Four Quarters of the Moon

Four Quarters of the Moon

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Although my soul resonates with the old Night Religion, I am not Wiccan. That is nothing against Wicca, merely my own preference to stay free of group-minds. I have certainly learned a lot from Wiccan teachings over the years, those that have been available to the public through books and things. Back around 1980, I found many of the early witchcraft books very inspiring, such as The Spiral Dance, The White Goddess, The Sea Priestess, etc.  There was very good one long out of print called Moon, Moon. One of the primary figures that fascinated me was the Triple Moon Goddess.

One of her most evocative images was as a row of three identical mothers in peaked hoods carved in stone on some ancient Roman wall. These three mothers are primal. I later discovered the concept of the Triple Moon Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone. I don’t recall, or don’t remember, the origin of this idea, but it was everywhere. As a sky watcher since childhood and a moon lover, this symbolism just never felt right. Clearly, in my original, un-indoctrinated,  mind, the moon did not have three phases, but four.  Somehow, like the famous Durer etching of the “Three Witches”, the obvious four had been reduced to three and, despite the obvious presence of the fourth figure, this mistake continues to be made. ( see my post Four Witches, Three Graces, or Something Else). The old academic mind  has seemed to be entranced by the Three Graces, the Three Muses,  the Three Fates, the Norns, to a blinding degree. Why do they ignore the fourth? What are they afraid of?

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I rebelled against mainline Feminism, hanging on to my femininity at all costs. Not only did I enjoy embodying that quality, I knew the inherent, soulful power of it. I was actually frightened by the idea of giving that up to become to a kind of imitation and therefore lesser “man”, for that could only lead to drainage of the woman’s wild soul. In those days the alternate path was made available through “Women’s Studies”. Under that umbrella was the Women’s Spirituality Movement where, in the bookstores,  the ancient mythologies of the world could be found. There I found my elders, the Grandmothers who, if I sifted through the pop-ideological nonsense, I found keys to the deep knowing.

Clearly the moon has four phases: Waxing Crescent, Full Moon, Waning Crescent, and Dark Moon, wrongfully called the New Moon. The term New Moon more accurately describes the slim first crescent as the moon re-appears in the sky after three nights of darkness. This is Diana’s bow.  (The varying iconography of the Goddess Diana is worthy of another blog post). It seems the Dark Moon is being left out. Perhaps it is because it is the Black Moon of Death.

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Back in the 1980s “Women’s Mysteries” were so-called because no one ever talked about things like menstruation which is our distinct connection to the moon. Womanhood was equated to giving birth. We were meant to represent fertility only in the most active stages: either being the Maiden in preparation for conception of  children, the Mother, pregnant and nurturing, or the Grandmother, or Crone (another mis-applied term) taking care to guide the younger ones. These are beautiful concepts, but by leaving out the Dark Mother — the real Crone — the ancient Old One — does not protect us from the disturbing subject of death, rather it cuts us off from the natural cycle of Life, Death, and Re-birth. It severs us from our souls.

There may have been a hidden agenda as well in hiding knowledge of this fourth phase of the moon that has to do with the Dark Side of the Moon. There are two issues here.

1: Denial of the Dark Moon is denial of the Dark Predator in the psyche. By keeping our inner darkness unconscious, we remain children ( as Patriarchy wants us to be) Naive and easy prey to externalizations of the evil force. By recognizing and owning this wild creature within, we are empowered by it, able to fight and defend ourselves and those we love like mother bears. we also earn how stop pushing, to let go, to rest, to allow rejuvenation and rebirth, safe in the silence of the Dark Mother.

Esoterically the Moon has always been considered to be the gateway of souls falling from Heaven to the Sub-Lunar atmosphere to enter a quickened womb to be born again on earth. This purpose is that of the life-giving phase of Waxing to Full Moon that is the sign of the Fertile Mother.

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Spirits of the Dead by Kieron Rhys-Johnson

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2: There is an esoteric planet behind the moon, at the Dark Side. This is called the Eighth Sphere, portal to the realm of the dead.

This Eight Sphere is a tricky issue, for it is said that it is a realm of hungry ghosts, or demons. The Women’s Spirituality Movement of the 1980s slipped into the larger New Age Movement ( all these “movements” crikey!) so easily that almost became synonymous. (As a born clairvoyant, I was drawn into this “movement” against my will as I knew my abilities had nothing to do with any commercial/ political “movement” but were a natural condition of my soul. Clairvoyance is Seer-ship. It does not depend on spirits to see into the Unseen, but are symptoms of an awakened Inner Eye.) The job of the New Age was partly to seduce some people into becoming dependent upon spirits by joining the ranks of Channelers and Trance Mediums. ( I was warned against Mediumship very early on) These methods of “communicating with the dead” lead directly into contact with that Eighth Sphere, home to the the Shells  and what Qabbalists call the Qlippoth. These things want your soul.

