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[Witch Way] Volume #2 Issue #2 -- Lammas 2009
July 13, 2009
|Hi, Happy Lammas!
It’s been an interesting month.
I went to a sweat lodge ceremony, (which you can read about later in this newsletter) I attended the International New Age Trade Show, (INATS) and I’ve moved again.
INATS was an interesting weekend. I went with the intent of getting interviews of various authors for CyberWitchcraft. I was sorely disappointed.
I had emailed INATS a couple of months ago, asking to get a press pass. An affirmative reply came back the same day. As the weekend of INATS approached, I went out to get some supplies to make press passes. I even found a great template for the pass online.
It took me a couple of hours to make the modifications to the pass, but I was very satisfied with the result. I printed it out, and laminated it (a laminator was one of the supplies I bought) in preparation for the next day’s activities.
My student Rhiannon arrived early Saturday morning, I took her picture and printed her press pass, and we headed off to the Merchandise Mart, where INATS is held.
The parking lot seemed oddly empty. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to INATS, and I remember it being very crowded. We walked in to the information desk, and there was no line.
It took us only a couple of minutes to get our badges. There was a slight issue getting Rhiannon her badge, but nothing major. As we walked in, a lady handed us each a purple canvas bag, and wished us a wonderful day.
We walked back to the room I had asked to use for interviews. It was in the far back of the complex, and was a conference room they weren’t using. It was large, had several big round tables, and was far away from the noise of the trade show.
It was perfect.
We grabbed the video gear and set up, then headed out to the trade show. Our first stop was Llewellyn Publishing. As usual, they had a huge booth, with arches that spanned the entire section. I introduced myself to the first lady I found, and was pointed to Steven Pomije, the Publicity Manager.
I talked to Steve for a few minutes, long enough to get the name and email of the lady who handles the Pagan titles, and to find out that they didn’t bring a single Pagan author to INATS. It seems that the only “Pagan” titles that are currently selling are “Teen Witch” books that the teenage girls are buying.
I was disappointed, to say the least. I knew that Raven Digitalis wasn’t going to be there this year. He had emailed me last month telling me that he wouldn’t be there for the first time in several years, but I was astounded that Llewellyn hadn’t brought a single Pagan author to one of the biggest Trade Shows in the country.
I understand their point of view; you go with what’s selling.
Still, I was very disappointed. If the biggest name in Pagan books hadn’t brought anyone I could interview, what were the chances of the smaller publishers bringing anyone?
Rhiannon and I wandered around the floor of the show, looking for the other publishers, and seeing what was being offered. I have to admit, it’s a good thing the show was giving away those canvas bags. We each hauled out a ton of schwag!
One of the advantages of going to a show like this is that not only do you get free copies of the latest books, you can get them autographed. In years past, I have met and talked to authors like Raven Grimossi, Amber K, Kala Trobe, and Patricia Telesco, to name a few. Each one of them signing their latest book.
There are other items that are offered at the trade show, and in fact books are a very small part of the overall show. The problem is that the economy has gotten so bad that even on Saturday afternoon, when the crush of people is usually so bad that you can’t walk more than a few feet in any direction without hitting a traffic jam, this year there seemed to be only a few hundred people.
There were no crowds at any of the booths. That made it nice for going up and talking to people about their products, but I have to wonder if anyone made any money this year. The only lines were for author autographs.
The show itself was about half the size I remember, and considering that it’s not open to the public, the sheer lack of people tells me that a lot of stores have either gone out of business, or can’t afford to buy merchandise.
I did run into many friends from my local community, some I haven’t seen in months, but interview material was slim. It had been my hope to film enough interviews to be able to put up one or two a month, for the next year. I didn’t even get enough for one interview a month for the next six months.
After some car trouble (turned out to be a dead battery) Rhiannon and I came back to my place that evening. She headed back to her house, and I got ready for the monthly drumming up at Evil Bob’s.
I still had all my camera equipment with me, and when the fire leaped to 12 feet in the air, I grabbed it and started shooting. We had some fun when somwone brought out a mini fire extinguisher that fit the palm of your hand. You've heard the phrase, "pissing on a forest fire"?
