Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Author:   Patricia Telesco 

I have been very disturbed by the increase in the use of titles like Priest, Priestess, Elder, Teacher, Shaman, Lady, and Lord in our community, specifically by those who really do not have the training to claim such honorable terms. You would not see anyone in the Christian church calling themselves by such a title without ordination and schooling, yet among neo-pagans it seems that nearly anyone who wishes to can take up a title and wield it for boon or bane.
Now, I realize that at the heart of things we are our own Priest and Priestess, but that’s far different than being the spiritual guide for many people (not to mention the difference in Karmic implications). To use a title without having earned it in the eyes of others, through training, or by calling is to dishonor all those who have earned their place as our teachers, elders, priests and priestesses. It also doesn’t present the most positive, responsible image of neo-paganism to outsiders who view such antics as manipulative power trips (often rightly so).
Reading one book does not make anyone an expert. Attending a year’s worth or rituals does not qualify a person for eldership or priesthood! In a world of seemingly shake-and-bake shamanism and instant priesthood, the route to true magical mastery isn’t traversed quickly or without sacrifice, and it can’t be found in the yellow pages. And it certainly has very little to do with a fancy or powerful sounding title. At its pinnacle, adepthood isn’t about impressing people; it’s a way of living and being. In other words, the focus is not on “talking the talk,” but on “walking the walk.” What are some of the signs of a true elder, master or priest?
How about someone who:

  1. Reclaims ancient knowledge, tradition, and powers, keeping them alive for future generations
  2. Safeguards magical history so that we can learn from the past in building the future
  3. Personally accepts the responsibility implied by gaining and using mystical knowledge and skill
  4. Honors the earth as a sacred space and use its resources wisely
  5. Acknowledges that life is an act of worship, and strives to keep his or her words and actions in accord
  6. Respects individual diversity, knowing there are many paths to enlightenment and that each person is a sacred space unto themselves.
  7. Embraces creativity and change as a fundamental necessity in keeping magic vital
  8. Encourages balance in all things, especially in his or her own life
  9. Teaches others the ways of magic in simple, understandable steps (no “instant enlightenment” no fluffy bunny magick).
  10. Offers metaphysical aid, consultation, and insights freely to those in need, without personal expectations of gain
  11. Gives back something to their art, or those who practice it
  12. Realizes that tools are only helpmates to magic. Real power comes from the mind, heart, and will working in harmony with earth and Spirit.

In some ways a priest or elder doesn’t ever “arrive” — we are always getting there, realizing that the more we know, the more we realize how LITTLE we know (smile). When we finally reach this understanding, we’re often ready to teach and lead with both heart and head; in balance is spiritual wisdom. In fact, I would hazard to guess that most people who are truly our priests, priestesses, elders and teachers are those who don’t have to say so – we just know it by the example of their lives!

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Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.6. The Sabbat Rituals (1949)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.6. The Sabbat Rituals (1949)

A.6. The Sabbat Rituals (1949)
November Eve
Walk or slow dance, Magus leading High Priestess, both carrying Phallic wand or broom, people with torches or candles.  Witch chant or song:

“Eko, eko, Azarak Eko, eko, Zomelak Bazabi lacha bachabe Lamac cahi achababe Karrellyos  Lamac lamac Bachalyas cabahagy sabalyos Baryolos Lagoz atha cabyolas Samahac atha famolas Hurrahya!”

Form circle.
High Priestess assumes Goddess position.
Magus gives her Fivefold Kiss and is scourged.
All are purified [that is, bound and scourged with forty strokes, as in the initiation rituals].
Magus assumes God position.
High Priestess invokes with Athame:  “Dread Lord of the shadows, god of life and the giver of life. Yet is the knowledge of thee the knowledge of death. Open wide, I pray thee, thy gates through which all must pass.  Let our dear ones who have gone before, return this night to make merry with us.  And when our time comes, as it must, O thou the comforter, the consoler, the giver of peace and rest, we will enter thy realms gladly and unafraid, for we know that when rested and refreshed among our dear ones, we shall be born again by thy grace and the grace of the Great Mother.  Let it be in the same place and the same time as our beloved ones, and may we meet and know, and love them again.  Descend, we pray thee, upon thy servant and Priest (name).”
High Priestess gives Fivefold Kiss to Magus.
Initiations if any; all others are purified.
(Note: Couples may purify each other if they will.)
Cakes and Wine.
The Great Rite if possible, either in token or truly.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.

February Eve
After usual opening, all are doubly purified [that is, with eighty strokes].
Dance round outside circle, High Priestess with sword girded on and drawn, Phallic wand in left hand.
Enter circle.
Magus assumes God position.
High Priestess gives Fivefold Kiss, invokes: “Dread Lord of death and Resurrection, life and the giver of life, Lord within ourselves, whose name is Mystery of Mysteries, encourage our hearts. Let the light crystalize in our blood, fulfilling us of resurrection, for there is no part of us that is not of the gods. Descend, we pray thee, upon this thy servant and Priest (name).”
All should be purified in sacrifice before him.  He then purifies the High Priestess with his own hands, and others if he will.
Cakes and wine.
Great Rite if possible, in token or real.
Games and dance as the people will.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.
May Eve
If possible ride poles, brooms, etc. High Priestess leading, quick dance step, singing

“O do not tell the priests of our arts.For they would call it sin,
For we will be in the woods all nightA conjuring summer in.

And we bring you good news by word of mouthFor women, cattle, and corn:
The sun is coming up from the south,With oak and ash, and thorn.”

Meeting dance if possible.
Form circle as usual, and purify.
High Priestess assumes Goddess position; officers all give her the fivefold kiss.
She purifies all.
High Priestess again assumes Goddess position.
Magus invokes, draws down moon, “I invoke thee and call upon thee, O mighty Mother of us all, bringer of all fruitfulness, By seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit, by life and love, do we invoke thee, to descend upon the body of thy servant and Priestess here.”
Magus gives Fivefold Kiss to High Priestess.
All should be purified in sacrifice before her, and she should purify Magus and some others with her own hands.
Cakes and wine.
Games.
Great Rite if possible, in token or truly.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.

August Eve
If possible, ride poles, broomsticks, etc.
Meeting Dance if possible [the double-spiral dance described in Witchcraft Today, p. 167].
Form circle.
Purify.
High Priestess stands in pentacle position.
Magus invokes her: “O mighty Mother of us all, Mother of all fruitfulness, give us fruit and grain, flocks and herds and children to the tribe that we be mighty, by thy rosy love, do thou descend upon thy servant and Priestess (name) here.”
Magus gives Fivefold Kiss to High Priestess.
Candle game:  Seated, the men form a circle, passing a lighted candle from hand to hand “deosil”.  The women form circle outside, trying to blow it out over their shoulders.  Whoever’s hand it is in when it is blown out is 3 times purified by whoever blew it out, giving fivefold Kiss in return.  This game may go on as long as the people like.
Cakes and wine, and any other games you like.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Author: Patricia Telesco

I have been very disturbed by the increase in the use of titles like Priest, Priestess, Elder, Teacher, Shaman, Lady, and Lord in our community, specifically by those who really do not have the training to claim such honorable terms. You would not see anyone in the Christian church calling themselves by such a title without ordination and schooling, yet among neo-pagans it seems that nearly anyone who wishes to can take up a title and wield it for boon or bane.

Now, I realize that at the heart of things we are our own Priest and Priestess, but that’s far different than being the spiritual guide for many people (not to mention the difference in Karmic implications). To use a title without having earned it in the eyes of others, through training, or by calling is to dishonor all those who have earned their place as our teachers, elders, priests and priestesses. It also doesn’t present the most positive, responsible image of neo-paganism to outsiders who view such antics as manipulative power trips (often rightly so).

Reading one book does not make anyone an expert. Attending a year’s worth or rituals does not qualify a person for eldership or priesthood! In a world of seemingly shake-and-bake shamanism and instant priesthood, the route to true magical mastery isn’t traversed quickly or without sacrifice, and it can’t be found in the yellow pages. And it certainly has very little to do with a fancy or powerful sounding title. At its pinnacle, adepthood isn’t about impressing people; it’s a way of living and being. In other words, the focus is not on “talking the talk,” but on “walking the walk.” What are some of the signs of a true elder, master or priest?

How about someone who:

Reclaims ancient knowledge, tradition, and powers, keeping them alive for future generations

Safeguards magical history so that we can learn from the past in building the future

Personally accepts the responsibility implied by gaining and using mystical knowledge and skill

Honors the earth as a sacred space and use its resources wisely

Acknowledges that life is an act of worship, and strives to keep his or her words and actions in accord

Respects individual diversity, knowing there are many paths to enlightenment and that each person is a sacred space unto themselves.

Embraces creativity and change as a fundamental necessity in keeping magic vital

Encourages balance in all things, especially in his or her own life

Teaches others the ways of magic in simple, understandable steps (no “instant enlightenment” no fluffy bunny magick).

Offers metaphysical aid, consultation, and insights freely to those in need, without personal expectations of gain

Gives back something to their art, or those who practice it

Realizes that tools are only helpmates to magic. Real power comes from the mind, heart, and will working in harmony with earth and Spirit.

In some ways a priest or elder doesn’t ever “arrive” — we are always getting there, realizing that the more we know, the more we realize how LITTLE we know (smile). When we finally reach this understanding, we’re often ready to teach and lead with both heart and head; in balance is spiritual wisdom. In fact, I would hazard to guess that most people who are truly our priests, priestesses, elders and teachers are those who don’t have to say so – we just know it by the example of their lives!

 

Let’s Talk Witch – The Ritual

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The Ritual

For a Witch, ritual is ultimately about fulfillment-fulfillment of everything it is to be a Witch or Wiccan, or a human, for that matter. During ritual, the eternal and the temporal dance on the same stage. Human spirits can become on with the Divine, their energies merged with each other and the energy of the world. Ritual brings the unseen, timeless realm to your doorstep and allows you to freely explore it. It also provides a construct through which to build more energy than spells provide and direct it outward to a need or goal.

