Offerings to the Ancestors

ancestral altarSamhain is the final of three harvest festivals in the pagan agrarian calendar. The first is Lughnassadh or Lammas, which focuses on the concepts of sacrifice and renewal; the second is Fall Equinox, which focuses on the balance between light and shadow and the reaping of crops as the days begin to grow shorter (for those of us in northern hemispheres) and the time for harvest dwindles. Samhain marks the beginning of what pagan Witches call the “dead time,” which falls between October 31st and Feb 2nd. Samhain or “Hallows” in early agrarian life, marked the final harvest. The “veil” between the worlds of the living and the dead was thin, allowing exchanges between the two worlds. Crops left unharvested at Hallows were left there as offerings to propitiate the spirits and imps from the other worlds that walked the night. To add to the theme of death surrounding Hallows, the final harvest days were a time for thinning of herds, especially of livestock that might not make it through the harsh winters of northern Europe.

the days begin to grow shorter

As in most cultures across the globe, ancestor worship and veneration was part of our human experience, especially in early pre-Christian times. In many cultures, the time around Hallows has been traditionally a time to consider the dead. And in our contemporary magical practice, we set aside the day(s) for carefully considering those in our lives who have passed. Pagans today may not venerate the dead, but we certainly call upon them, recognize their influence, their importance, and make offerings in commemoration of them.

…we set aside the day(s) for carefully considering those in our lives who have passed.

It is common among pagans today to set aside the single day, Hallows, to recognize the influence of our ancestors. But what would it be like to include awareness and appreciation of those who came before us—all of them—on a daily basis? How would we live our everyday  lives, if we did not cut ourselves off from our human lineage? Even if we do not have children of our own, can we recognize the influence we have, right now, on future generations? Everything we do creates influence on what will come next. We are tomorrow’s ancestors, for one day, we too will be gone. But what will we leave behind?

As Hallows approaches, why not take time to recognize ourselves and each other as honored ancestors? Why not open ourselves to recognizing one another as stewards of the earth, stewards of future wisdom, and seed-sewers of magic? Rather than staying in our heads and re-creating customs from the distant past this Hallows, it is more important to be alert and awake in our here-and-now lives, the influence we have in this very moment, and the role we play in what happens next in the world. Peace? Magic? Wisdom? These are in our hands right now. Can we offer them to one another in this very moment as gifts to the beloved ancestors?

Copyright (c) 2015, Timothy Roderick.

No reproduction of this or other blog posts is authorized without expressed permission from the author.



Magic for Invisibility


The other day I read a statement from someone just beginning the path of Wicca. She seemed to be wavering about her participation. She had been told during her life that she had certain “gifts” and could see other realities. But she sounded afraid of the “gifts.” She wasn’t sure if her Craft participation was something that was “right,” and she further seemed to be deeply troubled about whether or not it was “right” to let her powers “come out.” She was speaking from a perspective that sounded as though she was seeing magic and the abilities cultivated in our path to be something forbidden, exotic, strange and rare.


It made me realize that the more we enshrine our natural abilities, no matter their form, we end up separating ourselves from the world. Nothing that occurs in the world, as a course of our nature is special in any way. The more we are caught up in either fearing or rarifying what is natural, we miss the point of our power, which is expressed as our true nature. The true nature of a human life is nothing “special.” Is it a manifestation of deity? Yes. But so is everything else we can see, hear, taste, touch and smell. Magic is deity. Your coffee is deity. Flowers and excrement are deity. We’re living in it, breathing it, eating it, sleeping in it, and we’re made up of it.

The powers of the Witch are the natural power of life…

When an experience catches out attention, what is important is to notice why it catches our attention, rather than mentally framing the experience as “special, strange, rare and peculiar.” Bringing the event back to ourselves, to our own inner process, helps us to break down the structures (made up of life experiences) that keep us chained to mental habits that ultimately disempower us. Are the powers of the Witch special? No. They are the manifestation of a realized life. They are the evidence of living life in close unison with all, which means barriers such as the mental-label barriers (including terms like “special,” “not special,” “better,” “worse,” etc.) are rendered invisible. The powers of the Witch are the natural power of life flowing though us moment by moment, unblocked, not rarified, feared or glorified.

sixth pentacle fo the sun

The Spell

I offer this magical working to help us notice and calm that part of us that wants to stand out, that wants to be noticed as different, rare, strange and peculiar. It is a spell and a protection to help us notice in each moment that all things are of the same source. I am using a pentacle from the Key of Solomon for this spell. We are only using this pentacle as an object to focus our intention, rather than the traditional use of the pentacles. You can find the pentacle anywhere online if you want a cleaner copy than the one I post here.

