A Poem for Yule

Yule Comments & Graphics
A Poem for Yule

by Elspeth Sapphire

I hear the wind howling
The ice has entered my soul
The cold seems endless
The darkness black as coal.

Yet a spark of something
Shines bright through the night
Could it be the dawning
Of approaching light?

For it’s always coldest
In the hours before dawn
Darkness is its deepest,
Facing fears we’ve drawn

How can loneliness dwell
With loved ones nearby?
Why the tiny doubts
Filling me with their cries?

So I turn my face away
Forget the winter’s chill
Celebrate Sun’s return
As my spirit thrills.

~Magickal Graphics~

The Yule Tree (Lore, Decorating/Consecrating & Correspondences)

Yule Comments & Graphics
THE YULE TREEThe Celtic Druids venerated evergreen trees as manifestations of deity and as symbols of the universe. To the Celts, these trees were sacred because they did not die from year to year like deciduous trees. Therefore they represented the eternal aspect of the Goddess who also never dies. Their greenery was symbolic of the hope for the sun’s return.

The Druids decorated the evergreen trees at Yule with all the images of the things they wished the waxing year to bring. Fruits for a successful harvest, love charms for happiness, nuts for fertility, and coins for wealth adorned the trees. These were forerunners to many of the images on today’s Christmas trees. Candles were the forerunners of today’s electric tree lights.

In Scandinavia, Yule trees were brought inside to provide a warm and festive place for tree elementals who inhabited the woodland. This was also a good way to coax the native faery folk to participate in Solstice rituals. Some believed the Saxons were the first to place candles in the tree.

Gradually sacred tree imagery was absorbed and minimalized by the Christian church–but it was never able to destroy trees’ resonance within our collective unconscious completely. We realize when we plant a tree we are encouraging the Earth to breathe. And when we decorate our evergreen trees at Yule, we are making a symbol of our dream world with the objects we hang upon it. Perhaps a chain or garland, reflecting the linking of all together on Earth. Lights–for the light of human consciousness, animal figures who serve as our totems, fruits and colors that nourish and give beauty to our world, gold and silver for prosperity, treats and nuts that blend sweet and bitter–just as in real life. The trees we decorate now with symbols of our perfect worlds actually animate what we esteem and what we hope for in the coming year; as from this night, the light returns, reborn.

Decorating the Tree

It’s best to use a live tree, but if you can’t, you can perform an outdoor ritual thanking a tree, making sure to leave it a gift when you’re finished (either some herbs or food for the animals and birds). Start a seedling for a new tree to be planted at Beltane.

If apartment rules or other conditions prevent you from using a live tree indoors, be sure to bring live evergreen garlands or wreaths into the house as decorations.

* String popcorn and cranberries and hang them on the Yule tree or an outdoor tree for birds.

* Decorate pine cones with glue and glitter as symbols of the faeries and place them in the Yule tree.

* Glue the caps onto acorns and attach with a red string to hang on the Yule tree.

* Hang little bells on the Yule tree to call the spirits and faeries.

* Hang robin and wren ornaments on the tree. The robin is the animal equivalent of the Oak King, the wren of the Holly King. Each Yule and Midsummer they play out the same battle as the two kings.

* Hang 6-spoked snowflakes on the branches of the tree. The Witches Rune, or Hagalaz, has 6 spokes.

* Hang sun, moon, star, Holly King, faery, or fruit decorations.

* String electric lights on your tree to encourage the return of the Sun.

Consecrating the Tree

Consecrate the Yule tree by sprinkling it with salted water, passing the smoke of incense (bayberry, pine, spruce, pine, spice, cedar, or cinnamon)through the branches, and walking around the tree with a lighted candle saying:

By fire and water, air and earth,   I consecrate this tree of rebirth.

Correspondences

EVERGREENS

Symbolizing: Continuity of Life, Protection, Prosperity
Types: Pine, Fir, Cedar, Juniper, other evergreens
Forms: boughs, wreaths, garlands, trees
Divinities: Green Goddesses & Gods; Hertha; Cybele, Attis, Dionysius (Pine); Woodland Spirits
Traditions: Roman, Celtic, Teutonic, Christian

OAK

Symbolizing: New Solar Year; Waxing Sun; Endurance, Strength, Triumph, Protection, Good Luck
Forms: Yule log, acorns, wood for sacred fires
Divinities: Oak King; Oak Spirit; Sky Gods including Thor, Jupiter, Zeus
Traditions: Teutonic, Celtic, Christian

SACRED TREES OF WINTER SOLSTICE from the Celtic Tree Calendar

Yew: Last Day of Solar Year; Death.
Silver Fir: Winter Solstice Day; Birth.
Birch: Month following Winter Solstice; Beginnings.

written by Selena Fox

THE YULE LOG

THE YULE LOG

The Yule Log, an ancient symbol of the season, came to us from the Celts. The log, a phallic symbol, is usually cut from an Oak tree, symbolic of the god. The entire log was decorated with holly, mistletoe, and evergreens to represent the intertwining of the god and goddess who are reunited on this Sabbat. The log was burned in the hearth or fireplace. Modern pagans also have the option of using pieces of oak small enough to be burned in the cauldron.

