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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

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice is a day of celebration as well as deep introspection. Not only do we rejoice in the sun’s power at its peak, but we also come to the realization that the days from now on will be growing shorter as the harvest approaches with haste.

To mark this special occasion here are some ways that you can celebrate, give thanks and bring your desires to life by channelling the sun’s potent energies.

Sun sensitive paper is a fantastic way to decorate your book of shadows or green witch journal. It is so easy to use and it is a fun activity for children to do as well. All you need to do is place leaves, flowers, or any other object on the special paper and then leave it outside in the sun. The paper will change colour around the objects leaving a beautiful print. Just follow the instructions and make sure you do this on a sunny day.

With the abundance of flowers and grasses at the moment now is the perfect time to experiment with natural dyes to use on handmade paper, fabric and for creating inks.

Floating little paper boats down a river or stream and writing your wishes or blessings on them is a magical thing to do.

Find a farm where you can pick your own fruit and vegetables. I love picking strawberries, but be careful though just in case they decide to weigh you before you go in and when you come out 😉

You are never too old to make daisy chains.

Flower garlands are easy to make and you can find everything that you need around you. Leaves, flowers, willow, Virginia creeper and herbs can all be used.

How about harvesting and drying your own herbs? Paper bags are perfect for this if you don’t have the space to hang them to dry. There is plenty of information out there to guide you.

Once your herbs are dry you could create your own potpourri or lavender bags and perhaps you could also add them to candles, soaps and bath bombs as well. Some essential oils that have a Summer vibe about them are lavender, orange and vervain.

Faeries and other land wights always appreciate a little gift and this is their favourite time of year. Offerings of fruit, nuts, flowers, honey and milk are all welcome.  Perhaps you could craft faery doors and faery houses out of wooden lolly sticks.

Kite flying is a lovely way to send your petitions up into the sky.

If you can get yourself to the coast then beach combing is a perfect way to gather materials for some beach art. Sea glass, pebbles, shells, seaweed and driftwood can all be used to make mobiles, wind chimes, land art, mosiacs and jewellery. Shells can be used to decorate a multitude of items including, mirrors, frames, wreaths and flower pots. And remember, if you see any rubbish on the beach and it is safe to do so, pick it up and throw it away properly. We all need to do our bit for Mama.

Your altar can now be transformed into a sun shrine, covered with symbols of fire and light with shades of gold, yellow and bronze.

Quench your thirst by making your own fresh lemonade, elderflower cordial or follow the many different recipes you can find that use dandelions.

For those of us who are unable to greet the solstice sun at dawn, then leaving a battery operated tea light candle on an east facing windowsill is the next best thing. Then in the evening when you bid the sun farewell at sunset, you can switch it off.

Treat your garden to a new edition; a pond. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; a washing up bowl, a baby’s old bath or even a large plastic box that is placed in a hole in the ground with some aquatic plants and a sloping edge made of pebbles or stones. Again you can find plenty of tutorials and advice on the internet or your local library. Mother Nature will thank you for it.

Is there a sad looking area near you that could do with a pick me up? Guerilla gardening is becoming more and more popular now and can really make a difference to people’s lives. It needn’t cost much and with a group of friends would take no time to do.

Have fun creating your own land art using leaves, flowers, pebbles, rocks, branches and even crystals to make anything from beautiful mandalas to 3D sculptures.

And last but not least your Solstice ritual. Let it be about celebrating your accomplishments so far this year, gratitude and self healing. Weather permitting I’ll be outside enjoying my ritual at midday.

If you have any cool ideas that I haven’t mention then please don’t hesitate to share them.

Summer Blessings to you all.

Hazel

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The month of March is truly a time of transition. It is a time of the fierce tug of war between the harsh grip of winter that on some days refuses to let go and on other days spring’s soft tentative sun rays that slowly but surely break through our grey skies. Here in the south of England it is still cold and drizzly, however, the tree blossoms, flowers and birds remind me that spring is finally winning the battle. So to bring a little joy and anticipation of warmer and brighter days to come, here are a few lovely ways that you can celebrate the arrival of spring and Ostara.

Creating sacred space outside is a wonderful way to honour and soak up the energies of this time of year. After tidying up your garden you could perhaps decorate a little corner with handcrafted items such as mobiles, painted flower pots, prayer flags, wind chimes or even an altar or shrine on which you could leave offerings of shells, flowers or pebbles. These gifts can be left not only for a deity, but also for the land spirits that dwell here. Please don’t feel left out if you live in an apartment, just bring a little nature inside. Windowsills, shelves and kitchen counter tops can all be brightened up with plants, flowers and herbs.

This is 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 from tree twigs that are placed in a vase. Experiment too with natural dyes like beetroot, dandelion flowers or onion skin. There are plenty of tutorials on Pinterest to help you with this.

Continuing with egg shells, a cute way of using broken egg shells is to put a little compost into half of one and then plant a bulb or some watercress seeds inside of it.

What better way is there to honour the Earth than to pick up litter from parks or beaches? This allows Mother Nature to clear her lungs and breath anew.

You can continue with the spring cleaning and decluttering that you perhaps started  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 including essential oils and even salt, all blessed with your own positive intentions. See if there are ways too that you can reduce your use of plastic and begin replacing it with paper, bamboo, wood and metal.

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 or even carefully flicking salt water. You could 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 a grand occasion, just something small and simple, but it will really improve the flow of energy around your home.

Now that you have a clean fresh space, how about drawing your attention to yourself. A spring detox tonic that I use and love is simply made with a weed that you can find close to home which is called cleavers. I place a tendril of the sticky plant in a glass bottle of cold fresh water and I let it steep over night. In the morning I strain it then drink as is. If you wanted to you could add a splash of lemon to it, as it does have a particular taste.

Another detox drink is nettle tea which can be made by simply adding two cups of water to a cup of young nettle leaves and allowing the water to almost boil then leaving it to simmer for a couple minutes. Once it has been strained and slightly cooled the tea is ready to drink. Nettles are high in calcium. iron, silica and potassium and are perfect for when you are feeling run down and in need of a toxin flush. The best time to pick the young leaves are when the nettle are in flower, which is now.

Now that we are on the tipping point of the lighter half of the year, use the waxing solar energies in a manifesting ritual that will give your goals and projects a well deserved boost.

You could perhaps make your own Equinox water by filling a glass bowl with spring water and leaving it outside from dawn to midday on the day of the equinox. This can be used in your home blessing, your Equinox ritual or even to water your plants with.

A ritual for the passing of the dark half of the year can be performed on the Equinox using a white candle 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. All you need to do is plant your dream, written on a piece of paper, with some compost and a seed and the dream will grow along with the plant.

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 also be very decorative and brighten up your outdoor space. Insect hotels can be built easily and inexpensively as well, creating a wonderful haven for wildlife.

Are you lacking drive? Then why don’t you try meditating on the symbol of the lunar hare. This is a fabulous way to not only connect with your inner creativity, but also to ignite your fertile passion for life.

The easiest one of all is of course getting yourself outside, to the park, beach, forest or even an ancient site if you can. Just feeling the breeze and sun on your face, even if it is only for 5 minutes can do a magnitude of good for you on so many levels.

I would love to hear how you celebrate this time of year. Also if you would like to ask me any questions about what I have written or anything about living a holistic and earth inspired life then don’t hesitate to contact me; I would be more than happy to answer your questions.

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

xxx

 

 

 

 

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