The Void-of-Course Moon: A Time to Pause

This astrological factor of the Moon is often ignored by magical practitioners, either because they do not understand what it means or they believe it is not significant enough to really make a difference. However, the Moon when it is Void-of-Course (usually shown in an ephemeris or moon phase guide as v/c) can have an effect, or non-effect, on magical workings and other decisions we make.

When the Moon is Void-of-Course, this indicates that it is between zodiacal signs: it has just exited one sign and is on it’s way to the next. The Moon does not always automatically move from one zodiac sign to the next. Many times it does, but there is often a between-time when the Moon does not occupy either sign. This time period can last anywhere from a matter of minutes, hours, or up to nearly two days.

When preparing to cast a spell or plan life events, and you are working with planetary/astrological energies, it is best not to do anything definate when the Moon is Void-of-Course. Doing so may mean that your spell will not manifest the way you intended, if at all. The planetary/astrological energies you are calling on are simply not there. This is because the planets have an effect on the zodiac signs, and if the Moon is between signs, the energies are scattered. There is the tendency to have unrealistic expectations associated with the decisions, and/or there could be difficulties from unknown factors. During this period actions can produce unexpected results, creative efforts can go into unexpected directions. Wait until the Moon has fully occupied the sign you wish to work with.

The void-of-course period of the Moon is the period of time from the moment the Moon makes the last contact with any planet in the current Sign of the Zodiac, and until it enters the next sign.

This excerpt from the website Lunarium explains it metaphorically:

Each sign is like a chapter in the book of life, and moving through it the Moon is telling a story. When the Moon enters the next sign, it starts a new story. We still remember the old one, but we are not deeply involved into it anymore. Whether we notice it or not, each time the Moon enters the next Sign of the Zodiac, something substantially changes in our life, some context, or the emotional background of events. Most of the time we aren’t aware of this change because the Moon is strongly connected to our subconsciousness, not to our consciousness. It is the subconsciousness who is deeply aware of the change.

So in each of the signs the Moon starts a new story when it enters the sign, but those stories can have different lengths. Some of them continue for almost the whole two-and-a-half-day period, others are much shorter, but always there is a pause in the end of the story. It can be short or long, but it is always there. That pause in the end of the story is the void-of-course period of the Moon.

We don’t know why it happens, this pause. Maybe the story teller gives us the time to think about the content of the story we’ve just heard, or maybe it is a chance to prepare to the next story, because it is going to be very important. We just know that the pause is there…At some point the Moon makes its last contact in the given sign. That’s the end of the story, but the new story won’t start until the Moon enters the next Sign of the Zodiac”.

You can find the Void-of-Course by looking at an ephemeris, moon phase guide or astrology website. Some of you tech-savvy types may have an app on your phone. I happen to like the Llewellyn Moon Sign Book. It is very practical, easy to read, and they publish a new one every year. The Void-of-Course is marked as (v/c) or (VoC). I had some difficulty locating a picture of their chart to show you, however, below is a similar chart displaying the Void-of-Course dates for January 2015.

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The Art of Tree Gazing

One of my favorite things to do in the Winter is Tree Gazing. This is the art of divining messages from the trees as their branches sway in the wind, and relies heavily on your intuitive abilities. I do believe that each tree possesses a spirit, and that the spirit of the tree will communicate with anyone who sincerely desires to interact with it. In Winter, this is best done on a cold, windy day, so dress warmly. Take a notebook and pen along if you want to write down your impressions. (Tree Gazing in the Summer is a bit different as the focus is on the leaves. In Winter, the focus is on the branches).

