Solidarity with Declaration 127

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Declaration 127 is a signed statement of opposition to the Asatru Folk Assembly, which has more frequently been discussed among the pagan and polytheist communities for their growing outspoken racism, homophobia, and sexism. It is important for organizations to visibly state that they oppose bigotry and oppression. It is important to state these these things will not be left to silence. Declaration 127 was intended to be signed by Heathen organizations and kindreds. We at the Firefly House, although not a Heathen organization, felt that this was a good opportunity to stand in solidarity with the Declaration and what it stands for. Therefore, let it be known that the Firefly House, one of the largest pagan organizations and witchcraft traditions in the mid-Atlantic region, stands in support of Declaration 127 and all efforts towards ending racism in it’s many insidious forms. Let it be known that this show of solidarity was voted on unanimously by participating voters of the Firefly council of initiates. We make this known with pride and with a renewed commitment to making our own spaces fairer and more just.

Blessed be the beloved community
Blessed be our gods and powers
Blessed be the egregore

The Firefly House – September 8, 2016

For more information, see http://www.heathenhof.com/declaration127/

Book Review: Treading the Mill

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TREADING THE MILL by Nigel Pearson is a good book on Modern British Traditional Witchcraft. I liked it much better than Peter Paddon’s GRIMOIRE FOR MODERN CUNNINGFOLK, which was the previous book on my reading list. TtM presents real traditional witchcraft, at least as I understand it, and there is little to no Wiccan influence in this work.

There are only seven chapters, but each is rather intense. Within the chapters were sections I had to read two or three times to fully grasp the concepts. Even now I definitely want to revisit some of the material (for ex. Hallowing the Compass) and can see myself in the future referring back to it for clarity and ideas in my own practice.

Being a work on Traditional Witchcraft the god is emphasized and what a god he is! Raw, virile, and dangerous. In a reversal of standard neopagan views on the powers the god is presented in a triad aspect of The King of the Wildwood, Lord of the Mound and The Master of Light. Whereas the goddess appears in dual aspects of The Bright and Dark Queens. I once had a visionary experience with the Witch Queen and she appeared very much like how Pearson describes the Dark Queen. This was certainly enough validation is convince me the author knew what he was writing about.

Pearson also provides a good chapter on encountering Land, Sea, Sky, Hearth, Familiar, Fetch and Fey spirits, not to mention visiting the dead. It is here where I can’t advise strongly enough students study and master the material in the order it is presented. The later chapters on spirit working and encountering deity ASSUME you’ve mastered the technique of entering twilight. Riding the hedge and entering the Otherworld to interact with the entities therein is the basis of traditional witchcraft but is also advanced (and dangerous) work so don’t be tempted to skip ahead.

For those who like their libations there is an enjoyable chapter on making wine, beer, mead and other brews. My only complaint is I wish the chapter had been longer. Oh and for those who think wands are cute, good-witch-Glenda nonsense then you really should read the chapter on wand making and communing with tree spirits (although a section on crafting a decent blasting stick is sorely lacking).

Which gets me to the two reasons I gave this book four instead of five stars. First, as good as the book is it would have been better with more content. Simply put some chapters are too short and the author makes assumptions. As a consequence, I hesitate recommending the work for complete novices. Secondly, the book lacks the edginess found with other books on the subject such as Paul Huson’s MASTERING WITCHCRAFT or the hard to find without dropping a fortune Sabbatic titles. For example, where is the poison path material?

TREADING THE MILL should have been expanded upon and offered as a hardback. Had that happened it would be a classic on the subject of Modern British Traditional Witchcraft. As it is it just might qualify in the future. Nigel Pearson’s clear, down to earth, no-nonsense writing style is a definite step up from the labyrinthine poeticism I keep encountering.


428151_225466727548306_596878200_nPatrick Kyteler is a Firefly initiate and Traditional Witch.
He lives with his husband and two cats in the Maryland suburbs of the DC area. Look for his upcoming class on working with the spirits of the dead this coming October, 2016.

