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She Who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

January, 2017

ACHLYS

Achlys (pronounced Akh-Loos) is the name, and personification, of Eternal Night.

goddess

(Photo: Pinterest)

She is also known as Mist of Death, which is another meaning of Her name. It describes the mist that fell before one’s eyes before dying. As such, Her likeness was borne upon the Shield of Hercules.

She is a pale, thin Goddess with long sharp fingernails, which she will use as claws, which in turn explains Her bloody cheeks. Her teeth are as fangs. She is covered in dust, as She roams the world. Her incessant crying gives her the name of the Goddess of Misery and Sadness.

One of Her myths is that She is the only being to precede Chaos, and that the entire world came from her. This makes Her a primordial, creative being, akin to Shakti, in the Hindu world.

goddess

(Photo: ninecircles.co)

She is the Mistress of Poisons, who could create poisonous flowers by just summoning them, and not a few of Her potions could turn humans into animals.

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 143 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic 5th century AD):

“[Hera spies the nurses of the infant god Dionysos:] Hera, who turns her all-seeing eye to every place, saw from on high the everchanging shape of Lyaios [Dionysos], and knew all. Then she was angry with the guardians of Bromios. She procured from Thessalian Akhlys (Achlys, Death-Mist) treacherous flowers of the field, and shed a sleep of enchantment over their heads; she distilled poisoned drugs over their hair, she smeared a subtle magical ointment over their faces ,and changed their earlier human shape. Then they took the form of a creature with long ears, and a horse’s tail sticking out straight from the loins and flogging the flanks of its shaggy-crested owner; from the temples cow’s horns sprouted out, their eyes widened under the horned forehead, the hair ran across their heads in tuft, long white teeth grew out of their jaws, a strange kind of mane grew of itself, covering their necks with rough hair, and ran down from the loins to feet underneath.”

(Wikepedia)

Goddess myths don’t always make sense. As we know, Goddess stories and myths from around the worlds can become confused; names are similar, some Goddesses become combined with other Goddesses. It is no different here.

To contradict the origin myth of Achlys, it is also said she that she was one of the Keres/Ceres, the female death spirits, who were the daughters of Nyx, whose name means “night”, similar to Achlys’ Eternal Night.

The Keres’ names were Moros, meaning *Doom*, Ker meaning *Violent Death*, Hypnos meaning *Sleep* and Theoneiroi meaning *Dreams*. The description of the Keres being dark and mysterious beings with sharp teeth and claws, wearing bloody garments is similar enough to that of Achyls to let you think that She was one of their number. The Keres hovered over battlefields searching for wounded and dying men, as they relished the violent and cruel deaths that battle and murder wrought. Perhaps Achylis joined them, dropping the Mist of Death before the eyes of these men, before the Keres would take their bodies and souls.

goddess

(Photo: Pinterest)

As this quote shows, it is believed, too, that the Keres were released into the world by the opening of Pandora’s box; this would have included Achylis:

Hesiod, Works and Days 90 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :

“For ere this [the opening of Pandora’s jar] the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills (kakoi) and hard toil (ponoi) and heavy sickness (nosoi) which bring the Keres (Fates) upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar (pithos) with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Elpis (Hope) remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aigis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds. But the rest, countless plagues (lugra), wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils and the sea is full. Of themselves diseases (nosoi) come upon men continually by day and by night, bringing mischief to mortals silently; for wise Zeus took away speech from them. So is there no way to escape the will of Zeus.”

(Theoi.com)

goddess

(Photo: paleothea.com by Hein Lass)

Whatever Her true myth and origins, there is no doubt that Achlys is one of the many Dark Goddesses. While we may wish to turn our head, the wise know that without the Dark, there is no Light; without Death, there is no Life.

Magic: From the Middle Ages to Today

November, 2016

When I was doing an online course about magic in the Middle ages, a question was posed: How does magical thought differ today, from that in the Middle Ages?

One thing that magic in the Middle Ages and magic today has in common is that it is always a form of transformation. The sick are healed; the weather is changed; a shapeshifter moves silently through the night; a lover changes his/her mind. The main difference that I can see is that there was so little understood about the world in the Middle Ages, almost everything could be seen as a magical act.

A woman who used Willow bark to ease the pain of a loved one would have been branded a witch, but today we call it Aspirin and sell it in pharmacies worldwide. Western practitioners of Magic in the 21st century accept scientific rationality and work alongside this (for the most part) to continue and even enhance their magical practices. Without realising it, the sorcerers of the Middle Ages were doing this too, but unknowingly, with herbs, chanting and music (which can alter our brain waves), hallucinogens and of course fear; fear of the fairies, demons and even god.

I think it’s a generalisation to say we have ‘prejudices’ against this period, as most folks with an interest in the period will do some research to see how things really were, and those that have no interest will probably not even be aware of the magical practices taking place during this time. Popular culture has always painted the picture of the warty old witch or evil sorcerer, regardless of the time period, because of superstition created by the church; that magic is evil and powered by demons.

