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St. Patrick and the Serpent

Saint Patrick’s Day in the United States has devolved from what was once a Catholic feast day into something almost unrecognizable. As we have reexamined the way that Cinco de Mayo is celebrated across the country, people of Mexican and Latin American descent have advocated for a more respectful celebration of the holiday, without the sombreros and caricatures of the culture. St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration which could benefit from some of the same.

Images of drunkenness and one dimensional stereotypes are hurtful for people of all cultures. Since the early days of Irish immigration to the United States, one of the most common insults of Irish immigrants is that they were drunks. In this day Irish people have battled that image, and are assimilated and make up a large percentage of the American population — yet Irish culture to some is still synonymous with the overindulgence of alcohol.

Aside from green beer, there is the also the cocktail known as the Irish Car Bomb. it contains Guinness, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Jameson Irish whiskey. The Irish Car Bomb brings up memories of violence and conflict for many and shouldn’t be ordered in Ireland or anywhere else. One way to put it into perspective is to imagine how Americans would feel to have a drink named after something like 9/11 — horrible, right? 

Those of us who venerate the Old Ways of various cultures such as the Celtic spiritualities and the African Diaspora religions have our own concerns surrounding Saint Patrick. Many people view the image of the serpents being driven out of Ireland as a representation of the destruction of the indigenous faiths.

Serpents are and have been powerful icons in cultures across the world throughout the ages.

Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. The Ourobouros is a symbol of eternity and continual renewal of life.

In Hinduism the Kundalini is a coiled serpent. The Vision Serpent is a symbol of rebirth in Mayan mythology. Aidophedo of the West African Ashanti people, Quetzalcoatl in Central America. The list goes on and on.

The African Diaspora faiths that evolved from the enslavement of their people during French and Spanish colonialism in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America have survived by syncretizing their Spirits with the Catholic saints, so that their religions could be practiced in secrecy.

Damballah, one of the most beloved of the Lwa in Haitian Vodou is syncretized with Saint Patrick. His Fet, or Feast Day is March 19th, and so is celebrated very close to St. Patrick’s Day. He is commonly represented as a large white horned serpent.

Ya Sezi bo Oungan writes of his experience with Damballah:

“Damballah Wedo is the cosmic serpent divinity of wisdom, purity, coolness, education, reincarnation, birth rebirth and wealth, his counterpart and wife Ayida Wedo, is about the invisible world becoming visible, second sight, and the female side of the tasks Damballa oversees. Damballah and Ayida Wedo can be addressed in nature in several places. Waterfalls, Rivers,and giant ancient trees to name a few. Damballah is often envisioned as a giant white serpent, in some houses he is described as a horned serpent. No matter who he appears to and how he appears in spirit he is an extremely powerful force that is easy to underestimate. Damballah Wedo, among many other Lwa like Papa Loko, Sobo, Bade, and so on are called Racine Lwa, or Root Lwa, they represent the lwa that are the foundation of the tradition. Spirits that were brought from West Africa. Damballah was one of the first Lwa to make their presence known to me.

I used to attend highschool in the Niagara Region of upstate NY, I would often go to Goat island national park to watch the river, and see the falls. At this point in time my time spent with vodou was minimal, my knowledge of local folklore was pretty good though. The early Native Americans from the Hopewell societies worshiped a horned serpent that lived in the lakes, rivers, falls, and other similar areas. When the Iroquois made their way north, they destroyed many things associated with the serpent deities. The last two were said to have avoided destruction by hiding under the falls and under the whirlpool found a mile or so from the falls.

Standing at the falls on both the American and Canadian sides, letting the mist touch you, hearing the tremendous roar of the falls, and the peace that can be found in the crashing of water. It was here that I made a connection for the first time with Damballah. A space that was once the place of reverence for a serpent spirit was nice, but that’s not what was there that day for me. It is important that people seek out the Lwa in the land they are on, from here in New Orleans, to people in the deserts of Arizona, the tech cities of the West, everywhere, the Lwa exist everywhere. Haiti is where their worship is known, but borders are human, and the Lwa transcend human experience, they are bigger than we can comprehend. Vodou is a living religion, the spirits can be experienced by the seeker. There may be lwa that are only in Haiti, but we should ask ourselves the “Why” that has no answer.

