Friday, October 2, 2020

A Samhain Devotional Practice

 The following introduction is edited from a longer text that will appear in ADF's 'Oak Leaves' magazine in the Winter issue. That issue will contain a Yule Devotional script, but I wanted to make the Samhain thing available in a timely way.

Pagan Devotional Worship

Modern Paganism, at least as I’ve known it, is primarily expressed through ritual performance. Our Paganisms are not, generally, contained in texts. Study of the words of a founder or of seers or spiritual teachers is not a significant part of Pagan practice, rather our ideas, understandings and inspirations are often translated into ritual acts and speech. This is as true for the Wiccan-styled segments of Paganism as for more traditional styles. Elements of Wiccan ritual speech, such as the ‘Charge of the Goddess’ come as close to scripture as Neopagan ways get. 

In ADF our rites have enshrined elements of our cosmologies, attitudes toward the gods and spirits, and toward one-another. Very little of that is overt and very little recitation or teaching usually accompanies those works. Rather we depend on group energy and the use of more grand ritual work to generate spiritual experiences for participants. Those working alone at home, or perhaps in a micro-group of family or friends, may need a different style of spiritual practice. It is certainly possible to mount the full production of a High Day sacrifice in living-room or backyard, but there are other methods that may serve better. 

The following text draws on elements of both the Indic ‘Pooja’, and the Roman Catholic ‘Novena’ The latter is a tradition of undertaking nine consecutive days of dedicated prayer focused on a particular spirit (i.e. saint or person of the Trinity) or on an intention. Authors compose formal novena-prayer texts for such things. I fell upon the text of modern RCC Novena prayers, and immediately saw what might be a useful model.

Taking what might be the easy road, I am beginning by creating Devotionals for the eight High Days of Neopagan tradition. For those who attend liturgical celebrations of the Days such a home-rite can serve as preparation, focus and personal work. For those working solitary a Devotional can serve as one’s primary celebration of the spirit of the Day. While these practices don’t follow our OoR closely, they do generally use the traditional formula of offering and blessing.


Practice Notes
The Order
The basic order under which I am writing these is thus:
1: - Opening Charm: The Blessing of Fire and Water, and acknowledgement of start
2: - Water and Smoke Cleansing: As usual – always a valuable ritual moment
3: - Hymn of Intention – a versified statement that both clarifies intention and inspires the proper feelings.
4: - The Vision - simple text to induce the vision of the target principles. This rather replaces the scripture-reading in the RCC texts.
5: - Prayer of the Vision – Affirmation of the vision-contents. A reflective reading followed by affirmational prayer is a sequence I like.
6: - Invocation of the Powers – calling and offering to the gods and spirits of the intention
7: - Litany of Blessing – reception of the Power
8: - Final Prayer of Thanks or Petition

The Shrine
This practice requires the usual Fire & Water, along with the means to make offerings – a censer and a plate or bowl for food offerings. Unlike liturgical rites offerings can be small, or token amounts of the lists called-for. If no offerings are specified in the text then an incense-offering is always proper.
As always, images of the gods and decorative symbols of the season are proper. Those who enjoy decorating seasonal altars and displays in their homes may find this worship-form useful.
                Allow me to give a serious (if pro forma) warning about the single greatest ‘danger of occult ritual’ – burning down your house! Treat live fire as a tricky guest – do not trust your luck to leaving live fire unattended.

Offerings
Some of these practices call for food offerings that will spoil if left sitting unattended. Offerings made in ritual should be disposed of respectfully no later than the next morning. The best is to leave perishable or edible offerings at the foot of a tree. Those with minimal tree-access need not hesitate to dispose of offerings at home. I, personally, find flushing to be a more respectful and direct disposal than the house garbage-bag. If you find your censer with a dozen sticks in it, a window-sill or balcony may be in order.

The Work
The text is meant to be read-through, making offerings as you go, as called for. Each begins with an informative reading, which can be read silently before beginning the formal ritual sections. I have not included detailed trance-involvement instructions, but I encourage you to find your center and your basic trance before beginning, and return to that position as needed. The work includes a ‘vision’ – a ‘guided meditation’ segment in which you are asked to imagine or envision specific patterns relevant to the holiday’s themes. Visualization while reading need be no more complex than the internal visuals which accompany fiction for many of us.
                ‘Novenas’ in the RCC, may be done at home, or be led in church for group work, often leading up to a major calendrical feast. They use the ‘litany’ form, in which a reader recites the various lines of prayer, and the group responds with an affirmation. I have retained the form in just one place; it can be read through alone, or used as a responsive reading if the work is done in a small group.
                Another such trope is the ‘antiphon’ a framing mechanism used to begin and end sections of the work. These will probably remain consistent from text to text for my eight High Day devotionals.

Hallowing the Shrine
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and Grow in me.
In Land, Sea and Sky,
Below and on-high
Let the Water be Blessed and the Fire be Hallowed,
And let my voice be heard by the Holy Ones!

Now may the Powers of Underworld and Heaven bring their cleansing blessing.
Anoint and cense the hands, and any items proper to the work, saying:
By the might of the Water and the light of the Fire, 
this (place/thing/work etc) is made whole and holy.

