December, 2015

Merry Meet

December, 2015

Yule

 

                            Welcome

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In This Issue…

We feature two Great Book Reviews:

Kitchenwitch

 

 

Pagan Portals: Kitchen Witchcraft by Rachel Patterson

and

AriadnesThread

 

Ariadne’s Thread by Laura Perry

 

goddess

 

Learn all about Germanic/Scandinavian Goddess Frau Holle in She Who is All – Goddess of Ten Thousand Names.

 

Craft

 

Make a Delicious Yule Brew in WitchCrafting: crafts for witches.

 

Heirloom

 

And….Heirloom Holiday Cutout Cookies in our newest column The Kitchen Witch!!

 

Witchballs2

 

Ever hear of Witch Balls?  Learn all about them with Tink in her column, Tink About It.

 

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We are always looking for new talent.  If you are interested in writing email us at [email protected]

 

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Join us on Facebook, Twitter, & Etiary!

 

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Creating a Wiccan Tradition

December, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tarot Talk

December, 2015

Time to return to the Aces, those unique members of the Pip cards. Aces are different from the other Minor Arcana cards, as they are seen as being the seeds of their suit and element, rather than the manifestation of their suit and element. Aces are not material, and there is no measurable manifestation of their effects until they become the Two. Aces are tendencies that are the foundation of the manifestations of their suit; thus the Ace of Wands, our card for this month, is not Fire, but a tendency to become Fire! Let’s begin our process of breaking down this Ace.

The Ace of Wands is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 1, and the suit of Wands. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.

Let’s look at the number 1 first. I see the number 1 as representing two concepts: position and potential. Position is most commonly represented by the point or period. The point is a one-dimensional shape; all we know about it is its position. We don’t know what it can do or how it can affect us, we only know where it is. Potential is neither good nor bad because it has not yet moved or manifested or acted. Potential is fertility before it is affected by the catalyst that begins growth.

So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Ace of Wands is going to present a concept rather than an experience. Aces present energy just as it is preparing to manifest, kind of like the moment just before the Big Bang happened in our Universe, or the time in your lungs between an exhale and an inhale. This is especially true of our Wands Ace, because the element of Fire has so many different non-physical associations.

The number 1 is about new beginnings, or better yet, the seeds that bring new beginnings. Every following number is made by comparing itself with or interacting with the number 1. How do you arrive at the number 2? You add 1 to the number 1. You could say that the number 1 contains all the other numbers.

The suit of Wands corresponds with the playing card suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South, and the element of Fire. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire is passionate in nature, and transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us. All of the cards of the suit of Wands (including our Ace of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes: creativity, ambition, growth, passion and actions, and how their presence or absence can affect our lives. The suit of Wands represents our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexual passion), and the Wands cards can represent our creativity, our ability to be artistic or to be drawn to beautiful things. Fire often represents Spirit or the Divine Will (one of those non-physical associations I mentioned above), and Wands cards also can present the possibility of some interaction with Spirit or the Divine, or actions or passions manifesting in line with Divine Will.

We know now that the Ace of Wands tells of a potential for experiencing spontaneous change, passion, and complete transformation. The change or transformation has not happened yet; all that exists is the possibility for change or transformation to happen.

The traditional image of the Ace of Wands shows a Wand or Rod or Stave being held by a hand that is reaching out of a cloud, showing that the Ace is the first and purest manifestation of its suit, so pure that we can’t affect it or be affected by it yet. Often the Wand has leaves and small branches or blossoming flowers sprouting from it, indicating the fertility of this Ace. Sometimes there are flames around or near the Wand; an alternative to flames can be a glistening crystal. I’ve seen Ace of Wands cards decorated with dragons, phoenixes, and sunflowers, all correspondences to Fire.

Like all Tarot Cards, the Ace of Wands has an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Ace of Wands represents three sun signs: Cancer (a cardinal Water sign), Leo (a fixed Fire sign), and Virgo (a mutable or mobile Earth sign), or the season of Summer.

Cancer, the Crab, can be moody or sensitive, and is often affected by the environment and people nearby. Those born under the sign of Cancer, the 4th sign of the zodiac, have strong feelings and emotions, and they are very protective of those feelings and emotions. Cancer people tend to be very attuned to the past, and they like to have mementos of the times and people of their childhood. Cancer people place a high importance on family, both family of the blood and family of the heart. They nurture and protect those they love. Cancer people are hard workers, and that paycheck is important not only for what it will buy, but also for the security it provides.

Leo is the 5th sign of the zodiac, located in the middle of Summer. The symbol of Leo is the Lion, regal and strong, magnetic and forceful. Leos are determined, ambitious, and highly motivated; add in their charm and they are natural leaders who attract many friends. They make good organizers and motivators, and the best use of a Leo is as the leader of a large group. Leo is the most expressive sign in the zodiac, and those born under this sign are showmen who are exuberant and passionate, but they are also susceptible to flattery. Watch that ego!

Virgo, the Virgin, is the 6th sun sign in the zodiac. Those born under this sign have a strong sense of service, and feel satisfied when helping others. They sometimes come off as cold or unemotional, but they are actually cautious, sizing things up. Virgos are meticulous, practical, intelligent, reliable, analytical and intelligent; of course, they are also over-critical, too conservative, and harsh. Virgos exist within the mind, appearing calm and collected on the outside, but lots going on inside. They are pure and honest, never malicious, and always trying to figure out how to improve things.

This means the Ace of Wands is about the potential for experiencing ambition, a focus on nurturing and protecting the family group, or the possibility of leadership within a group of intelligent and motivated creators.

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Aces correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Kether. Kether (or Crown) is the first sephira at the top of the Tree of Life. It is the top sephira of the Pillar of Balance, the center or trunk of the Tree, and is considered to be the cause of manifestation; not manifestation itself, mind you, but the catalyst that begins the process of manifestation. Nothing actually exists yet within Kether, but the Source of All awakens within Kether. However, it does not know itself yet because there is no other form from which it can view itself. Once again, we are speaking about the “point” or “position” without any dimension or manifestation.

That is quite a bit of information, all attained by breaking our card down to its basic ingredients. Not so complicated after all!

So the Ace of Wands tells of the initial emanation of enthusiasm or inspiration or passion that could very well energize an entire process or project. Indeed, this card can be seen as a talisman of power; all we need to do in order to access its potential is to take hold of it! The Aces can be seen as containing the other numbered cards of their suits, and that means our Ace of Wands contains the potential to become every other Wands card. In the Tarot, the Aces often are seen as “gift cards,” as they represent the gift of the element associated with the card being offered to the Seeker. The Ace of Wands gifts us with courage, enthusiasm and confidence, and it will push us out of the box in order to connect to our creative potential. Fire can be a truly transformative element, burning away everything and sterilizing the ashy remnants. But of course, the phoenix rises from the ashes to begin anew, and thus the potential associated with the Ace of Wands is amazing.

