Category Archives: Crooks and Straights

Witch’s Milk

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Where I live, Spring has well and truly arrived.  As you can tell from the date of my last post, I had a long spell of focus inward this winter, centered around an older family member coming to live with us, sicken and pass on.  There was lots of magical work this Winter, but not a lot of writing.

So when Spring came ’round again, it was an especially welcome turning.  I’ve done all the spring things — taken a spring tonic, done a huge spate of spring cleaning, pulled all the gardens back into order, and ritually marked myself with Spring.

If you’re looking for a magical component to your spring, a few of us did something like this:

Prepare your space in the usual way.  As part of the set up, bless a cup of wine or other spirit (we used kahlua).  And place a pail of milk in the center of your workspace. We used fresh raw goat’s milk, but of course use whatever milk strikes you as right.

Set your witch’s knife on the floor, with the blade pointing towards the pail of milk.  Pace around the circle deasil, leaping over the knife as you come to it,* saying:

Milk flow
Strength grow
Power to the seed we sew
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Continue pacing and chanting until it feels done.  You’ll know.  End standing straddled over your knife, facing the pail.  Leaving your stance, add the blessed wine to the pail, stirring it in with your knife.  (Milk’s sticky, so you’ll probably want to have a moist napkin handy.)

Then, standing facing the pail, but on the right side of the knife, say:

I gird myself with the Powers of Spring!

Dip your fingers into the milk, and anoint yourself a la Cochran:

 
Left ear
Left eye
3rd eye
Right eye
Right ear
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Then, step over the knife as you would step up and over a stile, which might vary from person to person, but for me means facing my stile, resting my hand on the post (although we don’t have that luxury here!), stepping over with my left foot, stepping over with my right foot, perching right foot behind left foot, and gently spinning to face the pail.

Finish anointing, touching your:

Mouth
Right breast
Left ankle

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So girded, sit a moment and fortify yourself with a little witch’s milk.  Because here’s the thing:  with Spring comes a fresh stream of resources.  If you’re going to start something ambitious, you’ve got a limited window before you have to draw back and plan for Winter.  So use it well, and Good Fortune to your efforts!

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Inspired by Robin Artisson’s The Dance of the Witches: Opening the Devil’s Eye.

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Bring forth the light

Picture by Matthew Bowden, www.digitallyrefreshing.com
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This single night, this Season of Man,
We are the only gods; the universe is ours.
Behold our magnificence!
If we are diligent
And sacrifice all lesser concerns,
We may keep the light from dying
And our hearts from growing still
Until dawn,
When the gods return
To take the year from our narrow shoulders
And hurl it toward a season bright and fertile.

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For more of Gwion’s stirring poem, visit Sybil Drinkwalter at North of Berkeley.

Setting my light; may it blaze forth with all of yours.  Happy Winter Solstice!

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Planting the bann, a rite of passage

Bann – from O.E.bannan “to summon, command, proclaim”

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Most of us are slipping — unremarked and unsung – through the phases of our lives.  And by and large, our children are learning to do the same.  Frankly, we all deserve better.   I’m not sure which Muse is in charge of inspiring the writing of pagan rites of passage, but to that Worthy Being, I herewith offer up my thanks and praise.

Here then is a simple yet meaningful rite of passage for a child entering adolescence.  It’s a bit different from other pagan rites of passage.  For starters, it’s entirely self-directed.  The parents make the ritual and the items needed available to their child.  It should be left completely up to the child when, or even if to work the rite.

If the youngsters are shy, they can do the rite and never tell a soul.  If they are social butterflies, they can pick their moment, so that everyone knows what they are about to do, and celebrate with their family afterwards.

But the thing dearest to my own heart is that this ritual isn’t molded and sanitized into political correctness.  It’s a Real Thing ™, and I believe our children deserve more that is real and meaningful in their lives.

Since I have a son, I’ve written this for him.  But truth is it will work equally well for a young woman, and I’ve included notes along the way for a daughter.  This rite may be done at any point after the youth becomes physically capable of procreation.

