Sunday, November 20, 2016

Destiny and Doom in the Craeft

One of our earliest articles, Witch Marks, Witch Blood, and the Kuthune, has been a perennial
favorite of blog visitors since Glaux first wrote it in 2011. In it, she talks about the history and folklore of the magical inheritance or birthright -- the idea that some Witches are descended from other Witches and will pass aspects of their power onto their descendants, much as they received power from their ancestors.

There are two really salient points that I think are often overlooked in Glaux's article, judging from some of the comments and questions we receive. Both points are stated very clearly, though, and I think they bear repeating.

"Witch Marks" by Gemma Gary
1. The concept that Witches inherit their power through bloodlines and have a physical birthmark of  this lineage is a folkloric concept that does not bear out in every case. You can absolutely be a witch without having any known witches in your family tree. You can also be a red-head with three nipples and a goat-hoof birthmark on your inner thigh and not be a Witch at all.

2. Witches today most often form a blood bond and take a mark at their initiations. We take blood oaths to our covens and to the Witchfather himself. We tattoo ourselves so that the bond is visible to those who know its meaning.

Witchcraft is a CRAFT. Says so right on the label. It is a work, an action. Whatever may be in your blood is meaningless if you allow it to lie dormant. Yes, you may be a direct descendant of Isobel Gowdy or Alice Kyteler or Sarah Goode. You may even be able to prove it through birth, death, and marriage certificates. (Not likely, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.) You could also be a direct descendant of Charlemagne, but that does not make you Emperor.

If you are descended from Witches, be proud ... and do something worthy of them. Do not wait for witchy things to happen to you. Find your power and learn to use it. I promise that it will not come exploding out of you the way it does for young witches and wizards on television or in the movies -- when you reach a certain birthday or when a particular family member dies and "inherit their power." Your power is yours alone, as are your action. They can be influenced by family and friends, but it is you who must walk the Crooked Path if you ever want to know what secrets lie at the heart of the forest (or upon the empty fields at night).

If you have no idea if you carry the Blood of Qayin, don't fret, my love. He will give it to you himself.  And he will mark you in a way that makes sense to both you and him. This, after all, is what those medieval witch-hunters had assumed anyway. The lore in those trial records claims that the mark isn't a "birth" mark per se, but a mark placed upon the body of the Witch after she made a compact with the Devil -- usually by drinking a concoction made of blood, wine, and herbs.

Along these lines, I had someone recently write to me with questions about their possible "great destiny within Witchcraft." I am not trying to embarrass this person, but I want to use (part of) this correspondence as an instructive moment for others, if possible. I see so many people hoping that there is something inherently magical and special within them that marks them for greatness. To them, I say, "There may be some gift inside you. But YOU will have to do the hard work of digging it out, clearing away the dirt, polishing that gem, and finding a way to share it with the world."

This particular person wrote with the following inquiry:

Some people think I have a huge Wicca destiny due to my birthday, and while you don’t follow Wicca, a folklore insight would be helpful. I do not practice but am researching whether my birthday is a big deal, and if yes probably will. Do you find anything noteworthy of my Samhain birthday 1969?

I replied with the following:



Traditionally (historically), there was no set “date” for Samhain. There have been three different ways for figuring up the date, to my knowledge. Samhain is the final harvest, and it happened before the cold weather claimed the crops that had been left in the field too long. Many rural Pagans simply used weather signs or local signs as their markers for Samhain. The Druids (who were the priestly class of the Celts), marked Samhain astrologically – when the sun reaches 15* Scorpio (which usually puts Samhain between Nov 4 and 7) – as this would have been the midway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. And now, contemporarily, we use a set date based on the Julian calendar (which was the calendar of the Church).

Given that Samhain has many more years of history as a floating holiday, it’s hard to see a birthday of 10-31-69 as particularly indicative of being marked for destiny within the Craft. It’s like being born on Easter (a floating holiday in the Christian tradition.) It’s cool, and it can have a lot of personal meaning to someone whose faith and spiritual experience are rooted in the folklore of that religion.

As for your birthday being a “big deal” – it truly isn’t within the Craft, other than as a cool curiosity. However, your birthday is absolutely a big deal in the astrological influences in your life. As is your birth time and place. If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend checking out a free birth chart generator like the one at www.alabde.com/freechart. Every member of my coven is expected to be familiar with their stars. We ALL have a destiny, and we all have energetic patterns. Astrology is a great way to unlock some of the secrets of your life.

Truthfully, nobody is marked for greatness within any branch of the Craft unless they choose to walk this path. Wicca, Stregha, Rootwork, or Traditional. This can be a grueling, ordeal-based path. On a mundane level, we can (and do sometimes) lose our jobs because we are Witches, lose our children because we are Witches, lose our families because we are Witches. Glaux and I both lost jobs (good jobs) in the name of the Craft. I have friends who have fought court battles over the right to parent their children within this religion. One won that battle. Another is still fighting with tooth and claw just to have basic rights to SEE her kids on a reasonable basis.

This isn’t a path where you can go shopping to see which one has the highest potential for bringing you power and glory. If those are what you crave, you will likely not find either here within the Craft – in any branch of it. The Power comes from within. Glory isn’t something worth seeking. Not for Witches. Not as a Witch. It’s bad for our health. (There are plenty of famous Witches these days, but most of them are famous in their Trade – not their Craft.)

Pardon Our Dust ... A Blog Re-Newed

On May 30, 2011 (three or so years into our practice of this path), Glaux posted this blog's first post
-- "Everything Old is New Again." We published hot and heavy in the first 12 months of the blog's existence, striving to share what we had come to experience of the American Folkloric Witchcraft tradition in a way that coincided with the Wheel of the Year. We both maintained long to-do lists of articles to write and topics to explore, and we talked almost daily about witchcraft and this path. Glaux posted a lot of articles on my behalf -- things I had written as part of the foundational materials to our work, blog articles for my other blogs that were applicable to this work. It was messy, but it didn't matter. We loved each other, and it didn't matter who posted what.

We wrote almost all of the articles in the first 18 months of the blogs existence, and then we turned our attention inward. We had more work to do -- with our coven, with the festival grounds (Camp Midian) of which we were/are founders and part owners, and with our relationship. Glaux and I got married on June 25, 2014 -- the day same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana.

It's not my intention to share too much about our relationship. We've both been open online about the love we have always had for each other, and we've also both been upfront about our struggles (together and independently) with mood disorders. Within a year of our wedding, Glaux and I were separated, mainly in an effort to find healthier ways of managing these disorders. We divorced shortly thereafter, and Glaux returned to exploring some other paths of magick and occultism (that we both share in common) while I continued to focus my efforts on American Folkloric Witchcraft with the help of the coven we founded -- Coven Caer Sidhe.

Very recently (Samhain of 2016, in fact), Glaux and I sat down and discussed the current state of the AFW trad (as we know it, through those we have personally initiated), and we are committed to maintaining a working partnership, moving forward in parallel (or at least complementary) ways within the Trad, and sharing more of our collective insight through this blog.

In an effort to sort through the blog and properly assign authorship to the pieces that are here, I'll be deleting some posts and re-posting them in my name. Glaux's original work will remain in her name. And new material is going to be added, as the covens (yes, we have at least three working covens now) continue to explore American folk magick. We're also inviting some of our well-studied members to post as authors to this blog.

It may get a little messy around here for the next couple of months while the dust settles, and you may see some posts that you've seen before, if you're an avid follower of the blog. We trust that you'll get what you need, and we encourage comments, questions, and feedback all along the way.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

September Totems: Chicken

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. September's totems are Pig, Vine, and Chicken.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Swine (Torc/Muc) – hunt, search, nourishment, putting up a fight
Vine (Muin) – prophesy, prediction, rebirth, and omens
Chicken (Cearc) - fertility, battle, sexuality, watchfulness

September is a month of sacrifice, blood, and feasting. All of the totemic beings for this month are associated with food (vine = wine), and they have an underlying association with death and rebirth.  Their blood is the "sea of blood" that surrounds the Castle Perilous, and theirs is the blood/wine of the Holy Grail that is the treasure of this Castle.

Chicken 


Fowl have been domesticated for over 8000 years and have a long history with man as a provider of both meat and eggs. They originated in Thailand and Vietnam and were descended from a wild bird species called the red jungle fowl.

Chickens are diurnal creatures, and while the crowing of a rooster is synonymous with daybreak, any farmer will be happy to tell you that his roosters crow all day long.

Chickens are very social and have complex hierarchies within their groups. Pair bonding is unheard of,. Yet despite this abundant promiscuity, there is tremendous territoriality and rivalry between two roosters as to who gets to mate with whom. The same applies for the hens. Both hens and roosters will get quite aggressive in defending their exclusive right to mate with whomever they deem "best." These aggressive qualities can be violent in the extreme, and farmers have to take precautions to keep adult roosters away from each other, least one kill the other.

This aggression has been exploited by the sport known as "cock-fighting." Indeed, etymologically, the use of the terms "cock" and "cocky" to describe an arrogant and aggressive male -- or his penis -- is due to the proud strutting and arching confidence of the rooster.

It is no wonder that the rooster has been seen as a mythical symbol of courage throughout many civilizations in the world. The Romans associated chickens with Mars, the god of war, owing to this aggressive and territorial behavior.In Greek myth, Ares (Mars) took advantage of the rooster's watchfulness and aggression by setting him as a guard to watch over Aphrodite while she slept, that none might disturb her.

The "mother hen" is a different sort of archetype associated with this fowl. Brooding and clucking over her young, the female chicken is a significantly maternal animal, particularly associated with the fecundity of spring -- although, in fairness, hens lay eggs all year round. She is the quintessential "nesting mother," though even she has a dark and cold side. Chickens, like pigs, are known to eat practically any organic thing that is put before them. It is common practice to feed baked and ground eggshells back to the chickens who produced them. Sometimes, though, the hens start eating their own eggs (often due to accidentally puncturing one, mistakenly eating it, and then developing a habit).

Cerridwen, who is the Silver Queen of the Castle Perilous, transformed into a hen to devour Gwion Bach when he became a grain of corn to escape her.  Cerridwen later gave birth to the bard Taliesin, who was Gwion reborn.  Because Cerridwen is both the great sow and the devouring hen, these two animals are sacred to her and the month that she reigns over in our tradition.

The Red Meal: The Housle

It is a common part of many religious traditions to partake in a small, sacrificial meal at the end of the rite or ceremony. We, too, participate in a Eucharistic tradition of imbibing en-spirited wine and consuming en-spirited grain as representations of sacrifice needed for the magic we have performed.

In many witchcraft traditions, this meal is called "Cakes and Ale" or "Cakes and Wine." We call it the Housle, or Red Meal, and base it in part on a ritual created by fellow walker of the crooked path, Robin Artisson.

Here follows our own rite of the Housle.

Preparation

When the compass is first laid, place the following items in the Castle Perilous (southwest corner): Dark bread in a bowl (or lipped dish) and Red Wine in Silver Quaich or Chalice.  In the Spiral Castle (center, near the stang) will be placed the Red Knife.

Ritual

1. The sacrificial meal is brought from Castle Perilous to the Spiral Castle by the Witch.
2. Tread the Mill widdershins three times while singing the Housle Song. (see below)
3. Say, “For our Ancestors, our Gods, and Ourselves, we do this.”
4. Bless the bread by saying: “Here is bread, flesh of the Earth, blessed to give us life and strength. I consecrate it in the name of the Old Ones.”
5. Kill the bread by saying: “I take its life and give it to Them.” Cut it with the red knife.
6. Bless the wine by saying: “Here is wine, blood of the Earth, blessed to give us joy and abundance. I consecrate it in the name of the Old Ones.”
7. Kill the wine by saying: “I take its life and give it to Them.” Slide the knife over the top of the quaich/chalice to cut its throat.
8. Each person eats and drinks of the Meal, making whatever personal offerings they like into the bowl.
9. The remainder of the wine is poured into the bread bowl, and each person dips their finger in and anoints themselves. This can also be used for blessing tools, etc.
10. The Meal is either given to the ground now (if outside) or later (if inside) with the following Declaration:
“As some is taken, so is this given
By the sons and daughters of the family of the Old Faith.
I give it to the Ground.
I give it to the Old Ones
That above and below will become one.
For what is taken is truly given,
And what is given is truly taken.
The day and night are wed
As the living and the dead.
Here is shown a Mystery.”


The Housle Song
To the tune of Greensleeves

To Housle now we walk the wheel
We kill tonight the blood red meal
A leftward tread of magic's mill
To feed the Gods and work our Will.

Red! Red is the wine we drink!
Red! Red are the cords we wear!
Red! Red is the blood of God!
And red is the shade of the Housle.

In October of 2013, three of us recorded ourselves singing the chant and posted it to YouTube.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The LBRP for AFW Witches

In the late winter and early spring of  2013, Glaux and I began adapting the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram for use within the American Folkloric Witchcraft model. With the help of our coven sister, the Pythia, we wrote the ritual below and published it on this site on 3/25/2013.

Our variation of the LBRP is influenced by Aleister Crowley's Star Ruby ritual (itself an adaptation of the LBRP).  It uses forms of the Red God (the Witchfather) and the Black and White Goddess (the Witchmother) in place of the traditional Hebrew names of God.  It also replaces the Archangel guardians with the four Watchtowers or Arthurian Castles that are incorporated into this Tradition.

The purpose of the LBRP is to banish all undesired or unwanted forces from oneself and the local area and to create Sacred Space. Many magicians practice the LBRP as a daily magical exercise to discipline the mind and create internal and external peace.

We offered this variation three and a half years ago (as of the time of this update). I have to admit that while we really enjoyed creating this ritual as an intellectual exercise, and we got good results when using it before ritual to banish negative energies, neither of us made it a daily practice (at least not for long).

Have any of our readers used this ritual consistently? What have your results been? Share your experiences in the comments below. If anyone wants to join me for some magical experiments related to this ritual, share a comment or write to me at laurelei@asteriabooks.com. I'm going to make the AFW-LBRP part of my morning routine before I go to work this autumn and winter to see what sort of results I get. I'll post an update in the late winter or early spring about my results. It is also my hope to film a video of me or one of the members of Coven Caer Sidhe performing this ritual.

Also, as a note for readers who have followed the blog and are familiar with this ritual already, I have corrected some of the Latin in the text below. My apologies for the errors in the earlier version.

The Qabbalistic Cross


Imagine a ball of light above your head. Reach up with your right hand and grab the light. When you touch yourself with that hand, part of the light will go into you.
Touch your forehead as you say “Corona" (Crown). Let it fill with the light.
Touch your pelvis at the pubic bone and say “Serpens" (Serpent). Let it fill with light.
Touch your right shoulder and say “Clementia" (Mercy). Let it fill with light.
Touch your left shoulder and say “Severitas" (Severity). Let it fill with light.
Hold your hands in prayer over your heart and say “Benedictiones" (Blessings). Let it fill with light.
Feel your whole body fill with the cross of light.

