Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Samhain/Halloween 2010 part One - The Third Degree Ceremony and Trick or Treaters....

Happy Samhain!
My Third Degree Ceremony which was scheduled to occur Friday night, on the 29th, actually took place on Saturday night, on the 30th, instead, the day before Halloween. We also had some extra good news which I am saving for a second post, as it deserves it's own moment in the sun. (there were any number of reasons for the change of dates, ranging from fatigue from earlier in the week to crisis in participants lives to questions regarding the weather. Saturday turned out to be a better fit for most. There was also a change in location and available participants. Never refer to Wicca/Paganism as an organized religion! *Rolls eyes! Facepalm*)
So on Saturday afternoon, I went over early to Priestess's house and began the set up process. Part of the 3rd Degree "requirements" asked of me was that I was to set up and run the basics of the circle itself - which is actually something I love doing! I did not get a lot of pictures of the circle site, or the ritual - it was getting dim on into dusk and then once it got rolling, I was too busy to attempt photography. So was everyone else! But I did get a shot of the main Altar, which for this was set up in the North.

I am going to do a quick rundown on what you are seeing here, left to right. At the top left is an Russian style Icon of Christ that my friend Skeptic painted for me, which I treasure very much - it is on my altar as part of my dual path. Behind the Icon, but not visible is my tarrot card deck. Right below it is the cake for cakes and ale and the plate it was going on (Yeah, I know - purchased the cakes and ale - I'm in grad school and Dreamweaver gets up at 3:45 AM to go to work. Cooking just was not on, this week.) Beside the Icon is my stuffed Tigger from childhood, as I said he would be! There is, still working left to right, sort of up and down, a Tiger Eye globe to charge, the stature of Pan with the Otter at his feet, and a pair of stag antlers. (Now, an interesting point about the antlers - they are not from hunting, nor are they sheds. They were picked up from a lightening strike scenario - the burn mark is still on the tip of the left horn where it struck. So this was not a hunting casualty - not even for food, and definitely not for sport, but a natural, if unusual passing.) In the center, between the two white candles (which are there for the Lord and Lady) is the candle for Earth and North....This is the green Candle in the center of the spiral of earth from our garden, with acorns and leaves and pine cones. Directly behind the Green Candle for North, is a small wooden box painted and decorated with sun and moon images - in that box are the ashes of beloved ones who have passed before us - TruthTeller, Jason and MeadowHawk. In front of that are two bowls, one holding sea salt and the other holding water. Up to the right of the white candle for the Goddess is the statue of Gaia, the earth Goddess. We had originally thought to use the Morrigan, one of the warrior goddesses, because I have an affinity for that; however, the statue of Gaia represented better the idea of the Feminine Deity that I serve as a priest. So we went with her instead.
At her feet were flowers and the statue of a white stag. Then there was the goblet for the ale (wine, in this case) and three white candles representing the Trinity of my Christian path. (Normally, I represent the Trinity with a 3 wick candle, with its strong image of 3 in 1, however, the budget was tight...so 3 candles this time.) And at her request, on the far right are Preistess' bells which she rings in circle. On the table in back of the altar, as space was becoming crowded, was my Green Man pumpkin I carved earlier in the week. In the Center of the Circle space we had a fire going in Preistess' copper fire pit going - a Balefire to light our way and keep us warm.

I was wearing my knee high leather boots with bells on them, my green pants with the bells on them, a white poet blouse shirt, and a brown pull over tunic. I had on me my Runes, my athame, and my sword. (we actually did not get a picture of this, however, we took some pictures the following night on Halloween, when I dressed back up in the same outfit for the trick or treaters...so thats where this shot comes from.)
I wish I had a shot of Dreamweaver in her green gown and the cloak with Celtic knotwork...she was stunning! I may get her to dress up again like that for Solstice or something so I can get a picture this time....

Now, I described the Candle for North and Earth - which here is a closer view of it...I did not get pictures of the other three quarters, unfortunately, but here is what I did for them - in the East was a Yellow Candle, with a spray of windblown leaves for the element of Air. I like using something that the wind has blown to represent air, as the movement of the wind is only visible through its effect on things.
For South, Fire, I used a red Candle, which incorporated the element of fire, in itself...also in the south was the Fey Candle, which I will tell more about in a moment. In the West was water, the element actually represented by water, touched with blue (Food coloring) and a blue candle - the water also had a blue floating candle in it which I lit when I called West.

Which brings us to the Fey Candle - Dreamweaver and I both prefer to acknowledge and call the Fey, when we call the Circle. We feel that it is better to invite them as guests to the edge of the Circle, than leave them out and risk their disgruntlement - remember ones Faery Tales and Sleeping Beauty! - we use the poem "The Fairies" by William Allingham as our invocation, most of the time;

The Fairies

Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting,
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and grey
He's nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music,
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow;
They thought she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag leaves,
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees

For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig them up in spite?
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl's feather!

