season

Yule Correspondences

December, 2018

(Primitive Witch Hat Tree Topper, “Winter”, by Loren Morris of PrimWitchery on Etsy.)

 

Lesser Sabbat – Winter Solstice, circa Dec 21

Other Names:
Jul (“wheel”, Old Norse), Saturnalia(Rome ~December 17 & 18), Yuletide(Teutonic), Midwinter, Fionn’s Day, Alban huan, Christmas (Christian~December 25), Xmas, Festival of Sol, Solar/Secular/Pagan New Year

Animals/Mythical beings:
yule goat (nordic), reindeer stag, squirrels, yule cat, Sacred White Buffalo, Kallikantzaroi-ugly chaos monsters(greek), trolls, phoenix, yule elf, jule gnome, squirrels, wren/robin

Gemstones:
cat’s eye, ruby, diamond, garnet, bloodstone

Incense/Oils:
bayberry, cedar, ginger, cinnamon, pine, rosemary, frankincense, myrrh, nutmeg, wintergreen, saffron

Colors:
gold, silver, red, green, white

Tools,Symbols, & Decorations:
bayberry candles, evergreens, holly, mistletoe, poinsettia,mistletoe, lights, gifts, Yule log, Yule tree. spinning wheels, wreaths, bells, mother & child images

Goddesses:
Great Mother, Befana (strega), Holda (teutonic), Isis(egyptian), Triple Goddess, Mary(christian), Tonazin(mexican), Lucina(roman), St. Lucy (swedish),Bona Dea (roman), Mother Earth, Eve(Hebrew), Ops(roman Holy Mother), the Snow Queen, Hertha (German), Frey (Norse)

Gods:
Sun Child, Saturn(rome), Cronos (Greek), Horus/Ra(egyptian), Jesus(christian-gnostic), Mithras(persian), Balder(Norse), Santa Claus/Odin(teutonic), Holly King, Sol Invicta, Janus(God of Beginnings), Marduk (Babylonian)Old Man Winter

Essence:
honor, rebirth, transformation, light out of darkness, creative inspiration, the mysteries, new life, regeneration, inner renewal, reflection/introspection

Dynamics/Meaning:
death of the Holly (winter) King; reign of the Oak (summer) King), begin the ordeal of the Green Man, death & rebirth of the Sun God; night of greatest lunar imbalance; sun’s rebirth; shortest day of year

Purpose:
honor the Triple Goddess, welcome the Sun Child

Rituals/Magicks:
personal renewal, world peace, honoring family & friends, Festival of light, meditation

Customs:
lights, gift-exchanging, singing, feasting, resolutions, new fires kindled, strengthening family & friend bonds, generosity, yule log, hanging mistletoe, apple wassailing, burning candles, Yule tree decorating; kissing under mistletoe; needfire at dawn vigil; bell ringing/sleigh-bells; father yule

Foods:
nuts, apple, pear, caraway cakes soaked with cider, pork, orange, hibiscus or ginger tea, roasted turkey, nuts, fruitcake, dried fruit, cookies, eggnog, mulled wine

Herbs:
blessed thistle, evergreen, moss, oak, sage, bay, bayberry, cedar, pine, frankincense, ginger, holly, ivy, juniper, mistletoe, myrrh, pinecones, rosemary, chamomile, cinnamon, valerian, yarrow

Element:
earth

Threshold:
dawn

Celebrating the Old Ways In New Times

November, 2018

Celebrating the Old Ways In New Times November 2018

Bright Blessings,

It’s close to the end of the fall season here in Central Ohio, and I have just a tiny bit more garden cleanup to do. I planted the mums and spring bulbs I wanted to, and will probably leave the wood asters to overwinter under our elm tree instead of cutting them back.

The days are shorter already, and we are about to Fall Back, which means it will get dark earlier very soon. It’s already as low as 29 degrees in the night and early mornings before the sun rises, and my arthritis is already ticked off by the cold. Before I know it, it will be snowing, and I‘ll be praying I don’t slip and fall on my round backside while I am walking the dog on the ice. Falling used to be hilarious when I was younger, but now, it hurts, and I know as I get older, it will hurt even more.

My husband is turning 55 this week, and he’s on the last phase of his preventative medical screening he has to do every few years from now on. It’s upsetting him to have to think of everything that could go wrong. We began discussing retirement as well. We will probably do the stereotypical thing and move to Florida instead of staying here in the cold Ohio winters in ten or fifteen years.

My face and body have started to change. I don’t recognize myself anymore when I look in the mirror, and I think I see new wrinkles every week. I do have some gray hair, but it’s all organized into an attractive witch’s lock, so I can’t complain. My husband has a full head of luxuriant silver hair, and I am wondering if he will keep all of it, like his Uncle John, or go bald like some men do. We don’t have the amount of energy we used to years ago. We sleep more, party less, watch what we eat and drink, and don’t go around sick people unless we have to. All of this just means that we are getting older, and truthfully, I don’t like it one bit.

