Thursday, June 28, 2018

Oath Stone

There are several types of stones that are important to Cunning Folk. With Tubal Cain being such a central figure within the lines of the Craft that have influenced this Tradition, however, it is no surprise that the Oath Stone upon which we take our vows and form our sacred blood bonds is his anvil.

I feel that it is most honest here to point out that this point of symbolism comes less from specific lore or myth as handed down from others, and more from mythopoesis -- that poetic sense of symbolic elements fitting together and clicking into place.

This is a piece of American Folkloric Witchcraft that came first from the Clan of the Laughing Dragon, the coven I (Laurelei) was trained in as a young Witch. There, the anvil wasn’t the Oath Stone. We had no such stone. Our oaths were taken upon a Sword (and all vows, including coven bonds, were still made in blood). But the anvil was used in every single ritual that we performed as a way to call upon Tubal Cain, the Forge Master. We struck the hammer to the anvil three times, each time pausing to call his name. It was powerful. It still gives me chills when I call to him this way.

When my son was about 5-years-old, I was away from home and the anvil was sitting at its place (when not in ritual use) at our family’s hearth. He picked up the hammer and started striking, which brought his father running from the other room. He stopped the boy and asked him what he thought he was doing, intending to scold him for disrespecting this sacred tool. My son, not missing a beat, looked his father in the eyes and said in a voice filled with reverence, “Daddy, this is how we talk to God.”

This IS how we talk to God. Through our blood. Through Tubal Cain’s blood. Through the heartbeat that is pounded out in the rhythm of the hammer strokes.

The symbolism of the forge is powerful, alchemical, mystical. The anvil is the foundation of Stone. The forge is the transformational Flame. The bellows are the Breath. The quench is the Sea (both womb and tomb).

Ours is a path of the Mysteries of Life and Death and all that lies Between. It is Creation and Destruction. Destroying in order to Create. Mixing Fire and Water to temper the steel and make it stronger. Knowing how and when to do that in the right proportion.

And the anvil is the rock, the hard place on which this great work happens. It is the altar on which we are pounded and shaped (at our own request!) into something useful, something beautiful, something dangerous.

The earliest anvil’s were actual stones, of course, and a great many cultures have had ceremonies involving oathing and coronation stones. The Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny) and Jacob’s Pillow are two well-known coronation stones upon which dynasties of monarchs took vows to serve God and country. Furthermore, the custom has long-existed in Celtic countries for couples to make their wedding vows upon an oathing stone.

Within this Tradition, the Anvil as the Oath Stone sits at the base of the Stang when the Compass is drawn, along with the Cauldron. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Making a Ritual Shield

The shield is the weapon of the Southern Gate -- of Earth and Goda. It is the weapon of ThisWorld. It is a defensive weapon, used to guard against and deflect the dangers and assaults of day-to-day reality. It also represents the ways in which the physical realm affords certain protections and defenses against the slings and attacks of the other magical realities.


A simple shield is very easy to make and really adds to the protective, defensive magic of your home and magical space. Once it is finished, place it in a prominent location to guard your home or altar. When laying the compass for ritual, the Shield would be placed in the South.

Building the Shield

Materials:

o    Wooden round (a pre-made table top works beautifully)
o    Heavy duty felt (available by the yard at fabric stores) – need enough to cover front of wooden piece
o    Leather – enough to cover the face of your shield plus have an extra two inches all around; buy it pre-dyed or dye it according to your tastes
o    Furniture tacks – to keep leather from slipping across the wood; also for creating a design; any style of furniture tacks works
o    Cabinet handle – one that you can screw/nail from the front side of the handle (counter-sinking a nail or screw from the back will be difficult before you buil the shield and impossible afterward)
o    Pencil
o    Scissors
o    Measuring tape or ruler
o    Hammer
o    Staple gun with staples

Steps:

1.    As with any magical crafting project, you should create the targe in sacred space. Wear your cords and call the Grove, complete with any Deities whose energy you would like to include in your shield.
2.    Place the leather face down on your worktable. Put the wooden round on top of the leather and trace the shape plus 2 inches all the way around. Cut the leather and set it aside.
3.    Do the same with the felt, except cut just shy of 2 inches. You’ll want the leather to cover the felt completely.
4.    Place the leather face down again on the worktable. Put the felt on top of it, followed by the wooden round.
5.    Fold the leather and felt over the wooden base at the top-most point of the circle. Staple it in place on the back of the shield. Do the same at the bottom, making sure that the fabric and leather are snug but not too tightly stretched.
6.    Repeat the folding and stapling at the two sides, and then work your way around the entire circle. Remember to staple one side and follow it up with its exact opposite. This will keep the leather and fabric even and smooth.
7.    You’ll end up with staples all around the backside of the shield, holding the leather in place.
8.    Next, use the furniture tacks to tack down the leather on the front of the shield. You can make a simple circle of tacks along the outer edge of the flat circle, or tacks the outer rim of the shield. Another option is to incorporate a personal design, using the tacks, on the face of the shield. Any of these options will serve the same primary function – keeping your leather snug and secure.
9.    Affix your handle onto the back of the shield in place that will be comfortable when you are holding it.
10.    Use a strap of leather (or fur, if you want) to create a strap for your forearm. This will help your shield wear comfortably when you have need to hold it.
11.    Finish by placing your sigil and/or bindrune on the back of the shield, if you have one.
12.    Dedicate it to magical use after the Shield is complete by cleansing and consecrating the shield using your preferred method. It would be wise to call on Goda, Horse, Swan, Apple Tree, and the Southern Gate to empower this weapon.



Incorporating a Design

It isn’t entirely necessary to fashion a design onto your shield, though it certainly adds to the personal connection between Witch and Weapon. You can draw the design in pencil onto the leather, or use a paper pattern that you nail onto the shield and then remove once the design is complete.

If you do put a design on the shield with tacks, do it at Step 8.

You may also paint a design onto the leather, but be sure to do two things in this case. First, be sure to use some tacks around the edges to secure the leather. And second, use a sealant to preserve the painted design. It will flake off of the leather, otherwise.



Airts -- The Southern Gate

The Southern Gate – Airt of Earth

Values: Growth, Experience, Authority, Money, Physicality, Security, Nourishment
Colors:Brown, russet, black, green
Symbols: Square, stone, cornucopia, scythe, salt, cart, plate, Gnomes
Tools: The casting bowl, patens/pentacles, horns
Weapons: Shield (Targe)
Totems: Swan, Horse & Apple Tree
Musical Instruments: Drums
Times: Lammas/Lughnasadh, Noon, Summer, Coming of Age
Places: Fields, mountains, valleys, canyons, deserts, forests, gardens
Zodiac: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Sense: Touch
Power: To Keep Silent
Process: Brushing Hair/Skin, Grounding, Eating, Burying, Binding



You can visualize the Gates (the portals to each of the four cardinal directions) in anyway you like; but I like visualizing a 2-legged dolmen or even the sort of wooden gate that is common on ranches. 

The Southern Gate is very much associated with the mortal realm, consciousness, and consensus reality. It is the gateway to the Greenworld, the magic of this plane that we inhabit. It is a noon-time, bright day, midst-of-summer's abundance place.

Because it is representative of consensus reality, some people might mistakenly assume that nothing is secret, hidden, or mysterious through the Southern Gate. This is an illusion, though, and one of the challenges in coming to truly know this place. For it is also the realm of the Good Neighbors -- the Little Folk, the Fey.

Goda is the Queen of Elphame, riding forth from her Barrow. She is the White Goddess upon her white Horse. She is the Lady of Sacrifice, linking her earthen power to the first Harvest -- the Red Day of Lammas. She is the Sovereignty Goddess with whom the King must conjoin in order to rule, and it is under Her auspices that the King's life is taken in order to feed the land and the people.

On our Year Wheel, the Southern Gate is open and most easily accessed at Lammas, and the three totems that sit here are all intimately linked with Sovereignty and Self-Mastery.

This is a time for reaping the first harvest, playing games, and settling into the work of approaching Autumn.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Meditation: Visiting the White Goddess at Lammas , Goda

Our tradition uses guided meditation to help impress certain symbols on our members' consciousness. Below is our Lammas meditation. It takes place at the Southern Gate of the compass, the place of earth and noontide .  It is the home of the White Goddess, whom we know as Goda. To use this meditation let yourself relax comfortably and picture yourself drifting downward and inward to the third realm, the lower realm. The third realm is a place of darkness and mystery.  Let yourself sink down into the third realm and rest there peacefully.

Meditation: Visiting the White Goddess, Goda


You open your eyes to see bright sun glinting through a leafy canopy above you. The sun is high in sky, and the day is hot and humid. You hear a buzzing of insects at the verge of the forest where the treeline gives way to the verdant farmland. Birds and small animals of all sorts fill the day with a hum of life that you can feel all the way to your bones.

