Friday Form Circle Ancestors Invocation

October 16, 2009 at 10:34 am (Ancestors, Friday, Halloween, Lore, Magic, pagan, Ritual, Saturday, Solitary, Witch)

Ancestors Invocation
By Jennifer Ellison

"We hear your whispered voices
Speaking words of wisdom
Into our unconscious minds.
Your whispers awaken our dreams,
Our hearts,
Our desires.
You who are our ancestors
Who once walked upon the earth
And were part of our shared life eternal,
We praise you with all that is sacred in our lives.
You who planted the seed of knowledge,
You who sought inner peace,
You who claimed your love for the Gods and Goddesses of old,
We give you honor and praise your name.
Without you I would not be here.
Without you I would not be here.
People that have come before and gone ahead,
Without you I would not be here.
I give you honor and praise your name.
We ask you for guidance,
For you have the power of knowledge.
You have been born in us,
Part of our being.
We draw upon your strength so that we may move ever forward.
Your footsteps,
We follow as all children will.
You are our family and with all the love in my being,
I give you honor and call your names.
I praise you with the earth in my palm.
I praise you with the fire in my heart.
I praise you with my breath as I give offerings to your greatness.
I praise you with the blood and water of life within my body.
I call forth for you with honor for all eternity."

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Saturday Surprise! Samhain: Season of Death and Renewal

October 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm (Ancestors, Associations, Death, Divination, Faery, Folklore, Halloween, History, Lore, Magic, Mysteries, pagan, Samhain, Saturday, Witch)

Samhain: Season of Death and Renewal
by Alexei Kondratiev
Copyright © 1997 Alexei Kondratiev
All Rights Reserved
May be reposted as long as the above
attribution and copyright notice are retained

As the nights lengthen and the leaves take on their autumn colors, many of our cities prepare for a seasonal festival dominated by dark and frightening imagery. Ghosts, skeletons, hags, nocturnal creatures such as cats and bats, and grinning monster faces peer out at us from shop windows. Much of it is just commercialism, yet there is no denying that the atmosphere of the holiday still has a profound effect on the modern psyche – as we can see from the spontaneous outrageousness of Hallowe’en parades, the creative expressions of death-related themes, and the general surge in mischief-making. All these customs, however, are a diffuse reflection of the beliefs and practices of the Celtic populations of Europe, for whom this feast was a crucial turning-point in the flow of time.

The earliest record we have of the festival of Samhain in the Celtic world comes from the Coligny Calendar, a native Celtic lunar calendar inscribed on bronze tablets and discovered in eastern France a hundred years ago. The calendar – dated, through epigraphic evidence, to the 1st century CE – is written in the Latin alphabet and was found in conjunction with a Roman-style statue (identified by some writers as Apollo, by others as Mars), but the language used is Gaulish and the dating system itself bears little resemblance to Roman models, implying that it represents the survival of an indigenous tradition maintained by native clergy. A detailed discussion of the calendar lies outside the scope of this article, but for our purposes it will be enough to point out that its year consists of twelve regularly recurring months that fall naturally into two groups, one headed by the month that is labeled SAMON (for Samonios) and the other by the month GIAMON (for Giamonios), and that the names of these two months are clearly related to the terms samos "summer" and giamos "winter" (cf. Gaelic samh(radh) "summer", geamh(radh) "winter"; Welsh haf "summer", gaeaf "winter").

The date of SAMON- xvii is identified as TRINVX SAMO SINDIV, which can be readily interpreted as an abbreviation of Trinouxtion Samonii sindiu ("The three-night-period of Samonios [is] today"). This is one of the very few dates in the calendar that is given a specific name, testifying to its importance as a festival; and since Samoni is obviously the origin of the modern name Samhain, it is reasonable to equate the Trinouxtion Samonii with the feast that is still one of the most important dates in the Celtic ritual year. We should note, however, that since the Coligny Calendar gives no indication of how its months relate to those of the Roman calendar, we have no conclusive evidence that would allow us to fit it into the framework of our own year, and scholars are still very much divided on the issue. The most confusing element, of course, is that Samon refers to summer, and so would naturally lead one to think that a month with that name would head the summer half of the year; and many of the earlier interpretations of the Coligny Calendar take this for granted. In living Celtic tradition, however, the festival of Samhain, despite its name, is definitely the beginning of winter. Though such evidence doesn’t necessarily exclude the possibility that Continental Druids used a completely different terminology, many scholars now accept the authority of the living tradition and place the Samonios month in October/November.

What does the name of the festival mean, however? Here, again, we run into controversy. The traditional interpretation – first put forward in the Mediaeval glossaries and still held to by native speakers – is that it means "summer’s end", being a combination of samh "summer" and fuin "ending, concealment". This is obviously a folk etymology, since we know that the earliest form of the word (Samoni) had a different structure, but its importance to the living tradition should make us wary of dismissing it too lightly. Although philologists have been unable to find a plausible Indo-European explanation for a suffix -oni- meaning "end of" (the suffix, by the way, occurs in at least three of the other Coligny months), this is not conclusive in itself: there are quite a few other derivational suffixes attested in Old Celtic that resist an easy Indo-European etymology, although their meanings are uncontroversial. What should be kept in mind is that in the ritual context of the Celtic Year, Samhain is strongly identified with the "end" or "concealment" of Summer, the Light Half of the year. In the modern Gaelic languages the festival is called Samhain (Irish), Samhuinn (Scots Gaelic), and Sauin (Manx). The night on which it begins (Oíche Shamhna in Irish, Oidhche Shamhna in Scots Gaelic, Oie Houney in Manx) is the primary focus of the celebration. The Brythonic languages call the feast by a name meaning "first of Winter", borrowing the Latin term calenda which designates the first day of a month (Welsh Calan Gaeaf, Breton Kala-Goañv, Cornish Kalann Gwav), but the beliefs and practices associated with it are consistent with what we find in the Gaelic countries, and will help us discover a pan-Celtic theology of

The Coligny Calendar’s division of the year into two halves associated with summer and winter is still very strongly reflected in Celtic folk practice, where the yearly cycle consists of a dark half beginning on Samhain (November 1st), mirrored by a light half beginning on Bealtaine (May 1st). The rituals surrounding Samhain and Bealtaine are closely related to each other and make it clear that the two festivals are linked, but also that they deal with opposite energies within the unfolding of the year. What is explicit and active in one is implicit and dormant in the other, and vice versa. This is often expressed as the notion that what disappears in our world at once becomes present in the Otherworld, and it has even been suggested, on this basis, that Samhain’s "summery" name was originally intended to designate the beginning of an Otherworld summer! Whether this is plausible or not, it remains certain that while Samhain began one kind of yearly cycle, Bealtaine began another, and both could be construed as a kind of "New Year". In ancient Ireland the High King inaugurated the year on Samhain for his household (and, symbolically, for all the people of Ireland) with the famous ritual of Tara, but in nearby Uisneach, the sacred center held by the druids in complementary opposition to Tara, it was on Bealtaine that the main ritual cycle was begun. In both cases sacred fires were extinguished and re-lit, though this happened at sunset on Samhain and at dawn on Bealtaine. Bealtaine was a time of opening and expansion, Samhain a time of gathering-in and shutting, and for herd-owners like the Celts this was expressed with particular vividness by the release of cattle into upland pastures on Bealtaine and their return to the safety of the byres on Samhain.

Which of these two dates, then, should we think of primarily as the "Celtic New Year"? Although both deal with the beginning of a cycle, Samhain begins it in darkness, and there is no doubt about the pre-eminence of darkness in Celtic tradition. In De Bello Gallico Julius Caesar notes that the Celts began their daily cycle with sunset (spatia omnis temporis non numero dierum, sed noctium finiunt; dies natales et mensum et annorum initia sic obseruant, ut noctem dies subsequatur – "they define all amounts of time not by the number of days, but by the number of nights; they celebrate birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such a way that the day is made to follow the night"), and this is confirmed by later Celtic practice. Darkness comes before light, because life appears in the darkness of the womb, all things have their beginning in the fertile chaos that is hidden from the rational mind. Thus the year begins with its dark half, holding the bright half in gestation as the seeds lie in apparent death underground, although the forces of growth are already at work in Otherworldly invisibility. The moment of death – the passing into the concealing darkness – is itself the first step in the renewal of life. This association of death with fertility provided the theological background for a great number of end-of-harvest festivals celebrated by many cultures across Eurasia. Like Samhain, these festivals (which, for example, included the rituals of the Dyedy ("Ancestors") in the Slavic countries and the Vetrarkvöld festival in Scandinavia) linked the successful resumption of the agricultural cycle (after a period of apparent winter "death") to the propitiation of the human community’s dead. The dead have passed away from the social concerns of this world to the primordial chaos of the Otherworld where all fertility has its roots, but they are still bound to the living by ties of kinship. It was hoped that, by strengthening these ties precisely when the natural cycle seemed to be passing through its own moment of death, the community of the living would be better able to profit from the energies of increase that lead out of death back to life. Dead kin were the Tribe’s allies in the Otherworld, making it certain that the creative forces deep within the Land were being directed to serve the needs of the human community. They were, in Celtic terms, a "humanising" factor within the Fomorian realm.

Whatever the specific elements had been that determined the proper date of the end-of-harvest honoring of the dead in various places, by the ninth and tenth centuries the unifying influence of the Church had led to concentrating the rituals on November 1st and November 2nd. The first date was All Hallows, when the most spiritually powerful of the Christian community’s dead (the Saints) were invoked to strengthen the living community, in a way quite consistent with pre-Christian thought. The second date, All Souls, was added on (first as a Benedictine practice, beginning ca. 988) as an extension of this concept, enlarging it to include the dead of families and local communities. Under the mantle of the specifically Christian observances, however, older patterns of ancestor veneration were preserved. Most traditional Celtic communities maintain a year-round link of some sort with their departed, making them a part of all significant occurrences in the family, such as births, weddings and funerals. In areas of the Irish Gaeltacht it is still not unusual for a household to have a seomra thiar ("western room"), a section of the house (often just a nook or alcove) dedicated to the dead of the family. Objects that bring individual dead relatives to mind (old photographs, pipes, jewelry, etc) are placed on a shelf or mantle piece, and as one contemplates them one faces the setting sun and the vastness of the Atlantic, the direction the dead follow in their journey to the Otherworld. The rituals of Samhain, however, involved a more intense bonding with the dead, using the institution which, in Celtic tradition, was used to cement social links in a sacred and durable manner: the communal feast. Sharing food in a solemn context ("in the sight of gods and mortals") placed common and mutual responsibilities on all participants. Inviting the dead to such a feast encouraged the living to remember and honor their ancestors, while the dead in return were encouraged to have an interest in the welfare of their living kin.

On Samhain, the moment of the year’s death, this world and the Otherworld become equivalent to each other, classificatory boundaries are removed from all categories, no barriers exist between the dead and the living, so both can authentically come together in one place to share a ritual feast. Individual Celtic communities have preserved a wealth of different customs related to the way this feast was actually celebrated: one can still discern some distorted
elements of them in modern urban practices, such as Hallowe’en parties and trick-or-treating. Most of the customs, however, fall into two broad patterns. According to the first, a certain amount of food was set aside for the exclusive consumption of the dead. The dead were believed to be present as invisible entities; doors and windows were left unlocked to facilitate their coming into the house. In some cases, a specific type of food (usually cakes of some kind) was made solely for the dead; in others, a portion of the same food that the living would eat was set aside for them. The most classic example of this pattern (which is also found in Ireland and Scotland) is the boued an Anaon ("food of the hosts of the dead") custom in Brittany. The Anaon (the word appears to be the same as Annwn, the Welsh Otherworld; it is certainly a pre-Christian term) are the massed hosts of ancestral spirits, usually portrayed as hungry for sustenance from the world of the living. A large amount of food was set aside for their sole use, and had to remain untouched by any living hand for the full duration of the ritual period. Eating the food of the dead (even if one was desperately hungry) was considered to be a dreadful sacrilege: it condemned one to becoming a hungry ghost after death, barred from sharing the Samhain feast along with the rest of the Anaon. It was, in effect, a particularly horrible form of excommunication.

The other pattern of Samhain custom, on the contrary, encourages the recycling of the offered food into the community, thus strengthening social bonds. The most classic example of this second pattern is the Welsh cennad y meirw ("embassy of the dead") custom, although similar customs are found elsewhere in the Celtic and ex-Celtic world. Here, while the wealthier members of the community put together lavish Samhain feasts for their households, the poor take on the collective identity of the community’s dead, and go from door to door to receive offerings in the name of the ancestors. At each house they are given a portion of the food that has been set aside for the dead. Originally the cenhadon would have been masked to abolish their mundane social roles and allow them to represent the dead more convincingly. To refuse food to the cenhadon for any reason at all was an act of impiety and would invite retaliation in the form of destruction of property – retaliation that would go unpunished because of the holy nature of the ritual period. We can here see one of the origins of the "trick" aspect of our modern Hallowe’en customs, although nowadays it has largely lost its moral dimension.

A communal feast, of course, involves more than just food. The dead would not only have to be fed, they would have to be entertained. Games and pastimes associated with Samhain feasting vary a great deal from community to community, but they have certain themes in common. While the younger people engage in the ritualized games, the elders will be gossiping, reviewing all the notable events of the past year for the benefit of the dead, who will then be encouraged to continue to take an interest in the affairs of the living. The games themselves, in many cases, seem to have specific links with the mythology of death and the afterlife. Many of them involve apples – in part, of course, because they are one of the last crops to be brought in and are thus easily available, but also as a reflection of the role apples play in beliefs about death: in Irish tradition the Otherworld place where the dead gather at a feast is called Eamhain Abhlach ("paradise of apples"), and its Welsh equivalent is Afallon. Some of the Scottish games in this context make use of parallel ordeals by water and fire, the two main elements out of which the world is made. The water ordeal is the familiar bobbing for apples, while the fire ordeal involves trying to take a bite out of an apple attached to a hanging stick which also bears a lit candle. This seems to be a reference to myths about the ordeals faced by the dead on their journey to the Otherworld – a body of beliefs we unfortunately know only through fragments, although the basic concept of the journey and the ordeals is well established. Sharing the experiences of the dead was yet another way of affirming the solidarity between the dead and the living, and of aligning the powers of renewal in the Otherworld with this world’s needs.

While the dead were brought closer to the living by the formal sharing of food, other offerings had to be made to the Land-spirits to reward them for their cooperation during the Harvest period, and to replenish their creative energy as they prepared to enter into a new cycle. With Samhain, the period of "truce" that had begun on Lúnasa was officially ended, and the fruits of the soil especially wild crops) could no longer be harvested with impunity. Well within living memory, children in Celtic communities were warned not to eat the late berries that might still be ripening on roadside bushes, because "the fairies" or "the devil" had made them dangerous to consume. Having enabled the human community to survive by making the crops grow and by standing aside to let the Harvest take place, the powers of the Fomorian realm were now entitled to a gift of life-renewing blood; and Samhain was the season when the cattle that would not be kept through the winter were slaughtered. In historical times the date of the slaughter has specifically been Martinmas (November 11), certainly in part because the name of the saint suggested the Gaelic word mart ("cattle marked for slaughter"). As late as the 1830’s, when Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin discussed some of these customs in his famous diary, the occasion was understood as a ritual "shedding of blood," and other sources show that during the same period blood sacrifices could even still be held indoors, to protect a house from malignant "fairy" influences by sprinkling an offering of blood at each corner.

Renewing social links with the dead and feeding the Land-spirits were both ritual means of ensuring a safe future. While Samhain (and the phenomenon of death which it celebrated) was obviously the end of a cycle, it was more importantly the start of a new one. Because all true novelty springs from the chaotic freedom and vitality of the Otherworld, a new cycle could be inaugurated only by dissolving all of the structures of the old one – just as the moment of death dissolves our identity in this world, allowing the fresh energies of the Otherworld to impel us towards new life. This meant that, as happens in the feasts of renewal of many different cultures, certain types of social disorder were actively encouraged during the period of the festival, because they promoted the renewing influence of the Otherworld at the point in the yearly cycle where it would be most beneficial. Customs originating entirely in the world of cultural values – such as those relating to social rank or gender-appropriate behavior – were the most likely to be violated. Disrespect could be shown to elders or to members of the upper classes. Cross-dressing was one of the most widespread and popular ways of expressing the dissolution of social categories, and in parts of Wales groups of young men in female garb were referred to as gwrachod ("hags" or "witches") as they wandered through the countryside on Calan Gaeaf, indulging in all kinds of mischief.

But the disorder, of course, was only the prelude to the return of order in a strengthened form. The structures that had been dissolved had to be re-created in order to channel the new energy from the Otherworld in the desired directions. While local communities would have had their own diverse methods of accomplishing this ritually (often through the extinguishing and re-kindling of household fires), more elaborate ceremonies were conducted by religious specialists at the sacred centres of a territory, in the name of the entire population. In pre-Christian Ireland the ritual of Tara, focusing on the High King in his role as linchpin of the social order, was the means for re-creating the world on Samhain. The Middle Irish text entitled Suidigud Tellaig Temra (The Settling of the Household of Tara) describes the essentials of the ritual and relates some of the mythology that explains its symbolism (albeit with a somewhat Christianized background), while Geoffrey Keating, the seventeenth -century encyclopaedist of traditional Irish lore, provides us with additional explanations of some of the elements. Since the Land itself, as a ritual entity, was conceived of as a square, so was Tara, for the purposes of this ceremony, seen as a four-sided space. Each of the directions was associated with one of the three functional classes of society (and with the divinity who was seen as the ruler of that function), the South being devoted specifically to the power of the Land and to the goddess who gave energy to the exercise of the social functions. The High King occupied the center of the ritual area, while around him, strictly ordered by social rank, were representatives of the four provinces. Thus, when the New Year actually dawned, the magical heart of Ireland would contain a model of the entire social order of the country in miniature, engaged in the solemn feasting whereby all social links were strengthened, and all parts of the country would then benefit from the influence of this ritual. The actual inception of the new cycle was signaled by the lighting of a fire, not at Tara but at Tlachtga, which symbolically represented the southern province of Munster within the High King’s central realm. This was the place where Tlachtga, the daughter of the mythological Druid Mug Ruith, died after being raped by the "sons of Simon Magus" (who wanted to gain the knowledge and talents she had inherited from her father) and after giving birth to three sons from three different fathers. This myth is obviously garbled in its modern version, yet one can still discern in it the figure of the Land-goddess and her three "functional" consorts. The association of the festival with the pre-eminently "female" southern quarter may explain why in some Welsh and Scottish communities it is specified by custom that Samhain ritual (preparation of the ceremonial food, etc.) must be overseen by nine women (in contrast to the nine men who preside over Bealtaine).

What of the role of the gods in this crucial turning-point of the ritual year? Since virtually all our knowledge of detailed ritual practices among the Celts comes from Christianized communities, references to divinities who were actually worshipped are, as one would expect, rare and indirect. However, some of the stories preserved in both folklore and mediaeval literature seem relevant to the theology of this feast. Images such as that of the hero Diarmait killed by a boar after his romance with Fionn Mac Cumhail’s wife Gráinne; or that of wild Myrddin emerging from the forest with a herd of stags to kill his wife’s lover by piercing him with a pair of antlers; or that of Gwyn ap Nudd ("White son of Mistmaker") fighting with Gwythyr ap Greidawl ("Wrathful son of Hot") every Calan Mai (Bealtaine) "until the day of Judgment" for the hand of their common love, Creiddylad; and the notion of the Fianna living off the wilderness from Bealtaine to Samhain and indoors from Samhain to Bealtaine all suggest a myth of certain divinities changing their status in relation to the Land-goddess in response to the change of seasons along the Samhain-Bealtaine axis. The common denominator of these motifs seems to be the figure of the antlered god now conventionally referred to as "Cernunnos", whose mythology has definite links to the stories of the Fianna and whose attributes symbolize seasonal change as well as the interface between nature and culture. Antlers are a seasonal phenomenon: they drop off in winter and begin to reappear as velvet at winter’s end, returning to full glory in the spring. In Scots Gaelic terminology, the month immediately preceding Samhain is called an Damhar (damh-ghar, "stag-rut"), because it is when stags clash with each other during the mating season, shortly before losing their antlers, as the antlered god must undoubtedly lose his (which is why some "Cernunnos" statues – like the one from St. Germain – apparently had holes for removable antlers). Our sense of the seasonal importance of this event in Celtic ritual symbolism is reinforced by the custom in southwestern Brittany of baking appropriately shaped cakes called kornigoù ("little horns") to celebrate the coming of winter. From the many versions of the myth one can deduce that the antlered god is separated from his goddess-consort (who takes another lover) during the light half of the year, when he must live as a renunciate in the wilderness and wear his horns; but that with the coming of the dark season his rival is eliminated and he can return to his consort’s embrace in the Otherworld – abandoning, by the same token, the "horns" of his cuckoldry. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that the bonnag Samhna – the Samhain cake prepared specifically for the ritual- made by the women who preside over the Samhain feast in parts of Gaelic Scotland is named after a cuckold in the community. And we find echoes of the same motif (as we often do) at the other end of the Indo-European world, in the ritual calendar of India, where on Divali (Dipâvali), the Feast of Lights, which is usually celebrated very close to Samhain, Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance and well-being, leaves her usual consort Vishnu (who falls asleep at this time) to return temporarily to her first husband, Kubera, the fat god of material riches.

The Land-goddess, too, changes her appearance at this time: the fertile part of her retreats to the Otherworld where she can join with her consort in beginning the creative work of the new yearly cycle (in their summer, which is our winter, as it were), but in our world only her "Fomorian" aspect remains, making the land barren and hostile to human comfort. In the Scottish Highlands this is the season of the Cailleach Bheura, the monstrous hag who wanders in the hills bringing bad weather, while in Wales we hear of the Hwch Ddu Gwta ("tailless black sow") who lurks menacingly in the darkness. Yet these are all aspects of the same being, the multiform Provider on whom we all depend, who must, like all things, replenish herself through alternating periods of action and repose, and who touches – as we all must – darkness and death to find the source of true renewal.

Selected Bibliography
Céitinn, Seathrún (Geoffrey Keating), (ed. by Padraig de Brún)
Foras Feasa ar Éirinn. Dublin, 1982.
Danaher, Kevin,
The Year in Ireland. Cork, 1972.
MacNeill, Eoin, On the Notation and Chronology of the Calendar of Coligny, Ériu 10 (1926).
McNeill, F. Marian, The Silver Branch. Glasgow, 1953-66.
Owen, Trefor M.,
Welsh Folk Customs. Cardiff, 1959.
Rees, Alwyn & Brinley,
Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales. New York. 1961.
Sébillot, P. Y.,
Le Folklore de la Bretagne. Paris, 1968.
Suidigud Tellaig Temra (R.I. Best, ed. and trans.), Ériu 4(1910).

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

Fair Use Notice: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

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Saturday Surprise – Surprise I’m Posting On A Saturday LOL

August 15, 2009 at 8:18 pm (Ancestors, Autum Equinox, Corn, Death, History, Lore, Mabon, Magic, pagan, Saturday, Wisdom, Witch)

Gwyl Canol Hydref (Mabon): Facts & Misinformation

The Mabon season of September 21-22 each year is unique. It includes:

  • A Pagan Sabbat: Fall Equinox or Mabon, usually celebrated on or near the
    evening of September 21-22, mainly celebrated by Neo-Pagans
  • Christian holy days.
  • A Welsh festival: GWYL CANOL HYDREF, Begins sundown, September 21 (day before Equinox) Day of the Aspen. Harvest festival. The Horned God is mourned by the Goddess.

There is a great deal of misinformation being circulated about this festival. Read the following information.

Alban Elfed, Mabon Sabbat
Gwyl canol Hydref or Mabon: (pronounced May-bon. Also known as Harvest Home, Harvest Tide, Fall Equinox, Autumn Equinox etc.), September 21-23. Marks the middle of the harvest. Again equal day and equal night. Now it’s time to reap what you have sown. Giving thanks for the harvest and the bounty you
are enjoying. Coincidentally the sign of Libra begins at this time. The scales symbolizing Libra are a direct link to the harvest, as this is the time when the farmers brought in their goods to be weighed and sold.

Colors for this Sabbat (there are so many, just look at the trees):

  • Orangeand red, with brown for the background.

Despite the bad publicity generated by Thomas Tryon’s novel, Harvest Home is
the pleasantest of holidays. Admittedly, it does involve the concept of sacrifice, but one that is symbolic only. The sacrifice is that of the spirit of vegetation, John Barleycorn.

Occurring 1/4 of the year after Midsummer, Harvest Home represents mid-autumn, autumn’s height. It is also the Autumnal Equinox, one of the quarter days of the year, a Lesser Sabbat and a Low Holiday in modern Witchcraft.  Technically, an equinox is an astronomical point and, due to the fact that the earth wobbles on its axis slightly (rather like a top that’s slowing down), the date may vary by a few days depending on the year. The autumnal equinox occurs when the sun crosses the equator on it’s apparent journey southward, and we experience a day and a night that are of equal duration. Up until Harvest Home, the hours of daylight have been greater than the hours from dusk to dawn. But from now on, the reverse holds true.

Astrologers know this as the date on which the sun enters the sign of Libra, the Balance (an appropriate symbol of a balanced day and night). However, since most European peasants were not accomplished at calculating the exact date of the equinox, they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, September 25th, a holiday the medieval Church Christianized under the name of ‘Michaelmas’, the feast of the Archangel Michael. (One wonders if, at some point, the R.C. Church contemplated assigning the four quarter days of the year to the four Archangels, just as they assigned the four cross-quarter days to the four gospel-writers. Further evidence for this may be seen in the fact that there was a brief flirtation with calling the Vernal Equinox ‘Gabrielmas’, ostensibly to commemorate the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary on Lady Day.) Again, it must be remembered that the Celts reckoned their days from sundown to sundown, so the September 25th festivities actually begin on the previous sundown (our September 24th). Although our Pagan ancestors probably celebrated Harvest Home on September 25th, modern Witches and Pagans, with their desk-top computers for making finer calculations, seem to prefer the actual equinox point, beginning the celebration on its eve.

Mythically, this is the day of the year when the god of light is defeated by his twin and alter-ego, the god of darkness. It is the time of the year when night conquers day. The Autumnal Equinox is the only day of the whole year when Llew (light) is vulnerable and it is possible to defeat him. Llew now stands on the balance (Libra/autumnal equinox), with one foot on the cauldron (Cancer/summer solstice) and his other foot on the goat (Capricorn/winter solstice). Thus he is betrayed by Blodeuwedd, the Virgin (Virgo) and transformed into an Eagle (Scorpio). Two things are now likely to occur mythically, in rapid succession. Having defeated Llew, Goronwy (darkness) now takes over Llew’s functions, both as lover to Blodeuwedd, the Goddess, and as King of our own world. Although Goronwy, the Horned King, now sits on Llew’s throne and begins his rule immediately, his formal coronation will not be for another six weeks, occurring at Samhain (Halloween) or the beginning of Winter, when he becomes the Winter Lord, the Dark King, Lord of Misrule. Goronwy’s other function has more immediate results, however. He mates with the virgin goddess, and Blodeuwedd conceives, and will give birth – nine months later (at the Summer Solstice) – to Goronwy’s son, who is really another incarnation of
himself, the Dark Child.
Llew’s sacrificial death at Harvest Home also identifies him with John Barleycorn, spirit of the fields. Thus, Llew represents not only the sun’s power, but also the sun’s life trapped and crystallized in the corn. Often this corn spirit was believed to reside most especially in the last sheaf or shock harvested, which was dressed in fine clothes, or woven into a man-shaped form. This effigy (The Wicker Man) was then cut and carried from the field, and usually burned, amidst much rejoicing.

So one may see Blodeuwedd and Goronwy in a new guise, not as conspirators who murder their king, but as kindly farmers who harvest the crop which they had planted and so lovingly cared for. And yet, anyone who knows the old ballad of John Barleycorn knows that we have not heard the last of him.

They let him stand till midsummer’s day,
Till he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard
And so become a man…

Incidentally, this annual mock sacrifice of a large wicker-work figure(representing the vegetation spirit) may have been the origin of the misconception that Druids made human sacrifices. This charge was first made
by Julius Caesar (who may not have had the most unbiased of motives), and
has been re-stated many times since. However, as has often been pointed out,
the only historians besides Caesar who make this accusation are those who
have read Caesar. And in fact, upon reading Caesar’s ‘Gallic Wars’ closely,
one discovers that Caesar never claims to have actually witnessed such a
sacrifice. Nor does he claim to have talked to anyone else who did. In fact,
there is not one single eyewitness account of a human sacrifice performed by
Druids in all of history!
Nor is there any archeological evidence to support the charge. If, for example, human sacrifices had been performed at the same ritual sites year after year, there would be physical traces. Yet there is not a scrap. Nor is there any native tradition or history which lends support. In fact, insular tradition seems to point in the opposite direction. The Druid’s reverence for life was so strict that they refused to lift a sword to defend themselves when massacred by Roman soldiers on the Isle of Mona. Irish brehon laws forbade a Druid to touch a weapon, and any soul rash enough to unsheathe a sword in the presence of a Druid would be executed for such an outrage!
Jesse Weston, in her brilliant study of the Four Hallows of British myth, ‘From Ritual to Romance’, points out that British folk tradition is, however, full of mock sacrifices. In the case of the wicker-man, such figures were referred to in very personified terms, dressed in clothes, addressed by name, etc. In such a religious ritual drama, everybody played along.

They’ve hired men with scythes so sharp,
To cut him off at the knee,
They’ve rolled him and tied him by the waist
Serving him most barbarously…

In the medieval miracle-play tradition of the ‘Rise Up, Jock’ variety (performed by troupes of mummers at all the village fairs), a young harlequin-like king always underwent a mock sacrificial death. But invariably, the traditional cast of characters included a mysterious ‘Doctor’ who had learned many secrets while ‘travelling in foreign lands’. The Doctor reaches into his bag of tricks, plies some magical cure, and presto! the young king rises up hale and whole again, to the cheers of the crowd. As Weston so sensibly points out, if the young king were actually killed, he couldn’t very well rise up again, which is the whole point of the ritual drama! It is an enactment of the death and resurrection of the
vegetation spirit. And what better time to perform it than at the end of the
harvest season?
In the rhythm of the year, Harvest Home marks a time of rest after hard work. The crops are gathered in, and winter is still a month and a half away! Although the nights are getting cooler, the days are still warm, and there is something magical in the sunlight, for it seems silvery and indirect. As we pursue our gentle hobbies of making corn dollies (those tiny vegetation spirits) and wheat weaving, our attention is suddenly arrested by the sound of baying from the skies (the ‘Hounds of Annwn’ passing?), as lines of geese cut silhouettes across a harvest moon. And we move closer to the hearth, the longer evening hours giving us time to catch up on our reading, munching on popcorn balls and caramel apples and sipping home brewed mead or ale. What a wonlucky we are to live in a part of the country where the season’s changes are so dramatic and majestic!

And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
And he’s brandy in the glass,
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proved the strongest man at last.

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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Saturday Something – Litha / Midsummer, Correspondences / Associations

May 30, 2009 at 9:37 pm (altar, Ancestors, Associations, Faery, Fertility, Herbs, History, Litha, Lore, Magic, Midsummer, pagan, Saturday, Wisdom, Witch)

Litha Correspondences / Associations
from The Sacred Grove

Date: June 20-23 (varies according to the position of the Sun).
Summer Solstice; Midsummer; Litha (Wiccan); Alban Hefin (Druidic); nti Raymi (Incan); Feast of the Sun (Aztec); Celtic New Year, according to some; St. John’s Day/Festival of Saint John the Baptist (Christian).

Sacred To:

  • Gods: Horned Gods; Oak Kings; Sun Gods; Baldur; Mars; Nergal
  • Goddesses: the Midsummer Bride, the lion-guarded Queen of the Year; Aine of Knockaine; Kupala; Mother Nature; Aphrodite Erycina, Aphrodite of the Heather, the nymph-goddess of Midsummer; Astarte/Anatha, the Love and Death, Goddess of Midsummer; Vesta, for whom fires were lit at Midsummer.

Foods: fresh vegetables, summer fruits, pumpernickel bread, ale and mead.
frankincense, lemon, myrrh, pine, rose and wisteria.
blue, green, gold, red, yellow, bright colors, pastels.
all green stones (emerald and jade).
Celebrating: abundance, fertility, virility, the beauty and bounty of Nature. It is a good time for empowerment, for strong magic and male rituals, for handfastings and communing with Nature Spirits, for workings of consummation or culmination. The door to the Faery Realm is said to open on Midsummer Night, and twilight to be the best time for faery magic. Celebrate Mid-Summer with fire and singing and feasting, with all-night vigils and torch lit processions. Weave green boughs and crowns of flowers. Dance around a bonfire. Decorate your altar with candles and flowers. Perform the Great Rite in the fields. Erect a Midsummer Tree. Set a fire wheel ablaze (being mindful of fire safety, of course). Walk naked or ride a broomstick through fields as a fertility charm. Draw down the Sun. Drink mead or use it for offerings. Make honey cakes or cornbread with honey butter for the feast.
wand, athame, sword, spear, staff … all the phallic ones.
all flowers, roses, heather, oak, St. John’s Wort, MugWort, St. John’s Flower. St. John’s Wort symbolizes the Wiccan festival of Summer Solstice. A plant was hung up in the house for each member of the family. The remaining plants were bundled, tied to a pole, and set up where grain would be brought at the next harvest. Farmers prayed to the goddess Kupole for a good harvest. The bundle of herbs, called the Kupole, represented her. Heather is the Midsummer Tree of the Summer Solstice. Aphrodite Erycina, Aphrodite of the Heather, mated with the sacred king atop a mountain then killed him by tearing out his genitals. St. John’s Flower/St. John’s Blood/Mouse-eared Hawkweed (Hieracium pilsoella) was uprooted with gold coins on Midsummer Eve in Germany and Bohemia. Celts, Druids and Scandinavians gathered mistletoe at Midsummer. White elder flowers are sacred to the White Goddess at Midsummer. Orpane/Midsummer Men (Sempervivum telephium, a variety of houseleek) was gathered on Midsummer Eve along with sprigs of red sage and used to divine the fate of lovers.
Midsummer fire was considered the fire of heaven.
: Bonfires are kindled for health, fertility, love, sacrifice or purification. There is a long European tradition of lighting bonfires at Midsummer, especially of oak wood and in high places. Twin bonfires were common. Smoke of the green oak, burned on Midsummer Eve fires, is painful and gives inspiration to those who dance between the twin sacrificial fires. In some places a  Midsummer Tree was used to kindle the bonfire.
The Midsummer bonfire was thought to drive away the dragon that causes disease.
The ashes of the bonfire were scattered as a fertility charm. Moroccans and Algerians threw incense and spices on their Midsummer bonfires all night, invoking divine blessings on the fruit trees. In parts of England the Midsummer fires were lit in the fields to bless the apples. Midsummer bonfires were jumped over to make flax grow as high as the people could jump. In some parts of Germany young people jumped over Midsummer bonfires to make the flax or hemp grow tall.
Basques burned vipers in wickerwork panniers on Midsummer Day. Firewheels: Firewheels symbolize the sun at its highest point. They were usually rolled down a hill into water, simulating the course of the sun. Midsummer Charms: The charred embers from a Midsummer bonfire are potent magic, charms against injury and bad weather. They are placed in fields or around trees for agricultural fertility, placed in meadows and atop houses to protect them. People in some parts of France held branches of nut trees when they jumped the Midsummer bonfire. These branches were then hung over the doors of cattle stalls. On the Isle of Man blazing gorse was carried several times around folded cattle on Midsummer Eve. St. John’s Wort, gathered on Midsummer Eve, is worn as an amulet or hung up over doors or windows as a charm. Gathered naked that night, it is used for fertility. Mugwort has magical powers when gathered on Midsummer Eve. A Mugwort garland woven at Midsummer, worn as a crown or used for viewing the bonfire through, was a charm to ensure that you would have no headaches or eye pain that year. Mugwort was sometimes thrown on the Midsummer bonfire. The French wove garlands of it at Midsummer for protection against ghosts, magic, bad luck and disease for that year. In Bohemia, fir cones gathered before sunrise on Midsummer Day were believed to confer invulnerability. Wild thyme collected on Midsummer Day in Bohemia was used to fumigate trees as Solstice as a fertility charm, to make them grow well. Fennel was hung on doors on Midsummer Eve in medieval times to ward off evil spirits. Ferns generally reproduce via spores, but it was believed that fern seed was magical at Midsummer. Gathered on Midsummer Eve by spreading a white cloth below it, so as not to touch it with the hands, fern seed was believed to confer invisibility and the ability to understand the language of animals. Bohemians believed that fern seed bloomed with fiery golden blossoms on Midsummer Eve, and that the person who climbed a mountain holding it would find a vein of gold and see the treasures of the earth shining with a bluish light. Oil of St. John was a decoction of mistletoe that had been gathered on Midsummer Eve. It was believed to heal all wounds made with cutting instruments. In Sweden the Midsummer mistletoe was attached to the ceiling of the house, horse stall or manger to render the Troll powerless to inflict harm on people or animals. In Italy young singles gathered around a standing stone at Midsummer, the boys wearing green ears of grain and the girls wearing flax flowers, to leave plants on the stone. The affections of a couple were believed to last as long as the plants stayed fresh upon the dolmen.
Nettles were planted or put into water on Midsummer Eve in Sicily. The way they were found on Midsummer Day, blooming or fading, was an omen, especially as to fortune in love. In Moselle, France a good vintage was expected if the Midsummer Eve fire wheel was still aflame when it rolled into the river. In Italy wheat and barley were sown in small pots a few days before Midsummer. Each pot represented a specific person. Fortune and good luck were believed to come to those whose grain had sprouted well by Midsummer Day, bad luck to those whose grain had not.
Midsummer Trees:
Maj Stanger, Swedish Midsummer trees, were made from tall, straight spruces with their branches stripped off. Wood was sometimes attached so that the trees represented a man with his hands on his hips. The Midsummer tree was decorated by village maidens with leaves, flowers, strips of cloth and gilt eggshells. A large vane or flag was placed on top. Bohemian Midsummer trees were made of fir or pine and decorated by girls with flowers, garlands and red ribbons. The bonfire was kindled of the tree that night, the garlands tossed back and forth across the blaze by boys and girls. Couples held hands and jumped over the embers three times. Singed garlands were saved to burn in the hearth during thunderstorms, or fed to sick or calving cows.
Death of The Sacred King:
We have evolved and no longer practice blood sacrifice of any sort, but the ritual murder of the sacred king was once a solemn European vegetation rite of Midsummer. He was not a king as we understand that term in modern times but rather the embodiment of male virility, a Hercules figure. He was crowned with roses and wreathed with myrtle, enjoyed the favors of the queen/priestess, but Midsummer was when he felt the stab of the thorns and his rule came to an end. The sacred king’s sacrificial death ensured the fertility of the crops and the survival of the tribe. The ekingi was symbolically beheaded as a part of the Bohemian Midsummer vegetation ceremonies. He wore a tree bark robe decorated with flowers, a bark crown bedecked with branches and flowers, a mask, and had ferns on his feet. He carried a hawthorn switch for a scepter and was accompanied by young people wearing bark  girdles who carried wooden swords and willow bark trumpets. There was a chase through the village followed by a mock trial. If the king was found guilty, several hats would be placed atop his head so that they could be chopped off when he knelt down.
Global Rites:

  • Incan: Inti Raymi, the Feast of the Sun, marked Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere. To celebrate make libations of chicha (maize beer). Make offerings to the Sun. Kindle new fire from the sun, with a mirror.
  • Egyptian: In some parts of ancient Egypt the somber rites of the presentation of the first sheaf of harvest wheat to Min took place at Midsummer.
  • Phoenician: Dirges were sung for the child Linus at Midsummer during the flax harvest.
  • Native American: Sun Dances
  • German: Latzman, the Lazy Man of Midsummer Day festivities, was a conical or pyramidal wickerwork frame covered with fir sprigs.
  • Irish: Torches made of bundled reeds were carried on Midsummer Eve.
  • Serbian: Birch bark torches were lit on Midsummer Eve and carried around the sheepfolds and cattle stalls. The people then climbed up into the hills, where the torches were allowed to go out.
  • Austrian/Bavarian: Boys decked out in green fir branches went from house to house with a group of young people to collect wood for the Midsummer bonfire.

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Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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Saturday Something – Midsummer Hail and Farewell

May 23, 2009 at 11:33 am (Ancestors, Associations, Fae, Faery, Fairies, Fairy, Folklore, History, Litha, Lore, Magic, Midsummer, Mysteries, pagan, Saturday, Witch)

Midsummer Hail and Farewell
by Ahneke Greystone, Midsummer 2000;
excerpt from:
Cauldrons & Broomsticks

A newsletter for and by the Pagan/Wiccan Internet Community,


That I am mortal I know and do confess my span of day:
ut when I gaze upon the thousandfold circling gyre of the stars,
No longer do I walk on earth, but rise
he peer of God himself
To take my fill a
t the ambrosial banquet of the undying.

-Claudius Ptolemaeus,
Greek-Egyptian, 2nd Century

Such a wonder, this season of paradox! A vibrant moment of existence, warm caresses from the Sun, long days to share with family and friends. It is a time for first harvest and second sowing. For some there is more to do than a day’s time allows; for others it is a time of sweet pause and respite. We are poised between increase and decline. Balanced on the Mystery.

Gathered around the fires of Midsummer Eve, we reflect on the turn of the Wheel and the symbolism of fire as a sign of our consciousness. The awakening we experience, as did the God, when times of frivolity and independence turn to times of responsibility and community. It is a time of maturity and reflection. On Midsummer Day our focus will be on celebration; a time for living in the moment and making merry. A Dance of Life, with our minds and bodies attuned to the awesome possibility and promise of existence. Tonight we are comforted knowing that as fire burns it cleanses and purifies, clearing the land and our psyche for the time of repose ahead. Providing the fertile source from which the cycle turns again in Winter.

This holiday transcends all time and culture. The heritage of the celebration is sometimes unacknowledged, and sometimes celebrated much as it has been for hundreds of years. Modern pagans recognize several names; it was called Litha or Vestalia in ancient Rome, Gathering Day in Wales, Feill-Sheathain in Scotland, Alban Heflin in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, Thing-Tideln in Scandinavia and All Couple’s Day in Greece, and it is the Celtic Feast of Epona. It was and often still is celebrated throughout Russia, Europe, the East,  Africa and the Americas, and other places throughout the world honoring the season of ripeness and the advent of the harvesting.

In ancient times Midsummer was as well a time for celebration and reflection. Rites were ecstatic, celebrating fecundity and harvest, placating the gods for gentle rather than destructive weather. We knew that Divine whim could destroy the crops we needed to harvest in order for human and animal to survive the upcoming Winter. This was the most powerful fire festival of our solar holidays.

Summer was a time of war, a time of invasion and defense. Our ancient family connected the death of their compatriots with the peak and passing of Summer. The symbolism of the burgeoning land, cut into harvest, and the strong men who died in war was a powerful and integral part of the holiday. Even in ancient times, the paradox prevailed. Life and death.

The wedding month of June traces to our pagan roots. Courting traditionally began at the Winter Solstice, when days were not as filled with tasks, and there was time to focus on familial matters. Towards Spring, pregnancies became obvious. Marrying in May was considered unlucky, as that was the time of the Sacred Marriage. Thus, marriage became common after Beltane. Mead was traditionally drunk for the month following the bonding to guarantee fertility and the health of children conceived. The Full Moon in June is known as the Mead Moon, and we honor this today in our reference to a wedding holiday as a honeymoon.

Midsummer, especially the Eve, is a time when the Fairie become visible to our human eyes. The boundaries between the worlds are thin. Even those of us who rarely experience fey moments can be caught up in the mischief and mayhem brought to us this evening. We will be reminded that our world is a quixotic one. If we have become too staid, that will be remedied this evening! The fairies delight in revealing our human foibles and turning our world on end.

Midsummer in some traditions was the time the Ivy King was seen as battling and overcoming the Oak King. He ruled for the next six months, until the Winter Solstice when the fated battle began again, with the Oak King then victor. In other traditions, the Sun King was seen as born on the Winter Solstice, reaching his peak at Midsummer, to decline and pass either into the Underworld as reigning King there or into repose until his rebirth in Winter. The myth of Demeter and Persephone gave inspiration to a yearly cycle of the Feminine Divine, who at Midsummer is seen as the Daughter who has just begun her journey to the Underworld and the Mother who has not yet realized that her beloved daughter has gone. She will shortly understand this, and she will send the Earth into decline and mourning.

The Goddess at Midsummer is the Lover-Mother. She is pregnant and aware of the life within. This is a bittersweet time. The mature God is her husband and the father of her child. He is more her partner at this time than at any other. Emotionally and intellectually they are equals. She is enjoying this time of mundane connection. It is as though her tasks are done and she finds the time to relax and enjoy life. She who always leads and inspires can briefly lay her head upon the shoulder of her consort and let someone else take charge. Shadowing her joy is the knowledge of what will come. Her lover will pass over and she will evolve once again separate from him. The child within is her connection to this Earthly time and the wonders of physical existence. It is also her connection to Eternity. What agony she will suffer, though, to see all that she loves pass. Even as her wiser self knows the purpose.

Goddesses for Midsummer include Earth Mothers and Goddesses of beauty and mature sexuality, fire goddesses and goddesses of the animals and the hunt. They include: Aine, Ameaterasu, Anahita, Aphrodite, Artemis, Asherah, Brighid, Cardea, Coaltique, Corn Mother, Danu, Erzulie, Esmeralda, Freya, Flora, Gaia, Hera, Hestia, Iamanja, Inanna, Ishtar, Li, Litha, Mawu, Oraea, Oshun, Oya, Pele, Rhea, Rhiannon, Spider Woman, The Corn Mothers, Tiamat, Tonantzin, Vesta, Yellow Land Earth Queen, Yemaya.

The God has matured from the free and independent young man to the wise elder, the King who has learned of commitment and responsibility to his Queen, his family and his community. He is the counselor and the person others turn to for leadership and guidance. The Lord of the Greenwood is now the Sun King. He wears his crown with dignity and with some sorrow. For he remembers how at Beltane he envisioned the blood upon the corn. He knows his time is about to end. He reflects on a life of joy and abandon, of peace and contentment, of accomplishment and triumph. It is the time when he looks back on his life, rather than forward. The time remaining is short. With age and maturity comes the wisdom in him that accepts his life, is aware of  the contributions he has made and acknowledges his fate. He looks to the end with peace now, fearless and aware of his role in the theater of life.

The Gods of Midsummer are the Gods of the hunt, Gods of the Sun, Father Gods and the Gods of the Arts. They include: Apollo, Arthur, Balder, Balin, Cernunnos, Faunus, Gwynn ap Nudd, Hades, Heimdul, Helios, Herne, Hugh, Lugh, Pan, Perkunis, Phol, Ra, Taliesin, Woden.

Midsummer Correspondences-

  • Verdant and growing shades, colors of light and fire – gold, green, hazel, orange, peridot, pink, red, yellow.
  • Trees: The most powerful being the oak, ivy and mistletoe, but also including evergreen and fruit-bearing trees – fir, holly, mistletoe, pine, hawthorne, maple, oak, peach, palm, rowan.
  • Crystals/Stones: Amber, carnelian, cat’s eye, citrine, clear quartz crystal, copper, emerald, garnet, peridot, ruby, sulfur, yellow topaz.
  • Flowers: Red flowers, carnations (red), honeysuckle, iris, lily, marigolds, nasturtiums, rose, sunflowers, trefoil, wisteria, witches’ broom.
  • Creatures: Cardinal, dove, lizard, magpie, parrot.
  • Herbs: Basil, chive, chervil, dragon’s blood, fennel, lavender, mint, parsley, Rosemary, rue, sage, St. John’s Wort, tarragon, thyme, vervain, violet.
  • Incense: Carnation, cedar, cinnamon, copal, fir, frangipani, frankincense, myrrh, pine, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, tangerine, thyme, vervain, violet, wisteria.
  • Oils: Carnation, citronella, geranium, lime, musk, orange, tangerine, ylang-ylang.
  • Foods: Hot and spicy foods, corn, dark breads, tomato and red vegetable juices.

And now it is Midsummer! May you cherish the special moments of your life, honoring them as Divine gifts. May the love you have for family and community be paramount today, and may you see in the eyes of your mates, children, family and friends that spark of eternity that is a part of each of us. Celebrate!

Blessings of the Sun King and the Queen of Summer to you!
The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

-William Bourdillon

Fair Use Notice: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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Saturday Something – Summertime Moon and Astrology Gardening

May 9, 2009 at 11:26 am (Associations, Earth, Fertility, Flowers, Garden, Litha, Magic, Midsummer, Moon, pagan, Plants, Saturday, Seeds, Wisdom, Witch, Zodiac)

Summertime Moon and Astrology Gardening
by Ravenna Morgan

The Moon’s magnetic force pulls all that contains water: the tides of our oceans, the blood and fluids of our bodies, and all plant life – it lets you know when to sow, when to gather, and when to weed. By learning to flow with the rhythm of the Goddess we are ensuring the best crops, herbs and flowers and this in turn will resonate within us to create a connection with Mother Earth such as we have never known before, it will enrich us spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally.

The Moon travels through each one of the Zodiac signs about once a month – she stays in one sign about 2 1/2 days before moving on to the next one. It’s never wise to plant on the day of the New Moon or Full Moon. The waxing and waning process of the moon can be divided into the four phases of new moon, first quarter moon, full moon, and last quarter moon. In each phase, certain plants have the best chances for growth.

A moon that is waxing increases in light from a new moon to a full moon. A waxing moon, which is increasing in light, will be beneficial for plants growing above the ground. The first week is especially good for crops that have their seeds on the outside, such as asparagus, broccoli, celery, cabbage and spinach. The second week (between the 1st quarter and the Full Moon) is best for crops that produce seeds on the inside, like peppers, tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers and melons.

A moon that is waning decreases in light from a full moon until the next new moon. Plant root crops such as potatoes, peanuts, carrots and onions, bulbs, perennials, and biennial plants during a waning moon. Harvesting also should be done during a waning moon. To encourage your lawn to grow fast, cut it during new or first quarter moon. To encourage it to grow more slowly, cut it during a full or last quarter moon.

Charts are available that tell you what phase and what Zodiac sign the Moon is in at any given time. The following is a guide. Planting & Garden Care by the Zodiac:

Aries is a dry & barren time; plant onions, hot peppers & garlic, kill weeds deter unwanted insects.

Taurus is a moist and productive time; plant root crops such as turnips, potatoes, carrots.

Gemini is a dry and barren time – a good time to pinch tips from plants to stop unwanted growth, fork up and aerate the soil, pull weeds.

Cancer is the most moist and fertile time of all. Watch those seeds germinate! Time to irrigate, to graft, and to transplant new seedlings.

Leo is the driest and most barren time. No planting, pruning of vines or trees should be done. This is the best time to kill weeds and deter unwanted insects.

Virgo is a moist, but barren time, a time to weed, tie up vines, clean your garden tools and do all the garden maintenance jobs that have been waiting.

Libra is a moist and reasonably productive time, good for planting ornamental flowers or sowing flower seeds.

Scorpio is a very moist and productive time. This is the best time for fertilizing your garden; good for planting too – especially vines.

Sagittarius is a dry and barren time – this is not the time to plant or prune.

Capricorn is a reasonably productive time and is good for planting root crops such as carrots and potatoes.

Aquarius is a dry & barren time, no good for planting, but take the time to rake the soil and get rid of weeds.

Pisces is a moist and very productive time, excellent for the growth of fruits and berries, and to fertilize the garden. Good for short, quick growth and deep roots, and for planting bulbs.

Copyright Ó Nerys Purchon (AKA Ravenna Morgan). Permission is granted to share this article with others, provided you do so in it’s entirety and include this copyright statement.

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from `this blog.

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Saturday – Starting Midsummer Stuffs :)

May 2, 2009 at 6:16 pm (Associations, Blessing, Fae, Faery, Fairies, Fairy, Fertility, Flowers, Herbs, Magic, Midsummer, pagan, Plants, Saturday, Witch)

Goddess of The Week For Midsummer: Goddesses of Beauty and Love

Suggested Mantra: Magic Wishes

The wheel turns, and Midsummer, or Summer Solstice, celebrates the longest day of the year. The earth is juicy, rich, fertile and magic – the perfect time to empower wishes with Goddess Energy.

Suggested Affirmation:

  • I have a healthy life rich with high purpose
  • I have wealth to give others as it is given to me
  • At my center there is a incandescent fire
  • My creativity is energized
  • Today is my chance to be healthy
  • My vital energy resurfaces naturally
  • I embrace life in its absolute fullness

Related Essences:

  • Honeysuckle
  • Cypress
  • Frankincense
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Pine
  • Rose

Related Gemstones:

  • all green stones especially emerald and jade

Midsummer, the Summer Solstice, arrives when the earth has reached the midpoint on her journey around the sun. The earth is awash with fertility at this time, her energy is peaking as she prepares to give us away to the journey into Autumn – from this time on, the daylight hours will begin to shorten again. In the past, bonfires were leapt to encourage fertility, purification, health, and love. Goddesses of abundance and fertility, power and order, love and beauty are typically invoked to increase midsummer magic. Goddess energy celebrated at this time include Aphrodite, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar, Venus, and others.

Tonight is a magical time for wishes, especially those of the heart…traditionally it is a time to lie with your lover, or: Seeing as the earth is at her ripest and most fertile, this is a good time to conceive your divine child you have been waiting for. If you are single, it is a good time to cast a love spell. If you are broken-hearted or experiencing unrequited love, write your feelings down with red ink on white paper. Smear it with honey, fold it gently and burn it in the flames, saying:

“I give my sorrow to the flames,
he Goddess of Fire consumes my pain.
It is done.”

For protection in the coming year, jump over a campfire or a candle anchored in the earth. Or, if you live near the sea or a river, bay, brook or lake, practice sand and water magic (water being the source of life). Draw a symbol in the sand describing what you hope to achieve, then let the tide carry it to the Goddess for an answer. Alternatively, float a flower with your kiss on it – traditionally a rose – into the waves to carry your wish home. Decorate your home with summertime flowers, love amulets, seashells and summer fruits. Sprinkle aromatic potpourri along window sills, and use green, blue and yellow candles as you bless each morning with:

I open my ears
That I may hear the wisdom of my ancestors.
I open my eyes
That I may see with vision and clarity.
I open my mouth
That I may speak
with gentle intelligence and compassion.
I open my heart
That I may love and be loved.
I open my arms
To receive the bountiful gifts of the Lady.
Blessed be this day.

-source unknown

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from `this blog.

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Saturday Something – Tarot Reading Tips & History

April 11, 2009 at 9:16 pm (Associations, Divination, Fun, History, Lore, Magic, pagan, Psychic, Saturday, Tarot, Tools, Wisdom)

Tarot Reading Tips & History

The exact origin of the tarot is not known, but it is thought that they originated from somewhere around India and were brought to Europe with the Gypsies. The earliest known deck seems to have appeared around the fourteenth century. During the Renaissance, the tarot was a part of a growing interest in the studies of the mystic arts, such as Qabbalah and alchemy. The tarot saw a revival in the nineteenth century and has been enjoying popularity ever since.

The modern day deck of playing cards is believed to have come from the tarot The face cards of the tarot deck are the King, Queen, Knight, and Page(where in some decks, the Knight and Page are known as the Prince and Princess, respectively). As the modern day playing card deck began to evolve the Knight was dropped and the Page became the Jack. The suits of the tarot are related to the suits of playing cards. The suit of spades is equivalent to the tarot suit of swords, and diamonds corresponds to pentacles. The clubs equals the tarot suit of wands or staves and the hearts corresponds to cups in the tarot deck.

Choosing your own tarot deck is a very personal thing; every deck “feels” different to every person. You should choose the deck whose images really speak to you. For me, I have only found one deck that “speaks” to me, and in turn through me. I have tried many different decks, but have ended up giving them away. That’s another thing – you will find a deck to be much more “effective” when it comes as a gift. If you want to become a collector of decks, then by all means purchase all you want. But you will find that for use, a gift deck will be what you want to use.

I have also found FOR ME that for my deck to be mine, it can only be handled by me. Ever. When I read for someone, I shuffle the deck while they focus on their question. I’ve had it remarked that this would make it harder to achieve accuracy, but for me that just hasn’t been the case. So far, my readings have seemed to be pretty accurate. In addition, when I read for someone, I prefer they not tell me their question until after the reading. If I know what they are looking for it tends to color my readings. The cards may be trying to tell this person something that will be overlooked or misinterpreted if I am only looking for information relating to say love or finances.

After I do the reading of what I see, I then inquire about their specific question, and look deeper, for alternate meaning relating to their question. While there are specific associations for each card, each card can also have numerous meanings. As can the meanings of cards vary in relation to each other. The same exact fall of cards can have drastically different meanings for different people.

I use the picture on each card – I rely on the information gained by doing so quite heavily, which may be part of the reason I only use a specific deck. I dunno – I’ve had some beautiful decks, but just couldn’t “read” them. A good way to pick your own deck is to find a website that carries many different decks. A good one, and a site I shop frequently is Capricorn’s Lair. Go to the site & find decks you like. Then go to search engine like Google and type in the name. You should be able to find examples of the artwork, pictures of the cards. Once you’ve narrowed the selection somewhat, then go find a store in your area that sells many different decks, and see if they have the ones on your list. New Age and metaphysical bookstores are more likely to have a good selection on hand, although many chain bookstores do carry the more popular ones, such as the Rider-Waite, and will be glad to special order any of the other decks. When you visit the store, ask if they will let you look at a deck from the box, but I have a warning note here: if you do not know much about the tarot, you may not think this is a big deal, but many tarot readers will not buy a deck that has been handled by others. A deck is a personal thing, and many tarot readers believe that their decks take on something of themselves. Personally, I would never buy an unsealed deck – even with cleansing, I prefer a few hands as possible to have touched them.

You can also purchase carrying/storage cases for cards, either from a webstore or an actual store, but I personally made mine. Granted I am somewhat skilled at sewing, so it was only natural for me to do so, but making a bag is extremely easy. All you need is a piece of silk the width of your deck plus 2 1/2 inches, by the length of your deck plus 2 1/2 inches. Fold it in half long-ways, right sides together, and stitch up the sides. Fold over the top about 3/4 of an inch, and stitch it where the edge of the fabric meets the rest of it, leaving an opening you can run a piece of leather or a ribbon thru and tie it closed. Again, making your own limits the energies going into it. Place your cards in your case, and put them under your pillow, leaving them there for a couple of nights, to absorb your energy.

There are many good sites out there in cyberspace. There are also many charlatans. One of the ones I have found that I like is ifate. It shows several layouts, and what each card position represents. It will also allow you to receive a reading, and the one time I did it came back fairly accurate in a generic sort of way : ).

There is however, more to reading the tarot than card meanings and positions. A large number of one type of card can add insight and greater depth to your readings. Here are some examples and their suggested meanings:

  • A large number of Major Arcana indicate an important time in the querent’s life. The decisions made and the actions taken will have long term consequences. The Major Arcana holds sway over our spiritual life, matters of our inner being.
  • If the cards are predominantly Minor Arcana, the querent’s question is of a mundane matter. Despite how important it may seem at the time, it will have little effect in the long run. Our character or nature will remain as it is.
  • A large percentage of Wands can indicate growth and energy. A large percentage of Court Cards that are Wands indicate business transactions.
  • An excess of Cups can indicate that the question has to do with love, children or pleasure. An excess of Cup Court Cards indicate delightful company.
  • A great deal of Swords suggests aggressive ambition or destructive activities. A great deal of Sword Court Cards indicate conflict.
  • Many Pentacles would indicate that the querent’s question revolves around money, goods or material gain. Many Court Cards that are Pentacles indicate politics or high finance.
  • Specific Court Cards or numbers have their meanings as well. A large number of Court Cards can indicate the influence of a great many people. A situation that is almost beyond the control of the querent.
  • A large number of Kings relate to honors and meetings of those of high rank.
  • A large number of Queens can indicate powerful friends and influence.
  • Many Knights can foretell haste and unexpected meetings.
  • A great deal of Pages denote news and other messages.
  • Many Aces indicate power, force and success. They are often the cards of beginnings as well.
  • Twos in number reflect partnerships and important conversation.
  • Many Threes reflect determination, but one must beware of the truth being bent.
  • A large number of Fours represents rest earned through good planning and hard work.
  • A great deal of Fives almost always indicates quarrels and difficulties.
  • Many Sixes represent gain and pleasure.
  • Sevens in number indicate agreements as well as possible disappointments.
  • Many Eights can represent news or journeys.
  • Nines in number warn of added responsibilities.
  • A great deal of Tens can indicate heavy responsibility, commerce and anxiety.

Taken in part from:

The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages by Paul Foster Case
A Complete Guide to the Tarot by Eden Gray

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions / recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog

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Saturday Surprise – Dragon Information

April 4, 2009 at 11:46 am (Associations, Books, Dragon, Dragons, Folklore, History, Lore, Magic, pagan, Saturday, Witch)

Intro to Dragons

Everybody knows what a dragon is: an enormous, fierce, bloodthirsty creature appearing in fairy tales and legends as an accessory whose main function is to set off the bravery of the knight challenging him. The dragon is an obscure, mysterious character, described in broad terms, and is little more than foil to enhance the hero’s valor.

Dragon is a legendary beast in the folklore of many European and Asian cultures. Legends describe dragons as large, lizardlike creatures that breathe fire and have a long, scaly tail. In Europe, dragons are traditionally portrayed as ferocious beasts that represent the evils fought by human beings. But in Asia, especially in China and Japan, the animals are generally considered friendly creatures that ensure good luck and wealth. According to some medieval legends, dragons lived in wild, remote regions of the world. The dragons guarded treasures in their dens, and a person who killed one supposedly gained its wealth. The English epic hero Beowulf died in a fight with a treasure-guarding dragon. In China, the traditional New Year’s Day parade includes a group of people who wind through the street wearing a large dragon costume. The dragon’s image, according to an ancient Chinese belief, prevents evil spirits from spoiling the new year. Another traditional Chinese belief is that certain dragons have the power to control the rainfall needed for each year’s harvest.

However the dragon is something else. He is admirable, intelligent and educated creature, who leads a most interesting life. He has some fascinating characteristics in addition to those occasional glimpses we are given through fairy tale and legends.
In the world of fantastic animals, the dragon is unique. No other creature has appeared in such a rich variety of forms. It is as though there was once a whole family of different dragon species that really existed, before they mysteriously became extinct. Indeed, as recently as the seventeenth century, scholars wrote of dragons as though they were scientific facts, their anatomy and natural history being recorded in painstaking detail.

The naturalist Edward Topsell, for instance, writing in 1608, considered them to be reptilian and closely related to serpents:

"There are diverse sorts of dragons, distinguished partly by countries, partly by their quantity and magnitude, and partly by the different form of their external parts."

Personifications of malevolence of beneficence, paganism or purity, death and devastation, life and fertility, good or evil. All these varied, contradictory concepts are embodied and embedded within that single magical word.

The dragon has always been slandered and misjudged, persecuted and hounded by man, simply because they are different. Like so many other living beings, he has experienced death and persecution in the name of so-called superiority of civilized man. Perhaps, in the future, man will learn with the death of a single animal or plant species an irreplaceable asset – something more precious than all the wealth in the world – is lost. Only then will the Earth continue to be a brilliant blue jewel in the universe, for in i’ts heart will be locked the priceless treasure of the diversity of the species, and man will have recognized his duty to cherish every single one.

Our dragon populations have declined considerably in recent years. Not only have dragons been excluded from all neighborhoods and driven out of most states, but they are hated almost everywhere. This is usually due to the prejudice of humans, because of a dragon’s appearance and culture. This does not mean to say that no one is willing to join the fight for dragons rights. Recently there has been evidence of an increasing public tolerance of dragons. People are realizing the importance of dragons in the preservation of worldwide ecosystems and the protection of our faunal diversity represented my these magical beasts. Although dragons have little reason to believe in us, the least we can do is believe in them.

Dragons are one of the greatest of the otherworldly creatures. Although many people think they live only in books and myths, but in the spirit realm they are very real. There are many different kinds of dragons including Green, Blue, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Red, and others. Dragons can also come to the physical world in the form of vast fields of energies, apparitions, and in some rare cases they even mundane creatures. Not only are there different kinds of dragons, but there are dragonlike creatures. They include but are not limited to Draconcats, Dracondogs, and other dragon related creatures. Although these creatures technically aren’t dragons, they are the closest related creatures and sometimes even pack together with them.

If you happen to sense a large energy field, chances are its a dragon. They are attracted by people with compatible virtues such as honor, sincerity, and courage. They also like people who are very interested and dedicated to dragons. There are even people who practice Dragon Magic, which is its own deified religion. Try talking to them if you sense them. If you can’t speak out loud then try doing it to somewhat of an effect of telepathy. Although it takes practice to contact other people with telepathy, otherworldy creatures can be contacted with much ease

The Truth About Dragons

Despite popular belief, Dragons are not mean, evil, damsel eating monsters whose only purpose is to ravage villages and hoard gold. They are wise, ancient, and usually kind. Dragons do, however, avoid negative humans who might hurt or try to control them. If a human does try to hurt or control a dragon, they will  wish they hadn’t! If you try to hurt or control a dragon, there are great consequences. The most drastic of these is death, although it is rare, for most Dragons do not wish to kill or harm other beings.

Dragon Magic is not for beginners, and most certainly isn’t for dabblers. Only those who are most sincere in their work with Dragons will succeed. Dabblers and those who are not sincere will suffer the consequences listed above. I hope that your experience with Dragon Magic is enlightening and delightful!

Different Types of Dragons
Dragons come in many different forms. Small, large, furry, scaly, some winged, some not winged, some with horns, some with antennae, and the list goes on. Listed below is a sample of the different types of Dragons.

  • Air Dragons
  • Earth Dragons
  • Fire Dragons
  • Water Dragons
  • Dragons of Light
  • Dragons of Darkness (not evil)
  • Dragons of the Seas & Various Waters
  • Dragons of the Mountains & Forests
  • Dragons of Wind, Storm & Weather
  • Dragons of Desert & Arid Regions
  • Dragons of Fire & Volcanoes Dragons of Chaos & Destruction
  • Guardian Dragons
  • Dragons of the Planets
  • Dragons of the Zodiac

For descriptions of the Dragons and more information, you must buy the book. It’s called "Dancing with Dragons" by D.J. Conway

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions/recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog.

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Saturday Something – Graveyard Symbols

March 28, 2009 at 8:37 pm (Associations, Folklore, Grave Symbols, History, Lore, Magic, pagan, Saturday, Witch)

The link I had for the base of this now defunct, sorry. If you wrote part of this, and you aren’t credited, and you have a page, please let me know & I’ll put it up 🙂 Anything I have the source for is linked.

The annals of ghost lore contain a number of stories about burial markers that may possibly be more frightening than the tales of the cemeteries where these stones reside! Grave markers and simple tombstones can play host to a surprising number of stories and legends. There are stones across America that people claim to have been not only cursed, but literally move on their own! Is the supernatural at work, or the darker devices of man’s own imagination? Gravestones and markers have a myriad of meanings and symbolize both comfort and grief… but are they all what they appear to be?

From Beyond The Grave

Acorn – Symbolic of a baby or young child.

Alpha and Omega – This symbol represents the beginning & the end.

Apple – Apples can represent salvation. Contradictorily they can also represent sin…

Angels – Agents of God guarding the dead. Also, angels were seen as the emissaries between this world and the next. In some cases they appeared as mourners and in others as an offer of comfort for those who are left behind

Archway: Because death is thought of as the gateway to heaven the use of an archway symbolizes the passage through which the soul will travel. Sometime it is simply the stone itself that is carved like an arch or it may be carved into the stone itself. Sometimes the stone may be adorned with pillars, draperies or other such devices used to indicate an archway

Arrows or Darts: Arrows or darts were often used in gravestone carvings and it has been suggested that these represented the "dart of death," referring to the threat of attack by Indians. Also symbolic of death or mortality, (and not that the interred lingered at pubs).

Beehive – Beehives are frequently used by Freemasons, and are said to stand for faith, education & domestic virtue.

Bell -  A bell is often symbolic of the church bell and therefore symbolizes religion.

Bible or Opened Book – A bible opened to a page of scripture or an opened book was used to represent the word through which one gains revelation. Often used on the gravestones of ministers or clergymen. Books may also represent a person’s good deeds and accomplishments being recorded in the book of life.

Broken Column: A broken column indicates the loss of the Head of the Family.

Broken Ring – A broken ring indicates a family circle severed.

Bugles – A bugle (or bugles) is symbolic of resurrection or of the military.

Butterfly – Based on its evolution from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, it represents the soul, transformation and rebirth, the creation of life from apparent death. To the Chinese, the butterfly symbolizes immortality. The Japanese view it as a symbol of fickleness because of its flighty behavior, although a pair of butterflies represents marital
happiness and a white butterfly signifies the spirit of the dead. In Christianity, the butterfly can be a symbol of resurrection but is sometimes viewed also as symbolic of transience because of its short lifespan. Alternately it can be symbolic of vanity.

Candle – In Christianity, candles represent the divine light of Christ and faith. In Catholic funeral rites, candles signify the light of heaven. When lighted by worshippers and placed before shrines, candles signify the souls of the departed or a request for illumination by prayer. When on opposite sides of a cross on an altar, the two candles represent the dual nature of Christ, human and divine. Many religions and cultures use the burning candle as a symbol of light, life, spirituality, truth and eternal life. A candle snuffed represents time & mortality.

Celtic Cross – In pagan times, this cross, with its axis enclosed by a circle, was a symbol of fertility and life, the cross representing male potency and the circle, female power. Prevalent in Ireland, it is now primarily a Christian symbol signifying the unity of heaven and earth. Can also be symbolic of someone of Irish ancestry.

Chalice – Honoring the sacraments.

Circle – Eternity

Clasped Hands – Farewell to earthly existence. Also unity. On a sidenote, in the Native American culture clasped hands represent a Delaware grave.

Clock / Watch – Represents the transitory nature of human existence. In psychoanalysis it signifies human emotions, not that your hour is up. It also can represent new beginnings and opportunities.

Coat of Arms – High social status and family lineage.

Cocks and Peacocks – Because Saint Peter was awakened from his fall from grace by the crowing of the cock (Bible Luke 22:34) the cock or peacock was used to symbolize both the fall from grace and repentance.

Coffins and Urns – Coffins and urns are used to symbolize the death of the flesh and are usually used in conjunction with a body or soul effigy. Coffins were also often carved on 17th and 18th century New England gravestones to signify mortality.

Corn – Ripe Old Age.

Cornucopia – Also known as the "Horn of Plenty." Symbolizes an abundant, fruitful life. Also a symbol of the harvest, which in turn symbolizes the end of life.

Cribs & Beds – Usually found marking the graves of children, they are most often empty, symbolizing that these little ones are gone forever.

Crossed Swords – High-ranking military person. When inverted they signify death in battle.

Crowns – Crowns represent the crown of righteousness used to proclaim the victorious soul arisen to heaven through Christ. Commonly used on 18th century New England headstones. They also represent heavenly reward, and indicate a faithful Christian.

Cypress Tree – Deep mourning

Dog – Loyalty, Vigilance, Courage. As a symbol of faithfulness, dogs often appear at the feet of women on medieval tomb engravings. In Christianity, the dog guards and guides the flock, and so becomes an allegory of the priest. The dog is also a companion of the dead on their crossing. Ancient Egyptians and Greeks believed it followed its master into the afterlife. Many cultures believed that dogs were mediators with the realm of the dead: the Egyptian god Anubis who oversees embalming and weighs the heart of the dead is jackal-headed, Cerburus the guardian of the entrance to the Greek underworld is a three-headed dog with a serpent’s tail, the dog Garmr guards the Norse underworld. The Celts and Greeks believed dogs possessed healing powers. In some African cultures, the dog is the father of civilization and the bringer of fire. In the eleventh sign of the Chinese zodiac, the dog symbolizes idealism. In Chinese tradition, the dog can signify both catastrophe and protection. Among Jews and Moslems, the dog possesses negative attributes. It is unclean and, when black, signifies the Devil.

The Dove or the Bird – The dove or the bird is used as the symbol of Christian constancy or devotion. A dove as the only figure indicating a deeply devoted Christian. Also symbolic of the Holy Spirit or peace.

Eagle The eagle is a symbol of courage, also indicative of military service. Eagles are often seen on gravestones of Civil War veterans.

Fern – The fern represents grief, humility and sincerity.

Flames Arising from the Top of an Urn – The flame represents the soul arising out of the ashes of death.

Flowers – Since the time of Christ, flowers have represented the life of Man, symbolizing the brevity and the beauty of his life. A cut flower hanging upside-down symbolizes life being cut down in death. Sometime it is seen with a scythe cutting down the flower but it is usually seen broken in half. Buds are symbolic of the morning of life or renewal of life.

Gourds – The gourd was poplar in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and was used to symbolize the coming to be and the passing away of earthly life. Sometimes gourds were used under soul effigies in fruit columns and are nearly indistinguishable from women’s breasts.

Grapevines or Vines – Churches are said to be the vineyards and the congregations are said to be the vines. The grapevine is the emblem of Christ.Sometime we see soul effigies sucking the ends of grapevines, partaking of wine was a major Puritan symbol representing the covenant between God and man through the death of Christ. A bird sitting on a vine eating grapes may mean the soul is partaking celestial food.

Harp – A harp is an indication of praise given to God.

The Heart – The heart is the symbol of the soul in heavenly bliss, the heart is always used in opposition to some symbol of death such as the urn.

The Heart in the Mouth of a Death’s-Head – This symbolizes the triumphant soul emerging from death.

Heavenly Bodies – the Sun, the Moon, Stars and Sun – They may simply represent heavenly bodies or be used to symbolize the rising of the soul to heaven. They can also signify that heaven is the abode of the stars and the planets. The half sun symbolizes the setting or end of earthly life and the rising or beginning of heavenly life.

Hourglass – Sometimes the hourglass is seen with wings and represents the swift passage of time.

I.H.S. – Jesus Hominom Saluator – Jesus Saviour of Men

The Imps of Death – The imps are used to represent the triumph of death. They are sometimes armed with arrows of death or are lowering the coffin into the grave.

Lamb – The lamb is a symbol of innocence.

Laurel – The laurel has long been a symbol of victory and/or peace.

Lily– This flower symbolizes chastity, purity, or innocence.

Lion – A lion is seen to be eternally watching over the grave; it also could represent the courage of the diseased or signify resurrection.

Menorah: Symbolic of a person who practiced Judaism

Obelisk – An obelisk is symbolic of eternal life.

Palm – Palms indicate the triumph of a martyr over death

Phoenix – The phoenix found in this setting has the same meaning as when found elsewhere – resurrection.

Pointing Hands – Pointing hands are said to be showing the path to heaven.

Portraits – Sometimes it’s a facial portrait and sometimes its a portrait borne upward with wings. These may be considered a form of the soul effigy in some cases or the deceased persons station in life.

Praying Hands – Indicates praying for eternal life

Rose – A rose is indicative that the person was sinless.

Scallop Shell – This is considered the traditional symbol of the pilgrim’s crusade and of man’s earthly pilgrimage.

Scythe – This symbol is usually seen in the hands of father time and is used to represent the cutting short of a mans life.

Shepherd’s Crooks – Shepherd’s crooks, usually found on graves of Independent Order of Odd Fellows members (a fraternal organization). Symbolizes the opening of earth to the heavens.

Snake – The snake has always had positive pagan associations, and in this setting symbolizes eternity.

Star of David – A Star if David is symbolic of a person practicing Judaism.

Station-in Life Symbol – These symbols would be used to represent the rank or occupation of the deceased. They could be the family coats of arms, military insignia, ships, tools, musical instruments or in the case of preachers – collars.

Sun – The Sun symbolizes a renewed life.

Sundial – A sundial shows the passage of time.

Symbols of the Cause of Death – These stone have carvings actually showing how the person died.

Sword: Sheathed – Symbolic of temperance during conflict.

Sword: Inverted – This is seen to represent victory.

Tree – A tree symbolizes knowledge. A tree also stood for human life and the fact that man, like a tree, must reach for the heavens.

Tree of Life – The tree of life was popular during the 1700’s and was used in poetic imagery or used to symbolize earthly or heavenly spiritual life.

Triangle – The triangle was used to represent the Holy Trinity.

Trumpeting Figures – These figures are often found carrying a banner with the words "arise ye dead."

Urns and Mermaids – Mermaids were thought of as symbolizing a dual nature. This may possibly be used to symbolize the duality of Christ as Man and the son of God. They are sometimes seen carrying urns of the deceased’s remains which symbolizes the last step of our earthly journey.

Wine, the Divine Fluid – Sacramental tankards and chalices were used to represent the souls partaking of heavenly bliss and are usually only found on stones of deacons of the church.


Grave Addiction
Make My Family Tree
At Home With Irish Tinker

Disclaimer: No one involved in this blog or its contents may be held responsible for any adverse reactions arising from following any of the instructions / recipes on this list. It is the reader’s personal responsibility to exercise all precautions and use his or her own discretion if following any instructions or advice from this blog

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