Magical Etiquette 101

This was a column I wrote for the Pagan Household back on April 22nd, 2013:

I recently had an experience with a guest at my coven’s ritual, which is held in my home. This guest came in and, without asking, touched our altar and picked up tools. He also made negative comments about the way we do ritual. Needless to say, the evening only went down hill from there and the guest was not invited back.

This brings up magical etiquette, both in your own home and in the homes of others. There are a few basics that most people should be aware of. When you go to another practitioner’s house, never touch anything without permission. Everyone approaches their tools differently, and while it might be fine with permission, you should never just pick things up. This is extremely disrespectful. The same goes for altars and shrines. This isn’t just out of respect for the person who owns the altar or shrine, but for your own protection as well. Do you know what sort of work this person is doing? Do you want to inadvertantly become a part of anything they do in the privacy of their own home? Say they’re doing a love spell for a friend; what might be the results if you end up putting your energy into whatever work is being done?

This also goes for things that you might not take to be magical or religious in nature. You never know what that statue might mean to the person who lives there.

Not all of us, but most, intertwine our magical rituals with our religious ones. These are extremely personal workings that you just don’t get to butt into without permission. And this brings us to our next point; don’t make negative comments about the things you see. Our guest kept telling us that what we were doing was not what another group in the area did, and that therefore we were obviously doing things incorrectly. Why wouldn’t we use lines in our ritual that the other group used? You can see where this was quite offensive. When you go to someone else’s ritual, understand that they may not be working the way that you are used to. What they do is not wrong, it is simply different, and expecting them to change what they do to make you more comfortable is not appropriate. If you have that much of a problem with different rituals, you shouldn’t be the guest of another group in the first place. It is perfectly OK to turn down an invitation to a group’s ritual.

You might see something and disagree with how it was done, or think it should have been done differently. However, you are a guest. Ask about what you’ve seen in a positive manner. “That was a very interesting casting. May I ask why you do it that way?” is much more friendly than “I don’t do MY casting that way!” It’s offensive to force yourself into someone else’s workings and imply that you could have done it better.

When our coven has a first time guest in ritual, we explain what we will be doing, and we make sure to ask if the guest has questions at various intervals (it is actually part of the way we operate to assign certain coven members the task of making sure guests are informed and made to feel welcome). Most groups will do this if you are invited as a guest to ritual. You as the guest should expect a certain level of explanation about the ritual itself. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to learn all the secrets a group has, or be “trained,” but you deserve a basic explanation of the etiquette for the things that will be coming up in ritual. One of the worst rituals I’ve ever attended was so because there was no explanation of what was planned, and I didn’t know how to react to the things that were happening or what words to say at certain points.

If you are holding a public ritual, you also need to remember to do this. Do not assume your guests’ level of knowledge, experience, or tolerance level. A friend of mine told me about a ritual she went to that was for women’s spirituality. Sounds pretty standard right? It wasn’t until the priestess smeared something on her forehead in the middle of ritual that my friend found out that it was someone’s menstrual blood. Needless to say, smearing a stranger’s menstrual blood on someone else without explaining this sort of thing or asking permission is invasive in more ways than one. Think about what you are doing and ask people if they are OK with what is being planned, especially in cases where bodily fluids are being used.

It should also be pretty obvious that you shouldn’t insert any of your own energy into something without discussing it first with your host. Maybe your help will be welcomed and appreciated, but you can’t know without asking. Again, you don’t know exactly what a person is working toward and it’s arrogant and disruptive to assume.

Walking into another practitioner’s home should be like walking into anyone else’s home, the same basic etiquette applies. But unlike everyone else, where poking through someone’s medicine cabinet is probably not going to get you into trouble, poking your nose without permission into a practitioner’s workings might get you into a whole lot of trouble in ways that you won’t even see until six months down the road.

Don’t assume; always ask, and be aware that most things you see are probably not mundane. Look, don’t touch, and remember, you break it, you’re probably going to buy it, in a very metaphysical and unpleasant way.

Choosing and Consecrating Magical Tools

This was a column I wrote for The Pagan Household on May 20th, 2013:

 

The tools that we work with in ritual are important elements of our workings. They are objects that focus us in directing our will and our energy to complete whatever work it is that we are doing. These sorts of tools become more effective the longer we have been using them, and the longer we have been working to invest our energy in that particular tool.

These tools know us and vibrate in harmony with our use of them when they have a relationship with us. While our tools are not sentient, I wouldn’t call them passive either. These are tools that channel magic, and the longer we use them, the more magic we imbue in them.

Some of us are lucky and these sorts of tools are handed down to us with a great deal of magical energy already present. My best friend’s Athame is the straight razor her grandmother used in her sewing projects. This is an Athame with a great deal of family history and ties. These sorts of tools recquire little more than a sort of getting to know you period where you and the tool aclimate to each other and establish a working relationship based on the ties already present.

