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[Witch Way] Volume #3 Issue #3 -- Dog Daze of Summer
August 13, 2010
|Hi, Enjoy the sun!
Well, it’s been quite the month. I’m actually late getting everything put together for this month’s Witch Way, because I spent most of last week up in the mountains at Dragonfest. I’ve been going to this Spiritual Retreat for at least 21 years. I say at least, because my good friend Aradonia says 21, but I think it’s 22.
In either case, I’ve been going for a long time. I’ve also spent a lot of that time as staff for Dragonfest, or on the Board of Directors. That is really where I started giving back to my local Pagan community. I have done many other things to give back, such as help out with Pagan Pride, and CyberWitchcraft is another, more global way for me to give back to the broader community.
That is one of the lessons I learned after I had learned the basics of Witchcraft, give back. I have often told the story of how after I had read all the books I could find, asking myself “what now?” In fact, that is one of the stories on the website.
Giving back, even in small ways, helps you to expand the horizons of your Path. You never know who you might meet, and the honest truth is, by giving, you also get. I can’t tell you all the positive things I have received by running events like the Denver Metro Witches Meetup, or helping with festivals or simply showing up to chop wood with the Vikings.
You don’t have to be the leader. I certainly wasn’t when I started. I just showed up and offered to help. From there I saw things that needed to be done, but weren’t being done. I saw potential ideas for making my community better.
I encourage you to seek out your local Pagan community by going to local events. Make friends, say hi. That’s all it takes to start things. You never know who you might meet. I certainly never expected to meet Pagan icons like Oberon Zell, or Raymond Buckland. I never thought about getting the chance to talk to authors such as Christopher Penczak, Kalla Trobe, Pat Tellesco, or having them give me their email addresses.
I certainly never expected to end up co-authoring a book with Judith Page, but as I sit here, the contract from Llewellyn is right next to me, waiting for my signature.
There’s nothing special about me. I simply did, instead of sitting back and watching. I am not some demigod figure who knows the answer to life, the universe, and everything. All I ever did was to pursue my passion for my own spirituality. The rest simply came from that.
To all of those who are just sitting on the sidelines I say, get up and do something. Once you do, you will find that the magick starts to flow, and you will be surprised at what may come your way.
A Monthly Column For Astrological Insight
The Cardinal T-Square, which I’ve written about at length in the last two months’ columns, (Witchway June and July will be at its peak from August 13th through the 22nd. It may also be worth mentioning that Mercury will go retrograde on August 22nd and remain so through September 11th this year, and Pluto will leave its annual five-month retrograde period on September 15th.
Since I’ve already written about the Cardinal T-Square more than I’ve written about any other transit since the publication of this column, I won’t spend much more time on it in this month’s column. Here in the United States, our national sense of proportion will be tested: Are the things we say we believe in really worth the sacrifices that will be required to attain or keep them?
This test of our sense of proportion is most likely to manifest as a major crisis and the need to make some hard choices regarding our health-care policies, our “war on terror” in Iraq, and our relations with Britain.
Mercury’s retrograde will begin at 19 degrees Virgo on August 22nd, and end at 5 degrees Virgo on September 11th. This may be a time when many of us are forced to look at how our neighbors and acquaintances view us, and possibly make our lives more “acceptable” to them if we have strayed too far from what society considers normal. Also during this Mercury retrograde many of us may experience miscommunications or delays in communication regarding our jobs or our health.
It could take longer than we expect after an interview for a prospective employer to get back to us, or the doctor’s office may misfile our lab results. If a major event occurs while the Cardinal T-Square is at its peak (August 13th through the 22nd), this Mercury retrograde could represent a time when many of us look back on what happened and take a few weeks to decide what it means for us, our neighbors, our jobs and our health.
As with any Mercury retrograde, communication and travel of any kind may be more difficult than normal. Make sure you schedule more time than you think you’ll need to get to any appointments during the Mercury retrograde, and don’t make any assumptions in your communications with others while it lasts. Also try to be patient with others who aren’t prepared for the retrograde like you are and so may often be late or communicate poorly with you while the Mercury retrograde lasts.
