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!).

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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!

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My Cats and my Path

Today I had a sudden desire to write about my cats and the role they take in both my life and my path.  I was, in all honesty, never really a cat person growing up. I loved them in the way I love all animals in my life, but they were not a favorite of mine.   I saw cats as too aloof and too stuck up for my tastes, I much prefered the happy-go-lucky attitude of my dogs and the steady presence of my horses.

One day I realised that my spiritual path had changed without a conscious decision on my part, I had moved into a more organic direction.  I opened myself up to all things in nature and suddenly there were cats, everywhere cats.  I began seeing them everywhere. Cats appeared on my commute to work, in my dreams, on TV, in my waking thoughts, and on my door step.  The very animals I once saw as aloof began to open up for me and I experiences all the joy that is the True love and acceptance of a cat.IMG_1837

We already had two cats in our lives.  My husband’s old Mancoon mix rescue,JD and Aurora who had appeared on our doorstep Christmas day some five years ago.  They were almost like an old married couple, always together.  To be honest I feel as though I took their companionship for granted.  I loved them but they were so content in each others company that I never took the time to really bond.

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Then, right around the time I began delving into my path and truly exploring the deeper aspect of my connection to the divine, Luna came into our life.  Her mother wandered into our life and garage trailing five kittens with her.  Mom was a feral and fluffy thing that bolted when we opened the door, leaving her little fluff balls behind.  Determined to reunite mom and babies we proceeded to catch the little ones and transport them under the house where mamma was hiding.  She took them off into the woods, leaving behind the littles fluff ball.  She wormed her way into our hearts as we spent hours with her as she got over her fear of humans.

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We decided three cats was more than enough and went on with our lives.  However something in the house had shifted with that little addition that we could never quite put our finger on.  Here was a cat that craved our attention and wanted to cuddle.  She became so ingrained in our lives to the point where she wanted to ‘Help’ me with daily things.
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Soon she was sleeping on my altar and insisting on becoming a part of any magical workings that were taking place.  I even began to remind her to say hello to Bast and Isis for me.

Then one day things changed again.  While pumping gas my husband heard a small sound and decided to investigate.  Inside the dumpster behind the building he found a tiny black kitten that had clearly been dumped.  It was clear that he had a ‘no more cats’ policy, however without a thought he brought the little big eared bundle home and by unspoken agreement we knew he was staying.  We named him Calcifer soon after and he quickly inserted himself into our lives with many meows and lots of cuddles.  I can call him from any room in the house and he comes running.

caleork He instantly decided that any meditation, magic, or witchy work was his place to be ‘helpful’.  I can’t click play on a pagan video without his instant appearance on my desk and his chubby length across my keyboard.  He sleeps on my witchy books and always seems to know when I need a little inspiration in a project or new adventure.

Next came Wednesday who was born to a feral mother cat that was dumped on our property.  She was the only black kitten and knowing the difficulty for black cats in shelters, we decided to let her stay with us and she has never let us regret it.  Reserved at first, she simply exploded with personality when Calcifer took her under his wing.  She is mischievous and always into something as kittens are wont to be.  The house has had such a fun and playful air now and I know it is her joyous energy that infects us all.

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Soon after this, cats began showing up on the farm.  At capacity inside, we began feeding them in our barn and soon had a host of ‘barn’ cats.  We spayed and neutered them as they wandered into our lives and we are now up to five.  They have heat in the winter and fans in the summer as well as various perches and beds inside our barn.  We tell ourselves they are keeping the mice and rats away, but in reality I think they are napping and keeping an eye on their humans.barn

around this time I began to feel guilty.  I knew that my sweet indoor kittys needed more stimulation and exercise.  They would sun bathe and stare out of the windows at the outside world.  At this point we clearly lost our minds and built a Catio.                          IMG_1814                          IMG_1846

A mesh called deer netting is almost invisible and keeps our cats in and everything else out while allowing the cats to enjoy the fresh air, sights, sun, and stimulation that is the great outdoors.  Clearly we have crossed into the murky zone of cat crazy people.  Good thing I’m married or I may have become ‘that crazy cat lady’.  The cats have rewarded my efforts with love and constant companionship.  I receive kisses, cuddles, attention, napping companionship, and endless entertainment.  They have truly opened my eyes to the spiritual relationship that is possible with our animal cousins and i find myself looking for that connection in every living creature that crosses my path.  They have opened doors along my path that I never could have opened without them and driven me to explore the unknown spaces, prowl with felines, soar, with birds, crawl with ants, run with horses, and look for companionship in the most unlikely of places.

Perhaps they came to me and opened my eyes to an entirely new world, or maybe I wasn’t open enough before now to let them in.  All I know is, thanks to a few furry teachers, I am finally on the path I was always meant to walk.

calsleeplunsleepJD

lunabox luecute         calfuhny  calarora

Something Witchy This Way Comes?

Sometimes signs are so obvious they seem to jump out of your thoughts and into reality.  Tonight my husband and I pulled into our usual gas station to get some gas.  As my husband got out of the car he heard the sound of a kitten crying.  We followed the noise and low and behold a tiny black kitten peered out at us from behind the dumpster.  After a second of coaxing it let my husband pick it up and carry it to the car.  The poor thing is skin and bones but very friendly!  Kitty has been wormed, fed, and is now taking up residence in my master bathroom until we can get a clean bill of health from the vet that kitty is safe to be around our other cats.

The truly crazy thing is that I was just joking to myself that all I needed now was a black cat…..hmmm.  I even tell one of my other cats, Luna, to tell Bast hello for me on a fairly regular basis.  Bast is not one of the goddesses I choose to pray to but perhaps this is a sign to pay attention. What do you think?

Blessed Be!

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