Category Archives: Serenity Zine

Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s and Don’ts

Following these simple  Do’s and Don’ts will help you to have a great first experience, and leave a wonderful first impression.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do: Remember your notebook
  • Don’t: Worry if you forgot your pen, we have plenty.
  • Do: Participate fully, hum/sing along
  • Don’t: Hold back, – join in often.
  • Do: Follow along physically – watch the handmaiden for posture cues.
  • Don’t: Worry if you’re not sure.
  • Do: Remember to bring a feast contribution
  • Don’t:  Forget to fill out an allergen-friendly card
  • Do: Remember to wear comfortable and weather sensible street clothes
  • Don’t: Wear green, red, or blue ritual robes, or amber or jet jewelry.
  • Do: Provide a Craft/Magickal name if you have one
  • Don’t: Provide a password if you don’t have one.
  • Do: Remember to take any medications you may need
  • Don’t: Forget to tell us if you have any medical conditions that may require special provisions.
  • Do: Make conversation and introduce yourself to others before and after ritual
  • Don’t: Continue conversation after the 10 minute warning.
  • Do: Eat and drink of the snacks freely
  • Don’t: Make a plate from the Feast Table until after the Food Blessing, Libations, and Officiants are served.
  • Do: Thank the Priest and Priestess of the Ritual for the experience (After/During Feast)
  • Don’t: Be afraid to ask questions to them if you didn’t understand something.
  • Do: Help to clean up the space after Ritual and Feast
  • Don’t: Leave all the work to others
  • Do write about your experience in your notebook
  • Don’t: Forget to contact the HP/HPS after the ritual to talk about your experience and future plans.

 

Whois: Serenity of Blue Star

Whois: Serenity of Blue Star

Serenity Grove is a religious and spiritual fellowship that offers spiritual worship, guidance, experience, and education through and in the practice of Blue Star, a denomination of British Traditional Wicca. We are a family friendly Grove, we invite members and guests to bring their children and loved ones to be apart of the community. We provide children the opportunity to join us as well as ample opportunity to “do their own thing,” as we believe faith and spirituality should be chosen of free will, not force or indoctrination.

High Priestess Arianthe and High Priest Alder are 2nd Degree Initiates of the Blue Star Tradition, are the acting heads of Serenity Coven and Grove. Priest Cho Ku Rei and Priestess Barley are 1st Degree Initiates, while Lady Morning Star is a 3rd Degree Priestess, and Elder in the Blue Star Tradition. Together they comprise the governing body of Serenity Grove; Serenity Coven.

Serenity embraces an “It Takes a Village” approach to guiding and training those new to the path. This allows students the most access to information and experience. Students and Fellows of Serenity are encouraged to build bonds with each other and learn from all the Clergy when they first begin. Serenity Coven collaborates with other Blue Star Initiates to provide Serenity Grove with even more opportunities for enrichment, enlightenment and exposure to the rest of the Blue Star Family.

Serenity is actively working towards becoming an established Church, with 501(c)(3) status so that we may expand our outreach and support of the Pagan and Wiccan community of Northern New England. It is our hope that by facilitating public rituals, charitable donations, and volunteerism both in our cities and greater pagan community, our purpose and commitment will be self-evident to the State.

Between the Vows

Between the Vows

As the wheel keeps spinning we find ourselves nearing the holy celebrations of Lammas (loaf-mas) and Lughnasadh, we also find ourselves at the middle of our hinge vows.

On the 1st of August, it will be six months since you stood before the Coven Sword and made an oath, a promise to yourself, to the Gods, and before your community.  On that same date, it will be 3 months until your commitments end.

It is time to reflect on what has passed and consider how you will move forward.

If you have not begun, what things have been holding you back?  Can you find a solution to the obstacles?

For those who have started, how has the process been going?  Has it been easy, or hard? Has it helped your Craft or your life?  What inspires you and keeps you plugging at it?

With three months to go do you think your vow was reasonable, and well considered, or do you think you bit off too much? What sort of changes would you have made, or will you make in the future to ensure your success?

Litha Celebration and Handsfasting

Litha Celebration and Handsfasting

On June 21st,  Serenity celebrated the Summer Solstice most festively.

Mare served as Priestess, with Fox as Priest; Barley and Morningstar served as Summoner and Sensechal respectively. Epona and Cernunnos were invited to celebrate the Summers Sun.

IMG_1590There was much love shared, as Christina, aka Mare and Kevin shared their vows in front of  family and friends, promising a commitment for all the seasons to come.

The newlyweds received the blessings of their tribe, and returned all the love they received with nourishment.

A Journey dance was held, brooms and fires were jumped, gifts were given, and love was honored. The Colloquy of the Oak and Holly King was performed over a feast of of summers freshest bounty.

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The Tale of Lleu, Chapter XII: Beltane

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter XII: Beltane
The Tale of Lleu, Chapter XII: Beltane

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And so the Wheel turns, my friends.

Come, let me tell you a story with no beginning and no end.

analemma_irvine

Long have I been telling this tale, and long yet might I go on telling, if you would do me the honor of hearing it, for the Tale of Lleu is the tale of the dance of Earth and Sun and Moon, and its reflections echo in the tale of each of our own lives.

I tell you the story of a Once and Future King, Thriceborn Lord of the Sun and King of Gwynedd, the Lion of Summer, consort of Blodeuwedd, and son of Gwydion and Arianrhod.

It is a tale of trickery, and adversity, and destiny; it is a tale of desire, and betrayal, and death; it is a tale of love, and rebirth, and self-determination. It is a tale, ultimately, of transformation, as we ourselves transform from day to day, throughout our lives and lives to come.

 

Listen, my friends, for this is the last of the story you shall hear from my tired old tongue.

When the little grey wren disappeared, Lleu returned to his castle at Ardudwy, and he ruled both justly and fairly. Many seasons had passed, and many lessons he had learned, since last he sat upon that throne. He gave the land its due honor, and the kingdom of Gwynedd had never before seen such a period of prosperity. Many boons did he bestow upon his people, and he was well-loved for his graciousness.

The ice of winter had retreated, and the frozen wind gave way to warmth and growth, though not a single bloom was yet upon the branches.

One day, as he was wont to do, Lleu Llaw Gyffes was traveling the lands of Gwynedd and Powys, honoring the land and sea that sustained his people at each sun rise and set, and honoring the moon of his Mother in its path across the starlit sky.

falling-owl-feather-30514Near a sacred grove at dawn, he heard the cry of an owl, and looking skyward, he saw its flight. A single feather drifted down through the spring air, and Lleu’s outstretched and clever hand caught it deftly as it fell.

Upon his palm, lay not the feather, but a single flower of the hawthorn.

The owl was gone. The May had come.

 

An eruption of colored blooms upon the trees heralded the coming Summer.

This is the end of my telling, but the end of my tale is ever a new beginning.

Praise be to the Queen of the May and the Sun whose rays are all ablaze!

 

Imbolc 2014

Imbolc 2014
Imbolc 2014

The Altar

Serenity held our Imbolc celebration Saturday, February 8th. We began late that morning with a very artistic session of candle making. We did some molded candles, but the real fun was with the rolled beeswax candles, many of which were quite creative and beautiful. In addition, all three children took part in making granular wax candles (made much like a sand art bottle, but with a wick in the middle).

