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Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

June 1st, 2016

Summer Solstice

Bright Blessings.

As I reviewed my past Summer Solstice materials, I was deep in thought about community, the upcoming Pride march, which I wrote a bit about last time, and I wanted to learn something new I could share. I had thought to do an article about some aspect of healing used at Solstice time, but all I could find was that some people did pilgrimages to find medicinal herbs- because they were in season and it is time to go get them. Somehow, that just did not spark my interest enough to dig much deeper.

I am a flighty, finicky person, and I write best when inspired by something or another. So, I kept researching, and I found something by accident that not only inspired me and sparked my interest, but it completely blew me away. It is new to me, and has to do with a Pagan celebration of Summer Solstice.

What I learned about was a whole Pagan tradition I’d never heard of before and about their HUGE Summer Solstice celebrations. I also took time and thought about the healing I had read about. It’s simply gathering of herbs.

Healing yesterday as opposed to today

While we may think of ancient Pagan healing rituals as just a bunch of chanting and raising of energies, it was so much more than that. There was use of plant knowledge, lore and dogma to call a god or spirit to help, and then the presence of the trusted healer who had studied with the elder healer, who had studied with a different elder healer and so on and so forth. Plant knowledge is scientific knowledge of which plants chemically counteract infection, injury, or disease to make the body whole again. It’s the same knowledge any modern herbalist, apothecary, doctor, or pharmacist gets in university classes instead of years of study under a trained Pagan healer. It was proven in studies that something called the placebo effect can influence healing. If you believe you will be healed, it helps you feel better. In days past, the village or townspeople had faith in their healers, or healing techniques, whereas these days, if your doctor has a good bedside manner, and assures you all will be well, you will feel relieved, and your stress levels drop, which helps the body to fight disease better.

Ancient healers- especially in small settlements, knew their people quite well. They knew your parents, their parents, your siblings, your friends and neighbors, and everybody else. You might have grown up with them, or maybe your kids grew up with their kids. Not only did everybody know everybody else’s business quite often, but your local healer usually knew what you were allergic to, what you were comfortable with, what old injuries you had, and they likely knew your personality well enough to understand what made each individual tick. Whatever scared you or made you most relaxed were things they kept in mind when treating each individual. Modern doctors, be they medical doctors, or psychiatric doctors do all these things as well. The difference is they no longer call the gods for help in healing.

Infections and diseases that would have wiped out a whole population of people in a matter of weeks have been completely eradicated thanks to modern medicines, and no amount of praying away said infections used to keep people alive. Smallpox is a very good example.

The first evidence of smallpox goes back as early as 10,000 BC, and during the 20th century, as many as 300-500 million people died from just smallpox. Due to vaccination, it was declared eradicated in 1979. While it is common knowledge that Native Americans were contracting and dying from smallpox as early as the 1500’s, some of which was deliberately given to them, it is not common knowledge some people actually had smallpox gods.

A Hindu goddess named Shitala was worshipped, and devotees believed praying to her could cure or prevent smallpox. While some believed she healed or prevented smallpox, others believed she CAUSED it, and put bowls of water on their roofs because they believe it warded her off. To this day, a whole festival day is devoted to her worship in Springtime. Here is an interesting article from Om Ashram about that.

http://www.omashram.com/news/78-the-day-of-shitala-devi

A Time Magazine snippet discusses smallpox pre- vaccinations, and this shows that despite the devotions and prayers, people still got smallpox in India- and vaccinations are what helped.

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2027479_2027486_2027524,00.html

As a religious individual, I certainly do not advocate to give up faith in healing from the divine and just forego prayers and devotions. But I do know prayers alone can’t assure healing. Nowadays, we have our modern doctors, hospitals, labs, and you name it, but Pre-Christian Pagans did not. And coincidentally, at times of certain religious celebrations, certain herbs that could be used medicinally would be ready to harvest.

Gathering the herbs

As to these healing herbs gathered at solstice time, in Spain for example, this was done by women, who gathered fennel, fern, rue, rosemary, dog rose, lemon verbena, St. John’s wort, laburnum, foxgloves, and elder flowers. (Wikipedia) Each plant has certain healing qualities, but typically, instead of using them herbally, they were either tied in bundles and hung above the door, or dipped in water and left outside all night so they would also have morning dew on them, and people would wash their faces with this in the morning.

Slavic Neo-Paganism

The Pagan tradition I mentioned earlier is Slavic NeoPaganism often called Rodnovery. They seek to recreate Slavic pre-Christian Pagan traditions and have been around since the early 1900’s. Belaris, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Serbia, the Donbass region, and Estonia are all listed as places that have some form of population of adherents to these traditions. Because some adherents worship Norse gods, some white supremacist and anti-Semitics claim this as their faith- but like modern Norse Heathenry, not everybody adhering to these religions is

anti- Semitic or racist.

An excellent article listing a little history after Christianization as well as the names of some of the specifically Polish Pagan gods is given here.

http://www.polishtoledo.com/pagan/

Interestingly enough, some of these groups seek to restore worship to the way it was in pre Christian times with historical accuracy . I will share two short films from YouTube.

The first is called Pagan Novosibirsk, The Movie- and it is about 20 minutes long. It’s interviews that have subtitles because the speakers do not speak English. It is about these Pagan movements and what some of the adherants have to say about it.

Kupala Night

The next is a short clip of Slavic Pagans celebrating Summer Solstice, which is called Kupala Night. This video is under five minutes and shows festivities at the festival. It reminds me of historical reinactments in a lot of ways, and it’s so beautiful to see how devoted these people are.

According to Jacob Grimm, Kupala was what the festival was called, referring to the bonfires lit. Other sources say that is refers to Kupulo, a harvest god, and a feast day of St John the Baptist was substituted because purification by water occurred at the holy day.

Bonfires to drive away evil spirits are burned, and couples leap over fires together, hands joined, and it is believed to prove they will not break up if their hands do not come unclasped during the jump. Single women also don beautiful wreaths of plants in their hair and go into the woods to hunt for the flowers of the fern – a plant that does not flower, by the way. If one were to find this bloom, it would mean they would be blessed with prosperity! The men go in after them…and while a fern might not flower, a relationship just might!

Flower wreaths , as well as floating candles are released by women in hopes of learning about future relationships and men sometimes try to catch the wreaths, in belief they might catch the interest of the girl who released it.

Some of these things are still observed by Christian devotees at St John’s Day, but a lot is done by Pagan adherents.

What the Shrink has to say…

One last thing I will share is a tidbit I came across while researching. It is a scientific article that discusses resurgence of Pagan belief and it’s relationship with mental illness in Russia. While this article had precious few patients involved in the study, and reveals little- it has a lot of information and history listed in it. Plenty about Summer Solstice is in there as well. It will be interesting to see how many mopre studies about mental health and pagan beliefs are conducted over the years as Paganism becomes more widespread.

http://www.wcprr.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/jan061220.pdf

While these things in Slavic areas may be different than what modern American Neo-Pagans do, I was very excited to share what I learned from our Slavic cousins for this article!

Wrapping it all up…flowers and all!

While an enormous bonfire or fertility workings are not what I am going to put into my ritual, a blessed floral or herbal bundle like some folks from Spain create will. As opposed to the power of water and moonlight and morning dew, I suggest blessing this bundle with the power of the sun.

At Solstice Time, the Sun is at its most powerful. The days are longest, and the nights are shortest. What this means is a lot of sunlight for the development of growing plants, and the plants we eat, but also extended daylight hours give lots of vitamin D and heat to human beings which translates into energy.

Suggested Working

On the day you celebrate Summer Solstice, go and gather flowers or greenery someplace. If you don’t have access to hand-picked plants, you can absolutely go buy flowers at the store! Just make sure that whatever plants you get mean something to you- even if you just LIKE the plants. You can use your favorite color, or even just get all greenery to symbolize life and growth. Snippetts from ordinary shrubbery can absolutely suffice. Next, tie your plants or flowers into a bundle together, and once that has finished, hold them up towards the sum, and say something like

Hail the invincible sun, bringer of heat, life, and growth.

Bless these blooms with your lifegiving energy on this day

when you are at your most powerful.

May the strength, power, healing, and lifeforce

from you go into this bundle,

where it will be hung in my home/car/office to bless me

and all who enter with prosperity, healing,

new life, growth and progress,

and all things good and blessed.

So mote it be!”

You may leave some form of offering to the sun if you like- something like planting a flower or something you will nurture, burning incense, or a small fire in your firepit, or even just a little flour or perfume released to the wind. Leave the bundle in the sun until nightfall, and then hang it where you want its blessings.

Blessed Solstice.

Blessed Be.

Part One: The Wheel of the Year

Whereas non-pagans are guided by sacred books, pagans are guided by nature. Nature guides us through the course of the seasons. We take our moods, our goals and the way we pursue them, from the seasonal round, which is called ‘The Wheel of the Year’.

Witches of our Celtic tradition follow three interlocking paradigms throughout the year. The course of the Sun throughout the year is plotted by the Wheel of the Year. The course of the lunar month is plotted by the phases of the Moon and their meaning. And the sequence of lunar months through the solar year is plotted by the Ogham Tree Calendar and the Rune of Amergin, as reconstructed by the poet Robert Graves in his seminal work The White Goddess.

The paradigms offered below are tools. Witchcraft is a craft, and witches make use of ideas as tools. More specifically, skills are tools, and lore is building material, like wood or stone or metal. What is important is what you build with them, and that is your personal Craft. Select your tools and materials among the many available, and feel free to make a re-selection. Eventually you will have a house to live in that feels just right.

When we follow the Wheel of the Year, we invite nature spirits to contact us and become involved in our personal lives.

The Wheel of the Year is depicted as a circle divided, like the compass, into eight equal segments by radii which contact the circumference at the points of the four cardinal directions plus the directions in between. The eight witches’ sabbats are plotted on these points. They are as follows:

1. Yule – the Winter Solstice, which generally falls between 20 and 23 December. The old Oak King is released from his prison in the sacred oak log or hod, as his sacred bird robin redbreast; he fights and kills the Holly King in his sacred bird-form, the gold crest wren, and hangs the latter from the holly bush. The Oak King is then reborn as the Child of Promise. He rules Middle-Earth until Imbolc, when the Maiden returns to rule with him.

2. Imbolc – The Maiden returns. The original pagan date was 1 February. The christian church moved it to 2 February. Many covens celebrate it on the 2nd because they are unaware of this. The Maiden may meet with the young Oak King and they may mate at this time. If they do, we shall have an early Spring. The Corn Maiden, constructed from wheat the previous Lammas, is plowed into the ground to instill last year’s fertility in the crops to come.

3. Ostara – the Spring Equinox, which generally falls between 20 and 23 March. The Maiden and the Oak King are mated and Spring begins in earnest. Witches send out their wishes for the year on a great solar tide.

4. Beltane – May 1st. The preceding evening is called Walpurgis Night. The Maiden becomes the Mother. The handfasting of the Mother and the Oak King is symbolized by the Maypole. Celts regarded this date as the beginning of Summer.

5. Litha – the Summer Solstice, which generally falls between 20 and 23 June. The union of the Mother and the Oak King reaches the acme of power. Then the Holly King appears. He is like the Oak King’s dark twin, his shadow, as the Jungians would say. He fights the Oak King for the favor of the Lady and wins. He kills the Oak King and imprisons his spirit in the sacred oak, which is cognate with the World Pillar. The Oak King’s spirit will remain imprisoned in the sacred oak until it is released on the following Yule.

6. Lammas or Lughnasadh – August 1st. Lammas, meaning ‘loaf mass,’ is the later christian name, but many witches like to focus on baking sacred bread on this eve (July 31st), so the name Lammas is often used. The Mother becomes the Crone. The bread is traditionally baked in the shape of a man, representing John Barleycorn, the corn or harvest god, an aspect of the Holly King who is sacrificed for the fertility of the harvest. The bread also stands for the matured craft of the second-degree witch. Coveners eat the bread at midnight. This is the first of three harvests, the grain harvest. A Corn Maiden is made of wheat, traditionally the last ear harvested, which contains the fertility of the fields. It is kept until the following Imbolc. Lughnasadh is the Celtic festival in honor of Lugh, who instituted celebratory games in memory of his mother Tailtiu, who died after plowing Ireland to make it fertile. Some witches celebrate Lughnasadh rather than Lammas, some celebrate both.

7. Mabon or Modron – the Autumn Equinox, falls between September 20 and 23. Initiate witches travel in spirit to the threshold of the Summerlands and there invite their ancestors and dead friends to visit them in Middle-Earth during the month of October. Mabon ap Modron is part of a tale in the Mabinogion, a compendium of Welsh mythology. It is apparently incomplete, as we know very little about the hero-god. He was abducted from his mother Modron when three days old and imprisoned at Gloucester. Arthur and his war band free Mabon. That is practically all we know, but there is a clue in the fact that only the salmon of knowledge knew where to find him. In the Craft tradition I follow, the knowledge possessed by the salmon, which is very ancient, is available to the initiate on the inner journey down the World Pillar. Mabon therefore stands for the Root-soul, the original identity of the witch, liberated by Inner Craft and brought back to Middle-Earth. At Mabon initiates descend to the Summerland and there invite their dead ancestors and friends to visit them at the dumb suppers of October. This is the second harvest, the fruit and vine harvest, and the knowledge brought back to Middle-Earth by initiates reflects its bounty in an inner harvest.

8. Samhain – October 31st, is the culmination of the series of ‘dumb suppers’ held with visiting ancestors. Now the gates of the Summerlands open wide, and Herne the Hunter (the Underworld aspect of the Holly King) leads forth the Wild Hunt, comprising human and non-human spirits. The Wild Hunt will range the skies from Samhain to the following Imbolc. Souls of those who have died during the year but failed to find the path to the Summerlands are gathered up at Samhain and shown the way. The Crone goes to the Summerlands to rest for the Winter. The ageing Holly King, soon to become the Lord of Misrule for the December festivities, takes over. This is the third and final harvest, in which whatever is still ripe in the ground is picked to save it from the curse of the Pookah. It is also called the blood harvest, for at this time the herds are culled and the weaker animals slaughtered for meat which will be salted down and laid up for the winter.

In general, Sabbats are celebrated on the evening before their date. Exceptions are at the solstices and at Beltane and Samhain. The solstices fall on the days of shortest and longest sunlight and should be celebrated on those actual days. Beltane is celebrated both on the preceding evening as Walpurgis Night, and on the following day when the dance around the Maypole and other festivities take place. Samhain, Hallowe’en, is celebrated on the evening of its date, October 31st. Its name means ‘Summer’s end’. The following day is a christian implantation and is ignored by witches.

The Lady and Lord together illustrate dynamic balance. The Lord, the god Cernunnos, is both the Oak and Holly King. They represent opposite tendencies of his dual nature. The Oak King is of Middle-Earth and rejoices in the outer world and its pleasures. The Holly King is an Underworld deity who promotes inner spiritual work and journeys down the World Pillar to the Summerlands. Left to themselves, they would tear the world apart but the Lady holds them together in harmony. She has three visible aspects: the Maiden, Mother and Crone. (Graves in his witchcraft utopian novel of the future, Watch the Northwind Rise, names these the Maiden, Nymph and Crone.) Unlike Cernunnos, she can manifest any of these at any time: “She is old or young as she wishes.” But left to her alone, the harmony she creates would be static. It would be like always eating so many vegetables, or taking so many sips of wine at meals. The extremes of the Oak and Holly Kings add passion and adventure to the cosmic harmony through their excesses, which the Lady keeps within prudent limits. This serves as an example to witches, who seek dynamic balance in their lives. As Lin Yutang once said, pursue moderation moderately.

The word ‘Sabbat’ means ‘restful recreation.’ The word ‘Esbat’ is from Middle French esbattier, and means ‘to frolic.’ Thus the main celebrations of witchcraft are joyous affairs, the farthest thing from the grim oh-so-solemn assemblies of some churches. Esbats are generally held at the Full Moon. When an Esbat and a Sabbat fall on the same date, the Sabbat is given precedence.

The Wheel and the Elements:

Witches seek a dynamic balance in their lives with humanity, plants, animals, and spirits, both of Middle-Earth and the worlds on The Other Side. In so doing, they focus on the four ancient elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth. These correspond roughly to the three states of matter (solid, liquid and gas), plus detectable energy (Fire). Etheric matter or energy is a fifth element or ‘quintessence,’ that witches cultivate through achieving a good working balance with the other four, and can be understood as referring to energies not yet detectable by current scientific methods.

Each element has a power contained within it which increases through the practice of witchcraft. Air contains the power to know, Fire the power to will, Water the power to dare, and Earth the power to keep silence. Ether contains the power to go, that is, to conduct spirit journeys either from waking or dream, up and down the World Pillar. Travelling to the Summerlands while in the body is an etheric goal of initiates.

While the four powers are cultivated throughout the year, the four quarters of the Wheel of the Year are each associated specially with one of the elements. The North, from Samhain to Imbolc, is associated with Earth and the power to keep silence, that is, to keep still both mentally and physically, within and without. It is a time favorable to meditation and quiet home handicrafts. The East, from Imbolc to Beltane, is associated with Air and the power to know, that is, the power of understanding. The South, from Beltane to Lammas or Lughnasadh, is associated with Fire and the power to will. And the West, from Lammas or Lughnasadh to Samhain, is associated with water and the power to dare. This means the power to dare to go beyond one’s limits, to reach out for new life, whether through a change of consciousness or of life circumstances.

The major Sabbats occur on the cusps between one elemental quarter and the next, because the transitions from one element to another are of primary importance. Thus, the minor physical Sabbats occupy the cardinal points of the Wheel, while the major spiritual Sabbats are on the points in between.

Imbolc, occurring on the cusp between the power of silence and the power to know, is a time of silent intuition, when images and feelings from the dream-soul (who corresponds in some ways to the Holly King) begin to stir, like lambs in the bellies of ewes at this time of year.

Beltane, occurring on the cusp between the power of knowledge and the power of will, stands for the union not only of heaven and earth, but of theory and practice. Witches are nothing if not practical. The price of knowledge gained in the East is putting it into practice in one’s life in the South, cultivating the will.

Lammas, occurring on the cusp between the power of will and the power of daring, is the time when the witch applies will power to the uncanny realms of spell-casting and change of consciousness, as well as to adventures that lead to revolutionary life-changes.

Samhain, occurring on the cusp between daring and silence, is when acquired skills are allowed to sink down into the unconscious mind, there to incubate and give rise to new life. A musician will put away sheet music and improvise quietly on his or her instrument. The cast spell will be ‘earthed’ and put out of mind. Problems will be set aside for the unconscious to solve. Spontaneity will replace methods and rules, and one will be ready to join the celebrations of Yule and Saturnalia.

The power to go is cultivated through lucid dreaming, knowing one is asleep and dreaming while it is happening, and also from a peculiar state of heightened awareness while awake called lucid waking. A few people have the knack to cultivate this power up front, but most of us need to approach it gradually, through the balanced development of the other four powers, by following witches’ paradigms and conducting sacred rituals.

 

Bibliography

AUDEN, W.H., ed., The Portable Greek Reader, New York, Viking Press, 1948.

CAMPANELLI, Pauline and Dan, Ancient Ways; Reclaiming Pagan Traditions, St. Paul, MN, Llewellyn Publications, 1992.

ELLIS, Peter Beresford, Celtic Myths and Legends, New York, Carroll and Graf, 1999.

FRAZER, Sir James, The Golden Bough, A Study in Magic and Religion, Abridged. Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Reference, 1994.

GRAVES, Robert, The White Goddess; A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 27th printing, 1993.

_____________, Watch the Northwind Rise, New York, Avon Books, 1949.

LELAND, Charles G., Aradia; the Gospel of the Witches, Custer, WA, Phoenix, 1990, orig. publ. 1890.

RYALL, Rhiannon, Celtic Lore and Druidic Ritual, Berkshire, Capall Bann, 1994.

______________, West Country Wicca, Custer, Washington, Phoenix Publishing, 1989.

Sneaky Parenting and a Wedding Day!

Hi my lovelies….and Beltane blessings to all of you guys out there!

Now, as you can imagine, the process of me writing this column doesn’t happen on the 1st of each month, the day of Pagan Pages publication. It’s just as well too as I am, especially the moment, swamped with 100 things on my list to do and very few crossed off. So it is lovely this month to be able to take a few moments out to have a natter with you amidst the chaos that is permeating every corner of my home and life. Today’s date is the 17th April as I am writing, and I am sure as you are reading this on the 1st May my time in between the two dates will be filled with stress, worry and above all extreme tiredness!!!

My daughter is getting married!

Oh yes lovelies, I am the mother of the bride, who knew that the role would involve so many, many duties? It has been a seemingly endless round of months in which so many decisions have had to be made. You know the kind of thing, colour scheme (I was never aware just how many shades of green there are out there), seating plans (who gets to sit where is a political minefield), favour bags (wow, really?) everything down to the shade of lipstick of the bride and the buttercream filling for the cakes (Ummmm, ask me on the 30th April how well THEY turned out) has been discussed and pondered and fretted about. Weddings it seems today have taken on a new, almost spooky life of their own, demanding that jobs on the list be ticked off as quickly as the money flies out of my purse! I am sure my own wedding was never this organised, and mine was a healthy size of 50 people, this one is a small do for 20! So why, you ask, am I rambling on about this wedding in my Pagan Pages column? Because, my lovelies…

  1. If I don’t talk to someone I may just be dragged away by men in white coats, kicking and screaming about apple green and ivory lace.

  2. It has taken over my entire existence including every room in my home.

  3. It is a Beltane Wedding!!!

My frustratingly difficult, but incredibly beautiful eldest daughter has decided to get married on May 1st. She said that it was the perfect day for the wedding, being Beltane. She has chosen to wear a wedding dress that is called ‘the Fairy’ and her theme is natural and white, like a spring day. Her bouquet is loosely tied just as though the flowers have just been picked from the hedgerow. Her make-up will be natural as will her hair,

That is to be bedecked with a sprinkling of tiny pearls and blossom.

Of course all old traditions are being observed, something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

Throughout this whole wedding process I have sat back and watched this now all grown child of mine as she has made her choices and I have listened avidly as to why she has made them. Along with being extremely proud and have also become extremely aware that I have been the ultimate ninja of sneaky parenting. Over the years I have subtly explained the traditions and ways of the path we walk to both of my girls, over and over again at every opportunity. I have always been keen for them to make their own decisions on what path the follow, in fact I believe that we don’t actually come to our path until we are really ready to embrace it. I hope that throughout their growing up period I have never forced my beliefs onto my girls, but instead tried to explain the festivals and their links to the old ways in gentle relevant conversation. During the traditional holidays of Easter and Christmas (noooo, not the C word lol), I have thrown myself into the middle of it all, as we do with our kids, but have also passed along pieces of information about the wheel of the year and the celebrations that accompany each turning point. As a parent you are never entirely convinced that anything you have said will actually go in one ear and stick inside that head of theirs, the chances are that your words will instead go flying all the way through to the other ear and out the other side into the dimension known as ‘I am not interested!’ But we parents are nothing if not persistent! Year after year we witter on about the olde times as year after year the eye rolling gets more exaggerated and the ears get deafer. And then suddenly, one day you are treated to the most wonderful reward for all your efforts! As one would drip feed a small plant and watch it flourish I am now being blessed by all the subtle honouring and recognition of our past traditions that I have ‘dropped’ into their lives through my daughter and her decisions.

May day, the time of the union of the Goddess and her young suitor, the day of traditional handfasting, the ultimate day of the maiden and her beauty being rivalled by no other is THE perfect wedding day for my English rose baby girl. The reception will be lit by candles, representing the Beltane fires of old, where cattle were driven through the smoke as blessings and chants filled the air on their way to the summer pastures and good sweet grass. Spring flowers bedecking both the bride and the tables honour the time of the year in Mother Nature, turning the wedding feast into an enchanting altar. Although all of these wonderful things can be seen to be ‘normal’ wedding adornments their meaning to us on our spiritual path is so much more magical. And the most magical thing of all for this old hedgewitch is that she GETS it, she understands and has actively planned and designed her wedding with the magical meanings in mind. The ceremony is a registry office service and the venue is a local hotel, so although no one is being handfasted per se, it is a symbolic union of the maiden and her lord, the day of making a commitment to another.

My sneaky parenting technic seems to have resulted in a wedding that is so much more than just a marriage, it is a magical life event that I am so blessed to be part of.

So although I am overrun with lace and green ribbon and my wrinkles are getting deeper by the day, Goddess help me, I am immersed in the glow of the magic of my path, and have a feeling of immense pride in the young woman my daughter has become. Now I wonder what daughter 2 will pull out of the bag to surprise me, Kids eh? They never cease to amaze me!

Well, my lovelies, I will get off and get back to these favour bags, thank you guys so much for listening to me witter on, my sanity is somewhat restored!

I hope you have a blessed Beltane

*And to Alexandra and her consort Anthony*

May your life together be filled with abundant blessings, love and grace.

May you walk together as one through any trials that come your way

And may you always have magic in your hearts

Love you too too much

Mum xxx

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

Midsummer 2015

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have done something completely out of character as Midsummer approaches.

I have come to the conclusion it is not important to be right.

Not always.

Like many of you, I have opinions. Strong ones. Opinions I always said you were all entitled to.

Before you tell me opinions are like toes, we all have them, and mine don’t make me special, let me assure you that I have always worked very hard to ensure my opinions are the best possible ones! You see, I am an educated person. I back up my opinions with facts and research, and I can prove my point to almost everybody. And if I am proven wrong, I just say I have learned something, and change my opinion. So I am always right!

That is very important, right?

But with my fortieth birthday looming just ahead, I have changed my mind about that.

After years of facilitating discussions in person and online, I have seen relationships crumble because people just HAVE to be right. Including me.

One of the big contention points is, not surprisingly, religion.

For Pagans, being part of a minority religion, if we are out of the broom closet, we are bound to get some grief from family or co-workers at one time or another. If you are like I have always been, you are not going to stand for that. You might also get upset just by the fact they express a religious opinion or belief that goes against yours, even if it is not directed to you.

Some family from mom’s side was always very vocal about being anti-gay. Mom was very vocal about being anti-anything-besides-Catholic. My father’s side of the family is conservative Southern Christian and I always say some of them believe separation of church and state is wrong and that the USA needs to be an Xtian theocracy.

I don’t handle listening to such sentiments very well. I can’t just not say anything in response to what I consider wrong. I can’t not try to get people to agree with me that god is too big to fit into one religion. I can’t not try to get people to agree with me that their way of life is not necessarily the right way for everybody. I can’t not call people on what I feel is total BS.

I just can’t. Can I?

Sure I can. We all can.

Nearing forty, I realize I am becoming more set in my ways. So is everybody else. I have had the chance to really think about what I believe. So has everybody else. I know what works for me and what makes sense to me. So does everybody else.

Some of my family is SO conservative, and while I am not 100% Liberal, compared to some of them, I am a total anarchist.

Many heated debates happened amongst us. In private, family members who agreed with me told me so. When I asked why they did not speak up, they all said the same thing…that it was not worth it to argue. I did not see it that way. All I could see was that I thought somebody was wrong, and I had to make sure they knew what I felt was right.

It got to the point some of us decided we were no longer speaking. Sometimes I initiated it, sometimes they did. You could absolutely tell whose child I was because I acted just like them. I did not care. I felt I was justified and that I had family who were intolerant, and that I did not need that in my life.

Then, eight months ago, my life changed. Completely. The changes meant I couldn’t work, and I spent a lot of time at home. Alone.

I also got a lot of visits.

Some were from people who did not share my political or religious views, but people who I love and have known a long time, nonetheless.

I also made a new friend, who came to see me every week, and some weeks, it was the only visit I got. She did not share my religion or my political beliefs.

I learned that none of it mattered.

I reconnected with some family as well. It took me three days to work up the courage to tell one family member I thought it was important to have a relationship, differing beliefs aside. She agreed.

I cried for the rest of the night after that because I was so happy.

Sometimes it takes being alone for a short time to realize how important it really is to have people in your life. Agreeing to disagree for the sake of getting along is not as difficult as I always told myself it was. Truthfully, when people wrote me off because they disapproved of my beliefs, it made me even less sympathetic to their beliefs. I wrote some people off too. I know that their reaction was the same as mine had been in the same situation.

We spent a lot of time creating hard feelings when we could have been discussing other things and enjoying life together instead. I realize it is not possible to have a relationship with EVERYBODY. But it IS possible to have more relationships if one is open to relationships with people who are different than them.

It is a good shift of mindset to have nearing Midsummer.

Midsummer is the longest day and shortest night of the year. Historically, it was celebrated with bonfires. We find the theme of chasing off disease, malevolent spirits, and misfortune with bonfires at many pre-Christian celebrations our Sabbats are based on.

Now, in parts of Europe, the Pagan Misdummer celebrations have changed focus, but some traditions are close to the same.

Instead of lighting fires and leaping over them in honor of the old gods, the festivities are oft done in honor of St. John the Baptist instead.

Midsummer, as celebrated in the Celtic lands, the Slavic Nations, and the Germanic ones are the places many of us who are Neo-Pagans and Heathens draw our traditions from.

In The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, which can be found free on sacred-texts.com, is a ritual for Midsummer. Flowers are arranged around a cauldron filled with water, referred to as the waters of life. The ritual focus is on an invocation of the sun, on its longest day to bless both earth, and people.

In ancient Ireland, the bonfires were built, and it was customary to see who could leap highest over the flames. It was believed the height of the highest jump was how high the crops would get. The animals were lead around the fires, oft clockwise, to bless them.

Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, England, is technically a group of things including wooded posts, buried antlers and animal bones and teeth, cremations, ditches, and small holes, as well as the large stones it is famous for , and initial materials has been dated to as early as 8,000 BC. The site was used over a long period of time, and even today, the site hosts rituals and educational tours. So technically, including today’s use, that gives a window of 10,000 years from evidence of first use of the site to today’s use of the site. Pretty cool!

The Midsummer sun rises in alignment with a large sandstone rock that is called the Heelstone. An avenue a couple of miles away was built that aligns with the Midsummer sunset. Evidence of large fires between the two suggests they were perhaps connected.

If this is true, they had at least an all day celebration and ritual and possibly a procession from where the sun rose to where it set.

In Denmark, healing wells were visited in pre Christian times, and bonfires, which are still part of today’s traditions were built. In mediaval times, it was the time for harvesting medicinal herbs.

In Sweden, Maypoles are used as opposed to for Beltaine. This is due to climate. Flowers cannot be found in abundance naturally as early as Beltaine. The Divine Feminine and Masculine are united in the dance, that significance being forgotten due to Christianization, but superstitions are not lost. Single people put flowers under their pillows in hopes of dreaming about future mates. Winter leaves are also burned in fires, perhaps to drive away winter…or in more mundane terms, “danger of last frost”!

After Midsummer, of course, days will shorten again, and nights lengthen. So this is a celebration of the sun at it’s greatest strength, and magically, an attempt to focus that power into strength for an abundant harvest to come. The strength is focuses on the crops, livestock, and the people.

For your own celebrations, may I suggest a prayer and simple personal working to add in there somewhere?

I know I am not the only opinionated Pagan whose family members or loved ones disagree with.

Would you consider changing your role in those conversations? Would you consider being the one to first say. “Let’s agree to disagree!” and then change the subject. Would you consider being the one to reach out to a loved one who will not change, one who would allow the relationship to be compromised, and simply tell them they are more important to you than how you disagree on beliefs?

I realize not everybody will be receptive to you when you do this, but here is a prayer and working for the purpose if you would like to do so.

First, you have to be ready to do this. Really ready. Because I guarantee, your loved one will not change their views. I guarantee that you won’t either.

There will be millions of opportunities to get into an argument with them forever and ever.

They might even TRY to get you to.

But, it takes two to fight. So, you can be the one to decide that arguing or fighting stops.

Even if you aren’t specifically a witch, your will for peace is a powerful spell indeed!

Here goes.

Set up your altar or ritual space as usual for a working.

Get an image of your loved one or loved ones who you want to have more peaceful communications with.

Get a candle which will provide the only light for your working. Use more than one candle if it helps you to see better.

Get a mirror to look into.

Get a few pieces of paper and a writing implement.

Get a small cauldron or other fireproof container because you will be burning some paper.

Get a gift or offering for your loved one. This can be discarded after ritual or actually given to them sometime in the near future.

Get a small gift or offering for yourself, also. Make sure it is something you like and that you will enjoy.

If you are like me, and you cry easily, get tissues.

And last of all, get a hot or cold drink of choice.

I say get something to drink, because of something my mom always did. When I was a kid and I had cried, she would get me a tall, cold glass of tea or something else yummy. She said crying dehydrates you. I do not know if this is true, but the drink always made me feel better!

I am assuming you have already had discussions with your loved one and have been unable to settle differences of opinion. If I am wrong, please put this article aside, and go talk to your loved one asap. Magic is useless if you have not first done the mundane work communicating your feelings and trying to patch things up.

If you are ready to do the working, light the candle to start.

Cast circle and invoke your gods and or guides or not, however you prefer.

Then, write a letter to your loved one. In it, communicate your feelings. Communicate also that you feel your relationship is more important than arguing over who is right, and that you have decided to stop arguing. Say whatever you want to in the letter. It can be as long or as short as you like. While you are writing, put the energy from all these feelings you have, as well as your hopes for better communications into this paper.

Once you have finished this, set that next to the image of said loved one, and put the gift, which is an offering for your loved one there with it.

Next, get another piece of paper, and write a letter to yourself. In it, validate your own feelings of hurt, or upset over things your loved one has said or done. Also acknowledge your own role in continuing whatever issues you have had with one another. Pledge in this letter to work on better communications. Be prepared that you may be the one called to reach out to the loved one, especially if you are estranged from one another. Be prepared you may have to be the one to agree to disagree and put your own opinions aside in order to keep the peace. Put the energy from these feelings into your letter as you write it.

Place this letter next to the mirror and place your gift to yourself there.

On another piece of paper, write how badly communications have gone in the past, and the hurt feelings you both have experienced because of it. You can list the various arguments, or scenarios of misunderstandings if you want. Write as much as you need to, focus putting the energy and hurt feelings into this paper, all of it.

Go back to the letter to your loved one. Read it aloud directly to the image of your loved one. Then read your letter to yourself, while looking in the mirror. Next, place the image of your loved one beside the mirror, and read aloud the third letter to the representation of them, and the mirror to yourself. When you have finished, fold the third letter in half with the side of the paper that has the writing on it inside. Slide this into a blank piece of paper to conceal the writing if needs be. As you fold this paper over or conceal the writing into another piece of paper, will that those hurt feelings and strained communications are becoming a thing of the past and replacing them will be good communications and better times.

Put the letters in a stack any way you wish. Then still yourself for a moment and when you are ready to let go of the hurt, resentment, grudges, reluctance to make up, or whatever upset you might feel, burn those papers. Know in your heart that you are letting go and destroying those bad feelings and all that will be left is the love and desire for a good relationship from now on.

Once the papers are burned, bury the ashes, laying to rest the bad times, or release them to the wind, completely letting them go .

Extinguish your candle or candles, close circle and banish as usual, and either discard the offering to your loved one, or give it to them sometime in the future. Keep the offering you gave to yourself and enjoy it.

Congratulations. You decided to be a peacemaker. You decided your relationships are more important than being right or arguing over opinions or beliefs. You decided we all have different beliefs and we can love each other and have good times and happy lives together despite those differences. You have good priorities and your loved ones are truly blessed to have you.

I think Midsummer is a good time to do this for two reasons. One, in Summertime, we have a lot of gatherings. The weather is nice and often, we see more of each other then. You might “run into” them, and before you do, a working to ensure better relations is an excellent idea. Which leads us to number two. Rather than dreading seeing somebody, use the powerful energy at this turn of the wheel, which is strong for creating life. The Sun is at its strongest and generations of people have used the power of this time for blessings, strength, and growth.

Over the past eight months, I learned that materially, you can lose everything, but if you have loved ones, they will get you through your worst times. There will come a day when you are doing well, and they are not, and it will be your turn to help them.

When all else is lost, as long as we have one another, there is reason for hope, and where there is hope, there really is life.

May you and your loved ones have a long, happy life together.

Blessed Midsummer, and Blessed Be.

 

Samhain 2015 for Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

 

This article is cheating. I admit it.

I was looking over last year’s article to ensure I did not write close to the same thing this year, and I stumbled upon the file for the talk and ritual I gave at our Samhain last year. It was conveniently and entirely different from last year’s article.

Of course, memories came flooding back. Each Sabbat and gathering is packed with good memories with loved ones. Samhain, the time for honoring the dead, is a good time to connect with the living as well. In pre-Christian times, it was a time of communal work and celebration of a good final harvest and bringing the herds in for winter. It was also a time to give thanks, and ask the powers that be for protection from sickness, starvation, and death in the cold months.

I reworked my talk into an article. That is the cheating! The article discusses some history, as well as ancient practices, and then the ritual we used to honor the Sidhe has been reworked and is given at the end.

A LITTLE HISTORY AND WHY THEY HAD SAMHAIN

Samhain originally comes from Ireland and was celebrated as the beginning of winter. It dates from times when the folk were dependent upon herds. May 1, Beltaine, was of course when the herds were brought out to Summer fields, and Samhain was when they were brought in for the winter. It was also the cold part of the year. People got sicker and were more likely to die. So, people would be doing rituals for protection at Samhain.

They also believed that the dead had more access to the world of the living at that time. They not only honored the dead, but also did things to ward off spirits that were not so nice. Bad spirits could bring disease and death of livestock or people.

Back before refrigeration, insulation, electricity, and preservatives, all of this was a very big deal. The people believed very strongly that the spirits, gods, and the ancestors directly influenced what happened to the living. They could bring suffering and sickness, or bestow life, health, wealth and blessings. It was very important that all the proper taboos were observed and honor was paid to the gods, the dead and the spirits. All the proper workings and rituals had to be observed so everybody made it through the cold winter. And of course it was at the end of final harvest, so there was eating, drinking, feasting, and revelry!

ANCIENT SITES

We know what neo-Pagans do now, but we rely on the writings of people like the monks to let us know what the pre-Christian Pagans did. Some of the writings depict things we’d never do in modern times.

One god who was honored Samhain time was Crom Cruach- who favored human sacrifice. At the historical plain in what is now in Ulster, called Magh Slecht ( maw shlaykht), an image of Crom Stood, and that is where some Samhain rites were said to begin. At Magh Slecht, there are monuments dating back to before 4000 BC and there are 80 known monuments on the site. It became the center for worship of Crom, and devotees were said to prostrate themselves to Crom by kneeling and putting their foreheads on the ground. Thus, the name Mag Slecht means, “The plain of prostrations”. The monuments still there include not only Christian sites, but also artificial islands, burial sites, stone circles, and even a couple of castles. According to the monks, St, Patrick struck down the statue of Crom, ended the worship of him, and founded a church there. It is said when he struck the statue down, a ring of stones encircling the statue sank into the ground. Interestingly, it is said the Killycluggin Stone is the one St. Patrick struck down. Others say the stones around the Killycluggin Stone were actually the image of Crom. There is of course, an amazing looking replica placed where the original was excavated in 1921, as well as remainders of the stone circle. The original Killycluggin Stone is now in the County Cavan Museum in Ballyjamesduff. An online source at

themysticwood.com/shop/2015/08/01/10-tidbits-about-crom-dubh-sunday

has beautiful photos and a little more about Crom and the stone.

Other sites where Samhain was celebrated was The Hill of Ward in Ireland. It was an Iron Age ringfort where a lot of things happened, and its massive Samhain gatherings were to light the winter fires, which took place in Medieval times. Its structures date from 200 AD. It is said the god Lugh was honored on Samhain on the Hill of Ward. The Hill of Tara was also a site where Samhain gatherings occurred. It is 12 miles away from the Hill of Ward, and when fires are lit atop the hills, the fires can be seen all the way 12 miles away at one another. I lucked into an awesome You Tube Video the University of Dublin created called “The First Halloween”. You have to see it!

Another site watched was a cave where the dead were said to emerge. It’s called Oweynagat, The Cave of Cats. It is part of a complex of sites known as Rathcroghan that has burial sites, and was used for huge ritual gatherings. It complex is estimated to be 6,000 years old. The cave itself is just part of that. It was specifically the door to the other world guarded by Queen Maeve who was said to transform into the Morrigan. She held off the beasts from beyond to protect humanity. It was said she was born and also died at the entryway. She is said to emerge in her chariot every Samhain pulled by a one legged chestnut horse. Inscribed in Ogham on the lintel above the door is “Hellmouth Door of Ireland”. They also call it the cave of cats because it is said a three headed long fanged cat guards the door. I watched a video of somebody brave enough to enter. It’s a small cave where many have entered and finally, some workmen started installing electricity, and a portion collapsed to form a dead end. If you’re like me you think maybe the dead do not want people snooping around in there. It was not a place you wanted to be when those creatures emerged.

You can find the footage I am talking about at YouTube. Type in Oweynagat, cave of the cats, Rathcroghan. A journey into mother earth. Mike Croghan is the one who made this video.

Scientifically speaking, very little excavation has been done on the whole complex, but they have used radar surveys, which show a lot of similarities between Rathcroghan and the Hill of Tara complex.

BONFIRES

At these ancient sites, there was not just sacrifice on Samhain. Of course, bonfires were lit on the hills to drive out or burn up unwanted influences, as well as having two bonfires people and livestock walked between to bless them. People took flames from these fires back to their homes and lit new fires from them.

THE SIDHE AND THE DEAD

As for the honoring of the dead, it was originally the Sidhe who were honored. People left food and drink for them, sometimes leaving a portion of crops in the fields for them. If the people had to walk outside , they would turn their clothes inside out or carried salt or iron to keep the Sidhe from harming them.

The dead were welcomed into the home by setting a place for them at the table. They were honored and kept happy, because if they were upset, or wanted to come for revenge, little could be done. The Sidhe, in particular, were those creatures who you did not want to offend. Nowadays, many Neo Pagans like to decorate with fairies and dress in pretty costumes with gossamer wings, many of whom look similar to Tinkerbell. A lot of people think of the Sidhe as sweet, pretty, little earth folk who are charming and enchanting and sprinkle pixie glitter and whatnot, and that is not the way things are at all. To this day, the people of Irelend go out of their way to not piss off the Sidhe.

Some believe they are the descendants of the Tuatha De Danann- or children of the goddess Danu and when the Milesians defeated them, they went to live in the mounds. Historically, the Milesians are actually an ethnic group of people said to have come from Iberia, and settled the Island. And it is historically accepted by some that the Tuatha de Dannan were the pre-Celtic inhabitants of Ireland. They were said to go live in the mounds, which have been proven to be ancient burial sites. According to the lore, as the children of Danu were forgotten about, they shrunk in stature. Some Xtians believe they are fallen angels. Some believe they are spirits that go about their lives just like everybody else. Many believe that we live in parallel worlds with the Sidhe and our world comes in contact with theirs at times and boundaries have to be respected. Money is thrown in wells for them, great care is taken to build roads AROUND sites said to be theirs, food and drink is left for them. If people believed the Sidhe had blessed them or done work for them, gifts of a bowl of cream or new clothes was left for them. Baked goods, apples, and berries were also left for them.

The Sidhe could smile upon you, but they could also harm you. They may not only kill you or your livestock, but they could take you home with them. The belief was that the fairy mounds were completely open at Samhain time. It was a big worry that you might be carried off. If you wound up there, you might find your way back…eventually- but the Sidhe’s time is not our time. What would seem like moments in their time can be decades in our time.

A tale is told of a man who was perhaps the greatest fiddler alive. The Sidhe liked him- a lot- and so they took him with them- and he was seen sometime after his disappearance- looking horribly exhausted, filthy, starved, and a look of horror about him- and his arms seemed to be playing the instrument all on their own, detached from his body.

Encounters with the Sidhe did not always go this way, but there was a chance they could, So it was very important if to stay in or close to home if not at ritual come Samhain time if at all possible, but if you had to leave home, you could do things like- leave gifts, of course, wear your clothes inside out and carry iron, or salt to ward them off.

COSTUMES

You could also disguise yourself. Costumes started from people disguising themselves to confuse or ward off the supernatural creatures- you might get carried off to the other world if they were not disguised well. It further developed into mumming, or going from door to door costumed as part of the festivities, which is still observed all over Britain to this day. Sometimes, it was done in costume to collect things for the celebration from each household, and sometimes it was done for fun.

FUN AND PRANKS

Alcohol was used to celebrate since the time of the ancient Irish, in more recent times, they did so as well. Fueled by booze, the pranks could get pretty wild. For example- folks would throw rotten fruit or veggies around houses, throw bags of flour all over people, or make noises outside their houses.

The Sidhe could also play pranks on people. They might do something as mild as put thorns in your bed or like those horrid creatures from the Otherworld, they could wreak damage on property of livestock. They might even swap their kid for yours.

Maybe it was the Sidhe and the dead that got us started doing tricks and pranks Samhain time, but folks sometimes, to this day go too far-

Like in 2012, a 17 and 18 year old were arrested for throwing an egg in a 71 year old woman’s face who thought she was answering the door for trick or treaters.

In 2010, two women were arrested for a prank. They wrapped a mannequin in a “bloody sheet” and dropped it off on the highway and waited at the top of a hill with binoculars to see how many people they could scare.

Maybe in the days of yore, you could blame a prank on the Sidhe or spirits- but nowadays, I don’t think the police are going to buy that.

DIVINATION

Samhain was also a good time to do divination. Since the otherworld was much more active in this world, the realities shifted, messages would be clearer. They did not do “readings” the way we do. They sometimes used food. An apple was peeled, and the peel thrown over the shoulder to see if it would reveal the first letter of the person’s future spouses name. Eggs whites were dropped in water to see if it would reveal the number of children a couple would have. They sometimes had each person present put a rock representing themselves in a ring together. Everybody would run around the stones and in the morning if any stone was mislaid it was supposed to show who would not survive the winter.

TODAY AS OPPOSED TO THEN

For us Neo-Pagans, we do Sabbat. Usually an evening ritual and gathering. But in days past, the festivities might last a week from first bringing the cattle in, to blessing them and getting them situated- down to slaughtering the last of the meat- especially the animals they felt would not make it through the winter and then having the feast prepared- which might last for more than one day.

So from its humble beginnings – in Ireland thousands of years ago, we now have people all over the world celebrate this blessed time of year when the living and the dead commune and when we prepare for the ice and snow and dark and cold.

We may celebrate differently today and for perhaps different reasons but this ancient occasion is what brought us all together tonight.

One other thing about the Sidhe- it is really not polite to talk about them, and I have talked about them a whole lot, haven’t I? It is a good thing the ritual honors them!

In Honor of the Sidhe

This ritual comprised the closing for our Samhain in 2014 and I am sharing it here. The ritual is a good one to do with anybody, including kids and people who have no formal training in ritual. They do their reading, and give their offering. Simple.

Preparation

Gather things for four offerings. Food, drink, coins, and incense.

Do not cast circle, as your people will stand in a circle and that will comprise your circle. You do not want a closed circle for this out of respect for the Sidhe and so they may come and go as they see fit. Plus, when you leave your offerings, each person needs to be able to move around to place things wherever they deem fit. That might just be a distance from where you are standing to do ritual. Plus, you do not want to banish.