It’s easy to understand why people would be enamoured of the idea of the Renaissance bringing the ‘light’ of reason into a filthy, superstitious world. The downside to this, in my opinion, is the loss of ancient traditions and customs that are part of the growth of a culture. It’s great to understand why we do things, and the science behind them, and of course if practices are found to be dangerous, they should stop. But one day, we may not have access to electricity, medicine or even books, and the knowledge and practices of our ‘magical’ forebears could be the most useful ‘hand-me-down’ available.

Magic is performing transformation for people. Science is understanding how you did that and how to do it again, in exactly the same way. Religion, particularly Christianity in this context, often condemns both science and magic for being ‘against God’. Telling, no?

Mabh Savage is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Tink About It

December, 2015

Witch Balls

The last few months a certain object demanded my attention. In books, in my dreams, on the internet in places you wouldn’t expect… It took me some time before I figured it out, but in the end the message was clear: ‘the universe’ wanted me to pay attention and learn about… witch balls! Of course I had heard about them but I never really did something with it.

Witch balls are hollow spheres of coloured glass that often contain a few thin fibres strung inside. They seem to originate in cultures that believe in harmful magic , evil spirits and such, to ward those off by hanging a witch ball in the (east) window or entrance of the home. As to how it works, the stories vary slightly. Evil is drawn to the ball which absorbs the negativity and keeps it from entering the home. Witches were believed to be attracted by the shininess and beauty of the ball, they touch it or go into it and are lost inside. It could also work like a magnet: the ball itself is charged with positive energy and thus it attracts and absorbs the negative energies. Or even simpler: the mirroring of the balls reflects evil back to where it comes from.

Witchballs(picture: Wikipedia)

No one knows exactly what or where the origin of the balls is. The ability to make and blow glass is a very old skill. Some sources date back the witch balls to Medieval Europe, more than six centuries ago, or even earlier. At that time the form would have been rough and not very well-defined. On the 18th (England. Europe) and 19th century (America) witch balls were moulded in a more refined shape with use of higher quality glass. They became very popular and were also seen as a sign of wealth and prestige as they weren’t cheap. Some people still believed they helped against evil, witches etc. though; others called it superstition. Trying to get rid of old lore they were also called fairy orbs: the beauty of the balls was told to attract fairies, who would then show their appreciation by bestowing the owner with good luck. The balls showed up in a larger form in gardens, and smaller in Yule trees. Are they connected? It’s certainly possible but debatable. Still, glass workers traditionally make a witch ball as the first object to be created in a new studio.

Nowadays there are lots of beautiful witch balls for sale. For protection, for decoration, or both. Funny enough you often see them at the homes of the very people they were used against to scare them of at first: witches! Perhaps a lot of sources got it wrong, and witches are the origin of witch balls. They could have been the ones that made them for protection of their homes. Or they used them for scrying, or collecting solar and lunar light or other magical uses. Who knows..

Fishermen use floating balls for their nets. In earlier days they were made of glass. Those glass balls resemble witch balls, so they were often used for that purpose too. It’s probably also the reason why witch balls are associated with sea superstitions and legends in some lore.
At the moment I have two ‘witch balls’. One of them is definitely used by fishermen. It was found on the beach and has barnacles attached in several places. The other one could be a fishing-net ball too, but I think it is mainly used for decoration. When we were kids my sister had a fishing-net on her ceiling with the glass balls still in it. The ball with barnacles will get a nice place in our living room. We live in a fishing-village close to the harbour and sea so I guess it’s the right place for it. The other one will hang in my temple room window. Yes, as decoration, but I will certainly charge them to protect our home and reflect or absorb evil.

Witchballs2

my own ‘witch balls’

Sources & further reading:

Spiralled Edges

November, 2015

Spiralled Edges – Soul Ancestors and Pagan Practices

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about ancestors and past-life memories, and how that may be influencing my Pagan practise in this current life.

Humans place a great value on their cultural group. And well we should! This is our family, our home, our traditions, our rituals and celebrations. Of course we are going to get peeved when someone comes along and treats it all as a joke or picks up the pretty bits to wear like a necklace then tosses it aside when the next shiny comes along.

There is a lot of awareness in recent years of the ways in which people of European descent have wrongly appropriated the practices and beliefs of other cultures. Absolutely, this is something that needs to be addressed, and claiming to be a part of another culture when you have been neither reared nor adopted into that culture is always wrong.

What various Gods have told me a number of times, in different ways, is that They don’t just see our current life. They see our ancestral life as well, ancestors of the blood, through birth or adoption, and also of the ancestors of the soul. It may be that we find ourselves called to honour a Deity from a culture we have no blood connection because of this Soul Ancestry.

Through my own work, I have come to understand that Deities see our Soul ancestry (our past-lives) as well as our blood ancestry. In working with Deity I have on several occasions been tapped on the shoulder by a Deity outside of the Celtic pantheon. Each time the encounter has had to be dealt with in a way that both honoured and respected the Deity, and at the same time showed sensitivity and awareness of the human culture associated with that Deity, both in antiquity and today.

