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Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

April 1st, 2018

Bright Blessings!

We have “sprung forward”, and are rejoicing that the daylight hours are longer. Some of us are STILL adjusting to the time change, however happy we are about it. Spring officially starts in four days from the time I am writing this, and many have already had their Sabbat celebrations for it.

Like many others, I am coming out of hibernating with the warmer, longer days. My energy levels have increased, and my mood is more enthusiastic. I have been a LOT more busy, and that means that I have forgotten to pace myself. As a result, I have had a couple days when absolutely nothing got done, and I sat around a whole lot.

One thing that has gotten done is massive patio cleanup, and hand fertilizing of the raised garden bed we built some years ago. I have carefully crumbled eggshells, cut up fruit peels, and thrown in both tea grinds, and used coffee grinds.

I am glad I live in modern times and get to “cheat” and throw in store bought soils as well. Soon, peas will be planted in the beds, and after those are spent, pretty flowers, all of which I have seeds for already!

Spring is a big deal at our house!

In Nature, everything is sprouting, and the snowdrops are already glittering through last fall’s dead leaves, on the forest floor. Daffodils are about to sprout, and our crocuses came up first, and soon, fritillaries will follow suit.

Birdsong has returned, and gets louder daily. Squirrels, and bunnies are jumping all over the place, reminding us of how very alive the Earth is. I’ve even seen a couple of mosquitoes already!

Everything in creation from plants, to animals, and even people , are seemingly awakening from Winter’s deep sleep, and are raring to get out in the sunshine and enjoy life!

Some of us spend time outdoors, gardening, and “grooving with Nature”, as my Priest puts it, but are more into the arts. We create, we dance, we enjoy music and theatre. Many of us LOVE to read! What is better than a nice book, and a hot cuppa’ in a cozy room with Spring light streaming in?

Those who are prolific readers are in for a real treat!

A new book was published recently, and let me tell you, it’s an exquisite read.

It’s called Megge of Bury Down (The Bury Down Chronicles) (Volume 1), which is part of The Bury Down Chronicles by Rebecca Kightlinger and is set in Thirteenth Century Cornwall, England. It is magical, chock full of mystery, the Old Ways, and Family Traditions. This book draws you in immediately, and Kightlinger’s descriptive narrative voice is so deep, you actually FEEL like you are THERE, watching in person. The firelight flickering in the darkness is so well detailed, you can almost smell the woodsmoke, and the faces of the women are so well described, you can almost reach out and touch them. You need this book, like , yesterday. Step into Bury Down with Kightlinger’s book.

 

 

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with Kightlinger via emails, for an in depth, very intimate interview, in which she speaks not only of her book, but her own background, and women’s issues.

First, please have a look at her amazing website:

https://www.rebeccakightlinger.com/

 

And next enjoy the interview! Afterwards, this month’s working will be provided below.

 

Interviewing Rebecca Kightlighter

 

Saoirse (S)– Bright Blessings, Rebecca. First, tell me a bit about yourself and your work!

 

Rebecca Kightlinger (R)My book, Megge of Bury Down (The Bury Down Chronicles) (Volume 1), is about the daughter of a midwife in medieval Cornwall. Megge’s mother and aunt– a healer and a seer, respectively—each hold an ancient grimoire that they must pass down to their daughters, who will then become their apprentices. The books are companion tomes that together enable the women to harness the knowledge and wisdom of every previous heir to the books. They are able to query these ancestors in order to learn the secrets that enable them to serve the people of their village. The problem is that although Megge wants nothing more than to become a woman of Bury Down and be truly a part of her family, she is frightened of her mother’s book. When the time comes for her to accept it, she refuses. 

The stakes are very high for Megge’s mother, so she and Megge’s aunts must bring Megge to accept her charge and assume her role as a woman of Bury Down.

The themes are the desire to belong while being unable or unwilling to do the one thing that will make you a part of the group; the desire to find and follow your own path despite pressure to follow one laid down for you; and the closeness that can unite two people of different generations, the younger being able to learn from the elder, who brings wisdom and unconditional love.

I was an obstetrician gynecologist for many years; but in  2010, a serious injury to my right hand brought that work to an abrupt end. It was then that I started writing fiction. One day in 2011, when I was writing another story, letting scenes play out in my mind and describing them on paper, I saw not New York City or Amsterdam, where that story was set, but a pastoral scene: a grassy hill where sheep were grazing and a girl dressed in rough, heavy woolens was sitting on a big rock at the top of the hill. The girl seemed to look right at me and said, “When you’re done with those Dutch people, I want to go next.” And when I had finished the other story, she showed up again and just started telling me about her life and the lives of her ancestors. At the time, I knew very little about Cornwall and even less about the middle ages. But Megge spoke to me clearly, and with humor, showing me the scenes, and I felt this was something very real, though I had never before experienced anything quite like it.

Having been a visitor to Lily Dale spiritualist community many times, I called a medium, Jackie Avis, to talk to her about it. We had a telephone visit, and even before we started to talk about Megge, Jackie said she was seeing near me a big, very old book with a heavy wooden cover carved with symbols. She perfectly described The Book of Seasons, the book Megge was so afraid of. Our long conversation set my mind at ease, making me comfortable inviting Megge into my life. 

I knew that in order to tell this story well, I would need some serious writing skills, so I applied to The University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program. Poet Annie Finch was the director, and we spoke by phone. It was she who accepted me into the program.

In the summer of 2013, I went to Cornwall to visit the place I thought might be the region Megge had described as home. Arriving at Botelet Manor, where I was staying, was an incredible experience. Everything Megge described was right there. There is even a house on the manor that had been there during Megge’s day. The remains of Bury Down hillfort, built thousands of years ago, stood at the site Megge had described as the healer’s grove, where women came for healings at night. The church, the village location, and the castle were all as I had seen as she spoke.

Writing this book has been the most rewarding experience, and I hope this comes through in the book. 

 

S- I will add, I am a psychic advisor/seer/reader, or whatever people choose to call me also. I am thrilled you spoke with a seer! I refer to this as a gift of spirit, as do many others. I feel we all have gifts of spirit including, speaking with the dead, healing, comforting the grieving, ability to use prayer to intervene in other’s lives, etc. What are your personal beliefs and views about oracles/seers?  Do you feel you have gifts of spirit, and if so, what are they? It sounds like a spirit showed up and told you her story! Is that right? What is your spiritual path, and how does that influence your writing of this book, and your writing in general?

 

R- My mother and great-grandmother had strong spiritual gifts, and it may have been their openness to spiritual communication that has enabled me to accept this communication without fear, judgment, or censure. Like you, I think we all have the ability to perceive the presence of some who are now, as Megge says, in the ether. I sometimes feel my mother or father very near and have had communication of a sort with my mom through dreams after she passed. She told us in her final days that she would “stay nearby as long as possible” to comfort us after she passed, and when she did, I felt her spirit in the room with us for a good long time. It was a sense of joy I’ve never forgotten. 

I believe strongly in the power of intention and prayer, and I know that people’s needs are somehow made clear to the person who can help. I’ve been in that situation many times as a physician, and I know it’s true.

Is Megge a spirit? I can’t say. All I know is that when I’m ready to write, she seems to come and take me through her story. I don’t see or hear her with my senses, but her words come through me onto the page along with scenes as clear as any you’d see in a movie. And the only time this happens is when I’m at my typewriter or keyboard, ready to write. Her home, her village, and all the people in her world are just as vivid and consistent as anything in this world. 

I don’t know what my spiritual path is or where it is leading. One thing for sure is that my daily life is much more solitary that it ever was, and this feels right. It’s not lonely or boring in any way. The writer’s life seems to suit me now, where it would have been wrong for me before this. I used to have a busy practice, which I loved, and I worked with and taught some wonderful, caring, skilled, intelligent people. My patients, mostly middle-aged and elderly women for the last ten years of my practice, were smart, canny, funny, and insightful. I loved being their doctor. I remember talking to a lot of them about matters of the spirit, and I saw that as we all got older we seemed more in touch with it. It stopped seeming like something outside ourselves and became a source of both comfort and, well, interest, for lack of a better word. As I and my patients and friends began to experience more of the spiritual, we began to talk more openly about it and realized that we were having many of the same experiences. 

Other authors, I’ve learned, experience a similar kind of communication in their writing. One young man related in a lecture that when he sat down to write, he would close his eyes and see his narrator arrive at the door and ring the bell. He would let her in, and she would tell him her story. At a recent book-signing event, I asked the author how he invented his characters, and he kind of laughed and shook his head. “They just show up,” he said. “They do whatever they want. I had no control over this story.” Other writers have no idea what this means. They construct charts and plot points and have the beginning, middle, and end mapped out before they even start their story. Many search newspapers for inspiration or ideas, or capture snippets of conversation that they write down and build a story around. That sounds harder to me, more cognitive, but is probably a more efficient use of writing time!

For me, the cognitive part begins after a scene is down. I research the era and place–I visited the place Megge described–and cut and splice scenes, sometimes changing names or details where needed. But I don’t change the overarching story. I stay true to what I’m seeing so the story can continue to move forward. It may sound funny, but I want my narrators to trust me. I want the narrators who are waiting in the wings to tell their stories to know that I won’t mess with them too much. 

It feels like there are countless narrators/spirits out there waiting to tell their stories and searching for someone who can “hear” them. Is this how we return to the living world? Through a storyteller? Is this why many stories somehow just ring true? I can’t say. The first novel I wrote was narrated by an entire town. I had asked my husband for a manual typewriter for Christmas one year. He bought me an Olivetti, and I sat down at it for the first time ever and had no idea what to write. So I closed my eyes and thought, “Who has the story?” And in seconds, probably thirty or forty people showed up in my mind’s eye, all looking like working-class people and farmers from the 1930s, and all jostling to be the one to tell the story. It seemed they had all come back to tell their part of a horrific event that involved all of them but that that none of them knew the whole story of. Each one ended up telling his or her part, often interrupting each other and correcting details. Every night, at 8 pm, I sat down to write. For an entire year. And the whole story came out, all the details that had been kept secret. When it was done, those narrators disappeared. I’ve not heard from them again. One day, when Megge’s story is done, I’ll go back to that one. I hope I will have developed the skills by then to tell it well.

And this is probably much more than you wanted to hear! But it is unusual for me to be able to relate this kind of information about myself and my writing to someone who will understand and not judge. I’ll be very interested to learn if others have this experience and how they deal with it. How it first started and how they reacted. To me, it felt natural, inviting. I’ve never questioned it, and I hope it never stops

 

S- As somebody with a medical background, how does the past misunderstanding of illness, combined with superstition strike you? What do you have to say about it? Have you ever seen similar attitudes in today’s world?

 

R- There have always been and probably always will be superstitions about illness. Back in the Middle Ages, when so little was known about the body in health or illness, it’s understandable that people would confuse association with causality. The scientific method hadn’t yet been designed to distinguish between the two. So, when a patient made a spontaneous recovery from illness after taking a remedy or submitting to bloodletting, charms, or prayers, the association of that treatment with recovery meant that it must have worked! Word went out, and the treatment became more widely used.

My feeling is that even today there are treatments that work but whose mechanism of action we don’t understand despite considerable scientific research. Additionally, there are many treatments and remedies that might be beneficial but that will never be adequately studied simply because no one has a sufficient stake in the results of controlled, double-blind studies. And if the research might show that the product doesn’t work, it’s a gamble. For this reason, some approaches that are considered “superstitious” or “magical” may never be scientifically proven safe and effective, even if they are. 

But, while superstitions in healing can sometimes result in harm, I’m less concerned about that than I am about people harnessing the power of superstition to do ill to the most vulnerable in society. We saw this in Megge’s story just as many have seen throughout history: the most powerful in society using both superstition and strong beliefs against the most vulnerable.

In the worst cases, superstitions are thinly-veiled excuses for committing violent acts. In The Midwife and the Witch, author Thomas Forbes cites “the crowing hen.” From the time of Aristotle until as recently as the late 1800s, a female showing masculine characteristics or behaving “like a man” (i.e., talking) was said to foretell doom. Often, this resulted in the death of the offender.

Whistling maids and crowing hens

Should have their necks wrung early.

(Scheftelowitz, 1913; Jones 1880)

A German proverb prescribed punishment for both hens and women who would dare make their voices heard:

When the hen crows before the cock

and the woman speaks before the man,

then the hen should be roasted 

and the woman beaten with a cudgel. 

(Abbot, 1903)

So, to my mind, the danger of superstition is not so much that the superstition itself will directly harm the believer, it is that others often use the power of belief to control and punish. In the case of Megge and the midwives in her life, someone uses both religious dogma and fanciful beliefs as an excuse to harm both women and children. 

 

S- Attending University in Maine placed you in New England- not horribly far from Salem, Mass. where one of the most famous accounts of witch scare happened. Have you studied this much, or have any insight into it? 

 

R- I’ve studied witch trials from all over the world and in different eras. When I first started looking into the history of this horror, I went to the Cornell University special manuscripts library and studied some original trial transcripts. 

I came away with a picture of ordinary women being tried, often tortured, and put to death after having been accused of witchcraft, sometimes by her neighbors, and often out of fear or retribution. The accusations rarely made sense, and the atmosphere of misogyny and hatred was almost palpable in these documents. Those who controlled communities engaged in witch trials needed a scapegoat for their rage and to control those in their jurisdiction, and this was often either the most vulnerable member of the community or the outsider.

Midwives were often targets of accusations, especially in the Middle Ages, as they treated the most frequently maligned portion of the population–women–and they often did so through techniques and remedies outside the understanding of the medical and religious communities. This made them suspect, and suspicion made them victims.

 

S- Magic is all around us, and in many forms. Your ladies in your book understand this, and practice well. They understand the power of blood bonds, as well as adoptive family bonds. They understand the power of women working together in a man’s world. They understand the power of working in generations. Today’s neo-practitioners are 50/50 in love or hate with this idea. Some shun it, and recognize no elders, believing they are born very powerful and don’t want anybody telling them how to practice. Some like me value our elders, who are passing our craft on to us. This is more ancient, and what the women of Bury Down are doing. I see value in both, personally. In your historic readings, what have you read about passing traditions down? About mentors and students? About family traditions? What examples can you share from history?

