May I wish those of my friends and family who mark the day a Blessed Spring Equinox, however you term it and whatever you choose to do to mark it – or not – may the day be one filled with all you need and plenty of what you fancy….
Although the ‘time of balance’ – when we experience a moment of equality between the day and night (equinox comes from ‘equal night’) – it is also the time when the rate of the Sun’s position along the horizon – and thus the length of day – is changing at its very fastest – currently the amount of daytime is growing by 5 minutes a day, from now until the Solstice the speed of this change will decrease daily until once more the pendulum of the year swings in the opposite direction and the light begins to disappear… It is the steady metronome of the seasons marking out the time we are allocated and highlighting whether we are using it in a manner befitting of such a gift..
For myself the Equinox is something we each have to take our own meaning from, we can choose to celebrate through whatever religion we practice, or mark the day with any choice of Sabbat or Lore, but ultimately we should look internally to see what personal meaning it brings forth rather than kowtowing completely to what is accepted praxis…
For me the fact that the balance point is so fleeting is something that allows me to understand that in order to maintain our personal balance – to face our own challenges and to be who we are rather than merely becoming a slave to circumstance – we have to put in great effort, we cannot merely stand still – for apathy and stasis leads only to decay and death – instead we have to live every moment, aware, awake and with the passion we carry within, to do anything less is to do a disservice to those who came before us… …
I suppose life can be seen just like the swan that moves so gracefully on the surface of the water, seemingly gliding along without effort, and yet underneath the surface it is paddling like hell….
Choose how you live your own life, choose to speak out and to act rather than to remain apathetic to the plight of others, choose to be the best version of yourself that is possible, and do so now, as inside you have to know that every second the sands in the hourglass of your life are softly ticking away…..
And to end with, perhaps a poem by William Wordsworth could be apt……
Lines Written In Early Spring
‘I HEARD a thousand blended notes, While in a grove I sate reclined, In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link The human soul that through me ran; And much it grieved my heart to think What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower, The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; And ’tis my faith that every flower Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played, Their thoughts I cannot measure:— But the least motion which they made, It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan, To catch the breezy air; And I must think, do all I can, That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent, If such be Nature’s holy plan, Have I not reason to lament What man has made of man?’
An exploratory journey into a reality worldview, that brings together many threads into a whole – a wonderful piece of writing by a friend that I urge anyone seeking understanding of themselves, the world around them or their place within the universe to read….
The universe is an amazing place. Sadly most people don’t see the universe or
are even aware of it, their lives revolving around jobs, home and the rigours
of living in this modern technologically advanced society.
But out there is a vast and diverse scenery of void, gaseous
clouds, stars, planets and so many wonders, hidden from view, invisible behind
the blackout curtain so kindly provided by electrical lighting. No one in a city looks up at a sky full of
stars and stands in awe as the Milky Way in all its glory glows like a mist
Maybe this is why so many discount the existence of a higher
power. If you cannot truly feel the size
and magnitude of your surroundings, see your size compared to the greater
whole, how can you feel the urge to accept something larger than yourself is a
force in the universe in which we float?
Even if you do not subscribe to the idea of a god, the fact
that there is more than meets the eye is certainly a logical conclusion. Science gives us an insight into the workings
of this great cosmic construct but there are gaps, and perhaps there always
will, as to be able to grasp the entirety of the mathematical model of the
universe may be beyond the processing power of the human brain.
Having said that our brains can process a lot of information,
although there may often be a delay before you are aware of information
gathered earlier. Just like a computer,
your brain sorts through a mountain of data and feeds it to your conscious mind
as and when it is coherent. We see each
day more than we realise and yet our brain, having sorted it all, provides only
what it believes is relevant. That
censorship comes from the part of your brain tasked with protecting the rest,
so you are receiving that which you can use and that which is considered a
waste is disregarded but stored somewhere in the depths, never to see the light
of day again in most cases. This is why
immense trauma is blocked, to protect the whole, and in such extreme cases
necessary in the short term but if ignored long term, unfortunately such things
will rise to the surface due to their detrimental impact on the subconscious
mind, which ultimately triggers an equally detrimental reaction in the
That is an extreme scenario and just an example of how the
mind stores everything and yet we seem to receive very little. As we are all unique, the amount received
differs from person to person; some are barely aware of their surroundings and
yet others can later recall minute details of their surroundings as though they
were looking at a photograph.
Equally, we all use our senses to varying degrees, and thus
our understanding of the world around us also varies and differs due to our
perception. This can be changed and
improved, just like we can improve our physical health and fitness with
exercise. The senses can be tuned with
practice of techniques which allows us to direct them to work more efficiently
and provide you with more information and combined with training of your mind
to offer more information after sorting, and the universe opens up in quite an
amazing and awe-inspiring way.
The universe in the physical is a truly wondrous construct,
an invention of unparalleled superiority, vast and diverse and stretching
farther than the imagination can grasp.
Filled with spiral galaxies, magnificent nebula with colours that cannot
be described with mere words, and what we can see should inspire and humble us,
and what we can’t see should ignite the fire of curiosity within us, and we
should never lose that childlike wonder as we gaze upon its diverse
beauty. It never fails to bring me joy
to see the moon, it’s bleak wilderness a rapture for the eyes whether it be close
or near. I could wander its endless wastes with a smile on my face for an age.
But that is true for me for any place in the universe, even
as I watch the sun slowly go down from my window, with a smile as I sit typing
this. Every second of our lives is
unique, every view from the window, every storm, every sun rise, every smile,
every tear. Once a moment is gone we can
never observe something as it was before we laid eyes on it. For time like
space stretches out around us, it is not linear, everything happens at the same
time in the same space, layers upon layers snug together sat in a singular
place. Unlike the universe in its wholly
tangible nature, we cannot see these layers around us but they are there. Of that there is no doubt, and each layer
affects the next in a cumulative fashion so that the past ripples into the
future and affects us in the present. That is its tangibility, the legacy of
previous time to affect the layer overlapping and so on.
Beyond that we venture into barely explored territory,
scientifically speaking. There are other
dimensions which occupy the same space and time as we do, and thus overlap the
physical dimensions in which we exist and are aware of. Permeating all the dimensions is another,
known by some as the Otherworld, which connects all together and acts as a
conduit or facilitator to all other dimensions.
These dimensions vibrate on such a range of frequency out of range for
us to completely perceive, but are not wholly invisible.
And this is where it gets exciting. The human body, as it
exists physically is not an inseparable part of a person. It is the only truly fully sustainable
eco-vehicle. It allows us to interact
with the physical dimension in which we are grounded, the base of our
existence. Just as with every vehicle it
is possible if you know where the door handle is, to get out and travel without
it. Without it binding us to this
dimension, we can move beyond the confines of this dimension and beyond into
the others which overlap via the dimension which acts as a conduit. Like a subway train, if you know where you
are going, you can find your way through the dimensions, time and space
One of the first things you will grow to understand is that
everything is alive. The essence of spirit
permeates every molecule of the universe thus allowing for the formation of
consciousness within all forms that exist therein. They may not all breath or function as we do,
they may not speak, or have a physical body as we do, but there is still life. In every rock, river, tree, and the wind that
blows the weather patterns across the globe.
