About Holly & Jacques

Proprietors of Euphoric Naturals & Apothecary. Purveyor of unique wyldecrafted products that enhance the magical journey and enchant the pagan soul!

For the Love of Valentine

The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.     ~Rumi

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alentine’s Day is one associated with lovers, couples and many may argue….commercialism.   As with any other public opinion, it requires examination so that one may evaluate and respond in a way that honors our path and our relationships in a way that feels authentic and productive. 

There are as many types of love as there are people with the most remarked on and notable being:  Eros (sexual, passionate, romantic), Agape (universal love/heart chakra centered), Philia (friendship and goodwill), Storge (familial/parental),  Ludus (playful activity, flirting, seduction),  Philautia (self-love: both the healthy and unhealthy kind), and Pragma (practical and compatible).  Despite Valentine’s Day being associated with lovers, through the ages it has been a day to celebrate love and friendship of all kinds.

For many of us, our introduction to Valentine’s Day and love outside of the home began in grade school.  It is a holiday full of creativity and social/emotional growth, but at times could be a bit painful as well.  For me, Valentine’s Day was exciting because I loved art and V Day meant access to new art supplies of red and pink paper, hearts, sequins and delicate lace paper doilies.  As a class, we worked diligently creating homemade collages loosely representing a Valentine’s card, most often to our parents.  We would then practice our spelling and fine motor skills to write out our classmate’s names on flimsy store-bought cards sporting cheesy pictures to later take to school and hurriedly place in construction paper mailboxes taped to our desks.  If we are lucky some generous parent would include a little chocolate, a box of candy hearts or a sticker.  After the cards were passed out, everyone would excitedly open the cards.  I was psychoanalytical even as a small child and so would evaluate each person’s message by their choice of card. Did I get cards from all my friends, was there a special crush card from someone I didn’t know that liked me?   Potential hurt would be present when someone didn’t give me a card as I couldn’t understand why.    

In later grades, our minds are stretched in figuring out how to express words of caring to our friends without sounding stupid or giving someone the wrong idea, while in turn telling someone we like them…..without actually admitting it in the event we are rejected.  Our social and emotional skills are tested as we are told by our parents that we must write a card to every student on the list, even when we don’t want to.  As we get older our personalities begin to develop as do conflicts and we don’t necessarily want to include everyone in our circle of love.  We begin weighing our like and dislike of each other based on how we’ve been treated, hurts experienced (imagined and unimagined) to withholding a piece of ourselves in not sharing a card with the feelings of what it felt like when we didn’t receive a card.  At this time (hopefully) conversations begin around what is love, kindness, generosity and compassion?  How do we deal with people who don’t treat us well or return affection?  How do we deal with emotional related hurts and disappointments?  It all can become complicated very quickly and have lasting benefits or consequences depending on what tools we are taught.

Eventually ‘Will you be Mine’ hearts and paper doily cards give way to roses, chocolates and more adult overtures or expressions of love.  Depending on our past experiences we can choose this to be a time of joy and celebration or a time of jaded pessimism.  Valentine’s Day has no shortage of celebrants and is one of the most popular holidays in the United States.  Despite its popularity, many detractors denounce V Day as simply a commercial holiday designed to make people just spend more money.  To that, I would say that nobody can make you feel or do things you don’t want to.

In reality, Valentine’s Day occurs during the Season of Imbolg, a time where the weak light starts quickening the seeds of life within.  We start waking up from the hibernation and slowly stretch our delicate tendrils to the light in an effort to leave winter behind. It is interesting to note how V Day occurs during this time of the year.

There is much in the way of controversy surrounding the origination of Valentine’s Day.  One theory postulates St. Valentine was a 3rd-century Roman saint who started out as a priest, ministering to persecuted Christians.  He was imprisoned, whereby he fell in love with a young girl to whom he allegedly penned a letter and signed “From your Valentine”.  Valentine was martyred and then commemorated in death on February 14th.

Another theory stems from the actions of Emperor Claudius II, who decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives, therefore outlawing marriage for young men. Valentine felt this was unjust and married young lovers in secret. When Claudius learned of this deception, he ordered the death of Valentine.

The romanticism of either myth has not been forgotten all these years later.  It does, however, beg the question of whether or not it was initiated by the Christians in an effort to usurp the fertility festival of Lupercalia, dedicated to Faunus, the god of agriculture?  This fertility ritual occurred in the middle of February in conjunction with the beginning of birds’ mating season.  There is the soft fragrance of early lily of the valley, witch hazel, redbud and forsythia as well as the returning sounds of birds.  There is a flurry of activity in the pairing up and nest building of these birds as well.  Those in rural areas see this quickening result in new beginnings: the birth of lambs and early calves as well as chickens starting to lay eggs (another seed of life) after a long dark winter.

