‘THINK on THESE THINGS’

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

How much voice do we really have in our own affairs? How free are we to speak out on the things we know and believe and want to say? How much voice do we have in public affairs?

How much goes unsaid because it may be bad for business, or it might make us look foolish? How often we should speak up but think it is none of our business. How quiet we are when someone’s unethical hand does wrong?

What is it that inhibits us? Our own fears. Fear of our own ignorance, fear of losing, fear of the bugaboos we know lurk somewhere, but just aren’t sure where.

Who are the people who are free of fears? They are the individuals who govern themselves in such a manner as to have thought our their own ideas enough to be able to speak freely for themselves.

Ethics would seem to be something to ignore if you wish to be successful in business. Many people strive harder today than at any other time to divide their lives so that being seen in church is good taste, and being unethical in business proves they are shrewd. Being successful isn’t nearly as important as proving that they’ve gotten that way by the clever undoing of their opposition.

There was a time when building a better mouse trap by the most efficient methods gave us satisfaction, but too often these days we are impressed because someone is smart. Not smart with intelligence, but smart with the cunning that goes along with the jungle code of getting before someone gets you.

The person who tries to get ahead by ethical methods, and by wanting only to provide something better than is already in existence, must also be equipped to withstand ridicule.

Frankly, the race of the tortoise and the hare is still on, and while the hare is tearing around showing off its ability to be a fast runner, the tortoise is making progress, and never losing its way.

Socrates, being asked the way to honest fame, said, “Study to be what you wish to seem.” Success takes time and moral discipline, but our success will be as human beings first, and then the crown of success in business will sit easily and firmly.

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Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.

Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet:

 

http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org

Elder’s Meditation of the Day August 1

Elder’s Meditation of the Day August 1

“Everyone got to find the right path. You can’t see it so it’s hard to find. No one can show you. Each person got to find the path by himself.”

–Charlie Knight, UTE

There are certain times in our lives when a voice whispers to us. The voice doesn’t always talk. Usually we hear it best when we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Inside of every person is the knowledge that a Supreme Being exists. Sometimes a restlessness occurs and it makes me feel I need to be doing something or I need to be going somewhere or maybe I start wondering who am I? Often when this happens, I feel lost. Inside of everyone is the natural, built-in desire to be walking the Red Road, or to be seeking a relationship with the Creator. No one can force us to make this journey. We must make this journey because we want to. This journey is not on the outside. The path is inside of ourselves. It is inside that we must begin our search.

Oh Great Spirit, help me this day to look within myself. If trouble arises, let me realize that it’s not what is going on but how I am looking at what’s going on. Give me Your power this day to conduct myself according to Your way of life.

August 1 – Daily Feast

August 1 – Daily Feast

Going fishing to the Cherokee is a na su hv s gv, and it is never a waste of time. And neither is dawdling along, or staring into space. Great people have known the wisdom of taking time to let their minds drift with the cork on a fishing line. Who is to say that sitting quietly doesn’t do more than running all over looking aggressive and building up blood pressure? Silence and down-deep thought can be just as active as making a big stir. Sometimes we learn something by study, but going fishing makes us wise. We know we can’t sit still forever – but a little escape from the stress and pressure certainly makes a happier, healthier person.

~ Several of our young people…..were instructed in all your sciences….but when they came back to us they were bad runners, ignorant of every means of living in the woods…. ~

SIX NATIONS

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Daily Motivator for August 1 – True success is being you

True success is being you

There is great value in who you are. Let it flow into all you do.

Success is not really a matter of getting this thing or having that  experience. True success is being able to live each day as the beautiful,  authentic person you are.

True success is being you. True fulfillment is a life spent doing what you  know is important and meaningful.

When you compromise your integrity, you lose. When you speak and act and give  and live from your heart, you win.

Instead of striving to impress others, do those things that will genuinely  impress you. Live true to your own highest standards, for they are the ones that  really mean something to you.

The treasure that is your life is unique in all the universe. Fully live,  enjoy and fulfill the richness that comes from the honest, beautiful reality of  who you are.

— Ralph Marston

The Daily Motivator

Daily OM for August 1 – Storytelling

Storytelling

Reviving a Community Tradition

by Madisyn Taylor

Most cultures use storytelling to pass down family history using the power and energy of the human voice.

Ever since our ancestors could first communicate, we have gathered to share our stories. We have passed along creation tales and tragic stories of love lost. We have repeated accounts of real heroism and simple stories of family history. When our forebears lived closer to the land and to each other, the practice of storytelling was imbued with ritual and occasion. Members of the tribe would often gather around the fire to hear their genealogy recited aloud by an elder or master storyteller. Listeners could track how their own lives, and the lives of their parents, interwove with the lives of the other tribe members, as everyone’s ancient relatives once played out similar life dramas together.

