Spell

GoodGod!

August, 2017

Meet the Gods: Barleycorn

Merry meet.

Lughnasadh is celebrated this month – traditionally on the 1st, astrologically on the 7th. It is the first harvest, a festival of grain. While traditionally in Europe, corn meant grain, many Americans have come to think of corn only as maize. Because I know of no fields of rye, oats or barley here in Connecticut, maize has been my go-to grain.

While it’s found its way into my rituals as corn muffins, corn dollies and fry bread – to go with the bounty from my garden – I had never sought to welcome the corn god to my circle. This year I will.

Most cultures have a god of grains, fields or agriculture.

 

(Frey)

In the Norse tradition, Frey was the Corn God, the Lord of the Fields. He rode a great white horse and his hair was the golden color of wheat. Every year, he rode into the field where only the last sheath of grain remained standing. He sacrificed himself as it was cut, dying for the good of all as his blood enriched the field to assure next year’s harvest was bountiful.

 

(Osiris)

In Egyptian mythology, it is Osiris who is associated with grain and its lifecycle. He is represents fertility as each year he is harvested and killed. The dead Osiris is put into the ground as seeds which grow to be grain, bringing him to life again.

 

(Yum Kaaz)

The Maya god of corn and wild vegetation is Yum Kaaz, Lord of the Forest.

He is portrayed as a young man with an ear of corn growing out of his head,” according to AllAboutHistory.org.

 

(Centeotl)

Centeotl is the Aztec God (or Goddess) of Maize. Farmers would offer him fruits and grains from their fields that he might protect their fields from wild animals.

Perhaps the best known corn king and harvest god is John Barleycorn. In the English tradition, August 1 marked the sacrificial death of the Horned God in his incarnations as the Corn King or John Barleycorn whose reign began on the Summer Solstice. He is the personification of the lifecycle of grain – from planting to harvest, then malting to make whiskey and beer, and then to planting again.

There is a ballad sung about him.

 

John Barleycorn is the spirit of the fields that at this time are full crops given life by the sun. And it is in the last sheaf or stalk harvested that his spirit is strongest, so he’s dressed in fine clothing, or formed into the shape of a man and this effigy would be cut and typically burned with much celebrating. His sacrifice for the land, for the people and for the goddess became beer and malt whiskey and bread.

The Druid’s sacrificial burning of a larger-than-life wicker man may have been the inspiration for Burning Man. Both rituals are associated with death and rebirth of the god of the grain.

Lughnasadh is a time of transformation, of rebirth and new beginnings. It’s a time of plenty, a time to reap the bounty of your efforts and celebrate abundance that will sustain us as the wheel turns.

After calling the quarters, plan to light a candle shaped like an ear of corn to welcome one or more of these gods. Meanwhile, I would like to know how you’ve worked with them in your practice.

Merry part; and merry meet again.

 

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

May, 2017

Nightmare

(Nightmare Bag)

To Stop Nightmares

Merry meet.

Several people I encountered were experiencing nightmares and looking for relief. I began making charm bags (that I also call spell bags or mojo bags) and was told they worked, so I am sharing it with you.

Choose a piece of fabric or a purchased bag – of a natural material if possible – in deep purple, dark blue or black, but any one you’re drawn to will be good.

Based on my research, I came up with the list of ingredients below that have magical properties to alleviate nightmares. Read it over and select those you’d like to use. You can combine the dried botanicals and stones in almost any combination or ratio. Add a few drops of oil if you wish. If you feel stuck, try using a pendulum to make your selections.

A wise woman told me, “I have found magical blends to have more to do with one’s own personal relationship with the plants than with any recipe, formula or dogma. And what one has on hand at a time of need is there with reason, purpose and value.”

I hope you’ll take that advice to heart as did I. I didn’t have frankicense oil, but I did have frankincense resin, so that’s what I used. I was moved to put in rose petals and lavender flowers, and in one, a few grains of pink salt.

With your ingredients in the center of the piece of cloth, or in the bag, you can tie them up with a few words such as,

“This bag holds the power to restore peace, it brings a good night’s sleep as nightmares cease. As I will so mote it be.”

