Tag Archives: Wheel of the Year

All Hallows

“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron….” — J.K. Rowling

We have passed through the Hallowed Nights of Feast, Fire, and Fallen Kin. We have danced Dionysian unto Summer’s Ending, as if our gyration would reverse that of the Dying Sun. Now, before Winter’s Gates we stand sobered and all too aware of the gnawing Darkness ahead.

I began the season by decorating my house in Halloween paraphernalia, getting a head start in the first few days of October. Over the next few weeks my house had been steadily transformed by cobwebs, spiders, skulls, and the occasional jack-o-lantern. On the Saturday before Halloween my partner and I threw a costume party. As secular as it may seem, I take great enjoyment in surrounding myself with the symbols of Halloween- from plastic skeletons and jack-o-lanterns. I experience arachnophobia and so creating a spider’s nest draping over a lamp and table around Halloween allows me to immerse myself in what I fear without overloading my psyche. This almost ritualistic practice every year has helped me become more comfortable with living spiders in my own way. Secular Halloween allows for the indulgence in taboo, modes of behavior that are suppressed for one reason or another throughout the rest of the year. While Mardi Gras and similar festivals also loosen the social shackles, Halloween does so in a unique way.

Browse Halloween decorations and costumes and it should become apparent to anyone who has an eye for symbolism. What is represented in most secular expressions of Halloween? In my perception it boils down to Fear, Sex, Death, and Occultism. (HELLO, Scorpio!) Monsters, Skulls, Graves, Ghosts, “Sexy (fill in the blank)” costumes, Cross-dressing for both sexes, Phobias, Murder, Gore, Insanity, Rot, Decay, Demons, Spirits, Witches, Magic, etc., etc. are all standards of Halloween paraphernalia and indicative of those categories I previously mentioned. Newspapers and Magazines try to interview Wiccans, Vodouisants, Satanists, and other occult and “spiritual fringe” people. It’s the one time of the year that it is socially acceptable to bend the rules and sometimes outright break them, or at least indulge your fascination in the taboo without being mistaken for a weirdo or an eccentric.

I always find myself musing on the history and symbolism of this time of year and all the cultures and traditions that have coalesced into the modern celebration of Halloween. I have come to understand that this holiday is simultaneously secular, Pagan, and Christian, as well as being inclusive. Each group has expressed Halloween differently, they all have been inspired and appropriated by each other. In my research of the “reason for the season” it has frequently been indiscernible as to what was “Pagan” and what was “Christian,” as well as from what particular culture certain aspects came from. One person’s Samhain tradition is another person’s Hallowmas observance, and let’s not even get started with Dia de los Muertos. While it is easy to say that the Church stole Pagan traditions in an effort to seduce new converts, it seems to me that there is the possibility that the people simply refused to give up their rituals and through subsequent generations the traditions remained, the meanings slightly altered. While I do not disregard the insidious domination and atrocities committed by the institution of the Church, I also think that the Folk are stubborn and creatures of habit. And what is a ritual but a habit saturated with meaning? What is a tradition but a set of rituals passed on? 

My thoughts also tend toward the influence of Nature on our Ancestors. What is it about this time of year? What did it mean to our Ancestors in Europe thousands of years ago? What does Fear, Sex, Death, and Occultism really have in common with October 31st?  I’m not surprised if it is hard to understand for many modern Western peoples because we have so much comfort and convenience. Even the least wealthy of us are more affluent than a large population of the world today, and most certainly richer than most people before us. We have a lot less to be afraid of in many regards. We are very sheltered and pampered compared to our Ancestors.

This is about a relationship, and a very tangible one at that. At this time our Ancestors were preparing to slaughter their livestock to be able to survive throughout the winter. Less mouths to feed and more to eat because of the lack of growing vegetation. Old and young alike were not spared from sickness and disease in winter, as well. The cold and dark is not merciful to warm-blooded creatures, especially those hunted and eaten by other warm-blooded creatures. While our Ancestors generally lived in survival mode for most of history, the time that is our modern Halloween became a gateway into the harshest session of survival mode. While we talk about the “Dark Half of the Wheel of the Year” at least a lot of us can turn on our electric lights and gas heaters. Our ancestors had to go to great lengths to acquire the necessary resources. They couldn’t always go to the market to get these things, they had to work and sacrifice to stay alive. We often take for granted how difficult it would be to survive without our structure and security.

Halloween is always saturated with thoughts of my Ancestors, those I knew and never have known. I try to honor all those who fought to survive and bonded with each other to continue to exist through time and space. The result of that love and strife is me, you, and all others here on Earth. Although I am a descendant of several European nations and have lived my life in the United States, I recognize that Ancestry and the ability to honor that influence is not bound by race, species, or cellular structure. I regard the Living Earth below me and the Stars above me as my Ancestors. Indeed, as per Nature’s design, all things decay and transform into new life- the Earth is literally our Ancestors. The matter of the Earth is created from the contents of a Star.