Ritual was held later that evening, with Morningstar and Barley as Priest and Priestess, respectively. Mare and Arianthe filled the roles of Seneschal and Summoner. It was an intimate circle, as there were only 2 additional attendants beyond the officiants. The altar was set, but so was a special shrine to Brigid. Officiants were deliberately all female, reflecting the traditional role of women as keepers of the sacred flame (as seen in both Celtic and Roman cultures).

Brighid's Shrine

Brighid’s Shrine

Prior to casting, each attendant was welcomed with a triple blessing, warmed hands to bless the head, heart and belly. Brigid was invoked in her triple aspects, and 3 cauldrons were also lit (symbolizing the Celtic Cauldrons of Poesy). Divination by fire was performed, using the 3 cauldrons (who knew that sterno would be such a good vehicle for fire scrying?), and when complete, attendants all brought a gift to the shrine, placing their offering in the well before receiving a single Tarot card to signify their fortune for the coming year.

It was now time to fill the room with light, so everyone lit a taper from the source, and while singing a fire chant, lit the countless candles scattered about the room. The chant continued a few minutes longer, and before releasing energy, we asked Brighid for healing.

 

 

After circle was extended, we proceeded to our traditional feast and socializing. The final working of the evening was to pack away ritual gear in preparation for the household/covenstead’s move into their new home. It was a blessed evening indeed.

Ostara 2014

Ostara 2014

A small, belated update.

This year Serenity’s Ostara was performed by Dreamingbear (Priest) and Arianthe(Priestess). This was Serenity’s first ritual in the new covenstead, on Riverside Dr.

Serenity’ Ostara celebration was held Saturday March 29th, calling the Goddess Eos (Dawn) and God Astraeus (Dusk) – asking them to join us as we woke the earth with traditional Egg sacrificing to wake up the Cocheco River Spirits. We planted seeds, and enjoyed a delicious potluck brunch.

There were a great many guests, and young children about – racing for eggs in the morning hours after receiving their Welcome Spring Baskets.

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter XI: Ostara

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter XI: Ostara
The Tale of Lleu, Chapter XI: Ostara

“Lord,” he said to King Math, son of Mathonwy, “it is high time that I received the justice that is due, from the one who has inflicted all this trouble upon me.”

“Aye,” said the King, “he shall have no defense, for your justice lies with him alone. How do you fare in your recovery?”

48aa64d7a408e680a68da5d7c5c28805Said the other, “I fare well Uncle, and I thank you for asking after me. Truth be told, thesooner I receive my justice, the better. The time is now right. The snows melt, and winter shall soon be ended. My body is healed, and I am ready to retake what is by right mine. The sunlight spear is finished. No darkness can now withstand me.”

Gwydion and Math mustered all the might of Gwynedd, and the combined force, with Lleu Llaw Gyffes in the van, made for Ardudwy. But Gronw the Winter King had already departed Muir Y Castell six weeks hence. He had fled soon after Blodeuwedd left him, and retook his seat in Penllyn when word reached him that the Lion was coming.

When Lleu’s army reached Ardudwy, there were waiting for him three envoys from the Winter King. The messengers conveyed a request to Lleu the Lion, offering him whatsoever he wanted in blood-payment from Gronw, for he would pay any price, gold or silver, land or territory, to settle this debt.

But Lleu Llaw Gyffes would not have it.

“You go back, and tell your Master, that I shall not take any gold, nor silver, nor land, nor territory from him. I swear by the Mother, that one price, and one price alone shall satisfy me. Here is the least that I shall accept from Gronw. He must go at the dawn of the day when light and shadow stand in balance, to the place where I stood whence he cast the spear, and I shall then stand where he was. And he shall receive from me the equal of that he has given me. By blood and blood alone, shall blood be repaid. Go and tell him, and be quick about it.”

And so it was, that the message was delivered to the Winter King at Penllyn, and he said “Aye, so it is. I shall have to satisfy him.” 

But he implored of his men, “O loyal noblemen, my war-band, my foster-brothers: Is there one among you who would stand in my place, and receive the Lion’s blow for me?”

“By the Mother, be our names spurned for evermore, there is not one among us who would suffer in your place, Lord. You must go yourself and pay his blood-price.”

And so it was. But for their refusal to endure the taking of a single blow on behalf of their Lord, they were ever after known in the Triads as one of the Three Disloyal Warbands; and from that day to this, the Bards showed them no mercy with their mockery, and indeed, in fulfillment of their promise, their names were spurned until the end of days, such that I shall not dare to speak their names in this sacred hall,

“Aye,” said the Winter King, “then I alone shall have to take it.”

And so it was, that both Lleu and Gronw came to that bank of the River Cynfael at the dawn of the day, when light and shadow stand in balance. The Cauldron and the Goat had already been set. As the morning sun began to break over the horizon, Gronw climbed to the top and set his feet on cauldron’s rim and goat’s back.

But Lleu hesitated, and for what reason he knew not. Gronw at length broke the silence, and implored of the Lion, “Sir, great wrong have I done you, but know that it was done without malice in my heart. No choice did I have in the matter, for it was the warp and the weft of the Mother’s design that I should love Blodeuwedd and strike you down in this very spot. Surely for this, you would allow me a final request, before the deed be done and my  debt repaid.”

“I shall allow such a request,” said Lleu, “but ‘tis my right to grant or to refuse, at my pleasure. Ask of me what you will.”

Gronw pointed to a great flat stone by the riverbank, and asked of Lleu, “Lord,” he said, “By the Mother, I would ask that you allow me to place that stone as a shield between us. Then shall I stand in the appointed place, and receive such as I have given.”

“If you alone can move such a stone as this, I shall grant your request, for it is as you have said it is. By the Mother, I shall not refuse you this, for this too is by her design. I grant you this shield.” replied Lleu, and he smiled.

“Aye,” said Gronw, “The Gods repay you for this kindness.”

Then Gronw took the stone, hefting it mightily in his arms, and placed it before the cauldron and the goat, between himself and the blow to come. He stepped into his place and awaited his fate.

Lleu crossed the river, standing upon the hill as Gronw had done, and cast the spear at him, the blade flashing as it flew, like a ray of brilliant sunlight.

“It is done, then,” said Lleu. “Darkness dies with the Winter.”

The spear struck as true a blow as had ever been struck, in all the stories fit for the Bards to tell. It pierced though the stone, pierced through Gronw’s chest, and broke his back. He was cast from his perch to the ground, and he smote the earth where he fell, such was the force of Lleu’s blow.

3538404570_03629b3e0cAnd there, did Gronw, the King of Winter die, and there, on the banks of the River Cynfael, in Ardudwy, that great stone still stands, to this very day, with a hole straight through it. And that stone, through all the Ages of Man, is still called Llech Gronw, ‘The Stone of Gronw’.

But, my friends, I would have you know that “The Gods repay you for this kindness,” were not the final words of Gronw Pebr, for he, like his brother, was transformed in his death.

In the hole of the Llech Gronw, perched a small bird. It was a grey wren, and had you been there, you might have said that it was the very same bird that Lleu himself had slain on the prow of a boat so long ago, when Gwydion sought that he should have a name by his Mother.

The wren spoke, and Lleu Llaw Gyffes leaned close to the hole in the stone, that he should hear the whispered words.

WinterWren“You think you have won…” said the wren, “But what is light, without darkness? What is sunlight, without the embrace of night? What could you ever be, without me? I am a part of you. You can never defeat me. We are Brothers, eternal. Winter shall return, as shall I.”

And as those words echoed in the fresh spring air, the wren, that he knew was Gronw, disappeared from view.

Friends, if you ever happen to spy a little grey wren perched in a holly tree in the Spring, then you might have seen the King of Winter, waiting for his time to be reborn.

