The Sabbats

WOTC Extra – The Transformation of Brigit


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WOTC Extra – The Transformation of Brigit

 

To mark its transformation of Brigit, the Church created a new ritual — Candlemass, during which thickets of candles blaze into radiant glory reminiscent of the Sun. Candlemass celebrates the “churching” of the Virgin Mary, forty days after the birth of Christ. In the eyes of the Church, even a woman as holy as Mary needed a ritual purification and cleansing to rejoin the congregation after childbirth.

 

In view of the many reversals instituted by the Catholic Church in order to transform pagan customs into Christian ones, I wonder if perhaps this ritual was once a pagan celebration of a successful birth. The forty days and nights might easily have been a time of waiting to see if the newborn and the mother survived their ordeal. At the end of the danger period, Brigit would have been praised and thanked with feasting and celebration for bringing them through alive.

 

Both my children slipped easily into the world. My body suffered no complications and my spirit expanded happily to encompass the two beings entrusted to me. In those days I didn’t know who to thank for the blessing of gentle births and healthy babies. But ignorant as I was then of the spiritual heritage my womanhood carried, I could still recognize a divine revelation when I saw it. The moment the nurse handed me my first-born child I experienced an epiphany.

 

A window opens on the Milky Way. Baby and I pass through it to float among stars. Joy fills each cell, racing down nerves, tingling though capillaries. Exhilarated, ecstatic, aroused, and as joyful as I have ever been or ever will be, I KNOW, without any equivocation or doubt, that the child in my arms could be any child. That it was not in any sense “mine” but belongs only to himself. I KNOW the love which pours through me comes from a greater source and is also, not “mine.” And I KNOW, most joyfully, that it in no way matters whose baby or what baby I hold, any child at all would evoke from me the same love that I feel for this one.

 

This insight transformed me. It changed me into a real mother, a true nurturer. I believe now, that Brigit came the night my son was born and celebrated a great Candlemass in our honor — lighting up all Her many suns, those illustrious cosmic candles called stars, welcoming my return to community, commemorating Stephen’s propitious birth.

 

The poet who I have come to be was also born that night; arriving on that same gush of love, spilled out into the arms of the universe, suckled by the Milky Way. The poet believes that our births begin at the moment of conception and continue till the last breath. Believes we must be the midwives of our own lives. Believes we must all be poets: singing, celebrating, remembering our stories.

 

This is our birthright: we are the changers, ever in motion; we are the changed, charged with the obligation to blaze forth.

 

 

Celtic Wheel of the Year
Christine Irving

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Let’s Talk Witch – Brigit’s Day


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Let’s Talk Witch – Brigit’s Day

I am a poet and every morning I say the same prayer. I didn’t write it myself, though I wish I had. I found it on a cassette by Evaleonn Hill.* It goes like this:
I arise this morning with the
strength of starlit heavens,
light of sun, radiance of moon,
swiftness of wind, splendor of
fire, depth of sea, stability of earth,
fullness of rock.

 

I arise today through the strength
of the Goddess, Her eye to look before me,
Her ear to hear me, Her voice to speak for me,
Her hand to guard me,
Her way to lie before me, Her shield to protect me.

 

I arise today through a mighty
strength, the invocation of the Goddess,
through love of her many forms,
through understanding of Her many names,
through knowledge of the oneness of
the creator and creation.
*I did change one word to align Evaleon’s line with my beliefs – in the very last line I replaced “creator of creation” with “creator and creation.” Daily Spiritual Program cassette by Evaleon Hill. Recently I learned that my prayer is an adaptation of an old Irish prayer attributed to Saint Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century CE. It is called, The Breastplate of Patrick, because the saint put the prayer on every morning as a shield and protection against the forces which assailed him. Patrick’s prayer is much longer than mine and lists the dangers he faced in great detail. Among many others on this list, we find the word “witches.”

