Cosmic Musings (Danielle Blackwood)

The following information comes from Danielle Blackwood, astrologer, author and registered counsellor, who addresses a number of cosmic happenings that will occur throughout this coming month, commencing with some tips on how to navigate Mars being in Retrograde.

Five Tips to Navigate Mars Retrograde
Take a deep breath, and a moment to center yourself, because the intensity is just not letting up this year. Mars, the Warrior entered his own sign Aries on 27 June 27 for the next six months. The last time this occurred was 1988, and before that, in 1941. Mars will finally move into Taurus on 7 January 2021.

Mars is the principle of action and energy. It is the way we handle conflict and anger, as well as our sex drive and libido. In Aries, Mars can lead towards frustration, impulsive action, and hot tempers. When unchecked, Mars in Aries is violence, war and unbridled rage.  Mars is also aligned with willpower, motivation and the ability to stand our ground and fight for what we believe in. When channelled mindfully, Mars in Aries is noble, passionate, strategic, and empowering. It is stepping into your sovereignty, standing your ground, and setting healthy boundaries.

Mars in Aries gives us the green light to break new ground, set plans in motion and heed the call to adventure. However, it might be best to wait on those new beginnings until Mercury stations direct on 12 July.

The following are tips for navigating the next six months constructively:
1.  Channel your energy effectively. Choose a cause that motivates you and clear the decks for action. Be proactive.
2.  Realize that anger is a normal human emotion.  If you are angry, take a deep breath and express it in a clear and direct way. Own your anger and speak your truth. Sublimated anger turns into passive aggression, depression, or buried rage that comes out in a distorted way to someone to whom it was not intended.
3. If you’re feeling heated, count to 10 and take a deep breath before responding. If you need time out, take it.
4. Make space for regular self care. If you don’t, you will burn out. If you burn out, you will not achieve your objectives. Know when to take a break, so you can come back out refreshed, focused, and more effective.
5. Cool that Aries fire with exercise, mindfulness meditation, breathing, and time spent in nature. Go swimming. Start journaling. Dance. Eat nourishing, grounding foods and avoid stressing your nervous system with too much caffeine or sugar.

Saturn Retrograde into Capricorn
On 1 July, Saturn moved into its last stint in Capricorn, before moving into Aquarius from December 2020 until March 2023. While traveling backward in Capricorn, Saturn will get closer again to Pluto, but doesn’t become exact as it did in January 2020. However, it is still close enough to intensify the Saturnian element in the mix, bringing a more sober, serious and discerning tone to the collective.

Full Moon in Capricorn and Eclipse (visible in North America)
Fourth July brings a Full Moon and penumbral lunar eclipse in Capricorn. Beginning on 5 June, this marks three eclipses in one lunar month. The next time this will happen is in 2029. This eclipse season has been intense, illuminating that which has been hidden, closing old doors, and beginning bold new chapters.

This is a serious Full Moon. We may feel contemplative or melancholy. The unadorned truth of something may suddenly be brought to light, causing us to feel the somberness of what actually is, rather than what we wish it would be. The Capricorn Full Moon might also bring a reality check. This Full Moon can also show us where we need to be more accountable, roll up our sleeves and walk our talk.  On the other hand, the Full Moon in Capricorn can also be a time of completion or reaching a milestone. It’s time to push past procrastination and self sabotage and commit to something important. Capricorn brings up themes of survival, commitment, responsibility, consequences, accountability, big business, institutions, banking, the patriarchy, and government. On a personal note, we may be re-evaluating priorities, and making some serious decisions before and after this eclipse.

Mercury Stations Direct
Mercury stations direct on 12 July. In a few days, it will be all systems go as Mercury gets back up to speed. You now have the green light to sign contracts, launch something new, or consider travel – with one caveat – if you are starting something big, signing important papers, or buying transportation or tech, try and wait until Mercury is completely out of its shadow, 26 July.

New Moon in Cancer
The Moon begins a brand new cycle in the sign of Cancer on 20 July. The New Moon in Cancer highlights themes of family, home and hearth, real estate, connection, belonging and security.  All new starts and initiatives in these areas will be on the table now. We might be feeling extra sensitive, intuitive, and craving comfort. Perhaps nostalgia plays a part, and we can gain sustenance and wisdom for our next steps by reflecting on the past.

New Moons happen each month in a different sign, pointing out where we can best plant our new seeds of intention for the coming six months.  Look to you chart to see what house this month’s New Moon/fresh start will be happening for you.  This is your most fertile ground to plant those seeds. To make the most of this month’s New Moon, think about what home means to you.  Do you like where you live? How can you make it more comfortable?

Cancer is also about family and family of the heart.  The archetype of the Great Mother is also connected to Cancer, and all things associated with mothering and nurturance are underlined: food, shelter, protection and emotional safety.  The Sun opposes Saturn today, lending a serious tone to this New Moon. We may be feeling the need for intentional solitude as we process emotions, memories and wounding.

Daniella Blackwood is the author of The Twelve Faces of the Goddess: Transform Your Life With Astrology, Magick and the Sacred Feminine (Llewellyn, 2018).

A Little Book of Wicca

The latest offering from TDM Publishing is A Little Book of Wicca.

