Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Ritual for Samhain

No. 7 in my series on real Folk Witchery.

The old Celtic name for Halloween is Samhain (pronounced Sow-in), this festival was so important to our Pagan ancestors that the christians were obliged to take it over and rename it All Hallows Eve which shortened to Halloween.
     First I will just say that this festival is a season rather than a single day as so its celebration can be timed either to the date, 31st October, to the nearest Full Moon (known as the Hunter's Moon and this year on the 6th of November) or to Old Halloween 11th November, or any day between new and old Halloween.
     Also of all the festivals, if you can hold it out of doors, it does add to the magic and mystery of the occasion. And if you can safely make a fire of 13 sacred woods, this will be the centre piece of your celebration.
     If you are holding your ritual indoors then try to make a special incense using shavings of 13 different varieties of wood. You may be surprised how many different sorts of trees and shrubs there are.
     You will also need a sprig of rosemary (available at most supermarkets) a small glass of wine, cold tea or fruit juice, and some good quality biscuits. These can be made by you or bought, but make sure there are enough for everyone present to have one, and one left over.
     I shall write this ritual as if it will be just you alone inside doing it, but feel free to adapt, add or take out bits to suit your needs or beliefs.

     First cast your circle and have some of your special incense burning. Take your time, be thorough, this is not a race.
     Consecrate salt and water.
     Now while facing towards the North, hold your arms out and up so that they curve like the curve of the crescent moon (this is the standard pose for invoking any deity or spirit in a Witch's circle) and say:
"Boreas, guardian of the Northern gates, 
open the way for the Lord and Lady of Witchdom to enter this circle 
and be with me at the Holy rite of Samhain."

     Now wait quietly and imagine your God and Goddess coming towards you from the North. If you have names for these deities, you can use them in the invocation.
     You may feel the temperature rise at this point.
     Now take up the consecrated water and dip your index finger into it, and use this to draw a five point star in the middle of your forehead. You can do this also to anyone else present and as you do so say:
"I bless [magical name] in the names of the Lord and Lady, Blessed Be!"

     It is now traditional to do some magic, a spell or divination. When that is complete say:
"And now it is the time to welcome and remember the dead."

     Dip the rosemary in the consecrated water and use this to sprinkle around your circle and say:
"May this place be welcoming to the spirits of Witchdom, 
and to those who have gone before."

     Break off a few leaves of rosemary and drop them into your incense burner and say:
"I remember [name(s)] merry meet, merry part and merry meet again!"

     Next we are going to bless your cakes and wine. For this part you can use either your Athame, wand or the index and middle fingers of your strongest hand. Point at the plate of biscuits and say:
"I conjure thee, O Meal, thou who art indeed our body,
 for without thee we could not live.
Thou who first was seed and grew in the body of the Earth Goddess, 
growing tall and strong and yet were cut down in thy prime, 
dried and ground so that through your sacrifice we could live and flourish. 
Blessings be upon thee, and upon all who partake of thee. Blessed Be!"

Now point at your goblet of drink in the same way and say:
"I conjure thee, O Wine, thou who art indeed the blood of the Goddess, 
drawn forth from the dark earth and spreading through the fruits and vines. 
As we drink of thee we remember again the old ways and the ancient rites. 
Blessings be upon thee and upon all who partake of thee. Blessed Be!"

     And now you should sit in your circle and enjoy the atmosphere, eat a biscuit and drink some of the wine or fruit juice. Remember to save some of each as these will be an offering for you to take outside after the rite, leave it under a tree or bush as an offering to the spirits.

    When you are ready to end your ritual, go to your altar, face north and stand again with your arms outstretched like the horns of the moon, and say:
"Lord and Lady and all the spirits of Witchdom, 
those who have gone before and those who are yet to be, 
I salute you all in love and friendship 
and thank you for attending my Samhain rite. 
Stay if you will until dawn lights the sky, 
and then return to your proper place in peace. 
So shall it be."

     You can now leave your circle and take the offerings outside.


