Event, Spiritwork

Witches’ Sabbat: Meeting the White Lady

I have been trying to write this for more than a month, now, but every time I do, I hesitate. I am uncertain how much of the story is truly mine to tell. Today I am trying something new: I have asked the White Lady herself to join me, to watch what I write over my shoulder, and to tell me when things must be struck from the record. So here is the story, somewhat abridged. But first, a warning: be careful, witches, when you consort with the Fair Folk, for you may have wondrous experiences, yet be unable to tell the full story to another living soul.

This is the story of how I came to meet one of the Gentry in the woods in Canada, this past Memorial Day Weekend. As I have said in previous blogs, I was there attending The Witches Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll, near Ottawa. Our weekend centered on fairylore, especially Fairy Queens and the Wild Hunt, and as part of my personal work, I wished to meet the Locals, whoever would consent to meet me. To that end, I spent a free part of an afternoon wandering the area, looking for a sign.

Near the Birch Grove, I saw two mourning doves, who turned to look at me, and a chill went down my spine. I knew, somehow, that these were my heralds, come to lead me to the place I was seeking. And so I followed them, as they flew always a small way ahead of me, in a large anti-clockwise circle, and then they cooed at me and flew together over a clearing ahead of me, and then into the treetops and were gone. I entered the clearing, uncertain of what the next step would be, when I saw in front of me, dead in the center of the clearing, a bright blue damselfly sunning itself on a rock. I approached it, and it, too, flew in a circle, clockwise this time, before stopping almost exactly where it was before. It seemed to be waiting, so I poured a tiny bit of the mead I had brought as an offering, and when I got up from doing so, I noticed a trail leading out of the clearing. I walked in that direction, and it did not continue very far, but as it was disappearing, I came across a small hillock of some variety, and there perched on it was yet another damselfly, this one dark blue, and the hillock was surrounded by blooming wild strawberry vines.

On that hillock, I poured out the mead I had brought, and I sat and let my awareness open. While I sat there, I became aware that I needed to uncover my head, and that more than the mead was required in offering – whoever had agreed to meet me wanted a blood offering. I might have refused, but as I was suddenly swarmed by mosquitoes (who just as suddenly left), it was not a negotiable point. Blood was given. A clay-colored sparrow buzzed loudly. And I was allowed to See. My vision shifted, another scene began to overlay the hillock in the afternoon sun, and I slowly found myself in journey space.

I was standing, dressed in formal clothing in a wooden building, some type of outpost hall. In front of me stood two beings, drinking glasses of the mead I had poured out earlier. At first, they were both somewhat shrouded from me, cloaked in glamours, until I introduced myself and explained my purpose. A second call from the sparrow signaled an understanding and acceptance, and the glamours dropped from the being closest to me. Revealed, now, I could see she was tall, and very pale, with a sharpness to her features that spoke both of her otherworldliness and her viciousness. Her hair was long, straight, and white-blonde, and her clothing was also white, and seemed to glow. Describing it now, the words sound like Galadriel, but no. Her postures were active, dynamic, almost predatory, and certainly powerfully confident – nothing like the serene and benevolent Lady of Lothlorien. She was cold, not golden, and her white was more like the white of birch trees and of snow, though it did not seem to me that she had a seasonal alignment, like some others I have met. She told me something I did not understand, in response to my attempting to mentally categorize her, and when my confusion showed, she laughed and told me to attend Erik Lacharity’s workshop on French Canadian fairylore. Later, I learned that the almost-Scandinavian vibe I had been trying to categorize was partially right – whatever type of being she was, she hailed from Normandy (either originally or by heritage), and others like her were known in the lore of immigrants from Normandy that had settled in the area.

The other figure, still shrouded from me, was her consort, as I began to understand. The White Lady did not wish outsiders to look upon her consort, in order to keep the consort safe. I cannot give any defining characteristics of this being, save that the consort is part of the reason for the long version of the name of Raven’s Knoll campground. Having met and introduced myself to the White Lady, and learned what I could of her, I then asked if I was free to take my leave. The sparrow called once more in response, and I rose to go, leaving for my campsite taking a more direct route than I had when arriving.

On Saturday, during a break, I went down to the river to talk to the Lady Bonnechere, whom we had selected as our Fairy Queen for the ritual, and I spent a few minutes talking with both her and the White Lady. It seemed that the White Lady was a client of the River, the sovereign of a small territory beneath the Bonnechere’s domain. I attempted to share our plans for the ritual, for approval, and was given some insight that I took back to the group.

