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Yule

Yule Lore (December 21st) Yule, (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb. Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider. Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun, the boughs were symbolic of immortality, the wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly, mistletoe, and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes. It was to extend invitation to Nature Sprites to come and join the celebration. A sprig of Holly was kept near the door all year long as a constant invitation for good fortune to pay visit to the residents. The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the festival. In accordance to tradition, the log must either have been harvested from the householder's land, or given as a gift... it must never have been bought. Once dragged into the house and placed in the fireplace it was decorated in seasonal greenery, doused with cider or ale, and dusted with flour before set ablaze be a piece of last years log, (held onto for just this purpose). The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice. A different type of Yule log, and perhaps one more suitable for modern practitioners would be the type that is used as a base to hold three candles. Find a smaller branch of oak or pine, and flatten one side so it sets upright. Drill three holes in the top side to hold red, green, and white (season), green, gold, and black (the Sun God), or white, red, and black (the Great Goddess). Continue to decorate with greenery, red and gold bows, rosebuds, cloves, and dust with flour. Deities of Yule are all Newborn Gods, Sun Gods, Mother Goddesses, and Triple Goddesses. The best known would be the Dagda, and Brighid, the daughter of the Dagda. Brighid taught the smiths the arts of fire tending and the secrets of metal work. Brighid's flame, like the flame of the new light, pierces the darkness of the spirit and mind, while the Dagda's cauldron assures that Nature will always provide for all the children. Symbolism of Yule: Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future. Symbols of Yule: Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias, christmas cactus. Herbs of Yule: Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar. Foods of Yule: Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples). Incense of Yule: Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon. Colors of Yule: Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange. Stones of Yule: Rubies, bloodstones, garnets, emeralds, diamonds. Activities of Yule: Caroling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, honoring Kriss Kringle the Germanic Pagan God of Yule Spellworkings of Yule: Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness. Deities of Yule: Goddesses-Brighid, Isis, Demeter, Gaea, Diana, The Great Mother. Gods-Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon.
Yule Origins, Lore, Legends, and Customs Yule falls approximately on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. After Yule the period of daylight begins to wax, until it reaches the longest day on June 21, the Summer Solstice. For folks in Northern climes, the Winter Solstice was a most welcome day to anticipate at the dark end of the year, and although months of darkness lay ahead, folk could rest assured Sunna's might was on the increase and darkness was waning. Yule is actually a span of thirteen days, usually counted from the night before the solstice (19 or 20 December, as it varies from year to year ), to the thirteenth night, (usually January 6 called "Twelfth Night" later by Christians). Bede called Yule eve "Mother Night", and it is thought this night was devoted to honouring the Idises (or Disir, female ancestral spirits) the family protectors. The Solstice itself, either 20, 21 or 22 December, is the most important of the days, when the dead and other beings of the dark fare most freely, Winter arrives, and humans are closest to the spirit worlds. Jölföðr (Yule-father) and Jölnir (Yule) are names of Odin. Some think Odin was the original "Alf" or gift-giving "Elf" ( Julesvenn in Denmark, Jultomten in Sweden, and Julenissen in Norway). Before Santa Claus was popularised in the Victorian era as a fat jolly Elf, he was seen as tall and lean, wearing a dark cloak, not a red and white tunic. Earlier legends describe "Santa" as riding a white horse, not driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer. This reminds us of Odin's steed Sleipner. The elder "Yule Elf" was a bit stern also, and could be quite a terrifying figure, especially to rude or ill-willed folk. This forbidding Yule Father probably arose from ancient legends of the Odensjakt or Wild Host who during Yule tide ride the stormy Winter skies, led by Odin as Oskoreidi. Sometimes people would be taken to join the Wild Host in tumultuous flight. In the Christian era folklore advised people to stay inside at night to avoid the furious Host, which was much feared. There are many accounts, especially from Germany, of wayfaring folks being picked up and transported from one place to the other by the throng of the dead, only to be left there lifeless. Other legends tell of those who could lie as dead (presumably in a trance state) while their souls fared aloft with the Wild Host. However, it is quite possible that fearful reputation of the Wild Host was especially encouraged by Christians, who claimed the Wild