Product Profile: 2am Altars

2am Altars
Altars that are artwork.

Over the Top Door
Over the Top Door

My friend Stu at 2am Altars has done it again. We featured Stu’s beautiful hand crafted altars in our very first issue of The Magical Buffet. His altars are truly pieces of art! Well, now he has managed to capture my heart again with these adorable Fairy doors!

Mystic Door
Mystic Door
Party Door
Party Door

All doors come with door handles. It may take 2-3 weeks for you to get your doors, as they are not made until ordered. Each door comes with a tag telling its story. Colors of stain and wood grain may vary. Doors do not open. The doors are approximately 9 inches tall and are $32 dollars each. Shipping is a flat $6.00 to anywhere in the continental USA. In my opinion, it’s a small price to pay to make the fey in your life feel at home!

To see all the cool stuff Stu creates, visit: www.2amaltars.com

A person, place or thing?: Lorelei

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

A beautiful young maiden, forlorn, jumps into the Rhine to meet her death. Now a beautiful women lures men to their deaths in that location. It is the stuff of urban legends, it’s the stuff of fairy tales, it’s Lorelei.

As the stories say, once a beautiful maiden had given her heart to a sailor, or a knight depending on who is telling the tale. The maiden’s name was Lorelei and she was beautiful in only the way maidens of folk tales can be. Lorelei dutifully awaited her love’s return, sitting on this giant rock along the Rhine weeping and praying for his safety. However, he did not return and in utter despair, Lorelei leapt into the Rhine.

Now there is a creature that lures men to their deaths at that exact rock. A beautiful woman sits atop that rock and brushes her hair and singing bewitching songs, much the way of the Sirens of Greek legend. Is it Lorelei?

There is a tale of an attempt to kill Lorelei, you know now that she’s dead and making with the vengeful spirit kind of thing. Once, the son of a Prince’s boat was destroyed and he drowned due to Lorelei. The Prince, distraught, looked for men brave enough to face Lorelei. One man was. He gathered a small group of loyal men and they set out to destroy Lorelei in retribution for their Prince.

The band of men surrounded the Lorelei rock in such a way to prevent her from fleeing along the land. As they closed in, they saw the beautiful Lorelei sitting binding her wet hair. The man explained they were there to kill her and cast her into the Rhine. Lorelei explained she was not at fault for the death of the Prince’s son, and that she would not go to the Rhine, but that it would come to her. Entranced by her beauty, the men paused. Lorelei used that opportunity to call forth the Rhine. It came up to her in a whirlwind and swept her off to safety. The men, realizing how fortunate they were that she fled decided to never again attempt to capture or kill Lorelei.

Cool legend right? Is Lorelei a ghost, a woman, a creature? How about a rock? That’s right folks; let me introduce you to another side of Lorelei.

Lorelei, or sometimes called Loreley, is a rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine. This soaring rock is at the narrowest point of the river where there are very strong currents. Thanks to that and rocks below the water line many boats have accidents there. The strong currents and a small waterfall area create a murmuring sound. People say that the name Loreley comes from the German words lureln and ley, which roughly means murmuring rock or murmur rock.

Now you have a chicken or the egg kind of thing happening. Which came first, the maiden or the rock? The rock is definitely there now, but no one knows for sure if Lorelei inhabits the rock or not. Those of you who know me, know that I tend to like to believe these creatures are out there, somewhere, but in this particular instance, not so much. I hope Lorelei is just a dangerous rock, and that the legendary maiden so closely associated it with isn’t there. I hope she’s at peace.

Magical Buffet Mythology: Tanit

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

Did the people of Carthage sacrifice babies to Tanit? Is that really all there is to the Patron deity of Carthage? An online search says, “Yes, it really is.” To that I say, in my best Fozzie the Bear voice, “For shame.”

Tanit is the great Phoencian goddess of Carthage, consort of Ba’al-Hammon. As a deity, Tanit embodies all things traditionally associated with the feminine. She is considered a lunar goddess, as well as motherhood and fertility. Tanit watched over the city of Carthage, and the people there built numerous temples in her honor.

The people also created a symbol to represent her, something uniquely hers, a triangle with a circle at the top with a horizontal line between the two. Often the horizontal line has smaller up turned lines at the end. Many believe this to be a woman, or goddess, in a long dress with her arms upraised in worship or blessing. Of course, others feel this symbol represents an altar. You know, the triangle is the base, with the line being the altar top, and then the circle would be the sacrifice. That’s where the trouble begins.

Many say the circle represents a baby. Historians have been debating about whether the citizens of Carthage sacrificed babies for a very long time and I am absolutely not going to be able to answer that question for you…. Oh, you’re still reading? Good for you! Here’s the deal, when they excavated the burial grounds of Carthage they found hundreds of urns, many of these urns were inscribed to Tanit or Ba’al (the hubby, remember?) and contained the remains of infants. Obviously there are arguments for both points of view; some point out that young lambs received the same burial treatment as the infants, that older children and adults were buried in a separate place, of course they also mention that many cultures buried children separate from adults. The list of yes they dids and no they didn’ts goes on and on. You know what I have to say to all this?

