Brigid Discernment Ritual

This was the closing ritual for one of Welcoming Circle’s Imbolc celebrations. It can be adapted for solitary practitioners. Images are from the Builders of the Adytum Tarot. I thought you might like to see it as we prepare for the celebration of Imbolc.

Here is the Brigid handout I gave to those who attended. Click Brigid Handout.

BRIGID DISCERNMENT RITUAL

ANOINTING WITH BRIGID OIL—David Taliesin
[Recipe for Brigid Oil is found in Cunningham’s Incense, Oils and Brews]

May Brigid, Keeper of the Sacred Flame,Give you wisdom and illumination tonight.

CANDLE LIGHTING—Traditional Gaelic. Light a white altar candle and say the following:

Brigid, Sublime Woman, Quick flame,
Long may you burn bright!
 You give us the invitation to life everlasting.

CALLING THE QUARTERS—from Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials, Imbolc: Rituals Recipes and Lore for Brigid’s Day + Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

I summon the Powers of East—
Brigid’s bright powers of Dawn!
As you bring light to the Spring,
Bring light to our work.
Hail and Welcome!

I summon the Powers of South—
The blazing fires of Brigid’s Forge!
Shed all that does not aid our work!
Fortify our work! Let it change the world!
Hail and Welcome!

I summon the Powers of West—
The healing powers of the Well!
May our work flow and grow!
May it stir and summon the depths of possibilities!
Hail and Welcome!

I summon the powers of North—
The strength of the Cold Mountains!
Freeze all adversaries! Solidify our desires
With the weight of frozen rock!
Hail and Welcome!

Reach to the sky: By the Powers of the Fiery Arrows!

Reach to the ground: By the Powers of the Green Earth!

Extend your arms to your sides: Goddess Brigid, Goddess of Fire and Water,
We call you and invite you to the circle we have cast this night.

Goddess of the Sacred Well and Keeper of the Flame,
We ask that you bring your power and wisdom to this circle tonight.

Brigid, Goddess of the Forge, we honor you
And ask for your help and enlightenment in our work tonight.
Hail and welcome!

DISCERNMENT RITUAL—David Taliesin

Ground and center.

Connect with both the earth energy below and the Divine energy above. Let it fill your whole being until you feel like your body is full of light.

When you feel peaceful and focused, look at the Tarot Card image in front of you. Use it as an icon to center your thoughts and think about the work the Divine has called you to do. Record any thought that come to mind during this time of meditation. [I chose several images for participants to use from the wonderful black and white Builders of the Adytum Tarot. I offered the Fool, the Magician, the High Priestess, The Moon and Strength/Courage.]

When you are finished writing, take a tea candle and light it from the center pillar, and set it on the altar. Watch the flames of illumination grow as each person adds their candle to the altar.

Take a candle with you tonight, along with the image you selected. Use it in the coming weeks to further reflect on your calling/vocation.

BRIGID BLESSING
May my words be as considered as poetry,
May I reflect on all I do or say,
May I meditate on those things important spiritually
May I seek to know more of the lore
May I research what I am curious about
and what will enable me to grow
May I seek to know great knowledge,
May I acknowledge the intelligence of others
May I comprehend what I seek to learn and apply those lessons
May I know that seeking wisdom is not the same as being wise.
May I be a child of Brigid.
by https://elfkat.wordpress.com, Used by permission of the author.

DISMISSING THE CIRCLE—adapted from Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials, Imbolc: Rituals Recipes and Lore for Brigid’s Day + Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

Great Brigid, Goddess of the Flame and Goddess of the Well,
We thank you for joining our magic circle tonight
And for the energy and wisdom you have bestowed upon us.
You will remain forever in our hearts!
We bid you farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of North—
As you came in peace, now go in peace,
But leave strength in our work.
Keep our adversaries in your icy grasp!
We bid you farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of West—
As you came in peace, now go in peace,
But leave your misty whispers on our work.
Wash away the obstacles to our manifestations!
We bid you Farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of South—
As you came in peace, now go in peace,
But leave your sparks of manifestation.
Allow the embers of our work to grow.
We bid you farewell!

Farewell to the Powers of East—
As you came in peace, now go in peace.
Though the day passes, the work of the sun remains.
Remain also with our work.
We bid you farewell!

The circle is 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.

As noted, portions of this ritual were written by David Taliesin, ©2022, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Imbolc: Becoming Rooted in Good Soil

spiral-roots
Artist Unknown

At an Imbolc celebration I attended, one of the priestesses talked about paying attention to the season we’re in. During the month of February, it may not look like much is happening in the natural world around us. However, underneath the ground seeds are breaking apart, rooting themselves, and drawing nutrients from the soil. It is only when they do this that they can become green plants and beautiful flowers in the spring. She challenged us to spend time this month doing things that ground us and make us feel rooted. She said we should look for activities that nourish our spirits and make us feel alive and creative.

The other part of this process is that we may have to die to something. The seed breaks apart and transforms itself into something new. This is also a part of the growing process as we let go of old, unproductive ways of living and adopt healthier behaviors and habits that are life-giving to us, to nature, and to the people around us.

As we say in the South, “That will preach!” It reminds me of something Jesus said: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) Both Pagans and Christians must undergo this same spiritual process if we are going to grow and become the healers and reconcilers the world needs us to be. It’s not easy to die to our self-centeredness and destructive patterns of living. We love our habits and routines, even if they are killing us! But natures tells us that dying is a part of the process of bring new life into the world.

Jesus also told a parable about four different types of soil. The first three yielded practically nothing but the last seed that was sown, even surprised the farmer. Jesus ended the parable by saying: “Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:1-9)

We all need to find good soil in our lives. So, while the chill of winter is still with us, let us find something that helps us to put down deep roots in spiritual soil, so we can emerge in the spring with vitality and aliveness.

Copyright ©2022 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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January Full Moon: Wolf Moon

wolfmoon

“Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine. Wolf takes one mate for life and is loyal like a Dog. If you were to keep company with Wolves, you would find an enormous sense of family within the pack, as well as a strong individualistic urge.”—Medicine Cards, Jamie Sams & David Carson

January 17th is the full moon that is known as the Wolf Moon. It’s one of my favorites. Using the information from the Native American Medicine Cards as our guide, there are several questions we can meditate on during this full moon:

At the beginning of this new year, what is the undiscovered territory we are exploring? What boundaries are we crossing? What new knowledge are we assimilating?

If we feel more like a gerbil on a wheel instead of a path-finding wolf, what can we do to push us out of our comfort zones? How do we awaken the Wolf Spirit that lies within?

How well are we balancing the needs of family and friends vs. our own individual needs? Do we need to strengthen our ties with those we love or do we need to learn a little self-care?

A simple ritual for this night would be to light a white candle and place a picture or statue of a wolf in front of it. Use this as a meditative image as we reflect on one of the questions I asked above.

Copyright ©2022 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Our Spiritual Practice

I’ve reached the point in my spiritual journey where I have little patience for arguments and debates about the right way to do spirituality. Instead, I find it much more profitable to listen to spiritual voices and perspectives that are quite different from my own. If we are secure in our spiritual path, we don’t need to fear other perspectives. They hold the potential of moving us out of our spiritual comfort zones and helping us to grow.

Gus DiZerega. in his insightful book Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, states it this way: “The value of a spiritual practice is determined by how well it brings us into a better relationship with what is Highest and most Sacred. If our spiritual practice does not help us in this task, it is not really important how many debates we win, how subtle our thinking, or how profound our insights. All these things, desirable as they can be, are simply icing on the spiritual cake. When the cake is good, the icing adds to its beauty and flavor. When the cake is bad, the icing is only a deceptive promise. So our personal practice within and without our spiritual community is primary.”

Copyright ©2022 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com (Not the quote but the first paragraph of this post.)

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The Power of Meditation

dreamstime_8683396

Meditation is a form of prayer that transcends religious divisions. Both Christians and Wiccans have found solace and power in this form of prayer. Scott Cunningham, in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, says “It’s a quiet time in which we commune with the Goddess, the God, and ourselves, relaxing the conscious mind’s hold on our psychic awareness. Meditation usually precedes every magical act and rite of worship.” Many Wiccans I know practice this regularly in order to learn how to focus their attention and keep their “monkey mind” (A Buddhist term) from jumping all over the place.

The seminary I attended never spoke of meditation. I first learned how to do it from a Buddhist teacher who also taught me about the practice of mindfulness. Then I discovered the writings of the Christian mystics who are a marginalized voice in Christianity. I spent about year and a half pondering the words of mystics such as Meister Eckhart, The Desert Fathers and Theresa of Avila. I got excited with every page I read because I found my people. They were my guides, my spiritual siblings, and I’ve valued their wisdom ever since.

With respect to the subject of meditation, Meister Eckhart states it best, “God is not found in the soul by adding anything, but by a process of subtraction.” 15th Century monk Thomas a Kempis, in The Imitation of Christ, said “The further the soul is from the noise of the world, the closer it may be to its Creator, for God, with his holy angels, will draw closer to a person who seeks solitude and silence.”

Meditation is one of the bridges that connects our two traditions together. I know people in both traditions who don’t practice it regularly, but I believe they are missing out on a great tool for spiritual growth and getting in touch with the Divine. Our world is filled with too many words. When we are brave enough to be silent, we allow the Holy to get a word in edgewise!

Copyright ©2021, by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Our Spiritual Path

theway

Before the word “Christian” was used, followers of Jesus were known as “The Way” (Acts 9:2, among others). The Greek word used here can also be rendered as “the road” or “the journey.” Early Christians understood they were on a path with lots of twists and turns, ups and downs. The journey never had an endpoint when believers were finished with their spiritual development. The goal was to keep evolving and growing in love, compassion, service, etc.

Somewhere along the line, The Way became a million denominations with endless rules and doctrines. Many of these denominations also claim to be the only “way” or path. If we don’t believe everything they believe exactly as they believe it, we’re on a slippery slope to hell! Needless to say, this is an unhealthy way to do spirituality.

All human beings, whether they know it or not, are on a spiritual path where we see and experience many different things along the way. The ones that work for us should be put in our spiritual backpacks. The rest should be left at the side of the road. It’s a much more individualistic quest than many people think it is. Furthermore, there is no getting it right. We are on a journey of learning and growth that’s supposed to continue throughout our lifetimes.

Thankfully, Wiccans have a healthier approach to “the way.” For the most part, they are not dogmatic at all, at least the ones I know. (I’m sure there are some out there who are vey dogmatic. People are people!) They encourage each other to experiment and discover what works for them. Some lead lives of deep meditation and centering. Others have vast knowledge of herbs and their medicinal purposes. Some have gifts of discernment, while others are gifted healers. Many, of course, are a combination of the above…and so much more!

Scott Cunningham in his classic book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner states this beautifully: “There is not, and can never be, one ‘pure’ or ‘true’ or ‘genuine’ form of Wicca. There are no central governing agencies, no physical leaders, no universally recognized prophet or messengers. Although specific, structured forms of Wiccan certainly exist, they aren’t in agreement regarding ritual, symbolism, and theology. Because of this healthy individualism, no one rite or philosophical system has emerged to consume the others. Wicca is varied and multi-faceted. As in every religion, the Wiccan spiritual experience is one shared with the deity alone.”

Perhaps this is a reminder that we are all on “the way.” There is no single, perfect way to walk it. If we humans can learn to listen to one another more and judge less, we just evolve as a species.I believe we have a lot to teach each other if we’re willing to walk hand in hand down the road. Le’’s share our wisdom and gifts. The world needs all the light and love both traditions can bring to it!

Copyright 2022 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabaths.com.

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The Problem With Genesis

"Sophia" by Mary Plaster, www.maryplaster.com/sophiadivinewisdom.html
Sophia, Divine Wisdom by Mary Plaster, http://www.maryplaster.com

Christianity has a problem when it comes to creation spirituality, and that problem begins with Genesis. As a disclaimer, I understand the story of Genesis 1 to be, well, a story. It contains Truth, but it’s not historically true. Rabbis for centuries have understood it to be a fable/legend about our relationship with the Divine and I understand it the same way.

Here’s the rub. Most of the story is beautiful and dynamic. The RUAH or spirit of God (which is feminine by the way) breathes/blows/flutters its wings, creating a disturbance in the darkness, and light is born. Everything else such as the sun, moon, animals, fish and humans follow. It’s actually quite moving and poetic.

The problem arises when we get to verse 28 (26 isn’t any better): “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and SUBDUE it; and have DOMINION over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” Oy, veh!

Rabbis and Christians alike have always tried to spin this verse in positive ways. The brilliant Rabbi Richard Freidman in his commentary on the Torah, says “Incredibly some have interpreted this command to mean that humans have permission to abuse the earth and animal and plant life—as if a command from God to rule did not imply to be a good ruler!” Personally, I would like to think he is right, but it might be stretching things a bit.

Brown Drivers Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, which is the gold standard for unpacking Hebrew words says that SUBDUE (Heb. KABASH) means “dominate, tread down, or bring into bondage.” Likewise DOMINION (Heb. RADAH) means to “rule, dominate, tread, or trample.” What’s a tree-loving Christian to do?

Thankfully, my Wiccan sisters have shared with me some of their spiritual practice which is deeply tied to nature. While I’m hardly an expert on the subject, this path includes a profound appreciation for all living things and their relationship with one another. Furthermore, the Wheel of the Year takes its clues from the changing seasons and many Wiccans have an amazing knowledge of herbs, gems and other organic life.

Christians have got to get over their fear and suspicion of our Pagan sisters and brothers because they have great wisdom to share with us regarding our relationship to creation, if we open our minds to it. This doesn’t mean we need to follow the Wiccan path; but it does mean we need to find a way to integrate creation spirituality into our Christian practice. Thankfully, there are already people around us who do this so effortlessly and beautifully. It’s time for us to have “ears to hear” and “eyes to see” as we overcome the exploitive language of Genesis 1.

Copyright ©2022 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com.

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Golden Rule and Wiccan Rede

wiccanrede

Nearly every faith tradition in the world has some variation of the Golden Rule, which is usually stated “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” In the Christian tradition, it is found in Matthew 7:12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets,” and Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus implies that all of Jewish Law is fulfilled by this one ethical statement. He would also go on to reformulate the Golden Rule by saying that two commands fulfill Jewish Law: 1) Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. (See Mt 22:37, Mk 12:30 and Lk 10:27)

The Pagan version of the Golden Rule is known as the Wiccan Rede. The word “rede” is Middle English and means “advice” or “counsel.” It is the ethical touchstone of many of those who practice Wicca and goes like this: “An it harm none, do what ye will.” NOTE: “an” is Middle English for “if.”

The Golden Rule and the Wiccan Rede seem simplistic, but they’re not. The practical application of this moral law takes a lot of serious thought. In Jesus’ form of the “love commandments,” one must ask themselves “Are my words and actions bringing me closer to the Divine and my neighbor, or are they having the opposite effect?” Another consideration is if we don’t love and accept ourselves, how can we possibly love the Divine and our neighbor fully?”

With respect to the Wiccan Rede, the first question Wiccans need to ask themselves is “What does harm mean?” Sometimes we need to show people tough love in order for them to heal. They may feel like we are harming them, but, in the end, it’s for their own good and benefit.

The second part of the Rede “do what ye will” is hardly a call for hedonism and self-indulgence. “Doing harm to no one” also means we are to do no harm to ourselves. A Wiccan friend of mine recently said “Wicca demands self-awareness, self study and connection to spirit.” The question this part of the Rede raises is “What is your life’s purpose? What does your soul want out of this lifetime?”

So both traditions connect strongly with this moral guideline. Both spiritual paths ask us to think deeply about who we are and how we impact our neighbors and our planet.

Copyright ©2022 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Time Keeps On Ticking

People mark time in different ways. Some of us carry a physical calendar with us to keep track of events and appointments. Others use a virtual one on our cell phones. Some have four seasons and all the delightful changes each one brings. Others live in a temperate climate all year round and have to watch for subtler changes in nature that tell us what time of year it is.

Not surprisingly, our spiritual lives are structured in ways that mark time as well. Both Pagans and Christians have rites that celebrate significant life events such as birth, coming of age, marriage, death, etc. Then there are the “spiritual calendars” both groups keep that take us through the cycle of the year. Not surprisingly, both of these calendars connect with one another in significant ways.

Most modern Pagans follow the “Wheel of the Year” which is an annual cycle of eight seasonal festivals. Wiccans call these sabbats (from the Greek word “sabatu” which means “to rest.”)

Wheel_of_the_Year


Four of the sabbats fall on the solstices and equinoxes of the year and are referred to as “quarter days.” They include Yule, Ostara, Midsummer, and Mabon. The other four occur on the midpoints between the other four and are referred to as “cross quarter days.” They include Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. All of these sabbats are deeply tied to the cycle of the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. These sabbats are rich with agricultural and natural imagery where the change of seasons reflect various aspects of our spiritual lives such as rebirth, growth, maturity, and dormancy.

Many modern Christians follow the “Liturgical Calendar” which, surprise, surprise, is also in the shape of a wheel! This calendar follows mostly follows the life of Jesus and contains the seasons of Advent. Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time. While Advent always begins four Sundays before December 25th, Easter is a moveable feast that occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, falling on or after the Spring Equinox (March 21). Once the date for Easter is established, then the days of Lent through Pentecost fall into place.

liturgical-calendar


I see several very deep connections between these two ways of marking spiritual time. For Christians, Advent is a season of waiting for the light to appear, that light being Jesus whose actual birth date is unknown. December 25th was chosen because it coincided with other Pagan celebrations surrounding the winter solstice such as the Roman Saturnalia and the Pagan Yule. Both of these observances are also festivals of light and the connection between these and the themes of Advent and Christmas are too numerous to mention in this post.

The second big connection is that the Lent/Easter season traces Jesus’ death and resurrection. Its most powerful spiritual theme is dying to destructive ways of living and rising to new life. This fits perfectly with the themes of Imbolc (which speaks of seeds dying and rooting/transforming so that new life can emerge in the spring) and Ostara (which is all about fertility, birth and the new life that is blooming everywhere).

Well, that gets us started. Both of these spirituals calendars are powerful ways of thinking about our ives and our connection with the Divine and each other.

Copyright ©2022 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com.

Posted in Advent, Beltane, Christmas, Easter, Epiphany, Imbolc, Lent, Liturgical Calendar, Lughnasadh, Mabon, Midsummer, Ostara, Samhain, Wheel of the Year, Yule | Tagged , | 5 Comments

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 © 2021 by sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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