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!

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.

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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