Ritual is both personal and communal. It can evoke deep individual experiences and perceptions, or initiate incredible meaning for a group. In a group setting, someone trained as a priest or priestess may facilitate the ritual, bringing every member of the group into the pattern. In some cases, each member takes a turn or plays a role in the ritual. Solitary practitioners enact rituals alone, following the steps devised by other priests and priestesses before them and/or designing their own procedure.

Not all witches or wiccans work ritual frequently, and many do not follow the exact process. Each ritual, and each group enacting a ritual, is likely to have its own flavor and form, as unique as the people at that gathering. That is how it should be, for among witches human diversity is considered a strength, not a weakness

Mabon Comments & Graphics
With the High Priest through with Banishing The Elements, the High Priestess finishes tonight’s ritual with a Circle Banishing:

Equal night and equal day
Soon the light will fade away
Equal day and equal night
This circle fades as does the light
Thus the magick we invoke
Fades anon like wisps of smoke
Until we next decide to play
Equal night and equal day

So mote it be!

“Blessed be” and “Peace be with you” are given between all in the circle.

Getting Handfasted: Start Early on Your Rite!

Getting Handfasted: Start Early on Your Rite!

by Paul Stephens

So you’ve decided to get married. Everyone is congratulating you and offering you best wishes. You are going to be busy picking colors and people to wear them, finding flowers and someone to arrange and deliver them.

I hate to ask, but have you asked your priest or priestess if they are available on your happy day? Have you written the ceremony? Do you even know what kind of ceremony you would like to have? Did you know that most priests and priestesses would require that they see you and your mate-to-be for at least three premarital evaluation sessions to see if they will perform the ceremony? There is always so much to think about with a wedding or handfasting that you might well have assumed that this friend of yours would have nothing better to do than to spend the weekend before your ceremony and the day of your ceremony with you and all your family and friends.

Before you start off on the wrong foot, let’s do a little time travel and look at how you should go about arranging your pagan wedding or handfasting. As soon as you confirm that you will be married, six to nine months before the ceremony but before selecting a particular date, get together with your priestess or priest — or, better, both — and find out what their calendars have open. They are busy people who teach classes, run meeting groups and manage circles, groves or covens. Often, they also attend meetings with various groups to organize multifaith gatherings —  and, unbelievably, they need time for themselves. Unless you have a very understanding group and a tolerant priest or priestess, you can forget sabbat rituals for your wedding day.

Once the four of you have set the date, you can schedule the evaluation sessions that most pagan priestesses and priests require before officiating the ceremony. You can discuss who will write the ceremony and resolve yourself to writing at least part of it. Where will it be? Outside weddings are always so nice — unless it rains. Be sure to plan alternatives, or plan for the worse and expect the best.

Speaking of the worst, I am reminded of a priestess who was involved in an accident a week before she was to perform a wedding. It is a good idea to have an alternate officiant so that the wedding can go on even if the worst should happen.

The priest or priestess will supply some ritual tools and weapons, but you will be required to supply some materials as well, so now is a good time to make that list. The plans thus far will take place before we tell Mom or call that nice lady who makes your robes. It might even happen before you pick the colors.

After spending the better part of a day with your officiant, you can begin thinking about the invitations, colors, wedding party and assistants. You can begin writing the ceremony first draft. You can begin making all the arrangements for flowers, tables, chairs, portable gazebos, music, gowns or robes and the caterers. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep, because until after the ceremony, you will have precious little time for sleep. You are the ones who have given yourselves plenty of time. You have six to nine months before your wedding.

Tool Blessing Ritual

Tool Blessing Ritual

A purification of objects for ritual use and their transformation into magical items.

(The area is prepared by placing a quantity of each element in the proper quarter, as well as preparing the altar in the usual way. If available, a cauldron (empty) is placed in the center of the circle.  Candles are placed at each  of the four  corners and  lit, progressing deosil  from the  east. Salt and  water are blessed, and  the celebrants are purified  with them. A magic circle is cast, and watchtowers summoned.  The god is then drawn down as follows: The priest stands before the alter in the Osiris position, arms crossed across chest and feet together.   The Priestess kneels before him with face and arms upraised.)

PS: Hephaestus, forger of magic,     descend upon this the body of thy priest and servant,     lend us the strength of your arms.     Prometheus, shape of man,     descend upon this the body of thy priest and servant,     lend us your fire and foresight.     Morpheus, weaver of dreams,     descend upon this the body of thy priest and servant,     lend us your subtlety and vision.
P: I am he, the shape-god,     forger, builder, artisan, smith.     With strength and craft I form the world.

(The Priest helps the Priestess to rise and she stands in the center of the circle in the god position, extending her arms outward and down, palms facing forward. The Priest kneels before her with head bowed.)

P: Clotho, spinner of the strand of life     Descend upon this the body of thy priestess and servant.     Lend us your wheel of making.     Hecate, caster of spells,     Descend upon this the body of thy priestess and servant.     Lend us the power of your magic.     Aphrodite, goddess of love,     Descend upon this the body of thy priestess and servant.     Grant us eros, philos, aristos, agape.
PS: I am she, the weaver-goddess,      Painter, poet, sculptor, witch.      With art and love I form the world.

(The priestess extends her hands to the priest and helps him rise. The priest cups both hands and scoops from the cauldron, then offers to the priestess.)

P: Drink now from the cauldron of Cerridwen, whose draughts bring    knowledge, peace and life.

(The priestess sips from the cupped hands, after which the priest drinks. The objects to be blessed are taken from the altar by the priest and moved widdershins to the west quarter, and immersed in the water there.)

P: Spirits of the west, in water born     In cool waters cleanse these tools     And wash from them all hurt and harm     This I ask, this charge I lay,     By oak and ash and bitter thorn.

(The objects are moved by the priestess to the south quarter and moved above the flames there.)

PS: Spirits of the south, in fire born     In shining flames purify these tools     And burn from them all impurities     This I ask, this charge I lay,     By oak and ash and bitter thorn.

(The objects are moved to the east quarter by the priest and moved through the incense smoke.)

P: Spirits of the east, in sweet air born     In swirling winds polish these tools     And sweep from them all phantasm and illusion     This I ask, this charge I lay,     By oak and ash and bitter thorn.

(The objects are moved to the altar by the priestess, and placed upon the pentacle.)

PS: Spirits of the north, in cool earth born      In mother earth ground these tools     And take from them all spirits dark     This I ask, this charge I lay,     By oak and ash and bitter thorn.

(The person consecrating the tools now offers an impromptu or prepared charge to the items, stating their purpose and mode of use.  They are then taken up by the priestess and moved to the east quarter.)

PS: Spirits of the east, from the bright air come,     Fill these tools with the swirling energies of the whirlwind     Make them float like the breeze     Spirits of air, hearken unto me,     As I do will, so more it be.

(The tools are now taken up by the priest and moved to the south quarter.)

P: Spirits of the south, from wild fire come,     Fill these tools with the burning energies of the flames     Make them glow with bright fire     Spirits of fire, hearken unto me,     As I do will, so more it be.

(The tools are now taken up by the priestess and moved to the west quarter.)

P: Spirits of the west, from soothing water come,     Fill these tools with the calming energies of the warm rain     Make them flow like the tide     Spirits of water, hearken unto me,     As I do will, so more it be.

(The tools are now taken up by the priestess and moved to the altar.)

PS: Spirits of the north, from firm earth come,     Fill these tools with the ordering energies of the growing crops     Make them flourish like grapes on the vine     Spirits of earth, hearken unto me,     As I do will, so more it be.

(The priest takes the tools from the altar and steps backwards. The priestess stands at  the altar facing south towards the priest. The priest extends his right arm in parallel to the  ground, between he and the priestess, with the tools in his hand.)

P: I am the god, ever desiring.     I am the stag in the woods,     I am the sun in the noonday sky,     I am the lover in the dark.     I offer passion, strength, devotion and the swiftness of the hunt.

(The priestess extends her right arm in like fashion, and places her hand over that of the priest.)

PS: I am the goddess, ever nurturing.     I am the tempting beauty of the maid,     I am the quiet strength of the mother,     I am the infinite wisdom of the crone.     I offer life, love, warmth and the fruitfulness of the fields.

(Both step towards each other and turn their hands and arms so the fingers point upwards with the palms facing their own chest, cupping the other’s palm between and holding the tools. They clasp each other with their left arms.)

P&PS: Male and female, yin and yang, light and dark, action and stillness.    Apart we are forever incomplete, but together we form one.    In our joining we are blessed. In our union, the limitless energy    of universe is released and captured here.
P: As I do will,
PS: As I do will
P&PS: As we do will, so mote it be.

(The priest and priestess kiss, then release grasps.  If the number and size of the tools precludes them being held in one hand simultaneously, the latter charging section should be repeated for each. The tools are replaced on the altar. Cakes and wine are blessed and consumed and a period of relaxation and rest follows. The watchtowers are then dismissed and the circle opened.)

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.

Gemstone of the Day for April 14th – Jasper

Jasper

The name means “spotted or speckled stone”, and is derived via Old French jaspre (variant of Anglo-Norman jaspe) and Latin iaspidem (nom. iaspis)) from Greek ἴασπις iaspis, (feminine noun) from a Semitic language (cf. Hebrew יושפה yushphah, Akkadian yashupu), ultimately from Persian یشپ yašp.

Green jasper was used to make bow drills in Mehrgarh between 4th and 5th millennium BC. Jasper is known to have been a favorite gem in the ancient world; its name can be traced back in Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Assyrian, Greek and Latin. On Minoan Crete, jasper was carved to produce seals circa 1800 BC, as evidenced by archaeological recoveries at the palace of Knossos.

