Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The History of Christmas and Its Pagan Origins

Many people suffer from the misconception that Christmas is a Christian holiday. The earliest history of Christmas is composed of "pagan" (non-Christian) fertility rites and practices which predate Jesus by centuries. The truth is, in short, the real history of Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity. Many of the traditions which we hold dear, such as decorating Christmas trees, singing Christmas carols, and giving Christmas gifts, are rooted in the traditions of non-Christian religions.

We do not observe Christmas on December 25th because it was the date in history when Jesus was born. Nobody knows exactly what that date was, but references in the Bible show it most likely did not take place in winter. Rather it is because this was the date that the Romans historically celebrated the winter solstice. This celebration was about dies natalis solis invicti: the day of the birth of the unconquerable sun, which took place on December 22nd. The winter solstice held the promise of the return of springtime and earthly renewal. In Roman history, this was the time of Saturnalia, honoring the God of Agriculture, for the week before the solstice, and Juvenalia, a feast in honor of the children of Rome, around the same time. On the 25th of the month they celebrated the birth of the sun-god Mithra. Masters and servants traded places temporarily, and everybody had a rollicking good time. It was during Saturnalia that the tradition of exchanging gifts was established. They gave one another Stenae or fruits which were intended to bring good luck. The Romans placed an enormous amount of pressure on the early Christians to rejoice along with them, and around the time of the fourth century, they began to celebrate Christmas around the same time. It was inevitable that Christians should make a connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son.

In the Middle Ages, Christmas was a raucous, drunken celebration which resembled a carnival. Poor people would go on a Christmas"trick or treat" around the richer neighborhoods, causing them misery if they didn't get what they wanted.

Many other pagan traditions have been incorporated into Christmas. Yule was celebrated by the Norse in Scandanavia around the time of the winter solstice by bringing in large logs for the fire, in recognition of the eventual return of the sun. It could take as much as twelve days for the log to burn down. Meanwhile, the Norse would feast. The holiday usually lasted through January.

The Germans did not so much celebrate as honor the winter solstice. They believed that their god, Oden, flew through the sky at night passing judgment on his people. Generally, they would stay indoors during this season. When the Germanic people were converted to Christianity, their winter festival was naturally adopted as a celebration of the birth of Christ.

To the pagans, evergreens served as a symbol of winter's inability to stop the cycle of renewal. They were important fertility symbols which were highly revered by many cultures, including the Germans and the Celts. They helped to soothe the pagans' fears that the sun would never return, and that winter would reign eternal.

Contrary to popular belief, the tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree, bringing it into the home and decorating it is not pagan in origin, and did not appear until centuries after Christ's broth. The Romans decorated their homes and temples with evergreen clippings, but allowed the trees to remain intact, often decorating live trees with religious icons. The Druids tied fruit to the branches of live trees, and baked cakes in the shape of fish, birds and other animals, to offer to their god, Woden. We also inherited the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe from the Druids. The Christmas tree tradition we currently practice had its origins in 16th century Western Germany. "Paradise trees" were cut down to commemorate the Feast of Adam and Eve, which took place on Christmas eve every year.

Many Christians were opposed to the merrymaking and pagan origins of the Christmas festivities, especially the more solemn Christians such as the Puritans. In England in 1645, Christmas was actually canceled. In Boston between 1659 and 1681 Christmas was outlawed, and merrymakers incurred fines for their mirth.

Early carols were sung in a circle dance by European Celts in medieval times, as a part of their fertility rituals, and were later adopted as a way to celebrate Christmas. As a result they became unpopular among Christian authority. Over the ages multiple attempts have been made to ban Christmas carols. Christmas carols enjoyed a revival when St. Francis of Assisi began to favor a more joyous celebration of the Christmas season. Another pagan custom called wassailing, or singing from door to door, also became very popular among Christmas celebrants.

Many people mistakenly state that "Jesus is the reason for the season." They do so, because they believe people have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. It simply isn't true. Christmas can be celebrated as completely secular because ultimately it is not a Christian holiday. Christmas goes beyond religious and cultural differences, and addresses something universal in all of us. For this reason it has become popular in non-Christian countries such as Japan. The truth is that Christian and pagan traditions have a great deal in common. The real need behind all of these traditions was to find a source of joy, happiness, hope, goodwill and generosity. There was a need to find ways to cope with our fears about the darkness and cold of wintertime, and to celebrate the return of the sun and the longer days of spring.

In fact, Christianity and pre-Christian pagan religion have a great deal in common. Various pagan religions shared the Christian practice of worshiping a god-man who could offer salvation in the form of heaven or condemnation in the form of hell. The concept that a son of God could be born of a mortal woman is seen in many different religions spanning the globe. These concepts are universal, except to those who are extremely divisive and have a tendency to pick nits.

The pagans were smart people who had quite a few good ideas. They respected the earth, and we have benefited greatly from their practices. There is no reason for Christians to fear "pagan" universal and earth-centered traditions. At Christmas, rather than fretting that non-Christians have forgotten about Jesus we should focus on the deeper purpose of the holiday. The main problem is that Christmas has become far too commercial and this has gotten us away from the pagan tradition of connecting with the earth. Instead, we spend the whole holiday trashing the planet with excessive buying, and cutting down millions of Christmas trees which must then be discarded less than a month later. Environmental destruction and consumerism has passed for merrymaking for many years now, but it's an empty tradition. Celebrating the fertility of the earth is better by far. There is a strong need for a return to the family- and society-centered traditions which were established in Roman times and reestablished in the 19th century. Washington Irving's writings helped Americans to establish Christmas as a time of giving to those who are most in need, and bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. These traditions had their roots in the practices of the real St. Nicholas, who lived in Myra in the fourth century A.D. He was born rich and inherited a great deal of money on the death of his parents, all of which he gave away. St. Nicholas is said to have thrown bags of gold into the windows of dowerless girls to save them from lives of prostitution or slavery. He was also well know for his love and protection of children. St. Nicholas is the figure behind our modern day Santa Claus myth of a generous man who delivered hand-made toys to children all over the world.

So rather than viewing Christmas as a time to break the bank, we can take advantage of it as a time to help the less fortunate. Many people ask that their friends and loved ones give to charity rather than buy them a gift. This sort of gift giving is popular among yogis who see Christmas as a way to extend their practice.

Fortunately there are many ways to reconnect with the original purpose and meaning of Christmas. Small traditions, such as placing apples or cookies on the tree, or decorating a live tree instead of a cut one, are a good way to get in touch with the way that our ancestors celebrated Christmas. Respecting the planet and understanding its powers and its limitations are important. The pagans were aware of the changing seasons and found earth-centered and social ways to cope with them. They were aware and appreciative of the sun. They exchanged gifts, but their gift exchange was not commercialized. Instead the focus was on bringing good fortune. Giving gifts of fruit has been a common practice throughout history, and is still popular today.

The Christmas holiday season is about unity, not divisiveness. At the holiday season we should forget about our religious differences, abandon commercialism and think about what is best for the planet and for humanity.