For his part, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the light of the world and the King of Summer would soon retake his throne, and the flowers that had slept in darkness would blossom again.

But that is another tale, for another time…

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter X: Imbolc

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter X: Imbolc
The Tale of Lleu, Chapter X: Imbolc

“In the darkness, in the silence, is the seed
As it was, as it was, as it was in the beginning
Is the seed
In the darkness, in the silence, there is growth
It is now, it is now, it is now and ever shall be
Beginning now
In the night, in the tumult, there is growth
Without end, without end, whirl without end
Light carries on”

~Robin & Miriam, “Of the Milk and In the Belly”

*** *** ***

Upon his frozen throne in Ardudwy, Gronw sat, ruling a land locked in the darkness of Winter. The moon shone transfixed through the castle window, a sparkling panoply of stars bejeweling the night sky, cold and remote. The ground remained icy and hard, but something was changing, something stirring in the air, and in the Earth.

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Winter King, by caffe berthelius (http://cgcookie.com/profile/caffe.berthelius/)

Blodeuwedd sat close by, and he could tell that she was growing restless. She came and went as she pleased; he afforded her that freedom, and she always returned, but of late her sojourns became longer and more frequent. They stared at each other in silence; the only sound between them the trickle of melting snow. He smiled. She preened her feathers indifferently. No, she would not stay for much longer. She could not, must not. He knew this to be true, and yet, it pained him, for he loved her as much as his Brother. The Winter must soon be leaving, and so must its King.

The owl looked back at her lover, and on ghostly wings she flew to his side, landing lightly upon his resting hand.

“The Lion comes,” she said. “His wounds have been healed by the fire, and by the fire of the forge comes Winter’s doom. Anon must we depart, and each go our ways into the Spring.”

“Aye,” said the Winter King. “Though you leave me with sorrow in your going. I must to my fastness at Penllyn, to await the dawning Sun.”

“We shall see each other again,” said Blodeuwedd. “Neither the Winter nor the Summer last for ever.”

He kissed the bird lightly upon her head, and as an eddying gust of snow, she was gone. A single white feather remained by Gronw’s hand.

*** *** ***

Lleu collapsed into bed after a long day in the forge. His wounds troubled him less now, but hard work was hard work, and the labour of remaking the spear that had slain him was taxing upon his body. No sooner had his head hit the pillow, but he fell fast asleep, and dreamed. He was yet in the very same bed, in the very same room, but something was different. Something in the air had changed.

An owl lands lightly at his window
silent as death
ghost-white wings fluttering at the glass
He stares into its dark eyes
orbs of reflected moonlight
deep as wells
from which he might ne’er escape
Fragmented and paralyzed
suspended on a thread between his world and hers
Talons click impatiently upon the stone
The frosted windows creak open
as if carried on an unseen Winter breeze
He listens as the silence between them
builds to a heart-pounding intensity
Fear and excitement grip him
He slides quietly to the window
the owl whispers to him only “Soon,”
and is gone …

What this portent foretold, Lleu could not know, and he spoke not a word of it to his father or the King. His vigor renewed by sleep and dreams of an owl at his window, the rest of the night until the dawn, he spent at the forge.

*** *** ***

Gronw and his warband soon departed Ardudwy, leaving Lleu’s realm unattended. The frost and ice that had gripped the land were melted ere long. They returned to Penllyn and remained there, but left only three messengers to greet the Summer King when he should arrive.

The Spring was coming, and Blodeuwedd the Owl was gone, to lands and places little known by either Gods or Bards.

It has been said of old, that once let in, if ever an owl should fly from you, it shall carry away with it the luck of your house. Such it was for Gronw the Winter King.

But that is another tale, for another time…

Big Damn Heroes – Ain’t They Just

Big Damn Heroes – Ain’t They Just

(Alternate Title: The Snow Job. Alternate Alternate Title: Snow Stories)

A poem by Laughing Shadow, recalling the tale of how, just after Dreaming Bear’s Neophyte ritual had concluded, Serenity banded together and mounted a rescue of Stormcrow (read: me) and the car he (read: I) got stuck in hundreds of yards of unplowed snow and ice a foot and a half deep. The (read: my) folly was epic, as was the ultimately successful effort pushing the car, with the help of strong backs, snow shovels, and a liberal helping of kitty litter. This will be something that we shall all look back and laugh at, and I must therefor immortalize it here. TL;DR: I’m an idiot.

A Dreamer had just risen
To a higher step along her path
The candle flames did glisten
She’d had her sacred bath

When the call came out for aid
The Priest was in a plight
So from the house we all forayed
Into the dark and bitter night

There were five of us who stood
Stood and bent backs to the task
There, by the graves and in the wood
We did all that we could ask

Though she more than once had fallen
In what seemed a white and frozen sea
She was steadfast and heard the calling
Our own stalwart Arianthe

Fox was there with a good will
With sure hand and ready laugh
Of him we can never say ill
Our woes might be blown aside like chaff

Though his back was not the strongest
Sure and swiftly did he go
Through his reach was not the longest
Still, we had our Laughing Shadow

The frozen snow was on the land
When the crescent moon was shining
To us our Barley lent a hand
And we later drank her beer at dining

His motives then were on the mark
Though his plans a bit miscast
But in the cold and in the dark
Stormcrow was with us to the last

Serenity than some has fewer
To the goal we’re there or bust
No one you’ll find, whose hearts are truer
BIG DAMN HEROES – AIN’T WE JUST!

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter IX: Yule

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter IX: Yule
The Tale of Lleu, Chapter IX: Yule

 

 

PART I

PART I:

goewinLong ago, before Gwydion had tricked his sister Arianrhod for the first time, before the birth of Lleu and Dylan, Math the Ancient was King in Gwynedd. As had been prophesied, while Gwynedd was at peace, King Math could only live so long as he had a maiden to hold his feet in her lap while he sat upon the throne. Never could his feet rest upon the earth, or he should surely perish.

The footholder of King Math at the time had been Goewin, with whom Gwydion’s brother, Gilfaethwy, another son of Don, was secretly in love. He had set his heart upon the maiden, and loved her so much, that there was nothing he could do because of her.

His color, his face, and his demeanor were wasting away from his love of her, until he could hardly be recognized. But the footholder of the King must ever remain a maiden, and so it seemed that she would forever be out of Gilfaethwy’s reach. In order to help his brother in this plight, Gwydion devised a plan to make Goewin available to him.

Gwydion went before the King, and told him of a new sort of animal that had come into the south of their land, a beast whose meat was sweeter by far than that of the oxen they had become accustomed to eating. Pigs, they were called, and they had been a gift to the kings of Dyved from Arawn, the Grey Lord of Annwn.

In order to secure the pigs, Gwydion travelled in disguise to the land of Dyved, and met with the King there, Pryderi, son of Pwyll and Rhiannon. But Pryderi refused to give him the pigs.

For, he said “The pigs were a gift to my father from the Grey Lord of Annwn, and I must honor their agreement. I may neither give them freely, nor may I sell them for any money, until they have bred twice their number. Such was the pact between our lands.”

But Gwydion was already steps ahead of the less cunning King of Dyved.

He told the King, “Lord, I can free you from this bargain. Do not give me the pigs tonight, but do not refuse them to me either. On the morrow I shall show you a wonder far better, that you might exchange them for.”

