April 27, 2009

The Boast of the Hidden People

Seek our liches in wood or grit or down in trickling dark,
In sparrow or buck or silvery fish, you'll find us never and naught;
Our fetches are clear, like unto wind, though never one and same;
We are the earthy darkling things, waned ancient 'afore men came.

On windswept lands and seven hills our crowns of old were raised,
On every tree we perched a-guard; on every tump our fires blazed!
In the lowest dale beneath our halls, whispering life took form;
We saw the sun make all things new, from every fort on every morn.

The world gapes bare, but just for you: bright air is still our home;
With Night our matron, Cunning our king, and trickery our song.
We are stealing cold and taking rot, the imps of nightly dread;
We are fluttering birds, May-warm breeze, by fearful offerings fed.

The Traveling Man

The land rises up, darkly wooded, and surrounds the house like a downy cloak, an obscuring field of green and brown which upsets the passage of time. Something of the old world is still living in the land under the house, and in the house. The little stream runs silently on, a boundary shades cannot cross.

The people who built this home in 1850 are still here. I have seen the photographs of the dining room, from many generations ago- the wreath of evergreen above the mantle, the dark-wood table and chairs, the tiny flames in the candelabra. Many nights bitter wind and snow beat against the house, but the family inside was warm and at peace together.

They are still at peace together; they see the underworld as their own house; they are not at all aware of what year I perceive it to be. In peace, they eat the food of the dead, while I eat my own bread and cooked meat in the same room they once dined in. This will continue for both of us- my family in the seen, and theirs in the unseen, until the light from the east comes and shows us both the truth.

I am a traveling man; I have seen the signs in the lodge, and the Horseman in the woods. We living men put too much stock in the vanity of perception: what number will I call the "year"? It has no number. Where shall I say I am? In the wooded valley? In the land of the living? All lands are really one land- what has changed in the dead is nothing but how they perceive. Maybe it is I who have changed, and they have it right. I ignore as much as they ignore, and I cannot say that I am so much happier in the comings and goings of my life than they. And yet, I contain a fire warming me that most of the dead dearly seek.

Who are we? Restless spirits that become fascinated with trees or snowy lanes? With houses and children? With mysteries or passion? I think that description is adequate in ways. What force drove us to our present passions and fixations? Whatever power did, I think that no force less than the original will serve to drive us onward to new destinies. In every jewel-like vision of the world, dark or light, full of snow or thirsty scrubland, crowned with houses and buildings or towering mountains, I feel that something has been embedded- a secret sketch of Fate- showing us all, whatever our situation, the secret pattern under destiny's plow.

There are things in the woods around the house- some look like people, some like short, squat beasts that are part man and part animal, others that seem like drifting, living light. The ray of Weird reality seems to have broken into a million splintered projections when it passed through the prism of matter- and so we humans live in perpetual companionship with countless untold wonders and terrors of life.

Those refractions that fall within our "middle range" of being look like unto ourselves, and we join with them eagerly- but the bowers and distant places shelter a different order of being. We have always sensed them; we have named them, feared them, worshipped them, and finally disbelieved them- but they remain. They persist for the same reasons we persist. The have destinies like ours, though we may never understand.

The things in the forest have a Master; He rides along, between day and night, haunting mortal memory and imagination. There are books of folklore that speak of Him; books of faery-tales in which He appears in a dozen forms; there are books of magic that talk about Him, too- but more often than not, these three kinds of books are one and the same. Their themes are all of a Weird-power that summons Him.

It is not into some triangle marked on the ground, nor into thuribles of billowing incense that He appears; He appears in the inner recesses of the mind to those who are inspired by the secret key. The key is in the stories; the key is in the land; it is in the strange appearances and dances of the things out there, hiding behind the boughs and branches. It is the key that children are born with, and which graying adults laughingly tell them to discard. Life and death are discarded with it; Life and death are found when it is rediscovered.

Once he arrives, that old Horseman, he never disappears. He may leave, but He stays at the same time. He rides between "here" and "there". So do we, if we are the true traveling men or women- if we can travel with the secret company that slips between raindrops and snowflakes like ghosts on the wind. The Horseman is embedded in the arcane map of the land above and below. He and all his kind- His courtiers, His servants, and His Lady. They are the people of the wind, of the invisible. They are the company of the storm.

Sometimes I'd stand outside at night, in windstorms. The trees would bend in the fierce gale, raining down invisible leaves and branches, and then, the gust would die out and it would be quiet suddenly. Just as quickly, another wind from the distance would roar up, like it was answering the call of the first, or perhaps chasing it across the dark landscape: two wind-spirits rushing past the sleeping houses and disturbed forests, heedless of anything else.

The old powers- older than mankind- were still living their ageless lives out, while we ignored them: Old Wind, Good Mother Green Gown, King Oak, Lady Birch, Cunning Master Raven, and all their kin: there they were, hidden in plain sight, in a patchwork of potent mythology that we just called "the woods" or "the country lane".

I think witches must have been following those winds, flying along as they do, on their riding-poles, chased by familiars across the moonlit sky. These old hags, young women, and stranger men were still mindful of the power that was all around, and there, in the storm, they were waxing powerful in the deepest of lessons. Some of us lose heart. The world sleeps in forgetfulness. But some never forget.