Just as there are a myriad of physical lifeforms on this
planet, all different to suit their place in the ecosystem, the dimensions hold
just as much variety of life. We are
aware of them due to the overlapping dimensions, they share the same space as
we do, just at a different frequency. Of
course, unless your internal equipment can pick up these other frequencies,
they may as well not exist. Regardless
of whether you believe in them, they exist, unperceivable to most of the human
population, but animals have shown that they have a keen awareness of these
frequencies. My little cat, for example,
will often start flying round the house, obviously chasing something, her body
language shouting “Play!” To the naked
eye, there is no prey, but if your head is angled right, out of the corner of
your eye, a small, round furry-looking thing can be occasionally seen, flying
at speed with the cat not far behind. At
some point the chase often turns and the cat becomes the pursued, and this can
carry on for an hour, before the exhausted little girl flumps down exhausted by
the game, to an impression of laughter in the air.
Those same, small, round creatures can be the reason you lose
your keys, which after tearing the house apart several times turn up sat in the
middle of the dining table, whilst you scratch your head in confusion, knowing
full well they weren’t there yesterday. They
are the reason your children fear the dark corners of the wardrobe and under
the bed, as that is where they settle, attracted by the sound of children’s
play and laughter. A child’s anxiety is
no sign of malice on the part of the being; its energy is strong with the Awen
and it is an unknown to the child, so regrettably, irrational fear is raised of
a being who will look after that child in any way it can. That fear can be alleviated with simple
explanation of the being’s nature, as I found with my daughter, who in time
built up strong relationships with the ones in her room, which, twenty years
later, have moved house with her countless times and still share her life to
her benefit. They have eased her
physical pain, and made her smile when she has been at her darkest, and I am
grateful for their presence in her life, and her acceptance of their existence
and the way she interacted with them independently to forge such a connection.
This is only one example, and one which demonstrates the
closeness of space in which all beings exist.
All fits together in a fine web, connected together in a way which
causes all dimensions to function together like the different elements of an
eco-system, to benefit and maintain the balance of the whole universe, in all its
seen and unseen splendour. Sadly humans
have opted out of that philosophy, to the detriment of all.
And yet, just like every other being we have the ability to
shape not just the physical dimensions but all dimensions. We can create, mould, shape, destroy and do
so, consciously or subconsciously. Those
of us who are aware of what we are doing become painfully aware that ripples
from our actions have a far greater effect on the universe and the weighty
responsibility that such an ability bestows upon humanity. Irresponsible mining can lead to the death of
beings who maintain that piece of earth and so destroy the environment as a
result of that death, as a dimensional void is left. The same is true of forest fires, logging,
and any resource gathering that does not consider the true long-term impact on
the environment around it and the full consequences on a world struggling to
maintain a balance.
The practise of shamanic techniques is old and well
established in many animistic faiths around the world and throughout
history. An ancient form of worship that
governed a people and guided them, with a person designated to carry out ritual
and commune with the spirits that ruled them and walked the land alongside
them. In this way they formed a relationship
with their surroundings and all which occupied the same space. They understood the interconnectedness of all
things in a way we don’t fully comprehend.
They knew that it meant more than the bear is the forest is the birds
and that each cannot exist in a void bereft of the others. They understood that
this place was connected wholly within the other dimensions and that
interactions between such dimensions are possible. Their practises demonstrated this, combining
physical ritual with out of body rituals to maximise a beneficial reaction in
all aspects of life for the people they represented. They also impressed on those people the need
for them to ensure that their actions were also going to achieve a beneficial
reaction in the other dimensions by guiding their behaviour: Keep your actions
in order, keep your words in order and keep your thoughts in order, respect all
others and the environment and in this way all will be well.
The idea of keeping your thoughts in order may seem a little
draconian to some, after all, your head is your own private domain and no one
should control what you are allowed to think.
But thoughts are the trigger for words and actions, and thus a line can
be drawn between private thoughts and those likely to harm. Negative thoughts about others, may seem all very
well, but are you sure you are just simply thinking them, or is that negativity
leaking into your actions and words subconsciously? For all emotion is a vibration and will,
unwillingly perhaps, be transmitted on a frequency out there into the outside
world, for all to feel.
Imagine if you will an office, where two people spend the
majority of every workday, in close proximity.
One dislikes the other because they slurp their coffee and talk with
their mouth full of food. The slurper is
unaware of the problem and, blissfully ignorant, continues to annoy the
co-worker. Every day angry thoughts fill
an unhappy head, with every muffled mouthful and slurp, and glares begin to
shoot across the room. Body language
changes to suit the anger, the emotional frequency is stronger and an
atmosphere begins to develop. It grows
and festers, and glares led to a clear bias when discussions arise, the slurper
coming to realise that there is an element of exclusion; comments are ignored,
suggestions dismissed off-hand. A
tension builds and the slurper, now fully aware that something is not right,
begins to worry, and dread going to work, this leads to sleep issues and health
issues, which leads to illness. All
because the other co-worker didn’t voice a polite request for certain
behaviours to perhaps be curtailed or at the very least make the co-worker
aware of the issue so that it could have been dealt with before it led to such
detrimental effects which need not have been.
We ooze our thoughts and emotions, through body language and
our skin and lay them out for all to feel, and so they need some form of
control. Checks and balances are not
draconian but sensible. The angry
co-worker not only blighted the life of another, those angry thoughts will
affect both mental and physical health, as they festered internally over time.
Perhaps even damaged relationships with other workers who also had to work in
that atmosphere. We all get such
thoughts, it’s part of the human condition, but it’s about limiting the damage
and if possible preventing it altogether by dealing with the cause in a most
positive and prompt manner.
Negative thoughts, words and actions are also a blockage to
being able to explore beyond the known.
These things block our senses, effectively gluing the door handle
shut. Damage from previous trauma can
also factor in as a sealing mechanism as the pain seeps through every molecule
of our being. Untended suffering can
lead to negative actions and words as a person desperately tries to find some
way of dealing with that pain alone, unable to find the help needed to get
through to the other side and recovery.
It is with great alarm that I note that too much time with technology,
in particular the type which opens up the opportunity to communicate feelings,
thoughts and ideas with others, rather than benefit us, can also lead to
problems with the door handle, perhaps it is that sense that you get from many
who daily use such media that they are afraid of missing out or missing
something. Although I use it, it is
sparingly and usually only to communicate with others, and I choose other forms
of communication before I resort to opening up myself to a potential
blockage. Face to face contact, whether
human or otherwise, is always the most preferable and beneficial at all times.
A key tenet of many who practise, is “As above, so below”, an
inference to the duality of the universe and the patterns which flow and are
apparent in all aspects of the universe.
This mirroring of the dimensions is that all follow the same basic
principles, laws which must ring true, and cannot be deviated from. The cycle of birth, death, and rebirth echoes
through all dimensions, from all life on the planet, to stellar nurseries at
the edge of galaxies which eventually will spiral to their inevitable end into
the black hole, the eater of worlds, at the centre. An unending cycle in which all life at some
point will exist on some level within the dimensions, never ceasing, only
moving on the flow of the Awen to its next place of existence. A molecule may become many things in its
infinite lifetime, a blade of grass, a drop of dew, part of a cell of an
animal, part of the deep earth below, a drop of rain, a breath of air. Always vibrating at whichever frequency it
needs to fulfil its current purpose according to the place allotted to it, with
a sentience attached on some level.