And/or, slightly more detailed:
Fire and Water, earth and Sky
Rooted deep and crowned High
Ill be gone and good draw nigh
Fire and water, Earth and Sky

 Hymn
The year begins, the year must end
The road of life to death must bend
As mortals we go on our way
Our fate is but our course to stay

In elder days the year was broke
In two by poetry bespoke
On Hallowed night, the ancient time
The spell was rightly made by rhyme

To gather on the high place bright
The folk would come on Samhain night
To light the sacrificial flame
And feast the Dead of ancient fame

Remembered, still, at this, my shrine
Where this small spirit-fire does shine
In Samhain-tide the cup I raise
And give the Holy Ones due praise.

Antiphon  of the Vision
Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.
Sitting in your meditation seat, breathe and seek your peace in silence.
Let your bone uphold you
Let your blood beat in you
Let your breath flow through you
For a moment, in silence…
And let the Gate of the Season be open, and let the Fall of the Fall flow into your mind…
The Edge of Winter…
Where in such latitudes the trees go bare, and beasts burrow deep…
And mortal folk look toward the barren season.
Let the feel of the land’s season be over you
As you contemplate three doors.
Let the first door be in the Halls of the Dead,
Where the Great Feast is served, and the Hosts sit enthroned
Yet in season a door is open, and the Dead go forth into mist
Toward the Fires lit for them.
And let the second door be at the end of the long hall of cold stone…
Deep in the mound on the Edge of Beneath
An arch of giant stones, one upon the other… 
that opens into the Samhain season night
Upon green Earth.
To walk in the living Green… with wind and stars…
Toward the Fires lit for them,
Brings your vision to the Third Door – the homely Threshold
Of a family…
Warm fire light…
Scent of the boiling pot
Where kin welcome kin
And love welcomes love
At the feast of Samhain-tide.

Abide for a time in the Vision, and conclude with the antiphon.
Antiphon  of the Vision
Let the Inner Eye be open, let the spirit eye be clear
Wisdom speaks in spirit-vision, let the truth be on me here.

Prayer of the Vision
So I open my heart to the Holy Ones, in this season of the gates. May I walk in harmony with the tide, and gain the season’s blessing. Holy Ones in the Deep, who keep by right the Throne of the Hall of the Dead, hear my prayer in this season. Most Ancient Dead, hear me, Wise Dead, hear me, Beloved Dead, especially you my kin, hear me please.
Oh Mighty Ones, as you loved life so bless me with life; as you loved your kin let me know the love of kinship; as you endured death so may I endure life and death with Grace. In Wisdom, Love and Strength, so be it.

Offeratory Invocation
The Samhain Charm 
End of Summer, summoned
Herd Culling; Head Taking
Mead Making; Dead Calling
I keep the Feast of Samhain!
First of the Fallen, you I call
Son of the Warrior; Eldest of Brothers
Lord of the Feast in the House of the Dead.
Take now this offering here at my Fire.
Wrathful Red Goddess, you I call
Queen of the Spirits, Daughter of Danu
Mare of the Stallion, Crow of the Corpses
Take now my offering, here at my Fire.
Host of the Ancestors, this is your feasting.
Apples I give you, fruit of the Gods
Bread I give you, flesh of the Land
Ale I give you, blood of the Cauldron
Come you from the Isle of Apples
Come you from the Dark One’s House
Come you through the Door of the Hinge
And give your blessing to our year!

So, all you Powers, I give you welcome at my Fire. Let your light be reflected in my spirit, let your ale flow in my veins. I raise this glass to you, and drink to your divine power. Let me know the health, wealth and wisdom of the Gods and Spirits on this holy feast of Samhain! So be it!

Offerings: For the Deities, oil or incense, for the Dead as specified: Apples, bread and ale. Work the rite close to your hearth, or at a tomb. 
Blessing cup: Prepared before beginning, to be drunk as the text calls for, and during the following litany.

Antiphon of Blessing
With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep

Litany of Blessing
Holy Ones, we remember you
response: Grant me the Blessing
All beings of the Great Way of Things
response: Grant me the Blessing
You to whom I make these offerings
response: Grant me the Blessing
That there be blessing in our spirits, bright and deep
response: Let the Blessing be in me
Let there be blessing in our minds, calm and clear
response: Let the Blessing be in me
Let there be blessing in our Flesh, whole and strong
response: Let the Blessing be in me
That Wisdom guide me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Strength empower me
response: That the Blessing be mine
That Love sustain me
response: That the Blessing be mine
Antiphon of Blessing
With open heart and centered mind I seek the flow of blessing
Shine from Above and Rise from the Deep

Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and abide in wisdom
Now abide a while in silence, and let the whole Blessing of the coming Feast be upon you
Antiphon of Contemplation
In soul-peace I let light reflect, and shadow bide in the deep
May my stillness reflect beauty, and abide in wisdom

Final Prayer
So I remember the work of the Wise. Let the Fire be lit again, let once again the Well give forth, when I return to this shrine and work. Let the Holy Ones be praised, and the Great Dance of All Things be a turning of joy. Let Blessing carry me, and mine, and bring comfort to all the world. In Wisdom, Love and Strength, so be it!


Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Druid's Gate Seal

The second of two new Druidic sigils or lamens that have gotten a bit of traction out in Pagandom. Posted largely so that I can reference it, and in case you've wondered what your buddy's t-shirt means...

The Druid’s Gate is a telesmatic design shown by inspiration to Ian Corrigan – an expression of the core ritual power of Druidic spirit-magic. By bringing together symbols of this entire complex we create a figure filled with power and awe for use in further magic

At the base of the figure we see the sigils of Water and Fire. The Primal Powers, reflecting the cosmic powers of Earth and Sky, Underworld and Heavens. From the Two arises the Three, and the Triskelion might represent the Three Worlds, of Land, Sea and Sky, as understood by the ancient Celts and their Druids. In this triskel the sacred Center, the Place Between is held by the ritual fire. By bringing these powers together a liminal place is created, neither/nor; the Boundary Between; and above the combined fire and water the Gate appears. I might have chosen to express this ‘crossing-place’ as a cross-road symbol of the usual sort, but chose instead to harken to the truly archaic forms of the stone trilithons and gates of the pre-Celtic world, which were mysteries even to Druids. From such gates Otherworld beings emerged.

And so we see the sigils o
f the Three Kindreds of spirits emerging from or arriving at the gate. The Flaming Countenance of the Gods, the Skull of the Dead, and the Serpent to represent the power of the Landspirits all appear surrounding the Gate and the Center.

So this synthetic glyph manifests the proper order of Summoning, that the gate arise from the Between, and the Spirits come to our presence through the gate. So to display the sign, properly enchanted, is to declare one’s place as a Keeper of the Ways, a person to whom the respect of spirits is due.

Because this is the internet age, you'll find occasional products branded with this symbol - t-shirts, cups, gee-gaws, etc.
I should note that the ADF clergy order has adopted a variant of this seal as the symbol of our Senior Priesthood. You'll see priests of that rank wearing this variant as we please, on raiment or jewelry. The variant with the triskelion remains my own, the variant with the ADF sigil is used for the Senior Priesthood... just to be real clear.


Fire and water, shine and flow
Meet and Join, above and below
At the Sacred Center, stand
Sea and Sky, and Holy Land
Gods and Dead and Spirit Kin
By this sign, now, come ye in
By these Holy Powers all
Open the Gate! I make the call!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Magical Companion

Magic isn’t about products. This basic truth is often repeated on the internet, in between waves of advertising for occult products. But it’s true – the effective work of magic does not rely on cool stuff, whether blades or jewelry or books.

Ah, books… I admitted I was powerless over books, and that my shelves had become unmanageable…
Nevertheless, books are, for many modern occultists, the real gate and road to learning magic.  Personal teaching is rare to locate, and rarer to find without strings attached – books respond as reliably as they are used. Certainly if more students actually did what the books told them, we’d have more competent magicians. But, I’m already rambling.
In my own desire to own the sort of books of magic I imagine, I have produced collections of my own rituals and spells, most notably the Leabhar Mor  (”Big Book” in Irish) a full-sized Wizard’s Tome which I have made available over the years. I love the copies I have, and it did fulfill some basic “I want a wizard-book” fantasy. The big book on the podium in the library or ritual room is one of the core images for me.
But there is another facet to the archetype of the Magical Book. So often in recent centuries magic has been “forbidden knowledge”, either frowned-upon socially or actually outlawed by authorities, and suppressed by violence. From another angle there was a long period in which books themselves – each book – were treasures. Paper, even parchment, was rare and valuable, and the skill of bookbinding produced items that were intended to be of lasting value even when not embellished with gold and gems. So some books were intended to be concealable, or as handbooks on a busy workbench, or as a light load for a scholar’s luggage and might be bound in small size… the ‘octavo’, or even smaller. Prayer books and missals were commonly bound so, as were grimoires and books of sorcery.

In my very own head, where all the attics and shadowy glades of my magic are found, two fictional models of powerful occult books in small sizes stick out. The first is the curious cypher book in John Bellair’s “The Face In The Frost”, which fascinates the attention of a sequence of scholars and magicians, and the Book of Calls, from Fred Mustard Stewart’s “The Mephisto Waltz”. Both were written in such a way as to present a powerful (and spooky) book of magic in a small, portable, concealable way.
So I was quite pleased when, at last, Lulu.com began offering on-demand hardback books in their ‘pocket book’ size – the size of the old standard paperback book. As usual Lulu’s standards for their work are good, and the experimental copies I’ve received are holding up to some carrying and use. They offer only a couple creative options in covers, but I’ve done something I like…

The Pagan Magical Companion is my effort to assemble a hand-book of modern Pagan magic and spirit. It contains material mostly written since the compilation of the Leabhar Mor, along with some repeated material, tables, etc, which I thought necessary for a useful portable reference. My intention is to create a book that is useful to the working magician, as well as inspirational to those pursuing Pagan spirituality.

The book begins with material useful in beginning and maintaining a simple house-cult of local gods and spirit – which can be the basis for a lot of more esoteric magical work. The book presents a method of formal theurgic invocation of the gods, and offers a model for using it in context of a yearly cycle of seasonal rites. 

