Celtic Polytheism, fae, Paganism, Spellwork, Spiritwork

Riders on a Baleful Wind, and a Charm to Keep Them at Bay

This time of year, between the autumnal equinox and Samhain, is when I notice the most activity from a loose grouping of spirits I’ve begun to refer to as Riders on a Baleful Wind. I’m referring both to the Wild Hunt ⁠(or, really, Hunts, plural) and also to some of the Fair Folk⁠—trooping fairies who travel near these dates*, and groups like the slua sí, who are also associated with wind or storms, and overlap somewhat with the folkloric Wild Hunt.

As a folklore motif and a mythological archetype, the Wild Hunt is prevalent across much of Northwestern Europe, and the Hunt of each region has its own leader. Often these leaders are Pre-Christian deities associated with war or death, like Odin/Woden and Gwyn Ap Nudd. Other times they’re figures associated with the aos sí, like Manannán Mac Lir, or they’re said to be famous ghosts, like Herne the Hunter. These folk tales came with European Immigrants to the Americas as well, and here the Hunt is sometimes known as the Ghost Riders. (Some of you will be familiar with the song, I imagine.) Besides the leader, who or what exactly the rest of the company is varies from tale to tale. Sometimes they are human dead, sometimes they’re said to be fairies or demons, but most frequently these groups seem to be something of a motley crew. The overlapping circles of the Fair Folk, the Gods, and the Dead are difficult to pick apart, and it’s especially difficult to draw any clear lines when we’re looking at the Wild Hunt and related groups of weather-riding unfriendly otherworldly beings.

Unfriendly and intimidating though they may seem, not all of them are actually malevolent. That’s why I term them “baleful”, not “baneful”, and each individual group poses a different type and level of danger. Malevolent or not, however, they’re generally not spirits most witches want in or around their homes or places of business, and with that in mind I’ve been working on a charm object to add a little additional protection to whatever wards you already have in place.

Warding Charm

The charm itself is fairly small and would easily blend into an autumn wreath. The ingredients are pretty simple as well: a sweetgum ball, some red yarn, and iron water.

SWEETGUM BALL: One per charm, dried, preferably with the stem attached.

Part of the work I’ve been doing with the Ogham for the past two years (or more, really, but I think it was two years ago that I really started diving in deeply in a structured way) is finding local plants that have similar energy to the plants of the tree ogham list.** Sweetgum, a tree indigenous to my area, has an energy that I think is similar in some important ways to Blackthorn. While it doesn’t have thorns, it does have spiky seed balls, and its sweet-scented sap, like blackthorn sloes, is actually very bitter tasting. Additionally, it’s a favored food of luna moth caterpillars, an insect I have long associated with nocturnal fairy beings. Blackthorn is sometimes said to belong to or to ward off the Othercrowd, and I find Sweetgum fits that niche as well. I have since learned that sweetgum balls are also used in hoodoo for protection, which dovetails nicely with both my experience of the tree, and this charm.

RED YARN: Or thread, I suppose. Enough to wrap around the sweetgum ball twice at perpendicular intersections, and tie off to leave tails for hanging.

I decided to spin my own yarn. I’ve wanted to learn to spin for a long time, but until recently thought I was allergic to wool. It turns out, I’m probably reacting to a chemical used in the commercial processing, because I did a test with a friend’s fleece-to-homespun and had no redness, no itching, no bumps, no hives! Excited, I borrowed a drop spindle and purchased some red-dyed roving from an artisan supplier. They included a sample of some other colors and I used that to figure out a technique for spinning. That way, once I started on the red roving, I could focus more on spinning my intent and my power into the yarn, instead of still figuring out what the heck I was doing. If you don’t spin, I recommend braiding embroidery floss as a good alternative for adding your intent and power to the string. Something like: I’m a badass witch and I protect this space; I decide who enters and who the wards keep out.

Iron Water: Soak some nails in water with a little splash of apple cider vinegar for a few days. When it’s ready, dip the sweetgum ball, yarn and all, into the water and let it get saturated.

I doubt I need to tell most of my readers that iron is known to ward off the Fair Folk, but just in case you need the refresher: that’s why we’re using iron water. You could also stick those very nails into this charm if you wanted, but that’s a bit stronger than I wanted for my personal charms, and it would be a little too strong for some allies I don’t want to keep out. I wanted something vaguely iron scented. Enough iron to say that I know what I’m about, but not enough iron to deeply offend those who are welcome across my threshold.

