My great-great grandmother knew Gerald Gardner!

I’m sure you’ve met one. Who knows – maybe you are one. You know, those Pagans who claim lineage.

Some claim to be descended directly from Gerald Gardner (Britsh Traditionals).

Still others claim to have been part of some hidden coven in the New Forest that taught them everything (oh wait! That’s Gardner again).

Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?
Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?

From then on, of course, they’re infinitely better and so much more Pagan than you.

Feel insecure and insufficient yet? Yep. That’s the idea.

My potted history in Paganism

You want to know my Pagan lineage? Here it is: I got interested in Paganism through various books as a teenager, and then got together with a few like-minded friends. And we made stuff up.

We flew by pulling ourselves up by our shoelaces.

woman-flying

We knew nothing except that we wanted to learn. So we supported each other in the learning process, did a whole stack of courses and training, some more reputable than others, and gradually started figuring things out.

Some stuff worked, other stuff really worked, and a lot of stuff didn’t work at all. We were really, really eclectic! We read everything we could get our hands on, from Campbell and Frazer and Kramer to Starhawk and Fox and Buckland – and a whole lot besides.

I was involved with two main covens through the 90s and early century – MoonSpell Coven (which I originated) and then Akasha Coven, which I created and for which I was the HPS. Many of the members of those groups are still practicing, and almost all of them remain my friends.

Akasha in particular was very active in the wider Pagan scene in Melbourne, Australia, offering classes and public gatherings that attracted large groups of people and were very sucessful. My involvement in the Pagan scene wound down when I had children and just couldn’t keep up with the hours required for regular work.

But lineage? I have none. None of my friends do either – or they didn’t when I was working with them. Maybe they do now. But I still don’t. I’ve been in the Pagan scene since I was a teenager, I’m 43 now, so that’s about 25 years of practice, and I’m still unlineaged.

I’d say I’m pretty experienced now. I’m still considered a Pagan Leader in certain circles, and quite knowledgeable, but I feel like a novice in a lot of areas. I’m learning all the time. I love learning all the time! I’d never call myself an expert, although I know quite a bit by now.

Time is, change is…

That’s just it with Paganism though. It’s such a huge field that you never stop learning. Nobody is ever really an expert – not of everything, anyway. If anyone calls themselves an “expert” or starts giving themselves titles in my presence, my Bullshit Detector starts twitching. Like a Timey Wimey Detector, it goes Ding! when there’s Stuff.

timeywimey

bs

Does lineage matter?

The truth is, lineage doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The whole point of Paganism is that you do what you want, what works for you – without the need for a clergy. So you certainly don’t need someone Uber Important telling you what to do.

No practitioner is more important than the rest, simply because of who they happen to know or claim to know. Or claim to have learned from.

I’ve been fortunate in my time to have taken classes with some of the “big names” in Paganism. Did they teach me anything that was intrinsically better than what I figured out on my own? No. Maybe I’m just not someone with a “groupie” mindset, but although the experience of working with these people was generally good, it didn’t make me a better practitioner.

What has made me a better practitioner has been experience. Years and years of it. Making lots of mistakes. Learning from lots of different people from all different walks of life. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and doing the figuring out for myself.

I’ve made some big balls ups in ritual. Some of them at large public events I was running. I’ve stuffed up, screwed up, and ballsed up. It all helped me learn. I’ve had to learn humility, and I’ve had to have a healthy sense of humour.

Skills for becoming a better practitioner

I can’t reiterate it enough – a piece of paper, or a certain lineage, or a course from an education centre, no matter how reputable – none of these can make you a better practitioner.

What will make you a better practitioner is learning to listen to your own, inner self.
Learning to take in what works for you, and toss what doesn’t.
Learning to discriminate between the good and the not so good.
Learning to accept that everyone is different, and that what works for your friend may not necessarily work for you.

Having a sense of humour will make you a better practitioner, as will learning to not take yourself too seriously.
Learning that you will always, always be a novice in the world in most fields will help, while recognising that most of the people who claim to be adepts are actually novices too is also useful.

Learning to have a fully functional Bullshit Detector is a valuable asset. Learning that most people are just fumbling along in the dark is another useful asset. And being especially wary of anyone with titles or claims is a real, serious asset – hang on to that, no matter who you meet or what they claim to be!