To begin Tree Gazing during the Winter, find a tree that has lost all of it’s leaves. It should be a tree that you feel a strong connection to. Let it call to you. The branches must be completely bare, so do not choose a tree with green growth on it, such as Pine or Evergreen. If you can, place your bare hands on the tree for a few moments, close your eyes, take some deep breaths until you reach a meditative state, and project an intention into the tree for communication. Ask the tree to share it’s wisdom with you. Then, remove your hands and find a spot where you can sit comfortably for at least 30 minutes. If you cannot touch the tree or feel uncomfortable doing so, just project your intention to communicate into the tree. It is best to choose a tree that you can get relatively close to, even if you cannot touch it. You should be able to clearly see the branches and how the entire tree responds to the wind. If the tree is too far away, it will be more difficult to “read”. At a local park that I visit, there are trees quite close to the parking lot, so in the Winter I can sit in my car with the window down when I practice tree gazing. When you have found the tree you wish to communicate with and you are seated comfortably nearby, bring yourself into a meditative state. You can do this by taking several deep breaths, with eyes closed, and visualizing the numbers 1 thru 10. Feel yourself drifting into a deeper state of consciousness. Then, open your eyes and gaze at the branches of the tree. Do not forcibly stare, but allow your gaze to soften. Observe the branches as they move in the wind. Open your mind and heart to feelings, impressions, images. Spend most of your winter tree gazing experience observing the branches, but also glance at the rest of the tree from time to time. Does the tree bend in the wind? Are there animals, plants, flowers or other growth on or near the tree? What is their magickal significance? How do they react to the wind? Wind belongs to the element of Air which rules communication, thought and transference of information. It seems to be an important component of Tree Gazing during any season. Write down all of your impressions in your notebook. In my own experience, I have found that is best to remain passive while Tree Gazing, rather than asking questions and seeking specific answers. The information I receive from Tree Gazing seems to be more about spiritual guidance and personal growth rather than “should I apply for this job” sort of thing. Don’t seek specific answers from the tree, just allow it to impart information into your consciousness. You may experience some strong emotions. Just relax and allow it to happen. If you do not receive information the first time you try Tree Gazing, don’t worry. It may take some practice, but eventually you will begin to intuitively sense the tree’s messages for you. Be sure to keep a notepad and pen handy to write down your impressions.

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People of the Oak

As we walk the magick path, there are times when we realize some things no longer work for us, or we find ways to enhance our path and make it even more personal. This has happened to me recently, when I began a formal study of Druidry. I resisted the druid path for so long, and even wrote in one of my books that I could not be a druid, however, the voice of the Oak kept calling and calling until finally I gave in. It’s sort of like one of those moments when your deities and spirit guides are leading you down an unfamiliar path and as much as you try to resist, you just cannot. There were a few things I felt uncomfortable about with Druidry, such as the white robes and the differences between Druidry and Witchcraft. To be completely honest, and it may sound silly, the white robes reminded me of the KKK (a white-supremacist group) and I do not want to be associated with that at all. Here in America, I think that is what people think of when they see a group of men in white robes. The truth is, according to ancient writings, the druids were the first group to don white robes, centuries before any other group (racist or not) began wearing them. Other than the Pope and his folk. Modern druids are not required to wear white robes, though many do. Perhaps it is only the priests who wear them? I’m not certain, I have only just begun my studies. Anyway, White is not my favorite color. I prefer black, and will continue to wear black robes as I am studying Druidry simply to complement my path as a Witch. I am a Witch, always and forever. I am merely blending the two together. The differences between the two are minor, and many people are unaware that the founder of modern druidry, Ross Nichols, happened to be great friends with Gerald Gardner, the “father of modern Wicca”. The two studied together and both formed their own spiritual paths which evolved to where they are today. Salem witch Laurie Cabot refers to Druidry as just another branch, or tradition, of Witchcraft. The two paths, though different, have much in common. Witches and Druids believe many of the same things, such as the reverence for Nature and the Ancestors, the powers of crystals, stones, the Sun and the Moon, animal and tree lore, the Goddess, the embracing of sexuality and wisdom and many other concepts. Druidry acknowledges the Awen (poetic inspiration) as illustrated by this symbol below. The three dots at the top are the three sacred drops from Cerridwen’s brew, and the three rays represent Love, Wisdom and Truth, the Triple aspect of Deity, and the points at which the Sun rises on equinoxes and solstices.

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I received my first packet of studies from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids the very next day after the Winter Solstice. It was meant to be a holiday surprise from my partner, (I had mentioned to him that I wanted to join the Order), but the envelope was addressed to me instead of him and did not have a return address. I had no idea who it was from, but I did notice the Airmail postage. I have several friends who live in the UK and I assumed it was from one of them. My partner was none too pleased when I told him I had opened his gift to me a few days earlier than planned. I really had no idea what it was until I opened it. Still, for me, it came at the perfect time. I had just led my last ritual as High Priest with Evening Star Circle, an eclectic pagan group with whom my 2-year commitment ended at Yule. My study materials from OBOD arrived in the mail the day after Yule. To me, it signified the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

Studying with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids can be expensive, but they do have a number of payment plans and will make arrangements with people in financial hardship. They send out study materials each month, and they are designed to build one upon another. I receive both the printed and audio materials, and there is plenty to keep you busy until the next materials arrive. They say that each packet contains a week’s worth of study, but if you really want to absorb everything I think it is good to study it for the whole month. There are three grades of study: Bard, Ovate and Druid. Everyone begins with the Bardic Grade. Each grade takes about a year to complete, but you can study at your own pace and take longer if you need to. There is reading material, along with CD’s that contain stories, music and spoken text from the pamplets, along with information about Ecological responsibility, tree planting, and the official members-only OBOD magazine Touchstone. There is also practical work to complete, which include meditations and other assignments. I received a Book of Rituals, and some specific information about the druid celebrations of Alban Arthan (Welsh for Winter Solstice) and Imbolc. I love all of this, I cannot express how much. It feels a bit like coming home.

