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WitchCrafting: Crafts for Witches

November 1st, 2016

Plant Wands

crafting2

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.

crafting1o

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.

Concepts of Deity

As mentioned last month, divinity can often be a touchy subject.  Ask ten different people what their definition of the divine is and you are likely to get ten different answers.  Is there a God?  Is there a Goddess?  If so what are they like?  Every soul will ask these questions in their lifetime and either accept established doctrine or come to their own conclusions.  Spiritual growth is our quest for understanding of that which is greater than ourselves. And while we may arrive at ideas which are universal, the journey is, by necessity, personal.

Wicca is not a religion that promotes dogma or rigid notions on what deity is or is not.  Instead it offers a general framework of thought that most Wiccans share, but which is by no means written in stone.  Like any pagan path, the Craft embraces diversity.  The most fundamental concept is that of immanence.  In contrast to the monotheistic faiths, Wiccans do not consider their gods or goddesses to be “out there” somewhere.  Rather they are here, in the most immediate sense, and in all things including ourselves.  Transcendent deity is the common idea of a powerful figure in the clouds far removed and above humankind.  Immanent deity is also powerful, but it is not separate.  This is difficult to truly grasp because it is beyond the intellect alone.  One analogy is just as all cells of your body are part of you, we are all part of the divine.  Or to state it another way, we each have an inner God, Goddess, or Higher Self within us upon which we can call because we are part of the whole.  Deity is part of nature, or rather is nature, and as natural beings we are constantly in communion with it if we accept that it is so.

The next basic concept of Wiccan deity is that it is dual: there is a God and a Goddess.  There is wide variation and emphasis within the traditions here, but the basic model is that of complementary forces whose combination produces life as we know it.  Remembering that these are immanent forces, the God and Goddess are not a superhuman man and woman.  We may personify them as such in order to relate to them, but when we speak of Wiccan deities they are first and foremost the most primal of forces in nature.  Their interaction is necessary for life, time, and growth.  Without the light of the sun or the rain from the sky (the God) the seeds of the earth (the Goddess) would lie dormant and sterile.  Though we say God and Goddess there is no gender bias between them.  It would be just as accurate to envision deity as twins of the same sex, as many cultures have done, and arrive at the same ideas.  The important point is that they are dual in order to express their interaction.

Beyond the two teachings of immanence and duality there may be little in common for divinities between individuals in the Craft.  Everyone will attune to these greater forces in their own way and this is as it should be.  Many if not most Wiccans find that they connect with the pantheons of a particular culture.  The God and Goddess are seen as universal deities that can be personified and related to more easily as a particular god or goddess from ancient myth.   For instance, groups with a British Traditional focus may invoke the names of Aradia and Cernunnos.  Classical pantheons may choose Diana and Pan, or Demeter and Dionysus.  The list is endless.  It can also vary with the intent of a particular ritual or magical working.  Perhaps I may call on the Goddess as Brigid at the Imbolc sabbat, but as Venus if I am in need of a love spell.  All of these gods and goddesses are faces of the larger deity they personify and none are incorrect.  Meditation upon the greater forces of God and Goddess is the surest way to find your own connection and know what works for you.

Besides calling on specific deities it is also popular in Wicca to represent the deities according to the archetypes of the Horned God and Triple Goddess.  Both of these motifs were common in ancient mythologies as expressions of fertility and immortality, survival and continuation of life being vital preoccupations.  The Horned God rules the wild forests and the animals therein.  He is the king of all noble beasts who is born at midwinter of the Goddess, grows to maturity to become her partner/consort, and gives his life in the autumn so that life may continue.  His cycle follows the solar cycles and the harvest, and he is reborn each year as the child conceived by his union with the Goddess.  The Triple Goddess reflects the threefold face of maiden-mother-crone, also reflected in the lunar cycles/phases.  The Goddess does not die each year as does the God, but instead shows these aspects in turn as part of the yearly cycle.  She is the maiden in spring, the mother after her union with the God going into the summer, and the crone in the waning months of autumn.   As he is reborn she is also renewed and they are young together once again in the new year.  These patterns are mythological expressions of the cycles of nature that we experience, and their popularity in Wicca is understandable given that they aid us in our attunement with them.

