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TempleFest 2016 Q&A with Christopher Penczak

July 29, 2016 begins The Temple of Witchcraft’s annual three-day gathering of the magickal community at TempleFest. To preview the Lammas-encompassing festival, Temple Co-Founder Christopher Penczak shares with us how TempleFest began, what we can expect this year, some of his fondest memories of TempleFests past and what he’s most looking forward to this year.

When and how did TempleFest begin? Tell us its “origin story.”

TempleFest began in 2010 as a one-day special event for the members of the Temple of Witchcraft, primarily folks in our Mystery School. Our first one was members only because we didn’t really know how to put on a festival, so we wanted to keep it small until we understood the structure and mechanics. We had it on a lovely farm in Derry, N.H., before moving to private land of a member living in South Hampton, N.H. We wanted to create a place for community to gather, to share, beyond our sabbat festivals, which can be short, even with a class in the afternoon. I’ve been honored to attend so many festivals around the world, ranging from 2-7 days and hosted by great Pagan communities. In speaking about it, the leaders of the Temple also agreed it would be something to help share and hold space for our community.

We have a lot of distance members, doing correspondence courses, so TempleFest is an annual chance for them to gather. Mentors get to meet students, and classmates across the years get to hang out and share. Social media is helpful, but it’s no substitute for good conversation and hanging out around the ritual fire.

Who is this festival for and why should they attend?

The primary focus for the festival is for members of the Temple of Witchcraft, family, friends and those open and curious to Witchcraft and Paganism in general, and those specifically interested in the tradition of the Temple. While there are many events rooted in a pan-pagan ethos and focusing a multitude of religious practices, our focus for our community is on Witchcraft, and while we have all sorts of events ranging from beginners to advanced, our effort is to promote the culture of the Witch, of occultism and metaphysics, and not necessarily dilute it for a broader public.

Those looking to experience ritual, classes and community are welcome. While there is a huge social component, and building of relationships and having friendships grow in the flesh, our framework for the Temple has always hinged around education and experience of the esoteric. You’re certainly welcome to come and just hang out, but there is lots to do and experience, and we encourage immersion into the full experience.

What was the attendance last year and what do you expect this year?

Last year 230 people attended TempleFest over the course of three days, many for the whole weekend and others just for a day or part of a day.  This year we are expecting more than 250 (our site is limited to 300 people at one time).

Besides yourself, who are some of the big names in Witchcraft that we can expect to see this year?

This year our guest speaker is the fabulous Judika Illes, author of many excellent books on magick and the Craft, and in particular the popular Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells and the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft.

I’ve known Judika since I began my writing career and enjoyed her many classes. From her formularies to her work with Spirits, I always learn something new. We don’t see each other as often with busy schedules, so TempleFest is often a way I can get teachers that I want to hear out to our community.

In years past, we have attracted fun guests and friends from the community to come as “part of the crowd” and not necessarily as speakers, including Raven and Stephanie Grimassi and Dorothy Morrison. They were former guests of honor at TempleFest and came back to attend for fun. We’ve also had Orion Foxwood and Ceisiwr Serith present at TempleFest.

This year, we will have some folks attending who will really add to the educational experience, including David Salisbury, Courtney Weber, Ivo Dominquez Jr., Devin Hunter and Storm Faerywolf.

What’s the lineup of events? (or, what events do you know of at this point?)

Since TempleFest is focused upon the community’s connection to the Faery Court, we have a special Friday evening ritual based on the myth of the Fallen Angels as the Faeries. Saturday will include a Harvest, or Lammas, ritual in the afternoon, followed by a keynote presentation by Judika, most likely on the intersection between the saints and the ancestors of the Witch. Saturday night, we’ll have a ritual entitled The Dance of the Alchemist.

What would you say is the must-attend event at the festival this year and why?

This year, we’re repeating the Teacher Panel. It was an emergency fill-in last year when something was cancelled unexpectedly, and people loved it so much, we are purposely repeating it. Not sure what the topic will be yet, but something juicy to get everyone excited and opinionated.

What are you most looking forward to this year? What’s your favorite thing about TempleFest in general?

I enjoy shopping and getting to visit with people quietly, one on one, as we shop. I enjoy the time between, at the fire, at the tents. I do like to take classes with the guest of honor, as well. This year, Judika will be doing two workshops. I also like teaching and running rituals for folks myself.

Can you describe the atmosphere of the festival overall?

A gathering of individuals coming together in community. It’s definitely got a Witchy feel to it! Many have commented to me they are surprised we use things in public that other pagan groups might shy away from. Yet, we also attract families with kids, folks in jeans, t-shirts and baseball hats, along with the robes, cloaks, loin cloths and brooms. We gather around the fire, and I think it evokes something primary and powerful from Witches in ages past and times in the future.

What’s your funniest TempleFest memory?

I think passing a glass of absinthe to someone who didn’t know what it was, when sitting around the fire. The look on their face. It was a bit too green and bitter, despite the sugar in it. They almost choked and yelled at me for not warning them. Who needs a warning about absinthe? It’s not like it was hemlock!

How about your favorite memory from TempleFests past?

One of my favorite moments was going on a weed walk with one of the local herbal teachers at the very first TempleFest. It was education, relaxed and exactly what I needed at the time. Small group of herbal adventurers.

Who else helps make TempleFest possible?

