Tag Archives: hecate

Pagan, Shinto & Spiritual Book Reviews June 2016

Jun2016

Death, dark goddesses and urban folk religion are some of the common themes among the books reviewed this month…[Read more]

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Reflections on “Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, The Skeleton Saint,” R. Andrew Chesnut

devotedtodeathWhy did I choose to read this book?

Ever since reading various internet articles about Santa Muerte, Mexico’s “Skeleton Saint,” I have been absolutely fascinated by this deity and her fast-growing cult. A personification of Death venerated by people who identify as Catholic, yet whose worship is condemned by the Catholic church? A saint who devotees routinely included the last people we would usually think of as “spiritual,” including drug barons, prostitutes and the police who incarcerate them alike? As a Goth, Pagan, ex-Catholic and someone who has a broad interest in folk religion in general, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.[Read more]

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Neopaganism v. Shinto: Attitudes towards Death and Darkness

altar-skull

The use of skulls and other symbols of death and darkness is not uncommon in Neopagan altars. By Malcolm Lidbury (aka Pinkpasty) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Continuing with my exploration of some of the key differences between Western Neopaganism and Shinto in Japan, I thought I’d look at the attitudes towards the “darker” aspects of existence, especially death, in both religions. [Read more]

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November 2014 Full Moon Esbat

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My November Esbat Altar (still decorated for Samhain)

This month’s Full Moon rite had quite a few firsts for me.

For one thing, I actually had a cleansing bath beforehand. Actually, this was in part due to the fact that I have to get to work earlier tomorrow so I thought and evening bath would make things quicker than a morning one, and partly due to the fact that I have a bit of a chesty cough and cold at the moment so I thought a nice warm bath would help. And it did! I added some tea tree oil to the water both to help my chest and to purify me, which was really nice – tea tree oil has a pure, almost salty smell that’s very good for a ritual cleansing. As both a Shintoist and Pagan, bathing before a ritual is something I very much approve of, but often don’t seem to find the time – perhaps I should make more of an effort.

For another I decided to perform my Full Moon ritual indoors for the first time. As I’ve got a bit of a cold at the moment and as the weather’s turned very cold and wet, I thought this would be the most sensible.

Actually, performing the ritual indoors, at my new altar, turned out to be more spiritually fulfilling than I imagined. I created a sacred space with my besom and by intoning a Shinto purification prayer, and filled the ritual area with candles – including a big round candle on my altar to represent the Moon. Unlike performing the ritual outdoors, doing it indoors proved to be a lot more comfortable – both in terms of being out of the cold and being in a private place where nothing could interrupt me. Additionally, I could see the Moon right outside the window – often I can’t see it when I perform the ritual outdoors! The disadvantage is, of course, that indoors you do not feel so much in touch with nature, and I missed the presence of my Inari shrine.

As for the ritual itself, it was very similar to the one I performed for the October Full Moon. I still feel that Samhain is currently reigning the Wheel of the Year, and so I once more honoured Hecate in my rite. It’s coming up to the 100 year anniversary of the First World War, so it felt once again like an appropriate time to pray to Luna for peace for both the living and the dead. And finally, my sister still hasn’t given birth although she is due any day now, so once again I prayed to Diana for the safety and health of her and her child.

After my dedications to the lunar aspects of the Great Goddess, I attempted to scry with my newly-consecrated DIY scrying mirror. This was actually quite an eerie experience; I sat down and placed the mirror in front of me, with a single candle in the middle. The mirror is so dark that the prospect of seeing an apparition is rather scary! Perhaps that is why I didn’t seem to see anything concrete, although I did get the distinct feeling that the mirror was somehow showing a “gateway” to somewhere. For some reason, I don’t find scrying using crystals or water quite as eerie, but I think I’d still like to try again.

After scrying, I said a prayer to Inari Okami from my book of Shinto Norito – now my colleague has given me a charm from Fushimi Inari Shrine that I have on my indoor altar, I still a connection to Inari-sama even from my indoor altar. I then had a simple feast and closed the quarters.

I did quite enjoy doing the ritual indoors for a change, and I suspect I’ll do the same thing until the weather gets warmer. I do miss being with the foxes outside though…

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October 2014 Full Moon Esbat

Oct14EsbatTonight I performed the Full Moon Esbat outside as usual. I was pretty lucky – it had been raining late in the afternoon but it cleared up by nightfall. It did mean however, that I had to deal with lots of very slimy slugs! But I did find it pretty appropriate that there was a big puddle by the West quarter of my altar, where the element of Water resides.

With Samhain approaching, it seemed appropriate to honour Hecate, who is both Goddess of the Moon and Underworld. In my prayers to Hecate, I called upon the names of all those close to me who have died, and asked Hecate to bless and protect them in the Otherworld.