I don’t care. You heard me, I don’t care! I’m not saying that I’m pro baby sacrifice, what I’m saying is that it’s not happening now, so why let it be an issue when contemplating Tanit? The true horror of Tanit isn’t the potential of infants being sacrificed to her, it’s the fact that it’s hard to find anything besides that about her! Here is Tanit, THE goddess of Carthage, and I can’t learn anything about her because everyone wants to talk baby slaughter. Even if people did sacrifice children to her, I’m sure there’s more to her than that. Hopefully one day I’ll get to learn what it was about this goddess that inspired the love of all of Carthage.

Profile: The Grey School of Wizardry

By Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
Dean of Students
Grey School of Wizardry

Once upon a time, actually not that long ago, a Wizard lived in the mythical land of Norcalifia, where he enjoyed spending time with family in a natural setting, working on his art, and studying wizardry. Many other magickal folk visited him on his land. Most of the visitors were adults, but several brought along children who they were raising in the grand tradition of magick. It gave the Wizard pause, and one night he began thinking about how hard it must be for youngsters to study magick in a decidedly “mundane” world. Then and there, he resolved to do something to bring children closer to the wonders of magick and wizardry. His first step was to write a sort of “handbook,” the Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard. As is often the case, one good idea leads to another, and as the Grimoire took shape, it occurred to the Wizard that it might be wonderful to start a school for magickal children, a special place where they could study wizardry, practice magick, and chat about arcane topics in their very own Great Hall.

Sound like a fairy tale? It’s anything but. The Wizard is none other than Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, a noted Pagan elder living in Northern California with his family. The school is the Grey School of Wizardry, an on-line school of magick, arcane lore, and general wizardry that opened on August 1, 2004 with 25 registered students and a handful of faculty. Originally designed as a school for children ages 11-17, the Grey School was surprised not only by the youths who came knocking on the door, but also by the adults who sought entrance. Rather than turn anyone away, adults and children alike were welcomed, and the rest is history. Today’s Grey School accepts students age 11 and older and includes some 700 active students and more than 40 staff and faculty, with enrollments increasing daily. Students and faculty hail from all fifty states, a number of US military bases, two American Embassies, and several countries, including Australia, Austria, Canada (7 provinces), Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Istanbul, Mauritus, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela. The northernmost student lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, while the southernmost resides in Santiago, Chile. Students’ ages range from 10 to 72.

Everything done at the Grey School is driven by the school’s visionary motto—Omnia vivunt, omnia inter se conexa (everything is alive, everything is interconnected)—and its mission statement: “It is the Mission of the Grey School of Wizardry to make available the Wisdom of the Ages to a new Generation and a new Millennium.” New students enter a 7-level program, each level increasing in rigor. Completing one level requires 24 credits, equal to about 8-12 classes, depending on difficulty. Classes are divided among 16 departments. The following section introduces each department and gives an example of an entry-level (Level 1) class and a more challenging class:

Department of Wizardry (Color correspondence: Indigo): Indigo relates to perception, imagination, illusion, and the ability to see patterns. This Department provides a basic introduction to Wizardry and magick.
· Level 1 class: Wizardry 100: Becoming an Apprentice
· Upper level class: Wizards of History 301: Medieval (Level 3)

Department of Nature Studies (Silver): Silver represents the color of the Moon, the secrets of nature, women’s mysteries and magicks, and witchcraft. Nature Studies includes all aspects of natural science and mysticism that relate to nature and its mysteries, plus such practicalities as naturalist studies and outdoor craft.
· Level 1 class: Green Magick 101
· Upper level class: Natural Wonders 606: Geysers and Hot Springs (L6)

Department of Magickal Practice (Gold): Gold represents the color of the Sun, the sign of Leo, adolescence, joy, fruitfulness, and nobility. Magickal Practice includes the practical foundational basics and magickal hardware: theory, tools, regalia, the sanctum sanctorum, principles of correspondences, signs, symbols, spells, and charms.
· Level 1 class: Your Sanctum Sanctorum
· Upper level class: Planetary Correspondences (L4)

Department of Mind Magicks (Aqua): Associated with Friday and the planet Venus, Aqua is an excellent hue for peacefulness and profound reflection. Meditation is the basis of most of the Eastern disciplines of magick and wizardry. This discipline also includes all forms of psychic development, dreamwork, pathworking, and other mind magicks.
· Level 1 class: Core Energy Practices
· Upper level class: Meet the Indigo Children (L4)