Still, I was with friends, and the fire dyed down to something less frightening quickly.
Later that night, I ran into a guy, and we started talking. The conversation somehow came around to INATS, and he told me he was going to be there the next day signing his book.
It’s amazing who you run into at community events! As it turns out, he and I have a friend in common, and I expect I’ll be seeing more of him.
The next day, Rhiannon and I headed back to INATS, and got two more interviews, including the one with Kaedrich, who I’d met the night before, on his book Runes For Transformation. He only had one copy left. I got it, autographed, but Rhiannon gets to read it first. The things we do for our students.
All in all, INATS was a lot smaller than it has been, but I did make some new contacts, which will probably be linked to as I iron out details. Look for possible links to a company that imports some fantastic percussion instruments from China, and a link to a couple of ladies who want everyone to Just Be Nice, among others.
A Monthly Column For Astrological Insight
Well, there really isn’t a whole lot happening from July 15th through August 15th astrologically speaking. The ongoing conjunction between Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune will be ending on July 23rd.
While I doubt there will be any new troubling events around this time, the pleasant daze many of us have been in regarding what to do with ourselves in our rapidly-changing world may abruptly come to an end.
While a newly business-like attitude may be helpful for many of us in our day-to-day lives, the suddenly full-blown awareness that we have to “adapt or die” may cause some extra stress for many of us.
Those who spent time during the conjunction (May 13th through July 23rd) taking care of their own unfinished business will probably find they have an easier time after the 23rd; those who tried to make their lives better by “changing the world” (or by sticking their head in the sand) may find their projects—or ignorance—coming unglued around this time.
On July 26th the Lunar Nodes (the two positions in the sky where eclipses take place) will be leaving one Sign and entering another; while this can indicate a time of specific and important events in the world, there will probably not be much happening this time around.
There is a chance of Node-related events happening August 1st, 2nd or 3rd, and August 25th, 26th or 27th. However the chance appears slim, and so I’m not going to talk more about it right now.
Pluto is still retrograde, and Uranus has just begun its retrograde; more and more people worldwide will be questioning who has the power and what right they have to keep it.
Jupiter, Chiron and Neptune are also all still retrograde (although the three won’t be conjunct each other); their three-way conjunction ends on July 24th, with Jupiter and Chiron still conjunct until August 6th.
After August 6th, the separation between our semi-forgotten goals (Jupiter), life’s apparent unfairness (Chiron) and our ideals (Neptune) will come into clearer focus. The little that will be happening that is actually new, involves Saturn.
We may feel some obstacles to our communicating comfortably on July 21st, 22nd and 23rd as Venus “squares” Saturn (the two planets appear to form a ninety-degree angle in earth’s sky).
A square is generally considered an uncomfortable or “hard” aspect (an aspect in astrology is a relationship between astrological components, defined by an apparent angle formed in earth’s sky); usually a square is great for awareness, but indicates a situation where two things compete against each other.
If we talk to a person or people on a regular basis for comfort or support, these people may be hard to reach while Venus squares Saturn. Rest assured they are still there, and probably even still available; on these days you may have to expend a little more effort in order to reach them (calling instead of texting, or visiting instead of calling).
Even if you’re not able to reach them directly at all on those days, they will still be available to you after the 23rd. A little patience on these days will work wonders.
From the 8th through the 13th of August or so, it will be Mars’ turn to “square” Saturn.
During these five days, everyone may have so much to say that no one actually gets heard. There may be a temptation to try to shout more loudly than anyone else, because what you have to say seems very important.
This impulse may land you in a lot of trouble if you act on it.
The thing to remember is to be of service; this is a time to listen, even though it seems like a time to speak.
After several very astrologically eventful months, I for one am glad for a month of relative quiet. Although things may actually feel a little more stressful than they have because the anesthetizing effects of the Jupiter-Chiron-Neptune conjunction will be absent, most of us won’t have any major new challenges added to our collective plate; we’ll just be dealing with what’s already there.
