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Archive for April, 2012

Beltane is one of those holidays that my friends and I make a huge deal out of. I swear we add new traditions and activities each year!

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We do some cooking:

Stone Soup:

Everyone brought something they want to put in a soup (or whatever they have in their kitchen). Then when we get together we put it in a huge pot of water with seasonings and let it heat up on the oven for an hour or two while we do other stuff (like the May Pole)

Fruity chocolate oatmeal cakes  (Refer to the first part of this post to find out some traditional customs.)

Here is a recipe I followed:

3 parts boiling water,  2 parts dry oatmeal,  1 part butter

~place all together and let cool while mixing the remaining ingredients into separate bowl:

1 part sugar, 1 and 1/2 part brown sugar, 2 parts flour, teaspoon baking soda, teaspoon cinnamon, pinch nutmeg,

2 eggs (for a square cake pan size), teaspoon vanilla, desired fruit and chocolate

~mix together, add with boiled stuff, pour in buttered pan and bake at 350 for 40 min.

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May Pole fun:

We made ours out of a 9ft pvc pipe. Every year we just add on top to the last year’s ribbons and strings.

I wrote a song to sing while we weaved and danced:

.               Maypole Song

Here we go around the pole again

Here we go a world without end

Here we go a fire we will spin

Here we go where lovers do begin

                                                                             ~Cicada          (will add notes sometime later)

Beltane Wreath Craft

Then we ate and made a Beltane wreath that we can put up on our houses every year:

Tulie brought the materials: ribbon, dowel rods, crystals, fabric flowers, wreaths and hot glue gun.

Magic

As Beltane is a holiday of sacred conception, we conceived of something in our own personal lives to manifest for this year during ritual… We took salt dough and molded an effigy of our particular need and, as we all are women, we used each other’s wombs as the altar. I won’t get into too much more detail here, but I will show a picture of our dough baking in the Beltane fire in a cast iron skillet!

The energy was getting a bit high and I was beginning to get into a heavy trance so the rest is kind of remembered in that dreamlike fondness.

  Fire Offering: tobacco, mullen, juniper and nose of dog 🙂

We really focused on healing the earth, weather communication and blessings for the crops… which I may or may not have done cartwheels in the middle of the ritual in. 🙂

A curious neighbor then came up to us and we all squeeled in delight when we got him to jump the fire. We needed that masculine energy so this was a very good thing. And it was also a very good thing when it started to rain.. because it made him depart to leave us witches to do some spirit work.

Blessings Everyone!!!!!

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They thought it degrading to him whose temple is the universe,

to suppose that he would dwell in any house made with hands.

-excerpt from The Golden Bough discussing the Druid opinion of man made temples

The Golden Bough by J. G. Frazer is a collection of pagan practices and ancient customs written in 1922. It’s a great academic reference for anyone who is interested in incorporating traditional elements into their practice. Although if you have never read scholarly work on paganism before I have to warn you that doing so will expose you to a world that is unlike the our modern pagan culture. For example, the first Beltane fires  involved human sacrifice. An oatmeal cake was made and whoever got the cailleach, a piece of cake marked within with a foreign object, was the sacrifice to ensure blessings for the crops. Other games were played with oatmeal cakes to pick the sacrificial devotee and over time this custom led to simply having the person leap over the fire three times.

As absolutely horrifying this may seem, we need to understand it within the context of the people. To them, it was an honor to be a sacrifice. To place yourself in a position to chance upon receiving the cailleach was considered to be a mark of devotion.

Another custom of lighting Beltane fires were to keep witches away. It was thought within some cultures that witches flew May Eve and that lighting the fires would protect all the land that could see the fire from baleful sorcery. This night is called Walpurgis Night when the witches did their errands. Thus, it became custom to light the fires on hills so that maximum exposure was achieved. In Bohemia an effigy of a witch was also burnt in the fire.

Other customs (and sorry for not being specific on where most of these originated from) include passing cattle through the fire to protect the livestock from disease, dancing around the fire to purify everyone and their families and distinguishing the hearth fires that were kept lit all year and relighting them with the Beltane fires that were started by scratch from flint and oak. Also, people wood char oak sticks with the fire and take them home and burn them in times of big storms for protection. As far as the fire itself, in Sweden it was thought that if the wind blew the flames northward that it would be a colder spring. If the flames go southward then Spring will be warm.

The book also goes into great detail of other May Day customs including May-poles, May King and Bride and so on. By the way, this is an almost 900 page book, so I simply just look in the index for the different topics I am studying.

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1510 woodcut

So, I don’t necessarily consider myself Wiccan. When I first began to follow a pagan path I was eleven and didn’t even know what pagan or wiccan was. I began to experience a heavy amount of paranormal activity in the land that I lived on. I also began to discover many inherent abilities that I possessed…The wind and I had a relationship. My desires manifested quickly. I knew how to pump up any slumber party by leading seances.