Put the bag near your head, on a hook above your pillow, next to your bed or even under the mattress.

Sweet dreams.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

List of gemstones:

Agate

Amethyst

Chrysoprase

Hematite

Lepidolite

Malachite

Prehnite

Quartz (clear or smoky)

Rhodochrosite

List of herbs:

Anise seed

Jasmine flowers

Morning glory seeds

Mullein

Purslane

Rosemary

Vervain

List of essential oils:

Frankincense

Lavender

Orange

Rose

Sandalwood

Splendid Poison: The Power of Words

May, 2017

Splendid Poison: The Power of Words

Celtic Triad: Three occasions for one to speak falsehood without excuse: to save the life of one who is innocent, to keep the peace among neighbours, and to preserve the Wise and their crafts.

 

Splendid1

(A stone near Killala, County Mayo, with Ogham writing upon it. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

 

Celtic tales only come to us courtesy of the scholar of the middle ages, who were proud of their manuscripts and the ability to write and illuminate these beautiful, treasured documents. Writing, in the middle ages, was a coveted skill; not something to be taken for granted, as many of us do today.

In contrast, the Celts barely wrote anything down. There are a few scratchings of Ogham here and there, but for the most part, the written word was alien to them. This may seem to go against the supposition, nay the fact, that words were seen as enormously powerful by the Celts. Satirist, poets and bards were revered and respected, even held in awe. A well-known satirist would be accepted into any king’s court at a minute’s notice, because the ruler feared the acid bite of the wordsmith’s tongue, and the damage it could to his reputation and that of his household. It was thought that a well-spoken satire would cause blemishes to appear on the victim’s skin, as an outward representation of the alleged corruption within.

If anything, the lack of Celtic writing supports their respect for words. Words spoken can never be taken back, but the written word may be destroyed; it may be altered, or hidden, or denied. The spoken word is the ultimate weapon as long as there are ears to hear it. A poet may move a room to tears, and this is magic of the moment. Reading that poem at home later is unlikely to have quite the same effect. A sly word in the ear of a gossip may spread a malicious rumour all around town, and who is to say where it originated? Words are powerful, and while you are able to (and encouraged to!) write your own words down, it is important you learn to respect the awesome effect words can have on other people, the universe and of course, yourself.

The poetry

The poetry is a love of mine; more than a hobby, more than a diversion and more than simply stringing words together. Every year I participate in NaPoWriMo, which is the challenge to write a poem a day for a month. Each poem must be entirely new. Making this kind of commitment to yourself is very focusing, and writing poetry in this way prompts you to be aware of everything around you. Searching for inspiration is mindfulness itself; exploring how things are, right now, and recording them with the written word in a form that will entertain others.

poetry is not just about clever form and rhyming schemes. poetry is about telling stories; using the rhythm of words to play your point into the reader or listener’s mind. poetry is about the musicality of language. poetry is about emotion; love and loathing; pain and regret; joy and anticipation. poetry is a vehicle for feelings, hopes and dreams. The Gaelic word that was used for Celtic poets was File (or Fili), which literally means ‘one who sees’. A good poet sees all, and uses what they see to enchant and amuse others.

I and Pangur Ban my cat,

‘Tis a like task we are at:

Hunting mice is his delight,

Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men

‘Tis to sit with book and pen;

Pangur bears me no ill-will,

He too plies his simple skill.

This extract from Pangur Bán, a poem by an anonymous Irish monk from the 9th Century (CE), likens his cat’s hunt for mice to the writer’s own hunt for words. The mice are elusive but the delight in capturing them is beyond measure. poetry is like this. The struggle to find the words that will evoke the exact emotion you are feeling is hard, strenuous, maddening; but the completed poem is so pleasurable, every moment of the struggle is a joy.

poetry is also very cathartic. Pent up emotions can be bad for us, can even lead to physical problems such as ulcers, headaches and high blood pressure, and of course a multitude of mental health problems. poetry gives us a very real outlet for the words we might not be able to say out loud to someone else. It can take us on a journey of recovery or self-discovery. It can be our punching bag, our pillow to cry into and our best friend when we are all alone. Letting someone else read your poetry is a great intimacy, so it can even be helpful in personal relationships or bring you closer to a family member.