As a custom, some cultures’ storytellers repeat the same tale over and over because they believe that each time you hear it, you come to the story as a different person and view the plot and characters in a new light. Hearing the story over and over is a way to gauge where you have been and where you are now on your path of personal evolution. It also helps the younger generation learn the stories so that they can pass them to forthcoming generations.

When we hear others tell stories, we can laugh at their humorous adventures, feel the thrill of exciting encounters, see parts of ourselves in them, and learn from the challenges they face. Though most of our formal traditions of storytelling are lost, it does not mean we have to be without. We can begin new practices in our own families of listening to one another, of honoring our own journey, and witnessing the journeys of those around us. We can revive the fireside communal by gathering around the campfire or hearth with family and friends, sharing in stories. By building new practices of storytelling, we give ourselves and the ones we love an opportunity to draw ever closer in our shared human experience.

Bad Kitty Chooses and Trains Her Witch…

Bad Kitty Chooses and Trains Her Witch…

by L. Lisa Harris

The candles were lit, as the heavy scent of incense caressed the air. “We all come from the Goddess” was playing softly in the background as we passed energy hand to hand to cast our circle. Deities were invoked, and quarters were called with poetry and passion.  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a movement as a furry black paw reached out from under the altar cloth and snatched my ritual candle lighter. The familiar strikes again.

The day before last Thanksgiving, I had an overwhelming urge to adopt a kitten. It wasn’t planned out. It wasn’t even rational. I needed a cat and I needed it that day. After we bought our house, we had discussed adding a new pet to our family some time in the future, but had made no immediate plans. As a matter of fact, my dear husband had not actually agreed to it. I rationalized my impulse by telling myself that since our whole family would be home for four days, it would be the perfect time to bring a new family member into the household, especially since the smell of roasting turkey is so welcoming. Visions of our happy family playing with a cute, fluffy frolicking kitten filled my mind. It was time; hubby would come to see that once the cute little fluff ball snuggled up to him and purred.

I picked up the phone and called the local Petsmart adoption center. I was in luck, an organization called “Spaying To Save Our Pets” had several cats and kittens up for adoption, but I would have to get there before 1:00 p.m., as they were going to be packed up and taken back to the shelter for the four-day holiday. I took an early lunch and headed up to South Hill to see the kittens. When I arrived there was quite the display of meowing, yowling, tumbling and cuteness.

These cats knew that they were “auditioning” and were hamming it up good. It was almost sensory overload.

My eyes went immediately to an older kitten, about six months old, with long silky black fur and penetrating amber eyes. I knew that my husband and daughter liked very young kittens with short hair, and that hubby would have a fit if I brought home a cat whose fur clashed with our white carpet. My dear husband has what I consider to be an unnatural attraction to vacuuming and takes great pride in making each nap of the carpet stand at attention, spotless and clean. He’d freak out if I brought home a cat with long black fur just waiting for the opportunity                          to shed all over the place. I tried to ignore her and find something interesting, or attractive about the babies and shorthaired cats, but I kept returning to those big amber eyes, that penetrating stare that said, “You want me.”

“It wouldn’t be fair for me to pick the cat I like, just because she looks like a `witchy kitty’; this is a family pet.” I told myself. Kitty had other ideas.

After the other cats and kittens got done making fools of themselves or completely ignoring me, my eyes returned to the black kitty. She calmly sat in her cage, regal and oblivious to the hubbub going on around her. With her head held high and her fluffy tail gracefully circling her perfect little paws, she let out three dignified, soft, throaty mews, then reached her paw out of the cage and put it on my arm as if to say, “You may pick me up and hold me now.” I asked the clerk if she could get the kitten out so that I could hold her and she instantly began to purr and snuggle. I was hooked. When I looked at the tag on her cage, I noticed that her name was “Sabrina,” a fine witch name. She had been brought back earlier that very day.

The adoption center people wanted to make sure that we didn’t have a dog, as she had been returned for “beating up” a Yorkshire Terrier in her previous home. I had to respect a tough kitty and considered myself fortunate to have had the urge to come adopt a cat the same day that this fabulous creature had been brought back in.

She bewitched the rest of the household in short order, and I began to wonder if she would become my familiar. She loved the whole family, but attached herself to me quickly and completely. She could not sleep unless it was on or in my face, and I was not allowed any unauthorized or unsupervised trips to any other room in the house, especially the bathroom. It became apparent that I had acquired a fluffy shadow.

She was attracted to anything magickal, and had a weird thing going with my Witch Barbie’s familiar. She would jump up on the dresser at night and steal her little gray plastic cat, as if to say, “I’m the only familiar in this house and don’t you forget it!” I soon found that she had a collection of sacred items, including one of my rune stones stashed under the altar in our bedroom. It didn’t take her long to earn the nickname “Bad Kitty.” One afternoon I came home from work to find her sitting in the middle of the small Brigid wheel on the living room altar as if to say, “I’m magick.” She somehow managed to jump from the floor, over a circle of seven-inch taper candles, into a space of less than 12 inches, without knocking a single candle out of place. I have no idea how she did that, but she was quite proud of herself.

