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Posts Tagged ‘sabbat’

The Autumn Equinox (often called Mabon or Harvest Home in Neopagan circles) occurs on or around September 21st each year, and falls at the point of balance between day and night, when the two stand equal. This year it falls on Sunday, September 22, just a few days after the full Harvest Moon on Thursday September 19th. In the Wheel of the year, this is the second harvest festival – usually the harvest of vegetables and fruits – and serves as the gateway into the “dark” half of the year in some myths. (In other myths the dark and light halves of the year switch at the Summer and Winter Solstice, or at Samhain and Beltaine, so this is a common motif that has several different applications).

Our Own Druidry suggests that this is a time to honor Thor and Sif for their functions at the harvest (67), but this doesn’t make much sense to me, so I will be honoring the Vanir as a pantheon, for their role in the fertility of the earth and its productivity. These Gods and Spirits are involved in the productivity of man and the cultivation of the earth, from Frey’s direct patronage and sacrifice at the Harvest to Freyja’s fertility and Njord’s blessing on the harvest of fish from rivers and seas. Since this is a celebration of harvesting and preparing for the winter, storing up and taking stock and being thankful for the plenty of the year, the Vanir are an appropriate group of deities to honor.

Thematically, in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, this is the time of reaping what we have sown – all of the ideas and plans that were set into motion at earlier holy days are now coming to fruition with the crops, and the focus is on harvesting the bounties we are due for our labors. The cornucopia is a common symbol, and in some traditions this holiday is called the “Pagan Thanksgiving” – a time of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest.

This is a time of plenty – all the crops are ripe – and a time of very busy preparation. Those ripe crops need to be picked and stored appropriately so they will last until next year, whether stored dry like grain, or canned and pickled, or just placed in cellar storage. Winter may be long, so it’s best to be prepared. Being thankful through that preparation is something I find very appropriate at this time of year. I also enjoy canning and pickling as hobbies, which are good ways of celebrating this harvest festival. My garden is still producing okra, so perhaps I will make some spicy okra pickles to mark the occasion.

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I celebrated my Lammas ritual at around 5pm on Saturday, July 27. Normally I try to do my rituals when I have time alone in the house, and I had extra time this weekend where I was by myself, so I did my ritual then. This was a solitary ADF style ritual that followed the COoR. I used the Solitary Norse Ritual template found here as the basis for my ritual, and added in special sections in honor of Freyr, as he was the god of the occasion, being that his is the sacrifice that goes with the first harvest. I honored Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdallr as the gatekeeper. I brought incense for the fire and silver for the well, whiskey for Bragi and Heimdallr, a can of soda for the outdwellers, and shared a bottle of ginger beer as my primary offering. I also baked a loaf of corn bread to offer Freyr, which I then placed around the corners of my house as a blessing.

I liked this ritual template better for this ritual than I did when I used it for Ewemeolc. I still stumbled over the words some, which a practice run would have helped alleviate. I had real trouble getting the Two Powers to feel present, though I didn’t have much trouble feeling distracted – which is miraculous, as I forgot to feed the cat before my ritual, and he interrupted it. I made a cat-food offering at the same time as I offered (outside) to the outdwellers, and that worked fairly well. I used some of my own poetry to Freyr, as well as other published poems that I had collected, and used that as my primary offering and the centerpiece of the rite.

I wonder, in hindsight, if I shouldn’t have saved the loaf of bread for a magical working, after receiving the blessings. The loaf of bread was a sacrifice, but it was also used to bless my home afterwards (with chunks of the bread placed at each corner of the house).

After making my offerings, I asked the Kindreds to “give to me of your blessings” and drew the following runes:

  • Hagalaz: Hail – Destruction, death, an early Winter.
  • Mannaz: Man/Mortality – The self. A sense of resignation, of orlog, or fate. The way of the world, an inescapable cycle of events. The power of humans together to attempt to make a difference, to take control of things within their power.
  • Nauthiz: Need/Lessons Learned – work without reward, oppressive forces that cannot be avoided, hardship. Lessons can be learned from this situation, but they are hard won.

Yikes. I noted that this was decidedly less of a glowing review of my ritual, made some extra offerings of incense to the fire, and closed out the ritual without much further ado.

This is the first time I’ve gotten three “doom-y” runes in a row, and the first time I’ve ever pulled hagalaz as an omen in a ritual, so I’m a little shaken up. I find Hagalaz to be particularly disturbing at this, the first harvest festival, since a late hailstorm can totally ruin a year’s worth of work.