Knowledge of the divine is a goal of any religion.  Wicca may acknowledge deity as an immanent duality, but that cannot answer the question of what the experience of divinity is.  If my deity is immanent, is it a force outside of me or just a higher part of me?  Does calling on the divine entail reaching outside to the universe or within myself?  Are their gods/goddesses/angels/fairies/etc in the world or are they my projections?  I make no claim to have any answers to these questions as I am still seeking answers myself.  And I have a feeling that the answers I arrive at can be different from yours, and we can both be right.  To a certain extent it doesn’t really matter.  Whether the forces we work with in Wicca are inside us or out in the world, we have the ability to harness them for ours and other’s betterment.  In that sense the God and Goddess are most definitely “real” because we can see their effects every day.  I like to think of them as forces I may never comprehend, but that I can work with when in need and learn from at all times.  My Goddess is not above me in judgment, but I sit at her feet in deference as a student to a wise teacher who would seek to learn great wisdom.  May she grant me the understanding that I may prove a worthy pupil.

Journal for the Month of April:

I am gearing up for Beltane at the end this month, and the flowers are finally starting to bloom!  This is truly a beautiful time of the year (excepting my allergies), and I am really aiming to stop and smell the roses so to speak.  Even in hard times there is so much beauty in nature that we can enjoy for free.  Sometimes I find it even more important to see these things when things are tough, because it helps me to remember that there is a greater world out there and maybe my problems aren’t as long-lasting as they feel at the moment.

Anyways, I should have more to report next month, I have a vacation coming up in which I plan to cram as much reading and meditation as possible.  I think I’ll throw a little bit of gardening in there too; my herb stocks are quite low!  Here’s wishing a merry Beltane to all!

Until next month, blessed be! )O(

Candle Crafting

 

 

candles

 

 

Merry meet!

Candles are a symbol of Imbolc, which is also known as Candlemas. With some advance planning, you could make your own this year.

The easiest way is to buy beeswax sheets and roll of square-braid wick. (The larger the finished candle will be, the larger size wick you’ll want.)

You simply cut the sheet as wide as you want the height of the candle to be. A straight edge and a craft knife work well, but other items in your kitchen will also suffice. Cut the wick about an inch longer than the wax.

With a blow dryer, warm up one end of the sheet. Place the wick close to the edge and carefully fold the end of the wax over it and press it down. Warm the whole sheet, which will make it easier to roll the candle. (Candles can be made without the blow dryer as long as you are not working in cold conditions.) Carefully roll up the candle as tightly as possible, checking to make sure the edges are straight. Gently press the end of the sheet into the candle to seal it. Clip the wick to about 1/4 inch before lighting.

Concentrate on your intent while making your candles, perhaps chanting or first casting a circle. Dried herbs or scented oils can be sprinkled onto the wax before rolling.

With no previous experience, my first time I made several sets of votive-sized candles in the four directional colors that have served me well. I find it meaningful when the candles on my altar are ones that I’ve made.

Other candles that might interest you can be made by melting wax and pouring it into a mold or container. Pre-made candles can be customized by dipping them in wax to which oils, colors, herbs and crystals have been added.

A word of caution: wax is extremely flammable.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

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.

Northern Star Rite

As we approach the Yule season, we are reminded that although we have been in the dark half of the season, we will always return to the light. The Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the return of the sun. Our days will continue to grow longer, and our nights will become shorter. It is a time of quiet reflection, but also joyous celebrations of winter.

This rite is in honor of the North Star that brightens the winter night and offers its power of guidance to all that accept it. The North Star can be found in many traditional stories of the winter holiday season, so this rite may be a comforting childhood reminder of the power of the brightest star in the night sky.