The amazing Team TempleFest. I really do very little to make TempleFest happen with everything else I’m responsible for in the Temple. We have amazing “Three Rays” team leaders, each with their area of expertise to organize. TempleFest is put on through our Aquarius Ministry, and has been the baby of Lead Minister Lisa over these many years. She is working so well with her coven sisters Nicole and Alix. Jocelyn, our treasurer, makes so much possible through the use of her farm. We have always had amazing support on site from longtime Team TempleFest members and TOW ministers.

Everybody really pitches in and helps in some way. I run the class programming and am indebted to the many wonderful presenters who offer their time to present and teach the community. The vendors and our vendor coordinator, Beth, has gotten us great crafters and artisans to offer their magickal goodies to us.  And we have a new generation of volunteers form the online school working, as they can, to help out.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for attendees? (practical and magickal – not that those are necessarily mutually exclusive)

Pace yourself. Don’t try to do everything, but make sure you do something! Take time to hang out and visit. Drink lots of water. Dance. Be okay having an experience that releases something. It’s a safe place for doing magickal work in a community setting.

What, above all else, do you hope people take away from this year’s festival?

An experience with the magick, with the otherworldly, is the most important thing to me … I think that is a reason to come to TempleFest.

Attend TempleFest 2016 

TempleFest, held at 96 Woodman Road in South Hampton, NH, begins Friday, July 29 at 5 p.m. and ends Sunday, July 31 at 4 p.m.

Register now or visit the website for more information.

flower 2

I feel like I should start by apologizing for the length of time between my posts. Maybe it was a winter retreat and I needed to hibernate, or maybe it was my laziness. Either way I am back and hope to develop a little more consistency. The potential of spring has me hopeful. All over my little hill, the Earth begins to awaken. The smell of thawing soil spreads through the air. The trees are budding and specks of green are spread across the ground.

In this post, I wanted to talk about something that might seem a bit more mundane, but for me, is tied to my magick: eating. More specifically, seasonal eating. For many Witches we celebrate the tidal movement of the Sabbats. We watch the changes in the world around us from the green promising growth of spring to the retreat and slumber of the winter. It seems natural for us to dance with this, but how many of us pay attention to that change in our diets?

If we look at the agricultural ties to the Sabbats, it is clear that what we eat changes in unison with each of these celebrations. It is most apparent in the later parts of the year when we celebrate the three major harvest festivals. The harvest of fruit, grain, and finally meat. As a result of this, our ancestors – who didn’t have grocery stores — ate diets that reflected that.

Now that spring is here, our diets potentially should shift towards many of the greens that are beginning to sprout or unfold. Many of these herbs are bitters. If any of you have tasted a black tea after the bag has soaked for a very long time, you know what I mean by a bitter. These herbs and plants help our bodies awaken our digestive track. Over the winter we eat diets of root veggies and preserved meats from the final harvest, much as our ancestors did. These young budded friends of ours have biological effects on our bodies. The bitter qualities promote the production of saliva and digestive fluids. They prime the pumps for what is to come as the growing season approaches.

Those of us that are Green Witches recognize this change. These synchronicities with the plant kingdom are a reflective of the magick in our World. Many of us are doing work this time of year that is about planting the seed or preparing for the growth and harvest to come. How are your practice and celebrations affected or influenced by seasonal foods?

I would also ask you how adapting or adopting these dietary practices helps with the sustainability of our planet’s resources. If some of us define our practice as an Earth-based religion, how would embracing locally grown produce, as well as sustainably and ethically raised meats impact our planet? How will it change our Inner Temples? These really are questions only you can answer. We can talk about the price of these choices, and they are real, or the practicality, but what I suggest is first working on our awareness.

So how can we take those baby steps?

  • Visit your local Farmer’s Markets.
  • Find recipes that utilize seasonally grown produce.
  • If possible purchase organically grown produce.
  • Limit the amount of meat you consume –  it is by far the biggest consumer of resources.
  • Say grace. WHAT? Okay, maybe not a traditional grace, but show appreciation for what you take in. As within, so without. Recognize that something had to die in order for you to live, plant or animal. Just to prove that eating this way can be delicious and powerful, I’m sharing a few recipes I appreciate this time of year.

Chickweed long

Chickweed Pesto

  • 2-3 cups fresh picked chickweed (Stellaria media or Stellaria pubera)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan (fresh grated preferable)
  • 1/3 of a cup walnuts or pine nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or enough to form a sauce)
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Thoroughly blend ingredients. This beautiful pesto can be served over pasta or rice. It can also be slathered over chicken or polenta. It is wonderful over roasted veggies and can be served hot or cold.

Nettle Soup

Nettles (Urtica dioica), stinging nettles, or witches’ nettles are prolific in the spring, and they are an amazing additive to any dish, especially soup. Lots of people are concerned with the stinging aspect of them. The chemical that sits within the leaves of nettles degrades in boiling water.

You can literally take any soup recipe and add nettles to it to reap the benefits of this powerful mineral- and nutrient-rich plant.

Bitters

Not just for your gin anymore!

  • Orange peel
  • Gentian
  • Cardamom
  • Cloves
  • Vodka or brandy (at least 80 proof)
  • Mason jar

Place herbs in mason jar and fill with vodka or brandy. Store out of direct light for 6-8 weeks. Shake 3-4 times per week. Strain and bottle when complete. Once you have completed these beautifully aromatic bitters, you can add them to your favorite cocktail or take a dropper-full in the morning or before meals.

