Art & Ritual of Meditation

Meditation… It seems that every occult book instructs readers that they must set aside and perform a quiet meditation each and every day – sometimes multiple times per day. Some texts also recommend that you should focus on nothing, allowing images and pictures that flash before your eyes to simply pass by without paying them much attention to them.

Some witches choose to meditate at or around the altar with the symbols and tools of their religion present. Each Sabbat at our covenstead includes a period for meditation in which messages from Deity are welcomed so that we may discover our own faults and correct them – in a seasonal way. Other witches may carve out a space or niche in their home where meditation is most comfortable. Further photos in this article will give you some additional tips and tricks for this type of meditation. Photo above is from Candlemas 2020 at the Wolfa Coven.

These instructions can be all well and good, but the problem is that I have not met very many people in my travels who ever have or will follow through with those instructions. To me, this doesn’t seem to be the fault of the seeker on the quest for mystical knowledge, but because when we think of meditation we default to Eastern ideas on the subject at first. Eastern practices and thought are not always comfortable for the Western mindset to comprehend. (There are always exceptions to every rule though!)

So what is a Witch’s Apprentice to do?

What I have found that seems to work each and every time is to approach the idea of meditation as contemplation at first – whether it be a moving contemplation or a still contemplation.

An arrangement of flowers is always a good meditation symbol to contemplate on – think of their beauty and also their scent and color. Meditate on the language of flowers – what does these flowers selected mean in popular folk lore? Flowers have been used for centuries to send messages to people. We’ve written about this before in previous articles. Also, the symbolism of a burning candle and appropriate incense most certainly set a particular contemplative mood. Some even keep special candles and candlesticks that are just for meditation and nothing else. The scents and colors can change the vibration the room or space in which you are performing your meditation.

Still Contemplation:

A still contemplation would be an activity where a great deal of movement is not required, but your mind is actively working. You could be reading a book of poetry, a book of days or quotes; just as much as you could be crocheting or knitting. You could be looking at a number of pieces of art, sitting in a gallery or listening to music enjoying a glass of wine.

During that time, the task should be a stationary one that doesn’t require a great deal of critical thinking. You are allowing what comes to you in thought, to come through. You are actively paying attention to what pops into your mind.

Sybil Leek described a similar process in her book Diary of a Witch when she discussed the differences between prayer and meditation. This idea of a still contemplation is allowing messages to come to you. Allowing the Deity to speak to you, rather than speaking at it.

My actual favorite activity for still contemplation is reading books of poetry or books of compiled quotes. I will pick a section to read and to allow my own mind to contemplate what they say and garner the wisdom I can from it. How does this inspirational passage relate to something in my life? Does this inspire me to do better at something? Do I need to take action on something?

Much Still Contemplation comes from actively watching Nature as well. Wordsworth had a wonderful quote about Nature being your teacher, that includes the wise words and wisdom of others.

“Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher.”

-William Wordsworth

Many an occultist admit that we all stand on the backs of giants when it comes to knowledge and wisdom passed down to us. This includes our mentors – whether either is magical or not. Each and every person or thing we encounter in Nature has a story to tell and wisdom to share.

My favorite book to perform a still contemplation with is titled “Distilled Wisdom” which is compiled and edited by Alfred Armand Montapert.

Let’s now think about the other tools and trappings that can make still meditation easier: Some witches, myself included, love rocking chairs for this form of meditation. Rocking chairs can be placed at the altar or in a special niche for meditation. Some even like to circle the rocking chair with a circle of Salt to further concentrate the mind which is a very good thing to do. The slow and gentle rocking back and forth creates a soothing and hypnotic effect on the mind. There is a reason that children love swing-sets so much – the feeling they provide in a back and forth movement is comforting. Also, porch swings are very common at country homes as well – providing the same sensation. The use of blankets, whether full blankets or lap blankets are very beneficial for Still Contemplation/Meditation. Crafty witches may enjoy crocheting or knitting their own lap blankets, scarves and shawls for meditation. Some witches also love the use of specially craft robes and capes that are reserved for meditation. The use of a cape can help trigger further release through astral travel. Before the meditation begins, the cape can be tied shut with a cingulum, and during the release for astral travel, the symbolic untying of the witch’s cingulum and the opening of the cape can be great symbolism for release of the Astral Body to travel and wander, and when finished, the closing of the cape and tying of the cingulum to symbolize the coming back down into Beta consciousness.

Moving Contemplation:

This is an everyday active task that does not take a lot of critical thinking skills, but still must be performed such as washing the dishes, pruning the hedges or any act of house cleaning and organizing that must be done.

