Destiny and Doom in the Craeft

One of our earliest articles over on the AFW blog, Witch Marks, Witch Blood, and the Kuthune, has been a perennial favorite of blog visitors since Glaux first wrote it in 2011. In it, she talks about the history and folklore of the magical inheritance or birthright — the idea that some Witches are descended from other Witches and will pass aspects of their power onto their descendants, much as they received power from their ancestors.

There are two really salient points that I think are often overlooked in Glaux’s article, judging from some of the comments and questions we receive. Both points are stated very clearly, though, and I think they bear repeating.

“Witch Marks” by Gemma Gary

1. The concept that Witches inherit their power through bloodlines and have a physical birthmark of  this lineage is a folkloric concept that does not bear out in every case. You can absolutely be a witch without having any known witches in your family tree. You can also be a red-head with three nipples and a goat-hoof birthmark on your inner thigh and not be a Witch at all.

2. Witches today most often form a blood bond and take a mark at their initiations. We take blood oaths to our covens and to the Witchfather himself. We tattoo ourselves so that the bond is visible to those who know its meaning.

Witchcraft is a CRAFT. Says so right on the label. It is a work, an action. Whatever may be in your blood is meaningless if you allow it to lie dormant. Yes, you may be a direct descendant of Isobel Gowdy or Alice Kyteler or Sarah Goode. You may even be able to prove it through birth, death, and marriage certificates. (Not likely, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.) You could also be a direct descendant of Charlemagne, but that does not make you Emperor.

If you are descended from Witches, be proud … and do something worthy of them. Do not wait for witchy things to happen to you. Find your power and learn to use it. I promise that it will not come exploding out of you the way it does for young witches and wizards on television or in the movies — when you reach a certain birthday or when a particular family member dies and “inherit their power.” Your power is yours alone, as are your action. They can be influenced by family and friends, but it is you who must walk the Crooked Path if you ever want to know what secrets lie at the heart of the forest (or upon the empty fields at night).

If you have no idea if you carry the Blood of Qayin, don’t fret, my love. He will give it to you himself.  And he will mark you in a way that makes sense to both you and him. This, after all, is what those medieval witch-hunters had assumed anyway. The lore in those trial records claims that the mark isn’t a “birth” mark per se, but a mark placed upon the body of the Witch after she made a compact with the Devil — usually by drinking a concoction made of blood, wine, and herbs.

Along these lines, I had someone recently write to me with questions about their possible “great destiny within Witchcraft.” I am not trying to embarrass this person, but I want to use (part of) this correspondence as an instructive moment for others, if possible. I see so many people hoping that there is something inherently magical and special within them that marks them for greatness. To them, I say, “There may be some gift inside you. But YOU will have to do the hard work of digging it out, clearing away the dirt, polishing that gem, and finding a way to share it with the world.”

This particular person wrote with the following inquiry:

Some people think I have a huge Wicca destiny due to my birthday, and while you don’t follow Wicca, a folklore insight would be helpful. I do not practice but am researching whether my birthday is a big deal, and if yes probably will. Do you find anything noteworthy of my Samhain birthday 1969?
I replied with the following:


Traditionally (historically), there was no set “date” for Samhain. There have been three different ways for figuring up the date, to my knowledge. Samhain is the final harvest, and it happened before the cold weather claimed the crops that had been left in the field too long. Many rural Pagans simply used weather signs or local signs as their markers for Samhain. The Druids (who were the priestly class of the Celts), marked Samhain astrologically – when the sun reaches 15* Scorpio (which usually puts Samhain between Nov 4 and 7) – as this would have been the midway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice. And now, contemporarily, we use a set date based on the Julian calendar (which was the calendar of the Church).
Given that Samhain has many more years of history as a floating holiday, it’s hard to see a birthday of 10-31-69 as particularly indicative of being marked for destiny within the Craft. It’s like being born on Easter (a floating holiday in the Christian tradition.) It’s cool, and it can have a lot of personal meaning to someone whose faith and spiritual experience are rooted in the folklore of that religion.
As for your birthday being a “big deal” – it truly isn’t within the Craft, other than as a cool curiosity. However, your birthday is absolutely a big deal in the astrological influences in your life. As is your birth time and place. If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend checking out a free birth chart generator like the one at www.alabde.com/freechart. Every member of my coven is expected to be familiar with their stars. We ALL have a destiny, and we all have energetic patterns. Astrology is a great way to unlock some of the secrets of your life.
Truthfully, nobody is marked for greatness within any branch of the Craft unless they choose to walk this path. Wicca, Stregha, Rootwork, or Traditional. This can be a grueling, ordeal-based path. On a mundane level, we can (and do sometimes) lose our jobs because we are Witches, lose our children because we are Witches, lose our families because we are Witches. Glaux and I both lost jobs (good jobs) in the name of the Craft. I have friends who have fought court battles over the right to parent their children within this religion. One won that battle. Another is still fighting with tooth and claw just to have basic rights to SEE her kids on a reasonable basis.
This isn’t a path where you can go shopping to see which one has the highest potential for bringing you power and glory. If those are what you crave, you will likely not find either here within the Craft – in any branch of it. The Power comes from within. Glory isn’t something worth seeking. Not for Witches. Not as a Witch. It’s bad for our health. (There are plenty of famous Witches these days, but most of them are famous in their Trade – not their Craft.)

September Totems: Chicken

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. September’s totems are Pig, Vine, and Chicken.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Swine (Torc/Muc) – hunt, search, nourishment, putting up a fight
Vine (Muin) – prophesy, prediction, rebirth, and omens
Chicken (Cearc) – fertility, battle, sexuality, watchfulness

September is a month of sacrifice, blood, and feasting. All of the totemic beings for this month are associated with food (vine = wine), and they have an underlying association with death and rebirth.  Their blood is the “sea of blood” that surrounds the Castle Perilous, and theirs is the blood/wine of the Holy Grail that is the treasure of this Castle.

Chicken 

Fowl have been domesticated for over 8000 years and have a long history with man as a provider of both meat and eggs. They originated in Thailand and Vietnam and were descended from a wild bird species called the red jungle fowl.

Chickens are diurnal creatures, and while the crowing of a rooster is synonymous with daybreak, any farmer will be happy to tell you that his roosters crow all day long.

Chickens are very social and have complex hierarchies within their groups. Pair bonding is unheard of,. Yet despite this abundant promiscuity, there is tremendous territoriality and rivalry between two roosters as to who gets to mate with whom. The same applies for the hens. Both hens and roosters will get quite aggressive in defending their exclusive right to mate with whomever they deem “best.” These aggressive qualities can be violent in the extreme, and farmers have to take precautions to keep adult roosters away from each other, least one kill the other.

This aggression has been exploited by the sport known as “cock-fighting.” Indeed, etymologically, the use of the terms “cock” and “cocky” to describe an arrogant and aggressive male — or his penis — is due to the proud strutting and arching confidence of the rooster.

It is no wonder that the rooster has been seen as a mythical symbol of courage throughout many civilizations in the world. The Romans associated chickens with Mars, the god of war, owing to this aggressive and territorial behavior.In Greek myth, Ares (Mars) took advantage of the rooster’s watchfulness and aggression by setting him as a guard to watch over Aphrodite while she slept, that none might disturb her.

The “mother hen” is a different sort of archetype associated with this fowl. Brooding and clucking over her young, the female chicken is a significantly maternal animal, particularly associated with the fecundity of spring — although, in fairness, hens lay eggs all year round. She is the quintessential “nesting mother,” though even she has a dark and cold side. Chickens, like pigs, are known to eat practically any organic thing that is put before them. It is common practice to feed baked and ground eggshells back to the chickens who produced them. Sometimes, though, the hens start eating their own eggs (often due to accidentally puncturing one, mistakenly eating it, and then developing a habit).