Most us, unfortunately, aren’t that lucky. While there are many more second and even third generation Craft practitioners these days than there were even ten years ago, most of us are starting out on our own and have to pick up our tools the old fashioned way. And some of us don’t want that combined history and simply want to start fresh with something that is completely and only ours.

I’ve recently acquired two new tools that have a large significance in my rituals: an Athame and a wand. The athame was a tool I helped to choose, and was presented to me at my initiation; the wand was a gift from my partner.

So how do you start creating this sort of working relationship?

Never buy a tool that doesn’t call to you. All of my Craft tools, in whatever form, have pulled me to them specifically. There has been an immediate zing of energy exchanged that was impossible to ignore. In the case of the wand, it called my partner to it. It will be a tool that our coven uses together.

I look for tools that are traditional; not everyone does, but I prefer bone and wood that have been handcrafted over cheap, machine made items. Tools like this handle energy much more naturally.

It’s not always possible to know the maker of your Craft tools, not all of us are lucky enough to live near someone who makes these sorts of items, but I would also recommend not buying these types of tools online. You need to be able to handle a tool and speak to the person who was responsible for its creation. If you can make them yourself, even better. This is true of most magical items. There are very few online vendors that I trust, the ones that I do have been recommended to me by other reliable practitioners of my acquaintance and when I have bought items from them, they have been exactly as advertised.

Most Craft store owners should be able to tell you the provenance of an item and the exact materials used to make that item. They also usually know whether the maker has a good reputation or not.

You don’t have to find a tool immediately. Take your time, go to festivals, go to fairs, talk to people and see where they have found their tools. It may take a few months, don’t be discouraged. Remember, these are items that we will use for years to come. Rushing something like this ensures that you will not find the correct tool.

Once you’ve found the perfect item, don’t haggle for it. Pay exactly what the seller is asking if it’s a fair price. When you haggle a price down, it diminishes the power of the tool and takes away from the effort the creator took in making it. If you can barter for the tool and give something in trade, this is perfectly acceptable. You’re still paying a fair price, you’re offering something of equal value, even if that is simply the gift of your own energy.

Once you’ve acquired your tool, take the time to consecrate it and then invest your energy into it everyday. When I’m at home, I carry my Athame around with me, even when I’m not in ritual. I push my energy through it constantly. If I’m not carrying it or I’ve had a busy day, I take a second to pick it up and just think at it for a minute or two. I also won’t let other people touch my tools until I’ve firmly established my own bond with that tool. I’ve only had my Athame for four months now. It will not be touched by anyone other than my partner for a long time yet and the only reason that he is allowed to touch it is because he and I are magical partners as well as significant others and when I do most magical workings, he plays a significant role. He is not a casual lover and I would not recommend sharing your tools with anyone who is.

To consecrate a tool:

Set an altar with representations of the four elements. It is traditional to set Air in the East (usually incense), Fire in the South (candle), Water in the West (bowl of water) and Earth in the North (bowl of salt), but this is up to you and how you usually work.

Choose your representations with what feels right to you. I start in the East; many like to start in the North, again, this is up to you and if an element calls you specifically, start with it.

Take your tool and kiss it, focus your energy on it and take a few minutes to think about what you’ll be using this tool to do.

Wave the tool through the first element and say: I ask ____ to bless and consecrate this tool in doing (state whatever you will be doing with the tool). I ask that ____ bless this tool with (whatever nature the element represents). Bless and consecrate this tool in my service to the Craft. (You can also name any patron deities you’re using). So mote it be!

For example, I started my consecration of my wand with the East and Air. I waved my wand through my burning incense and said: I ask Air to bless and consecrate this tool in it’s use for casting enchantment for me and for my coven. I ask air to bless this wand with its intellect and its quickness. Please bless and consecrate this tool in my service to the (name of my patrons). So mote it be!

Move to the next element and repeat. Do this for all four of the elements. After you have done this, either offer the tool your own blood (which I did in the case of my Athame so that it never works against me) or offer it your energy (which I did with my wand) by placing it against your heart and feeling the energy move between you and the tool.

At the end of the ceremony, place the tool on your altar, continue with whatever work you normally do, and let it acclimate itself to your altar and energy. Leave it for a night and then start carrying it around with you and using it as you would with any tool you already work with.

Monstrous Women

Since most of my research focuses on monstrous women these days and since so many people think I am one…

King Henry (originally an English/Scottish folk song)

Let never a man a wooing wend
That lacketh things three,
A store of gold, and open heart,
And full of charity;
And this was seen of King Henry
Though he lay quite alone,
For he’s taken him to a haunted hall
Seven miles from the town.

He’s chased the deer now him before
And the doe down by the den
Till the fattest buck in all the flock
King Henry he has slain.
His huntsmen followed him to the hall
To make them burly cheer,
When loud the wind was heard to sound
And an earthquake rocked the floor.

And darkness covered all the hall
Where they sat at their meat,
The grey dogs, yowling, left their food
And crept to Henry’s feet.
And louder howled the rising wind
And burst the fastened door,
And in there came a grisly ghost
Stramping on the floor.