In modern times, another tradition has emerged since not everyone has fireplaces. Three holes are bored in the top of the log for three candles, representing the goddess in her three aspects — maiden, mother, and crone. Normally these candles are white, red, and black in honor of this triple aspect. This log may be reused year after year, with the candles changed each year.

An ancient rhyme of unknown origin reflects the importance of the Yule Log on this Sabbat:

May the log burn,
May the wheel turn,
May evil spurn,
May the Sun return.

The ashes of the yule log or spent wax from candles are tied up in a cloth for the entire year as a charm for protection, fertility, strength, and health.

Seasons of the Witch

Seasons of the Witch

  • Birthstone: Topaz, signifying fidelity      
  • Third Station of the Year      
  • Kalends of November, ancient Rome      
  • The Isia, ancient Egypt (Oct 28-Nov 3)      
  • Day of the Awakeners, Bulgaria      
  • Day of the Banshees, Ireland      
  • El Dia de las Muerte, Mexico (Day of the Dead) – feast and festival celebrating Death and commemorating the dead.      
  • Voodoo: All Saint’s Day – ritual bonfires are lit for the sun loa Legba, symbolizing the re-firing of        the sun at the beginning of the new year.      
  • All Saints Day is a day of religious feasting that, with no coincidence, follows the originally pagan holiday of Halloween.  More than 2,000 years ago, Celtic peoples in Ireland, Scotland, and Great Britain held harvest feasts to which they believed the souls of their dead returned. These feasts evolved into what we now know as Halloween.
  • Voudun/Catholicism: All Saints Day – feast in commemoration of all the Christian saints. Moved from springtime to Nov. 1st to         counter the Druid’s celebration of Samhain.      
Kitano Odori, Kyoto, Japan (Nov 1-15) At Kamikyo-ku, Kitano Kaikan theatre, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture Dancing  groups and music.
World Community Day–Day for celebrating the unity behind diversity and remembering we are all one people – all  children of the one universal Deity of many names and aspects.
11/1 to 11/4: Diwali/Lunar New Year/Festival of Lights–Hindu festival for Goddess Lakshmi (source of health,  fertility, and prosperity) and Her consort, God Vishnu (the preserver); focus is on peace-making and new beginnings. [a/k/a Divali, Dipavali, Deepavali,  Bandi Chhor Divas]
Excerpted From GrannyMoon’s Morning  Feast Archives, Earth, Moon and Sky and/or School of Seasons .
Remember the ancient ways and keep them sacred!

Speaking Out About Halloween

Speaking Out About Halloween

by Dana Corby

Halloween: the time of year that just about everyone associates with Witches, along with ghosts, goblins, and other scary “supernatural” beings. But I’ve been a witch for more than twenty years and I can tell you there is nothing either scary or supernatural about us. And there is nothing more to fear on Halloween night than on any other night of the year.

Each year as October approaches, self styled experts flood the media with dire warnings about the supposed physical and spiritual dangers of celebrating Halloween. They trot out the same tired old rumors of poisons and razor blades in trick or treatcandy. They hint that your neighbors are probably child molesters. Lately they’ve been making the astonishing claim that Witches put curses on the treats they distribute, so that the children who eat them will be “possessed by demons.”

There is no truth to any of it, there never has been!

Witches are actually rather ordinary folks; not a wiggly nose among us. We have jobs and families, we vote and pay taxes, and we want most of the same things you do: Peace, prosperity, a good world to leave our children. Unlike most people, though, we spend part of each autumn faced with open religious discrimination, based on needless ignorance and fear.

Witchcraft, also known as Wicca, is a modern revival of the pre-Christian religions of western Europe. We are pagans, that is, we see divinity in nature rather than in a transcendent spiritual realm or an omnipotent being. We speak of our deity as the Goddess or Mother Nature, although to most of us the godhead is dual – both Goddess and God. As such, our beliefs lie outside mainstream Judeo-Christian concepts.

This does not mean however, that Witches are in any way opposed to Christianity. Like most religions throughout history, we grant that different faiths are right for different people. We oppose only the mistaken belief of some individual Christians that since they posses the only “real” religion, constitutional freedoms of religion do not apply to the rest of us. On the rare occasions that Witches find themselves in conflict with Christians, we see it as a civil rights matter, not a religious dispute. We are not interested in arguing “my Gods better than your God.”

Wicca’s ethic laws are at least as stringent as those of other faiths: Our law says “Harm none,” and that means not our neighbor, not our neighbor’s dog, and certainly not out neighbor’s child. It prohibits not only physical harm but such intangibles as violation of another’s free will. And it means ourselves, as well; a Witch should cultivate both bodily and mental health.

This outlook on morality, because it does not rely on obedience to specific commandments, covers much more behavior: Rather than worrying about sinning, we try to foresee the results of our actions so as to take the wisest course. While we may not share Christianity’s beliefs in heaven and hell, we do believe that all actions have consequences, and that whatever good or evil we do will find it’s way back to us. Our ethos comes from within rather than being imposed from outside or above. It is based on personal honor and responsibility, and by these principals we live and hope to live again on our beloved Mother Earth.