Two of the differences between Druidry and Witchcraft are that 1) Druidry does not place much emphasis on moon phases and such, but tends to focus more on the Sun. 2) Druids do cast a circle but not quite the same way as in traditional Witchcraft.

The blend of Druidry and Witchcraft is referred to as Druidcraft, and Philip-Carr Gomm has written a wonderful book about it. I will continue to call what I do Witchcraft, although it is heavily influenced by Druidry, and I will continue to cast the circle in my usual manner, albeit with Celtic influences. Druidry is not dogmatic, you do not have to follow everything to the letter. You can incorporate those elements and ideas that work best for you.

The word “druid” means “Oak Wise” and comes from the same word meaning “Door” or “Doorway”. From these definitions we can say that Druidry is a “doorway to wisdom” for the “people of the Oak”. The Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex, England is a perfect illustration of this, as he appears to be standing in a doorway, and druid ceremonies are regularly held there.

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__1280My birthdate on the Celtic Tree Calendar places me in the Oak category, and I have always had a strong connection to the Oak tree. I am glad to be called a Witch, a Mystic and one of the People of the Oak.

The Dark Yule Moon 2014

C_UserstinsleyrPicturesbannerfans_14361656As we approach the Winter Solstice on December 21st 2014, something extraordinary will happen. At 8:36pm EST, the Moon will enter it’s Dark Moon phase, which some call the New Moon. This is a highly significant event, as not only is tonight the longest, darkest night of the year, it also takes place during a Dark Moon. At this time, the dark portion of the Moon faces almost directly toward Earth, so that the Moon is not visible to the naked eye. During this phase, the side of the Moon that is facing us is not lit by the Sun. This is the time when we look inward to examine our lives, our dreams, hopes and fears.

This moon enters the sign of Capricorn as it reaches the fulness of darkness. The energy of this dark moon guides us to draw upon our inner wisdom, and examine the lessons we have learned from past experiences, and take an active role in changing the course of our futures. It is time to take those first steps toward achieving our goals, and forging the path we wish our lives to take. In recent weeks there seems to have been much friction in our day-to-day lives. I have noticed people more stressed out than usual, perhaps due to the holidays and all it’s pressures, but there has been much conflict, irritability, impatience and an overall sense of tension and frustration. I have felt it myself. I have been somewhat impatient and short-tempered as of late. So much to do and not enough time, money or resources to do it with! With the Sun in Sagittarius, it may feel like we are running into one obstacle after another. And indeed, with this dark moon there will be ostacles in our paths. We are being encouraged to evolve and grow, putting away those things that no longer serve our highest good. It may mean removing toxic people from your life, it may mean re-evaluating the direction you want your life to go.

Write down all the things you want to achieve, and the steps you are going to take to make them happen. To make the most of this Dark Yule Capricorn Moon and Sagittarius Sun, make the decision that you will be pro-active, assertive and determined to lead the life you want to live. This Dark Moon heralds changes and new beginnings.

In my own life, I am already seeing spiritual changes take place. The coven I have served as High Priest for the last two years will have it’s final ritual this evening, and then we will disband, as new leadership takes the reins to guide our eclectic pagan community into new territory. I will spend more time focusing on Celtic/Druidcraft studies(which I have already begun and loving every minute of it), and will be less involved in formal public ritual planning. I recently decided that I will no longer actively plan public classes or events, and will only teach when I am invited to do so. I will be more reclusive than I have in the past, so I can spend more time with my studies and personal rituals. I will continue to write, of course, on this website and with my book projects.

I am delighted to hear the owls once again in the trees behind our home. There are two of them, and they call to each other throughout the night. During the day, the trees are filled with crows, hundreds of them actually, and they are quite loud, but as night draws near the crows leave and the owls arrive. I always know Winter is near when I hear them, because I don’t hear them at other times of the year.

Tonight is Yule, and I am anxious to open the Yule gift I received from friends in Salem, Massachussets, so I shall now carefully open the box…I am excited to see what it is…I purposely waited until the last minute…

Blessed Yule and Happy Winter Solstice.

