meaning

Beltane Correspondences

April, 2019

Also known as: May Day, Bealtaine, Beltane, Bhealtainn, Bealtinne, Festival of Tana (Strega), Giamonios, Rudemass, and Walburga (Teutonic), Cetsamhain (opposite Samhain),Fairy Day,Sacred Thorn Day, Rood Day, Roodmas (the Christian term for Rood Day, Old Beltane, Beltain, Baltane, Walpurgis Night, Floriala (Roman feast of flowers from April 29 to May 1), Walpurgisnacht (Germanic-feast of St. Walpurga), Thrimilce (Anglo-saxon), Bloumaand (Old Dutch)

Date: May 1

Animals: Swallow, dove, swan, Cats, lynx, leopard

Deities: Flower Goddesses, Divine Couples, Deities of the Hunt, Aphrodite,artemis, Bast, Diana, Faunus, Flora, Maia, Pan, the Horned God, Venus, and all Gods and Goddesses who preside over fertility.

Tools: broom, May Pole, cauldron

Stones/Gems: emerald, malachite, amber, orange carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz

Colors: green, soft pink, blue, yellow, red, brown

Flowers & herbs: almond tree/shrub, ash, broom, cinquefoil, clover, Dittany of Crete, elder, foxglove, frankincense, honeysuckle, rowan, sorrel, hawthorn, ivy, lily of the valley, marigold, meadowsweet, mint, mugwort, thyme, woodruff may be burned; angelica, bluebells, daisy, hawthorn, ivy, lilac, primrose, and rose may be decorations, st. john’s wort, yarrow, basically all flowers.

Incense: frankincense, lilac, rose

Symbols & decorations: maypole, strings of beads or flowers, ribbons, spring flowers, fires, fertility, growing things, ploughs, cauldrons of flowers, butterchurn, baskets, eggs

Food: dairy, bread, cereals, oatmeal cakes, cherries, strawberries, wine, green salads

Activities & rituals: fertilize, nurture and boost existing goals, games, activities of pleasure, leaping bonfires, making garlands, May Pole dance, planting seeds, walking one’s property, feasting

Wiccan mythology: sexual union and/or marriage of the Goddess and God

It’s association with fire also makes Beltaine a holiday of purification.

Wiccan weddings are frequently held on or around Beltaine.

Notes from the Apothecary

August, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Marigold

 

 

The marigold is a complicated puzzle to unfurl. True marigolds, tagetes, originated in North America and found their way back to Europe via Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Yet the plant we most often call marigold is actually calendula, which travelled the complete opposite way, arriving in America from the Mediterranean hundreds of years ago. The two types of plants are not botanically related, so calendula lovers, I’m sorry, but keep your eyes peeled next month. This month it’s the true marigold’s chance to shine.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Marigolds are striking and beautiful, with yellow and orange petals that come in a fascinating array of shapes. They bring a ray of sunshine to any kitchen plot, and help ward off many unwelcome visitors, including mosquitoes. They are particularly effective at ridding the soil of nematodes. They also do well in very dry conditions, particularly African marigolds, so are easy to care for.

The petals of marigolds are normally edible (as always, double check with an expert before you eat any wild flower) but they don’t all taste the same. Some are quite pungent, whereas others are citrusy and light. They make a wonderful, colourful addition to salads and cocktails, or as a garnish for just about anything you can think of.

 

The Apothecary

On the Modern site, Rita Jacinto has written a fascinating article about the marigold, including some interesting tidbits on their medical uses. She states that the marigold is an herb and that it contains lutein, which I know as a chemical which can help reduce eye damage, particularly that associated with aging. She also tells us that in India, marigold leaves are used for wounds, abrasions and even conjunctivitis. As always, consult a doctor before changing any medication.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cunningham, in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, told us that a garland of marigolds over the door would prevent evil from entering the home. However, he also named ‘Marigold’ as calendula officinalis, so he wasn’t talking about our true marigolds, the tagetes. Finding lore about the true marigold can be tricky, as many writers confuse the two plants, but they are so different botanically that it’s really worth trying to ensure you have the right plant for the job at hand.

Marigolds were used by the Aztecs to decorate temples and other sacred spots, and they are still used to this day to decorate graves in Mexico, and during Day of the Dead festivities. Just like the bright orange monarch butterflies are said to represent the souls of the dead visiting us for a brief time, maybe the bright orange, yellow and red of the marigold petals represents reaching through the veil, into the beyond, to talk with our dearly departed. They represent pain, loss, and trauma, but also dealing with these things positively, facing your painful emotions and not hiding from them or repressing them. They remind us to never forget, and that the past, history, or those we love will never die while we remember.

The marigold is associated with the month of October, probably because it has such a long flowering season and can often still be found in full bloom even as the autumn evening start to draw in. If you manage to collect some flowers before Samhain, try hanging them to dry, and you’ll have delightful yellow and orange flowers to complement your sacred space over Samhain.

Marigolds also represent love, fierce loyalty and the contentment you feel when you are with someone you truly feel comfortable with. Meditate on the marigold to understand where your true feelings lie about someone, or a group of friends.

The Latin name tagetes comes from Tages, the Etruscan prophet who taught divination. So it makes sense that the marigold is associated with magic to induce visions, see the future, prophetic dreams and psychic abilities.