 

R- Nearly every profession, skilled trade, and educational or spiritual community relies on one generation teaching the next through both formal, didactic education and mentorship or apprenticeship. The alternative to being thought by someone more skilled or educated is to be an autodidact. People will dispute this, but while I understand that many of us possess innate talents and gifts that we can develop to some extent on our own, I think raw talent needs shaping from the outside, otherwise one’s learning tends to center on readings and teachings that substantiate our own theories and biases rather than challenging or questioning them with an eye to dispelling misconceptions, arriving at a truth, and honing our skills. 

Living by and passing down traditions is documented in religious, cultural, medical, artistic, and every other societal group or profession I can think of. While there are many short-lived splinter groups organized and led by one person, religion and spiritual traditions probably provide the most universal example of laws, rules, mores, and history transmitted to children through their parents, their schools, and their religious/spiritual leaders and teachers, with didactic learning supplemented by sometimes very intimate, inter-generational mentorship in the home. This is documented throughout history in religious texts and in literature ranging from The Iliad to the Mists of Avalon and The Red Tent

Another example of passing down traditions is the oral, storytelling or bardic tradition strikingly manifest in The Mabinogion, a suite of eleven Welsh prose tales passed through generations by storytellers (another profession whose practitioners learned from masters from the preceding generation).

Finally, witchcraft and magic have a long tradition of being practiced by those who draw on ancient knowledge coupled with the skill and insight of a master practitioner. In preparing the manuscript of Megge of Bury Down, I studied numerous grimoires including Picatrix, a compilation of works from the ancient, the medieval and the Renaissance eras, which urges its readers and students to learn from sages: “The wise who are endowed by nature with intelligence never cease nor neglect to seek and inquire that they might learn and understand the secrets of the sages, who sealed them up in their books and wrote them in hidden words, that the aforesaid might search them out by careful investigation until they attain what they desire…” [The Picatrix, Trans. Greer, John Michael, and Warnock, Christopher. Adocentyn Press, 2010, 61.] 

While I am neither witch nor magician, I see in the writings about spiritual practice the value of sages, of teachers, of mentorship. This is the basis of Megge’s story and path. She seeks and finds mentors throughout her life; and this, I believe, is what many people have always intuitively known they’ve needed, have sought throughout history, and continue to seek.

 

S- What that we have not discussed would you like included in my article, please?

 

R- Megge of Bury Down is the story of a young girl growing up in another time and place. It is historical in that it takes place in the past. But it is not really about the history. It is magical realism in that Megge’s family is charged with passing down two grimoires whose power preserves the spirits of their ancestors. But it is not about the genre of magical realism. 

The historical research and the literary technique here serve story: the story of a girl growing up in a family of women. A girl who wants to be one with the mystical women she admires but whose fear and misconceptions keep her apart. A girl who must find the courage to look past her fears to a terrible truth and find a new path. It is about the love, the traditions, and the teaching that unite generations. It is about the women of Bury Down, but it is mainly about unbreakable bonds, crafted over lifetimes, that precede us into each life, sustain us as we find and do the work we came to do, and then guide us into the next. 

 

Many thanks, Rebecca for this amazing interview! Blessed Be!

 

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This Month’s Working

Our next Sabbat after this is published is Beltaine. For the first time in years, I am not hosting!

I’m also not planning to attend Sabbat anybody else hosts!

What will I do with myself for Beltaine this year?”, I wondered.

I thought on it, and was inspired by some things I saw, and decided to send out an appeal to other women to do a One Month Challenge with me instead of a one-time Sabbat rite.

In Wicca Beltaine, May traditions crown a May King and May Queen, and they represent the Goddess and God in ritual, blessing everybody, and bringing life, growth, and in some traditions, sexuality to the people in the ritual.

There are a lot of “Sabbat Pagans” who attend Sabbat, and seemingly forget they are Pagans until the next gathering.

What can I say? It saves time for some folks.

Not everybody has the time, or ability to do lengthy daily, or even weekly devotions. It is easy to assume that we do, but the truth is, for some people, it’s just not happening, and it’s not in any way a choice.

What I thought of was a way to, for 30 days, bless other women, and ourselves, thus blessing, venerating, and adorning the Goddess in each of us women. Collectively, then, we adorn the Mother Goddess through the bodies , hearts , and souls of her daughters, the Earthly representations of her.

The topics brought up in the interview, specifically of abuse of women, and children made me think of an ugly truth. We often focus on abuse men direct at women, and completely ignore the toxic competitiveness we have with one another.
“That bitch thinks she is something, doesn’t she? I’m prettier than her!” Instead of “You go girl! Shake that tailfeather!” We sometimes become jealous that another woman has pride, and we are afraid if she is proud, she will take away the good things about us. Instead, we need to ALL root for one another.

It is not a competition- we should ALL want to help each other succeed.

I see examples of women who are not fat at all get attacked online, and called fat by women who are obviously jealous. Why does this happen? Because we think we don’t look as attractive? Because we would rather she be physically ill and bulimic or anorexic than comfortable in her skin, and healthy?

And why do we make fun of the “scrawny” girls? Maybe they DO have an illness, but this does not mean they should shroud themselves away, unfit to be seen.

Why do we place unfair demands on mothers? If they work, they are accused of putting career before family. If they are stay at home moms, they are accused of being ambitionless freeloaders. If they are tired, and not all made up fancy from keeping up with kids, we accuse them of “letting themselves go”. If they do not want children, they are accused of refusing the “responsibility” of being moms. If they have a lot of kids, we ridicule them, calling them breeders, sluts, and baby factories.

These harsh words do not just come from men. They oftentimes come from other women.

We cannot do this.

We need each other.

We need to build one another up.

This is the inspiration for my working.

Without Further adieu, I would like to share my working with you.

If you would like to, do this working with me.

 

Saoirse’s Solitary 30 Day Adornment of the Goddess/Crowning of the May Queen

For thirty days, do these three things. If you forget a day, oh well, nobody will know!

You may journal every day what you do if you like, but you don’t have to.

  1. For 30 days, give an honest compliment to one woman per day. Build another woman up with your words. Words are mouth magic, and we create whatever we want to with them. Use your words every day to build one woman up to bless, and adorn the Goddess.
  2. Reach out to one woman in the next 30 days, and do something nice for her that will make a difference in her life. It can be small, or great. Maybe you know a lonely woman who loves coffee. Dedicate one day every other week from now on to sitting down to coffee with her. Say you know a woman who is trying to eat healthier. Encourage her, and share recipes with her if she would like that. Say your neighbor loves plants, but says she has no time to garden this year. Gift her with a hanging basket, and offer to help keep it watered if she needs it. What you do to make a difference in one woman’s life can be a great thing or a small thing, but it will make a huge impact.
  3. Finally, do not forget the Goddess in you. It might be easy to do something good for others, but not yourself. It’s time to do one of the kindest things for yourself.

We are often our own biggest, and harshest critics, and while yes, others may tear us down, we sometimes internalize toxic voices, and tear ourselves down worse than anybody else.

Think of something you really find frustrating about yourself. This can be something as simple as age spots on your skin, or something big like, having panic attacks. This is to be a thing that always bothers you. Something you are upset with yourself about.

Now, you are to start forgiving yourself of whatever this is.

This is going to be the most difficult part of the challenge, and it will last beyond 30 days. It may entail deprogramming, tears, or the resurfacing of past aches, but it’s very important.

While we can easily see the Goddess in others, and nurture that, we also need to see the Goddess in ourselves, and nurture that as well.

Enjoy the Spring, Beltaine and being the Goddess you are.

Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

 

 

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times December 2017

Bright Blessings!

With Yule just around the corner, you are likely planning festivities, gatherings, and family nights!

Growing up, of course, my family celebrated Christmas, and large scale was the rule. Everybody sent cards, bought gifts, planned dinners and lunches, and I can say Christmas for many of my family members was one of the biggest events of the year.

After I moved out, and started my own traditions, I scaled back the complicated Christmas festivities, and after converting to Paganism, reduced it further to just a single day for Sabbat. The Winter Solstice is a big deal for me, because I am so happy about the fact the sun will grow stronger, and “be reborn”.

I typically do a firepit fire, and libations alone, although I’ve attended public Sabbat and officiated for friends before.

Many different topics can be explored in Pagan Yule or Winter Solstice observances, but this year, instead if exploring things related to the Wiccan or Heathen male gods rebirth, the topic will be mothers.

Yule and Mothers Night

Anglo Saxon Pagans, according Bede, writing in the 8th century:

… began the year on the 8th calends of January [25 December], when we celebrate the birth of the Lord. That very night, which we hold so sacred, they used to call by the heathen word Modranecht, that is, “mother’s night”, because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night.”

They supposedly venerated the Disir, or the mothers, mother goddesses, protective mother ancestors, and held sacrifices in their honor. They gathered, feasted,

Yule lasted three days in Pre Christian days, but a lot of modern people observe it for twelve days, beginning December 20 or 21, with Mother’s Night being the first thing observed. Many do a ritual honoring the protective female mother ancestors and goddesses. Some give food or other gifts to them, light candles for them, and ask them to protect, watch over, bless, and ensure good coming harvest.

Some sources state Mother’s Night was the final festivity in Yule, and it was observed then in honor of the goddess Frigg. She wove people’s fate for the new year on that day, which was counted as New Years, and Frigg was honored. It was said she had knowledge of the future, but would not tell anybody what it was! She also was unable to alter the future, as evidenced by the fact she foresaw her son Balder’s death, and try as she could, she was unable to avert it.

I have attended candle lighting ceremonies Norse friends observe for some of the twelve days. They do candlelight vigils all night, with a prayer on the hour every hour, and network with one another from household to household if they can’t do it all under the same roof.

Of course, it is the women/ Matrons of our community who do this.

Some of these women have moved out of state, and some are no longer in contact with one another, but those marathon candlelight vigils are one of many things that are still maintained by almost all of the women to this day.

This is an appropriate introduction, I think for this month’s topic.

Mothers, and most specifically, mothers who have lost children.

Somebody’s Mother

I had the privilege of reviewing the beautiful film Somebody’s Mother, which was created by The Tollman Sisters, Gabriela and Evelyne. It’s been very successful in the US, and is headed to China!

I watched the film, myself and I recommend it. It’s a film that will make you think, and gets right to the difficult to face, let alone discuss issues that come when you lose a child.

As somebody who has been trying to have children for twenty years, and have been unable to, this film really hit home. The Tollman sisters explored so many of the things you deal with after such loss.

In the film, one sister’s baby died, and the other loses custody of her son after inability to take care of him that was not in any way her fault, and that she never meant to happen.

In the instance of losing custody due to inability to care for a child, the number one thing I see happening in the lives of my loved ones who have children is they become so focused on making their kids their all, they become completely unaware of their own needs at times. This is due to the great love they have for their children that compares to nothing else in their lives, and to a loving parent, no sacrifice for their children is too great. It can mean that sometimes, they don’t know how to ask for help, and they forget that even parents need support too. The topic specifically explored is postpartum depression, which I have seen more than one mother I love deal with it.

In the instance of the death of a child, I have been told by more than one parent that the death of a child is something you never fully recover from, and one that literally takes a part of your heart away that you never get back.

The stages of grief are explored intimately from the viewpoint of both sisters, and done in such a way that viewers can relate.

The film takes a very compassionate view of suffering many films exploring pain lack. At one point, in the film , it was said “I don’t know why I needed to go through it…I don’t know why I needed such pain.”

The film shows how loss of a child impacts the relationships of the parents of the children with one another. I don’t have the statistics of how many people’s marriages or engagements are called off when a child dies, but I’ve seen it happen quite a lot. The film presented a relationship surviving, and another not surviving.

The film portrays the inability to function normally in your own life after such a loss, and the great lengths people go to in order to keep up appearances, so people leave you alone about what happened. Sometimes, not talking about something that is tearing you apart emotionally is part of coping with it. It also shows how sometimes, that is absolutely impossible, however, and many of us have endured well meaning questions after losing a child we are not ready for like “ When will you have another baby?”

The love of sisters and how they are one another’s number one supporter, and closest friend in good times, and bad is intimately portrayed. It is a beautiful testament of the Tollman sisters devotion and love for one another as well.

Finally, the film shows how to pick up the pieces after unspeakable tragedy, and find hope for the future.

The link to the film’s pages follow, as well as a trailer.

http://www.somebodysmotherfilm.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/

 

Trailer-

https://www.facebook.com/SomebodysMotherfilm/videos/504423143047518/

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

Interviewing Gabriela Tollman

I had the opportunity to ask Gabriela Tollman some intimate questions she lovingly answered. Her words are as heartfelt and nurturing as the film.

 

Saoirse- Some of the women I interviewed about loss of their children are deeply suffering, even decades later. Some wanted to share, but could not bring themselves to talk about it. What words of advice, healing, and wisdom do you have for women dealing with loss of their children, be it through death, or loss of their living children?

 

Gabriela- It is an intensely painful experience to live through the loss of an infant, and it has been important for to let myself cry all of my tears. I spent two to three years crying. What helped me cope and carry on was the understanding that everything that happens in life has a reason. I know this idea does not comfort everyone, but it helped me. I began to see the events of my life, and the loss of my baby Charlie as a way to further advance the development of my soul. I also found many healers and teachers who helped me. Brian Weiss’ book Many Lives Many Masters was integral to helping me transform my pain into a spiritual lesson. Other books and healers that resonated with me are Anita Moorjani Dying to Be Me, and A Course in Miracles.

 

Saoirse-What do you recommend to these women to find strength when their own strength seems to vanish?

 

Gabriela- Writing down my story was an immense help for me. I wrote down anything I was feeling, thoughts and ideas in journals. These writings eventually became part of our film, Somebody’s Mother. Creativity of any kind helps transcend circumstance. It allows one to rise above and take control of grief and pain instead of it controlling you.

