Celtic Polytheism, Event, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Prayer, Ritual

Imbolc!

 

This year for Imbolc, we helped to organize a ritual at our local UU church.  At home, our deities of the occasion are Cailleach and Brigid, and the group agreed to honor them for our ritual.  We used a shortened version of the ADF creation of sacred space and ritual center, honoring of the Hallows (Fire, Well and Tree), the Kindreds (Shining Ones, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits), and a short meditation to help us connect to the space between the worlds.

Then we invoked the Cailleach and Brigid.  Another participant read a prayer they’d found called “Prayer to Brigantia, Keeper of the Forge“, by Patti Wigington, substituting “Brigid” for “Brigantia”.  I wrote a poem for Cailleach following the same pattern, and Scott read it during the ritual.  I’ve reproduced both, below.

We also tied raffia to pussywillow branches for our hopes and intentions for the spring, similar to cloutie ties, and we sang Kelianna’s song Brighid’s Flame together.

It was a simple ritual, but poignant for many of the participants, and it’s proof that we can pull something together in less than a week.  Still, I think we’re going to plan farther ahead for the Spring Equinox!

 

Imbolc Prayer for Cailleach, by Aleja Nic Bhé Chuille

Hail, Cailleach! Bringer of ice and snow,
She who blankets the world in white,
She who freezes the world so time seems to slow,
She who encourages us to rely on each other,
She who is called the Blue Crone,
And teaches us the true meaning of survival.

Hail, Cailleach! Queen of Winter,
She who frosts the ground with her staff,
She who dropped rocks and made mountains,
She who shaped valleys and hills,
She who flies over the land as a great winter storm.

 

Prayer for Brigantia, Keeper of the Forge, by Patti Wigington

Hail, Brigantia! Keeper of the forge,
She who shapes the world itself with fire,
She who ignites the spark of passion in the poets,
She who leads the clans with a warrior’s cry,
She who is the bride of the islands,
And who leads the fight of freedom.

Hail, Brigantia! Defender of kin and hearth,
She who inspires the bards to sing,
She who drives the smith to raise his hammer,
She who is a fire sweeping across the land.

 

[Feel free to use my prayer to Cailleach for your own rituals, with proper attribution!]

 

Event, Holiday Celebration, Ritual

Imbolc 2018

Our Imbolc started on January 30th, with a small gathering of pagan friends on the night of the super blue full moon!  It was beautiful, but alas I did not remember to charge and bring my good camera, so I have no photos.  I shall endeavor not to make that mistake again.

We did a bit of moon gazing, and then did our usual around-in-a-circle sharing what we’d been up to, spiritually and otherwise, since last we all met in thunder, lightning, or in rain. It was too cold this time for us to be outside for long, so no fire to burn offerings in, but we offered Brigid and the Cailleach (our deities of the occasion for this holiday) a scone with some honey whiskey poured over it, on a rock near our host’s front door instead.

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I started with this box of blueberry scone mix (gluten free, of course), and added some lavender and lemon peel, and made them with buttermilk instead of whatever the box recommended.  They were pretty tasty!

I do think I really ought to start planning food for the holidays ahead of time, though.  I’d like to create something that the Acorn Sproutling can grow up with as a family tradition.  Scones seem pretty good for Imbolc – but maybe lemon poppyseed instead, with a honey glaze?  Made with buttermilk again, of course!

A few days later, we met another group of pagans at a restaurant for a meet and greet, sort of continuing the season.  On Imbolc proper we did a little bit at home, but not much, because our ritual was last Sunday, with the pagan group at our local UU Church.  That was organized by a woman who was just getting to know Brigid, and it was really heartwarming to see someone dive into the lore surrounding a goddess I’ve come to love.  The ritual itself centered on the participants writing “seeds” of things they wished to manifest on pieces of paper, which were then tied on sticks (to be shared) or tied around one’s neck (to remain secret).  It was quite creative, and the whole thing really brought together a few different strains of Imbolc traditions and lore about the goddess herself.

Now that Imbolc has passed, I expect I’ll begin to really feel the return of the light soon – Spring is almost here!

 

Event, Healing, Reiki, Ritual

Grand Healing Ceremony

Earlier this month, Glasreo and I had the opportunity to work as healers at Monika Healing Coyote’s Grand Healing Ceremony.  It was the first time we’d worked that sort of ritual, and the most clients we’d worked on in a single day (except for brief work at reiki shares) and though we were somewhat nervous about how much we’d be able to do before we got tapped out, we both managed to work on 3/4 of the attendees before we needed to stop.

For privacy reasons we obviously can’t tell what we all did, but we can give an overview and some general themes.  Most of the attendees didn’t have specific things they wanted worked on, but I ended up doing deep healing work (and some soul retrieval) on just about everyone she worked on, even when the requests were vague. Glasreo found that his new lithomancy set was needed to work through blockages for some people, giving them answers that hadn’t been made clear by other forms of divination.  Both of us found ourselves holding part of the warding for the space in which we worked, and my Waystation energies in particular seemed (to Monika, at least) to be helping the healers work longer more effectively!

It was a nice plunge back into healing work, and we will definitely be working the next one (schedules permitting) so watch for it some time in the winter months!

Event, Ritual, Workshop

Sacred Space 2017 – Days 3 & 4

See Days 1 & 2 Here!

