Month: October 2016

Reinventing The Wheel

boskednan_stones_at_sunset_penwithStepping onto an earth based path was a little too unnerving for me as I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t know what I was doing. Even though I knew deep down that the faith that I was brought up with was no longer serving me, at least there was a safe familiarity about it; the routine, the boundaries, the expectations.  All of these were ironically comforting. You didn’t have to think for yourself. It was all done for you.

My fall into the void was thankfully short lived and my discovery of The Wheel of the Year gave me  structure and guidance that I so desperately needed. The Wheel of the Year as many of you will know is the seasonal cycle that celebrates the solstices, the equinoxes and the four fire festivals, the latter being based on the agricultural year and Celtic mythology. As a collective they are all known as Sabbats.

My journey along the path of seasons and ancestors was and still is a slow and appreciative one. I see the world through the eyes of a child, noticing the subtle changes of Mother Nature’s breath. Subtleties that I never would have made the time for before because I was just too busy being busy. But now I make a conscious effort to stop and take note.

How could I have seriously believed that February was Winter and August was Summer? Lambs are being born in February among the snowdrops and crocuses bursting through the frozen ground. These are the subtleties of Spring. And as for August, how did I not realise that the leaves begin to turn and the mornings hold the promise of cooler days ahead? These are the subtleties of Autumn.

As I have been celebrating each Sabbat in turn I have come to realise how much more connected I feel to the world around me.  Each spoke of the wheel gives me the opportunity to take stock of my life and appreciate how far I’ve come. With our busy modern lives it is all too easy to lose track of time as we get caught up in the daily humdrum, forgetting that we are one with the world, the world that is right outside the kitchen window.

But if we just take notice of the the earth’s rhythms, her ebbs and flows, our five senses explode into life. We see the grass snake basking in the last rays of sunshine. We hear the swallows as they take off for warmer climes. We smell the musty damp leaves as they slowly decompose and become part of the rich soil. We taste the bonfire smoke on our tongue and feel the crisp sharp wind on our face.

So this is how it has been for me for the past few years, until this Autumn when I didn’t celebrate Lughnasadh. My heart wasn’t in it, there was no anticipation and this led to me feeling very disappointed in myself. I had never missed a Sabbat, ever! I loved them all.

But I came to the stark realisation that a change was needed. I had to start thinking for myself and break away from yet another stale practice. Even following the Wheel of the Year can deprive a person of a free flowing organic spirituality.

The traditional Wheel of the Year has been a wonderful introduction to Paganism and I am grateful for the solid foundation that it has given me. But I no longer want to be comfortable. I am ready to seek out new treasures, new adventures.

My spirituality is a living, breathing  organism. Spontaneous and unpredictable and it needs to be nourished if I am to be gloriously unrestrained and feral.

So now I begin reinventing my wheel, undeterred by what others are doing.

For the moment I am just playing around with ideas, thinking about ways of personalising my spirituality. Below are just a few of them and if you have some of your own I would love to hear about them.

  1. Looking into how my ancestors would have practiced and celebrated their faith. ( Mine are Celtic, Scandinavian and Roman).
  2. Where I live has a rich Celtic and Roman history. I would love to study my local history a little more.
  3. I will mark on my calendar meaningful days to me such as Goddess Day, National Women’s Day and birthdays of inspirational people.
  4. I want to consecrate more time to being in my local environment, trusting in the signs that indicate when each season turns and not just celebrate a Sabbat because that is the date on the calendar.
  5. Spend time learning about the Deities of the seasons. At the minute I am reading Goddesses for Every Season by Nancy Blair.
  6. Meditations and devotionals at my altar.

My wish is to create my own traditions that I can build upon.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

Celebrating Samhain

Samhain night is the perfect night for divination. Set out on an inward journey guided by tarot, runes, a pendulum or perhaps even the Ogham . Ask the Divine to guide you on your spiritual path and reflect on the past twelve months. Wrap up any loose ends and release anything, be it a physical object or a relationship, that no longer serves your happiness and start anew.

Visit a family grave and decorate it with flowers, foliage, photos and drawings or perhaps a card. Bring your loved ones that have passed over their favourite treat. My Grandmother’s treat used to be Bounty chocolate and my Grandfather absolutely loved ginger biscuits.

If you are unable to visit the cemetry, then you can always create your own ancestor altar at home and decorate it any way you wish. Even if you never knew your family you can still light a candle for your ancestral line and leave some flowers or other gifts for them in gratitude for all the hardships and challenges that they would have faced for you to be here today.

