|Sabbats - the wheel of the year|
|Written by The Green Witch|
A witch's year is divided into eight sections - eight seasons if you like, each one celebrated in a special way to honour it's time. Here are a few things that I do to celebrate each part of the wheel in my own simple way that may be of interest and you may also want to follow until you have your own ideas of what works for you!!
I have also included other celebrations that we mark during the year to make them magickal too!!
So, we now reach Samhain at sunset on 31 October. Most of you refer to it as Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve – the eve before All Saints Day, the Christian adaptation of the pagan festival. This is the Celtic New Year, when we arrive back where we started. The food is now stored and winter begins at this time. The sap has all returned to the ground, the leaves fallen and that feel of winter is upon us. As witches believe in re-incarnation, contact with the spirit world is easiest at this time. The veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest, and people who have passed over into the Summerland and wish to contact someone can return, if they so wish, for a brief time. This is the night for divination, whether reading Tarot or scrying, as the world of spirit can help guide you with your problems or issues that need to be resolved.
Samhain was a fire festival, celebrated with a large communal fire – only the date has changed as we still do this, the excuse now being Guy Fawke's Night on 5 November. Traditionally, this was a time to clear out the old and bring in the new, and this begun with the hearth. Fires were permanent features in the old days, but on this night, along with Beltane, the fire would be extinguished and re-started with embers from the Samhain communal fire.
The subject of Halloween is very prominent around now, as all children get ready to dress up as witches and ghosts and all things that go bump in the night. Trick-or-treating may seem like an American import, but is actually quite relevant to witches as the Lord of Misrule is allowed to run free at Samhain to play tricks on the Human race. The children are simply his playmates, that’s all. So, they are paid a small token not to do his bidding. As our loved ones can return on this night, so can some of the more mischievous spirits as well. Back home in Lincolnshire, when I was younger, Halloween didn’t exist. No child was let out after dusk because this was the Night of the Witches and they were the only ones who could safely be outdoors. They had work to do and were left alone to do it. Instead, the children had Mischief night on 4 November, when the work of witches was all finished and the veil again closed.
Traditional things to do on Samhain - and why.
Hollow out a pumpkin or turnip and carve in it the face of the Crone (the wise one). Light it with a candle. This is to keep away those mischievous spirits that are around sustenance for the fairies and spirits who pass by. Candles in the window will guide them on their way back to the world of spirit.
On the night of Samhain, a very simple symbol of this night is to light a candle in the window to show spirit the way and honour those who have passed over. It is a time to think of the past, of bonds with loved ones and times of joy spent with them. Leave some bread and salt on the doorstep for the passing spirits to indulge in.
Samhain is the time of divination, so time to pick out those runes, contemplate over the crystal ball or shuffle those tarot cards and see what your challenges are for the next 12 months. So, here is what I use, and it will maybe give you insight as to why there are so many sets of cards out there and that you can use more than one set at a time:
My tarot set for my personal readings is the ‘Sacred Circle’ set and that is used for the actual tarot reading, which will give me info on what is coming up, what to watch out for and where I am going wrong!!
The ‘Crystal Ally’ set gives me my crystal to wear or carry for the next few weeks and the reason why I should.
The ‘Faeries Oracle’ gives me advice from the little people to follow or take heed.
The ‘Druid Oracle’ gives me the animal for the Sabbat.
The ‘Celtic Ogham Oracle’ gives me the Celtic tree from the forest from which I need support.
The ‘Goddess Oracle’ gives me my Goddess from the heavens for support and area to attend.
And finally I take a card from the deck Voyager just to throw confusion into the game (I have yet to understand the attraction to this pack but there you go…still take a card anyway).
So, each card is displayed on my altar until the next sabbat so as to not forget what I have been told, and it is bizarre how they link together but they do and the same lesson can be told several times in different ways (that is upstairs way of making me take note!!). So, as you can see, you can utilise several sets to get confirmation of what lies ahead, what needs attending to, etc, so give it a go and see what you get, as this is the night to discover what the next year can hold for you. After all, this night is as much about the future as the past…
Decorate your altar with dried leaves, nuts and orange candles, plus any significant cards you have selected from your divination. Put your wishes for the next year in your wishing pyramid or underneath a quartz crystal. At some time during the evening, as this is a fire celebration, you need to light a fire somewhere, whether a large bonfire outside or a small one in your cauldron inside with some candles around. I remember bonfire night back home in Lincolnshire as a child, and we would walk the full length of the promenade. The council lit bonfires down the whole length of the beach and the whole of the town would bring fireworks and light them for the benefit of all before the tide came in and took it all away– it was a truly magickal night and one of my favourites of the year.
Apples are very special on this night – hence why we “bob for apples in the water” – the apples contain the seeds of life, if you cut one open across the way, it will reveal the seeds in a pentagram, the sign of protection, and, of course, you bob for apples in water in a bowl – the water of life in the womb. Yes, it signifies our very beginning as we eat the apples at the start of the New Celtic Year.
For the single amongst us, if you peel an apple on this night, ensuring it stays in one long strip, and throw it over your left shoulder, it should reveal the initial of your true love, provided it stays in one piece.
If you are in a relationship, take two nuts and throw one each into the Samhain fire. If they explode, you have a loving relationship but if they merely whimper or hiss, then your love is on the way out. Watch for those who react differently – what is going on with one of you??
Wishes could be defined too – write a wish on a piece of paper, roll it up and then throw it into the fire. If the paper burned immediately, the wish would be granted but if not, then you are probably out of luck!! There are lots of these types of divination to be found so seek some more unusual ones out yourself if you wish to partake in something different.
When it comes to divination, you are well to set the scene, so to speak. You don’t need to cast a circle if you don’t want to, but you are best to enhance the atmosphere to get your psychic centre mentally tuned into getting the best results. So here are a few tips:
Light the room with a few candles – enough to see but no more and a couple on the table you are sitting at (or in glasses on the floor if you are down on the carpet). Light some incense – something with frankincense, sandalwood, yarrow, lemongrass or cinnamon. This will open up the psychic side of your brain and enhance any reading you do. Drink some herbal tea – something such as mugwort or sage (both excellent menopausal remedies so it must be something to do with tapping into the wise woman!!) and this will add to your ability. Another thing, once the scene is set, ensure that you have all you need before sitting down, including some water, and also that the door is locked and the phone unplugged – getting into the reading and having the phone suddenly ring is likely to give you somewhat of a fright so be warned. A crystal such as quartz, amethyst or phantom quartz will also add to the event. I always had all 4 elements on the table when doing readings – it always gave me this extra bit of confidence to know that all of them were represented! So, when all this is done and you are sitting comfortably, then you can begin!