 

There is a certain irony in the way his words have been turned by a modern witch to worship the very pagan goddesses Patrick sought to supplant. But what strikes me most forcibly is Patrick’s great love of nature and its alignment with his god. His poem is exquisite. I see in it the inspiration of Brigit, ancient Celtic goddess of poetry and of midwives.
What an interesting juxtaposition — the Poet and the Midwife; both facilitating the birth of something brave and new into the world. They deliver, with painstaking skill and care, something mysterious and alive which comes not from them but from the Mother, source of all story and nurture.
Brigit is about change. In the oldest stories, Brigit is depicted as an abandoned baby, found in the wilderness by an older goddess and raised to become a virgin priestess. She falls in love with her foster brother who is destined to be slain as a ritual sacrifice to the Earth. They run away together and Brigit outwits the mother and saves both their lives. The story of her origin reflects a major change in consciousness — a turning away from human sacrifice that coincided with a growing ability in people’s mind to substitute symbol for fact. Brigit becomes the goddess of poetry because she arises out of the birth of metaphor.
Ritual also deals with metaphor. A ritual, by my definition, is a ceremony which reenacts a creation story — a birth. It needn’t retell the entire tale but it must refer to some intrinsic and significant element in the story — for example the communion service of the Christians, or refer to birth itself — the Easter egg.
In celebrating Imbolc we celebrate poetry, birth, and change. Early spring is a season of change; it is a time of transitions where the sleeping Earth heaves and stretches, shrugging off boulders, sluicing new channels, allowing the thrust of green shoots through her skin. Brigit, who we honor at Imbolc, is also the goddess of fire, an ancient sun goddess whose coming heralds the long lovely light of summer days, whose warmth tempts and teases the new plants to arousal.
Brigit is a goddess who survives with her name intact. Because she was impossible to eradicate, the Church transformed her into a saint. They changed her garb and modified her attributes. Nevertheless, her name itself retained enough power as a symbol to arouse deep primal chords of poetry and remembrance that reverberate in the collective Celtic unconscious to
day.

 
Celtic Wheel of the Year
Christine Irving

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A Family Yule Ritual


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A Family Yule Ritual

 

A nice, simple family ritual written by Ceisiwr Serith and is featured in his book The Pagan Family.

After decorating the tree, but before lighting it (except for a quick check of the lights), eat your evening meal. Use your best dishes and have appropriate foods. These could be the foods listed above or culturally traditional Midwinter and festival foods.

After your meal, clear the table. Wash and dry the dishes and put them away. Then take every candle you own and put it in some kind of holder. Use saucers and bowls if you run out of candlesticks. Melt some wax onto the dish and stick the candle in it before the wax hardens. You might want to do this earlier in the day as it can take some time. Put all these candles on the table, with your Sun candle in the middle. Turn off every light in the house. When everyone is seated and the house is dark, an adult says:

For half the year, day by day,
slowly the world has grown darker.
For half the year, night by night,
slowly the dark has grown longer.
Tonight that ends and the wheel turns.
Our land turns back to the light.
Light the sun candle, and continue:
 The darkness was never complete
A spark was always waiting,
to return and turn again.
And now it will grow greater and greater.
The light will come back.
The cold will go away.
And once more we will dance in the warmth
until the wheel turns again.
It has always been this way,
The wheel turning from darkness to light and back again
and our people have always known this and have turned with it.
All: The wheel is turning and light’s returning.
An adult starts a litany. The response to each line is:
Light is reborn.

With each answer another candle is lit, until they are all burning. The lines of the litany can go like this:

In the greatest darkness
Out of Winter’s cold
From our deepest fears
When we most despair
When all seems lost
When the earth lies waste
When animals hide
From fallen leaves
When the ground is hard
From the midst of the wasteland
When hope is gone
Out from the hard times.

Continue in this way until half the candles are lit. Then change the emphasis of the litany
like this:

Shadows are fleeing
Light is returning
Warmth will come again
Summer will be here once more
Plants will grow again
Animals will be seen once more
Life will continue
Green will come again
Death will not be forever.

Continue until all the candles are lit. When they are, take a deep breath, bask in the candlelight for just a second, and then run through the house (carry small children) and turn on every light you have. Running is important to add a touch of festivity and abandon. Don’t forget closets, attics, stoves, and even flashlights. If you have lights for decorations on a Yule tree or outside, turn them on as well. You will find that children are quite good at finding lights you have forgotten.