Some lose the ability to see, but I can see. When I was given the mark of a traveling man, and I went to the forked road beyond the mountains east, I was given the golden drop of elixir that changed my eyes of water into eyes of fire. Now, I see what the water reflects, and within, what the luminous light of spirit radiates. There are eyes within eyes, and those inner eyes see the truth of things.

Finding a sorcerer was no easy thing. Finding a witch was seemingly impossible, in these days- thus, I was forced to seek the sorcerer in myself. That was not easy, either. When I did, I discovered that the road of the traveling man was no simple matter, full of hooks and crooks, turning forever into myself, and joining together places across space and time: places that look like high-gabled houses and steepled churches, as well as unseen castles of stone not piled by human hands.

In that ghostly weave-work there were tangles of sacred thorns and firs, rowans and oaks, and there were deep wells of water, ponds and gurgling streams. They all lined up, in their own ways; they pointed somewhere else. The peace of nature’s domain and the wildness of mystery were joined together in their arrangement. There was a sacred geometry here, not shaped by human hands, but dimensioned by human minds. The greater pattern contains us; we cannot write it nor mark it out.

The greatest majesty of Fate could be missed if you looked just to the left or right too much. If you saw with the eyes of luminosity, the world was nine times larger than it appeared, and nine times deeper, nine times more layered. Animals ceased to be what they appeared to be, and yet remained the same. Glorious beings of light and foul pits of darkness wandered the land, struggling in a beautiful fight that generated mortal life and the turning of seasons.

And between it all, hidden like a diamond in the bosom of ebon coal, was the Horseman, riding along, teaching His hidden ways. The witches and sorcerers I couldn't find before appeared behind Him, and all over the hidden landscape- those cunning old fiends had learned to change their residence to a place that suited them better! They had found the key of life and death.

They changed their shape, their place, their minds, their form, their land. They did it with their words- creative words, creative in a way that only the tongues of Daimons should be able to manage. Their creativity was more than a warm place in the soul; it was a mind-shaking redefinition of all that man hoped or feared was real. It was rain falling, light pouring, deathless fire burning, and hypnotizing dances that couldn't make sense inside of three-dimensional space. It was the life of the universe, the heart-beat of the mighty Weird, the death of Gods and the birth of stars.

It all came together; it all came to cease, to rest, to hide in a single oak-leaf, drifting to the snowy ground outside the house. There was a light in the window. The night that had settled on the land was immense, filled only with the sound of wind and owls. Still, immense, and full of hidden glories.

I can read the secret in oak-leaves, or in any leaf. I am a traveling man; I wander a world larger than the map can reveal. I know the Horseman’s word. I know the strange names by which fogs and mists are woven and unwoven. I have kissed the hands of the maids-in-waiting that surround the Lady. I know the names of the monstrous serpents that slithered across the virgin world, leaving mountains and valleys in the wake of their giant bodies. I know how to use the sorcery of words to change men's minds and shape their dreams.

April 5, 2009

The Witching Times: Crafting a Sorcerous Time-Keeping

The Witching Times: Crafting a Sorcerous Time-Keeping
By Robin Artisson
Copyright © 2009


In my studies of the cultures of indigenous peoples in North America, I have encountered many fascinating perspectives on time keeping. Like my own ancestors in Europe and practically every other culture worldwide, the natives of the Americas used the sun and the moon as celestial markers of time-passage. What interests me about ancient and antique time-keeping systems is the fixation so many cultures have on the moon- it appears (at least to me) that the moon was once the primary time-tracker for ancient human beings, even before the "rise" of solar calendars.

This is not to say that the sun was always ignored- indeed, how could it be? No power is brighter or larger in human consciousness than the eye of day, the fire of the world, as it illumines all things, from the forests and fields to the hidden country of mythology. But many ancient peoples clearly didn't count days like we do; they counted months- literally, moon-ths- and furthermore, they had a beautiful and powerful tendency to name their moons after the observable activities of their own lands.

This is why we get the Sioux Indians with their "moon of making fat", "moon of popping trees", "moon when ponies shed" or "moon when deer shed their horns". Those who know of the Heathen Anglo-Saxon calendar have seen something quite similar- the "moon of three milkings", the "moon of blood (sacrifices), or the "moon of plowing". While both the Sioux and the Anglo-Saxons observed the sun (and corresponding summers and winters) as part of their time-keeping, these moons reflect a deeper layer of considering time-passage; they reflect (just as the moon reflects light) activities and events in the lives of the people and the life of the land that are important, and which become time-markers. Some moons in these ancient calendars are named after Gods, spirits, or mythical events- such as the Anglo-Saxon "moon of Hertha" or "moon of Hretha"- if, indeed, "Hretha" is Hertha. Roman months were certainly named after Gods, though the Romans had (unlike the Greeks) moved first into an all-solar accounting of month timing.

Part of the reason I have always used the Anglo-Saxon and Coligny Calendars is because it makes me feel connected to the ancestral streams of power that still flow through us, from the past. There is a great poetry in them, and thus, in us; it helps me to feel closer to older powers.

I began to consider recently the possibility of crafting new "time markers", in line with my own land and my own personal mythologies and beliefs. It made more sense the more I thought about it, but it also made more "feeling sense" the more I "felt" about it. As a sorcerer living in a postmodern world, who has had the advantages of years of study regarding mythology and ancient cultures, I began to realize that I had many resources to draw upon, to create a method of time-marking that resonated strongly with how I look at things "from the inside". A sorcerer’s personal calendar, born in a seething cauldron of myths, visions, histories, and imagination- a true work of the art! But it was and is a personal work.