Still the Sun Rises

 

 

As a priest within my tradition, I am often the one who consoles folks when they feel broken. I take the phone calls at 2am. I take the subway far into the outskirts of Virginia or Maryland to be a shoulder to cry on. I bring my beloved kin to the altar, pray with them, and often cry with them. Being strong for someone when they need to feel vulnerable is an important quality in spiritual leadership. Yet an even more important quality is allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable, broken, and open to aid. We need to be real to our communities. We need to be honest and bring our whole selves.

I find myself in that position this week, in the aftermath of an unspeakable act of terror. As a queer person, words cannot express what it feels like to see people I consider energetic relatives being stolen from this planet in such a violent way. The first day or two I remained determined to be strong. On day three, I broke. I broke my heart open staring at the faces of the many people, mostly LGBTQ, mostly Latinx, who will never in this lifetime get to see another sunrise. They will not be able to enjoy this upcoming solstice, the extension of light in the longest day of the year. They will not get to sip a mojito on the beach, or sweat in ecstasy on the dance floor, or spend the extra daylight hours on a porch swing with a book. They don’t get to have this one last solstice, this first day of summer.

As our community prepares for our own solstice celebration this weekend, I’ve been consumed with thoughts about the “right way” to observe the summer holiday. This is usually a sabbat of great joy, celebrating our strength and our pride. We dance and feast. We light our cauldron fires and take in the sweet-smelling herbs as the smoke snakes through the wooded ritual site. It also happens to be the sabbat where we perform our annual initiations of new members of our priesthood. It’s a wonderful time. But I kept thinking- should we have a wonderful time?

While we are planning to dedicate the first part of our ritual as a memorial service, I’ve been thinking all week “how do we naturally slide from that into a space of joy and celebration? What is the right way to do that?” These are the questions that keep ritual organizers up at night. Even more so when the ritual organizers are all queer people who are experiencing a deep loss.

So I do what I always do when answers elude me. I return to the altar. I align my souls and open up to the power within. I talk to my gods. I breathe and wait. I wait and receive this answer-

“There is nothing normal about what happened and its not your job to make things feel normal. Ritual should reflect the realness of our experiences and who we are. Go through the pain. Make space for joy but don’t force it in. Trust that your community will do their best.”

Ah, once again the gods don’t deliver an easy answer, yet they do deliver the right one. I should have known…

Taking in that message I return to the ritual plan and make arrangements to speak with my co-organizers. The sense of surrendering to this “realness” feels alleviating. And now I know what to do. We will have our memorial and go through our pain. We will bring eight of our beloved members through their initiations and welcome them into a deeper layer of our spiritual family. We will sing for the sun and burn our offerings in that cauldron. We will trace the circle, as we always do, three times with joined hands. We will call for the air, the fire, the water, and the earth to enrich our lives. We will do our best.

The thing about solar festivals, aside from their ancient and deep lore is that they happen every year. In June we notice the lengthening days and in December we notice the lengthening nights. And after the summer when the darkness creeps upon us once again, we continue to do our work. We can continue to know that no matter the length of the day, that sun still rises. That fire still burns. That circle is still made of hands clasped around other hands.

Still, the sun rises.
Still, the sun rises.

hands holding the sun at dawn


 

Screenshot 2016-05-11 at 8.01.50 PMDavid Salisbury is a Firefly initiate and high priest of Coven of the Spiral Moon. He is the author of various books on magick and mysticism and lives in Washington DC. His new book, A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing will be released in September 2016. You can find find updates on his latest work at daviddsalisbury.com.

 

Cleansing Your Life Through Planetary Power

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The following post is from Firefly tradition priest David Salisbury:

I’ve had a lot of questions come through about what the heck is going on with the planets lately. Admittedly, astrology has never been my strong suit. In fact, it’s what I’ve long considered to be my weakest subject! But I do believe that every good witch and mystic should be as well-rounded in the magical arts as they can be, so I try and learn as much as I can, if only to stay with the currents and remain well-equipped for whatever comes my way.

Most of the complaints I’ve been seeing in my feed, in emails from readers, and even texts from my mother (hi mom!) have been surrounding communication, aggression, and confrontation. While some people feel planetary shifts more notably than others, the current situation in the sky right now is being felt widely by many people. Multiple planets are in retrograde, along with various other aspects that are making astrologers fill up their appointment books with calls from concerned clients asking “when will it end?!”

