With these words, we welcome Litha, or Mid-Summer, or the Summer solstice. Whatever way you call the day, traditionally beginning the night of June 21st, and lasting through June 22nd, the celebration of the Sun God, horned one, Oak King, Lightbringer, Helios, Sol, Ra, Apollo, Magec, Nanauatzin, Belenos, Yuyi, Aryaman, Hors – whichever name you chose, is at the forefront of the day.
It is a day that we celebrate the Sun God in the fury of his strength; he has reached full maturity in the day and has gained dominion over the night. But, like all things on this year wheel, the strongest sheaf of wheat must also pass, and as we celebrate the glory of the Oak King, we recognize that we now turn toward the darker part of the year and the reign of the Holly King, his brother and darker half.
If possible, like Beltaine, there should be a fire lit – at the very least, a candle, for the day recognizing the strength of the sun. Litha is a fire festival celebrating both heat and light.
Adorn yourself in Golds, yellows, oranges, reds – anything evoking the emotion of heat, fire, passion and the God. These colors venerate the Sun God and recognize his time.
If you have a home altar, in addition to the candle burning, place summer flowers and decorations upon it; sunflowers, symbols of gold like coins and the like. If available in your area, boughs of oak or oak leaves are highly appropriate.
Most herbs are reaching full maturity and peak by this time; if they have not been harvested, now is a proper time to do so. Give gifts of herbs to friends and family from your garden during Litha.
Drink mead or honey wine as honey has long been a symbol of the sun and the Sun God and mead is known as a divine solar drink. Honor the bees at mid-summer with sweet nectar in your garden.
Now is the best time for magic that invokes the power of the God; spells around passion, prosperity, earthly things are all very applicable.
Whichever way you chose to celebrate Litha, try to do it with friends. Laugh, dance, sing in the mountains. Giver reverence to the Old Ones, but remember them with a smile on your face as you work your tradition this season.
I was doing some light reading and there is a lot of information out there about Ostata, some good, some kind of stupid. I found seven of my favorite things, spiritual and mundane, that I wanted to share with you about Ostara (spring, or vernal, equinox). Enjoy!
The name Ostara comes from the derivative of the name of a Teutonic, Eostre. She is the Goddess of dawn and fertility. Eostre is alternatively and cross—culturally associated if not inferred to represent Ishtar and Astarte, but there is much back and forth on that. The animal we identify with Eostre, most commonly is, wait for it, the rabbit (Easter is starting to make sense now, eh?)
The egg has long been a symbol of life, fertility and the world. In days past, druids would color the egg scarlet; this was to represent the sun, and its life giving nature. You can lightly dye an egg today in turmeric to get a yellow tint to the egg, and then soak in the remnants of red beets that have been boiled down. The turmeric base cuts down on the violet shade that is common to beet dying. Or, Paas sells a pretty good egg dying kit I have used since my youth.
At the Spring Equinox, the day and night are equal. Gotcha, this is actually an inaccurate myth. The term for the date when the day and night are exactly equal is called the equilux from and is usually a few days before the equinox, depending on where you are on Earth. The equilux, due to the nature of the light and the universe bending light, is the day where day truly equals night. Science, kids!
You can make a shadow disappear in the middle of the day, if you prepare and have a compass, protractor, stick and GPS handy. Find an empty space, and search out the latitude of that space, then subtract that number from 90. This will give you the degrees at which you will set your stick into the earth. We here in the Northern Hemisphere use our compass to find south, and then place the stick into the earth at the correct angle from above, facing south. If you did this right, at noon, the stick will have no shadow. This is the only one of two days this will work each year, can you guess the other?
It is the only day that you can stand an egg on end. OK, fooled you again. I know, you don’t believe me, we all grew up having fun with gravity and this experiment, but with the right egg you can do this any time of year.
In Wicca, Ostara was not originally celebrated as a holiday, or sabbat, this came later. It is based on early pagan spring and fertility rights, but as a Wiccan holiday it was invited a little later to the party.
