Cakes and Ale is probably one of the most common rituals held. It is the way we say thank you to the Gods and Goddesses for being part of our rituals and is probably one of the oldest traditions we know that has stood the test of time. It is also a ritual that is practiced in many different religions.
The actual Cakes and Ale used can be different for every ritual. People can use the fruits and vegetables that are in season and for a Sabbat ritual this is a really good practice to get into. At the same time it is the intention that is the most important and I know people, including myself, that have grabbed a cup of water and a processed wafer, as this is all they have had available at the time.
I have also read from different sources different interpretations of what the Cakes represent and what the Ale represent. Some say that the Cakes represent the God, others the Goddess. Some say the Ale represents the God and others the Goddess. Most do talk about the representation of balance between the Gods and Goddesses, and yet another that focus completely on the Goddess with both the Cakes and Ale representing her.
For myself I prefer to view the Ale representing the Goddess and the Cakes the God. For each of these we bless each in turn and share with every one in the ritual, which if I am on my own usually means this is the time my dog starts to get interested in being in the circle with me. Some do the Cakes first and Ale second, while others do this the other way around. We prefer to start with the Ale first and the Cakes second. Every description I have read keeps a portion for the God and Goddess that is placed outside at the end of the ritual.
One of the biggest things that the research I have done on this subject shows is just how easy it is to find contrasting information on something that is preformed by so many people and something when you first look at the ritual looks as though it should be easy. Which also shows just how important it is to not just take every thing at face value and look deeper into meaning and intent. Then to work out what best works for you and your personal relationship with the Gods and Goddesses.
Spring is coming and there is many a tradition connecting the change of the season and the beginning of life returning to the land. There are so many different symbols that can be used for this time of the year, new lambs, budding flowers, blessing newly sown crops, and of course the humble egg.
Eggs are held as one of the symbols of fertility, the sign of new life. The story of the rabbit delivering eggs goes back to the Goddess Eostre. The story goes that the little rabbit wanted to please the Goddess so much that he laid sacred eggs and decorated them for her pleasure. When he laid them at her feet she was so pleased that she wished that all of mankind should share in her joy, so in honor of the Goddess the rabbit distributed his gifts of the decorated all throughout the land. And of course the Goddess Eostre is also connected to the dawn and the beginning of the day, another reference to the beginning of new life.
Ostara is also the second time in the wheel of the year where the day and night are balanced and the length of the day is the same as the night. For me this is a telling time and a really good way to mark this Sabbat. The county that I live is very big and diverse, talking to my mum in in Victoria snuggled in jumpers with cold winds and rain poring down, here in the Red Centre Spring is most defiantly on the way. The winds have picked up, the son is higher in the sky and you can actually see the dust rising up in the air. Dust storms are quite common in the strong hot winds of Spring. There is also new life as the birds protect there young from my dog as we go walking along the dry Todd River. And while the lizards did come out for a week or two earlier in the year, back into hibernation they went safe and sound when it came down cold again and are only now beginning to show them selves again as the get ready for the long hot months ahead.
For me it is a time of growth and joy as the heat comes back to the land. I am not a fan of the cold and when lizards showed themselves as a sprit animal of mine it really was not a surprise. I love standing in the son and feeling the heat on my skin. That time is now here again and we have many months ahead before the wheel turns back to the cooler months.
Happy Ostara every one, and happy Lughnasadh to every one on the other side of the wheel.
For all of you who are either at lesson 4 or beyond lesson 4 you would have enjoyed a wonderful healing visualisation as part of your homework for lesson 4. This is a visualisation I have adapted and changed a little and have been using ever since I started lesson 4 all those years ago.
For myself I can physically feel the energy going through my body. I start with filling my self up with light and energy from our beautiful earth, and then focus that energy to a ball between my hands. When it feels strong and powerful enough, the ball floats down to my feet and enters my body. Sometimes it takes just moments to travel up my body, other times that ball of energy can focus on different parts for some time. I don’t rush it, and I don’t try and hold it either. Just let it move at the pace the energy and my body needs.