Holiday Infographs

5 Tips for a Stress Free Holiday Season

Here are 5 tips for (hopefully) having a stress free holiday season (remind me to follow them as well!):

1. Perhaps the most common piece of advice out there in terms of reducing stress during the holidays is to create and stick to a budget when shopping.  It’s so easy to overspend when we’re buying gifts for the people we love but if you create a budget you can keep an eye on store flyers and sales and still buy that special someone the perfect gift, without going into debt.

2. Plan ahead!  This goes for everything holiday.  Try and get at least a few presents purchased before the holiday season even begins.  If you have a quiet week night in November, do some holiday baking.  If you have holiday parties to attend, find out in advance what is required of you (Pot luck? Gift exchange?) and take care of as many details as you can well before the date.

3. Learn to say no!  The holidays are busy for everyone and undoubtedly you will be called upon to pitch in at a holiday party, your children’s school, or a charity event.  The season is all about giving to others but remember that you are no good to anyone if you are chronically stressed and unorganized because you have too much on your plate.  People will understand if you have to say no and this way you can give 100% to those yes requests.

4. Check in with other family members during the season to ensure your little ones are not about to have a meltdown capable of taking out the North pole just before getting to grandma’s house.  Kids show stress in different ways – are they over tired, weepy or grouchy?  Check in and share your understanding of how the holiday season can be overwhelming for everyone.  Offer extra hugs, and perhaps an earlier bedtime to make up for the excitement to come once Christmas is here.

5. Take care of yourself.  Don’t abandon healthy habits just because it’s the holidays.  Eat healthy (but enjoy your favorite treats in moderation, hooray for holiday food!), get enough rest, and take a breather when you feel your stress barometer begin to rise.  Healthy habits will work to help avoid getting sick during the holidays, which is no fun for anyone.

We all get stressed over the holidays, but hopefully the celebration, excitement and togetherness that the holiday season brings outweigh those times when we’re feeling the holiday stress creep up.

Bizarre and Fascinating Facts about Christmas

Christmas is one of the most popular holidays in the world, and its celebration every year is a major global event. We’ve all grown up with Christmas in our hearts, and have grown to love its many familiar traditions. That’s what makes the holiday so great — there’s just so much to love about it. In fact, even the not-so familiar facts are a lot of fun. Here are 32 things you might not have known about the holiday season’s climax:

Jesus Wasn't Born on December 25 — It’s a little funny how many people celebrate Jesus’ birthday without really knowing when it is. The actual date of Jesus’ birth has puzzled scholars throughout history; differing calculations have placed the special day on March 28, September 11, and November 18, among other dates. It’s widely believed that we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December because of the Catholic Church’s efforts to convert the masses. In order to gain more followers, the Church began to incorporate several Pagan beliefs and rituals into its practice. Among these was the Saturnalia festival, which ended on December 25. By promising the practitioners of Saturnalia that they’d still be able to celebrate their festival as Christians, the Church was able to welcome more people into the fold. Just so Saturnalia would have some Christian sentiment to it, the Church then moved Jesus’ birthday to the date of the festival’s end.

Not Just for Halloween — Many Ukrainian families decorate their Christmas trees with webs and spiders. This odd tradition has its origins in a popular folktale from Ukraine. According to the story, there was once a woman who was so poor, she couldn’t afford any decorations for her Christmas tree. However, she awoke one morning to find that spiders had trimmed her tree with their webs. To her surprise, the webs turned into silver and gold in the sunlight! Because of the tale, spider webs on Christmas morning have been regarded as a sign of good luck and prosperity.

Spider Webs, Vol.2 — Another version of the story above doesn’t think as fondly of spiders. In this version, the poor woman, determined to give her children a happy Christmas, puts her blood, sweat, and tears into surprising them with a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, spiders came and destroyed the tree while she slept, covering it in webs. The Child Jesus, having seen what happened, decided to spare the poor woman from heartbreak, and turned the webs into silver. It’s from this version of the story that tinsel became a holiday tradition.

Bah, Humbug!, Said Cromwell — Sometime between 1649 and 1660, the English Parliament abolished Christmas. The Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell believed that a the day celebrating Christ’s birth should be used for solemn reverence of the occasion, not for merry-making. Instead of the feasts and gift-giving, Christmas was celebrated with prayer and sermons from the clergy.

71 Years in the Making — Christmas wasn’t always one of the country’s national holidays. In fact, Alabama was the first to declare the day a legal holiday in 1836. The other states followed suit, but not as quickly as you’d think. Oklahoma was the last state in the country to declare Christmas a legal holiday, doing so in 1907. That means it took a whopping 71 years for Christmas to officially become a national holiday!

The Christmas Day Truce — True to the holiday’s spirit of goodwill to all, a brief Christmas truce was held during World War II. On midnight, December 24, 1941, firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped. To the surprise of the Allied forces, a German brass band began playing Christmas carols. German soldiers then came to the Allied lines bearing Christmas greetings. The ceasefire lasted a few days, wherein both sides sang, feasted, and exchanged gifts.

A Claus by Any Other Name — Santa Claus isn’t the only gift-giving spirit during the holidays. Different cultures have different present-bringers; while some differ from good old St. Nick only in name, others are an entirely different shape and size.

England calls Santa Father Christmas, whereas France names the jolly old soul Pere Noel. Some families in Italy, on the other hand, await a kindly old witch named La Befana. In some parts of Russia, children look forward to the grandmother figure Babouschka bringing their presents. In other areas of Spain and South America, gifts are brought by the Three Kings, who gave presents to the newborn Jesus.

Season’s Beatings — Hot Cockles was a popular Christmas game in the Medieval era. One player would be blindfolded and made to stand in the middle of the group. One by one, the other players would hit the blindfolded victim. The blindfolded player then had to correctly guess who it was that hit him, or else the game would go on. Strangely enough, this game was enjoyed during the holidays, up until people found their sanity in the Victorian era.

Dog Day Holidays — British dogs have reason to look forward to Christmas. According to surveys, roughly 70 percent of the furry old chaps get presents from their owners during the holiday season. Who said a dog’s life was a bad one?

Shopping Daze — lot of people tend to think that Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) is the busiest shopping day of the year, since it’s generally accepted as the kick-off to the holiday shopping season. However, most would be surprised to learn that it’s only around the fifth-busiest. The days where shoppers go their wildest are the Friday and Saturday before Christmas, proving that a lot of us really do put things off until the last minute.

Not-So Famous Words — Charles Dickens immortalized the phrase "Bah, humbug" in the well-loved story A Christmas Carol. Few people know that the words might not even have seen print if Dickens hadn’t changed his mind. His original plan was to have cranky old Ebenezer Scrooge say "Bah, Christmas" instead of the line we all know and love.

Sugar High — Candy cane is a holiday favorite, tickling the sweet tooth of kids and adults alike. People loved candy cane so much, candy manufacturers are all too eager to produce the popular confections. During the holiday season alone, the average production of candy canes is more than 1.76 BILLION pieces!