The two days before and after the beginning and end of Mercury’s retrograde, Mercury will “station” (appear to stand still in the sky). This means that while we may not have the full confusing effect of the retrograde on August 20th, 21st, September 12th, and 13th it may be better to wrap up communications regarding our employment or health during this time rather than trying to start something new.
Usually these days I don’t talk much about the outer Planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) going retrograde or going direct, since the effects of their retrogrades are often hard to pick out of the clutter in our day-to-day lives. However, I think Pluto going direct on September 15th may have a more noticeable effect on the stock market and other widely-used investment vehicles than in other years.
For any who may not already know, a Planet is said to “go direct” when it appears to move forward through the sky after a period of appearing to move backward (i.e. “going retrograde”). Pluto spends about seven months out of the year “direct”—moving forward—and about five months of the year “retrograde” (moving backward).
In 2008 Pluto left the Sign of Sagittarius, where it had been since 1995, and moved into the Sign of Capricorn where it will be until 2024. Among other things Pluto rules investment markets, and what Pluto is doing can be a good indication of how markets will behave medium-term (6 months to 15 years). Pluto being in the Sign of Capricorn indicates that risky investments will not do well.
Since any investment that involves borrowed money is a risky investment, and since most of what we think of these days as “investments” (stocks, bonds, real-estate, commodities, and the derivatives that grow out of these) involve borrowed money, these markets will probably in general perform poorly during Pluto’s sojourn in Capricorn. It will probably still be possible for investment professionals to make money in the markets during Pluto’s time in Capricorn, but putting your money into a 401(k) and forgetting about it is a good way to go broke during this astrological cycle.
During Pluto’s retrograde so far this year the Dow Jones Industrial Average has trended slightly downward (this column is being written on Jul 29th 2010), from 11,000 or so down into the mid-10k range. I expect there to be a slight uptick as the Pluto retrograde wraps up in mid-Spetember to around 11,000 or so, and then a steady downward trend as investors realize the high-return, low-tax times of the 90’s have given way to a “new normal” of low returns and high taxes and start stuffing more and more of their cash under the mattress.
Although Pluto is going direct after September 15th— usually indicating a time when things under a Planet’s influence “move forward” along with the Planet— Pluto is moving further forward into Capricorn, which represents a time of restrictions and sacrifices in the areas Pluto rules. When Pluto is in Capricorn the question people involved in risky investments should be asking is “how little can I lose” rather than “how much can I gain”.
As Pluto moves further into Capricorn, more and more people will ask the first question, and fewer and fewer will ask the second. Because of this phenomenon money will continue to abandon the markets at a faster and faster pace, causing the major indices (and the prices of most individually-traded issues) to drop. Cash will be king, and no one will want to be stuck without access to royalty.
We’re living in stormy times, and while we’ve been feeling the storm’s charge in the air without seeing any lightning-strikes for some time now, astrologically it is very possible that we’ll see a major lightning-strike in mid-August. If we do, remember that the metaphor of lightning works very well in this case: Lightning strikes that which is highest up, and is attracted by things made of conductive metal rather than by organic tissue.
If you’re staying human-sized in our super-sized world, and aren’t attaching yourself to oversized, over-mechanized “power structures” the lightning should pass you by, and you’ll have the freedom and mobility to take best advantage of the fertile soil left behind afterwards.
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.
Eulogy For A Coven
I attended a bitter-sweet ritual Saturday night at Dragonfest, full of joy and sadness. The joy was in the singing and laughter, sad because it was the last ritual that will ever be done by the Serpent’s Circle. I have been attending their Saturday night Invitation Only rituals at Dragonfest for 20 years.
I want to tell you about my friends, the Serpents.
I first heard about this upstart group at my first Dragonfest. It was Sunday morning, and friends were talking about the Bacchanalia they had attended the night before, where Bacchus and His assistant entered the Circle wearing nothing but grapes, and by the end, left well picked, with lovely women under each arm.
Considering this had been my very first Pagan Festival, and I had never been exposed to public nudity until then, I was intrigued to say the least. Over the years, I have heard all sorts of stories about what happens at the Serpent’s rituals at Dragonfest, how it’s an orgy of massive proportions, how it’s nothing more than an excuse for a party, but these are always told by people who’ve never been to the rituals.