The sudden and impulsive nature of the energies of the Ace of Wands can be motivating, but they can also be a wee bit uncomfortable. After all, impulsive behavior can initiate calamities of all kinds, and strength and ambition can easily degenerate into cruelty, persecution, and violence. These are all things to consider when choosing to work with the energies of the Ace of Wands.

Aleister Crowley’s deck, the Thoth Tarot, presents a Fiery Wand covered with flames; the Ace of Wands in this deck is seen as associated with the Sun and as representing the Lingam. Placed beside the Ace of Cups, associated with the Moon and representing the Yoni, we have the potential for gathering the energies of the Great Rite and the creation of life. A talisman of power, indeed!

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Book Review: Pagan Portals: Kitchen Witchcraft by Rachel Patterson

December, 2015

Pagan Portals: Kitchen Witchcraft by Rachel Patterson

Kitchenwitch

The phrase ‘Kitchen Witchcraft’ conjures up brewing potions and hanging herbs, and while this of course can be the case, the experienced witch knows the kitchen can be the beating heart of their home, where the material and the mystical meld to create magic.

Rachel approaches this topic with just such a theory in mind, and makes no assumptions about the level of skill or experience of the reader. It’s important to bear in mind that as part of the Pagan Portals series, this book is intended as a brief introduction to Kitchen Witchcraft. Having said that, for such a slim volume, Rachel manages to pack in a great deal of info.

She starts by introducing the idea behind kitchen witchcraft, and giving an overview of things that may be needed; tools, ingredients and attitude. Even for the experienced, this is a good reminder and also interesting to gain an insight into what another experienced witch has in their own cupboards, physical and otherwise.

The eight big seasonal pagan festivals are discussed with particular focus on what kitchen crafts can be used to celebrate them. In here are correspondences, incenses and many more hands on ways to get your worship on. She also talks about how the differing phases of the moon can affect one’s workings, and while this section is a little simplistic for those experienced in moon magic, again, it is a great point of reference and a good reminder of the roots of many more complex types of moon magic. She looks at working with energy, and how to utilise candle magic, from the very simple to the more convoluted spells that can be worked.

One of my favourite sections of the book is the meditations in the final chapter. Each one is a different journey for a different purpose, and while each is written as a detailed journey, there is plenty of scope to make the journey your own. Unlike the narrative style which is direct and almost chatty, these written meditations have a wonderful dream like quality which is just perfect for getting you in the right frame of mind for approaching this type of working.

Rachel’s style is very accessible and conversational. Despite being almost a reference book at times, this short volume is a complete page turner as it is a real pleasure to read. It is as if she is in the room with you, talking you through the ideas that she is obviously passionate about. This is a very modern way of writing about a subject as old as the hills, and will make the subject easy to absorb even for the complete novice. Yet she manages this while making it a perfect refresher for the experienced witch, by including lists, correspondences and ideas from many paths.

This could be my favourite point of the book, that Rachel does not assume that you are Wiccan, or indeed of any particular religion at all. Most of the practical tasks in the book could be completed by someone of no religious beliefs at all, as the main focus is on a connection to nature, the world, and one’s self.

There is no limit to who would enjoy this volume. The only downside is that it is so short, however as an introductory piece, as it is intended, it is absolutely ideal. I will definitely be getting a hold of her larger volume, Grimoire of a Kitchen Witch, to see if the style and themes are expanded upon. Highly enjoyable, and it has inspired me to get back in the kitchen- not something I say every day!

*****/5

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Book Review: Ariadne’s Thread by Laura Perry

December, 2015

Ariadne’s Thread by Laura Perry

AriadnesThread

The myths of ancient Crete, her people, and their gods twine through our minds like the snakes around the priestess’s arms in those ancient temples. They call to us across the millennia, asking us to remember. In answer to that call, Ariadne’s Thread provides a window into the spirituality, culture and daily life of the Minoan people, and commemorates the richness of a world in which women and men worked and worshiped as equals. In these pages, the glory of Crete once again springs to life; the history, the culture, and most of all, the intense spirituality of these fascinating people and their gods can inspire and transform our modern ways of thinking, worshiping and being. The ruined temples and mansions of ancient Crete may crumble along the coastline of this tiny island, but Ariadne’s thread still leads us into the labyrinth and safely back out again.”

The tagline on the Moon Books site is The Minoan world comes alive through seasonal rituals and rites of passage, honoring Ariadne and her Labyrinth.” This immediately resonates with me as (as you may know) I am fascinated with the impact ancient culture has on modern people, in ways both large and small.

From the outset I am thrilled by the passion Laura shows for her subject. Clearly the Minoans have inspired her from an early age, and it’s wonderful to see that fascination nurtured and blooming into the magical relationship she describes.

Crete comes alive for me; Laura’s description of the island belies the fact that all this information comes from research rather than first-hand experience. Laura covers all the pertinent studies relating to the Minoans and while presenting all the possible facts, is keen to stress the most likely ones as her picture of how the Minoans lived and the key points in their society. This is an intelligent and open minded approach which sits well with me. As does the focus on the everyday Minoan and not just the priest/priestess; after all, ultimately we are the ‘common folk’, so reaching back through time we may find more links to our ancestors by focusing on everyday life: the mundane as well as the magical.

The magical though does play a huge part in this book. We hear about the Minoan pantheon; some are familiar but certainly for me, there is a great deal to learn and Laura keeps me turning the pages to do just that. I was astonished at the range of gods and goddesses included here! There are also the meanings of symbols, animals and how Minoan ceremony works within the Wheel of the Year. In the ritual work section, she is careful to explain the whys and wherefores of using certain symbols or not; the approach is inclusive with a hefty dose of common sense.

Rarely have I read a book that goes into so much detail about the spirituality and mythology surrounding one particular culture. The explanations of the symbolism of the Labyrinth are surprising and enlightening. Laura also looks at the similarities and differences between Ariadne and her ‘equivalents’ in other cultures, including mainstream religion. This book is truly comprehensive but what is more impressive is that it’s also fascinating and entertaining. If you are interested in ancient culture at all, you will adore this. If not, you would still get a kick out of the beautiful descriptive paragraphs and analytical style.

Ariadne’s Thread is a permanent addition to my ‘regular reads’ library and a triumph in what I consider the most necessary task of Pagan books: making it relevant. The thread Laura spins weaves all the way through time and is never broken. We can follow it either way, each page a new spool to turn.