I will not elaborate further on this, except to say that the two are Not the same thing. In the esoteric realm it is so important to get the symbolism straight because symbols are keys to the psychic core. They effect you in subtle ways which is one reason why so much of this stuff was, until very recent times, kept secret.

Secrecy cuts both ways, of course. My goal is enliven Soul.

Christian Influences on Our Perception of the Moon

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I just want to share a fragment of my forthcoming book, The Grail Keepers’ Tarot, to illustrate an important junction in how lunar, and therefore female and fertility symbolism may have come to be manipulated for propaganda purposes. It comes under my description of Trump number 18, The Moon, depicted in my tarot deck as The Three Maries of the Sea.

“The image of the Three Marys of the Sea may have its roots in the pagan Triune Goddess of the Moon, or the Three Fates—-Spinner, Weaver and Cutter of the cord. The moon and the sea are of course inseparable, for the tides are ruled by the phases of the Moon. The introduction of the dark-skinned servant, Sara the Egyptian, suggests the hidden presence of the fourth lunar phase, the dark moon. In the old legend, the Three Marys threw Sara overboard, but a raft took shape beneath her and she was saved. On a symbolic level, this cruel behavior is early evidence of the Christian tendency to fear the hidden side of things, things that only come out in the total darkness, and move at the edges of consciousness, banished deities like Sara, who are yet saved by the invisible ones. Many of the Black Madonnas of France and Spain are associated with the hidden Sara of the black moon.”

Sara is worshipped under ground, in a cave, a place reserved in the ancient world, for the dead.

This is not glorify death, or to encourage a Death Cult. Not by any means. Nihilism leads to all kinds of abuses and has to do with that Eighth Sphere. But to deny the existence of that fourth, Dark Moon, is to flee the very cycles of life that lead to our deepest natures, our courage and maturity. Denial of this dark makes perpetual children of us. The Ancient Mother is ultimately our teacher and protector.

Those who disagree with me are free to comment. This is a deep topic, prone to dogmas and worthy of debate.

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

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Witches Wheel

Alder, alder, tree of the Faerie King

Who rises from the Underworld waters in Spring;

Raven bedecked, and oracle crowned.

Cone, leaf, and blossom, new life shall abound.

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Fearn (farin)

There is powerful poetry in the succession of trees, for the death dream of Willow in February is dispersed by the return of the Alder in March to summon the greenwood awake.

Alder springs from the watery places that are the interface between the mortal world and Fearie. The Alder tree is called King of the Waters. His red inner bark, and purple buds display his royal status. He is  connected  to two other water loving trees. The Queen of the Waters, Willow, and the Lady of the Woods, Birch. White Alder looks very much like Birch, suggesting a sibling relationship; Birch stands at the threshold of Winter, as Alder guards the gateway to  Spring.

Anyone who has walked in a young wood will find the Alder as straight and densely packed as troop of warriors. In the Gaelic battle of the Trees, Alder was said to fight most fiercely. Small wonder the Celts made their  battle shields of Alder wood, for despite its softness, it was imbued with the essence of the brave Faerie King. Alder also represents the Wounded King. When he is cut, his wood turns  red as blood. Reflected in the waters, these wounds may appear to be  blood spilled forth as a sacrifice to earth, guaranteeing the resurrection of all  living things.

Alder is the only deciduous tree to have cones as seeds. As we know from the Greeks, the pine cone represents the pineal gland, seat of vision and communion with the Divine. Dionysis  carries a staff with a pine cone at the tip, emblem of masculine fertility. Alder cones grow in a spiral pattern, symbolizing the role of male of fertility in the cycle of death and rebirth.

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Bran the Blessed

The famous Irish warlord, Bran the Blessed takes the Alder as his special tree.  He is another aspect of the Faerie King, Lord of the Underworld who springs up to the surface world with the strengthening of the light.  Alder is called The Shining Tear of the Sun. This image suggests  the rising sun reflected in water, inspiring a vision of the golden oracular head of Bran coming up from the Underworld.  Ravens attend on Bran.  Raptors that thrive even in winter, ravens carry messages from the dark realms into the light. The sacred Head of Bran speaks true poetry: Death conquers all; there is no death.