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Winds of Change

So much has happened over the past month, and now I can’t believe Fall is nearly over…

In early October I started having more car issues. My Subaru finally kicked the bucket, something to do with an oil leak. The indicator lights in that vehicle never worked properly, not even the gas gauge, so I never really knew how much gas was in the car. The oil light NEVER came on, and the car had a coolant leak, which meant I was refilling it every week so it wouldn’t overheat. So, when it finally expired, we began the search for another used vehicle. After a couple of weeks of searching, we thought we had found a good one, a yellow Ford Escape. From all outward appearances, it looked to be in good shape, so we got it and had it only a week when we discovered something horribly wrong. There was some rust on the bottom, so I took to it to a body shop to see how extensive it was. The mechanics there raised it up on a platform, took one look at it and then pulled me aside with serious looks on their faces. They said the vehicle was not safe to be on the road, there was severe rust all over the bottom and was literally ready to fall apart. They had me take pictures with my phone of all the damage. They also said it should never have passed inspection, that we should demand our money back, and if they refused to refund us, we should get the state police involved. In Pennsylvania, lemon laws only apply to new vehicles (strange, huh), but it is still illegal for used car dealers to sell vehicles that are not safe for the road. We can’t afford a new car, and neither of us are mechanics, so we really don’t know what to look for when shopping for used cars. The dealership did agree to give us our money back, and we eventually found another vehicle, a Chevy Tracker, that thankfully is working fine. Everything works, nothing’s leaking, and I know how much gas I have. But, what a fiasco!

In mid-October we made our bi-annual visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This time we were able to see the new Diagon Alley that opened this past July. We had an amazing time, connected with friends, and spent the entire 5 days going between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Below are a few pics.

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Immediately upon my return to Pennsylvania, I finished up a presentation for the School of Sacred Ministries in Doylestown PA. Myself and my friend Filomena were asked to speak to the students there about Witchcraft and Wicca. It was a great experience, and everyone was very receptive and open-minded. At the School of Sacred Ministries, students explore the world’s major religious, spiritual and wisdom traditions, experience the power of ritual and the beauty of celebration, and study to become inter-faith clergy. There was wonderful energy there, and we met some amazing people.

The following weekend was our Samhain celebration. A joint effort between The Moonlit Grove (the group I work with currently) and Coven of the Sacred Path. It was a magickal night, with flaming cauldrons, a candle-lit path through the veil to the ancestor altar, music, dance, great food and conversation. It was a night of crossing thresholds, re-connecting, and spiritual evolution. Samhain was another threshold for me, as on this night I made a formal decision to embrace Druidry as part of my path. I had never really fully embraced Druid spirituality until now, but since so many elements of druidry and celtic mysticism have been part of my practice for so long, I could no longer deny it as a calling. I am still a Witch 100%. I am very attached to Witchcraft, it is who I am, but now Druidry has also become part of my Witchcraft spirituality. The two have blended together. In many ways, it has always been there, I just never acknowledged it as such. I am quite fond of the teachings of Philip Carr-Gomm and Kristoffer Hughes. As soon as I am able (money, you know), I want to take the Bardic course from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. In the meantime, I have become addicted to Druidcast and Celtic Myth Podshow.

tumblr_mdg7wt532I1r4fycdo1_500I loathe to say it, but Winter will soon be here. It is already getting quite cold and windy, and I’ve had a lingering cough for days. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I loathe and despise winter. The frigid temperatures that wreak havoc with my health…the slippery, icy roads…the freezing rain, the snow and sludge that leaves an ugly mess on the roads as it melts…not looking forward to this at all. The very sight of snow gives me anxiety, truthfully, and during the winter I prefer to keep my curtains closed so I don’t have to look at it. I am somewhat offended when people criticize how I react to snow. I did not grow up here and I wasn’t raised driving/walking through snow like so many people here have. It doesn’t make it less dangerous just because you’ve done it all your life. Suffice it to say, Winter is my least favorite season. It does give me time to work on creative projects, however. I enjoy making Winter candles and finishing up writing projects. It is an instrospective time, when I look within to examine my life and where my spiritual path is leading me.

After Yule, my leadership commitment to The Moonlit Grove will be finished, and I can focus more attention on Blackthorn, and training students in this personal tradition that evolved from my studies and interaction with Cerridwen. I will soon put out a call for local students who meet the requirements and desire to learn. I look forward to teaching and appreciate the opportunities that Cerridwen sends my way. I also hope to eventually find a local druid group to interact with, but for now I am satisfied to study on my own.