But what if you’ve never written before? Well, the best answer to that is to think about what you want to write about, and to read some poetry on that subject. Google ‘poems about…’ and read as many as you can get your hands on. Record the names of poets that inspire you. Examine how the poet strings words together. Do they use rhyme? Is it just a stream of consciousness? Make notes, mental or physical, and try and emulate the style of a writer that resonates with you. Remember, no one is marking you on this. Your poetry is a magic for you and you alone.

Try writing down a list of words that pop up while you are dwelling on your chosen subject. For ‘Bees’ you might have ‘Honey, flowers, pollen, work, joy, summer.’ Form a sentence around each of those words. Now put those sentences into an order that pleases you. Try reading it out aloud; maybe even record it and play it back to yourself. How does it sound? Change it until you are happy with it. Don’t be afraid to edit ruthlessly, but also don’t be afraid to think ‘This is good enough.’ and leave it as it is.

When you have finished your poem, keep it somewhere safe. If you are able and confident enough, keep it on show somewhere so you can be proud of your work. You have just externalised some of your feelings, and used them to create something new in this world. Feel the confidence that washes through you; feel that any negative emotions are diminished by this process, and that positive ones are lifted and highlighted by the power of your words. poetry is a magic that will never end; as long as we have words, we will weave them and give them to each other.

Spell

After reading about the power of poetry, it should come as no surprise that many magical rituals are written in a poetic style. Think of most spells you have seen written down, from any path. Nearly all of them will be in a form of verse. This is because the rhythm of the words helps to focus your mind on the task at hand. This frees up the rest of your mind to channel the magic, or energy required for your spell.

Now Lugh rests his shining head

Now the call to those called “Dead”

The cavalcade of fairy folk

Cernunnos in his winter cloak

Who calls to beasts; the stag, the hound

Who calls the great hunt, starts the sound

Of hooves a-drumming on the ground

Hide so you won’t be found!

The green that rests within the oak

The holly still in winter’s choke

Frantic, bursting to be free

Herne rides the land and sea.

Great lord, great god, great grasping hand

That holds the seasons, holds the land

And holds the reins: the hunt so wild

And every adult, every child

Will know he is abroad this night

As wild wind whip the world in fright

And the Sun stands still.

This is an excerpt from a Winter Solstice ritual I penned a few years ago. The purpose of this section was to focus the male energy in the room and evoke the presence of the male god; the Holly King, Cernunnos or the Green Man: the energy of the forest that goes by many names. The rhythm of the words kept all of us focused on the theme and the intent of the work, and as the pace of the reading increased, so did the energy in the room increase.

Spell craft is all about transformation, as what we are doing when we cast a spell is hoping to change something within our universe. Words are incredibly evocative, and with the skill of a poet, you can use your words to mesmerise and enchant, focus and drive, predict and prophet, calm and soothe, confuse and befuddle, impassion and allure.

You can also use the shapes of words as well as their rhythm to create magic. Each letter of a word can become the first letter of the line of a spell. Written down, this can intensify your intent and focus your energy more specifically.

Heal my friend and make her well

Ease her pain with my kind spell

Aid her now to health and light

Let her feel the sun so bright.

This is a very simple little rhyme where the capital letters on the left hand side read HEAL. Chanted over and over, the word HEAL becomes the subconscious and conscious focus of the practitioner, making it the undisputed focus of this spell.

In Irish literature, spells and magic are used for transformations, shape changing, cursing, sleep, healing and prophecy. Mogh Roith, the blind druid of Munster, used his words to control the weather and put fear into the hearts of his enemies.

I cast a spell,

on the power of cloud,

may there be a rain

of blood on grass,

let it be throughout the land,

a burning of the crowd,

may there be a trembling

on the warriors of Conn.

Splendid2

(Excerpt from The Siege of Knocklong, circa 15th century CE, translation copyright Seán Ó Duinn, 1992, image of illuminated Irish text freely available at http://www.isos.dias.ie/)

There is a sort of calm viciousness to these words, a sense that the fury of the druid is being focused fully into these words. The words themselves are well thought out, sparse and undecorated. They speak the druid’s intent and nothing more. There is no room for misinterpretation.