Gather with friends to perform this ritual on an evening before the Winter Solstice. This rite is written as if it would be too cold to perform outside, like it is here in Maine in December! However, you can certainly do all of this ritual outdoors as weather permits.
Disclaimer

Please use caution when burning candles and incense. Never leave candles or incense unattended or in the reach of small children or curious pets. Also, please use caution when handling ritual blades and burning candles. Inform participants ahead of time about the use of incense, and check on possible food allergy issues.

Supplies
Black altar cloth
Small bowl of water
Small bowl of salt
Incense burner with trivet
Charcoal tablet
Loose pinon pine resin
Feather
Athame or ritual blade
Chalice of milk
Plate of star-shaped cookies
One white taper candle in holder
Two red and white striped candles in holders
Several tea lights in holders
Matches
Markers
Thin ribbon and scissors
Gentle, instrumental music
Basket of wooden cut-outs of stars with holes pre-drilled for a hanging ribbon
Altar set-up

Spread out the black altar cloth on the altar. Place the white taper candle in its holder on the center of the altar. Place the bowl of salt (representing earth) to the left of the white candle and the bowl of water (representing water) on the right of the white candle.

Add the incense burner to the left side of the altar and place an unlit charcoal tablet on it (representing fire). Make sure to place the incense burner on a trivet to prevent heat damage to your altar. Have the pinon pine resin (representing air) handy nearby.

Also add the ritual blade to the left side of the altar. Place the chalice of water to the right side of the altar, along with the feather. Have the plate of cookies somewhere on the altar if there is room.

Place one of the red and white striped candles on either side of the altar. These candles represent the God (left) and the Goddess (right).

Place the tea lights in their holders and place them safely around the room. Use enough so you can turn off all the electric lights and still see and safely maneuver around the ritual space.  The tea lights represent the twinkling, starry sky. Light the tea lights right before you are ready to begin.

Rite

Lead the group in a grounding and centering breath exercise.

Sprinkle some of the salt into the bowl of water, and stir three times with your ritual blade or athame.

Light the charcoal tablet and place on the incense burner. Wait until the tablet is smoking, and then add a small amount of the loose incense on to it.

Have the first participant to volunteer approach you at the altar. Dip your finger into the water and draw the shape of a star on the forehead of the participant.  Then use the feather to move the incense smoke in their direction. Repeat with all participants (ending with yourself) while repeating:

Charcoal lit and incense burn

Salt and water stirred in turn

Earth, water, fire and air

Blessed in the name of the sacred pair

Once everyone has been cleansed and blessed, join together around the altar and take each other’s hand. Cast the circle by saying together:

Hand to hand, this circle is cast

Be us not in the now

Yet not in the past

From above and below

To dare and to know

Within and without

To whisper, to shout

As the Gods will it

So mote it be

Take a moment to enjoy the energy flowing between you all, and then release your hands.

You can call the four elemental quarters here if you like, but it is not necessary.

Light the Goddess candle (striped candle on the right side of the altar) and invoke the Goddess with spontaneous words.

Light the God candle (striped candle on the left side of the altar) and invoke the God with spontaneous words.
Drawing in the Star Power

Participants should find a comfortable spot to sit or lay down. Start playing the meditation music.  Add more incense to the charcoal, if desired.

Lead the participants through a meditation. Have them imagine themselves standing in a snowy, flat landscape, where are compelled to gaze at the magnificent, clear night sky. The sky is full of beautiful, sparkling stars, yet one stars stands out from the rest. This is the North Star. Spend some time developing the scene for the participants. Don’t rush things. Let the description naturally come to your mind’s eye and then describe it out loud to the group. When you’ve reached a full description, ask them to open their eyes.

Pass around a basket of thin wooden cut-outs of stars and encourage everyone to take one.  Then, pass around some markers.

