Setting Up Your Beltane Altar – What To Include on Your Beltane Altar

Setting Up Your Beltane Altar – What To Include on Your Beltane Altar

By , About.com

It’s Beltane, the Sabbat where many Wiccans and Pagans choose to celebrate the fertility of the earth. This Sabbat is about new life, fire, passion and rebirth, so there are all kinds of creative ways you can set up for the season. Depending on how much space you have, you can try some or even all of these ideas — obviously, someone using a bookshelf as an altar will have less flexibility than someone using a table, but use what calls to you most.

Colors of the Season

This is a time when the earth is lush and green as new grass and trees return to life after a winter of dormancy. Use lots of greens, as well as bright spring colors — the yellow of the daffodils, forsythia and dandelions; the purples of the lilac; the blue of a spring sky or a robin’s egg. Decorate your altar with any or all of these colors in your altar cloths, candles, or colored ribbons.

Fertility Symbols

The Beltane holiday is the time when, in some traditions, the male energy of the god is at its most potent. He is often portrayed with a large and erect phallus, and other symbols of his fertility include antlers, sticks, acorns, and seeds. You can include any of these on your altar. Consider adding a small Maypole centerpiece — there are few things more phallic than a pole sticking up out of the ground!

In addition to the lusty attributes of the god, the fertile womb of the goddess is honored at Beltane as well. She is the earth, warm and inviting, waiting for seeds to grow within her. Add a goddess symbol, such as a statue, cauldron, cup, or other feminine items. Any circular item, such as a wreath or ring, can be used to represent the goddess as well.

Flowers and Faeries

Beltane is the time when the earth is greening once again — as new life returns, flowers are abundant everywhere. Add a collection of early spring flowers to your altar — daffodils, hyacinths, forsythia, daisies, tulips — or consider making a floral crown to wear yourself. You may even want to pot some flowers or herbs as part of your Sabbat ritual.

In some cultures, Beltane is sacred to the Fae. If you follow a tradition that honors the Faerie realm, leave offerings on your altar for your household helpers.

Fire Festival

Because Beltane is one of the four fire festivals in modern Pagan traditions, find a way to incorporate fire into your altar setup. Although one popular custom is to hold a bonfire outside, that may not be practical for everyone, so instead it can be in the form of candles (the more the better), or a table-top brazier of some sort. A small cast-iron cauldron placed on a heat-resistant tile makes a great place to build an indoor fire.

Other Symbols of Beltane

  • May baskets
  • Chalices
  • Honey, oats, milk
  • Antlers or horns
  • Fruit such as cherries, mangos, pomegranates, peaches
  • Swords, lances, arrows

 

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How To Hold an Imbolc Candle Ritual (for Solitaries)

How To Hold an Imbolc Candle Ritual (for Solitaries)

By Patti Wigington, About.com

Imbolc is a festival of light — celebrate it with candles and flames!

Hundreds of years ago, when our ancestors relied upon the sun as their only source of light, the end of winter was met with much celebration. Although it is still cold in February, often the sun shines brightly above us, and the skies are often crisp and clear. As a festival of light, Imbolc came to be called Candlemas. On this evening, when the sun has set once more, call it back by lighting the seven candles of this ritual.

** Note: although this ceremony is written for one, it can easily be adapted for a small group.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varied

Here’s How:

  1. First, set up your altar in a way that makes you happy, and brings to mind the themes of Imbolc. You’ll also want to have on hand the following:
    • Seven candles, in red and white (tealights are perfect for this)
    • Something to light your candles with
    • A large bowl or cauldron big enough to hold the candles
    • Sand or salt to fill the bottom of the bowl/cauldron

    Prior to beginning your ritual, take a warm, cleansing bath. While soaking, meditate on the concept of purification. Once you’re done, dress in your ritual attire, and begin the rite.

  2. If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.

    Pour the sand or salt into the bowl or cauldron. Place the seven candles into the sand so they won’t slide around. Light the first candle. As you do so, say:

    Although it is now dark, I come seeking light. In the chill of winter, I come seeking life.

    Light the second candle, saying:

    I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth. I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life. I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

  3. Light the third candle. Say:

    This light is a boundary, between positive and negative. That which is outside, shall stay without. That which is inside, shall stay within.

    Light the fourth candle. Say:

    I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth. I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life. I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

  4. Light the fifth candle, saying:

    Like fire, light and love will always grow. Like fire, wisdom and inspiration will always grow.

    Light the sixth candle, and say:

    I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth. I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life. I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

    Finally, light the last candle. As you do so, visualize the seven flames coming together as one. As the light builds, see the energy growing in a purifying glow.

    Fire of the hearth, blaze of the sun, cover me in your shining light. I am awash in your glow, and tonight I am made pure.

  5. Take a few momemnts and meditate on the light of your candles. Think about this Sabbat, a time of healing and inspiration and purification. Do you have something damaged that needs to be healed? Are you feeling stagnant, for lack of inspiration? Is there some part of your life that feels toxic or tainted? Visualize the light as a warm, enveloping energy that wraps itself around you, healing your ailments, igniting the spark of creativity, and purifying that which is damanged.

    When you are ready, end the ritual. You may choose to follow up with healing magic, or with a Cakes and Ale ceremony.

What You Need

  • Seven candles, white and red, and something to light them with
  • A bowl or cauldron with sand in the bottom
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So Exactly How Do Witches Celebrate the Sabbats?

