Bone Collecting

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Bone Collecting, so much nicer that saying I like dead things, sometimes without their skin.   but I digress a little.. Of late I have started to look at my wee bone collection and realise that I am a little bit of a bone collector, amongst all of the other things I do, like sewing modern tapestries of Ancient Gods and Magical Doorways.  It a Witch thing I am sure of it.  Samhain has just past here in New Zealand, so I figured that Bone collecting would be topical.  And it is time for me to begin awakening the newest bones to my collection, Albert the boar skull.

A few years back I obtained two English Leicester sheep skulls, from a friend who used to look after a flock of sheep for several months a year here in Wellington.  The woman who owned the flock was a spinner who grew her own sheep, and as happens on occasion some of the flock grown old or get sick and die.  There was a place in a small copse of pine trees where the bodies were left to return to the earth.  (Basically rot away)  My friend used to look after these sheep and knew where to find the good skulls and bones.

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Mrs Lester, the larger of the two skulls, was found with a very large and very scary bush spider in one of her eye sockets.  Luckily I have excellent hearing and could hear spider calling over that persistent squealing. .. … that might have been me.   *shudders* I might work with Grandmother Spider but I am not so fond of large scary looking bush spiders..

After carefully and politely thanking the spider for showing me which one, which involved quickly stepping away as she scuttled into the forest.. and then asked my friend who is less spider averse if she had gone yet.. Witchcraft not always as glamorous as you want it to be *coughs*

This was the beginning of my conscious bone collecting and learning of how you honour the spirit that once inhabited the skull and how you prepare it for a new spirit, entity energy, depending on what you are going to be doing with your new skull or bone.

I now have a growing collection of bones, skulls and animal skins that I have gotten to know and work with.  After Mrs Lester was taken to a Samhain ritual some years back she became the matriarch of my little bone tribe.  Lester junior was recently gifted to a fellow Witch to begin her bone collection.  And now it is time to start working on Albert the Boar skull I was given some years back by a fellow witch.

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Albert will become a part of my growing bone collection and a sacred housing for the spirit of Boar and all he brings with him.  For me personally it will begin a new understanding and insight of myself and where my path is leading.  He will be cleaned, scrubbed and painted with magical symbols to create a guide who will guide me into and through the spirit world, and other magical  places  And maybe he will be a mascot, a magical focal point, so to speak, as I take this next step with my art and turn it towards making a living.

But how did I come to this conclusion, and understanding? What is it that makes this skull an important part of my spiritual path and learning?  How do I know that it is not just a skull of a long dead pig?

Several things have led me to this understanding and they are difficult to explain and pinpoint.  I have read up on the spiritual and magical meaning of Bore’s via several books and card sets that I have.  I have used divination to ask questions about this skull and its meaning or path direction.  I have meditated and communed, and the biggest sign if will, is that it feels right, and that feeling of rignness  in regards to your spiritual work and path is impossible to feel.. but you know when you do.

Now as it is edging past the season of Samhain, we are well into the season of the dead.  Albert is languishing in a tub of water to soften the last remaining flesh that is still clung to the skull and hopefully near the winter solstice I will be able to remove the rest of it and he can degrease over the last of the winter.  And while this is happening I will also be working on the energy and magic of crafting him into a bone tribe member.  Like most things I have learnt with magic, oft times it is a long process and that process is just as important as the finished bit.

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According to the druid animal oracle Boar stands for warrior, leadership and direction which now that I am reading about it makes some strong sense.  As the seasons of autumn turns more fully into the winter, here in New Zealand, the ancestors are honoured and themes of introspection are becoming more prominent, I will be working with the energy and spirit of the boar.

I will put into action what I have learnt and hunker down to create and work on my art and business so that come this July after the winter solstice my exhibition will be and roaring success.

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Beyond the Seasons

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Seasonal celebration themes are such a strong focus within the magical and pagans worldview that it can be difficult to see beyond them. I don’t mean to ignore the seasons instead what I am asking is, what is beyond the celebration seasonal cycle?  The Seasons are an excellent place to start when you first begin your magical study but having started there it is important to remember that they are not the bee all and end of magical practice.

This year I have found it very odd that it is currently spring here in New Zealand, I am in a bit of a confused state.  This I believe, is because I spend a month in Canada at the end of July and beginning of August.  While I was in Canada I felt that moment when the season turned from summer to autumn and so I have been a bit discombobulated so to speak. This in turn has caused me to wonder when it comes to magic and magical work, what is beyond the seasons? How do we deepen out understanding of this magic that we work with?   I don’t believe that it is possible to work without the seasons because we do live in this world, in this place. But what is beyond the general understanding of the seasons

Having live my life in New Zealand and the last 15 years in Wellington I believe I understand quite deeply how the seasons interact and move with this landscape that l live in.  I have also explored and understood the societal seasons, which are similar but also not the same.  For example tax year ending and starting, the election cycle, and various other stimuli that will affect the spirit of a city such as Wellington.  There is also the obvious combinations such as the build-up to Christmas, which is for us,  during the summer, followed by easter which is during our autumn.  And our winter which I have taken to calling the long dark, not so much because there is less daylight but more so because during the hard winter months there is no public holidays to look forward to. From the beginning of June until the end of October there are no public holidays.. Near enough to 5 months of the winter season, our coldest darkest time, with nothing in the way of public holidays or celebrations to look forward to.

And I have spend much time playing with and in a sense coming to peace with the northern hemisphere seasonal holidays that have been imported wholesale to New Zealand without seasonal considerations. Oddly enough, they work or can work for the plucky observant witch or magical worker.  For instance,  it is Beltane here in New Zealand, that time between spring and summer.  And over the years Halloween has been introduced from North American along with a fair amount of expat Americans and Canadians, who like to celebrate that touch of home.  Halloween as I have learnt is the beginning of what is called in Northern America the holiday season.  Samhain and Beltane are at both ends of the spectrum of life for me, and I have found that the veil that everyone talks about, is thin during both seasons.  But for Beltane it is about bringing things forward, or birthing from the spirit world, where as Samhain is about Ancestors who essentially inhabit the spirit world. or that is how I have felt and worked with it without going into more explanation because really it is difficult to explain. And Halloween, that is about dressing up in costumes, having fun and learning to face that which scares you.

Beyond the seasonal correspondences, themes and thoughts is a tide of magical underpinning that can be very subtle, and very difficult to put into words.  But for me it is about movement, and moving, the ebb and flow, or if you like growth and deepening of your understanding and connections with the world of spirit, and divine.  And the harder  it is, this understanding of the magical beyond the season, the harder can be to put into words, so instead I create art.

I create doorways in the forms of fabric wall hangings that depict magical things, such as Gods and Goddesses, from which you can invite that magical underpinning and magic through, which can then fit your own framework and understanding of how the magic works.

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It is said that if you open the doorway, the invited come through and if you don’t then the wall hangings will remain inert but also sacred art.  It makes sense that the ones who have gods and goddesses sewn into them will invite those gods and goddesses. I should not have to say be careful here right?

So how do you reach beyond the seasons and into the tides and magic in the spirit worlds?

FireDragons for Samhuinn

This year my Samhuinn celebration and ritual was an adventure held in Auckland, which is about an hour’s flight from Wellington.  about six weeks or so ago my Friend Nicola suggested that we take advantage of the cheap Air New Zealand flights and go to Auckland for the next Sabbat, which as you may of guessed was Samhuinn.  There were a couple of reasons for this: 1/ to see our Friend Nanny Ogg aka Caroline,  whom we love to pieces, and 2/ to experience how other groups around NZ actually do and participate in their own rituals, Namely Fire Dragon Grove.   Also ‘adventures’

