A Midsummer Night’s Lore

by Melanie Fire Salamander

Cinquefoil, campion, lupine and foxglove nod on your doorstep; Nutka rose, salal bells, starflower and bleeding-heart hide in the woods, fully green now. Litha has come, longest day of the year, height of the sun. Of old, in Europe, Litha was the height too of pagan celebrations, the most important and widely honored of annual festivals.

Fire, love and magick wreathe ’round this time. As on Beltaine in Ireland, across Europe people of old leaped fires for fertility and luck on Midsummer Day, or on the night before, Midsummer Eve, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend.Farmers drove their cattle through the flames or smoke or ran with burning coals across the cattle pens. In the Scottish Highlands, herders circumnabulated their sheep with torches lit at the Midsummer fire.

People took burning brands around their fields also to ensure fertility, and in Ireland threw them into gardens and potato fields. Ashes from the fire were mixed with seeds yet to plant. In parts of England country folk thought the apple crop would fail if they didn’t light the Midsummer fires. People relit their house fires from the Midsummer bonfire, in celebration hurled flaming disks heavenward and rolled flaming wheels downhill, burning circles that hailed the sun at zenith.

Midsummer, too, was a lovers’ festival. Lovers clasped hands over the bonfire, tossed flowers across to each other, leaped the flames together. Those who wanted lovers performed love divination. In Scandinavia, girls laid bunches of flowers under their pillows on Midsummer Eve to induce dreams of love and ensure them coming true. In England, it was said if an unmarried girl fasted on Midsummer Eve and at midnight set her table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, then left her yard door open and waited, the boy she would marry, or his spirit, would come in and feast with her.

Magick crowns Midsummer. Divining rods cut on this night are more infallible, dreams more likely to come true. Dew gathered Midsummer Eve restores sight. Fern, which confers invisibility, was said to bloom at midnight on Midsummer Eve and is best picked then. Indeed, any magickal plants plucked on Midsummer Eve at midnight are doubly efficacious and keep better. You’d pick certain magickal herbs, namely St. Johnswort, hawkweed, vervain, orpine, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe, at midnight on Midsummer Eve or noon Midsummer Day, to use as a charm to protect your house from fire and lightning, your family from disease, negative witchcraft and disaster. A pagan gardener might consider cultivating some or all of these; it’s not too late to buy at herb-oriented nurseries, the Herbfarm outside Fall City the chief of these and a wonderful place to visit, if a tad pricey. Whichever of these herbs you find, a gentle snip into a cloth, a spell whispered over, and you have a charm you can consecrate in the height of the sun.

In northern Europe, the Wild Hunt was often seen on Midsummer Eve, hallooing in the sky, in some districts led by Cernunnos. Midsummer’s Night by European tradition is a fairies’ night, and a witches’ night too. Rhiannon Ryall writes in West Country Wiccathat her coven, employing rites said to be handed down for centuries in England’s West Country, would on Midsummer Eve decorate their symbols of the God and Goddess with flowers, yellow for the God, white for the Goddess. The coven that night would draw down the moon into their high priestess, and at sunrise draw down the sun into their high priest. The priest and priestess then celebrated the Great Rite, known to the coven as the Rite of Joining or the Crossing Rite.

Some of Ryall’s elders called this ritual the Ridencrux Rite. They told how formerly in times of bad harvest or unseasonable weather, the High Priestess on the nights between the new and full moon would go to the nearest crossroads, wait for the first stranger traveling in the district. About this stranger the coven had done ritual beforehand, to ensure he embodied the God. The high priestess performed the Great Rite with him to make the next season’s sowing successful.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, traces of witchcraft and pagan remembrances were often linked with Midsummer. In Southern Estonia, Lutheran Church workers found a cottar’s wife accepting sacrifices on Midsummer Day, Juhan Kahk writes in Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustave Henningsen. Likewise, on Midsummer Night in 1667, in Estonia’s Maarja-Magdaleena parish, peasants met at the country manor of Colonel Griefenspeer to perform a ritual to cure illnesses.