You rise and look to the south, across the deep green corn field that stands just outside of the little woods. The corn is high, but you can see a hillock some distance away, and you know you want to go there. Gathering yourself together for the walk through the corn, you set your feet into the fertile soil. It is loamy and almost black in its richness.

The corn is taller than you, now that you are trying to find a path between the stalks. The smell of the soil and the chlorophyll fills your nostrils as the sun warms your scalp. You fill your lungs with the warm, earthy scent of life and lift your face to the sky. Two swans fly overhead, honking as they go.

You continue through the cornfield, following the straight tracks of the plentiful land until you hear a plodding clip-clop coming from your right. Curious, you adjust your course until you are walking in a small lane. An unbridled horse stops in the path and looks over its shoulder at you. You approach the horse, speaking in a low, soft voice. It allows you to pet its side and neck. Then, surprisingly, it bows low for you to mount it, which you easily do.

Seated upon the horse, you can see ahead on the path much more clearly than you had even from the forest’s edge. You certainly see much more than you did amidst the cornstalks. The path you were taking would lead through a grove of trees before climbing the hillock that you had set as your destination. A glimmer of sparkling water told you there was a stream or pond near the hill, as well.

Riding this horse will bring you to your destination faster, but it also gives you more opportunity to revel in your senses while you make the journey. You take some time to touch the horse’s short, bristled hair and feel its massive muscles moving under your legs. You smell its sweat mixed with the perfume of summer field and the approaching orchard. You see the vibrant and varied shades of green, laid with a foundation of deep brown and accented with colorful flowers and birds in the distance.

Soon, you are within the boundary of the Apple orchard. The trees are old, thick and twisted. The branches are full of both fragrant blossoms and ripe fruit. The horse bites an apple from one of the trees, and you pluck one, as well. You bite into it. The skin is firm and the flesh is juicy and sweet.

The land slopes upward and the path spirals around the hill. The horse bows again, and you dismount. You walk the path together. The orchard hugs the base of the hill on one side, but as you come around to the other side of the small Tor, you see that a stream caresses that edge. The two swans you saw in flight earlier are now gliding on the glittering ribbon of blue water.

When you have almost reached the top of the hill, you see a curious gate – two large rock pillars. You must pass through these twin standing stones in order to reach the zenith of the hill. You can’t see beyond this strange gate, because of the shape of the land. You cannot walk around this door.  You must either go through it or turn back.

The horse whinnies and stamps one hoof into the ground, urging you to choose. The stones are carved with strange markings and symbols. Some are unfamiliar to you, but others have deep meaning in your mind. (Pause.) You see a pentagram carved into one of the rocks along with the Apple tree rune, a horse, and a swan.

A woman is singing and laughing somewhere beyond the two stones, and you step up and through. Once you are over the hump of the hill, you clearly see the woman whose voice you heard. She is voluptuous and beautiful, her body curving and ripe and delicious. She dances naked in the sunshine, her hair loose around her shoulders. Round wooden platter filled with fruits and grains surround her – some set on the ground, others on large rocks. A few round wooden discs are sitting on their sides, with heraldic designs and family emblems painted on them in vibrant colors. You recognize some of these symbolic devices.

The woman stops singing and dancing, but laughter is in her voice and the air around her seems to shimmer as she greets you. “You’ve had a taste of Elphame. Would you stay for the sacrificial feast?” She holds a red-handled blade toward you.

“This place is Life Overflowing. Every living thing revels and quakes in the awesome rush that is this bounty. The beauty and love and life and joy that are here for all to claim with both hands are splendorous magics, and ones that are so easily overlooked and undervalued.” (Pause.) She holds one of the discs up as a shield. “Guard what is yours.” Taking another shield that is filled with food, she gestures for you to take what you want. “And be generous with the bounty of Love and Life and Beauty and Joy that are given to you.” She give you a round shield of your own, and a design appears on it. (Pause.)

“Life comes from Life. These bodies bring forth life while they live, and yet again when they perish and rot.” She smiles, lifting her arms. “There are deep Mysteries that lie hidden in their nakedness beneath the noon-time sun. Search them out.” She pulls you into an embrace and speaks a message just for you.  (Long pause.)

You thank her, and she releases you, turning back to her dance and song. Knowing that the time has come to leave, you turn and walk back to the stones.

You pass out of the standing stones and wind back down the Tor, led once more by the horse. You hear the swans leave their stream as you leave the orchard. You cross the cornfield and bid the horse farewell. Sitting down again in the warm forest floor, you close your eyes and breathe deeply, coming back to yourself.

