YULE (December 21)

 The altar is adorned with evergreens such as pine, rosemary, bay, juniper and cedar, and the same can be laid to mark the Circle of Stones. Dried leaves can also be placed on the altar.

The cauldron, resting on the altar on a heat-proof surface (or placed before it if too large), should be filled with ignitable spirit (alcohol), or a red candle can be placed within it. At outdoor rites, lay a fire within the cauldron to be lit during ritual.

Arrange the altar, light the candles and incense, and cast the Circle of Stones.

Recite the Blessing Chant.

 Invoke the Goddess and God.

Stand before the cauldron and gaze within it. Say these or similar words:

I sorrow not,

though the world is wrapped in sleep.

 I sorrow not,

though the icy winds blast.

I sorrow not,

though the snow falls hard and deep.

I sorrow not,

this too shall soon be past.

Ignite the cauldron (or candle), using long matches or a taper. As the flame(s) leap up say:

I light this fire in Your honor,

Mother Goddess

You have created life from death;

warmth from cold;

The Sun lives once again;

the time of light is waxing.


ever-returning God of the Sun!

Hail Mother of All!

Circle the altar and cauldron slowly, clockwise, watching the flames. Say the following chant for some time:

The wheel turns; the power burns.

Meditate upon the Sun, on the hidden energies lying dormant in winter, not only in the Earth but within ourselves. Think of birth not as the start of life but as its continuance. Welcome the return of the God.

After a time cease and stand once again before the altar and flaming caldron. Say:

Great God of the Sun,

I welcome Your return.

May You shine brightly upon the Goddess;

may You shine brightly upon the Earth,

scattering seeds and fertilizing the land.

All blessings upon You,

reborn One of the Sun!

Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.

Celebrate the Simple Feast.

The circle is released.


 One traditional Yuletide practice is the creation of a Yule tree. This can be a living, potted tree which can later be planter in the ground, or a cut one. The choice is yours.

 Appropriate Wiccan decorations are fun to make, from strings of dried rosebuds and cinnamon sticks (or popcorn and cranberries) for garlands, to bags of fragrant spices which are hung from boughs. Quartz crystals can be wrapped with shiny wire and suspended from sturdy branches to resemble icicles. Apples, oranges and lemons hanging from boughs are strikingly beautiful, natural decorations, and were customary in ancient times.

 Many enjoy the custom of lighting the Yule log. This is a graphic representation of the rebirth of the God within the sacred fire of the Mother Goddess. If you choose to burn one, select a proper log (traditionally of oak or pine). Carve or chalk a figure of the Sun (such as a rayed disc) or the God (a horned circle or a figure of a man) upon it, with the white-handled knife, and set it alight in the fireplace at dusk on Yule. As the log burns, visualize the Sun shining within it and think of the coming warmer days.

 As to food, nuts, fruits such as apples and pears, cakes of caraways soaked in cider, and (for non-vegetarians) pork are traditional fare. Wassil, lambs wool, hibiscus or ginger tea and fine drinks for the Simple Feast or Yule Meals.

IMBOLC (February 2)

 A symbol of the season, such as a representation of a snow flake, a white flower, or perhaps some snow in a crystal container can be placed on the altar. An orange candle anointed with musk, cinnamon, frankincense or rosemary oil, unlit, should also be there. Snow can be melted and used for the water during the circle casting.

 Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones.

 Recite the Blessing Chant.

 Invoke the Goddess and God.

 Say such words as the following:

 This is the time of the feast of torches,

 when every lamp blazes and shines

 to welcome the rebirth of the God.

 I celebrate the Goddess,

 I celebrate the God;

 all Terra celebrates

 Beneath its mantle of sleep.

 Light the orange taper from the red candle on the altar (or at the Southern point of the circle). Slowly walk the circle clockwise, bearing the candle before you. Say these or similar words:

 All the land is wrapped in winter.

 The air is chilled and frost envelopes Terra.

 But Lord of the Sun,

 Horned One of animals and wild places,

 unseen you have been reborn of the gracious Mother Goddess,

 Lady of all fertility.

 Hail Great God!

 Hail and welcome!

 Stop before the altar, holding aloft the candle. Gaze at its flame. Visualize your life blossoming with creativity, with renewed energy and strength.

 If you need to look into the future or past, now is an ideal time.

 Works of magic, if necessary, may follow.

 Celebrate the Simple Feast.

The circle is released.


 It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house – if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place this in a prominent part of the home or in a window.

 If snow lies on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow.

 Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines and dishes containing raisins – all foods symbolic of the Sun – are also traditional.