In your own magic, you should always make sure your intent is clear. Your words are a fantastic tool to do this. Wiccans (and others) use the phrase ‘an it harm none’ meaning ‘as long as nobody gets hurt’. This phrase is often used as a disclaimer in spell or ritual, to ensure that no ‘monkey’s paw’ situation arises; the magic will occur without detriment to anyone. The only danger with such a readily repeatable phrase as this is it can become stated by habit rather than with intent, thus losing its protective power. This is why your own words are so powerful, because they come from a place deep within you, and carry your magic out into the world.

Song

Brigid, who is also known as Persephone

Rises like an epiphany

From the womb of Winter’s death.

These are the opening lines to a song I wrote whilst walking home just before Imbolc about ten years ago. I was in a very suburban setting, houses and pavements and telegraph poles, but the sun was milky white in a hazy blue sky, and the January chill was offset by a warming sense of the approaching spring. There were blackbirds, Lon Dubh, calling and shouting, and even a wren chattering angrily as I invaded its territory. I remember feeling overcome with joy and gratitude that I could be a part of this burst of life, and I started humming. The tune was quickly recorded onto my phone, and later it became a full song that spoke of the world awakening after winter, both outside and within yourself. You can hear the song here:

This burst of inspiration is often called Awen by the druids, and trust me, it is an elusive but wonderful feeling. Even songs I am particularly proud of have not stemmed from true Awen but from everyday occurrences, emotional epiphany or often, simple hard graft. Awen does not come when called, indeed, if anything, it calls to you. Thankfully, there is plenty of inspiration in everyday life for even the most jaded of songwriters!

In the last chapter we examined the use of music as a magical tool, in particular drumming and chanting. I appreciate that not everyone who reads this will be able to compose and write a song, but if you can appreciate the form within poetry, and the magic within the words of a spell, then you can understand and revel in the sorcery of song.

I’ve often been at a group ritual where the leader bursts into song, often something quite simple such as Earth my Body so that others can join in if they wish. The sudden transformation either from spoken word or simple silence to entrancing music is a beautiful shock to the system. It lifts our souls and literally, physically moves our minds onto a different plane. Brain waves can be affected in various ways by audio stimulus, particularly music. Relaxing music increases the frequency of alpha waves, which is the same increase seen when moving into a meditative state. Increasing the alpha wave frequency normally lowers the frequency and amplitude of the ever present beta waves, which reduces stress, anxiety and tension.

So the magic of song is not just a thing of legend, but a widely documented scientific fact. Maybe the Dagda’s harp did put folks to sleep, by over-stimulating their brains and inducing a theta wave state just like that of a dream.

Think of a song that means something to you. Why is it important? Is it the tune or the words? Where were you when you first heard this song? What was happening? How did you feel? How does hearing it make you feel now? Do you associate this song with anyone person in particular? Do you share this song with others or listen to it alone? Does it evoke a particular smell or vision? Write these thoughts down and I think you will be surprised at just how much one song can affect you.

I remember listening to the album Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin when I was very young, just a child. I used to take my walkman to bed with me and fall asleep listening to ‘In the Light’. Even now, that song still makes me think of late, summer evenings, drifting off with the first touches of my dream world flickering around my eyelids. The haunting opening notes combined with the soaring vocal never fail to lift my spirits, and because I have enjoyed that song all through growing up, it feels timeless to me, like it can transport me back to any moment in my past that I care to explore.

Now that I write songs and perform them for others, I do try to make them as magical as possible, both in lyric and melody, but it is incredibly difficult to pour yourself whole heartedly into every single piece. Some songs are already alive and just waiting for you to pluck them from the ether. These ones flow and tease then blossom under the gentlest of care. Others lurk in the darkness, refusing to be finished and hiding their hooks and riffs in great, frustrating shadows. Being a bard in the musical sense is both a great joy and an endless struggle, and as such is rewarding and exhausting in equal measure.

A bard in druidic terms is also a keeper of history; a teller of tales. The British Druidic Order tells us that ‘The central principle of the bardic path is communication, chiefly through word and sound’.

