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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs




We celebrate Death in October and Crone in November—two distinct life passages—honoring each in their own time.
     At Samhain, we recognize death as an inherent part of life. We create cathartic rituals for our losses—including physical deaths and the loss of parts of ourselves: relationships, plans, resources, health. We invite the wisdom of Death Priestesses, and speak into sacredness plans for our own death—what we want for our own dying processes, our burial and death ritual choices.

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"Witches' Rune" Originally Sung to Stephen Foster Tune, Says Historian

AP: London

According to Wiccan historian Philip Heselton, Doreen Valiente's famous chant “Witches' Rune” was originally intended to be sung to the tune of the Stephen Foster tune, “Camptown Races.”

“According to some recently-discovered correspondence, that's the tune that she originally wrote the words to fit,” said Heselton. “Of course, since then it's been sung to many other tunes as well.”

American composer Stephen Foster (1826-1864) wrote “Camptown Races” (also known as “Camptown Ladies”) in 1850, and the tune was a favorite of Valiente's first husband, Joanis Vlachopoulos, who had learned it while in the Merchant Navy.

Although the Foster tune was Valiente's intended setting for her lyrics to what was to become a classic Wiccan liturgical chant, it never caught on with British witches, perhaps because they were unfamiliar with the American tune.

An interesting aspect of this discovery is the fact that the original words to “Witches' Rune” were slightly different from those now found in most recensions of the Book of Shadows.

According to Heselton, the first verse, along with a now-disused chorus, originally went:

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Dumb Supper

I value the snippets of Samhain my grandmother fed me - a crumpled aged piece of paper that described a rite for carrying out a Dumb Supper. It outlined laying out place settings for those ancestors recently departed with place names inviting them to the Samhain meal. One of the main roles of the Dumb Supper was to say goodbye to any relatives who had died but were still around, those relatives that were finding it hard to leave the living and fully cross over to the other side. 


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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Tethys: The Waters Below


The Waters Below

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Three Things


An Irish proverb tells us there are three slender things that support the world: a stream of cow’s milk into a pail, a growing blade of corn, and a thread being woven into cloth. To the ancient Celts, these things were staples of life.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
What Do You Say When a Pagan Sneezes?

When someone sneezes, it's considered polite to respond with a blessing or a wish of good health.

So what do you say when a pagan sneezes?

(No aspect of culture is too obscure to merit careful consideration.)

Well, you could say Bless you or Gesundheit like everyone else, but there's nothing distinctively pagan about either. (How Americans came to use the German word for “health" as a sneeze-blessing is a question well worth the asking, but it's one to which I don't know the answer.)

Wiccans might say Blessed be, although I don't think that I've ever heard this phrase—generally reserved for greetings and farewells—used in this way.

But for my pentacles, the Irish have the right of it.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    As I think about it, gesundheit has to be German. German -heit = Yiddish -keit (as in Yiddishkeit, "Jewishness"). Interesting tha
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    Yeah it is interesting. Unlike most other immigrant groups, German ethnicity kind of tended to get pretty heavily subsumed. Certai
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    An interesting theory, Aryos. My Yiddish-English dictionary doesn't list gesundheit; "health" is gezunt. (Tzu gezunt is the sneeze
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    This is just a shot in the dark but perhaps Gesundheit is by way of Yiddish instead of German (even though it's literally German).
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I started using Gesundheit at a young age because I heard Bullwinkle use it. It surprised my dad and occasionally surprises other

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Since most of you don’t live near me, and there’s a lot of interest in my upcoming“Dance in the Graveyard” class, I thought I’d offer those of you who aren’t local a brief ritual you can use to open lines of communication with your ancestors during this Samhain season. 

as many of you know, is the traditional Gaelic festival that spawned, first, the Catholic observances of All Saints Day (a.k.a. All Hallows Day), and then the very secular festival of Halloween. It is celebrated as a holy day by Wiccans, many Druids, and some Pagans of other traditions.

Traditionally celebrated on October 31/November 1 (Gaelic festivals run from sunset to sunset), the traditional date falls within a few days of the astronomical midpoint between the Sun stations of Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, which happens on November 6 or 7 (changing slightly each year). This year, it falls a little after midnight on November 7th, here in the Eastern time zone. 

All four of the traditional cross-quarter festivals fall near solstice/equinox or equinox/solstice midpoints, which are always at 15 degrees of the Fixed signs of the Zodiac These are the powerful degrees that astrologer Dane Rudhyar called “the gates of the avatar” — another word for the Divine incarnate. The veils between the worlds are thin at these liminal times. At Samhain, the Sun is at 15 degrees of Scorpio. (The Zodiac of Western astrology is an astronomically-accurate celestial coordinate system. More about tha
t here.).

Like most planetary movements in astrology, the influence of these patterns is fluid and wavelike, peaking at the date of the exact midpoint. So it’s certainly appropriate to do this ritual anytime between the end of October to a couple of days after November 7th. Afterwards, you’ll want to consider how you will incorporate this ancestral work into your regular spiritual practices. 

Essentially all spiritual traditions offer some form of ritually honoring one’s ancestors. But if you don’t have an ancestor-honoring spiritual tradition you adhere to, or you don't feel your tradition goes deep enough, use this ritual as a beginning, then let ancestors themselves guide you into the best way for you to work with them on a regular basis. 

The Ancestor Altar 

What you’ll be doing in the ritual is setting up an ancestor altar, and calling on your ancestors to form an energetic vortex that connects them with you through the medium of this altar. Personally, I’m not big on ancestor “worship”. This work is about connecting and honoring, which is the purpose of the altar. 

For some of you, the altar may be items you keep in a box that you bring out only when you are actively working with them. Others might want to have a few framed photos and perhaps some heirloom items on a table in the living room that doesn’t look like an altar when you aren’t working with it. If you have space/privacy, you can set up an altar where offerings can be regularly maintained, even if that’s just a small space on a bookshelf. 

What goes on the altar (or in the box) is very individual. You'll definitely want some connection with your ancestors of blood — both parental lines. You can use old photos, heirloom items, or you can get some modeling clay and make a bowl (for your mother’s line) and an obelisk (for your father’s line). They can be quite small. You might want to put a drop of your blood on each one, because blood calls to blood through time, space, and dimensions. 

If you have ancestors of spirit, lineage, or friendship to whom you feel strongly connected, by all means, you can include items that represent them as well. Ancestors of the land you live on, of the arts you practice, of your spiritual background — all these folks can eventually be included on your altar.

But to begin, if you’ve never set up an ancestral altar before, call on the ancestors of your blood. Because healing in physical reality resonates back through the ancestral bloodline, these ancestors are invested in you and your healing, and will be protective of you.Yes, even the ones who were total jackasses in life gain some perspective once they reach the realm of the Ancestors. But note this — you do not have to, nor should you, include any ancestors you are not at peace with. You need not honor those who did not honor you. 

The only thing that must be true of all of them is that they are dead. Do NOT include photos or other representations of living people on the ancestor altar. This altar is the home of the dead.

If you are adopted, and uncertain of your birth parents and grandparents’ status, you must work only with those of your bloodline who are certainly already dead. You can be quite specific in naming them — for instance, “my great-great-grandmother on my father’s side”. You may not know her name, but she’ll know who you are when you call to her. 

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