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Mercury Retrograde – A Self Fulfilling Prophecy?

It is barely a week now that Mercury has been in retrograde and social media is drowning in information on how to survive this cosmic event that will unleash havoc and chaos over the next three weeks.

So what exactly is Mercury in retrograde and why does it scare people to the point that they blame every single thing that goes wrong in their lives on a planet that is 48 million miles away?

The planets do not move in perfect circles around the sun and from our view point on Earth they sometimes look like they stop in their tracks and then move backwards. This is called retrograde motion. It is just like when you are overtaking a slower car which is still moving forwards, but appears to be falling back. So you could say that this is an optical illusion. But no planet actually slows down, stops or changes direction.

Mercury is not the only planet that goes retrograde, but somehow over recent years it has unfortunately earned the worst reputation out of them all. Some people believe that when a planet is in retrograde everything goes out of sync, affecting all the areas that the planet normally governs, so in Mercury’s case that would be commerce, travel, communication and information. And because  Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and has an orbit of only 88 days, we are overtaken by it three to four times a year. Which means three to four times a year we have Mercury in retrograde.

If people get the idea in their heads that something bad is going to happen then this is more than enough to actually make something bad happen. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. If we actively look for something to go wrong then we will absolutely find it. Mercury in retrograde is an easy excuse to blame our woes on. Your doctor’s appointment was cancelled? Must be Mercury in retrograde! Your train was late? Mercury in retrograde!  This planet is a  scapegoat if you will and Mercury’s influence is vastly overestimated by people; even astrologers. How can an optical illusion have this much control over someone? It’s because they allow it to.

You do not need protecting from a planet in retrograde and please do not be scared by all these posts on social media declaring things like. “Do not travel, do not purchase a computer, do not buy a car or sign important documents.” This is scaremongering.

When a planet is in retrograde especially when it is in your birth chart it is a chance to go within, to meditate or journal, to think about lessons you can learn from and to cultivate self love and patience. Be mindful of self talk and how you interact with others. Your mindset is your most powerful tool. We cannot always have control over what happens to us, but we can control how we perceive it. Remember, don’t react, just act.

Brightest blessings,

Hazel xxx

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating The Spring Equinox

I cannot believe that Spring is well and truly here and even though where I am in the south of England it is still a little cold and drizzly, the flowers, tree blossoms and birds remind me that it is definitely true. So to bring a little Springtime into your life this Ostara, here are a few lovely ways that you can celebrate the lighter days.

  • Creating sacred outdoor space is a wonderful way to soak in the energies of Spring. After weeding and clearing up you could decorate a little corner with handcrafted mobiles, painted flower pots, prayer flags, wind chimes, a shrine or altar with offerings of shells, flowers and pebbles for nature spirits or deity. Don’t feel left out if you live in an apartment, just bring nature inside. Windowsills, shelves and counter tops can all be covered with plants, flowers and herbs.
  • An obvious one I know, but decorating blown eggs is an inexpensive and fun way to celebrate the Spring Equinox. These can be hung with colourful ribbons from windows or even tree twigs in a vase. Experiment with natural dyes like beetroot, dandelion flowers or onion skin. There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest for this.
  • Continuing with egg shells, a cute way of using broken egg shells is to put a little compost into half an egg shell and plant a bulb or some watercress seeds inside.
  • What better way to honour this time of year than to pick up litter from parks or beaches, so as to allow Mother Nature to breath.
  • You can continue with the Spring cleaning and decluttering that you began at Imbolc. Let go of everything that is holding you back from being happy, be it on a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level. Clean with natural products, essential oils and salt even, all blessed with your own positive intentions.
  • Once your space is clean, a Spring Home Blessing can be performed by walking around each room, not forgetting those pesky corners, with a smoking herb bundle,  ringing a bell and carefully flicking salt water. Then you can say a few words yourself perhaps like,”I bless and protect this space with the love and light of the Goddess.” It doesn’t need to be grande occasion, just something small and simple, but it will really kick stagnant energy out and will fill your space with positively flowing prana.
  • Now that we are on the tipping point of having more light, use the waxing solar energy to boost goals and projects.
  • You could perhaps make your own Equinox water by filling a glass bowl with spring water and leaving it outside from dawn to midday. This can be used in your home blessing, your Equinox ritual or keep it to revitalize your plants with.
  • Perform a ritual for the passing of the dark half of the year. A white candle can be lit to represent the light half of the year and a black candle for the dark half.
  • This is the perfect time to do prosperity seed spells because you can use the energy of the germinating seed to fuel a goal of yours that you are wishing to achieve.
  • There’s still just enough time to get those bird boxes up. These are a great way to not only give birds a helping hand, but they can be very decorative and brighten up your outside space. Insect hotels can be built easily and inexpensively as well. Your garden will be a real wildlife haven.
  • Are you lacking drive? Meditating on the lunar hare is a fabulous way to connect with your inner creativity and fertile passion for life.
  • The easiest one of all is of course getting yourself outside, to the park, beach, forest or ancient site. Just to feel the breeze and sun on your face even for 5 minutes can do a magnitude of good for you on all levels.