 

Workshop: Glamour, by Gwendolyn Reece

Gwendolyn Reece is Hellenic Revivalist priestess of Athena and Apollon and a member of the Wiccan Assembly of the Sacred Wheel who lives in DC, where she has founded a temple to her patrons, called Theophania.  She has always been politically involved, but recent events have kicked her up a notch, and she believes that humanity, as a group and oversoul, is on the cusp of an initiatory challenge.  In order to succeed, she believes we need to clear out what is preventing our spiritual evolution, and one of the largest obstacles is what she refers to as glamour, inspired in no small part by the book Glamour, a World Problem, by Alice Bailey.  This echoes thoughts about the change from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius, and Gwendolyn emphasized that we really need to look at trends in terms of 200 years, not 20 years, in order to really see the patterns she’s talking about.  Part of the initiatory challenge, she said, comes from several different crises: crises of government are obvious (remember, modern democracy is only a little over 200 years old!), but she is especially concerned with the crisis of climate change.  She believes that most of these crises and movements toward spiritual evolution can be boiled down into a move towards the self governance of adulthood.  Previously, most forms of government revolved around the idea of sacred kingship.  Now, most world governments give at least lip service to democratic elections.  But a lot of glamour needs to be dispelled if we are going to succeed at this initiatory challenge.

Gwendolyn defines “glamour” as: a delusion that occurs at the level of consciousness in which cognition is mixed with emotion.  She adds that most humans are functioning at that level most of the time.  Academics and occultists frequently work at higher levels but tend to return there; some people may spend time below there but tend to return there when they are more clear-headed.  She spent a while explaining the different planes/vibrations and how, for the most part, humans are aware of only the center, but if we shift our perceptions (via trance, etc), we can access different parts.  It is the work of the occultist to go higher, and in doing so, we can get above the cloud of glamour in order to see it more clearly – and hopefully dispel it.  She emphasized the need to start with the glamours we are carrying, ourselves, and then working up to small groups and larger groups that we are a part of, potentially all the way up to the human oversoul (though that’s probably best done in a group effort, she says).

She gave one pretty detailed functional example that I’ll share here: Cynicism.  This one raises three very important glamour red flags: 1) it is a cognitive pattern that evokes an emotive pattern that allows them to feel superior, 2) it is a cognitive pattern that deprives them of power while giving them the illusion of power, and 3) it functions as a self-reinforcing loop.  Cynicism has become a marker for intelligence, which then allows those who are cynical to feel superior to those who are not, because they’re smarter and not hiding from “harsh truths”.  Cynicism removes swathes of intelligent people from being invested in their communities because “there’s no point”, and they feel self-righteous and correct when things then fail – but their refusal to engage is actually one of the causes of failure.  As Gwendolyn says, if she was Sauron, contemplating how to enslave Humanity with a really good spell, she couldn’t do better than that!

To dispel glamours in yourself, Gwendolyn says the best thing you can do is to strengthen your intuition and practice mindfulness.  At a higher level, she recommends rising through the planes above the cloud of glamour, and contemplating it until you truly understand it in a mystical way – what is the core of the glamour itself?  And once you know, find the light within you or ask for assistance from a being of light (like Apollon), target the center of it, and blow it away as best you can.  This will require repetition.  And the larger the group that you’re trying to remove the glamour from, the larger a group of practitioners you’re likely to need to make a dent.  She emphasizes, however, that dispelling from above is a lot more effective than dispelling from the same level, and you probably only need about 20% to hit a real tipping point where it will steadily get clearer and clearer.

 

Ritual: Tea with Your Dweller, by Holli Shan

This was a guided meditation to help with shadow work, where we were guided to have a talk with our Dweller on the Threshold, our shadow self.  We discussed the concept first, and then did two short pathworkings, which I found immensely useful.  There was actual tea provided, a warm and calming blend made by Tintalle Foxwood (but alas I failed to write down the ingredients).

The guidance was more or less as follows: Take our cup of tea, take a large sip and hold it in our mouths, really tasting it.  Then, focus on breathing for four breaths as we sink into trance.  Holli led us down a spiral staircase, and into a room in a palace deep in the ground where there was a small table, with a single candle, and a single cup of tea.  We were to sit down at the table, and then call to our Dweller, who would take the chair opposite us.  Then, we shared the tea – three sips each, back and forth and back and forth.  Once the tea was gone, we were told to ask our Dweller what they had for us, be it message or object.  Many of us were given gem-like objects (which Holli had previously said was how she often pictured the exchange) which we were then told to identify, and release, destroy, or re-integrate according to what it was that we had been given.

Some people were given childhood memories that they had to reintegrate after releasing negative emotions.  Some were given more overt messages, like “You need to make time for self care so you can love yourself again”.  I was given two objects in the first pathworking that I could not identify, but the first one I knew I needed to release, and the second one needed to be cleansed and then re-integrated.  In the second pathworking, I was given more information to better understand what the two things had been, and was given an additional two gems.  It was very healing, and reminded me somewhat of soul retrieval.  I will definitely do it again on my own.

 

Workshop: Magick for the Good of the Polis, by Gwendolyn Reece

This was Gwendolyn’s second and more overtly political worskshop.  She said that before she does any large workings aimed at a group (because that is what a polis is – a body of which an individual human is a part), she starts with an ethical reasoning process, borrowed from academia.  This is a six-part process of ethics questions:

  • Self-Assessment: Is it really about service? What is it feeding in me?  Am I doing this for myself?
  • Self-Assessment: Do I know enough about the topic to properly identify the risks?
  • Risk/Benefit Calculation: What is the probability of harm? What is the magnitude of the possible harm?  What is the probability of benefit? Magnitude of possible benefit?
  • Comprehensive Identification of Risks: What is the risk to the individual practitioner? To the community of practitioners? To the community targeted? To any institutions? What is the risk of attracting unwanted spirit attention? Etc, etc.
  • Risk Mitigation: How can you mitigate the above risks?  How many of them can you mitigate at once?
  • Consult Others: Ask your fellow practioners for advice, and also consult your personal guides and guardians, deities, etc.

