The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Author Ms.Faith

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let's Discuss Beltane Magicks! It is a Sexy Sabbat!

Good Afternoon,

Today I wish to discuss the Beltane Sabbat with you. It occurs on May 1st and for Pagans it is our last Spring Sabbat and it, at the same time, marks the first day of our Summer. But many of you already know all of this. What I want to discuss with you today are some little juicy tidbits about Beltane you may or may not have known.

Firstly, Beltane, or Beltaine is a very sexy Sabbat. It was known to the ancients as a fertility celebration and when the sun went down after the Beltane rituals and feasts, men and women would pair off and go off into the woods and fields to have sex. It was believed that babies conceived at Beltane, who would be born the following February, around Imbolc, would be especially blessed and considered quite magickal.

It was ancient man's version of sympathetic magick, they felt by having sex in the fields, the fields would be magickally fertilized and the crops would grow strong and tall. They also would slaughter white steers or bulls to be consumed during the Beltane feast, and the slain animals blood would be drizzled over the fields. To them, they were symbolically giving life back to the earth, most likely not realizing that blood was in actuality a true fertilizer. Even today, one can purchase dried blood at a garden center to help fertilize the gardens.

The May pole that is often danced around during the Beltane ritual was a very sacred ritual tool in ancient times. The act of dancing around the May pole, in ancient times the ribbons were only two colors, red and white, wrapping the ribbons around the pole, symbolized the Goddess wrapping her vagina around the God's phallus. This was in a sense a symbolic Great Rite by Proxy which represented the Goddess and God copulating and giving life to the Earth, the fields, the crops and the people and all living things. It was and still is a celebration.

After The Maypole is wrapped with pretty ribbons, the ribbons stay wrapped around the pole until Samhain, where they are then cut off of the pole and burned in the Samhain fires. At this time, if desired, ribbons of black, purple and silver can be tied to the top of the pole and allowed to hang freely, representing the time of the Crone being upon us. But the ancients then used the May pole at Yule to be burned in the town or village center as the Yule log. During the burning of the Yule log, a small unburned piece is removed from the fire and saved to be used to kindle next year's Yule log, symbolically uniting every Yule log that has been burned year after year. For a simple May pole, it certainly has a lot of responsibility during the year.

There are some other interesting tid-bits about this happy, Spring Sabbat. The ancient Druids, who were the spiritual leaders of the Celts, believed the year was split into two distinct halves. Winter, which went from November 1st (Samhain) to May 1st (Beltaine) and then Summer, which goes from May 1st to November 1st. Because of the Druids belief that "things in between" were especially sacred, they attributed sacred energies to the half times between seasons. "Things in between." What this means for example, take ice. It is water, but not fluid, but solid like rock. It is in between. Fog or mist, is not air totally, but not completely water, but in between. This belief was also placed on times of day/night such as midnight, which at the very stroke of, is not yesterday yet not quite today. So the time that falls at the cusp of winter/summer or summer/winter were also given sacred status.

It is often heard of that at Samhain, November 1st, "The veils between the worlds grows thin", and this is commonly thought to mean that the natural spiritual barriers between the physical world of the living and the other world of the spirits and ghosts grows thin and it is easier to communicate with spirits. This is true. But the thinning also allows for other magicks and at Beltane the veil also thins.  This is not as commonly talked about, I believe simply, because soooo much 'stuff' is associated with Samhain which is commonly called Halloween and all of the spooky, and scary and naughty things that go along with it. But Beltane, which more people are not aware of, not as many as are aware of Halloween, to be sure, also has a thinning of the veils.

At Beltane, where, yes, you can also communicate with spirits more easily such as at Samhain, it is also easier to communicate with Deity at this time, and many take this opportunity to speak directly with their Goddess or God, and give thanks or to ask for help in some fashion.

Another thing that was done years ago, that you might like to try is collecting Beltane dew. To do this, take a tiny glass vial or jar with a good cap. Go out in the early morning of Beltane and collect the dew. You do this by laying on the grass and uncapping the vial, holding it carefully next to a blade of grass with a dew drop upon it, and tap the blade of grass so the dew drop falls into the vial. You continue to do this, and it will take some time, until you have filled the vial up, at least half ways. Then you can put the vial on top of the altar pentacle on your altar and just by doing so it will be blessed and consecrated. Then afterwards you can use the dew to anoint yourself. It is said to keep one youthful and beautiful. Or it can be put into love potions. Or you can anoint a love candle with it.

