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Hosting a Pagan Festival – A Groovy Guest-Post from Bernadette Montana

The lovely Bernadette Montana – proprietor of the famed metaphysical shop Brid’s Closet in Cornwall New York – is stepping in with a guest post on the crazy idea of hosting a Pagan Festival! Thanks Bernadette!

Enjoy!

How to Put on a Festival OR the Ramblings of One INSANE Witch!

Yes, A long title but a totally appropriate one!

Many people talk about putting on a festival. I used to be one of them! For years, I thought about hosting a large gathering where people could come together and just be themselves. A place to be happy, a place to schmooze with other like minded folks.

In my area of New York, I am pretty much the only metaphysical shop around. The pagan community is actually quite large and so the demand for an event like this was definitely there.

I’ve always loved going to festivals and had even taught at a few. I admired the hard work and the dedication of the people who worked soo very hard to put on these events. But could I possibly do it?

The community (particularly my coven) used their wiles to convince me! Yep, it’s wonderful when people you love, know just how to get you to do the most impossible things!

The first task was to find out where we could hold the event. How many people would come? How could we raise the money needed? What about permits? How would the town handle a “pagan” event? How much would insurance cost? And HOW would I find the time?

For the first 2 years, we were at a wonderful retreat center. Great space, beautiful scenery, and we able to get Isaac Bonewits to be our presenter, but there was no stage –  so we needed to build one and hire a separate sound person with equipment. Then the rent went up and so that venue no longer fit with our budget.

The third year, we moved to another retreat center, where we had Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone! The land was great, the festival was fantastic, but we had some problems with one person at this center, so it was time to move somewhere else.

Our forth year was our best yet! We moved to a winery. The place was vast, had a professional stage and equipment, along with lots of parking. Raven & Stephanie Grimassi presented workshops, sold books and gave readings!

I must admit, I was scared! Without the help of the other “crazy” volunteers, it would have never happened. Signs where made, fliers where printed, all free means of advertising were found and utilized (calendars, press releases etc), along with social media (Twitter, Facebook)  and of course, word of mouth!

We are now in the planning stages of our 5th Beltane festival! This year we will have Judika Illes as our main presenter! Fun is to be had by everyone! If you are able we’d love to have you join us. Maybe our festival will inspire you to start your own!

Much Love

Bernadette

Brid’s Closet www.bridscloset.com 

296 Main Street, Cornwall NY 12518
Bernadette@bridscloset.com

Fat Tuesday Special – Mardi Gras Indians & Musical Amazement

Happy Mardi Gras! If you’re down NOLA way (and still conscious) remember to grab Ankhie some beads!

Enjoy this excerpt from the wonderful Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook by Denise Alvarado and the music links in the list below.

The Mardi Gras Indians

There’s a great secret in New Orleans with regards to Voodoo hoodoo that is often overlooked. It is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of New Orleans culture, particularly during Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s Day celebrations. With their elaborate costumes and fabulous performances, the Mardi Gras Indians’ flamboyant displays sometimes cause the average onlooker to miss the important role they played in the history and shaping of New Orleans Voodoo hoodoo. Their contributions to the enduring Voodoo hoodoo tradition lie in the transmission of cultural knowledge via chants, dance, and music. Their authentic African rhythms are used in the rituals and celebrations of major Voodoo holidays and rituals.

Indeed, little is understood about the specific Mardi Gras Indian tribes and their activities outside of local legend. Only those who grew up in their neighborhoods would be aware of their presence and  influence. New Orleans Mardi Gras is full of secret societies, and the Mardi Gras Indians are among them. They are tribal in every sense of the word; like in any tribe, or any gang for that matter, there are secrets to uphold and measures to be taken to ensure outsiders remain just that—outsiders.

The phrase “Mardi Gras Indians” is used for the benefit of outsiders, as the Indians do not refer to themselves as such, preferring to use “black Indian” or to identify as a member of a tribe. I remember hearing lies about the black Indians of New Orleans when I was growing up . . . they aren’t really Indians, they’re just masking up for Mardi Gras . . . they aren’t really fighting, they’re just putting on a show. Again, these are popular misconceptions put forth by the uninformed. According to Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias in a 2000 interview,

“At that time my mama wouldn’t let me mask—not with Brother Tillman, anyway. He was kind of rough. He’d come home at the end of Mardi Gras Day and his suit would be bloody, you know, he’d get into humbugs . . . Oh yeah, they were still fighting. But most of the time it would happen when they’d meet a gang from downtown, and I didn’t go that far.” (Sinclair, J. and Taylor, B. (2000). Wild Indians Down in New Orleans: an interview with Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias Blues Access 43. Retrieved January 10, 2011: http://www.bluesaccess.com/No_43/magnolias.html27 Sinclair, J. and Taylor, B. (2000). )

The masks worn by the Mardi Gras Indians honor the Native Americans that helped enslaved Africans to escape. Masking is also a means of acknowledging the mixed blood of Africans and Indians, an important part of African heritage overlooked when judging only by the color of one’s skin. They have their own Creole street language that is believed to be part Choctaw, part Yoruba, part French, part Spanish, and mostly unknown.

It is no coincidence that the Mardi Gras Indian tribes meet up at the street corner crossroads and proceed to walk through them while pounding out foot-stomping beats on the points of specific spirits, singing songs that call on various Voodoo spirits, and referencing military preparedness. Upon careful observation, one can see similarities between the black Indians of New Orleans and the Rara celebrations in Haiti, which begin on the eve of lent just as carnival ends.

