Empowerment Ritual


Midwinter Altar with Altered Playing Cards, Welcoming Circle, Photo by David Taliesin, ©2019.

This past Sunday night I taught the folks at The Welcoming Circle how to make altered playing cards [mini-collages] as a way of helping us to set our magical intentions and personal goals. We then closed with a ritual to empower of newly created cards:


[Recipe for Brigid Oil is found in Cunningham’s Incense, Oils and Brews]

May your magical intentions be strong and true
To bring healing and transformation
To the world around you.


Elements of the east,
place of air, the breath of life,
that which we cannot see
but which fills us with inspiration,
be with us now.

Elements of the south,
place of fire, heat of heart’s blood,
that which courses through us,
filling us with passion
and infusing us with life-giving heat,
be with us now.

Elements of the west,
place of water, shape-shifting,
that which constantly moves and transforms,
nurturing creativity
and gifting us with fresh vision,
be with us now.

Elements of the north,
place of grounding, place of birth,
fierce winter land of ice and cold,
endings and beginnings,
always calling us home,
be with us now.

Ancient Mother of Midwinter,
Watcher over life and death,
The one who rebirths the world,
Be with us on this night!
See us through the dark hours
And stand with us
As dawn births the promise of new life.
So mote it be!


Close your eyes.

Visualize pulling the energy from the earth up though the souls of your feet and into your body until the souls of your feet tingle. Go with whatever color comes to mind.

Then pull the energy of the moon and stars down from the sky and into your body and let these two energies intertwine. Again, go with whatever color coms to mind.

Let them grow and expand until they fill your body with energetic light which you may picture as a sphere or a double helix or any other image that comes to mind.

When you’re ready, open your eyes and reach our your hands toward the center altar and the playing cards we’ve created. Let that healing energy flow into them.

As you are doing this think about the card you’ve reader and the magical intention it represents.

Remember, this is not your energy. You are just a vessel through with it flows. In order to keep it flowing, join me in the following Druidic chant…Oh-ee-ah.

Now, we are going to release this energy toward the cards on the center altar. Think of what you want to accomplish this coming month. One two, three, release! (Pause)


Elements of the North, Powers of Earth, Stone and Oak, thank you for your presence and grounding energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elements of the West, Powers of Water, Snow and Ice, thank you for your presence and healing energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elements of the South, powers of Fire, Lightning, and Sun thank you for your presence and courageous energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elements of the East, powers of Air, Smoke, and Moon, thank you for your presence and inspirational energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Ancient Mother of Midwinter,
You bless us with your presence in our circle tonight.
Keep our intentions as strong as winter ice.
May your winds of inspiration blow mightily through our lives,
And help our magic to blanket the world
Like snow upon the ground.
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 and to the animals around us
Who need its strength this winter.
Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.

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Imbolc vs. Candlemas


Candlemas @ All Saints Ashmont, Boston, MA

Even some of my Wiccan books get this one wrong! Imbolc and Candlemas are not the same holiday, but they are tried together thematically as we shall see. Imbolc is a Gaelic celebration that usually occurs on the night of February 1st. It honors the goddess Brigid who is often associated with fire among other things. One of Imbolc’s main themes is Brigid’s turning of the Wheel of the Year toward spring. Therefore, light plays an important part in the celebration. Some NeoPagans light outdoor bonfires while others employ lots of candles in indoor settings.

Candlemas is a Christian holiday that is observed on February 2nd. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox celebrate it as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Candlemas commemorates a story found in Luke 2:22-40 where Joseph and Mary take baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth, as required by Jewish Law. After making the required sacrifice, Mary is then considered to be ritually clean and Jesus is presented at the Temple since he is their first born son. A man named Simeon witnesses this event and gives a heartfelt prayer known in Latin as the Nunc Dimittis. The theme of the prayer is that Simeon has now beheld the “light” that will shine on Gentiles and Jews alike.

Christian celebrations of Candlemas include the blessing of beeswax candles, and a candle-lit procession precedes the worship service that day. In some part of Europe, especially France, they eat crepes on Candlemas (I’m not exactly sure why!). Each member of the household cooks their own crepe while holding a coin in their hand. They believe it assures wealth and happiness until the next Candlemas celebration.

I’ve read a number of articles that connect Candlemas with Imbolc, as well as the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Personally, I’m not convinced the tie is as strong as some people suggest. Both Imbolc and Candlemas are festivals of light. However, there are numerous light festivals during the winter season that appear in many cultures and religions. If anyone out there has a strong argument regarding how they tie together, I’m all ears. Please cite the sources that helped you to draw this conclusion.