I encourage people who understand my thought-process and feeling-process here to engage their own land and their own inner lives, and bring together the Weird forces that we experience as "sun" and "moon" with their reckoning of the year. I found great power in it. A new calendar was born- one that I find complements the folkloric and sorcerous "ring" of my own soul.

There is a question of mythical and (dare I say it?) "magical" aesthetics involved in the crafting of a unique time-keeping system, to be used by an individual or between an individual and those with whom they work. The new calendar must do as the ancient calendars did- weld together the life of the land, the experiences of the people on the land and the myths of the land, with the sun and moon in the sky. The aesthetic experience of the calendar must be "just right"- it must awaken the slumbering power in us, spark some fire in the smoldering hearths of the body and mind. Thus, this is a work the requires a bit of the poet in all of us.

It does not do to simply meld our "hyper-modern" daily or yearly life-markers into the sky, moon or sun; I can always feel very pleased to meditate on the "moon when the boughs green", but I cannot feel very close to the "moon when income tax returns are filed". I believe that my perceptive readers will understand what I am trying to say.

I have crafted a calendar that begins with me, and ends one day in some place I can't guess. Those who like my calendar can use it. Those who are inspired to re-frame a time-keeping system in line with their own experiences of the Land, the craft, or any other vital part of their lives, are urged to do so. It is a great exercise in crafting- it can bring a person together with the light of day and the light of night- and the subtle movements in the land.

Weird-Times: The Reckoning of the Thicket and the Meadow, or Robin's Wheel of Art

The Owl glides, the Hare leaps, the Wheel spins.

I have merged not only powerful figures and icons from my personal readings on folklore and mythology into a lunar reckoning, but also affixed solar and cross-solar festivals within, all of which act (historically and in the modern day) as "hidden festivals" or "breaking open" times- the "trod times" during which the Weird-roads between states of consciousness become easier to access.

I have also sprinkled in observations of my own land's pulse- though not nearly as many as I'd like. All of craft is alive and evolving, like the Weird- shape-shifting constantly, so I don't mind so much my current product; a simple change of address or move across the country, or a sufficiently powerful visionary experience, and my calendar may shift its shape, too.

I keep this calendar in the same way that the Heathen calendar described by Bede was kept- I begin each lunar month with the first sighting of a new crescent moon. At the year's end, during the month that I call "Lord Misrule's Moon", if a new crescent appears after Mother Night, and during the Twelve Nights (roughly from the Gregorian December 23 to January 4) then the coming summer will have an intercalary month- the month I call the "Third Summer Moon" or "Green Jack's Moon". Those of you who understand how lunar calendars work (and I have written extensively on it elsewhere) will have no trouble understanding this.

I have to make note that this time-keeping system is not meant to reflect the historical realities of any one Pagan culture; it is a mythical expression of mystical inner realities that emerge at different points in the year, keeping step with what many older cultures recognized. It is a work of syncretism; the powerful days of solstices and equinoxes as well as the "folk festivals" that fall between them are born in the veneration of many cultures, and all act as "trod-times"- times when the Weird breaks through to us in stronger ways, and we break through to it. Thus, the work of consciousness-changing and wisdom-acquiring becomes easier. As a witch and sorcerer engaged in such work, these times are important to me and those like me. That is why this calendar takes so many of these days into account.

The modern day has given us a rich tapestry from the past to use as we examine the mysteries of life and the world beyond. Even some Christian iconography is seamlessly melded into a calendar such as this. These words and traditions cover darker, deeper realities, all of which are important expressions of human seeking and otherworldly activity. The seasonal motifs described in the calendar are not attempts to reclaim some agrarian or ancient Pagan lifestyle; they are recognitions, in the here and now, of currents of power that change not only in the Land, but in the human mind and body.

Any reading of a seasonal pattern of power-expression reveals a lot about the human psyche, and doubtless the psyches of other beings that share this life with us. This is a beautiful portrait of symmetry; we are all children of this world, of the Weird, and we are all reflections of nature and reality at every level.

* * *

Lord Misrule's Moon (December)
Symbols: Skull, Stang, Spindle, Holly, Evergreen
Currents: Saturnian and Solar

The Saturnian Spirit-Lord (The Iron-Crowned King with his Skull Stang Scepter) has to reign over the darkest depths of the year, along with Dame Weird in her deepest, darkest manifestation as the Great and Incomprehensible Ur-Void (the Black-Skinned Crone or the Bone-Mother) Whose boundary-less and dark, deep womb is the fertile ground whence springs a new year. The Graveyard-Month of the Year is the enriched earth from which new shoots will show- and thus, light is buried in the graves. The Year's time-cauldron boils down to these depths; From absolute nadir and extreme darkness comes the light-seed. It is a universal law: one force has to give way to another when it reaches the extreme of its effort.

During this month, the Weird-powerful time called by tradition "Yuletide" and the Twelve Nights are found. The Winter Solstice- the Light-Gate- is called "Mother Night" by me, as by others. Mother Darkness gives birth to light; this Solstice is called "Light-Gate" or "Luminous Gate" by me for that reason.