Woven throughout all, through the essence of spirit, the truth of the universe is laid out for all to comprehend to some extent, each allowed a level of knowledge based upon their form of existence and purpose. The human brain cannot fully hold this truth in its entirety on a conscious level, we don’t have the processing power necessary, however it can be gathered, piece by piece, and placed within our current understanding from those beings who are blessed to be able to comprehend more than we. With introspection to allow for the sorting and assimilation of this knowledge, clear vision of the truths washes o’er us like the morning dew, only to dissipate leaving us refreshed and with more understanding of the amazing universe in which we play our part. That momentary glimpse of the whole will come time and time again, with each new piece of the puzzle, but will never remain to be recalled at will.
Written by Mary Slater on the 11/01/2019 – shared with permission.
The morning here is dull and grey, the weather unseasonably warm, the merest breath of wind disturbs the bare trees, the final sunrise of the calendar year of 2018 has dawned, the end of the Year as measured by the Gregorian Calendar has now arrived. It is a day when many will be seeking to go out and celebrate; pubs and clubs will be packed out tonight, restaurants booked solid months in advance, officially organised firework shows will be burning much needed public money for nothing more than a few moments of goodwill – at the expense of our animals whom will cower in terror at the noise – and of course there will be private New Year’s Eve parties aplenty, occurring all across this land of ours….
For most it is yet another seasonal excuse to indulge in drunken excesses, another chance to show off, and perhaps another day of rising debt in the name of nothing more than keeping up with the ‘Joneses’ – if that is your thing then I wish you well, but for me those days are long past – for others it may involve something more traditional, a little lower key perhaps, and for some it will include all of the above…
I have no problem with how folks choose to live their lives – we each have to walk the path before us as we see fit – nor do I have a problem with celebration per se, it is good to have an occasional blow out, to do something out of the norm, the memories of which will stay with us long after the event, but I do have issue with the forced joviality and excess of this night, the overhyped prices, and the expectation that to enjoy yourself you have to become completely inebriated on this one last night of the year – especially as this is a night that until 1752 was not actually celebrated as New Year’s Eve at all….
The celebration of January the 1st as New Year’s Day originates with the Romans, in 153BC it was adopted as the start of the New Year as being the first day the Senate convened and officials took up their new positions, and this date continued to be followed with the adoption of the Julian Calendar in 45BC. In the 4th Century CE after the Romans left the UK and with the Anglo Saxon migrations and a return – in the main – to paganism, then March the 25th – or Lady Day – was celebrated as the beginning of the New Year both here and across large parts of Europe, a time when the ‘Thyng’s’ would happen – assemblies of the people to discuss and decide all points of Law, resolve disputes and literally talk about ‘things’…
Officially this lasted until William the Conqueror decreed in 1066 that January the 1st was to become New Years Day, but the date of the 1st January was not widely acknowledged or celebrated as such in England until 1752 when Parliament passed the ‘Calendar (New Style) Act’ in 1750 – Scotland adopted January the 1st in 1600). The existence of March 25th as New Year can still be evidenced in the modern UK Tax Year, which begins on the 6th April (March 25th + 12 days – the missing days removed to re-synchronise the calendars at the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752).
Of course, depending on your culture there are many alternative dates for the New Year, within the pagan community it is widely understood that Samhain on the 31st October is the start of the New Year, in China the New Year is based on a Lunar Cycle and linked to Spring, so the exact date varies each year, sometime in January or February, other Asian cultures celebrate anytime from January until Autumn, Rosh Hashanah – Head of the Year – is celebrated by Jewish people in Autumn and the Islamic New Year – based on a 12 month Lunar calendar – moves forwards 11 days every year, so there can be 2 Islamic New Years within the Gregorian Calendric Year…
So, knowing that the actual date of celebrating New Years at the end of December is actually no older than 266 years in England – or 418 years in Scotland – does this negate our celebrations? Not at all, but it does give us cause to understand that all calendrical dates are merely arbitrary, a man made and imposed system of notation to allow us to book-keep and to plan ahead, and for Pagans and those who seek to follow a more natural Calendar it should perhaps make us look for other markers as to why we celebrate certain things at certain times of the year, perhaps instead of looking at the actual arbitrary date it is assigned within the modern calendar we should instead look towards a physical marker for the timings of our festivals – whatever they are and however we choose to celebrate them…
So, what Physical markers could we seek in order to time our chosen Festivals? This is pure conjecture on my own part, but I would hope food for thought for those who walk their own paths, perhaps something to look at both within your own cultural folklore and also to the timings of your own celebrations; truly depending on the choice of festival we seek to celebrate there are myriad, from animal and plant occurrences – Candlemas/Imbolc from Lambing time and the flowering of the Snowdrops, Ostara / Lady Day from the flowering of the Daffodils, Beltane from the flowering of the Hawthorn – through to astronomical events – such as Solstice, Equinox, certain constellations and stars returning to the night sky and the Meteor showers that occur at specific times of year – and then to more local natural events – such as first frost for Samhain and the harvesting of wheat at Lammas, etc…Food for future thought and perhaps the subject for a future post to explore these avenues, however we digress…
What then of the Traditions associated with New Year, here in the northern part of the UK we have ‘First Footing’, and there is also the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions… I shall explore both below…
First Footing In the North of England is a tradition that is shared with our Scot’s neighbours and almost certainly originated from the Norse Cultures in the 8th and 9th CE. From my own childhood I remember that my Father – he was both tall and dark, both prerequisites for the best of luck to be brought in – had to leave the house before midnight through the back door, and he would then knock on the front door at midnight and step in, bringing in with him coal, bread, a silver coin and also the ‘luck’ for the New Year, to be greeted with a dram of Whisky and a mince pie…
This is a tradition my husband’s family also shared – despite being the other side of the country from us – seeing out the Old Year through the back door and bringing in the New Year through the front – and it appears is quite widespread throughout the North and Midlands of England; perhaps it is a remnant of something more, a genetic memory of something considered important to our Ancestors, of what once happened and something that we can easily build upon to recreate something of the original blessings that would have been shared…
If we look to what would have mattered to our distant Ancestors, then we can see the bare bones of a First Footing Rite that could be recreated, what we now take for granted – warmth, light, food, shelter, community – is something they would have had to strive hard to provide for themselves, shelter would not be something that was freely available to all – either through work or through welfare like we now have available – but would have to be earned, through hard work to secure the materials and then building it, something beyond most individuals and families, hence why the immediate community you lived within was so important, people helped one another as a matter of course, it was a basic survival strategy, and one as a society that we now seem hell bent on ignoring.
So it would make sense that the blessings most important to our Ancestors would be the ones reflected in the traditions of First Footing, gifts of coal (warmth), of food (bread), of silver coin (money) and of good luck to be greeted with food and drink – a representation of welcome from the Companie – perhaps they would also add in salt, fire, clothing and a twig of evergreen – we would perhaps think that salt was there that your life would always have seasoning and flavour, but actually it was a much needed preservative, without which meat could not be stored for any length of time; fire as both warmth and light; clothing speaks for itself and a twig of evergreen for the return of new life in the spring, symbolic at the darkest time of year – perhaps if mistletoe was used it would hold a dual significance, as both evergreen and a symbol of love that your life would be filled with both love and fertility… Again food for thought…..