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That night, Gwydion performed his arts, and began to make his magick in secret. From a multitude of toadstools, he conjured forth twelve great dappled steeds with golden saddles and golden bridles, and twelve wondrous greyhounds, with twelve golden collars and twelve braided gold leashes. Indeed, wherever there should have been iron on the animals, there was gold. And with the horses, there were yet twelve golden lances and twelve golden shields.

In the morn, Pryderi could naught but accept Gwydion’s offer, for this was truly a fantastic wonderment before him. Truly, he could exchange the pigs for something far greater in value. And so did Gwydion trick Pryderi into trading away the prized boars of Annwn that Arawn had given as a gift to his father Pwyll. Gwydion made great haste back to the fastness of Gwynedd, for not but a day later, all the treasures had turned back to mushrooms and fungus.

As a result of Gwydion’s trickery, the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Dyved were soon embroiled in war, leaving a great many dead. The realm no longer at peace, King Math no longer needed his footmaiden, and while he was away at war, Gilfaethwy violated her.

250px-Gwydion_Conquers_PryderiDuring the war, Pryderi, the King of Dyved, fell to Gwydion in single combat, a noble duel to end the war and prevent more slaughter. But of course, Gwydion did not fight fair. He used all his wiles of trickery and magick to win the day. As he lay dying on the field of battle, Pryderi’s last breath was a curse that would haunt Gwydion for the rest of his days.

“By the Mother, I curse you, Gwydion, son of Don. I curse you, blood, and flesh, and spirit! May your flesh be eaten by the very swine that you have stolen! May you suffer by your own treacherous deeds!”

And with those words on his lips, the King of Dyved was no more. The war at an end, Math returned to Gwynedd and soon discovered what had become of his footholder.

Goewin said to him, “Lord, you must seek another maiden’s lap to go under your feet, for I am no longer.”

“What is the explanation of this?” said the King.

And she explained to him what had been done to her by Gwydion and Gilfaethwy.

“Aye,” said the King, “This is what I shall do. First I shall get justice for you, and that done, I shall get justice for myself,” he continued. “And as for you, Lady, I shall take you as my wife, if you will have me, and I shall give all the power of my country into your hands.”

And so it was done, that King Math was married to Goewin straightaway. When this was done, he summoned his nephews to his castle. For their crimes against Goewin and the King, and for the war that they had started, Gwydion and his brother suffered three long years of punishments.

gwygil

King Math struck the brothers with his staff, and Gwydion transformed into a stag, while Gilfaethwy turned into a hind. He told them to return in a year, and so they did.

At the end of the year, both stag and hind returned to the King, with a young fawn trailing behind them. The King touched the fawn with his staff, and it turned into a boy.

Again Math struck his nephews with his staff, and Gwydion transformed into a sow, while Gilfaethwy turned into a wild boar. He told them to return in a year, and so they did.

At the end of the year, both sow and boar returned to the King, with a young piglet trailing behind them. The King touched the piglet with his staff, and it turned into a boy.

Again Math struck his nephews with his staff, and this time Gwydion transformed into a wolf, while Gilfaethwy turned into a she-wolf. He told them to return in a year, and so they did.

At the end of the year, both wolf and she-wolf returned to the King, this time with a young wolf cub trailing behind them. The King touched the wolf cub with his staff, and it turned into a boy.

Math the Ancient said, “These three boys are yours. Three sons of Gilfaethwy and Gwydion the False, Three Warriors True.”

Again Math struck his nephews with his staff, and both Gwydion and Gilfaethwy returned to their natural forms. King Math looked at the two of them, and declared “You two have suffered enough for your insult to Goewin and myself. Now, go take a bath and wash this filth from yourselves.”

King Math would straight away require a new footmaiden, and Gwydion would soon be up to his old tricks by recommending his sister Arianrhod. But, my friends, this is not the tale you’ve come to hear, for you’ve already heard this one. You want to know what has become of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, and you shall hear of it.

Quite soon…

 

 

PART II

PART II:

Now is the time for a different tale…

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When Lleu disappeared, Gwydion could tell that Gronw Pebr had taken the appearance and place of Lleu. But despite their combined magicks, neither Gwydion nor Math could find Lleu anywhere. For Lleu was no longer a man, but had become an eagle, and flown off when pierced by the magic spear cast by Gronw. His mind had become that of the eagle. But Gwydion did not yet know this.

To search for Lleu, Gwydion travelled in the guise of a minstrel or bard, as he had done before when he wished to travel the land freely, and without being recognized. This provided a number of advantages, for it was an unwritten Law of the Ancient Harmonies that travelling musicians be given food and shelter wherever they go. In exchange, the host would receive entertainment, and news of events and fashions from the places the musicians had travelled.

Gwydion searched the lands of Gwynedd and Powys, through the Autumn, to Midwinter. His search was slow, for he left no stone unturned. No bush was too small to be searched by his druidsight. He paid special attention to the birds, and other flying creatures, for the Druids of that day taught that the souls of the departed often took the form of flying things, to aid in their travels on the winds.

summer pigs 080

One night, Gwydion stayed at a farm near Maenor Penardd, the place of the battle between the peoples of Gwynedd and Dyved for the Pigs of Pryderi, which Gwydion had stolen so long ago. This farm had on it a great black sow that would not eat with the other animals. Rather, it would run away each morning to return at sunset. Yet, she and her piglets seemed well fed.

In the wee hours of the morning, before the darkest night of the year had yet ended, Gwydion followed the sow to the base of an old oak tree, where she began to eat.

It was by the River Cynfael, the same stream where Pryderi had died by Gwydion’s hand. The last words of that fallen King of Dyved echoed in his mind, and the vengeance of that dying curse was hard upon Gwydion; for high in the oak, perched an eagle, looking not at all well. Pieces of its decaying flesh dropped to the ground, and became the pig’s meal.

This, Gwydion now realized, was the true cost of the Pigs of Pryderi, and of twisting the Skein of Fate that Arianrhod had woven for her son. None may escape the weft and the warp of her designs, neither by trickery, nor by magick.

IMG_1387No punishment of Math, no count of years in the form of a stag, a sow, or a wolf, could possibly compare to the anguish that Gwydion now felt, at seeing that hungry sow beneath the oak, Pryderi’s curse come home to roost; all so his brother could pursue the fool’s errand of Goewin’s bed. All magick has its cost, and this was too much for him to bear.

When Gwydion had at last overcome his grief, he began to sing an englyn to the bird on high, that he knew was Lleu.

 

Derwen a dyf rhhwng dau lyn
Yn cysgodi’n dywyll awyr a glyn
Oni ddywedaf i gelwydd
O flodau Lleu y mae hyn
Oak that grows between two wells
You darken the sky, you shade the dells
Unless I speak not the truth, here lies the harm
The scattered flesh of Lleu

…The bird was drawn to the sound of his father’s voice, and it flew down to a lower branch…

Derwen a dyf mewn maes uchhel
Nis gwlychh glaw, nis tawdd gwres
Cynhaliodd ugain dawn
Ar ei brif, Lleu Llaw Gyffes
Oak that grows on a lofty plain
Unburnt by fire, unwet by rain
Nourished by storms with twenty charms
Sure-handed Lleu

…hearing the sound of that name stirred forgotten memories in the bird, and he flew down to the lowest branch of the tree…

Derwen a dyf dan lechwedd
Noddfa tywysog hardd
Oni ddywedaf i gelwydd
Fe ddaw Lleu i’m hharffed
Oak that grows beneath the steep
Noblest of the princes keep
Unless I speak not the truth, then from your arms
And into mine, will fall Lleu

…and as Gwydion finished singing the last verse of his spell, the eagle fell as a stone from the tree, and into the arms of his father. Gwydion’s tears fell like rivers upon the bird, washing away the eagle’s blood onto the snow.

