Tag Archives: ceremony

Midwinter Solstice 2017- Lessons from the dark

I was going to put the ‘Yule’ chapter of my Wheel of the Year series as this festival’s entry, but it needs one hell of a re-write and, quite frankly, I’m not in the mood to rewrite pages of material.

Thursday marked the Winter Solstice and it was a dark, damp cloudy day. I was inspired! I wrote a piece for all my friends in Facebook land, I like to spread hope where I can.

Light, dark, balance is what counts. Lean too much towards the former and we see everything with rose-tinted glasses. There is no wrong in the world. Ignorance is bliss. Lean too much towards the latter and, well, there is everything wrong with the world.

I managed to get out of the house to take a walk in Highfields Park, just outside of Beeston, Notts. Although by the time I got there, the sun had already set and dusk would soon give way to night. This reminded me of the Owl card that I had drawn at the beginning of 2017. The concept of ‘Owl Time‘ was not lost on me.

Realising I was rushing through. I stopped and took in 9 deep breaths and closing my eyes. After that, I heard the sound of something in the lake. I turned and found a whole group of ducks swimming by the side of the man in the wheelchair being pushed by another. The ducks recognised him and were expecting to be fed…. their disappointment was evident when they started waddling along the embankment and quacking amongst themselves. A black bird with a white bill and stripe on its forehead ‘Pinged’ at the ducks. The scene was reminiscent of a uniformed official trying to keep order of loud football fans and the fans ignoring him as they pass him by.

Later, as I walked, it was getting darker but I could see to my right two white specks moving uphill. Two hares making their way. Do hares hibernate? I didn’t think so.

I went onto the small island where, surrounded by six tall Yew trees, I performed my ‘Five Senses Meditation’. By now it was dark and yet through the clouds, I could see cracks of a lighter sky. Night had not yet fallen.

Going to the lakeside, I made sure I wasn’t giving a false impression to the ducks (no snacks from this two-legged who didn’t think to bring munchies for the birds), bent down toward the water and held my right hand over the surface. Here, I gave my respects to the Lady of the Lake. When I was done, my hand was warm. And it was time to go home to perform my Ovate ceremony to greet the Solstice.

On my way home, I could see a clearing in the clouds getting larger until I reached my front door and the clearing revealed the sky as a teal-greeny-blue, right on the clock as the Solstice begun.

I came away from the park with these two lessons:

The importance of stillness.

There is always life, both in winter and the dark.

And as I was performing my personal ceremony, I was taken by Awen as I said out aloud and made the following observations :

In the dark, there is rest.

In the dark, there is the hidden.

In the dark, there is fear.

With fear, you can either run, do nothing, or take a stand.

Sometimes we must run, there is nothing wrong with a tactical retreat to fight another day. Sometimes we can do nothing but let the threat pass over. But there comes a time when we cannot run and we cannot do nothing and we must make a stand.

I said out aloud my fear and decided to take it on with the lesson I have gained from this year: Nothing is Accomplished Without Action. It was then the candle was lit.

Sure enough, the day after the Solstice was bright, the sky was clear and the sun shone with brilliance.

Merry Yuletide, one and all!


Why perform ritual? 

“Do you perform it for their glory, or for yours?” Was the question that popped into my head as I poured the water from Monday’s ceremony into the kitchen plant. 

    A slight rewording from the question posed to Dr. Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but an effective one nonetheless. 

    That previous night had me perform a personal meditation in order to find an answer to something I was thinking through.  Well, more accurately, the meditation was the middle bit of my ceremony (to my fellow members of the Grove who wanted to know how it is I can recall the words by rote….. This is how).  And to perform the meditations and visualisations I use without the ceremonial bits feels…. Naked.

    This is how I do it: 

    1. Peace to the quarters.
    2. Cast the circle.
    3. Bless the circle with fire and water.
    4. Prayer to deity or deities.
    5. Awens.
    6. Middle bit.
    7. ‘Hour of recall….’
    8. Thanks to Deity.
    9. Uncast the circle.
    10. Declaration of the end of ceremony. 