My second year at Dragonfest, the theme was The Trickster. The main ritual Saturday was hosted by several Covens run by the leaders of the Denver community at the time. They called upon the Trickster, and He showed up. They had cautioned everyone to leave the Circle by the gates only, so that they could contain and channel the Trickster energy away harmlessly.
Of course, that didn’t happen. People broke circle when the ritual was finished and the energy flooded the campsite. I was up at my camp, well above and away from the ritual. I remember looking in my cooler for something I needed for dinner prep, when this tsunami of energy rolled up the crease between the hills, past me, and over the ridge. That is when the trouble started.
Only a few minutes later, and argument broke out in camp between a couple of people I was camping with. I actually had to stand between them, arms out, to keep them from an all out knock down drag out fight.
After dinner, I didn’t feel like staying around camp, things just didn’t feel good. So I invited a young lady in the camp next door to go for a walk. We decided to go cross-country, to see what other camps were doing. We began climbing a hill as it got dark, and spotted a fire at the top, so we decided to go say hi.
As we reached the top of the hill, we saw the clearing, and stopped just inside the trees. A group was doing ritual, and we didn’t want to disturb them. I may have been new to this Path, but I understood that crashing what was obviously a private ritual, was bad form. We were only going to watch for a few minutes and head on our way.
We stood there mesmerized as these ten or twelve people danced around the fire chanting. Suddenly, the chanting a dancing stopped, and the Priest turned around and looked straight at me.
With a profuse apology on my lips, I heard him ask us to join them. I felt guilty for interrupting the ritual, but honored that this man, who had no idea who I was, would invite me to join the ritual.
The Priestess, a beautiful full-bodied woman said, “Welcome to Sssssssssserpentssssssss circle”. Everyone at the ritual was around my age. It was a bit odd at the time because all the Open Circles I had been too had been lead by older, more experienced Witches. This was a Circle with no one over the age of 30. Most were in their early 20's
We danced around the fire chanting “Puck! Puck! Who gives a Puck!” over and over. Without warning, but as one, we all stopped and the Priest, who I was later introduced to as Seamus, called out to the night, for Puck to come join our circle.
From a tent off to the side, this young, well built man appeared with goat legs, and horns perched atop his head. He didn’t walk, he scampered. His eyes were on fire, his smile infectious. He leaped into the middle of our Circle next to the fire and gave us His blessing and basically told us to have fun and enjoy the night and the companionship. He then scampered over to a tree and began to climb it.
This was the first time I had ever seen the God Drawn Down into a Priest. While Puck isn’t technically a God form, He is an ancient forest spirit, whose origins can be traced to the Pwka, or Pooka.
After watching him climb high into the tree, we began dancing and chanting again. Puck! Puck! Who gives a Puck! We danced for I don’t know how long and when we stopped, we all looked expectantly back up into the tree where we had been watching Puck while we danced.
From the ground in front of the tree we heard, “Why are you fools looking up there, I’m down here.” To this day, I swear He must have teleported down from His perch. I took my eyes off Him for only a second.
Seamus thanked Puck for joining us, and invited Him to spread his joy around the campsite. With that, Puck vanished into the night and was gone. We could hear Him as screams came from camps all around us through the night.
Seamus came up and introduced his wife, Aradonia the beautiful Priestess, who I realized was visibly pregnant. We shared wine, home baked cookies, and conversation around the fire. It wasn’t long until Seamus, Aradonia, and several others started to chant. Oh my Gods, the chants they sang...
I had read that chanting was an important part of the religion, but the only chants I had ever heard were We All Come From The Goddess. Serpents were a chanting Circle of the highest order. They not only sang chants they heard from others, but wrote their own.
I found out early on that they had cast spells around their chants that keep them from being recorded or written down. In fact the enchantment is so strong that unless you are with the Serpents, you can’t remember the words or the tunes. I have been chanting with the Serpents for 20 years and to this day, I can only remember fragments of the chants until I’m with the Serpents, and suddenly everything comes back with complete clarity.
