witchcraft

When history adds to your modern practice

Today I dived head first down the rabbit hole of Google Scholar and a wide array of historical academic papers that are available to read. While saving a whole bunch to read later, one caught my eye.

Washing and Bathing in Ancient Ireland

A. T. Lucas

The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

Vol. 95, No. 1/2, Papers in Honour of Liam Price (1965), pp. 65-114

I am relatively well known to be a woman of Feasting, as I consider food, the acts of hospitality and feasting to be a huge part of  my spiritual well being. There is however another portion that is likely not as well known because it’s just not something that I was able to concretely connect as “Gaelic” in my practice. Certainly it is something that has always been a important aspect of my practice, but I chalked up a lot of that to be unique to me. Sometimes, you read something and then you make historical and spiritual connections you didn’t “know” were there but were completely there and now can consider more ways to incorporate it. In this case it’s, Ritual bathing.

Since childhood the pleasure and just comfort of a good hot bath has always had a place in my heart. My household regularly used hot showers and baths as a way to help aid the healing process of headaches, colds, flu, muscle aches, and pretty much everything under the sun. There is the vinegar bath for a bad sunburn. The oatmeal and milk bath for chicken pox. The Epsom salt bath for other illness. When I moved out of my parents house, I started having intense migraines and stumbled on the remedy of showers where you turn the water to as hot as you can stand and then as cold as you can stand, repetitively. You kinda feel like your getting torn apart and are exhausted afterwards but for a long time it was the only relief I could find.  Along my witchcraft path I learned the value of purification baths, and adding a variety of other herbal and stone items for magical purposes. Likewise I discovered that while I sucked a meditation and trance work, I could easily slip into trance and meditation in a steamy shower or bath.

At that time, it made sense to me, in that water, especially running water, is a gateway to the Otherworld, and steam seemed associated with the mist and fog that is also seen in Irish myth and folklore to be a portal to the Otherworld. The act of bathing seemed to create a liminal state of its own that I’ve always felt connected to and it’s been a useful way to de-stress and in general keep emotionally balanced over the years.

But I had never made any stronger connections to Irish mythology or lore until recently. A few years back, my partner was experiencing some intense stress at work. Anyone who has a lot of stress in their lives, know how it just starts to take a toll mentally and physically. For some reason, I called to mind the story of the young Cúchulainn returning from battle still in his battle frenzy and being dunked/bathed in three vats of water to cool his furor and return him to a more human state. I felt a connection with the stresses and dehumanizing aspects that service jobs can reap upon a person and the inhuman state of Cúchulainn in the story. It seemed to me that the act of being bathed ritualistically as the young hound was, was a way of bringing him back into the fold of his people. Bringing him back to peace and civilization in some way. I started to use showering in this way, after work. A way to wash away the grim and rat in a maze feelings that Corporate America can bring, and return to a state of comfort, balance and humanity. It helped. It became sacred and essential in our comfort rituals.

The article highlights some facets of bathing and washing in Ancient Ireland and in Irish myth that I hadn’t taken the time to ponder before. In particular it’s connections with hospitality and even feasting(!).

It outlines various examples of how a bath was one of the requisite amenities given to a guest as part of the rules of hospitality. We are given the example of the bad hospitality of King Bres Mac Mac Eladain who had a poet of the Tuatha dé Dannan visit. He was conveyed to a small house which was narrow, dark and dim, there was neither fire, nor bath, nor bed. Three small cakes, and they dry, were brought to him on a little dish. The next day he rose and he was not pleased. From this and the other examples tales of Cúchulainn, King Donn, Mael Dúin, being greeted with lavish beautiful welcomings the included lovely women to bath them, the argument that having a comfortable and plush bath available for guests was considered the mark of a good household.

Comfort is one of the tenets of hospitality, and while I have generally considered my mother’s propensity for buying copious amounts of soft bath towels and having over flowing baskets of colorful washcloths available, to be her desire for a magazine type home,  I now look at it at it as being very gracious. If I were to show up at my mother’s house unannounced with 5 or more guests unexpected and we all needed showers, she would have clean fresh towels and cloths ready and waiting. I’m afraid I can’t say the same for my own. In fact to own the truth, my house has only a handful of towels and they are almost never all clean at once. Something to consider.

The article also make the connections to prestige and honor to be the first to bath, making several references to chieftains and kings being granted the right to “the first bath and the first drink” at a feast. There is some interesting information that makes a strong case that bathing of somekind (whether full body or hands and feet) were done prior to feasting. This makes sense in a logistical and hygienic sense, as well as adding a layer of ritual cleansing to feasting that just makes energetic sense. It also reminded me a lot of a podcast I was recently recommended, Dark Ages Feasting – The British History Podcast. Which, while predominately looking at Anglo-Saxon traditions, covered the ritual handwashing that took place before eating at a feast. He also pointed out how uncouth many of we modern folks are in comparison, how often do you actually wash your hands before a meal? More things to consider ;

The article only briefly touches on the connection of ritual bathing by women being connected to healing and magic, but there is enough to make note of and keep an eye out in further reading.

There is a lot of minutia of daily life in ancient Ireland, that perhaps not everyone would consider interesting lol, but I love it.  Things like theories of what sort of detergents they used, how they heat their water, what the tubs looked like, the different words that meant different types of bathing. These things don’t necessarily add anything to my modern practice, but they help to provide another piece of the puzzle to a worldview of the past. I feel like that helps to create a depth of understanding that solidifies my modern practice.

If you have made it this far in this much longer ramble than anticipated post, all of this is to say that I recommend the article lol. It has opened some ideas in my head as far as ritual feast  activities, and that I for sure need an lovely washing station in my future feasting hall. It reinforced  my I practice of using bathing for sacred ritual purposes as well as for community and hospitality building in some ways. More food for thought on how to relate to the every day life and I suppose a little window in how I break out academic articles and relate them to my practice.

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Sacred Places: The Stream

Sacred Waters Jan 2016 (14)

I recently visited another of my sacred sites in the area. It is the new year and thus a new batch of sacred water is needed. This sacred water is gathered from a sacred stream and I use it in various ways through out the year. Sometimes, I make a couple trips throughout the year if more is needed, but generally one batch can last a whole year.

We first stumbled across the stream and trail when we were relatively new to the Bay Area and desperately needed to find escape from the house and troubles we were living with. This trail and the stream provide a respite, and an escape to tranquility. It very much has the feel of a fairytale trail and there are many bridges and picturesque scenes that tempt and sooth the mind and soul. I have found a lot of comfort  here and over the years have seen it change just as I have changed.

Sacred Waters Jan 2016 (22)

The trail is easy to miss off the side of the rode. Tucked away in a ravine close to where the stream meets the sea. This time of year there are usually less people out and about, and this day was a wash with rain and sun. The trail itself was lush green in some parts, and scorched brown in others. A testimony to the drought and dry conditions we have been experiencing. While there were ripe young little ferns soaking up the recent moisture and wet, there were also large withered mature ferns for whom the rain came too late.

Sacred Waters Jan 2016 (2)

The Guardian of the Stream and Trail

The Stream has many Guardians that come in a variety of guises. This particular entrance to the trail and stream however is watched over by this magnificent Boulder and his tree companions.  There is no mistaking his presence, and it is important to pay respects and offerings before going further, especially if you intend to be gathering anything. The Old boy looked tired but content on this trip. His craggled face covered in new life, while the old ferns lay limp at his base. We stopped for a bit and chatted, paid our offerings and looked for ill omens. The moss was thick and happy on the trunks of his tree companions and we were all just happy to be there.

Once you pass the Guardian it is a short walk to cross the bridge to the Otherside of the stream. It had never really dawned on me before the significance of this, but this time as we crossed over the dark wet bridge I could markedly feel the shift. We receive the blessed water from the Otherside. I don’t particularly have any lore to back up this intuitive knowing, but it certainly seems correct and there is plenty of stories of the power of crossing moving bodies of water.

The sacred area that I have spent much time just resting with and feeling the purification of the place is a little corner of the stream. The stream itself seems to be unconnected to it’s “Official Gov’ment” name and has thus far been blissfully silent on any other name it might prefer. I am sure it has a name, but it is one that I am not meant to know it seems, and that is alright with me. It seems content to be The Sacred Stream in my own thoughts, and maybe someday I will discover a word beautiful and joyful enough that it would be pleased to have as a nick name. Until then it is the Sacred Stream and one of it’s places of power is where the Living Bridge crosses it’s small rapids. The Living Bridge is a massive Redwood twin that at one point far far in the past fell over the stream and continued to grow.

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The two Redwoods are spectacular to behold and are perfectly happy in there location. The stream itself is a paradise, enticing you with it’s crystalline water and lovely pools. I fantasize about bathing in it’s waters every. single. time. However the waters are generally too cold to such naive desires. But it is soothing to rinse your feet, scoop up some icy water and bath your face feeling rejuvenated instantly.

We dallied and made offerings, cleansed some of our favorite stones in the cold water and in general enjoyed ourselves. At length we gathered up our water and made our way back to the realms of men and the sea. There were more adventures ahead of us and Manannán was working some breathtaking scenery out in the ocean. It was one of those days that you are just happy to be living and enjoying. As Imbolg approaches and Bridgit’s Holy Day with it, I’m sure this sacred water will be put to good use and doubly blessed. I remain ever grateful to have the chance to touch and see such amazing clear water flowing. May it continue to be so and flow evermore.  

 

Revelations at the Sea

It’s been a while blog. Such is the way of life that things have just gotten complicated and I haven’t felt the inspiration or need to sit down and enter the login information that would bring me here and write, until today. Spiritually and just in general things got hard, and my treading water in the storms that have arisen have demanded all my attention. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details but as this is a spiritual blog for the most part I will talk about the spiritual side of the coin.

About the time that this little blog became dormant the Morrighan had made it known to me that the accordance we had agreed to prior and had put the nebulous stamp of “someday” on  was changed to “Now or Never”. At that point I went into a state of self analysis and processing because frankly that is a hefty thing to have to face. While my choice was fairly self evident to me; do the work, be the person that she expects me to be, or be a worm. I say that and I know that many people may infer some melodrama on my part, or attempts at sensationalism. All I can do is assure that is the actual feelings and breadth of the situation. Although to me it was a non-choice that I was going to accept the path before me, it still took an amount of gearing up and adjusting to the “someday” being “now”.

In the taking up this mantle it meant a pretty heavy overhaul of life style, and doing that has taken up a lot of my time and attention. Which meant that the stand still of spiritual life settled into that standard of layman.

What I mean by that is I said my prayers when I needed to, I made toast on occasion, but otherwise just lived my life. There is nothing wrong with that, just being a believer living in the world. It is the standard I held for a long time, But I am a priestess, more I am a High Priestess, and as such am required to have more of a spiritual life and practice than that. If you know me or read my blog enough you know that this then triggered another session of self analysis. I believe pretty strongly that self analysis is the tool for life fulfillment. It is time to go back and ask myself if being a Priestess is still for me? Is this a service I am still called to render? Why? What does that mean? What are the standards that I am willing to uphold? The list goes on.

While I am still in the process of  turning these questions around, I’m fairly certain that I am still able, willing, and called to serve as priestess. But obviously need to reestablish the lines of what that means, what my personal practice is in need of, and how they can be in accordance with the vows that I have made to the Gods.

Which brings us to yesterday, and the clarifying refreshing insight that the grey stormy sea gave me.

The grey skied sea

It had been a long time since I was last at the Sea. Temple and mine’s monthly dark moon trips had petered out for the same reasons that everything else had. So when a coven sister of ours revealed that she had not been to the beach in 8 or so years we knew it was time.

When we got there I was immediately hit with how incredibly good it felt to breath. No, really something as remarkably simple as that. The difference between the short shallow constrained breaths that I had been taking ever day and every night of my life recently and the soul satisfying deep all through the belly breathing that the open sky and sea air enticed into me. Even now sitting here in front of my computer far away from the crash of the waves, I remember and my breathing is better.

The sky was a glorious shade of grey. The low hanging clouds and a fine curtain of mist rolling at a steady clip across that wide sky. We had chosen our beach wisely for it’s lack of popularity, hoping for privacy. We were rewarded beautifully. After a long trek across the crab littered beach it was just us, the gulls, crows, pelicans and our various Gods.

We took our time, enjoying the lush spread of food that we had brought along. Savoring each others company and just the freedom of the sun, water and being sans four walls. Then it was time to do what we had come to do. For me that was to make my most humble offerings, with no grand design other than to say “I am still here with you”.  I had brought what felt right. An apple for my love and devotion. Oats for the sustenance that my faith has given me. Olives as the wealth that they bless. Beer for the pact between mortal and Gods as well as the pacts between mortal and mortal. And blood for the cycles and power that is in the world.

An offering of my devotions

I took my small offering further down the beach towards the stoic cliffs and felt compiled to sing. I sang my self blessing, a song I have not sung in a while. I sung loudly into the wind, my sisters each wandering off their own way on their own journeys. My self blessing is a fairly simple song that helps to connect me to the three realms. It usually goes as follows:

By the Sky, I speak truth
By the Sea, I know my beauty
By the Land, I walk my path

By the Sky, I sing your beauty
By the Sea, I know myself
By the Land I am your daughter
All Three are in me

But today that was not the order that the words came out of my mouth. Today the Sea wanted to be the path that I walked, to be the place from whence I was born from and I was happy to oblige. I made my procession around the corner of the cliffs, tide being low enough to allow. Coming face to face with the Ancient Temple sized giant that is the shear cliff side, the magnificent deep cave to the Underworld and the Sea. I will someday bring my camera to photograph the grandness of this holy sacred site, adding it to the entries of my Sacred Places. It is a Temple. On it’s rough sea hewn walls you can see where the sigils and writing would be, you can envision the regal Lion that would guard one side and the benevolent Bull on the other. Offerings in hand I sang even louder turning in time with the song to serenade each of the realms.

Chest bursting with the power and beauty of it all I carefully laid out my offerings, said my prayers and began to make the lightheaded way back to the blanket and my final offering to the Man of the Sea himself.

Land, Sea and Sky

It is the tradition of these beach trips that our Sea Gods get their own offering and time. Usually it’s a bottle of beer, today it was a bottle of Guinness. The waves were white and rough, pulling in zig zag crosses, easily warning of the deadly undertow that would be all to happy to snatch a wandering soul out to the tepid blue and the isles of the spirits. The water was not as frightening cold as I expected, and though the skies were grey the air was pleasant and humid. Without hesitation or even a hiss of pain at the cold I walked out into those waves. I sang the song of Manannán . Well…it’s not a whole song yet, but it will be, and I sang it none the less. Pouring out the heady foaming mixture into the white foamed surf. Mimic the ebb and pull of the waves to ensure that I would not also get swept away into deeper water, gasping when the inevitable excited waved came up too high and drenched me more thoroughly in thanks for my offerings.   My song soon changed to a different melody. One I had never sang before, but reminded me of many an Irish love song.

I stayed out there much longer than intended. Enjoying the flirtation with the waves, really feeling relaxed. The first time in a long time. At length I joined back up with Temple and we talked of our Sea Gods and our love of them. When our sister had completed her own workings we took her around the corner of the cliffs to see the glory of the cave to the Underworld and the Temple Cliffs. We went into the cave and stood in its dark embrace for a while, taking a few moments to chant to Persephone who much loves the place. Just as I felt the darkness pulling me in, the Sun which was beginning to hang low in the sky hit the perfect angle to shine into the cave. The darkness was lifted and I could hear the deep melodic voice calling me outside. Beckoning me back. I had been gone so long it was too soon to disappear again. In pure elation I turned from the cave to the Sun pouring down through the hazy clouds and ran out to the sea. My heart pounding, a wolf grin on my face, straight into the Sea. It was a home coming.

Sussing ourselves further on the waves, the water, the salt, and just everything, we slowly made our way back to the blanket. It was only then that the chill caught up to me, it was easily pacified with a towel but I was covered in sand and resigned to it happily. Laying on the blanket staring up at the shifting sky Temple and I do as we always do, shared.

I will take this moment to say some things that will embarrass and hopefully please my beautiful friend Temple.  I am so incredibly thankful to have her in my life and as my friend and sister. It is a rare thing in our society these days that you find more than one person to share your soul with. We are told sublimely that there is only one way to have intimacy and that is in a sexual, romantic relationship with one person. It’s just not true, nor do I think the weight and health of an entire soul can be sustained in that way. We are social creatures, I am a social creature, that craves true connection, and various types of love that life can bring. The comforting love of family, the fun love of friends, the supportive love of community, the strong connective love of people who you make the active choice to be your family, as well as the sustenance of the love of a partner who is your friend and lover. So to be blessed in this life time with so much love, and with finding a friend where there is absolute trust is just amazing.  So hear me fully and completely when I say my beautiful, kind, witty, Temple, that I love you.

Now then back to spiritual revelations on the the beach.

Sitting there watching the gulls, and the pelicans, we shared our current spiritual conundrums. How my altar has been veiled for about a month, how it was just feeling like it was trying too hard. Temple being the cleaver one who asks the right probing questions asked me what I meant by the altar “feeling it was trying too hard”? Having to put feeling into words things just started to line up for me. My altar felt like it was trying too hard because it wasn’t being what it wanted to be. It wants to be a stone slab table outside. It wants to be a flat rock in the middle of a standing stone circle. It wants to be a carved wooden statue in the center of an apple orchard. It wants to be at the base of a guardian Oak tree. It wants to be a fire pit and a hole in the ground. But it is a vanity, in a apartment, covered in man made items.

I am an Animist stuck in a bubble.

I don’t know what to do in my practice here in this urban nature. I tend my household spirits, I cleanse etc, but I don’t know what else to do. I know what I would do. On land that I owned. There would be no question of what to do because it would be everywhere all the time. The boundaries of the property would need to be walked and tended to. The harvest would need to be offered. At first bloom there would be rites that needed to happen. When the land was still and dead there would be rites. Dates on a calendar mean nothing to me, I need to be able to feel the breath of the land and just know when things need to be done. I know that this is what I would because this is what I did when we lived out in country. It was a year of watching the milk thistle grow, watching the walnut trees bear fruit, keeping an eye on the wild pigs and coyotes. It was the most spiritually fruitful time of my life. Some people feel connected to the rhythms of the city, the ebb and flow of people, of commerce. Some people feel connected to the nature of the urban forest, and the ivy that grows on the overpass, and the concrete temples that simply are. That connection is not easy for me. Lately I have fallen into staying within the confines of my four walls, cut off from the indicators of the three realms. Cut off from the messages of how to maintain the natural order in my life. I have let myself get surrounded in plastic and concrete things that are not my conductors. My roots veer off to land where the ratio of human to nature is much smaller. Where I don’t have to worry about the neighbors hearing. Where bonfires and bones are just part of the day. I need trees and forest, and hills and garden, not too far from the sea. Flowing water and just land.

All illuminating to my character. All helpful insights into “Yes, the goals you have set for yourself are good ones. Ones that will make you happy.” But in the mean time? I will have land and house, but in 5, 10, 12 years. What to do till then? How to feel connected, how to maintain my spiritual integrity with the reality of my life now. There is still work and opportunities to have here in the city. A balance must be struck.

Plotting with Temple is always helpful, and then plotting with the Lumberjack just even more so. The Lumberjack, my beloved, does not share my beliefs. He is more of an agnostic jedi scientist, but he is incredibly support of my spirituality. Actively supportive, talking things out with him telling him my revelations, he immediately added in methods and ideas to help obtain my goal. Immediately volunteered ways he could be involved in making things happen for me. Truly I am a much loved woman and I am so thankful.

The plans currently are to immediately get the Dark Moon beach trips on the calendar and started again. Getting out meeting Land, Sea and Sky at their nexus. Making offerings, that is how I maintain my own natural order. Doing the work and making monthly petitions for others as part of my Priestess service, more information on that to come. We are going to clear off and spruce up our little back porch. I’m going to get more plants, the Lumberjack is going to make a little altar table space for me out there. Then I’m just going to open the door and spend more time out there. When Temple comes over, we’ll sit out there and talk. I’m just going to go outside more. Walk more. The Lumberjack wants to take me on more camping trips, would like to find a good spot for us and Temple and the Giant to go. He’s going to help make me some items out of branches and wood to bring more of the outside onto my house altar. I’m going to cut it back, and really just put the things that connect to the realms and the Gods on there. Separate my spell work and community work for another place. At our coven’s up coming Harvest Home retreat, I’m going to spend as much time outside as possible. Temple and I are going to recruit someone into drumming for a trance ritual.

And that’s the plan thus far. Not a lot. But it’s a plan. It’s a start, and I feel good about it.

I feel good about the whole day yesterday. I feel emotional and weeping today, but I can still look back on yesterday and feel the energetic buzz. I’m sort of clinging to that at the moment. In the long run I don’t know what others might call my path, if it’s Celtic Polytheism with a Recon bent, if it’s Recon flavored Celtic Revivalism, if its just a woman grasping at feelings of rightness in order to live her life happily. I don’t really care. I’m just going to keep on remembering to breathe.

 

Starting something new…

arms_open_by_waitingforemma-d4chrhkArms Open by ~WaitingForEmma on deviantART

For several years now a project, an idea, has been brewing in my mind. A growing desire to create a space for something that I need, while providing that same space for others who may also need. All the way back in 2011 when I wrote “Carving out more Worship”  it was this new space and project that was on my mind. Now I am literally days away from enacting it. 2013 it seems, is the year of fulfilling a lot of promises, and making vows.

As those of you who read this odd little blog may know or at least summize, I am a public priestess. For several years now I have worked with CAYA Coven and the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe putting on countless rituals. No literally countless, I have loss track. Our Coven puts on 8 sabbats, 9-13 full moon rituals, 8 pan-dianic sabbats, and a smattering of other rituals in the minuscule inbetweens. Learning ritual coordination and creation in this dynamic group with Yeshe Rabbit’s excellent example has been one of the highlights and true blessings of my public priestess path.

Even with all those rituals, and the calendar year packed, I still felt little tug that something was missing. See CAYA rituals are fantastic, and dynamic and always changing. Always learning. With all those people with their different ideas, paths, and ways the stream of creativity is truly astounding. But on the flip side CAYA rituals are eclectic, and interfaith and most the time do not speak to my specific path. They certainly fulfill my community needs but I knew that I would eventually need to be more of a public priestesses for my gods specifically, in some way.

When you are elbow deep in public ritual it’s hard not to start creating your own, imagining different flavors you would try, the things that are important to you, the things you would probably not do. And as a Celtic Polytheist who has yet to experience a Celtic-centered ritual that she was truly happy with, the thought “put up or shut up” began to circle round and joined forces with another reality.

In the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe every HPS is expected to create and maintain a project that benefits and brings forth the Divine Feminine into the world. These are our Legacies. For the past two years my Legacy was High Priestessing the Goddess Sabbats that the Tribe put on. That meant maintaining, coordinating, and helping wherever needed with the 8 sabbats we put on every year. The “put up or shut up” had teamed up with a whisper of  “what if you did your own rituals for your Legacy?” The threads began to come together.

During my many Dark Moon outings with Temple Witch to our beloved beach another tugging became known. That of the soul satisfying rush of worshiping outside. There are many pagans whose path is not nature based, I’m not one of them. The three realms, Land, Sea, and Sky, and the mysteries and balance found within them are things that get my blood up. Nothing so easily puts me into alignment than being in the alignment of the realms. It feels whole and right to create a relationship with the local places. To see the subtle changes of a place. To notice when people have been less than kind to it, to do what you can to make amends (cleaning up trash).

Another layer, perhaps the most eye opening layer, was the freedom that came with worshiping freely within the eyesight and earshot of whomever. Creating the normalcy of it all.

I have to say I am damn lucky to live in the part of the country where that is even possible. Where no one intrudes and asks what I’m doing while bent over intently by my serpentine rock altar.  And while a few eyebrows may be raised as Temple and I wander out into the cold waves with out silver chalice singing our songs and laughing, no one heckles. No one shouts. There is no danger.

That’s simply not true everywhere.

In Florida, Kyjra Withers has been experiencing escalating attacks on her home.  While it there is no official stance on who or why, but evidence seems to point to her being targeting for her being an out witch. It’s sort of hard to imagine such things happening now and in this country. Especially when you live in a liberal area, and work at a metaphysical store, and in general have never experienced any harassment for being a pagan.

The knowledge of this inspires a sense of responsibility in me. That this freedom, that should be available to all, needs to be utilized, cared for and nurtured. Because it needs to be protected. It needs to grow.

Thus were the small pieces that came together and became a vision for rituals, for a platform that I’m calling the Temple of the Open Sky.

The Temple of the Open Sky is founded on the belief that freedom of religion is a right that needs to be practiced when and where it can be. Here in the SF Bay area we are privileged with a freedom from fear of retaliation for outward expression of differing religious beliefs that is not found elsewhere in the USA, let alone in the World. It is this truth that brought forth that need to create a space where the Gods names were spoken outside of closed doors, without hiding, witnessed under the open sky.

In that vein, the Temple of the Open Sky seeks to create a platform for pagan worship and devotion that is supportive of the many and varying methods of finding the divine. To create a safe container, free from shame, to be out in the world with our spirituality.

For me being a Celtic Polytheist, and the founder of these rituals, it means that for now the rituals are going to be Celtic-centric. I’m not aiming for reconstructionism  but for culturally founded and modernly adapted. But the underlying goal is creating a space for authentic expression of worship and normalization of that worship. In the future I hope that other priests and priestesses in the area might wish to share their rituals, and speak their gods names aloud for all to hear.

An important aspect of the Temple is once again bringing feasting into ritual space. It’s not an easy aspect to work in modern times, especially in public rituals. While it would be easy to host a ritual and feast for a small party in a home when you know how many guests you are expecting, opening things to the public complicates matters. Dietary needs, and just the basics of feeding an unknown number of people quickly turn the idea to a dream out of reach. But the feast is such a central part of the Celtic celebratory ritual, and is the part that I  long for the most. Food being a central foundation of my practice. If we release the idea of trying to feed an unknown number of people without a budget and acknowledge the fact that we will be outside away from a kitchen anyways, an obvious solution presents itself. Picnic! A completely acceptable and long held American tradition, easily rolled into pagan worship. That simplicity really is the structure that I’m building on and hope others will enjoy as well.

But for now it’s just me, which means all Celts. The first ritual is scheduled for this coming Saturday and will be a devoted to Brighid. The next will be in June or July and devoted to Manannan Mac Lir. August or September will be in honor of Epona, and we will end the year feasting to the Dagda.

I plan on posting more about the process, how each of the events go, and even the outlines should anyone be interested in them.

Gotta say I’m a little nervous. But I know this is what I’m suppose to do.

Release the Bones!

Every year at and around the start of October, and the festivities that go with it, I clean my altar and bring up the bones that have been on their crowded shelf in the Underworld. But bringing the Bones up and giving them prominent place on the top altar it is essentially my way of acknowledging that we have now entered into the time of the Dead. The Dead are generally always welcome in my home but now they get a little more attention that usual. This year the 1st went and passed and I didn’t get to it, the 2nd rolled by and still nothing, till it was in fact the 5th of October and for completely sideways reasons the bones were released.

It actually started on October 4th in the evening. Minding my own business having dinner, the Lumberjack complaining about the beer he bought not tasting “pumpkin-y” enough, when  I knew I needed to make beer oat scones for a certain Good God. I don’t really know how else to describe the Other messaging system that gets these things across. One second I’m watching The Invisible Man the next I have a clear image and knowledge of me making these beer oat scones happily while deep laughter rings in the background. It’s just a knowing. That’s the best I can do for you as far as description goes.