Huntsman was their devil. From a Heathen perspective it is likely that originally the Wild Host was made up of ecstatic human devotees of the God Wodan. He is the God of ecstasy, but also of death, so the dead probably always made up part of the Wild Host, which rode with great clamor upon skeletal horses and accompanied by ghostly hounds. In contrast to the solely horrific nature of the Hunt as seen by Christians, there is a great deal of evidence that Heathens believed fertility and blessings were brought by the Wild Host . Oski, "Fulfiller of Desire," or "Granter of Wishes," is an aspect of Odin that could well be associated with the Yule Elf, for Oskoreidi, Leader of the Wild Host, was known to give gold or other boons to those who were courteous or clever. The greatest boon believed wrought by the Furious Host was that as they rode above the fields they ensured fertility and fruitful harvests. An interesting related custom survived in Germany of leaving the last sheaf of grain cut in the field for the Huntsman's horse, eight-legged Sleipner, Odin's magical steed. This fertility aspect of the Wild Hunt could be connected in some way with the return of the dead to their earthly homes at Yule, for it was thought they brought blessings with them and bestowed them upon their kin. These 'evolved' dead were considered to be Alfar (male Elves) or Disir (powerful female ancestral spirits), a higher soul state some benevolent humans were believed to achieve upon death. These holy Ancestors became guardian spirits of their kin's land, much involved with the continued fertility of the land and its inhabitants. Folk would honour the ancestors by bringing gifts of food and drink to the family howe (burial mound). There also survives the custom of sitting out on a mound in order to get the highly valued advice of the Ancestor within. Indeed the kindred Dead were considered to still be an integral part of the family by Heathens, and were treated as such. The ghostly Wild Hunt is another manifestation of the pervasive Heathen beliefs of the eternal connection of the living with the dead, and the fertility bestowing powers of the Ancestors. In Scandinavia it is the God Thor who is thought to be the origin of the Yule Elf. The Julbock or Julbukk, the Yule Goat, who to this day plays a big part in Norse Yule festivities, is thought to derive from Thor's magical goats Tannginost and Tanngrisnir who draw His chariot through the sky. There are many legends that tell of Thor's benevolent protectiveness of human kind, and of his jolly, fun-loving nature (at least when He is not in a Troll-slaying mood). This seems more in line with modern conceptions of jolly Saint Nick than grim Oden the Wild Huntsman. The Yule goats carry the Yule Elf as he visits the folk, bestows gifts, and gets his traditional offering of porridge. Modern Yule decorations of straw formed into goats, straw-goat ornamented wreaths, and a (mock) Yule goat head bourne about on a stick are all memories of Thor's animals. When the Yule log burns on the hearth, some scholars say, it is an offering on Thor's altar. Thus we have the legend of Santa "coming down the chimney". In Germany Frau Holda, Perchta, or Oskoreidi, and in Scandinavia and England The Wild Huntsman, come at Yule, leading hosts of the dead. The Perchtenlauf and other ritual perambulations are folk memories of earlier pagan processions at Yuletide. Either beautiful or monstrous, the masked Perchten, like the season itself, can be boonful or terrifying, and have their origins in very ancient Heathen beliefs. Winter Solstice is the time when the veils between the worlds are thin, and the dead may most easily manifest to the living. But it is not usually the human dead who were considered the most fearsome wights. At Yuletide spirits of all kinds are abroad; similar beliefs are held by Celtic Pagans of Samhain (Halloween). In Norse lands Trolls of many types are roaming; draugr (rare and evil human ghosts of enormous strength) accost mortals, and the Alfar (Elves) -- both malicious and benevolent -- may drop by the homes of men. Many Yule customs that survive to this day have their origins in practices either meant to ward the home from evil wandering spirits at Yule, or conversely, to welcome good spirits into the home and show them thanks for the blessings they bestow. House wights (tutelary spirits of the home) and the respected dead of the family were welcomed gladly to the Yule feast. Food would be left out on the table for them after all had gone to bed. At Yuletide hosts of dead could be seen (by those so gifted) feasting with great revelry in their mounds, and paying each other friendly visits in each other's howes. Clearly Yule has a dual nature: it is the time of Death and darkness, when trolls, ghosts and alfs fare about, but it is also the time of return of the waxing Sun and celebration of Her promise of Life and light renewed. The central celebration and rite of Yule is the holy feast. It is thought very important to spare nothing in providing for the guests--both living and dead, human and wight. All good wights shared in the Yule feast; dogs and cats ate the same food as humans, and were brought into the house. Offerings of cream, beer, and bread were left out for the house-wights. If the feast were being held by a chieftain (or a wealthy community leader), many people would be invited and it would last many days, with presents being given to the guests upon their