Who Is Hecate?

Who Is Hecate?

At night, particularly at the dark of the moon, this goddess walked the roads of ancient Greece, accompanied by sacred dogs and bearing a blazing torch. Occassionally she stopped to gather offerings left by her devotees where three roads crossed, for this three-fold goddess was best honored where one could look three ways at once. Sometimes, it was even said that Hecate could look three ways because she had three heads: a serpent, a horse, and a dog.
While Hecate walked outdoors, her worshippers gathered inside to eat Hecate suppers in her honor, gatherings at which magical knowledge was shared and the secrets of sorcery whispered. The bitch-goddess, the snake-goddess, ruled these powers and she bestowed them on those who worshipped her honorably. When supper was over, the leftovers were placed outdoors as offerings to Hecate and her hounds. And if the poor of Greece gathered at the doorsteps of wealthier households to snatch the offerings, what matter?

Some scholars say that Hecate was not originally Greek, her worship having traveled south from her original Thracian homeland. Others contend that she was a form of the earth mother Demeter, yet another of whose forms was the maiden Persephone. Legends, they claim, of Persephone’s abduction and later residence in Hades give clear prominence to Hecate, who therefore must represent the old wise woman, the crone, the final stage of woman’s growth- the aged Demeter herself, just as Demeter is the mature Persephone.

In either case, the antiquity of Hecate’s worship was recognized by the Greeks, who called her a Titan, one of those pre-Olympian divinities whom Zeus and his cohort had ousted. The newcomers also bowed to her antiquity by granting to Hecate alone a power shared with Zeus, that of granting or withholding from humanity anything she wished. Hecate’s worship continued into classical times, both in the private form of Hecate suppers and in public sacrifices, celebrated by “great ones” or Caberioi, of honey, black female lambs, and dogs, and sometimes black human slaves.

As queen of the night, Hecate was sometimes said to be the moon-goddess in her dark form, as Artemis was the waxing moon and Selene the full moon. But she may as readily have been the earth-goddess, for she ruled the spirits of the dead, humans who had been returned to the earth. As queen of death she ruled the magical powers of regeneration; in addition, she could hold back her spectral hordes from the living if she chose. And so Greek women evoked Hecate for protection from her hosts whenever they left the house, and they erected her threefold images at their doors, as if to tell wandering spirits that therein lived friends of their queen, who must not be bothered with night noises and spooky apparitions.

The New Book Of Goddesses and Heroines by Patricia Monaghan..

Does Spirit Go with Body? A Look at Reincarnation

Does Spirit Go with Body?  A Look at Reincarnation

by Janice Van Cleve

Reincarnation is a subject that keeps coming back (ouch). Seriously, the topic of reincarnation keeps showing up in magazines and books cloaked in mystery or psychobabble. Among New Age and neo-pagan believers, there is often talk of “past lives,” working out karmic justice over a series of lives and transmigration of souls. Hindus hold that we reincarnate many times until we achieve enlightenment or perfection and thus are able to escape the wheel of life, death and rebirth. Rabbi Shagra Simmons says that Jews sometimes get three shots at terrestrial life. Tibetan monks search for babies born at the moment of their lama’s death in the belief that his soul migrated into the newborn. Resurrection of the body is such a strong tenet of Catholic orthodoxy that the Vatican for centuries preached against cremation, supposedly because ashes are harder to resurrect than rotten remains in a coffin.

Not everyone believes in reincarnation. Many people believe that death is the end, finis, kaput. They do not believe in any afterlife or return to life in any form. Others believe that the body may die but some kind of spiritual essence or “soul” lives on and goes someplace, like heaven or hell. Plato was a great proponent of the theory of “essences” that exist beyond or outside of the physical body. Christians and Muslims believe in a paradise where the souls go and don’t come back. Ancient Sumerians thought spirits descended into a pit where they ate dirt, and the Greeks held that souls crossed the River Styx to linger in a dim underworld. The idea of spirits dwelling in a Great Beyond is advantageous if you want call on them in prayers or séances. If, on the other hand, souls do come back in new bodies, who will be left on the invitation list to your next Dumb Supper?

Modern technology and psychology have pushed the envelope in our understanding of death and rebirth. For example, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has documented some amazing cases of apparent conscious existence outside of the body and/or after the body’s clinical death. Cryogenics labs are experimenting with freezing bodies to resuscitate them later. Cloning is a bit different in that a new body is generated, but the jury is still out on whether any conscious memory is transferred along with the genetic material. While these are interesting avenues of research that may someday prove or disprove some mechanical aspect of reincarnation, they are generally understood to be outside the discussion of reincarnation per se.

So what’s inside the discussion? One way to look at reincarnation is to examine its parts. The “carn” refers to a body and the “re” is a something that returns into a body. That got me to wondering: which body? Is it only humans who reincarnate? Do dogs reincarnate into new dogs, or trees into new trees? What about cross-species reincarnation? Can a fern reincarnate into a frog or a cow into a liverwort? There are some dire warnings in the literature about “coming back as a toad,” but for the most part we see the focus on humans returning as new humans. (Certainly most cat lovers will agree that cats believe that they don’t participate in reincarnation because no other living being could aspire to their level.)

People as far back as the Stone Age have understood that the body decays after death. They may have held many theories about where the soft tissue went, but they could see that soon all they had left was bones. Eventually, as in the case of the dinosaurs, even the bones break down and are replaced by minerals leaching through the soil. Occasionally nature has delayed decay, as in the prehistoric bodies found in an glacier in the Italian Alps or in a bog in Denmark. Children sacrificed by the Incas on Andean peaks still have hair and skin preserved by the cold, while Egyptians first learned mummification from bodies buried and desiccated in the hot Saharan desert. Yet even the most carefully preserved remains of a Pharaoh in Cairo or a Lenin in Moscow would be reduced to molecules if exposed to the normal processes of decay.

