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Archive for the ‘Seasonal Things’ Category

I’ve long thought about writing up the holidays that I celebrate, as an Anglo-Saxon pagan druid with a strong English folk bent. So here you go – the wheel of the year, with the names I call each holiday and what I do primarily to celebrate each one.

  • Yule – greenery, lights, candles, and 12 days of preparation to begin the new year
  • Candlemas – the celebration of the returning light. Buying and preparing candles, cleaning oil lamps, blessing the home with light.
  • Eostara – the celebration of the dawn, the radiant dawn maiden Eostre, and the balancing towards the growing light of the year. Sometimes just “Spring Equinox”
  • May Day – For summer is a comin’ in and winter’s gone away-oh. Celebration of summer, and also of the first harvests of vegetables in Texas, planted back in February.
  • Midsummer – bonfires, grilling, burned herbs for protection, and protection against hurricanes and tropical storms. Purification by fire, dawn and sunset rituals.
  • Lammas – John Barleycorn, the sacrifice of Ing, the first grain harvest. Loaves baked and sacrificed for the blessings of the harvest for the whole season. Sacrifice – personal and as a group – made to ensure the prosperity of the group.
  • Harvest Home – very much a mini-Thanksgiving, this is the height of the harvest, and the middle of the second growing season in Texas. Naming a harvest queen, drawing her around in a wagon to bless the town. The “holy month” of the harvest.
  • Hallows – Ancestor’s night, the welcoming in of winter, the blood harvest and final sacrifice. Celebration of prosperity (hopefully) and of a year well spent. Entering into a liminal time between Hallows and Yule in preparation for beginning the cycle again.

I should note that a lot of this calendar is UPG and modern Neopaganism derived, just with an English-folk flavor to it. It works for me, and makes me feel connected to the ancestors of spirit from whom I draw my practice.

I also observe the Anglo-Saxon Lunar Months, which begin on the new moon – the true new moon, not the dark moon (so 2-3 days after the actual “dark moon”, when the first crescent is visible in the sky). You can find out when those dates are here.

This lunar calendar is given to us by Bede, so your mileage may vary as to how accurate it is, but I find it meshes well with the 8 holidays I celebrate above:

January, Bede explained, corresponds to an Anglo-Saxon month known as Æftera Geola, or “After Yule”—the month, quite literally, after Christmas.

February was Sōlmōnath, a name that apparently derived from an Old English word for wet sand or mud, sōl; according to Bede, it meant “the month of cakes,” when ritual offerings of savory cakes and loaves of bread would be made to ensure a good year’s harvest. The connection between Old English mud and Bede’s “month of cakes” has long confused scholars of Old English, with some claiming that Bede could even have gotten the name wrong—but it’s plausible that the name Sōlmōnath might have referred to the cakes’ sandy, gritty texture.

March was Hrēðmonath to the ancient Anglo-Saxons, and was named in honor of a little-known pagan fertility goddess named Hreða, or Rheda. Her name eventually became Lide in some southern dialects of English, and the name Lide or Lide-month was still being used locally in parts of southwest England until as recently as the 19th century.

April corresponds to the Anglo-Saxon Eostremonath, which took its name from another mysterious pagan deity named Eostre. She is thought to have been a goddess of the dawn who was honored with a festival around the time of the spring equinox, which, according to some accounts, eventually morphed into our festival of Easter. Oddly, no account of Eostre is recorded anywhere else outside of Bede’s writings, casting some doubt on the reliability of his account—but as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, “it seems unlikely that Bede would have invented a fictitious pagan festival in order to account for a Christian one.”

May was Thrimilce, or “the month of three milkings,” when livestock were often so well fed on fresh spring grass that they could be milked three times a day.

June and July were together known as Liða, an Old English word meaning “mild” or “gentle,” which referred to the period of warm, seasonable weather either side of Midsummer. To differentiate between the two, June was sometimes known as Ærraliða, or “before-mild,” and July was Æfteraliða, or “after-mild;” in some years a “leap month” was added to the calendar at the height of the summer, which was Thriliða, or the “third-mild.”

August was Weodmonath or the “plant month.”