Marigolds are sometimes used in Hindu ritual and religious decoration, so if you are influenced by Hinduism marigolds may hold great significance for you.

 

Home and Hearth

If you’re a fan of home dyeing, marigold petals are known to give a gorgeous, yellow colour. This can also be used to colour foods such as desserts or cheeses, so they are really handy for the keen homesteader. Chickens who eat marigolds will have a richer colour to their egg yolks.

During Lughnasadh, or Lammas, use marigold blooms to represent the sun on your altar or sacred space. They represent the south, fire, and the endurance of the sun through the colder days that are coming after the harvest is done.

 

I Never Knew…

In parts of India, marigold flowers are given as offerings to the God Vishnu.

 

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

 

 

Notes from the Apothecary

July, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Sunflower

 

Despite being used by many Pagans as a symbol of the Summer Solstice, the bright and bold sunflower actually flowers a little later, in the deep heart of summer, during July and August. When the lazy, hot days take over, before the light starts to wane, these great, golden faces nod towards their namesake, spreading sunshine wherever they grow.

Sunflowers range from small, cheeky bright yellow flowers to towering golden giants, yellow and black, resembling great, mutant bumblebees on stalks. There are darks ones, pale ones and even some that seem almost black or purple.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Sunflowers are pretty easy to grow, and the seeds are often given to kids to encourage them to enjoy gardening. Competitions to see who can grow the tallest sunflower are common, and watching the plants soar skywards in the warmer months is a prize in itself.

Although they are named for their resemblance to the sun, sunflowers do actually need a sunny spot to achieve their full potential, along with some well drained soil and good compost. Many sunflowers can be grown for their seeds, which are nutritious and tasty when toasted. The seeds are cultivated commercially for their oil, which is used for so many culinary purposes it would take the whole article to list them here! Sunflower oil is a healthier alternative to many fats, even some types of olive oil. It’s fairly neutral in flavour, which makes it widely popular as it can be used in a diverse range of cuisines. Across Eastern Europe, a crumbly version of the sweet halva is made from a sort of sunflower butter.

 

The Apothecary

Mrs Grieve tells us that the seeds of the sunflower have diuretic properties, meaning they help us pass water more frequently, which can be useful to flush out our kidneys if combined with drinking lots of water. It’s important to remember that when using any diuretic, some important minerals and vitamins can be lost, particularly potassium. Dandelion is a great way to remedy this.

The seeds have also been used as an expectorant, and this application helps with bronchial, larynx and pulmonary issues including whooping cough. Grieve recommends making a medicine with 6oz sugar and 6oz gin! After that much gin, I’m fairly certain that whatever the ailment, you will begin to feel somewhat better… or simply not care that you feel ill!

In other cultures, sunflowers were used to help with snakebites.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Klytie, the Okeanid nymph of Greek mythology, fell in love with either Helios or Apollo (Sol, the Sun), but was forsaken for her sister, Leukothoe. After watching the sun and pining for a time, she was transformed into a flower that followed the sun. Originally, this was the heliotrope, but in modern retellings, due to folklore that states that the sunflower follows the sun throughout the sky, Klytie has become the nymph who transformed into the sunflower. This makes the sunflower a little tragic, a symbol of unrequited love, and a reminder to let go of that which does not serve us.

Sunflower oil is one of the few foods that was historically permitted throughout lent, symbolising fasting, spiritual cleansing and self-discipline.

In a very literal sense, the sunflower represents the sun, and therefore fire, south, passion, love and creativity. Use the petals or whole flowers to decorate the southern aspect of your altar or sacred space. They make a useful offering or decoration at Lughnasadh or Lammas (1st August or thereabouts, depending on your tradition), as not only do they represent the sun at its height, but the harvest, food, wealth and well-being.

Cunningham tells us that sunflower seeds have been used by women who wish to conceive, and also as a protection charm against smallpox. Considering smallpox was eradicated many years ago, this use could be expanded to a general health charm, or a general protection charm, perhaps when combined with other magical elements. Cunningham also states that cutting a sunflower at sunset while making a wish, will cause the wish to come true before the next sunset, if the wish is not ‘too grand’. This is a touch vague, but reminds us to be down to earth, realistic, and that sometimes we need to make our own wishes come true!

 

Home and Hearth

If you wish to know the truth of a situation, meditate upon the image of a sunflower, or on an actual plant, either outside or in a pot in your house or sacred space. The sunflower represents an open face, total honesty; revealing all aspects of a situation. If you are able to, cut one of the flowers (with permission, never steal flowers and never cut wild-flowers) and when you go to bed that night, place the flower under your bed, all the while focusing on the situation you wish to know the truth of. Make sure that before you go to bed that night, you put a note pad and pen on your bedside table. You should dream of the situation, and the dream should tell you the truth of the situation. As soon as you awake, write down as many details of the dream as you can remember. If you do it immediately, you will remember more detail, so don’t delay!

Use the details in the dream to establish the truth of your situation. If it makes no sense even after this, it means the truth has been hidden for a reason, and you need to let it go.

 

I Never Knew…

Sunflowers have been used for thousands of years to make dyes for fabrics, in colours ranging from the expected orange and yellow, to brilliant blue!

 

Image credits: Sunflower (Helianthus L.) by Pudelek via Wikimedia Commons; Blütenstand (tellerförmiger Korb) einer Sonnenblume (Helianthus annuus) in Balve-Eisborn by Asio otus via Wikimedia Commons; Photograph showing a field of sun flowers and a sun spot by Thomas Quaritsch via Wikimedia Commons.