Osborn Bergin, in his 1970 piece Irish Bardic poetry, quotes a lecture from 1912:

For we must remember that the Irish file or bard was not necessarily an inspired poet. That he could not help. He was, in fact, a professor of literature and a man of letters, highly trained in the use of a polished literary medium, belonging to a hereditary caste in an aristocratic society, holding an official position therein by virtue of his training, his learning, his knowledge of the history and traditions of his country and his clan. He discharged, as O’Donovan pointed out many years ago, the functions of the modern journalist. He was not a song writer. He was often a public official, a chronicler, a political essayist, a keen and satirical observer of his fellow-countrymen

So as a songwriter, is it our responsibility to observe and tell the tales of the world around us? I would say that’s certainly true for folk musicians, but most modern pop music strays far from this path. Of course, that makes the magical music stand out all the more sharply, so perhaps this is no bad thing. My only concern is that as a society we have lost reverence for the true art of song, as it is so readily available in a canned, commercial variety that has lost so much of its original mystery and wonder.

Hopefully after reading about poetry, spells and songs you have a more respectful attitude towards your own words. Perhaps as you write your journals, you will think about the words you jot down, and perhaps try to order some of your magical experiences into verse that will remind you of the day later? Or perhaps you will simply be more careful and wise in your choice of words to others, understanding that words, once spoken, can never be taken back.

As we move towards the end of this volume, it should be clear that every chapter emphasises the need for personal responsibility. Your words are your power made manifest; do not abuse that power, and do not let others do the same to you.

If you enjoyed this chapter, the whole book is available here.

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

January, 2017

 

Calling Kali-Ma

spell

(Kali The Awakener from the Daughters of the Moon deck)

Merry meet.

We are coming into some dark times, and one of the most powerful and the most frightening of the dark goddesses is Kali-Ma. While she represents the Dark Mother, this article is focused on Her as the warrior. In the Hindu tradition, Kali is the Goddess of death, destruction and resurrection. She is fierce. She wears a belt of skulls, there is blood dripping from her mouth as she stands upon the body of her husband, holding up his severed head and, in another hand, the machete she used.

Kali was created to destroy the demons taking over the world and she was so good at, she couldn’t stop. Call it mania if you must. As the gods saw her destruction unfold, they realized she needed to be stopped and sent her spouse, knowing well that it was a suicide mission. When she killed him, she stopped her rage and was filled with remorse. Her red tongue is extended, which in India, is recognized as a symbol of humility.

Kali Ma works well as a reminder of the immense power we hold, and the need to remember to limit our rage to be appropriate and not too destructive.

Looking at current events, Kali has come to America.

As the destroyer of worlds, the oracle of sacred change, she has brought down our world with a shocking smack; all the illusions we had about the land of the free and the home of the brave were banished on election night.

We are not who we thought we were. Now we must get ready to stand in her fires of transmutation. We need them,” wrote spiritual storyteller Vera de Chalambert in an article appearing in Rebelle Society.

There is a great yearning for change and de Chalambert stressed that rather than move out of the dark into the more comfortable light, we need to provide a space for difficult feelings to come and rest. To grow spiritually, we must enter the deepest, darkest depths of despair without hope, without light, without knowing. It is there that the darkness will heal.

[T]he wound is the gift,” she said. No spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down.

Kali demands everything and takes it. She is the Wrathful Goddess. She is the psychic force of menstruation – the cycle of destruction that comes before fertility. She teaches us that pain, sorrow, death, decay and destruction are not overcome by denying their existence or by trying to explain them away. These are part of life and we must accept them.

Working with her, we can “get our Kali on.” We can learn to be like her. Fierce. The protective mother. We will sit in the womb of the night, awaiting our rebirth. Her gift is freedom.

RITUAL:

This ritual was presented in “The Dark Goddess: Dancing with the Shadow” by Marcia Starck and Gynne Stern (The Crossing Press, 1993) and is reprinted here with permission.

While there are various ways to work with Kali, this ritual is being used to increase the warrior energy. It is good to do this ritual during the dark moon.

Women come dressed in saris or wearing other Indian clothes, accessories or ornamentation, including swords or other instruments appropriate to Kali-Ma. Red is a good color when working with warrior energy.

