Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lilith

Lilith is a Hebrew name for a figure in Jewish mythology who is generally thought to be in part derived from a class of female demons called Lilitu in Mesopotamian texts. The Gilgamesh appendix and the Arslan Tash amulets are the two sources used to connect the Jewish Lilith to an Akkadian Lilitu. The Hebrew term Lilith first occurs in Isaiah 34:14.

In Jewish folklore, from the 8th–10th century work The Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards, Lilith becomes Adam's first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same earth as Adam. This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam's ribs. Lilith’s legend was greatly developed during the Middle Ages. In a 13th Century writing, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with archangel Samael. She was said to have spoken the secret Holy name of God and transformed herself into an owl to fly from Eden. The name "Lilith" means "screech owl".  In some medieval folklore, Lilith does return to Eden as a serpent. She then offers forth the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge to Eve, making her a kind of proto-Sophia or wisdom Goddess.

Charles Leland associated Aradia with Lilith. Aradia, says Leland, is Herodias, who was regarded in stregheria folklore as being associated with Diana as chief of the witches. Leland further notes that Herodias is a name that comes from West Asia, where it denoted an early form of Lilith.

Gerald Gardner asserted that there was continuous historical worship of Lilith to present day, and that her name is sometimes given to the goddess being personified in the coven, by the priestess. This idea was further attested by Doreen Valiente, who cited her as a presiding goddess of the Craft: “the personification of erotic dreams, the suppressed desire for delights.”

In some Traditional covens, Lilith is viewed as the embodiment of the Witches' Goddess. She was said to have embodied herself in the form of Na'amah, the sister of Tubal Cain, and is therefore one of the original sources of Witchblood. Some see this Lilith as the Queen of the Fairies and Grandmother to them as well.

One of the old names for the moon is Lilith’s Lantern, as it was said to be the light that Witches met by. Lilith is associated with the moon, owls, and serpents.


Prayer Unto the Queen of Succubi
by Andrew Chumbly

I bless the Waters of Desire
I drink the Fountain White.
I call thee Mother Lilith
Harlot of the Night.

Mine are the Blossoms of Rousing
To Bewitch the Moon-Feast round;
Unto me thy Daughters
Ye Nymphs of Paradise ground.

I bless the Waters of Desire
I drink the Fountain White.
I call thee Mother Lilith
Harlot of the Night.

By the Mystery of the Bright Moon
And the Vessel of Quickening Fire
Thy Power is Made Flesh.

The Burney Relief, thought to depict Lilith

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hecate

Hecate or Hekate is an ancient goddess, most often shown holding two torches or a key and in later periods depicted in triple form. She is variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, fire, light, the Moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, necromancy, and sorcery. She has rulership over earth, sea and  sky, as well as a more universal role as Savior (Soteira), Mother of Angels and the Cosmic World Soul.

Hecate is also one of the ‘patron' goddesses of many witches, who in some traditions identify her with the Triple Goddess, for Hecate has three faces, or phases. Her role as a tripartite goddess, which many modern-day Wiccans associate with the concept of ‘the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone', was made popular in modern times by writers such as Robert Graves in The White Goddess.

Historical depictions and descriptions show her facing in three different directions, a clear reference to the tripartite nature of this ancient Goddess.


Hecate was associated with borders, city walls, doorways, crossroads and, by extension, with realms outside or beyond the world of the living. She appears to have been particularly associated with being ‘between' and hence is frequently characterized as a “liminal" goddess. Hecate was also associated with plant lore and the concoction of medicines and poisons. In particular she was thought to give instruction in these closely related arts. Medea was said to be taught by Hecate.


Hecate has survived in folklore as a ‘hag' figure associated with witchcraft. Scholars note that Hecate, conflated with the figure of Diana, appears in late antiquity and in the early medieval period as part of an “emerging legend complex" associated with gatherings of women, the moon, and witchcraft that eventually became established in the area of Northern Italy, southern Germany, and the western Balkans.

Epithets

Aedonaea (Lady of the underworld)
Anassa eneri (Queen of the dead)
Apotropaia (that turns away/protects)
Atalus (tender)
Brimo (the terrible one)
Chthonia (of the earth/underworld)
Enodia (on the way)
Klêidouchos (holding the keys)
Kourotrophos (nurse of children)
Liparocredemnus (bright-coiffed)
Nyctipolus (night-wandering)
Phosphoros (bringing or giving light)
Propolos (who serves/attends)
Propulaia/Propylaia (before the gate)
Scylacagetis (leader of dogs)
Soteira (savior)
Trimorphe (three-formed)
Triodia/Trioditis (who frequents crossroads)
Zerynthia (of Mt. Zerynthia in Samothrace)

Amulets and Talismans

A Sator square talisman.
A talisman is an object which purports to contain certain magical properties which would protect the possessor from evil or harm or provide good luck. The word comes from the Arabic word Tilasm and
ultimately from the Greek word teleo which means "to consecrate."

