A Harvest Jar Spell

IMG_3402As a part of the Lammas Ritual that I created and led for the Circle of Fountains on the last Sunday in July, I invited everyone to craft a Harvest Jar to help strengthen and empower celebrants so that everyone could have what they need to manifest their harvest. Complete instructions for a harvest spell jar are below. Have fun!

Craft Supplies

  • Mason Jars
  • Cotton Fabric Squares
  • Antique Bronze Charms
  • Thread
  • Needles
  • Twine Cord
  • Harvest Incense Blend
    • Sweet Woodruff, Red Clover Leaves, Cornflower, Copal, Lavender, Red Poppy Petals, Cardamom, Yarrow, Bergamot Oil, and Frankincense Oil.
  • Scissors
  • Pinking Shears
  • Seam Ripper
  • Bronze Scythe/Sickle Charms
  • Personal Scythes/Sickles for All Attendees
  • Bloodstone Beads
  • Carnelian Beads
  • Markers for Labeling Jars
  • Scrolls of Paper for Writing and Drawing
  • Colored Pens and Markers for Writing and Drawing

Craft Information & Instructions

  1. Add a modest amount of Harvest Incense Blend to a mason jar.
  2. Reflect on the following questions: What crops are still growing in your life and require active cultivation? What can you give to bring your crops to fullness? What must you release in order to bring in your crops?
  3. Now write 1 to 4 scrolls stating what you are working on harvesting. Please consider wording each scroll as follows: “I am ___________ (your name). I joyfully give ____________ and I necessarily release _______________ in order to harvest _____________.
  4. Seal each scroll with twine and place it into your herb-filled mason jar. This is the start of your Harvest Jar.
  5. Now choose a piece of cloth. If you like, use the pinking shears to finish the four sides of the fabric. Once done, lay the fabric flat and add a modest amount of the Harvest Incense Blend to the center of the fabric. Also, add Carnelian beads,  Bloodstone beads, and a bronze scythe charm. This is your Harvest Mojo Bag.
  6. Seal your Harvest Mojo Bag with twine and add it to your Harvest Jar. Now you may close your Harvest Jar.
  7. Next, identify antique bronze charms that represent your past harvests – i.e., accomplishments, victories, gains, lessons learned, achievements unlocked.
  8. Choose a piece of fabric, finish the sides with pinking shears if you like, and then sew your charms onto the fabric anywhere you wish. This is the “charmed crown” for your Harvest Jar.
  9. Place the charmed crown on top of your closed Harvest Jar and hold it in place with twine.
  10. This Harvest Jar contains Harvest Incense Blend to purify and consecrate your harvest magic, scrolls representing the “crops” that you’re working on harvesting, a Harvest Mojo Bag representing your will to manifest the harvest, and a charmed crown to bless and empower your harvest goals using the energy of past successful harvests. Charge your Harvest Jar using whatever methods you usually use to empower your spells.
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A Lammas Ritual

Personal Lammas AltarSince relocating to Missouri, I’ve developed a relationship with The Circle of Fountains, a local eclectic coven of diverse witchy practitioners. At the end of July, right on the cusp of August, I was given an opportunity to create and lead ritual for the group. During this August Eve/Lammas ritual, we honored the harvest and the toilsome work required for its reaping. The ritual was preceded by a magical crafting session during which participants made Harvest Jars. The craft was then consecrated in the energy of the ritual. Each participant also received a sickle which was also consecrated in the energy of the ritual. The full ritual script is given here. Please do not copy the ritual in whole or in part without my express written permission. Many thanks!

