Visions mark a New Way Forward

As this current calendar year draws to a close, to brings to an end a rather “interesting” (to say the least) year for the Temple of the Dark Moon.

This year saw the first Outer Court training circle in five years commence that delivered more challenges than the initial desired result. As such, the Temple will be taking all of the Southern summer off, instead of commencing at Lughnasadh, as what has been the norm. This will mean that no teaching on the Craft will be offered until April, the end of Autumn, when Gathering Around the Cauldron will commence on Thursday, 2 April 2020 and continue throughout the year on a monthly basis.

Between now and April, there will still be a number of events being offered, including the annual Yemaya: Blessing of the Waters that is held at Grange beach, Adelaide, as well as new practical crafting workshops on Spells, Amulets and Talismans held on Saturday, 15 February 2020 that will provide in-depth information on various highly effective techniques of spell casting as well as the purposes of using an amulet or talisman. Then on Sunday, 2 February 2020, the ever popular Making a Protection Bottle will be held.

April will also see the commencement of a six part exploration of the Tree of Life glyph that is found within ceremonial magick in the Climbing the Tree of Life series from Thursday, 16 April 2020, which will be nicely complimented with a ten part mediation series of corresponding Qabalistic archangels on Thursday evenings from 7 April 2020.

As with all events offered by the Temple of the Dark Moon, save for the Yemaya: Blessing of the Waters, it is essential to book as there are limited places available.

At this current time, there is no desire to recommence the Outer Court training circle. Those attendees who participated in the 2019 Outer Circle are fully aware of what is required of them should they wish to complete this training. My own personal commitments and focus for the new year will initially be on finalising the manuscripts of two books (including the long awaited Encountering the Dark Goddess) ready for publication.

Making the most of Mid Summer

With the South Pole of the Earth now tilted towards the sun, those of us residing south of the equator are approaching Mid Summer, the Summer Solstice, the time of when the hours of light are greatest.  However as I write, this, I am listening to the rain on my roof and thunder rolling across the sky.  But that is okay, the garden is greatful in receiving whatever rain is about at this time of the year as fruit and vegetables approach being ready to harvest.  I have also checked the long range forecast which assures me that the storms will have passed and it will in fact be a pleasant evening for when we celebrate the Summer Solstice in our sacred circle.

Now is the time to make the most of the strength of the sun’s power. The energy of the Summer Solstice can be harnessed for tackling seemingly insolvable problems, or bringing to light much needed answers that have been hidden in the darkness. 

As the sun is often considered to be a “male” symbol (whereas the moon is often perceived as female), the energy available can also be of benefit to address issues such as male potency.  Issues such as career, maximising opportunities as they present themselves, self-confidence and even inner power for anyone approaching middle age can also benefit from harnessing the power of the sun.

In the popular Rider Waite tarot deck, the 19th card is that of the Sun, depicting a naked child riding a white horse, holding a red standard, under an anthropomorphized sun, with sunflowers in the background.  The red of the standard is considered to represent the blood of renewal while the smiling sun represents accomplishment.  This is associated with attained knowledge.  the conscious mind prevails over the feares and illusions of the unconscious.  Innocence is renewed through discovery, bringing hope for the future.  It reflects happiness and contentment, vitality, self- confidence and success.

The Summer Solstice is a time to reflect on the growth of the season – not only the seeds that have been planted within the earth but also those planted within our own souls.  It is also a time of cleansing and renewal, a time of celebrating creativity in all its many expressions, as well as joyous love and growth that surrounds us.

Summer Solstice
(by Cheryl Ban, 1998)
Brown earth lay blanketed beneath
the weight of white snow
People hold within their heart
the promise of light
Light that overcomes the night
Igniting fire
That burns a hole
all the way to the hot dry summer fields
The hope that the light holds in winter
becomes in summer
the knowing of the sun’s pathway back again
We poise on the edge of these great turnings
Balanced night and day
Ah for a moment …

Summer Time House Protection Charm

Summer in Australia can be a rather difficult time of the year to get through, especially as the soaring temperatures often mean the threat of bush fires. Even the proposed respite of a cool change can often mean more danger as the approaching winds fan the flames. With the official summer season only having commenced just over two weeks ago, the Australian “purification season” has arrived early as parts of New South Wales and Queensland have been aflame since early September.