The image below was put together by myself based on my experiences, and personal interactions, and painted by S. Alderney it depicts Damballah Wedo, as a horned serpent, above him Sobo, and to the right, Bade in the forms of rams draped in fire, in the mist other smaller horned serpents are seen Ayida Wedo as the rainbow spans the sky.”

As we approach Saint Patrick’s Day, the Spring Equinox, and the Fet Damballah, there is much to celebrate! How we choose to do so will be a reflection of our consciousness and respect for the cultures and traditions we hold.

It is claimed that Saint Patrick recommended partaking of “a wee dram of whiskey” in his honor, for those who are so inclined. Perhaps the wearing of the green – or for Damballah wear white. Honor the Spring as a time of joyously affirming the source of life as the sap rises and the flowers bloom, and the creatures of the Earth awake from Winter’s sleep.

Blessings of Spring!

Rev. Kathi Bonnabel

(cover photo at the top is Damballa Wedo by Haitian artist Andre Pierre (1916-2005)

https://haitianartsociety.org/pierre-andre-haitian-1916-2005

Brighid’s Healing Well

There are many kinds of healing – spiritual, emotional, and physical healing. Healing for the Earth, for all those suffering oppression and poverty. Healing for communities and individuals as they struggle to grow and to change.  All of this, and more can be found through the blessings of the Lady Brighid.

The waters from Brighid’s Well are an ever-flowing source of sustenance, strength, abundance, and healing.    This is the source of life itself.  Like Brighid’s Well, your cup is ever flowing and abundant. This is your cup of healing waters.   Know that these waters of hope, healing, and wholeness are there for you whenever you need them.

We invite you to join us and ask for her blessings on February 2nd which is the celebration of Imbolc, or Candlemas. It signifies the life that is stirring in the Earth, the hope of renewal and Winter’s end.

For more information, a copy of the ceremony, or a link to the virtual gathering please email: Revkb@sacredwellministries.org

Winter Solstice Greetings

December 2020

Winter Greetings Dear Ones,

The Wheel of the Year is approaching the Winter Solstice.  It is a time for us to take a breath, a moment to reflect upon the intense experiences we have gone through in the past several months.  Change is afoot in so many aspects of our world.  It leaves us bewildered, confused, and even frightened at times.   One of the things that can sustain us during times of great upheaval and transformation are the bonds that we have formed with those we care about, our chosen spiritual family.

One of the central concepts behind Sacred Well is to help keep our community connected, to forge relationships that allow us to work together, support each other and share knowledge and resources with one another.  How we go about doing this right now looks a lot different than what we have done in the past.  Though we miss the experience of in-person celebrations, our virtual gatherings have been helping us to fill that void to some degree.  Hopefully if we all do what we must now, we will be able to be together again in the not-too-distant future.

We may fumble through the technological aspects` of it from time to time, but the learning curve is improving!  Several different people have hosted virtual celebrations, and if this is something that you would like to involved in, please let us know.  We would love to get more people involved and have a wider variety of offerings throughout the coming year.

Other things that have worked out well are the simultaneous spellwork groups for a common cause.  It has proved to be a powerful way to combine our energies and direct them in a unified effort.  We would really like to see more of that type of cooperative action.  Do you have ideas for something along those lines?  Let us hear about it, and maybe put something together for people who want to participate.

And also know, Dear Ones, that you are loved and supported whether you are able to engage right now or if things just seem like too much.  Winter Solstice is the time to go within – to nurture yourself, give your spirit time to heal and regenerate itself.  Let yourself just be, with no expectation or judgement.  We will be here for you.

With Love & Blessings,

Rev. Kathi Bonnabel

Sacred Well Ministries

THE PILLARS OF CREATION

Named for the nebula in the featured photo from the Hubble telescope, this ceremony celebrates the Life Forces of the Universe, and how they combine to create all that we see and all that we are. We are made of stars – look at the night sky and feel your connection to all that is.

You may use this as you wish in your personal practice or in groups. It can be adapted for many occasions. In a group, divide the parts to be read in different voices. Or use it as a meditation piece. All we ask is to acknowledge the source material. It was written by Rev. Katherine Bonnabel of Sacred Well Ministries, with excerpts from other authors cited at the end of the script.