        It’s mainly based on the general OBOD ceremonies, but I have found the form that works for me.  No flowers though.  Can’t be doing with taking from the plant realm for the sake of aesthetics!

          The Order encourages members to try things out and see how things work for them, even saying to stop something if it doesn’t work for you.  I have kept the above as it works for me.  Some of the wording is different and the words I say to deity are my own. 

        The ritual water I give to the household plants, a way of giving back and not wasting what was taken.

        There was a time I would perform this every day, and even though it did calm my being, I became stifled with the repetition.  So now, I like to do it with meaning, the ritual bringing calm and satisfaction to myself as well as honour and communication to those that are listening.  

        Do I do it for their glory?  Not really, as I have other personal rituals for giving thanks and honour.

        Do I do it for my glory?  Perhaps.  But when I perform the ceremony it isn’t for glory, it is a series of repetitious actions that allow me to enter a certain level of consciousness that allows me to find a stillness.  This stillness can be used to calm my fiery temperament, to gain insight or inspiration.  

        And even if there is no one in the ether, the ceremony still serves it’s purpose. 

        “There are FOUR lights!” Pic by Locksley2010.

        Warrior’s Call- Lighting the Beacon, Sept 2015

        From the Warrior Call FB page, Art by Tim Harris

        On Saturday night (26th September) I took part in another Anti-Fracking ceremony.  And, I didn’t organise it!  Although I did volunteer for calling South, it’s my favourite thing to do in a ceremony.

        I was especially glad to see that 32 people turned up.  Yep, 32! Coming from someone who has been co-organising public Pagan ceremonies here in Nottingham and knowing the old adage ‘gathering Pagans is like herding cats’ this is quite an achievement indeed.

        We made our circle in the shadows, with only the far off street lights of the stairs into the park and the cafe to help us see.

        The fire was lit and candles handed out to help focus energy and purity.

        An eager woman guided us through grounding before the Speaker told us of why we had gathered and how our cause was important.  The Caller called forth the blessings of the directions, even working the phrase ‘Frack Off!’ into the ceremony.

        Voices hummed and sang, the beating of the drum thundered in our hearts and it was time for us to summon the quarters in another way.

        “May the people of the Land rise up to protect the Great Mother, You WILL NOT FRACK!” I yelled in defiance followed by a roar.

        Our intention was to make a Cone of Power by moving Widdershins and making noise.  Some sang, some called out, others beat their drums or clapped.  I Morris skipped all the way around and eventually our voices became one:

        “You will not FRACK! You will not FRACK! We BAN-ISH you! We BAN-ISH you!

        Over and over again until we raised our candles and released the cone by blowing out all the flames.

        A sharing of thoughts and minds took place, perhaps a little too long for those who were older and needed rest.  Apart from that, we proved that for a cause people can and will come together and say “No!”

        The time has come for us to walk our talk, and those among the 32 did just that.

        Here’s a couple of links you might want to look at.

        The first is a site campaigning to save Sherwood Forest from a proposal to gain licensing to frack Sherwood Forest (yes, you read that right!): Here</a>. Click it and it will send you to the Government site where you can post your reasons and suggestions against fracking there.  Please hurry, the deadline is 23:30 tonight!

        The second is a video from YouTube’s ‘Sci-Show’ to see what actually goes into fracking… and what can happen afterwards.  Here.

        Fidelity To Your Deity?

        Merry Imbolc, folks!

        I found it curious that in modern Druidry, Imbolc has been declared as the first celebration of Spring.


        I mean, this is when Winter bites the hardest, right? The nights are gradually getting shorter, but they aren’t getting warmer just yet.  When the air is milder and the birds return and that smell of plant life is here THEN come back and tell me we can start celebrating Spring!

        Be that as it may, I brought in Imbolc at home on Sunday 1st Feb (I know… Going with the modern calendar instead of the New Moon in February -18th for Astronomers and 21st for the religious- what WAS I thinking!?) by taking down the Yule decorations and keeping my Tree Lights up on my wall.  I also put my lava lamp in a more prime place… Bringing in the light indeed!

        I also did a very short and private honouring ceremony, I was meant to be joining my friends for a night of Geeky pleasures, but wanted to give offerings to the Divine.

