coven

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

December, 2018

Yule Ritual

 

Merry meet.

Below is a Yule ritual written for a group, which can easily be modified to be done as a solitary. Read through, making note of what to gather and how to set it up.

The altar can be a candle on the floor, or raised up in the center on a small table.

Traditional colors for altar cloths are gold, silver, red, green and white.

SET UP:

Set up your altar with seasonal botanicals, directional candles.

Designate a place for guests to put coats and, if desired, shoes

Arrange so that before people enter the ritual space they can place their cares and woes in a burden basket or other receptacle (a lidded casserole dish or cookie jar, a purse that snaps shut, a box) and then step forward and be cleansed with smoke. (A cauldron can be placed where guests can waft the smoke themselves, or a person can be designated to smudge others after being smudged themselves)

Find a seat and listen to soft music

High Priestess:

We gather tonight in perfect love and perfect trust to celebrate the winter solstice. On this longest night of the year, let us accept Yule’s gifts of quiet and dark. For a long moment, everything pauses. There is a stillness that settles over the land. A stillness for which there are no words. Darkness rules. Tonight we will sit in this darkness that precedes the light’s rebirth.

Take a moment to get here, to feel the surroundings and the welcome with which this place greets you.

I’m going to ring chimes three times. As we all align ourselves with its vibrations, we will meld as a group.

Ring three times, letting each ring fade to silence before doing the next. High Priestess says:

Be here now.

As we cast our circle, see it as an equator, then see the ring flip up and over to become a sphere, pushing the energy to the exterior of this building.

With thumbs facing left, begin by using your left hand to take the right hand of the person to your left and say:

Hand to hand, I cast this circle

Each person does the same. When the circle is complete, the High Priestess says:

See our arms making a circle. With each breath, strengthen the circle. Now, imagine it to be like an equator, and spin the circle up, over and down so that it creates a sphere. Now push that sphere out to encompass this room. Keep breathing, and enlarge the sphere so that it fills this whole unit and extend outside the walls, and into the basement below. Now, see the outer skin of this sphere become soft and foggy, smoky, like a mist rising from a lake in the early morning. When we leave, we will walk though that foggy edge as we reenter the mundane world.

Take another three breaths … and know we are between the worlds. May all we do tonight be for the highest good and greatest joy of all.

Sing “There Is No Time” by Kellianna” three times.

There is no time but now, there is no place but here,
In the sacred we do stand, in a circle hand in hand.

High Priestess:

Let us summon the spirits of the four quarters. We’ll start facing north because winter begins with the quarter of the wheel associated with earth.

Person calling North:

Mother Earth, barren trees now decorate the land that has sustained us. In this restful moment, let us find safety and stability. Hail and welcome.

Place greens such as mistletoe, holly and pine boughs on the altar, on the north side of the candle.

Person calling East:

Brother Air, I listen for the cold winds from your winter wings, but tonight all is still. In this quiet darkness, help us find inspiration. Hail and welcome.

Light incense, or place a feather, bells or other representation of East on the altar.

Person calling South:

Father Sun, source of fire, here in the night, awaiting your
return, we ask that the memory of your warmth temper our spirit. Hail and welcome.

Place pieces of lava or other symbol of fire such as chili peppers or coffee beans on the south side of the altar.

Person calling West:

Sister Water, your snow and ice have covered our world.
Beneath this blanket, let our emotions find healing and renewal. Hail and welcome.

Place a container of water from melted snow, a Yule rain or other source, or a representation of water on the west side of the altar.

Person calling center:

We stand in the center, spirit in body and know we are divine. Spirit is a bridge between the physical and the metaphysical, between body and soul. Guide us as we walk in both worlds. Hail and welcome.

Place a symbol of spirit, perhaps a crystal or a butterfly in the center.

Person calling the crones:

Queen of Winter Cailleach Bheur (kall yeck burr), Dark Mother Demeter (da meet her), Keeper of the Cauldron Cerridwen, Kali, Mother Holle (hell her), Nicneven (nick na vin), The Morrigan (more’ a gain) – we welcome you crones and ask you to help us transition as you transform to the maiden giving birth to the sun. Hail and welcome.

Place a symbol of crone – a bone, a cauldron, a crescent moon, owl, wolf, crow or raven. – in the center.

Person calling the sun:

Father Sun, Winter King, the Sage, Apollo, Ra, Horus, Ravi, Shamash – we welcome you to our circle. You are reborn tonight, bringing light, bringing life. You demonstrate the endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. Hail and welcome.

