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, April 26, 2013

The Wheel of the Year — Beltane and Its Lore

Also known as Bealtien, La Baal Tinne, or May Day, Beltane falls on May 1st. It is considered one of the most important days in the Wiccan calendar, second only to Samhain. Like Samhain, it is a day when the veil between the worlds is thin, but it is not a day of the dead. Instead, this thin veil allows trickery and confusion to rule the day. Because of this, divination readings may have unexpected results.

As part of the Wheel of the Year, Beltane is the time when the Goddess sheds her robes as Maiden and becomes the Mother. The God, grown now, comes to Her side as Consort instead of son. The Goddess and the God celebrate Their union, mating in the spring warmth and conceiving a child.

The Themes and Practices of Beltane

The main themes of Beltane are the great fires of Bel and the associated fertility rites. The sexual union of the Goddess and the God is traditionally celebrated by performing the Great Rite. Symbolically, the Great Rite is represented using a chalice and athame. The chalice, representing the womb of the Goddess, is filled with liquid (usually wine, but juice works for the non-alcoholic crowd) and placed upon the altar. The athame, representing the phallic nature of the God, is lowered into the chalice. Usually, this is part of a greater ritual and is not done on its own.

The Great Rite can also be performed literally, as a part of Pagan sex magick. This is only done by a consenting adult couple.

Since this Sabbat represents the marriage of the Goddess and the God, many Wiccans and other Pagans celebrate with a wedding, handfasting, or simple renewal of vows. In times of old, the fertility of livestock and people was important, so marriages would take place and animals would be driven between two large bonfires to encourage fertility. People would then jump the bonfires to help ensure their own fertility in the years to come.

Some of the symbols associated with Beltane include:
  • Daisies
  • Fairies
  • Flower garlands
  • Balefires (bonfires)
  • Passion and sensuality
The Feast of Beltane
Since Beltane is the celebration of the marriage between the Goddess and the God, it is time for a major feast. Consider it a wedding supper. If you live in a climate conducive to outdoor meals, consider making this the first picnic of the year. This would also allow you to plan games and activities that can be held outdoors, which is traditional for Beltane.
Some popular dishes for Beltane include:
  • Roast pork
  • Apple sauce
  • Lightly cooked or raw spring vegetables and herbs
  • Cucumber soup
  • Deep fried elderflower heads
  • Roast chicken
  • Salads
  • Egg recipes
Beverages for Beltane
Drinks appropriate for Beltane are similar to those consumed at the Spring Equinox. Make your own Honey Mead or look for other sweet wines and liqueurs. Elderflower wine or cordial made with a sparkling mineral water is also an excellent selection. Cool fruit teas or light fruit drinks are an excellent alternative for the non-alcoholic crowd.
In ancient times, mineral water would have been considered festive because spring is the time when ice has just melted. To spruce up your mineral water, add a squeeze of fresh fruit juice. Try to choose fruits that are in season in the area where you live.
Celebrating Beltane
There are many ways to celebrate Beltane. One of the most traditional is the selecting of a May Queen/King to preside over the Beltane festivities. The Queen or King directs the celebration and organizes any rituals or ceremonies to be performed. She or he also organizes the dance around the May Pole. If you’re worried about anyone feeling left out, let the selection of May Queen/King be random by drawing lots. Allow the selected person to choose their partner. To make the celebration more elaborate, have special cloaks and thrones prepared for the royal couple.
Make chains of daisies or other seasonal flowers for everyone in your group. These can be worn around the head or around the neck. Children especially love to make these, so put the children in your family to work weaving chains of flowers.
Set up a May Pole for your merrymakers to dance around. While a large pole with multiple ribbons might be traditional, you can make a smaller pole with a broomstick or umbrella pole. Even a flagpole will work. Bury the pole into the ground so that it is secure. Make sure a random child or animal can’t knock it over. Tie a number of ribbons or streamers to the top of the pole. You should have as many ribbons as you will have dancers, and you should always have an even number of dancers. Have your dancers assemble and instruct half your dancers to dance clockwise, the other counterclockwise. Your clockwise and counterclockwise dancers should alternate and weave in and out of each other. This may take a little practice, so have your dancers do a test run if necessary.
To make the May Pole dance more traditional, place a flower garland at the top of the pole before the dance begins. As the ribbons weave around each other and around the pole, the garland should descent gracefully. If you don’t think you can manage to set up a May Pole dance, look around your area for events that might have one. They are becoming more and more popular as time goes by.
Most Wiccans also mark Beltane with a ritual. As Sabbats are celebratory in nature, magick is generally not performed. However, if there is a true emergency, such as healing, an exception may be made.
Dressing for Beltane
Like most holidays, fancy dress is an excellent way to get into the spirit of things. You might wish to wear ritual robes or choose simpler clothing. While there is no firm rule, try to make it special for the occasion. Traditional colors for Beltane include green and the bright colors of the rainbow. Colors associated with the Maiden and Her Lover include bright red or silver for the Goddess and green and gold for the God. Alternatively, consider blue and gold for the Goddess and red and gold for the God. You can use the colors for your clothing or simply to decorate the ritual space.
Beltane is regarded as a sacred time for Wiccans around the world. It is a time to celebrate the natural cycles of the earth and look forward to the coming heat of summer.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Broom or Besom in Wiccan Practice