Department of Healing (Blue): Blue is the color of emotional work, healing, wisdom, and thoughtfulness. Healing refers to all forms of magickal arts and practices devoted to curing diseases, relieving aches and pains, promoting tissue regeneration, and restoring vitality and wellness.
· Level 1 class: Introduction to the Healing Arts
· Upper level class: Healing Charms and Talismans (L4)

Department of Wortcunning (Green): Green is the color of vegetation, as in gardening; also fertility and prosperity. Wortcunning (an arcane term for herbalism) is the lore and art of knowing and using the magickal, medicinal, and other properties of plants.
· Level 1 class: Kitchen Witchery 101
· Upper level class: Anatomy and Physiology for Herbalists 601: Skin, Muscle, and Bone (L6)

Department of Divination (Yellow): Yellow is associated with mental work; meditation, will, intellect, divination and communication. Divination is the art of foretelling or predicting the future or of discovering things that are lost, hidden, or secret. Although not all seers were Wizards, all Wizards are expected to be seers.
· Level 1 class: Mantic Arts, Divination and Augury
· Upper level class: Tarot 301: Choosing a Deck (L3)

Department of Performance Magick (Orange): Orange is attuned to warmth, friendship, abundance, spirit, will, principles, theory, and alertness. Also called conjury, stage magick, and performance magick, this area deals with illusions and special effects, as well as the bardic arts of music, chants, poetry, singing, and storytelling.
· Level 1 class: Conjury 101: Magic Without the K
· Upper level class: Storytelling 401: Tales of the Fabulists (L4)

Department of Alchemy and Magickal Sciences (Red): Red is the color of fire, inspiration, vitality, pride, anger, bravery, strong emotions, purification, and arid places. Alchemy is the magickal art and science of transformation and transmutation. Aspects of magickal sciences include philosophy, life extension studies, robotics, artificial, and traditional sciences, such as metallurgy, chemistry, and the photographic arts.
· Level 1 class: Principles of Alchemy
· Upper level class: Photography (L5)

Department of Lifeways (Pink): Pink is the color for relationships with other people – especially those involving family, self-awareness, love, intimacy, and romance. Lifeways addresses aspects of personal life, interpersonal relationships, and life cycles.
· Level 1 class: Lifeways 101
· Upper level class: Ethics of Magick 400 (L4)

Department of Beast Mastery (Brown): Brown is the most common color of fur and feathers, and represents all things soft and fuzzy. Beast Mastery concerns everything to do with animals of all kinds, especially animal communication, zoology, and the lore of totems. The lore of magickal animals, such as unicorns and dragons, is also included in this department.
· Level 1 class: Beast Mastery 101
· Upper level class: Paleontology 301: When Dragons Roamed (L3)

Department of Cosmology (Violet): Violet is associated with power, wealth, good fortune, judgment, industry, and religious thought. This department explores the wonders of the Universe: constellations, calendars, the solar system, celestial knowledge and origins, and astrology.
· Level 1 class: Introduction to Cosmology
· Upper level class: Archaeoastronomy 301 (L3)

Department of Mathemagicks (Clear): All creation is suffused with magickal formulae – underlying everything, but invisible to all but the imagination. The Pythagorean Mysteries laid the foundation for all mathematics, particularly arithmetic, geometry, and music. In this department are included sacred geometry, numerology, and chaos theory magicks.
· Level 1 class: Mathemagicks 101: Magick And Number
· Upper level class: Pythagorean Numerology 401 (L4)

Department of Ceremonial Magick (White): The color of purity, white represents friendship, sincerity, divinity, and blessings. Ceremonial Magick is based upon both the Qabalah and the Hermetica, along with Neo-Platonism and Oriental doctrines. This department covers all forms of rites and rituals, for all purposes.
· Level 1 class: About Rituals
· Upper level class: The Celtic Fire Festivals (L6)

Department of Lore Mastery (Grey): Lore means “teachings,” and lore mastery is the primary attribute of the Wizard. In this department, students study the books, teachings, people, and wisdom of the ages, as well as myths, legends, and folktales.
· Level 1 class: Myths and Legends
· Upper level class: The Development of European Magic (L7)

Department of Dark Arts (Black): The Dark Arts include binding, banishing, fortitude, consistency, and protection. Black magick itself is not necessarily evil; ethical Wizards chiefly use the Dark Arts to protect themselves and others from harm.
· Level 1 class: Defense Against the Dark Arts 101: Rose and Thorn
· Upper level class: Identifying Psychic Attack (L4)

As shown in the above list, each department is identified and guided by a corresponding color. Students and faculty use the department-specific colors to craft and wear tabards and other regalia identifying their field of study.

Grey School students—known as apprentices—study at their own pace. Depending on level, each class is completeable in one to three months. A core of basic wizarding skills is covered in a series of required classes; spread among the levels, these “requireds” include such topics as core energy practices, magickal ethics, shielding, spellcraft, and the safe use of herbal preparations.