For lots more information on Samhain and folk magical traditions surrounding Samhain and Halloween see:
A Folk Witchery Book of Halloween by Chris Sempers and Graham Raven £3.95
Lesson 1 Raven Wicca Course (which includes the festival of Samhain) £2.95
The conjurations used for the cakes and wine are based on some from the book Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches by C G Leland, edited by C P Sempers £4.95
all available from Raven, 17 Melton Fields, Brickyard Lane, North Ferriby, East Yorkshire HU14 3HE

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Your Book of Shadows

This is number 6 in my series on How to Do Folk Witchery
By the way I'd just like to say thank you for some of the nice comments I've had about my blog. I am glad to hear that people are finding these posts helpful.

Please note: I did not entitle this post 'A Book of Shadows' or 'The Book of Shadows' but 'Your Book of Shadows' and this is for a very good reason: it doesn't matter what anyone else writes in their books, this book is yours.

First of all: What is a Book of Shadows?
     Basically it is an individual Witches notebook of spells, rituals, magical workings or anything to do with their magic. It is the Witches equivalent of the records of  experiments an industrial chemist might keep.
     So you would write in it your ritual for casting a circle, consecrating salt and water, your seasonal rituals and any spells you want to try.
     One thing I would say: bear in mind that you may well be reading your Book of Shadows by candle light - so write clearly.
     I have found that a loose leaf folder can make an excellent Book of Shadows as you can rearrange the pages to suit your needs. However another thing to think about is that if you are going to be using it to read from during a spell or ritual, you will have to put it down somewhere from time to time, so you will either need it to be not too huge, or you must invest in a book stand of some kind.

      (The photo is of Books of Shadows or magical notebooks we currently have in stock)
      A Book of Shadows is a magical tool in the same way as your Athame is and as such it should be treated with respect. It is also a personal and private magical diary and should only be opened and read by someone else if you give them permission to do so.

     None of your magical tools should be left lieing about where anyone can pick them up and examine them. Only your magical vibrations should be on the tools of your magical trade. (With items for group or Coven use there is a bit more leeway, but even then only the group members authorised to do so, should be handling the group magical equipment.)

Magical tools do bite!

There are many stories and legends of what happens if someone finds a magician's wand or something belonging to a Witch and plays with it, without giving it the correct respect.
     The story of the magician's apprentice who starts a spell off and then can't get it to stop is based on a true story.

     The way we prepare any object, or set it apart for magical use, is through the art of consecration. So, as an example, here is a short ritual of consecration.
     You are going to need your altar table, candles, salt and water, incense, pen and ink and your Book of Shadows.

First cast your circle ! I hope you wrote down the ritual I gave you in my Blog post of that name, as that working also includes the making of Consecrated Water, which you will need for this process.

Once you have cast your circle, go and sit at your altar table.
We shall consecrate your Book of Shadows first of all.
     Dip your thumb and first finger in the Consecrated Water and nip the four corners of the book's front and back covers with your thumb and finger. When you have done all four corners say:
I consecrate this Book of Shadows to the study and Art of the Witch's Craft
Now pass the book three times through the smoke of your incense. This means that your Book of Shadows has been consecrated by the four magical elements - Earth, Water, Fire and Air.
     Next, hold the book between your hands, your palms flat against it and imagine blue Witchfire passing between your palms and through the book. Take your time with this, and know that this is bringing your book to magical life.

     That is all you need to do to consecrate your Book of Shadows. However, if you want to, you can embellish your book by drawing a pentacle in a circle on the front cover, or more discretely on the inside front and back end papers. You can put your name in the centre of the pentacle, I prefer to use one of the magical alphabets to do this, Theban is my favourite, but if you are studying Norse magic then you could use Runic.

    All of your magical tools can be consecrated in a similar way, but once you have done so, make sure you keep them safely away from anyone else. Have a special drawer or cupboard to keep your magical equipment in.
     Incidentally the only things you should not consecrate are those which already have a magical energy you want to make use of such as a natural talisman such as a holy stone, herbs, incenses and oils. Since consecration wipes away all previous vibrations and puts your magic in its place.

     You can find more in depth information on the Book of Shadows, another ritual, pentacles of protection for your book and a table of magical alphabets in our Fact Sheet 74 The Book of Shadows. Fact Sheet 16 Ritual Purity, covers ritual preparation and consecration too. Message me through if you would like a set of catalogues popping in the post.

