Loaf Mass: Sacrifice and Gratitude

by Jesper Toad

20314563_10155731053180116_1582301965_oThree Contemporary Pagan harvest festivals mark the Wheel of the Year as it turns from summer into autumn, the first of which is the cross-quarter day of Loaf Mass (the other two being the Autumnal Equinox and All Hallow’s Eve). The festival of Loaf Mass—also called Lammas, Lughnasadh, or August Eve—comes down to us from the celebrations of our forebears expressing gratitude for the harvest of grain, and the bread made from that grain. Bread is a ubiquitous human product, manifesting in all cultures dependent in some part on agriculture. Whether appearing as big chunks of crusty wheat bread, corn pone, tortillas, injera, middle eastern flatbreads, oatcakes, pancakes, cookies, or the host of the Catholic mass, bread is often regarded as the food of life.

 
Human beings, in common with all the other animal forms of life on this blue planet, lack the ability to engage in photosynthesis and fail completely to pull sustenance directly from heat or mineral sources. Consequently, to continue our existence, we must feed off other life, be it plant or animal life. Now, we can greedily gobble up our plant and animal relatives, smacking our greasy lips in satisfaction, which results in not living in any sort of balance with our environs, or we can realize that each life we consume is a sort of sacrifice: something has ended, and the energy of that life no longer serves that plant or animal being, but now serves the continuance of a human life. This is the underpinning of much of the contemporary Pagan Ritual surrounding the first harvest of Loaf Mass, with the divine masculine spirit of the corn (corn here referencing the wheat, barley, or other grain crop of that region and culture) giving freely of himself in a sacred sacrifice in order that our human lives may continue, and our children not starve in the dark months to come. The focus of these rituals in invariable one of the sacrifice of life force of the land, the thanks we give in return, and consequently the reciprocal relationship between a people, the land in which they dwell, including the invisible others that dwell within the land. There is an emphasis on the way that all are entwined and dependent upon one another.

However, how many of us take the scythe to the corn or the knife to the neck of the goat in our post-modern world of pre-packaged processed food? Our Contemporary Pagan rituals of sacrifice and thanks giving—based on the folkloric practices of time long past—become increasingly significant in our world where food appears plentiful and the processing of our meals is less time-consuming and intimate than in former times. Our striving for survival lead us to forge and sustain the reciprocal relationships between our ourselves, our communities, and the visible and invisible worlds; it seems to me that our relatively easy lives have lead us to be lax in the maintaining of all our relationships, and both distant and unaware of the sacrifices that are involved with the sustaining of our life.

Upon August Eve this festival will re-enact the harvesting of the first sheaf of wheat, engaging in metaphors of reaping, threshing, milling, and baking this grain into the bread of life. According to Sir James Frazier (whose work The Golden Bough serves as inspiration for countless rituals around the rim of the wheel as it blithely disregards the book’s raison d’etre) the last shock of grain to be harvested contains the vital essence of the field, and must be treated with caution. This last sheaf is twisted up to stand tall in the field of harvest stubble, and the harvesters take turns casting their sickles at the “neck” of the tussock of grain, until one of the blades severs the last of the golden stems. At this point a great ululation breaks forth from the harvesters, a cry of mourning for the spirit of the grain, the virtue of the field. The sheaf is then gathered up, often dressed in makeshift clothing creating a corn dolly, and hung over the hearth of the person whose sickle parted the sheaf from the field. For most Contemporary Pagans this festival includes eating of bread—the sacrificed body of the spirit—and an honoring of the life that this spirit has willing given to sustain our own.

The turn of the wheel at Loaf Mass is also a time for us to reflect on our personal sacrifices. Our lives are finite: the years, days, and hours of our being in the world are limited by the span of our incarnate, physical lives, from birth to grave. For what will we trade the precious hours of our lives? For most of us, we trade minutes for money by working for or with others. Our relationship with the spirits of money is strengthened. Many of us sacrifice our time to raising children for two decades, engaging the spirits of family. Our sacrifice may be on the altar of the academy, engaging our time in research and writing, or in the halls of artistic expression, engaging in poetry, dance, and painting. How do we include in this relationship the spirits of the land, or the ancestors, or those invisible others with whom we share the world? During this time of harvest, of the willingness to sacrifice and the gratitude for that sacrifice, give some time to examine your personal sacrifices: are the spirits you put the energy of your life toward giving back to you in a reciprocal manner? Do these relationships still serve you, or do they control you, sapping life of vitality and mirth, giving nothing in return? It may be time to cut away these dysfunctional relationships, and dedicate the time of your life to activities that offer sustenance, growth, happiness, or whatever it may be that you need.