*****/5

 

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Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

December, 2015

The Rites of Death for

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

I get to pick the topic this time!

It is one that addresses a major rite of passage, and perhaps the one that is most frightening and painful.

Death.

Over the course of human civilization, beliefs as to what happens to us after our bodies die have changed drastically. Many favor the belief that upon death, we go to a beautiful place and are reunited with loved ones. This is certainly what I like to believe. Not everybody has seen it that way over the years, and we all know monotheistic faiths tend to favor a belief in an afterlife of punishments and rewards that Pagans often reject. Not everybody has viewed it that way. Some cultures believed in one place everybody went. Some believe reincarnation happens immediately after death. Some believe the soul can stay among the living or go back and forth between the otherworld and this one.

This article will explore some of the differing beliefs through history and of course what some of today’s Pagans tend to believe, specifically talking about what my Priest taught me. I will finish with a simple suggested funeral rite and talk about a funerary rite from a publication one of my elders put out before he crossed the veil.

To begin with, let’s discuss exactly how death is defined.

What is death?

Medically, death is simply when the human body entirely stops functioning.

Most simply stated by Wikipedia, “Death is the termination of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death includebiological aging (senescence), predation, malnutrition, disease, suicide, homicide, starvation, dehydration, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury.[1] Bodies of living organisms begin to decompose shortly after death. Death of humans has commonly been considered a sad or unpleasant occasion, due to the termination of bonds with or affection for the being that has died, or having fear of death, necrophobia, anxiety,sorrow, grief, emotional pain, depression, sympathy, compassion, solitude, or saudade.”

A wonderful link to what is called The Uniform Determination of Death Act is provided below. It is a recommended definition that most States in the US have adopted. It says, “An individual who has sustained either (1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.”

http://pntb.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Uniform-Determination-of-Death-1980_5c.pdf

While that looks good on paper, all the complex things that an individual and their loved ones go through during and after death is not represented here. Religious groups provide much needed rites of passage, and that allows for closure as well as compassionate support for those who were left behind by the deceased. Not all funerary practices focus on the sacred, though.

Some focus on combating what the dead can do if they return to harm the living, as was the case with Eastern Europeans vampire hunts. Some others focus on how one may convince somebody they are dead so they may enslave them, as is the case with the creation of zombies in Voodoo. These two topics have become romanticized and are such a part of modern horror fun as well as being topics modern neo-Pagans often like to research. Another topic that few Pagans are not well read in is prehistoric burials. While researchers claim presence of burial is proof of belief in an afterlife, we don’t know for sure if that is the case. Read on.

Prehistoric burial

The appearance of burial is thought by some to mean people began to believe in life after death, and were thus religious. I always wondered about that, because the motivation for burying the dead could be as simple and not wanting to watch, and smell, the bodies decompose and to avert predators. My mom, having been in the cemetery business for 20 or 30 years always said funerals were for the living, not for the dead. Burials might have simply arisen out of the aforementioned issues, as well as the needs of folks to have closure and memorialize their loved ones who had gone.

Burial itself predates homo sapiens.

Early possible burials were discovered in the Atapuerca Mountains, Croatia, and are thought to be about 130,000 years old. Now a World Heritage site, this was discovered during construction of a railway. The bodies, numbering in the thousands, were all found in a pit within a cave. Animal remains were found also, as well as paintings elsewhere in the cave. Below is a very interesting scholarly article, which gives more information about the cave and information about remains found within. According to this scholar, chances are, the hominids bodies are contained there due to accidental falls into the pit. Also, however, it has been suggested by others, the bodies may have been cast into the pit by the living, or the remains could have been washed into the pit by water traveling through. It was noted that not just hominid remains were found in this pit, but those of animals as well. Provided is his article below.

http://blogs.e-noticies.com/david-rabada/were_there_ritual_burials_in_the_sima_de_los_huesos_outcrop_atapuerca_range_burgos_spain.html

Those that are currently the first undisputed burials were discovered in Skhul Cave in Israel, and are at least 100,000 years old. The bodies were found with red ochre on them and they were of hominids called paleoanthropus palestinensis. They were characterized as being similar to both Neanderthals, and homo sapiens. Their facial features were more like Neanderthals with the strong brow and chin, but the brain chamber was more similar to those of homo sapiens. Scientists do not know if these hominids were a result of Neanderthals having babies with homo sapiens, or if they were of a distinct line that has since become extinct. In the various graves found, the hominids were buried with things including flint, animal bones, shells, and the red ochre, of course.

Prior to this, burial like things have been found, but scientists cannot decide if they were true burials or not. While evidence shows these to be deliberate organizing of dead hominid bodies, some experts consider them more easily passed off as coincidence than the paleoanthropus palestinensis burials.

Human beings, and hominids that were a lot like us, have been at this burial thing for a long long time. An interesting timeline that discusses some burials and practices is listed here at this link if you want to read further.

http://www.spoilheap.co.uk/burial.htm

There is a lot of scholarly speculation as to what prehistoric religious beliefs are, and many theories came based on what grave finds were. I have a very unusual opinion about this.

I don’t think we can judge exactly what prehistoric people and hominids practices were based on what we dig up. There was no decipherable system of writing we can refer to, and simply looking at artifacts tells us little if anything besides the fact they used said artifacts for one thing or another.

And I am completely okay not knowing what they used those artifacts for.

Besides what researchers say, I hear a lot of other Pagans insist that artifacts were absolutely religious items, or a specific deity. I get vibes off artifacts sometimes too, but I understand that is how I relate to them, and it is possible that the people who created them related to them in different ways.

Moving along to our next topic in this exploration of death, I am taking a BIG jump in time and fast forwarding to more modern times in Eastern Europe.

Eastern Europe and Vampires

The various regions of Eastern Europe had their own distinct burial practices and what modern folk like to call superstitions. One so-called superstition many of the regions held in common was belief the dead could return and attack and even kill the living.

These beliefs came about for very understandable reasons.

For me, when a loved one has passed, sometimes, they come visit me. They sometimes touch me so that I actually feel a physical touch and turn and look behind me, only to see nothing. I see them in a crowd, or I see them in a dream. I am sometimes absolutely drained from these experiences. Sometimes, it’s just the grief, but some people believe the dead sometimes visit to draw strength from the living.

The first time this happened to me, a friend told me to light a candle for the deceased and put a little food out. It worked. The fatigue vanished. One could argue this was mere coincidence or the placebo effect. All I know is it worked, and I never questioned why. Gradually, the visits stopped too. Was it all in my head? I don’t believe so, but if it was, does it matter? If this worked for me, what harm could it have caused? Things are no different for other people.