To graduate, students must finish all seven levels of study and complete at least one Major, which selected upon entering Level 2. Individual academic advisors guide students through the completion of their Major, which represents an intense course of study from one of the sixteen departments. Finishing a Major means completing a wide range of specialized classes and a culminating project known as a “Practicum.” In a Practicum, students work through “lab” and “lecture” sections and showcase their amassed knowledge in a unique and rigorous final project. Students who finish the program are certified as Journeyman Wizards.

Academics are central to the Grey School. Special achievement is recognized through an active Dean’s List and the Student Achievement Award, as well as with bestowal of “Student of the Year” awards to one adult and one youth student. Led by Headmaster Zell-Ravenheart, the Grey School fields a talented, experienced staff and faculty hailing from several countries. Faculty members are selected for expertise in one or more of the sixteen magickal departments, and each prospective faculty candidate passes through a careful selection process. Most have college degrees; a large number have advanced degrees. Among the faculty are high school and college teachers, lawyers, psychologists, nurses, social workers, and professional writers.

As with any school, there is more to the program than just classes! There is also a wonderful, thriving community. Students in the Grey School are sorted into elemental Houses (youths) and Lodges (adults), depending on sun sign. The four Lodges are the Circle of the Standing Stones (Earth), Society of the Four Winds (Air), Order of the Dancing Flames (Fire), and Coterie of the Flowing Waters (Water), while the four Houses are the Gnomes, Sylphs, Salamanders, and Undines Houses, respectively. The four Houses and four Lodges create a “home” for students in the Grey School, and provide a place to talk, share ideas, study, and engage in group challenges and activities. Each House or Lodge is led by a faculty “Head” and a student Prefect. Prefects are selected for their academic excellence and overall example; to be selected Prefect is both an honor and a responsibility. The school also appoints student Captains, akin to traditional boarding school “Head Boy” and “Head Girl” positions. The Captains represent the highest student positions in the school. While a Prefect is responsible for leading one House or Lodge, Captains oversee the entire student body. Both Prefects and Captains undergo special leadership classes to prepare them for their positions; upon completion each receives a metal Prefect badge.

Outside of the Houses and Lodges, a series of interactive forums provides a “Great Hall” setting, where students can meet and get to know each other. Within the Great Hall are a number of forums, including a bardic circle, a book discussion area, and a place for general conversations; staff or faculty members mentor each forum. Students also use the forums to earn merits for their House or Lodge via the spirited competition of regular “challenge” activities. The Grey School hosts a number of student-led clubs in such magickal specialties as animal care, herbology, magickal languages, gardening, and the dark arts. Several departments sponsor departmental awards, including the Dragon Stone Award (Department of Divination), the Seal of the Ouroboros Award (Department of Alchemy), and the Webweaver Award (Lifeways). The School also creates and hosts a number of regular publications, including a Student Handbook, a Course Catalog, and a quarterly student-run newspaper known as Whispering Grey Matters.

Although the Grey School exists in a fully online environment, students have an opportunity for in-person meetings and mentorings. The curriculum includes in-person internship classes for teachers and students who live close, geographically. Some students have likewise arranged meet-ups; in the United States at least two city-based groups of Grey School students meet regularly for magickal events and practice. The Grey School has also begun sponsoring summer Conclaves, camping-style events featuring classes, outdoor activities, workshops, campfire bardic circles, and more. The first Grey School Conclave took place in July 2006 in Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park. Attended by 33 students, it was a tremendous experience for all! To date, Conclaves are planned in California, Washington, Arizona, and New York for the summer of 2007.

One of the most interesting features of the Grey School is its lack of religious alliance. We neither teach nor promote religion in the Grey School, and we have thus been embraced by a multi-faith student body that includes Christians, Pagans, Catholics, Druids, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, and more. Rather than focusing on religion, the Grey School teaches Wizardry as a matter of art and science, philosophy and lifestyle. While we do not offer classes on how to join or practice specific religions, we do offer some classes on comparative religions, mythology, history, and the mystic traditions and ceremonies of various spiritual practices as those topics relate to Wizardry. In addition to its position on religion, the Grey School of Wizardry neither discriminates nor benefits members on the basis of race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. Rather, we value each student for the unique talents and point of view that they bring to our magickal community. The resulting rich, diverse environment has helped form the school’s bedrock.

Today, Oberon’s vision is alive, the Grey School growing and thriving as it works to bring up a new generation of Wizards. Incorporated as a non-profit educational institution in the State of California in March 2005, the school currently awaits its IRS Determination Letter for 501(c)(3) status. We remain dedicated to the tenets voiced by our motto and mission statement: everything is alive—everything is interconnected. We, members of the Grey School of Wizardry, are a proud part of that wonderful, living web.

