Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘wheel of the year’

Midsummer is coming up at the end of this week (or Litha, or the Summer Solstice, however you’d prefer).  Here are a few things you can do on the Summer Solstice/Midsummer to keep that Druidic spirit alive – without necessarily doing a formal ritual:

  • Get up before sunrise and go somewhere to watch the sun come up. Then, stay up until sunset and watch the sun go down. It’s the longest day of the year – so honor the WHOLE day. (Yes, that means getting up at the ass crack of dawn. It won’t hurt for one day.) If you can do this at your home, lighting incense to mark the passage of the sun is a nice touch.
  • Grill something! Especially since a lot of places frown on outdoor bonfires, a grill is a good substitute, and you can make incense offerings to the coals.
  • Eat fresh, local, seasonal produce. Depending on where you are, this will vary widely. Here in the Swamp, that means sweet corn, tomatoes, beans, and squash, but berries are on their way out of season here already, as it’s getting quite hot. We’re just starting to get good peaches here too, but they really need another month. Watermelons, however, are in their prime.
  • Charge water with the power of the sun – place water in a bowl (covered lightly to keep out flies – I use a white flour sack towel) and let it sit in the sunlight all day (you’ll have to move it). Then use this water in rituals where you need a little extra oomph – I like to use Sun Water in my well, since I’m not close to natural fresh water that’s acceptable to use in my Well without endangering my cats! (It’s all mucky brackish stuff around here)
  • Make a Sun Wreath (or bouquet) – gather as many sunny flowers as you can, fresh, dried or silk all work, and arrange them as decoration in your home. I like to keep a very brightly colored yellow and orange wreath on my front door during this season. This is also appropriate altar decor, especially if you’re doing a ritual to honor Sunna or Sol.
  • Cook with fresh, summery herbs – basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage are all thriving at this time of year. In some places parsley and cilantro are in season as well. Cooking with fresh, summery herbs always helps me connect to the season. I especially like making a salad with fresh basil and fresh ripe tomatoes, with a little olive oil and salt. Yum!
  • Make Sun Cookies! These are regular sugar cookies (of whatever recipe you like) cut out with a sun-shaped cookie cutter. Or just in big rounds with yellow frosting. These can be shared with the office for a special treat, and everyone will love you for bringing them sugar.
  • Wear sunny colors – on purpose and with purpose. Your wardrobe doesn’t have to be part of your special celebrations, but if (like me) you’ll be in a cubicle for most of the Solstice day, wearing something sunny – and getting outside at lunch for a few minutes – can help keep me in a good frame of mind.

Any and all of these things can be done without anyone looking twice at what you’re doing, but they all honor the strength of the sun at this time of year, and help keep you in the spirit of the Solstice. I’ll be doing a number of these, along with my actual celebrated Solstice ritual, and will probably spread them out over a few days to remember that this is as much a season as it is a specific date.

Blessed Midsummer!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere) occurs on or around June 21 every year, and marks the astronomical point at which the sun has reached its highest altitude in the sky. This produces the longest day/shortest night of the year, and the holy day of Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is celebrated at this time. This holiday is often referred to as Litha among various branches of neopaganism, a reference to Bede’s naming of the months of the summer.*

Historically this holiday was celebrated in most of Northern Europe, especially the British Isles, Scandinavia, and the Germanic lands, where celebrations included bonfires and the picking of golden-flowered plants, supposed to have miraculous healing powers. In the Scandinavia, where the sun sets very late and rises very early resulting in extremely long days, the Sun is the central figure, as well as the lit bonfires and celebrations of community. People frequently danced around (and through!) bonfires as a ritual of protection, as well as driving cattle through the fires to protect them. The strength of the Sun makes the crops grow, and there is a great deal of promised bounty as people tend the crops and prepare for the upcoming harvest.

In the Neopagan myth, this is the time of the second battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, where the Holly King defeats the Oak King (who has reigned since Yule) and will then rule until December when the two will battle again. This begins the “Dark” half of the year, where the Sun’s power wanes and the days grow shorter again until the cycle begins anew at Yule.