Meditation: Visiting the Black Goddess at Imbolc



Our tradition uses guided meditation to help impress certain symbols on our members' consciousness. Below is our Imbolc meditation. It takes place at the Northern Gate of the compass, the place of air and midnight.  It is the home of the Black Goddess, whom we know as Kolyo. To use this meditation let yourself relax comfortably and picture yourself drifting downward and inward to the third realm, the lower realm. The third realm is a place of darkness and mystery.  Let yourself sink down into the third realm and rest there peacefully.

Meditation: Visiting the Black Goddess, Kolyo


You awaken in the darkness on a windy, snow-covered plain. The frozen ground crunches beneath your hands and feet as you rise and look to the North, trying to make out the shape of the gate you know must lie ahead in the darkness. A gust of icy wind greets you, making your eyes water.

The plain is nearly barren in all directions, with the exception of a naked Willow tree, its branches sparkling in the cold, clear starlight. You walk carefully through the frozen landscape, having made the tree your first goal.

When you arrive under the drooping branches, you find a staff leaning against the trunk. You examine the markings and decorations on the staff and then continue along your northward path, now utilizing the staff for greater stability on the sometimes treacherous and slippery earth.

A movement in the shadows catches your eye and you turn your head just as it reaches your side and brushes your leg. The cat stands for a moment, its back arched and looking up the path you are walking before lifting its face to look at you. It meows. You reach down to touch the friendly animal, but it bolts forward, just out of your reach. It meows again and takes a few steps forward. You follow, and the cat picks up the pace, jogging on its silent, padded paws.

A night bird swooshes very close to your head, startling you. You can see the faintest paleness of its wings, but you can hear no evidence of it, even as you watch it fly ahead. Far away, you think you hear the hoot of barred owl.

Looming ahead of you is a stony archway – two large rock pillars capped by a third massive stone. A dolman. Beyond this strange gate, you see nothing but more of the same night-covered and frozen plain. You could easily walk around this dolman door, but instead, you walk right up to it.  The cat rubs its side against one of the pillars, and you can see that the owl has perched on top. The dolman is covered with strange markings and symbols carved into the stones. Some are unfamiliar to you, but others have deep meaning in your mind. (Pause.) You see an owl with large eyes carved into one of the rocks along with the Willow tree rune and a cat.

Your ears perceive a whistled tune as you pass beyond the arch, and your eyes search the darkness for the one who is blowing the eerie music. You can see so little that you must trust to your hearing instead, and you follow the sound until you are aware of a small, darkly-cloaked figure standing just a few yards away. You are close enough now to hear her breathing.

The small figure holds up her hand in warning. “Come closer, Child. But be wary of your footing.” You walk forward more slowly, using your staff to judge the safety of each step. As you breech those last few yards between you and Her, you are aware of a wind that seems to come from the ground, and you realize that you are standing together at the edge of a steep and treacherous cliff. You brace yourself and know that you are secure, even at this height.

Turning your attention to Cloaked One, you can see very little of her face, as it is shrouded in both her hood and the darkness of the night. Her out-held hand is gloved. You cannot clearly see the color of her hair, although you can see an interplay of light and dark in the strands. She holds a staff, and sometimes it seems she leans upon it. At other times, it seems like a weapon she is holding at martial ease.

Her voice is clear and ageless.

She speaks to you. “This is a place of knowledge, of wisdom, and of strategy. It is a place of contemplation, a place of counsel. It can be bitterly cold here, and the Truth that you seek can be both illusory and fleeting.” (Pause.) She hangs a lantern from the end of your staff and lights the wick. “But knowledge and thought are not always cold comforts. They can be the light one needs on the darkest nights of the soul.”

She lashes a sharpened metal tip onto her staff, transforming it into a spear. She pulls a single arrow from the quiver at her side, removing the arrowhead and feathers. She holds the newly fashioned wand in one hand and holds up a single finger of the other. “Weapons are tools wielded for either attack or defense. But they are just tools. The most useful tools can be used in both peace and war.” She pokes you with her finger. “And the greatest tools are the ones that lie within.” She gives you the wand, grasping your hand for a moment and whispering a message only for you. (Long pause.)

You thank her, and after a moment more of looking at you, she turns back to look over the cliff. Knowing that the time has come to leave, you turn and walk back through the darkness.

You pass out of the dolman and cross the plain, led once more by the cat and owl. You pass under the Willow tree, returning the staff that you borrowed. Sitting down again in the frozen field, you close your eyes and breathe deeply, coming back to yourself.
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