 

Saoirse- In what do you find comfort when it seems things are at their worst, to get you through until things are better?

 

Gabriela- As mentioned above, writing and creating helped me transform. Other practices that have helped me transform the pain are meditation. I practice transcendental meditation and this truly was the tipping point in getting me through that horrifying pain of grief. TM allowed me to find a place of peace inside myself, and release the oppressive negativity, anger, denial, fear and anxiety of grief. It is an incredible tool for all types of trauma and grief recovery. I also practice yoga, hiking, swimming, and am a certified hypnotherapist. Hypnosis is extremely effective for those who have a difficult time meditating, as it delves into the subconscious where I find peace and answers.

 

Saoirse- If you are religious, how does your personal devotion carry you in these times of grief? If you are atheist, but philosophical, how does your personal philosophy and values do the same? 

 

Gabriela- One of my favorite quotes is by David Bowie “Religion is for those who are afraid of hell, spirituality is for those who have already been there.” I am spiritual. The works of Brian Weiss, an MD, hypnotherapist, writer and teacher changed my life. He writes a lot about past lives and lessons that we need to experience in the flesh in order to grow, evolve, transcend and raise our vibrations. Another brilliant healer and teacher that I follow especially in difficult times is the work of Marianne Willamson. Her teachings of A Course In Miracles help me find understanding. A COURSE IN MIRACLES offers a lesson for each day of the year, which is an incredible practice for self-healing and transformation.

 

More on this beautiful film follows the working at the bottom of this article.

 

The Mothers Stories

I could write volumes about how my personal miscarriage and being childless breaks my heart, but instead I reached out to friends who have lost their children. Their names are changed for confidentiality, but they were good enough to share their own heartbreaking stories with me, and all of you.

First, my friend Patty lost a child to death, and custody of another.

Here is our conversation about it:

 

Patty- In 1998, I gave birth to Anthony Joeseph Oliver. He only lived 3 days. He was born on March 14th and died March 17th. He had potters syndrome.

Me- Oh gods! How does it make you feel?

Patty- Kind of bad still, but it gets easier. I also have a daughter who I don’t get to see who turned 18 in May. I wanted so badly for her to know Anthony, her big brother. He would have been 20 in March.

Me- I wish that had happened for them too. Have you ever been able to get a hold of your daughter?

Patty- No, but I’m hoping she tries to find me. I think she lives in Missouri. I miss them. It’s kind of hard to talk about it.

Our discussion ended at that point. Patty just couldn’t bear to talk anymore, and I understand. My prayer is she is able to make contact with her living daughter.

 

The next woman I interviewed is 20 year old Jade, who lost her child very recently.

This is her story;

Marceline was a very healthy baby up until the last two weeks I carried her. I was seeing Riverside doctors as well as Knox Community doctors. KCH refused to coordinate my care with Riverside, and wouldn’t believe me when I said she was ten days ahead of development.

Since I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, Marcy was already going to be bigger than a baby from a low-risk mother. I started going into labor at about 34 weeks, but KCH said I was too early, and stopped me. I went into labor again at about 36 weeks, and they didn’t really stop me since I was at the minimum week requirement, but they were going to give me a steroid shot for her lungs.

They had warned me about it last time I went into labor, and I had asked Riverside how it would affect me. They said I didn’t need it, and if they gave it to me it would possibly send me into Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which would hurt my baby. I told KCH I didn’t need it, and they told me I was getting it whether I liked it or not.

About a week after that, I went in for a non-stress test, which I did twice weekly. I was scheduled for 10:00AM. I switched rooms three times, and they took an hour trying to find her heartbeat. They brought in an ultrasound machine to see if they could find it, but the machine wasn’t functioning properly. The next two weren’t, either. It was about noon at this point, and I’m already panicking.

I was already at a higher risk for a stillborn birth, and I was afraid that’s what was happening. Mike, my fiancé, was watching the monitor since I couldn’t see it. He told me that the cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and he could see her heart and circulation stop.

The doctor that was operating the machine told me, “I’m so sorry, but your baby has passed away. We can’t find her heartbeat.” I feel like I screamed, but I was in so much shock that I can’t remember clearly. I remember crying that entire day. It took them another two hours to start me on a Pitocin drip, and another two to start the epidural. I had to lay with my dead child laying still in my belly, because they were forcing me to deliver vaginally.

They told me that I run the risk of not healing properly from a C-section. I honestly would’ve taken that risk if it meant they could revive Marceline. I had to lie and wait until late that evening before I could deliver her. It was over an hour that I was in labor. Marcelne had shoulder dystocia, and was stuck in my pelvis. My pelvis was too small for her. They were using the vacuum on her.

I remember screaming, and feeling everything, even with the epidural. Mike, Mom, and my best friend Mickey all saw the cord around her neck, and heard the doctor say, “Oh, that’s wrapped tight.” I saw her turn a little to block Mike from seeing her cut the cord. Marcy was born at 1:16AM on Sunday, July 9th, 2017. They let Mike cut the cord, then laid her on my chest.

The skin on her cheeks had started to slough off from the cord strangling her. When I let Mike take her and hold her, they wouldn’t let me up to see him. I don’t remember much after that, and I think I had fallen asleep. The next morning the nurses had brought her in so I could see her. Her poor little hands were so cold. Her lips were so dark they were nearly black. I remember sobbing as I held her and being so afraid to touch her, thinking she would disintegrate if I did. When everyone had left the room, and it was just Mom and I with her, we sang her her lullaby, Loch Lomond.

I begged her to just come back to me, to us. I told her how much we loved her and how badly she was wanted, and how I was so sorry this happened to my poor little fox. She weighed 8lbs. 12oz., was 20.5 inches long, and looked exactly like I did when I was born. I didn’t get to hold her anymore after that. I could barely hold myself together; I barely can now.

The doctor also told me it was my fault she died, saying it was complications from diabetes that killed her. They also tried talking us out of getting an autopsy done on her. The autopsy results were eight pages long, and there was only one thing that may have been linked to my diabetes, but was not the ultimate cause for her inter-uterine demise.”

It is my prayer that the blessings from the goddess be upon my beautiful friend that she may become a mother of healthy children, and that she may heal from this terrible tragedy.

 

The next woman who shared her story was Mary.

I was 16 when I found out I was pregnant. I was in and out of group homes for most of my teen years, so I was actually kind of excited that I would finally have someone who loved me who didn’t get paid to. (Teen logic). A few weeks later, I went to a party with some friends in a nearby hotel. I was the only one there not drinking. My baby’s life was too important to me.

Everyone was passed out on the beds in piles, except for me and one guy who was still drinking. I’d noticed him before, and he was cute, but I was in a relationship, so he was off limits. Besides, he was a cop’s kid, and he drank way too much, knowing he could get away with anything. I shook my head and decided to use the bathroom and find a place to go to sleep. He followed me to the bathroom. I won’t go into details, but he raped me on the bathroom floor, and no one even woke up. The next morning, I left before anyone else stirred. Once he had left the bathroom, I had spent the night curled up crying on the bathroom floor, so I was able to tiptoe out unnoticed. I called my best friend and asked her to come get me. She lived nearly two hours away, but she came, and instead of taking me home, she took me back to her house.

That night, I started spotting. Being so young, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t tell anyone, just got a pad and pretended everything was fine…until it wasn’t. By the next afternoon, I was bleeding heavily and having stomach pains so bad I couldn’t stand. I told my best friend what was going on, and she and some friends who were at the house took me to the ER. Of course, by then, it was too late to save the baby. That opportunity had passed the day before, if it ever even existed.

After the miscarriage, things are kind of a blur. However, I do remember what the doctor told me after my D&C. “You’ll never be able to get pregnant again. It was a miracle you were ever able to in the first place. And if you do manage to get pregnant, you won’t be able to carry a baby to term.” Just a few months later, I was pregnant again. This time, she was nearly a month late.

I was in the custody of DCS when I had my daughter. Less than two weeks after I had her, I turned 18. I told my case worker I wouldn’t leave the home for young mothers when I turned 18. I lied. I left on my birthday. She was livid, and actually tried to have my daughter taken from me. I fought like I had never fought before. No one was ever going to take THIS child away. I’d have died first.

Because of the miscarriage, and because I knew she would likely be my only child, I grew up and threw myself into motherhood head first. The late 80s were a time when almost all moms bottle fed their children, and preferred strollers and bouncy seats to skin on skin contact. I nursed my daughter, and improvised a way to carry her on my chest, much like today’s baby slings. She slept in a bassinet that was right beside my bed, and there were nights I would wake up and put my hand on her back, panicking a little until I could feel the rise and fall of her breathing. I never went a day without telling her I loved her, and I never went a night without reading a story and tucking her in. Perhaps I was TOO close to her, but I never wanted her to doubt my love.

The doctor was partially right. I was never able to have another child after my daughter. I tried to move on, but every year I would think about how old my first child would be if they were alive. Today, they would be 28. My daughter is 27. She is a beautiful woman with a wonderful life. I always told her growing up that she could be anything she wanted, but that all I wanted for her was happiness… I still feel that way. And she has it. That’s all a parent could ask for.”

I have thanked these beautiful women for sharing their stories, and they will be invited when I do the ritual I have written for this month’s article. It was very difficult for me to write this, as I could not stop crying the whole time. I will be blessed during this ritual as well.

I tried to think of something simple, but meaningful, and what I would want somebody to say to me for my grief over my own childlessness. I also looked to see what other liturgies I could find for women mourning loss of children, and I did not find much. I don’t ever remember hearing of such a ritual, and what little I did find was specifically for either funerals or miscarriages. I found nothing for women who are barren unless it was to pray for fertility. I found nothing for women who lost custody, as society tends to assume these women deserve that, but I’m not so quick to judge. I found a couple of Pagan prayers about miscarriage, and quite a few Catholic liturgies. I wanted to do something where the women bless and support one another, and as the women I am inviting venerate different gods and goddesses, I did not write this to be specific to honor a goddess, or to fit any one pantheon.

 

The Working

Instead of just honoring the Mother goddesses, living mothers, and mothers who have joined the ancestors, for your Winter Solstice Celebrations, I suggest a blessing for living Mothers who have lost children.

Decide if you want one officiant to act as a Priestess, or if you prefer to delegate parts and readings to multiple people, depending on the needs of your group.

You will need:

  1. One large candle for The Goddess,
  1. One candle for each child attending women have lost,
  1. A large pitcher of water, and cups to drink from.
  1. Boxes of Tissues in case anybody needs them because they are crying.

First, cast circle as you normally do, or leave the circle open as preferred.

Then light the large candle to welcome the goddess. Because of the solemnness of this rite, a silent lighting is acceptable unless you have a special way you want to welcome her.

Each woman should take the pitcher of water in her hands and bless it as she sees fit. The communal blessing is what will make this ritual powerful, as it is one another we oftentimes look to for love, and strength. Prayers, or focusing energy to bless the water as feels appropriate for each woman is acceptable.

After the water is blessed, have each woman light a single candle in honor of each child they have lost, saying the child’s name and sit all the candles in a circle around the blessed water.

The reading, as followed can be done by one person, or each person can take a part to read.

The unbreakable bond of flesh of our flesh transcends the body and mind, and unites through spirit.

Though their bodies are far from yours, their mother, your soul connection to your children is forever.

Though your life with your child ended, you are still their mother, and always will be.

Let the love of the Divine Mother who you manifest in this life fill the void the loss of your child left.

You, a vessel of life, create more than just human beings. You create life through joy, kindness, laughter healing, and love.

May the blessings that you, a reflection of the Goddess, bestow upon those around you be returned to you tenfold.

May those whose tears of sorrow you dry, dry your tears. May those who you bless with tears of joy fill you with joys beyond compare.

May the waters we have blessed heal us, wash away our sorrows, and restore things we thought our pain took from us forever.

May the Mothers mourning loss of connection with living children be reunited with them, and have a long, happy life together.

May the Mothers whose children have died be reunited with them in the place of the ancestors, if they do not reincarnate together.

May you have the love and support of other mothers around you. Know that you are never alone. You have the connection to the Divine Mother, and all Mothers on earth who embody Her.”

Next, give everybody a cup to drink of the blessed water.

Each woman will then take turns talking to their child, or children and think of something they would have done for their child. Since they can’t do that, let the Mothers take a pledge to do something for another child in honor of the child or children she has lost. It can be something as simple as babysitting for a single parent you know for free, or something as great as adopting or fostering another child who has no parents.

Next, take down circle as you normally do, and potluck.

Blessed Yule, and Blessed Be.

 

Below is more information about Somebody’s Mother.

 

From the Press Release about Somebody’s Mother-

FILMMAKER’S COMMENTS

I feel shattered, pieces of me flying everywhere. Some parts of me are back in the hospital with the ghost of Charlie. Some parts are on the other side with Charlie’s soul, floating, dancing in the light. Together the two of us, our forgotten love. The love we didn’t get to share in this lifetime because he died. My little baby died. He was born too early with a terrible infection. He became terribly septic and was suffering. We released him from his pain and took him off life support. He floated away back to the other side and he died. Some part of me is there with him. Another part is on the floor at Trader Joe’s, where I was just shopping but had to run into the bathroom, and beg God for mercy; from the pain that I was experiencing just walking through the bread aisle.

Grief showed me all its colors, textures, shapes and sizes. When I lost Charlie it felt as if I was never going to get out. One day, I had a vision in my meditation, that Charlie came and said I need to make this story, I need to talk about grief and loss and that there is a connection to the other side. He’s not lost, its just another realm. And so we began to change the script we had worked on. Making something, first by writing it down in the script, then re-enacting it out during production and finally observing it in the editing slowly allowed me to befriend the grief. The parts of my body rejoined other parts. Parts of my soul rejoined the other parts and the new fragmented me became whole again.