My dad had this old set of encyclopedias. One night on the phone with Tulie (who also was experiencing similar events) we decided I should look up the word witch… just in case it would say something that would explain our recent situation. Old wood carvings of women riding devils and being burned at the stake appeared before me and I was mesmerized. The idea of following a devil did not appeal to me, but possessing magic and power did. Side note: I was raised in a heavily religious household. I was not allowed to dress in scary Halloween costumes, wear dark nail polish and I was only allowed to listen to the radio stations that played the oldies from the 50’s and 60’s (hey I’m not complaining much there)… so you can see why the idea of owning my own power intrigued me.

My first book on witchcraft was Power Through Witchcraft by Louise Huebner, copyright 1969. No where does it mention Wicca or the Wiccan Rede. (However it would have been nice to have been warned about love spells in it… oops). It’s unconventional ideas struck a chord in me and I began to learn and practice more spell work. Then, when I was around 14 we finally got access to the internet and this is where I discovered Wicca. Of course! This fit was perfect right away! I was introduced to the Goddess and elements and it was like someone came along and suddenly I had words to label things I was already doing.

Now, here is where it gets tricky… I don’t technically consider myself Wiccan because I don’t follow the Wiccan Rede per se. When I first dipped my tongue in the world of witchcraft I was liberated from the many shackles I had worn surrounding me in the guise of ethical rules. I went from feeling constant guilt to dancing naked happily in front of my own mirror. So when I learned about the Rede I embraced it, however,  just knowing there was another rule out there for me kind of made me over analyze things again (but at least in a more freer fashion comparitive to before I suppose).

In my early twenties I went through a stage of trying to act out of love instead of fear. Nothing wrong with this right? Well, no… But, there is still this dichotomy of right and wrong that I’m not entirely sure if I can wrap my head around.

After this, I began to learn about the power of Infinity: Infinite possibilities. Infinite Spirit. We are infinite beings. There may not be black and white all the time but instead a spectrum and this is okay. Because of this opening up to Infinity, I once again began to open my boundaries of expectation on what reality should be. I dance naked once more.

The idea of total freedom and no rules scare many. However, the result of this “no boundaries” thing means that I naturally begin to see that there are no boundaries between me and others, too. This, in turn, makes it impossible for me not to consider how my actions impact others. Harm None, Do What Thou Will is more of an outcome of living this open way. So the influence of the  Golden Rule is actually much more apt to shine on the world  when instead of us following it, it follows us.

Make sense? Or maybe have I visited the faerie mound one too many times and have come back a little mad? Either way, I am enjoying this process of learning and expanding as I go!

~Cicada

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Naming of Tools

The witch’s tools: They say we don’t need them. But ooh how we love them!

The real reason we do not need tools  is due to the fact that the energy of the tool is already present in the astral realms. We can work magic without the physical symbol. However, what a better way to invite this energy into your magical practice than to welcome it into an earthly abode? Working with the actual tool helps the mind to focus on it’s purpose.

However, there is more reasons to have a physical tool. As an animist, I believe that there are no separations between the physical and spiritual. Spirit makes up not only these human vessels, but other material things around us. When we have tools, it partners us up with the spiritual nature of the material in it, too. The pairings of material properties with the added enchantments of spell renders the physical tool a single energetic being that we can develop real-ationship with.  Once this happens it is the perfect time to ask the spirit for its name.

I recently did a blessing ceremony for a new tool that Tulie made for a friend but eventually ended up as my own property. The blade is bloodstone and the wood is willow. There is a tigers eye and blue goldstone attached to a feather and a trinity symbol. I lit juniper and asked the Earth and Wind to consecrate it at my outside Wild Man altar and Earth Goddess altar. I anointed it in Moonwater and bathed it in Firelight. To my surprise, a spirit spoke quickly to me and a name and a purpose was born.  (I have been noticing a pattern that all of my tools start with the same letter, how interesting…) The spirit also informed me of a certain material it wanted to be added to it (black leather).

Once a spirit and a relationship are established with a tool, the magician can access that energy without the tool, too. No need to carry a billion tools with you, however respecting and using the tool in its physical form from time to time can strengthen the bonds.

~Om Shanti~

Cicada

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The witch’s cottage… it’s what I have always dreamed about. When I was 13 I wanted this so badly. I saved my money for almost a year and my friends and I built an 8ft x 8ft house in the woods (it helped that one friend’s grandfather was a carpenter and gave us detailed instructions). I have many memories building this the summer of 1998. Before the walls were built it was just a platform that we slept on. Blackberries grew wild out there and we had many berry breaks, plus a few berry fights when my jinco jeans (lol, remember those?) became stained purple from the juice. Tulie can vouch for me when I remember the time we put up the shingles on the roof… red ants attacked us the whole time we nailed those suckers down.

The result was great.  Just enough room for an old couch and a small table- it was my sanctuary. This quickly became known as “The Shack”… and oh how I miss that quiet place in the woods where I could sleep with the coyotes whining at my feet. Walking to the Shack was like entering a labyrinth: I would start on the outside in the mundane world and enter the woods in a state of heightened awareness. By the time I reached my destination it was like a return to myself. I became the hermit in the forest for a while. The spirits of the land were quite active in those woods and they seemed to become more and more active as I spent time in the woods and the Shack meditating, writing poetry and learning magic.

