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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

xxx

 

 

 

 

The Origins Of Mistletoe

illustration_viscum_album0Kissing under the mistletoe is an age old Christmas tradition, but have you ever actually asked yourself why we do it? Thinking about it, it all seems very strange, but there is much more to this Yuletide plant than meets the eye.

The mistletoe of northern Europe can definitely be called the original mistletoe. Viscum Album is the mistletoe that can be found in all of our ancient European traditions and legends.

The familiar white berried plant is parasitic and relies on its tree host to survive, taking the tree’s own water and nutrients. Being a parasite, mistletoe can seriously damage the tree, but fortunately this is not a problem if only one or two branches are covered. However, if it does establish itself on every branch, then it is not good news. The tree will not be able to have enough foliage of its own, nor water and nutrients and will eventually die. Thankfully, mistletoe can be managed properly if it is pruned.

The use of mistletoe in herbal remedies has its roots in prehistory.  According to Pliny the Elder, the Druids of Britain used to harvest mistletoe from their sacred oaks to use in rituals and medicine.  It is very rare for mistletoe to grow on an oak tree.

A special ceremony would take place a few days after the Winter Solstice once the Druids had prepared for their sacrificial feast. Under the chosen oak, they would bring two white bulls whose horns had never been bound. A Druid dressed in a white robe would then climb the oak and with a golden sickle cut the mistletoe, which they caught in a white cloak. It was important to them that the mistletoe did not touch the ground and become contaminated. The Druids divided up the boughs into sprigs and distributed them among the people, believing that the mistletoe would protect them from fire and storms as well as evil spirits. It’s never been clear exactly how they used mistletoe in their herbal cures– but it has had a reputation ever since as a “Heal All” and can be used to enhance fertility, cure nervous disorders and relieve high blood pressure. (Please consult a qualified herbalist first before using any herbal remedy).

The earliest archaeological evidence of mistletoe is from the Lindow Man; a bog body found preserved in Cheshire England from the time of the Roman occupation. Analysis of his stomach contents revealed a few grains of mistletoe pollen and this has been interpreted as evidence that he drank some sort of mistletoe drink before his death. Some suggest the mistletoe remains are proof that he was perhaps a Druid or even a sacrificial victim of the Druids, as mistletoe is poisonous in large amounts. So was he taking it as a herbal medicine or was he poisoned?

Mistletoe was so sacred in the eyes of the Celts that even enemies who happened to meet beneath a mistletoe in the forest would lay down their arms and exchange a friendly greeting; keeping the truce until the following day. From this ancient custom came the practice of hanging mistletoe over a doorway as a token of good will and peace to all who entered. By the 18th century in Britain, this evolved into the kissing tradition we have today. At this time, it became popular to create a ball of mistletoe that would be hung as a Christmas decoration. If a couple was found standing under the mistletoe, they had to kiss if the mistletoe ball still had berries. For each kiss, one berry would be taken from the ball. Once all the berries were gone, all the “luck” in love and marriage was considered to be drained out of the mistletoe and it was now bad luck to kiss beneath it.

According to Norse legend, when the Goddess Frigg and her son Baldur both had dreams concerning his death, Frigg made all of the things on Earth, both living and dead, take an oath to never harm Baldur. All took an oath not to harm Baldur except the mistletoe, who Frigga considered far too young. Read the rest of this story here on one of my favourite Norse mythology pages.

The Death of Baldur

The last fact about mistletoe that I am going to mention is that it was banned from being used in church decorations when Christianity took root in northern Europe because it was part of Pagan tradition. This ban is still widely observed today.

If you know any mistletoe stories then I would love to hear them.

My mini Yule series continues tomorrow.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

The Origins Of The Yule Log

logs-backgroundThe Yule log was originally set alight in honour of the Norse God Thor; the God of strength, courage, might and of course lightning. Usually cut from an oak tree or sometimes ash, the log was burnt in sympathetic magic to encourage the return of the sun.

