16th April 1987
Dear Tessa and Glyn,
It is time I wrote about Moon celebrations. For the Triple Goddess of the Circle of Rebirth is, in fact, Triple Goddess of the Moon. She is also of the Earth and stars, the Mother of All Life, but it is through the Moon that we relate to her most easily. Moonlight means enchantment, intuition, poetry. Simply to look at the Moon with a poet’s eye is to see the Goddess. The connection between Moon phases and women’s menstrual cycles is an obvious and potent fact. In witchcraft, therefore, the Full Moon celebrations (Esbats) are as important as the Sabbats.
We do not always formally celebrate all three phases of each Moon cycle, because we can worship the Goddess in her three aspects at the Full Moon. This is the time of the Mother, but we can acknowledge the Maid and the Mother and Crone that she has been and is and will be. There are not three Goddesses but one, three in one.
Full Moon is the high tide of psychic power and of fulfilment, time of worship and of celebration. To honour and to celebrate the Goddess between the worlds is itself an invocation that her worship be seen once more on the Earth, and that the Goddess shall return to the people and the people to her. Then the old ways would prevail again. The old love of poetry and magic would reign, the respect and love for Mother Earth, and a knowledge of the sacredness of sexual love; therefore an end to competitive, exploitative and ruthless values. At Full Moon, then, the Goddess and her fully blossomed beauty and enchantment are invoked, for change.
Full Moon is the time of consummation and the peak of power. In ordinary life, it can be the last straw in unstable situations. Feelings can erupt when change is realized. But the Full Moon can also bring emotional fulfilment. And you may notice that any special visitors or important letters frequently arrive at this time. It is good for magical pilgrimages and for love and for any kind of celebration.
A man does not have any outer bodily sign, linking him to Moon rhythms. He has no Moon-flow of blood. But a male witch understands the Moon through awareness of a monthly cycle of moods, psychological rhythm and psychic attunement in his own soul. Any man may well have a surge of extra energy at Full Moon (unless he is overtired, when sudden exhaustion is more likely). At Full Moon a man can realize his needs. He can invoke, by poetry or dance or music, or by ritual, for their fulfilment. He can also, like the female witch, be fulfilled. The sense of at-oneness with the Goddess’s Moon tides may come to him psychically, or through love, passion, art, celebration or the realization of a dream.
After casting the circle, as usual, and invoking the Goddess as Silver Lady, bright Mistress of all love and enchantment, you should also invoke the Horned God. While she is ethereal, graceful, and yet sings in our blood and in all the physical rhythms of sex and childbirth, he is primitive, wild, shaggy-thighed, and yet sings with the hunter’s subtlety and the storyteller’s magic. Their presence can be sensed and produces awe, a joyful wonder.
Your cauldron should be filled with water for this rite. Place it at the centre of your circle.
Stand before the altar and read or speak this, or something like it: This is the time of Full Moon, high tide of psychic power. Plants grow and tides change and man and woman join in desire, passion. Change is made and realized and dreams are revealed. I dance in a ring to honour the Triple Goddess of the Moon, her infinite changes and returning phases; calm and passionate, serene and wild; the dance of life.
Dance deosil around the circle, singing,
Moon dance of life
with silver song
in vein and river,
silver song in dark night —
now work enchantment, fill the world
with power of magic, full unfurled.
Now magic grow, enchantment flow.
I dance the silver tide’s return,
by breath and blood, by water and bone.
Direct the power into the waters of your cauldron. Then sprinkle water upon the floor within your circle, saying,
Silver dew fall gently, bring peace and beauty.
As between the worlds, so in the world.
Drink some of the water from your cupped hand. And say,
The blessings of the Triple Goddess of the Moon
are life, love and skills of magic.
Thus, I invoke her with these words:
’Blessed be! all who
dance, give and take
pleasure and dream enchantment
into being, with harm to none,
and in her sacred name. Blessed be!
Pause, and say, As on my lips, so on all lips.
Next, take a pipe or whistle. This may be of wood, but a metal ’penny whistle’ will do well. It is certainly the God’s instrument in Britain, though in Greece he plays the pan-pipes and in India, a bamboo flute. Reed and bone whistles were made in neolithic times, and whistles of various kinds still exist everywhere.
Because of their shape and the likeness of their sound to birdsong, they were used magically in the past, and they still are.
Say, On this night, the Horned God draws near to the Moon Goddess, that they may be one, in love. I play this pipe to honour him, all his wild music. As the music ripples on bright water, so may the male and female be reconciled in love, in the world, to the Earth’s healing and to the happiness of all creatures.
Play the pipe, imagining the notes falling into the cauldron, and there rippling, silver-bright. All the water is charged with the God’s music. As you play, hear the sweet echo of the Horned God’s playing, wilder and far more pure, from behind your own notes. Visualize the power of love (which does exist, against all odds) the power of fulfilment in love to bring healing and happiness, the effect of love spreading out in ripples.
Don’t worry if you can’t play the pipe like a skilled musician. A few notes, repeated, are all you need. Play with the pipe, seeing what kind of sound you can make if you approach it with fun.
Replace the pipe upon the altar. Now take a silver ring. This need not be expensive, but should not have been used for any other purpose previously. It should have been bought especially for magic. Before the rite, it should also have been cleaned, and then immersed in salt water for at least one hour, to cleanse it psychically.
