Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dead Man’s Garden

ANEMONE: Sometimes depicted on a memorial to symbolize the brief flowering of life and an early death.

ASPHODEL: Believed by the ancient Greeks to be the favourite food of the dead, these flowers were thought to grow in one of the fields of the underworld.

CHRYSANTHEMUM: In many European countries, including Italy and France, this flower is associated with death.

HOREHOUND: This plant was one of several listed as sacred to the ancient Egyptian god Anubis and is useful for summoning the spirits of the dead.

LILY: Associated with resurrection, lilies were used widely in Victorian funerary iconography and can be found decorating many modern tombstones as well.

POPPY: A plant sacred to the god Morpheus, the poppy is the source of opium, which relieves pain and induces dreams. Its association with death is two-fold: First, it presents death as a relief from pain. Second, it presents death as a great sleep or dream.

WILLOW: Sacred to Hecate, the willow has ancient ties to the dead in both Western and Eastern traditions.

YEW: A poisonous tree whose dark, brooding greenery seems perfectly at home looming over a lonely grave.

Symbols of Death

ANCHOR: A symbol of hope that one can cling to through troubled times.

BOOK: The Book of Life, wherein one’s destiny is written.

BROKEN CHAIN: When this symbol appears upon a memorial, it represents the bonds of family that have been sundered through death.

CIRCLE: A symbol of eternity. When complete and whole, the circle represents the hope for unending life in the next world. A broken circle signifies that life has ended.

COVERED URN: A symbol of death and mourning used from Roman times onward.

CROWN: A symbol of glory in the afterlife and victory over death.

LIT TORCH: The flame of life. When upended, the torch indicates that life has been snuffed out.

TREE STUMP: The severing of life, often before its proper time.

Elements of the Death Altar

* In its most basic form, an altar is merely a table or raised structure that provides a specialized space where matter and spirit converge. The altar will become the focal point of death energies in your home, creating a threshold between the world of the living and the world of the dead where you can more effectively pursue the Twilight Path.

* The first and most basic step is to find a table, desk, or similar structure that can serve as the base of your altar. Consider buying a piece of cloth to drape over it. Good colours include black, purple, and red. Midnight blue can also work.

* Set up the base of the altar in a room that you can close off, so you will not be disturbed in your work, against a western wall. The west was the traditional realm of the dead to Egyptians.

* Find reproductions of the four elements: earth (salt or dirt - dirt from a cemetery is especially effective), air (smoke from incense), water (chalice or goblet - symbolic of both blood and tears) and fire (two candles: black and white; they serve a dual symbolic purpose. The lit wicks will represent the element of fire upon the altar, the element that both destroys and renews. The candles themselves will represent the forces of life and death. Place the white candle on the far right corner of your altar. Place the black candle opposite this, on the far left. Together, these represent the pillars of the threshold between life and death, and this is the conceptual space ultimately evoked by your altar).

* The centerpiece of your altar will be a mirror. This should be relatively large, at least large enough so you can look into it and see your whole face. The mirror represents the Otherside, the realm of the spirits, which is the energetic echo of our own physical world. Hang it securely on the wall above your altar, directly between the candles of life and death. You will also need a piece of lace cloth large enough to completely cover the mirror. This veil should be black or some other appropriately dark colour, but it can’t be opaque. When you drape it over the mirror, it should obscure the reflection slightly, but you should still be able to see partial images through it. The veil represents the point of separation between the world of spirit and the world of flesh.
* Memento mori were objects or symbols used in the Middle Ages and beyond to remind people about the ever-present reality of death in their lives. The phrase is Latin and generally translated, “Remember that you must die.” (Skulls, willow branches or branches of cypress - trees often planted in graveyards; willow is sacred to Hecate, hourglasses - the fleeting nature of life, poppies - the source of opium, symbolize dreams and visions as well as the sleep of death, bones.

The Colours of Death

BLACK: In Western culture, this has become the colour most widely associated with funerals and mourning. If the Grim Reaper is depicted, he is most often portrayed wearing robes of midnight black.

GREEN: According to certain Irish traditions, green is the colour of faeries and the Otherworld, and is thus related to the spirits of the dead.

PURPLE: In Victorian times, the horses in a funeral procession wore purple plumes upon their heads. Elements of this practice still linger in the purple colour of the flags used to designate the cars in a funeral procession.

RED: The crimson colour of fresh blood, red has associations with violence, death, and passion.

WHITE: The colour of the funeral shroud. In Eastern cultures, white - not black - is the colour of death.