She did say that in the case of enviromental collapse, the risk/benefit calculation gives her more leeway than on most things, because the risk of not doing anything is total disaster.

Gwendolyn discussed various types of Ancient Hellenic practices, starting with the religion of the polis, then personal and household devotions, the Mysteries, and lastly the different types of magic: Magika, Goetia, and Pharmakon.  She said generally, magic on behalf of the polis was attempted after the following steps were taken: 1) recognize the miasma of the polis (miasma, in her definition, is what occurs when humans are out of right relationship with the gods and with each other, ie, when social contracts have been broken), 2) look for the causes of miasma (this was often done by consulting oracles or taking omens, etc), 3) appease or remove the causes of miasma and bind what cannot be removed (this is usually the majority of the magical workings), and then 4) strengthen the beneficial (by making sacrifices to the patron of the polis, for example).  It’s a decent pathway for modern practitioners to follow before doing workings, as well.  She then discussed various kinds of magic, including Apompe, Katadesmoi, Judicial spells, and Baityloi, before discussing a couple of workings she’s done recently.

 

Ritual: The Healing Labyrinth, by Irene Glasse

This was a labyrinth walk, on a labyrinth Irene brought with her rolled up on a huge sheet.  Irene is a yoga teacher and a trained labyrinth facilitator.  Her spiritual home is Frederick Unitarian Universalist Church, which has a large labyrinth in its courtyard.  Labyrinth walking is a somewhat unique form of mediation, because of the movement required.  She also said that everything on a labyrinth walk is an allegory, so make note of times you get lost, get distracted, or stumble.  It is also a very personal journey that sometimes must take place with others around, giving it a sense of community not unlike a meditative yoga class.

On our first walk, she wanted us to focus on what was stuck in our lives on our way in, what our blockages were, and what we must release.  On the way out, we were to focus on what needed to be received, what needed to come in to fill the space instead.  Before the second walk, she placed rattles and bells at various points around the labyrinth.
on that second walk, we were to stop at each station on the way in and pick up a rattle.  Then, through the sound of the rattle and the sound of our own voice, we were supposed to name a blockage and release it.  On the way out, our blockages cleared, we were to use the bells, and with their sound and our voice, welcome in those things we needed to receive.  As more and more people entered the labyrinth, it became a symphony of sound, and while it might sound cacophonous, it instead was a very healing sound overall, and many of us found that the things we were struggling with were also things others needed to release.

 

Closing Ritual

Like the Opening Ritual, this one is scripted almost the same every year, and yet it feels important to go, to get that closure.  The patrons are thanked and released, the egregore is put back to sleep as a chrysalis, and the wards are dropped as we return to the mundane world, with a parting gift.  The gift this year was a blessed Constitution, and since I already had one from a friend who attended one of Gwendolyn’s Theophania Temple rituals, Glasreo and I passed ours on to vendor friends who hadn’t been able to attend.

As always, after four days at Sacred Space, it was a little bit difficult to move fully back into our mundane lives!

Event, Ritual, Workshop

Sacred Space 2017 – Days 1 & 2

Opening Ritual

The Opening Ritual is scripted just about the same every year, as its primary purposes are to 1) awaken the egregore of the conference, 2) invoke Djehuty and Athena, the patrons of the conference, and 3) ward and sanctify the space.  The main thing that stuck out to me this year was part of Gwendolyn Reece’s invocation of Athena: Let us be useful.  It reminded me of my own budding work with Athena Columbia, a local cultus of Athena as Patroness of the District of Columbia and Protectress of American Democracy. (For more info, see my devotional tumblog.)

Workshop: 5 Herbs for the Hedgewitch, by Tintalle Foxwood

Tintalle Foxwood is a clinical herbalist who works out of her home in Baltimore, MD, and is part of Orion Foxwood’s temple and tradition of Faery Seership.  She presented this workshop on 5 herbs (plus one extra that jumped in) that can help build the spirit-mind-body connection, in order to keep occultists healthy and grounded in their mundane lives while still able to do their spiritual work.  Her six herbs were Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Milky Oats (Avena sativa), Linden (Tilia spp.), Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), and Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata).  She picked these six herbs because they can all be grown and harvested sustainably, they are generally safe for most people to use (barring allergies), they have a history of traditional uses, they have scientific evidence-based uses, and the plant spirits were willing to be part of her program.  She talked at length about nervines and adaptogens generally (most of the herbs are one or the other), and then spoke on each herb specifically, giving uses for each.  I was somewhat familiar with Stinging Nettle and Passionflower, but her workshop gave me more ideas for the use of even those two familiar plants!  At the end, we each had the chance to blend an herbal tea out of those six herbs, plus a number of extras that she’d brought as flavor enhancers and “backup dancers”.  I blended a tea for Glasreo, to hopefully help on days that work fries his brain a bit too much.

