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October and the fall is my favorite time of year. The world is transforming in color and climate. The winds of change blow a cool breeze and lead the way to a deeper sense of self. And I'm ready for my pumpkin pie.
Inspired by the season, this is a very magickal issue. First and foremost we welcome our new officiants to the fold. We present knot magick and the Nine Knot Spell. I discuss the thinning of the veil between our living world and the world of our ancestors in the context of labor and delivery. And we present a special essay on sacred food offerings and feasts for the dead by Mama Donna Henes.
May this season bring you magick, mirth and reverence.
A note on the spelling of the word "magick": many Pagans and Wiccans prefer adding the "k" at the end to differentiate it from mundane stage magic (ala David Copperfield or Criss Angel). In this newsletter, I mostly use the spelling with the letter "k." Apologies in advance to language purists.
|Welcome New Officiants!
We are very pleased to introduce our latest officiants, newly listed on Handfastings.org.
Erica Shadowsong of Maryland - Performing handfastings in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, Erica is also a professional storyteller and religious educator. She enjoys the "bardic" arts most of all, and brings mythology and folklore to life with song and dramatic performance. She performs sometimes as half of a duo in the group Bardic Hearts. Erica writes, reads, and sings for pleasure, facilitates a peer solitary practice circle called the Moonlit Grove Initiates, and is a historical reenactment enthusiast.
Rev. Lauren Sabo of Ohio is currently working on a handfasting centered wedding planning guide for couples.
Rev. Grant Balfour, D.D. of Florida (pictured) is also a writer, scholar, professor and musician.
Rev. Grant Balfour
Rev. JD Weiss, PhD. of Nevada is the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nevada Universal Life Church. In addition to performing weddings, he is also a Notary Public, a certified travel agent, a pilot, photographer, Freemason, a HAM radio operator, a Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) member and Southwest Area MARS Region 9 Public Information Officer and HF Net Manager, and a Certified Firearms Instructor and Range Safety Officer teaching NRA courses and CCW/CFP courses in the states of Nevada, Utah and Florida. Wow!
Rev. Pamela of Illinois also performs handfastings in Wisconsin and Indiana. She is the organizer of FriendGathering, FriendlyPagans and co-organizer with Mark Mandrake on PaganMeet and ChicagoPagans.com. Rev. Pam is an ordained minister, and licensed to perform legal marriage / civil union in the state of Illinois, a Tai Chi instructor, a hereditary witch and a mom. She has been publicly practicing for over twenty five years! She also performs private spell work. Rev. Pam's motto is, "Helping to build a peaceful, fair, and free world."
And don't forget to visit Handfastings.org to see who else is on our
Spells, Lore, and Symbolism
I've probably mentioned this countless times, but the phrase "tying the knot," which today refers to a marriage ceremony, has its roots in knot magick (and knot logic). Logically, tying a knot symbolizes a bond, and when the knot is used in a wedding ceremony, it symbolizes the couple unifying their love. But did you know that you can use knot magick in other ways?
Knot Magick is also referred to as Cord Magick or Binding Magick. Because of its visual and tangible properties, it is a powerful way to create a spell. You can use a rope, cord, string, piece of yarn, or ribbon to signify that which you would like to manifest. As you tie knots in the cord, you declare your desires. For even more of an impact, you can tie things into each knot if you need to represent something, such as feathers, hair, or pieces of paper into each knot.
Traditional Nine Knot Spell
By the knot of one, the spell's begun
By the knot of two, I make it true
By the knot of three, so mote it be
By the knot of four, the open door
By the knot of five, the spell's alive
By the knot of six, the spell is fixed
By the knot of seven, the earth and heaven
By the knot of eight, the stroke of fate
By the knot of nine, the thing is mine
At the tying of the last (ninth) knot, all the energy is directed into the cord and its knots, with a final visualization of the object of the work. The power has been raised and is now "stored" in these knots in the cord. For the magick to take hold, the knots must be released one at a time - one a day - for nine consecutive days. Release the knots in the same order in which they were tied - not in the reverse order.
The Witches' Ladder
A "Witches' Ladder" is a fetish in folk magic or witchcraft made from knotted cord or hair that normally constitutes a spell. Charms are knotted or braided with specific magical intention into the cords. The number of knots and nature of charms varies with the intended effect [Deanna J. Conway, Wicca: The Complete Craft, 2001].
As in all magic, intention is key to manifesting your actions.
The Witches' Ladder
How to Make a Witches' Ladder
One of the most powerful charms is the Witches' Ladder. This is a cord made of three lengths of colored yarn braided together, with different colored feathers knotted into the cord at regular intervals. Witches' Ladders can be a general charm of protection and good fortune. They can also be used for a specific purpose, such as the gaining of mystical knowledge, health or prosperity. An "all-purpose" Witches' Ladder would include nine feathers, each a different color, and a cord of three colors braided together. The traditional colors are white, red and black. These represent the three aspects of the Goddess - the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. A Witches' Ladder for a specific purpose would include three feathers and one length of yarn braided into the cord of a specific color.
To make a Witches' Ladder, gather the necessary materials on the night of the Full Moon. Arrange your altar and cast a Circle. Use one yard (or other desired length) of each color of yarn. Tie the three ends together in a knot. Braid them together chanting the following as you braid:
Yarn of Red, Black and White; Work your magick spell this night.
Repeat this chant until the entire length of yarn is braided. Braiding itself is a magickal art because it makes the three strands into one. When the braid is finished, tie a knot in the end. Starting from a foot from the start of the braid, tie in the first feather with a knot around its base, saying:
With this feather and this string; Prosperity this charm will bring.