There are more than fifty Mardi Gras Indian tribe names from in and around the New Orleans area. The oldest is Creole Wild West, founded in the  eighteen hundreds. Some, like the Wild Squatoulas and Medallion Hunters, are no  longer active. Others, such as Fi-Yi-Yi and Congo Nation, haven’t yet  reached their peak. One thing is for sure: when it’s Mardi Gras time in the Crescent City, the streets are graced with colorful Indian costumes, confrontations, and call-and-response style chants and Indian second line rhythms. If you are ever in New Orleans during the Jazz & Heritage Festival or Mardi Gras, join the second line of the spectacular walk-around parades. You won’t be sorry.

During the rest of the year, there is warfare among Mardis Gras tribes and rival gangs. The main focus is turf—who is the strongest and the best—and all year long they prepare for the “show” by creating their elaborate costumes, which are second to none (the trannies of New Orleans run a close second, admittedly, but in my opinion no one will ever out-costume the Black Indians.

If you really want to get inside the psychology of the Black Indians, listen to their music. You will hear rhythms straight from Africa and learn about a culture that has changed little for 250 years. Listen to the songs listed below, as they provide a snapshot of an aspect of New Orleans culture that is intimately tied to the experiences of the original slave inhabitants of Louisiana.

•“Jockamo,” Sugar Boy Crawford & the Cane Cutters

“Handa Wanda Pt. 1,” Wild Magnolias

“Big Chief Got a Golden Crown,” Wild Tchoupitoulas

•“My Gang Don’t Bow Down,” Flaming Arrows

“Yella Pocahontas,” Champion Jack Dupree

“New Suit,” Wild Magnolias

“My Indian Red,” Dr. John

“Second Line Pt.1,” Bill Sinigal & the Skyliners

•“Big Chief,” Professor Longhair

“Iko Iko,” the Dixie Cups

One of the most popular songs of the Mardi Gras Indians is “Iko Iko,” a song originally penned by Sugar Boy Crawford in November 1953 on Checker records and called “Jock-A-Mo.” The song tells of a “spy boy” or “spy dog” (a lookout) for one band of Indians encountering the “flag boy” for another band. He threatens to set the flag on fire. Many artists have covered the song and have sung the words phonetically and thus incorrectly, without understanding their meaning. In reality, no one really knows what they mean or what language it is, but there are many theories. According to Dr. John on the liner notes to his 1972 album, Dr. John’s Gumbo:

“Jockamo means “jester” in the old myth. It is Mardi Gras music, and the Shaweez was one of many Mardi Gras groups who dressed up in far out Indian costumes and came on as Indian tribes. The tribes used to hang out on Claiborne Avenue and used to get juiced up there getting ready to perform and “second line” in their own special style during Mardi Gras. That’s dead and gone because there’s a freeway where those grounds used to be. The tribes were like social clubs who lived all year for Mardi Gras, getting their costumes
together. Many of them were musicians, gamblers, hustlers and pimps.”

Another theory is that Jockamo is actually an old African festival called Jonkonnu. It is believed that this festival began during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The slaves were allowed to leave the plantations during Christmas to be with their families and celebrate the holidays with African dance, music, and costumes. The tradition continued after emancipation and Junkanoo has evolved into an organized parade with sophisticated, elaborate costumes and unique music among people living in the Bahamas. It is also celebrated in Miami and Key West, Florida, where the local African American populations have their roots in the Bahamas.

Yet another theory is that Jockamo is a corruption of the word Jonkonnu, which is further adulterated when it is translated as “John Canoe.” John Canoe is said to be either the name of a slave trader or the name of an African tribal chief who demanded the right to celebrate with his people.

Okay, now let’s think about that one. If Jockamo is indeed an adulteration of John Canoe (or the other way around), is it logical to think that on the one day of the year that the slaves were allowed to celebrate, they were going to celebrate their enslavement? Were they really singing and dancing and partying with the name of a slave master? Do I need to point out the flaw in this theory?

I am more inclined to accept the theory that it is a derivative of the African festival Jonkonnu, or one pissed off tribal chief. Of course, my rejection of the slave master theory wouldn’t hold water from a scientific standpoint, because words cannot always be translated in isolation. We would have to look at the whole of the song to determine what it really means, and that’s just way beyond the scope of this book. Suffice it to say that what we have is a continuation of African and Indian traditions that hold much mystery to us all.

“The Haunted Orchard” – a Sweet Spectral Romance for Your Valentine

A lot of people don’t realize that the occult and gothically inclined are a very romantic bunch.  We are lovers of love, bound (tightly) in a big black bow. We are fond of devastating passions and suicide pacts, full moons and unearthly seducers.  And although we are more likely to rent The Hunger than The Notebook for a hot and heavy date, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t apt to weep big, blue, girly tears at the end. In fact, the argument could be made that we are more romantic than our mainstream counterparts – after all, we believe in love that transcends life, death, gender, even species!

One of the great things about the Weiser Digital Books Collection  is that our curators (specifically the Queen of the Macabre, Varla Ventura) have unearthed, among the many tales of the creepy and grotesque, several lovely romances… well, what passes for romance at Chez Weiser – and in the spirit of doomed love we offer you a Valentine’s Day Gift of The Haunted Orchard  (click on the title for a link to the free pdf or just enjoy in its entirety below):

The Haunted Orchard
Richard Le Gallienne
Varla Ventura
Paranormal Parlor
A Weiser Books Collection

I was raised in the shadow of a place that once was. The old miner’s cabins had fallen down, leaving behind a footprint of square nails and rusty gold pans. The legendary hotel that once hosted the workers and their families en route to the mines that thrummed a day’s ride up the mountain had long-since burned to the ground. A bubbling trough where thirsty horses, drawing wagons of prospectors and their heavy picks, still remains though the spring has mostly gone dry.