As pagans in tune with the cycles of the earth, we understand the need for her balance and upkeep.  Our voice and power to effect change are expressed through what we spend on consumables.   While there are a lot of consumables to be indulged in during Valentine’s Day, one does not have to sell the farm and buy up the store to show love.  Many argue that loving-kindness and the generous nurturing of a relationship needs to be shown to our partners all year long, not just on one day a year.  I do not believe any person truly engaged in a relationship would argue that statement.  A relationship is a living co-creation that requires daily mindful attention of all people involved, as a whole year of maintenance and attention cannot be crammed into one day.

I liken the group mind energy of Lupercalia/Valentine’s Day to that of Winter Solstice/Yule/Christmas, in that the magic felt during the Solstice season is big and heartfelt with energy for spell working much easier to raise because people have open hearts and are largely of the same group mind.

Valentine’s Day is all about choices.  The value is in the micro choices taking place each day in how you choose to show up in your relationship.   How one approaches Valentine’s Day is a personal choice and like anything else in life-you get out of it, what you put in.  Valentines Day can be as unique as the couple celebrating and one can choose to view V Day as another commercial holiday or one can take the opportunity of the curated Valentine’s venues to tap into the love vibes and cast a spell on each other for deeper connection and another memorable year.  At this time of year, I build an altar for the love of my family and friends.  I make special treats and pen cards to hand out as a personal expression of how I feel and want to make others feel.  Valentine’s Day does not need to be fancy, just genuine.

Love is the Law of the Land and Love is the most powerful force on earth.  Even more amazing is this year it falls on Friday-that day ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love.  Any reason to celebrate love in all of its forms is worthy of time and attention in my book!

However you choose to celebrate-may the Goddess bless your love thricely now and in the coming year!

Cheers and Blessed Be

 

 

January 2o2o Cancer Full Moon

INTUITION * EMOTIONS

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J blkanuary 2o2o kicks off with an intriguing New Year of pivotal historic and spiritual change as we transition into the Age of Aquarius.  As discussed in a previous post, moving into the Age of Aquariusis an exciting time, but can also be a nerve-racking transition as we are plagued with a country and world divided unlike ever before.  As with any transition, the struggle to let go is very real and apparent;  issues of civil, political, religious and social unrest are quite turbulent and much in the forefront of our awareness.

Current projections for the 2o2o show a year that is mellow into June, but indicate worldwide concerns with material scarcity as oppressive social systems begin to unravel.  The astrological and planetary alignments require us to let go of dead habits, ideas and old world views that no longer serve so that we can make space for both new and remembered indigenous knowledge of community and spiritual practice.  Astrologists predict a major shift in the rebuilding of society through humanitarian efforts.

As pagans and witches, our spiritual practice and magical rites are informed by the seasons, the natural world around us, synchronicities, meditations, rituals, and divinatory practices, all of which are cluing us into the importance of the full moons in the coming year.  The Full Moon in Cancer, taking place on January 10th, provides us with an opportunity to engage in magic specific to family and home.   My recent meditations regarding magic for the coming full moon repeatedly show me scales, indicating a need for a balance brought forth and maintained during this transition, specific to the mind and how we frame challenges in our future as well as fiduciary responsibilities.  As Cancer oversees the home and emotions, Cancer, in her ruling sign, the Moon, focuses on the intuition necessary to navigate us through trying times.   For us, this upcoming Full Moon will deal with internal housecleaning, fine-tuning our internal compass, and communicating with our bodies about what is in harmony or out of sync.  I will ask of my internal home, ” What are my emotional strengths and weaknesses? What feels good and right in my body? What sends a red flag? What secrets am I hiding about my true feelings? What are those emotions that lead to imbalance and veer me off the path of authenticity?” In magic one of the most important tasks before you is asking the correct question.

As we all know, change happens at home and this begs the very real question of “who am I in this world of change?”  “who do I want to be?”.  Ultimately it comes down to how can we balance our responsibilities in the everchanging world while being authentic and connected to our most essential selves, especially when surround by spiritually asleep people who see/experience the world much differently than we? More importantly, it is a time that requires us to adapt in the face of frequent changes that increase as we transition from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius.