After that came September, or Hāligmonath, meaning “holy month,” when celebrations and religious festivals would be held to celebrate a successful summer’s crop.
October was Winterfylleth, or the “winter full moon,” because, as Bede explained, winter was said to begin on the first full moon in October.

November was Blōtmonath, or “the month of blood sacrifices.” No one is quite sure what the purpose of this late autumnal sacrifice would have been, but it’s likely that any older or infirm livestock that seemed unlikely to see out bad weather ahead would be killed both as a stockpile of food, and as an offering for a safe and mild winter.

And December, finally, was Ærra Geola or the month “before Yule,” after which Æftera Geola would come round again.

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Sometimes the universe just hits you with a clue-by-four. I’ll save that for another day, but suffice to say that I’m about to get a lot busier with my spiritual practice.

As a check in, my current practice includes:

  • Full COoR ritual once a week (usually Tuesday nights, sometimes Fridays too), which includes divination
  • “Crowdsourced” Full Moon rituals with my grove
  • Weekly study meetings with my grove
  • Daily practice even if it’s just 3 minutes at my altar to light some incense
  • Regular offerings to the Gatekeeper, Earthmother, my three primary deities (Ingwe Frea, Frige, Hela), and to my house spirits
  • High day rituals with my grove (which I write and coordinate)

Which is honestly a pretty full slate of ritual practices, now that I look at it. I’ve come a long way in the last almost three months, and it’s kind of startling to think that I’ve been rebuilding this fast (and at the same time it feels almost painfully slow).

If I can keep up this level of enthusiasm and motivation, I will be thrilled, but I do know that some of what is coming will be a slog. But that’s okay.

On the celebratory front, this weekend is Lammas! This is my favorite high day, I think, which is funny as there’s been a number of posts around the pagan blogosphere about how Lammas is one of the “forgotten” high days. I guess because I’ve never associated it with Lugh at all, and instead celebrate the first harvest, and the sacrifice of that harvest, it’s always been a different thing for me.

My very first Lammas celebration included my having to “make a sacrifice” – both monetary (the destruction of something of monetary value – in that case, a silver mercury dime) and metaphysical – as part of the coven I was working with, and I have kept to that practice every year, using the harvest season as a time of “giving up” something. I know what I need to give up this year, but it will be challenging. But if that’s not what spiritual disciplines are for, I don’t know what would be. I will be keeping this “sacrifice” from Lammas through Samhain.

There is a lot of UPG floating around about how Freyr (Ingwe Frea) is the lord of the first harvest, the golden grain god who is cut down as a sacrifice. While I don’t know what I think about that as UPG, the general idea of him being at his height – and then cut down – at this time of year appeals to me. The story of John Barleycorn is old – possibly all the way back to Anglo-Saxon paganism and the myth surrounding Beowa (Barley, with some association with Frey). And so it is with both joy and sorrow that I see the first harvest, the sacrifice of the grain, which then blesses and feeds us throughout the year.

My personal celebration of this high day is similar to the one the Anglo-Saxons would have done. I bake a loaf (in my celiac-disease-having state, a loaf of cornbread), bless it, and sacrifice it to the earth at the four corners of my home as protection throughout the coming winter. Since I live in an apartment now, that means depositing cornbread outside, but my neighbors already think I’m odd.

So as we move into August, let’s remember the sacrifice of the grain, of John Barleycorn, and perhaps consider making a sacrifice of our own, to ensure a good harvest and the continuation of our communities.

 

This week’s divination is as follows:

  • Ior – the eel (or beaver) – flexibility/adaptability
  • Rad – the journey – a journey or path, something that might seem easy from the outside but is a challenge to do
  • Gyfu – the gift – reciprocity, hospitality (and the rune I have consistently drawn regarding my path to the priesthood)

I know that, on some level, rune drawing is random – I’m pulling random symbols out of a bag. But sometimes they speak so strongly.

Be flexible, adapt to your situation and to those around you; you’re on a long journey to priesthood, but this is the journey you need to take. 

