Tag: Pagan

It’s Spring?

The sun crept northward over the equator 12:15 PM ET marking the beginning of Spring. You would never know it here in the northeast. Once again winter is hanging on another nor’easter hitting the region late tonight and tomorrow dumping up to a foot of snow. This is the fourth in the last four weeks. …

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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Beltaine with Walter Crane

Every day is May Day which we here at The Stars Hollow Gazette and DocuDharma celebrate in the traditional way- with the clenched fist salute.

The Internationale

Arise ye workers from your slumbers

Arise ye prisoners of want

For reason in revolt now thunders

And at last ends the age of cant.

Away with all your superstitions

Servile masses arise, arise

We’ll change henceforth the old tradition

And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction

On tyrants only we’ll make war

The soldiers too will take strike action

They’ll break ranks and fight no more

And if those cannibals keep trying

To sacrifice us to their pride

They soon shall hear the bullets flying

We’ll shoot the generals on our own side.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

No saviour from on high delivers

No faith have we in prince or peer

Our own right hand the chains must shiver

Chains of hatred, greed and fear

E’er the thieves will out with their booty

And give to all a happier lot.

Each at the forge must do their duty

And we’ll strike while the iron is hot.

So comrades, come rally

And the last fight let us face

The Internationale unites the human race.

By thanatokephaloides

Note 1: This was supposed to be “Part 2” of a single Beltaine Diary of which my Diary entitled “Bringing In The May: The Heroes of Haymarket” was to be “Part 1”. (So I’m posting this now, even though the First of May 2015 is now long past.)

Note 2: Please allow me to express my deepest gratitude to the Marxists Internet Archive website, http://www.marxists.org, and Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/, for much of the material I am using in today’s Diary. Although in the public domain owing to its age, I would not have been able to gather this material had it not been for these websites and those who operate them. Therefore, I express my thanks for their assistance.

Most of my readers here on Anti-Capitalist Meetup recognize this image immediately; it was used in many of the Diaries and discussions here on Daily Kos on the subject which appeared around Beltaine (May 1) this year:

This classic portrayal of the Heroes of Haymarket Square in Chicago is the work of British illustrator Walter Crane (1845 – 1915).

                                      Walter Crane

It is not quite as well known today, a century after his death, that Mr. Crane was a Socialist; that he employed his not insignificant talents in the graphical arts in the service to the Socialist and Labor movements in Britain and America during his time; and that even today his graphics still strike a serious chord with those of us who believe that all wealth is created by Labor, and Labor is entitled to everything it creates.

For more details — and more Walter Crane images — follow me beyond the fold!

It’s Spring

Die Winter, Die photo SbrPSgdhy_zps8ec885b5.jpg By now just about everyone is done with this Winter which began with a late Autumn snow storm in early December and quickly evolved in Arctic cold with multiple snow and ice storms. It still feels like the winter that just will not die in most of the country. Take heart, my Winter weary friends, Spring begins on March 20 at 12:27 PM EDT as the sun scoots across the equator heading north. Most of us won’t notice it much but starting on Friday there is now more daylight than darkness and the warmer sun, despite the still cool temperatures, will bring early spring flowers, buds in the trees and help melt the still lingering mountains of dingy snow in parking lots.

Spring comes with lots of traditions, cultural, religious and mythical. The egg, a symbol of fertility is the subject of one of the biggest myths. The balancing of an uncooked egg derives from the notion that due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply. Actually, it can be done anytime of the year on a flat, level surface, a steady hand and no vibrations. It’s the same with that broom balancing, that works best with a new broom that has uniform, even bristles.

There are lots celebrations in many countries and cultures including the internet. Google celebrated with one of its popular animated “doodles.”

In Iran, ancient new year’s festival of Nowruz is celebrated:

According to the ancient Persian mythology Jamshid, the mythological king of Persia, ascended to the throne on this day and each year this is commemorated with festivities for two weeks. These festivities recall the story of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.

In many Arab countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the Spring equinox and the Jewish celebration of Passover starts on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox.

Most Christian churches calculate Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox but the Eastern Orthodox Churches use the older Julian calendar so the actual date of Easter differs.

