I have just moved from Oxford, England, to Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. As you can imagine, this will cause some emotional upheaval. I feel very rooted in England, and am concerned about the issue of land stolen from Indigenous people in Canada, and the effects of colonialism on their wellbeing and way of life.
I wish there were more spaces where we could talk about the body and its changes and processes in an inclusive way. That is to say, in a way that includes trans, genderqueer, and non-binary people, and people of all ages, and doesn’t create an essentialist account of what bodily functions mean.
Beltane is coming, and with it, the celebration of love. Spare a thought for those who are left out of all the joyous coupling, and those who are marginalised by less inclusive ways of celebrating love.
Fertility can be re-purposed into a theme of caring for the environment, or of general creativity. And as Doreen Valiente wrote in The Charge of the Goddess, “All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals”.
Ritual roles are often allocated according to gender, but this doesn’t need to be the case. Allocating roles by gender seems a lazy shorthand for the archetypes you want the ritual role to express. There are so many different archetypes, and not all of them are gender-specific. How about if we allocated ritual roles according to the archetype they are intended to embody, or the skills that are needed for the task at hand?
Dark Mirror: the inner work of witchcraft
Inner work is a name commonly given to the inner processes that happen in ritual. It can also mean the transformation of the psyche that comes about through engaging in religious ritual. However, the best kind of inner work also has an effect outside the individual and outside the circle. When rituals are focused only on self-development, they tend to be a bit too introspective. Ritual is about creating and maintaining relationships and connections – between body, mind, and spirit; with the Earth, Nature, the land, the spirit world, the community, and friends. It is about making meaning, weaving a web of symbolism, story, mythology, meaning, community, and love. Creating a community that welcomes and celebrates diversity. Creating strong and authentic identity to resist the pressures of consumerism and commercialism and capitalism. Weaving relationship with other beings: humans, animals, birds, spirits, deities.
Some versions of the Wheel of the Year (the eight festivals of Wicca and Druidry) can feel excluding, particularly those that focus on the God and the Goddess interacting through the cycle of the seasons. This mythological construct excludes both polytheists and LGBTQIA people. Some versions of the story are uncomfortable for feminists, as they don’t exactly promote consent culture. It is worth noting that the “cycle of the God and the Goddess” doesn’t appear in any early Gardnerian Books of Shadows (e.g. November Eve, 1949, February Eve, 1949, May Eve, 1949, August Eve, 1949). The solstices and equinoxes were added to the Wiccan year-wheel in the 1950s.
For all sorts of reasons, then, I prefer to go back to the original mythology and symbolism associated with the festivals.
One of my favourite folk rituals is the practice of wassailing. This is done in apple-growing districts to wake up the apple trees and encourage them to produce plenty of fruit in the autumn. I love it so much that I planted an apple tree in my garden so I could wassail it.Continue reading
It is a useful magical and intellectual exercise to examine each segment of your ritual structure, and ask yourself why you do it in the particular way that you do. Why do we sweep the circle, consecrate it with water, salt, and incense, cast it with a sword, and so on? What is the function and symbolism of each of these actions? Can they be improved – either in the sense of making them more magically effective, more reflective of reality, or more inclusive?
There is still considerable confusion over what inclusive Wicca actually is. In part, this could be because the people who are confused about it haven’t read my book, All acts of love and pleasure: inclusive Wicca (available on Kindle and in paperback), or the short guide to being an inclusive coven.
I have been thinking for a while that we need more liturgical poetry in Pagan traditions. I have been thinking for a while about the beautiful pieces of music composed for the Requiem Mass, and thinking how great it would be to have a Pagan Requiem – something life-affirming, but acknowledging grief and death. So I wrote one. Feel free to use it – please credit me if you do. If anyone feels like composing some music for it, that would be awesome.
A Pagan Requiem
The earth that moved
The air that filled
The fire that flashed
The water that flowed
The body that loved
Are gone, all gone.
Flesh to Earth,
Breath to the winds,
The fire to ashes,
The water to the deep places.
But the spirit remains,
Enfolded in the embrace
Of the gods.
Love is the mystery,
The hidden fire
That moves the world.
A life well lived
Is a fit offering to the gods.
Living with honour,
Weeping with those who mourn,
Lifting up the oppressed.
And creating laughter, joy, and meaning,
This is the blessing of virtue,
The garden of the well-kept spirit,
The strength of the oak,
And the grace of the willow.
Blessed are the mourners,
And a blessing on the one who goes forth
Into the unknown.
The heavens and the Earth weep for them,
And humanity is diminished at their loss.
We who are left behind weep for them,
And they sail across the ocean of our tears.
The season of grief is needful
For the soul’s healing.
And so we weep, and so we weep,
For all that is lost,
For all that we left unsaid,
For the beloved dead.
See the soul-boat’s guiding light
On the oceans of the night
Let the pilgrim soul take flight
Across the river of forgetting
To the place where souls are waiting
For their moment of rebirth.
May they rest in the arms of the Star Goddess,
In the eternal twilight of the summerlands,
The valley of yews, the hall of heroes,
The islands of the blest,
The unknown regions.
And in due time, may they be reborn
Among those who will love them,
And may they flourish.
Love is the mystery,
The mystic marriage
Of matter and spirit,
The hidden fire
That moves the world.
23 November 2016