Because of its associations with Bran, the Alder is sacred to poets and singers, which were synonymous in ancient times.  Mortally wounded in battle, Bran  prophesied the events that would follow his death. He then told his men to cut off his head and carry it with them. Like the alder wood, it never decayed. They carried Bran’s head to Harlech where is sang for seven years. They carried it to Gwales where it spoke prophecies. They brought it to London and buried it under the White Mount, site of the Tower of London, to protect England from invasion. If not for the hubris of King Arthur digging the head of Bran up, it would still be there. Yet the ravens remain to sound the alarm.

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Fertility

Alder has another aspect of the Between.  He bears female catkins. These attract caterpillars that spin cocoons and re-emerge as moths and butterflies. Darkness to light, death to rebirth once more. Butterflies attend the King  by day. Moths keep him company at night. Alder is the foundation of magic—-transformation of the world, and of the self are in his power.

So primal is the power of trees that Irish lore says the first man was and Alder and the First woman a Rowan.

Alder is fertile and generous.  Though soft, he has an oily bark making him resistant to water and fire.  Therefore pilings for lakeside houses and docks, boats and even wooden shoes have relied on the wood of the Alder to last. He also gives many colorful dyes. Red, purple, yellow, brown, and black. Dye production and spinning of cocoons make Alder sacred to the Weaving Goddess, who also attends upon the Wounded King in the Arthurian Legend. He feeds many creatures. Bees love his flowers, grouse eats leaves, buds and seeds, rabbits chew his bark.

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Alder Healing:

Alder bark is prepared for medicinal use by carefully scraping off the dead outer bark and using the green, living tissue underneath. Alder bark can be simmered in water to make a wash for very deep wounds, rashes, and burns. The leaves and bark are simmered into a bitter tea for tonsillitis and fever. He helps with diseases of damp, relieving joint pain and inflammation.

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Alder Working:

March is a time for making spiritual decisions. Prophecy and divination rites come in handy for this., assisting your intuitive processes and abilities. Alder flowers and twigs are used as charms  in Faerie magic. Whistles made out of Alder shoots call upon Air spirits. It’s an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute.

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Our hopes and dreams for the New Year can be manifested in the Alder time. Alder grows quickly, so focus on  things that might be stalled. Use this bounding new energy to resolve old disputes and more forward into the new.

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Magical Correspondences

Ogham Name: Fearn

Letter: F

Tree: Alder

Deities: Bran the Blessed, Faerie King, Astarte and Tammuz, Phoroneus inventor of fire

Bird: Raven

Use: Gateway to Faerie, Divination, Protection, Healing, Musicianship

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – Birch

Birch

The graceful Birch is the White lady of the Woods. It is fitting that these trees,
ghostly in twilight, should stand at either side of the gate of the Celtic New
Year of October 31st, for it has come down to us that passing among the
birches can take you into the Otherworld.

_2F_images_2F_origs_2F_909_2F_new_beginning_autumn_aspen_paintings_birch_tree_art_by_jennifer_vranesNew Beginnings by Jennifer Vranes

Witches Wheel

Birch, white stemmed birch
Stands pale in the dark forest.
A rod of Birch will cleanse us of evil
And usher us through November’s long doorway…

Beth (Beh)

There was an old Samhain tradition of running down an avenue of birch trees
while being flogged with the twigs as a means of purification for the New Year.
This birch portal at the gate of the New Year mirrors its position as first of the
letters, for it is the opener of the gate to the Ogham, the creation of Ogma
Sun-Face, God of Eloquence.

Birch was traditionally used to make cradles for babies to protect them from
being stolen by the Siddhe. It seems typically paradoxical that the tree that
opens the doors to the Otherworld would be used to protect a child from
possession by it, but perhaps the birch bark cradle served to fool the Gentry
into thinking the child was already theirs…

In Britain, the maypole is made of birch while the wonderful scraggly birch twigs
are used to kindle the Beltane fires. The best witches brooms are made of birch with those wonderful black twigs as sweepers.

There is an old tradition of burying the dead with conical birch bark hats on their heads to insure the purification of their souls.

The lines are from the English ballad: The Wife of Usher’s Well. The lady’s sons appear wearing their birch bark hats — proof that they are dead.

It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.

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Birch Working

Imagine the birch trees standing across from each other, their topmost branches in the shape of a Gothic arch. On the other side, calling you with its mysterious, mist filled grandeur is Faery. If you walk through, you will enter the trance that allows divination by the Ogham.