Amulets and talismans are often considered interchangeable despite their differences. An amulet is an object with natural magical properties, whereas a talisman must be charged with magical powers by a
creator; it is this act of consecration or “charging" that gives the talisman its alleged magical powers.  The talisman is always made for a definite reason whilst an amulet can be used for generic purposes such as averting evil or attracting good luck.

According to The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a magical order active in the United Kingdom during the late-19th and early-20th  centuries, a talisman is:

“a magical figure charged with the force which it is intended to represent. In the construction of a talisman, care should be taken to make it, as far as possible, so to represent the universal forces that it should be in exact harmony with those you wish to attract, and the more exact the symbolism, the easier it is to attract the force."

It is generally agreed that a talisman should be created by the person who plans to use it. They also recommend that the person making the talisman must be familiar with all the symbolisms connected to all the different planetary and elemental forces. In several medieval talismans, geomantic signs and symbols were used in relation with different planets. These symbolisms, which are frequently incorporated into geomantic divination, also have alchemical implications. Other magical associations, such as colors, scents, symbolism, patterns, and Qabalistic figures, can also be integrated in the creation of a talisman. However, they should be in  synchronization with the elemental or planetary force selected to represent the talisman. It is also feasible to augment a personal touch to the talisman through adding a verse, inscription, or pattern.

The Sator square talisman shown above was popularly used during Ancient Rome to protect against house fires.

Meeting at the Crossroads

The crossroads -- a place where two roads cross at or about at right angles, -- is the subject of religious and folkloric belief around the world. Because the crossroads is liminal space (that is, a place between places), it is considered a suitable site to perform magical rituals and cast spells. The use of the crossroads as an impromptu altar where offerings are placed and rituals performed is widely encountered in both European and African folklore.

In ancient Greece, Hecate, the Goddess of witchcraft and necromancy, was ruler of all places where three or more roads crossed.

In Africa, almost every cultural group has its own  version of the crossroads god. Legba, Ellegua, Elegbara, Eshu, Exu, Nbumba Nzila, and Pomba Gira are African and African-diaspora names for the spirit who opens the way, guards the crossroads, and teaches wisdom.

European tales of, by, and about musicians, dancers, and others who seek physical dexterity selling themselves to the Devil are frequent and commonplace. The blues musician Robert Johnson is one example of this legend from African-diaspora possibly influenced by European beliefs.

Witches have always met at liminal times in liminal spaces. The solstice on a beach where the water meets the land is one example. The crossroads at midnight is another, classic, example.

When we cast the Circle and call in the Quarters and the Gods, we are doing more than delineating a working space, we are creating roads to the center of the Circle, where the stang is raised. These roads cross at the stang, which is the true “Devil” at the crossroads. The Circle itself is a liminal space,  both of this world and the world between worlds.

Because Hecate is the Goddess of both witchcraft and necromancy, the crossroads are also seen as a place where one can contact the spirits of departed loved ones. Offerings are sometimes made at crossroads for these hungry ghosts.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Equinox

Also: Ostara, Eostre, Lady Day, Easter, Alban Eilir, Festival of Trees

The Equinox

The Spring Equinox is one of the four solar Sabbats. Equi + nox derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “equal" + “night." The two Equinoxes are the only days of the year when both day and night are of equal duration. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates Spring Equinox in March.

Modern calendars state that spring begins on the equinox. According to the old folk calendar, spring is at its peak at the this time.  Imbolc, the end of winter, is past, while Beltane, the beginning of summer, awaits in the future.

Themes

The Spring Equinox is a marvelous and muddy time of year.  It is the perfect time to perform the magic of planting.  There are few miracles in the world to rival the bursting forth of fresh green life and beautiful spring flowers from the damp soil that has lied dormant and seemingly dead all winter.  Sap rises in the trees, giving a blood red color to the new growth of saplings, and animals emerge from their winter dens, ready to find mates.  The world seems new and reborn, and indeed, these are the themes of this Sabbat.

The zodiacal calendar year begins anew with this Sabbat, with the sun at zero degrees Aries marking the Equinox itself.  This is also traditionally the time of year when dying-resurrecting vegetation Gods are risen, such as Attis, Osiris, and Jesus.