During a scene in our film SOMEBODY’S MOTHER I sort through a purple box, which was actually my Charlie’s baby items. These items were given to us from the hospital NICU and consisted of Charlie’s little hat, a lock of his hair, and his footprints. I hadn’t been able to go through that purple box since returning from the hospital over a year prior. I decided to go through it for the first time while we were filming. During the scene, I wept. I felt purified and cleansed. It was beyond healing, it felt shamanic. By fully embracing the pain, I somehow transcended it.

I wasn’t just doing it for me but as a way to understand others; who had or were going through this. I learnt that extreme pain forces us to leave our bodies and reconnect with something deeper than ourselves. In this process, we shatter into a million pieces destroying who we once were, our former selves; our ego identity to rebirth into a new self with new knowledge and a reconnection to “source” energy. Charlie taught me this. Making the film allowed me to fully understand it, and not become lost in the grief or hardened by it. Instead it helped me open and soften. The experience deepened my understanding that this pain is a universal experience, which ultimately made me more of who I am. — GABRIELA TOLLMAN (Director, Writer, Actor, Producer)

My sister and I were interested in exploring contrasting themes. So many women we know want to get pregnant so badly and when they do; they don’t enjoy motherhood. It’s complicated. The role of a mother; is expected of women. It is assumed that the role of a mother should come easily and feel natural, but this is not always the case. Not everyone should become a mother.

We wanted the audience to feel how lonely these two women feel. If we are disconnected from honoring loss and disconnected from pain then how do we move forward in life? If Anna had allowed herself to express the confusion as a mother, her guilt, shame and fear perhaps she could have sought help instead of walking away from her four-year old child and leaving him in a car. So many women go through postpartum depression but feel so much shame that they act out instead of seeking help. We wanted to explore these topics, these dark places that nobody really wants to see – the places that are uncomfortable for an audience to experience and yet when they do, they feel relieved that they survived and deepened their understanding along the way.– EVELYNE TOLLMAN (Writer, Actor, Producer)

 

This film is now available on Amazon. Click Image below for more information:

 

***

About the Author:

 

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel

 

SAMHAIN, PLEASE RSVP!

Hi my lovelies….well it’s finally here! The time between times, the entry to the darkest part of the year lays before us at the end of this calendar month. The shops are awash with all things Halloween, Ghosts and Ghoulies adorning every aisle of every supermarket and every shop window in the high street, happy sigh!!!

This is the time of the year where at last we can go a little bit crazy and shop till we drop, as for us it’s time to stock up on our everyday essentials lol! Not only are the shops full of Halloween goodies, the food aisles come alive with the seasonal food of comfort and celebration. Pumpkins and squashes, corn and root vegetables call to us to make warming stews and hearty soups as we ready ourselves for the winter, and celebrate our third and final harvest of the year.

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On the path we walk, everything is gearing up to the 31st of this month, the night when the veils are at their thinnest, and the ultimate witching hour. It’s so much fun planning Samhain or Halloween, with the feasting and games, and the trick or treating that seems to grow more popular here in the UK with each passing year. I love to bedeck my altar with fallen leaves, candles of light and dark and heavy incenses….but there is something I love even more than all of that, I love the feast of the ancestors!

On this most witchy of nights when that threadlike veil between our world and theirs is at its most translucent, communication with the other side is easier and our own insight is more in focus. Cooking, laying the table, dressing the Altar, a ritual bath, dressing up, feasting and celebration followed by divination and communication with the other world make up my perfect Halloween. Laying a space at the table for all those that have gone before us is mandatory for Samhain in this home, as is the welcoming of all Fae and keepers of the other worlds via offerings of food, crystals and flowers….BUT

It occurs to me that we are not very good in this realm of ours at social etiquette when it comes to the other worlds! Think of it this way, it’s like planning a party or a wedding, setting everything up with perfect attention to every detail. Preparing a feast, decorating the venue and fine tuning every aspect of this amazing celebration…and then once ready, sending out invitations to attend NOW, right NOW! No warning, no thought if they our guests might have other plans, just a shout to get here and celebrate with me immediately, how rude we are! If the other world is anything like this one, a sudden request to attend such a event would be met with at best a polite declining of the invitation, but more likely a sharp slam and lock of the door,

How dare someone drag me away from my evening in my PJs and my favourite TV show without so much as a warning, where are their manners?”

Ummmm, time to rethink this immediate request thing!

Those of you that have read ’Hedgewitch Book of Days’ will know how I do like to try and bring our wheel of the year celebrations into our 12 month calendar year, to make our spiritual path more integrated into our everyday life and modern world. So, as the month of October holds Samhain at its end, it makes sense to me to celebrate this season throughout the month, every day, not just one big bang of a party at the end….although that is certainly something to look forward to.

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All that being said, I think the focus of your Samhain ‘month’ can be your altar. It provides the perfect place for reflection, for spells and provides the base from which to send out your invitations to the otherworld. Any area can become your altar, I work from a couple at home. One is the top of the chest of drawers in the bedroom, the other is the hearth of the fireplace. Even though the fire in my house is electric it is still the heart of the home and for me is the focal point that works well for my magic. I also have a small altar set up in the kitchen which is mainly used when I am cooking and you wouldn’t really recognise it as one unless you were in the know. For my Samhain altar I will be using my hearth.

Altars should, I think, be living breathing things, constantly changing and evolving, moving fluidly with you and your magic. Its energy will increase with every word uttered by it, and every spell cast.

For Samhain, there is a wealth of things you can add to your altar to increase your focus and energy, you only have to look around you. Obviously it’s good to have the basics represented, the Goddess and the Horned God, the elements, the seasonal representations and most importantly at this time of celebration, the ancestors. Bring to your altar your photographs, mementos, books, letters, family tree and anything else that holds a family connection. It might be a piece of jewellery or a pot, anything with sentimental value that has a link to your past and those that have gone before. Remember too your beloved animal friends, photos, keepsakes or even just a drawing of an animal can help bring their energy to that spot. Included on your altar a candle for the ancestors, one big enough to be lit each day, even if only for a few moments.

Once you have set up your basic Samhain altar it is time both to build the energy, ready to work with on the 31st and to send out those all-important invitations to the otherworld.

Every day, spend some time at your Samhain altar. A few moments is all that’s needed if you’re pushed for time. Light your candles and incense and bring something new to place with your original altar set up. It could be a leaf, an acorn, a homemade cookie, a bead, anything you can think of really that represents this time of year and the energy build up you are trying to create.

Then every day at your altar send out your invitation for Samhain to the other realms, these are the words I use;

The energy builds as the veil grows thin,

The festival of Samhain will soon begin.

Ancestors and spirits I call on you

To join me with a heart that’s true.

I ask for your presence on Samhain night

When the veil draws away and opens my sight.

May my words fly to you, and may you see

That I ask this with love…So mote it be!

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Spend a few moments concentrating on your ancestors and their energy before giving thanks and extinguishing the candles. Do this each day on the run up to Samhain and your ancestors should be waiting to commune with you as the veil reaches its thinnest…after all it gives them plenty of time to prepare!

On Samhain night remember to use the energy you have built up around your altar to aid you in your call to the otherworld, any residual energy can be released with love and thanks to be used for good in this world and the next.

Have a magical Samhain guys and fun and safe Halloween!!

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times Mabon 2017

Bright Blessings!

 

The harvest is in full force now. It is hard to believe it was just Lammas, and already, it is nearly Mabon!

 

Some of you are hard at work, gathering the fruits of your labor from your gardens, others, reflecting upon the fruits of your labors in your lives.

 

At my garden, we’ve had a very small harvest so far this year, but it’s not over yet.

 

We got six zucchinis, and three cucumbers. One cucumber is left on the vine, and then I think I will be pulling them out of the ground, as they have turned mostly to brown crispy dried up leaves, with a few scattered bright gold blossoms. The sunflowers, however, are the stars of the garden. We planted giant ones that are about eight feet tall now.

 

Our tomatoes are just now starting to produce. We shall see how well we fare!

 

Since the last Sabbat, however, I have harvested much more, personally than my garden has. I have somehow been lucky enough to grow closer to some loved ones, and to get back in touch with some I’ve not visited with in quite some time.

 

A visit with a friend I met 22 years ago reminded me of how we die back, and rejuvenate ourselves after rest.

 

This friend is in her mid 70’s, and died back for a bit when her husband passed. She’s back in full force, the spitfire matron of her family, and she’s out there running circles around many of us decades younger!

 

Not everybody has been as lucky as my friend. She was able to rebound from this horrible tragedy, and is still going strong. I know other people whose tragedies slowed them down much more, and they are still recovering, trying to get their lives back on track.

 

I told one such friend who is nearly recovered, that we need to strive to be like my matron friend! We have a lot of years ahead of us, hopefully, and we want them to be productive, happy, and blessed with the abundance of love, and prosperity.

 

It gave me a lot think about in regards to thankfulness, reaping what we sow, and good fortune. It also makes me think of how much we have to be thankful for from our elders.

 

All the things they did before us are the things we now build upon. Then, what we do adds to the foundations our children build their futures upon. Our elders shaped us so we could further shape others. Where would any of us be today without them?

 

Mabon is about the dying back of the god, who will be reborn, as does the earth. It is when day and night are equal, and afterwards, nights lengthen, creating shorter days. We move toward Samhain, the beginning of Winter.

 

The turning wheel of seasons and Sabbats reminds me of how, as human beings, we move through our own personal cycles. Time not being linear, we often come back around to what we began.

 

One way we do this is that, as we age and grow, we become wise, and share our wisdom with those we are mentoring. They in turn, mentor others. We become, for one another, the eternal and never-ending cycling life, and time, creating, and changing traditions, and sacred ways together.

 

This month…

I made the mistake of waiting until only a couple days of due date to start thinking of what I wanted to write about for this Sabbat! Likely, I will be a day or two late turning this article in! As usual, I pulled up the past couple years of articles to ensure I don’t write about the exact same thing again.

 

It dawned on me I’d only read of Mabon ap Modron. I knew we called the Sabbat Mabon, and yet I’ve never met a devotee of his, nor have I attended ritual that specifically venerated him. I was reminded that one of the early Wiccans, Aidan Kelly named the Sabbat Mabon…and lucky for me, he is on my friends list on Facebook. I say that he is one of my elders being what I consider a founder, and I consider him an elder of everybody who calls themselves Wiccan today. We are more than blessed for all he is done, and very lucky he is still there for us.

 

He was kind enough to agree to let me ask questions and include what he answered in this article.

 

First, a bit about him.

 

Aidan Kelly

 

 

A picture when Aidan Kelly was younger- even younger than I am!

 

 

A more recent photo of him!

 

Born in 1940, Kelly is known by many as one of the co-founders of Covenant of the Goddess, and the writer and researcher for the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn.

 

I, however, first heard about him from my Priest, Lord Shadow, who is a strong believer in dispelling all forms of bullshit. He spoke highly of Kelly’s publication Crafting the Art of Magic, which enjoyed a second edition in 2008 as Inventing Witchcraft.

 

This publication gave evidence that Wicca was created by Gardner, and showed where he got inspiration for certain things used in it. For example, there are some things that were garnered from sources like Crowley, which were in no way an unbroken set of practices from pre-Xtian British practice. Kelly listed plenty of reasons there is no evidence Gardner was actually initiated in 1939 by an established coven as he claimed.

 

Some people were highly pissed off by this.

 

Some said Kelly published secret information from Gardner’s Book of Shadows, supposed to be for Coven members only.

 

I always get a kick out of how somebody could be upset by the public having knowledge of Gardner’s work since he actively published so “secret” information, himself. There were actually early Wiccans who were quite upset Gardner spoke so publicly about Wicca, and they, personally were concerned about being outed from the broom closet. Much could be written on just this topic itself.

 

You can find Gardner’s Book of Shadows to read for free on Sacred-texts.com. Better yet, I will provide the link here. I am sure plenty of Gardnerians have personal Books of Shadows that are different from this one, however, as some create their own Books.

 

http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/gbos/index.htm

 

Gardner also drew much inspiration from Margaret Alice Murray’s writings. She had been a prominent Egyptologist, and her claims the witch trials were persecuting actual practices were not well received by everybody. Gardner was, however, more than inspired by her claims.

 

While some hold fast the belief what we do in Wicca is what has always been done, others reject the idea that Wicca was the folk religion of ancient Britain that went underground during “burning times”. Many assert it is modern practice, created in modern times, and inspired by modern writings, interpretation of ancient lore, and the very creative minds of Gardner and others.

 

Just because it’s neo practice, and an attempt to revive veneration of these old gods does not make it any less valid to many of us. With the evidence out there that Gardner created Wicca, and others like Doreen Valiente helped polish it, I have never understood the need some have to believe Wicca is a carbon copy of pre-Xtian Pagan practice. Wicca today is changing, and means many different things to many different people. Fifty years from now, it will be even more different. Wicca is a living tradition, and that means it evolves, which suits the people who practice it. That’s a good thing.

 

Thankfully, Kelly, himself is still teaching and writing various topics, and he’s sharing the beautiful poetry he composes.

 

Here is the short interview I did with him about Mabon.

 

Mabon Interview of Aidan Kelly

 

Saoirse– “Why, specifically did you name the Sabbat Mabon is my big question?”

 

Kelly– “Archaeological and mythological evidence is that the fall equinox is an ancient ( at least 5k years) fest associated with death and rebirth of a young person (Kore, Issac) . Mabon is the only one I could find in the Northern myths.”

 

Saoirse– “ I was marveling that I have NEVER met a devotee to that god, however, I have attended plenty of Mabon rites. I am wondering if you think this is typical these days, and Neo-Pagans have broadened pantheons?”

 

Kelly– “Actually, he is a minor character in an obscure tale in the Mabinogin, so that’s not surprising. But lots of people want to argue that he should be honored on some other Sabbat, because they don’t get what question I was asking.”

Saoirse– “And what was the question you were asking?”

 

KellyWhat myth about a child rescued from death night have been associated with the equinox in Northern cultures?”

 

Saoirse– “And Mabon was, absolutely. That is interesting that although we don’t venerate Mabon specifically, we call it Mabon anyhow in the rites I have seen, the god who dies is not named- he is just called the god.”