As Einstein said, “The Measure of intelligence is the ability to change’.

As you cast your circles and create sacred space, remember…….we are all in this together.  Be gentle with yourselves and others.

Merry Part and Blessed Be!

The Magic of 2o2o-Age of Aquarius

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t redhe beginning of a new year can be a time inspiring change in our lives.  We don’t know what the year holds for us, but we hold in our hearts the hope for new opportunities to move us forward.  It is said that it is darkest before the dawn and 2o2o is just such a moment.  We all have the amazing fortune to be not only witnessing but experiencing a historically pivotal time of spiritual and social transition.

For the World-2020 is the year where the Age of Pisces ends and the Age of Aquarius begins.  We all know in life, beginnings and endings are never black and white.  Ingrained world views and systems of belief cannot be changed overnight and thusly been quite apparent in the political, racial, social, environmental, civil, religious and spiritual upheavals taking place worldwide, especially in the last 50 years.   Never has the world been so divided on every level.

The Age of Pisces values money, power, technology, and control; hence the destruction of our planet in the name of greed and the almighty dollar, oppressive social structures, over consumerism and demonization of anything or anyone directly connected to the Gods, the Old Ways, the Divine Source.  As Sandra Weaver said, ” Throughout most of Pisces though this spiritual side is for the most part seen as the truth hidden behind the five senses. Spirituality was seen in relation to the world, not through an innate knowing of divinity“.

The Age of Aquarius values love, compassion and integrity of self which kicks off a time of healing our planet, our society and ourselves through humanitarian efforts.   It is a time that brings us back to our ancestral roots and strengthens the need to participate in our local communities.  Just as Pisces started out with the strengths of the sign, growth peaked and then became consumed in cycles perpetuated by its weaknesses; something that needs to be safeguarded against with the Aquarian traits if we are to be successful in healing our planet, society and ourselves.

While  It can be very difficult to be a spiritual person in society with its currently held beliefs, the Age of Aquarius has the potential of ushering in a more spirit-centered/connected existence.  This is now the time of embracing daily spiritual practices revering a higher power/intelligence and using our pagan understanding of our interconnectedness to the cosmos and natural systems that impact and inform our spiritual and earthly realities (which science is finally recognizing to be a truth).  The question for the year and even possibly the decade is “Who am I going to be?” “How am I going to show up?” during this time of great change and transition.

It appears as if 2o2o is going to be a year of opportunity in reforming ourselves and aligning ourselves with more profound spiritual wisdom.  For us, at Rosethorn Manor we have opted to focus our magical workings on maintaining the balance necessary in times of tumultuous change while weaving in the unique requirements of each individual.

How do you plan to ‘bring it’ for 2o2o?

‘Familiar’ Loss

“We never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”

― Gail Caldwell

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Witch’s Familiar is something of tall tales as told in history books and still a very integral part of spiritual practice for many of us.  In April, we lost our beloved Familiar, Ms. Lyra, and it’s taken me this long to be able to share.  Lyra was a huge part of our every day in every-way life and the loss is a particularly deep and painful one.  I have sustained the loss of dogs, cats, horses, grandparents and both of my parents; the list goes on.  As pagan peoples bearing close ties to the energies and frequencies we live and work with, the loss is deeply felt and a familiar is extremely hard.  Every place I turn in my bedroom, in the garden, in the barn, on the front porch is ghosted with her presence and constant reminders at every turn.  Our lives were enriched by her presence, by her nurturing nature, by the flash of her golden eyes and her sassy chatter.  Ms. Lyra would watch over me wherever I went: while I slept, she patrolled the land; when I was up in the morning, she raced through the dog door to have a morning meditation; when I went running, she frequently insisted on running 2 miles or more with me through the woods (which is highly usually for just a regular cat and  indicated I needed to be on the watch for something); when sick she would give her healing energy to whomever needed it.

Our spiritual practice was enriched through her awareness of that which could not be seen and her supportive presence during circle.  Her energy and frequency added another layer of power and connection to our workings that is much different now that she is gone.

Almost everyone has experienced a serious loss of some sort in their lives, whether it be a family member, friend, home, job, beloved pet or familiar.  Loss is always hard unless it’s the last five pounds of winter weight.  It is a feeling I have become far too familiar with and therefore know what to expect, though I do not believe that it is an experience one ever truly gets used to.  “They” say that time heals all wounds, however, one would need to define ‘heal’.  Loss is an oxymoron, in that one has less of something, yet somehow feels heavier in our grief.

