Crafting Sovereignty at the Grand Sabbat

May 10, 2016 This article was posted in it’s entirety at The Agora Blog on Patheos Pagan Channel.


A hearty HAIL and WELCOME to you all, my lovelies!  I’ve just returned exhausted, aching, filthy, sun-kissed and exhilarated from a weekend spent at the most sacred of crossroads. In a time out of time, we made a temple between the worlds, as our coven hosted a Witches’ Grand Sabbat of Beltane, over a 3-day camping celebration.

MayKing Jupiter, Lord of the Greenwood, looking out over our encampment as the wedding feast is prepared. Photo used with permission

MayKing Jupiter, Lord of the Greenwood, looking out over our encampment as the wedding feast is prepared. Photo used with permission

What can I say? I am really proud of what we all accomplished. The Sojourner Tribe came together in style and brought both the pomp and ceremony of High Witchcraft with the May Court, plus the nitty-gritty, bare feet, howling at the moon, fire dancing and drumming into the night, of old-fashioned, tree-hugging, dirt-worshipping paganism.  This group does nothing by halves, and I can tell you that we rose to this occasion, rang the bell at the apex of Spring so loudly and proudly that there are Genus Loci all over eastern North Carolina still tingling with twitterpation, and looking for a smoke. Shazam, I tell you. SHAZAM!

Crafting New Traditions

 Our MayQueen Joy Leaf, and May King Jupiter as they sit at feast in their courtly hall with their attendants. Photo by Heron Michelle

Our MayQueen Joy Leaf, and May King Jupiter as they sit at feast in their courtly hall with their attendants. Photo by Heron Michelle

This is the first time we’ve gathered for a Sabbat camp-out on our own, rather than attending larger pagan festivals. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a pagan festival. They have a unique mission of bringing diverse people together for sharing and camaraderie, but a larger gathering of relative strangers comes with its own pros, cons and compromises.

For example, paganism is diverse in it’s approach to ritual etiquette, ethics and standards of behavior. From my point of view, what is sacrosanct and non-negotiable, is to never impose your own religious ethos onto people of other religions. I’m a Witch, but I can’t expect everyone at a pagan gathering to even be aware of the concept of Perfect Love and Trust, let alone promise at athame-point to uphold an ideal that is foreign to their practice. By the same token, I’m not enthusiastic about entering into a Witchcraft-style magickal circle with the unprepared, or anyone who would refuse to pledge reciprocity of loving intention and trustworthiness.

Understandably, a great many compromises are necessary so that all in attendance will find some common ground. Namely, don’t even try to foist witchcraft ceremonies onto non-witches. Inclusive pagan festivals can be a good thing for a great many people; however, the larger and more diverse the festival becomes, the more watered down and problematic it inevitably becomes as well.

During this 7th (crowning) year of our coven’s evolution, we’ve taken on an even deeper level of commitment to one another, and our Craft. The Great Work intention our group set for the year was to grow into our own Sovereignty, and to forge a new tradition of Witchcraft in service to building the community. This year, we felt it was the right time to create additional opportunities to celebrate the Sabbat as Witches here in Eastern NC, thus the Sojo Tribe Grand Witches Sabbat of Beltane was conceived.

 Crowns worn by the MayQueen (center) the Cauldronkeeper (right) and the Besomkeeper (left.) Our women's mysteries group, Sisters of the Cauldron, crafted these together. Photo by Heron Michelle

Crowns worn by the MayQueen (center) the Cauldronkeeper (right) and the Besomkeeper (left.) Our women’s mysteries group, Sisters of the Cauldron, crafted these together. Photo by Heron Michelle

For years I’ve dreamed of what we could create within a smaller, intensive gathering if held among those who DO SHARE a desire for Witchcraft-specific ceremony and DO SHARE a common vow of Perfect Love and Trust.  What could we create if we all take the responsibility to actively contribute, and build that event together?

Perhaps your group has considered kicking things up a notch and doing something similar? Here are a few of my favorite new things we tried and they worked for us. Plus, I’d like to share some of the beautifully and magickally made sacred objects that our talented members created for this inaugural event.

Re-vision, Re-organize, Re-Tool

 Antler crown (center) was created by our Fire Priest Coyote, of deer antlers, brass, tigers eye stone and sun stone. Crowns for the Staffbearer and Swordbearer were made by Phoenix Echelon. This altar was within the temple of the Sons of Herne, as they prepared the men for the Beltane rites. Photo by Phoenix Echelon, used with permission.