Place a symbol of the sun god – gold, a representation of the sun, a baby Oak King – in the center.

High Priestess, in her customary way, invites people to put their names in the circle. If desired, she allows people to put other names in the circle for blessings and energy.

There is a magic in all the seasons. Winter’s magic is the most concise, most dense. It is diamond magic, cold and brilliant, focused and precise.

Each season also has its own wisdom, but winter’s wisdom includes them all. Everything is clear. What is invisible in growing times becomes plain in the starkness of winter. From winter, you can remember spring, summer and fall by the patterns they’ve left behind.

There is not yet a call to begin again. Beginnings will come soon enough. This is the fallow time. This is the time of rest. The waiting brings both strength and vulnerability.

When winter comes, we withdraw into the deepest spaces of our inner selves. As the world sleeps, its energy, like yours, turns within. Your inner sight expands. There is much to see beyond appearances. It is bone time. Nothing is hidden. With your winter eyes, let yourself see everything.

This is a time of reflection, insight, visions and wisdom. In the velvet dark are the secrets we keep from ourselves … one of those secrets is who we really are. Find that you hidden in the darkness.

It may appear we are resting, but in winter we are creating a new universe within ourselves, examining and breaking old patterns, destroying what should not be revived, secretly feeding that which needs to thrive. With calm deliberateness, we know what to save and bring into the next season.

When we blow out these candles, feel yourself in this deep, dark space, the place from which all is born. Feel the warmth and safety of this womb on this cold night. This place of darkness is the source of life. Feel that energy waiting, still, quiet, for life to begin. That is the energy of the dark. This is the time of before.

That energy is within you. Sit with it. Be the dark from which all things will come. Be the dark that holds the coiled sleeping snake, the crocus bulb frozen in the ground. All life has moved to the center, hidden in the darkness. In this space, feel the energy of all that is yet to be.

Winter is not all about death, it’s also about reflection and insight, and reconnecting to the source deep within the dark. One day in the not too distant future, the dance will begin again. Let that knowledge be a comfort to you, but do not call for it. For now is not its time.

We need the dark to balance the light. Honor its presence.
Offer gratitude for the power it gives us to dream our deep sleep awake.

I will signal when there are 5 minutes left in the meditation

Extinguish candle

Start timer

Give 5-minute notice with rattle, bell or drum

High Priestess:

Welcome back. Take a moment to get here.

We’re going to pass the talking stick so that all who wish may share their thoughts or experiences in sacred space.

High Priestess:

Grounding eliminates the excess energy you may have accumulated during a ritual or other working. Take time now to breath three slow, deep breaths as you imagine the energy you do not need draining out of your body, out of your fingers and your feet. Offer it to the earth below.

Food also helps us ground.

Present cakes and ale, speaking only to say

May you never hunger / Nor you

May you never thirst / Nor you

 

High Priestess:

We are drawing to the end. As we prepare to release the elements, I will light this candle from the spirit candle. We will pass out candles and a drip guard. You’ll take them both home with you.

I thank each of you for bringing the gift of yourself to this circle, for adding your energy to the magic of tonight. Let us bring a piece of this quiet calm with us as we return to our mundane lives that we may walk in peace.

After we light the candles, we’ll sing “Silent Night, Solstice Night” twice. Then, I ask that you to gather your things, attend to your needs and leave … all in silence … as we return to the mundane world.

Releasing the Crones

Crones we thank you for showing us how to die and be reborn. Stay if you will, go if you must. Hail and farewell.

Releasing the Sun

Father Sun, on this deepest dark night, we welcome back your light. Blessed Be.

Releasing Water

Sister Water, thank you for your presence, love and healing. Blessed Be.

Releasing Fire

Father Sun, source of fire, thank you for your warmth and passion. Blessed Be.

Releasing Air

Brother Air, thank you for your presence and your inspiration.
Blessed Be.

Releasing Earth

Mother Earth, thank you for your presence as we leave grounded and renewed. Blessed Be.

High Priestess: Begin by lighting the candle of the person to your left, saying:

May you embrace the return of the light.

Sing “Silent Night, Solstice Night”

And merry part. And merry meet again.

