Harvest Moon

Last month, saw my return to East Anglia after an absence of twelve or thirteen or so years for the Harvest Moon Festival on the 26th. It is a land that holds a special place in my thoughts, for it is home to good friends, and Lowestoft, the most easterly part of the country, is where my mother’s family came from. Somehow we seemed to have tumbled all the way down to the other end to the extent that I now live within five miles of Land’s End; the most south-westerly point.

East Anglia is of course also home to a wealth of magical tradition and witchcraft, among which there are some interesting similarities with the magical traditions and witch lore of Cornwall. Indeed, it has been suggested that there is some special link between Cornwall and East Anglia, and Norfolk in particular, with an exchange of magical ideas, the mysteries of the sun’s path and of course the St Michael’s Ley, connecting the tip of Cornwall with Norfolk’s coats at Hopton.

Our journey there was long and fraught with difficulty, but our destination made this worth it, for a night of feasting amongst old friends and new awaited us. However, this made for a rather late night, which, as I am not these days a ‘morning person’, may not have been the ideal circumstance for being up and ‘with it’ the following day to give a talk. However, I am very glad it happened.

Thankfully, I was able the following morning to drag myself into wakeful consciousness over a pleasant breakfast overlooking the pretty river, with it ducks and swans going on their way by.

The venue for the Harvest Moon event was the fabulous Norwich Puppet Theatre, a beautiful Medieval church converted for use as a venue and showcase for the art of puppetry. Many strange and wonderful puppets adorn the walls and hang overhead, and so I had to spend time meeting some of these interesting characters and of course take a few photos.

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During the setting up of the Troy Books stall in the foyer, I heard a pair of excited barkings emanating from the area of the magical marketplace outside, and realised that the wonderful Nigel and Anthony of Sacred Earth had arrived with their two beautiful boys Bramble and Bilbo. On going out to see them I receive a sound barking at and a good licking – from Bramble and Bilbo, not Nigel and Anthony. The latter two did however present me with a gorgeous embroidered protective scarf made by Anthony the Elvish Taylor. It features the skeleton of a toad set amidst formidable witch’s magical wort.

The event was amazing and very well organised indeed and we were made to feel very welcome. My talk, on the traditional magical uses of animal and human remains seemed to go well, although I was for some reason much more nervous than I was during my previous talk in Exeter. However, there has been some wonderful feedback and again it was a valuable learning experience for me, being a very unaccustomed speaker.

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Not long before the festival, my old friend Val Thomas kindly asked if I would take part in the closing ritual. I had never taken part in a public rite in front of an audience before, but knew that this one would not just be a performance, but would involve serious magical intent. I also knew that it would involve skilled and experienced ritualists, and, as it turned out, some rather famous ones such as Marian Green and Pete Jennings. So I was more than happy – honoured in fact – to participte.

For those who would like to find out more about this excellent rite, there is an interview about it here with Val Thomas who wrote and led it:

As Val is happy for the rite to be published for those who might take inspiration from it, I include it in full here:

A Norfolk Harvest

The stage is set with a cauldron on a tripod, over a “fire”.

Welcome to our closing ritual, in which we celebrate another wonderful day’s conference, as well as a rich and varied harvest from this beautiful, magical county of Norfolk. Share with us the gifts of the harvest. Share with us this harvest from Norfolk.

Casting the Circle, to include the whole auditorium:

I cast the circle between the worlds, the sacred space of meeting and of mystery, of protection, inspiration and of magic.

Calling the Elements:

Each person ,as they begin, holds the farm implement up to the audience, then turns to the sacred direction as they call the Element. All on stage turn at this point then repeat “Hail and welcome” after the Element has been called.

Behold, the airy Sieve: riddle of soil and riddle of words, sifter of flour and sorter of souls.
By Circle and mesh I call upon Air, Spirit of the East and blessings of Spring. You who are our breath of life and inspiration grant us your presence and protection at this our Harvest Rite. Element of Air, we bid you hail and welcome.

Behold the fiery Pitchfork, horns of the God, Lord of the ripening fields. By the flame of your brow, we call upon Fire, spirit of the South and the blessings of Summer. You who are our warmth and light, our energy and passion, the divine spark within, grant us your presence and protection at this our Harvest Rite. Element of Fire, we bid you hail and welcome.