Cerridwen, who is the Silver Queen of the Castle Perilous, transformed into a hen to devour Gwion Bach when he became a grain of corn to escape her.  Cerridwen later gave birth to the bard Taliesin, who was Gwion reborn.  Because Cerridwen is both the great sow and the devouring hen, these two animals are sacred to her and the month that she reigns over in our tradition.

The Red Meal: The Housle

It is a common part of many religious traditions to partake in a small, sacrificial meal at the end of the rite or ceremony. We, too, participate in a Eucharistic tradition of imbibing en-spirited wine and consuming en-spirited grain as representations of sacrifice needed for the magic we have performed.

In many witchcraft traditions, this meal is called “Cakes and Ale” or “Cakes and Wine.” We call it the Housle, or Red Meal, and base it in part on a ritual created by fellow walker of the crooked path, Robin Artisson.

Here follows our own rite of the Housle.

Preparation

When the compass is first laid, place the following items in the Castle Perilous (southwest corner): Dark bread in a bowl (or lipped dish) and Red Wine in Silver Quaich or Chalice.  In the Spiral Castle (center, near the stang) will be placed the Red Knife.

Ritual

1. The sacrificial meal is brought from Castle Perilous to the Spiral Castle by the Witch.
2. Tread the Mill widdershins three times while singing the Housle Song. (see below)
3. Say, “For our Ancestors, our Gods, and Ourselves, we do this.”
4. Bless the bread by saying: “Here is bread, flesh of the Earth, blessed to give us life and strength. I consecrate it in the name of the Old Ones.”
5. Kill the bread by saying: “I take its life and give it to Them.” Cut it with the red knife.
6. Bless the wine by saying: “Here is wine, blood of the Earth, blessed to give us joy and abundance. I consecrate it in the name of the Old Ones.”
7. Kill the wine by saying: “I take its life and give it to Them.” Slide the knife over the top of the quaich/chalice to cut its throat.
8. Each person eats and drinks of the Meal, making whatever personal offerings they like into the bowl.
9. The remainder of the wine is poured into the bread bowl, and each person dips their finger in and anoints themselves. This can also be used for blessing tools, etc.
10. The Meal is either given to the ground now (if outside) or later (if inside) with the following Declaration:
“By the Red, the Black and White,
Light in Darkness, Dark in Light —
As we take, we also give.
We all must die. We all must live.
Above, below, and here are One.
All together — ALL! (and none!)
Here is shown a Mystery.
As we Will, so mote it Be.”

The Housle Song
To the tune of GreensleevesTo Housle now we walk the wheel
We kill tonight the blood red meal
A leftward tread of magic’s mill
To feed the Gods and work our Will.

Red! Red is the wine we drink!
Red! Red are the cords we wear!
Red! Red is the blood of God!
And red is the shade of the Housle.

In October of 2013, three of us recorded ourselves singing the chant and posted it to YouTube.

The LBRP for AFW Witches

In the late winter and early spring of  2013, Glaux and I began adapting the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram for use within the American Folkloric Witchcraft model. With the help of our coven sister, the Pythia, we wrote the ritual below and published it on this site on 3/25/2013.

Our variation of the LBRP is influenced by Aleister Crowley’s Star Ruby ritual (itself an adaptation of the LBRP).  It uses forms of the Red God (the Witchfather) and the Black and White Goddess (the Witchmother) in place of the traditional Hebrew names of God.  It also replaces the Archangel guardians with the four Watchtowers or Arthurian Castles that are incorporated into this Tradition.

The purpose of the LBRP is to banish all undesired or unwanted forces from oneself and the local area and to create Sacred Space. Many magicians practice the LBRP as a daily magical exercise to discipline the mind and create internal and external peace.