NOTE: This ritual draws heavily on the poem “The Winter Woman” from “Seasons of the Witch: poetry & Songs to the Goddess” by Patricia Monaghan and Arctic Siren Singers

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

MagickalArts

September, 2018

Choices on the Path

These next few months, I would like to share some articles I wrote several years ago about following the path of a Witch. These were part of an online course entitled: A Year and A Day on the Wiccan Path and covered all of the basics. I am diving in with a subject that was posted near the end of the course, but is often one of the first questions I am asked about community and where “I belong”…

Solitary vs. Coven Life

Choosing to remain a solitary practitioner or joining a coven is a very personal matter. Both offer benefits and detriments. Even if you consider yourself to be a solitary practitioner, there will be celebrations and stages in your development that will generate a desire to share, commune and connect. Those who choose to join a coven will also have specific points in their path and or rituals that they may wish to celebrate or practice in private.

Solitary

Many Witches choose to walk a Solitary path. In former years this could be a very lonely, albeit a fulfilling one. We are fortunate to be on the Path at this particular time as there are many festivals and open events that both solitary and coven members can attend.  Meet-up Groups that have a pagan flavor are in abundance throughout the United States. There are also many opportunities to take classes, workshops and attend conferences as many covens offer open rituals, workshop series and other events that allow solitary witches to interact and learn.

For some, group work and the structure needed to have things run smoothly is too restricting and limiting. For others, jobs, lifestyles or family obligations prevent the individual from attending coven functions (there is usually a minimum requirement of events throughout the year that a coven member should be expected to attend, unless there are emergencies), and this creates stress for both the coven and the member. If ritual at 2am is all you can easily fit into your schedule, most covens will not be accommodating to that. Solitary witches often have a very creative bend. Because everything they do ritually or spell wise is generally self-generated and created, they become quite adept at improvising.

Coven (Group Work)

Depending on the coven and Tradition you are interested in joining there will generally be a specific length of time and protocol specified to facilitate the dedication process. For instance, within our coven we require at minimum a six-month “getting to know you” period where the prospective dedicant (newly dedicated member) attends open events and interacts with the other members of the coven.

The coven you select to petition for membership should offer a stable and fair structure with resources to further and enhance your personal growth. Working within the coven should feel like a spiritual family and these should be people that you trust to see you at your best and your worst. The energetic connection that you weave with this group of people will strengthen and build as you continue to work together. It is a very intimate process that requires respect between all of membership. The High Priest and Priestess of the coven should be people who live by example those teachings that they have been entrusted to pass along. There should be a comfortable exchange between leadership (HP and HPs) and membership such that any discord, or misunderstandings can be discussed and resolved in an ethical, intelligent and mature manner.

There should be encouragement of all members within the group to excel and progress in their magickal studies. And, although healthy and constructive criticism are great motivators there should never be an ill-intended push or encouragement towards unhealthy competition for recognition, roles or initiations among members.

It has been my experience, that frequently the people who are meant to become members of our group, find their way to us, either through a synchronistic moment. They happen to be in the right place at the right time, find our website and decide to come to an open event or become interested through a friend who is already a member. Don’t be afraid to be selective. Take the time that you need to make an informed decision and never allow yourself to be pressured into joining a group. If a group is that desperate for new members, there are most likely other areas in which they will exert or force their will on the existing members- the number one “no-no” in wiccan philosophy.

The bottom line is that if the group is a viable and healthy one, they will want to take their time in getting to know more about the potential members who come knocking on their door, and if the fit is right there is no need to hurry matters, neither your nor their interest in having you join them will diminish or lessen. If it does, perhaps it was not the place for you after all. The commitment to a group should be entered with the thought that this will be a place of working and growing for several years. There is no short track to magickal mastery and those who frequently leave and join groups, as well as covens who have a fast moving revolving door usually do not stand the test of time and longevity.

It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to join a coven or remain a solitary practitioner. The important thing is that you continue your practice. That you seek out the resources you are guided to when and where you are led. And, when the time is right, you gather with like-minded individuals as one in celebration of the Wiccan Path.

Next Month:

Ethics of the Craft

For More Info:

A Year and A Day on the Wiccan Path

Image Credit:

The Sorceress by John Waterhouse

**

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

 

The Inner Chamber Volume One

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2)

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1)

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection

Musings for the Year

 

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

July, 2017

Full Moon Rise

 

 

 

Merry meet.

An eclectic group of women in my area have been getting together for as many full moons as possible these past two year. One of our favorite traditions grew out of our coven – to gather at a small public beach that does not close at sunset. We bring blankets, camp chairs and food, and set up where we see the sun set behind the cottages and then watch the moon rise in the east over the water.

 

 

 

We do it as often as possible when the full moon falls on a weekend during warm weather. The most recent time was June 9, which happened to be the Strawberry Moon.