In this handbook format I have not included articles of technical explanation of basic magical methods, such as trance-vision journeying. I do present a ritual framework that can help unite vision-journey workings with one’s larger ritual-magic practice, but the method will have to be acquired by the reader. Likewise divination is discussed, and some simple methods given, intended to be especially useful for the magical rites described.

Central to the book’s magic is the Pagan system of spirit-arte it presents. Based in my research and experiments over the past decade, here I have tried to boil-down and present the method in an easy outline that can be worked with a few proper tools. The work presented in the book includes all the needed rites for making the tools, preparing the mind and opening relationships with the spirits. With those things in hand, spirit-arte is the next logical step. The book contains a set of rites for making basic alliances that can serve for practical magic of all kinds.
Finally I collect a set of experiments based on the book’s methods, along with many one-off charms and ‘prayers’ for a variety of spiritual and practical purposes. These needful charms help make the Companion a source of inspiration and support through our common lives.

So the Magical Companion is available now at my store on Lulu.com. It is a pocket hardcover, the cover image-printed on gloss (which I find more durable than their matte stock). It is printed in full color on sturdy stock, with red and black text throughout, and many color illustrations and plates. I find it has a satisfying heft while suiting the desire for a portable resource.

                                    

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Starwood 39.5


Your Festival Staycation.

So, here in Ohio we continue to face Covid-related caution advisories. None of them have been Draconian – we’ve gone out for supplies as needed, but socializing here at Tredara has been minimal, and all spring/early summer events have been cancelled. As a result we have been learning how to use the internet for our work – our Druid Grove has offered our rites on live feeds, and we’re all meeting on various meeting-platforms.

As most of you know I’m a founder of and organizer for the Starwood festival, which is approaching its 40th opening this year. Things being what they are, this year we felt it wise to cancel our Big Camp-out. Instead we are producing a virtual event that we hope will be as interesting and engaging as a live Starwood.

Attendees will receive a link to the “Lobby”, where scheduled programs can be accessed. Beginning with the Opening Circle meditation on Tuesday evening, we will offer four days of workshop program. Each day will open with a “coffee at Camp” chat-meeting, where folks can get face-time, test their connection, ask questions, etc. We will often offer two, three or more choices per scheduled slot. 

I invite you to review the schedule and speaker list at the link. Selena Fox, Jeff McBride, Vermin Supreme, and so many of our favorite folks (we couldn’t possibly have them all…). Workshops will be interacting, tough our monitors will work to keep things organized, prevent extraneous noise, etc.
Musical guests will play at lunch-time and post-dinner slots each day, and various unusual overnight feeds will be accessed. We will maintain a non-themed chat-room, and offer unique programs from our 40-year archives.
There’s some fire-tribe building a Pretty Big Fire in my back meadow as we speak. Saturday night, after concert, we will light it and join our eyes and hearts together, even if we can’t all dance in the same place.

So if you have the cabin-fever, a persistent nagging itch to do something cool, and an ache in your bones for the fam, consider pitching in the measly fee.
Then get yer wi-fi in order, with a good screen, arrange some camp chairs (or your fave chairs…) around a fire – even a little bitty one, maybe get a cooler full of your fave cold stuff.  You can meet friends and like-minded mutants from across the planet (probably), while relaxing with your very own plumbing.
You can register at this page:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-starwood-395-tickets-105711453804
It’s the 2020 thing to do…


Monday, March 30, 2020

Two Charms Against Disease

Sheltering in place, here in Ohio, in a county not too hard-hit (yet) by the Covid infection, I contemplate how to apply magic to the situation.
In my personal work I have a long-practiced, nearly-unconscious pattern of applying the Two Powers (as some Druids say - the Underworld and Heaven Powers) to cleansing myself and maintaining a healthy pattern. For those not immediately in Our Druidic work, let me expound a little.
• One can approach the impersonal spiritual energies of the cosmos as the powers of Underworld and Heavens.  Allow me to quote myself, from my "Basics of Pagan Worship":

... the ‘energies’ of the spiritual world. Most common is the work called ‘grounding and centering”. In that technique we make ourselves aware of a flow of “spiritual energies” in the cosmos, and balance those energies in our own bodies and spirits. ...
                At the basic level we address these energies as the Light of the Heavens and the Waters of the Underworld. The Underworld Power is envisioned as the Waters Under the Earth, in which all the wisdom of the past is dissolved. The Power of the Heavens is seen as the Light of the Turning Sky, which brings order, pattern and growth. This duality corresponds to cosmic principles, poles of cosmic structure between which the manifest world appears. ...
                Working with the Fire and Water can be a core technique of practical magic, ... The Fire and Water are the primal powers of creation. When we take conscious control of the Two Powers, through imagination and will, we are doing in the microcosm what the Gods and Spirits do in the greater cosmos.
                The standard of proficiency in this technique of energy-work is to learn to bring (awareness of) the Two Powers into the self quickly and surely. ... From that base any number of specialized forms and applications of the energies can be devised.

The 'Fire and Water' healing charm here is precisely that sort of specialized application. I'm sure it could be worked with any sort of 'grounding and centering' but it is designed for the Two Powers work of Our Druidry.

The second charm here is a direct invocation of the Goddess brigid, who I look to as a primary healer goddess. It calls upon Her Three Powers - immediate daemons of the goddess who I know as the Cup, the Harp, and the Hammer. Details of that concept can be found in the Court of Brigid material. Even if not familiar with those ideas, following the images and poetry of the charm should get you close to the goal.