 
In the end, it seems that the sacrifice is what we give and receive, and gratitude the corresponding response to sacrifice. It is one of the ways in which we, as keepers of a different way of being in the world, build the reciprocal relationships required for our continued existence in this space and time, this here and now.

 

Jesper Toad is a Georgian and a Gardnerian initiate, and studied the Feri Tradition with T. Thorn Coyle for nearly three years. His personal practice of three decades blends elements of all these traditions, as well incorporating spiritualist, shamanic and depth psychological perspectives.

 

Ho’oponopono and How It Changed My Life

by Jeanne McLaughlin

GratitudeHo’oponopono is the most amazing practice I’ve ever experienced.  *Anyone* can do it and will see results almost instantly.  Believe me, I’m no healing master, and I wasn’t trained in generations of magical peoples such as witches/pagans/shamans.  Yet the changes this wonderful practice have brought to my life are truly magical.

The practice is an ancient Hawaiian Huna healing, and if you want to see what a true master can achieve, check out the story of Dr. Hew Len, and how he healed the state mental hospital in Hawaii.  His story is easily found on YouTube; the gist of it is Dr. Len was there 4 years, *never* met with a patient in person, and when he left the place was darn near empty!

The words to the practice are:

“I’m so sorry!

Please forgive me!

Thank you!

I love you!”

The crucial element in Ho’oponopono is sincerity.  You have to really mean the apology and want to improve.  Now when do you use it, and who are you apologizing to?  You use it anytime and everytime that something bothers you, be it person, place or thing.  Anytime something or someone upsets you, ask yourself where this element is within *you*.  The idea is never about clearing or healing anyone else – it’s always about healing yourself and clearing out old data.

The benefits of Ho’oponopono are incredible.  Not only does it clear any spiritual wounds you may be suffering from, it clears the collective (society) and your ancestral line as well.

You can use it with something as simple as traffic; I’ve personally done it and seen people almost instantly get out of my way!  You can use it with the most traumatic events in your life. Big or small, Ho’oponopono will heal it!

Let me share with you what I accomplished in just the first few years of practicing Ho’oponopono:

Home:

Dec 2011:  I lived in my 11×8′ camper, parking mostly at Venice Beach or in campgrounds.  Every night I worried if someone would harrass me or worse. I never felt safe.

Dec 2015:  I moved into my “dream home”, the place I imagined to be the perfect environment for my dog and I.  I’d asked to live in a back house, with a big, pretty fenced yard for my dog. I have that, plus free cable and a hot tub. ❤

Income:

Dec 2011:  My only income was from General Relief, in the amount of $220/month, plus occasional sales of my artwork from the boardwalk.

Dec 2015:  I have many sources of income, and things are looking better all the time!  I have my Etsy shop, Amazon shop, my Shamanic counseling, etc.

March 2017:  Received my SSI Disability benefits, which doubled my income, plus there was substantial back pay.

Health:

Dec 2011:  My teeth were falling out faster than I could replace them.  I had frequent problems with Pancreatitis, Sciatica, Scolosis, and a bad knee.

March 2012:  My teeth had been replaced!

Dec 2015:  My other health problems are much less significant than before.

 

PantheaCon:

Feb 2012:  I went there as the guest of a friend, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go at all.  My friend paid for all of the hotel & gas expenses.

Feb 2016:  I presented two workshops, plus hosted a Hospitality Room.  I’ve been a presenter since 2014, and have had full rooms almost every time.  In addition, I Paid It Forward by covering the expenses for friends the last two years, and bringing them as guests.

Summer 2016:  I started getting asked  to come speak at Pagan festivals.

 

Serenity:

Dec 2011:  I was always scared, always worried about the future…. as well as the present.

Dec 2015:  I have a sense of confidence like never before.  I am able to face new situations without fear, to push myself and reach new levels.