This is also probably a good time to tell you that this charm, as I’ve made it, is basically a “No Tresspassing” sign. It’s not going to do much good if it’s your only line of defense. If you have decent house wards, though, and gods or allies you can turn to in times of need, that sign will be enough to make those Riders more inclined to go around, rather than through. There are fewer obstacles elsewhere, and easier prey to be found. As with most predators, that’s usually enough, as long as you don’t provoke them.

* Though the ones who travel near the autumnal equinox may be following the Pleiades, not the equinox. See Morgan Daimler’s recent writings on that for more information.

** Nota Bene: The Ogham is an alphabet, and it’s not just about trees. Trees are one of the ogham lists. There’s also word ogham, skill ogham, bird ogham, even dog and waterway ogham. Eventually I’ll make my own local herb and bird and waterways lists, too, and maybe a modern skills ogham. But a lot of my general witchy practice includes work with plants, so trees seemed like a good place to start.

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 10/13

Slightly delayed this month, sorry. Apparently I’m highly allergic to some kind of plant pollen I encountered on Saturday. Earlier today I finally managed to do my ritual, and here is this moon’s message from Bast and Sekhmet:

Pay attention to the edges. To your boundaries, to political borders, to people at the margins. Defend and strengthen those boundary areas. In doing so, stay true to your own ethics; follow your heart’s pathway through ma’at. You may be tempted to take a short cut, and to choose the way that seems quickest and easiest, but that will not give you the best outcome. You feel frayed but you are not broken; you are much stronger than you believe. There will be more conflict along the way, more obstacles to surmount, but you can trust your inner resilience and knowledge to guide you. Reject the negative structures that bind you; claim your personal power and move forward.

The next Bright Moon is 11/12/19, so check back then! If you have a question you’d like me to ask Bast and Sekhmet, I take a limited number of personal requests each month. Send them via email (eyes.of.ra.oracle AT gmail DOT com). If you’d like to support the work I do and the shrine upkeep, you can do so on Ko-fi. Thanks for reading!

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Don’t Resist Change

Those of you who pay attention to moon phases are probably aware this is a week late. This has been a week of intermittent omens and conversation between myself and Na Morrigna, while I was drowning in migraine symptoms. Yesterday was my first day without blinding pain. Today, the wisps spun together into a yarn, and the message became clear to me.

It is close to the time of your awakening. We will fight side by side, working in harmony and cooperation across the whole of the battlefield. You must stand your ground and hold fast. Stay calm—you have the mastery of self and skill that you need to prevail. You may think you are unprepared, or not strong enough. Silence such thoughts! You are ready, and you will learn by doing. Do not resist the coming changes. True growth is never comfortable. Awaken, and join us.

Gods willing, the next message will be more on schedule. And do be careful out there! The Hunts are riding. Stay safe, and stay grounded.

Event, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Prayer

Equinox Thoughts

The Equinox is the Feast of the Vanir in our home practice, and while we celebrated with friends yesterday and hailed them at a blot, I would still like to share the original prayer I wrote, in the same format as other prayers I’ve shared recently. Feel free to use this at your own home celebration!

The Autumn Equinox has arrived,
And the nights are now as long as the days
The last of the fruits of the earth are ripening
And the harvest is well underway!

The days are still warm and the leaves still green
But the nights are beginning to cool
Here we are at the balance –
Mid Autumn Equinox, between the Midsummer and Midwinter Solstices!

And on this day, we honor Freyr and Freyja,
Beloved deities of Vanaheim, and all their kin
Come to us now, and join our celebration!
We offer you food, drink, and merriment!

We ask in return for your blessings,
Help us to harvest what we planted in the spring.

Freyr and Freyja, Hail and Welcome!

Original Prayer by Aleja Nic Bhe Chuille

It was a two hour drive northeast to the friend’s house, as we’ve both moved farther away from where we lived when we first met, and that distance is no easy feat with a toddler who hates car rides. Up was not too bad – down home was much worse as we were hours past his usual bed time. Still, the gathering of friends I have not seen in too long was much, much needed. And that got me to thinking about community, which came up as a theme in the blot.

