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

 

The Season of Albun Eluid & the Fall Equinox

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ea’n Fo’mhair known as the autumn equinox, Albun Eluid, Harvest Home and more recently as Mabon, falls somewhere between September 21st-23rd.  The equinox finds us again with the longitude of the Sun is 0° and 180° and directly above the equator creating a day equal in both light and dark.  Once the sun crests the days from here until spring shall grow shorter.

While the first harvest focused on the gathering of grains and grasses, this second harvest is busy with the gathering of ripening fruits, nuts and vegetables.   Between Lughnasadh and through the season of Mabon grapes, plums, apples and blackberries are dried in our dehydrator or made into pies, sauces, cordials, shrubs, cider and ritual/table wines.  Melons are finally getting ripe, peas have reached the end, green beans are eaten fresh and canned, cucumbers and small zucchini into pickles, tomatoes are dried or canned into a variety of dishes, beets, onions, garlic, early squash, carrots, artichokes-the list goes on.  The race is on to gather walnuts and hazelnuts before the crows, chipmunks and squirrels.  Rose hips that were starting to turn at Lughnasadh are now fully ripe with gorgeous vibrant red colors and ready to be harvested and added fresh to honey or dried for later spell working. Final herbs are harvested and gathered in bunches to hang dry for later cooking, medicine or spellcrafts.

The energy is a bit frenzied as we all watch for the perfect moment our foods reach their peak and then hurry to process making sure there is no waste.

Our Mea’n Fo’mhair altars reflect the hard-won abundance we have sown and harvested.  Gorgeous red, orange and yellow leaves lay the foundation for colorful indian corn, bright red and green apples, nuts, purple wine grapes, textured gourds and luscious orange pumpkins.  Red and orange candles flank our Lord and Lady while grape vines ring the harvest sickle and bouquets of sunflowers, seedpods, bittersweet, beautyberry, zinnia, dahlia, chrysanthemum, pot marigold and nicotiana adorn our sacred space.

Our pantries are filled with hanging  herbs while jars of pickles, dried fruit, honeyed rosehips, dilly green beans, carrots, jeweled fruit jams, Dads famous pepper jelly, Grandma HeBert’s mustard pickles, elderberry cordial, raspberry shrub, blackberry and apple wines, as well as lemon verbena, conserve all vie for space on the crowded shelves.  Our dehydrator is working overtime to preserve the last berries and herbs too delicate to hang.

The turning tides also find us with open hearts of thanksgiving for the abundance we are harvesting and processing.  We call on the god and goddess of Mabon that we may share with them our abundance through libations poured and vegetables harvested, while also calling forth the blessings of plenty during winter scarceness.   The frenzied days turn to twilight skies and lengthening shadows signal an important shift as we ride the double helix of what we have manifested and what is to come.  We will feed our bodies with fruitful and nutritious sustenance while our souls are nourished with the vibrant colors of yellow, orange, purple and red turning foliage.

Mabon offering

Mabon offerings @ Rosethorn Manor

The waning sun bows its head and we traverse the liminal thread of the double spiral of fate-seeking that still deep place we have long yearned for and travel towards in the coming season of Samhain.   With the volumes of work to get the harvest in during the time of the shortening days, it can be a challenge to maintain our internal/external balance.   Mabon is as beautiful, rich and decadent as the colors we are surrounded by and we find ourselves being filled with wonder and gratitude for the gifts of the lady and lord that will sustain us in the dark days ahead.

How do you nourish yourself or maintain your balance in the Mabon Season?

Lughnasadh

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ughnasadh also known as Lammas, Lúnasa, Lùnastal, Luanistyn take place on  August 1st or thereabout and find us celebrating the first of three harvest rites.   While the timing is not necessarily technically middle of summer-in the PNW it is the middle of our hot and sunny season of the year and it is now that food stuffs are becoming ready for harvest and processing.

At this time in the PNW roses are still blooming and fragrant, yet the abundant hips are starting to turn a bright red signaling that there are changes coming.  Wheat and oats have ripened and are ready to be cut.  Grass hay and alfalfa have been baled and put up in our barns and fill the air with their fresh mown scent.  Vines have climbed high reaching towards the sun’s rays with hop flowers being readied for tea or beer and grapes sweetening in their ever-tightening skins to be eaten fresh or made into wine and jellies.   The puddles have long since dried and the water levels are getting lower in ponds and rivers which find little tree frogs, salamanders, bees, jackets and wasps crowding around watering holes and fish barrels.

As pagans, we have specific rites on special days as a way of bringing everyone together to raise energy that we may realign our frequency and sense of purpose to the season’s activities both internally and externally.  However, the sabbat days we celebrate together are not the beginning and ending for us, but kick off an entire season of nurturing, maintenance, gratitude and harvest.