This ancient land upon which we live has long sought cleansing and the clearing out of the old in order to make way for the new through fire. In fact, many of our native plants only germinate through the scorching flames.  The Aboriginal people understood this and used to start small bushfires to clear the fallen bark, dried twigs and dead bushes. These fires were slow-burning and the native bush quickly regenerated after the heat of the fire. This practice also helped to prevent larger and more destructive fires, especially as the native eucalyptus gum trees contains an oil within their leaves that is susceptible to bushfires, making them burn faster and hotter.

When I read Starhawk’s book The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Natural Rhythms of the Earth (HarperOne, 2005), what struck me were the similarities between where she lived in northern California, and where I live in Australia. As such, when I wrote Dancing the Sacred Wheel: A Journey through the Southern Sabbats, I sought permission to include an adaptation of a ritual that focused on protecting one’s home from bushfires. This ritual can be found on page 168 within the chapter dedicated to “Lughnasadh”, the Sabbat more often associated with bush fires – yet, as we have seen (and are seeing this year) there are always exceptions to the rules.

In light of what is currently occurring in various areas around Australia, I include the excerpt of this rite in the hope that even the visualisations may assist anyone who finds themselves in danger of purification through fire.

Visualise the boundary of the land that you wish to protect. Invoke the elements, reflecting on each in turn in their natural environment. Feel the air on your skin as a natural cool breeze; visualise the waters as the most immediate water source (this could be St Vincent Gulf or the Murray River, etc); try and understand the element of fire as an integral part of the landscape, regardless of the danger it brings in the middle of Summer. Feel the earth that is under your feet, that makes up the land upon which you reside.

In the centre of your circle, have a small earthenware bowl into which you pour some water (preferably from a local spring, although normal tap water is fine). Reflect on the water and the gratitude that comes with being provided with it. Add to the bowl a small handful of dirt from your own land. Again, when reflecting on the dirt, conjure up feelings of gratitude.

Make a fire charm that consists of the alchemical symbol for fire, an upright triangle within a circle, the latter representing containment. Starhawk uses bay laurel branches, a protection herb. However, native flora can also be used. If in a group collective, have each participant also ties onto the symbol either small branches from bushes and trees on their property and/or sprigs of herbs and plants from their gardens.

Alternatively, other protective charms can be made including Ojo de Dios (“God’s Eyes” from Central and South America) as well as pentagrams (star shaped).

Once completed, the charm is then passed around the circle whilst the participants recite a chant, such as the following which has been adapted from Starhawk:

Sacred fire that shapes this land
Summer teacher, Winter friend
Protect us as we learn anew
To work, to heal, to live with you.

When the charm has gone around the circle, all participants then hold it together and chant, raising a cone of power, a request of protection, as well as a request for knowledge. Prayers that homes and lands will be preserved can be said.

We need to learn how to integrate fire with this land, as well as how to restore the balance that has been lost. The charm can then be hung from a tall tree, preferably in an area where it can survey the land that it is to protect. It is to remain there until the rains come, where it will then be dismantled and sections of it burnt by each of the participants in their own homes as a further means of protection for the coming season.

Bealtaine in the Southern Hemisphere

Halloween house display in America

If you mention the 31st of October to most people, it is not unusual for them to think of Halloween – the time when children are encouraged to dress up as wytches, ghosts and ghouls to go trick or treating.
This somewhat commercialised custom I felt was more at home in America but as each year passes, it appears to increase its popularity here in Australia as well. In fact, a number of years ago the makers of a particular Irish stout were encouraging their drinkers to celebrate “the dark month“.  If I was living north of the equator, this would have made sense as Halloween is based on the ancient traditions of celebrating the Celtic Festival of the Dead, Samhain, and the approaching winter. Here in Australia, however, the 31st of October actually marks the start of summer, which the ancient Celts referred to as Bealtaine – hardly a “dark month”.

Despite the hemispheric differences, displays of Halloween merchandise, and even the stereotypical “orange” pumpkin (Kratos) to be carved into jack-o-lanterns, have made their way to Adelaide (regardless of the fact that pumpkins are an autumn/winter vegetable).  Many supermarkets have endless displays of lollies in readiness to cash in.