I had observed the power of this practice in my youth many, many times when at the farm. I would be actively discovering something in the forest – an interesting plant or stone of some sort and when I would check in occasionally on my step-Father while he would be on the tractor. While he was engaged with the activity on the tractor, he seemed to be in an altered state of sorts. He might be singing a hymn or in an act or prayer to his Heavenly Father. Most of the time, he was in act of what I would title a moving contemplation.

During his time on the tractor, his muscle memory, known from his years of farming experience, instinctively knew what pedals and buttons to push, how to plow in a line, etc., without a great deal of critical thinking. While his hands and legs were busy operating the tractor, his mind was free to wonder and think about whatever popped into his mind – which provides an opportunity to analyze your own life and decisions. This activity is a highly important one for the witch!

I discovered myself doing this very same activity when outdoors one summer evening pruning a large overgrown bush and trying to tame it back to a manageable size. The work to do this was hard, but at the same time, each clip of the pruning shears did not take a great deal of mental capacity. This activity allowed my mind to wonder and I began to actively contemplate what old things in my life are overgrown and that I need to prune and cut away. This active and moving contemplation was enough to make me take notice that something very universal is going on here that should be paid close attention to and not ignored.

Both of these examples of contemplation-meditation forever changed my perspective on the ideas of meditation and opened up a pathway that seems to satisfy the Western mindset and idea that we must be always “doing something.” The whole, Idle hands leads to the devil’s work guilt!

If you would like an activity to try: Your assignment here is to look at any tasks that you perform in your daily life that does not take a lot of critical thinking power, such as mopping the floor or cleaning the house or any other institute task you do on the daily that doesn’t take a lot of brain-power and perform an active contemplation to allow your mind to receive messages and insight.

How do we learn do this? We must learn to pay attention.

Your second task would be to perform a still contemplation, finding a stationary activity that doesn’t require a lot of critical thinking but allows your mind to wonder so that you can receive messages.

Ritual Steps that can be used for a Sitting Meditation:

Set aside a particular niche or space for meditation. This can be with a favorite chair or floor pillow if you like. I do like to use a rocking chair and surround it with a circle of salt if you like for an extra mind key, pouring the salt widdershins, or counter-clockwise.

I like to use my witch’s cape when I meditate – and I wrap it fully around me before beginning with my hood up. Some may wish to make a special shaw or blanket as well instead.

I don’t particularly like to use candles and incense if I am meditating by myself outside of coven in case I would accidentally drift off in sleep, or go to deep in because of safety precautions.

Sit in the chair with your eyes closed. Rock back and forth if it is a rocking chair for at least three or four minutes in silence with as little white noise as possible. When you begin to slip into what is known as an Alpha State of Consciousness, lower your hood and give an invocation to Deity to begin the time of meditation. Ask that Deity and the Great Mother Goddess bless you on your journey of self-discovery and grant you safe passage. Ask that the messages come to you from a place of growth so that you may achieve your own best and good ends. (Our coven uses specific invocations at times for meditation – but those of other traditions would probably find it helpful to write invocations that match your own coven or traditions style of working.)

While rocking, or sitting still, see what ideas come to your mind. Don’t push them away or ignore them – but acknowledge why they have come to you and lean into why you feel you are thinking these thoughts. It could be something you have been worried about or it could be thought-forms you have come across that you want to work through. These little insights give us great clues about ourselves and our personal lives.

If you have a specific problem that you are attempting to work out, you can contemplate on that particular problem in order to see if any insight or answers from Deity come through for you.

When finished, put your hood back on and wrap your cape back around you and give a prayer of thanksgiving for any insight that you have received.

Some, at this time, find it very helpful to immediately journal a few notes of what they have received. Depending on how deep your meditation goes, it can be a struggle to remember all insights after a period of time, so if you are a journal-er, do this immediately after.

When it comes to the Moving Contemplation/Meditation, you may want to skip the witch’s cape, but you can still use the invocations and prayers before and after you begin and end the activity. This helps you to get into the habit of paying attention to the messages you receive during the periods of activity that seem almost instinctual.

Sweep up the salt in a clockwise motion to return the place back to its normal time and space. (If you used a salt circle)

In all things, be safe. And if you feel that your own thoughts may be too overwhelming if you are going through some tough times, you should remember that you can also talk with a therapist of qualified counselor before beginning a practice of meditation. They may give you personal tips and tricks that may be right for you in what you are personally working through so you can have a safe journey. There is no shame in this – and many qualified therapists would actually encourage these periods of personal reflection – so what I am saying is, chances are, your therapist would most likely not think you are crazy for wanting to actively engage in a form of meditation. And as always, if you are in treatment, your therapist can tell you if meditation might be a safe practice for you.

Blessed Be,
Thorn Nightwind

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