Season of Ostara

Ostaracollage

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stara, also known as Alban Eiler, Eostre, Summer Finding and Vernal Equinox, is a fertility festival celebrated on the spring equinox, which falls sometime between March 20th and March 22nd.  On the spring and fall equinoxes, day and night are of equal lengths. Ostara begins with sunrise to celebrate the light overcoming the darkness and the heralding of spring, burgeoning growth and potent prosperity.

The feminine aspect of the Spring Maiden and the masculine aspect of the Horned God are called upon so that we may align with the necessary balance required for gentle growth getting ready to burst forth at Beltane.   The external focus of the Ostara season is coaxing new life forth.  We recognize that the length of our days have been growing ever so slightly since Yule (even though it does not feel like it at times) and this light is sending signals to the animals, our brains and plants around us to start mating and growing.  The balancing act comes in reading the signs correctly.  In the witch’s garden hellebore, witch hazel, snowdrops, early crocus and daphne are all blooming, however, if temporary warmth is coupled with too many full sunny days, some plants unable to withstand freeze start popping up and then buds are killed by the frost.  If we misread the signs and become too eager to start our gardens, the plants in the end become listless and weak.  Just as God and Goddess are learning what it is to grow the masculine and feminine energies necessary for the hieros gamos at Bel; spiritually cycles of woman and man play out similarly as we too learn to be priests and priestess in our own lives and embody the sacred energies.

At this time in the PNW, most of the snow is gone and we welcome yellow forsythia brightening the hedge as well as early daffodils and little purple-blue lungwort.  These early risers along with fragrant purple hyacinth, daphne and witch hazel are placed around our homes and spring altars along with pastel-colored eggs, chocolate bunnies, rose quartz, jasper, birch, potted shamrocks, early pussy willow and seeds for blessing.  While there are many stories about bunnies once being a bird and transformed to lay an egg on Ostara, there are more practical reasons for the symbology. Bunnies are associated with the goddess due to their gentle nature and nocturnal habits.  They tend to be prolific in numbers and make more of an appearance during the day, chasing each other before breeding.  Egg laying picks up around February, we tend to see a huge upswing in production around this time, which is welcome after so few eggs in the winter.  The allegorical theme arises from the Goddess bringing forth the birthed World Tree egg of life and mystery to be laid bare before the Sun God so the fiery spark of heat and light quickens the seed within.

At this time, we come together to pay homage to the Spring Goddess and Horned God.  We align ourselves with the vulnerable tendrils of equinox season, seeking balance before taking our next steps.  Additionally, we give an offering of gratitude for the returning light seen in the joyous bright colors and intensely scented blooms.  We call for the blessing of our seeds, so that they may be strong, healthy and abundant. New beginnings are cast through the seeds of our Grain Goddesses with plenty of water to nurture us until Beltane.

We dye eggs a brilliant red to represent the life-giving blood of the goddess.  Each egg contains a message to guide the potential we have within.  The shells are then used to plant wheat and nasturtiums or cast into the garden.

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;

Sow an act, and you reap a habit;

Sow a habit, and you reap a character;

Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.

       – Charles Reade

 

What have you planted for the coming year?

Dark Days & Keeping it Real ~orienting ourselves in trying times…

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”

― John F. Kennedy

M

erry Meet Pagan Peoples!  I think one thing as a country we can all agree upon (for once) is the trying nature of our current health crisis.   What will define us as humans and the character of our country will be how we move through these seriously trying times.

Let us grab a cup of our favorite nerve-calming tea (mine is honey ginger crystals as we speak) and have a chat witch-to-witch in an attempt to orient ourselves appropriately.   As previously mentioned in The Magic of 2020 and the Cancer Full Moon blog posts, this year would bring many challenges both in issues of material scarcity and our relation to social systems.  The writing was on the wall for some sort of swift change to take place, however, I don’t believe any of us could know how it would play out.

The Kennedy quote starting this piece was chosen due to its simple and pared-
down truth…..our planet, our country and our communities
Crisisare in danger crisis and there is no escaping it.  I cannot speak for everyone’s experience, but from my own, I have seen people on both ends of the spectrum.  From seriously freaked out to casually not thinking it is that big and everything in-between.  The panicked energy in the streets and in the stores is palpable, which for us empathic and intuitive types is toxic and immobilizing in of itself if one is not on-guard.  Though one need not be psychic or intuitive to feel the fear.  At one end we have people bogarting toilet paper and bleach to the other end where college kids are at the beach carrying on like it’s nothing.

Anyone with a modicum of sense realizes that we are truly in a place of danger and as a community, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep each other safe.  As in any other situation, we can choose to respond or react.   This choice will determine our success.

In these times it is normal for people to freak out, become fearful and overwhelmed or shut down and become depressed.  People may feel alone and isolated, confused, lost, suicidal and unsure of what to do.  I, personally, have experienced all of these emotions and situations in my life at one time or another and I am sure I am not alone in this.  However, having gotten this far in my life, I also know that as in all else, those feelings and situations are temporary, I do possess the ability, intelligence and power to move beyond it.   The downfall leading to most failures in such situations is feelings of depression, helplessness, powerlessness and overwhelm.  The way to combat these emotions and be successful is always forward movement of some kind, even if it’s incremental.  This is where magic and practical mundane living go hand in hand-both need a plan, idea or need and a jumping-off point or an initiator spark.  We are witches for goddess sakes-we know how to make a spark!