Bonfires are a very common method of celebrating this high day, often accompanied by all night vigils. This seems to be both an honoring of fire and a warding against wildfires, which are at their most dangerous during the hot dry summer months. The spirits of the land are also important at this time. Most central, however, is honoring the Sun at her (or his) strongest point in the year. I usually make a special point to watch both the sunrise and the sunset on Midsummer, and always have a “bonfire” in my charcoal grill, where I make offerings to Sunna, who is at her brightest (and most destructive!) at this time. As a tropical Pagan, my relationship with Sunna is one of deep respect as well as joy, for while it is sunny here most of the year, and I love basking in her warmth, it is very dangerous to underestimate the power of Sunna in summer, especially on exposed skin.

Read Full Post »

A short evaluation of where I am on the Dedicant Path after somewhere around 7 months of work. These are the actual DP requirements, followed by a little bit about where I am towards completing them.

Written discussions of the Dedicant’s understanding of each of the following nine virtues: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation and fertility. The Dedicant may also include other virtues, if desired, and compare them to these nine. (125 words min. each)

These are complete, as of yesterday’s posting of the Fertility essay. Some will need some editing, but I think I’d rather run a little long and have good, real life examples than cut out the meat of the essay just to make it fit the word count.

Short essays on each of the eight ADF High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast. (125 words min. each)

Completed: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Eostara, Beltane, Midsummer. All I have left are the last two (Lammas/Lughnassadh and Fall Equinox/Mabon). These are fairly standard, since I’ve been pagan for awhile, so they don’t take too long. Making sure I include some hearth-culture information is important, but I’ve changed hearths a few times so they’re a bit eclectic.

Short book reviews on at least: 1 Indo-European studies title, 1 preferred ethnic study title and 1 modern Paganism title. These titles can be selected from the recommended reading list in the Dedicant Program manual or the ADF web site, or chosen by the student, with prior approval of the Preceptor. (325 word min. each)

Complete. Book reviews include Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Comparative Mythology, and Drawing Down the Moon. I may complete some other book reviews (particularly of Anglo-Saxon specific books) but those will be more for myself and/or for Oak Leaves.

A brief description, with photos if possible, of the Dedicant’s home shrine and plans for future improvements. (150 words min.)

Completed and posted here. Pictures attained of my altar as it was first set up, as it was in progress, and as it exists now (which is likely how it will exist for awhile). I have plans to add some actual God statues or symbols, but that will have to wait on budget and finding ones I like.

An essay focusing on the Dedicants understanding of the meaning of the “Two Powers” meditation or other form of ‘grounding and centering’, as used in meditation and ritual. This account should include impressions and insights that the Dedicant gained from practical experience. (300 word min)

Completed and posted here.

An essay or journal covering the Dedicant’s personal experience of building mental discipline, through the use of meditation, trance, or other systematic techniques on a regular basis. The experiences in the essay or journal should cover at least a five months period. (800 words min.)

Completed and posted here.

An account of the Dedicant’s efforts to work with nature, honor the Earth, and understand the impacts and effects of the Dedicant’s lifestyle choices on the environment and/or the local ecosystem and how she or he could make a difference to the environment on a local level. (500 word min)

Not completed, but I have notes started for this, plus several preparatory posts that I’ve put up here about my landbase and how I interact with it. This will probably be my next “big” essay that I tackle.

A brief account of each High Day ritual attended or performed by the Dedicant in a twelve month period. High Days attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neopagan group. At least 4 of the rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style. (100 words min. each)

Completed: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Eostara, Beltane/Maitag, Midsummer. Next will be Lammas/Lughnassadh and the Fall Equinox. I don’t expect these will be troublesome, as I write them up immediately following my rituals. I am shooting to have all 8 rituals be ADF COoR style, though they represent a few different hearth cultures.

ONE essay describing the Dedicants understanding of and relationship to EACH of the Three Kindreds: the Spirits of Nature, the Ancestors and the Gods. (300 words min. for each Kindred and 1000 words total)

I’ve posted several preparatory essays for this, but have not yet started on formulating the final essay. I’m a little intimidated by this requirement, since I don’t always feel like my attachments to the kindreds are “deep enough” or “good enough” yet to write this essay, but I know that I’m expected only to be DEVELOPING that relationship, not to have everything worked out. It’s only a year long program after all. I’ll probably attack this one after I do my Nature Awareness essay. I have some notes prepared for this as well.