The first time I cast a circle in her presence, to charge some herbs for witch balls I was making my coven members for Yule, she went crazy (more so than usual), tearing in and out of the bedroom and creating a ruckus. Finally, as she was taking a short breather, I yelled down the hall at her, “If you want to be my familiar, get your furry little butt in here and help, otherwise go harass someone else. I’m busy.” She stuck her nose and tail in the air as if to say, “It’s about time you offered me a proper invitation” and sauntered into the bedroom and sat next to the altar concentrating on my work, only occasionally taking a break to lick herself. Once she was formally recognized, she left Witch Barbie’s kitty alone, as it apparently posed no further threat to her status.

From that point on, it was apparent that I had a certified “energy junkie” on my hands. At our monthly coven meetings, she simply must be in the middle of the circle as it is being cast. She bounced off the walls for three days after “attending” her first circle. She has since learned to ground her excess energy. There is to be no magick in the house without Bad Kitty being in the middle of it. She will only leave a circle if drums are bought out, and only for as long as the noise is going on. She is able to slip in and out of the circle without actually breaking it.

I do a lot of magikal work involving meditation and visualization in the bathtub, as it is the only place in the house that I can get any quiet and privacy. One night, as I was meditating in the tub with my eyes closed, I felt a “furry presence.” Bad Kitty had let herself into the bathroom and was perched on the edge of the tub with her front paws on my shoulder, her face right in mine, and her bushy tail dangling in the herbal water. She and I were sharing breath, and much to my surprise, energy. I could feel that the circle was stronger after she entered it.

Bad Kitty is in transition from silly kitten to serious magikal partner. We spend a bit of time each day working on our physic communication. We play a little game where one of us pictures in our mind’s eye, what we would like the other to do. It works about 85% of the time. She often uses this skill to argue over when and what she’s being fed. When she’s not filling my life with trickster energy, she’s actually helpful magickally. At rituals held in my home, she will often feel and fill an energy gap in the circle. If someone is distracted, uncomfortable or for some other reason is not moving energy as well as they normally would, she sits just behind them as if to fill in the gap. Several of us have felt the circle strengthen when she has done this.

Unfortunately, she is still young, at just over a year old, and definitely has her moments when she’s an unfocused, obnoxious adolescent. I was recently working a seven-day spell for something extremely important, and discovered that she is up for no more than three days in a row of any single working. The first three days, she could sense me getting ready to do the work and enthusiastically supervised my preparations, lent her energy during the actual working and served as guardian. On the fourth day she couldn’t decide if she wanted to be involved or not and grudgingly entered the bathroom with me. On day five I picked her up and carried her into the bathroom with me, thinking, “I started this working with the cat, I should complete it with the cat.” After that, I realized that no familiar is better than a bored familiar and let her off the hook for the rest of the working.

The more we work together, the more I discover how powerful the magikal connection we share really is. I often wonder why I had the overwhelming need for a cat at the exact moment I did. I would like to think of myself as a humanitarian who “rescued” a homeless kitty from a shelter. But we all know that I was merely the pawn of a cat looking for her own “pet witch”.

Animals Talk, We Should Listen

Animals Talk, We Should Listen

by Napecincala (Little Paws)

The early autumn air lay cold and damp around me as I tried to find a comfortable spot in my blanket. I had been in this pit for two days with no food and no water, but no vision came despite hours of singing and praying. I leand up against the wall and rested my back. I was tired and hungry and very thirsty, but I remained standing and stared at one of the fruit wood poles that my prayer ties were hung on. A little black spider started to spin a web between the pole and the string of my ties. It worked very quickly. I watched the operation, entranced by the beauty of the design and the opalescent colors that danced off the thread in the early morning light. It was beautiful when it was done. Then she crawled up the web and waited at the place where it was attached to the pole.

I stared up at the sky, and as the morning progressed the air warmed the dirt around me. The pit transformed from a cool retreat to an earthen oven. I pulled my star blanket over my head to keep off the biting deer flies. Only my blanket-clad head could be seen above ground by the helpers who periodically came to check on me. They did not speak to me, and I supposed they just came up to make sure I was still breathing.

Every once in a while I would look down at the web, but the spider had not caught any breakfast that I could see. A rabbit, unaware of my presence within a circle of prayer ties, hopped out from behind a rock and started to nibble on the fruit I left for the spirits. Crows called to each other, and butterflies, attracted by the bright colors of the prayer ties, would light on the string, searching futilely for the way in to the nectar of this strange, red cloth flower.

