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Midsummer

A time of long days and short nights, balancing the darker half of the year with illumination. Although many may celebrate this just at the very date of the solstice itself, the time leading up to it and leading away from it is also very potent for magic and general celebrations of the summer sun.

In times gone past, fires were it high up on hills to celebrate the midsummer time. Some of these survived until the 1800s, and antiquarians may also re-enact these celebrations to keep the old ways alive. Another aspect of the fires was the blessing of domestic and farmyard animals through the fire. It was thought that the fire would cleanse and bless the animals for the coming year and guard them against ailments which may hinder the production of milk and other useful items to small-town folk from the time.

Although the old celebrations seem to have been distilled into quaint occurrences to modern man who has moved out of the villages in the UK, in many European countries the celebrations still go on.

For example, in Sweden, the schools are out mid-June and many begin their five-week holiday. Midsummer’s Eve is celebrated in the countryside, as it always has been, and the towns and cities are suddenly left deserted.

However, the main roads out of the built-up areas are another story- packed full of people desperately trying to get to their celebrations in time, friends and family waiting among the natural landscape for them to join in the annual celebrations. The date for the midsummer celebrations is usually a Friday between the 19th and 25th June, and people begin the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole. Whereas we here in the UK associate the maypole with May Day, it is a fertility symbol very much used within the midsummer celebrations in Sweden.

This maypole is raised in an open spot, and the traditional ring-dances begin to the delight of the children and some of the adults. The teenagers nowadays stay out of it and instead wait for the evening’s more riotous entertainment. The traditional activities revolve around the old Pagan rituals and games of strength, fun and fitness. These include many events you may see at your school’s sports day like the tug of war, and for the younger children the egg and spoon race, and of course the sack racing!
The menu includes different kinds of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, soured cream and chives, which is often followed by a grilled dish of some kind like spare rib or salmon and the first strawberries of summer would be served for the dessert, usually in a cake or simply with cream.

Although such a tradition is not generally celebrated in many countries now, the Swedish midsummer celebrations are ancient and have been handed down from generation to generation for many years and it is such an important part of the Swedish culture. It brings great nostalgia to the young and the old, and many want to go dancing after all of the celebrations as their ancestors have before them. Legend has it that midsummer is a popular time for romance and for love- it is said that if seven different species of plants are picked and placed under their pillows.

At night, their future husbands will appear to them in a dream.
Regarding the origins of the festivities as they are today, it’s said the celebrations were to welcome the high point of summer and fertility into the communities who lived off the land. Although it was mainly celebrated in the countryside, the industrial workers of central Sweden were given a feast of pickled herring, beer and schnapps to celebrate. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the festival became one of the most important festivals in the Swedish year.

Since approximately 6 CE, bonfires have been lit around Europe. In Sweden, this was mostly in the southern part of the country. It is said that midsummer as the longest night is the best time to tell people’s futures. There was also a tradition for girls to eat salted porridge so their future husbands would bring them water in their dreams.

~Lotte

Chaos Magic – A Brief Look

Chaos magic is something you may or may not have heard about. Although not directly related to witchcraft, it is something that many witches are starting to look into and dabble with.

Chaos Star

It is a difficult beast to describe, as it is more of an idea than an established set of rules and directions. Other practices like the religion of Wicca have a set framework where you are expected to do X and Y to attain Z. Chaos magic at its core is individual and allows the practitioner to choose what works best for them.

Therefore, a chaos practitioner may use aspects of Wicca, Thelemic rituals and a sprinkling of voodoo practices to achieve what they want to. This blending of traditions may seem ‘inappropriate’ to those not practising chaos magic, but it is really common to do so. Blending influences gives more of a power to what you are doing – and the majority of belief systems at their core, do things the same way.

As there is no framework, no guidebook, no ‘bible’ if you will, many who do not understand chaos magic have dubbed it left-hand path and moved on. If you wish to carry on being just a Wiccan, just a High Magician, just into witchcraft, then that is fair enough. But shouting about chaos magic being a left-hand path is nonsense, just because it doesn’t come with rules or ethics.

As a personal dabbler into chaos theory myself, I have zero belief in the ‘threefold law’ or other limiting aspects of the various spiritualities out there. If I wanted my practice limited, I would go to church and do what the priest tells me. My introduction to all this was through witchcraft, however, the pomp and circumstance of the traditional ceremonies and rituals just really put me off. The drawing of the circle, the calling of the quarters, etc etc. The whole setup would, at times, take longer than the ritual I wanted to perform. That’s when I started looking at different methods of thinking and doing.

Chaos magic gives you the freedom to explore. There are so many rules set into the majority of the religions and beliefs in the world that it can be very worrying to start doing something with no rules, no limits and no ethics. Of course, people will have their own set of ethics (which is why the majority of us are not in prison for murder, etc) and as long as you follow those ethics, you should be ok. If something feels wrong, generally for you it is wrong. Chaos magic is more about taking a view or an idea that you want to be manifest and believing in it until it happens.

It also means that you can use any tools you like to achieve your goals. Who says you need to use a specific athame to open and close a circle – if you have a circle that is? Why not use a wooden kitchen spoon? Or even the bone from the chicken leg you just ate? Sure, you may feel like you want or need a specific, sacred set of tools. When it comes down to it, you really don’t.

The witches of old, before Sephora wanted to stock starter-witch kits, would use all kinds of home stuff for rituals. Cauldron? Check, cast iron cooking pot used for everything. Wand? Check, you have fingers, right? These things have been over complicated by the elitists in the established systems we have today.
Just because you have the most expensive athame, Karen, it doesn’t mean your spell will work better.

So how do I even begin?

So, you are either a newbie in the world of magic, or you want to try something a little different. Personally, I started with the Psychonaut Field Manual by bluefluke. This helped me to get a visual understanding of how chaos magic could work. I learn best with visual representation, so this worked for me compared to reading a book filled with just words and zero images.

Image of the Psychonaut Field Manual
© bluefluke

Others may prefer the word-heavy version of learning, so another good source for getting your teeth into it is Liber Null & Psychonaut by Peter J. Carroll. Many places now you can get those two as a single volume, other places you may need to get them separately.

Of course, in a world of self-publishing, there are endless volumes of chaos theory and practice manuals. I would personally find a review before obtaining, in case you waste hours of your life on something that doesn’t work for you. This is the beauty of chaos magic. No one can look down on what you do and call it ‘wrong’, because what works for you may not work for someone else.

Sigils

The basics of chaos magic tend to include working with sigils. Usually, the practitioner will get into a mental state in which they are controlling their subconscious to do their bidding. Anyone who has achieved this state will know how it feels. For some, this state is reached whilst writing, drawing, making or playing music…many endeavours can kick you into that state.

Shoal of Chaos sigils by
Rune370

A sigil is then created from the intent of what you wish to do. You may use the word for what you want, or alter an image a certain way to show or get what you want to happen.

Again, this is completely personal to you as to how you do this. You may feel more comfortable using technology, or drawing things out the traditional pen and paper way. You may not even create anything physically – some people work best in their heads.

To get a greater effect, you may use a so-called Linking Sigil or LS. This takes two aspects and combines them to achieve a greater effect or to empower something more effectively or quicker. Of course, there is nothing wrong with using sigils or seals which are historical – this belief is open-minded and allows you to experiment with whatever you wish to. If you want to use some good old high magic seals and sigils, go for it. If you want to create your own, there is nothing wrong with that either. The key part of all this is belief. If you believe in something, you can use that to shape your view of reality.

Servitors

This is something which is used a lot in many forms of magic, perhaps in the form of an external being or item which is imbued with power or thought to carry out some task. However, in Chaos magic, servitors are an extension of the practitioner themselves as part of their consciousness. Essentially, you are engaging part of your own mind to carry out and influence events and tasks. Sometimes the servitor will be given a physical form, which the practitioner will carry with them. However, it is always connected to the practitioner with a kind of mind link.


Buer seal, THE BOOK OF THE GOETIA OF SOLOMON THE KING (1904)

These servitors have many names in many beliefs, including elementals, familiars, incubi, succubi, bud-wills, demons, atavisms, wraiths, spirits, and so on. Usually, they are seen as demons – perhaps because they have a free will – but they are the servitors or denizens of the one who is controlling them. Again, the key part of this is in the belief. The belief that these exist, and that these will do your bidding. Within Chaos magic, it is very important to keep this belief active, otherwise, the whole thing is lost. As soon as the belief is gone, the magic is gone. A lot like Father Christmas or the tooth fairy.

Of course, there is a lot more than just sigils and servitors when it comes to Chaos magic, but it would be an entire book’s worth to explain the rest! Unlike many other systems of belief and magic, in the case of Chaos theory the internet is – mostly – your friend. You will find a lot of interesting subjects and talking points which will then enable you to build upon your own beliefs and the directions you want to take it. There are communities of like-minded people on places like Facebook and Reddit, and I’m sure there are specific Chaos magic forums out there somewhere.

The main thing to remember is to have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously. You are not the next messiah, you are likely just a very naughty boy.

– Lotte

Altars and Their Uses

Many people who practice paganism have an altar of some kind- even if that is not the intention.

A special place where you burn candles, maybe some incense, in an arrangement you like can be classed as a simple altar. The more mainstream religions sometimes set the impression that an altar can only be in a place of worship- this isn’t the case, and an altar can be anywhere- indoors, outdoors, temporary or permanent. If you practice ceremonies in a certain location, you may create a temporary altar under a tree, near a river, or simply some basic offerings and symbols in the centre of the ceremonial space.

Some people dedicate an entire room to magical workings and spiritual work, and there are places like this you can visit; one of these is the Goddess temple in Glastonbury. You can go there when it is open to meditate and enjoy the energies. There are also ceremonies sometimes held there too.

Ideal places for an altar

The answer to this is: anywhere! You may choose to use the mantelpiece of a fireplace, the top section of a chest of drawers or similar storage unit, a coffee table, or perhaps just the top of a small box you keep your magical tools inside. You may choose to dedicate a part of your garden if you have one, to your chosen deity or just for spiritual work. Wherever you choose to put it, and whatever you choose to utilise as a holder for it is entirely up to you- there is no specific rule to the set-up of an altar. Many people who work away from home a lot may also have a small travel altar, which can be carried in something as small as a matchbox if desired. This allows them to stay connected even when travelling.

Many altars have ritual tools on them; this could be a cup for libation, an athame for spell work, a wand, candles, space to burn incense and perhaps a representation of the God/Goddess or both. It may be that some people would want a ‘full’ altar, with everything they need for all occasions on. Some people may just want the things they are going to use for the specific ceremony or ritual included. Either way is fine, it’s up to the individual how they wish to use their sacred space.

The main thing to remember is that your altar is your main hub for spell work, meditation, ritual- many things associated with the ‘practical’ side of Paganism. Some may choose to only set up and use an altar at times of celebration; for example, the seasonal celebrations, whereas others will set up and always have their altar present.

Just remember some simple safety tips- not to use candles on or around material that is flammable and to never leave them or incense unattended, and if you rent your property, make sure first that you can burn candles and incense in the property- some smoke alarms are very sensitive, so it’s best to check instead of setting it off unexpectedly mid-ritual!

– Lotte

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