In Denmark, writes Jens Christian V. Johansen in another Early Modern European Witchcraft chapter, medieval witches were said to gather on Midsummer Day, and in Ribe on Midsummer Night. Inquisitors in the Middle Ages often said witches met on Corpus Christi, which some years fell close to Midsummer Eve, according to Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Burton Russell. The inquisitors explained witches chose the date to mock a central Christian festival, but Corpus Christi is no more important than a number of other Christian holidays, and it falls near a day traditionally associated with pagan worship. Coincidence? Probably not.

Anciently, pagans and witches hallowed Midsummer. Some burned for their right to observe their rites; we need not. But we can remember the past. In solidarity with those burned, we can collect our herbs at midnight; we can burn our bonfires and hail the sun.

Today’s Runes for June 13th is Ger

Today’s Runes

Ice Runes are most commonly used for questions about struggle, conflict, and achievement. Ger is one of the runes that touches on the cycles of the year, in this case the fall harvest. These cycles are eternal, which is represented in the rune by the fact that it is unchanged by reversal. Ger can represent pregnancy or other forms of fruitfulness, and is especially indicative of the cycles of providence and karma – that which has been sown is now being reaped. This rune can also represent the cycles of wealth, for crops were frequently a sign of wealth.

Today’s Runes for June 8th is Ger

Today’s Runes

Gold Runes are most commonly used for questions about business, career, and property. Ger is one of the runes that touches on the cycles of the year, in this case the fall harvest. These cycles are eternal, which is represented in the rune by the fact that it is unchanged by reversal. Ger can represent pregnancy or other forms of fruitfulness, and is especially indicative of the cycles of providence and karma – that which has been sown is now being reaped. This rune can also represent the cycles of wealth, for crops were frequently a sign of wealth.

Today’s Runes for Monday, June 4 is Ger

 

Ice Runes are most commonly used for questions about struggle, conflict, and achievement. Ger is one of the runes that touches on the cycles of the year, in this case the fall harvest. These cycles are eternal, which is represented in the rune by the fact that it is unchanged by reversal. Ger can represent pregnancy or other forms of fruitfulness, and is especially indicative of the cycles of providence and karma – that which has been sown is now being reaped. This rune can also represent the cycles of wealth, for crops were frequently a sign of wealth.

Dragons of Chaos and Destruction

Dragons of Chaos and Destruction

These dragons represent the negative power currents necessary to dissolve problems and sweep away troublesome people. They are of very dark colors: Black, gray, pewter, iron, dark magenta, purple, reds and greens so dark that they appear to be black. Their bodies are heavy and huge: in fact, they are the largest of all dragons. Their wide wedge-shaped heads sit atop long necks. Their serpentine tails are either barbed or with a spiked knob on the ends. Enormous wings carry them on swift flights.

When dragons of chaos and destruction make changes and help in rituals, they do everything in a big way. They go past your limited view of happenings, straight to the heart of the problem, so be certain you can stand their help before you call on them. These dragons work with re-creation of lives, relationships, and careers; breaking of barriers; changing luck; vast changes in general; work on past lives; divination; the confining or enemies or anyone who will hinder your forward growth or movement.

One of the very first recorded descriptions of a dragon is found in Babylonian records. The goddess Tiamat was considered to be the Great Mother Creator who built order our of chaos, on her own body. She was called a dragon and was said to be a monstrous creature with a scaly serpentine body, four legs, and horns on her head. After her spirit of initial creative activity. Tiamat spent her existence in repose. One of her offspring, the god Marduk, eventually killed her and build the earth and sky out of her body. This is a symbolic description of the activities of a chaos dragon: the breaking down of a static life-form and re-creation of another.

The ancient Egyptians said that before heaven and earth appeared a brood of serpents was created. They called these the Oldest of the Old. These serpents were very long and had only two legs. After the creation of the world and the universe, these serpents were confined, whether deliberately or by choice is not certain, in the Underworld, which every soul had to pass through on it way to judgment. The Egyptians advised that the soul should tread carefully on its journey, treating with respect the Oldest and his wife who reigned there.