Consisting of some 60 pages, this short guide to Wicca, contemporary witchcraft, aims to be a perfect introduction to this earth-centric spiritual belief.

Commencing with a brief history of how Wicca came into being, it also covers the common beliefs and ethics found within Wicca, the perception of a dual deity (a God and a Goddess), sacred days and seasonal festivals, as well as information specifically to the Southern Hemisphere that is often overlooked in other books. A glossary containing some of the more commonly used terms is included as well as a recommended reading list.

A Little Book of Wicca is a perfectly priced introduction book for anyone interested in learning more about Wicca, or to being used as a guide to be given to family and friends in order to explain what this earth-centric spiritual belief is truly about.

Details:
ISBN: 9780244863067
Dimensions: A5 (5.83 x 8.27 in / 148 x 210 mm)

Cost: $15.99 (includes postage within Australia) available direct from TDM Publishing.

The Descent of Inanna

TDM DG Descent Inanna

The following is the translation of the ancient Babylonian story of the descent of the Queen of Heaven, Inanna, into the Underworld, the Great Below, the realm of Ereshkigal, as found in The Descent of Inanna by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Kramer.

From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below.
My Lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
Inanna abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
In Uruk she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Badtibira she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Zabalam she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Adab she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Nippur she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Kish she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.
In Akkad she abandoned her temple to descend to the underworld.

She gathered together the seven me.
She took them into her hands.
With the me in her possession, she prepared herself:
She placed the shugurra, the crown of the steppe, on her head.
She arranged the dark locks of hair across her forehead.
She tied the small lapis beads around her neck.
Let the double strand of beads fall to her breast,
And wrapped the royal robe around her body.
She daubed her eyes with ointment called ‘let him come, let him come.’
Bound the breast plate called ‘Come, man, come!’ around her chest,
Slipped the gold ring over her wrist,
And took the lapis measuring rod and line in her hand.

Inanna set out for the underworld.
Ninshubur, her faithful servant, went with her. Inanna spoke to her, saying:
‘Ninshubur, my constant support,
My sukkal who gives me wise advice,
My warrior who fights by my side,
I am descending to the kur, to the underworld.
If I do not return,
Set up a lament for me by the ruins.
Beat the drum for me in the assembly places.
Circle the houses of the gods.
Tear at your eyes, at your mouth, at your thighs.
Dress yourself in a single garment like a beggar.
Go to Nippur, to the temple of Enlil.
When you enter his holy shrine, cry out: “Oh, father Enlil, do not let your daughter
Be put to death in the underworld. Do not let your bright silver
Be covered with dust in the underworld. Do not let your precious lapis
Be broken into stone for the stoneworker. Do not let your fragrant boxwood
Be cut into wood for the woodworker. Do not let the holy priestess of heaven
Be put to death in the underworld.”
If Enlil will not help you,
Go to Ur, to the temple of Nanna. Weep before Father Nanna.
If Nanna will not help you,
Go to Eridu, to the temple of Enki. Weep before Father Enki.
Father Enki, the God Of Wisdom, knows the food of life,
He knows the water of life;
Knows the secret of life.
Surely he will not let me die.’

Inanna continued on her way to the underworld. Then she stopped and said:
‘Go now Ninshubur- Do not forget the words I have commanded you.’
When Inanna arrived at the outer gates of the underworld, She knocked loudly.
She cried out in a fierce voice: ‘Open the door, gatekeeper! Open the door, Neti!
I alone would enter!’
Neti, the chief gatekeeper of the kur, asked: ‘Who are you?’
She answered: ‘I am Inanna, Queen of Heaven, On my way to the East.’
Neti said: ‘If you are truly Inanna, Queen of Heaven, On your way to the East,
Why has your heart led you on the road From which no traveller returns?’
Inanna answered: ‘Because… of my older sister Erishkigal,
Her husband, Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, has died.
 I have come to witness the funeral rites.
Let the beer of his funeral rites be poured into the cup. Let it be done.’
Neti spoke: ‘Stay here Inanna, I will speak to my queen.
I will give her your message.’
Neti, the chief gatekeeper of the kur,
Entered the palace of Erishkigal, the Queen of the Underworld, and said:
‘My Queen, a maid
As tall as heaven,
As wide as the earth,
As strong as the foundations of the city wall,
Waits outside the palace gates.
She has gathered together the seven me.
She has taken them in her hands.
With the me in her possession, she has prepared herself:
On her head she wears the shurgarra, the crown of the steppe.
Across her forehead her dark locks of hair are carefully arranged.
Around her neck she wears the small lapis beads.
At her breast she wears the double strand of beads.
Her body is wrapped in the royal robe.
Her eyes are daubed with the ointment “let him come, let him come.”
Around her chest she wears the breast plate called “come, man, come!”
On her wrist she wears the gold ring.
In her hand she carries the lapis measuring rod and line.’

When Erishkigal heard this,
She slapped her thigh and bit her lip.
She took the matter into her heart and dwelt on it. Then she spoke:
‘Come, Neti, my chief gatekeeper of the kur, Heed my words:
Bolt the seven gates of the underworld.
Then, one by one, open each gate a crack.
Let Inanna enter.
As she enters, remove her royal garments.
Let the holy priestess of heaven enter bowed low.’

