Read an Excerpt
The Witches' Almanac
Issue 32: Spring 2013-Spring 2014: Wisdom of the Moon The Witches' Almanac
By Andrew Theitic
THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.Copyright © 2012 THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.
All rights reserved.
The White Witch
"O What have you seen, my son, my son,
That your eyes are so wild and bright?
Or what have you heard in the eerie woods,
'Twixt the gloaming and the night?"
"I have met a witch, a white white witch,
My mother, mother dear;
The glamour of earth is on my eyes,
And its music in my ear.
"For we are deafen'd by angry words,
Are blinded by tears of woe,
But she has garner'd the secret joys
That only the genii know;—
"Has learn'd from the voice of the fern-hid stream
Where all sweet thoughts abide,
And the violets have told her how they dream
In the quiet eventide;
"And they fancy, mother, the world above
Where the baby cloudlets play
Yearns down to the earth in mystic love
That shall never pass away.
"The greenwood knows it; of this sweet thought
Its murmuring tunes are made,
And the strange wild tale that is ever wrought
Through its sunshine and its shade.
"And the holy moon, as she moves along
From star to star on high,
Pours forth her light as a bridal song
And a tender lullaby.
"O mother, my mother, mother dear,
Who may the white witch be!
She has heard the things we cannot hear,
She has seen what we cannot see;
"The beauty that comes in fitful gleams,
That comes, but will not stay,
The music that steals across our dreams
From a region far away;
"What vainly I sought in pain and doubt,
The light, the form, the tone,
At a single glance she has found them out,
And made them all her own.
"And with all the music we cannot hear,
The beauty we cannot see,
O mother, mother, my mother dear,
She has wrought a charm on me."
–from Studies in Verse, by Charles Grant, 1875
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
by Timi Chasen
HOPPING IN CIRCLES. An interesting new theory on crop circle formation has recently emerged. It seems wallabies are rather fond of the poppy plants grown in Australia for the international pharmaceutical market. The wallabies sneak in at night, consume the poppies, and proceed to hop around in circles until they become exhausted and collapse. They wander off in the morning, leaving the poppy farmers to scratch their heads. How wallabies may have learned fractal patterns has yet to be explained.
MUDDLED MOOSE & LOADED LEMURS. Wallabies aren't the only wild animals caught altering their states. Moose in Sweden are known to scavenge for fermented apples. Sometimes they have one too many and stumble into populated areas – one recently became stuck in a tree and required the intervention of local law enforcement. Meanwhile, ringtailed lemurs are exploiting a toxin produced by millipedes. They bite the bugs to induce a defense response, then rub the secretions on their fur. The secretions are an effective bug repellent, but an even more effective hallucinogen. Who knows what other substances these wild animals are using while we're not watching?
WELCOME HOME. In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, designed to return culturally significant artifacts and human remains to the tribes from which they originated. Because the original law, which sought to reconcile the rights of Native people with potential scientific significance, required proof of a direct tribal link, remains and artifacts often lay unclaimed in museums for decades. Two years ago, this law was modified to make it easier for tribes to claim the remains of their ancestors and repatriate important cultural items.
Now, instead of being required to prove a direct link, Native peoples have claim over any ancient remains found near known tribal sites. Museums are kicking into high gear to comply with the new rules, reaching out to tribes and conducting genetic testing on remains to determine origin and make the process of repatriation that much easier. While some worry the new looser rules will compromise scientific inquiry or may result in remains being returned to the wrong groups, others hail it as a boon to Native rights. Many times (but by no means in all cases) the remains have spent years in museum basements, never being examined or investigated. Now they will be coming home to rest. Native American leaders have promised to treat all returned remains – even those of unknown provenance – with the same respect afforded their most revered ancestors.
REVELATION AT ROCCAPELAGO. An amazing find has been unearthed in the Italian mountain town of Roccapelago. There, in the crypt of the Church of the Conversion of St. Paul, a veritable mountain of human remains – many of them naturally mummified – has been discovered. Also found among the remains were scattered jewelry, religious medallions, and, perhaps most exciting, a rare "lettera componenda". This artifact is a letter written by a church official which promises the bearer spiritual perks in exchange for prayer. The letter reads, in part:
"and he who carries it on him will be free from the Devil and will not die bad death. Carried it on her the pregnant woman will give birth without danger. In the house where this Revelation lives there will be no illusion of bad things before her death will see the Glorious Virgin Mary Amen"
KARATS ON CARROTS. A woman in Sweden had given up hope of ever finding her diamond ring, misplaced while baking Christmas cookies with her family. Sixteen years later, however, she found it, wrapped snug around a carrot she pulled from her garden. The family surmises the ring became mixed in with vegetable scraps, which were then composted and spread on the garden. Money may not grow on trees, but sometimes diamonds grow on carrots.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. The Roman Temple of Mithras, excavated in London in 1952, will be removed from its current location at Walbrook Square and returned to its original location. The Temple's current location was purchased for development by Bloomburg LP, precipitating the deconstruction of the temple. The temple will be restored faith fully sometime next year.
