Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Eight Ways of Making Magic

Symbol for the Eight Ways of Making Magic
In the Gardnerian tradition of witchcraft (Wicca) there are said to be eight ways of raising power for magical purposes.  They are as follows.

  1. Meditation or concentration
  2. Chants, Spells, Invocations.
  3. Projection of the Astral Body, or Trance
  4. Incense, Drugs, Wine, etc.
  5. Dancing
  6. Use of the Cords
  7. The Scourge
  8. The Great Rite
You can combine many of these ways to produce more power.

To succeed in magic it is said you need the following five things:
  1. Intention. You must have the absolute will to succeed, the firm belief that you can do so and the determination to win through against all obstacles.
  2. Preparation. You must be properly prepared.
  3. Invocation. The Mighty Ones must be invoked.
  4. Consecration. The Circle must be properly cast and consecrated and you must have properly consecrated tools.
  5. Purification. You must be purified.
Note that just as there are eight ways of making magic, so are there eight sabbats in the wheel of the year, and just as there are five steps to magical success, so are there five points on the pentagram.  Eight and five are reoccurring sacred numbers in the Craft, and eight times five is forty, a number used in many magical applications.  For example, the scourge is often used in counts of forty.

Although I was trained and raised in a Gardnerian coven, and I value the insights and experiences I gained there I am now walking a different crooked path.  Let's analyze the eight ways of making magic and the five steps to success from an AFW point of view.

1. Meditation or concentration
Concentration on a subject is the most basic form of raising and sending energy.  The evil eye is nothing more than negative thoughts clarified through intent and projected through the sense of sight. Meditation is a deeper form of concentration, and can be enhanced through specific postures and gestures.  These postures can be compared to eastern yogic traditions although they have roots in Celtic forms of magic, such as the one-legged one-eyed stance which emulates the posture of the crane and the fachan for battle magic.  Fergus Kelly in The Guide To Early Irish Law makes a statement that helps define it as a magic that kills. Kelly writes:
"...some of their sorcery was effected through córrguinech, a term which seems to mean 'heron (or crane) killing', and apparently involved the recitation of a satire standing on one leg with one arm raised and one eye shut."
2. Chants, Spells, Invocations
This way of raising energy encompasses many different techniques, all of which have to do with the spoken word.  Chanting is the original idea behind "enchantment".  The words of a chant can reinforce the intent of the magic, or they can be seemingly nonsensical words with traditional meaning.  An example of this kind of chant is the popular so-called "Basque Witches Chant".

Eko, eko, Azarak
Eko, eko, Zomelak
Bazabi lacha bachabe
Lamac cahi achababe
Lamac lamac Bachalyas
Cabahagy sabalyos
Lagoz atha cabyolas
Samahac atha famolas

Spells, just as they sound, were once written or "spelled" documents detailing the results desired. This form of magic was especially popular in ancient Rome, when "spells" would be written on lead tablets and given to one of the elements. (burning, tossing into water, burying, etc.)  Nowadays a spell is any set of actions that brings about change through an act of magic.  They often utilize components with specific correspondences to the desired outcome.  Hoodoo uses its own traditional recipes and spell components to work magic. 

Invocation is a special kind of vocalization used to invite the presence of the Old Ones.  Also included in this is the concept of evocation.  Invocation is the inviting of a spirit into oneself. Evocation is the inviting of a spirit to be present in local space.  Invocation is a carefully learned skill in many traditions.  It demands trust and an understanding of the other realms.  The spirits that we work with in our tradition are ancient and powerful.  Safety and discipline are paramount during an invocation.

3. Projection of the Astral Body, or Trance
Projection of the astral body is a technique taught in several ways in our tradition.  One can "fly" out on a broomstick or other gandreigh by use of an ointment, potion, or shamanic training.  The fetch is an etheric construct used for projecting the astral body into that it may wander in that form.

In truth, all of the ways of making magic seek to bring the magician into a form of trance, even if it is very light.  Through trance we perceive other realms and can manipulate the energy links that connect all things as one. Drumming and guided meditation are two ways that trance can a achieved. Many of the following ways of making magic also assist in achieving trance.

Amanita Muscaria
4. Incense, Drugs, Wine, etc.
Entheogens have a long and storied history in the Craft, particularly the Solanaceae. They have been used in flying ointments, transformation elixirs, herbal incenses, smokes, anointing oils, washes, and any mixture you can think of.  Also popular in certain circles are amanita muscaria, wormwood, damiana, hashish, syrian rue, and countless others. Wine, of course, is central to the Red Meal, and also serves as a gentle way to let slip our egos and find ourselves outside of consensus reality when used in moderation.  All of these substances are dangerous, and several of them are also illegal.  This is certainly one of the ways of magic that should not be attempted by the untrained witch.