There is a good possibility, however, that Candlemas got its start as a Christian alternative to Imbolc. This has certainly been true of many Pagan festivals so it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

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


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Brigid: The Goddess Behind the Saint


St. Brigid from wikkicommons

St. Brigid is both historical figure and character of folklore and shared more than a name with her Pagan Goddess counterpart. It is through St. Brigid that the clearest glimpse into Brigid the Goddess can be found.—Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess, Courtney Weber

If you spend any time researching the subject, there are numerous theories that describe how the Saint and Goddess are connected. The one that resonates with me most strongly these days comes from the excellent research done by Courtney Weber in Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magic of the Celtic Goddess. According to Weber, one of the commonalities between various Celtic cultural traditions was a term for an exalted being: Brig or Brid. It was applied to more than the Goddess, and was also used to refer to women in positions of power in society. One example is a first century Irish lawyer called Brigh which was probably not her name but was a reference to her occupation as a female judge.

When nuns take their vows, they leave their secular name behind and choose a new one. Based on Weber’s work it is possible that the nun in question chose the name Brigid which was quite fitting since she held a powerful position as the founder the cathedral in Kildare (which was built on top of a Pagan shrine) and abbess of a monastery. She also had a reputation for being generous to the poor and was known for healing miracles and compassionate care for animals.


Cross from St. Brigid’s Cathedral

When Brigid died and was declared a saint, there is no doubt the folklore surrounding her continued to grow. It’s my theory that many of the qualities that were once attributed to the Goddess Brigid became attached to St. Brigid since the worship of the Goddess remained strong in Ireland in spite of Christian attempts to eliminate it.  This way, the Celts could have their Goddess in the guise of saint’s clothing.  It was a win/win for both sides!

There are others beside myself who believe in this theory. Robert Ellsberg in All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses For Our Time, says “It has been noted that in ancient times Brigid was, in fact, the name of the Celtic sun goddess. This has given rise to the suggestion that in St. Brigid, a nun and abbess of the fifth century, we find the repository of primeval religious memories and traditions. In any case, it seems that with the cult of St. Brigid the Irish people maintained an image of the maternal face of God with which to compliment the more patriarchal religion of St. Patrick and subsequent missionaries.”

Edward C. Sellner in Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, says “These attributes (of the goddess) were eventually identified with Brigit, the saint, whose feast day, February 1, came to be celebrated on the same day as that of the Pagan goddess. Early hagiographers also portray crucial turning points in Brigit’s life  and ministry as touched with fire. It i clear that St. Brigit stands on the boundary between Pagan mythology and Christian spirituality.”

In my own personal spiritual practice, Brigid plays a big part as my “go-to” Goddess. I have an icon of her above my altar in the form of St. Brigid to remind me of the connection between my Christian and Pagan paths. For me she is a bridge-builder and reconciler whose healing power might help to bring us all closer together!  Hail Brigid, and I wish you all a blessed celebration of Imbolc!

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

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Great Wheels of Fire

St. Lucia's DayImbolc is the celebration of the first stirrings of spring after the dark days of winter. Ancient Pagans celebrated the holiday by lighting ritual fires to lure back the sun. One of the most popular customs among the Celts was to have a young woman, representing the maiden aspect of the goddess Brigid, enter the ritual area carrying a circle of lit candles. This circle is a symbol of the Wheel of the Year that Brigid is slowly turning toward spring. Thanks to their Norse brothers and sisters, the wheel was eventually worn on the young woman’s head.  This tradition originated in the Norse celebration of Yule.

If all this sounds familiar to my Christian readers, we have another connection with our Pagan friends!  The Swedish folk song “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella” commemorates the young woman in question.  This custom is still practiced today in Scandinavian countries on St. Lucia’s Day, December 13th.  Interestingly enough, St. Lucia’s original incarnation was Lucina, the Roman goddesss of light!

A great book that helped me make some of these connections is Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways by Edain McCoy.  It is filled to interesting rites, crafts, activities and history that surrounds the eight sabbats observed by most modern Wiccans.

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

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Imbolc: Becoming Rooted in Good Soil


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 © 2019 by sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Crystal Reading Stand

Recently I was in Europe and beheld this wonderful reading stand at the back of the Abbey Cathedral in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Displayed on it is an illustrated gospel manuscript (located on both sides of the stand). I share it with you because it struck me as being quite Pagan, yet it is found in a Cathedral. The large crystals are marvelous and add a sense of majesty and power to the display. Wonder who commissioned this beautiful work of art? Enjoy!


Reading Stand, Abbey Cathedral of St. Gall. St. Gallen, Switzerland. Photo: Copyright ©2018 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com. Used by permission.

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January: Wolf Moon


“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 20th 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.

This full moon is also a lunar eclipse which will be visible in North America beginning around 10:30pm EST. If you’re fortunate enough to have a clear sky (sorry for those facing the winter snowstorm) you should definitely go outside and enjoy the view. As the earth casts its magical shadow over the moon, reflect on the things that are both hidden and revealed in your life. Are you paying attention to both? What’s in plain sight that you need to pay attention to this coming lunar cycle? What have you been ignoring, postponing or isn’t on your radar that should be? Listen in silence and wait for the Divine to whisper her secrets to you.

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

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