One thing about me few people know is that I went through a time when I was absolutely fascinated with vampires. That was back before the time vampires were cool. I did a lot of reading both folklore and historic information. I discovered there were absolutely understandable reasons for belief in them, and there were equally understandable scientific explanations for the phenomenon.

Areas I will discuss include disease and contagion, sunken graves and fallen tombstones, and what happens to the body in the grave. All of these very real occurrences contributed to belief that the dead returned to claim the living.

But what did vampires even do?

Modern film, romance, and literature aside, the classic eastern European vampire was not handsome, sexy, loving, or charming. It was a monster. A soulless killer, and it was brutal and terrifying.

How a vampire was made varied by location. Mostly, though, one became a vampire for one of a very few reasons. 1) Being contaminated by another vampire. 2) Suicide. 3) Excommunication from the Church. 4) Having been a witch, or 5) having been mean or evil in life.

Other reasons such as a certain type of animal jumping over the corpse during the funeral or that the deceased was returning for revenge could cause vampirism as well.

The vampire was seen as a major problem for many reasons. Not only was this thing seen as ungodly, and destined to burn in hell, but if it made other people vampires, they would burn in hell too. Nobody wanted that. Aside from that fear, vampires were rapists and they caused death.

One very famous vampire case was that of Peter Plagojowitz. Not only did he demand food from his son after his death, but his son wound up dead soon after refusing to feed him. Nine people died in eight days, all of whom had reported they had been throttled by him after his death. Another case was of Jure Grando of Tinjan, Croatia. He died in 1656. Not only did he drink people’s blood, but he sexually harassed his widow. Necrophilia is seen as a laughing matter in mainstream culture, but few seemed to have that fetish in past times when it was believed dead people would try to have sex with you.

People noticed that after a certain person had died, sometimes members of their families or the general community started dying one by one. They would find out who had died first, assign the blame for all the deaths to this person, and use whatever remedies they believed would stop the vampire on this corpse. Outbreaks of tuberculosis and other diseases triggered suspicion of vampirism. It is also speculated somebody suffering from rabies would have been accused as well.

Premature burial before the days of machines to diagnose death without a shadow of a doubt triggered vampire accusations, and cannibalism of dead bodies due to starvation did as well.

Those great bodies!

Unfortunately, little was understood of what the human body does after death. If you do not embalm the body, then blood will bubble out of the mouth and the bodies gasses will make it bloat. Descriptions of bodies dug up and being “engorged with blood” with blood spilled on their lips can be accounted for by this. Lack of fast decomposition depended on methods of burial. One woman named Mercy Brown who was accused of being a vampire due to lack of decomposition had ironically been buried in an aboveground structure that was described as being like a form of freezer.

Growth of new hair and new nails and lengthening of the teeth has also been seen as signs of a corpse being a vampire. Truthfully, hair and nails do appear to grow a bit after death. Dehydration of the skin causes retraction of the scalp as well as the skin around the nails, so they appear to be longer even thought they really are not. It is the same way with teeth. The gums recede giving the illusion that the teeth have grown when they actually have not.

Dead bodies do more than just appear to grow, or gas up, or have body fluids come out through the mouth. They move sometimes. Bodies can sit straight up, and have been reported to do so on the death table or in the coffin. Eyes can spring open, as can the mouth. Imagine being at a funeral and having the corpse sit straight up, the eyes and mouth fly open, and a sound seem to emit from the mouth when this happens due to gasses making sounds.

Mom explained to me this is why eyes and mouths are sewn shut, and bodies were embalmed.

Those graves

One other thing that caused people to suspect vampiric activity was the fact that graves shift over time. While at times a white horse was released into a graveyard out of belief it would lead people to a vampire, graves that were altered that no living person had touched were suspect as well. After all, the vampire supposedly came out of the ground and reburied itself after feasting on the living. It was perfectly understandable the grave would not look the same as before this occurred. What people failed to realize was that those wooden coffins would decay due to water damage and sheer weight from the earth atop it. That would cause the ground above the coffin to sink. Thus it is called a sunken grave. Tombstones would likewise shift due to weather…or when a grave sank. Many of todays in ground burials combat this by using materials that withstand the weather and weight.

I scream you scream we all scream “VAMPIRE!!!!!!”

A short period now known as the vampire craze happened in Eastern Europe in the 1700’s. It resulted in a lot of bodies being dug up and mutilated in various ways designed to stop the undead for good. Things done to stop vampires included the ever famous stake through the heart or otherwise securing the body to the ground to keep it confined to the grave. The vampire could be buried upside down because it was believed the creature would not realize this had been done, and it would just keep digging and digging , thus burying itself deeper. The thing could be beheaded or burned. Blessings from the church also were considered effective in stopping a vampire. The vampire craze did not calm down until the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria intervened and ordered the practice of desecration of graves and bodies to combat vampirism as unfounded and had it shut down.

Although the craze died down in time, belief in real vampires exists to this day.

Voodoo and Zombies

Another undead “monster” that science debunked is that of the zombie.

A lot of white Pagans are fascinated with Voodoo although many have never attended a real voodoo rite nor would they dare kill a chicken in ritual. The focus on ancestor veneration, which is huge for modern Pagans is undeniable in Voodoo. While we share a practice, remember this was designed for people of African descent. They are the ones who cultivated this faith for countless generations before the Trans Continental Slave trade brought them to the Americas where they combined their indigenous practices with Catholicism.

I can tell you from experience, the lwa do not seem picky about race or whether you are initiated or not. They reach out to many, regardless of these things. I would never question the lwa or how they choose who to have a relationship with. I just know the difference between reading a couple of mainstream books on Voodoo and actually being in a closed door ritual officiated by ordained Voodoo clergy.

I have my relationship with Papa that does not entail me keeping communication with ordained clergy, but having seen what the actual practicing initiates do both in the US and in Haiti and Africa showed me this is not something to be entered lightly into. Nor is it something you do temporarily or for fun.

Voodoo often gets a bad rap because this discipline allows for curses, death spells, revenge, and there is a whole group of people trained specifically to use these workings. Torture is not frowned upon by these individuals and harsh physical punishment can be used at the discretion of the ordained clergy if they feel the initiates deserve it. This aspect of Voodoo is conveniently forgotten by white neo-Pagans eager to break from Christianity and find revenge spells when they feel wronged. I have spoken with people from Haiti who claimed many convert to Christianity because they believe Jesus will protect them from harm inflicted through Voodoo.

Zombies are part of Voodoo that fit in with the scary stuff. Zombies are real.