 

Shamanic/Magical work:

Dec 2011:  I believed that many others were magical, but not myself.  I didn’t consider myself as psychic or magical in any way; certainly didn’t consider myself a Shaman or a healer.  I didn’t know how to talk to trees.

Dec 2015:  I’ve done healings on both humans and animals; have assisted both in transition.  I can easily journey in alternate dimensions; can “dream things awake” (manifest my desires) frequently.  And I can talk to trees.

 

In summary, I can tell you that my life has improved in every way I can think of, and the only major change I’ve made was to start practicing Ho’oponopono in the fall of 2011. The changes seemed to come about almost effortlessly.

If you’d like to learn more about this wonderful practice, please find some of the interviews with Dr. Hew Len on YouTube.  He is a master.  Or, if you want to talk about it with a local Shaman, come and see me at Pagan Pride Day on October 15th in Long Beach.  I’ll have a booth there and you’re welcome to stop by any time for a chat.

 

Pagan Pride Volunteers

Superhero volunteerThe theme for this month’s issue is “Sacrifice and Gratitude.”  Pagan Pride LA/OC is indeed grateful for the sacrifice that our Board and volunteers make each year.  Without our volunteers, Pagan Pride Day simply wouldn’t happen.  It takes a large crew of volunteers working shifts throughout the day to make Pagan Pride Day a reality, and we appreciate the hard work of our volunteers.  We also appreciate the sacrifices made by our Board members each year.  None of us on the Board receive money for what we do.  We donate our time and labor because we believe it’s both an obligation and a privilege to serve our local Pagan community.  If you haven’t yet signed up as a volunteer, it isn’t too late.  To show our appreciation of our volunteers, the Pagan Pride Board will host a special Volunteer Appreciation event on Sunday, August 20th 11-2pm at a location in Burbank. Food and drinks will be served and we have special activities planned. Sign up on our website www.paganpridela.org or contact Morgana@paganpridela.org for more information, or look for our event on Facebook.  We look forward to another wonderful Pagan Pride Day October 15th at the Rainbow Lagoon, Long Beach.  See you there!

Morgana RavenTree

Volunteer coordinator

My Experiences with Traditional Witchcraft

by Krystal Rains

My adventures in the Arte of Traditional Witchcraft began in a Pirate store. I managed a store in North Hollywood and with what I learned later was a bit of encouragement from several close friends, Griffin Ced came to visit one day in 2007. After a delightful conversation, we scheduled the first of three classes at the store. My introduction to the Arte was a class named “Cosmology of the Craft”. Listening to Griffin explain the framework of a magical universe in which I could have a direct personal influence was amazing. My first Traditional Witchcraft ritual shortly after the class was with Hecate, and I carry the key I received with me to this day, nearly 10 years later. After some different locations over a few years, the classes with Griffin took root at The Green Man store in North Hollywood on Lankershim Blvd and have grown and blossomed in the most magical of paths over the last 7 years.

Traditional Witchcraft in the manner taught by Griffin is an Airts tradition, working with the spirit of things rather than an elemental system. Set on a compass, rather than within a circle, it is a way to journey and cross hedges to evolve. Over the years of classes, I have learned that it is a wonderful toolbox that can be applied in many situations with many deities and cosmologies. One of the first times I consciously used the tools of the Craft on my own was to help memorialize a friend. In setting the space for the public memorial, Griffin suggested setting the space with ‘water’ in all directions. In the North I placed the spirit of water in the air, which seemed to me, to be clouds and rain. In the East I placed the spirit of water in fire, being steam and humidity. In the South, the spirit of water in the manifest world, as rivers, streams and oceans. In the West, the spirit of water in water…the mists of our loved ones and ancestors. Water is a medium of transition and when placed in all four directions, it provided the spirit of my friend an easy crossing to the other side of the veil. On a mundane note, I noted several people were quite uncomfortable with the humidity on a normally dry day, and I realized there was certainly an effect on the manifest world, when I set the intention of spirit in this manner, or as many say, “as within, so without.”