Antler crown (center) was created by our Fire Priest Coyote, of deer antlers, brass, tigers eye stone and sun stone. Crowns for the Staffbearer and Swordbearer were made by Phoenix Echelon. This altar was within the temple of the Sons of Herne, as they prepared the men for the Beltane rites. Photo by Phoenix Echelon, used with permission.

By striking off on our own, we were afforded the opportunity to radically rethink how we approached this sabbat, and even the concepts by which we communally gather.  We went “back to the drawing board,” and as a group, decided how our uniquely emerging style of witchcraft wanted to create sacred space and then enact the mysteries.

You’d think that with Mercury, Mars and Saturn all being retrograde at the moment that we were doomed for disaster. On the contrary, we’ve been presented with an opportunity for rethinking everything, starting with WHO we intend to become, and WHAT we stand for.  We’ve decided which battles we were no longer going to fight, and which fetters we’d outgrown and could now throw off.

For example, I own a witchcraft shop, and usually at the festivals, I’m working my ass off vending, and I miss out on the spiritual nature of the event. This time, it was important to me that there was no commerce in our temple. There was no competition among vendors, and no commercial sponsors. Just the freely traded divination, Reiki and artistry among family, and everyone contributing equally for our expenses.

A Vow Against “Chur-cle”

We wanted to perform the sorts of magick that are best manifested within a larger group, while modifying the Wiccan-style praxis that was always meant for 13 people or less. We vowed to never again endure the tedium of Chur-cle…you know, the “Church in a Circle” that sometimes happens when 200 people wait for each other to get through a challenge at the gate, or to pass the chalice and cakes.

Bottom line: if our witches are so far away from the altar that they can’t hear or see what is going on, or are bored to tears and aching from standing still too long in our ritual, we did it wrong.

A Temple between the Worlds

We also wanted for the entire campsite to be considered sacred space, and all that we did within that temple for the entire three days to be offerings; the preparations, the meals, the ceremonies, the laughing and goofing off, the children at play, the artistry, singing, dancing, the sleeping, the making of love, were ALL our offerings to the Gods.

So at our opening rites on Friday night, we consecrated and created a temple over the entire (large) site by first meeting at the central balefire that was our “Spirit” flame, kept burning all weekend. Here we agreed to the rules of engagement:

  1. Don’t burn the Witch: be careful, preserve your precious life and help to protect everyone else on site, too. Don’t drink yourself into oblivion. Love yourself and be kind to yourself and all others. Enter in Perfect love.
  2. Don’t be the Asshole: in all that you do, be the constructive solution, not the destructive problem. Do as you will, but harm none. Enter in Perfect trustworthiness.
  3. Don’t be the Weak link:  we are all in this together, there was no one there whose job it was to throw you a festival, nor to boss you around, so we all do the Work to create beauty and strength, honor and humility, reverence and mirth, power and compassion. Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it. (Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente)
  4. Must be present to Win: everyone on site was there to fully participate in our rituals, there would be no observers, no armchair critics, no mere visitors, no free-loaders. If you entered our temple you were there fully prepared to do the Work of Witchcraft of your own free will.

To begin, our Fire Priest, acting as summoner, brandishing our coven sword, challenged us all with the seriousness of what it means to enter between the worlds. HOW DO YOU ENTER? And we all answered in a big cheering shout, IN PERFECT LOVE AND PERFECT TRUST! After that point, anyone who broke the rules would be asked to leave the site. (And we did it, too.)


To continue reading this article, and see many more pictures, click on over to Witch on Fire, on the Agora Blog.

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Beltane Lovers – Once You Go Witch, You’ll Never Switch

When Beltane draws hot and bothered to the fore, we witches celebrate a Greater Sabbat that is certainly the most juicy and delicious of them all. This year the solar date of Beltane falls on May 5th, 2016. That is when we reach 15 degrees Taurus on our journey around the sun.

We call Beltane a “Greater” Sabbat because it is the apex of the spring season. This is high tide of the season of fertility, and everyone is twitterpated, bursting with lusty motivation, passion and burning desire to do…something or someone.  Most of the witches I know are ravenously plowing the fields of their gardens…others ravenously, well…you know.  <winks>

a wreath, chalice, and blade placed on the ground outside

Courtesy of Heron Michelle

This is our celebration of union, the sacred marriage of Goddess and God, and the heiros gamos that creates the Universe. Beltane is the wedding, and in my Wheel of the Year thealogy, I recognize how it rests in the balance across from Samhain, and is the happy, joyous moment that keeps the mournful dearth of the funeral in equal measure.