It’s not as glamorous as it is in fantasy paintings of crones and dark grandmotherly goddesses. We are wiser, alright, but our backs, feet, and bodies in general are declining with middle age, and we are well aware that if we get old, well, we will get old!

Having worked in nursing homes, I know what that means. It means like a machine, our bodies will break down, and that isn’t fun. It means a lot of good things too, like finally ending the chase of youth for “Who am I, and where do I belong in this World.” At our age, we have nothing left to prove. I have found peace with myself, and I just don’t care anymore about things that used to drive me absolutely bonkers when I was younger.

In other words, when you get older, a real perk is you might have more worries, but you know what isn’t worth worrying about anymore. You know what things and people are not worth your time. You have learned how to say “No”, and not feel guilty. You know how to tell people off when needs be, and when to keep your mouth shut when it isn’t worth it to stir the pot. Middle age brings a dignity the unbridled strength and desperation to attain every desire of youth does not allow.

Our middle-aged bodies are like the garden in Fall, and moving towards the Winter of our lives means we have to accept we won’t live forever, and already, we have lost some loved ones to death. Countless friends and relatives’ lives are drastically changed by age, having children and grandchildren, and all of the things that happen over the years of having life. We weather these changes together, thankfully, and the sorrows and joys of the years we experience together serve only to make our spiritual harvests all the more glorious.

The reality that we will eventually be parted from everybody we know and love by death is not made any easier by the fact that as Pagans, we believe death is a new beginning. We don’t believe in the finality of a heaven/hell, and we believe we will all someday be reunited either in a new life on this plane, or a special place everybody goes where their beloved ancestors await them. We still grieve the loss of our loved ones, and we still fear the pain of illness or injury that triggers death. We may believe we will go someplace good, but the human animal is wired to fight to survive no matter what, and that instinct cannot be soothed away by religious beliefs.

It’s terrifying to think of losing somebody we love to death. It’s scary to think of our own death, and by the time we are middle-aged, we will have either had some pretty bad health scare of our own, or we will have lost somebody we love to death.

Pagans and Death

As Pagans, we often believe in reincarnation, and some of us believe we find our loved ones in future lives also. We speak to our dead, and don’t find it weird, unnatural, or scary to do so. It’s part of our religion, and considered very natural to speak to our ancestors, and any other spirits we encounter. We build ancestor alters, give the dead gifts, and some of us even feel bad for people who don’t include these practices in their own lives.

Many Samhain observances include gifts for the dead as well as memorial ceremonies, and rituals to honor those who have crossed the veil before us.

Mom

I was raised by a woman who sold cemetery property and directed funerals. I used to play outside the cemeteries when I was a kid, and at one cemetery, the groundskeeper was an older gentleman named William. He and I used to go for walks together at the cemetery when I was little. I went into people’s homes with Mom when she did plot and marker sales, and I colored lots of pictures, played with lots of dolls, and spent a lot of time in the cemetery offices, being quiet as a child while Mom was working.

I never once found it scary, creepy, or anything other than normal.

Imagine my surprise to find out how many people think cemeteries are cursed or scary places where monsters carry the living off to gobble them up. I sometimes wonder if these same people are unable to sleep with the lights off in their own houses.

The cemetery, and funeral home offices were always a beautiful place where people come to honor their dead, and to mourn them. Cemeteries are a permanent place where people can visit the last remaining piece of their loved ones- their bodies, and they are a place of focus for communication. There is nothing scary about that at all.

My Granny decorated the graves of her relatives for many years until she couldn’t do it anymore, and one of my Aunts took over that tradition. My Granny is now buried in that cemetery with her relatives, and my Aunt visits the graves.

Their Wishes

The focus in our Pagan circles at Samhain is often on group ritual to create a meaningful experience for attendees. Mom would have said that is because the ceremonies, including funerals are NOT for the dead, but for the living. The focus on our connection to our dead is often focused on our relationships with them, the times we had together, and maintaining communication although many of us believe they would have most likely already reincarnated.

The fact that someday we, too will become an ancestor is seldom mentioned, because let’s face it- while we honor our dead, most of us just don’t want to die, and that means we don’t like to think about it.

Part of our Samhain observances seldom mention the wishes of the dead we are remembering and honoring. Sometimes, that is because it is a VERY personal thing you just don’t want to share with a group, and it’s likely to make you much more emotional than something else, but if you think about it, that is a very good way to honor our dead.

Something Different

I include some history and interesting (to nerds like me, at least) facts in my articles monthly, but this month, I am not going to do that. I also include more structured ritual most months, but I’m not going to do that this time either.

I’ll just tell you there is no right or wrong way to honor your loved ones who have crossed the veil, and his month, instead of writing out a ritual, I have a suggestion. Do something in honor of your loved one they would have wanted, or carry out a wish they had. I can’t tell you what that is. Only you know, and while the veil is thinner, communication can be easier with the dead at Samhain, but you can do your thing your loved one wanted anytime. It doesn’t have to be at Samhain time!

