First Harvest of Many Names

Sunflowers in my yard

This has been an extremely hot summer for me in Southern California, relieved only through a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where it rained and had moderate temperatures for the duration of my visit. I stopped for two nights in Sedona, Arizona, where the day temperatures reflected home, reaching 106° on Thursday. And as I crossed the desert between Phoenix and home yesterday, my car recorded temperatures above 125° in some places. Summer nights are majickal for me, but the triple digit heat of the day can be oppressive. On the rare, cooler days, I wonder at the colors in my garden and celebrate its abundance, marveling at the sunflowers that planted themselves and have taken over a corner of the yard.

Most people think of this as the middle of summer, counting the season as starting with the Solstice in June. In the Pagan Wheel of the Year, today is the first day of Autumn. No matter which perspective I take, I am happy that we are experiencing shorter days and are moving, however slowly, toward cooler temperatures.

Today marks the traditional Celtic holiday of Lughnasadh, or in some traditions, Tailtiúnasa or Lammas, which is celebrated near sunset on August 1 or 2.  It is a festival associated with the first harvest. I don’t know about my readers, but I have never seen wheat harvested. In fact, I am not sure I have seen it growing. I have seen fields of corn, having lived in Indiana one hot humid summer. The closest thing I have seen that looks like a harvest is a Farmer’s Market. I think we all can relate to that.

Those who call it Lughnasadh (generally pronounced “loonsaw,” and loosely translated, “the assembly of Lugh”) are celebrating the god Lugh. The holiday is mentioned in early Irish literature dating back to 7th century CE. During the middle ages, a truce was declared on this holiday, which included athletic contests, matchmaking, food markets, livestock sales, horse races, music, storytelling, settling of disputes, and of course, feasting.

Others say that the celebration represents a funeral rite Lugh held for his mother or stepmother Tailtiú. Tailtiú is said to have prepared the Irish plains for planting but died of exhaustion. Dianic witches celebrate this day it with the name Tailtiúnasa in memory of her. And “Lammas” is said to be a corruption of “loaf mass,” a church tradition associated with this summer time  in which farmers would bake bread, take it to the church to be blessed, then divide into four pieces to be placed in the corners of a barn to guard against pests. As with Christmas and Easter, pagan celebrations found their way into the Christian church.

I prefer to call today the Harvest of Gaia, because she is the personification of the earth and because all life comes from the Great Mother. Goddesses typically associated with this day include Demeter, Ceres, and Persephone. Interestingly, these are all Greek goddesses. In Celtic mythology, Aine is associated with summer, Anu is a goddess of the earth, and Macha is associated with the land and fertility; none, however, gave their name to this day.

Whatever you wish to call it, today is for celebrating. Were we not in the middle of this pandemic, I would be setting out a feast for family and friends. I would play lively music for people to dance to, and there would be games to play. I would ask each person to bring a token of their profession or vocation to brag a little about what they do and to be blessed in doing it well in the future. We would make corn dollies to thank Gaia for the harvest as well as to bring us health and good luck. I would have each person express their gratitude for things that had happened this year and their hopes for the remainder.

The food table would be decorated with corn and wheat and sunflowers, and my statue of Gaia would grace a central place on it. A boline knife, which is shaped like a scythe, would be a reminder of the harvest season. There would be candles in the harvest colors of red, orange, yellow, green, brown, and gold. There would be freshly baked breadstuffs, fruits and vegetables from the garden, and honey wine. In a way, it would be like a Thanksgiving meal without the turkey stupor and football.

Tonight, as I celebrate this holiday with my witchy friends, my altar will reflect many of the things my table would were I with my family and friends. I will wear a crown of sunflowers and the colors of summer. We will welcome Gaia using this invocation:

Great Goddess of the Earth, Mother of all that we are
Gaia be honored and welcomed to this circle
Bless our time together
Let our celebration reflect all the wonders that you are
We are grateful for the harvest and for the gifts of your body
You nourish us
You replenish us
You sustain us
We cherish this earth you have given us
We are saddened by those who would abuse you
Grant us courage to be protectors of you as you are of us
Gracious Gaia, empower us
As we work our will

Since sunflowers are associated with summer and harvest, providing both beauty and food, working a spell with them is timely. Sunflowers are associated with loyalty (because they are believed to face the sun all day), facing the light, happiness, prosperity, and good luck. Some believe that if you place a sunflower under a pillow you will dream of the future. Others believe if you make a wish at sunset while cutting a sunflower in half, your wish will come true before the next sunset. I think it best to focus happiness and facing the light, particularly now when things seem bleak and even hopeless. This is my spell using a sunflower:

Flower of beauty that faces the light
Flower with petals so yellow and bright
Let me be one that emulates you
Grounded and rooted, glistening with dew
Let my face be turned to happy things
And to these let my soul cling
Though life may challenge and the path bend
You remind me that in time all things will mend
Like you I will turn my face toward the light
And remember in time all things will be bright

Summer is (theoretically) waning and the news is not particularly encouraging, but the fields are ripe with their crops, and the bread made from fresh grains is delicious. Eat, drink, and be as happy as you are able. Blessed be!

Mabon: A Time of Balance

The opening image is a 1902 painting by H. A. Brendekilde called A Wooded Path in Autumn. Public Domain,

Autumn Equinox arrives Monday. It is the official start of my favorite season. I love autumn. I love the changing of colors (mostly viewed in pictures), the crispness in the air (it will get here, I keep telling myself), the scents, pumpkins, Halloween decorations coming out… there’s not anything I can think of that I don’t like about this season. The image that I’ve used for this post is a perfect place—I would love to be on that path, dressed in clothes from another century, breathing the air filled with the scent of dying leaves trodden underfoot.

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Are You Majickal?

Today I am watching my grandson, who has been with me for care since his mommy went back to work. I first watched him every day, but now I trade off with the other grandmother. We are different in wonderful ways, and my grandson will have a richer life because we are.

One way we are different is that I’m a witch, and she doesn’t declare herself as one, although I’ve seen the magick she does in the kitchen and in her home. So, some day, when my baby boy is old enough to start noticing such things, he will ask about the goddess statues in my house, or the altars I have set up in various places. I will have to explain what a witch is. And I think the next question will be whether I can do majick.

The easy answer is yes, of course I can do majick. The more important answer is that everyone who wants to can do majick. You see, for a cottage witch like me, majick is creativity. It’s a form of majick to be able to make art, to write poetry and stories, to score music, and so on. But the arts aren’t the only way people do majick. Creativity is found in many things–the business report that concisely and elegantly explains the solution to a problem, the perfect configuration of processes to accomplish a goal, a parsimonious mathematical equation, and so on.

Majick is in the ordinary, but the reason people miss it is because they think only the extraordinary matters. Right now, my ordinary grandson is rearranging the lightweight metal tables on the patio. He’s not even two yet, but he’s the size of a 3-4 year old (tall people in his background). He doesn’t talk much but makes himself understood. This is a child who arrived 6 weeks early and spent three of his first weeks of life in an incubator. I’ve watched him problem-solve many things with his toys, working at a task until he conquered it. Just now, he managed to climb up the slide rather than use the stairs, and laughed brightly at his success. That is a form of majick.

I live in a desert, essentially, made livable by water brought to us. And yet there are all kinds of plants here that prosper without it. A green guava tree grows near the fence without any help from me. The California Live Oak doesn’t like water much. Succulents and cacti, of course, do well with very little at all. Isn’t that a kind of majick, that a living thing might find a way to prosper in the soil where it grows?

Majick is all around us. It’s the hummingbird knowing which flowers give the sweetest nectar. It’s my grandson exploring his world and the wonder he finds in the ordinary things of my household. It’s the comfortable love between two people who have been together a long time. It’s the feel of growing grass on bare feet, a drink of water on a hot day, a fire in the winter. Majick is all the beautiful things that manage to work together so that this earth keeps turning and we keep living.

Majick is also candles, spells, and what not. But that’s a story for another day. Blessed be.

Aine Summermoon

Friday the Thirteenth


I’ve been thinking a lot about numbers this week. One day it’s over 100 degrees, and the next, it’s in the low 90s. My car is approaching the 25,000-mile mark, so I need to take it in for service. I managed to buy groceries today with a fixed amount, and came within 90 cents of what I had, without keeping track of it in the cart. That was interesting to me.

Numbers are informative. They are also nonsensical. They have no meaning beyond what we give them, so I am especially intrigued by the role 13 plays in our culture. Today is Friday the 13th, and for some it conjures up images of a horror movie unfolding in ever more gruesome episodes. Some may think about the absence of a 13th floor in many buildings, as though not calling it 13 didn’t make it the 13th floor up from the street. That’s an interesting notion, when you think about it.

For others, it is simply an unlucky day—one where driving, decision making, and acquiring new debt should be avoided. Some people are so afraid of the number 13 and its connotations that they suffer from triskaidekaphobia, working hard to stay away from 13 of anything.

Where did this fear of the number 13 come from? Some say it started in the middle ages, when theologians started thinking about the story of the 12 apostles and Jesus (making 13) sharing the last supper before Jesus went to his death. Others point to Friday the 13th as the day the Knights Templar were arrested by order of King Philip IV in France; most were subsequently tortured and killed. Still another explanation is that having 13 moons in a year that had only 12 months vexed the hard-working monks who maintained church calendars. It made keeping track of the various holidays and feast days very difficult, even though more years have only 12 moons (about 67 in a century) versus 13 moons (about 37 in a century). The way the date of Easter moves around is an indication that the way they resolved it still had some drawbacks. Yet another explanation is that as the solar calendar of 12 months overcame the lunar calendar of 13 months (the solar being a masculine energy and the lunar being a feminine), hostility arose with respect to the number 13. A lunar calendar makes a lot more sense—there are 52 weeks in a year and 52 is divisible by thirteen. I think fear of the number 13 is a belief that gets passed from one generation to the next, without much idea about why it might be unlucky.

Not only is today Friday the 13th, it is a full moon on Friday the 13th. This is very rare; the last was in 2010 and the next won’t be till 2049. It’s the Harvest Moon, preparing us for Autumn Solstice next week and the feast of Mabon. For witches, it’s a special day, combining a number we deem important (13) with the goddess Freya (for whom Friday is named). Freya is the Norse goddess of love and is also associated with cats (she has a cart pulled by two of them), sex, lust, beauty, sorcery, fertility, gold, war and death. Tonight, it’s a good night to cast spells, particularly those associated with money, romance, and luck. At full moon, I take time to celebrate what has happened since the last full moon, and I cast spells for my home, for love, for creativity, and for prosperity.

Here is the way I will celebrate this majickal day. As dark approaches, I will set up my altar in my back yard, where I can see the moon after it has risen. In addition to my usual candles associated with the elements and spirit (yellow for air, green for earth, blue for water, red for fire, white for spirit), I’ll include candles in orange, brown, pink, and purple. I’ll watch the moon rise from my east facing front yard, over the treetops and the houses on my street. After watching it rise, I’ll return to the back yard, where I’ll soak myself in hot tub and relax, preparing for ritual. When I get out, I’ll sit with my eyes closed, letting the air dry my skin, feeling the water leave my body. As the moon appears over the roof of my house, I’ll cast a circle, inviting the Elements and Spirit to join me. And I will cast this spell:

Hail, Goddesses of the Moon
Thank you for all the gifts of this moon cycle
I ask for your blessing in the coming cycle
I ask for abundance
food to eat

money to pay bills
creativity in my work
peace in my household
I offer the flame of my brown candle, asking protection

of my home, my family, and my dogs and cats
I offer the flame of my orange candle, asking for my

business to prosper as wise decisions are made
I offer the flame of my pink candle, asking that love may

grow and deepen in my life
I offer the flame of my purple candle, asking for creativity

in my art and writing
Great and gracious moon goddesses, the faces of

women in life through death
I will be strong in the protection of my home and family
I will be diligent in the running of my business and in my

use of money
I will be one who loves and receives love
I will be open to ideas that the universe sends me
As I will it, so mote it be

Afterward, I will say farewell to Spirit and to the Elements, take my circle down, and sit in a chair with my wine, gazing on the moon until She bids me goodnight and tells me to sleep.

I hope you have a majickal day and night. Thirteen is simply a number. It can be frightening or empowering. It can mean nothing at all. But majick is all around us and living majickally is within your grasp. Let your life be majickal on this day. Blessed be.

Aine Summermoon

The Majick of Air

If you are an early riser, you have to opportunity to watch the sun rise and feel the first stirrings of the wind. A gentle breeze might be blowing as you walk outside, stirring the strands of a wind chime, creating a light melody for your pleasure. And if you’re lucky, you’ll see a beautiful circular web, woven through the night by an orb spider. One of Arachne’s descendants has graced you with a gift of Air, a reminder of the element we cannot live without for very long at all.

Air is not only associated with wind but with smell and hearing. Did you know that certain smells can invoke your memories? Some argue that smell has the strongest association with memory of any of our senses. We associate the seasons, for example, with smell—Autumn and apples, Spring and new mown grass. A song can take us back to a particular event or place where we heard it.

Although we need all the elements for life, Air is the most precious to us. If we cough too long or choke, we know a sudden terror of being without Air. We can bundle up if we’re cold, go for a while without food, and last a few days without water. Most of us can barely go a minute without Air. A baby’s first breath is a miraculous event.

Invisible to us, we almost take Air for granted. Unless the wind is blowing hard, we barely notice it. Sometimes the quality of Air will call attention to it—a smoggy or foggy day will make us notice. But experience a sleepless night, and you’ll find yourself thinking about your breathing at some point. Once you start, it’s hard to stop thinking about it, and it results in your being even more wide awake. When you meditate, you might be aware of your breathing until you reach a deep state of relaxation. It’s easy to take breathing for granted; indeed, we must, or we’d never get anything done.

Air, like Fire, is a masculine element, represented by an equilateral triangle pointing up, with a line through it.

Air is the opposite of Earth, just as Fire is the opposite of Water. Air is associated with movement, intellect, learning, and communication. Because it is a masculine element, there are few goddesses directly associated with it. Aura is one in Greek and Roman mythology; she is joined by the Slavic goddess Dogoda, Japanese goddess Shinatobe, and the Mesopotamian goddess Ninlil.

The element of Air is associated with the east and sunrise. Its colors are yellow and white; when representing it in candle colors on an altar, yellow is preferred as white is generally used to represent Spirit. Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra are all Air signs. Most birds and flying insects are representatives of Air, as are spiders. Fantasy creatures of air include angels, sylphs, griffins, hippogriffs, the Sphinx, and Pegasus. Musical instruments representing Air are the flute, especially, and all other wind instruments.

Majickal tools for Air include feathers, wands, athames (also representing fire, depending on the user), and the censer or thurible, which is an elaborate device for burning incense. Other incense burners are as simple as something that holds a stick of incense and catches the ash, or a dish for cone incense. A recent arrival in stores is the backflow incense burner, which draws the smoke of incense downward on a sculpture so that it looks like water flowing.

Air is represented by clear and lightweight crystals and gems are best for Air, such as citrine or mica. Herbs and plants include dandelion, mint, nutmeg, and mistletoe. Flowers with a strong scent may also be used to represent Air. Majickal spells invoking Air might be used to help resolve a conflict, study for a test, prepare for an interview or other event requiring strong communication skills, make a decision, call/control/befriend wind, and travel safely.

Cottage witches like us at Awen’s Cauldron invoke Air throughout our homes. Wind chimes are found near doors and windows to create natural music in our spaces. Having chimes that are tuned to different scales makes the sound particularly interesting. In addition to wind chimes, simply having hanging items that move in the breeze like ornaments or dream catchers invoke Air. Open windows as often as possible to allow air to flow through your dwelling (although if you’re in our area you probably want them closed with the air conditioning blowing hard as temperatures are still in the triple digits most days). We don’t use censers to burn our incense, but instead use scented candles or flowers to create fragrance in our homes. Witches tend to gravitate toward learning, and you will find many books gracing shelves in our living spaces.

As conflict is a frequent visitor to most lives, we include this spell for resolving conflict. To prepare, you’ll need a yellow candle, a feather or hand-held fan (made of feathers is best) and sandalwood incense in the form of your choice. A general image of the Goddess can help focus your attention. If you have instrumental flute music, play that in the background. Light the candle and incense, focus your thoughts, wave your feather through the smoke of the incense, and say

Elements and Powers of the Air
Goddesses of the Air Aura, Dogoda, Shinatobe, Ninlil
Hear me now in this time of need
My speech has faltered, and my words have failed
One whom I care for is angry with me
               [Or, I am angry with one whom I care for]
Grant me wisdom to understand what divides us
Give me intuition to see each side
Prepare my heart for resolution
Open my ears to hear what the other really says
And provide me with the words to speak my truth
Flow around us, Winds and goddesses of Air
Surround us
Blow away that which no longer serves us
Blow into us that which creates new understanding
As I will it, so it is

Until the next time, blessed be!

Fractured Sky by Ruth Anna Abigail. Used with permission of the artist.

The Majick of Fire

Campfires and toasted marshmallows. Winter outside and a cozy fire within. The flame of a broiler rising as it sears food. The whoosh of a gas burner just ignited. Fire warms us. Fire helps us eat delicious food. And Fire dances for us, moving in the night and casting shadows beyond its circle. Fire is majickal. We can become transfixed by the leaping of the flames as they skip and twirl around the wood we’ve placed in it.

Fire transforms the landscape, both in beneficial and harmful ways. Without Fire, the great sequoia tree will not reseed. Small fires help rejuvenate forests. But out of control, there is loss and death. We need all the elements for life, but we find death in them when they rage. At this moment, vast areas of the Amazon, Angola, and the Congo are on fire. Experts offer mixed opinions about the long-term effect the fires will have.

At Awen’s Cauldron, we know that Fire transforms us. It is the element associated with creativity, passion, strength, healing, and illumination. Its healing power is found in Fire’s ability to pasteurize, sterilize, and cauterize, the latter being a primary way of healing wounds before modern medicine gave us new methods. We speak of passion as being hot, and Fire creates light for us. In fire’s transformation we find insight, and the creativity to approach old problems in new ways. Just as Fire can refine metals, it can burn away the dross that keeps us from being all that we can and want to be.

Earth and Water are considered feminine signs; Fire and Air (discussed in our next post) are considered masculine signs. As Water’s opposite, Fire is represented by an equilateral triangle with the point up. Fire signs in the zodiac are Ares, Leo, and Sagittarius. Its colors are found in the warm spectrum of yellow, orange, and red, as well as white, and this is reflected in the crystals that represent it—ruby, fire opal, and volcanic rock. Fire is the element of south and is associated with summer. Goddess include Brigid, Pele, and Hestia. Fire is the element that fuels the music of guitars and other stringed instruments; indeed, this blog was written while listening to classical guitar. Herbs and plants associated with Fire include those with a “bite” to them, like cinnamon, red pepper, garlic, and coffee. Burn frankincense, cinnamon, and dragon’s blood (a plant—you don’t have to actually find a dragon) to activate your sense of smell when working with Fire. Real animals associated with Fire include cats, lions, scorpions, and foxes, while fantasy realm creatures are the dragon, phoenix, and salamander.

Cauldrons are a traditional majickal tool for witches. Not only can you mix potions in them over a fire, you can use a cauldron to hold Fire. One way to invoke Fire safely inside is a combination of Epsom Salts and rubbing alcohol in a fireproof dish like a small, cast-iron cauldron. Use a ratio of 2 parts Epson Salts to 1 part rubbing alcohol. Two tablespoons of salt and 1 of alcohol will burn for about 15 minutes. You can adjust the amount according to how long you want the fire to burn.

Other majickal tools associated with Fire include wands and athames (ritual daggers). Use the athame to cast a majickal circle before calling in the elements and spirit and use it again to take the circle down. To cast a circle, start in the east and move clockwise (doesil) toward the south, ending at the north. When taking down a circle, you reverse your movements, starting in the north and moving counterclockwise (widdershins) toward the west and ending at east. A wand is used primarily to focus power and concentration when casting a spell. Holding it as you say the spell can intensify your intention. You can also point it at something that represents the intention of your spell for greater effect.

Candles are an easy way to access the element of fire majickally. The color of the candle should be associated with the spell you wish to cast. White is good for any kind of spell, as it reflects all the colors. People also use candles in these colors according to the spell:

Green (Earth)—healing, abundance, money
Red (Fire)—energy, passion, courage, strength
Yellow (Air)—learning, reason, focus, memory                  
Blue (Water)—serenity, emotions, communication
White (Spirit)—peace, communication with the divine, purity
Brown—animals, home protection, family
Pink—romance, friendship, nurturing, self-love
Orange—business, success, prosperity
Purple—influence, intuition, divination, hidden knowledge
Silver—dreams, the Moon, the feminine
Gold—power, the Sun, the masculine
Black—banishing, protection, binding

Flash paper can use used to write a spell and then burn it in the fire of the candle after saying the spell. Flash paper, as its name implies, disappears immediately when it touches fire, leaving very little ash. You can make your own flash paper by following the directions found here.

Another way to use Fire majick is to bake something. What did women in old movies do when they want to get a man’s attention? They baked him cookies or a cake—something sweet, created in fire. Whether they knew it or not, the writers of those screenplays were having their characters use Fire majick.

Fire Majick can be used for any number of spells—love, healing, destruction, transformation, and so on. Here is a spell for home protection. You’ll need a brown candle and a fire-proof vessel to use for cauldron fire. You can write the spell on flash paper or on regular paper that you’ll burn in the cauldron.

Write out the spell on the paper of your choice. Light the candle and the cauldron (using the salt/alcohol recipe). If you have an image of Hestia, it would be good to include it. You can find some images here that you could print out for your majickal purposes. Once everything is in place, read this spell and then burn the paper in your candle or cauldron. When you are finished, place the lid on your cauldron to extinguish the fire and use a candle snuffer or your wet fingers to extinguish the candle.

Gracious Hestia, keeper of the hearth
Protector of our homes
One who helps bring order from disorder in our family
Creating harmony and bliss

Hestia, we call on you now
Circle this home with your majick

Guard us against malice caused by fire, air, water, earth, or spirit
Protect us from those who would harm us
Let only love enter through the door
Create in us a spirit of harmony
That this home may be a refuge for us

Loving Hestia, may our hearth be merry
May our fires be warm
May our hospitality be generous
May our food be nourishing
May those who enter as friends leave as family

Hestia, bless us. So mote it be.

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere in this August, it is likely to be warmer than what may be comfortable for a fire indoors. But the fire of a cauldron and the fire of a candle may indeed move you to a more majickal place without adding heat to your space. Blessed be!

Opening image Refiner’s Fire, used with permission of the artist, Ruth Anna Abigail.

The Majick of Earth

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a place where you are connected to the earth. What do you see? Is it trees, lush grasses, and colorful plants in dappled shadows? Are you surrounded by green? Do Perhaps a faun, dwarf, or an elf features in your imagined space.

Certainly, all those things are part of the element of Earth. Often, though, people forget that the element of Earth element also includes deserts, mountains, and prairies. We are so accustomed to the idea of verdant forests that we don’t even include the other settings in our imagination. In fact, when you examine all the writings on the element of Earth, it is rare to see anything that doesn’t evoke the idea of dense greenery, whether the information is about correspondences, creatures, or colors.

All the elements help us move toward some purpose, but Earth is primarily our focus when we are working on material intentions. We appeal to Earth when we are seeking healing, as well calling Earth when working spells related to prosperity, employment, fertility, family matters, the home, and abundance. As cottage witches, Awen’s Cauldron is closely aligned to the element of Earth because of its association with the home and family. Gardening is a type of majick closely aligned to Earth.

Earth is associated with the north and with winter, and it is the element for the astrological signs of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. It is considered a feminine element. Like Water, it is represented by an upside-down equilateral triangle, with the addition of a horizontal line drawn across it. Earth goddesses include Gaia, Persephone, Mokosh, and Sif, any of whom may be called upon to bless rituals relating to Earth. Its tools include the pentacle, cords for knot majick, stones, and salt. Salt can serve more than one purpose: it can represent Earth but also be used to purify a space or form a protective circle for ritual. Many witches pour a line of salt around their houses and renew it regularly. Stones and crystals associated with Earth include emerald, jet, tourmaline, quartz, and peridot; plants and herbs associated with Earth include cypress, honeysuckle, ivy, grains, sage, vetiver, and patchouli. Animals associated with Earth are bulls, stags, wolves, and cats, while mythical creatures include dragons, gnomes, elves, and brownies. Colors associated with Earth are, not surprisingly, brown, black, and green.

We suspect an earth ritual in dry climate or desert might be very different from what we’ve described based on traditional writing. For example, the colors associated with Earth in a desert setting would be the light browns of sand and the grey green cactus or yucca. Lizards, tarantulas, or snakes would be more likely representatives of Earth, and fantasy creatures might include a jinn, a ziz, or a re’em. Calling on Hathor, Sekhmet, or Spider Grandmother would be a good fit for arid land.

In Nevada, a couple hours north of Las Vegas, there is a temple dedicated to Sekhmet. There, away from light pollution, you see the Milky Way and can watch the movement of the stars. There are probably not gnomes or dwarves peeking around the creosote bushes and cacti, but there is majick to be found in the desert. The earth is a wondrous place, and Earth is an element that comes in more forms than we expect at times. Perhaps we witches need to do a bit more imagining so we can create rituals that include every kind of terrain Earth offers.

How can you incorporate Earth into preparation for ritual? One way is to eat a meal slowly and appreciate all the tastes in the food you consume. Think about the land in which it grew, the nutrients in the soil that helped create it. Feel the different textures in your mouth. Another way is to ground yourself before ritual—stand barefooted on the ground. Feel yourself growing roots that connect you to Earth. Gather flowers and plants to touch and smell. Take time to feel the textures on your fingers and the smell that comes from them.

To celebrate Earth around you, plant a garden. It can be as simple as a few cooking herbs. Caring for those plants connects you to Earth. If you have space, create a labyrinth and walk in it frequently. Put up bird feeders and spend time watching the creatures who visit. Plant trees around the perimeter of your dwelling to make your space a sacred grove, and if you live somewhere dryer, take advantage of the information available to you to create a hardy, drought-resistant earthy space.

Earth majick includes using cords, and a knot spell is a great way to start with earth majick. To cast a knot spell, it’s very important to be specific about what you want as an outcome, without constraining the universe in its response to you. Including words such as “an even better result” is helpful. And, of course, those following a Wiccan path don’t cast spells that compel another person against their will.

You’ll need a length of cord long enough to tie 9 knots in it. Too thin or thick, like string or rope, makes it hard to tie the knots. Concentrate on the outcome you want as you tie the knots. Say this spell as you tie the knots.

By knot of one, the spell’s begun.
By knot of two, it cometh true.
By knot of three, thus shall it be.
By knot of four, tis strengthened more.
By knot of five, so may it thrive.
By knot of six, the spell we fix.
By knot of seven, success is given.
By knot of eight, the hand of fate.
By knot of nine, the thing be mine.

You can do different things with the cord after casting the spell. Some witches wear the cord until the outcome of the spell arrives. You can also place it on your altar near an image of an earth goddess or one associated with luck, such as Lakshmi or Habondia. Once you believe you have received the outcome of the spell you’ve cast, untie the knots in reverse order and bury the cord in the earth.

The Earth supports us, nourishes us, heals us. Whether we stand in a forest, climb a mountain, wander the deserts, or walk the prairies, we need to look around an appreciate the many ways in which Earth appears to us. Sink your toes into the dirt! Blessed be.

Opening Image by Carl Spitzweg –, Public Domain,

The Majick of Water

Think, for a moment, of all the things you can do with water. We drink it, cook with it, bathe in it, nourish our plants with it. We sail on it. We fish from it. We swim in in. We sit beside it. We taste, see, and smell it. We hear it. We feel it.

Our lives begin in water in our mother’s wombs, and our bodies are about 60% water. Is it a mystery that a bath is soothing? Is it any wonder than we find the sound of running water calming? And what is more romantic than moonlight on the water?

In California, where Awen’s Cauldron is based, we feel the impact of water, or rather, its absence. This very hot summer has brought multiple days exceeding 100 degrees. The lack of humidity in our area increases thirst, and we long to immerse ourselves in the coolness of a pool, pond, river, or ocean. We cannot live without water, any more than we can live without any of the elements: fire to warm us and cook our food, air to breathe and blow cool breezes, earth to stand on and in which to grow our food. Of all the elements, though, we resonate with water—it is part of our name, referenced in the cauldron.

Water plays an important part in all faith traditions, most often symbolizing purification and cleansing. For Hindus, bathing in the sacred water of the Ganges is an important ritual. Christians use water to baptize people in that faith. Water appears in creation myths, as part of the formation of the world. And people travel annually to sacred water sites such as the Lourdes grotto in France or the Chalice Well in England.

There is even a popular belief that blessing water and speaking to it in a loving way can change its nature. When returned to other bodies of water, the expectation is that the water goes on to change the water it encounters. As intriguing, hopeful, and majickal as that idea might sound, it is not supported by scientific research.

There are, however, many ways in which water is majickal in and of itself. The fact that it can be gas, liquid, or solid is remarkable. Air, fire, and earth don’t have that ability. Water dripping on stone will erode it over time—the Grand Canyon was formed over the course of millennia by the course of the Colorado river. Water can power electricity and take us to new places. And when it rages, it is a terrifying element, sweeping away everything in its path.

In Wicca, water is associated with the moon and is considered feminine. That is one reason why it is represented by an upside-down equilateral triangle, which reflects both the shape of a chalice and the shape of the womb. It is the element that is most closely aligned to the goddess (for example, Belisima, Anuket, Brizo) and it is the element of those born under the signs of Pisces, Cancer, and Scorpio. Water rules our subconscious as well as our emotions. Its tools are the cauldron and the chalice. Water is associated with the west, autumn, and sunset. Silver, topaz, amethyst, citrine, aquamarine, opal, pearl, and sapphire crystals or gems should be used in water rituals. Animals associated with water include, as expected, turtles, dolphins, and seals, but also bears and snakes. Majickal creatures associated with water include undines, mermaids, and sea serpents. Using musical instruments such as cymbals or bells will invoke water during a ritual.

Majickal rituals are often preceded by sacred bathing that relaxes the ritualist and prepares her to be receptive to majickal influence. Herbs, oils, and water charged under the moon can be used in the bath, as well as the special bath salts we create for our Sabbat boxes. Moon-charged water can also be used for scrying; put it in a dark bowl and gaze through the water to practice your divination skills. Making tea or potions with moon-charged water is also a good idea. After using water for ritual purposes, it should be returned to the earth, no emptied into a sink.

How do you charge water? The simplest way is to leave a vessel of it out all night where the moon will shine on it for the longest time. Our practices involve using the same vessel each month and using that container only for moon-charged water. Rainwater, spring water, or purified water are the best sources of water for charging. You can also do solar water charging in the same way, leaving it out where the sun will hit the water for most of the day. Some Wiccans bless the water to free it from any negative energy and use salt to purify it.

Majick spells that work best with water are those that healing, dreams, sleep, intuition, love, and friendship. If you have been plagued with bad dreams, for example, this might help. Take a cup of moon-charged water and add a teaspoon of sea salt along with three drops each of jasmine, lavender, and violet essential oils (or add petals from each of the flowers; you can also substitute bergamot for violet oil). If you have moonstones, add them as well. Place the bowl of water near your bed, and before lying down to sleep, put your hands about the water and say (if you aren’t comfortable yet with writing your own spell):

Majickal water, I now ask
For you to fill this simple task
Bring me restful peace and sleep
Let my dreams not make me weep

Water is life, but more than that, water is majickal. All life came from water, and humans begin their lives there. Like water, we can carve our own paths. The creatures that live in it have their own beauty; even a hippopotamus is graceful in water. And the majickal creatures are even more striking—undines with bodies made of water, mermaids with their fish tails and long flowing hair, sea serpents that curve sinuously through the oceans.

All the elements can be used in majick, but we have a favorite in water.

Opening image: “A Mermaid,” by John William Waterhouse – Art UK, Public Domain,

The Darkening Moon and the Blessed Dark

Imagine yourself walking on a country road at night. There is no moonlight; She is dark. You are guided only by starlight. You hear strange noises in the surrounding foliage—unfamiliar bird calls and insect chirping fills your ears. You feel the wind of flapping wings nearby; perhaps it’s a bat. How do you feel? Are you frightened?

If you are, you are not alone in your fear. People have been programmed to be fearful of the dark. It is culturally ingrained in us. Children fear the presence of monsters and adults sometimes share the same fear. The darkness can be terrifying to us; it represents the unknown. But it wasn’t always this way.

When the moon is nearly full, as it will be tonight, it feels like it could go on forever. Wouldn’t that be wonderful, to have a full moon every night, or at least one that lasted longer than three days? Sadly, we can’t, and there is a good reason (other than the usual scientific ones). The cycle of the moon from new to full and back again represents the cycle of life. All living things grow and then die. Plants drop their seeds and grow anew, while living things like birds, fish, and animals decompose and return the energy of their flesh into the earth to be reused.

Ancient people knew this, and they didn’t fear the cycles of the moon. They didn’t fear the Dark Moon. They understood that after the Full Moon came waning, light disappearing until the Dark Moon was reached. They knew that the Dark Moon gave way to the New Moon and rebirth. But as history progressed, and cultures changed, the waning of the moon came to mean something sinister and frightening. Early peoples saw in the waxing, full, and waning moon the presence of the Maiden in New Moon and Waxing Moon, the Mother at the Full Moon, and the Crone at the Waning and Dark moon. The Crone, or Dark Goddess, was originally seen as the one, like Hekate, who was “filled with compassion and understanding for the frailty of human nature.” The Dark Goddess was loved and worshiped along with the Maiden and the Mother, because ancient peoples regarded time as cyclical rather than linear. The Moon receded and left us in the dark for a while simulating death, but it returned, as did life.

As patriarchy rose, though, many things changed. The Dark Moon, and the Dark Goddess, came to be viewed as evil. Death wasn’t followed by rebirth; it was final and followed by consignment to heaven or hell. Patriarchy was able to absorb the maiden into its worldview, as well as the mother, but there was no place for the Crone, the Wise One. The Dark Moon and Dark Goddess embodied all that was wrong with womankind as the harbinger of sin. She is the woman who kills her children. She is the one who emasculates men. She is the one who tempts men out of their loving relationships. She is Snow White’s stepmother, manipulative and vain.

I reject this vision of the waning and dark moons as well as this terrible rendering of the Dark Goddess. I understand that everything has a lifecycle that the moon demonstrates monthly. I use the time of the Waning and Dark Moon for reflection (looking out at the world around us), introspection (looking inward to assess how we respond and relate to that world), and transformation (changing what we do).

As we move into the Waning Moon, where the Dark Goddess rules, we enter a time of destruction and transformation. It’s a time to dissolve, to tear apart, to rend, in order to transform and rebuild again. You set majickal intention during the New Moon, and you grow and feed that intention, making slight alterations in course, until it reaches the fullness of the Mother. As the moon wanes, you begin to examine what worked and what did not, putting aside those things that were ineffective and casting them into the cauldron for transformation in the Dark Moon.

Personal work focusing on things like cleaning and getting rid of bad habits is best done during the waning moon, so you can set an intention to continue your new behavior at the New Moon. Organizing and cleaning are good things to do during the waning moon. A detox or cleansing can also be very effective. It’s a time to let go of those things that don’t work.

New spells can be cast during the waning moon, generally focusing on pushing things away rather than pulling them toward you. It’s a good time for banishing and protection spells. Banishing simply means sending something out of your life, whether it’s a negative thought, a relationship, a behavior, or a problem. Doing a banishing spell means putting more power behind an intent than, for example, simply deciding to change a habit. An easy way to do this is to choose a candle that will burn completely by the time the New Moon arrives. Choosing a color related to your spell can help, but what really matters is your intention. Write your spell on a piece of paper and put the paper on your altar next to your candle. Burn the candle each day until the New Moon appears, repeating your spell daily as you light the candle. At the end, burn the paper in the candle. Other banishing rituals include writing the spell in water and pouring the water on the ground, writing the spell in sand and smoothing the words away, or saying the spell and blowing dust out of your hands into the air.

Working majick during the Dark Moon requires the purest of intentions. It is the best time for divination with tools like pendulums and tarot/oracle cards. It is important to keep the idea of “for my highest good” in mind and to ask wisdom of your higher self. It is also important that what you seek during this time not be intended as harm toward another as the rebound can be much more harmful to you. Journaling during the Dark Moon will reveal truth. Most importantly, the Dark Moon is a time to rest, to be alone in the dark and feel the love of the Dark Goddess, the Crone.

Are you afraid of the dark? Are you afraid of the dark inside you? There is nothing to fear. The Dark Goddesses walk with you in the Waning and Dark Moon—Hekate, Lilith, Nyx, Persephone, Baba Yaga, Kali, Aradia, Bast, Cerridwen, Mary Magdalene, and others. When we embrace the darkness as part of the natural cycle of life, we do not fear it. We know it passes, and our openness to it brings change in our lives. Blessed be the light and blessed be the dark. We live in both.

Opening image by By Haleyread23 – Own work, CC BY 4.0,

Majickal Moon, Majickal You

By Jessie Eastland – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Why is the moon so majickal? I think the primary reason is that we see it grow and ebb in the sky above us. While we can track the movement of the sun from rising to setting, its changes are more subtle. If you’re very observant, you’ll notice that the place it rises and sets shifts over the course of the year, and of course, the days shorten and lengthen. But the moon! She changes daily in position, rising, setting, fullness. Since humans looked up to the sky the moon has been a fascination to them.

According to Erin Dragonsong, the moon represents mystery and chaos, flow and evolution, birth and death, emotions and soul, and wisdom and majick. Until we explored her, we speculated about what the moon was made of. It was a mystery. Humans observed her changes in the sky, along with her apparent death and rebirth. If you listen closely to love songs, you’ll hear the moon referenced quite a bit more than the sun. A moon is romantic. We see partially. We see with our souls.

And then, there is majick, the kind of focus and intention setting we do according to the phase of the moon. There are many books and articles written on this topic. Our hope here is to provide an overview and help you get started.

First, then, we want to understand the kind of spell each phase of the moon calls for. The cycle begins at the New Moon, because this is a time to set goals, think about your dreams, and make plans for how to achieve them. It’s important to think about what you want rather than what you don’t want. Spells work very poorly when they’re cast as what you don’t want to happen. For example, if you’re going on a trip, you don’t want to write a spell that says, “I don’t want to get sick” or “I don’t want to get stranded somewhere.” You write a spell for good health and safe travel. Focus on the positive, not the negative.

The New Moon lasts about 3 nights, when the night sky is dark and no trace of her is to be found. During this time, be sure to write down your goals and how you expect to achieve them. Keeping records is a very good way to track what really happens instead of relying on memory. You may even want to draw or do a collage of your dream, so that you are seeing it as well as feeling it. You can also write a spell and cast it during a ritual. If you do write a spell, be sure it is specific, because what you get may not be what you intended if you are not precise. Use the New Moon to focus on what you want to achieve.

The Waxing Crescent moon follows the New Moon. If you are casting new spells, focus on positive outcomes such as friendship, health, love, or success. While focusing on your New Moon goals, remember that things are growing. Things are moving. You are moving toward your goals.

A good way to practice your majick during this time is to read your goals and plans aloud to focus them in your mind. Look at any visual representations you’ve made of them or visualize in your mind what achieving your goal would look like. Is this majick? It’s certainly one form. Other forms include using potions, charms, rituals, dancing, singing, and divination to work your will. If you’re a beginner, we suggest starting with visualization and writing of goals and plans, and continued focus on them throughout the moon cycle.

We come to the First Quarter, the half-moon. In some ways it’s the most mysterious of all, neither this nor that. The dark half tells us whether the moon is waxing or waning (dark left is waxing, dark right is waning), but at first glance it can be hard to tell. Its “neither here nor there” aspect may create doubt in you considering the things you’re working toward. It’s important to keep focused during the first quarter, to remain confident. Revisit your goals and visualization again. Say them aloud.

The Waxing Gibbous Moon promises us that the Full Moon isn’t far behind. New spells should still be focused on positive outcomes. And this is a good time to review goals and plans and adjust as you might need to. Don’t simply give up if something isn’t working exactly as planned. It’s too easy to sabotage your own success with doubt when you’re close to achieving it. The Gibbous Moon is swollen with potential. It’s a woman in her 8th month, yearning to give birth to something miraculous. You are swelling, expanding, and intensifying. Ride that increase to its conclusion.

And now the Full Moon arrives! For three days she shines upon you and your dreams. For the first of the three days, she is 99% full. The second day is 100% full, and the third is back to 99%. Although the third day could be considered a waning period, the moon is so full that we respond to her as in that phase.

This is a time to ask for almost anything. Divination, spells, and rituals are especially powerful now. It’s also a good time to charge your tools, potions, candles, etc. with the moon’s energy. Create moon water by leaving a full vessel under the moonlight. If your dreams, goals, and plans are going to manifest, you will get some hints about that around the time of the full moon. This is a good time to release negativity and any hurts that have accumulated. It will help you be clearer in setting your intentions at the New Moon. It’s also a time to express gratitude. In some moon circles, expressing gratitude is used to open or end the ritual. Writing it down makes it even stronger. Words are majickal. They create ideas that last.

Today, August 9, 2019, the moon is Waxing Gibbous phase. Use the mounting energy of the growing moon to cast spells that will increase your creativity, your intuition, your success, your courage, your love. The full moon will be here August 14-16. Be prepared to greet her and make majick in her light. Next Tuesday, we’ll talk about the energy of the waning moon and the majick that you can work during those phases. Until then, blessed be!

Shine On, Silver Moon

Photo by Alfredo J G A Borba – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Have you ever simply stared at the moon as she rose? The moon is magnificent when full and near the horizon. She looks larger. Often, her color is more pronounced. She commands our attention, and she gets it. When you find yourself in a place where there is little light contamination and the moon is full, you can walk easily without fearing you’ll make a misstep. You see shadows from the light it reflects from the sun. In the city, it is difficult to see how much light the moon provides for us, but step into a place where people aren’t lighting up the sky and you will be awed by the moon’s power.

One of the things we enjoy in our majickal life is the rhythm of the moon. Most pagans hold full moon rituals of some kind. Others hold new moon rituals, and still others do both. But what is so important about the moon that we would take the time to stop and do a ritual in her honor?

Since humans looked up into the sky, the movement of the moon has fascinated them. Like the sun, it gives light. As with the sun, its movement is regular and predictable. The moon takes about 27 ½ days to orbit around the earth, but the time between new moons (when the sky is dark) is about 29 days. While the sun projects light, making it a masculine force, the moon reflects light, making it a feminine force. Despite what you may have heard about the “man in the moon,” pagans know the moon as She. Some goddesses associated with the moon are Diana and Luna (Roman), Artemis, Hecate, and Selene (Greek), Cerridwen (Celtic), Chang’e (Chinese), Coyolxauhqui (Aztec), Hekate/Hecate (Greek), and Sina (Polynesian).

The moon affects us in many ways. She exerts a tug on us. Many people find it difficult to sleep when there is a full moon, even with blackout curtains. For others, the dark or new moon exerts a pull on their senses. But the regularity of her appearance, and her relationship to our bodies, particularly women’s bodies, makes her an important part of our lives.

Many things are calculated by the moon. Easter, for example, is celebrated on the Sunday that occurs on or after the first full moon after Spring Equinox. Its date moves because the moon cycles don’t directly correspond to the way we have split up the months. Planting and harvesting are often completed according to the cycles of the moon, and many societies before the current era counted time in terms of lunar, not solar cycles.

Did you know that each moon has a name? A blue moon, for example, is one that is the second full moon in a month, and a black moon references the rare occurrence when February has no full moon at all. Other moons are named according to the month in which they occur, and the type of moon affects the kind of ritual pagans choose to do. Moons that occur in the spring are our favorites: April’s Pink Moon, May’s Flower Moon, and June’s Strawberry moon.

Different phases mark the changing of the moon. This image at NASA demonstrates how the moon goes to full and back to dark. It’s interesting that while many languages read from left to right, the moon goes from dark to full by filling in from right to left. Perhaps that’s another thing that makes the moon so fascinating for us.

Pagans group the phases together as Dark Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter (when there’s a half-moon showing), Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Last Quarter (another half-moon on the opposite side), and Waning Crescent. At Awen’s Cauldron, we do our majick based on the phase of the moon. We find the power of the full moon to be best in charging the bath salts, tea, and other items included in our ritual boxes.

On this day, Tuesday, August 6, 2019, the moon is in her Waxing Crescent phase, growing toward full. This is a good time to do majick that calls on something to increase. If you want to lose weight, for example, you’d cast a spell to increase your willpower. But if you want to decrease your appetite, the Waning Moon would be better as spells cast during a waning moon are better centered on pushing things away. The New Moon is a good time to set intentions for yourself, while the Full Moon is a time to see how those intentions have borne fruit. Although some pagans avoid majickal workings at the Dark Moon, it can be a powerful time. Some say that the Dark Moon is when She is showing her true face to us, without reflecting another’s light, so it is a good time for introspection and reflection, focusing on one’s own needs and thinking ahead.

There’s no one way to celebrate the phases of the moon. But if you want to start living a majickal life, the simplest way to do it is to mark the phases of the moon. Get a calendar that shows when each phase is. When the moon is visible, take some time to step outside and be with her. You will feel the majick in the air, beckoning you to join. Look upon her and be at peace.

Lughnasadh: The First Harvest

Imagine walking down a street in your neighborhood on an early August evening. For some reason, you’ve never been on this road before. Up ahead, you hear music and laughter. Walking on, you come to a dwelling that can only be called a cottage. The brick chimney is a little crooked, the slate shingles seem to undulate across the roof, and a blue door is open to admit visitors. Intrigued, you walk up an old brick path, lined by sunflowers, admiring those as well as the brilliant red geraniums that stand like sentinels beside the door. Wind chimes move in a gentle breeze to create soft whispers of music. As you approach, someone comes skipping out, saying “Welcome! Join us in a dance for Lughnasadh!” Intrigued, you decide to enter and discover more.

You travel through a cozy home marked by light and light breezes to a large yard where others have gathered. Soft green grass beckons you to remove your shoes as the others have done. It feels lovely on your feet, stalks emerging from between your toes. Musicians play a dancing tune, and a table groans under the weight of a feast, decorated by wheat stalks, corn, and fruits. Candles burn around the space, reflecting their orange, green, and brown wax. An altar is set up with different depictions of goddesses and gods, and small offerings of food and drink. And it looks as though there are things representing different kinds of work on the altar—a pad of paper with a pen, a stethoscope, a small shovel, a replica of a musical instrument, and so on. Another person greets you with a smile saying “Happy Lughnasadh!” After replying “And to you,” you find a chair and surrender yourself to this sacred moment.

Lughnasadh, or in some traditions, Tailtiúnasa or Lammas, is celebrated near sunset on August 1 or 2.  Those who call it Lughnasadh (loosely translated, the assembly of Lugh) are celebrating the Celtic god Lugh. Some say it commemorates Lugh’s wedding. Others say that the celebration represents a funeral rite Lugh held for his stepmother Tailtiú, who died of exhaustion after clearing Ireland’s fields so they could be planted. Dianic witches honor it with the name Tailtiúnasa in memory of the stepmother. “Lammas” is said to be a corruption of “loaf mass,” a church tradition associated with this summer time  in which farmers would bake bread, take it to the church to be blessed, then divide into four pieces to be placed in the corners of a barn to guard against pests.

Whatever you call it, on this holiday we celebrate the first harvest of wheat, corn, and other grains. Lugh was also said to be a many-skilled god, and so it is also a day to take note of your skills and applaud them. This is a cheerful, happy holiday, where people dance and sing even in the face of shorter days as the sun moves toward Autumn Equinox.

Falling approximately halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox, this holiday is one of the cross-quarter holidays in the Pagan Wheel of the Year. The quarter holidays are associated with changes in the amount of daylight, and are Summer Solstice (Litha), Autumn Equinox (Mabon), Winter Solstice (Yule), and Spring Equinox (Ostara). The cross-quarter holidays fall at the approximate middle between the quarters. The other cross-quarter holidays are Samhain (October 31), Imbolc (February 2), and Beltane (May 1). At Awen’s Cauldron, we use the traditional words to describe pagan holidays as they are more readily recognizable.

Celebrate this holiday by gathering wheat sheaves, corn, and sunflowers to decorate your altar. A small bolline knife (shaped like a scythe) reminds you of the harvest season. Put figurines of your favorite sun deities on it. You can always draw from other traditions if you aren’t comfortable with the Celtic ones: Demeter (the Greek goddess of agriculture), Anuket (the Egyptian goddess of the Nile) are appropriate, as well as any representation of a goddess or god associated with the sun or skills. Take some time to bake bread or muffins from scratch to honor the harvest, and then place your baked goods on the altar. Make a corn dolly to represent the day (you can find a video on how to do that here: Use candles in gold, green and brown to represent the sun and earth. And be sure to put something on your altar that represents your skill. This is a time to brag a little about what you have harvested in yourself.

Summer is waning, but the sun still shines, the fields are ripe with their crops, and the bread made from fresh grains is delicious. Eat, drink, and be happy. Blessed be!