The Enchantress and the Dark Time

At a festival recently, our friend Raven Grimassi discussed The Enchantress in a workshop. In Raven’s magickal universe, The Enchantress is the fourth phase of the Goddess: not Maiden, Mother, or Crone, but the infinite possibilities that lie within the blackness.

Now we approach what my tradition calls the Dark Time, between Samhain and Yule, when it seems good to rest, reflect, and move inward… to integrate or heal what has occurred in the past year, and then to begin exploring the possibilities that lie ahead in the new year.

It is time to meet the Enchantress, then become Her; to release our habits and ruts and even identities, and to open ourselves to all that we might be. For now, farewell to roles and jobs, responsibilities and commitments, obligations and schedules. IF you were to start again, with all life’s possibilities before you, what would your heart and spirit choose?

Take time. Rest in the blackness. If all things were possible (and maybe they are), what would you do? Who would you be? Choose, Enchantress.

The Mysterious Magickal Wand

It has always struck me as odd that most modern Witches (and other magic-workers) have wands, but few seem to know what to do with them.

Harry Potter and his friends all have wands; they always carry them on their persons (somewhere… in a pocket? Stuck in a belt? In a special pocket sewn into their robes?); and they use them quite often. “Accio broom!” “Wingardium leviosa!” “Gimmea specialeffectus!”

How come real Witches rarely bring their wands to ritual and never mention using them at home? Are they all gathering dust in a closet somewhere? (The wands, not the Witches.)

The few times I have seen wands in use, they were being used like athames, to cast circles. Tsk tsk. You are going to lose House Points for that!

I like wands, and make them, and own more than I care to admit. I believe they are wonderful and elegant ritual tools, especially when used correctly. So Azrael and I are going to write a book on wandcraft. Not how to make wands, so much–this has been covered in a couple of books within the past few years–but how to use them. How did magicians of ancient times use them? How can they be used creatively today? What exercises will help us to gain power and precision in their use? How they they differ magically from staves and ceremonial canes?

Watch for it. We are well along in the research, and I think you’ll enjoy the book. Plus it will give you a good excuse to buy more lovely wands.

Blessed be, Amber K

A Visit to the Witch City

Azrael and I recently returned from a visit to Massachusetts, culminating with 4 days in Salem–the “Witch City.”

The infamous witch trials of 1692 actually took place in Danvers, a few miles away, which used to be called Salem Village. That hasn’t stopped the present-day Salem from capitalizing on their neighbors’ history. There are witch shops and metaphysical shops and herb shops and magic shops and even a wand shop, as well as three “witchcraft museums.” Offerings range from serious ritual tools and history books to witch mugs, keychains, kitchen witches, and t-shirts (my favorite: “KEEP CALM AND CARRY A WAND.” from Britain’s wartime slogan “Keep Calm and Carry On”).

I was gratified that the Salem Museum of Witchcraft, which features a dramatic presentation on the Salem trails, has added a new section since I last visited: a gallery of life-size “witch” figures from the medieval midwife to the stereotype to a modern Wiccan priest and priestess, with information on persecutions through history. I was a bit tickled to see my calligraphy “borrowed” for a big poster depicting the Wheel of the Year.

We attended the Covenant of the Goddess’ Grand Council, which decided to do a ritual of remembrance for those persecuted as supposed witches. A large delegation took flowers to the Salem Witchcraft Memorial, and a rose was placed on each of the carved stone benches holding the names of those who were executed in 1692. A large floral arrangement honored the other 200+ people who were accused and/or imprisoned. The Memorial is lovely, simply a walled rectangle with grass and trees, the stone benches along the sides, and the words of the victims chiseled into the stone entryway.

A stone from Winter Island in Salem has been added to Ardantane’s Sun Circle, to connect us with a most unusual place. — Amber K, 8/2013

Animal Magick Workshop Saturday in MASSACHUSETTS

Amber K and Azrael will be in Massachusetts to attend Covenant of the Goddess Grand Council… and while they’re there, they’re doing a workshop in western Massachusetts. If you live in the area, sign up now!

AnimalsMagick and You

Saturday August 3 in Easthampton, Massachussetts

Animals provide companionship, transportation, food, and a host of other human needs – but what is our spiritual connection to them? This workshop explores animals as familiars, allies, guides, teachers, clan totems, and Younger-Self aspects of our own psyches. Included are guidelines on discovering which animal spirits should be part of your spiritual practice.

9:30 am – 1:00 pm, Saturday Aug. 3, 2013, at the AwenTree Bookshop at 102 Cottage Street, Easthampton, Massachusetts. Fee structure will be sliding scale of $35-50 for each person. Phone 413.527.3331 
to sign up and hold your place.

Witching and Rockhounding in T or C

Azrael and I just returned from a great weekend in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The main event was the quarterly business meeting of Chamisa Local Council, of the Covenant of the Goddess. (Yes, Witches do have business to conduct!)

For anyone new to the Craft, you should know that COG is the largest federation of Witches/Wiccans in the United States, with maybe 120 covens and many solitaries all over the country. Chamisa Local Council is the regional subset that covers New Mexico and parts of Texas and Colorado.

Besides the meeting, we had a discussion of large group rituals (those with about 100 to 700 people participating); some of us played the game of Tarot; we schmoozed and sipped fine homemade mead; and on Sunday, a few of us went rockhounding!

Of course we are all tree-hugging dirt-worshippers, but for many of us, that extends to an obsession with stones and crystals. We were very lucky to connect with a local healer who is also kinda the High Priest of Rockhounds. He could pass for an old-time prospector (with a big 4WD instead of a mule or burro), and was generous enough to take five of us into the country to find rocks.

