A Pagan Prepares for Winter

As the wheel turns once more and the warmth of summer turns to the cool nights of fall it is a very fitting time to reflect on the past year as we move into the darker times of the months ahead.  I am both sad and peaceful around this time of year.  Sad to see the beauty of a green world turn to the greys and browns of winter, but peaceful because for me this is a time of rest and reflection.  A time to plan what will come with the hints of spring and all the beauty and wonder that new Greening will bring with it.

On the farm, we move from the busy bustle to collect the bounty of our gardens to the equally busy time of getting animals, garden, and home ready for the cold and dark days ahead.  My thoughts move mostly to making sure the animals in our care have good protection from the harsh climate of winter.  We are always moving, improving, and enlarging shelters in the winter to make them more suitable for the animals (Honestly if I’m not satisfied they are comfortable I can’t sleep at night!).

chicken

This week the Husband helped me move the Chicken coop to a new location closer to the house so that collecting eggs and cleaning the coop will be more convenient for both us and our flock.   It also makes running a heat lamp out on extension cords simpler in case of extreme cold for our region.  I cleaned it well and replaces all the bedding with a warmer variety and set up a temporary run until the chickens get accustomed to entering the coop in its new location. (Note: Trying to find and catch chickens in the freezing dark because they could not find their coop, which is about 150 feet from its previous location and bright red, is not entertaining.)  It definitely gives me a good feeling to know that they have a safe, warm, and cozy coop set up for the winter.  It is so much easier to fall asleep at night knowing that they are as comfortable as we can make them.

chickens

The next project on the list is getting a permanent shelter set up for the Bucks.  Their temporary shelter finally fell apart this spring and they have been making use of the massive dog house and a covered feeding area, which while fine for summer and fall will not cut it for winter.

The does are cozy as always inside the barn with the horses at night and the door to their side of the barn will be closed at night once temperatures drop a tad more.  Everyone has begun to put on their new fluffy winter coats in preparation for the cold months to come.

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One of the reasons I always look forward to this time of year is that I finally have time for Possibilities.  I can plan my garden for next year, set up breeding schedules for my dairy goats, start indoor projects that were waiting for my outdoor life to calm down, and focus on my spiritual growth during the dark afternoon hours that seem to last a lifetime now.

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I can’t wait to have the extra time to really focus on my Practice and my Craft not that the rush that is spring and summer is over.  I look forward to finding more time to meditate, work on Divination, and explore new avenues and paths that I may not have ventured down yet.  This past year has been so full of growth and new experiences that have really driven me in new directions on my path with renewed purpose.  I have fallen in with a wonderful group of friends that help me learn, grow, and become a better Cunning Woman that I ever could have become walking my solitary path.  Hopefully this winter will be a time to rest, learn, and grow so that I can emerge as a better Witch, a more enlightened person, and a happier me!

 

Blessings!

Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is upon us once again, bringing with it the first of the harvest festivals!  Traditionally this was a festival of games and dance.  Lughnasadh honors the Celtic hero Lugh also known as the Sun God . Lugh is the solar deity of the Irish Tuatha de Danaan, the Celtic Faeries.  This is his festival day, and the first of the harvest festivals. Without Lugh (the Sun) shining on the fields, there would be no harvest and no food for one’s family or community during the winter months.  So Lugh is a very important deity to the Celts.

About Lugh

Lugh was born to Ethniu, the daughter of the one-eyed King of Giants – Balor.  His father was the Dagda, the ‘Lord of Perfect Knowledge’.  Lugh was wall schooled in the arts, crafts, and magikal ways.  He is most often seen wearing red as his representation as the Sun or Fire God.  In legend, a prophecy was cast that the King Balor would be slain by a grandson. During a battle, Lugh used his slingshot to knock out the eye of Balor. The eye and the stone went through the skull of the Giant king and killed twenty seven of Balor’s men who where standing behind him.

Lugh was known as a god of both skill and the distribution of talent. Lugh was considered a warrior because to the Celts, skill on the battlefield was a highly valued ability. In Ireland, which was never invaded by Roman troops, Lugh is called sam ildanach, meaning he was skilled in many arts simultaneously.  His weapons included a mighty magic spear, which was so bloodthirsty that it often tried to fight without its owner. According to Irish myth, in battle, the spear flashed fire and tore through the enemy ranks unchecked. In parts of Ireland, when a thunderstorm rolls in, the locals say that Lugh and Balor are sparring – thus giving Lugh one more role, as a god of storms.

