Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Winter Blues - Top 5 Battle Ready Tips

The sun is getting stronger, staying light longer each day, slowly (very slowly) warming a bit. Soon it will be Spring and we'll wonder where Winter went to. But for some, especially those in the North, the winter can seem unending. We've had a record snowfall this year - no doubt due to the volcano eruption in Iceland last year. Then last week we had a couple of beautiful 60 degree days. It seemed the cold dark was finally behind us....but, as is often the case here in the North East, the weather changes on a dime. Now we are back to the frigid cold, and snow.

I don't personally suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but when we get so close to spring, with no fresh sprouts (or you know, ground) to show for it, even I can feel down. Here are some remedies to pull some Spring into your spirit.

1. Get some fresh cut flowers. I bought some for our Imbolc altar and they are still blooming and beautiful. I think I paid a whopping $8 for all of them. They are bright purple (not a natural color) and some ingenious person even dipped the petals in a bit of glitter so they sparkle ever so slightly. Now, I personally hate having fresh cut flowers in my home. I hate how they smell when they start to die, I hate the pain of changing the water all the time, and I'm not fond of the idea of chopping the Goddess' beautiful creations for nothing better than stimulating my eye. But when I'm feeling down, and I'm struggling to feel the Maiden Goddess I will get some fresh cut flowers. They remind me the Goddess is protecting the seeds and the God is growing stronger to help life grow (and melt the snow!)

2. Light some candles, grab a glass of wine (or I like steamed milk for this better, with a shot of caramel and chocolate), I might grab a steamy novel, or I might just want to read to my kids. The point is, being warm and cozy - this helps me to think of the cusp of spring when the Goddess has all the world protected and warm in her loving embrace. It's amazing how good we can feel after a bout of comfort.

3. Sex anyone? Seriously, or you can take a good workout class. This time of year is not my, er, most energetic. Heck some of my body hasn't seen a razor in several I'm not at my most sexy feeling. But doing a bit of grooming and setting the scene for a romantic rendevou can be fantastic - don't underestimate the power of the "happy hormones" that get released after a bout of sex or a good workout. They can carry you through the darkest of days.

4. Start an herb garden - you can do this inside, getting ready to transplant them outside or into larger pots once Spring arrives. It always lifts my spirits to see SOME sign of life returning to the land.

5. Cleansing & Smudging. Dust is a harbor of negativity. With our heaters pumping full throttle and no air circulation our home is a breeding ground for dust during the winter months. And with an asthmatic son, and my DH and  I suffering from allergies, that dust is an enemy of old. So do a spring cleaning, then smudge with some Sage (to get rid of the negativity). Then I like to fill the house with scents of spring - citrus, floral, etc. You could also rearrange Furniture. Seriously! I don't think most realize how stuck in routine we get. Try moving the couch so it faces the windows, add some mirrors (which will add light and make rooms look larger), repaint, add new drapes with a lighter fabric to let in natural light! The curtain thing is especially true in my home. We live in an old house, and the windows are very drafty, so we hand up fleece blankets as curtains each winter - making our home pretty cave-like. It's always a huge relief to uncover the windows and let a little natural light in.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm Baaaaaack

I'm actuall back, after taking about a year off of blogging I'm looking forward to getting into the swing of things again!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Planning Your Yule-Tide

Yule, the Winter Solstice, comes again this year on December 22, 2007. It is the longest night of the year but the night relenquishes it's hold on the land as each day the nights become shorter. The sun also drops a bit in the sky gaining strength to warm and thaw the land.

Symbolism of Yule: Blessings, rebirth, closure, strengthening, awakening, planning for the future.

  • Evergreens: representing the immortality of nature. That,even though it seems that nature dies in the winter, it is really just sleeping and renewing its strength.
  • Weaths: a circle of evergreens - mixing the immortality of nature with the circle power of ritual
  • Yule Log: representing several things - the world tree (doorway to Otherworlds), the prosperity and strength of the family, strength of the Gods, etc.
  • Holly: representing prosperity and good fortune
  • Spinning wheels: representing the forward motion of time
  • Mistletoe: representing good fortune and love
  • Candles of gold & red: representing the fire of the sun
  • Winter Flowers (such as poinsetta's) represent the enduring nature and strength of Nature.

Colors: Red, Green, White, Gold, Yellow, Silver & Orange

Deities: Triple Goddesses - especially Dagda and Brigid, The Oak King, The Green Man, The Horned One. Odin, Lugh, etc.

Tools: Bells, Candles

Foods: Cookies & Cakes, cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey.

Spell Workings:

  • Peace
  • Harmony
  • Introspection
  • Dedications
  • Ending of Bad Habits
  • Start of New Plans

Carols: I like to make my own Solstice songs by taking easy to remember Christmas songs and changing the words...for instance

Solstice Night (sung to Silent Night)

Silent night, Solstice Night.

All is calm, all is bright.

Round the Yule log, burning bright.

Keeping us warm, all through the night.

Peace and happiness to thee,

Peace and happiness to thee.