The joy of the Night Sky in Winter
I actually love the cleanness of a cold crisp winter’s day. At least you know what to wear when you get up! Walks at this time of the year can be wonderful and sometimes even magickal so don’t miss the opportunity, if you have time, to take time out and enjoy a walk amongst nature whenever the day is fresh.
The other wonderful thing about this time of year is that the cold crisp nights bring clear dark skies which bring much more fun in star and moon gazing – another thing I just love about winter and I miss in the summer when the Moon hardly seems to rise at times. The Moon is a magickal friend that comes out at night to play and I don’t know how, on a clear night, people don’t spend time outside enjoying the show that the stars and the moon put on for us. You will find me outside for a while on any clear night whether the moon is out or not - the stars are the star on moonless nights and fun can be had by all the family in learning where the planets are and what constellation is where in the sky. The old Celts really understood the sky and I have to say, I use the Moon for a lot of my spells – doing more work in the dark than the light.
However, let us not forget the stars which are tiny diamonds studding the dark blue velvet sky. They twinkle away and their show is often ignored or simply taken for granted, so let us see what we can do to encourage you to spend more winter’s nights stargazing. Oh and another thing, remember that planets don’t twinkle!!
If you live in a city, then you may have to head for the hills to enjoy the stars as the city lights can wipe out the night sky. I am lucky enough to be far enough away from the City to view the stars at their best. However, when I spent a week in Ireland, I had never seen so many stars in the sky – far more than I enjoyed at home but it doesn’t stop me stargazing. Get a map of the stars, wrap up warm and see how many planets and constellations you can spot and then watch over the winter as they travel the sky and even disappear and the Earth revolves. It is amazing how the sky changes once you notice what goes where. Start simply with something like the plough or Orion, and watch how it moves.
One thing everyone watches for is a shooting star. I have only once seen a shooting star and I was on a boat on Loch Ness with my family and friends and only I saw it, even though there were 4 of us looking to see where Mars was when it was doing its red thing. Shooting stars are lucky and a good omen for travellers, lovers and people with ill-health. I took it as a sign of good luck as I was with my partner and took it that our relationship was blessed.
Another thing I do is to wish on my chosen star. Once you have been out at night and got to know the sky a bit, you will notice a star that seems to catch your eye (well, this one always seemed to twinkle at me whenever I went out the back door – in fact, all the other stars disappear into oblivion!). If you do find one that you tend to always notice, it can be your “Star of Power”. Stars are suns in another galaxy and as such, like ours, have much power that can be tapped into. Like the poem says:
“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, Wish I will, wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight”.
I always make a wish on the first star that I see if I am walking outside at dusk. Why not? You can use your Star of power in the same way. Spend some time attuning to its power simply by looking at it for a period of time nightly until you have connected. Then you can ask for its help, whatever is needed, provided the sky is clear. Make this your winter project and see how you can enhance your life with the power of the night sky. Take my advice and let your wishes come true on the stars!!
Spell for Samhain – remembering those who have gone
Items needed: 1 natural candle and 1 blue candle, 1 stone/pebble amethyst or quartz for every person you would like to remember on this night, and 1 goblet red wine (or more if you have a lot of people to remember!!) Cast your circle or sacred space, ensuring you have a comfortable area to sit within your circle as you could be there some time. Light the two candles in the west of your circle forming a doorway by which spirit can enter should they choose to do so. Now, take one crystal in your hand, close your eyes and remember the good things about that person – those things that made you smile, laugh or cry. Then, when you have remembered the things you wanted to, simply state something like “If you are able, please come and sit with me...name…." then lay down the stone with the candles. Lift your glass and toast them and take a drink. Continue until all the people you wanted to think about had been remembered.
You may get the feeling that one is present, a few or all if you are lucky, in which case it will be a crowded circle. However, it is lovely to sit and remember and let them come should they want to. This is what Samhain is for and why the children dress as ghosts and ghouls. When you have sat for enough time and all is done (you can also do your divination within the circle as it would definitely be a powerful reading), then simply pick up each crystal individually, stating something like “…name…, thank you for your time, and I bid you hale and farewell.” and when all have been thanked, then close down your circle and keep those special crystals on your altar.
The Festival of Yule celebrates the Winter Solstice, the darkest part of winter. It contains the longest night and the shortest day- 22 December. From then onwards, the Sun will slowly gain strength, and the barren Earth will commence its regeneration, though it will be Imbolc before this is obvious.
The celebrations of Christmas rejoice in the birth of a new life, just as people have always celebrated since time itself began – a new year and a new cycle. All the traditions of Christmas as we know them today have Pagan and Druid roots and although we carry out these traditions, few people actually know why.
The traditional Holly Wreath has been used for over 4000 years to represent the Wheel of the Year and a new beginning in the ever-turning circle of life, and, being holly, it was also a symbol of protection for the home, just as a holly tree in the garden is.
The Celtic and Norse people used a Yule Tree to represent the continual circle of life, the return of the Sun and to represent their wishes for the forthcoming year. The tree would be brought inside and decorated with fruit for a successful harvest, nuts for fertility, coins for wealth, love charms for happiness and candles to light the way for the returning Sun. As you can see, without knowing, we still do the same, but with electric lights and a bit more glitter, that’s all. So, when decorating your tree this year, really put your wishes and dreams into it, and you will be doing the same as the “old ones” always did. Don’t forget to burn plenty of candles over the holiday to welcome back the Sun.
Santa and his reindeer capture the essence of the horned God and every good Christmas tree has its fairy on the top - welcome the beautiful goddess of light and love and peace into your home. The top of the tree was always important and most people place a fairy or a star in the prime position - the star, of course, is the 5-pointed pentagram representing the 4 elements and spirit – in a way using all the elements to ensure their wishes materialised, and the fairy represents the “wee folk”, who at this time of year would be invited indoors to shelter from the cold and dark, and the tree would be their obvious haven.