Neti heeded the words of his queen.
He bolted the seven gates of the underworld.
Then he opened the outer gate.
He said to the maid: ‘Come, Inanna, enter.’
When she entered the first gate,
From her head, the shugurra, the crown of the steppe, was removed.
Inanna asked: ‘What is this?’
She was told: ‘Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned.’
When she entered the second gate,
From her neck the small lapis beads were removed.
Inanna asked: ‘What is this?’
She was told: ‘Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect
They may not be questioned.’
When she entered the third gate,
From her breast the double strand of beads was removed.
Inanna asked: ‘What is this?’
She was told: ‘Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect,
They may not be questioned.’
When she entered the fourth gate,
From her chest the breast plate called ‘Let him come, let him come!’ was removed.
Inanna asked: ‘What is this?’
She was told, ‘Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned.’
When she entered the fifth gate,
From her wrist the gold ring was removed.
Inanna asked: ‘What is this?’
She was told: ‘Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned.’
When she entered the sixth gate,
From her hand the lapis measuring rod and line was removed.
Inanna asked: ‘What is this?’
She was told: ‘Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned’
When she entered the seventh gate,
From her body the royal robe was removed.
Inanna asked: ‘What is this?’
She was told: ‘Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned.’
Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.
Erishkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started toward the throne.
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgement against her.
Then Erishkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.
She struck her.
Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.

When, after three days and three nights, Inanna had not returned,
Ninshubur set up a lament for her by the ruins.
She beat the drum for her in the assembled places.
She circled the houses of the gods.
She tore at her eyes; she tore at her mouth; she tore at her thighs.
She dressed herself in a single garment like a beggar.
Alone, she set out for Nippur and the temple of Enlil.
When she entered the holy shrine,
She cried out: ‘O Father Enlil, do not let your daughter
Be put to death in the underworld. Do not let your bright silver
Be covered with dust of the underworld. Do not let your precious lapis
Be broken into stone for the stoneworker. Do not let your fragrant boxwood
Be cut into wood from the woodworker. Do not let the holy priestess of heaven
Be put to death in the underworld.’

Father Enlil answered angrily: ’My daughter craved the Great Above.
Inanna craved the Great Below.
She who receives the me of the underworld does not return.
She who goes to the Dark City stays there.’
Father Enlil would not help.
Ninshubur went to Ur and the temple of Nanna.
When she entered the holy shrine,
She cried out: ‘Oh Father Nanna, do not let your daughter
Be put to death in the underworld. Do not let your bright silver
Be covered with dust of the underworld. Do not let your precious lapis
Be broken into stone for the stoneworker. Do not let your fragrant boxwood
Be cut into wood from the woodworker. Do not let the holy priestess of heaven
Be put to death in the underworld.’

Father Nanna answered angrily: ‘My daughter craved the Great Above.
Inanna craved the Great Below.
She who receives the me of the underworld does not return.
She who goes to the Dark City stays there.’
Father Nanna would not help.
Ninshubur went to Eridu and the temple of Enki.
When she entered the holy shrine,
She cried out,: ‘O Father Enki, do not let your daughter
Be put to death in the underworld. Do not let your bright silver
Be covered with dust of the underworld. Do not let your precious lapis
Be broken into stone for the stoneworker. Do not let your fragrant boxwood
Be cut into wood from the woodworker. Do not let the holy priestess of heaven
Be put to death in the underworld.’

Father Enki said; ‘What has happened?
What has my daughter done?
Inanna, Queen of All the Lands! Holy Priestess of Heaven!
What has happened?
I am troubled, I am grieved.’
From under his fingernail Father Enki brought forth dirt.
He fashioned the dirt into a kurgarra, a creature neither male nor female.
From under the fingernail of his other hand he brought forth dirt.
He fashioned the dirt into a galatur, a creature neither male nor female.
He gave the food of life to the kurgarra.
He gave the water of life to the galatur, saying:
‘Go to the underworld,
Enter the doors like flies,
Erishkigal, the Queen of the Underworld, is moaning
With the cries of a woman about to give birth.
No linen is spread on her body.
Her breasts are uncovered.
Her hair swirls about her head like leeks.
When she cries, ’Oh! Oh! My Inside!’
Cry also, ‘Oh! Oh! Your inside!’
When she cries: ‘Oh! Oh! My outside!’
Cry also ‘Oh! Oh! our outside!’
The queen will be pleased.
She will offer you a gift.
Ask her only for the corpse that hangs from the hook on the wall.
One of you will sprinkle the food of life on it
The other will sprinkle the water of life. Inanna will arise.’

The kurgarra and the galatur heeded Enki’s words.
They set out for the underworld.
Like flies, they slipped through the cracks of the gates.
They entered the throne room of the Queen of the Underworld.
No linen was spread on her body.
Her breasts were uncovered.
Her hair swirled around her head like leeks.
Erishkigal was moaning: ‘Oh! Oh! My inside!’
They moaned. ‘Oh! Oh! Your inside!’
She moaned: ‘Ohhhh! Oh! My outside!’
They moaned; ‘Ohhhh! Oh! our outside!’
She groaned: ‘Oh! Oh! My belly!’
 They groaned: ‘Oh! Oh! Your belly!’
She groaned: ‘Oh! Oh! My back!’
They groaned: ‘Oh! Oh! Your back!’
She sighed: ‘Ah! Ah! My heart!’
They sighed: ‘Ah! Ah! Your heart!’
She sighed: ‘Ah! Ahhhh! My liver!’
They sighed: ‘Ah! Ahhhh! Your liver!’