Through classes and rituals, using every opportunity to learn, grow and evolve…my life is certainly different than I could have ever imagined. I have been taught that any cosmology could be set on the compass in this manner and had an opportunity to put this into action when opportunity arose to do a rain/water ritual with the Q’ero Peruvian Shamanic archetypes and a Meso-American Rain God named Tlaloc. My normal practice when interacting with these deities is to start in the East and continue clockwise around the Mesa. In this ritual, I called quarters from North to South and then East to West. This is an alchemical connection of Spirit and Soul, then Fire and Water. My sense when centering the ritual, was of the spirits I called being slightly confused, but willing to do the work in this manner. I can’t claim to have changed the rainfall in California, as I know that I am not the only practitioner who put some efforts to our drought problem, but I won’t deny my intentions having some effect as well.

After the 101, 201 and Practical Magic series, the next step that Griffin took was to create a community group of student practitioners. The “Green Man Grove,” of which I am a participating member, provides that community a supportive opportunity to present rituals, both public and closed. Another expanding opportunity for students has been the “Awakening the Witchblood” series that has been presented for the last two falls. Each series was quite differently amazing and provoking in the expansion of my practice and understanding. If this has piqued your interest, you should not be surprised to hear me recommend a visit to The Green Man, to talk and take classes with Griffin.

Order of Celtic Witches

by Kimberly Berger and Doris Barnhart

The Order of Celtic Witches is an eclectic group whose foundation is based upon honoring the Celtic Deities, celebrating the traditional sabbats and full moon esbats.  Classes have been offered since 2010, which is when the coven was fully established.

Classes emphasize both traditional lore and ritual structure and performance. Herbalism, crystal work, spellcasting, and the history of the Celtic Deities are among the topics covered.  These classes provide a pathway to membership in the coven, and create a safe, accepting and supportive environment for learning and expression.

Heathenry and Kindreds

by Spencer Bennett

Heathenry is a religious path that is the revival of native Northern European traditions. These traditions include, but are not limited to, ritualized feasting, ancestor veneration, and offerings to gods such as Freya, Thor, and Odin. Heathenry often takes a pan-Germanic approach to reviving Northern European traditions by drawing on such culturally diverse material as Tacitus’s Germania, the medieval Eddas and Sagas from Iceland and Scandinavia, as well as the romanticized Grimm’s Fairytales. The Heathen movement is also interested in modern academic endeavors in the fields of Scandinavian and Norse Studies. In these materials are found the historical inspiration for two of Heathenry’s most basic conventions, the Blot and the Kindred.

Though these elements may be named differently, and vary widely in practice, the Blot and the Kindred are ubiquitous in Heathen practice. The Blot is the basic ritual format and usually includes offerings to gods and several rounds of ritualized, communal drinking. These rounds of drinking may include praising gods, remembering ancestors, boasting of your accomplishments, toasting other attendees, or oathing to future achievement. The Kindred is the basic organizational structure used by Heathens. It may consist of family, or friends, or both and is more aimed at building meaningful personal relationships than developing individual esoteric abilities. Within the Kindred, there can be a member chosen to direct group efforts, a member who leads the Blot and other rituals, and a member who cares for the drinking vessel during Blot. The revival of Norther European traditions allows for diversity in interpretation and the expression of Heathen practice is, ultimately, decided by those who are practicing it.

19489571_10155459218843988_1172407033_n (1)Spencer Bennett has been Heathen for more than 15 years and is leader of Hallowed Horn Kindred in Southern California. He is working on Religious Studies degree and will be spending the second half of 2017 in Denmark, at Copenhagen, studying Norse Mythology.  He’s a total baddas who neither looks nor acts like he is pushing forty.  Also, he also likes chocolate.

 

 

Love is the law, love under will.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Golden lotusGolden Lotus Lodge has been serving the Orange County region for 18 years. In that time we have fostered a community sharing the principles of the Law of Thelema among ourselves as well as welcome guests to our events. Chief among these is the principle of individual liberty in harmony with and fortifying our larger social and professional communities.

We offer participation in our central celebration of the Mass of our Gnostic Catholic Church roughly 3-4 times monthly, as well as a monthly public social get together accompanied by a discussion on a variety of topics from Hermeticism to ritual practice, meditation to self empowerment and more.

We are excited to host our annual series of presentations, The Golden Lotus Discourses. We will be facilitating eight presenters this year speaking on the topic of Occult Philosophy on July 29th-30th at our space in Garden Grove. During these discussions our aim is to give examples of how we express our spiritual and philosophical beliefs and aims through art, writing, counseling, dance and other forms of expression.

