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Witch Way, Volume #1 Issue #2 -- Witches, and Pagans, and Cops, Oh My!
August 13, 2008
Back To School

Ken's Korner

Wow! This is the third issue already! It seems like I just wrote the last one.

The middle of June and the first of August have been hectic for me. I took a trip to the small town in southeastern Kansas, where my mom grew up, for a family gathering in June. 10 hours by car, each direction.

Then there was Dragonfest.

I just got back, and I have got ideas I don't even know what to do with yet. I spent a little over a week camping in the mountains of Colorado, with nearly 1000 of my closest friends.

A lot of these are people I see every year at this regional sized Spiritual Retreat (it's no longer a Pagan Festival, because Spiritual Retreats have less red tape to put them on). Then there are the hundreds I meet for the first time every year.

The fest runs Wednesday to Sunday, but I had to go up the Saturday before, to be in Wyn Summerhawk's wedding. Actually, it was a well disquised handfasting, though not the one in the next article.

I also spent the week showing off a presale copy of the book she's written on Eclectic Witchcraft. More on that as the time to publish gets closer.

I delivered Handfasting pictures (from the Handfasting in the next article) to the Priestess who helped me. There was nearly a Gig of images taken with my camera. If the article ever becomes a full essay on the site, I'll link some of the pictures. I have one where the father of the bride got his revenge, by throwing the groom in the lake.

I talked to many people about many things. I Priested a Wiccaning ritual, and drummed until my hands were sore. I ate massive amounts of gourmet food. (Yes, we eat like that all week, every year) One Priest and friend actually cooked lobster for a carnivore ritual they had. I'm hoping Ironchef: Dragonfest returns next year.

I've been looking at ways to create a better sense of community here on CyberWitchcraft.com including a way to allow people to talk to each other.

I need to rent server space, but hopefully in the near future, anyone who comes to the site will be able to chat with everyone else. This would also allow me to set up on-line live classes and workshops, as well as doing rituals.

But first, I need to do a little Magick to get a job.

I hope you enjoy this month's Witch Way. We've got something a little different, with the article on how I spent my July 4th weekend, and a great piece by Swedishfairy, on Corn Dolls.

As always, you can reply to this newsletter, or reach me through the Contact Page Contact Page on the site, if you have an article you'd like to submit. I still haven't gotten that essay on moon cookies yet!

Handfasting Heaven

Or How I Spent My July 4th

When you start a website on Witchcraft, you work on putting out the word about it wherever you can. One of the first places I put a link, was WitchVox.

Less than two weeks after filling out the information there, I got an email through WitchVox from a young woman, with the subject “Emergency Handfasting Needed”.

I was a bit surprised, to say the least. Even more surprising, it turns out I met the young woman’s parents last year at Dragonfest, and they are related to a local Priestess that I’ve known for several years.

The young bride to be is 17, pregnant, and wanted to have a handfasting over the 4th of July weekend. This was because that was the only time the father of the child could come to Denver, from Arkansas.

Now this is not your typical handfasting. Most are thought out months in advance, and the Priest or Priestess has little worry about what to do, except filling a few spots.

Unlike traditional Christian weddings, handfastings aren’t usually performed for the couple, they’re created and done by the couple.

If at no other time do you feel comfortable running a ritual, this is the one ritual you usually want to take control over. After all, it’s your wedding day, and who knows what you want, better than you?

A handfasting can be as simple as the couple declaring their love for one another, or as complex as you want to make it.

You and your beloved can stand alone in a park, and make your vows, or you can orchestrate an entire day with a rented hall and reception after. It’s really up to you.

There are four main parts to a typical handfasting:

First, you create Sacred Space by casting Circle. For the handfasting I performed, we called Vesta, and Janus. Vesta is the Roman Goddess of home and hearth, she watches over all things domestic. Janus is the Roman God of gateways and new beginnings.

Why those two particular Gods? They seemed appropriate to starting a new life as husband and wife. Marriage is a gateway from youth, with little responsibility, to starting your own family, and everything that entails. Calling a Goddess who looks over the home, and family was a no-brainer. The fact that both Gods were from the Roman pantheon just wrapped everything up nicely.

So, my Priestess and I called in the Quarters. I had written each Quarter Call with the intent of connecting it to a handfasting. Therefore, each Quarter was asked to bring some stabilizing factor to the marriage.