RIP

The process of healing is different for everyone and there is no right or wrong way to grieve, other than ignoring it. In the face of grief remember to be gentle with yourself, give yourself time and honor life and loss in your own way.

All these months later and our loss still feels heavy and fresh.   We have honored her presence in our Samhain Season rites and will continue to remember Ms. Lyra equally as we acknowledge any family member.

Ms. Lyra-the lives of those at Rosethorn Manor and been blessed by your presence and will never be the same again.  May your soul ride gently and safely on the joyful breath of Bastet until we meet once again my beloved.  RIP

If you have lost a beloved Familiar, we would love to hear your story.

Women’s Spirituality Trilogy

celticThroughout history, much of what has been written on paganism, witchcraft and alternative spiritual practices has led to much in the way of misunderstanding.  Witches and Heathens, as portrayed in movies sends one down the road of a bumbling idiot, maniacal evil sorcerer or vampy succubus and everything in-between.  While at times amusing and entertaining, most are based on unflattering stereotypes that hold little value in their representations.  We previously listed out some of our favorites on the Pagans and Media post, however, wanted to touch on a really great set of videos with a more authentic and respectable historical approach.

 

There are a series of videos called the Women’s Spirituality Trilogy. The three videos… The Burning Times, God Has Remembered, and Full Circle. The Burning Times provided an in-depth look at the diverse history of 15 to 17 centuries considering the worship of the goddess, manipulations of the clergy, and witchcraft of yesterday and today. Terrific numbers of witches and non-witches burned my other types of torture reminding.

God Has Remembered, examine varieties of goddess worship in different places around the world. There was footage of caves, deserts, temples, carvings and statues. The writers also touched on the resurgence of forgotten values and worship currently being practiced by both men and women.

Full Circle dealt with the manifestation of the many forms of women’s spirituality. It showed women coming together out of the shadows of men, clergy, fear and uniting in trust once again. The many points of equality and respect between the two genders were shown.

 

Watching these videos is time well spent. It was wonderful to recognize many rituals and songs that we do in our own circles. These videos had great people such as  Starhawk and Margot Adler. The dances and music were beautiful and all of the videos were represented in an informative and intelligent manner without divulging too much. The resurgence in forgotten values and practice of the old ways are alive and through this path our futures hold hope. For people newly answering the call it is a great entry resource and for those already familiar it is wonderful to see it happening in somebody fantastic ways and in living color.

Pagans and Media

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ecently, a newbie to paganism asked my husband and I for some of our favorite pagan media titles.  For pagans and people of alternative spiritualities, it used to be quite a challenge to find anything of quality that wasn’t steeping solely in stereotype.  This day and age, however, there are quite a few movies and series that are enjoyable to watch-some with historical significance, some with kernels of truth as seen in one’s peripheral vision and of course stereotypes as well and some are just purely entertaining!  There are others that may not be pagan or craft related but serve to inspire or help one think outside of the box regarding faith/spirituality/religion and subsequent moral or philosophical connotations.

Here are a list of just a few of our favorites:

Practical Magic            Ladyhawk                          The 13th Warrior
The Princess Bride     The Deceivers                   Pan’s Labyrinth
Mists of Avalon           Legend of the Witches     The Watcher in the Woods
The Witches of Eastwick-Movie and Series            The Mistress of Spices
GRIMM                         The DaVinci Code               I Married a Witch
Like Water for Chocolate                                            Book, Bell & Candle Avatar
The Cloud Atlas           Wish Upon A Spell             Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Stardust                        The Good Witch Series and Movies
The Witches                The Gift                                  Mulan
Witchcraft: Rebirth of the Old Religion                     Sorceress
Eve’s Bayou                The Spirit of Albion              My Neighbor Totoro
Thor Lord of the Rings                                                  The Pagan Queen
Hocus Pocus               The White Queen                  Harry Potter
The Seeker                 The Littlest Witch                  The Craft
Arranged                    Chocolat                                  Agora
The Celestine Prophecy                                            Anchoress
Spellbinder                  The Magicians                     The Shannara Chronicles                                           Dresden Files
The Wicker Man-Old and New version. (If you watch them back to back you will notice the differences between representations of God/Goddess as well as how female sexuality is portrayed. It struck me as quite curious).

You-tube has many documentaries & lectures as well as radio and TV interviews with pagan notables on the path of the Old Ones.

Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive or complete.  I did not include horror or satanic flicks.

We would love to hear about some of your favorites!