departure. For less wealthy folk, there would be as good a feast as could be provided, and of course the Yule ale would be shared in frith between family members and friends. Sumble (ritual toasts) would be drunk to the Ancestors at this time as well, for Yule was the season for the recognition of the continuance of human life. The Ancestors would naturally be most welcome at the family celebration. Savoury foods such as mutton or leg of lamb, goose, pork, and beef, special Yule breads, porridge, apples, sweets and nuts are traditional. But most important is the Yule ale, brewed stronger than other ales, and considered holy. Oaths were sworn on the bragarfull (holy cup). Sumbles held during the days of Yule, and especially on Mother's Night, the Solstice, and Thirteenth Night are considered to be especially potent, being spoken in the presence of the Gods and wights at the most holy time of year. In Heathen times the sonargöltr (hallowed Yule boar) was led in and the holiest of oaths were sworn upon it, as is recorded in Helgakviða Hjorvarþssonar (The First Lay of Helgi Hjorvarthsson): "In the evening (Yule-eve) vows were made: the sacrificial boar was led in, men laid their hands on him and swore dear oaths as they drank from the hallowed cup." Then it was taken and slaughtered (not in a state of fear, but quickly) for the Yule feast. It was believed the soul of the animal went straight to the Gods, while its flesh provided the holy feast. In later times or among those too poor to own pigs, a special boar-shaped bread would take the place of the Yule boar. Drinking Wassail at Yule is an English custom from Heathen times. 'Wassail' comes from the Anglo-Saxon Wes Hal, meaning "to your health". The beverage is made from ale, wine, and/or cider with fruits and spices added. Traditionally it was used in part as an offering to apple trees in thanks and for their continued fruitfulness. Bits of toast were floated in the wassail bowl, then placed in the branches of the tree, and libations poured over the roots. This is the origin of our term "to toast" someone. As well as fruit trees, evergreens have long been part of Winter Solstice celebrations. The evergreen tree, which keeps its leaves throughout the year, is an obvious symbol of the endurance of life through the cold and dark Winter months. Beer, bread, and table scraps were offered to trees in Scandinavia. In South Germany arose the custom of a branch or small tree brought inside and decorated with offerings to the spirit of the tree. This Yule tree was considered to represent the luck of the family (as the old Bairnstock did) as well as being honoured as a powerful wight in its own right, capable of bestowing fertility in the coming year. The cosmic tree, Yggdrasil is an evergreen yew in some traditions, and an ash (rowan = European mountain ash ) in others. Both trees have bright red berries; possibly this is one origin of decorating the modern Yule tree with berries. The cosmic tree (the Axis mundi) bears all nine worlds of the Norse cosmos in its branches and among its roots, so perhaps tree ornaments in part represent the nine worlds. Trees are sacred to Germanic and Celtic peoples, and there are many ancient traditions of offerings tied onto trees as gifts to them, this practice is the most probable origin for the custom of decorating Yule trees with gifts. In Heathen times offerings were made to the Alfar (wights who govern growth and fertility in nature) in gratitude for harvest yields. The evergreen boughs brought inside to "deck the halls" represent the ever-renewed life force and serve to welcome good Alfar into the house. Not surprisingly, these holy boughs also served to protect the home from evil wights. Yew, rowan, and holly boughs are traditional Heathen choices for hall-decking. Another Yule tradition that survives from Heathen times is the burning of a Yule Log. This was a specially chosen tree that was to burn for at least twelve hours, but possibly it originally burned for all twelve days of Yule. In some legends the log was offered to Thor. Oak would be the most appropriate choice, but any hardwood considered holy from the locality is suitable. English lore holds that Yule logs should not be bought, they should be gotten from one's own property, or a neighbour's. The log of course must be massive, and must be handled with care and clean hands, out of respect. In some places a whole tree trunk was brought in, and one end was placed in hearth. Then it was gradually fed in as it burned, to be finally consumed on the final night. The tradition is that the presence of the remnants or ashes of the Yule log in the house would protect it all year from lightning and would bring good luck. The new Yule log should be started with some splinters of the previous year's. Holly and other winter greenery is often used to decorate the Yule log. Today Heathens at need substitute a large candle (or series of candles) for it, and burn them starting on Mother's Night, all through the thirteen nights of the holy tide. This is done to honour and aid Sunna through the darkest time of the year, to ward off ill wights of darkness that might be about at Yule, and to symbolise the lengthening of daylight after Solstice. Although it falls during the darkest time of year, Yuletide is holy and a time of peace. Frith is held between everyone, and all are focused on celebration, family, feasting,honouring the Ancestors, making holy oaths, and peace.