The stock advice a lot of people give in these wacky planetary dilemmas is to simply wait it out, think twice, and just keep your life together as much as possible. But as a witch and mystic who prides himself on being proactive, that just isn’t good enough for me. My solution? Cleanse the chaos away!

As you might know, there are a ton of different ways you can cleanse your space and your own self of chaos, sadness, and general bad luck. So while the planets are playing a big ol game of cosmic whack-a-mole, how about we fight fire with fire? Here’s a little working I wrote to help:

A Planetary Cleansing

To prepare: Find some quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for about 10 to 15 minutes. When you enter this place, sit in a comfortable position and being breathing slowly and intentionally. I like to take breaths with an inhale of 7 seconds, holding for 7 seconds, exhaling for 7 seconds, holding for 7 seconds, and repeating. After a few rounds of this, breathe regularly once again.

The working:
Close your eyes and tilt your head upwards. Imagine that you stare into a starry sky, thick with all the planets, stars, and whirling galaxies known and unknown. Imagine that amidst this starry landscape, the sun shines brightly and moves towards you. As it does, feel golden yellow rays of light project down over your body, washing you in vibrant yellow color. Feel it penetrating every pore of your being, washing away any harmful psychic debris. Breathe deeply as you feel this solar yellow light move through you.

Next, feel a bright full moon approaching you. Just as you did with the sun, feel the white light of the moon projecting down to you, washing away all obstacles, feelings of sadness, and harm.

Next, feel Mars, the red planet moving towards you. Mars projects a vibrant red beam of light down to you, cleansing away excess feelings of aggression and anger. Continue to breathe.

Now feel the planet Mercury come into sight. Imagine Mercury shooting down a beam of orange light into your body. Feel Mercury cleansing away feelings of struggle, particularly in the areas of communication and expression. As with the other planets, feel this light flow fully through you with every breath.

As Mercury fades away, the enormous planet of Jupiter comes into the picture. Imagine Jupiter projecting beams of bright purple energy into you, cleansing away feelings of limitation, poverty, and enclosure.

Next, imagine the planet Venus approaching you. Feel Venus project a green ray of light through you, cleansing away feelings of bitterness, hatred, and alienation. The power of Venus feels refreshing and fills you with a new sense of desire for love.

Finally, feel the dark planet Saturn approach you. Imagine that Saturn projects a strong black/silver ray of energy through you. As it does, imagine that this powerful ray clears and banishes any remaining energetic garbage that might still be attached to you. Let this beam of energy remain a little longer than the other planets as its mighty inky power seeks out and carries away all that does not serve you.

Once this is done, breathe slowly and intentionally again, feeling a new-found sense of liberation and freedom overtake you. Once this working is done, drink some water, eat some food and move around a bit. Do something to call in new feelings of completion, abundance, and joy. The working is now done.


 

Screenshot 2016-05-11 at 8.01.50 PMDavid Salisbury is a Firefly initiate and high priest of Coven of the Spiral Moon. He is the author of various books on magick and mysticism and lives in Washington DC. His new book, A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing will be released in September 2016. You can find find updates on his latest work at daviddsalisbury.com.

 

 

Book Review: Cunning Folk & Familiar Spirits

 

 

By Firefly Initiate and traditional witch Patrick Kyteler

cunning folkImagine a world where the majority of the populace is underfed and overworked to the point of complete exhaustion. Where a modern understanding of medicine and the human body is nonexistent. Where the major preoccupation is the growing of food crops and raising livestock, both dependent on the caprice of a little understood natural world. Where if you were a woman your body was subjected to the trauma of constant childbearing. Where famine, pestilence and war can and did wipe out entire families. Where life expectancy was 35 and you could expect to see half of your offspring die in infancy or childhood. A world where candles were a luxury. Where day and twilight was spent in grudging labor and nights were dark. No television, radio, music recordings, cinema. Where only a few had the luxury of books or theater. Entertainment came at night from your own imagination or that of the human next to you. And EVERYONE beyond doubt, from the peasants to the clergy and nobility, believed in spirits, magic and forces beyond the control of humanity. This is the world of the early modern period in England.