New Year’s Resolutions Ancient Babylonians made oaths to their Gods to pay their debts and return any borrowed possessions at the start of a New Year, Romans began each year by making promises to Janus – after whom January is named – and Medieval Knights took their Peacock Vows at the end of Christmas to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry; Christians also made vows of self-improvement at New Years Eve Watchnight Services; all of these are believed to have contributed to the modern tradition of making resolutions at New Year, basically a vow or oath freely given to improve oneself throughout the coming year.
For most these are something not to be taken seriously, the majority of oaths and vows given are unachievable and unrealistic, many false promises are made to ‘get fit’ and to ‘go to the gym 3 times a week for the year’, or to ‘sort out my finances’; and yet, how likely is it that if you have not done those things before that you will do so moving forwards? Instead of setting such open ended and challenging goals better to set yourself smaller more manageable ones…
If we are serious about our Path, committed to following it and to becoming a better person than we were, then perhaps we should look to making resolutions that are linked both to our Path and also that are achievable. Recently as part of a friend’s Solstice Celebrations we took part in a “Sumbel” – a formal toast / oath / boast drinking Rite, where a horn of mead is passed around the table and all present have to stand and make first a toast, then on the second time the horn passed around the table an Oath and finally on the third pass a Boast – a raucous, thoughtful, hilarious and wonderful Rite, that afforded all great mirth, companie and understanding of one another…
The Oaths given came from the heart, had personal meaning and I am sure will be kept… Perhaps a way to incorporate your New Years Resolutions into your Craft?
Anyhows, however you choose to celebrate – or not – this Roman Gregorian Calendrical New Year of 2019 I wish you all you wish for yourself for the coming Calendar Year, may your Eve be filled with laughter, with companie and with love, and the coming year bring blessings aplenty upon your Path, may you ever receive what you need…
Perhaps one of the few remaining ‘Traditional’ celebrations that most within the UK mark is some form of a celebration at this time of year, whether Christmas, Solstice or any other number of named celebrations that occur at this time of year… We find ourselves looking back to our childhoods, with many fondly remember houses bedecked with decorations, home-cooked festive foods and time spent with family – perhaps our recollections have become rose-tinted with the passage of time, but certainly growing up in the 1970’s it seems in reflection that although commercialised it most certainly wasn’t as obvious or as crass as it now seems to have become…
Yesterday I was gifted with an unexpected boon, the final day of my work meetings were unexpectedly cancelled and I was given a chance to travel home early from a week away at my company’s head office, 160 miles away from home… Knowing that friends were travelling to watch the Solstice Sunrise at the Rollrite stones in Oxfordshire I decided to leave my hotel early – sans breakfast – and surprise my friends by meeting up with them and watching in the Solstice dawn together… An hour and a quarter later and as the sky began to lighten I arrived and met up with my friends, and along with about a dozen other hardy folks we awaited the sunrise as the day gradually became lighter and lighter…
Unfortunately the clouds refused to part for actual sunrise, but still, a chance to mark the time, to be in Companie and to take pause from the modern world and perhaps to have shared n experience that our Ancestors would have known was most definitely worthwhile, if a little muddy.. Afterwards a retreat to the Red Lion Pub at Long Compton for toast and coffee, then the long drive home, starting through the Oxfordshire winter countryside, bare trees covered in verdant Ivy, gnarled oaks bedecked with Mistletoe balls and picturesque villages, traditional scenes that resonate in a timeless way…. And yet, for all that was traditional there was also more that felt wrong… The gaudy ‘Christmas lights’ that seem to be becoming adopted by many, whose main function seems to be nothing more than ostentatious showiness, ‘my display of lights is better than yours’, or perhaps ‘look at how much money I can afford to waste on not only buying but also powering all this tat’ – a one-upmanship of nothing more than displaying wealth – perhaps at the expense of good taste!
I am not having a go at folks who decide to decorate their homes- after all as the saying goes ‘An Englishman’s – read person – Home is his castle’, but for me less is more – a little less of the flashing inflatable snowman and santas and perhaps some discrete coloured lights would be more acceptable to my own sensibilities – and although I understand that many find these displays do bring on festive cheer, for me they take away from what I find the more personal meanings of the Season and celebrations are, I would rather see something smaller, more personal and less ostentatious, with more meaning rather than the roads of houses all plastered with multicoloured neon signs and plastic crassness, for me a single candle in a window, or a yule log adorned with holly and ivy displayed in a windowsill, or some winter greenery – real not plastic – adorning the home feels more right…
Perhaps I am becoming a Christmas grump, perhaps as I slowly age I am becoming more intolerant to the hypocrisy of society, who ostentatiously celebrate the midwinter festival of the rebirth of the Sun / Son as nothing more than an excuse to overindulge, something that at a time of scant resource, in the coldest and darkest time of our ancestors would often have been a time of dread….
I have to say that discovering – some 15 years ago now – a recording of ‘Solstice’ from a 1985 BBC Radio 4 production may well have tainted my viewpoint, listening to the ‘Solstice’ audio play has become something of a tradition for us since we first encountered it – on the reverse side of an audio cassette that we were gifted from a friend within a group that we belonged to.
We were actually given the tape for the other side, which contained the ‘Rollright Ritual’ – an interesting and inspirational piece to be sure, based on William Gray’s Rite and book – but after being immersed into the world of the Rollright Rite we noticed that the other side of the cassette was called Solstice, so sat down to listen…
Although perhaps not entirely factually accurate – as amongst other things the original colours of Father Christmas’s clothing are something that is disputed https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_suit – I do have to say that the ethos of the piece, of seeking behind the crass commercialisation and looking back to the origins of the celebration of the Solstice / Christmas is something that resonates deeply within me, perhaps it is something you have already encountered, of perhaps it will be something you will find for the first time after reading this piece, but I do hope that it is something that you find of as much interest as have I….
Yesterday I attended a small local moot, and after the Yule feast we played the Solstice broadcast, which was well received and agreed by all to be thought provoking… I would ask you to take a listen, the quality is not good, but it can be understood, perhaps set aside half an hour, dim the lights, close off all extraneous noise, sit down in the evening with a glass of whatever tipple you find most welcome and spend some time to contemplate the recording and the message it carries – all the more interesting for the understanding even 33 years ago as to how commercialised Christmas had become then – and I have to say that now it is even worse in my own personal opinion…
I love this time of year, it is the season I resonate with the most, the autumnal colours are the ones I find most beautiful, although what to us appears to be beauty incarnate is in fact the death knell for the leaves, it is the trees letting go of what cannot be sustained throughout the coming winter by reclaiming all the goodness they can and releasing the dead carcasses of what allowed them to grow and thrive throughout the previous 2 seasons. A delicious heady poignant beauty, one of death amid life, the dropped leaves then decompose to form new soil and nutrients, feeding fungi and insects and thus birds and animals, an endless recycling system, that has lessons for us all to learn from if we but choose to do so.…
I also love the newly darker skies and longer nights that afford glimpses of the stars not seen in all their glory for many months, the shooting stars of the Orionids seen streaking across the night – peaking on my birthday, the Full Moon silvery lighting the cold clear night sky and illuminating the dark world as if it was day… And of course the chance to witness Aeon’s worth of Lore written out large across the heavens for all to see; our Ancestors knew much more of it than do we, and yet if we take the time to look then the book is open for all to read, there truly are no real ‘secrets’, everything that has been discovered can be found again, if we choose to put in the effort and time to do so….