5. Dancing
Dancing may be the oldest form of celebration and communication.  It is central of the raising of power through the treading of the mill.  The mill is tread by moving widdershins with a lamed step over ground where the compass has been laid.  More vigorous treading of the mill can happen in large groups where the spiral is danced inward and outward in a kind of follow-the-leader procession.  Dancing in circles around a bonfire is an ancient and pan-cultural tradition.  This form of raising power can be witnessed at many sabbats and festivals around the world.

Warricking in preparation for scourging
6. Use of the Cords
7.  The Scourge
These, also known as warricking and stropping, are often used in combination to produce the desired trance state.  The cords are used to slightly restrict blood flow to certain areas of the body while the person being bound is made to stand or sit in uncomfortable positions also used to restrict circulation.

The cords are also used in knot magic, and as a symbol for the magical link.  Through the contemplation of certain knots, plaits, and other features of the cord a trance state can be achieved much like in the use of a rosary or prayer beads.

The scourge is used almost always in a light stroking motion to encourage blood flow into certain areas.  Only in extreme circumstances is the scourge used in anger or with force. Light, rhythmic application of the scourge can produce trance just as would a steady drumbeat, or the use of the lamed step.

8. The Great Rite
The Great Rite in full is the act of sexual congress between two individuals who have each invoked a God or Goddess.  Another term for this act is the hieros gamos. What Gardner was actually getting at by including this as one of the ways of making magic was the ideal of sexual energy being used as a conduit for magic.  Anyone can do this, partnered or not, invoked or not. It is quite popular in modern chaos magic circles, particularly those influenced by the work of A.O. Spare.  In our tradition we refer to the use of sex magic as drewery.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Lame Step

The "lame step" is one of the old and identifying markers of Witches and of their God. And their Goddess. Nursery rhymes show us the evidence of the lame step in magic, the Forge God (the first and mightiest God of the CRAFT) is more often lamed than not, and the Witches' Goddess  hobbled on a goose's foot.

Let's look at these examples, and then, let's look at what the lamed step signifies.

Azazel (T'Qayin)
The Forge God and the Lame Step

The lame step could be said to originate, as it relates to magic, with the God of the Forge. As Glaux pointed out in her post regarding Witch Blood and Witch Marks, the first being worshiped as a Forge God has been linked to magic. (In his book Masks of Misrule, Nigel Jackson notes his assertion that T'Qayin and Azazel are the same being.) Nearly all Forge Gods were depicted with a lame step or a misshapen leg in antiquity. The mundane reason for this was very likely due to the residual heavy metal poisoning suffered by actual smiths -- or the fact that otherwise strong men who had suffered some crippling childhood disease or injury could still be trained to blacksmith work. Whatever the case, the image of the smith is intimately linked with that of hobbled or ham-strung, yet powerful, man. A man who understands something (and potentially EVERYTHING) related to the alchemical process, and therefore magic. In the case of T'Qayin and Azazel, this image is that of a goat-footed God.

The goat-foot is one variation of lame step, and it is very intimately linked to the forge. That heavy metal poisoning we discussed bunched the muscles of the leg in a way that it pulled the smith's legs and foot up into a position like he was walking on a stiletto heel. Goat-footed God.

The Goose-Footed Goddess

The lame step appears again in the Witches' Goddess in at least one instance. In France, there is a notable story of La Reine Pedauque, the goose-footed queen. Though there is some casual optimism that her story is based a historical queen (named Berthe, who loved spinning fanciful tales for children), the goose-foot is never satisfactorily explained. What is absolutely clear is that La Reine Pedauque becomes (or always was) Mother Goose. Clearer still, with even a little digging and reflecting, is that Mother Goose, is so closely related to the Teutonic Hulda that they are reflections of one another.

Frau Hulda, Mother Hulda, Holda, Holle, Hel. She rides a goose through the night sky and is a spinner. She is the Dark Grandmother and the White Lady. In our Tradition, she sits in the Castle of Revelry at the Spring Equinox, the balance of light and dark and guards the Golden Lantern.

With her goose-foot, she shows us another aspect of the lame step.

The Lame Step in Nursery Rhymes

My dame has lost her shoe,
My master's lost his fiddle stick
And knows not what to do.

What is my dame to do?
Till master finds his fiddle stick,
she'll dance without her shoe.