Family Traditions:

I also love to involve my children in Yule. This is a magical time for everyone. The night is mysterious and unknown; sometimes even scary. Children are more in tune with these changes than even we pagans. I love teaching my children about the 3-Fold law (what energy you send out comes back to you 3 fold) therefore by helping others we can wipe clean some of the negativity we may have sent out throughout the year. Ending all thought of it and starting fresh. Also sending out that good energy can't be a bad thing. So, we make baby blankets and give them to Neo-Natal Intensive Care Units at our local hospitals..(see the Crafts sections)

Here are more traditions you can do as a family:

  • Make blankets for the needs or hospitals
  • Work at a blood drive or soup kitchen to give back to those less fortunate than you.
  • Make cookies and put them together in small baskets or gift bags to give to your neighbors.
  • Make Yule or Holiday cards blessing them with love and happiness
  • Go on a cookie scavenger hunt - using paper gingerbread men or reindeer as the 'clues'. The winner gets to be the Oak King and sit at hte place of honor (or I'll make a cape & aluminum/cardboard sword for him to wear)
  • Make Tissue Paper wreaths (see crafts section) to give to the kids' friends families
  • Make Horned Man Hat (or you can think of it as Reindeer Hats) and explain the significance of the Horned Man (see crafts section)
  • Set out Reindeer Food (see recepies)
  • Helping to decorate your home with the above symbols. Children love to decorate and you can explain the significance of each item as you go along.


Fleece Blankets: This is a super easy gift or donation to make and even young children can help. Cut a square of fabric. For baby blankets I use about 12 by 18 inches. Using a pair of scissors, I make 1 inch incisions about 1/4 inch apart all around the whole blanket. I knot each piece to create a fringe. Thats it, no sewing, blanket done.

Tissue Paper Wreaths: This si a great decoration. Take a paper plate and cut out the center - creating a circle about 1.5 - 2 inches wide. Using multiple colors of tissue paper, have the children crush each piece into a ball. Spray the plate with adhesive spray (in a well ventilated area) then have the children affix the crumpled tissues to the plate. Wait for the adhesive to dry. Using a hole punch, pop a hole in the top of the plate. Using a colorful piece of string thread through the hole to create a hanger.

Reindeer / Horned Man Hats: Cut a strip of construction paper about 1.5 - 2 inches in width, and long enough to fit around the child's head. Staple or tape shut. Using brown construction paper, trace the child's hands. Cafefully cut out the 'antlers'. Affix to the band, with tape or staples. I sometimes will use cream construction paper and let the kids color, sparkle or in other ways, decorate the antlers.

Dried Citrus/ Apple Ornaments: Using fresh 'sun' fruits, such as oranges, limes, lemons, grapefruits or apples. Slice into thin circle slices. Put them carefully on a cooling rack. Put into a 200 degree oven for several hours, turning every hour until they are dry. Open the oven door slightly and leave in the oven overnight. Laying on a piece of wax paper, coat evenly with a clear ployurathane coating. String with fishing line, and hang on the tree, or dangle in the windows.

Reindeer Food: Essentially you make Chex Mix (cereal, pretzles, peanuts, raisins and M & M's). Take a paper bag - decorate like a reindeer {red pom-pom for nose, googlie eyes, and trace the kids hands on brown construction paper then cut out, as the antlers.} Place the 'food' in the bag and staple shut setting it along side Santa's Cookies. I've also used an open bag with bird seed that I set outside on the stoop for the reindeer to eat while Santa distributes the gifts.

The Fabulous Kickbutt Topiary: This is also super easy and the kids love it. Supplies: Large styrofoam ball (at least 4 in), cinnamon sticks, silk winter flowers, holly, etc, ribbon, 4 in terrocota pot, 4 in styrofoam disk (to fit in the pot), styrofoam glue, spray adhesive, paint. Procedure: Place a thin line of glue around the inside rim of the pot. Place the foam disk, inside the pot, paint the pot and set aside. (Make sure you lay out wax paper to protect the work surface). Cut the heads off of the silk flowers. Spray a small section of the large foam ball. Press the smallstem of the flowers into the ball, pressing until the adhesive affixes the flowers securly. Work around the surface of the ball, leaving a very small space in the 'bottom'. Take 3 cinnamon sticks that are relatively straight. Bind the ends with florist wire (if you'd like, not necessary). Press the ends, tightly held together, into the foam disk in the pot (right in the center.), and again into the small clear space in the base of the ball. Remove. Heavily glue the hole in the pot, then place the sticks back into the glued hole in the pot. Leave until dry. Taking the holly. Decorate the surface of the foam in the pot, spraying small sections with the adhesive as you go, wait till dry. Glue the hole in the bottom of the foam ball, gently place the cinnamon sticks into the hole. wait for glue to dry. You can then decorate the pot or cinnamon sticks with the ribbon.


"Yule Log": Make a chocolate cake (I usually use vanilla cake then chocolate frosting, but its up to you, its supposed to represent the wood log). Pour in to a Greesed and Floured Jelly Roll (15x10x1 inch) Pan. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Lightly sprinkle a clean dry cloth with powdered sugar. Loosen the cake (fresh from the oven) around the edges then gently dump it on the cloth. Roll the cloth around the roll, set on a cooling rack. Let cool. When totally cool, unwrap cloth. Then frost with light chocolate frosting. I also decorate the roll with frosting to look like holly - but you can bring in pine cones, acorns & holly and decorate the 'Log' (just don't forget to wash them thoroughly first).

Sugar Suns: Using a sugar cookie mix, cut out in circles or use a cun cookie cutter. Alow to cool, then decorate with yellow, orance & red frosting.

Plum Pudding
1/4 lb. flour
1/4 lb. currants
1 tsp. salt
1/4 lb. sultanas (small raisins)
1 tsp. allspice
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 tsp. ginger
1 ounce cut mixed (citrus) peel
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 oz. shredded almonds
pinch fresh grated nutmeg
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1/4 lb. fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 lb. molasses (treacle)
1/2 lb. shredded suet
4 large eggs
1/4 lb. brown sugar
2 tbsp. brandy
1/4 lb. dried chopped apricots
1/4 lb. prunes
1/4 lb dates
Sift flour, salt and spices into a large bowl. Stir in breadcrumbs, suet and sugar. Add fruits, peel and rind. Beat lemon and orange juice, molasses and eggs together and add to other ingredients. Steam for 6 hours -- a coffee tin filled with the mixture and placed in a steamer in a covered pan does well.
(A little vinegar and lemon juice in the water will prevent the pan from discoloration. ) After steaming cover in a cool place and let age as long as possible - usually about 5 weeks.