Scientists exploring biology, chemistry, genetics, forensics and the like have shown that as things decay after death, they break down into simpler and simpler components, eventually reducing into basic compounds or molecules that can be used by other living organisms. Gardeners practice this principle by composting. Dead plants and other organic materials are stacked in bins where, over time, they reduce to rich soil and are plowed back into the garden to provide nutrients for new plants. So a dead tulip may break down in the compost bin and its molecules eventually become incorporated into a turnip. Not all of its molecules may end up in the turnip, however. Some of them may wind up in the carrots, and others may become potatoes. Certainly a large number of the former tulip molecules will stay as dirt and may even become incorporated into stone, if said gardener happens to have a volcano in her pea patch!

So at least some of the material that was the physical body of the tulip may find itself after death reincorporated into other physical bodies, and therefore the tulip continues to participate in the phenomenon called life. In a way, I suppose that can be called reincarnation — at least of body material. Perhaps when we refer to a dead relative “pushing up daisies,” we’re closer to the mark than we think.

But if the remains of living things decompose and are scattered to be used by many other living things, or not used at all, is the identity of the original plant or animal or human forever lost? When do tulip molecules cease to be tulip and become turnip? And what about the turnip? If it got some material from a tulip and other material from a spider, where does its unique identity as a turnip come from? This is where the “soul” or “essence” comes into the reincarnation picture.

There have been times even in the historical past when the birth rate of new babies worldwide did not match the death rate. So according to the theory of reincarnation, did some souls get put on hold for awhile in a spiritual wait zone until there were enough babies to go around? Or did they hang out in the turnips? Conversely, our current population explosion clearly demonstrates way more births than deaths. So does that mean that some babies are born with half-souls or no souls? There can’t be that many souls waiting in turnips to fill the current demands!

Buddhists may help us out here. Buddhists seek to skip the Hindu wheel of birth, death and reincarnation altogether through discipline and meditation. They believe that they can reach a point at which independent identity is no longer relevant. The “soul” loses itself by merging with a universal mass of spiritual energy called Nirvana, something analogous to the universal mass of living energy that scientists call biomass. For the sake of discussion, let’s call this “spiritmass.”

That solves the mathematical problem, because math in the spirit world may not add up the same as it does here in the mundane world. If there is spiritmass, then some babies could inherit old souls directly and some may get new ones from the reservoir of spiritmass. Whatever the case, nature and nurture inevitably work to individualize the baby’s identity, just like they individualize his or her body into a unique new person. Old souls are either absorbed into spiritmass or changed in their new incarnation and new souls are sprung from spiritmass. In either case, the old identity is lost. Tulip becomes turnip, and essence of Uncle Frank becomes Little Carol.

Which brings us back to the two parts of reincarnation. If the body and the spirit both disintegrate and become reabsorbed into biomass and spiritmass respectively, then one could say they were reincarnated. However, such a reabsorbtion automatically means that the unique personal identity of the dead being ceases to exist. Reincarnation therefore implies that individual identity is temporary.

Humans don’t like that. Humans would like to believe that their identities will live forever. Since the body could not be counted on, humans proposed underworlds and paradises to maintain some manner of unique identity after death. Not content with just a spiritual existence, some humans attempt to preserve their existence in the physical world with statues and monuments, trust funds, artistic creations or by making a name for themselves in history books. Ultimately, however, we do not live forever in body or spirit or stone. We do know that we live beyond our death — at least for a little while — in the hearts of those who loved us, and probably in the memories of those who hated us.

So I can buy reincarnation if the most that is meant by it is recycling the body and the spirit. I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over what kind of identity, if any, I will have after I die. I just hope that if reincarnation does pass identity along that John Ashcroft comes back as a gay, homeless black woman.

Janice Van Cleve has reincarnated several times. In this round, she is a writer.

Meeting Dionysus

Meeting Dionysus

by NightOwl

 

“Take a deep, slow breath, and as you exhale, allow yourself to begin to relax.” Sitting on the floor, I began the meditation hoping to meet Dionysus, the god I am dedicated to.

I was leading the meditation that night, for the rest of my circle. I believed I would not go as deeply into trance as I would if someone else were speaking, so I did not really expect to be very successful in meeting my god.

Still, as I began to speak, I found myself drifting deeper and deeper into an altered state of consciousness. Even if I did not meet Dionysus, I felt certain that some teacher or guide would appear for me and reveal something of importance for my life.

The goddess in all her many forms has always been present for me in every aspect of life. A few times a teacher who appeared male has manifested in meditations, but I had not really thought very much about the gods, or about following a god, until I was dedicated to a coven and had to choose one.

My High Priestess suggested Dionysus when I asked for her advice, because of who she knows me to be, and I agreed, but continued to be much more focused on the goddesses and what they were teaching me.

When I am responsible for leading a pathworking (meditation ritual), I seldom expect to fully participate, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself walking upon a path winding through a beautiful meadow. Birds were singing, insects made small buzzes and chirps. The mingled scents of wildflowers in bloom and other plants flooded my senses. The peace and beauty of the natural world filled me with joy as I walked toward the hill ahead.

Occasionally opening my eyes a tiny slit to check on those following my voice, I was pleased that everyone else appeared relaxed and deep in trance.

The path became steeper as I climbed and I instructed everyone to open their hearts to the one waiting ahead, focusing intention on asking him to appear and advise. A twinge of anxiety made me shiver. The thought intruded that I was being foolish, I was making this all up, that even if everyone else in the group met their god, I would not be worthy to do so.

With the next breath I let go of the tension and fear from those thoughts, remembering that what I do not know is much greater than what I do know, so I was opening my heart in trust and love toward the god awaiting me. Creating a state of pleasant anticipation for whatever lay ahead, I continued to climb the path and mentally call for Dionysus to appear and instruct me.