A large vulture soared on the warm updrafts above until it spotted a potential meal and disappeared over my diminished horizon. An hour or so later he was circling above me again. I kept thinking he was just waiting for me to die so I could be the next blue plate special. I held my pipe in my hands and sang prayer songs one after another in a high keening voice, begging for a vision.

As evening approached, bats performed amazing acrobatics above my head, hunting the wretched mosquitoes that had plagued me for nearly four days. I welcomed them and watched them dance in the gloaming. Even with all the mosquitoes in the air, the little spider still waited at the end of its web for a meal.

Stars lit up the prairie sky one at a time as darkness descended. I heard the scuffle of some ground animal behind me, though I never saw the passing porcupine. Only her tracks in the dust attested to the visit.

I woke that morning to a vision of diamonds suspended from the spider’s web. Morning dew and gray light formed a beautiful sculpture. Still the spider waited, and nothing disturbed the perfect form of the web. When the helpers came to take me out of the pit, I was weak with hunger and angry. In four days I had not been granted a vision. During the sweat lodge afterward the medicine person asked me what I had seen.

“Nothing,” I replied.

I could hear the smile in his voice as he asked, “So you were sleeping with your eyes open?”

“No, grandfather, what I meant to say was that I didn’t have a vision.”

“Oh,” he said across the darkness, “So you did see something while you were up there.”

Then I talked about the spider and the crows, the rabbit and the porcupine, the butterflies on the line. I described in detail how I felt and what I was thinking about, but I am sure he could hear the bitterness and disappointment in my voice. I had prayed and fasted for four days for a vision and spirit helpers, and it felt like it was all for nothing.

“Did the spider ever catch anything?” he asked.

“No.” I replied. It was the only part of my time “On the hill” that he asked about.

When we were all done and I was readying to leave, a woman helper came up and said that it takes a long time for most human beings to understand why things happen the way they do.

“We don’t really live in a fast food world, you know.”

Months later I began to understand that my time on the hill had given me everything I asked for.

*************

The above story is a parable, pure fantasy, a modern re-telling of an old Lakota story designed to teach something about the error of expectation and the need for patience when seekers are trying to learn from the natural world.

The reason I chose to write this parable in this way is because most white people walking the red road (learning about Native American spiritual beliefs) have a similar experience when they start out. I certainly did. More importantly, speaking in detail about personal visions and spirit helpers is a little like talking in detail about your sex life. It is usually more information than anyone has the right to know about you, or wants to know.

Like most people raised in a Christian culture, I came to the ceremony of “hanblecia,” crying for a vision, with all kinds of preconceived notions about what a vision was and how it would come to me. My pagan ideas also came into play, as I imagined animal spirit helpers as more like familiars that I could command than teachers I could learn from. Perhaps the most limiting expectation that I had was that I would be given an “important” animal spirit, like an eagle or a wolf or a bear. So, when my spirit helpers showed themselves to me, I didn’t see them, because I was not looking for them in the context in which they appeared.

My day-to-day world is bound by “clock time,” which is faster than Nature’s time, and “computer time,” which is so fast that I can’t even perceive it. As I contemplated my own hanblecia I began to see that time is a key to being able to listen to the animals. Lots of questions came to mind in the weeks following. Does a stone live on the same time as a hummingbird? Do daytime animals perceive time in the same way that nocturnal animals, like bats and porcupine, do? Why is it that most vision seeking ceremonies impose such difficult physical demands? What the Elder lady was trying to say, at the end of my story, was that Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) has no respect for human concepts of time. We do not really live in a fast food world, and a real connection to Nature’s spirits requires that the human being accommodate them, by slowing down and focusing.

As in the Christian tradition, Lakota stories say than humans were the last thing to be created. But rather than being superior to everything, man was decidedly inferior. All the animals stood around First Man and First Woman and laughed and cried at how pitiful these naked things were. They had no fur to keep them warm, no teeth and no claws to feed themselves and they had nothing to offer the other animals in return for knowledge. Coyote laughed so hard at the sight of them that he died of it. Almost by accident, First Woman stepped over his prostrate body and brought him back to life. In his gratitude, Coyote begged the Great Mystery to do something to help these pitiful creatures. He thought that if they just died it would be better than the miserable short existence that they were in for.

Wakantanka had another idea. He created a plant, tobacco, and gave it exclusively to human beings. He also made the every spirit in nature long for the taste and smell of it, but the only way they could get it was if human beings offered it to them. So it was that human beings learned from animal spirits and other spirits in the world how to live.

I love this story because it clearly says that we needed the spirits in order to live. They did not need us. It is only with offerings of tobacco and a certain amount of humility that they are willing to reveal themselves to us. This was the purpose of the hundreds of red prayer ties I made in preparation for my ceremony.