To serve, re-steam for another 3 hours. Remove from tin, douse with warm brandy and set it ablaze!

Wassail (traditional hot - sometimes spiked- Yule Cider)
4 litres apple cider or juice (fresh milled organic is excellent!)
1 orange, chopped
1 lime, chopped
1 lemon, chopped
4 cinnamon sticks or 1 t. ground cinnamon
1 inch-square piece of fresh ginger or 1/4 t. ground ginger
1 t. cloves, allspice and/or star anise
Heat all and simmer in an enamel pot (aluminum can impart a metallic flavor) on low for an hour, then serve to cold, caroling folks.
brandy or rum for adults, optional

Yule-Tide Season Then vs Now

Yule is the celebration of the Winter Solstice, when the dark half of the year gives way to the light. Beginning the next morning the sun hangs a little lower in the sky, therefore warming the land just a bit more.

In ancient times, living in the dark half of the year must have been near torture. Living with the cold (without insulation), limited food resources, and being confined to a small space generally overflowing with family and livestock. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that the ancient peoples = who marked the passage of time by way of the sun and moon = would celebrate the dawning of the end of this risky time. No doubt conservation of food stores was also the way of life during the first half of winter. After such a time of illness and boredom, it should also not surprise, that they mark this day/night, with sacrifices, bon-fires and emerging from their homes to mingle with neighbors and grand feasts.

Darkness rules up to this day. For the ancient peoples, who lacked sufficient lighting systems, they would have to deal with only about 6 or 7 hours of daylight. The myths of the time, focused much of the evils on the night = also not surprising as falling temps would no doubt increase the rates of sickness and death. So, the Yule celebrations would also celebrate the light of the Sun and Sun Gods fighting and conquering the Moon and Moon Gods. The Oak King is a gain victorious (aka The Sun King) defeating the Holly King, thus allowing the warming of the land and strengthening of the Sun.

Each of the traditions still celebrated today, originated with our ancient Celtic and Scandinavian ancestors. The decorating of the Christmas Tree, the Yule Log, The Christmas Ham, the decorating with evergreens and holly - all (and more) originated with Yule Traditions.

The Christmas Boar/Ham originated as the Yule-Eve Honor Boar. The best boar would be brought into the meeting house where the peoples would lay hands upon it and re-make vows. The sacrifice of the boar would send their vows to the Gods, and the meat from the sacrifice was a form of the Gods honoring those vows.

Decorating with Evergreens had a few reasons behind it. First of all the evergreen was seen as a symbol of immortality - as the leaves and plant-life seem to 'die' during the winter, but evergreens retain their beauty and color throughout the cold dark time. Decorating the house with holly worked to reinforce this immortality concept - but it is also prickly, and therefore might be used to protect against evil spirits entering through the extended night. Holly was also set out on entry ways as a symbol of good fortune. Holly, Mistletoe and Ivy would decorate the outside and inside of homes, inviting the Nature Spirits to wake from their slumber and begin to thaw and fertilize the land.

Mistletoe. Mistletoe was (and still is) a sacred plant to Druids and certain Scandinavians. It was used by the Druids as an AllHeal, believing this plant holds the soul of the tree within its power. Pieces of the plant would also be cut on Yule and distributed to the people as protection against evil - hanging it in newborns cribs, hanging it in the barn of the first born calf of the year to protect the herd, etc. In some areas it was also considered a plant of peace - if two armies converged in a forest below mistletoe they would call a truce for 24 hours. The act of kissing under the mistletoe has long been thought of as an English custom, but its origins may come from much further back in history, all the way to Norse mythology. The Goddess Frigga had a son, Balder who become the most beloved of all the Gods. Frigga so loved her son she acquired vows form all natures elements - fare, air, earth and water - that none of their 'children' would ever come to harm her son. Loki, ever the evil prankster, found a loophole in mistletoe. He made an arrow out of the plant and gave it to Balder's blind brother Holder, guiding his hand in firing the arrow straight into Balder's heart, killing him. It was believed Frigga's tears became the white berries. She kissed her son, and he restored to life. Frigga was so happy she reversed the reputation of the evil plant - into one of love and happiness, promising she would bestow a kiss to all who passed under it.

The Yule Log. It should surprise no one that the Yule Log is also a tradition from ancient times. It was common for the Sabbats, Solstices & Equinox's, to be celebrated with the ceremonial burning of fires - sometimes to cleanse in preparation for winter as with Mabon, sometimes to cleanse the effects of winter in preparation for spring as with Beltaine, and sometimes just as a plea to the Gods for continued protection. Marking the end of the rule of the Holly or Oak king - the end of the rule of the sun allowing the earth its time of rest and recuperation of winter or the end of the rule of the nigh, welcoming the sun again to warm the land and its people, or the enduring battle between fertility and death in nature. This is true for Yule, which is also known as the Winter Solstice, commonly referred to as the longest night of the year, it marks the time when the night begins to shorten and the days to again lengthen - giving our ancestors hope of the end of the cold and suffering of winter. The Yule log (which oddly could not be bought, it had to be given or harvested personally by the family burning it). It was meant to represent the health, fruitfulness and productivity of the household. In ancient times the log, after being retrieved from the forrest by the whole family who would drag it home singing carols (livening the spirit often dampened through Winter), they would decorate the log in evergreens (representing immortality and the fruitfulness of the coming spring) and sprinkled with cider or wine (after all it is a party) and bits of red or gold fabric (both the fabric and wine represent the coming time of the Sun's rule). They would then uncover the remains of the previous year's Yule Log and add it to the fireplace with this year's log to be burned for 12 hours before being doused (with either Holy Water or Cider depending on the region). The the remains would be protected for the next Winter Solstice. Ash is the traditional wood for the Yule log as it is the 'World Tree' in many traditions - the center of the universe or doorway to other worlds.