Erishkigal stopped. She looked at them. She asked: ‘Who are you,
Moaning – groaning – sighing with me?’
If you are gods, I will bless you.
If you are mortals, I will give you a gift.
I will give you the water-gift, the river in its fullness.’
The kurgarra and galatur answered: ‘We do not wish it.’
Erishkigal said: ‘I will give you the grain gift, the fields in harvest.’
The kugarra and galatur said: ‘We do not wish it.’
Erishkigal said: ‘Speak then! What do you wish?’
They answered: ‘We wish only for the corpse that hangs from the hook on the wall.’
Erishkigal said: ‘The corpse belongs to Inanna.’
They said: ‘Whether it belongs to our queen,
Whether it belongs to our king, That is what we wish.’
The corpse was given to them.
The kurgarra sprinkled the food of life on the corpse.
The galatur sprinkled the water of life on the corpse.

Inanna rose…

Inanna was about to ascend from the underworld
When the Annuna, the judges of the underworld, seized her.
They said: ‘No one ascends from the underworld unmarked.
If Inanna wishes to return from the underworld,
She must provide someone in her place.’
As Inanna ascended from the underworld,
The galla, the demons of the underworld, clung to her side.
The galla were demons who know no food, who know no drink,
Who eat no offerings, who drink no libations,
Who accept no gifts.
They enjoy no lovemaking.
They have no sweet children to kiss.
They tear the wife from the husband’s arms,
They tear the child from the father’s knees,
They steal the bride from her marriage home.
The demons clung to Inanna.
The small galla who accompanied Inanna
Were like reeds the size of low picket fences.
The large galla who accompanied Inanna
Were like reeds the size of large picket fences.
The one who walked in front of Inanna was not a minister,
Yet he carried a sceptre.
The one who walked behind her was not a warrior,
Yet he carried a mace.
Ninshubur, dressed in a soiled sackcloth, Waited outside the palace gates.
When she saw Inanna
Surrounded by the galla
She threw herself in the dust at Inanna’s feet.
The galla said: ‘Walk on Inanna,
We shall take Ninshubur in your place.’
Inanna cried: ‘No! Ninshubur is my constant support.
She is my sukkal who gives me wise advice.
She is my warrior who fights by my side.
She did not forget my words.
She set up a lament for me by the ruins.
She beat the drum for me at the assembly places.
She circled the houses of the gods.
She tore at their eyes, at her mouth, at her thighs.
She dressed herself in a single garment like a beggar.
Alone she set out for Nippur and the temple of Enlil.
She went to Ur and the temple of Nanna.
She went to Eridu and the temple of Enki.
Because of her, my life was saved.
I will never give Ninshubur to you.’
The galla said: ‘Walk on, Inanna,
We will accompany you to Umma.’

In Umma, at the holy shrine,
Shara the son of Inanna, was dressed in a soiled sackcloth.
When he saw Inanna
Surrounded by the galla,
He threw himself in the dust at her feet.
The galla said: ‘Walk on to your city, Innana,
We will take Shara in your place.’
Inanna cried: ‘No! Not Shara!
He is my son who sings hymns to me.
He is my son who cuts my nails and smooths my hair.
I will never give Shara to you.’
The galla said: ‘Walk on, Inanna,
We will accompany you to Badtibira.’

In Badtibira, at the holy shrine,
Lulal, the son of Inanna, was dressed in a soiled sackcloth.
When he saw Inanna
Surrounded by the galla,
He threw himself in the dust at her feet.
The galla said: ‘Walk on, Inanna,
We will take Lulal in your place.’
Inanna cried: ‘No, not Lulal. he is my son.
He is a leader among men.
He is my right arm. He is my left arm. I will never give Lulal to you.’
The galla said: ‘Walk on to your city, Inanna
We will go with you to the big apple tree in Uruk.

In Uruk, by the big apple tree,
Dumuzi, the husband of Inanna, was dressed in his shining me garments.
He sat on his magnificent throne; (he did not move).
The galla seized him by the thighs.
They poured milk out of his seven churns.
They broke the reed pipe which the shepherd was playing.
Inanna fastened on Dumuzi the eye of death.
She spoke against him the word of wrath.
She uttered against him the cry of guilt.
‘Take him away! Take Dumuzi away!’’

The galla, who know no food, who know no drink,
Who eat no offerings, who drink no libations,
Who accept no gifts, seized Dumuzi.
They made him stand up; they made him sit down.
They beat the husband of Inanna.
They gashed him with axes.
Dumuzi let out a wail.
He raised his hands to heaven to utu, the God of Justice, and beseeched him:
‘O Utu, you are my brother in law,
I am the husband of your sister.
I brought cream to your mother’s house,
I brought milk to Ningal’s house.
I am the one who carried food to the holy shrine.
I am the one who brought wedding gifts to Uruk
I am the one who danced on the holy knees, the knees of Inanna.
Utu, you who are a just god, a merciful god,
Change my hands into the hands of a snake.
Change my feet into the feet of a snake.
Let me escape from my demons;
Do not let them hold me
The merciful Utu accepted Dumuzi’s tears.
He changed the hands of Dumuzi into snake hands.
He changed the feet of Dumuzi into snake feet.
Dumuzi escaped from his demons.