Divination by Birch: Protection from harm both physical and magical. Cleansing, leaving the negative, life draining energies behind to start over refreshed. A time of going inward to store power in purity. Clear the ground of
obstructions so that new things may grow. Change comes gradually with the turning of the Wheel.

Magic can be done for fertility and creativity, healing and protection.
Tie a red ribbon around a birch tree to ward off negative energies. Hang birch twigs over a new baby’s cradle. Use birch bark as magical parchment to keep your writings safe.

Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Letter: Beth
Letter: B
Deities: The White Goddess, Belin, White Ladies of the Forest
Bird: Pheasant
Animal: White Cow
Herb: Fly Agaric Mushrooms — The Flowers of Annwn
Color: White

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – part 2

The Alphabet of the Gods

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According to the Irish Bards of old, the Ogham was received by a great poet, mac Elatha mac Delbeath from the God Ogma Grian-ainech or Ogma Sun-Face, a mercurial God of language and poetry. It was instantly conceived as a magical tool. One only has to cast the mind back to the times when uttering spells and charms was enough to change reality at will, or to recall the opening of the Bible, “In the beginning was the WORD”, in order to grasp the power of letters and language in the old world before books usurped the power of communication and turned language into a standard collection of letters printed on pieces of parchment. Of course every witch knows that books themselves in those times were believed to be magical, and for some of us, they still are.

The first letter written was the Ogham for Birch, Beth, carved seven times on the birch bark paper by Ogma for the God Lugh, as an oracle to warn him that his wife would be carried away.

Blogger, Kevin Jones, at: www.taliere.tripod.com, has these interesting things to say about the word Ogham:

Ogham is named after Ogma. However, in Greek ogmos means a line, row or
furrow, which is quite an apt description of Ogham… In Scots Gaelic the word
for Ogham, oidheam, means ‘a notion of anything, an idea, an inference, hint’.
This is an accurate description of the Ogham. The cognate word in Latin,
agmen, means both ‘boatmen’s oars’ and ‘speech’, which is very apt! There is
also the rather obscure word ogygia which is best translated as primeval or
‘before time’. This may or may not be related but if it is, it is apt since the
Ogham does concern primeval things.

Primeval…yes! What could be more primeval than the trees and the sky and
the birds and the earth?

Wooden portal of the Stave Church at Urnes

Deer nibbling the leaves of the Ash Tree
that is also like a door into the Otherworld.

Witches Wheel

Two trees on either side of a path can be perceived as gateways
into the Otherworld. Therefore you must pass between two birches on the Eve
of Samhain, or All Soul’s Night, to begin your journey around the Wheel of the
Year through the grove of sacred trees.

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acadia-birch-trees-michael-hudson

photo:Michael Hudson

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As pretty as the correspondences are, I feel the current popular trend of creating Celtic Tree calenders with Birch on the threshold of January is  wrong. The Ogham is an ancient Celtic system. The ancient Celtic calender, and one adopted by many who follow a magical Celtic path, begins at Samhain and the Rites of the Birch are meant to be carried out at that time.

Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess, was among the first to popularize the Ogham as the sacred alphabet of the Celts.  He also claimed that all true poetry sprang from this sacred source, magical words formed of magical letters seeded in the subconscious of the inspired poet, and behind that was the power of the Great Goddess. His description of this alphabet, which he called Beth, Luis, Nion, or Birch, Rowan, and Ash respectively, follows the Celtic year of thirteen lunar months. beginning on November first.

I am following the order of trees in a poem I wrote in the early 1980’s called Witches Wheel. I wrote this poem under the influence of The White Goddess, well before the New Age version of Ogham hit the bookstores under the guise of “Celtic Astrology”. Each tree in this book is accompanied by a stanza of this old poem of mine, which was the first poem I ever had published. Even this order is unusual, but it the one that works for me. I give my reasons in the text, though I wrote the poem in a completely intuitive, stream of consciousness state that intellectually justified none of my choices.

The truth is that the idea of a Celtic Tree calender has more to do with the Celtic Twilight of the Victorian Age than with any historical facts. Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful concept that inspires the imagination and gives us a sense of place in a world where human beings are increasingly alienated from nature.

As one who resonates with the most primal levels in magic, I will attempt to reach back intuitively  into the origins of the Ogham in the mists of the “Dark Ages” on the British Isles.  Fact or fantasy? Who cares!

snow-queen-birch-tree-betula-jacquemontii-snow-queen-syn.doorenbos-662

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