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Weekly Update: 12/04/2000

Author: Witchvox Central
Posted: December 4th. 2000
Times Viewed: 6,233

Listening To The Woods...

Greetings everyone!

White Birch has always been our wood of choice for the Yule Log. Throughout the now almost fifty years, Wren can't remember any other tree being given that particular role of honor in her family. Whether it was actually regarded as a magickal 'tradition' in her house or it was simply that the stark white bark offset the cherry red candles and deep green holly so well, we really don't know. Perhaps it was just a New England thing. New Englanders are quite proud of their magnificent white birch trees and rightfully so.

Yule Logs are 'traditionally' of oak, which makes perfect sense as the Log was meant to burn all day and oak is a dense and slow-burning wood. Birch, on the other hand, when thoroughly dry, ignites and goes up the chimney quite quickly. Upon musing before the fire on one Solstice Eve, Wren divined that the birch Yule Log could be perceived as 'igniting the passions' of the other woods now happily crackling in the hearth. As the birch is known as a tree sacred to the various great Goddesses, this revelation proved a quite personally satisfying reason to continue to use birch wood for the Yule Log. It is amazing what one can discover while gazing into a fire. Probably one of the reasons why our Ancestors spent so much time doing so.

"One more reason Birch is nice, the Rune for Birch is Beorc meaning Birth. I usually hand out Birch papers to my Yule guests and encourage them to write what they wish to birth on the Solstice, or what they want to bring into the light. Then we toss them into the Yule fire. It's nice". (from kari 12/4)

Photo credit: This image to your right is of the y2001 Unity calendar (Website:

"Celtic Britain and Gaelic Europe used a large tree or log to fit into their hearths. They anointed it with salt, holly, wine and evergreens. Then it was lit and young girls or a mother kept the remnants to light the next year's log. Some put it to one side of the hearth, burning it for days, even the whole year. The ashes were highly prized - apparent protection against evil and lightning. Birch, oak, willow and holly woods were most often used," according to The History of the Yule Log. Instructions on how to make a Yule Log can give one the general idea for a functional gift to prepare for yourself or as a present. Country Pagans can do their city-dwelling cousins a big favor by sending them a Yule Log as a special treat. The municipal 'powers that be' really do not appreciate urban Pagans cutting limbs off the trees in the city parks and we doubt any 'religious freedom defense' would sway them to look at it any other way!

Each wood has its own voice. Anyone who had the good fortune of growing up in a household where most of the wintertide activities centered about a big cast iron kitchen or parlor stove knows exactly what we mean. The evergreens, such as pine, hemlock and spruce, (Not good for the chimneys, by the way, but a nice treat to be used once in a while for the scent) sputter and spit. They seem prone to over-dramatize each woody sentence with a punctuation mark made up of orange sparks. Maples burn cleanly and seem pretty even-tempered as they crackle softly away. Elms burn hot and long. Anyone who has had the 'opportunity' to split elm wood knows that particular tree is rather perverse and makes you work hard to earn every moment of golden-russet tinged warmth. Birches seem light and merry, even self-sacrificing. The oaks and beeches are filled with warmth just waiting to be released. They give up their secrets in soft whispers and sighs. Cherry and apple are the desert woods with mouth-watering scents and branch-licking flames of blue, green and yellow. Listening to the woods speak, one can hear the spirits of the land talk of the times long gone by and perhaps of things yet to come as well. And why not? The magickal lore surrounding the various trees is well known to Pagans. And as one writer puts it, "He (or she) who delights in tending fire knows that the glow of the hearth also fosters a glow in the heart." (Haydn S. Pearson, Country Flavor Cookbook)

Deck The Halls With Witches' Ladders...

A Witch's Ladder makes a great homemade and inexpensive surprise present for the Pagans on your gift list. Traditionally made with three cords of different colors and braided together, the feathers of nine separate species of birds are then added, each tied on while chanting an appropriate charming rhyme. The completed Ladder is then hung from the highest point in the home for good luck. Instead of feathers (most wild bird feathers are illegal to use in the U.S. except by special permit), modern Pagans often scour the flea markets and antique marts for old charm bracelets. Then nine (or more) charms holding special significance to the maker or recipient are sewn onto the cords. Small bells, seashells, twigs from the nine sacred woods or little herb bags can also be used. It's a fun project for children- played out as a scavenger hunt- as any age child can help the grown-up 'Crafties" to find those special items. The older Pagan teens can make a Ladder (Probably of the "Keep Out!" variety!) for their own rooms. Witches' Ladders make great presents for handfastings, wiccanings and initiation events as well as providing an excellent elementary "Witchcraft 101" lesson for those Teachers guiding newcomers in the elements of magickal practice and spellwork. You can make up a kit with all the ingredients for those who always prefer to do their own magick, thank you very much!

We are always surprised to see many Pagan homes with lots of dreamcatchers and pentacles, but no Witches' Ladders. But then again, while some sources say that the Ladder should be placed in a spot where you can see it every day, others (like us) may be more traditional and keep theirs hidden in a secret spot. House protection magick was very much a part of Folk Magic in Britain and elsewhere. Witches' Ladders can be a nice alternative to some of the more unsavory forms often found in the excavations of old buildings. As with all magickal items, when it comes time to retire or replace them, it is wise to burn them, bury them or throw them into deep running water. Burning the old Witches' Ladder at Yule, Samhain or on a day dedicated to your patron God/Goddess-after making a new one, of course-might make a nice coven or family ritual that can be handed down through the generations. If you like to time your rituals to moon phases and seasonal changes, the new Unity 2001 calendar can certainly help you do so (see stunning image at top right). And it's another beautiful and easy to ship gift item as well! Ask St Nick, Old Nick or Good Old Thor to put one in your stocking. (And are we the only ones threatening to fill the Yule socks of 'bad' little Pagan girls and boys with discarded ballot chads instead of coal this year?)