Enter Bessie Dunlop a peasant woman who was tried for, convicted and burnt at the stake as a witch in 1576. It all started while driving her cattle to pasture. Crying in anguish over her sick husband and newborn infant. Tired beyond measure and then he turns up. I kindly elderly man by the name of Tom, dressed to the nines, who offers comfort and a prediction: “your infant will sadly die but your man will be as hale and hearty as he ever was.” Thus begins a strange friendship. Tom makes promises that she will never want for food or anything else again. He offers guidance and information on how to brew up remedies, where lost items can be found and before long Bessie’s fortunes do increase, but not because her livestock miraculously double in number. No, instead the neighbors come calling for her services. “Services” whose true power comes from the friendship of a strange man with no cottage who can jump through key holes. Very soon he tries to get her to renounce her baptism, introduces her to the Queen of Faerie, and attempts to convince her to go with him under the mound into the realm of the dead.

This is the narrative of a cunning woman that Emma Wilby carries throughout her meticulously researched scholarly work on a phenomena common throughout humanity during the early modern period. While cunning folk had their faerie familiars, witches are served by demon familiars, Christian contemplatives are writhing in ecstasy with their angels, and later, New World shamans are attended to by their helper spirits. All occur only under a similar set of societal conditions and share striking parallels.

It is Wilby’s hypothesis the human mind shares a propensity for engaging in visionary experiences of this sort when the body is pushed to its limit, emotions are on a razors edge, imagination is sharpened, the world is perceived as a shadowy place, and belief in spirits is absolute. To be honest she is very convincing.

CUNNING FOLK AND FAMILIAR SPIRITS is a must read for anybody interested in the subject of familiar spirits. There is very little work available on the subject and none that can hold up to scholarly scrutiny like this book. The sheer amount of documented history contained therein is amazing and worth learning whether or not you agree with Emma Wilby’s hypothesis.

Unfortunately the book does have one fault. The writing style is extremely academic. The author likes to string together long words in complex sentences, which is compounded by the sections from the trial records in Old English. You may have to push yourself in some chapters to get through the text.

6 Tips for Finding the Coven That’s Right for You!

 

 

Here at Firefly, we’re gearing up for the start of our “busy half” of the year, which is comprised of a flurry of events, trainings, and services that run for about 8 months solid. A big part of the active part of the year is fielding requests and questions about our various covens. Although we deal with a lot of questions that are specific to our tradition only, we also get questions that are very applicable to any coven-seeking process in general. When I joined my current coven at the start of 2011, it was easy because I knew I loved the tradition and there was only one coven to pick from. But what if you don’t have a particular tradition in mind or the trad you’re interested in has multiple covens? Here’s a list of things to help you decide:

1. Don’t Rush

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The best way to make an informed decision about a potential coven is to take your time and spend as much time with various members as you can. In most covens, “getting to know you” time is required. But even if you know most of the people in the coven already, make an effort to take that deeper. If you can, see if you can hang out with that particular set of people when they’re together so you can get a sense of the group dynamics. Many people act a certain way when they’re in the “coven groove.” Unlike applying for a job, most covens will be honest with the fact that they’re more likely to accept a candidate they know well and like. Put in the time to form those bonds early.

2. Ask to Attend a Meeting or Ritual

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Some covens might be open to you attending a meeting or ritual if you ask, stating your intention to understand how they work better. For some covens, this may be out of the question but it’s always worth asking. If you can’t attend a private coven meeting, see if the coven hosts other public events or meetings and go to as many of them as you can. While a coven-only ritual might be different from an open sabbat gathering, you’ll at least get some clues as to the ritual style of the tradition and how members act while in circle.

3. Read Books About Coven Work

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While a book is a poor substitute for practical experience in many cases, learning about how a witchcraft coven runs and what they do in general can help you figure out what to look for and what questions to ask. Does the coven have a degree system? What is the leadership like? What kind of magick does it do? Many of these topics are covered in books about covens. Some recommendations include: Coven Craft, Wicca Covens, and The Real Witch’s Coven.