In an older writing of mine, quite old by this point, but still useful, I described the Mother-Night season in this way:

MOTHER'S NIGHTS: The 12 nights around the Winter Solstice, in which the dissolved reality re-shapes as a "child" resting in the Mother's Arms, who promises to renew the Summer Court one day, all the while sleeping amid the wandering host of the boiling/wailing Underworld, who scour the world of the living looking to assuage their own conflicts and desires on those who are vulnerable. The dreamless sleep of the Land Serpent.

There is an immortality-formula hidden here, hidden in plain sight.

The Hellequin Moon or King Herla's Moon (January)
Symbols: Motley, Masks
Currents: Saturnian and Mercurial

The month corresponding to January in my reckoning is placed in the powerful hands of King Herla, or King Hellequin (King Arlequin, or Herla Cyning), the Red-and-Black King of Misrule, Lord of Elves or Souls in the Underworld. He may be another guise of the Saturnian Lord, but different in this costume- he is not just a lord in deep halls of darkness, reigning with Saturnian Iron over the dead; he has emerged onto the fields and forests and lanes of the world, and runs about, with his rade of demonic figures, rounding up the errant dead and herding them away. He is coming and taking the remains of things that are his- the remnants of things from the previous year that didn't get scalded away by the death and regeneration of the old year. It is an awe-inspiring Harlequinade of terror for the lost and restless dead, as well as those who are caught in-between.

At times, he seems to be the Saturnian masculine earth-spirit and guardian of all lands, turned by the twisting of Winter-Fate towards his darker face- though some would have it that he is the Mercurial Master himself, the Bagatto-Juggler, showing his most devious and clever attitude as he finishes the work of winter. The mystery of who the harlequin really is may never be uncovered. I don't think it really needs to be. His image, dashing through the cold nights of early year is strong enough for the work of the sorcerer.

He is enjoying the cold-powers of Hell that have draped the land; as the "devil's emissary" (according to our darling medievals) His power is still that of misrule and change. A beginning is always a delicate time; the first month following the year-regeneration in darkness is edgy, not fully settled. Things are still strange. Dangerous powers are still very much afoot.

In this month we find the trod-time of "Twelfth Night", also called by me "Fae-Fire Night" or "Elven Fire Night"- the evening of January 5th by the traditional count. This is the true end of the primary Weird winter-festivities, and the closing of the cold-trods that crack open so strongly at winter's inauguration.

The "reversed order" of things- the world on its head- truly ends on Twelfth night, and the last powerfully overt appearances of the winter-spectres is heading to done. This is one of the great merry-making nights, and the wassail punch, which will be drunk during this feast and after, during the "Wassailing Days" to come on January 17th night during which wicked powers are banished from trees, gardens, yards and homes- is the sacred drink of the season. An ornate bowl full of mulled ale, honey, and special herbs is the content of the Wassailing drink; the sorcery of it all is for the individual to discover. There is a powerful Weird there.

The Shriving Moon or the Serpent Moon (February)
Symbols: Corn Dollies/Straw dolls, Candles, a five-branched staff
Current: Tellurian and Solar

The ancient Land-Serpent cracks its eyes open for a peak during its long sleep; the first stirring of that great drake echoes long through the month called February by most, and "The fulfillment-time of the Moon of the Serpent" or the "Shriving Month" by me. One must purify oneself and the family and home to make ready for the presence of the Summer Court's coming pagentry; any doubts or Weird-powers that may have been holding on from the winter-scourge must be confessed and cleansed away.

February's stirrings are real but subtle; the light of promise glimpsed on Mother Night is now a warm, steady presence, even if it is far away still. The Serpent under the Mound is stirring and emerging in odd ways.

The historical feast of Candlemas dominates this time at its outset; it is the kindling of the year-fires but also the fires of the person that will break into the conflagration of Spring and May-tide, running into Summer. Candlemas is called "Puck Night" by me- for the "other side" of the Spring-Queen's entourage-announcement is the emergence of the light-bearing young Master. There is a hope in this trod-time that fills the minds of the sensitive, and a mischief. In another essay, I wrote (regarding Candlemas):

CANDLEMAS... symbolized by a five-branched staff; wherein the light-crowned Bride or Queen emerges, showing the wane of the Winter-Court, and the disappearance of the Feeorin Rade. The quickening or stirring of the sleep of the Land-Serpent...

One other Trod-time is celebrated by me and my throng during this time: Nickanan Night (Nicky-nan night) on the old feast of Shrove Tuesday. It is a time for pranks and mischief, and the burning of a great straw lady- an image of the Elf-Queen, and an echo of her Candlemas. In Britain, this is "Pancake Tuesday", and rich cakes during the day, and pea soup at night, are still what we eat during our Shrovetide.

The Annis Hare Moon (March)
Symbols: Hares, Bees, Eggs, Cats, Seasonal Flowers of blue, white, yellow, or lavender.
Currents: Tellurian and Venusian

The mad march hares are out and about, and boxing; they are celebrating the life of the land, arising in crazy power and riotous force. The Mother Weird is like a hare in this season, the Eostre-Weird, daring to and fro, leaping and hiding in the greenery. The Rites of Spring are not just celebratory rites, but rites to renew ourselves and remind ourselves of the darkness hidden in the green. March's renewal is a different sort from the early year; what was planted early was new, but mostly unconscious; this is a conscious celebration of new life.