Of all the tools of the Craft, the broom is probably the most well known. For better or for worse, it has been the image of Wicca and Witchcraft for generations. The picture of a powerful Witch riding through the air, though far from accurate, is something almost every has seen before. But the true nature of the broom in Wicca is more complex.

The broom, in one form or another, has been in use magickally and mundanely for thousands of years. In ancient times, it was used during ritual as women would straddle a broom and jump, showing the crops how high they should grow. Today it is used primarily for cleansing, and the broom is still found in most households today. However, it also has more symbolic purpose.

The Symbolism of the Broom

Typically, the broom is thought of as a masculine tool due to its phallic nature. However, it may also be considered a balanced tool. The handle (or stave) is certainly phallic, and so is masculine. The bristles, on the other hand, receive the stave much as the female receives the male. In this way, the broom can be said to embody both the male and the female.

Ritual Uses of the Broom

The broom can be used for a variety of purposes. It can serve as a decoration, especially in the winter month. More commonly, Wiccans will use the broom to cleanse a ritual area. This is done by sweeping your ritual space, often the Magick Circle itself, in a clockwise motion, visualizing the negative energy leaving the Circle. Some Wiccans will chant as they do this, perhaps saying something like: “As I gently sweep this place, I cast out negativity from this space.” It doesn’t have to be complicated.

Brooms are also laid across the entrance to a coven circle or hung on doors for protection. They can also be used during a wedding, in some traditions. In this case, the broom is laid before the newly-wedded couple, who proceed to ‘Jump the Broom’ to seal their commitment to each other.

How to Make Your Own Broom

The traditional broom of the Witch is a besom, a broom that is rounded instead of flat. These are very easy to make at home. First you’ll need a stave, traditionally made of ash. However, you may use any wood you choose. You’ll also need twigs, straw, or herbs for the bristles. If you are making a traditional besom, you’ll want birch twigs for your bristles, but really you can use anything that works for you.

The twigs should be gathered to the stave and tied together tightly. You can use rope or twine or even a leather thong to bind to the twigs. Keep the bristles as even as possible, and bind them only tight enough to secure them to the stave. If you bind them too tightly, they could break.

The broom is a common tool of Wiccan practice. Though surrounded by much myth and legend, the modern use of the broom is for ceremonial cleansing and protection.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wiccan Sabbat Ritual Recipes — Spring Eggnog Recipe

Any good celebration needs a festive beverage. In Wiccan and Pagan practice, eggnog is not just for Yule, but is a great addition to your annual Ostara celebration. The word ‘nog’ really just means ‘strong ale’ and is not connected to a particular season. Eggs, however, are connected to spring, and so eggnog is very appropriate for spring gatherings.

Ingredients for Spring Eggnog

Have the following close at hand:
  • 12 eggs, preferably medium in size
  • 1 ¾ cups confectioner’s sugar (sometimes called powdered sugar or icing sugar)
  • 1 ¾ liter cream of rich milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp powdered nutmeg
  • 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Traditional eggnog often calls for the addition of rum. You may or may not decide to add rum to your own eggnog, depending on your personal preference and those with whom you will be sharing your eggnog. Regardless, to make preparing your eggnog easier, gather all necessary ingredients beforehand.
Preparing Spring Eggnog
Begin by separating the white and the yolks of the eggs. There are devices you can purchase to do this, or you can simply pass the yolk from one half of the eggshell to the other. Do this over a bowl to catch the whites as they drain. If you have never done this before, you might need some practice, to have a few extra eggs, just in case.
Beat the egg yolks in a large saucepan until they are smooth. Mix in the sugar, cream, and salt. Heat on low until barely simmering, stirring frequently. Keep an eye on the mixture, because the cream will curdle if it gets too hot.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, but just barely. Fold the egg whites into the cream mixture. Add the spices and the vanilla extract. Simmer the entire mixture for several minutes, stirring constantly to kill any bacteria.
Cool the eggnog completely, then refrigerate for at least six hours before serving. Overnight is better, as it will allow the flavors to develop. If you’d like to add rum, do so immediately before consuming your eggnog. If you have not consumed all the eggnog in three or four days, discard unused portion.
This recipe makes approximately two liters of eggnog. Spring Eggnog is a favorite of many Wiccans and Pagans around the time of the Vernal Equinox. It will make a wonderful addition to any Ostara feast table, especially when paired with Baked Sandwiches or Ostara Egg and Artichoke Pie.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wiccan Sabbat Ritual Recipes — Baked Sandwiches Recipe

Eggs are a traditional food in the spring and summer, and they are associated with the Sabbat of Ostara. There are many different ways to use eggs to create a meal, but if you’re serving a large group, such as a coven, Baked Sandwiches are a simple way to feed everyone a delicious bunch or lunch.

Ingredients for Baked Sandwiches

Have the following ingredients close at hand:
  • 12 slices of bread without crusts;
  • 2 cups of milk;
  • 4 medium eggs;
  • 1 cup of grated Cheddar cheese;
  • 1 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese; and
  • 2 cups of diced ham.
To make preparing the sandwiches a little easier, ensure you have gathered all ingredients beforehand. If you like more of a bite to your food, the Monterey Jack cheese can be substituted with Swiss cheese. Also, instead of ham, you could use pork, chicken, turkey, tofu, or even alfalfa sprouts. It is also possible to use regular sandwich meat to create this dish.
Preparing Baked Sandwiches
Take a 9”x13” cake pan, preferably glass, and grease it well. Line this greased pan with six slices of bread. You can use your favourite bread, such as white, whole wheat, French, Italian, or rye bread. Consider who will be eating your sandwiches when making your selection.
On top of the bread, evenly distribute the diced harm (or other filling, if you choose). Add ½ cup each of the grated Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese on top of the filling. Cover all of this with the remaining six slices of bread.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs gently with a fork. Add the milk and blend well. Pour this mixture over the sandwiches, being careful not to splash the milk and egg mixture outside of the pan. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and bake the sandwiches for approximately one hour, or until the top of the sandwiches are golden brown. Be careful not to over bake your sandwiches.
For those people who’d like to use less bread, line the pan with your six slices of bread and add filling as describes. However, instead of topping with additional bread, simply pour the milk and egg mixture on top and bake as directed.
This recipe makes eight to ten servings. Baked Sandwiches are a favorite of many Wiccans and Pagans around the time of the Spring Equinox. Though you can serve this dish all year round, it is especially appropriate in the spring, as it is light and delicious. It will make a pleasing addition to any table, especially when paired with baked white fish or gammon ham.