Set extra places at your dinner table for your loved ones that have passed over. As the veil is thin between the two worlds it is much easier to share and talk with them. If you are unable to set places for your loved ones then you can light a candle and a photograph for each of them instead.

Sacrifice was a common custom at this time of year, so you could perhaps give something up like sugar, junk food, cigarettes or alcohol. I do realise that alcohol and sweets might be too much to ask for at this time of year!!!

Samhain wouldn’t be Samhain without a bonfire. In ancient times these fires symbolised the God’s spirit passing to the underworld and lit the way for friendly spirits, as well as keeping the bad ones away.

Go trick or treating. This ancient custom originated from the Celts who would wear masks to confuse lost spirits who would be wandering around at Samhain.

Draw out a spiral made of salt on the ground and in the centre place some pumpkin or sunflower seeds with a lit candle and a fire proof dish. As you walk to the centre think of all the burdens that you wish to release from your life and have these wories also written on  a piece of paper with you . Once in the middle of the spiral set the paper alight with the candle and let it burn carefully in the fire proof dish. Feel your worries burn away. When you are ready, pick up a seed which represents your dormant potential that is ready to sprout and take it with you as you walk your back out of the spiral. You can leave your seed on your altar so that you see it everyday, to remind you of all the incredible things that you are capable of. At the end of your ritual you can bury the ashes away from your property or if you are unable to do that you could also wrap them up in toilet paper and flush them down the toilet.

I love this time of year as it means I can watch all of my spooky films. I am not a fan of extreme horror so some of my favourites are: Coraline, Paranorman, Monster House,  Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Dark Crystal, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice, The Addams Family, Stardust, Warm Bodies, The Lost Boys and of course Practical Magic. What are some of your favourites? Don’t chastise me, but I have never watched The Craft. Maybe this year will be the year.

Take this opportunity to get crafty. Don’t go out and buy Halloween decorations make them yourself. Youtube and Pinterest are crammed packed with tutorials for decorations, costumes and party ideas. Check out my Samhain board on Pinterest.

Decorate your altar and sacred space with waning moon symbols, cauldrons, witches, ghosts, skeletons, bones and skulls, corn stalks, pumpkins and squashes, acorns and conkers, jack o’lanterns, besoms and faeries, to name just a few ideas.

Read some Gothic Victorian horror. I am reading Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the moment.

I would love to hear how you will be celebrating Samhain this year.

Brightest Blessings

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

The Origins of Samhain

Samhain is the end of the pagan and witches’ year, but it is also the beginning. We begin with an ending because we follow the cycles of nature as one thing always leads on to another.  As we become aware of the bare skeletons of the trees we notice that the only green that is left is the holly and the ivy both clinging to the trees’ branches.

300px-coligny-closeup

Coligny Calendar

The origins of the name Samhain are obscure, but one possible explanation is that it stems from the Gaelic language. The Celtic Coligny Calendar which was discovered in France shows that Samhain was celebrated over three days. Trinouxion Samonii means ‘three nights of the end of Summer’. So from sunset on 31st October pagans celebrate the third and final harvest. The harvest of herbs and meat.

At this time of year the ancient Britons would have slaughtered livestock that they believed would be too weak to survive the harsh Winter and preserved the meat for the months ahead. It was a time of uncertainty for them, of not knowing if they would survive the brutality of the approaching season.

At this time of year the veil between our world and the next is at its thinnest, enabling us to connect with our ancestors more easily. Many believe that the God’s death occurs at Samhain and it is his passing over that disrupts the barrier and makes it far more easier for spirits to cross the earth’s threshold than at any other time, except for Beltane which is directly opposite  Samhain on the Wheel of the Year.

After Christianity was accepted in Europe, the Roman Empire wanted to incorporate pagan festivals with Christian ones so as to enable the conversion of pagans to Christianity to be a smooth as possible. So All Saints Day was moved to 1st November and All Souls Day was added to 2nd November to remember the Christian dead. The mass that was held was called All Hallows Mass and the night before was called All Hallows Eve. This eventually became Halloween.

In the Middle Ages it became  traditional for the poor to be given Soul Cake if they knocked on your door in return for saying a prayer to the dead and in Ireland beggars would be given food for a feast in honour of St Columbus. Irish immigrants settling in America took these traditions with them and the begging of sweets and cake became a children’s activity. Events were eventually organised to make it safer for children on Halloween and the phrase “trick or treat” was coined for the first time  in 1939.

For me Samhain is a time to journey within and to accept that the dark is as much an integral part of me than the light. I reflect on the truth; that without the dark I am not whole and I look to the Goddess who reminds me that death is not permanent.

 

Brightest Blessings

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

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