All of these recipes are easy and vibrant. I hope you have a chance to try them out. At the very least, I hope I gave you a little food for thought regarding seasonal eating and how it can fit into our spiritual practice.

Ryan is an ordained Minister, Seminary Graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft & Deputy Minister of the Cancer Ministry. Ryan is passionate about Kitchen Witchery, the creatures of the Green World, working with Plant Spirits and making magick in daily life. Crafting herbal infusions, candles, and sacred tools, Ryan is co-creator of Drops of Three. You may visit his website at www.dropsofthree.storenvy.com.

American Altars and Perpetual Choirs

by Christopher Penczak

As an occultist, my primary way of interacting with the world, society, and myself is through magickal technique. Though I have a lot of strong personal opinions about things in the world, and discuss them with people in my personal life, I am hesitant to do so in larger public or social media settings. While the larger conversation is helpful for many, and the Sacred Work for some, for me it’s not. It is easy to get your point distorted, be pulled away from your own Sacred Work, or engage in conflict that doesn’t further understanding or the issue at hand. It can be helpful to have those experiences, and I have had them to my fill, so I leave that Work for others who feel called to place their energy there. [click to continue…]

Secretary Bird2“Change can only occur with the destruction of the old. The very nature of destruction is creation.”
– Scott Cunningham

I find the concept of creation and destruction so intriguing. A common mainstream view is that destruction is bad and creation is good but we witches know better. It just depends on the circumstances right? For example, destroying harmful habits can be good while creating debt can be bad. In fact, destruction and creation can both be beneficial when wielded to our advantage.

When it comes to artistic expression, many people tell me how they would love to be more artistic but that they are either wrought with anxiety, fear of failure or that they have no talent. Even an artist like myself has to constantly take care of my vulnerable inner child. In fact, every time I start a new sketch and see that blank page, a wave of anxiety overtakes me. Then I go about my ritual of destroying my anxiety by giving myself permission to fail. This gives my soul a chance to soar, if only for a little while. I find it fascinating that some of my best work was simply the result of getting out of my own way long enough for the magick to happen. Just a little healing can go such a long way!

Do you have harmful programs that you’d like to destroy in order to make room for your creative endeavors? If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas that I’ve found helpful for me.

There’s a great therapeutic product called “Wreck This Journal” widely available in bookstores. Not only is it absolutely freeing and liberating, it’s actually pretty hilarious! Each page includes an activity like dropping the journal from a great height, or Artsy witch photo 2scribbling outside the lines and even smearing what you had for dinner on the page! Oh yes, if you follow the activities you will absolutely wreck the journal in the most liberating of ways!

Oftentimes when working on an artistic project, that inner critic just will not shut up! Argh! Here are a couple of techniques I’ve found to teach my inner critic how to take a back seat during the creative process:

– Give your inner critic a name. I call mine “Crusher” because that’s what it does. It attempts to crush my confidence and my will to accomplish my goal. Talk to your critic. When you receive criticism ask for it to provide concrete evidence for the criticism. Next, find all the evidence you can to debunk your critic’s harmful opinions of you.

– When your inner critic just won’t shut up, ask it to take a back seat during the creative process. Then tell your inner critic that you will listen to what it has to say for five minutes afterward. Be sure to honor your critic and allow it a full five minutes to talk to you. I think you’ll be surprised at what happens.

– Create a spell during the waning moon phase to banish limiting thoughts and harmful programs that are holding you back. Christopher Penzcak’s book The Inner Temple of Witchcraft has some great exercises for this as well!

By destroying old harmful programs, room for artistic healing and expression is truly possible! Working with my own inner critic is a regular process for me and my healing journey is not over yet. I’m making progress though, and I hope that this article helps you on your own journey as well.

Next: Adult Coloring Books for Healing and Inspiration
Previously: Black Cat Rescue Candles

Christine Marie Ford is a professional visual artist and crafts person for over 12 years. She is a former professional actress and musical theatre performer with over twenty years of experience and continues to sing and play cajon. Christine is a first year apprentice of the Temple of Witchcraft mystery school and a 101 Wicca Student of BTW. She has been a solitary practitioner for three years and has studied Reiki and various divinatory arts for many years. You can visit Christine at www.christinemarieford.com or on Facebook.

Datura header 6

There is no doubt that Fall has arrived here in New England. The energy of the Sun has shifted as it pulls away from us. There is a silver grey hue to the sky. The wind’s kiss has a crisp bite to it, and the Standing Ones are covered in an array of autumnal color that has begun to blanket the ground around us. For many of us, October is one of the busiest times of the year. With Samhain almost here, the month is strewn with fairs and celebrations, and Witches are at our most popular.

Realizing that we are all on the run, I thought I would share two super easy and very tasty fall recipes with you—Baked Apples and Red Lentil & Pumpkin Chili. The first is one of my favorite autumn desserts that I originally learned to make while camping when I was a Scout. As for the chili, I thought I would share a savory preparation for pumpkin. Most of us associate pumpkin with lattes and pies, but they are a squash and can be very versatile.

Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 6 Large Baking Apples
  • 1/3 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • A dash of Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
  • 6 tablespoons Butter (room temperature)

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • With a spoon, remove the center core of the apple, leaving a half-inch to inch of flesh at the bottom (you don’t want to go completely through the apple).
  • Place 6 apples side by side in a baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, mix butter and brown sugar with the remaining spices and salt until just incorporated. Make sure not to overwork or melt the butter.
  • Evenly distribute the butter mixture inside the cored centers of the apples
  • Cover with foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes to a hour. Remove when the apples’ flesh is easily pierced with a toothpick or knife.