Glaux and I love (and I mean LOVE) picking apart nursery rhymes for folkloric Craft clues. We'll have to do some entries dedicated to some of the goodies we've found in them. This one caught our interest on a number of levels. I'll stay away from the bits about how the magister needs his blackthorn staff (the master's fiddle stick) and just point out that the dame is inviting the lame step here. Lots of nursery rhymes feature characters with just one shoe. This forces them to hobble a bit -- like their God, like their Goddess. Here, the dame MUST, but then she goes into it gladly, dancing within the compass.

I can think of three others where characters lose a shoe. In one, the boy goes to bed in his stockings, but missing a shoe. In the second, a girl has lost one of her holiday shoes. In the third, the princess dances out of one of her shoes (and again the fiddler is mentioned). All of these not only point to the lame step, but also to the Witches' Sabbat.

What is the Significance of the Lame Step?

The lame step, we've come to realize, is a marker for those who walk between the worlds. Symbolically, it represents having one foot in consensus reality and one foot in the realms beyond the veil. The lame step is a way of showing that you are between the worlds.

Before we had even made this connection, Glaux and I had decided that the compass would be laid by treading the mill using the lame step.

Papa Ghede
Interestingly, Glaux recently had a discussion with a friend and fellow Witch about the lame step, Ghede's glasses, and bipolar disorder. It turns out that as we look around, a great many of the talented Witches that we know have bipolar, ourselves included. How much is this yet another variant on the lame step? The disorder is a hindrance in Mundania, and it is a trial, but it forces us to see things differently and to live  with a foot in two realms. It is a difficult balance, and our friend pointed out that we always have to be wary of getting too much information from one side or the other. Something to consider.

Friday, June 24, 2011

June Totems: Robin

American Robin
In the American Folkloric Witchcraft tradition, the Robin is one of the three totems for the month of June, along with Stag and Oak. Robin represents qualities that are kindred to these totems and to the Castle of Stone, Cernunnos and the Summer Solstice -- all of which share this portion of the Wheel of the Year with it.

In England and America, we are talking about two different birds, when we refer to the Robin. Brits are referring to the redbreast, while Americans call the thrush (Turdus migratorius) the Robin. Both birds have red feathers on their breasts, earning them an association with fire.

Most mythologies only make vague reference to the Robin, the clear distinction being the Norse, who associated the bird with Thor and considered it to be a creature of the storm.

Robins are very territorial, and their red breasts signal other males to leave their space. Even their bright and cheery song is a used as a method of battling with other males for dominance over territory. Physical confrontations, on the other hand, tend to be symbolic. Male robins don't seek to hurt each other physically.

The Robin's bright blue egg is distinctive in color. Both male and female Robins share in the feeding of the young, which is a very active process for these birds. Hatchlings are born with no feathers at all, and feedings occur at an average of every twelve minutes. Even so, Robins manage to hatch more than one brood each year. This is a testament to their growth and incredible vitality.

You can learn more about our tradition's wheel of the year through this link.

The Castles, the Druid's Egg and the Glass Sphere

Glaux's Summer Solstice post sparked an interesting dinner table conversation at our house. This is often how magic and the Craft work for us. It is very much a family affair -- and very much a crooked and winding path. Nothing is simple and direct. Neither of us sees the whole picture for what it is. One of us has an insight, and the other rounds it out.

In Tuesday's post, Glaux wrote about the way in which snakes were believed to curl themselves into balls and harden into stone or glass. What she left unsaid in the post is something that excited us both at table. You see, one of the parts of American Folkloric Witchcraft as it is coming to us has to do with a system of Castles that are associated with the four solar holidays of the year -- the equinoxes and solstices. Robert Cochrane writes a bit about a Castle structure in his letters, and it is something that resounded very significantly with us. My former HPS, who had studied at one time with a daughter coven in the Ancient Keltic Church, had also taught me and my covenmates a bit about a magical castle (but truly, only enough to whet our appetites and then leave us wanting more).

Most of what Glaux and I have come to understand about the Castles, we have come to via inspiration, research and luck. We work with five Castles, one in each cross-quarter of the compass and one at its center. The four at the cross-quarters are kept by two kings and two queens who each guard a treasure within their walls.

At the northwest, Janicot holds court in the Glass Castle, guarding the Glass Orb (honored at Winter Solstice). In the southwest, sits Cernunnos in the Stone Castle with the Stone Bowl (honored at Summer Solstice). At the northeast is Hulda in the Castle of Revelry, keeping watch over a golden lantern (honored at Spring Equinox). While Cerridwen holds court at Castle Perilous with the silver chalice (honored at Fall Equinox).

There is a great deal of symbolism worked into the information in the paragraph above. We'll be getting into it in entries to follow, and with just this in hand, you have a lot that you can parse out. (You can also look to this graphic -- which graces our blog -- for the treasure's symbols. The triskele in the center represents the Spiral Castle.)