As worshippers of nature, Witches celebrate a wheel of eight Sabbats or sacred days: Ancient festivals marking the round of the seasons. The Christian calendar, as even some Christian writers have noted, borrows heavily from Paganism. This is no doubt because until very recently people of every faith shared the same experience of the land and the passing seasons.

We share Yule, for instance, which is the old name of both the winter solstice and Christmas. Easter, derived from the celebration of the Spring Equinox, is even named after the Saxon fertility Goddess Eostre. And though Protestantism abandoned them long ago, both Imbolc (Lady Day) and Lammas (August Eve) have been retained in the Catholic year, as has All Hallows Eve…Halloween

To witches, Halloween is a religious holiday much like Thanksgiving, a time to feast in praise of nature’s bounty. It is also our New Year’s day, time to let go of the old and look forward into the future. The old name for this festival is Samhain, pronounced approximately “Sow-un.” This is a Celtic (Irish, Scottish) word meaning “summer’s end.” Some writers have claimed that Samhain is the name of a Celtic death god, but Celtic scholars consider this a fabrication. In fact, Samhain is to this day the name in parts of Ireland and Scotland for the month of November.

Samhain is the last of three harvest festivals. August has Lammas, the grain harvest; In September was Mabon, Autumn Equinox and the apple harvest; and on the eve of November is Samhain, the cattle harvest.

The idea of a cattle harvest is strange today. But in ancient times, it was essential. Though the Celts counted their wealth in cattle, they could not keep whole herds alive through the winter. Rather than let all of them starve, they kept the best animals for breeding stock, the rest were blessed, thanked, and butchered. This was not some occult “blood sacrifice” but practical animal husbandry, done with respect – essentially “pagan kosher.”

Every community held it’s own Samhain feat, and the people stuffed themselves with all the autumn goodies they would not see for another year, especially that great seasonal luxury, meat. They stored up food for the winter not in a refrigerator, but as fat on their own bodies. (We of course do have refrigerators. Our feasts come mostly from the super market.)

With the dying of the cattle and the seeming dying of the year, it was appropriate also to remember the communities’ human dead. The religious side of the feast of Samhain has always included recalling by name our loved ones who have passed over during the year, with prayers for their safe passage. This is the origin of the secular Halloween’s “spooks”: The spirits of all the beloved dead gathering around one last time for our farewells. For us this formal letting-go is an important aspect of the grief process.

Pagans in general, and Witches especially, do not share the horror of death which pervades mainstream culture. Because we are a joyful people , we hope to avoid death as long as is practical, but we do not particularly fear it. Witches see it as a transition, an alternate reality, which in it’s own manner serves life. Because we love life, Witches are healers and gardeners and artists, cooks and craftspeople and teachers of lore. Because we value balance, Witches honor Death at Samhain.

The part of Halloween that makes it Halloween to most Americans is of course, “trick or treat.” Interestingly, this custom, though ancient, is preserved much more faithfully in North America than in the old countries. Large numbers of Irish and Scots emigrated here just before the old ways began dying out in the British Isles, in the period between Queen Victoria and World War 1. By then the celebration was far different than it had once been.

The house to house begging processions that we now call trick or treat were not originally part of Halloween at all. From the Middle Ages right up through he renaissance such processions were a major part of Advent and Christmas; like most Yule customs, the true origin is lost in Pagan antiquity. Along with other Yule merriment, the processions were suppressed during the Protestant Reformation. But the people would not give them up, and took them underground by simply moving them to Halloween.

One feature of modern Halloween, though, has always been a part of it: disguises…

The ancient Celts believed in fairies, as many modern Celts still do. And they believed that at Samhain the walls between our world and the realm of fairy grew thin, and that the fair folk could come over. The fairies were said to ride the mortal lands then stealing beautiful human children to raise as their own. So, mothers “uglified: their children for the night: dirtied their faces, ratted their hair, dressed them in rags – whatever might make the fairies overlook them. And the children, kids being kids even in the middle ages, thought this was a blast! Eventually, as usually happens with folk customs, the reason for it was forgotten: today any kind of costume can be worn, or none at all.

So, what should a modern parent do? Is it safe to send your children out trick-or-treating? Though not as safe as it used to be, the truth is that it’s fairly safe if you use some common sense.

Those horrifying tales of razor blades and drugs in candy have happily proven to be what is called an urban myth, like the sewer alligators and the ghost hitchhiker: You know someone who says they know someone it happened to, only no one actually does. Hospitals have offered free X-rays of Halloween treats for many years now, and have never found a foreign object. Only one case of Halloween poisoning has ever actually been substantiated by the authorities, and it proved  to have been done by the children’s own father after they came home. It seems they were insured better than they were loved.