This is the time of the Eastertide, the Vernal Equinox season, called the Joyful Door by me. As nature holds her breath in balance, joy reigns because this balance promises increase, not decrease. All poetics aside, there is nothing (necessarily) sad about decrease; decrease (as will be seen later in the year) is just as necessary and just as worth celebrating, for the good of all things is sustained by it, too. But "joy" is selected for the descriptive word here because the Weird-power of this time gives an unexplainable burst of vital force and optimism that sits below the surface of our consciousness, and which we can bring forth consciously, if we just open ourselves to the world sufficiently. All of life is urged on now, and I've always experienced it as a sense of "being happy to be alive". But there is excess power here, for sorcery, as well.

This month is when I first tend to experience the sense of the "renewal of the world"- winter's power being broken and new, green life appearing again along with large quantities of pulsing life-force inside of everything. I had a realization the other day regarding this experience- I was sitting on the side of a river, surrounded by shrubbery that was newly greened, in a perfect cool wind; the air had that "spring bursting forth" feeling; and I suddenly became aware of the presence of powerful beings all about me, celebrating the newness.

I realized then that somehow, even the unseen powers themselves were celebrating a form of renewal, and that we humans were capable of entering into the celebration with them- they were willing to be our teachers in celebrating life in any of its many ways of expression. They were positioned in their ancient offices precisely to be revealers to other beings of the wisdom they had attained. That power that the Heathens called the "God of Trees" was so called because he came to know and celebrate the mystery of the Weird-wholeness through the cycles of trees, and could lead humans into that experience; that power called the "Goddess of crops" was so called because she was the power that ministered to humans the ability to know the joy and peace of the Weird-wholeness through the experience of what we humans perceive as plowed fields and reaping, though who can say how she perceived it!

Regardless of the wide variety of individual perceptions, it was all one and the same thing- the Weird. Those powers who ruled over the cycles of death and guidance after death called humans into oneness with that experience, too- no less a possibility of joy and wholeness than any other, if we share in their wisdom. My religion is really about joining these ancient sentient and wise powers in a full celebration of life, and there are as many of these powers as there are ways to know the Weird.

Under this moon, my friends and I celebrate the feast of the "Hare-Pie Scramble"- in one of the last weekends of the month, we get together with a large image of a hare, and lots of pies and ale. The Black-Annis is the queen of the occasion, a frightening image to appear in the midst of such a bright season, but then, there's a lesson there. After we've gotten sufficiently "joyful" on our ale, the pies are fought over, but not really eaten (though some of that is unavoidable). The Hare-Pie Scramble is a food fight; the attendees pelt one another with the pies. The poor remains are buried with libations of ale for the good of the Land.

In March, bees come out and begin moving from one new open blossom to the next. They are emblems of the Elf-queen, the Venusian queen whose power suffuses the world at this time, as well as emblems of the strange workings of the Otherworld.

The White Horned Moon (April)
Symbols: Bull's Horns, Green Boughs, Cups inscribed with floral symbols, Green Jack
Currents: Tellurian, Lunar and Jupiterian

The month that leads into the Halls of May is ruled by the white-horned bull of heaven; it is the month of the resurgence of the Weird divine masculine-land power and the emergence of the May-Queen, the powers that will be wed together on the Hare's Summer Feast, under the coming Hawthorn Moon. April is the month when "spring is settled"- stabilized in its power, and full in the flux of vitality.

During this time, I celebrate the trod-day and trod-night I call "Green Jack's Day"- the day and night of April 23rd. Green Jack is, of course, the "oak face" of the same power who ruled over the month of December or whose power was celebrated during Lord Misrule's Moon- the Faery-King and Land Warder who is the prime masculine force in nature and in the Land. Under Lord Misrule's Moon we see his "iron face"; here his oak face- death turned to life, restriction turned to riot and freedom. The pulse of life emanates no less through his image and being than it does the land or every living creature.

He- Green Jack, Green George- saves the young May-Queen from the dangerous powers that threaten her; he turns his power against the savage monsters and Weird powers of chaos to make safe the land and becomes an otherworldly corollary to the human protector of the land and ruler of human groups. He pre-figures the victory of the Summer Court over the Winter Court, the Court of the Golden Spear over the Court of the Venomous Eye.

April ends with the ancient festival of Walburga's Night, or May Eve; along with Hallow's Eve, it is the Witch Sabbath or Hexennacht par excellence. The Walburgis fires are lit to keep back the hostile Weirds that can gather on the cusp of days such as this, and the mystery of plunging into the world of the dead to obtain wisdom is celebrated. The coming of May Day in just a few hours is held in gleeful expectation. Those who understand the mystery of Walburgis Night understand what a surprising darkness and wisdom is hidden in it.

Hawthorn Moon or the May Queen's Moon (May)
Symbols: Maypoles, phallic symbols, Hawthorn boughs and blossoms, trees in general, upright stones
Currents: Jupiterian, Solar and Venusian

The Hawthorn-Weird rules over the month of May, and the Summer Court arises in might as the Year-Crown transforms from a crown of antlers and hail-stones to one of emerald and roses. May is the virid dream, the blanketing of the land in a lustful and loving miasma of a golden age of pleasure. But there is something almost desperate or delirious deep within it- the stirring of the seed of death and waning, dimly sensed from far away. Like the Faery Queen of Tam Lin, the folk of May sense the coming teind they will have to pay to the concealed forces that gaze unseen at the celebratory time from the caverns deeper below. Nothing lasts forever, and though eternity can be bought off for a while, time falls apart when it comes to collect its due.