If you want a suggestion for a simple group working, you can each take turns, and light a candle in your loved one’s honor, and tell a story about them before your potluck. Pagans LOVE a potluck, you know! Leaving a plate for the dead can be part of the festivities as well. You can take it a step further, and bring a food to the potluck that was a favorite, or otherwise significant of your loved one who you will be honoring.

Then, outside of the gathering, do something to honor that wish they had. For me, this is something I have already done, and will someday do again.

My mom always wanted me to be Catholic for her. Not going to happen. This Wiccan is devoted, happy in her faith, and not converting to suit anybody.

But Mom also asked me to light a candle for her at a Catholic Church if I ever had a chance to. Included in this article are two pictures of me lighting a candle for her in 2015 in a Mission Church in Arizona. Someday, I will light more candles for her.

The Cycle of Life

One day we, too will cross the veil, and there will be living people who honor us, reach out to us, and miss us every day of the rest of their lives. Each of us has to decide for ourselves how we want to be remembered, and we do that by how we live our lives now. Also, how LONG we are in these bodies are partially dependent upon us, and the daily decisions we make. We can poison our bodies, whittling years off our lives, or we can take care of them, in efforts to be with our loved ones for as long as possible. Beyond living longer, when we are healthy, we feel good, and quality of life is much better.

We can’t control our genetics, and we can’t prevent every tragedy, but we can try to influence things in our favor as much as we can.

Most Pagans today believe in reincarnation in some capacity, even if it’s not belief in The Summerlands, proper. Many of us believe, that after we cross the veil, we continue to communicate with our loved ones we left behind. For some people, the moments our loved one reaches out after they have died is beyond comforting, and sometimes, it is the difference beyond accepting our loved one will always be with us in some capacity, and being unable to accept their death at all.

Each of us who now reach beyond the veil to continue sharing with our loved ones will be an ancestor someday as well. We will remain in one another’s lives, and some of us will reincarnate together!

Have a Blessed Samhain no matter how you celebrate. May your loved ones smile upon you, stay near you, and may you reach old age happily, and with a lot of good experiences.

Blessed Samhain,

Blessed Be!

***

About the Author:

Saoirse is a recovered Catholic.  I was called to the Old Ways at age 11, but I thought I was just fascinated with folklore. At age 19, I was called again, but I thought I was just a history buff, and could not explain the soul yearnings I got when I saw images of the Standing Stones in the Motherland. At age 29, I crossed over into New Age studies, and finally Wicca a couple years later. My name is Saoirse, pronounced like (Sare) and (Shah) Gaelic for freedom. The gods I serve are Odin and Nerthus. I speak with Freyja , Norder, and Thunor as well. The Bawon has been with me since I was a small child, and Rangda has been with me since the days I was still Catholic. I received my 0 and 1 Degree in an Eclectic Wiccan tradition, and my Elder is Lord Shadow. We practice in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently focusing more on my personal growth, and working towards a Second and Third Degree with Shadow. I received a writing degree from Otterbein University back in 2000. I have written arts columns for the s Council in Westerville. I give private tarot readings and can be reached through my Facebook page Tarot with Saoirse. You can, also, join me on my Youtube Channel.

The Sober Pagan

November, 2018

“H.A.L.T.”! Before You Continue Into The Holiday Season!

One of the discussions lately in the rooms of AA – at least here locally – is how to get through the holiday season without relapsing. As someone who has been around recovery for a while, I find my best bet is to stay home and enjoy my own company. This year, my son’s father – Mr. AA himself – is spending the Yuletide season with us, so it’ll be lots of recovery talk and talk about Buddhism and other spiritual paths. Plus lots of good food to eat! I admit, I am looking forward to this!

When people ask me my strategies for navigating holiday parties, I generally say, “Arrive late and leave early.” But of course – you can do this as a drunk, too. I used to do it all the time. I was always on my way somewhere else from some other place and I only had a minute to spare. But the way you lived as a drunk can help you out as a sober person. You just leave out the drinking part.

Lately I’ve been using the acronym “H.A.L.T.” when I discuss dealing with the holidays. Because the holidays – what I term the time between Canadian Thanksgiving (first Monday in October) to New Year’s Eve – and depending on where you live – all the way to Super Bowl Sunday – is a giant stretch of time involving endless office parties, family get-togethers, religious rituals, community celebrations and constant reminders that we are supposed to be having a great time!

H.A.L.T. Just stop. Think. What are you doing and why are you doing it?

Sometimes it’s not even about relapsing. It’s about running ourselves ragged trying to make everything perfect – to make up for all those years when we were perfect fuck-ups.

As you probably already know, “H.A.L.T.” stands for “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired”. Whenever something is going wrong in our lives – it doesn’t even have to be a relapse – usually we are in the grip of one of those things.

I remember when I first got sober in my early thirties. Everyday, around three o’clock, I would get wicked hungry. I would have to get up from my desk and go to the break room and buy a candy bar or get a Pepsi. I started making myself an extra sandwich to get myself through the three o’clock hour. Then one day, I passed a bar with the sign “Happy Hour” in the window and it clicked. I was used to having a drink at 3:00 – I was used to drinking until the dinner hour. I wasn’t hungry – I wanted a drink. Once I understood that, my 3 p.m. munchies largely disappeared.

Anger is one of those issues where I disagree with AA in which I think that there are times that we should be angry and that anger can save our lives. That said, the thing is to use your anger wisely and of course, once you add alcohol into that equation, wisdom usually is not the outcome. Quite honestly, anything I can do sober I can fuck up beautifully when I’m drinking. So it stands to reason that if I’m angry about anything at all, taking a drink is not going to help the situation. Especially if I’m at a holiday party!

Loneliness is a killer but going out drinking seldom helps that. And if you’re with your family and feeling like you’re the outsider, having a drink probably isn’t going to help that situation. The only thing that cures loneliness is learning to love your solitude. And there’s always a meeting somewhere – AA, NA, Smart Recovery, WFS, SOS – find one and find your tribe.

The last letter is “T” and of course, that stands for “Tired”. It is so easy to give up when we are tired. So easy to take that drink that a friend is offering us at a party – so easy to justify it – just one, right? When we are tired, our brain doesn’t make good decisions. I know my brain doesn’t. I’m not sure what’s worse – being hungry or being tired. My brain doesn’t seem to be able to deal with either of them very well. So I always make sure that I am in a safe place when it’s late.

My “Happy Hour” is now spent in my own home – sipping tea and eating my home-baked cookies.

So “H.A.L.T.” – and enjoy the season!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings and Happy Holidays!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Notes from the Apothecary

October, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Mandrake

As we approach Samhain, I like to examine an herb or plant that has particular links to the season. Last year I explored the magic of the pumpkin, an obvious choice for the Halloween season. This year I wanted to dive deeper into folklore and magic, and the mandrake has been my mystical plant of choice.

Immortalised by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series as the shrieking stars of herbology, the image of the human-like root screaming actually goes back to at least the 12th century. A medieval manuscript describes how the plant ‘shines at night like a lamp’ and that iron must be used to circle the plant to prevent it escaping, although the iron should never touch the plant. Other texts note that a dog must be used to pull the root up which, let me tell you, does not end well for the dog. Surrounded by magic, mystery, myth and superstition, this plant has a rich tradition of medicinal use and is a popular tool of modern witches and magical practitioners.

The Kitchen Garden


The true mandrake, mandragora officinarum, should never be eaten. It is hallucinogenic and narcotic, and can cause unconsciousness and even death. Sometimes people use bryonia alba, the false mandrake, as a substitute for mandragora. This plant is also highly poisonous. Another substitute is American Mandrake, which is poisonous in parts. Basically, if you come across anything purporting to be mandrake, don’t eat it!

The plants are beautiful, with springtime flowers of blue and white, and summer fruits sometimes known as devil’s apples. It needs really well drained soil to support those enormous roots, which can grow up to four feet in length. It also needs warm conditions and a good bit of sunshine to thrive, and a good quality compost for nutrients. Grown the plant well away from anywhere children and pets have access to. They can be grown from seed, or by separating the tubers.

The Apothecary

Six cures are described in the mediaeval Harley manuscript. One was for headaches and insomnia, whereby a salve of mandrake leaf juice was plastered to the head. Another was for earaches, and the juice was mixed with oil and poured directly into the ear. Another was a remedy for severe gout, but as it was administered in wine, I’m unsure how effective this would have been! Mandrake was also recommended for epilepsy, cramps and even colds.

Dioscorides, in his materia medica, also advised the plant was used to help insomniacs, but also that it seemed to have sedative and even anaesthetic properties. He did point out that ingesting too much was deadly!

Mrs Grieve states that the leaves are harmless and cooling and used to soothe ulcers, while the root and its bark is a strong emetic.

The Witch’s Kitchen

There is a belief that the mandrake only grew under the place where someone had been hanged. This gives it a dark association with death, possibly criminal activity, but also the oddly positive aspects of corporal punishment: law, order and justice. Called ‘little gallows man’ in Germany, the mandrake can be a symbol of ridding yourself of something you no longer need; of doling out ‘punishment’ to the things in your life you wish to drive away from you.

Dioscorides believed the root could be used in love potions.

The human like shape of the root speaks of transformation and hidden things. The mandrake reminds us not to judge a book by its cover, and that things are not always how they seem. We should always look twice, or as Terry Pratchett wrote, we should open our eyes, then open our eyes again.

In folklore, the cry of the mandrake caused either madness or death. Mrs Grieve writes that small doses of the root were used by ‘the Ancients in maniacal cases’, again connecting the root to madness and states of disconnection between the body and mind. Historically it was used to cure demonic possession, indicating it could be used to heal a disconnected body and mind, so there appears to be a contrary nature to this plant.

Mandrake can be used in any magical working to increase the potency of the spell, and in particular to increase psychic powers and prophetic magics.

Home and Hearth

Place a dried mandrake root on your mantelpiece to bring prosperity and joy into your home. Place a piece of mandrake on top of money, so a spare change pot or money box, and more money will enter your life. Hang one above the door to prevent demons or people with negative intentions from entering. Always keep out of the reach of children or pets!

