Category Archives: RITUALS & PASSAGES

Casting A Circle for Ritual

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In your practice of witchcraft, you will often want to cast a circle for ritual, to create a safe space for your craftwork, and sometimes for meditation. As you learn and grow as a witch, you will become more adept, and tweak your circle casting to your liking.

After years of practice, I can cast a circle in mere seconds simply though focused thought.

Let me explain. In Yoga, you learn a technique of breathing your mind and body into relaxation. After some time at practice, simply beginning the breath will trigger the relaxation response. Likewise, when meditating, the place you meditate, the position you take, lighting a candle, playing music—anything you do every time you meditate, signals your body to slip into that calm state.

Because I have cast so many circles I can now create the energy of a protective circle with nothing but thought and focused intention. If I find myself in a situation where I need an especially protective boundary, I can cast one quickly and virtually silently.

Below is an example for casting the circle, followed by an outline of steps for ritual preparation, though circle casting, magical working, to ending with the opening of the circle and releasing energy. 

CIRCLE CASTING

Stand before your altar, indoors or outdoors. Envision that you and your altar are the center of a circle. Begin by facing North and call the elements one at a time in deosil. As your practice grows, you should be able to do this extemporaneously, guided by what you are feeling at the time and the purpose of your ritual or other work. As you call each element, face in that direction and hold your arms up and out. If you use a ritual athame, hold it in both hands and point the blade in the direction of the element as you call.

(Face North) Hail North, element of Earth, energies of the physical world, of all living things, of grounding, foundations, security, and stability. I call upon Gaia, nurturing Mother. Attend my rites.

(Face East) Hail East, element of Air, energies of thought, intellect, ideas and inspiration, the breath of life. I call upon Air. Attend my rites.

(Face South) Hail South, element of Fire, energies of passion, courage and action, the fire of might and transformation. I call upon Fire. Attend my rites.

(Face West) Hail West, element of Water, energies of all emotion, of love and hate, of compassion and fortitude, of bravery and fear. I call upon flowing water that washes me clean and quenches my thirst. I call upon Water. Attend my rites.

*You may light a candle at each direction before you call each, to light their way. Again, this is not necessary. You could also place a crystal at each directional point and in the center. You can cast a circle with absolutely nothing but yourself. You can sit in a cast circle with a single candle, and communicate with your guides. Choose what enhances your rites for you, and what feels right at the time.

Above me, below me, before me, behind me, around me like sphere the circle is cast. (Face your altar) This sacred circle is cast in a place between worlds. May all who enter come in love and trust to aid me (us) in my (our) workings, and may the boundary protect all those within from any who would bring harm or ill intent.

*If you practice with deity or spirit ~ I call (fill in identifier) into the circle (add any qualities or aspects). Example: I call Great Spirit, the creator of all things into my circle. (etc.).

*If you are going to be working with a specific deity for any of your rites, you would call to them at this point, in the same manner, naming them and acknowledging their aspects, especially the aspects you are seeking in your magic, such as protection, strength, compassion, etc. Example: Hail Hekate, guardian of the triple crossroad, I call you into the circle and ask for your wise guidance in my workings, for you see all worlds and all times.

After you have cast the boundary of the circle and called in those you wish to attend, proceed to offering of libations. Hold up the cup with drink. You can offer a portion to Spirit, a deity, or simply to the universal collective or higher self. I offer this drink to (fill in). May none thirst. Then drink from the cup yourself. If you are in circle with others, pass the cup (deosil) and say, May you never thirst. They drink and do the same. When all have partaken, pour any remaining drink onto the ground, into the fire (or if indoors an offering dish).

Repeat the process with the food. Hold it up and say, I offer this food to (fill in). May none hunger. Partake for yourself and pass to others, saying may you never hunger. Give any remaining food to the ground, fire or offering dish. If using an offering dish, it should be placed outdoors after ritual.

When you have completed the offerings, move onto any craft work, meditation, communicating with Spirit, deity, guides – drumming, dancing, however you choose to honor the purpose of your ritual.  Though ritual and rites are two words often interchanged, I feel that ritual is all of it, from preparation through feasting—and the rites refer to the specific workings done while in circle.