Although the term jasper is now restricted to opaque quartz, the ancient iaspis was a stone of considerable translucency. The jasper of antiquity was in many cases distinctly green, for it is often compared with the emerald and other green objects. Jasper is referred to in the Niebelungenlied as being clear and green. Probably the jasper of the ancients included stones which would now be classed as chalcedony, and the emerald-like jasper may have been akin to the modern chrysoprase. The Hebrew word yushphah may have designated a green jasper Flinders Petrie suggested that the odem, the first stone on the High Priest’s breastplate, was a red jasper, whilst tarshish, the tenth stone, may have been a yellow jasper.

THE LAST DRAGON

THE LAST DRAGON

by

Gerald del Campo

In the land of Oz lived a great Wizard named Albert Creemshaw.

He was loved by everyone, and became quite popular when he

destroyed the Last Dragon in a great battle between the forces of

oppression and the powers of Freedom.

When the villagers heard that the monster had been killed they

rushed the mountain side where the Dragon had its nest and

proceeded to break the eggs; thereby insuring the destruction of

the creatures forever.

What they did not know, was that Albert had snuck one of the eggs

out before the villagers got there. He cared for it in his Castle

and through his great magical ability he was able to genetically

alter the dragon fetus so that it would soon be the watcher of

the people; a symbol of freedom and great strength. But he kept

this a secret from the people because they were not ready yet for

the trial which awaited them; they would just have ganged up and

tried to kill the Little Dragon. He became a Hermit and loved

the little creature.

One day the Wizard received a message from his God that he would

have to move on, and release his body the way that a butterfly

sheds its cocoon. So Albert called for the Council of The Sword

and Shield, a ruling body of his most trusted students, and told

them about the little dragon. At first they were repulsed by the

idea of bringing up the offspring of the object of their misery;

but the Magician persuaded them by telling them that the little

dragon would soon be the symbol of freedom and strength: they

swore by the Warrior Gods they would care for it.

The following evening, while the Full Moon shined on the peaceful

waters of Oz, Albert and his God left forever.

Upon finding their Master dead, the Council released the

information about the Little Dragon to the people of Oz. The

people of Oz loved Albert as much as he loved them, and after

they saw how fragile this poor orphaned creature was they decided

amongst themselves that they would honor those raising the little

dragon, for the dragon would represent all of the things Albert

himself stood for.

Things went well, for a while. The favoritism displayed by the

people of Oz towards the Priests and Priestesses that cared for

the Dragon created turmoil: all of the sudden there were power

struggles within the Council, its members were fighting over who

would supervise the education of the Little Dragon, who would

feed it, who would educate it. They set up rules specifically

designed to make it impossible for others to reach the grades

appropiate to caring for the Dragon so that only a few on top

could reap the benefits associated with caring for the Little

Dragon.

One would say: “I have risked my life and given all so that the

little dragon could have food”, and his ego was pleased. The

other would say: “While you first despised the dragon I stood

fast in my duty to care for it, for I have kept my word”, and her

ego was satisfied.

The people were so impressed by the “devotion and selflessness”

of The Council that certain members were given gifts of silver,

gold, spices, and women. Treated as Gods for their sense of

duty.

Everyone at The Council became so preoccupied with the power

struggle, and with keeping their peers in lower positions that

they forgot about the little, fragile Dragon. When they finally

gained their senses, and returned to the Castle where it was

guarded they found it dead, starved from attention and

sustenance. They then realized that empty, lost feeling Albert

himself would have felt, if HE had killed the Last Dragon.

Coven Governance: Which Style is Right for You?

Coven Governance: Which Style is Right for You?

Author: Bronwen Forbes

If you’re looking to join a coven, you should not only do your homework to decide what tradition is right for you (eclectic, Dianic, traditional Wicca, etc.) , you should also think about what style of coven leadership you’re most comfortable with at this point on your spiritual path. Different groups are run in different ways, and knowing your own personal preferences will go a long way toward making the coven a good fit for you. Here are some of the most common styles of coven governance:

Hierarchy. In a coven run as a hierarchy, there is a High Priestess and/or High Priest, and they are in charge. They will make most or all of the decisions for the coven including: membership (whether or not a person can become a member *and* whether or not a member is asked to leave) , ritual style, class topics (if it’s a teaching coven) , and whether or not a student or member is ready for initiation and/or elevation.

Pros: a hierarchical coven tends to get the most done of any style coven. Students are trained, sabbat and esbat rituals happen when they’re supposed to, and everyone knows what is happening and when, and what needs to be done to grow and advance.

Cons: some (in no way do I mean all) High Priests and High Priestesses who run a hierarchy have a hard time giving their students and other coveners any responsibility or authority at all. They can truly become tyrants.

Democracy. There may be a High Priest and/or High Priest in a democratic coven, but the coveners have more say in the day-to-day, season-to-season workings of the group. Potential members may be voted in; the decision whether or not to volunteer to run opening ritual at this year’s Pagan Pride Day may also be put to a vote. Coven leaders may even be voted to office on a rotating basis, or the High Priest and High Priestess may have a “weightier” vote than everyone else.

Pros: students and coveners feel like they have a say in how the group is run and what route their spiritual activities will take.

Cons: just because a majority votes in favor of something does not mean it is the best choice. A potential member could be completely unsuitable for coven life but is friends with more than half the group. Once the unsuitable potential member is voted in, he or she wreaks havoc with the group but – because of the majority vote of his or her friends – can’t be voted out.

Consensus: Many groups choose consensus as the way to make decisions. An issue or agenda item (new members, how to celebrate the next holiday, whether or not to offer a Pagan 101 class, etc.) is brought up, the group as a whole discusses it and comes to a decision or plan of action that everyone in the group is comfortable with.

Pros: Everyone in the coven is happy about how the coven is run. In a small group (up to eight people) , consensus works very well.

Cons: coming to complete agreement about a decision can take *forever*, even with eight or fewer people. In fact, so much group time and energy can be used up on making decisions that nothing else ever gets done – including implementing those decisions.

Also, consensus can be co-opted into “minority rules.” By the rules of consensus, if even one member is against something (“No, I don’t want to allow Sybil into the group”) , then that something cannot happen (Sybil is not allowed to join the coven) .

Anarchy. As a rule, anarchy-run groups don’t last very long because no one is responsible for running circles, organizing the schedule, welcoming new members, etc. Very little if any teaching or training is done, unless it is one-on-one on an as-needed or personally-requested basis. Rituals are usually never conducted the same way twice, so no comfortable, familiar ritual pattern is ever established. Pros: If you are looking for a coven or group that you can drop into and drop out of any time you need to with no sense of ongoing obligation due to work or family constraints, an anarchic coven is probably best for your. Cons: not much ever gets done. If something is actually accomplished, it’s usually by accident.

In general, very few covens only use one governing style. For example, my husband and I ran a training coven for several years. As High Priest and High Priestess, we had complete authority over who was initiated/elevated and when (not the actual date, but determining when a student was ready) . We also planned the classes, and determined class content, class order, and homework.

Group membership was decided by consensus – one “no” and the potential member did not get invited to join. Only my husband and I could ask a member to leave, but we certainly accepted input from the other members before making a decision. Class and rituals were scheduled by consensus. If one person couldn’t make it at a certain date and time due to school or work considerations, we’d find a time when everyone could make it (schedules were usually determined three months in advance, so there was rarely a problem that couldn’t be gotten around) .

Whether or not to lead an open sabbat for the local Pagan community was democratically decided – we voted, all members having equal say. Extracurricular activities happened mostly on an anarchic model: “Hey, we’re going on a Pagan shopping spree to the nearest large city on Saturday. Want to come?” or “Selene just got dumped by her boyfriend and is on my couch crying. I’m ordering pizza. Come hold her hand with me?”

If you’re thinking about starting a coven, you need to determine what style you’re most comfortable with. If you’re not suited for sole “I’m in charge” responsibility, consider a democratic or consensus group. If you have a vision of how to teach students and form your own way of celebrating the Gods in ritual, go for the hierarchical coven.

Whether your joining a coven or starting your own, make darn sure you’re comfortable with how it’s run before committing yourself as a member or leader.

Coven Life: The Tie That Binds

Coven Life: The Tie That Binds

Author: Aconite Caotix

I’m sure that many people wonder what it is like to be in a coven. To some, it is their goal to find that special group of people that you can share your magickal journey with and have that bond of love and trust that only seems to be in such a tight knit group of people. This essay is to serve as a warning to those that feel that they NEED to be in a coven, grove, or circle to further themselves spiritually. Yes, there are many lessons to learn in such a group, but they might not all be ones that you want to learn the way they are taught to you.

When I first came to Wicca, I was what you might call a “lost soul”. I was seeing a counselor for depression, and one of the things that we came up with that was leading to my depression was a lack of belonging to any spiritual group. I was your typical “seeker”, and ripe for anyone to pick. So I met a very charismatic gentleman at a Pagan Meetup, and he said that he was starting a coven. My eyes lit up when he said the word. It was the very reason I was there! But you know the saying, “Be careful what you wish for…”

Things were great the first few years. I was getting the teaching that I had always wanted, and even though there was a lot of work on my part involved, I believed that it was all worth the effort, and that I was serving the gods. I’m not going to go into my whole history with the coven, but I will get right to the point of this essay and that is that the leaders of the coven were not all that they originally seemed to be. What seemed to be a nice, nurturing, couple turned out to be people that were selfish, dishonest, and willing to do whatever they had to and use whoever they had to in order to get what they wanted or feel that they deserved out of life.

For the whole ten years of my time with them, I was a servant. Sure, they called me their friend, and even went so far as to call me family, but I was to them whatever they needed me to be for their own purposes at the time. When the High Priest was lonely for company, I was his best friend. When they needed money, I was family. When they needed someone to move furniture, I was the subordinate doing their part to help their elders. They even coerced me into getting a cell phone JUST so they could get a hold of me whenever they needed to.