What had Glaux and I excited was the fact that the snakes didn't turn into Druids' eggs only on Summer Solstice. This phenomenon happened at BOTH solstices. And the snakes were described as both stones and glass bubbles. Well! What do we have as our treasures at the solstices? A stone bowl (which we describe as being made of stone and being filled with stones) and a glass orb (or bubble).

The full magic of the Castles is still elusive, and we know that we are questing (and always will be) to understand it. But confirmations that our path is true -- albeit crooked -- make us two very happy Witches.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.

As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.

Modern calendars state that summer begins on the solstice. According to the old folk calendar, summer begins on Beltane (May 1) and ends on Lammas (August 1st), with the summer solstice, midway between the two, marking Midsummer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that summer begins on the day when the sun's power begins to wane and the days grow shorter. The day is also referred to as St. John's Day, after St. John the Baptist. Other names include Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feill-Sheathain, 'Night of the Verbena, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, La Festa dell'Estate, Festa delle Erbe, and Vestalia.

In England, it was the ancient custom on St. John's Eve to light large bonfires after sundown, which served the double purpose of providing light to the revelers and warding off evil spirits. This was known as setting the watch. People often jumped through the fires for good luck. In addition to these fires, the streets were lined with lanterns, and people carried cressets (pivoted lanterns atop poles) as they wandered from one bonfire to another. These wandering, garland-bedecked bands were called a marching watch. Often they were attended by morris dancers. Just as May Day was a time to renew the boundary on one's own property, so Midsummer's Eve was a time to ward the boundary of the city.

Customs surrounding St. John's Eve are many and varied. At the very least, most young folk plan to stay up throughout the whole of this shortest night. Certain courageous souls might spend the night keeping watch in the center of a circle of standing stones. To do so would certainly result in either death, madness, or (hopefully) the power of inspiration to become a great poet or bard. This was also the night when the serpents of the island would roll themselves into a hissing, writhing ball in order to engender the glain, also called the serpent's egg, snake stone, or Druid's egg. Anyone in possession of this hard glass bubble would wield incredible magical powers. Even Merlin went in search of it, according to one ancient Welsh story.

Snakes were not the only creatures active on Midsummer's Eve. According to British folklore the fey especially enjoyed a riding on such a fine summer's night. In order to see them, you had to gather fern seed at the stroke of midnight and rub it onto your eyelids. But be sure to carry a little bit of rue in your pocket, or you might well be pixie-led. Or, failing the rue, you might simply turn your jacket inside-out, which should keep you from harm's way. But if even this fails, you must seek out one of the ley lines, the old straight tracks, and stay upon it to your destination. This will keep you safe from any malevolent power, as will crossing a stream of running water.

In our tradition we use this time to fly to the Castle of Stone where we may honor and gain wisdom from the Oak King.  One way to achieve this vision it through a guided meditation, such as is presented here.

You can learn more about our tradition's wheel of the year through this link.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Crane Bag

Alligator skin & blue kyanite bag.
The Witch's Crane Bag is a small bag made of leather, skin, hide, cotton, linen, wool or other cloth, or any substance capable of holding a collection of things inside it. The Crane Bag can be of any size and composition, and it may be of any color or combination of colors. It may be held or connected to you in any manner. Crane Bags are often worn on the belt, around the neck, or over the shoulder. It is analogous to the Native American medicine bag.

The Crane Bag of Celtic myth was owned by Manannan mac Lir (who is connected with cranes). It was fabricated from the skin of Aoife after she was transformed into a crane. This bag contained treasures which were only visible at high tide. These treasures include: Manannan's house, shirt, and knife; Goibniu's belt and smith's hook; the King of Alba's shears; the King of Lochlann's helmet; the belt of fish-skin; and the bones of Asal's pig.  Many modern Druids carry Crane Bags as part of their regalia.

Witches may place any spiritual object in their Crane Bags according to their personal preferences. Such items may include:

  • Rocks and shells
  • Plants, leaves, twigs, seeds, roots or pieces of bark
  • Herbs, oils, infusions, concoctions, teas or healing brews
  • Feathers, fur, nails, bones, claws, teeth or other animal parts
  • Animal, plant or spirit totems of any kind
  • Lucky charms of any sort
  • Small gift from friends or coven mates
  • Any other items with a spiritual purpose

What you place in your Crane Bag is entirely up to you. It is your medicine bundle where you can keep any spiritual objects that hold a special meaning for you. You may keep anything sacred to you in your Crane Bag and you need not share the contents of your Crane Bag with any other person whatsoever.  Indeed, it is recommended that a Witch does not share all of the contents of her Crane Bag with anyone, but let it remain a mystery and a secret which will build numen.  The Crane Bag is worn whenever a Witch wants protection, strength, and additional magical power.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Faces of the Oak King