In the meanwhile, life will proliferate, not caring about the end of life. We are told to fear not that life will end, but that it will never find a way to come into true harmony with nature. May is a time of harmony and union, and the month begins with the Hare's Summer Feast, called "Beltane" by most today is the ancient feast of bountiful forces in opposition joining to create more forces and more life- seemingly in defiance of what exists on the "other side" of life and the year-wheel. The red serpent in the land meets the white; the sky-force meets the earth-force; the Weird is wanton.

But life is like that; proliferating in spite of dark Fate. The irony is that the desperation that drives life together, the natural, wordless urge that causes its increase, is because of dark Fate.

I have heard Beltane called Roodmas. In another of my writings, I noted: ROODMAS "Summer Mass", the Bright Axis-night of the year-wheel, in which Summer's powers take the Crown of Heaven and fertility Reigns, also the marriage-feast of Heaven and Earth. Symbolized by a Tree or upright stone. The awakening and coiling of the Land Serpent.

On the last moon-day of May, my people and myself celebrate the Whitsun Ale feast- a time when the Lord and Lady of the May are invoked at their "Bower", and ale-offerings are made as a sign of respect and thanks to the rulers of Summer.

The Midsummer Moon (June)
Symbols: Oak boughs, sprigs of St. John's Wort, the sun or solar ornaments
Currents: Solar and Jupiterian

Just as the Light-Gate opened at winter's beginning, allowing the seed of renewing light to appear and blossom itself into the vibrancy of spring and summer, so at summer's beginning, the Shadow-Gate opens and allows in the first messengers of the rising darkness. June, the Midsummer Month or the Oak-Month contains within its march of days the Summer Solstice, the Shadow-Gate, as well as a personal time I've always observed which I call "The Relenting Days"- the four days that lead away from the solstice, in which the heat brought by the sun begins to fade, however imperceptibly- it begins to relent. And a good thing, too; an eternal summer would turn the world into a baked, lifeless heap of ash, sand and straw. I call the summer solstice "St. John's Eve" or "Midsummer"- though "Litha" is just as good and traditional a name for this mighty time.

The summer solstice has an interesting equivalent inside the mind and body of a human being, or any living creature- that point in its development when it truly "matures", not just physically but mentally as well. It's a hard thing to pin down, but each person who has experienced knows of what I speak- that moment when youthful naivety is gone, and a strange "darkness" (for lack of a better word) enters into the personality- not anything so uncreative as "evil", but a special realism about the world and others, which is the long-term seed of cynicism for some.

That tiny sliver of dark pragmatism that emerges in the mind of a man or woman (or sadly, sometimes children) is the same thing in the human mind as the summer solstice is for the world as a whole- the time of strongest heat and light, but with a sliver of the coming darkness emerged within, stabilizing the whole with a powerful might, and equipping it with an unspoken urge towards dissolution and change, preparing it for the hard things to come. There is a hardness here that young spring didn't have.

Few stop to see the summer solstice as a great celebration of the light and might of Summer-Court, but with a dark core at its center: amidst the gaudy gold, a shadowy gate opens and a dark theophany occurs. Most people today (owing to a famous story about a savior in a manger, no doubt) focus over-much on the Light-gate of the winter solstice, with dark powers coursing through the dark, icy halls of the Otherworld and the theophantical appearance of the saving light, without stopping to see the necessary other side of that drama.

The Yellow Moon or King Holly's Moon (July)
Symbols: Hay, fern, meadowsweet
Currents: Martial

The fading fellowship of the summer court is not so obvious in July, when the "dog days"- the later, hotter-seeming days- are wearing on. But the heat of life is really threadbare inside; it shines out one last time before giving up to autumn's coolness. The emissaries of the winter court, who took their place in the world when the shadow gate opened on the solstice, are present and stronger- strong enough to make the last light and heat of summer take on a baleful intensity. Personified and pre-figured by "King Holly", after the holly-weird that arises in might in the winter, the forces of shadow in this season endow it with a danger that is unlike the more usual danger of cold- a danger of spent energy that is thrashing and dangerous.

Third Summer Moon or the Green Jester's Moon (Intercalary)
Currents: Mercurial and Lunar

This is the intercalary month, inserted on years that require it to bring the solstices and equinoxes back into the proper month in which they belong. Lunar reckonings require such a stabilizing appearance every few years. This month has no innate symbolism, but it does have a special power- as the month that vanishes and appears, the "Green Jester"- the Witch-Master himself- appears as the special patron of this strange time. It is a time for deceit and workings of cunning and illusion. It endows the days that it captures with a sense of uncertainty and strangeness.

Harvest Home Moon or the Corn Hare Moon (August)
Symbols: scythes, scarecrows, grain, bonfires, a bare or "blasted" tree
Currents: Martial and Tellurian

The month that appears before the solar start of autumn boasts its own heat, but also the true destruction of the heat and life-giving web of powers that have begun to fade, crack, and blow away in the cold, fateful winds that are blowing from the otherworld. This is the sacrifice-time, when things are made holy for their journey into the "otherness" of winter. Even though the equinox that begins autumn officially is still a moon away, many people consider this month to be autumn's spiritual beginning, the reaping time which ran parallel with the ancient institution of kingly sacrifice in ancient times.