Dip the ring into the waters of the cauldron. Then, holding it in your two hands, sit and dream about three wishes you would now like the Moon Goddess to grant. Picture them, one by one, coming true. Take your time over this. Think carefully about the consequences, remembering ’Harm none’ as the first and only rule of magic, and life.
It is a good idea to follow tradition and wish once for the world, once for a friend and once for yourself. Your wishes could then be, for example:
Peace on Earth
That—[a friend’s name] may recover peace of mind
A resolution of my inner conflict about—[a moral dilemma, a relationship, etc.]
These wishes have a common theme, the return of peace, which does make concentration easier, and allows meditation and vision to flow. As you make each wish, name it out loud and give three turns to the ring, deosil. Then give the matter into the hands of the Goddess. Never wear the ring as costume jewellery.
The above is an example of the kind of thing you may do at the Full Moon. But I could never tell all that there is to tell about this celebration, let alone all there is to know about witchcraft, in these letters. I do not even know all there is to know, and I never will, and nor will anyone.
A Full Moon rite should end with a communion, a meal of consecrated wine and bread, or cakes. Then the Goddess and God should be thanked and bade Hale and farewell, and the circle opened. Keep a record of the wishes that you made, or of any other spells cast, or visions seen. This reference book is known among witches as the ’Book of Shadows’. It is a private fund of knowledge and experience. Anything useful can go into it: a herbal remedy for a sore throat, the description of a trance or dream, a way of doing link-breaking magic, love spells, healing spells, or anything. Choose the best and stoutest notebook you can find for this. It may be very old before you have finished with it, as it can be kept for reference permanently.
The traditional colour for the cover of the book is black. This indicates secrecy. It should not be shown to anyone except another witch. If you can’t find any black notebooks, or if you prefer another colour, then have whatever you really want. I have had several black ones, but my current one is brown. I have also had red and blue ones. As you can see, I get through a lot of them, since mine doubles as a magical diary. Anyway, what matters is not the colour or size, but that you should feel comfortable with it.
I do not know where the name ’Book of Shadows’ came from but I think there are two possibilities. One is that it relates to work done usually in shadows; that is, secretly by candlelight. The other may be an acknowledgement of the fact that a description of a charm or invocation can never be more than a shadow of the real thing.
Rites of the Moon can be worked at other phases. She does not have to be full. New Moon rites are sacred to the Maid, or Virgin Goddess. Magic done at such times is for the affirmation of the untamed aspects of the self, and for celebration of freedom. It is also done, on the New or Waxing Moon, for anything which needs to be begun, launched, built up or restored. This is the time of invocation. In life, it is a good time to begin a course of studies, to plant seeds, to start a business or to receive inspiration. An invocation on the New Moon might be this:
The Moon is New. I honour the Maid, Virgin Goddess, she who returns to her people bringing inspiration. She is untamed, the Lady of the Wild Things. Hills, moorland and deep forest are her domain. In her, we break free, we begin anew, returning to ourselves. I ask her blessing and her presence.
Waning or Dark Moon rites are sacred to the Crone, the Old Wisewoman. (The Moon is said to be Dark for the three days before the New Moon, when it has waned so far that it can no longer be seen in the sky. New Moon rites are best held three days after the actual New Moon night, when the first crescent Moon of the new cycle is visible.) Magic done when the Moon is waning is for guidance and understanding, the attainment of wisdom. It is also done to break psychic links or to rid oneself of unwanted characteristics or compulsions. This is the time of banishing. In life, it is right for honest self-assessment or for rewriting or reworking. For anything which requires objective criticism. It is also a good time to break bad habits or to leave anything unwanted or outgrown behind. An invocation on the Waning Moon might be this:
The Moon wanes. I call upon the Crone, Old Wisewoman, she who brings true vision. She is wise in the ways of all creatures and knows roots, herbs, all healing potions, whatever may be needed. She sees patterns and dreams in the glowing logs, in steam that rises from the cauldron, and in quiet waters. She can foretell, forewarn and guide. In her, we see and understand; we bring the story to its rightful end; and we gain wisdom. I ask her blessing and her presence.
(When the Horned One is invoked on the Waning Moon, as consort to the Old Wisewoman, he is, of course, the Lord of Night, Old Wiseman.)
One last word about spell-casting. Once people know that you are a witch, they may ask why you can’t conjure up anything you want, any time you like. You may, yourself, have wondered why there are limits. Spell-casting is a skill, like any other. It does not work beyond or outside the laws of life. It stays well within them. In this respect, it is like weaving or woodwork. You may successfully have more than one piece of work in progress, more than one rug or item of furniture currently being worked on. But they all take time and effort and if you tried to work on 300 things at once, you couldn’t do it. Like anything else, magic requires preparation and assembly of the right materials and time and then (most particularly, in this case) attainment of the right psychic state. This last is vitally important, because it can’t be turned on and off anywhere and everywhere. Whilst it will always be available in an emergency, it will undoubtedly fail if you try casting spells to prove points or to entertain. It can’t be lived all the time, or you would be unbalanced. Therefore, you must choose your magical priorities. Magic is a part of the flow of life. It is a kind of dance and a kind of prayer.
Blessings on all your rites of the Moon,