Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Mythology of Ancient Ireland — The Ulster Cycle

Traditional Irish historical mythology, with its culture and superstition, has four cycles. These cycles, documented in Irish texts, are vital to the development of the Celtic Pantheon of gods and goddesses. The four Irish mythological cycles are:
  • The Mythological Cycle;
  • The Ulster Cycle;
  • The Fenian Cycle;
  • The Historical Cycle.
The Timeline of the Ulster Cycle

The Ulster Cycle begins, in a historical sense, around the time of Christ, or in the Common Era (C.E.). For the most part, tales of this time surround the ancient and respect King Conchobar of Ulster, also known as Conor MacNessa. He was a powerful Irish ruler, noted in both ancient songs and stories, who became ruler of all of Ireland. He resided at Emain Macha, and founded the Rudrician line of the Ulster kings. His story is told in The Sons of Usnach, and in the much more popular tale of The Tain Bo Cualigne.

Most of the tales out of this cycle revolve around the rivalry between the two northern Irish provinces of Ulster and Connacht. This rivalry was at its height around the beginning of the Common Era, which is where this cycle is placed in history.

What is the Ulster Cycle of Ireland?

The Ulster Cycle is full of many different mythological figures. It is in this cycle that Queen Medb (also known as Maeve) makes her first appearance. She was the daughter of Eocaid, the High King (Ard-Righ) of Ireland. Medb is often credited as the original instigator of the great Connaught-Ulster war, and she eventually became a warrior-goddess.

Another popular legend from this cycle involves Deirdre and the Sons of Usnach. This tale reveals King Conchobar, despite his reputation for fairness and kingliness, was sometimes no more than a man. The sorrows of Deirdre is one of the Three Sorrows of Irish storytelling, and should not be ignored by the serious student of Irish mythology.

Despite all these regal and sometimes immortal characters, there is one figure who is more notable than all the rest. The foster-son of King Conchobar, Cu Chulainn, was the greatest and most dazzling of all the heroes of this cycle, and his life is the source of many Irish stories. There are many legends that he plays a great role in, including:
  • The Amazonian war-goddesses who taught him battle skills;
  • Emer, the most beautiful woman in Ireland who eventually becomes his wife;
  • Morrigan, the great Irish war-goddess;
  • Fand, the Faery Queen who was the wife of the Irish sea-god Manannan mac Lir.
The most distinctive features of this cycle and its legends are willpower and fearless action. The central group of characters of the Ulster Cycle are not wizards, as they were in the Mythological Cycle, but invincible warriors and immortal war-goddesses. The Ulster Cycle is the source of the warrior attitude that forms the basis of the Irish Faery-Faith.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Mythology of Ancient Ireland — The Mythological Cycle

Irish mythology is rich in culture and superstition, and is the basis of Irish Faery-Faith. Traditionally, Irish historical mythology has four cycles. These cycles provide a mythological account of the five ‘waves of invasion’ which swept though Ireland, and are vital to the development of the Celtic Pantheon. The four Irish mythological cycles are:
  • The Mythological Cycle;
  • The Ulster Cycle;
  • The Fenian Cycle;
  • The Historical Cycle.
The Timeline of the Mythological Cycle

There is often some debate as to when, exactly, the Mythological Cycle is supposed to occur in regards to world history. This is not an easy thing to determine, as this cycle is filled with fantastical tales of myth and magick, and so has little in the way of fixed events.

However, there is one event within the Mythological Cycle that can be dated — the invasion of the Milesians. This can be placed at around 1000 BCE. Since this event occurs at the end of the Mythological Cycle, it can be assumed that the bulk of the Mythological Cycle takes place before this time.

What is the Mythological Cycle of Ireland?

The Mythological Cycle is a set of myths and legends which are based primarily on the Tuatha De Danann. From the Tuatha De Danann, the very beginnings of the Celtic Pantheon can be formed. This cycle is also the source of the entire Faery Lineage or Ireland, from which the modern idea of the fairy was born.

Many, if not most, of the legends of the Mythological Cycle abound with tales of enchantment and magick. This era of Irish mythology focuses very heavily on victories that are gained by superior knowledge and wizardry. These victories almost always involve the Tuatha De Danann. The Tuatha De Danann themselves are derived from the Ancient Ones of Ireland (otherwise known as gods, both male and female). It can be said that the Tuatha De Danann are the gods of ancient Ireland.

In addition to information regarding the Tuatha De Danna, the Mythological Cycle reveals the accounts of the five waves of invasion, including the three certain colonizations of Ireland. These colonizations were the result of battles, great and small, which give brief glimpses into the ancient Irish ethics of war. The five waves of invasion are:
  • Partholan;
  • Neimheadh;
  • Fir Bolg;
  • Tuatha De Danann;
  • The Milesian.
The most distinctive features of this cycle and its legends are intelligence and magick. Where the Ulster Cycle stresses a warrior attitude, the Mythological Cycle teaches the lessons of intelligence, intuition, and the ability to reason.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Knowing Magick — The Styles of Magick

Not everyone practices magick in exactly the same way, even if they come from the same spiritual belief system. Practitioners within a particular magickal-religious sect (Wicca, for example) will actually span an entire range of styles.

There are four basic styles of magick:
  • ceremonial magick;
  • nature magick;
  • kitchen magick; and
  • intrinsic magick.
The Art of Ceremonial Magick

Ceremonial magick requires dedication and patience. In some ways, it is the most complicated form of magick. This style involves the use of symbols, colors, perfumes, music, and other cues in its practice. These things are usually used to assist in connecting with the divine, which is usually seen in a precisely defined aspect. The tools of a ceremonial magician are well-crafted and beautiful.

Ceremonial magicians enjoy dressing up in their special robes, using their ritual tools, and practicing by candlelight. They are also prone to calling upon spirit guides or angels, consulting astrological correspondences, and they tend to use recorded music during their rituals. The true ceremonial magician appreciates beautiful costumes and ritual tools, meaningful symbolism, and the power to lift their thoughts into a higher spiritual realm.

The Harmony of Nature Magick

The ease of use of nature magick attracts many practitioners. It is practiced outdoors when possible, and encourages a spiritual attunement with the elements — earth, air, fire, and water — as well as to various plant and animal spirits. The nature magician practices their magick in accordance with the cycles of the moon and the seasons, and their ritual tools tend to be simple, sometimes even rough, such as a simple stick for a wand.

Nature magicians enjoy practicing their craft outdoors, in whatever clothes they happen to be wearing. Usually barefoot and working under the light of the sun, moon, or stars, they tend to use whatever is available for ritual tools. A pocketknife makes a decent athame, a discarded branch can be used as a wand. They prefer to commune with plant and animal allies, and time their rituals according to the phases of the moon and the time of day.

The Warmth of Kitchen Magick

A magician of this stamp uses the magick of hearth and home to keep a household up and running. Magick for protection and healing is very common, and the tools of this style of magick are the tools of everyday life – paring knives, spices, herbs, and whatever else is close at hand. Rituals are simple in appearance, almost to the point of being casual.

Those who practice kitchen magick tend to avoid dressing up. They are comfortable practicing indoors under the electric lights, and often invoke the spirits of hearth and home. They enjoy a clean and attractive home, and their family’s health, happiness, and harmony is upmost importance.

The Simplicity of Intrinsic Magick

Practitioners of intrinsic magick are generally opposed to using tools, robes, and other props for their magick, for theirs is the magick of the mind. They achieve their results by the mental, psychic, and spiritual power that they already have, for their tool is the body of energy.

They tend to work skyclad, meaning naked, without donning ritual robes. They do not feel the need for light, since their rituals happen solely in their minds, and they invoke the Higher Self, rather than outside forces. Their own biorhythms guide the timing of their rituals, and they enjoy the feeling that they can wield the power of their own energy to change the world.

These styles can easily be blended into whatever form works best for you. Most people will have a style that they are most drawn to, and will augment that with whatever feels right. Try all of these styles, then choose the style, or combination of styles, that empowers the magick within.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Readying Yourself for Magick — Dedicating Yourself to a Deity

Dedicating yourself to a deity should not be done lightly. When you commit yourself to a god or goddess, you are embracing all that they are. Most gods and goddesses have more than one aspect. For example, Brigit is a goddess of healing, but she is also a goddess of creativity and smithcraft. She should not be chosen as a patron goddess unless you are willing to embrace her in all her aspects.

How to Dedicate Yourself to a Deity

If you are sure that you would like to dedicate yourself to your chosen deity, then you must create a ceremony to express this desire. This ritual can be short or long, elaborate or simple, but it must come from the heart. This ceremony should be unique to you, but there are some common steps that can be incorporated. A general outline for this type of ritual might be:
  • Prepare your body and mind by meditating, ritual bathing, fasting, or any other activity that will clear your mind and cleanse the body;
  • Dress appropriately, in robes or other ritual garb, or perhaps consider going skyclad;
  • Create an altar specifically for your patron goddess or god, separate from your working altar;
  • Create sacred space by casting a circle;
  • Invite your patron god or goddess to join you in your circle, and introduce yourself;
  • Swear an oath of dedication, explaining how you plan to be of service to your patron;
  • Thank your patron for his or her presence; and
  • Dismiss the circle.
How to Serve Your Patron Deity

Once the ritual is complete and you have dedicated yourself to your patron goddess or god, you may find yourself wondering how you can now fulfill your oath. How can you be of service to your patron? Any action that shows respect and love can be considered a service. Here are a few ideas.
  • Create a permanent shrine or altar for your deity.
  • Write a poem, song, or story about your deity.
  • Invoke your deity during rituals. Perhaps even create an entire ritual simply to honor your patron.
  • Create a unique piece of jewelry that symbolizes your deity, and carry it with you.
  • Teach a class to the public about your deity, sharing his or her knowledge with others.
  • Dance purely for your deity, expressing in dance the personality of your patron.
  • Create clothing that is specific to your deity. Maybe this clothing will become your ritual garb.
  • Create an astral temple for your patron.
  • Go out into the world and do the work of your patron. If he or she is a healer, then heal. If your deity is an artist, then create.
Continue to increase your relationship with your patron goddess or god, for this will strengthen the magick within. Truly exploring the depths of a relationship with the divine can take a lifetime, and choosing to become the disciple of a god or goddess is a personal decision. The closer you are to the divine, the more powerful your magick will be, and the more wisely you will use it.