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The word Lughnasadh roughly relates to ‘to give in marriage’ and was once associated with marriage contracts. In this context, a marriage contract was entered into, and in 9 months at the next Beltane the couple faces the birth of summer and life.  If the couple was fertile and a child was born, the contract of marriage was celebrated as a permanent union.  If not, the couple ended their marriage contract and went on their own ways.  This festival is believed to celebrate Lugh’s marriage to the “Sovereignty of Ireland”, the Goddess Eriu.  Some Celtic traditions view Lughnasadh as the moment when the sacred king dies as a sacrifice to ensure the fertility of the next year’s crops.  In old pagan practices, the blood of a Rooster would be scattered on the fields to promote the fertility of the land.

As a holiday, Lughnasadh represents the time of honoring the summer and sun, giving thankfulness for the start of the harvest season and the plentiful harvest to come. It is about preparation, getting ready for the waning year and end of life.   It is also a time to honor Elders in your life and ancestry.  This is a time to honor everything you have learned during the year, but most importantly honoring the wisdom given from your Elder is paramount.  Like the Midsummer festival, many Celts also use this time to honor the nature Faeries and mother earth herself. Giving them thanks for watching over their crops and live stock during the summer season. Here during Lughnasadh, thanks are given to the fairies for what ever they have granted you.  Lughnasadh is also a celebration of the union between the God and his maiden as they enter into their marriage contract. Through their union, the land remains fertile and provides sustaining life to the earth for the next season’s planting. Finally, it is an honoring of Death through the sacrifice of the sacred king.

Celebrating

There are many ways to celebrate the first harvest festival.  As a Celtic festival of thanksgiving, preparing a meal with the harvest of your garden is a great tradition. You can also brew a new batch of home made wine to use in the coming year. it is also a time for preserves and jellies from grapes, raspberries and blackberries.  It is slightly representative of the American holiday of thanks giving, where we celebrate the bounty we have been given and give thanks.  In the evening, many continue the festival with a formal holiday ritual. There are as many ways and suggestions for conducting such a ceremony and for many it is a personal choice.  One good place to look for ideas is  Lughnasadh Sabbat Ritual on the Pagan Path.

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I hope everyone has a wonderful Lughnasadh and as always, Blessed Be!

Ritual Tools

Its always exciting to receive a new ritual tool or item.  For many, these things represent Deity and our connection to them.  It is common practice to make your own tools, but in this day and in this day and age many people use the convenience of online shopping to purchase from the wide array of items online.  I highly recommend making what ever you can as this created a personal bond and feel to your tools.  However a purchased item can work just as well!  Here is a comprehensive list of the most common ritual tools used.

 

Athame

The athame is a ritual knife with an ancient history.  It is used to direct energy during rights and spells by many in the magical community, especially when calling the corners or casting a circle.  The knife blade is usually dull and double edged with a black or dark handle. The two edges symbolize the god and goddess, which meet at the point.  The athame is never used to cut through anything other than air and energy, which is why most people choose a dull blade.   Many inscribe magical symbols into the handle which is optional and to your preference.  You can also use a sword for the same purpose and many people interchange the two!  The Athame is most commonly associated with the element air and the east.

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Wand   

Like the athame, the wand is used to focus energy.  It is most commonly used to invoke the gods, but can also be used instead of the athame for casting your circle and calling the corners.  A wand can be as plane as a simple stick and as elaborate as a crystal wand.  The important thing is that the wand speaks to you and feels ‘right’ in your hand. Common woods to use are oak, ash, and willow, however you may use any type of wood you like.  I personally have an apple wood wand that I find to work best for me.  The wand is most commonly associated with the element fire and the south.

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Chalice

The chalice is a symbol of the goddess and her fertility.  It is commonly used in rituals where female symbolism is important and the goddess is a focus.  It is also used to drink from in ritual and has many other uses.  The chalice can be made form almost anything including metal, wood, clay, ceramic, or glass. The chalice is associated with water and the west.

