Month: July 2017

Celebrating Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is the celebration of Summer’s End and the harvesting of our efforts both on a physical level as well as a mental and emotional one. As the sun’s brightness continues to fade,  we are invited to celebrate our accomplishments so far, before going within to reflect and assess what this means and to ask ourselves where we go from here. We all have an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to grow from them, preparing ourselves for the darker half of the year. So like the god of the harvest, ask yourself what sacrifices can you make now that will benefit you later on? And in what ways can you celebrate this turning point in your life?

This is a time to remember all of those people who are less fortunate than ourselves and to share our time or money with them. Baking a cake and gifting it to an elderly neighbour or offering to do some shopping for them are just two easy things we can do. Donating food to a food bank is also a great way to encourage the flow of abundance which is one of the core messages of Lughnasadh.

Gratitude is the other key message of Lughnasadh. We can show our gratitude by honouring our ancestors with offerings and remembrance. It is important to reflect on their hardships and sacrifices, especially at this time of year, which for their community was a matter of life or death; a concept that is impossible for us to grasp in this day and age of convenience.

Being mindful of where our food comes from and how it is grown and harvested helps us to seek out more ethical and natural choices when it comes to our grocery shopping and to appreciate the earth’s cycles that produce it for us.

To show our appreciation for our living kin, a family gathering could be organised or if this isn’t possible then a simple phone call to let someone you love know that you are thinking of them.

Baking your own bread, cakes or biscuits is wonderful to do no matter what time of year it is, but especially at Lughnasadh when you can offer up your hard work to deity, the land and to the creatures who live there. To make your baked goods even more special decorate them with sigils and herbs.

Go outside and enjoy the shift in the seasons. The mornings and evenings are cooler now, but there are still plenty more days of sunshine and listening to crickets.

Now is the time to gather seeds for next year’s planting. You could even make your own rattle with the larger seeds that you can then use for cleansing your home, your aura or use in ritual.

Start harvesting and drying herbs as well so that you will have what you need to make your own smudge sticks, skincare treatments, spells and remedies.

Crafting corn dollies is an ancient tradition that our ancestors did to honour the harvest. These are straightforward to make even without corn husks. You can use stalks of grass, twine, ribbon and flowers instead. There are many tutorials online that will inspire you.

And lastly how about finding a recipe for making your own cordial or lemonade? Perfect for that weekend family gathering.

Please share any ideas that you have for celebrating Lughnasadh. Do you have any plans yet? For me, gratitude will definitely be the centre point of my ritual this year. Even when things are tough, just remembering the smallest of blessings and being grateful for them can only allow us to receive the abundance that we deserve.

Brightest blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Origins of Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh is the Irish festival that celebrates the beginning of the first harvest and honours the Celtic sun god Lugh, as well as his foster mother Tailtiu, who is an earth goddess. The word Lughnasadh is a combination of the name Lugh and the word nasadh meaning assembly. Its older Gaelic name is Bron Trogain which means sacrifice of the earth.  In Wales the day is known as Calan  Awst which originally was a Latin name. This festival is usually celebrated on 1st August and also goes by the name of Lammas which derives from the Anglo-Saxon hlaef mass, meaning loaf mass.

Some Pagans believe that the goddess is heavily pregnant at this time and that the bountiful mother mourns the death of the god as he sacrifices himself to the earth, with the cutting of the corn and in its place poppies grow symbolising his blood. The goddess knows that she will not be mourning him for long, for at Yule he will be reborn from her womb and the cycle will begin again.

Very similar to the Roman god Mercury, Lugh was known as a god of skill and craftsmanship. He was known as the many skilled god because he had countless abilities including healing, warfare, prophecy, music and poetry. One story tells that when Lugh realises that he is being refused entry to Tara he begins reeling off all of the great things that he can do, but to no avail.  The guard at the gates continues refusing him entry by saying, ” We’ve got someone here who can already do that”. Finally, an unwavering Lugh asks,” But do you have someone here that can do all of these things?”