The beauty of this traditional autumn dessert is that it’s easy to assemble and cook, plus the serving size is simple to change. You can wrap just one in foil for a single serving or make several sheets of them for larger gatherings. A more adult version can be made by adding rum or even a hazelnut liquor to the center of the apples along with thebutter mixture.

Apple 1 Apple 2 Apple 3

Red Lentil & Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 15-ounce cans Kidney Beans, drained
  • 2 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans Fire-Roasted Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup dry Red Lentils
  • 1 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 cup Pumpkin, medium cubes
  • 1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 medium Jalapeno, minced (Chilies can be altered to suit your taste)
  • 1 tablespoon Cocoa Powder
  • 2 tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 3 teaspoons Cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-cracked Black Pepper
  • Optional toppings (Pumpkin Seeds, Sour Cream, Cilantro)

Method:

  • Add all ingredients to your Crock Pot and stir.
  • Cook on high for 4-5 hours (low for 8-10 hours) until lentils are tender and chili is thick.
  • Serve with assorted toppings, if desired.

Doesn’t it make your mouth water just thinking about it? What an array of spices and veggies that are symbolic of Samhain and this time of year: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg—all fiery spices to warm the cold nights—plus apples that house the five-pointed star, and pumpkins, a veggie linked closely with All Hallows Eve.

I hope you enjoy these recipes, and I encourage you to play around with them and make them your own. I also encourage you to take a look at the list of ingredients, and if you don’t already know the correspondence for each, look them up. Better yet, sit with them. Speak to them, and share their stories as you share your meal.

What magick your cooking spice cabinet holds. If you are interested in learning the magickal uses for each of the culinary herbs you use every day, an effortless way to do so is to add a small sticker with key words to the outside of the spice container. That way, as you grab them and add them to your food, a simple glance will remind you of the power in the plant you have added to your meal, the energy you are taking in.

Samhain Blessings!

Ryan is an ordained Minister, Seminary Graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft & Deputy Minister of the Cancer Ministry. Ryan is passionate about Kitchen Witchery, the creatures of the Green World, working with Plant Spirits, & making magick in daily life. Crafting herbal infusions, candles, and sacred tools, Ryan is co-creator of Drops of Three. Visit his website at www.dropsofthree.storenvy.com.

The Story

candle As we approach Samhain and the darker half of the year, Halloween images of black cats, witch’s hats and candy are everywhere. Each year in my small Ontario hometown, a black cat seems to cross my path in need of rescue. I’m reminded of sweet Mira (short for “Miracle”) named by Pam, our gallery curator, while I was a resident artist at the old Mill. Pam came to my studio upset one day. A female black cat had been living under the porch of the studio next door. Pam had been feeding her, but as the weather grew colder, she fretted about what was to happen to this sweet cat. Winters here are long and bitter, and there was no space for her at our local animal shelter. Mira was so frightened that it was hard for me to get near her. Something had to be done.

I spent several days befriending Mira until I felt confident that I could foster her until a shelter vacancy opened up. Days later a vacancy opened up, and I brought her to our local Humane Society. I learned that not too many people want to adopt black cats, let alone an adult one. I felt sad because Mira was the sweetest soul you’d ever hope to meet. Pam and I continued to make donations in her name until finally she was adopted her two years later.picasso

The following spring, Pam introduced me to little “Picasso,” a jet black male kitten with bright golden eyes who’d managed to get into some paint and was prancing around proudly with his newly painted white tail. How apropos that he was rescued at a visual arts center! That lively little character got adopted much quicker! Nevertheless, a pattern was beginning to form.

One day, I started making fanciful candles with cat charms on them in October and selling them in my studio to an eager public. I then used the proceeds to sponsor black cats in various animal shelters. I call them Black Cat Rescue Candles in the hope that if there were more public awareness that black cats are just as sweet and lovable as other cats, maybe they’d be adopted sooner. However, it’s not essential to attach a cause to your candle making project unless you feel called to do so. They make great gifts, sabbat crafts, and altar candles too! If my idea happens to inspire more ideas, joy, creativity, discussion and possibly save a cat or two, then I say Blessed Be!

The Project

Truthfully, candle making from scratch is an art and science that I haven’t fully mastered. My first attempt used the wrong type of wick and resulted in an epic mess – ruined pots, a lost fortune on supplies, and a pissed off husband! This time, I decided to try upcycling and not only was it inexpensive, it was so much fun!

What you will need:

  • 2 white or cream-colored identical candles to experiment with. When you are happy with your results, you can make as many as your heart desires and even experiment with other colors.
  • 1 cat charm (many great and inexpensive designs can be found in local craft shops and online – I purchased mine on Etsy)
  • 1 jump ring (add this to your charm if it has a only teeny tiny loop at the top.
  • 14” long piece of ribbon. Black, white or red ribbon looks good, but go with your gut or use what’s available. You can also substitute with raffia, cord, yarn etc.
  • 1 small tube of good quality black acrylic paint
  • 1 paintbrush (1/2” to 1” wide works well)
  • 1 small square of coarse sandpaper
  • Optional: 1 cake decorating turntable (I found mine at a dollar store!)
  • Aluminum foil
  • A lighter or matches
  • Optional: 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” parchment paper to print the labels.
  • 1 water soluble glue stick for attaching the labels.