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Decided to take the advice of a friend (regarding my current deity quandary), and make a special offering to Frige. After all, as associated as She is with Divine Queenship, She’s gotta be familiar with the whole divorce thing? Germanic women could (and did) get divorced. And it’s not like I’m not still industriously running a household, it’s just a household of one (plus two cats) and all my responsibilities to my extended family and grove.

When I offer things, I typically like to share them, and it’s been the kind of day that’s called for white sangria, so I made a glass for me, and a glass for Her. I took some time on my lunch break to just sit and share it in silence, in a quiet apartment which is darkened by shades but clearly fighting off the summer heat (the heat index here today is 113F).

I can not shake the immediate feeling that she is very pleased with this offering (which has peaches and strawberries in it, and is very good for a hot summer day). I have it sitting on my altar, and every time I walk by, I get the good tinglies on the back of my neck.

Thus is born new UPG, I guess?

***

White Sangria for Two

  • 1 oz vodka (peach is nice, plain is fine)
  • 1 oz orange liquor
  • 3 oz white zinfandel
  • 3 oz cranberry juice cocktail (I don’t actually measure this)
  • sliced strawberries and peaches (can be frozen)
  • 2 glasses with lots of ice

Mix all ingredients except fruit in a cocktail shaker. Shake gently with ice, then pour into glasses filled with ice and fruit. Serves 2.

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Midsummer happened this week, and though I haven’t celebrated with the grove yet, I did a small private celebration on my own.

Tropical Storm Cindy prevented anyone in my general vicinity from watching the sunset or sunrise on the solstice, but I marked both this year, as well as lighting candles and enjoying a tasty beverage on my porch (a mojito, made with fresh mint that I grew myself). It was very windy, and very rainy, but I at least got to breathe the midsummer air.

I also harvested basil and made fresh pesto, which I ate over pasta with a bit of cooked chicken and every fresh vegetable I could get my hands on. It was delicious, and absolutely tasted of summer. I made a batch of lemon scones too, which while not truly a summer food, tasted fresh and delightful.

I did a short, improvised Core Order ritual on the solstice itself, thanking the Sun for her light and protection (the wards on my apartment are tied to the Sun and to my hearth fire), and making offerings for her on the rest of her journey. I also asked for extra blessings on my harvest – my vegetable container garden – and poured the blessing water over my plants.

Practicing druidry in a 3rd floor apartment is still a bit of a change sometimes – it would have been nice to have people over and grill a bunch of shrimp and veggies and maybe even some fruit for dessert, but with the weather this year that couldn’t have happened anyway. If, like me, you celebrated informally, here are a few other tips that you might use to plan your celebration.

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Nothing new on the report this week, just continuing to try to slow down and practice. I’m seriously considering adding a full core order into my weekly practice, having enjoyed the one I did last week so much.

Right now I feel like the world is pulling me deeply into my divination practice – I’ve been doing readings of all kinds (tarot, playing cards, runes) for all kinds of people. Several a week at this point. Which is good, I always enjoy the practice, and it’s good for me to stay in regular work with all the various systems I use, but it takes up a lot of time and can be a big drain on my already strained energy levels.

I have started tracking my omens that I draw anytime I do a personal ritual that includes a rune draw. I think it will be interesting to see what runes “inspired” my clergy training when I’m done. I talk a lot about Gear, Feoh, and Eolh inspiring my dedicant work, but those were drawn in a ritual at the very end. This, I’m hoping, will give me the ability to see what the distribution of runes is over the entirety of my CTP1 work.

Also, this week saw me adding a massive new pile of responsibilities at work, so it’s been harder than usual to slow down and find time to sit and practice and breathe. I know that’s part of the discipline, but I’m very glad I have such a simple ritual right now, or there’s no way it would be getting done.

Next week is Midsummer, which I will be celebrating with my grove. The requirements for this course include the celebration of a high day privately, according to your hearth culture. The Anglo-Saxons likely celebrated Midsummer, calling it Litha, but there is much more known about the high day that will show up at the end of my journaling for this course (Lammas). I think I will be writing about both, since one will be more of a mundanely/modern inspired practice, and the other will include at least Anglo-Saxon and English folklore. We don’t actually know a whole lot about how the heathen Anglo-Saxons did much of anything, because what little DID get written down was only done after conversion, and much of that was destroyed in the intervening centuries. That said, the English folk traditions for these high day festivals are wonderful, and I am totally not above co-opting them. I think it might be very interesting to look at how the (Christian) English celebrated Midsummer, and then maybe pull a few practices into my own celebration next week.

The solstice this year falls on the 20th astronomically, but the celebration is typically held on the 21st.

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The 2015 Spring Garden was almost a complete failure – the only thing that did well were the beans. So I’m back (from outerspace) with a new plan, some more mulch, a trash can full of compost, and plans to really *magic it up* this year. I am not content to just put the garden in the ground. This garden needs magic, or I fear it will go the way of last year’s garden, and I will get no tomatoes and be sad.

The container garden contains only herbs and one yellow squash plant that I’m attempting to make work. We’ll see:

  • cilantro
  • Italian oregano
  • straight neck yellow squash
  • scallions (green onions)

The actual garden bed contains:

  • Tomatoes (Arkansas Traveler, Globe, Sweet 100, Sweet Million, Yellow Pear, and Juliet) – almost all cherry tomatoes this year
  • TAM Jalapeno (3)
  • Sweet Banana Pepper (3)
  • Clemson Spineless Okra (4 hills of 2 plants)
  • Bush Blue Lake Beans (3 full rows)
  • Eggplant (Japanese Long)
  • Genovese Basil

The whole thing (except the bean rows, which haven’t sprouted yet) is mulched thickly with cedar shavings, which will hopefully help with weeds.

I’ve also got an order in for some “seed bombs” (mammoth dill, italian parsley, genovese basil, and mixed romaine) to toss in my garden bed with the aloe and the lime tree, to try to make something out of an otherwise useless little corner of garden. If it doesn’t work, I’m not super sad, but the seed balls look easy to use and sprout, and the bed gets lots of sun. That bed currently only contains the out of control aloe plants and Frank. Frank is my 15 year old oregano plant. He’s very hardy. At his largest, he was the size of a coffee table, but he’s much smaller than that now.

In the past, my most successful garden came after I blessed it with a drink that came out of a very powerful ritual. Next week is our Spring Equinox ritual, and so I think I will make extra of our sacred drink (remind me to post on that sometime) and use it to bless the garden. It’ll have strong blessings in it, and I can do a ritual myself to bless the ground. I’ve made a small earth mother talisman for our Druid Mooncast workings, so perhaps she will come and participate as well.

I really *really* don’t want another failed garden. It was so hard last year to look out and see it overtaken with weeds, not producing any fruit at all. I know I went and got a new job and spent the month of May living somewhere else, which didn’t help, but it still feels personal. So this year, I’m doing my best to ensure success.

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Nine Waves Protogrove gathered tonight in the park, under the late summer sun, and around an open fire, to celebrate Lammas. Our ritual honored Frea, the Golden Grain God, and celebrated not only with praise and offerings, but also with a personal sacrifice from each person, that they are willing to give up until Samhain to ensure a good harvest this year.

While we did not announce our sacrifices, I know mine will be hard to keep. I dunno if it’s the Wiccan background, but I take Lammas sacrifice VERY seriously. The harvest is a thing you don’t want to fuck up, especially when your surviving the winter depends on it. And with all the hardship that’s going around in our country, I figure a good harvest is something we all need right now. (With as badly as my garden did this year, I figure a difficult sacrifice is due – I got very little personal harvest this year, so I’m going to have to rely on my community until next year’s garden.) While Lammas is definitely a celebration – it is a High Day after all – it’s also a serious occasion and one that it’s important for us all to be mindful of each time we pick up a bag of fresh apples in January at the grocery store.

We also read the Tale of John Barleycorn – which you can listen to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8878chOvfI (This is a slightly different version than the one in my book, but it’s the more famous version by far.)

Our next ritual will be for the Autumn Equinox, and will celebrate the second harvest. Our ritual focus hasn’t been selected yet, but we’ll announce it as soon as we have it planned.

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