Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh

The time of the grain harvest

Lugh’s intense and steady heat ripens the grains and sweetens the fruit. Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the harvest season. It is an intensely busy, but also a joyful time. The work and effort of the early part of the year are paying off. The wheat harvest is coming in.

In Christian tradition, Lughnasadh has become Lammas, the ‘loaf-mass’ (from Anglo-Saxon ‘hlaf-mas’.)

From sowing the seed to harvest time, the period of growth is fraud with danger and the outcome is by no means certain. Unpredictable and sometimes violent weather conditions, and thunderstorms, threaten to destroy all the hard work in one fell swoop. Thus, when we reach Lughnasadh and the harvest has been brought in safely, it is an occasion to celebrate. As a sign of gratitude sacrifices are offered and bread, made from the freshly harvested grain, is broken and shared with the community.

Even as we reap the harvest and gather the seed, this is but one of the stages of the eternal cycle of life. The grain gathered now will sustain us through the dark season and provide the basis of next year’s growth. And so, the cycle continues.

This is a good time to come together in gratitude and to share the joy as well as the labor of harvest. It is also a good time to gather and feast together, enjoying the splendor of summer, as we celebrate friendship and community spirit.

On an inner level, it is a good time to reflect on the progress of your projects and enjoy their ripening process. Take a moment to express your gratitude and share your abundant gifts with those in need.

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice

At Midsummer, the life-giving power of the Sun has reached its climax. We celebrate the longest day of the year! In pre-Christian tradition, it is said, that during the 12 days of Midsummer and the 12 days of Christmas the veils between the world are thinnest. At this time spirit beings can easily cross the threshold that separates our worlds. Likewise, those who are particularly perceptive to the ‘otherworldly vibes’ can receive magical gifts, or catch a glimpse of the spirit folk. It is a time of celebration, but also for making offerings to the Gods, to ask for protection of the harvest, and to receive blessings. The wisdom-keepers would use it for scrying, to determine the signs of the times. But for most people it was a festive time, celebrated with gatherings around huge bonfires fires. Dancing, feasting, and merry-making were the order of the day – the Sun-God and the Earth-Goddess were celebrating their wedding day and consummate their love. The people joyously join their celebration and thus ensure fertility and abundance for all.

At Midsummer, Bel, the young Sun-God has reached his climax and exhausted his power. Lugh takes over the reign. We are at the turning point of the year and about to begin our long journey of descent through the dark half of the year.

This is a good time to cherish the gifts of nature, to count our blessings, and to give thanks for all that we have. It is a time to share our blessings and to join in the spirit of celebration with friends and kin.

For herbalists, it is the prime time for gathering healing herbs. This is also a good time to seek council from the spirit world or to embark on a vision quest.

The Old Tree and the Carpenter

The Old Tree and the Carpenter

One day, a carpenter and his apprentice were traveling through the countryside. They came upon a beautiful ancient tree standing by an earth altar. The carpenter’s apprentice was admiring the ancient being but the old carpenter exclaimed: look at that useless old tree, it is no good for anything. If one was to cut it down to build a ship with it, the ship would soon sink or if one were to make tools from it they would soon rot, it’s a completely useless old tree.

Later that night the two retired at an inn nearby. During the night the old carpenter had a dream. The old tree appeared to him and spoke: You want to compare me with your domesticated trees, like hawthorn, pear, apple or cherry or whatever else bears fruit for you? No sooner as they produce their crop for you they are abused and violated. You cut their branches and slice their bark. Thus their generosity is their own demise. By merit of their gifts, they endanger their own lives and rarely reach their ripe old age. Such is common practice. Therefore I have long since tried to be as useless as possible. You, mortal! What if I had some use to you – I would never have reached this age and size, I would have been cut down for my wood a long time ago. And besides, you and I are creatures alike, why should one creature pass judgment upon the usefulness of another? What do you, a mere mortal and useless human, know about the ‘useless’ trees?

When the carpenter woke from his dream the next morning he thought deeply about its message. When his apprentice later asked him why this tree, in particular, came to serve at the earth altar the carpenter answered: quiet, now, let’s not speak about it anymore. The tree chose to grow there because otherwise, those who did not know him would have abused him. Had he not grown by the earth altar surely he would have been cut down for his wood and died.

We tend to place more value on the things that can be fashioned from plants than on nature herself, or the plants on which we depend. But, all of nature is sacred and has an innate and inalienable value, which it is not for us to judge. 

 

Happy Beltane!

Happy Beltane!

On May 1, we celebrate Beltane, the festival of spring. 

The earth is clad in her most beautiful flower gown and the birds are singing from the trees. The heart rejoices, the spirit soars. At Beltane we celebrate the miraculous powers of regeneration, of fertility and of abundance – the lushness and beauty of it all. The God and Goddess are in love and wherever they go, they spread the sparkling glow of their ardour.

This is a good time to celebrate life. We share in nature’s passion and are full of zest for life. Companionship, love and merry-making are the order of the day.

This is also a good time to nurture young seedlings and budding projects. It is nurture and love that turns intention into manifestation. The power to work this magic lies in our caring hands.

Spiritually, this is a good time to reflect on nature’s generosity and to practice gratitude.

Easter/ Oestara

Easter/ Oestara

For many Christians, Easter is an even more important festival than Christmas. Easter is a festival of sacrifice and resurrection. We commemorate Christ’s sacrifice on the day he died on the cross as Jesus, the man, only to be resurrected as Christ, the son of God and redeemer of mankind. In Christian symbolism, the cross commemorates the crucifixion. However, the cross is a much older symbol and in pre-Christian traditions it was more often associated with the cosmic order, the four directions, the axis of time and space, and the sacrifice of the ego, which is bound to the material world.

Sacrifice, in the symbolism of the ancient world, was not a celebration of death, as it may seem, but of life. A sacrifice was a way of giving back, to offer life to life, so it may continue. Death and rebirth as two sides of the same door. Life feeding on itself and continuously regenerating itself.

A sacrifice had to be something special. Not any old rat would do! This was a gift to the Gods! So, it had to be the very best, something precious! Originally, it was the king himself. Later, it became the his first-born. Eventually, animal tokens were used instead of the self. At Easter, that sacrificial animal was an innocent lamb. Even today’s traditional Easter feast often features a lamb roast as the centre piece. A distant echo of this ancient sacrificial tradition.

Easter is a movable feast, which is a clear indication that it is a festival that dates back to pre-Christian times. The date, which changes every year, is determined by the first Full Moon that follows the first New Moon after the Spring Equinox. Originally, Easter, or Ostara, as it was known, was the festival of the Goddess Eostre, a pagan Mother Goddess that has been linked to the Great Mother Kali.

Her sacred ‘Moon Hare’ has become the ‘Easter Bunny’. And as for the eggs, they are a symbol of life. The egg represents unborn potential, and the promise of rebirth. Traditionally, the eggs would have been dyed red, the colour of life. To give these as a gift is a blessing: Life! Abundance! May your potential unfold and blossom!

Source:

The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, HaperCollins, 1983

Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox

Happy Spring Equinox!

A new cycle is beginning – but what a strange beginning it is, with half the world in lock-down! The earth is waking from her winter retreat. Persephone is returning to the upper world and life is ready to burst forth again. At Spring Equinox, the forces of light and dark are hanging in the balance. But with every passing day, the sun is gaining strength now. Birds are returning and are singing their little hearts out to welcome the spring. Buds are bursting and Mother Earth has donned her cloak of early spring flowers as she turns the land verdant and fertile once again.

This is usually a joyful, busy time, full of expectation. This year is a little different. It feels cathartic, rather than light and joyful, the way it usually does. And still, the garden is calling, eager to receive the seeds as soon as the soil has warmed up. This is also a time of spring cleaning, purification, painting and decorating. It is a time to get ready, so everything is set on GO! These are things one can still do, locked down or not, in anticipation of the coming spring. 

Physically, that means boosting your energy with the fresh vitamins and nutrients of the early spring herbs. And this is especially true this year. Boost your immune system and don’t give that virus half a chance!

Mentally, this is a time to be strong and focused. Check on everything that you have planned for and make sure that the pathway for your intentions is clear.  The crisis will pass eventually and there is a light on the other side. Good planning prepares the way to success.

Spiritually, the Spring Equinox augurs new beginnings. We can turn a page and make a new start. It is also a time to celebrate the eternal life-force and the powers of self-renewal. 

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