Children’s Henwen Ritual for Samhain

This is a column from the Pagan Household from October 28th, 2013. I think I’ve linked to it before, but never actually posted it and since Samhain is essentially here…

 

Henwen is one of my favorite Celtic Goddesses. The Great White Sow wandered from Annwn, the Underworld, into this world, giving birth to wheat, barley and bees, as well as wolf cubs, ferocious cats and eagles wherever she went.  And this is how she brought life to the world.

Other stories tell that it was prophesied that whatever Henwen birthed would bring harm to Britain and so King Arthur tried to catch her. Her swineherd was Coll Ap Collfrewi, one of the great swine herders of Britain, and he hung onto her bristles wherever she went. She escaped into the sea, but returned to the land and gave birth to her strange litters there. Arthur never did catch her and it is assumed that the Great Sow still wanders Britain, bringing fertility and prosperity wherever she goes. In this version , Henwen will also read your fortune for you with rods and runes.

Pigs often symbolize our relationship with the Underworld. This is the time of the year where the veil thins between the worlds because of the harvest. This is when the final harvest is brought in and the last animals are slaughtered for winter. All of the spirits passing from our world to the Underworld open the boundaries and allow us easier access to those who have gone before. It also makes it easier for those who are making their transition from this world to the next more to slip away, which is often a blessing. It can be a time of great grief and blood, it can also be a time of joyous celebration and gratefulness for another bountiful year.

Henwen is an excellent goddess to honor for this turning of the Wheel! She is also a goddess you can easily share with your children.

If you have a group of kids, you can do a really easy children’s ritual from the story of Henwen.

Sit all the children down and have them braid wheat straw. (You can find a tutorial here). If your children are too small for this, you can do this beforehand; just make sure there is a wheat braid for every child. Take everyone somewhere outside where there is plenty of room to run around.

Have everyone stand in a Circle. If you want to call Quarters at this point and cast a Circle you can, but you might simply want to acknowledge each direction. Tell the children the story of Henwen and explain that she brought a good harvest to the world. Have them hold their wheat braids and go around the Circle having everyone ask for something for the upcoming year. Have them focus their energy for their wish onto the wheat braid. (This would also be a good time to talk about the Harvest and why it’s important to how we live and what we are celebrating. Let them know that they things they should be wishing for should not be material, but things to help their community).

Since Henwen is a goddess of prophecy, put all the children’s names in a bag (this should probably be done beforehand) and randomly choose names to assign parts to. You will need a Henwen, a Coll Ap Collfrewi, an Arthur and several knights.  (If you want to have clothing props like a pig nose and capes, that could be fun as well!)

Give the children picked to be Henwen and Coll Ap Collfrewi the bags with the wheat braids in them. The rest of the children will be chasing them. The other children are It and the goal of the game is that each child must catch Henwen and Coll, who have to stay together the whole time. (This is a giant game of tag in reverse). When Arthur or one of his knights “catches” Henwen and Coll, Henwen or Coll should give them one of the wheat braids and give them their blessing for the year. That child can now return to the starting point. When everyone has caught Henwen and Coll, Henwen and Coll can return together to the rest of the group. When everyone is together again, have Henwen and Coll announce that their wanderings are done for the year and that they are ready to enjoy the bounty of the Harvest. At this point, have everyone celebrate together with a snack, after closing whatever Circle you started with. A good snack would be wheat toast with butter and honey. Each child can take their wheat braid home with them.

If you’re having an adult ritual later, you could also have the children “visit” all together with their wheat braids to offer the luck of the wheat braids for that ritual. Have them present their wheat braids with well wishes for the blessing of the Priest and Priestess.

Blessed Samhain all! Have fun!

Medean Cat

The search for Wiccan Pussy has really ramped up lately! It seems like everyday I get more than just a few keyword search hits for Wiccan Pussy. I guess Bansidhe was just too irresistible the last time I posted her picture. And so…here’s what you all seem to be looking for!

I mean, I know the Bansidhe is awesome and all, but seriously guys…she really hates having her photo taken.

 

 

50,000

I officially reached 50,000 views on this blog today and just want to give a huge thanks to everyone who stops by and reads for a bit!

50000

I promise to start posting new blogs fairly soon. My family crisis has unfortunately taken most of my attention the last few months and will probably continue to do so for a bit longer. I am going to change direction a bit and update the look and feel of this blog as well. Please let me know if there’s anything you like or want to hear about more.

Thanks so much for hanging out with me for the last two years!

Handfasting Blessings, Brooms and Poppets, Oh My!

This is a column I wrote for the Pagan Household back in March, right before all hell broke loose. A little out of season, but oh well…

 

Tomorrow I’m Priestessing a handfasting for two dear friends.

Handfastings are a type of wedding ceremony that come to us from the British Isles when the clergy were few and far between. Couples would get hand fasted while they waited for a clergy member to come and perform the official ceremony. Many modern Pagans have adopted the practice, not wanting to have a more traditional (Christian) type of ceremony.