In the season of Lugh or Lammas, we honor deity and adorn our altars with sunflowers, red hollyhocks, elfwort, heather, roses, poppies, indian corn, blueberries, blackberries, squash blossoms, nasturtiums, topaz, carnelian, yellow gold and red candles.  Ripened cereals of oats and wheat along with the first foodstuffs of corn, green beans, artichokes, crab apples, eggplant, early squash, a few grapes, mulberries, plums, pears and apples are added and generate gratitude in our hearts for the cyclic relationship we enjoy with our Earth Mother.    Grasses and grains are fashioned into a Grain Goddess with plenty of seeds to save for next year’s sowing. Flours of wheat and corn are made into fresh loaves of bread and an anatomically correct John Barleycorn is added to our altar.

At this time we call to the Goddess of Abundance of the God of the Green.  We give offerings of gratitude, enlivening our hearts and rejoicing in the abundance all around us.  We acknowledge the strong life-giving sun while recognizing the change in shortened days require a shift of duties and focus.  A noble and brave man is chosen to sacrifice himself for a time as John Barleycorn so that our cycles of give and take may continue.  We use this time to clear out our physical and spiritual storehouses of that which no longer feeds or nourish us, so that we may make room for the strongest and most nutritious energy sources to sustain us during the fallow time of the year.  At this time we have walked between the worlds and have gathered the required energies to move forward with the harvesting tasks at hand.  We drink and pay homage to the old gods and call upon their continued favor for our crops that we have the energy to continue our journey.

Each area around the world has smells that speak of the seasons and for us in the summer season, it is bilberry/blueberries, blackberries and apples.  It would not be summer in the PNW without the sweet pungent smells of those fruits baking in the sun. Blackberries, blueberries and apples are so nutritious and are eaten fresh, made into pies, syrup and wine.   Can’t get enough of the blackberries!  The lavendar has dried and been stripped of their stalks to be added to spell-workings and Full Moon Shortbread.  The beauty and abundance is all around and fills my heart with gratitude.  Though I will admit that all of the hard hot days of work see me longing for the cool crisp autumn nights and I relish the casual relaxed evenings with my family, the bbq’s, cool down swim time and midnight desserts.  We ponder the work/life balance, knowing the necessary hard work in the next weeks leading up to Mabon and continuing into Samhain will end with a cozy firelit evening to rest and contemplate further the journey of our souls.

How do you celebrate the summer harvest and what smells signal summer for you?

Bright Lughnasadh Blessings to you and yours!

Litha

celticTomorrow we embark on a midsummer journey.  The Litha solstice brings us to the longest day and the shortest night of the year where the Earth is at the midpoint on her journey around the sun.  The word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which translates to “sun stands still”  Depending on the year Litha will fall between June 20-22 or the 25th which was the Old Litha.  Litha is also known as Alban Heruin and Midsummer’s Night.   Historical writings have shown summer solstice celebrations all over the world and continue today as we honor the Old Ways.

In the Pacific Northwest, we are surrounded by the lushness of summer beauty

Summer Solstice Litha Wreath

Solar Wreath fire @ Rosethorn Manor

due to the warmth.  Usually we are still experiencing some precipitation, however, this year has been unseasonably hot for us.  The gardens are bursting with roses, lavendar, honeysuckle, mock-orange, rhodies and lungwort.  The apple trees have little baby apples that we have spent many an hour culling so that larger apples may grow, but not be such a burden on the trees.  We are keeping an eye on the just budding St. Johns Wort that will be used in our protection bundles at Lughnassadh.  The promise of abundance is everywhere and continues to grow until harvested at Mabon.

At this time we approach the sacred grove in perfect love and perfect trust, setting aside our difference and stresses of the mundane world to celebrate the Goddess in her lushness.  We honor deity and adorn our altars with yellow flowers (sunflowers if I can get them to bloom in time), yellow candles, bouquets of rose, peony, lavendar, mugwort, thyme, rue, fern, cock feathers and iris.  Fruits of the garden such as early strawberries and oak & holly leaves.  Stones of lapis, tigers eye, jade and moss agate round out the frequencies we are aligning ourselves for the season of Litha.   We praise the Horned God in his passionate love for the Goddess and the abundance and life their joining brings. In ritual we call forth the Sacred Spark of light and life to ignite change within ourselves, drawing on the strong and long light to bring forth balance and sustain us in our journey.  We give offerings of honey cakes which are a favorite this time of year, remembering to leave plenty for the bees.

We close our rite by lighting a fire to Brigid and focusing on the necessary balance and changes needed in our life-sacrificing that which no longer sustains or benefits our journey so that we make room in our storehouse for the inspiration that will enable future abundance in our lives and our work.

