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Imbolc, Candlemass, Lupercalia, Fastnacht and other February Traditions

Meanings: return of the sunlight, first of the spring festivals

Imbolc signifies the beginning of lactation in sheep and thus the first fresh nourishing milk after a long dark winter. Imbolc is also translated as “in the belly” (since now the ewes turn pregnant) or alternatively as “allround ablution”, denoting perhaps a great baptism rital. The feast day of Imbolc is rooted in agricultural traditions of Ireland. In the Mediterraneans this time of the year was associated with the Lupercalia in ancient Rome and with Candlemass since the rise of Christianity.

The Romans named the month Februarium, from Latin februum, which means “purification” (the English word fever also refers to this). The Roman Februa was a purification ritual held on February 15 = the full moon in the old Roman lunar calendar.

Other names of February include the Old English Solmonath = “mud month” and Kale-monath – named for cabbage. The February full moon is also called Snow Moon, Storm Moon and Hunger Moon.

Even though the sun is gaining strength and the first signs of spring are emerging, winter is still reigning. The month of February is therefore a month of divination and preparation. In some regions, such as the South of Germany, Austria and Switzerland the female Perchta and her hosts are still roaming about, which is reflected in the Perchtenlauf traditions in these areas, where people dressed in goat fur and wearing scary beastial or demonic masks walk around villages with rods, bells and drum beating.

Similar traditions that fall into February are Carneval and Fastnacht. The custom of wearing costumes, drinking strong beer and acting lascivious goes back to Roman times. It was condemned by the Christian church. But not even the Nazis could ban the tradition. According to Christian lore, Fastnacht is the last night before Aschermittwoch, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season (Fastenzeit). However, according to Wolf Dieter Storl the term Fastnacht originally had nothing to do with what today is understood by “fasten” (fasting) but comes actually from high German faseln (middle German vaselen), meaning to “thrive” and to “fertilize” (the earth).

Rituals:

  • oracles and pronouncing wishes
  • honoring the goddess in her Maiden aspect
  • ablution, cleansing, purification, initiation and fertility rituals
  • blessing and lighting candles (especially white and green candles)
  • planting first seeds (e.g. pre-culturing vegetables and herbs)
  • baking bread
  • drinking and offering milk
  • crafting / blessing “Brigid’s Crosses” and grain dolls
  • burning previously crafted straw figures, e.g. from previous summer
  • binding vices, mental problems, sickness or enemies via sympathetic magic unto straw bundles and burning them ritually
  • forecasting weather, celebrating groundhog Day
  • dressing up for Fastnacht, Carneval etc.

Colors: white + green, also yellow and purple

Tools: grain figures, Brigid’s crosses, ribbons, candles, stones, evergreen wreaths or smudge herb bundles, sun discs, chalice, cauldron, matches

Symbols: birch, primrose (=keys to heaven), snowdrops, violets, bear, white cow, ewe, amethyst

Deities: Brigid as Maiden riding on a bear or white cow, Februa (Roman goddess), Mary as Maiden, Perchta, Frau Holle

February 1, 2024

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Samhain, All Hallows Eve and other Holy Days of November

Around this time of the year, the third and final harvest is celebrated. In October grapes and root vegetables are due. It is also global pumpkin season. Herbs gathered after this point were considered bitter and useless. Trees are finished with sugar production and shed their leaves during the wet season, providing less windage to autumn storms. Simultanously, rainwater now pours down unhindered along branches and stems, straight towards the roots and deeper. Trees turn barren, fields turn brown. November brings storms and cold, muddy weather. The nights are cold, and the first hoarfrosts are about to put nature to sleep. Yet, the grayness is lit up by colorful branches and fruits such as the purple beauty berry, orange firethorn, dark blue sloes, black privet or red holly berries, which provide food to overwintering birds.

In spiritual terms, the moon wins over the sun and the earth mother (vegetation goddess) returns to the underworld, where she resides besides Herne, the black hunter, who has captured the sun. It is Samhain, or modern Halloween.