When all nine feathers have been tied into the cord, as evenly spaced as possible, tie the ends of the cord together to form a circle. Pass it through the candle flame and incense smoke, asperge it with salt and water, and say the following:
In the names of the Goddesses and the God.
By Air, Earth, Fire and Water.
I consecrate this charm of feathers nine and cord of three.
As I will, so mote it be!
Hang the Witches' Ladder high in your house somewhere where you will see it every day.
A handfasting cord, a newer generation of the Witches' Ladder, is a contemporary representation of this deep-rooted spell.
For further reference, here is a link to Knot Magic for Proposals, a brief article from one of our recent newsletters:
Knot Magick , A Brief History by Eliza Yetter:
Beyond the Veil:
Transformative Labor and the Mother Goddess
I am fast approaching my due date, and I may even have a new baby by the time you read this issue. Even before I had my first child (this will be my second), I had the honor of attending the birth of my friend Nicole's baby. Just being there was a magickal experience, and it was then that I realized that for the birthing mother, this is a very real moment of being between the worlds of life and death. Not in such a literal sense of death being near, but rather in that mystical world where time does not exist.
While laboring, my friend began to sing "Amazing Grace," a traditional African American spiritual and Christian hymn associated with funeral processions and memorials used to inspire hope in the wake of death. Nicole had not even been brought up Christian, and yet, from the back of her psyche to the tip of her tongue effortlessly came the first few lines of the song. Twenty four hours after having given birth, I brought it up to her. At the time, she did not remember even singing it. She was in an ethereal state of mind while she was giving birth - in another place and time.
The woman giving birth journeys into an otherworldly state.
She enters a natural mode of survival, where everything around her blurs as she focuses on the very important task at hand. During this time, nothing else matters.
Being so close to Samhain, the high Wiccan sabbat of transformation and ancestry connection, the woman in labor is, extraordinarily, an appropriate symbol for this time of year (as one might think of childbirth as only a symbol for springtime). It is now, during Autumn when the leaves change and the world begins its decent into slumber, when the mysteries of life and death deepen, that our world collides with that of our ancestors. We call this the "veil" between the worlds. This is when the veil is at its thinnest: an opportune time to communicate with the dead - our loved ones who have crossed over to the other side. The baby that is being born is a gift from our ancestors.
Childbirth recreates the crossing of the veil: exiting slumber and entering life. The birthing mother is both the earthly enchantress and the sacred goddess, delivering a being from one world to another. Delivery becomes a hallowed transformation for both mother and child.
The eve of Samhain (October 31st) is an especially auspicious time to be born. Those who are born on this day are said to have a special gift of communication with otherworldly beings and a keen sense of intuition.
While my "due" date is a few days after Samhain, I'm shooting for October 31st, of course! But alas, the baby will be born when it wants to be born. I'll keep you posted...
Always a Bridesmaid...
Sometimes a Spiritual Bouncer
The Role of the Bridesmaid:
Shooing Away Evil Spirits
The bridesmaid has an important role in a wedding. Today, this may mean assisting the bride in any way that she needs on her wedding day. But in the past, the bridesmaid had a more mystical function.
In ancient Rome, it was believed that during a wedding, there would be evil spirits lurking in order to lure the bride astray. To combat the malevolent spirits, the bride's handmaidens would dress in identical clothing to the bride on the day of the wedding to confuse any ethereal (or worldly) beings to steal the bride and her dowry away from her groom.
|Victorian bridesmaids in wedding gowns identical to that of the bride. From The Illustrated London News, circa late 1800. |
Bridesmaids would stand next to the bride and groom in order to confuse the spirits, going so far as to wear the same veil intended to conceal their identities. To this day, bridesmaids will often wear the same dresses or colors at a wedding. Even as late as the early 1970's, traditional attire for a bridesmaid would include a veil or large hat.
Blessings on the Day of the Dead:
Death Feeds Life Feeds Death
By Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
Mid-autumn, when all of nature seems to be dying, has long been the season to observe feasts of the dead in Northern cultures. These death days at once mourn and rejoice the death of the bounty of the land. Lamenting the demise of the animals and plants while at the same time, thankful for their death, which brings us life.
The celebration of death's feeding life is expanded to include the care and feeding of the dead by the living. In ancient Persia, food and drink was placed in the hall of the dead. The dead are called into supper in Cambodia on the Festival of the Dead. In China, the feast of the dead, Chung YŁan, is called The Hungry Ghost Festival.
The Dahomey of West Africa prepare a harvest ritual called Setting the Table and invite the spirits of the ancestors. In Sicily as well, the table is set for those returning from the grave on I Morti, The Dead. Families in Central and South America and parts of Italy hold picnics in the cemetery with the past generations right on their graves. A sort of breakfast in bed for the dead. Feasting the dead is even evident in our language. The words "ghost" and "guest" both derive from the same Germanic root, geist, and were pronounced the same until only recently.
By acknowledging those who walked before us, we can set our own life into context. The practice of paying homage to past generations - the veneration of the ancestors - keeps that connection intact through the ages. We put our own paths into perspective by recognizing the trailblazers who made our lives possible: Those from whom we have inherited our world. Those to whom we owe our lives. Those whose blood, pain, guilt and triumph travels through our own brains and bodies. To those, who are our roots, we toast our thanks.
L'Chaim! To life!
To read about holidays and holy days in more depth, check out Mama Donna's book, Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles & Celebrations at: www.DonnaHenes.net
© Donna Henes - Permission is granted to copy, reproduce, re-print or promulgate in any manner this copyrighted material so long as correct attribution and contact information is included.
Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, ritual expert, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than 100 cities since 1972. She has published four books, a CD, an acclaimed Ezine and writes for The Huffington Post, Beliefnet and UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she works with individuals, groups, institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.
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