For the Parents:

When your son reaches the onset of puberty, present him with a small knife, and a charm which has been threaded to wear around his neck.   In addition to whatever other witchy goodness you work into the charm, the charm will act as a signal.  Your son will wear it to announce he’s off to work this rite, and that you shouldn’t talk to him, or otherwise interact with him while he’s wearing it — he’s invisible.

I gave my son a hare’s foot charm.   The hare is a potent symbol of fertility; something I’m both delighted and terrified to contemplate in connection with my son.  As well, there’s folklore about witches traveling to the sabbat in the form of hares, so that they wouldn’t be recognized and burned at the stake for their wicked ways.  Perhaps they were wearing amulets made from the hares, as a signal to those who were in the know that they were off to the sabbat.

Now, about the knife:  the blade must contain iron, so that it will change the flow of energy where it touches.  For this purpose, it will help attract the attention of the Ancestors.  Steel knives will fit the bill, as steel is an alloy of iron and (usually) carbon.   Be sure to check your local laws regarding carrying knives in public, so your child doesn’t risk getting in trouble during this rite.  For instance, around here it’s illegal to carry a knife with a blade of over 5-1/2 inches.   If you’re dead set against using a knife for magic, you could certainly use some other iron tool.  But then again, if you believe a knife too sinister a tool for magical work, you’ll probably stop reading just about the time this starts to get interesting.

When you give these gifts to your son, he’ll need to know what they’re for.  Discuss it face-to-face, or hang these gifts on his doorknob in the dead of night along with a print-out of the instructions.  It is (of course) all up to you.  Do be sure to discuss any safety issues you have beforehand.  For instance, if you don’t want him leaving the house at midnight to do this, then better say so!  Remember — once your son is wearing the charm, you can’t communicate with him.  He’s “invisible.”

If your son makes it known to you in some fashion that he’s off to perform this rite, be prepared to welcome him home.  Once he’s returned and removed the charm, rise to meet him, offering him the first sip from a cup of wine, beer or other drink with spirit in it.   This can also be juice to which you’ve added a bit of activated yeast – a pinch of dried yeast, which has been added to a spoonful of slightly-hotter-than-body-temperature water along with a pinch of sugar, and left for a few minutes until it foams up.  A drink with “life” in it is especially appropriate for toasting you son’s change of status.

After he has taken the first sip, share the cup around in toast of his stepping over the threshold from childhood to adolescence.

For the Youth:

Take up your knife or other iron implement, as well as some of your own semen on a small piece of fabric or tissue.  From here on out we’ll call it your Seed, because that’s exactly what it is.  Tuck both Seed and knife somewhere handy, but out of sight — either a pocket or a small sack would be good – as you’ll need to take both of them with you for your rite.

Daughters, you’ll pack up your knife or iron implement, along with some of your menstrual blood on a small piece of fabric or tissue.  We’ll refer to this as your Tide, because your period follows a lunar cycle rather than a calendar month.  Blood is mostly made up of salt water, and your Tides, like the tides of the ocean, come in and out in response to the pull of the Moon.

Once you are wearing the charm, don’t speak, except to say the words of the rite itself.

After you’re out of your house, stop and take a moment to relax and gather yourself up – three deep breaths should do the trick.  This will help you to switch gears from your regular mindset into one better suited for ritual.

Walk to a tree that you like the looks of, and that doesn’t have any people near it.  Don’t spend a lot of time looking for the perfect tree.  What you want is to find a nice tree, perform a simple rite, and get home again, without speaking to anyone.   If you need to nod or smile in order to acknowledge someone who’s speaking to you, that’s fine.  Just do so and keep moving.  If you do have to speak, go home and try again another time.  If you’re interrupted during the actual rite, put things back the way you found them and find another tree.

Once you’ve found your tree, drop to your knees facing the tree, put your palms flat on the ground, and touch your forehead to the ground.  This is you greeting the tree, which is only polite, since it’s going to help with your rite.  Take your knife in your right hand (yes, even if you’re left-handed), and dig a small hole near the base of the tree.  The hole should be big enough to set the fabric holding your Seed (or Tide) into and deep enough that you can bring the soil back over it later so that your offering won’t be disturbed.