Mistletoe, if it could be obtained, would be hung to ensure another prosperous year. Kissing under the Mistletoe is as old as the Celtic/Druid way of life. Sacred to the Druids, their legal agreements and hand-fasting ceremonies (marriage) all took place “under the mistletoe”, as the agreement was then truly sealed – so just be careful who you kiss this year under the mistletoe, or they might just hold you to your word.
The centrepiece of Celtic celebrations was the Yule log, which is still around today. Back then, it would have been Oak, the king of the waxing year, and decorated with Holly, the king of the waning year. Three holes would have been drilled into the top to represent the triple aspect of the Goddess, and candles would have burned in the log for the festivities, to ensure fertility and abundance for the forthcoming year.
The magickal Yule insists on no excessive work, but to all of us in the retail trade – fat chance, though I tend to add a little bit of brandy to the mulled wine so if too much is consumed, then work just becomes a giggle and customers have to tend to themselves!! – However, I simply transfer my days of rest to later on at 25th when it is now more allowable to stop work for a couple of days. An apple eaten at Yule will ensure health, the mistletoe hung at Yule will ensure a year of happiness and a magickal cleansing bath will free your body of the worries you may have been carrying over the past few months and these are traditions that can still be done at Yule itself.
A tip or two for Yule.
To ensure that your festivities go without a hitch, here are a few tips for you. Whilst Mistletoe represents wisdom, prosperity and fertility, the Holly (male) and Ivy (female) represent balance and luck. Again, bring these into your home at this time. Always hang the holly before the mistletoe as this then avoids any ill-luck or family quarrels. Never burn the Yule holly as, if you do, a misfortune is sure to follow and remember to leave the mistletoe hanging all year round to ensure a year of protection and good luck – replace it when you get the fresh mistletoe next year.
As the Sun is at it’s weakest at Yule, the Full Moon that usually follows Yule is regarded as the most powerful of the year – make use of it. . Decorate your Home & tree with symbols of fertility, health, wealth and prosperity – nuts, fruit, suns (male), stars (pentagram) and moons (female), elemental symbols such as icicles, snowflakes, and protective herbs and spices such as cinnamon sticks etc - even chocolate represents the luxuries of life - just use your imagination.
I always get asked about guilt at this time – enjoying and joining in the family Christmas when it isn’t our celebration. Don’t worry; it is how you use the experience and what you take from it that counts. My house looks like everyone else’s only we work at Yule but not at Christmas. I don’t have to throw my religion down everybody else’s throats. I grew up alongside Jehovah’s witnesses, who seemed to suffer at Christmastime and I wouldn’t want that for my own children. My partner is a Christian but we have leaned to combine and honour each other’s religion, not condemn it. I will be attending a Carol concert with him and join in his joy of the occasion. Some of the Carol’s are pretty pagan; “the holly and the Ivy” is as pagan as it gets!! I will have my symbols and he his. The only way we will have our beliefs respected is to respect others and this is the point. Send Xmas cards; just look for the ones that state “Seasons greetings” or “Yuletide greetings” – subtle but honest. Gifts at this time represent the gifts that our Lady and Lord have bestowed upon us – that of life, love and prosperity. It is all a matter of prospective; that’s all. See what you can see within the customs of your family and friends, join in, enjoy and simply smile, count your blessings and give silent thanks.
New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay here!!)
New Year or Hogmanay over the past centuries has also brought about a few traditions of its own. Burning 7 candles ensures lucky homes, though we more and more see the line of 7 lights in windows in every town and wonder why we do that, but now you know. The body would have been bathed and new clothes put on, the home would have been thoroughly scrubbed, the locks all opened (open house) and a new clean knife left at the door for protection for the next year. All jobs no matter how hated are to be done before the New Year celebrations begin and the New Year enters your home. A fire would have been burned all night to complete the New Year ritual, and this would have been the actual fire but these days, candles will be sufficient. We then are all aware of the New Year tradition of bringing in coal, bread and whisky (fuel, food and drink) and this tradition still goes on as does that of the dark male but where did that come from? It was apparently that the Celts were dark haired but the Norse and Vikings were not – dark hair meant friend not foe…so there you go, another mystery unravelled. It is also important that the bringer of the New Year isn’t wearing all black or carrying a knife (but these days the Skein Dubh is part of the kilt so it isn’t counted!!) If someone enters by mistake before the entry of the New Year, it can be counteracted by throwing salt into the fire so don’t panic!!
To continue the New Year traditions, ensure your cupboards are full of fresh food on New Year’s Day and your pockets and wallet/purse full of cash to ensure a year of plenty all the remainder of the year.
If your year has been fraught with problems, and you can get to a coal fire or bonfire, try this spell.
Take the calendar of the year just passing and bind it with wool. Then, place it in a fire, be it coal or an outside bonfire and say with feeling:
“Burn, burn, you calendar burn and last year’s worries never return.”
Apparently, another tradition of mine at New Year is actually Scottish – that must have come from a past life then. I always go into the New Year clean and tidy. On New Year’s Eve, before I go out and celebrate, I take down the tree, put away the decorations, clean and tidy the house, have a purifying bath and put on clean clothes and start the Year afresh. I always pay the bills as well (even if it means putting them on my credit card or overdraft!!). Any bills that have arrived get settled on the last banking day of the year. I never start the New Year with bills outstanding. It doesn’t mean I don’t owe anybody anything. It just means that everything that needs paying at that time has been paid. Once all this has been done, the magickal New Year can proceed with a fresh beginning. Try it, especially if the last year has been dogged with troubles. If you have had money troubles, fill your pockets with money on New Years day as a symbol that you would like your pockets to remain full during the year – though it is traditional here in Scotland that the home’s First footer brings in coal for heat, bread for food, money for wealth and a “wee dram” for luck. Another wee thing to remember – never hang up your new calendar for the year until New Year’s Day.