A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 words min.)

Another requirement that feels HUGE to get started on. I’m not sure how I want to write about this, but since it’s an experiential essay, I imagine there’s not a lot that I can do wrong. Will need to make sure I document my travels through a few hearth cultures as I figured out where I belong (at least where I think I belong at the moment). Also, I need to talk about my experience as a solitary by choice, since that is figuring large in my practice, and in how I am searching for a long-distance Druid community as well. My notes on what does and doesn’t work for me in ritual will probably come in handy here.

The text of the Dedicant’s Oath Rite and a self-evaluation of the Dedicant’s performance of the rite. (500 word min.)

This is the one I have no idea how to approach. I’m wary of oath-making in general, so it will definitely be the last requirement I complete, because I want to make sure I have everything else feeling solid and finished. I’m going to be very careful about how I approach this, and honestly will be asking for advice on how to write an oath that I can feel comfortable with. If there was anything that would prohibit me from completing the DP, it would be this requirement – not too long ago I was getting prepared to take an oath to a different tradition, and that turned out poorly (before any oaths were made, fortunately). I don’t want the same thing to happen again, so I think I will continue to be hesitant about doing this. Still, the longer I practice this, the more comfortable it is (which is to be expected).

I never did a formal “first oath” when I started the DP – I just promised myself that I would finish it, and I think I can see the end in sight at this point. I’m well over half way done, and well ahead of the Wheel of the Year book in several regards. Now it’s just time to knock out some of the bigger essays that really show progress and how far I’ve come in the months that I’ve been on this journey.

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

The spring equinox, commonly called Ostara, is the high holy day that occurs halfway between Imbolc and Beltaine, on the astrological day when day and night are equal – usually around March 21. It mirrors the autumnal equinox, but serves as the gateway into the “light” half of the year.

Commonly, Neo-Pagans celebrate this holiday as the first coming of fertility to the land, with symbols of pastel flowers, rabbits, and eggs (much like the symbols surrounding the secular and Christian celebrations of Easter, which gets its name from the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, for whom both the Christian and the Pagan holidays are named). The Anglo-Saxon celebration of Eostre in April, though slightly later than our modern celebrations, is the historical basis for this holy day. Eostre is the goddess of the dawn, and her celebration in modern paganism frequently emphasizes the strengthening of the sun. In the secular calendar, March 21 is counted as the first day of spring, which lines up well with the religious celebrations at this time.

This time of year is also the beginning of the rebirth of the agrarian gods, and in the myth of the Goddess and God commonly told in eclectic Wicca, this celebration is when the young God begins his courtship of the Goddess.

Egg decorating is a common custom during this time, for pretty much everyone, and is something I look forward to each year. I’ve decorated eggs since I was a child, and I find that I don’t feel “right” about this time of year until there is a collection of brightly colored eggs in my fridge. I also enjoy decorating my house with birds, nests full of eggs, bunnies, and flowers – symbols that I leave up through Beltaine usually, and the beginning of summer. I have a special connection to rabbits (and have since my childhood), so I enjoy surrounding myself with their imagery for this season.

Also common is the eating of chocolate (and other candy), especially in egg, bean, or bunny shapes, and I will always support holidays that encourage chocolate eating.

This is also one of the few holy days that has a myth that lines up with the agricultural calendar in my area. Though many people are just seeing the first renewed signs of life, it’s not hard to imagine this time of year as one of first plantings and the first fertility of the land (especially with eggs and rabbits as such potent fertility symbols). Since this is the time of year that I plant my spring garden, it’s nice to celebrate the holiday along side celebrating having my garden in the ground. This year the first seedlings will be coming up the week of the Equinox. Planting a garden is a deeply religious experience for me and is a crucial celebration of this season of the year (even if it doesn’t happen right on the actual equinox), and I make a point of channeling the fertility that abounds in Pagan religious celebrations into the ground itself, to increase the yields and fertility of my garden.

Read Full Post »

This week’s assignment in the Wheel of the Year book has me answering some specific questions about my landbase and my relationship to it. I thought I’d answer them here in full form, since most of them are near and dear to my heart, and I think it’s important to be a Druid of Your Place.

1. Where does your trash go?

There are several landfills in my area, and my trash goes to those.