I spent a long time as a solitary witchy pagan animist something, barely aware of a wider community, until I happened across an ADF Druid grove in Baltimore the last few weeks of 2012. Scott and I both found community there for a while, but the distance became too much as other parts of our life solidified and we stopped going in early 2016. That autumn we met the members of the Fellowship Beyond the Star for the first time at Pagan Pride festivals, and we attended some of their meetings as time allowed – though as I moved into my second and third trimesters we got out of the house less and less, and then for the first three months after the Acorn was born in May we did hardly anything at all but take care of the baby, eat, and sleep.

Still, when we emerged from that cocoon, we found the Fellowship community very welcoming, and we also started attending our local UU church, which soon had a fledgling pagan study group. We were putting down roots, finding community around us both physically locally and also in nearby pagan area groups. We still had friends in Baltimore, but that became more connected by social media and less by actual in-person meetings. That doesn’t make those connections seem less valid, though – they can provide plenty of different kinds of support, even though it’s a bit too far for a “whoops I need a ride to urgent care” call.

Now, both local pagan groups (The Fellowship Beyond the Star, and Fox & Fungi at UUCR) have grown some, and I find myself in organizational roles in both. I’ve begun teaching workshops in the local community, and even down in Atlanta this past July. Acquaintances met at community events are becoming friendships, and I begin to see how my small groups might join in networks with other groups to form woven communities, providing the support we all desperately need.

The Autumn Equinox, the middle of fall in my seasonal paradigm, is a time of harvest and in an agricultural community it would also be a time of the community coming together, pitching in to make sure everything was getting set for winter. It’s a time to check in with those local to you, but also with wider ideas of community in this technologically connected age. For my husband’s Jewish relatives and ancestors, it is also time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time to mend bridges and reconnect. We try to continue some of those traditions in our home as well, so there will be apples and honey on my kitchen table soon. For many people this is also when the school year seems to finally be properly underway, with everything settled from the first whirlwind of Back-to-School.

In my work with the Fair Folk, this is also usually the time when the Wild Hunts and Fairy Rades begin. I’ve been learning that the acronychal rising of the Pleiades happens around the Equinox, and that feels significant, though I’m still not sure what exactly that means for my personal practice. I mentioned that this is the Feast of the Vanir for us, and while Freyr and Freyja are usually my focus, with Njord and Nerthus included as well, I also deliberately include the alfar of Vanaheim, whom I believe to be culturally distinct from the beings of either Alfheim/Ljossalfheim or Nidavellir/Svartalfheim. I try to spend a bit of time around this day with my allies there, checking in and just enjoying their company. So far I haven’t attempted to join their seasonal celebrations, but perhaps this year I will ask. Perhaps they can help bring me clarity about the timing of the Pleiades and the Hunts.

Autumn is underway. Communities are pulling together. And Samhain will come faster than we expect.

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 9/14

I’m still just completely in love with my new oil lamp, because I really feel like I get deeper into trance with the larger flame. That, combined with a few other small tweaks to my ritual, seem to be making the entire process easier for me, and I’m excited to see how this (Kemetic) year plays out. But without further ado, here’s this month’s message from Bast and Sekhmet!

As you embark on this new stage of your journey, you need to pay attention and keep your footing so you do not stumble and fall. There is chaos around you and behind you, but do not turn your head to look at battles that are not your own – their smoke will dissipate before it reaches you. We stand guard beside you. Gather your power and reach for your goals. Join in striving with others – you are brighter and stronger together. There is strength to be found in the shape of the Great Pyramid, and you will build your own monuments if you take the time to plan them properly. Keep the flame in your chest brightly burning! Indulge your passions and they will keep you warm.

I hope that helps, dear readers, and I hope you all manage to follow the advice as best you can. The next Bright Moon is October 13th!

If you appreciate these monthly oracular messages, please consider donating to the maintenance of my Shrine!

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Form Your Squadrons

Last night into early this morning was a Super Black New Moon in Virgo, and while others can tell you more about that, I took the time last night to go see Na Morrigna, the three Daughters of Ernmas, to ask what message they had for me and my allies and associates this Dark Moon. I met them around a huge cauldron, into which they threw herbs and other ingredients. I breathed the steam, watched images dance across the surface, and gave them my attention as they communicated their message. Here is what I was told*:

“It is time to get back onto the wagon, and take the reins again, but hold them in a loose hand. You are anxious and also have high expectations. Do not dwell on the past, neither its good nor its ills. Look forward. Change is possible, but there is work to be done. Organize yourselves. Form your squadrons – small practice groups within larger networks. Decisive action must be taken by each individual group; be small, swift, flexible, and adaptable. Identify goals and work by consensus. Create your own strategies and share with others in your network. Everyone has a role to play.”