4. Ask to Interview Members

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You might think it’s presumptuous to ask to interview coven members about their coven. Think again! In many cases, covens are fine with answering some basic questions about what they do, even if they’re not open to the possibility of new members just then. Keep in mind that many covens have various levels of secrecy that will keep you from approaching them “open book” style. Even if the coven operates with a high level of secrecy, many members will at least be happy to share with you their experiences of being involved with coven life. Being in a coven is a lifestyle as much as it is a practice. Some questions to ask could be: How has being involved with this coven helped your life? How has your spirituality grown or evolved? Are there any challenges you’re comfortable sharing with me? How much time do you spend maintaining the coven in your current role? While interviewing coven leadership is helpful, keep in mind that other members have valuable perspectives as well. Well-functioning covens are comprised of people who all have roles uniquely suited to everyone’s personal talents and ambitions.

5. Look at Your Own Friends and Family

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Most covens are way more than simply working groups that gather for ritual. Most witches in a coven will tell you that their coven is their family. Families have ups and downs but always work well when everyone sees the bigger picture of their bonds and strive to work through things. There is NO coven that comes without challenges, and yes, even the occasional argument. The important thing to look at is how you’re willing to approach situations. A good tip before looking to join a coven is to look at your relationships with your own family and friends who you are close enough to consider family. How well do you show up for them? How do you handle problems when they arise? How quick are you to share your joys, along with your sorrow? Is there any baggage from the past that burdens your relationships with them? While you don’t necessarily need to have excellent family communication skills (or even a family of blood at all) to join a coven, looking at the familial relationships in your life will frame your search well and set you up to be better informed.

6. Try Not to Take Rejection Personally

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Coven leaders will tell you that one of the hardest parts about being in that role is giving let-downs. Keep in mind that there are many reasons why a coven may say no to an application. These will vary greatly depending on the tradition. Many of the possible reasons could have absolutely nothing to do with you as an individual. As someone who’s been in a leadership role of a coven for years, I have said no to folks who I still consider to be very close friends and some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. It could be that the number of members was limited and someone who was long-promised a role is now taking the coven up on the offer. It could be that your particular spiritual style isn’t particularly suited for that coven’s specific work. It could be that the coven doesn’t think they have anything to offer you that would enrich your life. They might think you’d do better in a different coven…the list can go on and on. While not everyone is suited for coven at all, it’s always worth it to try if you have the time, desire, and passion for that life.


Author Bio: David Salisbury is High Priest of Coven of the Spiral Moon, the first coven within the Firefly Tradition of Witchcraft. He is author of three books including The Deep Heart of Witchcraft, Teen Spirit Wicca, and A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing. He lives in Washington DC.

The Inner Flame: A Brigid Devotional for Imbolc

 

pagan_goddess__brigid_by_alter_eye-d5nthbr“Pagan Goddess Brigid” by Alter-Eye

By David Salisbury
Brigid, meaning “exalted one”, is the daughter of the Dagda and a true survivor goddess. Throughout the many twists and turns of religion in the British Isles, Brigid has managed to stay within the heads and minds of the people. Whether in the form of a saint, a goddess, or the embodiment of the land, she is the keeper of tradition that stretches into antiquity. Witches and pagans who maintain a religious devotional practice often honor Brigid only on Imbolc. But as this next Imbolc approaches, I ask you to take that a step further and maintain a regular practice with her, if she calls to you.

Brigid is a poet, a smith, a healer, an artist, and the kindler of flames. For those familiar with the Norse runes, you might think of her power best described by Kenaz, the torch rune. She ignites the inner flame within us, allowing us to seek our own healing, our own power. She asks “What tools do you bring to this work? What do you need?” The following is a simple devotional you may perform on Imbolc or any time at all. If you wish to form a close bond with the Exalted One, regular devotionals, prayer, and deep listening will go a long way.

Early in the morning, just as the sun is rising, approach your altar space or some other space in the home where you can see the sun if possible. Begin by breathing slowly and deeply, until you enter a state of meditation suited for deep communion with the gods. With each breath, feel the first rays of the sun flowing into your body, as if on a stream of flowing water or the crisp sweetness of wine. Have three fresh candles before you. You may wish to dress them with oils and plants associated with Brigid such as angelica, myrrh, wisteria, heather, and basil.

Light the first candle and say:
Lady of the forge, I call to you. The fierce strike of the anvil resounds the call for transformation. I honor you.