Ostara, in some form, is celebrated by most people through religious or philosophical deed. A lot of public works, volunteer and fund raising happen at this time of year (not as much as Yule, but enough to notice), it is a time to celebrate the fecundity of the world; new beginnings and time to sow your seed. Take that for what it is. It can be found in Christian, Hindu, Jewish and other major religious holidays.
I LOVE Wednesday. I am off work, and nobody is home so I am free to be as me as I want to be. Sometimes that involves gratuitous nudity, sometimes just nachos. Most Wednesdays involve magic of some sort and a lot of study time, as it is one of the few times I am completely as uninterrupted as I want to allow myself to be, until about 2 PM when boy three gets out of school.
I have been a bit out of sorts for a while, so I took a small road trip. I needed to go where I could feel grounded, be in solitude but I couldn’t range too far. I picked a place that I have only been to twice, but is very significant in my mind and in my craft.
No doubt some of you recognize where I am at. That is right, and it has been since November since I have had an opportunity to visit. I wanted to come at first to just see if there was a lot of snow on the ground, to see how cold it is, etcetera, but I stayed for the calm, the quiet, the ‘vibe’ and of course for the communion and the energy that has been gathered there.
The God and Goddess are in all things, and in all of us and everywhere. Sometimes though, like the white altar candle we have lit, there are places that are special and set apart. The energy and the spirit of the place overwhelm the mundane. The space between I and the God and the Goddess, the ancestors and those that have taught us these ways is thin. The magic is palatable and it was just what I needed today.
It is true that I have been at other of our Sabbat sites more, but today I feel as strong of a connection as I did back in September with this place and knew that I would feel right and grounded again spending some time here. I spent time in meditation for a bit, I communed and had discussion about things that needed to be said and questions that needed to be asked with those that were with me in my solitude.
There are a lot of changes in the air within my Year and a Day and in my mundane life as well and I did not get all of the answers I am seeking right now, but I have direction again and am stronger for it. I wish I had the words like Susie the Uzi to put into poetry, or Lord Tanys or Lady Atheona’s pipes to oput it in song, but I have words on page letting myself know that for a brief moment in my world all was right and good.
I am excited to visit this special place again soon.
Imagine you are living on the plains or the forest millennia or even half a millennia in the past. You and your family work hard year by year and day by day growing the crops and hunting the meat to sustain you and ourselves and those nearby in a communal setting. You know the land, the sun, the game, the wind, the moon. You in your body feel the comings and goings of the year. The dark and the light pull at your heart and your fiber. When the light fades, the darkness grows – it’s inevitable. So is the fear in your body that this year, perhaps the light isn’t coming back. So like your father and your father before him, you feel the urge to ask the Goddess, for of course mother Earth that provides the corn to sustain you is a Goddess, and her prince partner the God who has always blessed your hunt for help.
This is one of the many reasons why the people who are our ancestors saw fit to celebrate, honor and provide physical manifestation that has in turn created a pantheon of ritual that become directly related to the way we celebrate our holidays and the turning of the year.
Winter Solstice, or Yule, is upon us and it is the end time when the Dark falls to the Light, the God begins his triumphant rebirth in the sun on the land and we as people remember that the year is born again; that we have not been abandoned and we are grateful but also recognize the importance of the dark, for without the dark there would be no light.
OK, huge preamble to put in context my recent crafting project with my friends, teachers, students and families of Inner Circle Sanctuary last night. We had a public crafting night to make Yule Logs. BAM! Another reason to shop at Joann’s (Joann’s, for all of your Wicca crafting needs, and more!). I bought daddy’s first glue gun and a bunch of raffia.
Funny story, I had to go buy a log, because people, we aren’t making Bouche Noel’s (which would be another awesome get together, maybe there is a Kitchen Witch Esbat coming?). I was told to go to a feed and tack store, and there happens to be Jones Feed and Tack around the corner from my house. I was a little self-conscious asking the elder, gruff, weathered man in a sweat soaked bandana cutting firewood where I could locate a foot long, round log about the size to place in my hearth from which I would decorate with candles, raffia and burlap. I didn’t need to be; he looked me right in the eye and asked
“You are making a Yule Log aren’t you”?
I laughed and he went on to tell me at least three other folks had come in that week looking for the exact same thing. He did ask me what we did with them, so I shared a little of what I knew about traditionally what the log represented (hope for rebirth of the light). Funny thing was, he didn’t look oddly at me or anything, he nodded and said that he thought that sounded nice. I get it; he makes his living off the land and probably understands why I do what I do more than most.
Coming together where we do for most of our public nights and sabbat practices, we set up four long tables for the creation, and two for the food that we all love to bring. Wiccans eat ladies and gentlemen, and not just the fat of babies, we eat sometimes like it’s going out of style. And coffee; if you want to have a witch be your bestie, bring them a nonfat skinny vanilla latte or hell, just black as the night, and your crops are guaranteed to stand taller than your neighbors. But I digress, Yule logs…
I and Michael were in charge of drilling out the candle holes in these beasts, while of course Lady Ravenfeather stepped in to drill as well, awesome. One thing I can say, everybody in our group contributes. I was only drilling because I brought the drill, but any one of us regardless of age, gender or station always, ALWAYS steps up to help where needed, whether that is making sure the glue guns are loaded, the ribbon is ready, the soup is on or even the holes are drilled. It is a great community. But these logs, damn.
I believe that some of these logs were from the times our ancestors celebrated Yule, because they did not give up the hole easily. So drilling took place among the scents of pine and cedar and burning wood. Awesome stuff people.
The tables had every kind of crafting supply you can imagine, possibly purchased at Joann’s (for all of your Yule need, Joann’s!). Ribbon of green and red, burlap, holly, mistletoe, evergreen boughs, doves, handmade snowflakes, stars, twenty or so glue guns, bling, and pinecones; man, the pinecones!
As we planned out the Pinterest or Tumblr worthy logs in our heads, and gathered together the crafting supplies we would need the children played, the people ate, we laughed we talked of our friends and family. I have to tell you, this is one of my favorite things and separate from the self-confidence, the divine experience and the wisdom I gain within ICS, the feeling of community and friendship I feel with my peers is awesome. I was raised a little bit as a loner, so it has taken me a little bit to feel “part-of” this community as it is. I am sure I share that with some of my peers, but this also is divine in the metaphoric and literal meaning. We create magic by being together, I truly believe it.
Again, as we glued, trimmed and blinged out our logs, our elders shared the traditions of what the log represents, the reasons we use certain colors and what we should be doing with our log. I asked permission, so I want to share a little of that because it is a nice share.
My preamble set the tone, our ancestors would fear that the light would not return and would ask the God and Goddess for light to return to the land to sustain life. The log represents the dark surrounding the light, the actual sun is within the log. We place a red candle on the log to represent fire, the warmth of the sun. The green candle represents the earth, the land, the reason we need the sun and the white candle represents illumination from the sun. The log is decorated not just because it is pretty, but to please the Gods. The candles are lit on the solstice and the log is burned at Imbolg (traditionally) to release the sun and allow the warmth of spring to return to the land.
Everyone’s logs looked amazing. From big and beefy to small and natural, everyone did an amazing job. Lady Joyanna made a log for Lady Morgana, and that was really nice. All in all, this night of crafting and fellowship (Sponsored by Joann’s (?), for all of your pagan needs), was a lot of fun. I had been surly for the last twenty-four hours, but this lightened my heart (I told you it is divine), and I look forward to seeing my friends soon for Yule.
I am sure I have left some things out by fault or intent, so please leave a comment and share your Yule tidings and traditions.
Blessed be my friends!
YULE LOG NEEDS
One log about a foot in length, as wide as you see fit. A Half log is just fine as well.