Next time we are going to look at the last and first ritual of the Witches' Year - the Rite of Samhain.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Three Times is the Charm

 Number 4 in my Folk Witchery series
Three times is the charm is a very old saying and relates directly to the magical process.

In my last Blog article 'Now Cast Your Circle' you will see that in effect the circle boundary was cast three times. The first time with blue Witchfire, the second with consecrated water and the third time with incense.

Three is a very powerful number both in the physical and magical worlds.

In the physical world three is the number of sides of a triangle, the strongest and most stable shape in nature. A box can collapse if it hasn't been given triangular supports across its corners. A three legged table or stool is stable on even the most uneven surface.

In the magical world it is traditional for a spell or invocation to be repeated thrice (three times) and Witches speak of the Triple Goddess - Maiden, Mother and Crone.
The reason why we repeat the spell three times is also because we need to get through to the magical universe to activate the energy we need. I was once told that the first repetition is for the conscious mind, the second repetition is for the subconscious or unconscious mind, and the third repetition goes beyond these to our magical mind. So it is the third repetition that actually gets the magic moving.

It is also traditional to cast the circle three times, or with a triple boundary, for a similar reason. However I also incorporated a bit more into the ritual I gave you.

The first casting was done with Witchfire. Witchfire is the personal power of the Witch and (if you manage it properly) an energy which rather than just being drawn from within yourself, is channelled directly from a Universal energy source. Witchfire is effectively the power of life, the energy which turns a lump of dead flesh into a living entity. So by using Witchfire to cast your circle boundary, the boundary, the circle and the magical area all comes alive. And so does the magic within you.

Now we needed to awaken your inner magic so that you could do the next process, the consecration of salt and water, and once that was done, the consecrated water was used for the second boundary.

With the third boundary we raised the magical power levels again, using incense to 'call the quarters'. The quarters or compass points of the circle, East, South, West and North correspond to the magical elements Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These four magical Elements are the building blocks of the magical Universe, the alternative dimension which is the source of the physical world, and by using the consecrated water and incense, we were incorporating those Elements into the very boundary of our magic circle.

Consecrated Water being composed of salt and water is actually a blend of Elemental Earth and Elemental Water. The incense is both Elemental Fire and Elemental Air. So we have the four magical Elements plus the fifth element, Witchfire which enlivens them all.

These five elements together are symbolised by the five point star, the pentacle, which many Witches and Pagans wear.

So the little, simple circle casting I gave you was actually a 'swan' form of magic - floating serenely along on the surface and paddling like fury underneath.

You will find that many traditional spells and Folk Witchery are of a similar ilk, so don't dismiss or disparage traditional spells as being simplistic. There is more going on within than is apparent on the surface.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