OSTARA (circa March 21)

 Flowers should be laid on the altar, placed around the circle and strewn on the ground. The cauldron can be filled with spring water and flowers, and buds and blossoms may be worn as well. A small potted plant should be placed on the altar.

 Arrange the altar, light the candles and incense, and cast the Circle of Stones.

 Recite the Blessing Chant.

 Invoke the Goddess and God in whatever words please you.

 Stand before the altar and gaze upon the plant as you say:

 O Great Goddess,

 you have freed yourself from the icy prison of winter.

 Now is the greening,

 when the fragrance of flowers drifts on the breeze.

 This is the beginning.

 Life renews itself by Your magick,

 Earth Goddess.

 The God stretches and rises,

 eager in His youth,

 and bursting with the promise of summer.

 Touch the plant. Connect with its energies and, through it, all nature. Travel inside its leaves and stems through your visualization – from the center of your consciousness out through your arm and fingers and into the plant itself. Explore its inner nature; sense the miraculous processes of life at work within it.

 After a time, still touching the plant, say:

 I walk Terra in friendship,

not in dominance.

 Mother Goddess and Father God,

 instill within me through this plant a warmth for all living things.

 Teach me to revere Terra and all its treasures.

 May I never forget.

 Meditate upon the changing of the seasons. Feel the rousing of energies around you in Terra.

 Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.

 Celebrate the Simple Feast.

 The circle is released.


 A traditional Vernal Equinox pastime: go to a field and randomly collect wildflowers [Thank the flowers for their sacrifice before picking them, using a collection formula such as can be found in “An Herbal Grimoire” elsewhere in this Book of Shadows]. Or buy some from a florist, taking one or two of those that appeal to you. Then bring them home and divine their magickal meanings by the use of books, your own intuition, a pendulum or by other means. The flowers you’ve chosen reveal your inner thoughts and emotions.

 It is important at this time of renewed life to plan a walk (or a ride) through gardens, a park, woodlands, forest and other green places. This is not simply exercise, and you should be on no other mission. It isn’t even just an appreciation of nature. Make your walk celebratory, a ritual for nature itself.

 Other traditional activities include planting seeds, working on magickal gardens and practicing all forms of herb work – magickal, medicinal, cosmetic, culinary and artistic.

 Foods in tune with this day (linking your meals with the seasons is a fine way of attuning with nature) include those made of seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, as well as pine nuts. Sprouts are equally appropriate, as are leafy, green vegetables. Flower dishes such as stuffed nasturtiums or carnation cupcakes also find their place here. [Find a book of flower cooking or simply make spice cupcakes. Ice with pink frosting and place a fresh carnation petal on each cupcake. Stuff nasturtiums blossoms with a mixture made with cream cheese, chopped nuts, chives and watercress.]

BELTANE (April 30)

 If possible, celebrate Beltane in a forest or near a living tree. If this is impossible, bring a small tree within the circle, preferably potted; it can be of any type.

 Create a small token or charm in honor of the wedding of the Goddess and God to hang upon the tree. You can make several if you desire. These tokens can be bags filled with fragrant flowers, strings of beads, carvings, flower garlands – whatever your talents and imagination can conjure.

 Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones.

 Recite the Blessing Chant

 Invoke the Goddess and God.

 Stand before the altar and say, with wand upraised:

 O Mother Goddess,

 Queen of the night and of Terra;

 O Father God,

 King of the day and of the forest,

 I celebrate Your union as nature rejoices in a riotous blaze of color and life.

 Accept my gift,

 Mother Goddess and Father God,

 in honor of Your union.

 Place the token(s) on the tree.

 From Your mating shall spring forth life anew;

 a profusion of living creatures shall cover the lands,

 and the winds will blow pure and sweet.

 O Ancient Ones,

 I celebrate with You!

 Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.

 Celebrate the Simple Feast.

 The circle id released.


 Weaving and plaiting are traditional arts at this time of year, for the joining together of two substances to form a third is in the spirit of Beltane.

 Foods traditionally come from the dairy, and dishes such as marigold custard and vanilla ice cream are fine. Oatmeal cakes are also appropriate.

MIDSUMMER ( June 21)

 Before the rite, make up a small cloth pouch filled with herbs such as lavender, chamomile, St. John’s Wort, vervain, or any of the Midsummer herbs listed in “An Herbal Grimoire.” Mentally pour all your troubles, problems, pains, sorrows and illnesses, if any, into this petition as you construct it. Tie it shut with a red string. Place this on the altar for use during the rite. The cauldron should also be there or nearby. Even if you use candles to mark the quarters, the red candle in a holder should also be on the altar. For outdoor rituals, light a fire – however small – and drop the pouch into this.

 Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones.

 Recite the Blessing Chant.

 Invoke the Goddess and God.

 Stand before the altar and say, with wand upraised:

 I celebrate the noon of summer with mystic rites.

 O great Goddess and God,

 all nature vibrates with Your energies and Terra is bathed with warmth and life.

 Now is the time of forgetting past cares and banes;

 O fiery Sun,

 burn away the unuseful,

 the hurtful,

 the bane,

 in Your omnipotent power.

 Purify me!

 Purify me!

 Purify me!

 Lay the wand on the altar. Take up the herbal petition and light it in the red candle on the altar (or, if outdoors, the ritual fire).

When it is burning drop it into the cauldron (or some other heat-proof container) and say:

 I banish you by the powers of the Goddess and God!

I banish you by the powers of the Sun,

 Moon and Stars!

 I banish you by the powers of Earth,


 Fire and Water!

 Pause, seeing the hurts and pains burning into nothingness.� Then say:

 O Gracious Goddess,

 O Gracious God,

 on this night of Midsummer magick I pray that You charge my life with wonder and joy.

 Help me in attuning with the energies adrift on the enchanted night air.

 I give thanks.

 Reflect upon the purification you have undergone. Feel the powers of nature flowing through you, washing you clean with divine energy.

 Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.

 Celebrate the Simple Feast.

 The circle is released.


Midsummer is practically the classic time to perform magicks of all kinds. Healings, love magick and protections are especially suitable. Herbs can be dried over the ritual fire if you’re celebrating outdoors. Leap the fire for purification and renewed energy.

 Fresh fruits are standard fare for Midsummer.


 Place upon the altar sheaves of wheat, barley or oats, fruit and breads, perhaps a loaf fashioned in the figure of the Sun or a man to represent the God. Corn dollies, symbolic of the Goddess, can be present there as well.

 Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones.

 Recite the Blessing Chant.

 Invoke the Goddess and God.

 Stand before the altar, holding aloft the sheaves of grain, saying these or similar words:

 Now is the time of the First Harvest,

 when the bounties of nature give of themselves so that we may survive.

 O God of the ripening fields,

 Lord of the Grain,

 grant me the understanding of sacrifice as You prepare to deliver Yourself under the sickle of the Goddess and journey to the lands of eternal summer.

 O Goddess of the Dark Moon,

 teach me the secrets of rebirth as the Sun loses its strength and the nights grow cold.

 Rub the heads of the wheat with your fingers so that the grains fall onto the altar. Lift a piece of fruit and bite it, savoring its flavor, and say:

 I partake of the first harvest,

 mixing its energies with mine that I may continue my quest for the starry wisdom of perfection.

 O Lady of the Moon and Lord of the Sun,

 gracious ones before Whom the stars halt their courses,

 I offer my thanks for the continuing fertility of Terra.

 May the nodding grain loose its seeds to be buried in the Mother’s breast,

 ensuring rebirth in the warmth of the coming Spring.

 Consume the rest of the fruit.

 Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.

 Celebrate the Simple Feast.

 The circle is released.


 It is appropriate to plant the seeds from the fruit consumed ib ritual. If they sprout, grow the plant with love and as a symbol of your connection with the Goddess and God.

 Wheat weaving (the making of corn dollies, etc.) is an appropriate activity for Lughnasadh. Visits to fields, orchards, lakes and wells are also traditional.

 The foods of Lughnasadh include bread, blackberries and all berries, acorns (leached of their poisons first), crab apples, all grains and locally ripe produce. A cake is sometimes baked, and cider is used in place of wine.

 If you do make a figure of the God from bread, it can be used for the Simple Feast.

MABON ( September 21)

 Decorate the altar with acorns, oak sprigs, pine and cypress cones, ears of corn, wheat stalks and other fruits and nuts. Also place there a small rustic basket filled with dried leaves of various colors and kinds.

 Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones.

 Recite the Blessing Chant.

 Invoke the Goddess and God.

 Stand before the altar, holding aloft the basket of leaves, and slowly scatter them so that they cascade to the ground within the circle. Say such words as these:

Leaves fall,

 the days grow cold.

 The Goddess pulls Her mantle of Earth around Her as You,

 O Great Sun God,

sail toward the West to the lands of

 Eternal Enchantment.,

 wrapped in the coolness of night.

 Fruits ripen,

 seeds drop,

 the hours of day and night are balanced.