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Arianrhod, who had long been watching Gwydion’s search, finally found love and acceptance for her son, and she blessed all the moons of his life.

“I now name you, of my own will, Lleu Llaw Gyffes,” she said, and she reached her hand down, and placed a cold blue star from the winter sky upon the eagle’s brow. Before them, the bird transformed back into the wounded body of their son, and the spear blade, which had remained in Lleu’s body since Gronw struck his terrible blow, fell from the wound and shattered upon the icy ground.

Together they returned to Math’s castle at Caer Dathyl. Their trek was slow, for the snow was deep, and Lleu’s wounds pained him deeply. When they arrived, Lleu retired to his bedchamber, and the druids were summoned to heal him. To comfort Lleu as he recovered through the cold and dark nights ahead, Gwydion gathered from the forest Nine Woods, and he built a fire in the hearth to warm him.

The light of the world had been reborn, but even with the combined magicks of Math and Gwydion, the healing was long, for the wounds were grievous, and it was some time before Lleu Llaw Gyffes would be fit to retake his throne, or to take his vengeance upon the Winter King.

But that is another tale, for another time.

 

(A great deal of this Chapter was derived and inspired from Hugin the Bard’s song “An Oak Grows,” from his album Bardic Tales from the Mabinogion, which is unfortunately out of print and unavailable. Lyrics of Gwydion’s englyn are from “Gwydion’s Song to Lleu,” by Arthur Hinds of Emerald Rose, from their album Archives of Ages to Come, which is thankfully NOT out of print, and available in its entirety on iTunes.)

 

Samhain 2013

Samhain 2013
Samhain 2013
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The Samhain Altar

On the night of November 2nd, 2013, Serenity’s members gathered at the Covenstead to celebrate their Ancestors in a ritual officiated by Morning Star as Priestess, Stormcrow as Priest, and Fox and Barley as Summoner and Seneschal.

Most of Serenity’s members were present for the rite, and we also had some of our Unusual Suspects from Spruce & Yarrow Coven visiting for the evening.

In our first ever Double Drawing Down, Arianrhod, Lady of the Silver Wheel was invoked into Morning Star, and Arawn, Lord of Annwn was invoked into Stormcrow.

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The Veil and Ancestor Shrine

The Veil was parted with an adapted Jewish prayer of remembrance, as the assembled Coven and Grove chanted “We Remember Them!”

We all sat, and shared stories of our Ancestors and Beloved Dead, and afterwards Stormcrow called the Rolls of the Mighty Dead, with Fox ringing them in as they were called. Hinge Vows were taken in their presence.

After the ritual, the Circle was extended, and a place of Honor set for the Ancestors at the Feast Table, where we all enjoyed recipes that were passed down to us from those who came before.

During the Feast, we all gathered to hear the story of Blodeuwedd’s transformation into an owl, accompanied by a beautiful poem by Mare.

Tabs on Trad Interview: Lady Lucina

Tabs on Trad Interview: Lady Lucina

When I was considering whom I should ask to participate in our next Tabs on Trad interview, I realized that we didn’t yet have any Blue Star Elders. I wanted to get to know someone who has been around the block in our Tradition, someone who could get down to the nitty gritty of what Blue Star is all about.

It didn’t take much thought to arrive at a decision.

Lady Lucina, as she would prefer to be called in this interview, has been around from nearly the very beginning, when our fledgling Tradition was little more than a single Coven operating out of New York City, under the direction of our first High Priest and Founder, Frank Dufner, and his wife Tzipora.

At heart a Teacher, Lady Lucina lives the virtues of discipline, humility, and good humor, and she has been integral to keeping the lore and the core of our Tradition alive and well for all the generations of Blue Star since, and hopefully for many to come. She is the Third Degree High Priestess of Crystal Blue Star Coven, and was initiated in 1980, along with her husband and High Priest, Lord Odin.

Without further adieu, allow me to introduce her:

 

“Every family has different “types” of people – characters if you will. What role do you think you play in the family – how would your Caricature be drawn?”

That is easier than I would like to admit. Although I would prefer to envision myself as the vibrant teacher who whisks people off on a magic carpet to places of wonder, my real life role in Blue Star as a whole is a bit less fanciful.
 
I have sort of become the Great Aunt who knows a lot of stuff that most of the time people don’t want to hear about… until they need it…

 

“Is there anything that you can tell us about your name, and what it means to you?”

My Name… My Craft Name is Lucina, which was given to me at my Dedication, by a person who barely even knew me. I have since made part of my personal Path trying to discover who “the” Lucina is/was and why She is me.

I have gone through several missteps along that Path and came to recognize that, among other water-related pieces of Her persona, Lucina was involved with tides, undertow and the cycles of the sea.

She is, therefore not surprisingly, a Goddess very involved in childbirth and midwivery. Her name suggests “light;” however She is not so much light as in candles or fire/flame, as the Scandinavian Goddess similarly named is and the name might imply, but rather the “light” the baby sees as it is moving towards birth… the light of emergence.

Some say She is also the nether light that guides us along the tides toward Death at the other end of life as well, but research confirming this is more sketchy. When I came into the Craft I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, for medical reasons proven again and again, that I could have no children, so I perceived Lucina’s Path for me to be as a sort of spiritual midwife… a teacher and guide or mentor. Today I am the mother of a strong son. Maybe there’s something to Naming after all.

 

“What initially brought you to Blue Star? How did you “know” it was your spiritual home?”

What brought ME to Blue Star? That’s easy. I found out one of my best friends was getting involved with a coven of witches. I came to rescue her from a fate worse than death… 
 
It worked… She became a Druid.
 
I stayed. 
 
Why? I guess it might have been the music and the wonderfully theatrical people. Or perhaps it was just the swirl of colours and friendly faces… Of course it could simply have been the nature of the sacrifice I had made to protect my friend from an “awful fate” … (… yeah …uh… right… whatever… that’s a joke, okay?) … but I think I got the better part of that deal.  

I would like to say something profound like: “I heard the call of the Gods in my head.” But the truth is that it simply felt good. I was happy.  

 

“How old are you?”

I am as old as the Hills and as young as my Dreams… Or is it the other way around?

 

“What have been some significant or influential events that occurred in the Tradition since you joined?”

“Influential events” would be up to history to decide.

What might seem to have been influential to you looking at it today might have been commonplace, or even annoying, to me. People came and went, especially at The Shop in New York City where I began my training with Tzipora and Frank; and “important” people are often more important to themselves than to anyone else, especially in Craft environments. Yes, I got to meet some very colourful folks. Some of them still live inside me whenever I do circle workings or any thinking of the responsibility or influence of magick or ritual. I like to say that they showed me who I wanted to be, but also who I did not want to be… often in the same person.

I hate name-droppers. 

The problem herein being that much of what we see as the Craft now was only just forming, in its adolescence (and that is being generous), when I started my journey. Blue Star certainly had only just begun to become what it turned into to get it to what it is today…

Everything that has happened began to happen in that time. “Significant?”

But what about me specifically? This is the point where I might say: “sit down my children and let me tell you the tale…” But I will leave some of that for another time.

My first Craft/Blue Star ritual experience was Mabon 1979. I was Groved shortly thereafter. My early Craft experience was at Tzip and Frank’s shop in New York City. It was called Tzipora and the Wizard. Many wonderful and amazing people came and went through that shop. I learned quickly that there are people who play with magick and there are people who are magick. 
 