The Egyptians also had a legend about the great serpent dragon Apep who daily threatened the sun god Ra when the Sun boat had to pass through darkness each night. The god Set who rode in the boat with the Sun god battled Apep on each nightly journey. When there was a solar eclipse, the Egyptians believed that Apep had broken out of his Underworld realm and had come into the physical world to do battle with Ra.

In Nordic myth, Niflheim was the lair of the great destructive dragon of chaos whose name was Nidhogg or Nidhoggr. Dread Biter, as he was called, lay coiled abut the root of the World Tree, constantly gnawing at it to destroy it. Nidhogg’s attempts at destruction were countered daily by the Norms who sprinkled the tree with water from their sacred well. But when Ragnarok, or the end of the world, comes the Norse say that Nidhogg will fly over the Hills of Darkness with the bodies of the dead on his wings. Another of Dread Biter’s tasks was to strip the flesh off all corpses.

Although dragons in general were looked upon as bringing disaster, depending of course upon their actions, chaos dragons are often quite literally omen of catastrophe. They can be seen in the area of disaster when other dragons create such things as great storms, earthquakes or floods, but their power lies in creating or precipitating wars, bloodshed, plagues, and desolation when humans have gotten things out of balance. Unfortunately, it seems to take such occurrences to make humans want to find a better way of doing things.

Although the dragons of chaos and destruction create upheavals and complete transformations and rebirths, they are not evil. Their magic power is vital to the magician. They require as much forethought and caution as when working with Fire dragons. But if your life and plans have become static, your luck stuck in a negative mode, or circumstances or people are making you feel helpless and hopeless, then these dragons will turn the tide of events. Just be very certain that you are prepare for the drastic change tat will come.

As with many kinds of dragons, the chaos dragons are connected with death and rebirth; in fact, more so than others of their species. Often, when riding the dragon in an attempt to destroy barriers and remove enemies, one finds oneself face to face with oneself–the worst enemy of all. This ride can turn into a dramatic rebirth for the magician if she/he is willing to accept what is being shown by the dragon.

This connection with death and rebirth can still be seen on coffin decoration well into the Middle Ages. A wooden coffin from Zobingen, Wurttembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart has a beautifully carved and coiling serpent on it.

A close magician friend of mine had a problem, not of her making, with another magician. Louise’s problems began when she married and no amount of magic seemed to lessen the mental attacks. Finally she called upon the dragons of chaos and destruction. She did not specify what they should do; she only stated the problem and the fact that she wanted a definite end to the situation. Up until the final moments of the ritual, Louise had not been sure exactly how she was being attacked and had only a suspicion by whom, but the dragons let her clearly know. As she was working with the dragon mirror, she was given a glimpse of her attacker, heard an audible crack, and “saw” a second mirror shatter. The attacking magician must have had a shock upon finding her ritual mirror in pieces. The attacks stopped. Louise now has a huge dragon that protects her home as well as the little guardian dragon who plays with her cat. The positive results of this ritual came from several important factors; the cause was just; there were no specifics given as to what should be done; harm was not intended.

The dragons of chaos and destruction must be called only within a cast and sealed circle. All movements and gestures within the circle must be counterclockwise. Burn patchouli, basil and dragon’s blood or binding incense. Use black or the darkest of purple candles. Greet these dragons with the sword in your power hand, the staff in the other.

Credit for this information
 
“Dancing with Dragons”
 
D. J. Conway

Middle Age Witchcraft

Middle Age Witchcraft

During the early Middle Ages, the early Christian Church didn’t focus on witches or witchcraft. The Council of Paderborn in 785 explicitly outlawed the belief in witches, and Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that a belief in the existence of witches was unchristian altogether. The Emperor Charlemagne decreed that burning a witch was actually a pagan custom, and anyone caught doing it would be punished by death. In 820 the Bishop of Lyon and others declared that witches could not fly or make brooms fly, could not make bad weather, nor change their shape. The idea that people could do these things, were deemed fanciful tales of mythology. The decree was accepted into Church law. King Coloman of Hungary declared that witches do not exist, and therefore witch-hunts were not necessary. Many other rulers of his day followed suit and the witch-hunts ceased for a while. These non-existent concepts lasted until the late 12th century. And the first medieval trials against witches occurs in the 13th century with the establishment of the Inquisition. The Church was actually concentrating on the persecution of heresy. But witchcraft, either real or just alleged, was treated as any other sort of heresy. It’s also at this time where we see the label Witchcraft applied broadly to pagan beliefs and practices. No longer does it become a label for a craft or practice, but as a title or label for a set of spiritual beliefs. Witchcraft becomes the title of a religion, with many varying practices. And it’s here where many today claim the label for their religious practice.