So here's my wish, for strength to our flesh, skill to our physicians, and the comfort and protection of the spirits on us all.

Healing by Fire and Water
A charm to prevent infection and strengthen wholeness

If desired you may work with a candle-flame and a small bowl of water. The charm can be worked in vision, conceiving the left hand as the Water and the right hand as the Fire.

• Begin by centering yourself in the Two Powers, establishing the Flow and Shine of Underworld and Heavens in your body. When you are ready:
• Extend the left hand (holding the water, or with a small amount in the palm, or only in vision), and understand the Underworld Power as flowing up through you, to concentrate in that hand. Breathing strongly and maintaining that vision, recite:
Deep Water rise,
Dark water bright
Strength from the Deep
All-Cleansing might

(and incant this nine times, charging the water)

• Then anoint the forehead, chest and belly or loins with the water, or place the hand on them in turn, from top to bottom, saying:
Flow, Oh Power, from the deep, through my heart, to my hand, that I may be cleansed,
 that I may be rinsed, that every ill be washed away.
That bonds be broken, and washed away.
That hooks be released, and washed away
That every bit be cleansed, and washed clean.
For the Blessing of the water I give thanks

• Abiding in your cleansed state, extend your right hand, holding the flame, or lit incense, or only in vision, and understand the Heaven Power shining down into you, to concentrate in your hand. Breathing strongly in that vision, recite:
Fire of heaven, Fire of the Sky
Moon’s white Silver, Sun’s bright gold
Shine upon me, shine within
That your power I may hold

(and incant this nine times, charging the fire)
• Then use your hand to warm or brighten the belly or loins, heart and forehead in turn with the flame,  from bottom to top, saying:
Shine, Oh Light, from the heights, through my head, to my hand, that I may be made whole.
Let the Light of Formation fill every empty space, and restore me to wholeness
Let the Light of Knowledge fill every empty space, and restore me to wholeness
Let the Light of Illumination fill every empty space, and restore me to wholeness
That I may be whole, and healed, and well.
For the Blessing of Fire I give thanks.
• And clasp the hands before the heart, understanding the whole work, the cleansing and restoration, and affirming.
So by Fire and Water
Let me be cleansed and whole.
So be it.

Brigid’s Protection Against Disease        By the Might of Brigid, Daughter of Danu
By the Mercy of Brigid, Flame in the Hearth
By the Flow of Brigid, Water from the Well
Spirit of the Hammer, Warm the Forge
Spirit of the Quaich, Bear the Draft
Spirit of the Harp, Sing Beauty
So ring, Oh Hammer, in the Cauldron of Warming
Let my furnace burn warm, my power be strong, 
to keep me from all ill.
Be full to spilling, Oh Cup, into my Cauldron of Movement
Let your healing flow through every course, 
to keep me from all ill
Sing like the Birds of Dawn. OH Harp, 
with words of understanding
Let me hear the Song in my Cauldron of Wisdom
to keep me from all ill
Mighty Goddess, make strong flesh and bone
Loving Goddess, make clean blood and wind
Wisest Goddess, Make clear mind and will
In my heart and at my hearth
For my kin and for my folk
That we may all be well.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Solitary Spring Equinox Rite


This season our local ADF Grove cancelled our public seasonal ritual performance for, I think, the first time in our history. We've had a couple of weather-related close calls, but this is the first time that we simply won't hold a rite, thanks to the COVID 19 problem.

Here is a reasonably simple rite that can be done at a family dinner table, or alone. It requires a few candles, a bowl of water and a couple of simple symbolic props

I will take the strength of the land for our own, and let growth and the rising light overcome ill.

A Family Table Rite  for Spring

In addition to service for the food, arrange the Center of the table, as desired, with four good candles, one shorter than the others, and an attractive bowl of clean water. If desired a decorative Tree symbol completes the array. A piece of silver or quartz crystal might be present to drop into the water, and incense is good, if tolerable for a meal-table. Also have present a preferred beverage, or two, to receive the Blessing.

• With all prepared, the kin join hands, and breathe together in silence for a moment.
• The Head of the Table lights the short candle, drops the silver into the Water, and speaks:
We come together to celebrate the turning of tides, the rising of light, the balance of the rolling wheel. In the name of the Earth Mother and the Spirit of the Grain, Let us seek blessing.
• All recite:
The Fire, the Well, the Sacred Tree
Flow and Flame and Grow in me
By Land, Sea and Sky, Below and On High
Let the Water be blessed and the Fire be hallowed.
• It is good to formally cleanse– pass the water, or sprinkle all – pass incense if do-able; this may be light-hearted.
One simple charm (spoken three times) is:
By the Might of the Waters and the Light of the Fire
Let this meal/table/gathering be blessed!

An offering is given, saying:
• Where Fire and Water Meet, Where Land and Sea and Sky are joined
There is the Sacred Center, The Crossroads of Worlds.
We light the Fire of Welcome, we draw water from the Holy Well,
And to the Gods of Crossroads we offer,
That this place be a sacred place, a between place,
A place of meeting for mortals and the spirits.
 Let the Roads be open, let the voice be heard, let the Gates be Open!


