Destroyer and Begetter

crimson4SAMHAIN SONG
by  Leigh Ann Hussey

Waken you eldest ones, eldest in power,
Born in the ancient dark, e’er the first hour

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

See where the Lady comes, chanting and keening,
Called by the harvest bell, called to the Gleaning

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

Black all Her ragged clothes, hair long and streaming!
She comes with sickle sharp, glinting and gleaming!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

Quickly She cuts away, cuts to the bare bone,
Hers is the oaken flail, Hers is the grindstone!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

Hers is the boiling vat, Change is Her brewing,
She is Creation, and She is Undoing!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

Dark is Her piercing eye, She sees what’s hidden,
Spirits of Earth and Air act at Her bidding!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

See! comes the Horned One, baying and swearing,
Called by the hunting horn, called to the harrying,

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

Rank is his garb of hides, hair wild and flying,
He comes with oaken Spear, and pack a crying!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

Swiftly he rides in hunt, he never tires,
His is the flint knife, His is the Fire!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

His is the pounding heart, Night is His Fetter,
He is Destroyer, and He is Begetter!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

Dark is His antlered Head, shadows surround Him!
Spirits of field and wood revel around Him!

WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!
WAKEN WITHIN AND AROUND US!

The kindling of the Samhain fires is a moment deeply to be cherished in the life of the Witch.  The dark flames, signalling the fall of Night upon the Year that is passing, are the natural counterpoint to the joyous bonfire of Beltane and the joyous rutting in the fields by the light of those exalting fires. There is at times a deep serenity in the shimmering of the orange and black shadows over the eldritch scene of the Samhain sabbat.  Witches see in such things intimations of the ineffable Mysteries of Death and Rebirth.  There is a wildness to the rites and a fierce glorying in the Powers that come to their fullness in this great holy Tide of the Year.

Faster and faster whirl the shadowed figures of the Dancers, as the Year turns to its ordained End.  Yet in this ending lies a new beginning.  He is Destroyer, and He is Begetter.6728cecc57ee08d71629ee7d7b5bde16-l

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Hail to the Opener of the Way

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Anubis, Master of Secrets, Guide of Souls. Known of old in the raw hills above the green Nile from remote Antiquity.  He comes bearing His staff to guide and guard and bestow grace. Far from a God who comes to my hearth only at the Samhain tide, He is a beacon of wisdom, a fount of inspiration, a mystic Companion in my journeys through the worlds and realms and kingdoms.  But in this season, when our swiftly tilting planet shifts its Northern hemisphere ever more sharply towards darkness, comes hours of dusk and dawn, most fitting  to write of my well-beloved Lord of the Twilight Hallows (a title He made known to my mind in honor of Himself).  He’s far too important a Presence in my life, home, and heart to be confined merely to a single piece of writing.  As a beginning, I offer this poem by one of his most erudite modern-day devotees, the late Terence DuQuesne… it came to me unlooked-for one evening sometime between Lammas and Mabon, and I felt as if He himself were somehow arranging for my eyes to behold these beautiful words Terence offered from a heart filled with love for this dark and lustrous Lord:

Black and gold god
Caress me with your breath
I honour you
In all three worlds
You fuse the elements
Deity of extremes

Let nothing mitigate
The love I bear for you
Time before time
Your avatar is no less
Noble and fallible
Than yourself
And is yourself

Come then wild god
Once and again
Subtle and super-male
Coy libertine
Guardian of incenses
Travel with me
Beyond your sadness
Concrete and visceral
Dreams in the netherworld

Master of Secrets
Lord-of-life
On top of your corruption
Leader of godly counsel
Spellbinder in the kingdom
Of the justified

Brush with your
Fine black fur my tears
Quell all futility
Fit me to love
Grace me to serve your name

Raise the golden
Branch of palm
From Seshat’s magic tree
Touch the caduceus
To my longing lips
Open my mouth
Spirit in sync
For praise and prophecy

Revivify this foolish king
Divine midwife and
Virile psychopomp
Burn from his essence
All that is
More than human
Or less than divine