Bright blessings!
Prof. Moonwriter
Dean of Students
Grey School of Wizardry

—–

To find out more about the Grey School of Wizardry, visit www.greyschool.com. The School is proud to offer low, accessible tuitions. For youth students (ages 11-17) entering the school, Level 1 tuition is $20, with tuition increasing by $2 for each subsequent level. For adult students (18 and over), Level 1 tuition is $35, increasing by $5 for each subsequent level. Note: youth students may need parental permission at the time of registration.

It’s OK we’re taking it back: The Swastika

Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)

Yes, it is true; the swastika is going to be forever etched in most people’s minds as a symbol of the Nazi movement. It is a true tragedy considering how much this symbol has to offer humanity. Before the swastika was hijacked by Hitler to become the Hakenkreuz (hooked cross) it was living a peaceful life providing luck and good fortune to millions of people. This may seem awkward to say, but join me in opening your hearts to the swastika.

The swastika is a simple shape. It’s an equilateral cross, with the arms bent at right angles in either a left-facing or right-facing direction. Some people espouse the belief that a left-facing swastika is a sign of evil. Perhaps that’s true, the power a symbol has is only what is given to it by its viewer, but as far as I’ve uncovered, there is no historical precedent to confirm such a belief. Traditionally the swastika is oriented so that the main line is horizontal, but you will sometimes see it rotated slightly.

The swastika has a long history, and as any long lived thing, it has amassed a significant number of names associated with it. As mentioned before, the swastika lived a part of its life as the hooked cross of the Nazi movement. It is also known as the gammadion due to it being created out of four of the Greek characters gamma. In medieval times it was referred to as the fylfot, which was due to its use in stained glass windows where the swastika was used to fill the “foot” or bottom of the decorative pieces. When discussing heraldry, the swastika is known as the cross cramponne because each arm resembles a crampon or angle-iron. There are dozens more names that the swastika is known by, but must important is when we’re talking about the original….the swastika.

The swastika is a sacred symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism. For the Hindu the swastika represents the two forms of the god Brahma. Brahma is a creation deity, so the left-facing form represents the evolution of the universe and the right-facing signifies the involution of the universe. As if that wasn’t enough, on its own the swastika is a holy symbol and you will find it as decoration on all kinds of things throughout the Hindu world and culture. For Buddhists, the swastika represents eternality. As such you will find it on the chests and feet of some Buddhist statuary. Right-facing represents the balance of opposites, Dharma, and universal harmony. Left-facing represents intelligence and strength. Of course, thanks to good ole’ hooked cross swastika you will be hard pressed to find a right facing swastika at a Buddhist temple outside of India. In China you will find a swastika on maps to denote the location of temples and frequently on Chinese food packaging to signify that the product is vegetarian.

The swastika has a place in Native American traditions as well. To the Navajo it was (and perhaps still is) a sacred image used in rituals. Due to its frequent associations with the sun, the swastika has a place in Germanic and Slavic history, folklore, and art.

At one point or another, the swastika has been associated with or believed to symbolize good luck, well-being, the sun, the pole and the stars, the four seasons, the wheel of life, the four quarters of the moon, the creative forces, cyclic regeneration, the solstices and equinoxes, four elements, and I’m sure much, much more.

Some people claim that the swastika is such a simple geometric design that all these different cultures were bound to use it at one point or another. Others think that the prevalence of the swastika is due to something more along the lines of Carl Jung’s collective unconscious. To me, why it’s everywhere is irrelevant. What matters to me is that there is so much more to the swastika than Nazism. Like your mom would tell you, “You should never judge a book by its cover.” But in this particular instance, I’m more inclined to Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype!”

Want to learn more? You should, because there is a WHOLE LOT out there on this topic! Try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika to start!

Wanna reclaim the swastika? Visit these guys: http://www.reclaimtheswastika.com/

Kirlian Photography

by Rebecca

I recently visited my friends at The Holistic Studies Institute in Albany, NY for an evening workshop about Kirlian photography. As usual, everyone there was fantastic and an absolute joy to be with, but that night was about their special guest, Al Hulstrunk and his Kirlian device.

What is Kirlian photography? Well, it involves what is probably very basic science, but since I stink at even the most basic scientific explanations, please forgive this totally lackluster explanation. Essentially sheet film is placed on top of a metal plate and the object to be photographed is placed on top of the film. High voltage is applied to the plate to make an exposure. The corona discharge (A type of electrical conduction that generally occurs at or near atmospheric pressure in gases.) between the object and the plate passes through and is recorded onto the film. This creates a photo of the object with all kinds of cool colors emanating from it. That’s about as much science as you’re getting out of me, that paragraph was really hard for me and I’m not entirely sure I understand what I just said!

