A Samhain ritual for the SGP

Samhain is a time to reflect on sadness, loss, and grief. But it can also be a time for remembrance, empathy and deep, deep love.
The Queen of Red Death is close at hand at Samhain tide; Saint with a dripping bloody skull, pungent with the smell of iron, salt and roses. She wraps bony fingers around our hearts and squeezes and we know exquisite pain, and through this pain we know we are alive.

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Image description: a red candle in a black bowl, filled with water. Surrounded by tarot cards and altar decorations.

In Australia Summer is more often the season for dying, with it’s crushing heat and raging bushfires. But as the sun grows distant, melancholy creeps in with bitter wind.
The wheel turns, but its measure has been made difficult and uneasy for people not long tied to this land.
European trees settle in to sleep through a snow which in most places never arrives, allowing delicate mosses and lichens to prosper on their bare limbs. No matter how homesick and nostalgic settlers became for the birdsong of England, irrevocably changing the landscape with their introduction, the gum trees remain thick with foliage and many flowers bloom late into the autumn.
While the equinoxes and solstices are astrological, mathematical events, celebration of the transplanted cross-quarters requires an acknowledgment of colonization and its ongoing traumas.
It’s not enough to debate the merits of whether to simply shift the seasonal calendar forward six months for anyone in the Southern Hemisphere, but to dwell on the circumstances that brought us to this question in the first place.
Thus Samhain is an excellent time to reflect on Indigenous survival, sovereignty, and struggles, to learn and engage with a compassionate and open heart.

It is also a time to connect with our own ancestors and beloved dead, be they of blood, culture or law. Genetics has no bearing on this definition of ancestry, nor species; I include my dearest cats in my celebrations. Knowledge, love, and art all form the fertile soil from which we grow.

The Dumb Supper

This ritual is a simple variant on the traditional ‘dumb supper’, so called because it is performed in silence. The idea is to host a simple quiet dinner party, with places set for departed loved ones. It’s best done in the home, and can be done alone or as a group.

Tools:
White candle
Tealights
Red candle
A bell, chime or piece of crystalware
A meal
Altar decorations

At the head of your dining table, set a place as if for a guest, but turn it into an altar by draping the chair with red, white, or black fabric. Decorate the table at this placement with skulls, sweet-smelling flowers, heavy incense, cups of spring water, harvest fruits and bowls of salt. On the plate, set a red candle to represent the Red Death. As a force of nature, she does not require offerings of food like that which will be served to the dead.
Arrange enough tealights on the table to create a warm, low-lit atmosphere.
Set the rest of the table as normal, with a place for each diner. Each living guest should position themselves so they are sitting opposite to their deceased guests, facing them.

To begin, light a white candle by your front door or window, to act as a beacon for the souls of your beloved dead to find their way to you. If you wish you can open the door and beckon them inside, pull out the chair for your guests, be as theatrical as you like. Some may wish to do this at dusk, or before they start cooking/preparing food. A home-cooked meal works best, but whatever is within your means is appropriate. If you know your guest had a favourite food, prepare that.

Find a bell or some other tool that creates a pleasant chiming sound. Lightly tapping a piece of crystalware will have the desired effect. Bonus points if it’s a family heirloom. Ring it once when it is time to begin the ritual of quiet and of not speaking, and dish up the meal to all guests. Don’t worry about wasting food; a small sample is all that’s needed for the otherworldly. The dead are light eaters.

Take your place at your place at the table and enjoy the meal. Chew slowly. Be mindful of the sensations, the taste, the texture, the warmth and the smell. There is no purer expression of what it is to be alive than to eat.
Sit with your emotions. Do you hunger for sound? Distractions? Do you weep? Does raw powerful grief bubble up inside from a deep underground wellspring? Do you feel numb? Filled with love and bittersweet nostalgic joy? Are you shying away from anything? Is there anything you avoiding?
Be attentive to the place set for your guest.
Do you feel any sensations, faint impressions, polite requests? Do you feel a shift in temperature or energy? Does your guest ask you to season their food with a little more pepper, please? Do they chide you for forgetting they hate peas? Glad for the company, good-humored, or sorrowful?