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So we intrepid travelling druid and witch, got on a late but cheap flight to Auckland.  Nanny Ogg was there to meet us at the Airport and whisk us off to her house somewhere in the wilds of Auckland not far from Conwell Park, which I will one of these days visit proper.  Cornwell Park is a huge wonderful green area with sheep and cows, and trees and a hill called One Tree Hill. . . that no longer has a tree because it was cut down by the an activist, who was incidentally the same activist who had a go at turning the Americas Cup into the New Zealand Plate. .. .  But that my dears is a topic for a different blog.  *coughs*

Anyway Nicola and I were whisked away to a nice house near this park, where we stayed up until the wee hours catching up over cups of tea and tiny digestive biscuits.  On Saturday morning I woke early, cause I have a tendency to do that when I am travelling.   I made cup of tea and then wandered outside.  The birds sounds that morning were not familiar to me, in Auckland they have doves, and minor birds which we don’t have in Wellington.  What was missing was the frockling sounds of about 25 Kaka Parrots, the Twitterings of Fantails and the song of the Tui, but then in Wellington my house is about 10 minutes or so from our local wild life reserve.

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After waking Nanny Ogg with the making a second cup of tea or was it the third?, I might be a bit of a tea-soak first thing in the morning :))  anyhoo,  the rest of the morning was spent planning on what we would be doing for the afternoon.  One of the things I wanted to do was to go and visit Aucklands witches Shop Cauldron Craft http://www.cauldroncraft.co.nz/

Caludron Craft

which is found in Devonport.  Luckily they had a sale on. as the story is closing down in June 2013 *sad face* but given that I live in Wellington it is difficult to get up there and spend my money.  However I here that it is going to be an online store.. *rubs hands together*

Anyway the three of us went wild.. I purchased many herbs and resins, plus a obsidian plate? Made with local Obsidian whoot.. Samhuinn ritual, and Nicola found things made of crystal and metal, otherwise known as shiny, of course you should buy the shiny.

Nanny Ogg brought a box of locally made candles, and incense for the evenings ritual. Devonport is a bit of an artsy place so we stayed and had lunch, cause we were hungry witches and druids…

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Then it was home again to prepare for the evenings invasion of Druids, but given that Fire Dragon Grove is a Druid Grove it is not surprising that the Druids were invading.  *grins*

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And yes the ritual was different from that of the Summer Stars Grove, for one there were less and different people, and for two in a small intimate group it is way easier for the main rite to be a lot more intense and personal, which it was for this Samhuinn ritual.  the quarters were called, the peace sent, awens sung and ancestors invited, things that we had forgotten to organise were brought by the other grove members, starting with the crumble, then seawater from spirits bay, the place it is said where the spirit so the dead in New Zealand travel to get to the underworlds.. then the oak leaves arrived with the blacksmith.. who had the same ideas about what to do with them as we three had discussed at lunch, must be magic.   The group was very much like a well magical oiled machine, everyone had something to offer and everyone had something to do.  After the main rite of a meditation it was the turn of the Cailleach to arrive, as really, this is her season.  The oak leaves were burned with the intention of what the druids were taking with them.  Then the Cailleach mixed in some oil with ash from the fire, and each participant was anointed.  ‘What you carry with you will transform and strengthen you’ was whispered in each participant’s ear and sealed with a kiss

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After the circle was uncast, the feast and eisteddfod was had, eisteddfod is a time where grove members tell stories or recite poems, some related to the season and others not.  I believe that in England this is held during the ritual, but here in New Zealand we have  a tendency to combine it will the feasting, it just works better for us.

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There was also a supper place with a little bit of everything that was put out for the ancestors as a way of honouring them further.  Stories were told and great food eaten, and our night finished just nearing midnight the witching hour, with many hugs from new friends and magical people, for they were magical and the evening magic filled.  