For most of us, I imagine, that will be more than enough.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I really enjoy writing these columns, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
I’d also appreciate your feedback: Are you, my readers, finding my column useful? Is it fun to read? What do I need to improve?
I’m happy writing each month about what’s happening in the sky during a given period of time, but are there questions about astrology that many of you out there want answered, that you’d like me to write about?
Let me know at aineus at yahoo dot com. [Editor's Note: I didn't make this an active link because it will appear as an archive page on CyberWitchcraft, and I don't want any Bots harvesting Jim's email address.]
The wonderful thing about having few significant transits in a given period of time is that it’s easier to exercise our free will, and make life into what we choose it to be without a lot of “celestial interference” throwing us into situations and setting our priorities for us.
I hope all of you choose an enjoyable July and August.
NOTE: This is not a typical “horoscope” reading, breaking astrological influences down by Sign for a given period of time. The information in this column should apply to most people, most of the time. If you have any questions, or want specific personalized information on how what’s going on in the heavens affects you, contact Jim Trader.
Time of The SeasonAugust 1st is Lammas. On the Wheel of The Year, it is the Sabbat following Litha, or Mid Summer. Lammas is also the first of the Harvest Sabbats.
Lammas doesn’t seem to garner a lot of attention in my local community. That may be in part due to everyone getting ready for Dragonfest, our local Spiritual Retreat.
It may also be that people have a hard time with what Lammas represents. This is the first harvest, traditionally the fruits and first grains were harvested at this time.
It is also the time of the Sacrifice, and people have a hard time with the concept of sacrifice, especially in our disposable culture.
Christians are familiar with sacrificing once a year. Every year in February, they celebrate Lent. It used to be that if you gave up something for Lent, you gave it up for the rest of your life, but now it’s more common to just give it up for 40 days and nights.
This Christian act of Sacrifice is actually a form of sympathetic magick. Christ gave his life for your sins, so you should give up something in order to share in that sacrifice.
It was tradition to fast for 40 days and 40 nights, this was the sacrifice you made because it was something everyone could do equally. Those with more wealth, were expected to sacrifice more.
The practice of Lent also gave rise to two of the biggest parties in the world, Marti Gras in New Orleans, and Carnival in Brazil. After all, if you’re going to give something up, why not abuse it to the best of your ability just before you do?
On the 40th day came Easter, and everyone could go back to life as usual.
As Witches, we see sacrifice in its true form, that of giving up something you want to keep, but understanding that the Sacrifice is for the greater good. We don’t usually fast for this Sabbat, unless the harvest is poor, and then we have little choice.
The idea of the Sacrifice is two-fold.
The first is giving up a part of the harvest as a magickal act, in order to ensure a good harvest the next year.
The second is giving up something of value in the Sacrifice to make it a meaningful act.
This is where the story of the Corn King comes from. The man who is given anything he desires for an entire year, and then is sacrificed in the fields at Lammas, his blood feeding the fields in order to guarantee a good harvest the next year.
In order for a Sacrifice to be meaningful, it must be something of value to you. If you give up something that holds no value to you, it is a false sacrifice, and therefore has no meaning.
Just as the grain is cut down for the harvest, and to make way for next year’s planting, we also must sacrifice some thing to make way for new things to come to us.
This can be something physical that we must give up in order to allow something else to take its place, or it can be a thought or idea that is no longer useful, but that we hold onto because it gives us comfort.
In either case, the Sacrifice must be something we value. Something hard to give up, but necessary to let go of in order to bring change.
Only you can decide what it is that must be Sacrificed in your life, and only you can determine how valuable it is to you. This is a very personal act that each of us must do.
The Sacrificial Act
Since the beginning of the year, we have been working on manifesting something we truly desire into our lives. We planted the seed, and we watered and nurtured it and watched it grow.
Now we come to the harvest. Can you see your desire coming closer? Is it ready to harvest, or does it need more time?
Examine what it is that you’ve been working toward this year, and figure out if it’s ready for harvest or not. Is there something already in your life that is keeping your desire from manifesting? If there is, more than likely it is something that you want in your life.
You need to decide if Sacrificing something in your life, will allow your desire to manifest, and then you need to decide which you want more.