During the ritual itself that night, I spent much of the time talking to the White Lady as we walked anti-clockwise around the fire, telling her of my personal practice, painting a picture of my local community in large brush strokes, and other such things. I am certain there is much of that conversation I have forgotten, but the feeling of the conversation will stay with me. I do think I have made a new but lasting contact among the Gentry, and I find that even here, hours by car to the south of where I met her, I can still feel her presence when I wish to communicate with her. I am glad to have met her.

Event

Witches’ Sabbat Recap

The Witches’ Sabbat 2018: Our Lady of the Unseen & The Wild Hunt

I’ve been trying to decide how to write this: what I want to share, what I should share, what I can share.  Some of what I experienced up there is perhaps for me, alone.  But that’s how the best spiritual experiences are, aren’t they?

There’s the top level story, the story of a weekend in the woods in Canada.  That story starts with three friends piling into a car filled to the brim with supplies, as morning light dawned.  A long day’s drive, mostly uneventful, to the border, and then to Ottawa.  A pleasant dinner, and a welcome bed in a lovely hotel for the night.  Then another morning’s ride, to a place called Raven’s Knoll, where we would spend a few days learning about and celebrating the Faery Queen and her Fae Lord.

Friday afternoon was one of exploration for me, of revisiting for my companions. There was rain as we walked the path to the Vé*, and there were mosquitoes, and when we returned, we set up a new-to-us tent for the first time and realized, alas, that we didn’t have a rain fly.  I was soaked much of that day, and yet it seemed like a good beginning.  My explorations earlier in the day, however, meant that I soon tired, and did not complete the circuit of the opening ritual.  I remained resting outside the Witches’ Spiral that night, unaware at the time that there was more planned than simple circumambulations and libations for the stangs.  Ah, well.  I was trying to pace myself, aware that I would need a minor miracle to make it to my workshop on Sunday with enough energy to give these folk my best.  Perhaps if I had been more aware of what was going to occur, I would have followed.  But then again, perhaps I was meant to be outside, feeling the last of the setting sun on my skin, and learning to breathe in time to the local landspirits.  I did not make it to the night ritual, either – late nights are a thing of the past for me, and sleep was high on my list of priorities, especially considering all that the next day would bring.

Saturday was the busiest of our days, beginning with workshops in the morning.  I attended a discussion on warding and protection that shifted seamlessly into the next one, on which aspects of the Faery Queen we might want to invoke for the main ritual.  After that was the big announcement on how we’d all be split into groups to work on the main ritual, and the staff explained the outline they’d like us to follow, but within that framework everything was going to be up to the smaller groups.  The potluck feast followed the announcements, but my husband and I ate our own food, to avoid possible allergens.  After lunch was the workshop on Hawthorne, our honored plant for the event, led by Sarah Anne Lawless.

After that workshop, the planning and preparations for the main ritual began in earnest.  Scott and I joined House Mare, which had responsibility for the Faery Queen’s stang and her part of the ritual.  House Stag was responsible for the Fae Lord and his stang, and House Hare was responsible for setting up the ritual space, as well as warding and protection.  Regulars at WS routinely say “witchcraft is work” and Saturday afternoon was all of that work and more.  It is no easy task to build an ecstatic ritual from the ground up.  Once it seemed our organizer was satisfied that we had prepared most everything, I and a few others went to eat dinner and take a nap.  The ritual would begin that night at 10pm, and I knew I’d never make it all the way through without rest.

At 10pm, Houses Hare and Mare gathered and processed to the fire pit, where the main ritual was to be held.  Once we arrived, House Mare waited outside for House Hare to finish setting up the space, and while we waited we finished assigning roles, and handing out ritual items from the wagon.  I had two roles: I was one of five people to annoint the stang during the Traditional Scots invocation of the Queen of Elphame, and after that I poured libations (a whole bottle of wine) while another read the invocation of the Faery Queen that had been written by himself and other members of our group.  It gave me an amazing vantage point for the moment when She came through.  The invocation complete, people began to dance and sing and move, raising energy as we awaited the beginning of Court Negotiations between our Lady and the Fae Lord, whose Court was set up in the Witches’ Spiral.  As the next few hours passed, I found myself focused on personal work most of the time – I was not aware of much of the negotiation process.  The energy around me rose and fell in inconsistent waves, and I tried to help each time it began to crash, but I think all of us were feeling the twin problems of trying to fill a too-large space, and the fatigue of the work we’d been doing all day.  It wasn’t a bad ritual by any means, and there was energy enough to fuel personal breakthroughs, but as far as ecstatic ritual goes, I’ve seen better.  From what I’ve heard, WS 2017 was much more ecstatic, and I would have liked to see that.  It could be that the consequences of splitting off half the group** to form another Court in another location weren’t fully understood; and I believe they were expecting a larger crowd than we got for the weekend.  Rain likely kept people away.  In any case, I’m still pleased to have gone, and I had important experiences, though I left before the end.  Once the Fae Lord was seated across the fire from our Lady, I poured him a libation and headed for bed.  I heard from others that he was eventually moved to be beside her, instead of across the fire, and I wonder, if WS does something like this again, if they would find it better to do negotiations across the fire, instead of having people waiting while messengers run long paths through the woods at night.  It would certainly have helped the energy to have all of us together, filling the space.