When all the lights are on, return to the table. Sit in the glow for a while, eating, drinking, and talking. This is one of my favorite moments of the year; I can feel the light throbbing through the walls. For a family in which turning off unneeded lights is an obsession, this is a special moment indeed. The feeling stays with me for days.

Bring out the cookies and eggnog and have some fun. Then slowly go through the house again, turning the lights back off. Blow out the candles. Leave the Sun candle burning until you have to go to bed. Light it first thing in the morning and leave it burning all day if you can. Burn it each day as long as the tree is up.
You may wish instead to celebrate at dawn. If you have adopted the Christian custom of presents under the tree, there is a good chance your children will be getting up at dawn anyway. Light the candles and house lights as soon as you see the sun (alternatively, you can start at false dawn, the period of growing light before the sun actually rises.) Because you will be present at the actual rebirth of the sun, dispense with the words for the lighting, or limit them to a simple:

 The Sun is back
He is born again.

Then, with the lights still burning, you can open presents and eat breakfast.

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Yule Group Ritual


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Yule Group Ritual

 

This lovely, yet simple ritual is from The Real Witches’ Coven by Kate West

In advance of this Ritual you will need to prepare a Yule Log, or get someone in the Coven to do it for you. Find a log which rests firmly on a flat surface; you may need to get someone to saw off the lower surface to ensure this. Then either drill a number of holes, large enough to each take a small candle, in the top, or hammer in a number of nails in a pattern which allows candles to be wedged between them. The log will need to be large enough to accommodate sufficient candles for everyone attending the Ritual to have one. If you have space the log is best placed on its own small table, or stand, in the center of the Circle, otherwise place it at the center front of the Altar.

After the Sabbat Explanation everyone joins hands and walks Deosil around the Circle, chanting verses to honor the season. When the chants are finished the High Priestess stands before the Altar facing the group, and says:

Here in the darkest part of the year we are in the midst of winters, but even in the depths of darkness there is the promise of light to come. At Yule the spark of light is born, and from that spark the Sun will grow in strength and beauty through the seasons. Blessed Be.”

She then lights a taper from the Altar candle and holds it up before the rest of the group, before lighting the first candle on the Yule Log and speaking of her hopes. When she has finished, she passes the candle on to the person on her left who then lights a candle and speaks of their hopes. This goes on all around the Circle until everyone has had their turn. (Note: When lighting a series of candles it is best to start at the back of the clusters, so that following Coveners do not have to try and reach over the flames to light their candles.)

When everyone has finished the High Priestess turns to the group and says:

“Behold the candles burn brightly, just as the Sun will burn brighter and brighter in the coming days. May the Sun God bring life and vitality to the land. May the Goddess and the God bring fertility and prosperity to the land and to each and every one of us. Blessed Be”

If you wish you can have more chanting and dancing here, but make sure that the dance do not either extinguish the flames, or set fire to their hair or robes as they pass! The Rite of Wine and Cakes is then performed.

Some other ideas to further adapt and personalize your Yule rituals are:

Rise to greet the reborn Sun. Some groups will rise before dawn and go out to a high point where they can wait to see the Sun rise. Before Sunrise they will sing, dance and drum to ‘call the Sun up’. During the Sunrise they will express hopes and wishes for the Season. Afterwards there will be more chanting and drumming to welcome the newly reborn Sun. This is not as arduous as it first appears as Sunrise at Yule, in the UK at least, does not take place until around 8 am. However it is worth mentioning that you need to find a fairly isolated spot, as your neighbors may not take kindly to the noise at that time of day! It is also worth taking the time to practice the drumming.

The part of the year where the days decrease in length (from Litha to Yule) is presided over by the Holly King. The other half is presided over by the Oak King. These two brothers who are but different aspects of the whole, fight at Yule and at Litha for dominion over the forthcoming half-year. Some Covens enact this fight, having two combatants taking the roles of Holly and Oak King. If you plan to do this, it is a good idea to ensure that the two ‘Kings’ rehearse well, not only so that the ‘right’ King wins, but also so that they do not do any real injury to one another.