How do you celebrate this sabbat in your own life?

Blessed be the season of Summer!

Beltane Blessings

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he wheel turns once again and we find ourselves at Beltane.  Beltane, also known as May Day falls on May 1st.  Though really what we are saying is May Day kicks off the Season of Beltane, with the thinning of the veil most prominent around May 5th.  There is a quickening of spring energy that pushes animals and people to pair up, bees have awoken and are starting to pollinate the spring flowers and trees.  We look for the sign of burgeoning spring in the apple blossoms to know when to plant our carrots, beans, peas and cabbages. There is so much creative energy spurring a frenzy of activity and we are holding hopes of creative and fertile abundance to manifest in our lives.  This is still also a liminal period where a profusion of starting buds and blooms can be killed off by late frosts and still need to be safeguarded.  The Sacred Marriage is the focus of Beltane where we celebrate the fiery and passionate union of the God and Goddess that energize the earth and put the fertile fire of creativity into our bellies.

April’s showers continue into May, though gentler and a bit warmer.  This winter has seen a lot of snow in the mountains and the colder temperatures have kept snow longer in the foothills surrounding our home. However the grass grows lush, rich and green for the horses, sheep, deer and elk.  The surge of new life can  be seen in the prevailing apple blossoms and spring bulbs while the rabbits chase each other around our stone circle in their frenzied mating dance.

Beltane is a rite that takes as much preparation as Samhain and has a special importance as it is the brightening of life when the veil is the thinnest.  We honor deity by adorning our altars with pink and green candles, early rose buds, honeysuckle, apple blossoms, hawthorn, lilacs and ivy.  Stones of malachite and rose quartz along with a drinking horn bring the beauty and frequency we are aligning ourselves with for the season.  Ivy wreaths have been wrapped with pink, purple and green ribbons.  The bonfires have been laid ready for lighting and the ribbons have been attached to the oiled maypole awaiting the dance.  Offerings of milk, honey, cinnamon and woodruff have been left out in a beautiful bowl on our sun dial.

Sacred woods of apple, willow, birch, hawthorn, oak, ash, elder, holly & hazel have been gathered and bundled for the ritual need fire.  Each and every wood has a purpose and frequency that when combined have a power all its own to bestow great blessings upon its maker.  This wood is of course all chosen with specific intent and gathered in a sacred way with many offerings.  As pagans we work diligently to listen and read the signs around us, not taking what has not been offered and always giving something back.

In the PNW, May is an extremely beautiful but contrary month for us in regards to weather. For that reason we always start our rituals indoors and set our sacred ring. We move outdoors to leave an offering to the Outsiders as well as a libation to our Maypole, the symbolic phallus of the Lord of the Rite. We circle the pole and dance the ring, reveling in the bawdy joy and sensuality of the season. With ribbons unfurled and wrapped around the pole in song and dance the ritual hieros gamos plays out and the piercing of the veil commences with the drifting down of the virginal ivy crown. The doorway has been ritually and energetically opened so that the welcome presence of the Lord and Lady is made manifest in our earthly realm. The energy by now is running very high and there is a tangible quality of connection and vibrancy among covenors, especially among mated pairs.  Some of the energies are kept under wraps until festivities later in the evening, since we have children who are in attendance. After we have danced the Maypole and planted our fairy charmed tree (all between the raindrops on many occasions) we light our three ritual needfires and head back in to expand upon our rite of celebrating the magical union of polarities both externally and internally. We call forth fertility, passion, joy, a new birth, good-fortune and creativity as we jump through the purifying and blessed powers of the balefire (remember to be careful what you wish for). Sometimes we might have a lovely handfasting ceremony to add to the festivities.  Once our rite is closed and the feast is had, children are put to bed or head home. Couples depart and participate in the Great Rite among the gardens or orchard or possibly on a spicy ride home. There is nothing like riding high on the energy that has been raised in circle and grounding it in the promise of future manifestations for our family, kin, Mother Earth and our fellow beings.

Another small project we like to do during the season of Beltane is to place the red eggs that have been planted on Ostara with nasturtium sees calling forth blessings for our beloved kin and tribe as well as those whom there is no love lost and those who are searching seed.
balefirejump We do this on the first family ritual of the month along with a mini Maypole that has been kissed by all the ladies is planted in the pot.  It is later watered with holy water and the blessed alchemy of the Great Rite. We then set the pot out of doors to enjoy the light of the sun & moon and await the growth of each of the blessings we have called upon.

How do you celebrate the Season of Bel?

Blessed be in this season of Beltane!

mini maypole

Mini Maypole wand & Ostara Eggs @ Rosethorn Manor