Commentary written by Lady Bridget
Bide the Witches' Law ye must,
In perfect Love and perfect Trust.
Basically, this refers to Perfect Love and Trust in the Lord and Lady, not necessarily in a human person. Remember, all witches are human first, and they will have the same faults and shortcomings as everyone else. Honor them for their knowledge and experience, but don't expect them to be saints!
Live and let all else live,
Fairly take and fairly give.
First tread the Circle thrice about
To keep unwelcome spirits out.
This refers to casting the circle first with your athame, sword, staff, or whatever tool you use, then casting again around fully with salt & water, then a third casting is done with the Incense. (Not necessarily in that order - it goes by tradition)
To bind the spell well every time,
Let the spell be spake in rhyme.
This refers to your "younger self" or subconcious mind, which hears and reacts more quickly and more fully to rhymes and chants. It also makes it fun for your inner child, and this will enhance your magickal workings.
Light of eye and soft of touch,
Speak ye little, listen much.
"Light of eye" is an injuntion against staring forcefully at another, and comes from the Stregan "evil eye". And the second line has always been sage advice.
Honor the Old Ones in deed and name,
Let love and light be our guides again.
Similar to "Honor thy father and mother", but this means anyone elder, not just family. Somehow politeness is being lost in today's society.
Deosil go by the waxing moon,
Sing and Dance the joyful rune.
"Deosil" means clock-wise, or sun-wise, and the waxing moon is from New Moon to just before the Full Moon, while the moon is "filling out". This is the time to ask for what you want to have joyful in your life. "Rune" is another name for spell, but specifically a rhymed, chanted, spell working. This is evolved from the use of a single rune (such as today are used for divination) to represent the person's desire.
Widdershins by the waning moon,
Chanting out the baneful rune.
Now "widdershins" is counter clockwise, and the waning moon is after the full moon, when it is "dwindling". This is the time to get rid of unwanted habits, weight, bad feelings, or anything you wish to be rid of. "Baneful" comes from "banish" and that's what it means.
When the Lady's moon is new,
Kiss the hand to Her times two.
It was the custom in days gone before to send kisses to the New Moon. It must have been a very wide spread custom as I have seen references to the Inquition warning people that those who did it would be closely watched for signs of heresy and witchcraft!
When the moon rides at Her peak
Then your heart's desire seek.
This of course is the Full Moon, and the time when the magick of the Moon is at full power.
Heed the North winds' mighty gale,
Lock the door and trim the sail.
These next four verses are "wind wisdom" and refer to the times when the wind comes from the four directions, and also refers to the four seasons. The North wind is well known for the winter storms it brings. Lock everything up tight!
When the Wind blows from the East,
Expect the new and set the feast.
The second line refers to the tendency the East wind has to bring changes, and unexpected visitors.
When the wind comes from the South,
Love will kiss thee on the mouth.
The warm southern wind brings Springtime, when young fancies turn to romance.
When the wind blows from the West,
Departed souls will have no rest.
The West is the direction that the souls of those passing on to the Summerland will take. (I suppose they have to work harder when the wind is against them!)
Nine woods in the Cauldron go,
Burn them fast and burn them slow.
Nine woods are placed in the Beltain fires and each one is significant.
Birch in the fire goes
To represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might
In the fire it brings the God's insight.
Rowan is a tree of power
Causing life and magick to flower.
Willows at the waterside stand
Ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify
And to draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel-the tree of wisdom and learning-
Adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of Apple tree
That brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the vine
Giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen
To represent immortality seen.
Elder is the Lady's tree
Burn it not or cursed you'll be.
Count them, Elder is the 10th tree, and the Balefire only gets Nine. This is a warning to those who would burn the elder, and refers to the English elder, but I don't burn the American one either.
Four times the Major Sabbats mark
In the light and in the dark.
I want to clear up a point: "Major" doesn't refer to the Sabbats' importance, all are equally important. Rather, it refers to us celebrating these Sabbats at the height of the Season, when the Sun reaches 15º in one of the four Cardinal Astrological signs that mark each season.
As the old year starts to wane
The new begins, it's now Samhain.