For me, the 31st of October is and will always be Bealtaine (also spelt Beltane), taken from the Gaelic word meaning “Bel-fire”, referring to the sacred purification fires which the Druids lit on hilltops at this time of the year to herald the return of life and fertility to the land. This festival is named after the God of Light, Bel (also known as Beli or Balor).

Celebrating Bealtaine with May Pole dances

One of the popular fertility symbols of Bealtaine, which can still be seen today in various parts of Britain, is the May Pole. People would dance around this phallic symbol, intertwining red (representing the feminine – menstrual blood) and white (the masculine – semen) ribbons. The circular steps of the dancers, coupled with the weaving ribbons, symbolised the spiral of life. However, most today dancers probably are not be aware that they are actually partaking in an ancient fertility ritual, caught up in the joy and fun of it all.

With the essence of Bealtaine being on fertility, couples would jump the fires in order to conceive. Others would jump to ensure that good luck, health and safe journeys for the coming year were bestowed upon them. Cattle were also driven through the ashes, or between two such fires to ensure a good supply of milk, and to banish winter infections, before taking them to the summer pastures.

Fire ban season often prevents the lighting of bel fires in Australia

While it is not always possible to light these sacred fires in Australia because of fire bans, it is possible to form other “fertility” rituals, such as planting flowers, shrubs and trees, to celebrate this height of the growing season. The fertility aspect can also include the fertility of the mind and spirit and therefore, Bealtaine can mark the learning of ideas and ways of self-improvement.

Occultist Aleister Crowley once said that every man and woman is a star. While focusing on the fertility theme of Bealtaine, we can take Crowley’s statement and reflect on our own sexuality – a subject still viewed with much taboo in today’s modern society. How much of our own sexuality is an expression of our own true selves, and how much do we allow to be manipulated and coerced by others? Do we use our own sexuality as a weapon to get what we want, or are we afraid to use it at all?

Coupled with sexuality is our perception of our body image. Do we like our physical bodies or, as if often the case, do we wish them to conform to some almost impossible standard set by media?

Our bodies are our temples, and although we may strive for a higher spiritual goal, we are still connected to the earthy plane. This connection is through our physical bodies, and Bealtaine seems to be the appropriate time to reclaim a happy relationship with our physical form.

Daniel Littlewood states:
When you love yourself – others will love you
Others will respect you
And when you choose
You not only enhance your own life
You send out energies that others,
In a sad place in their lives
Can reach out for,
And bring into their reality.

Traditional Bealtaine Observation

“Oh do not tell the priest of our plight
Or he will call it a sin …
But we’ve been out in the woods all night
a-conjuring Summer in.”

At the end of October, the call of summer can be felt and here at the Temple of the Dark Moon, Bealtaine marks the gateway to summer.

Bealtaine is one of the FOUR Greater Sabbats observed within many earth-centric belief systems that are Celtic in origin and agriculturally based which mark the gateway to the changing seasons, in this case, it is the gateway to Summer.

Bealtaine, in its truest form, is linked to the rise of Pleiades, a constellation also referred to as “the Seven Sisters”, as mentioned in Hesoid’s observations.  Within contemporary wytchcraft, Bealtaine relates to the sacred union of our God and Goddess which is represented by the colours of the ribbons that we dance around the Maypole with.

It is also the time of the fae, the arrival of fresh summer fruits blessed by the Queen of the May, and the warming of weather.  Bealtaine is the time to shake off the winter blues as we prepare ourselves for the coming hot weather through the creation of charms that encapture the power of the increasing sun.

Commencing in the afternoon we will be:
:: Exploring the folklore of Bealtaine
:: Learning about the sacred symbolism of this time of the year.
:: Joining in traditional dances around the maypole.
:: Making a personal charm to capture the power of the increasing sun.
:: Sharing in a delightful feast that has been blessed by the Queen of the Summer.

All attendees will also go into the draw to win a special Bealtaine gift.

If you are interested in attending our Traditional Bealtaine Observation, then you will need to book through Eventbrite as there are limited places available.

Spring Equinox: The Time of Balancing

A Sensitive Plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light.
And closed them beneath the kisses of Night.

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

The Sensitive Plant by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

As the sun moves into the sign of Libra, it gathers in strength and makes its way across the equator to warm the southern part of the earth.  Nature echoes the increasing warmth as blossoms burst forth and new growth makes its presence felt.  As the sun’s strength increases, so do the visible signs of activity upon the earth’s surface.  It is as if, were you to close your eyes for a moment, you would miss the experience of another aspect of creation being reborn all over again.