At Midnight on October 31st three friends, my partner and I took part in a simple ceremony and Dumb Supper to honor our Ancestors and our Beloved Dead, as well as the recognition of our own mortality. I had the pleasure of leading the ceremony in my temple/workshop room (i.e. the physical Curio Cabinet), marking the first official group ritual to be held there. We assembled in the temple, called to our respective families and loved ones, invited them to join our feast, gave offerings to them, and sat in silence for a while eating a simple meal. I had tried my hand at baking Soul Cakes, which turned out to be delicious. I ate mine contemplatively, as the tradition is that each cake eaten frees a soul from Purgatory. While I don’t believe in Purgatory, I do believe that what is remembered, lives.

Tomorrow, on Sunday, I complete my observance of this spoke on the Wheel by attending the Greek Orthodox Liturgy in honor of the 40th day of passing of my partner’s Yia Yia. I had the great pleasure of meeting this legendary woman a few times and it feels as though it was not enough. I greatly sympathize with the Orthodox tradition of the 40 day memorial. It brings the family together to celebrate the one who lived, helping to facilitate healing after grieving. The Orthodox prayers for the dead include the phrase “Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη,” translated as “May your memory be Eternal.”

I hope your Halloween brought you joy and blessings. This is not the only time you can give thanks and love to Those Who Have Gone Before, it is just the most appropriate. You can always raise a glass in the names of the Beloved and Mighty. And I raise a glass to you, readers, for though we may be friends or strangers we are all bonded through the love and strife of our Ancestors.

May your memory be eternal. What is remembered, lives.

A Ritual of the Resurrection

Asphodel by Niko Leonardos 2013

Property of The Curio Cabinet and J.A. Doyle, the Wizard of Grand 2013. The public is free to copy, use and distribute as long as it is not reproduced for commercial gain, either privately or within a business. The Curio Cabinet and the Wizard of Grand are not responsible for any effects of this ceremony, real or imagined. To perform this rite is to acknowledge your personal responsibility.

This ritual is intended to connect us to the energy of the Vernal Equinox. A time of equilibrium, just before the scales tip in favor of the Light, we can internalize this energy of balance and shift. We often view the seasons as being separate from us, that the ground thaws and the tree buds outside of our selves. In truth, we change as the seasons change, we rotate along with the great Wheel of the Year, we join in the Resurrection of the Sun and the Earth in Spring. If we are going to change, anyway, it can only empower us further to acknowledge this transformation and embrace it. A wonderful way to embrace change is by marking it with a ritual or ceremony, to greet these powers of transformation in a sacred space. It can be performed by one person, or with a little editing, by a group.

Time: Good times for this ritual are March 20th (Equinox), March 25th (Lady Day), March 27th (Full Moon), and March 31st (Easter) in 2013.

Place: Anywhere peaceful, sacred space can be made indoors or, weather permitting, outdoors.

Garments: Preferably clean and fresh white, green, or soft, spring colors. Flowing robes are not prerequisites to performing ceremony and street-clothes will do just fine. Wear what you are comfortable in. Some people choose to perform in the nude, called “skyclad.”

Altar: The Altar should be set up in the East, to align with the direction of the rising sun. Cover the altar’s surface with a cloth. Gather symbols relevant to the ritual. Refer to the previous article, “Celebrations of the Vernal Equinox” for inspiration. My altar is decorated with a Crucifix from an aunt, an Orthodox icon of Christ raising the Dead, a statue of the figure Baphomet for balance, and a statue of the Hellenistic Goddess Kore-Persephone in honor of her ascent from the Underworld. Other than decorations, some specific objects are required, such as, a candle, a bowl of water, incense, an egg, and snake sheds (consider using a rope, necklace, twine or similar).

Preparation: Allow yourself at least 1 hour where you will not be disturbed. It is quite jarring to be in the middle of ceremony only to hear the phone ringing in the other room. You want to create an environment where the “supra-natural” can occur. Take a shower or a bath. Allow yourself to relax in the water. As you scrub your body, imagine that the troubles, worries, responsibilities, and other psychic rubbish clinging to your aura is washed away. After you feel clean, exit the shower, pat yourself dry and put on fresh clothes. Wherever you have decided to perform the ritual should also be clean and fresh, free of clutter. Kindle the incense if you have it and take a moment to be silent. Focus on why you are doing this ritual, how you would like to connect to the balance of the Vernal Equinox, what you desire to happen in celebrating the Resurrection.

The Wizard of Grand's Vernal Equinox Altar 2013

The Wizard of Grand’s Vernal Equinox Altar 2013

The Ritual

You approach the Altar and light the candle upon its surface. Holding your arms out in exaltation, you say, “Blessed be, O Illuminating Flame! Impart the powers of Aries the Ram and the Vigor of the Emergence of Spring to this Ritual of the Resurrection.”