Nor are your children likely to have any spells cast on them on Halloween or any other time. While there are a few “wanna-be-Satanists” around who might  like to cast spells on your kids, the truth is, they can’t. Magick has natural laws, just like any other physics and chemistry. One of those laws is that innocence is armor against evil. Another is that magick takes work. The kind of people attracted to “black magick” generally either are just showing off or think they’ve found a way to get what they want without work. Once they realize the enormous amount of effort it takes to violate the free will of even a child, they’re all through.

What the Witches on your children’s route are likely to do to them is make them mad: We tend to give out healthy stuff instead of candy. One Witch I know gives toothpaste!

But real dangers do exist. Every year trick-or-treaters are hit by cars on dark streets,  bitten by dogs, fall down stairs – any number of mishaps. Predatory humans, though mercifully few, are real. And excited, sugar high children are not careful. So the parents must be.

Make sure that your children’s costumes enable them to see and be seen; if you can’t talk them out of going in black as Dracula or a ninja (or despite all I’ve said here, as the “wicked witch.”) Make sure they carry a flashlight so they’re not invisible in the dark.

Arrange with your neighbors for a “safe house” on each block; make sure your children know where it is and forbid them to enter any other house on their route. This could be a great PTA project. Best of all, of course, is to go with them.

Ration the sweets once they’re brought home. A heavy sugar overdose can trigger hyperactivity, hypoglycemia or in rare cases, even diabetes. In any case it’s bad for their teeth and hard on tummies. But don’t worry about your neighborhood Witches, we’ll be busy celebrating Samhain!

Dana Corby publishes pamphlets and booklets through her publishing company Rantin’ Raven Press.

Dragons of the Elements

Dragons of the Elements

 

In all forms of magick, the universe and everything in it are said to be made up of four elements: Air, Fire, Water, Earth. The element of Spirit rules the center as a balance. In dragon magick, specific dragons rule these elements and help to create through their powers.

 

Fire and Air are traditionally positive (male) energies; Water and Earth are traditionally negative (female) energies. Male and female dragons may appear in the elemental direction in the traditional places, or may at times appear female in male direction and vice versa. This leads one to surmise that dragons may be androgynous creatures. These four elements correspond to the four directions, the four quarters of the universe, the four winds, and the four quarters of the magickal circle.

 

Each element has assigned traditional rules and boundaries to their kingdom. They possess form and force, and can influence our personalities as well as magickal procedures. Each element and it dragons has certain qualities, natures, moods and magickal purpose; each has positive and negative traits. Because the magician calls upon each element and its ruler to protect a certain quarter of the circle, it is very important to understand them, what they are and what they do.

The traditional Pagan colors of the elements are: east, yellow; south, red; west, blue; north, dark green. However, there are other colors given to the elements. To the Celts this list was: east, white; south, red; west, gray; north, black. The Hindus listed east, blue; south, red; west, silver; north, yellow. In China and Japan these colors were: east, blue; south, red; west, white; north, black. To the Zunis of North American, east was white; south, red; west, blue; north, yellow. The following definitions of the elements lists the traditional Pagan colors. If you feel that one of the other color lists better suits you, adopt it.

 

The name of the dragons of the elements and the spelling and pronunciation of those name came through in trance several years ago. They proved compatible with dragon magick. Knowing dragons, they may or may not be the actual names of the element dragons. They work as a focal point, and that is all that is necessary.

 

“Dancing With Dragons”

D. J. Conway

Brighid Lore for Imbolc

Brighid Lore for Imbolc
by Doreen Motheral

 

The goddess Brighid (also known as Brigit, Bride, Biddy and other names throughout Europe) is a goddess who is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I like the fact that she is associated with both water (her wells in Kildare and other parts of Ireland) and fire (her fire pit in Kildare). I like the fact that she spans both the pagan and Christian worlds and some of her traditions are still celebrated today.

Since the festival of Imbolc (also called Óimelc) is this weekend I thought I’d write a few thoughts for those who aren’t familiar with her (and perhaps renew an acquaintance for those who already were). Imbolc is the time of the year that the ewes lactated, and the successful timing of this event was approximate, so the exact date of Imbolc could vary from region to region and from year to year depending on the climate. Production of this milk supply was very important to both man and animal. From the milk comes butter and cheese. Newly calved cows were also put under Brighid’s protection. Here’s an old saying:

Samhain Eve without food,
Christmas night without bread,
St. Brighid’s Eve without butter,
That is a sorry complaint.

Cormac mac Cuillenàin, who lived in the 9th century said, “Brighid i.e. a learned woman, daughter of the Dagda. That is Brighid of learning, i.e. a goddess who filid worshipped. For her protecting care was very great and very wonderful. So they call her a goddess of poets. Her sisters were Brighid woman of healing, and Brighid woman of smithcraft, daughters of the Dagda, from whose names among all the Irish a goddess used to be called Brighid” In this writing, Cormac mentions her triple aspect of three sisters, common among the Celts. I often call on one or more of her aspects of creativity, writing and healing, but she is much more than that.

The Christian aspects of Brighid and the pagan aspects often overlap, so it’s difficult to figure out which stories have pre-Christian beginnings. I think there is a seed of paganism in many of the later stories associated with her. We’ll never know for sure, but in my own private practice I take many of her current customs and use them for my own worship of her – and I don’t worry about the pre-Christian aspect of the story or not. Your mileage may vary, of course.