The Pentagrams


Face East. Before you in the air, draw a giant pentagram using your right index finger (or if you prefer use the whole hand) in the direction shown in the illustration. Imagine that pentagram shining in front of you. Take a step forward with your left foot. Just the left. Leave your right one where it is. The size of the step will be determined by your space. At the same time that you step forward, thrust your open hands, side by side, palms  downwards, into the pentagram, as if you are diving in. This is called the "Sign of the Enterer." As you enter the pentagram you will say one of the names of the Witch God or Goddess.

Here, at the first pentagram you will shout Lucifer."  Lucifer is the Light-Bringer, the Lord of Illumination of the World and the Mind.  He is called in the East as the bright aspect of Tubal Cain, and the lord of elemental Fire.  Lucifer is called with a jubilant shout to celebrate the rising of the sun in the East.

Step back with your left foot so it is once again beside your right foot. Touch your right index finger to your lips like you are making the “Shhh, no talking" gesture. Point your right index finger to the center of the pentagram and make a quarter turn to your right. As you do so, draw an imaginary arc of white light around to the next direction.

Draw a pentagram in South. Enter the pentagram while singing Goda." Goda is the White Goddess, the Queen of the Seelie Court and Lady of Death-in-Life.  She rules the Southern quadrant, the place of elemental Earth.  Her name is sung for she is the Lady who shall "have music wherever She goes."

Make the “shhh" gesture and turn to the right, drawing an arc.

Draw a pentagram in West. Enter the pentagram intoning Azazel" in a low voice. Azazel is the Lord of the West, the place of elemental Water.  He is Tubal Cain in his aspect as the Lord of the Dead, and is both the angel who taught magic to the daughters of man and the angel who collects our souls for their great rest.  The West is the place where the sun goes to die, and it is to the West that we all must travel upon death.  Azazel's name is intoned in a low voice of mourning and respect.

Make the “shhh" gesture and turn to the right, drawing an arc.

Draw a pentagram in North. Enter the pentagram whispering Kolyo".  Kolyo is the Black Goddess, the Weaver of Fate and the Lady of Life-in-Death.  She rules the North, which is the home of elemental Air.  Her name is whispered for she is an ancient mystery.

Make the “shhh" gesture and turn to the right, drawing an arc. This final arc connects all four pentagrams into a single circle.

The Watchtowers


You are now standing in the center of a circle of white light. At each quarter there is a giant, glowing pentagram. Now we post a watchtower between each pentagram. Face the southeast and open up your arms. Stretch out like you are a cross: feet together, arms out at shoulder height. Call the watchtowers to their posts. Stand in the cross position and say:

Before me stands the Castle of Stone. Behind me stands the Castle of Glass. On my right stands the Castle Perilous. On my left stands the Castle of Revelry."

These are four of the great castles of myth and legend.  The Castle of Stone is Caer Bannog, the Castle of Glass is Glastonbury, the Castle Perilous is the silvery Grail Castle, and the Castle of Revelry is the Golden Castle of the Beacon of Awen.

Spread your feet and lift your arms to stand in pentagram-position and say: “Around me flame the pentagrams. Above me shines a six-rayed star, and below me spins a three-armed triskle.  I stand within the Spiral Castle.  I am the World Tree." This declaration places you in all three realms, and allows you to traverse shamanic space.  It states that you are the World Tree, and that you ride the stang to other realms.

The Qabbalistic Cross  (Closing)


Now repeat the Qabbalistic Cross as you began.
Imagine a ball of light above your head. Reach up with your right hand and grab the light. When you touch yourself with that hand, part of the light will go into you.
Touch your forehead as you say “Corona" (Crown). Let it fill with the light.
Touch your pelvis at the pubic bone and say “Serpens" (Serpent). Let it fill with light.
Touch your right shoulder and say “Clementia" (Mercy). Let it fill with light.
Touch your left shoulder and say “Severitas" (Severity). Let it fill with light.
Hold your hands in prayer over your heart and say “Benedictiones" (Blessings). Let it fill with light.
Feel your whole body fill with the cross of light.
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