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Solitary Yule Ritual


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Solitary Yule Ritual

 

This ritual came from Patricia Telesco’s book, The Wiccan Book of Ceremonies and Rituals. I love this book, it has so many great ritual ideas and scripts.

Preparations
If it’s physically feasible, fast and pray for three days beforehand. This allows you to enter the New Year’s cycle purified in body and spirit. Also consider a ritual bath with cinnamon, mint and rose petals to improve psychic awareness.

Decorate the sacred space with gold and silver spheres to represent the returning sun, and wreaths to symbolize the turning Wheel. Have oak shavings ready as a base for your incense. Add any other personally meaningful herbs to this mixture and start burning it before the invocation to help prepare the sacred space. Finally, put your sun candle from earlier in the year at the southern point of the circle.

The Altar
Cover the altar with a pale green cloth – the color of early sprouts, which represents continuance. Add red berries for life’s blood; holly; ivy; and pine branches as a symbol of longevity. The pine also welcomes sylvan spirits to your circle.

Have a Yule log at the center point, placing there your God and Goddess candles. Always keep a part of the candles or the log itself for future years; this brings good luck, life, health and providence.

Cast the Circle
Take up the Athamé and Cast the Circle starting in the West, the region where several cultures believe the afterlife resides, the direction of the Dying Sun.

Take a moment to center yourself and begin to cast the Circle. Visualize a white light coming from the tip of the athamé and with arms straight out, turn the blade point out, slowly turning clockwise the light following you.

When you return to the West bring the athamé back to you and say:
“As above, so below.”

As you say this, visualize the light going above you and below you forming a perfect sphere.

Invocations
Light the Goddess candle in the Yule log, then move to the Northern point in your Circle. This is the quarter traditionally ascribed to the season of winter.

North
“Ancient Mother, I look for your opulence,
but tonight naught but barren trees decorate the land.
In this restful moment, let my spirit find healing.”

East
“Ancient Brother, I listen for your winds,
but tonight they are still.
In this quiet darkness, help me find inspiration.”

South
“Ancient Father, I look for your fires,
but tonight the embers only begin to glow more brightly.
May this gentle warmth temper my spirit.”

West
“Ancient Sister, I seek your glistening tears,
but tonight they are frozen.
Beneath this cool blanket, let my emotions find stability.”

Center
“Ancient Ones, I seek Your face,
but tonight darkness surrounds.
Help me find Your spark within to guide my path.

The Ritual
Turn toward the northern part of your circle. Think of things that you want to banish, such as bad habits. Say:
“I call to the darkness. Come embrace my __________ (fill in with your negative characteristics). Take them to yourself. I release them. As the sun climbs in the sky, take these things with you in retreat, never to return to me again.”

Turn to the south of the circle, light the sun candle, and repeat this chant. Let it naturally grow to fill the entire space with positive vibrations:

“Strong sun, returning sun; the light burns as the Wheel turns. Strong sun, returning sun; the shadows fade; my magic bade. Strong sun, returning sun; the shadows flee, the magic is free!”
Return to the altar now and light the God candle, using the Goddess candle as a fire source (symbolic of the womb).

“Sun Father, Your journey has left you weary. May this light give you strength to reach toward the heavens again with warmth and brilliance.”

After saying so, go through your home and light all its candles, lamps, flashlights, or decorative lights to represent the sun’s return.

Closing the Circle
West
“Spirit of the West, thank you for cleansing body, mind, and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise purify Earth.”
South
“Spirit of the South, thank you for this warmth of body, mind and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise generate love on Earth.”
East
“Spirit of the East, thank you for this stillness of body, mind and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise bring peace to Earth.”
North
“Spirit of the North, thank you for healing me in body, mind, and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise heal Earth.”
Center
“Ancient Ones, thank you for turning the Wheel that enlightens body, mind, and spirit.
As you go from this place, likewise edify Earth.”

Release the Circle
Release the Circle in whatever manner is most familiar to you.