Altar Decorations & Ritual Tools

  • Table for Altar
  • Seasonal Altar Cloths
  • Lustral Water
    • 16oz Water, 1 tbsp Sea Salt, 2oz Vodka, and a Splash of Florida Water
  • Large Bowl for Lustral Water
  • Hand Towel for Lustral Water
  • Harvest Incense Blend
    • Sweet Woodruff, Red Clover Leaves, Cornflower, Copal, Lavender, Red Poppy Petals, Cardamom, Yarrow, Bergamot Oil, and Frankincense Oil.
  • Small Bowl for Harvest Incense Blend
  • Censer
  • Incense Charcoal
  • Lighter
  • Frame Drum
  • Bread Plates
  • Bread Loaf for Serving at Circle Casting
  • Basket
  • Stalks of Wheat
  • Ritual Scythe
  • Bread Loaf Completely Covered In Tea Towel
  • Beer or Ale
  • Chalice or Drinking Horn
  • Bloodstones
  • Carnelian
  • Vigil Candles for Illumination

Preparing for Ritual

Purification & Consecration

At the center of the altar, the basket should contain the stalks of wheat, ritual sickle, and loaf of bread wrapped in a tea towel. Every effort should be taken to ensure that the bread remains covered throughout the ritual. All other items may be arranged on the altar in a way that is both visually pleasing and functional.

Lustral water is used to purify the room in advance. Harvest Incense Blend is also burned in advance to consecrate the space.

Facilitator carries the lustral water and the incense to the celebrants who cleanse and consecrate themselves. Facilitator then sets the lustral water and censor aside when done.

Grounding & Centering

Participants may continue to sit, or they may stand as Facilitator leads a grounding and centering exercise based on the life cycle of plants: Planting, Laying Roots and Sprouting Leaves, Reaching for Sunlight and Fertile Soil, Growing Above and Below, Receiving Life and Love from Earth and Sky, Drawing the Vital Energy of This World to and Through Your Center.

Procession

I invite you to rise and take your sickle in your dominant hand with the curve of the blade turned down. Please take your Harvest Jar in the other hand. Follow me into the temple if you will.

Facilitator then leads the procession into the ritual room.

Casting the Circle & Calling the Quarters

Ritual participants enter the temple.

Please circle around the altar. Place your Harvest Jar at the base of the altar forming a circle around it. After that please place your sickle – hilt to tip – in front of your Harvest jar also forming a circle around the base of the altar.

Facilitator approaches the altar and takes 2 plates of bread in hand.

She takes a turn around the altar clockwise and then speaks:

Within and without, throughout and about,

Bread is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

Facing the North

Bread is diligent, growing Earth in golden grain.

Facing the East

Bread is inspired, lifting Air in leavening.

Facing the South

Bread is creative, changing Fire in oven-cured sustenance.

Facing the West

Bread is mighty, ever-flowing Water in moist succulence.

Facilitator passes the bread places to the celebrants, saying:

I invite you to take a piece of bread for yourself, then pass the bread plate to the person to your left.

Break bread clockwise and share a piece with all gathered saying:

Bread is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

Within and without, throughout and about,

Our circle is cast, and the elements dwell within.

Place the remains of the bread onto the altar when done.

Blessed be.

The Core Observance

The Labor: Mystery of Working, Sweating, & Sacrificing

Facilitator takes the basket full of wheat in hand saying:

Behold! The grain from which the bread is made.

The labor of rich earth and bright sky.

The labor of countless spirits, coaxing the grain to take root and to rise.

The labor of calloused hands, bent back, and sore feet.

The ever turning work of centuries of centuries.

Move through the ritual space showing the basket of grain to the people, saying:

Here is sweaty labor and toilsome work.

If we would have the bread at grain’s bittersweet end,

We must work and labor, again and again.

What toilsome work callouses your hands?

What heavy burden bends your back?

What labor wearies your feet?

Call out and take a stalk for each of your pained gains.

Facilitator returns the basket to the altar. Ritual participants call out each answer and approach the altar taking stalks of grain for each “pained gain”. Participants witness and offer support to one another.

During this period of toilsome work, Facilitator maintains a steady beat on her drum while all sing the Labor of Love hymn:

A stalk for each sorrow you bear

A stalk for each burden you carry

A stalk for your pain, a stalk for your gain

A stalk for each labor of love

Once all have answered and collected their stalks, sing a final round of the hymn.

Facilitator plays the drum for a short moment to mark the transition. She then sets the drum down.

The Harvest: The Mystery of Reaping, Threshing, & Winnowing

Facilitator takes two modest handfuls of grain from the basket and says:

The wheat has grown high.