Gift Giving. As this is the first major gathering since winter began (at Samhain, or Halloween) this time was often a great party - joy in surviving the harsh winter thus far. Children would often start the day by going house to house, or person to person giving gifts of apples, or decorated bows of evergreens as these are symbols of the Sun warming the land, and the immortality of nature. Wheat Stalks & Flour also made great gifts, representing the bounty of the last harvest (memories of a warmer, happier time), and a sense of accomplishment (of the successful harvest), triumph and the remembrance of the Sun's warmth. When Christianity took over the tradition of Yule, changing it to Christmas, they also took the opportunity of giving treats under (or sometimes on) the Christmas Tree.

The Christmas Tree is debatable in it's origins, although England's Queen Victoria made it a popular Christmas tradition, falling back onto her husbands Germanic roots. The origins of the Christmas tree as a Christian tradition date back about 1,000 years to St. Boniface. He supposedly came across a group of pagans celebrating the Winter Solstice by honoring (or 'worshiping') an Oak tree. He was so incensed to have the lack of Christianity's prevalence thrown in his face that he cut down the tree. A young Fir supposedly instantly replaced the desiccated tree, which St. Boniface took as proof of the existence of Christianity and made the Fir a symbol for it. But, a tree was not brought indoors by Christians until the rule of Queen Victoria - whose husband was a Germanic Prince. Many of the Christmas traditions preserved today were originated in Germanic countries - from the songs to the decorations - including the Glass Bulb decorations placed on the tree. In fact the book of Jeremiah in the Christian bible reads, "For the customs of the peoples are false: a tree from the forest is cut down, and worked with an ax by the hands of an artisan people deck it with silver and gold they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it can't move." Where is obviously condemns the use of a tree in forms of worship (although, admittedly, it is most likely referring to the act of worshiping the tree itself). The use of pulling in an evergreen tree (usually an oak, pine or fir) and decorating it with apples, cloth bows/flowers, with the soul purpose of allowing children to collect 'dainties' during the Yule-tide season can be found in print as far back as the 16th century. Therefore, it is argued that this specific tradition can not be proven as descending from the Pagan religion of the Celts and Germanic/Norse. Although, it would make sense considering the honor the Celts placed on trees that a tree in their 'yard' would be decorated as they were also using free-fall (already on the ground) bows of evergreens to decorate their homes to celebrate Yule. The Druids have long used Trees in their practices, honoring their spirits. So, I can't think they would sacrifice the tree itself, to be used as a decoration. I can believe they would single out and honor a free growing evergreen as a symbol of the immortality of nature.

Christmas Spirits. We are all quite familiar with the Christmas Carol made popular by Charles Dickens. Even this tradition comes from long ago. In fact the history of Christmas Spirits ties in with the use of the Yule log by Scandinavian traditions. One of Odin's original names was Jolnir, and he was often celebrated at the Winter Solstice by Scandinavian ancients. Odin was the God of Wine and revelry, but he was also one of the Gods of death. It was thought he could be seen riding across the night sky collecting souls. As Yule is the celebration of the waning of the Night's strength, it is not surprising they honored Odin's night rides on this eve. It was further thought the ghosts were free to roam from Samhain (Halloween) until Beltaine (May 1 st) when the veils between the worlds was thin and spirits of the dead could pass easily through unto the Summerlands or Underworld.

No matter the tradition, location or religion celebrating this dark time of the year. A sense of celebration and accomplishment was and still is prevalent. After spending the last month's conserving food, and warmth, getting together for a feast, dancing and gift giving, as well as colorful decorations blesses all man. Turning the harsh cold of the northern countries into the warmth of the fire and love. This time is not only about getting. I believe it is important to remember the roots of the season to honor those who came before us. And to put our problems into perspective. If you have food and warmth than the Winter is no longer as devastating - but there are still those who don't have such necessities. I believe that the act of helping those without - will benefit ourselves 1000 fold.

Enjoy the Yule-Tide Season!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Esbat RItual

Esbat Ritual
Celebrating The Full Moon

  • Before starting my ritual I take a shower visualizing sloughing off all the negative energies while saying:
By the silver light of Lady Moon,
By my heart and hands and mind,
By all that's holy, true and strong,
I am cleansed to pure.
May both my hands do good works to honor the Gods
My feet walk the honored path,
My mind stay clear and sharp,and my Heart free from negativity.
As I take this sacred cleansing.
As I am a tool for Brigid,
I am now free from all unworthy influences.
I am now fit to meet greet and be blessed by the Goddess.
As I was in my first moments of my first life,
I am now and always will be,
So mote it be!

I stand outside or in the light of a window for the actual ritual.

Supplies: Moon Candle (unscented white pillar, etched with astrological and elemental symbols), my normal tools. My altar. Quarter candles and Elemental Representations.


