On a (primarily) cross stitch related message board that I frequent, there is a handful of Pagans and we started a Daily Pagan thread. It’s marked as OT (Off Topic) and as REL(igious) in nature. All are welcome to come and read and ask questions, etc, but they need to expect that some things will be from a Pagan perspective. (Mostly we just talk about our day to day lives.)
One of our many lurkers posted that Summer Solstice always seemed to come too soon and then we begin to lose daylight. That got me started thinking…
One of my favorite things about Paganism is the Wheel of the Year, and the lessons that it teaches. Pagans know that just as the light doesn’t last forever, neither does the darkness.
And that led to the realization that the balance between dark and light is achieved not on the points of equality, but in the flow from one to another.
May we all find balance as the wheel turns.
It’s that time of year again… the start of summer.
This can be a rough Sabbat for a solitary, as the focus is so heavily on sexuality and lust and fertility and procreation. (In fact, being asexual in orientation, this really is the hardest Sabbat for me to get a handle on emotionally, and the hardest to connect with the energy of.)
But there are other forms of creation and passion besides sex.
Beltane might be a good time to plant a garden, weather permitting. Here in Western Pennsylvania the weather is almost reliable by Beltane: there may still be some frosts, but rarely freezes. (Although the way this year’s weather has been acting I wouldn’t be surprised to see snow!)
Do a ritual to honor the creative aspects of yourself. Do you do handcrafts? Write? Scrapbook? Draw/paint? Sculpt? Make jewelry? Spend some time with your creative pursuits — with your passions. Rekindle the flames of creativity and passion.
Want something more esoteric? Just as at Samhain, the Veil thins at Beltane, and it is said that the Fair Folk ride forth into our world. Perhaps leave something out to honor them and curry their favor?
And don’t forget to sing…
Emerald Rose: “Merry May Folk”
Damh the Bard: “Call the May”
Damh the Bard: “Under a Beltane Sun”
Damh the Bard: “Green and Grey”
I was beginning to think it would never come.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the changing of the seasons, and I think that winter has a special beauty that you don’t see in other seasons, but this one’s “special beauty” passed its prime long ago. We had over 20 inches of snow more than normal, and long streaks of abnormally cold (sub-zero) temperatures, unusual for Western Pennsylvania.
I am ready for spring.
Well, okay – spring started at Imbolc, according to the way that I see the Wheel, but it sure hasn’t been looking much like it around here.
We could still get some snow, even up into April isn’t unusual, but now the hours of daylight are going to outlast the hours of darkness. The earth is awakening and soon there will be flowers. And green!
But on the equinox itself, for a moment, day and night, lightness and darkness, will be equal, will hover briefly in balance.
That is, in part, what the equinox is about: balance, about finding it within ourselves so that we can live in and celebrate each moment, even as we remember and acknowledge that the wheel continues to turn, and that the only constant is change.
Meh… Enough with the philosophical stuff.
My plans are to maybe go out to the state park and walk along one of the trails, looking for signs of spring. (Depends on the weather and my knee.)
I’m also planning to cook ham and make deviled eggs. (Any excuse for deviled eggs!)
And I will spend some time meditating on balance, as I always do on equinoxes.
And this year I am feeling called to be more active, although I am not yet sure in what way.
Less than a week until Imbolc.
Imbolc is one of my favorite Sabbats although it was one that I had the hardest time understanding when I was starting out. For some reason I just couldn’t quite grasp what it meant.
Then one year I was working as a temp and was between assignments, when I got a phone call – on Imbolc – about a short-term job, and that was when it clicked.
Imbolc is about beginnings and possibilities and hidden promises.
I am in more or less the same position this year: between jobs. I have an interview later today for a part-time position that is ideally close to home. (A five-minute commute sure beats a sixty minute commute!)
Imbolc, in my own personal tradition (I should name my own personal tradition one of these days…) is the start of spring.
Sure, it doesn’t look like spring, at least, not here in Western Pennsylvania, but, nonetheless, it is the start of spring.