On Sunday, when I awoke and found myself to be Not Dying despite my short sleep, I declared it a minor miracle, and praised my gods and allies. I was So. Relieved.  The first event of the day was a recap of the ritual from the night before.  I listened to part of it, before leaving to prepare for my workshop, which followed the discussion.  With permission from the staff, I moved my workshop to the Nemeton*** to give us more space, since the tables under the tents were hosting three workshops, and I wanted my attendees to have as little ambient noise to deal with as possible.  Unfortunately we traded conversation for mosquitoes, but it still seemed to work well for most people.  It was a small turnout, but I hadn’t expect a huge crowd the morning after such a late ritual.  After my workshop, I hurried to the next one, “Les Dames Fées: Exploring the Many Incarnations of the Ladies Fae in French-Canadian Witchcraft”, presented by Erik Lacharity.  It was a wonderful blend of folklore and personal anecdotes, and I was very glad to have gone.  That was the last official bit of Witches’ Sabbat for me – with rain on the horizon, and my lack of sleep catching up with me, Scott and I opted to skip the closing ritual in favor of packing up.  The first peals of thunder came just as the closed the ritual according to those there, and the first raindrops came down as we left Raven’s Knoll.

Perhaps I will explore those other, deeper, layers in future posts, but for now they are still roiling inside me, processing and awaiting integration.

 

 

 

Notes:

* It is my understanding that it belongs to a local Heathen group, and there’s a short post on it here.  As I am not an oathed member, I did not enter, though one of my companions on that walk has been oathed in, and made their offerings while others waited outside.

** Yes, half the group, not a third.  They were specific about the number of people allowed to be in House Stag and I do believe they filled that quota.  And no wonder, with talk of secret ritual while the rest of us gathered in the fire pit.  It did seem to me that the locals and/or regulars have their cliques, but as a first time attendant and an outsider, I found it hard to care.  I was focused on the Work.

*** The Nemeton is an Irish space, like the Vé, that I believe was set up by a local ADF druid grove.  It has a pole for Lugh and one for Manannan.  I set up my mini altar to Fand by her husband’s pole, and left several of the items there as offerings, as is the custom at Raven’s Knoll.

Event, Spiritwork, Workshop

Queen Under Mound, Queen Under Wave

This past Memorial Day Weekend, Scott and I joined a group of friends from the Fellowship Beyond The Star to a witchy camping retreat near Ottawa, Canada, called the Witches’ Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll.  I’m still processing my experiences, so that will come in another blog soon, but I wanted to post the journey prompts I wrote for the workshop I led at Witches’ Sabbat.

My workshop, titled “Queen under Mound, Queen under Wave” was an introduction to Fand, an Irish Fairy Queen and Sea Goddess.  The first part of my workshop focused on her appearances in myth as well as modern associations and shared gnosis about her.  The second part included two pathworkings, one to visit her as Queen of a sí mound, and the other to visit her in the depths of the ocean.  I wrote both of these for the workshop, and I’d like to share them both with my readers here!  Each takes about 10 minutes.  You can try recording yourself reading them with the indicated pauses and playing it back.*