Instructions

candle 1Step 1 – Choose your candles

I purchased 2 cream colored unscented pillar candles at my local dollar store for $1.50 each to experiment with (2” diameter wide x 5” high). Quality can vary dramatically, so I chose to experiment with the cheapest first. They worked well so I could afford to make plenty more! For magickal purposes, you may prefer to use natural wax such as beeswax, soy, or palm, so follow your intuition. Remember, the first two candles are just for experimentation and upgrades can always be made later.

Step 2 – The Burn Test

Create a sacred space and use an altar if you have one. Spiritually cleanse both candles but do not bless and consecrate them just yet. If desired, ask the Goddess, God and Great Spirit to assist with this project for the highest good harming none. Then, light just one candle with a protective dish underneath. Let it burn for at least 30 minutes and watch how it burns. Is there any black smoke? Is the wax dripping excessively and starting to make a mess? Is the flame “drowning” in the wax? Are there any offensive odors? If so, the quality is too poor for our purposes, and I would personally try a different one. Price is not always an accurate gauge of candle quality, so repeat the burn test for every new brand to be sure it meets your standards.

Step 3 – Candle Paintingcandle 2

Before painting, remove any labels and packaging. In a vertical motion, use the sandpaper to remove any shininess. This will help to give the paint and wax decorating process a surface that it can “stick” to. Do not worry about how the surface looks as it will be covered up later.

Cover your work area with newspaper and add a small dab of black acrylic paint onto a little piece of aluminum foil. Taking your unburned candle, apply a small amount of paint to the brush and begin making wispy strokes from the bottom toward the top. Leave the top half of the candle mostly unpainted with the exception of a few uneven “wisps” here and there. Allow the paint to dry for 20-30 minutes.

candle 3Step 4 – Wax Decorating

While the paint is drying, prepare your cake turntable by covering the surface completely with aluminum foil. Once the paint is dry, place the candle at the center of the turntable. Take the candle that you used previously for your burn test and relight it now. Tilt the burning candle slightly allowing the melting wax to drip onto the painted candle. Slowly rotate the turntable, creating lots of spooky drips down all sides of the candle. Experiment by letting drips fall near the wick of the candle and some along the sides. Add as much or as little detail as you like. When you feel your candle has been thoroughly “witchified,” leave it to cool completely for a few hours.

If you have several candles to decorate, wait a minute or two and then gently lift the candle from the turntable and leave it to cool on the newspaper. Remove any chunks around the base of the candle. Place a new candle on your turntable and keep on going!

Once you’ve got the hang of decorating your candles with wax, feel free to explore other candle colors and looks! Try new paint colors and painting techniques!

Step 5 – Finishing Touches

Once your candle is completely cool, thread the cat charm onto your ribbon and tie it around the candle with a double knot. Tie it firmly, but not so firmly as to damage your wax design. Trim off the excess ribbon.

Optional: Add a parchment paper “Black Cat Rescue” label to identify the cause. Free labels are available for download at ChristineMarieFord.com. Apply using a water soluble glue stick. Remember to sign your label and indicate what kind of wax you used. Bless/consecrate your candles and charge them with your intent before putting them out into the world.

You’ve now made your first upcycled Black Cat Rescue Candle! Experiment with new designs and themes or tailor them for your next ritual or Sabbat. Most importantly, remember that no matter how your first candle turns out, skill comes with practice. Trust that creatively speaking, everything is unfolding exactly as it should. I went through several candles before I finally created this design which is now my favorite. Blessed Be!

black cats

Six sweet black kitties I’m sponsoring this year at the Upper Credit Humane Society in Erin Ontario

Next: Healing through Creative Destruction

Previously: The Artsy Witch: An Introduction

Christine Marie Ford is a professional visual artist and crafts person for over 12 years. She is a former professional actress and musical theatre performer with over twenty years of experience and continues to sing and play cajon. Christine is a first year apprentice of the Temple of Witchcraft mystery school and a 101 Wicca Student of BTW. She has been a solitary practitioner for three years and has studied Reiki and various divinatory arts for many years. You can visit Christine at www.christinemarieford.com or on Facebook.

Merry Meet! I’m delighted to be writing this new column on a topic that has long interested me, and it is my hope to publish a new article twice a month with few exceptions. Throughout my career as a jewelry maker, book binder, and visual artist working in fiber/mixed media, a spiritual element has always pervaded my work. In my earlier years as an artist and up until fairly recently, this process was nearly always unconscious and intuitive. I was not yet aware that I was a natural witch of sorts. I knew nothing of the Craft, and I had long since abandoned my childhood Catholic upbringing, which did not resonate with me. I was lost spiritually for many years, determined never to “belong” to any organized religion again. Many of my family members are quite fulfilled with the Roman Catholic religion and I was a little envious, because I did not know what that felt like. Yet, in her own magickal way, the Goddess was always there…whispering to me.

