Friday, 24 March 2017

Moots, Markets and the Vernal Equinox (2017)

For many of us, the latter part of March has been characterised by a general build up towards the Vernal Equinox. This for us in the Hearth of the Turning Wheel, began even before our moot on Thursday 16th, held in an excellent public house in Derby called the Exeter Arms.

Our moots are not open to the public, invitations are automatic for those who are members of the Inner Court, the Outer Court and Friends of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel. Other invitations are made in person, privately via Facebook or via email The FotHTW is our Facebook presence, our public manifestation representing our actual working group.

The Exeter Arms lies on the edge of the city centre, on the east side of the river and close to one of the main roads that enter Derby itself. It is on the outside an unassuming, modest building in a rather sadly neglected part of the city. Not that Derby is a ‘real’ city, more an overlarge market town that lacks a market of note.

Inside the building we discover that the Exeter Arms is a hidden gem. A rather basic set up; bare floors and wooden tables, with decorations of a rather traditional theme, all merge to create a ‘country pub’ atmosphere. The pub is out of place, it doesn’t belong here but in the Peak District, nestled in a village catering for tourists and locals. The use of the word catering is deliberate, the pub has won numerous awards for its atmosphere and its quality food. The Exeter Arms is a real ale pub, serving fine beers and ciders to those of a more discerning palate. The staff are efficient and extraordinarily polite.

Being somewhat crowded for a Thursday I walked to the back of the pub, to a room known as the cottage and found friends already waiting for me. Soon more arrived and we soon realised we had a surprisingly good turnout for what is a private, invitation only moot. It should be noted that any number above six is considered satisfactory when a moot is invitation only and not advertised publicly, one does not expect a packed house. We are deliberately select and make no apologies for it.

We were honoured to welcome to our merry gathering two guests from Staffordshire, journeying a not inconsiderable distance to join us for dinner. Since these guests were knowledgeable traditionalists and practitioners of the Cornish Witchcraft Tradition, the talk naturally drifted towards the matter of circles, the compass, totems and eventually books.

This discussion was perhaps rather more detailed than usual and stimulated interest across the table as the question of different approaches was touched upon. My own praxis that has influenced the HTW, shares two totems with the Cornish Tradition, the hare and the crow. My other influences as should be obvious, include Cochrane.

When I first encountered the use of the term Compass, I wrongly assumed that it was an alternative name for a circle. It is not. Whereas a cycle can both contain power and keep the unwanted out, a compass has a very different methodology. There is no barrier as the map stretches to the horizon, above and below. The Compass does not necessarily prevent admittance but rather enable the land to remain intrinsic to the working area.

Since half of those present had more than a passing interest in herbalism, it wasn’t long before that subject became the focus. This came the Defender of the Hearth an opportunity to one of his favourite stories, about the time I (mildly) poisoned myself when I was away camping with him on pilgrimage. I will not tell that story here, I will not spoil his tale for future moots. It is far more humorous when he tells it.

I had as usual taken a few books with me for attendees to examine and discuss, specifically three small volumes published by Troy of Cornwall. I was able to share with those present details of my own most recent purchases, the complete works of Shakespeare and a vintage copy of the Mabinogion. This particular volume was printed in 1910 and is a charming pocket book, in exceptionally good condition.

It was a late night, the food, the drink and the company made the time fly past and closing time came far too quickly. As we said goodbye to our guests and one member of the Inner Court about to move to Alba, we could reflect deeply on the meaning of friendship. The joy of company and companies of worth, bonds of faith and virtue. I am already anticipating excitedly our April moot.

That weekend I should have been attending the Original Re-enactors Market (TORM) near Coventry. Unfortunately the friend I should have been travelling with and our designated driver, was called into work to cover sickness and our plans were cancelled. I very much enjoy my infrequent trips to such markets and fairs, one is able to view, handle and purchase many replica items, often of museum standard in accuracy. I particularly enjoy the weaponry, the jewellery and the many handcrafted items. Often the stall holders are in costume, indeed it is the norm.

Why buy an athame with a cheap resin handle, when you can buy a bollock dagger or an antler handled seax? At many re-enactment fairs and markets, the goods are simply of better quality and of greater authenticity than most outlets available.

I had prior to the weekend, arranged to collect mead from one of the stall holders and now, finding myself unable to travel. I was beginning the embarrassing email to cancel the order. Fortunately I received a telephone call from Carol who with her husband, had arrived at the market. Carol very kindly offered to collect my half dozen bottles and would bring them with her to the next moot. Every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.

The weekend was as expected busy, I was preparing myself and the house for visitors. We in the Hearth of the Turning Wheel do have our own rather idiosyncratic interpretation of the significance of the Equinox. This is reflected in my discussion pertaining the significance of the triadic grouping of Robin Hood, Little John and Guy of Gisbourne in my monograph ‘Pagan symbolism within the Sherwood Legends’ and the link is below.

The important element within our own approach is seeing the time of balance and shifted balance, as being specifically that point of symbolic change between the Kings. In many groups the Solstices are regarded as being the points of change but our approach is quite distinct. To us it seems anomalous that the Holly King should reign at Summer Solstice when the light is still dominant although diminishing. Equally anomalous is the concept that the Oak King should reign at the Yuletide, when darkness is strong and the tree itself is asleep.

The Solstices are symbolically times of ‘birth,’ as either the Holly King or Oak King begin their respective journeys. The Solstices are also the times when one or other King reigns at his peak. It is the Equinoxal points that see the shift from light to dark or dark to light, so for us the Equinoxes are when the crown is passed.