 

 

 

 

 

An informal, impromptu ritual included directional candles set up on a blanket and a fertility goddess. We chanted. One woman bought her singing bowl to bring us all into harmony. We all raised strawberries to the moon along with our petitions and gratitude.

 

 

 

 

There was raucous laughter and deep silence, and conversations both magickal and mundane. We dipped our toes in the ocean under the moon. We hugged and kissed and allowed our wild women selves to come out.

Perhaps these photos of that night will prompt you to have an equally awesome and awe-filled experience.

 

 

 

 

Merry part. And merry meet again.

Interview: Melusine Draco- Author, Teacher & Witch

February, 2017

Melusine Draco: Author, Teacher and Witch

 

Melusine Draco

 

Melusine Draco is a very prolific author, with titles ranging from Pagan Portals: Pan to Starchild I: The rediscovery of stellar wisdom. Melusine talked to Mabh at Pagan Pages about her writing, her teaching and other mysteries.

Mabh Savage: Why are some of your books under the name Suzanne Ruthven and some under Melusine Draco?

Melusine Draco: For many years the ‘day job’ was working as a creative writing tutor, author and editor of a creative writing magazine. In order to keep the persona different from my esoteric writing there had to be a different name for readers to identify with. I’ve written fact and fiction under both names, and the lines get blurred sometimes but there’s no real problem anymore as I do very little tutoring work outside my own personal writing interests. Nowadays I use my real name for the non-magical novel series, i.e. The Hugo Braithwaite Mysteries (set in the antiques trade) and The Vampyre’s Tale series, although my first magical novel, Whittlewood, was published under that name. Melusine Draco writes all the magical stuff including the novels in the Temple House Archive series.

MS: What is the book you are proudest of, if you have one?

MD: Actually there are three and for completely different reasons. The Dictionary of Magic and Mystery was never intended for publication having been compiled for my own personal use. John Hunt thought it might make a good addition to Moon since it has more entries than anything similar in publication. Wearing my writing tutor’s hat, I can honestly say it is a really useful book for esoteric writers.

Magic Crystals, Sacred Stones reflects the essence of the magic taught by Coven of the Scales in that we draw our energy from what’s beneath our feet. One of my tutors had a doctorate in geology and so I had a thorough grounding in the subject and this was my offering of thanks in recognition of the knowledge that had been passed on.

Root and Branch: British Magical Tree Lore has just been re-released and gives a glimpse into the world I grew up in – a countryside unspoiled by urban development. Again there is another aspect of CoS teaching encapsulated in its pages.

MS: Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?

MD: I enjoy writing novels because there are no limits to where the imagination can take you. With non-fiction you are confined by the factual brief of the subject matter – although one reviewer commented that one of my non-fiction titles ‘feels almost as if one was studying a textbook written by a poet’. I was very moved by that comment because I felt as though I’d reached out and touched him.

MS: Can you tell us a bit about Coven of the Scales? How did it start, and how many students do you have?

MD: The Coven is traditional British Old Craft and was founded by Meriem and Bob Clay-Egerton from a lineage that can trace its roots back to the mid-1880s in Cheshire. I’ve been acting as caretaker for the past ten years since their deaths, and officially retired as of 1st January, because I have a wonderful husband and wife team to take over as Magister and Dame – although I remain Head of the Order to help with any magical queries. Students have to complete a year’s probationary course before they are accepted as full members; and since we are an Initiatory Order, this is the next step on their magical journey. We currently have a dozen full members and some twenty students at varying stages of study.

MS: How do you balance the needs of your students with being such a prolific writer?

MD: Ten years’ experience as a conference organiser means you can balance anything! I have set days for dealing with specific jobs

MS: You are also involved with the Temple of Khem. Do the two groups have any cross over, or are they completely separate?

MD: I am Principal of the Temple of Khem and the Egyptian Mystery Tradition has always been my first love. Now that I’ve discharged my obligation to CoS I have returned full-time to ToK. They are completely separate organisations and do not interact with each other since the magico-mystical methods and techniques are not compatible. The existing ToK members have been with me for a long time

MS: Do you find one aspect of the Craft appeals to you more than the others? Or are they all equally fascinating?

MD: Back to those natural earth energies and tides, I suppose. It never ceases to amaze me just how simple it is to harmonise with them and utilise them for magical purposes.

MS: In several places, your teaching methods are described as ‘Highly individualistic.’ What is it that makes your mentoring style so unique?