They could not hold him…..

Some Myths about the Witch Trials

A 1655 pamphlet illustration of witches being hanged
In England witches were hanged, not burned. This illustration is taken from a 1655 pamphlet by Ralph Gardiner© Bettmann/Getty

Today I was rather surprised to be reminded of one of the misconceptions about the witch trials (or the “Burning Times” as it is often referred to within Pagan circles) that I had thought had been debunked by the 20th century – that some nine million people lost their lives after being accused of witchcraft. Apparently not.

As such, I thought I would share four of the more common misconceptions about the witch trials as discovered by Professor Diane Purkiss (Professor of English Literature at Keble College, University of Oxford).

1. Nine million witches died in the years of the witch persecutions: It is estimated that a more accurate figure is from 30,000 to 60,000 people were executed in the whole of the main era of witchcraft persecutions, from the commencement in 1427–36 in Savoy (in the western Alps) to the execution of Anna Goldi in the Swiss canton of Glarus in 1782. These figures include estimates for cases where no records exist.

Colour drawing showing people being burned in a public square as part of the Spanish Inquisition
The Spanish Inquisition persecuted those perceived as heretics by the Catholic Church, but witchcraft was largely regarded as a superstition, and wasn’t pursued as a heresy by officials except in rare cases© Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

2. Witches were burned at the stake: While people found guilty of practicing witchcraft were burnt at the stake across Europe and in Scotland, they were actually hung in England and America. In Scotland, they were straggled first before being burnt.

3. The Spanish Inquisition and the Catholic Church instigated the witch trials: Four of the major western Christian denominations (the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist and Anglican churches) persecuted witches to some degree, while the Eastern Christian, or Orthodox, churches carried out almost no witch-hunting. In England, Scotland, Scandinavia and Geneva, witch trials were carried out by Protestant states. The Spanish Inquisition executed only two witches in total.

4. King James I was terrified of witches and was responsible for their hunting and execution: More accused witches were executed in the last decade of Elizabeth I’s reign (1558–1603) than under her successor, James I (1603–25). The first Witchcraft Act was passed under Henry VIII, in 1542, and made all pact witchcraft (in which a deal is made with the Devil) or summoning of spirits a capital crime. The 1604 Witchcraft Act under James could be described as a reversion to that status quo rather than an innovation.

In Scotland, where he had ruled as James VI since 1587, James had personally intervened in the 1590 trial of the North Berwick witches, who were accused of attempting to kill him. He wrote the treatise Daemonologie, published in 1597. However, when King of England, James spent some time exposing fraudulent cases of demonic possession, rather than finding and prosecuting witches.

Sources:
Witch: Eight Myths and Misconceptions by Professor Diana Purkiss
“Witch Hunts”: Now and Then, Myths and Realities by Morgan Lamkin
Professor Pavlac’s Witch Hunts by Brian A. Pavlac

Further Reading:
The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Hutton (Yale University Press, 2018)
A New History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans by Jeffrey B Russell and Brooks Alexander (Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2007)
Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History by Alan Charles Kors (editor), Edward Peters (editor) (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000)
The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic by Owen Davies (Oxford University Press, 2017)
The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century by Diane Purkiss (Routledge, 1996)
Witchcraft and Magic in Europe, Volume 4: The Period of the Witch Trials by Bengt Ankarloo (editor), Stuart Clark (editor) (University of Pennsylvania, 2002)

A Witch’s Familiar

In European folklore and folk-belief from the Medieval and Early Modern periods, witches and cunning folk were believed to assisted by certain supernatural entities that were known as “familiars”. These spirits would appear in numerous guises, including as in a humanoid figure, but more commonly as an animal. When they served cunning folk, familiars were often thought to be somewhat benevolent, however when they were in the service of witches, familiars were considered to be rather malevolent.

The role of the familiar is the topic that will be discussed during the July Gathering Around the Cauldron which will be taking place in the format of a Zoom call on Thursday, 2 July 2020 at 7pm ACST.

If you would like to participate, you will need to register through Paypal in order to receive the Zoom meeting code. The meeting cost is $10 AUD.

Alternatively, you can email our High Priestess for the appropriate bank account details. Your payment must be received by 1 July 2020.

All participants will be receive a detailed fact sheet about the topic as well as go into the draw to win a prize.

Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere

The timing of the winter solstice is marked when the sun reaches its furthest north position in the sky and starts to move back towards the south.  As it does, it marks one of the main turning points in the year, the others being the equinoxes as well as the summer solstice (that occurs in December).  The timing for the winter solstice this year is today, Sunday, 21 June at 7:13 am (ACST time).  From this moment onwards, days start becoming longer and night times shorter.  However with the worse of the winter weather yet to arrive, this thought is not often the first that comes to mind.

In ancient Europe the winter solstice (the timing of which in the Northern Hemisphere takes place in December) was seen as a time of celebration.  The Romans had a week-long celebration called Saturnalia during which all wars had to stop and courts did not try criminals.  Later this festival became Dies Natalis of Sol Invicti, or the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, celebrated on 25 December each year.