2. Are there options for recycling that you’re making use of? Why or why not?

Yes! My area recycles most plastic, glass, aluminum, and cardboard, and I do my best to put everything that might be recyclable into our big green bin each week. My curbside pickup will not take paper, however, and I am not doing nearly as much as I could with that. I’d like to start keeping our recyclable paper in a place where we can take it to a local school to drop off. My community also has “shred days” where you can bring personal and confidential paper trash to be shredded and recycled. I have a pretty big pile of junk mail that needs to go to the next one of those.

3. Are there steps you can take to help reduce the amount of refuse you create?

I am already buying less plastic packaging (mostly through purchasing fewer pre-packaged food products), recycling everything we can, and composting most of my food waste to put on the garden. Also, I make use of a garbage disposal system for foods that don’t go into the composter (namely meats, because while I like raccoons, I have no desire to set up a raccoon buffet in my side yard). I could be more particular about not purchasing heavily packaged or plastic wrapped products, and I could probably be re-using the clear plastic sacks from the grocery store for fresh produce each week. (I already use reusable grocery bags, though that is as much because they’re much more convenient than the silly plastic bags as it is for the fact that they’re made of recycled plastic themselves.)

4. What happens to your wastewater?

It goes to the wastewater treatment plant about 5 minutes from my house, where it is sanitized and then released.

5. What rivers are nearby? Do you have a connection to them? What sort of connection?

There aren’t any actual rivers nearby, though there are a few large streams, a large runoff/drainage area that has water flowing in it year round, and the perpetual bayous and wetlands so common to this area of Texas. I am on good terms with the runoff/drainage area, since I do a lot of walking there, and I frequently go visit the park that sits on the nearest bayou. I have not, however, been to the local nature preserve in a long time, which I should fix. Perhaps I can even do some volunteer work there, since they’re directly involved in protecting this area and it’s native flora and fauna. The San Jacinto River is the closest river to me, but it’s on the opposite side of town from where I live, so I never see it. I am likely to remain more connected to the wetlands.

6. Describe the basic climate of your area. Is it often wet and rainy? Dry and sunny? Wet and sunny? How has this affected the kinds of plants and animals in the area?

This area is predominantly tropical – wet and relatively warm in the winter, drier but still humid in the summer. We are affected by the marine layer (Galveston Bay) and our weather in the summer is typical of the tropics, with frequent but short lived afternoon storms and intense, humid heat. Plants and animals here tend to do well in the heat, but do not tolerate frost or freezing weather at all (it only actually gets below freezing once every few years or so, and even then only stays below freezing for a few hours). Palm trees are typical, as are ferns, and cacti and succulents all grow freely here – I have aloe growing “wild” in my back yard.

Wildflowers are also common in the grassier areas, but do not thrive here as well as they do in other parts of Texas (We do have Bluebonnets, but Indian Paintbrushes and Mexican Hat flowers are more common here). One of the things I like about living in Texas is the protection that the state gives to wildflower areas, so each spring I can look forward to seeing these flowers along the sides of the road without fear of them being mowed over. There is a running joke that anything that survives in Texas probably has thorns or is poisonous, and that’s actually relatively true (though not as much here by the coast, where we get enough coastal rainfall to make up for the heat). It doesn’t take long to get to much drier areas though, and our trees are smaller, gnarlier, and deeper, much more sprawlingly rooted as a result.

Animals include the typical small songbirds (wrens, sparrows, cardinals, robins in the winter/spring, tufted titmice, finches, mockingbirds, blackbirds, bluejays), all sorts of waterfowl, a large assortment of birds of prey (owls, hawks, and falcons), as well as buzzards, crows, grackles, and cara caras. Most of the animal life here has been driven out by civilization, but we still have large numbers of white tailed deer, opossums, the occasional armadillo, raccoons, rats, and mice – and the expected snake population that feeds on them. While rattlesnakes are not super common here, water moccasins are, and are extremely poisonous. Because we live near the water, we also get the occasional turtle (usually snapping, or red-eared sliders). Squirrels are ubiquitous, but compared to their northern cousins are scrawny-tailed and skinny.

7. What visible effects have humans had on the natural landscapes around you?

Our effects are nearly total in the majority of this area, though I do live close to both a university natural preserve, NASA preserved areas, and a wildlife refuge. This area has been settled for at least the last 50 years, and is largely a concrete jungle. While the older homes have mature trees, flooding is a huge problem when we get heavy spring rains, since the few creeks can not handle the runoff problems adequately, and being in the marine layer means we frequently get extremely heavy, if short-lived, rain. Power plants, oil refineries, and chemical plants are also common in this area, and they don’t do good things for the environment, especially when accidents happen.

8. Where do the winds usually come from? Are there different winds at different times of the year?

The most predominant wind in our area is from the southeast, which sets us up for the typical hot, humid air off the Gulf of Mexico that the Houston area is so well known for. This southeast wind is also responsible for heavy fog in the fall and winter, when warm air meets the cold fronts that come through from the northwest. Also common (especially in the summer) are onshore and offshore breezes, created by the pressure differences caused by heat over the land vs. over the ocean. Interspersed with the predominant southeast wind is a dry, hot wind out of the southwest, which causes the dry heat waves that strike periodically during the summer. This southwest wind is strong enough to disturb the sea breezes, and is responsible for long periods without rain. In the winter, the warm, wet southeast wind is offset by a northwest wind that brings in strong cold fronts periodically. While we don’t usually get long stretches of cold weather, these fronts are often wet and bring the danger of frost. In between cold fronts, the southeast wind picks up again, and our weather is mild and pleasant.

9. What major crops are grown in your region? Why are these particular crops grown here?

Most things grow here, and we have multiple growing seasons. Depending on the availability of irrigation, crops can be grown year round. Common crops are corn and cotton, as well as pretty much every vegetable that does not need to freeze to do well (asparagus and rhubarb both refuse to grow here, for example, but cabbage and onions grow well as winter crops). Some areas can support rice as well. The “dead season” happens in the heat of summer, when only established crops will survive the blistering heat and lack of rain. Farmer’s markets here frequently operate close to year round, with the two primary growing seasons in the spring and fall. A lot of our agriculture is hybridized, with plants being bred to tolerate the heat or to take advantage of our shorter (but more frequent) growing seasons.

10. Where does your power come from?

I live in a major oil and gas processing area, so my local power plant is natural gas based.

*****

I will admit to having used Google to answer one (and a half) of these questions. I didn’t know the specifics of my local power plant (I knew where it is, but not that it is a natural gas plant), and I didn’t know the actual wind directions (beyond cold fronts coming from the northwest and the sea breezes coming from the ocean). Still, I’m glad to take the time to answer questions like this, if only because it keeps me thinking about my relationship to my environment.

As to where I think I would like to be, quite frankly there are a lot of things I would like to do that just aren’t possible right now. I can’t afford to install solar power, and my plumbing is firmly directed through the concrete slab foundation so I can’t reuse my greywater as irrigation. I do plan on installing a gutter system that feeds into a rain barrel/containment device to help alleviate the watering that I do in my vegetable garden each spring and fall, but we’re at least several months away from doing that, if not longer. Some things we’ve thought about doing but then decided against it. When we had our plumbing replaced, we installed a gas-powered tank water heater instead of going tankless, because our water heater is in our (large, high ceilinged) attic, and we use almost no power to have hot water in the warm months – which is most of the year here.

I already use almost entirely recycled paper products, and use non-paper cleaning supplies when I can (rags instead of paper towels, cloth napkins instead of paper, etc). I use biodegradable cleaners for everything that it is feasible to do so (bleach is only ever used in the master shower, since it has mildew problems). Most things get cleaned with soap, vinegar, baking soda, or some combination therein.

I also have been switching out our light bulbs to LEDs (we already use CFL’s – which have their own set of problems, as they contain some heavy metals that can make them difficult to properly dispose of). The LED lights are expensive, but they produce almost no heat, which helps in the summer with the air conditioning bill. I also keep the house at 80 degrees or so in the summer to cut down on AC usage (though I admit to keeping it a bit warmer than I could in the winter as well. I have an extreme dislike of feeling cold, so the house stays at about 70 degrees in the winter). I’ll probably be purchasing a new AC unit in the next year or two as well, as our current one is both inefficient and lacking any sort of labeling that would allow a technician to repair it if it breaks. I also make frequent use of ceiling (and other) fans to help stay cool without needing to run the AC as much.