When the meal is done, ring your bell to indicate the evening and silence is over, and thank your guests and usher them back out the door when you feel the time has come to draw the ritual to a close. Spend the rest of the evening in low-energy, introspective activities and contemplations. Listen to soft music. Journal your experiences.

Later, dispose of the dead’s leftovers at a crossroads, or by fire. Take care when doing so, and be sure not to look back when returning. You don’t want any scavengers following you home. The following day, open your windows and sweep your floors.

Traditional Southern Hemisphere date:
Sunset to sunset, 30th April, to 1st May
Astrological date:
Evening, 5th May 2018

More information on the Sovereigns of the Golden Path (SGP) can be found here.

SGP glossary here.

More information on the Queens of Death can be found here.

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A witch in the house of god

I went to a Catholic funeral today and witnessed people taking communion for the first time.

The last funeral I attended prior to today was for a beloved character at a LARP some weeks ago. Even though it was all just roleplay, the emotion and energy was so raw and real and powerful and moving.

…today was a stark contrast.

Other than the electrifying transubstantiation ritual, it was overall a fairly bland affair. The departure of the deceased was neither sudden nor unexpected. Raw grief was tempered by acceptance. People were eager to get to the business of drinking overpriced beer at the wake. The business of living, and sharing stories. A very Australian kind of pragmatism. The old die, as is their right. Their legacy is their children and grandchildren. You get on with it.

As a pagan raised lapsed Presbyterian it was certainly an interesting and novel experience to find myself in a Catholic church; I’ve never witnessed a baptism before. The ritual waving of cheap frankincense, the shroud, candle, and sacred water, this is a language of symbols that is not unfamiliar to me. Even though I didn’t understand the words, I could still hear the music. Most of the people in attendance were not Catholic, and half-heartedly stumbled through the participatory aspects, or remained silent as I did. The singing of the Manticore Sun echoed in a hymn about unconditional love, but despite both being somewhat fatherly and leonine, the difference between the Lord of Catholics and the patron deity of the SGP is obvious. The suncult has no word for sin.

Communion was naturally the part that really caught my attention; the transformation of wine and wafer into blood and flesh. When the priest performed the rite of transubstantiation, I could feel the sudden and powerful energy shift in the hall, directed toward a silver chalice and what looked like an inedible circle of white paper from my perspective.

My witches initiatory shedding of Christian overculture is still fairly fresh in my mind. A ritual I performed some months back to release myself from any lingering influence and fear of hell. I could feel Lilith hovering near me, and I felt magnetically repelled from the energy of the altar. The pursuit of some paths closes the doors to others. I don’t think I could ever comfortably or successfully work angelic energy. Mine is Her blood. My light is my own inner fire.

I had a chance to ask what must have seemed like a bunch of daft questions afterward, such as ‘what’s the protocol for disposing of leftover Jesus blood?’. After feeling the energy that got blasted into it, I can’t imagine anyone being comfortable dunking stale godflesh wafers into the trash.

Ceremony done, we headed to the cemetery; a far more comfortable place for me. The hungry churning earth. The air filled with birdsong and eucalyptus scents as the trees jovially enjoyed the mild and nourishing sunshine. Wasps and butterflies. Green Death embracing Red and White.
I found the well-manicured grass of the newer and less affluent sections unsettling. Raised crypts and plaques make more sense to me. I whispered apologies to everyone I accidentally stepped on, because it was impossible not to. Gothic raised concrete slabs you can imagine someone lying on top of and weeping have a very different vibe to a grass field with plaques set it in, which feels industrialized and impersonal. Sterile. I understand financial pressures encourage people to choose such an option, but the cemetery keepers could at least put a stand of rose bushes between the rows of plots. The dead deserve beauty too. Not something that could be mistaken for a sports field at a glance. Nevertheless, it was a relief to be outside.