Season of Imbolg

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he season of Imbolg is upon us at the midpoint between Yule and Ostara. The spark of light, life & hope born from the womb of the Goddess at Yule emerges from the cave of darkness, bringing forth the stirrings of newly regenerated life.  Imbolc, meaning ‘in the belly’ is also known as Imbolg, Oimelc, St. Brigid’s day and the Christianized Candlemas is observed starting on sundown of February 1st through sundown of 2nd. This sabbat marks the beginning of spring, though admittedly in the PNW it doesn’t feel very spring-like. The light birthed at the Solstice, though not wholly noticeable, has increased incrementally enough that our hens are intermittently blessing us with a welcome egg or two.

Historically a festival celebration of lights is held in honor of Brigid the goddess of healing, smith work, poetry, sacred wells.   Brigid’s association with water saw her as the protectress of holy wells where divination for the coming season would take place.  Additionally, since Imbolc is a festival of fire and lights, omens may be discovered in symbols and imagery of the sabbat fire and subsequent ashes.

It can be quite cold where we live with combinations of wind, rain, fog and snow making travel treacherous.  In all honesty, this is not a favorite time of mine to be out and about, so the first snowdrops peeking through the snow as well as the new fluffy white lambs lift the doldrums of the heart and mind.   Living in the woods this time of the year means the potencandlemastial blessing of early mushrooms, however, it also means diligence in walking the fence lines to check for coyote-dug holes that need filling or downed trees removed from fences.

The sparse but growing light gently awakens our souls from inner contemplation and asked to attune ourselves to the energy of purification, the promise of warmer days and growing things.  We are not quite ready to be active, however, it is now the time to contemplate what we will sow in the coming year based on what knowledge was gained since the Season of Samhain.  Externally our gardens are planned, seeds are purchased and the remaining yard and garden chaff of the previous year is removed and the land made ready.

Altars during the Season of Imbolg are simple, reflecting the newness and fresh start of purification.  The dredges of winter are washed away in rituals of self-purification.  Homes, altars, tools and sacred spaces are “spring-cleaned” in an effort to alleviate stagnation.  Both sacred space and self are rededicated to the Divine and vows are reaffirmed to the path of the Old Ones.  Candles of white and blue grace the altar along with small vases of rosemary, hellebore, willow branches, and snowdrops along with garnet, lunar quartz, aventurine, tigers eye, citrine and an offering bowl of milk & honey.  Incense of frankincense, cinnamon, clove and last year’s lemon verbena fragrance the air and ignite excited expectation.  A Brigid’s Cross made of reed rest on a corn doll embracing a priapic wand awaiting the many kisses of the ladyfolk.  Baskets of candles await consecration and dedication to future works and sabbats.

As we cast our circle and call forth the God and Goddess, we make ready ourselves for the blessing and birthing of inspiration that is aroused after a season of surrender.  While the Maiden circumambulates sacred space with her head wreathed in lights, we turn our mind’s eye partially outward and strike a spark to the hearth fire from which every candle is lit as a beacon to the sun in the darkness.    However this must be done gently and with finesse; much the same way one strikes sparks onto dry kindling of leaves and twigs, then gently blows life-giving breath to the tinder encouraging a flame.  We must now hold this flame in the palm of our hands and give the flame what it needs to have a full life, be it tinder or breath.   Too much or not enough of one or the other kills the flame.  It often seems that spring bursts forth quickly, however, we know it is reflective of the long and careful preparations that have been made to support the burgeoning and powerful forces.  Until that time we sit quietly and give thanks for the simple beauty of the maiden goddess of light and life.  As our rite closes we hold close to our hearts all that the eyes and ears have beheld so that we may ourselves be lights in the dark.

Hymn to Brigid
An Tri numh (The sacred Three)
A chumhnadh, (To save,)
A chomhnadh, (To shield,)
A chomraig (To surround)
An tula, (the hearth)
An taighe, (The house,)
An teaghlaich, (The household,)
An oidhche, (This eve,)
An nochd, (This night,)
O! an oidhche, (Oh! this eve,)
An nochd, (This night,)
Agus gach oidhche, (And every night,)
Gach aon oidhche. (Each single night.)
Amen.

Carmina Gadelica

To the Feast!

How to do you and yours prepare for spring?