People though, people can only see your current life and blood ancestry line. This is the one we are meant to be focusing on in this life time. (They’re called past lives for a reason, they’re part of our past!)

In this lifetime, I am a Western European mutt born to two white parents, who in turn had two white parents, who each had two white parents, who each had…In other words, I claim not even the tiniest drop of African tribal, Afro-Caribbean, Indian (subcontinent India), ancient Mesopotamian, Anatolian, Persian, Russian, or pre-Inca South American blood. But Deities and spirits from each of these groupings have chosen to speak to me or through me to another person. Some have worked through or with me, not because I was expected to take up the mantle of that culture but because the knowledge had some bearing on my current life experience. Others have chosen to speak or work through me when I’ve been doing healing work for another person that they have claimed. They speak through me, or at least give me the message and I pass it on. Once I pass on the message, I don’t hear from that Deity again. That’s right – They used me as an answering service!

Others have come round when I am doing past-life healing work for myself. Right now I am working my way through some issues around food and diet that appear to be related to a past-life experience in ancient Peru and an even more ancient past-life experience in ancient Anatolia. I have Soul Ancestry connections to both times and places. I am not doing this work as someone who has a spurious claim to an ancient Chavin or Moche heritage, or an ancient Anatolian heritage though. I’m doing it as a Western European white woman who has a lot to learn.

Part of me questions why Western Europeans are so eager to claim a Soul Ancestry connection as part of their heritage today. I think it has to do with the ways Europeans have scattered themselves across the globe over the past 600 years.

In my own family line, I can trace my family back into 8 different countries. They were Puritans, Lutherans, and Huguenots, and at least one German multi-great grandfather trying to avoid being drafted to fight in a war, who travelled across the Atlantic to the New World between the 1500s and the 1800s. Where is my connection to a land? If I were to return to the land of my ancestors where would I go? On the other hand, at least all of my family lines can be traced back to the same continent. Some have branches that split into 2 or 3 or more different continents.

Ironically, my youngest son, born in England, tells people that he is half-American while I tell people I am part this, part that, a drop of the other.

What we don’t have, with our ancestral lines stretching back into half a dozen or more countries around the world, is that sense of connection to a people, to a community, to a land stretching back hundreds of generations that indigenous people can have. I think that some grow jealous of that connection and are trying to claim part of it for themselves.

As part of my training in shamanic healing methods I learned about Soul Loss, and Soul Retrieval, and Soul Stealing. The first two are fairly self-explanatory. The third can happen when someone deliberately or inadvertently steals a part of our soul from us, but also when we deliberately or inadvertently steal a part of someone else’s soul from them. This is what we are doing when we try to claim someone else’s culture as our own without benefit of having been born or adopted into that culture.

Like the soul piece taken from another, we can’t use it. It gives us no extra self-power. It gives us no real connection to the Earth.

I think as well, that many people have this idea that Europe has no ancient noble, indigenous culture. They are trying to validate and justify their own Pagan (or other) beliefs and instead of looking inwards to their own cultural history, try to give validity to their beliefs by assuming the cultural history of a “real” indigenous group. You see this today with people making tourist jaunts into South America in order to take part in plant healer ceremonies, and in people trying to claim they are Native American. 60 years ago, these same people would have been traipsing over to India and Nepal to live in an Ashram.

Always they look outside of themselves, outside of their culture, outside of their ancestry trying to find something that is right in front of their eyes and inside themselves.

Just because you think you were a Cherokee princess in a previous life, that doesn’t mean you get to claim to be a Cherokee in this lifetime. Not even if First Woman speaks in your ear. Not unless you have also been raised in the Cherokee culture in this lifetime or have been formally adopted into a family and are embracing the entire culture as your own. This does not mean that First Woman hasn’t spoken to you, and it does not mean that you cannot or should not do things in your personal practice to honour Her. Just don’t claim to be something you’re not at the same time.

Remember these words from Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess – If that which you seek to find you seek not within, you will never find it without.

What Pagan spiritual practices can you find within your own blood ancestry lines?

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

October, 2015

Samhain 2015 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

 

This article is cheating. I admit it.

I was looking over last year’s article to ensure I did not write close to the same thing this year, and I stumbled upon the file for the talk and ritual I gave at our Samhain last year. It was conveniently and entirely different from last year’s article.

Of course, memories came flooding back. Each Sabbat and gathering is packed with good memories with loved ones. Samhain, the time for honoring the dead, is a good time to connect with the living as well. In pre-Christian times, it was a time of communal work and celebration of a good final harvest and bringing the herds in for winter. It was also a time to give thanks, and ask the powers that be for protection from sickness, starvation, and death in the cold months.

I reworked my talk into an article. That is the cheating! The article discusses some history, as well as ancient practices, and then the ritual we used to honor the Sidhe has been reworked and is given at the end.