        I lit my candle and offered the Gift of Air: Patchouli incense for honouring the Gods.  The Gift of Liquid: Seeming it was Imbolc or “Lactation” I thought Goats Milk was appropriate.  For the Gift of Earth I offered a bowl of cooked pork mince (homemade Bolognese sauce- from scratch muddafukka!) As Pork is food of the Gods, after all.  This is a version of the Land, Sky, Sea mind set which I developed on. 

        I dedicated these to the Cailleach (Grandmother), The Morrigan (Queen) and to Brighid (Lady).  The bracketed titles are just what I feel drawn to when those Goddesses come to mind.  I just don’t see them as the Maid, Mother, Crone that modern Paganism is so keen to pigeonhole.  Afterwards, I sat in silence for a few moments and was urged to use the DAO. 

        Bringing in the light... Unconvetionally!

        I pulled out the card, Corr, the Crane, upright.  The card of patience, transition and hidden knowledge.  I’d read somewhere that it was one of the Birds of the River Goddesses, so I took it to mean that the Goddesses I called to were pleased with my offerings.  Just as well, because I encountered something I didn’t expect: a question of loyalty.

        For all those who normally follow my blog, then you’ll already know I work with and revere the Morrigan.  And in a way, dedicating this seasonal celebration to her and two others, seemed (at least in my mind) like I was cheating on Her.  The card helped alleviate this, but there was still that niggling feeling of ‘Aawww! You’ve included other Goddesses… Just you wait until she finds out!’ In the back of my mind.  Which is ridiculous.  Both Morrigan and Brighid come from the Tuatha De Danaan and I have sworn no fealty to only one.  By rights, I have paid my respects with Danu, Brighid, Lugh, The Dagda and the Cailleach and even Dian Cecht before the Morrigan came into my life.  I certainly didn’t replace her with either of the two deities, I gave respect according to their seasons: End of Autumn for the Cailleach and the ending of Winter for Brighid.

        The way I see it, The Morrigan is my prime Goddess.  She is my teacher and guide to my ‘warrior’ self.  The part of me that requires action.  Brighid is a Goddess of Bards (amongst others) and is a bringer of the flames of inspiration which can only be made physical by action.  The Cailleach, in whichever version I am talking to…. Being in the East Midlands, I am going to guess Black Annis is the Cailleach of these lands… a future blog there, methinks! She is the primal Goddess of Time and its cycles, the mysteries she knows of are more ancient and deeper than any.  And because I accept there are more than one deities in the universe, I was quite pleased when the Crane card came up.  If it does indeed symbolise the water goddesses, then that means no harm done and respect was rightly given for all three.

        Waters of the World Ritual- March 2014


        Pre-Full Moon. By locksley2010.

        I write this after just stuffing myself with Chinese food and orange juice, waiting to digest, I thought I’d drop in and recount today’s ceremony.

        Today was the Warriors Call ritual of ‘Waters if the World’.  Where Pagans are encouraged to gather and perform a ceremony that MUST at some point have a sacred plant placed into a river or the sea.  The idea being that this plant becomes a vessel for healing energy that then flows from where ever and eventually leads to the sea.  On its course the plant carries its healing and protective energy to help keep our water and air safe from the poisons of Fracking.

        I led the SpellCrafters Moot ceremony by the Nottingham Canal.  After the six of us had met, we went down the canal side and didn’t have to walk far to find a nice secluded area.  There was even a gorgeous gibbous moon lighting the way.

        We made a circle of ourselves and one lady said she didn’t like having her back to the water, so I took her place.  Strangely enough, I knew what she meant.  There was indeed a pull from the canal, as though it wanted me to step back and fall in…

        I had brought a nice young healthy Aloe Vera plant to act as our sacrificial vessel.  It was the offspring of its parent that I was given last year, so I thought it appropriate.  I gave the plant some of my healing energy and thoughts, passed it to the next person on my left and so on and so on until it came back to me.  I purposefully didn’t want us to call on the quarters because I wanted us to imbue the plant with blessings from the elements.  We were just about to bless it when we heard voices and a small group of hooded men walked our way.  Their voices carried until they walked around us in stoned silence (they reeked of skunk-grass-marijuana-whatever they call it nowadays) and carried on their way, looking back at whatever we were doing.  Back to the blessing we chanted for all four (spirit already flows through, plus its spirit we used to give the protective and healing energies back to the water in the first place):