Lineage isn’t important. The biggest fool can train, and the biggest fool can make claims. What is meaningful, in the end, is what you choose, what is purposeful and worthwhile for you.

meaningful

My path continues…

Like I said, I have no lineage. It is meaningless to me. I’m self taught, and taught by many, and taught by Life, and taught by the Goddess Aphrodite. That is humbling and empowering and enough for me.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to teach many, many others, and help them find their own paths, their own journeys.

I started on this path 25 years ago, maybe more. I’m excited to see where it leads me. But one thing I do know – I don’t need titles or claims or lineage or Big Wazoo outfits to impress anybody.

This journey is for my Goddess and for me.

path

Midsummer rite and spell for coven

This ritual is designed for a medium-sized group and is a lovely way to celebrate the hottest part of the year, when days are longest and nights shortest. If celebrating on the actual day of Midsummer is not possible, celebrate the festival on the Sunday, which is the day sacred to Helios, the God of the Sun.

At Midsummer, many countries and areas are under the restriction of total fire bans. This means no cauldron fires, no open flames and candles, and no bonfires.

Consequently, a different approach to the rites of Midsummer is needed, and it is quite different in feel to the rites traditionally celebrated at Sabbats such as Beltane.

This ritual marks the quarters of the Circle with staves decorated to represent the elements – Air (East), Fire (North), Water (West) and Earth (South).

These staffs are made from lengths of broomstick or wood, bound with ribbons in the traditional elemental colors and decorated with seasonal flowers. They can also be anointed with oils associated with the different elements and directions.

The staffs can either be held by the Priests/Priestesses of the quarters.

Volunteers from the group are needed for the following tasks and roles:

Air Priest/ess
Fire Priest/ess
Water Priest/ess
Earth Priest/ess
Group Priest/ess or Leader (this should be an experienced Witch)
Altar Priest/ess to hold the mortar while the ingredients are placed within.
Handmaiden/Page to collect the empty ingredient bowls, and return them to the Altar.
Members of the group who will cast the ingredients of the incense into the mortar for grinding
Members of the group to set and decorate the Altar.

Note: These roles can be doubled over as required.

W Heath Robinson, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
W Heath Robinson, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

The rite

Requirements:

Elemental staves (see above)
Mortar and pestle
Ingredients for Midsummer Incense bags:
3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Benzoin
1 part Dragon’s Blood
1 part Thyme
1 part Rosemary
1 part Vervain
Small bags of red cloth
Short pieces of gold ribbon to tie the bags closed.
Cakes and Ale.

Before the ritual:

The staves should be given to the Elemental Priest/esses.
The mortar and pestle should be on the altar, and the altar should be set by members of the group.
Bowls containing the ingredients necessary for the Midsummer Incense should be given out to various members of the group who will take charge of each ingredient.

The Circle is cast in the following way by members of the group.

Air Priest/ess:

I call the Element of Air
The Wind, the Breeze, the Dawn, the East –
Be with us now!

Fire Priest/ess:

I call the Element of Fire
The Flame, the Passion, the Will, the North –
Be with us now!

Water Priest/ess:

I call the Element of Water
The Wave, the Tide, the Storm, the Sunset –
Be with us now!

Earth Priest/ess:

I call the Element of Earth
The Land, the Strength, the Body, the Midnight Hour –
Be with us now!

Group Priest/ess or Leader:

By Air, and Fire, and Water and Earth (group repeats line)
This Circle is Cast, So Mote It Be! (group repeats line).

Group Priest/ess or Leader:

Here at the time of Midsummer
When days are longest
When nights are shortest
And the Gods of the Sun are glorious in their power and strength
We make our offerings
And ask for aid in the coming year.
Please be seated.

The group sits and make themselves comfortable, except for the Altar Priestess.

The Altar Priest/ess takes Midsummer Incense bags from the Altar and passes them around the group deosil.

S/he then takes the mortar and pestle from the Altar and moves deosil around the group to the members who hold the ingredients necessary for the Incense.

One by one, they cast their ingredients into the mortar, stating the name of their ingredient. In return, she replies “Blessed Be.”

The Handmaiden/Page collects the empty bowls and places them beneath/beside the Altar.

Once the Altar Priest/ess has collected the ingredients for the Incense, s/he shows the mortar and pestle to the group (walking deosil around the group) with the following words:

Take your time to work the spell
As you grind, focus your blessings into the bowl
And cast your good wishes for the year to come.