Ritual: Ogma and the Voices of the Tree Ogham, by Raven Edgewalker

Raven Edgewalker is part of the Reclaiming tradition and has worked very closely with the trees of the ogham for twenty or so years.  At the ritual, she began by casting a circle calling on the trees to stand guard around us, and honestly I think it was the most comfortable cast circle I’ve ever been in. (Frequently I feel more cut off and claustrophobic than protected inside of Wiccan circles, which is why I tend to prefer druidic rituals!)  After an invocation to Ogma himself, the ritual was reflective, based on questions drawn from four ogham trees: Birch, Oak, Hawthorn, and Blackthorn.  Birch asked, “What are you beginning?” Oak asked, “What in you is strong?”  Hawthorn asked, “What do you fear?”  Blackthorn asked, “What do you wish to protect?”  We answered in our hearts, and then gave our answers to those whose eyes we met as we moved within the circle.  At the end, having found our answers, we raised energy to bless ourselves.  It was a very enjoyable ritual, and I gained a number of important insights.  Additionally, it cemented for me that it is time for me to start my ogham journey.  I purchased a set of staves from Raven (check out her etsy shop!) later that weekend.

Ritual: Oracular Seidhr, by Scott Momhern and Becky Sheehan, assisted by Laurel Mendes

This was my second time attending this ritual.  Previously, Laurel Mendes and Diana Paxson had taken turns being seer and guide; this time Scott and Becky were the seers, guided by Laurel.  I did not ask a question this time, either, but Glasreo did, on the topic of his personal path and growth that I won’t share here.  Highlights included this business advice from Odin, paraphrased: “Tell them what you need to – which does not mean tell them everyhing.  You can best serve them by doing your work well, whatever it is.”  As other questions were asked, I found myself in journey space, talking to Hela about our coming work together.  I gained some insight into why I find her so comfortable to talk with, and learned that deathwork is also within the realm of my healing work.  Freya also talked to me about oracular seidhr, and volva-ship, though she cautioned that it’s not a good idea to begin that work while pregnant, as I am too close to the edge already. I imagine we’ll discuss that more come summer.

Workshop: Guardianship and Trance Possession, by Raven Fitzcarraldo Mohnkern

After the mishap and my successful possession last year at the Conjure Dance, Glasreo and I both thought it would be a good idea to attend this workshop.  Raven is a member of the Universal Temple of Spirits and has been a guardian at trance possessory rites for about twenty years.  Guardianship, as she explained, means protection of the human attendees, moving energy into/out of people as needed, holding sacred space, and keeping the mundane world from interfering with the rite.  UToS is a polytheist pan-pantheon tradition, but they borrow some terminology from ADTs, including the use of Horse/Rider to describe possession.  At their rites there is a team of Guardians and attendants, and because it is a fairly small community, they tend to know which human is likely to be possessed by which spirit and what the human’s needs and boundaries are, as well as the spirit’s expectations, but Raven emphasized the need to express your own boundaries and any allergies, etc, to the Guardians whenever you are at a trance possessory rite.  She used the car driving metaphor to explain different levels of possession: sometimes, you’re driving and there’s a spirit outside the car.  Sometimes they’re sitting in the back seat.  Sometimes they’re sitting in the front seat, navigating.  Sometimes, the spirit is driving and you’re in the passenger’s seat, navigating.  Sometimes you’re in the backseat, watching.  And sometimes you’re bound and gagged in the trunk and have no idea what’s going on. That last one tends to be the kind Guardians need to keep the closest eye on, and is often the most obvious during a ritual.

Raven gave a run down of basic Guardianship rules: 1) always be watching (you have to learn by experience what to watch for, but erratic behaviour is a good start), 2) when someone is possessed, your job is both their safety and the safety of the entire ritual, 3) use whatever senses you’re good at to discern what kind of spirit is present and whether it’s going to play nice with others,  4) research and get to know as many spirits as possible so that you know their personality and preferences, 5) get to know the human attendees as well as possible, including their boundaries and limitations, 6) learn to use your body to catch people without anyone getting hurt, 7) take breaks when you need them, and 8) carry a tool kit.  In that tool kit, she recommended things for helping bring spirits in (like spirit beads and devotional objects), things for helping kick spirits out and grounding the human (like florida water, salt, and iron), and utilities (like bandages, flashlights, and lighters).  If the rite doesn’t have attendants to take care of the spirit once it has possessed a human, then that’s a Guardian’s job, too – keep things like alcohol, food, and tobacco on hand. She ended with a couple of things everyone could do to help trance possessory rituals go more smoothly: things like keeping track of your friends, catching them if they stumble, waving over a Guardian if you need help, and making sure others know their boundaries/limitations.  Water is also helpful, she said: just about everyone who has a possessory experience, even if it’s not very “intense”, will need water afterwards.  I think Glasreo has a lot to think about (even though possessory rites aren’t really his “thing”), and I certainly need to think about how to keep myself safe as I work more closely with Bast and Sekhmet.

That’s it for Days 1 & 2.  Here are Days 3 & 4!

Divination, Event, Ritual

Sacred Space, Day 4

Unfortunately, due to a sudden migraine, I missed the first workshop I had been intending to attend, Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s “Inside-Out Magic.”

 

Working with the Celtic Tree Ogham in the United States, by Raven Edgewalker

This was a sort of follow-up to her presentation on Friday, where Raven went over working with the tree ogham in an experiential way, although both presentations would have been excellent as stand-alone workshops as well.