One chant I can remember most of the words to goes like this:
Ah-Tesh-Nah-Anna, the dew is on the grass
That is the entire chant, repeated over and over. Even now, having sung that just a couple of days ago, I’m not entirely sure it’s correct. I chose that chant because it was recorded with permission, by a group called Parnassus.
Another chant was written by Aradonia, called Bubbles. It has four verses and talks of the Bubbles and bubbles rise up from the cauldron...bubbles shimmering...strung on string recklessly glimmering. They rise from the cauldron, the fire burning higher and higher. It ends with three by three, now our spell is done, and So Mote It be.
Again, I sang this chant just a couple of nights ago around the fire with the Serpents, and have been singing it for two decades and unless I’m with the Serpents, I can’t remember the words. But this is the chant that everyone I talk to, who has ever heard it, thinks of, when they talk about the Serpent’s chanting.
The after ritual celebration was always a very sensual event. People would wander about the circle hugging, and cuddling, and kissing. There was always activity of a sexual nature involved, but never full on sex. That happened away from the Circle, either in the woods, or back at camp. It was a time for everyone to allow themselves to drop their inhibitions and embrace their Nature.
Nothing was ever forced, or even expected. It was simply a group of adults, in a safe environment, doing what comes naturally. Many people, even Pagans, react negatively to the idea, even though we are on a Path that reveres the act of Creation.
I remember being drawn in that first time by Aradonia, visibly pregnant, and absolutely beautiful. We kissed and caressed, and enjoyed being close to another. At first I worried about what Seamus might do, until I saw him enjoying himself with someone else. We were Witches, powerful and strong. We were Witches, sexual and creative.
The wine certainly didn’t hurt the dropping of inhibitions, but it was the people, and their accepting ways, living the words of the Wiccan Rede; “an' it harm none, do what thou wilt”, that showed me what this Path has to offer. This wasn’t an orgy, and while it could be classified as a party, it was always done with the highest Spirituality. It was simply another form of worship, worshipping the God and Goddess within us all. It was Sacred.
The Serpents had one rule, once you were invited, the invitation was perpetual. As long as you didn’t do anything disruptive, you were welcome to come back year after year. Over the years, that allowed some rituals to grow to a couple of hundred people. I was there when people spoke of the Serpent’s rituals in hushed tones, and only a handful of people attended.
I was also there when several hundred attended, each year the ritual was different, and I always preferred the earlier gatherings. Some of the magick seemed to be lost with large crowds. There was a time where because the crowd was so big, people started coming into the after ritual celebration without being invited.
"No, this is not an orgy."
I am honored that when the Serpents cut back the number of people attending, I was one of those specifically invited to attend. Over the years, I have invited my fair share of people to go with me to the Ritual, always introducing them to Aradonia, and getting her approval to invite them. It’s just how things are done.
This Saturday night’s ritual was to Dionysus, which is only fitting since that very first ritual all those years ago was to Bacchus. There were only 50 people in attendance. To enter the Circle, we had to pass through three Gates, and were challenged at each.
We were told that this ritual wasn’t just for us, but for all who attended. We were asked if we were ready to let go of our inhibitions, and allow the inner animal out. We were asked if this was really what we wanted, and told that the circle was open so that if we needed to, we could leave. We were also charged with the responsibility of making that choice.
The entire time, energy and anticipation were raised. We raised even more energy in the Circle, and then it was simply let go. I didn’t know until the next morning that this was the last Serpent’s ritual there would ever be. It was then that I realized how appropriate just letting the energy go had been.
Seamus and Aradonia, after more than 20 years of marriage, have decided to part ways. The Coven is being dissolved. It is a sad thing on a personal and spiritual level, but change is the only universal constant.
There was a time when Aradonia and I would hug each other for upwards of five minutes, every time we met. It simply felt good to hold each other, and we allowed ourselves to enjoy that closeness.
One time I ran into Seamus and Aradonia at the local Renaissance Festival. Seamus’ mother was with them, and after a few minutes she said to Seamus, “Boy, they sure do hug a long time.”
As I write this, it is the Dark Moon, an appropriate time to look back in remembrance, and plan for the future. There will be no more Serpent rituals at Dragonfest.
It’s time for someone else to pick up where they left off, but do something entirely different.
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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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