Ostara is the popular Neo-Pagan name for this Sabbat, and it derives its origin from a Germanic Goddess of Springtime.  She in turn took her name from the root Eostre, which is where we get the words east, estrogen, and Easter.  Her symbols of worship include the rabbits and eggs, which were painted in the colors of the newly blossomed flowers that sprung up in her footsteps.  Ostara/Eostre was literally the “eastern star”, or Venus.  She  ruled the fecundity of life that bursts forth at Spring and is related to Middle Eastern Venusian Goddesses such as Ishtar, Inanna, and Esther.

Traditions

Egg decorating, hunting, gifting, and begging are all traditionally associated with the Spring Equinox.  It was once common in England for young men to blacken their faces and go door to door singing songs about springtime in exchange for a colored egg, a hot crossed bun, or a bit of milk punch.

The hot crossed bun has little to do with the Christian symbolism of the cross, and more to do with the equal-armed cross marking the equinox when days and nights were equal.  Later on the crossed bun took on the same folk magical properties that the Host of the Good Friday Mass would, with the ability to heal the sick and bless anyone who partook of the Paschal treat.  It is also thought that the hot cross bun took on some of the symbolism of the eucharist, itself a wafer marked with a cross.  There are many early modern English folk spells (pre- and post-Reformation) that involve Cunning Folk using the host (presumably sneaked out under the tongue during Mass) to banish sickness and bring healing.

The Spiral Castle Tradition

In our tradition Spring Equinox is one of the time of year when  we pay homage to the Golden Queen.  This is Hulda in her fiery aspect, Brigid as the Lady of fire and Spring, and Aphrodite as the Golden Goddess.  She is the herald of the waxing sunlight.

The Spiral Castle is turned to face the northeast castle, the Castle of Revelry, whose treasure is the golden lantern.  The golden lantern is a beacon to the initiate on the path, the lantern of the Hermit, and it hold the inspirational light of Awen within it. The Castle of Revelry sits on an island in the lake of fire.  It is the hall of Valhalla and is filled with heroes of myth and legend.

The Rambles of Spring

There's a cold and wintry breeze blowing through the buddin' trees
and I've buttoned up my coat to keep me warm
But the days are on the mend and I'm on the road again
With me fiddle snuggled close beneath my arm

I've a fine felt hat and a strong pair of brouges
I have rosin in me pocket for me bow
and my fiddle strings are new and I've learned a tune or two
So I'm well prepared to ramble, I must go

I'm as happy as a king, when I catch a breath of Spring
and the grass is turning green as winter ends
and the Geese are on the wing, as the Thrushes start to sing
and I'm headed down the road to see my friends


~by Tommy Makem

Correspondences

Colors: Pastels such as blue, yellow, and pink, also gold, green, and red
Herbs: Chamomile, Hibiscus, Rosemary, Lavender, Coltsfoot, Patchouli, Daffodil, Grape Vines, Crocus, Strawberry
Foods: Hard-boiled eggs, honey cakes, pancakes, waffles, nuts, milk punch, bean sprouts, hot-cross buns

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Seething

Seething is a literal translation of  Seiðr, which is a type of sorcery which was practiced in Norse society during the Late Scandinavian Iron Age.  Modern witches use seething as a way to shamanically get outside of themselves, into an altered state, and to raise the Power for charging a spell, tool, or talisman.

There are two modern interpretations of the practice of seething based on accounts in old Nordic sagas and other ancient literature.  The first method is very much like the practice of Treading the Mill.  The witch bears a gandreigh, or riding pole, such as a staff, broom, stang, hobby-horse, or wand.  He then treads a wide circle while focusing power on a central point, such as a stang, altar, or lead witch.  Alternately, the witch may choose to use their own gandreigh as the focal point and circle around it while holding it as the axis point.

The second method of seething is much more adaptable to any situation, although it may not be as historically accurate.  It entails the raising of great emotion and force of Will through the act of rocking back and forth, or clenching and unclenching the muscles of the body in rapid succession.  It is from this method that we gain the modern usage of the word “seething”, as in: “I was seething with anger”.

Anyone who has “zoned out” while relaxing in a rocking chair can understand how this method works.  By simple rhythmic control of the animal body the mind becomes free to wander as it will.  By adding a strong emotional component to the movement the mind keeps its focus on the magical work being done and the Power is raised.  This technique of seething is very similar to the Gardnerian Wiccan practice of ritual scourging to raise the power, as it both controls the blood flow and heightens the emotional state.

