Wednesday What Herb Is This (kinda…) – Natural Sun Care

June 16, 2010 at 9:38 am (Beauty, Herb, Litha, Magic, Midsummer, pagan, Sun, Wednesday, Witch)

After Sun Lavender Remedy
source unknown

Ingredients:

  • 5 drops tea tree
  • 11 drops lavender
  • 3 ounces distilled water

Combine tea tree with lavender oil for a soothing after sun skin treatment. Place the mixture in a bottle with a spray atomizer attachment and mist skin whenever cooling relief is needed. Be sure to follow the application with a moisturizer.

Cool as a Cucumber Soak
by Renee Rouleau, From Self Magazine 1/90

Ingredients:

  • 6 large cucumbers, skin removed, pureed in a blender
  • 2 cups powdered milk
  • 2 tsp dried lavender flowers, if available (do not use Lavender Oil)

Cucumbers & milk are anti-inflammatory, and this works on sunburn. Mix the ingredients and pour into a clean bottle. Apply directly to skin or add 1 cup oft he mixture to a lukewarm bath and soak for 20 minutes.

Sunburn and Itchy Skin Bath Vinegars
Copyright by Nerys Purchon (AKA Ravenna Morgan)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (500 ml) vinegar
  • Lavender flowers
  • 1 tablespoon (20 ml) glycerin

Put the mixed herbs (see recipes below) into a large jar, cover with warm cider vinegar then with a vinegar proof lid. Stand in hot sun or other warm place (such as a crock pot) for 24 hours. Strain the vinegar, add more fresh herbs and repeat the above process. Repeat once more if very strong vinegar is desired.

To use: Pour 1/2 cup (125 ml) in the bath after the bath has been drawn, mix well with the water. Stay in the bath for 15-20 minutes to obtain the full effect, or add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) to 1 cup (250 ml) water as a facial skin toner, aftershave or after shower splash, or use neat as a deodorant, or use 1 tablespoon to 1 cup warm water as a hair rinse.

Natural Sunscreen
From Herbs for Health and Healing by Kathi Keville.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz sesame oil
  • 2 oz aloe vera gel
  • 1 tsp vitamin E oil
  • 24 drops lavender essential oil

Combine ingredients. Shake well before using. Remember, this will not provide total sun protection.

Soothing Summer Body Spray Recipe
From
Pioneer Thinking

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 1 teaspoon lemon essential / fragrance oil
  • 1 teaspoon cucumber essential / fragrance oil
  • 1 cup water

For a refreshing cool feeling, make an after shower spray by combining all the ingredients. Place in a pump spray bottle.Note: Don’t use if you have sensitive skin, the lemon may irritate it.

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wednesday Whatever – Litha Correspondences / Associations

June 2, 2010 at 4:08 pm (Associations, Litha, Magic, Midsummer, pagan, Wednesday, Witch)

Litha Correspondences / Associations
by Edain McCoy
from
The Sabbats: a New Approach to Living the Old Ways
by Edain McCoy

Sabbat 

  • Midsummer

Other Names

  • Summer Solstice
  • Litha
  • Alban Hefin
  • Sun Blessing
  • Gathering Day
  • Feill-Sheathain
  • Whit Sunday
  • Whitsuntide
  • Vestalia
  • Thing-tide
  • St. John’s Day.

Symbols

  • Fire
  • The Sun
  • Blades
  • Mistletoe
  • Oak Trees
  • Balefire
  • Sun Wheels
  • Faeries

Colors

  • Red
  • Gold
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Tan

Deities

  • Father Gods
  • Mother Goddesses
  • Pregnant Deities
  • Sun Gods

Activities

  • Jumping Balefire
  • Gathering Herbs
  • Clan Gatherings
  • Well Dressing

Taboos:

  • Giving Away Fire
  • Sleeping Away from Home
  • Neglecting Animals

Animals

  • Robin/Wren
  • Summer Birds
  • Horses
  • Cattle

Stones

  • Emerald
  • Jade
  • Tiger’s Eye
  • Lapis Lazuli
  • Diamond

Foods

  • Summer Squash
  • Lemons
  • Oranges

Plants

  • Oak
  • Mistletoe
  • Frankincense
  • Lemon
  • Sandalwood
  • Heliotrope
  • Copal
  • Saffron
  • Galangal
  • Laurel
  • Ylang-Ylang

Meaning

  • Honoring of Sun/God at His power
  • Saying Farewell to the Waxing Year
  • Preparation for Harvest
  • Honoring the Pregnant Goddess
  • Beginning of The Waning Year

Attunement Teas (Individually or Blended)

  • Anise
  • Carrot Drinks
  • Lemon
  • Nettle
  • Orange

Ritual Oils

  • Heliotrope
  • Cinnamon
  • Sandalwood
  • Lavender
  • Orange
  • All Mint Oils
  • Lemon
  • Saffron

Mythical Creatures

  • Satyrs
  • Faeries
  • Firebird
  • Dragon
  • Thunderbird
  • Minticore

Key Action

  • Nurture and Love.

Goddesses

  • Aestas (Roman)
  • Athena (Greek)
  • Bona Dea (Roman)
  • Chup-Kamui (Japanese)
  • Damona (Breton)
  • Dia Griene (Scottish)
  • Elat (Semitic)
  • Erce (English)
  • Freya (Norse)
  • Gokarmo (Tibetan)
  • Hathor-Tiamet (Egyptian)
  • Isis (Egyptian)
  • Juno (Roman)
  • Keca Aba (Russian)
  • Kupulo (Russian)
  • Marici (Tibetan)
  • Nut (Egyptian)
  • Robigus (Roman)
  • Shekinah (Hebraic)
  • Wurusema (Hittite)
  • Zoe (Greek)
  • Aine (Irish)
  • Artemis (Greek)
  • Banba (Irish)
  • Cerd (Iberian)
  • Dag (German)
  • Dana (Irish)
  • Djanggawaul Sisters (Aboriginal)
  • Eos (Greek)
  • Eriu (Irish)
  • Gerd (Teutonic)
  • Grian (Irish)
  • Indra (Aryan)
  • Jord (Teutonic)
  • Kali (Indian)
  • Kou-Njami (Siberian)
  • Mabd/Maeve (Irish)
  • Mitra (Aryan)
  • Olwen (Welsh)
  • Sekhmet (Egyptian)
  • Vesta (Rome)
  • Zatel-Ekwa (Hungarian)

Gods

  • Baal (Phoenician)
  • Bochica (South American)
  • Dagda (Irish)
  • Dharme (Aryan)
  • Hadad (Syrian)
  • Hyperion (Greek)
  • Gwydion (Welsh)
  • Llew (Welsh)
  • Maui (Polynesia)
  • Orunjan (Yourban)
  • Ra (Egyptian)
  • Thor (Norse)
  • Ziuhtecutli (Aztec)
  • Apollo (Greco-Roman)
  • Balder (Norse)
  • Chacol (Mayan)
  • Donnus (Irish)
  • El (Semitic)
  • Helios (Greek)
  • Ganges (Indian)
  • Legba (Voodun)
  • Lugh (Irish)
  • Oak/Holly King (Anglo-Celtic)
  • Prometheus (Greek)
  • Sol/Helios (Greco-Roman)
  • Upulero (Indonesian)
  • Zues (Greco-Roman)

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.