In my fable, though, I did not have a vision in the way I expected. Rather the actual animals appeared in my world and demonstrated through their actions what I needed in order to live. The spider demonstrated careful construction and patience. The rabbit showed a certain amount of courage to come out into the open when it knew predators were still around, that there is a certain risk involved in really living. The porcupine taught me that I could figure out what was going on around me by simply opening my eyes and seeing the evidence. The vulture spoke to me of the opportunities to grow and change that death sometimes represents. The crows talked to each other and helped each other by sharing information. The butterfly reminded me that there is beauty in persistence. Even when it won’t get you what you want, it makes you stronger. The bats taught me flexibility and the immense power of listening carefully.

None of this interpretation came out of a book and the holy person who was assisting me did not even attempt to interpret what happened to me on the hill. He did stress, by his silences and later his questions, that while I could not control the things that happened, I certainly did control what they meant. It was my responsibility to find the meaning in the ceremony, not his. On reflection, I could tease out the lessons that all these helpers had given me. None of them were glamorous or particularly powerful medicine, but each brought me a lesson I needed at that time.

He also brought the spider back into my awareness with his question. “Did the spider ever catch anything?” When I thought about it later, I came to understand that just because I had done all the ceremony in the right way, at the right time and with the right materials, it did not guarantee that I would “catch” anything. And in another way, my answer had been wrong. The spider did catch something. It caught my attention. In those few minutes that it was spinning its trap, I was transported. I felt no hunger and no thirst. Time stopped as I gazed in awe at the beauty of the thing. I was listening and they were speaking in the language of symbols. Those moments, when time was suspended — that was my vision.

Lammas Bread

Lammas Bread

2 cups warm milk

2 packages dry yeast

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix together in a large bowl, cover and set in a warm place until doubled (about 30 minutes).

Add the following:

 

3 Tbs softened butter

2 cups unbleached white flour

Stir until bubbly.

Mix in the following:

1 cup rye flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

With floured hands, turn the dough onto a floured surface and gradually knead in more white flour until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a large greased bowl, turning once so that the dough is greased, cover with a cloth and set in a warm place until it doubles in size (about 1 hour).

Punch the dough down and divide in two. Shape into balls, flattened at the top and place on a cookie sheet. Cover and set in a warm place until doubled. (about 1 hour) When the final rising is almost complete, use your athame and carve a pentagram in the centre of the loaf as you recite a blessing of thanks to the Grain Goddess.

For variety, once the bread has been separated in two, shape the dough into figures symbolizing the God and Goddess of the Grain.

Cover and allow to rise until doubled.

Beat together:

1 egg

1 Tbs water

Brush the loaves and bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

Share this blessing of the Goddess during your Lammas Feast.

HARVEST BLESSINGS: A LAMMAS RITUAL

HARVEST BLESSINGS: A LAMMAS RITUAL

by TaTa Chakra a.k.a. TerraFire

From Oct 98-Oct 99 I had the great blessing of living in a run down farmhouse at the foot of Mount Pisgah just southeast of Eugene, Oregon. I knew when I moved in that my stay there would be impermanent but I quickly grew deeply attached to the beauty of this five-acre property.

The man who had lived there before my housemates and I was an avid gardener whose devoted labor had turned an acre of the property from old river bed full of blackberries into a resplendent garden of visual delight. Because this man had been on good terms with many of the local green witches there were many people, mostly women who came to the garden to harvest the herbs and make herbal medicines. The man had also planted plum apple, peach, cherry and asian pear trees. There were logan berries, gooseberries red and gold raspberries, elderberries and of course many many blackberries. He had trained the blackberries over a bower and around the fence so that they created a privacy screen.

Behind the 16 more or less straight garden rows which had an irrigation system, was a ritual circle with three rings of wildflowers. My housemates and I dug a fire pit in the middle of this circle. We also began to keep bees, which was something that I had longed to do for many years. Bees are very sacred to me and the sound of their humming buzz is one I have always associated both with the cone of power and with my own inner guidance.

There were many lovely trees on this property as well, besides the fledgling fruit trees, there were two transplanted redwoods, not more than 30 years old, three old black walnuts  to which we assigned the archetypes of maiden, mother and crone. The plant being that I grew most attached to was a Cottonwood tree, which was at least 75 years old. This tree was at the far northwest side of the property just 6ft from both edges of the property line.

A thick growth of mugwort had been planted against the fence. The cottonwood tree welcomed me as her magical companion. I regularly meditated by the tree, created a directional invocation with her, held counseling sessions, taught classes and also did trance work laying in the grass beneath her branches with a mugwort breeze drifting over me. My housemate called the place fennel farm because no matter how much fennel we weeded out more sprang up in its place. Fennel Farm was the most idyllic place I have ever lived and the perfect setting for the 3rd annual Luscious Leo Lammas party.

The Luscious Leo Lammas party was a brainstorm of how to create a public ritual space with the organization Cauldron of Changes and simultaneously celebrate my birthday (Aug 1st) and the birthday of my dear friend Mike (Aug 7th). I also had several other close Leo friends whose birthdays could not be ignored, (take my advice: never ignore a Leo’s birthday if you hope to be close to them).

For several years we had held the party and ritual at Mike’s house in town but this year it would be at Fennel Farm and bigger and better than ever. In addition to the ritual we had a keg, a huge vegan birthday cake (it was Eugene, remember), party lights and tiki torches, a stage for performance of poetry and music and we also hired a local African Dance troupe “Foli Kan”. We made crowns for all of the Leo’s to wear and had a kids activity area.

Lots of people came prepared to sleep over night in tents and we prepared the neighbors and invited them to join in. I had written a special invocation chant for the Goddess and God and practiced this and a directional invocation song with a small group of other priests and priestesses. We spent a considerable time preparing the ritual space and gathering our ritual tools and props. As Night began to fall Mike and I (High Priest and Priestess), gathered the ritual attendees together at the gate that lead into the garden and the ritual space beyond. We explained the ritual to everyone, what would happen in what order and taught them the chants. Then the High Priest picked up a tiki torch and lead a procession into the ritual space singing “We are a circle within a circle” by the group Welcome to Annwyfn.

As the group of about 80 people created a circle entering the ritual gate in the east and traveling clockwise around to take their spaces, I walked the outer perimeter with my smoky quartz athamé casting the circle three times. The group continued to sing “we are a circle” as each directional priest/ess in turn raised their voice above the group to call in their direction. In the East the song goes “You hear us sing. You hear us cry, Now hear us call you, Spirits of Air and Sky” which the directional priest finished by marking an invoking pentacle in the Eastern Watchtower with his athamé. He completed the invocation by lighting the three Tiki Torches set in the East.

Three more rounds of the chant were sung before the Southern Priestess sang out loud and clear, “Inside our hearts, there grows a spark, love and desire, a burning fire.” She raised her wand and drew an invoking pentacle on the Southern Watchtower. The song continued again and the Western Priestess sang, “Within our blood, within our tears, there lies the altar, of living water.” Holding the chalice another invoking pentacle was described and hung in the air in the Western quarter.

The North Priestess took her turn singing strongly “Take our fear, take our pain, take the darkness into the earth again.” Holding her paten up as invoking the northern pentacle. Then all the directions sang together “The circles closes, between the worlds, to mark a sacred space, where we come face to face.” And the song ended. The High Priest and I thanked everyone for coming to participate in our Lammas ritual. We explained that we were going to chant to draw down the Goddess and God into each other. We called the God to us and into the High Priest. We Called the Goddess to us and into the High Priestess.  Everyone repeated this three line sing song refrain I AM THE GOD, I AM THE DIVINE, I AM THE DIVINE And the priest responded with the following: IN THE DARK I’M THE NIGHT IN THE DAY I’M THE LIGHT. Then everyone sang the Goddess chorus which was simply: I AM THE GODDESS, I AM THE DIVINE, I AM THE DIVINE and the priestess responded ” I AM THREE I AM ONE AND I CAN’T BE UNDONE”. While this sounds complex on paper it was rather simply done and the text of this singing invocation are given here in completion:

Singing Invocation of God and Goddess

Chorus refrain A: I am the God I am the Divine, I am the Divine

Chorus refrain B: I am the Goddess I am the Divine I am the Divine

Chorus A God response: In the Dark I’m the Night In the Day I’m the Light

Chorus B Goddess Response:       I am Three I am One And I can’t be Undone

Chorus A God response:     I am Young I am Old I am Green Black and Gold

Chorus B Goddess Response:       Maiden Mother and Crone In them Each I am Home

Chorus A God response:     I’m the Flowering Rod I’m the Bountiful God

Chorus B Goddess Response:      I am tree I am snake I will keep you awake

Chorus A God response:     I am Hoof I am Horn As I Leap through the Corn

Chorus B Goddess Response:       I Spiral and Wind As I Labrynth through Time

Chorus A God response:          I’m the One Inbetween I’m the Seen and Unseen

Chorus B Goddess Response:       I’m both Woman and Man Alchemist that I Am

Finish with both Priest & Priestess hands joined singing:

In My Heart and My Mind I am the Divine

The Priestess says: The God is Amongst us, Blessed Be!

The Priest Says: The Goddess is Amongst Us, Blessed Be!

After the invocation, the ritual continued with an explanation of Lammas, The High Priest and Priestess asked participants to look around them at the bounties of the earth and to think upon all of the goodness and wealth that the planet offers us daily. Their words spoken here were in the form of spontaneous offerings from the deities invoked. They explained that Lammas was the first harvest of three harvests, that this was the time of harvesting fruits and flowers, the time to celebrate community and friendships, the time to begin storing things for the coming time of darkness.

As the Description of Lammas ended the Priest and Priestess started Charlie Murphy’s chant “It’s the blood of the Ancients that runs through our veins, And the forms pass, but the circle of life remains” And as the drummers chimed in and the group picked up the chant the Priest and priestess took up a basket and bowl respectively and revealed a Mystery to all the participants in groups of two or three around the entire circle. The Priest showed his basket full of harvested fruits, vegetables and grains saying solemnly “This is the God” and the priestess showed her bowl of rich garden soil saying solemly “This is the Goddess”.

When the Showing of the Mystery was complete a brief grounding meditation was led and each person was asked to answer the Question “What Magickal gift is present in your life right now?” Participants were asked to think of the blessings of this gift to experience it’s presence in their life and to make their awareness of it as big as possible.

They were instructed to focus on the sense of gratitude and blessing and send it off to the earth and sky to anyone in need of it during the cone of power. The cone of power was facilitated by high priest and priestess with the help of the directional priest/esses and began with our imitation of bees buzzing. After several minutes of our toning getting progressively higher the cone was sent off and then held in resonance as we fell to the ground, earthing the energy. Several minutes of silence followed before the priest and priestess arose and moved again to the central altar. They brought out local Blackberry wine and freshly made blackberry juice and a rack of fresh honey comb. The Priest said the Feasting Blessing (from Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance, p.169)

All Life is Your own, All fruits of the earth Are fruits of your womb Your union, your dance. Goddess and God We thank you for blessings and abundance Join with us, feast with us, Enjoy with us! Blessed Be.

And we took the honey and wine and juice to each person as they laughed and made jokes and began to dance and sing again. When all had eaten and some had seconds, it was time to “devoke” the deities and directions, earthing again the powers we had raised and acknowledged. God and Goddess, each direction in turn were invited to leave and thanked for their presence. We sang “The Circle is Open” of course ending with Merry Meet and Merry part and merry meet again.

It has been a moving process for me to share this ritual with you, to consciously re-enter my experience of that sacred day in that beautiful and sacred place where I had the good fortune to live for a while. I hope that our ritual may inspire further rituals, that we humans may become more and more compelled to experience and express our closeness to the earth and our gratitude for her bounty. Blessed Be.

To Burn in Sacrifice: A Lammas Ritual

To Burn in Sacrifice: A Lammas Ritual

by Melanie Fire Salamander

The sun rises hot in the sky, dries the long grass yellow. Summer has settled in, and from crops in the fields and wild things in the forest the sun presses the first fruits of the coming harvest. It’s a classic time for ritual. Around the world, farming cultures have traditionally offered up the first harvest gleanings to their deities to ask that the remaining harvest be full and sweet. So too, symbolically, do we, many of whom have come away from our agrarian roots but still feel the pull of the seasons and the older gods.

My coven and I presented the following ritual for Lammas, or Lughnasadh, following one traditional theme of the Sabbat, sacrifice. In many pre-Christian European cultures, Lammas was the time when farmers, probably first using a human representative, later an effigy, sacrificed the Corn King, symbolizing ever-reborn vegetable life. Traces of this tradition can be found throughout the British Isles and the Continent. In the ritual I describe following, participants identify themselves with the dying and rising God by first sacrificing to the fire straw dolls, symbolizing the selves to be left behind so that new selves can be reborn. The ritualists then consider the harvest they have gleaned and continue to glean from the past spring and summer and give thanks. Raising energy to symbolize that harvest and the giving Goddess and God, ritualists put the energy into ritual bread and eat it, taking in the harvest more fully.

Preparation the week before

A week to ten days beforehand, the high priestess or priest begins ritual preparation by making Lammas incense. The recipe for the incense I used is as follows:

2 parts frankincense

2 parts sandalwood

1 part pine resin

1/2 part bay

1/2 part cinnamon

1/2 part coriander

1/2 part meadowsweet

1/2 part oregano

1/2 part rosemary

A few drops rose oil

Slightly less oak moss oil

Very little patchouli oil (start with one drop)

On the day before or the day of the ritual, the high priestess or priest bakes Lammas bread. To do so, you can follow any simple bread recipe to produce a loaf to your liking. We shaped ours into the form of a small man for the sake of the sacrifice symbolism, but that’s a personal call. While baking the bread, the ritualist should concentrate on the harvest, the Good Goddess and God and thankfulness. When the bread is finished and cooled, consecrate the bread. I raised energy and consecrated the bread with a pentacle of blessed olive oil, but you can use whatever form of consecration you prefer.

During the week before the ritual, participants should collect or make flammable decorations to symbolize attributes or events they’d like to either leave behind or offer as sacrifice. The ritual as structured leaves it up to individual participants to decide whether they want to let go of negative things or truly make sacrifice, giving up something so as to receive blessings from the deities. You can amend the ritual to focus on either approach.