We offered this variation three and a half years ago (as of the time of this update). I have to admit that while we really enjoyed creating this ritual as an intellectual exercise, and we got good results when using it before ritual to banish negative energies, neither of us made it a daily practice (at least not for long).

Have any of our readers used this ritual consistently? What have your results been? Share your experiences in the comments below. If anyone wants to join me for some magical experiments related to this ritual, share a comment or write to me at laurelei@asteriabooks.com. I’m going to make the AFW-LBRP part of my morning routine before I go to work this autumn and winter to see what sort of results I get. I’ll post an update in the late winter or early spring about my results. It is also my hope to film a video of me or one of the members of Coven Caer Sidhe performing this ritual.

Also, as a note for readers who have followed the blog and are familiar with this ritual already, I have corrected some of the Latin in the text below. My apologies for the errors in the earlier version.

The Qabbalistic Cross

Imagine a ball of light above your head. Reach up with your right hand and grab the light. When you touch yourself with that hand, part of the light will go into you.
Touch your forehead as you say “Corona” (Crown). Let it fill with the light.
Touch your pelvis at the pubic bone and say “Serpens” (Serpent). Let it fill with light.
Touch your right shoulder and say “Clementia” (Mercy). Let it fill with light.
Touch your left shoulder and say “Severitas” (Severity). Let it fill with light.
Hold your hands in prayer over your heart and say “Benedictiones” (Blessings). Let it fill with light.
Feel your whole body fill with the cross of light.

The Pentagrams

Face East. Before you in the air, draw a giant pentagram using your right index finger (or if you prefer use the whole hand) in the direction shown in the illustration. Imagine that pentagram shining in front of you. Take a step forward with your left foot. Just the left. Leave your right one where it is. The size of the step will be determined by your space. At the same time that you step forward, thrust your open hands, side by side, palms  downwards, into the pentagram, as if you are diving in. This is called the “Sign of the Enterer.” As you enter the pentagram you will say one of the names of the Witch God or Goddess.

Here, at the first pentagram you will shout Lucifer.”  Lucifer is the Light-Bringer, the Lord of Illumination of the World and the Mind.  He is called in the East as the bright aspect of Tubal Cain, and the lord of elemental Fire.  Lucifer is called with a jubilant shout to celebrate the rising of the sun in the East.

Step back with your left foot so it is once again beside your right foot. Touch your right index finger to your lips like you are making the “Shhh, no talking” gesture. Point your right index finger to the center of the pentagram and make a quarter turn to your right. As you do so, draw an imaginary arc of white light around to the next direction.

Draw a pentagram in South. Enter the pentagram while singing Goda.” Goda is the White Goddess, the Queen of the Seelie Court and Lady of Death-in-Life.  She rules the Southern quadrant, the place of elemental Earth.  Her name is sung for she is the Lady who shall “have music wherever She goes.”

Make the “shhh” gesture and turn to the right, drawing an arc.

Draw a pentagram in West. Enter the pentagram intoning Azazel” in a low voice. Azazel is the Lord of the West, the place of elemental Water.  He is Tubal Cain in his aspect as the Lord of the Dead, and is both the angel who taught magic to the daughters of man and the angel who collects our souls for their great rest.  The West is the place where the sun goes to die, and it is to the West that we all must travel upon death.  Azazel’s name is intoned in a low voice of mourning and respect.

Make the “shhh” gesture and turn to the right, drawing an arc.

Draw a pentagram in North. Enter the pentagram whispering Kolyo“.  Kolyo is the Black Goddess, the Weaver of Fate and the Lady of Life-in-Death.  She rules the North, which is the home of elemental Air.  Her name is whispered for she is an ancient mystery.

Make the “shhh” gesture and turn to the right, drawing an arc. This final arc connects all four pentagrams into a single circle.