Please visit our website which keeps a running calendar of our events and will have details on The Golden Lotus Discourses very soon!

http://www.goldenlotus-oto.org

Love is the law, love under will.

Sigils: A Gateway to Creativity

by Gina Leslie

Sigils have been around since humans first started making marks on cave walls. We often think of sigils only in terms of magick and spells but have you considered that they have a wider potential as not only inspiration for creativity but as artwork in and of themselves? I’ve been making sigils for over 20 years and in the past few years mine have evolved from simple drawings used in my magickal practice to full-fledged art pieces just for (or mostly for) the sake of art and creativity.

Are you’re one of those people who yearn to “be” creative but think you don’t have what it takes? Do you see artwork and it “speaks” to something inside you? I’m not talking about looking at something and thinking “oh, this is nice” or “that’s really beautiful”, but that feeling that has no words to describe it, that feeling that makes you want to experience art, not just passively look at it. I see sigil making as a gateway to experiencing and participating in the creative process. It’s also a great way to move past/through whatever might be blocking your creative process if you’re already an artist.

I truly believe that most people are creative on some level, but our society so actively devalues art and creativity, in all its forms, (unless it can be monetized) that many people stifle their creative spark around the same time they put away their toys and strive to be seen and accepted as “grown up”.

If you do any amount of research on sigils, as I have, you will find all manner of equations and formulas for creation, some of them can be quite complex and intimidating. My process is very simple: I start with words that have meaning to me and experiment with the shape and arrangement of the letters until I come up with a design that “feels’ right to me. I let the shapes that emerge inform the design.

All of the images below started out as sigils and are “finished” in that I got to a point where I was satisfied with the overall design even though I could refine and change them endlessly. One of the tricky aspects of art or design is knowing when to stop fiddling with it and walk away. I hope you enjoy them.

 

 
I don’t always stick with and refine my first attempt. Here the two designs from the same original concept are quite different.  1-FocusAccomplishFinish

You can see that the original sigil is only a starting point to creating art. The third design only has a general resemblance to the original sigil.

Print

3-ClarityLuckRewardwBACK

 

This one came about because I was looking for something creative to do but I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to do. So I just started playing around with letters and fonts.

 

4-3PsArtwork

 

 

 

This is my most recent piece

 

5-PickMe5317

 

 

I hope this inspires you to tap into the creativity inside yourself. It’s there and it’s waiting for you to come out and play.

 

What is an Alchemical Sacred Fire Circle by Devra Gregory

I have just returned from Mayfire, a four day, 3 night sacred fire circle gathering in The Valley of Fire outside of Las Vegas. My fire circle mentors Jeff “Magnus” McBride and Abigail Spinner McBride are the creators of the community called The Vegas Vortex. And what a vortex of energy it is!

When I say 3 nights I mean that literally. We stay up in ceremony for 3 nights around the fire; circling, singing, dancing, drumming, speaking our truths, our hurts, what we release into the flame and what we commit to creating. With joy and tears, sweat and smoke it is always a profound experience.

These circles reflect the practice of Alchemy, the laboratory where lead is turned to gold. As a metaphor, we swirl ingredients (humans) in a flask (the sacred  fire circle) add heat (the central fire) and over a period of time the experiment becomes realized. Throughout the night we turn our own lead (junk holding us back) into pure gold (our illuminated spirits) as the sun brings forth a new day.

This year I was honored with a Queening ceremony. This is a time in a woman’s life when she is past mother hood, but not yet a Crone (old wise one). It is the time for her to step fully into her power. I feel ready for that. I was deeply moved when members of my fire family, some who I have known for 17 years, stepped forward, knelt in front of me and offered words of praise and honor.

I first started participating in these fire circle gatherings in Santa Cruz in the year 2000. I had just returned to the States from living in Aruba for 4 years. I was dancing there in a celebrity impersonator show and had just begun to work on my own impersonation character (Michael Jackson). Then, I got fired. (long story)

After that I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to put my energy.
AND I had a self esteem problem.
Yes, I did.

Being at the fires allowed me to stop thinking so much, to dance with freedom (rather than heady choreography), drum with deep connection to others for hours, learn to sing from my heart, and take lead parts in huge rituals. Circling round and round a fire sort of undoes what your conditioned programming is keeping you stuck in. I found my self at the fire circle.