The altar should be decorated with skulls and bones, a brazier or incense burner with some joss sticks or other sweet incense, red and black candles, pictures of the Mother in both her benevolent and terrible aspects, and a small bowl with some menstrual blood.

Background music can be sitars or flutes. Women can also bring rattles and drums of any kind to use during the ritual.

The High Priestess or four different women invoke Kali through four Hindu goddesses.

In the East, call Ushas, Goddess of Dawn, to being this new cycle and help us see through illusions and seek the truth.

In the South, call Parvati to bring the fires of purification so we may be cleansed.

In the West, invoke Durga to teach us to look into the dark places in our being so that we may not be afraid.

In the North, call on Saraswati to bring us the wisdom of India, her music and dance, so we may be wise in traditions of the Goddess.

Lastly, call Kali-Ma, Dark Mother, Great Goddess, Createtress of All There Is, Slayer of Demons, Goddess of Destruction, Goddess of Just Revenge.

One at a time, each woman approaches the altar and takes an object such as a sword or skull that exemplifies her interpretation of the warrior energy. With this object, she speaks of her need for Kali’s energy, her work with bringing forth her aggressive side, and her desire to go forth into the world and slay whatever demons of injustice or oppression burden her. She then chants and dances her feelings while the women in the circle drum or play other instruments.

When everyone has had a turn, the High Priestess dances among the women, blessing them and putting a drop of menstrual blood on each of them to show that they have been purified through Kali’s energy. The women then sit in a circle and discuss ways of being in the world that will encourage their warrior side. In closing, chant and sing to Kali:

Kali Durga, Na Mo, Na Mo
Kali Durga, Na Mo, Na Mo
(repeat eight more times)

By this ritual, may you come to understand and use the energy of Kali-Ma. You may also choose to adapt it to suit your own personal practice.

Merry part, and merry meet again.

Natomas Craft Notes

December, 2016

Flags, flax, fodder, Frig !

This old Devonshire witch greeting conveys best wishes for the four goods in life: (1) a house (flagstones), (2) clothes (linen was common), (3) enough food (for you as well as your livestock) and (4) a good sex life. No. (4) is taken from the name of Odin’s wife, the Goddess Frig. Frig was the Goddess of conjugal love, so you are not wishing promiscuity on someone. No true Pagan will use Her name in coarse expressions, by the way !

Light a Candle

Whenever a fundie or some other cowan (non-witch) vilifies my religion, I remind myself of the saying “better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Then I do just that – I literally light a candle. It’s amazing how quickly candlelight calms my ruffled feathers ! Then I do something for the Craft.

Craft work comes in four flavors: (1) Work for oneself, (2) Work for others, (3) Work for the coven and (4) Work for the Craft. Here are some examples of the four lines of work:

(1) You have to work your personal Craft before you can do anything helpful along the other 3 lines. This can include study, ritual practice, handicrafts, growing herbs, taking a walk to study local flora and fauna, meditation, or doing inventory, for instance. Doing inventory means I go through my clutter and organize it, getting rid of what I don’t need and making use of what I keep. Getting rid of things can often mean giving them away, putting them where they will do the most good. Inventory is a good way to clean one’s life and make more room in it for the Craft.

(2) Work for others can mean working with a magical partner or with a relative newcomer in the Craft, helping him or her to find source materials, sharing techniques and so forth. As covens grow, it’s a good practice for intermediate witches to buddy-up with people just coming in, and it takes a lot of the burden off your overworked HPS. At the same time, I have profited greatly from partnerships with Craft sisters and brothers operating on a more or less equal level of familiarity. Partners can point out mistakes to each other and help to spur each other to more consistent efforts.

(3) When you have passed your first degree it is time to begin thinking about the state of the coven itself. Sian Airgeaid, for instance, is currently lamed by my own absence, due to the need to find work which took me to Sacramento. This places a high burden on the HPS and means that I can’t always attend ritual occasions. Initiates should be concerned about this and offer to help shoulder some of HPS’s organizational burdens. Work along this third line involves asking questions about where the coven is going, how much it should interact with other covens, how it can best attract and screen new members, how it can acquire more capacious facilities, and so forth.

(4) Work for the Craft as a whole is the proper concern of everyone, whether new or old in the Craft. One should never joke about one’s beliefs, especially to outsiders, but have respect for the Craft’s dignity. You must consider how ‘out’ you want to be. Are you wearing a pentacle (pentagram in a circle) on the outside to attract attention, for instance? If so, you may get more than you wanted, and much of it may be negative or at least uncomprehending. If you are an ‘out’ witch, how far are you prepared to go to answer the ignorant and bigoted about your religion? Don’t forget, also, that if you display the pentacle you become an example of the Craft, so you may have to think twice about flipping people off or otherwise losing your temper. On the positive side, work for the Craft can include getting on the internet and making contact with other witches and Pagans, developing liaisons with kindred spirits out there, as a way of building our much-needed Pagan community. Do consider getting access to the internet, as it is the best way to reach like-minded people while avoiding the sort of local visibility that can invite persecution. There are a lot of lonely solitaries out there waiting to hear from you !

Book Excerpt: Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft by Mabh Savage

December, 2016

Book Excerpt: Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft by Mabh Savage

celtic
Stepping Stones
Celtic Triad: Three candles that illumine every darkness: truth, nature, knowledge.
In magic we look to the elements, the directions and spirits among many, many other things, as a way to quantify and understand the universal energies we are harnessing. In Wicca and other ritual based on a similar foundation, the cardinal points are the focus for an individual or coven to consecrate or cast a circle; North, East, South and West, and their associated elements, respectively Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The practitioner can then go deeper to the aspects of the world associated with each element; birds of the air, or the heat of the summer sun for example.
Let’s go deeper still to understand how the directions and elements represent different parts of human nature, or our own psyche. East is about new beginnings, birth, the start of something. The freshness of a morning breeze moves us towards thinking about the element of air. The carefree and uncontrollable nature of the wind; this translates in ourselves as mischief or playfulness, childishness or embracing our inner child and un-tempered emotions both light and dark. You’ll note that I am careful to point out that each of these aspects has a flip side. There is no good and evil in Celtic Witchcraft. Everything you do has consequences and you have to be prepared for that. It’s up to you to make sure your choices affect your life and the lives of those around you in the way you intend. Hopefully this is a positive one! If you have darker designs, just remember consequences have a way of biting you in the bum when you least expect it.
At some point I’ll provide the obligatory list of elemental correspondences and how you can use them, but it’s important to note that I don’t want you to feel bound by these. Celtic Witchcraft is very much about using your instincts. Rite and ritual, tools and trinkets; these things are not necessary for you, but also they should not be shunned. Choose your own way of working, and expect it to change often, perhaps even daily at first. You are not only a witch; you are a scientist, experimenting with yourself and the world, responsibly but with healthy curiosity and a sense of adventure.
By this point we have accepted that we are a part of a huge universe and a world which seems even huger because we are so close to it, even though in reality it is a tiny speck in the eye of creation. We use directions and symbolism to break this massive, incomprehensible world into smaller chunks that are easier to understand, and as we’ve discussed, we start to relate those pieces of the world to ourselves. How does this benefit us? Why do we need to do this? Ultimately, what’s in it for you?
Well, what do you want? Why are you here? What answer eludes you? What desire is just out of reach? The Celts were seekers not only of knowledge, but of wealth, power and beauty. I’ve found that there is no shame in admitting a desire for something worldly, just as there is certain glory in seeking something divine.
“This is the way of it then” said Lugh. “The three apples I asked of you are the three apples from the Garden in the East of the World, and no other apples will do but these, for they are the most beautiful and have the most virtue in them of the apples of the whole world. And it is what they are like, they are of the colour of burned gold, and they are the size of the head of a child one month old, and there is the taste of honey on them, and they do not leave the pain of wounds or the vexation of sickness on anyone that eats them, and they do not lessen by being eaten forever.” (Gods and Fighting Men: the Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland; Gregory, Lady; John Murray, London, 1910.)
Lugh, speaking here, has just lost his father. Instead of simply killing the culprits, the infamous Sons of Tuireann, he devises a plan whereby the murderers are sent on a mission that will either kill them through its sheer danger and difficulty, or if they somehow succeed, many great and powerful artifacts, such as the apples described above, will be bestowed upon Lugh. Lugh may seem somewhat cold to us; using his father’s death as a vehicle to gain power. But look at it another way. He is distraught. His father, to whom he is very close, has been brutally taken from him. He can exact revenge, or he can use the situation positively. He masters his emotions and moves everyone down a path that ultimately can only end to his advantage.
This is basically how you have to think when you work with magic. You can’t do magic angry. You can’t do magic upset. Your intent has to be pure; not pure as in good or even altruistic! But pure as in unsullied, not tainted by other thoughts and wishes that are roiling around inside your skull. You must master yourself before you can master magic. And that is why, as in all great endeavors, we start small.
If you enjoyed this, Mabh’s book is available on Amazon and other books stores.