Within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft, this is the time when the God is reborn and emerges from the Underworld, where he passed into at Samhain.  His rebirth will bring warmth and fertility back to the land. 

The eve of the winter solstice, however, belongs to the Goddess who is likened to a hibernating animal, residing deep within the Underworld as she readies herself for the pending birth of her son.  The child conceived at the festival of Bealtaine, which marks the commencement of summer, is about to be born. This birth is also the sign that life is about the return to the earth once again after many bleak months of winter.  Just as she labours to bring forth her son, the “Child of Promise”, the young hero, we also wait with much anticipation for the sun to appear.  The rebirth of the sun confirms that darkness will be overcome by light and we step into the waxing half of the year. We are reborn. The year is new.

The following “Solstice Prayer” by Thorn Coyle reflects the anticipation of waiting for the first rays of the sun to appear over the horizon:

We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun.
We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun!
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of newness.
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of day!

The Child of Promise is the new sun, which is small and weak at this time of the year, but will grow stronger as the sacred Wheel of the Year turns.  As such, the winter solstice is a time for celebrating new beginnings and to focus on what you wish to bring into your life.

Sources: Sydney Observatory

Cosmic Happenings in June 2020

We are already two weeks into the month of June so the timing of this article may appear somewhat irrelevant. According to many astrologers, however, there are still more pertinent cosmic activity to come, so the following incorporates a reminder of this journey that many of us are undergoing, starting at the lunar eclipse that coincided with the full moon back on 6 June 2020.

As a number of sources were used in the compilation of this article, please refer to these listed at the end of the article.

There is a lot of cosmic activity occurring throughout June 2020, especially with there being a rather powerful solar eclipse taking place at the winter solstice and six planets in retrograde.  It is almost as if the universe is asking us to assess the paths in front of us, for there are many options being presented. As this month progresses we need to keep in mind that each and every one of us has their own route to follow.  As such, this is the month of becoming aware of our own personal path and not to be distracted by what other people are choosing to do.

June is the month where we may feel a pull to judge others or deem things as good or bad. Instead of jumping to conclusions, the astrology of June is like a light turning on that shows all the dust that has been collecting. Many things are coming to light this month. It is important to remain passionate and take action. But it is also important to stay true to the peace that exists in our hearts

Friday, 6 June 2020 (4:42 am ACST) – Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Sagittarius
This full moon lunar eclipse kicked off a month of transformation. It was the beginning of a new journey, and was the first eclipse of a series of three that will occur. This is a time of feeling our limits. Even though we might be ready to expand there are still some things that need tuning. During this full moon eclipse we should allow ourselves to become aware of our limitations and learning from them, instead of ignoring or fighting against them. We have to be willing to expand our opinions or perceptions; while knowing that growth takes commitment and dedication.  The full moon coupled with the lunar eclipse in Sagittarius is a great time to see where you’re at and make an inventory of your assets. 

Friday, 19 June 2020 – Sun Conjunct North Node
With the Sun is our identity and the North Node is our purpose in life, on 19 June the sun will be conjunct the North Node at 29° Gemini.  This event occurs only once a year and as such it is the best time to ask:  “Who am I really?” “What is my true purpose? What is my life path?”

When you ask yourself these questions, become aware of the very first answer that comes to you. Gemini has a curious, open-minded vibe. It is important that you don’t try to seek confirmations or validations to existing assumptions during this time.  Like Gemini, be open minded and welcome new perspectives. Now is the time to also accept that you do not yet have all the answers. 

Friday, 19 June 2020 (2:29 am ACST) to 12 July 2020 – Mercury Retrograde in Cancer
Mercury retrograde is nothing to fear or worry about. It is a time to get in tune with ourselves and our thoughts. This Mercury retrograde will be occurring in the sign of Cancer, which invites us to become kinder with ourselves and others. This cycle will show us where we can nurture ourselves, but also where we need to step up our self care.

With Mercury turning retrograde this means that four out of the five planets visible to us (being Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn) are all now retrograde, which is rather unusual. This is a time of deep introspection.  As a Mercury cycle lasts for 116 days, this means that during the next four months it is a favourable time to start a project that connects the qualities of Mercury (writing, communication, learning, commerce, DIY) with the qualities of Chiron (healing, spirituality, astrology, herbs, alternative healing, shamanism, working on the family/karmic wound).

Sunday, 21 June 2020 (7:14 am ACST) – Cancer Season
As the sun travels through Cancer for 30 days we are all washed with the light of this sensitive sign. It is a time to listen to our feelings and our emotions. This means acknowledging what we are sensing. It is been a massive year of shifts and changes. We are like caterpillars that have transformed into butterflies. This Cancer season is our first chance at spreading these new wings. However, we have had to say goodbye to the caterpillar which can bring up grief. Honouring our emotions and letting them flow like the tides of the ocean is the key.

Sunday, 21 June 2020 (4:11pm ACST) – Solar Eclipse Solstice in Cancer
This solar eclipse is occurring in tandem with the solstice, which sets the scene for the next three months.  (This is something that occurs at each solstice and equinox).  This winter solstice however coincides with what is considered to be the most powerful eclipse for 2020.  The impact of this eclipse will be that the upcoming three months will have a fated flavour. The solar eclipse in Cancer is a North Node eclipse which offers opportunities to rewrite the script of our destiny. South Node eclipses on the other hand tend to have a more karmic flavour.