Light the second candle and say:
Lady of the healing cloth, I call to you. Sunlit rays upon the dawn awaken the weary travelers. I honor you.

Light the third candle and say:
Lady of the sacred flame, I call to you. You who are eternal and forever unending. The holy spark. I honor you.

Take your time observing the light of the three candles and meditate for a bit on these powers that you have honored. Contemplate how transformation, the renewal of a new day, and the warmth of a flame in the winter make you feel. Brigid is the embodiment of these powers on their own and the feelings that stir as a result of them.

Before you is placed a bottle of wine or some other special drinking brew. There is also a bowl that will hold the offering. Breathing deeply, hold the vessel of the brew before you and say:
Lady of the deep well
Exalted one
Shepherd and keeper of humanity
Cosmic queen of the dawn
Keeper of the healing waters
I honor you!

Pour the brew into the bowl and raise it high before you. At this point I try to notice if I can actually feel her presence. I may also whisper personal words of honor, or even poetry. As a bardic goddess, I find that Brigid is often impressed when someone takes the time to speak original poetry in her name. Writing and releasing this devotional is one such offering.

When you’re done, you can leave the offering bowl on your altar for a bit or immediately take it outside and pour it (with reverence) onto the ground.
It is done.

Recommended Reading:
Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well by Morgan Daimler
Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess by Courtney Weber
Tending Brigid’s Flame: Awaken to the Celtic Goddess of Hearth, Temple, and Forge by Lunaea Weatherstone
Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day by Carl F. Neal

Artisan Hand-Blended Herbal Candles by Firefly Coven Members

 

 

 

The Firefly House puts on an enormous amount of events, training, and programming for hundreds of witches and pagans in the Washington DC area every year. The amazing part? We do almost all of it for free! The biggest way we pay for space and materials is by selling our handmade artisan herbal candles. Every single candle has a blend of herbs and oils hand-picked and blended by members of Firefly’s Coven of the Spiral Moon for each special purpose. What’s more, each candle is blessed and consecrated as it’s being poured into the mold. Every one of our candles is made with love and a sense of sacred gratitude for the powers within. Grab one of our candles and know that you’re not only bringing more magick into your life, but that you’re also supporting the work of a pagan organization doing great things in our nation’s capital.

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Guide to Currently Available Candles:

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The Firefly House Reaches New Milestone at 300 Local Members

300

 

 

 

Great news! The Firefly House has recently reached 300 official members in our local DC-area. The Firefly House as an organization houses programming for public Pagan events and services in addition to our more specific spiritual and magickal system, the Firefly tradition of witchcraft. With 300 local in-person members in the organization as a whole, Firefly is one of the largest Wiccan/Pagan organizations in the Washington DC area.

The major thanks for this achievement belong to the dozens of initiates (priests and priestesses) of the Firefly tradition who work tirelessly to provide events, services, and community for hundreds of events around the area, both within covens and outside of them. Thanks in large part also goes to each and every one of our members and guests who make us who we truly are: a family committed to social change, community outreach, and deeper spiritual and magickal contact.

Of course, quality is always better than quantity when it comes to building a tradition. Firefly members are some of the most committed Pagans in the area, representing at conferences, festivals, and human justice actions around the nation. It really takes a village and we’ve built an excellent one.

To get involved with us locally, check us out on meetup and sign up for your first event. We look forward to seeing you!

 

Honoring 2015 Firefly Initiates: Part 1

 

 

We are pleased to announce that after many months of training, lessons, assignments, and personal spiritual development, the Firefly tradition has welcomed four new initiates into the roles of priests and priestesses of our line. The rite of initiation was performed at our Litha gathering this past Saturday. Initiates were duly anointed and given the secret spell to awaken the Firefly egregore. They are:

Lonnie
Kyriel (Elizabeth)
Richard
Christine

Later this month we will see the initiations of the last part of this year’s pool of candidates (three more individuals). We also honor all of the students of this year’s Foundation course- even those who weren’t able to finish for one reason or another. This training can be taxing and it’s important to know that all good training in the Craft is a delicate balance of being demanding and fulfilling. Thank you- we honor your work!

Christine, Lonnie, and Kyriel. Three of our four new initiates.Christine, Lonnie, and Kyriel. Three of our four new initiates.