Friday, November 30, 2012

W is for...Wassailing

"We are not daily beggars that beg from door to door,
but we are friendly neighbors whom you have seen before"

This line from the traditional English carol Here We Come A Wassailing makes the distinction that those who come to the homeowner's door are not random visitors, such as in the fashion of those who went from house to house seeking "treats or tricks" at Samhain. This was the ancient precursor to singing Christmas carols made famous in Victorian times. The reason for this visit was meant as a blessing for abundance for the household, or the farm. Wassailers came to the threshold to 'drink a health' and the ritual was exchanged between friends and neighbors. No one attempted to hide their identity as one did when guising, masks and costumes were seldom worn. This was not the outrageous visit of the celebration of Misrule, but an act of congeniality.
God bless the master of this house, likewise the mistress, too; And all the little children that round the table go.


" God bless the master of this house and bless the Mistress,too,
And all the little children that 'round the table go"

God bless the master of this house, likewise the mistress, too; And all the little children that round the table go.

The singers honored the homeowner with a sung prayer or carol, then joined the benevolent host in drinking a toast to everyone's welfare in the coming year. The carols were often songs citing not only the blessing of abundant crops, but the multiplicity of the animals-and humans-in the home. In this day and age it's difficult to understand that a farmer would want a huge family, as there would be that many more mouths to feed...but many children also meant many hands to labor in the fields.

Sometimes the wassailing took place in an orchard among the fruit trees, or where the livestock were kept. The drink of choice was hot spiced ale or cider, meant to warm the bones and the soul; often it lead to an impromptu bonfire or feast, where many 'healths' were drunk. Alcoholic and heavily spiced beverages were believed to help in keeping away the myriad diseases of men (and animals, as sometimes the beverage was mixed with the feed, or the mash from distilling was fed to the animals.) Afterward, the group moved on to another house to repeat the ritual; one can imagine the revelry and drunkenness that resulted from making several of these visits in a single evening.

A version of wassailing/blessing took place in Scotland, where the spirit of the sea was similarly honored by a hearty soul wading out into the cold water to pour a frothing mug of hot ale or cider into the waves in the hope that it would result in a plentiful supply of fish and shellfish for those who made their living on and by the water.* [*Cassell's Dictionary of Superstitions, by David Pickering]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Awakening Gaea: A Message from Oberon Zell Ravenheart

I have always had lovingly goofy feelings about Oberon and Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart; I say that with the utmost respect for their many, many contributions to both the Pagan religious tradition and as ground breaking leaders and elders in the general community. They are both brilliant ritualists and teachers each in their own right; but it is Oberon who I have gravitated to and connected with the most, perhaps because I have found contentment in his gentle patriarchy. When I want to learn something new in an exciting way, I go to his wonderful book Grimorie for the Apprentice Wizard, which is actually written for children...but then again, I am still very much still a child at heart when it comes to learning.

Oberon has been credited with developing the Gaea Theory and has long been a proponent of synergistic healing of the planet. His newest project, which is effectively the creation of a grand cone of power calling upon the concentrated effort of practitioners of diverse occult disciplines to awaken and release the healing energies of Gaea is tantamount to standing on the edge of a new paradigm of consciousness. To achieve this, he has partnered with one of the most noted philosophers of the modern age, Jean Houston.

Dr. Jean Houston is one of the founders of the Human Potential Movement. I was introduced to her through John Denver, when she was a keynote speaker in a series of symposia sponsored by his educational foundation, Windstar. Jean Houston is riveting to watch: she is at once inspiration, humorous and convincing. Her inter-disciplinary perspective combines an expansive knowledge of history, culture, science, spirituality and human development.( Be sure to use the link for The Shift Movement included in Oberon's article and watch the video!)


A global ritual to catalyze Gaea’s Awakening
From Oberon Zell

Over the past quarter-century I have traveled throughout the world, meeting with magickal practitioners and indigenous tribal elders and shamans of many lands and cultures, and the subject of Mother Earth and Her Awakening has been a constant theme of our conversations. I have never encountered so widespread a paradigm among wise ones everywhere as that of the immanent Awakening of global consciousness. And all those with whom I have discussed the coming prophetic date of Winter Solstice 2012 agree that it is a perfect time to synchronize a vast global meditation and magickal working to catalyze this coalescence of consciousness. What shall we choose—Apocalypse or Apotheasis?

Therefore I propose to all Pagans, Witches, Wizards, Shamans, Magicians and Visionaries the creation of a global “Grand Cone of Power” ritual similar to the 1987 Harmonic Convergence, whose focus on world peace catalyzed the ending of the Cold War.