Kelly– “We have the four Gaelic names for the Celtic Sabbats, but only three Saxon names for the other four, which are far older. I wanted a name poetically parallel to Yule, Eostre, and Litha. I would have preferred a Saxon name, but could not find one. And Mabon ap Modren means “son of the mother” just as Kore (girl) is “daughter of the mother.” 

 

Saoirse– “I am thinking Balder, except he was not resurrected- unfortunately

What initial reactions did people have to your naming it Mabon? Did those reactions change over time?”

 

Kelly– “I used the name in the “Pagan-Craft” calendar I was putting out in 1974 (first of its kind, AFAIK), sent a copy to Oberon. He liked it, started using it in Green Egg, and it went the 1970s equivalent of viral. I don’t remember when I started getting arguments, because they are not important enough to qualify for being remembered.”

 

Saoirse– “I agree! Did you specifically write Autumnal Equinox rites that included Mabon ap Modron? Or had you attended any? I have not, myself, and I am wondering what you feel would be appropriate in ritual?”

 

Kelly– “No, our Mabon Sabbat is a commemoration of the Eleusinian Mysteries and so is focused on Kore/Persphone, with Demeter, Hades, Hermes, and Hekate and a couple of other gpoddesses in supporting roles.”

 

Then, Kelly was good enough to scan, and send me a copy of the ritual, which I will share here. It is a full eighteen pages long!

 

So, before I share it, I will share my suggested working if you don’t want to use Kelly’s, that is!

Before you read the rituals, here is the link to last years article I did for Mabon, which has a little more historic information.
http://paganpages.org/content/2016/09/celebrating-the-old-ways-in-new-times-22/

******************

Saoirse’s 2017 Mabon Working

 

I suggest an honoring of an elder.

 

How you do this all depends on what your own particular elder appreciates.

 

For me, I’m baking my Priest a pie. He loves my pies.

 

Some like to be taken out for dinner. Some just like a visit.

 

If however, you prefer an actual ritual, I suggest a blessing of your elder.

 

Unless you have your own way of doing this, I suggest a simple way of doing so.

 

You may prefer to do this with just the two of you, or you may do so before a group.

 

I love to do blessing rites at night, and by candlelight, or around a fire outdoors, personally.

 

Use whatever oil you deem appropriate for anointing. Be aware some people have sensitive skin, and some essential oils will burn skin if applied full strength. You can use a drop or two of your chosen oil with light olive oil, or just use olive oil, itself, which you can easily say a prayer over to bless.

 

Select the incense you feel is appropriate. I prefer Nag Champa for everything, personally. It’s a sandalwood blend which I use to cleanse and bless.

 

Select the appropriate candle. I use plain old white tealights.

 

Then, you will need a small bowl of water. Some people buy filtered water for this. I just use tap water, myself.

 

For this working, I do not suggest blessing the materials used first, because YOU are the one doing the blessing, and the materials you use to represent the elements are just representations of your, personal blessing. I realize not everybody feels his way about magical materials. If you feel more comfortable blessing the items beforehand, I agree you should do so in your own way.

 

You will light the candle first, then light the incense from the candle. Place the candle, incense, oil, and water on your chosen table, or altar.

 

Standing or sitting by your elder, tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them how thankful you are to them. (You might want to have a box of kleenex handy!)

 

Pick up the incense. Smudge your elder with this, and say “You are a lifegiver, breathing your wisdom and words of truth into me. I will never be lost in ignorance or confusion thanks to your words. Because of all you have taught me, I will be as a voice of truth, and teach others. “ Put the incense back in its place on your altar.

Then hold the candle up before your elder, and say, “You are a beacon in the darkness, lighting the way for me. I will never be lost in the dark thanks to your love and guidance. Because of all you have done for me, and taught me, I will be as a bright light to guide others.” Replace the candle on the altar.

 

Pick up the water, and you don’t want to splash a lot on your elder. Just dab a few dots of it on them here and there, or sprinkle it around them. Say, “ You fill me with the waters of life. Because of you, I will never be empty. I will never thirst. Because of all the life you have filled me with, I will go forth, and fill others.” Replace the water in its place on the table.

 

Pick up the oil. Put a little drop of it on your thumb, and trace your sacred symbol on their forehead. Mine is of course, the pentagram, yours might be something else. As you trace your symbol, say, “My beloved elder, I bless you in the name of our faith and our gods. May you be blessed with good health, great wealth, long life, and great love. Blessed Be.”

 

And then feed them something yummy!

****************

Aiden’s Kelly’s Elusinian Ritual for Mabon Sabbat 

 

This is a total of 18 pages, and was kindly provided for education including footnotes! Kelly wrote this, including the poetry, and its first full scale performance was in 1973. Blessed Mabon, and Blessed Be!

H. The Eleusinian ritual for the Mabon Sabbat

Celebrants:

Singing parts:

White Priestess, or Priestess of Jana;

Green Priestess, or Priestess of Sophia;

Black Priestess, or Priestess of Persephone;

The Black Man;

Dancing parts:

Kore;

Demeter;

Persephone;

Hades.

After all have been gathered into a circle, the Black Man makes needed announcements, such as about “Rain/Grow” and what to do with candles. The normal NROOGD Opening is then done, down through the Calling of the Quarters. At that point, with the Black Man still holding the sword in the center of the circle, the special ritual begins.

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

[First Speech of the Sacred Herald]

It happened one day that the Lord of All Unseen was driving his char­iot around the boundaries of Sicily, checking the firmness of its foundations, to be sure that the giant who is pinned beneath the island could not tear it up, and so expose those who dwell below to the frightening rays of the Sun. As he drove, he was seen by the Lady of Mount Eryx, whom some call Aphrodite, and some call Perse­phone, as she sat upon her airy throne.

 

WHITE PRIESTESS [Music #1, Venus’s Song]1

Here I sit upon my hill,

Maiden of every young man’s dream,

But I am living proof, my love,

That women are rarely what they seem.

For here I am the Queen of Death

And yet the Queen of Love:

My right hand holds the pomegranate

And my left, the dove.

I dance in many masks for men,

Sing many songs, play many parts,

And by my hands tell who I am,

Just before I break your heart.

I am the White Lady of your dreams

Whom you both long and fear to seize.

I lead you on through silver lands

Of singing stones and melting trees.

Wherever you look, you see me there:

Aphrodite on her shell,

Luna sailing through the leaves,

Persephone in Hell.

And now, my love, a tale we’ll tell

Of lovely wars and witty strife:

As poets always have foretold,

Death will be overcome by life.

This mountain is an organ pipe:

Beneath it Typhon groans and shakes

Where Zeus has trapped him for his crimes,

Breathing fire and belching quakes.

 

Hades, Lord of All Unseen,

Rides around the island’s coasts,

Fearing the quakes will let in light

To terrify his subject ghosts.

So, love, go pierce his gloomy heart

And let him chase me by the shore

Until I turn and capture him

And win the last third of my war.2

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

And so, resolving to regain the rest of her former realm, she dis­patched her Eros to pierce his heart. Thus it happened that, heart­sore and lonely, Hades came to Zeus, to ask for the hand of Kore, the only daughter of Zeus and Demeter; and Zeus, for his own reasons, gave his permission.

Soon afterward Kore was out one day, gathering flowers beside the sea with her companions, the daughters of the ocean. Suddenly, wild a wild clamor, there appeared a great golden chariot. Its driver scooped Kore up in his arms, and disappeared with her into a chasm that opened in the earth.

Demeter, her mother, hearing Kore’s fading cry, ran to find her, but she was nowhere to be seen. Demeter searched over the entire world, until finally, weary and despairing, she came to Eleusis, in disguise, and accepted a position as nursemaid to the King’s infant son. In gratitude for the royal family’s hospitality, she began the make the child immortal, by laying him in the fire every night. But one night the Queen came upon them, and screamed in terror. In sud­den anger Demeter cast the child upon the ground, and told the Queen that her child would remain mortal. Then, revealing her true iden­tity, she ordered that a temple be built for her and that the myster­ies of Eleusis be founded.

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES raises sword and sings the following as recitatif.

[Music #2, Agyrmos]

Keep solemn silence! Keep solemn silence! We sing, to Demeter and Kore, to Her who bears fair offspring, to the nourisher of youth, to the wealthy one, and to the threefold Graces. If your tongue is comprehensible, and no blood is on your soul, attend! Attend! For here we begin the mysteries of the Twofold Goddess, and of Her gift to mankind, that death is no longer our evil. To all who do this with us, abundant good shall come. Io! Evohe!

 

The BLACK MAN/HERMES steps back to the altar, and the three priestesses step forward.

[Music #3, Kore’s Song]

 

GREEN PRIESTESS

Cora, my child, so gentle and wild,

Dance, while flowers sing praises for you.

Kore dances into center of circle and continues dancing.

Soon you must pass into woman’s knowledge;

Dance in your innocence, soon to be lost.

 

BLACK PRIESTESS

The Gods have their plans, despite those of man,

For all of nature depends on changing.

You have been chosen to turn the seasons:

Soon will the Lord of the Night share his throne.

 

WHITE PRIESTESS

Behold, He comes, the Lord of the Drum,

Hades dances into circle; he and Kore dance a duet of seduction.

With his brilliant white hair and laughter.

He who rules Death is the perfect lover:

He brings you flowers though snow’s on the ground.

 

ALL THREE PRIESTESSES

Persephone, what do you see

From your throne in the land of secrets?

The flowers of summer have long since faded;

Yet even in winter there’s fire in the ground.

Hades and Kore conclude their duet by dancing out of the circle and down to the sea. The priestesses return to the altar.

[Music #4, Demeter’s Dance of Grief]

 

DEMETER

dances into circle and mimes a search for her daughter, then lights her two torches at the cauldron. She gestures all to come forward to light their candles, then leads all down to the sea.

BLACK MAN/HERMES

To the sea! To the sea! Haladay mustai!

At the sea, BLACK MAN/HERMES halts the procession.

DEMETER

plants her torches in the sand, strips, and plunges into the sea. Rising from the sea, she stands briefly between the torches, then her attendants wrap her in towels, then replace her robe. Picking up her torches, she now leads the procession on a devious path to the underworld.

At the entrance to the underworld, all are instructed to put out their candles as soon as they have found a place to stand inside. The next speech is said in the dark, as bullroarers sound.

BLACK MAN/HERMES

Here, in the lands below the earth,

We come to seek a recompense.

A girl is dead. That’s clear,

And all too close to home, for every time

We ask “What does it mean?” and, being human,

Cannot rest until we have an answer.

For behold! Demeter, the mother of all life,

In rage at the loss of her daughter,

Has sealed herself up in her temple,

And all life has slowed and stopped.

Here time itself stands still.

But now Zeus nods, the knot unties,

The balance is transcended.

For it is not Kore who’s restored, but us:

It is Persephone who comes, and she is every girl

Who faces a door she must go through,

Through which she can never return.

Hear the mystery of Eleusis!

The Queen of the Dead is the source of our life!

sings, to tune of Music #1

Our Lady is the Queen of Death,

And yet the Queen of Love:

Her right hand holds the pomegranate,

And her left, the dove.

[Music #5, Proclamation of the Mystery]

Holy Brimo, the raging slayer, has born the holy child, Brimos, in fire!

The mighty Goddess has given birth to the mighty God!

Io! Evohe!

All sing back “Io! Evohe!” and orchestra immediately breaks into Persephone’s Dance.

[Music #6, Hymn to Victorious Persephone]

 

ALL

Khaire, Persephone Nike!

At the crash of the gong, the underworld is flooded with light; Persephone leaps into view and dances wildly to the music of the hymn.

Who is great in the sheaves of the last of the wheat

When the mowers cut it all down!

She is the one with the power!

She will dance on the skulls of the last of the great

As they turn to honey and wine.

She holds the branch of renewal!

For the sword cuts the branch to the ground in the fall

But the branch will blossom in spring.

Hail to the dance of the Black One!

She has trampled on death and has shown us the path

That will bring us each to rebirth!

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

Make way for the Queen of Hell!

Persephone marches out, followed by the BLACK MAN/HERMES. She takes one torch and begins to lead the procession back to the circle.

BLACK MAN/HERMES uses other torch to relight everyone’s candles, then joins end of procession, followed by the musicians. Back at the circle site, Persephone continues dancing as the circle reforms. When it is complete, BLACK MAN/HERMES signals the musicians to silence.

Persephone draws an ear of wheat or corn from her bosom and holds it aloft for all to see. Demeter screams in anguish as Hades crawls forward from under her skirt, then leaps to his feet and dances over to join Persephone in their Wedding Dance.

[Music #8, Marriage Song of Moon and Sun]

 

WHITE PRIESTESS

I am the white and somber wench,

Knife of the hunter,

New of the moon.

I climb the hill of the changing halves

And burn in leaves of the verging trees.

Leap of the shadow,

Flash of the arrow,

Crimson and silver I reap and weave.

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

I am the gold and amber man,

Sired by the sun,

Born of the moon.

I slay the Gorgon for my shield

And take the musing Moon to wife.

Sword of the father,

Wand of the mother,

Sunwise and whirling I ride the sea.

 

GREEN PRIESTESS

I am the green and secret wife,

Fire of the wedding,

Bells of the sea.

I wind the round of the breeding moon,

O furrow the earth beneath my knees!

Blue of the harpers,

Gold of the pipers,

Threefold and singing I plow the seed.

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

I am the iron and scarlet man,

Blow of the hammer,

Cry of the steel.

I riddle the secrets of the trees

and lead the dance of the harvest moon.

Forge of the mother,

Spark of the maker,

Fourfold and lightning in every nerve.

 

BLACK PRIESTESS

I am the black and comely bitch,

Pipes of the crescent,

Beats of the Earth.

I stir the fire of the howling night

and bless the cup of the fertile seas

Gongs of the dancers,

Flames of the banners,

Sunwise in silence I clear and sow.

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

I am the black and violet man,

Branch of renewal,

Words of the owl.