3 wax tapers; one red, one green and one white
A Drill with a ¾ inch to 1 inch bite to drill the holes for the tapers
Decorations; if you can go natural, all the better, you will be burning this at some point
Glue Gun, tack or other adhesive
Friends and food (of course)
If you are able, make a log for yourself and make one to give to a friend or loved one.
By my own admission and chagrin, I am not a crafty individual. I find I struggle with the developmental side of crafting – I am just not imaginative enough in THIS area. That being said, Wicca, as I have learned is both operative and ritual; but the third aspect, the “craft” in the Craft, is my struggle.
I have learned a lesson however, one that I didn’t know if it was intended or just a byproduct. Lady Atheona mentions that you cannot help others if your own cup is not full. I see this as a GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER clause. Witches should be self-sufficient. I should not have to go onto www-dot-anything and spend a couple hundred dollars to get a “Witch-in-a-Box” kit. Hmmm, maybe that is not a bad marketing idea, but I digress.
There is something to be said about making your own ritual tools no matter how big or small a role they play in your Craft life. I have spoken to some degree about my runes, my besom, and my scourge. All of these I have lovingly made by my own hands and I LOVE them. It is very true that there are prettier, manlier, superbeast tools out there but to paraphrase the Marines. Every time I look at my creations, I think “This is my scourge, there are many like it but this one is mine…”
I have learned to sew. Strike that and put it in reverse; my mother in all the foresight she had back in the mid-eighties, enrolled me in Home Economics in Junior High. I learned to bake pies, make curtains and sew bags. Lots of bags. When I rolled up on my D and D group, my dice came in a black satin bag with gold braiding that I made. I only wish I would have embroidered “Bad Motehrfucker” on it, to cash in on some badassery. That was thirty years ago. I have not sewn a bag, curtain or pillowcase until I found the Sanctuary.
This has become my favorite meme:
I learned to sew again about 4 months ago when I had to spend about one-hundred plus dollars on a fifty dollar robe, which would have cost me eighty dollars if I would have had one of my peers make it for me (I get to wear a new robe for sabbat soon, so guess who is getting a call, my Lady?). But I did it. I sewed my robe, and it has served me well. I need a new one for class, so I may have to find a pattern. But, today, I sewed again.
We have a project / lesson tomorrow that requires a red bag. Mind you, I was a pro at making bags. Thirty years ago. But I did it. I sewed six small red bags with only two that look odd. I will keep one of them, but the other five seem to be OK. I am proud of myself and glad I got to help my classmates by contributing.
The lesson I mentioned, regarding being self-sufficient is much needed. In my adult life I had become reliant on others in a lot of areas of my life over the last few years. Like I mentioned in a post I deleted. I was not even functional through March of this year. My heart is in the right place, my intentions are golden and I am on the right path. I am becoming extremely self-sufficient in areas within the craft and the craft and in my secular life also and it feels good. This year and a day is not just about growing as a strong witch, but as a strong man, leader, son, father, husband, employee, and friend. I am so blessed.
Other bits of news, Inner Circle Sanctuary has a display up and active at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, in their annual “December to Remember” event. We have a presentation on the history of the Yule log and the Christmas tree January 3rd at 1 PM.
Coming up in December also is the Yule Sabbat ritual at Temple of Goddess Spirituality for us and those that are prone to it, Mars begins to shadow and go retrograde on December 19th, with full retrograde in January of 2016.
Samhain took place on the cross-quarter day this year and it was a night of mixed emotions for me. From the exhalations of the group magic, to the meditations and revelations of the meaning of the sabbat; from the emotional high to the emotional lows; from the contact with my ancestors to some kind of scary assed apparition over my shoulder, outside of the ring of course.