What also remains there, on the piece of land I knew as my childhood home, is the handful of ancient apple trees left over from what was once a thriving orchard. We played in these trees as children, and even named them. Oblivious to the black widows’ nests and rotting branches that have since fallen down, we spent hours imagining we were wood nymphs and dryads or princesses wandering beneath the poisonous apple tree, and we grew full on the endless pies and tarts and Golden Delicious galettes my mother so craftily baked. So it was quite dear to my heart when I came upon The Haunted Orchard, a lovely little ghost story by Le Gallienne.

I will be the first to admit, and perhaps to warn those of you used to my usual tastes for the darker side of things, that this story—though unmistakably a ghost tale—is not particularly scary. It will not send you running swiftly up the stairs or pulling the bedclothes up over your head. In fact, it is in its own way quite sweet. This is hardly surprising, as it is written by English author and poet Richard Le Gallienne, who was probably most famous for his romantic sonnets and love poems. He was a prolific writer who had a rather tender penchant for folklore, mythology, and to a lesser degree, the supernatural. Born in Liverpool in 1866, Le Gallienne lost his first wife in 1894 after a few brief years of marriage. He married again in 1897 and shortly thereafter immigrated to the United States. This marriage ended in divorce. So it is not entirely shocking that the specter that haunts the orchard is a young bride. Perhaps Le Gallienne was resurrecting the spirit of his first wife, his true love?

I’ve admitted to you there is truly nothing to be scared of. I won’t say much more. This is a short story, and I have probably already given away too much. Of course, should you find yourself walking through an orchard in the early evening and you hear a mournful song in something that sounds like French, do take heed. There may be someone waiting there for you.

SUPERNATURALLY YOURS,
VARLA VENTURA
SAN FRANCISCO, 2011

****

The Haunted Orchard
FROM HARPER’S MAGAZINE, JANUARY, 1912. BY PERMISSION OF HARPER AND BROTHERS
AND RICHARD LE GALLIENNE.

Spring was once more in the world. As she sang to herself in the faraway woodlands her voice reached even the ears of the city, weary with the long winter. Daffodils flowered at the entrances to the Subway, furniture removing vans blocked the side streets, children clustered like blossoms on the doorsteps, the open cars were running, and the cry of the “cash clo'” man was once more heard in the land.

Yes, it was the spring, and the city dreamed wistfully of lilacs and the dewy piping of birds in gnarled old apple-trees, of dogwood lighting up with sudden silver the thickening woods, of water-plants unfolding their glossy scrolls in pools of morning freshness.

On Sunday mornings, the outbound trains were thronged with eager pilgrims, hastening out of the city, to behold once more the ancient marvel of the spring; and, on Sunday evenings, the railway termini were aflower with banners of blossom from rifled woodland and orchard carried in the hands of the returning pilgrims, whose eyes still shone with the spring magic, in whose ears still sang the fairy music.

And as I beheld these signs of the vernal equinox I knew that I, too, must follow the music, forsake awhile the beautiful siren we call the city, and in the green silences meet once more my sweetheart Solitude.

As the train drew out of the Grand Central, I hummed to myself,

“I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden, in a greener, cleaner land”  and so I said good-by to the city, and went forth with beating heart to meet the spring.

I had been told of an almost forgotten corner on the south coast of Connecticut, where the spring and I could live in an inviolate loneliness—a place uninhabited save by birds and blossoms, woods and thick grass, and an occasional silent farmer, and pervaded by the breath and shimmer of the Sound.

Nor had rumor lied, for when the train set me down at my destination I stepped out into the most wonderful green hush, a leafy Sabbath silence through which the very train, as it went farther on its way, seemed to steal as noiselessly as possible for fear of breaking the spell.

After a winter in the town, to be dropped thus suddenly into the intense quiet of the country-side makes an almost ghostly impression upon one, as of an enchanted silence, a silence that listens and watches but never speaks, finger on lip. There is a spectral quality about everything upon which the eye falls: the woods, like great green clouds, the wayside flowers, the still farm-houses half lost in orchard bloom—all seem to exist in a dream. Everything is so still, everything so supernaturally green. Nothing moves or talks, except the gentle susurrus of the spring wind swaying the young buds high up in the quiet sky, or a bird now and again, or a little brook singing softly to itself among the crowding rushes.

Though, from the houses one notes here and there, there are evidently human inhabitants of this green silence, none are to be seen. I have often wondered where the countryfolk hide themselves, as I have walked hour after hour, past farm and croft and lonely door-yards, and never caught sight of a human face. If you should want to ask the way, a farmer is as shy as a squirrel, and if you knock at a farm-house door, all is as silent as a rabbit-warren.

As I walked along in the enchanted stillness, I came at length to a quaint old farmhouse—”old Colonial” in its architecture—embowered in white lilacs, and surrounded by an orchard of ancient apple-trees which cast a rich shade on the deep spring grass. The orchard had the impressiveness of those old religious groves, dedicated to the strange worship of sylvan gods, gods to be found now only in Horace or Catullus, and in the hearts of young poets to whom the beautiful antique Latin is still dear.

The old house seemed already the abode of Solitude. As I lifted the latch of the white gate and walked across the forgotten grass, and up on to the veranda already festooned with wistaria, and looked into the window, I saw Solitude sitting by an old piano, on which no composer later than Bach had ever been played.

