How To: Cast a Circle

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In an effort to include more original content and like actually useful things, I wanted to make this addition to my blog!

Most people will recommend a circle when doing any kind of trance, ritual, spell, or spiritual work. The reasons range from needing to contain energy raised during a working, creating special liminal space between yourself and the realms of the gods, and nasty energy/entities out to sabotage you. I am personally of the opinion that nasty energy that will ruin whatever your doing and malevolent beings looking for a human host are incredibly unlikely, and that honestly wards should be set wherever you’re working against that sort of very rare circumstance anyway. I am also of the opinion that energy can be raised, held onto, and then released in a ritual through your own energetic field.

However, casting a circle does mentally, energetically, and ritually delineate what is mundane and everyday stuff from the magical/spiritual and so I still think it super useful. When I cast a circle, it clicks in my brain that “this is ritual space, and I can let go of all the other crap buzzing around in my brain and just connect.” It also helps me focus more actively on the energy that I am raising and working with, and gets my mind in the proper gear so to speak for doing whatever working I’m about to be doing.

So, let’s get down to my method for casting a circle, shall we?

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Originally posted by midnight4ever

  • First thing’s first, having a physical marker for your circle is super helpful. Chalk, candles, flower petals, crystals, whatever. Go wild! Just don’t pour salt on grass or plants because it will kill them. Make your physical boundary first. Trust me, it’s easier that way.
  • I like to begin by grounding and centering first. Much like casting a circle gets me in the proper head space for ritual, grounding and centering gets me in proper head space for setting up the circle. My method for that can be found here.
  • Next, I like to stand at the center of my circle, or as close to it as I’m able to get if I’ve got something like an altar or a bonfire in the dead center. Seeing that I’ve grounded and centered already, and am comfortable and know where the center of my energy is, I’ll turn my focus back to that. For me, it’s between my Solar Plexus and my diaphragm.
    • I then visualize my energy radiating from that center moving out slowly to fill the circular area of your ritual/work space. It might be a similar color to your aura. Maybe it’s a bright light. Maybe you visualize it as glitter and bubbles. Any visual that works for you will do. I also like to stretch my arms straight out from my body as I do this, sort of like I’m pushing the energy to fill the space.
  • Once I’ve gotten my energy to fill up the bubble of the area that I’ll be working in, I’ll move to the western edge of my circle.
    • I choose the West because: it’s the direction used in a lot of the Druid works I’ve come across, and it’s been sort of tradition because of that now; The Wylde Hunt is said to ride from the western winds, and since they’re my familiar spirits/patron deity, it just seems right; and the West is said to be the realm of water, emotions, intuition, and receptivity, and so I bring those things into myself as I begin my circle.
  • Now that I’m at the western edge of my circle, I’ll use my dominant/power/projective (insert occult/new age label for it here) hand to draw, with energy, my circle’s boundaries. Again, visualization depends upon the person. A lot of people I’ve worked with have envisioned white, silver, or blue light; I’m a bit dramatic and like to imagine a ring of stones rising out of the earth around me. Your circle can be as simple or as complex in your mind’s eye as you want it.
  • Whatever you’ve visualized, you’ll want to move clockwise around the circle.
  • It might help to use a chant or rhyme as you trace the circle. I personally like to hum the tune for S.J. Tucker’s “For Love of All Who Gather” as I draw my circle.
  • For quick/simpler workings, I’ll make just the one circle around. Sometimes if it feels right, I’ll make three trips around it. Do what feels best. As long as you feel like your energy is anchored and you’re secure, that’s all that matters.
  • Once I’ve made my final loop around the circle and find myself back at the western edge where I’ve begun, I like to give a little tap with my foot, or with my hand/wand on the ground. It gives me a visual and a motion to sort of lock the circle in place.

And that’s it! If you’ve followed those steps you’ve successfully cast a circle!
In order to open a circle after a ritual, you’ll want to start back at the west and this time move counter-clockwise, again tracing the circle. I personally re-collect the personal energy I used in building the circle back to myself and let whatever energy I’d raised during the rite drift off to do its work in the Universe.

Hope this is helpful!
/|\ Rachel

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Lughnasadh: Reflections on Summer

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My “wicker” man perched atop my altar.