In Japan the Spring Equinox became an official holiday in 1948, Shunbun no hi.

We Pagans celebrate Ostara, one of the Eight Sabats of the Wheel, as a season of rebirth. The name is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, and many symbols are associated with Ostara, including colored eggs and, what else? Rabbits:

In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

Colored eggs are one of the symbols of fertility with an interesting, and this unconfirmed scary, history from Witches’ Voice :

As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our “ancient history, ” there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the “Old Religion” were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone’s gardens and beneath fences and other spots.

It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone’s property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know!

I once stood an egg on the dining room table and left it there. One of my cats, Mom Cat, sat staring at it for quite some time. After several minutes, she very gently reached out with one paw and tapped it. It rolled off the table and smashed on the floor before I could reach it. As I cleaned up the mess, Mom Cat sat on the edge of the table watching, as if to say, “yes, gravity still works.”

The waning Moon is still bright in the night sky having reached fullness on March 16. Called the Worm Moon by Native Americans because as the ground begins to soften, worms begin moving through the it. A sure sign is the return of the Robin. It’s also called the Sap Moon signaling the start of sap flowing in the trees and the start of the annual tapping of maple trees.

If it ever gets warm enough to open the windows, you can smell the warm earth. If only winter would end like this:

So break out the new brooms, rakes, shovels; check out the local garden center for bedding plants and start unearthing last years Spring and Summer clothes; it’s Spring.

 

Imbolc: Halfway to Spring

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Photobucket The wheel has turned another eighth and we are halfway to Spring. Imbolc is the Celtic season that marks the beginning of lambing season, the stirring of life and lengthening of the day. It’s a time to clear out the cobwebs, sweep the hearth and get ready for beginning of the growing season. The holiday also honors Brigid, the Goddess of fire, so the celebration is marked by lighting candles all round the house and a fire in the fire pit, if you have one. Others symbols of the holiday are the snowdrop, the first gift of spring and the swan, The swan mates for life and represents loyalty, fidelity and faithfulness.

The other symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

This winter was much colder than in winters past, with temperatures plunging well below zero in some parts of the country. While down under in Australia they were experiencing record heat with temperatures nearing dangerous levels. Yes, the climate has been disrupted. We still have some weeks of cold and inclement weather ahead but on the days when the sun shines, you can once again feel its warmth. So can the earth.

Last year, I read this great post on the Days of Imbolc from Beth Owl’s Daughter that I would like to share it again:

The Sun’s path has returned to where it was at Samhain. Take some time to notice the quality of the light, for it is the same now as that shimmering magical glow of late October. But instead of the season of dark and silence before us, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of light and growth lies ahead.

And so we prepare ourselves with rites of renewal, cleansing, and commitment. We celebrate the first stirrings of Spring.

The days are noticeably longer, and life awakens all around us. While some of the fiercest Winter weather may still lie ahead, listen! The birds are already beginning their courtships.

Look – cold-hardy sprouts are poking from the earth, and the first lambs are being born (hence the name Imbolc, which means “ewe’s milk,” referring to the nursing mothers). For our ancestors not so long ago, having lived on only the stored food of Winter, the first fresh milk returning was a tremendous blessing, often meaning the difference between survival or death.

h/t Hecatedemeter

Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

Blessed Be.

Hoping for Spring

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Spring Equinox 2013 photo imagesqtbnANd9GcTNUIBApi9nJxjJ0dh04_zps39377a58.jpgSpring arrives promptly at on March 20 at  7:02 a.m. EDT/4:02 a.m. PDT. As you know the Spring Equinox is also called the “Vernal Equinox”, ver bring the Latin derivative for “spring.”  It occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator and night and day are equal. It is really just a moment in time and if you blink, you missed it. In the Southern Hemisphere where the seasons reverse it is the start of Autumn.

Spring comes with lots of traditions, cultural, religious and mythical. The egg, a symbol of fertility is the subject of one of the biggest myths. The balancing of an uncooked egg derives from the notion that due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, special gravitational forces apply. Actually, it can be done anytime of the year on a flat, level surface, a steady hand and no vibrations. It’s the same with that broom balancing That works best with a new broom that has uniform, even bristles.