With love and blessings,

Rev. Kathi B.

The Pillars of Creation

For this ceremony you will need on your altar:

A cup or chalice of Water -west

A lantern or some other flame. – south

Incense or Feather – east

Bowl of Salt – north

A pentacle. – center

 Place each symbol in the direction of its corresponding element

Also on (or near) the altar:

A sword, Athame, or Wand

A white candle

A chalice of wine or juice

A Broom

A small cauldron or bowl

A Cake (cookie or bread)

A gong, bell, or chime

Pick up a bell, chime, or gong and sound instrument to begin the rite. (three times with a slight pause in between each)

Take up the broom and begin to sweep (widdershins) in the East with a stroke from the center of the Circle out, ending the words and sweeping at the north saying:

All things evil or malignant be,

Know this place is not for thee.

Be thou gone! Depart from me!

And by my Will, SO MOTE IT BE.

            now sweeping deosil and sweeping with a motion from the edge of the Circle inward) and travels around the Circle, ending at the east, saying:

Red spirits and black,

White spirits and gray,

Come ye, come ye, come who may.

Around and about,

Through in and throughout,

The good come in, and the ill keep out!

On the last two words, stamp your foot as you say “Keep Out”

            All that is dreamed may come to be…                                                

            Welcome here and Blessed Be.

Pick up Air symbol. Salute the East and say:

Hail, guardians of the East,

You who are the breath of life,

you who are the words of the magician.

come to us with your gifts of knowing and intellect.

So mote it be. 

pick up the symbol of Fire and go the south.  After salute, say:

Hail, guardians of the South, 

You who are the fire that burns in our bellies,

 you who are the dance of the warrior. 

come to us with your gifts of will and action.

So mote it be. 

pick up the symbol of Water and go to the west. After salute, say:

Hail, guardians of the West,

You who are the blood in our veins,

you who are the rains, the rivers, the tides

come to us with your gifts of emotion and feeling.

So mote it be.

pick up the symbol for Earth and go to the north.  After salute, say::

Hail, guardians of the North,

 You who are the bounty of the fields,

 you who are the realm of the mighty mountains. 

come to us with your gift of strength and stability.

 So mote it be. 

take up the (sword/staff/athame/wand) and go to the east. raise it casting (deosil) all the way around the Circle, completing the casting back at the east.

I cast this circle, woven in light and mist

Guarded by the Ancient Ones

Surrounded by shields of Spirit

A place of protection, blessed and sealed

Which shall contain within all energy here.

Sphere be Blessed!  Circle be consecrated!

Naught but love shall enter in and naught but love shall emerge.

So Mote it Be.

Pause a moment to center yourself, take 3 deep breaths and slowly exhale.  Feel the energy that you have created to build this sacred space. 

As Above, so Below

As the Universe, so the Soul

As Within, So Without

Time without Time

Place without Place

Beginnings without Endings

The Circle is cast and the time of Magic begins.

We gather to honor the Forces of Creation in their many aspects.

We open our minds and hearts to their Mysteries.

Before we call upon the Sovereigns of the Heavens, we shall ask the Wild Ones to join us.

Call to The Warrior, the Hunter, the Green One, the Heart of the Forest.  Call to the other aspects of the Spirits of Nature as you chant for them to be with us tonight.

(chant)

Hail, Divine Ones,

Spirits shining bright

Keepers of the Mystery

Bless this rite

(repeat 3X)

Now we call to the Sovereigns of the Heavens, they in Their many guises: the Dancers in the Stars, Weavers of the Web, Ancient Wisdom Keepers, and other aspects of They who are the Creative Force of the universe.

(chant)

Hail, Divine Ones,

Spirits shining bright

Keepers of the Mystery

Bless this rite

(repeat Three times)

(Light the white candle in the center of the altar, symbolizing the presence of Deity arriving, and ring the chime one time) – This section may be used as a meditation piece. If doing so, you will close your eyes, and take three deep breaths and slowly exhale between each, and allow yourself to relax and listen.

These are the words of the Spirits of Nature, they who sing the songs of our Ancestors and guard the Mysteries of Life, Death, and Rebirth:

I am the wild hunter of the forest deep.   I am the fire upon the hill
And I am the sower of the seed. And the tiller of the soil of the earth.

And I am the golden warrior whose arrows are the shafts from the sun
The thunder is my hoof fall, The wilderness my shrine.

I wield the oaken staff.  The elements at my call
By day am the Sun, by night I ride upon the wild winds.

I am a wolf, a tree and mountain.
In the wilderness doth my spirit dwell.

All wildlings and fugitives of oppression are cherished within my heart.

To such as thee, my hidden children, am I provider and protector
For all things wild and free are in my keeping.”

(Ring the Chime once)

Listen to the words of the Sovereigns of the Heavens, They who of old were called among mortals by many names in many lands,

“Hear me child, and know Me for who I am. I have been with you
since you were born, and I will stay with you until you return to Me.
I am the Muse who inspires the poet to dream.

I am the Force that will not be ruled, the Weaver of Time, the Teacher of Mysteries. Find your way and come to me, and you will discover true beauty, strength, and courage. 

I am the fury which rips the flesh from injustice.

I am the glowing forge that transforms your fears into tools of power.

Open yourself to my embrace.”

(Ring the Chime once)

This is one of the Mysteries, to know that within the Light there is the Dark, and within the Dark the Light also resides:

“I have been here from the beginning of life.

 My ancient names are still called by those

who seek my wisdom and protection. 

And all things of beauty and freedom and life are joy unto my spirit;
Swiftly I come to merriment and laughter, for these are my invocations

For I am the keeper of all life.  Yet also I have a dark face
For I am Death.    The Reaper of Souls.
And terrible is this, my dark face, to those who know not the mystery.

Yet to my hidden children who know and love my spirit
My dark face is also sweet, for tis the face of deep and hidden wisdom.

For I am the giver of knowledge.  Life and death are mine to keep.
From death thou shalt be reborn unto new life and love.
Therefor seek my spirit and know me, Bright and dark
Then shalt thou know my mystery.”

(Ring the Chime once)

            Know that Those Who Walk Among the Stars are here to guide and protect us.  Their wisdom leads us to deeper knowledge of our connections to all that surrounds us:

“I am the velvet depths of the night sky, the swirling mists of midnight,
shrouded in mystery.  I am the chrysalis in which you will face that which terrifies you and from which you will blossom forth, vibrant and renewed.

Seek me with an open heart, and you shall be transformed, for once you look upon my face, you will know your true self.

I am the fire that kisses the shackles away.

 I am the cauldron in which all opposites grow to know each other in Truth. I am the web which connects all things.

I am the Healer of all wounds,

the Warrior who rights all wrongs in their Time.

 I make the weak strong. I make the arrogant humble.

 I raise up the oppressed and empower the disenfranchised.

I am Justice tempered with Mercy.”

“Seek me within and without. Know me so that you may awaken to Balance, Illumination, and Wholeness.

Take our Love with you everywhere and find the Power within.

For we are the Ancient Ones:  Our faces outnumber the stars.

We have been with you from the beginning, and we remain as eternal as the spark of life that resides within each and every one of you.”

(ring the Chime once)

Place the cauldron or bowl upon the pentacle.

Add some Water from the West chalice -the waters from which all life emerged

three pinches of Salt from the Earth bowl – The essence of the life-giving Earth

 and add a small amount juice or wine – The sustenance for our bodies

Let us chant together to charge this cauldron with the energy of these Life Forces combined.   We do this to honor the Divines Ones and that spark of them that burns within each of us:

Forces of Nature

The ebb and the flow

Eternally changing

Above and below

(repeat Three times)

Stir the contents of the cauldron together, and hold it up in blessing:

            In the Union of the Elements of Life and all that lies between,

In the Perfect Balance does Creation sing,

Of Sun and Moon, of Light and Dark, of Above and Below,

And by this Mystery is the Universe created!

So Mote it Be!

(Place it back upon the Pentacle.  Dip your finger into the cauldron)

Anoint yourself: 

 Crown Chakra – connection to the Universe and the Divine

   Throat Chakra – to speak your truth, authenticity, creativity

    Heart Chakra – For unconditional love and compassion 

(hold your hands over the Cakes & Ale, and say this blessing)

It is traditional to celebrate our gatherings with cakes and ale.  

May the fullness of life be a blessing to us all.

And may the strength of our souls be like a bright flame.

(Sip the wine/juice and consume the Cake – save a portion of each as an offering to take outside as libations.  Also save the remaining contents of the cauldron as a libation.)

            The dance is done; the songs are sung…

Our promise is kept, oh Ancient Ones.

Our thanks and blessings go with thee…

Farewell we bid you — Blessed be.

(Extinguish the central altar candle, as we bid farewell to Deity)

The rite is done. 

            Undo the Circle.

             Begin at the end and end at the beginning.

(raise Symbol of Earth)

Guardians of the North, Element of Earth,

We thank you for your presence in our circle.

Go back to your realms with our blessings in peace.

Hail and Farewell!

(replace Earth symbol, pick up the symbol for Water, go to the west point and hold it high)

Guardians of the West, Element of Water,

We thank you for your presence in our circle.

Go back to your realms with our blessings in peace.

Hail and Farewell!

(replace Water symbol, picks up the symbol for Fire, go to the south point and hold it high)

Guardians of the South, Element of Fire,

We thank you for your presence in our circle.

Go back to your realms with our blessings in peace.

Hail and Farewell!

(replace Fire symbol, picks up symbol for Air from the altar and go to the east point and hold it high)

Guardians of the East, Element of Air,

We thank you for your presence in our circle.

Go back to your realms with our blessings in peace.

Hail and Farewell!

The last symbol is replaced.

May we all share our Love and our magic

In all the Circles of Time.

This Rite ends in Joy.

Pick up the Sword/athame/wand/hand,  hold it up and rotate widdershins while saying:

The Circle is open,

But never broken.

Merry meet, merry part,

And merry meet again!

May the Gods preserve the Craft

As the Craft preserves the Gods!

Then the final grounding:

Oh Spirits whom this Circle has drawn,

We thank thee and ask that you now be gone.

Back to your realms with our blessings in peace;

As we do will, so mote it be.

With points drawn down, we make the slash:

Each to their own:

From first to last!

Excerpts from : The Charge of the Dark God, author unknown

                  The Charge of the Dark Goddess by Tiger Eye

The Ritual of Lothlorian, Circle Closing

by Rev. Paul Beyerl, Rowan Tree Church

            Final Grounding by Blacksun, ATC/Starwyrm Coven

The Feast of Hekate

A History of the Feast of Hekate

To read the entire article, refer to the original source:  https://www.otherworld-apothecary.com/blog/2015/08/the-origins-of-the-feast-of-hecate/

(Edited for length)

There’s not much in the classical literature about [Hecate] being associated with storms, beyond that Zeus ‘gave’ her power over all realms. Her dominion here instead seems to grow out of the “dark and stormy night” image that she developed during the middle ages. There is, however, widespread belief among modern worshipers that she has a feast day on August 13 to protect the crops from violent storms.

A few clues come to light when we stop looking for ancient Greek sources. In Rome, The Festival of Torches was held on August 13, called the Nemoralia. In it, woman would walk from the city of Rome carrying torches to a lake sacred to Diana where they would offer their petitions. There was a strong conflation between Artemis and Hecate in Greece, with Hecate taking on a number of Artemis’ roles. Diana and Hecate were also conflated some, but typically maintained separate spheres of influence. Still, this seems to be a likely source for fixing the ritual on that particular date.

Additionally, in 1986 a ritual performed on August 14, 1985, was published in Circle Network News which invoked Hecate Chthonia and incorporated a Hecate Supper. A web page by that author claims that a similar ritual incorporating much of the same text was performed at the MoonStone Circle of the Aquarian Tabernacle and published in Panegyria on August 13, 1988. The original date it was performed, August 14, 1985, was a dark moon, which has been a sacred time for Hecate since classical times. The other date, though, perhaps inspired by Stein’s recently published Goddess Book of Days, was a waxing gibbous.

We still suspect the modern Feast of Hecate held on August 13 comes from the Nemoralia, the festival of Diana held in the groves at Nemi. This cult has a long association with modern paganism, being the inspiration and central study in Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough which, in turn, formed a pillar of the neo-pagan movement.

