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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in sabbat

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Night on Witch Island

Have you ever been to Witch Island?

You know the one I mean. That island out in the river (or: lake) where the witches go for their...doings.

You've heard the stories. Nobody else goes out there.

(Well, there were those kids that once. Did you ever hear what they saw there? All that weird shit carved on the rocks? The big pile of ashes? The bones? Did you hear what happened to those kids?)

You've seen the fires out there among the trees at night. You've seen the shadows of the dancers.

You've heard the drums, the crazy singing.

You've heard the howls.

The screams.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Question Any Witch Can Answer

Going to sabbat, expect the tylers.

They'll stop you on your way through the woods. You'll know them by the leaves in their hats, and the gleam of their blades.

They'll ask you the question that any witch can answer.

Then, when you've answered rightly, they'll give you your token, and send you on.

Fear not, you'll know the answer. If you're of Ours, you'll know.

And if you're not of Ours, then?

Well, now.

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  • Kimberley
    Kimberley says #
    I have never heard of these, I must say. But learn of them and become one of you, I will one day. For I have a high thought to

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Turn up the Heat and Chill Out

Imbolc is a natural time for contemplation and quietude. The weather often compels us indoors and forces us to slow down and partake in some sort of hibernation. If we stay this way for too long however, restlessness and boredom can set in. How does one cope with extreme temperatures and no waiting plane ticket to sunnier climates in sight? Sometimes even simulated heat is better than none.

On those winter nights that you're feeling chilled to the bone, turning up the heat and meditating could be just what is needed to help in biding your time until spring. Don't be afraid to boost it enough to break a sweat. Yes, it's an indulgence, but you can always turn it down to normal right after. Bundle up, put on your heaviest wrap-around scarf, wool hat, leg warmers, arm warmers, fuzzy socks, and fashion a Snuggie-worthy blanket around the back of your shoulders. Prop yourself up on too many comfy pillows.

Before you get completely settled in though, light your favorite scented candle, dim all the lights and light some relaxing incense as well, preferably something such as "Tranquility," by Essential Essences, with lavender mixed in. Likewise, heat up a lavender and chamomile Anti-Stress Comfort Wrap, such as the one from Earth Therapeutics to drape over your shoulders.

A Himalayan salt lamp is a great tool for assisting on nights such as these, and has been known to help in removing toxins, stale energy, and even allergens out of the dry air, as well. Speaking as one prone to allergies, I noticed a difference immediately. Turn on your favorite soft-voiced guided mediation or mood music, or tune in to the white noise of a radiator, wood burning stove, or fireplace, if you're lucky enough to have one in your home.

Breathe deep and give yourself a good 20-30 minutes to completely relax, recharge your energies and realign your chakras – there's a nifty guided meditation to do just that at the end of this article. Breathe in the positive and let go/breathe out that which no longer serves you. When you feel that you have reached your optimum peaceful state of mind, express gratitude to the Goddesses and Gods for the unique opportunity to take the time to do this exercise. Finish with a cup of hot brewed herbal tea, and sprinkle a few drops out on your back porch in offering to Mother Nature.

Leave the salt lamp on for the night and take note of the interesting dreams that you may remember in the morning. And don't forget to turn down the heat again!

Resources:

“Yoga Pose Shows Exercise Wellbeing And Health” by Stuart Miles from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

https://www.today.com/health/himalayan-salt-lamps-are-health-benefits-real-t107117

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i50ZAs7v9es

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8LIbeKQ60U

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
"Just Like in the Woodcuts"

Our chant begins low and slow, but soon we are shouting, frenzied.

Horned One! Horned One! Horned One!

From the woods, a horn rings out. Another joins it, nearing, and another.

We call, He comes.

In the moving torchlight, He shines. Borne high, He stands astride, arms raised. His horns reach up to heaven.

At a run, His bearers cross the final slope and enter our midst, bringing Him in. He steps, precisely, from palanquin to altar. The drums fall silent.

In the sudden stillness, He scans our fire-lit faces. Between His antlers, constellations revolve.

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Making Magic: A Tender’s View of a Samhain Ritual

We gather in a heritage hall on my island home for our Samhain ritual.  Warm bodies squeeze close together to form a circle of pagan and non-pagan folks, grownups and children, and even a couple of dogs, with the room filled to capacity. 

It’s been a hard, heartbreaking year for our community. The Ancestors altar is covered with photographs and mementos of those that have passed. There have been many deaths, and the tragic loss of two precious youth in one September weekend that shook this island to its core. I feel this collective grief in my own heart, and in this gathering. Samhain is the time when we honor and name those we’ve lost this year, and commune with our Beloved Dead.