During many traditional handfastings, the couple’s arms are bound (fastened) and they are asked to jump over a broom, a cauldron and a fire. Being tied together makes them work together, symbolizing the relationship they will have as a married couple. The broom, cauldron and fire represent fertility, health and well being. Depending on the tradition, the couple will remain bound until night falls or until the marriage is consummated. (You can find these traditions all over the world, Ireland to Africa to Asia…)

The broom itself is a powerful symbol of male and female fertility bound together, which is why it’s such an important part of the handfasting ceremony. It is also an important tool to take together into your new marriage.

The broom is hung over the bed if the couple wants to have children. If the couple doesn’t want children, the broom is placed underneath the bed!

I’ve also heard it said that you should always treat your broom as a member of your family, and when you’re having marriage difficulties, talking to your broom can help sort them out. Another tradition is that when you and your spouse are fighting, sweeping your house out with your broom can help clear the air.

Treating your broom well and taking care of it is symbolic of taking care of your marriage, and ensures that  you and your spouse are healthy and happy as a couple. Mistreating your broom can have ill effects on your marriage!

(There are also superstitions that if you step over a fallen broom before your wedding, you’ll never get married! So watch out!)

The ritual itself is of course the important part of the handfasting, but guests who come to the wedding can contribute more than their energy during the ritual.

The handfasting basket is fairly traditional, and many people will tell you to put thirteen specific blessings symbolized by certain items into a basket for a new couple. But I like to make mine up a little differently.

In a basket I like to put a fresh loaf of bread, a bag of sea salt, and a bottle of wine or ale for a house warming gift. Casting salt through your house, while carrying fresh bread and wine blesses your home with abundance and captures any “leftovers” from whoever was there before. If you are moving in with your spouse for the first time, it helps to get rid of your habits as a single person. If you already lived with your partner, it helps cast out any distance that might remain between you. Of course you sweep the salt up with your broom and cast it out your front door.

I also like to include a Bridget’s Cross. A Bridget’s Cross hung in a house prevents fire.

A piece of iron for protection.

A horseshoe to hang over the couple’s door for luck.

A tin can with a bright shiny penny in it. (If a couple sets this somewhere in the house and continues to add loose change to it, it will help attract financial success to the household).

Lavender sachets to set near the bed for peaceful dreaming.

And finally I like to create a poppet that gives all the blessings, hope and love I have for the couple in their new marriage.

If you’ve never created a poppet before, it’s a very personal type of magic. I always make mine to look like small stuffed animals that can be placed on an altar, a shrine or a mantel.

How to create a poppet:

First, choose an animal that symbolizes whatever you’re creating the poppet for.

For a marriage I would create one that looks like a hare.

Taking two pieces of fabric (in a fabric that seems appropriate to you),  cut out the shape you’re going to sew.

I hand sew it together, thinking about all the things I will to give to the new couple. This takes a lot of your energy and focus, so be prepared to be pretty wrung out after you’ve completed your sewing!  If you need a way to help you focus on the task at hand, you can always choose a traditional song or rhyme to sing or speak while you’re working. For a wedding I would pull out “Hares on the Mountain” or the “Bonny Black Hare.”

Before closing the poppet up, stuff it with a mixture of herbs, a stone or two and regular stuffing to fill it out. For a marriage I would consider using woodruff, rosemary, marjorum, mint, marigold, ivy and maybe a hint of cinnamon. I would also add rose quartz (it’s usually better to place the stone near the bottom of the poppet to help it stand up!).

Close your poppet up and then have fun decorating it! I usually use buttons for eyes and paint to place any other symbols that I think are appropriate for the occasion.

If you work in a group, you can also have anyone help with the creation of the poppet or do a group blessing when it’s finished.

Finally, gift the poppet to whoever you made it for!

 (Photo taken by me at Griffiths Park in L.A.)

(Photo taken by me at Griffiths Park in L.A.)

 

Nice While It Lasted

Lauren:

I am so angry today (not that this is anything new at this point really, but…) and I am generally helpless to do anything about it. Innocent until proven guilty? Ha!

Originally posted on The Honest Courtesan:

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on June 15th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

Emperor JulianDuring the reign of the Emperor Julian a man named Numerius, who was governor of Narbonensis (what is today southern France), was accused of embezzlement by one Delphidius; because Numerius was a high official his trial was presided over by the Emperor himself.  Numerius’ defense consisted entirely of denying his guilt, but since Delphidius had no actual evidence this was enough.  When it became clear that his attempts to trick Numerius into self-incrimination had failed, and that the charge would fail with them, Delphidius cried out, “Oh, illustrious Caesar!  If it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?”  Julian’s famous (and quotable) reply was, “If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?”

The principle was not new in 4th century…

View original 884 more words

I’m Not In This Swamp

I picked up Death: The High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman tonight for the first time in years. Neil Gaiman has had a great deal of influence on how I view the world, the gods, magic…well, generally everything. I had forgotten that Tori Amos wrote the introduction and tonight it struck a chord:

Instead, I dyed my hair and she [Death] visited me and I started to accept the mess I’m in. I know that mess spelled backwards is ssem and I felt much better armed with that information. Over the last few hours I’ve allowed myself to feel defeated, and just like she said if you allow yourself to feel the way you really feel, maybe you won’t be afraid of that feeling anymore.

