Last night I attended a pagan or wiccan celebration of the summer solstice in the woods on the Hill of Tara (please bear with me as I am sure that I will not be accurate about certain terms as I am not an expert in this field at all). I greeted entering the woods with trepidation as I felt exposed among strangers (though I had been invited by my friend Ciaran) and by our inability to see any clear and present danger due to the thickness of the wood.
The group, who currently call themselves na Fianna, made me feel very welcome however and I enjoyed immensely watching them set up their circle for the ceremony . I saw the ritual dagger, the candles, the fruit and the wine they offered the gods in preparation and smelt the sage and incense they burned.
As the sun set the woods were filled with light before darkening. The group are a coven and they keep a Book of Shadows which is akin to a diary where members share their thoughts and feelings. Members of the coven are not meant to keep secrets from each other and the coven favours disclosure.
Once a circle is cast a participant in ritual may not leave the circle unless a door is cut or until the ceremony is finished. Four members of the group stood to invoke the watchtowers to cast the magic circle. In many Wicca and Witchcraft systems the Watchtowers are evocational symbols of spiritual beings known as the Watchers. Each Watchtower is associated with one of the four quarters of north, east, south and west. In some traditions the Watchtowers are associated with the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. They are also each linked to a specific star. The north Watchtower is Fomalhaut, the east is Aldebaran, Regulus marks the south, and Antares is the west. Archangels are also used; the North / Earth Watchtower is Uriel, the East / Air Watchtower is Raphael, the South / Fire Watchtower is Michael, and the West / Water Watchtower is Gabriel.
We all listened as one member took us on a mediatative journey to greet a great horned god. Our circle was unfortunately interrupted by an intruder whose erratic behaviour spurred us on to packing up and leaving. I would love to participate in this kind of celebration again and I'm sure I'll find some poetry from the night. When I left for home the moon had risen over Tara, pale as an opal in the blue sky.