Thursday, April 27, 2017

Advice for an Unsexy, Work-Filled Beltane

The National Library of Wales by Wikimedia Commons. By CC 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Regarding Beltane Traditions

by Race MoChridhe

Spring, sometimes, is a long time coming. I have lived in the fertile, sheltered valleys of Oregon, where Imbolc brings the first shoots of bulbs from the soil and daffodils come up as readily as snowdrops. I have lived in the great temperate woodlands of Minnesota, where the astronomical and botanical aspects of spring coincide, and the equinox mists the tips of long bare branches in a haze of green. I have lived too on the subarctic tundras of Alaska, where snow is thick on the ground even as Beltane approaches and what was for the ancient Irish the beginning of summer, is instead the first faint glimmer of spring.

What all these places have in common, however, is that both religious and secular observances of Beltane/May Day (which, although closely related, are technically distinct traditions) are virtually extinct. I was an adult making my first studies of the Pagan community before I ever saw an actual maypole (known to me previously only from scattered references in Edwardian stories) or witnessed anyone light a bonfire. I grew up with a handy father, however, who took advantage of the first pleasant days of the year to involve me in pouring new concrete steps for the patio, re-staining the fence, or planting trees. Ever since then, this time has brought a memory of energy to my hands and a desire to see will into action, idea into actuality. I also grew up at the end of the Cold War, and so, while I have had to work at my relationship with observances of Beltane and May Day, the arrival of International Workers’ Day is felt in my bones.

At first, these two takes on the season—giant-phallic-pole-in-the-middle-of-the-village May Day and giant-phallic-rockets-in-the-middle-of-Red-Square May Day—seem very different. All cultures, however, form their beliefs and rituals on patterns woven by a universal fabric, and these two traditions are, in fact, closely intertwined.

May blossom, the common hawthorn flower; Crataegus monogyna. Ceridwen, 
by Wikimedia Commons CC by SA 2.0

For the ancients, Beltane was a celebration of fertility, and modern Paganism has presented this most often in the Wiccan image of the marriage of the Lord and Lady, whose union begets the abundance of summer life. Yet who has been fruitful and multiplied without tilling the earth from which they were taken, and eating by the sweat of their brow? The sweet, sweaty trysts following the maypole dance have become so clichéd that double entendres hardly register in the Pagan community anymore, and every year about this time one sees a flood of articles reassuring both single Pagans and parents of small children that it is possible to mark the first of May in an entirely celibate fashion. These pieces generally have much to say of fun spring-greeting activities, but offer little meaning to the holiday aside from sanitized metaphors of the same primal themes—fertility rites worked with garden trowels instead of athames. It is in looking to the traditions of the labor movement that we can make deeper meaning of the day, because they remind us to look not just at the planted seed, but at the digging hands.

The moment our focus shifts in this way, we begin to see that the work is not just a metaphor for fertility, but a spiritual principle whole unto itself—one distinct in nature but alike in dignity. By the same inexorable logic that brought Pagan and Socialist May Day into being at this same point on the Year’s Wheel, the Roman Catholic Church appointed 1 May as the feast day of St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, and there is something profoundly beautiful amidst the fleshly tangle of Pagan Beltane in glancing through a church window to see Joseph celebrated for performing the work of being Jesus’ father even though he was not biologically so.

As Dorothy Sayers once sagely observed, the first and most essential thing which we can know of divinity is the act of creation, by which the ideas of the divine mind are given substance and expression in the worlds. Though we may figure this act, as Wicca generally does, in the terms of biological fertility, it is more fundamentally an illumination of the unformed by form—an actualization of potential, a bringing forth of dream into reality. The spirit-drunken post-maypole frenzy and the spirit-sober consummation of the handfasting are, in the end, just as much metaphors as are the various “replacement” activities of the yearly round of consolation articles—activities which are, in some ways, actually a step closer to the reality, for all that they are consist more of art and less of instinct.

This is, of course, not to say that the old-fashioned fertility rite is not effective, or even that it is not profound, for it can most certainly be both in the hands of a responsible practitioner. It is only to say that such rites are the first tender shoots of the Mystery, and still far from the ripeness of its fruit. The true fullness of spring, with all its rich intensity of flavors, well—that can still potentially be a long time coming.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wiccan, Pagan, and Magick Wands – All You Could Want to Know

A wand
A handcrafted wand. Public domain image by Martin Brož, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Magick Wand and its Uses

by Jude

When it comes to Paganism, the magick wand as a tool is optional. Even at times when one would come in handy, pointing your finger towards that which you are focused upon serves the same purpose. Whether as the tool of a Pagan or a non Pagan a wand is most often made of wood. A wand may alternatively be made of other natural materials such as crystal or stone, or non-ferrous metals (such as copper, pewter, bronze, silver and gold).

The reason ferrous metals are not commonly used, is because they interfere with the ideal flow of energies during the ritual use of tools containing them. This is the same theory behind why many Wiccans/Pagans reject having ferrous screws, or in some cases any other kind of metal screws, holding their altars together.

What if the Wand I Want Isn’t Made With Natural Materials?

It would benefit one to know that a magick wand crafted from a non-natural substance can be programmed to hold the properties and energies of the natural substance of one’s choice. It’s easily done. The one stipulation is that I’d recommend you not waste your time trying this on a wand containing ferrous metal.

Let’s say you have a resin cast wand and want it to hold the properties of wood (I have done this). Cast your circle first if you standardly use one. Call on a divinity to assist you if you like, but it isn't necessary. Place the wand upon your altar and hold the intent of transforming it to wood. Firmly focus that thought upon the wand, and hold the intent until you know the task is done. Upon completion of this task you simply acknowledge closure by saying "so mote it be." Afterwards, if you called upon a divinity, say thank you and bid them farewell.