I conjure you Anûp
Now almost lost
At the port of mystery
Black hole of the soul
Fit me to love
Grace me to serve your name

–Terence DuQuesne, Caduceus (1989, 2nd edition)

 

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Dance with the Witches

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THE WITCHES’ SABBATH

Come horse, come hound, come leaping toads,
Down from the forests and over the roads,
Through all the meadows and over the ditches;
Off to the Sabbath to dance with the witches.
Beavers and badgers and nocturnal creatures;
Cats, bats and howlets with comical features,
Flying and creeping and crawling and walking,
Dancing and singing and laughing and talking.
Folks from the cottages, people with riches
Come altogether to dance with the witches.
Flowers from the hedges with mosses and litchen
Carried by ladies and maids from the kitchen:
Squires from the manors and boys from the stable,
Young folk and old folk and all who are able,
Travel by twilight avoiding all hitches;
Everyone rushing to dance with the witches.
Round the bonfire they go merrily tripping,
Yelling and screaming and jumping and skipping,
Free as the wind they keep dancing and shrieking,
Bodies all gleaming and sweating and reeking.
This is far better than all of your riches;
Throw off your cares and let’s dance with the witches.
In the pale moonlight they romp till the morning,
When everybody is tired out and yawning.
Loudly they shout in the highest of pitches,
“O for the nights when we dance with the witches!”

–Arnold Crowther

The Samhain tide rises, in all its serene, dark, lustrous beauty.  The Old Ones draw near.  Our beloved Dead gather around the fires of hearth and heath.  The Inner World and the Outer change places.  Nothing is quite as it seems.  Shakespeare’s Wyrd Sisters sang:

Fair is foul and foul is fair
Hover in the dark and filthy air!

The great cauldron of the Goddess moves betimes widdershins.  Her sacred Spiral coils and uncoils.  We learn many lessons.  Tears must be shed e’er the Moon is drawn down.

I had an experience yesterday that almost literally gave me a punch to the gut.  I was very forcibly reminded that the discipline of Witchcraft is a deeply physical one; that the wisdom of the flesh is not to be trifled with or thrust aside with contempt or willful ignorance; that for the Witch, the body is intimately bound up with mind, spirit, soulfire. Turn from this at your peril.

I feel so keenly the throb of the spirits as the leaves of my Teachers, the trees, turn to scarlet and umber and gold, the air arches keenly into my lungs with a hint of the Crone’s winnowing scythe, the bright ruthless skies of Autumn shine with an ever more glorious gleam that tell of the Winter that is to come.  I listen to the inward music of the Samhain rites approaching and remember the feral glory of my lover’s passionate clasp around my loins.  I weep for my Dead and I sing their praises with joy.  It is the tide of Samhain.  The Darkness will bestow its Blessings and the Spirits will have their due.

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Elegy for a Brother of the Art

fotos-de-la-santa-muerte-gratis-4My Brother of the Art with whom I walked in love and honor has gone.  He has gone beyond the veil.  The ordained end to all tears has come.  We mourn him, honor his greatness, cherish his kind and gentle spirit, acknowledge the Passion of his work and the Wisdom of his words.  No sentimental phrases can ever describe the pain I feel in this time of loss.  Praying to the Old Ones to cherish him as we did here on Earth.

I have quoted Victor’s poem “The Mighty One is here” in the past, but today I am thinking of the words from Old Doreen Valiente:

To think that you are gone, over the crest of the hills,
As the Moon passed from her fullness, riding the sky,
And the White Mare took you with her.
To think that we will wait another life
To drink wine from the horns and leap the fire.
Farewell from this world, but not from the Circle.
That place that is between the worlds
Shall hold return in due time. Nothing is lost.
The half of a fruit from the tree of Avalon
Shall be our reminder, among the fallen leaves
This life treads underfoot. Let the rain weep,
Waken in sunlight from the Realms of Sleep.

May he return in Love.