Early in my experience at The Shop, Blue Star (and therefore everyone I knew there) became involved, along with a few other groups, in creating and running of one of the first pagan conferences/gatherings. Today it is called Pan-Thea. Then it was called MAP-PCAF (Mid-Atlantic Pan-Pagan Conference and Festival). It was very new stuff back then, even a little dangerous. How times change. I am pleased to know that this conference is still going on. 
 
Many things have happened over many years. One of the most significant to Blue Star, of course, was when Tzipora and Frank divorced just as my husband, Lord Odin, and I were about to take 3rd Degree. When the Blue Star Coven broke up Frank charged my husband and I with carrying on in his footsteps and guarding what we knew. When Tzip and Kenny took Blue Star on the road, the nature of Blue Star changed dramatically to meet new needs that go with the paradigm of a non-grounded practice. Lord Odin and I took very seriously the task of preserving what we could and continuing to practice as we had been trained. 

As a result, from boxes, notebooks and tiny bits of paper, the Blue Book was assembled to help maintain continuity and to assure that we still had clear references to earlier Blue Star teaching. I am proud to know it is still being used today. The Book of Classes was also compiled, although much later, to contain, in lesson format, much of the earlier teaching and curriculum of the earlier Blue Star. You might say that my husband and I became archives, of a sort, of information from the days before the divorce of Tzip and Frank, and before the Tour Years.

“Is there a particular Sabbat that is most fun or fond for you?”

The whole Wheel. Yeah, I know it’ll sound corny and like “teacher-eze” but they just don’t work without the whole set. Each has its own glory and its part in the story. Each has its own set of mysteries and histories. One leads to the other and is its own past and future that way. You can’t take them apart.

I could say Mabon because it was my first, but then there was that Yule-tide with that really great bonfire or the first time we made the Lammas sacrificial Bread Man. Oh! Let’s not forget Maypoles and garlands or those long Mid-Summer nights and Fire-Fly! And Spring brings Pan, but Imbolg visions leave me almost as breathless as the Mighty One and the Veil at Samhain… But what about that sacrificial meat loaf!
 
I’m most fond of the one I haven’t done yet. 

 

When asked if there have been any books that were influential to her spiritual growth, Lady Lucina responded with something that may sound familiar to many of us. Arianthe and I often approach research projects in much the same manner:

Okay well, reading… Now you’ve hit on a very tricky subject.

A lot of people think that the only way to do well in the Craft is to be a voracious reader, and I’m just not really a reader.

I changed schools 3 times during critical years when reading habits are formed… And then I went into remedial reading programs that only made it worse. I read, but slowly because I have to hear each word in my head as I read in order to understand.

For critical projects, my husband, who is a very quick reader, will guide me to things he thinks are important when we do research together and then I sort of tear them apart, fan them out and expand and contract it all and put them together to get the meat and juice out of them.  

Teamwork.

It’s not that I don’t read. It’s that I read selectively.  

My favourite Craft book will always be Stewart Farrar’s What Witches Do … simply because it helped me need to know more. It turned me toward the Star I now follow. There have been lots of great and good books since, but it’s like love… You never forget that first one… the one that helped you grow up and gave you your heart.

 

“What are some of your lesser known hobbies or interests?”

Hobbies… I like to teach and write. I make preserves, sew and sing some (by the way, I am one of the female voices on Moon Hooves in the Sand). I’ve been a patternmaker, a costumer, a student, a teacher, an artist, a parent…

And a Priestess …

After all… What IS a hobby? 
 
The temple room in our home has murals on the walls and ceiling expressing times of day and seasons appropriate to their quarter nature… Once the borders were up, I painted the walls myself… 
 
But mostly I like to teach. I like to tell the stories and help show people why things are the way they are, why the mechanics of the circle work. I like to show them the building blocks and help create the foundation of magick.

I like them to ask and answer the question: “Why?”
 
Oh yeah… and I’m a Trekker.  

“If you could offer a single message to young or new seekers to the Trad – what would it be?”

The most important thing you will find here, if you look hard enough, is you. 

=====

I don’t think it can be said any better than that. As we head into the future of Blue Star Tradition, it is always wise to look carefully at where we’ve come from, so that we can know where we’re going. We are truly blessed to have Elders like Lady Lucina in our Family, who can provide us with much needed direction and guidance as we move forward.

Thank you, Lady Lucina, for taking the time to be interviewed. Your responses were warm, humorous, humble, and enlightening. Our future generations are that much richer for having you and the rest of Crystal Blue Star around to keep things in perspective.

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VIII: Samhain

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VIII: Samhain
The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VIII: Samhain

tumblr_lwfdcgugjc1qgmve6o1_500When Blodeuwedd heard that Gwydion was coming in search of vengeance for the death of Lleu, she took with her an accompaniment of her maidens and left Ardudwy, crossing the River Cynfael and fleeing with them into the mountains.

So fearful was their haste that they could not but face backwards as they fled, and thus did they pay poor attention to where they were going. Unawares, they fell into a lake high up in the foothills, and all were drowned to a woman, except for Blodeuwedd herself.

After a long pursuit through the chill night, where in her flight, Blodeuwedd left a trail of white flowers that now marks the Milky Way, Gwydion caught up to Blodeuwedd, and captured her.

blodeuwedd_by_dreoilin-d4utie8
Gwydion said, “I shall not slay you, Blodeuwedd. And yet, I shall do you worse. I shall turn you into a bird, but from this moment on, you shall not while the Winter lasts show your face in the light of day. To the night that you have doomed the Earth, you shall be thus confined, and it shall be in the nature of other birds to attack you, and drive you out from wherever they may find you, until light has returned again to the land. You will not lose your name, you will always be known as Blodeuwedd.”

These words, spoken by Gwydion, were words of power, and before him, Blodeuwedd changed from a beautiful woman into the form of an owl. And to this day, in fulfillment of Gwydion’s promise, owls are still called “Blodeuwedd” in the land of Wales.

But, my friends, things are not ever quite so simple as all of that. We have heard the words of Gwydion, and of Math, we have heard the words of Arianrhod and of Gronw.

Let us now hear from Blodeuwedd, and know the truth of matters.

The Druids called it a curse
When I shed my flower-flesh to grow feathers
When the sunlight bled from my broom-colored hair
Transforming my eyes to golden orbs
Huge as the Harvest moon, hungry to swallow the sky.

Those so-called wizards tearing at the ground
My spirit ripped from embracing earth
Motherless, conjured for human lust,
Bound in flawless, soul-less petal-flesh
Married to the Sun
Without the sweet green mercy of shade,
Without the dignity of my own roots.

He crushed the slender stalks of my limbs
Blistered with kisses my dewy petal-tender skin
There was no illusion of passion, no futile cries
From a throat so recently innocent of breath,
Remembering only the taste of rain and air.

Yet somehow the Moon heard and came to me,
Cool and smooth, a lover, a healer
Pouring over me her silver elixir,
Renewing my roots, re-forming my thorns
In the chilling wind she whispered, “Do not despair!”

“They cannot hurt you.
They see only the vegetable flesh of their own creation,
Not the mind and magic lurking beneath the skin.
Bloom, my child, release your seducing perfume
Let my foolish son believe
That you revolve around him.

There is one among them who will set you free
Gnarled and brown, brother to the hard winter oaks
Go to him and work your revenge
And when the time comes, I will come for you.”