Now frankly this doesn’t happen often. Tends to be that my Dead, and house Beasties are the ones who ask for the most. So when one of my deities chimes in I make a point to make it happen, no matter how small.

The next day is the day of The Concert (for those of you who do not know ‘The Concert’ here and thereafter refers to The Florence and the Machine Concert), and my good friend Temple is coming over so we can go and get our holy musical emotive on.  I knew I could rope her into making beer oat scones no problem. I didn’t have a recipe, but I knew I wanted to use all oats. So oat flour and then some whole oats. I figured with the beer and oats that brown sugar would be the way to go and a lot of butter.  We looked up a oat scone recipe for some basic portions and went from there. Here is what we came up with:

Ooo Oat flour

  Good God’s Beer Oat Scones

1 1/2 cups Oat Flour*
2 cups Oats
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted better
1/2 cup Beer of choice

* To make Oat Flour, put the amount of Oats (in this case 1 1/2 cups) in a food processor and blend till fine.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and currants. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, beat egg until frothy, and stir in melted butter and milk. Pour into the well, and mix to create a soft dough.
  3. I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the dough and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. This recipe made 10 of such scones.
  4. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until risen and browned.

Offering to a Good God. Oats, beer and honey, life is good.

They turned out marvelously! Looked absolutely scrumptious, smelled like good old yum. But then the twist. Where to put the offering?

Generally food offerings are made on my main altar, as the Good God’s kitchen altar is just too small for more than a cup of beer (which he gets regularly). But the main altar was….not fit. It had an old spell that needed to be broken down, all the deities candles had been burned down. But most importantly of all the thing was in limbo because the Bones desperately needed to come out.

After spinning for several minutes, shaking my fist, and getting laughed at by Temple. It was clearly evident that my task could wait no longer, the altar needed to be cleaned and the Bones released, NOW.

So we did. Took everything off the cluttered thing, tore down the spell, dusted everything, and then lovingly brought out the bones and oo’d and aw’d over everyone, cuddled them a bit, and chose their place up above.

And when all was done, I still had more chores to do, but the altar was happy, the Bones were happy, he was happy, and we were happy.

And in the end that’s all that matters.

This is Halloween! Also I learn to crochet!

I was going to put this post off till I could clean the altar and release the bones, but I decided to give that it’s own post. So let the Pumpkindom begin!

As you can probably sense, Halloween is kinda a big deal round here. On several different levels. October officially kicks off essentially a two month long time of reverence to the ancestors, several feasts, and a lot of magical prep work. Samhain is a very important time for me. Ancestral work is some of my most beloved. Samhain is also the time that I make most of my tithes to the local spirits, house beasts, deities and the like. So a lot of work.

On top of that, every other year I share custody of the actual celebration parts of Halloween. Every other year the Lumberjack and I take turns. My years that means that I participate in my Coven’s public ritual, which is a lot of work and huge production. Eats a lot of time, but is worth it. This year is one of his years, which means I’m around more for us to do more…traditional Halloween things. This year we’re watching all the old Universal Horror Classics, The Mummy, Dracula, etc. (In previous years we watched all Vincent Price movies that was awesome! ). Probably will go out to a pumpkin patch, various other Halloween events, and are driving down to visit a friend and celebrate Halloween proper with him. It’s going to be good times.

One thing that’s become a tradition around here is the decorating of the house on Oct 1st. Really it’s more of a pumpkinafication but I love it. This year the Lumberjack was staying home sick on the 2nd so we spent all day pulling out the decorations, listening to horror tunes, and getting excited. The Lumberjack is an excellent decorator for the record.

We still want more decorations, and we usually buy a little each year. But I gotta say I’m happy so far. We took out the newly named Emily, our resin skeleton from her corner and put her in a new set of duds (one of my dresses and vintage hat). Now she is resting morbidly with cobwebs and the like right under my ancestors altar (the irony is not lost on me). Say “Hi!” Emily! 🙂

The other exciting thing that has consumed my mind, is that I learned how to crochet! I’ve been talking about it for a while, seen all these neat little projects on the Pinterest. My lovely friend Brenda (you know her from Smoke from the Temple) handed me off some standard sized hook and finally I just sat down with a youtube video and went at it.

My first crochet. Look Ma’ a trapezoid!

My grandmother had taught me the very basics of crotchet (and knitting and weaving) many years ago. I still remember the night that I for some reason asked to be shown. She pulled out a hook from her drawer of textile tools, the woman was a constant and amazing crafter, and some scratchy blue wool from her stash. I was horrible at it. Stitches were all different sizes, too tight, too loose. Never amounted to anything past that night. Despite that, she still gave me her grandmothers Ivory crotchet hooks. They have and continue to remain up on my ancestral altar.

This time I sat down and it wasn’t hard. It was easy, amazingly so, and fun. I love knot magic and my brain immediately jumped to all the uses this could be for. No more knitting warding bags and killing my shoulder. So for the past two days that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing lol. All I have is some pretty basic not pleasant acrylic yarn (I maybe a newbie but I am a textile snob), so I’ve just been practicing stitches and designs till I can buy some nice stuff for a cowl. As you can see my first foray was….not perfectly straight lol. I had forgotten a key step of adding a chain at the end of the row. But still not too shabby.

And then yesterday I pulled out some of Gma’s weaving thread to give some finer lace work a try. I have a lot of tiny tiny tiny lace hooks from my Gma or her grandma not sure whom. I have to say I like the little work a lot. A few hours in front of the youtube and viola! A doily is born!

Blocking with a pillow lol

So overall life is good at Fort Epic. The altar is underway with cleaning. I’ve made apple butter that needs canning. The weather turned delightfully chilly. My house feels amazing with all the decor and just happy Halloween vibes. I have oodles of projects to do, a new hobby to make use of. Holiday presents to get started on. Feasts to plan. And life to live.

What do you say Goblin-Cat? Want to say goodbye to the nice people and help me release the bones?

Meh.

The “Pagan Community”

“…there is no such thing as the ‘Pagan Community'”

“a Pagan is someone who believes (xyz).”

“The pagan community is full of haters and people spewing negativity.”

“The pagan community is full of fluffy bunnies and ignorant New Agers.”

These notions and notions similar are being played on continuous loop around me these day. There is just a few things I would like to clear up, in respect to this blog, my tumblr, and really any sort of interaction you may have with me. Because I do talk about “the Pagan Community” here and elsewhere. So evidently I do believe that there is such a creature. More than that I have a lot of investment and care for the Pagan Community, it is the main ingredient in my public priestessing. Without it I would not be a priestess. I mean sure, I’d still do what I do, and honor my gods, and honor the spirits and ungods, and work my craft, and live my life. But the pagan community, and the needs it has is in part what keeps me to being a public priestess. I will attempt to show you what I mean when I say “the Pagan Community” and what I think of when I hear it.

Recently my High Priestess pondered aloud to me whether or not “Pagan” was the right label, as it is such a mixed bag of cats. And really as an umbrella term it really doesn’t describe anything, since those who fall under it are not of the same religion. I agree with this, and I think is the first step towards the community actually becoming more useful to itself. The definition of “pagan” in the “Pagan Community”, really only is: that you are someone who identifies as a pagan, usually a follower of a minority faith or secular path that falls outside of the identified acceptable norm. It doesn’t really signify anything else. There is no inherent doctrine tied into the word, and to date even the notion that it is a religion that is not Judeo-Christian or Abrahamic is outdated and un-useful.   I know. Now we are wandering into the land where words can grow past their origin and finite dictionary meanings, but that’s how things work for me.

So if the ‘pagan’ in Pagan Community is so broad and without boundaries, where no one believes the same thing then what is the ‘community’? The community is one of interfaith. It is countless different paths, traditions, religions, faiths, individual people, who all believe different things, but who all willing identify with one another in order to help move forward in the Judea-Christian religious dominated society that we live in. Minorities within a minority choosing to help each other out and dare I say, possibly learn something from one another. Not for any dogmatic code of spreading “the good word”. Just out of the shared experience of purposefully choosing one of the paths least traveled and all the complications that come with that.

That’s it. That’s all. That’s the entirety of it for me. It is all that I need to understand to want to put my shoulder under this yoke and help plow the field for a new cultural shift. It is the simple connection that allows me to speak to so many people who may not even know what they believe but want information and be able to point them in various different directions to the amazing people that I have the privilege to call friend, to call community.

Ultimately, the Pagan Community is a diverse and unboxable as the American community. There will never be able to be a story that full captures all the opinions and sides, never a quote that covers the immensity of it. There will never be enough “leaders” or “elders” to speak on it’s behalf (and that’s a good thing). It is a community where participation guides it’s direction. Where homogeneity is never going to be the answer or the goal. Where understandings have to be met from different playing fields. And above all where respect for fellow man is needed.

Are there still going to be people who adamantly refuse the label “pagan”? Of course, and that is their right. There will still be people who think it’s a bad idea, and that there is no room for them. The thing about the Pagan Community, is that you get to identify with it or not. We’ll still be doing the same work (even when none of us are doing the same thing at all) and I pray that it will make a positive impact on the cultural of our society for everyone. Even those who want nothing to do with it.

-A Pagan American Gaelic Polytheist witch