First Cast Your Circle

Here we have Number 4 in my series on the basics of Witch Craft
When you create a magic circle, you are constructing both a magical containment area and a Witches' temple or sacred space.
     The first thing to say is that the space does not have to be circular (although it mainly is), it can be the shape of your room, or under certain circumstances it can be a specific shape such as square or triangular.
     It is a good idea to delineate the border of your circle in some way. You could mark a chalk circle, or sprinkle a boundary of salt, or even position candles - beware of swishing a robe across a flame! The traditional method to mark a circle on a dirt floor was to stab an Athame into the floor at the centre of the area, tie a length of cord to the handle and use a second knife at the other end of the cord to score a line into the floor. You could use this method out of doors, but I've found the easiest way is to lay down a length of white cord to create the boundary. This shows up well in the dark and can be almost instantly removed leaving no trace of your activities.
     Nine metres of cord will enclose a circle nine feet in diameter, the traditional size for a general circle, so six metres of cord will make a six foot diameter circle, ideal for personal use, and fifteen metres of cord makes a 15ft circle for an outdoor group working.
     Of course the size of your circle will also be dependant on the size of space you have available.
     Inside your circle you will need all the equipment for the spell or magical working you intend doing. For this particular working I would suggest you will need: a small table to serve as your altar, a couple of candles and holders if necessary (night lights are fine), some incense, a container of salt and a small bowl of water. If you have an Athame or wand put that on your altar too, and a stool or chair might also be a good idea.
     First mark the boundary of your circle and position the table and chair in the middle of the area so you can walk around them, you should be facing towards the north when you sit at the altar table. If your area is small then put the altar against the northern wall, or the northern boundary of your circle.
Light the candles and incense and put out any electric lights in the room, and have your curtains closed if there is any chance of you being over-looked.
     Now take your Athame or wand and go to the eastern point of your circle boundary, point at the boundary and imagine blue fire springing up where you point (if you don't have a wand or Athame, use the index finger of your strongest hand). Move towards the south of your circle, drawing the blue fire along the circle boundary, then to the west, to the north and back to the east to that you are surrounded by a circle of blue fire. Go and sit at your altar and close your eyes if you want to and imagine the circle for a little while.
      Next we shall consecrate salt and water. Cup your hands together, palms downwards, over the salt and imagine the blue Witchfire flowing from your palms and into the salt making it glow. You can then say aloud:
I consecrate this Salt to the service of the Lord and Lady
Put three good pinches of salt into the bowl of water. Cup your two hands together palm downwards over the water and again imagine blue Witchfire flowing from your palms into the salty water. You can then say aloud:
I consecrate this Water to the service of the Lord and Lady
     Take your time with all of these processes, there is no rush and especially the first few times you do them it is better to be thorough.
     Then take up the bowl of water and go to the eastern point of the circle, dip your fingers in the water and sprinkle a few drops on the boundary, turn towards the south and sprinkle a few drops all the time you walk around the boundary of your circle until you get back to the east again. Then put the bowl back on your altar.
     Now take up the incense and go to the east again and say: 'I ask the Powers of the East, of elemental Air, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times outward as an offering and just wait a little while. Try to imagine what the spirits of elemental air might be like - imagine the feeling of a breeze blowing onto your face from this direction.
     Go to the south and face outwards and say: 'I ask the Powers of the South, of elemental Fire, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times and wait. Imagine what the powers of elemental fire might look and feel like - imagine a feeling of warmth against your face, as if you are facing a fire.
     Continue to the west of your circle, face outwards and say: 'I ask the Powers of the West, of elemental Water, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times, wait and then imagine what the powers of elemental water might look like - try and imagine the feel of mist or sea spray on your face.
     At the north of your circle say: 'I ask the Powers of the North, of elemental Earth, to empower my circle. Blessed Be!' Waft the incense three times, wait and imagine what the powers of elemental earth might be like - try and imagine the smell of grass or of freshly turned earth, or even of ashes or decaying leaves.
    To seal the circle, continue to the east once more, then replace the incense on your altar and say:
The circle is created, it is a place between the worlds, where magic happens!
 So Mote it Be!

     You have created your first magic circle, and consecrated salt and water. That magical liquid can be used to bless yourself and other people within your circle, to bless your magical implements and to banish negative energies.
     If you want to work a little spell you can do so now, or you can just sit for a while, meditate or enjoy the atmosphere.
     And know that it is the act of performing this ritual which confirms you as an active Witch.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Ma-at Spell for Justice

In Ancient Egypt the Ma-at (or Mayat) was a very important and ancient goddess. She existed from ancient times, long before Isis and Osiris.

It is said that when Ra emerged from the primeval mud, he created Ma-at before any other deities, and that all rulership should be based on the principles of Ma-at. This was phrased: all rulership lives upon the body of Ma-at. Meaning that only by following the principles of Ma-at could a ruler remain in power.

Ma-at is usually depicted as a woman wearing a headdress with one or two long feathers in it, and sometimes just the symbol of the feather is enough. She is usually represented in the Egyptian Book of the Dead as a feather on one pan of a pair of scales, with the heart of the deceased on the other pan.

As long ago as 2500bce the vizir Ptah-Hotep wrote a series of maxims for the instruction of Egyptian youth and says about the principles of Ma-at, which are justice, honour and truth:
'Ma-at is good and its worth is lasting.
It has not been disturbed since the day of its creator, whereas he who transgresses its ordinances is punished.
It lies as a path in front of him who knows nothing.
Wrongdoing has never yet brought its venture to port.
It is true that evil may gain wealth but the strength of truth is that it lasts; a man can say
"It was the property of my father." '

Ma-at Spell for Justice
This spell can be used at any time you have been treated unfairly or unjustly. You will need a white candle, some incense of sandalwood or cedarwood, a small feather, a pen and paper and some red thread.

