“We should correct our own faults by seeing how uncomely they appear in others.”
It is hard to believe autumn is right around the corner! The Wolfa Coven just recently celebrated the Lammas Festival which reminded us of the inevitability that the fall is just around the corner.
Fortunately for us, we can still appreciate and enjoy summer since Lammas signifies the height of the season in our locale as the earth’s response to the sun’s initiation of the summer season as Midsummer Sabbat.
The effects of late summer was fully enjoyed just a few short weeks ago at our “Witch-Meet in the Woods” which was our camp-out sponsored by our coven and a few other connected covens in order to get together and celebrate the beauty of nature and re-connect a group-mind by covening together for 3-4 days. Not only was a great amount of this time spent out in the forest, a great amount of time was spent on magical activities that were shared in by all.
One activity at our Witch-Meet that we enjoyed was a Witch and Occultist honoring ritual in which two witches led us in a sitting to honor witches and occultists that have passed on. Those honored were influences in the magical work – both well known and some not so well-known. Folks such as Eliphas Levi, Crowley, Gerald Gardner, Sybil Leek, Alex Sanders, Robert Cochrine, Doreen Valiente, Charmaine Dey and many others that have transitioned on were honored at this special ritual along with deceased members of the initiatory lines present. This may have to become an annual tradition! Some of the witches present even commented at how they were so excited to learn about some of the folks they were not familiar with.
Witch-poppets for all purposes were constructed as well by those present. Various materials were used in our poppets such as beeswax, modeling clay, semi-precious stones, items found in nature and cloth were used in the construction of these items. Overall, I believe all the poppets turned out great!
Other items crafted in preparation for autumn were sugar scrubs. One witch lead us in how to make and prepare coffee, salt and sugar scrubs along with essential oils that were safe for skin use and for various skin types. This is a great time to make these in preparation for late autumn and winter months when the cooler weather dries out the skin. It feels great for me personally to exfoliate dead and dry skin cells to make applying lotions more effective. Some witches said they prefer to use these scrubs before showing up to coven for ritual.
Another witch gave us a very good idea for divination with herbs that are pressed into wax – about the size of runes, which can be tossed and read. This makes a new divination technique to learn here through the autumn months!
Much of our groups here recently learned various forms of drumming at our Witch-Meet! We practiced on both Djembe (African drums) and Doumbec (Middle-Eastern drums) to learn this new-found skill to us. Most folks liked the sound of the Djembes drums most with their very earthy or downward beats. I really liked the sounds of the Doumbec too with its upward, light beat. Both sound great when mixed together, and we are grateful to the witch in our coven who was able to teach us and the other folks that were in attendance.
A week later, our coven was able to put our new drumming skills to the test for the Lammas Festival. During our Sabbat-Ceremonials, the Vestal Virgins (Maidens) of our coven perform what is called the Maiden Dance within the circle to consecrate the cast circle with the right atmosphere for the Sabbat- Ceremonial to be conducted by the coven. Instead of recorded music being played, the drumming skills of the coven were put to the test!
While the Vestal danced the magic circle, three members of the coven played three different drums outside of the magic circle: one Djembe, one Doumbec and one hand drum. The beat was kept up for a time as she raised the atmosphere of the sacred space and this went on beautifully. We will probably continue this practice throughout a number of our Sabbat festivals. That means we better keep on practicing our drumming!
On another topic, a great activity for witches in the autumn months is the brewing and manufacture of potions, lotions, salves and such! Since all of nature is fully in bloom and the fruit and flower of the fields have ripened, this is the prep-time of harvest to begin to ready both potions and medicinal remedies. One witch of our coven began the manufacture of her salves from the flowers and herbs of her bountiful garden. The plants and flowers looked most exquisite!
Speaking of magical potions, a good friend of mine who runs One Witch’s Cottage has recently made seven particular fluid condensers that are stunning-looking and ingenious in design. Her potions are called Elixures, which is a beautiful name unique to her product line! They are a blend of ritually charged moon waters, herbs, resins, gold tincture, semi-precious gems and all-natural dies and preserved in grain alcohol and lastly ritually-charged for magical use. You can even purchase your own set of seven Elixures for a very reasonable price from One Witch’s Cottage.
Fluid Condensers of all sorts is also a specialty of our Wolfa Coven and we hold them in high-esteem as well. Sybil even made them popular again in the early 1970s and we are ever thankful, as they seem to have the ability, when placed upon an object, to magnify the thought-impregnation-ability of an object. A good example of using the fire elementals in this is by taking some of the compound universal fluid condenser that I have made and with a paint brush, brushing it on to a piece of paper and let it dry. Then I will impregnate my thoughts onto the paper by concentration and writing upon the paper since the paper’s receptive abilities have then been magnified many times to hold my concentrated thought until I release it back to the base elements by burning the petition paper. There are traditional spells for each of the four magical elements, and, likewise; traditional spells that can be used with each of the elements depending upon the nature of the element used, which corresponds as well to the behavior of the elementals within the Astral Plane. Like many magical spells, fluid condensers works by control and release. If you are curious about the manufacture of a fluid condenser on your own, I can recommend the book Cast Your Own Spell by Sybil Leek and also Initiation into Hermetics by Franz Bardon which both give you great information on the making and use of fluid condensers along with so much other invaluable magical information.
Still, for those that have trouble understanding what fluid condensers are: think of magical oils. Condition oils for various purposes are a great example of a simplified fluid condenser – in which you anoint an object to transfer power/magnetism/prana/vril or whatever you chose to call it to an object inflamed with your one specific thought.
The reason the autumn time is a great time to make fluid condensers, magical oils and other magical and medicinal items is because since we are now at the first harvest, the plants and herbs you need for potions, lotions, notions and such seem to either be in bloom by now or have bloomed by now.
Lammas, or as it was of old called; Lugnasad, was a great time to get together for all types of activities with the covens. MacCulloch says in his chapter on festivals in The Religion of the Ancient Celts. says this about Lugnasad: “Formerly at convenient centres were held on this day, not only for religious purposes, but for commerce and pleasure, both of these being of course saturated with religion.” (1)
In times past, the Lugnasad Festival included ritual nudity in the rites when they were concerned primarily with agricultural matters. MaCulloch states that: “Pliny speaks of the nudity of the women engaged in the cult. Nudity was an essential part of all primitive agricultural rites, and painting the body is also a widespread ritual act. (……) By unveiling the body, and especially the sexual organs, women more effectually represented the goddess of fertility, and more effectually as her representatives, or through their own powers, magically conveyed fertility to the fields.” (1)
Today, there are many witches who do still practice the festival sabbats in the nude; but since many witches of today are not farmers or involved in agriculture for food other than home gardens, the traditions of celebrating the festival naked today do not have the great importance they had on our ancestors of times past. Still, some witches today still celebrate in this way, while other witches such as those in our coven, tend to opt for more beautiful ceremonial dress or plain and simple robes in order to celebrate the seasonal by giving back thanks to the Great Mother Goddess, the goddess of fertility, through ceremonial offerings to Her for all that the earth has given us throughout the year. This ritual act seems to be an almost universal practice no matter what tradition of witchcraft you partake in. You can see what things seem to have survived to a greater extent and which things are more fragmented.
Matthew and Julia Philips mention this in a Summer’s End ritual in their excellent booklet titled, The Witches of Oz, where they state at the end of one of the invocations: “I give you in return a small gift; a symbol of my love for all the things you have given to me.” (2)
Philip’s and Philip’s book is an excellent resource for any budding coven!
What about for the solitary witch who casts his or her spells alone or just prefers not to travel to coven? I am sometimes asked about resources of this nature where solitaries would like good, quality works to work from. Fortunately, there exists a number of excellent resources I can highly recommend. One of them is a beautiful book called, The Hedge Witch’s Way by Rae Beth. An English Witch, she is the author of the best-selling book titled Hedge Witch, which is another book for solitaries.