Beltane has traditionally been a lovers holiday, and many couple choose to get hand-fasted during a Beltane celebration. Sweets, often honey and little seed cakes were traditionally served during the festivities of Beltane. Flowers are also traditionally given to loved ones at Beltane and the later tradition of May baskets of flowers stems from this ancient Pagan holiday.

Even when I was a little girl, in the 1960's and 70's I would go outside and pick violets, buttercups any flowers that were blooming and make a bouquet of them, leave them on the door step and ring the bell and run away, so my mother would think the fairies left them.

For many years after the Christians tried to eliminate the Pagan holidays by changing their names and dates, Beltane became known as the Lady's Day (for some meaning the Goddess, for other's the Mother of God, Mary).  Then for many years it became and is still known as May Day, and is still celebrated in many parts of the world as a celebration of spring and a forerunner of Summer.

Have a Bright and  Blessed Beltane!

Peace and Happiness, Ms.  Faith

© 2010-2016 Faith M. McCann. Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. Please note that the copying and/or further distribution of this work without express written permission is prohibited. 

 If you know someone who would like my work, please send them this link. If you or they would like to be included on our daily email distribution list send me an e mail with your email address to be included. If you ever wish to unsubscribe to this blog, please contact me and you will be immediately removed from our list.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Not Everything is Magick!

Good Afternoon,

As my regular readers know, this blog, or as I like to call it, discussion, that I have with you weekly, is dedicated to the witchy and the magickal, the spiritual and the ritual of witchcraft. But every now and again I feel I must step out of the magickal realm and speak to you about things that are not so magickal.

For example, I will tell you about a conversation I had this week at my witch shop, Enchantments. A woman called and was concerned about her brother. She said he has been living in a house that is over run with ghosts! Not just a few, but 20-30 or more! She asked if I could help her, perhaps sell her something that would make the spirits leave.

Well, I have been working and practicing in the magickal realm for a few decades and immediately sensed something was amiss. That many spirits haunting one building would be far more likely in an abandoned insane asylum or a closed and boarded up prison. Not a single house. This just didn't feel like a 'haunting' situation. So I asked her a few questions.

  • What has he been experiencing? She answered that he sees ghosts from adult people to little children all over the house, everywhere. All around him, in every room, all the time. He often asks if she or others can see them. 
  • I asked her, "And can you?  See them or any manifestation such as unexplained sounds, lights flickering on and off, objects moving, cold spots etc?"
  •  No, she answered, no one has experienced any of these things, only her brother has had the experiences. 
  • I asked how long has he been living in this house? She said about 20 years. 
  • How long has he been experiencing seeing the ghosts? She said for about a year. 
Then, as if knowing in which direction I was about to go in, she told me "I don't think it's dementia, but he did have a stroke a little over a year ago."

Well, that clinched it for me. Everything fell into place. I gently explained to her that it was not a case of spirit activity or a ghostly haunting, but that her brother needed to be seen by a medical professional as he may very well have an underlying condition brought on by the stroke or something  else going on in the brain that is causing visual and auditory hallucinations. Trust me, a smudge stick isn't going to do it!"

She was very disappointed, as I guess she was hoping it wasn't mental or physical or shall we say biological, but she really wanted it to be metaphysical or paranormal. Maybe for her it was less scary thinking it was ghosts than the possibility it could be a brain tumor or some other medical issue. But, I was left with the strong sense she was not going to seek out competent medical care for her brother but would continue to contact witch shops or go on line and try to find someone who would cast a spell or light a candle, all for a lot of money, and magickally fix her brother. And the sad part is .  .  . she will find someone. Not someone who will fix her brother magickally, but someone who will convince her they can, and for a good amount of money, will take her for all they can get and leave her with nothing. In the meantime, her brother remains trapped with the 'ghosts' only he can see and the fear and discomfort that condition brings him.

Not everything is magickal, nor should it be. We live on many planes of existence and each is to be acknowledged and respected. The spiritual plane, the astral plane, the physical plane, the mental and emotional planes. And when something goes awry on one of these levels sometimes magick can help and sometimes it can hurt. What I mean by "it can hurt" is exampled in the above story about the woman and her brother and his ghosts. By not giving him the medical and or psychiatric care needed and leaving it up to the magickal world and magickal practitioners, her brother is being hurt by not receiving the treatment that could possibly relieve his symptoms and give him some peace.

