Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Widdershins, Sunwise, and Calling the Circle

Because we have set out to make this a family tradition, sometimes our daughter comes to us with questions that we have taken for granted.  Earlier this week she asked us about what widdershins means and what it is used for.
Widdershins (sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite the apparent motion of the sun, to go anticlockwise or lefthandwise, or to circle an object by always keeping it on the left.[1] The Oxford English Dictionary's entry cites the earliest uses of the word from 1513, where it was found in the phrase "widdersyns start my hair", i.e. my hair stood on end.

The use of the word also means "in a direction opposite to the usual", and in a direction contrary to the apparent course of the sun. It is cognate with the German language widersinnig, i.e., "against" + "sense". The term "widdershins" was especially common in Lowland Scots.

There are many groups that choose to work either exclusively widdershins -- especially those that tread the mill -- or its opposite, sunwise (also known as deosil).  
 In Scottish folklore, Sunwise or Sunward was considered the “prosperous course”, turning from east to west in the direction of the sun. The opposite course was known in Scotland as widdershins (Lowland Scots), or tuathal (Scottish Gaelic, lit. northerly), and would have been counterclockwise. It is perhaps no coincidence that, in the Northern Hemisphere, "sunwise" and "clockwise" run in the same direction. This is probably because of the use of the sun as a timekeeper on sundials etc., whose features were in turn transferred to clock faces themselves. Another influence may also have been the right-handed bias in many human cultures.

This is descriptive of the ceremony observed by the druids, of walking round their temples by the south, in the course of their directions, always keeping their temples on their right. This course (deiseal) was deemed propitious, the contrary course, tuathal, fatal, or at least, unpropitious. From this ancient superstition are derived several Gaelic customs which were still observed around the turn of the twentieth century, such as drinking over the left thumb, as Toland expresses it, or according to the course of the sun. Wicca uses the idiosyncratic spelling deosil - however, this is not used in any of the three Gaelic languages.

 We choose to tread the mill in both directions, depending on the nature of the rite.  We use the mill to lead us either up and out or down and within.  When treading sunwise, the energy rises upward spiraling us into the first realm, Ceugent. Treading widdershins brings the energy down into the land where we can access the third realm, Abred.  Neither of these movements is more desirable than the other, they are both as necessary and as benign as the positive and negative poles of a magnet.  

So, when casting the caim by calling in the gates and castles of the circle which way direction do we choose?  Many traditions call sunwise and dismiss widdershins, but we work the circle in a completely different pattern.

When casting the caim we call inward towards the Spiral Castle.  We call the gates and castles two-by-two to create the old straight track that joins each gate to the center like the spokes of a wheel. 

The circle is thrice cast, as of old, but by the power of the gates and guardians, not by the power of ourselves as casters.  The circle is cast not to hold energy out or even in, but to sain the space.

First we call to the realms, Ceugent above, Gwyned between, and Abred below.  This is the first circle. 

Next we call by honoring the station that the Spiral Castle is turned to in the year wheel.  Therefore, since it is now March as I write this, and the Spiral Castle is open to face the Spring Equinox, we would begin by calling the Castle of Revelry, acknowledging its treasure, the Golden Lantern, and its sovereign, the Golden Queen.  We would then call along the Path of the Queens across to the Castle Perilous, home of the Silver Queen and the Holy Grail.  We continue by calling along the Path of the Kings to the Stone Castle and the Glass Castle.  Each of these paths meet in the center at the stang, or Spiral Castle.  This is the second circle.

The third circle is that of the gates, or Airts, where we call to the four elemental quarters and the Great Gods of our Tradition.  We call to the White Goddess and the Black Goddess through the South and North gates, homes of Earth and Air.  This is the Path of the Rose-Painted Wagon, which is a mystery.

We then call along the Path of the Sun, East to West, dawn to twilight, the road of Tubal Cain.  In the East shines Lucifer/Malek Taus/Azazel, light-bringer, lord of creation and inspiration.  Tubal Cain stokes the forge and the sun rises, the cunning fire rises, the light of reason rises.  Fire blazes forth from the Eastern gate, filling us with warmth and force of Will. 