Permalink 1 Comment

Wednesday Whatever – The Enchanted Nights of Midsummer

May 26, 2010 at 9:36 am (Litha, Magic, Midsummer, pagan, Wednesday, Witch)

The Enchanted Nights of Midsummer
by Asherah

When I was a young girl, I had a book of tales and poems about fairies. I don’t know where it is now, probably on one of my parents’ dusty bookshelves, mis-sorted after a move. It was a big book, mostly pictures, and it fascinated me: I wanted to get into that world, in with the fairies. I only remember one verse: "The fairies will be dancing, when there’s a ring around the moon." But I remember that the big fairy holiday was Midsummer Night.

On Midsummer Night, the witches, the fairies, the spirits of the dead, the wraiths of the living: all will be abroad and visible. I couldn’t have been more than five, but it enchanted me, the idea of slipping out at midnight, stars veiled in the humid dark of summer, maybe with a flashlight (a candle would have been more romantic but harder to get), to a ring trodden bare in grass that flickered around my ankles. The circle would break, a small, bony hand held out to mine…

But I knew if I tried slipping out I’d get in trouble. Moreover, I was confused. It seemed Midsummer Night was June 21, or thereabouts, but wasn’t that the beginning of summer? If so, why was it called midsummer? I consulted my mother, but the contradiction didn’t bother her; she said that was just the way it was. It was only much later that I stumbled on the answer, that if Beltaine is summer’s start the solstice falls at Midsummer.

In medieval times, Midsummer was the feast of St. John the Baptist. The herbs of St. John are St. Johns Wort, hawkweed, orpine, vervain, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe. Plucked (depending on your tradition) either at midnight St. John’s Eve or at noon St. John’s Day and hung in the house, they will protect it from fire and lightning. Worn about the body, they will protect you from disease, witchcraft and disaster.

Previously, Midsummer was one of the great fire festivals of Europe. At Stonehenge, it is said, Midsummer was a time of human sacrifice. The children’s counting-out rhyme "Eeny, meeny, miney, mo" may be a relic of the means by which the Druids chose their sacrifices.

It was around Midsummer when my friend Holly and I decided to enchant David, who was the cutest boy in our class. We were 11, and what might happen if he really fell in love with both of us didn’t cross our minds. (I think each of us in her heart of hearts felt he’d choose her.) Holly got a copy of the Dell pocketbook Everyday Witchcraft from the stand at the grocery store checkout line, and I talked my mother into buying me one too. One of the love spells instructed us to collect grass from his lawn and make a charm from it.

So we slipped out and met at dawn . I remember the feel of dawn asphalt cool beneath my feet. In Kansas City the lawns are pretty big; sitting on the sidewalk at the far corner of David’s lawn, at the bottom of a steep incline, we ran little risk of being seen. So we collected a few strands and sat a while, basking in his nearness.

If an unmarried girl, fasting, on Midsummer Eve at midnight sets the table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, leaves the yard door open and waits, the boy she will marry, or his spirit, will come in and eat with her. Plant two slips of orpine (Sedum telephium) together on Midsummer Eve, one to represent yourself, one to represent your lover. If one slip withers, the one it represents will die. But if both take hold, flourish and grow leaning together, you and your lover will marry.

It was around Midsummer also, and I, 13, but not much the wiser, when my friend Vanessa and I did candle-magic on a mutual friend, Troy. Vanessa made a good, thick candle-poppet of him, with the wick for his head. She was angry at him, and her spell was to banish him; she buried the candle-poppet in the gutter outside her house. I had a crush on him, and my spell was quite the opposite, though I didn’t confess this to Vanessa. Our spells must have crossed, because while Vanessa and Troy made up, ever afterward Troy had an aversion to me.

To become invisible, wear or swallow fern seed (that is, fern spores) that you collected on Midsummer Eve. On Midsummer Eve at midnight, the fern blooms with a golden flower. If you pluck this flower, it will lead you to golden treasure. In Russia, the flower must be thrown in the air, and it will land on buried treasure. The Bohemians believe that if you pluck the flower and on the same Midsummer Night climb a mountain with the blossom in hand, you will find gold or have it revealed to you in a vision. Bohemians also sprinkle fern seed in their savings to keep them from decreasing.

It was the fairies, and charms like those of Midsummer, that led me to the Craft. I won’t swear all the high points of the summers of my youth happened on Midsummer Night, but Midsummer is a kind of distillation of all summer. On that night, perhaps you can brush back a feathery, green- smelling branch to see, dancing in a ring, fairies. Or sometimes you might find such a ring indoors.

[Enter Puck, carrying a broom]

"Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite,
In the church-way paths to glide.
And we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate’s team
From the presence of the sun,
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic. Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallowed house.
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door."

(from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare)

Merry Midsummer to all.

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.

Permalink 1 Comment

Wednesday Whatever – Summer Solstice: Ura, the Night of the Heather

May 19, 2010 at 9:02 am (Ancestors, Associations, Fae, Faery, Fairies, Fairy, Flowers, Folklore, Heather, Herbs, History, Lore, Magic, pagan, Wednesday, Wisdom, Witch)

Summer Solstice: Ura, the Night of the Heather
by Sarah the SwampWitch,
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002

The moon is perhaps humankind’s oldest form of marking time. According to some scholars, the Celts used a Lunar Calendar that consisted of 13 months, each 28 days in length. Each month of the Celtic Lunar calendar bears the name of a tree, which also stands for one of the consonants in the Celtic ‘tree alphabet’. There are basically two different versions of this Lunar calendar: the Beth-Luis-Nion (which begins on the Winter Solstice) and the Beth-Luis-Fearn (which begins on Samhain). I work with the Beth-Luis-Nion simply because it seems to work the best for my style of Witchcraft.

