Litha – “Summertime is always the best of what might be”

(Quote in title attributed to Charles Bowden)

Helios
“Helios” sculpture

“The festival of fire is upon us…”

With these words, we welcome Litha, or Mid-Summer, or the Summer solstice.  Whatever way you call the day, traditionally beginning the night of June 21st, and lasting through June 22nd, the celebration of the Sun God, horned one, Oak King, Lightbringer, Helios, Sol, Ra, Apollo, Magec, Nanauatzin, Belenos, Yuyi, Aryaman, Hors – whichever name you chose, is at the forefront of the day.

It is a day that we celebrate the Sun God in the fury of his strength; he has reached full maturity in the day and has gained dominion over the night.  But, like all things on this year wheel, the strongest sheaf of wheat must also pass, and as we celebrate the glory of the Oak King, we recognize that we now turn toward the darker part of the year and the reign of the Holly King, his brother and darker half.

If possible, like Beltaine, there should be a fire lit – at the very least, a candle, for the day recognizing the strength of the sun.  Litha is a fire festival celebrating both heat and light.

Adorn yourself in Golds, yellows, oranges, reds – anything evoking the emotion of heat, fire, passion and the God.  These colors venerate the Sun God and recognize his time.

sunflowerIf you have a home altar, in addition to the candle burning, place summer flowers and decorations upon it; sunflowers, symbols of gold like coins and the like.  If available in your area, boughs of oak or oak leaves are highly appropriate.

Most herbs are reaching full maturity and peak by this time; if they have not been harvested, now is a proper time to do so.  Give gifts of herbs to friends and family from your garden during Litha.

meadDrink mead or honey wine as honey has long been a symbol of the sun and the Sun God and mead is known as a divine solar drink.  Honor the bees at mid-summer with sweet nectar in your garden.

Now is the best time for magic that invokes the power of the God; spells around passion, prosperity, earthly things are all very applicable.

Whichever way you chose to celebrate Litha, try to do it with friends.  Laugh, dance, sing in the mountains.  Giver reverence to the Old Ones, but remember them with a smile on your face as you work your tradition this season.

ICS Litha
via the Inner Circle Sanctuary website

Blessed be.

7 Things About Ostara

I was doing some light reading and there is a lot of information out there about Ostata, some good, some kind of stupid.  I found seven of my favorite things, spiritual and mundane, that I wanted to share with you about Ostara (spring, or vernal, equinox).  Enjoy!
Eostre

  1.  The name Ostara comes from the derivative of the name of a Teutonic, Eostre.  She is the Goddess of dawn and fertility.  Eostre is alternatively and cross—culturally associated if not inferred to represent Ishtar and Astarte, but there is much back and forth on that.  The animal we identify with Eostre, most commonly is, wait for it, the rabbit (Easter is starting to make sense now, eh?)
  2. The egg has long been a symbol of life, fertility and the world.  In days past, druids would color the egg scarlet; this was to represent the sun, and its life giving nature.  You can lightly dye an egg today in turmeric to get a yellow tint to the egg, and then soak in the remnants of red beets that have been boiled down.  The turmeric base cuts down on the violet shade that is common to beet dying.  Or, Paas sells a pretty good egg dying kit I have used since my youth.
    Equilox (via metservice blog)
  3. At the Spring Equinox, the day and night are equal.  Gotcha, this is actually an inaccurate myth.  The term for the date when the day and night are exactly equal is called the equilux from and is usually a few days before the equinox, depending on where you are on Earth.  The equilux, due to the nature of the light and the universe bending light, is the day where day truly equals night.  Science, kids!
  4. You can make a shadow disappear in the middle of the day, if you prepare and have a compass, protractor, stick and GPS handy.  Find an empty space, and search out the latitude of that space, then subtract that number from 90.  This will give you the degrees at which you will set your stick into the earth.  We here in the Northern Hemisphere use our compass to find south, and then place the stick into the earth at the correct angle from above, facing south.  If you did this right, at noon, the stick will have no shadow.  This is the only one of two days this will work each year, can you guess the other?
  5. It is the only day that you can stand an egg on end.  OK, fooled you again.  I know, you don’t believe me, we all grew up having fun with gravity and this experiment, but with the right egg you can do this any time of year.
  6. In Wicca, Ostara was not originally celebrated as a holiday, or sabbat, this came later.  It is based on early pagan spring and fertility rights, but as a Wiccan holiday it was invited a little later to the party.
  7. Ostara, in some form, is celebrated by most people through religious or philosophical deed.  A lot of public works, volunteer and fund raising happen at this time of year (not as much as Yule, but enough to notice), it is a time to celebrate the fecundity of the world; new beginnings and time to sow your seed.  Take that for what it is.  It can be found in Christian, Hindu, Jewish and other major religious holidays.