I guide the track of the spiral dance

Across the sky and under the waves.

Mask of the hero

Reversed in a mirror,

I am the reaper who stays to sow.

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES AND GREEN PRIESTESS

now charge the “eggs and tea”: chopped hard-boiled eggs in a tambourine or other drum, and the “kykeon” (mixture) tea in a cymbal.

[Music #9, Blessing of the Offerings]

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

When Her name is memory, Her voices are a choir.

They stir the cup of music, of poetry and fire.

 

GREEN PRIESTESS

And when Her name is Mystery, She brews the cup that sings,

“All who drink shall be reborn;

All shall have the gift of kings.”

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES AND GREEN PRIESTESS

She stands before, she stands beside:

The Maiden has become the Guide.

The spiral dance, the egg of life

Replace the apple and the knife.

The priestesses and any helpers now serve the eggs and tea around the circle.

Demeter brings a vessel of water to the center, and three times casts a handful of water into the air. Each time she does so, Black Man/Hermes cries out loudly

Rain!

 

ALL

Grow!3

[Music #10, Blessing of the Initiates]

 

BLACK PRIESTESS

There is an immortality

Of the spirit and the body and the mind,

And all three immortalities

Are my gift to mankind.

There is always more; there is no end.

So rejoice! For death cannot win!

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

Whenever the serpent begets the bull,

The bull will father the serpent.4

 

ALL

Blessed be they who have seen beneath the surface of the world.

They have seen the end of life, and its Goddess-sent beginning.

Thrice blessÇd5 are they who have seen these mysteries,

For when they go to the house of the Unseen Lord,

They alone shall live in happiness.

But those who have never shared in such holy rites

Will suffer every sorrow in that house,

Until they fade away into the darkness.6

 

BLACK MAN/HERMES

Sing each phrase back to me after I sing it to you.

[Music #11, Marturo hos Pepoika]

I have fasted.

I have drunk the kykeon.

I have eaten from the drum.

I have drunk from the cymbal.

I have entered the wedding chamber.

A kid, I have fallen into milk.

I have seen beneath the surface of the world.

I have seen the end of life

And its Goddess-sent beginning

And they are the same.

I am an initiate of mysteries.

I shall not fade away.

Evohe!

 

ALL

Evohe!

The ritual now ends with the normal NROOGD “Grounding and Opening of the Circle.”

 

 

Important Links:

Aiden Kelly’s Facebook Page

Covenant of the Goddess’s Facebook Page

Covenant of the Goddess’s Web Page

 

 

 

Appendix to the Sabbats: Eleusinian Mysteries

 

The most important Athenian festival was that of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which have intrigued scholars for centuries: because the contents of the Mysteries were an Athenian state secret, we cannot be sure we have any clear idea of what happened during them. The Mysteries fell into two periods: the earlier, in Anthesterion, was called the Lesser Mysteries, and probably involved a ritual or drama about the life, death, and resurrection of Dionysos; the later, in Boedromion, was called the Greater Mysteries, and was definitely centered on the myth of the Rape of Persephone, as told in the Greek poem called the Homeric Hymn To Demeter. It has often been thought that initiation into the Lesser Mysteries was required before initiation into the Greater Mysteries, but this does not seem feasible, since in Roman times many people came from around the Empire in Boedromion to be initiated at the Greater Mysteries. (Of course, it could be that the earlier requirements were liberalized during the Imperial period.)

 

The Mysteries, according to both Greek legend and archaeological data, originated around 1500 B.C.E., give or take many decades, and were at least in part imported from Crete. Preserved by the local families, the Mysteries underwent a theological reform, as evidenced by the Homeric Hymn To Demeter, around 700 B.C.E., that is, at about the same time that the Athenians annexed Eleusis to their state and made the Mysteries the official religion of the Athenian empire. The Mysteries remained the central rite of Greco-Roman paganism — every civilized person tried to make the pilgrimage to Eleusis at least once in a lifetime, just as Muslims now make their Hajj to Mecca — until the fifth century C.E., when an army of Christian monks was sent in by the Byzantine emperor to tear the buildings at Eleusis down to the ground brick by brick, in order to prevent the people from going there, as they had continued to do.7

 

Despite the famous “secrecy” of the Mysteries, it was no more effective than the current “secrecy” of the Craft movement. We have more data about Eleusis than about any other pagan religion of antiq­uity, and we almost certainly do know what was done there. There is a famous story that Aeschylus, who was a native of Eleusis, as soon as his first tragedy had been produced, was called before a council of priests and accused of giving away the secret of the mysteries. Aes­chylus, however, responded, “I didn’t know it was a secret”8 — which became a catchphrase in the classical world — and proceeded to dem­onstrate that, since he had never been initiated, it was the council of priests who were giving him information they were oathbound not to reveal (a position I have found myself in relative to the more ortho­dox Gardnerians). He was acquited, of course, and the Eleusinian families then proceeded to adopt the new costumes that Aeschylus had designed for his actors as the official ceremonial robes for the Mys­teries9: even in the classical world, life imitated art. Since this very first tragedy would have enacted scenes perfectly familiar to us from the Greek myths, we do know what happened at Eleusis — but since we don’t know even the title of that first tragedy, we don’t know exactly which myth holds the secret. Still, it is possible to make some educated guesses, and I believe that Professor Walter Burkert of Zürich has broken the code.

 

Month 3. Boedromion, “month of helpers,” 30 days; began in August or September.

 

5 — Genesia = Nekusia = Nemesia, the clans’ feast of the dead.10 On the Proerosia see Clinton p. 22. In “the ritual of the sacred plowing observed at Eleusis, . . . members of the old priestly family known as the Bouzygai or Ox-yokers uttered many curses as they guided the plough down the furrows of the Rarian plain.”11 That “fair-tressed Demeter, yielding to her passion, lay in love with Iasion in the thrice-plowed field” (Odyssey 5.125-7) is the mythic analog to the folk ritual worked at this festival. As Plutarch (Moralia 144) comments about the three sacred plowings, “most sacred of all such sowings is the marital sowing and plowing for the procreation of children.” Obviously this Greek ritual, at the beginning of their growing season, is quite parallel to those in northern Europe associated with Beltane.

11 — The epheboi sacrifice a bull to Dionysos, under direction of the archon.12

13 — Preparations for the Eleusinian Mysteries begin: a troop of epheboi, perhaps having been purified at the Nekusia, in their “customary dress,” march from Athens to Eleusis.

14 — The epheboi escort the priestesses, and probably the other officials, from Eleusis to Athens. The priestesses carry the sacral items kept at Eleusis to the Eleusinion at the foot of the Acropolis.13 They halt for a rest at the “Sacred Figtree” in the suburbs of Athens.14

15 — This day was the Agyrmos, “assembly,” which was, according to Hesychius, the first day of the Mysteries. The Archon Basileus summoned the people to the Painted Porch to hear the Hierokeryx, the sacred herald of Eleusis, in the presence of the Hierophant and the Dadouches, call, “Keep solemn silence. Keep solemn silence. We pray to Demeter and Kore, and to Ploutos and to all the other gods, for here we begin the Mysteries of the Twofold Goddess . . . “15 The Hierophant then declared, “I speak to those who lawfully may hear: depart, all who are profane, and close the gates. . . . If your hands are impure or your tongue unintelligible, I charge you once, I charge you twice, I charge you thrice to stay away from the sacred dance of the chorus of initiates. Let all others who believe in the Two Goddesses perform the Mysteries, under the blessing of Heaven. Lady Demeter, nourisher of our souls, make us all worthy to celebrate your Mysteries.”16 He also apparently declared that initiates (at least for the duration of the festival) had to abstain from the flesh of barnyard fowl, eggs, fish, beans, pomegranates, and apples (these seem to be the rules of the nine-day “fast” that probably began on this day), and that touching these things made a person as taboo as touching a woman in childbirth or a corpse.17 He then probably announced, “At our sacred Mysteries, all Hellenes shall offer first fruits of their crops, according to ancestral usage. . . . To those who do these things shall come much good, both good and abundant crops, to whomever does not injure the Athenians, or the city of Athens, or the Two Goddesses,” that is, Demeter and Kore.18

16 — Synoekia: sacrifice of 2 oxen to Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria, “of the clans.”19 On this day the cry was Halade mustai20, “Initiates, to the sea!” All who were going to be initiated had to walk the six miles to Piraeus, driving a piglet before them, be purified in the sea with the pig21, then drive it back to Athens. We can be sure the day’s events were not overly dignified. It was to this day that Athenaeus (13, 590) referred when he wrote, “Phryne [a famous courtesan] was even more beautiful in her unseen parts. . . . At the great assmbly of the Eleusinia and at the festival of Poseidon, in full sight of the whole Greek world, she removed her cloak and let down her long hair before she stepped into the water. It was she whom Apelles took as the model for his `Aphrodite Rising from the Sea.'” (This passage is especially valuable in proving Aphrodite’s connection with the Eleusinian Mysteries.) Clement of Alexandria, in revealing what he says are the secrets of the Mysteries, begins with Aphrodite, saying, “a cake of salt and a phallus are given to the initiates, . . . who bring the tribute of a coin to the Goddess, as lovers do to a mistress.”22

17 — A sow is officially sacrificed to the Two Goddesses in their temple in Athens. Each initiate sacrifices a sheep, whose fleece is needed for the initiation, as well as the purified piglet.23

18 — The initiates remain indoors, preparing the Kykeon, “mixture,” a tea of barley and mint, and baking pastries, probably in the shapes associeted with fertility. Outdoors, the uninitiated engage in a procession honoring Asklepios, and pour libations to Dionysos.24

19 — Early in the day the initiates, the Eleusinian officials, and all others gather in the main square of Athens, all wearing myrtle wreaths and white robes or other special garb; the priests and priestesses wore red or purple cloaks, and the Hierophant and Dadouches wore a strophion (a twisted piece of cloth, worn like a sash) and had long hair.25 The statue of Iakkhos (in late class­ical times thought to be Dionysos as an infant) is brought from the Iakkhaion, to be carried on its annual visit to Eleusis. The same band of epheboi (obviously an “honor guard”) serve as an escort for the Eleusinian priestesses, carrying the sacra, in baskets on their heads, back to Eleusis to begin the celebration of the Mysteries. The procession is headed by the pais ap’ hestia, the “child initiated from the hearth,” whose initiation was paid for by the state26, and who represented the entire Athenian people; he or she wore a garment that left the right shoulder bare, and a short chiton (to just above the knee), carried a myrtle staff, and was followed by all the other such children from preceding years who had not yet reached adulthood.27 Everyone in the procession wore a myrtle wreath on his or her head. The 14-mile procession to Eleusis begins, passing out of Athens via the portico at the Keramicos. There are many stops for resting and performing rituals at places along the way thought to figure in Demeter’s search for the lost Kore. One is a sanctuary devoted to Zephyrus, Demeter, Kore, Athena, and Poseidon, at the place where Phytalus invited Demeter into his home to rest, in reward for which she give him the fig tree.28

At the Kephisos bridge, the crowd is entertained by a woman who plays the part of Baubo or Iambe, telling “obscene” jokes and performing “obscene” dances (which certainly included exposing her genitals to the crowd).29 There was apparently another purification in the salt lakes, the Rheitoi,30 and after crossing the narrow Rheitos bridge, the Initiates apparently were challenged by priests and had to give passwords, then had a thread tied between the right hand and left foot.31 We can also suppose that Aristophanes’ rather mild parody in The Frogs, lines 324-459, gives us a very good idea of what was actually sung during the procession to Eleusis.

20 — At sunset, when the next day began, torches were lit, and because the Greeks would have used a 7/8 rhythm (or something similar) for a procession, it turned into a torchlit dance. It may well be that they now went not directly into Eleusis, but instead down to the beach, where there may have been a ritual concerning Aphrodite, and where the initiates were probably sworn to secrecy by having the Hierophant’s key placed upon their lips.32 The torchlit procession then proceeded up from the beach and into Eleusis proper.33

The first event within the sacred grounds of Eleusis was probably a women’s dance around the Kallichoron, the “well of fair dances,” where Demeter was believed to have sat and mourned. The next would have been the Kernophoria, the offering of first fruits carried in the traditional kernos (a vase with multiple chambers), in the small temples of Demeter, Persephone, and Ploutos in the Eleusinian precinct — and offerings to chthonian deities were normally carried out at or after sunset.34

21 — On the day of the 20th and on through the 21st, the initiates were probably taken blindfolded through a series of purifications and consecrations one at a time. They probably each had a guide who had been initiated in a preceding year35, who could actually now see the procedures and so became known as an Epopt, “wit­ness.” We have descriptions and vase paintings of candidates seated on a low throne, with left foot on a fleece, veiled and holding a torch, with a priestess holding a winnowing basket overhead, then with priests and/or priestesses dancing in a circle and singing around them.36 Judging from the “password” quoted by Clement of Alexandria — “I have fasted; I have drunk the kykeon; having worked with what I took from the basket, I placed it in the chest, then back in the basket” — each initiate must have worked some ritual with some of the sacral objects in the baskets that the priestesses carried on their heads in the procession. Clement also lists what these objects were: sesame cakes, pyramidal and spherical cakes, cakes with many navels, balls of salt, a Dionysian snake (which is obviously a phallic symbol), pomegranates, fig branches, fennel stalks, ivy leaves, round cakes, poppies, marjoram, a lamp, a sword, and a “comb,” which Clement explains is a euphemism for something that represents the female genitals.37 Perhaps the ritual worked involved placing the phallic symbol in the vaginal symbol, as some scholars have guessed, but obviously innumerable different kinds of rituals were possible with such objects.

22 — The central event in the Mysteries was a night-long ritual in the Telesterion, the Hall of Initiation, and this was the logical night for it to have happened. The initiates stood on raised steps around the edges of the Telesterion, and saw and heard something like a ritual drama.38 As Plutarch describes, “Just as persons who are being initiated into the Mysteries throng together at the outset amid tumult and shouting, and jostle against one another, but when the holy rites are being performed and disclosed, the people are immediately attentive in awe and silence . . . he who has succeeded in getting inside and has seen a great light, as though a shrine were opened, adopts another bearing, of silence and amazement, and, humble and orderly, attends upon” the gods.39 Similarly, Dio Chrysotom says, “This is like placing a man in a mystic shrine of extraordinary beauty and size to be initiated. There he would see many mystic sights and hear many mystic voices, light and darkness would appear to him alternately, and a thousand other things would occur.”40 Galen mentions that an initiate would have given himself up “wholly to the things done and said by the Hierophants.”41 Lucius of Apulia says of his own initiation, “I approached near to hell, even to the gates of Persephone, and after I was ravished throughout all the elements, I returned to my proper place. About midnight I saw the sun brightly shine. Likewise I saw the Gods celestial and infernal, before whom I presented myself and worshipped them.”42 Perhaps this is metaphor, but it could easily be a description of a Craft initiation.

Proklos relates that, “In the most holy Mysteries, the initiates at first meet many sorts of spirits . . ., but on entering the interior of the temple, . . . they genuinely receive divine illumination, and divested of their garments [my italics] they participate in the divine nature.”43 (Proklos, as a devout dualist, obviously disapproves, but I think it must look familiar to any modern Witch.)

It is very difficult to assign a sequence to the events that may have taken place in the Telesterion, but I think Harrison’s logic holds water: the Sacred Marriage would probably have been celebrated before the birth of the Sacred Child.

Asterius44 wrote, “Isn’t there the descent into darkness, the sacred intercourse of Hierophant with Priestess, he and her alone? Aren’t the torches extinguished? Doesn’t the vast assembly believe that what is done by the two in darkness is their salvation?” He was probably misinformed about Eleusis; yet his words describe precisely the attitude of Witches toward the Great Rite.

Apparently what happened next is that the doors of the central chamber, the Anaktoron, were thrown open in a flood of light from a great fire that could be seen for miles from the open roof of the Telesterion45, and the Hierophant appeared, displaying an ear of wheat to the silent crowd and shouting, “Holy Brimo has brought forth a mighty son, Brimos!”46 We know that the Hierophant displayed the “secret sacred objects” (and that is what his title means) kept in the Anaktoron, into which only he was allowed, as only the High Priest of Jerusalem was allowed into the innermost sanctuary in that temple; and that he had an extensive speaking or singing part in the proceedings, partly from within the Anaktoron.47 He may have carried the sacred objects around the Telesterion in a procession, followed by all the other priests and priestesses48; this would be parallel with the Torah procession in the synagogue. There was also much dancing; Lucian commented that there are no Mysteries without dancing, and that those who violate the secrecy of the Mysteries are said to “dance them out.”49 With a rolling beat upon a gong that produces a roar louder than a jet plane,50 Persephone herself appeared — or so her priestess would have appeared, to the eyes of faith.51 Apparently her wedding to Hades was celebrated, for Michael Psellos asserts that the words, “I have eaten from the drum, I have drunk from the cymbal, I have carried the kernos, I have entered the bridal chamber,” were sung as an accompaniment to the Anakalypteria of Kore; this term might mean only “unveiling” or “reappearance,” but it is the common Greek term for a wedding.52

Walter Burkert also argues that another key event would have focused on the pais ap’hestia, the “child initiated from the hearth,” who represented the Athenian people, and who was the ritual analog of the infant Demophon, “voice of the people,” in the Eleusinian myth. Burkert argues that the child, doped with opium from Demeter’s own poppies, was placed in a swing, and swung through the fire — but when the swing returned, in it was a ram, which was then sacrificed, and its fleece used for the next year’s initiates. Obviously this ritual is related to the story of Abraham and Isaac, and it seems fitting that the same story should turn out to underlie both Greek and Hebrew religion, whose roots all go back to the eastern Mediterranean culture of ca. 1500 B.C.E. Burkert also feels that the key to the Greeks’ strong feelings about the ritual at Eleusis is that during it they were formally adopted as children of Demeter — perhaps in a ritual that involved marching under her throne53 — so that when they went before Persephone’s throne to be judged, they would be judged according to the rules for kin, not those for strangers — and that made all the difference in the world for Greeks.

23 — The final events at Eleusis included the rite of the Plemochoai, top-shaped vases, which were tipped over, one toward the east, the other toward the west, just about at sunset, to pour a libation down into the earth, perhaps into a chasm.54 It was probably also on this last day, and perhaps as part of the same ritual, that “looking up to the sky they cried `Rain!’ and looking down at the earth they cried `Grow!'”55

 

 

1

2 I shouls asmit that this song was asses in the version that was part of my “doctoral dissertation in the form of a three-act myisical comedy” and was not in the original script.

3 We know from Hippolytus 5:2 (Ante-Nicene Fathers, V, 51) and from Pro­clus on Plato’s Timaeus 293 (cited by Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 161) that this “Rain/grow” bit of fertility magic was among the closing ceremonies at Eleusis, perhaps out on the Rharian plain, where it could not have been kept secret.

4 This is obviously a fragment from some sort of ritual; it is given by Fir­micus Maternus 26; Arnobius 5:21; and Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation, 2:14.

5 This “thrice-blessed” term was standard in wedding songs; e.g., see Odysseus’s remarks to Nausicaa in the Odyssey.

6 This stanza is a rather free amalgam of the “beatitudes” in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter 480-482; Sophocles fragment 753 Nauck (from Plutarch, Moralia, 21F); and the Pindar fragment (137 Sandys) from Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 3:3,17.

7 Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers, 475-6.

8 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 3.1.17, and Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies, 2.14 (p. 361, ANF).

9 Athenaeus 1.21d.

10 Farnell, III, 23.

11 Frazer’s ed. of Apollodorus, Library, p. 227.

12 Placement is best guess; Willetts, Cretan Cults, p. 49.

13 Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 151.

14 Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists, 602;20.

15 See Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.4, 20.

16 Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel, 3.13.118b; Tatian, In Graec. 8; Theon of Smyrna, On the Utility of Mathematics, p. 22; Aristophanes, Frogs, 369-70, 886-7; Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet, 38.

17 Porphyry, On Abstinence, IV.

18 Harrison, Prolegomena, pp. 150, 155.

19 Nilsson, 1951, p. 166.

20 According to Clinton, p. 13, the term muesis originally referred to the preliminary instruction, or catechesis, which could be given at any time during the year by any member of the Eumolpidai or Kerykes families; this was not an initiation, but quite parallel to the guidelines that any Witch would now give to a newcomer before bringing him or her to a circle. The final ritual of the Mysteries was the telete, which took place in the sanctuary of the Telesterion, per­formed by the Eleusinian priests and priestesses, only once a year. Thus mustes would be better translated as “catechist” than as “initiate,” and telete does have the sense of completion.

21 Plutarch, Phocion, 27,3.

22 On the events of this day, see Harrison, Prolegomena, pp. 152-4. Clement of Alexandria, Protreptikos, 2.13.

23 On all this see Aelian, Animals, 10,16; and Aristophanes, Peace, 373-5.

24 Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, 56.4; Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, 4.18.

25 Clinton, p. 33.

26 Initiation was expensive; it added up to at least 12 obols, ac­cording to Clinton, p. 13, and that was about a month’s pay for the average Athenian. Hence paying for someone’s initiation was a fre­quent gift, especially for slaves and courtesans (as we know from Demosthenes’ Against Naeara, 21), since it could not be taken away from them.

27 Clinton, p. 108, 111.

28 Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 151.

29 See Hesychius and the Suda under Gephuris.

30 See Hesychius on Rheitoi and Pausanias, Attica, 38.1-3.

31 See Photius, Krokoun.

32 See Sophocles, OEdipus at Colonus, 1045-53; Pausanius, Elis, 1.20.3.

33 The use of torches for nocturnal processions was no secret; and I think the “torchlit search for Kore” (as in, e.g., Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 1.21) was merely an allegorical interpretation of this procession in light of the story of Demeter and Kore.

34 Here Psellos’s second icon fits: torches because it was night; drums and cymbals as both musical instruments for the procession and vessels to pour the offering, in the form of a pelanos.

35 Referred to by Plutarch, Moralia, 765A.

36 See Dio Chrysostom, Discourse 12, 33; Plato, Euthydemus 277d; Eph. Arch. 1885, p. 150. Gilbert Murray, Five Stages, p. 23, says the Dadouchos is the initiator during this stage. If Aristophanes, Clouds, 259ff, is not just foolery, the catechist was also sprinkled with flour or chalk at some point.

37 Clement of Alexandria, Protreptikos, 2.18-9.

38 See, e.g., ibid., 2.12. That the rituals lasted all night is stated by Clinton, p. 38, citing I.G. II2, 3639; see also Greek Anthology, XI, Epigram 42.

39 Plutarch, Moralia, 81d-e.

40 Dio Chrysostom, Discourse 12, 33.

41 Galen, de Usu. Part., 7.14.469, cited by Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 157.

42 Lucius of Apulia, The Golden Ass, 11.23. For a similar description, see Plutarch, Moralia, frag.178.

43 Proklos, Platonic Theology, p. 7.

44 As cited by Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 563.

45 It is referred to by Plutarch, Themistocles, 15.1.

46 See Burkert, Homo Necans, for a convincing argument why this passage from Hippolytus, 5.4, is trustworthy. Brimo is a title of Hecate, who seems to complete a triad with Kore and Demeter; see Apollonios of Rhodes, Argonautica, 861-2, 1211, and Lycophron, Alexandra, 1175ff; Propertius 2.2.11 presents this Hecate Brimo as a lover of the Hermes who is a major deity of the Samothracian Mysteries. This line also seems to be reflected in Euripides, Suppliants, 54, which takes place at Eleusis.

47 See Clinton, pp. 39 & 46, citing I.G. II2, 3411, and Aelian, Varia Historia, frag. 10.

48 Clinton, p. 47.

49 Lucian, The Dance, 15.

50 Ovid, Art of Love, 610; Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 140, citing Apollodorus of Athens as quoted by the scholiast on Theocritus, Idylls, 2.10. Olivier Messiaen, scholar and classicist that he is, uses this sound in his Et Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuis, “I Expect the Resurrection of the Dead.”

51 See Clinton, p. 47, and the sources he cites.

52 These words are cited by Clement, op. cit., 2.14, and discussed by Psellos in his comments on the third icon. See also the scholiast on Plato, Gorgias, 497C, cited by Harrison, Prolegomena, p. 158.

53 E.g., see the ritual described at the end of the final myth in Plato’s Republic.

54 See Athenaios 11.496.

55 Given by Proklos on Plato’s Timaeus, p. 293; also mentioned by Hippolytus 5.2. Aeschylus, fragment 25, in which Aphrodite declares that she is the cause of the amorous rain that impregnates the earth to bring forth Demeter’s gifts, also shows that here again Aphrodite is tied to the Eleusinian rites. Hesychius gives “Konx hompax” as the final words of the initiation; despite much scholarly ingenuity at restoration, these appear to be indecipherable nonsense.

 

 

***

 

 

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the Arts Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.  

 

The Bad Witch’s Guide to Imbolc


I am a bad witch. There are a long list of reasons why I am a bad witch. Having been out of the broom closet for some considerable number of years I would on occasion get asked “but you’re a good witch though?” My response to that depending on the person asking but I found I started to say “yes, a very, very good witch” rather darkly as it usually got the point across…


January was called Wolf month in Anglo-Saxon. Where the starving creatures ventured into villages snapping at the young and helpless, just like the bitter winter winds. January stalks through the cold and damp towards the wet helplessness of Imbolc, lambing season.


There is power in that fragility, in the force of hope. Power in the vulnerability to decide to grow and reach towards the light. February can feel more like winter than December weather wise at least in the British Isles. Sometimes we get unexpected sunshine and warmth, but for the most part it’s sleet, snow, high winds and driving rain.

 

(Brigid Imbolc Corn Dollie by Carlie Bodey of GreenWitchGlamour on etsy.)


Imbolc to me makes more sense if it is part Valentine’s Day, part Mother’s day, part birthing ritual. It is a celebration of hope and the power of love. Sexual love, motherly love and love of life. Brides (Brigid dolls and crosses) are usually the decorations but in truth in our house, we usually finally take our live tree from Yule outside. It is still covered in lights but the ornaments are packed away long ago. We have a Spring clean. I might set up a small altar or temporary shrine to spring.


Breed day, Brides day, all have a sense of sexual expectation I can never seem to muster at this time of year. It is still too cold to shave my legs! I grew up on a farm and much like Lughnasadh represents the frantic hot work of getting the hay harvest in rather than some languid holiday revelry; Imbolc is lambing season. You might have to herd sheep in from one place to another. Bring them in (or let them out, weather dependant) and hunt for stray ewes and small grey bundles abandoned on the luridly green grass. It is cold work. Usually having to be done gloveless. It lacks the communal jovial atmosphere a lot of other seasonal farm jobs have. There is loss and death aplenty. Little miracles happen too.


After all these years I can’t get the after-birth off my hands. I can’t get my hands warm, my feet either to this festival. I don’t hate it. Imbolc is necessary. Birthing is hard. It is dangerous. Liminal and primal. It is a labour. A labour of love. It is where all the loving words are blown away by the roaring wind and your actions really matter. It is what you do, here and now that counts.


I guess this is why I struggle with the whole modern idea of fasting and dieting around January. It feels punitive when everything already feels hard. The weather’s awful. A lot of people are sick. It feels counterintuitive to try and throw yourself into some fake “good” mood. I usually like January. For me and my family it is full of birthdays. And yet, and yet this anticipation of the grind, the work ahead feels overwhelming. So this year I am going to give someone who really needs some love some attention: me.
Just do the one thing that needs doing now. Then the next thing. One breath at a time. Keeping your head where your hands are. One step. One moment after the next. I’m going to try and stop myself from berating myself at how much I have not done, and try and celebrate what I do.