Now some of you might be reading this and think, “Hold on! You weren’t in a coven, you were in a cult!” Well, you would be wrong, but not completely. If you have read Bonewitz’s or other lists on what to look out for in a group that could classify it as a cult, you could find elements of a cult-like group in the coven I was in, but I don’t think I was ever strictly in a cult. But I would like to strongly suggest that if you don’t get anything else out of this essay, that you take away a caution when building the kind of bond a coven fosters with ANYONE.

Yes, it is a very romantic notion to be that close with a group of people, and to have that support network in your life, but if you are not careful, you can get into a situation where the support only really flows one way, and it is REALLY hard to see that is happening when you are right in the middle of it, filled with notions of “family”, “perfect love and perfect trust”, and “hierarchical tradition”. You can easily be duped into thinking that all the things that are being demanded of you are legitimate, no matter how outrageous they may seem to someone on the outside.

The coven setting can create the perfect storm for egos to be fed, “us vs. them” alliances to be formed, and where “tradition” can easily trump common sense. You feel that you owe your allegiance to those that have worked so hard to put the group together. And it is usually an allegiance that is required unconditionally. They SAY that you are there of your own free will, but how free is your will when you are doing things for people because you feel you have to? Because you feel bound by some mystical sense of accountability to the leader of the group. It is this kind of command that turns coven members into minions.

When three separate groups of parents of members of our group thought that the leaders were controlling and egotistical after meeting them for just a short time, then you think that would have opened my eyes to the fact that something was unhealthy in the relationship. But the bond they created was so strong that I did not see it right away. It was only after 10 years of doing practically nothing but my job and my coven life that I realized I had gotten in “too deep”.

There were other factors to my leaving as well. The most damaging one was that my wife and I actually LIVED with the coven leaders for about a year. (I know you are thinking that “c” word again.) Luckily for me, though, it was during this time that we got to see their true colors, and the lengths they were willing to go to secure their own comfort and well being, anyone else’s be damned. They would claim to others that we were “helping each other out”, when it was really them that needed OUR financial assistance. They took advantage of our good natures and drained us for every penny they could, but still thought we owed them more when we finally managed to get out of there and get our own place. We even almost bought a house with them! I thank the gods every day that we did not, because it would have been doubly hard to leave then, but at the time we were fully committed to them. They, however, were only committed to themselves.

So please take this caution to heart. You may think that a coven is the only way to get the spiritual experience and teaching that you feel you need in your life, as did my wife, many others, and I. And there are some lessons that you will probably only learn is such a setting. However, joining a coven is a possible trap. While it may not exactly fit the description of a cult to a tee, there are elements of such groups built into the structure of most covens. Someone who has been intimately involved in such a group for ten years has warned you. And while I don’t completely regret it, there is a lot to life that I missed out on during that time because of my allegiance to the group and its leaders.

There are other ways to get spiritual teachings and camaraderie. Public gatherings are great ways to meet others of like mind and spirit without the trappings of “belonging” to anyone. A lot of local new age stores have some kind of classes going on regularly. But another note of caution here: some of these classes are taught by leaders such as the ones I had, and they can use these classes as a way to recruit people into their group. And if you do find yourself in that first interview with the leaders of a coven, try your best to find out what kind of people you are talking to. Ask to see their bylaws. If they give the leaders “supreme authority” and equate them with the gods themselves, then enter at YOUR OWN RISK! Because you could find yourself tied to them in a way you never thought you would be to anyone for any reason.

And it is a tough bind to break.

The Journey of a Wild Witch

The Journey of a Wild Witch

Author: Eilan

It has been eight years since I first discovered Witchcraft in a spiritual context. Prior to this Magick was very much alive in my life as I was lucky enough to have been born into a family that understands the spiritual dimension of life. My family also had the insight and experience to see and live this dimension in their everyday. In truth there is no difference between what is conceived to be ‘spiritual’ and that which is apparent and ‘mundane’. It is all one. This is my truth and my wild way.

I am an initiated Witch and Priest of the WildWood Tradition of Witchcraft. This means a great deal to me, as I am also a ‘co-founder’ of the original Mother Coven, based in Brisbane and initiated at Samhain (April 30th) 2006. Our ‘tradition’ and way of living the Craft is deeply interwoven with what many people call ‘shamanism’; derived from the Siberian Tungus word for their medicine people – saman. Mircea Eliade, the late Romanian historian, described shamanism as a “technique of ecstasy” and my coven has come to define Witchcraft as an “ecstasy-driven, Earth-based, mystery tradition”.

Our (and all Witches’) rituals and methods of practice allow us to transcend the illusion of separation and therefore to dissolve the ego and actualize the freedom that lives in the heart of all things. I often call and relate to this ‘All’ as the Great Mystery. The beauty of being a Wild Witch is that nothing is absolute and I have come to realize that all of Life is a holy continuum, which constantly seeks to express itself through diversity. Through expression comes manifestation, which allows us to experience Beauty through Perfection (the world in which we live) and then once more we come to the Wholeness of Unity and the cycle repeats itself.

We are born into a plural world of many and pass into the One only to yearn to divide ourselves once more to grow, deepen and enrich our understandings and experiences of that subtle/overt thing – the Great Mystery.

My coven’s tradition has developed and evolved around this wild-trance-dance-of-wonder. The only consistency between our covens is that we honor and acknowledge our heartland the WildWood, keep holy our covenant with the Sacred Four (the Weaver, the Green Man, the Crescent-Crowned Goddess and the Stag-Horned God) and that we remain open and receptive to personal/group gnosis and to Awen (the divine flow of inspiration) . Other than this there are some structural similarities regarding dedication and priesthood and inner and outer courts.

Essentially however we are wild Witches who fly in the face of authority and seek the wilderness underlying the apparent ‘civilization’ of things. Nothing can be tamed, for the wild is free and the free is divine! As we say in the WildWood – “we have actualized our radness!”

What do Wild Witches do? First and foremost – we live! We breathe, we sleep, we eat, we drink, we sing, we dance, we make love, we scream and we spend time sharing presence and being with our loved ones. ‘Being’ is an important principle to consider. To be is quite simple but so many people find themselves distracted by the “this and that” that they leave ‘being’ behind and pursue illusion instead.

This isn’t the same concept found in various Christian philosophies which espouses a “Satan’s fault!” message when sheep stray from the flock so to speak. Witches understand self-responsibility and are aware of action, reaction and consequence (the Threefold Law) . Why not exist in euphoric awareness of self as Self – the animate Cosmos? You are not only a cell within a larger body of universal wholeness; you are whole and thus a perfect embodiment, expression and reflection of the Great Mystery whose cause, undercurrent and outcome is Life.

When we free ourselves from the illusion of past, present and future and surrender to the Flow of the Continuum (the spirals, the wayward ins and outs, the labyrinthine, serpentine undulations of fate becoming) we make real for ourselves the state of being known commonly as “here and now”. This seems to constitute location and time, however it simply addresses the emphasis of indwelling consciousness regardless of where you are and what frame of time constrains it.

There are moments in my life, which I refer to as ‘Nostalgic Rites’. They are pure, simple, soothing, knowing moments that are like the punctuation points in a flow of sentences. They are the markers and the thresholds that appear along our paths when it is time to pause, reflect and feel. I have them often enough in my life to understand their imminent message of timelessness, peace and overwhelming Love! For what I have learnt above all else thus far is that dwelling within the chaos in the cosmos is the peace which neither subsumes or overrides it, but embraces it and lets it be. Chaos is what happens naturally when the undifferentiated potential becomes “this and that” and peace is the understanding that this is the way of Life. All of this is wild; we dwell in a far-reaching, limitless wilderness.

In a recent priestess training session with two beautiful women from my coven I asked both of them to divulge their feelings and reflections of the journey toward their priestesshood, as they are nearing to the ‘end’ of the beginning – Initiation. One of the women honestly came out and said to us that she feared for us (the other priestess-in-training and I) because we are on the top of the mountain, but because we are risk-takers it is inevitable that we will fall.

I had to stop and wonder in that moment why anyone would not want to fall. In fact I also wondered whether it had occurred to her that surrounding the mountain were vast forests, plains, rivers, deserts, tundra, bushland, seas, oceans and lakes; not to mention all of the beings who inhabit these places.

For me the mountain is not the point. It is part of the whole Great Mystery, but the journey does not lead to a single place; in fact the journey doesn’t really lead anywhere. There is no aim to my wandering, to my blissful dance through the wilderness – I simply embrace every experience because it is worthy of it and I laugh, smile, cry, choke, rage, relax, love, ***, change, grow, and a million other things that I couldn’t possibly articulate or fathom for the purposes of this article.

The other woman, who knows me very well, and is one of my closest friends, then turned to me smiling and said, “You are so glib!” She then went on to explain that it was the “natural, offhand ease and articulate fluency and flow” of how I expressed my truth that made me glib in her opinion.

It wasn’t a criticism on her part, merely an observation. I think it is actually quite accurate. I have such ease and flow in my expression because I don’t have to think too hard about who I am or how I feel because I am and I feel in the “here and the now”. I live and I am, and in my experience Life itself is glib.

To my fellow journeyers of the wild way who know in their hearts that they are heading nowhere, anywhere and everywhere – may you dance the Wander with all you are. My deepest well of love to you all!

The Wanderer

The sages say that samsara is to wander, to pass through,
I say samsara is to know the way and dance it.
To dance is to live, and to live is never “to pass through”;
Dance doll – dance and light up the stage…

Then they came with their wrought-iron weapons
And they pierced my soul, and looked for the mark.
I sang to them to soothe their battered spirits.
They sunk their swords in harder, my heart is in shreds.

The blood ran dry and the old seas heaved
And there in the darkest hour all was forgotten,
And tattered clothes were left in tatters,
And the ashes were left in mounds at the pyres.