It was through attending fire circles that helped me jump headlong into my performance career with my impersonation, and I starting a women’s ritual circle. I finally began to feel better about myself.

After several years of going up to Santa Cruz every summer it was time to find my tribe in San Diego. With a few others we created SoCal Sacred Fire in 2007-08 and then that fizzled out. Now, 10 years later I am producing Sacred Flame Fire Circle, because the passion for fire circles in me just wont go away!

I know the powerful effect circling around a fire has. I want YOU to have a profound experience, too.

DREAM_FIRE_4x6.Front-01

While we won’t be going for 3 nights, we will have a beautiful 3 hour fire together for DREAM FIRE June 9-11 along with new ways to deepen the community experience on Friday with a workshop on co-creating a ritual experience for the fire circle on Saturday, and “playshops” on Saturday in the afternoon to immerse into your dreaming.

I want to you to discover who you are.

I want you to find the passion inside you, to find your dream and make it realized in your life. Will you?

From my heart,
(Queen) Dev

www.SacredFlameFireCircle.com

www.DEVasMJ.com

A Non-Binary Beltane by Devra Gregory

AndrogonyIn these current times I feel it is important to continually shape shift the form of ritual with the needs of the community. I am a High Priestess in the San Diego area for a women only circle called Dragon Sister’s Circle, all gender full moons and several Sabbats. I produce Sacred Flame Fire Circles where all are welcome.

When I post on social media about my public women’s circle I have received questions from non gender specific individuals if they are welcome to join. This is an issue with many women’s circles. Some feel that unless a person was born with a womb and experienced blood mystery (AKA a “period”) they are not welcome to attend a women’s only event. This issue went so far as to have a long running women only music festival run its course when trans women attended and made a scene. (in another state).

In my women’s circle, I say if you identify as a female, join us. In all honesty, I struggle to understand just what makes us “female” or “male”.

I work in the performing arts as an impersonator. My character is male, I portray Michael Jackson. While this blog is not meant to glorify that job, it has allowed me a chance to experience life as the other gender. I also have a “drag” persona name “Fernando” who has “his” own personality. Really, it is Fernando not Michael that helps me relate to being in another’s skin, since he comes more from within me. Yet, when I “wear” Fernando I tend to express a more extreme caricature expression of the male gender; suave, cocky, bold, and a lady’s man. It is fun finding this other part of myself, but it is more like an acting role. Inside, I am still very much a female. So- what does it really mean to be a male or female? Aren’t we all a combination of both?

With Beltane around the corner and planning that ritual I realized how binary we are as Pagans. The Lord and The Lady. The God and The Goddess. The Horned One and the Maiden. We dance The Maypole in two directions, widdershins and deocil. Yet, there is a third gender that is recognized in Alchemy known as The Androgyny, who is neither male nor female, but a combination of both.

Now that LGBTQ issues are more openly spoken of, I felt it was fitting to address this dialogue in the upcoming Beltane ritual. Following our pot luck feast and before we celebrate with ritual and maypole dance, we will be separating into groups. Last year we had two groups, one for women, who shared with each other what it meant to embody The Divine Feminine, and the other group was the men, speaking of how they embody the Divine Masculine. This year, I am adding a third group; non gender specific people who identify as both, The Androgyny. When we dance the Maypole this third group of people will be invited to dance along with someone from either group, then swap by floating where ever they feel compelled. This is an experiment worth attempting, though I do not know how it will work out! Will they become tangled in the ribbons? Will it be confusing to be floating in this web? I also don’t know if anyone will join the third group, but I’m hoping my community will be open to explore their own non gender specific possibilities. I am asking people to wear clothing that is not their usual gender garb. We will see!
Ultimately, when we choose to leave our bodies and return to source, to God or to Goddess, perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised to find there is non specific gender in the realm of Spirit, but true unity with all that is. A combination of the realm of all possibilities. Maybe we can get a little closer to that while still inhabiting our Earth suits.

http://www.sacredflamefirecircle.com
https://celebratebeltane.eventbrite.co.uk/
http://www.DEVasMJ.com

Devra Gregory is a San Diego ritual leader, Alchemist, diverse human committed to planetary awakening of consciousness.