So here were 13 easy ways to celebrate Spring. I would love to hear how you celebrate the equinox. If you want to ask me any questions about what I have written or anything to do with holistic living, green witchcraft or paganism, then don’t hesitate to contact me. I am more than happy to answer your questions.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

The Origins Of Ostara

The celebration of Ostara or the Spring Equinox  and Alban Eilir (the festival of trees) normally falls around 20th March every year. Day and night are balanced for just a short moment before the days grow noticeably longer and warmer.

Deep within the earth life is sprouting, as wildlife and cattle prepare to give birth. The joyful rebirth of the Earth has truly begun. Everything in nature is coming alive and Demeter has been reunited with her daughter Persephone who is back from the underworld of Hades.

Ostara or Eostre is a popular mainstream name used today in place of the term Spring Equinox in some pagan communities. She is seen as an Anglo- Saxon goddess who is portrayed as the goddess of Spring, but is there any historical evidence to support this?

The only reference that can be found is in the writings of the Venerable Bede (673-735) titled The Reckoning of Time which describes the solar and lunar cycles followed by Pagans which they used to determine the course of the year. He explains that the months took their name from the moon, “for the moon is called mona and the month monath”. He continues, “The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giulli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April Eosturmonath…”

Talking about Pagans he explains,”Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated Paschal month and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month”.

This is the only source that we have on Ostara. We don’t know anything about the kind of feasts that took place and there is no mention of chicks, eggs, rabbits or hares; only that she was honoured in April. Christians then applied the name which today is Easter to one of their most important feasts.

If the Anglo-Saxons did honour a goddess at the time of the Spring Equinox then it would have been the goddess Hrede for whom Hrethmonath was named after.

Modern mythology attempts to associate Ostara with hares, eggs and hot cross buns, but there is no evidence at all for these. In some parts of 17th and 18th century England, however,  it was customary to hunt hare on Good Friday or to try and catch a hare on Easter Monday. Eggs were painted and eaten on Easter Sunday with relish as they were  forbidden during Lent and the cross on hot cross buns again is a Christian symbol.

So any stories that you do come across pertaining to the goddess Ostara are sadly just that, stories. Like the tale of Ostara finding a dying bird and being unable to save it transforms it into a rabbit. This story is said to be the origins of the Easter Rabbit.

Another explanation for the Easter Rabbit comes from the confusion of hares giving birth in shallow depressions in the ground that look like bird nests. Some birds like plovers, nest in the ground and when people used to come across the eggs they believed that the hares had laid them.

The Easter Rabbit was first mentioned in German literature in 16th century, when good children who decorated their hats with nests  would be rewarded with painted eggs.

Rabbits were also considered lucky by minors and there is evidence of the association of tin and rabbits inside several churches in Devon that have roof ornaments called Tinners Rabbits. These triangular carvings depict three rabbits sitting down, facing different directions and all joined by the ear.

The hare is also seen as sacred to the Lunar goddess and witches were thought to be able to turn themselves into hares too.