On the eve of Imbolc, a piece of linen, other cloth or ribbons is placed outside (some folks put them on their window sill). This piece of cloth is called Brighid’s Brat or Brighid’s Mantle. It is said that Brighid travels all over the land on Imbolc eve and if she sees this cloth, she will bless it and give it healing powers. Some folks in Ireland say that the older your brat is, the more powerful it is. Mugwort Grove (the grove to which I belong) destroys ours from year to year. We put out a whole piece of linen and tear it into strips for members of the Grove during our Imbolc ritual. People take the strips home to use for healing and some are kept on personal altars throughout the year.

Other folklore says that if the mantle gets bigger overnight, you will be especially blessed. It’s a nice tradition, especially if you have a lot of illness to overcome for the following year, and a brat is nice to have for healing rituals later in the year.

Brighid’s fiery aspect makes her the perfect goddess of the hearth – in fact, my hearth at home is dedicated to Brighid. There are many hearth prayers dedicated to Brighid, especially concerning smooring. Ashes and embers were often deposited in the fields. Also, indoor activity associated with Imbolc often took place near the hearth, and if there was a feast, an extra place was set for Brighid. It is also considered bad luck to do any type of spinning on Brighid’s Day.

There is also the custom of Brighid’s Bed. A small bed is made near the hearth and a doll (called a Brídeog), often made from a sheaf of corn and made into the likeness of a woman and is sometimes placed in the bed. In Ireland the doll was often made from a churn dash decorated in clothing (associations t milk again). Sometimes the doll was carried around town to visit houses in the neighborhood. Songs, music and dances are performed – then prayers are said to St. Brighid for blessings upon the house (this is similar to wassailing in other countries around Christmas). Then the family is asked to contribute a donation – which used to be bread and butter (there’s that dairy again!) but now it’s often money (sometimes given to charity).

There is much, much more about Brighid I could share, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. A bit of trivia – Brighid is so loved by the Irish people that in 1942 a survey was taken on “The Feast of St. Brighid”. The replies about the customs run to 2,435 manuscript pages. A great book, if you can find it, is The Festival of Brighid Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman by Séamas Ó Catháin. There are many really cool stories and legends about her.

Last but not least one of the other interesting aspects of Brighid is a prayer attributed to her from the 11th century which goes like this:

I would like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings
I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.
I would like an abundance of peace.
I would like full vessels of charity.
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.
I would like Jesus to be present.
I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.
I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.

Drink up!

Brighid’s Fires Burn High

Brighid’s Fires Burn High

by Miriam Harline

 

Imbolc is a white time, a time of ice and fire. In many places, snow still sheets the ground. The fire is traditional: Europe observes this day, February 2, the Christian Candlemas, with candlelight processions, parades that go back to ancient torchlight ceremonies for purifying and reviving the fields at early sowing, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend.At Candlemas, the people of ancient Europe made candles for the coming year, having saved the fat from meat eaten through the winter. Mexico, too, observes February 2, the Aztec New Year, with renewed fires and a festival that echoes agricultural rituals of early spring.

At Imbolc, the earth begins to wake from winter sleep. As Starhawk writes in The Spiral Dance, at Imbolc “what was born at the Solstice begins to manifest, and we who were midwives to the infant year now see the Child Sun grow strong as the days grow visibly longer.” At night the Wild Moon shines, illuminating the earth’s initial quickening. Seeds sown in autumn begin to stir; nature is potential waiting to be fulfilled. The Goddess too is changing: from crone to maiden, from winter to spring.

To Banish Winter

In The Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life, Pauline Campanelli writes, “Now is the time for the banishing of Winter. On the first night of February, the eve of Imbolc, gather together all of the greens that adorned the house throughout the Yuletide season, including a branch or two of the fir tree that was hung with holiday ornaments. Then, as a part of the Imbolc Sabbat rite, add these greens to the Sabbat Fire (a little at a time, and carefully, because by now they are hazardously dry), dancing and chanting all the while with words like:

“Now we banish Winter!

“Now we welcome Spring!”

Of Brighid and Her Realms

Today’s witches take many of their Imbolc associations from pagan Ireland. There, Imbolc belonged to the goddess Brighid or Bride (either is pronounced Breed), mother of poetry, smithcraft and healing.

In their Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, Caitlin and John Matthews quote the tenth century Cormac’s Glossary: Brighid is “a poetess… the female sage, woman of wisdom, or Brighid the Goddess whom poets venerated because very great and famous for her protecting care.”Cormac’s Glossary gives Brighid the poetess two sisters, Brighid the smith and Brighid the “female physician”; Brighid thus occurs threefold, called by the Celts the Three Blessed Ladies.