A LITTLE HISTORY AND WHY THEY HAD SAMHAIN

Samhain originally comes from Ireland and was celebrated as the beginning of winter. It dates from times when the folk were dependent upon herds. May 1, Beltaine, was of course when the herds were brought out to Summer fields, and Samhain was when they were brought in for the winter. It was also the cold part of the year. People got sicker and were more likely to die. So, people would be doing rituals for protection at Samhain.

They also believed that the dead had more access to the world of the living at that time. They not only honored the dead, but also did things to ward off spirits that were not so nice. Bad spirits could bring disease and death of livestock or people.

Back before refrigeration, insulation, electricity, and preservatives, all of this was a very big deal. The people believed very strongly that the spirits, gods, and the ancestors directly influenced what happened to the living. They could bring suffering and sickness, or bestow life, health, wealth and blessings. It was very important that all the proper taboos were observed and honor was paid to the gods, the dead and the spirits. All the proper workings and rituals had to be observed so everybody made it through the cold winter. And of course it was at the end of final harvest, so there was eating, drinking, feasting, and revelry!

ANCIENT SITES

We know what neo-Pagans do now, but we rely on the writings of people like the monks to let us know what the pre-Christian Pagans did. Some of the writings depict things we’d never do in modern times.

One god who was honored Samhain time was Crom Cruach- who favored human sacrifice. At the historical plain in what is now in Ulster, called Magh Slecht ( maw shlaykht), an image of Crom Stood, and that is where some Samhain rites were said to begin. At Magh Slecht, there are monuments dating back to before 4000 BC and there are 80 known monuments on the site. It became the center for worship of Crom, and devotees were said to prostrate themselves to Crom by kneeling and putting their foreheads on the ground. Thus, the name Mag Slecht means, “The plain of prostrations”. The monuments still there include not only Christian sites, but also artificial islands, burial sites, stone circles, and even a couple of castles. According to the monks, St, Patrick struck down the statue of Crom, ended the worship of him, and founded a church there. It is said when he struck the statue down, a ring of stones encircling the statue sank into the ground. Interestingly, it is said the Killycluggin Stone is the one St. Patrick struck down. Others say the stones around the Killycluggin Stone were actually the image of Crom. There is of course, an amazing looking replica placed where the original was excavated in 1921, as well as remainders of the stone circle. The original Killycluggin Stone is now in the County Cavan Museum in Ballyjamesduff. An online source at

themysticwood.com/shop/2015/08/01/10-tidbits-about-crom-dubh-sunday

has beautiful photos and a little more about Crom and the stone.

Other sites where Samhain was celebrated was The Hill of Ward in Ireland. It was an Iron Age ringfort where a lot of things happened, and its massive Samhain gatherings were to light the winter fires, which took place in Medieval times. Its structures date from 200 AD. It is said the god Lugh was honored on Samhain on the Hill of Ward. The Hill of Tara was also a site where Samhain gatherings occurred. It is 12 miles away from the Hill of Ward, and when fires are lit atop the hills, the fires can be seen all the way 12 miles away at one another. I lucked into an awesome You Tube Video the University of Dublin created called “The First Halloween”. You have to see it!

Another site watched was a cave where the dead were said to emerge. It’s called Oweynagat, The Cave of Cats. It is part of a complex of sites known as Rathcroghan that has burial sites, and was used for huge ritual gatherings. It complex is estimated to be 6,000 years old. The cave itself is just part of that. It was specifically the door to the other world guarded by Queen Maeve who was said to transform into the Morrigan. She held off the beasts from beyond to protect humanity. It was said she was born and also died at the entryway. She is said to emerge in her chariot every Samhain pulled by a one legged chestnut horse. Inscribed in Ogham on the lintel above the door is “Hellmouth Door of Ireland”. They also call it the cave of cats because it is said a three headed long fanged cat guards the door. I watched a video of somebody brave enough to enter. It’s a small cave where many have entered and finally, some workmen started installing electricity, and a portion collapsed to form a dead end. If you’re like me you think maybe the dead do not want people snooping around in there. It was not a place you wanted to be when those creatures emerged.

You can find the footage I am talking about at YouTube. Type in Oweynagat, cave of the cats, Rathcroghan. A journey into mother earth. Mike Croghan is the one who made this video.

Scientifically speaking, very little excavation has been done on the whole complex, but they have used radar surveys, which show a lot of similarities between Rathcroghan and the Hill of Tara complex.

BONFIRES

At these ancient sites, there was not just sacrifice on Samhain. Of course, bonfires were lit on the hills to drive out or burn up unwanted influences, as well as having two bonfires people and livestock walked between to bless them. People took flames from these fires back to their homes and lit new fires from them.

THE SIDHE AND THE DEAD

As for the honoring of the dead, it was originally the Sidhe who were honored. People left food and drink for them, sometimes leaving a portion of crops in the fields for them. If the people had to walk outside , they would turn their clothes inside out or carried salt or iron to keep the Sidhe from harming them.