red egg

Get Back to Where you Once Belong

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I had to make a decision yesterday.  To some it may have seemed like a snap decision or a rash decision, but much thought went into it.  If you follow my bog as frequently as infrequent I post in it, you will know I am cuckoo in love with the coven I have found, and I know they love me too.  I decided to ask my leave of the group yesterday.

Life sucks sometimes, and that is the hardest thing to take.  The universal bell will toll for different lengths of time, more loudly for some and resonate more deeply for others.  I made this decision for multiple reasons including health, family, my desire to begin a fresh start in some areas of my life, and start in others.

I swallowed the bitter truth and asked my leave from my elder.  I chickened out, and did it via email.  I could not even bring the strength to do it in person or over the phone; that is how much I knew that with the right word, my Lady would be able to change my mind.  We did end up talking by text, and her response was classic Lady Atheona

Um, No…

We talked briefly about my reasons, and she understood and gave me the comfort I desperately needed that it was OK to ask for out leave, and that I was always welcome back.  I could physically feel the weight off my shoulder.  The one thing we agreed to though, is that I would stay a member of the group but not attend class for some time, but as always, was invited and encouraged to attend our meets and Sabbats, though with no active role.

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http://www.InnerCircleSanctuary.com

 

This is going to be a difficult time, I kept telling myself and speaking to my wife on it, that I would evaluate in 90 days or 180 days and I am not going to be surprised if in four weeks, I call and ask to come back.  She has been super supportive; I know this commitment over the past year and a half has been hard and we both have had to sacrifice.  She has had to bare the fact that we are not ashamed at the sexual nature of our religion (we do not practice sex magic as much as gender magic) in our rites.  She told me to stop thinking of the end game.

She gave me great advice and told me to not think of a goal line (she knows me) but to return when it feels right, even if that is next week.  She is amazing in her understanding of my needs.

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http://www.InnerCircleSanctuary.com

I have stepped back from the group at this point and I am not going to squander the lessons this phase is going to teach me.  I plan on celebrating the Sabbats the ICS way, the esbats the ICS way and the meditations and lessons the ICS way while I am gone; but I am going to explore myself and my own magic.  I am going to get my health in order so that I can come back and in time be the High Priest within the group that they all see in me and that I know is there.

More to come on this trip into solitary practice over the next, who knows how long.

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http://www.InnerCircleSanctuary.com

 

Sauna Time

pentagramSomeone recently asked me, at the gym of all places, why I wear a pentagram.  This was an unusual question because ninety-nine percent of the time, I realize that if people see the nearly two inch wide wooden pentagram hanging on my chest I will get this question, so I usually hang it up in my locker first.  I just had a lot on my mind stepping into the sauna yesterday (the BEST post-workout respite) and neglected to take it off.

The person asking me this was an older lady of Chinese heritage, and we see each other often in the gym (not often enough, I need to make more time) and she asked with what seemed to me, genuine sincerity and not disdain.  It was just the two of us, so I didn’t try to hide my surprise that I was wearing the necklace or that she asked me, or even that she spoke to me for the first time ever.

I told her that it was a very profound expression of my religion.  She nodded, but asked me what I meant.  I liked that she didn’t ask me if I worshipped the devil, or if I knew that it was an evil marker.  My belief in her sincerity went up.

I politely explained to her that I was a Wiccan and we have many different ideas of how and why we display the pentagram as there are several traditions.  I told her that for me and my tradition, it was like a covenant between me and the divine, something real and tangible that shows my devotion and the oaths I have taken for my beliefs.

That brought a smile to her face and she nodded, and let out a little laugh.  Not a mocking laugh, but a laugh of understanding.

She asked me if I believed it had the same power as the Cross of Christ.

This was a rough and difficult question to answer.  I didn’t know if I was being baited, teased or if I should really worry about what to say;  I figured though, I had left it hanging out there, both physically and metaphorically, so I told her, that yes, it has the same power and for me it has more.