Finally the path became level. A giant boulder rested directly ahead, and the path circled to the right around it. Seeing it, I described it out loud and said, “When you walk around this huge rock, you will meet your god. Allow yourself to feel happy that you are going to meet him and have this opportunity to learn something important.”

Again fear and doubt vibrated through me, again I began breathing deeply, relaxing my body, and affirming my willingness to be present to whomever or whatever appeared. Much to my surprise, when I walked around the rock, Dionysus stood there smiling at me.

Gasping with shock and joy, I paused for a moment and then slowly moved nearer. I always slow way down when approaching a sacred one, as I am not really sure just how to behave. I definitely try to avoid doing anything that might be annoying to a god. Many years ago when I rushed up to a group of them, demanding answers to questions which were driving me crazy at the time, I was swatted really hard energetically. I hope never to annoy a god again.

Dionysus is so beautiful! He appeared as a young man about 25-30, dressed in a loose fitting toga-like white robe. When he looked into my eyes and smiled, it took my breath away and I staggered from the impact of his energy.

“Thank you for coming here and allowing me to see you,” was all I could manage to think of to say. I somehow remembered to speak out loud to remind everyone to ask their god if he had a gift or advice for them, and mentally asked the same of Dionysus. He smiled more, and as I approached closer, held out a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread, inviting me to eat and drink with him. I accepted the bread but, with much fear said, “I no longer drink alcohol, will you still accept me?”

He laughed and changed the wine to fruit juice, took a drink and offered it to me. I drank some, and ate some bread, while never taking my eyes away from his. He reached out and began caressing my face, my breasts, and then rubbing and stroking my whole body. Again I was finding it difficult to breath.

I reached out to caress him in return as he began changing from a young, slim muscular man to one who was older, fatter, and whose smile became a friendly leer as he rubbed his aroused body against mine. In the next moment, he transformed to another male, and then another, continuing to fondle me and bathe me in his extraordinary energy and passion.

By this time I was almost panting with arousal myself, while observing his changing form with amazement. My own arousal gave me the courage to talk, and I said, “I really like this, and I am honored by your attention, but I wonder if I am not just making this all up to justify my behavior in life. You know, it’s not that I’m a slut, I’m a follower of Dionysus?”

At this he laughed out loud, gently hugged me, and stared so deeply into my eyes that I almost fainted, saying, “You are acting exactly how I wish my priestesses to behave, don’t be afraid,” and laughed again.

Stepping back away from me, he smiled again and held out a pinkish heart-shaped stone, saying, “Here, take this and always remember that sexual ecstasy helps people open their hearts to each other and to the deeper mysteries of life. Sex is one of the greatest creations. It enables two to join and create a third which carries their energy into the future. Ecstasy and celebration make life worth living because they open humans up to the joyous energy of the universe, of creation. Never be afraid to love, or to express that love with another.” Then his form began to slowly fade and disappear.

I turned and walked back around the rock, down the path I had earlier climbed, my mind trying to contain and sort the vastness of what he had shown me. My body was almost in a state of shock from the intensity of his energy. Fortunately I was only walking in my altered state and my body was physically sitting on the floor. I doubt I would have been able to have had this experience standing without falling down. It took a few minutes to return to a more ordinary state of consciousness, but I was able to remember to instruct the others to do so too.

Each of us in the group took a turn in describing what had happened to them, and everyone else had also had an equally powerful experience.

This encounter with the god made me want to know more about him and, I learned that he was Bacchus to the Romans, Lusios the Releaser, and Zagreus – son of Zeus and Persephone who was killed by the Titans and eaten. Athene saved his heart, which was swallowed by Semele, another lover of Zeus, and conceived anew. Hera convinced Semele to trick Zeus into revealing himself in his full glory, which burned Semele to ashes. Zeus rescued Dionysus from her ashes, stitched the unborn babe into his thigh until he was able to be born again, so he is sometimes called twice-born, and Zeus then gave him to the nymphs to raise.

When grown he became the god of all altered states, including drunkenness, religious ecstasy, and celebrations of music, dancing, theater and lustful excess. His male followers were the satyrs, half man and half goat with a horse’s tail, and his female followers were the maenads (mad women). His followers often carry a staff with a pine cone on the end, called a thyrsus, sometimes twined with grape or ivy vines.

The experience I had in this ritual meditation has continued to reverberate through my life and I am deeply honored to express the energy of Dionysus into the world.

Arachne

Deity of the Day

Arachne

Greek Spider Goddess.

A Lydian girl skilled in weaving, she dared to challenge Athene to compete with her. The contest was held, and Arachne’s work was faultless: impudently, it portrayed some of the Gods’ less reputable deeds, including Athene’s father Zeus abducting Europa. Furious, Athene turned her into a spider, doomed eternally to spin thread drawn from her own body. But the Spider Goddess is more archetypal than this story suggests: spinning and weaving the pattern of destiny like the Moerae or the Norns, and enthroned in the middle of her spiral-pathed stronghold like Arianrhod. Athene here represents Athenian patriarchal thinking, trying to discipline earlier Goddess-concepts.

Who Were The Celts?

Who Were The Celts?

 

The Celtic empire once ranged across Western Europe, and their armies eclipsed even those of Rome. Who were these mighty people, and what became of them?

The Celts (Kel’tz) were a diverse group of people whose empire once spanned the European continent.  Archeological digs from Halsted, Germany to the Orkney Isles of Scotland have uncovered evidence of Celtic settlements as far back as the late Bronze Age.  But where did  these brash, nomadic people come from, and what became of them?

Recent archeological digs in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor indicate the possibility that the Celts were not indigenous to Europe at all.  The fact that the original Celtic stock were primarily a dark haired people with swarthy complexions only verifies this new theory. This theory is the migratory theory;  when applied the Celtics sometime in the millennia of the Bronze Age entered Europe from somewhere in Asia Minor.  It wasn’t long before they settled in the region of the Danube River basin and soon began raiding and conquering their neighbors.  The Celtic conquest continued until their tribal lands covered most of Western Europe, from the Danube to Rome and westward as far as current-day Belgium.