I once stood an egg on the dining room table and left it there. One of my cat, Mom Cat, sat staring at it for quite some time. After several minutes, she very gently reached out with one paw and tapped it. It rolled off the table and smashed on the floor before I could reach it. As I cleaned up the mess, Mom Cat sat on the edge of the table watching, as if to say, ‘yes, gravity still works.”

There are lots celebrations in many countries and cultures including the internet. Google celebrates with its popular animated “doodles.”

In Iran, ancient new year’s festival of Nowruz is celebrated:

According to the ancient Persian mythology Jamshid, the mythological king of Persia, ascended to the throne on this day and each year this is commemorated with festivities for two weeks. These festivities recall the story of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.

In many Arab countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the Spring equinox and the Jewish celebration of Passover starts on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox.

Most Christian churches calculate Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox but the Eastern Orthodox Churches use the older Julian calendar so the actual date of Easter differs.

In Japan the Spring Equinox became an official holiday in 1948, Shunbun no hi.

We Pagans celebrate Ostara, one of the Eight Sabats of the Wheel, as a season of rebirth. The name is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, and many symbols are associated with Ostara, including colored eggs and, what else? Rabbits:

In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

Colored eggs are one of the symbols of fertility with an interesting, and this unconfirmed scary, history from Witches’ Voice :

(T)he traditional coloring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce. In England and Northern Europe, eggs were often employed in folk magic when women wanted to be blessed with children. There is a great scene in the film The Wicker Man where a woman sits upon a tombstone in the cemetery, holding a child against her bared breasts with one hand, and holding up an egg in the other, rocking back and forth as she stares at the scandalized (and very uptight!) Sargent Howie. Many cultures have a strong tradition of egg coloring; among Greeks, eggs are traditionally dyed dark red and given as gifts.

As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our “ancient history, ” there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the “Old Religion” were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone’s gardens and beneath fences and other spots.

It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone’s property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know!

Whatever you believe, or not, get out there in the garden or the park and celebrate the warmth of the sun, the longer days, renewal and rebirth.

Photobucket

Imbolc: First Light in the Dark of Winter

The wheel of the seasons keep turning.

All around the house tonight there are candles lit. There is a warm fire in the fireplace in the family room and, despite the cold wind and occasional snow shower, there is a blazing fire in the backyard fire pit. Each winter is different, this one like the last has been warm until last week when it seemed Mother Nature was having her way with us and sent a blast of Arctic cold. Once again, I look forward to the early signs of spring, no different from last year with tips of early spring flowers ready poking up, getting ready to add a happy splash color to the dark mulch. The Winter is shorter and milder than the ones just 10 years ago. According the NOAA, they are.

The winter of 2011, we were snowed in here in NYC with a six foot wall of snow down the drive way and along the side walk. It a way the mild winter has been a blessing for the victims of Hurricane Sandy who are still without heat and struggling to rebuild their homes and lives.

I can’t say I miss the snow, I don’t, but I know this is not a good sign for our dear Earth, our home.

I read this great post on the Days of Imbolc from Beth Owl’s Daughter that I would like to share:

The Sun’s path has returned to where it was at Samhain. Take some time to notice the quality of the light, for it is the same now as that shimmering magical glow of late October. But instead of the season of dark and silence before us, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of light and growth lies ahead.

And so we prepare ourselves with rites of renewal, cleansing, and commitment. We celebrate the first stirrings of Spring.

The days are noticeably longer, and life awakens all around us. While some of the fiercest Winter weather may still lie ahead, listen! The birds are already beginning their courtships.

Look – cold-hardy sprouts are poking from the earth, and the first lambs are being born (hence the name Imbolc, which means “ewe’s milk,” referring to the nursing mothers). For our ancestors not so long ago, having lived on only the stored food of Winter, the first fresh milk returning was a tremendous blessing, often meaning the difference between survival or death.

h/t Hecatedemeter

Reposted from January 31, 2011

PhotobucketAlthough you’d never know it if you looked out your window here in the Northeast and throughout a good part of the northern hemisphere, we are nearing the midpoint between winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The Sun is noticeably rising earlier and setting later. It is a pleasure to take my early morning shower in daylight and start dinner preparation with daylight still illuminating the kitchen. There are seed catalogs arriving in the mail which has me contemplating the flower beds, the herb garden and maybe this year some vegetables.