The dead were welcomed into the home by setting a place for them at the table. They were honored and kept happy, because if they were upset, or wanted to come for revenge, little could be done. The Sidhe, in particular, were those creatures who you did not want to offend. Nowadays, many Neo Pagans like to decorate with fairies and dress in pretty costumes with gossamer wings, many of whom look similar to Tinkerbell. A lot of people think of the Sidhe as sweet, pretty, little earth folk who are charming and enchanting and sprinkle pixie glitter and whatnot, and that is not the way things are at all. To this day, the people of Irelend go out of their way to not piss off the Sidhe.

Some believe they are the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann- or children of the goddess Danu and when the Milesians defeated them, they went to live in the mounds. Historically, the Milesians are actually an ethnic group of people said to have come from Iberia, and settled the Island. And it is historically accepted by some that the Tuatha de Dannan were the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland. They were said to go live in the mounds, which have been proven to be ancient burial sites. According to the lore, as the children of Danu were forgotten about, they shrunk in stature. Some Xtians believe they are fallen angels. Some believe they are spirits that go about their lives just like everybody else. Many believe that we live in parallel worlds with the Sidhe and our world comes in contact with theirs at times and boundaries have to be respected. Money is thrown in wells for them, great care is taken to build roads AROUND sites said to be theirs, food and drink is left for them. If people believed the Sidhe had blessed them or done work for them, gifts of a bowl of cream or new clothes was left for them. Baked goods, apples, and berries were also left for them.

The Sidhe could smile upon you, but they could also harm you. They may not only kill you or your livestock, but they could take you home with them. The belief was that the fairy mounds were completely open at Samhain time. It was a big worry that you might be carried off. If you wound up there, you might find your way back…eventually- but the Sidhe’s time is not our time. What would seem like moments in their time can be decades in our time.

A tale is told of a man who was perhaps the greatest fiddler alive. The Sidhe liked him- a lot- and so they took him with them- and he was seen sometime after his disappearance- looking horribly exhausted, filthy, starved, and a look of horror about him- and his arms seemed to be playing the instrument all on their own, detached from his body.

Encounters with the Sidhe did not always go this way, but there was a chance they could, So it was very important if to stay in or close to home if not at ritual come Samhain time if at all possible, but if you had to leave home, you could do things like- leave gifts, of course, wear your clothes inside out and carry iron, or salt to ward them off.

COSTUMES

You could also disguise yourself. Costumes started from people disguising themselves to confuse or ward off the supernatural creatures- you might get carried off to the other world if they were not disguised well. It further developed into mumming, or going from door to door costumed as part of the festivities, which is still observed all over Britain to this day. Sometimes, it was done in costume to collect things for the celebration from each household, and sometimes it was done for fun.

FUN AND PRANKS

Alcohol was used to celebrate since the time of the ancient Irish, in more recent times, they did so as well. Fueled by booze, the pranks could get pretty wild. For example- folks would throw rotten fruit or veggies around houses, throw bags of flour all over people, or make noises outside their houses.

The Sidhe could also play pranks on people. They might do something as mild as put thorns in your bed or like those horrid creatures from the Otherworld, they could wreak damage on property of livestock. They might even swap their kid for yours.

Maybe it was the Sidhe and the dead that got us started doing tricks and pranks Samhain time, but folks sometimes, to this day go too far-

Like in 2012, a 17 and 18 year old were arrested for throwing an egg in a 71 year old woman’s face who thought she was answering the door for trick or treaters.

In 2010, two women were arrested for a prank. They wrapped a mannequin in a “bloody sheet” and dropped it off on the highway and waited at the top of a hill with binoculars to see how many people they could scare.

Maybe in the days of yore, you could blame a prank on the Sidhe or spirits- but nowadays, I don’t think the police are going to buy that.

DIVINATION

Samhain was also a good time to do divination. Since the otherworld was much more active in this world, the realities shifted, messages would be clearer. They did not do “readings” the way we do. They sometimes used food. An apple was peeled, and the peel thrown over the shoulder to see if it would reveal the first letter of the person’s future spouses name. Eggs whites were dropped in water to see if it would reveal the number of children a couple would have. They sometimes had each person present put a rock representing themselves in a ring together. Everybody would run around the stones and in the morning if any stone was mislaid it was supposed to show who would not survive the winter.

TODAY AS OPPOSED TO THEN

For us Neo-Pagans, we do Sabbat. Usually an evening ritual and gathering. But in days past, the festivities might last a week from first bringing the cattle in, to blessing them and getting them situated- down to slaughtering the last of the meat- especially the animals they felt would not make it through the winter and then having the feast prepared- which might last for more than one day.

So from its humble beginnings – in Ireland thousands of years ago, we now have people all over the world celebrate this blessed time of year when the living and the dead commune and when we prepare for the ice and snow and dark and cold.

We may celebrate differently today and for perhaps different reasons but this ancient occasion is what brought us all together tonight.

One other thing about the Sidhe- it is really not polite to talk about them, and I have talked about them a whole lot, haven’t I? It is a good thing the ritual honors them!

In Honor of the Sidhe

This ritual comprised the closing for our Samhain in 2014 and I am sharing it here. The ritual is a good one to do with anybody, including kids and people who have no formal training in ritual. They do their reading, and give their offering. Simple.