 

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from the Apothecary

June, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: The Poppy

With colors ranging from a delicate, golden yellow to brash, bold scarlet, the poppy is a self-contained paradox. Powerful, yet delicate and short lived, this evocative flower has been associated with sleep, death and rebirth for many centuries. This connection comes from the fact that opium, a powerful drug used for inducing sleep and trance like states, is derived from the seed pods of one particular kind of poppy, papaver somniferum. It is possible that humans have been cultivating this poppy since 6000 BC.

Red poppies are also a symbol of remembrance, ever since the trench warfare that took place in World War One in the poppy fields of Flanders. They are used to remember those who fell in defense of other; soldiers and warriors, ancestors who died in battle and those who were affected by the horrors of war. In the UK especially, some people feel like the red poppy glorifies war, but they still wish to honor those who died, in which case they wear a white poppy. This signifies that they do not agree with war on principle, but that they respect and remember the sacrifice made by those who had no choice but to fight.

The Kitchen Garden

Poppies are classed as an herbaceous plant, and are grown mainly for their flowers and seeds. Many of the flowers are highly elaborate, having double or semi-double layers of petals. The red, multi-layered poppies always remind me of Spanish flamenco skirts.

As well as being a beautiful addition to any garden, poppies are very practical. The seeds are delicious, and are often used as decoration and flavor for breads, cakes, buns and muffins. As well as tasting great, like most seeds, they are a great source of protein. They are also high in calcium, so ideal for a dairy free diet.

The oil can be extracted from poppy seeds and used as a cooking oil, or for salad dressings and in baking.

The Apothecary

It should come as no surprise to learn that poppy seeds have been used throughout history as a painkiller, considering they contain the raw ingredients of morphine. They also contain tiny amounts of codeine. The Ancient Egyptians are known to have employed poppy seeds for this purpose, but they must have used them while very fresh as the opiate contents tends to fade quickly upon harvesting.

The Witch’s

The red poppy is a sacred symbol of Demeter, and as such is perfect for decorating any altar you may have to this Greek goddess of agriculture and law. The Minoans also evidently had a poppy goddess, as shown in the clay statuette found at Gazi. This ancient goddess with arms reaching to the sky has her headdress decorated with poppy seed capsules, showing that the cult that revered this goddess placed special, religious significance on the poppy. This may have been due to its narcotic properties, or the simple significance of the cycles of life, death and rebirth. Either way, it’s clear that poppies are a powerful symbol of at least two ancient cults. Using the poppy today can help us connect to these ancient goddesses.

Also within the Greek pantheon, we have Hypnos and Thanatos, the gods of sleep and death, respectively. These twin gods were both depicted with crowns of poppies, once again reinforcing the association between poppies and sleep and death. Death is a kind of sleep that never ends, and being asleep is so close to death in many ways. The poppy reminds us that just because something looks like one thing, it may actually be something completely different. We should examine and reexamine, and be sure of what we are seeing before jumping to conclusions. It reminds us to be less judgmental, more open-minded, and to appreciate the benefits of sleep and dreams.

Dreams are a doorway into our subconscious. And, while our subconscious kicks out some weird stuff most of the time, it can also send us important messages, including messages from our gods and ancestors.

Home and Hearth

Try keeping a dream journal. This can be a hard habit to get into, as you have to remember to write your dreams down the moment you awake from them. If not, you tend to lose details and the whole dream may even fade within a few minutes.

Before sleeping, meditate on an image of a poppy. A red poppy is the one most associated with sleep and dreams, but if a different color has more meaning for you, that’s fine too. Breathe, relax and imagine each petal of the poppy as a layer of your subconscious. Imagine you will be allowed to explore each layer, just as you can clearly see each beautiful petal of the poppy. Immerse yourself in the sense that your subconscious will open for you, blooming like a great flower, with answers and insight.

Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed. That way, even if you wake up at 3am, you can scribble down the contents of your dreams. Don’t worry if you can’t always remember them. The human mind is complex and temperamental! Write what you can and use it to look for patterns, imagery and symbolism.

I Never Knew…

The pain-killing drug morphine, derived from poppy opium, takes its name from Morpheus, the Ancient Greek god of dreams and sleep.

*Image credit: Welsh Poppies in Post Hill Woods, copyright Mabh Savage 2018; the Poppy Goddess at Heraklion Archaeological Museum via Wikipedia; poppies on Lake Geneva via Wikipedia.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

 

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

 

Book Review: Confessions of a Bone Woman – Realizing Authentic Wildness in a Civilized World By Lucinda Bakken White

May, 2018

Book Review

Confessions of a Bone Woman – Realizing Authentic Wildness in a Civilized World By Lucinda Bakken White

This is a “coming of age” tale, the story of one woman’s rediscovery of freedom, joy and ultimately, herself. Lucinda Bakken White excavates her soul from underneath a lifetime of meeting expectations and fulfilling the demands of parents, peers, career, marriage and children and life as a “powerful socialite.” How does she do that? By excavating the bones and feathers of “roadkill” and creating art from them. She finds her life in the death and resurrection of the wilderness animals she roamed among as child.