Along with creating a protective boundary, the circle also serves the purpose of containing the energy of the magic you work, the energy of your intention. You can you sound and movement to raise that energy to higher levels, waling or dancing around the circle, singing, clapping, drumming, spinning (don’t get dizzy).

When your ritual, craft workings and raising energy are complete, open the circle in the reverse order that it was cast. First bid farewell to any specific spirits/deities you called up, then to God/dess. Bid farewell to the elements from Water to Earth, in widdershins direction (counter clockwise). If you lit candles blow each one out, one at time, after you bid farewell.

Farewell (deity/spirits) and all beings who entered the circle and joined in my (our), rites. I (we) thank you for your presence. Blessed be and journey well.

Farewell West, element of water. Thank you for your energy of purification, fluid movement, quenching and hydrating (add general energies that apply, especially those specific to the ritual). Blessed be and journey well.

Repeat for the remaining directions/elements.

If others have joined you for ritual, you can join hands before saying ~

Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again. The circle is open but never unbroken.

Whether holding hands or alone, raise your hands up swiftly toward the sky, releasing the energy and magic that was contained in the circle, out to the universe to do it’s work. A little vocalizing never hurts, do what you feel—shout, sing, try making a unique tribal call!  If this isn’t coming easy, start with Magic, do your work!

Ritual work can leave you feeling spacey, even a bit shakey. Proceed to feasting to ground and center. You can also, literally, touch the ground with your palms and visualize absorbing Mother Earth’s grounding energy.

THE OUTLINE

Preparation:

    • Gather all altar supplies, tools and offerings.
    • Supplies and tools should be cleaned and consecrated to your work. Ideally, your tools are most often in this state and ready to be used. Read about cleaning, consecrating, and charging tools here.
    • Self purification. A ritual bath or other cleansing method.
    • Set up your altar using representations for elements, spirit/deity, candles, etc.

Cleanse and Consecrate Your Space:

This can be done with herbal smudging, incense, or sacred water. Read about making your own pagan holy water here. Circle around in a deosil direction (clockwise movement), allowing the smoke or sprinkling the water in a boundary around the circle. You may want to speak words of clearing and blessing, such as. “I clear this space and these tools of all negative energy and bless them for my sacred work.”

Clothing:

Ritual garb is an individual choice. Wear whatever feels appropriate, but having special garments only for ritual (a simple gown or robe) for ritual adds to setting the energy. After you have prepared yourself, prepare your space and altar. It is not true that ritual must be performed sky-clad (nude). Do so if you’re comfortable, don’t worry about it if not.

Altar:

Your altar can be quite simple, with a representation for the four elemental energies—Earth, Air, Water, Fire. This is important, the essence of witchcraft is understanding and working with nature, and is governed by the laws of nature and the laws of physics. (For deeper research, look into string theory and witchcraft).

If you practice with deity or the premise of an all powerful Spirit, you should have a representation of that present. It can be a printed image, a figurine or statue—it can be a rock you have consecrated to hold the energy of your deity.

Cast the Circle:

      • Call directions/elements
      • Call deity or other entities as per your beliefs and purpose of your working.

Honoring:

    • Speak to the purpose of the ritual (A sabbat, a special honoring or request, etc)
    • Honor the energies/deities/others
    • Express gratitude for all that has been given
    • Ask for what you want (if nothing specific, ask for continued blessings and guidance on your path)

Offering:

Offering ale and cakes, or libation. This can be any beverage and bite of food you desire. It can be a deity’s favorite, it can be your favorite shared with deity. It can be the same thing every time if that’s what you want—wine and bread, milk and cookies, water and fruit . . .

Spells/Workings:

Any special crafting or workings, such as making a seasonal corn dolly, mixing up an elixir, creating a spell jar, or simply putting your crystals or other tools in the circle for consecrating to a specific purpose (protection, abundance, etc). You can use this time to communicate with your guides or deity (just listening counts). You can sing, dance, drum, pantomime, recite verse. This is the time to honor your craft and all the workings thereof.