Some pagans believe that at this time of year the goddess is still a maiden, young and carefree just like the god. She courts the young god and their relationship is consummated at Beltaine.

If you know of any tales or ancient customs associated with this time of year then I would love you to share them.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

Celebrating Imbolc

The time of Imbolc is a perfect opportunity to spring clean your home. You could have a go at making your own natural cleaning products,  adding as well some essential oils for a beautiful fresh scent with none of the nasties. I love using lavender and tea tree oil in mine for their germ busting properties. There are so many recipes online for every cleaner you could possibly need. So have some witchy fun in the kitchen concocting your cleaning brews; add your intentions to the mix and you have some cleaning magick.

When your home is spotless, decluttered and fresh, how about thinking of yourself for a change. We can never have enough self love, so just take a moment to think about what you are eating and drinking and how now is the time to go outside and move your body. Healthy doesn’t have to mean deprivation. And before I forget treat yourself to a home spa. I use organic beauty products or I make my own from what I have in the larder. I love my natural foot scrub that I make with sugar and a little olive oil, although any oil you have in your kitchen will do. I swear afterwards it feels like walking on clouds!

If you still have your Christmas/Yule tree in your garden and haven’t gotten around to recycling it then maybe you can hold a ritual burning of the evergreens. Your natural wreaths and garlands can be used as well. Even the Yule log if you didn’t get a chance to burn it all, but make sure you put some aside to light next Yule’s log with. A bonfire or fire pit will do and you can throw in a hand written piece of paper of everything in your life that no longer makes your soul sing. This is a lovely way to say goodbye to one season and say hello to the new one.

Go outside and spend time in your local park or woods. The trees are waking up from their long sleep, so talk to them, meditate with them, hug them (ask their permission first though!) and leave them an offering that is earth friendly.

One thing that I am going to try for the first time this year is make my own salt dough offering stones, which I am planning to leave at several places that I will be visiting over the course of Imbolc. Again there are plenty of recipes on how to make these online.

Imbolc is a traditional time to visit wells and springs, their waters are potent with healing and cleansing energies. If you have been poorly, you can soak a small rag made of natural fibres in the water and hang it on a nearby tree. It is believed that when these “clouties” rot away so does the illness or whatever you wish to unburden yourself of. You could also soak a ribbon in the water that you can hang up while offering up a prayer to the Divine. While you are at the well or spring you could tidy up the surrounding area or plant native bulbs or wildflower seeds. Before you go thank the healing waters and leave an offering made of natural materials or some berries and nuts.

Pick up litter. Even if you didn’t drop it yourself we are responsible for the Earth’s well being and we need to allow her to breath. Though we really need to be looking out for rubbish all year round.

This is the time to start thinking about planting veg and herb seeds indoors  and it is also the perfect time to plant trees.

Brighten up your personal space with fresh plants, flowers and candles. Burn incense and hang up little bags of bamboo charcoal air fresheners in each room. These are fantastic for removing toxins and odours from the air as well as increasing the amount of negative ions in your home.

Continue feeding the birds and leaving out fresh water for them. Now is the time to get those bird boxes up, but check first what the best height and position is for the type of birds you are wanting to attract.

At Imbolc we look to Goddess Brigid for creative inspiration. Try writing some poetry, paint, craft, make a Brigid’s cross (two years ago I made one out of pipe cleaners) or learn a new instrument. I am thinking about learning the Irish whistle. Watch this space!

Lastly, begin planning your year and make it your most exciting yet. Use these Spring  energies to boost your drive and determination and start living the life you deserve.

I hope these ideas inspire you and have a wonderful Imbolc.

Please share any of your Imbolc plans. I would love to hear about them.

Many Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

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Imbolc

Imbolc means “the belly of the mother” or Oimelc “the feast of ewe’s milk” and it falls around 1st February. This festival of light also known as Disfest and Candlemas is a time that is balanced between two worlds. We can still see and feel the fingers of Winter resting on the land, but if you look closely enough there are signs of the promise of new life breaking through the fog and ice.

The time for awakening is now. All of our dreams and goals that have been gestating over the past season are ready to break forth and are searching for the nourishment of the sun. The period of contemplation and inner workings has come to an end and determination and drive are needed now to create momentum.

At Imbolc many Pagans honour the Goddess Brigid the patron of midwives, blacksmiths, poets, fertility and healing, as well as corn and cattle. She is known by many names and there are just as many myths and legends about her too. Brigid is a fire Goddess who lights the hearths of the poor and who kindles the flames inside of us, sustaining us through difficult times.

She is a Celtic Goddess who was incorporated into Saint Brigid of Kildare Ireland during the sixth century and Bride in Scotland. She is also linked with the Goddess Brig of the Brigantes, an ancient culture in the North of England. Personally, I believe that there are traces of her much earlier than this. There are glimpses of her during the time of the Picts and even as far back as the Neolithic.

This time of year was very important to the Celtic people and they had many customs and traditions that were handed down from generation to generation.

Doll like figures of Brigid called Brideog were fashioned out of barley. This sheaf traditionally had a shell or small crystal over the heart and represented the guiding star of Brigid. A talisman of protection and prosperity it was believed to bring good fortune for the coming year. The doll was often greeted and blessings were asked of her. During the Winter the doll was returned to the fields or forests once the shell or crystal had been removed.

Goddess Brigid was said to visit people’s homes at Imbolc, so in preparation for this, a small bed was made for her out of a box or basket. By welcoming Brigid to stay overnight our ancestors were symbolically asking that her gifts of fertility and healing be bestowed upon the household. The hearth was also dedicated to Brigid; it was a sacred space for food preparation, family gatherings and a source of warmth and light.

Brigid’s cross and sun wheels were symbols of sympathetic magic and were used to encourage the sun to grow in strength. These were also protective charms for thatchers.

It was customary to leave some bread, cake and milk for Brigid with a candle in the window so that she would know to come in. Another custom was to throw a sheaf of oats or some bread or cake against the front doorstep on the eve of Imbolc to drive away hunger during the coming months and an offering of hay, grass or corn was also made for Brigid’s cow.

In some areas of Britain a procession of young people would accompany Brigit around the village on Imbolc Eve to beg alms. Brigit was normally a girl dressed in costume or a doll. If it was a group of girls they would dress in white and sing and dance as they went from house to house. They were known as the Bride Maiden Band. In some villages, boys dressed up as girls and known as Biddy Boys went begging from door to door. This idea was probably to emulate Brigid’s good work as she was known to collect clothes, food and money for the poor. People would give cheese, eggs, butter, biscuits or money because it was thought that this would encourage a good harvest, prosperity and good luck.

Some stories say that Brigid had a magical cloak that possessed healing and protective powers and could expand for miles on end. The cloak’s colour was originally green, but when she became a saint the colour changed to white. It was said that if you left a piece of cloth outside on Imbolc eve then Brigid would bless it with the same powers of her cloak. This was beneficial for sick animals and would have been kept for the whole year until the following Imbolc when it would be blessed anew.

Brigid’s magickal girdle or belt had the same healing powers as her cloak and the four crosses that were said to be embroided on it symbolized protection at all four cardinal directions. People would craft a long belt from straw and step through it three times, kissing it as they went through right foot first. This was seen as a symbol of rebirth and would ensure good health and protection.

In ancient times pilgrims would travel from afar to bring offerings and ask for blessings at sacred wells and springs dedicated to Brigid. Long before coins were thrown into the waters, brass rings, silver and gold were offered. People would bathe in the healing waters and dress the well or spring with flowers, leaves and pieces of cloth.

Brigid is not the only Goddess that is remembered at Imbolc. The Cailleach was said to gather firewood at Imbolc so she would have enough to see her through to the warmer months. Legend says that if the Cailleach wants the cold to last a bit longer then Imbolc would be bright and sunny, so as to allow her to collect firewood. So you can imagine how relieved our ancestors must have been when Imbolc was overcast and wet. It meant that the Cailleach was fast asleep and Winter was almost over.

There are many more myths and legends surrounding Imbolc, particularly about Brigid and if you know of any I haven’t mentioned or you know of some traditions, then I would love you to share them.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

How I Start My Day The Spiritual Way

For many years while my children were growing up, my morning routine usually consisted of me falling out of bed on auto pilot, making sure everyone was ready for work, college or home schooling and then trying to survive the day by getting through teaching, chores and random activities my brain decided were a good idea to do at the time. Before I knew it I was collapsing back into bed and bracing myself for another crazy day that would begin again the following morning.

I know that I am not the only one that this has happened to. We are all susceptible to losing ourselves in the doing, in the busyness of life. We somehow disconnect ourselves from what is truly meaningful and important to us and there is an emptiness inside of us that cannot be sated by the physical world alone.

And it was with this realization which slowly began to dawn on me that I knew in my soul that if I didn’t change now, then my life would stay exactly the same. It was time to put myself first. I was undernourished physically, mentally and spiritually and because of this I was not only depriving myself, but I was also depriving all of those that I cared about. I needed a structure that would not only support me, but would motivate me as well.

One of the things that lifestyle experts and successful people all have in common is their morning routine. It sets them up for the day and makes them more productive and happy. The concept of a morning routine or ritual sounded like it was definitely worth a try and after months of tweaking my own I have finally found something that works for me.  I can honestly say that it has definitely made a huge difference to how my day unfolds and it has not only become the foundation of my general well being (or should I say sanity), but also my spirituality.

I have found that by committing myself to having sacred time first thing in the morning has helped me to have a deeper connection with Deity, my family and the world around me. I am more focused, I am getting more done and I am flowing more easily with life’s rhythms instead of trying unsuccessfully to swim up stream.

I must admit that it isn’t always easy and each time I fall off the wagon I just get back on again. With having been very poorly with four different viruses since last August, I try not to beat myself up if I miss a morning. I listen to my own rhythms and allow my body to lead the way. But when I don’t miss my morning practice then it is extremely gratifying.

Now that my children are much older I do admit that it is much easier to set aside time for me in the morning. However, if you yourself have very young children then please do not feel disheartened. Instead of trying to fit in all of your sacred time in the morning why not spread it out throughout your day. Just 5 minutes here and there can make all the difference. You can absolutely find three minutes to meditate. That is how I started and now I am meditating for 10 minutes a day.

This is what my morning routine looks like for the moment. I am not always able to do this exactly because I live with three other people in a small cottage, but I do my best.

The first thing I do when I wake up is stretch, getting all of those kinks and knots out of my body. I start by rolling my head slowly in a circular movement, then I work my way down through my shoulders, arms, waist, legs and down to the feet. It’s basically a gentler version of a warm up you would normally do before an exercise session. Whilst I am stretching I think about what I am grateful for which always helps to put things into perspective.I always do my best to focus on what I have rather than what I don’t have.

And before I forget, first and foremost don’t have any technology, no television, no phone and no internet, for at least the first hour. I only go on my phone to check the exact position of the moon and that is it. Otherwise you get sucked into a black hole of epic time wasting.

Now that the cold season is here I drink a mug of Pukka’s Elderberry and Echinacea tea. While the tea is steeping I open the kitchen door and take several deep breaths, embracing the new day. There are days though when it smells like poop. Not one of the perks of living in the country. My tea mug is red, a colour I use to fire me up and ground me.

Since I have been following the moon’s journey across the sky I have noticed its subtle energy shifts and have been surprised to see how its different phases explain how I feel and how others act as well. I use the free Sky Map app which shows the exact position of the  moon in real time  as I now use Side Real astrology and not Tropical. This morning I see that the moon is in Aries (Real Time), so I grab my journal and quickly read my notes about Aries. It is a day of action, spontaneity and enthusiasm. I can work with that. I also jot down the weather, the temperature, the moon and sun’s rising and setting times and also their astrological positions in my green journal. This helps me to be more in tune with and more aware of the changing world around me.

Every morning I draw either an oracle or tarot card which is my divine message for the day. The message usually says something like, “Get your butt into gear”. Well, I can’t argue with that!

This is the time when I get a little reading in which is either ancient history or spirituality themed (I save fiction for the evening). The last thing I do before having breakfast and getting ready is to do some yoga, then I sit by my altar where I say my devotionals. I spend a moment in prayer with my ancestors too; finishing with a meditation. I know that this does sound a lot, but I make sure I’m up by 6am so I don’t have to rush. This is the only time in the day that I know I will have any degree of control over.

While I am having breakfast, which is usually a bowl of organic oats with almond milk, I look through what I need to do that day. I also keep my goals in view because if not I get distracted by all sorts of shiny things. Not good.

I truly believe that there is a link between how we take care of ourselves and the health of our relationship with our spirituality. A morning ritual can help balance our mental, physical and spiritual self which in turn will strengthen the connection we have with the world around us and with the Divine. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

I would love to hear whether you have any rituals that you do in the morning.

Brightest Blessings

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Yule

robin-in-winter-871298746681il6If like me you are a solitary pagan and wish to celebrate Yule in a meaningful way, then here are a few simple ideas that will help make your day both memorable and sacred.

An obvious one to start with is the Yule tree. Our ancestors originally decorated trees that surrounded their homes, but with the arrival of Christianity, fearing persecution, they began bringing their Yule trees inside to decorate instead. As for decorating the tree, the sky is the limit. I personally love the rustic look, so I make garlands out of popcorn and cranberries and hang up bells, stars and little wooden toys.

The Yule wreath is a symbol of the wheel of life and with a willow frame can be decorated with evergreens that can be found in your garden, local park or woodland. Just be mindful of how you are gathering your materials and please ask the tree you cut any foliage from permission to do so, as trees have a deep rooted wisdom and soul that needs to be respected.

A Yule log can be any small log that you find, however our ancestors used oak logs. Again these can be decorated with evergreens, such as mistletoe, holly and ivy. I have a previous post all about the origins of the Yule log.

Feeding wildlife can be done at any time of year, but especially now when the ground is frozen. It is easy enough to find information about which birds like which foods and where is the best place to leave it. Remember to be patient: it can take up to three to four weeks before birds become aware and even comfortable about feeding from your bird table or feeding station. Also don’t forget to leave water out and make sure to refresh it every day when it freezes over.

Donating food to food banks and other charities or toys to under privileged children is a wonderful thing to do to celebrate this time of year.

Placing an artificial candle in a window on the eve of Yule and leaving it there throughout the night is a lovely way of welcoming the return of the sun. These candles are extremely easy to find and do look very realistic.

As this is a time of introspection, how about making your own little book of reflections? You can decorate it with drawings or stickers and then you can write down your thoughts and feelings about the past year. You could if you wanted to, throw this book onto an open fire, to symbolically release all that has happened during these past twelve months so you can then embrace the new.

Walking the labyrinth, be it a life size version or a print off the internet that you walk with just your finger, is another way of releasing all that has stopped serving you this year. I have done this walking meditation a few times now and it really does work. You will feel so much lighter afterwards. I have talked about how you can do this on my Facebook page, but if you cannot find that post then it is straightforward enough to find instructions on how to do this online.

Decluttering and deep cleaning is a fantastic way to prepare for your Yule festivities. I have a great tip to share with you that will help you decide what to keep and what to give away. Pick up an item, for example a dress and ask yourself, “If I had the money and I saw this in a shop today, would I buy it?” If the answer is no, then you know what to do. This trick works every time and for me when it comes to books, I only keep those that I know I will enjoy reading again.

Baking and cooking need no further explanation, other than perhaps offering up some biscuits or cake that you have made yourself to the God and Goddess. I am sure that would be greatly appreciated and of course not forgetting to include your ancestors too. If you are someone who connects to the spirits of the land then leaving them a similar gift underneath your favourite tree wouldn’t go amiss either.

If you are able to, then is there some place near you where you could watch the solstice sun rise? Even looking out of an East facing window as the sun rises can be a powerful moment of gratitude.

A simple idea for a centre piece to your solstice ritual could be a spiral made up of crystals, pebbles or glass beads with a candle in the middle. The spiral is the oldest symbol known to be used in spiritual practice and represents the Goddess as well as being the sacred symbol that reminds us of our ever evolving path in life. At the Winter solstice many pagans recognize the important role of the Goddess as she gives birth to the God at Yule. During this stage of the wheel of the year the Goddess is both the Crone and the Mother.

A Danish tradition you might like to try is putting an almond in rice pudding and the person who eats it will have good like for the coming year.

When it comes to following a nature based path, then less is definitely more. Do your best to keep things simple with perhaps a small ritual, some crafting, prayer and a short meditation. I know it can be hard, but try and keep away from the commercialization that is rife at this time of year which always ends up making people feel inadequate and hollow inside.

So there you have it, just a few suggestions on how you can celebrate Yule this year. Please go ahead and share any activity ideas or traditions that you have for Yule. I would love to hear about them.

Many blessings of light and love to you all this Yule,

Take care of yourselves and until next time.

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tradition Of Wassailing

Wassailing has been associated with Yuletide for hundreds of years. The word wassail comes from the Anglo Saxon “waes hael” meaning to be of good health. This old custom took place at the beginning of the New Year when good wishes could be passed between family and friends.

Wassail is an ale which is seasoned with spices and honey and was served in huge bowls made of pewter or silver with perhaps an egg or two. The huge bowl was passed around with the greeting of “wassail” and was often taken around to other people’s homes as well. This has now become the tradition of carol singing. Often the lord of the manor would shout “waes hael” and the assembled crowd would reply “drinc hael” meaning drink and be healthy. He would then give food and drink to them in exchange for their blessings and good will. ” Love and joy come to you and to your wassail too. And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year”.

Apple Tree Wassails are songs that were sung to the health of the apple trees. In some places this tradition took place on Christmas Eve and in others it was on twelfth night ( 6th January or 17th January before the calendar changed in England in 1752). For others, New Year’s Day morning had young boys “Apple Howling”, where they would beat the trees with willow sticks and sing rhymes.

It was tradition to sprinkle wassail ale around the base of the apple trees and to pour it on the roots of the biggest and best tree, as well as to dress it with ribbon or strips of cloth. Pieces of toast soaked in ale were also placed in between the tree’s branches.

The villagers would then gather around the orchard, banging on pots and pans, making a tremendous noise to wake up the spirit of the trees and to frighten away the bad spirits.

Wassail songs were sung or chanted as a blessing to bring a good apple harvest the following Autumn. Part of the labourers’ wages would have been paid in ale, so the owner of the orchard needed healthy abundant apple crops to attract good workers.

 

“Apple tree, apple tree we all come to wassail thee,
Bear this year and next year to bloom and blow,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sacks fills…”

 

In parts of the UK there are still places that practice wassailing, so keep your eyes open for these and join in the fun. If not you could perhaps buy a small fruit tree and adapt this tradition to suit you.

 

Many Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

The Origins Of Ivy

Ivy is a climbing vine that attaches itself to stone, brick and other surfaces, as well as to trees that are dead or living. It climbs by way of small tendrils that grow from the vine. The vine itself can become large and each tendril can send out another branch. It does not take very long for ivy to completely grow up a wall and cover it. Although it is not likely to damage a brick wall, it can become invasive. Ivy leaves are heart shaped and usually have three-lobes. The leaves are shiny and can be green with white or cream accents. Unlike other plants, ivy flowers in the Autumn and sets seeds in the Spring.

Ivy has a fascinating history full of tradition and folklore and like holly and mistletoe stays green throughout the year. This fact led to some believing it had magical and protective qualities and was therefore used to decorate homes during the Winter months. It has also become a symbol of eternal life because it is often found growing on dead or decaying trees, as well as being found growing over headstones in cemeteries. However, at the same time because it is often found in cemeteries it was also viewed as a symbol of death. It used to be said that if ivy was found growing abundantly on a young girl’s grave it meant that she had died of a broken heart.

In other traditions, ivy was a symbol of marriage, fidelity, luck and love. This was perhaps due to its tendency to bind. Brides and grooms in Greece wore crowns of ivy as a symbol of fidelity.

Some versions of the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, refer to ivy’s ability to bind. Tristan was a Cornish knight and Isolde was an Irish princess. Tristan went to Ireland to bring back Isolde as a bride for King Mark. However, Tristan and Isolde fell in love before they reached Cornwall after drinking a love potion.

In ancient Rome, ivy was associated with Bacchus (known as Dionysus in Greek mythology), the God of wine and revelry. It was said that a handful of bruised ivy leaves steeped in wine would make it less intoxicating to the drinker, but at the same time more potent! For this reason, taverns used to display an ivy bush over their door as a sign that they were serving the best brew.

The Greeks and Romans held the plant in high esteem as it was seen as a protection against evil and Roman poets were crowned with a wreath of ivy so they could think more clearly and creatively. Perhaps it was the Druids who influenced the Romans, as they too wore crowns of ivy for clarity of thought. Virgil spoke of the gold ivy that had yellow berries, but sadly this ivy is now extinct.

Women would carry ivy with them to promote fertility and wands were decorated with ivy or made from ivy wood for use in spells and fertility ceremonies.
Ivy was also used in love divination especially at Samhain, as this following verse shows:
 

The Origins Of Holly

Holly has been traditionally connected to this time of year for thousands of years. Like mistletoe and Yule logs, its origins can be traced back to northern Europe and was of great importance to our ancestors. Its leaves are dark shiny green with sharp jagged edges and was worn by the druids in ceremonial head wear when they went into the forest to collect mistletoe. While other plants wilt and die in Winter, holly remains vibrant and strong; its bright red berries glistening in the harsh cold landscape. These red berries were associated with sacred blood; immortal and strong.

Druids regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life and was thought to have magical powers. In Druid lore, cutting down a holly tree would bring bad luck, but hanging holly sprigs up in the home was believed to bring good luck and protection. Holly was also thought to protect homes against lightning strikes.

The holly tree is one of the trees that can be found in the Ogham (pronounced oh-am), an ancient script that can be found on standing stones in Ireland and Wales. Our ancestors respected and revered trees, looking for guidance from these wise beings of Mother Earth and her cycle of life death and rebirth. Similar to runes, the Ogham can be engraved onto wooden sticks and used in divination and magick. In the Ogham the holly symbolises protection, balance and compassion.

The Ogham letter for holly is Tinne and this word means fire. Holly has been associated with fire for many hundreds of years and was used in fires that were burned during the Winter Solstice. Charcoal made from holly was seen as extremely potent and smiths used it for making swords. Smiths were seen as almost godlike with their powers of transformation, creating weapons and tools from molten metal. The use of holly during this process made the act even more magickal.

The Celtic Tree Calendar is a much more recent addition to Celtic Spirituality. Based on thirteen lunar divisions, each tree rules over the same number of days every year, much like astrology. Holly rules the days from 8th July – 4th August. If you were born during this time then you are thought to take on the characteristics of this tree.

Holly was also offered up to the Roman God Saturn during the festival of Saturnalia. It was said that the holly was the sacred plant of Saturn and was therefore  highly valued by the Romans. It was also seen as an extremely symbolic gift to offer a person.

In the north of Britain young women who wanted to know who their future husbands would be, would place three sprigs of smooth holly leaves wrapped in a cloth tied with nine knots under their pillows at night. They would hopefully see him in their dreams.

If you wore a sprig of holly then you would be protected from the faeries and a holly wreath on the door would certainly make sure nothing evil would pass the threshold.

In Scotland, it was said that holly was both feminine and masculine. Smooth leaves were feminine and the prickly ones were masculine. The type of leaves that were brought into the home at Yule indicated whether it would be the husband or the wife of the household that would govern over the coming year.

Throughout Europe holly was used to ward off evil spirits and was seen as a protective barrier, especially during Yule when the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest. So it would be hung over doorways and windows to stop wandering bad spirits from entering the home.

I really enjoyed researching these customs and traditions. If you know of any old tales about the holly tree then please share. I would love to hear about them.

Many blessings,

Hazel

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