The Watchtowers

You are now standing in the center of a circle of white light. At each quarter there is a giant, glowing pentagram. Now we post a watchtower between each pentagram. Face the southeast and open up your arms. Stretch out like you are a cross: feet together, arms out at shoulder height. Call the watchtowers to their posts. Stand in the cross position and say:

Before me stands the Castle of Stone. Behind me stands the Castle of Glass. On my right stands the Castle Perilous. On my left stands the Castle of Revelry.

These are four of the great castles of myth and legend.  The Castle of Stone is Caer Bannog, the Castle of Glass is Glastonbury, the Castle Perilous is the silvery Grail Castle, and the Castle of Revelry is the Golden Castle of the Beacon of Awen.

Spread your feet and lift your arms to stand in pentagram-position and say: “Around me flame the pentagrams. Above me shines a six-rayed star, and below me spins a three-armed triskle.  I stand within the Spiral Castle.  I am the World Tree.” This declaration places you in all three realms, and allows you to traverse shamanic space.  It states that you are the World Tree, and that you ride the stang to other realms.

The Qabbalistic Cross  (Closing)

Now repeat the Qabbalistic Cross as you began.
Imagine a ball of light above your head. Reach up with your right hand and grab the light. When you touch yourself with that hand, part of the light will go into you.
Touch your forehead as you say “Corona” (Crown). Let it fill with the light.
Touch your pelvis at the pubic bone and say “Serpens” (Serpent). Let it fill with light.
Touch your right shoulder and say “Clementia” (Mercy). Let it fill with light.
Touch your left shoulder and say “Severitas” (Severity). Let it fill with light.
Hold your hands in prayer over your heart and say “Benedictiones” (Blessings). Let it fill with light.
Feel your whole body fill with the cross of light.

The Three Realms


Sky, land, and sea,
Three-in-one, one-in-three.
~Celtic prayer

In most traditional cultures, people have viewed both the outer world and the inner planes are corollary concepts, where the macrocosm is a reflection of the microcosm, and vice versa. A great many of these cultures, including the ones from which the American Folkloric Tradition draws spiritual nourishment, see the Universe (both the inner and outer planes) as divided into three distinct realms of experience, wisdom, healing, and magic.

Worldwide, the Three Realms can be said to incorporate an Upper Realm (heavenly, celestial sphere), a Middle Realm (earthly, terrestrial sphere), and a Lower Realm (infernal, underworldly sphere). The beneficence or maleficence associated with these realms is dependent on the culture. Each has its own dangers and its own rewards. Each is inhabitant by its own sort of people, guarded by its own warriors, and ruled by its own leaders.

American folkloric practices draw most heavily from Celtic lore and Druidic practice. The Upper Realm is called Ceugent (ky-gent) and is an airy sphere of intellect, ideas,and future-sight. The Middle Realm is earthy Gwyned, which is the here and now, consensus reality. The Lower Realm is called Abred, and it is a watery realm of the subconscious, emotion, memory, and the past.
 
These realms are accessed spiritually through the use of shamanic trance techniques that generally incorporate the image of a World Tree or a Holy Mountain. Both of these images represent a concept called the Axis Mundi, the cross of the world. It is a nearly universally perceived spiritual and energetic construct. Carl Jung described this phenomena as the Collective Unconscious. It is also called the Consciousness Unit. However we define or describe it, shamans and witches have been going to the Tree or the Mountain since time immemorial to tap into the wisdom, insight, and healing that can be found within.

For purposes of spiritual travel (or “witch flight”), we use the image of the Spiral Castle (Caer Sidhe) spinning around to open its gate to the different points of the wheel of the year.  Its spire reaches up to the North Star, and its caverns are home to the great forge and the cauldron.  The pole is symbolized literally in our circles by the raising of the stang. By its virtue we can “ride” the stang to any place in the realms, though we may also use our own personal riding-pole, or gandreigh, to do so. Read more about the Stang and World Tree here.

Here are some associations for each of the three realms.

