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Thar She Blows--the Summer Solstice!

Avast me Witchlings! The Summer Solstice is upon us--and this be no ordinary Sabbat! Sound the trumpets! Break out the MAGIC CONCH! Aaarrrrr!

Pirates (and Sponge Bob) aside, there really is such a thing as a Magic Conch. When you stop laughing, consider this: The life that was stirring at Imbolc blinked it's eyes at the Spring Equinox, started to bloom at Beltain, and now is in full swing--a reason to celebrate!

At our Summer Solstice gathering, once a Circle is cast, we give a call on our conch trumpet to signal the start of the longest day. Getting sound out of it is sometimes a bit tricky, but once you get the hang of it, it's a blast! Heralds used to announce the arrival of an important person date back to ancient times, where kings were welcomed even to breakfast with a fanfare of trumpets. The use of conch shell trumpets is traditional in many cultures. Conch shell trumpets are blown in Hindu, Peruvian and Buddhist ceremonies.

Believe it or not, a conch trumpet is easy to make. You only need a conch shell that's intact, a concrete sidewalk, and a pair of needle-nose pliers. It's very important that you get a conch shell that isn't broken as holes will effect the ability for air to flow through the shell to make sound. And bigger doesn't mean louder when it comes to sound--but it does mean deeper! It's not always possible to find a whole conch shell on the beach, but fear not--craft stores often sell large individual conch shells, or variety sacks that include conch shells. If you find your shell in nature, make sure it's clean before you start working with it.

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The first thing you have to do is cut the pointy top of the shell off so that you have an opening about the size of a US dime. Some people saw the top off, but this is hard--not to mention a little dangerous. You can get the same effect by filing the top of the shell down against a rough surface--like a sidewalk! The process is a bit slower and takes a little muscle, but that's okay (get together with some friends and share the work!). You'll need to cut off 1/8 - 1 inch off the top depending on the size of your shell. It's always better to take off a little less--you can't put it back on! Keeping the shell as straight as possible, rub it back and and forth on the sidewalk. Go slowly and be careful not to scrape your knuckles on the concrete (ouch!).

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Check the size of the hole often. You'll see the tip will start to wear down, and an opening will appear--this is the mouthpiece for your trumpet.

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When you have an opening that is about the size of a dime, you'll see a slim piece of shell running right down the center of the conch. Snap this piece out with your pliers.

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Smooth any rough edges with sandpaper or a nail file (you don't want to cut your lips!). Then, rinse it off with water and give it a try! Purse your lips as if you were going to play a traditional trumpet, put them to the mouthpiece and blow! It may take a few tries to get sound out. If you're having a really hard time, you may need to get more of the center piece out. If that's the case, use a drill to remove more of the core to free up the air passage.

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Here are two shell trumpet-lets I made. These are smaller than your average conch--any spiral shell with a pointed tip should work. The one on the left makes a squealy-pig sound. The one on the right had to be drilled a bit before it tooted!

What happens if you still can't find a shell? No worries, me hearties--there's always USS Broomstix's never fail fall-back, the good old Comb-and-Clingfilm! Wrap a piece of clingfilm or waxed paper over a comb (actually, just about any kind of paper will work--recycle that newspaper!). Put your lips to the comb, and hum. You've concocted your very own home-made kazoo!

You can sound a conch shell trumpet at any Sabbat celebration, or call the Quarters at any circle, but I especially like the idea of using this tool at the Summer Solstice: Here in New Jersey, being "down the shore"--at the beach--is an important way for so many folks to celebrate the season. No matter when you sound your Magic Conch, the important thing is to do it with gusto--Thar She Blows!

by Natalie Zaman

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From 2006 to 2010, www.broomstix.com was an online magazine for families following alternative spiritual paths. Relaunched in 2013, Broomstix has a new format, but the same, simple goal: to be a positive community resource where folks can share their knowledge and talents.

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