The Altar Priest/ess then passes the mortar (containing the ingredients) and pestle to the Air Priest/ess, and returns to his/her position in the Circle.

The Air Priest/ess takes the mortar and pestle and grind the mix together, focusing good intent into the Incense. When s/he feels that the intent has been cast, s/he passes it to the next member of the group in a deosil direction, and the process repeats itself.

Once the Incense has been passed around the group, and the Incense is thoroughly mixed, the Handmaiden/Page takes the Incense mix and, circling the group, offers a small amount to each of the group members. They put it into their Midsummer Incense bags.

Handmaiden/Page:

Tie your Incense bags
And the spell will be tied.
Seal your Incense bags
And the spell will be sealed.
When you are home, alone, tonight
Give thanks for your blessings
And burn the Incense
In the name of the Lord and Lady.
Blessed be!

The group ties their bags closed.

The Handmaiden/Page now moves to the Altar, and blesses the Bread and Juice, which s/he then passes around the group for Feasting.

Once the Feasting is done, the Circle is closed in the following way:

Earth Priest/ess:

The Element of Earth
We hail and farewell!

Water Priest/ess:

The Element of Water
We hail and farewell!

Fire Priest/ess:

The Element of Fire
We hail and farewell!

Air Priest/ess:

The Element of Air
We hail and farewell!

Group Priest/ess or Leader:

This Circle is open
Yet remains unbroken
Merry Meet, and Merry Part, and Merry Meet again.
Blessed be!

Lammas! Group Lammas ritual

Lammas celebrates the harvest, and the beginning of summer’s end.

Lammas portable altar, for outside use.
Lammas portable altar, for outside use.

In the southern hemisphere, Lammas falls on February 2, which is right in the hottest part of the year for most countries in this part of the world.

Lammas is the celebration of the harvest, and all things related to hops, hay and wheat, so the drink of the season is beer or ale (and fruit juices for non-drinkers and children). This is also the time of stone fruit (such as plums, apricots and peaches) and tropical fruit (mangoes and bananas) – and all of these foods can be incorporated into a feast to celebrate Lammas.

Lammas group ritual

For this ritual you will need:
• A web of strands drawing outwards (the radii of the web, like the spokes of a wheel) should be prepared, with enough strands so that a member of the Circle can hold one each. The strand needs to be three times the length of the final web circumference. There should also be four strands, one of each of the elemental colours, attached from
the centre of the web.

• a large bunch of very ripe grapes is required, preferably red. If red grapes cannot be found, rich red ripe plums will do instead.

• enough beer, ale or apple cider for all the members of the Circle

• a large silver or steel bowl

• a loaf of home-baked bread or damper. In the making of the bread, each member of the circle should stir the mixture, always anti-clockwise, a minimum of three times. The bread should still be warm when the ritual begins.

Set an altar in the center of the Circle, and on it lay the grapes and bread.
Set the beer/ale/cider before the altar, and set out enough mugs for each member of the Circle.

Cast the Circle in the following way:

Wind, Fire, Sea, Stone
Breath, Flame, Wave, Bone
As I will, So it be done!
As I will, so it be done!
This circle is cast! Time has no meaning here.
This circle is cast! No harm can come to us here.
We are between the worlds.

The High Priest/ess says:

Now is the time of Lammas
Time to acknowledge the web of life that surrounds us
Time to acknowledge the web of life that nourishes us
Time to give thanks, to draw the harvest in
And to acknowledge that the web we weave
Also weaves us within its strands.

Each of the Circle members now takes up a strand of the web radius threads, and holds it tight.
They move in close, so that the Circle members have made the Circle as small as possible. The four quarter Priest/esses hold threads in the colour of their element – yellow for Air, red for Fire, blue for Water and Green for Earth.

The Air Priest/ess says, as s/he begins to weave the yellow thread:

The element of Air
Draws us together with communication
Draws us together with speech, with song, with writing
Yet Air is just a single strand of the web…

The Fire Priest/ess says, as s/he begins to weave the red thread:

The element of Fire
Draws us together with passion
Draws us together with creativity and the uniqueness that separates and binds us
Yet Fire is just a single strand of the web…

The Water Priest/ess says, as s/he begins to weave the blue thread:

The element of Water
Draws us together with emotion
Draws us together with our feelings, our empathy that build our community
Yet Water is just a single strand of the web…

The Earth Priest/ess says, as s/he begins to weave the green thread:

The element of Earth
Draws us together with strength
Draws us together with wisdom and knowledge and integrity
Yet Earth is just a single strand of the web…

As each strand is passed around the Circle, counter-clockwise, the Circle member repeats the line:

‘[Element] is just a single strand of the web’

Thus the web builds.