You approach the Altar and take up the water bowl with both hands, holding it aloft. You say, “Blessed be, O Lustral Waters! Impart the powers of purification and consecration as I mark this space as sacred.”

Holding the bowl in one hand and dipping your fingers into the water with the other, you walk in a clock-wise fashion around the room while sprinkling the blessed water. Stop at the cardinal directions of East, South, West, and North. Returning to the Altar, you replace the water and take up the incense. You say, “Blessed be, O Holy Fume! Impart the powers of protection and consecration as I mark this space as sacred.”

Holding the incense in your hand, you walk clock-wise around the room while wafting the smoke throughout. Stop at the cardinal directions to honor and welcome them with the smoke of the incense. Returning to the Altar, waft the incense over your body and over the Altar, paying close attention to any icons or statues you have. Replace the incense. Take a moment to imagine the circle around you glowing with light brought by your ritual acts to purify and protect the space.

Hold out your arms slightly and proclaim: “I, (state your name), have created this sacred space for the purposes of celebrating the Vernal Equinox and to take my place in the Resurrection as the Light of the Sun increases and the Green Kingdom of the Earth reemerges. I have assembled the sacred symbols, the Egg and the Serpent.”

You first take up the egg, focusing on the symbol. Within one egg is the potential to begin new life. Within an egg are the nutrients needed to support a life. What life comes from inside the egg must eventually break free of the shell, on its own, to breathe and grow. What in you seeks to break free of its shell to breathe and grow? Hold the egg in your hands, press it to your chest at heart-level (not too hard, though!). As you feel your heart-beat through the egg, turn your attention to the heart-beat of all life on this planet and in the Universe. Your heart-beat is not so different than the pulse of a far-away star.

Now, setting the egg down, you take a moment to focus on the symbol of the serpent. Tune into the serpent energy. Shifting, slithering, shedding, transforming, above and below the ground. Move your body like a serpent. Take deep breaths and let them out in long, drawn-out hisses. Evoke the serpent energy within you. Imaging colors of greens, golds, bronzes, and reds shifting throughout your aura. As you dance and hiss like a serpent, shed the aetheric forms of yourself that you no longer need, the forms of yourself that restrict your growth. The snake must shed its form to grow bigger and more powerful.

At this point, you take the serpentine symbol and the egg together. You begin winding the serpentine symbol around the egg, loosely so the egg does not crack. When you have finished, place it back on the Altar. This is the Cosmic egg of Orpheus from which all of Creation, and most importantly, Phanes, the god of Light, emerges.

Ophis et Ovum

You refresh the incense, breathing in the perfumed air. You center yourself again, closing your eyes for a moment to visualize the Cosmic Egg in your mind. The Serpent coiling about the Egg squeezes tighter and tighter in the darkness of Chaos. Eventually, the coils put too much pressure on the Egg and it cracks. From the cracks come a burning whiteness, filling Chaos more and more with every beat of your heart. The darkness within your mind turns to brilliant light. The light floods out from your mind into your aura and permeates your being. This is not physical light, but the mental and spiritual light that fuels us. Feel this light purify you with its burning whiteness. Offer up anything to the light that does not serve you, allow your Self room to grow.

You open your eyes, still holding the visualization of the light in your mind, focusing on the flame of the candle. You stand back and reach out your arms in exaltation. You say, “I, (state your name), have gathered the sacred symbols and performed the sacred rites. I have resided within the Egg of Life, I have danced with the Serpent of Wisdom, I was present when the Light of Creation emerged from the Cosmic Egg. My heart-beat is the pulse of a star. I rise with the light of the Sun, my emergence is as the rebirth of the Green Earth.  I have gathered the sacred symbols and performed the sacred rites. I am resurrected in Body and Spirit. So Mote it Be. Amen.”

And now, you take as much time as you need to rest in this state. When you are ready, walk counter-clockwise around your sacred space and pause for a moment in each cardinal direction, thanking those who reside there. Stand straight and imagine the excess energy built up in the ritual leaving your body though the soles of your feet on the ground or your palms to the sky, dispersing into the air. Snuff the burning candle and use it again during a meditation when you wish to reconnect to this ritual. If you divine for yourself, either through tarot cards or another method, now is a good time to do a reading. Many ceremonies are also followed with a feast or meal to help ground the participants in “mundane reality” following the trip into the realm of the sacred. Think about preparing the egg used in ritual as an act of communion by either frying it up with some toast or incorporating it into food another way. Otherwise, dispose of the egg by burring it in your yard. You can also try to test your luck and balance the egg on its end.

When you perform this ritual, please feel free to share your experiences with us in the comments section! Thank you and Blessed Vernal Equinox!