What You’ll Need:
A copy of the 6th Pentacle of the Sun (just copy and paste from this post)

Dragon’s Blood Reed (as an incense)

Incense burner and a self-igniting charcoal

Your regular circle casting tools

During the dark of the moon, print out a copy of the 6th Pentacle of the Sun. Cast a circle using your own circle casting technique, or the one I offer in Wicca: A Year and A Day. Place the image on your central altar. Sprinkle it lightly with your blessed water and salt mixture. Sprinkle some of the Dragon’s Blood Reed on the charcoal (make sure the coal is really hot all the way through; it should be slightly ashy on the edges). Bless the image in the twisting incense smoke. Hold the image between your palms and vow to live your life as one with all of nature. See yourself becoming transparent, like clear, rushing water. Imagine yourself as water, joining the whole of the ocean, merging, dissipating, holding all potential within you. Open your eyes and close the circle. Carry the charm with you and remind yourself each moment of your intention to live in unison with each moment–not fearing it or glorifying it. Instead, just be life.

Opening Magical Channels

Witches Dance

Someone once asked me, “What exactly are you teaching?” I was a bit shocked that someone might ask such a question of an author who has dedicated himself to teaching the Craft of the Wise. But as the question settled—and I considered its source—I began to ask myself a question in meditation, similar to the stark question posed by a casual onlooker, but also unique. The question I sat with was: “What is this?”

It’s a good question to begin asking yourself in your own meditations. As you ask the question, inhale, and hold it for a second at the level of the solar plexus chakra. “What is this?” Don’t seek an immediate answer, because that’s just your head talking. You want a response that goes deeper. You want the whole body to resonate with this question—and then ultimately respond in a way that illuminates, sheds light on your magical path, and frees up channels of energy.

Don’t seek an immediate answer, because that’s just your head talking…

That’s really the point of the meditative inquiry process that I propose in both Wicca: A Year and A Day, as well as its companion volume, Wicca: the Second Degree. It isn’t to make you good at mediation. It isn’t to pose silly questions. It’s to make you good at your life. It’s to open up previously choked up channels of magical power. So often, we live unconsciously in ways that are dictated by habit, convenience, and a deep need for pleasure. Nothing wrong with any of those motivations—as long as they don’t interfere with your spiritual progress.

The problem is that these habitual patterns actually do get in our way—whether or not we choose to acknowledge this. Habit actions might make us comfortable, because they’re familiar. But they are not powerful channels of magical energy. Magic just gets stuck, blocked, ineffective and “murky” when we, ourselves, become caught up in relying on them for responding to every situation in our lives. The process of meditative inquiry moves our blocked energies around—almost like how acupuncture moves Chi around the body. The process wakes us up. And the responses we uncover by asking a question and listening deeply frequently startles us into new, brave actions. It changes our consciousness. And that, as Dion Fortune would say, is magic.

From my forthcoming work–Wicca: Another Year and A Day


The “meaning” of life takes place on a much larger scale than our own personal lives. Our lives are just a momentary speck. They are the most recent manifestation of a long lineage of consciousness expressing itself in endless forms. Once your life is finished, another takes its place and continues to express this impersonal flow long into an unfathomable future.

They are the most recent manifestation of a long lineage of consciousness expressing itself in endless forms.

The same immense, powerful, vast and impersonal tide of energy that gives birth to solar systems and swallows them up in black holes, also gives birth to the temporary forms that we inhabit. Life must fulfill itself. When we become dissatisfied and unhappy, it is because our own “personalized” version of life is not occurring as we “want it to happen.” Thus, on a small scale, we impede the vast and impersonal flow of this force and attempt to make things happen according to our individual plans. To live a more fulfilled existence, we must detach from this Alchemy2notion that “its all about me,” and live our lives as agents of this unknowable flow that manifests as just this moment.

Sisyphus and Finding the Great Balance

MythI used to love Greek myths when I was a kid. The hero deeds, the great feats, the Gods all spoke a language that hit in the gut. They weren’t stories that appealed to my mind so much as they were appealing to my dreams. Now, because I’m both a psychotherapist and a pagan, I’m going to reference the old-timers, the granddaddies, the myth-makers of psychology: Freud and Jung. Both of them contended that myth and dreams both originate from the same place. They represent the body speaking.

…something “other” awakens within us and comes to life….

When the mind settles away from the known shores of conscious thinking, planning, working, and communicating with others, something “other” awakens within us and comes to life. It’s the life of our bodies, with its own set of demands, which usually has little (if anything) to do with the social demands and expectations of our everyday lives. Yet we live in a split way. We have sort-of parallel lives running, with each sphere almost blind to the other.

Living in this split way leads us to disempowerment, discomfort and ultimately suffering. We feel dissatisfied at some level with our lives, our work, our partners, families, communities and ourselves. But we can’t quite put our finger on the problem. Why? Why do we feel this way? And how can we come into a greater accord with the twin rhythms of our lives—the mind and body, light and dark, conscious and unconscious processes?