Behold the labor of your hands and your head and your heart!

The wheat has grown high.

Behold the struggles you’ve endured!

The wheat has grown high.

Behold all that has brought you to this moment of harvest!

Facilitator combines the two handfuls of wheat into one bouquet held to her chest. She approaches the altar and takes up the sickle with her dominant hand. She holds the grain in one hand and a sickle in the other standing in the God position.

Know this: your toilsome work will soon yield.

The grain is ripe for reaping.

The harvest is upon us!!

So that we may live, the grain must die!

Please take up your own sickle now.

During this harvest, I will ask you for three names:

Your name is the first word of power. You are the sower and the reaper.

Your sickle’s name is the second word of power. This is what you give. This is the sharp blade that will fell the grain.

The third word of power is the name you’ve given to the chaff. This is what you release. The chaff is the tough indigestible outer shell of the wheat that must be winnowed and discarded in order to obtain the nutritious, life-giving part of the hard-won grain.

Facilitator leaves the God position and allows the wheat and sickle to rest at her sides.

May I have a volunteer to harvest first? From there we will proceed counterclockwise around the room until all have brought in their harvest.

What is your name?

The name of the sickle?

The name of the chaff?

Choose your helpers…and chop, chop…!!

All celebrate the cutting and continue chanting the word “Chop” to the rhythm of our heartbeats. After the first reaper, Facilitator returns the bouquet of uncut wheat and the sickle back to the basket on the altar.

Facilitator then takes the basket and, moving counterclockwise, collects everyone’s cuttings.

As celebrants wrap up their chopping and place cuttings into the basket, the Chop Chant fades and then ends.

Facilitator holds the basket of cut wheat in one hand for all to see and takes the ritual sickle with the other hand. Directing the sickle at the cut grain, Facilitator says:

I now invite each of you to join me. Please point your sickle at the fallen grain. Here lie our struggles and woes. Here lie the challenges and adversities that have grown us, shaped us, and transformed us.

Facilitator taps the basket with the sickle three times. The Rising and Falling Chant is sung by all three times:

Rising and falling and rising and falling

Rising and falling and rising again.

Participants continue to chant “Rising and Falling” while Facilitator speaks the following over the basket of grain:

Behold! Stalks of wheat,

We’ve given you each a name.

And with these blades, we’ve cut you down.

You fall to rise again.

Facilitator then places the sickle inside the basket along with the cut grain. She shifts the basket to one arm and then takes a loaf of bread that has been resting inside that same basket (with the sickle and the wheat) throughout the entire ritual, completely covered with a tea towel so that no one could see that it was bread before this moment.

Facilitator walks among the ritual participants with the wheat and sickle inside the basket and the still covered holy bread in her free hand.

Participants continue to chant “Rising and Falling” while Facilitator says:

Giving and releasing bring harvest.

Struggle yields growth

Labor brings reward,

Adversity yields transformation

Uncover the whole and holy bread.

This is the mystery of the grain.

Loss is transformed into gain.

What rises, falls, and rises again.

Blessed be.

The chant fades and all say blessed be.

I invite you to return your sickles to ground around the altar.

The Return: Mystery of Replenishing, Recovering, & Celebrating

Facilitator returns the ritual basket of wheat and sickle to the altar. She keeps the bread in hand saying:

 This is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

 I invite you to give this bread the last name – the name of your harvest. This is the embodiment of all your striving, the nourishing yield of your toilsome work.

 Call out! Blessed bread, we name you…

Facilitator sets the bread on top of the towel inside the basket and pours beer into a chalice for serving. She then takes up both the bread and the chalice saying:

 Blessed are the bread and the ale, product of love and labor. They connect us to Earth and Sky, to land and wind, to sun and rain, and to one another.

We celebrate bounty, as well as the labor and loss, growth and gain that accompany the richness of the harvest. Blessed be!

Pass the bread and cup together counterclockwise for all to partake.

When all are done, return the remnants of the bread and the cup to the altar.