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

December, 2016

Yule Spell

marciapentaclewreathornaments

Merry meet.

At Yule, the darkest night before the rebirth of the sun, it is said the Holly King dies and the Oak King is born. A simple spell that echoes that is to gather three dried holly leaves, and using a mortar and pestle, crush them into a powder. On a piece of paper approximately four inches square, write in red ink a single word representing something you wish to give birth to. Add the holly powder and fold, roll or twist the paper up around it. Light it from the flame of a red candle, or by another symbolic means and as it burns in a cauldron or other safe place, see and feel the wish fulfilled, and give thanks.

If you are burning a Yule log, you could add the bundle to the fire, or you could write your intention on a piece of a holly branch and add that to the fire instead.

Merry part, and merry meet again.

WitchCrafting: Crafts for Witches

November, 2016

Plant Wands

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Merry meet.

As the wheel turns to the third harvest, I was moved to harvest some of the energies from the world around me, inspired by the Botanical Spirt Wands made by Rosemari Roast of Walk in the Woods, located in Winsted, Connecticut.

Cleaning up my community garden plot at the end of the season, I gathered a selection of plants, living and dead, adding to it from outside my back door.

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how-to

Making an assorted bouquet of about eight pieces, I wrapped the stems together with fibers. One I wound with twine. For the other, I tied a scrap of novelty yarn at the top and criss-crossed it front and back down the stalks to form a handle. Red ribbon was used to wrap a single tassel of broom corn.

They are being hung upside down until they are fully dried.

If this inspires you, you might consider making a plant wand for each season, or even for each sabbat.

Merry part.

And merry meet again.

SpellCrafting: Spells & Rituals

November, 2016

Knot Magick

spell

Merry meet.

A simple yet powerful way to cast a spell is by putting knots in a cord. It could be for protection, healing, invoking energies or giving yourself confidence. Sailors once had witches put wind into knots, so if they found themselves in a calm, they could untie one of the knots to get wind to fill their sails.

Before beginning, fix your desire firmly in your mind as you feel what its like to have what it is you are asking for.

A round silk cord or other natural fiber is generally preferred, but anything from a shoelace to yarn to ribbon can be used. You might also pick a color to correspond with the spell.

Say, “By the knot of one, the spell’s begun,” as you tie a knot on the far left of the string.

Say, “By the knot of two, my words come true,” as you tie a knot in the far right end of the string.

Say, “By the knot of three, it comes to me,” as you tie a knot in the middle of the string.

Say, “By knot of four, “I’ve opened the door,” as you tie a knot between the left end and the middle knot.

Say, “By knot of five, the spell’s alive,” as you tie a knot half way between the center knot and the one on the far right end of the string.

Say, “By knot of six, this spell I fix,” and tie a knot in between the two on the left end of the string.

Say, “By knot of seven, there is no question,” while tying a knot between the two knots on the right side of the string.

Say, “By knot of eight, it’s now my fate,” and tie a knot to the left of center and the knot to the left of that.

Lastly, say, “By knot of nine, this thing is mine,” and tie the last knot between the center knot and the one to the right of that.

End it with, “So mote it be,” or some similar seal.

To add more power in each knot, after saying the words and while imagining the feel of having the desired outcome, blow your will into the cord as you tighten it.

The knotted cord is then worn or carried with intent, not as a casual accessory. When the spell is over, I recommend burying or burning the cord.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

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.

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