In areas where the ground was still too cold to plant seeds at Imbolc, or the weather too uncertain, by the Spring Equinox (taking place on 22 September this year), both the soil and weather offer a perfect environment for seed planting.

The hours of darkness and light are equal now.  Life appears with great vigour and abundance.  There is an urgency in the air, as if life were both trying to make up for the months of delay during winter, and getting all the plants fully established before the heat of summer arrives.  Here in South Australia, we can experience extremes in climate with both cold winters on the one hand and stifling hot summers on the other. These Summers can arrive as early as October and last until the end of March – there can be some six months of baking the ground.

Echoing what is occurring in nature around him, the young God increases not only his strength but also his knowledge of the role he plays within the sacred Wheel of Life.  He realises his potential, his masculine power and he ventures out into the world, ready to establish his rule and prove his manhood.  He is now mastering his own Mysteries, that of the Divine Masculine.  His rough-and-tumble childhood games serve little purpose as he matures into the Hunter/Warrior.  Eager to impress, to make a statement and to announce his arrival, he bounds forth with great exertion – that is until he is distracted by the sight of his beloved Goddess.

Under his nose she has blossomed into a creature of exquisite beauty, shyly toying with him to gain his attention.  However, she is not as naïve as she may first appear to be.  She too has been schooled in the Mysteries and knows only too well the cycle of life and the roles that she and her beloved God will play within them.

The Goddess is ready to fulfil her role, to become pregnant in order for life to continue, while the God is holding the potent seed of life itself.  The pace quickens. Their eyes meet like in a classic Hollywood romantic movie and the game commences.  Both are aware of their own sexuality and their role within the Wheel of Creation.

Source: Dancing the Sacred Wheel by Frances Billinghurst

Brighid’s Cross at Imbolc

Brighid’s Cross was a symbol derived from ancient solar symbols known from early times in Europe. There were several regional forms but none resemble the classic Christian cross.  The crosses were made from straw, sheaves of grain, rushes, or grass, depending on the region of origin. They were hung in the house and farm buildings as protection against illness and other misfortune.

In the Scottish Highlands, women also made Brighid crosses before a wedding and placed one in the mattress of the marriage bed to ensure fertility.

Making the crosses themselves was a ritual. The exact procedure varied and in some places the crosses were made ahead of time to be distributed as part of the bríde óg procession. But in most places in Ireland, they weaving material was ceremonially brought into the house and laid under the table where the feasting would occur. After the meal, the household created the crosses. A farmer might also make circlets to hang round the necks of lambs as they were born. Any leftover materials were used to create a bed for Brigid or sprinkled in the byre for good luck. The crosses were hung the next day.

To make a Brighid’s Cross, you will need about 28 reed, each approximately 30 cms in length.

Position two reeds across each other so that they make a “+” sign.  Turn the weave 90 degrees and fold the vertical reed down over the top of itself.  Turn the weave 90 degrees again to repeat with the now vertical reed. 
Turn the reeds again 90 degrees and add the third reed, placing it to the right of the vertical folded reed and under the horizontal folded reed.  Fold thee added reed, turning the weave once again to add the fourth and final reed to this round in the same fashion.

Continue to add folded reed.  Avoid letting them bunch up or lie on top of those in a previous round. Build the weave outward, resting the reeds side by side. At first, you may find it difficult to hold the arms together and at right angles, but as the weave gains substance, this will prove easier.  Just remember to watch for gaps and fill them by repositioning and tightening the reeds as necessary.

When all 28 reeds have been incorporated, tie each arm off about 6cms from the centre of the design. Trim the ends of the reeeds and threads.
As the reeds dry, the cross will become loose.  To remedy this, untie the ends, pull the reeds tight again before retying.

Brat Bríde The brat or cloak or mantle of Brigid was a ribbon, piece of cloth, or an article of clothing. They were left outside on the evening before the feast of Imbolc to receive the blessing of Brigid as she passed through the household. After wards, the cloths and ribbons were used as talismans of protection and healing, particularly aiding childbirth. Ribbons and strips of cloth were sewn into clothing or carried in a pocket. Articles of clothing were worn in times of stress and need; for example, a woman might wear a man’s vest while giving birth. Shawls that had been blessed might be laid on ailing human or animal while a prayer of healing was recited.