And, although not always appreciated by all, the colder weather is a somewhat welcome respite from the oppressive heat of summer, driving change, a more active climate, with less certainty and one that opens us to new experiences – the autumnal storms that strip the trees as the Wild Hunt rides through the night, the frosts that make us wrap up warm and invigorate our senses, the rain that recharges the land for the next years growing cycle, the wind that freshens the land. All of this may make some folk decide that they need to hibernate, to retreat indoors with their central heating and to abandon the wild woods until spring brings warmth new to the land, and yet it is absolutely glorious out there, no matter what the weather. Venture forth – suitably clad for the conditions – into the night, to places of Arte – your own working space or any place of the Ancients – and there is an Otherness, a palpable difference in the land, and a connection ripe for the making if you but take the chance to do so….
For myself and for those we work with there is something special about being out of doors for Ritual; indoors is fine when there is an immediate need to do some form of urgent working, but for Ritual then ‘always outdoors’ is our rule. To go out into the night, into the dark woods, to make the silent walk in – a waking meditation in its own right that allows the individual to attune and prepare for what is to be done – and then to set up in the working space, a place both familiar and ‘Other’ is something that focuses the mind more than any cleansing or preparation indoors ever can. There is a frisson of awareness that you are in a place that demands you to be vulnerable – anyone or anything could chance upon you out there – but this also opens you up, your awareness expands, and as long as you are aligned with one another, working with intent and with the permission of the Land Spirits / Wights, then there is nothing else quite like it…. For ourselves the darkness forces our other senses to become keener, you are more aware, more alive and more focused than at any other time, and when connection is made it resonates far more deeply…. I find it extremely difficult to understand why more folks do not work out of doors more often, but we see little evidence that folks make a regular effort to do so, at least where we have been, not our place to judge others, merely an observation..…
Then to top all of this we can add in the symbolism of the Ritual year – Samhain / All Hallows / the Darkening Tide – and you add in another whole dimension as to why this time of year means so much to me… For me it feels like the need of the living to acknowledge the dead is a strong one, something that despite our Christian culture has survived to this day, in both form and in terms of actions that are traditional to the time of year. It was not for nothing that the early Church chose to celebrate All Hallows at this time of year, and the fact that Halloween remains so popular speaks to me of the societal need to acknowledge something bigger than ourselves, almost a race memory of the need at this time to pay our respects to those who have passed over….
I am aware that many feel that Halloween is an imported festival, celebrated in ways that may seem excessive to the more reserved British culture, possibly even thought to be imported in wholesale from America, and yet its roots originate here, within many of the European cultures that were transported to the States. If we then also take into account Bonfire Night and Remembrance Day being at this time of year then a broader picture of the symbolism becomes apparent… Bonfire night – the commemoration of what we would now consider an act of domestic terrorism by blowing up the Houses of Parliament – is strangely celebrated with fires and effigies being burnt and in ‘companie’, although most people certainly do not understand it there is something more primal that drives us to mark this time of year in this manner, the earlier Samhain fires have merely been transposed to mark something else a few days later, something that perhaps was less likely to upset the church…
The timing of Remembrance Day on the 11th November is also interesting, although its date was set by the day that the guns fell silent in 1918 I find it interesting that the older day for celebrating All Hallows / Samhain falls upon the same day – coincidence or something else, only you can decide for yourself…. In 1752 we adopted the Gregorian calendar, which resulted in us loosing 11 days from the year, this was done in order to re-synchronise the clocks and seasons, hence there are groups whose Rites are still held at the time of Old All Hallows instead of at Samhain, a poignant and beautiful synchronicity that is not lost on those who mark their Rites on this date….
I have always personally felt a need to connect to the Ancestors, to acknowledge and honour them, not only at specific times of the year, but also as a main focus of our practices throughout the Ritual Year and it remains a major part of our praxis and ethos within the Hearth of Albion. Without the Ancestors we would not exist, and unlike many Deities – in whose eyes we are mere gadfly that are irrelevant – the Ancestors have a vested interest in aiding us, they wish to see us survive and thrive. We inherit our Honour from our Ancestors, along with our Culture, and it is our duty to safeguard it for the next generation, to uphold it and to retain the practices and Lore of our culture, to preserve it for the future, not as some dusty dry historical anecdote, but as a vital force that informs our lives and our actions….
The honouring of the Ancestors is something that I found was missing within our first explorations within paganism, although instinctively it was something I felt had to be done it was not something most folks we encountered did on any sort of regular basis – except at Samhain. It wasn’t until we formed our own Hearth, with its own praxis that we actually found what fitted for us, looking not only at familial ancestry – the Beloved Dead or the Ancestors of the Flesh – but also at spiritual ancestry – the Ancestors of Blood – and then also at the cultural and historic Ancestors of this Land – the Ancestors of Bone. It is these 3 forms of Ancestors that we acknowledge within our Rites, and with whom we have had contact within the Hearth of Albion… The Ancestors of Flesh, of Blood and of Bone…
The contact with the Ancestors is something personal, it is individual, and everyone experiences it differently, some perceive it as physical, actually seeing them around the outside of the working area, some see one, some see many, others feel or intuit their presence, and others only find them through journeying, all forms of contact are valid, and what messages are transmitted – if any – are for the individual to understand for themselves…
Each of our Rites includes a Houzle, a sharing of blessed food and drink – normally mead or ale in a drinking horn and bread in a Quaich – with the Ancestors and Gods, we follow a form that works for us and shares the inherent energy and virtue of the offerings as a blessing with one another and with the Ancestors, akin to the ‘Cakes and Ale’ that has become a part of modern W/wicca, but something that for us goes deeper, it precedes any Feast, and is something separate, not to ground the individual – which is what the feasting allows – but actually something that elevates the spirit and brings the reality of the contact with the Ancestors to the fore of our awareness, both Rite and thank you in itself…
‘Tapping the Bone’ – seeking knowledge from the Ancestral Stream is something that we also regularly undertake, making contact with the Ancestors is something that anyone can do – if they are prepared to go out and do the work. It provides a grounding knowledge of whom we are, it provides a base structure to build upon that is both rooted in the cultural and historic facets of our physical and psychological make-up but also allows us to tap into the Lore and wisdom of ages gone past, from those who have a vested interest in our survival and growth. It is not difficult, it does not require masses of tools and long complicated rituals, instead it takes time, stillness and focus, perhaps the use of a drum – a funeral beat is often a good way to call forth those who have passed over – some incense and some quiet time to commune, a skull can be used to invite the spirits into if you feel it necessary….
It is these praxis that form the basis of our All Hallows Rites, a chance to go out, to experience what IS, to share Companie with kith and kin from both sides of the veil, to acknowledge those who came before and to seek what messages they may have for us, to work a Rite from the heart based not on scripted words but on individual thoughts, feelings and emotions, to once again greet our ‘Beloved Dead’ and partake of something else, a sharing of something beyond the mundane, something beyond the logical, something experiential, spiritual and emotional, something ‘Other’ that engages every fibre of your being, not rational, tinged with madness perhaps, but something real beyond all else….