If a witch becomes proficient in this form of seething to raise the Power she may be able to seethe simply by controlling her breathing and clenching and relaxing certain muscle groups in the body.  This practice is very akin to raising kundalini, the serpent energy in the base of the spine.  Witches known about this serpent energy for ages, and it is thought by some researchers that the so-called Osculum Infame, or the kiss given to witches in fidelity to the Devil on his backside, was simply another way to raise this latent energy.

The Evil Eye

The evil eye is the name for a curse transmitted, usually without intention, by someone who is envious, jealous, or covetous. It is also called the invidious eye and the envious eye. In Hebrew it is ayin ha'ra. In mainland Italian it is malocchio and in Spanish mal de ojo. In Sicily it is jettatore, in Hawaii it is the stink eye, in Turkey, the nazar, and in Farsi it is bla band.

The evil eye belief is that a person  can harm you, your children, your livestock, or your fruit trees, by looking at them with envy and praising them.  An understanding of the term evil eye is gained if you know that the old Scottish word for it is overlooking, which implies merely that the gaze has remained too long upon the coveted object, person, or animal. In other words, the effect of the evil eye is misfortunate, but the person who harbors jealousy and gives the evil eye is not necessarily an evil person.

The evil caused by the gaze is specifically connected to symptoms of drying, desiccation, withering, and dehydration, that its cure is related to moisture, and that the immunity from the evil eye that fish have in some cultures is related to the fact that they are always wet.  This is also why spitting is said to be effective against the evil eye.

Protective Talismans

Disks or balls, consisting of concentric blue and white circles representing an evil eye are common talismans in the Middle East, found on the prows of Mediterranean boats and elsewhere.  A blue eye can also be found on some forms of the hamsa hand, a hand-shaped talisman against the evil eye found in the Middle East. The word hamsa means five, referring to the fingers of the hand. In Jewish culture, the hamsa is called the Hand of Miriam. In some Muslim cultures it is the Hand of Fatima.

The cornicello, (little horn) is a long, gently twisted horn-shaped amulet. Cornicelli are usually carved out of red coral or made from gold or silver.  A gesture, the mano cornuta, or sign of the horns, is also sometimes made to ward off the evil eye.  It involves projecting outward the little finger and the index finger while the rest of the hand is drawn into a fist.

One traditional cure in rural Mexico involves a folk healer sweeping a raw chicken egg over the body of a victim to absorb the power of the person with the evil eye. The egg is later broken into a glass with water and placed under the bed of the patient near the head. Sometimes it is checked immediately because the egg appears as if it has been cooked. When this happens it means that the patient did have the evil eye.

Other popular amulets and talismans against the evil eye include red thread or ribbon, small mirrors, gorgon faces, rowan crosses, and eye-like agates.

The Witches’ Creed - Doreen Valiente

The Witches’ Creed 
by Doreen Valiente

Hear now the words of the witches,
The secrets we hid in the night,
When dark was our destiny's pathway,
That now we bring forth into light.

Mysterious water and fire,
The earth and the wide-ranging air,
By hidden quintessence we know them,
And will and keep silent and dare.

The birth and rebirth of all nature,
The passing of winter and spring,
We share with the life universal,
Rejoice in the magical ring.

Four times in the year the Great Sabbat
Returns, and the witches are seen
At Lammas and Candlemas dancing,
On May Eve and old Hallowe'en.

When day-time and night-time are equal,
When sun is at greatest and least,
The four Lesser Sabbats are summoned,
And Witches gather in feast.

Thirteen silver moons in a year are,
Thirteen is the coven's array.
Thirteen times at Esbat make merry,
For each golden year and a day.

The power that was passed down the age,
Each time between woman and man,
Each century unto the other,
Ere time and the ages began.

When drawn is the magical circle,
By sword or athame of power,
Its compass between two worlds lies,
In land of the shades for that hour.
This world has no right then to know it.

And world of beyond will tell naught.
The oldest of Gods are invoked there,
The Great Work of magic is wrought.

For the two are mystical pillars,
That stand at the gate of the shrine,
And two are the powers of nature,
The forms and the forces divine.

The dark and the light in succession,
The opposites each unto each,
Shown forth as a God and a Goddess:
Of this our ancestors teach.

By night he's the wild winds rider,
The Horn'd One, the Lord of the Shades.
By day he's the King of the Woodland,
The dweller in green forest glades.

She is youthful or old as she pleases,
She sails the torn clouds in her barque,
The bright silver lady of midnight,
The crone who weaves spells in the dark.

The master and mistress of magic,
That dwell in the deeps of the mind,
Immortal and ever-renewing,
With power to free or to bind.