Though their rise to power was quick, the Celtic domination of Europe was short, as empires go.  Over the centuries following the Celtic Golden Age seen at Halsted, the Celtic people were pushed farther west by new conquerors and empires, sprouting up in Athens, Macedonia, and, eventually, Rome.  To the North, the savage Goths pushed the Celts southward as well, condensing the majority of Celtic society into Gaul and Iberia, which today make up France and Spain.

If the origins of the Celts are historically dubious, the name they identified themselves with remains a mystery.  While historical accounts exist, as well as a few Celtic carvings referencing tribal names, Celtic writings don’t make any reference to a racial name.  The only surviving accounts to make reference to the Celtic people were written by Roman and Greek historians.  In fact, it is from Greek texts that the Celts received their ethnic name, Keltoi, a Greek word for “stranger” or “outsider.”  This identifier was altered by late Roman writers and eventually adopted by the Celts as a means of identification in trade and war.

Many historians and archeologists believe that the original people who entered European millennia before the birth of Christ had no name by which to identify themselves as a people.  They were nomadic, in many ways, and little more than a loose conglomeration of independent tribes and family groups.  If this theory is true, it adds a new dimension to the mystery of the Celts with a question that might never be truly answered: Who were the Celts?

Historical records and archeological evidence have much to say about Celtic culture and society.  Predominantly in Roman histories, reference is made to the deep racial pride of the Celts, and their stubborn refusal to be dominated or ruled.  According to Roman chroniclers, a Celt would choose suicide over surrender.  Nor was Celtic society a fluid structure like the Hellenic or Roman empires, but rather a loosely-linked group of autonomous tribes, each headed by a separate chieftain.  Within each tribe, the people were further divided into extended family units known as clans.  Each clan was subdivided into lineages, called “˜fine’, represented by the paternal kinship. Roman writers, examining this pastoral mind frame from their urban vantage point, no doubt found much to disdain as barbaric and primitive in Celtic society.

However, far from the barbarians with which they were often identified, the Celts had a highly developed society.  The basic structure of Celtic society divided the people into three classes:  the royal clans, the warrior aristocracy, and the common people, often referred to as Freemen.  And, though slaves did constitute a small percentage of the population, slavery was generally frowned upon in Celtic society. However, though Celtic social structure appeared loose and primitive to the Romans and Greeks, the Celts were by no means the “savage race” which the Roman scholars often slurred them by. Archeological evidence has shown the Celts to be an advanced race, for their era.  They made use of chain mail in battle and utilized machines for reaping grain.  There is also evidence that the Celts had begun extended roadways across Europe centuries prior to the Roman Empire’s much-lauded road system, and it is widely believed by historians that it was from the Celts that the Romans and Greeks first learned the use of soap.

However, regardless of their apparent advancements, the Celts were not an urbanized people, and their tastes ran to simple rather than extravagant.  Certain themes appear repetitively in reference to Celtic culture, including the predominance of rural settlements, the traditions governing hospitable feasts, and the evidence of fellowship drinking. Pork tended to be a primary item of diet, and clothing often followed a plaid design. However, though rural themes predominated their society and many settlements were merely farming communities, the Celts were far from uneducated. They placed high regard on thorough education and life-long study. The Druids, who are believed to be the Celtic scholars and priests, were required to undergo a period of training which lasted around twenty years. Also contrary to popular belief, historians have concluded that the Celts had a written language as early as the third century BCE, but made little use of it except on coinage and memorials, placing a higher value on the ability to remember vast quantities of information correctly.

Celtic society declined in the face of Rome’s advancing power, however.  As Roman culture stamped more of the face of world politics and trade, the Celts soon found themselves with no choice but to accept Roman rule. And, as Roman culture began dominating the Celtic tribes, the tribal culture was replaced by a racial identity.  By the withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain in approximately 340 CE, Celtic culture had waned nearly into oblivion.  It would enjoy a brief period of renewal with the fall of Rome, only to be quickly conquered by the Germanic culture advancing across Europe. And so, the proud people who had once dominated the European continent would be lost to myth and legend, leaving more unanswered questions than road signs to their once-golden culture.

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Lady of the Crossroads

Lady of the Crossroads
by
Heathwitch

One on three
which way to go
a second stood
still
faces outcast
Darkness about clasped
with snake and lion and
hound
thin veins under leather
untouched by time
outstretched a
touch
with eyes of heaven.
One on three
take a step
make a
choice
I will be with you
silent when needed
A fury when you
fear
Face the Moon
I will be here.
.
At Samhain, our thoughts turn
toward the memory of our ancestors, the mysteries of death and rebirth, the
practice of divination. We decorate our altars with blacks and oranges,
photographs of those who have passed on, and we commune with the Lords and
Ladies of the Underworld  such as the Greek Goddess Hecate.

Hecate is
the Thracian Goddess of the moon, absorbed as a Titan by the Greeks and
worshipped at crossroads, for She has the ability to see past, present and
future pathways. Though most commonly perceived as a Crone Goddess, Hecate can
also appear as a Maiden, terrible and beautiful to behold.

She is the
dark Goddess, the Lady of the Wild Hunt and keeper of occult knowledge and
wisdom. Known as the “Goddess of Witches” and the “Patroness of Priestesses”,
Hecate stands at the gateway between life and death, such is Her role as Queen
of the Underworld and the Lady of Spirits. She is also the changer, the one who
destroys in order to cause rebirth and regeneration.

Hecate’s roles are
not solely tied to the “darker” aspects of life however. She is also the midwife
who blesses new life in the world, the teacher who guides seekers and the
witness who aides with decision-making and determining truth, the giver of
courage and strength. She is intuition and psychic ability, the Lady of dreams
and nightmares who helps us see the deeper, shadow-side of our psyches. She is
the Wise Woman who sees all and knows all, and who will willingly share Her
knowledge and wisdom with you, if you but ask.