I wish you all of the Blessings of the Darkening Tide, and that your All Hallows / Samhain Rites have given you all you need, may your Ancestors always be honoured and may you live a life they would be proud of…
Image – The Crone in the Cornfield, By Kristen VanBlargan
Humanity tends to live our lives from one day to the next, caught up in the mundane existence of earning a living, maintaining friendships and doing those things we wish to do, often with our attention directed towards the next crisis or the next interest, a serial addiction of seeking to feel good about ourselves, driven in this media savvy world by advertising and aspiration, a culture of forever desiring and wanting the next new thing, often with scant regard for what our consumerism is doing to the very world that supports us…
Headlong and headstrong we rush forwards, some paying lip service to living more sustainably, yet those who truly live a life of sustainability are thought to be cranks and weirdos by those whose actions are sowing the seeds of disaster for those of our future generations….
Many of us are only aware of the slow passing of the seasons when we notice the gross changes in the physical world around us, paying no heed to the subtle clues that are there if we but open our eyes and see them, our attention instead diverted into a focus on celebrity, on individuals having their 5 minutes of fame, on acquiring the latest gadget, on keeping up with their peers and on keeping up with the storyline of their favourite soaps; a lifestyle that is all prevalent, seductive and easy to follow, but one that takes no real effort to follow…
Given the inability to notice the small daily changes, to perceive the signs that are writ large upon the worlds around us, then how much more blind are we to the longer term changes that occur throughout our lives? How many of us perceive the changes from year to year of the natural world around us, or indeed of our climate, or on a more personal note, of our own bodies? It is not until we are faced with a stark reality check that we then are able to perceive the changes that may perhaps have taken decades to occur, and perhaps at a time when it is too late to do anything about them….
As a child of 6 or 7 I fell over and broke a tooth, killing another tooth in that same fall, years of dental treatment, several operations and 2 crowns have resulted in my keeping those 2 teeth, although now, aged 50, it seems like the end is nigh for one of those teeth…. I have known it was coming, and have done all that is possible to keep this tooth, but as aging is inexorable, then so are its effects, and much as we may wish it otherwise, there comes a point when we have to accept the inevitable… As such I shall soon be without one of my 2 front teeth, and although the fact can be hidden with a denture, it cannot be denied….
I have pondered on how I feel about this, the significance of the tooth to be lost, and for me it is a representation of the other signs of aging that I have to admit are now ravaging my body with every season that passes – my once lush hair is now silver, my waist has expanded – despite my attempts to prevent it from doing so, the veins in my legs don’t work properly, I have sciatica and now need to wear glasses…. I do not speak of them as complaints, for to carry them is my own burden, and to mention them to others has no point – except to seek mock sympathy that is not needed or wanted – I could seek to hide some of these changes, in a vain attempt to remain looking as young as possible for as long as possible, and yet, to what end?
Why spend time, energy and money – and for some a whole lot of money – in seeking to hide what is, why not instead accept myself for whom I am, accept the signs of aging gracefully, to truly love myself and my body for what it is… To do so is to realise that the scars and injuries I have hold their own stories, they are not wounds, but instead battle scars to be carried with pride, the grey hair tells a fine tale of my time, my trials and my triumphs and the search for enlightenment, and my soon to be lost tooth confirms my role now as that of the Crone, perhaps a stereotypical image, but it is one ingrained into our psyche….
No, instead of seeking to change what is, to assume a need to project a younger, more vital persona that is nothing more than attempting to pursue a fallacy of eternal youth and beauty I shall instead acknowledge the loss of this tooth as the payment that is required, both for the time I have spent during this life, but also as a payment for whatever small amount of wisdom I have been able to gather, and I shall do so without any upset on my part.
And I shall accept those other signs of aging with equal equanimity, for truly it is what it is, a reality to be accepted and another experience that can be learned from, nothing more and certainly nothing to be remarked on in the grand scheme of life, in which we are all merely small fry…
Roll on the next chapter, which shall be pursued with all the vigour and lust for life that has characterised my life so far, and when the time is right, then I shall hope to be granted a place among my Ancestors, and to be accepted as one who has tried to live their life in a way that would make them proud…
A few pieces of Sky Lore for you to consider and see how they fit with your own praxis….
Apologies if it is rather long, winding and filled with conjecture, but I trust you will take from it what you can, and seek to build on it with your own research and experiences, as always, take what feels right to you and use it, and discard what does not,,,,
It may seem strange to many of us in the modern world to look up at the stars and not just see what we now know to be fact, that the scene we see is ‘merely’ the light from billions of stars, yet to our Ancestors – who although did not have our modern science were equally as intelligent and complex as ourselves – the night sky had many meanings, from holding the Lore of their mythos, to giving timings to their festivals – through Lunar, Solar and Celestial markers – through to predictions of the future…. Personally I would say that we have lost something of ourselves and our culture in the way we have lost our connection with this Lore of our Ancestors, and that by living our lives to modern rhythms, where most do not spend any real time out of doors under the stars that we are all the poorer for it, even if we do not perhaps always realise it….
So to continue our thoughts upon Sky Lore, we could next explore the classical mythology associated with the individual constellations – at least as we interpret them in the western world – much of which heralds from the ancient civilisations of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Persia, Arabia. These myths that surround the constellations are readily accessible, pick up any book on Astronomy and they usually talk through the story of the characters seen in the constellations, whether the stories arose because of the Constellation in the night sky, or whether the constellation was named after the character within an existing story is something we will perhaps never know for sure….. But as I said, this information is readily available….
After that we could look at Sky Lore from other more distant civilisations, the Chinese were recording data about the heavens long, long before anyone else, and the Arabian cultures were also early students of the night sky, Aboriginal Australians too…. The Native Americans had as many interpretations of the Sky Lore as there was different tribes, the Aztec’s had their own take on it, as did the Inca, and indeed many other cultures throughout history have some Lore associated with the sky, from the ‘Corpse Road’ (Milky Way) of the Norse, the ‘baneful omen’ of a comet from medieval times – as per the Bayeux Tapestry….. All of these are equally valid, although perhaps only hold relevance to those of their individual culture, or where Lore is seen in multiple cultures… Again, I am no expert here….
Perhaps we should also mention the Lore associated with the Planets, a name originally meaning ‘wanderers’, whose position in the night sky was said to herald messages about our futures, leading eventually to what has become modern astrology. This, if used truly, is a form of divination far removed from what it has become for most in today’s society. Historically I understand that Astrology was used to give a new perspective to contemplate the occurrences in your own life, and a possible way to look for a solution, not merely to provide amusement to the masses, as with anything work has to be undertaken in order to truly receive the gift….. Not that I am in any way an expert, and I would welcome discussion and more information on this subject…
We could also look at specific other events, such as the Northern Lights, or for that matter the Lore of lightning and other weather formations, all of which belong to the body of Lore and knowledge that comes from the Sky, but that is not my focus for today….. Instead let’s look at the other ways that celestial events actually have meaning with our modern version of Paganism? This certainly should have some meaning for us to seek and some understanding to garner?