In other words, the house was empty; and going round to the back, where old barns and stables leaned together as if falling asleep, I found a broken pane, and so climbed in and walked through the echoing rooms. The house was very lonely. Evidently no one had lived in it for a long time. Yet it was all ready for some occupant, for whom it seemed to be waiting. Quaint old four-poster bedsteads stood in three rooms—dimity curtains and spotless linen—old oak chests and mahogany presses; and, opening drawers in Chippendale sideboards, I came upon beautiful frail old silver and exquisite china that set me thinking of a beautiful grandmother of mine, made out of old lace and laughing wrinkles and mischievous old blue eyes.

There was one little room that particularly interested me, a tiny bedroom all white, and at the window the red roses were already in bud. But what caught my eye with peculiar sympathy was a small bookcase, in which were some twenty or thirty volumes, wearing the same forgotten expression—forgotten and yet cared for—which lay like a kind of memorial charm upon everything in the old house. Yes, everything seemed forgotten and yet everything, curiously—even religiously—remembered. I took out book after book from the shelves, once or twice flowers fell out from the pages—and I caught sight of a delicate handwriting here and there and frail markings. It was evidently the little intimate library of a young girl. What surprised me most was to find that quite half the books were in French— French poets and French romancers: a charming, very rare edition of Ronsard, a beautifully printed edition of Alfred de Musset, and a copy of Théophile Gautier’s Mademoiselle de Maupin. How did these exotic books come to be there alone in a deserted New England farm-house?

This question was to be answered later in a strange way. Meanwhile I had fallen in love with the sad, old, silent place, and as I closed the white gate and was once more on the road, I looked about for someone who could tell me whether or not this house of ghosts might be rented for the summer by a comparatively living man.

I was referred to a fine old New England farm-house shining white through the trees a quarter of a mile away. There I met an ancient couple, a typical New England farmer and his wife; the old man, lean, chin-bearded, with keen gray eyes flickering occasionally with a shrewd humor, the old lady with a kindly old face of the withered-apple type and ruddy. They were evidently prosperous people, but their minds—for some reason I could not at the moment divine—seemed to be divided between their New England desire to drive a hard bargain and their disinclination to let the house at all.

Over and over again they spoke of the loneliness of the place. They feared I would find it very lonely. No one had lived in it for a long time, and so on. It seemed to me that afterwards I understood their curious hesitation, but at the moment only regarded it as a part of the circuitous New England method of bargaining. At all events, the rent I offered finally overcame their disinclination, whatever its cause, and so I came into possession—for four months—of that silent old house, with the white lilacs, and the drowsy barns, and the old piano, and the strange orchard; and, as the summer came on, and the year changed its name from May to June, I used to lie under the apple-trees in the afternoons, dreamily reading some old book, and through half-sleepy eyelids watching the silken shimmer of the Sound.

I had lived in the old house for about a month, when one afternoon a strange thing happened to me. I remember the date well. It was the afternoon of Tuesday, June 13th. I was reading, or rather dipping here and there, in Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. As I read, I remember that a little unripe apple, with a petal or two of blossom still clinging to it, fell upon the old yellow page. Then I suppose I must have fallen into a dream, though it seemed to me that both my eyes and my ears were wide open, for I suddenly became aware of a beautiful young voice singing very softly somewhere among the leaves. The singing was very frail, almost imperceptible, as though it came out of the air. It came and went fitfully, like the elusive fragrance of sweetbrier—as though a girl was walking to and fro, dreamily humming to herself in the still afternoon. Yet there was no one to be seen. The orchard had never seemed more lonely. And another fact that struck me as strange was that the words that floated to me out of the aerial music were French, half sad, half gay snatches of some long-dead singer of old France, I looked about for the origin of the sweet sounds, but in vain. Could it be the birds that were singing in French in this strange orchard? Presently the voice seemed to come quite close to me, so near that it might have been the voice of a dryad singing to me out of the tree against which I was leaning. And this time I distinctly caught the words of the sad little song:

“Chante, rossignol, chante,
Toi qui as le coeur gai;
Tu as le coeur à rire,
Moi, je l’ai-t-à pleurer.”

But, though the voice was at my shoulder, I could see no one, and then the singing stopped with what sounded like a sob; and a moment or two later I seemed to hear a sound of sobbing far down the orchard. Then there followed silence, and I was left to ponder on the strange occurrence. Naturally, I decided that it was just a day-dream between sleeping and waking over the pages of an old book; yet when next day and the day after the invisible singer was in the orchard again, I could not be satisfied with such mere matter-of-fact explanation.

“A la claire fontaine,”

went the voice to and fro through the thick orchard boughs,

“M’en allant promener,
J’ai trouvé l’eau si belle
Que je m’y suis baigné,
Lui y a longtemps que je t’aime,
Jamais je ne t’oubliai.”

It was certainly uncanny to hear that voice going to and fro the orchard, there somewhere amid the bright sun-dazzled boughs—yet not a human creature to be seen—not another house even within half a mile. The most materialistic mind could hardly but conclude that here was something “not dreamed of in our philosophy.” It seemed to me that the only reasonable explanation was the entirely irrational one—that my orchard was haunted: haunted by some beautiful young spirit, with some sorrow of lost joy that would not let her sleep quietly in her grave.