Cernunnos, Green Man, Woodwose, Vindos, Pwyll, Freyr, Lugh, Apollo, Lucifer, Herne the Hunter, Karnayna, Faunus, Cern, Dianus, Sylvanus, Edric, Orfeo, Tapio, Dusio, Derg Corra, Green George, Jack in the green, John Barleycorn, Robin Goodfellow, Gwythyr ap Greidawl

Station of the Wheel
Southeast, Summer Solstice (Midsummer), June, Stone Castle, Mead Moon

Stag, Oak, Robin

Stone Bowl

Cernunnos in Celtic iconography is often portrayed with animals, in particular the stag, and also frequently associated with a the ram-horned serpent, besides association with other beasts with less frequency, including bulls (at Rheims), dogs, and rats. Because of his frequent association with creatures, scholars often describe Cernunnos as the "Lord of the Animals" or the "Lord of Wild Things", and Miranda Green describes him as a "peaceful god of nature and fruitfulness".

The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring.

The wild man or woodwose is a mythical figure that appears in the artwork and literature of medieval Europe. Images of wild men appear in the carved and painted roof bosses where intersecting ogee vaults meet in the Canterbury Cathedral, in positions where one is also likely to encounter the vegetal Green Man. The wild man, pilosus or "hairy all over", and often armed with a club. The image of the wild man survived to appear as supporter for heraldic coats-of-arms, especially in Germany, well into the 16th century.

There are several examples of the Romano-Celtic God Vindos maq Noudons which can be easily referenced within texts. Most deal with the root "vin" which means "light" or "white."

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Stone Bowl

In our tradition the Summer Solstice is associated with the Castle of Stone, the King of which is the Oak King Cernnunos, and the treasure of which is the stone bowl.  The stone bowl is a very real working tool in this tradition, and is one of the first tools a witch procures.

Within this tradition of Craft, we recognize the demand for energy exchange when working magic. This exchange, or sacrifice, happens whether we are aware of it or not. It varies beyond our understanding, as sometimes a small charm can require a great sacrifice, whereas a huge spellworking may not require any exchange at all. It is because of this element of chance that we choose to be aware and actively involved in this sacrifice whenever we perform magic. Furthermore, we understand that every act of magic (whether selfless or selfish) requires this sacrifice, and we perform this divination prior to every spell.

The three stones (see below) are cast into a shallow dish bearing the markings shown above. These markings form a central glyph  representing both the laying of the compass and the wheel of the year.  It is divided into quadrants, each with a circular symbol that represent the solar holidays and the four castles. In the center of the design is a triskle, representing the Spiral Castle, the axis on which the compass turns.

The three stones are one of white, one of black, and one of red.  They may be found naturally in these colors, or may be ordinary river pebbles painted the appropriate colors. The three stones represent the White and Black Goddesses and Tubal Cain. The red stone, or Tubal Cain stone, is the indicator stone when casting into the bowl.

To use the stone bowl

Cast all three of the stones into the bowl. Whichever stone the red stone is closest to indicates to which Goddess the sacrifice will be made. This will flavor the nature of the sacrifice.

The distance between the black and white stones indicates the time and/or severity of the sacrifice to be made.

Types of sacrifices

Glass Castle (the light blue circle) – fasting/discomfort
examples: performing a no-kill fast, sleeping on the floor, walking somewhere outdoors barefoot, etc.

Stone Castle (the green crossed circle) – money/material
examples: gifting a personal item to someone, donating money to a charity, volunteering on a project without compensation, etc.

Castle Perilous (the red halved circle) – blood/pain
examples: shedding of own blood with intent, running an endurance race, lifting heavy weights, submitting to flogging, etc.

Castle Revelry (the golden circle with a central point) – abstinence
examples: abstaining from sexual stimulation for a period of time, giving up smoking, alcohol, caffeine, sugar or another addiction for a period of time, etc.

The Spiral Castle (the silver triskle) – no sacrifice necessary


Figure 1: The red indicator stone is nearest to the white stone, which is in the Castle of Stone. A material/monetary sacrifice to the White Goddess is called for here. The white stone and the black stone are far apart in the bowl, so the sacrifice must be large.
Figure 2: The red indicator stone is nearest to the black stone which in in the Spiral Castle, so no sacrifice is necessary for this working.
Figure 3: The red indicator stone is nearest to the black stone in the Castle of Revelry. A sacrifice of abstinence is called for in honor of the Black Goddess. The black and white stones are near to each other in the bowl, so the sacrifice is minimal.