  • I light my illuminator candle on my altar.
  • Standing in the light of the Full Moon, I close my eyes feeling the Moon's rays soaking into me. I ground and center - aligning myself with the Earth and Moon. I clear my mind of daily stresses and just take a moment to enjoy the beauty of existance.
  • Cleansing & Consecrating my Tools: I place all my tools for ritual on my altar then hover my hands over all of them. I visualize the power of the moon, Goddess and myself causing the negative energies to turn to steam and dissapate into the atmosphere as I say:

By the silvery power of the Moon, My connection to Mother Brigid. I cast my power over these sacred items. No negativity may touch them. May they serve the Goddess and myself well in all my working here tonight.

  • I pass each of the elemental representations over the altar. Saying :

By the solidity and strength of the Earth, I banish negativity from these tools. By the power of the planes within the Air I cast all negativity to the winds. By the vibrancy and strength of Fire I cast the protection of the Moon over these items. With the soothing peace of water Brigid's blessing is given unto these, my sacred tools.

  • I knock on the altar once to seal the cleansing saying So mote it be!
  • Circle casting: Walking the circle three times (deosil) I visualize a protective bubble rising from the earth to encompass the space saying:

"This circle round and round, By my might and will is bound. Only those invited in may cross. That strength and power will not be lost. (end of 1 time around) From the earth the power of manifestation, from air the power and strength of spirit, from Fire the pulse of transformation, from water enevitability. This circle comprises the Elementals, all that I am and see. (end of round 2) By the power of the Ancients, the love of my Goddess, the strength of the Moon's power shining down. As above so below, as within so without. With my will and mind and soul combind in one voice, in one cohesive unit, This circle is sealed, so mote it be!" (end of round 3, back at my altar.)

  • Elementals: Starting in the North and again working Deosil, I light the tealights at the quarters. Once a candle is lit, I stand with my arms crossed over my chest as I begin to speak, slowly moving in to the Goddess position. My eyes are closed, and I visualize a hole opening in my bubble that allows the guardian entry - to me it looks like a physical representation - like a pillar of flame, or a cascade of water,etc. I say:

"I call to the Guardians of the North. Element of Earth. I am honored to welcome you into my circle for this Moon celebration. I ask you to lend me your power and protection for all my workings this eve." I repeat for the other directions/elements (East/Air; South/Fire; West/Water)

  • Evocation:
  • (a) Brigid: Standing dead center in my circle I close my eyes to again feel the connection to Brigid (my patron). And I raise my arms and invite her to my circle, asking for her continued blessings that I might be her representative on this plane. As I speak I light the illuminator candle I have set to glow on her representation.
  • (b) Female Energy of the Moon: Opening my eyes I gase upon the face of the moon, feeling its love bathing my skin. I light my moon candle as I say: "Blessed Be Lady Moon, mother of us all. I am overjoyed to have your presence so strongly in my circle this eve. I call you to join with me in the joyous enchantments I will work this night. I stand here bathed in the light of your love and support, to honor my Path, to honr my ancestors and all my Sisters that have come before me. I'm seeking to invoke your creativity this eve, that I shall succeed in my workings. May my voice carry on the winds as I bless your bounty, beauty, and goodness. Bless me in return with the bounty of yoru silvery light. Hold me forever in the protective embrace of your endless love. So Mote It Be!"
  • (c) Male Energy of the Moon: I light my God candle (orange, red, gold or yellow) as I say: "Lord of Night, join me in my sacred space this eve. The hunt is on for this year. Break away from your duties to join me and your lady in these Holy Rites. Honor with me, your lady riding across the stary sky in all her glory. So mote it be" -note I of course also envision a door in my circle to allow the deity energy entry.
  • Draw Down The Moon: This is essentially an invocation of the power of the moon. I generally use it to imbue amulets or protection charms (as the moon's energy is strongly protective). I have a draw down written in my parenting blog.
  • Depending on the Month and energy of the Moon I will perform workings - amulets, divination, or just meditating to help focus my mind or expand my senses.
  • Now that I have utilized a chunk of the Goddesses and Moon's energies to strengthen my Magick, I must honor that sacrifice and replenish their energy and my own with communion.
  • (a) Cup: Holding my hands over the cup I visualize the cup radiating and filling with power. I dip the forefinger of my power hand (or you can use your athame) into the cup visualizing the combination of male and female enrgy. Saying something like, "The Goddess blessed all the world in the making of this (drink). Her energy ripened the fruit that was sacrifieced for her here this night. May the cup fill me with her blessing, and replenish that which she blessed me with." Drinking all but a bit. Visualizing the energy soaking into my body. I pour the remainder on the ground to replace the Gods energy.
  • (b) I repeat with the cake. Holding my hands over it enrgy soaking into the cake. Saying just about the same as above. Eating just about all of it while the energy permiates my body. Then leaving the rest for the Gods.
  • Thanks & Close: I then thank and release the deities and quarters. Then walk the circle in reverse one time saying, "This circle is open, but never broken" visualizing the excess energy soaking into me or my athame.

Begining A Daily Practice

Many of us start with celebrating our faith on the Sabbats, or High Holy Days, but there are 365 days in a year and therefore, we have 365 opportunities to strengthen and celebrate our connection to our spirituality.

But, many are overwhelmed with what they can do that is simple and relatively quick to honor the Gods and take a moment for ourselves on a daily basis. The trick is to not get complicated.

Think of it this way...