What is now known as Candlemas at church is the old pagan festival of Imbolc (ewe’s milk). Known as the Festival of Light, Imbolc heralded the return of Nature’s Bounty. The Earth is stirring underground, and even though the ground may still be covered in snow and frost, if you look carefully, you will find evidence of growth. Soon, the ewes will start to produce this year’s lambs, and the milk is a reminder that winter would soon be over. This was a well-needed sign in days of old as food would be starting to run low and firewood would be running out. Then, they depended on their stores of food and wood to keep them alive and warm – something very few of us actually experience these days. It would have been a potluck celebration, as something would have had to be caught to celebrate with and that would have depended on the luck of the hunter. So nature’s signs would be a welcome reminder that the hard times would soon be over and they had hopefully made it through another winter as the first snowdrops started to appear.
Once the first lambs were born, which, in days gone by signified hope that they had made it through another winter. The first snowdrops will appear at this time to confirm that this is the time of renewal and rebirth. The Triple Goddess is in her maiden form and represents fertility, creativity and poetry – quite apt as up here in Scotland we are also getting ready to celebrate Robbie Burns with the schoolchildren all reciting his poems at this time, and Burns night the first major celebration in the Scottish calendar following Hogmanay. This is also the time to cleanse both your home and your body in preparation for the forthcoming spring.
The festival of Imbolc was traditionally Brigit’s day. Brigit is the Celtic Triple Goddess of poetry, healing & fire-craft. Her names vary from Brid, Brigit, Bridget and Bride but they are all one. She was Ireland’s Mother Goddess (Goddess of all) and the country was united in the worship of her. She was protector, warrior, guardian of children and Goddess of fire and the Sun. Her symbol includes the heart which runs with the fact that Valentine’s Day is celebrated just a couple of weeks later. It was Bride who was credited for wakening the Earth and so, as the Goddess of fire and the Sun, candles or bonfires are always lit for her. Her colour is white for the purity of the snow drop and the milk and as she is responsible for the fertility of the earth, all women to be married are named after her (bride) and wear white in honour of her, in the hope that she will bless the marriage. Women in labour in the Scottish Islands would call for her help to assist in the safe delivery of the baby and, when the child was safe they would thank her and consider themselves blessed by Bride herself. Lots of different cures were attributed to Bride and each area in the Celtic lands has an ancient tale of her help. Because of the dedication to Bride, the Christian church moved Candlemas from 13th Feb to 2nd and claimed Bride as their own by changing her name to St Brigit, the woman who they claimed delivered Christ.
Imbolc Spring Clean.
Imbolc is all about purification and cleansing, so this would be the correct time to de-tox your body as the maiden sweeps clean with her new broom. We are what we eat, and after the festive over-indulgence, a thorough cleansing would be appreciated so that we can clear out the stagnation and allow inspiration and creativity to flow once again. In order to commence with the spring clean, follow the candidiasis diet for 2-4 weeks (yes, here I go again) to allow your body to cleanse, whilst also protecting your health for the future. Keep your mind off food by also spring-cleaning the house. Yes, by doing this, you are carrying out the maiden’s clean-sweeping work, so are living magickally, as all lone-witches do. A clean and tidy house followed by a cleansed and purified body will prepare you for what the spring has to offer both physically and magickally. Make way for the new by clearing out the old. Yes, that means recycle all that “stuff” no longer of use to you. Give the things to friends, charity, whatever, and throw away what cannot be recycled. As you do this, visualise your problems, habits, bad eating ways, whatever you need to also get rid of, going out with the physical cleanse so that fate can bring in the new to you. Believe it is done when you are done and the last of the cleansing is complete.
Spells to do at Imbolc.
To honour the Triple Goddess at Imbolc, namely the Celtic goddess Brigit, place spring flowers in your home and light a white candle in her honour. When you dedicate the flowers and the candle to her, she will grant you 3 wishes, one for each of her aspects. With 3 more white candles, make the 1st wish for the good of others, whether animals, the planet or humanity – your dedication to others outside your normal life. Make the 2nd wish for a friend or partner and then make the 3rd something you would wish for yourself. As you make each wish, light the candle from the main one. Do not be selfish or manipulative and focus on the wish in hand. It is done. Leave the candles to burn down completely. I can hear you novices to witchcraft saying, “It cannot be that simple”. Oh Yes it can. The power lies in you and the element you are using (Fire) and it can be really that simple. You are putting your wish out to the Universe and that is it.
Light your bathroom with a few scattered tea lights plus a green candle placed on the edge of the bath near the taps. Run your bath, adding one large or 3 small aventurine crystals and scent the water with patchouli oil. Now get into the bath, relax in it’s warmth, close your eyes and really think about your immediate prosperity wishes… what you need and what you want. Remember - need not greed so none of this “let’s win the lottery jackpot” – money doesn’t necessarily bring you happiness – just misery in more comfortable surroundings. So think about what you need to pay, what you need to have done (as in get the leak fixed and the bathroom redecorated, not buy a new house) and have some left over for a bit of fun. When you have decided, concentrate on the green candle at the end of the bath, visualising those things being done & paid and state:
On this New (or full, as applicable) moon, my intention is set. New luck will be mine and all my needs met
With harm to none, please bring this to me, this is my will, so mote it be.
Another thing you could do...
involves fire. Decide what things you could do with removing from your life during the coming year, and tie together a little bundle of straw with black thread or ribbon for each issue you want to remove from your life, whether a habit or addiction you want rid of or a person you need closure on…you get the idea. When you have your gathering of little straw bundles (and I mean little if you are doing this indoors), you need to burn them somewhere. If you are lucky enough to have an open fire, then use that or use your cauldron if you have one, setting fire to them inside the cauldron, as the straw may go up quickly (take care whatever you are doing!). Failing that, you could even light a little tidy-the-garden type of bonfire outside and do a ritualistic burning of your problems and habits outside with nature – it won’t take long and, on a clear night, could even be quite peaceful and give you a sense of completion and closure. Just make sure you focus first on each issue and then see it no longer a problem to you as your little bundle burns away to ash. When it is all done, leave the situation knowing that each of these issues will be dealt with. The secret of witchcraft is not in how fancy a spell you perform or how many fancy words you say, but in knowing your actions will make it happen. You must be able to trust in what you do. Any doubt will doom your actions to failure. Remember the words – This is my will, so mote it is. Say them with conviction. Believe these little words and it will be so.
The single ones amongst us may like to try this bit of fun (or is it??) On 2nd Feb, should you see birds flying in a certain direction, and this is the direction from which your future partner will come and home made. Another Scottish tradition is to look out your window on the morning of the 2nd and the first man you see would have the same name as your future husband!!