In The Hedge Witch’s Way, Rae Beth provides wonderful spells and prayers for Sabbats along with a great deal more for practical matters as well. One reason I like her book so much is the prayers she gives in it remind me of the beautiful prayers that Sybil Leek had wrote that have become popular in the religion of Wicca that she published in her classic best-selling 1971 book, The Complete Art of Witchcraft. This type of white-witchcraft prayers and invocations that both Sybil Leek and Rae Beth wrote might be called Theurgy, in which we invoke the Great Mother Goddess and Great Father God for our needs.
One of the beautiful spells she gives for Lammas uses baked bread in the ritual and one of the blessings ends with the words, “And, as I give it back to Earth, our mother, may she and all creatures thrive.” (3) As you can see, these type of spells common at Lammas seem to be universal among most traditions of Wicca or witchcraft; whether celebrating the festival at coven or working solitary.
I can’t say enough good things about Rae Beth’s excellent books! They are truly easy to follow and practical guides for solitary witchcraft work.
I wanted to make sure I made mention of Rae’s book here because at this time, most who currently read our coven blog are witches in various types of covens, so I wanted to make sure that I in no way didn’t leave our readers who are solitary witches without resources that are available for purchase who work and practice in the Old Religion in private.
On the subject of bread and foods, since fruits and veggies are so abundant this time of the year and in season, one thing I like to do is when I try a new recipe that contains a fruit or veggie that I am not familiar with is to attempt to look for folklore about it up in order to understand what witches and other magical practitioners once thought about it.
Recently, I have cooked a couple recipes with fresh endive. I didn’t know much about endive other than knowing how to cook with it, so I decided to check out a bit of folklore on this plant to get a better understanding of it.
One resource that I chose to look in is a book called, The Magic of Herbs by Henri Gamanche. One curious bit about endive referenced in the book is: “Endive carried on the person is supposed by many to enable a lover to inspire the object of his affections with the belief that he possesses all the good qualities which she can probably wish for.” (4) Wow! Pretty impressive plant from a magical folklore perspective!
For the last topic of this blog post, I wanted to end with one helpful way of getting into the spirit of the autumn seasonal. As I said earlier in this post, at one point in time, the Lugnasad festival held a great importance on agricultural work, but since most witches of today most likely do not work as farmers for the most part, how can witches who are not as agriculturally inclined still celebrate the seasonal and be on point with the power of this day?
Bill Gray in his excellent work, Seasonal Occult Rituals poses the following questions that make us really think deeply on this on many levels which can lead us to celebrate this seasonal whether you are part of the agricultural cycle or not: ”What have we done with ourselves during the year past that was worth doing? Just how many of our seed-ideas have come up, let alone produced any noticeable crop?” (5)
As is usual, Gray makes us stop, think and analyze ourselves for what is the down to business “goods” of the matter. This book goes into lore and ritual practice for all four seasons and is highly recommended to those who wish to study Seasonal-Ceremonial ritual.
Each of the harvest festivals we celebrate seem to always make room for personal reflection. Maybe this is because the old agricultural work of harvesting crops in times past was very reflective work, allowing the mind to be reminded of our own inevitable mortality – the cycle of life itself. Either way, we always ask that we can make correction in this time of reflection for onward and upward progression to understand what we have been able to foster, bloom and bring to flower and what we could not.
“A man should never be ashamed to own he has been wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” – Alexander Pope
I hope this educational blog post gives some insight on what some within the religion of Wicca may be planning, doing or thinking about as we approach autumn and celebrate the autumn seasonal rituals, along with referencing many other works that will aid your study – whether you travel to coven for the sabbat or you work quietly alone.
Bibliography, References & Works Cited:
- MacCulloch, J.A.,The Religion of the Ancient Celts, T&T Clark, Edinburgh, Great Britain. 1911. Print
- Philips, Matthew and Julia, The Witches of Oz, Capall Bann Publishing, Great Britain. 1994. Print.
- Beth, Rae, The Hedge Witch’s Way, Robert Hale Limited, Great Britain. 2001. Print.
- Gamanche, Henri, The Magic of Herbs, Original Publications, Bronx, New York. 1985. Print.
- Gray, William G., Seasonal Occult Rituals, The Aquarian Press, London, Great Britain. 1970. Print.