Playlist for the Wylde Hunt

Another fun #2019GrimoireChallenge prompt from several weeks ago: music! Now I have different playlists for different moods: one that’s strictly speaking pagan tunes like Damh the Bard, Wendy Rule, S.J. Tucker, etc. for studying to; one that has music from Florence & The Machine, Stevie Nicks, Hozier, etc. that’s sort of my “witchy vibe” playlist; another of sea shanties that’s relaxing, but also sort of mournful and sad; one of musical scores from different films for writing to; the list goes on. What I wanted to share today though was my playlist specifically for The Wylde Hunt (the full Spotify Playlist is linked here and prolifically long because I like to be able to spend hours listening to music of a similar vibe). For purposes of this blog post, however, I’m going to pick 10 songs to share with you from it. So, in no particular order, just how they ended up in the list on Spotify:

  1. “Become the Beast” -Karliene Technically a fan-made song for Hannibal this is a wonderfully dark and spooky song that I had to include on my list. I actually have a lot of Karliene’s music on the playlist. She covers songs from films, writes music of her own, has her own renditions of some folk tunes, all around good stuff, and I recommend you check her out!
  2. I Don’t Speak Human” -OMNIA I also have a lot of OMNIA’s music on that playlist. This one speaks about humanity’s destruction of nature, and as the Wylde Hunt is sort of one with the forests, I saw it as particularly fitting.
  3. “Fehu” -Wardruna You might recognize this one from the show Vikings. It was used during one of the battle scenes in an earlier season of the show (Gods, I’m so behind on it; this makes me want to go back and binge-watch to catch up!). I can’t remember if I discovered the song before or after it was used on the show, but it’s got an awesome beat and makes me feel like going out and fighting all of my troubles. It’s a similar feeling to listen to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack while you’re going about your day. You just feel as though you have more purpose and can accomplish anything.
  4. “If I Die In Battle” -VanCanto VanCanto was shown to me by my boyfriend a couple of years ago. They’re mostly an a capella group + a drummer. This song is freaking epic: the vocals are powerful, the video is fantastic, and really what isn’t there to love about an a capella metal band, yeah, you heard that right: a capella metal. Please. Go watch this. It’s worth it.
  5. “The Parting Glass” -Loreena McKennitt OR Damh the Bard I can’t pick a favorite rendition of this song but I deeply love both Loreena McKennitt and Damh the Bard’s versions of them, so here I have included them both. It’s a little less battle-song and more folksy. I like to imagine I’m sitting at a pub with the hunters, or maybe around their campfire as I hear this song. Also, not to be morbid or nihilistic: I really want this song played at my funeral. It’s sad, but like, in a parting-of-friends way. I dunno. I just really love this song.
  6. “Fith Fath Song” -Damh the Bard Because I love Damh and need to give him more attention in this playlist, I’ve added this song. Again, a bit more folksy than some of the others I’ve listed here. It reminds me of the chase scene between Cerridwen and Taliesin in their myth, and felt appropriate for something I could imagine one of the members of the Wylde Hunt singing. I have several of Damh’s other songs on the playlist. He’s long been one of my very favorite artists as far as pagan / folk musicians go. He also runs the Druidcast for the OBOD. I’ll link his website here.
  7. “Safe & Sound” -Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars Heading back into the dark and spooky vibe, we come to “Safe & Sound.” I’m not really a fan of Taylor Swift, honestly, but I really like this song, and the Civil Wars, which brings me to…
  8. “Kingdom Come” -The Civil Wars this beautiful and haunting song that just gives me all of the autumn, Wylde Hunt lurking in the trees sort of vibes.
  9. “A Pict Song” -Emerald Rose This one is again folksy and kind of got that rearing for battle kind of a feel to it. One of my favorite areas of history to study is the Roman invasion of the Celtic lands because it’s where much of what little we know about the ancient Druids comes from. Imagine wild hunters from the lands of the Picts, still bitter about Roman invasion. I just really love this song.
  10. “If I Had A Heart” -Fever Ray This is another one from Vikings, and another sort of dark, primal, spooky song.