Those of you on our own should carry an emerald around, should you want to actively seek a partner. Cleanse and programme the emerald to bring your love to you and then carry around on your person next to your heart, but it must be hidden. The person attracted to you must not see the stone!!
Valentine’s Day 14th Feb
This festival came to be as it is the general date that birds select their partner for the season. The Victorians used it as a time to send cards and gifts to a secret love so they would know someone liked them and this was how the industry of greetings cards came about. Valentine’s day is about unrequited love and not the festival for florists and restaurants that it has been turned into today. So, if you don’t fall for all the hype, don’t feel guilty – you have grasped the true meaning of the occasion. You don’t need a special day to tell your partner you love them and give them flowers – you can do it any day you want to. Be different and use one of the other 364 days instead and avoid being ripped off at the same time.
Ostara is the festival of the Spring Equinox, when night and day are equal once again. The sun will now grow in strength and the day will be longer than the night after 21. March. From now on, the earth is in full swing, trees start to bud, the birds sing happily in the sunshine and all over the garden is evidence of new growth.
When you are in tune with nature, this can be a very stressful time. The 2 weeks before and after the equinox tend to be somewhat tense and full of stress (nothing new there then) as nature battles with itself to find balance once again. I personally always feel unsettled at the equinox and tend to do something rash – in the past I have set up the business, moved home, changed the car (several times), split up with a partner (several times) – are we getting the picture so you have been warned but just go with it as it is all about change and this time of conflict lasts 14 days before and after the equinox. Have a look at your life and if you are not happy with what you see, then this is the time to do something about it, whatever it is or at least start to plan. This is nature leaving darkness behind and heading for the light and you too can do the same. New things are paramount at this time – hence why we celebrate with an egg – the beginning of life itself. At Ostara, the symbolism is balance – if you or your life is not in balance, time to see how it can be sorted whether it is about health or things/people that stress you out!!
The festival is all about rebirth and growth, and this is highly apparent in it’s symbol of the egg. Yes, the chocolate egg is a modern-day pagan symbol to symbolize the Goddess Oestre. In days gone past, they would have been hard-boiled eggs brightly painted, but this tends to be a tradition that, in most places, has now died and be replaced by our favourite chocolate in brightly coloured foil (makes sense now). The Goddess even gives her name to the hormone that stimulates ovulation, Oestrogen. Life evolves from inside the egg, hence why we have chocolate eggs at this time of year. All of nature gets ready for their new life, be it the spring flowers of the earth, the blossom on the trees or the young of the birds, bees and animals. Place spring flowers in the home and, because it is the festival of New Life, it is time to “spring-clean”, clearing out the old and making way for the new. This has been especially apparent this year so far as my hard-drive packed in, helping me to lose all that irrelevant info you collect over time, mainly because very little was backed up -it is called “learning a lesson the hard way”
In days gone by, to celebrate the spring and the new beginning, people would wear new clothes they had spent all winter making, but not until the equinox – bad luck to wear them before. They would rise at dawn, put on their new clothes and watch the sun come up. They would also bless the ground with seeds for the forthcoming season and ask Mother Nature to be kind and smile on them.
To symbolise the turn of the sun wheel, people would celebrate with what is now called hot cross buns - sweet buns decorated with a solar cross - and this was long before the church adopted them as a symbol of their own but to me they represent the sun and the moon, the circle of life, the four seasons and the Celtic cross and I love them toasted (the element of fire) so it is all in the power of what you believe yourself. Make them magickal and it will be so.. What – another pagan tradition adopted by the church – no!!! Yes, and the Easter bunny is another. He worshipped the Goddess Eostre, and to please the fertility goddess, he decorated sacred eggs and presented them to her. She thought them so beautiful that she wished this to be shared with all, so the rabbit went round the world distributing these gifts of life. This now is remembered on Easter Sunday as you watch the sun rise – that first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal Equinox – so which bits of Easter are Christian then?
Spells and things to do at Ostara.
Firstly, you need to bring spring flowers into your home. Support charity and buy daffodils, the sign of new hope and get some sunshine into your home. Even plant some to bring spring into your life. One of the signs of Easter is the egg – the symbol of fertility and life itself. What are you going to give birth to this year – what ideas do you have to nurture and make materialise? Don’t just sit there, make it happen. How are you going to find the extra time, space, etc? Well it means it is time to spring clean both your home and you life. Get rid of all excess, all those things you don’t need. Simplify things to allow time and space for the new to come in. We all have too much clutter these days, and what valuable time we have to ourselves tend to be taken up with “stuff”. Get rid of the stuff and you will have more time for yourself, for the things you want to do and for the people around you that matter.
Clear the debris from the garden tidying the way for the new growth. Enjoy spring by simply being with it. Fill your space with aromas of sunshine such as bergamot and grapefruit by sprinkling on carpets etc. Give your home a physical clean plus a purification to cleanse the negativity alongside the dust. Purify just before the new moon if possible – use the cycle of the moon to be rid of negative issues, then your home will be wonderful for Ostara and the arrival of Spring. So, first, instead of cleaning the home with a traditional cleaner, make an infusion of rosemary, lavender, thyme and bay and use this water to cleanse the home. Wash down windows, paintwork and doors, whilst knowing you are banishing negativity and evil with this cleaning process. Once the physical aspect is all done, pour the remainder of the infusion down the drain banishing all negativity from the home (watch as the water disappears and you will know it is all gone). Burn purifying oils such as frankincense, rosemary and juniper in the home or smudge each room with sage. Clean your altar and decorate with spring flowers and yellow candles to mark the growth of the sun to come. Your home is now clean and cleansed and ready for the forthcoming season and I am sure you will notice the difference in the atmosphere now the stagnation of winter has been removed. Now to simplify - recycle, recycle, and recycle. Give old clothes away to friends if they can re-use them (including the ones that don’t fit but one day I might be able to get into them again!!!!). If not, give them to charity. Simplify your life and if that means redesigning a room or changing the house around, then do it. Also, try and take a walk daily if possible but weekly if that is all you can fit in and over the coming months, make a point of watching nature develop. We have an avenue full of daffs planted for Marie Curie and it is spectacular at this time. Watch for the bluebells, crocuses, cowslips and primroses appearing as spring progresses, not to mention all the fantastic aromas as the blossoms of various trees fill the air. If you don’t get out in nature, then you cannot appreciate the magick of life itself and how spectacular Mother Nature really is. Enjoy her at her best!