I do this in times when I feel depleted or stressed, I also do this when I feel the twinges of a cold or flu or some other nasty bug coming on. Only two weeks ago when my work colleague came down with a nasty colds, and I also felt the twinges, I did this visualisation as well as a few preventive herbal medications and my twinges were gone within 24 hours and I was as good as new. One of my work colleagues was off work for a week.
I have also used this to focus on specific injuries, or illnesses. Such as my not so happy knee that plays up when the muscle moves the kneecap out of place. I don’t just use this healing visualisation to help make it feel better, after all if it was that simple then we would all use it. I also need regular yoga and strengthening to pull the muscles back into alignment. However the healing now happens in less time.
And this also does not mean that you don’t have to take care of yourself, while I was feeling really good after beating the cold I forgot to listen to my body. I was feeling very tired, I ignored it not realising that my body was still fighting the cold. I did not get enough sleep to help my own body’s energy in this fight and that cold ended up winning. So now I sit here sniffling with no voice as my body goes though the stages of getting better again. Opps
Water is an amazing element and one that took me the longest to understand. It was not until my training in second degree where water came and hit me over the head to say “here I am”.
As some of you know I live in an arid landscape, while there are times the Todd river and the other dry rivers can flow many times in one year, most times it is dry for months upon months at a time. There are waterholes that have water all year round, however these are not in town and can take a bit of driving time to get to them. When we do see water we do get a little excited, no matter if it is rain or the rivers flowing, or just going for a drive to one of these water holes. However you will hear a lot of people say that they miss being by the sea, miss seeing vast expanses of water, or constantly flowing rivers and that they feel so disconnected from water here in the Red Center of Australia.
For a long time I also felt this, and I also wondered about it. I am not a sea person, I like it but I don’t miss it or feel I have to live near it. I do however miss the arid landscape when I am away from it. I love flowing rivers, but I love walking along the dry riverbeds just as much. So for a long time I thought that just maybe I was not meant to have a close a relationship with water as I do with the other elements. And then Water came and hit me over the head with a very simple message “I am everywhere, arid zone landscape or not”.
Water is life giving, where there are plants there is water and there are plenty of plants in the arid lands. Water is free flowing, where there is a riverbed there is water flowing, and in fact our river beds are often called up-side-down rivers as the sand is above the flowing water. Water is cleansing and after rain in the arid lands the trees, rocks, mountains and even the sand sparkles in the light. Water refreshes, and on a hot days work when the days are over 40 degrees day after day, to be in water makes you feel more than alive. And as for having vast expanses of water, without the massive dams of water underfoot that is currently storing water that is over 10,000 years old we would never have been able to survive and grow as we have in this arid land.
This is what water is to me and from that day on I have never felt that I am that far away from water no matter where I am on this magnificent earth.
Imbolg always reminds me that while it might still be cold, the nights are getting shorter and there will soon be warmth coming back into the land. However this Imbolg I find myself wondering just how much our seasons are becoming more and more unpredictable, how when the wheel turns each year, it seems to throw a few odd turns here and there.
So while we are just beginning August here in the Red Centre it was only 2 weeks ago that I noticed my first lizard of the season, and just to make sure I was not seeing things the lizards have continually made there presents known. Ok, so it’s August and the lizards are already coming out of hibernation. Lizards are very special to me as there are many times, especially when I walk out into the hot sun that I feel like a lizard and stand there soaking up the hot rays. When the winter chills set in I would prefer to hibernate away from the chilly winds and ice cold frosts that we get here in the arid land.
However the wheel is only up to Imbolg and we still have cold nights to come. I fond myself worrying about the lizards and of our other creatures that may be waking up too soon. Or do they know more than me, in which case we are about to have one very long summer which is in a different way also just as worrying.