She began with listing off several ways one could work with the ogham outside of the UK, where all of the trees are native and available.  First, she said you could simply work with it as an alphabet, linguistically, with poetry and the bardic arts.  The ogham was never just trees, that’s just the most complete of the surviving symbol sets – perhaps because many of the ogham have tree names (although not all of them do).  There seems to have also been a sow ogham and a bird ogham and perhaps many, many more.  Secondly, she said, you could just work with the celtic tree ogham as-is, though in that case she recommends getting staves in the proper woods, so that you can have at least a small amount of the tree to work with.  Her third point brought her to the topic at hand: creating your own version of the tree ogham, using trees local to your particular geographical location.  She fielded a question from the attendees about a perhaps North-American-wide ogham, about including things from all across the US, and she said, sure, you could do that – but you’d have the same issues with not having a nearby tree to work with.  So if you want to actually visit each tree in person, it’s a better idea to stick to trees that are no more than a day trip away, instead of including things like the Californian redwoods.

Starting from the presumption, then, that you want to create an ogham set based on local trees, Raven said there are still several different approaches.  Some people try to find whatever tree is most closely biologically related to any missing trees, but she says that the meanings may be different, then.  She gave an example of this: say you live in Florida, and the closest thing to a European Common Oak is the Live Oak.  Now, the common oak is a deciduous, but the Live Oak is a hardwood evergreen.  Those are very different trees with very different energies.  Their magical and healing uses are probably very different, and that will change the meaning as a divinatory symbol.  Instead, Raven recommends looking into the meaning of the missing tree in the divination system, learning what niche it occupies in the Celtic/British isles, and learning its magical and healing properties, and then finding a close substitute.  For example, she says that Birch is the first letter of the ogham because in Britain where she lives, the birch is the first tree that re-colonizes cleared land, and it’s the first tree to bud leaves in the spring.  So perhaps if you were trying to replace it, you should use whatever tree by you best occupies that ecological niche.

Next Raven gave us all a piece of silver birch bark, and had us really experience it for moment before describing it.  Words used were shimmery, silvery, and it reminded some of the fae or the bardic arts.  I found it to be rougher and stiffer than I expected, being more accustomed to paper birch, but others found it surprisingly soft. Then Raven led us on a brief journeyworking to meet the trees of the ogham – first the grove of the twenty Celtic trees, then our “own” ogham grove, where we might find trees different than those twenty.  She had us interact with our “first” tree, Birch or its replacement.  I had two –  a Sugar Maple, and a Paper Birch.  I suppose that makes Paper Birch my second tree, then!

Now that we had at least one tree and a place to start, she said it’s a good idea to go one tree at a time or one category of knowledge at a time as we learn about the trees and develop a personal relationship with them.  She emphasized the importance of a personal relationship, because she believes that is what a lot of divination draws on: our own memories of and feelings for the trees.  So perhaps your tree for new love won’t be the traditional Apple, but rather the Maple, because when you were a teen you and your boyfriend used to sit in the branches of a maple for hours together.  And that is perfectly fine!  The categories she mentioned are the following: learning to identify the tree by bark and leaves, learning what ecological niche it fills; learning what parts are edible or medicinal; learning what the wood is used for (like shipbuilding, furniture, etc); learning the role the tree plays in any folklore or mythology; and then doing journeyworkings to go and talk to the trees themselves and see what they have to say and what insights they offer.

I can’t wait to get started!

 

Closing Ritual

The Closing Ritual is always a bit low-key, and it’s hard sometimes to want to attend because everyone is so low energy and just wants to get home to sleep, but I find it provides important closure.

Gwendolyn Reece and Michael G. Smith thanked all spirits, especially Djehuty and Athena, for being with us and sharing in the hospitality.  Then we sang a short chant and helpers moved around with small bowls of stones, offering one to each attendee as a parting gift.  Then we ceded the space back to the mundane world, and the egregore of the conference was placed back into abeyance until the conference next year.

 

And that’s the whole conference!  Thanks for reading!

~Réaltán~

 

[Day 1]

[Day 2]

[Day 3]

Event, Ritual

Sacred Space, Day 3

After my late night with Bast on Friday, I did not make it to the morning session I had planned to attend, “Dark Goddess Tarot” by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.  I heard it was great, though, and I did look through her tarot deck of the same name.

 

Braucherei (and Hexerei) in the Urglaawe Context, by Robert Schreiwer

The “Urglaawe context” refers to the Heathenry revival within the Deitsch (Pennsylvania Dutch) community, and braucherei and hexerei are both Deitsch words for witchcraft, though the exact meaning of the terms varies according to local custom.  In general, where the two words refer to different things (in some places, one of the words refers to everything under the witchcraft umbrella), “braucherei” refers to things like energy healing, herbalism, fertility charms, and protective magic, whereas “hexerei” refers to less savory things, like hexes and curses.

Robert started off with a brief history of braucherei, and of the Deitsch people in general, including their immigration to the US.  Braucherei post-dates the conversion to Christianity, and the Deitsch came to the US after the 30 years war, so much of the practice has Christian and Gnostic influences, though Robert has managed to trace a lot of the roots back to pre-Christian traditions.  (For instance, Frigga and the Gnostic Sophia seem to be heavily conflated in Deitsch traditions).  After they came to the US, the Deitsch had a lot of contact with the Lenape, and they shared a lot of knowledge back and forth.  One of the things the Deitsch learned from them was the medicinal use of local plants, many of which are very different from the plants in Central Europe.

Robert is a Braucher, and currently has several students.  A lot of the practice is Verbots, or forbidden/taboo to discuss with those outside the practice, but as an insider Robert is in an excellent position to discuss braucherei with other practitioners.  He has been travelling to visit older practitioners, and hear their stories, and discuss the practice, so that he can record as much as possible, to help with the revival.  He’s trying to find practices in common across various geographic regions in the US, and follow threads of Heathenry back to their origins.  He’s found some use of runes, and the names of Germanic gods, and he and others are hard at work reconstructing more following the threads they’ve uncovered.