I Never Knew…

As recently as the nineteenth century, mandrake roots were still being sold in Europe as charms to increase the libido.

*Images: Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) from Tacuinum Sanitatis manuscript (ca. 1390), public domain; mandragora autumnalis, copyright tato grasso 2006 via Wikimedia Commons; folio 90 from the Naples Dioscurides, a 7th century manuscript of Dioscurides De Materia Medica, public domain.

***

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.

 

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

Notes from the Apothecary

September, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Calendula

Calendula or marigold? Last month we explored the magic and mystical beauty of the true marigold and I mentioned in that article that marigolds are often confused with calendula. Botanically they are actually very different. Calendula are often called pot marigolds or common marigolds, but true marigolds are in the genus tagetes although both tagetes and calendula are in the Asteraceae family, along with sunflowers. Tagetes are native to North America, whereas calendula came to America from the Mediterranean. They have beautiful orange or yellow blooms, with an extremely long flowering season.

The Kitchen Garden

From Mrs Grieve’s Modern :

It was well known to the old herbalists as a garden-flower and for use in cookery and medicine. Dodoens-Lyte (A Niewe l, 1578) says:

‘It hath pleasant, bright and shining yellow flowers, the which do close at the setting downe of the sunne, and do spread and open againe at the sunne rising.’

She refers to calendula as the common marigold, and notes that it is easy to grow as long as the position is slightly sunny and the ground kept free of weeds. Calendula self-seed, and can spread quite easily although they are annuals so the new foliage replaces last year’s plants, rather than joining them. The seeds are curly little horns, perfectly beautiful and very decorative in their own way.

Calendula petals can be used as a substitute for saffron, but only for the yellow colour they impart, not the taste. The flowers make a tasty and beautiful garnish for salads and other foods, and can be mixed into butters and cheeses for colour and flavour. Even the peppery leaves can be eaten to add spice to a salad.

The Apothecary

Natural Living Magazine published a great feature on calendula and its many practical uses. The publisher, Amanda Klenner, notes that she uses the petals in skin lotions, body butters and salves. She also makes marigold tea which soothes irritated mucous membranes and internal tissues. She uses the tea for digestive health, and adds that the petals are used in some cold and flu remedies. She also believes it supports the lymphatic system, crucial for our immune systems.

In the same publication, Nina Katz states that the herb is, “Anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-septic, vulnerary, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulant, immunostimulant, cholagogue, heart tonic, hypotensive, lymphatic, respiratory tonic, emmenagogue, anti-spasmodic, astringent, aperient, diaphoretic…”

Many of these terms might be unfamiliar to you if you’re not an herbalist or phytologist. Vulnerary means healing of wounds or inflammation. Cholagogue means to stimulate the gall bladder to produce bile. Emmenagogue means to promote menstrual flow. This means it can be useful for period pain or delayed periods, as it stimulates the uterus. Pregnant women should not ingest calendula for this reason. Always check with a medical professional before changing or starting any type of medication.

The Witch’s Kitchen

Many believe that the term marigold comes from an association with the Virgin Mary. However, that supposition is a little backwards. The marigold (calendula) became associated with the Virgin Mary because the name sounded a little like Mary’s Gold, however the term ‘marigold’ was first coined by pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons, when referring to the marsh marigold, a plant related to neither calendula or tagetes (true marigolds). However, calendula has been used to honour Mary for so long that, if your path leans this way, it still makes a fantastic offering or altar decoration. It’s just good to know the origins and history so you can make your own mind up about what’s appropriate.

Cunningham tells us it is a masculine herb, which I presume is because of the plant’s association with the sun, and fire. I find it has a very feminine energy, but plants are complex and it’s often hard to pigeon-hole them. He advises picking calendula at noon in bright sunlight to ‘strengthen and comfort the heart’. He also states that calendula is used for protecting the home from evil, and scattered under the bed can give you prophetic dreams and ensure a safe night’s sleep. Calendula petals in the pocket will keep justice on your side if you need to attend court. His final and my favourite point about calendula magic is that, if a girl touches calendula petals with her bare feet, she will be able to speak to birds in their own language. How wonderful that would be!

Calendula has historically been used in divination, particularly relating to love and knowing who one’s true love may be. Rachel Patterson recommends the flower for spells or incense blends involved with psychic powers. She also writes that they promote happiness and uplifting energies, and can be used to make gossip about you cease.

Home and Hearth

As we move from summer into fall, calendula should still be flowering for some time yet. If you are lucky enough to have calendula in your garden, pick a few of the flower heads and separate the petals out. Create a circle of petals on a clean cloth or on your altar, one petal at a time. Have the base of each petal pointing toward the centre of the circle, so the end of the petal points outwards. As you lay each petal, think of something in your life you are happy about, or grateful for. You don’t need to write this down or prepare for it. It should be spontaneous and from the heart.