O! Mistletoe! Also known as the golden bough. Held sacred by both the Celtic Druids and the Norseman. Once called Allheal, used in folk medicine to cure many ills. North American Indians used it for toothache, measles and dog bites. Today the plant is still used medicinally, though only in skilled hands...it's a powerful plant. It was also the plant of peace in Scandinavian antiquity. If enemies met by chance beneath it in a forest, they laid down their arms and maintained a truce until the next day. Mistletoe was used by the Druid priesthood in a very special ceremony held around this time... five days after the New Moon following winter solstice, to be precise. The Druid priests would cut mistletoe from a holy oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground. Celts believed this parasitic plant held the soul of the host tree. The priest then divided the branches into many sprigs and distributed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection against thunder, lightning and other evils. The folklore, and the magical powers of this plant, blossomed over the centuries A sprig placed in a baby's cradle would protect the child from faeries. Giving a sprig to the first cow calving after New Year would protect the entire herd. And so forth. Now for the kissing part. Although many sources say that kissing under the mistletoe is a purely English custom, there's another, more charming explanation for its origin that extends back into Norse mythology. It's the story of a loving, if overprotective, mother. The Norse god Balder was the best loved of all the gods. His mother was Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son so much that she wanted to make sure no harm would come to him. So she went through the world, securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements - fire, water, air, and earth--that they would not harm her beloved Balder. Leave it to Loki, a sly, evil spirit, to find the loophole. The loophole was mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood. To make the prank even nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder's brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder's hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder's heart, and he fell dead. Frigga's tears became the mistletoe's white berries. In the version of the story with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant--making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.
Halloween Moon Omens If the moon is new on Samhain, this indicates that the coming year will be fertile ground for new beginnings to take place, such as the start of a new project, a new career, or even a new way of thinking. For those desiring children, a new moon at Samhain is a lucky omen, indicating a new birth within a year's time. If the moon is waxing on Samhain, this indicates good luck throughout the coming year. It also indicates growth and an increase of all things that are positive nature. If the moon is full on Samhain, this ensures the that the powers of all forms of magick and divination practiced on this night will be at their greatest. A secret wish made at midnight will be realized within the coming year. Do not be surprised if an experience of a psychic nature awaits you in the very near future. If the moon is waning on Samhain, this can be an omen of either good or bad consequences. It can indicate the elimination of such things as bad habits, unhealthy relationships and obstacles within the coming year. Or it can point to a decrease (such as in one's health) or a loss of some kind soon to take place. If the moon is in the dark phase on Samhain, this is believed to be a very negative omen. Exercise extreme caution in all of your endeavors within the next twelve months, and it wouldn't hurt to protect yourself by wearing or carrying any type of amulet or talisman designed to ward off bad luck and misfortune. He knows when you're happy He knows when you're comfortable He knows when you're confident And he ALWAYS knows when you have carrots.