The first order of business is to STAY CALM for ourselves and our family so that we can keep a level head about us and Find Our Bearings!

~FIND (ONE’S) BEARINGS-to recognize or determine one’s orientation, position or abilities relative to one’s surroundings or situation.~

In finding our bearings we must first identify the situation-which we all understand to be the ‘Virus that Shall not Be Named’ (in actuality we know its name but I don’t want to have this piece blocked, so just in case…) and arm ourselves with factual information.    One of the most important acts we can do is to take care of our health.  This means getting quality sleep, safeguarding our immune system against inflammation and bacteria (such as making Immune Booster Brew) and mindfully processing stress.  I say mindfully process because there is no way around the fact that this health crisis will impact every person on some level.  Stress causes an inflammation response in our bodies which leaves us susceptible to illness.

The second thing to do is to determine our position and abilities.  This is where opportunities arise and will look different for everyone.  We must take into account fiduciary responsibilities, family members, health, age, housing, personal strenghts and level of preparedness.  This is not a time to judge yourself or others, it is simply a time to look at the facts and take stock.   Inform yourself with quality information-the podcast with Rogen is pretty informative.

Armed with the facts about your situation will lead to the third step of creating an action plan asking ourselves:  what do I need to do now, what can I do in the short term and what needs to be planned for in the long term?

For my family this has translated into ‘business as usual’.  What does that look like in the real world?  Knowing what was written in the stars coupled with the fact that we are so far from a store, my family did put up some supplies-though little did we know TP would be such a hot commodity, LOL.   In addition to our business Euphoric Naturals & Apothecary, I also work as a teacher.  This meant preparing kids at school on our last day and finishing up paperwork this last week, before being sent home to self-isolate.  Now, this wasn’t part of our plan as I didn’t foresee being off work or my child being home for five weeks, which equates to the use of more food and TP.   My husband is still commuting to work.  As with many businesses, they want everyone working from home, but we are in a dead zone and lack the internet speed (insert heavy sigh and eye roll here).  It means I still get up early and see my husband off, do my workout and have a cup of tea or coffee to enjoy the quiet before my handsome son blesses me with his presence.  I am diligent about wearing amethyst and black tourmaline to protect my auric field and combat the vibes of rising panic (especially when I go out for supplies or converse with others.)  I sit at my planner and review what tasks I need to accomplish for the day.   

For the now- we spent the weekend getting grocery items and building supplies to fill in any gaps.  I have a teenager which meant conversations around going to the school to getting learning packets from some of his teachers as well as expectations around the structure of his day which will include time out of doors, exercise, reading and working on educational things, not just video games all day.  For us, it also meant a conversation around food-making sure he didn’t skip breakfast and would result in wanting to eat more lunch and dinner foods that might not be available due to long term meal planning.

In the short term, it meant reaching out first to my family members, friends and coven mates to check on them.  Next, because we are all in this together, it meant reaching out to my community and school to assess needs and see where I could be of help.  As a counselor and ordained minister, I am able to offer assistance to community members and since I have a car I am able to be a meal runner for our schools.  This, of course, could change as needs arise on our social media forums.   The opportunity for family time is wide open-game nights, puzzles, cooking lessons, dirt bike rides, etc.  Setting a structured plan for my son’s time, much to his chagrin, that doesn’t include video games all day is a pretty high priority, because….business as usual.  Next on the list is to attend to our sacred space and home with a deep spring cleaning with Florida Water to clear out all the winter bogies and allergins, followed by a thorough smudging.  Black Obsidian is stationed under our beds, couches and both doors.   It is important at this time to keep the energies in our home clear of stress and panic.  At this time we start getting the garden ready and now have time to take seeds we blessed at the previous full moon and get them potted up in the greenhouse.  It’s also a good time to practice some candle magic.  I have a lavendar and cedarwood oiled orange candle for courage burning during the day and a blue peppermint candle burning for peace in the evening.  

In the long term, it means acknowledging this is something that could have long-lasting effects on product and food production.  For my family this is asking how do we manage our dollars and what does our skinny budget look like?  How can we slowly put aside a few staples here and there?  If you have the ability to grow your own food, then do so.  If you already grow food how can your ramp up food production to take your family further through the year as well as help your community?  We are ramping up what we grow in our garden this year and preparing to save seeds.  It’s time to dust off the to-do list of projects that take longer than a few hours and start chipping away at it, whether that be house and yard maintenance, cleaning out pantries and closets, completing some Book of Shadow pages, learn a new skill, revive an old skill, try out a new recipe, learn more about your favorite element, divination method, god or goddess, meditate, take time to slow dance, organize, read that stack of books that have piled up and reconnect with ourselves and the land.  Make plans for different ways to celebrate family.  It means at our new moons and full moons we are striving for protection of family, health, finances, and community while manifesting abundance and balance.  

The time at home with family is unprecedented but has given all of us such an opportunity to pull together as a unit and a community.  The choice is what we do with the time and situations as they arise.  For us it is focusing on family, helping each other stay positive, being gentle with ourselves & others and most important of all-keeping our sense of humor.

From our family to yours, we wish everyone balance, safety, abundance & sanity!

“Every test successfully met is rewarded by some growth in intuitive knowledge, strengthening of character, or initiation into a higher consciousness.”

― Paul Brunton

 

How are you making the most of your time?…..we would love to hear from you!

‘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.

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

Y

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!