Now, ask them to imagine themselves back at the landscape again. This time, they should imagine reaching out their hands and drawing the energy gently down from the North Star and into themselves.  Explain to them that the North Star’s energy is a guiding energy. Ask them to think about where they need guidance in their life.

Allow several minutes of time to pass, before asking them to open their eyes again and hold their stars. Ask them to write down on the wooden stars what they would like guidance on. When everyone is ready, have everyone gather around the altar, and light the middle white taper candle on the altar.  Ask everyone to hold their star between the palms of their hands, while reciting together:

Brightest star of the dark, night sky,

And kin to the sun in the daylight hour,

We reach out to you from on high,
And wish to honor your power.

Finding that within and that without,
Which guides our hearts and minds,
We follow you without any doubt,
Beyond the realm of places and times.

We take your strength within ourselves,
Hold fast to your rays of light,

Where our spirit and hope truly dwells,
With the sincerity of new sight.

We look upon your shining glow,
In need of wisdom, a path we seek
Please help us go, we must know,

At this night hour of your peak.

So mote it be!

Invite participants to come up to the altar, one-by-one and share with the group about how they plan on using their star energy to guide them. You can seal their star tokens by dripping a few drops of wax from the white taper candle onto the tokens and leaving them on the altar to dry. Be careful not to get any candle wax on yourself or the participant.

Allow the tokens to dry before moving them again. Invite the participants to tie a red ribbon on the star for hanging in a Northern-facing window at home.

When everyone is ready, pick up the chalice of milk and hold it out in front of you, saying:

We drink to the Gods, fair and true.
We drink to our kin, those we know and knew.
We drink to the evening sky and the stars so bright.
We drink to the slumbering earth and the cold, dark night.

We drink to honor the moment and times past.

We drink to change the future and help our magick last.

Blessed be!

Pass the chalice around the room and enjoy! Pour the remainder on the ground outside later.

Pick up the plate of cookies and hold it out in front of you, saying:

We partake in the honor our constant companion, the North Star.

Pass the plate around the room and enjoy! Toss the remaining food on the ground outside later.

Give thanks to the God and Goddess in any way you see fit.

Dismiss the four elemental quarters, if you called them.

When you are ready, gather around the altar once more and take each other’s hands, saying:

Hand to hand, this circle is broken.

Let us return to the now,
As our magick has been spoken.
Let us find harmony in the work we’ve done,
With greater good and harming none.

So mote it be!

Like many others my age, the first witch I saw on TV was Samantha on the show Bewitched. But there was real life witch in my area whom I saw on TV several times. Jeffrey B. Cather RN, better known as Lady Circe of Toledo, OH, was respected by the media when they turned to her as the unofficial representative of the Pagan community. She was well spoken, knowledgeable and had an air of leadership about her. When I saw her on TV in the 70s and 80s, I was not yet studying the old ways, but it was in the back of my mind and the knowledge that such people existed kept the spark of my interest alive. When she passed away in 2004, I read she was a WW II veteran and since this was before the VA decision to add the pentacle as a symbol of belief, I’ve wondered if her headstone was ever changed.

Shortly after I was hired by the Postal Service in 1994, I saw a documentary called “Witches, Werewolves and Vampires.” It was more on the lighter side, but I was intrigued by what the Witches were saying about a magical nature centered religion which included a goddess. This was the moment I decided to see if what the Witches were saying was true and if this was something for me. Its funny how the words and attitudes of someone we never meet and who have no idea we exist can change our lives, so perhaps our words and attitudes can in turn affect people we will never meet and may not even know they exist.

I looked in the library in Port Clinton, OH where I was working at the time and found a book, the name of which I have long ago forgotten. It claimed to be about witchcraft, but with instructions to self initiate that included saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards three times at midnight and making a wand stuffed with a blood soaked cotton ball, it sounded weird even in my naiveté. Fortunately it disappeared never to return before I could check it out. Perhaps someone was keeping me from starting out with misinformation.