Preparation

Gather things for four offerings. Food, drink, coins, and incense.

Do not cast circle, as your people will stand in a circle and that will comprise your circle. You do not want a closed circle for this out of respect for the Sidhe and so they may come and go as they see fit. Plus, when you leave your offerings, each person needs to be able to move around to place things wherever they deem fit. That might just be a distance from where you are standing to do ritual. Plus, you do not want to banish.

Do not set up an altar. You just need your papers with the readings written on them, and your offerings. It is really best to do this outside in your garden or in nature. You can have garden torches if you like, or outside lights if available. Then again, if you are in a deep forest, or if the stars and moon are not bright enough, you can always let people have their own flashlight or candle to illuminate. But if you cannot be outdoors for this rite, just turn off the lights and light enough candles to see by.

You can have three people to give offerings of drink, food, and money and you can offer the incense at the beginning. Ideally, you want to leave the offerings out in nature for the Sidhe to accept without being watched. You can split up the readings for your group. You can also do all the parts yourself if you are doing Solitary ritual.

You certainly can have people stand facing the appropriate directions when they give their offerings, but you really don’t have to. Wiccan use of the four directions comes out of traditions that came later on in Pagan practice. While the purpose of this is to honor the Sidhe, not to necessarily stick with any given dogma, if you prefer, you certainly can do things “by the book” as they say, moving only clockwise, and standing facing in the traditional Wiccan directions.

The Ritual

Opening Reading

If history, lore, and science are believed, some of us, perhaps all of us in this very room are the descendants of the Sidhe. Some writings say they were the first inhabitants of Mother Ireland. The ones originally responsible for the very fact we have Samhain. If all this is to be believed, they walk among us morseo this time of year, and more than that their blood flows in our veins. It is because of them that we are alive today. And because of us, they are alive today.

It is them who we will honor and ask for blessings in this rite.

Reading #1

(Light the incense, and put it in the center of your group of people.)

Hail to the Sidhe.

Beautiful and Terrible.

Small, and Great.

Seen and Unseen.

Hail to you Fathers of Fathers.

Mothers of Mothers.

Guardians of the Otherworld.

Reading #2

(Put the drink in the center)

You can heal or you can harm.

You can grant life or death.

Accept our gifts and respect

As we enter the cold, dark months.

Reading #3

(Put the food in the center)

Spare us and our loved ones another winter

That we may make it to the Summer.

Increase our wealth and give us good health.

Help us to pass this winter in good company

And to create good memories

Accept our gifts and our respect.

Reading #4

(Put the money in the center)

Smile upon us, give us safe passage home this night

And this season.

(Now those offering gifts will gather up gifts, and with all attendees, take the things and place them where the Sidhe can find them.

Come back together.)

Closing

(Have all join hands.)

The Sidhe have been gifted and honored, and now, may your gods and guides bless you. May the ancestors be ever present all of your days. May the Sidhe smile upon you, and may we all see one another soon.

Merry Have We Met,

Merry Shall We Part,

and Merry Shall We Meet Again.

Blessed Be.

Blessed Samhain.

Wicca History, Lesson 3

September, 2010

Malleus maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches)

Nothing is more linked to hunting of Witches than the “Malleus Maleficarum” therefore we must look at this handbook for hunting witches.

The handbook follow on the earlier “Canon Episcopi” Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull “Desiring with Supreme Ardor in 1484 stating that witch hunts were a necessity and emphasizing the realities of witchcraft. The “Malleus maleficarum was published in 1486 taking from “Canon Episcopi” and rather than saying that the “Canon Episcopi” was wrong the church stated that there now a far more dangerous army of witches than before!

It was to become the most influential and widely used handbook on witchcraft. Namely because the handbook enormous influence  because of impact owing to its authoritative appearance but also to its extremely wide distribution that the church gave it

It is interested to note that it was one of the first books to be printed on the newly invented printing press and appeared in no fewer than 20 editions.The Malleus Maleficarum is debatably one of the most infamous books ever written, due primarily to It serveing as a handbook for Inquisitors during the Inquisition, and was indeed designed to aid them in the identification, prosecution, and dispatching of Witches.

It also more importantly set forth, as well, many of the modern misconceptions and fears concerning witches and the influence of witchcraft that the media still has today!

The questions, definitions, and accusation it set out in regarding witches, which were reinforced by its use during the Inquisition, cameto be extensively regarded as unquestionable truth.

These beliefs are held even today by a mainstream of Christians in regard to practitioners of the modern  religion of Witchcraft, or Wicca. And while the Malleus itself is largely unfamiliar in modern times, its effects have proved long lasting and is still echo in films and popular newspapers.

At the time of the writing of The Malleus Maleficarum, there were many voices within the Christian community  such as scholars and theologians who doubt the existence of witches and largely regarded such belief as superstition.