Do you make playlists for your spiritual workings? What sort of music do you associate with your deities / guides? Share them in the comments below!

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

My Grounding & Centering Method

Grounding & Centering

Jumping back into the @2019grimoirecchallenge posts! This in answer to both Monday AND Tuesday’s prompt since I usually ground AND center my energy before and after ritual. This particular exercise isn’t particularly new: I think it’s been posted pretty much everywhere as like “The Tree Meditation” or “The World Tree Visualization” and such, but here goes my version of it!

  • First, you’re going to want to sit, or stand in a comfortable position. I typically plant my feet shoulder-width apart, and if I can help it, like to stand barefoot on the floor or grass.
  • The first step will be the grounding part of the exercise. How I usually do this, is I start first by relaxing myself by focusing on my breathing.
  • Once I’ve gotten in that headspace, I will visualize all the stress, anxiety, and generally disruptive energy flowing down through my body to my feet and down into the ground. Literally, sending that energy into the ground to be neutralized and released.
  • Next, while I’m still sort of focused on my feet and the earth beneath them, I’ll visualize that my feet have grown roots that push through the soil. I’ll then focus on pulling cool, calming, steadying energy up from the earth, just like a plant would draw up water or nutrients from the soil. I imagine this energy filling me, and making me feel steady, strong, and secure.
  • Next, I’ll bring my arms up to stretch over my head, and I’ll visualize them growing up further and further into leafy branches.
  • Like I visualized drawing in energy from the earth, I also visualize drawing in energy from the sun/moon/sky. First through the leaves, then down my branch-like arms and all through out my being. This energy is light, inspiration, clarity, purpose…
  • Where the two energies meet in the center of my being I focus a moment to allow them to merge and find balance. I feel myself sustained by both the earth below and the warm light of the sun above. I am calm, and focused, and inspired to begin work on my ritual.
  • I then take a deep breath, visualizing myself returning from tree back into my human shape, and open my eyes to continue my work.

I do this before ritual to put myself into the proper mindset to do the work before me. It helps to release the energy of my day to day that can be disruptive to my intentions.

I also do this after ritual, so that I can release the residual energy raised during the ritual, and re-center myself before returning to the more mundane parts of my life.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Connecting with the Wylde Hunt

connecting-with-the-wylde-hunt.png

Friday’s @2019grimoirecchallenge prompt deals with connecting with Otherworldly energies and working with them in spiritual practice. By now, I’ve made it sort of clear which spirits and the like I work closely with, so this post is dedicated to the Wylde Hunt and my experiences working with them.

So, briefly: The Wylde Hunt is a phenomena that occurs across northern and western Europe, and in some parts of North America. It’s characterized by spectral figures, horses, or hounds which ride through the night and generally create some chaos and terror. What it is they’re hunting or changing depends upon the myth you’re reading- in fact a lot of the elements of the hunt vary depends upon the version of the story you’re dealing with. It can include fae, fallen heroes, gods, spirits of the dead, etc. etc. I go a bit more into detail on this in this post here.

My particular Wylde Hunt seems mostly to be human spirits and fae. Goblins are sometimes included in that, and they’re all led by a horned deity that up until very recently I was referring to as Herne, but who has come to be known by a different name, which is mine alone to know.

My work with them started back in October of 2011. I was working on homework the one night and got this sudden and urgent nudging to go outside. I ignored it for probably a good twenty minutes, like “No. I need to finish my homework…” But it persisted, so I grab some tarot cards and a pendulum and head outside. And standing at the firepit in our yard is this beautiful white tail doe. And she stares at me, and we kinda stand there for a bit… and then I gently creep closer… and she bounds off away to stand over on this hill near the tree I usually leave offerings at. So we stare at each other again… and then I gently creep closer once more, until off she bounds into the northwest and disappears into the trees.

Now, this hill was where I was intending to go in the first place; I was really fixated on dragons and leylines and thought there was going to be a connection there or something, but now I was fixated on this deer and the forest- like I could feel her still watching me from the tree line. And the name Wild Hunt kinda… came to me. I’m sure I’d read it in passing a few times; I’d recently started my journey with Celtic paganism, so it was likely it’d come up. But I didn’t have any real prior knowledge or interest in it- until this point. So, I break out the cards and the pendulum, and that becomes the answer I get for the question: “Who’s trying to contact me? / Who has a message for me?”

So I start to do research, and most sources recommend not contacting the Hunt at all, because, well, they’re sort of notorious for being dangerous. But I decide that I’m going to reach out and figure out what they want: so I go back to the hill a couple days later and I say “If you wish for me to work with you, if this is a partnership you’re seeking, let me see crows or ravens within a week’s time.” Crows and ravens are my sort of sign that something is afoot magically speaking, and they’re relatively common in our area. So, when suddenly there’s no sign of them for 6 days… I’m getting worried.

Halfway through the 7th day: I’m waiting for my mom to pick me up from retaking the ACT, and there’s suddenly a whole murder of crows behind me making a whole bunch of noise. And I’m like “Woah. Okay. I hear you.” And I look back towards the parking lot, and beyond it, there’s a hawk or falcon or something that comes up from the forest there, does maybe three circles, and then dips back down into the trees.

It took some time for me to really figure out how they were going to become a part of my practice. Their leader was my patron deity, so that wasn’t so hard to figure, but The Hunt itself is another thing altogether. Like anyone with any real knowledge of fae, I’m reasonably skeptical when it comes to just swearing allegiance to things, making deals, etc. They seemed to enter my life at the most inconvenient times: right when things were tumultuous and changing dramatically. At some point I realized that was probably the point.

In the video post linked above, I discuss my beliefs as to what they are and what purpose they sort of serve in the grander scheme of things: essentially they are psychopomps and agents of necessary destruction and change. They shake things up and carry you from one state of being to the next. When I realized this, they quit being quite as scary.

It was October of 2014, I believe, that I really properly dedicated myself to The Hunt in a formal sense. I had made a poppet to represent myself and taken it under the Hunter’s Moon out into the grove where we did much of our spellwork and gathering. I left it there in the crook of an oak at the center of the grove, I made offerings of alcohol and incense to them, and I swore myself to their service, which included:

  • Maintaining my altar and sacred space as a place for them to rest and visit. Essentially, I entered into a mutual bond of hospitality: when I did journeying work, I often visited their camp. They also were welcome at my hearth.
  • Creating poetry and artwork which focused on their myths and legends as well as my own new experiences with them. I took up the mantle of their bard, and you’ll notice I still write quite a bit of poetry inspired by them.
  • Working with them through periods of change. When I need help to clear the way; when I find myself getting stuck in a rut. I call on them. It’s amazing how much more controlled change can be when you willingly yield to it rather than fighting it. I also became interested in taking a similar role myself: in helping others through periods of transitions. I intend to undertake celebrant training with the OBOD following the completion of the Bardic Grade to work rituals for funerals, weddings, etc. I want to be help in those periods of transition for other people.
  • Developing skills related to hunting, outdoorsmanship, etc. I’ve casually taken up archery as a skill I want to learn. I’ve tried to educate myself whenever possible about things in my local environments: trees, wildlife, stars and the cycles of the seasons. The more I understand, the closer I feel to them. This has also included trying to be more conscious about what things I leave as offerings, recycling, using less energy, etc. to help mitigate at least a little harm done to the environment, and to vote in favor of policies that will benefit and help the natural world. That last part feels more important than ever these days.
  • Riding with the Hunt. I’ve mentioned already that I do journeying and visualization work. Some of it includes riding with the Hunt. This bullet point also includes my beliefs about my afterlife- that I will join them following the end of my life, and ride with them forever more.

These are the terms of my working with them, and are by no means the terms everyone should or would want to seek out.

I contact them in a number of ways but some off the top of my head are:

  • Taking hikes in the forest.
  • Leaving offerings of whiskey, dried meats, or bread.
  • Drumming.
  • Reading my poetry aloud somewhere like my backyard or the forest.
  • Calling to them in ritual work.
  • Visiting their camp in my journeying work.
  • Lighting a candle for them on my altar.

My advice when approaching any entities be they gods, fae, angels, whatever is this: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Know what exactly it is you’re working with, how people have historically interacted with these beings, what sort of tales exist about them, what offerings are common, etc. BE RESPECTFUL! Just like you’d probably be pretty polite and considerate when meeting a new friend or potential employer, you want to be polite and respectful of the powers that be. BE YOURSELF. Don’t go posturing or doing anything unnatural though. They have a sense of humor, and there’s a difference between being polite and serious about what you’re doing and taking yourself too seriously.

Best of luck, and forest blessings,
Rachel

The Elements as Frame of Reference- Or Why I Don’t Invoke the Quarters

elements graphic

This week’s #2019GrimoireChallenge prompts include a focus on the elements and other energies that we work with on our respective paths. Having finished up some of the work through the elements in both my OBOD coursework and in my re-reading of The Earth Path, I’ve been thinking much about the elements and how I work with them in my own path.

By the elements of course, I mean Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. They are used widely in the sphere of the neo-pagan community and have come to be sort of a staple for most people’s magical / spiritual education. Everything from astrology, to herbs, crystals, tarot suits, and more are typically associated with an element. There are countless charts of correspondences that you can find in almost any Wiccan / pagan book. For that reason, I’m not going to list any of them here.

For me, however, they are much less a staple of my practice and more of a means of understanding. Like the literal elements make up all of the matter in our world, the four (or five, if you include Spirit) elements make up the myriad of energies we experience. A sunset at the beach includes fire, yes, because of the sun, but you also have water present, the sandy earth, the cool breeze blowing from across the waves. A thunderstorm has water, the rain; air obviously as it takes place in the sky and the clouds, and sound is an important factor; and fire because of the heat that lightning brings. All of these elements are present in any one moment if you’re able to open your awareness to them. I prefer to deal with the energy as a whole- the energy and spirit of the beach at sunset, the energy of the storm as it rages through our little marshland neighborhood. It feels more like a complete picture, and a more dynamic one than focusing just on a singular element. They don’t often exist exclusively in the natural world, so why would I treat them as such in my practice?

I use the elements as a frame of reference for things like divination or astrology. Water signs are emotive and intuitive. Pentacles are associated with Earth and the qualities of stability and groundedness. In this way, they’re symbolic. They help to categorize energy and operate as a system of interpreting the cards, or the planetary alignments. I don’t however, use them often in spell work. I go for plants and crystals that fit my intention- and usually that’s an intuitive process of simply picking up items that seem to “feel right” for whatever I’m working on. Lavender doesn’t feel particularly related to the energies of air to me, but I’ll use it for cleansing or healing, or anything that needs a more gentle and soothing touch to it.

Because for me the elements are sort of a system of understanding, I also don’t partake of the very common practice of invoking them while setting up a circle for ritual space. In doing so, it’s usually assumed that you are calling upon those energies to enter the circle and balance it; so that they are all represented and working in harmony throughout your rite. Aren’t they already? If you’re in a natural space, you can see the fire as light from the sun, the earth beneath your feet, the moisture in the dewy grass, the air moving about you. Even indoors you can: fire- light and heat from your home, air blowing from said furnace or a fan, moisture in the air for water- perhaps literal water you brought into your circle, earth as the stone or wood or whatever floorboards beneath you. Heck, even your body has all of the elements. There’s a chant that goes “Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath, and fire my spirit…” So without even invoking those quarters, I see them as all already being present and already working in some relative harmony.

Because my circle is sacred protected space, and because I choose safe places to enact my rituals, I also don’t think I need to invoke the quarters as watchtowers or to guard my circle in anyway. I’m not worried about random people or random spiritual nonsense coming in and mucking up my rite; I’ve drawn a circle and picked a safe space for working.

I also don’t buy into the notion that invoking them helps to tune one in to the directional orientation of one’s location. If I’m setting up to do ritual in a place, I’ve gotten to know it before hand, and it’s likely a place I visit often. I do call for peace to the four directions, so I will have looked at a compass or something before starting to know where north, south, east, and west are too. Calling quarters for that reason seems, for me, a bit redundant and unnecessary.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t work for most people! By all means, if you really like calling the quarters and focusing on individual elements, go right ahead! But I do encourage you to try it once or twice: focusing on the big-picture energy of something in nature instead of a singular element, or creating a ritual where you don’t invoke the quarters. See what happens! One of the most important parts of a magical or spiritual practice is knowing what does/n’t work for you, and having an informed reason as to why.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

What Makes a Witch?

grimoire challenge

Over on Tumblr (despite all the mess it now is) some folks have started up a #2019GrimoireChallenge which I am participating in. Since I’ve been having some fun with the prompts, I thought I’d share some of my favorite posts from the project here as well.

Tuesday’s prompt for Week 2 was “Witch, what does it mean to you? What type of witch are you?… Are there certain things you plan to learn as a witch? Certain goals you have?”

A witch, to me, is someone who practices witchcraft in some way: this can be spells and rituals, crystal healing, divination, artwork, devotional poetry, yoga, astrology, essentially the crafts of “The Craft”. A witch doesn’t follow a specific religious or spiritual path- they can be atheists, Christian, Wiccan, polytheists of any sort, whatever. Witches and witchcraft, for my definition of the term aren’t bound necessarily by any specific religious or spiritual paradigm, but rather in the practice of those arts.

I personally identify first as a Druid and Bard. My reasons for this are:

1. “Witch” is often conflated with “Wiccan” and as my religious beliefs and practices are NOT Wiccan, I find it easier to start at Druidry. Druidry is a nature-based spiritual philosophy which may be applied to a number of different sects of Celtic (and Indo-European if you’re a member of the ADF) polytheism as well as other more mainstream religious movements. Druidry is focused upon connection, care and respect for the natural world, and expression of creativity- usually with an emphasis on song and poetry I’ve found. It’s usually very much entwined with Celtic cultural values of hospitality, the sacred landscape, good humor and wit, etc. and as a spiritual philosophy is not as necessarily concerned with the “craft” part of my witchcraft definition.

2. My personal practice is, usually a lot less “witchcraft-y” and more spiritual. I spend a great deal more time wandering the woods, contemplating the universe and meditating than I do crafting spells and reading cards. Therefore to call myself solely a witch feels a bit.. fake.

If I were to define the type of witch I was, I would probably call myself a Druid-Witch, or a Witch of the Wild Hunt. Longtime followers of my blog will have noticed (scattered through here and probably difficult to find because when the hell do I ever actually post personal / original content?) that I work specifically with a version of the Wild Hunt and their horned god leader. For me, this path is first and foremost concerned with nature (particularly storms and the forest), connecting with it, knowing my local environment and its cycles and patterns, etc. On another level, I feel very much called to be a bard for said hunter deity. A lot of my path is made up of composing devotional poetry and artwork, recording the tales I uncover as well as my own adventures and growth. This path includes studying patterns of the stars- not just astrology but the actual dance of the constellations across my own sky. It includes keeping my home, and my altar, as hearth for my familiar spirits to rest and to speak with me. It includes journeying through trancework and meditation with those spirits and gods. But it very very rarely includes ritual, spell work, etc. I do those things, but they aren’t the bulk of what makes up my practice.

Right now, my “witchy” goals include finishing up the OBOD Bardic Grade course, learning palmistry, and taking up Welsh and harp playing as devotional work for my gods. There’s a long way to go, but I’m eager to get started.