• The Head, or another, lights the three tall candles in turn as all recite:
Oh all you Holy Beings of the Worlds, In all your might
We call you, whether unnamed or by name, By these three lights
(light one tall candle)
Beloved Dead, you travelers, gone before, To you in love
(light one tall candle)
Oh wond’rous spirits of this land we call, To you in awe
(light one tall candle)
And every shining god, in every heart, To you in honor true
Love, awe and honor, these we light
With these three flames here, burning bright
And bid the spirits bide with us in peace.
The Spring Charm:
For this charm have a stone from the surrounding land (or a small bowl of dirt), a handful of seed-wheat or corn, Two offerings of incense are also ready

The Head, or another, begins:
• Light and Dark in balance, turning; Year comes forth from Winter, changing
Shoots come forth from mud and soil, kits and young are birthed, as well
Sing we springtime one and all, as all the land rejoices.
Unto the landfolk we give honor, remember we your sleep and waking
Give us your blessing in the planting, and multiply it in the reaping
As spring brings summer and the harvest

The stone or soil is taken up and held as the charm is said. The stone or soil may be passed around the table for each to contemplate, if desired.
• To the Mother of All we make our prayer, and likewise give this offering.
An incense offering is made
Many named, who upholds every path, womb of grain and final tomb
Let your power be growth in the season of growth.
Let water run free, and soil be rich and quenched
Let sun be warm and winds kind, and the storm bring the protection of the Thunderer
Earth Mother, you are the Womb of Spring
Be for us the Mother of Peace

The Corn, in a bowl, is elevated, or passed around the table, saying:
• To the Spring Thunderer we make our prayer, and likewise give this offering
An incense offering is made
Thunder-wielder, who wakes the seed and guards the corn
Let your power be growth in this season of growth.
Shake the sky, rumble the ground, and let no good seed stay sleeping
Lightning charge the air, and guard against all ill; keep safe the Beloved Mother.          
Thunderer, you are the Hammer of Spring
Be for us the Shield of Protection

This charm can be said or sung three times, or until all the tokens have returned.
So turn, turn, from dark to light
We stand in place ‘tween left and right
One hand is winter, one is spring
Between is each and every thing.

All recite or sing the prayer of sacrifice, and a final offering of incense might be given.
• Hear us Holy Ones
Offering we give to all
In Honor, Reverence, and Joy
Accept our sacrifice, we call


A daring and confident host might choose to draw an omen at this time. Many will be happy simply to proceed to the Blessing:
The Head of the Table, or another recites:
• The lights are lit, and the feast is ready. Let the blessing be poured for us all.
The prepared drinks are poured, and a single passing-cup is raised, or everyone raises their cup, and recites:      
Let this be blessing, poured for us, from the Holy Powers.
Let it be wisdom, let it be strength, let it be love, between us, true.
Let the World be soil, in which our hearts sprout and bloom and bear.
Let the Season be life, and energy, and strength for the growing
Mother of All, Thunder-Champion, we ask your blessing on these cups.
• All drink, then bide a moment in silent unity.

• The Head begins closing, saying:
• So we accept the blessing of Spring! To all those who have come at our call, All who have given us their blessing, to all those who bide with us in Spring, we give thanks. We bid you go in peace, if you will, or stay at our sides in blessing. Spirits, we thank you!
The Gatekeeper is thanked and the gate closed, saying:
• Keeper of Gates, Lord of Ways, for keeping the crossroad, we give you our thanks.
Now let the Fire be but flame; Let the Well be but water
Let all be as it was before; Save only for the magic we have made.
Let the gates be closed!

Then all recite the Great Blessing:
• We offer our thanks to the Mother of All.
We offer our thanks to the Gods, Dead and Spirits.
May the Three Sacred Kins bring joy to all beings, and renew the ancient wisdom.
To the Fire, Well and Tree we offer our thanks.
May Wisdom, Love and Power kindle in all beings, and renew the ancient wisdom.
To the Earth, Sea, and Sky we offer our thanks.
May the ancient wisdom be renewed, and may all beings know peace, joy and happiness
In all the worlds.        So be it!
• The Head concludes, saying:
Let us keep gratitude in our hearts for this blessing, for this labor, for this good food we are about to eat, in the light of the Holy Ones.
Holy Ones, we thank you (all repeat)
Let’s Eat!



Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Cleansing and Banishing in Pagan Ritual


(a basic replacement for 'smudging')