Críos Bríde The críos or girdle of Brigid was a rope of plaited straw or rope three or four meters long and formed into a circle held vertically aloft while those gathered ritually passed through, reciting a charm. The ceremony appears to have symbolized regeneration.

Imbolc: Awakening the Spirit

Imbolc is taken from the Irish-Gaelic which is translated as “in the belly” (of the mother) and falls around 8 August in the Southern Hemisphere (when the sun moves into 15 degrees Leo).  It represents the quickening of light and life and around us we begin to notice the first stirrings of spring as the first flowers begin to appear.  These seeds have lain dormant within the earth over the cold winter months now begin to stir with life. All around us there is evidence of the earth’s slow awakening to the growing power of the sun, and we may find in ourselves this awakening as we venture more and more outdoors.

Being a festival of fire, Imbolc celebrates the light of spring piercing the darkness of winter.  As new life flows through the world of nature, we celebrate the waking of the soul as our spirits begin to quicken.  Now is the time look toward the future.

In contemporary witchcraft lore, at Imbolc the Goddess awakes from her slumber in the Underground and emerges youthful, bright eyed and virginal again.  She is the Flower Maiden and while there is an air of innocence about Her, this is coupled with a degree of knowing, similar to retaining knowledge of a past life.  She is aware of Her powers of potential and is unrestrained and full of the energy of youth.  There is an air of innocent about Her, however She is not naive.  It is the young God who tends to be the naive one, as He begins to understand His sacred purpose and is initiated into the mysteries of His sex.

Imbolc is a good time to contemplate what needs to take root and grow in our life, and what to be swept away in order to make room for our new plans.  In doing this, it is a good idea to sit down and ponder on some searching questions, to get in touch with what is seeking the light of day within us and to be prepared to let go of anything outworn.  However, it is best to proceed cautiously for it is a time to design and plan, to dig foundations rather than to build.  Imbolc is the glimmering of the year’s increase, but only the first glimmering for, as in nature, the weather can still change and nip new life in the bud.

Imbolc is a good time also to cleanse ritual tools, consecrate items we have not consecrated yet, and even rearrange the altar.  Add a small vase of spring flowers or a fresh white candle to capture the essence of Imbolc.

Source: Dancing the Sacred Wheel by Frances Billinghurst (TDM Publishing)

Welcoming Back the Child of Promise

As the Wheel of the Year turns, we find ourselves now at the Winter Solstice.  The sun is at its northern most point during its yearly migration across the sky which means that whilst the Northern Hemisphere is basking in its warmth, for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the warming rays are a distant memory.  

It is with this longing that we create our rituals that focus around the return of the Child of Promise, the Invincible Sun, or as it was known to the Romans, the Sol Invicus, the Unconquerable Sun.

The Winter Solstice is also the time of the never-ending battle between the Holly King and his twin, the Oak King.  Twice a year (usually at the solstices) they meet and battle for the hand of the Goddess. 

At the time of the Summer Solstice, Oak King is at the height of his strength, while the Holly King is at his weakest.  However, the Holly King begins to regain his power, and at the Autumn Equinox, the tables finally turn in the Holly King’s favour for at the Winter Solstice, he vanquishes the Oak King. Robert Graves, in his poetic work The White Goddess, identified a number of paired hero-figures which he believes are variants of this myth, including Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebr; Gwyn and Gwythr; Lugh and Balor; Balan and Balin; Gawain and the Green Knight; the robin and the wren; and even Jesus and John the Baptist.

The Goddess reminds us not to take things for granted for the worse of the Winter storms are yet to come as the Night Hag, the Bone Mother of Winter still stalks the land.

Within the darkness, we ask ourselves:
“To die and be reborn, the Wheel is turning,
What must we lose to the night?”

We release our fears and inhibitations in order to expose that fragile light deep within our selves that has been stiffled or hidden.  And as we light our candles to honour the returning light that the Child of Promise will bring, we also encourge this light to shine forth.

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 will fall on Saturday, 22 June at 1:24 am (Adelaide 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 modern Paganism practices, the winter solstice is the time that marks the rebirth of the sun/son, the divine Child of the Goddess who emerges from her dark womb. 

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.