The three Brighids multiply, to three times three: Caitlin and John Matthews call Brighid “a being who has nine separate spiritual appearances and blessings, which are ubiquitously invoked through Celtic lore.” Hers are the “nine gifts of the cauldron” mentioned in Amergin’s “Song of the Three Cauldrons”: poetry, reflection, meditation, lore, research, great knowledge, intelligence, understanding and wisdom. The Christianized St. Bridget had nine priestesses, the “Ingheau Anndagha,” or Daughters of the Flame, who lived inside her shrine and tended her fire, whom no man could look upon, according to Kisma K. Stepanich in Faery Wicca, Book One. Brighid is also a midwife and protector, a war-goddess and a teacher of the arts of battle.

Celtic lore makes Brighid the daughter of the Dagda, the Good God, and marries her to Bres of the Fomors, by whom she bears a son Ruadan. But, as Janet and Stewart Farrar write in The Witches’ Goddess, “The fact that Dana, though goddess/ancestress of the Tuatha, is sometimes referred to (like Brighid) as the Dagda’s daughter; the hints… that the Dagda was originally the son of this primordial goddess, then her husband, then her father; the dynastic marriage between Brighid and Bres – all these reflect a long process of integration of the pantheons of neighboring tribes, or of conquerors and conquered, and also of patriarchalization.” Like many goddesses, Brighid probably once birthed the god later called her father. Brighid’s name can be derived from the Gaelic “breo-aigit” or “fiery arrow,” but the Matthewses prefer a derivation from Sanskrit, “Brahti,” or “high one.”

The entire Celtic world worshipped Brighid. She was Brigantia in Britain, the patron goddess of the tribe of the Brigantines in northern England and of the Brigindo in eastern France, Stepanich says. The Celts continued to worship her in Christian times as St. Ffaid in Wales, St. Bride in Scotland and St. Bridget or Bride in Ireland. St. Bridget was said to be the midwife and foster mother of Christ, the helper and friend of Mary.

Making Bride’s Bed

Long before she befriended the Mother of God, Brighid was the Mother herself, her agricultural roots going back to the Neolithic. Campanelli describes an Imbolc ritual for creating Bride’s bed, drawn from ancient rituals in which harvesters at the Autumn Equinox would bring the last sheaf of wheat or other grain into the house, believing the Goddess of the Grain lived within. The harvesters often made this last sheaf into a woman’s shape, the Corn Bride or Maiden, dressing her in white.

If you have autumn harvest left, say a sheaf of Indian corn, as part of your Imbolc ritual you can create a Bride’s bed. Dress her in white and decorate her as you like, then place her in a basket or on a square of white cloth. Across her, lay a priapic wand – an acorn-tipped wand of oak – twined with ribbon, so that wand and bride form an X. Then place lit candles to either side, and chant to her something like, “Blessed be the Corn Bride! Blessed be the Great Mother!” At the height of the chant, extinguish the candles. Then, at sunrise the next morning, place the bride without her dress on your front door. There she forms an amulet of prosperity, fertility and protection, which can remain till after Samhain. Campanelli suggests you return her to earth before Yule, perhaps scattering her in the fields for birds.

Brighid the Midwife

Brighid is midwife as well as harvest mother. As late as 100 years ago in the west Scottish Highlands, the Matthewses write, the midwife traditionally blessed a newborn with fire and water in Brighid’s name. She passed the child across the fire three times, carried the baby around the fire three times deosil, then performed “the midwife’s baptism” with water, saying:

A small wave for your form

A small wave for your voice

A small wave for your speech

A small wave for your means

A small wave for your generosity

A small wave for your appetite

A small wave for your wealth

A small wave for your life

A small wave for your health

Nine waves of grace upon you,

Waves of the Giver of Health.

Brighid also protects and heals adults. She is a goddess of healing wells and streams; in her honor, Bridewell is one of the two most common well-names in Ireland, the other being St. Anne’s Well, remembering Anu, or Dana, the mother of the gods – a goddess sometimes conflated with Brighid. With Aengus Og, Brighid performs the role of soul-guardian, wrapping worshippers in her mantle of protection.

Making a “caim”

To protect themselves in Brighid’s name, the traditional Irish would recite a “caim,” the Matthewses write; “caim” means “loop” or “bend,” thus a protective circle. A caim would always name Brighid and the beings, household or body-parts to be protected.

Traditionally, you place a caim by stretching out your right forefinger and keeping that finger pointed toward the subject while walking about the subject deosil, reciting the caim. You can also say a caim for yourself. A caim can be made in all seasons and circumstances; it traditionally encircles people, houses, animals or the household fire. The Matthewses write:

“As her family prepared to sleep, the Gaelic mother would breathe these words (the caim) over the fire as she banked it in for the night…. As she said this, she would spread the embers into a circle, and divide it into three equal heaps with a central heap. To make the holy name of the foster mother (Brighid), she placed three turfs of peat between the three heaps, each one touching the center, and covered it all with ash. Such smooring customs and invocations are still performed in the West of Ireland. And so the protection of Brighid is wrapped about the house and its occupants.”

Augury in Brighid’s Name

Brighid is also a seer; the Matthewses describe her as “the central figure of the Celtic vision world.” She presided over a special type of augury, called a “frith,” performed on the first Monday in a year’s quarter to predict what that quarter would bring. The ancient Celts divided the year by Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasad, and Samhain, so the first Monday after Imbolc is appropriate for frithing.