Is it a fact that when we are lost we wander?
Is it true that when we are in love we dance?
Or do we dance when we are lost?
And do we wander when in love?

Samsara, O holy wheel of Life,
Keep turning, I want to stay.
I don’t want nirvana in clouds far away
For I feel it already…here.

The Wanderer – the Fool?
I don’t mind, I don’t mind being;
For all the pain and suffering and the attachment to desire
There is a keenness that is not worth losing.

I want to live,
I want to wander if that’s what it takes,
But through all this I will dance
And I will dance because I love.

– Gede Parma

THE NEW BOOK OF THE LAW

THE NEW BOOK OF THE LAW

[sources: The Book of The Law, The Old Laws for the Old Religion, The
Great Book of the Law, The Dragon Law]
 
Preface: In my years of teaching and running a group, I have always had
a dissatisfaction with the popular “Book of the Law” available to most
Seekers. I felt it to be too archaic in its wording and perspective —
and while it was valuable in the Burning Times, it simply does not deal
with the concerns and needs of “modern-day” Witches.  Over the years I
became familiar with several other sets of Laws.  Each of these had many
good points, yet they also had their disadvantages as well.
 
Recently, I decided to do something daring — I took the four different
versions of the Laws which I had, and combined and reworked them.  I
deleted what was no longer pertinent or meaningful, rewording others to
make them clearer and more understandable, as well as throwing in a few
new ones which I felt had been lacking.

I believe that what has evolved out of this work is a set of Laws which
are readable, usable, and most importantly, pertinent to the needs of
today’s Witches and Neo-Pagans.  It is with these thoughts and hopes
that I would like to share them with you.  If you should find merit or
worth in them, then I will feel as though I have accomplished something.
The material in this booklet  has not been copyrighted, so you may
reproduce the Laws for students or  friends, or reprint them in your
publication.  It is my sincere hope that the New Book of the Law will be
of use to the Craft Community.
 
                                    Blessed Be,  Lady Galadriel

PART ONE
 
1. The Laws were created to give our lives form and order, that all
might be  balanced throughout all of the planes.  In truth there are two
sets of laws which govern us — one sets forth the ways of the Wiccan,
and the other the ways  of the Universe.  Both are important, both should
be observed with respect and  treated with honor.  The Laws were shaped
and molded to teach us, to advise us,  and to counsel us in our time of
mortal life on earth.
 
2. Honor the Gods, for They are the channels and the manifestation of
the Source.  Honor yourself, for this force also lies within you.  Love
the Gods as  They love you, and by loving yourself and your brothers and
sisters, so the  Gods shall honor you. As the love and joy of a man and
a woman [or “lover and beloved” — LAH]  flowers and grows when nurtured
with respect, and cultivated with understanding  and honor, so should
you love the Gods.
 
3. The Goddess is the Great Mother, and the God is the Great Father, and
we are  Their children; and we shall worship Them, for They are the
rulers of the Universe, and all that is therein.  Therefore, O Children
of the Gods, try Them  not, nor attempt to test Them, for They shall
show you that he Ways of the  Craft are not to be belittled or mocked.
 
4. Let the Power of the Craft flow from you only in love — or not at
all.  For  it has always been known that the energy webs which we weave
and maintain shall  eventually return to encircle their creator.  Thus
our works become either the  net which entagles and binds us, or th eweb
of light by which we find the Gods.
 
5. Let the Rites of the Wicca be a way for the children of the Gods to
be as  One — for Power only flows when unified.  Always should you
revere the Earth, and heal and tend Her, for She is our life, our
Mothership, on which we navigate the dark currents of space.
 
6. When you reap the harvests of your lands, then you shall not reap one
corner  of the field, nor glean the herb gardens, or the fallen fruits
of the orchards.   These you shall offer to the Earth Mother, in direct
return, or through  offerings made to your Circle, or to sustain its
Priests and Priestesses.
 
7. Always be proud to be of the Wicca, but do not allow your pride to
become  vanity — for those who are conceited are a stubling block at
the door of the Temple, and they shall be cast adrift, to swim within
their own vanity.

8. Observe and listen, reserving your judgement, for until all the
silver is  weighed, who can know the worth thereof?
 
9. As like breeds like, even more so does good beget love and joy.  Your
life  will be full of love and joy if you are joyful and happy.
 
10. Your teachers are the servants of the Gods, and they shall plant the
seeds of knowledge within the minds of their students, and they shall
use their power  for the good of the Wicca.  Yet it is each individual’s
duty to tend the seeds  which are planted, and to make the final
harvest.  Those who misuse the power  and the trust of the teacher’s
position shall have to answer to the Lords of  Karma, and adjust the
balance accordingly.
 
11. The Temples of the Gods, which are Their abode on Earth, shall
belong to  all Their children, and each Circle shall be as a special
family.  Do naught against any Temple or any family of the Wicca, lest
you do that thing unto the Gods, and against yourself.
 
12. You must not be a teller of tales amongst the children of the
Goddess, and you must hold no malice or evil thoughts towards others of
the Wicca.
 
13. You should not lie, nor give false testimony before your Elders, or
those  who are of the Wicca — for liars are fools, and a menace unto
themselves, and to the Wicca.  Be truthful in all your works and deeds,
especially within the Circle, for what you say within the presence of
the Gods becomes manifest.
 
14. You must not put stumbling blocks in the way of those who do not
follow the  Path of the Wicca.  You must make no unrighteous judgements
of their ways, and  you should aid them with an attitude of love when it
is asked for. Yet ever  should you keep the Counsel of the Elders, and
reveal naught to others of where  our Circles may be, nor may you reveal
our ways without the consent of the  Priestess.
 
15. When you make a vow to the Lord or the Lady, or you swear an oath to
another of the Wicca, then you must do all that has come forth from your
mouth,  for a covenant with the Gods, or with the Wicca, is your Honor,
and woe to  those who care not for the fetters they attach to their
souls by not keeping  their word.
 
16.  The Great Mother and Father would not have their children suffer
the indignities of oppressors for their sake, for what is within the
hearts of Their children is dear and true to Them.  The Ancient and
Mighty Ones shall cause the balance to be made for those who desecrate
the Lord and Lady, Their  temples, or Their creations.

17. Never shall you use Magick, nor the Craft, to cause harm, for this
is misuse of the Power, and it is not to be condoned.  To cause the
death of another through the Craft is to require the death of the Self
in sacrifice.

18. Never betray any of the brethren, nor the lore of our people, for
you are  all servants of the Gods, and must live by the virtues of love,
honor and wisdom.  Let truth, loyalty and honor be your creed.  Let them
be your guides, tempered by love and wisdom.
 
19. The Order of the Gods shall you keep, and within Their Circles shall
you  walk.  You should not say “I believe” when you doubt, nor claim to
obey the Lord and Lady’s word when you never enter into the Temple.  You
must not profess with your lips that which is not in your heart.
 
20. Do not use the names of the Gods in negative or evil ways, for They
love  and cherish Their children above all others.  All others They
love, even those who know them not.  Yet those who hate and curse in
Their name shall have the Mighty Ones take the measure of their worth.
 
21. In any disputes between the children of the Goddess, no one may
invoke any laws but those of the Craft, or any tribunal but that of
Priestess, Priest, and  Elders.
 
22. No one of the Wicca may do anything which will endagner the Craft,
nor  bring any of the Wicca into conflict with the Law of the Land, or
with any of  our persecutors.
 
23. Your magickal tools are channels to that which is most precious and
pure  within you.  Do not cheapen them by haggling their price when you
acquire them.
 
24. Never accept money for the use of the Power.  It is sorcerors and
charlatans who accept money for their spells and prayers.  If you accept
no money, you will be free from the temptation to use the Craft for evil
or unworthy causes.
 
25. You shall never take unduly from any human, animal or elemental that
which is not yours to take — for if you steal from another, in the end
you will have  to sacrifice something dearer to you in order to attain
the balance.
 
26. Show honor to all people, that they may look up to you, and respect
you,  and their eyes shall become a mirror for your soul.
 
27. Those who are of the Wicca shall not own slaves, for one person may
not own  the spirit of another, for only the Great Mother and Father own
our souls.  Nor  shall you take as a pledge any person’s life, for to do
so is to take upon  yourself both a mill and a millstone.
 
28. If a stranger sojourns with you, you shall do them no wrong; they
shall be as one of the Circle, born amongst ye, and you shall deal with
them as you would yourself.
 
29. Just weights and just balances shall be given by you, and just value
shall you give, and thereby receive threefold.
 
30. Your altars shall be kept clean, pure and holy, and all that is
brought into the Temple or the Circle shall be cleansed and blessed, for
the joy of the  Gods, and of the Wicca.

31. A clean mind should have a clean body.  You should keep your body,
your clothes, and your house clean, in honor of the Mother, who gives
these things  to you.
 
32. Let none die without honor, without love, without respect, unless
their actions have decreed otherwise.
 
33. You should not couple together if it shall cause pain, jealousy or
deprivation to another by doing so.  Union for malice or evil reasons
such as these upsets the balance, and the Lords of the Universe shall
make adjustments accordingly.
 
34. Let those who would love, and would be as one, and bear child, be
handfasted.  For the sharing of love in this manner is beauteous, and
love’s union in the energy of the Gods, and the heritage of the child.
It is important for children to know and to identify with those who
brought them here.
 
35. The Law of the Goddess is that none of the Wicca shall take and wed
someone  who they do not love, whether it is to harm another, or for
some form of  material gain.
 
36. Remember that your children are Goddess-spawned, and are free
spirits.  You  do not own nor control them.  They are your brethren,
come to visit for a while, that they may share in the vision of your
love and wisdom. Let each parent realize that although they may teach
and guide with love, the child shall also teach the parent, and aid them
in their growth and lesson
 
37. The etheric web and energy vortexes of the earth are in constant
flux and motion to adjust to the needs of the planet.  The sacred trust
of the Wicca is to create and to maintain centers of light and
knowledge, using the magick of the divine spark within us to focus and
channel the forces of the Universal fire.  And these are the channels
established between the worlds of the stars and the realms of the earth,
bringing in and regulating the spirit flames which energize and activate
all life forms.  Thus we tend and guard the threads of creation, and we
weave the patterns of life and manifestation in an ever-evolving
tapestry.

38. Never use your heritage or position for self-glorification or gain.
Respect your magick and our ways.  We must always recognize that while
others may look to us to lead them, they too are our guides.
 
39. Keep yor body strong, your mind keen, and your purpose pure, for
within your being you shall channel the Power, and it needs to be strong
and pure. And these are the keys to the path of Oneness, and to
communication with the Gods.  Yet first you must learn to speak to Them
in such a manner as They can comprehend you.  For the children of the
Wicca must aid the Gods, and work with Them, otherwise the Gods cannot
aid and work with you.  Ever remember that the Priest and Priestess are
the living representatives of the God and Goddess Forces, and likewise
that all humans carry these forces within them, though they may lie
dormant and unawakened.
 
40. As the Great Mother and Father come unto one another and create with
the pure vibration of Love-Wisdom, so should you strive to make your
Temple pure in vibration, and thus a fitting place wherein you may
invite the Gods.  Thus, your Circle should always be duly purified and
cast, and likewise, those who would use the gateways and travel the
Circle between the earth and other realms should also be duly prepared
and purified.
 
41. The Goddess hath said, “I shall not carry thee, yet neither shall I
hinder thee, nor keep thee from having the same opportunities as all of
my children. Thou art free, yet thou shalt not be coddled like babes in
the storm.  If thou hast true devotion within thee, then all obstacles
may be overcome.”
 
42. The laggard is but half a person — and though half is better than
none, the whole is twice as good as the half.  Those who do not work, or
who lack the will and desire to learn the ways of the Gods, unto them is
said, “The Ancient and Mighty Ones shall not keep thee within their
house, if ye learneth not.”
 
43. A sanctuary you shall make unto the Gods, that They may dwell
amongst you. And you shall fashion it to the best of your ability,
according to all tha your Elders shall show you, and pure energy shall
you place therein.
 
44. An altar shall you make to unto the Lady, and you shall make due
reverence unto Her, for every place where She is exalted, She will come
to you and bless you.  And you shall fashion your altar out of wood or
stone, and burn incense and candles thereon, at the proper times, in
observance of her ways.

45. You should set aside at least one day during each moon unto the
Goddess, and on these days you shall do Her work; and on those days She
shall renew Her children and bless them.
 
46. Learn to build your own Temple, and to craft your own sacred Circle,
and all the tools that are used therein — for to be a person of the
Craft is to be a person of consequence.
 
47. Let each of you inscribe your own record of our ways and teachings.
For the course of each Wiccan should be charted, that the patterns of
their life-web may be made known and utilized.  Let each Wiccan start
their Book of Light with the teachings and lore of their tradition, yet
let it also contain the rites and ways of each individual, which are the
harvest of each child of the Wicca, to use the wisdom of their heritage
as the seeds of their own wisdom.  Thus shall our lore and knowledge
continue to grow and unfold, like a beautiful flower.
 
48. It is right to study and to understand the sigils, statues and
stories of the Gods, for they shall guide your thoughts to Them, and
They shall hear them.  Yet you must ever remember that you worship not
the sign nor the statue, but the Gods which inspired them.
 
49. If your Circle owns any land, let all guard it, and help to keep it
clean. Let all justly guard all monies of the Circle, as well as the
rights and property of all members of the Circle.
 
50. If any Wiccan truly labors, then it is right that they should have
their just pay.  This is not considered the taking of money for the Art,
but good and honest work.  Yet if any Wiccan works willingly for the
good of the Craft, or for their brothers and sisters without pay, then
it is to their greatest honor.
 
51. If any Wiccan should deny themselves some pleasure or material
indulgence in order to do service in the Circle, this person shall be
blessed and remembered.  For those who give for the greater good of all
shall have their spirit uplifted.
 
52. Know also that if you gift the Lady’s Priests and Priestesses, or
Her Circles, this is an offering made unto the Mother Herself, for a
true Priest or Priestess strives always to do Her work, and to be of
service to Her children, so to honor and respect them is to honor and
respect the Queen of All.
 
53. And the offerings which are considered the most pleasing to the Gods
are these: the fruits of the orchards the scents of the trees and herbs
the metals of the earth the waters of the earth the flowers of the
meadows and the milk of all mothers. Yet offerings of labor or money are
honest too, and these will also be accepted — moreso if you work with
love in your heart, for always there is work to be done for the Gods,
and service to be given to the children of the Wicca.

54. If your offerings are made to restore the balance, it must by of a
nature that it not offensive to the Gods.  It must be of value, yet
given with a free heart.  Thus shall the harmony be restored.  If your
offerings are given with a heart filled with love and devotion, or are
of service to the Gods, or to the Craft, then shall you receive
blessings manifold.
 
55. And when you make an offering unto the Gods, you should offer it
thru the most proper medium, at the proper times, and in such a manner
as to make it acceptable.  Any and all remains of the rituals shall be
consumed in the fire, or buried within the Earth, as a way of returning
to the Source all that we use in the observance of our ways, thus
ensuring the continuity of the cycle.
 
56. All may use the Craft to help and aid them, or for the advantage of
their Circle, or the Craft — yet only if you are sure that you harm
none. Let each Wiccan and Circle always debate these matters at length.
Only if all be satisfied that none be harmed in any way, may the Art
then be used. If it is not possible to achieve your ends one way, then
perhaps the goal may be achieved by actng in a different way, so as to
harm none.
 
57. Throughout the world it has been many a year since Wiccans have been
burned.  Yet misuse of the Power might raise the persecutions once
again. So never break the Laws, however much you might be tempted, and
never consent to their being broken.  And if you know they are being
broken, then you must work strongly against it.
 
58. In days of old it was decided by the Mighty Ones who came before us
that the Art might be used to restrain others from harming the Craft or
its children, yet only after great consultation with all members of the
Circle, and only then to deflect or to constrain them.
 
59. And such were the ways of the Lady that She brought us forth in joy,
and such were the Ways of the Lord that His reign gave all life
pleasure. Offer love in your worship and all shall be joyous in beauty.
 
60. In the dimly remembered dawn of ages past, the Wicca were truly
free. Then, in Atlantis came the Age of the Misuse of Power, followed by
the Ages of Persecution and Suffering.  Thus the people of the Wicca hid
themselves and cloaked their knowlege, and wove veils of secrecy and
silence.  And this is how the Ways of the Wicca have been preserved
through the time of darkness. Yet much of the ways of our people were
lost to the ignorance of others.
 
61. Yet the cycle spirals ever on — and the Age of the Earth Mother
once again draws nigh.  We must be strong — one with our birthright,
and one with our Gods, if we are to bring forth the balance.  Those who
would harm us, or attempt to enslave us, we must overcome — yet only
through light and love, and never through violence or the evil of chaos.
And through our efforts the time of our people will come into being once
more.  In the times which lie ahead, there lies much work to be done, so
that once more the cycles of life are drawn to the path of light, and
the balance acheived through the power of love.
 
62. In order to bring the ways of Light and Love and Life to the peoples
of the Earth, our secrets are slowly becoming secrets no more, and it is
good that this is so — for the age of shadow and secrecy is passing.
Yet the sharing of our ways needs always to be guided by wisdom and by
love.  Let our rites and our mysteries be kept sacred.  Let no one
defile our worship or our heritage.  For the defilement of our ways is
an honor loss to self, and for the Craft.
 
63. Let each High Priestess govern her Circle with justice and Love, and
with the help and advice of the Elders and the High Priest, always
heeding the messages of the Gods when they come.
 
64. Ever remember that although the Priest is the force with which the
Circle is built, the Priestess is the ruler therein — for it is through
her that the Goddess created the world, and all things therein.
 
65. The High Priestess will heed all complaints of all Pagans and
Wiccans, and strive to settle any differences between them with reason
and with justice.
 
66. Let each Circle of Light decide how it shall be known — whether by
earthly name or magickal one.  For each child of the Wicca knows best
the safety or dangers of their homeland.
 
67. Let each Circle or Temple maintain and dedicate unto the Goddess and
the God all the things that are required for Their rituals, for what is
blessed in the name of the Gods rightly belongs to Them, and the Priest
and Priestess shall be the caretakers thereof.

68. Anyone of the circle who is of sufficient rank, and wishes to form a
new Circle, shall tell the High Priestess and the Elders of their
intentions. Members of the old Circle may join the new Circle when it is
formed, but if they do so they must leave the other Circle, unless
otherwise instructed.  For it is the Old Law that each Wiccan may join
the Circle of their choice, yet their energy should not be divided
between two or more Temples.
 
69. The Elders of the old and new Circles shall meet in peace and with
respect, to decide the level of interaction and connection between the
Circles.  Yet it is known that the splitting of a Circle often means
strife. So only if it is truly in a spirit of peace and harmony should
the Circles meet for the celebration of the Great Festivals.
 
70. None shall enter the Circle that have a sickness or an ailment which
may be passed on to the Lady’s other children — for to do so causes
harm to yourself, as well as to the others of the Circle.  Rather should
the Healers go unto the sick one, that through the love of the Gods they
shall be made well and whole once more.
 
71. It has been judged lawful that if any of the Craft need a house, or
land, and none will sell, to incline someone’s mind so as to be willing
to sell, providing it harms none and the full price is paid without
haggling.
 
72. In the matter of quarrels or disputes between the members of the
Circle, the High Priestess shall convene the Council, and inquire into
the matter. The Council shall hear each person privately, and then both
together.  And they shall decide justly, not favoring one side nor the
other.
 