MD: The wording isn’t mine, by the way, it came from a student who was asked how it was for him, and it stuck! The simple answer is because I don’t teach from books or any provide set answers – and it’s possibly very much a case of ‘you have to have been there’ to fully appreciate the technique. Each student is catered for according to their needs and strengths and each one is completely different; therefore, the teaching comes from the student’s answers to a question, and my response in order to open up a dialogue about magical applications – and not just a straightforward Q&A session.

 

Melusine Draco2

 

MS: Your latest book, Pagan Portals: By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root, is already receiving some great previews ahead of its February release. What inspired you to write this volume?

MD: Yes, people are saying some very positive things about the book and it gives a nice warm feeling inside to read them. The inspiration came from research I was doing for one of my novels and, like Topsy, it just grewed!

MS: Do you have your own garden of poisonous or unusual plants?

MD: No, but I have an acre of uncultivated land surrounding the cottage and many of these plants grow quite naturally without any help from me. In the summer and autumn my woody nightshade is a joy to behold.

MS: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? And what was the best thing about the process?

MD: At the risk of sounding flippant, there was little challenge as it wrote itself. The most interesting thing about the process was the direction it took in making the point that the poisoning Olympians of history weren’t witches at all.

MS: Another popular series you have written is the Traditional Witchcraft series, of which there are six volumes currently. Are you planning to add to this series?

MD: No. I’ve said all I have to say on that particular subject since the series takes the reader on a journey from beginner to initiate without giving any ‘secrets’ away. Book learning is always only an introduction to any esoteric system – it’s the personal journey that provides the answers. We can, however, arrive at Initiate level and still come to realise that we know nothing!

MS: What other books do you have planned for the future? Are you working on anything currently?

MD: The second book in the Hugo Braithwaite series is at the proofing stage and the third in the series of The Temple House Archive is almost finished. Then it’s back to The Vampyre’s Tale … there are a few non-fiction ideas moving around in there but nothing concrete yet.

MS: Do you have a favourite sacred or spiritual place that you like to retreat to?

MD: I’m in the throes of creating an authentic Japanese Garden in a private corner that will be my own private space for musing and meditation.

MS: How do you relax when taking a break from teaching or writing?

MD: I’m (un)lucky that writing is my work and my hobby, so I find fiction writing to be my relaxation. Now that I’m officially retired from Coven of the Scales I hope to find the time to create a new vegetable garden complete with greenhouse. So that should keep me busy for the summer.

MS: And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2017?

MD: Nothing for the moment but I dare say I will soon have my lot quaking in their boots when they hear those dreaded words: “I’ve had an idea!”

Find out more:

Website: http://www.covenofthescales.com

Website: http://www.templeofkhem.com

Blog: http://melusinedracoattempleofkhem.blogspot.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Melusine-Draco-486677478165958

http://www.facebook.com/TradBritOldCraft

http:// www.facebook.com/TempleofKhem

http://www.facebook.com/TempleHouseArchive

https://www.facebook.com/BraithwaiteMysteryRuthven/

https://www.facebook.com/VampyresTale/

 

***

Mabh Savage is the author of Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft. She is also a freelance journalist, musician, poet and mother of one small boy and two small cats. Find out more at https://soundsoftime.wordpress.com

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

October, 2016

Water is Life

Merry meet.

I am among the many pagans who want to support the warriors at Standing Rock. Two sisters in my coven – Debra Cohen and Janet Coffa – wrote a ritual that more than a dozen women chose to
participate in at a Mabon retreat. I’m sharing it below in the hopes that you will use it to enlist the support of others in this important effort.

The protectors, the warriors at Standing Rock represent each and every one of us who understand the need to protect our environment, our multicultural values and the very Earth that supports us.

The statement Water is Lifeis true for every human being and it must be fought for by everyone. The fight must take many forms, from physical presence in places that are immediately threatened to communication with our government and education of those unaware of the impact of inaction.

Standing Rock speaks about clean water, industry greed,
governmental weakness, and the power of money that buys bad
decisions. It also speaks with a vision of potential catastrophe when we fail to consider the future impact of current energy policy. We, our children and our grandchildren have a duty to stand in the face of
intimidation and say NO MORE, YOU SHALL NOT PASS and WE WILL NOT STOP FIGHTING for what is right, just and sacred.

[Invite participants to share their thoughts.]