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
So how does a Witch celebrate the Sabbats? Hmm, we always take for granted that each of automatically know what they are suppose to do on our Sabbats. Well, at least I did to recently. I was talking to a dear friend and I asked them how was your Yule. Did you do anything special? The reply was, well we did whatever Pagans are suppose to do, whatever that is! It didn’t dawn on me till a few days later. Perhaps we aren’t doing the job I thought we were doing. I decided to make a commitment to all of you. The commitment is before each Sabbat (over a few days) we will give your morning prayers, rituals, spells, activities, the correspondences and the Deities of that Sabbat. You will have the information to celebrate that Sabbat correctly.

I am very glad that my dear friend made this comment. I believe there are others that might be saying or thinking the same but have never told us. So now, we are going to provide you with everything you need. There will be no more wondering what Pagans/Witches do on the current Sabbats as the Wheel turns.

I hope you enjoy the information. If you ever have any questions or concerns about any issue, please contact us. Because if you don’t contact us, we won’t never know where we are lacking in our service to you.

Lady A & The WOTC

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Imbolc…or As The Wheel Turns

Imbolc…or As The Wheel Turns

Author:   Morbek 

As the wheel turns…

Sorry, that was a, now obscure, reference to an old soap opera. Imbolc is tomorrow! The meaning of the word it’s self is “in the milk” or something close to that. The real meaning of Imbolc is that we are beginning to see the changes in the days and that spring will eventually be here!

The promise that we will be able to survive another year and thrive is starting to materialize. When Imbolc was Christianized, it became Candlemas, and is a celebration of light. We have just moved through the darkest part of the year and we are headed for the light.

So, beyond the textbook stuff, let’s look at what this Sabbat means to 21st century people. Since we get our milk and meat from the grocery store and no longer have to plan out how and what we will be eating for more than 24 hours, agrarian celebrations no longer resonate with a clear message or meaning for most of us.

We get up in the morning, go to work, grab lunch…. you know the routine. How or even why do we care if ewes are starting to produce milk? We don’t and it is that simple. But if you think about what the last few months have been like, dark, wet dreary, you can identify with the longing for bright blue skies and nice warm weather. Imbolc reminds us that, in a chaotic world, there are many things we can still predict. Stability is important to us.

This Sabbat is also an opportunity for us to bring ourselves, spiritually, into the light. The “Dark night of our soul” is almost over and we have a chance to reflect about the lessons we’ve learned through the tough times and integrate them into our personal wisdom and offer them to others’ through collective wisdom.

I encourage everyone to recognize that what we’ve gone through is over and we never have to visit those same dark days again. Remember the difficulties, glean the lessons learned and then let go of the pain and fear. There is no way to move forward into perfect love and perfect trust if you are clinging onto fear or emotional pain. Imbolc presents an occasion to learn and let go!

Humans are obsessed with marking time. Months, years, decades, centuries, are important mental markers. They Mayan people were so obsessed with time keeping that they wrote a calendar for the past as well as the future. I think our obsession is, in part, a need to compare our personal growth. We need mental cairn to see “from whence we came’.

So, where was I 10 years ago? Living in Pony, MT!

I was secretly wishing that the world would go to hell in a hand basket because of Y2K but I knew it wouldn’t because some pretty smart people who caused that little glitch, were still around to fix that little glitch. I was dealing w/that lovely inner ear/vertigo issue that I have called Meniers’ disease for the first time! I was scared because I had no spirituality and I was on the run from a stalker (hence, why I was in Pony (middle of no where) Montana) .

Where am I now? In Killeen, TX!

The world did go to hell in a hand basket but it had nothing to do with a computer glitch.
I still have the Meniers disease but it’s under control with medication. I have a spiritual system that works especially well for me so I am no longer afraid. And I have taken a stand against the stalker (yes…. 10 years later. He is still at it) .

Imbolc 2010 has presented me with an inner reflection opportunity. Having just attended the Army’s “Spiritual Fitness Summit” with some really smart, spiritual and powerful chaplains, I discovered what has kept most of us from being open to acceptance of other religious systems is fear.

Once I started talking while we were working in our small groups to set the U.S. Army’s definition of spirituality, everyone began to relax. I am guessing that they figured out that I wasn’t going to sacrifice anything in the middle of the room!!! Then this group of men did something I did not expect them to do…they listened to me! Balance will now be included in the definition of healthy spirituality as well as the recognition of nontraditional religions, either formal or informal!

What should be addressed here isn’t “wow, look at the good stuff I’ve done. Yay me!”

I want to look at the road that it took to get to where I am. I want to remember the lessons that I learned on that road (which was full of pot holes and always a construction zone) and i want to, somehow, help others to see that life is a good place to be when you are living in the moment!

I have always felt a call to serve others. Even when I was much younger and being self-centered, spoiled and without a clue what Personal Responsibility, Compassion and Unconditional love meant. I thought that I was too fat for the military so serving there was not going to work and I needed to be doing something that earned money. I wanted to raise children, so the convent was out! Besides….I like sex way too much to give that up for the god of Abraham! What to do? I was stuck at 20…then, along came my eldest child and, thankfully, my (still) best friend, Tara.

Yes, I know…I went back MUCH further than 10 years, stay with me here.

Because of my choice to become a mother, I learned responsibility and because of my oldest daughters’ network of friends (thanks Mark…I owe you one for this lesson) I learned personal responsibility and compassion.

Tara stood by me through all of my thoughtlessness, insults, screw-ups and selfishness. Tara was there for all times, the good and the horrible. Tara taught me that you could love the person but not their actions. She taught me that you love without conditions and you love freely without expectations of being loved back. Because of Tara, I learned unconditional love.