I also noted that in this ritual I gave alcohol to the first offerings (Bragi and Heimdallr) but since I usually make my offerings to the kindreds from my own cup (because I like that symbolism) offered them a non-alcoholic beverage. I am currently on a medication that has some SERIOUS side effects if combined with alcohol, so I can’t drink. This is sad, because I really would like to offer more mead. And maybe I can skip my medication on the days I do ritual so I can share mead with my Kindreds (it’s the type of medicine that skipping a day is OK, I take it as I need it. I just had already taken some today). I wonder if that got me the really negative reaction, or if I’m in for a world of hurt for the next short while.

I’ve done a lot of pondering on this rune drawing in the week since my ritual, as well as asked for help from more experienced rune readers, and while the general consensus is that things are probably not good (either now or in the future), there are more positive ways to look at this reading, or ways to look at it that place it into context as more than just DOOM AND DESTRUCTION. For one thing, it could simply be that the destruction is of something that is standing in my way – which might be painful to let go of, but would be a positive-outcome in the end. Nauthiz can be the lessons I learn from that clearing away (or the fact that it really needs to happen), and Mannaz can simply mean that it has to do with me personally, as part of my self (which could be a direct reference to the fall being a time that I generally struggle with my bipolar disorder, and that this fall I’ll make some breakthroughs through hard inner work done). This could also reference the instability of my job right now, which would also make sense.

This type of nuance is something I’m not very good at with the runes, and so I intend to use future studies to really try to get a better read on how to use them well and wisely.

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I just got done reading about an “unscripted” but still COoR ritual over at Ozark Pagan Mamma. It really hit home for me – even though I like the poetry of highly scripted rituals that are put together well. Maybe I’ll try something like this for the Fall Equinox (I did my Lammas ritual this weekend, you’ll get the write up later this week). I think something like this could work really well as a solitary Druid, simply because I wouldn’t need a lot of the “ritual theatrics” that are mostly there to help keep a group ritual flowing together.

Of course, part of me really LIKES those ritual theatrics, but then that’s why I always do my rituals in an empty house – that way nobody but the cats has to listen to me!

Anyway, if you’re looking for a good middle ground in ritual, something that’s still following the COoR but not quite as scripted as the published ADF rituals (like the Solitary Self Blessing Rite, which I love), check out that post from Ozark Pagan Mamma. It cuts a really nice balance between having just an “observed” holiday (without a ritual) and having a full blown ritual High Day.

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Beltane is the second cross-quarter day in the Neopagan calendar, and occurs on or around May 1st. This is sometimes considered the second most important holiday to Samhain, and is in a lot of ways it’s mirror holiday. While Samhain celebrates death, the ending of the year, and the beloved dead, Beltane is a fertility festival, steeped in the coming new life of the earth and the return of flowers, as well as the promise of a good harvest. I have heard it said that Samhain is when the Otherworld comes closest to joining our world, and that Beltane is when our world is closest to joining the Otherworld.

Ancient Gaelic traditions include building fires and driving the livestock between them to bless them. Many other traditions, like maypole dancing, come from the Germanic cultures, making this Neopagan holiday a good blend of Indo European traditions. The name Beltane is, itself, Gaelic – the Germanic culture celebrated Walpurgis Night. There is a possible connection as well to the Roman festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers, though the festival of flowers was centered less on bonfires and more on flowers and drinking. (Drinking, of course, is likely common to all of these celebrations, but modern Neopagans are warned to be careful about combining alcohol with bonfire jumping.)

In the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, Beltane is when the Goddess and the God are celebrating their fertility and consummating their marriage. Common traditions are creating flower garlands, dancing a may-pole, building bonfires, having sex (consenting adults only), and generally celebrating the fact that Summer is on its way in, and the Earth’s fertility has resumed, and it’s not cold and snowy anymore. Less common are flower baskets (May baskets) left anonymously as gifts on people’s porches (which makes a nice counterpart to trick-or-treating at Samhain). The May morning dew is said to be miraculously healing and rejuvenating, leading to myths about bathing your face in it, or gathering it in special cloths.

Beltane, Walpurgis Night, May Day and other associated holidays are all celebrated widely, even into modern times in a lot of places, regardless of Christianization. In many places, May is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but the same celebrations (like giving baskets of flowers) are simply given new names and continued. In other places, people simply continue to build their bonfires and celebrate the coming of May, regardless of what tradition or religion they might be.