As in everything, we all do what we can, as we can. It is our
responsibility to share our ideas and support each other in our efforts. These are some ideas about sending support to Standing Rock:

Send donations

Contact legislators

Attend a vigil in support of Standing Rock

Use social media to education and share information

[Participants took turns stating one thing they would do in the name of the warriors at Standing Rock. Each was then blessed with water of determination – in our case it was rain water collected during a
thunderstorm that carried the essence of the power needed in the struggle. Fingers were dipped in the water and touched to the feet, then each hand and then the throat with the following words.]

Bless these feet so they can walk the walk.

Bless these hands to do the heavy lifting.

Bless this to speak truth and defiance to power.

WE ARE CHANGE!

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

Creating a Wiccan Tradition

December, 2015

We started out completely captivated by the dance of the Lady and the Horned God. Our hearts beat faster, life spinning with colours! A homecoming! Then as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months and years we tried to go deeper into the Mysteries of our awakening. The Divine is immanent; God and Goddess are alive intertwined within the Sacred Earth. The question we asked ourselves was how can we go deeper?

First we studied the books, any books, excited by the smell of incense in the Occult Book stores. We learned how to cast a circle, how to connect with the Elements, how to call them into the circle. We learned the names of the Pantheons and how to cast a spell. The books gave glimpses of the Mysteries and in our Circle things were happening. We went to Public Rituals and met other beginners; we formed study groups, joined the Women’s Circle, the Men’s Circle and learned new ways of doing things. We read more books and joined Wiccan correspondence courses searching for that wise Witch who could be our teacher. We studied Shamanism, meditation, yoga, martial arts, gardening and anything else that seemed to be part of the Mysteries. But still we did not feel the dance and the Mysteries eluded us.

Finally we met a High Priestess and eagerly bowed at her feet asking to be taught. Daily practice and study, learning the Tarot, casting circles, working with the Elements, reading more books! The years were passing and our quest was fifteen years long. Then the day came when we received first degree initiation, we started learning how to run a Coven and be Priest and Priestess, we received 2nd degree initiation and learned how to be Elders. Third degree initiation was bestowed and we were supposed to be Elders….the beginners were eagerly bowing at our feet asking to be taught. And still the daily practice and the study, reading more books, going to workshops and searching for the key to the Mysteries. Did we know anything? Was it real? But we could not find the Dance within the Tradition we had studied. Somehow we were not satisfied with where we had arrived.

In the Coven things were still happening, a Presence bringing joy and laughter. We didn’t want to leave the Circle and go home to our beds! Out of the muddle and chaos of all the books and the workshops and the teaching and the daily practice a pattern was forming. The pattern solidified and we realized that all the things we had learned created a spiral path and at the center was ourselves. Then we finally understood that what we were searching for was within us all the time and that the Goddess had been with us since the beginning! Could we map this path and teach it to others? In the Coven each Witch seemed to be learning his or her own lessons although we were studying the same thing, but there was a brightness to it all and we were changing. It seemed our bodies were becoming light and our hearts were becoming ecstatic. Shadows came and went and the learning was deeper and not from books. Inspiration was our guide now and we felt the truth.

We decided to make a test, to try and teach the pattern to others and see if they could move into the brightness and the joy with us. At first it seemed as if we weren’t teaching them anything, that they were just remembering things. It was as natural as breathing. Some of the people that came to us left when the Shadows on their paths appeared. Some battled and befriended their Shadows and learned from them. Some of them started to see the Pattern that we had created and touched the essence of what we had learned in our hearts. One day we woke up and realized that we had created a Wiccan Tradition, different from all the other Traditions, and yet with the same resonance. We cast circles, like other Traditions; we called the Quarters and we invoked the Lord and Lady; we danced and raised power and did magick and laughed a lot! We saw the people walking the pattern we had created were becoming brighter and their hearts were becoming joyful. It seemed we were evolving into a new kind of being and we felt the Presence and it brought tears to our eyes. We started to see our Life’s Work…the need to send peace from our Circles into the world. Could we really change anything?

Sometimes there was conflict between Sisters and Brothers in the Circle and darkness clouded our minds. We cried and felt guilty and angry. But we held onto one thing: if there cannot be peace in our own circle, there will never be peace in the world. As above, so below; as within, so without. The conflict between us was another Shadow and maybe even a test! We worried that we would lose what we had learned; lose the brightness and the joy if we did not tread carefully when holding each other’s hearts. Then we understood what an Elder was…the Witch who can love without judging and judge lovingly at the same time. Witches who nurtured the hearts of the beginners so that they felt safe in Circle and could dance the pattern of the Tradition; Witches who held people while their Shadows beat them and shaped them into something completely new. Transformation is birth and it can be painful! We were the ones who did the dishes and cleaned the toilets, sacrificing our time on the altar as our hair turned grey and our faces became lined. We learned that only sacrifice can bring us deeper but the sacrifice was joyful.