 Chill winds blow in from the North wailing laments.

 In this seeming extinction of nature’s power,

 O Blessed Goddess,

 I know that life continues.

 For spring is impossible without the second


 as surely as life is impossible without death.

Blessings upon You,

 O Fallen God,

 as You journey into the lands of winter

 and into the Goddess’ loving arms.

 Place the basket down and say:

 O Gracious Goddess of all fertility,

 I have sown and reaped the fruits of my actions,

 good and bane.

 Grant me the courage to plant seeds of joy and love in the coming year,

 banishing misery and hate.

 Teach me the secrets of wise existence upon this planet,

 O Luminous One of the Night!

 Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.

 Celebrate the Simple Feast.

 The circle is released.


 A traditional practice is to walk wild places and forests, gathering seed pods and dried plants. Some of these can be used to decorate the home; others saved for future herbal magick.

 The foods of Mabon consist of the second harvest’s gleanings, so grains, fruit and vegetables predominate, especially corn. Corn bread is traditional fare, as are beans and baked squash.

Samhain (October 31)

 Place upon the altar apples, pomegranates, pumpkins, squashes and other late autumn fruits. Autumn flowers such as marigolds and chrysanthemums are fine too. Write on a piece of paper an aspect of your life which you may wish to be free of; anger, a baneful habit, misplaced feelings, disease. The cauldron or some similar tool must be present before the altar as well, on a trivet or some other heat-proof surface (if the legs aren’t long enough). A small, flat dish marked with an eight-spoked wheel symbol should also be there. [This is just what it sounds like. On a flat plate or dish, paint a large circle. Put a dot in the center of this circle and paint eight spokes radiating out from the dot to the larger circle. Thus, you have a wheel symbol – a symbol of the Sabbats, a symbol of timelessness.]

Prior to ritual, sit quietly and think of friends and loved ones who have passed away. Do not despair. Know that they have gone on to greater things. Keep firmly in mind that the physical isn’t the absolute reality, and souls never die.

 Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones.

 Recite the Blessing Chant.

 Invoke the Goddess and God.

 Lift one of the pomegranates and, with your freshly-washed white-handled knife, pierce the skin of the fruit. Remove several seeds and place them on the wheel-marked dish.

 Raise your wand, face the altar and say:

 On this night of Samhain I mark Your passing,

 O Sun King,

 through the sunset into the Land of the Young.

 I mark also the passing of all who have gone before,

 and all who will go after.

 O Gracious Goddess,

 Eternal Mother,

 You who gives birth to the fallen,

teach me to know that in the time of the greatest darkness there is the greatest light.

 Taste the pomegranate seeds; burst them with your teeth and savor their sharp, bittersweet flavor. Look down as the eight-spoked symbol on the plate; the Wheel of the Year, the Cycle of the Seasons, the End and Beginning of all Creation.

 Light a fire within the cauldron (a candle is fine). Sit before it, holding the piece of paper, gazing at its flames. Say:

 Wise One of the Waning Moon,

 Goddess of the Starry Night,

 I create this fire within Your cauldron to transform that which is plaguing me.

 May the energies be reversed:

 From the darkness, light!

 From bane, good!

 From death, birth!

 Light the paper in the cauldron’s flames and drop it inside. As it burns, know that your ill diminishes, lessens and finally leaves you as it is consumed within the universal fires. [The cauldron, seen as the Goddess.]

 If you wish, you may attempt scrying or some other form of divination, for this is a perfect time to look into the past or future. Try to recall past lives too, if you will. But leave the dead in peace. Honor them with your memories but do not call them to you. [Many pagans do attempt to communicate with their deceased ancestors and friends at this time, but it seems to me that if we accept the doctrine of reincarnation, this is a rather strange practice. Perhaps the personalities that we knew still exist, but if the soul is currently incarnate in another body, communication would be difficult, to say the least. Thus, it seems best to remember them with peace and love – but do not call them up.] Release any pain and sense of loss you may feel into the cauldron’s flames.

 Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.

 Celebrate the Simple Feast.

 The circle is released.


 It is traditional on Samhain night to leave a plate of food outside the home for the souls of the dead. A candle placed in the window guides them to the Lands of Eternal Summer, and burying apples in the hard-packed earth “feeds” the passed ones on their journey.

 For food, beets, turnips, apples, corn, nuts, gingerbread, cider, mulled wines and pumpkin dishes are appropriate, as are meat dishes (once again, if you’re not vegetarian. If so, tofu seems ritually correct).

©Scott Cunningham

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