At this moment, it is quite windy outside, the windows are rattling and the windchimes on the outside patio are playing a haunting melody. There are dark clouds in the sky, and raindrops on the windows. I enjoy this kind of weather, so now I think I will go light some candles and incense, open the patio door just a bit and relax for awhile…

Til next time…

Crystal Magick: Mugglestone

mugglestoneI discovered this stone, quite by accident, when I visited a recent holistic expo where I live. I love going to these expos, they seem very much like Diagon Alley to me, with rows and rows of vendors selling their magickal wares: runes, crystals, tarot cards, incense, magickal books and music, home décor, soaps, candles, oils and all manner of other mystical things. There are also several practitioners present who offer tarot & rune readings, reiki treatments, aura photos, various forms of energy healing and more things too numerable to mention. I was fortunate enough to be a vendor myself a couple of times in the past. I had my own booth where I sold my handmade candles and soaps, and offered tarot readings and reiki treatments. This recent expo was the Fall expo, and I enjoy being a shopper at this one rather than a vendor, because I love to explore the many wonderful Fall-themed items, and it is my favorite season.

So, as I was browsing through one of the crystal booths, I scanned over the many crystals that had been neatly separated into individual compartments, each crystal named along with a short list of it’s magickal uses. There were literally hundreds of different crystals in this booth, on 3 long tables. I happened to be standing right in front of this one particular crystal. I had just briefly looked down at them and turned my head, and then realized I saw a very familiar word…..muggle.

guessI looked down again and found the stone….Mugglestone. “Is this for real?”, I thought to myself. “Why have I never heard of this one before??” I brought it home, and when I did more research I found that it is a real, actual stone. Mugglestone is a blend of Red Jasper, Tiger’s Eye and Hematite. It is also called Tiger Iron. It has many magickal qualities, but in my research I saw a common thread in all of the articles I read: Mugglestone deflects harmful energy caused by the judgments of others. Thus, Mugglestone is appropriately named.

Muggle is a word found in the Harry Potter mythos, but it is gaining popularity in the magickal community. The word has a few layers of meaning in Harry Potter metaphysics, but the main idea refers to a person who does not believe in magick or considers it evil. We all have encountered people like this. When you tell them you’re a witch/wiccan/pagan, they get that disapproving look in their eyes, and you can feel their judgmental energy coming at you. It is a subtle form of psychic attack.

If you know you’re going to be around people who disapprove of your beliefs, magickal practice or wiccan spirituality, carry Mugglestone with you to deflect and neutralize those harmful energies. You can carry the stone in your pocket, or wear it as jewelry. I have provided a link below where you can order the polished stones, and some websites offer jewelry made with Mugglestone/Tiger Iron. Another option is eBay, where I found several Mugglestone items for sale.

Meditation with Mugglestone

  • Hold the Mugglestone in your dominant hand.

  • Close your eyes, and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state.

  • Bring the Mugglestone to your Third Eye Chakra, at the center of your forehead. Hold it next to your skin.

  • Visualize a spinning wheel of indigo (midnite blue) energy spinning at your Third Eye. Allow this energy to envelope the Mugglestone.

  • Next, visualize the indigo blue color enveloping your entire body. Picture the energy of the Mugglestone merging with this blue light that surrounds your aura. Hold this visualization for at least 3 minutes.

  • Say 3 times, “I charge this crystal to protect me from all harmful energies, judgments and intentions”.

  • Slowly bring yourself back to full awareness, and when you feel ready, open your eyes.

  • Carry the crystal with you, or wear it as jewelry.

To help you further with this meditation, you can light a white candle, and Dragons Blood, Sandalwood or Patchouli incense.

You can order polished Mugglestone at this link.

Check out all the great Mugglestone jewelry on eBay.

The Story of Mabon

Originally posted on Rik Potter:

Mabon is celebrated on the Autumn Equinox, which occurs sometime near September 21-23, and is known by many as the ‘Witches’ Thanksgiving‘. It is the second Harvest Festival of the Witches’ calendar, and it celebrates and gives thanks for the bountiful harvest of fruit, squash, grains, and vegetables. Mabon is also the time when we give thanks to the Goddess and God for what was “harvested” in our lives during the year, as we prepare for the Winter ahead.

Witches meet and share celebration feasts with family and friends at each of the sabbats. Though joyous, Mabon also a serious time, as Witches of many traditions prepare for the season of sleep, the dark time of Fall and Winter. Witches call to the animal spirits for guidance and insight as we enter this time of inner searching. We prepare to meet our true inner self and grow and further our…

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