In the traditions of Pagan and Wiccan religions, we celebrate this changing season as Imbolc, or Candlemas, which begins on January 31st, February Eve, and ends on February 2nd, a time of rebirth and healing. Imbolc is one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, one of the four cross-quarter fire festivals. Brighid, the patroness of poetry and healing, is the Pagan Goddess associated with Imbolc.

Some of the traditions are the lighting of fires, decorating with red and white symbolizing the snow and the rising sun and green for new growth. Candles are lit in all the rooms of the house. Fires places and hearths are cleaned out of ashes and fires are lit. Since there is still snow drifts in my backyard, the fireplace will be just fine.

The symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

Blessed Be.

Spring Has Officially Sprung

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Spring officially sprang at 1:14 AM Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday. Partially because this is a “Leap Year”, in some times zones the Spring Equinox came as early as March 19 ending the winter that wasn’t for which many of us were relieved.

In case you did know the Spring Equinox is also called the “Vernal Equinox”, ver bring the Latin derivative for “spring.”  It occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator and night and day are equal. It is really just a moment in time and if you blink, you missed it. In 45 BC, Julius Caesar set the date for the start of Spring on March 25th but sometime between the 4th and 16th centuries, the calendar drifted with respect to the equinox, such that the equinox began occurring on about March 21st.  

There are lots celebrations in many countries and cultures including the internet. Google celebrated with one of its popular animated “doodles.”

In Iran, ancient new year’s festival of Nowruz is celebrated:

According to the ancient Persian mythology Jamshid, the mythological king of Persia, ascended to the throne on this day and each year this is commemorated with festivities for two weeks. These festivities recall the story of creation and the ancient cosmology of Iranian and Persian people.

In many Arab countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the Spring equinox and the Jewish celebration of Passover starts on the first full moon after the Northern Hemisphere vernal equinox.

Most Christian churches calculate Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox but the Eastern Orthodox Churches use the older Julian calendar so the actual date of Easter differs.

In Japan the Spring Equinox became an official holiday in 1948, Shunbun no hi.

We Pagans celebrate Ostara, one of the Eight Sabats of the Wheel, as a season of rebirth. The name is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, and many symbols are associated with Ostara, including colored eggs and, what else? Rabbits:

In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is superfecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.

Colored eggs are one of the symbols of fertility with an interesting, and this unconfirmed scary, history from Witches’ Voice :

(T)he traditional coloring and giving of eggs at Easter has very pagan associations. For eggs are clearly one of the most potent symbols of fertility, and spring is the season when animals begin to mate and flowers and trees pollinate and reproduce. In England and Northern Europe, eggs were often employed in folk magic when women wanted to be blessed with children. There is a great scene in the film The Wicker Man where a woman sits upon a tombstone in the cemetery, holding a child against her bared breasts with one hand, and holding up an egg in the other, rocking back and forth as she stares at the scandalized (and very uptight!) Sargent Howie. Many cultures have a strong tradition of egg coloring; among Greeks, eggs are traditionally dyed dark red and given as gifts.

As for the Easter egg hunt, a fun game for kids, I have heard at least one pagan teacher say that there is a rather scary history to this. As with many elements of our “ancient history, ” there is little or no factual documentation to back this up. But the story goes like this: Eggs were decorated and offered as gifts and to bring blessings of prosperity and abundance in the coming year; this was common in Old Europe. As Christianity rose and the ways of the “Old Religion” were shunned, people took to hiding the eggs and having children make a game out of finding them. This would take place with all the children of the village looking at the same time in everyone’s gardens and beneath fences and other spots.

It is said, however, that those people who sought to seek out heathens and heretics would bribe children with coins or threats, and once those children uncovered eggs on someone’s property, that person was then accused of practicing the old ways. I have never read any historical account of this, so I cannot offer a source for this story (though I assume the person who first told me found it somewhere); when I find one, I will let you know!

Oh, and that egg and, this year’s broom balancing thing, a myth that was debunked. Sorry.

Whatever you believe, or not, get out there in the garden or the park and celebrate the warmth of the sun, the longer days, renewal and rebirth.

Photobucket

Imbolc: First Light in the Dark of Winter

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

What a difference from last year to this. The weather has been unseasonably warm with only one minor snow event since the Winter Solstice here in the Northeast. Already the tips of early spring flowers are pushing up through the mulch. As was observed by our friend, davidseth, mud season has already arrived.

Reposted from January 31, 2011

Although you’d never know it if you looked out your window here in the Northeast and throughout a good part of the northern hemisphere, we are nearing the midpoint between winter solstice and the vernal equinox. The Sun is noticeably rising earlier and setting later. It is a pleasure to take my early morning shower in daylight and start dinner preparation with daylight still illuminating the kitchen. There are seed catalogs arriving in the mail which has me contemplating the flower beds, the herb garden and maybe this year some vegetables.

In the traditions of Pagan and Wiccan religions, we celebrate this changing season as Imbolc, or Candlemas, which begins on January 31st, February Eve, and ends on February 2nd, a time of rebirth and healing. Imbolc is one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, one of the four cross-quarter fire festivals. Brighid, the patroness of poetry and healing, is the Pagan Goddess associated with Imbolc.

Some of the traditions are the lighting of fires, decorating with red and white symbolizing the snow and the rising sun and green for new growth. Candles are lit in all the rooms of the house. Fires places and hearths are cleaned out of ashes and fires are lit. Since there is still snow drifts in my backyard, the fireplace will be just fine.

The symbols are ewes and lambs since Imbolc is derived from a Celtic word, “oimelc”, meaning ewe’s milk. Many of the foods that are serves are lamb, cheese, poppyseed muffins, cakes and breads. Dishes are seasoned with bay leaves and dried basil.

In rural places where farming is still a way of life, ploughs are decorated with flowers and then doused with whiskey. I know most of us have better things to do with whiskey. Sometimes the plough is dragged from door to door by costumed children asking for food and money, a kind of wintry “trick or treat”. Some traditional gifts, if your going to a friends house to celebrate, are garden tools, seeds and bulbs.

The Maiden is also honored as the “Bride” on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. The older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold. The wands are sometimes burned in the fireplace and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. A new corn broom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

Non-Pagans celebrate February 2nd as Ground Hog’s Day, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather. It actually has ancient roots, weather divination was common to Imbolc, and the weather of early February was long held to be a harbinger of spring. On Imbolc, the crone Cailleach‘s grip of winter begins to loosen. She goes forth in search of kindling so that she may keep her fires burning and extend the winter a little longer. If Imbolc is rainy and cloudy, she will find nothing but twigs unsuitable for burning and will be unable to prolong the winter. If the day is dry and kindling is abundant, she will have plenty of fuel to feed her fire and prolong the cold of winter. Spring will be very far away. As an old British rhyme tells us that, “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.”

Whatever you celebrate or believe, let us all hope that that the local groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and there is only one winter this year. I have nowhere else to pile the snow.

Blessed Be.

Pique the Geek 20111225: Pagan Christmas Traditions

Christendom, like other religions before it, assimilated former religions to forge its own traditions.  This is very much the rule rather than the exception when a new religion begins to dominate an older one.  It is easier to get people to come to your point of view if do not change things too much.

There are a number of pagan traditions that were assimilated into the Christmas tradition, and not all of them were done simultaneously.  For example, the Yule log is much  more recent than celebrating Christmas on 25 December (and that date is not universal, by the way).  Let us look as some of our customs that are not Christian at all.

Air Force Academy Opens Space For Pagans

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Color me shocked. After the sexual harassment allegations and aggressive proselytizing toward non-Christians, the US Air Force Academy has decided that part of its duty in educating future officers is the teach them to defend the Constitution and that includes the First Amendment clause guaranteeing freedom of religion.

Air Force Academy adapts to pagans, druids, witches and Wiccans

Cadets gather for the dedication ceremony of the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle worship center this spring. The center serves cadets whose religions fall under the broad category of “Earth-based.” (Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette / May 3, 2011)

Officials say an $80,000 Stonehenge-like worship center underscores a commitment to embrace all religions.