Plant your Seed or Tide in the hole.  Then, bend down so that your mouth is close to the hole, take a deep breath and, speaking softly but surely, say these words into the hole:

 “I am a now man”

Or, for you ladies:

“I am now a woman”

Cover the hole over with soil.  Place your palms on the ground and touch your forehead to the ground again, in leave-taking of the tree.  Walk away from the tree without looking back, return home without speaking to anyone, and don’t speak about the rite itself for at least one lunar month.

By announcing into the hole that you are a man or a woman, you are speaking to the Beloved Dead.  The Spirits Under the Mound.  Your Ancestors — those to whom you are related by blood, and those who inspire you.  Your announcement will travel to them through the roots of the tree.  They will hear you and recognize you by your offering who you are.  You are telling them that you are entering a new phase of your life, and they will stand ready to help you out.

In fact, that’s the origin of “knocking on wood” — folks rapping their knuckles on wood furniture or woodwork.  The wood was once a tree with roots that reached into the Underworld, and knocking upon it catches the attention of the Ancestors, so they hear you and help.   Going forward, if you need help or inspiration, don’t forget that not only do you have family and friends willing to help, you can ask your ancestors for help by knocking on wood.

Once you’ve crossed the threshold of your house and taken off your charm, you’re no longer “invisible” and free to speak and be spoken to.

May your Ancestors heap blessings upon your journey!

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©Trothwy 2011

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Hot fresh witchcraft, with a prize inside

Drawn to a close — six Sundays of discussing Mastering Witchcraft and drinking tea with a group of fascinating witches.  Well, to be honest, most of us were drinking red wine, but we were sipping it from tea cups.  And some of the fascination came straight from Chapter 4 of the book.

I loved it.  So much so, that I’m bringing the fun to you.

Shortly, you’ll be able to read what well-known witches have to say on the concepts in Mastering Witchcraft.  I call them Celebrity Witches — high profile witches, who write, teach, speak and further the Craft in real and meaningful ways.  And that’s the tip of the iceburg, because to do those things well, they also have to be diligent practitioners of their arte “off screen.”

These Celebrity Witches will be working from the same set of discussion points used in the book club meetings.*  Please chime in with your own thoughts and experiences.  In many cases the celebrities are following along, so ask questions, as well.  The answers may surprise you!

And to sweeten the honey jar further, there’s a prize.  (Rules apply, see below for details.) Every time you comment,** I’ll put your name in the hat.  If you plug the online discussion on your site, I’ll put your name in three times.†  At the end of the online discussion,†† I’ll draw a winner.  The lucky witch will receive a copy of Mastering Witchcraft, which Mr. Huson has autographed with the inscription “you need but ask, the way is open to you.”

So stay tuned, to hear what Sarah Lawless of The Witch of Forest Grove, Jason Miller of Strategic Sorcery, Harold Roth of The Alchemist’s Garden, Hyperion of the UnNamed Path, Deborah Lipp, of Property of a Lady, Peter Paddon of the Crooked Path, Robin Artisson of Tracks in the Witchwood, and Mrs. Drinkwalter of North of Berkeley have to say about the concepts in Mastering Witchcraft.

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*Each Celebrity Witch retains all copyrights to their writings contained herein, with the sole exception that they have each agreed that I can post them on UsedKey.
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**And that means a *real* comment, not one of those sissified “me too” type responses. 
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†If you post on your site, email me at trothwy at live dot com, so I know to put your name in the hat.
 

††I’ll post an end date for comments to be eligible for the drawing, as discussions wind down.

 ¶Let the Discussion commence!

 

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How to fall into a well

From Household Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, 1909-1914:

“Once upon a time there was a widow who had two daughters; one of them was beautiful and industrious, the other ugly and lazy. The mother, however, loved the ugly and lazy one best, because she was her own daughter, and so the other, who was only her stepdaughter, was made to do all the work of the house …

“Her stepmother sent her out every day to sit by the well in the high road, there to spin until she made her fingers bleed. Now it chanced one day that some blood fell on to the spindle, and as the girl stopped over the well to wash it off, the spindle suddenly sprang out of her hand and fell into the well … in her distress she jumped into the water after the spindle.

“She remembered nothing more until she awoke and found herself in a beautiful meadow … ”

… where she met Mother Holle.  Dame Holda, associated with Habondia, one of the witch goddesses described in Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft (but then I did warn you that this blog’s been highjacked for the duration of our book discussion!)

It comes as no surprise that wells are liminal spaces; entryways to the Otherworld.  And what better way to get there than to ride a distaff — not just a tool for spinning thread, but an excellent trance inducer.  Often ridden to the sabbat, perhaps before the broom gained that honor.

Don’t have a well or a distaff?  No problem.  We witches are nothing if not pragmatic.

Take up a bowl.  A plain dark one worked best for me.   Fill it with water, which you have exorcised/consecrated in your usual fashion.  Add a drop of your own blood.  In a pinch, a little of your own spit works just fine.  One of your own bodily fluids to link you to the water.

If it’s daytime, drape a shawl or thin towel over your head, so that you have some light, but no reflections upon the water.  If it’s night or you’re in a darkened room, fiddle with the candles or lights so that you have just enough light to see by, but again, no reflections.

Call to the water, saying:

Thou the well and I the Moon,
I flow within Thee.
I see my face upon Thy face,
Fall in,
And by my light, have knowledge of Thee.

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Breathe your question onto the water, saying “Show me …”  Using your finger, draw — above the water — a triangle with a dot in the center.  Then “dive” headfirst into the center dot.

Let your consciousness fall through the well and into the Otherworld.

The spindle’s optional.

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Wonder what you’re missing?

 Last Sunday’s discussion exceeded my greediest expectations. 
 
As I told a new friend, the book discussion was “like one of those really deep, satisfying conversations where you’re up until 4 in the morning without even noticing it.” 
 
Except we weren’t up until 4 am … although we did run over, by about an hour.
 
 
 
 
It’s not too late to join us.  For more information, email bendith.y.cyrn@live.com, or call 832-684-5587.
 
Come over to the dark side.  We have tea and cakes!
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And the goat would be for?

In all fairness, you should be informed that this blog has been temporarily highjacked by a book club.

And now, you’re probably imagining this:

Well-bred ladies sedately sipping coffee and sharing household happenings over a tastefully appointed coffee table.

When really, it’s more like this:

And during the accompanying kaffeeklatsch, you read this quote from Mastering Witchcraft:

“When you cast a spell … Now supposing at just that precise moment the door to your place of working were to open and your husband or maybe your mother-in-law were to confront you … ‘Audrey! What are you doing dressed up like that in here?  And why haven’t you got any lights on? You’ll strain your eyes … And what’s all that terrible smoke?’  Total anticlimax.”

And you laugh, because you, too, have been there.

Only rather than confess to your dear old mum-in-law that you are a witch, you pretended to be smoking marijuana on the sly.   Well … it explained all that incense.

But not why you were naked.  Or what the goat was for.

Join Bendith y Cyrn in a book club style discussion of Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft.  And it gets even better.  Mr. Huson has agreed to autograph a number of books for me.  If you take part, you’ll be able for buy one for my cost (book price + shipping), as long as they last. 

To sign up, email  bendith.y.cyrn@live.com or call 832-684-5587.

 So call already.  Coffee provided.  Goats optional.

 

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And you’re all invited

Did you ever wonder what witches got up to before the Internet changed the face of modern witchcraft?

Mastering Witchcraft, written by Paul Huson in 1969, gives us just such a glimpse.

It’s a book with a reputation.  By modern standards, many would consider it politically incorrect.  A wide swath of neopagans think its subject matter is uncomfortably dark, however most traditional witches find Mastering Witchcraft to be a solid and valuable body of work.  Like a magnet it attracts or repels — readers tend to be fascinated or unsettled by its contents.

So … are you a bad witch, or a better witch?  Which is which?

The Amazing Evn and I are hosting a discussion of Chapters 1-6, culminating in a ritual from Chapter 7.  And you’re all invited!