This is, in general, an extremely lighthearted and joyful celebration in modern times. It frequently gets connected with faeries and fey lore, and gives modern Neopagans a chance to dance, sing, drink, and make merry at the end of winter. This year, since the spring has been so cool and wet (and even, in some places, snowy) many US Neopagans are looking forward to Beltane and hoping that the weather will cooperate. Here on the Gulf Coast, the cooler weather has meant that things aren’t growing as fast as they usually do, so my celebration will include some extra oomph for my garden, so that it will be productive and fruitful before the heat of summer!

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My Imbolc/Ewemeolc ritual was performed on Friday, February 1 at 5:00 pm, just after I’d gotten home from work. This was a solitary ADF style rite, following the full CoOR. Using the published ritual template found here, I honored Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdall as the Gatekeeper, and Frigga was the primary patron of the rite, as Queen of the Hearth. I may not use this association in the future, but it’s the one that seemed to fit as I was writing the ritual. I brought the following offerings:

  • Cornmeal for the Earth Mother
  • Milk for the Outdwellers, poured out in the back yard
  • Whiskey for Saga and Heimdall
  • Incense and my silver ring for the Fire/Well/Tree
  • A brownie for the Ancestors
  • Oats for the Nature Spirits
  • Whiskey for the Gods and for Frigga, as well as water shared from the pitcher I used for the waters of life

I offered whiskey even though I can’t drink it myself. All the offerings seemed well received, especially the brownie. Apparently my sweet-tooth is hereditary.

This was the first time I’d tried to go directly from “work mode” into “ritual mode” and the transition could have gone more smoothly. I will give myself more time for meditation next time, as I never really settled into the ritual. Also, this particular ritual script, though I like it a lot, was difficult to say at first – lots of alliteration (which is why I like it) was a little tongue-twistery until I settled into the poetic pattern. I’ll definitely use the ritual outline again though, as I liked it a lot – especially the Norse flavor of the poetry.

I felt like opening the gates went particularly well, but I didn’t feel as well-connected to Frigga as I’d hoped in this particular rite. My ease with the CoOR was definitely more apparent though, as I moved through the various steps, easily anticipating what would come next.

One thing I did notice about this particular ritual template was that I spent a lot more time “setting up” than I did actually celebrating the particular reason for the High Day. In the future, I’ll put more into the “celebration” aspect, so that it will feel more balanced. I definitely feel less at home with the Norse celebrations, so I need to do more research into their associations with High Days (or just do standard Neo Pagan celebrations, which I’m much more comfortable with, and give them a Norse flavor).

All the offerings, once made into their various bowls, were spread in my gardens as part of the blessing of the coming spring. My lime tree is in full bloom, so hopefully we’ll have a bumper crop of limes this coming year.

I drew runes for the first time in a long time for this ritual, since I was honoring Frigga, and it seemed appropriate. I received the following when I asked for the blessing:

  • Uruz – Aurochs: strength, dross
  • Nauthiz – Need/Necessity: oppression, lessons learned
  • Inguz – Ing: fertility, ancestors

I’ll admit to being really unfamiliar with this particular divination tool, so the “textbook” keyword meanings don’t mean much yet. I’ve had to do some researching to find deeper meanings, both in the rune poems and in other sources. From the Anglo-Saxon rune poem, I found the following:

Ur
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.
Nyd
Trouble is oppressive to the heart;
yet often it proves a source of help and salvation
to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.
Ing
Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,
till, followed by his chariot,
he departed eastwards over the waves.
So the Heardingas named the hero.

I found that just going to the Rune Poems helped a lot with finding a bigger meaning. From this, I get the following impression of the omen.

You will be given strength as you need it to overcome the coming troubles and trials, but that trouble will lead you toward fertility and peace.

This is, honestly, pretty similar to other omens I’ve been drawing on this Dedicant Path – that things are going to be rough at first, but that I just need to stick with it, and I’ll be glad for having made it through. I’m taking the similar omen to mean I’m not done with the troublesome part yet, which seems about right, as I’m still feeling a lot like I’m in the “action” part of “belief follows action”. Still, I am further along than I was, and I know this will take time.

This message is applicable to my personal life right now as well, which I can’t really discuss here.

It’s also a little trite, to be honest. It’s one of those divination messages that could apply to anyone at any time, and maybe that’s because I asked a very generic “What blessings do you give in return” question. As a blessing, it’s somewhat of a positive one, or at least has a positive outcome.

Either that or I’m totally barking up the wrong tree – a possibility that I’m not leaving behind, as almost every divination I’ve done (or had done) regarding ADF has said something about being troublesome and difficult but with a good outcome. We’ll see how the rest of this year goes.

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