This brought a funny kind of look to her face, so I asked her if I could explain.  I told her that symbols, by their very use and belief are given power.  So in that sense, my pentacle had the same power as someone wearing their cross because each of us has put our own belief and symbolism into that physical piece of Jewelry.

I went on to tell her, since I was not Christian, and did not believe in Christ as any more than a wise man, healer and spiritual hombre, I couldn’t put the same faith in the cross as a Christian, so to me, my pentagram held me power.

It took a moment, but again she started nodding and smiled at me.  She told me, she liked that answer.  Immediately she went back to her normal routine of bending at the waist, to reach past her toes several times in rapid succession.

I felt happy, I was glad I didn’t get into a spiritual war in the sauna at 24 Hour Fitness, but I was even more glad that she listened and didn’t judge.  We live in a world where we still have to hang out in the broom closet and are often judged on our own symbols and beliefs.  Sometimes, we are deported or denied entry to this country based on our beliefs.  Sometimes we, as humans, are killed based on our beliefs, in fact, too much.

As she got up to leave, I will never forget her last words to me.  She stood up, gathered her towel and water and walked to the door.  She paused and, dramatically looked over her shoulder and spoke to me in broken English:

“I am glad I talk to you.  You not so fat as you were fat last week”

She then walked out of the sauna.  I am excited to see her again.


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The Real Essay: A Work in Progress

lean42We pulled up to the holy ground and readied ourselves for the meet.  It had been some time since this many of us had seen fit to come together, and this time, they spoke of fresh meet and old blood returning.  The day beat against my skin warm then cool, then warm again.  The sun was up, the season of the sun’s return  was upon us.  But not the heat, just the light.  Light had come back to the desert and I stood upon the blessed dirt feasting on the little heat and warmth ir provided,  it like so many of the buffets that we have in our village.

One by one they started to arrive.  All type of conveyance, from the sporty silver muscle carr to the economical and smart.  You can tell a lot about a person from what they drive.  I knew the tall one was very orderly, the way he parked with so much space between his immaculately clean, white car and the vehicle nest to him.  I guess that is why my favorite car has always been the 1980 Dodge Aries that was my first ride into manhood.  It was missing its hubcaps and had a crack in the windshield.  It perpetually smelled of cheese.

That is when she pulled in; just far enough to let you know that she wanted to be left alone, but close enough not to give a shit.  The law had come to town, and she sported a chest tattoo and size 7 sneakers.  I hadn’t seen my friend in some time and it was good to know she had made it through the lawless sin one more day.

We huddled under the mid-day temperature in the shade of the old lean-too.  Others gathered around, some called them the Elders, some called them the teachers.  Nobody really knows from whence they came, but they have always been there.  Like Priests and Priestesses of old, they guarded the knowledge of the wise, and it was hard to get out of them.  Some folks were lucky and stayed around to get this knowledge, some were just dipshits on the roadmap of our lives.

The magic was flowing through us as we shared our stories of loss and gain, each of us owning a piece of each other’s sorrow, laughter and pain.  It isn’t easy when this many people come together, like a ka-tet of legend.  Ya kin?  But the stories flow whether we want them to or not.

The law decided to finally taker her turn, she cleared her throat and told us about a night in the recesses of the valley, a little shit bird of a place called China Town.  Her eyes hooded against the anticipation we all felt as she began her story.  It was a tale of two women, both of oriental origin, pretty common in that part of town.  One of them was named Ling Ling, and she had plans.

“You want to fuck with Ling Ling?”

That was the battle cry that broke the shadows with laughter.  You could hear the transports in the background as they whined along roads long past their use, but barely.  Not an eye was dry after we heard the tale of Ling Ling and her desire to be fucked with.  Damn it feels good to be a witch.

From behind and to our side, a sound ripped through the day, pouring over us like warm honey.  Honey laced with cinnamon, because this sound had a bight.  Just when we had thought that we had heard it all, the words that still haunt my days came forth from the Elder

“You know, Big Sean’s album drops this week”

Woden’s Day

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220px-georg_von_rosen_-_oden_som_vandringsman_1886_odin_the_wandererToday is Wednesday.

Named for Odin (From Norse; see also Anglo-Saxon and German Woden or Wotan), “Odin’s (or Woden’s) Day”

Associated with the planet Mercury

Associated with the color yellow

A good day for magic involving communication, study, mental acuity, travel, writing, communication and for any spell craft surrounding your electronic or mechanical devices.