Closing the Circle & Quarters

Take one uncut piece of grain from the altar and wield it throughout the circle closing, saying:

 And now we end this ritual much like it began…

Within and without, throughout and about,

Bread is a sacred mystery, whole and holy.

Facing the West

Bread is mighty, ever-flowing Water in moist succulence.

Facing the South

Bread is creative, changing Fire in oven-cured sustenance.

Facing the East

Bread is inspired, lifting Air in leavening.

Facing the North

Bread is diligent, growing Earth in golden grain.

Holding the single stalk of grain aloft, say:

Within and without, throughout and about,

The circle is open, yet unbroken.

Making eye contact with the celebrants, say:

Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again!

For Her

Peach wine touched with fire
Poured with pious purpose
For She who dwells in the dark hollow place within the earth
For She who brought forth nine strange children, born and tried in flame
For She whose heart is an ember and whose eyes are tear-tossed and bloody.
Accept my offering of sustenance and solace.

Thesmophoria: A Guided Journey to Demeter’s Depths

Last weekend I attended the Gaea Goddess Gathering, an annual women’s festival that takes place at Gaea Retreat Center in Kansas. On Friday, September 15th, the second day of the festival, I led a guided meditation that centered the Thesmophoria, a major Greek holy day honoring Demeter and Kore. I’ve decided to share the script here for those who may be interested. The script should be read slowly but fluently, allowing for both short and long pauses where appropriate.
'Thesmophoria'_by_Francis_Davis_Millet,_1894-1897
I invite you to find comfort in this moment, comfort in the position of your body, comfort in your gaze and how it softly settles on a focal point here in the garden, or on the backs of your eyelids. I invite you to breathe in that comfort and to exhale any tension that you may be carrying. Breathe deeply sisters, belly rise and fall. Allowing each breathe in to bring peace and each breathe out to carry away tension. When you are ready I invite you to ground and center in your usual way. You may feel the earth firm and steady beneath you. As you feel called, you may allow your own energy to descend along your spine reaching into the earth, connecting with the earth, and drawing that stabilizing energy up into your own energy field. When you feel deeply rooted, you may decide to feel your energy coursing upward along your spine, up through the crown of your head and into the sky realm. I invite you to allow that bright energy to help you orient yourself to the here and now. Breathe deeply sisters. Belly rise, belly fall. Allowing the energy of earth and sky to dance along your spine, meeting at the center of your being. As these energy currents mingle within you, know that you are now grounded, oriented, and centered.
 
I invite you to continue breathing comfortably, allowing your breath to be what it is, allowing yourself to be who and how you are. Your breath is a life-line joining you to your body and mind, to here and now. At your own will, no matter where you are in today’s guided meditation, you may return your awareness to your breath and to the here and now. Breathe deeply sisters. Belly rise, belly fall.
In your mind’s eye you become aware of a gathering of women. You see that the women have gathered together at the foot of a great hill to seek blessings of fertility from the Thesmophoros – the Two Goddesses, Demeter and Kore. I invite you to attune with your deep self. How do you feel in this moment as you prepare to ascend the hill? Are you willing? Are you ready?
 
Remembering to breathe, what do you notice about the hill? What sights enter your gaze? What smells fill the air? What sounds do you hear as the women assemble?
 
As you deepen your awareness of yourself and the women around you, perhaps you notice that the women are holding various items. You know that what they carry, they intend to sacrifice to Demeter in order to ensure their fertility. Turning your gaze to your own hands, your own shoulders, your own back: what do you carry to Demeter for sacrifice in the great pit deep within the earth?
 
Remembering to breathe, you recall that the ancient Greek women who took this pilgrimage centuries before carried traditional offerings of piglets as well as serpents and phalluses made of dough – sympathetic, agrarian magic as old as the human race. Perhaps you carry the same offerings as your foresisters, or perhaps your sacrifice for fertility is different. What do you carry to Demeter for sacrifice in the great pit deep within the earth?
In this moment, as you prepare to ascend the hill, you know that you will cast it into the Megara – Demeter’s pit within the deep earth – the chasm located inside the temple at the top of the hill. This is your fruit and your sacrifice. It is what death will take and transform in order to fertilize the next crop in your life, ensuring the cycle of fertile growth for years to come. Holding your fruit, your sacrifice close to you, you know that what you carry now will be laid down in the deep earth, transformed, and returned by Demeter’s might to nourish new life.
 