Witch's Stones

The Casting Stones are used in conjunction with the stone bowl to divine appropriate sacrifice before an act of magic.

The Hag Stone is any stone with a natural hole through it.  Small versions of the hag stone may be strung on cords and worn for luck. Larger hag stones may be used to peer through to see into other realms.  The largest hag stones are used to promote prosperity and fertility by crawling though the hole.  The hag stone represents the feminine magical principle. Also known as a holy stone.

The God Stone is any single standing stone set in the ground.  These stones are phallic in appearance and in nature. They are often used as an axis for treading the mill and laying the compass. They also serve as markers and conduits for the natural dragon-energy in the land. The god stone represents the masculine magical principle.

The Oath Stone is certain stone used by witches to bind them to Tubal Cain and the Mighty Dead of their Craft, creating the red thread.  The oath stone is kept at the base of the stang and is sometimes represented as an anvil.

The Troy Stone is a stone with spiral and serpentine markings or carvings upon it.  It is used to mark portals in liminal space and to bind spirits. Also known as the gate stone.

The Fairy Stone is a stone with a small depression in the surface in which liquid offerings can be made to the spirits of the land and the ancestors.  Also known as a cup stone.

The Sun Stone is a clear quartz crystal used to hold or direct energy, or for scrying, in which case it is known as a keek stone.

The Thunder Stone is a flint arrowhead created by the ancestors.  It was once thought that these stones came from lightning strikes and that they could protect against storms. Also known as elf shot.

The Touch Stone is a volcanic stone with a slight magnetic charge used in the construction of the besom. Also known as Balanite or Basalt.

The Toad Stone is a mythical stone of great virtue said to be found in the head of a toad.  It may actually refer to the toad bone, a specific bone in the skeleton of a toad that confers magical abilities on its bearer.

The Bezoar is a stone found in the stomach of some mammals. The bezoar is said to bestow great magical virtue on its bearer, including protection from poison.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Witch Marks, Witch Blood, and the Kuthun

Witch Marks

Some witches are born with a special mark upon them that singles then out as a person gifted with power.  Some traditional variations on this mark include: a specially shaped birthmark, a supernumerary nipple, polydactylism, red hair, extra teeth, and being born with a caul (a portion of the birth sac over the head).

Witch marks are created at certain rites of passage within our tradition.  They consist of a special symbol marked on the body, either astrally or physically, as in a tattoo.  Both the symbol and its placement of the body are significant to our tradition.

Witch Blood

Some witches claim blood lineage from witches who have gone before.  This is known as possessing witch blood.  It is based on a very ancient notion from the book of Enoch that T'Qayin once mixed his seed with that of the daughters of Adam, producing a race of supernaturally gifted beings.  These beings are sometimes referred to as The Watchers.  It is said that this divine spark runs through the veins and sings from the bones of every witch.  Remember that you are made of the same materials as the stars, and that magic lives within you.  Even if you cannot trace your familial lineage to that of a known witch, know that through the forging of the Red Thread, the magical link that this tradition creates between you and the Mighty Dead, you share the blood of T'Qayin.

The Kuthun

Is is told that for a witch to pass from this life into the next, she must pass her power on to another.  This provides incentive for teaching the Craft to others, ensuring that our ways do not die with us.  The Kuthun is a tangible object that links the power of a witch to her descendant. It may be a beloved magical tool, a piece of jewelry or regalia, or a formal document of lineage.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Meditation: Visiting the Oak King Cernunnos

 Our tradition uses guided meditation to help impress certain symbols on our member's consciousness. Below is our Midsummer meditation. It takes place in the Castle of Stone, which is the southeast area of our compass.  It is the home of the Oak King, who we honor as Cernunnos.  To use this meditation let yourself relax comfortably and picture yourself drifting downward and inward to the third realm, the lower realm. Briefly, the three realms are Sky above (first realm), Land around (second realm), and Sea below (third 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 Oak King Cernunnos

You awake in a forest of oak trees at midday.  Red breasted robins sing from the trees, and the forest is green with the radiance of nature in summertime.

A rustling from behind you causes you to turn around quickly.  Only a few yards from you is a magnificent stag.  His antlers are as broad as your arms when fully outstretched.  His hide is rich russet.  He bears seven tines on each antler.

The stag gives you a loud snort and tosses his head.    You are consumed with a desire to capture this roebuck, and as if it knew what you were thinking, the stag suddenly bolts away from you.  You give chase.  You run through the oak forest as quickly as any deer could, bounding over creeks and fallen trees.  You can see the stag ahead of you, and you keep pace behind him.  You run at full tilt past mighty oak trees that dwarf you and your quarry.

The stag clears the forest ahead of you and enters a green grass field.  You follow behind him.  He disappears into a huge sloping green valley, and still you rush down the slope after him.  Although your focus remains on chasing the stag, you notice that the valley seems to be constructed like a massive ancient earthwork.  In the center of the valley rises a high grassy hill and upon this hill appears to be a stone fort of some kind.  The stag pauses briefly at the base of the great hill and then bounds up it.

You reach the base of the hill and are momentarily daunted by its steepness and height.  Yet you find force of will to begin the climb upwards.  Up the hill you climb, your legs scrambling.  Up the hill of grass, your fingers struggling to find holds in the emerald green turf.  Up to the top of the earthwork mound, your arms aching from pulling along the weight of your body.

Although you are nearly exhausted you have reached the top of the hill.  You do not see the stag but you notice that you are near a set of enormous oaken doors.  The doors are the entrance to a massive fort of gray stone.  The fort's turrets are adorned with the standards of warriors and kings.  From within the fort you can hear sounds of steel clashing and voices yelling commands.

You approach the doors and knock, but they remain closed to you.  To your side you hear a snort.  It is the stag.  He walks up to the oak doors and touches them with his antlers.  The doors open with a wooden thud.

Within the fort is a field where thousands of warriors from myth and legend are training for battle.  Achilles wrestles with Lancelot as Parzival and Sigurd cross steel.  Spartans train next to samurai.  You watch as Scathac demonstrates for Hector how she wields a spear.  A voice from behind addresses you.  You turn to see it is the Arthurian knight Sir Gawain.  “We've been expecting you,” he says gravely.  You ask him where you are and he replies, “There are many names for this place.  Some call it Troy Town.  Others call it Camelot.  I call it the Castle of Stone.  It is the home of King Cernunnos and his stone bowl.”

Gawain points to a set of double doors across the field.  The doors are of oak intricately carved with countless symbols.  Among these you notice a stag and a robin.  You move to touch the doors and they swing open at your gesture.

Inside the room is a tan and muscular man with thick brown hair.  He wears a crown of antlers.  He is seated on a throne of stone and he wears tanned leather and a green cloak.  His eyes are as green as emeralds and he is smiling broadly at you.  To his right is a table with a stone saucer on it.  To his left is a staff of oak bearing leaves, catkins, and acorns.

“I am called Cernunnos” he says.  His voice is deep and musical and reminds you of the sounds of animals.  You can feel your pulse quicken as he speaks.  The scent of moss and musk fills your nostrils.  Your eyes widen in wonder as you realize that his antlered crown isn't really a crown at all.  He has antlers as broad and majestic as the stag you chased to this place.

His eyes sparkle as he gestures to the stone saucer to his right.  “This is the treasure of the Stone Castle.” You approach the bowl and peer into it.  Inside of the bowl it is very black.  There are three stones and a silver spiral floating in the darkness.  The stones roll in circles as the spiral spins and shifts.  They create patterns and symbols that you understand are related to the pattern of your life.  Peering deeper into the blackness of the bowl you are filled with wisdom and peace.  In the bowl you begin to perceive the purpose of your life's journey and the path you must take to accomplish your destiny.

The symbols shift further, making your head spin in wonder.  Cernunnos chuckles knowingly. His laugh is deep and rolling. You can feel it envelop you like the  shade of a great and ancient forest.  Cernunnos set his hand on your shoulder to steady you. “I have a message for you,” he says.  He leans forward and whispers his secret message in your ear. [long pause]

Cernunnos bids you farewell.  He and shakes your hand and claps you to his chest.  He is warm and smells of musk and loam.  Around you the room seems to fill with foliage.  Leave it hastily, hurrying past the field where warriors are training.  Gawain salutes you as you pass.  Beyond the oaken doors of the fort awaits the great stag that lead you here.  He now regards you with a knowing respect. You follow him as he runs down the great hill and into the valley.  He waits for you to catch up to him, glancing behind.  You enter with him into the oak forest .  The stag leaves you in an oak grove with the midday sun shining upon you.  You settle in beneath a large oak tree and rest.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Triple Soul

In our tradition, as in many world shamanic traditions, we recognize that all living beings are born into this world with three souls. These three souls correspond to the triple colors of witchcraft. 

The first soul is the Black Soul, or spirit.  It is our astral body, and is capable of traveling beyond this world into other realms.  The spirit is what we identify as our self, our ego.  It is our identity in this lifetime, and is an exact copy of us, although it can take any form you wish for it to (the fetch).  Upon death the spirit may wander as a ghost or revenant, or it may travel back to the cauldron where its energy will dissolve to create new spirits.