Hecate’s colours are deep
reds, purples and black, and She rules over all wild animals  in particular
dragons, dogs, frogs, horses, reptiles, toads and snakes. Her trees are willow
and yew, most commonly seen in graveyards, and She can be found in the tarot
cards the Hermit, the Moon and the High Priestess.

You can invite Hecate
into your life by mixing an oil for Her (add 10 drops cypress oil, 6 drops
patchouli oil and 4 drops sandalwood oil to 20ml of base oil) and including it
in a ritual or meditation dedicated to Hecate. Alternatively you could make an
incense blend to honour this Goddess  try the following recipe:

½ part
crushed garlic
½ part mandrake root
½ part mugwort
2 parts willow
bark
1 part lavender
4 parts myrrh
A few drops of cypress oil
A few
drops of myrrh oil

You can also work with Hecate in ritual; She can be
invoked to aid in inner exploration, dream-work, divination, healing, spells of
all kinds, banishings and the release of negativity, communicating with the
dead, and meditations and journeys to your inner self.

At Samhain,
Hecate can be called upon to focus your intuition when practicing divination on
this night when the veils between the world are thin. She can be invoked for
help in spell workings and the making of charms, or to help in soul-searching
meditations.

Most often, though, Hecate is invoked at Samhain to aid in
honouring and contacting our Beloved Dead, those who have passed from this
physical life before us:

Decorate the altar with blacks and oranges. Use
flowers of the same colours, and fruits of the season (pumpkins, root
vegetables). Light orange and black candles if possible and use a mixture of
cedarwood and sweetgrass incense — cedarwood for purification, sweetgrass for
your ancestors.

Assemble on your altar pictures of your ancestors and
mementos you may have received from them.

Cast circle in your usual way.
Invoke Hecate:

“Hecate, Goddess of the Realm of Spirits,
She who
stands at the crossroads,
Seer of past, present and future,
Guardian of
all Witches and Lady of the Dark,
I ask you to come forth into my
circle
And stand with me this night
Hail and welcome!”

Feel Hecate
come into your circle. Sit with your altar and slowly focus on each of your
ancestors. Speak aloud of their life and their impact on you. Ask Hecate to
acknowledge your reverence of those who have gone before, and ask that your
ancestors know of your love and thoughts.

Take your time and do not be
afraid of the emotions which may come to you; embrace them and welcome them into
your circle. As you speak of your ancestors you may feel them draw near from the
Summerlands; do not be afraid — instead, feel touched by their presence and
thank them for all they mean to you.

Thank Hecate and your ancestors for
their presence and say goodbye. Blow out the candles and take up
circle.

Have a Blessed Samhain!

Sources:
———-
Ann,
Martha, and Dorothy Myers Imel. Goddesses in World Mythology: A Biographical
Dictionary. Oxford University Press: New York (1995).
Ardinger, Barbara.
Goddess Meditations. Llewellyn: Minnesota (1998).
Conway, D. J. The Ancient
and Shining Ones. Llewellyn: Minnesota (1993).
Franklin, Anna. Magical
Incenses and Oils. Capall Bann: Berkshire (2000).
Marashinsky, Amy Sophia.
The Goddess Oracle: A Way to Wholeness through the Goddess and Ritual. Element:
Boston (1997).
Sjöö, Monica & Mor, Barbara. The Great Cosmic Mother:
Rediscovering The Religion of the Earth. HarperCollins: San Francisco (1991).

Zell, Morning Glory. “Manifesting Hecate”, SageWoman # 60 (Winter 2003).
Blessed Bee: California (2003).
.
About The Author: Heathwitch is a
Witch, teacher and author. She runs courses and workshops on energy work,
healing, Witchcraft and magic. High Priestess of the Circle of the Moon coven, Heathwitch lives in Cheshire, England.

Excerpt taken from:

Seasons of the Moon E-zine

The Ancient Druids

The Ancient Druids

In about 750 CE the word druid appears in a poem by Blathmac, who wrote about Jesus saying that he was “…better than a prophet, more knowledgeable than every druid, a king who was a bishop and a complete sage.” The druids then also appear in some of the medieval tales from Christianized Ireland like the Táin Bó Cúailnge, where they are largely portrayed as sorcerers who opposed the coming of Christianity. In the wake of the Celtic revival during the 18th and 19th centuries, fraternal and Neopagan groups were founded based upon the ideas about the ancient druids, a movement which is known as Neo-Druidism.

According to historian Ronald Hutton, “we can know virtually nothing of certainty about the ancient Druids, so that—although they certainly existed—they function more or less as legendary figures.” However, the sources provided about them by ancient and medieval writers, coupled with archaeological evidence, can give us an idea of what they might have performed as a part of their religious duties.

Druid History

One of the few things that both the Greco-Roman and the vernacular Irish sources agree on about the druids was that they played an important part in pagan Celtic society. In his description, Julius Caesar claimed that they were one of the two most important social groups in the region (alongside the equities, or nobles), and were responsible for organizing worship and sacrifices, divination, and judicial procedure in Gaulish, British and Irish society. He also claimed that they were exempt from military service and from the payment of taxes, and that they had the power to excommunicate people from religious festivals, making them social outcasts. Two other classical writers, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo also wrote about the role of druids in Gallic society, claiming that the druids were held in such respect that if they intervened between two armies they could stop the battle.

Pomponius Mela is the first author who says that the druids’ instruction was secret, and was carried on in caves and forests. Druidic lore consisted of a large number of verses learned by heart, and Caesar remarked that it could take up to twenty years to complete the course of study. There is no historic evidence during the period when Druidism was flourishing to suggest that Druids were other than male. What was taught to Druid novices anywhere is conjecture: of the druids’ oral literature, not one certifiably ancient verse is known to have survived, even in translation. All instruction was communicated orally, but for ordinary purposes, Caesar reports, the Gauls had a written language in which they used Greek characters. In this he probably draws on earlier writers; by the time of Caesar, Gaulish inscriptions had moved from the Greek script to the Latin script.