So, what am I doing with all of these lessons? I am making an attempt to teach them to others in a gentler manner than I learned them. I am leading, as best I can, by example. I have been smart enough to form friendships with deep connections with people who will call me on my bullsh*t so that I can do it while not giving all of myself while serving others…or so that I can do it and not be a hypocrite by doing it for my ego.

November 5th is the day my father died when i was 15. November 5th two thousand and nine is the day that I found my feet. It is the day that I honestly answered that call to serve others. THAT is another article for a later time.

Blessed Imbolc, be fearless and loving!

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Walking in a Wiccan Wonderland

Walking in a Wiccan Wonderland

Author:   Janice Van Cleve   

The market is full of all kinds of books on Wicca. They speak of Sabbats and spells, recipes and charms, and a few even go so far as to address correspondences and history. Yet rarely do they really investigate the deeper religion and mindset of Wicca. It is important, therefore, to touch if ever so briefly, on some basic concepts that underpin walking in a Wiccan Wonderland.

The human species, by its inherent nature, seems to have a proclivity for creating religions. There is something about consciousness that wants to connect to the realm of the spirit. Some say that our consciousness remembers a prior existence in a spiritual realm. Others say that our essence is spirit and our consciousness yearns to be freed from its temporary attachment to a material body. Still others say that our consciousness is aware of a spiritual plane beyond the material and that it seeks connection to it. Whatever is the impulse for creating religions, they generally fall into two groups: the supernatural and the natural.

Supernatural religions reach beyond the natural world and fabricate nonsense (literally not of the senses) , which cannot be reached by either sensory or rational means. Supernatural religions are faith based religions because the doctrines they propose often fly in the face of what our senses and reason tell us. The only way one can follow a supernatural religion is by making a leap of faith to believe in things that cannot be proven by natural means. Supernatural religions often propose a deity and a moral code of behavior. They often attempt to encompass the whole universe to answer questions such as creation, the meaning of life, and life after death and base their beliefs on a sacred scripture.

Natural religions, on the other hand, remain solidly rooted in the natural world and they are informed completely by the senses and by mental analysis. Natural religions are experience based because they depend on individual and group experiences. For this reason they are often lacking in doctrines, rigid moral codes, and answers to ineffable questions. Practices and concepts that are similar or held in common are most often based upon mutual agreement rather than upon strict hierarchical demands by some authority.

Natural religions by and large tolerate diversity because they see diversity all around them in nature and they understand that each person’s experience of nature is different. Supernatural religions, on the other hand, generally do not tolerate diversity because faith in one belief is by definition “one size fits all”. It is for this reason that supernatural religions are driven to proselytize or persecute while natural religions live and let live.

The caveat should be made here that assigning specific religions totally to either the supernatural or the natural category from their beginnings to the present day would be stretching the point. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, and a host of other religions and philosophies have displayed aspects of both categories through history, sometimes even simultaneously. However, as a generalization, understanding these two groupings is a helpful heuristic is finding the Wiccan Wonderland.

Wicca is a branch of Western European Paganism, which is a natural religion. The word “Wicca” is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning wisdom. Wiccans or witches (both come from the same root) are the wise ones. They study and explore and experience nature to develop their knowledge. They may specialize in herb lore, astrology, spells, counseling, science, philosophy, or any other branch of knowledge. That is why Wicca is sometimes called “The Craft.” It is a learned body of knowledge and skills.

Wiccans do not “believe” in their religion. They work at it and learn it until they know it. The more obscure questions of creation, the meaning of life, etc., are well outside the Wiccan experience and they are generally content to leave them there and not to offer any hypotheses about them.

One part, therefore, of walking in a Wiccan Wonderland is the constant thirst for knowledge. For this reason Wiccans are not called “the chosen people”, “the elect”, or “the saved”. Rather they are called “seekers” because they continue to seek for knowledge and to perfect their skills. Some find satisfaction in accumulating this knowledge for its own sake or in teaching it; but for many Wiccans, the purpose of knowledge and skills is to use them.

Knowledge helps us make informed choices. Living by choice is a significant part of walking in a Wiccan Wonderland. It is amazing how many things over which we really have a choice once we think about it.

For example: Nobody makes us happy or makes us sad. These reactions are how we choose to respond to a situation. Likewise we don’t have to go to this meeting or that party, eat up all our food, or send a card for a birthday or buy a gift. We can choose not to do these things. All the social rules of etiquette and manners, as well as ethics and morals, are culturally learned behaviors. A Wiccan’s only guide, besides her own experience, is the Wiccan Law, which is variously expressed as “And ye harm none, do what ye will.”

This does not, to be sure, give Wiccans free license to run riot. Choice bears consequences. We are free to choose not to go in to the office, but the boss is then empowered by our choice to fire us. We are free to drive over the speed limit, but the officer is then empowered by our choice to pull us over. We learn from our mistakes and add the knowledge gained to our experience. Of course we don’t have to reinvent the wheel by learning everything from personal experience. More often than not, we choose to go along with laws, manners, and other culturally learned behaviors because these are usually the result of the learned experience of others or they make rational sense.

As children parents and peers, pastors and professors condition us, to follow a whole laundry list of rules. Later as we grow up and are exposed to a broader set of experiences, we begin to question some of the things we were taught and we begin to make up our own minds. When we decide that something we were taught is not true or no longer serves us, we intentionally get rid of it.