The log would have been lit with a remaining piece of the Yule log from the previous year,  symbolising the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Sprigs of holly were thrown onto the burning wood to encourage a year of good fortune, health and protection. The log was not left to burn completely, however, because the remaining pieces were crafted into sacred charms which would keep the wearer safe over the coming year.

In some parts of Scotland a similar tradition was observed, but instead of a log, a figure of an old woman was carved from an old tree trunk. The Cailleach Nolliach which means Old Winter’s Wife was brought into the house and laid onto a burning fire. The household would then gather and watch the figure be consumed by the flames. The Cailleach did not represent new life, she represented death. To avoid death and misfortune the carving was burnt to ashes.

Traditionally, those who followed the Norse tradition of Heathenry brought in the Yule log on Mother’s night (20th December). Before the log entered the longhouse, a procession took place with the decorated tree trunk decked out in ribbons and greenery and carried through the village. This was seen as a joyous occasion. After being lit, the huge tree trunk was expected to burn for twelve nights. Their homes were long houses, so this would not have been a problem. The log was seen as sacred and no one was allowed to walk barefoot near it or even squint!

In Yorkshire, England, it was customary for children to beg and sing from house to house as the Yule log was carried in. This tradition was called Mumping or Gooding.

Nowadays sadly, the only Yule logs we really see are chocolate ones found in the frozen section of the supermarket, but we can change this and start our own Yuletide tradition. For those of you who do not have an open fire or even a fire pit outside why not buy or make candle holders out of small branches and logs. Pinterest has many examples of Yule log candle holders. Eitherwise, another idea could be to actually buy a chocolate Yule log and put birthday candles in it. Blow them out and make a wish.

More Yuletide traditions tomorrow.

Brightest Blessings,

Hazel

xxx

 

The Origins Of Yule

Yule, also known as Saturnalia, Alban Arthan or the Winter Solstice is a Winter celebration of light. It has been observed by our ancestors for thousands upon thousands of years, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The Winter Solstice typically falls between 21st – 23rd December. It is a  day when the sun is at its lowest, making it the shortest day of the year.

This Midwinter celebration brings our hope for the returning light to the fore and it gave our ancestors great joy in the middle of a terribly bleak time. Daylight lengthens minute by minute as the waxing half of the year comes around once more. But instead of yearning for the warmer months during this dark half of the year, we can instead use the opportunity to go deep within, just as Mother Nature does. To go still, reflect and gain wisdom so that we too can grow with the ever increasing light. Our visions, hopes and goals are slowly germinating, readying to burst forth in the new year.

Yule was typically celebrated by the Norse and the Romans and it is from these cultures that many of our traditions of today come from. The name Yule comes from the Anglo Saxon word “lul” meaning wheel or “jol” for the Germanic peoples. The Northern peoples would celebrate Yule with feasting and sacrificing.

Not much is known about how the Celts celebrated this time of year, but ancient writings do tell of how Druids would sacrifice a white bull and gather mistletoe. The Celts also hung evergreens above their doors to keep evil spirits away.

The Romans, however, celebrated a festival called “Saturnalia” which would last a whole week from 17th – 23rd December to honour the God Saturn who is the God of agriculture. It was also a time of gift giving, feasting and sacrifice. The Romans would gift coins for prosperity, cakes for joy and burning lamps to light the way through one’s life. Slaves were also allowed to take on the role of their master which meant no work was undertaken during this week.

Another Roman festival was called “Brumalia” which honoured the Gods Saturn, Cronos and Bacchus as well as the Goddesses Ceres and Demeter. The festival began 24th December and lasted four weeks.

In Scotland there was a tradition called “first footing” in which the first person to cross the threshold would bring good luck to the household for the coming year. However, this only applied if the visitor was a dark haired male. It is believed that this tradition goes back to the time of invading Vikings who would have had fairer hair.

Tomorrow I will be writing in more detail about the traditions of our Europen ancestors and how some of them are still practiced today.

Many blessings of love and light.