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The Samhain Gate

The Samhain Gate

Its Samhain here in New Zealand and I celebrated over the weekend at the Woolshed, a place here in Wellington where Pagans of all varieties come together to celebrate the seasons.  For Samhain this year the circle space was set up in the second lounge down stairs, with the Samhain gate facing North, other times the gate has been set up in the North West, which if you are using the southern hemisphere Sabbat calendar wheel is actually the Lughnasadh gate, which in some ways can be a very odd place to have the Samhain gate.  The Samhain gate is  that place where the ancestors and those that have died recently enter the circle.  And for the longest time it bugged the hell out of me, that at the woolshed it was place in the North West because it just felt wrong. But this year the gate was North, and for some weird reason this felt much better, which as usual got me to thinking about pagan cosmology and how it is shaped.

Traditionally the Southern hemisphere Seasonal Wheel  goes in a counter clock wise direction, (Sun Wise) starting with the Spring in the East, then Beltane  – North East,  Summer Solstice – North Lughnasadh, North West, Autumn Equinox – West, Samhain – South East and finally Winter Solstice in the south.

Which if you follow the logic through and use the same points from the Seasonal Wheel for your circle casting, it would mean that the Samhain gate would be in the South West, however, given that when casting a circle I teach that pretty much any element can be called from any direction because  it is important to practice magic in the place you live, it would also follow that the Samhain Gate doesn’t have to be in the South West, any more than that the element of air has to be in the east.  But it still bugged me.    I will say however that when it comes to group rituals, it is good to have everybody calling the same element from the one direction. But that is not what this post is about.. *coughdigressioncough*..

So why did having the Samhain Gate in the North feel better this year, than previous years when it has been in the North West?  Well there could be several reason.. first given that for most New Zealanders their ancestors come from Europe, which is North from here, it would make sense that if you are inviting your ancestors to come and join you in your circle, to do it from a Northerly direction.

The Samhain Gate
With Offerings of Salt, Honey and Bread

Secondly here in New Zealand as a part of the Maori believe,  spirits of the dead travel to the tip of the North Island,  where the entrance of the underworld is, guided by a Ruru owl, and once there, they travel down to the underworld where they are meet by Hine-nui-te-pō who then guides them on to Hawaiki, so again that would point to the idea that the spirits of the dead come from the North, and not the South.

Now this is all well and good and make pretty good sense.. but I have an idea that it was something more, than just the ancestors in the North and Hine-nui-te-po, that made this years gate feel right.  And I realised what it was when I went back down after to the ritual was over to see the French doors open.  It was the door, during the ritual we had opened the Samhain gate by opening the French doors.  The fact that these doors faced North fit in with the ritual, but I suspect that It was not the main reason as to why it felt right so to speak.  This door opened to the outside,  and it is a clear indication  when inviting someone in your house to open the door.    Doorways have always been considered magical places in myth and folklore.  They are liminal, whether you are entering or exiting, they are a place of magic where the energy flows inwards and outwards.    I can remember seeing pennies concreted into the doorway of the family’s holiday batch, put there by my grandfather, to encourage wealth.    It was a tradition that he carried with him from England where he was born.   Doorways are often gateways to other places, and in this case it was a gateway into the otherworld’s, to where the ancestors and recently departed stood waiting to be invited in.

So it all comes back to that practicing in the place where you live.  I have heard that the traditional correspondences of cardinal direction to elements originated in Greece, where their prevailing wind, the wind that brings the weather comes from the East, thus East became air.  Here in Wellington the prevailing wind comes not from the howling winter southerlies but the Westerlies, which would follow that air, should be in the east.  And when it comes to the seasonal wheel this to should be practiced in the place you live, which can take some figuring out so some contemplating of how the cosmos is created in your area.  So it makes sense to invite the ancestors from the north, and through a physical door, although I do wonder as to what happens if the physical door is in a different direction and if that would work?

So here in new Zealand our magical cosmos is on where the ancestors and the dead hail from the North, not from the South west as the  southern seasonal wheel would dictate nor from the North West as has been practiced before but from the North, a time of midsummers, the traditional element of fire.  Those crazy Southern Pagans.. *grins*

Samhain Crown made from a New Zealand sea bird whos name escapes me currently but died due to an oil leak from a container ship here.