To perform a frith, a traditional frithir would first fast. Then, at sunrise, barefoot and bareheaded, the frithir would say prayers to the Virgin Mary and St. Bridget and walk deosil around the household fire three times. Then with closed or blindfolded eyes, the frithir went to the house door’s threshold, placed a hand on either jamb and said additional prayers asking that the specific question about the coming quarter be answered. Then the frithir opened his or her eyes and looked steadfastly ahead, noting everything seen.

Frithing signs can be “rathadach” (lucky) or “rosadach” (unlucky). A man or beast getting up means improving health, lying down ill health or death. A cock coming toward the frithir brings luck, a duck safety for sailors, a raven death. About the significance of horses, a rhyme survives: “A white horse for land, a gray horse for sea, a bay horse for burial, a brown horse for sorrow.” The role of frithir passed down from generation to generation; according to the Matthewses, the name survives in the surname Freer, “held to be the title of the astrologers of the kings of Scotland.”

To perform a pagan version of frithing, fast the Sunday night before the first Monday after Imbolc and that night formulate your chief question about the coming three months. Monday morning at sunrise, say a prayer to Brighid and barefoot and bareheaded walk deosil around whatever seems the central fire of your house – maybe your kitchen stove, or if you’re not a cook your fireplace or heater. Then go to your doorway, put your hands to either side, and closing your eyes pray your question be answered. Then open your eyes, and note the first action you see. That action probably won’t be found in the traditional frithir’s lexicon, so the interpretation is up to you.

In another frithing technique, you curl the palms to form a “seeing-tube”; frithirs used such a tube to discover lost people or animals and to divine the health of someone absent. Frithirs also sometimes used divinatory stones; the Matthewses describe a “little stone of the quests” made of red quartz.

Imbolc Spells and Workings

Whether or not you try frithing, Imbolc is good for psychic work: still the dark time of the year, but looking toward spring. It’s also a good time to make your space hospitable for such work, banishing old energy to clear the way for new. Traditionally, witches purify themselves and their space at Imbolc. Any kind of cleansing or banishing will do, but consider ones that include fire and water, sacred to Brighid. Once purified, you’re ready to go further; at Imbolc, covens initiate new witches.

The spark of summer dances in the future now; Imbolc is a good time to seek inspiration, especially for healers and smiths of words or metal. To do so, try the following spell.

Bring to your ritual space a cauldron or chalice filled with earth or sand; a white, silver, green, purple or rainbow-colored candle; a candleholder; oil to anoint the candle; paper; and a pen you like or with appropriately colored ink. Ground and center, cast a circle and ask for Brighid’s presence. Then anoint your candle in Brighid’s name, and lighting it write on the paper the aspects of your work in which you want inspiration. When you’re done, raise energy and put it into the paper, then light the paper with the candle flame. Drop the burning paper into the cauldron, making sure the entire paper is blackened. Then thank Brighid and bid her farewell, and take down your circle.

The next day, relight the candle and by its light rub some significant tools of your work with the ashes. Then either sprinkle the remaining ashes onto your garden or houseplants or drop them in a park in a place that feels inspiring or pleasant.

Imbolc is a white time, burning with inspiration and protection, cool with healing and purification. Prophesy flares, painting luster on the dark. Light your candle, call on Brighid, and know that under the snow the seeds of spring stir.

Dragons and The Ancient Arts

Dragons and The Ancient Arts

 
 
The Chinese word for dragon’s breath is sha, a term which may correspond to what European dowsers call “black radiations.” For the past 50 – 60 years European dowsers have traced lines of black radiation which seem to follow underground water-bearing fissures or “black streams.” These black streams produce an energy imbalance in the Earth, affecting the landscape, its vegetation and crops, and any humans or animals that live there or frequent the area. Dowsers say that this imbalance of energy can be caused by quarrying, cutting through hills for roads or building, landslides, etc. Like an acupuncturist “staking” a node on an acupuncture meridian to restore balance in the human body, these dowsers stake the black streams with iron rods. In Chinese terms, they are restoring the Yin and Yang of the land where the dragon’s breath has turned sour or noxious.
 
This staking or guiding the dragon’s Earth energies may have been an ancient art which both balanced and collected these energies within a specific place. Dragons are connected in legends with mazes, spirals, labyrinths, and hills, coiling around or within them. It is possible that the terraced and spiraled hills, the circles of stones, indeed the single monoliths, were a method of controlling and directing this dragon energy. With the spiraled mounds and labyrinths the energy would have been guided into the center of the structure where it would have been of use to initiates who understood its great potential and power. In legends this guided dragon energy would be symbolized by the dragon coiling around a hill and squeezing the hill into its spiral form, such as in the legends of the Wormington Hill and Bignor Hill dragons in Britain. The Vurm of Shervage Wood was said to lie in and out among the trees of its area, its winding coils marking the boundaries of an ancient so-called campsite. Archaeologists have long called these spiral-marked areas ancient campsites, although common sense tells you that they could not be defended from invaders.
 