Give Thanks and Open the Circle:

Give thanks to all beings and energies called into the circle. Do this in the reverse order that they were welcomed – God/Goddess, other deities and beings, elements/directions.

Grounding:

It is best practice to ground after holding ritual rites or participating in them. This is easily done with physical movement, and food and drink. Thus, the traditional feasting after opening the circle.

 


Sunday Morning Coming Down

camera-514992_640It’s Sunday. The house is quiet in these early morning hours. I’m tucked away in my she-room, sipping fresh coffee. In summer, when the sun rises early enough to angle through the small window, it falls across the corner of the antique maple dresser I stripped down to the wood and then hand-rubbed with tung oil to reveal the grain.

The sun beam catches the glass of the framed mirror above the small chest of drawers and the room glows with the sweet promise of the season. Whispers fill my inner ear, I’ll bring you fragrant bouquets of roses and peonies. We’ll share lazy afternoons on the two-seater porch swing, and long nights tangled in the sheets when your body glistens from the heat of my touch. 

Oh, lover Summer, be still my heart.

Meanwhile, a friend shares a photo of her morning coffee at a sidewalk cafe in Paris and I feel a pang of envy for the life that got away.

I thought I’d journey to foreign places at this juncture in my life. I thought I’d sip coffee in a Paris Cafe, eat pasta alla Norma and visit the La Pescheria Market in Sicily, dip my toes in the Mediterranean, and drink Ouzo in Greece.

Alas, my husband’s health makes it extremely difficult to travel, and the stress of it when we do only worsens his conditions. He worries about getting where we need to be when we need to be there, with all the medical paraphernalia in tow and on board. But his concerns are that of a general running a campaign. I am the foot soldier with boots on the ground, carrying out the mission—and all the bags.

My travels worries are different. The possibility of a sudden crisis, even death, is something I live with every day. At home, or anywhere within the borders of the continental U.S., I know what to do.

With overseas travel, the thought of navigating unfamiliar territory and being unable to speak the language in an emergency makes it quite a different prospect. I worry about hospitals and transports if his heart, his burdened lungs, and his blood sugar all conspire to attack, deflate, and spike or plummet at the same time. I worry about simply getting us both back home if he dies.

Even when I imagine the best possible outcomes, I still see barriers everywhere. He won’t be walking along the ocean’s edge with me, strolling the maze of cobbled streets in historic cities, or climbing the stone steps of seaside villages, ancient ruins, or soaring cathedrals.

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It seems rather a lot of work, worry and expense just for me to spend most of my time in hotel rooms and sidewalk cafes, even if they are quintessentially European. Sure, I may be able to savor an authentic croissant with my French Coffee or wash down a plate of good Italian pasta with a goblet of chianti, but is it really worth all that?

The heart wants what the heart wants, and despite knowing the reality, considering my husband’s limitations, would be disappointing at best, my heart still aches for this unrequited encounter. Friends tell me to go without him. He tells me to go without him—lot’s of women do it.

We made these plans in a time when we thought we’d both be strong and healthy forever, or at least until we were, you know, really old. My husband has been to Europe, as a soldier, and numerous times after that. Our dream was to go together, to share the beauty and wonder with each other.

I have traveled without him since we married, though on a smaller scale. It only exchanges one ache in my heart for another, the longing for him to be at my side sharing the moments that photographs can’t capture. It casts a pall of loneliness.

My friend is traveling alone with others—sans husband. When she returns home he won’t be there to greet her; he died before they could share this time of their life.

One heartache for another.

 


A Year of Becoming Crone

Crone woman in mosaicI marked sixty years of life last month. I am relishing the milestone. True, a trace of mourning for my lost youth still lingers around my edges, but the circle turns ever onward and aging is life. I find I spend more time imagining my crone years stretching out before me, who I want to be as Crone, and what legacy I want to create.

The triple goddess archetype of Maiden, Mother and Crone has been much misunderstood and often reimagined. I see it as a broad metaphor, not to be applied literally, nor its increments marked so precisely to biological functions in the life span of a woman.

