The phrase ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ has been commonplace in Wicca-rituals and conversation on rituals for many decades now. For some covens, this is a monthly ritual performed by a coven of initiated witches at the Full Moon where an invocation to the Lady is made so She may speak through the body of the High Priestess to the Coveners. In this article, we wanted to share some information about how our coven sees this practice and just briefly describe a sacred ritual in our religion.
The practice of conversing with spiritual intelligences … including angels, elemental spirits, and spirits of the other side has always been part of our tradition. When it comes to the topic of DDTM: The terminology of describing a ritual as “Drawing Down the Moon” is a borrowed terminology made popular by other traditions of the Craft that came out of the broom closet around the same time as our tradition’s practices did – however – it is lingo that is understandable to most Wiccans, so we might as well use this term for this article to speak a common language; even though our ritual rubrics for carrying out this ritual are different than other traditions — though we might have a similar goal in mind in some instances.
In the Sacred Pentagraph tradition, the practice of Drawing Down the Moon could potentially be performed four times per year during the Full Moons of March, June, September and December. These are the months in which the Solstices & the Equinoxes occur.
Since the months of the Solstices & the Equinoxes are times which initiate the beginning of each of the four seasons in the yearly quarterly cycle, this is the most opportune time to ask for messages from the Gracious Goddess in order to receive insight needed for that quarter. It is also recommended that it is not necessary to be performed more than these four times per year in our tradition, as that gives all the Coveners adequate time to put to use the information received by the Gracious Goddess. If we did this every month, we may not have had the opportunity to put into place all the insight that has been given – so this is a good ‘conservation of energy’ thing to consider. There are literally dozens upon dozens of other Full Moon Esbats that can be performed for many purposes during the other months of the year.
The initiate of the Coven who serves as the Coven Medium for the Gracious Goddess must have developed their mediumship abilities. In this ritual, it is most likely the High Priestess who will serve this role as the Coven Medium. In our own Wolfa Coven, most of our established and regularly attending current initiates have mediumship abilities to one degree or another – which means that any initiate of one of the higher degrees could technically do this for the coven if needed. I think it’s a little unusual to have a full coven of mediums like we do – it’s just worked out that way for one reason or another. The rubrics and rituals of this ritual have not been put into print, but we can at least describe our thoughts and reflections upon it so that other covens who are curious what we do get an idea of our ideas, and also for readers that just want to read about diverse thoughts and practices in the religion.
We cast the Cosmated Esbat Circle to begin – usually this circle is cast by the High Priestess, the High Priest, the Handmaiden & the Practicus who serve as the four officers of the Esbat circle – but in the case of this ritual, since the High Priestess and High Priest must focus on inducing the trance state, that usually means the Practicus and Handmaiden will carry this out, and witches make do!
We have many ways of creating a magical circle, and this method for Esbats is very quick and takes very little time. Since the time of Esbat is highly focused on spellcasting, psychism and talismanic magic, or the very practical sides of Wicca, the focus is mainly on these specialized areas rather than on the communal seasonal themes partaken of at a Seasonal or Sabbat where on occasion more ceremonial aspects of ritual might be done.
The Coven Medium sits before the cauldron with the hood covering her head and arms. Her body wrapped up in her robe and cape in order to go into the silence and allow trance to come on and speak forth the messages of the Gracious Goddess. It can be performed indoors or outdoors. The coven dances and invokes the Gracious Goddess to come down, and the High Priest will direct the Ether raised within the atmosphere to the High Priestess to use in trance.
After the Gracious Goddess speaks fourth what needs to be heard, then there may be a time allowed where questions can be asked of Her.
The Scribe of the Coven scribbles down notes as fast as they can, as quickly as the messages come in.
When finished, the High Priest asks the heaviness to withdrawal and the Handmaidens of the Coven perform specific actions which help to bring the Coven Medium back into normal time and space.
Before closing the Cosmated Esbat Circle, we like to have some wine and some bread in order to have some togetherness and ease back out of the state of consciousness that has been invoked, especially before the Coven Medium and others need to stand again. Sometimes, depending on the Coven Medium, sessions of trance mediumship can take a little while to shake off. This time sharing food also allows us conversation to discuss things shared and bring ourselves back gently.
In our own experience in our coven, every Medium experiences different effects on the mind and body through these types of rituals. Why this is so, could be many … some of the reasons can be related to the type of Spirit Guide that each Initiate of the Coven has that assists them on the Astral Plane; some could be because of the spiritual development that the Initiate currently has gone through in this life and the many lives before and some could just simply be related to the specialty and talents of the Medium.
During the time of trance as a Coven Medium, there are many things that happen — The most common thing that occurs is messages are shared, prophesy is spoken, clairvoyance is used. On rare occasions, even spirit healing sessions occur.
These rituals and how to do them are ones you learn and participate in a traditionalist coven amongst initiates.
Because of the intensity and amount of sheer preparation for this ritual, we do not conduct the high ceremonial Dumb Supper each year, but this year, we will be conducting it once again with many folks highly looking forward to it! This is part of the Book of the High Priestess, as she serves as the lead Medium in this ritual.
There are multiple parts to the High Ceremonial Dumb Supper. They typically are:
High Ceremonial Dumb Supper
Divination of the Yearly Watchword
Divination Party & Feasting
The gathering part is easy – all gather at the appointed time and place for ritual. This is a formal occasion, and the High Priestess will either be in black or purple formal wear, robes and capes. The other coveners participating will typically be wearing black robes and capes as well.
The Dumb Supper itself is pretty formal – with most members sitting in the appointed seating area with the triangle in the center and the plates of food for the ancestors in front of them in the inner circle and the members of the coven and their plates of food in the outer circle. Typically the only ones standing at this point or moving around the circle would be the High Priestess and her assistants who are performing the high arts of necromancy.