Now that you know what it is, I guess the next question is who cares? Here is where I can start talking a little bit more in my comfort zone. If my husband was writing this article, which he considered doing; it would probably be 80% science and 20% philosophy. Since it’s me, we’re looking at 90% philosophy and 10% of the crappiest science ever put to paper. So who cares? Well firstly, not too many people do care. Hulstrunk told us that Kirlian photography’s heyday was the 1970s. The technology is at an understandable stand still, more about that later when I get my totally sappy groove on. There had once been a large international community that studied the results produced by these devices, but these days it’s slimmed down to photography enthusiasts (the pictures produced can be very beautiful) and paranormal/psychic researchers.

Kirlian Photo of 2 of Rebecca's fingers
Kirlian Photo of 2 of Rebecca's fingers

We now know what Kirlian photography is and the people who care about it. This brings us to why? It’s just a bunch of colors on a photo, right? Well, yes, it is. It’s what these colors may signify that causes the interest. There are many paranormal claims made in conjunction with these devices. Some have claimed that the use of Kirlian photography can predict illness or disease in plants and animals. There is the famous “phantom” leaf claim. Many experimenters have claimed that if they take a small part of a leaf and photograph it the rest of the leaf appears with it in developed photo. But these colors provoke other questions. Could there be a link between the colors and patterns produced and the chakras, the acupuncture points, astrological influences, psychic abilities, etc? Many people believe there is, and that the answers lie locked in that photographic image waiting to be interpreted like a Rorschach ink blot.

This is awesome, right? So why isn’t there stuff about Kirlian photography everywhere? That’s the real problem. Standardization. Obviously for science you need to be able to get consistent results in order to prove results of experimentation. But these aren’t scientists at H.S.I., they’re psychics, don’t they just believe? Well, they do, but without uniform results even a room full of psychics can’t be certain what secrets are hiding in a Kirlian photo. Without a standard baseline, or control, how can anyone be certain what is happening in any given Kirlian photo? The gang at H.S.I. doesn’t let that dampen their spirits, they do what they can.

Each person present had a Kirlian photo taken of them and logged. This was just being a person standing around. Then, people went back through and had a second photo taken after doing something that could provoke a change. One person went all day without coffee, God bless her, and then had her photo taken. She was then allowed to have some yummy coffee, and then they took another photo. People used Reiki or Therapeutic Touch on each other. One daring woman put her hand in melting snow for as long as she could stand. A crowd pleaser was the woman who boldly knocked back a few swigs of vodka, in the name of science. For me, my second “activity” photo was me with my husband. We figured it was lower impact than a lot of the things people were doing. Once the film is developed, the folks at The Holistic Studies Institute will compare before and after, and see if there were noticeable changes.

This lack of control with Kirlian photography is causing it to become a dying art form. Because of it, the scientific community, which was never in love with it, has now totally abandoned it. Due to the prevalence of digital photography, finding film is starting to become challenging, and costly. Hulstrunk told us there have been no notable advances in the Kirlian field since the 1970s. There hasn’t been any new blood to push the envelope of exploration.

10 Questions about Handfasting

1. What is handfasting?
The short answer to this question is: a handfasting is a component of a wedding ceremony which entails gently wrapping cords around the bride and groom’s clasped hands and tying a knot, symbolically binding the couple together in their declaration of unity.

However, the long answer entails a bit of back-story. Today’s modern day handfasting ceremony is a revival – of sorts – of the handfastings of yester yore. The act of handfasting was originally an element to a formal betrothal ceremony (the precursor to today’s engagement) perhaps going as far back as ancient Celtic Scotland, up to the 16th century reformation-era. During the formal betrothal ceremony, in which a couple promises to one another their agreement in future marriage, there was a formal handshake to seal the deal. This was called the handfæstung, meaning, a pledge by the giving of the hand, according to A.E. Anton . The betrothals eventually became so formal that it was an event in and of itself, which eventually lead up to the wedding ceremony. Oh, the drama!

And now for the magical part: take into consideration the strength of intent. Fast forward to modern neo-Paganism and their adaptations of sacred ancient (and not-so-ancient) rituals. Modern day Wiccans and Pagans recognize the power of magic which is essentially focused intent. One of the main reasons for this handfasting renaissance, if you will, is because today’s magical community can identify with the symbolism of an elaborate handshake agreement. To illustrate the imagery and importance of the handshake, the knotting of cords around the hands was eventually incorporated, possibly by today’s neo-Pagans. Magical cord knotting presents an outstanding visual in illustrating intent. The handfasting ritual has been, almost effortlessly, adapted and incorporated into our modern Pagan wedding rituals as the main ceremonial element in addition to – or instead of – the ring exchange. Modern Pagans revived the literal tying of the knot.

2. Is it a legal marriage?
The handfasting ritual can be incorporated into any wedding ceremony, just as can the ring exchange. Whether or not a couple chooses to have a handfasting does not make or break the legality of the marriage. Rather, the couple must take the proper steps to ensure that their marriage is recognized by the government if they do so choose. Making sure one’s wedding is legal and binding and recognized by the state (or other municipal entity) varies from location to location, so check your local laws. Generally, there may have to be an ordained (or legalized) officiant in addition to the couple having filled out the proper paperwork (i.e., a marriage license) prior to the actual ceremony. Anyone can become handfasted if that is their intent; rest assured it will be recognized by the Gods. But it may not be recognized by the government – so do your research!