This should be an easy choice since you have been working on this manifestation for more than half a year.
Only you can decide if a Sacrifice is required to manifest your desire. If so, only you can decide if you will make that Sacrifice, or not.
If a Sacrifice is required, and you do not make it, consider this a lesson learned. That thing you’ve been working toward for so long, isn’t really what you wanted after all. If you give up on what you've been manifesting all this time, you’ve made a Sacrifice after all.
Sweating Like The OldiesDuring the July 4th weekend, I spent an evening enjoying the ritual of a Sweat Lodge. I had never had the chance to do a Sweat Lodge before, and I was curious, so when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it.
Back at Beltania, in May there was a group who had built a lodge at the site, and they were running sweat ceremonies for festival goers.
I had wanted to attend then, but just never had the time. It seems that the people running Beltania had the same problem, so the same group invited a bunch of us up to their house for the ritual.
Friday afternoon July 3rd, I climbed into my truck, and drove for an hour and a half from the western suburb of Denver where I live, north to Fort Collins.
We’ve been getting a massive amount of rain this summer, and I was amazed at how green everything still is, even in July. Usually by the second week of June, all the Spring growth is dry and brown.
Not this year.
Even with a ten mile long traffic jam, on the way up, the trip was relaxing. I had my directions, and a map from MapQuest, to get me there. I’m not used to driving around Fort Collins; I don’t go there very often.
Fort Collins, Colorado is a sizable town, with a small town look and feel. It’s a college town. Once I got off the highway, I felt like I was on an adventure.
The directions lead me west of town. Tucked back behind the first ridge of the foothills I found a small valley, and in that green, verdant place, was my destination.
I had just come down the ridge, about to make the last couple of turns, when I spotted my destination by the smoke of the fire, and the teepee in the back yard.
I pulled up into the long driveway, and got out of the truck to find a couple of friends already there and waiting. We said our hellos, and I got introduced around to those I didn’t know.
It was about 5:30 at this time, and the Sweat was to start at 7:00. I spent a relaxing hour and a half talking with people as everyone arrived.
Make It And They Will Come
Once everyone had arrived, our first task was to make the Lodge. Our hosts had already bound willow branches to make the framework of the lodge, but it was a bare skeleton.
In all, there were about eighteen people attending, and we all made trips to the barn to get blankets and lay them on the ground by the Lodge.
Once all the blankets were out, we began to place them on the framework of bent willow. With our Hostess demonstrating and supervising, we layered 30 or more blankets over the willows to make the Lodge.
The blankets are simply draped over the framework, friction and weight holding them in place. Our hosts had spent ten years learning the sweat ceremony from a Lakota Sioux Medicine Man, and now they were teaching us, after a fashion.
The lighter blankets go on first. They give the inside of the lodge a uniform look and feel. Over those we placed the heavier comforters and blankets that hold the heat in. In all, it took maybe 15 minutes to put the Lodge together.
Rocks had been gathered, and the fire ceremonially lit just before I arrived. It was now dusk and we all went to change into clothing appropriate for the Sweat, mainly sarongs.
Our hosts gathered us together and explained the ceremony. They told us that it is a cleansing ritual, and that they have modified it to suit themselves, as their teacher had expected them to.
The Ritual Of Sweat
We began the ritual by singing and processing around the ample backyard. I spent this time grounding and readying myself for the ritual to come, as I walked to the beat of the drum and chanting.
As we came back to the Lodge, a volunteer cast a circle of corn meal around the structure, and then one at a time, we entered, each turning a full circle at the doorway before entering, an acknowledgement to the Four Directions.
I remained outside with our Host. I had volunteered to carry the rocks into the Lodge for the first Round.
Using a pitchfork, I moved ash away from the rocks in the fire. I then pulled a rock from its resting place, rolling it over to knock the ash from it, and then levering the pitchfork under it to pick it up.
The first rock took several tries for me to get, it kept rolling off the tines of the pitchfork. Eventually, I did get it onto the fork, and slowly turned and took it the few steps to the lodge.