It is halfway between Midwinter Solstice and Spring Equinox, and the hours of daylight are noticeably longer.
And, in the words of one of my favorite Pagan songs, “The Rolling World”
“All life in the earth begins to unfold
As the waxing light is seen.
Each seedling will sprout into its own self,
To inspire us to be truly free.”
So, what do I do for Imbolc?
I keep an eye on the weather. (Imbolc is also known as Candlemas.)
“If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,
Winter has flown and will not come again.”
And I usually swear at the groundhog and listen to my roommate – who hates winter with a passion rarely seen in a sane individual – threaten to sell raffle tickets to see who gets to shoot him first. (Punxsutawney isn’t that far away from where I live.)
On a more spiritual level, I give thanks for new beginnings and new promises.
I plant seeds. (I’m currently torn between snapdragons, marigolds, tomatoes, or zucchinis.)
And I make rice pudding.
From my Cookbook of Shadows:
Any symbols of the sun or fertility are appropriate for this Sabbat, as are foods that incorporate milk products. (My favorite Imbolc food is rice pudding, as it incorporates fertility symbols, sun symbols, and lots of milk.)
1 cup rice, cooked and drained — wash pan and cook these ingredients:
4 cups of milk — symbolizing the milk of the Goddess
1 cup of sugar — for the sweetness of life
2 eggs, beaten — symbolizing both the sun and new life/fertility
1 tblsp cornstarch — to thicken and bind
1 tsp vanilla — because every recipe has vanilla in it
Add rice and cook (over Brigid’s Fire) stirring until it is like custard.
While stirring in a deosil (clockwise) direction, visualize the things you want to draw into your life. This is also a good coven or family activity, as everyone can take turns stirring it.
May the growing light show you the way to yourself.
First, let’s clear up my favorite bit of propaganda: Samhain is not named after the Druid god of death.
For one thing, the Druids didn’t have a god of death.
For another thing, the name means “summer’s end.”
So how did it get to be associated with death, Druid god or not?
Simple, Samhain is the final harvest, the last of the three harvest festivals. Anything left in the fields after this belonged to the Fey and could not be harvested, but more than that, this is when animals that would not be kept through the winter were slaughtered and their meat preserved for the coming months.
Granted, in modern times we don’t worry so much about laying in supplies for the winter (except in areas where it snows and the mention of a possible snowstorm sends people on a frantic run to the grocery store for bread, milk, eggs, and toilet paper), so Samhain has taken on a different emphasis.
The Veil Between the Worlds is at its thinnest (see earlier comment about not taking the Fey’s food) and some believe that the spirits of the dead come back to visit their loved ones at this time.
So, at Samhain, Pagans honor their dead. (Think of it as our Memorial Day: we honor the spirits of those who have passed through the Veil.)
We do this in various ways: the most common are to set an extra place at the table for them and to spend some time meditating and remembering them and their influence on our lives. Most of us also do some sort of divination now, although it doesn’t necessarily involve the spirits.
My own traditions for Samhain primarily revolve around a special meal with foods that (mostly) hold a special significance.
Ham: in honor of Cerridwen, Keeper of the Cauldron of Rebirth (and Inspiration), to Whom pigs were sacred and Who was known as “The Great Sow.” (It was not an insult – pigs were important.)
Along with the ham are potatoes, both white and sweet. Why? Well, I like potatoes. But also because they grow beneath the ground so have a connection to death and the underworld.
Dessert consist of chocolate cherry upside down cake and pecan pies. The pecan pies are in honor of my paternal grandfather as they were a favorite of his. (He also loved three bean salad but I can’t stand the smell of it, let alone the taste, so he has to make do with dessert if he visits.) And the chocolate cherry upside down cake because it is dark and sweet, and the red of the cherries on the near black of the cake is a reminder of the ancient association with death – blood spilled onto the earth. (Add a plop of whipped cream, though, and it has the three colors of the Goddess, which gives me an excuse to make it any time.)
What traditions do you have for Samhain? A special meal? A special ritual? If you don’t have any, why not start?