3. Do you have to be Wiccan to have a handfasting?
No. In fact, the term handfasting arose during the early Christian era, when Paganism had already lost much ground. It’s the symbolism that Wiccans and other neo-Pagans have reclaimed and today embrace. But people from all religious denominations can experience the beautiful handfasting ritual during their wedding ceremony. In practice, Wiccans are taught to place well-thought intention into ritual, and therefore they do so into the knotting of the cords. Because of this, the ritual of the handfasting invites a unique, magical experience between the couple. But you don’t have to be Wiccan to feel the magic if your intentions are true.

4. How do I find someone to perform a handfasting?
Go to Handfastings.org and search for an officiant in your local area. Handfastings.org is the first, and so far only, website dedicated to linking people in the Pagan and Wiccan communities with ordained officiants who perform handfastings, weddings and commitment ceremonies, and other rites of passage and celebrations. While the website itself is a work in progress (as I suspect in perpetuity), it will always be a direct source for those who seek someone to perform their handfasting ceremony. One can also find a wealth of information on a comprehensive website called Witcvox.com, where High Priestesses and High Priests can be found in one’s local area. There is also a handfastings Yahoo!Group (operated independently of Handfastings.org) where brides and grooms-to-be ask questions and share information. Otherwise, you are going to have to do what the founder of Handfastings.org did: I searched forever for a Wiccan High Priestess to perform my handfasting.

5. How can I find out if they are legally registered to perform marriage ceremonies?
“The Marriage License Laws for a man and a woman to marry vary from state to state. Although there are differences between the requirements in the various states, a marriage between a man and a woman performed in one state must be recognized by every other state under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution [U.S. Marriage Laws].”

This is where research comes in handy. If you are serious about getting married and you want your marriage to be recognized by your government, you should be just as serious about making sure the person who performs your ceremony is legal. In addition to finding a legal officiant, the couple getting married may also have to apply for a marriage license. Because laws vary greatly from location to location, a good place to begin your research is at U.S. Marriage Laws: http://usmarriagelaws.com where you can find legal marriage information your local area. For other countries please check your local government.

For same-sex unions to be recognized, this has been an uphill battle for many. While I personally advocate for the legalization and recognition of same-sex marriage, the current reality is that you may have to settle for a commitment ceremony or civil union ceremony for the time being (until the rest of the world comes to its senses). But this does not mean that you cannot have a handfasting. Remember, the Gods do not discriminate – if you take a vow with a loved one to be joined in unity during a handfasting, you most certainly will be married in the eyes of the Gods. Government laws have been slow to catch up. Handfastings.org lists many officiants who will be delighted to perform same-sex marriages and handfasting ceremonies.

Oh and by the way, none of the above is intended to be used as legal advice.

6. Tell us about your favorite handfasting that you attended.
Mine! I’m biased, of course. We had a beautiful Wiccan-inspired wedding ceremony, which incorporated components of our own backgrounds thrown in for good measure. Held just before Samhain, Wiccan High Priestess Lady Chandara Anath of Circle of the Crescent Moon presided over the ceremony. She cast a traditional sacred Circle, under the chuppah, a canopy traditionally used in Jewish weddings. The High Priestess “called the quarters,” honoring the four cardinal directions – East (Air), South (Fire), West (Water), and North (Earth), in addition to honoring Spirit (the Gods). After this, she performed a beautiful wedding ceremony, which included the handfasting of my (now) husband and me.

The cords were blessed and then wrapped around our hands to symbolize the solidarity of our union. The cords were tied into a special infinity knot, which we now keep as a token of our love. Then we said our vows, professing our love to one another in front of all our friends and loved ones, and declared our commitment to each other. Then the High Priestess blessed the rings and we had the traditional ring ceremony. Afterwards, my husband broke the glass, a traditional Jewish gesture that basically symbolizes that there’s no turning back (romantic, no?) – and many of the guests yelled “Mazel tov!” Footnote: my mother told me earlier that we wouldn’t be married unless the groom broke the glass. Oy vey!

After this, we stepped down off the platform where we were greeted by a broom (blessed and consecrated by the High Priestess before the ceremony), which was decorated with flowers and tulle. I have always respected the African-American ceremony of “Jumping the Broom,” where the newly married couple begins their new life by crossing this symbolic threshold and literally jumping over the broom. Many Wiccans believe the broom to be a sacred purification tool; hence the adaptation of the broom ritual by many American Witches. Afterwards, we celebrated with a costumed ball reception. A good time was had by all!