We echo that calling to Tubal Cain in the West, Lord of the quench tank.  Here Tubal Cain is the Dark Lord of Death and Magic, who peacefully shepherds those beyond the veil, and raucously leads out the Wild Hunt.  He comes from the Western gate, place of Water, land of the setting sun, place of the Blessed Isle of Avalon.  Here lies the weapon of the helm, the mask, the Helkapp by which Death comes silent and invisible.

Thus is the third circle cast. 

Together the three circles, sending out rays in all directions: above and below, north and south, east and west, and all places between, build the Spiral Castle, the stang which we use as a gandreigh to travel out to each of the realms, and all of the places between.

By treading the mill sunwise or widdershins we can travel out or send forth energy to wherever and whenever we choose, guarded by our Gods, and the Watchtowers of legend.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Faces of the Golden Queen

Hulda, Holda, Holle, Huldra, Perchta, Berchta, Bertha, Percht, Bircha, Behrta, Huldra, Huld, Hludana, Frau Faste (the lady of the Ember days), Mother Goose, La Reine Pedauque, St. Lucia, Pehta, Kvaternica, Posterli, Quatemberca, Fronfastenweiber; Her name means "the bright one" (Old High German beraht, bereht, from a Common Germanic *berhto-, ultimately root-cognate to Latin flagrare "blaze", flamma "flame")

Station of the Wheel
North-East, Spring Equinox, March, Castle of Revelry, Hare Moon

Hare, Birch, Goose

Broom, Lamp

Frau Holle is an ancient figure. The name Hludana is found in five Latin inscriptions: three from the lower Rhine, one from Münstereifel and one from Beetgum, Frisia all dating from 197 AD- 235 AD. Many attempts have been made to interpret this name. The most steadfast connections are with Frau Holle and Hulda on one hand, and the Old Norse Hloðyn, a byname for the Earth, Thor’s mother, on the other. She is also frequently equated with Nerthus, who also rides in a wagon, and Odin's wife, Frigg, from her alternate names Frau Guaden [Wodan], Frau Goden, and Frau Frekke as well as her position as mistress of the Wild Hunt. The similarity of meaning and etymology between German "Holl(d)a" and Old English "Hella," as well as both being described as leading the dead, could point to a link between them.

Frau Holda is matron of all of women's domestic chores, but none so much as spinning, an activity with strong magical connotations and links to the other world. Spinning traditionally was a woman's task, and one of the few from which they could earn money. Holda first taught the craft of making linen from flax. She governs the cultivation as well as the spinning of flax, and in many respects is similar to the Norse goddess Frigg who governed the spinning of wool and was also close to women.

Holda seems to personify the weather that transforms the land, for when it snows, it is said that Holda is shaking out her feather pillows; fog is smoke from her fire, and thunder is heard when she reels her flax. Holda traditionally appears in either of two forms: that of a snaggle-toothed, crooked-nosed old woman, or a shining youthful maiden clothed in white. As the maiden in white, her garments resemble the gleaming white of a fresh mantle of snow.  She is often crowned with candles or carrying a lantern.

While Holda is generally described as unmarried, and has no children of her own, she is the protectress of children, the kind spirit who would rock a child's cradle when its nurse fell asleep. She is said to own a sacred pool, through which the souls of newborn children enter the world.

In many old descriptions, Bertha had one large foot, sometimes called a goose foot or swan foot. Grimm thought the strange foot symbolizes she may be a higher being who could shapeshift to animal form. He noticed Bertha with a strange foot exist in many languages (German "Berhte mit dem fuoze", French "Berthe au grand pied", Latin "Berhta cum magno pede"): "It is apparently a swan-maiden's foot, which as a mark of her higher nature she cannot lay aside...and at the same time the spinning-woman's splayfoot that worked the treadle".