Samhain probably comes from proto-Celtic samoni – meaning “reunion” or “assembly”. This could refer to an assembly of people, an assembly or renunion of the living and the dead. It could also simply refer to an assembly of harvest or the coming together of the months of the year, since Samhain marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year.

Now begins the darkest time of the year.

In need for light, warmth and protection against the dark, lanterns are set up around homes and properties. Whatever has been gathered up to this point and has not been processed yet, is being cooked, bottled up, stored or crafted into useful things. The ancestors are revered and the gods of the underworld are appeased.

On the evening of 31 October, also known as All Hallows Eve and Halloween, the gates to the underworld open and the spirits of the dead are believed to visit the living. The event is luciously celebrated during the Mexican Day of the Dead. The oppulent celebration includes bountiful offerings, music and dance, to welcome the beloved dead and keep the dark dead out.

Christians celebrate and honor their saints and the souls of their dead during All Saints, All Souls and Totensonntag. Candles and lanterns are placed on graves and light up the dark places of the dead, which are in addition covered with evergreen twigs and colorful flowers.

Children dress up for Halloween and play trick or treat. There is also the tradition of St. Martin’s day, when children gather to walk up and down the streets with self-made lanterns, singing songs and reenacting the legend of St. Martin, who cut his cloak and gave half of it to a beggar, who was shivering from the cold.

Samhain is a cross-quarter day on the pagan wheel of the year (and was originally a Celtic quarter day). It is oriented by the moon’s phase and falls on the November or October full moon, respective the full moon that occurs closest to the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, and when the sun moves into Scorpio. The October full moon is also known as Hunter Moon, Harvest Moon and Falling Leaves Moon. The November full moon as Beaver Moon and Freezing Moon or Frost Moon.

Main magical practices during this time are: protection magic, banishing magic, necromancy, black magic or nigromancy, rituals with masks and effigies, pact making and pact renewal (due the opening of the gates to the spirit world).

My incense for Samhain contains:

  • baltic amber
  • juniper
  • mugwort
  • oak bark
  • pine resin
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • spruce resin
  • thyme
  • vervain

October 31, 2023

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Samhain Incense

Here comes a another fresh batch of Samhain incense! This blend is was the first I created for the harvest festivals and closes the circle, being dedicated to the third and final harvest feast. At the same time it marks the beginning of the Gaelic New Year. On Samhain the living and the dead assemble and sacrifices are made. The blend is hence both protective and strengthening as well as suited for opening the gates to the spirit world and chthonic realms. It smells woody, herbaceaous and resinous.

Contains: amber, juniper, mugwort, pine + spruce resin from local forests, oak bark, rosemary, sage, thyme, vervain

Please remember my ordering deadlines for Samhain:
18 Oct. ’23 for international shipments
25 Oct. ’23 for orders within Germany

October 14, 2023

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Mabon / Autumn Blessing Incense

Mabon / Autumn Equinox 2023

New sigil and new incense for the season!

This incense blend is dedicated to seasonal feast day of Mabon, September feast days and the Autumn equinox in particular. It is part of the Teufelskunst “wheel of the year” incense series and is dedicated to the second of the harvest festivals (the first being Lughnasadh and the third being Samhain). It is all about the rituals of autumn, for example the celebration of the Autumn Equinox and blot rituals / harvest blessing and sacrificial rituals. It smells earthy, warm and sweet, but also resinous. It unifies dark and light aspects. It contains aromatic and warming ingredients, such as cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, precious saffron, storax bark and vetiver root. The resins in this fiery blend are powerful protective agents, such as dragon’s blood, dark copal and pine resin. Sweet myrrh, oakmoss and sticky labdanum in turn revere the scents of autumn and bind the herbs. Fragrant herbs such as mugwort and mullein complete this special composition. Lastly, freshly gathered nettle is included as a reference to the goddesses of spinning and weaving, but also enhances the protective qualities of this magical Mabon blend.