Bakken White tells her tale of innocence lost and reborn using animal archetypes to describe herself at different points in her life. She moves from being a wolf, secure with her place in the pack, to a wolf among lions, changing her “skin” to meet the expectations of society and family. Her description of how she gave herself up, piece by piece and bone and bone, is worth reading. From the perspectives of both parent and child, it is an accurate description of how we are trained to conform, to be other than who we are and to take off the “skins” of our true natures to wear designer clothes. We become disconnected from the rhythms and cycles of the natural world and we fall out of balance with ourselves.

(Bone Altar)

Bakken White hears the call back to herself in dreams of Wolf and feels the pull to work with bones when she finds a buffalo skull that appears to her as a portal to other realms. She becomes “ravenous for bone” and finds that animals, dead and alive, communicate with her like her dreams do. Encounters with animals become an invitation to communicate with forces greater than herself and force her to stay aware and connected, pulling her back to herself and out of her superficial preoccupations. She finds herself working with carcasses of animals, preserving them, honoring the lives of the spirits that had once inhabited them and ultimately making sacred their presence here on Earth. Bakken White writes about digging into decaying carcasses with her fingers to get through what is dead to the bones, the structure of a life; she realizes that by digging through decay and going inside, with persistence and without horror, she can pull out and restore that which gives her life meaning.

Now as a woman coming of age and fully inhabiting her Elderhood, Bakken White works with other women to examine the masks they wear. She writes that in “looking back, I realized that bone by bone the animals I found were a metaphor for my personal process of discovering, unmasking and reconnecting the scattered parts of my true self.” But rather ending the book by identifying with the archetype of La Loba, the wolf woman who sings over the bones, Bakken White’s last chapter is called “Skunk.” Skunk is confident with herself and owns respect!!

Click Image for Amazon Information

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About the Author:

Susan Rossi is a Practitioner and Teacher of Shamanism. She is a long-time explorer of The Mysteries – the connections between mind, body, spirit and how to live in right relationship to all of the energies streaming through the cosmos. She works with clients as an astrologer, coach, ceremonialist and guide to the wisdom that each of us has the capacity to access. Her focus is on guiding clients to unblock and rediscover their inner wisdom. , exploration of the birth chart, ceremony, legacy writing, hypnotherapy, energetic healing practice and creation of sacred tools are integral pieces of her practice.

Susan trained in Soul Level Astrology with master astrologer Mark Borax. She delights in exploring with individuals the planetary pattern under which their soul choose to incarnate.

Flying to the Heart www.flyingtotheheart.com

Finding Your Own Way

May, 2018

Chapter 2 in Our New Series

(Featuring the inspirational art of Bill Oliver)

First steps…

What is most urgently needed, in these hectic days is peace and calm. Meditation is not the difficult task that it is often made out to be, – so, for this first exercise, we will use the relaxation technique as a stepping off point. Tense and relax a few times then read the poem and spend some time in looking at the image, before beginning the relaxation technique. After you have totally relaxed, simply allow yourself to remember the images and the moods associated with them. Let them flow through your mind without any judgment or analysis. Do not worry if you fall asleep and miss this step. You will have begun the work as you rested and healed. You can always return to this section after mastering more advanced techniques.

A Meditation for Seeking Calm and Meaning in Our Lives

A Rose in Sunlight

Rays of sunlight, glancing briefly through the trees, dazzle a solitary,

pale, blue rose.

Surrounded by her sleeping sisters, fragile petals kiss the frost before the others rose.

Scattered on a deep green bush and nestled safely in their buds,

they wait for warmer days, while she has rushed ahead.

She sheds a single dew-drop tear, for beauty all too soon to fade,

Before the summer comes to pass, her pretty petals will be shed.

Weep not, sister rose,

Your beauty has not passed unseen.

For, all too soon, we both are destined to return

to where, deep in our hearts, we’ve always been.

Back to that place, for which our spirit yearns,

where hunger never bites, nor desert burns.

 

***

About the Author:

Patrick W Kavanagh, Featuring the inspirational art of Bill Oliver

Writer, poet, Patrick W Kavanagh was born in Dublin and now lives and works in Lincolnshire in a small rural town. Patrick became fascinated by the strange abilities of the human mind from watching his mother give psychic readings using tea-leaves and playing cards. With a lifelong interest in metaphysics and parapsychology, he has given tarot and spirit readings for over 40 years. He travels to many events with his wife Tina, exploring the power of shamanic drumming to heal, and induce therapeutic trance states. They also hold a regular drumming circle in the picturesque Lincolnshire Wolds.

By Patrick W Kavanagh available at most retailers:

Click Image for Amazon Information

Kiara

Distant Shores

From the Muse

What is Shamanism?

March, 2018

**An excerpt from the book: Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

 

What is Shamanism?

Shamanism is not a faith, but a wisdom tradition in which we learn purely from our own individual, collective and personal experience. It is not a religion and is dogma-free; indeed it supports any existing spiritual practice one already has. Many of us deeply desire a connection to our own ‘soulfulness’ and that of all other living beings in a free and natural way. This is the essence of Shamanism.”

– John Cantwell

“Shamanism is a path of knowledge, not of faith, and that knowledge cannot come from me or anyone else in this reality. To acquire that knowledge, including the knowledge of the reality of the spirits, it is necessary to step through the shaman’s doorway and acquire empirical evidence.”