The Druid’s Religious Practices & Philosophy

Greek and Roman writers frequently made reference to the druids as practitioners of human sacrifice, a trait they themselves reviled, believing it to be barbaric. Such reports of druidic human sacrifice are found in the works of Lucan, Julius Caesar, Suetonius and Cicero.Caesar claimed that the sacrifice was primarily of criminals, but at times innocents would also be used, and that they would be burned alive in a large wooden effigy, now often known as a wicker man. A differing account came from the 10th-century Commenta Bernensia, which claimed that sacrifices to the deities Teutates, Esus and Taranis were by drowning,mhanging and burning, respectively.

Diodorus Siculus asserts that a sacrifice acceptable to the Celtic gods had to be attended by a druid, for they were the intermediaries between the people and the divinities. He remarked upon the importance of prophets in druidic ritual:

“These men predict the future by observing the flight and calls of birds and by the sacrifice of holy animals: all orders of society are in their power… and in very important matters they prepare a human victim, plunging a dagger into his chest; by observing the way his limbs convulse as he falls and the gushing of his blood, they are able to read the future.”

There is archaeological evidence from western Europe that has been widely used to back up the idea that human sacrifice was performed by the Iron Age Celts. Mass graves found in a ritual context dating from this period have been unearthed in Gaul, at both Gournay-sur-Aronde and Ribemont-sur-Ancre in what was the region of the Belgae chiefdom. The excavator of these sites, Jean-Louis Brunaux, interpreted them as areas of human sacrifice in devotion to a war god, although this view was criticised by another archaeologist, Martin Brown, who believed that the corpses might be those of honoured warriors buried in the sanctuary rather than sacrifices.Some historians have questioned whether the Greco-Roman writers were accurate in their claims. J. Rives remarked that it was “ambiguous” whether the druids ever performed such sacrifices, for the Romans and Greeks were known to project what they saw as barbarian traits onto foreign peoples including not only druids but Jews and Christians as well, thereby confirming their own “cultural superiority” in their own minds. Taking a similar opinion, Ronald Hutton summarised the evidence by stating that “the Greek and Roman sources for Druidry are not, as we have received them, of sufficiently good quality to make a clear and final decision on whether human sacrifice was indeed a part of their belief system.” Peter Berresford Ellis, a Celtic nationalist who authored The Druids (1994), believed them to be the equivalents of the Indian Brahmin caste, and considered accusations of human sacrifice to remain unproven,whilst an expert in medieval Welsh and Irish literature, Nora Chadwick, who believed them to be great philosophers, fervently purported the idea that they had not been involved in human sacrifice, and that such accusations were imperialist Roman propaganda.

Druids And The Irish Culture

During the Middle Ages, after Ireland and Wales were Christianized, druids appeared in a number of written sources, mainly tales and stories such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge, but also in the hagiographies of various saints. These were all written by Christian monks, who, according to Ronald Hutton, “may not merely have been hostile to the earlier paganism but actually ignorant of it” and so would not have been particularly reliable, but at the same time may provide clues as to the practices of druids in Ireland, and to a lesser extent, Wales.

The Irish passages referring to druids in such vernacular sources were “more numerous than those on the classical texts” of the Greeks and Romans, and paint a somewhat different picture of them. The druids in Irish literature—for whom words such as drui, draoi, drua and drai are used—are sorcerers with supernatural powers, who are respected in society, particularly for their ability to perform divination. They can cast spells and turn people into animals or stones, or curse peoples’ crops to be blighted. At the same time, the term druid is sometimes used to refer to any figure who uses magic, for instance in the Fenian Cycle, both giants and warriors are referred to as druids when they cast a spell, even though they are not usually referred to as such; as Ronald Hutton noted, in medieval Irish literature, “the category of Druid [is] very porous.”

When druids are portrayed in early Irish sagas and saints’ lives set in the pre-Christian past of the island, they are usually accorded high social status. The evidence of the law-texts, which were first written down in the 7th and 8th centuries, suggests that with the coming of Christianity the role of the druid in Irish society was rapidly reduced to that of a sorcerer who could be consulted to cast spells or practice healing magic and that his standing declined accordingly. According to the early legal tract Bretha Crólige, the sick-maintenance due to a druid, satirist and brigand (díberg) is no more than that due to a bóaire (an ordinary freeman). Another law-text, Uraicecht Becc (‘Small primer’), gives the druid a place among the dóer-nemed or professional classes which depend for their status on a patron, along with wrights, blacksmiths and entertainers, as opposed to the fili, who alone enjoyed free nemed-status.

Whilst druids featured prominently in many medieval Irish sources, they were far rarer in their Welsh counterparts. Unlike the Irish texts, the Welsh term commonly seen as referring to the druids, dryw, was used to refer purely to prophets and not to sorcerers or pagan priests. Historian Ronald Hutton noted that there were two explanations for the use of the term in Wales: the first was that it was a survival from the pre-Christian era, when dryw had been ancient priests, whilst the second was that the Welsh had borrowed the term from the Irish, as had the English (who used the terms dry and drycraeft to refer to magicians and magic respectively, most probably influenced by the Irish terms.)

As the historian Jane Webster stated, “individual druids… are unlikely to be identified archaeologically”, a view which was echoed by Ronald Hutton, who declared that “not one single artifact or image has been unearthed that can undoubtedly be connected with the ancient Druids.” A.P. Fitzpatrick, in examining what he believed to be astral symbolism on Late Iron Age swords has expressed difficulties in relating any material culture, even the Coligny calendar, with druidic culture. Nonetheless, some archaeologists have attempted to link certain discoveries with written accounts of the druids, for instance the archaeologist Anne Ross linked what she believed to be evidence of human sacrifice in Celtic pagan society—such as the Lindow Man bog body—to the Greco-Roman accounts of human sacrifice being officiated over by the druids.