If someone has cancer, or a broken bone or diabetes, it is not only dangerous to simply and only rely on the magickal, it is unethical and unfair to not steer the person, that has come to you, in the right direction, to receive the help they need. And there are times when magickal herbal remedies, spell casting and ritual work will not help and are not appropriate.

Of course, if the person is receiving the medical care necessary, one can assist in ones treatment by burning a candle, asking the Goddess for help in healing and if desired carrying some stones or crystals to help focus on the healing process. Much of the healing will come from the mind and spirit, but to forgo modern medicine (which to this witch is one of our greatest magicks to date) is simply being foolish.

I have had another young man come into the shop a couple of times, also looking for a magickal remedy for what ails him. This gentleman is approximately 18-20 years old, and is absolutely convinced someone has cursed him with an evil spell. He feels this evil follows him around and sometimes he can even see it. He is starting to hear voices and he wants me to sell him something that will make it all go away. I am not a doctor nor am I a psychiatrist, but many signs and symptoms of the onset of schizophrenia are apparent in this young man.  I have gently suggested that he ask a doctor about what he is feeling, but again he pushes that aside and says he will think of something that will make me believe him, someday. I believe, he believes, everything he is telling me, but it is simply not of the magickal, supernatural or paranormal world.

As a witch and Priestess who works openly in our community, and being a teacher teaching others about witchcraft and Wicca, I feel a deep obligation to not go the easy, money making route and exploit these individuals even though they themselves, would much prefer I simply sell them something and tell them all of their problems will go away.

In these situations as difficult as it may be for some, the best response is to not delve into the magickal but to tell them the truth and strongly suggest they seek out proper care and treatment. I have even in the past, had to advice potential students that wanted to learn at Enchantments, when it became apparent they suffered from drug or alcohol addiction that the magickal world is not going to help them until they got a handle on their other issues.

Yes, as a witch you can find the magickal is just about anything, and I do feel that everything has a magickal component, but that is not to say we must be blind to what is right before our eyes and to disregard the help, treatments and medical world that is available to us for many, many issues.

It is the well rounded, educated, practiced and experienced magickal practitioner or witch that will utilize all the gifts the Goddess has bestowed upon us.

"The Lady has created Medicines out of the earth and the Wise will not abhor them." author unknown

"All things are poison and nothing s without poison, it is the dose alone which makes a thing poisonous" - Paracelsus 

Peace and Happiness

© 2010-2016 Faith M. McCann. Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. Please note that the copying and/or further distribution of this work without express written permission is prohibited. 

 If you know someone who would like my work, please send them this link. If you or they would like to be included on our daily email distribution list send me an e mail with your email address to be included. If you ever wish to unsubscribe to this blog, please contact me and you will be immediately removed from our list.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Ancient Pagan Funerary Practices, Some That Are Still with us Today

Good Morning,

Recently I found myself going to a wake of a woman who had reached the remarkable age of 102. She was the mother of an acquaintance and though I did not know her, I went out of respect. Many times when we are at a wake or funeral we are grieving and emotional. As I went out of respect and had not known this woman I was able to appreciate the elements that go into a funeral nowadays and started thinking about where they had come from. The origins of the funerary traditions, if you will.

I have studied much about paleolithic man over the years as I am always looking for the origins of the first spiritual/religious worship. We find elements of this in the practices of dealing with the dead during the prehistoric era, with the first humans. There is evidence that the very first humans were prepared for burial by painting their naked bodies with a 'paint' made from red ochre a type of hematite stone also known as iron oxide, that is powered, and they were buried in caves rather than buried in the ground.

 The Upper Paleolithic Cave site known as Arene Candide has the body of a young man buried over 23,000 years ago, and he was painted with the red mixture.  Another body found in Paviland Cave in the UK, from approximately the same era, found a body called "the Red Lady" due to the large quantities of red ochre used in the burial. There are many other examples found around the world during this prehistoric era. There is a belief among Archaeologists that the bodies were so prepared, painting them with the 'blood' of the Mother earth, reminiscent of the blood that covers the body of the infant when it is born. Then the body of the deceased was interred back into the 'womb' of the Great Mother Earth.

When mankind evolved and became more populous it soon became more common to burn, or cremate bodies on funeral pyres. It is thought that this practice evolved out of the desire to stop disease and of course eliminate the odors and unpleasantness of decomposing bodies. The cremation process became very common throughout the Bronze and Iron ages, replacing inhumation (burial). Of course in Ancient Egypt, mummification was the preferred way of preparing the body after death.