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Cauldron

The cauldron is a cast iron pot on three feet and it also used to represent female energy.  It can be used to burn things, build bonfires, spell work, ect.  They range in sizes from enormous enough to sit in to small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. 

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Statues

Many pagans enjoy having statues representing the god and goddess.  They can be general statues of a male and female Deity or specific to a specific Deity.  It is not essential by any means but can add to the beauty and meaning of your altar!

 

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Broom

The broom is used to ‘sweep’ negative energy out of a space.  Many use the broom to cleanse their ritual area before circle casting or their homes and work areas.  It represents both the male and female and the joining of the two.  A ritual broom can be an ordinary broom, a hand made broom, or a decorative broom.  The broom represents the earth and the north or air in the east.

 

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Bell

The ringing of a bell releases vibrations that can have powerful affects.  The intent can depend on the tone, volume, and material of the bell.  Hanging a bell on your door is used to guard your home.  The ringing of bells has been a part of many religions for hundreds of years and is still used today.  The bell represents the female nature and can be rung to invoke the goddess, calm storms, ward off evil spells and spirits, or to invoke positive energies.  

Pentagram Hand Bell

Censer and incense

It is very common to burn incense during a ritual to set the mood, cleanse the ritual space, and attract certain kinds of energy.  It is also used to consecrate ritual items by passing them through the smoke.  There are three different types of incense: Cone, stick, and loose.  Both the sticks and cone type only need something to burn them in.  Loose incense need a charcoal brick which is a bit more complicated, however you can also mix and make your own incense this way.  There are many different aromas to choose from, and you can pick your sent based on the intent it is associated with or just because you like the smell!  The incense and censer represent Fire and air, the south and the east.

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Salt and Water

Many people keep both salt and water on their altar.  Salt water is used to purify and consecrate both ritual space and ritual items.  I prefer to keep small decorative bottles of each and mix them as needed in a dish.  This helps you keep representatives of two elements on your alter.  Salt represents earth and the north.  Water represents water and the west!

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Pentacle

Many people keep a pentacle on their alter as both an aid in magic and a protective symbol. The Pentagram. or five pointed star, had been used in magic for a millennia.  The pentacle is a tool used for protection and invoking spirits and gods.  Tradition says that hanging one over your doors and windows will provide your home with protection.   It can be made of a flat piece of wood, metal, brass, gold, silver, or clay.  The pentacle represents the element of earth and is a great tool in which to place items such as ritual tools, amulets, charms, and candles to be consecrated during a ritual. 

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Candles

One sure sign of a pagan or someone who follows witchcraft is candles, lots and lots of them.  They are placed on the alter to represent both the god and goddess, the moon in full moon rituals, spirit when working with the elements.  They are also used around the circle to represent each element.  Additionally candle magic is a huge practice and has to do with choosing the color of a candle based on your spell intentions.  Many people inscribe their candles to give them more power and meaning during burning or spell work.  Any type of candle from tapers to tea lights will work, just choose what you like. Candles represent fire and the south.

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Utility Knife

Because your Athame is never used to cut anything,m it is very handy to keep a utility knife in your ritual kit for cutting cord, inscribing candles, cutting herbs, etc.  You will consecrate your ritual knife and only use it for ritual work.  You can use any kind of knife you wish just remember to be safe!

 

Book of Shadows

Your book of shadows is the most important tool you can have.  It is your personal journey on your path and contains thoughts, spells, rituals, observations, meditations, recipes, etc.  Basically it is your magical spell book and journal used to record everything!  You can see why a book of shadows is so important and personal to the person that wrote it!  Your book of shadows can be any kind of book to a simple spiral notebook, a bound blank book, or an elaborate leather bound journal.  Some people keep an online book of shadows but I personally like the feel of writing things down on real paper and being able to easily take it outside and on trips.

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Altar

Pagans love their altars.  They are an outlet for self expression, expressing your faith, doing spiritual work, devotion to your gods, and a great collection of awesome magic stuff!  An altar can be a simple shelf with a candle and incense burner or as elaborate as a master piece complete with candles, statues, altar cloth, and ritual tools.  It is up to you to express yourself however you feel comfortable!  You can make an altar out of almost anything and I personally have a travel altar, an outdoor altar, and a permanent altar in my home!  My regular altar is a beautiful old desk, my travel altar is a great little trunk, and my outdoor altar is a tree stump.  Be creative and express yourself!