When each colour has worked its way back to its guarding Priest/ess, s/he ties it off and cuts the remainder.

Air Priest/ess: And so the web of Air is woven
Fire Priest/ess: And so the web of Fire is woven
Water Priest/ess: And so the web of Water is woven
Earth Priest/ess: And so the web of Earth is woven

The Web is now gathered and placed in the silver bowl, and covered over with spring water.
Each of the Circle members then ventures forth, and anoints him/herself with the web waters.
When all are anointed, The High Priest/ess pours the remaining web water on the earth, saying:

From Air, and Fire, and Water, and Earth we return her goodness to the land. Blessed be!

All: Blessed be!

The High Priest/ess then takes up the grapes, and says:

Fruit of the vine
of Air, Fire, Water and Earth
In Her name
Return to her again!

She crushes the grapes with her hands, letting the juice run over her palms, then places her palms on the earth, leaving behind the remnants of the grapes as an offering.

The High Priest/ess then takes up the Bread, blessed it, and offers it around the Circle with traditional blessings. Her assistants then pass around the beer/ale/cider, and pour cups of it for all, with traditional blessings.

Finally, the Circle is closed:

By the earth, by all fleshly beings
By the water and all creatures that drink from Her
By the fire, and the shining spirits of the Bright Ones
By the breath that gives all life
By earth, by water, by fire and by air
Bright ones, depart in peace from this place.
This circle is open, yet unbroken
Merry meet, merry part,
And merry meet again
So mote it be. Blessed be.

Beltane Group Ritual 2

The following ritual is suitable for a coven or smallish public group.

Planning in advance / Setup

  • A brazier, cauldron or bonfire.
  • Confirm approval with appropriate fire safety authorities in your local area first, and obtain appropriate permits.
  • Appropriate kindling
  • Lighter or matches
  • Torches or lamps
  • A hand drum
  • Boughs of hawthorn in bloom
  • (For PART TWO) Threads / wool / ribbons to represent Air (yellow), Fire (red), Water (blue) and Earth (green); scissors
  • (For PART TWO) Tall trees, posts or telegraph poles for maypole dancing
  • (For PART THREE) Chalice and Athame for the Great Rite (symbolic version)
  • (For PART THREE) Cakes (snacks) and Ale (Cider or Juice); snacks

The group will need to appoint a Beltane Queen and Horned God. These are usually female and male, but do not need to be. They do not need to be a couple for this ritual.
The group will also need to appoint a member or members to a) Cast Circle, b) Close Circle and c) Direct the ritual action.

PART ONE: The Ritual begins after sundown.

The group gathers around the fire to be lit (bonfire, cauldron or brazier). The Horned God and the Beltane Queen must stand opposite each other, facing each other, with the Fire between them.

Each member present should have a bough of hawthorn in bloom. If hawthorn is not available, any local, native wood in bloom is fine.

Circle is cast as a member walks sunwise around the fire, leaving enough room between the fire and participants for the action to take place:

Air, Fire, Water, Stone
Breath, Flame, Wave, Bone
As I will, So it be done!
Three times around, the Circle found
Three times around, the Circle bound
We are between the worlds.

One of the members, lights the fire. Once lit, s/he begins the following words / song, and others join in:

Brightly the fires at Beltane burn
Bright, as the dusk light is fading / faded
And we will dance, as we sing this song
Sing, to the Lord and the Lady!

(The song is a round, and can be sung in unison, or as a round, and can be elaborated / embellished upon as the group wishes.)

The song dies down to humming, and simple hand drumming in rhythm.

One by one, the members of the group come forward, while the humming (or low singing) continues, kiss the flowers of the hawthorn they carry, and speak aloud (or think upon in private if they choose) a wish for fertility, love, sex or happiness that is relevant to them for the coming year.

Then, when their wish is fully complete in their mind or in words, they cast their blooms upon the fire.

Once all the blooms have been cast, the High Priestess says clearly:

It is done.
It is done.
It is Done!

To which the Horned God responds happily and sexily (or in a friendly way, depending on the relationship between them):

NOT YET!

And begins to chase the Beltane Queen sunwise around the circle, slowly at first, then quicker and quicker. They walk / run three times around the fire, at the end of which he catches her, and embraces and kisses her (it is up to the group to what extent! It can be a friendly scheek kiss if you wish, as this is all symbolic).

All members then take follow the couple’s lead, circling the fire three times sunwise to the beat of the drum, then end at their original places (or thereabouts), spread around the circle.

The Circle is closed, starting in the South, moving widdershins (against the sun):

By Earth, Water, Fire and Air:
The Circle is open
Yet remains unbroken
Merry meet, and merry part
And merry meet again!

The group watch the bonfire die (or put out the flames if they wish).

The first part of the evening is complete.

PART TWO: Decorate the world, and dance the maypole!

After a brief break inside (toilet break etc.), the group heads out on the town. They will need their balls of coloured wool or reams of coloured ribbon for this part of the evening.

The goal here is simply to find tall, straight trees and telegraph poles, and dance the May Dance around them in colours of yellow, red, blue and green. At the bottom of each pole, cut the threads and tie the colours in a bow 🙂

Don’t get caught!

PART THREE: Great Rite and Cakes and Ale.

GREAT RITE: The group returns to the host home, and gathers around the table.

A member acting in the role of HPS plunges her athame into a chalice of cider or wine, and says the following (or similar):

At this time of Beltane, the Lord and Lady are joined as One. We Honour the Lord. We Honour the Lady. We Honour them as One. Blessed Be!

The Chalice is shared around the group, until it is drained.

CAKES AND ALE:

The blessing of cakes and ale generally occurs towards the end of a ritual. Eating and drinking is an excellent way of grounding excess energy and generally ‘coming back down to Earth’. It reminds us of our physical needs and nature, and prepares us for re-entry into the physical, day-to-day world.

Blessing of cakes and ale is also a beautiful and practical way to honour the Divine Presence, and thank him/her for all the gifts and joys we are given. In a very real way, we acknowledge our physical self, and the physical world around us.

Although called ‘cakes’ and ‘ale’, ritual food does not necessarily and literally have to be cake and ale. It is common to share biscuits, home-made bread, or even crackers and dip. Ale can be anything from water or juice to fortified wine.

It is, however, important to remember that if minors are to be present, it is much easier to serve everyone soft drink or water than to share two chalices, one for adults and one for minors. Sharing a soft drink together is also much more inclusive. Apple juice is an excellent option, as apples are a fruit sacred to the Goddess.

To bless the ritual meal, take the platter of cakes from the altar, raise them in front of the altar, and say:

By the Lord and the Lady, who I do worship and honour, are these cakes blessed. I thank the Great Ones for their bounty.

Next, take the Chalice of ale, raise it in front of the altar, and say:

By the Lord and the Lady, who I do worship and honour, is this ale blessed. I thank the Great Ones for their bounty.

Feast on the cakes and ale, meditating on your commitment to your path, then close the Circle (if necessary) when you are ready.

Beltane group ritual 1

Beltane is the festival of the Sacred Marriage, and is the time of the year when sexuality and fertility are recognised and most revered.

Beltane is a time for singing, dancing and making merry. The Maypole Dance is traditional at this time, and the following ritual incorporates music, dancing and the traditional Beltane fires.

For this ritual you will need:

  • A Maypole (a straight tree with space around which to dance is ideal, or even a Hill’s Hoist will do!)
  • Ribbons for the Maypole (you will need an even number, and they must be quite long – at least 4 metres.
  • 2 cauldrons, and bricks upon which to stand them.
  • Fuel for the cauldron, and matches.
  • A bowl of almonds for the Beltane fires.
  • Hand drums, tambourines and any other instrument you would like to use for the Beltane Song.

Preparation:

  1. Attach one end of each of the ribbons to the top of the Maypole.
  2. Set up the cauldrons or bonfires, ready to light. Set them at least 2 metres apart, with a wide enough gap between them for couples to walk between.
  3. Ensure that all members of the group have learned the Beltane Song, and that they have any instruments ready that they wish to play.
  4. Ensure that the group have learned how to dance the Maypole.
  5. Any couples who wish to be handfasted, or who wish to declare their love or friendship, should be prepared to walk between the fires together.