We’ll be meeting weekly on Sundays, starting in September.

For more info, email  bendith.y.cyrn@live.com or call 832-684-5587.

Still can’t decide?  Maybe reading this book review will help.

I hope to see you there!

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Listening

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          Went out to the center of the garden with frankincense and myrrh.  Offered tobacco to the four directions, to the spirits of this place, to any Old Ones who may be passing by, to the spirits of the native people who walked here before.  Sat in chair with shoes off facing east and let the full moon bathe over me.

          Felt a Rabbit on my right and just behind/over my right shoulder.  Gave me the picture of a second set of my arms reaching up and peeling off my skin, so that I could step out of it.  Pretty and young, vital and fit.  I asked if I could do this.  “Yes.  Just do it.”  Asked what I could give in thanks for the advice.  “Eggs.  Small eggs.”  Quail eggs? 

          I asked if it was really a snake, and it became a coyote man, slouched there beside me.  Laughing at the trick.  Shared a fond few moments between us.

          All throughout, kept thinking “listening.”  “Listening.”  Bare feet, cool patter of feet around me.  Just listening.  “What do you have to say?”

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The Square of Mercury, Distilled

I haven’t worked much with the Square of Mercury (bad witch … no cookie).  But the other day I got het up about using the Square as a possible vehicle for a deeper contact with Hermes, upon whom I call before any form of divination.  I suspect Hermes and Mercury may be the same god known by two different names (something I don’t assume is the case, when looking at gods of similar attributes from different cultures).

Before I launch into talking about it, I guess I’d better explain that the Square of Mercury looks like this:

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A square of 8 lines of 8, with each row (vertical, horizontal and diagonal) adding up to 260.  Agrippa wrote about it in the second of his three volunes, Of Occult Philosophy.   One of the many popular ways to use the Square is to ritually prepare one as a magical tool, and before any work requiring Mercury’s aid, let your eyes rest on each of the numbers in sequential order from 1 to 64.

Inspiration struck, and I thought I’d chalk out a Square of Mercury on the pavement at a crossroads and and try walking the numbers.  (Which would make a great public altar, but that’s a post for another time …)

Sounds mighty powerful, right?

Unfortunately, in practice it’s quite cumbersome.  Standing in the Square of Mercury, time dragged as I tried to locate the next number, and then the next, craning my head and turning about at each attempt.  So I stepped off of the Square, and tried walking the pattern on the unmarked pavement, using the Square in front of me as a guide.  That was better, but still pretty awkward.

Then I had a notion — perhaps I could distill a pattern from the movements, and turn it into a dance.  Back home and armed with pen, paper and a Square of Mercury, I began to unravel the sequence.

I was both surprised and delighted by what I found.

The same figure — perhaps a sigil? — repeats 8 times in the Square of 8 — four times in what I think of as an upright position, and four times facing downwards.  Superimposed over the figures in the course of their being made are three crosses, each formed differently.

I won’t include the shape of the figure here, in case some of you would rather not see the sigil hidden within the Square.  If any of you would like to see it sketched out, email me, and I’ll send it to you.

The crosses intrigue me.  I keep bumping up against the practice of signing three crosses over something to magically seal it.  It always felt like a Christian overlay to me, but I see now how the practice may be much older.

The crosses in the Square of Mercury are formed like this:

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The picture includes the numbers used in making the crosses, so you can see that two of the horizontal lines are at slight angles —

For the first cross — up to down, then right to left.
For the second cross — down to up, then left to right.
For the third cross — down to up, then right to left

 

Knowing that they may have pagan roots, my snobbish self will use the crossings more often.  Especially when calling upon Hermes before reading the cards:

Hermes, Lord of the Crossroads,
In Thy Name I take up these cards.
From a word to a word, let me be led to a word.
From a sign to another sign.*

 

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*Adapted by a friend of mine from Paul Huson’s divination rhyme in Mastering Witchcraft.

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©Trothwy 2011
Creative Commons License
Sigil of Mercury by Trothwy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  
Based on a work at https://usedkey.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/the-square-of-mercury-distilled/.

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