Conversely, when we figure out something new that does seem to serve us, we intentionally adopt it. By the same token, when a Wiccan finds a practical application of Wicca in her life that suits her needs, she dumps old mindsets and habits that get in the way and adopts the new application.

One of the basic new applications made by Wiccans is the rearrangement of time. Time is an artificial construct. Hours, days, and months are completely arbitrary. The natural structure of time is the seasons. So another part of walking in a Wiccan Wonderland is structuring our lives around the seasonal calendar.

This is a tough one because schools, jobs, and modern social institutions are formed around measuring time by clocks and Gregorian calendars. But let’s think about it. The most holy Christian holiday is Easter but Roman and Orthodox Catholics celebrate it on two different days. The Jews have Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Passover and a whole host of other holidays that the mainstream does not. Professions have their own calendars, too.

Politicians follow three seasons of the year – legislating, blaming, and fund raising. Accountants have four seasons, which correspond to their quarterly reports. If all these people can rearrange time according to their needs, certainly Wiccans can organize their time around the eight Sabbats of the year.

If a Wiccan seriously applies the eight Sabbats to her daily life, she goes a long way toward walking in a Wiccan Wonderland. The eight Sabbats occur in the natural world. We feel the quickening of spring at Candlemas and we see the daffodils at Spring Equinox. We know the warming of Beltane in our hearts and all around us. We experience the long light of Summer Solstice, the late summer flowers at Lammas, and the falling leaves at Autumn Equinox. At Samhain we feel the nip and chill of winter and at Winter Solstice we rest in quiet peace – to the degree we can escape the commercial madness artificially created by the American material culture around us.

The natural seasons reflect the accomplishment of our wills – our intentions. We set our intentions each year at Candlemas. Through the year, we grow in our enjoyment of life, our appreciation of new sensations, filling our seeking with new knowledge, and intentionally pursuing our goals. Then in autumn we take stock, fulfill our debts, forgive our injuries, and look back in satisfaction at what we accomplished even if we did not complete all the grand plans we made.

Then at Samhain we release it all. We die. We surrender to the inevitable ending of all things. We close the book. We put away the score sheet. That tally is done. We empty ourselves and become completely free. In winter we lie in quiet and peace, carrying no baggage from the past nor imposing any requirements on the future. We don’t have to. We know – as opposed to having faith – we know as Wiccans that we will be reborn and that new possibilities and opportunities await us when Candlemas comes round again. We know that we will grow in the Craft from new knowledge and new skills.

Christians speak of new life, new zest, and new possibilities when they are “born again” – and they only get born again once! We Pagans get to do it every year!

Wiccans bring home this cycle of the year with daily prayer. Daily prayer is key to walking in a Wiccan Wonderland. We begin by grounding and centering ourselves in alignment with the four elementals – Air, Fire, Water, and Earth – and their corresponding directions – East, South, West, and North. This in itself is a powerful renewing and rewarding practice. It is a statement that we are here and we know where we are. It is a statement that we intentionally take a position in the spiritual realm and in that position we claim access to the forces of spirit that operate there.

After grounding and centering, it is useful to express first gratitude for the blessings and accomplishments appropriate to that direction. For example, I am a writer. I thank the East for any writing I accomplished the day before, for ideas that popped into my head, for emails that I wrote, letters to the editor or to legislatures that I sent. In the South, I express gratitude for the instances in which I showed courage, where I stood my ground, or for journeys I made safely. In the West, I am thankful for friends and relationships, for a date the night before, and for nice things people have said to me. In the North, I am thankful for healing of the various aches and pains that my aging body seems to acquire in increasing frequency, for money that has come to me, and for the material things that provide me comfort and enjoyment. Many of these thank you’s are for things I asked for in prayers the day before. After thanking, I ask for things I want this day. Asking – receiving – thanking is a daily loop that helps me remain conscious of the spirit realm while I am working in this material realm. This daily loop also replicates in a micro way the macro pattern of the seasons.

In conclusion, walking in a Wiccan Wonderland can be summarized as living intentionally, full in the knowledge of who we are, of what we want, of what we’re doing, and of what is happening around us. Walking in a Wiccan Wonderland is making conscious choices and taking full responsibility for them. It is a land of ever renewing seasons – ever knowing, ever growing, ever changing, ever lasting.

Blessed Be!

The Importance of Pre-Ritual Preparations

The Importance of Pre-Ritual Preparations

Author:   Colleen Criswell   

Most, if not all of us, who perform rituals and spell work, lead busy and eventful lives. During the day we go to work or school, we run errands, do housework, take care of our families, take care of our pets, deal with our responsibilities that we have in life. We all have stresses, worries, anxieties, regrets, angers, disappointments, frustrations, sorrows that we face. We have our excitements, joys, pleasures, passions, involvements, hopes, dreams, and wishes. All of these different emotions and energies that surround us in our day-to-day lives.

At the same time, we are all on our own personal spiritual paths. We have taken upon ourselves to open our minds and gain more knowledge of our chosen religion and belief and faith system. In our practices with rituals and spell casting, we have a knowledge and understanding of the energies we are raising and sending out, however life does go on and with it are the natural ups and downs that we face with our responsibilities as functioning human beings living in the world today.

How is it that we can deal with a balance of these energies? How do we manage working with positive energies and focusing on our ritual energies when we have had a stressful or bad or even a wonderful and exciting day?

How is it we can separate and have a nice balance of our personal energy with our magickal energy we are working with?