It was a fascinating presentation, and his handout listed a lot of places to follow his work and find more resources:

 

Sisters in Shadow and Light: A Ritual for Nephthys and Isis, by Helena Domenic

I was hoping for a Kemetic ritual, but this was more a Wiccan ritual to Kemetic gods with a little local flavour, if that makes sense.  Still, I enjoyed it and I was glad I attended.  The premise of the ritual was that each participant would choose from whom they wished to receive healing: Isis, with healing light, or Nephthys, with healing darkness.  Each participant then annointed themselves, and went to speak with the priestess channeling the goddess they had chosen, to ask for what they wished to heal, and to receive a message.  I chose Nephthys because I wished to be rid of something, and I received a message in turn that was so powerful and personal that I have no doubt the channel was truly possessed by the goddess she represented.  I will not, however, recount that message here.  I hope you understand.

Once each participant had finished their moment with the channel they had chosen, the attendees chanted to raise Osiris, as the sisters do in the myths, and his rebirth, as performed by another channel, became our transmutation.  It was a powerful rite, and it left many in tears.

 

Hellenic Oracles, by Gwendolyn Reece

The first part of Gwendolyn’s presentation was on the history and locations of various oracles in the ancient Hellenic world.  This is information that was not new to me, and I did not take very many notes – it’s important background information, to be sure, but fairly accessible thanks to the many written records left behind.  (She quoted Plutarch more than a few times.)  Her basic definition of oracle (mantike in Greek), is a cult, located in a particular place, in which a god (usually Apollon) possesses a vehicle (usually human).  Gwendolyn herself has been preparing to be that vehicle (a mantis in Greek) for Apollon for a temple she is founding in DC.  The temple is called Theophania, named after the festival that welcomed Apollon back to the Oracle at Delphi at its reopening in the spring.  I knew about the temple, but I had not known about her oracular work, and I have to say I was equal parts astounded and elated.  Bast and I have been working towards an oracular-possessory relationship, and while I attended Diana Paxson’s workshop last year on Oracular Seidh and bought her book, a traveling Norse seeress is not exactly the same sort of thing as a priestess at a grand state temple in Egypt.  A Hellenic mantis would be much, much closer.  Needless to say, I listened to the rest of the presentation on the edge of my seat, took pages of notes, and had a question for afterwards on the tip of my tongue.

Gwendolyn explained that she is a hard polytheist, and that this means that she believes the gods are individual persons with agendas, and so she thought it was worth explaining to us what she thought Apollon’s agenda was.  As she understands it, he is a law giver, he is very fond of humanity, and he wants to give us advice.  She explained a bit more about how he is kind, and a deity of civilization, and I summed this up as an alignment: Lawful Good.  Giving oracular counsel is an extension of his Light and Healer aspects, illumination of the Truth and using the Truth to set us on our right course.  He is trying to help us avoid our hamartia, a tragic mistake that can define us in negative ways.  Apollon wants us to find the clearest path through our fate, and mitigate as much damage as possible.  As Gwendolyn said, not everything can be mitigated completely, but nothing is entirely predestined.  A choice must always be made, somewhere.

Gwendolyn understands oracular revelations as part of a spectrum of divine responses to human attempts at conversation.  Prayer, sacrifices, and offerings are all ways to speak to the gods; omens, divination, dream/trance theophany, oracles, and full theophany are all ways of hearing what they say back.  The spectrum goes from omens, which require the least energy and are the most frequently misunderstood, to full theophany (where the gods appear in the flesh), which requires the most energy and has the least chance of being misunderstood.  She mentioned that a lot of people in ancient times asked oracles about personal matters, even if the best-remembered stories are all about city-states asking political questions.  In her opinion, it is a good idea to consult an oracle in the following cases: 1) when you have a choice to make and reason is insufficient; 2) if the choice means a major change or upheaval; 3) at any indication of miasma negatively affecting your life; 4) any question about your relationship with the gods; or 5) anything that weighs very heavily on your heart.  In her personal work she said she tries to focus on teh big picture stuff, but she’s had people come and ask personal questions, too.  Sometimes Apollon answers the question the querent should have asked instead of the one they did.  One of the big picture messages that she has recently received from him and is trying to spread knowledge of, is that in order to help with climate change and prevent calamity, we need to focus our efforts on healing the world’s oceans.  He says we have about 20 years to get things moving in the right direction, or it will be too late.

One evening in which Gwendolyn was sitting down to talk to Apollon (as she tries to do daily as part of her mantis training) she found herself complaining about her day and then caught herself and apologized, and he gave her a very important lesson that resonated with me, and I think it will resonate with some of you.  When she apologized for wasting his time with her complaining, he said “I’m not that small.”  At first she didn’t understand, but then he helped her to see that he had no problem being there in intimate friendship with her, hearing about her day, and also doing his cosmic duties.  He could be there, that close, paying attention to each of his followers all at the same time and never be distracted.  He’s not that small.  None of the gods are.  And I think we, as devotees, need to be reminded of that now and again.  The gods do not have to suffer, but they chose to do so by entering into relationships with us – they choose to feel our pain, and to see the world through us as much as we see the world through them.

 

Only one more day to go!  And I must say, re-reading my notes and typing them up for you has really helped me process the events of the conference.  Hopefully you got something out of it, too!