Black - it is believed witches wore black to be like the night. Native Americans associated black with learning and wisdom. The cone shape of the witch's hat was believed to direct energy from Higher dimensions to her mind and down through her body. Witches carried lanterns to illuminate the world above and below. Cats in North Africa and Greece, have been a symbol of the hearth, or Spirit of place. The buds of the willow branch were thought to resemble the paws of the Cat, a favorite pet of witches. The moon was believed to be a symbol of mysteries. The besom was believed to be the chosen mode of transportation for Witches, the besom was thought to symbolize the ability to blend home life with travel to other spiritual dimensions.
The magic broomstick or, to use its proper name, the besom is an important and largely misunderstood tool of the witch. Gaining its notoriety from the witch finders manuals and woodcuts of mediaeval Europe, it is a tool of a far more ancient origin. Evidence of besom practice and use can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. Papyrus drawings and carvings on the wall of temples show the Pharaoh holding in his hand a long, narrow paddle-shaped instrument. A symbol of sovereignty and mastery over matter, only the Pharaoh or the high priest was allowed to use this: tool. But what was it used for? Travelers and scholars who have visited Egypt for thousands of years have marveled at the construction of her pyramids and wonders that even to this day have never been explained. Only recently has the theory of levitation been posed again. The ancient priest scholars of Egypt and the magical adepts knewthat the Pharaoh's paddle-shaped tool symbolized the power over airand gravity. It possessed as well a spirit force called by the Egyptians "Sekhem" that could be animated through the use of a magical spell. Many examples of these ancient besoms have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs, the most well preserved examples being from the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen. The next evolution of the besom takes it from an elaborately gilded wooden staff with a fan of feathers to the traditional form we know today, that of the broomstick. Why it took such a common form is not known but is thought to be for protection so that persecutors would see it as an everyday household item and not the witch's tool that it is. In this new form it began to take on the additional magical qualities of purification and cleansing. The negative energies would be swept out of a person's dwelling, leaving it clear. In the case of spirit activity, salt would be sprinkled on the floor and the magical besom, accompanied by words of art, would sweep the spirit from the house in the form of an exorcism. Witch doctors in African tribes use the besom in a handheld form called a "Spirit Broom." With this they brush down the body of their patients to remove bad luck, illness and the evil spirit associated with them. However, beneath the surface of this folksy, somewhat benign use of the besom lies its higher magical purpose: that of a tool of flight. The embodiment of air and spirit allowed the rider to travel forth on other planes of existence to gather information and commune with other spirit forms. And just how was this flight achieved? Flight and the use of the besom could only be achieved by a trained practitioner of magic. In some Witchcraft traditions the besom itself as well as the crown and the sword were the tools of the High Priestess or Priest. Only those who had trained in astral work could hope to achieve flight. A certain level of discipline had to be reached, for besom flight entailed the separation of ones astral body from the physical. Traditional methods of besom flight that have been documented as far back as mediaeval times mention the use of a flying ointment. The flying ointment is a mild hallucinogenic that when applied assists the astral body to travel out onto the astral plane. To achieve this a witch would lie in a relaxed state with his or her besom at their side. The eyelids, nose, mouth, and pulse points would be anointed by fellow coven members. The flying ointment, while assisting in the separation of the astral body, would also act as a seal so that negative entities could not enter the body while it lay in stasis. Then, after magical words were spoken, the witch would leave her body to fly the astral plane. While flying around in her astral body, a witch could sometimes be seen by a sensitive person, appearing much like a ghost or apparition. This would explain the sighting of witches on their broomsticks throughout history. Sightings occurred mostly in small European villages and most probably after eating fermented grain, a mild hallucinogenic itself! So, as a final note before you get on your broomstick and fly, I would like to give you my personal recipe for flying ointment and a little word of advice: The care and use of the magical besom must not be taken lightly, especially if you intend to fly; you must learn first how to astral project properly and safely.