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By no means it this a complete list, nor are you required to have everything on it!  Start out small and build your collection over time!  Keep creating beautiful spiritual places and remember to Blessed Be!

 

Silver Spring

Full Moon Ritual

The Full Moon on June 12th is upon us! One of the most important observances in traditional witchcraft are the Full Moons.  The moon has an aura of mystery about it that has drawn people to its light since time began.  It is tied to the ebbs and flows of the tide as well as the ever changing cycles of women’s bodies.  The moon itself is a sacred symbol of several goddesses including Diana, Cerridwen, Hecate, Aine, Epona, Isis, and Selene. The moon itself is the celestial body that dominates the night. In its magnificence it manifests wonder and mystery among those captivated by the goddess and nature.

The Full Moon is a time of magic, making them very special. Environmental energies are enhanced during this period, making this the most favorable time for many forms of spell work. It is a time of festivity and meeting friends. It is a special time that may include celebration and possibly some ritual. But mostly, it is about making the Full Moon a special time.


 

Ritual

I try to do a ritual for every full moon when ever I can, there is something about sitting under that silver light that fills me with wonder and magic.  My rituals have evolved over time both adding and removing elements so I went until the ritual felt right to me.  Please tailor your rituals to your personal tastes.  There are many different ways to celebrate the full moon! From a full ritual and drawing down the moon to simply sitting outside under the moon to meditate and soak in her energy. When ever possible allow yourself to feel a direct relationship to the moon, as a mover of the living waters of the Earth and within our own bodies. Here is a brief example of my usual set up and ritual that I may add to subtract to depending on time and weather.

Altar

I set up my altar somewhere outside where I have an unobstructed view of the moon (Unless it is raining or freezing, in which case I will set up by a window).  I have my usual ritual tools with me including: Altar cloth, God and Goddess candles, incense burner, chalice, wand, element candles(North, south, east,west), offering bowl, bowls for salt and water, my pentagram alter tile, and my bell. I will also usually have something representing the season such as flowers, acorns, etc.

*The items representing the goddess go on the left side such as: Chalice, goddess candle, cauldron, etc.

*The items representing the god go on the right including: God candle, wand, athame, etc.

*Things that represent both, you, or have no representation go in the middle such as: Incense burner, pentagram, objects for scrying, and your offering bowl.

You can add or subtract things based on your personal preference, type of ritual, or type of altar to suit your personal taste.  Many witches take great pride in their altar set ups and you should to.  Even a simple altar can be beautiful!  Your alter can be simple or elaborate, large or small, specific or general.  Its all up to you! Here are some examples to help inspire you!

 

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Ritual Preparation

I begin every ritual by setting up my altar first in my desired location with all of my needed tools.  The last thing you want is to realize you forgot something mid ritual and have to run and get it.  While this is perfectly acceptable in ruins the mood in my opinion!  Around my altar(In an 8-10 ft circle) I place my element candles in their corresponding elements.  North for green and earth, South for red and fire, East for yellow and air, and West for blue and water. I will also usually set another candle in the middle of my altar to represent spirit. I make sure I have any prayers, spells, invocations, etc written down and ready for use!

After my set up and tools are ready I take a ritual bath or ground depending on time and personal preference.  You can add any personal ritual preparation such as oil anointing, meditation, perfumes, and so on

Beginning the ritual

I usually begin my cleansing the space with smudging or ritual sweeping to clear out any negative energies then I cast my circle.  You do not have to cast a circle but I prefer to and its great practice! I then say a prayer to the Moon Goddess and thank her for her presence in my life.  If you are doing magic this is a good time to ask her for her assistance in your workings! If I have any new ritual items to concentrate I will usually do so now. 

The full moon is a great time to focus on letting things go such as bad habits, feelings, worries, etc.  This usually involves purification by an element, mainly fire or water.  Start by writing down the things you want to let go: Worries, fears, bad habits, depression, old loves, grudges, etc.  Then during your ritual ask the goddess for her assistance.  Using either a candle/cauldron to burn or a bowl of water do dissolve, speak what is written on each piece of paper and burn/submerge the paper.  Now take a moment to celebrate your emergence by stepping out of an old skin, identity, behavior, attitude, relationship. The ritual helps you by marking this inner transformation in a formal way.