In my post: Samhain – The Poison and the Antidote, I wrote:

“Consider the Wheel of the Year as a system of teaching a balance between the polarities. Each Sabbat has aspects that are medicine to cure what ails us, and other aspects that can feel like the poisoned pill, so hard to swallow. Yet, the antidote to cure us at one sabbat can be distilled from the poison of the sabbat on the opposite side of the wheel. One Samhain/Beltane polarity can be described as reverence and mirth.”

 

Beltane is a Party…with Healthy Boundaries

They say there is a time and a place for everything, and the Wheel of the Year covers all the bases.  On the face of it, you could say that Beltane, like college, is the “party” of the sabbat cycle. Bring on the cavorting, flirtation, tipsy indulgence and scantily-clad dancing around the balefires. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a big fan of parties, which is a very good reason why I’ve set the clocks of my life to the rhythms celebrated through Wiccan-style rites.

In our sacred poetry, we are asked to: “Drink the good wine to the old gods, and sing and make love in their praise.” ¹ “…and you shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.” ²

Alrighty then! Give me some of that old time religion! Beltane is so much fun to me, but I also recognize that seeking balance is the key to both a healthy practice of witchcraft, and to a healthy life. Never forget the first and most important rule of witchcraft is Don’t burn the Witch.

While intoxication and sex are two of my favorite options from Gardner’s Eight Paths of Power, we all must make sure to be safe and responsible while we dance ’round those fires. Don’t forget to pack the prophylactics, arrange for a designated driver or crash space, eat a solid meal, take your B12 vitamins, and drink twice as much water as the poison…because we all know alcohol is basically a poison, and nothing else quite taints a pagan party like the 4 am barfing out of your tent flap. <cough>don’t ask me how I know<cough>

Click here to read the rest of this article at The Agora Blog on the Patheos Pagan Channel.

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Beltane Recipes

hieros gamos 1When the Sabbat of Beltane draws hot and bothered to the fore, at 15 degrees Taurus, we are once again at a Greater sabbat in the Witches’ Wheel of the Year, if not *the* Greater Sabbat. Beltane stands at the apex of the spring season, May day, in the balance across from Samhain, and is the silly, frivolous moment that keeps the mournful dearth of Samhain in equal measure. They say there is a time and a place for everything, and the Wheel of the Year covers all the bases.  Beltane is the “college” of the sabbat cycle; bring on the drunken cavorting, flirtation, indulgence and dancing around the balefires. Remember, boys and girls, practice safe and responsible sex and drinking while you dance ’round those fires.  Never forget Heron’s “First rule of Witchcraft:”  Don’t burn the Witch.

Our God and Goddess are seen to have grown into adulthood now, and this is their sacred marriage and consummation; this is the heiros gamos.  As for The Great Work, Beltane is that fertilization of the grand ideas and intentions we set for ourselves at Imbolc through the symbolic planting of the seeds, then began to sprout as new thoughts, and new ideas took their hold on us at Ostara, like that breath of fresh air.  Beltane is the union of opposites, and through their merging a new channel is opened through which we may birth our endeavors come harvest time. But for now, the womb of earth and water will quicken, receive the spark of air and fire, and begin the true gestation of the Great Work for this turning.

As the coven, tribe and clans gather to dance the Maypole, crowning May King and Queen, as you set the marriage feast, here are a few favorite Beltane recipes to enjoy before you are too besotted. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! 😉

Blessings!


ChocolateShotChocolate Aphrodisiac Elixir

1 cup dried damiana
 herb
4 sticks cinnamon
1 vanilla pod
1 tsp angelica root (opt.)
3 cups Jamaican spiced rum
1 T baking cocoa
honey to taste, about a 1/2 cup
1 vial Royal Jelly

Split open vanilla pod and add beans to rum. Mix in all ingredients 
except honey. Seal in a jar for two weeks. Strain and sweeten to taste 
with honey, add one vial of Royal Jelly and bottle. This recipe is best if left to sit for a while, but it can be served right away. I recommend no more than a swig at a time, shortly before you get….ahem…busy.  Best wishes!


chic asparagusBacchus’ Spear and Bean Salad

Ingredients:
6 oz. of lean bacon or prosciutto, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
A big bunch of fresh asparagus spears
2 cans Garbanzo Beans, (Chick Peas) drained and rinsed
1/3 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
6 Tablespoon extra-virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar
2 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

Directions:
In a large frying pan, fry bacon or prosciutto for a few minutes until fats have released.  Add onion and garlic and saute until pork is crisp and onions glossy.  Drain off the grease.  Separately, steam asparagus spears about 8 minutes until they are tender firm,  rinse in cool water, then chop into bite sized pieces.  In a large bowl whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar and salt.  Add asparagus, sauteed mixture, chick-peas, and parsley.  Gently turn the mixture until well coated.