Beth-Luis-Nion version of The Celtic Tree calendar

  • B – Beth, the Birch Month (December 24th – January 20th)
  • L – Luis, the Rowan Month (January 21st – February 17th)
  • N – Nion, the Ash month (February 18th – March 17th)
  • F – Fearn, the Alder Month (March 18th – April 14th)
  • S – Saille, the Willow Month (April 15th – May 12th)
  • H – Huath, the Hawthorn Month (May 13th – June 9th)
  • D – Duir, the Oak Month (Jun 10th – July 7th)
  • T – Tinne, the Holly Month (July 8th – August 4th)
  • C – Coll, the Hazel Month (August 5th – September 1st)
  • M – Muin, the Vine Month (September 2nd – September 29th)
  • G – Gort, the Ivy Month (September 30th – October 27th
  • Ng – Ngetal, the Reed Month (October 28th – November 24th)
  • R – Ruis, the Elder Month (November 25th – December 23rd)

The five vowels I, A, O, U, and E have corresponding tree names to the nights of the solstices and equinoxes:

  • I – Idho, the Night of the Yew, Winter Solstice Eve
  • A – Ailm, the Night of the Silver Fir, Winter Solstice
  • – Herb too sacred to have a Celtic name, the Night of Mistletoe, Day after Winter Solstice
  • O – Onn, the Night of the Gorse Bush, Spring Equinox
  • U – Ura, the Night of the Heather, Summer Solstice
  • E – Eadha, the Night of the White Poplar, Alban Elfed or Autumnal Equinox

Here Is Lore On The Tree Of The Summer Solstice – Heather:

  • Latin name: Calluna vulgaris
  • Celtic name: Ura (pronounced: Oor’ uh)
  • Folk or Common Names: Common Heather, Ling, Scottish Heather
  • Parts used: herb, flowering shoots.
  • Herbal usage: Heather’s flowering shoots are used to treat insomnia, stomach aches, coughs and skin problems. The plant, used fresh or dried, strengthens the heart and raises blood pressure. It is slightly diuretic and a Heather Tea is often prescribed in cases of urinary infections. Heather is sometimes used in conjunction with corn silk and cowberries.
  • Magickal History & Associations: Heather is associated with the sun, and with the planet of Venus. Its color is resin colored and its element is water. Heather’s bird is the lark, and its animal association is the honey bee. In ancient times the Danes brewed a powerful beer made from honey and Heather. And for centuries the heather flowers have also been a special beverage to the bee, who in return creates delightful Heather honey! Its stones are amethyst, peridot, and amertine – and it is a feminine herb.

The herb is sacred to many Goddesses: Isis, Venus-Erycina, Uroica, Garbh Ogh, Cybele, Osiris, Venus, Guinevere, and Butes among them. White Heather was considered unlucky by Scottish loyalists because of its connection with the banishment of Bonny Prince Charles. Haether is the home to a type of Fey called Heather Pixies. Like other Pixies, the Heather Pixies have clear or golden auras and delicate, translucent wings. But these faeries are attracted specifically to the moors and to the Heather which covers them. They are not averse to human contact, but they don’t seek them out. They have a pranksterish nature.

Magickal Usage: Heather is sacred to the Summer Solstice. Heather is used for magick involving maturity, consummation, general luck, love, ritual power, conjuring ghosts, healing, protection, rain-making and water magick.

Charms made with Heather can be worn or carried as protection against danger, rape and other violent crimes. This flower represents good fortune and Heather can also be carried as a lucky charm. It was believed that wearing the blossom associated with your month of birth would bring exceptionally good luck – therefore people born in the month of Heather (August) should carry White Heather, for even better luck throughout the year.

Legend has it that a gift of white Heather brings luck to both the giver and the receiver, whereas red Heather is said to have been colored by heathens killed in battle by Christians, so is less lucky. Heather is associated with secrets from the Otherworld.

A sprig of white Heather placed in a special place of silence and meditation has the power to conjure ghosts, ‘haints’ or spirits. After picking a piece of white Heather at midnight, place it in a glass of river water in the darkest corner of your home. Sit and think of a departed loved one and it is said that the loved one’s shadow will visit you. Heather is said to ignite faery passions and open portals between their world and our own. Heather represents solitude because it thrives in wide open spaces, and Faeries who enjoy living in such undisturbed places are said to feast on the tender stalks of Heather.

The Fey of this flower are drawn to humans who are shy. Heather is useful for Solitary healing work (going within). Heather, if used along with Mistletoe, creates powerful healing medicine in both spiritual and physical aspects.

Heather can be used at Midsummer to promote love – carry red Heather for passion or white Heather for cooling the passion of unwanted suitors. If you give someone a gift of Heather it means: ‘Admiration’. A charm bag filled with Heather can be carried for decreasing egotism or self-involvement. As a water herb, Heather is very useful in weather magick. When burned outdoors with Fern, the herbal smoke of Heather attracts rain. Bouquets of Heather and Fern can also be dipped in water to call rain.

***Document Copyright © 99, 00, 01,02 by Sarah Nunn (Sarah the SwampWitch). This document can be re-published and shared only as long as no information is lost or changed, credit is given to the author, and it is provided or used without cost to others. Other uses of this document must be approved in writing by Sarah Nunn.

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wednesday Whatever – A Midsummer Night’s Lore

May 12, 2010 at 7:37 am (Folklore, History, Litha, Lore, Magic, pagan, Wednesday, Witch)

A Midsummer Night’s Lore
by Melanie Fire Salamander
From Widdershins E-zine

Cinquefoil, campion, lupine and foxglove nod on your doorstep; Nutka rose, salal bells, starflower and bleeding-heart hide in the woods, fully green now. Litha has come, longest day of the year, height of the sun. Of old, in Europe, Litha was the height too of pagan celebrations, the most important and widely honored of annual festivals.

Fire, love and magick wreathe ’round this time. As on Beltaine in Ireland, across Europe people of old leaped fires for fertility and luck on Midsummer Day, or on the night before, Midsummer Eve, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. Farmers drove their cattle through the flames or smoke or ran with burning coals across the cattle pens. In the Scottish Highlands, herders circumambulated their sheep with torches lit at the Midsummer fire.

People took burning brands around their fields also to ensure fertility, and in Ireland threw them into gardens and potato fields. Ashes from the fire were mixed with seeds yet to plant. In parts of England country folk thought the apple crop would fail if they didn’t light the Midsummer fires. People relit their house fires from the Midsummer bonfire, in celebration hurled flaming disks heavenward and rolled flaming wheels downhill, burning circles that hailed the sun at zenith.

Midsummer, too, was a lovers’ festival. Lovers clasped hands over the bonfire, tossed flowers across to each other, leaped the flames together. Those who wanted lovers performed love divination. In Scandinavia, girls laid bunches of flowers under their pillows on Midsummer Eve to induce dreams of love and ensure them coming true. In England, it was said if an unmarried girl fasted on Midsummer Eve and at midnight set her table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, then left her yard door open and waited, the boy she would marry, or his spirit, would come in and feast with her.

Magick crowns Midsummer. Divining rods cut on this night are more infallible, dreams more likely to come true. Dew gathered Midsummer Eve restores sight. Fern, which confers invisibility, was said to bloom at midnight on Midsummer Eve and is best picked then. Indeed, any magickal plants plucked on Midsummer Eve at midnight are doubly efficacious and keep better.

You’d pick certain magickal herbs, namely St. John’s Wort, hawkweed, vervain, orpine, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe, at midnight on Midsummer Eve or noon Midsummer Day, to use as a charm to protect your house from fire and lightning, your family from disease, negative witchcraft and disaster. A pagan gardener might consider cultivating some or all of these; it’s not too late to buy at herb-oriented nurseries, the Herbfarm outside Fall City the chief of these and a wonderful place to visit, if a tad pricey. Whichever of these herbs you find, a gentle snip into a cloth, a spell whispered over, and you have a charm you can consecrate in the height of the sun.

In northern Europe, the Wild Hunt was often seen on Midsummer Eve, hallooing in the sky, in some districts led by Cernunnos. Midsummer’s Night by European tradition is a fairies’ night, and a witches’ night too. Rhiannon Ryall writes in West Country Wicca that her coven, employing rites said to be handed down for centuries in England’s West Country, would on Midsummer Eve decorate their symbols of the God and Goddess with flowers, yellow for the God, white for the Goddess. The coven that night would draw down the moon into their high priestess, and at sunrise draw down the sun into their high priest. The priest and priestess then celebrated the Great Rite, known to the coven as the Rite of Joining or the Crossing Rite.

Some of Ryall’s elders called this ritual the Ridencrux Rite. They told how formerly, in times of bad harvest or unseasonable weather, the High Priestess, on the nights between the new and full moon, would go to the nearest crossroads, wait for the first stranger traveling in the district. About this stranger the coven had done ritual beforehand, to ensure he embodied the God. The high priestess performed the Great Rite with him to make the next season’s sowing successful.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, traces of witchcraft and pagan remembrances were often linked with Midsummer. In Southern Estonia, Lutheran Church workers found a cottar’s wife accepting sacrifices on Midsummer Day, Juhan Kahk writes in Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustave Henningsen. Likewise, on Midsummer Night in 1667, in Estonia’s Maarja-Magdaleena parish, peasants met at the country manor of Colonel Griefenspeer to perform a ritual to cure illnesses.

In Denmark, writes Jens Christian V. Johansen in another Early Modern European Witchcraft chapter, medieval witches were said to gather on Midsummer Day, and in Ribe on Midsummer Night. Inquisitors in the Middle Ages often said witches met on Corpus Christi, which some years fell close to Midsummer Eve, according to Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Burton Russell. The inquisitors explained witches chose the date to mock a central Christian festival, but Corpus Christi is no more important than a number of other Christian holidays, and it falls near a day traditionally associated with pagan worship. Coincidence? Probably not.

Anciently, pagans and witches hallowed Midsummer. Some burned for their right to observe their rites – we need not. But we can remember the past. In solidarity with those burned, we can collect our herbs at midnight; we can burn our bonfires and hail the sun.

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.

Permalink 2 Comments

Wednesday Whatever – Midsummer Hail and Farewell

May 5, 2010 at 9:39 am (Ancestors, Associations, Faery, Fairies, Fairy, Folklore, History, Litha, Lore, Magic, Midsummer, pagan, Wednesday, Wisdom, Witch)

Midsummer Hail and Farewell
by Ahneke Greystone, Midsummer 2000;
excerpt from:
Cauldrons and Broomsticks
A newsletter for and by the Pagan/Wiccan Internet Community,

That I am mortal I know and do confess
My span of day:
but when I gaze upon
The thousandfold circling gyre of the stars,
No longer do I walk on earth but rise
The peer of God himself to take my fill
At 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, 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

  • Colors – 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

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wednesday Whatever – Mystical May

April 28, 2010 at 9:09 am (Ancestors, Associations, Beltane, Fertility, Folklore, Greenman, History, Lore, Magic, Mysteries, pagan, Wednesday, Wisdom, Witch)

Mystical May
From the Mystical World Wide Web

‘But I must gather knots of flowers,
And buds and garlands gay,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother,
I’m to be Queen o’ the May.’

(Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Introduction

The name for the month of May has been believed to derive from Maia, who was revered as the Roman Goddess of Springtime, of Growth and Increase, and the mother of Mercury, the winged messenger of the Gods. Yet this is disputed…before these deities featured in mythology, the name Maius or Magius, taken from the root Mag, meaning the Growing month or Shooting month was used. May has also been known as:

  • ‘Thrimilce’ (Cows go to milking three times a day) – Anglo-Saxons
  • ‘Bloumaand’ (Blossoming month) – Old Dutch

As part of the seasonal calendar May is the time of the Hare Moon according to Pagan belief and the period described as the Moon of the Shedding Ponies by Black Elk (Black Elk Speaks, Neihardt). This is the first month of Beltaine (May – July) within the Celtic calendar, the onset of summer. It was the traditional practice of shepherds to follow and stay with the flock when out to pasture, this being known as transhumance.

This is one example of how daily life was closely tied to that of the animal and the earth, an awareness of the balance and harmony needed between man and nature, something today we are desperately trying to save. In ancient times such practice would daily remind the people of the Creation myths, the power of evil, the potential of its destruction, hence their folklore is full of such references. In pagan beliefs man believed himself to be the guardian of nature, perhaps this is one reason why today we also see the close bond between the so called green movement and the knowledge, rituals and beliefs of pre-Christian practice, further connections being made with what is known as the new age movement.

This period has also been associated in the Christian church with St John, the Evangelist (27 December), or John in the Celtic church (6 May) who describes this month as having the longest days, indicating that light has triumphed over darkness, positive over negative, life over death. The symbol of the eagle is given to St John, emphasizing the need for a keen eye and sharp awareness, an eye that does not stray from the task. This could be seen as a metaphor to remind the people of the need to focus on refining the spirit and not being tempted to folly, for not letting the sun affect the work on the land, for pleasure to be kept at bay (hence another indication that love and courting is a distraction at this time despite its natural associations with fertility).

This is the time associated with the ritual of baptism too, when the joy of the spirit is given, being seen in all things. It was a time of many rituals establishing man’s relationship and commitment from the earth to a higher level of being. Here the folklore of birds comes in to focus, as it is the power of the invisible spirit, or the wind, which brings hope anew. In Christian beliefs this is reflected in the story of the raven and the dove with Noah, whilst in pagan practice it is a time of peace, when thanks and hope was asked for of Bel the Sun God.

Surprisingly perhaps May was believed generally to be an unlucky month which may be linked to the possibility of failure. This belief is thought to be of ancient origin as it was known to be the best time to plant and sow for the next year. It was a time when all spare hands were expected to work the land with no time for personal celebrations and/or courting. It was a time when the food supplies for the rest of the seasonal year were sown and therefore the health of the community depended upon it. An old country (UK) rhyme

Marry in May and rue the day!

Perhaps then quite naturally, it was also believed by many rural communities that a baby born in May would always be sickly. It was traditionally believed that any cats born in this month would not be good rat or mice catchers.

As part of the astrological calendar, May has many associations. This is the month of the house of Taurus (April 21 – May 21) and the house of Gemini (22 May – June 21). Taurus is the second sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the Sacred Bull or Heavenly bull and has close associations with all cattle. In ancient Persian astrology Taurus translated as the Bull of light, and in ancient Egypt Taurus represented fertility and development or growth and was linked closely with the success of the land to produce. The sacred bull was also seen by the ancient Egyptians as the vessel in which the God Osiris was celestial. Taurus reflects the second phase of the journey of the sun, and of the child relating to the early teen years.

Venus is the ruling planet of Taurus and the Roman Goddess of Love. To the ancients the planet Venus was seen as highly important being second to the Sun and the Moon. The ancient Greeks believed that Phaeton nearly destroyed the earth, known as the Blazing Star, the earth became consumed by fire and Phaeton was transformed into Venus. The ancient Assyrians knew the planet as the fearful dragon…who is clothed in fire. The Aztecs, called it The star that smoked, the Quetzalcoatl called it The feathered Serpent, and the Midrash knew it as The brilliant light… blazing from one end of the cosmos to the other. Venus, is often used to symbolize the inner qualities of romance, loyalty, practicality, caution and charm whilst also having a love of the land, art, of the finest luxuries that can be obtained with a powerful desire for beautiful possessions, (so there is a danger of excess in all things).

Aphrodite, the ancient Greek Goddess of Love was seen to influence those around her by the use of her magic girdle. One fitting and you were smitten. Taurus has a way of encouraging this response. Venus also brings the need for affection and a search for love, as those born during this time are also generous in love, sharing their enjoyment and their warmth. Taurus is a fixed, negative earth sign and the first earth sign associated with the statements ‘I am steadfast and provide stability’, ‘Mine’ and ‘I value possessions and enjoy indulgence’. It rules the throat and the neck. Taurus is associated with the Daisy, Dandelion, Foxglove, Lily of the Valley, Narcissus, Poppy and Rose. Taurus is further associated with the Apple, Blackthorn, Fig, Hawthorn, Pear, Vine and Willow.

Colors associated with Taurus are pale blue, all shades of green, pink and yellow. The main stone associated with Taurus is the Emerald, whilst the main stone associated with the month of April is the Diamond. Lucky number is seven, lucky day Thursday. Metal associated is copper.

‘The time of fertility and growth is upon us.’
‘I could tell you of my adventures –
beginning with this morning.’

Gemini is the third sign of the zodiac symbolized by the ‘Celestial Twins’. The word Gemini is Latin meaning ‘twin’. It has often been suggested that this symbolism indicates the need for the Gemini to find a partner, someone close or to feel needed, an important part of something. In ancient Greek mythology the twins of Castor (mortal) and Pollux (immortal) were associated with the sign, being the sons of Zeus and Leda. Zeus gave immortality to both upon the killing of Castor.

Gemini reflects the third phase of the journey of the sun, and of the child developing from the teen years through adolescence to young adulthood. Here we see the curious mind developing further, also to becoming aware of the close connections between thought and action. Gemini possesses the duality and contrast in nature, that of the light and dark or night and day, summer and winter, and the growth and decay in all things.

Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini. In Roman mythology Mercury was the Messenger of the Gods, son of Jupiter and Maia and the equivalent of the God Hermes of ancient Greek mythology. Mercury is often used to symbolize the inner qualities of vitality, intelligence, quick thinking, restlessness, co-ordination and flexibility. One drawback of this being that settling upon and fully completing a task was very difficult, due to the need to explore and develop new projects before boredom set in. Despite the possible unreliability alluded to Gemini, they have a lot of energy and can bounce back, which means they can adapt well to changing situations and hence they love to be part of a group – although their membership is not always maintained.

It was once believed that as Gemini represents the twin, that those born in Gemini would also be ambidextrous. Gemini is a mutable, neutral sir sign and the first air sign associated with the statements ‘I encircle the earth’, ‘On the wings of the wind’ and ‘With the swiftness of sound’. It rules the nervous system, the hands, shoulders, arms and lungs. Gemini is associated with Heather, Lavender, Lily of the Valley, Privet, Tansy, Violets, Yarrow and also Ferns. Gemini is further associated with all nut trees, and also the Cedar, Chestnut, Hawthorn, Hazel, Linden and the Oak.

Colors associated with Gemini are light green, slate gray, yellow and any color combinations of spotted mixtures. The main stone associated with Gemini is the Agate, whilst the main stone associated with the month of May is the Emerald. Lucky number is five, lucky day Wednesday. Metal associated is quicksilver or mercury.

Holidays On May 1

May Day

This day is believed to have been a replacement of the Beltaine or Beltane when Celts celebrated the beginning of Spring often by the building and burning of huge bonfires to honor the Sun. In later times young people would collect any greenery and flowers from the woods and forests to decorate their homes (See also Mystical WWW Trees & Plants). This was to indicate the power of nature to fertilize and rejuvenate the land and so affect the prosperity and health of a community. The festivals that still continue can be seen to be examples of the fertility of the earth, with many prevalent in the UK. May Pole dancing, based around the White Hawthorn was later replaced by the garlanded Maypole (a pole decorated with bright ribbons and flowers which was to show the transition of fertility from Winter to Spring), and Morris Dancing.

Beltane

Beltane or Bright Fire pagan celebrations, half-way between Midsummer and the vernal equinox. The first day of summer. Focus of the celebrations was courtship and love, and also of mating/fertility, being a time to start new relationships. The bee and the cow are symbolic of the goddess at this time, being able to create an endless supply of milk and honey. Oats, too, are connected with the goddess at this time.

The Green Man is also associated with Beltane as are the Goddesses Aphrodite and Maia. Brigid (1 February) and Columcille (7 June) were joint protectors of cattle and it was usual practice to ask for protection during the periods of Samhain, Imbolc to Beltane:

‘Everything within my dwelling or in my possession,
All kine and crops, all flocks and corn,
From Hallow Eve to Beltane Eve.’

It was traditionally believed in many parts of rural England (UK) that a beautiful complexion could be achieved by collecting dew on this day and gently smoothing it over the face.

‘The fair maid who at first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day,
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree,
Will ever after handsome be.’

Slovakia Day

Dedicated to Kupula, a Goddess of Fertility, and Poludnitsa, honored as Goddess of the Fields. Similar in traditions to that of Beltane.

Brioc

Celtic feast day of Brioc, Patron Saint of purse makers. Born near to Cardigan, Wales, died 530. Lived fifth-sixth century, traveled to Cornwall, England and later Brittany where he was revered as on of the seven saints. The pagan prince Conan is said to have requested that Brioc baptize him after having witnessed Brioc sit calmly amongst a pack of wolves when reciting psalms. The wolves moved away strangely calmed by their meeting. Known for his charitable works and generous nature. Reputed to have accompanied Mawgan (24 September) to Cornwall from Wales.

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wednesday Whatever – Celebrating the Sabbat of Beltane with Your Witchlings

April 21, 2010 at 9:08 am (Associations, Beltane, Children, Crafts, Kids, Magic, Wednesday, Witch, Witchlets)

Celebrating the Sabbat of Beltane with Your Witchlings
The Pagan and Wiccan Parenting Page

Things to do at Beltane:

  • Set up a Maypole with a ribbon for each member of the family.
  • Walk the perimeter of your property with your children. Pick up litter and make sure everything is in order.
  • If you plan ahead, at Halloween you can purchase Faery wings for your child to wear at the local discount store for around $4.00.
  • Make flower pictures with cup cake papers. Have your child glue them down on paper and paint, color, or draw the stems.
  • When I was a very small girl in New England, we decorated our bikes, tricycles, and scooters with crepe paper and had a parade.
  • Watch Disney’s Robin Hood with your child. Then make cardboard swords with your child and pretend to have a sword fight. You can make a newspaper hat, paint it green, and stick a feather in it to look like Robin Hood. Let your child dress up like the May Queen. Make a pointed hat with a large piece of paper rolled, and tape crepe paper streamer from the top. Decorate with crayons, stickers, and glitter.
  • For younger children, read "Rabbit’s Good News" by Ruth Lercher Bornstein.
  • For older children, read, "How Babies are Made" by Andy & Steven Schepp.
  • Beltane Song

Good Bye Winter,
Good bye Winter,
Good bye Winter,
Good bye Winter,
We wish you’d leave us now.

(replace the following words for "Winter:" snow, slush, snowsuits, cold wind, and any thing else the children come up with.)

Come back Springtime,
Come back Springtime,
Come back Springtime,
We wish you’d come today.

(replace the following words for "Springtime:" green grass, flowers, birds, and any thing else the children come up with.)

Juice of Love
Ingredients:

  • 1 package of frozen strawberries (with the juice)
  • 2 cups of either pineapple juice or orange juice
  • 2/3 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 8 ice cubes
  • 2 teaspoons sugar.

Put all the ingredients into a blender, and blend until ‘"smoothie" texture. Serve immediately.

Beltane Baskets

Start with a white paper cup. Have the children stick flower stickers all over the outside. Make a pipe cleaner handle. Fill with tiny Spring flowers.

Start with a large circle of paper. Let the children paint or color it. Roll into a cone shape. Staple into place. Staple on a paper handle. Fill with flowers.
Start with a margarine or whipped topping tub. Cover with construction paper. Paint or color construction paper, or cover with stickers. Tape on a stiff paper handle. Fill with flowers.

  • Read The Girl Who Reached for the Stars

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wednesday Whatever – Beltaine

April 14, 2010 at 9:39 am (Ancestors, Beltane, Folklore, History, Lore, Magic, pagan, Wednesday, Wisdom, Witch)

Beltaine
by Iain MacAnTsaoir,
Clannada na Gadelica Academia Gadelica
(a nonprofit
educational corporation, registered in the State of Tennessee).

The season of Imbolc ended at Beltaine which falls on approximately May 1st. Beltaine literally means "Bel’s fire" (Beal-teinne). Beltaine’s origin is the landing of the Tuatha De Danaan upon the shores of Ireland. This is a between time, and between light and dark, day and night, has a profound meaning for Celts. These are in a very real way, a Third time. It marks the beginning of the summer and the light half of the Celtic year. Traditionally, all fires were extinguished on the eve of Beltaine, and were re-lit from the ‘Need Fire’ which was kindled at dawn. Our ancestors were predominantly a pastoral people. Beltaine was the time when the cattle were put out to their summer grazing pastures in the mountains. The cattle were

driven through (between) the Beltaine fires for purification. It was believed that the sacred bonfires would also, bring protection, good fortune and fertility to the people. It was also the time when the Ruadh or warriors would test their fighting skills in the Beltaine Games. With the hard work of planting accomplished, it was a time when the clans came together in celebration with the hope that the crops would grow and flourish in the months ahead. Beltaine is the beginning of summer. The following is a poem translated out of the Gaelic by the Dal Riadh Celtic Trust and said to be written by Finn himself:

May, clad in cloth of gold, cometh this way;
The fluting of the blackbirds, heralds the day.
The dust colored cuckoo, cries welcome O Queen!
For winter has vanished, the thickets are green.
Soon the trampling of cattle, where river runs low!
The hair of the heather, the canna like snow.
Wild waters are sleeping, foam of blossom is here;
Peace, save the panic, in the heart of the deer.
The wild bee is busy, the ant honey spills,
The wandering kine, are abroad on the hills.
The harp of the forest, sounds low, sounds sweet;
Soft bloom on the heights; on the loch, haze of heat.
The waterfall dreams; snipe, corncrakes, drum
By the pool where the talk, of the rushes is come.
The swallow is swooping; song swings from each brae;
Rich harvest of mast falls; the swamp shimmers gay.
Happy the heart of man, eager each maid;
Lovely the forest, the wild plane, the green glade.
Truly winter is gone, come the time of delight,
The summer truce joyous, May, blossom-white.
In the heart of the meadows, the lapwings are quiet;
A winding stream, makes drowsy riot.
Race horses, sail, run, rejoice and be bold!
See, the shaft of the sun, makes the water-flag gold.
Loud, clear, the blackcap; the lark trills his voice
Hail May of delicate colors, tis May-Day – rejoice!

Many folk customs have survived until very recently. These are clearly surviving pre-Christian elements of this ancient festival. Official records show that the last public Beltaine festival to be held on Arran was in 1895. On this occasion the men of a certain townland made a tein-eigen or need-fire Beltaine eve. They fueled it with the nine sacred woods. The local people drove their herds through the fire.

In the preface, I mentioned a special bread called the bannock. This is a special cake made of eggs, milk and oatmeal. These bannocks, which are kneaded entirely by hand cannot come into contact with steel. Well into this century it was common, in the places where the fires were still lit, to have one piece of the cake blackened with charcoal. That piece was distributed from a hat along with the other pieces. Whoever drew this piece out of the hat had to leap three times through the flames. This custom is thought to have originated in the late Bronze Age. Unlike with the Gaulish Celts, there is no evidence of human sacrifice committed by the late Bronze Age Gaelic Celts. By this time the practice of having a "scapegoat" or "Fool" had replaced human sacrifice. One variation of the "scapegoat" saw the person who drew the blackened bannock be separated from the tribal celebration for the rest of the festival, after they had jumped the fire.

In the Highlands, the Beltaine fires and festivals were common until the mid-nineteenth century. Also, in the Shetlands, up until at least the same time, dancing around the bonfires continued, and it was considered that to jump over the flames brought prosperity and plenty. The Shetland fires were kept going for three days. Word has it that in the out of the way places, these practices never did stop, even to this day.

There are places which are indelibly etched upon our Gaelic psyche as being the places most commonly associated with the Need Fires. These places are those which, in the more ancient times of our pre-Christian ancestors, saw the first fires lit. Tara in Ireland for example, was the place where the first fires were lit. Only after the fire had been lit there, did they spring up all over Ireland. Likewise, Arthur’s seat, Edinburgh, is a traditional site of Beltaine fires which were lit at sunrise. Many people still climb to the top of this summit to watch the May sunrise. I have not yet found reference to the place on the Isle of Man where the first fires were lit.

Amongst the ancient customs of this festival which survives to this day, is that young women will wash their face in the dew of Beltaine morning to preserve their beauty. May dew was indeed considered to be holy water. People who were sprinkled with May dew were assured of health, To ensure a good milk supply, dairymaids would draw a rope made from the tails of Highland cattle through the May dew grass saying:

"Bainne an te so shios,
bainne an te so shuas,
‘nam ghogan mhor fhein"

(Milk of this one down,
milk of that one up,
into my own big pail).

This day was one which saw visits to the holy well. A visitor would walk three times around the well, then they would throw in a silver coin, after which, while praying, they would drink from the well using their hands. When those things were done, they would then ties a bit of colored cloth or a piece of clothing, called a cloutie to a branch of a nearby tree. The above had to be done in complete silence. The visitor also had to be well out of sight of the well before sunrise.

As mentioned above, this is a time in between. Beltaine, being the calends of summer, is a time between, therefore the veil between words thins, allowing this world and Tir na Nog (OtherWorld) to intermingle. This has always been considered the other time in the year when the veil between the worlds was thin. Because of this it has been long believed that the fae were abroad. As the fae were prone to stealing milk from cows, or even turning it sour, rowan crosses were hung in byres, and domestic animals were sprinkled with water from holy wells. It was particularly important that no fire (kindling) should be given away at this time.

As at the other festivals, games and racing were the norm. With the marches and races, horses were a prominent feature. The usual music and singing, markets and feasting were also to be found. In many places, a May Queen was elected. The maiden was crowned by an elder lady of notoriety, after the new queen and her court had arrived at a predetermined place. Some believe that in the older times, it was the May Queen who led the hymns to the rising sun, as all the people congregated on the appropriate hill at Beltaine. She is also believed to have led some of the marches in the older times.

A very general format for the communal customs can be established by looking at all of the evidence from the old countries. The actual Beltaine festivities began a few days beforehand the festival date, by the collection of the nine sacred woods for the kindling of the fires. Each fire was built in two places, with a narrow passage between the two. A circular trench was cut round them symbolizing the sun. The area was a sacred hill, or set of hills, like the Paps of Anu, and these were large enough to hold the entire assembled community.

On Beltaine eve all the domestic fires of the community were extinguished. Then, long before the oncoming dawn, the folk left their homes. They took their livestock with them and made their way up to the site sanctified by centuries of such veneration. The ritual was carried out by the Fili or Draoi, (The word Draoi is used here in its ‘paleo’ sense of a teacher of the skills and not in its later ‘neo’ sense), who await the arrival of the community.

Once assembled the eyes of everyone turned towards the horizon awaiting the rise of the new sun. The king or queen recited verses of poetry just before the first rays of the sun peek over the horizon. As the small glimmer of light grew into blazing radiance, the voices of the people raised in praise with song. This as the chosen people begin creating the Need Fire, the virgin flame from which the fires are kindled.

The sacred fire now lit in greeting to the sun, the whole community then formed a procession. They traveled three times around the fires. They then drove all the animals through the passages between the fires three times to be blessed and purified. This was to ensure fertility in the coming months before being driven up onto the hillsides for summer. After the blessings, torches were lit and carried back to all the homes to re-light the fires that had been extinguished. The ending of the ceremony was the feasting in which everyone made votive offerings to the sun.

This format was perhaps the simple plan that was followed for each of the festivals. The embellishments would vary according to location and festival being observed.

Sources:

(prepared by Iain MacAnTsaoir; ©1996, 1998, 1999 Clannada na Gadelica)

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Wednesday Whatever – A Celebration of May Day

April 7, 2010 at 9:54 am (Associations, Beltane, Fertility, Fire, Folklore, History, Lore, Magic, pagan, Wednesday, Wisdom, Witch)

A Celebration of May Day
by
Mike Nichols

‘Perhaps it’s just as well that you won’t be here…
to be offended by the sight of our May Day celebrations.’

-Lord Summerisle to Sgt. Howie
from ‘The Wicker Man’

There are four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year and the modern Witches’ calendar, as well. The two greatest of these are Halloween (the beginning of winter) and May Day (the beginning of summer). Being opposite each other on the wheel of the year, they separate the year into halves. Halloween (also called Samhain) is the Celtic New Year and is generally considered the more important of the two, though May Day runs a close second. Indeed, in some areas – notably Wales – it is considered the great holiday.

May Day ushers in the fifth month of the modern calendar year, the month of May. This month is named in honor of the goddess Maia, originally a Greek mountain nymph, later identified as the most beautiful of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. By Zeus, she is also the mother of Hermes, god of magic. Maia’s parents were Atlas and Pleione, a sea nymph.

The old Celtic name for May Day is Beltane (in its most popular Anglicized form), which is derived from the Irish Gaelic ‘Bealtaine’ or the Scottish Gaelic ‘Bealtuinn’, meaning ‘Bel-fire’, the fire of the Celtic god of light (Bel, Beli or Belinus). He, in turn, may be traced to the Middle Eastern god Baal. Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain (‘opposite Samhain’), Walpurgisnacht (in Germany), and Roodmas (the medieval Church’s name). This last came from Church Fathers who were hoping to shift the common people’s allegiance from the Maypole (Pagan lingham – symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the Cross – Roman instrument of death).

Incidentally, there is no historical justification for calling May 1st ‘Lady Day’. For hundreds of years, that title has been proper to the Vernal Equinox (approx. March 21st), another holiday sacred to the Great Goddess. The nontraditional use of ‘Lady Day’ for May 1st is quite recent (since the early 1970’s), and seems to be confined to America, where it has gained widespread acceptance among certain segments of the Craft population. This rather startling departure from tradition would seem to indicate an unfamiliarity with European calendar customs, as well as a lax attitude toward scholarship among too many Pagans. A simple glance at a dictionary (‘Webster’s 3rd’ or O.E.D.), encyclopedia (‘Benet’s’), or standard mythology reference (Jobe’s ‘Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore & Symbols’) would confirm the correct date for Lady Day as the Vernal Equinox.

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These ‘need-fires’ had healing properties, and sky-clad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection.

Sgt. Howie (shocked): ‘But they are naked!’
Lord Summerisle: ‘Naturally. It’s much too dangerous to jump through the fire with your clothes on!’

-from "The Wicker Man"

Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bon-fires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures. Other May Day customs include: walking the circuit of one’s property (‘beating the bounds’), repairing fences and boundary markers, processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, Morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.

In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principally a time of

‘…unashamed human sexuality and fertility.’

Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme, ‘Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross…’ retains such memories. And the next line ‘…to see a fine Lady on a white horse’ is a reference to the annual ride of ‘Lady Godiva’ though Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.

The Puritans, in fact, reacted with pious horror to most of the May Day rites, even making Maypoles illegal in 1644. They especially attempted to suppress the ‘greenwood marriages’ of young men and women who spent the entire night in the forest, staying out to greet the May sunrise, and bringing back boughs of flowers and garlands to decorate the village the next morning. One angry Puritan wrote that men

‘doe use commonly to runne into woodes in the night time, amongst maidens, to set bowes, in so muche, as I have hearde of tenne maidens whiche went to set May, and nine of them came home with childe.’

And another Puritan complained that, of the girls who go into the woods,

‘not the least one of them comes home again a virgin.’

Long after the Christian form of marriage (with its insistence on sexual monogamy) had replaced the older Pagan handfasting, the rules of strict fidelity were always relaxed for the May Eve rites. Names such as Robin Hood, Maid Marion, and Little John played an important part in May Day folklore, often used as titles for the dramatis personae of the celebrations. And modern surnames such as Robinson, Hodson, Johnson, and Godkin may attest to some distant May Eve spent in the woods.

These wildwood antics have inspired writers such as Kipling:

Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin;
But we have been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring Summer in!"

And Lerner and Lowe:

"It’s May! It’s May!
The lusty month of May!…
Those dreary vows that ev’ryone takes,
Ev’ryone breaks.
Ev’ryone makes divine mistakes!
The lusty month of May!"

It is certainly no accident that Queen Guinevere’s ‘abduction’ by Meliagrance occurs on May 1st when she and the court have gone a-Maying, or that the usually efficient Queen’s Guard, on this occasion, rode unarmed.

Some of these customs seem virtually identical to the old Roman feast of flowers, the Floriala, three days of unrestrained sexuality which began at sundown April 28th and reached a crescendo on May 1st. There are other, even older, associations with May 1st in Celtic mythology. According to the ancient Irish ‘Book of Invasions’, the first settler of Ireland, Partholan, arrived on May 1st; and it was on May 1st that the plague came which destroyed his people. Years later, the Tuatha De Danann were conquered by the Milesians on May Day. In Welsh myth, the perennial battle between Gwythur and Gwyn for the love of Creudylad took place each May Day; and it was on May Eve that Teirnyon lost his colts and found Pryderi. May Eve was also the occasion of a fearful scream that was heard each year throughout Wales, one of the three curses of the Coranians lifted by the skill of Lludd and Llevelys.

By the way, due to various calendrical changes down through the centuries, the traditional date of Beltane is not the same as its astrological date. This date, like all astronomically determined dates, may vary by a day or two depending on the year. However, it may be calculated easily enough by determining the date on which the sun is at 15 degrees Taurus (usually around May 5th). British Witches often refer to this date as Old Beltane, and folklorists call it Beltane O.S. (‘Old Style’). Some Covens prefer to celebrate on the old date and, at the very least, it gives one options. If a Coven is operating on ‘Pagan Standard Time’ and misses May 1st altogether, it can still throw a viable Beltane bash as long as it’s before May 5th. This may also be a consideration for Covens that need to organize activities around the week-end.

This date has long been considered a ‘power point’ of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the Bull, one of the ‘tetramorph’ figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune. (The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.) Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four ‘fixed’ signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius), and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft. Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers.

But for most, it is May 1st that is the great holiday of flowers, Maypoles, and greenwood frivolity. It is no wonder that, as recently as 1977, Ian Anderson could pen the following lyrics for the band Jethro Tull:

"For the May Day is the great day,
Sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley
Will heed this song that calls them back."

Document Copyright © 1986, 1999 by Mike Nichols HTML coding by: Mike Nichols © 1999. This document can be re-published only as long as no information is lost or changed, credit is given to the author, and it is provided or used without cost to others. Other uses of this document must be approved in writing by Mike Nichols. Revised: Sunday, February 7, 1999 c.e.

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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Next page »