Just so do I propose a vast global unified Visioning meditation on Winter Solstice of this year to catalyze the Awakening of Gaea. I urge all magickal people everywhere to begin conceptualizing the structure and contents of this Working, and writing poetry, songs, and meditations for it.

Locally, Morning Glory and I will be creating and conducting the 2012 Yule ritual with our Sonoma County Pagan Network (SCPN), and afterwards retiring to our home, RavenHaven, for a traditional all-night vigil (including a showing of the Discworld movie, “Hogfather”—highly recommended!).

And as the sun rises around the world on the morning of the 22nd, let us all greet the dawn by playing and singing the unifying song “Aquarius!” from the 1967 musical, “Hair.” For this is the one and only moment those lyrics will be absolutely true—this will indeed be “The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius!”

I will be assembling a collection of liturgical materials, as well as a full-scale ritual which other people may utilize if they choose—on my personal website:

Also, Jean Houston has created a major networking organization to coordinate a worldwide “Awakening” to commence at dawn of Dec. 22—the opening moment of the new Age of Aquarius. Join the Shift Network at

Please pass the word to all your friends and contacts; let’s make this go viral!

This is your wake-up call!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I am a writer because I love the nuances of language. I love the subtle gradation of tone and feeling of words. Writing is a lot like painting: the words color your thoughts. Depth, and perception are obtained by the use of light and shade in a painting. Coloring words give a richness of meaning to communication. It is these subtle nuances, the use of verbal coloring, which makes language exciting. The colors make it come to life.

When I first started writing, it was primarily just for me. My first honest attempt was launched in the same place many others begin self-expression: someone gave me a diary. Most days I wrote a  couple of sentences which summed up my typical teenage apathy. Peppering the pages were brilliant entries such as this one from December 15, 1971: "It rained to day and was cold. I stayed home and played the radio. Sure hope it snows." Other than on those rare occasions when I let loose with a tirade about how unfair the world/my grandparents who raised me/specific friends/ most hated teacher were to me, several lines about the weather and how I felt about it was the extent of my mastery of creative writing.

Later, when I was in my late teens and early 20's, I would relax by re-writing the scripts from my favorite television shows, and activity I thought was geeky but found satisfying to my creativity. Little did I know I was ahead of the times with this until fan fiction became the pop sensation of the moment. In my thirties and occasionally in my forties, I wrote short stories and articles of my own; I even managed to sell one every now and then. I was also doing technical writing and working with municipalities,utilities and emergency services to draw up contingency plans for disasters. The plans were a basic formula that was customized by agreements and contracts between the various local agencies, and it allowed me to travel a bit. Looking back at that time, the other two things I was doing-working as a paramedic in a large metropolitan city and touring as a production assistant for  country/pop/rock musicians, should have provided me with an endless well to draw from...but I was too tired or busy to write. I actually stopped writing altogether for a while except to publish a paper now and again when I was working on my advanced degree. ( This was all done, mind you, on a type writer and paper, so I had hard copies and files of everything...everything. Which becomes a problem when you write a lot...and I did.)

A few years ago I took a notion to start writing about my experience of spirituality, most specifically, I wanted to share what it was like being an occult practitioner in a world of mainstream religions. This is how I found my 'Pagan' voice, the one I primarily use here when posting to Broom With A View. I wanted to not only to share my personal journey in a non-Abrahamic wisdom tradition, but to express it as a spiritual exorcise. And frankly...I was leery of the cacophony of 'experts', when I knew that the only voice that truly mattered to me was the one coming from inside.

I have to say that occultists, and those in religious traditions in particular, are a verbose bunch. We seem to love our verbiage. The more wordy a book, the better: if it was translated from a language other than English, or better still, written in Old English or Latin, it was a keeper. It could be a tritest on the merits of plain toilet paper versus that with embossed daisies, but as long as it sounded vaguely like Shakespeare, it found a home for life on a shelf in the library. An overabundance or superfluity of words sold product in a world of text messages. Never mind the subject, the content wasn't as important as how it sounded when read with the voice in your head.

Pagans love flowery language. Verbiage seemed to be key to becoming a Pagan; if what was being written and read was pro-ponderous sounding, it was taken as credible and serious. Throw in an occasional archaic word or an anachronistic phrase, and suddenly, it was the voice of the gods-literally. If the author claimed a title of hierarchy such as Lord, Lady or Elder, so much the better...which is why I became hooked on Scott Cunningham's books early in my formal Pagan infancy. Scott was a natural teacher; his writing was conversational and down-to-earth. You didn't need an extensive education in medieval English to understand what he was talking about, and his magickal style was deceptively simple as well. He placed the reader into the role of protagonist in all his books, therefore making it clear that whatever came of the use of his information, you were ultimately responsible for the outcome. This was never done in a heavy-handed way, but always phrased in a cautionary manner. I will be forever in Scott's debt for his simple, yet subtle teaching, for his humor, and his wisdom.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Meanwhile, On The Horizon

Thank the Gods the election is OVER!