Equipped with the essentials (water, sunscreen, specimen bags and a few tools) we first traveled to an abandoned mine with beautiful blue-green stones–malachite or maybe chrysacolla. Then we headed up a long, steep arroyo to a site where rare Lemurian crystals are found. (Don’t ask me about Lemuria, I’m more an Atlantis kind of girl.)

We saw lots of abandoned trash and equipment near the mine, which convinces me that some businesses will never clean up after themselves unless the state or feds force them to. We also saw a sad place where a homeless family camped for awhile, with their small children. They didn’t clean up any better than the mine owners, though at least they didn’t leave any heavy equipment behind. I hope the kids are okay, wherever they are now.

But from a rockhound viewpoint, it was a wonderful little expedition, and we all brought back some fascinating stones to beautify our homes and enliven our collections. Who knows, I may even unlock the mysteries of Lemuria through those lovely white crystals.

Pagan Spirit Gathering: A Premier Festival

Azrael and I have been to a lot of great festivals in the past decades, but Pagan Spirit Gathering (hosted by Circle Sanctuary in Illinois) stands out even among the best.

More than a thousand Pagans converge on a lovely rural setting — a farm with great oak trees, a large pond, and rustic barns — for a week of concerts, workshops, and ritual. There are gathering places for Rainbow folk; crones; tweens and teens; chant folks; guardians, warriors and veterans; fire spinners; urban shamans; Druids; Magic: The Gathering gamers; and many more. There are artisans vending their creations, little outdoor cafes, and drumming into the wee hours.

But most of all, there is a sense of warm welcome. Even with a thousand people there is a sense of extended family. People take care of one another, smile at strangers, and pitch in to help just because. The old Celtic virtue of hospitality is a way of life.

All this exists at other festivals too, but it seems distilled to its essence at PSG. The atmosphere and culture betoken a sustained, longstanding effort by the festival staff to make community work and do it right. 33 years of work have paid off.

My son has been present at every Pagan Spirit Gathering since its inception, and his standards are pretty high. If you’ve never attended PSG, check out the Circle Sanctuary website and start planning for next year.  We loved it.

- Amber and Azrael

A Trip to Navajo and Hopi Lands

Hi Folks,

A few days ago, Azrael and I returned from a three-day visit to the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, and the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. We were able to spend time in Monument Valley, the Navajo National Monument, the Valley of the Gods, and Old Oraibi.

I’ll have more to say about our trip later, but for now will just say that much of the land is spectacular, and the people extremely friendly and helpful. We came back with good memories, photos, and a few wonderful pieces of art and jewelry.

If you are looking for a place to spend your vacation time and dollars, you could not do better than to visit either Reservation. Why put your money into the pockets of shareholders in a fancy resort (which we can’t afford anyway), when you can give a little economic boost to people who need and deserve your support?

Our sincere thanks to the Dine and Hopi people who made our short visit wonderful.

Blessed be, Amber K

Finding Oneself

When I come across one of those forms that says “List vocation,” I’m never sure what to put there. Priestess? Author? Executive Director of Ardantane? Spiritual Seeker? Oddball humorist? Acolyte of Snoopy?

Some people “find themselves” at an early age, and just know they are going to be a concert pianist, or woodworker, or something. I thought, when young, that I might be a park ranger. Or breed horses on a ranch. Or write something important. Or may join the Navy and work in Intelligence. Or something else.

Jobwise, I wound up doing mostly training (all kinds: government, corporate, non-profit) and sometimes running print and copy shops… with side trips as a tour guide in a cavern, manager/cook at a tiny pizza place, Director of Religious Education for a Unitarian Church, calligraphy teacher, yoga instructor, etc.

It has occurred to me over the years that I could have enjoyed a career in archaeology… or fine art… or marine biology… or wildlife management… or several other things.

For some people, it’s less about finding ourselves that creating ourselves, from myriad choices. For others, the choices seem sparse indeed: surviving, putting food on the table and paying the bills can lead us to grasp at any paying job we can get. I’ve been in both places.

Still, we may have more choices than we usually think we do. There are a lot of people out there who seemed to be stuck on a straight track to one life, and managed to create one totally different. The account executive who leaves to open a fine cabinetry shop in Vermont. The city kid who heads West and winds up managing a ranch. The grandmother who picks up a paintbrush and takes the art world by storm.

Assume you’re stuck, and you are. Believe you have choices, and you do.  Some imagination, faith, and persistent hard work, and you’re a new you, with a new life.

Life’s Ancient Traces

Azrael and I took some time Sunday for ourselves. To those who know us, that’s a bit shocking: we are both somewhat workaholic. But we temporarily turned our backs on the myriad projects awaiting us at Ardantane, and went out to lunch, and then rockhounding and fossil-hunting for a couple of hours.

Well, I did the rock part; Azrael read a novel (so many books, so little time) while I scrambled around on road cuts and in gullies. I was kind of hoping for sulphur crystals and obsidian nodules; what I found were little marine fossils: several cute little clams and a couple of crinoid stem sections.

Finding sea critters at 7,000 feet in the mountains is always a mind-grabbing experience. Our rugged peaks and tall Ponderosa pines, and the volcano caldera, exist where once a warm, shallow sea covered New Mexico. I doubt the little clams I found ever anticipated that their stone remains would one day appear in these mountains, and be discovered by a creature strange beyond their clammy imaginations.

Rocks and fossils help me remember to take the long view. Sometimes I can even relax and remember that my “urgent” concerns and projects are not so crucial in the great sweep of time and evolution; and that maybe it’s okay to rest and enjoy life, while I have it.                     - Amber K