Her head hit the roof-tree of the house,
Her middle you could not span,
Each frightened huntsman fled the hall
And left the king alone,
Her teeth were like the tether stakes,
Her nose like club or mell,
And nothing less she seemed to be
Than a fiend that comes form hell.

Some meat, some meat you King Henry,
Some meat you give to me,
Go kill your horse you King Henry
And bring him here to me;
He’s gone and slain his berry brown steed
Though it made his heart full sore,
For she’s eaten up both skin and bone
Left nothing but hide and hair.

More meat, more meat you King Henry
More meat you give to me,
Go Kill your greyhounds King Henry
And bring them here to me;
And when he’s slain his good greyhounds,

It made his heart full sore,
She’s eaten them up both skin and bone,
Left nothing but hide and hair.

More meat, more meat you King Henry
More meat you give to me,
Go fell your goshawks King Henry
And bring them here to me;
And when he’s slain his gay goshawks,
It made his heart full sore,
She’s eaten them up both skin and bone,
Left nothing but feathers bare.

Some drink, some drink now King Henry
Some drink you give to me,
Oh you sew up your horse’s hide
And bring in a drink to me,
And he’s sewed up the bloody hide
And a pipe of wine put in,
And she’s drank it up all in one draught
Left never a drop therein.

A bed, a bed now King Henry,
A bed you’ll make for me,
Oh you must pull the heather green
And make it soft for me;
And pulled has he the heather green
And made for her a bed,
And taken has he his gay mantle
And o’er it he has spread.

Take off your clothes now King Henry
And lie down by my side,
Now swear, now swear you King Henry
To take me for your bride.
Oh God forbid, says King Henry,
That ever the like betide,
That ever a fiend that comes from hell
Should stretch down by my side.

When the night was gone and the day was come
And the sun shone through the hall,
The fairest lady that ever was seen
Lay between him and the wall.
I’ve met with many a gentle knight
That gave me such a fill,
But never before with a courteous knight
That gave me all my will

 

Willie’s Lady (originally a Breton/Scandinavian folksong)

King Willie he’s sailed over the raging foam,
He’s wooed a wife and he’s brought her home.

He wooed her for her long golden hair,
His mother wrought her a mighty care.

A weary spell she’s laid on her:
She’d be with child for long and many’s the year
But a child she would never bear.

And in her bower she lies in pain.
King Willie at her bedhead he do stand
As down his cheeks salten tears do run.

King Willie back to his mother he did run,
He’s gone there as a begging son.

Says, “Me true love has this fine noble steed
The like of which you ne’er did see.

“At every part of this horse’s mane
There’s hanging fifty silver bells and ten
There’s hanging fifty bells and ten.

“This goodly gift shall be your own
If back to my own true love you’ll turn again
That she might bear her baby son.”

“Oh, the child she’ll never lighter be
Nor from sickness will she e’er be free.

“But she will die and she will turn to clay
And you will wed with another maid.”

Then sighing said this weary man
As back to his own true love he’s gone again,
“I wish my life was at an end.”

King Willie back to his mother he did run,
He’s gone there as a begging son.

Says, “Me true love has this fine golden girdle
Set with jewels all about the middle

At every part of this girdle’s hem
There’s hanging fifty silver bells and ten
There’s hanging fifty bells and ten.

This goodly gift shall be your own
If back to my own true love you’ll turn again
That she might bear her baby son.”

“Oh, of her child she’ll never lighter be
Nor from sickness will she e’er be free.

But she will die and she will turn to clay
And you will wed with another maid.”

Sighing says this weary man
As back to his own true love he’s gone again,
“I wish my life was at an end.”

Then up and spoke his noble queen
And she has told King Willie of a plan
How she might bear her baby son.

She says, “You must go get you down to the market place
And you must buy you a loaf of wax.

“And you must shape it as a babe that is to nurse
And you must make two eyes of glass.

“Ask your mother to a christening day,
And you must stand there close as you can be
That you might hear what she do say.”

King Willie he’s gone down to the market place
And he has bought him a loaf of wax.

And he has shaped it as a babe that is to nurse
And he has made two eyes of glass.

He asked his mother to a christening day
And he has stood there close as he could be
That he might hear what she did say.

How she spoke and how she swore,
She spied the babe where no babe could be before,
She spied the babe where none could be before.

Says, “Who was it who undid the nine witch knots
Braided in amongst this lady’s locks?

“And who was it who took out the combs of care
Braided in amongst this lady’s hair?

“And who was it slew the master kid
That ran and slept all beneath this lady’s bed
That ran and slept all beneath her bed?

“And who was it unlaced her left shoe
And who was it that let her lighter be
That she might bear her baby boy?”

And it was Willie who undid the nine witch knots
Braided in amongst this lady’s locks.

And it was Willie who took out the combs of care
Braided in amongst this lady’s hair.

And it was Willie the master kid did slay
And it was Willie who unlaced her left foot shoe
And he has let her lighter be.

And she is born of a baby son
And greater the blessings that be them upon
And greater the blessings them upon.

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.