Sunday, August 28, 2016

Southern Hemisphere Sabbats

These sabbat vignettes were originally published in my chapter on the southern hemisphere sabbats, in Practising the Witch's Craft: Real Magic Under a Southen Sky, edited by Douglas Ezzy. I must say they are sounding rather politically correct now... but perhaps I'm just more cynical.
Yule. The dawn procession moves silently except for the muffled crunch of boots upon the forest floor as we approach our regular winter ritual site, a large, circular clearing amidst the eucalypts. In the centre, a Cootamundra wattle planted so many years ago it once again covered in joyous little yellow blossoms and we place candles in a ring around its feathery skirt.
A mother cradling a sleepy baby stands close to the wattle, within the circle of candles, and a libation of golden mead is poured on the earth at her feet. Linking hands, we dance deosil around the tree, chanting: “The Child of Promise, the sun’s new light, begin the year, emerge from night.”

Litha. We sit on the dusty earth, fanning out in concentric circles around the priestess who stands alone in the centre. “Close your eyes” she instructs, “and look within.” Continuing in a slow meditative voice, she says: “Focus your mind inside your body, at the base of your spine, the area directly connected with the Land. Two snakes are becoming restless there. The cool, white moon snake on the left side, and the hot, red sun snake on the right are stirring tonight.  Allow them to uncoil and begin rising up your spine, rising, rising. Now they cross sides, the sun snake on the left and the moon snake on the right, rising, rising. They cross back again. Let them continue up, crossing, returning, crossing, returning, making a double helix pattern, all the way up your spine to the back of your head. Rising over your crown they come down to rest at your third eye.”
We stand, linking hands. Accompanied by a slow drumbeat, we spiral in a snake-dance toward the centre. The priestess, whirling widdershins, leads the spiral back out again. In, then out, in, out. Visions arise, time slows down, and above us wheel the starry arms of the Milky Way.

Lughnasad.  The drums beat out a steady pulse as we move deosil within the circle’s boundary, round and round we dance. Hands rise, clash the cymbals, shake the tambourine. Arms outstretched, whirl on the spot, hair streaming. Oscillating between two poles of consciousness: the drums a lulling heartbeat, and percussion a harsh awakening. Drum—clash, step—whirl, rise—plunge, relax—tense, calm—storm.
Into the circle spin Bushfire and Hurricane, volatile deities of the season, one clad in raggedy red, the other in tattered dark blue, costumes trailing behind them like two Chinese dragons. Travelling widdershins, dancing separately and then together, they rush the perimeter, circling the edge and returning to the centre, creating a chaotic vortex of energy.
Arms linked, we dance back-to-back, the ground tilts, the sky is inverted, and the elements mix in the topsy-turvy world of the sabbat.

Samhain. The altar is draped with a cloth the colour of midnight and covered with numerous candles. “One light for each spirit here with me tonight,” whispers the witch. Magic mushrooms steep in a goblet of wine and a crystal ball rests nearby on a black cushion. Sipping from the concoction she stares fixedly at the orb and as it begins to cloud over, utters a greeting to her ancestors.

Artwork courtesy of Norman Lindsay.