
After some time his parents grew weary because of Bearson’s appetite. Bearson ate so much that there was hardly anything left for the parents and the maidservants. The years passed and Bearson spoke little and slept most of the times. He continued to be very hungry. So little food was left for his parents and servants that they started to grow smaller and smaller. When Bearson had acquired his full strength his parents and servants were almost gone. The granary was empty.
One day the stepfather asked Bearson to leave and find work for himself. Bearson looked at his mother who had grown small and old. Then he left and wandered through the land. Bearson found work as a farm hand in a town far away. When the peasant asked him for his pay, Bearson answered he wanted to be fed and collect his fair share by the end of the year. The peasant accepted the terms simple enough and agreed to pay and feed him.
The first job the peasant assigned to Bearson the next morning was to fetch wood from the forests with the other farm hands. However, the next morning when Bearson awoke the sun already was high up in the sky and all the other farm hands had gone long ago. Bearson demanded two bushels of pease pudding. The peasant frowned but accepted. Bearson broke his fast on bushels of pease pudding. Then he walked out to the well and drank a few buckets of water.
When Bearson arrived at the clearance in the woods only one carriage was left for him to work on. Yoked to the carriage was the oldest cow of the farm. Her udder had grown empty long ago, her fur was blotched and thin and her old bones showed through the skin. Yoked to the carriages of the other farm hands Bearson found strong horses. Bearson went to sleep in the shadow of a tree.
He woke to the shouting of the peasant in front of him. The sun had almost gone and the other farm hands were laughing. They whipped the horses to pull the carriages loaded with trunks from the clearance. Bearson got up and wrapped his arms around the trunk of the tree he had slept beneath. Then he pulled the whole tree out of the ground and threw it onto the carriage. In a flash Bearson’s wagon was full of fresh trees, ten times the amount the other farm hands had loaded on their carts. Bearson took his long belt off and fixed the trees to the wagon. Then he yoked himself in front of it and pulled it home. When the other farm hands arrived at the farm Bearson had finished all their meals.
The next midday when Bearson got up he went down and ate pease pudding. The peasant came, frowned and asked him to help threshing corn. Bearson walked out to the well and drank a couple of buckets of water. Then he looked into the barn and saw the other farm hands. Since the early hours they had been busy threshing corn. Bearson walked back into the woods and returned with a fir and an oak under his arms. From the orchard he pulled another cherry and a plum tree. With the help of some old rope he built a flail from the trees. Then he wandered over the fields and threshed the corn. Before the church-bell had rung he returned to the farm and lifted the roof of the barn. Back on the fields he held the roof up and blew the threshed corn into it. Bearson picked up the roof filled with corn. He walked over to the stables and used it as a winnow to feed the animals.
When night arrived the peasant had grown very weary. All his corn had been threshed in a single day. But many a pigs had suffocated under heaps of corn. His barn roof was torn off and badly damaged and his farm hands had rebelled. Their meals had been already eaten for the second day now when they returned home. Most importantly, however, the peasant worried about the terms he had agreed upon with Bearson. Bearson had demanded to be paid his fair share by the end of the year. How could the peasant ever pay a fair share for Bearson’s work? The farm hand would ask for a price impossible to pay.
The next day the peasant asked the other farm hands to hide in the barn. When Bearson awoke and ate his pease pudding the peasant asked him to climb down into the well and clean the water. Bearson agreed and climbed down into the well after he had drunken a couple of buckets of its water. Once Bearson had reached the bottom the peasant with the help of his farm hands threw down rocks. After a while they heard Bearsons hollow voice: ‘Stop throwing dust into my eyes.’ he said. The farm hands frowned. Then they carried the millstone to the well and threw it down. They also carried the church-bell to the well and threw it down. When the night came Bearson climbed up from the well again. He wore the millstone around his neck and the church-bell on his head. ‘Look what I found down there.’ he said. ‘I found a nice ruff and a hat.’
By the end of the year Bearson asked for his pay. The peasant had long dreaded this day. But to his great surprise Bearson didn’t asked for any money. Instead he kicked the peasant wife's butt so hard that she took off, flew from the farm, over the fields and into the dark woods. Then he slapped the farmer with a hand like a mountain. The peasant flew up into the skies and disappeared over the roof of the farm house. Then Bearson left the village and never returned.