MYSTERY AT STONEHENGE. Thanks to modern scientific techniques and the perseverance of curious minds, the bluestones of Stonehenge have been definitively sourced. The bluestones were examined microscopically and crosschecked against a database of samples from across the country in order to establish their origin. The stones were quarried in south Wales at an outcrop known as Craig Rhos-y-Felin. The bluestones were then transported roughly 200 miles to their current location, either by human transport or glacial forces – exactly how is one of the many mysteries which remain unanswered about the famous monument.
COME OUT, COME OUT, WHEREVER YOU ARE. It's been a tough year for crypto-zoologists. First, the Pangboche hand, supposedly that of a yeti, was shown conclusively through DNA testing to be nothing more than an oversized human hand. Next, footage of a sea monster off the coast of Alaska was widely panned as hardly convincing. Finally, the body of a "chupacabra" found on a Texas golf course turned out to be an anomalous hairless raccoon instead. Will all this negative feedback stop these intrepid explorers into the world of unknown fauna? Probably not. A good cryptozoologist knows that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
A VIEW OF THE MOON. In October of 2010, the China National Space Administration launched Chang'e 2, an unmanned lunar probe named for the fabled Lady of the Moon. The probe is expected to remain in lunar orbit studying the lunar surface through the end of 2012 to prepare the way for Chang'e 3, which should land on the moon sometime in 2013.
TWO ANCIENT BABYLONIANS WALK INTO A BAR... In 1976, archeologists working in Iraq uncovered a badly damaged tablet in cuneiform script dating from around thirty-five thousand years ago. Curious minds have since translated what remains of the tablet. Their results, published in the scholarly journal Iraq, seem to reveal the world's oldest collection of jokes. Decidedly bawdy in nature, the jokes or riddles address such subjects as sex and beer. One of the incomplete jokes has garnered quite a bit of attention in the popular press:
... of your mother is by the one who has intercourse with her. What/who is it? [No answer]
Could this be, as some have suggested, the world's oldest "Yo Mama" joke? It certainly qualifies as a crass joke at the expense of a matronly figure, but many questions remain to be answered in regards to the tablet. Perhaps these are not even jokes after all, but short moral tales designed to improve civil behavior. Whether intended as jokes or not, we are certainly getting a kick out of them now!
Drawing Down the Moon
IN WICCA, "Drawing Down the Moon" (commonly abbreviated as DDM) refers to the ritual of bringing the Goddess into the body of the High Priestess, so that She may speak to the assembled Witches using the High Priestess's voice. Although the moon is specified, the ritual may be used to summon any Goddess, not just a lunar Goddess. Similarly, Drawing Down the Sun (DDS) may be used to summon any God, whether or not He is solar.
That's a good working definition, but it doesn't really tell us what DDM is. What does it mean to bring a deity into the body of a human being and what are its results? From coven to coven, tradition to tradition, there's a great deal of variety, so let's examine the possibilities.
Rites of Possession
Roughly speaking, DDM/S is a rite of possession; a deity possesses a human being. So, the first question most people will ask is, "Is it real?" If you accept that Gods are real, then surely They can possess a human body if They wish to. Is it possible? In Wicca, we learn trance techniques that let us set ordinary consciousness aside, so the question is really the degree to which it's possible: how much consciousness can be set how far aside?
Many religions include possession: Voodoo is perhaps the most famous, but certain Hindu rituals also bring the Goddess into a willing vessel. The Norse tradition of oracular seidh has undergone a modern revival in the last two decades, thanks largely to the work of Diana Paxson. There are others.
