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Rediscovering Cakes and Wine
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In the Scriptures of the Abrahamic traditions, we find a curious verse. Essentially, it describes an “order of service” as would have been used by the worshippers of the old Gods in the land of Israel. It reads:
“And your children gather wood, and your men build a fire thereof. Your women bake cakes for the Queen of Heaven, and the people pour out libations to the other Gods, which causes me to vent my wrath to them.” (Jeremiah 7:18)
Leaving aside the Hebraic deity’s expression of wrath, we find the sharing of food and drink as the basis of this domestic cult. From contemporary sources, we find agreement that the Gods were celebrated throughout many cultures through this means. And, save in certain specific instances (such as to avert plague or beg pardon for a severe misdeed) , the bulk of the offering was ingested by the faithful.
At its most basic level, this custom stems from the concepts of hospitality. Indeed, that was the entire premise behind the ancient sacrifices, i.e. the maintenance of reciprocal relationships with the Gods. The Divine Powers had shared food at the table of Humanity, and received myriad gifts for deigning to attend the gathering. Hence, They were obligated to return the giving through abundance, fertility, good fortune, and felicity.
This premise is often unspoken in today’s Pagan and Craft environments. Indeed, the concept of giving in libation a portion of the Cakes and Wine* is frequently stated as an after thought. Many books purport that this portion of the ceremony is (variously) a thanksgiving to the Gods, an interlude between the “magical work” versus “social time” of the group, and a grounding or earthing of the rite. If any inkling is mentioned regarding the “give and take” attitude of antiquity, it is frequently brushed aside as superstition.
This flippant attitude naturally arouses an urge to scream at such people on my part. Yes, Cakes and Wine is an offering of gratitude. However, social time happens AFTER the magical work and ceremonial details are attended to. Likewise, one does not ground or earth energy in the middle of a ritual.
Part of the problem is the knee-jerk reaction some in the popular Pagan and Wiccan communities have with two other related concepts. The first is sacrifice. The second is any possible resemblance between their rituals and the Christian Eucharist. (Presumably, the fact that at least 80% of Wiccan ceremony was derived from an Abrahamic framework inspired by such grimoires as the Clavicula Solomonis… is lost on these people) .
The Christian Eucharist, especially in the forms practiced by the Roman Catholic Church and Greek Orthodox Church, are directly indebted to the sacrificial cults that supported the Roman State. They are also directly linked … nay, adopted from… certain features of the Mystery religions. Indeed, the early Church fathers were aghast that these pre-Christian sects had practices and teachings that sounded so Christian!
Some went so far as to preach a curious doctrine of diabolic imitation i.e. their quaint Devil-figure became aware of the importance of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, so presumably went “back in time” and sowed counterfeits to confuse and seduce people. While some Christian sects teach this still …most intelligent individuals will see how ridiculous this is. But I digress…
The State Cults of our Pagan past (of which the Roman Empire’s is one example) sought to maintain a collective relationship with the Divine. On the immediate level, if the Gods were happy, the community would prosper. However, on a more sublime level, it also sought to maintain the whole cosmos.
The Latins phrased this divine order as the Pax Deorum (the Peace of the Gods) . The ancient Egyptians knew it as Maat. The Norse saw in it the postponing of Ragnarok. In the Americas, the Aztecs practiced their sacrifices to feed the Earth and keep it alive. To the Celts, each sacrifice recreated – whether of human, animal, food, or material goods – on some level, the primal sacrifice that created the worlds.
Our English word, blessing, derives from the old German word ‘bletsian’. Bletsian can be translated as ‘smeared or sprinkled in blood’. As Bram Stoker’s Reinfeild notes in Dracula, “the blood is the life.”
No, I am not advocating we return to butchering animals (or people) in our recreations of our mythic past. But we should recapture the mindset of giving our best to receive the best. And, if we join that mindset to our simple feast of bread and drink, they become equivalents of the same.