In the East:

I call to the East, Element of Air Bring your knowledge and wisdom to this union Let these individuals learn what it is to be One

Be here now

In the South:

I call to the South, Element of Fire Bring your passion and transformation to the this union Let the passion of these two, transform individuals into a family

Be here now

In the West:

I call to the West, Element of Water Bring harmony and emotion to this union Let these individuals share each other’s wishes, needs and emotions

Be here now

And in the North:

I call to the north, Element of Earth Bring grounding and foundation to this Union Give these two a strong foundation on which to build their future together

Be here now

I called the East and West, being feminine Elements, and the Priestess called North and South. Then we called the Gods, my Priestess calling Janus, and myself calling Vesta.

Priest:

Vesta, Keeper of the Hearth, You who watches over all things domestic.

We ask you to join us here today, and to bless this union. Please guide these two, now that they set their feet on a Path together. Help them to keep the Home Fires burning.

Preiestess:

Janus, Lord of Gateways and New Beginnings, You whose very name begins our calendar.

We ask you to join us here today, and to bless this union. Please guide these two, as they walk through the gate of marriage. Help them to look forward at the positive, by seeing the good they’ve already experienced.

Because the bride and groom had never been through anything like this, and the fact that it was somewhat rushed, they really didn’t know what they wanted to say for their vows.

So instead of having them tell each other how they felt, I tried to explain to them what they were letting themselves in for, and some words of advice on how they might overcome the obstacles that come with all relationships.

I tried to keep it light, but serious. Being teens, I wanted them to understand the gravity of what they intended. Especially with a baby on the way.

The Priestess and I then asked each the same questions.

Do you Full name of bride or groom, Love bride/groom name with all that you are? Will you support her/him physically, emotionally, and Spiritually, in all things she/he chooses to do, because she/he chooses to do them?

Will you work continuously, for little pay, and no benefits, for the world’s worst boss, because marriage is the hardest job you’ll ever have, and the only pay you’ll get is the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve done your best?

Will you share your triumphs with her/him, and burden yourself by taking on her/his tragedies?

Will you do these things of your own Free Will, for as long as love shall last?

I asked the bride, the Priestess asked the groom. After each question, we waited for the answer. (Both said yes to all questions) We then lead them to the besom.

Normally the bride and groom are expected to jump the broom, but because of the bride’s condition, and the fact that we were told the groom is a clutz, (Brides words, not mine!) they simply stepped over the besom, holding hands, to demonstrate their intent to be husband and wife.

Returning to the altar, we gave each a ring.

The Priestess offered bride’s ring to the groom, explaining that if he wishes to bind himself to her, of his own Free Will, he should slip the ring onto her finger.

I offered groom’s ring to the bride, explaining that if she wishes to bind herself to him, of her own Free Will, she should slip the ring onto his finger.

Once the rings were exchanged, we took the ribbon provided by the bride, and loosely bound their hands together. Normally, this binding isn’t removed until the Union has been consummated, but since we were in a city park, that really wasn’t an option.

I do remember making a wise crack about the fact that the Union had obviously already been consummated.

The Priestess and I helped the couple bless the cakes and juice (still bound), and feed each other with the traditional “May you never thirst/hunger”. This seemed even more appropriate considering this was the beginning of their life together.

The four of us made our way around the Circle, introducing the new couple to the Quarters as Mr. and Mrs. Again, the Priestess and I took turns introducing the couple to the Quarters we each had called.

Once all four Quarters had been introduced, we then introduced the couple to the Gods, and asked for their blessing. A door was cut in the East, for the couple to leave, while the Priestess and I made explanations to the groom’s non Pagan family, and took down the Circle.

Considering where the groom and his family were coming from, the bride’s family and I made an effort to explain before the ceremony began, what it was we were going to do, and why. The groom’s family elected to stay outside the Circle and watch, which was perfectly acceptable.

After the Temple was opened, the bride and groom were retrieved, and pictures were taken. By prearrangement, the couple had already removed the binding ribbon. We cleaned up, and headed over the bride’s parent’s house for the reception.

All in all, not bad for only having three days to pull it off.

Harvest Grain Dolls

By
Swedishfairy

I first learned about Harvest dolls as I was watching a documentary about people in the tundra of Russia who still live as they did a long time ago.

It was said in the documentary that they took that last cutting of the grains, made a doll with it, and hung it in the rafters or a cross-beam of the house. There it stayed all year until the next harvest, ensuring that the next harvest would be a good one. At the next harvest, the old doll is burned when the new one is made.