Bertha is reportedly angered if on her feast day, the traditional meal of fish and gruel is forgotten, and will slit people's bellies open and stuff them with straw if they eat something else that night.

In The Real Personages of Mother Goose, Katherine Elwes Thomas submits that the image and name "Mother Goose", or "Mère l'Oye", may be based upon ancient legends of the wife of King Robert II of France, Berthe la fileuse ("Bertha the Spinner") or Berthe pied d'oie ("Goose-Foot Bertha" ), called in the Midi the Reine Pedauque who, according to Thomas, is often referred in French legends as spinning incredible tales that enraptured children.

In popular legends and fairy-tales distributed extensively throughout Hesse and Thuringia Frau Holle (also Holde, Hulda, Hulle, and Holl) is manifested as a superior being with a helpful disposition who is never cross unless she discovers disorder in household affairs. The legend of Frau Holle is found as far as the Voigtland, past the Rhön mountains in northern Franconia, in the Wetterau up to the Westerwald and from Thuringia to the frontier of Lower Saxony. She is also called Frau Bercht, Frau Percht, and Striga Holda, among other names.

According to Jacob Grimm (1835), Perchta was spoken of in Old High German in the 10th century as Frau Berchta and thought to be a white-robed female spirit. She was known as a goddess who oversaw spinning and weaving, like myths of Holda in Continental German regions. He believes she was the feminine equivalent of Berchtold, and she was sometimes the leader of the Wild Hunt.

In German legend, Holda held her court within the Hörselberg, and from this mountain would issue the Wild Hunt, with her at its head. The faithful Eckhart was said to sit at the base of the mountain warning travellers to return whence they came; he also rode ahead of the Wild Hunt warning people to seek shelter from the coming storm. While Holda in northern Germany is described as leading a procession of the dead, her close counterpart in southern Germany, Perchta, is described as being surrounded by the souls of unborn children, or children who died before they were baptised. This points to Holda's dual role as protectress of souls both entering and leaving this world.

In the folklore of Bavaria and Austria, Perchta was said to roam the countryside at midwinter, and to enter homes between the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (especially on the Twelfth Night). She would know whether the children and young servants of the household had behaved well and worked hard all year. If they had, they might find a small silver coin next day, in a shoe or pail. If they had not, she would slit their bellies open, remove stomach and guts, and stuff the hole with straw and pebbles. She was particularly concerned to see that girls had spun the whole of their allotted portion of flax or wool during the year.

The word Perchten is plural for Perchta, and this has become the name of her entourage, as well as the name of animal masks worn in parades and festivals in the mountainous regions of Austria. In the 16th century, the Perchten took two forms: Some are beautiful and bright, known as the Schönperchten ("beautiful Perchten"). These bring luck and wealth to the people. The other form is the Schiachperchten ("ugly Perchten") who have fangs, tusks and horse tails which are used to drive out demons and ghosts. Men dressed as the ugly Perchten during the 16th century and went from house to house driving out bad spirits.

Holda's connection to the spirit world through the magic of spinning and weaving has associated her
Witch with Distaff by Holbein
with witchcraft in Catholic German folklore. She was considered to ride with witches on distaffs (the wooden tool on which spinners tie their raw fiber before spinning it out) which closely resemble the brooms that witches are thought to ride. Likewise, Holda was often identified with Diana in old church documents. As early as the beginning of the eleventh century she appears to have been known as the leader of women and female nocturnal spirits, which "in common parlance are called Hulden from Holda". These women would leave their houses in spirit, going "out through closed doors in the silence of the night, leaving their sleeping husbands behind". They would travel vast distances through the sky, to great feasts, or to battles amongst the clouds.

As a holdover from the old heathen religion, she appears to have been demonized by the new faith. Christian religious texts denounce her worship. It is said of Frau Holle that she flies through the air with witches in her train. The ninth century Canon Episcopi censors women who claim to have ridden with a “crowd of demons.” Burchard's later recension of the same text expands on this in a section titled De arte magica:
“Have you believed there is some female, whom the stupid vulgar call Holda (or, in some manuscripts, strigam Holdam, the witch Holda), who is able to do a certain thing, such that those deceived by the devil affirm themselves by necessity and by command to be required to do, that is, with a crowd of demons transformed into the likeness of women, on fixed nights to be required to ride upon certain beasts, and to themselves be numbered in their company? If you have performed participation in this unbelief, you are required to do penance for one year on designated fast-days.”
Later canonical and church documents make her synonymous with Diana, Herodias, Bertha, Richella and Abundia. Historian Carlo Ginzburg has identified remarkably similar beliefs existing throughout Europe for over a thousand years, whereby men and women were thought to leave their bodies in spirit and follow a goddess variously called Holda, Diana, Herodias, Signora Oriente, Richella, Arada and Perchta. He also identifies strong morphological similarities with the earlier goddesses Hecate/Artemis, Artio, the Matres of Engyon, the Matronae and Epona, as well as figures from fairy-tales, such as Cinderella.

A Thesaurus pauperum of 1468 from Tegernsee states: “Diana who is commonly known as Fraw Percht is in the habit of wandering through the night with a host of women.” A 16th century fable recorded by Erasmus Alberus speaks of “an army of women” with sickles in hand sent by Frau Hulda. Thomas Reinesius in the 17th century speaks of Werra of the Voigtland and her “crowd of maenads.” And in 1630, a man was convicted at a witch trial in Hesse for having ridden in the Wild Hunt of Frau Holle. She is clearly identified as a goddess of the old religion. In 1494, Stephanus Lanzkrana in Die Hymelstrass, admonishes those who believe in “frawn percht, frawn hold, herodyasis or dyana, the heathen goddess.” Martin of Amberg says that meat and drink are left standing for her, indicating a sacrifice.

Holda figures in some pre-Christian Alpine traditions that have survived to modern times. During the Christmas period in the alpine regions of Germany, Austria and northern Switzerland, wild masked processions are still held in a number of towns, impersonating Holda, Perchta or related beings, and the wild hunt. Vivid visual descriptions of her may allude to a popular costumed portrayal, perhaps as part of a seasonal festival or holiday drama. In 1522, in The Exposition of the Epistles at Basel, Martin Luther writes:
    Here cometh up Dame Hulde with the snout, to wit, nature, and goeth about to gainstay her God and give him the lie, hangeth her old ragfair about her, the straw-harness; then falls to work and scrapes it featly on her fiddle.
A Huldra
According to Oberlin, Luther compares Nature rebelling against God to the heathenish Hulda “with the frightful nose.” Martin of Amberg calls her Percht mit der eisen nasen, “with the iron nose.” Vintler calls her Frau Percht with the long nose and a MHG manuscript refers to her as Berchten mit der langen nas. She is known as Trempe, the trampling one, and Stempe, the stamping one. She and her train are expected to make a racket.

In Scandinavian folklore, the Huldra (in Norwegian culture, derived from a root meaning "covered" or "secret"), or the skogsrå or skogsfru/skovfrue (meaning "Lady (read, counterpart of a Lord) of the forest") or Tallemaja (pine tree Mary) in Swedish culture, is a seductive forest creature. The huldra is a stunningly beautiful, sometimes naked woman with long hair; though from behind she is hollow like an old tree trunk, and has an animal's tail. In Norway, she has a cow's tail, and in Sweden she may have that of a cow or a fox. Further in the north of Sweden, the tail can be entirely omitted in favor of her hollow or bark-covered back.

In Norway, the huldra has often been described as a typical dairymaid, wearing the clothes of a regular farm girl, although somewhat more dazzling or prettier than most girls.