During the week before the ritual, the high priest and priestess and any helpers should also collect the following:

·          Wood, matches and fire starter materials to build a fire

·          Straw, enough for all participants to make dolls from

·          Multiple colors of yarn and embroidery thread

·          Scissors

·          Flammable ornament makings, such as colored sisal, dried flowers, flammable cloth, colored paper and markers

Bring enough materials that any ritualist who hasn’t been inspired previously can whip up a few symbolic decorations on the spot.

Preparation on the day of the ritual

On the ritual day, an hour or two before the rite itself, the high priest, priestess and helpers build a fire, and the high priest and priestess consecrate the built pile of wood and tinder to the ritual purpose, without actually lighting it. Likewise, ritualists set up their usual altar near the firepit (not too close!). On the altar or a side table nearby, helpers place the ritual wine and juice and the various ritual materials.

In my coven, we celebrate every Sabbat with a potluck feast. A feast is particularly appropriate after this ritual, which ends with the intake of our year’s harvest. I’d suggest traditional harvest foods (think Thanksgiving), but really hot weather might call for salads and ice cream. Before the ritual, everyone should make or set up their potluck dishes so that the ritual can segue smoothly into feasting and merriment.

Just before the ritual begins, the high priest and priestess should explain the ritual to everyone, start the Lammas incense on the altar burning and light the fire.

The ritual itself

The high priestess or priest begins the rite by leading everyone in a grounding exercise.

After grounding, the high priest, priestess and coven members cast the circle and invoke elements or directions in their usual way. The Goddess and God should be invoked with their harvest attributes; you can choose a particular pair of harvest deities or just call general female and male deity energy in harvest form.

Creating and burning dolls for sacrifice

The high priestess or priest then explains the technique for making straw dolls. To make such a doll, you take a hank of straw, bend it in half and tie a loop of string around the bent end. That creates the head. You then tie off some straw on one side for one arm and some on the other side for the other arm. Leaving some straw for the torso, tie a belt around the waist. Next, tie off one leg and then the other, and you’re done with your basic straw person. You can tie on or otherwise create genitals if gender is important in your sacrifice.

When the doll bodies are done, ritualists decorate them, incorporating the materials they brought and also things provided. Everything that goes on the dolls must be flammable and ideally should burn with a sweet scent. As the ritualists create their dolls, they concentrate on imbuing the dolls with the qualities of self that they bring to sacrifice, that their new selves be reborn. The high priest and priestess should keep an eye out and when doll-making is nearly complete ask the slower workers to finish.

When everyone’s done decorating dolls, it’s time to call the energies to sacrifice into the dolls. Before doing so, the high priestess or priest can describe how through this ritual we identify ourselves with the dying and rising God of Grain and Vegetation: Lugh, Tammuz, Dumuzi, Adonis, et al. To raise energy, the group performs a circle dance widdershins around the altar and chants the well-known couplet:

Horned one, lover’s son, leaper in the corn

Deep in the Mother, die and be reborn

This verse is not entirely vegetation-god oriented, but it’s a sweet chant most pagans know and definitely brings up dying and rising god energy. You can of course create your own chant instead.

Using this chant, raise energy and project it into the dolls.

When the dolls are imbued with energy, it’s time for sacrifice. Each participant, going widdershins around the circle, walks to the fire and feeds his or her doll to the flames. Ritualists can say a few words or work in silence as their dolls flare up.

While the dolls burn, people can also sacrifice to the fire by jumping it, as at other fire festivals. If you choose to do so, you can call out your sacrifice as you leap, or leap in silence. It’s probably best to limit ritualists to one jump each, lest the momentum of the ritual be dissipated. Once all are done jumping, the group grounds any remaining sacrifice energy and moves to the second part of the ritual.

Taking in the harvest as bread

At this point, the high priestess or priest asks ritualists to recall their spring and summer, particularly any ritual requests made six months ago at Imbolc, and to consider the things they are beginning to harvest.

Having considered their harvest, each group member going deosil around the circle gives thanks, spoken or wordless, for that incipient harvest. After thanks are given, the group raises energy of thanks and hopes for harvest by performing a circle dance deosil around the altar. For this second dance, the group can either create a thanksgiving chant, continue to call out their personal thanks or simply intone:

Thank you for the coming harvest, blesséd Lady and Lord.

Sometimes simple chants are best.

With the chant or calls of thanks, the group sends the raised energy into the ritual bread. The bread consecrated, the high priest and priestess break the loaf, take a piece each and pass the remainder deosil around the circle. Each ritual participant breaks off a chunk and eats it, taking the harvest within. The group follows the bread with ritual wine and juice.

When bread, wine and juice are finished, the group releases the elements or directions and deities in their usual way and takes down the circle.

This Lammas ritual is simple but contains, I think, some techniques to get energy moving. For me, sacrifice by fire and the intaking of bread — grain transformed by fire — create a satisfying cycle that resonates with the harvest beginning in this season.