Once winter starts to give way to the spring and better weather, the body suddenly looks not as in shape as it should be (I am being polite here folks!), as the winter coat that has been responsible for keeping you warm now becomes more noticeable and in need of shedding - again. Time to start a programme for cleansing the body and getting fit! Indulge in a day of pampering if you get the chance as we all need a little indulgence after the winter and this would give your new fitness programme a good start. Now, by shedding the coat, I do not mean start a new diet!!! I mean more exercise, walking, swimming or something to get that body moving!! Diets don’t work and your body just begins the yo-yo syndrome as it thinks it has hit a famine. To balance the weight loss, it starts to hold on to every calorie you eat and so you actually end up putting on weight. This is due to the body having not yet evolved from the days of feast or famine. So, in fact, all you have to do is eat in moderation, cut out the current junk and convenience foods and increase your activities, but you know all this if you are a regular, so get on with your body’s spring clean.
As I have said, this festival is all about new life and growth. If there is a wish you want to materialise with all your heart and soul, then this is the spell for a long-term wish. I am always telling my clients that if you don’t plant the seeds, then nothing will materialise. This is taking that a step further and will need your love and devotion to make it happen. Decide on your need remembering it will take time to make your dearest wish happen. This is not the thing to do if you need it next week ok. Now take some seeds of the plant that will make your need materialise:-
Fertility – poppy or cucumber Healing – lavender, rosemary, sage
Love –jasmine, yarrow, coriander Money – honeysuckle, chamomile, basil
Peace – rose, valerian Protection – bay, rose geranium, St John’s Wort
Or use your own symbolic seeds.
Now, over a pot of soil or a chosen piece of garden, hold the seeds in your power hand (the one you write with) and visualise your need or wish coming to fruition. Hold that picture and tell the seeds what it is you would like and why, then still holding the visualisation, plant the seeds. Now you need to lovingly tend those seeds, giving it shelter, water and food, bringing the new life and healthy growth forth to aid your wish to manifest. Neglect the seeds or seedlings and your heart and soul isn’t going into materialising your wish, so your wish will not materialise at that time. Give it all it needs to grow healthily and you are doing all in your power to make it happen – the rest is up to the elements, you have done your bit and put it out there. As I always say, you don’t ask, you don’t get. Take care of your plant. After all, you gave it life and it will, in return, give you a little bit of life and magic. Happy planting.
As nature will be in torment and winds will probably be blowing with attitude, I thought a spell on the wind would be suitable, though on the East coast, the wind usually blows anyway! Remember though, these spells can be used anytime, not just the sabbat I include them in. Using Air for spells is very effective. Been depressed this winter? Then stand with your face into the wind, spread your arms out wide, and let the cold wind of the North (preferably) blow straight through you, and you will feel much better.
Better still, if your problems have been mounting, then, find a bush or tree that is dead but still planted in the ground in a place where the wind blows freely. Then, using one leaf for every problem or pain you wish to be free of, push each leaf onto the tip of a branch on the bush. As you do, just state:
“Of my ………………… I wish to be free; this is my will, so mote it be”.
When you have gone through each problem individually, then leave the bush to release its leaves, therefore releasing the energy of the problems into the universe and letting the Universe get to work on them for you. Know that as you walk away, it is done. This will take a few days or so for the leaves to go free and start working so don’t just sit around waiting for the leaves to be freed or you might be sat there a while. You have done what needs to be done, so just let it go and get on with the job in hand.
As for the challenge of Ostara, this sabbat may have a different challenge for you. I rented my shop and began my business on Ostara nine years ago and that was certainly a major challenge for me, so if there is something you really really want, then this is a good time to go for it. When I got the keys to the shop, I entered my business premises as mine for the first time and called on the help of Mars to help me in this new challenge I was now confronted with. It is this is that I am now passing on to you if you are venturing into a new project yourself:
Between the hours of two and three in the afternoon, anoint a red candle with rose oil, light it and say:
“Mars, great warrior, protector of the fearful and energiser of the weak, I ask you to enthuse me with your knowledge and power, your fearlessness and enterprise. Infuse me with your inspiration, armour me with your brilliance and guide me always with your light so I may always trust and be guided by the light of my spirit within me. This is my will, so mote it be”
Let the candle burn until it is finished and it is done. Good luck with your new venture and may it be as successful to you as mine is to me.
Beltane is my favourite of all the festivals because it hails the beginning of summer and takes us up to the longest day. You can physically see Mother Nature in action as the blossom fills the trees, aromas fill the air and the birds busy themselves feeding their youngsters and watching them learn how to fly and feed themselves. It fills us with the hope and anticipation of a long and wonderful summer (often not forthcoming in Scotland but we live in hope as you have to be an optimist to live here!)
What is the Sabbat of Beltane all about? This is the naughty one folks, the one the people didn’t want to let go of, no matter how Christianised they were made to be, because this was one of the “fun” festivals… Green was the symbol of Earth and was the customary colour to wear at Beltane. To assist the banning of it, the Church declared that green was “unlucky” and the union of the male and female “sinful and dirty”. However, the thing that the Ministers fought against was the way that the ordinary people honoured the Goddess and the Horned God.
This was the festival of lust and passion as witches and pagans honoured the body and the physical relationship between men and women – a necessity for the continuance of the human race. Fires would be lit on the hilltops at dusk and the village would party till dawn, then celebrate all the next day too. Couples would “make love” in the fields to ensure the success of the crops and the village, and any babies resulting from this night was a blessing from the Goddess herself. It did not matter if the woman was in a relationship, married or alone, as the pregnancy was deemed an honour, and the baby a “chosen one”. Of course, in Celtic society, the female was the head of the household and chose her partner, owned the land and made the decisions, including whom she slept with. Any marriage was reviewed on a yearly basis, at the end of which, if one partner was not happy, they both walked away or continued for another year or however long they decided. What a great system (though nowadays we don’t need to increase the population anymore, so lets not go there guys – have the fun and frolic but wisely and safely thank you). !