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Cherishing Mercury Retrograde

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I myself have come, in my own strange way, to cherish times of Mercury Retrograde. I seem to have the best conversations at this time of the year. I find myself setting a deliberate intention to slow down, to breathe, to reflect, and to consider things more carefully, when approaching the time when Mercury goes retrograde.  The final phase of Mercury Retrograde for 2014–there are always three of them each calendar year–falls, on this occasion, in the midst of the busy month of October.

If you are traveling during these weeks, be sure to leave extra time for getting to and from the Airport. Extra patience in dealing with personnel in control of movements and communications, such as TSA employees, will be rewarded. Psychic exercises to ground, clear and center will bring extra power because of the nature of energy flows at this time, and these can be drawn upon if you are in a phase of finishing up a big piece of work.  It can also benefit preparations to undertake a project of larger scale and scope. You can also draw upon herbal allies for extra power. For instance, if going on a job interview, don’t just put a dab of rosemary oil on, but carry some actual rosemary in a sachet in your purse or pocket, and put some rosemary in your food as well (focaccia time!). Doing things in threes seems to compensate for the “retrograde” factor when you do need to move forward in Mercurial areas.

If you identify as a Witch,  remember that you do hold some degree of persuasive influence over the realm of the natural world and its forces. You can move forward in partnership with those forces to orchestrate a desired outcome with confidence and elegance. Contrary to what many may tell you, you do not need to hide under your bed during the three weeks of Mercury Retrograde.

Astrology blogger Jamie A. Kahl on the Pandora Astrology site analyses the approaching phase of Mercury Retrograde thus:

Mercury retrograde in Scorpio can bring a deep purging, but sometimes this is a result of some pretty pointed truth-saying.  Some truths are hidden for a reason, and when they all come surging up to the surface, they can bring destruction in their wake.  This may be the only Mercury retrograde sign that makes me say, “proceed with extreme caution,” because things said cannot be unsaid and there may be consequences that leave the landscape entirely changed. Anything you have to say that feels like poison within you—as if it will kill you as long as you keep it inside—is especially cause for caution.  Approach your listener with a desire for healing, not revenge. Clearing old stuff from the past should be done carefully and gently, because it may land with much more impact than you expect and its effects may well be permanent.

As Mercury backs up into Libra (and it does so promptly—on October 10th), the mood lightens up a great deal.  Now instead of revenge being a motivator, it’s about fairness.  Mercury in Libra wants to negotiate, to hear as well as speak, and is capable of selecting what to say according to the listener’s ability to hear.  Lesser Epiphany Day comes on October 16, bringing insights along with it.  While there many be many lovers’ quarrels and other kinds of partnership arguments, clarity should descend around the 16th, and peace be restored—on a new footing—by the time Mercury returns to the degree in Scorpio where it turned retrograde in the first place.  That’s 2º Scorpio and it happens on November 10.

Spending the whole of this season’s Mercury retrograde period with an open, curious heart and a willingness to hear is the very best approach.

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Bright, bright the firelight when day is turning into night

excalibur-in-the-lake.jpg!BlogMystery of silver grey violet gold… the final waning of the year.  Dusktide.  The hour of betwixt-and-between.  The final darkness of Samhain will soon fall, but first the Divine Twins that are the Powers of Darkness and Light savor a moment of mutual clasping and intertwining.  The Egg of Creation is balanced at a single point.  The apples are fragrant in the orchards of Avalon.  The rotting fruit that has fallen has already begun to yield into the inevitable embrace of compost, releasing dark unknown seeds into the living Earth.  She will endure while what has budded and flourished and triumphed, now drowsing, drooping,  fading, falls finally into slumber.

Old gods are standing near
To watch the turning of the year;
Far from the forest’s gloom
Faeries pipe their tune.

Strong staves of rowan-tree
Shall keep the measure merrily;
Ash-branch and sprig-of-broom
Flash beneath the moon..

Rise up and join the ring
Round the harvest-tide blaze;
Praise now the Waning King
In the last of his days. …

Round, round, upon the ground
Where Jack O’Green is autumn-bound,
Whirl, whirl the Ivy Girl,
Where the harvest was springing.