Inspired by Earth Magic, by Claire Nahmad (Inner Traditions, 1994). Ever wish you could fly? Your sun sign is traditionally associated with different birds that can carry messages to the Great Spirit for you, offer spirit-support and healing, or sing a song for your soul. Find out which birds are your horoscope birds of power here. SIMPLE SOLUTION: Aries, March 21-April 19: vulture, magpie, robin. Taurus, April 20-May 21: dove, sparrow, swan. Gemini, May 22-June 20: parrot, linnet, eagle, finch. Cancer, June 21-July 22: seagull, owl, white peacock. Leo, July 23- Aug 22: peacock, rooster, eagle. Virgo, Aug 23-Sept 22: rooster, magpie, parrot. Libra, Sept 23-Oct 22: dove, swan, sparrow. Scorpio, Oct 23-Nov 21: eagle, vulture. Sagittarius, Nov 22-Dec 21: eagle, peacock, bird of paradise. Capricorn, Dec 22-Jan 19: owl, falcon. Aquarius, Jan 20-Feb 18: cuckoo, albatross. Pisces, Feb 19-March 20: swan, stork, sandpiper.
Samhain(pronounced Sow-in, Sah-vin, or Sahm-hayn), known most popularly as Halloween, marks the end of the third and final harvest, is a day to commune with and remember the dead, and is a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation. Samhain (once again Halloween) is the most coveted sabbat by the Wiccan (and many Pagan) religions. In the European traditions, Samhain is the night when the old God dies, and the Crone Goddess mourns him deeply for the next six weeks. The popular image of her as the old Halloween hag menacingly stirring her cauldron comes from the Celtic belief that all dead souls return to her cauldron of life, death, and rebirth to await reincarnation. Halloween, plain and simple is our favorite time of year. A true time for witches, Witchcraft itself, and Wiccans alike who feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is it's least guarded and it's veil the thinnest. It is a time for dimensional openings and workings, it is a somber holiday, one of dark clothes and thoughts for the dead, it is said to be the time when those of necromantic talents can speak with the dead and it is certainly a time to remember ones own dead. Witches believe it is a time of endings of relationships and bad situations and it is the time when one can see the glimmer of hope in the future. There are as many concepts attached to this holiday as any other, truly a time of remembrance of our ancestors and all those who have gone before.
Also called ~ Harvest Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Falling Leaf Moon, Ten Colds Moon, Moon of the Changing Season. Correspondences ~ Nature Spirits ~ frost faeries, plant faeries Herbs ~ pennyroyal, thyme, catnip, uva ursi, angelica, burdock Colors ~ dark blue-green Flowers ~ calendula, marigold, cosmos Scents ~ strawberry, apple blossom, cherry Stones ~ opal, tourmaline, beryl, turquoise Trees ~ yew, cypress, acacia Animals ~ stag, jackal, elephant, ram, scorpion Birds ~ heron, crow, robin Deities ~ Ishtar, Asarte, Demeter, Kore, Lakshmi, Horned God, Belili, Hathor Power Flow ~ to let go; inner cleansing. Karma and reincarnation. Justice and balance. Inner harmony.