Breathe deeply and remember your purpose here. You hear the women around you stirring. The procession to the temple begins. The women ascend the hill, placing one foot in front of the other, casting their eyes to the temple at the top of the hill as they gain ground. You may choose to ascend with your sisters, placing one foot in front of the other, gaining ground. What do you observe about the feel of the path under your feet? What do you notice about the sights and sounds around you? With each step taken and every new foot of elevation gained as you move up the hill with your sisters, what do you notice about the fruit, the sacrifice that you carry? Perhaps you take note of how the sacrifice makes you feel. You may view your chosen sacrifice positively and look forward to offering it to Demeter, or perhaps you feel a growing sense of another feeling as you ascend in thoughtful procession with your sisters.
 
Breathing, at last you reach the sanctuary at the top of the hill and you glance back at the path you ascended. You remember that this path was called Anodos or The Way Up by the ancient Greeks. Holding your fruit, your sacrifice, you recall that this was also the name given to Kore’s path up from the underworld, back to the world of the living, bringing fertility and growth back to the world by her mother’s grace. As you cross the threshold to the temple at the top of the hill, you remember that the annual Thesmophoria festival honors Kore’s loss and the promise of her return, praying for the end of Demeter’s wrath and the beginning of her favor. 
 
Inside the temple, priestesses of Demeter approach two great slabs of ornate wood that appear to cover a vast and deep well. As the priestesses remove the slabs you realize that the wood covers not a well but the Megara of Demeter, the seething pit containing the composting remains of previous fruits, previous sacrifices. With a deep breath you stand before the Megara and cast your own sacrifice into the pit. What fruit did you sacrifice in order to draw up fertility from the earth of your being? Breathing deeply, you may choose to take note of sensations you are experiencing.
 
As you contemplate the sacrifice that you’ve thrown into the pit, you see additional priestesses approach the Megara: the bailers. You notice that they are simply but purposefully dressed, perhaps for a sacred but very physical task. With focus and intent, each bailer comes to the edge of the Megara and with the help of her fellow priestesses lowers herself down deep into the pit. These holy women bail up the remains of previous animal and plant offerings, sacred fertilizer for the community’s fields and gardens. 
How will Demeter transform your sacrifice? You may continue to ponder this question as the bailers carry several containers to the altar for blessing. In your own way, you join the priestesses and your sisters in praying for fertility – the fertility of the land, the fertility of the animals, and your own fertility in whatever way is meaningful for you.
 
As you observe the fertilizer from the Megara on the altar, you understand that the cycles of fertility are complex, requiring life and love, sacrifice and decay, transformation and renewal to ensure that life and love reign again in their season. How will you use Demeter and Kore’s fertile gift? What will you allow it to cultivate and nourish within you and your life?
 
As you continue to breathe deeply and comfortably, you hear a priestess of the Thesmophoros announce that the holy work of the day is done. The women gathered in the temple begin to stir and move toward the temple door. You join your sisters. Before you cross the threshold of the temple you thank Demeter and Kore for their blessings. 
Step by step you descend the hill, leaving the temple behind you, but remembering the work that you’ve done there, the sacrifice you made, and the fertile gift you received. As you descend the hill, you steadily grow more aware of yourself and your sisters in the here and now. As you allow your weight to sink more and more deeply into the earth and you feel her rise to meet you, you understand that here and now is Gaea Retreat Center. You remember that your breath can guide you home. You recall that each breath in and out is a call to feel your feet and legs, your thighs and hips, your arms and hands, your torso and head. Breathing yourself more fully into your body, you feel your eyes flutter open and those gathered here in Flora’s garden come into view.