An excavated burial in Deal, Kent discovered the “Deal warrior” a man buried around 200-150 BCE with a sword and shield, and wearing a unique crown, too thin to be a helmet. The crown is bronze with a broad band around the head and a thin strip crossing the top of the head. It was worn without any padding beneath, as traces of hair were left on the metal. The form of the crown is similar to that seen in images of Romano-British priests several centuries later, leading to speculation among archaeologists that the man might have been a druid.

The Demise And Revival Of The Druids

During the Gallic Wars of 58 to 51 BCE, the Roman army, led by Julius Caesar, conquered the many tribal chiefdoms of Gaul, and annexed it as a part of the Roman Empire. According to accounts produced in the following centuries, the new rulers of Roman Gaul subsequently introduced measures to wipe out the druids from that country. According to Pliny the Elder, writing in the 70s CE, it was the emperor Tiberius (who ruled from 14 to 37 CE), who introduced laws banning not only druidism, but also other native soothsayers and healers, a move which Pliny applauded, believing that it would end human sacrifice in Gaul A somewhat different account of Roman legal attacks on druidism was made by Suetonius, writing in the 2nd century CE, when he claimed that Rome’s first emperor, Augustus (who had ruled from 27 BCE till 14 CE), had decreed that no-one could be both a druid and a Roman citizen, and that this was followed by a law passed by the later Emperor Claudius (who had ruled from 41 to 54 CE) which “thoroughly suppressed” the druids by banning their religious practices.

The best evidence of a druidic tradition in the British Isles is the independent cognate of the Celtic *druwid- in Insular Celtic: The Old Irish druídecht survives in the meaning of “magic”, and the Welsh dryw in the meaning of “seer”.

While the druids as a priestly caste were extinct with the Christianization of Wales, complete by the 7th century at the latest, the offices of bard and of “seer” (Welsh: dryw) persisted in medieval Wales into the 13th century.

Phillip Freeman, a classics professor, discusses a later reference to Dryades, which he translates as Druidesses, writing that “The fourth century A.D. collection of imperial biographies known as the Historia Augusta contains three short passages involving Gaulish women called “Dryades” (“Druidesses”).” He points out that “In all of these, the women may not be direct heirs of the Druids who were supposedly extinguished by the Romans — but in any case they do show that the druidic function of prophesy continued among the natives in Roman Gaul.” However, the Historia Augusta is frequently interpreted by scholars as a largely satirical work, and such details might have been introduced in a humorous fashion. Additionally, Druidesses are mentioned in later Irish mythology, including the legend of Fionn mac Cumhaill, who, according to the 12th century The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, is raised by the druidess Bodhmall and a wise-woman.

The story of Vortigern, as reported by Nennius, provides one of the very few glimpses of possible druidic survival in Britain after the Roman conquest: unfortunately, Nennius is noted for mixing fact and legend in such a way that it is now impossible to know the truth behind his text. He wrote that after being excommunicated by Germanus, the British leader Vortigern invited twelve druids to assist him.

In the lives of saints and martyrs, the druids are represented as magicians and diviners. In Adamnan’s vita of Columba, two of them act as tutors to the daughters of Lóegaire mac Néill, the High King of Ireland, at the coming of Saint Patrick. They are represented as endeavouring to prevent the progress of Patrick and Saint Columba by raising clouds and mist. Before the battle of Culdremne (561) a druid made an airbe drtiad (fence of protection?) round one of the armies, but what is precisely meant by the phrase is unclear. The Irish druids seem to have had a peculiar tonsure. The word druí is always used to render the Latin magus, and in one passage St Columba speaks of Christ as his druid. Similarly, a life of St Bueno’s states that when he died he had a vision of ‘all the saints and druids’.

Sulpicius Severus’ Vita of Martin of Tours relates how Martin encountered a peasant funeral, carrying the body in a winding sheet, which Martin mistook for some druidic rites of sacrifice, “because it was the custom of the Gallic rustics in their wretched folly to carry about through the fields the images of demons veiled with a white covering.” So Martin halted the procession by raising his pectoral cross: “Upon this, the miserable creatures might have been seen at first to become stiff like rocks. Next, as they endeavored, with every possible effort, to move forward, but were not able to take a step farther, they began to whirl themselves about in the most ridiculous fashion, until, not able any longer to sustain the weight, they set down the dead body.” Then discovering his error, Martin raised his hand again to let them proceed: “Thus,” the hagiographer points out, “he both compelled them to stand when he pleased, and permitted them to depart when he thought good.”

From the 18th century, England and Wales experienced a revival of interest in the druids. John Aubrey (1626–1697) had been the first modern writer to connect Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments with the druids; since Aubrey’s views were confined to his notebooks, the first wide audience for this idea were readers of William Stukeley (1687–1765). It is incorrectly believed that John Toland (1670–1722) founded the Ancient Druid Order however the research of historian Ronald Hutton has revealed that the ADO was founded by George Watson MacGregor Reid in 1909. The order never used (and still does not use) the title “Archdruid” for any member, but falsely credited William Blake as having been its “Chosen Chief” from 1799 to 1827, without corroboration in Blake’s numerous writings or among modern Blake scholars. Blake’s bardic mysticism derives instead from the pseudo-Ossianic epics of Macpherson; his friend Frederick Tatham’s depiction of Blake’s imagination, “clothing itself in the dark stole of mural sanctity”— in the precincts of Westminster Abbey— “it dwelt amid the Druid terrors”, is generic rather than specifically neo-Druidic. John Toland was fascinated by Aubrey’s Stonehenge theories, and wrote his own book about the monument without crediting Aubrey. The roles of bards in 10th century Wales had been established by Hywel Dda and it was during the 18th century that the idea arose that Druids had been their predecessors.