One of the best pieces of literature about Voodoo I have encountered is The Serpent and the Rainbow, a book by Wade Davis. A really fun horror film was made in 1988, which bore no resemblance to the book, but if you like horror, watch it.

In Davis’ book, he investigated the process of creating a zombie. This consisted of drugging somebody, burying them for a few days, and then digging them up once the drug has worn off a bit. According to Davis, brain damage from the drugs or regular doses of drugs keep people in that zombie-fied state. Supposedly the bokor , a sort of sorcerer, creates a zombie and keeps the zombie as a slave. It is believed zombies have no will of their own, and thus do everything the bokor says. If you get fed up with somebody, you can always pay the bokor to go and turn them into a zombie for you.

While Davis’ theories have been criticized and dismissed by some, another possible explanation exists. Naturally occurring mental illness is viewed differently in different cultures. Some researchers have suggested zombies may actually just be individuals who have mental illnesses.

Is it drugs, or mental illness or both or neither? We may never know, but zombies are out there.

Moving on from our scary death topics of vampires and zombies, let’s discuss some modern Pagan funerary customs.

Pagan funerals today

Many of us just go to the funeral and let other people officiate. Let’s face it. Most of us live in families that are not strictly Pagan. So we wear black, go to the funeral home, send flowers, and cry by the gravesite. Just like most American’s do. Yet, even if you are Pagan in a Pagan family, gone are the days of setting fire to a ship at sea or having your servants ritually murdered and buried with you and all of your possessions.

While I was doing a bit of research for this article, I found an amazing you tube video of a lecture on Viking burials that was done at Cambridge University. While it’s over an hour long, it’s a good watch. I actually learned a lot. Here is the link if you would like to watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu2gN8n15_A

Times have changed drastically. I highly doubt any of us would be buried with our pets heads in a bowl in our laps or with our family members and possessions.

Different neo Pagan traditions have entirely different practices than one another, of course,. There is one Pagan author’s funeral rite I would like to share parts of with you.

Celebrating Times of Change

Stanley Modrzyk published Celebrating Times of Change: A Wiccan Book of Shadows for Family and Coven Growth. Chapter 5 is Beyond the Veil-The Funerary Rite. This rite made me cry when I read the chapter. In it is embodied the elements of Paganism as well as modern times and could be used by any group wishing a truly Pagan funeral rite.

There are readings for Priest and Priestess, One of the parts I especially like comes from a reading for the Priestess, on page 76,saying “ We meet here today in both sadness and in joy. In sadness because a loved and respected friend (name of the departed) has left us…Yet we also meet in joy in the knowledge that his/her passing signifies that the work of his/her lifetime has reached it’s time of completion.”

Another intimate expression of neo-Pagan beliefs about death is reflected in a song many of us know and love, “Do Not Stand on My Grave and Weep. “ It comes from a poem written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Her poem was twelve lines and is below:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glints on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;

I am not there; I did not die”

 

The poem has been set to music by many musicians, and while it was not written by a neo-Pagan, it expresses the belief that life is never ending, and moving from one body to another is just a transition.

Another modern source of neo=Pagan funeral practice comes from the Covenant of the Goddess. Here is the link that shares not only some history as well as suggested workings and some essays.

 

http://www.cog.org/merry-part-a-collection-of-neo-pagan-funeral-rites

 

I am also including the link to one of the eulogies for Issac Bonewichz that ADF did.

His passing was and still is felt by many.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skAcJ3RwXWc

 

I keep going back to my mom’s words

Funerals are for the living.

 

As modern neo-Pagans we may believe in communication with the dead, but it is not the same as having our loved ones with us when they were living. We may be happy they have moved on to the next part of their journey, and believe we will join them again in time, but that does not make the time of physical absence any easier to deal with. While we may not believe the same the majority who are monotheists do- that death is final- we suffer as much when we lose somebody to death as anybody else. The rite I will offer will both memorialize the dead and comfort the living.

One thing you will have noticed by now is absent from the rituals I write is music. I do wear devices that allow me to process sound, but I am severely hard of hearing. So music is not something I use in ritual, myself. If you like to sing or chant, insert that anywhere in any ritual I write that you would like to use. For death rites, specifically, I always recommend that if a Highland Bagpiper is available, book them for your funeral.

Bob Dunshire published a Bagpipe Web Directory that lists some pipers for hire. When in doubt, you can always call your local police or fire department, as quite often , they know of a piper who does funerals.

Here is Dunshire’s link

http://www.bobdunsire.com/bagpipeweb/bpwpersna.html

 

And here is my favorite bagpiper leading a procession at President Ronald Regan’s funeral. Bagpipes have been carried on the battlefields for centuries. They lead celebrations, and memorialize times of grief.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo7MexlaQ30

 

Finally, here is the funeral rite I offer.

 

 

 

 

 

The Rite

 

Setup

-Set up your funerary room as you see fit, but set up a working space where speakers stand. A podium, if available or just a table, as you see fit. A few individuals should prepare the space, and call everybody in once everything is ready.

– You may or may not have the remains present, according to your preferences. It is important that if you are doing a service without remains that you have a representation of the deceased. You may just use a portrait of them, or have things that belonged to them present.

-The speakers should be near either the deceased or the items representing them. While the formal funeral of speaker and audience is not really on that I favor, my rite has the wake along with the funerary service, although this can be tweaked if you like.

-Have this service in the room where the meal will be. Have everybody sitting at tables or in a circle as you prefer for the service.

-There will be multiple parts and readings. Divide these up as many ways as possible.

-This will be open circle and there will be no banishing.

 

 

 

What to bring

-Have those present bring a dish to share for the potluck following.

-Bring one white tealight candle for each attendee. Place the candles in a bag or basket or plate and place on the altar. I use white tealights because 1) white is a universal magical color which contains all and nothing. It represents life, purity, enlightenment, as well as death in some cultures. 2) It is a very affordable way to have a lot of candles available.

-Hand a single candle that is a color or scent that was meaningful to the deceased, or use a white one. This candle will be sent off with somebody and can be used as they see fit.

-A candlesnuffer.

-Incense or smudging herbs.

-A pitcher of water and small cups, such as Dixie cups.

-Bring whatever you prefer to decorate the potluck table with. You may use the deceased’s favorite colors and flowers. You may put mementos out. If you like, combine the potluck table WITH the altar.

 

An explaination

Years ago, I noted a lot of pre Christian Pagans had ceremonial meals and they fed not only the gods, but also the living. Some cultural traditions such as those in parts of China and Africa, regularly set food aside for the dead. Memorial meal traditions call for a place at the table for the dead and food for them is provided while the living eat, thus they share a meal together, just as they did in life. This tradition is one I will incorporate in this rite. This is also a group rite as opposed to one that clergy officiates and everybody else watches.