Today, Witchcraft can be defined as:

A neo-pagan religion that is further defined and put into practice by it’s many sects, such as Wicca, Deborean Wicca, Strega, Pictish and others.

The European witch-hunts reach their pinnacle around 1450. No longer is it a theological campaign for the church, but a phenomenon that resembles mass hysteria and fear. The classical attributes of a witch, casting negative spells to control others, flying on brooms, intercourse with the Devil, and meeting with demons and other witches at sabbats, became descriptive fact in Canon Law around 1400. Conspiracy theories begin to form; stating that witches use their sabbat rituals and underground movements as a means of plotting to overthrow Christianity. The church and monarchies see this as a war upon their authority and control to be weeded out and destroyed. The lands of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as Scotland were all affected by the trials. 29 editions of The “Malleus Maleficarum” were reprinted between 1487 and 1669, even though the book was condemned by the Catholic Church in 1490. It was continually used by secular witch-hunting courts to condemn and prosecute accused witches. Intellectuals spoke out against the trials from the late 16th century. Not even then elite society could keep themselves or their family members out of the witch jails. Johannes Kepler in 1615 used his prestige to keep his mother from being burnt as a witch. The 1692 Salem witch trials exploded even though the practice of witch trials was declining in Europe. During the Early Modern Period the concern over witchcraft reaches the boiling point. There are many thoughts as to why the trials began. That they were more about the desire of the Church and current Monarchies to gain or maintain control over the citizenry. It’s interesting to note that most of the witch trials that ended in convictions took place in rural areas with a 90% conviction rate. Another interesting statistic is how the highest concentration of trials took place along the borders of France, Germany, and Italy, in what is now modern day Switzerland. Some areas, such as Britain (with the exception of some notable trials in Scotland) saw fewer trials, but were still extensive. And some point to Spain as holding the largest portion of trials and executions. There were early trials in the 15th and early 16th century, but then the witch scare went into decline, before becoming a big issue again and in the 17th century. The practiced declined some say in part to other more weighty concerns placed before the Church and Monarchies. Others say it declined out of fear of reprisals. And still others claim it’s a combination of these reasons, and the increased practiced of Witchcraft sects to go underground and hide their beliefs and practices. There are many traditions who make the claim that their early practioners migrated away from these witch-hunt areas to escape persecution and continue their beliefs and practices. While others make claims of going underground into secret societies. Though there is no unequivocal evidence of secret pagan societies or migrations; we can learn from history how persecutions do indeed force people to flee or live in secrecy.

High Magic, Low Magic: Designations Help Define Our Styles

High Magic, Low Magic: Designations Help Define Our Styles

Author: Treasach

I personally find designations handy. They express no limit, only a specialization. It certainly helps you anticipate how easily you can work with another and how your styles and knowledge will mesh. I know, for example, that I don’t usually get on well with high magicians, or Iron John style wizards. That’s darn handy to know when someone tells me that he is a necromancer and a cabbalist.

As I label myself a ReClaimist, matriarchal, bardic green witch, most of you will have an idea of what I am currently working on, where my knowledge areas lie, what my focus is, and how I express my spirituality. That doesn’t mean I’ll stay like that forever, or that I’m not interested in other forms of worship, but it certainly makes it easier for us to find others of the same style. Rather like nametags at a convention.

I not only see no harm in it, I encourage folks to find a useful label for their personal style practice. Makes them feel more validated, too, especially when they are first starting out.