        Air: From the gentle breeze around us.To inspire those who are opposed to Fracking and to find ways of fighting it.
        Blow, blow, blow, blow…

        Fire: From the reflected light of the Sun on our Moon.
        To keep the inner fire of keeping up the fight in the land as well as the anti-fracking campaigners.
        Glow, glow, glow, glow…”

        Water: The canal, which flows from and back to the River Trent.
        To accept our sacred plant and carry the energy given to where it is needed and to the sea to protect our waters and heal them too.
        Flow, flow, flow, flow…

        Earth: The ground beneath our feet
        To give the campaigners the fortitude, strength and endurance they need to keep fighting the evil of Fracking.
        Grow, grow, grow, grow…

        Afterwards we ceremonially dropped the plant into the canal, the moonlight causing every ring of the splash to be seen.  That’s when the ducks came to see if we had just given them food… sorry guys, not this time!

        Once we powered down our circle, bells rang in the distance, a sign of success?

        Will it all work? Time will tell.  I really, seriously think Fracking is a threat to our ecology, our water and our land. Its a fucked up idea that must be opposed in any way we can.  Whether its armchair activism and signing petitions (that’s me), physically getting down to a Fracking site and protesting (not yet) or ceremonially and magically resisting (just ticked the box on that one), we must fight!

        Whilst eating, I have begun watching John Boorman’s ‘Excalibur’ from 1981.

        I have just paused it to digest and write this blog.  In the last ‘chapter’ Merlin had walked away with the baby Arthur.  Uther in pursuit has just been killed but not before thrusting Excalibur into the stone, sealing the fate of the land with his son… Perhaps, the land itself does need for us to ‘retrieve’ the ‘sword of power’ in order to heal the land and expel tyranny.

        Imbolc lessons…

        I write this now after coming in from the cold and the wind.  I’ve just eaten yesterday’s leftovers of my homemade carbonara and a fresh mug if tea at the ready.

        Its been a trying day today.

        Today is Imbolc, from the old Irish for ‘parturition’ (birthing), it is the feast day of Brighid and the beginning of the end of winter as well as the start of lambing season.

        Brighid is the goddess of poetry, smithing, healing, midwifery, magic and divination.  There is a well named in the honour of St. Brigid which echoes back to the old Celtic way of naming rivers and lakes after a deity.

        I booked the day off especially so I could create a ceremony for my allotment group, here in Nottingham.
        Only three of us could make it, which didn’t cause a problem.  When calling quarters, we could call upon land, rain and sky instead of the usual four.

        I had it all planned out:
        1: Build a fire
        2: Call for blessings from the three realms.
        3: Give offerings to the allotment with what we wanted to contribute.
        4:  Make the ceremony about connecting with our inner flame and waters of life.
        5: Celebrate with tinfoil wrapped spuds warmed in the fire that we could enjoy with butter and homemade tuna mayonnaise and a flask of hot tea.

        However, it appeared Brighid had plans of her own…

        Our third member text me saying he had a stomach upset and thought being at our allotment was probably not the best place to be.

        I text Pindsvin (Swedish for ‘hedgehog) the news and prepared my OBOD Elemental Weaving Ritual as a back up to do in case I was going to be the only one turn up.  My rucksack ready to burst, I was ready to go! Until the zip broke on my green fleece jacket.  So I threw it off, got my blue one (which is ready for washing), put my waterproof jacket over that, boots and bag on and my hat. Now I was ready to go!

        I’d just left the house (an hour later than I would have liked) when I received Pindsvin’s text saying she’d be going, just a little later than planned.  No worries! It’ll just be us then.

        On the way there I contemplated the Druid Plant Oracle card ‘The Banes’ when I asked that deck if performing the weaving ritual would be a good idea.  It is a card about taking control in a positive way and about receiving unexpected help or aid.  It appeared that with Pindsvin joining me she would be crucial to the original Imbolc ritual I had planned; I had no idea the card would be so prophetic.