Honestly, I am all for the electoral process. I am thrilled to be a citizen in a country where I can vote for the candidate of my choice and not have to literally take my life into my hands and suffer physical violence for the simple act of casting a ballot. It is an imperfect process and an imperfect system which makes me no less  proud to be an American.

What makes me cringe, however, is the behavior of some of my fellow Americans on both sides of the fabled aisle. The over-all level of mud-slinging preceding this election has been some of the nastiest and distasteful and elevated stripping the dignity of others to a new high. The lack of personal integrity-not just of the politicians and their minions, but the public in general- has been embarrassing and disheartening.

I am not naive. I have been participating in the political process since the age of 18, both as a voter and as a sometime party volunteer. I do not look upon the process with rose-colored glasses, and I have glimpsed the underbelly of politics first hand when my grandfather ran for the senate years ago
(and was essentially screwed by his best political party buddies, thank you.) I know it's a what's-in-it-for-me constituency. Humans are a self-serving and selfish lot. Duly noted.

However, I draw the line when the snark reaches the super-sonic levels it did during this election, when I am told by candidates that as a woman I am too mentally deficient to be responsible for my actions in everything from choosing which health care procedures I will and will not undergo to defining whether or not I have been sexually assaulted...and what I should do afterwards. I draw the line when my chosen and carefully created form of spiritual expression is negated and I am told there is only one acceptable model of religious expression... or else. I draw the line when I am told that I am not enough and therefore not worthy of the regard of the almighty ones who make the decisions in our society.

It is when I have had enough of this kind of abuse by those seeking office that I will march my not-so-delicate lily white, female, witchy little Pagan ass to the polls and remind the politicians that they are PUBLIC SERVANTS and therefore serve the citizenry, of which I am a card-carrying member by casting my vote ...which will either allow them to remain employed or replace them with someone who has a better grasp of what We The People really want.

In every election there are winners and losers, and it really is okay to celebrate a victory or mourn the loss- as long as we don't gloat or whine too much at the expense of others. I sincerely believe we can do that without ripping apart someone else's character and stripping them of their dignity and self-esteem to make ourselves feel superior. I also realize that I may be alone in that feeling, but I still refuse to stoop to gutting another person just because they have different beliefs and hold a totally opposite political point of view...even one I personally find troubling...because I believe that celebrating diversity is more than just so much lip-service.

The election is over, folks. It's time to stop the celebration, sweep up the confetti, finish eating the crow we were served, or licking our wounds and move on. Right now in particular, we need to buckle down and focus our energy to fuel the skills and fortitude that is needed to put parts of this country literally, physically back together for the health, safety and welfare of millions of our fellow citizens hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. In the greater scheme of things, all the hype and unadulterated bullshit surrounding this election pales by comparison, because in the end, we are all Americans.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quietly, But With Spirit

I rushed to the store on Halloween afternoon because in all the excitement surrounding Hurricane Sandy, I'd actually forgotten to buy candy for my  treat bags. This year has been out-of- sorts: I'm still recovering from a torn ligament in my knee, still not settled into my own home, discontent about a lot of little things that frustrate me. This year, Halloween is my anchor.

Only half the decorations from my collection are in place. The rest are still laying on a table in my room with stacks of clutter around it. The floor is a mess. The disrupted energy of all of this is a distraction.

Distraction has become my middle name in the last month or so; I haven't felt settled , and now that we are entering the time when the seasons are sinking in to slumber, I need to hunker down and focus to be productive. I've let things slide, and I need to get back on track. Forgetting to get the candy for a holiday I so dearly love is proof of that.

Back to Halloween...
The bags of candy are packed- a Tootsie Pop, a little package of hard candy 'bones', and two pieces of bubble gum. It's easier to just hand out a candy bar, but less satisfying. I remember going out for treats, and being thrilled that I got more than one single piece of candy in one of those little bags. So I still pack treat bags, hoping I will get a smile that will keep me warm through the next few cold months.

My altar will get a make over today as I fill it with photos of my beloved dead. I will spend time with them tonight, talking with them, releasing regrets, just existing in my own mortality. There is a holiness in the stillness of All Hallows Eve that doesn't exist any other night of the year.

This is also the second anniversary of AmethJera's Broom With A View. Samhain is the New Year for those who follow the Pagan Path, and this blog has certainly been  journey for me, as I hope it has been for you.

Brightest Blessings  this Samhain for a Joyous and Prosperous New Year!