Many of the funerary rituals developed out of the desire to prevent the deceased from becoming a ghost and wandering the earth. Many cultures developed their death preparations and funerary rituals to help the deceased to move on and to live in the afterlife in peace. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, huge mausoleums and tombs were built for the deceased. In Rome, some of these tombs were as large as a house with several rooms. The deceased would be placed within and the family and friends would continue to come and visit and hold elaborate feasts in the house like tomb, to honor the deceased.

The Romans would then bring large arrangements of flowers and plantings of flower, shrubs, trees and flowering bushes to be planted outside of the tomb, to make it look appealing and more like a home for the living than the dead. There is a belief that this may be the very first use of "funerary flowers" and the long held thought that flowers were used to ward off the smell of the decomposing body is less likely to be true, as throughout the ages, the Greeks and Romans (who really were the rulers of the civilized world at the time) were heavy users of incense in temples and in tombs to ward off the smells of decomposition from animal sacrifices and for the deceased humans. For truly,, flowers simply do not have the strength of aroma to hide the smell of death and incense smoke would be far more effective. It is thought the flowers were given as beautiful offerings to the deceased, in memory and love.

Again during later Roman times burial of the body became popular for a time, with the body buried in tombs and in crypts, while those considered holy were often interred under the floor of a church or temple. After a time, cremation again became popular, but the Romans, when practicing cremation would often take a severed finger joint off of the body before cremation and bury that as a symbolic burial. In time, when the Catholic church had unified Europe, cremation was frowned upon and considered a Pagan practice and inhumation, burial of the body wrapped in a shroud, emulating Jesus's entombment.  The Christian belief of the legend that Jesus rested in his tomb for three days before being resurrected, has led to the still common practice that after death, the wake and or funeral is held on the third day afterwards.

 Both the Greeks and the Romans believed that feasting, gathering to remember the deceased, especially on the day of their death would allow the loved one to rest in peace. Many times entire families, even to this day, will go to the cemeteries and set up tables, chairs, candles, flowers and host a party to honor the deceased. This is still common in Italy.

We still today, after holding the wake, then the funeral, often go to someone's home or back to the dining hall of the church to gather, to share memories, eat and drink food brought pot luck by mourners, and celebrate the one who has passed. The funeral "feast" has been practiced for well over a thousand years.

Funeral Wreaths

The history of the wreath goes back as far as the Etruscans, who were in Italy before the Romans, and the wearing of wreaths on the head, made out of precious metals, were worn as jewelry, Eventually, the form of the wreath was created out of evergreens, as evergreens symbolizes ever lasting life. When funeral wreaths were first used in unknown, but there are Roman documents dating to 450 B.C.E. which mentions that funeral wreaths were a long standing tradition, even back then.

Today we still have cemeteries for inhumation burials, cremation remains very popular, crypts and mausoleums are not as common today except for the very rich. We still hold funeral feasts and huge flower arrangements and flower wreaths are a very common and expected site at a wake and funeral today.

The wearing of black goes back to ancient Roman times, and depending on your culture, religion and the era, widows could wear black for a year, two years, four years or for the rest of their lives. Some cultures, though out the years, have worn all white for mourning, and red is never worn as it is considered very bad luck.  Today, black is a choice and is normally worn by those closest to the deceased, but it is no longer frowned upon if family members do not choose to wear black.  Today, mourning and grieving has in many ways,become a very personal event, rather than a cultural one.

Many have heard of and seen pall bearers carrying the coffin of the deceased, but many haven't heard that in days past there were also flower ladies, who would walk down the funeral procession carrying the arrangements of flowers brought for the deceased. At the cemetery the flower ladies would arrange the flower around the grave or tomb, and for a number of years this was a coveted, honored job for those women closest to the deceased.

Truly, if one does the research, you will find that just about all rites and rituals surrounding the preparation and disposal of the dead, all goes back to Pagan times. We have kept those aspects that still appeal to us and have set aside those that no longer do so.  This topic could easily fill up an entire book and then some. The history of funerals goes back to the very first humans and is still evolving and changing today.

Peace and Happiness

© 2010-2016 Faith M. McCann. Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website. Please note that the copying and/or further distribution of this work without express written permission is prohibited. 

 If you know someone who would like my work, please send them this link. If you or they would like to be included on our daily email distribution list send me an e mail with your email address to be included. If you ever wish to unsubscribe to this blog, please contact me and you will be immediately removed from our list.