So as a coven I am very close to prepares to burn last years Bridget’s cross and make new ones in amongst have snow and sleet fall on their lands. I find myself this Imbolg getting my spring garden ready sooner than anticipated. And I have to admit that getting my hand full of good clean dirt that I have had slumbering over the short cold winter feels good. Even now while I am typing I still have dirt stuck under my nails. My hands feel cleansed as my body feels good from an honest days toil and labor.
While this small ritual may not be as pretty or as thought out as a ritual celebration. I almost feel that I have done more this year to celebrate Imbolg than I ever have before. I think the only thing left is to make a small straw dolly to place in my newly made Spring Garden bed and let the power of the celebration feed into the vegetables that will soon be planted in this now very fertile soil. I knew there was a reason that my normal local garden supply shop only had straw mulch available.
I have been thinking about grounding and how it helps to center oneself after a ritual for the past week. Makes sense since I have just spent an amazing week with some amazing witches, participated in 4 rituals, one an initiation into an inner court and one for my own 3rd degree initiation. After flying very high on fantastic energy and as well as the ritual energy I have now been home for a week and riding the downward ride of coming back down to earth and back into everyday life.
Grounding can do a number of good things for your own balance. Even for a small, simple ritual you can end up with an excess of energy running though you and it is good practice to re balance your own energy levels and give back to the earth that which you do not need. Grounding can be as simple as just sitting there feeling the earth beneath you with your feet firmly planted on the floor below. To going all out and lying on raw earth, be it grass, dirt or rock. It really depends on what is available for you are the time you feel the need to ground. I have done it before by just leaning up against a tree, it was in a public space and leaning against the tree is a lot less likely to get stares than hugging the tree.
For myself I physically feel the transfer of energy from ground to me and back and can physically feel the rebalance. However in saying this I have no doubt that it can be subtly different to very different for every one. When finished I feel balanced and light at the same time, I find it a very refreshing experience. As for grounding after (or even in) ritual, I can give a really good example from personal experience of what happens to me when I don’t spend the time needed to ground properly. My main symptom is vertigo; I get extremely dizzy and at times nauseous, and this can happen straight away, or up to 24 hours later.
Normally after such a week I have just had I crash and it can take quite an effort to come back up to normal. This time I still crashed, but the landing was much softer and I have gained my normal balance much more quickly than before, all of which I know has to do with the grounding practices that I am now so used to doing.
Initiations, just how important are they?
Having just been through my 3rd degree initiation and having the wonderful fortune of being present for another beautiful witch’s 1st degree initiation in weeks time it has got me thinking about how I view initiations.
Being an Inclusive Wiccan we initiate into the coven, not into the Wiccan Tradition. This means that unlike some other traditions we firmly believe that all witches have the right to self dedicate into the Wiccan tradition. I know from my own personal experience just how hard it can be to find the right coven and for me, I had spent a number for years living in remote Australia and finding a coven was not an option. Even now living in a small town, I am not sure that I could find the right teacher or coven to be part of.
Listening to other witches, who have chosen the solitary path, again emphasizes to me that it can be very hard to find the right coven for you even when you are surrounded by people. Some of these witches live in great big cities, and at the same time while being involved in different combined celebrations and rituals, still prefer to live a solitary life.
Now I just happened to stumble upon the Oak and Mistletoe School and have actually found the most amazing teachers and witch’s and from there the Heartwood Coven was formed. So I not only find myself part of a coven, I am there High Priestess and I have now been through 3 different initiations with Oak and Mistletoe as part of becoming the person that I am today.
Being a part of an initiation, and going though them myself I can see just how they have been important to my own growth. However at the same time I can see how others who chose a solitary life can grow just as much using self dedications and following there own path. I guess the biggest thing I am taking from this is that we all have our own paths to walk and we will each find a way to do just that in the best way that we can with the resources that we have.
I feel very blessed that my path has lead me to where I am and for me initiations have been and will continue to be very important – for my path.