And yes, I know you have heard this part of the story.
How the young flower-bride conspired
For her almost immortal husband to be slain
The struggle as old as time – the young Lord of Summer
Betrayed by beauty he thought conquered –
Falls to the wily Winter Lord’s spear.
And in one year and a day, rise to slay his slayer
Perpetual battle, the cycle of the Seasons.

Yes, the story is true in all but its ending –
It was not a wizard’s spell that gave me wings,
Not the druid’s retribution that gave me swift, inevitable claws.
It was the moon in my roots
Transmuting the illusion of woman’s flesh to silver feathers
Ironic petals so delicately framing this avian face.
Is it any wonder that I love her,
Riding her skies in the wind of December
Far above the mortal world and its battles and schemes?

No, it was no curse, that I who dined on maiden’s morsels
Fed to me from golden plates by besotted kings
Now revel in the scent of mouse-blood,
Small bones crunching under musty fur,
Taste of mushrooms and humus,
The nocturnal stories of life underground.

You know this when you marvel at my sweeping shadow,
When you shiver at the sound of my ecstatic cry
Floating high and white in the sky like snow
The silver shudder of moonlight transmuted into sound.

You will know this and more if you dare
To brave the winter winds of your human soul
To look into the mirror of my sulfur-colored eyes
And meet the fierce and hungry spirit
Behind my fair flower face.

tumblr_mg0c0q7NKm1ric16wo1_500Little did Gwydion know, that in spite of all his mastery of the Three Magicks, it was not he who changed Blodeuwedd’s form, but she herself. For now, the time was right for Blodeuwedd to transcend the form that had been chosen for her by eager men, and to become, for a time, as harsh as the Winter she created, to fulfill the weave and the weft that Arianrhod had spun long ago. We have seen the hard price of escaping her Fate by trickery and magick, now we see the reward of embracing Arianrhod’s pattern.

As the moon flashes in Blodeuwedd’s owl eyes, reflected are the changes of the seasons, for within the heart of Blodeuwedd lies the Spirit of the Earth.

Blodeuwedd, like the Earth, must for a while abide in the frozen night of Winter, until an ancient curse is fulfilled, and the sunlight is rekindled with a song.

But that is another tale, for another time.

(I cannot thank Mare enough for contributing her poem to this Sabbat’s chapter of the Tale of Lleu. I am eternally grateful for her very enlightening perspective.)

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VII: Mabon

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VII: Mabon
The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VII: Mabon

8138455835_4cb6501836_m Where we last left Blodeuwedd, she had just received word from Gronw Pebr that he had finished work on the only weapon that could possibly slay the young Lion.

Blodeuwedd spoke to Lleu. “I have been wondering how what you told me could possibly be true. Would you show me how it is possible to stand on the edge of a cauldron and on the back of a goat, if I prepare it for you?”

“I will show you.” he replied.

Then she sent word to Gronw and told him to wait in ambush behind the hill at the bank of the river Cynfael, which is now known as Brynn Kyfegr. She would bring the Lion to him.

Blodeuwedd arranged for all the goats in the cantref to be obtained and herded together, and she brought them to the place by the riverbank opposite the hill. The largest of these goats she lashed to the Cauldron, and above its rim she made a roof of sticks and thatch.

The next day she said to Lleu “I have prepared the Cauldron and the Goat. Will you now show me how this can be done?”

Let us look,” said Lleu, and they went to the place where Blodeuwedd had prepared his coming doom.

“Will you go into the bath?” she asked, as innocently as she could manage.

“Gladly,” he replied. Still suspecting nothing, he went into the Cauldron, and bathed. Gronw the Hunter waited patiently for his moment to strike. LLEU

When Lleu Llaw Gyffes emerged from his bath, he placed one foot on the edge of the Cauldron and the other upon the back of the Goat, demonstrating for his wife what he had described. Immediately Gronw Pebr rose from behind the hill and threw the spear mightily, striking Lleu in the side. The head of the spear disappeared into his body, and the haft shattered with a crash like thunder. math2

Lleu gave a terrible scream at the grievous wound, and in a flash like lightning, he disappeared. Blodeuwedd collapsed upon the earth, lamenting her deeds. As she raised her face to the darkening twilight sky, she saw an eagle on the wing against the sunset. The bird was bleeding terribly, and wherever its blood touched the earth, bright red flowers sprouted and withered in an instant. At long last, the sun passed into the West, and so too did the eagle vanish from sight.

As soon as the eagle had disappeared, Gronw and Blodeuwedd made for the court, and that night, they slept together, but Blodeuwedd was inconsolable, for she knew the significance of what she had done, and she knew that Gwydion would be coming for her soon.

The next day, Gronw arose and subdued Ardudwy, and ruled over the land so that both Ardudwy and Penllyn were as one under his iron hand.

Thus, the Lion of Summer was betrayed by the Maiden of Autumn. Poised upon the Balance, with one foot on the Cauldron and the other on the Goat, he was transformed into an Eagle by the spear of the Hunter. Indeed, there is a riddle here that perhaps only the Bards can answer.

lleu transformed into an eagleGronw Pebr had taken the place of Lleu. He had taken his wife, taken his life, and taken his throne. The Triad of Thefts complete, Gronw the Winter King now took on the form and appearance of Lleu, and darkness ruled in the place of light.

Take stock of what you have harvested by the Summer’s light, my friends. Take stock of what you have gained, and what you have left behind, and of all that you are thankful for. Winter is coming. Look to the warmth of friends and family, look to the warmth of the hearth and home. Let the love and light of the Summer King live in your hearts and guide you through the long nights ahead.

This is not the end of the Summer King’s story, not by any means, for the world should not be forever cast in darkness and cold. But that is another tale, for another time.

Lammas 2013

Lammas 2013
Lammas 2013
The altar ablaze.

The altar ablaze.

Serenity held Lammas on Saturday August 10 at the Vermont homestead of acting Priest and Priestess Fox and Barley, with guests Coyote, Matt, and Rocco.  Joining them were Mare as Seneschal and Matt as Summoner.  Festivities really began the evening before, when the officiants gathered in preparation, and Barley, as a personal devotional, brewed a special batch of beer, a barleywine intended to age 1 year, for consumption at next Lammas.  Let us hope that Barleycorn’s Finest is indeed the finest… we will know in a year.  In addition, the spent brewing grains were incorporated into the dough for the bread man, also crafted that night.

Saturday itself was nothing less than a spectacular day, complete with warm sun, low humidity, and impossibly blue sky.  Much of the day was spent outside, enjoying sun, companionship and activities.  The craft for the day was tie-dyeing, which was initially intended as a kid’s activity, but was much enjoyed by the adults.  As light began to wane, we prepared for our outdoor ritual.  Barley led the group in a soul-alignment breathing exercise and a cleansing water rite before the call to worship, John Barleycorn Must Die, began.  Fox on mandolin was accompanied by Rocco on guitar.

No, really, impossibly blue.

No, really, impossibly blue.

A canopy tent had been erected as our place of worship, and it was there we cast our circle, calling John Barleycorn and Brigantia.   We then processed to the firepit for the working of the circle, which included making sacrifices to the wickerman (whom we dubbed WickerJerry), and to the field.  We witnessed the acceptance of the sacrifice as the fire burned, and a spontaneous chanting arose, before the solemnity was broken, and we chose to Always Look on the Bright Side (of death) thereafter returning to the canopy for the Great Rite and closing of the circle.