This dragon energy may be a form of static electrical energy flowing naturally through the Earth. It would explain the strange sensations one gets within specific areas, especially in what are called sacred spots. The sensations range from tingling in the fingers, spine or back of the neck to a great sense of peace to an unidentifiable strange feeling. Whatever this energy is, it is extremely strong wherever it is concetrated into a contained area, such as the center of a stone circle or a spiral. There are other places, commonly called power spots or power-sinks, where this energy appears to rise from the ground without human-made structures. These power spots covers a specific area of ground and have definite edges where the energy phenomena cease to exist.

Barrow mounds have long been associated with strange happenings. It may be that the priests of the original builders knew now-forgotten techniques of situating these sites over power flows so that they collected and stored the energy as would batteries. Among the Celts, it was a common practice for trained seers to spend the night on such a mound or grave and communicate with the dead, either to gain information from the past or predict the future. It has been documented several times within the last few centuries, that when a barrow mound was opened, strange and violent thunderstorms occurred soon afterwards. It would appear that there was a release of some kind of contained energy, and that the release was done in such a way as was not safe for such a build-up.
 
Many old stories tell of the dragon using a regular path, whether by air or land, whenever it journeyed from one place to another. These paths were not necessarily in straight lines. It is possible that these dragon paths followed underground streams of energy that move from one sinkhole of energy to another. In his book Folklore of Prehistoric Sites in Britain, L. V. Grinsell tells of a mysterious light commonly seen moving from a cairn at Torhousetie to a water conduit and back; the conduit had been covered with a stone slab taken from the cairn. In this instance it would seem that the cairn slab had become so magnetized that the energy set up a new line of flow from the sinkhole (cairn). Legend says that when the dragon’s blood is spilled, no vegetation will grow there. Dowsers say that if something goes wrong with the Earth energy the same thing happens. One story about spilled dragon blood is connected to the bare spot called Dragon Hill, which lies just below the White Horse at Uffington in Berkshire, England. There is another such legend connected with a bare spot near Aller in Somerset.
 
The conquering Christians were quick to take advantage of these power spots. They had a policy of building churches to St. Michael the dragon-killer over these old sites, some of them in very unlikely places. Both Glastonbury and Burrowbridge in Somerset have churches to St. Michael atop them. Other churches are built in the most illogical, out-of-the-way places, areas far from towns or even roads. There is absolutely no reason for siting the church in such an isolated place except to cover a power spot known to the Pagans.

The Anglo-Saxons spoke of another type of dragon Earth energy when they said dragons laired in certain sites to protect hoards of treasure. These sites most often seemed to be connected with burial mounds which the Anglo-Saxons called dragon hills. The Celts, Anglo-Saxons and the Norse all said that were-fire burned above the barrows where treasure was buried. It may well be that the ancient peoples knew where the energy streams ran and built burial mounds over them for some specific reason. The grave goods in barrows over such energy streams would absorb that energy, particular if they were made of gold or silver.
 
In the Mabinogion, there is a story of Peredur, son of Efrawg, who refers to a Welsh barrow that is guarded by a Worm. The Mabinogion is filled with symbolic stories that can be interpreted on a spiritual level. On the physical plane, the burial treasure was considered to be magickally charged. Perhaps the treasure in the dragon lairs really meant spiritual treasure which could be discovered through the use of the streams of “dragon” energy. Physical treasure which has been removed from such mounds often carries with it strange vibrations which precipitate very weird events.

“Dancing with Dragons”
D. J. Conway

Deity of the Day for July 27th is Manannan Mac Lir (Irish, Welsh)

Manannan Mac Lir

(Irish, Welsh)

Celtic sea God. Guardian and protector of the blessed islands Arran and the Isle of Man. He is also thought to hold connections with the Tuatha De Danaan. The original crane bag belonged to Manannan, in this he would keep his coracle and the original hallows of Britain and after which Cormac quested. He is one of the Grail guardians along with Pryderi, and skilled in the art of shapeshifting; appearing in the forms of heron or crane. He is known too for the loving of women. Sometimes seen riding a sea chariot, he is not bound to the seas and has been associated with rivers, lakes and lochs… possibly even springs and wells. Water worship was hallowed to the Celts, and they would leave treasures and offerings in lakes, lochs etc. During the Roman conquests these were plundered and the waters sold. Therefore in more ways than one they robbed the Celts of their treasures. He dressed in a green cloak and a gold headband. A shape-shifter. Chief Irish sea god, equivalent of the Welsh Llyr. Son of the sea god Lir. At Arran he had a palace called Emhain of the Apple Trees. His swine, which constantly renewed themselves, were the chief food of the Tuatha De Danann and kept them from ageing. He had many famous weapons: two spears called Yellow Shaft and Red Javelin; swords called The Retaliator, Great Fury, and Little Fury. His boat was called Wave Sweeper, and his horse, Splendid Mane. He had magic armour that prevented wounds and could make the Tuatha invisible at will. God of the sea, navigators, storms, weather at sea, fertility, sailing, weather-forecasting, magic, arts, merchants and commerce, rebirth.