 

Begin

Part1 – Hail and welcome to this scared space! I welcome you all to the celebration of life of (deceased’s name). Come inside and be seated.

(Then wait until everybody is seated.)

Part 2– (Have somebody light a stuck of incense) (Say the deceased’s name) We call you from the other side to be with us in spirit for our rite to say goodbye to you.

 

Part 3– (Have the youngest attendee who can safely light a candle light the taper candle either near the remains of the deceased or by their picture or mementos. If they are too young to do this reading, have somebody else read it for them. )This represents the light (deceased’s name) brought into this world, and into all of our lives. Like the needfires of the children of the old gods who have gone before us, we will take light from this light into our homes and take a part of light of (the deceased’s name) with us when we leave this celebration tonight.

 

Part 4– (Place your hand over a pitcher of water placed on the altar, enough for everybody there to have a little. Say the deceased’s name) Put some of the love you felt for us all into this water, Bless it, and we will drink it later. When you mean for us to, let a message of our life together come to each of us in the silence of our hearts, and comfort us that while we mourn your passing, that we will be together again.

 

Part5– (Stand over the food table) (Say the deceased’s name) Look upon the meal we have prepared to share with you. Draw strength and be nourished together with us.

 

Part 6-(Pick up the incense. Hold it up ) (say deceased’s name) Guide our hands in blessing one another, as we bless you. (Use it to first smudge the deceased, then sit the incense by the deceased for a moment. When you feel it is blessed, move clockwise, and take it and bless the first person, who in turn blesses the next person, and so on and so forth, moving clockwise. The last person in turn will be the one blessing the first person. Replace the incense.

 

Part 7– (Cup hands over the candle) All of you gathered here, focus the love and good memories you have of (deceased’s name) into the light of this flame. (Pause for the attendees to focus on this) Together, we consecrate this flame with the blessings and wonderful experiences we all shared with (deceased’s name). We ask (deceased’s name) to consecrate this flame with the love and good memories he/she has with all of us. Send these blessed thoughts and experiences away with us in our hearts and send with us a part of this consecrated flame into our homes. The steps on our journeys we were fortunate enough to walk with you are a permanent part of the rest of our journey. You have made a valuable impact none of us will ever forget, and one we are grieving has temporarily ended until we see you again on the other side.

 

Part 8– (Pick up the candles and hold them towards the deceased.) Each of us will light a candle from your blessed flame. We share what you share with us with one another. (Give each person a candle , then put the basket of candles down. This person will first light their own candle from the consecrated candle and flame. Then they will move clockwise, and light the first person’s candle, who in turn lights the next person’s, moving clockwise, until everybody’s candles are lit in this fashion.)

 

Part 9– (pick up the candlesnuffer) (say the deceased’s name) Thank you for giving each a blessed flame to take into our homes. We snuff this flame to preserve it, and each will relight when we get home. (Each person takes turns, snuffing their own candle, and passing the snugger clockwise. Do not blow the candles out. It is believed by many neo-Pagans that blowing a candle out as opposed to snuffing it out acts as a form of banishing, which we don’t want! The last person to use the snuffer replaces it on the altar.)

Part 10-(Two people do this part. One will pick up the pitcher of water. The other, the cups, and begins to pass the cups to each person, moving clockwise, while the other person speaks. The speaker holds the water up towards the deceased.) We thank you for your blessing, and we first offer a drink for you. (pour a little out on the ground or into a cup) (Say the deceased’s name) Refresh yourself with our love and blessings as we refresh ourselves with your love and blessings. (Moving clockwise, fill everybody’s cup. When this is finished, place any water left over on the potluck table.)

 

Part 11– Now, all of us can share a memory of (say the deceased’s name. This speaker goes first, and everybody either shares or passes. Once this is done, the food will be blessed and the celebratory meal will begin.

 

Part 12– (The person who is the elder of the group or who was closest to the deceased should do this part. Stand over the food table) I ask that you all gather in a circle around our table and join hands. (All join hands. ) May the Lord and The Lady bless this food before us. May we all have good health, much wealth, long life, and may we enjoy this meal with our beloved (say the deceased’s name) Blessed Be.

(All say Blessed Be, and un-join hands.)

(The same person will now make a plate for the dead and sit on it and a drink near the remains or the mementos) (Say the deceased’s name) As we have eaten with you in the past, so we share a meal with you again. You and the gods have blessed this food and drink as well as our lives in countless ways.

Losing the connection with your body does not change the fact our lives are interwoven beyond these lives, and we will physically abide in the same world with you once again.

Stay with us, and draw strength as we draw strength.

Blessed Be.

(All say Blessed Be, and begin the meal.)

 

Some traditions like to use “Merry have we met, merry shall we part, and merry shall we meet again” at the end, but I am not including it here. You can add it if you prefer.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

This was one of the most difficult articles I have written. That is because I am currently dealing with grief from the death of an Aunt I had really bonded with. In a nutshell, I am literally an outcast from my mom’s side of the family. This Aunt was the only one who reached out to me. Now, my family is big. There are people who never uttered a word against me, but they were not around due to distance or because we were not raised together. There are relatives on mom’s side of the family who would never hurt a fly! But, a long time ago, I stopped attending family functions because I was condemned by some of my family for standing up to my mother, who severely abused me. I did, however, spend a lot of one on one time visiting with this Aunt. I attended her funeral two days ago and was thanked for coming by a surviving relative who was unaware of the special relationship. I was in no mood to explain this. I was not in any state of mind to stay composed, and I was unable to be of comfort to any of the other people there. The reality of the possibility that I may never see anybody on mom’s said of the family after this is unbearable, but something I cannot change.

This is the first major death of somebody I was close to since I began moving through degrees in Wicca. I thought I was more prepared for handling things. I thought my view of death would make me immune to falling to pieces and because talking to the dead is so easy for me.

It’s not the same. I will never sit on the couch next to my Aunt and hold her hand again. I will not be able to call and see how she is and I will not get another phone call from her seeing how I am. There will be no more trips to visit and give her a pedicure. I will never listen to any of her remarkable stories again.

She will never take my hand again and tell me that if I ever felt I needed a mother, that I could come to her and she would be as a mother to me. She was the Aunt I could introduce all my friends to. My transgendered friends, my drag queen friends, my left hand path friends, my atheist friends, my housewife friends who did not work, my bad girl friends who got into trouble with me. There was not anybody on the earth who she would not be nice to based on their beliefs or lifestyle.

She was the aunt who always played practical jokes and was full of ideas for fun. In her youth, she wqas very outspoken, and was unapologetic about it, even raising her voice as she saw fit. As she aged, she was very sick, and could not raise that voice above a whisper sometimes.