Drawing Down The Moon (Optional)

This is optional and something I only do on occasion.  It is a beautiful and fulfilling way to become closer to the goddess and something to try when you feel you are ready! I started out using this fantastic guide from Patti Wigington at About.com.  I have altered my version of this to suit me and you should do the same!

In this beautiful and powerful rite, the practitioner invokes the Goddess directly into herself (or himself, as the case may be). In some variations, a High Priestess (HPs) may go into a trance-like state and speak the words of the Goddess, or it may be a formal monologue calling upon the Goddess in her many forms. Regardless of how you practice it, Drawing Down the Moon is best performed on the night of the full moon, or on one of the nights immediately before. While it’s more suitable to be performed outside, if the weather is inclement or your neighbors are easily startled, you can hold the ritual indoors.

  1. Stand at your altar with your arms crossed over your chest, and feet together. Face towards the full moon. Say:

  2. Goddess of the Moon, You have been known by many names in many lands in many times. You are universal and constant. In the dark of night, You shine down upon us and bathe us in Your light and love. I ask You, O Divine One, to honor me by joining with me, and allowing me to feel Your presence within my heart.

  3. Move your feet apart to about shoulder width, and raise your arms up and out to welcome the Goddess into you. The next part is one that you can memorize and learn, or you can speak spontaneously from the heart. You will begin to feel a surge of energy, a palpable tingle – don’t worry, that’s the Goddess making Herself known to you. Feel free to change these words as you like. You are speaking for Her, in Her voice, so let Her say what She wishes. Say:

    “I am the Mother of all life, the One who watches over all. I am the wind in the sky, the spark in the fire, the seedling in the earth, the water in the river.

  4. Continue:

    “I am the vessel from which All Things spring forth.

    Honor Me from within your heart! Remember that acts of love and pleasure are My rituals, and that there is beauty in all things.

    Honor Me on this night of the full moon! I have been with you since the moment you were created, and shall remain with you always.

    Let there be beauty and strength, wisdom and honor, humility and courage within you. If you need Me, call upon Me and I shall come to you, for I am everywhere, always.

    Honor Me as you seek knowledge! I am the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, and I live within you.

  5. Feel the power of the Goddess within you. When you are ready, conclude with:

    I look down upon the sands of the desert, I crash the tides upon the shore, I shine on the mighty trees of the forests, and watch with joy as Life continues every cycle.

    Be true to Me, honoring that which I have created, and I shall be true to you in return.

    With harm to none, so it shall be.”

  6. Take a few moments to stand and bask in Her glow, and to meditate upon that which you have just experienced. Once the energy surge has subsided, lower your arms, and proceed with your ceremony as you normally would at the conclusion of a ritual.

Tips:

    1. Drawing Down the Moon is an altered state of consciousness, a ritual possession by the Divine. It is not uncommon to feel the energy of the Goddess for quite some time following Drawing Down the Moon, so don’t be alarmed if you feel a heightened sense of clarity over the next few days. You may also feel extremely emotional — it’s not uncommon to cry or laugh spontaneously during this rite.

    2. The above ritual is one that I created myself, but for more variations on Drawing Down the Moon, there are excellent versions in Wicca For One by Raymond Buckland (pp. 87 – 89 and The Grimoire of Lady Sheba (pp. 167- 168).

 

Ending the ritual

Before I end my ritual I will usually sit and reflect for a bit about the moon’s energy, the goddess, and any workings I have performed during the ritual.  This is also a good time for absorbing the powers of the moon light and meditation. 

When I have finished my ritual I thank the goddess for being with me and close my circle.  Make sure to bring in and put away all your ritual items so that they are ready for your next ritual!

 

Every persons full moon ritual is different, that’s what makes them so special.  Remember this is your time to commune with your deity, do magic, or just center yourself.  Your ritual should reflect your unique needs and personality.  If you have anything to add to my post that may be helpful to those new to the path please let me know, and as always

)O( Blessed Be