  • Everyday the sun rises. This allows for life to thive. We can not exist without the sun. Therefore we should give thanks for the nurturing feeding energy given by our Star.
  • Everyday the moon is revealed. The moon is a cycle. Women are ruled by their own cycles. Therefore, we can utilize the different phases of the moon and our own cycle to celebrate womanhood as a physical representation of the Goddess.
  • Everyday we eat. We take that which the Earth sacrificed for our existance into ourselves. This could not be done without the Goddess.
  • We should also take a moment each day to list the things we are thankful for....our families, our health ect. This can also be a time of asking for assistance in a daily problem. This will decrease your daily stresses as you are asking for assistance prior to a problem becoming something huge.

These are excellent ways of instituting a daily practice...Over the next week, I will be giving examples of how to use these as a means of implimenting a daily practice.

What do I do for a daily practice?

  • Every morning I thank the Goddess for another day in this existance. I acknowledge there will come a morning in which my existance will change. I'm thankful for each day She has given me to be with my boys and to live.
  • At every meal I pray giving thanks to the Earth and the Goddess. My boys also love to do this. I gorund and center, feeling the connection to deity. Then say something like, "I thank you Goddess for this meal, May it fill me that I might feel, strong and whole the day through, that I may be in service of You. Blessed Be."
  • When I shower I visualize negativity sloughing off, just as I would before ritual. I say something like, "By my heart and hands and mind, By all that's holy, true and strong, I am cleansed to pure. May both my hands do good works to honor the Gods, My feet walk the honored path, My mind stay clear and sharp, and my Heart free from negativity. As I will so mote it be!" **I'll often add an addition of a situation in which I might feel negativity in that day, like My heart shall be light and full fo love while my mind communicates my desires in my staff meeting today...etc.
  • Before bed each night I'll hold my talismen (an agate pendant) and again ground and center. Then I'll speak to the Goddess. Thanking her for the continued health and safety of my children. I'll ask for assistance in a problem. But over all I'm communicating my joy in my connection to deity, and thanking Her for her influence in my life.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Various Paths Explained

Okay one of the hardest things a Pagan will do, will be to find the right Path for themselves. Each tradition or path has different ethics, traditions, holidays, deities, etc. It can be overwhelming to find the one that best sooths your spirit. Here is my brief overview of some of the more popular traditions.

Alexandrian: This is a Wiccan tradition branched off from the Gardnerian path. It is steeped in myetery and tradition, with formal and structured practices. There a re several small differences between Alexandrian and Gardnerian, the main is the Alexandrian use of the Atheme as a symbol for the element of fire and the Wand a symbol for Air. Like many Wiccan traditions the Polarity of energy is celebrated - the male/female interaction. Contrary to popular belief, the term Alexandrian does not refer to the creator of the trdition, ALex Sanders, but to ancient Alexandria. Alexandrians tend to be more liberal and eclectic than strict Gardnerians. Most of the principles of this tradition have been outlined by Janet and Stuart Fararr in their book series.

Asatru: (Aka Norse Heathenism) Many believers prefer the term heathens to neo-pagan as this is one of the few pagan traditions to be based mostly on actual documented practices and beliefs, staying true to their Norse ancestry. The Asatru believe in 3 levels of deity: The Aesir (the gods of the clan - representing leadership, community, crafs, etc) The Vanir (which represent the fertility of the land and forces of nature). The Jotnar (these are giants, the Gods of unrest and disorder, in a constant battle with the Aesir.) As opposed to following the Rede and Crede, the Asatru follow a Moral Code which includes: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance and Perservearance.

Black Forrest Clan: This is Silver RavenWolf's group and is considered Euro-Wiccan, drawing from Silver's German heritage and Pow-Wow and training she received from her Old Guard Wiccan magickal teachers. The Black Forest is not a social organization and does not charge an initiation or elevation fee. The Black Forest training program is designed specifically to train Wiccan Clergy, and therefore does not train individuals new to the Craft.

Blue Star Wicca: Blue Star was founded Frank Duffner in 1975 in Pennsylvania. Blue Star practices mostly as a hierarchical, mystery-based tradition with its roots in Alexandrian Craft. Most covens operate on a Grove system, in which uninitiated members and students comprise an Outer Court, and Initiates make up an Inner Court. Traditionally, a Coven (or circle) would include both Inner and Outer court members and would be presided over by a Third Degree High Priest and High Priestess.

British Traditionalist Witch: A formal, structured, neo-Gardner that is a mix of Celtic and Gardenarian beliefs. Most famous organization at this time is the International Red Garters. British Traditionals move mostly from within the Farrar studies/Alexandrian. They too are fairly structured in their beliefs, and train through the degree process. Their covens are also co-ed.

Celtic Pagan: This is the term for those of us who follow the ancient Celtic path. Following in the steps of our forefathers to dedicate our lives to the greater good. Any Priest/Priestess, Shaman, Druid, of the Celtic path has a strong sense of responsibility to the welfare, safety and happiness of those conscidered 'under their protection.' Having a strong connections to the spirit of nature, the boundries between the realms and our duty as humans to care for nature. Celtic Pagans are different from Celtic Wiccans in that they do not follow the Rede or Crede. More like the Nore Heathens the Celtic Pagan follows a moral code. Having personal integrity is essential to any Celtic Pagan. It generally takes a minimum of ten years to be conscidered Priest/Priestess level i nteh Celtic Path.

Celtic Wicca: These followers adhere to Celtic/Druidic patheons, and rituals/practices that are Gardnerian in base, heavily stressing the beliefs in nature, the elements and the Ancient Ones. They had a vast knowledge of and respect for the healing and magickal qualities of plants and stones, flowers, trees, elemental spirits, the little people, gnomes and fairies.