The Season of Yule

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ule, also known as the Winter Solstice, Brumalia, Saturnalia, Modrinacht, Tammasmas Nicht and Albun Arthan is a festival steeped in historic traditions and rooted in many pagan societies, whereby our ancestors gathered in the deepest darkness of night to pay homage to the twins of dark and light (the Holly King and Oak King) as well as the Goddess in her life-giving capacity.  It is also one of the most recognized and largely shared pagan celebrations across the world(followed by Samhain). It is one that is so powerfully felt due to the mass numbers of people in the northern hemisphere with open hearts celebrating together.   It is quite amazing and moving what people engaged in a single purpose simultaneously can energetically accomplish.  If only all of our open hearts could be brought together for a single positive purpose all year long, imagine what we could accomplish.

Opposite of the Summer Solstice, Alban Arthan is the shortest day and the longest night of the year, signaling another change in our turning wheel.  For three days the sun stands still and pauses, before starting on its journey once again.  The  Season of Yule is one of quiet expectancy, with the shifting of energy focused on the outward movement and expression of life, though it is hard to imagine spring at times during the hardships of winter.  The subtleness of a longer day in the addition of an extra minute of light can also be lost on us when snow, clouds and rain are the order of the day or we are socked in by fog.  However, the depth and void experienced at Samhain helped clear away the final chaff of the year, which now allows the quietness and stillness of the new solstice light to be felt, even if we are unable to see it.

At this time the Goddess in the cave labors to birth new light, hope and love in the world.  A new baby in our family circle opens our hearts and as a soul tribe we are all called upon to participate in the love, care, nurturing and success of this new light in our lives.  In this same manner, we are now called upon to love, honor, protect, nurture and engage in the long journey that brings fruition to the little seed of light within ourselves. With our hearts open it is also so much easier to give of ourselves to help birth the light in others.

At this time in the PNW, November winds have blown off the fall leaves on the trees, thunder has sounded and the driving rains are welcome after our hot summer.  We are chipping ice out of the water buckets and horse troughs.  Snow has intermittently fallen and the birds are relying on hawthorn berries, beauty berries and blackberries for sustenance as well as scraps from our chicken coop and seeds in the feeder.

On the first weekend of December, our family treks out to find the perfect noble tree.  Sometimes the ground is frozen with snow and sometimes we are wading through mud.  When our tree is in its stand we do a small rite to welcome the tree and give thanks for its life and the reminder of eternal life and the ability to thrive during all stages of growth.  The trimmings from the tree are gathered along with grand fir, cedar, douglas and pine to fashion a Yule log to be burned on the Solstice.  The fragrance of the season is both calming and uplifting, while also comfortingly reminiscent of family gatherings past.

Our altars are bedecked in evergreens, wintergreen, sprigs of bright green prickly holly with bright red berries and pure white snowberries.  Mistletoe is strategically hung in an open doorway.  White candles, statues, garnet, bloodstone and tigers eye grace our altars alongside offerings of homemade butter cookies, herbs and nuts.  For several days before the solstice tales of Gods and Goddesses are told.  On the eve of the solstice, fires are lit and flames are kindled to call forth the light, more stories are told as we indulge in festive treats.  The kids will open a small gift from the Winter King before retiring for the night.  Solstice morning we arrive around the fire ring to cast herbs of pine, grand fir, cedar and wintergreen berries into the needfire and burn the Yule log while we join hands to sing a song or two before wassailing and libation pouring in the orchard.  Everyone quickly makes their way through the frigid morning air into the house, fragrant with brown sugar and cinnamon french toast and hot chocolate.

In a larger group, we come together to collectively create sacred space and call in the blessings of the season.  We invoke the God and Goddess of Yule and give our energy to the birthing of the new divine light.  In turn, our open hearts receive a piece of light and life to take out into the world that we continue to make the Lord and Lady manifest once again.  We make merry as we share in a feast and heady wassail punch before heading out to the bonfire.

For many of us, the festivities shall continue over the days in visits with family and friends.  For our family, festivities culminate in a large family gathering.  Presents and breakfast are shared in the morning.  We visit throughout the day with the menfolk making merry around the firepit with a libation in their hand and children playing with their new toys.  Women visit in the kitchen and living room while a feast of roast beast, salmon, mashed potatoes, roast vegetables, pear and blue cheese salad and rolls are cooked up.  Snacks are munched on throughout the day since breakfast is early and dinner is a bit more formal and later in the evening.  The evening ends with the ladies convening on the front porch to share a drink and cigar (a carryover tradition of my mother’s Austrian family from the old country).Yule bird bath

To our pagan brethren across the globe, we raise a pint of wassail to you and wish bright blessings on you and yours!  Blessed Be!