The Magical Calendar

“…you will need to know about the times and seasons of the witches’ year. These are the correct times when you will be able to recharge your magical batteries and draw down to yourself the new currents of elemental power to work your spells.” –Paul Huson, Mastering Witchcraft, Ch. 1 ‘Magical Times and Seasons’

Heliocentric Zodiac

The Magical Calendar is one that follows the natural progression of seasons, as influenced by the Sun, Moon, myriad Stars and the weather. It began as the obsessive observation of the Heavens by our Ancestors. There was something unique in our consciousness that caused us to wonder up at the ceaselessly rotating firmament. After observing celestial events for so long, early civilizations began to realize correlations between the Heavens and the Earth. It was this ancestral practice that led to sciences such as astronomy and meteorology, study of the stars and the weather. Even today, many “rational” people believe in or at least take interest in their zodiac sign. Even if you do or do not believe in or agree with Astrolatry, it is impossible to deny the historical influence celestial observation has had in the creating of calendars.

The modern Magical Calendar that many Neo-Pagans are familiar with are 8 holy days arranged around a wheel, commonly called the “Wheel of the Year”. This model is generally accepted to be the best guide to seasonal progression. The 8 days of the Wheel follow the life of the Sun and the fertility of the Land. However, if the land you live in is not similar to that of Northern Europe, this model might not be so useful. In fact, many of the holidays on the Wheel were never celebrated by the ancient pagans in the same way that they are observed today. The Church of the Middle Ages absorbed many different traditional European pagan festivals from several different native cultures. Through this absorption and later reclamation of the pagan symbolism of the Christian Liturgical year by the Occult Revival at the turn of the last century, the modern Neo-Pagan community has a standard calender many can agree upon.

General Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year

 The Moon has also been used as a timepiece perhaps longer than the Solar calendar. The Lady’s face changes shape every day and She visits nearly each zodiac sign every month. In fact, the English words “month” and “moon” are etymologically related. Modern Witches and Pagans are familiar with tracking the phases of the Moon, most likely holding celebrations on the Full and Dark Moons. There are also the 28 Mansions of the Moon, an art originating in Near East that has been seemingly vacant from Neo-Pagan teaching, until recently.

Lunar Mansions

We see the same cosmic truth in the cyclical pattern of the Lunar “Moonth” and the Solar Year. Ascent, Zenith, Descent, Nadir. Waxing, Full, Waning, Dark. Dawn, Midday, Dusk, Midnight. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Sowing, Growing, Ripening, Reaping. Sex, Youth, Age, Death. The Wheel of the Year, the Magical Calendar, the festivals of Witches, Magicians and Pagans abound are the observation and celebration of the Sun and Moon and their interplay with the Earth and Her fertility and sterility. As above, so below, no?

We heretic folk also take into account the passing of the Planets passing through the constellations of the Zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. Some of us take into account 10 Planets or more (always including the luminaries, the Sun and Moon), but there are those of us who only look to the sacred 7: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercury, and Luna. They rove around the firmament free from the invisible grip the other stars are seemingly held captive by, and we can see them with our naked, but trained, eye. These are the same lights that fascinated our ancient ancestors, descending from the trees and ascending from the caves. So great was their awe of these free-traveling  stars that they called them gods.

Weekday Calendar

The Chaldean Order, that is the 7 planets arranged by the speed at which they travel through our visual sky, from fastest to slowest are the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Arranged in the pattern of the Heptagram, the 7 planets flesh out the pattern of the days of the week. So, not only does the complete Magical Calendar form the Solar Year and Lunar Month, as ruled by the relationship of the luminaries with the Earth and their passage through the zodiac, it also encompasses the 7 days of the week overseen by the 7 classical planets. Even the 24 hours of each day are divided and ruled by the planets.

Generally, the accepted calculation of the Planetary hours runs thus: at Dawn of the Day in Question, the first hour is ruled by the Planet of that Day in Question and follows the Chaldean Order after that. So on Friday, the Day of Venus, at Dawn is the Hour of Venus and is followed by the Hour of Mercury. These hours are not equal hours like we have on our clocks. Only at the Equinoxes are the Planetary Hours equal.

From the first stirrings of astrology in the Near East, to the development of the Mysteries in the Mediterranean, to the observations of the Celts and Germanic tribes, and the Holy Days of the Church, rediscovered by the Occult revival,, the reclaiming of our ancestral celebrations, these are the sacred moments that the Western Mysteries  have given us.

Now what should you do with them if you are interested? Study the meanings, the symbols, the stories, the myths. Study the science, the pattern, the ebb and flow. Spend time in the midst of the change of seasons, experience the transformation in your environment and within yourself. Build annual rituals to help tie yourself to the cycles that can be based upon pre-existing calendars or that which is sent from one’s own Genius. When one listens to the rhythm of Nature, one can begin dancing with Her.