Hazel

xxx

 

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

 

 

 

 

Autumn Equinox Ritual

I have never been drawn to observing the different Sabbats with big ceremonial style rituals; they remind me too much of the pomp and ceremony of the religion I have left behind. However, having said that, I do whole heartedly believe that small meaningful rituals, tailored to one’s own beliefs are extremely important. So even though you will not find me casting a circle or calling the elements before a ritual, I will take the time to centre myself and cleanse my sacred space. Creating an atmosphere that facilitates a shift from the mundane to the divine is crucial.

arx16x3ss6

This Autumn Equinox I have decided to create a personal gratitude ritual. I have no fancy tools, just objects that I have around the cottage or that I have found out in nature. These will be symbolising the abundance in my life right now and for the abundance yet to come. I have always used ritual ideas from the internet or from books, but this time I wanted to write something in my own words, something from the heart and I hope to carry on doing this from now on. (I believe that it is perfectly fine to use other people’s ideas, especially in the beginning when you are still gaining confidence). Here is my first attempt.

The Autumn sun faintly shimmers in the distance, holding court above the cool winds of the season. Cernunnos stands tall besides a mighty ancient oak, his breath making the falling leaves dance and twirl before they finally settle on the forest floor with their glowing shades of fire.
I see him watching me, the silent and powerful protector of the wild creatures. His lust for life is still radiating from the rich soil and I feel his free spirit all around me. The Horned One is now biding his time before he falls into a deep Winter slumber.
The last of the Autumn fruits and seeds have ripened and I can see the reflection of the Goddess shining down on me from the moon. Her lovely delicate hands have created an abundance of beauty all around me.
As the year wanes into darkness, she begins her metamorphosis into Crone. I watch her as she pauses on the threshold of fading light already deeply missing her consort.

This is when I take a moment to light a candle for the God and Goddess and reflect on my life and ask them to bless me with their wisdom and love. I also make an offering to them.

 Lord of the Harvest, bless these gifts as you bless me. Thank you for ………….(health, career etc)
 Lady of the Harvest, bless these gifts as you bless me. Thank you for ………….(family, home etc)
Blessed Mother and Gracious God, my love and devotion are yours. I am your child.

I now sit quietly with my eyes closed, listening for a possible message from the Divine. I then blow out the candles.

Thank you Lord and Lady for being present in my life. May my mind be fertile, may my actions be selfless and may my words be of healing to others.
I bid you both farewell.

I would love to hear how you hold ritual and whether it is something short and sweet like mine or whether you enjoy a big celebration to mark the turning of the year.

Many Blessings

Hazel

xxx

 

 

Celebrating The Autumn Equinox

Even though I absolutely adore Summer, I am secretly pleased that Autumn is well and truly here. The misty mornings, the glistening spider webs and the cooler days are just a few things that add a sprinkling of magic to this time of year. I can also hear Mother Nature whispering to me as she begins to prepare for her Winter slumber. The following are just a few ideas I hope will inspire you to get in the mood for Autumn.

  • Visit loved ones’ graves and decorate them. While this activity is more commonly seen at Samhain, this time of year is undoubtedly a celebration of endings as we watch birds migrate, flora die and fauna preparing for the long Winter months ahead.  Autumn time allows us to reflect on the meaning of death and its importance within the natural cycle.
  • It was traditional at this time of year to offer up the last harvest grains in thanks for the year’s abundance. This gesture reminds us that we cannot receive these gifts of food without Gaia’s intervention. Leave offerings of fruits, grains or berries in a field or under a tree, giving thanks for all the little things that we can so often take for granted.
  • Celebrate your own personal harvest. What have you sown and reaped this year? Celebrate your successes, your accomplishments and reflect on what you have done to enhance your life.
  • Connect to an ancient custom by making a rattle with natural materials like seeds, nuts and gourds. Rattles are traditionally used to ward off negativity, purify space and raise energy.
  • Autumn is a time when homes and gardens are cleaned and tidied. Give away what you no longer need so that you can begin this new phase with a clear mind.
  • Create your own hearth and home ritual. Perhaps a small ritual of thanks and gratitude in honour of the Mother and Crone Goddesses.
  • Think about planting bulbs for next Spring and offer libations to the trees.
  • Decorate your altar with spirals, pine cones, acorns, nuts, berries, corn dolls and Autumn wreaths.
  • Take a quiet moment to rest, reflect and rebalance. This is the time we re-enter the dark womb of the Goddess and begin to explore our inner selves. Plant the seeds of your dreams ready to spring forth next year.
  • Go for a walk in the woods and marvel at the smells and colours of this time of transition.
  • Make your own bird feeders.
  • Visit a farmer’s market, local farm or orchard.
  • Donate to your local food bank or homeless shelter.
  • Fill small baskets with fruit or nuts and pine cones to decorate your home with.
  • Make a charm from some hazelnuts and beads thread them onto a red thread and hang up for protection.
  • Create mobiles out of nuts, acorns, conkers, dried citrus slices, twigs and twine.
  • Wrap up warm and go for a walk along the beach.
  • Make some acorn bells. (Tutorial on Pinterest)
  • Make some walnut shell wishing candles. (Tutorial on Pinterest)
  • Create an Autumn leaf mandala.
  • Have or attend a bonfire. Dance, drum and sing.
  • Have a go at making your own apple cider or bake an apple pie or a loaf of bread.