And next day I had a curious confirmation of my theory. Once more I was lying under my favorite apple-tree, half reading and half watching the Sound, lulled into a dream by the whir of insects and the spices called up from the earth by the hot sun. As I bent over the page, I suddenly had the startling impression that someone was leaning over my shoulder and reading with me, and that a girl’s long hair was falling over me down on to the page. The book was the Ronsard I had found in the little bedroom. I turned, but again there was nothing there. Yet this time I knew that I had not been dreaming, and I cried out:

“Poor child! tell me of your grief—that I may help your sorrowing heart to rest.”

But, of course, there was no answer; yet that night I dreamed a strange dream. I thought I was in the orchard again in the afternoon and once again heard the strange singing—but this time, as I looked up, the singer was no longer invisible. Coming toward me was a young girl with wonderful blue eyes filled with tears and gold hair that fell to her waist. She wore a straight, white robe that might have been a shroud or a bridal dress. She appeared not to see me, though she came directly to the tree where I was sitting. And there she knelt and buried her face in the grass and sobbed as if her heart would break. Her long hair fell over her like a mantle, and in my dream I stroked it pityingly and murmured words of comfort for a sorrow I did not understand…. Then I woke suddenly as one does from dreams. The moon was shining brightly into the room. Rising from my bed, I looked out into the orchard. It was almost as bright as day. I could plainly see the tree of which I had been dreaming, and then a fantastic notion possessed me. Slipping on my clothes, I went out into one of the old barns and found a spade. Then I went to the tree where I had seen the girl weeping in my dream and dug down at its foot.

I had dug little more than a foot when my spade struck upon some hard substance, and in a few more moments I had uncovered and exhumed a small box, which, on examination, proved to be one of those pretty old-fashioned Chippendale work-boxes used by our grandmothers to keep their thimbles and needles in, their reels of cotton and skeins of silk. After smoothing down the little grave in which I had found it, I carried the box into the house, and under the lamplight examined its contents.

Then at once I understood why that sad young spirit went to and fro the orchard singing those little French songs—for the treasure-trove I had found under the apple-tree, the buried treasure of an unquiet, suffering soul, proved to be a number of love-letters written mostly in French in a very picturesque hand—letters, too, written but some five or six years before. Perhaps I should not have read them—yet I read them with such reverence for the beautiful, impassioned love that animated them, and literally made them “smell sweet and blossom in the dust,” that I felt I had the sanction of the dead to make myself the confidant of their story. Among the letters were little songs, two of which I had heard the strange young voice singing in the orchard, and, of course, there were many withered flowers and such like remembrances of bygone rapture.

Not that night could I make out all the story, though it was not difficult to define its essential tragedy, and later on a gossip in the neighborhood and a headstone in the churchyard told me the rest. The unquiet young soul that had sung so wistfully to and fro the orchard was my landlord’s daughter. She was the only child of her parents, a beautiful, willful girl, exotically unlike those from whom she was sprung and among whom she lived with a disdainful air of exile. She was, as a child, a little creature of fairy fancies, and as she grew up it was plain to her father and mother that she had come from another world than theirs. To them she seemed like a child in an old fairy-tale strangely found on his hearth by some shepherd as he returns from the fields at evening—a little fairy girl swaddled in fine linen, and dowered with a mysterious bag of gold.

Soon she developed delicate spiritual needs to which her simple parents were strangers. From long truancies in the woods she would come home laden with mysterious flowers, and soon she came to ask for books and pictures and music, of which the poor souls that had given her birth had never heard. Finally she had her way, and went to study at a certain fashionable college; and there the brief romance of her life began. There she met a romantic young Frenchman who had read Ronsard to her and written her those picturesque letters I had found in the old mahogany work-box. And after a while the young Frenchman had gone back to France, and the letters had ceased. Month by month went by, and at length one day, as she sat wistful at the window, looking out at the foolish sunlit road, a message came. He was dead. That headstone in the village churchyard tells the rest. She was very young to die—scarcely nineteen years; and the dead who have died young, with all their hopes and dreams still like unfolded buds within their hearts, do not rest so quietly in the grave as those who have gone through the long day from morning until evening and are only too glad to sleep.

Next day I took the little box to a quiet corner of the orchard, and made a little pyre of fragrant boughs—for so I interpreted the wish of that young, unquiet spirit—and the beautiful words are now safe, taken up again into the aerial spaces from which they came.

But since then the birds sing no more little French songs in my old orchard.

****

This ebook edition first published in 2011 by Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
With offices at:
665 Third Street, Suite. 400
San Francisco, CA 94107
http://www.redwheelweiser.com
Copyright © 2011 by Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. All rights reserved.
Originally published as The Haunted Orchard by Richard Le Gallienne. Harper’s Magazine, January, 1912.
eISBN: 978-1-61940-018-4
Cover design by Jim Warner
An Apple a Day

*sniff*

*sniff*

Resolution Rituals

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
          Not shaking the grass.
- Ezra Pound

Among the many resolutions Ankhie makes every New Year, one remains consistent. Live more. I make this resolution as though it were a vow to be renewed. All of us, ALL of us lead busy lives – overscheduled, overworked, always tired, stretched too thin – our lives, you say, are already too full!  But there is a world of difference between busy lives and full lives – one depletes, the other enriches. Think of a typical evening, hurrying home from work, shuffling the kids from one activity to another, making dinner, doing laundry, paying bills, falling into bed exhausted but too tired to sleep: that’s busy. Now think of another evening, standing under a starlit winter sky, the only sounds the wind in the trees and your own breath – the Milky Way so close, so bright you feel as though you could fall up into it: that’s full.

Resolutions, no matter how sincere or well intended, are often put aside or forgotten in the face of those very real and necessary day-to-day tasks.  How so we make the shift from maintenance living to full living? How do we become more of who we want to be? As with all things, a ritual can help to focus priorities, and affirm commitments. The following is from Karen Harrison’s The Herbal Alchemist:

Innovation Ritual

When we want to make changes and new beginnings in our lives, we often must first make room for them by releasing old habits, people, or ways in which we currently use our energies that are no longer working for us. This can be in any area of your life, so before doing this ritual, first begin by looking at the person, thought pattern, job, or lifestyle that you feel is hampering your efforts. Decide what you need to release in favor of new thoughts or perceptions that will allow you to alter your attitude and ingrained reactions. This will give you the mental space to plant new roots of behavior and to have them to grow in your life. Next, determine how you want to grow or change: spiritually, monetarily, emotionally, physically or intellectually. Once you know where you need to let go and what you wish to change about your life, you will be ready to do the ritual.

The supplies you will need for this spell are the following:

  • electric blue candle and candle holder
  • Incense burner
  • calligraphy ink
  • green quill
  • piece of parchment
  • an object that represents the new you (see Note)
  • three- or four-inch-long black silk or cotton (not polyester)
  • small box (such as a matchbox)
  • Uranus Oil (see Planetary Formulas in appendix e, Formulas and Recipes)
  • matches
  • Uranus Incense (see Planetary Formulas in appendix e, Formulas and Recipes)

On an evening when you will not be disturbed, arrange your altar with your candle at the left top edge; your Incense burner at the right top edge; your ink, quill and parchment at the right bottom edge; and your”new you” object at the left bottom edge, leaving the center for the black cord and small box. For the moment, just lay the cord coiled in the center of your altar. Cast your circle or center your energy. Anoint your candle with your Uranus oil, from the bottom of the candle to the wick, and light it. Light your Incense charcoal from the candle flame. Let it ignite almost completely across, then set it down on a bed of insulating sand in your
Incense burner. Place a small spoonful of your Uranus Incense in the center of the charcoal.
In the center of the piece of parchment, draw with your ink and quill a symbol that represents the thing that you are releasing from your life that has been holding it back. If this is a person, you can draw his Astrological Sign or initials, for example. If it is your employment, draw the logo of the company or its initials; if it is a bad habit, draw a simple image that represents this lifestyle choice. Next, around this symbol, draw a square, which represents the limitations that this has set on you. Set this parchment sigil in the center of your altar. Pick up the black cord and knot the two cut ends together, concentrating on the problems or limitations that you have encountered with this person, job, or lifestyle, placing the energy of the problem in the knot. Lay the cord in a circle around the parchment sigil in the center of your altar. For a few moments, continue to focus on the problem while you also become aware of your breathing. Each time you exhale, imagine yourself exhaling the hold that this problem has on you. Feel yourself becoming lighter and more relaxed. After each exhalation, say, “I release you.” Work on this release for about three minutes, or until you feel very relaxed and light.

Next, pick up your cord and carefully hold the knot in the flame of the candle, igniting the knot and burning away the problem. Set the remainder of the cord in the box. Next, holding the parchment by the very edge, ignite it with the candle flame. Let it burn toward your fingers and go out. If it burns dramatically, you can blow on it lightly to control the flame and blow it out while concentrating on release. Place any unburned parchment in the box with the burned cord and put the box to the side. When you have finished with this part of the ritual, relax for a few moments, enjoying the release and lightness.

Now take in your hands the “new you” object, concentrating again on your breathing and what you are bringing into your life. With each inhalation, breathe in energy, motivation, and optimism. As you exhale, breathe on the object, filling and charging it with this new, exciting change. After you have filled it, set the energies by anointing it with your Uranus oil, then hold it in the smoke of your Uranus Incense and place the object next to the candle. Leave the candle to burn down all the way and go outside to dig a hole to bury the box with the parchment ashes and cord. Bury the box, firmly tamp down the dirt, and walk away, never looking back. Feel the freedom and lightness.
The next morning, take the jewelry from the altar and go to a mirror. Watch yourself adorn yourself with the jewelry, focusing on the changes it represents. If you have chosen an art object, take it up from the altar and place it in a location in your home where it will be prominent, being mindful of the changes it represents.

* An object that represents the new you: This object can be a piece of jewelry with a clear quartz, rutilated quartz, amazonite, or kunzite stone set in it, or a small, lovely art object that you feel sums up the changes that you will make. If you use an art object, you will later set this piece in a prominent place in your home after the ritual so that you can see it every day to reinforce your changes. If you have chosen a piece of jewelry, you will wear it every day after you have charged it in your ritual to keep drawing that innovative energy to you.

** Note: In this ritual, you are literally “playing with fire,” so be careful. You may wish to also have a plate on your altar on which to set the burning parchment in case you get nervous. That way you can let it continue to burn without scorching your fingers. Also, since you are letting the candle burn all the way down, which will take several hours, your altar needs to be set up in a room that is closed off to all children and pets. You do not want to set your altar up near curtains or other flammable things. Your jewelry or object is going to be on the altar next to the candle, and you don’t want it covered with melted wax in the morning. Be sure that the candleholder you choose has a bottom that can contain melted wax. You may wish to place your jewelry or object in a small container set next to the candle just to be safe.

ap p e n d i x   e
Formulas and Recipes

These formulas are complete unto themselves, but you are encouraged to make them your own by adding or omitting ingredients and fashioning them in such a way as to create personal blends derived from your own intuition, knowledge, and inspiration. I have listed the amounts for each herb, essential oil, and resin in the time-honored unit of parts so that you can make the amount you deem useful for your workings. A part can be one handful, one tablespoon, one-quarter cup—whatever volume you prefer. I would recommend that with any of your essential oils, you consider ten drops to be equal to one part. After you have blended in your essential oils, let your creation sit overnight, then smell it to see if you would like to add more of any oil that you particularly like for a stronger scent according to your personal taste.