This is perhaps a good time to remind you all that my major role, beyond these Dark Moon messages, is to offer healing (in person or remotely) to others in my networks, especially when illness (spiritual, emotional, or mental/physical) is impairing their ability to perform their own role in the larger work. Such healings are free of charge within the boundaries of an individual’s own agreement with Na Morrigna. (Basically – if you’re a devotee with a right relationship with one of or all of Na Morrigna, and She/They agree/s that you need healing as part of your exchange with Her/Them, I’m happy to oblige, because that becomes part of my exchange with Them. If you wish to pay me yourself, with money or barter, I’m happy to do that, too!) I also do divination for those wishing to understand their own role better (see last year’s Tarot Spread), and I’ve been known to do combination divination/consultation advice for neophyte devotees looking to dedicate themselves with an oath to one or more of Na Morrigna (though as my own relationship is with Anu, Badb, and Macha, my advice is more suited to working with Them over other goddesses sometimes included, like Fea and Nemhain).

Beyond that… Shifts are coming. I can feel that, but I’m not sure what kind. This is meandering into Unseelie Weather Report territory, but keep your wits about you, friends. Shields and wards, ground and center. Keep an eye on large patterns, but a closer eye on your local communities and ecosystems. I don’t think this is going to be an easy winter.

* That is, translated as best I can out of the all-encompassing experience that is deep trancework, into grammatical English sentences. If I am an artist of any sort, I am primarily a wordsmith, and more than two decades writing poetry and prose has perhaps prepared me to take these experiences and find the best words to encapsulate a deep knowing understanding that is transmitted in a way that transcends words. Those who dance with the divine in this manner all have their own preferred medium of expression.

Bright Moon, Kemetic

Kemetic Bright Moon 8/15

I had some difficulties setting up the new oil lamp – the first attempted wick did not work as planned, but once I finally got it right and settled in, I felt their presence wash over me, their vessel. “Welcome back, child,” they greeted me, in reference to the renewal of my contract, completed as per my usual in a sacred bath.

Their message for us all on this, the first Bright Moon of the New Kemetic Year, is as follows:

You are free to abandon projects from last year that did not bear fruit. Try a new way, or try something completely new. But fore-planning will save you much grief.
We Lionesses walk beside you, and even the Snake of Isfet fears our teeth, but A/p/e/p must be destroyed every year, every month, every day. Be guided by ma’at. Return to it in times of confusion and let it guide your actions. Start first by bringing your private life into balance with ma’at. Wepwawet is opening the ways for greater actions to come.

Left: Swirly bath bomb suds. I think this was a Tadaima Okaeri, from Lush?
Right: My new oil lamp!!! With braided cotton wick. This was right as it started up, before I used fire scrying as my entryway to possessory trance.

Next Kemetic Bright Moon Ritual is: 9/ 14.

As a reminder, I take questions and requests for heka, blessings, and execrations. Those can be submitted through the tumblr e-shrine, or email them to: eyes.of.ra.oracle@ gmail.com.
If you appreciate the work I do and want to support it continuing, I have a Ko-fi for donations!

Event, Holiday Celebration, Kemetic, Paganism

Wep Ronpet 2019!

So, I decided to stick to the dates I’ve been using since they hadn’t changed the last few years, and instead I’ll just be adjusting by looking up Sirius’s rising time every leap year. It’s much easier that way, since I use other dates in the Kemetic calendar (really, amalgamation of plural calendars) for other celebrations now, and there’s evidence that some of those plural calendars used leap days just like we do, tacked on to the beginning of the Epagomenal Days. It’s a good way for me to keep the secular calendar and my Kemetic calendar aligned.

The Wep Ronpet date, therefore, was August 7th, and my Epagomenal Days started on August 2nd, with Wesir (Osiris). As in previous years, I set up digital votive offerings on my tumblr e-shrine, and I also offered a glass of cool water. I then pulled a tarot card for a message from each of the deities.

Wesir (Osiris)’s message on Aug 2 was: 8 of Wands. Figure out what your goals are, and then go get them! The Netjeru have your back. Decide what you want to bring into being, and use this new year energy to make it happen!