73. If an agreeable resolution cannot be reached, then that Wiccan must
leave the Circle, for a Circle of Light cannot be properly formed where
there is disagreement and discord.  And when a Circle is not properly
formed, the energy within is either dissipated, or turns ugly, festering
like a hidden sore.  So let them leave, but only with love in their
hearts and yours, for even though your paths may diverge, you are still
all children of the Wicca, and there must be no violence between us.
Bear no grudges, hold no thoughts of vengeance, for this will rot away
the foundation of your power.
 
74. It has ever been recognized that there are some people who can never
agree to work under any others.  At the same time there are also people
who cannot rule justly.  To those who must ever be chief there is but
one answer: “Void this Circle, and seek another one, or if ye be of
sufficient rank, then form a Circle of your own.”  To those who cannot
rule justly, the answer shall be “Those who cannot bear your rule will
leave you.”  For none may come to Circle with those with whom they are
at variance, for to do so angers the Gods, and hinders the Craft.

75. Those that do wrong without knowlege shall be held innocent; those
that do wrong through carelessness shall be judged lacking in wisdom,
and dealt with according to the nature of the transgression.  Those who
do wrong with deliberation and forethought shall be thrice punished, and
the Lords of Karma shall lay low their pride.
 
76. Each person must make a balance for their words and actions, and the
judgements of the Elders should incline to try to make good come from
the injustice or wrong-doing.  Many are the ways to restore the balance,
so let the judgements of the Elders and the Priestess be in keeping with
this.
 
77. Do not turn aside those who seek the ways of the Wicca for the want
of an offering or the lack of a robe.  You are the servants of the Gods,
and the servants of Their people, and those that seek for the Gods you
must aid in their quest.
 
78. Of those who would inquire as to the ways of the Goddess, or who
wish to become of the Wicca, ye shall search their hearts, and even into
their spirits you shall look, as you are able.  For the Wicca do not
look to acquire mere numbers.  Let none be turned away if their hearts
are true, and their desire earnest.
 
79. The hidden children are like the strings of a harp: each one may
give a clear note, and when gathered together in sympathy and accord,
they shall give rise to a beautiful symphony.  Yet when struck without
reason or thought, these notes may cause discord or disharmony.
Therefore the Gods decree to Their Teachers and Priests that all must be
taught to master their harp, and to pluck their strings with care, that
they cause no discord or imbalance.
 
80. Choose the Priests and Teachers of the Wicca with diligence and with
care. The qualities that you should search for within them are Faith,
Belief, Knowledge, Ability, Patience, Leadership, Humility, and a loving
nature — for they must lead and teach the children of the Goddess, and
will thereby have the power to do great good, or to cause great
imbalance.
 
81. In practice it should be that the greatest of the Priests and
Priestesses should guide the rituals within each of the Temples of the
Old Gods, and truly you should be content with the advice and guidance
given by them.  Yet ever it should be given so that it is clear and
understandable, for within the Temple each of the Wicca is free, and
thus they should be able to recognize and to understand our ways and
their implications.  And those who cannot explain the inner workings, or
give just cause and reason for their decisions, may be questioned, or
the wisdom of the advice weighed.

82. Let the Priestess and Priest lead as long as they are able, and
their leadership be wise and strong, and to the benefit of the Wicca.
Yet if their health is ill-favored, or if the next generation needs to
try their hand, then let them have the vision and the wisdom to step
away from their position, and pass the duties of the Circle t o another.
Let them not become overly attached to the office, nor too fond of the
power.

83. If a Priestess or a Priest should tire of their duties and charges,
then they may step down, but only after having trained and acknowledged
a successor.  If a Priest or Priestess deserts their Circle, then they
have lost the right to ever lead again within this life, so great a
trust they have broken.  If they should return to the Circle within one
turn of the Wheel, and are judged to have true atonement in their
hearts, new insight and growth, then they may be forgiven, and allowed
to return to the Circle, yet they shall worship only, and hold no office
or title.  Leadership is a sacred commitment and an honor, and they have
shown that they cannot be trusted with such responsibility.
 
84. Any Priestess, Priest, or Elder who consents to a breach of the Laws
regarding the use of the Craft to cause harm to others must immediately
be relieved of their office, for it is the lives of the children of the
Goddess which they endanger, as well as the honor of the Craft.
 
85. The High Priestess may take a Sabbatical from her Circle, if her
personal life and duties require it, for up to a year and a day.  During
that time, the Maiden shall act as High Priestess.  If the High
Priestess does not return at the end of a year and a day, then the
Initiates of the Circle shall name a new Priestess.  Unless there is
good reason to the contrary, the person who has done the work of the
Priestess should reap the reward.  If someone else is named, then the
Maiden should continue in that office.
 
86. Each Priestess and Priest shall choose their own consorts, yet let
them be wise in the learning of our people, and thus others shall abide
by the wisdom of their choice.  Yet if the Circle feels the decision is
ill-advised, or that they cannot abide and work in honor and trust with
that consort, then they may request a gathering of all concernted to
meet and to talk, and to resolve the balance with love and honor.  For
only those who are pure and strong, keen and wise, patient and loving,
can effectively and properly carry out the duties of a Keeper of the
Circle.

87. Those of the Priesthood shall not neglect their mates, or their
children, or their house, nor anything which is in their possession; nor
shall the sick and the needy be neglected for the sake of the Circle.
Therefore let them adjust the one thing against the other, that neither
should suffer, and that which is given by the Gods is treated with love
and respect.
 
88. Long ago, at the time of Creation, it was deemed that the female
should hold the power of life-giving.  And such was the male force drawn
to the love and beauty of the Creation of life, that he surrenders unto
her keeping the force of his powers in the furtherance of life.  Yet the
Priestess must always remember that the fuel of the flames which light
the fires within her Temple comes from the Priest.  Thus she must use
the force wisely, and only with love, and she must honor and respect he
who is the activator of the Life Force.
 
HERE ENDS THE NEW BOOK OF THE LAW.
 
Published by: The Grove of the Unicorn PO Box 13384 Atlanta, GA  30324
 
Ordering Information: Send Legal size SASE A small contribution towards
printing/handling costs will be appreciated.
——————————————————————————
To this I would add only one more admonishment, based on my own
experience: It is as important not to take oneself, one’s power, and
one’s Craft too seriously as it is not to take them too lightly.
Moderation in all things, including moderation.  And remember that all
acts of love and pleasure are the rites of the Goddess, and this
includes HAVING FUN.
 
B*B Leigh Ann

Planning and Performing Handfastings

Planning and Performing Handfastings

Author: Iris Firemoon

Handfastings are pagan wedding ceremonies, in which typically the couple’s hands are tied together to symbolize the joining of two people, or specifically, “tying the knot”. A handfasting can be a trial, lifetime, or eternal (spiritual) marriage. Depending on the intent of the couple and the national, state, or province laws, a handfasting can be a legal marriage as well.

Regardless of the legal or time extent of the union, marriages typically have one requirement. Both parties must willingly consent to a joining. However, this is not always a universal requirement.

In Ireland and Scotland, during the early Christian period it was a form of trial marriage, often performed in rural areas when a priest was not available. The couple could form a temporary, trial marriage, and then be married “in the Church” the next time a priest visited their area. This is similar to a betrothal, or a ceremony of exchanging vows of consent to a marriage at a future date and/or agreeing to a marriage contract.

“Telltown marriages” were named for the year and a day trial marriages contracted at the yearly festival held in Telltown, Ireland. The festival took place at Lughnassadh (August 1), and the trial marriage would last until the next Lughnassadh festival. At that time, they were free to leave the union if they desired.

We are going to explore two sides to a handfasting. On one side, we are planning the handfasting, and on the other, we are officiating. While not all of us will plan a handfasting, and not all of us will officiate them, these topics go hand in hand.

To plan a wedding, you must understand what it takes from your officiant, and to officiate, you must understand what goes into planning it. Priests and Priestesses are in essence clergy of this religion, and it may be requested of us to perform or aid in these duties.

PLANNING A HANDFASTING: While there are lots of things to consider when planning a wedding, such as a caterer and photographer, today we will stick to planning the ceremony itself.

When picking a date, the astrological influences around that time should be taken into consideration. At the very least, you would probably want to steer clear of getting hitched during a moon void-of-course, Mercury Retrograde, or when the Sun is in opposition of Venus.

Who to put on the guest list is an important fact to think about. When thinking of non-Pagan family members, and even those you will invite that might scoff at the idea of a Pagan wedding, the couple has to sit down and decide how obviously pagan they are going to let the ceremony become. In what a handfasting ritual implies and was first practiced in Wicca, there was no audience of people invited for the novelty of sharing the experience, or non-Craft people. However, since our society is more open to these experiences, things have changed.

Some families are more open to new experiences, and other families are more conservative. A wedding is not the best place to come out of the broom closet. Not only could it ruin a day that is considered to be special to most people, but also it could make everyone uncomfortable, and cause problems down the road.

However, allowing the thoughts and beliefs of family members to heavily influence the ceremony that you want could create feelings of regret. Think about what you and your partner want in the ceremony, and then think about how the guests would respond.

If the couple is set on having a more elaborate handfasting, but do not want to involve family and friends, two ceremonies could be held. The legal bond could be established at a more non-denominational ceremony, while the spiritual bond is fortified in an all-out handfasting.

My good friend who got married in 2004, she sent out a notice in her invitations about the nature of the ceremony. This gave guests a chance to opt out then. I believe that she also passed out programs that explained some of the various part of the ritual (their purpose, some history, and explanation), as well as contained the script of the ritual. The priestess also reinforced these explanations during the ceremony. She also let people come forward after the ceremony and ask questions.

When planning for cowan family members and friends, there are many elements standard to ritual that must be considered, such as the language of the ceremony, the altar, attire, casting a circle, calling quarters, cakes and ale, etc.