Remember, none of these things have to be done at all. But by even just doing one thing suggested here, you may find that your spell and ritual work is more potent because of the little extra boost that these suggestions can add to your experience.

At the school we hold rituals online for every Sabbat and every Esbat. We also hold other rituals that your fellow students create for class projects. These rituals are usually done in the evening, and where time zone issues can be a factor, there are things that can be done to help ease your self from “Muggle” life to “Magickal” life.

As always, you know when each ritual the school is holding will be, normally, a month in advance. This means you have plenty of time to get the materials you need for the ritual. By immediately gathering things that you need for a ritual ahead of time, you are taking away a lot of the stress and anxiety of being unprepared for the ritual. It also gives you time to charge any new tools you may need or find suitable substitutions for items that are on the list that you do not have.

Waiting to the last minute will have you scrambling around to find what you need. You may find you do not have an important element for the ritual or a suitable substitution. You may be working with tools that have an energy that may not be compatible with the work you are doing. This may hinder the desired result.

So, you have all the items you need. So what, you come home from work, get dinner, put the kids to bed, walk the dog, set up and do the ritual, right? Sure you could do that. But what about the stress that you had from the workday? The fact you burnt the chicken? You son just dumped baby powder all over the rug? You have a test or a presentation to give tomorrow? You are out of toothpaste?

All of these things effect you, effect your emotions, your energy, and in essence your ability to concentrate on your ritual and the magick you are working on. No, it won’t make these things go away, but if you do some pre-ritual preparation it can help you adjust from those stresses and allow them to be put aside for the time being.

This way we can focus on what it is that we are doing.

There are a number of different ways you can make this transition, the thing is you have to take the time to do it, make the known effort and possibly make adjustments to your schedule. I do understand that due to time limitations and schedules and things that need to be done in every day life may cause obstacles for you.

You might feel that you are unable to do these things. The rituals run at 8pm EST, but you live in California, so that makes the ritual start at 5pm PST. You get home at 4:45. You have to fix something to eat for the family or check the kids’ homework first or a million other things.

List out what it is that you normally do when you get home. Is it possible to make any adjustments to these things? A typical ritual runs one hour. So, if you get home at 4:30, your ritual begins at 5:00, it is easy to estimate that it will conclude at 6:00 or around there.

Can you adjust your schedule so that you check the homework a little bit later? Is it possible that someone else will be willing to make dinner for the family that night or is it possible to create the meal the day before so it just needs a few minutes to heat up? Is it possible to get off work a little early that day? We are talking about something that we do once or twice a month.

Is it a lot to ask for one hour from your families to pursue this?

Many people share computer space with other members of the family, so you may not be able to use your computer desk as a permanent personal and sacred space. If this is the case, since you know when the ritual is going to be, gather your tools the night before the ritual to make sure you have every thing you need.

If you can have them set up the night the before and you know they will be undisturbed, by all means get your space ready and set up. This makes it one less thing you need to worry about. If you cannot have it set up the night before, then bring your tools into the room where you will be having it.

It is good to keep them in a container so that people know that this is for something specific and not to move or mess with it. Keep it in the area where you will be having the ritual. Now, as you know when we have the online rituals I ask that you join the room no later than fifteen minutes before the actual ritual begins. Just because you are logged into the chat room does not mean you have to be sitting at your computer.

So when you get home, set up your space, log into the chat room. I usually open the chat room an hour before the ritual is to take place. You now have your tools set up.

Ready to start the ritual? No, not yet.

One aspect of pre ritual preparation that we hear of a lot, but many do not incorporate is the pre-ritual bath. Now many people might say, especially if they are the ones getting home at 4:30 and only have 30 minutes or less before the ritual, I am not going to spend the time to draw a bath!

Then there are people who do not have bathtubs or simply do not like to take baths. One thing that you can do is a ritual shower. Another argument is “But I took a bath or shower this morning, do I really need to take another one?”

Now why is it that ritual baths and rituals showers are important before a ritual? What purpose do these activities accomplish? What all is involved in a ritual bath or shower?

When we hear these words, the images that usually pop into mind are, for a bath a long relaxing lounge in bubbles with maybe some candles maybe some music playing. A shower is usually considered something quick, cleansing your body fast and efficient. A ritual bath and ritual shower are not about physically cleaning yourself.

The purpose of a ritual bath or shower is to remove negative energy from you and to put you in the proper mindset before a ritual. Now this can also be done simply by using sage incense to smudge yourself, however where this is a fast and simple quick fix, it may not be enough.

The element of water is in tune with our emotions. It can be an amplifier for your emotions and it can be soothing to them as well. After a long day where maybe you had a rough day at the office, maybe you got a nasty call from a bill collector, you daughter’s teacher called you and she is failing math, your sister’s water just broke and is off to have her first child, you have a hot date tomorrow night. All of these things are running in your mind. With all of this built up energy, how might it affect your magickal work?

Taking a bath or a shower is relaxing. Allowing the water to carry some of that excess energy away from your system. When you add other elements to it, you can purify and cleanse your energies to prepare you to do what magickal work that you have planned.

For a bath, I would recommend adding salt to the water. You can use something as simple as table salt or use sea salt. However, for this type of thing I would not suggest bath salts that are commercially made or bath beads or bubbles. To purify, just water and salt is all you need. If you feel that your energy needs a positive or protective boost I would add a 1/4 to a 1/2 a cup of apple cider vinegar. This helps cleanse and balance the aura. You would put these elements into the bath as you are running the water to help disperse the energies.