Today would be a great day for some rune work as well, for divination or other means.

Honor Odin today with a libation of mead, ale or whiskey.  Perhaps some tobacco or coin, as Odin is known to also favor luck.  Share a story of your deeds or ancestors with a friend over a drink, if you wish to celebrate in the mundane world.  The Gods love stories of the things man does, but never forget, they love stories of their own deeds as much if not more.

08ba2d194acd72f45336993566af0675Honor Mercury (see also Hermes from the Greek pantheon) today by remembering those of yours that have passed from this world and thank him for ushering them to the afterlife.  Write a letter or send a message to someone you miss or are thinking of.

Unintended Lessons (or, HOCUS FOCUS!)

I have started the next path in my “Year and a Day”, and I am currently composing my thoughts in more detail on my first or so with Inner Circle Sanctuary.  I began my Second Degree classes yesterday and learned an ever important and unintended lesson in magic last night.

15977434_1283443138389540_8713835769263113005_nIt has always been part of my study, but taking my test last night (yes, we take weekly tests, see my earlier blog post about this being an intensive, in-depth, collegiate style curriculum), and I felt confident as I answered question after question.  I even went back through to make sure I was satisfied with my answers; I was.

Then came the answer and review, and sure enough, I missed a question and the following (I missed them both as they were what I call a Continuation Question, ‘if john has a red summer house and a blue winter house, what color is his summer house? ‘, followed by ‘What color is Johns non-summer house?’  Obviously not the real question, we don’t really care where John summers), which meant I missed more than I was allowed for the week, and have to retake the test.  Insult to injury the following question was also a CONTINUATION QUESTION THAT I GOT CORRECT (‘How many houses does John have?’).  Very frustrating.

Sadly, I know the answer to the quandary of what color John’s houses were, but I lost focus.  I have no other answer to why I missed the question except that my mind wandered and I erred.  Now I have lost a week of being with my sisters in the craft, or to spin it positively, I have gained an extra week of study as I cannot move forward until I pass the test.  And next week, I shall.

The lesson though, is about losing focus.  How often as we young witchlings plan our spell craft only to have it putter out, never come to fruition or just plain old backfire?  We ask ourselves why, and sometimes it is an easy answer, like using eye of newt as opposed to bat wing, but sometimes we are stumped.  I posit that maybe, just maybe, we lost focus.  We let our mind wander when it was supposed to be dialed in.

Ask yourself this, as you anoint a candle and put your intention into it, how long does it take you?  Do you start thinking about the next step or are you one-hundred percent in that moment?  I can say from my experience, yes, I probably have hurried through the “Tasks” of the spell craft at times, in order to get to the next step and yes, I was thinking two steps ahead at times, when I should have been envisioning the outcome.  It is one of my great weaknesses, which I work hard on daily to overcome.

I have found some things that have helped me to overcome this and I share with you now, as a young witchling

  • Do not underestimate the importance of meditative practice. Spend time in meditation exercises daily and learn to recognize when your mind wanders and to finish the thought, and come right back.  In time, you will have control over your thoughts and sometimes, truly, other people.
  • Whenever able, do your spell in a magic ring. Kitchen Witchery is good and has its place, but I have found that when I have taken the time to don my robe, call the quarters and invite the Lord and Lady into my ring, my mind is much more focused on the task at hand, as well as all of the benefits of the amplified energy of a magical ring
  • TAKE YOUR TIME. My biggest downfall.  Take the time while you area anointing your candle, feel the texture of the wax, smell the essence of the oil and think very hard about your outcome.  If you get lost, start over.  Magic is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  Relax and enjoy the task of your craft
  • At the very least, limit the distractions. If you cannot perform a full ring then turn off your cellular phone, put the dog and kids outside.  Clothes the blinds, mellow the lights and spend a few minutes before hand really clearing your head of work, dinner, friends and then get into it

This of course is not the end all-beat all list, but these steps have really helped me.  As I progress more into group magic, the need for clear focus is even more amplified, but that is another story for another day.

I recommend The Spiral Dance as a great book, of ritual, as well as the nuggets of practice in the book which help you to develop your ability to meditate and focus on the work at hand.  There are many other sources; even on your iPhone or Android there are apps to help you still your mind.  Invest the time in yourself and you will reap the rewards in both the mundane world as well as your craft.

Blessed be.