The 19th-century idea, gained from uncritical reading of the Gallic Wars, that under cultural-military pressure from Rome the druids formed the core of 1st-century BCE resistance among the Gauls, was examined and dismissed before World War II, though it remains current in folk history.

Druids began to figure widely in popular culture with the first advent of Romanticism. Chateaubriand’s novel Les Martyrs (1809) narrated the doomed love of a druid priestess and a Roman soldier; though Chateaubriand’s theme was the triumph of Christianity over Pagan druids, the setting was to continue to bear fruit. Opera provides a barometer of well-informed popular European culture in the early 19th century: in 1817 Giovanni Pacini brought druids to the stage in Trieste with an opera to a libretto by Felice Romani about a druid priestess, La Sacerdotessa d’Irminsul (“The Priestess of Irminsul”). The most famous druidic opera, Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma was a fiasco at La Scala, when it premiered the day after Christmas, 1831; but in 1833 it was a hit in London. For its libretto, Felice Romani reused some of the pseudo-druidical background of La Sacerdotessa to provide colour to a standard theatrical conflict of love and duty. The story was similar to that of Medea, as it had recently been recast for a popular Parisian play by Alexandre Soumet: the diva of Norma’s hit aria, “Casta Diva”, is the moon goddess, being worshipped in the “grove of the Irmin statue”.

A central figure in 19th century Romanticist Neo-Druidism is the Welshman Edward Williams, better known as Iolo Morganwg. His writings, published posthumously as The Iolo Manuscripts (1849) and Barddas (1862), are not considered credible by contemporary scholars. Williams claimed to have collected ancient knowledge in a “Gorsedd of Bards of the Isles of Britain” he had organized. Many scholars deem part or all of Williams’s work to be fabrication, and purportedly many of the documents are of his own fabrication, but a large portion of the work has indeed been collected from meso-pagan sources dating from as far back as 600 CE.Regardless, it has become impossible to separate the original source material from the fabricated work, and while bits and pieces of the Barddas still turn up in some “Neo-druidic” works, the documents are considered irrelevant by most serious scholars.

T.D. Kendrick’s dispelled (1927) the pseudo-historical aura that had accrued to druids, asserting that “a prodigious amount of rubbish has been written about druidism”; Neo-druidism has nevertheless continued to shape public perceptions of the historical druids. The British Museum is blunt:

Modern Druids have no direct connection to the Druids of the Iron Age. Many of our popular ideas about the Druids are based on the misunderstandings and misconceptions of scholars 200 years ago. These ideas have been superseded by later study and discoveries.

Some strands of contemporary Neodruidism are a continuation of the 18th-century revival and thus are built largely around writings produced in the 18th century and after by second-hand sources and theorists. Some are monotheistic. Others, such as the largest Druid group in the world, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids draw on a wide range of sources for their teachings. Members of such Neo-druid groups may be Neopagan, occultist, Reconstructionist, Christian or non-specifically spiritual.

The Wicca Book of Days for July 11 – The Kronia

The Wicca Book of Days for July 11

The Kronia

 

It is thought that the Kronia was once held in Athens and other ancient Greek city-states around now. Dedicated to the scythe-wielding Kronos-the Titan and one-time leader of the ancient Greek Gods-and his wife, the mother and Earth Goddess Rhea, the Kronia celebrated the completion of an intense period spent reaping the year’s harvest of grain. During this time of relieved rejoicing, when slaves sat down to feast with their masters, the mythical Golden Age, or era of Earthly perfection that humankind was said to have enjoyed under Kronos’s rulership, was recalled, too.

 

Concentrated Courage

 

Study the major-arcana Tarot care that bears the number eleven today. Its names may vary (it may be called Strength or the Enchantress, for instance), but it usually depicts a person overcoming a lion and represents courage, be it psychological or spiritual.

Hmm, Is it TGIT? Thank The Goddess It’s Tuesday!!!

Tuesday Images, Quotes, Comments, Graphics

No, I haven’t lost it yet, lol! TGIT? Why not? Thank the Goddess It’s Tuesday because tomorrow’s the Fourth. Hopefully everyone has the day off, or perhaps a day or two! Whichever the case, enjoy!

I wanted to share one of my favorite chants with you this morning. I love it. It is beautiful and very meaningful to me. I hope you find it the same.

Enjoy!

Goddess With Me

Goddess with me
Goddess before me
Goddess behind me
Goddess in me Goddess beneath me
Goddess above me Goddess on my right
Goddess on my left
Goddess when I lie down
Goddess when I arrive
Goddess in the heart of everyone who thinks of her
Goddess in the mouth of everyone who speaks of her
Goddess in every eye that sees her
Goddess in every ear that hears her

Celebrations Around The World, February 16th

Celebrations Around The World
 
Start of Chinese New Year ~ Year of The Rabbit
Feast of Sticky Buns
Auld Deer (Cattle Fair; Scotland)
St. Valentine’s Day (Greek)
Bumper Car Day
Mule Day
Annual Sit and Spit Contest
St. Flavian’s Day (Eastern)
National Almond Day
Imperial Valley Lettuce Ball (El Centro, California @)
Lithuania Independence Day
St. Pamphilius’ Day (Eastern)
Do A Grouch A Favor Day
St. Juliana’s Day
Respectable Tales of Kelp-Koli (5 minutes only; Fairy)
World Championship Crab Races (Crescent City, California)
 
 
 
NOTE: Because of the large number of ancient calendars, many in simultaneous use, as well as different ways of computing holy days (marked by the annual inundation, the solar year, the lunar month, the rising of key stars, and other celestial and terrestial events), you may find these holy days celebrated a few days earlier or later at your local temple.
 

GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast