The Power Within

“Everything you need to know, you already know. It’s all inside of you. Centuries of knowledge reside within your cells. Never forget that.”–Augusten Burroughs, Toil and Trouble

I’m currently reading this delightful book regarding Burrough’s witchy gifts. Interesting read, indeed. I especially love this quote which is something his mother said to him when he was a teenager.

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Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve Soul Cakes


The Soul Cake is part of traditional Samhain/All Hallows Eve festivities in the British Isles. The cakes are flat and round, scented with saffron, mixed spices and currants.During the 19th and early 20th centuries children would go ‘souling’ on Samhain (All Hallow’s Eve), All Saints’ Day (Nov 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov 2) where they would request alms or soul cakes with the following song:

“A soul, a soul, a soul cake.
Please god missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
Up with your kettles and down with your pans
Give us an answer and we’ll be gone
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate
Crying for butter to butter his cake
One for St Peter, two for St Paul,
Three for the man who made us all.”

In earlier times the poor would go to prosperous houses, offering to say prayers for departed loved ones. In return, they were given these round cakes and sometimes food and money as well. Soul Cakes are a wonderful example of a Pagan tradition that made it’s way into Christianity virtually unscathed. If you’ve never made them before, they are absolutely delicious. Here is my favorite recipe for Soul Cakes. They freeze well so you can make them ahead!

Soul Cakes
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground fresh if possible
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground fresh if possible
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp of saffron
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup raisins (or currants if you are able to get them)

For the Glaze:
1 egg yolk, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the flour, the nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork.

Crumble the saffron threads into a small saucepan and heat over low heat just until they become aromatic, taking care not to burn them. Add the milk and heat just until hot to the touch. The milk will have turned a bright yellow. Remove from heat.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon (or use an electric mixer with the paddle attachment). Add the egg yolks and blend in thoroughly with the back of the spoon. Add the spiced flour and combine as thoroughly as possible; the mixture will be dry and crumbly.

One tablespoon at a time, begin adding in the warm saffron milk, blending vigorously with the spoon. When you have a soft dough, stop adding milk; you probably won’t need the entire half-cup.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead gently, with floured hands, until the dough is uniform. Roll out gently to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a floured 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can and set on an ungreased baking sheet. You can gather and re-roll the scraps, gently.

Brush the souls cakes liberally with the beaten egg yolk.  Add currants in the shape of a cross and press them firmly into the dough.  Bake for 15 minutes, until just golden and shiny.

Makes 12 to 15 cakes

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin,

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Ancestor Ritual

This is the ritual we did at last night’s Welcoming Circle:


CASTING THE CIRCLE—(Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials, adapted)

Take up your wand or athame. Then walk around your designated area three times. The first time around, say:

We take this place to hidden space
Between worlds, between veils,
Where life and death can interlace.

The second time around, say:

All within this sacred round is protected,
From sky to deep below ground.

On the third round, say:

May all beings that truly see our good
Come guard this circle—come,
From city, sky, water, or wood!
So mote it be!


Elemental Spirits of the East and of Air, keepers of wisdom and mystery, whisper into our ears all that we need to know. May the cool fall breezes that rustle the leaves beneath our feet point us in the direction we need to go. Hail and welcome!

Elemental Spirits of the South and of Fire, purifiers of heart and mind, burn away the clutter and confusion from our lives so that we may have absolute clarity regarding your will for our lives. May the bonfires of fall that give us light and warmth, bring comfort to our weary souls tonight. Hail and welcome!

Elemental Spirits of the West and of Water, vessels of peace and compassion, may our thirst for justice and equality be quenched. May the fall rains which nourish the roots of the trees, give strength to the dreams you have planted in us. Hail and welcome!

Elemental Spirits of the North and of Earth, stewards of hearth and home, gather around us the community we need to make us feel safe and loved. As the fall harvest continues, we ask you to bring about a harvest of good things into our lives, Hail and welcome!

Everyone face toward the center of the circle. (David Taliesin)

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer,
We learn to see in the dark.
We search for the deep, hidden mysteries of the Divine,
And dine at Wisdom’s table of intuition and creativity.
Great Spirit, who is known to us by many names,
Be with us tonight. We are blessed by your presence.
Hail and welcome!

WELCOMING THE ANCESTORS (adapted from John Beckett,, Under the Ancient Oaks)

Let us now invite our ancestors to join our circle. (Light first candle.)

Fathers, Mothers, Grandfathers, Grandmothers,
ancestors we knew in this life, we invite you to our circle. 
We thank you for giving us life,
for caring for us when we were young and helpless,
and for teaching us to stand on our own. 
We remember you at your best.

If there is an ancestor you would like to remember,
Call their name now, silently or aloud. (Pause for names)

Beloved ancestors, accept this offering of food and drink, given with honor and with love. (Pour drink and crumble bread into cauldron)

(Light second candle)

Great, great, great grandparents,
ancestors so old your names are lost to us,
we invite you to our circle. 
We live in times very different from yours,
but we are not so very different,
and a part of you lives on in us.

We cannot call the names of these ancestors
because we do not know their names.
But think now of that ancestor
who first crossed the great ocean,
who survived war and plague and famine,
who first learned the skills that would create civilization. Remember them now. (Pause 6-8 seconds)

Beloved ancestors, accept this offering of food and drink, given with honor and with love. (Pour drink and crumble bread into cauldron)

(Light third candle)

Ancestors of spirit, mighty dead,
we invite you to our circle.
We do not carry your blood but we carry your spirit:
your thoughts, your ideas, your dreams. 
We thank you for inspiring us and enlightening us,
and for founding and creating the traditions and institutions
that mean so much to us.

If there is a spiritual ancestor you would like to remember, call their name now, silently or aloud. (Pause for names)

Beloved ancestors, accept this offering of food and drink, given with honor and with love. (Pour drink and crumble bread into cauldron)

(Light fourth candle)

Ancestors most ancient, you who share few of our genes,
you who lived on a very different Earth
so long ago we can barely conceive it,
we invite you to our circle. 
We thank you for surviving under most difficult circumstances. Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and Australopithecus;
long-extinct mammals and even-older vertebrates;
smaller and simpler creatures stretching back to the first life.
Sometimes we struggle to see ourselves in you,
but without you we would not be.

Remember these most ancient ancestors,
and remember that some of them are also
the ancestors of other species alive today. 
When St. Francis called the wolf his brother,
he had no way of knowing just how right he was. (Pause 6-8 seconds)

Beloved ancestors, accept this offering of food and drink, given with honor and with love. (Pour drink and crumble bread into cauldron.)


CAKES AND ALE (adapted from John Beckett,, Under the Ancient Oaks)

Let us now share in this celebration of our ancestors. 
If you aren’t ready to join in, for whatever reason
or for no reason at all,
simply let the bread and cup pass you by.

As you share these with the person next to you,
say these words “May you never hunger” for the bread,
and “May you never thirst” for the chalice. (When all have been served, place the bread and chalice back on the altar.)

CLOSING (David Taliesin)

Elemental Spirits of the North and of Earth, we thank you for your presence in our circle tonight. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elemental Spirits of the West and of Water, we thank you for your presence in our circle tonight. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elemental Spirits of the South and of Fire, we thank you for your presence in our circle tonight. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elemental Spirits of the East and of Air, we thank you for your presence in our circle tonight. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

CLOSING CONTINUED (adapted from John Beckett,, Under the Ancient Oaks)

Ancestors we knew in life,
Ancestors whose names we know not,
Ancestors of Spirit, and Ancestors most ancient;
we thank you for attending our circle
and blessing us with your presence.
May there be peace and love between us now and forever.
Stay if you will, Go if you must!
We bid you farewell!


Great Spirit whose hidden wisdom
Has been revealed to us tonight,
We give you thanks.
Give us strength to act upon what we have learned,
And illumine the dark days of autumn
With your insight and creativity.
Stay if you will. Go if you must,
We bid you farewell!

And now 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.

Portions of this were written by David Taliesin, ©2019,

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Full Hunter’s Moon: October 13th

full_hunters_moon-resizedAccording to the Farmer’s Almanac, the Algonquin Native American tribes referred to October’s full moon as the Hunter’s Moon because it was time to go hunting in preparation for winter. As the days grow visibly shorter, perhaps we can use this full moon to contemplate what resources we need in order to make it through the approaching winter season.

We can think of this preparation as either literal or metaphorical. Some of us have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and have to surround ourselves with the people and coping skills we need in order to keep us healthy. Others are feeling like they’re slipping into a winter season of their lives. If this is the case, be intentional about doing what you need to do in order to keep yourself strong and grounded.

Since, the veil between the worlds is also thin this time of year, it’s the perfect night to seek the wisdom of our Ancestors and Beloved Dead who can help us to navigate the perilous journey ahead. Candles, mugwort, marigolds/calendula, pictures, etc. can help us draw closer to those on the other side. We all need to feel their love and encouragement in this stressful and angry world.

So, put the energy of this season and this powerful moon to good use. And for those who celebrate it, I hope you have a blessed Samhain!

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin,

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Samhain/All Saints: The Great Cloud of Witnesses

greatcloudTherefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.  [Heb 12:1. NRSV]

As we approach the celebration of Samhain as well as All Saint’s Day, I love the term the writer of Hebrews uses to describe those who have made the transition from our world to the next. The “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews are those who sit in the eternal stadium seats, cheering us on, as we “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” I have always found this image to be rather comforting. It reminds us that the blessed dead still have a role to play in our lives as a source of wisdom and strength.

So who makes up this great cloud? One of my teachers, Byron Ballard, gave three distinctive classifications of the blessed dead in a class I attended. In looking at each, I hope it expands our understanding of who makes up those we label as our ancestors.

ANCESTORS: People in your direct bloodline who are dead.

BELOVED DEAD: People you honor who are not your ancestors who are also dead.

MIGHTY DEAD: Those you claim and honor as your ancestors. Heroes, writers, warriors, people who inspire you who, again are dead.

On my ancestor altar this year there are a few that fall into each category. I have pictures of my Ancestors such as my great-grandfather and his family. I also have pictures of the Beloved Dead such as dear friends who are no longer with me. Finally, this year’s Mighty Dead include Scott Cunningham whose magical work continues to resonate with me and inspire me.

Everyone’s great cloud of witnesses is different, yet each of us has people who continue to inspire, challenge and comfort us even thought they are no longer with us. Who are the Ancestors, Beloved Dead, and Mighty Dead you are honoring this Samhain/All Saint’s Day?

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin,

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Remembering a Man I Never Met…Talking to My Ancestors


Dia de los Muertos 2014

Henry was my great grandfather who emigrated to this country with his wife many years ago. Together they learned English, lived through the Great Depression and found a way to raise 10 healthy, happy children. Although I never met him face to face, I have always felt connected to him ever since the day I saw his picture on my grandmother’s bedroom dresser. She told me he was a wonderful father who loved music and adored his kids. He had a zeal for life that never faded, even when he and his family were going through the toughest of times.

During the month of October I construct an ancestor altar in the style of Day of the Dead. It has pictures of departed loved ones, with Henry front and center. It also includes fresh flowers, candles and calaveras (skeleton figurines engaged in everyday activities). Every time my family sits down for supper, we light the candles and dine with our ancestors. At other times I meditate in front of the altar, burn a little mugwort (which attracts the spirits) and ask Henry to give me the wisdom and strength I need to face the challenges of the coming year. I know some people might think that’s strange, but I find it comforting and uplifting.

Ancestor veneration is practiced throughout the world in some form in every culture. Unfortunately, it has mostly fallen out of favor in the United States. Yet if there was ever a time for us to revive this spiritual practice, it is most certainly now. Our world is a mess with violence surrounding us one every side. Our environment is also in peril and we need all the advice and strength we can get from our ancestors to help us navigate these perilous times.

As we approach the celebration of Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, All Saint’s Day, or Dia de los Muertos (depending upon your spiritual path), many of us believe the veil between us and those on the other side is thinnest. It is the perfect time to commune with our beloved dead and draw strength from them. If you’ve never constructed an ancestor altar before, start small. Use the top of a dresser or a shelf in a book case. Include pictures of those you wish to remember, along with small mementos, a candle, and maybe some fresh flowers or incense. Use this altar as a place to meditate and pray in the coming weeks and see what wisdom the beloved dead have to offer you!
If you’re like me you will discover that you won’t want to dismantle this altar after the month of October comes to an end. Personally, I reluctantly take the big altar down but I also construct a smaller one in my office where it remains for the rest of the year. It is a visual reminder that our ancestors and Ancient Ones are always with us, building us up and cheering us on every step of the way!

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin,

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Listening to the Gabble Ratchets

Flying_geeseI was out in the yard catching up with my next door neighbor. What we heard next brought our conversation to a screeching, or shall I say honking, halt. It was the sound of a flock of geese flying overhead in a V formation. The volume of their conversation was almost deafening, and the two of us just stood there awed by the sight and sound. A week later, I would learn a term to describe this cacophony of sound…gabble ratchets.

What in the world is a gabble ratchet, you might ask? The phrase sounds a bit ominous but it can also be seen in a positive light. In days of old, gabble ratchets were the spectral hounds who roamed the night sky, searching for the souls of the newly dead. Some also thought that if one heard their bark or whelp, it was an omen of impending death. Gabble ratchets are known by many other names and appear in a number of European folk traditions. The most common alternative names are the Gabriel Hounds, the Hounds of Hell (Welsh) or the Wild Hunt (Germanic).

In our day and age, we know that gabble ratchets are only geese doing what they do this time of year. However, because the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest I would like to think that their other-worldly song is leading all lost souls to the place where they belong. I see it as a sign of blessing and comfort. It’s a reminder that the Divine Presence surrounds us always, even in death, and hold us for all eternity.

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin,

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