In order to look at this lets consider the dates of some of the Sabbat’s and Festivals that we may choose to celebrate, I have already mentioned Plough Monday, with its correspondence to the Quadrantid Meteor shower, which occurs the day before 12th Night, but there are other astronomical markers that can be used to identify specific dates. Now, given the ease of observation of the night sky as opposed to the specific observation and marking of Solar events – you need some frame of reference, such as a stone circle, and specific observation from that reference point to identify Solstices and Equinoxes, certainly not easy when you don’t have modern equipment, or even a reliable calendar or timepiece – Whereas a meteor shower, or the rising of a specific star or constellation can be observed from anywhere that you happen to be that has clear skies…. Surely – and this is conjecture on my part – it is easier to spot something in the night sky rather than have to observe the point on the horizon that the sun rises at any specific time in the year? Food for thought if nothing else….
For instance, the Feast of Hekate, August the 13th / 14th, coincides with the Perseids, perhaps the most prolific meteor shower, and one that originates within the constellation of Perseus… who according to some legends was the father to Hekate, so the meteors could be seen as his blessing – or his seed – being given to his daughter…
How about midwinter, Yule celebrated on the longest night, the 21st December, but in some traditions Midwinter is a separate festival, that happens on the 24th, the date of the Ursid meteor shower, and which perhaps gave rise to the date of Saturnalia and thus modern Christmas? Although we need to also take into account here the effect of the changes in our calendar, Pope Gregory instigated the reformation of our calendar which resulted in 11 days being lost, if this was taken out then the Geminid Meteor Shower on the 13th and 14th December would have fallen on the 24/25th, and the Ursids would have been at about 12th night, followed soon after by the Quadrantids for Plough Monday, perhaps an interesting season of rituals and festivities that explains the 12 days of Christmas and the long ‘Modranichts’ of Yule..….. Again, conjecture on my part, but perhaps not too difficult to see why?
What about Ostara / Spring Equinox, held at about the time of Lady Day – the 25th April – or Law Day for our Saxon Ancestors, when their Thyng’s – gatherings of the tribes to sort any disputes, make contracts and renew oaths, carried over in modern times to the start of the Financial year – were held, which corresponds to the Lyrid meteor shower…. Again, food for thought, and with this being 9 months before Yule – and the ‘rebirth’ of the Sun / son – gives a date for a conception, whereas Mayday 6 weeks later would be the first signs of the pregnancy showing and thus a more apt celebration of fertility…. Again conjecture, but food for thought….
Lugnasadh / Lammas? Related to the Dog Days, the time that the Dog star, Sirius, first rises, and also to the first grain harvest that this hottest time of year heralds, hence hlaf-mas in the Saxon, or ‘loaf-mas’ that later became Lammas…
So if there are possible specific astronomically significant dates for these Sabbats and Feasts / Festivals, what about the others? Well, for Mayday I would say we have an excellent marker in the hedgerow, the Hawthorn – also known as the Queen of the May – perhaps such an easily seen marker is all that is needed to set the date of the May Day Festivities? For Samhain, well, the day following the first frost would be an easily understood and observed marker, why complicate things more than they need to be? Candlemas – perhaps the first flowering of the Snowdrops? Another easily observed marker that winter is leaving and spring is on its way…
So what about Midsummer I hear you cry, there is only the Solstice to mark it, so surely this must be how it was done via places like Stonehenge? Possibly, although there is little evidence to truly support the wheel of the Year as we celebrate it in modern times as having any real historical basis in the way that we use it, we know of no culture that celebrated all of these festivals. It is known that the Celts of Gaul celebrated the 4 Fire festivals, the cross quarters of Imbolg, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, but little else is known for sure, other cultures celebrated specific Sabbats, such as Yule and Walpurgisnacht – a 9 day festival culminating on May Eve – for the Norse, Lady Day / Ostara for the Germanic peoples, we can also assume that it is very likely that a Harvest festival would have happened at the end of the Harvest, but as to the name Mabon, this a more recently named Sabbat – although just because it was named in the 1970’s does not make it any less valid….
Most of this is speculation on my part, based on some Lore I know, some extrapolation and some thought, and I would ask you to treat it as such and subject my reasoning to your own checking, but it may be of interest to some, perhaps enough for you to undertake your own exploration of the night sky during the long nights of the coming winter….
Some believe that all Myth and Lore is written plain to see, if we but have the eyes to see it and the keys to understand it, some of this can be found within the night sky, hidden in both the Mythology of the constellations and also in our own interpretation of them….
I held back on posting the next piece of Lore, as it comes from within a Tradition of a friend, one I am aware of but do not belong to, and I most certainly did not wish to break any confidence that I had been shown, but after speaking with her I was reassured that it has already been made public, and I am free to bring it up, so here we are, a bit more Lore to digest and ponder upon….
Some of those within the myriad different paths of Traditional Craft look to specific constellations to find their Mythos, they attribute them not to the classical mythology, but instead ascribe their own mythos linked to the constellations, interpreting things differently, and one constellation that has been used by some Trad groups for this is Bootes.
Bootes is located just behind the Plough in the Northern Hemisphere, he is known as the Ploughman or the Herdsman. He is said to push the Plough through the yearly cycle, moving it around the heavens as the year progresses, but in doing so he charts his own life story, as his journey takes him beneath the horizon for several months of our year. In my friends Tradition this is a major part of the Ritual Year, Bootes is seen as the figure of Cain, and is reborn – his head reappears above the horizon – at Yule, emerging more fully at 12th Night – hence the 12 days of Yule feasting as he is reborn as ‘the Child of Promise’, before living the year and ‘dying’ at Samhain – perhaps it best to post the info as given by my friend here….
• All Hallows – Cain almost sunk below the ecliptic, only his head can be seen. He effectively ‘dies’ [reflected in ritual by the dismembered skull and the sickle]
• Yule – Cain slowly begins to rise again, N-NE. [reflected in ritual by re-birth of the sun/son of light, of life and renewal of life].
• 12th Night – Cain is risen, arms extended outwards pushing the plough. [Reflected in ritual as the celebration of the power of the Father perpetuated in the cycle of the sun/son and the creation of mankind by the generative potential of a living sentient god-force within the universe] Curiously, a shower of meteors known as the Quadrantids [four points], coincidentally the most prolific and abundant of all annual meteor showers, burst forth from the east, in the region of the rising Cain, seeding the Universe with light and power, the semen of the god, for the ritual ‘ploughing’ of the earth, into the receptive body of the Great Maar.
• Candlemas – Cain, now fully risen arc across the sky. [Reflected in ritual as the progression of light and return to earth of the fecund powers of nature, of growth and expansion]
• Spring Equinox / Lady Day – Cain approaches close to optimum Zenith [reflected in the apogee of the ‘Heiros Gamos’, the tale of creation, of ‘Zep Tepi’, the first time, the time of the gods
• May’s Eve – Cain reaches the azimuth. [At his strongest, he is reflected in the ritual as the green man, the warrior and farmer, the gift of life, male essence, the viridient spirit of god without].
• Midsummer – Cain begins his descent, dropping into the western half of the ecliptic. [Reflected in ritual as the sun/son moving into the aspect of the father, of dormant/latent energy].
• Autumn Equinox – Only half of Cain remains visible above the ecliptic, but the full council of seven [Corona Borealis] remain fully visible. [Reflected in myth as the descent of the Beloved, where she learns of the powers and purpose of death in the cycle of life, instigated and witnessed by the Council of Seven]
The life cycle of Bootes / Cain can be equated to the growing year, and is a form of Sacred King cycle, similar to the Oak and Holly King, but it is certainly different…. There is much more to their Sky Lore, which informs the specific dates of their Feasts – some marked through specific celestial observations, other through astronomical events such as Meteor showers – but it is sufficient that any who are interested can then follow up themselves with further research… My friend’s group are very much in favour of allowing the individual to find their own way, their rules specifically prevent everything being given out without any work from the student, indeed, it is the effort needed to uncover and understand their Lore which gives it the value for the individual….
Adam, Eve and the Serpent….
Although nothing to do with my friends Tradition, I did also come across this, which is aligned in terms of the subject, although an interesting take on the mythos and Lore in a manner that suggests some possibility of it being the origin of the biblical story….
In this interpretation Bootes is seen as Adam, Virgo – positioned just south of Bootes – as Eve and Hydra – beneath Eve – as the Serpent… The link below goes into some detail and has associated graphics and biblical quotes to give more information about the story…
I am also aware that there is other Sky Lore available, some of which is specific to certain Traditions, if any wish to share their Lore then please feel free to do so, or to contact me privately if you wish, I am always open to learning more, it is what I feel our individual crooked path’s should be all about….
I got my first glimpse of Orion this morning in the pre-dawn sky, with Venus off to the left as the first rosy hues of dawn lit the sky, a gift gladly received….
Yet that gift was brought about with a price, through being up early due to a poorly pooch, Poppy had an upset tum, some mess to clean up, but not as bad as last time, and I have to praise her for her ‘thinking’, she was sat in the shower when I got up, limiting the ‘damage’, making it somewhat easier to clean up…
Thankfully now she is lay on the floor at my feet, calm and relaxed, leaving me to ponder the nature of the gift, is it still valid when brought about through anothers misfortune, pain and suffering, or is it truly just a coincidence?
I wouldn’t wish the upset tum on Poppy, nor on anyone, but also I am glad for the opportunity to see Orion for the first time this autumn, for his appearance does herald that the season is now changing – at least for myself….
Of course, you could say I am reading too much into the situation, seeing cause and effect where there is nothing but random chance, and you may be correct, but for myself there is more to it…. There is a price to pay for everything we do, and for every desire and wish that we have, some of those prices we willingly pay, others we are not given any choice but to accept, it is what it is, our Wyrd – fate – there is no point bemoaning what has happened, nor – in this case – getting upset with the dog, just accept it deal with the consequences and to try to see the positives in every situation…
How we choose to deal with life’s little calamities – and the larger trials that we all face – is the true measure of our character, we can choose to see the negatives, and perhaps allow ourselves to become the victim, or we can instead maintain our steadfastness in the face of adversity – whether large or small – retain our humility and try to understand and empathise with the miseries that can afflict ourselves and others. This is something much easier to do when it is those we love, or are in contact with, rather than some random unknown strangers or those we perceive have wronged us, but if we truly seek wisdom then the suffering of anyone else, whatever their race, religion, colour, creed, political viewpoint, gender, sexuality or need is something we should all be able to understand and empathise with, even if we do not let it rule our lives…
Holding fast to the ‘virtues’ is something that truly has to be lived, it cannot be externally enforced, it has to become a genuine part of your character, your natural state of being – or at least one you strive to achieve…
As to what are the virtues? Well, that depends upon the individual, but in a world gone mad with consumerism, with technology dehumanising and alienating individuals, where fame and superficiality have become the new mantras for a society lost to itself, then I would repeat some advice I was gifted by a wise man that I consider a friend…. ‘Look in the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 13 I believe, in there somewhere is a list of qualities which Krishna implores his follower Arjuna to attain. These qualities are universal, are the hardest to attain and yet are the fertile ground in which the seeds of true culture may flourish once again.’
And to finish I shall leave you, as recommended by my friend, with the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13….
“Humility, pridelessness, nonviolence, tolerance, simplicity, approaching a bona fide spiritual master, cleanliness, steadiness and self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratification, absence of false ego, the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; nonattachment to children, wife, home and the rest, and evenmindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me, resorting to solitary places, detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization, and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth-all these I thus declare to be knowledge, and what is contrary to these is ignorance.”
Whether today you celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, or Alban Elfed, or choose instead to give it a more modern name – Mabon – or instead celebrate your Harvest at soon to arrive Michaelmas, or perhaps don’t celebrate anything, may I wish you seasonal blessings of this tide…
Once more the balance point of the Equinox is upon us, and again our world pauses, the light giving way to the dark as autumn brings its gentle mists and mellow fruitfulness. The second Harvest is here, grains previously gathered now joined by the fruits of the land… We reap what we have previously sown, by word, by action and by intent; the scales of balance are also the scales of justice. Libra is now ascendant as the sign of both balance and of judgement, heralding the coming darker tide as we pass into the Mound at Samhain and face the more hidden aspects of life and death; a coming time of individual reflection which needfully demands our attention, in order that we may learn and grow from all of the lessons we have been gifted by the Fates during this turn of the wheel…
Around us the land assumes myriad hues, brilliant autumnal colours, so vivid that it lifts the spirits of all who see them, and yet this beauty comes at a price, these colours are really the colours of death, of decay and of letting go, the beauty of the leaves comes at the price of their lives; perhaps a metaphor for our own lives… Some leaves die young, still green, their promise taken too soon; some become diseased and fall early, others reach maturity and are taken by random chance, and others hang on into old age, their youthful beauty fading into the colours of autumn as one by one they fall from the tree like death claiming us from life, with scant few making it through to midwinter or old age.. Akin to our own lives, we fall, harvested in our own time as we travel the length of our own lifespan, from the exuberance of youth to the wisdom of older ages, each point on the wheel has its beauty, its lessons and its wisdom for us to learn.
Taken as a metaphor for life then this point of the year represents maturity, the onset of middle ages, there is still vigour, and much to look forwards to, but the descent from our physical prime has begun, yet the peak gathering of experience and wisdom is still before us…
Image – Joan Hassall (1906-1988) “The Stricken Oak”. Frontispiece wood engraving
Hoary old oak all alone in the field, His Skeletal branches all now revealed, Half dead He stands with bark all peeled, His Fate so soon to be revealed…
Driving through the lush summer clad beauteous land of Albion today and my gaze was caught – while sat in traffic – by an ancient oak tree, sat in the middle of a field of golden ripening grain. Its branches were almost all bare, their bark peeling and some of the bare limbs were lighter in colour, like its bones were being revealed…. A few of the highest branches wore a crown of bright leaves, lush and green like a remembrance of its sapling youth now so long gone, almost as though the tree was desperately struggling to cling on to life, yet the river moves ever onwards, and what is fated for each of us upon this plane cannot be avoided by any….
Likely as not the old oak will fall with the first of the autumnal storms, his body breaking under the impact, then his flesh and bones will go on to feed and nourish others…. It truly felt like an apt illustration of the Oak King and Holly King mythos today, the Oak King’s strength now waning as the light draws in and the crops ripen beneath his benevolent gaze, he is not yet vanquished, but mortally wounded and his power is fading… Just some thoughts that came to me, illustrating that our spiritual side can be lived daily in all moments, it is not separate, it is who we are….