Casting the Circle

Using the wand, sword, athame or whatever feels comfortable, proceed deosil (clockwise) from North to North:

“I conjure thee, O Circle of Power, that thou beest a meeting place of love and joy and truth; a shield against all wickedness and evil; a boundary between the world of men and the realms of the Mighty Ones; a rampart and protection that shall preserve and contain the power that I shall raise within thee. Wherefore do I bless thee and consecrate thee, in the names of Cernunnos and Aradia.”

Or whatever God or Goddess you’re using).

To strengthen the Circle, now that it has been established through the power of Earth, the bowl of consecrated salt water is carried around the perimeter, sprinkled as you walk.

Next carry the smoking incense burner around the perimeter.

Finally, carry an altar candle around the Circle and return it to the altar with the other items.

The Opening Ritual

Place the bowl of water on the pentacle atop the altar and put the tip of the athame in the water:

“I exorcise thee, O creatures of water, and thou cast out from thee all the impurities and unseemliness of the spirits of the world of phantasm; in the names of Cernunnos and Aradia.”

(or whatever God and Goddess you’re using).

Place the bowl of salt on the pentacle with the tip of the athame in the salt:

“Blessings be upon this creature of salt;
Let all malignity and hindrance be cast forth
hence from, and let all good enter herein;
Wherefore do I bless thee, that thou mayest
And me, in the names of Cernunnos and Aradia”.

(or whatever God and Goddess you’re using).

Next, pour the salt into the bowl of water.

A Self-Initiation Ritual

The Preparation

The tools on the altar: sword, athame, white-handled knife, wand, pentacle, censer of incense, scourge, cords, chalice of wine, anointing oil, bowl of water, bowl of salt and a necklace or pendant.

It is best if the initiate is sky clad; any jewellery usually worn should be removed.

The Ritual

Consecrate the water and salt, cast, the Circle, carry around the water, carry around the censer, carry around the candle and summon the Lords of the Watchtowers.

Face the altar with arms raised high and wide.

“I invoke thee and call upon thee, Mighty Mother of us all, bringer of all fruitfulness; by seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit do I invoke thee to bless this rite, and to admit me to the company of thy hidden children.”

Stand with your back to the altar and recite the Charge of the Goddess:

“Now listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride, And by many other names. Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better when the Moon is full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place, and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all witches. There shall ye assemble, Ye who are lain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets; To these will I teach things that are as yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery; And as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; And ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, All in my praise. For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and mine also is joy on earth; For my law is love unto all beings.

Keep pure your highest ideal; Strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside; For mine is the secret door which opens upon the land of youth, And mine is the cup of wine of life, And the cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of immortality.

I am the gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; And beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, And reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, And my love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess; She in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, whose body encircles the universe. I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the stars, And the mystery of the waters, and desire of the heart of man. Call unto thy soul; Arise and come unto me; For I am the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe. From me all things proceed, and unto me all things must return; And before my face, beloved to Gods and of men, Let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite. Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; For behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, Honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you, And thou who thinkest to seek for me, Know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the mystery: That if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, Thou will never find it without thee. For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; And I am that which is attained at the end of desires.”

Face the altar again with arms raised, giving the “Horned God” salute.

“Great God Cernunnos, return to earth again!
Come on my call and show thyself to men.
Shepherd of Goats, upon the wild hill’s way,
Lead thy lost flock’s from darkness unto day.
Forgotten are the ways of sleep and night -
Men seek for them, whose eyes have lost the light.
Open the door, the door that hath no key,
The door of dreams, whereby men come to thee.
Shepherd of Goats, O answer unto me!”

Sit of kneel in the center of the Circle facing the altar.

“Gentle Goddess, powerful God; I am your child, now
And always. Your breath is my life. Your voice, Great Mother, and yours, Great Father, speak within me, as they do in all your creatures, if we will only listen. Therefore here in your Magick Circle, which stands between the world of men and the realm of the Mighty Ones, do I open my heart to your blessing.”

Meditate in silence on the Goddess and God, opening your heart to them.

Once it feels right, rise and go to each of the cardinal points in turn and say:

“Take heed, ye Lords of the East (South, West, North), that I, ____, am properly prepared to become a priestess and witch.”

Stand in front of the altar once more with your right hand on your heart, speaking the Oath:

“I, _____, in the presence of the Mighty Ones, do of my own free will and accord most solemnly swear that I ever keep secret and never reveal those secrets of the Craft which shall be entrusted to me, except it be in a proper person, properly prepared within a Circle such as I am now in; and that I will never deny the secrets to such a person if he or she be properly vouched for by a brother of sister of the Art. All this I swear by my hopes of a future life; and may my weapons turn against me if I break this my solemn oath.”