First Realm
Ceugent
Upperworld, Upper Realm
Realm of Sky, Wind, Otherworld
Struggle and enlightenment
Preservation: the undying realm, absence of decay
Birth, beginnings
The mind
Breath
Expansion/expansiveness
Perspective
Movement, setting in motion (beginning)
First arm of the Triskle
Spire of the Spiral Castle
Entry through flight or climbing
Metacognition
Black Knife/Athame

Second Realm
Gwyned
Earth world, Center world, Realm of Land, Middle Earth
Day-to-day struggles and concerns
Consensus reality, the here and now
Physicality
Living bones and flesh
Harsh realities
Progress, action, doing
Going through something
Middles
Limits and limitations (perceived and real)
Second arm of Triskle
Place of the Doorway of the Spiral Castle (and the Tor on which the Castle sits)
No entry needed (already in this realm)
Manipulation of perception/changing one’s reality/glamory
Consciousness
White Knife/Kerfane-Bolline

Third Realm
Abred
Underworld, Realm of the Sea
Barrows, carins, caves
Initiation/Dragon chamber beneath the Tor of the Castle
Deep mystery
Truth beyond substance or thought
Emotion
Healing the soul
Rest
Death and preparation
Empathy
Blood, birth fluids, menses, semen, sweat
Oceans, lakes, ponds, pools
Inner self
Subliminal, Unconscious, Subconcious
Entry through caves, wells, etc.
Springs and wells bring energy/life from the third realm to the second
Third leg of Triskle
Red Knife/Shelg

June Totems: Stag

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree.

June’s totems are the Stag, the Robin, and the Oak. These symbols are each associated with the Oak King who falls in battle at Midsummer which is mid-June.  Also we associate Midsummer with Cernnunos, who we honor as the Oak King, Lord of the Castle of Stone.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Stag – nobility, culling the herd, call to adventure, pride, grace; Damh
Oak – security, steadfastness, primeval vigor, doorway, strength; Duir
Robin – growth, territoriality, fire; Spideog

The Stag

The Stag is the male aspect of the deer. As such, some discussion of the qualities of deer in general is helpful to understand Stag. Deer are associated with gentleness, innocence and a luring to new adventure. They are very adaptable, and they are native to every continent except Australia.

Many legends exist in which deer lure hunters and/or kings into the forest for adventures. One prominent example of this is the story of Gawain and the White Hart. Gawain followed the Hart willingly, though the pursuit ended in an unpleasant realization of Gawain’s own shortcomings. However, by following willingly and facing his darker nature, Gawain was able to confront his rage and learn to control it, making him one of the best Knights of the Round Table.

The Stag is a symbol of pride and independence. He is an example of grace, majesty, integrity, poise and dignity. These are indeed kingly qualities, so it is no wonder that there is a deer referred to as King Stag. In fact, this King Stag is associated in many ways with the Lord of the Wild Hunt, as both are responsible for protecting the herd and culling it of weaknesses.

The Stag is one of the five Oldest Animals in Welsh tradition. He leads a willing seeker deeper into the Mysteries and into the Otherworld. He is a guardian of the gateway between this plane and the Otherworld and delivers messages from that realm.

The Stag’s antlers are made of bone and shed every year for 5 years. (In some species, both the male and female have antlers). The antlers start to grow in early summer and are fully developed by rutting time (late Autumn). The Stag sheds antlers around Imbolc (before birth of young). The antlers are protective by nature, and they also represent higher levels of attunement.

The Stag is a symbol of fertility and rampant sexuality, which is also related to the Lord of the Hunt and the Horned Gods.

Mankind has honored the power of Stag for centuries. Images of Shamans dressed in antlers and deer skins are often found in folklore and legend. A famous example of this is the Gundestrup Cauldron, on which we find the most familiar image of Cernunnos as an Antlered Man. To this day, we dress in antlers and skins to portray the power and dignity of the Stag.

You can learn more about our tradition’s wheel of the year through this link.