Next, think of the type of ritual you will be doing. What sort of energies are you going to be working with? Check your correspondence charts for proper oils, stones, incense, even music that might help aid in the energies you are planning on raising.

For instance, if we are doing a ritual to help increase your psychic abilities, I know that lavender and amethyst both help aid in this. I also know that the color purple promotes strengthening your psychic abilities. So, for my bath I would light some purple candles, light some lavender incense, put some amethyst stones into the bath water, and then once my bath is completely ready I would drop in a few drops of lavender essential oil. I would then soak for no less than ten minutes. Allowing myself to relax. Breathing in the scents, absorbing the energies, meditating on opening my Third Eye Chakra.

This can also be done for a shower. If you can close the drain, do so. Gathering the water in the bottom as you shower. Again place the salt, vinegar, oil, stones that you are going to use to aide you in the energy that you need to bring in. Also, get a washcloth, and create a bundle. In the bundle put the salt and some of the essential oil that you are planning on using, and then using the base of the bundle you have created scrub yourself. Focusing on the energies you are removing and on the energies you are bringing in.

Now we have finished with our bath or shower and have dried off. Next what is it we should be wearing? Depending on your personal tradition, you might choose to practice skyclad. However, there are times when skyclad may not be appropriate.

Having ritual wear is not mandatory, however it is a way you can prepare yourself for what it is you are going to do. Our clothes that we wear from day to day also attract energies. Also, remember, colors have specific energies as well.

When you are doing magickal work it is good to make sure that all the energies you are working with are in sync. Taking the time to wear something special for your ritual work also puts you in a more relaxed and proper state of mind. Removing the “Muggle” clothing, as it were, into your ritual robes is a ritual all unto itself.

I have created not only my ritual robes, but I also have specific jewelry that I wear only for ritual work. I also have created slippers for my ritual work. Many of us may like to go around barefoot, but there are times when we may need the protection. Deciding on ritual wear doesn’t have to be extravagant. If you can afford a bulky medieval costume and feel comfortable with it, then by all means wear it, or if you find a simple cotton nightdress that you like, then by all means use that.

One thing I will mention about ritual wear, proper care and storage is important. Our ritual wear is part of our magickal tools. Just as your athame or wand or incense, it is to be respected and cared for. Also, just as you would with any ritual tool, you should charge it with energy and consecrate it. We will discuss more on ritual wear in another discussion.

When putting on your ritual wear, don’t just throw it on, take your time and focus on each item you are putting on, and what it represents to you. Feel your own transformation from the busy executive or housewife into a practitioner of magick.

Now you are ready to sit down and perform your ritual.

Now, before I end, please note, that these are not the only ways of preparing yourself before a ritual. When you understand the different correspondences, the different vibrations that certain colors, scents, stones, foods and music give off, you can incorporate it all in your entire day.

Wear colors that promote the energy that you are going to be raising during the day, even if it is just one item in the color. Wear a scent that will draw the energies to you. Wear or carry gems or stones.

If you do daily devotions, focus on the deities that will help you create that energy. Also, your whole day can reflect the energy you are going to be raising that evening. If you can find ways that are appropriate, do it, try it.

One of my favorite things, as I am a Kitchen Witch is to eat foods that might be known to assist with the energy I am planning on working with. I usually plan a menu for a special dinner around it, but also I do start in the morning with breakfast and through out the day I try to think of what the energy is I am going to work with and what things I can eat that will add to it.

This is why I make you create so many charts here at the school. When you understand your correspondence charts; know the colors, numbers, symbols, herbs, foods, drinks, teas, deities, times of the day, when you have this information, why not use it to your advantage?

Now let me give you an example of a day of preparation for me that I would do. Keep in mind I am a stay at home mom, so I do know that what I do may not work with your own personal schedule, I am just giving you an idea to help you come up with your own plan.

Lets go back to the example I gave before, on a ritual for increasing your psychic abilities. Things I might do to prepare during the day would be:

I know that purple is a color that I associate with psychic awareness. So, I would wear my purple shirt or add a purple scarf to my clothes, or even wear purple underwear.

I know that the Third Eye Chakra is used when working with your psychic abilities. So during the day I would do meditations and exercises that I know help open and balance the Third Eye Chakra.

I know that the number 7 is associated with psychic energy, so maybe during the day I would do things in 7’s or possibly I would have a snack of 7 slices of apple.

Speaking of foods, I know that dandelion leaves, grapes, olives, lavender, beans, cheese, eggs, tea, anise, cloves, marigold, onion, peppermint, yarrow, cinnamon, poppy, saffron, thyme, celery, rosemary, chamomile, corn, lettuce, among other things can help promote psychic abilities. So I can choose recipes and plan my meals using some of these items.

I know amethyst is a gem associated with divination and psychic abilities. So I would wear jewelry that has this stone in it.

I know that the runic symbol Laguz; the planetary symbols of the Moon, Neptune and Pluto; symbols of the Dark moon, spirals in the Deosil direction, representations of the Moon, the ocean, the pentacle, the rainbow, the scales, spirals, the Waning Crescent Moon, and the wind also help with this purpose.

I can put these images on the candles I will be using for my ritual, when I put on my scent, maybe draw the pattern, visualize the symbols during meditation, carve them into the food, trace the pattern as you stir something, or how about a snack? Take a piece of bread, and using a squeezable bottle of grape jelly draw the pattern onto the bread?

I know that lavender is associated with this, so I would possibly burn lavender incense during the day, or put a little lavender EO on my wrist. Maybe pick some fresh lavender and bring it into the home.

Prepare my ritual space in advance.

Create a special meal for my family that uses the ingredients, numbers, and symbols that I know will help enhance my psychic abilities.

Take time during the day for reflection and meditate on Selene and Pan or other deities who are associated with divination and psychic abilities.

Research psychic abilities and new forms of divination.

Take a pre ritual bath with salt, lavender oil, amethyst crystals, lavender incense and purple candles.

Turn on some soothing New Age music

Dress myself in my ritual wear

Perform my ritual

When you put your mind set into what it is you are planning on raising, energy wise, you will find that not only does it add to your entire experience, it transforms the entire day into a magickal day. Our magick doesn’t have to be only on Sabbats or Esbats. Our magick doesn’t have to only be practiced at the main altar you have set up. Magick can be done all day, every day. These tips and ideas don’t have to be only done pre-ritual. You can incorporate these things into just about any part of your life. It is simply deciding to take the effort to do so.

So, to recap:

Have your items in advance. Make sure your tools are ready for your work before the ritual is to take place.

Try to give yourself time to prepare yourself for your ritual.

Take a pre-ritual bath or shower to help balance your energies and use tools to help increase the energies you are going to be working with.

Put on your ritual wear.

During your day, incorporate the elements or theme of the ritual into what you wear, what you eat, and what you do.

Even if you just take the time to do one little extra thing, you will very likely notice the difference in your magickal work. If you start doing this in your everyday life, you may find it a bit more magickal.

The Wheel of the Year and It’s Influences in our Daily Life

The Wheel of the Year and It’s Influences in our Daily Life

Author:   MissElphie   

Wicca, and many other pagan paths, celebrate the Wheel of the Year. The festivities around the Seasons and the Path of the Sun in the Sky have been a motive of celebration in History. Today I’m going to talk about its influence on modern practitioners and its influence in our daily lives.

The Wheel of the Year is something very important and essential in a Pagan’s life. It celebrates the path of the Sun God throughout the year. We celebrate the different phases: Birth, Growth, Marriage, Aging, Death and Rebirth. We cast spells to bring happiness and wellness to our loved ones and us. We light bonfires to celebrate fertility in our lives. We light candles to help the God rise higher and higher in the Winter Skies… But, do we feel those changes? Has anyone ever wondered how important and meaningful all of these changes in Nature are in our lives?

Some of you might know what I’m talking about, but for those who don’t, I’ll explain. The Wheel of the Year isn’t just eight times a year; it’s in every minute of our lives. We feel those changes in ourselves and eventually we won’t even need to look at the calendar to see that a Sabbat is approaching. All around us we see Nature change; we see the changes that we usually celebrate.

When Autumn is coming you can see that some birds are already migrating, that the leaves are falling from the once full trees, those little animals are getting ready for the cold Winter that is getting closer and closer. You can see that with your own eyes. You can see the flowers growing, snow and rain falling, bees and butterflies and every little thing that changes in Nature. Even in a city, you can see that. I live in a fairly big city and I see that. In the trees and gardens that are scattered around town, in the birds… and even in the weather. When it starts raining, getting colder and colder, maybe even a bit of snow… You can see and feel that.

The Wheel of the Year is part of our daily life.

The modern man has grown accustomed to routine. You get up, have breakfast, take a shower, drive to work, work, get back from work, sit on the couch and watch some lame TV show, go to bed and in the next morning you do it all over again. You repeat this process every single day. Never caring about what happens outside, in Nature.

A Pagan usually does not do that. Yes, he or she has his/her normal routine but with a small change. When getting up in the morning, a pagan might look outside and see how nature is going and maybe even take a few minutes to just watch what’s happening.

When driving to work, or back from work, instead of listening to a radio show and cursing the other drivers, he or she might be more aware of what’s going behind the cars and the smoke and all the pollution included in traffic jams. And even at work he/she might notice those little things, little details, that shows us that something is changing. A co-worker that brought his scarf today because it was getting colder or a friend who dressed a t-shirt instead of a sweater because the temperature was rising.

These are the little details in our life that we usually don’t care. We just don’t notice that all of this is going around us and happening. We tend to ignore it because we are so consumed by this consumerist and materialistic society and way of life that we ignore the simplest things that show us the world and nature at its best.

Life has more to it than buying, selling, partying, studying, etc. It has an essence. And its essence has been getting lost for the past centuries. Mankind has been driving further away from Nature, using it only for its own selfish purpose and not to connect with it. Our Ancestors lived with Nature, felt Nature and saw Nature with different eyes. Why should we, a so-called modern society, forget that we are a part of Nature? That she can, and will, live without us but we can’t live without her? She is part of us and we are part of her.

So, I’m telling you: Be more careful with details. See those little things in your daily life that connect yourself with the Divine and with Nature.

Look at your friends. How are they dressed? What are they doing? Look at Nature. How are the trees? Are they big and filled with bright green leaves? Or are they naked and numb for the cold Winter? How is the weather? Hot? Cold? Rainy? The flowers, the animals, the smell in the air, the heat and love you feel from the solar rays bathing your skin in a warm summer afternoon or the delight of being at home drinking hot coffee while it’s raining outside.

Don’t just watch the World. We are no longer just watchers of the World and Nature; we are a Part of it. We need to live with it. Feel it.