The sigil adorning the blend has been desgined especially for Mabon (read more in my next post).

The incense comes in 30 ml paper bags and is now available in the shop!

In other news, I’ve been switching to paper bags!

I made new designs for them, especially for the qliphotic blends. Step by step I am also re-doing the feast day sigils. It’s a pile of work, but ultimately it will be easier to simply print and fill these than cleansing, labeling and packing up glass jars, which also always meant more packing waste. Also, the production of the silver foil labels wasn’t particularly environmental friendly either. So…

These are meant to be smelled and burnt.

I may still do special editions in glass jars every once in a blue moon. I have in fact been gifted a big pile of small miron violet glass jars…

But for now, it’s paper bags! How do you like them?

September 16, 2023

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Autumn Equinox, Altweibersommer, September Blot, Mabon and other Festivals of September

The autumn equinox marks the second annual harvest celebration. At the same time it is the last of the eight “wheel of the year” festivals. In modern witchcraft the feast day is called Mabon. As one of the four quarter days, it marks a time, when servants were hired, school terms started, and rents were due. The fruits of the season include grains, aromatic herbs, berries, grapes, apples, nuts, acorns, chestnuts and so on. Nature’s cornocupeia is filled to the rim. It is also rut and hunting time.

Though the equinox marks the point when the night wins over the day time, September days are still warm, due to a weather phenomenon known as “Indian Summer” and German “Altweibersommer”. Indeed, we are experiencing the third week in a row with day temperatures above 30°C. Only the lengthening shadows and the dew on the meadow give away that summer is coming to an end. And it is spider season! Sheet weavers aka money spiders, ride upon their silken threads and seem to be flying through the air. As their threads reflect the autumn sun, it was thought they resemble the hair of old women, which might have been the origin of the name “Altweibersommer”. But also, the art of weaving was once known as “weiben”. This time of the year is indeed also sacred to the goddesses of spinning and weaving. The end of the harvest season marks the beginning of the time spent indoors, with processing the harvest, crafting, spinning and weaving.

Now blooms the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale), or meadow saffron, as it is also called. In German the plant is known as Herbstzeitlose, either because the plant has ‘lost’ its time (pertaining to its unsual time of flowering), or because it foretells (from Old German lose, meaning to divine) autumn and is thus the messenger of autumn. Another name for it is Michelsblume, since it flowers around Michaelmas.

Michaelmas is celebrated in most Western countries on the 29th of September. St. Michael is the patron saint of many holy places formerly sacred to the Germanic Donar/Thor. The archangel is believed to have defeated the dragon (Satan/Belial) during the war in heaven. The vision of Michael riding through the sky in the company of other angels is perhaps a reinterpretation of Wotan’s Wild Hunt and evokes similar associations of heavenly flight and the descent of demons. A British Michaelmas tradition is the preparation of the stubble-goose. Eating the goose was thought to guarantee money in the purse during the coming year. In some parts of Germany the Michaelsbrot is being baked. On this day is also sown the Michaelskorn (grain), from which the next bread will be made. Contracts would be made on this day and accounts closed.

Germanic tribes celebrated September as the blot month, associated with the blood of those animals, which had to be slain before the winter, either because they were too weak or too many in number in order to be fed through the cold season. They were sacrificed to the gods and their blood was used to bless the people attending the blot rituals. The German word blodsian means to ‘make holy with blood’ and is possibly the root of the English words blessing and to bless. According to Wolf Dieter Storl, the blot rituals were considered necessary for sustaining the natural order and ensured the return of the sun.

In September, the color red also becomes present in nature. The leaves of the trees take on an autumn coloring, as the sun light wanes and chlorophyll decreases. Some plants invest extra energy into the production of red pigments, which cause for example the fiery red fall coloring in some maple tree species and on cherry trees. The red pigment is not visible to herbivores, and so, while occuring as a vibrant martial signal to the human eye, is in fact a camouflage for the tree, making its foliage invisible to aphids. In addition, herbivores presented on a red leave are better visible to birds, which now have to eat and gain reserves, either for migrating or overwintering.

Besides, if you ever wonder, as to why there is no or little bird singing during this time; the birds are now resting, as they no longer have to defend their territory.

The connection between the beginning of fall and the Celtic myth about Mabon is relatively new. It was introduced during the 1970ies. The name Mabon may be a reference to Maponos, the Celtic god of the hunt.

Mabon is a figure in Celtic myth and features in the Arthurian legends. Apparently, a son of divine origin, he was separated from his mother only three days after conception. Mabon could only be found again with the aid of Arthur and another hero who was able to communicate with animals, namely a blackbird, a stag, an owl, an eagle, and finally a salmon, which ultimately carries the men to Mabon, who is incarcerated in a fortress. Finally, Arthur and his friends manage to free Mabon, who proves himself by winning the battle against a giant wild boar with the aid of some supernatural dogs. Mabon’s incarceration is sometimes interpreted as a form of initiation into the underworld and an apprenticeship in witchcraft.

Suggestion for a fiery Mabon incense:

  • coriander
  • dark copal
  • dragon’s blood
  • nutmeg
  • oakmoss
  • pine resin
  • red sandalwood
  • rowan berries
  • saffron
  • storax bark
  • sweet myrrh
  • vetiver root

Turning to the trees once more, this is also a good time to contemplate the world tree Yggdrasil: nowadays thought to be an ash tree, more likely a mountain ash or rowan, to Germanic tribes an oak or linden tree. Its branches hold the firmament, its fruits form the stars, its stem shapes the milky way, its roots hold the earth and reach down to the world of the dead. The squirrel Ratatosk runs up and down its stem, delivering messages between the realms. Four deer gnaw on its branches (probably they were Germanic star signs) and a giant eagle sits in its crown.

The star sign of September is Virgo. But the stars of Virgo also form the figire of a deer. The star signs of Auriga and Perseus together form the sign of the big deer named Durathor.

The September full moon is also called harvest moon and corn moon.

September 13, 2023

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Lughnasadh, Lammas, Nemoralia and other Festivals of August

Around the 1st of August, the first harvest of the year is celebrated, and it is the best time for gathering fragrant and medicinal herbs since now they are rich in aromatic oils! It is also the time when the bilwis – originally benevolent priests guarding the fields, later envisioned as corn demons with sickles on their feet – cut the first corn. Common festivals held during this time are Lughnasadh or Lammas, which celebrate the ripening of the corn and the baking of the bread from the first harvest. Traditionally, this first bread is offered to the spirits, and likewise, corn dolls are crafted and offered. Altars are decorated in flaming red, orange, and golden yellow colors. Most emblematic of this time are the sunflower, the lion and the cornucopia. But all the herbs and fruits that are ripe during this time of the year can be used to decorate the home and honor the spirits.

It is a time for celebrating Lugh, the Celtic god of craftsmanship and weaponry. Lughnasadh is translated as the ‘killing of Lugh’ in old Irish language, which is an allegory for the end of summer. Wolf Dieter Storl identifies the Celtic Lugh as a god of fire, who imbues medicinal herbs with power and associates him with the Germanic Loki (Lodur), the trickster and fire god. On the same first day of August, the torch bearing bringer of light, Lucifer was banished from heaven. It is hence believed that persons born on the 1st of August would become a witch and a ghost-seer.