According to Irish myth Lugh was the grandson of a Fomorian called Balor of the Evil Eye. The Fomorians were a terrible race of people that were enemies of the Tuatha de Danann. Balor was told a prophecy that he would one day be killed by his grandson. On hearing this he imprisoned his daughter Eithne inside a cave on Tory Island so that she could never have children.

However, Cian, a young man from the Tuatha de Danann who wanted Balor dead, managed to track down Eithne and he seduced her. When Cian was found out he was murdered and later when Eithne gave birth to three boys they were all thrown into the sea. Lugh was the only child to survive having been saved by a blacksmith who brought him up as his own son.

Many years later Lugh turned up at the court of Nuadhu, the king of the Tuatha de Danann. The king was so impressed with Lugh’s many skills that he abdicated, offering up his throne to Lugh, who then went into the battle of Moytura with his men and indeed killed Balor. This victory secured the country of Ireland ensuring its peace and prosperity.

The Book of Invasions, which chronicles the early history of Ireland tells us that Lugh became associated with the harvest after he had held a funeral feast and athletic games in honour of his foster mother Tailtiu.

Tailtiu, who’s name probably comes from Talantiu meaning “the great one of the earth”, once lived on the magical hill of Tara and was the daughter of a man called Firbolg the king of the Great Plain. She was said to have died of exhaustion after having cleared the forest of Breg so that her people could grow food and avoid starvation. It took her a whole month to create the plain of Oenach Taillten. It is believed that Tailltiu may have been an earth goddess who represented the harvest and the earth’s bounties.

The funeral games in her honour were called the Oenach Tailten and took place at Tailtin in what is now County Meath Ireland.  It is said that Tailtiu asked Lugh to hold these games every harvest so that each home would forever have corn and milk. These Olympic style games lasted several days and would have consisted of trading, marriage arrangements and contract signing. Trial marriages were also conducted here whereby young couples would join hands through a hole in a wooden door. These Teltown marriages that enacted the marriage of Lugh to the goddess Eire, after whom Ireland is named, would last a year and a day. After this time they could go on to marry or else go their separate ways with no further consequences. These customs stopped in the 12th century at the time of the Norman conquest.

The Celts being more than just one people had many gods and goddesses and most of them were attached to local landmarks. However, Lugh is one of the exceptions because he was honoured over a much wider area of Europe. There have been innumerable inscriptions and statues dedicated to Lugh found even as far away as Spain and Julius Caesar remarked how important this god was to the Celts. There was also a Lugus god cult in Lyon France (Lugundum) and the Welsh god Llew Llaw Gyffes is thought to be connected to Lugh, as well as there being a link to the Arthurian knight Sir Lancelot. There are other towns linked to Lugh also; Carlisle (Lugabalium) on the Scottish border and Leiden in the Netherlands.

In British folklore there exists a man called John Barleycorn, a figure that symbolises the harvest of the barley as well as the whiskey and beer that is made from it. In Robert Burns traditional folk song,  John Barleycorn is described as having to suffer many kinds of indignities which correspond with the agricultural cycle of planting, growing and harvesting.

There were many customs throughout Europe around the harvesting of the crops. The first sheaf of wheat would be ceremoniously cut at dawn, winnowed, ground into flour and baked into the harvest bread which was then gratefully shared within the community. The last sheaf was also ceremoniously cut and often made into a corn dolly dressed in ribbons and cloth and was carried into the village as the focal point of the harvest supper. If the harvest had been a success then the corn dolly was made into the image of a maiden, but if the harvest had been bad then the corn dolly resembled a cailleach.

In some parts of Europe it was tradition to weave the last sheaf into a large corn mother with a corn baby inside her that represented the next harvest.

Sometimes the last sheaf would be placed above the hearth of the home, placed in a tree trunk or mixed with the grain for the following year’s planting. In some way it found itself returned to the earth so that the fertile spirit of the harvest god could live on.

Once the harvest had been stored away safely then the festivities could begin. A bull was sacrificed, circle dancing was performed and people feasted. Much of this took place on top of hills. Tributes were also brought to the king such as venison, fish and fruit.

A tradition of Lughnasadh that still survives today across Britain and Ireland is the wake fair, although it has sadly lost its original meaning of mourning the death of the sun. The most well known is the Puck Fair which is held every year in early august in Killorglin, County Kerry. The fair has been traced back to the 16th century, but it is believed to have origins that go further back still. At the beginning of this three day festival a goat is brought  into the town and is crowned “king”, while a local girl is crowned “queen”. The festival includes traditional music and dancing, a parade, arts and crafts workshops, a horse and cattle fair and a market. Young men and women from Irish traveller families also get a chance to come together.

I cannot believe that I have now come full circle with the origins of the wheel of the year, having begun writing these posts last September. I will continue writing these types of posts, but for the foreseeable future I will be specifically concentrating on Norse traditions.

If you know of any traditions or folklore surrounding Lughnasadh then I would love to hear about them,

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jumping off the Spiritual Bus (and why I am no longer eclectic)

For many people who break away from Christianity, the realisation that the world is their oyster sinks in pretty quickly. I was no different and the feeling of euphoria was incredible, albeit overwhelming. Feeling like a child in a sweet shop I travelled around the world picking a little something from every belief system I wanted and began tailor making my own spirituality.

At times I must admit this did leave a bitter taste in my mouth. The words “cultural appropriation” cropped up now and again, but I drowned them out with the excuse that I was a universal spirit, a part of the diversity that is life. I believed that just because I wasn’t a Native American or Tibetan Monk in this life time, didn’t mean that I wasn’t one in a previous life time.  We were all part of the same spiritual soul family.

And this is how my life went on with me jumping off the spiritual bus, doing my shopping and then getting back on again, to only get off at the next stop a little further down the road.

At the beginning of this year, however, the unease of mixing different spiritual beliefs within my practice came back in full force. An understanding hit me; I was lost because I had cut myself off from my own ancestral roots. I was caught in the shining lights of exotic lands. I thought I believed that I was honouring my ancestors, but how could I be if I was off walking the Medicine Wheel?  Where did I belong? Where was my spiritual and ancestral home? There was just too much vying for my attention and it was making it extremely difficult for me to cultivate a deep and meaningful spiritual practice.

Today I see this as a growing trend, not only in spiritual circles, but across the board. We seem to be a society intent on being all inclusive, one people, one world, but in doing so we are losing little by little our own heritage, culture, traditions and identity. The older I get the more I have become to realise that I should be proud of where I come from and that it is my duty to preserve my ancestral roots in this life so that my descendants can be proud of where they come from too.

We have already lost so much of our own heritage that when I see book titles such as, “Australian Druidry” or “Zen Druidry”, I just want to cry. We already know next to nothing about the ancient Druids’ and Celts’ beliefs and practices so why destroy what we do know by mixing and diluting it with another belief system?

So this is why I no longer wish to feel like a wanderer or be eclectic in my spirituality. I want to simply settle down and accept that I am not a part of other cultures, whom I have a deep respect for, but I am a part of my own. The blood of my ancestors runs through my veins and there is no need for me to look elsewhere for spiritual guidance. My European ancestors have such deep roots that span millennia and miles that I have all that I need right under my feet. The Celts, the Romans, the Norse, the Anglo-Saxons. the Slavs, the list goes on. I don’t need to look for answers in other cultures that I have absolutely nothing in common with and I no longer want to take for granted what I have right under my own nose.

But what if I feel really drawn to another spirituality that isn’t part of my own heritage you may ask?

I suggest that you really question why it is that you feel this way; spend time looking at your reasons and see if you can find similarities within your own ethnic traditions. For example, each ancient culture has its own names for their gods and goddesses, but the archetypes are the same across the world. So let’s imagine that you feel drawn to Enumclaw the Cherokee god of lightning, but you are European and not Native American. Research the mythology of European thunder/lightning  gods such as Thor ( Norse), Perun (Slavic) or Zeus (Greek), there are obviously many more.

The same goes for practices such as meditation or yoga; again each culture has its own way of doing this. How about researching Norse Shamanism or Runic Yoga as a start?

Taking a DNA test is a fantastic way for you to begin researching your pre-Christian ancestors and their traditions. My own results have shed light on why I have felt drawn to certain places and people and I have spent a lot of time with each of my ancestral branches. However, I keep being drawn back to my Scandinavian roots and since I now have a flourishing relationship with the Goddess Skadi, I have decided this is where I really want to be.

As for yourself, at least consider your own ethnic traditions first before deciding to go down a foreign spiritual path.

I do not regret having been eclectic and I am truly grateful for everything that this path has gifted me, but I believe that invariably we all one day feel a stronger pull to what is inherently in our blood and bones.

So do you follow wholly a spiritual path once walked by your ancestors? Or are your beliefs more eclectic? I would love to hear about your spiritual journey and the reasons behind your own choices.

Brightest blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Healing Energies of Seashells

Since the beginning of humankind, man has experienced first hand the healing power of the earth and its potential to transform our mind, body and spirit. Most of us are well aware of how we can heal our ailing bodies through the use of herbs, trees, flowers, organic food and even crystals. But have you ever thought about the healing potential that radiates from seashells?

The human body is made up of 70% water and surprisingly enough this is the same percentage that covers the Earth’s surface too. Our ancestors felt this connection; they embraced it and so can we.

Seashells and other gifts from the Earths’ watery womb have played an important part in our human story. These flawless creations would be foraged by our ancestors and used for adornment, currency,  dying cloth, cooking utensils, ceremonial tools and sacred objects as well as a food source.

Water purifies everything it touches and shows us how we can flow around life’s obstacles, instead of attempting to crash head on into them. With stillness and patience we can eventually find ourselves walking upon new sun drenched shores. We become cleansed, nourished and liberated. Water also symbolises abundance because from it all things can grow.

The ocean’s healing energies are deeply ingrained in seashells which makes them the perfect tools for transformation and body sacredness. Using seashells in your holistic practice can ease tension, stress and even pain. Through my own practice I have found that their energies are much softer than crystals, but are just as effective nonetheless.

Hinged shells such as scallops and mussels have beautiful patterns within them that radiate outwards. These shells are ideal to use when you wish to increase the flow of energy within your body as well as for balancing it. Place these shells on or around your body as you are lying down, with the widest part of the shell pointing towards your feet. This allows any stagnant energy to flow easily out of your body.

Spiral shells such as conch, cowries, whelks and abalone are ideal for more precise healing and work in a similar way as a quartz crystal point would. Hold the shell over the point of the body that you wish to heal and rotate the shell anti-clockwise for no more than five minutes to create change. If you follow this with a different spiral shell in a clockwise motion then an increase of positive energy will occur. All shells can be cleansed in water and sea salt. You can also leave them to charge under a full moon as you would with crystals, as the bond between the ocean and the moon is so strong.

The wonderful thing about using seashells for healing is that all you need is your intuition and nothing else. There is no chance of you doing anything wrong.  To get started you could place shells on your chakra points (on their own or with crystals). Scallops and limpets lie nicely on knees and shoulders and on the third eye if you have a headache. Holding a cowrie shell in each hand is extremely relaxing and you could have a go at using a slightly larger one for massage. And lastly, another thing I love doing is placing shells within my crystal grids; my intentions flowing between healing and abundance.

Finding your own seashells will make your healing even more attuned to your body.

Do you use seashells in your healing or spiritual practice? If you do I would love to hear about it.

Brightest blessings,

Hazel xxx

 

 

 

 

 

© 2017 Wytch Hazel Cottage

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