Smokey the Bear Would Be Proud — Every year, we light up our trees and homes with brightly-colored Christmas lights. We owe this tradition to Ralph E. Morris, who pioneered the use of the tiny bulbs in the Yuletide season. The reason he opted for using electrical bulbs was a practical one: he realized that they’d be less of a fire risk than candles, which were the popular choice in his day.

Not Quite the Elves You Were Expecting — Some families in Greece follow a notably different Christmas tradition. During this time of the year, they ask a local priest to toss a small cross into the village’s water. They also sprinkle holy water in the dark corners of their houses. This is done to keep the kallikantzari, devious little gremlin-like critters, away. Alternatively, it’s believed that the scent of a burning shoe or salt is just as effective.

Sticks and Stones — We’re all quite familiar with the Nativity scene. In it, the child Jesus is depicted surrounded by his family, a few animals, and the Three Kings inside a wooden manger. Historically speaking, though, the scene is all wrong. Back in Jesus’ time, the preferred place to keep animals was in caves, to keep them away from the intense heat of daytime. The wooden manger itself may be inaccurate, as stone was a more widely-used building material than wood was in those days.

More than Just for Kissing — Long before people locked lips underneath hanging mistletoe, the plant enjoyed a more revered existence. The early Celtics and Teutonic tribes believed it had divine powers, among which were the ability to ward off evil, heal wounds, and increase fertility. The plant was so sacred that it had to be cut with a golden sickle, and was not allowed to touch the ground.

The Un-Christmas Gift — Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson had a friend who very much disliked her birthday, which fell on December 25. As a parting gift, he stipulated in his will that he would bequeath his own November 13 birthday to that friend, so that her special day wouldn’t be overshadowed by Christmas.

It Takes Three — The image of Santa Claus as we know and love him today was actually the product of three different minds. The description of St. Nick was originally laid out in Dr. Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, or what we know today as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. Thomas Nast, a cartoonist, slowly evolved his elf-like Santa to closer resemble the version in the poem. The artist Haddon Sundblom added the final touch, changing the color of Santa’s outfit from green to red. The change was actually requested by Coca Cola, who had commissioned the artist to include Santa in their product labels. The red was meant to bring Coca Cola’s identity to the illustration.

It Takes Three, Part 2 — The familiar Christmas carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, was also the product of three creators. The carol started out as a poem written by Robert May to act as a promotional tool for the Montgomery Ward department store. Each kid who visited the store’s Santa Claus received a booklet in which the poem was printed. The booklet became so popular, more than 2 million copies were given away. Ten years later, May’s friend, Johnny Marks, suggested that the poem be put to music, and he composed the well-loved tune. Marks got Gene Autry to sing it, and the rest went down in history.

Eat Your Greens — Hungry during the holidays? Look no further than your living room. Christmas trees are actually edible, and can be good for your health. Pine nuts and pine cones have long been known to have decent nutritional value. Feeling a little more adventurous? Trying munching on the needles; they’re reportedly very rich in vitamin C.

(Don’t) Eat Your Greens — There are three general Christmas plants: holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias. We deck the halls with them, kiss underneath them, and decorate our home with them. It’s rather interesting to note, then, that out of these three well-known plants, poinsettias are the only ones that aren’t poisonous.

On Dasher, On Donner, On… Camel? — Ever since most of us can remember, Santa’s always gotten around on his magic sleigh and flying reindeer. However, in Syria, things can be pretty different. Those that follow a different tradition may not even be waiting for Santa at all; instead, Christmas gifts are said to be brought by the smallest of the Three Kings’ camels.

Pucker Up — The tradition of kissing underneath mistletoe traces all the way back to Celtic times. The druids believed that mistletoe was a sacred plant, and dedicated it to their goddess of love. It was from this belief that people began kissing underneath the mistletoe. In the tradition’s early days, every time a boy would kiss a girl, he would pluck one berry from the plant hanging overhead. He’d then give the berry to the girl. This continued until all the berries were gone, at which point the kisses would be, too.

Plucky Tree — Christmas trees have been a long-running tradition. However, not everyone could bring home a pine tree to decorate their homes. This led to the invention of the artificial Christmas tree in Germany. Unlike the ones we have today, which are made of plastic, the first artificial trees were made with goose feathers that were painted green.

What’s in a Name? — Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has long been a Christmas mainstay. People of all ages embrace the reindeer with the glowing nose. Little do people know that the reindeer they’ve come to know and love was pretty close to being named differently by its creator. Other than "Rudolph", Robert May considered naming the star of his poem "Reginald" or "Rollo", but both names were eventually rejected.

Speedy Santa — Based on population counts, Santa has to visit over 42 million homes within a 12-hour period on Christmas Eve. With a little math, we see that St. Nick travels through over 900 houses per second. If you didn’t think that was fast enough, you’d be surprised to know that this figures only for North America and Europe; if you take the whole world into consideration, Santa travels even faster.

Right Song, Wrong Occasion — Jingle Bells may be one of the most popular Christmas carols out there, but it wasn’t originally meant to be one. The song actually has three verses more than what is usually sung, and in its entirety tells a story of a boy’s sleighing adventure. He takes a girl, Miss Fanny Bright, out on a sleigh, when he loses control and falls off. To his dismay, a rival comes along and makes fun of the accident. The song closes with the boy relating his story to a friend, and gives him advice on picking girls up on horseback.

In Space, No One can Hear You Jingle — Jingle Bells also bears the distinction of being the first song played in space. The song was played as the closing part to a prank, in which astronauts aboard the Gemini 6 reported a strange-looking satellite circling the Earth. It was led by eight smaller satellites, and was piloted by a strangely familiar-looking fat man in a red suit. The astronauts then whipped out a harmonica and sleigh bells and began to serenade Mission Control with the carol.

The Postman Always Rings a Billion Times — Despite e-greeting cards reducing the amount of Christmas cards being sent through the mail, tons of people still prefer to send their greetings through the old route. On average, the US Postal Service delivers roughly 3 billion Christmas cards a year! No wonder some of them are so disgruntled!

That’s a Lot of Forests — The centerpiece of a home’s Christmas decorations is almost always the Christmas tree. It’s no wonder, then, that we buy so many of them when the holidays roll around. According to a study by the National Christmas Tree Association, roughly 37.1 million real Christmas trees are bought in the country alone. Environmentalists don’t need to worry much, though — 2 to 3 seedlings are planted in place of every tree harvested.

Frosty Would Have Been Proud — In 1999, residents in the state of Maine set out to make the biggest snowman in history. They succeeded, creating a snowman that stood a whopping 113 feet tall! To put things in perspective, that makes the snowman taller than most houses, and higher than most average-sized buildings.

Elves Sell Toys, Too — In 1914, toymaker Charles Pajeau couldn’t quite put his finger on why his Tinker Toys weren’t selling as well as he’d hoped. In an effort to drive up interest in his inventions, he hired several little people to dress up as elves and play with Tinker Toys in a department store window during Christmas. The gimmick was a resounding success, and within a year, Pajeau had sold over a million sets of his toys.

When I Was Your Age...