By writing the handbook it was stated if you did not believed in witches than you were not a proper Christian.  It made very real the threat of one being branded a heretic, simply by virtue of one’s probing of the existence of witches and, thus, the weight of the Inquisition.  It set into the general Christian consciousness, for all time, a belief in the existence of witches.

The estimate of the death toll during the witch craze  worldwide range from 600,000 to as high as 9,000,000 (over its 250 year long course); either is a chilling number when one realizes that nearly all of the accused were women, and consisted primarily of outcasts and other suspicious persons.

The Malleus itself cannot be held responsible for the witch craze; it certainly played an important role in that its existence toughened and validate Catholic beliefs which led to the prosecution, torture, and murder, of tens of thousands of innocent people.

Homework

After lesson 4 there will be exam on the Witchcraze.

Wicca History, Lesson 1

July, 2010

Lesson One

Welcome to the course, we will start looking at the basis of Wicca and try to found origins from facts that we know.  The main reason why it is so hard to find the true origins of Wicca is that very little was ever written   down or have been lost to us.

So let’s look at what we know:

The term Wicca as a Celtic origin wicce, “wise” the Celtics are a very important part of Wicca, which has somewhat been overlook.  The Celtics   social order was one that women could hold power in their own right such Boudicca, Wicca being a strong feminine base belief is important to remember.

The Celtic people were artisans who believed in many gods and goddess, most importantly the Great Mother, from 500 BC they came the major force in Europe and found the many festivals that Wiccans and pagans still honour today Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain which we will look at in a later lesson.

Celtic mysticism understood that all of existence has a repeated nature, and that there is a direct connection between the material world and the otherworld.  Everything exists on several synchronized levels. Human beings can understand things as having three levels: the physical, the spiritual, and the symbolic. Therefore Celtic culture was integrated with nature, and expressed itself through the various possibilities of life itself. Celtic religion taught the reincarnation of all individual souls, and the appearance of divine beings on Earth.  Making very much the bases of the Wicca belief, will the modern founders of Wicca have carried forth in there writing such as Gerald Gardiner .

Before I g on about history that lead on from the Celtics I want us to look at main steams that we have today in Wicca?

The Alexandrian tradition founded by Alexander Saunders

The Celtic tradition

The cymri tradition

The Druidic tradition

The Gardnerian tradition

All these traditions are base in Wicca, and will be looking at them in a later lesson.

Homework.

What I would like you to do is write me a short essay with the title Why Wicca is important to you and we will have a group discussing on your essays in the forum.

Meandering Through the Past

October, 2009

On the History of Ireland

History of Irish Myths

Well this author was thoroughly impressed to discover that Ireland has a rather rich historic mythological background. I also suspect that it wouldn’t be considered “myth” had Christian monks not been the ones recording everything. The fact that they are of a tradition, caused me to hesitate, but then again, if it had been my own tradition doing the recording, then, maybe I wouldn’t feel that way. This will mark the beginning of a series of articles studying the different periods of the history of Ireland. If you would like to read about the history of your own tradition please feel free to email me the suggestion.

The monks of the time listened to elders telling their families of the history. As they recorded what they heard, they intended to entertain the royals and thus decided to tweak the stories just a bit to a Christian lean.  They did this by removing the divinity of key players and rewrote epic events into simple tales. Despite this discovery there are a couple of manuscripts we can look back and read such as The Book of Invasions. With that in mind, let’s go back in time, and visit what the history of Ireland may have entailed.

Apparently there are four different historical cycles. The first historic cycle is called the Mythological cycle. This period of time is specifically called the Mythological cycle because it deals with many “Otherworld” type beings. The monks couldn’t exactly say these beings are completely real, and their tales true, because of their own tradition. I suspect this is one of the areas where they changed the characters from glorious powerful players, to regular human beings. This is also considered the time of the Invasions.

It is this time period where we learn about all the different types of beings that tried to rule the island. I found it extremely interesting to learn that the Partholonians were considered the first inhabitants of Ireland. This group landed on Beltaine, fought with the next group to try to rule and were said to be wiped out by a plague.

The next group to attempt to rule Ireland, were called the Nemedians, also said to have lived on Ireland for many years. They fought with the Partholonians who fought with the Fomhoire’. The Nemedians were also killed by the plague, and any left living were defeated and run off by the Fomhoire‘.

The Fomhoire’ were next and means “come from the sea.” These creatures were said to haave come from the “evil or dark fairy” race and were terribly misshapen. They were said to be the gods of death and cold. These creatures were said to be worshiped by the Fir Bholg or Men of Bags. The Men of Bags were also known as the men of the Goddess Domnu, a Goddess I hadn’t heard of before. Though they lived and worshiped the Fomhoire’ The Tuatha De’ Danann defeated them in battle and took over Ireland at that time.

The Tuatha De’ Danann were considered the race of the gods of the goddess Danu. They rules the powers of Light, life and warmth. According to the Book of Invasions this race came upon Ireland by surprise inside clouds. From the cities they settled in after battling the Fomhoire’ many sacred objects were said to have been created. The stone of Destiny, The Spear of Lugh, as well as the Sword of Naudhu, and the Dagda’s Cauldron. The Dagda being the God to Danu’s Goddess.