High magic is usually the term for what the wizards do. It’s rather like a Catholic mass, with all the ritual words in a sacred language, pomp and finery, ordained divine conduits, and strict adherence to detail. The power in high magic comes from without… the great universal energy that is harnessed by the correct performance of the ritual itself, with some measure from the performer (s) , but not much. They are mostly lending energy for the conduction of the spell to take place, which is why there is such an emphasis on hierarchy in high magic. It is vital that the ceremony be followed exactly with the correct people taking care of their assigned functions. The more powerful as spell, the less room for error.

The big draw for this kind of magic is that it offers a great deal of power in a relatively short period of time, but with a corresponding danger level as you ascend. The goal is to eventually control and submit the entire Universe. Nearly all wizards are male, white, and have terrible ego issues. They are usually still at the age where they feel invulnerable, since it’s required that you eventually wrestle with demons, for example, and incur the wrath of extra dimensional entities by enslaving them or their friends. It is often spelt with a ‘k’ to delineate it from low magic. Wizards find that sort of window dressing appealing.

Low magic is usually what witches do. Its goal is to make you one with the Universe, and therefore blissful, content, wise, with all your needs provided for. To unleash and accept your Goddess within, which is the same as the Goddess without, by giving full release to your Goddess self. This means that much attention is paid to your own instinct and the answers that are right for you, as your Goddess cannot ever be wrong, you just have to get better at hearing her. So our spells are more like mediation, sometimes with helpful symbols or foci like incense, statues, herbs, and other paraphernalia.

Most experienced witches don’t bother with it, however, unless they are trying to working on something much harder than usual. To effect change in the Universe, we try to use the Butterfly effect, to tug on the string of the Great Weave that will most affect the change we want. In trying to find the string, we learn how the Universe works and so increase our wisdom. And the Universe is vast, so She often can’t get to something as quick as She’d like.

It is therefore our job as Her representatives to draw her attention to inequities by blessing those who need it, to injustices by cursing those who deserve it, and other maintenance of the Continuum, thereby increasing our understanding and interaction with it.

Wicca is like high magic for witches. It calls upon the spirits and entities in a very ritualized format with specific assignments to the members, but primarily uses the inner energies of the group or individual to do the prescribed task. There is therefore no backlash if done incorrectly. But they do seem very fond of their accoutrements…

Most women choose the style of Low magic because it is more like their usual style of being: persuading and joining, rather than controlling. The sex of the practitioner doesn’t enter into it, other than gender training in their culture helping them have certain inclinations… That explains the overwhelming majority of practitioners in the Middle Ages being clergy. They often went into the priesthood for reasons OTHER than piety, like power and wealth, they were learned, and they had access to all sorts of magical formula, arcane materials, etc. So High magic, or ceremonial magic, was almost entirely Christian and clerical in the Middle Ages.

It is indeed all the same power. However, I can cure myself, clean my house, or get rid of my weeds and insects in my garden through chemicals created in a lab, or I can use chemicals in herbs and natural liquids. Some are just as dangerous to the environment, and myself but most aren’t.

Chemicals, like magic, are all made of the same components essentially but how they inter-react and perform is completely variable depending on how they were generated and used. They can be naturally gentle and persuading, or they can be artificially harsh, brutal, and destructive.

I’m sure most of you have heard of the phrase “As above, so below”. Only one interpretation is rendered as “As in Heaven, so it happens down here.” Another, more widely used and helpful meaning is “Change or events Outside affect the Internal, and vise versa.” ‘High’ in the case of magic means ‘external’, ‘low’ means ‘internal’. ONLY when hierarchy becomes so predominate in this culture, and High implies more powerful, and consequently more male, does High and Low magic take on some connotations that some people today take umbrage with. It’s not a personal insult to our style.

Now. When was the last time any of you enslaved a demon, deity, or angel to unwillingly do your bidding? How about binding your local ghosts, fairies, and spirits as your personal gophers? I don’t remember when it was that I forced the dead to come back in an unquiet rest to speak about the secrets of the Universe… High magic involves the use of formula and ritual to achieve just such dog collars on the Powers of the Universe. It isn’t the end in and of itself. The spell is usually to DO something, but it is the elemental being that figures out how to achieve the goal.