– Michael Harner, Ph.D.

 

The etymology of the word “shaman” itself comes from the Siberian language and it was originally used to refer to a spiritual healer in the community. In each area of the world, including Europe, earth-based spiritual practices can be traced back to specific groups of people who knew how to enter into communion with nature spirits through non-ordinary reality in order to obtain information that could aid in the healing of a person or a community.

Today, shamanic practitioners do not focus on what is “broken” in a person or even necessarily how the imbalance happened in the first place. Shamanism is concerned primarily with reminding an individual of their inherent wholeness. Shamanic practitioners see that when a person experiences trauma or illness, they are not in need of fixing; rather, parts of their being splinter or shatter away from the whole causing inner and outer dissonance. Because imbalances manifest in the spiritual energetic level of being first, this is also where practitioners travel to bring back these pieces to the afflicted person.

Today, many of us have lost contact with these old ways. In the modern world, we’ve had to adapt ancient traditions to fit our hurried, busy lifestyles. Urban shamanic practitioners train in ancient shamanic technologies in order to heal themselves and to support healing in others in the community. Ancient tools are used by everyday people again with great success: drum journeys into the spiritworld, vision quests for extended time out in nature, and other spiritual ceremonies. All of these strategies help us to quiet our inner world so we can hear the voice of Spirit and our inner wise one who knows what medicine we need to heal.

This may seem strange to people who were not brought up in shamanic cultures. However, ancient peoples knew that the consensual reality we live in is not the only reality we can sense and participate within. It is not uncommon for shamanic practitioners to work with spirit guides, totem animals, and their ancestors in order to affect positive change in their own lives and in the world around them. In shamanic cultures, dreaming is not an idle activity with no useful function: it is the way people dream a new reality into being. This does not involve attempting to control anything outside the practitioner. And so just like a journeyer can enter the spiritworld for answers to problems, she can also enter the spiritworld to lend energy to a different dream than the one she is currently living. In fact, both are needed in order for healing to be effective.

As individuals on a growth and evolutionary edge, if we choose, we continue to heal until we die. Healing requires us to keep sensing the splintered parts of ourselves, working with the spiritworld to bring them into wholeness again. This is a tremendous act of power that we are capable of as human beings. Unlike other living creatures, humans can consciously learn to direct their will to literally change the pathways available to them in the future. Shamanic practitioners learn to responsibly travel the spiritual realms to affect change. This takes years of practice and mentors who know how to teach these methods with skill and care. Although there are some modern-day shamanic practitioners that are charlatans, there are many more who are earnestly passing their teachings onto sincere and responsible individuals willing to learn these ancient ways of dreaming, healing, and creating.

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, Reiki Master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

For Amazon information, click image below

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

Notes from the Apothecary

October, 2017

Notes from the Apothecary: Pumpkin

 

 

It’s that magical time of year again, where anything that can be fragranced or flavoured seems to take on the aroma of a combination of vanilla and pumpkin, with the emphasis on the sweetness of this gorgeous gourd. But why do we revere the pumpkin at this time of year? The answer comes from Irish Celtic history, and the seasonal nature of the fruit (yes, it’s a fruit!) itself.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Although the pumpkin, like other squashes, originated in North America, it can now be found all over the world. It’s classed as a ‘winter squash’ due to the fruits ripening around autumn and winter time. This is one of the main reasons it is so widely in use throughout Samhain and into the Thanksgiving and Christmas/Yule periods.

 

The fabulous thing about pumpkins is that so much of the plant is edible. You have probably eaten the flesh at some point, either in pies, soup or puddings. You may even have eaten pumpkin seeds, which are tasty roasted and salted or used in baked goods such as bread. But did you know you can even eat the flowers of pumpkins? The only downside to this is, if you eat a pumpkin flower, it cannot then be pollinated and grow into a pumpkin!

 

In Korea and some parts of Africa, even the leaves are eaten. In Zambia, they are boiled and mixed with groundnut paste.

 

Pumpkin is great in sweet or savoury food, and can be combined with other squashes easily. A touch of chilli adds a fiery zing, and other warming spices such as cinnamon transform a very earthy plant into a symbol of fire.

 

Growing pumpkins requires a good bit of space, and although you can start them off indoors, they really need moving outside onto a large pile of compost where they can spread out. We only grow our squashes on the allotment, as there simply isn’t room in the garden; not if we want to have space for anything else!

 

The Apothecary

Because the pumpkin was only discovered upon the exploration of North America, some of the older herbals don’t cover it in great depth. In Mrs Grieves’ Modern , she lumps the pumpkin in with watermelon, although she does clearly state that it is a very different plant. She says the pumpkin is sometimes known as the melon pumpkin, or ‘millions’; a term which has certainly gone out of fashion today.

 

She states that in combination with other seeds such as melon, cucumber and gourd (Grieves cites this as cucurbita maxima, a south American squash), an emulsion can be formed which is effective for catarrh, bowel problems and fever. She also tells us that melon and pumpkin seeds are good worm remedies, even for tapeworm.

 

For our furry friends, high-fibre pumpkin can be added to the diet of cats or dogs to aid digestion. It is also sometimes fed to poultry to keep up egg production during the colder months. Always speak to your vet before changing your pet’s or livestock’s diet.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

 

 

Pumpkins appear throughout folklore and fairy tales, often in themes of transformation. Think of Cinderella, whisked off to her ball in a coach which only a few minutes before was a giant pumpkin. The pumpkin is a symbol of our hearts’ desires, travelling towards our goals and the transformation of dreams into reality.