The High Priestess with her Coven Broom, which is the symbol of her IV* Degree, will cast the magical circle into a tomb for the dearly departed to enter. The motions of her broom direct the rites themselves – including telling our loved ones where to sit and gather. Depending on whether the bristles of her Coven Broom are upright or down will direct the spirits on when and where they are welcomed.
The third part of the ceremony itself is the Divination of the Yearly Watchword. This ritual is conducted by the High Priestess and two female assistants, each representing the Great Mother Goddess and using their combined collective wills to give prophesy. The yearly Watchword serves as a Coven Password to gain entrance into the coven’s rituals for the year. The Watchword, along with the Grade Signs that a witch will give before the Summoner of the coven will let him know whether this person was invited or not to the ceremony.
The Watchword itself is a bit prophetic as well – for within those short, small words contains a great deal of insight and knowledge that members of the coven should pay attention to during the upcoming yearly seasonal cycle. You will find, time and time again, that just a single word represents a coven theme for the entire year.
The High Priestess will perform this act of prophesy after the requisite ritual incantations so that it is revealed to all coveners present.
Lastly, the divination party and the feast can commence. After the atmosphere is cleared some then acts of divination for each other can begin – using whatever method or tools each witch dictates. This is the formal part of the feast or gathering.
Now that we briefly covered the themes that occur for the Hallowmas in our coven, let’s dive a little more into some additional details on this, shall we?
The ritual of the Dumb Supper itself is a form of necromancy. At one time in our history, it was mainly used as an All Hallows observance by young women in order to be told the name or names of their future husbands or what their occupation was. Back in those dark days where your fate depended on the industry of your husband, these types of rituals were used by ladies wanting to know this information. Fortunately today, the Dumb Supper itself is rarely or ever used for foretelling who your future mate is…. it’s not that it can’t be done, it totally can, but this isn’t as relevant in our society today thankfully. Today, hundreds of years later from those Victorian era times, we can perform this in order to receive meaningful information or just simply commune with our departed loved ones.
Today, this is a high rite of necromancy that takes a few weeks of coven preparation. With Witchcraft able to be practiced more fully without as much fear of persecution as we have had in the past, we have been able to restore some of these rituals with more pomp, circumstance and flair that they deserve – especially for such grand occasions!
When we perform this ritual, the dearly departed that are selected to sup with us on the night of Hallows are summoned each night, at the same time, for 13 nights leading up to the night of All Hallows Eve. Each spiritual guest must have time to gather enough strength in order to be present, and the High Priestess works to ensure their presence at this ritual for 13 nights in all.
Even though the meal itself is eaten in silence, appropriate music might also be played in the background. Music not only creates the right atmosphere, but certain types of music may help to draw in the appropriate spirits to the ritual. It is not for haphazard reasons why many spiritualist circles play old church hymnal music. The reason for this type of music being played is because it is something that the spirits may recognize. It is not uncommon for many Spiritualist mediums to bust out an old southern “Amazing Grace” hymn at a Spiritualist meeting. The medium singing this has nothing to do with their religious beliefs, and doesn’t have anything to do with being Christian or not, but it is in setting up the right frequency and current in which the place it is performed gives the correct atmosphere where spiritual energy can gather.
It is not uncommon as well for traditional witches to take the meter, rhythm and tone of a hymn and alter the words a bit as well. This is not done as an act of disrespect to our many Christian friends, and in many ways is because of the beauty and excellent quality of the writers of these hymns have used in their composition because the tonal quality of the hymn may reverberate through what is called the law of vibration and also what may be termed the theory of morphic-resonance, which was coined by a researcher into parapsychology named Rupert Sheldrake.
In Sheldrake’s theory, he poised the theory that nature itself has an inherent memory. That if one thing existed at one time, it will be retained within “Nature’s memory” and be able to be tapped into at a future time – in some ways, connected to the law of frequency.
This can be felt in old traditional covens. I can’t tell you how many times that new coven members have experienced our rituals after initiation into the Craft and have said, “Wow! For some reason, I feel connected way back to something very, very old!”This is not to say that our coven is an ancient coven by any means, unchanged back into dark ages, but our coven itself practices handed down ritual techniques and tradition that have not changed much. While the meat of some rituals have evolved over the years at times, the pattern of setting up our cyclotron of power has not, and can pull into it great power over repeated performance. This feeling of not only deja vu but also of propelling a new initiate into new experiences and memories, many coven members have expressed memories and deja vu of being located in the Middle East somewhere – and this psychic experience is how this is validated in their minds. This all coming from witches who have been around the block and have been to hundreds of other rituals – they still attest to the beauty and majesty of our old rites with fondness and love and the feelings they evoke.
This morphic-resonance theory may also help to explain why other accounts of psychic phenomenon such as when you hold an object in your hand and are transported back in time and can see the pattern of events and read the thought-form impressions in rooms, walls and buildings. The divinatory acts of psychometry can fall into this category and helps to give an occult explanation for the energies and emotions felt around particular statues or saints that cause a release in certain emotions.
The High Ceremonial Dumb Supper is also known as the “Rites of Hecate.” The goddess known as Hecate is well-known as a goddess of the crossroads and of the dead and night in mythology and history. How did this goddess and the practice enter the religion of Witchcraft? While we may never know, there are certainly older texts using rituals in the name of Hecate. One example of this is the old grimoire, which is a compilation of many grimoires, by A.E. Waite known as “The Book of Black Magic and of Pacts”which was a highly influential. This grimoire also contains a section on the forbidden arts of Necromancy and some of the incantations and conjurations bear a striking resemblance to our practice today, though in a safe and secure environment. This book also mentions the goddess Hecate in those rites as well – which is surprising for many grimoires of that time period to mention an Ancient Goddess.
After the spirits of our ancestors have been duly conjured by the High Priestess, she is able to direct them where to sit.