Bright, bright the firelight
When day is turning into night;
Swirl, swirl, the smoke doth curl,
While the dancers are singing.
–Gwydion Pendderwen

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Photo by permission of artist and visionary Wolf Luman:  http://wolf-luman.squarespace.com/

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Pigment for Queens

Malia.bee.brooch

Virgil’s Bees

Bless air’s gift of sweetness, honey
from the bees, inspired by clover,
marigold, eucalyptus, thyme,
the hundred perfumes of the wind.
Bless the beekeeper

who chooses for her hives
a site near water, violet beds, no yew,
no echo. Let the light lilt, leak, green
or gold, pigment for queens,
and joy be inexplicable but there
in harmony of willowherb and stream,
of summer heat and breeze,
each bee’s body
at its brilliant flower, lover-stunned,
strumming on fragrance, smitten.

For this,
let gardens grow, where beelines end,
sighing in roses, saffron blooms, buddleia;
where bees pray on their knees, sing, praise
in pear trees, plum trees; bees
are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them.

–Carol Ann Duffy

The other day, Dame Fate cast into my lap a slim pamphlet bearing the suggestive title Mellis Caelestia dona by Martha Kearney, a UK broadcaster, beekeeper, and Classics fan.  The text is a transcription of a lecture delivered to the Classical Association of the UK earlier this year.  Kearney surveys the lore of beekeeping in the ancient (mainly Graeco-Roman) world, assembling some fascinating facts and nuances as glittering and golden as any honeycomb.  The landscape she surveys ranges from the lore of Pindar, Plato, Pliny and Virgil, to recent research at the University of Wales on the use of manuka honey (from New Zealand) in treating the “superbug infection” MRSA.

Kearney also invokes the shadowy eidolon of the Melissa, the Bee Priestess.  The lore about the work and play of the Melissa has always been elusive; even more obscure is the role of the Melissus, her male counterpart.  Kearney recounts:  “The Delphic priestess herself was described as a bee–Melissa Delphis, according to Pindar.  We can hear their role described in this Homeric Hymn to Mercury, translated by Shelley, about the maiden priestesses at Delphi.

There are three Fates, three virgin Sisters, who
Rejoicing in their wind-outspeeding wings,
Their heads with flour snowed over white and new,
Sit in a vale round which Parnassus flings
Its circling skirts–from these I have learned true
Vaticinations of remotest things.
My father cared not. Whilst they search out dooms,
They sit apart and feed on honeycombs.

They, having eaten the fresh honey, grow
Drunk with divine enthusiasm…

Such descriptions make one wonder whether Diotima, the much-venerated Teacher of Sokrates himself, may have been such a Bee Priestess.  In her classic work Fifty years in the Faery Tradition, Cora Anderson describes the Melissa as single, and quite bisexual.  Starhawk gives further lore about these Priestesses in one of her novels.

I do sometimes see the bees at their work in a garden near a bus stop where I wait for my daily commute.  And I speak to them and sometimes share my thoughts.  The Druids used to say tell any news you have to give to the bees, a saying that survived in some Gaelic traditions.  Their whirring wings fan the seasons of light and dark as we Witches turn the mighty Wheel of the Year.

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Immortal Aphrodite immortally smiling

A photograph showing ancient greek art

Honey–the flower essence produced by bees from plants–was also consecrated to the goddess of love, and according to Ovid was an aphrodisiac.  Aphrodite loved not only the flowers’ scents, but also their resinous incense. … Ancient sources reveal that the goddess of love was especially fond of myrtle, Chinese cinnamon, oriental frankincense, rockrose (resin of the shrub Cistus ladaniferus), myrrh, wild rose, madonna lily (Lilium candidum), and the mellifluous anise.  Ancient priestesses were bedecked with scented flowers, and fragrance gardens planted at their sanctuaries.  Incense burned continually at their altars.  Those who visited their holy abodes strolled through an intoxicating atmosphere of scents and fragrances, a “sweet Aphrodisian breeze”–perfumes are the stuff of enchantment.  Fragrances were viewed as the natural message of the great goddess of love.  Just as a flower sends forth its scent into the summer air, the perfume of Her Vulva was considered the “sweetest” fragrance in the entire Universe.–Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, The Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs.