Light the candle and incense and by the light of the candle write on the piece of paper your petition to the goddess Ma-at. Keep it brief and to the point, for example:

Lady Ma-at
[name] has stolen my ideas and is passing them off as his/her own
I ask for justice
I ask for their crime to be revealed
I ask that they shall not prosper from this crime
In your hands be it.

Put the feather on the writing and roll it up into a scroll. Secure it with red thread and seal it with wax from your candle. Then pass the scroll three times through the incense smoke and say:
     None can escape the judgement of Ma-at
     So be it.

Put the scroll somewhere safe until it has been fulfilled - I have a small box decorated with Egyptian symbols and I keep all my petitions to the Egyptian gods in there.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

First Steps in a Witch's Craft - Basic Supplies

Article 3 in my 'How to become a Witch' series:

Once you have commited yourself to becoming a Witch, and especially after you have taken the step of undergoing any form of Initiation ritual, the next question is always: What do I do next?

One of those questions I get asked regularly is: what equipment do I need to be a Witch? This is another of those deceptively simple questions which is devilishly difficult to answer. It will depend on what sort of a Witch you are going to be, and there are a whole load of things you will need if you are going to follow a particular branch of Witchcraft.

However what you are learning from me is Folk Witchery and that is rather different. Folk Witchery is the Witch Craft done by people in their own home, in their own town or village and usually makes use of whatever you have to hand. However to make your life easier I will go over some of the basic things which you are going to use regularly:

Candles: you can always use white candles for most workings, but if you have a stock of coloured ones they can help to 'tune' your spells

Salt: you will need this for blessing, cleansing and protection spells. You can also use it to create the boundary of your magic circle.

Incense and an incense burner: this can be anything from a church style thurible on chains to swing it, using natural resins burnt on a charcoal disc, to a simple wooden incense sled and joss sticks. I use both loose incense and incense sticks and cones, depending on the ritual or spell, where I am and what I feel is best at the time.

Pen and paper: it is always best if you can keep your magical supplies exclusively for your magical practises rather than just using any old pen and scrap of paper - but there are times when 'needs must' so never get yourself hung up on not working your magic just because you don't have the ideal tool or ingredient to hand. I prefer to use an old fashioned dip pen and ink for my magical writings, just because it feels more 'special' and that I am making more of an effort. Also ink can be flavoured with a couple of drops of magical oil, or have special herbs added, which can also help tune your magic in and thus encourage a more potent outcome to your working.
We are lucky these days to be able to find many different thicknesses and colours of paper, so you can incorporate the colours into your magic.

You will find that you accumulate equipment as you need it, but one thing which every Witch will need is an Athame or magical knife. This is the chief instrument you use to direct magical energy, but what it looks like can be very different.

As you can imagine, I do own several Athames and use them for different purposes. One is a paper knife make out of black bone shaped into a goats hoof, with a scimitar shaped horn blade. Another is hand carved by me from a yew wood branch, it has a distinct handle and triangular shaped blade, rather like a phurbah and is decorated with pokerwork incorporating various magical symbols. Some people would call it a magic wand, since it is entirely made of wood, but I know what it is and that is all that matters.

The classic Athame has a black handle and a metal blade, but I have seen all sorts of knives used from hand knapped flint, to glass and even plastic. An Athame is used to cut things in the magical realms, not the physical world, so the blade does not need to be sharp. There are times when you will need to cut things though, so you might need another knife for this - the second knife traditionally has a white handle - or even a pair of small scissors.

The Athame is the personal tool of the Witch, and at one time everyone had a personal knife, it was used for everything from cutting up your dinner to sharpening your quill pen. So there is no reason why your Athame can't be used in a similar way. Some people say that the more you use your Athame, the more powerful it becomes, so I feel this is down to your own personal choice.

However if you can't find a knife that suits you, the index finger of your strongest hand can be used to direct power in just the same way.

Notice I have not mentioned a pentacle, cup or wand, cords, broom or cauldron. These are all things you may well end up buying, but are not essential to getting started.

Next time we shall look at how to cast a magic circle.