One way to make family and friends more comfortable with the background of the ceremony is to adapt the softer language. I have written and performed handfastings in which the couple asked that I omit words that may be misunderstood…such as Witch, Wiccan, and Pagan. Instead, I would create a strong earth-based theme in my ceremony.

I described concepts in terms of the cycles of the sun and the moon, our connection to all things, and in the symbolism of the circle. It may also be wise to explain the history and practice of included elements in the ceremony that might be alien to the guests, such as jumping over the broom, binding, the circle as sacred space, etc.

Keep in mind the attire that you will wear. While Pagan ritual attire is different than traditional wedding garb, you may want to think twice about what you wear. For example, you probably will not want to end up skyclad in front of your parents, and that it typically illegal in public. It would also be a wise move to alert Craft folk attending about any general attire suggestions, mention that family and friends will be in attendance, and to keep that in mind.

Also, think about other traditional elements of rituals, such as how the altar will be structured, whether or not you will set the area up in a physical circle, as well as cast a circle, and call Quarters, Goddess, and God.

Most rituals involved us casting a circle, and with a handfasting, this is no exception. Because of non-pagan family guests, some choose to cast and call the quarters before the guests arrive.

At my most recent ceremony, I all of the prep work, while the bride and groom sorted their affairs. A good friend of mine got married and had us cast a circle while the guests were there. Guests were explained the importance of the magick circle, sacred space, and the barrier that it created. They could then choose to sit inside the circle, or outside the circle.

There are many elements of a handfasting that make it different from other rituals, such as a wedding party, binding, challenge, exchange of vows and rings, as well as jumping over the broom.

Who’s in the wedding party? Handfastings are not the typical ritual, and as a result, we end up with some non-typical situations. If the guests at a wedding are cowan and Pagan, then there is a chance that some of the wedding party may be a mix.

The wedding party can range from coven members and Pagan friends, to the Pagan-friendly and the pagan-skeptical. Keep this in mind when planning on whether or not your wedding party will participate in the actual ceremony.

Find out whether or not they are comfortable with the roles that you are thinking of assigning them, and make sure that they know what to expect. The wedding party can take on group roles, such as setting up the altar, casting the circle, and calling quarters, etc.

Most weddings include an exchanging of vows, which are promises that the bride and groom make to each other. More conventional handfastings will also include exchanging of rings.

During the binding, the wrists of the bride and groom are bound together with ribbon. They clasp right_hand-to-right_hand, and left_hand-to-left_hand, crossing wrists. The priest/ess asks one of them if they wish to be bound to the other. This takes place of traditional “I do’s.”

Then, they may be a set of challenges the bride and group must pass to receive a blessing. The bride and groom, bound, are led to each element, then to any close family members (such as little ones) who want to participate. Bound, their bond is challenged by each.

Either the bride and groom are brought to each quarter, or the person representing that quarter (if you have them) comes to the bride and groom. They present a challenge of some sort, such as “I am the Elemental of the East, Guardian of Air. This is the element of life, of intelligence, of communication, and of thoughtfulness. It is the inspiration that moves us forward.

Do you and will you continue to share your thoughts, ideas, and burdens? Your hopes and dreams?” The bride and groom answer “We do.” They may then receive the blessing of that challenger.

Then, move around through a challenge by the remaining quarter guardians. In one handfasting I participated in, after the elemental challenges, the daughter of the bride had her own challenge. I would imagine that it could be extended to any person directly involved in the union.

When cakes and ale are partaken, this is the bride and groom’s first meal as a united couple.

Jumping over the broom is an African tradition still used today. Brooms were given as wedding gifts as a blessing of abundance, and they were decorated, and kept as keepsakes.

The action of jumping the broom also symbolizes crossing the threshold, as well as taking a leap of faith. Since the besom is a tool of cleansing, it also symbolizes the couple entering the marriage unencumbered. The wedding party or designated people hold the ends of the broom, while the bride/groom jump over it.

For more information on planning a handfasting, Selena Fox put together a great page: http://www.circlesanctuary.org/events/weddings.html

OFFICIATING A HANDFASTING: As priests and priestesses, we are sometimes asked, and at times required, to perform certain clergy duties. Included in the rites of passage that we may be asked to preside over are handfastings.

Not all handfastings are intended to be legal. Some are trial, some symbolic, and some only spiritual ceremonial unions. Legally recognized marriages have several benefits, however none of them are universal to all cultures and countries. In the United States, some of the benefits of a legal marriage include the ability to file joint taxes (which may decrease their total income tax), to control property, to be added to the same insurance policy, to make decisions for their spouse (including life and death decisions, such as the controversial “pulling the plug” scenario), and others.

Legal marriages also afford some spouses benefits should the couple divorce, such as child and spousal support. They can also sometimes establish the man as the legal father of a woman’s child, the woman as the legal mother of a man’s child, give the husband or wife and their family control over the sexual services, labor, and/or property of the spouse, and establish a joint fund of property for the benefit of children.

However, each state, province, or country will have its own requirements for deeming a marriage legal. As the officiant of any wedding ceremony, it is your responsibility to find out what is legally required of the ceremony, if the couple desires it to be legal. You cannot risk performing a ceremony that the couple believes is legal, and finding out later on that it was not. Should something ill happen as a result, you put yourself at risk for a lawsuit.

For example, a person could attempt to add a spouse (who was not previously covered) onto his or her insurance plan, but only to discover that their marriage was not legal, and cannot be added on to the policy. While they are wrestling with paperwork and arranging another ceremony that is legal, the spouse that was not covered is in an accident, all of which is not covered by any insurance.

Check with the local courts for the exact laws for the area. A marriage license, blood test, witnesses, and a licensed officiant may be required (among other things). For example, in Ohio, a marriage license must be obtained by the bride and groom in person at least three days prior to the ceremony. This license is valid for only 30 days. A blood test is no longer necessary.

However, if not a judge, mayor, or other public figure deemed eligible to perform such ceremonies, the officiant must be licensed by the State of Ohio. To obtain a license, the officiant must mail in $10 with an application and a photocopy of the ordination certificate.

While any person can officiate a handfasting, whether or not the ceremony that person performs is legally recognized depends on each state, province, or country. The area that you live in will have its own laws on who can officiate marriages and have them recognized by the government.

Some places require a license, some say that anyone ordained by their religious body can perform weddings, and others require a letter of good standing from the ordaining organization. In Washington D.C., a license must be obtained, and if you are not from the District, a person that is currently licensed in the city must go with you to vouch for you.

There is more information on various state and region laws here, but keep in mind that you will still want to verify with the local courts: http://www.themonastery.org/?destination=ulcLibraryMarriageLaws

To find someone to officiate your handfasting: http://www.witchvox.com/vn/vn_index/xclergy.html

Now, where can you get ordained? Ordination can occur through any religious body. Ordination “is the process in which clergy, monks or nuns are set apart and authorized by their religious denomination or non denominational seminary to perform religious rituals and ceremonies or otherwise to minister in a clerical capacity.” It typically occurs when a student has completed a certain level of study, or certain requirements within a religious group, and thus the requirements vary from group to group.

While eclectic Wicca teaches that self-initiation is permissible, thus indicating that this person is a priest or priestess of Wicca, this person is still not ordained.

In the U.S., most people have heard of the Universal Life Church, and its free online ordinations. I typically do not talk about it, because I do not believe that every person should go online and sign up for ordination, though it is possible. While there are laws on the legality of weddings, and the requirements to perform legal marriages, there are no laws on which religious bodies can perform ordinations.

If Wicca is a recognized religion, and a religious body deems a person capable of performing such ceremonies, then that person is ordained. But I would rather not mail in an ordination certificate from my Wiccan coven to the state of Ohio. Yes, I would rather mail in my ULC certificate for which I paid $4.95. It also gives solitaries the ability to apply for licenses if required and legally perform marriage ceremonies.

There is information on the ULC website as to which states accept and do not accept ULC ordinations, as well as which countries outside of the U.S. do accept them. Many people consider it a joke that people’s pets can be ordained through ULC. Of course, I feel that those people make it a joke, for it serves its purpose.

To check the Universal Life Church: http://www.ulc.org

In some situations, you may be asked to write the ceremony, or give input as to some of the elements. You must be familiar with the elements of a handfasting, as well as how to write and perform rituals. You should at least have a basic handfasting ritual that can be adapted if need be (somewhere stuffed in your pointed hat). If they wish to write their own, this basic ritual can also be given to the couple as a guideline.

You may be asked to counsel the couple, or be put in a situation where the couple needs advice. It is not uncommon for either the bride or groom to get cold feet, to ask questions about commitment, or have questions about the ceremony itself. It is part of the clergy role to act as a mentor and guide.

Be prepared to answer these sorts of questions, should they come up. However, if there are major differences that need to be reconciled, you may want to refer the couple to a professional that can help them sort issues out.

You also have the right to advise the couple address these issues before the ceremony, and even refuse to perform the ceremony should you feel it necessary.

While officiating a ceremony, you have the option of charging for services. Some people feel that it is unethical to charge for such services, but it is a service nonetheless. Some areas have laws establishing a maximum amount that can be charged for ministerial services.

Some of these laws are vague and say, for example, that no more than $15 dollars can be charged for the service of a minister. This type of wording does not say how much work is worth $15. Writing a ritual could be one set of services, performing the ceremony another set of services, etc. Check your local laws for specific information. When I officiate handfastings, I do not charge for my services, but have usually asked that my travel costs be covered.

Suggested reading:
Handfasted and Heartjoined by Lady Rhea
Handfasting and Wedding Rituals by Raven Kaldera and Tannin Schwartzstein
A Romantic Guide to Handfasting by Anna Franklin



Footnotes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handfasting
http://www.religioustolerance.org/mar_hand.htm
http://www.themonastery.org/?destination=ulcLibraryMarriageLaws
Handfasting and Wedding Rituals by Raven Kaldera and Tannin Schwartzstein