Reporting from Colorado Springs, Colo.-

In the still of a cold November evening, a small gathering of pagans, led by two witches, begins preparations for the coming winter solstice. But these are not just any pagans, and this is not just any setting. They are future officers of the United States Air Force practicing their faith in the basement of the Air Force Academy’s cadet chapel.

Their ranks are slim. According to the academy’s enrollment records, only three of 4,300 cadets identified themselves as pagans, followers of an ancient religion that generally does not worship a single god and considers all things in nature interconnected. [..]

Witches in the Air Force? Chaplain Maj. Darren Duncan, branch chief of cadet faith communities at the academy, sighs. A punch line waiting to happen, and he’s heard all the broom jokes. [..]

“We’re here to accommodate all religions, period,” Duncan says. The building of the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle on the hilltop, he says, is no different from the past conversion of chapel rooms into worship spaces that serve this year’s 11 Muslim, 16 Buddhist and 10 Hindu cadets. There are also 43 self-identified atheist cadets whose beliefs, or lack of them, Duncan says are also to be respected.

“It is very nice to have our own space,” says Cadet 1st Class Nicole Johnson, a 21-year-old senior from Florida who became a pagan after entering the academy. [..]

In addition to providing worship space, new policy dictates that all cadets take courses in understanding the religions of those who may someday fall under their command. Recently he’s fielded calls from West Point and Annapolis about replicating the Air Force’s efforts. [..]

Back at the solstice preparations, with glue guns drawn and takeout pizza within easy reach, the pagan cadets decorated yule logs with bits of ribbon and glitter. Yule logs, whose ritual burning symbolizes faith in the reappearance of the sun, will be displayed alongside the Christmas trees and menorahs in next month’s crowded religious calendar at the academy.

And though Johnson acknowledges that her beliefs are often misunderstood, she says she has taken no serious grief from other cadets, save occasional questions about whether pagans dance naked (she doesn’t) or whether she can cast a spell on commanding officers (she wouldn’t even if she could).

Do as you will, but harm no one. Wiccan Rede

A Pagan Christmas to All!

(thanks for the kind words over at the GOS, TheMomCat!)

Among the mouth-breathingest of mouth-breathing Republicans, it’s a well-known fact that every November or so, we libruls gather in our covens and plot the paganization of Christmas.  In their Left Behind-style fantasies, we are the legions of Satan, come upon the Earth to foist secular ideas and Godless traditions upon the flock of the Lamb.  Only the Bible stands in defense of the faithful against the pernicious attacks of the heathen First Amendment, as we the befouled seek to eradicate every trace of monotheism from our once-God-fearing civilization.  Each year, the scarred veterans of the (self-)Right(eous) stir their zealots to action, and in public squares and mangers throughout the land, battles over the soul of American culture are waged.  

As in all wars, sometimes an enemy’s gallantry on the field of battle impresses even a bitter foe – Napoleon, remarking on the Russian cavalry then crashing into his lines, said “Now these are Kossacks!”.  Rather like the Confederates at Pickett’s Charge, they may be trying to storm a solid position in the name of a dubious set of causes, but we have to respect the temerity it takes to throw oneself into the breach for an issue one really doesn’t understand.

Easter (Eostre) Is A Pagan Goddess (or maybe not)

Apologies for the tardiness of this diary. A couple weeks ago, as my husband and I were driving, a huge deer jumped right in front of our car. We were absolutely fine, aside from a little shock and damage to the car itself. So I’ve been taking care of all that fun bureaucratic stuff that goes along with filing a claim.

I was lamenting to my mother how this was impeding the progress of my Ostara diary when she pointed out that hitting that deer has everything to do with Wicca. And she’s right. The stag, or horned god, is a major figure in Wicca. He courts and mates with the Goddess in spring, is sacrificed in the fall, and reborn in the winter.

“Yes, but the stag is supposed to be sacrificed in fall, not spring!” I told her. ”  And not even at Ostara, at Beltaine!”

“Well, this stag was just a little confused,” she said.

Indeed.

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