Oddly enough, the Celtic Lughnasadh, (the commemoration of Lugh) once celebrated around this time, had less to do with the sacrifice of Lugh and more to do with his commemoration of the sacrifice made by an earth-goddess, who had fostered him and gave her own life so that humans could have crops and plenty.

This, for me, exemplifies the "reason for this season"- a recognition of the vital forces that worked so hard for all that we had in the year, and the need to thank them and commemorate them. Thus released from their hard duties, they merge with the ground and journey into the unseen, to rest and recuperation and regeneration, while we reap the benefits and begin to rest ourselves.

The old feast of Lammas, celebrated at the beginning of this month, is called by me and mine "Badger's Eve"- and it is a trod-time that still resonates as the "red day", the day of sacrifices that give back to the land some of the power that it loaned to us, for the good of all. Were those powers freely given, as some act of love? Or were they taken? What is given is taken, and what is taken is given, in a special sense. The end result is the same: the duty to re-pay. Nature is always donating power, but there is a void-space left after the taking that has to be refilled: "a gift demands a gift". We do create a debt to life through the act of living. But life lives; nature and the Weird constantly express this life; we have to be at peace with it, and accept all sides of this magical portrait, this true miracle.

Sun's heat is broken in the red-time, spiritually and quite literally in some places; the rose-petals on the Crown of Summer (or the Crown of Heaven) have all fallen off, and the thorns that were hidden in the green tendrils wrapped around it now show themselves as brown and jagged. They weep the dew-drops (red seeming dew!) that will calcify into ice-crystals in the coming months. The nobles of summer have left their halls, now choked with dead leaves, and those who avoided falling to the scythe or the bale-arrows of the advance agents of winter have taken shelter in deeper homes, in their palaces beneath the hollow hills.

On August 10th, my people and I go to "dress the wells"- Dressing the Wells at this time is traditional, and another form of the "repayment" to the land spirits, especially the spirit of the Land-Mother, whose direct presence always manifests anywhere water (her breastmilk) rises up out of the ground. Flowers and dancing are the traditional offerings, but others will suffice. It is the grateful heart that is the true offering. Lacking wells, natural bodies of water will have to suffice for most.

Two more powerful trod-days- and very fun days- remain under this moon which have become an important part of my personal yearly practice: Puck Fair and The Scarecrow Pyre. Puck Fair is one of the most intense days of connection with the goat-horned master, and a well-decorated goat's skull is mounted on a tall pole by us (around August 12th, or the weekend closest) and displayed somewhere prominently, indoors or out- and a feast is held. Those who understand the Master's connection with the grain or corn-spirit will already understand the timing of this fair. I have written extensively on this topic elsewhere.

The Scarecrow-Pyre on or around August 24th carries with it (for me) the symbolism most people associate with Lammas proper: the death of a sacrificial king who is tied to the fertility of the land. But in this case, the "scarecrow" represents not just the great "nature father" whose aging form now makes the transition from his oak-face to iron, but the local powers of the land I live on, who worked so hard all year to express life, now (sometimes resentfully!) making the transition into a deeper condition. The scarecrow can (and does) express something universal- the land-king's sacrifice- but also something local; the local powers or godlings who carry on the fateful task of power-transfer from one world to another. Our pyre for the magnificent scarecrow we build is a grand one.

The Autumn Moon or The Red Bough Moon (September)
Symbols: Same as the "Harvest Home Moon", along with horses and red leaves
Currents: Tellurian and Venusian

Autumn is my favorite season for the same reason it is a favorite of many people like me: one can sense the approach of the dark mystery from which all things arise. Our "true home" is always with us; we didn't "go out" from our source as much as we changed in how we perceive things, including the "distance" between us and it. Nature is our source and we are never apart from it. Where we came from is where we are going- from union to reunion- and Autumn's force makes us feel the sensation of dark familiarity rising.

Those wicked powers of winter, as it turn out, aren't so demonic as the propagandists of summer present- they are agents of the Mother-Weird who weaves all things into form, life, shape, and celebration, and then weaves all things back to the source, if need be stripping away those other gifts that some beings become overly attached to. Our experience of joy and life has a necessary other side- we go out, but we must come back; we change to one state of mind, but we must change to another, or the circle is not complete.

We are those dark powers of winter court, just as we are the bright powers of summer; we are not alien to them nor they to us. We transition back and forth between them, oftentimes being not one nor the other. The "demons" of so many faiths are nothing less than the natural forces of life, given a villainous mask by moralizing and foolishness brought on by a sense of ultimate separation from nature.

The start of red-boughed Autumn is here, under this moon: it is a time of coolness and excitement, as the great mystery is approaching in a more immediate way. The autumn equinox is found here, a trod-time of great sorcerous power... the red-equinox door that is opposite the green-equinox door on the wheel of the year. Where the green door was the Joyful Door, this red door is the Lachrymose Door, the door of melancholy, longing, and weeping. At some point in every life, we find a time to regret what we could have done, or what we did do. But this time of the year is not a time of tears of depression; they are wistful tears, longing for the good times now faded. The "longing" is also for the deeper experience that is coming, soon.