The huldras were held to be kind to colliers, watching their charcoal kilns while they rested. Knowing that she would wake them if there were any problems, they were able to sleep, and in exchange they left provisions for her in a special place. A tale from Närke illustrates further how kind a huldra could be, especially if treated with respect.
    A boy in Tiveden went fishing, but he had no luck. Then he met a beautiful lady, and she was so stunning that he felt he had to catch his breath. But, then he realized who she was, because he could see a fox's tail sticking out below the skirt. As he knew that it was forbidden to comment on the tail to the lady of the forest, if it were not done in the most polite manner, he bowed deeply and said with his softest voice, "Milady, I see that your petticoat shows below your skirt". The lady thanked him gracefully and hid her tail under her skirt, telling the boy to fish on the other side of the lake. That day, the boy had great luck with his fishing and he caught a fish every time he threw out the line. This was the huldra's recognition of his politeness.
In some traditions, the huldra lures men into the forest to have sexual intercourse with her, rewarding those who satisfy her and often killing those who do not. The Norwegian huldra is a lot less bloodthirsty and may simply kidnap a man or lure him into the underworld. She sometimes steals human infants and replaces them with her own ugly huldrebarn (changeling huldre children).

Sometimes she marries a local farm boy, but when this happens, the glamour leaves her when the priest lays his hand on her, or when she enters the church. Some legends tell of husbands who subsequently treat her badly. Some fairy tales leave out this feature, and only relate how a marriage to a Christian man will cause her to lose her tail, but not her looks, and let the couple live happily ever after. However if she is treated badly, she will remind him that she is far from weak, often by straightening out a horseshoe with her bare hands, sometimes while it is still glowing hot from the forge.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Riddle in Stone

In Justine Glass's book Witchcraft the Sixth Sense is a curious photograph of a menhir from Brittany with many symbols carved in bas-relief on it.  The image is reproduced below.

Menhir image from Witchcraft the Sixth Sense
It is claimed that these images detail the three mysteries of Witchcraft. The first, shown on the right-hand side of the carving are the male mysteries.  The second, shown on the left-hand side are the female mysteries.  The third are the mysteries of the Priesthood, necromancy, the ancestors, and death-and-rebirth, shown in the center.

Robert Cochrane makes the following comments on these mysteries:
The Faith is made of three parts - of which I know two. The first part is the masculine mysteries - in which is enshrined the search for the Holy Graal - and is the basis of the Arthurian legends. This is the order of the Sun - the Clan of Tubal Cain. Under it come learning, teaching, skill, bravery, and truthfulness. In the distant past, the male clan was lead by a woman who was their priestess and chieftan. This is the origin of the legend of Robin Hood - and surprisingly enough began the Old Testament, and later, Christianity since both Jesus and Moses alike preached a version of the Masculine mysteries - Mithriasm was also a development of this - and the tradition was followed through into the middle Ages when the Plantaganet Kings were officers of the masculine aspect of the Faith (The name 'Plantaganet' means 'The Devil's Clan'). The effect of the masculine mysteries upon the world can hardly be under emphasized - since a very considerable portion of civilization owes its origin to them. To name but a few - Commerce, Lawmaking, Law- giving, Parliament, The early forms of universities and craftsmen's guilds - which lead to knowledge being contained and taught, surveying, all sciences such as metallurgy, astronomy and so on ad infinitum. The masculine mysteries were the direct creators of modern civilization as we know it now. It must also be remembered that originally the Mystery was conducted by a woman - and that she was the presiding genius behind many of the fundamental discoveries that created civilization. These mysteries are depicted as a javelin, a cockerel upon a pillar, a ladder, a flail, a twelve-rayed sun and a ladder of eight rungs and a sword or battle ax. Basically they have to do with control over three of four elements, especially that of Fire.