~Réaltán~

 

[Day 1 Here]

[Day 2 Here]

[Day 4 Here]

Event, Ritual

Sacred Space, Day 2

Gwdihŵ has sort of declined to write up his incomplete notes, so you’ll really just be getting my experience of the conference except where we attended an event together, I’m afraid.  But here was my Day 2!

Experiential Tree Ogham, by Raven Edgewalker

I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop.  I think this one, along with her second workshop on the last day, made up my favorite part of the entire weekend.  And also I now have ogham on the brain, so expect a little bit of that to filter through here eventually.  (Yes, I still have new tarot decks to learn, and yes, I’m beginning to learn runes, but really, a witch can never have too many forms of divination, can she?)

Raven started out with a little background and history of the ogham: it’s an alphabet, trees aren’t the only things associated with the letters (and some of those trees are vines or shrubs), it probably post-dates Christian contact, etc.  She emphasized that she likes that it’s newer, and likes that it seems to have been not fully developed by the time it was no longer used heavily, because that means there’s a lot of work that still could have been done, and that plus the fact that we don’t have complete sources means that it’s easier to create our own version, and to customize it to ourselves and our own practice.  She talked a bit about how she couldn’t get into ogham at first, couldn’t learn the symbols, not until she started actually working with plants and trees, and then from that work she ended up back at ogham.

Then she had us do a short meditation, where we were instructed to go find a tree and talk to it for a moment.  Many people found a tree from their childhood, or a tree that they interact with often now.  I ended up meeting the Black Spruce spirit I had been working with all winter.  One of the things Raven emphasized when we shared about our experiences was a thing I learned from Black Spruce previously – trees are not in a hurry.  They have time; they do not rush.  And neither should we, learning ogham.  She said we should start with getting to know the trees.  If you can identify 20 trees, learn their other properties, and then learn 20 more.  If you can only identify 2 trees, learn their properties and learn two more.  Double your knowledge.  Move slowly.  Feel your way through the trees and then the ogham as a system of divination will grow naturally in you.  A lot of the meanings she gets when she reads ogham hinge on her personal associations and personal relationships with the trees themselves.

There are 20 trees in the original ogham, but she said her personal set has grown to include about 70 plants, and she’s continued on the pattern of symbols and made her own staves, each out of the wood of the plant, and she encourages all of us to do the same – make our own version of the ogham.

Raven closed with another meditative exercise: this time we were supposed to become a tree, to start as a seedling and grow, trying to really feel and imagine branches and roots and the wind, and the other trees around us, a whole forest in the room.  That was a deeply grounding and beautiful exercise.

 

Tarot and Talking with the Dead, by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince

Ellen started the class by setting up a small altar piece: what appeared to be a Halloween decoration graveyard with little stones and a little doll representing Maman Brigitte.  As she set up, Ellen talked a bit about Maman Brigitte, her relationship to the goddess and saint Brigid, and her role in Vodou as the wife of Baron Samedi and the Queen of the Graveyard.  Then we did a small ground-center-focus meditation, and said an invocation of Maman Brigitte together.

The first tarot spread was a four-card spread in which we were supposed to talk to a specific ancestor or other dead person or spirit, with each card asking one of the following questions:

  1. What is the primary energy or power of this spirit?
  2. How can you participate in the manifestation of that power?
  3. What particular message does this spirit have for you?
  4. What do you have to offer this spirit in return?

I used my LOTR deck, and ended up talking to my great-grandfather, who died while I was in college.

The second spread was asking the dead in general for their advice and insight, and it was a three-card spread using the following questions:

  1. What is important for me to know about what is coming in my personal world?
  2. What is important for me to know about what is coming in my community?
  3. What is important for me to know about what is coming in the larger world?

Many of us got answers about a time of change and upheaval in the last two questions.

We ended with a short journey meditation, to go and talk to the dead directly.  I went to see my great-grandfather and also saw my great-grandmother, his wife, and their son, my great-uncle whom I never met.  I helped them some with healing, and it was a very powerful but very personal moment.

I thoroughly enjoyed Ellen’s workshop, and it is to my dismay that I did not make it to her other tarot workshop: Tarot with the Dark Goddess.  She also presented “Inside Out Magic” and “Writing Ancient Lives”, both of which Gwdihŵ attended and enjoyed.

 

 

The New Orleans Conjure Dance, presented by Caroline Kenner and Gryphon’s Grove School of Shamanism, with music by Firesong

As it says in the Sacred Space programme, the Conjure Dance is a “ritual dance of spirit possession and manifestation.  It is inspired by the dances performed by Marie Laveau on Sundays in Congo Square, New Orleans, before the Civil War.”  Many deities from many different pantheons are invoked through song, and many more are given representation on altars set up along the walls of the room.

As I did last year, I began by walking around the room to look at all the altars first.  My first sweep with Gwdihŵ was just to greet everyone, and to see who was represented.  On our second pass, we left offerings.  We had brought a few special offerings, a bag of multicolor jelly beans, and a bag of gold foil wrapped chocolate eggs.  We gave each table a chocolate egg, and the jelly beans we passed out to our particular friends in each pantheon, using color symbolism.  Gwdihŵ also brought a few origami cranes and shells to give to some of his gods, and I had brought a large dark chocolate bunny also wrapped in gold foil for Bast.  There was alcohol provided by Caroline Kenner & co, and we gave a little of that as well, before settling in to enjoy the music some and to listen for invocation songs of those we know.