Few times seem more sorcerously potent than Autumn and Winter. This because the closer we become, in serial perception, to the dark and Weird-source of all things, the more powerful sorcery truly becomes, and sight. The forces that are channeled and called upon for sorcerous feats belong most properly to the "outside", to the mysterious, unordered, and chaotic. They are the powers of change and the powers that can step with impunity around the well-established rules of this world. And the Witch-Master, goat-horned and radiant, Lord of Sorcery, never shines so bright as he does in this season.

The trod-time of the autumn equinox is called by me and mine Michaelmas or Holy Rood Day. Balance again exists between day and night, but night is ascendant. Darker times are ahead.

The Elf-Shot Moon or Winter Filling Moon (October)
Symbols: Gourds, lanterns, monstrous masks and costumes, skulls, graves
Currents: Saturnian, Venusian, and Mercurial

Autumn's true spirit is found in the months of October and November. Now, the spirits and powers of the winter court wander the world with absolute abandon and impunity- the forests and fields of the world have become more overtly "enchanted", but also more dangerous. The "elf shot"- the dangerous subtle blasts of weird-forces, are more common because the bale-archers are wandering about now in greater numbers. A good way to avoid problems is to wear masks and costumes at night- especially on the eve before the first of November (called Halloween by most, and "All Hallows Eve" or "Hallowed Even" by me).

I've always enjoyed the custom of guising or costuming; I've always thought it was a good idea for more autumn and winter nights than just Hallows Eve, because the dark powers are pervasive for many months and the ancient magic of guising changes a person from who they are into the thing they present with the guise. This has the sorcerous impact of changing us into one of the powers we fear in this season- and making them unable to tell us apart from one of their own kind.

How marvelous! It goes deeper! The sorcery of costume allows people to literally become the powers so feared in the summer reaches of the year! Eventually, the great dark claims us all; to consciously join with it is an exercise in becoming the shape-changers that we all actually are, at our hearts. The chilling glow of this season is not a deathly light, though it is the light of death; it is the light of wisdom, flowing in a different form at this time of year.

The dead take a center stage in the later half of this month, and the beginning of the next: the lost and wandering dead as well as the saintly dead- all of the throng of "the gone before" have become saintly or wise in a way- all are merged with the fullness, even if they can't realize this, and if they wear out their fated time in the unseen in unhappy or unskillful ways. We can hold in trust the great power of wisdom to penetrate even the most resistant souls- after a while, all of the dead merge in the whiteness of the pale people's gathering and become prepared for new roads. That whiteness comes closest to our world at the end of this month and the beginning of the next; it is the time, both historically and now, for honoring the dead and spirit-contact. The collapse of summer's order leads to a collapse in boundaries between many subtle places.

In an earlier work, I said, regarding Hallows: HALLOWMASS "Sacred Mass", also called HOLLANTIDE; the Dark Axis-night of the year, in which Summer's powers fade and the crown of Heaven is passed to the Winter Court, and becomes the Crown of the Underworld, and the emergence of the Feeorin Rade. The Sleep of the Land Serpent, in which it's dreams become the strange warp and confusion of reality.

A trod-time celebrated by me and mine on the last Thursday of October is the sublime occasion of "Punkie Night"- the Rite of Ghost-Lanterns. We go to the woods, and in the deep darkness there kindle lanterns and carry them, spread out, through the woods, and down lanes. These are symbols of the lights of the dead, wandering back into our world, but also a time for meditation on the closeness of the dead. The more people you have taking this vigil, filling the dark lanes and woods with pin-points of light, the better.

The Blood Moon or the Dark Wood Moon (November)
Symbols: A dark moon, apples, bonfires, skulls of goats and horned/antlered beasts, animal masks
Currents: Saturnian and Lunar

The entire power of November, under the Blood Moon, is a continuation of the eldritch current summoned up by September's red door and given shape in October's witchery. November is a transition into the world of the dead, which is also our world- the red apples and berries on dark bushes which we see are the red food of the dead, whom we do not see- except at special occasions.

November begins with the Owl's Winter Feast, called "Samhain" by most modern peoples, and the Feast of All Saints by the Catholic Church. It is the funeral trod to the concealed world of the dead, which, for the time being, isn't quite so "concealed". All of the dead powers become completely merged with the world of the living, such that omens and signs seen on this day (and in the small batch of days before it and after it) take on a special deep significance.

Martinmas, or "Old Halloween", celebrated on November 11, is a useful trod-time for consciousness changing and trance-acquiring; it contains and continues the spiritual current of November's beginning.

But beyond a doubt, the most fun and transformative feast for me personally, and those who work with me, is Tinley Fire Night, held on one of the last weekends of November, in which the "Tinley Fire"- a huge bonfire- is made at a gathering in the woods, and the members of the gathering all burn something which represents an attachment or situation from the past year which they would like to see destroyed, and given up to the powers of dissolution. For the end of November is, in a way, the end of the year, the last "month" that has a semblance of spiritual order, chaotic though it may be; very quickly are powers flowing into December's grip of dissolution and regeneration.

Tinley Fire Night has a fire which is lit by a Master of Ceremonies, dressed as a red demon or monster of the season- the devil himself, in fact. It has one more important message- the Tinley Fire, when alight, represents the light of the new year to come; it is a regeneration, too. It is the light that pre-figures the seed-hope that will pour from the Light-Gate at the solstice occasion next month.