     The feminine Mysteries are the deeper - connected with the slow tides of creation and destruction, of the cycle of life and death. they are best expressed in the pentagram - Life/Birth, Love, Maternity, Wisdom, Death/Resurrection. They are connected with all things that grow - all creatures of flesh - fertility and sterility - the mystery of the woman who is Virgin/Mother/Hag in one person. They are in essence the cycle of life, and the universality of life - and they express themselves in deep intuition and feelings - in other world terms they control the unconscious, as the male controls the conscious. That is they are what the Jews describe as the second emanation of the Sephiroth - emotion, sensation, imagery, empathy and intuition. They are expressed in symbols as a broom, a flask, a cup, a glove, a distaff and a shift - all of which have a symbolic meaning in the Faith. The clan of Women is lead by a man, who acts as a priest, and teaches the feminine mysteries. Each one of these symbols has a value in wisdom, and I will teach you both what I know about them in forthcoming letters. Today, since there are so very few, the old system has broken down and the families teach their children both mysteries, so that the tradition will not be forgotten entirely. In the past the male and female clans were separated except for the nine Rites or 'Knots' of the Year - when they came together and worshipped Godhead. Also, a great deal of traditional rite has been lost - but it will be recovered again one day, since things and thoughts alike do not die, they only change.
The image below is a clearer photo of the menhir, and the symbols may be more easily discerned.

Menhir de St.Uzec II photo.  Click for larger image.
Starting at the lower left hand corner and working up and down, the carvings seem to be:  A broom, a distaff, an ear of grain, a goblet, a moon, a pitcher, a glove, a knife, a tablet or book, a shift, three stacked squares, three nails or keys, a girdle or braided cords, blacksmith tools, a winged fairy supporting the Goddess, a twelve-rayed sun, a cock on a pillar, a skull, a flail, crossed bones, a ladder, a spear, a walking staff, and a bell.  These are not necessarily the same symbols as Cochrane presents in his letter, nor to Justine Glass.  We will explore each of these tools in the future.

Special thanks to our reader Scylla for a source for a clear image of the menhir.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Meditation: Visiting the Golden Queen, Hulda

Our tradition uses guided meditation to help impress certain symbols on our member's consciousness. Below is our Spring Equinox meditation. It takes place in the Castle of Revelry, which is the northeast area of our compass.  It is the home of the Golden Queen, who we honor as Hulda, Holt, or Holle. 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 Golden Queen, Hulda

You awake to find yourself in a forest of birch trees just before dawn.  It is early spring and the air is damp and cold.  Paperwhite narcissus nod their heads beneath the stands of slender white birch.  You face the east, and notice a rosy glow in the sky there. 

Suddenly from a thicket a rabbit darts forth.  It stops in your path and sits upright on its haunches observing you.  Its dark sparking eyes regard you coolly.  It twitches its nose at you, as if to say, “follow me!” It turns slowly to the east and dashes through the forest.  You hurry eastward after the rabbit.  As you follow it you begin to realize that it is leading you along a clear and straight path through the forest, although you had not noticed the path before. 

The rosy glow of the eastern sky deepens and shifts to soft coral pink and brilliant orange.  A flock of geese fly overhead.  They honk urgently as they sail through the flaming sky. You can feel yourself beginning to warm as you move swiftly down the path towards the growing light.  You can see that the rabbit has stopped ahead in a bright clearing. 

As you enter the clearing you are amazed to see a lake of fire flowing by it.  Bright tongues of flame lick the bank like waves, and molten lava mixes with pure fire along the shores of this mysterious lake.  The rabbit dashes along the riverbank and stops to look back at you, drawing your attention to a small boat tethered to the shore.

You approach the boat and notice a robed and hooded boatman within.  His face is hidden in the shadows of his hood, but he stretches forth a pale bony hand towards you.  You reach into your crane bag and pull forth a gold coin.  On the face of the coin is the profile of a beautiful and merry lady with ornately braided hair.  On its reverse is a lantern and two crossed brooms.

You place the coin into the boatman's skeletal hand and climb into the boat.  The boatman pushes off and begins to row you eastward through the lake of fire.  The heat of the lake is immense, but also comforting.  You realize that this heat is the warmth of spring.  It is the heat that melts snows and encourages tender plants to grow.  The light of the lake is intense, but also beautiful.  You understand that this light is the light of the sun at dawn.  It paints the sky in brilliant shades of orange, rose, and crimson. 

Through the waves of heat ahead of the boat you notice an island.  On the island is a gleaming golden castle.  The castle shines in the light of the fiery lake.  It is constructed of solid gold set with yellow topaz and its many turrets are festooned with banners and flags of every color.  As you near the shore you can hear joyful music and laughter pouring forth from the castle.