        Our allotment is huge.  The two newer parts to it are around the same size (approximately 70-80 square feet, each!).  The original part is for growing stuff, the second part is ritual area and the top part is, at the moment, cultivation zone.  We began with grabbing kindling in the form of birch twigs that had blown off and scattered.  We got some wood from the cultivation zone and snapped it to fit into the fire pit.  Today has been glorious with sunshine and lots of wind, so much wind that my hat kept blowing off and putting out our matches!  We spent at least an hour trying to light the fire.  I was getting annoyed, I’m normally good at this.  The wood was in the right place, as was the kindling including the cardboard I brought, but the wind kept blowing out the flame.  Pindsvin had the insight to start gathering dead dried leaves and stuffing it into the pile… the cardboard caught, the leaves caught… but the wind just kept blowing it out just before it was intense enough to light the birch twigs.  On and on this repeated, until the matches were all gone… it was a fresh new box!  I was very annoyed at this and even threw my lighter at the grass in a total paddy, snarling at the sky “D’you want a fucking ritual!?”
        Pindsvin reassured me in saying that what if it just wasn’t a day for a fire? She was even all for leaving me alone to do my OBOD ritual if that’s what I wanted to do.  I told her I was disappointed and that I wanted this to be better (I was being a mardy arse at this point).  Then she said something.  Something that made me stop being a big baby: “Well, if you still want to do an Imbolc ritual, why don’t you do it in the Sunlight? The Sun is more powerful than a fire.” Genius!


        Pindsvin looking ahead,
        Picture by Locksley2010. 1/2/2014.

        I looked to the growing ground and saw the clouds being pushed away by the wind to reveal gorgeous, golden sunlight.  The photo doesn’t do it justice.  My spirits were instantly lifted and I had a new energy as the ceremony would carry on, just without jacket potatoes warmed in a fire.  We got our things and went down to the seating area (where we used to do the ritual stuff before we had the official ritual area) and I improvised an offering bowl from the remains of an old mug that had come up from the topsoil movement.  We had an Imbolc ceremony and it went as thus:
        1: We asked for the blessings of land, sky and rain and greeted them.
        2: I said my Brighid’s prayer, asking for her blessings and inspirations.
        3: We drank water from a flask, saluted Brighid, then I called this the ‘blessing of water’ ah, Brighid was giving inspiration!
        4: We turned to the Sun and meditated on its light and warmth connecting with our inner fire. “Blessing of the Sky”.
        5: For the “Blessing of the Land” we gave offerings. To the Guardian of the place, the Silver Birch, I gave honey and milk (supposedly traditional Druidic offerings), Pindsvin threw seeds for the birds to eat.
        6: Any more to say: Pindsvin said she wanted to connect with the Smith aspect of Brighid, to go ahead and do stuff.
        7: We said thank you to Brighid and the three realms.

        And boy, did that feel good! Yes, similar principle to the original, but we totally winged it.  I never intended to work with the realms of sky, land and rain (normally sea, but we live in the mainland) as the actual structure of the ceremony, I’d like to think that was Brighid’s inspiration.

        Pindsvin was indeed the unexpected aid and relief I needed today.  She performed her role admirably and had another revelation for me.  Her version of Brighid being a ‘Triple Goddess’ goes: Poet, Smith, Healer.  After the ceremony, she asked which of Brighid’s aspects did I want to work with this year.  I originally said Poet, as in the focus on my acting this year.  Pindsvin told me that I already have the inspiration for that, surely it was the doing it I needed. Agreed, I settled on Smith.

        So there we are, a day that originally would have left me sulking at home instead of inspired (Awen/Imbas) and rejuvenated. 

        As it was, I learned lessons today:

        Things won’t go as planned.

        Build a fire in a sheltered space and don’t burn all your matches.

        When things piss you off, what are the gods trying to show you?

        Help comes from the most unexpected of places, a friend, your environment, old pottery.

        Get over yourself and go with the flow.

        Brighid has three aspects: Poet, Smith and Healer… which one will you work with?