 

We mustn’t forget that the coach turned back into the pumpkin at midnight! This reminds us to enjoy what we have while we have it, to grasp the opportunities in front of us as we never know when they might disappear.

 

A piece of pumpkin or pumpkin seeds on your altar represents autumn moving into winter, the final harvest and goals of self-sufficiency; whether literally through living off the land and growing your own food, or through honing your passion into a craft that can support you.

 

I will have pumpkin seeds at north in my sacred space, to remind me of all the ‘seeds’ I have planted this year which I hope will grow into greater things even through the cold months; ideas for songs and poems, research into my ‘magical birds’ book, and plans to save money in preparation for our new baby. These are my seeds, and I need to nurture them. Just like the pumpkin, they need care, attention and feeding! Pumpkins need compost, sunshine and water, whereas my ideas need hard work, time and commitment.

 

Home and Hearth

The archetypal ‘Jack O’ Lantern’ most likely comes from the Irish and Scottish Celts, who would have carved a face into a turnip or swede, placed a light within and used this as an amulet to ward off evil spirits, or possibly as a guiding light for ancestral or guardian spirits. When colonists came to America carrying these traditions with them, they found the larger and softer pumpkin; a much better vehicle for the carved totems! And so the pumpkin became the new guiding light of Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve and eventually, Hallowe’en.

 

It’s only the seeds that you need to remove from a pumpkin in order to leave a space for the light inside, and you can keep a few of these seeds to try and cultivate your own plants next year. If you are able to do this (and I appreciate not everyone has the space to grow a pumpkin plant- they are quite large!) this will create a cyclical connection between this year’s and next year’s magic, cementing continuity and your own connection to the turning season.

 

If this simply isn’t practical, keep a few of the seeds on your altar or in a sacred space, as a reminder of the different stages of life reflected in the changing seasons.

 

If you scrape some of the flesh out as well as the seeds, keep this and cook with it at Samhain. You are making the most of your pumpkin, using as much of it as you can to avoid waste, and you are connecting your magical lantern to your Samhain feasting.

 

The lantern can be placed in a window, or on a doorstep if it is safe to do so. If you use a naked flame such as a candle or tealight, please be aware of animals and children, especially during trick-or-treating! The last thing you want is some small child setting themselves on fire or spilling hot wax on themselves. A great alternative is one of those LED candles which you can now pick up very cheaply.

 

 

 

 

The lantern guards your space, keeping away unwanted visitors, and guiding your ancestral spirits to where they need to be, including back beyond the veil once the period of Samhain has passed.

 

I Never Knew…

The word ‘pumpkin’ originates from the Greek word pepon, which means ‘large melon’, which may explain how it sometimes ends up under the melon section in older herbals!

 

Image credits: Pumpkins Hancock Shaker Village, public domain; Photograph of a homegrown pumpkin species, “Atlantic Giant”, (cucurbita maxima), copyright Ude 2009 via Wikimedia; Nathan looking at Jack O’ Lantern display in Benalmadena, copyright 2016 Mabh Savage.

 

***

 

About the Author:

 

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

 

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

 


 

Spiralled Edges

February, 2016

Why Change Matters

She changes everything she touches and
everything she touches, changes
She changes everything she touches and
everything she touches, changes
Change is, touch is; touch is, change is.
Change us, touch us; touch us, change us.
We are changers;
everything we touch can change.
We are changers;
everything we touch can change.

– Starhawk

I will freely admit, I don’t like change. I like my routines and I don’t like it when they have to be changed for any reason, at times to the detriment of my own health and well-being. In the midst of this dislike, I also know that change is an inevitable part of being alive. So why do we resist it so much? Why do we cling tight-fisted to ideas and rituals and beliefs that aren’t serving us?

Biology plays a big part here. Deep in the temporal lobe of our brain lies a small almond shaped cluster of cells called the amygdala. The full role and purpose of the amygdala is still not known, but it is believed that it is part of the limbic system where emotions and emotional responses, including fear and anxiety are generated, processed, and filed as memories in the brain.

Change can generate anxiety because it puts us into a new situation, and we don’t have a readily available emotional response for dealing with that new situation. For early humans, this would have been a protective mechanism. Routines and sameness kept them safe from harm. Those who ventured away from tribal or clan routines and rituals put themselves or clan members at risk.

Of course, we know that this anxiety around changes can be more or less pronounced in different people. It was a willingness or a desire that led those earliest groups of proto-humans to leave the African continent 1 million years ago, and continues to drive humans today as they venture into outer space. I have no desire to ever leave planet Earth, my youngest son on the other hand would love to become a xeno-anthropologist and have the opportunity to one day explore ancient civilizations on other planets. (That we have not yet actually discovered any ancient civilizations on other planets is only a minor deterrent in his dreams.)

So, if we have such a strong predilection towards sameness, why does change matter?

It matters because change is constantly going on all around us, and because sometimes sameness is not good for our well-being. All things are changing, constantly. Inside our bodies, cells are created and destroyed, rebuilding our entire selves over the course of a few years. Around us, the Earth moves through its seasons, things are born, and die. All in a never ending circle.

Yes, sameness and routine has been necessary over the centuries to keep us safe from harm, but refusal to change and refusal to adjust to changes can be just as harmful. Living things that can’t, or won’t, change will die. Ideas and beliefs and even languages that never change are dead.

Worse though, we can get caught up in a desperate attempt to pull everything back to “the way it used to be”. A prime example of this are the many religions today that are seeing dwindling congregations and finding that they are less relevant in people’s lives because they cannot let go of rules and ideas about human behaviour and social ethics that may have been true even 200 years ago, but are not held to be true by the majority of people today.

Change matters because without change we stop living. We stop growing. We stop becoming more fully complete and whole as human beings. Change matters because if we are not able to cast off old beliefs that no longer serve us, we will become stuck in an unending rut of growing unhappiness.

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

September, 2015

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

Mabon 2015

I have been so busy gardening and learning about seeds, soil, and planning next year’s planting that Mabon, or second harvest, snuck up on me this time. I just can’t believe how fast this year is going by!

Friends all shared their first harvests at Lughnasadh time. Some grew veggies, others flowers and herbs. Everybody gave thanks for the first things they harvested. My husband was so proud to bring the first tomato and the first berries of the season in to eat.

Fast forward a month and a half, and we are cleaning up some garden debris and saving seeds from things we want to plant next year. Next comes pumpkins, of course, and the radishes and peas I put in the ground for fall harvesting.

In today’s households, most produce is from the store, but some of us cannot resist planting gardens of our own. It’s not like I had anything better to do this year.

It has been ten months since I have worked outside of the home. You guessed it, I am not well enough to go back to work yet. Truthfully, NOT working has taken a major toll on my self esteem. Of course, my husband LOVES coming home to a clean house and a hot meal every day. I, on the other hand, feel like my life is on hold and my perception of who I am has suffered. Who am I if I am not doing those things that I always considered to make me who I AM? I am still myself, despite what I do, and I discovered that while what I do changes from time to time, who I am really does not.

At one time, I was a director where a lot of people relied on me to make things happen. Now, by professional definition, I am a nobody who has not earned one penny in months and is completely dependent on others. There was a time I gave rides to other people on a regular basis. Now, I can’t even drive myself anyplace at all most days.

So you see, my focus went from being on worldly things, to being… well… sick. Anybody who has struggled with a chronic illness can tell you it is counterproductive to just focus on what you CANNOT do. It became crucial to focus on what I CAN do.

And all year, I have done those things to the very best of my ability.

I have continued my normal crafting, painting, beading, and cooking, of course, but gardening and touching the earth every day is genuinely what kept me sane. (Assuming that I am sane!) I have gardened for at least an hour a day, for seven days a week since the first week of May. Sometimes, that just entails watering plants. Some days it entails crushing eggshells into soil for organic fertilizing. Some days it entails research about certain plants. We planted something new almost every week, and started planning next year’s planting. Every day it entails going outside and being with Nature.

As I age, my body is more and more affected by the seasons. I noted I could tell, based on joint stiffness, when rain was coming. After getting on hands and knees and standing up countless times to do garden work, and my blood pressure yo-yoing to the point I saw stars and psychedelic colors, my mood was always better. Not because of the blood pressure variance, but because touching the ground, tending the plants, and being outdoors in nature is naturally good for the human body.

Besides making you more aware of coming weather, gardening also plugs you in to the seasons. A lot of people, for example, just cannot understand why they start to feel sleepier in late summer and early fall. A gardener knows it is because the days are shortening and the body is getting less vitamin D from the sun. The earth’s fruits have reached their limit and are ready to harvest. The nights are getting cooler and it gets light later in the morning. Our bodies respond to all of this.

We have an illusion that we are separate from everything. We believe we are individuals who exist apart from all other individuals. We also have the illusion that other species are not as valuable as we are. Many of our creation stories even interpret gods or goddesses to be immortal human beings, and the earth and the animals were created simply for the purpose of satisfying human beings. We can kill another creature with no consequence, and we can step on other human beings to get ahead.

But if you think about it, we really are not separate at all.

Like I used to mistakenly consider myself an individual who could do everything all on my own, many modern people miss the fact that we are inter dependant on one another, and the earth, as well as members of the other species. Notice I said INTER dependant. Not CO dependant.

Even if you work, live alone, and pay all of your own bills, somebody had to work to build that car you drive. Somebody further produced the parts it was made of. Then somebody had to ship the parts to the place where they built the car. A salesperson had to handle the sale so you could buy the car. The bank staff had to approve the loan. Even your boss has to sign your paycheck so you can have the money to pay for things.

Having transportation and all the things that go into maintaining it is just one example of the fact that people rely on one another for everything, really.

We further rely on animals. Even vegans do. Animals, aside from providing food sources, maintain populations. Predators, even domestic cats, keep critter populations in check so we are not overrun with them. Their bodies further decompose into the earth when they die, fertilizing it so our soil can support plant life. Plant life is both food, and a way to clean carbon dioxide out of the air so we can breathe.

In this way, from death comes all life.

Being part of nurturing plants entails prepping soil, planting seeds, caring for baby plants, harvest, and then saving their seeds for future planting. It creates understanding of how life cycles and our role in that.

All this year, that has been my “job” instead of earning money. I always had plants, but never like this year. This year’s gardening has changed my perception of the cycle of life and my role in it drastically. It helped me realize that I am more than just somebody who earns money to pay bills. I realize we all are.

This Mabon will be the first one I have fully participated in an entire cycle of life of plants. So this harvest will hold different meaning than if I just bought plants and tossed them after a few months.

Mabon itself was first named by Aiden Kelly in 1970. He was referring to Mabon ap Modron from Welsh myths. He is associated with Irish god Oengus, ruler of Tir na Nog, land of eternal youth.

Mabon is the Autumn Equinox. Day and night will be equal, and afterwards, the nights will lengthen. I always think of Mabon as the right time for Thanksgiving. In the US, we celebrate that in November instead.

Mabon is really the time people are finishing up harvesting and storing the last of the crops and fruits before it gets cold. And of course, since foods are ripe and ready, it is the perfect time to feast and give thanks.

Throughout history, many people have celebrated harvest.

In Ireland, equinoxes were tracked and possibly celebrated at Loughcrew. Light strikes a burial cairn on both Spring and Autumn equinoxes there. The burial site dates back to 3500 BCE to 3300 BCE. Little is known about exactly what celebrations entailed back in

Pre- Christian days. The burial site was also used to keep track of seasons for agriculture. In a way, the dead were reminding their descendants of what to plant and harvest when!

In England, Stonehenge is one place where the Autumn Equinox sunrise is still observed, the sun rising above the stones. Farmers would begin slaughtering animals and prepping meat for winter use as well as finishing up the harvesting of crops at Autumn equinox.

In the British Isles, at sites like Loughcrew and Stonehenge, more than just burials were held. Some of those places had multiple structures for multiple purposes. Like the Hill of Tara, these ancient complexes seemed to be the sacred centers of all rites of passage, religious celebrations, and in some cases, lawmaking, matchmaking, and even places for royal or chieftain residence.

In Japan, Autumn Equinox is a time for visits from the ancestors. Visits to families graves and tombs as well as making offerings of foods and incense are given.

Greek myths say the goddess Persephone returns to the underworld at Autumn. When she leaves, wintertime starts to come in, when she returns in Spring, the warm days and growing season begins again.

The god Kelly chose to name the Sabbat after is related to the god Maponos who comes from Gaul and Britain. He is compared with Apollo, of course, since Romans compared other gods with their own. In Britain, he is the son of the Dagda, father of the gods. In Wales, he is the son of Modron, a matron goddess.

In modern Wicca, the god dies, a willing sacrifice into the earth. He will be reborn to the goddess come Springtime.

Christianization brought Michaelmas, which is still celebrated. It is the feast of the Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. Those who use the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram will recognize those names right away as being those of archangels!

Michaelmas at some churches specifically honors the archangel Michael, who is credited with defeating the devil.

It was also a time when harvest was over, and workers would need new jobs. Hiring went on and accounts were settled during this time.

Christianization bumped Lughnasadh sporting festivities to Mabon time instead.

All was kept alive by the Christian church. Timeframe was rearranged and patrons were changed, but once again, the Christians kept the Pagan ways alive and well.

The founder of modern Wicca, Gerald Gardner, gives a ritual in the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which can be read for free on the Internet at sacred-texts.com. The altar is of course, decorated with seasonal offerings, and the Priest says, “ Farewell, O Sun, ever returning light. The hidden god, who ever yet remains. He departs to the land of youth, through the gates of death, to dwell enthroned, the judge of gods and men.“ More beautiful things are said, and a procession around the altar is lead. Dances and games are called for as well.

Personally, I always have a feast when I am hosting with a very short ritual and blessing of the foods. By then, the exhaustion of festival season has set in, and people will soon begin Samhain planning, which for a lot of us, is a very big deal. This “in between” harvest, as some call it, is more enjoyable for some of us if it is kept simple and low fuss.

Here is a simple, suggested working for you and your loved ones.

Simple Mabon by Saoirse

Invite everybody over for the Sabbat and tell them you will potluck it.

Have everybody bring with them a symbol of their own personal harvest. It can be things like garden plants, or evidence of accomplishments, or even a few extra dollars to donate to some cause. For many of us, the fruits of our labor are what we earn at jobs, and that is as good a harvest as any.

Have everybody also bring something to give as tribute for thanks. This is an easy opportunity to raise donations for some cause. It can be as simple as asking people to bring non perishable goods for a local food pantry, or as fancy as doing a raffle, or even arranging to do some volunteer work together.

My favorite harvest altars are not covered with ritual items, or decorations. They are loaded down with the fellowship gathering’s food. Have everybody put the fruits of their harvest on the table amongst the food, and the tribute on or around the table as well, if it is physical tribute gifts.

To cast circle, join hands circled around the table, and take a moment of silence for everybody to focus.

Then have everybody take turns, clockwise, starting at the East, saying a short prayer or blessing directed into the food, their harvest items, and the donations. The best part of this is that shy people who are not comfortable speaking in front of others can say their blessings silently while they direct the energy and well wishes into everything.

This ritual form, as opposed to traditional Priestess and Priest and attendees puts everybody in the same role. Symbolic of community, it reminds, we all bring something to the group. Each person blesses every other attendees harvest, the food everybody will eat, and also the tribute. Together.

When each person has done their blessing, let the fellowship begin. Eat, drink, and be merry!

Blessed Mabon. Blessed Be.

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