After a little while I went back to the Egyptian altar and sat for a moment, to ask Bast if she might join me for the night.  I had thought that it would take a lot of preparation work to be able to tune out the noise and find my center in order to open and let her in, but the opposite was true – I needed no more than ask, and she was there.  Then the juggling act of having a headmate began.  Walking was difficult only for the first few steps – then we made our way over to the alcohol to have a shot of something.  She wanted something sweet, like chocolate liqueur or kahlua or frangelico, but we had to settle for a sweet dark rum, which we both enjoyed.  Speaking was a little difficult at times – Gwdihŵ asked me about the alcohol and to be careful (because alcohol frequently doesn’t agree with my chronic illness) but I (we?) assured him that we would not have much – just a taste.  Bast seemed to enjoy watching the spectacle, and she was proud of how many statues she had on the Egyptian altar (although she was tied with Anpu, whom she ribbed gently).  We also tried a violet liqueur, and she didn’t like it, or I didn’t like it – I’m still not exactly sure.  Either way, we decided not to drink the whole shot, and so a shot and a half was our total alcohol consumption for the night.  We did try the peeps, though – I like them, and she enjoyed biting off their heads, as they were intended as stand-ins for sacrificial chickens.  Mostly we just watched and moved and tried to keep our balance, with her enjoying embodiment, but staying politely in the passenger’s seat of the car, so to speak.

I did need a little bit of help from a friend to find the stickers we were supposed to use if we didn’t want to be touched or had allergies or something, because that was early on and I was having trouble looking for them and I wasn’t sure how well I was going to be able to have a real conversation, starting with “Hello, Are you one of the helpers?  I have a request…”etc.  So instead I (we) walked up to my friend and sort of blurted out, “Do you know where the stickers are?  I need one.”  She saw that I was possessed and if I’m not mistaken also had a pretty good idea who my headmate was, and she helped me find the stickers and checked in with me and I assured her that I was fine, but having a little bit of difficulty with words.  Once I had the stickers on, Bast and I danced around some, and had a few interactions with friends, though some of those are less clear than others.  Between the alcohol and the late night and the headmate, my memory is not as crisp as it could have been, but it’s not truly patchy, either, just a little out of focus.

There was one point where I noticed a friend in distress and Bast pulled back quite a bit more so that I could speak a bit more fluently and not have to be balancing her presence while I tried to find assistance.  Once I had found someone to help and had communicated the problem to both them and Gwdihŵ (who had no headmates), I felt comfortable relaxing again and she came back, unperturbed by the interruption.  I am not sure, but I think she even pulled back without me asking her to in the first place – I find she is very respectful of boundaries, provided she knows them already or can predict them.  She even reminded me to go get my water bottle at one point, because I’d had nothing to drink but the two shots of alcohol.

I didn’t expect her to give me any messages for anyone, as we were really just having a good time at a party for the most part, but there was a particular friend of mine there who also works with Bast, and every time he passed by, she sort of sighed in my head and said, “Isn’t he great?”  or “I really like him.” or something like that, so after probably a half hour of that or more, I did go and tell him that she appreciated him, etc, knowing that he likely already knew that, but it’s always nice to hear it again.

The other interaction of any note, is that while I was outside talking with Gwdihŵ and another attendee, someone else who was possessed came out with a helper in tow, and Bast (who had been mostly in the background so that I could talk), came forward and perked up her ears and said “Loki?”.  I just barely did not allow that to come out of my mouth, afraid that I/she was wrong, but it turns out that she was right, and I’m a bit sorry now that I didn’t say it and allow that interaction to play out.  Oh well.  He’s since told me that he knew I/we recognized him then, but that it’s possible his possessory host did not, intent as she was (they were) on having a cigarette.

The acquisition of Bast as a headmate seems to have been much easier than her departure.  She was still quite present, although no longer quite in the passenger’s seat, by the time I fell asleep.  She hadn’t really left.  But then again, she’s frequently very close by even when we’re not attempting something possessory, and I think the line between being able to hear her, and her being a headmate is a bit blurrier than I had originally thought.  In any case, she was gone in the morning.

I think it was a good exercise in boundaries and balancing.  I have known for some time that I was once her Oracle and she would like me to fill that role again, and I think we’ll need more practice before we get there, but the ease of our night together at the Conjure Dance bodes well.  Dua Bast!

 

~Réaltán~

[Day 1 Here]

[Day 3 Here]

[Day 4 Here]

 

Event, Ritual

Kemetic Execration Ritual Outline

In the interest of keeping most of my more formal workings here on this blog, especially if they serve the folk, which is the end goal of Serendipities, I have decided to copy here a ritual outline I originally posted to my pagan tumblr.

About a month ago, I led a Kemetic revivalist styled (flavored?) public rite using the sanctuary of the ADF Grove where I a member.  It was done as a “moon rite” because Kemetic rituals aren’t ADF-kosher for the 8 yearly High Rites, and honestly, that suited me just fine – it was a more intimate rite and I got to use my own outline, instead of the ADF Core Order of Ritual.  I started with Per Sebek’s outline here, and then altered it to fit a group, and to more closely resemble the sort of ritual my attendees were used to (ie, ADF-style), and as we were holding this rite outside, after sunset, in October, I tried to make sure it would be short, too.

My general intention for the ritual was to help us let go of things that no longer served us, in preparation for Samhain (I led the rite the week before) and the introspection of winter months.

So here is the ritual outline, complete with prayers written by me:

Continue reading “Kemetic Execration Ritual Outline”