Queen Under Mound

Breathe yourselves into stillness, children of earth.  Breathe deep.  Breathe in relaxation… and breathe out the worries and cares of the world. Breathe until you reach that space between, the space that lets us walk between the worlds.  We will all go together. Feel as mists steam up from the ground and surround us here.  Pay attention to notice the shift – we are leaving Raven’s Knoll, and coming into another place.  When you are ready, open your inner eyes and see the dirt road beneath your feet. On either side grow hedges of hawthorn, and there are a few blooms on them still, despite the lateness of the season.  Continue forward to the crossroads where I stand, and behind me, to one side of the dirt road, a table piled with offerings.  There are things to drink and eat, instruments for playing music, flowers, shells, and more.  Find the gift you are meant to give, and bring it with you as we continue forward.  Walk farther along the dirt road until you see to your right what looks like an opening in the hawthorn hedge.  Examine it more closely, and notice how the thorns seem to give way as you approach.  Press forward, and feel them part gently around you as you pass through.  When you have come all the way through, you will find yourself in a meadow with a low mound, and beyond it, a forest.  Stop for a moment to observe everything around you. [5 count beat] What do you see? [3]  Hear? [3]  Smell? [5]  Then continue towards the mound.  As you approach it you notice a strange shimmer in one area – head towards that, and do not be surprised when you pass through it as easily as through a projected image.  Inside, you find yourself in a great hall, with big oaken beams.  To your right there are a great many feasting tables, and directly in front of you is a brick circle that contains within it a great fire, the smoke rising up into the heights of the chamber, much taller than the mound somehow, and out through a hole in the roof.  To your left there is a raised platform, and on it are two great thrones.  Fand sits in one.  Is the other occupied?  Take a moment to observe the room. [5] What do you see? [3] Smell? [3]  Hear? [5]  When you are ready, approach Fand, and give her the gift you brought.  At this time you may ask her the question: “How do I balance all the roles I must play?” Listen closely for her reply. [PAUSE FOR FIVE MINUTES.]  When you have finished, thank her for your time, and leave the way you came. [10] Out the doorway… to the meadow, [3] across the meadow… to the hedge, [3] through the hedge… to the road, [3] and down the road… back to the swirling mists… and into your body. [3] Welcome Home.

 

Queen Under Wave

Breathe yourselves into stillness, children of earth. Breathe deep.  Breathe in relaxation… and breathe out the worries and cares of the world. Breathe until you reach that space between, the space that lets us walk between the worlds.  We will all go together. Feel as mists steam up from the ground and surround us again, as we move into that other place.  When you are ready, open your inner eyes and again see the dirt road beneath your feet, hedged by blooming hawthorn. Continue forward to the crossroads where I stand by the table piled with offerings.  Find the gift you are meant to give, and bring it with you as we continue forward.  Walk farther along the dirt road until you see to your left what looks like another opening in the hawthorn hedge.  Once again, press forward and feel them part gently around you as you pass through.  When you have come all the way through, you will find yourself at the top of a low sea cliff, on a track that leads down to a little beach.  Go down the track carefully, and wade into the water.  The water is chilly and yet you do not seem to feel the cold.  You instinctively know you must swim from here, and even if you don’t know how, or are not wearing the appropriate clothing, you have perfect confidence that you will succeed.  So plunge in, and begin swimming out to sea, as small waves rise and fall around you.  A short way out, a sea creature that is known to you swims up from the depths and greets you.  It is here to show you the way to the castle in the depths.  It squirts water into your face, and then dives.  You dive with it, trying to follow closely, and when you can no longer stand the pressure in your lungs and ears, you are filled with sudden knowledge – and you take a breath.  You have been given the ability to breathe underwater, and this makes your journey much easier.  You join the sea creature in diving down into the blackness, where light barely penetrates, where only by small bioluminescent animals guide your course.  You come to what appears to be the entrance to a cave, and the interior seems to be made of glowing stone, so that you can see again in the dim light.  As you pass through the doorway, the impression of being underwater fades, and you now walk along the floor of another great hall, this one all of glowing stone. This one, too, has a raised platform. Stop for a moment to observe. [5]  What do you see? [3]  Hear? [3]  Smell? [3]   Taste? [3]  Who is on the platform? [5]  Do you recognize Fand, in her aspect as Queen Under Wave? When you are ready, approach Fand, and give her the gift you brought.  At this time you may ask her the question: “What hides in my own depths?” Listen closely for her reply. [PAUSE FOR FIVE MINUTES.]  When you have finished, thank her for your time, [5] and leave the way you came.  [5] Back to the door, [3]  back swimming with your sea creature guide up to the light, [3] back swimming to the beach, [3]  back up to the cliff, [3] back through the hedge… to the road, [3] and down the road… back to the swirling mists and into your body. [3] Welcome Home.

 

* I don’t mind these being shared for personal work or even small group work as long as it’s shared directly from this page and I’m given credit, but please don’t use these to create your own workshop, and it’s definitely not okay to use this anywhere where you’re getting paid or even compensated monetarily for your time.  When in doubt, email to ask. Thanks!