When done, pick the wand up and acknowledge the wood properties that you feel within it. For a while it is best that you repeat this affirmative action each time you see the wand to reinforce the transformation.

I know that this process works as when looking for my own wand, the only one I could find which I could relate to was a cold-cast resin Harry Potter wand! I varnished it then performed this simple ritual. It feels and works like wood and I love it!

What a Wand Does

No matter what specific purpose a wand is being used for, its primary purpose is to house and direct energy. The wand in and of itself will not have any magickal power. It is what you do with it after its construction that will determine the purposes it may be used for.

Although it initially has no power of its own, your spiritual energy (power) will become one with your wand as you consecrate and charge it. Once charged, wands are most commonly used for directing energies.

There are various purposes for which one would choose to use a wand, also known as a magick wand. They are commonly used both within and outside of the Pagan and Wiccan faiths. Rather than speak from a Pagan or non Pagan viewpoint, I will do my best to cover both. From my point of view, there seems to be a lot of crossover.

A Wand Can be Used For:

  • Directing energies: During rituals, simply pointing the wand with a given intent will direct an energy towards where it needs to go. This applies whether for witchcraft or other types of ritual usage.
  • Invoking Goddess or other spirits: A wand may be used to invoke Goddess, it may also be used to call upon various other beings in spirit. You would do this to request their knowledge or advice.
  • Healing: Any wand, whether or not it contains crystals can be used in certain kinds of healing rituals. There are many ways to direct healing energies by intent alone; a person doesn’t need to be a Reiki practitioner to heal. To concentrate healing energy on a focused area one may choose to use a wand.
  • Condensing the purpose of an amulet: In this case you have previously charged an amulet and are topping it up again by aiming the wand and focusing your intent upon the amulet to recharge it. It’s that simple. Conclude with a simple "so mote it be".
  • Drawing Symbols: A wand can be used to draw symbols, such as a pentagram or what have you either in the air or on the ground as a part of your ritual.
  • Stirring: A wand can be used to stir mixtures and blends when opportunity presents.

#AmazonADlink: Magick Wand Stand, Wooden

How to Cleanse Your Wand

The best ways to cleanse negative energies from your wand are ones that don’t involve water. If you have a wand that you know for sure could be safely cleansed by running it under flowing clean water, by all means do so. If you do not know it to be water safe, opt for smudging. Another great technique that’s quite simple, is to hold your wand up towards the sun and order the negative energy to flow into the light, then pause focused on that intent. When you can tell that the process has concluded, say "so mote it be".

You can alternatively run your wand through the smoke of incense and utter an appropriate offering of verbiage. I would say something such as – I release all negative energy from this wand to return to the light. I now bless this wand and imbue it with positive energy – so mote it be. Yet another wonderful way to cleanse your wand is to have it rest on selenite. Consider making a stand containing selenite for your wand.

Remember that once your wand is regularly being used, you will need to cleanse it frequently to remove negative and stale energies from it.

Consecrating Your Wand

You would consecrate a wand in order to make it a sacred object. Here are the instructions to do so.

A wand made out of natural, unfinished wood
A wand made out of natural, unfinished wood

How to Charge a Wand

It’s simple to charge a wand, or any other sacred object or tool. Here’s how it’s done.

So Mote it Be; the Meaning

It’s a closure to seal in an intent. Nothing more. It is common amongst Pagans to use this particular form of verbal closure, but it is something anyone can use.

Proper Handling, Storage and Care of a Wand

A wand when not in use should be wrapped and stored in a box. Ideally the wrapping material should be natural in origin; silk works well. The box is best made of wood. Natural materials prevent the wand from being contaminated by other energies than your own. Also, keep your wand away from being handled by other people as it’s a sacred tool that should carry your energy alone.

Wood for making wands
Wood to be used in wand making

A Traditional Pagan Belief About Harvesting Wood for Your Wand

Many Pagans believe that wood to be used for a wand should be fallen as opposed to being harvested for the purpose. Others feel it’s okay to harvest the wood as long as you first ask for permission from the tree. If you choose to do this, you must remember to thank the tree for the sacrificed wood once done. Be gentle with the tree by removing as little wood as necessary for the purpose.

The Best Shape

Even though for most a straight wand works best, some choose to use some fairly bendy ones. And that’s okay too, but obviously it’s going to be somewhat awkward at times.


It shouldn’t be longer than from your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. That said, whatever suits you is what’s best. You want it long and short enough to handle without being awkward.

There are extra-long wands used for certain purposes, they are called staffs. The proper way to fit a staff to you is to choose one as long as you are tall.

A Fun Fact

In Tarot, the wand relates to the suit of Wands.  A wand (and too the Tarot suit of Wands) corresponds with the direction South and the element of fire. That said, in some Wiccan traditions a wand (and thereby the corresponding Tarot suit) is associated with the element of air and the direction East.  In Tarot however, there are very few decks that reflect that alternative choice.

The Wand is Male

The wand is a male tool and carries a male energy. Another example of a male tool is an athame; examples of female tools are chalices and cauldrons. It’s simple to understand the difference as it is symbolic of anatomical differences between males and females. In many Wiccan traditions there is a balancing of male and female energies during rituals. For more reading related to this last paragraph, read "The Druid's Sacred Tools."

A few related YouTube videos:

For the video below, as a word of caution, when she gets to the sound charging section, prepare to turn your sound down. Though not so loud, it is somewhat irritating to hear.

Video Bar