In general we try to choose native or semi-native plants, especially plants that will attract birds and bugs to the area. As a result we have a thriving ecosystem of spiders, lizards, toads, and the occasional turtle living in the yard. We also get monarch butterflies and several types of hummingbirds when they migrate through, and I try to feed the local songbirds in the winter (though with Harold around, that didn’t happen this year). We also do not use pesticides or herbicides on the yard as a blanket treatment. Small applications of fire ant poison or weed killer on the driveway cracks aside, our yard is “organic”. We also use almost entirely organic fertilizer in the garden, a combination of compost, manure, and purchased organic soil supplements.

I’d love to ditch my car and use a bicycle for primary transportation, but I work 35 miles (each way) from my job. Instead, I drive a small, fuel-efficient car and keep it in as good of repair as I can. I’d also, quite frankly, like to work in another industry – my job is on the periphery of the oil and gas industry, and while I know it’s good work, it feels a bit soulless to continue to work to make that industry better (my company does safety engineering for refineries and chemical plants) when I’d really rather be working on something more sustainable. I comfort myself knowing that fewer oil spills, refinery explosions, and catastrophic chemical leaks is always a good thing, but it still feels a little out of place to be a Druid working in oil and gas.

All in all, I think I’ve made a solid start. Unfortunately the changes I’d like to make now all require significantly more time, money, or both – and all of that is in a bit of short supply right now. Making the little changes was easy, but it’s a bit of a slippery slope to the bigger, more life-affecting changes that I’d really like to make to reduce my footprint and be more conscious of my affect on the Earth around me.

Read Full Post »

Imbolc (or Imbolg, or Ewemeolc) is the Neo-Pagan festival that occurs on the February 1 cross-quarter day – halfway between Yule and the Spring Equinox.

Typically this is a celebration of the returning of light and life to the world, as it marks the first signs of spring and the time when the ewes begin to lactate in preparation for giving birth to lambs. This is also the time when many secular traditions start to look toward the end of Winter – things like Groundhog’s Day, where a groundhog is supposed to predict how much longer it will be winter based on whether or not he sees his shadow. This is very similar to a story about the Cailleach, who supposedly will make the weather on February 1 very bright and sunny if she intends to gather a lot more firewood to last through a much longer winter. This tradition, though it seems odd (as we usually associate the sun with warmth), actually matches the weather in winter, where clouds will hold more warmth near the ground, and bring rain and help thaw the ground, where the sunnier days are often much colder.

Frequently these celebrations are also focused on Brigit (or Briganti) and the celebrations of hearth and home; in the Celtic tradition, February 1 is Brigid’s Day. Many pagans make Brigit’s Crosses and bless and light candles – a tradition that was incorporated into the Christian celebration at this time of year as well.

In the Norse culture, this time is typically associated with the Charming of the Plough – blessings called down upon farm instruments and seeds and honoring the (still-frozen) fields. The Charming of the Plough is a time of preparation, to start the first seeds indoors in preparation for the coming spring. While it’s certainly not warming up in the Norse countries, the light is slowly getting longer and so there is more daylight to begin to prepare for the coming agricultural season. Offerings may be made to Nerthus, as the Earth Mother begins to show life again, or to Freyr, for bringing fertility (Our Own Druidry 66).  It is also sometimes called Ewemeolc, which means “ewe’s milk” and (like Imbolc) marks the beginning of sheep’s lactation. I will also be honoring Frigga, as the Queen of the Hearth and weaving/spinning (which seems appropriate on such a sheepy holiday).

Even though I live in a climate that is not remotely like the Norse, I honor this season in almost the same way. I didn’t plant a winter garden this year, so to celebrate Ewemeolc’s first stirrings of spring, I will be getting my garden ready for the spring planting, turning in compost and mulch and calling down blessings on my tools. On a year that I had a winter garden, I’d be harvesting the last of the winter crops and getting ready for spring. I will also include a blessing for the seeds that are already being started elsewhere, since for most of my plants I use seedlings instead of starting them by hand. I’ll also be blessing my spinning wheel and wool and lighting candles on my hearth.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »