Beltane 2015

Happy Beltane!

Also known as May Day, April 30 and May 1 was an ancient observance that marked the beginning of summer. In Ireland, cattle were driven out to their summer pastures and rituals were performed to encourage familial growth and protection. Mass bonfires were kindled: their flames, embers, and ashes the epitome of protective power. Gaelic peoples and their cattle would walk around these bonfires and sometimes leap over the flames for good luck! Houses were decorated with wild May flowers; pastel hues of yellow, pink, and blue. Celebrations also included May Trees (or in some cases Poles or Bushes), which were decorated with flowers and bright ribbons. Ancients also built labyrinths and walked them in silent meditation.CDuyNRsVAAI-vcB

In 2013, I participated in my first Beltane celebration. I had my research, but was I ready to start leaping over bonfires? Not really. Instead, I visited a local coven with some friends. There was feasting, labyrinth walking, and children playing games. It was an amazing opportunity to get involved in my Wiccan community. Later that day, I was still buzzing with energy. I went home with a good friend of mine where we performed a small fire ritual. Since then, I have never missed a chance to celebrate Beltane! As an apartment renter, however, I tend to encounter a few issues along the way. Here are my top three Beltane complications and some solutions I found helpful.

Problem #1: I live in the American South, where I do not have ready access to the nine sacred woods. It seems more appropriate to wildcraft these items, rather than purchase them.

Answer: This has ALWAYS been my biggest problem. Many books insist you need Birch, Oak, Hazel, Rowan, Hawthorne, Willow, Fir, Apple, and Vine. When I was living in the tropics, I was lucky to find three of those! So, what to do? One option is to buy the wood from an online vendor. There are plenty of reputable sites, but this method can get expensive fast. The second option: Use your local flora. Don’t get too bogged down with the Eurocentric specifications, when you have a natural world right outside your window. Each sacred wood is associated with a symbolic element and you can find native trees that correlate to these meanings as well. Using the plants in my area, I came up with: Cedar, Dogwood, Honeysuckle, Magnolia, Oak, Willow (Bottlebrush), Pine, American Holly, and Maple. In the past I even added Palm to my list! Look for nine different trees that represent: female energy, male energy, knowledge, life, fairy magick, death, birth, love, and joy.

Problem #2: I live in a small place and cannot have a bonfire.CDuyPSwVIAAt0tY

Answer: I absolutely love the warmth that comes from a roaring fire. Apartment-bound witches like myself, however, lack the ability to stoke up a bonfire. Bonfires require space, a lot of kindling, and caution. The solution is candles… lots and lots of them! Light as many as possible on your altar or around your house. Incorporating the element in this way really helps to get the energy flowing. NEVER leave candles unattended though, especially if you have pets or young children. Another option to consider, is to take a small cauldron outside and burn your sacred wood in the open. Smoke detectors are not fond of inside Beltane celebrations!

Issue #3: What does Beltane mean for the Green Witch?

Answer: It took me quite some time to appreciate the connection between Green Magick and Beltane. For some, fire is associated with destruction, fear, and chaos. No one ever loves hearing about a recent forest fire. Fire, however, is as natural as green growth! It is a type of purification. Mass burning gives plants a chance to regrow and provides the next generations with much needed nutrition. That said, please don’t go out and set your garden aflame! Instead, take the ashes from your Beltane ceremony and sprinkle them CDuyRbMUMAAfHLCaround your plants. They will thank you for it.

There are so many crafts, rituals, and recipes associated with Beltane. But to keep this post concise, I will leave it here. For more reading and some fantastic pictures, check out this year’s Beltane Fire Festival in Scotland. Do you have any good memories or advice of Beltane? Share your stories in the comment section below!

Pax et Bonum,

Meadow

Altar and Ritual for Imbolc

Merry Imbolc!

Imbolc is a time for the waning of winter and the impending arrival of spring. A typical altar around this time will carry symbols of both. However, it is important to note that there is no hard and fast line as to what exactly your symbols have to be, nor is there any rule as to what ritual you choose to perform (though there should be some reference to the upcoming warmth and new growth of spring).

I will share with everyone how I chose to set up my altar for Imbolc and the ritual I chose to perform. Feel free to replicate mine, but it is always better to add something personal to make it your own.

2015-02-03_20.08.46I chose to have four white candles (two small pillars and two tapered). The white of the candle was to symbolize the snow of winter and the flame symbolized the warmth of the sun. I also added my daffodil plant and some of the dried flowers from the plant in a separate silver container. Daffodils are one of the traditional flowers of Imbolc (including snowdrops, crocus, any white or yellow flowers, or first flowers of the year) because it is one of the first flowers to bloom after winter. Also their yellow hue alludes to the sun and its warmth. 2015-02-03_20.07.08

After I set up my altar, but before I lit the candles, I told the candles what their purpose was. I told them that they were to symbolize the sun, whose warmth and light helps life grow. I called upon the God to bless and empower my candles.

After all my candles were lit, I called upon the Goddess to bless and nurture my seeds so that they may begin a life of their own.

I then thanked the Lord and Lady and continued to let the candles burn. Once they had burned down a little, I took toothpicks and dipped them into the hot wax and placed the toothpicks into each pot. I believe this symbolizes the warming of the earth and will help spark new life into these little seeds. 2015-02-03_20.05.31

Many of you may have noticed that I posted this on the 3rd of February, and Imbolc is traditionally reserved for the 2nd of February. I purposely chose not to hold my ritual on the 2nd because there is a full moon on the 3rd. I believe this phase of the moon added some rejuvenating energy to my ritual. I also do not follow the aligning of the Pagan calendar to the Christian one because us Pagans have practiced magick for many many years without it. I think that it is not as important to follow the “day of the Sabbat” as it is to follow what your heart says and what you believe to be true.

I hope this has inspired you to make your own rituals for Imbolc (if you have not already), or to do a ritual now and not worry that you missed the holiday because some calendar says so.

Blessed be, Luna

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Gardening for the White Witch

Witch Garden
Image via TheGingerbreadShoppe on Etsy.com

Merry (almost) Imbolc!

I wanted to share how someone who does not consider herself/himself a green witch can still connect to the earth especially before a Sabbat.

As spring is coming (maybe not quick enough for some) it is important to connect to the earth in the way our ancestors used to, by planting! The types of seed used is completely up to the witch and the climate. I chose some standard herbs and some peppers that grow really well in my climate (Florida).

Also, it is important to note that beginners and witches like myself should choose seeds that are not difficult to grow. You wouldn’t want to rob the plant’s chance at life because it landed in your less capable hands would you? The reason I included myself in that last statement is because plants have the tendency of not thriving when in my care. If you are in that same category you should stay away from any plants that may not grow well in your zone. For example, growing bulbs is difficult for me because it rarely gets cold enough for them to take root. But aside from planting your own tree, it should be doable.

2015-01-31_14.17.55The rest is rather self explanatory (plus there are instructions on the back of the seed packets!). Fill the pots with some potting soil, add seeds, lightly water, place in the sun and viola!

Many may not consider merely planting some seeds a ritual, but as with any magick the power is within the intention. Planting during the beginning of planting season connects us to our many ancestors from long ago. Man would not have survived without simple mastery of horticulture, and sowing the land was highly revered in ancient times (and this was the work of the women!). One can almost feel the pride of years of ancestors smiling down upon oneself when connecting to the roots, and the laughter of one’s future children enjoying the seeds we have planted and the earth we have helped create.

In everything natural, there is something marvelous

– Aristotle

So even if you live in an apartment, have little money (seeds and soil are free if you collect them outside), or have little time, I urge you to plant something. For when you plant something you become more than just a casual observer of the cycle, you are a part of the cycle.

2015-01-31_14.15.04Blessed be, Luna