Post-Ritual Foods
Go with your traditional holiday foods, which for me include many that have solar symbolism. Cookies are round like the sun, eggnog is golden and fertile, gingerbread is hot and spicy, and fruitcake bears red and orange highlights. As a side, try a little flaming brandy to warm you up!

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THE HOLLY KING AND THE OAK KING


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THE HOLLY KING AND THE OAK KING

 

The Wiccan God is the Lord of the Greenwood, consort to the Lady of the Greenwood. Known also as Cernunnos, the Green Man, Herne the Hunter, and Lord of the Wild Hunt, he is a god of fertility, growth, death, and rebirth.

Two God-themes figure predominantly in Wiccan Sabbats: the Sun-God theme and that of the Holly King and Oak King. The Sun-God rules the seasons.

At Yule, he is the new babe, the embodiment of innocence and joy. He represents the infancy of the returning light.

At Imbolc, his growth is celebrated, as the days are growing longer and light stronger.

At Ostara, he is a green, flourishing youth whose eye is taken by the Maiden Goddess.

On Beltane, he is the young man in love who takes the Goddess as his bride. Their consummated marriage is celebrated with maypoles and bonfires.

At Midsummer, he consummates his marriage in a union so complete that it becomes a death. He is mourned at Lammas, and at Mabon, he sleeps in the womb of the Goddess.

At Samhain, he waits in the Shining Land to be reborn.

The symbolism of the Horned God is also played out the theme of the Holly King and Oak King. The Horned God is the Holly King and the Oak King, two twin gods seen as one complete entity. Each of the twin gods rule for half of a year, fights for the favour of the Goddess , and dies. But the defeated twin is not truly dead, he merely withdraws for six months, some say to Caer Arianrhod , the Castle of the ever-turning Silver Wheel, which is also known as the Wheel of the Stars. This is the enchanted realm of the Goddess Arianrhod where the god must wait and learn before being born again. Arianrhod means “silver wheel” and the castle is the Aurora Borealis. She is the goddess of the astral skies and there she rules as goddess of reincarnation. The golden Oak King, who is the light twin, rules from midwinter to midsummer. The darksome Holly King rules the dark half of the year from Midsummer to Midwinter.

The Book Of Sabbats With Ways To Include Children
Christopher Prior

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Sun Welcoming Center Pieces


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Sun Welcoming Center Pieces

 

Yule is a Sabbat to welcome back the Sun King. The sun is vital to all that exists on Earth. It is the giver of light and warmth, and causes the rebirth of this past years crops by warming and gently coaxing the seeds that have been sleeping underground during the winter. Traditional methods of celebrating this Sabbat are mostly inside activities.

Materials: Flat or bowled wicker basket, Evergreen Boughs, Oranges and Apples, Whole Cloves, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Wheat Stalks, Flour, Red, Green, and Gold Bows or String.

Children of all ages will delight in both making and giving these delightful center pieces. Place the basket in the center of the table. Lay a couple of evergreen boughs (can be found at most Christmas tree lots) in bottom of basket so that the tips flow out from all sides. Spike the oranges all the way around with several whole cloves. Arrange the oranges and apples on top of the boughs. Arrange in a couple of the walnuts and hazel nuts. Place a couple of the wheat stalks standing up amidst the
fruit. Lightly dust with flour. Tie bows to the handle and outside the basket. Tell children about each special part of the centerpiece. Explain that the baskets were used during the harvests during the season before. The evergreen boughs are symbols of immortality, reminding us that the Sun

King is not dead, but reappears at Yule each year to lengthen, brighten and warm the days ahead. The oranges and apples are symbols of the Sun King. The nuts symbolize the seeds as they lay sleeping and awaiting the Sun King’s return. The wheat stalks symbolize the yearly harvests and the flour represents the triumph of the forces of light and life.)

Excerpted From “Yule Celebration, Children Activities”
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Courtesy of GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast Archives

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A Better, Brighter Day


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Let hope and Peace come to us with the New Born Son,
To illuminate and cheer the way.
For from the darkness of night,
Will come a better—brighter day!

So Mote It Be.

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