Ceremonial Witchcraft: Followers of this Tradition use a great deal of ceremonial magick in their practices. Detailed rituals with a flavor of Egyptian magick are sometimes a favorite, or they may use the Qabbalistic magick. Less religion, more emphasis on the art and science of magick. Rituals are generally complex and practices lean towards the esoteric side of Wicca. Not geared towards the solitary practitioner, but can easily be adapted for those who choose to work alone.

Circle Wicca: Circle was begun in 1974 by Selena Fox and Jim Alan. Its headquarters are at Circle Sanctuary, a 200 acre Nature preserve and organic herb farm in southwestern Wisconsin.They publish an annual source, the Circle Guide to Pagan Resources as well as a quarterly magazine, Circle Network News.

Covenant of the Goddess: A cross-traditional federation of over one hundred covens, plus solitary elders and associates, who have joined together to win recognition for the Craft as a legitimate and legally recognized religion. Essentially it is a meeting of the minds in Coven's. Any coven can join as long as it is a cohesive, self-perpetuating group that has been strong for a minimum of 6 months.

Dianic: This is another Wiccan tradition. *The Dianic Craft includes two distinct branches:
*1. One branch, founded in Texas by Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts, gives primacy to the Goddess in its theology, but honors the Horned God as Her Beloved Consort. Covens are mixed, including both women and men. This branch is sometimes called 'Old Dianic', and there are still covens of this tradition, especially in Texas. Other covens, similar in teleology but not directly descended from the McFarland/Roberts line, are sprinkled around the country.
*2. The other branch, sometimes called Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, focus exclusively on the Goddess and consists of women-only covens and groups. These tend to be loosely structured and non-hierarchical, using consensus- decision- making and simple, creative, experimental ritual. They are politically feminist groups, usually very supportive, personal and emotionally intimate. There is a strong lesbian presence in the movement, though most covens are open to women of all orientations. The major network is Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess, which publishes "Of a Like Mind" newspaper and sponsors conferences on Dianic Craft. [* Amber K] {2}

Druid: This is a branch of Celtic Paganism. We are the Priests and Priestesses. The teachers and protectors of knowledge. We are the keepers of brehorn law, ensuring those under our protection follow our strict moral code as well as are not harmed by the lack in others. We act not just as mediators between students and spirituality, between man and the Gods, but we lead the rites of passage both for people and nature - ensuring balance, we are the shamans of the Celtic world - traveling between the realms - for the purposes of maintaining balance as well as aquiring knowledge.

Eclectic Witch: This catch-all phrase indicates that the individual does not follow any particular Tradition, denomination, sect, or magickal practice. They learn and study from many magickal systems and apply to themselves what appears to work best. Followers include any aspects involved in the other traditions. This may include the belief in the Celtic deities as well as Jesus Christ, as well as a strong belief in Buddhism. At the same time, followers worship the God and Goddess of Wicca. With these ideas, one can choose what they wish to follow, which they feel would be best for their heart, mind, body, and infinite spirit. One can add and remove certain elements of rituals in this branch, although this is widely controversial within the Neopagan community. The main idea though is to follow whatever one feels will affirm their life, rather than to be locked into a tradition which may be overwhelming or to follow given rules or certain aspects of the tradition which may frighten the practitioner. A main goal in any way of Eclecticism is balance. Followers aim to take that which was taught and use certain ideas in those teachings as tools toward their spirituality and higher purpose. A free spirit is considered to be a balanced spirit.

Faery Wicca: (aka Feri, Fey, Fairy, etc) This is an Irish tradition that centers on green Witchcraft and faery magick. It is an ecstatic, rather than fertility tradition, emphasizing on polytheism, practical magic, self-development and theurgy. Strong emphasis is placed on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression. Starhawk is an initiate.Among the distinguishing features of the Faery tradition is the use of a specific Faery Power or energetic current which characterizes the lineage. Feri witches often see themselves as "fey": not black, not white, outside social definitions, on the road to Faeryland, either mad or poetical. Edgewalkers. They know that much of reality is unseen, or at least has uncertain boundaries. There is a deep respect for the wisdom of Nature, a love of beauty, and an appreciation of bardic and mantic creativity. Core teachings acknowledged by many of the branches of the tradition include the doctrines of the Three Souls, the Black Heart of Innocence, the Iron and Pearl pentacles, as well as an awareness of "energy ecology", which encourages practitioners to never give away or to waste their personal power, preferring instead techniques designed towards transmuting "negative" energy into a pure and more useful form. Trance experiences and personal connection with the Divine are at the heart of this path, which has led to a wide variety of practices throughout the larger body of the tradition.

Family Traditions: These are the practices and traditions, usually secret, of families who have been Witches for generations.

Gardnerian: Gerald Gardner is thought of as either the grandfather of most neo-pagan traditions, or a big fat liar. There is much disagreement surrounding his history from the coven he clamed to be initiated in to his work "Witchcraft Today" in which he lists many practices and beliefs of this coven. This tradition leans heavily on tradition and family, paying close attention to family geneologies - the term 'hereditary witch' is often coined by this tradition, although most pagans dislike that term. Reincarnation and the Rede {an' it harm none, do what ye will} are the basic tenets for this path. Covens strive for a balance between the male/female members - as this polarity is an important component to their rituals and practices. They lean heavily on secrecy and tradition (although the basis for the traditions are greatly disputed). It is thought that Crowley, Blake, Kipling, and Yeats have all contributed to Gardnerian's published books of shadows.

Georgian Tradition: The Georgians, founded by George E. Patterson in 1970, were chartered by the Universal Life Church in 1972, as The Church of Wicca of Bakersfield. In 1980 they were chartered as The Georgian Church.They lean toward the Goddess and generally work skyclad but individual groups or individuals may do as they wish. They are both religious and magickal and celebrate the eight Sabbats. Members are encouraged to learn from all available sources - making it an established eclectic tradition.