It feels like ages since I’ve posted, and yet like the summer has absolutely flown by in the blinking of an eye. A great deal has happened and it feels like a great unraveling and re-weaving of a tapestry. It’s all seemed a blur, but I’m able to sit now and reflect and give thanks for the process though I know the work is not yet over… but after all, that is what Lughnasadh is about, isn’t it? Giving thanks for the first fruits of our labor though we know there is still much left to do.

In the past months since posting, I’ve moved back to Michigan from Georgia and, on mutual terms, ended the long-term relationship I’d been in. I left a living and job situation that was not promoting growth and stability like I had hoped that it would. The stars (or energies, or whatever) aligned so that I was able to get my job back in my home town, and I have my own little bit of space in my parents’ house. Right now, I’m looking at returning to school to become an English teacher. I have the freedom to drive where I please. There’s a great deal I’ve been thinking and feeling, that for sake of privacy I won’t divulge here, but for the first time in I can’t quite remember when… I feel happy and fulfilled and hopeful for the future.

This year, as I was crafting my “wicker” man (he’s truthfully made out of sticks, wild grapevine, leaves, tigerlilly stems, and all manner of other foliage from my back yard), I began with a poppet. I’d wanted him to be a little bit more stable, but I also decided to fill him with written prayers of thanks, affirmations of the personal transformations I’ve been undergoing, herbs and scraps from spells over the past winter, and all my hope for the coming fall and winter.

Lughnasadh has always been for me one of those important touchstone holidays. I may skip nearly every other sabbat in the Wheel of the Year, but I’ll find time to bake and to get crafty and gather friends together to mark the start of Summer’s end. I make the first pumpkin bread of the year. The Halloween costume shops start to crop up around town. There’s a cool breeze now and again in the air that smells like the coming rains of autumn. The leaves and grasses are more yellowed with the languid late-July/early-August heat, and the spring and summer flowers are fading away. Crows have moved into my family’s yard and chatter away each morning. The countdown to the renaissance festival has begun.

As I write this, my bread has just finished baking and my wickerman is perched upon the altar awaiting a small rite tomorrow. I am deeply thankful for the lessons and the strength the beginning of 2019 has given me. I look forward to whatever the coming months have in store.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

The Wyldewood Grove Discord Server

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Picture above originally by forgotten-tale on deviantart. Edits made by me.

It occurs to me that I have shared links to this on Tumblr, but not yet on WordPress or my other social media platforms, but I’ve recently created a server on Discord geared towards building community and sharing information with fellow witches, pagans, druids, etc.  It’s called the Wyldewood Grove, and is intended for folks 18 years or older who are interested in chatting with like minded people, sharing anything from art to spell ideas or even recipes, and more.

I’m learning the in’s and out’s of operating and maintaining the server as we go, as I’m relatively new to Discord myself, but the community we have started is welcoming and supportive, and I’m very proud with how it’s been growing over the past couple of months.

The server itself is divided into a couple of sections: The Seedlings section is where new members will land when first entering the server. This contains the very basic rules of the server, a place for introductions, and a chat that’s open to folks who’ve not been given access to the rest of the server. The rest of the channels on the server are private for members only and are made up of:

The Campfire: a place for general chat and community building. This category also contains channels for witchy swaps, sharing on-going art projects, music, interesting articles and resources.

The Grove: the bulk of the server is The Grove: these are the specialized channels geared towards particular pagan paths and specific interests. Topics include Druidry, Hellenic paganism, divination, kitchen/hearth magic, garden magic, working with fae, and much much more.

The Stone Circle: gets its name from the idea that ancient stone circles were used as a sort of means of tracking the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. This category contains topics for lunar/star magic and astrology discussion.

We also currently have a running Dungeons & Dragons campaign going with a few members of the server!

So, if you’re looking for a fun and supportive community of fellow witches/pagans/druids/etc. to connect with online, consider giving our server a look: https://discord.gg/WhZV8SZ .

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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

Response: The Pagan Grail Part 1- Y Tho?

Another blog post I wanted to respond to as I’ve had some free time to write was Damh the Bard’s post: “The Pagan Grail Part 1- Y Tho?” . I had explored the topic of the Grail Quest in conjunction with the Wylde Hunt and what it was I was actively seeking/hunting in the past (in searching for the post I wanted to reference, I am concluding it was on my old and now-archived blog). The gist of the post was that my quest was one for Awen, or divine creative inspiration, and for connectedness with the natural world, and that my “hunt” was less for something corporeal and more for that sense of wonder and liveliness. But it’s now been quite some time since I’ve written that post, and I wanted to answer the questions Damh posed in his post as a thinking and brainstorming exercise for myself.