Bow to the altar and take the anointing oil. Dip your fingers in and say:

“I hereby sign myself with the Triple Sign.
I consecrate myself with oil.”

Make the Triple Goddess sign with the oil over your heart and forehead.

Pick up the necklace and put it around your neck.

“With the Necklace, which is the Circle of Rebirth,
I seal my commitment to the Craft of the Wise.”

Finally, go to each of the cardinal points in turn and, with your arms raised, say:

“Hear ye, Mighty Ones of the East (South, West, North); I, ______, have been duly consecrated priestess, witch, and hidden child of the Goddess.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I've been thinking about past lives...

I've been thinking a lot about reincarnation while I've been doing my meditations and I've come up with a few things that I wanted to share... :P

I believe that I was shot in the back of the head and killed in one of my previous lives... I always have this vivid nightmare about kneeling and having a cool gun barrel pressed against the center of the back of my head. The trigger is pulled and for a split second, I can feel the warm blood oozing from the wound and making my hair sticky before I fall forward...

*** I believe that dreams are often memories from previous incarnations that often get mixed up with this life. It's like they bleed through the subconscious when we're sleeping... and sometimes when we're NOT sleeping :) ***

All my family heritage dates back to Europe and I believe that I lived out many lives there as well. In my mind, I believe that a soul in continually reincarnated in a certain place until it dies elsewhere and then it continues to be reincarnated in the new location until it dies elsewhere again. (That is, my ancestors were from Europe, so perhaps I immigrated to Canada and died here. That's why I've been reincarnated in Canada again. If I move elsewhere, I will be reborn there instead).

I also believe that I was a prostitute in a pervious life because my sexuality has such a dominance in my life. (This was a fleeting thought and could find no more available information on this at the time of my meditations).

I've really only begun to give this some serious thought, but i thought it might be interesting to share my discoveries and perhaps others can share their experiences or thoughts on the subject! :D

Blessed be! )o(

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Twilight Path Ritual: Earth Burial

Approach the altar, prepared and attuned for entrance into the sacred space. Stand between the candle of life and the candle of death. Light these, raise your hands, and meet the eyes of your reflection beyond the veil. Address the spirits thus:

“Spirits! Guardians! All you immortal beings who walk the shadows between darkness and light! I call to you and ask that you attend me, here in the twilight. I stand on the threshold between the living and the dead, and I open myself to the secrets you have to share.”

Light incense as an offering. Gently waft the smoke. First, guide it toward your own body, inhaling the mingled scent of precious resins and herbs. Then waft the smoke towards the candles of life and death in turn, and, finally, waft it toward your veiled reflection in the mirror. Listen inwardly for the response of the spirits. When you feel their presence crowding around you, dip your finger in the water on your altar and anoint your forehead, lips and heart, opening each to a better perception of the threshold state.

“I open my mind. I open my lips. I open my heart. Gather round, ye spirits, and witness me in my rite. Tonight I commit my body to the earth, so the earth may receive me and wear away the bonds that tie my spirit to my flesh. Gather round and lend me power as I call to the element of earth.”

Hold in both hands the bowl or other vessel of elemental tokens you have gathered and raise it before the mirror in blessing. Once you have focused your power and intent into this collection of items, set the bowl on the floor. Arrange these items in a U shape at the foot of your altar. The U shape should point out from your altar and contain enough space within the U for you to lie down comfortably without disturbing any of the items. Eventually, you are going to lie down at the foot of your altar, and this collection of items will curve around your head and shoulders. Depending on how many items you have collected and how distantly you space them, the items may run down along your torso as well. Once you have outlines the space where your body will lie, place the small pillow, together with the scented funeral shroud, in the center of the U. Still kneeling before this, cross your arms upon your chest and say:

“Although I have not passed beyond the veil of life, I ask that you receive me as one dead. I commit my flesh to earth, that the earth may accept me and return my body to the dust from which it came.”

Lie down amidst the tokens of the element of earth. Stretch out fully on the floor with your head lying on the pillow at the very foot of your altar. Unfold the funeral shroud, then lay it across your body, covering everything from your feet to your head. Fold your hands on your stomach or cross them upon your chest and close your eyes. Lie there, breathing slowly and evenly, holding yourself as one who is dead.

Imagine that you lie beside an open grave. Family and friends gather round you. It is a simpler time, so there is no coffin and no embalming has taken place. You are simply a body, washed and wrapped in a funeral shroud. The scent of the newly turned earth is strong in your nostrils. You can smell the grass beneath you and the open air above. You feel yourself lifted and placed upon another length of strong cloth. Those who have gathered at the graveside use this to lower your body into the ground. Gently, gently you are eased into the arms of the earth.