Planetary Formulas

Uranus
one part allspice berries, crushed
one part powdered nutmeg
one part gum mastic
one part clove oil
one part elemi oil

Midsummer Prayers

from A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book by Ceisiwr Serith:

★With the sun’s fire at its highest point I immerse myself in water,

at the beginning of the month of the crab.

The God:

★Long have you grown,

strong, and hard, and true,

reaching up from the dark Below until your branch-fingers grasped the sun:

You, reaching You,

strength holding brightness,

power, burning,

standing in unsullied glory.

Roots snake deep into the darkness.

You spread these too, just as your branches;

those seen, these hidden;

those fed, and these feeding;

You basing your body on the Below.

Your branches reach up, pulling your body with them,

the roots reach down, pulling on your body as well.

It is time.

Standing in Your glory, the branches and the sun,

can you feel the pull downward?

The Dark has its turn.

You needed the darkness to feed your light, but nothing is free.

It is time to pay, to fill the hungry darkness,

that pulls you down into death.

A true king does not go on the journey into darkness alone;

he must be accompanied by an honor guard.

This is yours, Oak King:

You go with the Four,

You go with the Five.

I give them their marching orders:

Air, when he is in the great emptiness, be his breath.

Fire, when he is in the great cold, be his warmth.

Water, when he is in the great dryness, be his moisture.

Earth, when he is in the great stillness, be his sustenance.

And you, Spirit, when he is in the great death, be his life.

Stand around in protection, you Four,

protecting the body of the Oak King until the expected time of growing.

Dwell within, Spirit, protecting his life until the expected time of growing:

in the time of fading away, do not let him forget.

These are your orders, you Four, you Five.

You may sink into the darkness,

Oak with the Sun in Your Branches,

with your honor guard about you.

Sun: 

★Stand still just a moment in the sky, Sun.

Tarry just a moment in the heavens, King.

Wait just a while on the horizon, Lord.

Stay awhile in balance with dark before the tide turns toward it,

and receive my offering.

Know this:

A lord without a throne is still a lord.

A king without a crown is yet a king.

And a sun, even in the time of the year when He is absent from the sky more than he is in it, is ever a Sun,

and deserves my honor.

Welcome and dear Sun, Lord and King, know this:

through the dark half of the year you will never want for worship.

I shall give you deserved gifts.

I shall praise your magnificence.

And I shall pour out heart, words, and deeds in continuing worship.

★Stop for a moment, Sun, your burning and turningwheel’s rolling.

Stop to smile down with love and approval on the Earth spread broad beneath you.

Smile as you have done since Her birth, billions of years ago, when She formed from the random tumbling rocks, floating in your gravitational field;

floating, disorganized, until they joined together through their own gravitational field,

until they formed Her, on whom we stand today, looking up at you smiling in the sky.

When she was formed, burning and turning wheel, your loving gaze on Her brought forth life from the dead rock and barren dust,

life that changed, that evolved into the vast numbers of living things spread out across Her,

all tracing their lives back to that one common Ancestor whose birth you conceived with your rays.A

nd one of those species is our own, this member of which stands here today, looking up at you, smiling down on us, we standing here on this longest day.

Stop for a moment, your wheel that burns, that turns; stop your rolling,

and stand with us, smiling down on those who smile up at you.

Tying Down the Sun – Ancient Solar Traditions Beyond the Henge (WAY Beyond!)

One of Ankhie’s favorite books from fellow publishers Hampton Roads is Richard Leviton’s Encyclopedia of Earth Myths - a book that is far more than its title implies. It is an exhaustively researched compendium of mythic geography and its associated events and beings.  Ankhie never opens it without learning something. For instance, looking for a solstice-related entry on someplace henge-y, I came across the following, fascinating description of less obvious and equally compelling places and traditions, some comfortably familiar, some alarmingly esoteric. This entry is a bit long, but well worth the read!

Hitching Post of the Sun

***

Also known as Boat of Millions of Years, Celestial City of Tejovati, City of the Royal Fire, City of the Sun, Dinsul, Heliopolis, Intiwatana, MIthraeum, Mount of the Sun, Sun Fastener, Sun Temple.

Description: Hitching Post of the Sun is a translation of Intiwatana, which also means “Sun Fastener” and refers generally to the mountain complex of Machu Picchu in Peru and specifically to a ritual feature at the western end of the site. The term was coined by Yale University archaeologist Hiram Bingham around 1911 after his research at this ancient sacred site in southeastern Peru.

Archaeologists explain that during the summer and winter solstices, the Incas, who once lived at Machu Picchu, ceremonially “tied” the Sun to a small upraised stone set into a stone base, thereafter known as the  Intiwatana stone.  Thus Intiwatana is the Sun Fastener or “place where the sun is tied up,” Inti being the Incan name for the Sun god.

Another name was Apu Punchau and  his head was depicted as a gold disk or ball of gold from which solar Rays and flames extended. In fact, the Incas named themselves after the Sun, as descendants of Inti, or Sons of the Sun. Anyone other than an Inca in full initiatory standing who pronounced the name of the Sun god was summarily put to death for profanation.