We met for our Vernal Equinox observance on the Eve of the Equinox. Partly a deliberate choice to emphasise the significance of the coming dawn, partly a recognition that childcare and family commitments have to be allowed for today.

Prior to the meeting I had purchased a dozen chocolate eggs and I had taped to the outside, verses chosen randomly from the Anglo Saxon Rune Poem. The link to this poem on another blog post, can once again be found below. The verses or stanzas are attached to the eggs with the wording hidden, this creates our own version of a fortune cookie. These were placed in a bowl on the altar and horseshoes were used to mark the cardinal points. I give the basic text of our ritual below, a very simple rite which I hope readers will find of value.

The Rite if the Vernal Equinox 2017

This ritual is based upon the Ostara Meeting of 2012 written by the Chattering Magpie and is in turn adapted from the Hearth of the Turning Wheel Alban Eilir Ritual of 2007, that was originally written by K. Clegg.

Group gather in a circle and one person says:

“Hail, Guardian Spirits of this place,
We ask for your blessings on this our rite.
We come here to celebrate the Spring Equinox.
We ask, in peace and with respect,
That you might accept our presence.”

Group gather in a circle and placing their hands upon the Hearthsword, the Druid Oath is intoned three times:

“We swear, by peace and love to stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand
Mark, O Spirit and hear us now
Confirming this, our sacred vow.”

Male: “Beloved Bloodmother of this our clan. Welcome us at this time, with your heart and womb. Let us learn to live in love with all you are and so our seeking spirit shall serve the Sacred Wood.”

Female: “Beloved Father, speak to us in vision and do not abandon us to the grave. Nor hand us over to Hard Fate utterly, nor those whom our love protects.”

All in unison: “We call thee, we call thee, we call thee. By flesh, blood and bone we call thee.”

Take a suitable oil and using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless this oil, to drive out all impurities and make fit for use in this our rite.”

Each person will anoint the person to their left with this sign (the rune Sigel) while saying: 

“You have walked this path in spirit (and) now (you) do so in flesh.” The words in brackets are optional.

Light the incense, using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless thee O' elements of air and fire, to drive out all impurities and make thee fit for use in this our rite.”

Put three pinches of salt into the water, using wand, athame or hand bless and say: “I do consecrate and bless thee O' elements of water and earth, to drive out all impurities and make thee fit for use in this our rite.”

Pick up the incense and say: “I scent this circle with air and warm this circle with fire. This I do in the name and power of our God the Lord of the Greenwood.”

The compass points are scented, north, south, east and then west

Pick up the bowl of salt-water and say: “With water and salt the symbol of our labour. I cleanse and bless this place in the name and power of our Goddess the Lady of the Light.”

Sprinkle a little salt-water at each compass point, north, south, east and then west.

Time for talking stick and the insertion of suitable prayers.

One individual reads (Adapted from Duff G. (2002) The wheel of the Wiccan year. Rider.):

“Ostara is new light, soft sweet air, the running hare and spring flowers.

The bursting of buds and the straight following of new paths.

May the spirits of the air guide our thoughts when we set out on new paths.

May the spirits of the Sun and fire give us vitality and passion to make new ventures successful.

May the spirits of water help us to tread new paths with balanced emotions.

May the spirits of the earth give us physical balance so we may draw life and health from the strengthening Sun.

May the Gods watch over us this Springtime and may we continually remember to give thanks to them for this new season.”

All present take an egg from the bowl or bag. The attached mottoes may then be read.

To bless the chalice and the meal together and at the same time, lift the plate or dish of food with the left hand and lift the wine with the right hand, high above the altar and read 'Sigdrifa’s Prayer' from Sigdrifasmal:

“Hail, day!
Hail, sons of day!
And night and her daughter now!
Look on us here with loving eyes,
That waiting we victory win.

Hail to the Gods!
Ye Goddesses, hail!
And all the generous earth!
Give to us wisdom and goodly speech,
And healing hands, life-long.”

The meal is passed to the left with the words: “May you never hunger.” The person receiving the meal will take some of that offered and pass the remainder to their left with the same words.

The cup is passed to the left with the words: “May you never thirst.” The person receiving the cup will drink and pass the cup to their left with the same words.

After a pause all in unison say: “By the fire of dreams and the compulsion of sorcery. By knowledge, daring will and silence. By the tides of Earth, Sea and Sky. May all beings and powers of the visible and invisible depart in peace. By flesh, blood and bone we do thank thee.”

One solitary voice: “This rite is now ended, may all depart in peace, with our blessings.”

The stanza I found attached to my own egg is that below and with that enigmatic verse, I shall end this blog.

“The oak fattens the flesh of pigs for the children of men. Often it traverses the gannet's bath, and the ocean proves whether the oak keeps faith in honourable fashion.”


Artisson R.(2006) The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill: the gramaryre of the Folk who dwell below the mound. Owlblink Bookcrafting Company USA.
Bellows H.A. (trans.) The Poetic Edda. Forgotten Books.
Duff G. (2002) The wheel of the Wiccan year. Rider London.
Grey W. (nd.) cited by Jones E.J. (1990) Witchcraft: a tradition renewed. Robert Hale, London.
Jones E.J. (1994) The Roebuck in the thicket. Capall Bann.
Valiente D. (1978) Witchcraft for tomorrow. Robert Hale, London.


The Anglo Saxon Rune Poem

Chattering Magpie on Etsy

Exeter Arms (Derby)


The Hearth of the Turning Wheel (Witchvox)

The Lancashire Mead Company

Musings on the Witch Hunts of the Early Modern Period.


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