Courtesy of Kerry Oram

If you are 30, or older, you might think this is hilarious!

When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were. When they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning.... Uphill.... Barefoot... BOTH ways...yadda, yadda, yadda

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way I was going to lay a bunch of stuff like that on my kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!

But now that I'm over the ripe old age of thirty-five (35) lol, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a Utopia! I hate to say it, but you kids today, you don't know how good you've got it!

1) I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!!

2) There was no email!! We had to actually write somebody a letter - with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there! Stamps were 25 cents!

3) Child Protection Services didn't care if our parents beat us. As a matter of fact, the parents of all my friends also had permission to spank our butts! Nowhere was safe!

4) There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes! If you wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the record shop and shoplift it yourself! ( I didn't)

5) Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and mess it all up! There were no CD players! We had tape decks in our car. We'd play our favorite tape and "eject" it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. Cause, hey, that's how we rolled, Baby! Dig?

6) We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called, they got a busy signal, that's it!

7) There weren't any mobile phones either. If you left the house, you just didn't make a call or receive one. You actually had to be out of touch with your "friends". OH MY !!! Think of the horror... not being in touch with someone 24/7!!! And then there's TEXTING. Yeah, right. Please! You kids have no idea how annoying you are.

8) And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your parents, your boss,the collection agent.... you just didn't know!!! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!

9) We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like 'Space Invaders' and 'Asteroids'... Your screen guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination!!! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen.. Forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!

10) You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your butt and walk over to the TV to change the channel!!! NO REMOTES!!! Oh, no, what's the world coming to?!?!

11) There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday Morning. Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little young uns

12) And we didn't have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove! Imagine that!

13) And our parents told us to stay outside and play... all day long. Oh, no, no electronics to soothe and comfort. And if you came back inside... you were doing chores!

And car seats - oh, please! Mum threw you in the back seat and you hung on. If you were lucky, you got the "safety arm" across the chest at the last moment if she had to stop suddenly, and if your head hit the dashboard, well that was your fault for calling "shot gun" in the first place!

See! That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy. You're spoiled rotten! You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 80's or any time before!

The Over 30 Crowd

Yule Associations

By Maeve Shining Isle in Witches Information Society

Symbolism of Yule:
Rebirth of the Sun, The longest night of the year, The Winter Solstice, Introspect, Planning for the Future.

Symbols of Yule:
Yule log, or small Yule log with 3 candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, mistletoe hung in doorways, gold pillar candles, baskets of clove studded fruit, a simmering pot of wassail, poinsettias,.

Herbs of Yule:
Bayberry, blessed thistle, evergreen, frankincense holly, laurel, mistletoe, oak, pine, sage, yellow cedar.

Foods of Yule:
Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples).

Incense of Yule:
Pine, cedar, bayberry, cinnamon.

Colours of Yule:
Red, green, gold, white, silver, yellow, orange.

Stones of Yule:
Rubies, bloodstones, garnets, emeralds, diamonds.

Activities of Yule:
Carolling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging of presents, kissing under the mistletoe, honouring Kriss Kringle the Germanic Pagan God of Yule

Spell workings of Yule:
Peace, harmony, love, and increased happiness.

Deities of Yule:
Goddesses-Brig hid, Isis, Demeter, Gaea, Diana, and The Great Mother. Gods-Apollo, Ra, Odin, Lugh, The Oak King, The Horned One, The Green Man, The Divine Child, Mabon.

Strange Things You Likely Didn't Know

A rat can last longer without water than a camel.

Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks or it will digest itself.

The dot over the letter "i" is called a tittle.

A raisin dropped in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continuously from the bottom of the glass to the top.

A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate.

Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.

A 2 X 4 is really 1-1/2" by 3-1/2".

During the chariot scene in "Ben Hur," a small red car can be seen in the distance (and Heston's wearing a watch).

On average, 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily! (That explains a few mysteries....)

Sherlock Holmes NEVER said, "Elementary, my dear Watson."

Because metal was scarce, the Oscars given out during World War II were made of wood.

The number of possible ways of playing the first four moves per side in a game of chess is 318,979,564,000.

There are no words in the dictionary that rhyme with orange, purple and silver.

Astronauts are not allowed to eat beans before they go into space because passing wind in a spacesuit damages them.

The very first bomb dropped by the Allies on Berlin in World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.

Weatherman Willard Scott was the first Ronald McDonald.

If one places a tiny amount of liquor on a scorpion, it will instantly go mad and sting itself to death. (Who was the sadist who discovered this??)

Bruce Lee was so fast that they actually had to s-l-o-w film down so you could see his moves. That's the opposite of the norm.

The first CD pressed in the US was Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."

The original name for butterfly was flutterby.

The phrase "rule of thumb" is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

The first product Motorola started to develop was a record player for automobiles. At that time, the most known player on the market was Victrola, so they called themselves Motorola.

Roses may be red, but violets are indeed violet.

By raising your legs slowly and lying on your back, you cannot sink into quicksand.

Celery has negative calories. It takes more calories to eat a piece of celery than the celery has in it to begin with.

Charlie Chaplin once won third prize in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.

An old law in Bellingham, Washington, made it illegal for a woman to take more than three steps backwards while dancing!

The Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from public libraries.

The glue on Israeli postage is certified kosher.

Bats always turn left when exiting a cave!

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.

Men can read smaller print then women can; women can hear better.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska

The average number of people airborne over the US any given hour: 61,000

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.

The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs -Alexander, the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace.

What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common? - All invented by women.

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase......... "goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, which we know today as the "honeymoon".

