Looking over these instructions, I think that this is a rite best performed out of doors. Newspaper and kindling will generate a healthy amount of smoke–smoke you might not want your home to smell like or your ceiling to permanently pay testament. If it must be performed indoors, as mine was, I would leave off the paper and kindling in favor of rubbing alcohol.
I’ve learned that if I want a healthy inside fire for burning small things that won’t generate much smoke of their own, rubbing alcohol performs wonderfully. The alcohol burns pretty cleanly as well as dramatically, and a couple splashes burns well for several minutes. It’s not a 100% smokeless fire, especially if you’re burning a lot of objects, so it would well behoove anyone burning anything indoors to make sure that there is plenty of ventilation and that you’re burning in a room where visitors won’t look up at the ceiling later and wonder what you’d gotten up to. Also, make sure your burning vessel is well away from any walls, flowing garments, or anything taller than itself: flames grow tall and rambunctious. And, of course, always make sure there is a working fire extinguisher on hand in case of emergency.
What You’ll Need:
- 4 dried stalks of wheat or 4 fresh flowers with stem and bud attached
- A cauldron or burning vessel
- A paring knife or boline
- Cutting board
- Several small candles
At dusk, create a magical ritual space by lighting small candles and placing them in a 9-foot diameter circle on the ground (or smaller, such as 6 or 3 feet). Set up a table to be your altar at the center of this magical space. Set all of the required ritual items on this table, along with a few more candles so that you can see. Use a compass to designate in your circle the four quarters: east, south, west, and north. At each compass direction, place one of the wheat stalks or flowers.
Begin by placing one wheat stalk on the ground in the east, saying: “I reap with knowledge.” Place one on the ground in the south saying: “I reap with action.” Place one on the ground in the west saying: “I reap with sensation.” Place on on the ground in the north saying: “I reap in silence.”
Then return to the east and hold your hands high saying:
All must end; this is the way.
What doth rise, but not decay?
Lugh has come, the Barleycorn,
I raise the scythe and now ’tis shorn!
Now collect the wheat or flower in the east, south, west, and north. Hold them together in a bunch and place them on the cutting board. Using your stronger hand, cut the buds from the stems with one firm stroke. Light the kindling in the cauldron and then ritually place the buds into the fire. Watch them burn in silence, meditating on the principle of sacrifice. When you are finished, extinguish all of your candles and bury any remaining ashes or buds.
I’ve been looking forward to this practice. It’s not quite casting a circle, but the attention to space construction and the greater amount of movement in this practice are good practice and, thanks to my work with Hartwood Grove, immediately invocative of magic.
Of course, it’s a bit hard to come across dry wheat now, so I popped down to my garden and came away with four of the last snowdrops of the season. I fully acknowledge that snowdrops are just about the last thing one would think of when thinking about “harvest”, but they are beautiful, their scent is gorgeous, and I love using them in magic. Besides, any cut flower is a sacrifice to the gods in my book.
I performed this in a tiny, tiny little circle on my bedroom floor as my bedroom is the only room in the house that I know doesn’t have a working smoke detector (shh!). I used scissors for a boline and the aforementioned alcohol as kindling. Even though I’d taken loads of fire precautions, I have to admit that the flames grew so tall and wild that I was slightly worried my bedding or my desk–either just a couple feet away–would catch on fire, so my meditation on sacrifice was not a very deep one. After I closed down the magical space, I lit a brown candle and meditated more deeply.
What came to me in the meditation on sacrifice was the element of choice. It seems that whenever one makes a choice, there is a sacrifice. Obviously, there is the sacrifice of the other option, but there’s also the different sacrifices one makes in order to pursue that choice, each a choice of its own. The price of our free will or maybe even our entire existence is sacrifice. Maybe as such, sacrifice is something to be honored and embraced rather than avoided. Acknowledging the small sacrifices one makes daily rather than making them unconsciously is a start.