7. Is there one set ceremony for a handfasting, or are there options to help tailor the ceremony for a particular bride and groom?
Well now that you have a better understanding of what a handfasting is, you can see that any ceremony created by a bride and groom can be customized to fit the couple’s wishes. The most important aspect of the handfasting ritual, after the intent of course, is the cords.

Traditionally in much of cord magic (including handfastings), cords may be nine feet in length, with each end knotted or bound with thread to prevent fraying. A natural substance is ideal. In many initiation ceremonies, cords are measured as per the length (height) of the person being initiated; however, the numbers 3 and 9 are very magical and can be incorporated simply by using a cord that is 9 feet or 3 meters long, which is totally acceptable.

In handfasting cords, traditionally, 3 cords are used, each a different color: white for purity (or a “clean slate”), blue for fidelity, and red for passion. However, you may choose other colors that you or the bride & groom feel match their intent. For instance, the bride may love the color pink and be using it as one of her wedding colors. Pink would be a lovely color to use in the cords as well. Magically, pink symbolizes love. Do a search for color correspondences or go to: http://geocities.com/fullmoon_magic/color.html for a variety of references. My husband and I used a purple cord – I love purple, which symbolizes spiritual strength. Not to mention that it was one of our wedding colors!

A great site with an overview on basic cord magic by Estelle Daniels is: http://www.estelledaniels.com/Articles/Cords.html

Some people braid the three cords together, others only use one cord. It’s up to you! The best way to pick out cords is to use your intuition along with your intent. You can never go wrong with that.

8. What would you say is the biggest misconception about handfasting?
Considering handfastings are just now experiencing a revival, not many people have had the chance to create false impressions about the ritual. For those who may have heard of handfastings however, there may be a misconception about the original handfasting, or the betrothal, to have lasted a year and a day. The “year and a day” timeline stems from Wiccan ritual, whereby one cycle of the Wheel of the Year is completed (e.g., from Samhain (Wiccan new year) to the day after Samhain of next year. This somehow may have been incorporated into the subconscious minds of some Wiccans and Pagan folk, and they may have come to the conclusion that the old betrothals, or the promise to marry, were also exactly a year and a day. But to the best of my knowledge there is no definitive proof of the handfastings of old to be exactly a year and a day.

The obscurity of handfastings might invite general misconceptions about Wicca or Paganism itself. After my husband and I got married, one of our wedding guests came up to us during the reception and told us that it was a very interesting ceremony. “But I have one question,” he posed, “am I still Catholic?” We had a good chuckle. I asked him, “Well, were you Catholic before the ceremony?” “Yes,” he answered. I confirmed, “Then you are still Catholic.”

9. Any advice for potential brides out there considering a handfasting ceremony?
I think that most people are concerned about family acceptance of the ceremony. Most people have a very narrow idea of what a wedding ceremony should be, and what exactly constitutes someone to become husband and wife. Because of this I have received several questions from people about how to talk to their parents about having a handfasting, or even more pressing, a Wiccan ceremony. Each family is different so approaches should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. But one should always have respect for and sensitivity towards all love ones involved.

As I said earlier, one can easily incorporate a handfasting ritual into almost any ceremony. The further a bride and groom want to stray from the norm, the more complicated it can get (depending on the families and their religions), so a sensitive and understanding approach is always best. And, like in marriage, you may just have to compromise. The journey of marriage begins with the planning of one’s wedding.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Yes, Handfastings.org has a few questions for you – a) Have you ever been to a handfasting? b) Where do you see The Magical Buffet 5 years from now? c) Brittney Spears: tressed to impress or shamefully shaved?

Okay Shira, despite the fact that I said one question, because you are so very cool I will answer all of your questions.
a) I have never been to a handfasting. I suck.
b) Hopefully on a new computer. The one it’s being done on now is pretty crappy.
c) If she shaved her head in an act of liberation, shaved is cool. If it really was just the last straw on the way to rehab, less cool. So probably both.


“Lady Artemisia” Shira G. Tarantino, High Priestess of the Goddess,
Wiccan Minoan Tradition of New York

A Second Degree Witch in the Minoan Tradition, Shira has been a practicing Wiccan for more than a
decade. Shira is the founder of Handfastings.org, whose mission is to link people in the Pagan and
Wiccan communities with ordained officiants who perform wedding ceremonies and other rites of
passage unique to the earth-friendly traditions. Established Beltane 2004, Handfastings.org currently
has listed almost 60 officiants in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia. The website is both a work in
progress and a labor of love.

In her “spare” time, as the director of development for a worldwide non-profit organization dedicated to
helping low-income women transition into the workforce, Shira supports the growth and sustainability
of the organization and its affiliates around the globe.

It is Shira’s sincere hope that through all aspects of her work she can continue to make a positive,
magical difference in the lives of others. Shira lives with her loving husband and their two cats in
Westchester, New York. Shira can be reached at shira@handfastings.org.

Handfastings.org
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