I’m sure many people find exactly what they need in that church, the modest, restrained embrace of community, song, and fervor. The promise of being uplifted when the apocalypse comes. But my end of the world is already here, and if I’m going to eat the flesh of a god, it won’t be so stale. I’m going to rip it apart with my bare hands, in a frenzy, let the blood run down my chin.  Standing too close to the altar had made me uncomfortable, already feeling ill-at-ease in poorly fitted normal-person drag. I’m no longer welcome in churches as anything but an uneasy guest. One that must respectfully keep their distance from the action.
And I have no regrets.
The crossroads is where I belong.

SGP Ritual for the Super Blood Blue Moon Eclipse

This ritual is designed to fortify ourselves with inner strength, cunning, bravery and the will to persevere. Into the underworld we roam like werewolves and creatures who trespass the boundaries of the normal, finding a sacred freedom there. It can be performed alone or in groups.

Background:

A Blue Moon is the second full moon in a month. For some Australians, it won’t technically be a Blue Moon as it takes place after midnight on the 31st of January.
A Supermoon is a full moon that appears extra-large and bright in the sky; the moon is at its closest point to the Earth in its elliptical orbit.
A blood moon is a colloquial term for a total lunar eclipse. The moon will be passing through the darkest portion of the Earth’s shadow (the umbra); some of the light reflected off the Earth’s atmosphere will make it glow a luminous red.

The site timeanddate.com has useful information about times and the direction the moon will be travelling through the sky in your area.

Tools:
Spring water
Dragon’s blood stick incense
Clean bowl
Red candle

For afterward:
Salty snacks, journal & pen

Kitchen substitutes:
Chilled or filtered tap water, oranges/orange oil, roses, rose petals, other incense, ext. Hot water poured over herbs like a tea can produce pleasant scents as an alternative for people sensitive to smoke. A tea light in a red glass, ext.

Location:
An outside liminal space, such as the beach, a park, your yard, ext.
If being outside isn’t suitable, by a (preferably open) window.
The eclipse can also be watched live online here:
https://www.timeanddate.com/live/

Setup:
Create an altar to be the focus for the working, and practice/learn the chant.
Place the red candle in the center, with a stick of incense on each side.

Suggested altar items:
Black and red objects such as fruit or statues
Bones, mushrooms, and other items associated with death and the underworld
Sea salt
The Strength and Moon tarot cards
Red stones: sandstone, jasper, carnelian ext.
Moon-related stones: selenite, moonstone, quartz
If you’re a person who presently menstruates, related sanitary items
Sand or sea water

Chant:
Bathed in blood and clothed in flesh
Into the darkness we dare step

The ritual:
Prepare in a manner that befits your practice. Ground, ward, cast a circle, enter into magical space/headspace.

Read out the ritual intention three times (Once by the ritual leader, then thrice as a group if working with others).

Ritual intention:
Between the worlds, we embrace our birthright as the strange ones.

Have the ritual leader read out the liturgy:

Liturgy:
The dominion of the othered, the queer, the witch, the seer, is an ability to step between the worlds while fully inhabiting none. There is power in our unique perspective, value in our rarity. In the underworld we find cradle, truth and power. The fertile ground for challenge, growth, the hidden and obscene. Like the darkness, sovereign and strong, we cannot be denied.

Begin the chant.

At the height of the eclipse, direct your hands and arms upwards to the moon and envision using them to guide energy like a silvery light down into the bowl of water, turning it into blood.

Take turns drinking deeply from the bowl.

Let the chant naturally fade into a hum, and then silence.
Lay back and watch the rest of the eclipse, close your eyes or stare into the candle. Allow yourself to feel the power of the spring water coursing into your veins and enriching your blood, or engage in visionary experiences.

When it feels appropriate, return.
Blow out the candle, snuff the incense and close the circle, banish, thank, ground.
Eat some salty snacks or the food off the altar.
Journal your experiences.

Sacrifices and Sympathetic Magic

Like many pagans, sympathetic magic is a substantial part of my personal practice; be it drawings, photographs, statues or other symbolic representations. Although I do work with live plants, incenses, resins, animal remains and more, the real thing is not always appropriate, possible or practical.