Craft Law holds that we have a variety of duties: to the Gods, to our fellow Witches, to our neighbours, and to the Earth. Our duties to the Gods: To the Gods we offer our devotion, freely given, for they demand no sacrifice of us. Our offer is simple enough: to share our acts of love and pleasure with Them when we feel so inclined. Those acts of love and pleasure go beyond the obvious ones that we share with our lovers in private moments - think of the taste of cool water on a hot day, or the beauty of the Moonrise on a clear night, or the sheer joy of music well-performed. The Witch's customary duty, and great pleasure, is to listen for the messages of the Gods. The Gods do not force us to listen to Their words, nor can other Witches tell whether we are or are not paying attention to the Gods. But all the same, we learn through the wise words of our teachers, and the example of our fellow Witches, that listening - actively and openly - to the Gods is a good thing to do. For sometimes the Gods lead us to the solution of difficult problems; sometimes They inspire us; sometimes They may challenge us to grow. Were we to block our ears to Them, we might miss those blessed opportunities. Our duties to our fellow Witches: We swear a significant Oath at Initiation, and our Oath binds us to act in certain ways towards our fellow Witches. As an obvious example, we owe them the duty to keep silent concerning their identities unless they clearly and explicitly grant us permission to name them as Witches. Likewise, we owe our colleagues the duty to be discreet about divulging the location, timing or nature of our rites; that duty requires that we remember that there may be unheralded listeners to our public conversations (the walls may have ears, you know!), people who might disrupt or threaten our exercise of our religion if they knew where and when we were gathering together. We have a duty to learn all we can. No one person could ever master all the knowledge and skills that are relevant to our Craft. Neither are we interchangeable parts. Every human comes endowed with a unique combination of talents, interests, and temperaments. If we each develop our own potentials as fully as possible, we can become wonderful resources for each other. Sharing this diversity will enrich our covens and our community, and provide our own direct students with the best possible environment for their development. We also owe each other some basic courtesies: no coven runs upon guesswork or happenstance, so it behoves us to let our fellow Witches know whether we will be able to join them for next week's coven meeting. Likewise, we should be prepared to pitch in to get the groundwork done before and after Circle: the furniture moved and the floor swept, the candles trimmed, the dishes washed, the furniture put back again... Our duties to our neighbours: The Laws direct us to keep a book of recipes for all the potions that the world at large expects Witches to know, even though we may have no foreseeable use for such knowledge. The Laws also direct us to keep a separate book of curative knowledge, from which our Coven neighbours as well as our fellow Witches might derive great benefit. From these injunctions, we might imagine that there was once a time when Witches were known as keepers of knowledge of all sorts. As we grow in our knowledge and skills, we come to understand that we owe to our neighbours the duty of learning and teaching knowledge that would be of benefit to all people, Witch and Coven alike. That knowledge may range from the drawing of warts to the mysteries of comforting the terminally-ill. The duty to share our knowledge with our neighbours doesn't require that we advertise ourselves as Witches - we can, and many of us do, discharge it adequately by simply lending a helping hand in times of need, without making a big issue out of our own religious beliefs - or those of our neighbours. Indeed, there may be times and places that are not safe for the explicit expression of our faith, yet it still remains our duty to pitch in and help limit or prevent needless suffering. There is no need or benefit in boasting of our faith at such times. Our duties to the Earth: We practice a faith that is grounded in Nature, that honours and celebrates the rhythms of the Earth. The Earth is the Mother of all things, and the source of our very being. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we owe certain duties to the Earth. The first, and simplest of these, is to walk lightly upon Her body, avoiding needless stress upon the natural systems within which we live. Walking lightly on the Earth implies that we understand how Her natural systems function, and how our activities fit in with those systems. There lies our second duty to the Earth, to learn about the world around us, and to make sure that our students in turn receive the knowledge we have gained. Our third duty to the Earth lies in the realm of action, to make practical use of our knowledge to act as guardians of the natural systems around us. For some of us that may mean becoming involved in local politics, to change the human systems of our culture towards more Earth-friendly ends. For others of us that may mean acquiring formal technical or professional education, and then putting our knowledge to use in our workplace. It may also be as simple as speaking out when our neighbours dump engine oil into a storm drain, as immediate as practising source reduction of waste in our homes, or as subtle as volunteering to help teach nature studies at our local school. Putting things into context: The Wiccan Rede directs us to do as we will, so long as it harms none. That's no simple rule to follow, for virtually every act we take involves harm to something or someone. When we walk on the grass, the weight of our footsteps crushes some of the plants. Every meal we eat comes to us at the cost of at least one life, whether it be the death of an animal or plant, or the sacrifice of the life-to-be embodied in an egg or a fruit. Perhaps in the end we should be practising the sort of conservator ethic that applies on a lifeboat adrift at sea: to minimise waste just as we strive to limit suffering. And when we walk out under the starry sky at night, we may see more clearly that our Earth is a lifeboat, and that may impel use to give more attention to our many duties as Witches. So, we can better understand the Wiccan Rede and our duty of care if we look at it in terms of relative harm rather than absolute harm. The real test of our devotion to the Craft, the Earth and the Gods may be our continual awareness that all of our actions could cause harm to someone or something, and that our central duty is to refrain from needlessly harmful acts.
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