William Allingham (1824-1889)

She and I usually have a good-natured argument going over whether or not to use the entire thing, or a shortened version of it incorporating only four of the six verses...however, in this case we were both in agreement - the whole poem.

So this is what we were looking at as darkness fell, and we moved into the actual ceremony itself....

In the Circle with me were my teacher, Priestess, my beloved Dreamweaver and Mizbehavin', who was in town for several reasons, (Convention, funeral, visiting friends and now my Circle)! Having her there all the way from GA was WONDERFUL! Unfortunately Back Porch Priestess and Hermit were both unable to make it to the ceremony and they were much missed. Mizbehavin' was a welcome friend in the circle, and it was doubly precious that she was there, as changes in the weather, too much time on the road, too many people in over whelming circumstances and an incipiant cold/virus/ allergies all combined with arthritis, to make it difficult for Mizbehavin' to participate. We did our best to make her comfortable, but it was simply an extremely not easy scenario for her. However, she jumped in, helped Dreamweaver with finding some items for the ritual, and gave her all in the ceremony in the ritual drama part. Her being there and a part of it is something I will always treasure! I am so sorry that it was difficult for her and I was very worried for her, though I know she would have said no, if she truly needed to not participate. (then again, she is stubborn, sometimes too much so for her own good! And I wouldn't know anything about that! Pot = Kettle = black!)

So at this point, it was my circle to run, with only a few requirements I needed to perform...One was that I raise a double Circle - a Circle within a Circle. The idea was that I was to step out of the inner Circle before the ritual drama part began, and then be brought back in for that, and yet I would still be within the boundaries of the outer Circle - which is where we invited the Fey to come to, and watch from the outside. (all though I think one or two of the little mischief makers made it in...they usually do. *grin*)
So I raised the first Circle, and then the second, and then began to walk the quarters, calling the Elements...
Now, I run Circle without a script. I do it entirely extemporaneously - and have only used a script once in my life, and that I memorized so that I did not have a piece of paper I had to refer to. So, each of my quarter calls is varied and specifically for the element and quarter I am standing in. I can't necessarily verbatim write what I said, but I can give the gist of it, as these are the quarter calls I have used for a long time....
North: "I call upon the spirits of the North, element of Earth, the good foundation beneath our feet, that we are rooted in and grounded in. From the earth we have the nourishment of the harvest, we are formed of Earth, and to earth we shall return. Be with us now in our Circle this night.....I call upon the Spirits of the East, Element of Air...the wind blows from where we know not, we don't know where it is going, yet we see its presence in the cycle of the weather and the rain, and the falling leaves. Element of Knowledge, may we bend and be flexible with wisdom as we gain life experience...be with us and grant us wisdom in our Circle this night...I call upon the Spirits of the South, Fire...passion, creativity, that which can master us as well as serve us...be with us now in our Circle tonight.,.. I call upon the West, the element of Water, sustainer of life, blessing to the world, the womb of life from whence we come...grant us peace, and fluidity in our Circle tonight." There - thats not EXACTLY what I said, but it's pretty close. Then Dreamweaver called the Fae with the poem, which she generally manages to get the hair on the back of your neck to stand up!
After that, I called the fifth Sacred thing - which is community and communion of the world and ourselves together. Then Priestess called the Lord and Lady, and I called the Creator, three in one - with Christ, the dying, rising God, and the Holy Spirit - which I might add in the original language of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is Feminine!
Then we arrived at the Ritual Drama part of the Ceremony. I was asked to cut a "door" in the inner Circle and step outside and wait to be asked back in. Which Preistess did so, with a knife challenge. The knife challenge is supposedly an old, old part of Wicca, wherein a ritual knife is held to the throat of someone entering the Circle and they are challenged, with ritual responses. (Some say it originates with Gardner's Coven, some say it's ancient from the Burning Times, some point out its similarity to certain rites in the Masons and Rosicrucians that Gardner borrowed from...wherever it came from, it is a part of Modern Wicca at this point.) Many people disapprove of the knife challenge, some vehemently so. Others use it as a standard Circle entry rite. Priestess chose to use it, as she felt it was appropriate for something as deep and solemn as a Third Degree rite of passage. I have encountered it before, so I had no objections to her using it. However, this is where it gets funny....
She steps up to the "door" in the Circle, I step to meet her there and she holds her athame to my throat (in the general vicinity of, that is....she didn't actually touch me with the blade, which was courteous...some people get a little too enthusiastic with that sharp edge!) So, the first question is exactly what I expect and have responded to countless times - "How do you come to this place?" and the answer is " I come in Perfect Love and perfect Trust." Sometimes that's the extant of the questioning, sometimes there are further questions. In this case, Priestess threw me a curve ball - "What is the First Law?"