She always said “I love you, come up when you can.”

She waited for me to come to her after she could not get out and go see people anymore. Now I find myself wondering when she will come back to me.

Hail Aunt Wanda, wherever you have reincarnated to. May we meet again, and happily so.

So mote it be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Short Story: Kiara, Episode 5

December, 2015

Kiara

 

Her reverie was disturbed as Kiara tossed and turned in her sleep. The girl was fighting the drugs and she wondered how much longer she could avoid the trouble that she could sense was coming.
Had she been able to see Kiara’s dreams she would have been very concerned.
The girl settled and she returned to her memories.

A very different character had appeared after about a month. The creature looked quite human, although still rather small. She wondered how he had harvested the corpses to create the quite believable facade, but decided against asking. She had been dozing in her chair and the sound of coins spilling on the floor had woken her up. They gleamed and glistened in the lamplight. Her wardrobe was opened and he gestured to it. “ I love your elegant new costumes!” he said, but how is my new house getting on?” “ I had to find a way to disguise my youthfulness she said, and I needed the clothes to..” He cut her off,- “No matter, buy what you wish! Have you found a place?”
“ I have !”, she said,” but it needs work”. “You have more gold!. Sort it! “. I need papers”, he said,” Make me a doctor. Bribe who you must. There is more gold,- if you need it. He paused and looked at her. “Come here!” When she reached him, he grabbed her face and put something into her mouth. This time she did not resist. It slid down her throat and she resisted the urge to gag. “Fix my house and make me a doctor”. He left again in a blur of movement.

For matron, the next few months had been a blur. Moving to the country and setting up the strange clinic had been exciting and exhausting. Doctor Boglin, as he now titled himself, brought strange machinery into the clinic. She had seen nothing like them ever before. Huge coils of copper and glass globes that lit up. It was as if she had entered a different world.
Then the strange children started to appear. Some looked normal, some looked like idiots and some looked quite grotesque. They all had one thing in common. None of them could speak. Some made noises, some babbled, but none of them could communicate in any normal fashion. The doctor cured them all. It was then matrons job to recruit and oversee an ever-changing rota of temporary tutors whose job it was to teach them to read and write. The doctor would then spend hours with them, asking questions and making them write down everything they remembered from their early childhood. Some were very difficult, but matron found the old cell in an unfinished part of the building and life got much easier. She had even paid some urchins to collect rats for her and they lived happily in the room. All males, of course and she replaced them as necessary.

The only real upset had been in the early weeks, when the doctor returned from a walk in the woods in an agitated state. He demanded that she go to the local blacksmith immediately and insist he made him a bucket of nails straight away. He had loaded a pile of the copper metal that he used into the little carriage they used and sent her off to wait for the nails. It took only a few gold coins to keep the smith working all night. She had dozed in the carriage. It was just as well, as he had led her straight to the woods on her return. He pointed to a tree from a distance and watched as she hammered nail after nail into the trunk. It made her feel quite ill to do it. Every nail seemed to send her into spasms as she hammered them in. By the time she was finished, she felt too weak to stand. She had to take to her bed for several weeks after the incident.
She stirred herself. The child had settled and was in a deep sleep. “Time enough in the morning to decide what to do”, she thought. She went to her own room and was soon fast asleep.
“Kiara! Kiara!”. Kiara awoke, startled by Moira’s frantic whisper and her hands shaking her shoulders.
“Am I dreaming?”, she asked. Moira silenced her with a finger to her lips. “Get Dressed!”, I will explain on the way. Not sure if she was dreaming or awake, Kiara quickly dressed, and they slipped out through the kitchen and headed for the woods. The moon was full and they tried to keep to the shadows and out of
sight of the doctor’s room. The air felt damp and cold. Kiara pulled her coat tightly around her as they walked in silence.
Finally, they reached the edge of the woods, and they relaxed a little under the protective cover of the trees. Moira stopped, and holding Kiara by the shoulders, she gazed into her eyes to make certain that she was being understood. “ Listen carefully, we have much to do and little time. The elders have given me human form for tonight so that I can help you. I need your help. We are half-way between worlds, neither human or Fae. We must work together to protect the guardian tree and allow the forest guardian to return”. Can we go home then?, Kiara asked. “Hush!, Moira looked at Kiara with a hint of impatience, which quickly turned to affection. She pulled her to her and hugged her. She spoke slowly and earnestly. “Yes, we can go home,- but first we have an important job to do. You must be brave, and you must remember who you are. The goblin has returned your powers to you, but for his own ends. He means to use your power to claim the land of the Fae as his own. He knows who you really are. He has been stealing the power from changeling’s for many years to increase his own magic. Now that he has a princess of the Fae to stand by his side, he thinks that he has all he needs to hold his claims,- once his armies have swept across our realms. He means to bend you to his will and take you as his queen. He believes that with you by his side, none will be able to contend with him.

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She Who is All – Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

December, 2015

Frau Holle/Hold/Hulde

goddess(Photo Credit: www.udagen.de)

Frau Holle is a Germanic/Scandinavian Goddess, who is celebrated at the Winter Solstice. The wonderful Maria Gimbutas believes that Frau Holle pre-dates most of the Scandinavian pantheocon.

It is said that Holle lives in a cave nestled in the mountains or at the bottom of a deep well. She is Maiden. She is Mother. She is Crone.

As an Earth Goddess, she represents fertility and growth, as well as being the feminine spirit of the woods and plants. Her special plants are in the evergreen family, such as mistletoe and holly. Her tree is the Elder, which is called “the medicine of the common people”, for all the herbal remedies which come from the Elder Tree.

Holle is identified as one of the Protectress of Witches. She is a leader of women and the female nocturnal spirits of these women, who would leave their bodies to ride with Holle throughout the skies. She is the mother of small creatures and the souls of dead children.

She is also a Lady of Hearth and Home, and the Queen of the Hunt. She is sometimes seen as a beautiful, shining, young woman and at others, the old hag, riding her broom.

With Her feast day being held on the Winter Solstice, she is viewed as the Queen of Winter. There are processions throughout the streets, where women are masked to look like Her. At night, She rides her broom, wearing a red cloak, filling children’s shoes with presents.

It is said Holle brings the first snowflakes of the year; as She shakes out her comforter, a gentle snow comes and covers the Earth. The sun comes out when She combs Her hair and it rains when she throws out Her laundry water. As such, She is a Goddess of the Weather.

goddess1(Photo Credit: genius.com)

Holle is the inventor of all domestic acts, but her specialty was spinning. The stories tell of Frau Holle checking the spinning of everyone, and if they were diligent in their work and their spinning was good, She would reward them with gold thread; if their work was lazy, she would tangle and dirty it. She disliked laziness, and approved of good, hard work, both of which are rewarded by Her.