Oftentimes, when I created a work of art, a profound spiritual meaning of the piece made itself known to me after I created it as if to say “Oh, that’s what I was trying to say” or “This is what I’ve been feeling and why.” I found myself creating special pieces of jewelry named after goddesses I knew nothing about consciously, but they spoke to me and told me their names. The most elaborate necklace I ever made was dedicated to the goddess Isis whom I knew nothing about, but I felt strongly that it must be made in dedication of her. I simply called it the Isis necklace. It was purchased and is now in the private collection of a wealthy and respected art collector in town. Isis continues to communicate with me and has been a blessing to my life.

phoenix

“Young Phoenix” from the Christine Marie Ford Private Collection

I made improvisational fabric wall hangings often depicting a young Phoenix newly formed from the ashes, abstract works of nature depicting the cycles of life, death and rebirth, and unexpected female forms which appeared where I least expected them through my improvisational approach to fabric art. My favorite creations did not feel like “my” creations. I felt inspiration flowing through me, and all I really did was try be an open vessel and stay out of the way!

finding freedom

“Finding Freedom” from the Christine Marie Ford Private Collection

A few years ago I discovered the Craft of the Wise and felt that feeling of “homecoming” that so many Witches speak and write about. To me the connection between art and spirituality is palpable and undeniable. As my spiritual life has begun to flourish, new meaning and inspiration flows in my artistic life. It is in this column that I would like to share some of my experiences and present some ideas in hopes of further developing the connection between art and spirit. I am in my first year of training in the Temple’s mystery tradition. I am neither an authority on spirituality, nor on witchcraft or even art for that matter. I am on a journey, and it’s a journey of a lifetime!

Let’s share in this adventure! I’d love to hear your ideas, your musings, and your experiences too. It is my hope to be an “open vessel” with this column and to allow something greater than myself to come through. Some articles may be more pragmatic and mundane, others more fanciful. Either way, this column is dedicated to all of you and the great Journey.

Next time: Black Cat Rescue Candles

Christine Marie Ford has been a professional visual artist and crafts person for over 12 years. She is a former professional actress and has been a musical theatre performer for over twenty years, continuing to sing and play cajon with the band “Random Roads.” Christine is currently a first year apprentice of the Temple of Witchcraft and a 101 Wicca Student of BTW as well. She has been a solitary practitioner for three years and has studied Reiki and various divinatory arts for many years. You can visit Christine at www.christinemarieford.com or on Facebook.

Witches and Charity

by Christopher Penczak

Though we might draw upon ancient traditions and think of ourselves as heirs to the mystery schools, in reality, modern Paganism, Wicca and Witchcraft are relatively new in terms of our collective values, resources and support structures. We’re at a fundamental point as individuals and a community to determine exactly what we value and why. Some of us have learned things in previous traditions and why to cast off those teachings. Other teachings and values we might want to keep, but struggle to see how they fit in with our current practices. So we should explore all of these things, and understand the ‘why’ behind not only our magick, but our community structures.

One of the most interesting and fluctuating topics in our communities is Pagan Charity. Are we a charitable people? Should we be? Why?

One would argue that our desire to be charitable comes from previous Christian conditioning. The idea is deeply tied with the Christian notions of Faith, Hope and Charity. It is also one of the seven heavenly virtues. Christian charity, theologically, is about a lot more than benevolent giving, and relates to deep concepts of love and divine friendship. Compassionate giving, such as alms, is also found in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism. While two sources not traditionally Pagan, many Pagans are more comfortable borrowing from Hinduism and Buddhism than Christianity or Islam.

Less recognized by many modern Pagans, we also see it in ancient Paganism, in the form of giving hospitality to beggars and strangers, for the gods can be disguised as the poor strangers on your door. While not codified in the Pagan four Cardinal Virtues, which include Prudence, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude, hospitality is found in the myths. We see humans expressing hospitality in tales of Athena, Zeus, Hermes, and Demeter, not knowing at the times their guests were gods. Norse and Celtic culture express not only the teachings of hospitality, but also in being a gracious guests when receiving hospitality and support. So despite our ideas to distance ourself from “Christian” charity, there are roots of it in all forms of Paganism and mystical traditions.

Socially, many would critique such charity as re-distribution of wealth, and a form of socialism, though voluntary giving is quite different from any form of socialism. Pagans of this view will look at the “kill or be killed” harshness of nature, and use that at a motto. Everyone must be strong and survive. Nature is not charitable. But when we look at a wide variety of animals, we see supportive structures humans would find familiar and comforting. There is even new research to show how plants within a forest support each other. On one hand, nature is harsh and cruel. On the other, very loving and support. Perhaps as Pagans, we need to be both, and know when each is appropriate.

As a modern Witch, theologically and magickaly, I see at least two main principles motivating charity and support for others beyond ourselves and our immediate kin. Drawing from the ideas of how the gods can be beggars and strangers, not only could they be, but they are. A huge portion of our spirituality recognizes the inherent divinity in all things. We are looking to more consciously realize and invoke our own divinity, and life more fully from that place, so recognizing the inherent divinity, conscious or not, of others, is important. Sometimes the most unusual people are our true teachers, and learning to selflessly serve and offer to others in an appropriate way that is not harming either party, is an excellent lesson in recognizing spirit in all forms.

The second idea, less metaphysical and more philosophical for those more grounded, down to Earth Pagans, goes back to the oft-quoted Gaia Theory, and the general thought of many Pagans, myself included, that we are like cells within a larger organization, and all species and systems upon and in the Earth relate to each other like a whole organism. For the well being of the entire organism, the seemingly separate systems should be doing what they can to support and bolster each other. A healthy liver doesn’t mean a whole lot if the heart is not working, and the various parts of our body work together to bring greater well being, ideally. Even the various sections within a given organ or system seek wholeness whenever possible. So in supporting others, starting with fellow humans and expanding beyond to the many other realms and races, physical and non-physical, we can bring about a greater benefit for all.