Now our quest is twenty long years, the Book of Shadows a thousand pages, and more Witches dancing the pattern of our Tradition. But where do we go from here? Is the pattern set now or is it organic and growing, metamorphosing like us? What will happen to us when we have finished all the inspired work that has been given to us heart to heart from the Lord and Lady? We have found the Presence in the Circle and discovered that we were the doorway. Each day seems a ritual as the sun lights the windows and the wind makes the willow tree dance. We wash dishes mindfully and we feel we could love everyone. We ask: Is this real? Will it last? We have become as simple as light and as elusive as the moon. Where will the dance lead us now?

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Meri Fowler was inspired to start the Greenwood Celtic Shamanic Wiccan Tradition with special help from Ronin, Hawk Oberon and Setanaya. Also many thanks to Highland Coven and Anam Cara, Red Hawthorn Coven, Tuatha de Daanan Coven, Cauldron of the Yew Grove, Silver Hawk Coven, Tre Stelle Coven, Willow Coven, Willow Moon Coven, and Misty Meadows for your love, dedication and support. For more information on the story of the our Tradition please see www.thewicca.ca

MagickalArts

December, 2015

To Join (or Not to Join) A Magickal Group

This is an article I wrote many years ago and I’ve decided to share it in this month’s column. As the community and spiritual paths of pagan practice become increasingly more available, so too are the opportunities to become intimately a part of that expanding community. What that participation looks like and how in depth are multi-faceted. It is particularly timely for me since I have been in process of Hiving and forming a new coven within our Tradition, The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. And, so in this spirit I pose the question that should be explored before committing to any one path of spiritual community.

The choice to remain a solitary practitioner or join a magickal group, coven or lodge is a very personal matter. Both offer benefits and detriments. Even if you consider yourself to be a solitary practitioner, there will be celebrations and stages in your development that will generate a desire to share, commune and connect. Similarly, those who choose to join a group will have specific times in their path of journey where they may wish to celebrate and/or practice in private; leaving group work behind.
Solitary Practice

Many pagans choose to walk a Solitary path. In former years this could be a very lonely, albeit a fulfilling one. We are fortunate to be on the Path at this particular time as there are many festivals and open events that both solitary and group affiliated members can attend. Meet-up Groups that have a pagan flavor are in abundance throughout the United States and the opportunity to interact without the deeper commitment of joining any organization has never been more accessible.
For some, group work and the structure needed to have things run smoothly is too restricting and limiting. For others, jobs, lifestyles or family obligations prevent the individual from attending group functions (there is usually a minimum requirement of events throughout the year that a group member would be expected to attend, unless there are emergencies), and this creates stress for both the group and the member. If a ritual at 2:00am is all you can easily fit into your schedule, most groups will not be accommodating to that and the pressures of having to fulfill attendance obligations can often sour the group experience.
Those who work as solitary practitioners often develop a very creative outlook that is largely self-directed. This is primarily because everything they do ritually or devotionally is generally self-generated and created and therefore they become quite adept at improvising. Working alone also guarantees that everything will be done at your own pace, in your own way and ultimately makes you solely responsible for your own experience, success and failures. Many prefer this freedom to connect to their spirituality by creating their own traditions and ways of offering up devotion to those deity and spiritual beings they commune with.
Group Work