What is the Grail for you personally? Damh mentions the Grail as being our connection to the land, the cure for the separation between ourselves and the natural world. This feels a much more articulate way of speaking aloud the things I’d been feeling when I wrote that post a few years ago. The Grail is, in one sense anyway, about the ways in which we bring harmony back into our relationship with the natural world. With the current threats to our environment, this seems even more important than ever.

But the Grail has also been for me about moments of co-creation with the divine, those moments where Awen is flowing. These are the frisson-inducing performances, the moving works of art, music, literature… The conversations that leave us thinking for days afterwards because of the depths of the truths discussed. Pursuing the Grail is about pursuing more of those moments in my life. Creating works of art, poetry, music, tending gardens, teaching children… These are things that express the ability within us to weave energy and life like the divine powers of the Universe.

And finally, in conjunction with the first interpretation, the Grail is about personal sovereignty and power. It’s about acknowledging the self as a living being, a part of the natural world, an expression of divine creativity… But with that knowledge, comes the responsibility to take care what energies we propagate, to take actions that are in harmony with the rest of creation, and to take ownership of our actions and the circumstances in our lives.

Have you ever considered your Path as your own Grail Quest? I have absolutely considered my path as my own Grail Quest. Spirituality is something woven into every aspect of my life no matter how mundane it may seem. Seeing my path as the Grail Quest gives a sense of clear direction: a goal to work towards. It may never be perfectly achievable, but that isn’t the point. The point is to be a better person and to make the effort.

Are you the mystic that expresses your Path by how you view the world, who you are Are you the magician who expresses your Path by what you do, by your actions in the world? Both? I think I’m a little bit of both. I find that my actions and my worldview are very much in line with one another, and I couldn’t for the life of me pick one which defines me and my Path more than the other. My sense of being, and the lens through which I view our world determine my actions. My actions in turn affirm and determine who I am. It’s cyclical, I think.

What is the essence that makes these acts or sense of beingness a part of your Path? The essence of these acts/ sense of beingness is that I am a part of our world, no different than any other being. As a part of this world, I have a sense of duty and responsibility to care for it and its inhabitants, to work towards harmony with my fellow inhabitants of our world, and to create beautiful things in celebration of those connections with other beings. A quote that drives much of my life and my actions is:

“When you die, only three things will remain of you, since you will abandon all material things on the threshold of the Otherworld: what you have taught to others, what you have created with your hands, and how much love you have spread. So learn more and more in order to teach wise, long-lasting values. Work more and more to leave the world things of great beauty. And love, love, love people around you for the light of love heals everything” – French Druid Triad, Francois Bourillon.

And by following this philosophy, I find myself a little bit closer to the Grail, and therefore harmony with the natural world, sovereignty over self, and co-creation with the divine.

So, I’ll pose the same questions to you, dear followers:

What is the Grail for you personally?

Have you ever considered your Path as your own Grail Quest?

Are you the mystic that expresses your Path by how you view the world, who you are?

Are you the magician who expresses your Path by what you do, by your actions in the world?

Both?

What is the essence that makes these acts or sense of beingness a part of your Path?

And do make sure to check out the entirety of Damh’s post (as well as the rest of his blog because he’s a magnificent writer).

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Thinking About: Discernment and Personal Responsibility

This morning, I had the pleasure of having one of those hour-or-so long phone conversations with a close friend of mine where we find ourselves discussing all manner of things from spirituality, to philosophy, plans for self improvement, and endless other topics. Today, a part of our discussion revolved around the possibility of forming a local group of witchy/pagan folk, and our concerns in doing so based upon things we’ve experienced both in other groups we’ve visited in person, and in the online community.

I’d also recently come across this post by @nightshadeandroses on Tumblr that discussed using discernment when practicing witchcraft. Though my personal opinions are a bit different, I thought she had a number of excellent points, and that some of the the issues she brought up pretty perfectly highlighted some of the concerns my friend and I had had in inviting others into our social circle and building community.

If you begin searching “witchcraft” or “paganism” on a number of sites, but particularly on Tumblr, you very quickly encounter dozens and dozens of blogs where the practitioners are detailing experiences that seem very intense: visions or messages from deities, relationships with spirits and deities that can take any myriad forms from devotional practice to spirit marriage and more, and more and more frequently at least in the media that I encounter: blaming the gods/fae/spirits for things going wrong or seeming out of control in one’s life.

Primrose’s post seems to specifically target those new to the craft who want to believe that everything they encounter is a sign or has some magical significance. Sometimes, a fly is just there because it’s summertime and there’s food about. So how do you differentiate between that instance and when it’s trying to tell you something? It can be difficult, it’s true, especially when you’re eager to embark upon a new spiritual path and start interacting with deities and spirits.

Her post recommends looking at patterns in phenomena, asking if the experience seems to good to be true or mimics a story you recently encountered from someone else, trying divination to confirm the situation, and trying to explain the situation with mundane explanations first.

All of these are excellent suggestions, and even after practicing for over thirteen years, I still routinely go through these steps if I’m not absolutely certain about things. As an example: I’ve seen a number of things associated with Loki lately, both Marvel universe type things and things a former roommate and friend of mine associated with him. I thought it was odd, but I noted when it started and which things seemed to come up more. I noted to myself “Hey, Endgame just came out, and that’s probably contributing some on the Marvel end of it.” and also that I’m not as familiar with the patterns of the wildlife and seasons in Georgia as I was up in Michigan. I made note that I kept seeing these things, but rather than jump to the conclusion that Loki wanted my attention (and as he’s not a deity I work with, it’d be surprising to me if he did), I decided to wait and see if the pattern continued, or died down a bit after the movie hype died down.

The other thing my friend and I were talking about is personal responsibility. It seems to be the same types who are constantly seeing signs from their deities and guides that do this, but I also notice an unnerving amount of “The fae stole x from me.” or “The gods/x deity/whatever has y plan for me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” as though everything that occurs in one’s life is directly at the hands of the deities one does/n’t worship and nothing one does seems to have any consequence other than potentially swaying those deities one way or another.

A person I knew constantly told me that their deities seemed to be pushing them towards personal sovereignty and leadership, but also blamed those same deities whenever things did not go according to plan. Now, personal sovereignty and leadership certainly are admirable goals to work towards, and it sounds to me like a path towards personal growth and development. So I find myself asking: Why aren’t you working towards them? Why are you resisting those plans they supposedly have for you? Could the mishaps that keep coming perhaps come from patterns that are toxic and restricting and holding you back? If you worship x/y deity, why aren’t you following the sort of virtues you believe they’re laying out before you?

I’m personally of the belief that the gods are not so intimately involved in every aspect of our lives, and that we have free will and the ability to co-create with the divine powers of the Universe. In my belief, we make choices, and the energies that be react in kind. So if I perpetuate toxic behaviors, toxic things will continue to happen to me. If I project that the Universe or the gods are constantly knocking down my tower and don’t do work to build a stronger foundation in my practical life, the pattern will repeat itself.

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The Tower from the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

The Tower card, I’d joked, was “my buddy” when I was doing tarot readings for myself. For years, it had been a recurring theme: I’d carefully (or so I had thought) construct plans for them to fall through and crumble. I had a narrative I was telling myself about the Universe “knocking over my block tower” just when I’d had it built. I’d blame other people for bailing on plans or not communicating. But I hadn’t considered at all that I was relying on other people rather than standing on my own feet, or that I wasn’t building strong and stable foundations for these plans to rest upon. This winter, while working through some course work, I had the following interaction in a visualization exercise:

I was standing on a summit a small grey bird in my hands. I could feel its heart racing as I held it. Brannan, my guide from the Tower of Pheryllt, stood behind me, his hand on my shoulder.

“A bird…” I must have sounded confused because I’d closed my eyes to visualize a paper boat and my imagination seemed to have a better idea.

“Do you know what it is?” I didn’t turn to face him, but I could hear the smile in Brannan’s voice as he spoke.

I concentrated on the bird for a moment and gave a nod. “It’s the Block Tower Story.”

“And what is the Block Tower Story?” He pressed me further and I furrowed my brow.

“That narrative about the Universe always coming over and knocking “my block tower” over—the one I’m always trying to plan around and avoid—to keep from “being screwed over again”. That Block Tower Story,” I replied.

“Are you ready?”

I looked down at the quivering bird again, took a centering breath, and gave a nod. I let the bird go, urging it out over the sea and away from the cliff. The first time, it came back and perched on my shoulder, its feathers all puffed out as it was clearly agitated.

Brannan gently took the bird from my shoulder and handed it back to me. “Try again. You’ve got to really mean it.” He stepped back again to watch.

I nodded and took another breath, and released the bird again. It made a circle back over my head, but took off over the sea, up into the clouds, and out of sight…

And every time I’ve found myself repeating that story to myself, I imagine myself back on that summit, looking out over the sea with the bird in hand, and I let it go again. Because the Universe isn’t breaking my block tower. I’m not building it correctly, and by taking ownership of that, I’m able to make better decisions about my life- not just in a spiritual sense, but in all of its aspects.

I’ve mentioned in passing, too, my belief that my afterlife is going to be something akin to joining the Wylde Hunt, and that I feel they have plans for me. But rather than resisting those plans, I’ve pushed myself to make actions that reflect that. I spend time in the forests. I try to make decisions that make a more positive impact on the natural world. I get involved with park cleanups and make sure that I’m voting for political officials and policies that protect my fellow citizens and our natural environment. I work on advocating for myself, on finding ways to make myself stronger, healthier, and more confident in myself. I turned my quest to get my driver’s license into a spiritual one as well as a mundane one. I’ve taken actions to get myself to a place more in line with my own goals as well as the ones I believe my gods have given me as well.

It’s not a passive letting the gods take all credit for what happens, good or bad. I am in control of my life, and my gods demand that I be. When I feel they are demanding something of me, it is usually that I take more responsibility for myself and take the reins of my life.

This isn’t meant to sound as though I’m telling folks what to believe, or as though I’m discrediting anyone’s experiences- quite the opposite! I am however concerned with some of the things I see posted, and wanted to encourage others to exercise perhaps some more discernment and take personal responsibility in their craft.

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and as always:

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

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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

Why Magic Flops

Why Magic Flops.png

My boyfriend and I were talking earlier this morning, and the discussion inspired me to write this post. Currently, we’re in the waiting process of seeing which vehicle my parents are going to give me to move out of state with: my mom’s current SUV, or a minivan he just purchased from a friend of his. Having learned how to drive in my mom’s SUV, and being in my 20′s, I think which my preference is probably very obvious.That being said, I also will be grateful for whichever I end up with, and will make it work.

I said that I was going to do a little manifesting to get the outcome I desired, and he said to me: “We shall see, for now prep for the van.” And my boyfriend, bless him, is a realist. He’s the real logical type: doesn’t believe shit until he sees it, makes sure all the ducks are in a row before he acts, typical Virgo? (I joke, but you get the idea.) But I realized that that very way of thinking is behind a lot of the circle of chaos that went on in my life, and is the reason why spells sometimes just don’t fucking work.

Let me explain.

Magic operates on the principle of mind over matter. One sends their will and intention out into the Universe, and that ripples and creates changes in the real physical manifest reality. That’s why intent and focus are so important when working spell work. The idea is that you want to put as much energy and conviction behind that “X will happen” as you can muster. The stronger your force, the more likely it’ll be to happen.

But it’s not just during the spell that you have to maintain your intentions. For months and months and months I did work on gaining personal freedom and getting out of my parents’ house. In my rituals and visualizations, I was very sure and firm in my intent. But step outside the circle, and I was running myself ragged worrying about “what if this doesn’t work?” “what if my parents change their minds again?” “what happens if I don’t pass my driving test?” “what if I’m stuck here for another several months?” And those thoughts, the frantic planning for the worst case scenario or anything other than what I was trying to manifest was interfering with any of the work that I did in ritual.

However, the second I stepped back, breathed, and said “What happens, happens. I’m going to do what I can in the present and release all of my fears and worries for the future”… Well, that’s when the magic happened. I got my license. I was able to have civil conversation with my dad about a car. He got the extra car. Things are falling into place, and now I have a date for moving down to Georgia.

The trick is not in “planning for the worst and making sure your ass is covered”. Certainly, that’s a way to go about things, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be prepared in the event that something goes completely awry. But, if you plan as though the best will happen, and do the work of making sure you’re doing everything on a non-magical level to get that outcome, and not panicking over the future or possible outcomes, success is much more likely.

