Monday, October 30, 2017

Mists of Memories

We leave the light of Summer months to enter the long,dark days of Winter. It is the time to gather what we cherish close, casting away what we no longer need and what no longer serves.

The Veil is now at it's thinnest, and we stand at the end of the bridge. We reach out to greet and touch our Beloved Dead. Those who have already made the journey to the great Unknown return in vast numbers , seeking out the warmth and love of their friends and families this night. If you are so inclined, put out a bit of food for them, so they may feast on the the things they enjoyed in this life. No, they will not be able to physically eat it, but they will absorb the essence of it and be satisfied all the same.

Welcoming the Dead into our homes this night, we  remember and honor them. Their memory remains strong in us this way. Ancestors will only linger with us for awhile, and then depart across the bridge and through the Veil the way they came. Pray for their safe return and comfort through the next year, for surely they will be joined by others known to them. The clock winds down through the years until we, too, are dust and memories.

The coming months will be cold and dark as the days have lost their light. The last harvest is in, and the season of plenty wanes.We will draw ourselves up close to that we care about most against the lengthening darkness and cold as Winter approaches. We go to that place of Deep In-dwelling. Some things and people will surely fall away during this time, but we ourselves will survive until the first green bud of Spring returns. The holy spark of life will burn within to keep our spirits warm.

Let us keep the sacredness of Samhain, and raise the song of Harvest Home!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Goodbye, Uncle Ray

Much has been written on the recent passing of Raymond Buckland. Love him or hate him, he did introduce an organized tradition of Witchcraft in the United States at a time when things like that just simply wasn't done. He never tried to hide the Craft by dressing it up like something else, and he was the closest thing to Gerald Gardner we had in this country.

To say he was a prolific writer is, understatement. He held a vast knowledge of varying subjects, from the Craft to Spiritualism, divination,liturgy and ritual...and magick. He wrote a wide array of fiction novels, and played jazz music professionally.

I chuckled along with everyone else at his ritual micro-management, " Stand here...Do this....Say these words...". Give him props for being so serious about is spiritual path that he wanted to get it right- his way, of course- just like the rest of us. While others found his continual reference to another of his books in the middle of a passage annoying, I would dutifully jot down the title of that book and look it up after finishing the one I was currently reading.

It's not that I was 100% sold on doing things his way, because I'm not...but I have the utmost respect for his place in the history of the Craft.  I found him most approachable; over the years I would shoot him a personal message on Facebook about something, and within a day I'd have an answer. His tone was always that of the gentle teacher. He was most gracious with his answers, and always humble.

Yes, in the early days after the Craft went public, he did come off a tad bit homophobic sounding about male/ female polarity in magickal work, but I think this was because he was so adamant about keeping things balanced. His opinion softened and changed, as he admitted,when he realized it had less to do with actual gender than sacred sexuality.

He was vibrant and active until the end, and I like to think that a gentle breeze stirred the Veil and he simply stepped through to the other side when it was his time. Just a little diversion from his routine, and he went off to explore the Great Unknown, with the full knowledge that he'd be back someday.
I believe he will- not that he ever really left. I think he's going to live on for decades to come. In fact we'll hardly realize he's gone unless we stop to remember his quiet crossing.

Goodbye for now, Uncle Ray. See you around.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Was That A Banshee I Saw You With Last Night ?

One of the things I love most about Celtic/Irish mythology is its deliciously endless array of maleficent creatures. Culturally, the traditional Celtic lands are the main contributor to our Halloween lore and traditions.

Many of our iconic monsters sprung from the mind of Irish authors such as Bram Stoker (Dracula) and Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson (Mr.Hyde).
Others came directly out of the stories of the common people, such as the wailing Banshee,  the Kelpie , Balor the Demon God of Death, and varieties of Sidhe (fairy folk).

Some legendary creatures specific to Celtic lore have their American counterparts, such as the Dullahan (dark man), the Irish headless horseman whose equivalent in the US is the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. While the motif of headless horsemen is pretty universal, owing to the numbers of stories world wide, it is the character created by Washington Irving that stands out.

The most readily recognizable creature owing to Celtic lore is the Banshee. Always a female spirit, hearing her wail turns the blood cold because it forewarns of a death. Sometimes she arrives in a ghostly death coach ( or the coach rides by alone without her-another legend). Her appearance varies from beautiful and youthful to being a terrifying old hag depending on the source. She is sometimes accompanied by a black dog. Her screams are particularly piercing in the lonesome countryside.

Equally famous as the Banshee is the Kelpie, a shapshifting monster most often seen as a horse. The Kelpie inhabits the area around bodies of water and the sea, where it entices unsuspecting victims to hop on it's back for an innocent ride that always ends with the creature running into the water, where they are drowned. Kelpie have also been seen to shapeshift into the form of a handsome man, identified as the monster in disguise because of the wet seaweed in his hair.

Descriptions of Balor, King of Demons, also vary by source. His most infamous personification  is that of a giant with one leg and one eye. Balor is able to kill by fixing his victims with his 'evil eye'. By legend, Balor is King of the Formorians, a race of supernaturals. Balor is eventually killed by Lugh of the Long Spear after Lugh becomes King of the Tuatha de Danann. It is thought that Balor is the inspiration of Lord Samhain, a fictitious character in Ray Bradberry's classic children's book The Halloween Tree.Not all faries are friendly toward humans. There are a multitude in Celtic mythology that are not, too many for discussion here other than in general terms. Scottish folklore divides them into The Seelie Court (good) and Unseelie Court (maleficent). A well known method of honoring faries or quelling their wrath is to leave them a bit of milk and honey. In his widely known classic Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, W.B. Yeats further divides them into Trooping Fairies, groups which travel in elaborate processions, and Solitary Faries, which appear spontaneously alone with mischievous intentions. The latter are the creatures which often lure unsuspecting humans to the Underworld through invitations to dance and share a meal. Those who partake of fairy food , it is said, never leave. A third type, familiar to anyone who has been a member of the Girl Scout movement in the United States, are Brownies-household spirits who favor children and perform domestic duties.

If you have seen the outstanding 1990 movie Ghost (starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopie Goldberg) then you are familiar with the Sluagh-the malicious spirits that  about like flocks of birds, seeking out the dying and dead. In the scene where Demi Moore's character is attacked, her ghost lover causes a window to shatter and kill the attacker with shards of glass. As he is seen dying, an eager group of screeching shadowy figures suddenly swoop down and carry him screaming away with them to Hell. These figures, which many who have seen the movie  believe are demons, are more accurately a group of  Sluagh, who are the spirits of unrepentant sinners. Folklore belief is they come from the West ( the traditional place of the Dead), and in many Irish households, the western facing windows of a house were kept closed at all times to keep the Sluagh from carrying away the dead.

If you enjoyed reading about these mythical Celtic creatures, you may want to explore more on your own. There are many books on the subject, but I suggest you start with A Treasury of Irish Fairies and Folk Tales (an anthology by various authors) and W.B Yeats' Irish Fairy and Folk Tales.