…we live in a split way. We have sort-of parallel lives running, with each sphere almost blind to the other.

The myth of Sisyphus might give us a clue. Sisyphus was the God who was consigned to the underworld and given the task of forever pushing a tremendous boulder up a hill. As soon as he reached the summit, the boulder would roll back down and he would have to start the task again. So the question this myth raises is whether or not Sisyphus is bound to suffer. It also asks whether or not we will suffer, for the heroes, Gods and Goddesses of myth are really ourselves.images2LS5LLH6

Sisyphus will suffer if he lives out of synch with the task before him—pushing, pushing, pushing. If he stands there and thinks, “Oh hell no! This is bulls**t,” then he has misaligned himself. Suffering and disempowerment will ensue. But if he throws himself just into the pushing, and simply does just what the moment requires of him, then the mind and body align. The world opens. Power floods in. In that state of alignment, there is no room for preferences, a product of habitual thinking and a lifetime of patterns that always leads to misalignment, confusion, dissatisfaction and loss of power in our lives.

It isn’t easy to live in alignment. Old habits and preferences die hard. Most organisms want to experience comfort and pleasure as much of the time as possible. But there is no power when you live in that way. It’s living lopsided. Living as a slave to our preferences leads exactly to where we are now: stressed, unhappy, dissatisfied and disempowered.

At the time of the Equinoxes, it is time for each of us to take stock of balance. Do we have it? Are we living in it? This Fall, take time to throw yourself into your life fully with no gaps. Push the boulder. Be an instrument of the universe and do the thing that needs doing in this moment. This is living in balance—moment by moment. See for yourself the difference that living in balance will have.

Living Lughnasadh


There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “If you’re falling, you might as well dive.” It sounds simple, but it isn’t easy to do. What this saying implies is for us to meet the moment head-on; to do what life requires of us, despite our own ideas about the requisites. When it rains, take out your umbrella. When something funny happens, laugh. When someone needs help, reach out a hand. But we don’t live like that. If you’re like most people, when you meet the moment, you think things through, you judge and weigh your options. You consider the people involved and decide if they are worthy of your efforts. You project your thoughts into the past and the future to see if whatever the moment needs right now is “appropriate.”

When it rains, take out your umbrella. When something funny happens, laugh. When someone needs help, reach out a hand.

As children we throw ourselves into life wholeheartedly. We leave nothing out. We live this way until we meet our school friends that teach us that some things are worth doing and others not. We learn how to edit what we say and what we do. We learn what people are “in” and which ones are “out.” We learn how to “fit in” no matter what the cost, the damage to our souls, or the harm we inflict on others. In essence, we practice living our lives protecting our egos. We separate from life and its requirements and learn to act in ways that create lasting harm to the world around us. We learn to live out of synch with life, with our instincts. We learn to live from a humming core of fear. We learn to only serve ourselves.

Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-NAH-suh) is the Gaelic word for the pre-Christian harvest festival that focused on the bounty of the first reaping. It is the first of three harvest festivals in the pagan wheel of the year, the second being Fall Equinox, and the third is Samhain. The rites of Lughnasadh center around the harvesting of grain, understanding that the killing of life also means the sustaining of life. One of the most basic motifs in world mythology and ritual is that of coming into harmony with the realization that life must feed on itself. When we see this fact clearly, it is difficult to live in harmony with it.

cauldron smallerSo what do we do? Do we shun reality? In some spiritual traditions, for example among the Jains of India, the goal is to not participate in the self-feeding fire of life. They take great care not to ingest living things and avoid killing animals or plants for food. They wear cloth over their noses and mouths to prevent accidental inhalation of insects. The Jains’ response to the ever-burning fire of life is to extinguish it. Some might see these practices as an extreme, but they are certainly one valid set of responses to the horrific notion that we must kill in order to live.
Other traditions, such as those of the Upanishads, feed the fires of life.

…coming into harmony with the realization that life must feed on itself.

All of life is Agni, or fire, in their view. Food that they eat is fire (or energy). Food gives the body its fire/energy. The Upanishads rituals involving viewing food as a sacrifice; not to turn away from the realities of living, but to embrace them, meet the moment as it requires. In the Upanishads’ view, life is an ever burning fire that needs to be fed. If you’re falling, you might as well dive.

The same holds true in the view of contemporary pagans who see the grain (and other food we eat) as a willing sacrifice. But these ideas and the philosophies that buoy them extend far beyond the rites of harvesting. Lughnasadh encourages us to live our lives just as the grain to be harvested, doing what needs to be done, sacrificing our ideas and notions of life in order to actually live organically, vitally, presently.