Emerald Rose Hits #2 on the Charts...

A new Goddess chant by Emerald Rose is climbing the charts on . "Freya, Shakti" from their new cd "Bending Tradition" has reached the top ten on the music site's Spiritual Pop charts. "Freya, Shakti" is a "driving oracular chant/song", celebrating aspects of the Goddess across time and culture and exploring the images of her mysteries. reviewer Carl McColman wrote "The most luminous gem on this CD is "Freya Shakti", a Goddess chant that deserves to take its place alongside Deena Metzger's "Isis Astarte" chant as a recognizable Pagan standard. To this reviewer, the boys in Emerald Rose haven't just bent tradition -- they've contributed to it!"

"Freya, Shakti" can be heard for free by going to . The band has released three Goddess-themed songs to the internet site this autumn. "Pagan Girl" and "Castle of Arianrhod" are also available on the site.

Emerald Rose has been touring festivals and concerts this year, ranging from Ohio to Florida. Their most recent concert was at the Music of the Rivers Festival in Jacksonville, where the group joined more than forty other Celtic bands to raise awareness of the plight of Florida's Ichetucknee River. Another victory for the group occurred this Samhain, when fans packed Atlanta's Variety Playhouse for a very high-energy concert that ended with the audience performing a spiral dance in the aisles during an encore of "Freya, Shakti".

Emerald Rose is currently taking their show to venues throughout the Southeast and beyond. The band is also overseeing the introduction of numerous pagan bands into the virtual world, helping set up websites on and other internet portals. For more information about the band, check out .

Pagan Youth Speak Out!

  Pagan Teens Essays for December 2000  

  • School and Religion: We asked about how your school treated your religion, and whether or not you felt that there was an implicit Christian bias in your school. Not surprisingly, we discovered that out-of-the-broom-closet Pagan teens generally have a tough time in school. Though there are encouraging signs, and teens are doing their best to educate their peers and teachers, one of our contributors said it best in the bio which accompanies her essay: "She dreams of a day when topics such as "School and Religion" are no longer an issue." Check out the School and Religion essays... Page ONE - TWO - THREE - FOUR - FIVE - SIX

  • Can you be Christian and Pagan? is a question that crops up fairly regularly. One of these teen essayists consider themselves adherents of both faiths -- the second looks at the problems of being Pagan in a Christian household. Check out the Can you be Christian and Pagan? essays... Page ONE - TWO

For a complete list of Future Teen and Adult Topics: see details at the bottom of this page

NOTE: We are looking for suggestions for next years Teen Essay topics... If YOU have some ideas mail them to Diotima

Wren and Fritz can't thank the beautiful Dio enough for the help that she has delivered to us. She has been a gift from the Goddess and we are honored to work with her. Bless YOU Dio.

Troll The Ancient YuleTide Carol...

Well, maybe not all that ancient. But we do have some new Pagan Yuletide Carols that folks -some with tongue placed firmly in cheek, no doubt- have come up with. Hark the Neo-Pagans Sing may sound a bit strange at first, but with a couple of swigs of buttered rum or real eggnog, you and your friends will be more than ready to wassail the night away!

Mike Nichols offers a "Paganized" rendition of the Carmina Gadelica available at The Cauldron. He writes: "The original Carmina Gadelica was a collection of Celtic folk prayers, charms, rituals, and omens. They were collected in the late 1800's in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by folklorist Alexander Carmichael and published in a six-volume set. Carmichael himself admits that many of these are Pagan in origin with only a thin Christian overlay. I have merely tried to restore them to something akin to their original charm, mystery and beauty." (The Cauldron also offers a collection of articles on Yule this month.) And if you would like to look up some examples of Yule rituals, as well as view some modern Neo-Pagan history, do check out Omphalos Pagan Files. File sections include Art and graphics, chants and songs, divination, Druidism, magick, Wicca and many others. Omphalos also offers a very good Pagan search engine to help you find just the sites and information that you are looking for. At this busy time of year, we can really appreciate anything that is designed to help save us some very valuable time. Whew! Hmmm, come to think of it, those Omphalos 'meditation' files might really come in handy this month! (Thanks to Luke J. Germann for the image to your left "It was taken by a member of our grove at The Summerland Gathering 1999")

Pagan Perspectives
WitchVox Question of the Week!

Last week you shared with our readers what the best gift that you ever received was. Many of you told of personal experiences that shaped your lives and made a difference in ways that other kinds of gifts never could-although some of you indeed got just the right physical thing at just the time. Presents are very cool no matter what form they may take! (Responses)

This week...

Does Older Equal Better? Whether it is Traditional Wicca vs. Solitary Wicca or Coven Trained vs. Self-Initiation, there are folks on either side of the issue, "Is Older Really Better"? We have even heard of some folks 'padding' their experience (or years) so as not be called a "newbie" or a 'wannabe". Is there something 'wrong' with being a new seeker? Is there something inherently right about being what some call the "Old Guard"? Is there a point where revering the 'old way' of teaching/passing on the knowledge actually becomes 'resistant to change'? Should the new generations of Pagans follow closely in our footsteps or should they be free to break new ground? Can the old traditions survive if they do? Should they?

Click to Post YOUR Opinion or to view the Responses

In Closing...

Gazing into a fire, time stands still. The world becomes a single circle of light in the cooling darkness. We are reliving history. We are now as our Ancestors once were. We are awaiting the Solstice and within the orange-yellow flames, we see the promise of the rebirth of the Sun. As the woods begin to speak, the warmth of the fire casts its spell upon us and we know that we do not wait alone.

In Your Service,

Wren Walker & Fritz Jung
The Witches' Voice
Year 2000 - December, 4th.


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