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them, "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down."  It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

~~~~AND FINALLY~~~~~~~~~~~~

At least 75% of people who read this will try to lick their elbow.

How to make a Book of Shadows

By Mercedes Morgana Reyes in Witches Information Society

To make your Book of Shadows, begin with a blank notebook. A popular method is to use a three-ring binder so items can be added and rearranged as needed. If you use this style of BOS, you can use sheet protectors as well, which is great for preventing candle wax and other ritual drippings from getting on the pages! Whatever you select, your title page should include your name. Make it fancy or simple, depending on your preference, but remember that the BOS is a magical object and should be treated accordingly. Many witches simply write, “The Book of Shadows of [your name]” on the front page.

What format should you use? Some witches are known to create elaborate Books of Shadows in secret, magical alphabets. Unless you’re fluent enough in one of these systems that you can read it without having to check notes or a chart, stick with your native language. While a spell looks beautiful written out in flowing Elvish script or Klingon lettering, the fact is that it’s just hard to read unless you’re an Elf or a Klingon.
When it comes to the contents of your personal BOS, there are a few sections that are nearly universally included.

Laws of your coven or tradition: Believe it or not, magic has rules. While they may vary from group to group, it’s a really good idea to keep them at the front of your BOS as a reminder of what constitutes acceptable behavior and what doesn’t. If you’re part of an eclectic tradition that doesn’t have written rules, or if you’re a solitary witch, this is a good place to write down what YOU think are acceptable rules of magic. After all, if you don’t set yourself some guidelines, how will you know when you’ve crossed over them? This may include a variation on the Wiccan Rede, or some similar concept.

A dedication: If you’ve been initiated into a coven, you may want to include a copy of your initiation ceremony here. However, many Wiccans dedicate themselves to a God or Goddess long before they become part of a coven. This is a good place to write out who you are dedicating yourself to, and why. This can be a lengthy essay, or it can be as simple as saying, “I, Willow, dedicate myself to the Goddess today, June 21, 2007.”

Gods and Goddesses: Depending on what pantheon or tradition you follow, you may have a single God and Goddess, or a number of them. Your BOS is a good place to keep legends and myths and even artwork concerning your Deity. If your practice is an eclectic blend of different spiritual paths, it’s a good idea to include that here.

Correspondence tables: When it comes to spellcasting, correspondence tables are some of your most important tools. Phases of the moon, herbs, stones and crystals, colors – all have different meanings and purposes. Keeping a chart of some sort in your BOS guarantees that this information will be at the ready when you really need it. If you have access to a good almanac, it’s not a bad idea to record a years’ worth of moon phases by date in your BOS.

Sabbat rituals: The Wheel of the Year includes eight holidays for most Wiccans and Pagans, although some traditions do not celebrate all of them. Your BOS can include rituals for each of the Sabbats. For example, for Samhain you may wish to create a rite that honors your ancestors and celebrates the end of the harvest, while for Yule you may want to write down a celebration of the winter Solstice. A Sabbat celebration can be as simple or complex as you wish.

Other rituals: If you’ll be celebrating each full moon, you’ll want to include an Esbat ritein your BOS. You can use the same one each month, or create several different ones tailored to the time of year. You may also wish to include sections on how to cast a circleand Drawing Down the Moon, a rite that celebrates the invoking of the Goddess at the time of the full moon. If you’ll be doing any rites for healing, prosperity, protection, or other purposes, be sure to include them here.

Herbs: Ask any experienced Pagan or Wiccan about a specific herb, and chances are good that they’ll expound on not only the magical uses of the plant but also the healing properties and history of use. Herbalism is often considered the core of spellcasting, because plants are an ingredient that people have used for literally thousands of years. Put together a section in your BOS for herbs and their uses. Remember, many herbs should not be ingested, so it’s important to research thoroughly before you take anything internally.

Divination: If you’re learning about Tarot, scrying, astrology, or any other form of divination, keep information in here. When you experiment with new methods of divination, keep a record of what you do and results you see in your Book of Shadows.

Sacred texts: While it’s fun to have a bunch of new shiny books on Wicca and Paganism to read, sometimes it’s just as nice to have information that’s a little more established. If there is a certain text that appeals to you, such as The Charge of the Goddess, an old prayer in an archaic language, or a particular chant that moves you, include it in your Book of Shadows.

Magical recipes: There’s a lot to be said for “kitchen witchery,” because for many people, the kitchen is the center of hearth and home. As you collect recipes for oils, incense, or herb blends, keep them in your BOS. You may even want to include a section of food recipes for Sabbat celebrations.

Spell workings: Some people prefer to keep their spells in a separate book called a grimoire, but you can also keep them in your Book of Shadows. It’s easier to keep spells organized if you divide them up by purpose: prosperity, protection, healing, etc. With each spell you include, make sure you also leave room to include information on when the working was performed and what the outcome was.

The biggest dilemma with any Book of Shadows is how to keep it organized. You can use tabbed dividers, create an index at the back, or if you’re really super-organized, a table of contents in the front. As you study and learn more, you’ll have more information to include – this is why the three-ring binder is such a practical idea. Some people choose instead to use a simple bound notebook, and just add to the back of it as they discover new items. 

You may want to use one notebook for information copied from books or downloaded off the Internet, and another for original creations. Regardless, find the method that works best for you, and take good care of your Book of Shadows. After all, it’s a sacred object and should be treated accordingly!

Making Loose Incense

By Maeve Shining Isle in Witches Information Society 

If you are not starting with powdered ingredients then of course you must pulverize them using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Electric coffee grinders produce too much heat, allowing for the loss of vital chemicals from our ingredients and therefore shouldn't be used. Also, most resins will break the blades of electric coffee grinders.

Woods are very difficult to pulverize with a mortar and pestle and really require the use of a hand crank coffee grinder of some sort or simply beginning with powdered woods.

If you are just starting out making incense mixtures then you should keep the number of ingredients down to three (3) to begin with, perhaps one wood and two herbs, or one resin, one wood and one herb, etc. As you get used to making incense you can slowly expand the number of ingredients you use.

So the first step is to choose the recipe you will use and gather the ingredients needed.

It’s recommended to pulverize your ingredients by "class" by grinding woods first, then herbs and saving the resins for last. Resins, if young and soft, will make a mess of your mortar and pestle and its best to keep freezing them to get them powdered. It’s also recommend saving them for grinding last, which allows you to grind everything in your recipe before you have to clean the mortar and pestle. Weigh each ingredient in the recipe after grinding, and then keep one bowl for all the dry ingredients and another for all the resins.
Mix all your dry ingredients together first (herbs & woods), separately mix all your resins together then add your resins mixture to your dry mixture and mix together thoroughly. I like to throw the completed mixture into my mortar and pestle again and grind it all together one last time to help blend the aroma of each ingredient into the others.

Congratulations! You now have a "loose non-combustible incense mixture" and are ready to enjoy the aromatic treasure you've just created. Its recommend aging mixtures for a couple of weeks, so that all the aromatics permeate into each other and produce a single bouquet of fragrances.  You can heat this mixture as it is over charcoal.

66 All-Natural Cleaning Solutions

Tackle countless chores with common household items (like toothpaste and salt).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Kitchen Witch's Creed

Hide in the Dark

The Witches Rune

by Doreen Valiente

    Darksome night and shining moon,