My shrine to the Outsider uses battery-powered LED candles and lanterns because its hidden position makes using real fire dangerous-and I rather enjoy the humour of using fake fire for pop-culture magic.
The consumption of large, juicy strawberries is a perfectly acceptable substitute for human hearts in ritual as far as Lilith is concerned, as another example.
Since the issue of live animal sacrifice is a purely hypothetical one for me in my current circumstances, I leave those moral quandaries to be unpacked at another time. What I can do, however, is make symbolically appropriate sacrifices.
Although I’m not a strict reconstructionist, I do enjoy research and adapting ancient practices to fit my modern lifestyle. In this research I found accounts of animal sacrifice substitutes in ancient Greece being made with bread, beeswax and reeds. As the sacrifice of livestock would have represented a substantial financial commitment for anyone who wasn’t particularly wealthy, I imagine these sympathetic magic substitutions would have been reasonably common.
I have a lot of local natural beeswax on hand from making my own devotional candles, so it seemed the obvious material to use if I were to create my own effigies. It turns out carving/modeling straight beeswax is incredibly difficult and my first attempts were an ugly mess. Instead, I adapted my sculpting and casting knowledge to create small dog and bull effigies, sculpting them in modeling clay then creating a silicone mould so they could be easily replicated in wax.
I use the dogs as apotropaic offerings to Hekate as part of a cleansing ritual, since my relationship with Hekate has a strong bent towards cleaning. I’m yet to test out the bulls, but I have one set aside for dedication and sacrifice to Dionysus. Bulls are symbolically rich animals, however, and could be used for any number of other deities or purposes.
Since I was on a roll sculpting, I also made a tiny human heart replica for healing/cursing or whatever else one fancies. My companion uses them for enchanting and enclosing within his taxidermy pieces, which is delightfully creative.

In the future, I’d like to experiment with various additives such as incense or tiny pieces of dried bull (Companion jokingly referred to it as ‘homeopathic bull’) or dog hair. I’m not sure how I feel about using the shed hair of still-living animals for sacrifices since my practice has always had a distinctly necromantic bent. But does using the parts of an already dead animal nullify the effect of a ‘sacrifice’? Is the intent all that matters in sympathetic magic? Food for thought.


Devotional cooking: Koresh Fesenjan for Hekate

Suffering chronic fatigue, I usually don’t have the energy for big, flashy ritual. Once a month on the day of the new moon, I clean my house as best I can in service to Hekate, and we share the evening meal. If I’m able, I try to incorporate relevant foods such as egg, garlic, leek, honey, and pomegranate.

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Last month I made Koresh Fesenjan-a Persian chicken, walnut, and pomegranate stew.

Ingredients:
(I don’t measure things when I cook; it’s why I’m terrible at baking)
2 spoonfuls of honey
Sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper
Salt-I don’t normally add salt to my food but Hekate requested extra after I’d plated it up
Chicken tenders, cut into small strips
Cup of chopped walnuts
Liquid chicken stock
White rice
Olive oil
Pomegranate molasses

Process:
1. Toast the walnuts in a pan for a few minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
Lightly crush with a mortar and pestle. When cooking for two, using a food processor isn’t worth the effort it takes to clean.
2. Cook the rice.
3. Lightly brown the chicken in a pan and toss in the spring onions with a dash of oil.
4. Add chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
5. Add spices, honey, walnuts, and pomegranate molasses.
6. Simmer until the stew is no longer watery.
7. Serve with rice, garnish with walnut, parsley or pomegranate arils.

It’s a very sweet and sour, rich tasting dish.
I lit a candle and served it with a cup of fruit tea. Hekate seems to have a penchant for dark chocolate as well, which we had for dessert, although she seems insistent on sharing whatever I’m eating. Afterwards, I take her portion to my three-way crossroads altar, as well as a customary offering to the restless dead which I do not eat from.

Some months I’m not able to cook the food myself or make anything quite as elaborate as this, but it is my duty to share this meal and to remember the dead.