The Nine Worlds Series: Niflheim

In Norse lore, Niflheim is one of the first of the Nine Worlds to emerge into being. Mist-Home is filled with icy mountains and glaciers. The entire realm seemed perilously high but that may be because of where I landed upon entering the world. Obviously, Niflheim is also frigidly cold. The whole world is bombarded with snow and wind, and heavy grey clouds hang in the sky. These were my observations on my first travel excursion to Niflheim nearly a year ago.

I’ve visited Nifl-World a few times since then. One foggy night nearly six months after my very first trip, I visited by astral home and from there made my way to Niflheim. I eventually found the road that I had been shown so many times before and I struggled to move at all. The snow was deep and frigid cold. The wind was howling and a storm was gathering. I made a tiny bit of progress along the way. As the storm gathered, I thought about seeking shelter and in an instant I ended up in a small cave that I think belonged to an ice giant or some other denizen of the realm. The owner of the home, such as it was, was nowhere in sight. The walls of the space were pale and a small window faced the gathering storm in the southwest. The room was warmer than the outdoors but I did not linger. I gathered myself and all of my accompanying parts and left post-haste. I desperately needed the warmth and took ease where I shouldn’t have.

When I returned to the road I paused to ask my guide why I was having so much trouble. I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of progress on this journey so I had to ask. My guide spoke of the sluggish nature of Isa and of the toilsome work embodied by Nauthiz. My journey through Niflheim having been supported by these two runic forces was mired in their might, for better or worse. My guide added that various parts of my soul are energetically compatible with Niflheim and other parts are less so which adds to my challenges with navigating this world.

After sharing these tidbits with me he showed me flashes of the Nifl-Giants, most slow moving and the oldest ones appearing completely unmoving to the naked eye, but all of them present and aware and active in their own way. I understood that they figure time, energy, and awareness differently than I do. What had felt like a literally glacial pace to me was just another hectic day to them.

In a previous divination session and another meditation I was told that my time in Niflheim would be lengthy. My guide’s comments about the flow of Nifl life helped me to see that basically I need to slow down and focus in order to get anywhere or do anything in Niflheim. Again time, energy, and everything are figured differently here. His call was not for the slow ease of a Caribbean vacation but for the careful, meditative engagement that comes through a wise mind sharply focused on a task – which is pretty slow if not “easy”.

After I received my guide’s rede I collected myself and returned to the middle world. I opened my eyes and gasped at the time because what had felt to me like a 30-minute astral journey had in fact been two hours.

When considering the runes that rule this world, a few came to mind. Mist-Home has strong Isa might of course, and Hagalaz factors prominently as well in the form of the cosmic seed. For humans, Nauthiz is a part of Niflheim too because it provides the needed spark of warmth, light, and life to deliver us from the Bone Chill of Mist-Home. I say Nauthiz instead of Kenaz because Nauthiz is is the red blinking emergency light to Kenaz’s warm white hall light. Nauthiz is the last light, the only light, the one standing between us and the teeming hordes of the yawning dark. Nauthiz is the warding force at the edge of the camp fire keeping the predators at bay.

When facing the challenges of Niflhiem, at the human scale of power, the Hrimthursar can’t be bested by overpowering (too much energy) or erosion (too much time). The Rime Thursar can’t be trampled over. They must be worked around or worked with, like mighty glaciers. Glaciers move extremely slowly and yet are powerful beyond compare. They are destructive and also creative – sculpting the continents and nourishing life on Earth for eons. Never forget, the first Well – Hverglmir – emanates from Niflheim.

After having been to Niflheim a few times, here’s some travel advice gained from a giantess I met on my first visit and from experience there after:

  1. Do not travel in human form. The mountains have eyes and humans are generally unwelcome in this realm.
  2. Do not use fire often. It may act as a beacon for woe.
  3. Do not wander in this world. One should be here with a purpose so stay on the road presented to you.
  4. Keep moving! Slow and steady.
  5. If challenged on the way, speak the name of the Power who protects you and under whose auspices you travels. If you are allied with no such being, reconsider your travel plans.
  6. Navigate the storms (and all of this world) with great care. It lives. I’ve found this to be just as true of the Eight Worlds as of our One World.

Blessed Travels!