    Hearken to the witches' rune.
    East, then south, west then north,
    I come here to call thee forth.
    Earth and water, air and fire,
    Work ye unto my desire.
    Wand and Pentacle, Cup and Sword,
    Hearken ye unto my word.
    Cords and Censer, Scourge and Knife,
    Waken all ye into life.
    Powers of the Witches Blade,
    Come ye as the charm is made.
    Queen of Heaven, Queen of Hell,
    Lend your aid unto the spell.
    Horned Hunter of the Night,
    Work my will by Magick rite.
    By all the power of land and sea,
    As I do will, so mote it be.
    By all the might of moon and sun,
    Chant the spell and be it done.

(Alt. Version)

    Come ye as the charm is made!
    Queen of heaven, Queen of hell,
    Horned Hunter of the night
    Lend your power unto the spell,
    And work our will by Magick rite!
    By all the power of land and sea,
    By all the might of moon and sun
    I call the Earth to bind my spell.
    Air to speed it well.
    Bright as Fire shall it glow.
    Deep as tide of Water flow.
    Count the elements fourfold,
    In the fifth the spell shall hold.

Charge of the Goddess

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:

Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of all the Wise.

You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:

I Who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,

I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

Winter Solstice or Yule (a ritual)

The High Priestess says:

"This is the night of the solstice, the longest night of the year. Now darkness triumphs; and yet, gives way and changes into light. The breath of nature is suspended: all waits while within the Cauldron, the Dark King is transformed into the Infant Light. We watch for the coming of dawn, when the Great Mother again gives birth to the Divine Child Sun, who is bringer of hope and the promise of summer. This is the stillness behind motion, when time itself stops; the center is also the circumference of all. We are awake in the night. We turn the Wheel to bring the light. We call the sun from the womb of night. Blessed Be!"
Purify, cast the circle, but do not light the candles. Invoke the Goddess and God. All sit down and begin an antiphonal chant.


"To die and be reborn,
The Wheel is turning,
What must you lose to the night?" (repeat)
Covener: "Fear."


"Fear is lost to the night.
Fear is lost to the night.
To die and be reborn,
The Wheel is turning,
What must you lose to the night?"
Continue interjecting lines and echoing each other until the energy dies away. Stand up and link hands. The High Priest stands before the altar, holding an animal skull filled with salt. The High Priestess leads a slow spiral procession that first snakes outward so that each member is brought to face the High Priest. They are chanting:

"The light was born,
And the light has died." (repeat)
Another Priestess whispers:

"Everything passes,
All fades away." (repeat)
The High Priest places a pinch of salt on each member's tongue and says:

"My body is salt,
Taste the breath of death."
The High Priestess leads the spiral inward, until the members are huddled together. She leads an improvised trance induction, slowly suggesting that they crumble to the Earth and sleep. As all lie down, they are sent into a deeper trance with a multivoiced induction. As it fades out, they are told:

"You are entering a space of perfect freedom."
Time is allowed for trance in the state of suspension before birth.

The High Priestess approaches one of the coveners, stands by her head with her legs apart and pulls her through, symbolically giving her birth. She becomes part of the birth canal; they continue the process with the other coveners, the birth canal growing longer. The men of the coven take the newborns one by one and lay them back down to sleep, telling them:

"Sleep the sleep of the newborn."
As all sink back into trance, they are guided into a visualization of their hopes for their new life to come. Priestess smears honey on their tongues, one by one, saying:

"Taste the sweetness of life."
A new chant begins softly, builds in power as it gradually wakes the sleepers, who join in on repeating lines:

"Set sail, set sail,
Follow the twilight to the West,
Where you may rest.

Set sail, set sail,
Turn your face where the sun grows dim,
Beyond the rim, beyond the rim.

Set sail, set sail,
One thing becomes another,
In the Mother, in the Mother.

Set sail, set sail,
Make of your heart a burning fire,
Build it higher, build it higher.

Set sail, set sail,
Pass in an instant through the open gate,
It will not wait, it will not wait.

Set sail, set sail,
Over the dark of the sunless sea,
You are free, you are free.

Set sail, set sail,
Guiding the ship of the rising sun,
You are the one, you are the one.

Set sail, set sail,
Into the raging wind and storm,
To be reborn, to be reborn.

Set sail, set sail,
Over the waves where the spray blows white,
To bring the light, to bring the light."

"We are awake in the night!
We turn the Wheel to bring the light!
We call the sun from the womb of night!"
The High Priestess says:

"He sets his face to the West, but in the East arises!"
All: "Who is that?"

P: "Who goes down in darkness?"

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Who sails?"

All: "Who is that?"

P: "The Renewer."

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Who brings the golden fruit."

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Unstained."

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Whose hands are open?"

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Whose eyes are bright?"

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Whose face is shining?"

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Morning's hope."

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Who passes the gate?"

All: "Who is that?"

P: "Who returns in light?"

All: "Who is that?"

P: "A glow between twin pillars."

All: "Who is that?"

P: "A cry between thighs."

All: "Io! Evohe! Io! Evohe!"

High Priestess: (leading, repeated by all)

"Queen of the sun!
Queen of the Moon!
Queen of the horns!
Queen of the fires!
Bring to us the Child of Promise!

It is the Great Mother
Who gives birth to Him.
It is the Lord of Life,
Who is born again!
Darkness and tears
Are set aside,
When the sun comes up again!

Golden sun,
Of hill and field,
Light the earth!
Light the skies!
Light the waters!
Light the fires!
All: "Io! Evohe! Io! Evohe!"<7p>

The High Priest lights the fire and point candles and all begin chanting:

"I who have died am alive again today,
And this is the sun's birthday! (repeat)

This is the birthday of life and love and wings,
And the gay great happening illimitably earth.

We are born again, we shall live again! (repeat).
The Sun Child, the Winterborn King!"
Build a Power Chant, focused on reawakening life. Share feasting and friendship, ideally until dawn. Before ending, the High Priestess says:

"The Dark God has passed the Gate,
He has been reborn through the Mother,
With Him we are each reborn!"

"The tide has turned!
The light will come again!
In a new dawn, in a new day,
The sun is rising!
Io! Evohe! Blessed Be!"
Open the Circle.

Becoming a Witch

I am often asked how one becomes a witch.  Do you find someone who is a witch and they make you one?  Or are you a witch just by saying you are?  Can you make yourself a witch?

The process of becoming a witch doesn't happen overnight.  It is a life change, a new path upon the journey of your life.  It takes consideration, study and work.  If you have previously followed a mainstream religion, you may have things that take time to let go, and new things that take time to absorb.  I have heard many people say it is often hard, coming from a life of Christianity, to feel comfortable praying to the Goddess.  All new things take time, but if you are serious upon this path, you will find your way.  The Gods call their own home to them.

No matter how you have came about finding the Old Religion, here you are.  So where do you go?  To the book store.  For a novice, books are like the air you breathe.  You must have them, or access to them in some way.  If you cannot afford, or do not feel safe having books on the Craft, the internet is the next best place.

In both books and on the internet you will find a wealth of knowledge that will help guide you upon your new path.  Of course, as with anything else, there is good information and bad information.  Avoid any kind of book, or internet site, that speaks of controlling another person in any way, harming them, doing love spells on a specific person, or tells you to chant in latin, even though you have no idea what you are saying (yes, I have seen sites like that).  These books/sites will not fulfill your need for knowledge in the Craft and will only serve to confuse you.

Once you have read a variety of books and feel called to this path, the next step is to find a teacher.  If you have access to a teacher, in my opinion this is the best course of action.  A teacher or a coven can often be found if there is a new age book store in your community.  Also, the Witches Voice is a site that offers networking in every state.  It has grown extremely large over the past few years and is a valuable resource in the Craft community.