When you’re on your knees you’re closer to the ground. things seem nearer somehow.

If all I can say is I’m not in this swamp, I’m not in this swamp then there is not a rope in front of me and there is not an alligator behind me and there is not a girl sitting at the edge eating a hot dog and if I believe that, then dying would be the only answer because then Death couldn’t come and say Peachy to me anymore and after all she has a brother who believes in hope.

 

Spell for a New School Year

This was a column I wrote for The Pagan Household last year on August 12th, 2013. I found myself plagued with back to school anxiety dreams last night and thought I would post it here for anyone else in the same boat. Good luck with the new school year!

 

This morning on my way to work, I saw lots of parents anxiously ushering kids onto buses or waiting for the streetcar. (I love that many kids in New Orleans ride the streetcar to school).

I too will be going back to school this year. And even though it’s for my Master’s degree, I find that I am suffused with the same excitement that I remember from grade school. I’ve been disappointed all weekend that I have to wait another two weeks to start myself!

(Remind me of this conversation in a few months when I’m drowning in graduate English papers).

I’ve been carefully picking out my new school supplies and searching for a new backpack. Things like this make it easier to start the new school year off on the right foot.  But just because you have the right supplies, that doesn’t mean that your student isn’t still anxious about starting a new school year.

What if your teacher is mean? Or the work is too hard? Or you have problems getting to school?! We aren’t the only ones to worry about these things; students throughout the ages and all over the world have worried about the same problems.

In one story, there is even a magical element to getting to school! This very old English ballad tells a story of a little boy that meets a stranger on the road and he has to outwit the stranger before he can get to school safely.

“Oh, where are you going?” says the false knight on the road.

“I’m going to me school,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“What is on your back?” says the false knight on the road.

“Me bundles and me books,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

 

“I came a-walking by your door,” says the false knight on the road.

“That lay in your way,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“Flung your dog a stone,” says the false knight on the road.

“I wish it was a bone,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

 

“Oh, what sheep and cattle’s that?” says the false knight on the road.

“They’re mine and me father’s,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“And how many shall be mine?” says the false knight on the road.

“The ones that have the blue tail,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

 

“Oh, can I get a share o’ them?” says the false knight on the road.

“You cannot get a share of them,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“And why the stick all in your hand?” says the false knight on the road.

“To keep me from all cold and harm,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

 

“Oh, I wish you were in yonder tree,” says the false knight on the road.

“A ladder under me,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“The ladder it’ll break,” says the false knight on the road.

“And you will surely fall,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

 

“I wish you were in yonder sea,” says the false knight on the road.

“A good boat under me,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“The boat will surely sink,” says the false knight on the road.

“And you will surely drown,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

 

“Has your mother more than you?” says the false knight on the road.

“Oh, none of them for you,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

“I think I hear a bell,” says the false knight on the road.

“It’s ringing you to hell,” says the wee boy and still he stood.

~ Steeleye Span sing False Knight on the Road, Traditional English Folk Ballad

(You can listen to it here or you can hear The Fleet Foxes version here…)

 

Hopefully your student won’t experience anything like that, but what can you do to sooth fear and anxiety about a new teacher, a new classroom, harder work and new friends?

I love baking and I love bottle spells, and this is an excellent opportunity to combine both!

This is a variation on the honey jar spell, which you can do to “sweeten people up” for any sort of new endeavor.

 

What you need:

Your favorite cookie recipe and all the ingredients to make the cookies.

An apple

A candle

A tin with a lid (make sure that the tin is big enough to hold the apple).

A piece of paper and a pencil

 

Directions:

Do this the night before school.

First, core your apple and set it inside the tin.

Next, bake your cookies. Do this with whoever is going to school. For each ingredient, as you measure it out into your cookie dough, talk about what you want out of the school year.

For example: While adding your sugar you could say “I hope I have a teacher that loves to teach me new things and who is kind to the students!” or for vanilla you could say, “I hope this year that learning will go more smoothly!”  For salt you could ask for protection from bullies and safety in traveling to and from school. As you discuss each ingredient, toss a pinch of the ingredient into your apple core in the tin.

After you mixed all your ingredients and put your cookies in the oven, take your piece of paper and write the name of your student on it. Have your student cup it in their hands and make a wish for a great school year! Then put it in the apple core with everything else and put the lid on the tin.

Next, set your candle on top of the lid. (You can either melt the wax onto the tin lid or use a candle holder). I would place the spell on my altar, or you could also put it next to the bed of your student. Light you candle and let it burn down completely. (Wherever you place the spell, make sure that there aren’t any fire hazards and that the candle can burn safely).

As the candle burns, it will take all your students anxious energy and concentrate it down into the spell for a better school experience.

After the candle has burned down the next morning, you can bury your apple in the garden or in a potted plant to continue feeding the spell and then you can fill your tin with cookies to send to school with your student to share.

Happy start of school all!

apple-book

*For those of you who need a cookie recipe, try that old classic, Nestle’s Chocolate Chip Cookies!