Couples would also get wed on May Eve and jump the Beltane fire as part of the ceremony, and for luck and fertility. On the way home, the women would wash their faces in the dawn dew to ensure their beauty would remain. This was also the time the farmers would take the cattle and drive them through the centre of the ashes to purify the herd.
A great symbol of Beltane is the maypole – the largest phallic symbol a village could display I think. The pole was placed into the earth, symbolising fertility (obviously), and the dancers would weave their ribbons down the pole symbolising the circle of life. On May Day, the village would have selected a maiden to be May Queen – this still occurred in England when I was a child, but here in Scotland we have a Lammas Fair Queen. The may Queen and her consort was connected to Maid Marion and Robin Hood – a fairy tale or myth which actually related to the Goddess of Nature and her Green Man, the fun-loving and mischievous Pan. For those who have visited my shop, you will notice Pan sits in pride of place at one door whilst a beautiful maiden sits at the other – what do you mean, you have never noticed before? You look next time you pay a visit –remember, there is more to living the magickal way than one day every 6 weeks – it is a whole way of life.
Things to do at Beltane
"Don’t cast a clout till the May be out" was a saying my nan always used. I always thought she meant May as in the month, but in fact, it is the may flower Hawthorn. The may heralded the summer and until it flowered, summer hadn't begun and chillier weather could still be on it's way!! Beltane celebrations began when the first May flowered. Never pick before Beltane, as nowadays, we are ruled by the calendar, if you are lucky enough to live in a warmer climate than up here in Scotland, and some say never take indoors except on May eve, whilst others say leave at the door as a house protector. In days gone by, the doorway of all homes would be decorated with the Hawthorn blossom. The maidens on Beltane would dress their hair with the Mayflowers – maybe as a sign to the men that they weren’t spoken for.
Up here in Edinburgh, Beltane is still a huge celebration, with a monster fire on Carlton Hill. A procession of light and men pained red honour the Sun King, and the party goes on all night to see the dawn. Since the revival of the Old Ways, the celebration of Beltane has risen again. So, if there is no bonfire near you, light a red candle in a bowl of Earth and honour the Earth and the Sun and have your own Beltane Fire. Make your wish on the flame and let it burn all night. If you are really daring, then go somewhere with your partner to a safe, secluded spot, and rekindle the fire of the past, as it has always been, is now and will be again.
It was always traditional that females on their way home from the Beltane celebrations washed their delicate skin in the morning dew of the Hawthorn to ensure their beauty remained. Even Queen Guinevere rode out on Beltane to gather the Hawthorn for their May Day celebrations.
Beltane is a feast of celebration, joy and happiness looking only to the future. Your very celebration of this night is the spell for Beltane. On this night, there should be merriment, not sadness or solemnity. I am sorry, but feeling sorry for yourself or unhappy with your lot is NOT ALLOWED at Beltane. What you year ahead holds depends on how you see in the dawn. So, the Green Witch’s spell for Beltane is to wear green, ladies get hawthorn in your hair, go and have fun, make your wish on the fire, forget your worries and celebrate what you want the future to hold – not what the past has dished out to you. But, remember, for your luck to hold out, you must sleep in your own bed at sometime on this night (or morning).
As this is the night of the marriage of our Lady and Lord, and the festival of passion, for those of you still waiting to find love, here is something for you. For those in a relationship, you can use this to enhance what you have.
Have a bath with Ylang Ylang, patchouli, jasmine or rose oil, our oils of love and play romantic music to entice the mood. Dry and dress. Put flowers in your hair, as above, and adorn yourself with any of the oils above, diluted in jojoba oil to make a perfume, and place on wrists, heart and neck.
For passion, take a red candle, for love a pink one. With a crystal point, draw two intertwined hearts on the candle and anoint with love oil or one of the oils above. Now visualise being held, loved and kissed, but do not see a face as you cannot decide who comes into your life. (For those in a relationship, then see your partner). Place pink and green stones in a circle on your altar and place the candle in the centre. As you light it with a match, smile and say a few words in rhyme, such as:
Lady of the Moon, Mistress of the Night,
Bring to me with all your Might,
A man to love, who will love me,
This is my will, so mote it be.
As this candle begins to burn,
A lover true, I will earn.
Leave the candle to burn and know happiness is on its way.
A few words of warning, as those who know me will be able to quote – be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it and it may not be what you wanted at all. You have been warned. Love is the one area you must be careful – What goes around comes around x3. Remember this well. Don’t take what ain’t yours…
Talking of wishing...
The Hawthorn – tree of magick and of Beltane
The hawthorn is very distinctive with its small white flowers in May and its bright red berries later on, being covered with the thorns that give it its name and leaves that look like smaller oak leaves. The leaves, taken as a tea, are good for circulatory and cardiac problems and those suffering from emotional distress and have been used in folk medicine for centuries. The wood is knotted and not really much use to a woodworker and doesn’t even burn well in fires – in fact, it carries a lot of superstition and hawthorn should never be taken into the home! However, you can usually find lots of these trees around the fairy mounds (maybe why you don’t take it into the house as it may contain one such being!) The tree’s gnarled appearance indeed makes it enchanted in its own right but despite this, it is a very pretty tree when in full bloom. Also, the fairies use the hawthorn as a symbol of their territory (part of the triad of Oak, Ash and Thorn) and to protect their mound and as such, to leave their trees alone.
Strange things seem to happen to those who disturb and destroy such trees. In fact, in an up-to-date story, the failure of the DeLorean cars was put down by the Irish people to the fact that he personally bulldozed a fairy mound and removed the Hawthorne trees to put up his factory as the builders wouldn’t touch it. If you do remove anything from a tree, just remember the leave an offering to the tree and the little people for the gift. It would always have been used to decorate the maypole at Beltane and even into bridal flowers at this time to promote fertility in the marriage. However, when leaving to go to battle, the man would also put hawthorn under the mattress to ensure his wife’s celibacy in his absence! Those who are sad, unhappy or depressed should carry some around to magickally promote happiness whilst should any fishermen be reading this, some hawthorn leaves carried on your fishing trip helps to ensure a good catch!
Any bad habits etc....