June Totems: Oak

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree.

June’s totems are the Stag, the Robin, and the Oak. These symbols are each associated with the Oak King who falls in battle at Midsummer which is mid-June.  Also we associate Midsummer with Cernnunos, who we honor as the Oak King, Lord of the Castle of Stone.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Stag – nobility, culling the herd, call to adventure, pride, grace; Damh
Oak – security, steadfastness, primeval vigor, doorway, strength; Duir
Robin – growth, territoriality, fire; Spideog

Oak

The Oak is the King of the Trees. Ancient Celts observed the oak’s massive growth and impressive expanse. They took this as a clear sign that the oak was to be honored for its endurance, and noble presence. Wearing oak leaves was a sign of special status among many ancient European peoples.

There are accounts that trace the name “druid” to duir, the Celtic term for the oak. The actual translation of duir is “door” and lore indicates that Witches can access the ethereal planes of higher thought by using the oak as a door into magical places.

The oak is a tree of protection and strength. It has a high tannin content that makes it resistant to fungus. The wood of the oak is used in making doors and boats.

Druids met in oak groves and ate their acorns to ingest the ancient knowledge contained in them. Because of their expansive growth, oak trees often attract lightning strikes, which confer greater mystical power to them. Mistletoe grows best on the Oak and is the most sacred herb of the Druids.

The oak is associated with security, steadfastness and primeval vigor. The elemental association with the Oak is fire, and the gender association is masculine.

You can learn more about our tradition’s wheel of the year through this link.

Links:
Controverscial “In Worship of Trees”: Oak
Wikipedia: Oak
About: Oak Symbolism

August Totems: Horse

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. August’s totems are Horse, Apple, and Swan.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Horse (Each) – travel, power, freedom, civilization
Apple (Quert) – beauty, choices, love, inspiration
Swan (Eala) – shape-shifting, love, grace, beauty

Horse

The Horse is associated with the female Divine, the land, and travel both on the inner and outer planes. It is connected to the Sun and is a symbol of sexual desired. Furthermore, it is associated with power and freedom, divination, the spread of civilization, birth. Wind and sea foam often signify the power of the Horse.

The Horse’s skills for hauling, hunting and battle have made it an animal that has been a true partner to mankind in many respects. It has been connected to head hunting due to the fact that warriors would frequently hang the severed heads of defeated opponents about the necks of the horses. Horse gear and/or parts, like the teeth, as well as whole horses were often interred with their masters upon the human’s death. Horse bones found in the foundations of houses to bring good luck, like horse shoes today. These findings indicate a long history of the Horse in connection to the burial rites of the Celts and other cultures.

Epona, Rhiannon and Macha are all Celtic Horse-Goddesses. In some images a Mare holds a key to the Underworld or Otherworld. Rhiannon is seen riding out of the Otherworld on a white horse. A common activity at Samhain and Beltane is the riding hobbyhorses.  The Horse is often a phantom creature or provoker of nightmares, who get their name from her, as Mare is an Irish Goddess.

The Horse is associated with freedom because it allows us to move without restriction from place to place. However, this freedom often comes without proper restraints, which can lead to trouble for the rider. The connection to freedom is also echoed in the poets’ tendencies to liken horse-riding to flying.

Sovereignty is another aspect of the Horse. In Ireland the kings performed a symbolic marriage with the horse to secure their rule and connection to the land. The Horse was then slaughtered, its blood spilling upon the ground, and its meat eaten by those in attendance. This is a version of the Sacred Marriage.
   
You can learn more about our tradition’s wheel of the year through this link.

August Totems: Apple

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. August’s totems are Horse, Apple, and Swan.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Horse (Each) – travel, power, freedom, civilization
Apple (Quert) – beauty, choices, love, inspiration
Swan (Eala) – shape-shifting, love, grace, beauty

Apple


The Apple is a deciduous tree. The wild crab-apple is Britain’s only indigenous type. It is related to the rose family, along with Hawthorn, and so it develops thorns from spurs on its branches. It has gnarled trunks, often growing at crazy angles to “hide” amongst other trees. It’s leaves are almost heart-shaped, and its blossoms are deep pink with a scent similar to honeysuckle, which attracts bees. Some types of Apple trees can hold fruit on the branches throughout the winter.