The second soul is the Red Soul, or eternal soul.  It lives in the bones of each of us, and cannot be destroyed.  It is the divine spark of Qayin's blood within every true witch's heart.  It is this spirit that after death is awarded a period of rest in Ynys Avalon, or Elphame, after which it is reborn.  The eternal soul holds our past life memories, and our connection to our ancestors.

The third soul is the White Soul, or higher self.  It is also known as the Holy Guardian Angel.  The higher self exists just above our bodies, like a crown or halo.  Inspiration, enlightenment, and divine wisdom all come to us through the higher self.  It is one of the main goals of a witch to gain knowledge of this higher self, and to commune with it regularly.  Upon death the eternal soul is alchemically married to the higher self, so that true lasting communion is reveled to us.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Ancestors

The most important link that a witch makes is the one that links her to the ancestors of the tradition.  This link is the Red Thread.  Once made it cannot be severed except by the will of the witch alone.  It is this link that creates a witch in our tradition.  It is the link that creates us as family.

The ancestors are more than just names on our family tree.  They are the guardians and guides that shape our practice from the other side.  They are our allies in magic and our protectors in spirit.

Although none can truly claim full knowledge of what happens to our spirits after our bodies expire, we believe that the spirit and the eternal soul continue on.  The eternal soul flies from us to the shining realm of the ancients, the land of fey, Elphame, the isle of apples, Ynys Avalon, where it takes its repose. This expression of the soul lives in our bones, and it is for that reason that we honor our ancestors through the symbolism of bones. The spirit, an expression of our ego and “self”, may wander here for a time after death, creating the phenomenon we recognize as ghosts, or it may return to the source, the great cauldron, from which we are reborn anew.

Of special interest to us are the Mighty Dead.  These are the dead that have returned to the cauldron and have retained themselves in whole (both spirit and eternal soul) through many lives.  They are the great heroes and heroines of myth and history.  Their influence shapes our world, and their guidance can teach us much.

We access the ancestors by honoring them in word and deed.  The names we take are a litany of the generations before us.  We make offerings to the dead throughout the year, and especially when the veil is thinnest at Samhain.  We learn to tap the bone, to create communication with our guiding ancestors, through meditation and offerings.

The ancestors are honored at the center of the compass for our rites, by the skull placed at the foot of the stang.

The Three Knives

Lay of the Arthame
by Nigel Jackson

This is the Metal: it dropp’d from the sky,
A ferrous tear of the Fire-Drake’s eye,
That burned through cloud and seared the soil 
and set the furious seas a boil,
That lay in ancient pores of earth,
Til Blacksmith’s brought it to birth,
Thrice-purified in Tubalo’s fire
It suffered the ordeal of the pyre; cast into waters, hissed it’s song,
The starry viper’s iron tongue was tempered on the anvil-stone,
Til radiant as changeless bone, 
With whispered charge and wordless spell,
The gramarye of Azazel. 
The edge was ground and thus was made,
The narrow road of sharpened blade. 
This is the metal: ‘twas shaped by Cain
Who wrought the heavenly Arthame.

There are three knives associated with our tradition. These knives each represent the three realms, and the White Goddess, the Black Goddess, and the Red God. Each knife is used in a very specific and exclusive way.

The first of the knives is the black-handled blade, the Athame. It is the tool of the first realm and relates to the Black Goddess. The Athame is used for cutting and describing numen. It is used primarily to cut and direct energy links and sometimes to delineate sacred space. Gate portals are cut with the Athame, and it is the Witch's primary weapon when in liminal space.

The second knife is the white-handled blade, the Kerfane. It is the tool of the second realm and relates to the White Goddess. The Kerfane is used for cutting and carving in the physical realm. It may be used to fashion a wand, carve into a candle, cut cords, or harvest herbs. If the Kerfane is sickle-shaped and used for harvesting plant materials it is referred to as a boline. If the Kerfane is shaped like a pin and is used for inscribing materials it is referred to as a burin.

The third knife is the red blade, the Shelg. It is the tool of the third realm and relates to the Red God of the Forge, Tubal Qayin. The Shelg is used for blood magic and sacrifice. It may be used to open a small wound in the flesh in order to produce blood for oath-taking or binding links. It is also used during the Housle to activate the Red Meal as a true sacrifice. Although sterile lancets are often used in place of the Shelg for safe bloodletting in small amounts, the Shelg is still symbolically passed over the wound to seal the link to Qayin.

The three knives are used in a test of fate during initiation to bind the Witch in service to one of the three deities of our Clan.
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