Having a mentor can offer so much to you when you are beginning.  There will be things you come across that you have a hard time understanding and need clarification.  If you have a teacher, they are just a phone call or email away.  If you do not, you must try to decifer things on your own, and may not come to the correct end on them.  If you do not have a teacher, again, the internet is the next best place to look.

If you are only looking for a 'how to' on casting spells, then the Craft is not for you.  Witchcraft is a serious spiritual path, in which magick is performed, but is secondary to the religion itself.  I would suggest you look to ceremonial magick for that.

A couple of things need to be said about beginning this path, in light of recent attitudes about the Craft.  Here lately it seems that you have a people who, after reading a few books, feel as if they can call themselves a master of the Art.  They throw on a title like Lady/Lord, or HP/s, add some black clothes, a pentacle the size of a hubcap, and they are ready to go.  This is not what the Craft is about.  If you have spent years following a particular path, have worked hard for the spiritual lessons that have been presented to you, and through this have attained the title and rank, then by all means use it.  But think of how you would feel if, after all that, you have a newbie with 6 months and 5 books unde their belt walking about calling themselves Lady Starry Ski or Lord Thunderbutt.  It is very offensive.  Just like your parents told you when you were growing up (or maybe you still are) 'don't rush things, it will all come to you in the end, and be sweeter for the waiting'.  This is true with the Craft.  Using titles, putting on airs, and in general acting high and mighty are not going to make you any more spiritual.  That is what this path is about.  What it will do is alienate you from people whom you may actually want to meet and get to know!

All of this being said the way to become a witch is through study and dedication.  Gather all of the information you can.  Find the best teacher possible.  Read whatever you can get your hands on.  Go outside in nature and commune with the Goddess and God.  Listen to the trees and the wind and the rush of the water, for this is the witch's world.

The Wiccan Rede

Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.
Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.

For tread the Circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out.
To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be said in rhyme.

Light of eye and soft of touch, speak you little, listen much.
Honor the Old Ones in deed and name,
let love and light be our guides again.

Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the joyful tune.
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane,
and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane.

When the Lady's moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two.
When the moon rides at Her peak then your heart's desire seek.

Heed the North winds mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.
When the Wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.

When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss you on the mouth.
When the wind whispers from the West, all hearts will find peace and rest.

Nine woods in the Cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.

Oak in the forest towers with might, in the fire it brings the God's
insight.   Rowan is a tree of power causing life and magick to flower.

Willows at the waterside stand ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify and to draw faerie to your eye.

Hazel-the tree of wisdom and learning adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of Apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.

Grapes grow upon the vine giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen to represent immortality seen.

Elder is the Lady's tree burn it not or cursed you'll be.
Four times the Major Sabbats mark in the light and in the dark.

As the old year starts to wane the new begins, it's now Samhain.
When the time for Imbolc shows watch for flowers through the snows.

When the wheel begins to turn soon the Beltane fires will burn.
As the wheel turns to Lamas night power is brought to magick rite.

Four times the Minor Sabbats fall use the Sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned to Yule light the log the Horned One rules.

In the spring, when night equals day time for Ostara to come our way.
When the Sun has reached it's height time for Oak and Holly to fight.

Harvesting comes to one and all when the Autumn Equinox does fall.
Heed the flower, bush, and tree by the Lady blessed you'll be.

Where the rippling waters go cast a stone, the truth you'll know.
When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.

With a fool no season spend or be counted as his friend.
Merry Meet and Merry Part bright the cheeks and warm the heart.

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow.

Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you.

These Eight words the Rede fulfill:

"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will"

Top 10 Ways to Upgrade Your Dog’s Life

We spend a lot of time talking about how to improve our own lives, but how about the lives of our pets?

Today we're looking at ten great ways to improve the life of your dogt—which has its benefits for you, too.

10. Clean Your Dog's Ears Properly

Ears like to accumulate their disgusting ear wax in most types of animals, and dogs are far from exempt. While you definitely don't want to leave wax buildup to crust over inside your pet's ear canals, you also don't want to clean improperly. Just like with humans, you want to be gentle and only clean the parts you can see. Stay out of the ear canal and you're doing it right.

9. Make a Custom Doggy Bed on the Cheap

Like human beds, doggy beds can get pretty expensive. If you don't want to shell out a ton of money for a fancy one, you can just make one yourself. For the most part, these beds are just enormous, glorified pillows so you don't need more than a relatively thick and soft fabric and some firm stuffing. Your dog just needs a comfortable, soft place to sleep and you can easily provide that after an hour at the sewing machine.

8. Train Your Dog Better with Shorter Sessions

Nowadays, perhaps to all the quick-form content online, we don't have the greatest attention spans and your dog suffers from the same problem. That's good, because you'll both get bored with training exercises relatively fast and you don't want to keep going if the interest is gone. To teach your dog better, break up your training sessions into smaller, more digestible blocks just once or twice a week. Hammering it home isn't fun for either of you, so take it nice and easy. It can help your dog learn better and faster.

7. Save Money on Doggy Medication

Vets like to mark up prescription medications for your pets, but you can avoid this problem pretty easily by picking up the same pills at your local human-serving pharmacy. Some pharmacies will consider your pet a family member, too, and will offer those associated discounts as well. As always, be sure to call first before assuming it'll be cheaper. It seems like it usually is, but checking first will always help you find the best deal.

6. Make Pet Travel Easier

Traveling with your dog can be as stressful for you as it is for them, especially when on an airplane. The best thing you can do is be prepared and know your options ahead of time so there are no unexpected problems along the way. This means knowing whether or not you can take your dog on the plane with you, if your airline allows pet travel at all, if you can check your pets (and how much that costs), getting your dog used to the travel crate before leaving, and providing it with adequate playtime prior to the flight. You also won't be able to feed him/her six hours prior to the flight. It's not exactly a pleasant process, but it'll be a lot worse if you're not prepared. Alternatively, find a good pet sitter.

5. Make Your Own Dog Treats

Your dog probably isn't going to care who made the treat so long as s/he gets to eat it, but when you bake them yourself you have the distinct advantage of choosing what's inside. If the nutritional content of a Snausage isn't your ideal, make your own healthier option. It's not hard to do and your dog will love your for it.

4. Eliminate Dog Hair with Your Hand and Water

Chances are pet hair isn't part of your apartment's desire aesthetic, and it's definitely a problem when you've got company who might be allergic. Cleaning up pet hair is a major pain, but wikiHow has a few handy suggestions—literally. The first is wetting your palm with some water and scooping up the dander bare-handed. The water will make it stick and easy to move from couch, floor, or wherever to the trash. You can also get the same effect with a lightly dampened kitchen sponge or regular latex gloves. A more fun approach is using an inflated balloon. Create some static electricity by rubbing it on your hair, then touch the balloon to hairy areas. It'll attract the hair until you can dispose of it. Or just use use rubber flip-flop sandals. Finally, try a fabric softener sheet. If it doesn't work on its own, mist it with a little water for some extra cling.