Behold the silvery Sickle, crescent Moon and full-blown flower, ancient one and harvester. By the gleam of your reflected light, we call upon Water, spirit of the West and the blessings of Autumn. You who are the raging sea, the still, calm pool and the refreshing rain, grant us your presence and protection at this our Harvest Rite. Element of Water, we bid you hail and welcome.

Amanda
Behold the shears which clip the wool and gather the wealth, yet sever the thread when life is done. By the power of your blades we call the Earth, the cold dark North and the blessings of Winter’s rest. You who are our firm foundation, hearth and home, our food and our security, grant us your presence at this our harvest rite. Element of Earth, we bid you hail and welcome.

Lord and Lady of Norfolk:

Lord of Norfolk, grey Lord of the Flint, we ask for your presence and protection at this our Harvest Rite. Sharp arrow and felling axe, building block and bringer of fire, we bid you hail and welcome.

Lady of Norfolk, white Lady of the Chalk, we ask for your presence and protection at this our harvest rite. Nourisher and nurturer, giver of life, of comfort and of love, we bid you hail and welcome.

All on stage say:
Share with us the gifts of the Harvest, share with us this harvest from Norfolk.

Those bringing the harvests enter from alternate sides of the stage.

Enter Grain
I bring the grain, the King of the Fields, the bread on your plate, the drink in your cup, the foundation of life. Share with me this gift of the harvest. Share with me this harvest from Norfolk.

The grain offering is poured in the cauldron.

Enter Apple
I come from the orchards and hedgerows, with apples, crisp and sweet. Flesh to nourish, cider to refresh, vinegar to preserve and secret pentacle of hidden power. Share with me this gift of the harvest. Share with me this harvest from Norfolk.

The apple offering is poured in the cauldron.

Enter Wool
I bring the wool to keep you warm when winter’s chill whips through our land. The gentle sheep sends her soft comforts; spin well her yarns and treasure her wealth. Share with me this gift of the harvest. Share with me this harvest from Norfolk

The wool offering is placed in the cauldron.

Enter Sugar
I bring the sugar, sweet from the dark earth: cakes for your feasts, preserves for your stores, power for your spells. I bring pleasure, wealth and danger. Use my gifts with wisdom. Share with me this gift of the harvest. Share with me this harvest from Norfolk.

The offering of sugar is placed in the cauldron.

Enter Lavender
From city gardens and seaside fields, I bring the fragrant Lavender: these dusky flowers to cleanse and heal, to ease your pain, to gladden hearts and scent the air. Share with me this gift of the harvest. Share with me this harvest from Norfolk.

The Lavender offering is placed in the cauldron.

Enter Flax
I bring the Flax, the goddess’ flower, the heavenly blue across Midsummer fields. I bring the fibre and the seed: fine cloth, rich food and sacred oil. Share with me this gift of the harvest. Share with me this harvest from Norfolk.

The flax offering is placed in the cauldron.

Enter the Seventh Harvest
I bring the mystery of harvest’s bounty, the seed grown tall, the ripening fruit, the thought made manifest within the mundane world. Share with me this gift of the harvest. Share with me this harvest from Norfolk.

The seventh harvest is poured into the cauldron.

We mix our harvest charms with love and blessings and with the magic of this perfect time.

All say together as the charms are mixed:
Share with us the gifts of the Harvest. Share with us this harvest from Norfolk.

The charms are ladled out into baskets and handed to those who will give them out.

We ask you to accept these harvest charms. May they bring you abundance and good fortune during the seasons to come.

The charms are distributed to everyone in the audience.

Farewells

Those who have been invited are bidden farewell in the reverse order from the Calling, using a short, simple sentence.

Lady of Norfolk, we give thanks for your presence here and for the gifts you have bestowed upon us. As our rite draws to a close, we bid you hail and farewell.

Lord of Norfolk, we give thanks….
Earth
Air
Water
Fire

Unwind the circle.

The harvest representatives leave the stage, in reverse order, followed by the Lady and Lord of Norfolk and the Elements.

The Circle is unwound. The rite is at an end.

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