My bad witch self is going to clean and bless my space. Then I’m putting on a playlist designed to be impossible to feel sad or sluggish while playing. I might even eat some good stinky cheese (maybe even goat or sheep cheese) to honour the milk, blood and labour. Then I’m going to look at my “to do list” and try not to wince! I might feel up to doing something fancier on the full moon but I’m not going to force myself to “go through the motions” when all I want to do is hibernate!


Self-care and self-love seem to be so far down most folk’s lists of stuff to do. I have many of the women I know running families, jobs and education who refuse to stay home when they are sick because they “don’t have time to be ill”. Women are routinely told to put themselves last and in the spirit of the birthing season I ask you to give yourself the same compassion and support you give others because you cannot fill others from an empty cup. You don’t have to be everything to be enough.

 

Spell- Rite (You are Worthy)


You will need:


Feel good music (the only rule is that it makes you feel happy)
“Naughty” food, be it ice-cream, stinky cheese or a decadent veggie-burger.
Hot bath or shower.
Candle (scented or otherwise)
Incense (something sweet like amber)


Firstly have a long hot shower or soak in a bath. Use your best products, add some salt. Scrub it all off.


Next in your ritual wear. You can either, dress up the nines. Go all out, or put on your most comfortable ‘jammies or nightwear.


Light your candle and say


I light this fire to remind myself to shine. I am of the same radiant light and I am worthy.”


Then light your incense and say:


“I light this fire to remind myself to find faith in myself. I am of the same breath and I am worthy.”


Just sit for a moment and take in the light and sweet smoke. Then put on your playlist and grab your food and feast. Sing-along, dance, and enjoy.


When you are done extinguish your candle and if you like you can keep this as your self-love candle. You can light it if the day is dark and scary and remind yourself you are worthy. Learning to love yourself is important and honours the gift that the Old Ones have given you.

 

The City Witches

 

 

Wow, do we have a Gorgeous Box for you this month! This issue we feature a jam-packed recurring Monthly Subscription Box from The City Witches. Their boxes, called Magick Mail, can be bought one at a time & in 3-month, or 6-month subscriptions. Their prices range from $20 for an individual box to $120 for a subscription. The City Witches offer a new theme each month to their fully packed boxes! This month’s box … Magickal Workings for the Moons of the Month.

 

Three Informative Grimoire Pages

When you open your box you are greeted with 3 pages for your BOS. The first page describes the Moon Phases for Magickal Workings. Helpful addition to any Spellsbook. The second page teaches, briefly, how to create your own moon spells. The information suggested on this sheet are helpful and handy to have. The third sheet is a Full Moon Chant.

 

Purple Bag of Goodies

Next thing that catches my eye from my City Witches Box is a Purple Bag full of goodies!

The first thing I pull from the goody bag is a Star Shaped Wooden Incense Burner & it is adorable. I love how it can hold an incense cone and many sticks. This will be perfect in my next moonspell.

Next we have Amber Sugar Scrub Cubes. Opening the jar I find they are in the shapes of roses. Delightful! Just like their smell. I use them on my hands and the feeling I am left with when I dry off is a lovely softness.

The black little bag is Moon in Sagittarius Bath Salts. The smell is heavenly and I can not wait for the time to be right for it’s use. There is enough for a good soak or even two!

The little blue bag is a Mixture of Salts & Herbs to be burned or used in a bath. Unfortunately, I am not sure of it’s exact contents. I can smell lavender & see the salts.

A vial of Virgo Moon Oil is included in the bag of goodies. The bottle is a little tight a difficult to open. However, there seems to be a slight glitter to the oil! Glitter is always good to this Gal!

We get a small Vial of Black Salt. Good to add to the stash of supplies and to work moonmagick with!

A Chunk of Charcoal is included for the Bottle of Full Moon Powder Incense.  It comes out as a tuft, like a cloud from the jar. The smell is light, a slight heed to it’s sweetness. I think, up-to-date, this has been my favorite homemade incense so far. I just wish I knew what was in it.

Last, a few pieces of Sage to keep handy. Never know when you’ll need a quick cleanse. Convenient! It’s like a traveling MoonMagick Bag!

 

Black Candle

Over 7” tall black Blessed Herbal Candle “Drawing Down the Moon” for the New Moon by Coventry Creations, Inc. The candle reads it is for Beginnings, Innocence, and Creativity. The back of the candle explains about what a New Moon is, what it’s opportunity holds for you. This candles packaging is amazing. Not to mention the size they send in this box! But, are you ready for this…

 

White Candle

Another 7” tall white, this time, Blessed Herbal Candle “Drawing Down the Moon” for the Full Moon by Coventry Creations, Inc. The candle reads it is for Magic, Imagination, & Mystery. This candle explains and teaches about the Full Moon. These look very exciting to use.

 

Sage Smudge Stick

Next up I find SAGE!! A nice hunk of a Smudge Stick! This will last a long time

 

Clear Glass Bowl

This lovely glass bowl can fit in your hand. It is crystal clear. No blemishes. Beautiful for any altar. I am guessing it is included, being this is a moon box, for maybe moon cleansing. You can clean stones, tools, anything during these meaningful moon moments with your new Altar Bowl.

 

Three Gemstones in Gauze Bags

In two purple gauze bags you will find 3 large, polished gemstones. The stones are, from left to right; Fluorite, Malachite & Amazonite. The colors are vivid, and the patterns on the stones are sensational.  The sizes they sent are generous.

 

Huge Moonstone Point

This HUGE, solid, speckled moonstone point is amazing to view and to hold. You can feel the peaceful energy this sizeable piece of stone is bringing. It is a wonderful addition to anyone’s gemstone collection.

 

Moon Incense Sticks

Included in this recurring Monthly Subscription Box is a large box of HEM “The Moon” scented incense sticks. There are 20 sticks in this box. I’m impressed with the size they have included. Usually I see the smaller size, 5-10 sticks, enclosed in boxes. They are HEM so they are of good quality.

 

Witch’s Brew Oil

Crafted with Magic! Witch’s Brew Original…by Coventry Creations. Myrrh & Mugwort blend for a scent out of this world. The label reads “Ignite your Magic,” and you can smell the power. This is no cut-price blended oil, but an item made with skill.

 

Druzzy & Moonstone Necklaces

My next find in this amazing box is another little black box. It’s exciting to find jewelry inside. Not one piece, but two. Two gorgeous necklaces. A Black Druzzy & a Moonstone Point. Each has been placed on cording and ribbon for a lovely effect. On my path I have not worked with any druzzy stones, so I am not sure what their uses are. This is, however, a gorgeous piece, and I will be sure to look into what it’s uses are. The moonstone I do know. This eye-catching, point, suspended in copper is simply luxe.  An elegant way to keep the energy of moonstone with you everyday. They have included two new pieces of ritual jewelry for moon working.

 

Box of Gemstone Surprises

One more little black box contains a collection of Gemstone Surprises! Hiding in this box we receive another piece of jewelry, a lovely mixed gemstone, beaded bracelet. The beads are of medium size and the bracelet itself is 9 inches and is one size fits all, on stretch cording.

Next up in the box we find two cute moonstones. Perfect for pocket carrying.

Lastly, but not least we have a small selenite wand. Palm size. Shiney. I like the size for travel and easy quick use.

 

Moon Spell Magic Book

 

Click Image for Amazon Information

 

We are getting to the bottom of the box and two things remain…One being a book for our personal libraries on the boxes theme, the moon. Moon Spell Magic: Invocations, Incantations & Lunar Lore for a Happy Life by Cerridwen Greenleaf. The book teaches the lunar calendar and gives spells for every phase, demonstrates how to set up your own lunar altar, informs you about celestial Gods & Goddesses, and includes a plethora of spells & rituals you can perform on your own.

 

Journal

Stay Focused Because You Totally Got This. We do! Inspiring words outside, and on the heart bedecked inside, it says more…”I look forward to holding any thoughts, dreams, goals, *brilliant ideas, and AMAZING moments…” This box is sure to bring those, and this journal is now ours to record them. All the spells, rituals and things we learn on our way, about the Moon and all it contains. I think it is a lovely book to use as a Moon BOS.

 

My Overall Impression…

For the first time I am noticing a trend in the packaging everything comes in. There are bits of sage in them. What a beautiful way to cleanse, purify, & bless all you send. Every single gauze bag, small black box, and even the big box everything comes in itself has sage in it! I am very touched.

Now I want to mention the price. This box is bursting at the seams and I cannot believe how little they charge. Could they really be making money here?

I thoroughly loved this box for celebrating the moon. I feel all the contents went with the flow of the Moon Magick theme. I really found it gratifying how the company did not send you just tools and stash to help you celebrate, like candles & incense, or stones and jewelry to harness the moons power. Instead, they went the whole gambit, and by this I mean they sent you a method to really fully learn about the moon. They send you a book & a journal and tell you learn! They rally you to GO FOR IT! Now I have not reviewed the book. I do not know how good it is, but it is a starting point. The 3 BOS pages that are sent are a great starting point, as well…this box doesn’t just give you items, it encourages you!

 

Who is behind the inspiring Magick Mail Boxes from The City Witches?

None other than Jade Perri & Selene Serket. They were gracious enough to take some time to answer some questions for our readers about Magick Mail Monthly Subscription Boxes, their shop The City Witches, and Themselves. Here’s what they had to say…

 

PaganPagesOrg: How did the idea for a Monthly Subscription Box come to you?

Jade Perri & Selene Serket: The idea of the Monthly Magic Box, came to us, after subscribing to many ourselves and being unhappy with the contents. To us, getting a box monthly, themed for aiding us in our practice was very exciting. Many people do not have access to a metaphysical store near them, or they do not have the time to go shopping, or they do not know what to buy. It seemed to us, that if you could subscribe to a “magick” box each month, it would automatically come to you, and would contain items you could use to practice-not just a box full of random items. Our box contains relevant items to be used together or separately, all based on a certain theme. It is a nice way to also build up your stock, so you have everything you need, if you chose to use at a later date.

 

 

PaganPagesOrg: How did you begin your Boxes?

Jade Perri & Selene Serket: We began with a what we thought was a universal and important part of our craft. The Moon Magick Box. The Moon can represent New Beginnings, so we thought that would be perfect as our first box to introduce.

 

 

PaganPagesOrg: How do you choose each Box’s contents?

Jade Perri & Selene Serket: We choose what is in our Monthly Magick, based on the theme of the month. Each box contains approximately 10 items, that are all relevant to the theme. Normally each box’s base contains a ritual, a crystal, herbs or essential oil, items for your home or altar, as well as jewelry, a journal, and candles. Additional items will vary based on the theme of that month.

 

 

PaganPagesOrg: How do your Box Subscriptions work?

Jade Perri & Selene Serket: Our box can be purchased monthly, or as a subscription. It is more cost effective to purchase as a subscription box, for example, if you sign up for a 3-month subscription, you pay $75 ($25/per box) instead of $90. If you sign up for a 6-month subscription you pay $120 ($20/per box) versus $180. Boxes can be purchased for $30 individually.

 

 

PaganPagesOrg: Who are The City Withes?

Jade Perri & Selene Serket: The City Witches was created by two of us. Selene Serket and Jade Perri.

Selene is a a practicing eclectic High Priestess, who has been practicing for over 30 years. She is an experienced teacher and specializes in numerology, astrology readings, ritual magick, custom spells, and Sabbat rituals. She also has an extensive knowledge of all craft-related topics including Reiki and Chakras. In addition, she offers classes and certifications on many different topics such as A Year and a Day (Year 1-3), Chakra 101, and Crystal Magick. Selene is certified in Wicca High Priestess, Reiki Master and holds various Tarot, Crystal, Herbology and Astrology certifications.

Jade is an eclectic Witch has been practicing for more than 10 years and offers guidance on an array of topics. She specializes in divination from tarot cards, oracle cards, runes, and pendulums, as well as scrying and automatic writing. Jade also practices animal magick, dragon magick, and poppet magick. She is also an enthusiastic teacher and offers classes and certification in many different areas such as tarot classes and dragon magick.

 

 

PaganPagesOrg: What do the two of you enjoy besides working in The City Witches :)

Jade Perri & Selene Serket: Jade is married with two children and is the manager of her local animal shelter. She enjoys spending time with her family and advocating for homeless animals.

Selene lives with her furry family of 5 Himalayan Cats, she enjoys reading, spending time gardening, continuing her Wiccan Education through classes, and spending time with her friends.

 

 

PaganPagesOrg: What did you feel the Pagan community was missing to make you put your Box out?

Jade Perri & Selene Serket: We felt that with the options people have out there for monthly boxes, we wanted to design a box that was useful , fun, and educational. We wanted to really give our clients the best quality box for an affordable price. We also are lucky enough to work with other small businesses, such as Enchanted Reeveries, who provides items handmade from polymer clay, as well as Valessence Skin Care, who provide handmade bath products. We also include our own brand of handmade candles and essential oils.

We do not use printed boxes, or spend extra money on packaging, however, our boxes are stocked with everything they need for the month. What we save on packaging, we give back to our clients-each and every box contains additional free surprise gifts as a Thank You, to our customers.

The other option we offer, is that we do not pull our boxes once the month is up. They are available to our customers at any time. This is very helpful to customers, if they are unable to purchase during the month, they will not miss out-and can purchase anytime throughout the year.

 

Thank you Jade Perri & Selene Serket for this great interview. Your Magick Mail Subscription Boxes definitely live up to what you desired them to be and that is to all our benefit.

 

How can you get your own Magick Mail Subscription, visit The City Witches Shop, or Follow them? Just like this…

For the Direct Link to Magick Mail Subscription Choices & Back Log of Boxes Click HERE.

To Visit The City Witches Shop Online Click HERE.

You Can Like & Follow The City Witches on Facebook by Clicking HERE.

They are, also, on Instagram as thecitywitches.

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Sacasa-Wright is simply a Witch. She runs PaganPagesOrg eMagazine.  She loves hearing your opinions & thoughts on the eMagazine and welcomes comments. You can email her at jenniferwright at paganpages dot org.  When she is not working on PaganPagesOrg she is creating in some other way & trying to make the world a better place with her family.

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