Depending on the Tradition you are interested in joining there will generally be a specific length of time and protocol specified to facilitate the orientation process. Within our coven and Tradition we require at minimum a six-month “getting to know you” period where the prospective dedicant (newly dedicated member) attends open events and interacts with the other members of the coven and Tradition. Other groups accept members immediately and are less structured in their process of fully integrating you into the group and/or specific Tradition and still others have a lengthy process of education and training and when and if you are felt to be an acceptable candidate you are then invited to join as a member of the group.
Working within a group provides opportunity for direct sharing, access to those who are more experienced than you and the feeling of an energetic community and bonds to those who are your spiritual family. You will also have greater opportunity to network and meet others if the group you select holds open or sister events in collaboration with others in the Tradition, Coven or Lodge. Ritual work becomes a group effort in which you are able to be simply the participant and are able to open yourself in a deeper way since you are not the sole person responsible for the workings at hand. It provides the ability to see how others structure their practice and exchange ideas and suggestions about different approaches and subtleties. Now, of course, these are all things a solitary practitioner can experience in an open ritual; but the depth and openness that is shared between those within a group often occurs at those times when you are setting up or preparing for ritual before guests arrive or sitting in a group- only social event.
Some considerations you should have as you decide on what group is the best fit:
The group you select to petition for membership should offer a stable and fair structure of spiritual progress with resources to further and enhance your personal growth. Working within the group should feel like a spiritual family and these should be people that you trust to see you at your best and your worst. The energetic connection that you weave with this group of people will strengthen and build as you continue to work together and it is a very intimate relationship that requires respect between all of membership.
You should never feel pressured to do anything that you do not consider to be safe or is coercive in nature. Unfortunately, not all groups are ethical in their actions and offer up empty promises of the gifting of great powers and knowledge of the mysteries in exchange for sexual, monetary or other favors. Some traditions do work skyclad (naked) and perform sex magick as part of their magickal rites, but do so with the consent of all concerned and are up front from the very beginning, ensuring that everyone is on board. Bottom line is- if it doesn’t feel right to you and is not in accord with your beliefs you will probably not make much spiritual headway.
The leadership of the group should be people who live by example those teachings that they have been entrusted to pass along. There should be a comfortable exchange between leadership and membership such that any discord, or misunderstandings can be discussed and resolved in an ethical, intelligent and mature manner. Respect is key here, on both sides.  Respect that leadership has the best interest of the group, Tradition and its members always in sight. And, respect that membership will be supportive and helpful in maintaining a positive working environment and good intent for those they work with.
There should be encouragement of all members within the group to excel and progress in their magickal studies at a pace that will provide challenge but also allow for life events to take priority as needed. And, although healthy and constructive criticism is a great motivator there should never be an ill-intended push or encouragement towards unhealthy competition for recognition, roles or initiations among members. There will be many times when you will feel challenged unjustly and perhaps even feel as though you are not progressing in the way or at the speed at which you feel you should. A good barometer is to step back from the situation for a moment and ask yourself if you are just annoyed at the inconvenience or is there something truly and viably wrong.
It has been my experience that frequently the people who are meant to become members of our group, find their way to us through a synchronistic moment. They happen to be in the right place at the right time, find our website and decide to come to an open event or become interested through a friend who is already a member. Don’t be afraid to be selective. Take the time that you need to make an informed decision and never allow yourself to be pressured into joining a group. If a group is that desperate for new members, there are most likely other areas in which they will exert or force their will on the existing members- the number one “no-no” in pagan philosophy and ethics.

The bottom line is that if the group is a viable and healthy one, they will want to take their time in getting to know more about the potential members who come knocking on their door, and if the fit is right there is no need to hurry matters.  Neither your nor their interest in having you join them will diminish or lessen. If it does, perhaps it was not the place for you after all. The commitment to a group should be entered with the thought that this will be a place of working and growing for several years. There is no short track to magickal mastery and those who frequently leave and join groups, as well as groups who have a fast moving revolving door usually do not stand the test of time and longevity.

A Timely Choice

Just as all of life’s experiences change and flow as you change and grow in years and time, the decision to remain solitary or join a group will follow its own meandering course as well. Many start as Solitary workers; come to a crossroads where the progress they require includes working with others in a committed way, and when the lessons are integrated go back to Solitary practice. This is the nature of all spiritual growth regardless of tradition.
The start of your journey is begun of your own accord and decisions about how and in which direction it moves are formulated by you and you alone. As you move along the path of your making there will come a point in the road where the need to offer the mysteries learned in a broader and more communal sense rises to the surface. The yearning to share and exchange this wisdom with like-minded people and the security of feeling that you are part of something larger than yourself is the gentle rise of the hill ahead that offers no glimpse of what lay on the other side. You reach the summit of this path and begin the process of gathering to yourself all of the outer influences, interactions, joys and sorrows you have experienced. You take in new sights from this higher vantage point. These spread out before you in panoramic view. And, as the choices blur and thin in detail in the vastness of what can be, you look around and see that you have returned to the space of standing alone and quiet in your inner sanctum; new choices ahead and new paths to walk. And, so the cycle begins anew.
It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to join a group or remain a solitary practitioner. The important thing is that you continue your practice. That you seek out the resources you are guided to when and where you are led. And, when the time is right, you gather with like- minded individuals as one in celebration of the Pagan Path.
Blessings on your journey!