This kind of style offers much to recommend it to those that want a lot of power fast. Sure, High magicians have to keep their will focused on the spell for it to work, but only for the ritual itself. For the results of the spell to be efficacious, it doesn’t have to be PERSONAL, internal power that is bringing it about. That’s what the Harnesses of the Universe are for, like Jewish magic squares, Keys of Solomon, which can energize, activate, and execute many different kinds of spells simply by being performed correctly. However, the perils increase correspondingly.

I’ve seen a young wizard tell me that Hunters from the sprit world are stalking him, and we did a little complex ritual around a lamppost to confuse them so they can’t follow. I mean, I never saw them, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there, so I won’t doubt his word. Much. But I’ll tell you. I’ve never done anything in my magic work to invoke their wrath in the first place.

I am not comparing levels of power here. A very experienced or instinctive witch who is close to the Warp and Weft of the Universe can indeed stop a storm with a thought. Unfortunately, that takes a great deal of Enlightenment to reach that point, so most of us don’t get there in a hurry, if ever. Now, it takes a wizard of far less experience, personal power, and self-mastery to achieve the same ends by going through the rigmarole to capture the power of the Storm God and just fire away or let Him do the work. It’s not easy, but it’s a hellova lot easier than becoming one with the Forces of a Hurricane and personally knowing on an unconscious level what strings to pull.

With these kind of benefits attached to High magic, including the hierarchy, the feeling of mastery and the practice of invincibility, it’s no wonder that most wizards are men. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most powers that are so bound in High magic are not only interested in becoming Unbound as soon as possible, they would also like to wreak revenge on the mortals who dared to commit such an atrocity.

Which is why my little wizard friend was almost PROUD at the Things following him. The quality of a wizard is told by the quality of his enemies, after all… I don’t know of many women who have the same disregard for personal safety as many men do, either, btw…

Now, the next time any of you try to harness the Angel of Life and Death to cure yourself of cancer by invoking the Necronomacon and creating a doorway to Hell in your closet, rather than simply lighting a candle and envisioning the cancer going away, then you can tell me that High magic and Low magic are the same.

You must admit, the first one, if done correctly, has a much greater probability of curing you quickly and permanently, but so much can go wrong. The latter requires a deeply Enlightened, experienced, or otherwise powerful witch, and you might not be able to find one before you croak, but at least you don’t have to worry about your relatives falling through to the Second Circle when they put their coats away at your wake.

Today’s Runes for August 11th is Berkana

Today’s Runes

Ice Runes are most commonly used for questions about struggle, conflict, and achievement. Berkana represents the birch tree. The birch is frequently symbolic of renewal, rebirth, birth, growth and fertility. This rune is a joyous one, representing good outcomes from ventures undertaken. It is the rune of the family and of a good household.

Selecting Crystals

There are three simple ways to select the crystals you need, whether for yourself or for others.

  • Look them up in a book. Decide why you need a crystal and search for the appropriate ones to help the condition or symptoms.

  • Follow your intuition. Feeling drawn in any way to a crystal suggests that you need it. It will stand out from the crowd, possibly sparkle and shine, and virtually shout at you, wave, jump up and down, or leap off the shelf. Of course, it may just be interesting or look pretty. However you are drawn to them, theses crystals will help you, sometimes in unexpected or amazing ways. If you are selecting crystals for  other people, perhaps as a gift, then keep that person in your mind when choosing. Sometimes it’s helpful to look at a photo of the person, have a personal object that belongs to them, or even just write their name on a piece of paper.

  • Employ a pendulum and dowse for the crystals you need.

If you are selecting crystals intuitively or with a pendulum you can always look up their healing properties in a book. Conversely if you have chosen crystals from a book, you  can decide how best to apply them with the aid of a pendulum. The most important thing when choosing a crystal is to trust yourself.

Today’s Runes for August 10th is Laguz

Today’s Runes

Jade Runes are most commonly used for questions about love, friendship, and relationships. Laguz is the most strongly feminine of runes, representing water. Deep sexuality is suggested by this rune. Through Laguz, water is seen as the ocean – vast, uncontrollable, ever-changing, and vital. When interpreted as the returning tide, Laguz can also predict the inevitable return from a long journey.