Cast circle in your preferred way, ensuring that the sacred space includes the Maypole and cauldrons. The group should face inwards and, when ready, begin the Beltane Song*:

Brightly the fires at Beltane burn
Rise, as the dusklight is fading
And we will dance as we sing this song
Sing, for the Lord and the Lady!

Magickal Covens at beltane meet
Mystical powers together
And we will rise as we weave our spell
Weave for the Lord and the Lady!

When the song is finished (it may be sung several times, in rounds and in parts, depending on the group’s wishes), the Beltane Priest/ess should step forward, and say:

It is Beltane
A time of power, a time of joy
A time of pleasure, and a time to be with loved ones.
Beltane is a time for committments –
A time to acknowledge the love and friendship we have for each other.
Those who choose to walk between the fires
Will be bound, in the eyes of all,
Until the next year, when the Beltane fires are lit again.
Then, should they so choose,
They may part in peace from one another.

Are there any here who wish to declare their love?

If a couple state that they wish to declare their love, a Handmaiden should light the fires. As she lights the first fire, she should say: For the Lady and the groups should repeat this.

As she lights the second fire, she should say: For the Lord and the groups should repeat this. She should then offer almonds to the couple, who take a small handful each, to be used as an offering.

Beltane Priest/ess:

These fires are the eyes of the Lord and Lady
Walk between them, and know that you are blessed.

The first couple walk between the fires, and cast their almonds – half into each fire. Then the statements are repeated for any other couples or friends who wish to declare their love, and they too pass between the fires in the same way.

One all couples have passed through and returned to the Circle, the whole group join hands in a circle, and the Beltane Priest/ess says:

Now, as a symbol of the strength and unity of this group, we will pass through the fires together.

The group pass between the fires as a line of individuals holding hands, and rejoin their hands afterwards.

The Beltane Priest/ess says:

This rite is done.

Next, as the fires begin to die down, the group dance the Maypole, singing and making merry.

Lastly, cakes and ale are shared, and the Circle is closed.
The Beltane Song is part of the Wheel of the Year Pagan Song cycle, and the sheet music (and midis) is freely available at the Choral Public Domain Library.

Beltane! Yeehaw!

I’m celebrating Beltane this Friday, with a few Pagan friends from around the community.

If the rain stops, we’ll even be having a HUGE bonfire.

If… 😉

It’s rained for weeks on end now, with hardly a break, and our whole property has been flooded out. The wood that I was hoping to burn is saturated, and the place is a mudpit. I’ve warned people to bring their gumboots, as they will probably be needed, but at this point in time I’m just hoping that we don’t get hail, snow or sleet while we’re down in the paddock celebrating this fantastic cross-quarter Sabbat.

So – what’s Beltane about?

Beltane is one of the Pagan festivals that a lot of newbies relate to with gut instinct. It feels “right”. For me, it has always felt “right”. It was the first Sabbat I really connected with when I started working alone over two decades ago, and it is still a “home point” for me in the great Wheel of the Year – it’s a place that feels like noon on the clock face, a stopping point where I pause, take breath, and note that the Wheel really has turned.

Even more so because here in the Southern Hemisphere, Beltane’s timing coincides with the rest of the world (those northern hemisphere friends of ours *waves*) celebrating the overly commercial sleazeware festival of Halloween.

But you have to think that the Gods are on our side after all, Because Beltane in the southern hemisphere also coincides pretty neatly with Guy Fawkes Day (5th November). So we sneaky Southern Pagans never get a second glance with our bonfires – everyone just thinks we’re a bit weird for celebrating Guy Fawkes a bit early. And if some fireworks happen to go off – well, whoops!

Beltane is, as I said, a cross-quarter festival. What that means is that it fits in between a solstice (the date when the sun is highest in the sky (summer solstice) or lowest in the sky (winter solstice)) and an equinox (a date when the day and night are of equal length – there are two of these, the autumn equinox and the vernal (Spring) equinox).

Beltane is the cross-quarter festival that fits between the vernal (Spring) equinox and the winter solstice.

So Beltane is pretty much all about Spring. It’s about fertility, fecundity, horniness (if you want to call it that), and new life. All the good, fun, positive stuff that we Pagans (and other folk) love so much. We celebrate the differences between the genders, and their similarities. And we celebrate the ways in which we can connect and cherish one another, and create new life and connections between ourselves with our physical and emotional selves.

Sounds good, huh?

A lot of Pagan weddings happen around Beltane. A lot of Pagans also choose to renew their vows to one another around Beltane. There is also the flip side of the coin – some couples choose to open their relationships at Beltane, and take lovers for the season, after which they return to one another if they choose. This doesn’t mean it’s an all-out slutfest – respect and (in our society) discretion, as well as honesty and openness, are more important than anything. But it is a common thing, and it does happen.

So why the fires?

Fire is, and always has been, a symbol and very real connection to purity and renewal. The word “Beltane” literally means “bright fire”. Fires have been lit for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years in the hopes of appeasing the Gods for a good harvest.

Fire-related traditions followed in time, including jumping the fires, dancing around the fires, bedding down with lovers by the fires and, particularly in modern times, fire-eating and fire twirling.

In a more practical sense, burning before the dry of summer also makes sense, to clear the land for planting, removing last season’s debris and cuttings.

What we’ll be doing

We’ll be lighting a beltane fire, of course, and dancing the fire. The theme of our event is “Beltane 2012: Disco Inferno” so I’m expecting everyone to cut loose after the serious ritual stuff is out of the way with their funky 70s disco moves!

We’ll also be maying some of the local trees with the four colours of the elements – yellow (air), red (fire), blue (water) and green (earth). It’s fun to leave ribbons and wool around local trees, after having danced the maypole dance around trees in public places, knowing that locals will wonder what it is all about the following morning!

Naturally, we’ll also be doing some wishing for good stuff to happen to us in the coming year. So we’ll be cutting hawthorn branches (our whole road is lined with a beautiful hawthorn hedge in full bloom at the moment), putting our wishes on them (written), and throwing them on the fire.

Should people wish to cut new willow wands from our willow tree for themselves, now is a great time to do that as well. We’ll crown a Beltane Queen (bride). And of course there will be cakes and ale.

Regardless of the weather, it’ll be a good night. I’ll post our Beltane rituals up here as soon as they’re done. But I’m looking forward to it.

If only it will stop raining!

Consecration of Ritual Tools

Meet on the night of a new moon in order to consecrate new tools that Coven members have acquired.

Cast the Circle, and upon the altar place a bowl of sea salt and water. Next to it, burn consecration incense.

Gather in front of the altar, and one by one raise each item to the sky in both hands.

Say: In all time and all space I consecrate this (name of item) in the name of the God – Youth, Father, and WiseOne.

Then, one by one, thrust each item into the earth with both hands.

Say: In all time and all space I consecrate this (name of item) in the name of the Goddess – Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

Next, each Witch curtsies or bows in front of the altar, and passes the item they were holding through the incense.

Say: By Air and by Fire I consecrate this (name of item) in the Name of the God and the Goddess.

Then the item is sprinkled with salted water.

Say: By Water and by Earth I consecrate this (name of item) in the Name of the God and the Goddess.

Finally, the consecrated tool should be rested on the Altar.

Say: May the Bearer of this (name of item) always do Your Will, My Lord and My Lady. As I will, So Mote It Be.

Serve cakes and ale with the traditional blessings, and take the Circle down, as the ritual is complete.

New Moon Ritual – group ritual

Start by setting the candles at the perimeter of the circle, and starting a fire in the Coven cauldron. Form a circle, and two Circle participants purified the area about you, first with incense (Air and Fire), then with saltwater (Water and Earth).

Next, one member of the Coven should call in the elements, starting with Air in the East, and working anti-clockwise through Fire (North), Water (West) and Earth (South).

Each of the Coveners pulls three strands of hair from their head, and holds them between their fingertips.

HPS: It is the time of the new moon
When the sky is dark
When the stars shine more brightly
When the night air is colder, and the evening is still.
Dark..Endings…Beginnings…Reflect…

The Coven start chanting, harmonising:

Time is Change
Change is Time
Change is the Way of the Goddess.

HPS:We spend this time in reflection
And we give thanks.
Life must give sacrifice
So light can be reborn.
We now give of ourselves, so that the Lord and Lady may give to us.

One by one, the Coven step forward to the cauldron, release their hairs into the flame, and meditates on a sacrifice they are willing to make.

They speak their sacrifice to the Coven.

Coven: So mote it be!

Then each Covenor makes a commitment to honour this sacrifice until the next new moon.

Cakes and ale are shared, as the flames of the cauldron die to embers, and the Circle is closed.

Ostara ritual – group ritual for coven

Spring Equinox is a time when day and night is of equal length. Traditionally, this is the time of the year when the Crone departs, and we welcome the prospect of new life and new beginnings.

This ritual focuses on the transformation of the Maiden into the Mother, and welcomes in the new phase of a woman’s life when she prepares for motherhood. The ritual also honours the time of Maidenhood – in particular, the Maiden in her role as Warrior (Athene) and the Maiden in her role as Huntress (Diana).

For this ritual you will need:

  • A handful of white flowers or rose petals
  • A handful of withered leaves
  • Four white quarter candles
  • A lighter (or matches)
  • The Sword of the Maiden Warrior (sword)
  • The Knife of the Maiden Huntress (blade)
  • Small pieces of red paper, on which the Maidens have written their wishes for the Mother in childbirth.
  • Cauldron, methylated spirits, epsoms salts
  • Cakes and Ale.

Prior to the ritual:

  • The cauldron should be set in the middle of the Circle in front of the altar, with epsom salts and methylated spirits within, ready to burn.
  • At each quarter a white candle should be set ready to light, honouring the time of Imbolc which is passing, and the Maidens who preside over this time.
  • Two bowls – one containing white flowers or rose petals, the other containing withered leaves – should be ready on the altar.
  • Small pieces of red paper, with the wishes of the Maidens for the Mother, should be ready on the altar.
  • The Sword of the Maiden Warrior, and the Knife of the Maiden Huntress should reside on the Eastern side of the altar.
  • Cakes and ale should be ready on the altar for Feasting.

The Maiden Warrior takes up the lighter/matches from the altar, and lights the Eastern candle.

Maiden Warrior:

I light the candle of the East
The Dawn, new beginnings, new life…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Air)

Maiden Huntress:

I light the candle of the North
The Midday sun, passions, sexuality, lust…
(The Maiden Huntress free-forms on the Element of Fire)

Maiden Warrior:

I light the candle of the West
The Dusk, emotion, the family…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Water)

Maiden Huntress:

I light the candle of the South
The Midnight Hour, the silence, the strength…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms on the Element of Earth)

Maiden Warrior:

Imbolc is ending
The time of the Maiden is passing
The darkness is over
And hope is reborn in the Mother…

Maiden Huntress:

Winter has ended
The Crone departs, her cold touch leaves us
I honour her in her strength and wisdom
Watch over our sister in the trials of birth that await her!

Maiden Warrior: (takes up her Sword from the altar, and salutes the Mother)

I salute and honour the Mother
Our sister, our friend…
(The Maiden Warrior free-forms with good wishes and love towards the Mother)

Maiden Huntress: (takes up her Knife from the altar, and salutes the Mother)

I salute and honour the Mother
Our sister, our friend…
(The Maiden Huntress free-forms with good wishes and love towards the Mother)

Mother: (moving into the centre of the Circle, and lighting the Cauldron)

I light the Cauldron of Akasha
The Spirit, the Soul, the web
Maiden, Mother, Crone.

The Maiden Warrior takes up the white flowers / rose petals from the altar and casts them into the Cauldron, symbolising the transformation from Maiden to Mother. She then takes up her Sword from the altar, and salutes the Mother, before kissing her on the forehead in blessing. (If the Maiden wishes to say anything at this time, she is welcome).

The Maiden Huntress takes up the withered leaves from the altar and casts them into the Cauldron, symbolising the passing of the Crone as winter ends. She then takes up her Knife from the altar, and salutes the Mother, before kissing her on the forehead in blessing. (If the Maiden wishes to say anything at this time, she is welcome).

The Maidens now take up from the altar their pieces of red paper upon which their wishes are written, and cast them into the Cauldron, with any appropriate words they might like to say.

The Mother kneels in front of the Cauldron, and expresses her thanks, and asks for a safe and joyous birth, and for a healthy and happy child.

All: (chanting)

Time is change, change is time,
Change is the way of the Goddess…

The Maidens now close the Circle, blow out the white quarter candles, and the Coven move inside for Cakes and Ale.


Image of eggs by Thorskegga