The bigger you make your circle, the longer it will take to complete, but you will think about more happy things! If you have been struggling with dark feelings or depression, it may be sensible to start with a small circle. This can prevent you feeling like you ‘should’ have more to be happy about, which can actually make you feel worse. Sometimes, we may only have a few bright sparks in our lives, and that’s okay. We can still celebrate that, and as we move into the darker months, focusing on the good things we have becomes even more vital and soul supportive.

I Never Knew…

A snuff of marigold leaves was sniffed up the nose, to encourage sneezing to rid the sinuses of excess mucous. Lovely!

Image credits: Flower of calendula by Wouter Hagens, public domain; Calendula officinalis, Seeds by H. Zell, copyright 2009 via Wikimedia Commons; Calendula officinalis – Botanischer Garten Mainz by Natalie Schmalz, copyright 2011, via Wikimedia Commons.

***

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.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

 

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

The Bad Witch’s Guide

September, 2018

The Bad Witch’s Guide Autumn Equinox

I have always enjoyed the light around this time of year. The beginning of mists at sunset and dawn. The first tinges of frost and the spider webs like diamond nets over the leaves that were beginning to turn. The dead summer grass rattling in a wind with a distinctly crisp edge.

The light and dark are in perfect balance. The Veil between this world and others is thin

Mabon has his name attached to this festival and I like that. I like Mabon in general. I like a seeker. I also like balance so equinoxes feel really good for me. It is neither thing, light and dark, hopeful and guarded, plenty and want. Perhaps that is why Pryderi, Rhiannon’s sacred son is often associated with Mabon for this reason.

Pryderi (or Prederin) is born of a Goddess (like Mabon). He enters the forest, the world between. His manners are rough and he insults a great King, Arawn. King Arawn switches places with him and during his quest into Awen learns to “dwell with desire” but to not act on it. He learns great self-control and in so doing wins a great battle. In learning mercy and abstinence (not sleeping with another’s wife) becomes a Great Leader. It is a great lesson. To not give into lust or vengeance, even you can “get away with it”.

Of course I love the food and while apples and pork are more Samhain for me, Mabon is full of cobnuts (fresh hazelnut), damsons, wild game like pheasant and venison and this year’s lamb tend to be fresh seasonal and excellent. In fact Mabon is the peak of vegetable harvest, from the last of the fresh garden herbs to runner beans and early potatoes. The sea also is full of wonders, oysters and mackerel, sardines and sea bass are plump and delicious.

It is pickling season. From Yule onions (the ones you break out with your cold cuts) to some kimchi because the cabbages are amazing this year, preserving your own food is fun and relatively simple. Part of me wonders if Mabon isn’t a pickling party that got out of hand so marvellously they did it every year! That is the light in the dark; planning the plenty in a time of ice and snow. It is in the wine and vinegar, the syrups and treats, the medicine and the merriment.

The dark is something else. The dark is in the journey work, the intoxication*, the self-exploration and releasing of our leaves to feed our next year’s growth. This is not ancestor work or work with the dead. This is honouring our deaths. All of the people we have been that are no longer. It is letting go of all we have been carrying, good and bad, at least for a while.

Many traditional wiccan rites around this time of year feel like hollow reflections of Lughnasadh or Samhain. Yet this is as powerful as midsummer or Yule to me. A time of beginnings and endings, of big and small changes. It is the bloom of mushrooms, the food of the Gods after all. *While I don’t condone their use it is an ancient part of ritual practice. It is a time of sacrifice and plenty.

Ritual

What you will need:

A fire (or safe heat source)

A large pan or cauldron.

A sterilised bottle or jar

Elderberries

Caraway seeds (a pinch)

White rose petals (13)

Elder leaves (13)

Water

Sugar (to make a syrup)

A sieve or strainer

If you are using freshly picked seasonal berries you will need to double what you would be using for dried and make sure they are well washed and dried.

Heat your water and add your sugar. When up to a simmer, bless your pot or cauldron with a seven pointed star. Make sure your sugar is dissolved.

Add your leaves one at a time with the following charm.

Dark mother, Matrona,

Modron

Sweet Moon:

I call you

I evoke

For your healing and protection,

The Birch, the Rowan, the Ash, the Alder, the Willow, the Hawthorn, the Oak, the Holly, the Hazel, the Vine, the Ivy, the Reed, and the Elder Moons.”

Add the elderberries and stir it gently in a figure of eight pattern.

Add your caraway seeds and then a rose petal at a time saying the following

Light mother, Matrona,

Modron

Bitter Goddess:

I call you

I evoke your healing and protection.

By blood and thorn, by your magick and power

The charm is made by seed and flower.”

Remove the cauldron from the heat and let it sit for about five minutes before you carefully strain it, mashing the berries a little to get as much juice as you can and bottle it and seal it.

This syrup is good for flus, and colds it can also be used as a blood substitute or made into a tea to replace wine in most other rituals.

Mindful Meditations

September, 2018

 

     As we honor the energies of the West while entering Autumn — the season of reaping what we have sown during the second harvest of Mabon – we are encouraged to take a moment to show gratitude for our abundance. Our crops have borne fruit which is being stored for the darkening season and our fields are growing hearty vegetables which we will reap at the third harvest, Samhain.

 

Items Needed

-sunset location

-cup of drinkable water

-writing utensil

-paper (or the like)

 

Choose a preferably clear day to watch the sunset while sitting in nature. This mediation will still work from indoors but we are Pagan so nature is our place of worship. Face the West as you observe the colors of the sky, hear the sounds around you, feel the wind. Acknowledge that with each setting sun, completes the cycle as the day transforms into night, just as summer turns to autumn. Now get into a comfortable position and sit with your cup of water. Stare into the water, scry upon its surface. Reflect upon 20 things you are grateful for in this moment, this day, this year, this lifetime. Jot them down as they come to you. Feel free to write more than 20 but do not write less. When you are satisfied with your list, notice the feeling of gratitude within you. Imagine you are channeling that feeling through your hands and into the cup of water you’re holding. Imagine the molecules gently vibrating with warm, white light. Acknowledge your gratitude for the water and drink from your cup. Thank the water for nourishing you. Thank the West, the sunset, and nature around you, for holding sacred space during your Mindful Meditation. Thank yourself for taking the time to reflect upon your abundance in gratitude.

 

Blessed Be!

 

***

About the Author:

(Amy Dubenetsky & Becky Coates, respectively; Writers of the Mindful Meditations column & Coven Sisters.)

This Mindful Meditation is brought to you by Amy Dubenetsky, a Bodyworker/Reiki Practitioner/Witch based out of Manchester, CT whom leads group meditations as well.  Amy is deeply involved with her Coven, Organic Farming, and various Dance Communities across the country.

Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @bodyandbeyond444.

Mindful Meditations

August, 2018

Welcome to Mindful Meditations, a new column to help you connect to yourself.

Monthly the author will switch between two witches that are massage therapists that lead meditations and are in the same coven.

 

Fire Meditation

It’s Leo season and what better way to enjoy that excited, expansive energy than with a bit of fire scrying, either with your friends or alone. This fire meditation is crafted to work as a guided group meditation or an easy-to-follow solo journey. So light your fire, grab a journal and let’s drop in! If having a physical fire isn’t a possibility, you can use a candle or call the energy of fire into your mind’s eye and let your imagination create the flames for you.

 

 

 

-Cast a circle in whatever way fits your practice. Create intentional, sacred space so you feel comfortable opening to the messages you receive. I encourage you to call in the element of fire especially, an example would be “I call the element of fire into my/our circle tonight. I/we honor your passion and power, your transformation and transmuting, and your illumination and warmth. Guide me on this journey into your flames tonight. Hail and welcome!” Once in sacred space, set your intention for what you wish to receive from the fire. How am I holding myself back from my desires? What direction should I take? How can I manifest my dream? Or simply, what do I need to know right now? Feel free to do this silently or as a discussion with your group.

 

-Once you’re clear on your intention, find a comfortable seat where you can easily gaze into the fire. Feel where your body connects to the Earth and see roots sprouting down into the soil to anchor yourself to her. Notice your breath and feel yourself entering the present moment with each inhale and relaxing into the now with each exhale. Let everything but your breath and the fire melt away.

 

-Bring your intention into your mind. Begin to ask questions to yourself and the fire. Let possible answers drift through your awareness, staying mindful of not attaching to any one idea. Watch the fire, how does it respond to your thoughts? How do you feel as the fire shifts with a passing thought? Let it speak to you.

 

-As you get more comfortable asking and receiving, relax deeper into the fire and clear your wandering mind. Be open to receive any messages the fire has to give you. Notice images, colors, or changes in the flames. As messages come to you, feel free to write them down so you can release the idea and allow another into your awareness.

 

-Take a deep breath and let the inspirations float back to you and by the fire light, start sorting, shifting and integrating. Free write or daydream, pulling these messages into your awareness. Take a piece of paper and write the most important messages from the flames. Did you discover a block, a new direction, something that no longer serves, or an inspiring message? Write it down, being clear what you wish to change, bring in or release (remember words have power!), and bring it to your heart. Give gratitude to the flames for facilitating this insight. As you gift the paper to the fire, say “Thank you, thank you, thank you. As it is written, so mote it be.”

 

-Close your circle, sit back and enjoy the fire.

***

About the Author:

Becky Coates is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Tarot reader located in Manchester, CT. Visit beckycoatesmassage.com for more information. 

Spiralled Edges

November, 2016

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t enjoyed the autumn season. Cool days, the crunch of dried leaves underfoot. Even living in a city, I can see and hear the signs of a changing season around me.

spiral

 

I think it very fortunate that the part of SE London where I live has many green spaces, as they are called. These aren’t just the obligatory park either. Nearly every street has hardy trees planted along it. Grassy patches and flower beds abound. And just like their counterparts in the countryside, they change and grow and shed their leaves when the nights grow longer and the days grow cooler.

I am sat, at this moment, in a busy corner coffee/tea shop. On the road outside the window, I can see cars and buses continually driving by as well as people walking along the pavement. But I can also see a weeping willow waving its branches and a roundabout with grass growing over the whole of it with the trunk of a large tree growing in the middle.

When I am at home, I have only to look out my 2nd storey (well, 3rd storey if we were in America) window and I can see a wall of bushes and trees lining the pavement across the road. During the day I can see birds within the branches, and in the evening I occasionally catch a glimpse of the urban fox that has made a home deep within the protective covering provided.

These are my little patches of Mother Nature that I cherish. Occasionally though, I discover a hidden gem.

One recent discovery was hidden in plain sight. I’ve lived in this area for nearly 20 years, and I only just discovered its wonders a few weeks ago. Who would have thought there could be a large nature reserve located alongside a stretch of one of the busier roads in SE London!

Deep in the centre of this 400 acre nature preserve you can find a working farm, complete with horses, and the skeletal remains of a 13th century moated manor house. The manor and the land around it are now protected by law.

Once upon a time, the oak trees were pollarded https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollarding ) to promote growth in order to harvest the wood for building purposes. Some of those ancient oak trees remain and are over 400 years old.

In autumn time, as I walk along the hard-packed earthen trails, I am reminded once more of why it is that I love autumn. As well as ancient oaks, the preserve has hundreds of sweet chestnut trees. Their spiny pods with the sweet nut inside are now littering the ground. Most have been deftly opened and the inner nut removed by a resourceful squirrel. I have seen foxes, squirrels, birds and have heard rumour that there may even be deer living here. And, while I have not seen them, I have heard the noisy calls of parakeets flying overhead. These large green birds have been establishing a presence in this part of SE London over the past half century and now there are several decent sized colonies.

I am not alone as I walk along these nature trails either. The local residents use the trails daily in their walking commutes; there are joggers and dog walkers. Each of us surrounded by these ancient woods situated on the edge of Greater London.

Here I can see Mama Nature’s signs of autumn, and the promise of rebirth after winter’s chill.

Yule Correspondences

December, 2015

 

 

Lesser Sabbat – Winter Solstice, circa Dec 21

Other Names:
Jul (“wheel”, Old Norse), Saturnalia(Rome ~December 17 & 18), Yuletide(Teutonic), Midwinter, Fionn’s Day, Christmas (Christian~December 25), Xmas, Festival of Sol, Solar/Secular/Pagan New Year

Animals/Mythical beings:

yule goat (nordic), reindeer stag, squirrels, yule cat, Sacred White Buffalo, Kallikantzaroi-ugly chaos monsters(greek), trolls, phoenix, yule elf, jule gnome, squirrels, wren/robin

Gemstones:
cat’s eye, ruby, diamond, garnet, bloodstone

Incense/Oils:

bayberry, cedar, ginger, cinnamon, pine, rosemary, frankincense, myrrh, nutmeg, wintergreen, saffron

Colors:
gold, silver, red, green, white

Tools,Symbols, & Decorations:
bayberry candles, evergreens, holly, mistletoe, poinsettia,mistletoe, lights, gifts, Yule log, Yule tree. spinning wheels, wreaths, bells, mother & child images

Goddesses:
Great Mother, Befana (strega), Holda (teutonic), Isis(egyptian), Triple Goddess, Mary(christian), Tonazin(mexican), Lucina(roman), St. Lucy (swedish),Bona Dea (roman), Mother Earth, Eve(Hebrew), Ops(roman Holy Mother), the Snow Queen, Hertha (German), Frey (Norse)

Gods:
Sun Child, Saturn(rome), Cronos (Greek), Horus/Ra(egyptian), Jesus(christian-gnostic), Mithras(persian), Balder(Norse), Santa Claus/Odin(teutonic), Holly King, Sol Invicta, Janus(God of Beginnings), Marduk (Babylonian)Old Man Winter

Essence:
honor, rebirth, transformation, light out of darkness, creative inspiration, the mysteries, new life, regeneration, inner renewal, reflection/introspection

Dynamics/Meaning:
death of the Holly (winter) King; reign of the Oak (summer) King), begin the ordeal of the Green Man, death & rebirth of the Sun God; night of greatest lunar imbalance; sun’s rebirth; shortest day of year

Purpose:
honor the Triple Goddess, welcome the Sun Child

Rituals/Magicks:
personal renewal, world peace, honoring family & friends, Festival of light, meditation

Customs:
lights, gift-exchanging, singing, feasting, resolutions, new fires kindled, strengthening family & friend bonds, generosity, yule log, hanging mistletoe, apple wassailing, burning candles, Yule tree decorating; kissing under mistletoe; needfire at dawn vigil; bell ringing/sleigh-bells; father yule

Foods:
nuts, apple, pear, caraway cakes soaked with cider, pork, orange, hibiscus or ginger tea, roasted turkey, nuts, fruitcake, dried fruit, cookies, eggnog, mulled wine

Herbs:
blessed thistle, evergreen, moss, oak, sage, bay, bayberry, cedar, pine, frankincense, ginger, holly, ivy, juniper, mistletoe, myrrh, pinecones, rosemary, chamomile, cinnamon, valarion, yarrow

Element:
earth

Threshold:
dawn

Next »