We would love to hear what traditions your family engages in to bring forth the light.

The Season of Samhain

Season of Samhain

Season of Samhain

 

amhain (pronounced Sow-een), also known as Samhuin,  Oíche Shamhna, All Hollows Eve or the more modern Halloween is a sabbat with Celtic roots marking the darker/lighter, end of summer/beginning of winter halves of the year. Beginning at sundown on October 31st the veil is beginning to thin, but becomes it’s most permeable around the 6th and 7th. However, our Samhain season extends long past the sabbat day.   It is also the beginning of a time in which we commune with our ancestors, celebrating our heritage and calling upon their ancient wisdom.

As with all sabbats, we come together to celebrate and acknowledge the transitional nature in both our spiritual and mundane lives as we say good-bye to one season and usher in another.  We see the beginnings of death and decay around us as the Goddess withdraws, whether it be in molding fruits on the vine, rotting jack-o-lanterns, wilting plant life left in the field or the herd animals that have been brought down from greener pastures closer to home and driven through the cleansing fires to be culled for slaughter or breeding.   The blood of butchered animals, as well as the burned bone ash, were offered to the God and Goddess and thusly sprinkled on the fields to usher in another productive year.   This third and final harvest focuses on butchering or hunting and preserving of meats as well gathering the last of foodstuffs in orchard and root crops in the fields.  We gather in the last of the foods stuffs before Samhain season begins and they are feasted on by the dead.   It is understood that foods left to Samhain air are for the consumption of the dead and are not to be consumed by the living.  We have said our farewells to the last vital and protective powers of the sun and stocked our food and wood stores.

It is a season of gathering and homecoming where we have prepared for our hibernation and hunker down to weather the winter storms.  In the Pacific Northwest, our sights are flooding with brilliant and amazing colors of blush, gold, red, orange and scarlet.  It fills our souls with one last burst of life before death as the fog rolls in and things grow dark and silent.  A hush is cast across the land, filling us with anticipation of what is to come.  Our persistence for survival often creates a struggle during the process of dying, that moment right before we give ourselves over to the moment and move beyond.  That very reason is why the Season of Samhain is so important.

Our beautiful Samhain altars reflect the long-lasting foods of winter with luscious red apples, bright orange pumpkins and gourds.  The last of summers flowers of deep red dahlias, brown and yellow sunflowers, calendula, herbs of fragrant angelica, soothing mint, protective sage and catmint along with deep golden maple leaves, fern, scarlet oak and blushing ash adorn the altar.  Orange and brown candles flank our Lord and Lady whilst a large mirrored silver apple lies between to scare away those spirits that do not belong.  Garnet, hematite, jasper and obsidian ground us in the here and now and sparkle in the candle glow.  We acknowledge the decay of season with dried leaves forming an offering plate for fall harvested mushrooms, hawthorn berries and hazelnuts-calling to the wisdom of the ancients.  The goddess has transitioned into her Crone aspect, therefore Hecate has been honored with black candles and an offering bowl full of belladonna berries.  For many of us, our practice revolves around the veneration of our dead and there is, therefore, an entire space set aside for pictures, red votives, small belongings handed down, dried leaves, fresh flowers and offerings of bread and rum-or whiskey in my father’s case.

ancestor altar

Ancestor Altar @ Rosethorn Manor

Samhain sabbat is spent giving thanks for our summers harvest and connecting with family who watch from beyond the hedge-making their favorite dishes.  We spend much of our day turning inwards so that we are in a place to hear what the ancestors have to share.  After ritual, we commence with a dumb supper.  Each person brings to the sabbat table their ancestor’s favorite dish.  I break out my Grandma Hebert’s mustard pickles and dilly beans as well as my father’s pepper relish canned at Mabon.  I make a chocolate pie for my mom, while my husband makes colcannon for our Scotch/Irish heritage.  We set an empty place for the ancestors in which they are served a bit of every dish before we all sit down to a supper of pumpkin soup in mini cauldrons and a feast, quite literally fit for the dead.  We talk to the dead about the highlights of our year and then fall silent to hear what information we can.   When we are finished with our supper, the ancestor plate will be left outside along with a candle so that our ancestors may warm themselves and glean enough energy to see them safely back across the hedge until next year, when the Crone Goddess visits us.

How do you prepare for the dark and how do you venerate your ancestors?