The North Node is like a vortex and with a North Node eclipse, anything is possible.  Be mindful however of what you do as there is always a reaction – usually occurring at a future South Node eclipse.  We may feel like a crab, with one foot we go in one direction, and with another foot in another.  This push and pull Cancerian approach give s us room and time to assess the environment, to take calculated risks, and still get to our destination. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020 (2:02pm ACST) until 28 November 2020 – Neptune Retrograde
Outer planets such as Neptune are at their most powerful when they change direction, ie more keen to implement their “agenda”.  As such, Neptune wants to dissolve our ego so we can be at one with the source. Neptune’s message is that separation is an illusion and that we are all one.

This transit is very spiritual and invites us to explore the magic within ourselves. The inner realms are fertile and ripe with miracles. It is when we look outside of ourselves for hope that we might be disappointed. Instead this is about having faith in our inner universes.

When Neptune is direct, we look for experiences of “oneness” outside ourselves. When Neptune is retrograde, we seek oneness within ourselves.  At the Neptune station, you may have some experiences, insights, or intuitive messages (pay attention to your dreams) that will reveal how you can access those Neptunian resources within yourself.

Thursday, 25 June 2020 (4:18pm ACST) – Venus Stations Direct
Venus ends her retrograde which began on 13 May 2020. Even though this cycle is ending, there are ample amounts of wisdom to carry forward. This is the time to walk our talk and make the changes we know we need to make. Venus wants us to stay true to our hearts and not fall back into old patterns. If you have been feeling confused, emotional, divided, torn between different directions, Venus direct will come with the much-needed relief and clarity.

Sunday, 28 June 2020 (11:15am ACST) – Mars in Aries
Mars enters Aries where it will remain for the rest of the year. Usually Mars speeds through a sign, but because of a Mars retrograde occurring from 9 September 2020 to 13 November 2020, the planet of action will have an extended stay in Aries. This means there is no rush or urgency. In fact the lesson is to become patient, calm down and prioritize peace.  Now is a great time to take bold action on any projects you are wanting to undertake.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020 (3:16pm ACST) – Jupiter Conjunct Pluto
This is the sequel to the Pluto and Jupiter conjunction on 4 April 2020. The systems of planet Earth are changing and transforming. We can see it in our individual lives and on a collective level. Things are not the same as they were and there is a lot of room for improvement. Because both Jupiter and Pluto are retrograde during this conjunction it is time for us to make changes within ourselves. The new paradigm is born when we take responsibility for ourselves and the worlds we are creating.

This is the second of three occasions where Jupiter is conjunct with Pluto.  The first conjunction occurred on 4 April 2020 when the Corona virus was in full swing, and the final conjunction will occur on 12 November 2020.

Pluto had been in Capricorn since 2008.  While Pluto has a reputation of being overly secretive and working behind the scenes, Jupiter has the reputation of exposing, magnifying and inflating. We have a conflict of interest. In 2020, Jupiter is asking Pluto to do what he dreads the most: to reveal his hidden agenda.

Both Jupiter and Pluto are known for blowing things out of proportion. However there is always a positive side to everything. This second conjunction will likely come with a solution or alternative route to the problems that have been brought to our attention at the time of the first conjunction.

It is up to us to do our homework and act from our highest selves. Because the third conjunction in November will come with the final outcome. The good news is that Jupiter and Pluto have a reputation of being extremely generous. Now is the time to act wisely in order to reap the rewards later this year.

Source:
Moon Omens
Astrology King
Refinery29
AstrologyZone


Why Samhain is not the “New Year”

The following is adapted from Dancing the Sacred Wheel where I brought to the reader’s attention that the assumption that Samhain was the Celtic “new year” and therefore has been adapted as such into modern paganism.

The “new year” assumption is believed to have originated from an interpretation made by 19th century antiquarian, Sir John Rhys, in his “Hibbert Lectures” presented in 1886. In these lecture, Sir John interpreted comments made by Julius Caesar on Gaulish Druidic timekeeping as Samhain being perceived as the Celtic New Year due to “the Celts reckoned Dis the father of all and regarded darkness and death as taking precedence over light and life.  So in their computation of time, they began with night and winter and not with daylight and summer.  This is probably the key to reckoning years as winter.”

Being the first scholar of Celtic studies at Oxford University, Sir John’s interpretation does not appear to have been questioned, despite P.W. Joyce commenting in A Social History of Ancient Ireland (1903) that “O’Donovan stated in 1847 (Book of Rights 1ii) that the season with which the Pagan Irish began their year could not be (then) determined”.

Sir John’s incorrect interpretation was never challenged resulting it appearing in what today are now considered to be “classical” works, including The Golden Bough where Sir James Frazer recorded that “… the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from [Samhain] rather than Bealtane.”  Sir James also concluded that “ … we may with some probability infer that [the Celts] reckoned their year from Hallowe’en rather than Beltane.”

By the 1950s, this inaccuracy was considered fact, as pointed out in T.G.E. Powell’s The Celts (1958). 