If you have any bad habits, illness, or problems the Beltane fire is certainly one of the best times to deal with them. If your problem can be utilised into a symbol, then you simply throw the symbol into the fire (i.e. pack of cigarettes to stop smoking) but if it is more complicated than that, write it down in symbols (body with a hammer hitting the head for migraines etc). The fire will consume the symbol or paper and thus the power they have over you has been destroyed by the element of transformation. As it burns, simply state “Problem, be gone from me - this is my will, so mote it be”. Go on, magickally expel those habits and know you will feel better!!
A magickal Wish Box for Beltane
Plan your Beltane fire, whether a bonfire in the garden or beach, or an orange sphere candle on your altar.
Beforehand, get a small wooden/pretty box. Fill the bottom with dried Orange flowers and frankincense. Sit quietly and think carefully of all the things you would like to materialise in your life…and be specific: (don’t just write “pay off debts” – put the amount of money and to pay what!!). Write down all those things you wish for you and yours to take your lives forward over the next few months or even years. Make two identical lists. We have used Lodestone for spells in the past – well, time to use it again to attract those things to you, so look it out. When dusk arrives on Beltane, light your candle or bonfire, however you have chosen to represent the Beltane fire for your household. Sit and think about what you have written (be careful what you ask for as it may just happen and may not be what you wanted at all…). When the list is finalised, put one folded list in the box on top of the herbal mix and sit the lodestone on the top. Close the box. Take the other list to your fire, set it alight and let it burn, whether thrown into the fire or carefully set alight by the candle. Take your wish-box and pass it through incense, (frankincense, fire or sun), saying out loud “By the power of Fire, please bring to me, these wishes and desires, so mote it be” and place the box on your altar. Light incense on altar weekly until it be so.
Spell for Beltane – how to attract a lover
Here is a spell for all those ladies that will be wearing green on Beltane (or men for that matter).
When doing any work to find a partner, do not visualise a face or you limit the field. Also, remember you cannot alter anyone’s path or this is regarded as bad and karma will follow. So the best thing when wanting a partner to love is to select on personality. Imagine the good points of the partner that you want. Don’t go for a 6ft blonde fireman with muscles but for someone who will make you laugh and treat you like the goddess that you are.
Make a garland for your hair to wear on Beltane made from twisted ivy and one single piece of May if you can find it, otherwise perhaps some rosemary. This is to celebrate the marriage between our Lady and Lord on this night and your hope as you craft this circle, that next year you won’t have to wear the green (men can do this too, but with oak leaves and maybe honeysuckle). Now prepare your spell ingredients outside at your Beltane fire, on your altar or in the garden at dusk (this can be carried out on a full moon for the rest of the year):
Take a pink candle, some love oil, a rose and cup of water, an emerald placed between 2x small Herkimers in a spiral (for wearing later) and some rosemary & set on your altar wherever you have decided to carry this out. Hold each item separately and infuse with the feeling of being in love but no particular face…now…
Fill the cup with the water and place the rose into the cup and say:
“By this rosy cup of love, I draw love from up above”
Engrave the candle with two entwined hearts and anoint with love oil or rose oil, set behind the cup, light the candle & repeat the above saying for the 2nd time.
Place the spiral of diamond and emerald through the candle flame, into the water and onto the rose (leave in the rose if possible, otherwise sit between the candle and the cup). Now sprinkle rosemary around all and repeat the above saying for the 3rd & final time.
Let the candle burn for at least 9 minutes (3x3) before snuffing to burn nightly or leave to burn down. Take the crystal spiral and wear on a necklace under your clothes to attract your lover to you. If you are partying the rest of the night, you can anoint yourself with love oil & wear your love rose and you are all set for your magickal Beltane celebration. Continue to wear your magickal crystal spiral until your new lover has come to you.
Around 21 June, the wheel of the year turns yet again to bring us now to the shortest night and longest day of the year – that of Midsummer. As the name suggests, this is the time when we think of sunshine and beaches, fun and frolic, barbecues and salads, late nights and early mornings, and of course, that holiday we have spent all year saving for. The long days mean we return from work with hopefully warmth and sunshine still left for hours with which we can have fun in.
But what about our ancestors? What would this time have meant for them? Well, the crops would have been sown, the flowers and herbs full of bloom and Mother Nature’s bounty in full production. Now they would have protected their family, crops and animals against anything going wrong by making amulets to hang in their homes, fields and barns. Until the crops were harvested and the calves born, anything could happen and they would do their utmost to protect against damage, sickness and danger.
As this sabbat is obviously a sun celebration, the fire would be lit to honour the Sun God’s strength. The Celtic community would have lit their fire at sunset on Midsummer’s Eve and maintained it all the way until the next sunset on Midsummer’s day, thus honouring the shortest night followed by the longest day, and there would have been a whole night and day of festivities and rituals.
If you like to light a fire to the sun, twin fires are a great way of symbolising the sun’s dual nature – the waxing which has just climaxed and the waning which is soon to begin. Using this twin philosophy, if there is something you need a yes/no answer for, set up two identical candles in two matching holders, one inscribed yes and the other no. Place in an area free from drafts. Ask your question and light the candles. Whichever one burns down first is the one to hedge your bets with…simple but effective don’t you think (unless it comes up with the answer you didn’t want!!!)
Lots of outdoor festivities, barbeques, fun and frolic -so much daylight, so much fun to be had, so little time to sleep. Well that’s the plan guys, so just go with the flow. BBQ's - where men get to cook over masculine fire with stick in hand doing macho stuff, talking macho talk and drinking macho beer. Can’t you just tell it is a male sun festival when the Oak king fights the Holly king for ruler ship? Bit like how they decide who is in charge of the BBQ – they are just acting out the male role of which male is more dominant.
This is the time of the peak of nature when all the crops, flowers and gardens are all well established and when our Lady gives us the gift of happiness. The sun makes us all glad to be alive and our daily lives should show this by living each day to its fullest and celebrate – and those who have seen me go straight from work to the pub will now understand the reason. So, at Midsummer, light a bonfire on the beach or have a barbeque and a beer with the family but enjoy the Solstice - I'll certainly be having a tipple or two!!
What to do around Midsummer
Midsummer was the time to gather their magickal herbs for protection and none more so that the sunshine herb itself –St John’s Wort. This bright, sunny herb flowers around midsummer, and should be gathered, blessed by passing it over the midsummer fire, and then hung in the home for a year of protection and happiness – taking down last years and burying it.
Watch out for the Little People
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