The Gates of Samhain

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amhain is one of the most anticipated sabbats of the witch’s year.  The leaves are burnished with red and gold, pumpkins, corn and squash are at the end of their ripening and the smell of fall fires are in the cold crisp air.  On the winds we hear the call of our ancestors voices that are beginning to reach us and in our peripheral vision spirit activity is more visible.

Samhain (pronounced Sow-een), also known as Samhuin,  Oíche Shamhna, All Hollows Eve or the more modern Halloween is a sabbat with Celtic roots marking the darker/lighter, end of summer/beginning of winter halves of the year.   At this time, much like at Beltane, the veil between the worlds is thinning and it is at this time that spirits journey across the hedge and seek out their kin.  As with many things in life, the demarcation line in spiritual matters is not so simple as black/white, opened/closed and this parallels the reality of the thinning veil. Image result for remedios varo's paintings

During Samhain we can hear the echo of the Goddess’ words from the Charge of the Goddess, that ‘no mortal shall ever see that which lies beyond my veil, for I am indeed mistress of the mysteries and keeper of the keys’.   The Veil that we speak of is the wall or membrane that separates the land of humankind from the land of ‘other’; be it Fey, Summerland, the Underworld, the God and Goddess, Spirits and Ancestors, etc.   The withdrawal of the Goddess across the veil is felt in lessening light of the Sun God shining upon her and as she withdraws her energy, so goes life until all lies still, quiet and fallow.

The Season of Samhain kicks off on or around October 31st, however does not reach its peak until around the 6th or 7th of November, when Sun is 15 degrees to Scorpio.  Scorpio is ruled by Pluto (Hades) the God of the Underworld, who is now coming into his full power.   Similar to Beltane, the veil is the thinnest and spirits activity is most prevalent. While Beltane energies are drawn upward and outward in the tree of life, toward the land of the Fey and Summerland; creation, fertility, light and life; Samhain energies are beginning to spiral inward and downward towards the underworld and spirits, death and decay, introspection and reflection.

Each one of these places all vibrate to a specific frequency, so to speak, which determine the placement of each of the ‘others’.  Our rites focus on aligning with these frequencies to make it possible to more easily commune with our ancestors.  Does this mean that we are unable to contact these other frequencies at different times of the year?  The short and long of it is, No.  The reality of it is, it is much more challenging to do so.  Many of us venerate, libate, pay homage and speak with/to our ancestors all year long.  The constant connection is often able to keep our most recently departed connected longer as well as aid in the petitioning of help or wisdom from our ancestors.   There is, however, a lot of static at other times of the year.  Imagine sending your call or your will through the eye of a needle in the dark when the wind is constantly blowing your thread around.  At Samhain those winds cease to blow for a time and the energies become still.

The withdraw of the goddess energy is reflected in the highly spiritual practices that aid us in turning inward, more aptly allowing us to connect with the inner planes and attune ourselves to what is taking place.   Energy goes where life flows and I believe that when one is aligned with and linked to deity/nature, our essential connected selves will follow where we can.  Thusly, as the Goddess crosses that veil, we follow to the liminal outer reaches but are unable to cross.  We know she’s there, we can feel her, but she’s not as easily accessed.  Simultaneously, those on the other-side have awaited her presence and as the Goddess crosses over the veil is much more permeable to those with no corporeal body. Those who still yearn for their kin or have been petitioned regularly are eager to connect with those in the land of the living and make the precarious journey at this time.

Alternatively as the Goddess of life crosses the veil she transforms into the Crone of Darkness who had journeys forth from the Underworld.  It is she who presides over the Cauldron that contains the essence of all mysteries, knowledge, life and the birthing of possibilities found in the matrix of unorganized and unformed chaos.  It is the Cauldron of the Crone in which we seek visions of knowledge as we process our year and move toward spiritual understanding and enlightenment.

Samahin’s third and final harvest of field crops and butchering provide the required sustenance for the sabbat season.  Those who walk the path of the old ones understand that where there is birth and death, there is blood and energy that will open portals and draw spirits.  Our Samhain rites give the much needed energy and spiritual food necessary to make the journey here and back across the hedge safely.   The rites also aid in protection against those convoluted soul energies that have breached the veil with more nefarious tasks in mind.

Lastly, Samhain is a Holy Day where open the portal or the guesting door, we light bonfires and hearth fires in the darkness to guide our beloved home for a spell as we call out the names of our ancestors and give thanks for their life blood that gives us life and runs strongImage result for remedios varo's paintingsly in our veins.

So……take a moment to rise up proudly, call your ancestors names loudly and drink heartily!

Blessed Be