Holle travels the world in her wagon from the Solstice through the beginning of January. It is said that once she broke a wagon wheel on her travels and a man stopped to help her. When She was once again on her way, she gave him 3 rocks and told him to put them on his window when he arrived home and he would be rewarded for his diligence and kindness. He did not believe her and grumbling, went home to follow her instructions. When he arose the next morning, the stones had turned into gold, thus she had rewarded him!

Another story of her rewarding kindness and hard work is the tale of two sisters. One sister fell down a deep well, arriving in Holle’s realm. As she journeyed, she helped everyone she came in contact with, eventually finding herself at the home of Holle, where she continued to help and keep Holle’s home clean. When she returned home to her mother, she found that each time she spoke, gold would fall from her lips, and thus, she was rewarded by Holle. When the mother saw this, she threw her other daughter down the well. This daughter would help no one and offered no kindness to anyone on her journey, including Holle. When she returned home, she found, to her and her mother’s dismay, each time she spoke, toads fell from her lips. This daughter was rewarded in a different way.

You will recognize Frau Holle in stories by the Brothers Grimm, as one of the names they called Her Old in their stories was Mother Frost.

You can call on Frau Holle this Winter Solstice, using meditation, falling down her well, and going deep within on your own journey through her realm. What will await you? What will you be called on to do? How will you be rewarded by Holle?

goddess2(Photo Credit: janeewardart.org)

As always if you have any questions or comments, I can be reached at [email protected].

I wish you the blessings of the Goddess throughout this holiday season. Be healthy, be happy, be blessed.  )O(

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Tink About It

December, 2015

Witch Balls

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

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

Witchballs(picture: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

Witchballs2

my own ‘witch balls’

Sources & further reading:

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Finding the Pagan Way

December, 2015

Living with Spirituality
For me, Neopaganism is about reaching out to the universe and listening to the messages that spirit gives us. This is not always an easy task,- accepting the advice of spirit does not always guarantee an easy passage through life. Listening to spirit, or the “God(s)/Goddess(‘s)” is a path which is open to everyone, regardless of belief. Even an atheist who follows their “hunches” is doing exactly the same thing. The beauty and the freedom of neopaganism lies in the acceptance of many paths to wisdom and guidance. My own journey consisted of finding the “truths” in many beliefs, until I reached a point of total acceptance of my own uncertainty,- and the value of every belief system for people at various points in their journey towards awakening. Over time I widened my views until I was able to accept that almost every belief system is a valid tool for dealing with life, for those who are in need of that particular level of guidance. For example,-as a devout Catholic, I received help and guidance in response to my prayers and questions. Then as I explored many other beliefs,- I found the same loving response from the universe, regardless of my particular view at the time of asking.

Angels in the Wind

I stand and feel the wind’s embrace,- as kisses, soft as feathers, touch my smiling face.
Gentle laughter, hushed as falling snow is calling,- and it leads me where I need to go.
Swirling leaves are blowing all around,-that somehow leave a gleaming trace.
But as the seasons meet within my heart, I feel a joy, an all-consuming grace.

It grieves me little now to say that all I think I know will, someday, pass away.
It does not matter that the world will turn and all my dreams may die and never be reborn.
This perfect moment is enough, within the pause between the night time and the day.
With tiny angels dancing all around in laughter and in play.

“Walk with us between the worlds and let imagination fly.
We will show that all who ever lived , will never die.
We will heal your aching heart and help you understand,
That only love can heal the world and soothe the heart of man.”

Patrick W Kavanagh 16/11/2015

Art by Bill Oliver boysoblue.com

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If there was one gift that I could give to the world, it would be the gift of uncertainty.
Tempered with acceptance,- it is the royal road to calmness and peace of mind. When we accept uncertainty as a working principle in our lives , we can learn to no longer feel threatened by the beliefs of others, and can treat those who are desperately afraid with more patience. The evangelist, the fanatics and the elitists are simply terrified of uncertainty. This is why they cannot reason with others or live in peace. Once we accept uncertainty, we can become open to hearing the song of the universe much more clearly,- although our human condition makes full understanding very unlikely, until we have evolved a great deal more. Nevertheless, it is a powerful tool for increasing the likelihood of spiritual awakening.
Certainty

Like a suit of armour,
Polished gold that gleams and sparkles in the light.
That Blessed Shield that keeps our ego safe.
No nagging doubts disturb us in the night.
No second thoughts to make our conscience chafe.

The Joy of never being wrong,
Those great eternal truths that beam down from above.
Our principles that keep us different from the milling throng.
When we love Certainty,
It’s charms can keep us safe from any other love.

We feel misunderstood by those who do not truly Know.
Their dreadful ignorance and anarchy surrounds us every day.
If only we could set them on the path they need to go.
If only they could understand the things we try to say,
Then we could let them bask in our enlightened glow.

But then,
How can I teach the sparrow how to fly?
They seemed to know just what to do,
Before I ever had a chance to teach them how.

I often watch in envy as they dance and weave beneath the evening sky.
The crimson setting sun, that lights their antics, lights the furrows on my brow.
Streaking red and gold across the purple hills and dark green fields,
It’s rainbow glory blinds my eyes and lets me see,
This world was doing fine before there ever was a Me.

Patrick W Kavanagh
01/08/2013.
I believe that we are immortal, spiritual beings who are undergoing transformation and evolution trough our interactions on the earth plane. If this is true, then there are no absolute “rights” and “wrongs”. I feel that exercising, Love, Fairness and Compassion are likely to lead to less suffering for ourselves and those around us, but regardless of our actions, we will all awaken to our true self in time. This is why I consider reincarnation to be a very strong possibility. There seems to be quite a bit of evidence in favour of its reality, but, of course we cannot be certain!. Brightest Blessings.
So Many Worlds in One
So many worlds in one.
Maybe in some far off time they will return to where they’ve first begun.
Spirit flies beyond the bounds of space and time,
The past, the present and the future beat within a single endless rhyme.

The poet and the prophet speak with just one single voice.
We listen to their ramblings and their ravings, for we sense they have no choice.
They only say the things they hear, and try to show the things they see.
But neither they, nor we, can truly understand, until our ego’s cease to be.

Yet the world we know is sometimes kind,
And the worlds beyond this world can heal the heart and mind.
If we open up our eyes and see the vastness of eternity,
It’s there in front of us, if we could only stop the world, and simply be.
Patrick W Kavanagh
27/04/2014

paganway2

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