To avoid charges of “black masses”, many in the Wiccan Revival made sweeping statements that their rites have no resemblances to Christian rites. Had they clarified that they too were drawing upon the same Pagan roots that also happened to inspire the modern Christian liturgy… I do not think the sundry hordes of what some detractors label as ‘McWiccans and/or ‘PopPagans’ would be able to do any such cultural violence against their own ancestors!
Thankfully, representatives of the Traditionalist Craft outside of the Wiccan Revival have refused to whitewash the virtues and vices of their forebears. (And, thankfully, many of the older lineages of British Traditional Wicca are now embracing that mindset.)
If we simultaneously offer up food (or any item) and bless it to our Gods… and then either ingest or put it to use in our service of Them… that rite is one of communion. The practice of “God-eating” is incredibly ancient, and the sacred meal of the Mysteries has always been shared amongst the Elect.
But there is another aspect that many don’t recognize. Not even the Lord’s Supper of the Christian Churches recognize this. The eucharist also becomes a theurgic talisman and an aid to all treading the Path of Return. Before the Gods pour their essence into the Gifts, we must become aware that the Gifts represent our Selves… Bread of our Body, Wine of our Blood, Mead (or Cider) of our Spirit, Incense of our Highest Ideals, Salt of our Worth, and so on (depending on what the offering is) .
We offer our Selves with the meal to the most high, that all be put to the service thereof. And, once that freely-given gift is accepted, then reversion of the offerings to the use of the people offers a seal of sanctity.
In closing, I would like to share some recently (in the past decade) unearthed ancient words found carved upon a shrine to Dionysos located in catacombs underneath Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. These words are:
“Those who eat of my Body and drink of my Blood,
they shall be my brothers, and they shall not taste Death.”
*Cakes and Wine, or Cakes and Ale, as a term stems from the Wiccan Revival. However, as defined in this article, it is equated with the Heathen practices of blot and symble, the old English Craft housle/houzle, the love-feast (or sacred meal) of the Mediterranean Craft traditions (of which Hekate's Supper is one well attested example) , the thusia of Hellenismos, and so on.
Resources for Further Research and Contemplation
Anderson, Cora. 50 Years in the Feri Tradition.
Anderson, Victor. Thorns of the Blood Rose.
Artisson, Robin. Witching Way of the Hollow Hill.
Artisson, Robin. The Resurrection of the Meadow.
D’Este, Sorita and Rankine, David. Wicca Magickal Beginnings.
Evans, John. Roebuck in the Thicket.
Fortune, Dion. The Winged Bull.
Foxwood, Orion. The Faery Teachings.
Frazer, Sir James. The Golden Bough.
Gray, William. By Standing Stone and Elder Tree (AKA Rollright Ritual)
Gray, William. Western Inner Workings.
Gray, William. The Sangreal Sacrament.
Greer, Jonathan Michael. The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.
Gwynn. Light From the Shadows: A Mythos of Modern Traditional Witchcraft.
Jackson, Nigel. Masks of Misrule.
Kingsley, Peter. Ancient Philosophy, Mysticism, and Magic.
Kirsche, Jonathan. God Against the Gods.
Kondetreiv, Alexei. The Apple Branch.
Leek, Sybil. The Complete Art of Witchcraft.
Leland, Charles Godfrey. Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches of Italy.
Martello, Leo. Black Magic, Satanism, and Voodoo.
Paddon, Peter. The Crooked Path (transcripts of show) .
Reed, Ellen Cannon. Heart of Wicca.
Regardie, Israel. Ceremonial Magic.
Sanders, Maxine. Firechild.
Shadwynn. The Crafted Cup.
Thorrson, Edred. The Book of Troth.
Valiente, Doreen. ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present
Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft.
Copyright: (c) Jonathan Sousa 2011
First published 8/19/2011 in Society of Diana's blog @ http://societyofdiana.blogspot.com/2011/08/rediscovering-cakes-and-wine.html?zx=c3bcf5c74125baeb
Also, will be published in the upcoming Hallowmas issue of the Black Walnut Anthology, through the Temple of Diana @ templeofdianainc.org/
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