Tag: Wicca

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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Winter Solstice 2017: Here Comes the Sun

The shortest day, the longest night, for those of us who reside in the Northern climes Winter Solstice is here. The sun reaches is most Southern destiny and touches for but a moment, the Tropic of Capricorn and immediately reverses her course. That moment will occur tomorrow morning at 11:28 a.m. EST. The Winter Solstice …

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Winter Solstice 2016: Here Comes the Sun

The shortest day, the longest night, for those of us who reside in the Northern climes Winter Solstice is here. The sun reaches is most Southern destiny and touches for but a moment, the Tropic of Capricorn and immediately reverses her course. That moment occurred this morning at 5:44 a.m. EST. The Winter Solstice is …

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Winter Solstice 2015: Here Comes the Sun

The shortest day, the longest night, for those of us who reside in the Northern climes Winter Solstice is here. The sun reaches is most Southern destiny and touches for but a moment, the Tropic of Capricorn and immediately reverses her course. That moment will occur on Dec. 21 at 11:49 p.m. EST. The Winter …

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Beltane: Fire and Folklore

 photo May-Day-Beltane.jpg
You call it May Day, we Pagans cal it Beltane. It may be a day for workers to take to the streets and protest oppression but for Pagans and Wiccans around the world it is one of the eight sabbats of the Wheel. It is a  celebration of fertility and birth. Beltane, the old Gaelic name for the month of May, is the last of the three Wiccan spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain). Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Beltane traditionally marked the arrival if summer in ancient times. It is one of eight solar Sabbats and one of the only that has not been Christianized.

Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of “no time”. Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.

When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since. [..]


On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine sacred woods. The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bel (Sun God) to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The herds were driven through to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to insure their fertility before they were taken to summer grazing lands. An old Gaelic adage: “Eadar da theine Bhealltuinn” – “Between two Beltane fires”.

The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. Household fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.

Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying”. Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers. Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring.

May birching or May boughing, began on Beltane Eve, it is said that young men fastened garland and boughs on the windows and doors of the young maidens upon which their sweet interest laid. Mountain ash leaves and Hawthorne branches meant indicated love whereas thorn meant disdain. This perhaps, is the forerunner of old May Day custom of hanging bouquets hooked on one’s doorknob?

Young men and women wandered into the woods before daybreak of May Day morning with garlands of flowers and/or branches of trees. They would arrive; most rumpled from joyous encounters, in many areas with the maypole for the Beltane celebrations. Pre-Christian society’s thoughts on human sexuality and fertility were not bound up in guilt and sin, but rather joyous in the less restraint expression of human passions. Life was not an exercise but rather a joyful dance, rich in all beauty it can afford.

So dance around the Maypole, light the fire, sing and bang the drums and don’t forget to wash you face in the morning dew.

Winter Solstice 2014: Here Comes the Sun

Winter Solstice Stonehenge photo imagesqtbnANd9GcTLcoK78AK7wXNH8GyBo_zpsbd4b1e0a.jpg The shortest day, the longest night, for those of us who reside in the Northern climes Winter Solstice is here. The sun reaches is most Southern destiny and touches for but a moment, the Tropic of Capricorn and immediately reverses her course. That moment will occur on Dec. 21 at 6:03 p.m. EST.

The Winter Solstice is a special night for those who practice the craft and has a rich history from many cultures. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel. It is one of the eight holidays, or Sabbats, that are held sacred by Wiccans and Pagans around the world. In Celtic traditions it is the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King:

the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.

Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways – the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.

The re-enactment of the battle is popular in some Wiccan rituals.

As we prepare for the longest night, we decorate our homes with red, green and white, holly, ivy, evergreen and pine cones. We honor the solar year with light. We place candles in the windows facing the North, South, East and West to ward off the darkness and celebrate the return of the sun/ With the setting sun, fires are lit in hearths and fire pits and kept burning to keep us warm until Sol returns at dawn.

There is food a plenty, roasts and stews and winter vegetables and sweets, chocolate and peppermint candy, apples and oranges and sweet breads. All these reminding us of the last harvest, the gifts of Gaia, Mother Earth and the hunts by Hern of the Wild Hunt. Of course there will be honeyed and spiced wine and hearty, dark beers, some made by friends who will join the festivities.

What ever your beliefs, or none, may the traditions and celebrations bring you peace and joy. Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns.

Beltane

Republished and updated from 5/2/2012

 photo beltane_zpsae38ec63.jpg  May Day may be a day for workers to take to the streets and protest oppression but for Pagans and Wiccans around the world it is one of the eight sabbats of the Wheel. It is a  celebration of fertility and birth. It is Beltane, the old Gaelic name for the month of May, is the last of the three Wiccan spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. Beltane is the second principal Celtic festival (the other being Samhain). Celebrated approximately halfway between Vernal (spring) equinox and the midsummer (Summer Solstice). Beltane traditionally marked the arrival if summer in ancient times. It is one of eight solar Sabbats.

Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of “no time” when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection, many otherworldly occurrences could transpire during this time of “no time”. Traditionally on the Isle of Man, the youngest member of the family gathers primroses on the eve before Beltane and throws the flowers at the door of the home for protection. In Ireland it is believed that food left over from May Eve must not be eaten, but rather buried or left as an offering to the faery instead. Much like the tradition of leaving of whatever is not harvested from the fields on Samhain, food on the time of no time is treated with great care.

When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland. Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see the Faery Queen or hear the sound of Her horse’s bells as She rides through the night. Legend says if you hide your face, She will pass you by but if you look at Her, She may choose you. There is a Scottish ballad of this called Thomas the Rhymer, in which Thomas chooses to go the Faeryland with the Queen and has not been seen since. [..]

On Beltane eve the Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine sacred woods. The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bel (Sun God) to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The herds were driven through to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to insure their fertility before they were taken to summer grazing lands. An old Gaelic adage: “Eadar da theine Bhealltuinn” – “Between two Beltane fires”.

The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields. Household fires would be extinguished and re-lit with fresh fire from the Bel Fires.

Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying”. Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers. Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring.

May birching or May boughing, began on Beltane Eve, it is said that young men fastened garland and boughs on the windows and doors of the young maidens upon which their sweet interest laid. Mountain ash leaves and Hawthorne branches meant indicated love whereas thorn meant disdain. This perhaps, is the forerunner of old May Day custom of hanging bouquets hooked on one’s doorknob?

Young men and women wandered into the woods before daybreak of May Day morning with garlands of flowers and/or branches of trees. They would arrive; most rumpled from joyous encounters, in many areas with the maypole for the Beltane celebrations. Pre-Christian society’s thoughts on human sexuality and fertility were not bound up in guilt and sin, but rather joyous in the less restraint expression of human passions. Life was not an exercise but rather a joyful dance, rich in all beauty it can afford.

So dance around the Maypole, light the fire, sing and bang the drums and don’t forget to wash you face in the morning dew.

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.

Winter Solstice 2013: Here Comes the Sun

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Winter Solstice Stonehenge photo imagesqtbnANd9GcTLcoK78AK7wXNH8GyBo_zpsbd4b1e0a.jpg The shortest day, the longest night, for those of us who reside in the Northern climes Winter Solstice is here. The sun reaches is most Southern destiny and touches for but a moment, the Tropic of Capricorn and immediately reverses her course. That moment will occur on December 21 at 12:11 EST.

The Winter Solstice is a special night for those who practice the craft and has a rich history from many cultures. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel. It is one of the eight holidays, or Sabbats, that are held sacred by Wiccans and Pagans around the world. In Celtic traditions it is the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King:

the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.

Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways – the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.

The re-enactment of the battle is popular in some Wiccan rituals.

As we prepare for the longest night, we decorate our homes with red, green and white, holly, ivy, evergreen and pine cones. We honor the solar year with light. We place candles in the windows facing the North, South, East and West to ward off the darkness and celebrate the return of the sun/ With the setting sun, fires are lit in hearths and fire pits and kept burning to keep us warm until Sol returns at dawn.

There is food a plenty, roasts and stews and winter vegetables and sweets, chocolate and peppermint candy, apples and oranges and sweet breads. All these reminding us of the last harvest, the gifts of Gaia, Mother Earth and the hunts by Hern of the Wild Hunt. Of course there will be honeyed and spiced wine and hearty, dark beers, some made by friends who will join the festivities.

What ever your beliefs, or none, may the traditions and celebrations bring you peace and joy. Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns.

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.

Winter Solstice: Return of the Sun

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The shortest day, the longest night, for those of us who reside in the Northern climes Winter Solstice is here. The sun reaches is most Southern destiny and touches for but a moment, the Tropic of Capricorn and immediately reverses her course. That moment will occur on December 21 at 6:12 AM EST.

The Winter Solstice is a special night for those who practice the craft and has a rich history from many cultures. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel. It is one of the eight holidays, or Sabbats, that are held sacred by Wiccans and Pagans around the world. In Celtic traditions it is the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King:

the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.

Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways – the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.

The re-enactment of the battle is popular in some Wiccan rituals.

As we prepare for the longest night, we decorate our homes with red, green and white, holly, ivy, evergreen and pine cones. We honor the solar year with light. We place candles in the windows facing the North, South, East and West to ward off the darkness and celebrate the return of the sun/ With the setting sun, fires are lit in hearths and fire pits and kept burning to keep us warm until Sol returns at dawn.

There is food a plenty, roasts and stews and winter vegetables and sweets, chocolate and peppermint candy, apples and oranges and sweet breads. All these reminding us of the last harvest, the gifts of Gaia, Mother Earth and the hunts by Hern of the Wild Hunt. Of course there will be honeyed and spiced wine and hearty, dark beers, some made by friends who will join the festivities.

What ever your beliefs, or none, may the traditions and celebrations bring you peace and joy. Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns.

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