Heru-Wer (Horus the Elder)’s message on Aug 3 was: 6 of Swords. Take advantage of this time of transition. Use it as a rite of passage. Leave things in the past that no longer serve you – you don’t need to take all your baggage forward with you.

Set (Seth)’s message on Aug 4 was: 6 of Cups. Reflect on your happy memories of the past year, and give some thought to your mom harmonious relationships. See if you can turn over a new leaf at Wep Ronpet.

Aset (Isis)’s message on Aug 5 was: Queen of Swords. Do not shy away from sharpness, when it serves you. Communicate clear expectations and boundaries, and hold them. Separate the truth from illusion, and uphold ma’at (justice/right living).

Nebthet (Nephthys)’s message on Aug 6 was: 2 of Pentacles, reversed. Take this new year as a chance to restructure your life, to reorganize your priorities, and to take stock of places you may be overcommitted. Too many commitments will lead to burnout. Find balance.

On Wep Ronpet, I did a red paper execration, where I wrote things I wished to be rid of on a piece of red paper, folded it into an origami snake, declared it to be A/p/e/p/, and then ritual destroyed it with blades and fire. (Scissor blades, if you must know, haha.)

After that, I offered a shot of chocolate dark beer to the Netjeru (all the gods) and opened the package that was waiting for me!

My shrine upgrade this year is this ancient-style ceramic oil lamp with red glaze that I commissioned from a friend-of-a-friend. It’s going to take the place of the (tiny) candle I’d been using in my Bright Moon rituals, and I’m so excited to use it later this month!

I’ve also set up a separate Ko-Fi for donations to my Shrine to Bast and Sekhmet, so I can more easily earmark funds and keep them separate from my business income. If you appreciate my Bright Moon Omens, or just want to help, check it out here!

Celtic Polytheism, Event, Holiday Celebration, Prayer

Lughnasadh – A Belated Summary

Lughnasadh season is busy in our house because it also usually coincides with the start of the Kemetic Epagomenal Days, and this year it also coincided with my return to Priestessing for the Morrigan.

Altar for the Fox and Fungi Lughnasadh celebration

This year, our main ritual was celebrated with the Fox and Fungi group at our local UU Church, which I co-led with another group organizer. We did a druidic style ritual based on a liturgical outline I’ve devised for the group, which sort of splits the difference between Wiccan ritual structure, UU service structure, and the ADF Core Order of Ritual that I became accustomed to when I was previously a member of an ADF Druid Grove. (Yes, those work together better than you might think!) We called upon Lugh and Tailtiu as the deities of the occasion, and a friend and very good storyteller regaled us all with her version of Tailtiu’s story. Our main working was done with leaves placed in baskets. We each had two leaves. On one, we wrote something we were good at or something we’d accomplished that we were proud of. On the other, something we hoped to learn to do, or something we hoped to achieve. As we listened to musical accompaniment, we each came up to the altar to put our leaves each into the appropriate basket. Later, the leaves were taken outside to our ritual space.

It was nice to be with our community, but it did mean that our home observance went largely undone – I wrote a prayer and Scott poured Lugh and Tailtiu each out a shot of whisky, but we didn’t do a large family dinner. I’ve copied the prayer below, for those interested.

Lughnasadh has arrived,
And the days begin to grow shorter
Fruit is ripening on branch and vine
And grains are golden in the fields

Summer heat still hangs in the air
But we have begin the harvest
We are standing on the cusp of autumn
And soon the nights will be chill

On this day we honor Lugh and Tailtiu
His foster mother, who cleared the land
So that the people might plant grain
She gave her life for her people’s needs

Come to us now, and join in our celebration!
We offer you food, drink, and merriment!
We ask in return for your blessings:
Help us to bring in the first fruits of our labors

Lugh and Tailtiu, Hail and Welcome!

lughnasadh Prayer, by Aleja Nic Bhe Chuille
Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

A Re-Gathering of Crows

I’m back on deck this Lughnasadh-Eve. Finished with my Saturn Return (but not yet ready to turn that journey into a narrative), and once again Called. I Answered (how could I not?), and have been once again drafted into the service of Na Morrigna, the Three Sisters, to deliver the messages I receive on the Dark Moon.

Are you ready to join me again, Crow Folks? A new journey awaits. Do not wait too long in deciding. Put less important things aside. We need to harness our own creative powers and generate the foundations of our triumph.

We all have a role to play. We were called. We accepted. We rise together.