Aphrodite Antheia, Aphrodite of the Flowers, Queen of the Summer Season that is now slowly but surely fading here in New England.  Fading?  Yet some of Her flowers still have special colors to reveal to those with eyes to see and a heart to cherish. 

Many of Her names and attributes are recounted by poet Geoffrey Grigson in one of my favorite volumes, The Goddess of Love (1976).   Her irresistible Power is Sovereign of that implacable force through which every species that lives upon the bosom of Earth is perpetuated.  Her dance, as Her incomparable feet move fleetingly over waves and graves, is the dance of Ecstasy, Terror, Knowledge, Revelation, and Oblivion.

Aphrodite Peitho, She Who Persuades.  Aphrodite Epistophia, She Who Moves Our Hearts.  Aphrodite Psithyros, She Who Whispers the secrets a lover longs to hear from the lips of the courted beloved.  Aphrodite Philommeides, Lover of Laughter (or Lover of Hard-ons, depending upon the spelling).  Immortally seductive Aphrodite Parakyptousa:  Aphrodite the Side-Glancer, sloe-eyed and saucy.  Aphrodite Baiotis, of the bewitching little ears that are like the shells tumbling merrily ashore in the foam of the Cypriote surf.  Aphrodite Kallipygos, She of the Sublime Derriere.  And Aphrodite Machinitis, the Schemer, the Contriver.  None may elude Her Net.

Aphrodite Nympha, of the Bridal Bower.  Aphrodite Thalamon, Queen of the wedding suite.  Aphrodite Charidotes, Bringer of the Supreme Joy which lovers share at the moment of climax.  Aphrodite Hetaira, Paragon among Courtesans.

Aphrodite Androphonos, Slayer of Men, for what is love’s fruit but the little death.  Aphrodite Paregoros, the Comfortess.  Aphrodite Ambologera, who forestalls old age with Her Splendour.

Aphrodite Akraia, of the High Place, for there was a Shrine to Her that looked out over plunging cliffs to the wine-dark sea that crashed against black rocks far below.  The rocks churned the raging sea into aquamarine strangeness. High, very High, in the exaltation She brings to every fibre of our being.  That is the special gift of Aphrodite.  Her hot flames burn away all pretense.  Her ravishing breath brings even the haughty to that low place where Wisdom may be found.  

Kythereia, in the salt tang of the breeze born bracingly over your holy waves, again and again I recall the Splendour with which you adorn my heart and the feasting with which you anoint my loins.  Aphrodite, sweet Goddess, may your blessings be bestowed upon all who read my words and rejoice at the renewed Mystery of Your Beauty.  Evoe!

 

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Blue Heron Bliss

Farm33Having returned from my week of bliss at Blue Heron Farm, I feel more than ever that the land is my greatest teacher.  Also the wind moving through the trees; the still shimmering waters of the pond; the rocks laid bare in their fortitude; the billowing pillar of flame at the heart of the bonfire.  The ravishing odor of new-cut cilantro.  The curlicues of kale and the florets of broccoli as I work on the evening’s soup (a Thai green curry yumfest).  The whispers of the Old Ones as They glimmer through my dreams and visions.  The hard firm cock of my lover as we rut rejoicing in the fields of late Summer.

The life of the body is organically intertwined with the life of the mind–indeed, more and more I come to see one as the pendant and counterpoint of the other.  The divine dance of wisdom is achieved through the balance of all planes into the keen crimson flame of the True Will.  These words do not really carry intrinsic meaning; like the body in harmony with pure instinctual drives, they point to something greater.

The essence of Witchcraft is held within the spark of every human lifeforce, but some of the wisdom is contained in the green leaves of our plant allies; in the delicate, fierce, or dignified blooms of certain vines and shrubs; in the shifting rhythm of night and day as the Wheel spins towards darkness in these waning tides of the Year.  The ancient wisdom returns again and again because its truth reverberates through every breath and through every pulsation of the sacred Elements of Life. Burn the books again and again; scribes will be found to write out the lost words and murmur once more the forgotten incantations.  The true Book of Shadows cherished by a Witch is etched in the vivid rose of every dawn and the subtle greygold glimmer of every duskfall.

The thudding of the drums at the fireside inspires strange visions.  The visions open an eldritch gateway into Mystery.  The touch of flesh to flesh enlivens the coursing current of Magick with the lustre of the Triple Flame.  The spirit of Wisdom in Ecstasy finds new life in the whirling bodies of sweat-streaked dancers, their faces rippling with unknown joy in the heat of the sacred fire.

O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom, or the bole?
O Body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
–Yeats

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Lady of the Elder

Elder_flower_(Sambucus_nigra),_Bishopstone_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1360308

You tell me that the beginning of herbs goes back to ages we cannot picture.  So it is with the gathering and the charms.  There was a day when the Lady let Her servants know of Her presence. They say that the wells and stones remember.  In that time the prayers were real, and I do think that without the prayers now, the herbs would be less good, and some magic lost from them. …Some of the herbs are special to Her. Nine of them are sacred–waybread, mugwort, stime, maythen, wergulu, crab apple, chervil, fenkel and alterlothe.  On these She has laid Her hand.  In these later days we see only the last glimpses of Her, like the long train of Her skirts after She has passed.  But in other days She was more clear.  She leaves us now with the knowledge, and with the stones and wells, where the old worship hangs in the air. …Elder was important to the strange, serious boy.  It had a holy significance as the home of the Lady who protected all herbs and plants. 

—Chris Hunt, Thornapple (1989)

I first became aware of the potency of the Elder and Her berries through the old film, Arsenic and Old Lace, a tale of two dear sweet old ladies with a most unforgettable vintage of elderberry wine in their cellar.  In recent days I have been giving thanks for the gifts of the Elder as I have been dosing some symptoms most likely attributable to pollen irritation with soothing spoonfuls of Elderberry syrup.  The Lady of the Elder, or Elder Mother, sometimes spoken of with a note of fear and respect as the Elder Witch, bears wisdom and healing that has returned to us in these strange unhinged days.  Perhaps Her gifts can help us find our way back to a state of greater balance and integration.

The folk-tales and anecdotes that survive about the Lady distill into easily understood language and imagery the spirit of respectful cooperation between humans and plant (and other) Kingdoms.  Ask Her permission and all will be well.  The old woodsman’s charm of asking Old girl, give me some of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when I grow into a tree is straightforward and pure-hearted.  I felt this in a different way at a Beltane rite last May.  I went to the Grove where the Spring of the Land has Her pool, and I sat by Her waters and let them play through my fingers, feeling Her presence.  I carefully gathered some of the water for the rite.  And at the end of the rite, the water was returned to the Land She nurtures, feeding it and completely the circuit of Love and Power.

If due respect is not given to the Lady, trouble will ensue, and perhaps even … reprisals.  Think of it as showing due respect to Life-force.  As I move forward, threading my practice through the days and nights of my life, I see Life-force and She Who Stands at the Crossroads of Death and Rebirth as among the most significant Divinities we honor.  Which is why so many of the Old Ones embody the blessings of both Sex and Death.  Two sides of the same energetic matrix.  Just as the Feasts of Beltane and Samhain are in one way of thinking a pair of Divine Twins.  The Light Year and the Dark Year.  One cannot exist without the other.  There was a saying that if one failed to ask the Lady of the Elder her blessing, the wood taken would go twisted and gnarled and whatever was made of it would be ruined.  There is a humorous tale of some unlearned individual having an attack of what sounds like hives as a result of molesting an Elder without permission.  In this case, the person was healed because of an old woman who knew of the proper remedy to apply.  Prayers to the Old Lady may have been muttered or half-sung over the posset, but if so, these, like so many of our ways and traditions and lore, are not a part of the written record.  Only fools think that because not written down, their existence should be called into question.

May Her Blessings be with those who seek them and who seek greater understanding.

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