Tonight being a “Blood Moon” (although we didn’t see this in Britain), it also seemed an appropriate time to call for an end to bloodshed and conflict and for peace to prevail – especially in these troubled times. I called upon Luna for peace, drawing on the Moon’s stillness and serenity.

Finally, my sister’s second child is nearly due, so I finally called upon Diana – Goddess of the Moon, women, children and childbirth.

After making my offerings and prayers to these three aspects of the Moon Goddess, as well as consecrating a few new tools, I gazed upon the moon to try and put myself into a similar “trance state” that I did last month’s Esbat.  Although I couldn’t see all of the Moon because it was shining behind the trees. But it was still effective – the branches blowing in the wind across the Moon made it look like twinkling stars or fairy lights, which was magical in itself. And as I gazed on the moon, eventually the surrounding trees themselves seemed to be glowing with an aura. It reminded me of the sheer energy of the nature around me.

I finished the ritual with a simple feast (a piece of apple and some sweet wine), and took the remaining offerings up to the nearest crossroad to place there for Hecate.

Throughout the ritual I heard our local foxes calling – they always seem to be pretty active at the Full Moon. At the end of the ritual, one of the local cats also came into the garden (but seemed fairly unimpressed that I was there!).

I’m glad that I’ve still been able to perform the Esbats outdoors as autumn’s arrived. I wonder what the weather next month will be like?

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September Full Moon Esbat (O-tsukimi)

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My O-tsukimi altar

Tonight I celebrated the Full Moon Esbat (although there’s some confusion between me and my Pagan friends as to whether tonight or last night was the full moon). This also coincided with O-tsukimi, the Japanese “Moon Viewing” festival. This, plus the fact that this is the final “Supermoon,” made it a rather special Esbat.

I tried to set up my altar incorporating some O-tsukimi traditions, but with a twist. In Japan, you typically offer “O-tsukimi dango” to the moon. These are small, round, white dumplings that resemble the moon, and are stacked into a pyramid. It’s also common to offer pampass grass, which looks similar to rice plants, reminding us that this is the “Harvest Moon.”

As is often the case, I had to put a bit of a Western spin on my O-tsukimi offerings. Not having time to go to a specialist Japanese shop to buy the necessary flour to make O-tsukimi dango, I substituted it for a round, white cheese, as in the West cheese is often thought to resemble the moon. I also offered an egg, which is associated with the moon in East Asia (in China you can get “Moon cakes” which have an egg yolk in the middle). Instead of pampass grass, I simply collected different types of grasses from the local park.

I placed this all on a special O-tsukimi furoshiki (Japanese folding cloth), which a friend in Japan gave to me years ago. It’s the most beautiful and delicate furoshiki I own, incorporating micro-thin layers of gold dye. It depicts a scene of white rabbits pounding mochi rice cakes – very much a lunar image in Japan, as the Japanese believe that this is what you can see in the moon (whereas in the West we think we see “the man in the moon.”) It’s very interesting that both eggs and rabbits, both symbols of fertility, would be associated with the beginning of autumn in Japan, whereas in Britain they are associated with the beginning of spring (also note that both O-tsukimi and Ostara/Easter are determined by the lunar calendar)! I think it’s a very positive symbol for autumn, as it reminds us at the season when plants and animals are disappearing, life will return again.

I made these offerings and my prayers to the Shinto moon kami, Tsukiyomi no Mikoto, as well as Diana, Hecate and two male lunar deities, Khonsu and Aphroditus. Because I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism lately, and because O-tsukimi is considered a time for quiet meditation and artistic inspiration, I attempted to meditate before the full moon.

I kneeled on the ground gazing up at the moon, and slowly chanted the names of Tsukiyomi, Diana, Khonsu, Hecate and Aphroditus. Because the moon was so bright, as I gazed upon it, my surroundings seemed to fade away into darkness, leaving only the moon in my field of vision. And then I began to see shapes in the moon, and it seemed to glow with an aura, as if it was eclipsing the sun. My meditation was broken by a passing dog, which made me jump – a message from Diana perhaps! And earlier, a cat had approached and made me jump – perhaps a messenger from Hecate, who knows?

After this I was feeling pretty jumpy, but I had a “simple feast” (a piece of the cheese and some sweet wine) which helped to ground me. When I came in, my husband mentioned that I seemed very energised, and it’s true – before the ritual, I had felt tired and a bit lethargic, but afterwards I felt so much better. It was probably the most energising Esbat I’ve celebrated so far!