One thing different from mediumship circles is that since no talking is permitted during the partaking of this very sparse meal, no acting out or spiritual possession is permitted to overtake the guests. To allow the ceremony to descend into such character of moaning, wailing and the clanking of chains could overshadow any actual manifestations or whispers from the departed from occurring, or be simply missed…. So order and decorum must be kept by all participants in the ceremony.
After the ceremony has ended, the High Priestess will gather up all deceased ancestors and allow them to be peacefully released back to their places of beauty.
We typically bury in the ground the food that was offered to the ancestors at this solemn rite.
Following the High Ceremonial Dumb Supper, various types of divination may be performed by the coveners. One of the first tasks is to divine the secret “watchword” of the coven to carry us through the new year. This is a ritual act by three women of the coven who will choose which form of divination to use in uncovering this top secret watchward which will serve as the password for the new year to gain entrance to private coven rituals
May your Hallows ceremony be special this year – no matter how you and your coven celebrates!
The theme of this Sabbat can be summed up with the following universal law: “The Law of Compensation.”
To many of us, this Law of Compensation can also be described as the Tenet of Reincarnation or simply the Law of Cause and Effect. Ye reap that which you sowis a theme that I think we can all understand. Even if you don’t know what to think just yet about the subject Reincarnation or ideas of Karma in your current magical development and philosophy, if you can get a basic understanding of cause and effect you are on the right track.
During the Candlemas Sabbat, we had sown our wishes into soil for all sorts of things. A bulb was then planted in that soil to draw forth the seed-thoughts of our desires as part of its spiritual nourishment. You could even sum this idea up with a little incantation if you need some ideas of what to think on:
“As this flower grows higher and higher, so too does our seed-thoughts grow and blossom in Summer and turn to ripened fruit in the Autumn…….”
I believe the way Wicca fully teaches its mysteries is by the practice of group ritual, in small covens sharing in those practices. These mysteries can’t be understand or grasped by independent and private thought alone, though that is one important part of it – they are not fully grasped until they are experienced in the physical world with the coven, on the astral plane with elementals, fairies and spiritual intelligences and on the mental plane with the higher beings.
This means that the full understanding of the mysteries must be practiced in order to be fully understood and carried out in the real world. Initiation is only a beginning – it is the group practice in the real world that makes an adept in the art. Also, I believe that each Sabbat has an important theme or message(s) to teach us. Here is just but a quick glance at what this Sabbat has taught me and some interesting lore to go along with it….
At the time of the Autumnal Equinox, we should see the end results of the seed-thoughts planted at Candlemas, which will either have come into complete fruition by this time, have been weeded out of our “gardens” or maybe even have not come into fruition. For we all must eventually accept the fruits of our labours, whether for good or for ill, which is an accurate statement to describe what the Law of Compensation is.
Another theme at this Sabbat is on attending to the basic affairs of the coven. If the coven collects monetary donations that go into the coven piggy bank to buy disposable items needed by the coven, this is the time these donations would be offered up for the betterment of the coven. We are a simple and natural religion that has very few expenses, but we know at the same time that everything in life does cost a little something. Most of the time, the cost of coven operation is just the time it takes to set up for the ceremony. Though the costs are in making the tools of the Craft or for incense, candles and a bottle of wine which are the practical items used within a circle. Some coves may have dues to cover these kinds of costs. Some covens also provide space such as buildings to house circles or provide training in and those coven dues or donations help to keep the space going. Even in instances where a coven meets at a particular property or home, repairs and wear and tear occurs because of its use and must be mended.
At this Sabbat, we enjoy a feast within the circle. Food is carried into circle and we eat in the circle at this Sabbat. It is a time of accepting our just rewards for the work we’ve done – some might even call this a “Thanksgiving” if you like.
Another curious custom of the coven is the creation of the artifact known as the “Autumn Hen” which represents the Old Hag of Winter. After the ceremony, it is hidden away over Winter and later used by the ladies of the coven after Candlemas and before the Vernal Equinox Sabbat to awaken Spring during the Rites of Cybele as part of the women’s mysteries.
So what are the external lessons-learned from this Sabbat? Since Wicca’s lessons are learned by experiencing ritual, what are some of my own personal take aways that I have discovered with this Sabbat?
Thought-forms that we nurture have a better chance for growth and survival.
We aspire upward and forward on the path of progressive reincarnation.
To not waste the gifts we have either earned or have been given.
Everything has its opposite – light and dark, hot and cold, etc.
The acceptance of the mortality of all things on this earthly plane.
The Tenet of a Balanced Life
To take stock of what we have gathered in this year.
The acceptance of the successes and failures of the thought-forms and seed-thoughts we have invoked for the year.
That a coven, much like in old agricultural communities of times past, strives to take care of each other as a familial community unit.
We must tend to the space where the coven meets and be willing to collectively invest in it.
We hope that many Autumnal Blessings come to all our Brothers and Sisters of the Wicca this season!
If you wish to know more about a full Sabbat cycle, more info can be found in The Sacred Pentagraph. Click on the book photo to learn more.
The mid-way point, calculated between the Celestial Sabbats of the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox tells us when the first Harvest Sabbat begins. This Sabbat is known to some as “Lammas” and to others as “Lugnasad.”
The Lammas Sabbat is considered a “Terrestrial Sabbat” and led by the High Priestess. At this Sabbat, we celebrate the first big harvest festival of the season and the Great Mother’s rich bounty. These are but symbols which symbolize to us that we are not only thankful for the first fruits of the “seed-thoughts” that we planted at the Candlemas Sabbat, but also that we are just beginning to reap the harvest of those “seed-thoughts” with full recognition and acceptance of our “harvest” when the Fall Equinox comes which gives unto us the final outcome of the symbolic garden we have planted – the full manifestation of the thought-forms set into motion at the earlier seasonal ceremonials.
Each Sabbat we perform is part of a complete cycle of action and re-action, or initiation and response: the Celestial initiating the change on the Terrestrial. To understand the changing of seasons that occur above and below us is to work on our continued harmony within – to strive always to find a harmonious existence all around us, harmony with the natural world and harmony with our fellow man.