Do not set up an altar. You just need your papers with the readings written on them, and your offerings. It is really best to do this outside in your garden or in nature. You can have garden torches if you like, or outside lights if available. Then again, if you are in a deep forest, or if the stars and moon are not bright enough, you can always let people have their own flashlight or candle to illuminate. But if you cannot be outdoors for this rite, just turn off the lights and light enough candles to see by.

You can have three people to give offerings of drink, food, and money and you can offer the incense at the beginning. Ideally, you want to leave the offerings out in nature for the Sidhe to accept without being watched. You can split up the readings for your group. You can also do all the parts yourself if you are doing Solitary ritual.

You certainly can have people stand facing the appropriate directions when they give their offerings, but you really don’t have to. Wiccan use of the four directions comes out of traditions that came later on in Pagan practice. While the purpose of this is to honor the Sidhe, not to necessarily stick with any given dogma, if you prefer, you certainly can do things “by the book” as they say, moving only clockwise, and standing facing in the traditional Wiccan directions.

The Ritual

Opening Reading

If history, lore, and science are believed, some of us, perhaps all of us in this very room are the descendants of the Sidhe. Some writings say they were the first inhabitants of Mother Ireland. The ones originally responsible for the very fact we have Samhain. If all this is to be believed, they walk among us morseo this time of year, and more than that their blood flows in our veins. It is because of them that we are alive today. And because of us, they are alive today.

It is them who we will honor and ask for blessings in this rite.

Reading #1

(Light the incense, and put it in the center of your group of people.)

Hail to the Sidhe.

Beautiful and Terrible.

Small, and Great.

Seen and Unseen.

Hail to you Fathers of Fathers.

Mothers of Mothers.

Guardians of the Otherworld.

Reading #2

(Put the drink in the center)

You can heal or you can harm.

You can grant life or death.

Accept our gifts and respect

As we enter the cold, dark months.

Reading #3

(Put the food in the center)

Spare us and our loved ones another winter

That we may make it to the Summer.

Increase our wealth and give us good health.

Help us to pass this winter in good company

And to create good memories

Accept our gifts and our respect.

Reading #4

(Put the money in the center)

Smile upon us, give us safe passage home this night

And this season.

(Now those offering gifts will gather up gifts, and with all attendees, take the things and place them where the Sidhe can find them.

Come back together.)

Closing

(Have all join hands.)

The Sidhe have been gifted and honored, and now, may your gods and guides bless you. May the ancestors be ever present all of your days. May the Sidhe smile upon you, and may we all see one another soon.

Merry Have We Met,

Merry Shall We Part,

and Merry Shall We Meet Again.

Blessed Be.

Blessed Samhain.

Dream Magick and Healing at Yule

Yule Candle

 

My thoughts on Yule are comforting, family together and sharing what we have, eating together and exchanging gifts. The Winter Solstice is a powerful doorway into magick and we can connect to this energy through dreams. Here’s an idea for a gift of dream healing. Make a home-made card for your dearest friend and offer her a dream healing as a gift for Yule. In the days leading up to the Solstice dress a green candle in Yuletide scents such cinnamon, cloves, orange and pine. You can also put a few drops on the card so when she opens it the smell of Yule will bless her! Before bed light the candle and spend a few minutes connecting with your friend. Don’t forget to blow the candle out before you sleep!

We all dream, although some cannot remember their dreams when they awake from the hidden land. During dreams everyone astral travels, sees the future, gets messages from spirit and travels to other places in the dreaming. Shamans and Witches learn to remember their dreams and interpret them. They use lucid dreaming as a method of spirit work and healing. They contact their ancestors and guides during dream to help themselves, family and community.

Dream magick takes practice and time, but since we spend eight hours a day sleeping there is plenty of time to work on it! Tonight I light a candle and do a meditation for Sylvana* to ask for healing and guidance from her guides and mine. I finish the meditation and extinguish the flame, falling asleep quickly to the sound of the soft snoring of my little dogs curled up with me under the warm blankets. The room is completely dark and the light from the full moon does not penetrate the thick curtains, although the moon energy affects my dreaming and my sleep.

I dream that I am walking through a field in the country. I’m wearing an old fashioned dress and carrying a basket. At my feet is wild grass and many weeds but I am looking for something. Out of the corner of my eye I catch a movement and turn to see a plant glowing. I carefully take some of the leaves while singing a soft crooning song to the plant that seems to make it sleepy. Suddenly my basket is half full of herbs and I’m at the edge of the field in the shadow of a forest. Out of the forest a darkness is moving towards me and I’m afraid! I am rooted to the spot and I can’t run. The darkness moves closer and I see something writhing in the dim shadow. Awareness comes to me! I’m dreaming! I am asleep! I can wake up now! But I can’t wake up and I can’t run in the dream. The monster is coming!

A ringing noise sounds, like a singing bowl being struck softly. Where is that sound coming from? It is coming from my basket of herbs and looking down I see that the leaves are glowing with green light. Without really thinking I snatch a handful of the herbs and throw them into the darkness. As they fly through the air they seem to catch fire, spinning and dancing like crazy fireflies! I hear a scream and then the shadow is gone and sunlight pours down onto the trees. I wake up from the dream with the feeling of fresh leaves in my hands and between my fingers.

The next morning I sit in the garden listening to the birdsong and wondering about the meaning of Sylvanna’s dream. I was wearing old fashioned clothes and collecting healing herbs so I think that this was a message from the ancestors. I’m trying to think what kind of plant it was that I was gathering. It seems familiar! Sylvanna is dealing with depression so I think that the darkness and the monster were her illness. Has she received a healing from this dream? I woke with the feeling of the herbs in my hands so I think that I have brought them back with me for her.

I finish my tea and go for a walk around the garden. There are wild parts and cultivated parts, hidden plants that come and go. I know it well but it is always changing, like a dream! At the back near the blueberries I see the plant from my dream. It has bright yellow flowers glowing brightly in the morning sun; a St.John’s Wort! This is a plant that is connected to the sun and protection. It is also the herbal remedy for depression! Now I understand my dream. First of all I fought the illness for Sylvanna using the magick of the herb. Because I brought it back with me, she is meant to connect with the plant in some way for her depression. I know it is proven to help mild depression or the blues, but not deep suicidal despair.

I call Sylvanna and she says that she woke feeling hope! This is a very good sign. I ask her if she has ever tried St.John’s Wort and she says that she has heard about it but cannot take it with the medication she is already on. I suggest a dream pillow with St.John’s Wort, camomile flowers and lavender to help her sleep well and to connect her sleeping self with the energy and magick of the herb. During the day I create the dream pillow for her and energize it with the healing of the Sacred Earth and the Ancestors.

A few days later she tells me that she is feeling much better and that she has turned a corner. Now she really believes that her terrible depression and darkness is finally lifting. She feels hopeful that soon she will be able to come home to the land of happiness and the land of normal!

Dream magick can be done by everyone because it is natural to dream. Let us walk in the dreamtime together and meet the spirits and guides who are ready to help us.

(*Name changed and the story is a composite of more than one person.)

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