The walls of the grave rise around you, and everything is thick with the loamy scent of earth. Then you feel the first few spadefuls of earth falling onto you like hard clumps of rain. The scent of the earth grows ever thicker as the loose soil is returned to the open grave. It descends upon you, blocking out all other scents or sensations. But rather than feeling smothered or crushed, the weight of the earth upon you is like an embrace, the firm arms of a mother holding you tight against her breast.

Around you, the tomb is dark and moist, and, like an infant in the womb, it takes you days, weeks, months to change and develop, trading your flesh for naked bones. Other life gathers round you - insects, moles, mice and worms. Each of these does its work upon your body, helping the earth to reclaim you as her own. And yet, this is not a taking, but a giving. Bit by bit, your flesh is gathered up and becomes part of something more. The earthly part of your body returns to the earth; eventually, even the bones of your skeleton degrade, becoming one with the soil of your tomb.

Feel the weight of the earth and the gentle insistence of this cycle: your physical flesh will remain a part of the physical world, even after your spirit has flown. Let the simplicity of this truth be a comfort as you lie stretched out at the foot of your altar, the funeral shroud soft against your face.

When you feel replete with the knowledge of your relationship with earth, draw the funeral shroud away from your face and sit up. Uncross your arms, and gather some vital energy into your cupped hands. Turn and present this energy in the direction of your altar as an offering to the element of earth.

“Hail to thee, Mother Earth! You are the dark of the grave and the mystery of the tomb. You take our flesh back into yourself, holding us as infants in your womb. May I not forget this lesson when it is my time to surrender up this precious flesh.”

Continue to kneel for a few moments and reflect upon the revelation of earth. Then stand and ask the spirits to depart.

“Spirits of the threshold! All you beings who walk between the darkness and the light! I thank you for attending to bear witness to this rite. As you have gathered, may you freely depart!”

Anoint your forehead, lips and heart.

“I close myself as I close this space. I stand upon the threshold, but for now walk away, passing from death back into life.”

Snuff the candles. Facing the mirror, cross your arms upon your chest and bow your head, then depart. Once you have come down fully from the ritual mindset, go back to your altar and gather up the tokens of earth. If this is a rite you want to perform again, store the tokens in a safe place. Otherwise, find time to cleanse them and use them for something else.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Ritual of Thresholds (consecration of altar)

Prepare yourself with a ritual bath taken about an hour before you begin the rite. After the ritual bath, dry yourself off and don whatever mask or other attire you have settled upon to help make a break with ordinary reality and keep yourself in a ritual frame of mind. Approach the altar in silence and light first the incense, then the candles of life and death. Cross your arms upon your chest and kneel down for a moment, contemplating your purpose and intent.

When you are ready, stand before the altar. Stare into your own eyes behind the veiled mirror. You will do this whenever you do ritual work at your death altar, for your veiled reflection represents the spirit aspect of you. When you work at this altar, you are trying to bring both spirit and flesh together, to allow yourself to walk and work as one, so identification with this veiled self is important.

Take three slow, deep breaths and feel the power begin to flow throughout your body. Place your fingers in the vessel of earth and invoke the first element:

“I call upon the earth, which gives and then takes back! You are the foundation of all life, nurturing the young and welcoming the dead with open arms. Lend your power to this space and consecrate it to the element that ground.”

Scatter a pinch of earth across the altar. When you are finished, touch your fingers to your forehead, leaving a streak of dust. Then place your fingers in the vessel of water and invoke the second element:

“I call upon the water, which cleanses and renews! You are my blood and my precious tears, and in the form of the great ocean, you take everything into yourself so it is transformed. Lend your powers to this space and consecrate it to the element that flows.”

Scatter the water clinging to your fingers upon the altar. When you are done, touch your fingers to your lips, tasting the salt of blood and tears. When you are finished, pass your hands over the candle flames, both at once, so there is a balance between life and death. As you do this, invoke the third element:
“I call upon the fire, which illuminates and consumes! You are the shifting flame that shines and then destroys. You are capable of devouring everything, reducing it down to its most basic parts. Lend your power to this space and consecrate it to the element that burns.”

Press both of your palms together in front of your heart. Smell the lingering scent of the flame as it clings to your flesh. When you are finished, waft the smoke from the incense towards you, so it billows up and around you. As you do this, invoke the fourth element:

“I call upon the air, which is both breath and life! You are the essence of a sigh and the voice of a mighty storm. Invisible to the naked eye, if you are absent, all life comes to an end. Lend your power to this space and consecrate to the element that breathes.”