3. Make an Automatic Water Dish that Refills Itself

Here's a cool DIY project your dog will appreciate: an automatically refilling water dish. So long as you're comfortable with an arduino, it's something you shouldn't have trouble throwing together pretty quickly. This way, if you're not around your dog will always have fresh water to drink and never be too thirsty. The only downside, perhaps, is that s/he'll have to go out and to the bathroom a bit more frequently.

2. Find Your Lost Dog

The last thing you want is for your pet to be lost, but no matter how hard you try it can always happen. If you do end up losing your dog, there are plenty of ways to get him/her back. Aside from the obvious steps of posting signs around your area, the internet can be of assistance as well. Lost Pet Atlas is one site that can help you post about your lost pet or see other pets in your area that people have found. You can browse missing dogs and cats just by looking around on the map near your home.

When you're searching, you want to keep a few things in mind. The size of your dog will depend on the distance it's capable of running. Big dogs will often run up to five miles where smaller dogs will likely only make it one. Most dogs are recovered within a two mile radius, however, so that's a good place to start. Shy dogs often end up in bushes or under cars. Friendly dogs will look for help from people, often in public parks or on someone's yard. (Source: Petfinder)

If your pet hasn't run away yet, now's a good time to look at tracking chip options like HomeAgain so recovery is easy. It's important to remember that your pet likely didn't run away because s/he hates you, but potentially out of loneliness or distraction. Don't feel too bad and don't worry too much. Most people are kind enough to help out a lost animal and will be happy to return your dog when you report him/her lost.

1. Get Rid of Nasty Dog Breath

You may love your dog, but you'll probably never love its breath. Fortunately you can make your dog's mouth smell a bit nicer by feeding them Greenies. Greenies are treats that promote better dental hygiene and that your dog will enjoy chewing. You'll also need to regularly brush your dogs teeth, preferably using dog toothpaste and a finger toothbrush. Regular teeth cleaning by a vet and a healthy diet also help, so it isn't much different than how you'd handle your own teeth. You're just cleaning the dogs, and it's easier to get your finger in their mouth than it is a toothbrush. So, really, the secret behind good dog breath isn't much different than it is with humans.

Why Don't You Just Date a Guy?

**Courtesy of**

Femmes are always being forced to explain to people that just because they date women who "dress like men," it doesn't mean that deep down, they "really want a man."  I can only speak for myself, but I bet some of the following is true for other readers who date butches.

Dating a butch is nothing like dating a guy.  There are many reasons for this.  Some are physical.  For example, men have way more body hair.  Ugh.  Also, regardless of their gender presentation, women have curves that men do not.  A butch doesn't always let the world see these curves, but if you're her lover, you get to be up close and personal with them, and there's something special about this.  Plus, women are soft!

A man in a tie and a woman in a tie project entirely different energies.  Both people might exude strength, and both might even exude masculinity, but the nature of that masculinity is quite different.  To me, there's something quietly subversive and original about a woman's masculine energy.  It may be queer, deviant, or nonconformist. It may co-opt traditional trappings of power without embodying them.

One of the joys of dating women is that you get to create everything from scratch.  When a woman dates a man, there's an inherent gender script already written.  Defaults exist about everything from child-rearing to household chores.  True, many people deviate from these (though I'd argue that more don't).  But many straight people, even very nontraditional ones, don't seem to find the mere existence of this script uncomfortable.  But when I was with a man, I was deeply aware of it.  As progressive and gender-enlightened as my DXH was (and is), I felt great unease that these norms existed.  I couldn't help but be intensely aware of them.  I didn't like how people perceived and related to me as the female member of a hetero couple. It felt awkward, as if I was always "doing" femininity wrong.

And of course, if it's a heterosexual man asking you this question, you could always respond by asking why he doesn't just date a man in a dress.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Am A Witch

The origin of this in unknown...Blessings! 

I am a witch. I do not worship Satan.

I am not interested in Satan.

Satan was invented by the Christians.

Satanism is a form of Christianity.

I am not a Christian.

I don’t go to church on Sunday.

Jesus is NOT my savior.

He was simply a holy man who lived 2,000 years ago.

I am not afraid of going to Hell because I don’t believe in Hell any more than I believe in Satan.

I believe in reincarnation; that I will come back to this world or another and live out another life.

I am not evil.

Telling people I am a “good witch” or asking me if I am a good witch implies that there are evil witches.

There are evil people in the world, and there are people who chose to work with the forces of nature in a way that harms others; those people are NOT witches.

The central law of being a witch is: “if it harms none, do as you will.”

Please don’t ask me about sacrificing cats or desecrating churches. I love my cats, and I don’t go into churches or synagogues unless a friend from that religion invites me to some special occasion.

And if I DO enter a church, I am not struck by lightning.

And if a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist came to a pagan ritual, our gods would not strike them dead either.

Isn’t that something to think about?

Wearing a pentacle is no different than wearing a cross, crucifix, or Star of David.

If you want me to take off the symbol of MY religion (and Wicca is a religion, protected by the same First

Amendment rights as other religions) because it’s offensive, you need to make everyone of every religion do that.

The five points of the star signify the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire & Water, and the fifth point is Spirit; encircled by the World.

How that can offend anyone boggles my little pagan mind. An image of a tortured, dying man is more offensive, yet thousands of people openly wear crucifixes every day.

Also, don’t ask me if I’m in a “coven” in that half-horrified, half-fascinated tone of voice.

If I want to talk about my coven, I will bring it up.

If I am a solitary practitioner, I have no coven to discuss.

In any case, our rituals have candles, food, drink, poetry, dancing…yes, there is a knife but it only cuts the air, not anyone’s flesh.

I don’t drink blood.

I am not some kind of vampire.

I wear black because it keeps negativity away and because it looks better on me than orange and purple polka dots.

If you want to ask me something related to MY religion, ask me when the next full moon is.

Or the next Blue Moon.

Or what a blue moon IS.

Ask me about herbs.  Crystals.  Healing.

Even ask me to make you a love potion.

But I don’t cast spells on other people and I won’t cast a spell on you to make you prettier, thinner, more desirable.

And I won’t cast a spell on your quarry to make him/her love you. Trust me, you don’t want that, you don’t want the karma that involves, and neither do I!

That’s a form of manipulation, taking away someone’s power, infringing on their free will.

Not nice at all.

And I also won’t cast a binding spell to make someone STOP doing something to you.

Spell work is about co-creation. A witch works with universal energy, with the gods, to tilt the engine of probability somewhat.

Need money?

Don’t try to ensorcel your boss to give you a raise. Simply ask the universe to increase the flow of abundance in your direction.

That infringes on NO ONE’S free will.

One last thing: giving me a book about the Burning Times is like giving a book on the Holocaust to a Jewish person.

It’s not funny and is rude.

Yes, I do go to Salem, but not because any of those Poor executed people were witches (I think the jury is still out on some of them), but because there’s cool pagan shops there.

If there were cool pagan shops in a town called East Cowflop, I’d go there.

Please don’t try to make me ashamed of who I worship and what I am.

Please don’t try to convert or “save” me.

Don’t throw holy water on me.

Don’t leave little pamphlets on my desk or windshield. I don’t need to be saved.

Witches are proud of that fact that we don’t recruit people to become witches.

We simply ARE, and those around us see how we think, how we act, and our inner peace, and only when someone says “how do I become a witch?” do we take them into the fold with us.

I will NEVER leave a religious tract with anyone.

I don’t have one, unless you count this letter.

And I am not asking you to convert.

I am only asking you to understand.

If you don’t want to understand, just leave me alone.