Something I find so cool about paganism is that there are practices all over the world that are similar. Some kind of harvest doll or harvest person as used in ceremony for ensuring good crops has been found among Native Americans, the U.K., Germanic countries, Russia, and Scandinavia. I also found a short description about Native American use of corn dolls.

In some cultures, a person embodies the 'Harvest Queen', or Corn Mother; sometimes as old woman and sometimes a maiden. Some cultures combine the two and have both a maiden and old woman in their ceremony.

Other cultures make a doll representing the deity of the harvest. I've heard of the doll being kept until sowing time, when it's buried; and some burn the old doll as they make the new one.

I found a quote from an essay on line which mirrors what I saw in the documentary in regards to the harvest dolls, as a little added evidence for this idea. This was written by Asherah, in her essay Lore and Magick of the Harvest. She is a member of the group Widdershins in the Pacific Northwest.

...People in early European societies saw the Harvest Queen or harvest doll as the embodiment of the spirit of the crop. Keeping her safe over the winter ensured fertility for the following harvest, provided that some part of her was given to cattle or horses to eat, strewn on the fields or mixed with the next crop's seeds. However, over time, the belief in the doll as the spirit of the growing grain incarnate gave way to its being merely a symbol of abundance.

In their heyday, harvest dolls popped up all over Europe. In Poland, the harvest doll was Baba, or Grandmother; in some localities, the woman who bound the last sheaf was herself called Baba. She was dressed in the last sheaf, carried home on the last wagon, drenched with water and generally treated as a representation of the grain spirit.

The first time I made a harvest doll was while I lived in Iowa and was a part of a group called Sisters of the Goddess (a lovely group of women of various paths) at Mabon.

I've also read about a harvest doll made for Lammas and for Imbolc! The Imbolc one stumps me why it would be made then, but there must be a reason behind it. When we made our harvest dolls, it was just three of us that day out on a farm that one of the women owns.

We just had grass from the field and bits of cloth for an apron, ribbons, etc., and what we made was very simple and without any sort of ritual. This is how we made it, and it's just one way to do it. Harvest Doll Step 1

Take about a yard of grains together, a fistful. Fold it in half. The fold will be the top of your doll, its head. Bind it about 3 inches down. That would be the waist. Spread the bottom grains out for the skirt. Bind it again about 1 inch from the top to form the head, keeping the grains separate in the fold so that there is a hole.


Harvest Doll Step 2

Take some more sheaths of grain, about a foot and a half or two feet, and thread it through the body, between the binding for the head and the waist. Bend these down from the middle - these are the arms.


Harvest Doll Step 3

There are examples of how to make a corn doll, as taught to kids by a woman who works at a museum. This site has nice photos describing how one is made.

Of course as an eclectic pagan, you can choose how much personal symbolism you want in your doll and decorate it how you wish. Think of your wishes for the next year. If your wealth isn't grain (as in you're not a farmer), but rather money, decorate it with things that remind you of money - green ribbon, maybe even a dollar bill for the apron.

Think thoughts of how you'd like to 'cash in' next year. If your wealth wishes has more to do with fertility, and you want to conceive for example, a seed in the womb of the doll could be appropriate. These are just ideas, and as you come up with your own ideas, the stronger the personal symbolism will be for you.

If your tradition honors both God and Goddess, I've read about an idea to insert a stick into the doll as a phallic symbol; you could also include a female symbol as well if you wish, though since the doll itself is in a female form that ought to do the trick in my opinion.

You can get as creative as you wish, and the more symbolism and care you put into your doll, the stronger the magic you are performing, of course. Harvest Doll Photo

As your ceremony approaches and you start gathering grains or grass for your doll, perhaps right before you make the new one, you should destroy the old one.

I speak from experience, because I liked my doll so much I couldn't bring myself to destroy it. The next year held bad luck for me!

So, lesson learned: it would help ensure good luck for the next year to sacrifice the old doll. This year I intend to destroy both dolls and start afresh. It's an important part of the symbolism of the rite you're doing: sacrifice; letting go of the past, and focusing on the next year and what it will bring.





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 around 500 words, and those for CyberWitchcraft.com should be around 2000 words.

Until next month, may you be blessed in all that you do, or as we usually say,

Blessed Be,
Ken Biles


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