The Maiden embodies youthful spirit of adventure and exploration, she is unfettered and carefree. Her energy is the awakening of and to life and in that respect she is ageless.

The Mother is the perpetuator of life. She has the potential to grow a child, give birth and care for the child, but that potential need not be actualized by the process of physical birth. The Mother is Creatrix of all life. Her energy is to bring change, to keep things moving forward, to create the unfolding of life, especially her own.

The Crone, of course, is the woman of experience. She is a vault of knowledge gained though life’s lessons—often hard learned. The Crone sees the bigger picture, her energy is of comprehension, compassion, and temperance. She has, perhaps, the most revealing of all vision, that of hindsight. The Crone brings closure, a laying down of burdens too long carried.

The passage from one life stage to the next, does not erase the former. We carry with us all the ages we have been. Neither are the transitions set hard and fast in the flush or loss of hormones. Some women enter their croning earlier, some after they are much older. Becoming Crone is not about age, it’s knowing, in your deepest place, when you have arrived.

I have been hearing the Crone whispers for some time now, but events of the past few weeks have turned up the volume. The voice inside me calls, “Don the mantle and cloak, enter the circle of Crones. Your time is at hand.”

But what does that mean? Sit on my porch swing and wait for younger seekers to come ask my advice? Check my inbox for an invitation to the circle? I’m thinking not. So, like I’ve done with most everything in my life, I’m jumping in feet first. The plan is to spend this year defining the parameters of my Croneship.

Many modern adaptations of the Maiden, Mother, Crone life cycle have expanded it beyond the three archetypal phases. Two models stand out as revolutionary and the books that introduced them have become timeless classics:  The Queen of Myself by Donna Henes and The Women’s Wheel of Life by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard.

Ah, but of course! The three stages of the Triple Goddess are not the only points along the way. As on a beautiful color wheel, they are the primary hues, and between them are all of the beautiful blends—some in equal amounts, yes, but also those with a bit more of this than that, to give us all the colors of the spectrum.

The Queen lies directly between Mother and Crone. She is a powerful woman with much of the warrior about her, fighting for the right to her own sovereignty and for that of all women. From advocate to activist, she is a brave force in whatever causes she takes up.

In The Women’s Wheel of Life, Davis and Leonard give us thirteen unique archetypes, all distinct stages of the progression of blood mysteries, but again like the color wheel, the energies of each archetype strengthen the opposite aspect on the wheel. There are no less than five stages between Mother and Crone—Midwife, Matriarch, Amazon, Priestess and Sorceress.

In the Triple Goddess model, I have been more Crone than Mother for some time now. Queen felt right with her empowerment energy and capacity for the work of shaping society, but my urge to pass the scepter and crown to the next generation has become strong of late. While age alone and the death of my own mother makes me a Matriarch, the energy of Priestess and Sorceress feels much more visceral.

This makes sense to me. The Matriarch bears much of the Queenly qualities, still shaping and nurturing her family and community, while the Priestess and Sorceress are channels of Spirit. Their solo journey takes them through the deserts or to the mountain tops, they walk in the dark places, carefully listening, stirring past experience with divine truth, distilling the message that will be shared as Crone wisdom.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that true croning has almost nothing to do with natural age progression. True croning is an emergence from the depths of our self reckoning and the integration of our shadow and light, a beautiful blend allowing for all the tones. Where once we thought we knew everything, Crone shows us how narrow our vision has been.

The particular Crone energy I’m feeling is one of understanding, compassion, and acceptance that there are many paths to the same end. Between right and wrong action is a wide, gray chasm of potential for harm. I want to choose the way of least harm to myself—this precious, mortal vessel deserves at least as much love and care as I have given to others throughout my life.

I am quite ready to lay down the sword of the Amazon & Warrior, to pass the scepter and crown of the Queen to the next generation, knowing that it doesn’t mean ceding territory already hard-won. I have no doubt there are still many lessons to learn, but I believe they will be of a less corporeal and more transcendent nature.

Whether short or long, my journey to becoming Crone has begun.


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