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Keeping Christ in Xmas
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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
A Call for Needfire - 2004|
Posted: June 28th. 2004
Times Viewed: 12,444
One of the most empowering aspects of being a Pagan, Witch, or Wiccan is not living life as a victim. Personal power means that we are full participants in the affairs of our lives. How then do we respond when the world around us seems to be falling apart?
In ancient times when troubles beset the land, and the Kingdom seemed to be in peril, the people turned to a practice known as the needfire. Fire represented the spirit of the land, which gave life and purpose to everything in the realm. Therefore when troubles arose within the Kingdom it was a sign that the fire had been contaminated. The spirit of the land had grown ill and required renewed vitality.
The custom of lighting a needfire called for specific types of sacred wood to be used to feed the fire: birch, elm, hazel, holly, oak, pine, rowan, willow and yew. Each of these sacred woods served to pass desired qualities and blessings into the needfire. Through this practice the people were able to refocus their spiritual values, generating a new vitality with which to enliven the spirit of the land.
Here in contemporary times Americans saw life change drastically following the horrific events of September 11, 2001. The spirit of the land was unarguably contaminated in the aftermath of shock and fear. In an unprecedented reaction Americans relinquished several key constitutional rights with the establishment of the Patriot Act. This was reportedly necessary in order to allow the U.S. Government to avoid becoming encumbered by legal procedures when it needed to act quickly for national security purposes.
In some ways the spirit of the land that we once knew is almost unrecognizable today. Americans are now served with an almost daily dose of fear, which is reflected in the "color-coded national alert system" along with continuing media references to possible terrorists attacks. Fear makes us dependent, and has long been a tool of distraction and manipulation.
In ancient times there were some who used an analogy between goats and sheep to describe Pagans. Goats are active, independent, and difficult to herd together. Sheep are passive, easy to herd, and tend to follow anyone who will, lead. As modern Pagans this is part of our situation, for we are not sheep. This makes us powerful, and therefore we pose a threat to those whose agenda requires sheep.
As Americans we are told that our Nation is at war against terrorism, and that the continual erosion of our civil rights is necessary for our own protection. There is an old saying that the first victim in any war is the truth. Truth is the very core of the fire that represents the spirit of the land.
In Arthurian legend we find the theme that the land and the King are one. The well- being of the King is reflected in the well-being of the Kingdom. If the King fails then the Kingdom perishes. This covenant is essential to the fire that gives vitality to the spirit of the land.
When we look at our Kingdom today we find it in great peril and in economic strife. Unemployment is high and citizens are worried about the future. Many people feel that there is nothing the individual can do in such times. This may be rooted in the fact that Government officials often appear indifferent to our concerns except during an election year.
As Pagans, Witches and Wiccans we know that people are not powerless. Our ancestors understood that everything is connected and inseparable. What becomes of one thing then influences another. This is not unlike a standing row of dominos, and when one is tipped a chain reaction occurs. Such a concept is foundational to the principle of magic.
A more modern view of the value of the needfire is reflected in dealing with computer problems. Sometimes it becomes necessary to re-boot the computer, which restores the integrity of the original settings. This is not unlike the custom of extinguishing all the fires in the land and then relighting the sacred bonfire. Perhaps it is time to reboot the program and restore the operating system here in our own land.
As a Pagan Community we can join together in groups and we can operate as individuals. I would like to propose that just after sunset on the full moon in October, we join as a people and raise a needfire for the Nation. Let us restore the freedom and the courage that has long been the hallmark of this Nation. How sad it would be for the epitaph of America to be that our freedom was not taken by force of arms, but was meekly surrendered because we were too afraid to keep it.
The ancient needfire was kindled by friction and then fed with logs of birch, elm, hazel, holly, oak, pine, rowan, willow and yew. Torches were then lighted from the bonfire and carried to each home to relight the hearth fire. In this way the renewed spirit of the land passed into each home within the Kingdom.
I suggest replacing the nine logs with nine pieces of paper upon which the names of the trees are written. Beneath each name can then be written a desired quality. Using a metal bowl or cauldron the papers can be fed to the flame in a symbolic passing of each specific nature. These natures will then reside within the needfire. To create the needfire we can use a wooden match, which will honor the ancient custom of employing friction to ignite the needfire.
The following is a suggested list of correspondences:
Birch - Forthright
Elm - Enduring
Hazel - Wise
Holly - Tenacious
Oak - Truthful
Pine - Visionary
Rowan - Courageous
Willow - Honoring
Yew - Intuitive
The basic idea is to pass these traits into the needfire, which in turn passes them to the spirit of the land. The full moon in October precedes the presidential election, and so the spirit of the land resonates at the core of the process. Like the legendary sword Excalibur that drew King Arthur, so too is the role of the spirit of the land.
Together we can light a needfire that will pass from coast to coast. We can come together as a diverse but unified people, and renew the heart and spirit of our land and our ways as a free people. We can choose courage over fear, and we can reclaim our way of life as it was before the attack on the United States.
For the purposes of our needfire we can use two candles and a small cauldron, or a bonfire pit and two torches. The solitary person can use a small black candle to represent the illness and a larger white candle to represent renewal. Groups may wish to use two different cauldrons or fire pits. For the simplicity of communication in this article I will use the candles to illustrate the suggested method of our needfire. With a little thought this can easily be translated over to group workings with bonfires.
The black candle will represent the afflicted spirit of the land. The white candle will symbolize the renewed spirit of the land. To begin the process the black candle is named as the illness that has befallen the spirit of the land. The white candle is named the renewal of the spirit of the land. Following this the nine pieces of paper are placed together in a container that can hold fire. A small cauldron is ideal.
The black candle is now lighted and allowed to burn while words are spoken or thoughts are focused related to the troubled times. After a few moments all other lighting in the area is extinguished, and then the black candle is doused. Next a wooden match is struck and used to light the papers inside the container.
When the papers are burning, light the white candle to capture the joined essence of the indwelling spirit. From this candle you can light others to celebrate the triumph of the needfire. If you work with other people then you can have each person pass the flame from candle to candle. Anyone with a hearth can light it from the candle.
Once the needfire is passed to candles, torches, or oil-burners, then all that remains is to allow it to burn undisturbed. In closing bury any remnants and debris connected to the black candle. Take the ashes from the pieces of paper and cast them to the four winds. This symbolically spreads the blessings of the needfire.
Please consider joining in the creation of a needfire this October. Naturally you can modify what I've suggested or even create your own ritual. But it is my hope that you will lend your prayers and energy to renew the spirit of the land in whatever way calls to you.
Location: , California
Bio: Raven Grimassi is an award-winning author of over 10 books on Wicca and Witchcraft. He has trained in both southern and northern European traditions, and has been a practitioner of the Craft for over 30 years. Raven is a popular lecturer at festivals and conventions across the country. He is currently the Directing Elder of the Arician Ways. Raven is also the co-founder and co-director of the College of the Crossroads, as well as a member of the illustrious Grey Council founded by Oberon Zell.
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