Hereditary Witch: One who can trace the Craft through their family tree and who has been taught the Old Religion by a relative who was living at the same time. How far one has got to go back on the family tree to meet the conditions of the first part of this definition is debatable. Family trades (another name for Hereditary Witches.) This term is greatly debated in the pagan community, as it seems to make those with family traditions more important than those that broke away from tradition to follow their spirit.

Kemetic Wicca: The Kemetic or Egyptian path is the worship of the set of Egyptian gods and goddesses. There is particular strain to pray to the family of Osiris and his wife/sister Isis, and their falcon-headed son, Horus. This is called a trinity. Sacred symbols such a the Ankh (the ancient Egyptian symbol for life), and Eye of Horus/All Seeing Eye are very popular in this sect. Some try to copy the religious rituals of the ancient Egyptians and the Book of the Dead (ancient Egyptian book describing spells and rituals used during embalming and other various rituals) is sometimes used as a reference.

Kitchen Witch: Basically, this type is one who practices by hearth and home, dealing with the practical side of religion, magick, the earth and the elements.

Neo-Pagan: This is the term used to indicate any religion that is based on the beliefs, traditions, symbols, practices, etc, of ancient religions. Saddly, due to lack of proper documentation, Neo-Pagans buil their traditions on assumptions and supositions of the ancient world.

Minoan Tradition: The Minoan tradition is actually of triad -- the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood, and the Cult of Rhea -- was incorporated in December of 1998 under New York State religious corporations law. Their beliefs do not focus on the gender differences of the dieties and many Minoan followers are gay, lesbian and bisexual.

Pictish Witch: Scottish Witchcraft that attunes itself to all aspects of nature: animal, vegetable, and mineral. It is a solitary form of the Craft and mainly magickal in nature with little religion.

Reclaiming: Reclaiming is a community of women and men working to unify spirit and politics. It is a tradition of Witchcraft that began in the 1980s in Northern California.

Pagan: This is an umbrella term. Saddly there are many different definitions for it ranging fron evil anti-Christian Devil worshippers to Naturalists. (Go figure) But the most widely accepted definition amound us is this: Paganism is the practice of any Non-Christian religion. So, that would include all Eastern Religions, Judism, Wiccans, Celtic, Native Americans, etc.

Pow-Wow: Indigenous to South Central Pennsylvania. This is a system, not a religion, based on 400 year old Elite German magick. Pow-Wow has deteriorated to a great degree into simple faith healing. Although Pow-Wow finds its roots in German Witchcraft, few practicing Pow-Wows today in Pennsylvania follow the Craft or even know the nature of its true birth.

Sacred Wheel: An eclectic neo-Pagan path which was organized in Delaware withing the past decade. Calling themselves Wiccan, they focus on balance and learning. Celtic beliefs are a part of their teachings. Still concentrated in the easten states, covens are formed from study groups which include both old-timers and novices.

Seax-Wica: Founded by Raymond Buckland in 1973. Although of Saxon basis, it was authored by Raymond himself without breaking his original Gardenarian oath.

Shamanic Witchcraft: This term refers to practices associated with those of tribal shamans in traditional Pagan cultures throughout the world. A shaman combines the roles of healer, priest (ess), diviner, magician, teacher and spirit guide, utilizing altered states of consciousness to produce and control psychic phenomena and travel to and from the spirit realm. Followers of this path believe that historical Witchcraft was the shamanic practice of European Pagans; and Medieval Witches actually functioned more as village shamans than as priests and priestesses of "the Old Religion." Shamanic Witchcraft emphasizes serving the wider community through rituals, herbalism, spellcraft, healings, counseling, rites of passage, handfastings, Mystery initiations, etc. The distinguishing element of Shamanic Witchcraft is the knowledge and sacramental use of psychotropic plants to effect transitions between worlds.

Solitary Witch/Pagan: This is the term for those who are not a part of a coven, but choose to practice their faith privately.

Strega Witches: Follows a Tradition seated in Italy that began around 1353 with a woman called Aradia. Of all the traditional Witches, this group appears to be the smallest in number in the United States. It is traditionally a quasi-messianic Syncreto-Pagan religion that honors the Roman god Lucifer, the Roman goddess Diana, and their lovechild, the demigoddess Aradia who was sent to earth in human form to offer freedom through witchcraft to the poor and oppressed. It is mainly a Classical Anarchist religion, and can be seen as a direct reaction to the Christianization of Italy and the predominant class system thereof. In fact, Stregherian mythology is filled with strong Anarchist and anti-Christian themes, both literal and allegorical.

Teutonic Witch: From ancient time, the Teutons have been recognize as a group of people who speak the Germanic group languages. Culturally, this included the English, Dutch, Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish peoples. This is also known as the Nordic Tradition and incorporates deities, symbolisms and practices from Norse and Germanic cultures.

Wicca: This is another Umbrella term. Any and all traditions that follow the Rede and Crede are conscidered a branch of Wicca. This is made possible by the fact that Wicca has no specific pantheon - so one could infact be a Christian Witch, or Celtic Wiccan, or Roman Wiccan, etc the first part of the title referring to the pantheon and traditions they adhere to.

For a comprehensive look at the different paths in America, check out Margot Adler's Book - Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America

(1) Religious Tolerance { }
(2) Bewitching Ways { }
(3) Wicca { }
(4) Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland, Llewellyn Publications, 2006
(5) Ritual Craft, by Amber K. and Azreal Arynn K, Llewllyn Publications, 2006