Nobody said anything about a pop quiz, let alone one on the freakin' Wiccan Rede (written by Doreen Valiente and, containing some good stuff, some useful stuff and a whole bunch of questionable and down right - not to be disrespectful, but - crap. I have studied the long version of the Rede. And I knew what the answer was...I was just flat footed and suddenly up to my eyeballs in test anxiety. Priestess said later, I looked like a deer in the head lights! I am so glad they were all amused. *snort*
So after a moment of abrupt panic, when I could not have told you my own name, I managed to find my wits and respond - "And it harm none, do as you will - and I emphasize and it harm none, including one's self."
"And the second Law?"
"Every action returns threefold..."
"Do you come of your own will or by the will of another..."
"Yes, I come of my own will."

Once inside the Circle, or back inside the Circle, they draped a sheer black veil over my eyes - the idea was not to blindfold me, or to keep me from seeing, but rather to make what I saw indistinct, to heighten other senses and put me in another world.

And then I began hearing...things.

Really hearing them...

An owl hooting...water trickling and lapping, rain falling....
Dim shapes moved....
And then voices began to speak, talking back and forth over the water and the bird calls.

'I feel strangely tired, Rat,' said the Mole, leaning wearily over his oars as the boat drifted. 'It's being up all night, you'll say, perhaps; but that's nothing. We do as much half the nights of the week, at this time of the year. No; I feel as if I had been through something very exciting and rather terrible, and it was just over; and yet nothing particular has happened.'

(and the voices came from all sides, around me, as each person read parts: individual animals, narration...)

'Or something very surprising and splendid and beautiful,' murmured the Rat, leaning back and closing his eyes. 'I feel just as you do, Mole; simply dead tired, though not body tired. It's lucky we've got the stream with us, to take us home. Isn't it jolly to feel the sun again, soaking into one's bones! And hark to the wind playing in the reeds!'

'It's like music— far away music,' said the Mole nodding drowsily.

'So I was thinking,' murmured the Rat, dreamful and languid. 'Dance-music— the lilting sort that runs on without a stop— but with words in it, too— it passes into words and out of them again— I catch them at intervals— then it is dance-music once more, and then nothing but the reeds' soft thin whispering.'

And then the music started playing...flute music, mournful and happy and sad all at once...
They were recreating the Scene from Wind in the Willows for my ritual drama!!!!
I stood there utterly entranced, laughing with joy and delight...
Not to give it away, but they were pulling off the owl, and the water sounds and the music and so forth and so on, by having them on the laptop and playing the sounds on cue.
Finally, at a key point, they pulled the veil off and I was confronted by what should have been a comical sight...my extremely feminine Dreamweaver with the Green Man mask on and channeling the spirit of Pan from Wind in the Willows. She even had a little stuffed toy otter at her feet! We are a little short on males to take the role, so Dreamweaver took it on, head long. (I can take it as needed from here on out...) And it wasn't comical AT ALL, because she pulled it off. She read the charge to me of being a Priest and asked what sacrifice I brought...
Which I answered as I wrote in my last blog post....Self sacrifice...not in destruction, but in self transcendence, able to give and receive.
This ended with me wearing the Green Man Mask as his Priest. Then at this point, Priestess did a "marrying of our power as priest and priestess together". We received a ring to give the other, and vowed to be each others priest and priestess and it felt more like a handfasting than you could imagine! I'm not sure we're gonna need a wedding after that, just a celebration party for all! The rings were a gift from Priestess and are a simple band of silver, each one of them reading "My life is my message" and we are wearing them on our right hands, with our engagement/commitment rings on our left hands. And they are beautiful and we cannot thank Priestess enough!

We had cakes and ale, and closed the Circle, going back through the steps that brought us in - the Deities, the Fey, the Quarters, until I took down the Circle and ended with this song -

May the Circle be Open,
But unbroken
May the Love of the Goddess
be ever in your heart
Merry meet and merry part
And merry meet again....

OF course, at that point the most paramount need was to get Mizbehavin' back inside, off her feet and out of the night air, before she felt any worse...and I really felt bad about that! I am so, so glad she was able to be there and participate, but I am so sorry it was so difficult for her.
Then Dreamweaver and I sat and talked and just in general it was a beautiful moment - the fire in the fire pit still burning...
we ate some, and drank a little to get back to grounded and centered.
We visited with Priestess and slowly packed up everything. I wound up going back the next day for the table and a few of the items we finally left, out of exhaustion!

How do I feel?
Fantastic! It will remain one of the most remarkable moments of my life, stepping into the Wind in the Willows, having not only my call to priesthood honor and fulfilled, but the fact that I am a priest, masculine, and that was also honored and accepted and blessed.

I can't say at this point I know where this will all end up...
But I do know that I am where I need to be at this moment in my walk, in a metaphysical sense - a priest of my Deity.
Part two is the next night, on Halloween and trick or treating!
Blessed Be!


  1. What a wonderful ceremony! And how special that the Wind in the Willows was used as your ritual drama! And I learned a few things too -- e.g. I've never heard of the knife challenge before.

    Many congratulations, Priest of the Goddess and God!