When the time for Imbolg shows
Watch for flowers through the snows.
Imbolg occurs at 15º Aquarius, or is traditionally dated February 2nd.
When the wheel begins to turn
Soon the Beltaine fires will burn
Beltaine occurs at 15º Taurus, or is traditionally dated May 1st.
As the wheel turns to Lammas night
Power is brought to magick rite.
Lammas or Lughnasadh occurs at 15º Leo, or is traditionally dated August 1st.
Four times the Minor Sabbats fall
Use the Sun to mark them all.
Now these Sabbats are called "Minor" simply because they happen at the start of the season, when the sun is just entering the Fixed Astrological signs of the four seasons. All of the Sabbats are considered "solar", meaning that they are calculated by the sun. Esbats are the Lunar celebrations calculated by the phases of the Moon.
When the wheel has turned to Yule
Light the log the Horned One rules.
Yule, or Winter Solstice occurs at 0º Capricorn, or is traditionally dated December 21st.
In the spring, when night equals day
Time for Ostara to come our way.
Ostara, or Spring Equinox occurs at 0º Aries, or is traditionally dated March 21st.
When the Sun has reached it's height
Time for Oak and Holly to fight.
Litha, or Summer Solstice occurs at 0º Cancer, or is traditionally dated June 21st.
Harvesting comes to one and all
When the Autumn Equinox does fall.
Mabon, or Fall Equinox occurs at 0º Libra, or is traditionally dated September 21st.
For a complete explanantion of all the holidays go to the
Pagan's Ritaul Planner Sabbat Menu
Heed the flower, bush, and tree
By the Lady blessed you'll be.
All life is Sacred to the Goddess, and proper respect should be shown for the sacrifice of Her Creatures and Plants so the we may eat and survive.
Where the rippling waters go
Cast a stone, the truth you'll know.
This is referring to a water divination, where one tosses a pebble into the surface of still water to watch the ripples and divine the future.
When you have and hold a need,
Harken not to others greed.
One should not do magick out of greed, but out of need. So if someone offers you money to do a spell for them, what is your motivation? And what is theirs? Do you want to attract dependent people to you who could possibly put so many demands on your energy that you have no time for yourself? This one is thought provoking, isn't it?
With a fool no season spend
Nor be counted as his friend.
Or in other words, people know you by the company you keep....
Merry Meet and Merry Part
Bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Also self explanatory... we're all pretty happy to see one another, and open expressions of affection are encouraged.
Mind the Three-fold Law you should
Three times bad and three times good.
The three-fold law refers to the belief that whatever you sent out, be it good or ill, will return to you three-fold. There is a common saying used these days - "What goes around, comes around." - which means much the same thing, except that we multiply that energy by three. Since "energy follows thought" it seems it would be wise to avoid thinking negatively, because that's what you'll attract to you.
When misfortune is enow
Wear the star upon your brow.
In this form, it means to open your third eye and listen to your higher self/Spirit Guide/Guardian Angel whenerver you find yourself in difficulties. I was taught a slightly different variation: "Wear the blue star on your brow" which harkens back to the days of Welsh villages, and may be evolved from the blue crescent of woad worn on the foreheads of the Picts...
In love you must be ever true
Unless your love is false to you.
A witch does not give her or his word lightly... and a vow of true love is also not spoken lightly. However, if your lover is untrue to you they have already broken vows with you.
Eight words the Rede fulfil
"And it harm none, do what ye will".
This "Rede" is the law by which Witches live, with harm to none. Harming none, includes not harming yourself. The term "Harm" and what actually contitutes
harm to another being, is a convoluted concept, and requires thought and meditation on the part of the Witch, to weigh possible consequences of actions to see if harm
will result. Also bear in mind that you have no right to do magick or cast spells on another person WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION! This IS considered harm, as you are forcing
your will on them, even if you are doing a healing spell. This concept can be the most difficult for a person new to the Craft to grasp, yet it is the most important, and
the cornerstone of our religion and beliefs. It makes you totally responsible for your actions and their results. If you have a dilemma, it's best to get another informed
opinion before acting, especially if your are strongly and emotionally attached to the result.
The only person you can work all the magick you like for is yourself!