Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Invocation of the Circle: Doreen Valiente

Doreen Valiente
By stang and cauldron, cup and knife,
By right of office that I hold,
Ye ancient powers of death and life,
Forgather to the circle's fold.

Kinship to kinship, blood to blood,
By wild night wind and starry sky,
By heathland brown and darkling wood,
To this our circle now draw nigh.

In likeness of a henge of stone,
Stand guard around this circle's rim,
While looming through the dark alone,
Stands in the east the Hele-stone dim.

I summon forth the fairy hounds,
Sharp-fanged, white-coated, red of ear,
To prowl beyond the circle's bounds,
And put intruders' hearts in fear.

Ancestral powers of this our blood,
We are your people, guard us well,
By earth and air, by fire and flood,
By magic mime and spoken spell.

Our craft's own Goddess I invoke,
And Ancient Ones of hill and mound.
With fire aflame and drifting smoke,
I dedicate this circle's bound.

By three times three,
Thus shall it be!

~Doreen Valiente, Witchcraft: a Tradition Renewed

This rhyme was specifically created for the Tradition of Craft that Evan John Jones outlines in his book Witchcraft: a Tradition Renewed.  Thus, it calls for officers of the quarters "By right of office that I hold" and calls forth a henge of stone to guard the boundaries of the circle.  Our tradition is similar in that we call forth the Sacred Grove of totemic trees of the Wheel of the Year when performing a full casting.

I personally love the verse about the Gabriel ratchets guarding the circle.  This is easily my favorite chant for setting wards.

EJ Jones had Doreen write a second Circle Invocation for his book (he knew a good thing when he had it!) beginning: "By magic staff and flame of fire-light; Eldest of Gods, we call on ye anew!"  Witchcraft: a Tradition Renewed is worth a read if you would like to see how the Craft of Cochrane continued to develop.  It has influenced modern practitioners of Cochranian Craft, and contains many gems of liturgy, including Doreen's poetry and Bill Gray's lovely and useful Sangreal Prayer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lunar Magic

As above, so below. Look into the sky and observe which phase the moon is in. Then you will know where you are in the growth cycle of each lunar month. To discover what phase the moon is in, hold your hands in front of you, cupping your thumb and forefinger into “C” shapes. If the moon’s curve fits into your right hand, the moon is waxing (growing from new to full).  If the curve fits into your left hand, it is waning (fading from full to new).

Where is the Moon?

Why is the moon sometimes visible during the day? And why does the moon sometimes rise very late at night? The answers lie in what phase the moon is in, which reflects the angle between the sun and moon as seen from earth. For each of the eight moon phases, the angle between the sun and moon progresses in 45 degree increments. Each phase lasts approximately 3-4 days of the moon's entire 29 1/2 day cycle.

The new moon (or dark moon) rises at sunrise and sets at sunset. Astrologically, the sun and the moon are in conjunction. Because the sun's light overpowers the nearby moon in the day, and the moon is on the other side of the earth with the sun at night, she is not visible in the sky at all.

The crescent moon (or waxing crescent moon) rises midmorning and sets after sunset. She is the first visible sliver of moon, seen in the western sky in the late afternoon and early evening.

The first quarter moon (or waxing half moon) rises around noon and sets around midnight. Astrologically, the moon is square to the sun. She is visible from afternoon, when she is high in the eastern sky, until she sets in the west.

The gibbous moon rises mid-afternoon and sets before dawn. She is the bulging moon getting ready to be full, visible soon after she rises until she sets.

The full moon rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. Astrologically, the sun and moon are in opposition (i.e., opposite each other in the sky and in opposite signs of the zodiac). She is visible all night long, from moonrise to moonset.

The disseminating moon is the waning full moon getting visibly smaller. She rises mid-evening and sets midmorning. She is visible from the time she rises almost until she sets.

The last quarter moon or waning half moon) rises around midnight and sets around noon. Astrologically, the moon is square to the sun. She is visible from the time she rises until midmorning, when she is high in the western sky.

The balsamic moon (or waning crescent moon) rises before dawn and sets mid-afternoon. She is the last sliver of moon, seen in the eastern sky in the very early morning and late dawn.

Moon Magic

The full moon has been associated with magic and witches for millennia.  The ancient Roman writer, Horace, made a reference to a witch drawing the moon down out of the sky.
Horace (Epode 17)---says the Witch Canidia "... must I, who can move waxen images and draw down the moon from the sky by my spells, who can raise the vaporous dead, and mix a draught of love lament the effect of my art, availing nothing upon you?"
Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, has a picture from a Greek vase, supposedly from the
Ancient lunar magic on vase.
second century BCE.  This depiction has some Greek lettering near both of the figures. The word on the left is translated as, "beautiful." The words on the right apparently translates as, "who [are] of the moon mistress."

Werewolves famously shape-shift during the full moon, and the cult of the werewolf has ties to the ancient witch-cult. Essentially, the full moon was a time to use the moon's power to enhance shamanic shape-shifting work.

In Aradia, The Gospel of the Witches Aradia, the holy daughter of Diana, left these instructions to her followers:
Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month when the Moon is full, then shall you come together at some deserted place, or where there are woods, and give worship to She who is Queen of all Witches. Come all together inside a circle, and secrets that are as yet unknown shall be revealed.
The traditional use of the phases of the moon for magic are as follows:
  • The new moon is the most auspicious time for banishing and neutralizing spells.
  • The days of and around the crescent moon are the most powerful time to work spells for growth and beginnings, which should manifest at the Full Moon.
  • The waxing moon is the best time to do a spell for growth, beginning new projects, initiation and enhancement.
  • The days of and around the gibbous moon are the most powerful time for spells of fruition and completion
  • The Moon looks full in the sky for two or three nights, and each of them are excellent for magic that depends on power flowing at its peak.
  • During the waning Moon, do spells to banish evil influences, lessen or remove obstacles and illness, neutralize enemies, scry, divine, and to remove harm.  These influences become stronger as the moon darkens.
13 Moons of the Year

The 13th Moon, or "Blue" Moon can occur at any time during the year. A Moon is called Blue only when it is the second full Moon to take place that month (moon-th). The second New Moon in a month is known as a Black Moon. Blue Moons are considered to be stronger than regular Full Moons, and Black Moons are considered to be stronger than regular New Moons.

Below is a chart detailing the names associated with each of the moon cycles of the year.  The "Witch" moon names are from The Witches Almanac.  The "Calendar" names are from Llewellyn's Witches' Calendar.  "Almanac" names are from the Old Farmer's Almanac, who claims that the names come from east coast Native American names.  The "Celtic Tree" names are associated with the attributions from Robert Graves' The White Goddess.

The Moon names of our tradition are based on each of the sources listed above, along with a comparison to the totems and energies we honor at each month.  Our lunar names are as follows:

January -- Wolf Moon
February -- Storm Moon
March -- Hare Moon
April -- Seed Moon
May -- Merry Moon
June -- Mead Moon
July -- Wort Moon
August -- Corn Moon
September -- Harvest Moon
October -- Blood Moon
November -- Frost Moon
December -- Cold Moon
13th Moon -- Blue Moon

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stang and Distaff

Stangs from Cornish Witchcraft website

Evan John Jones claimed that Robert Cochrane informed him that there were three branches of witchcraft. These were said to be memorialized on a megalith detailed in Justine Glass's much-maligned book Witchcraft: The Sixth Sense for which Cochrane was a source of information.  Though he intentionally provided Ms. Glass with misinformation throughout the book, he claimed until his death that the analysis he provided regarding the menhir and the Mysteries of Witchcraft were true. The meat of his analysis, available in full in Justine Glass's the book, is repeated as Craft teaching in Evan John Jones's work The Roebuck in the Thicket.

Traditional Mysteries

The first branch of mysteries is the masculine mysteries, centering on the legends of the Horn Child and the Sacrificial King (the Oak & Holly King stories).  The second branch is the feminine mysteries, centering on the mysteries outlined in Robert Graves' The White Goddess and the weaving of Fate.  The third branch, which Cochrane claimed was lost to time, were the Necromantic mysteries.  These have been reconstructed somewhat by modern practitioners like ourselves in rituals such as ancestral worship and the Tapping of the Bone.