When I was 15 I worked at McDonalds and a bunch of employees wanted to trek out to see my shack. One claimed to be a vampire slayer and carried a stake with him everywhere. However,once he got into my woods he was so freaked he pitched it over a barbed wire fence. When we made it to the shack I did some energy work on him while he hyperventilated and went on and on about how he had no idea how this stuff was real (stuff being the supernatural, I take it). This was how the Shack and my woods impacted people: either scared shitless or greatly intrigued by the shifting shadows. The Shack never got a door on it and I would occasionally find a raccoon hiding behind the couch. My father sold his trailer with the acres  when I was 23. The Shack had become a bit moldy by this time and had years of candle wax puddles hardened to the floor, but I still said a brave good-bye and promised to return in spirit.

Fast forward four years: no woods to call my own, but just the other day an ingenious idea struck me as I was looking up pictures of the Smallest House in Britian located in Conwy, Whales.

My husband has spoke forever about how he wants to build a castle someday. He is a dreamer, like me, and is always coming up with great ideas. Now if only we could come up with the money to fund it, eh? But then I was looking at that small house and it occurred to me: why not build a really small castle??? I quickly drew up an idea: it would be circular and maybe only 10 ft X 10ft (however that equals in circular area) a a working chimney would be attached on the side so the first floor has a fireplace. There would be rounded benches around the inside perimeter to seat as many as it could and a pull down table from the ceiling so we could have more floor space if we needed it. Then a circular staircase would go around on the wall leading up to the second floor with an open hardwood floor so we could sleep up there or do yoga or magic or whatever. It would really be neat to construct a way to make the roof a tower to stand on and breath with the stars. This would be another witch’s cottage for me in our future woods and a gathering place for friends and family to get off the grid from the mundane world.  !!!!! In about ten years my husband and I will be in our careers after grad school and this might just be a feasible plan. So yes, the Shack is back (at least in my mind).

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Simple Splendor

art by Cathy McClelland

Curious onlookers are intrigued to watch the naked rites… The sparks in the air… The energy highs… The cackles, the wild rituals under wide woman moon!

However rewarding these powerful acts can be, there are many unseen moments that are really the most exciting for the witch. It is in these moments that reach insurmountable depths of meaning when you know that the the spirits of all there is are listening…

It is when your totem animal appears in a dream or otherwise to deliver a message.

It is the faintest premonition that assists you in the course of your day.

It is the simplest hoot of an owl to make you look down on the ground to find a beautiful rock.

It is the comfort of  seeing just what you need to see in a tarot spread.

It is the healing received after the ritual is done.

It is the presence of  a loved one in spirit.

It is when an unknown melody comes to you and when you sing it goosebumps rise up from your flesh.

It is when we feel the need to leave a flower on a stranger’s door step.

It is the spontaneous impulse to park your car, get out and invoke Demeter in a cornfield.

It is the recharging of your batteries during a summer storm.

Our real initiations occur within the spirit world and the heights of our excitement happen when we realize that not only are we walking the right path carved out uniquely for us by the gods, but that we are dancing it too!

It is this confirmed connection to the Universe, to the Infinite Spirit, that really makes our heart beat.

What simple moments make you feel alive as a witch?

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As we played cards, my husband began to become highly annoyed at my unusual amount of good luck. Like with most of our card games, he insisted that I were not to use witchcraft. (hehehe)

We witches cannot help it. Luck follows us like a lost puppy. We seduce the world into reflecting our inner worlds by just being our natural fearless selves. All we have to do is feed that puppy a bit… maybe an affirmation here and there, a visualization or a direction of energy and bam! That puppy is going home with you.

We did get into an interesting conversation afterward about magic. He seemed disturbed that I haven’t been using this magic to get us fantastic stuff like mansions and new jeeps and on and on! Magic thrives on emotion. Notice your most powerful, successful spells happen when you really pour your feelings into it? Right now we are mostly comfortable in life. No extreme emotions of needing  a million dollars or anything. Also, natural magic works by natural laws. Often results can seem like coincidence. But like a witch’s luck, the coincidences begin to add up to the statistically significant high end.

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On another note, I attended the Women Making Magick: A Women’s Spirituality Soulebration . This is held in the Quad Cities area in Illinois and Iowa every year, so if you are in the area, check out the website http://qcwomenscelebration.webs.com

The conference focused on altars this year. We brought objects to exchange with others and I got to take home this lovely albino peacock feather. Another offering for the White Goddess!

The energy we raised was astounding. When the energy was released some people had tears in their eyes, some were laughing, I felt like I could barely get back into my body.      Growing up I only had a few friends that were girls. I mostly was a tomboy and felt an easier time to be joking around with the boys than be gossiping with the girls. However the women I have become friends with as an adult have really balanced me out. These are powerful women who have led lives making  bold choices on their unique paths.

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And finally, if anyone knows what kind of plant this is I would really appreciate the identification! I found this in the woods and it  beckoned me to take it home. I get a strong magic, guardian feel from it with a hint of fairy. Notice the pattern on the leaves- they are metallic silver!

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