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Gods and Mascots

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Kumamon, mascot for Kumamoto Prefecture and one of the most successful regional mascots in Japan

 Mascots are ubiquitous in modern society. There’s no shortage of sports teams, companies, governmental campaigns and other organisations and projects that are represented by some form of cartoon person or anthropmorphisised  animal or object. [Read more…]

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June Full Moon Ritual 2014 – and an extraordinary encounter

Juno

Friday night saw a rare occurrence – a Full Moon on Friday 13th, and more so, a “Honey Moon” (a slightly more yellowy moon than normal). Like many Goths, I actually like Friday 13th – while some may see it as unlucky, others may see it as simply a time that the darker energies are heightened. For this reason, I again thought it would be fitting to honour the dark goddess Hecate once again. Additionally it also seemed very appropriate to pay tribute to the goddess Juno: June is her month, and the following day was a friend’s wedding (not to mention that next month is my own wedding!), and Juno is seen as a goddess of marriage. I prayed to Hecate for general protection and good health, as well as honouring the spirit of Gerald Gardner, father of modern witchcraft who additionally was born on June 13th. To Juno, I prayed for happiness and good luck with both my friend’s and my own marriage. As always, I followed my ritual with a prayer to Inari Okamisama, who may also be seen as a good omen for weddings due to the duality of her fox messengers, her symbolism as a deity of prosperity, and the role of foxes in Japanese folklore about marriage (they say that rain falling on a sunny day means a vixen is getting married).

Once again, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat spiritually detached during the ritual – as usual, there were so many distractions outside, such as rowdy people walking home from the nearby pub and the neighbours parking in the driveway. What’s more, the buildings surrounding my house and its orientation meant that I couldn’t see the Full Moon again. But then, something incredibly magickal happened that really gave the ritual incredible significance.

When I was returning from placing offerings of garlic (for Hecate) and honey (for Juno) at the nearby crossroads, I saw a fox on the road before me, look at me straight in the eye, and then vanish into the undergrowth. And then, as a drew nearer, a second, larger fox emerged. He looked straight at me, and then just sat down on a wall beside the road, very calm and peaceful, as if enjoying this auspicious night himself. Quietly, I sat down on a low wall just opposite him, very close by. He looked up at me every now and then, acknowledging my presence yet seeming totally unphased by me. We shared this silent moment together in the night for some time, watching each other, while I mentally thanked him for gracing me with his presence in his territory and letting me enjoy his company like this. When some more noisy people from the pub approached he disappeared, so I returned to the house, but I kept on watching from the window and I soon saw both the foxes emerge from the undergrowth and go about their lives.

As a follower of Inari, I find any encounter with foxes to be special, but this was particularly magickal due to the timing and nature of our encounter. I find it even more wonderful that we have a pair of foxes living by us – just like a mirror of the pair of fox statues I have on my Inari shrine. Whenever I see them, I cannot help but feel protected and uplifted by the spirit of Inari Okamisama.

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Bright Moon Ritual

Last night was May’s full moon, variously known as Bright Moon, Hare Moon, Flower Moon etc, and I performed my second Full Moon ritual.

Recently I’ve felt very drawn to the Goddess Hecate, and seeing as she is considered a moon goddess, it seemed appropriate to dedicate tonight’s ritual to her.

As with my previous Full Moon ritual, I performed the rite outside.  I started by giving some fresh offerings to Inari Okamisama, and making a prayer to her (I always try to include Inari in all my rituals, as my patron deity). I then called upon the elements and made my prayers to Hecate, asking her to bless particular people in my life who I know are going through difficult times. I made offerings of wine and garlic, which are both considered appropriate for Hecate.

I followed this with an attempt at Fire Scrying. As May is the Beltane month, associated with fire, and as Hecate is also considered a fire Goddess, it seemed a fitting occasion! I surrounded the altar candles with reflective crystals and gazed at the flickering light to see what messages might appear there, all while intoning the “Goddess Chant” (Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Innana) in order to get into a more meditative state. All I could see were leering, grinning faces reflected in the crystal; no other imagery seemed clear.

However, throughout the ritual, I heard the foxes nearby calling to each other, which I always take to be a positive sign!

Finally, as Hecate is the Goddess of Crossroads, I decided to place my offerings of wine and garlic at the crossroad near my house.

While I did find the ritual fulfilling and calming, it wasn’t perfect. As mentioned in a previous post, although I think rituals should take place outdoors where possible, I always feel paranoid about the neighbours seeing what I’m up to. If they see me whispering strange incantations before an altar of candles, an athame and pentacles, they might get the wrong idea about what I’m doing! This meant I cut the Fire Scrying short because I kept getting disturbed by the neighbours turning on and off lights in their rooms, and thought they might spot me through the window. What’s more, I couldn’t actually see the Full Moon from ground level, which was a shame.

But after I finished the ritual and came back indoors, I could actually see the moon from my living room window. And as I gazed upon it, a fox suddenly appeared in the street, looked in my direction, looked up as if looking at the moon, and walked off! For a follower of Inari, this was quite a wonderful end to the Full Moon rite.

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