Our Host ritually called into the Lodge, letting his wife know that the rock had arrived. She used a deer antler to pull the rock from the pitchfork, and position it in the pit.
As I said, it has rained here a lot. I could hear the sizzle as the rock met the moist earth. I turned back to get another rock, and repeated the procedure.
In all, I pulled about six rocks out of the fire, until our Host told me to stop. We then added more wood to the fire, and went into the Lodge, ritually turning at the door before entering.
It was dark in the Lodge, and quarters were close. As our Host closed the doorway, all I could see was a faith glow from the rocks I had just ferried in.
In the darkness, our Host explained that the first Round was to give thanks, and he began to give his thanks, finishing with the ritual “A-ho Matashka”. A-ho in Lakota means simply “thank you”.
We went Deosil around the circle, each of us giving thanks for the things in our lives. As each person finished, they ended with “A-ho Matashka” or “Blessed be” to let the person next to them know they had finished, and our host added water to the rocks, to make more steam.
This first Round went for what seemed like a long time. It was very free-form, each person taking whatever time they needed to give their thanks. It ended with our Hostess giving her thanks, and the last of the water being splashed onto the still hot rocks.
Our host opened the door, and most of us crawled out into the cool night air. There was a soft breeze blowing, which felt more chill than comforting. After about five minutes, we all entered the dark womb of the Lodge once more.
Round And Round We Go
This second Round another had volunteered to pull rocks, so I sat inside as red hot lava rock was passed inches from my legs, and placed with the rocks from the first Round. As each rock was placed, our Hostess sprinkled an herb over it, burning it as incense.
Each Round has a different herb that is used. As the incense was sprinkled onto the glowing rock, I could see it sparkle as it flashed into smoke.
Our Host and Rock Bearer entered the Lodge, and the door was once again secured. This Round was for chanting. Again, this was very free-form, and consisted of whatever chants or songs we could think of, or simply melodic wailing. I know that doesn't sound very alliterive, but it is very descriptive of the sound.
I have no idea how long this Round lasted; our Host kept adding water to the hot rocks, waves of steam rolling over us.
Rivulets of sweat, or condensed steam, or both, ran along my entire body. There were times when the steam hit me like a wall. Even as crowded as the Lodge was, it was as if I was alone in a dark place that had no end. The dark was comforting.
The Round eventually ended, and we crawled out into the night air. Again we rested for a few minutes before starting the third Round. I laid flat out on the grass looking at the stars. It seemed unusually bright out here, even though there were no street lights, and the closest house was several hundred yards away.
Again we went back into the Lodge for the third Round. Each Round lasted as long as it lasted. There was no time allotted. We were in a time that had no time.
I would guess that each Round actually lasted between 20 and 40 minutes, but it wasn’t important. All that mattered was the ritual.
We went through a total of four Rounds, each Round adding more red hot rocks to the growing pile from the prior Round. I can’t describe fully what happened to me in that Lodge, but I came out of the last Round more relaxed than I have been in a very long time.
After the fourth Round, we closed down the ritual, and then went inside to eat. Food is always so much better after a good ritual, and this was no exception.
It was somewhere around 10pm, and I was starving. We shared food, and talk of the ritual, and whatever else came to mind.
With full bellies, and time to recover, we all eventually left for our individual homes. I started the Sweat with a few friends and a lot of other people I didn’t really know. I left as part of a ritual group.
Even though we couldn’t see each other, we bonded in a way only shared experience can allow.
A true ritual is an experience, and a trial. You come through the trial with a sense of accomplishment. This was not an easy ritual. Each of us had to want to see it through.
It drained us and filled us at the same time. I don’t know if I’ll ever enter the Sweat Lodge again, but I know that it was a powerful ritual that I’m very glad I had the chance to attend.
If you have an article you'd like to submit as a guest author for Witch Way, or for the main website, go to the Contact Page and click Submissions in the drop down box. Let me know what the article is about, and I will reply back to you so that you can attach it in an email.
Articles for Witch Way should be at least 500 words, and those for CyberWitchcraft should be around 2000 words.
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Until next month, may you be blessed in all that you do, or as we usually say,
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