This tree represents the choice between similar and equally attractive things. It is one of the “Seven Chieftain Trees” of the Celts. It’s fruit and bark are used in tanning.

The Apple is associated with love spells, likely due to its associations with Aphrodite. The “Gardens of the Hesperides” contained an especially sacred apple tree that granted immortality. The Hesperides ,nine beautiful maidens, representatives of Aphrodite, guarded this tree, and a serpent was coiled at its roots. The Greeks sometimes saw the sun as a crimson apple sinking into the sea, being replaced by Hesperus (Venus) the ‘star’ sacred to Aphrodite. An apple cut open crosswise reveals the sign of the pentagram, a symbol also associated with Aphrodite, due partially to the fact that the planet Venus, the heavenly embodiment of the Goddess, cut a perfect pentagram in the sky over the course of four years. The Apple’s association with Aphrodite is further strengthened by the golden apple, engraved with the words “For the Fairest,” that was awarded to her by Paris and which resulted in the beginning of the Trojan War.

The Apple has long been sacred to the Celts, as well. One of its sacred islands, Avalon, is named the “Isle of Apples.” Old apple trees are more likely than other types of trees to host mistletoe, making them sacred to Druids. Merlin also had a sacred apple orchard. Apple cider was said to be the most sacred drink of the Druids.

July Totems: Hound

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. July’s totems are the Hound, the Eagle, and the Elm.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Hound (Cu) – loyalty, protection, guidance
Elm (Lemh) – elves, light, purification, wisdom
Eagle (Iolair) – light, renewal, loyalty, intelligence, courage

Hound

The Dog is animal of faithfulness, protection, guidance, loyalty and warning. It is an excellent companion and work-mate. Dogs have been used for herding, hunting and sporting for thousands of years, and several types are bred to accentuate these qualities.

In India, Dog is a symbol of all cast systems, indicating the small becoming great. In Greece, Dog is seen as a companion and a guardian to the places of the dead.

This association between Dog and places of dead is also evident in Celtic tradition. The Dog is seen as a Guardian of the Mysteries who fiercely defends that which we hold sacred. Dogs have often been guardians of animals, livestock, homes and people. However, they have also been guardians of road, crossroads and gateways, which links them with Mysteries and Underworld entrances. In fact, there is a phantom, Black Dog who presages death or patrols ancient places of transit. It is generally known as the Barghest, Black Shuck, Black Shag, Gytrash, Kludde, Shriker, Padfoot, Hooter, and other names. The Black Dog acts in his role to protect and guide the soul of the dead into the Underworld. Totemic hounds can also lead the living through difficult journeys into the Unconscious.

Fairy Dogs, variously known as the Cŵn Annwn, Gabriel Ratchets, or Yell Hounds, were the companions of Gwynn ap Nudd, Lord of the Wild Hunt. They are said to be white with red ears and sometimes have a spectral greenish glow. Their barking was likened to the sound of geese honking in the night sky, and it was said that whomever witnessed their passage would soon join them in the Underworld. According to Welsh folklore, their growling is loudest when they are at a distance, and as they draw nearer, it grows softer and softer.

The term Cu (Dog) was given to many chiefs, warriors, heroes and champions in Celtic lore. For example, Cu-Chulainn’s name means the Hound of Chulainn. Even certain kings were honored in this way. There were also many heroes who were accompanied by a Dog: Bran, Lugh, King Arthur, Tristan, Cu-Chulainn, and Fionn MacCumhaill (Bran and Sgeolan).

You can learn more about our tradition’s wheel of the year through this link.

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