This takes time. I still find myself worrying about “What if I can’t find a job down there once I move?” and “How will I pay my student loan payments if I can’t find a job right away?” Worrying about these things is normal- and I think very ingrained in our social upbringing these days.

One visualization I’ve been using is picturing myself standing on a cliff, looking out over a vast sea. In my hand is something that represents that worry: a bird, a paper airplane, a pile of pebbles, etc. And I take a deep breath, I reaffirm my intentions for a positive outcome, and for releasing the fear and worry that holds me back, and I release the bird, the rocks, whatever out over the cliff and into the sea. I know that it has been carried away from me and will no longer hinder my work of building a better future.

In conclusion: intent during the spell or ritual is important, but it’s also important to maintain that intent outside of the ritual space too. Otherwise, worry and fear act against you and sabotage all of your magical work.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Connecting With Star Energy

star energy

Another little something from the Tumblr #2019GrimoireChallenge.

A large part of my practice and spirituality revolve around my connection with stars. I have been fascinated with the night sky and space since I was a little kid, and I’ve always felt most “witchy” or “druid-y” while stargazing on a summer night, or realizing that a specific planet or constellation was overhead in the dead of winter.

It has always frustrated me to no end that there aren’t more books on the topic. Sure. We draw down the Moon or the Sun, but the stars are beautiful and powerful and good for something other than interpreting astrological information! Sandra Kynes wrote a really lovely book entitled Star Magic: The Wisdom of Constellations for Wiccans & Pagans which was sort of what really kicked my interest in incorporating stars into my regular practice. So here are some ways that I work with stars, and some ideas you may want to try.

Stargazing / Astronomical Knowledge: For me, the seasons are just as much about what stars I can see in the sky at a given time as they are about the weather and agricultural cycles. I follow NASA’s social media accounts, my local planetarium’s listings, and other stuff to keep track of things like meteor showers, which constellations or planets will be hanging out in the sky, eclipses, etc. I also take as many opportunities as possible to attend the planetarium’s programs. Last month I saw one about black holes. My boyfriend and I went to watch a documentary about Mars, and another about Saturn as date night ideas. It’s fun, you learn lots, and it deepens your understanding of the Universe, and your own local night sky.

Some stars have also been important for centuries and were named by ancient and medieval astronomers. Old alchemical texts suggest what these stars’ properties were and can provide another fun historical / scientific learning experience.

Drawing Down Star Energy: Just like one might draw down the Moon or Sun in ritual, you can totally draw down the stars, too! Some stars, as I mentioned above, were long associated with specific magical properties. You could find where they are in your night sky, and draw on them specifically for a particular spell. You could call, for example, on Polaris (The North Star) for guidance and clear direction. Maybe there’s a meteor shower situated in the constellation Orion; you could time your ritual so that you could draw on the warrior/hunter energies of that particular constellation to help you with a particular goal. Or, just let the silver, shimmery, peaceful light of the stars and the vastness of the Universe shine down on you and your energy.

Constellations / Star Symbols as Magical Sigils: I like to use the patterns of the constellations as sigils to charge my spells or to help myself through tough times. One I use a LOT is Orion; he represents for me a fighting spirit, perseverance, and is usually high in the sky when I’m at the peak of my seasonal depression episodes. It always felt like he’s been cheering me on, and so I will utilize that constellation pattern in work geared towards pushing through tough times. Some of the named stars also have symbols associated with them. I’ve used them in crafting sigils from time to time.

Making Tarot Spreads: I like to make tarot spreads to use based on the constellations as well. For this, I usually take into context the mythology behind the constellation as well as personal significance, and then come up with questions or information I’d want to receive from that particular energy. An example of one I made using the constellation Orion can be found here.

These are the specific ways I’ve been incorporating my love of the night sky into my practice. I’ve come across a book that reinterprets the constellations in context of The Mabinogion called Dark Land, Dark Skies: The Mabinogion in the Night Sky by Martin Griffiths. As a Druid, this book has been super exciting, because it makes for a sort of Celtic understanding of the constellations. It is a bit dense though as far as scientific language goes, so it’s been a slow read. It’s encouraged me to make up my own interpretations as well in relation to The Wylde Hunt- sort of a bit of creative fun! I’m also currently working on developing a sort of rune system using constellations, planets, and specific stars, but it’s not quite ready to be shared yet!

Do you work with stars? How do you bring them into your magical practice?

Happy Stargazing,
Rachel