Yet there’s more than grief and loss in the room. At the opposite end of the cycle of life are the youth, our children, and the souls waiting to be born. These beings we honor on the Descendants altar, and through the naming of the newborns this year.

I stand beside the Ancestors altar with another priestess. Across the circle from us, two priestesses stay by the Descendants altar. The four us will be calling in the Ancestors and Descendants, and then shifting into paired partners of Deep Witness and Tender.

The Deep Witnesses don’t actively participate in the ritual. They sit — veiled, empty and silent — acting as anchors and observers of the deep dream of our magic. I’m one of the Tenders. Our priestess role is to support and protect our Deep Witness, and to stay by her side for the duration of the ritual.

As the ritual begins, I notice that I feel different than my usual, high-intensity magical engagement. I’m somber, watchful and empty present — a guardian and observer of the Deep Witness and our community as we enter the powerful, mysterious and mournful experience of Samhain.

Together we create sacred space. The circle is cast. We ground.  The Elements are called in through song.  Goddesses and other Mysteries are invoked.  Our priestess group calls in the Ancestors and Descendants.

I listen from the edge of the circle, attuned to the movements of bodies, weaving of energy, and quality of presence, more than the individual words and actions.  I step forward to do my calling in task, and then settle into my role as Tender.

I notice the seamless sharing of leadership, power and space — the many priestesses working together to co-create this magical experience for our community. The talent and expertise in this room are immense, diverse, breathtaking, yet I don’t sense inflated egos, jealousy or competition. 

We move on to the reading of the names of the dead who have passed this year — what is remembered lives. And the dead come, slipping past the veil that separates us, to drink of our grief, our love, and our honoring.

I notice how natural this is, how right for us to be with our honored dead in these ways. They move among us, touching the faces of their beloved kin with their hands of light, soothing the broken hearts of those left behind, letting us know that they are still with us, just a thought, a name, a song away.

Two priestesses begin to trace a path in the center of the circle, one drumming and together weaving a hauntingly beautiful guided trance to the Isle of Apples, the Pagan Land of the Dead.  Everyone settles into a comfortable position, and makes their way to the blessed Isle to commune with their Beloved Dead. 

The Sacred Witnesses don’t make this journey, nor do we, their Tenders. Together we anchor this magical circle, while the Sacred Witnesses hold vigil and observe all with their dream eyes. My only job is to stand guard. I don’t pry into the visioning of the ritual participants, nor of the Sacred Witnesses. Whatever is happening here is intensely soul-to-soul private.

I notice a current of power that runs between the two Sacred Witnesses: one an anchor for the lineage of Ancestors that stretches into the far distant past, and the other an anchor for the lineage of Descendants that reaches into the far distant future. I sway back and forth, back and forth, my movements an involuntary response to the magnetic pulse of whole time, where the future and the past are both present in this now moment, and the yet to be born, the dead and the living share this communal, magical space.

The two priestesses speak once more, calling the ritual participants to rise up and dance the Spiral Dance with their Beloved Dead, and with the Souls of the Unborn who also reside on the Isle of Apples. Hand to hand, the dancers form a moving spiral that turns inward toward the circle center, and then back outward again. Dancers pass each other by, shining face to shining face, with voices raised in song. 

I first notice how crowded the space is, not only with the living, but also with our unseen guests of the Beloved Dead and the Unborn. My guardian instincts kick in, and I expand my energy to create a protective barrier between the Sacred Witness and the dancers.

Yet the Sacred Witness is unfazed. She rocks and sways with the music and building energy of the dance. This energy is immense, intense, but also peaceful, harmonious, and so, so heart-wrenching.

Tears run down my cheeks. Love is what fills this room, overflowing from heart to heart. Love that joins us all in this raw, bittersweet dance of death, life and birth.   

This is how we hold our grief and losses; with this much love, power and presence. We are one community: the living, the dead and the yet to be born. The spiral dance is life itself, a turning into and out of the mortal coil of our flesh and bones form.

As the Spiral Dance and guided journey come to a close with words of parting and gratitude for the Beloved Dead and the Unborn, it’s time to honor and name the newborns for this year, and to circle back to the celebratory beginnings of life.

Then there’s one last task before the circle is opened: the Deep Witnesses speak on behalf of the Ancestors and Descendants.

The Ancestors remind us that we are each a light in these dark times, and we must shine our brightest to make this world a better place. The Descendants tell us that special souls are being born to this world, and that we must make space for them and heed their teachings. 

I notice how everyone in the room turns their rapt attention to the Deep Witnesses as they speak. When the Mysteries walk among us, our only job is to listen to the power of their voices, and the hope in their messages. The Ancestors and Descendants leave us with sacred responsibilities: to show up as our bright shining Selves, and to welcome and honor the newborns and our children as teachers and guides. This is how we can mend and remake our world for the better.