WickerJerry

WickerJerry

A harvest feast of Indian cuisine (the national cuisine of Britain) was enjoyed by all, and the rest of the evening included sitting by the campfire, enjoying the night air and the beauty of stillness.  A few braved the chilly night and camped in the backyard to commune with the crickets.  It was, indeed, a blessed Lammas.

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VI: Lughnasadh

The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VI: Lughnasadh
The Tale of Lleu, Chapter VI: Lughnasadh

One day, Lleu Llaw Gyffes set out to Caer Dathyl to visit Math the Ancient, and his kin. While he was gone, Blodeuwedd was walking about the gardens of Muir-Y-Castell with her ladies, when they heard in the distance the sound of a hunt.

Soon the huntsmen rode by.

“Send a page,” she said “To enquire whose hunt this is.”

The page returned to say, “This is the hunt of Gronw Pebr, the Lord of Penllyn.”

“Indeed,” said Blodeuwedd “This chieftain will speak ill of us if he departs and we have not invited him in.”

Messengers were sent to invite him and he accepted courteously.

When they had exchanged courtesies they all sat down to feast. Blodeuwedd looked on Gronw and in that moment loved him. He looked upon her and the same thought filled him so that they could not hide it.

220px-Blodeuwedd_and_GronwBlodeuwedd was a heart a wild creature, made from the flesh and spirit of the Earth itself, and she lamented at being a kept woman, a treasured possession, placed on a shelf and locked away in Lleu’s castle while the Lion was free to wander where he may. For so long, she had been lonely, unappreciated, and taken for granted by her husband. The spirit of wildness in Gronw called to her heart, and in turn Blodeuwedd’s wild spirit called to Gronw.

That first night he spoke to her of love and she to him. As Gronw rose to depart the next morning, she begged him to stay one more night.

That second night they spoke again of their love and he said “There is nothing else we can do but you must find out in what manner your husband can be killed.”

On the third night she again begged him again to stay. “At your insistence I will not go.” he said.

The next day she did not hinder his departing. As he left he admonished her “Think of what I have told you. Speak to him under the disguise of love and concern and find out how he can be brought to death.”

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That night Lleu returned and there was feasting and merriment. Later, as he and his wife prepared for bed, Lleu spoke. “What ails thee, Blodeuwedd? All night you have hardly spoken and you seem despondent.”

“I have been thinking of late of the thing that is not spoken of. How my life would be ever sorrowful if you were taken before me.”

“May the Gods reward you for your concern for me,” he replied “But I am not so easily slain.”

“For the sake of my peace,” she said, “Tell me then how you might be slain.” 

Lleu, who himself had been sheltered by Gwydion from the harshness of the world, suspected no ill intent from Blodeuwedd, the woman of flowers, who had been made only for him. Innocently, he revealed his secret to her, and it would be his undoing.

 “Gladly,” said Lleu “My stepfather and the King put wards around me to protect me, and this is the only way I can be slain. It must be by a spear. The spear must be a year in the forming, and naught but at night and during the dark of the moon.”

“Is this certain?” asked Blodeuwedd.

“It is certain,” he said “And I can neither be slain within a house, nor without, nor can I be slain either on horseback or on foot.”

“How then can you be slain?” she asked.

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“This way alone,” he said, “By making a bath for me in a Cauldron, by the south side of the River Cynfael. By putting a roof over the cauldron and thatching it tightly. Then a goat must be brought to the north side of the cauldron. Only by placing one foot on the goat’s back and the other at the edge of the cauldron, and facing East. Then, in that place, and in that place alone, can I be slain.”

“Then it will be easy to avoid your death,” said Blodeuwedd.

“Indeed, it shall,” said Lleu, “I have been well seen to.”

The next morn, Blodeuwedd sent word to Gronw Pebr, and he began his labor upon the spear, working the forge only when the moon was dark. When a year had gone by and the spear had been forged, he sent a messenger to Blodeuwedd.

The doom of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, and the dying of the light would come soon, but that is another tale, for another time.

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Litha 2013

Litha 2013
Litha 2013

The Banners of Lleu & Blodeuwedd

On Saturday, June 22nd, the far-flung members of Serenity Coven and Grove gathered on the Rochester Commons for our annual Litha celebration. The weather was appropriately clear, and the sun was blazing overhead. Fortunately, the trees provided adequate shade. The altar was barebones, as candles would not cooperate in the summer breeze, but the gods were represented by heraldic banners made specially for the occasion.

The focus of our ritual was the marriage of Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Blodeuwedd, the sharing of the boons of life, the bounty of the earth, the warmth of the summer sun, and of family. The ritual was officiated by Morning Star (Priestess), Stormcrow (Priest), Arianthe (Seneschal), and Fox (Summoner). Also in attendance were Barley, (who provided the amazing wedding cake in lieu of the usual fare), Mare, Laughing Shadow, Dreaming Bear, Drumming Turtle, Ro, and our guest Coyote.

The barebones Litha altar

We started off the season of Music and Dance with a break from the usual singing, to dance, dance, dance our little hearts out (and our tired little feet off). Our Call to Worship kicked off the festivities with a wedding procession by dancing arches to “Solstice Call,” by Gaia Consort. We did a Barn Dance to cast the Circle to the tune of “Get Me to the Church On Time,” from the musical My Fair Lady, and danced the Migldi Magldi to Serenity’s adapted version of “Turn the World Around,” originally by Harry Belafonte.

Since we in Serenity can’t resist the opportunity to crack a good joke now and again, the Statement of Intent included the Twuwy Impwessive Mawwage speech from The Princess Bride.

“Mawwage…is what bwings us hewe togewwah, today!”

The invitation and marriage of Blodeuwedd and Lleu Llaw Gyffes were performed silently and reverently while Peter Gabriel’s “Book of Love” played softly in the background. Wedding rings were graciously provided by Fox and Barley for the occasion, the couple got lei’d by all attendants (Oh myyy!), and the flame of love was literally present when athame pierced chalice.

Of course, we couldn’t have a marriage without more dancing!

In celebration of the union between Sun and Earth, we danced the Lazy Robin to “Come to the Dance,” by Emerald Rose (a truly exhausting feat, and there was absolutely nothing lazy about it!), and the Heel-Toe Polka to “Dance, Dance, Dance,” by the Steve Miller Band (now affectionately known in the group as the “Slide, Slide, Slippity Slide Song”).

A perfect Little Lleu and Blodeuwedd

When it came time to give gifts to the Gods, King Math provided the couple with the palace of Muir-Y-Castell and the cantrefs of Dinodig, Eifionydd, and Ardudwy, to reign there forever as King and Queen of Summer’s Light. However, these were not the only gifts granted to Lleu and Blodeuwedd. Arianrhod made her final appearance to give a wedding gift to the newlyweds, the gift of prophecy; Even as the sun rides at his peak, so too must he begin his decline, and the seed of darkness germinates in the Summer’s Light. One word alone fulfills the prophecy of the forgotten mother: Gronw.

The bride and groom granted their boons of brightness, life, and bounty upon the attended guests, and we all sealed those gifts in the Earth by dancing the Tarantella. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any footage of that dance, and it was a shame, because after much trouble in practice the night before, we finally nailed it in ritual.

The feast was served as a picnic in the park, and it was as bountiful as it was glorious.

Blessing of the Feast

A most merry time was had by all, and just like the Solstice itself, the only shame of it was that it had to eventually draw to a close.

(P.S.: We’re still in the process of editing all the video footage we took of the festivities. As soon as we finish with that lengthy process, we’ll post some videos!)