Hold the incense holder in both hands and present the smoke to the left of the altar and then to the right. Finally, present the smoke to the veiled mirror, so curls of incense waft up past the centerpiece of your altar. Put the incense holder back down in its proper place. With the scent of the smoke still clinging to your skin, fold both hands over your belly, just beneath your navel. When you are finished, hold your hands out at your sides, palms turned upward. As you do this, invoke the final element:

“I call upon the spirit, supreme force that binds the rest. You are the essence that remains when the wind falls still. You are the light that shines when the fire has burned down. You are the force that flows when the water has gone dry. You are what remains when all the earth crumbles into dust. Lend your power to this space and consecrate it to the element that survives even death.”

Lift your hands before you and feel energy gathering in your open palms. Radiate this from your hands and your heart into the altar. Still summoning energy and infusing it into the altar, imagine a gate opening up between you and the veiled mirror, a threshold that stretches between the candle of life and the candle of death. Call upon the spirits to help open this gate from their end.

“I call to you, spirits, and unseen powers! I invoke the shadows and the creeping arms of night! Come, stand at this threshold and bear witness to my rite. Lend your power to the gate I now throw open. Join me here in the space between death and life.”

Point the first two fingers of your right hand out. Concentrate all of the energy you have been building in the ritual thus far into the tips of those two fingers. Starting at the floor beneath the left candle, begin to draw the outline of a gate in the air just in front of the altar. Move up in a line parallel to the left candle, arching over the altar, then drawing a line on the other side all the way to the floor, in line with the candle burning on the right.

As you do this, continue to concentrate the energy into your fingers, summoning the power of all five elements you have just invoked. Use this power to cut a gateway in the very fabric of reality, opening a gate between flesh and spirit.

“I consecrate this altar as a space between. When I stand here, I stand between life and death. When I stand here, I stand among you, my spirits, guardians, and friends. This is my threshold, and my will is my key. When I call for this gate to open, nothing will stand in my way.”

Stand before the gate, spreading your arms wide. Briefly invoke each of the elements again, calling the memory of their energy to your hands and imbuing this energy into the space of your altar.

“By flesh and spirit, by earth and air, by fire and water, I open this gate and bind it to me.”

Cross your arms upon your chest and kneel before the altar once more. Silently thank the spirits, elements, and powers for attending your rite, and silently bid them to depart. Continuing in silence, blow out the candles, snuff the incense, and remove your ritual attire. Do not speak until you have left the space of your altar. You may want to eat a small meal to help yourself ground and return to a normal frame of mind.

Daily Meditation: Twilight Path

Approach the altar and cross your arms upon your chest. Light the candles of life and death and take a moment to gaze into the mirror through the veil, seeing yourself as a being both of flesh and of spirit. Dipping your fingers into the chalice of water, touch them to your forehead, your lips, and your chest. As you do this, say:

“I anoint my forehead, that I may open my mind.
I anoint my lips, that I may loosen my tongue.
I anoint my chest, that I may open my heart.”

The first step opens you mentally and psychically to a deeper experience of this threshold state. The second step opens you so you may better communicate across the veil. The third step opens you emotionally and energetically to the spirits and the forces they represent. Spreading your arms wide, picture the edges of the gate glowing softly around you. Reach out mentally to any spirits that may be gathering nearby. Silently invite them to attend you. Out loud, declare the following:

“Standing on the threshold between darkness and light, I open myself to the mysteries of death and transformation. Gather round, ye spirits, and whisper to me the secret names. Open the path before me and show me the way.”

Close your eyes and allow your awareness to spread beyond the limits of your body. Listen carefully with both your physical and internal ears for any contact or messages. After a few moments, close yourself so you can exit the threshold state and return to the demands of your ordinary life. To close yourself, touch your forehead, lips and heart again, saying:

“The door is closed, but I carry it within. If a lesson presents itself to me, may it open again, so I may see and, seeing, learn.”

Snuff the candles and return to your normal affairs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Poem (I didn't write this, but it felt very Wiccan to post!)

I had come to the end of daylight
and faced the doorway of darkness.
But when I touched my face,
I realized my eyes were closed
and my skin was cold.
All that I thought I loved and needed was gone
And I was naked, shivering in misery.
They were measuring me for a coffin.
Suddenly, I heard a voice calling
from within myself.
I turned my eyes around to look back,
to look down, to look deep
and I saw a single candle.
It drew me closer until I cound reach out
and put my fingers in the flame.
Slowly, meticulously, I burned away my dead body,
And when it was gone,
I was no longer naked.