Greek Goddess Chicken

Ingredients:
1 chicken, quartered
3 medium potatoes
6 carrots, peeled
1/2 red onion
2 lemons, peels zested
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Zest the lemons by peeling off the yellow parts of the skin with a potato peeler, then finely minsing with a knife. In a small bowl, blend the zest, herbs and spices.

Wash and dry chicken pieces and arrange in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle half the olive oil over the chicken, sprinkle half the zest/herb mix evenly over the chicken.
Cut potatoes, carrots and onion into bite-sized chunks. Mix thoroughly with the rest of the olive oil and remaining zest mix, and the juice of the two lemons. Pour evenly into a deep baking dish.  Bake both dishes uncovered, on the same rack in the middle of the oven for 1 hour, or until chicken is no longer pink, and the skin is crisp and brown.  Once while cooking, stir the vegetables. If at end of cooking the chicken and veggies aren’t brown enough, try about 5 minutes under a low broiler, but watch it like a hawk so that it doesn’t burn.


No Toil or Trouble Tomato Soup
Vegetarian

1 T. butter
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 T. flour
1 t. basil
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
8 oz. cream cheese
1 large can crushed tomatoes–795 grams
1/4 C. chopped fresh basil
grated Parmesan cheese

Saute vegetables in butter until soft–5 min.
Reduce heat to med-low and stir in flour and spices.
Stirring constantly, add milk slowly until boiling and slightly thickened–about 5 minutes.  Whisk in tomatoes and their juice.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 15 minutes–chunk the cream cheese and stir into the soup until dissolved.  Process one blender-full of the soup until smooth, add back to the pot and reheat.  Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan and fresh basil.


Spring Quiche
makes 2 pies

Ingredients:
2 deep dish frozen pie shells
1/2 pound of bacon, chopped
2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
6 eggs
1 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 diced green onions
3 cups of shredded cheddar or Colby cheese
2 Tablespoons flour
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place frozen pie shells on a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and reduce heat to 325 degrees.  In a skillet, brown bacon until crisp then discard the fat.  Add spinach and cook over medium heat until warmed through.  Remove from heat.

In a small bowl toss cheese and flour together.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper with a hand mixer or whisk until frothy, add green onions.
To assemble quiches, evenly divide the bacon mixture to form a layer in each pie shell.  Evenly divide cheese mixture to form a layer in each pie shell.  Then pour half of the egg mixture over the cheese layer.  With a fork, gently prod the mixture so that the liquids can soak to the bottom without actually stirring the layers together.  Sprinkle a dash of nutmeg over the top of both pies.  Place them in the oven and cook for 40 minutes or until the surface of the pies is solid and springs back to the touch.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Beltane Lovers

Sliver of maiden moon,
slight as a bride, in swelling expectation,
rushing through the ceremony,
mind on the consummation.
Beltane blossom, tight petal lips
raised in prayerful longing,
Tides rise to peaking, nature sings,
every beast beseeching
in the whispering pines,
“Come hither!
I am the one!
Choose me!”

Balefires burn, sparks flying,
the god descends to join his lover,
and nature becomes their bower,
singing the songs of wanting,
languid in each exquisite moment,
savoring it on the tongue like nectar, intoxicating.

Fingers twist in her hair,
there is strength there.
Universe thrumming,
the earth herself arches,
and they dance again,
in sabbat sweat and salt,
enticing spice of wood smoke,
erotic perfume, blossom unfurling,
flesh yearning for that sacred heat
and surrender to the burning.

Veils fall, like their clothes tossed aside,
hearts open, minds wide, enraptured,
each tender touch, entangling.
Too late now, tides sweep them away.
Each kiss, deeper than the last,
blossom wide and opened for the plucking,
leaning into his light 
to be taken.

Winter ices melt, flowing together,
merging, boundaries blurring,
acceptance of different waters
rising and falling,
as one body, one temple,
erected 
where her goddess meets his god
and the Universe screams their Divine names.
A liturgy of union, a song of salvation
from separation is sung, a duet at last.
Swimming those deep waters,
he made the quest, seeking,
fearless Knight of Cups,
who knew the mystery 
and could drink
from her holy grail, eternally.

Beltane lovers, King and Queencups-queen
walking the limits of
 seen and unseen,
hers for the merging,
hearts bound, hands fasted,
a perfect circle, returning.
As it is above; it is true below,
their cup overflows in affirmation.
To every query,
 answers the resounding 
YES!
“I am here;
You are the one;
I choose you!”