Jon Bonsing of Caer Australis however has not only queried Sir John’s assertion but also attempts to correct it by pointing out that was no indication whatsoever of Caesar stating that the Celts considered “that winter, death and darkness took any precedence over summer, life or light” as Sir John talked about in his “Hibbert Lectures”.

Caer Australis further indicate that there is a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that Bealtaine was actually considered to be the start of the Celtic year, at least within the Irish tradition.  It was on the eve of Bealtaine that the Tuatha de Danaan arrived on Irish shores, as well as being the time when the great gathering of chiefs occurred at Uisneach, Co. Westmeath.  In 405 CE, during the reign of Dathi, conflict arose between the Pagan Irish and the Christians, resulting in St Patrick lighting his famous Paschal fire at Slane just prior to the lighting of the sacred Bealtaine fires.

Various Celtic heroes were believed to have been born around Bealtaine, providing further evidence of the importance of this festival, and in particular that of the “divine son”.  For example, within the Mabinogian, an entire episode is devoted to the birth of Gwri Golden Hair at Calan Mai (the first day of summer).  Caer Australis indicate that this epithet for Pwyll was given “ … because ‘what hair was on his head was as yellow as gold’.  No wonder his hair is ‘golden’, for no other imagery would be appropriate for the symbolic birth of the sun.”

If that is not evidence enough to at least query the assumption of any historical evidence of Samhain being the Celtic New Year, within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft relating to the sabbats do not allow for this. The sabbats, as I explained in Dancing the Sacred Wheel, follow the journey of the God. It is at Samhain when the God descends into the Underworld take up his guise as the Dreaded Lord of the Shadows at Samhain. As his rebirth occurs at the winter solstice coinciding with the renewal of the solar cycle, it makes more sense for the winter solstice to be considered the “new year”.

Weathering the Storm – A Free ebook for Uncertain Times

If this year is really straining your inner reserves, then Weathering the Storm may be just what you need. This free ebook has been complied by a collective of authors (including yours truly) as well as the publishing team behind Moon Books as a “compendium of hope”.

Written in three parts, psychological, spiritual and practical, this unique anthology offers support for anyone interested in Mind, Body Spirit matters, alternative lifestyles and spiritualities, as well as those with a Pagan focus.

Weathering the Storm covers areas from loneliness and anxiety, self-care and gardening, to cooking and crystals. My own contribution, “Bobbing in the Sea of Uncertainty”, is a recount of an extremely sole changing experience that left me feeling as if I was in the deepest pit of disappear, and the lessons gained from that experience.

Described as “A treasure-trove of advice and inspiration for all of us living through difficult times”, Weathering the Storm is available as a free ebook through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, and for £0.99 on Amazon UK.

Imbolc – Return of the Maiden

The earth is in the slow process of returning back to life after the long winter’s sleep with the first tendrils cautiously making their appearance.  There is the likelihood of frosts, but despite this, early flowers are pushing their way to the surface – snowdrops, dwarf hyacinths, jonquils, early irises and even daffodils are appearing, making the statement that spring is on its way.  A fragile warming of the air can be felt as winter, usually the season of rest and withdrawal, comes to an end.  This is the time of uncertainty as the spirit reawakens, welcoming back the Maiden of Spring.

Imbolc (also spelt Imbolg) is the first festival of Spring, and is usually celebrated around 31st July or 1st August in the Southern Hemisphere, when the sun moves 15 degrees into Leo.  It is Irish-Gaelic and translated to mean “in the belly” referring to the potential of all life that is in the belly of the Great Mother (Mother Earth), but also the pregnancy of other animals, particularly cattle and sheep, who give birth to their young around this time.  An alternative word for Imbolc is Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk”.  Although here in South Australia the lambs are often born around the Autumn Equinox to ensure that there is enough winter grass for them to eat, in other parts of the country, and particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Imbolc heralds the birthing season for lambs.

The Crios Bridghid (Brighid’s Cross) is believed to have originated in the Connemara, located on the western side of Ireland and were traditionally made from reeds, rushes or straw.  The reeds were braided into a rope and formed into a circle, which was believed to hold protective powers.  Those who jumped through. Over time the circle became likened to a swastika cross, and it was believed to be a representation of the sun or even a fire wheel.  Once made, the cross would be placed over the doorways of houses, stables and barns, for protection and prosperity for the coming year.

You are invited to celebrate Imbolc – The Celtic Festival of Spring at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre (Hillier) on Saturday, 1 August 2020.
:: Connect with the Maiden Goddess through empowering meditations
:: Explore the journey of Brigid from Goddess to Saint
:: Make your own Crios Bridghid (Brighid’s Cross) that will be empowered through sacred ceremony
:: Discover how to connect with the healing energies of St Brigit through making your own healing candle.

All attendees go in the draw to win a copy of
In Her Sacred Name: Writings on the Divine Feminine.

Date: Saturday, 1 August 2020
Time: 11am to 3pm
Investment: $50.00
Venue: Riverdell Spiritual Centre, 51 Clifford Rd, Hillier SA 5116

Payment must be received by 20 July 2020 as there are limited places available.

Direct payment via Bank Transfer to:
Account Name: Frances Billinghurst
BSB: 325185
Account Number: 03146790
Please put your name for reference.