The Tuatha De’ Danann were defeated by the Milesians the first human ancestors of Ireland. Here the book of Invasions states that an agreement was reached between these two forces. The humans would get to rule the upper regions of Earth and the Tuatha the lower regions or underground. This is where the name Sidhe came from, eventually dwindling to the name of the Faerie Folk.

Source: http://www.sacredfire.net/peoples.html#Partholonians

In next months article we will study the second period called Fenian Cycle.

Meandering Through the Past

September, 2009

What do you think it meant to be a witch back in “the old days”? Well, in Europe as well as the east coast it meant a death sentence for one thing. If you were caught practicing what the authorities considered to be witchcraft, you were arrested, and most, hanged or burned. Sad Times. Sadder still were some of the things which could label you as a witch. Aside from actually healing someone, or helping someone with their crops, you could be assumed a witch just by the shape of your chin, or lies told by your neighbor.

That was the usual way you were declared a witch. More sorry, usually the person accused was not in fact a witch. Most of the time, the person was a healing woman, a wise woman who knew of certain herbs simply because it had worked in her family and the information handed down from generation to generation. Does that make a person a witch?

It could. But what really makes a person a witch? Is it the certain religious path they take? Whether Wiccan, solitary, Gardnerian? These are all paths to practice the Craft, yes, but does following a path make you a witch? What actually makes a person a witch, what defines them?

I would offer, that what makes a person a witch, is what is inside the person’s heart. How they choose to “fix” things, heal things, what they choose to be important in their lives. Being a witch isn’t about how many crystals you have, or how many herbs you’ve decided to put in a tea, or even how many people you’ve healed. It isn’t even which school you attended to receive your witch degree.

No, to define a real witch, is to define a person’s heart. When your child comes to you ill with the flu, whether you know it’s the flu or not, what is your first reaction? Grab the Tylenol you just purchased at the store, or cleanse the child’s chakras? When your neighbor raises that awesome crop, full enough to last all winter, do you thank the store that sent you the seeds or do you look to the sky and whisper thanks be to the Sun, Moon, Weather and Earth?

A Witch is a Witch by what is inside their heart. Whether you lived in the 1600’s and had to hide it, or whether you live in the 2000’s and could openly go to your metaphysical store and buy hand made beeswax for the ointment you planned to heal the rash of your next door neighbor. It doesn’t matter, what matters is your first instinct. Where your heart goes and what your mind first thinks in times of decision making.

Shadows from the Past

June, 2009

Spirituality happens to be one of my most favorite subjects. The history of our Craft is an important subject to help build on the foundation of our current practices. Whether it is to remember something, so as not to repeat it, or if we need to keep it close  to keep it safe, it is important to take the time to remember. I thought we would start with some popular if not controversial topics, such as when did the actual Wicca religion start?

The first real question is define Wicca. Wicca is first, an earth based religion. The US Supreme Court has never actually ruled in a Wiccan case, but many use the case of The Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Ics (Santeria), and Ernesto Pichardo against The City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993) Mr. Pichardo used animal sacrifice which is not practiced in Wicca, to define what can be considered a religion, as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Many people believe that Wicca was started by Gerald Gardner who wrote a series of books on it as a British Civil Servant, in the 1940’s. Others believe it is an extension of “The Craft” also known as “Craft of the Wise” dating back before Christ. These books reference the different practices of a Wiccan which include but are not limited to, Celtic Deities, symbols used, The Wheel of the Year and its celebrations, as well as ceremonial magic adopted from the Masons.

It is the opinion of this author, that Wicca started as a religion, when it was recognized as such with the help of the Civil Rights act. A religion in general, is an organized approach to human spirituality based on documents or writings, symbols, and practices that give meaning to the person’s life through reference to a higher power or truth. Whether or not you practice Dianic Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, or an eclectic mix, you are a Wiccan. It is also the opinion of this author, that the Craft, and its traditions and practices existed long before anyone ever wrote about it.

Before there were even courts to consider such things, back when the only church around was a Christian one, and even before the time of church buildings to go to, people who were close to the earth, itself, were considered to be a part of The Craft simply because, they were close to the patterns of the earth. In order to survive, you needed food and water. People planted crops, harvested, and distributed that harvest, according to when it was ready to be gathered. Farmers would plant their crops according to the patterns of the seasons, so their food would grow. This promoted a recognition of The Wheel of the Year, because it was necessary to be able to eat during the winter. People needed to pay attention to when that was coming, and celebrate each change.  It simply made sense, and was completely dependent on the earth. Hence, Earth Based religion.

Not all farmers were or are Wiccan, and not all Wiccans are farmers. No matter whether you are, or participate in another form of spirituality doesn’t really matter; whether you consider yourself part of a modern form of Wicca, or part of something less organized but practicing similar traditions, just doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that you practice a form of spirituality which works for you.

If you would like to comment on anything I’ve written, or would like more information in general, please feel free to email me at km@kerryamorgan.com.

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