Along with the normal bread and wine partaken of at the “Love Feast,” fruits and cheeses are also shared at this time as well in circle.
This ritual is a three-part feast: the first part is the feast of bread and wine in the magical circle, the second part is the offering of bread and wine to the Mother Earth and then the third part is the Feast enjoyed with much celebration after the ceremonial is complete.
The warm summer nights found at this time with the Summer season at it’s height is great for spending time outdoors – especially when the moon is shining above:
To understand what has been described in our modern times as the three harvest festivals in Witchcraft today, I will give you a brief summary so you can familiarize yourself with these terms:
The Lammas Festival for us is the start of Harvest Season when the first big harvests of the summer growing season are coming in. During this time, the focus is on that of thanking the Deity, in which the incantations will be of gratitude.
The Autumnal Equinox Sabbat is where we receive what is due to us – both what we have succeed with and what we have failed at. Sometimes, this Sabbat is the one focused around the Thanksgiving feast. At this time, we balance the books and also the scales – hence, why the imagery of the apothecary scales or scales of justice tends to be the meditational symbol of this particular ritual.
The Hallowmas Festival is complex, and such a grand occasion that multiple things will occur. Divination to reveal the watchword for the coming year is done, occasionally we may hold the High Ceremonial Dumb Supper in order to sup with our beloved dead & Hidden Company, or we may perform incantations to be sustained through the winter months and to release all things that hold us back. It is a time of release and honor of those that have come before – and looking ahead to next year.
I think sometimes many of us can easily take for granted the fact that so many people do live in climates where the seasonal changes are not as pronounced. Seasonal patterns and change are never a one-sized fits all and each coven must adjust some of the symbolism to reflect this from their natural environment.
In my personal climate, it is the hottest at this time usually and we can see the full effect of Summer. Our group works with witches all over the place – so Lammas here might look different from what some of our witch-kin experiences in Canada, and also different from what our witch-kin experiences in Texas or even Arizona! Each of us makes those adjustments in our symbolism accordingly.
For those of us who wear the old ‘Talking Stone‘ of the Old Religion and even those friends who don’t, we do hope that you reap the necessary harvest and give back in thanksgiving and gratitude (Lammas), that you are able to receive all blessings you are due (the balancing act of Autumnal Equinox) and that you have all your needs met throughout the Hallows season and able to spend time reflecting on the year forward. (Hallowmas)
If you wish to write and participate in your own Lammas Sabbat, an excellent book I recommend is “The Sacred Pentagraph” that was published by a mentor of mine: Tarostar. Also, on page 46 you will see a photo inside our Wolfa Coven temple space performing the ritual, “Centering of the Cone.”
Wolfa Coven ready for Lammas Sabbat at the Covenstead!
This Sabbat is all about Power & Strength. It is a perfect celebration of the official initiation of the Summer season when the Sun enters the Sign of Cancer, which will lead to the Earth’s Response at the Lammas Harvest Sabbat when the season of Summer will be at its height. Red flowers are usually placed on the altar and about the magical circle – along with red flowers tied into the cingulum.
This Sabbat ritual takes a bit of additional planning and preparation ….
This is a Celestial Sabbat where we celebrate the Power and Strength of this time of the year and many will typically perform a ritual act known as “Drawing Down the Sun.” For us, this is a ceremonial lighting of the Sabbat fires by channeling the rays of the Sun outdoors to light the flame. Even if the Sabbat is performed indoors, we will use the sun’s rays outdoors in order to light a taper candle and carry it indoors to light the candles, etc.
Within the coven niche, the new Sacred Flame, or Perpetual Flame, will be lit from this Solar Invocation of the Sun. This is typically done on a day of Sol (Sunday), usually the Sunday before the Summer Solstice Sabbat is held. It is also used in a ritual to purify the temple of Wicca at this time. At the Winter Solstice, the Coven Temple is purified by the Silence of the Grave. During the Summer Solstice, it is purified by Celestial Fire.
The path of the sun – deosil circumambulation, is tred for the purpose of banishing impurity, malignity and hostility and filling ourselves with energies corresponding to the celebration of life and of connecting with our higher emotions during the initial rituals the Day of Sol before the actual Sabbat ritual is conducted. Because a Deosil movement sends out and banishes what is there, it is an appropriate time to do this when purifying a temple space. Whereas, during the Sabbat Ritual itself, a Widdershins movement for ritual will occur to call down and pull in power.
The ceremonial dance performed as this time is sometimes known as the “March of Steel”. This is a march-type of dance, emphasizing the power and strength of the Good God and the vital power bestowed upon the coven. The Sabbat ritual itself is a bit more ceremonial and High Druidical in nature with a color scheme of red and white. This is quite a contrast with the Sabbat of May Eve or Beltane, which is very oriented towards the Gracious Goddess and more carefree and flowing.
We also will typically present written petitions as well at a separate table that is typically called the “Credence table.” These paper petitions are carefully written out by all coveners before the Sabbat Ceremonial has begun and carefully laid out. The candles are then carved, anointed and blessed by the coven and are burned with the brazier. The light, heat and warmth are believed to carry these seed-thoughts on a journey to the Ancient Ones and Watchers. We wrote out petitions to be buried in the earth to the Gracious Goddess at Candlemas Sabbat, but at the Midsummer Sabbat, petitions are presented to fire to be consumed in the light and heat. These are prayers to the Ancient and Mighty Ones for the needs of the coven and those they care about.
The Love Feast will typically consist of bread and wine during this Sabbat and has it’s own special blessing over it, and also as it is presented to the coveners:
Herbal Charms & Spells ….
There are many special herbs that can be collected on the Eve of the Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, if you like to be used in spell-making and charm-making. One of the most traditional of herbs to gather is St. John’s Wort – which is a legendary herb used in folklore.