So drink the good wine to the Old Gods,
And Dance and make love in their praise,
Till Elphame's fair land shall receive us
In peace at the end of our days.

Poppets

A poppet is a specially prepared doll for magic.  The concept behind a poppet is that symbols can serve as magical substitutes for actual things.  The doll can be made of wax, clay, fabric or some other material. The image of the poppet has been popularized as a “voodoo doll” in modern culture, but the use of poppets in folk magic throughout the world is ancient.  The image to the right is of a clay dolly found in Egypt, bound and pierced with 13 pins.  It is now displayed in the Louvre. 

To make a cloth poppet you will first need to identify your intent for the figure.  You will want fabric in a color that symbolizes your intent, for example green for wealth.  Trace the figure below onto cardstock and cut it out to use as your pattern.  Cut two figures from your cloth to sew together.  Place the two fabric cutouts right-side facing inward stacked together.  Stitch all the way around the poppet about a quarter-inch inside the edge of the fabric. Be sure to leave the top portion of the “head” un-sewn so that you can stuff the poppet after its edges are sewn.

Turn the poppet right-side out through the unsewn portion of the head after the edges are sewn together.  Use embroidery floss or a permanent marker to create any distinguishing features of the person you are wanting the poppet to resemble.  You may choose to paste a photo of the person on the “face” of the poppet, or just write their name across the chest.

It is now time to stuff the poppet.  You will want to gather any herbs, small gemstones, or other spell components that you have that will be associated with the work you wish to accomplish.  For example rose petals and jasmine flowers for love.  Consult a book of correspondences to assist you.  Stuff the poppet with these components and with cotton balls or polyfill batting.  You may need to use a chopstick or pencil to push the filling into the arms and legs. When the poppet is filled to your liking stitch up the head.

Now take khernips (saltwater into which burning incense has been extinguished) or the leavings of the housle meal in a ritual setting and baptize the poppet with your left hand saying:

“In my hand I hold this poppet of my own making. I baptize and name it [NAME] that it will be like him/her in every way.  As he/she lives, so does this poppet live.  All that I do to it I do to [NAME].  This is my Word.  This is my Will.  So Mote It Be!”

You may now perform conjurations on the poppet that will in turn work upon the person you have fashioned it after.

Poppet Template.
Click for larger version.

Basque Akelarre Chant

Har har, hou hou!
Eman hetan!  Eman hetan!
Har har, hou hou!
Janicot! Janicot! Janicot! Janicot!
Har har, hou hou!
Jauna Gorril, Jauna Gorril,
Akhera Goiti, Akhera Beiti.


A very rough translation of which is:

White Worm, White Worm!
Look ancients, look ancients!
White Worm, White Worm!
Black-Goat-God! Black-Goat-God! Black-Goat-God! Black-Goat-God!
Look ancients, look ancients!
Red Lord, Red Lord,
Goat above, goat below.

The Besom Chant

Besom, besom long and lithe
Made from ash and willow withe
Tied with thongs of willow bark
In running stream at moonset dark.

With a pentagram indighted
As the ritual fire is lighted;

Sweep ye circle, deosil,
Sweep out evil, sweep out ill,
Make the round of the ground
Where we do the Lady's will.

Besom, besom, Lady's broom
Sweep out darkness, sweep out doom
Rid ye Lady's hallowed ground
Of demons, imps and Hell's red hound;

Then set ye down on Her green earth
By running stream or Mistress hearth,
Till called once more on Sabbath night
To cleanse once more the dancing site.


~ adapted by Laurelei Black

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Song of Amergin

Chorus:
From the breeze on the mountain
To the lake of deep blue
From the waterfall down to the sea
Never changing or ending on the voice of the wind
Sing now the riddle of Erenn to me

I am the wind that breathes on the sea
I am the wave, that roars on the ocean
I am the stag, seven points are my glory
I am the hawk of victory in motion

I am the tomb, so cold in the darkness
I am the ray, bright eye of the Sun
I am a tree, straight, strong and peerless
I am a star, I am the One

I am a wonder, a wonder in flower
I am the spear as it cries out for blood
I am the word, the word of great power
And thrice times have I visited Caer Arianhrod

I am the song of the blackbird in mourning
I am the depths of a sacred pool
I am a boar's tusk flashed out in warning
I am the salmon, yet also the fool

Who but I can cast light upon the meeting of the mountains?
Who but I am a lure beyond the ends of the earth?
Who but I will cry aloud the changes of the moon?
Who but I can find the place of death and rebirth?


~Adapted from the original version by Glaux
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