Charge of the Goddess
The widely published Wiccan ritual for DDM goes something like this: The High Priestess stands in "Goddess position" (which looks something like DaVinci's Vitruvian Man). The High Priest performs an invocation, reciting while pointing a wand at the High Priestess. The High Priestess then speaks a "Charge." The most common version of the Charge was written by Doreen Valiente, which begins, "Now listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old ..." (Some people consider that first paragraph to be part of the invocation, and say the actual Charge of the Goddess begins in the second paragraph, with "Whenever ye have need of any thing, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full....") It is this structure of DDM that has existed in modern form since at least the 1930s, and arrived in the United States in the early 1960s.
How does reciting a pre-written Charge mesh with being possessed by the actual spirit of a deity? Is it merely play-acting? In Wicca, we believe in immanent deity, meaning the Goddess is already within the High Priestess, even before the invocation is performed. The ritual creates awareness, in the Priestess and in the witnesses, that the Goddess is present; it alters consciousness so that all participants are more receptive to the Goddess's words.
Many is the Priestess who thought she was just play-acting, but found, in the course of DDM, that something more was happening. Words tumbled through her, a presence could be felt. This presence can be exalting and beautiful. For many, it is the entirety of their experience of DDM.
The Trance Continuum
But the recited Charge is best understood as a safety net. If the true possession doesn't occur, the High Priestess has something to do instead of standing there saying "oops, never mind." Indeed, the recitation can complete the process begun by the invocation – she goes into trance. It's also true that not every trance lends itself to words; in the wordless presence of the Goddess, many covens can feel Her touch through the recitation of traditional words, through silence, or through touch.
Trance exists on a continuum. In the movies, you're either in or you're not, but in real life, consciousness is constantly being altered in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The play-acting of possession is an alteration we can call "heightened awareness of Deity." The next step might be called inspiration with a presence that the subject can feel in the back of her head, perhaps speaking words, perhaps merely making her trust her own words. As the presence of Deity moves from the back of the head to a side-by-side, shared consciousness, it becomes channeling, and as Deity moves further to the front of the head, or takes over entirely, it graduates into possession. None of these have clear, sharp boundaries; an experienced channel knows that any trance can slip and slide between these states.
Dangers of Drawing Down the Moon
While some people are naturals at receiving a deity, others can learn the skill. Training to Draw Down involves training the mind in numerous things: generalized trance states, trust, self-knowledge, shielding, opening, and more.
The big secret here is that Drawing Down isn't actually difficult, but it is dangerous.
Drawing Down itself has hazards. If the circle is not properly protected, the body and mind of the Priestess, being open to the Goddess, become an enticing target for entities other than deities (or entities disguised as deities) to come invited or not. Public rituals are particularly difficult spaces to shield and ward, and chaotic entities can make their presence known – not everything or everyone that can enter your body during a trance state is to your benefit! In addition, participants who don't behave respectfully in the presence of a deity can create another kind of havoc.
The bigger danger, though, is to the ego-mind, the personality, and the psyche of the channel. A mind that is well-trained – through meditation, visualization, and the like – can open itself to messages. Once you've mastered divination or other psychic arts, it's a short journey from receiving messages to receiving the personality of another being. However, while the skill set is similar for making such things happen, the demands on the individual are vastly greater in Drawing Down and other possession work.
Demons from the Id
While most people are afraid of being fooled, the greater danger is self-deception. Once you begin to believe, uncritically, that the Gods speak through you, problems can occur. Unhealthy ego-inflation is the most obvious: self-importance, throwing your weight around, making others treat you like you're godlike outside of a ritual context – these behaviors will alienate others, but they will also damage you. Worse yet are "demons from the id," to quote a classic science fiction movie. If you haven't done enough work on yourself, if you have no experience in disciplines like psychotherapy, dream journeying or active imagination, you can easily mistake the promptings of your own subconscious mind for the sacred Presence being invoked. Shadow parts of the personality can take over, and devastating damage may result.
Lack of grounding is another problem. Failing to ground thoroughly once in a while is not unusual, but a person receiving the Moon must not only ground before the invocation, she must be grounded in general, with a good connection to her root chakra acting as a lifeline. She must, in other words, have a reliable ability to return to Earth-reality again and again. Many of us have seen occult people suddenly become flaky and unreliable, perhaps even nonsensical. Did they attempt deep trance from an ungrounded state? Once is discomfiting; but monthly, over time, is serious and can break apart one's life.
Excerpted from The Witches' Almanac by Andrew Theitic. Copyright © 2012 THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD.. Excerpted by permission of THE WITCHES' ALMANAC, LTD..
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