The stang, revealed by PIE etymology to be a "stick" or "pole," is perhaps the most complex tool of Traditional Craft.  In it are contained each of the three paths of Craft.

The Stang and Male Mysteries

The most common interpretation of the stang concerns the masculine mysteries.  The stang is often thought of as a simple representation of the Horned Lord or Witchfather, with its forked tines standing in for the horns of the God.  Sometimes the skull of a horned animal is bound to the stang to reinforce this idea.  This practice may have old ties to the use of horned animals as a substitute sacrifice for the King.

Many, if not most, versions of Cochranite Craft use the same elemental quarter associations that we have described here before. Furthermore, EJ Jones actually writes about a very similar deity association, as taught to him by Cochrane, to what we use here at AFW.

East = Fire, the birth of the sun, the seat of the Horned Child
West = Water, the place of the dead, the seat of the Master of the Wild Hunt, the Sacrificial King
North = Air, winter, the Dark Goddess
South = Earth, summer, the Light Goddess

In both the East and West, though not always specifically identified with the name Tubal Qayin, we can recognize him in his guises as the light-bringer and the lord of the dead.

East and West, Fire and Water, are opposed in the Traditional Witch's compass, as are North/Air and South/Earth. Elemental opposites are called into the center along roads of power. We very literally have a crossroads at the center of the compass. What's more, we have a Devil who stands there. He is the Witchfather, the Horned One. The stang, with its horns, is symbolic of Qayin himself and of all the masculine mysteries.

The stang is often dressed by hanging two arrows (sometimes with points up, sometimes with them down) on the shaft. These arrows are symbolic of the male msysteries, as well.

The Stang and Necromancy

The stang is also the world-tree upon which we travel through the three realms.  It allows us to move from this realm to the land of the dead, among other places.  It is a gandreigh that we use to ride to the Sabbat, to cast the caim, and to center the compass.  These attributes make it a prime tool of magic, and one without which we would struggle to contact the dead. An animal skull upon the stang speaks of the masculine mysteries, but it also speaks of the Mighty Dead.

Often, a stang is outfitted so that it can hold a candle between its horns. The flame is said to be the Cunning Fire, the light shared by all Witches. When there is no candle, there is often a middle tine. This middle path, neither masculine nor feminine, is attributed to the Dead.

Our coven places skulls and bones (either crossed or uncrossed, depending on whether we intend to access the Dead or not) near the base of the stang, as well.

The Stang and Feminine Mysteries

The third branch of witchcraft, and the third use of the stang, is as a traditional woman's tool -- that of the distaff. The older versions of a spinner's distaff was either a two or three pronged "stang" ("stick"). The distaff and spindle were once the main daily working tools of all women, and Cochrane is very specific in his writings about the distaff being the main working tool of women of the Craft.  The distaff is a traditional handspinner's tool used for holding raw fibers as they are spun into thread on a spindle.  Robert Cochrane in his writing "On Cords" states:

    “The so-called ‘sacred object’ held in such reverence by some witches was in fact a weaver’s distaff–and could easily be mistaken for a phallic symbol. The weaver’s distaff, bound with reeds or straw, appears frequently in rural carvings and elsewhere. It again has reference to the Craft and supreme Deity. It would appear that the witches were not in the least influenced by Freudian concepts.”

Sarah Lawless, in her excellent post about magical sticks, suggests from her studies that the distaff/stang wrapped in flax for spinning was mistaken for a broom in folklore and art. Quite possibly. The stang is certainly a tool for travel.

Laurelei's first coven/Trad, which was also Cochranite in origin, didn't always hang two arrows on the stang. Often, it was a single arrow, with a linen shirt hung from it. The shirt was either white or black, depending on the ritual or time of year. We cannot deny that the stang is the hayfork that represents the Horned God, but it is also the spinner's distaff (a symbol, then, of the Black and White Goddesses).The linen shirt on a single arrow is an allusion to the flax wrapped around the distaff.

When we  view the stang as a feminine tool in the center of the magical space, the compass can be viewed as the spinning wheel of the Fates, our own Black and White Goddesses.

More Stang Lore to Come

Stay tuned for upcoming posts regarding "Magic and the Stang" and "How to Construct and Dress a Stang."
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