The ceremony of fastening the Sun may have been associated with Inti Raimi, the Sun festival or “Solemn Resurrection of the Sun,” June 21, the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. The shortest day of the year with the least sunlight, on that day the Inca believed that Father Sun was potentially departing them and he must be prevented from retreating even farther from Earth by being tied down.

Machu Picchu once offered at least three other Sun honorings. It was the residence of the Mamacunas, the Chosen Women or Virgins of the Sun, presumable a monastic order of women dedicated to the Sun god. The Intipunku, or Sun Gate, was a notch in the southeast ridge of the ruins, and the site also offered a Temple of the Sun, a rock outcropping made into a carved rock altar.

A highly similar myth about tying down the Sun god is attributed to Mount Haleakala, the 10,023-foot-tall volcano on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Maui, a Polynesian demigod and prodigy, much like the Greek Herakles, tied down the Sun god and his 16 legs on the mountain with 16 ropes. The same reason was given as with the Incas: The Sun passed over so quickly that the countryfolk could not even dry their bananas. Maui made the Sun move slower. The mountain was thus named Haleakala, the House of the Sun.

Explanation: The Hitching Post of the Sun at Machu Picchu is one of 144 Sun temples templated throughout Earth’s visionary geography. In classical Hinduism, it is known as the Celestial City of Tejovati, one of eight celestial residences, each with its qualities, gods, functions, and type of opulence. These eight Celestial Cities are all copied in varying amounts in the Earth grid and may be accessed through specifically designated sacred sites in each culture.

For example, in ancient Persia (now Iran), one Sun temple was located at Takht-i-Sulaiman, the City of Royal Fire, one of the prime Fire sites in Zoroastrianism. Another was at Rhodes, the Island of the Sun God, Helios; another at Heliopolis, Egypt’s City of the Sun and residence of Ra the Sun god; and another at Titikala, the Sacred Rock on the Isle of the Sun, Lake Titicaca, Peru;  the Plaza at Santa Fe, New Mexico, a locale at the center of town anciently known among Native Americans as the Dancing Ground of the Sun; and Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall England, once called Dinsul, Mount of the Sun.

To psychic vision, a Sun temple may initially look like a great mound and a circle of golden fire, for the Sun refers to the archetype of fire and light (typified, for example, in Hinduism by Agni the Fire god), the Sun at the center of our solar system (as in the Greek Sun god Helios), and the Sun within the Sun (an esoteric designation for the Solar Logos), or the Sun’s spiritual intelligence (an aspect of the cosmic Christ at the level of a solar system or galaxy).

In Vedic symbolism, the Sun in this guise is Surya, the illuminer, lord of knowledge, luminous vision, and total truth, whose Rays are illuminations.

Yet the Sun temple may resemble a giant golden bull’s head as seen from within, and resemble also a vast golden cave. The bull’s head aspect was emphasized in Mithraism in which a solar hero (Mithras) slew a cosmic bull, letting its blood pour out of its neck; the place where this ritual was at least symbolically enacted (or physically experienced) was call a Mithraeum and, in classical times, central Europe had many hundreds of them.

Symbolically, the bull’s blood released in the bull-slaying represents solar time and even universal time released into a solar system as its life force and also as a measure of its expected life span. The bull’s cave is also a solar time cave.

One of the clearest mythic portrayals of the geomantic action of a Sun temple is from Greek myth: Hephaistos, the Olympian smith-fire god, works his forges inside volcanic Mount Etna on Sicily aides by three Cyclopes. The forge is the Sun temple, the Cyclopes are the three Elohim, an angelic order that works with the Sun’s energy and sentience on behalf of the Christ, and Hephaistos is a colleague of the Solar Logos, putting solar consciousness into objects of matter.

Hephaistos and his helpers forge numerous implements, objects and devices for the gods, which is a way of saying that they put the essence of the Sun’s spirituality and life force into devices at various levels of material expression. At a more rarified level, Hepahaistos puts the solar intelligence into the Periodic Table of Elements, that is the primal constituents of matter throughout the solar system, and even more subtly, into the essential forms of the constellations.

More than infusing the solar intellegence into the stars, we could interpret this tableau as the making of the stars and constellations from primordial Fire. The stars and their grouping are celestial intelligences made of cosmic Fire in the smithy’s forge; they embody differentiated consciousness, that is, they are distinguished and individualized from the preconscious totality of what was before Creation (called the Moon or Soma), yet ever desiring to consume the consciously wakeful, immortalizing substance (see Fountain of Youth).

As the three Elohim also once served as planetary Logoi (spiritual intelligences) for the seven classical planets of our solar system, their work with Hephaistos can be seen as distributing solar intelligence to the planets. At the human level, these seven planets are the archetypes of the seven chakras.

The Sun Temple also puts the fire of life into stars, and this fire, which we might see as the soul of a star, then consumes the eternal edible substance of Soma, or continuously wakeful awareness  (see Fountain of Youth). The result is a star- myriad Star gods – made of cosmic fire and immortal consciousness.

Sun temples on Earth allow interested humans the opportunity to interact with this cosmic process, which is also a fundamental aspect of the human being. In Hindu thought, the Sun and Moon are primordial energies, created before much of the rest of reality. The Moon was created first and refers not to the satellite of the planet Earth, but the Moon sphere, typified by Soma, the principle of uninterrupted wakefulness or undying consciousness. The Sun came second, and is Agni, the primal cosmic Fire that consumes the substance of Soma.

See what I mean? There’s always more than there seems to be.

Happy Solstice Everyone!!

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