Yes, that is right, the veil was thin and I had a decided visitor from the other world. I and those within the Sanctuary have contemplated who or more rather, what this was. I have decisions like an ethereal hang lose, Slimer, a Muppet throwing up the Great God Cernunnos salute (may you rock on), Jesus on the cross, an angel, my grandmother or a hard as nails ghoulie with gnashing teeth and claws. It’s that last one that has kind of thrown me this past week, so I decided to investigate, and yes my friends, I have figured out who has been reaching out to me from the veil. Sorry fiends, but here is the big reveal…
Surveyor to lay geo-centric circles. Must be willing to work at altitude in rocky terrain with exposure to the elements, notably the cold and the sun (Or Sylphs, Undines, Salamanders or Gnomes). Must be willing to stand for long periods of time with intermittent circling and chanting. Travel is required every 6 weeks or when the moon is full. Cannot be timid around fire, bladed objects or the occasional nudity. Must have own gloves. White Robe is required and must be open minded. Broom is optional. This is a long-term temp to hire position with a 366 day training period; lifelong learners are encouraged to apply.
Picture the brown Earth; rocky and solid. The dark night sky a lit with the pinpricks of millions, billions of stars. The quartered moon the color of a light honey hanging in the southwest. Hear the bells jangling and jostling attached to the legs of men and women dancing under this moon, under these stars in full view of the Goddess and the God. Spinning, chanting, building magic, serving and saluting.
I had never been able to picture this vividly. However…
This past weekend, I was honored, excited and nervous to be part of my first ritual ring for the Mabon Sabbat. It is the Sabbat of thanksgiving, a time of gathering the harvest, giving thanks for the past year. It’s not quite time to look to the next year, but rather to reflect on the past twelve months or a lifetime, or five minutes. And I cannot, in my limited memory remember being this moved outside of the bedroom or at my children’s birth.
Here are some of my observances from this Sabbat:
I have five weeks to hit the gym hard because there is no way I am letting Lady Sive take the pick from me if there are holes to dig
Always place the shovel face down
Being a witch is hard, dirty, sweaty work – and I am not talking bedroom witchcraft (brownchickenbrowncow
Every witch wore a “white robe” at one point, regardless of their experience
You can most definitely feel physically, emotionally and mentally the presence of the God and Goddess as well as the elements asked to guard the ring
I need to learn to march
I need to learn to balance when I walk
My ass looks really big in a robe
It’s OK for boys to wear flowers in their hair, for the right reason
When in doubt, go deosil
We do things traditional, like, no lord’s helping with the food – Don’t tell my daughters
It feels good to do nice things for nice people
Lady Panthres sounds like she likes to party naked, at least under a robe
It gets cold up on that mountain
We are a troupe of entertainers preparing for a re-enactment of seasonal rituals for the upcoming renne fair, play, etc.
In all sincerity, I was underprepared for the amount of magical energy being raised, the beauty and majesty of the High Priestess as the High Priest draws upon the moon in the open air, and that I didn’t giggle during the Great Rite. I was moved beyond measure. This Sabbat for me, ass my first, I felt in advance I was just going through the motions due to my newness to the craft and to the group; but there were several times I caught a glimpse of what is not here day to day. The magical fire, the Sylphs descending like helicopters in Apocalypse Now, the vortex of energy we directed.
In practice I was called upon to cense the ring, and again at Sabbat was called to do the same. I hope I did myself and my Lady Atheona honorably and didn’t flub up too bad. Lady Sive and Lady Nashoba were calling the North and East Quarters respectively. Lady Sive, having been practicing stepped it up. Lady Sithel was asked to place the West candle for the quarter. I was so proud of our class. I beamed with pride and admiration for these three ladies and the magic within them.
The group itself was honored to have some out of town guests in Lord Redhawk and Lady Panthres, Lord Karonis; who was the teacher to some of our elders and the family of one of our elders. I am so proud to be part of this group. I was worried, before, that I would never be comfortable calling people My Lord or My Lady; it felt hokey and out of place to text “My Lady, a question”, but daily, I am finding it more natural and actually difficult not to refer to everyone with these titles.
Finally, I am thankful this Mabon for these great folks, the ones I have met and the ones yet to meet. I finally feel as if somewhere outside of my work and my family I am part of something great, and I belong. I look forward to the next time we are together.