The goddess Diana as she was worshiped in the groves as Nemi possessed a triple form, not unlike the triform figure of Hekate that is familiar to many modern witches. One of the three was known classically as Hecate or Proserpina, something which has troubled me. Why is a Latin Goddess being called by the name of a different Greek goddess? Is it syncretism, like the conflation of Artemis and Hecate, and Artemis and Diana. CMC Green in Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia offers this plausible explanation: “The identification of Diana with Hecate (a Greek name) has been made unnecessarily complicated. Diana the Huntress was identified with the moon, as Apollo was with the sun. As the moon grows dark once a month it is inevitable that a moon-goddess will have some part of her identity located in the underworld. Hecate is simply the Greek name for that part of her identity.” The names Hecate and Proserpina were also likely considered safe substitutes for the true name of the Underworld Moon.

There are numerous classical references to this association. One of Horace’s Odes mentions Diva Triformis, and Virgils Dido calls on “tergeminanque hecaten, tria virginis ora Dianae.” Isodore of Seville writing in the first century explains: “Concerning which Virgil writes..the three faces of the virgin Diana, because the same goddess is called Luna, Diana, and Proserpina”. This tripartate Diana persisted through the centuries, showing up in triple form in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and John Skelton’s Garland of Laurels in 1523 (“Diana in the leaves green, Luna that so bright doth sheen, Persephone in hell”). As mentioned previously, her cult instigated James Frazer’s life work The Golden Bough and influenced Robert Graves’ The White Goddess, through which the concept of the triple goddess was introduced to modern Wicca.

To return to the August festival which honored the three-fold goddess, Green’s translation of one of the poems composed by the Latin poet Statius in the 1st century CE is appropriate:

It is the season when the most scorching region of the heavens takes over the land and the keen dog-star Sirius, so often struck by Hyperion’s sun, burns the gasping fields. Now is the day when Trivia’s Arician grove, convenient for fugitive kings, grows smoky, and the lake, having guilty knowledge of Hyppolytus, glitters with the reflection of the multitude of torches; Diana herself garlands the deserving hunting dogs and polishes the arrowheads and allows the wild animals to go in safety, and at virtuous hearths all Italy celebrates the Hecatean Ides.

Finally, Green suggests that the festival lasted 3 days, starting with her descent to the underworld on the Ides (August 13th) where she would be known as Hecate, and culminating on the 15th of August when she ascended as the Queen of Heaven, the full moon. Incidentally the 15th is celebrated as the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, Queen of Heaven, in the Christian church, who may have adopted this (non-infernal) part of the festival.

Today, the August 13th Feast of Hecate has grown immensely in popularity among modern pagans, and includes many individual observances as well as larger public rites such as Hecate’s Feast hosted by the Temple of Witchcraft. We conclude that the Hecate honored at these rites isn’t necessarily the Greek goddess of boundaries or Lady of Storms, but they are an indirect continuation of rites to the dread face of Diva Triformis as goddess of night, the queen of the dark moon roaming the underworld. From the classical torch-lit rites within the grove at Nemi to modern observances by pagans and witches, August 13th brings together all those who form the conclave of the goddess of night. May she bless you all.

changing times

July 25, 2020

As we learn to navigate these unprecedented times, our spirits can sometimes be put to the ultimate test of fortitude and resilience. Essential workers have had to push themselves to the limits of endurance and beyond. Many of us have been isolated from loved ones, and feeling disconnected from our communities.

Sacred Well has had its own challenges with this, but we are determined to do our very best to find ways to keep our connections alive and vital. We have not had a large online presence. We hope to grow and learn, and be able to expand our reach to include those near and far who wish to join us in community.

SO – with that we are planning our very first online ritual for Lughnasadh, using Zoom as our platform. We will send out copies of the ritual to those who wish to join us, or for those who cannot, we can still provide you with a copy so that you may adapt it as a solitary ritual.

For more information on the ritual, to request a copy, or other questions please email us at revkb@sacredwellministries.org

And as always, we welcome your input. What kinds of things do you want to see on our web page? Is there a ritual that you would be interested in exploring? This is your community, and we need as much participation as possible for it to grow and thrive and flourish. We may not be able to host live events for quite some time but we can still find ways to come together. Sending you blessings, of health, abundance, hope, and love!

Sacred Well Ministries