Winter Discernment Ritual

Here is the ritual we used at tonight’s Welcoming Circle:

WINTER RITUAL

ANOINTING— Brigid Oil

May the darkness of the season enable us to see ourselves
And the world around us in new ways. So mote it be!

CASTING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

Guardians of the East, Elemental Powers of Air, your cold winds of Winter call us to turn inward. Help us to use this season as a time for introspection and self-examination. Be with us in the circle tonight. We are honored by your presence. Hail and welcome!

Guardians of the South, Elemental Powers of Fire, your warmth drives away Winter’s chill. Help us to use this season to feast with loved ones and create community. Be with us in the circle tonight. We are honored by your presence. Hail and welcome!

Guardians of the West, Elemental Powers of Water, you visit us with the delightful gift of snow. Help us to use this season to awaken our sense of wonder and joy. Be with us in the circle tonight. We are honored by your presence. Hail and welcome!

Guardians of the North, Elemental Powers of Earth, your majestic evergreens remind us that even in the dead of Winter, new life can be found. Help us to ground ourselves in your healing energy so that we may be transformed and renewed. Be with us in the circle tonight. We are honored by your presence. Hail and welcome!

Ancient mother of Midwinter, watcher over life and death, the one who rebirths the world, be with us on this winter night! See us through the dark hours and stand with us as dawn births the promise of new life. We are honored by your presence. Hail and welcome!

GOING INWARD—Winter Meditation, Witches’ Datebook 2016, Deborah Blake

Dim the lights and find a spot where you can be undisturbed for five or ten minutes. Sit comfortably and light a white candle. If you want, you can even wrap yourself in a comfortable blanket or shawl. Then say this spell, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths, going deeper inside with each one.

Burrowing like the rabbit, or the bear beneath the ground,
The winter’s hush upon me. I do not make a sound.
Let the world keep spinning without me for a space.
I am turning inward in search of peace and grace.

Activity Sheet—Use this quiet time to listen to what your inner wisdom is trying to tell you.  Click HERE for PDF of activity sheet.

DISMISSING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

Guardians of the North, Elemental Powers of Earth, in these dark days of winter keep us grounded and surround us with people who make us feel nurtured and loved. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell.

Guardians of the West, Elemental Powers of Water, in these dark days of winter keep us feeling positive and peaceful. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell.

Guardians of the South, Elemental Powers of Fire, in these dark days of winter keep our minds focused on the sacred work you call us to do during this season. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell.

Guardians of the East, Elemental Powers of Air, in these dark days of winter clear all the clutter and distraction of this season so that we may focus on what’s necessary and important. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell.

Great Spirit, who is known to us by many names, in these dark days of winter help us to learn the benefits and blessings of the darkness. Use this time in our lives to make our world a better place. We bid you farewell.

Our Circle is now open but never unbroken
Because it is a circle woven in love.
Whatever energy is left in this space
We return to the earth with a spirit of gratitude.
Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

 

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Ancient Christian Magic

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Ancient Amulet: The Sacrifice of Isaac

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men (Gk. MAGOS, meaning “magicians”) from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.—Matthew 2:1-3, NRSV

And it happened, when the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea at the time of King Herod, the magicians arrived from the East in Jerusalem, as Zoroaster had predicted. And they had offerings with them, gold, frankincense and myrrh, so they worshipped him and offered their offerings. —The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior

Ever since Matthew told the story of the birth of Jesus, Christianity has been surrounded by magic…and we’ve been afraid to talk about it ever since! The magicians, who offered the tools of their trade to baby Jesus, became “kings” as their legend developed. No longer were they spell casters and dream interpreters! Eventually they had crowns and ruled kingdoms. But I believe both Matthew and the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy are very clear, magicians appeared at the birth of Jesus. Why they were drawn to visit Jesus will forever remain a mystery, but they were definitely there.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, most people will be surprised to know that magic has been practiced by Christians since the very beginning. The word itself, MAGEIA, was a foreign word to the Greek speakers who lived during the time of Jesus. (The English word Magi comes from the Greek word MAGOS which means “magician.”) Magic was a word that had lots of negative connotations attached to it, so early Christian practitioners called it “theurgy” or “divine work” instead. They used amulets and spells for protection, defense and healing, but they stopped short of calling it magic.

Hmmm, sounds like magic to me!  I read a fascinating book edited by Marvin W. Mayer and Richard Smith, entitled Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power. It contains exactly what you think it does: spells that were cast by Christians from the 1st through the 6th century. It even has a story of magical advice that was given by Christ himself.

Now, I know most Christians would flip over this info but for those of us who are interested in the ties between Pagan and Christian spirituality, it is most interesting indeed. While it’s clear that magic was not practiced by the majority of Christian believers there have always been some who integrated magic into their Christian beliefs and saw no contradiction with this whatsoever. Most of the spells in the book deal with things such as healing, love, prosperity, protection during pregnancy, and protection against evil spirits. This is definitely familiar territory for modern Wiccans!

The magical work the early Christians performed parallels the magical work that was also being done by Pagans of old. Not surprisingly, the Church outlawed these practices. Therefore, many “magicians” had to go into hiding for fear of being arrested and even killed. (Hmmm…now where have we heard THAT before?) Thankfully, some of these old writings were hidden and eventually discovered in places such as the Nag Hammadi Codexes.  Now they have been translated into English so that we can ponder a subject that has been virtually silent for two thousand years.

Copyright © 2019 by sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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The Magi’s Blessing: Chalking the Door

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I came across a wonderful tradition which I will have to research further to learn a little more about it’s origins. According to Pagan Christmas, “Even today, priests go from house to house in the Black Forest on January 6, smudging them for protection from evil influences. With chalk sanctified with blessed salt, they write the letters C, M, and B, plus the year, over house and stable doors.”

This ritual is called “chalking the door” and the markings for this year look like this:

20 + C + M + B +19

The C, M and B are the initials for the traditional names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, ad Balthazar), but they are also an abbreviation for the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which means “May Christ bless this house.” You can find various liturgies on line for this ritual.

On January 6th my plan is to go outside, read the story of the Magi from the gospel of Mathew, smudge the entrance to my house and mark the lintel with chalk. One article I read suggested that this ritual could be used any time during the Christmas and Epiphany season with other suggested uses such as blessing a room in a nursing home or hospital (get permission first!) or to set aside a Bible study meeting place, choir practice room, nursery, or youth area at church. This would be a fun activity that even the youngest members of your household could participate in and enjoy. Happy Epiphany!

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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In Praise of the Invincible Light

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“The light shines in the darkness,
And the darkness did not overcome it.”
(John 1:5, NRSV)

While writing a sermon on the first chapter of John, I came across this interesting observation from Karoline Lewis in her Fortress Preaching Commentary on John: “A quick review of the science of light in terms of our ability to see underscores the theological claim that is being made. It only takes the slightest bit of light for our optical system to adjust and see in the dark. When there is no light present at all, our eyes will never become accustomed to the darkness.”

In a season where every spiritual path celebrates some festival of light, I find Lewis’ observation tremendously encouraging. It’s easy for us to focus on the darkness that exists in our world. Facebook and the 24-hour news cycle do an excellent job of promoting every tragedy and sadness that is happening all around us. But if we’re paying attention, nature is telling us there is an alternative: we can shine whatever light we possess, armed with the hopeful knowledge that even the tiniest bit of light makes a huge difference to those we shine it on. It can go a long way in helping them navigate the darkness in their lives.

So, keep those Hanukkah lights burning. Rejoice in the return of the sun on the Winter Solstice. Sing Silent Night with candles blazing on Christmas Eve. Follow the seven luminous principles of Kwanzaa. Find some reason, any reason, to light a candle! May the candles we light remind us of our connectedness to each other, and our sacred duty to be light for one another. We spend far too much time talking about what makes us different. Maybe this December we can focus on what binds us together as one! Shine on, sisters and brothers!

Copyright ©2018 by  David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Coping During the Holidays

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“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”—Chinese Proverb

As we approach the Winter Solstice, the days continue to get darker and darker. Likewise, the world around us feels like a darker place as well. The headline news brings a fresh new horror every day: mass shootings, police brutality, global warming, terrorism, sexual harassment charges, political hubris and the like. I find that many people around me are anxious and afraid of what the future will bring. When we put the insanity that is the secular American Christmas on top of this, it makes many of us feel like hiding behind locked doors and not coming out until at least January 1st.

Since this is not an option for most of us, how do we cope? What tools do we need in our spiritual toolbox to navigate this dark season in all of its layers of meaning? Here’s my list of things we can do to light a candle in the midst of the darkness. No matter how bad things may seem, we all have the power to make a positive change in our lives and in our world. Feel free to add your own coping strategies in the comment section of this post:

Limit the time you spend on social media. Psychological studies suggest that social media sites don’t contribute to us feeling closer to others. In fact, they can make us feel isolated and depressed. Furthermore, inflammatory and reactionary posts and comments can make our blood boil. Don’t get sucked into the drama!

Take a walk out in nature. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a walk down a city street or a stroll through the countryside, turn off your computer and/or cell phone and connect with nature. Breathe deeply and look at the flora and fauna that are around you. It’s good for the soul (and also a great way to get away from that obnoxious relative who pushes all your emotional buttons)!

Avoid the 24-hour news cycle spin. Yes, bad things are happening in our world but you don’t have to wallow in them. Get the highlights, hold the situation in your thoughts and prayers, send healing energy if that’s a part of your spiritual path, and move on with your day!

Practice random acts of kindness. Do something loving for your spouse, your family, a neighbor, a coworker, or a total stranger. Volunteer for an organization that is making a difference in your community such as a food pantry, homeless shelter, abused women’s shelter and the like.

Breathe, breathe, breathe. Find a meditative practice that works for you. Channel your inner Elsa and learn to “let it go”! Let go of worry, obsessive thoughts, etc. I do this on a daily basis and it makes a big difference in my life. Click on the “meditation” link on my site for suggestions.

Lower your expectations for the season. It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Solstice, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or Yule. We often have a mental “to-do” list running through our heads that is probably too ambitious. Yes, it’s great to create memorable moments for those we love, but they’ll enjoy them a lot more if we’re not cranky and stressed when they arrive.

Copyright ©2018 by David Taliesin

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November Full Moon: Frost Moon

November’s full moon, which will occur on Nov 23rd, goes by several different names. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, it was called the Beaver Moon by the Algonquin tribes and colonial Americans. The reason for this is that hunters used to “set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs.” Other Native American tribes called it the Full Frost Moon which appeals to me more on a spiritual level rather than celebrating the killing of beavers!

If we see the November full moon as the Frost Moon, it is calling us to gather what we need for the coming winter season, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually. Due to a warm winter in North Carolina, I was still harvesting things from my medicinal herb garden until the first week of November! But, now we’ve had several hard frosts and it’s time to put the garden to bed.

Physically, all the energy we put into our yards and outdoor activities has either slowed dramatically or ceased altogether. The shortening of our days as we move toward the Winter Equinox also makes most of us spend more time indoors. Perhaps we can use the energy of this full moon to ponder the things we need to do to our living space in order to make it feel warm and inviting to everyone. It’s a great time of year to invite friends over for dinner, snacks and a movies, etc. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s the getting together that counts. For some, the family obligations we have during this time of the year are downright exhausting. [There’s a reason why we only see some of these people once or twice a year!) Therefore, it’s important that we spend time with our “real” family, the family we create. They are often our strongest support system and we need really need them this time of year!

On an emotional and spiritual level, there are a number of us who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or a milder form of it known as the Winter Blues. Light is important to those of us who have a hard time adjusting to the increasing darkness. Lots of candles, warm scents and fireplaces are welcome allies during the winter months. Perhaps this full moon is calling us to change our living space around a bit so that there is more natural light coming in our windows during the day and extra lights [be they strings of electric ones or natural sources] during the dark hours.

The final thing we need to consider this full moon is that the darkness serves a purpose both in nature and in our lives. We all need opportunities to rest, to relax, to recharge. Some of us do our own from of hibernation this time of year and that’s completely natural. The darkness also calls us to journey inward and work on whatever spiritual and emotional issues are important in our lives. We don’t have as many outside distractions so, it’s time to deal with us which is not always an easy thing to do!

I wish you all a blessed holiday season, no matter what holidays you celebrate. May the power of the Full Frost Moon inspire you to tend to some of the things I’ve mentioned above. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2018 by David Taliesin

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Welcoming Circle Ritual: Nov 11

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Hammer Rite

Tree: We call quarters differently today. To honor the Heathen path, I am going to use an elder Hammer Rite. The Hammer is both the symbol for Heathenism and Earth (which Thor is God of in Norse lore.) In Norse lore, the primal elements of fire and ice collided creating our nine worlds. Freya Aswynn says they were actually matter and anti matter sparking creation of everything else. Who knows? We will call to the most primal elements to be our guardians. Please stand and face the middle.

(Raising Hammer to the North)

Tree: Hamar ef eldr ok Muspellheimr helga ve petta ok hald vordt!

David: Hammer of the fires of Muspellheimr hallow and protect this holy stead!

Tree: Hammar ef Iss ok Niflheimr helge ve petta ok hald vordt!

David: Hammer of the Great Ice of Niflheimer, Hallow and protect this holy stead! Tree: (Tracing the Hammer Sign in air): Um mik ok I mer Asgardr ok Midgardr David: Around me and within me, heaven and earth.

Tree: Please be seated.

Tree: As we have already mentioned, today is traditional for honoring our war veterans but the warrior ethic and stance in the world is deeper than just the weapons and courage in battle. Martin Luther King said “life isn’t worth living until you have found something worth dying for.” Martin Luther King found civil rights worth dying for.My Norse ancestors found their people and families worth dying for. They lived life as fully as they could in those days. Today, more than ever, we need the warrior spirit in us awakened as troubled times increase but is there anything worth dying for? Living for? What would you consider worthy of dying for, that something that makes your life worth living? Let us give ourselves a few moments to think about that then individually stand or come up to the Hammer and tell the universe what is worth dying for? This is not an oath. This is a reflection to awaken you to your inner warrior. Warriors come in all guises- parents, activists, spiritual pathworkers, keepers of light, everyday heros. If you have nothing to say, that is okay. There is no judgement here. Just remember those that you have held in your heart as courageous and heroic.

(Time for participants to speak to Hammer or the group)

Tree: Please stand and face the center again.

Tree: Hammer of Muspellheimr’s fires, I thank you for your protection. You may go now and take with you our thanks.

David: Hammerof Nifilheimr’s Ice, We thank you for your protection. You may go now and take with you our thanks.

Tree: You can be seated again. Thank you for sharing this space with us. Special thanks to Mike for giving us a glimpse into the Heathen Way.

Written by Tree Higgins

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