Pagan social-media conversations often circle back to the use of herbal smoke for cleansing material spaces, and ‘banishing bad vibes’. In my summary opinion the notion of ‘sage-ing’ or ‘smudging’ has reached the level of superstition, in which people imitate gestures without understanding, seeking an effect. This trend has bumped-up against efforts by native peoples to preserve their own ways, and prevent their dilution by misappropriation. Recent internet notices have warned us against depriving native people of revenue and recognition in our sources of specific plants, and reminded us that merely imitating a picture of a ritual action does not mean we’re actually doing it.
                When I was coming up in the craft in the 1970s we never spoke of ‘smudging’. The first time I saw the ‘shell-and-fan’ set-up was probably in the mid-80s, at a festival.  Traditional western magic performs cleansing of space with a dual approach, using water and fire. That is how I learned to clear a space, whether casting a circle or giving a basic cleansing to a house. Water-and-fire cleansing is also used in western magic to cleanse and pre-bless objects used in magical ritual, whether the ‘tools’, or the physical basis of talismans, charm-bags, etc. While each of these symbols deserves a full research-report, let me say a little about the traditions surrounding ritual fire and water:
Ritual Water
                The central symbol of cleansing in Euro spiritual ritual is water. The work of finding, bearing, and protecting safe water sources is always central to the lives of early people, and such matters make their way from the mundane into the sacred in a variety of customs. Evidence for the use of specially-dedicated water and water-sources extends as far back as written sources allow.
                In the Greek Magical Papyri of the turn of the first millennium ritual water is gathered from different sources for different intentions. So for work with celestial gods, and various blessings one might collect rain-water, while for Underworld work, fertility, etc water from underground springs is preferred. For modern practitioners this offers a chance to consider the sources of water in your region, and to pay direct attention to weather as a concern in magic.
                If you choose to bring water directly from a natural source, try to choose places where you can gather clean, clear water. Water pure enough to drink seems to have been the basic standard for traditional ritual water, and great care was taken to insure its cleanliness and purity. There is no reason to avoid using the tap water from most modern water-systems – ritual water is always formally consecrated.

The summary of the method of making ritual water is to bring pure water, add some further agent of purification, and speak intention over the water. The added element is often salt, though some Celtoids have the custom of ‘silvering’ water – silver has active anti-microbial properties, so that’s cool.
The western traditions of ritual magic (what is often called the ‘Solomonic’ style) use this basic formula with its usual lengthy ritual recitations. There’s a very complete set of such consecrations at the Digital Ambler
A simple working consecration is given below.
Fire and Smoke
                Ritual flame is the traditional center of much Euro-Pagan ritual. In archaic forms the central fire receives the offerings of the people, and may represent the very presence of divine power. Its lore emphasizes ritual purity, spiritual power and the Right Order of wholeness and wellness.
                Among Indic ritual traditions the fire retains most of this archaic power, and stands at the center of what remains of Vedic ritual. In Persian religion (‘Zoroastrianism’) the fire becomes the only idol, the very image of the divine. In Hellenic and Roman religion the sacrificial fire consumed the portion of the offerings given to the gods, and was treated as a deity.
                Ritual fire has the same emphasis on ‘purity’ as does ritual water. Fire can be employed to burn trash, cleanse illness, even consume corpses. Ritual fire is to be made with clean, dry materials, carefully laid, with no unintentional or incidental contents. It receives equally-pure offerings of food, oil, etc.
                In many traditional cultures the ritual fire is connected directly to the hearth-fire. Hearth-fire is kept burning perpetually, the spark carefully preserved over each night, for months at a time. Hearth fire was, in many places, renewed annually or bi-annually, to allow for cleaning and purity. In such cases the hearth was extinguished, and new fire brought into the home from one of the blessed ritual fires. For the rest of the year all ritual fire was lit, in turn, from a hearth-fire.
                Some sects of modern Paganism are attempting to establish the keeping of a perpetual tended flame in homes. The old 20th century dodge was to bless the ‘pilot light’ of a gas stove. (If you don’t know what that it, it’s because the tech has largely passed away, and I don’t think anyone blesses their piezo…). On modern Pagan shrines and altars a flame can be kept in a succession of seven-day candles, in an oil-lamp, or even a gas fireplace or lamp. Such a light is carefully kept through the year, and ritually snuffed and re-lit in a sacred occasion – often at Spring Equinox or Beltaine. In the many circumstances where a ritual fire cannot be lit from a good hearth-fire, then custom calls for a proper incantation recited over proper fuels, and lit at a proper moment.

Blessing by Smoke
                The central formula of cleansing by water and incense is that it is the water which first rinses away pollution, and the incense smoke which then confers blessing on the clean thing or place. In ancient days bad smells were associated, not unreasonably, with ritual and physical uncleanliness, and smells themselves were considered to transmit disease. Thus perfumes were used to drive off such impurity, and to fill the air of a ritual space with scents attractive to good influences, especially those proper to the rite at hand. Thus it was ordinary to clean a room with water and brush, and then to burn pleasant woods, etc, in the hearth, even in cultures that didn’t use ‘incense’ as such. Both Gaelic and Scandinavian cultures preserve very little trace of the use of formulated incense for either religion or household perfume, but might burn boughs of pine, or apple, or juniper to scent their rooms, especially after sickness.

                In ritual magic of the late classical and medieval days evil spirits, as such, were banished by the burning of ill-smelling smokes. No sense of ‘opposites’ involved – burning asafetida and pepper will drive most beings out of a room. Resorting to such measures today would be for the most extreme matters, I suppose.
At the core of this formula, I think, it is the sacred power of the spark of ritual fire that serves to bless and purify, much more than the effect of any specific herb. Of course there are a variety of herbs used for banishing ill in European tradition, lists are easy to find Any combination can be burned on charcoal (maybe mixed with some nice frankincense) to good effect. If you find yourself unable to use smoke in an apartment or public space simply blessing a candle or (more dramatically) a fire in a bowl will be fully in keeping with the core symbolism of the work. Even the light of an electric candle can serve, especially if the space is dark enough for the light to be visible.
                Refer to the ‘digital Ambler’ link above for the full Solomonic version of the consecration of Fire. For small ritual fires a simple prayer or charm is the usual method.
• It is usual to arrange a token ritual hearth indoors. This is easily done by placing a circle of candles around an incense-burner, allowing incense offerings to be made in the center of the symbolic flames.
• Such a Fire should be lit with a proper charm or incantation, such as the one given below.

Purification By Water and Fire:
A Druidic-style 'altar' arrangement
These simple customs can be used to spiritually cleanse a house, a room, or a person or object. Choose a proper place for the altar – at your home shrine if you keep one. For cleansing a house consider starting at the highest reachable point and working downward and out the doors. In a single room an altar might be on the eastern wall or at an eastern window. In any case the simple tools can be arranged as needed, with consideration as to beauty and harmony.
• Bring clean water, and a little salt.
• Prepare a fire, whether a true wood fire or a ring of candles surrounding a censer. If you are clearing a space, be sure the censer can be easily lifted and moved. If purifying an object the censer can be stationary. Have a good supply of incense – enough to last for the whole area you intend to bless.
Druidic arrangement in detail
• On an experiential note, if I am not using herbal incense on charcoal I have come to prefer good, fresh cone incense – Indian brands are usually nice and oily. Cones can be lit at the tip, and will often burn with an open flame for a minute or three, making a dramatic visual and a literal magnification of the ritual fire before snuffing into fragrant smoke. Setting such a cone on charcoal insures the cake will light, as well.
• As a performance note, a full house cleansing will benefit from having two operators – one for water, one for fire. In this way the elements can move through the house together. It is entirely reasonable for a single operator to do the two phases sequentially, but takes more time.
• With all arranged in the chosen starting-place, take up the salt, and conjure the water, saying:
The water is poured into the vessel, and/or the full vessel is raised, saying:
Here we bring the Waters of the Land, 
Clean from the deep, borne by the pure, 
So that everything it touches may be made pure. 
Let this Vessel be the Spring of the Deep for our rite, from which we draw purification.
On Land (add a tiny pinch of salt)
Beneath the Sky  (add a tiny pinch of salt)
And within the Sea  (add a tiny pinch of salt)
Let the Water make pure the earth, make pure this (place), 
Make it whole and Holy, and free from every ill.
• Light the incense, preferably from an altar-candle or fire and as the initial flame rises, conjure it, saying:
I kindle this fire
In the presence of all the spirits
Upon the Land, within the Sea, Beneath the Sky
At the Center of Worlds
I kindle this fire in Wisdom
I kindle this fire in Love
I kindle this fire in Power
To be the Light of the Heavens upon this Earth.
To be a Fire of Welcome to all of good-will
And a blessing to all beings.
So be it!
(• The above is a ‘long form’ for consecrating the Water and Fire. It is best for new students and beginners to us the long form, paying full attention to the intent of the words. When you have some experience, it can be more convenient to use a short for, such as:
• Salt the water, light the flame, and recite three times:
The Fire, The Well, The Sacred Tree
Flow and flame and grow in me
In Land, Sea and Sky
Below and on high
Let the Water be blessed and the Fire be hallowed.)
• The elements having been blessed, we can use them to purify objects or spaces. In Pagan ritual preparation the space in which ritual is about to be done is cleaned with water and fire. Objects which are being dedicated to sacred work are cleansed, and the materials which are used for talismans, as well. Such things can simply be sprinkled with the blessed water, and held in the smoke of the fire or incense.
• The work can be supported by proper visualizations – see the water rinsing away a layer of dirt to reveal shining; see the fire sparkle on and within the item.
• To cleanse a space, start at one corner or position in a room, and go sunwise around the space (right shoulder to the center), first with the water, and then with the smoke.
• To cleanse a house thoroughly start at the highest room in use and cleanse each room in turn, finally cleansing the front door. Doors and windows can be specifically cleansed around their frames.
• For a single-story house one might start at the front door and go sun-wise through the place, cleansing each room in turn.
• It is traditional to speak one’s intention aloud. If you wish you might speak to the work without script, politely instructing (don’t ask – tell) all inharmonious influences to depart. It is also traditional to repeat a charm.
• In our Druidic ritual, we incant, simply:
By the might of the Water and the light of the Fire, this (place/thing/etc) is made whole and holy.
And slightly more detailed:
Fire and Water, Earth and Sky, 
Rooted deep and crowned high,
Ill be gone and good draw nigh, 
Fire and Water, Earth and Sky
• If cleansing a house, the elements might be returned to the original altar, or taken out the final door and spilled/extinguished at the boundary of the property. Sometimes it is proper to take the live elements out the door and work the edges of the property itself, though often this is impractical.
• When finished return to the original Altar or work-spot, and envision the whole work, solid and complete. Conclude with an affirmation of success and blessing, such as
The Blessing of the Holy Ones
Be on me and mine
My Blessing on all beings
And peace to thee and thine.
The Fire, the Well, the sacred Tree
Flow and flame and grow in me.
Thus do I affirm the work of the wise!