The boat is now ashore on this merry island.  You climb out of the boat and as you set your feet upon the island you notice that they feel very light, as if imbued with natural grace.  You feel warmth and joy flowing upwards from the land to your heart and all of your being is infused with comfort and contentment.  The scent of a warm savory feast greets your nose, and lingers there with the smells of frankincense and amber.  You smile widely and warmly.  

The immense golden doors of the castle open to you, revealing a shining hall filled with laughter and song.  The golden hall is draped with banners of many colors, and in it is an impossibly long table of birch.  Seated at this table are heroes of myth and legend.  Cuchulain feasts on roasted meat and golden mead while Odysseus and Finn MacCool laughingly trade boasts and riddles.  Hercules drinks deeply of the toast that Boudica proclaims in honor of a song Orpheus has just sung.  From beside him Taliesin smiles at you and waves you over.  “We've been expecting you,” he says merrily.  You ask him where you are and he replies, “There are many names for this place.  Some call it Valhalla.  Others call it Hell.  I call it the Castle of Revelry.  It is the home of Queen Hulda and her golden lantern.” 

Taliesin points to a set of double doors near you.  The doors are solid gold and covered in countless finely sculpted symbols.  Among these you notice a goose and a broom.  You move to touch the doors and they swing open at your gesture. 

The room inside is bathed in brilliant white light.  It blinds your vision for a moment, and when your eyes adjust you see a pale and beautiful woman with elaborately braided red hair.  She is seated on throne of solid topaz and she wears a dress of gold.  Her eyes are the color of amber flecked with gold and she is smiling warmly at you.  To her right is a table with an object upon it that shines so brightly you cannot bear to look directly upon it.  To her left is a broom with an intricately carved handle and a brush of birch twigs. 

“I am called Hulda” she says.  Her voice is a mixture of sultry, dusky alto and the tinkling of tiny brass bells.  You can taste warm honey in your mouth when she speaks.  The scent of frankincense and cinnamon fills your nostrils.  Your entire being is infused with radiant heat and you feel slightly dizzy. 

She smiles more deeply and gestures to the shining object to her right.  “This is the treasure of Castle of Revelry.”  At her words your eyes adjust to its radiance and you can see that it is a golden lantern.   Its light shines the semblance of pictures, stories, and riddles on the golden walls of the room.  Your head fills with music and poetry as you look at its light. 

Hulda laughs.  Her laugh is intoxicating and you can feel your head swimming in confusion and wonder.  Hulda leans forward on her throne and captures your gaze. “I have a message for you,” she says.  She takes your hand and whispers her secret message in your ear.

Hulda bids you farewell and kisses your cheek.  Your flesh stings at the hot touch of her lips.  The lantern beside her brightens like the white hot sun and you begin to sweat.  You take your leave of the room hastily, disoriented by the heat and light.

Back in the great hall heroes continue to feast boisterously.  Two yellow haired Valkyries gently take you by the arms and lead you through the hall.  Taliesin winks at you as you pass by.  The Valkyries escort you out the door of the Castle and into the boat you arrived in. They pay the boatman a gold token and you drift swiftly back across the lake of fire to the gray-skied birch forest.  Geese honk in the distance. At the shore of the gray spring land is the start of a footpath, the same straight path that the rabbit first lead you down.  You follow the path back through the birch forest, past the thicket and the paperwhite narcissus, back to the place where you awoke.  You lay down in the cool, damp springtime forest and rest. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Kalends of March

From today, March first, until after the equinox is a time of great balance.  You may be familiar with the tradition of balancing eggs on their ends at equinox, and this can be done easily at this time.  Also, a friend and fellow Witch clued me in to an old tradition that brooms can balance on their brushes at this time.  Skeptical, but curious, I attempted to balance my own broom today.  Here is a photo of the broom, which has been standing in the middle of the floor on its own for almost two hours now!

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