Brightest Blessings

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

The Autumn Equinox

The Autumn Equinox also known as Harvest Home, Alban Elfed and Mabon is the second harvest celebration of the year and typically falls between 21st and 23rd September.

At this time of year night and day are briefly of equal length before we begin our descent into cooler temperatures and longer nights.  This was a very important time for our ancestors as it marked the end of the growing season when they would find themselves gathering the last of the wild berries and preparing their stores for the long Winter ahead.

There are many ancient sites in Britain that were built to mark the equinoxes, one being Hag’s Cairn at Loughcrew not far from Newgrange in Ireland. Filled with ancient carvings the passage tomb is filled with light, if the weather conditions are right, illuminating its beauty within.

Mabon was originally the name of an ancient Welsh sun God or hero whose story begins with him being stolen from his mother Modron at only 3 nights old. During his absence Modron’s sadness transforms the world into Winter, just as Demeter’s did when Persephone was taken to the underworld in Greek mythology (almost every ancient culture has their own version of this story). Modron is rescued years later during the Spring by King Arthur’s knights and the character Culhwch.

So what does Mabon have to do with the Autumn Equinox? Well, absolutely nothing. There is no evidence that our ancestors used this God’s name in any way, shape or form during this time of year. The term Mabon was originally used by the American Wiccan author Aiden Kelly who in his book called ‘Crafting the Art of Magic’ (revised title,’Inventing Witchcraft’) decided to rename some of the Sabbats. And since the 1970s the name has become popular throughout the Pagan community. Because I want my practice to be as authentically rooted as possible, I just simply use ‘Autumn Equinox’. Mabon when translated literally means, ‘son of the mother’.

Although the name ‘Mabon’ is quite modern, Autumn celebrations are genuinely ancient, as some of the ancient sites of Britian prove. The Venerable Bede, who was an Anglo Saxon monk , mentions in his writings in the early 700’s that September was a holy month in the Anglo Saxon Calendar when harvest time was celebrated and by the late 1500’s country folk were still celebrating Harvest Home. There was feasting, celebrations and games. This was a  well deserved rest from everyday life.

Some Pagan traditions remember the death of the sun God at this time and his journey into the Otherworld. Others confusingly recognize his death at Lughnasadh instead. However, everyone’s path is different, so don’t worry if your beliefs are not the same as other Pagans.

While the Goddess mourns the loss of her consort she grows tired as she prepares her transformation from mother to crone. She offers us her last fruits of the season so that we may be nourished throughout the dark months of inner reflection.

The Autumn Equinox is a time of great joy and great sorrow. After every death comes new life and we are all a part of this ever changing cycle. As the trees lose the weight of their dead leaves before their Winter slumber, so too can we lose our burdens, allowing us the freedom to go within and begin the inner work that permits us to plant the seeds of new growth.

Brightest Blessings

Hazel

xxx

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