Feel the hot Summer breeze, the cold Winter snow, and the fresh rain in the Autumn and Spring. Try to connect. Go out for a walk on the beach, feel the waves and listen to the seagulls and the splashing of the waves on the sand. Go to the countryside and see the animals, smell the fresh and clean air, feel the sun and the warm breeze…

Paganism, no matter what tradition or path, isn’t just a religion. It’s a way of life. Being a Pagan isn’t just going to be for 4 times a month (Lunar Celebrations) and 8 times a year (Wheel of the Year) or any other celebrations you might have. Being a Pagan is going to influence your entire life, entire way of watching, feeling and connecting to the World around you. No matter where you live, whether it is in the biggest city of the World or the farthest countryside.

So, my advice is just to be aware. Look beyond the obvious and into the core of Nature and its essence. Live the Mysteries that Nature has to offer. Nature is something beautiful and constantly changing. It’s a never-ending cycle. Live it. Feel it. Feel it in your life and all around you. How it influences you, the ones you love, everyone and everything.

Be with Nature. Don’t just watch it.

Blessings!

MissElphie

The Circle of the Witch

The Circle of the Witch

Within this sacred circle, two main activities occur: celebration, and the practice of magic. Celebration is most important at the major seasonal holy days,  the Sabbats. At these times, the myths of that particular holiday are enacted in ritual drama, and dancing, singing, feasting, and revelry are all part of  the festivities. On these occasions we celebrate our oneness with life on Earth, as well as assimilating on the deepest level myths and archetypes which map  and assist our own life-passages.

Magic is more often performed at smaller gatherings, called Esbats, which coincide with the phases of the moon. Types of magic  practiced include psychic healing sessions, the focus and direction of energy to achieve positive results, and work toward the individual spiritual  development of the coven members. Magic is an art which requires adherence to certain principles, and a conscious direction of will toward the desired end.  We believe it to be an attribute of magic that results toward which the will is directed return to the sender threefold. Therefore, Witches are very  conscientious in their use of magic.

When the celebration, teaching, or magical work is finished, the blessing of the Goddess (and God) is called into food and drink which  are shared by all. The circle is opened, and the space is no longer consecrated.

The Witch

The Witch

Women have strange powers men do not: the power to bear children and feed them from their own bodies, to bleed without being hurt or sick, and to provoke
erections in heterosexual men. Perhaps these strange beings have even more
remarkable powers.

Or perhaps when the image of a Goddess dwindles until all that remains is the
memory of Her uncanny powers, She becomes a Witch.

Witches have been credited with such magical feats as blasting crops, cursing
people to sickness, lameness or death and causing men to become impotent or
even stealing their penises.

The Renaissance Christian myth of the witch is complex and grotesque. Most
witches were women, the Malleus Maleficarum stated, because “All witchcraft
arises from lust, which in women is insatiable.” Their lust was supposedly for
the Devil, who initiated the witch at the Sabbat and copulated with her often,
according to the accounts of the churchmen.

These witches gathered at mass meetings called Sabbats, to which they flew via
brooms or animal companions. There, the Devil appeared, usually in the form of
a black goat. They kissed his buttocks in greeting. Then they informed him of
all the harmful spells they had done since the last Sabbat. Wild dancing and often sex with gathered demons followed, along with a feast often consisting of
the corpses of babies.

There is no evidence that a real conspiracy of witches who worshipped the Devil
ever existed. But many European clergymen devoutly believed in it during the
great Witch Hunt. Estimates as to how many people, mostly women, were burned or hanged for witchcraft range from a few thousand to nine million.

But the witches of pagan stories had no need for a male Devil. Long before the
great Witch-Hunt, European women were accused of believing that they travelled with the goddess Diana or Signa Oriente or Herodias at night, entering people’s homes and being given food. Roman witches were thought to worship Hecate.

Morgan Le Fay tormented King Arthur and his knights. Circe turned the men who invaded her island into pigs. The volva told Odin how the Aesir gods would
fall. The witches in The Golden Ass can command even the Greek gods with their
spells.

The myths have led to a real Witchcraft religion springing up — one that worships Goddesses, not the Christian’s Devil.

Many other cultures have known the fear of the witch, which may date back to
the Stone Age. Some Native American tribes feared witches, such as the Iroquois
and Navajo (Dina). Certain African tribes believe in female witches who ride
trained hyenas to meetings and cast evil spells.

The urban legends of child-molesting Satanist conspiracies that spring up even
today show how enduring the myth of the witch is. As in Renaissance times, most of the accused are women.

Above: “The Witches’ Sabbat”, by Francis Goya. Below: From a collage.

Further Reading

* Europe’s Inner Demons: The Making of the Great European Witch Hunt. Norman
Cohn.

* Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture. Arthur Evans. Fag Rag Press, 1971.

Another year til another Samhain…

Gothic Comments 

It is the time of burning leaves,
The crispness of the air has awakened
Memories both dark and hidden,

Memories of past feasts partaken.

I sit comfortly in this silent room
Computer keyboard beneath my fingers
Yet…my mind is never frozen here

In times past it wants to linger.

I ‘see’ a bonfire raging on a hilltop
With my people all gathered around
Our prayers to the Gods I shout,

Yet, in my dreams I hear not a sound.

The drums beat, the people dance

Wildness fills the autumn night.

The Other Side is so very close–

The Veil just beyond the fire light.

I reach, I feel, I almost touch…
Spirit fingers entwine with mortal
Then dawn’s first light appears

And seals again the fragile portal.

I turn away from the cold ashes

Let the wildness leave my aching soul.

Another year til another Samhain…

On that night again I’ll be whole.

  


(poem by: Elspeth Sapphire)