These two ideas inform our work in the Temple of Witchcraft community. We believe our greater community has reached the point to develop greater infrastructure and support for our growing population, but to do so with Pagan theological values, and without losing the mystery and magick of our training. Service and charity is a way to understand and put those principles into action. And each of the major sabbats, we take donations for various charities. While it changes year to year, this was our initial model:

  • Yule: Toys
  • Imbolc: Blankets and Coats
  • Ostara: Tree Planting
  • Beltane: Pet Donations
  • Litha: Blood Drive
  • Lammas: Food Drive
  • Mabon: Disaster Relief Supplies for TOWER
  • Samhain: Winter Coats and Clothing

We’ve not yet gotten a blood drive off the ground and pet donations also happen on the Feast of Hecate on August 13. We collected relief supplies for TOWER at Templefest this year, so our 2015 Mabon collection will be a food drive instead.

At the moment, we have been working cooperatively with other local services, including many Christian services. I would hope one day that we’d have the infrastructure to serve a larger community, and to be able to reach out to the non-Christian identifying aspects of the greater community. But the work also brings greater interfaith understanding. (Plus, I get a kick out of getting very kind thank you letters from Christian organizations, who are writing to thank the Temple of Witchcraft directly!) I hope it changes some minds about who and what Witches really are. We’ve actually found a lot of support among various Christian branches here locally in New Hampshire, and our charity work is a way we can reach across religious lines and focus on helping anyone who needs it. If other religions have the mechanisms in place to reach those in need, then until Paganism grows such structures, let’s work with them. Ideally, even when we do have such structures, let’s find other opportunities to partner together.

At our Templefest Lammas celebration, collected nonperishable food items were donated to local food bank. We often work with the Emmaus House (http://emmausinc.org/) homeless shelter in Haverhill, MA.

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For the Feast of Hecate, we collected donation for the MSPCA in Methuen, MA. In the coming months, be on the look out for future blog posts by our beloved Cancer Ministry volunteer Dragon, highlighting different ministries in the Temple, and their charitable work. Hopefully it will inspire those local to us, and inspire those distantly to start their own donation drives and find other ways to help.

Look at all forms of charitable work and giving as ways of enacting our spiritual values and creating the time of community that is built upon mutual support. That way we all go a step further in establishing the harmony of the time before time, and re-establishing the Garden of the Gods upon the Earth once more.

Does a Witch Have to Practice Witchcraft?

by Christopher Penczak
Recently I was asked by two former students who had graduated from the Temple’s program before there was a Temple to graduate from an important question. It echoed some of the themes and talks we had at Templefest 2015 and I’ve been thinking a lot about it and my initial response, and the reflections of my colleagues and elders. The question: Does a Witch have to practice Witchcraft?
I guess the easiest response would be asking how do you define Witch, and how do you define Witchcraft? But I answered, like I often do, with another set of questions. Does a musician have to play music? Does mathematician have to do math? Does a basketball player have to play basketball? I think for most of those questions, the answer would have to be yes. A musician who no longer plays, unless retired from a long and illustrious time of play, is really a former musician. Some people aspire to be musicians, and play a little, but if they have not really played with a capitol P, then they would not likely be recognized as musicians. As a former musician myself, with a degree in classical voice and a history of hard rock bands, I have empathy. While I resonate with the other former musicians who paths took us in different directions, and can empathize with life on the road, crazy drummers and bad contracts, as well as the absolute thrill of playing on stage, there would not be recognition and resonance among the true lifers, those who dedicated themselves completely to the music and were not pulled away from it. Though I’m not a mathematician or a basketball player, I must imagine there is similar recognition when encountering one of the same vocational “tribe.” Something within us recognizes it. And its either there or its not. The it might be something inherent enhanced by practice, or something intangible earned by experience, but its there regardless of where it came from. In parts of our Templefest teachings this year, things like “the blood remembers” and “we reach out and recognize our own” were said, describing this factor in the Craft of the Wise.
So my answer is yes, a Witch, seemingly by definition, must do Witchcraft. Yet the definition of Craft is where it is nebulous. These students were asking about someone who had previous training, but no longer had a regular practice of any kind – no formal meditation or journeying, no ritual or spellcraft, no celebration of the wheel in any regular way. She may think of you fondly as part of her healing or prayer work, but it is not ritualized in any way.
Is that enough? Who am I to say? I don’t know what is in this person’s heart and mind at these times. I do know there is a difference between thinking good thoughts about someone for a moment while going about your day and completely stilling yourself thereby connecting to the forces of the universe and creating effective change for yourself or another. While I think there are powerful reasons to work with tools and herbs, partnering with nature and engaging an animistic, less human-centric worldview, that is not always necessary to practice our Craft and make magick. But it is necessary to engage all levels of the self, to be aware and conscious of what you are doing, and not haphazard or lazy.
By practice Witchcraft, I don’t always mean work traditional spells. And elder recently said to me that she does very little spellcraft these days. I understand her sentiment, though I fear that some who overheard us would think she does not still practice a formal Craft. She is a priestess still tending to an altar and the gods of that altar. She is a spirited herbalist growing, harvesting and using her plants for herself and for others. While they might not be tied to specific spells, they are part of natural attuments to the earth and stars. The dirt under her finger nails is the testament to her craft, while maintaining her daily responsibilities of work and home. She keeps a formal practice of vision work and spirit contact, and brings mindfulness into everything she does as a priestess, consulting her cards and astrological chart.
Some will say that they no longer need to “practice” as they live it and they are beyond the practice. Again, who am I to judge? Perhaps they are further along than my own limited understanding. Yet all those in any craft or path, Witch or otherwise, whom I would say have a level of deep awareness and mastery, still have a practice. There is no going “beyond” as their love is found in these basics. My piano teachers still played and practiced, both for fun and to maintain skills. The same with singing teachers, art teachers, yogis, martial artists and other athletes. Breaks can be had, and routines changed up, but there was some sort of practice. The same has been for all the mystics and magicians I know. Those who have gone deep have a regular practice of some sort, though each is different. Those who talk about how they don’t need to practice because they are living a magickal life are often suspect to me. If you are really living a magickal life, it will either be apparent in everything you do, or you won’t care who knows it or not, so there is no need to advertise. Deep magick comes with a level of assuredness.
On the other side of the spectrum, I know people who are thoroughly Witches, though they would never use the word. For many of us Witchcraft is a specific religious path or tied to a tradition and culture, but in my heart of hearts, Witchcraft is an orientation to the world, and tied intimately to our soul’s vocation, regardless if it ever becomes our professional career. Without training or formal practice we would recognize as Craft, these people are truly wyrd, or fey-touched, and magickal things happen around them. They naturally exhibit the blessings and difficulties of the Witch, and the wise ones will have integrated their own ways of using, practicing and integrating them. In essence, they are creating their own daily practice, meditations and rituals without calling it that. It reminds me of what must happen when someone is called to be a Witch or Shaman in times past and there is no one to teach them. The spirits, ancestors and the power itself rises up to teach the new practitioner, and they pioneer new ways, often unconsciously rooted in the old ways, to go forward.
Even the best trained traditional Witch will explore, question and go into uncharted territories. That’s the whole point. We continue to question, to ask the unanswerable questions and not take other people’s answers for our own. The strong roots allow us to climb higher.
So in the end, when asked this question, I go back to the tried and true “It depends on how you define the word Witch. It depends on how you define the practice of Witchcraft.” But in my heart of hearts, the answer is “yes.”

Castle Tree“The essence of gratitude is a law of Nature that never ceases to offer its vibration.”

– Sylvie Olivier

For many of us in the Modern Pagan or Witchcraft Traditions, the thought of saying Grace at the beginning of our meals makes us tense up. Scars of past spiritual practices have muddied a very beautiful ritual.

It wasn’t until I started studying with the Temple of Witchcraft and attending the public rituals that the thought of showing gratitude or saying a blessing over the meal I was about to eat even entered my mind. I didn’t come from a super religious background; in fact we didn’t even say grace in my household, but I still associated it with other faiths, more specifically Christianity.

When I first heard Matooka and Silver say a blessing over the food we were about to share after Ritual and speak about gratitude, it made me a little uncomfortable. Then it made me start to re-evaluate my stand on it and look at what was triggering this response. Was it the ritual itself, or some remnant or resentment of my experience with those other faiths? More importantly, was this a valid practice for me, and would I continue to allow those past experiences to overshadow a beautiful practice? Later on in the third year of my studies with the Temple, I decided to challenge myself and incorporate a blessing before each meal. I did so again in the fifth year, trying to weave it into my daily practice. During that time I still struggled a little bit, but I found it to be important.altar 1

As a Witch I see all things as having life. I am sure many of you share this same view. As we work our Magick and develop our practice, we have a chance to meet the spirits that lie within, beneath, throughout both the plant and animal kingdoms. We build relationships and gain allies. If you have been to one of the Temple’s public Sabbats and have heard me say the blessing, it is all about the gratitude I have for these beings’ sacrifices.

“I thank would like to thank the Spirits of Leaf and Bud, Hoof and Horn, Feather and Scale…”

The realization that something’s life has had to end in order for us to be sustained is at the very root of the power and importance behind saying grace or a blessing over our meal.

If you don’t necessarily share this same view on the individuality of each plant or animal or their equality, then as a spiritual person, I am sure we can agree that they are at least a manifestation of the Divine. If you see them as gifts for us, then would it not be important to say thank you for the generosity of the Universe or Divinity?

The ritual of saying a blessing or grace with your meals doesn’t even have to be an act of your spirituality. It can simply be taking a moment to acknowledge that we are part of a larger ecosystem. Whether you view Nature as delicate or dynamic, each plant, animal, mineral or molecule has developed to play a specific role in a larger system. A momentary pause before consumption can be taken to reflect on this and the place we hold in the world around us.

These three reasons I have discussed are just a little food for thought about incorporating this ritual into your daily practice. There are many reasons I haven’t discussed, animal ethics for example. How do you feel about saying a blessing? How do you show gratitude for the food that sustains you? Is this already part of your daily practice? What are the reasons it is not?

Thank you for your time. I am grateful to be able to write this column for the Temple of Witchcraft and for all of you who take time to read it and share your comments.

Ryan is an ordained Minister, Seminary Graduate of the Temple of Witchcraft, and Deputy Minister of the Cancer Ministry. Ryan is passionate about Kitchen Witchery, the creatures of the Green World, working with Plant Spirits, and making magick in daily life. Crafting herbal infusions, candles, and sacred tools, Ryan is co-creator of Drops of Three. You may visit his website at www.dropsofthree.storenvy.com.

 

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