Eventually I found a few useful accurate books at the library and bought some at a bookstore in another town. But I yearned for contact with a like minded person, someone I could learn from, ask questions, and gain understanding. There was a woman on my mail route I wanted to talk with as she received metaphysical catalogs, had a stained glass pentacle on her door, stickers on her truck reading “witches heal” and “born again pagan” and had a banner in her window wishing “Blessed Samhain.” One day she was sweeping her sidewalk, so I stuck up a conversation, complimenting her on her Halloween decorations. She replied that it was important to her as she was a Witch. I replied that I was a newbie Wiccan and she offered to be of help.

I learned so much from Soraya. She explained the difference between Witch and Wiccan and elaborated on her path of Hedgewitchery. She was the first other Pagan I had met in person, so being a newbie, I tended at first to hang on her every word, something she discouraged. Instead, she encouraged me to listen to different views, try different things and see what worked for me. There was an author whom I idolized at the time, but my mentor had a rather negative opinion of her. I was able to step back and be objective about that author as well as any other. We were comfortable disagreeing agreeably and I never felt pressure to agree with or imitate her. I was a fan of the TV show Charmed and she thought it was stupid. She thought the movie The Craft insulted our religion but I could watch it over and over although I understood how those not familiar with our ways could get the wrong idea. Practical Magic was a movie we both enjoyed.

Soraya encouraged me to interact with other Pagans. She started a local meet and greet called Pagans in the Pub and invited me to come. I was too reluctant to do so and unfortunately after two meetings, it stopped due to lack of interest. She was a member of a Cleveland, OH based group and drove to their monthly meetings. We talked about me riding with her sometime but again I was reluctant. Considering the problems I have now finding the time to participate in Pagan groups, I wish I would have went.

I did manage to find other Pagans online and she pointed the way. She recommended the Witch’s Voice and a few other quality sites as well as setting up her own Pagan message board, Soraya’s Witch’s Tavern. I was one of the first members at her invitation and as I sat at the library internet computer pondering a user name, it came to me, Postalpagan, a name I still use 12 years later. It amused me when she said that some of the other members asked her if it was a reference to the term “going postal”, and she replied that I was her mail carrier. When someone asked her how she changed her hair color like one of the girls in The Craft did, she replied that she started by going to the drug store and buying a box of hair color. One Imbolic morning I knocked on her door because I had been feeling like I had way too much coffee since an early morning ritual. She went through a checklist of the steps of ritual and when she got to grounding and centering at the end, I realized my omission. Once I followed her advice to perform the missing step, I felt myself calm down. One thing she would not do was let me join her in ritual as she said she was strictly a solitary.

Her proudest moment during the time I knew her was the front page story on her in the local newspaper. She had called them about ten days earlier to point out the error in a Halloween article that claimed the Celtic god of the dead was Sam Hain and Samhain was named after him. After she replied yes to a newspaper staffer’s question if she was Pagan, she agreed to an interview at home. The article with a photo of her on her porch swing was published October 23, 1999 in the Port Clinton News Herald. It was spot on both in regards to her personally and our religion. Only one of my coworkers at the Post Office criticized her as eccentric and I defended her even though I was still in the broom closet. In spite of her fears, she did not receive any threatening phone calls or hate mail. I walked into the newspaper office to praise both the article and their willingness to be open minded. Sadly, I found out a few years later from another newspaper staffer, who was Pagan, that they received so many complaints that the editor decided that they would never run another piece on anything Pagan.

A little over two years later, I transferred to Clyde, OH and said goodbye to Soraya thanking her for her help which had meant so much. She encouraged me to keep learning and practicing as well as remaining active at the Tavern. But she soon closed the message board and I heard she moved to North Carolina. I saw her on the membership listing of Witchvox under that state for a while, then she disappeared and repeated web searches have found nothing. If perchance she is reading this, I would like to give her a big thank you for being my mentor and my dream is that someday I could be as helpful to a new Witch somewhere.

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