Another legendary herb collected this time of year is the magical fern leaf. This leaf has many great sorceries within it as well and is used for very specific forms of magical operations.
Many enjoy gathering a bit of the yellow-blooming Cinquefoil, also known as the five finger grass wish is used for granting special favors.
Any magical herb used in love charms is said to be most potent when gathered this time of year. The most popular form of spell-making to be performed this time of year is Love Magic. Love charms made from herbs collected on the Eve of the Summer Solstice are said to be the most potent in love charms. A yearly supply to last the year would be gathered and safeguarded in case they are called for and fresh ones selected the following Midsummer Eve.
However you celebrate this time of year, we hope that your celebrations are joyous, merry and fun. After all, the Sabbat is a celebration of life – so have fun with it too!
*If you wish to learn how to conduct a Midsummer Sabbat ritual, we recommend you read the book, “The Sacred Pentagraph” for further details and instructions.
The May Eve or Beltane Sabbat is focused on banishing the last and final dregs of winter in order to celebrate and invoke luck, love, pleasure and joy. This Sabbat is directly opposite to the Hallowmas Sabbat that is held October 31st which has a focus on reflection, release, endings, and communication with those who have departed. Beltane is the Earthly Response to the balance of light and the continued increase of light acknowledged at the Vernal Equinox, and the later is the Earthly Result of the balance of light and its following decrease of light acknowledged at the Autumnal Equinox.
We look forward to what we dub as the “Season of Wine and Roses” each year. Because of it’s themes, it is my personal favorite Sabbat to celebrate.
Some years, but by no means all years, our coven will dance the Maypole before the formal Sabbat begins. It is not a tradition that is a formal part of the Sabbat festival, but a fun custom that many of us enjoy. Typically, folks of one gender-identity will weave and dance the ribbons counter-clockwise and an equal number of folks of another gender-identity will dance the maypole and weave the ribbons clockwise. This creates a beautiful pattern of ribbons that will weave down the May Pole.
I’m occasionally asked by other witches what type of ribbons I like to use for our Maypoles. Here is what I typically look for:
Ahead of time, you will want to procure a selection of ribbons to use. Many craft stores will carry quite a selection of ribbons you can pick from. You will need long spools of ribbons in order to make this happen. I prefer to buy the ones that are at least an inch across so that you have a substantial ribbon. We like to select ribbons of many colors, but other witches I have known like to choose ribbons in white and red. Follow your own customs that you have learned for this.
As a last resort, if you can’t find ribbons like this in your location, a deceased High Priestess of the coven occasionally recommended crepe paper streamers as a substitute. These are more eco-friendly, though you will need to be sure not to get them damp or wet or yank too hard on them so they don’t rip – but it will do in a pinch.
Something I like to do is fashion a natural wreath out of grapevine, young forsythia branches, willow fronds or other young bendable wood if I can. You will notice in the photos here that the wreath will typically be near the very top of the Maypole. To do this, I tie the each of the ribbons to the wreath and leave at least a foot length left on the other end of it so those ends can be fastened tightly to the top of the Maypole itself. This helps in some ways to keep the ribbons from totally tangling up and just generally looks pleasing and beautiful. (If you have this set up for any period of time before the dance begins, you’ll want to secure the dangling ribbons because if the wind blows a bit, the ribbons can get all jumbled beforehand and you’ll have to spend some time untangling them before the dance begins!)
The sapling that I select to cut when I do this is typically one that I would have cut because it had volunteered itself in a location that is less than convenient. I don’t want to randomly cut from any tree – but instead, I will select from particularly prolific trees so that if I take this sapling, it is not going to cause much harm to my environment. For example, Mulberry trees seem to come up like “weeds” in my part of Pennsylvania mainly from the birds who eat the berries and they always seem to drop the seeds in the most inconvenient places possible. These saplings are super fast growing too. In year’s past, I seemed to always select Mulberry because of this.
Some folks have very specific traditions and ideas of what to do with the Maypole itself after Beltane is over. Some like to store these and dry them out and burn them either at Midsummer, the Hallowmas fire or even turn a section of the sapling into a Yule Log – but to make a nice Yule Log, you would almost need to have a more substantial branch than the saplings we use when we do this.
Safety is always a prime thought. This means we try to make a space free of debris and tripping, but also …. If you have any member of your coven with disabilities or if they are not as mobile, you should think ahead of time of something they can do to contribute to the revelry so they can be involved. Dancing the Maypole definitely takes effort – and we do not exclude anyone from the merriment who is unable to do this. Some other options for those not able to perform the dance because of safety concerns, for example, could be drumming and/or singing and chanting during the dance. These roles can be very instrumental and important and are always appreciated. This adds something special and personal to the experience. If I thought about this long enough, I could probably imagine other possible roles as well for folks to help with such as blessing the Maypole by writing an invocation for the occasion…. or even tying off the finished ribbons with a particular incantation.
If at all possible, we try to be outdoors whenever we can. We will also typically light a baalfire during the festival so that those of the coven who wish to may safely “jump the fire” for luck in love and for the granting of wishes.
We also will burn off all of the left-over corn husks and sheaves of wheat from the previous Autumn Equinox Sabbat because they represent the previous cycle we have left and we want to transmute the old so we can make way for the new and we do this symbolically in this ritual. I like to add to this theme as well by collecting as much of the debris from trees and bushes that have fallen over the winter months and burn them in this Sabbat’s baalfire that we enjoy after ritual. This not only provides great kindling to start the fire with, but also provides a warm fire for the initiates to enjoy while we partake of the Sabbat feast, but also serves an important purpose symbolically also of clearing away more of the old debris that no longer has a use, converting it into light, heat and ash to be given back to the Great Mother Goddess.
We typically save the ashes from the spent fire, long after it has cool and no longer warm with any chance of burning, so that the witches can take home the ashes to fertilize their garden with. These ashes represent all that was burnt off from last year – burning off dreams that have been released, wishes that have been fulfilled, and old magical charms: burnt and then transformed to serve as fertilizer. These can be sprinkled in the gardens with a simple invocation to the Great Mother Goddess to bless crops and animals of your location.
You’ll notice a continuing theme here of joy, happiness, luck and love in our Beltane Sabbat, along with a theme of burning away the last dregs of the following year. If you haven’t caught the “tidying” bug yet, this Sabbat will surely bring it to you. Traditions of spring cleaning are either already under way, or you may be feeling this following the Sabbat. It is an un-written belief or practice that we learn from this ritual that we must clear away the last dregs of the old year to invoke the joy, blessings, luck and love in the new year. Fire is important in nature because it is a great purifier and vivifier. I find myself doing this in my own home as I prepare for the Fire Sabbat of Beltane and finding things I must pass on to others, dispose or recycle. This not only frees-up space, but I find it removes old emotional-investments/thought-forms of things that impede your progress, but might add joy to others around you if you pass it on. Being a religion centered around the cycles of nature, and acknowledging these changing tides, I find this a personal theme that I take much comfort in – moving with the seasonal tides, and not trying to swim upstream against them.
A simple altar for the Beltane Sabbat – typically, the Coven May Eve/Beltane altar will hold the three-branched candlestick of the High Priestess:
The Spring Equinox is the astrological New Year for us and is when Aries the Ram greets us again like a long lost friend. The tide of winter has finally beginning to pass and hopefully by this time, we will not receive any further snow in our own area and can look forward to longer, warmer days and digging around in the garden. (Though, only speaking for my own environment – weather may vary depending on your location.)
I have fond memories of many past Spring Sabbats – probably because in our Pennsylvania climate, it is easier to celebrate this Sabbat outside if you choose. The nights are still cold, but we typically will be able to have a bonfire outdoors and a warm blanket on our laps to keep us warm if we spend it outside.
In my garden, I typically will rake out the last dregs of fall leaves that cover the garden beds and pick up small fallen branches and twigs: saving them for fires. Early spring flowers and bulbs are put in the ground and the daffodils begin their yearly bloom!
Because it is the astrological new year, we typically will perform ritual actions within this Sabbat for the purposes of re-dedicating ourselves to the coven. In this ritual we may recite the “Tenets of the Faith” together in order to refresh our understanding and contemplation of our religion and what we aspire to. As Spring lengthens and widens, and the sprouting plants aspire to bloom and flower; so should our dedication to the religion of the Wicca lengthen and widen so that we may express spiritually what we aspire to.
Also, since the astrological new year is initiated at this time and the new cycle beginning in Aires, that is why it is a perfect time for us to be initiated into Witchcraft.
Because it is a time of “new beginnings,” it is also the traditional time of initiation of neophytes and probationers that have been studying to become initiated witches.
At the Sabbat of Candlemass, (February 2015) the witches of our coven and companionship met around the altar in the temple here for the purposes of honoring the feast of waxing light and to celebrate the purification of the Earth-Mother so she could conceive of the birth of Spring.
The Ancient One and Watchers of times of old, time outside of time, were called to be present and draw in the power as we stirred the Astral Light that night.
The Sabbat that came before last Candlemass, Yule (December 2014), initiated the new season to come.
Yule was ruled by the God because Yule is one of the four Quarter Days of the year that marks the seasonal and Celestial Changes. (both solstices and equinoxes) Ancient monuments and stone megaliths from many thousands of years ago were aligned to mark these “Times” that initiate change here on earth: Such as Stonehenge and other round houses and stone circles of Britain and even the ancient monuments of the Mayans! Many ancient civilizations placed such great emphasis on these particular times of the year.
Yule represented the Celestial “Action”: the Initiator. Candlemass is now the Terrestrial “Response.” The time of daylight continue to increase since Yule from the heavenly Sun and now the Earth, our Great Mother, fashions the life by preparing the Earth with purification to wash away all the dross and the cobwebs from the doors. Soon, spring cleaning will be in the air.
Our Father God represents the Action, our Mother Goddess represents the Response. The God initiates, and the Goddess orders and manifests. One cannot exist without the other: Which is why we of the Wicca look to the Lord and Lady as halves of the same whole, and acknowledge the great “Oneness” as the Supreme Being from which all life unfolded and came to be fashioned: divine sparks dividing and indwelling and eventually through the process and progression of reincarnation, will all return to.
At this Sabbat, we wrote petitions for both spiritual and material growth. The Earth Mother is clearing a way for the opening of the tomb and life since the Celestial and Heavenly realms initiated it, so we too respond to Her changes by writing of the petitions and make room for what is to be.
The petitions were placed into the soil and watered blessed through practices of concentration, prayer and incantations. A circle dance to awaken the seeds of Spring performed around this “awakened tomb” was had to celebrate the increasing light and to send power up to our gods so they too will give response.
Once again, the awakening of the tomb and the feast of purification and waxing light is coming soon. Many mythologies represent this celestial ordering and earthly response in various myths and ritual: Such as the Descent and Release of Persephone.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to look back on the Sabbats with great fondness, sometimes even with a tear in my eye at their beauty. Sabbats are the memorable parts of our religion. We don’t always remember what happened at Initiations and Esbats because of the nature of their workings and their veil of mystery – but Sabbats always stick out in the memory for me – not easily forgotten! That is probably how it should be.
The rites have been kept and honor given to the Ancient One.
Water-Witchin’ was at one time a part of regular country life when other means of finding water underground in order to dig a well wasn’t available.
Many of us may have fond remembrances of watching someone perform this noble and ‘respectable‘ form of divination when we were young, or at least have heard an older relatives tell the tale. In most of the in-person stories I have been lucky enough to hear, it was typically a man who seemed to have been taught by another male relative. Typically, it seems to be something passed from father to son, and uncle to nephew. I am sure some women performed this too though.
Typically, oral traditions of water-witchin’ states that you must either have received a passed-down “Divining Rod” or you must go out and cut a fresh one, from preferably a fruit-producing tree. In my own area of Pennsylvania, the most common tree that I have personally heard referenced was a rod cut from a Peach Tree. Sometimes lore would say the branch must be from a virgin branch of the tree that has never produced fruit, and some do not specify.
Even though locally I had been told a virgin rod from a Peach tree, in other locations, you may also hear of using a Hazel rod. If you review this practice in the old school grimoires of occult magic from a few hundred years back, you’ll notice Hazel rods, or even ones from an Elder tree seems to be quite common!
The particular design and shape of it was told to be one that is shaped like a “Y” so that you can hold the “V” part of the stick in each hand with both thumbs pointing outward. This means, while holding, the left thumb is pointed to the left and the right thumb is pointed to the right.
You would proceed to walk with the divining rod, holding it parallel to the ground until either you felt the rod vibrate or that it would point up or down. (The “I” part of it may go down or up – or just vibrate….. It depends on how you were taught to do this or how your own special talents develop.)
T. F. Thistleton Dyer in his classical text “The Folklore of Plants” (my own 1894 copy of the book pictured here) has a curious little reference to this when they had written:
“Some sorcerers do boast they have a rod, Gather’d with vows and sacrifice, And, borne aloft, will strangely nod The hidden treasure where it lies.”
Diving Rods such as this have been used throughout history. In our modern times they have been used to find more than just an underground spring or water; they have been used to find things such as ‘ley lines‘ (that run North to South – lines of power and power flow of the earth’s magnetism), buried treasure or anything at all. I have even heard of a few folks say that you can use them to find graves of people long deceased!
Cutting wands or rods for a variety of purposes; whether for divinatory purposes or for commanding spiritual intelligences and elementals, seems to be a common theme throughout our known history and practice of magic.
A Photo of a “Blasting Rod & Cauldron Pot“…..
A number of the old-time grimoires (grammars, or ‘manuals of magic’) discuss cutting various types of trees to use in practices such as commanding, directing and controlling spirits through conjuration and exorcism.
One particular wand that is quite curious and has an awe-inspiring reputation is known as the “blasting rod”. This wand was cut from the Blackthorn tree was used in ritual magic and summoning of base spiritual-intelligences in order for them to obey the instructions of the exorcist or sorcerer who has summoned these beings to the edge of their protective magical circle in order to do their bidding. The blasting rod, in this particular instance, is used to give a sort of “magical threat” to the spirit to obey the requests and demands of the Exorcist.
Another type of rod that a few legendary grimoires, such as the famed “The Red Dragon” require is that the magician cut a virgin hazel wand on a particular day of the week for the purposes of chastising a thief that has stolen your property or an enemy so that they will feel the blows of the rod when you strike the altar in their name. This is a form of sympathetic magic.
It wasn’t just in grimoires such as The Red Dragon, I have also come across very similar practices in other grimoires or black books of magic, such as the ever amazing, The Black Books of Elverum.
Photo of the grimoire known as “The Red Dragon” can be found here below. This is the Teitan Press edition:
In various forms of Necromancy, various wands of these sorts are used when summoning the spirits of the departed in order for their attention to be attracted. These rites typically seem to call for wood made of willow or any other wood that is of a more watery nature.
In our coven, when we perform the High Ceremonial Dumb Supper at the time of the Hallowmas Sabbat, which is a form of Necromancy, the High Priestess uses the willow wand of necromancy for 13 nights to summon our kith and kin that we wish to silently ‘sup with during this complex ceremony.
During the High Ceremonial Dumb Supper, this wand makes an appearance once again – being used in the evocations for the kith and kin to attend as the names of power are called and the gates opened for them to enter in. Certain incenses are also used so they may enter this world of form more easily.
Another form of wand is also used by the High Priestess in this Hallowmas Ceremonial – that is her Coven Broom. As she travels around the circle Widdershins in order to instruct the deceased kith and kin where to sit and enjoy their meal, she takes up her coven broom and as she speaks the name of the individuals, she raps the handle end on the floor as part of the instructions so the spirits know where the ‘sup their dinner with their living hosts.
Various types of wood have been used throughout history to make all sorts of magical wands. I personally own a small assortment of wands and rods: some were gifts, some were handmade by me for various purposes and magical reasons. They all have their own purpose to them.
Pictured here on a Wiccan altar at the Wolfa Coven, you can see a magical wand prominently displayed that is appropriate to use in Wiccan rites. This is a wand I had cut and did the work on to make:
For those that wish to cut their own wands and make one, I will give you a couple simple instructions… In regards to what you put on the wand or how you must prepare it, I can’t go into those details here. You should follow your own particular magical tradition’s directions for how to prepare the wand for magical operations.
Most Wiccan or magical traditions either ascribe wands to either being aligned with the element of fire or the element of air. If your tradition ascribes it to the element of fire, go out and search for a suitable tree branch on a Monday. If your tradition or teachings ascribe the wand to air, go out and search for the branch on a Tuesday.
After you have located the branch, remember where it is at, as you will not be cutting it that day. The following day, you will cut the branch on Tuesday (if your tradition ascribes it to fire, in a Mars hour) or on Wednesday. (if your tradition ascribes it to air, in a Mercury hour) Other days and planetary hours of the week might be important as well depending on the use of the wand and the tradition.
Why go to all that trouble to figure out the right time to cut it? Well, how important is your magic or witchcraft to you? As I have told my students throughout the years, it is not always “what” you do, but “how” you do it that makes all the difference. Little or lazy effort produces little to no results.
After the wand has been cut, it should lay out flat to dry for a while before you do any work on it… If you don’t lay it flat, as it dries it will begin to bow. If you work on it too soon and peel the bark off before it is dry, the wood will crack as it begins drying.
Your tradition will also most likely have specific sigils or symbols they may hold dear that you are to put on the wand. You should follow these directions too, if they exist in your tradition.
This particular magical wand pictured below is one that took quite a bit of work. It was made to certain specific exact measurements – every detail being carefully measured out. The wood was split in half for the entire length of it and an iron rod placed in the center of the wood with another metal rod connecting to the iron one and coming out and wrapped around the handle. This magical wand has a peculiar effect. Without any effort, it produces quite a “cool” breeze-feeling on the body of another person it is pointed at – being able to easily feel the magnetism coming out of it. It is certainly one of my absolute favorite wands to use:
Let’s now think about divining rods of today………
Many folks that have come into the spiritual consumerism of the modern day have many options of shiny tools and gadgets they can buy. This isn’t a bad thing at all – except when it comes to the folks who like to do bouts of “spiritual tourism” through every esoteric practice they can find, not caring what culture they are appropriating from, nor whom they hurt in the process.
One particular item that has come out of the metaphysical shops and still seem to be popular today has been metal “Dowsing Rods.” They are typically thicker pieces of metal bent into the shape of an “L” and sold as a pair. For an extra fee, I have also seen pairs of these rods that have wooden handles on the small part of the “L”, or some crystal-encrusted elaborate design.
One of these rods is held in each hand. As you slowly walk with them, when it senses what you are looking for, the rods will either open further or cross themselves. Let’s give some examples of their modern day uses.
Late into the night a number of year’s ago, a friend of mine had grabbed a pair of simple dowsing rods that she had made from two old metal clothing hangers and had bent them in the appropriate “L” shape.
The first experiment we did was that she went into the kitchen and she asked me to draw a small magical circle anywhere in the house and she will come find it with the rods.
So I picked out a particular spot, drew a magical circle with my hands and my iron-clad will. I then walked out of the circle and found a place to sit down.
I yelled over to let her know I was finished. She came out of the kitchen and walked slowly through the entire space. Literally, at the exact spot I drew that magical circle with nothing but my hand and my mind, the rods opened up in order to avoid penetrating the circle as if someone pushed them wide open in order to stop them. It was fascinating to see with clear eyes and mind how a magical operation performed in the mind and projected by your will through your own body can leave such an imprint on a particular area so as to alter the effects of another item as it enters the aura of that space – in this instance, the metal dowsing rods.
We repeated this exercise again. I drew another magical circle into the Astral Light of that space in a different spot of the room with the exact same results being produced: she being able to come in, and the rods opening, at the exact spot the circle was drawn.
So we concluded, beyond a shadow of a doubt in our own minds, and with another witch present to observe as a witness, that this spontaneous activity is legit, providing two things are available:
1. That the person doing the divining is patient and psychic enough to possibly pick up on small impressions left in the astral light, and/or…….
2. The person drawing the circle is able to physically manifest magical powers and impregnate an object or a defined space with it.
Now, the next experiment was shifted to another one of the Occult Sciences, that of telekinesis…..
One witch was to hold the rods while the other witch stood on the other side of the room and with nothing but the powers of your own mind’s will power, force the rods to move by will.
I was up first to do the moving…. She stood across the room and I stood on the opposite end.
This was the first time I had tried doing something like this, so I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect or how to proceed, but I didn’t need directions, just had to go with what I could figure out and see if it would work. So I decided that I would start by concentrating on just one of the rods, because I didn’t know if I could focus on them both at the same time.
I focused on the one that was on my right, but in her left hand, and sure enough, after about 10 seconds of focus, the rod began to bounce and opened up completely back on her arm.
Next I focused on the one on my left that was in her right hand. The same thing occurred.
We tried this again, same thing happened.
Now on this third attempt, I decided I would try this with both at the same time.
It took me a little extra time to get both rods firm in my mind, and I projected power from my body to the tips of the rods pointing toward me. Sure enough, both rods began to bounce and they proceeded to bounce their way back toward her arms. The experiments were a complete success!
A couple weeks later, it was a cold December night and I was sitting by candlelight at the table with various witches of mixed paths and focusing good intentions to other people in need of good thoughts, healing wishes and prayers.
The witch who owned the home had a set of small metal dowsing rods that she purchased from a metaphysical store and she handed them to another male witch who was also at the table to use in order to check the energy of the workings being done. (I don’t know why this was necessary, but whatever floats your boat!) I must admit that I found them a tempting distraction from what we were doing….. So I decided that I would “play around” with the rods and see if he could notice.
So I started moving the rods on purpose, in secret, with only my mind and without anyone’s knowledge around the table. Soon I heard, “Wow, there must have been a lot of energy moving at those few requests because these things have been going crazy!”
I chuckled and said, “Yes, indeed. I bet you on the next one they won’t move at all.”
“Why do you say that?” he said.
“I just have a feeling……”
So sure enough, didn’t move at all.
I did this a couple more times – moving to the left, then to right, etc., each time, ‘predicting’ what would happen beforehand.
After this, he had said he wanted to know why they were so erratic. I said I knew why but would tell him later so that we could finish the working. Well, that comment stopped us in our tracks because by now, everyone was getting so curious on what the heck was going on.
So I came clean and said I was moving them for fun. So we got a big chuckle, and then we decided we would put the dowsing rods down. Good thing indeed, because I was more interested in playing with them than the petitions I should have been focusing on for those in need!
That’s another reason why I think spending the time to collect a practical, working set of tools without all the other fancy-pants bobbles is much better than owning three of everything in terms of occult supplies. Too many shiny things can be a distraction from doing the real work. Just like those that do “spiritual tourism” through every form of magic-d’jour they find, always chasing the tail of the dragon, because they have went into every pursuit with a half-measure and no strong commitment.
Have any of you had any experience or stories about divining rods, magic wands or telekinesis? If so we would love to hear about it in the comments below!
… a coven of witches practicing in the Horsa Tradition & the Sacred Pentagraph Tradition