My personal incense for celebrating the fire of August:

  • black, golden and / or white copal
  • coriander seed (ground)
  • nutmeg (a pinch)
  • palo santo or sandalwood
  • red carnation or red rose flower petals
  • sunflower petals
  • tobacco (optional)
  • white sage

Aside from the witches’ Wheel of the Year festivals, there are other feasts taking place in August. Romans celebrated the Nemoralia, a festival sacred to Diana Nemorensis. Interestingly, the Romans would pay tribute to Diana by honoring the dogs of the hunt and polishing the spears, meaning no hunting or fighting would take place during this time. Instead, the dogs were cared for and adorned, and slaves, warriors, and hunters were granted a time of rest and nurture. Torches were carried to the grove of Diana in Nemi, which offered a refuge for slaves during the hottest time of the year. At the center of her grove stood an oak tree, which was guarded by a priest titled rex nemorensis, who himself was an escaped slave. This priest had to defend the tree and his own life against other slaves, until the next slave would take his place by killing him and breaking a branch from the tree. This unusual ritual seems to have pre-Roman roots.

Diana is identified with the Greek Artemis and also bears references to the Greek Hecate.

My suggestion for a Nemoralia incense:

  • belladonna leaves
  • fennel seed
  • frankincense
  • galbanum
  • juniper berries
  • mugwort
  • mullein leaves
  • myrrh
  • oak bark
  • sandarac or pine resin
  • thyme
  • wormwood

Similar to the motive of Lugh as a god of fire, weaponry and craftmanship, the Romans celebrated one of their oldest deities, the fire god Vulcan, around the 23rd of August. Vulcan was worshipped and appeased during the August heat as to be protected from (wild) fires and especially to protect the granaries from fire. During the Vulcanalia, bonfires were lit and grain offerings were thrown into the flames. After the Great Fire of Rome, the worship of Vulcan only increased, and the offerings now also included red bulls. Noteworthy, Pliny the Younger documented the outbreak of the Vesuvius in Pompei only one day following the Vulcanalia festival.

Shortly before the middle of August is also the time of the Perseid meteor shower, during which the trinity of heaven, earth, and the underworld was celebrated in antiquity. Another ancient goddess revered during this time was Hecate, who governed these three realms. The herbs that are especially sacred to her include monkshood, henbane, wormwood, asphodel, mandrake, pomegranate and the saffron crocus.

Incense for Hecate:

  • aconite flowers
  • myrrh (soaked in red vine and honey)
  • orris or mandrake root
  • saffron
  • styrax
  • wormwood

In August, we also honor the mother goddesses per se.

On the 15th of August, Christians celebrate the Assumption of Mary. Along with it, various herb blessing traditions once sacred to Freya have been adopted and converted into the Maria-Kräuterweihe. Herbs that are traditionally part of the Mariä Kräuterbuschen:

  • chamomile
  • elecampagne
  • mullein (at the center)
  • mugwort
  • St. John’s wort
  • tansy
  • thyme
  • valerian
  • vervain
  • wormwood
  • yarrow

The blessed herbs were then given into the food of sick animals, hung in the home and barn, or thrown into the fire for protection from thunder and lightning. The time spanning from the 15th of August to the 8th of September (Nativity of Mary) is also known as Frauen-Dreißiger. The entire time is considered auspicious for the gathering of medicinal herbs.

Likewise, the Germanic Holle/Holda/Dame Hulda, in her role as the ancient mother goddess of neolithic origin, can be honored and asked for maternal blessings during the August full moon. Especially sacred to Holda is the Elder tree, which is now full of ripe fruits.

In Argentina, Paraguay and Southern Brazil the 15th of August (or alternatively the 13th of August) is dedicated to a folk saint, which is not accepted by the Catholic church: devotees of San la Muerte praise the Saint of Death with offerings of flowers, candles, liquor, tobaccco, money, food offerings such as pork and sweets and coffee. My favorite incense for San la Muerte is similar to the August fire blend Iisted above.

Finally, in Japan, the festival of the Dead, called Obon, is celebrated around the middle of August. A key symbol for this liminal time is the cherry blossom, also known as sakura. According to Japanese folklore, the souls of fallen kamikaze fighters (revered heroes) are symbolized by falling sakura petals.

My personal ‘Sakura’ blend for contacting the dead in dream:

  • aloeswood
  • benzoin (Siam)
  • cherry blossoms
  • lavender
  • orris root
  • silver colored frankincense
  • star anise
  • styrax
  • white sandalwood

Conclusion: the feasts of August both venerate the light and fire of life, the culmination of summer, the bountyful harvest, the vegetation and mother goddesses, as well as the sickle, death himself and the dead. Do you know more feasts of August? Please write in the comments!

August 31, 2023

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Winter Solstice 2019

In December I finished fresh batches of “Rauhnächte” and “Winter Solstice” incense and started a new round of working with the birch’s arboreal spirit

Incense ‘master’ Caroline Maxelon of Bussardflug and me began plotting a future collaboration. Along with a lot of powerful shamanic items for my ritual work, she also send me her new book “Räucherstoffe aus aller Welt” (published by Nymphenburger). I was thrilled to read about so many new incense ingredients, that are not part of standard encyclopedias and was especially thrilled to find incense materials described for the first time in it, which I had been discovering intuitively by myself over the past years. It feels, like my own weird and wild incense formulas are now receiving confirmation through Caroline. I thus highly recommend this book – both for its content as well as its photography.

Special edition of “Secret Ambrosian Fire” by MOSAIC/Eisenton Records

Yesterday I received yet another surprise in my mail – the special edition of “Secret Ambrosian Fire” by German black metal originators MOSAIC (Eisenton Records). Some time ago I was asked to compose an alchemical inspired plant sigil for this record. This sigil now adorns the cover of the digi-pack edition. I begin to grasp the broad idea behind this opus magnum and it is deeply satisfying to witness the fruits of our mutual efforts!

Everything points in to a new direction in my life, but it is also getting more complex, along with all these new impulses. Today I went to different trees, burnt some of the winter incense and blessed the new birch wood pentacle among a circle of young birch trees and at the roots of two older birch trees, which are frequently visited by crows. For me, the circle of the old year is now closed and I head into another phase of creative work after the holidays.

Culmination: blessing the new “Berkano” birchwood pentacle in the smoke of my “Winter Solstice incense” and at the base of different trees

Rauhnächte Blessings!

W.

December 22, 2019

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Spring Blessing

It has been a cold, mostly rainy and busy start into 2019, but suddenly spring is here! And what I had started a year ago with the – somewhat random – introduction of the “Blessing Seal of Spring”, has now evolved, and sees a new manifestation with the completion of my “Spring Blessing” incense!

As temperatures rose to 17 °C today and the sun warmed up the city unhindered, I could feel the excitement and eagerness in the air and with the birds around our place. So I am happy to present you this new incense blend!

This brand-new Teufelskunst creation is dedicated all to the rituals of spring, including the celebration of the Vernal EquinoxEaster, the Roman Veneralia and leading up to Beltane. It smells pleasantly sweet and spicy, thanks to fragrant and traditionally spring related ingredients, such as clary sage, dammar, lemon grass, myrtle, violets and sweetgrass. In addition, yellow flowering primrose and amber resin evoke the sun and fire. The return of the vegetation, and pollinators along with it, is honored with precious bee propolis, which adds a warm and earthy aroma. For fertility spells and referencing the very essence of Venus, the blend contains further aromatic apple peels from our own apple tree. Water mint and willow both connect this blend to the element water, evoking Batrachian and ophidian currents.

The old Irish Beltaine is derived from common Celtic *belo-te(p)niâ, meaning “bright fire”. Fire is often part of spring and May Day celebrations, e.g. for cleansing (burning) the old and making way for the new or as a primitive reference to the return of the sun.

Uses: love & fertility spells, blessing rituals, luck, prosperity, dream, veneration of beloved spirits

Contains: Baltic amber, apple peel, benzoin Siam, clary sage, dammar, frankincense, lemon grass, myrtle, primrose, propolis, sweetgrass, vetiver root, violet, water mint, willow bark

Scent: warm, sweet, spicy

Colors: green, yellow, white, purple

February 15, 2019

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