For this Samhain eve, our magic is done. We devoke, thanking and saying goodbye to all that we’ve called in. Priestesses and participants alike are called back from the Mysteries to return to the waking world. Our circle is opened, yet unbroken.

As a community, we share food and conversation afterwards, and I continue my Tender duties until my priestess companion is returned from her Deep Witness journey, and fully grounding in her human form. Then it’s time to go home, nourished, healed and transformed by our evening of magic.

The next day, I notice that I’m filled with a profound sense of wellbeing and wholeness. Magic makes me whole. Honoring death, loss and grief makes me whole. Deep communion with the Beloved Dead, the Unborn, the Ancestors and the Descendants makes me whole. Sharing these essential things with my community makes me whole. Love makes me whole.

Let this wholeness be our prayer and our practice in the year to come.

Ritual Credit: This Samhain ritual arises out of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft.

Photo Credit: Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

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  • Karen Clark
    Karen Clark says #
    Thank you birch! It was an honor to be a Tender for such a powerful, loving community ritual.
  • Robert Birch
    Robert Birch says #
    Karen, What a soul moving article. I read it, quietly cried and dreamed into the pagan gift to the world through your wyrds. ~bir
A Fall Equinox Story: It’s Time For Your Awakening

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Lammas, Lugh and the Miracle of the Harvest

Though the heat of Summer still burns bright and strong, the sunlit hours wane with every passing day. Now is the time of Lammas, the pagan Sabbat of the early harvest. Lugh, the Celtic God of light, waits for you on the summit of a hill, ready to guide you in the mysteries of life and rebirth held within the living land and your living body.

The sun has begun is downward arc toward the horizon, and a panoramic view of golden fields, ripe for the early harvest, spreads out before you.

“Behold the great exchange of life,” Lugh says, “the mysteries of sunlight turned into grain to feed the hungry bellies of this world.  But there is a price for this miracle: something must die to nourish the living, and for something new to be born. Everything has its season. One cycle ends so another can begin.”

With a wave of His hand, the scene shifts, revealing the elemental forces that underlie the golden fields.  All is not well.  The earth is parched and barren. The air is filled with contaminants. The fire heat of the sun is too harsh. The water in the nearby stream is clouded with murky sludge.

“Like the turning of Nature’s cycle of light and life at Lammas, humanity is also coming to the end of a cycle,” Lugh says, “For too long, your kind has forgotten the ways and rhythms of the Mother Earth.  You have taken, and taken, and taken, despoiling the air, water and land that sustain you. This imbalance has come to an end point, and a reckoning is upon you.”

Lugh is grave and silent, leaving you to consider the import of His words. The stark evidence of humanity’s environmental excesses and disregard surrounds you. The Mother Earth is weighted down and weary, with Her fragile, precious systems stressed and failing.

“I don’t share these things to burden you with a vision of despair,” Lugh continues, “Look to Nature as your guide, with its Lammas teaching of the miracle of the harvest. Within everything is the seed of a new season, with its promise of a fresh beginning and future harvest.

“You too have come to the end of a cycle,” Lugh says, “and your personal healing and evolution are intimately intertwined with that of humanity and the Earth.

“The imbalance you see before you is also inside of you, side by side with your personal imbalances and discontent, and those of your human society. And the seeds of the new are there as well, within your living body and life story.  With these seeds, you can mend and renew your life and this world.

“But there is a price to be paid for this miracle. Something must die, must be sacrificed, for something new to be reborn. You must be willing to change in profound ways.”

Lugh turns toward you, His face suffused with compassion and love. He places His warm, golden-skinned hand on your midbody, sending His deep wisdom into your very core.

“You must ask yourself: what is ready to be harvested and cut away in my life in service of my soul work, and a more sustainable, life-serving exchange between myself and the Mother Earth? What lessons must I ingest to aid my transformation? What am I willing to sacrifice for new seeds to take root in my life and the greater world?”

The sun now dips below the horizon, bringing on the chill of impending darkness. Your time with Lugh is ending. As His light dims, He leaves you with one last gift of illuminating wisdom.

“Remember that the seeds of the new are held within the body of the living. Everything you need to heal, grow and transform yourself and your world is present in this now moment, in the golden field that is your life story. Be brave. Be wise. Be guided by the profound endings and new beginnings arising within you.”

As Lugh and His hilltop vision fade away, know that a time of reckoning has indeed arrived; we must make sacrifices and change if we are to preserve the beauty and abundance of our Earth home.  Some things must end, must die, for something new to be reborn. Within each of our lives are the seeds, the miracles, of the new season and harvest to come.

Photo Credit: Emma Van Sant on UnSplash

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