Thursday, July 31, 2014

Run On: Lammas

originally posted in the on-line religion magazine, Creedible, 2013

August often seems to bring in the most desperate days of summer. The sun beats down heavily, school is right around the corner, and the pace starts to pick up again at work. Everyone tries to squeeze in one last vacation, one last trip to the mountains, one last trip to the beach, one last hotdog, one last camping trip, one last barbeque. 

In the wheel of the year, August marks the end of summer and the start of the harvest season. Fruits, herbs and grains are ready to be harvested and gathered, and summer’s bounty is almost, but not quite, overripe. Observed on the first of August, Lammas celebrates this time of sun, heat, harvest, sweat, games and celebration. 

Also known as Lughnasa (Loo-nuh-sah or Loo-nah-sah), this Gaelic holiday with Irish roots observes the funeral games the hero Lugh (Loo) hosted in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu. Tailtiu is a grain deity who died from exhaustion after preparing Ireland for agriculture and cultivation. Her sacrifice and death mirror other Corn Mother myths throughout the world, including goddesses from ancient Greece, the American Southwest and Japan. Her gift of preparing Ireland for planting manifests itself through the harvest enjoyed during these summer and autumnal months. 

The exploits of the hero Lugh and his games held in honor of his mother are mimicked in our own summer games of baseball, swimming, soccer, and other outdoors sports. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but some Pagans feel as if nothing could be more appropriate this time of year than holding the Olympic Games, a glorious celebration of accomplishment and human potential. 

Though we’re not Olympic athletes, this is still the perfect time to go outside and do something sweaty, fun and incredible. Though winter seems to be a lifetime away, the cold will be here before we know it. For Lammas, share a hearty feast with your friends and family, partaking of seasonal fruits, vegetables and local dishes. 

Summer is a good time of year for family reunions and gatherings. Like Lugh and Tailtiu, honor your family and the accomplishments of those close you. Family legacy and memories live on when we share the stories that make us laugh and beam with pride. 

Be sure to boast and brag about yourself a little, too.  We all have a lot to be proud of because we’ve all done something heroic in one way or another, so share your accomplishments with those who you care about and who care about you. As the wheel turns and turns again, one day your exploits will be talked about, celebrated and remembered during the sweaty, fun-filled summers to come.

Monday, July 28, 2014

No One Can Stop Us Now: Gaia's Circle Lughnasadh 2014

 My eclectic ritual group, Gaia’s Circle, celebrated its 5th Lughnasadh today!  We first gathered on Mabon of 2009, and I’m really quite proud of the beauty we have created together over the years.  The group takes turns hosting and writing, and one of the members was really excited for the chance to write what she called “a proper Celtic ritual for Lugh.”  She writes the most beautiful liturgy, and the ritual was pretty stellar.

Gaia, Berkana, and Beith
We began with a little processional to the ritual space, some light smoke cleansing with cedar, and then the lighting of the hearth fire.  My friend’s tradition is Ár n Draíocht Féin (ADF) which means “our own Druidry.”  The ADF ritual structure is totally different from what I do as a Neo-Wiccan, so her rituals are always a unique treat. 

She asked if I’d like to offer the prayers to the Star Goddess and Celestial realm, as well as to the Earth Mother.  I was very pleased to do both.  (Very fitting for a Space Witch!)  In preparation for these tasks I learned a little bit about Tailtiu (Tall-Chew), who was Lugh’s foster mother.  She is said to have died from exhaustion after clearing Ireland’s lands so people could farm.  In her honor, Lugh founded the festival, games, and holiday of Lughnasadh.

Crom Dubh
My Druid friend did some really cool things with the elements and chanting, and we learned about Crom Dubh and Lugh.  Crom Dubh protects us and preserves us, but sometimes this can perhaps be a bit overwhelming and a little-too self-preserving, protective but holding us back at times.  Lugh inspires us with his wit and skill, and with his blessings all things are possible.  Both Gods were given gifts and honor during this ritual, reminding us to protect ourselves, but not to compromise our daring and magical potentiality. 

We also enjoyed mead and corn bread, had an anointed champion who will protect the luck of the group with them throughout the year, and we had a huge feast.  We had pazole (a ceremonial soup traditional to Mexico), salads, veggies, cheese, wine, watermelon and a special treat of caramel corn.  It was a lovely time to catch up with friends and also welcome new ones, too.  I’d never really worked with Lugh before, or Tailtiu or Crom Dubh, and it was great to learn about another pantheon, their stories, and their traditions.  (I’m sure my Celtic ancestors were very pleased, too.)

I’ve been a bit melancholy and anxious these days, vexed about the various Pagan groups I’m in, some Pagan and personal projects I’m working on, sad about not having a job, etc.  But this ritual helped me to appreciate the protective touch of Crom Dubh, the sacrifice of Tailtiu, and the skill and wit and inspiration of Lugh.

After the ritual, I went home with this song on my heart (from Sharon Knight and T. Thorn Coyle)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pagan Blog Project – week 30 – O#2 – Oracular Spectacular

Pagan Blog Project – week 30 – O#2 – Oracular Spectacular

When it comes to oracles and divinatory methods, people have dozens and dozens of options.  Tarot cards probably come to mind most often, but there are also runes, the ogham, and oracle cards.  You can scry with crystals, water, or fire.  You can watch birds or read tea leaves. 

Many years ago I was surprised to find that some people came up with their own oracular or divinatory methods.  There is indeed power and energy behind something like tarot or tasseomancy, but a self-made oracular system can also tap into those same external and internal energies.

A few years ago I came up with something I call “Oracular Spectacular.”  I started with a large jar decorated with magical symbols and sigils.  Next I printed off lyrics from my favorite songs.  Some of the songs were ones that I had loved for years, and some of them were ones that meant a lot to me at the time of the jar’s creation.  I took my favorite lines from the song (or in some cases, the whole song) and cut them out in words, phrases, or verses.  All of these slips of paper went into the jar (along with a generous splash of glitter for extra magic and ooomph!)

I have a little method and ritual I usually do every time I use Oracular Spectacular.  I shake the jar a pre-decided number of times and I recite a little incantation.  When I first started using this oracular system, I was shocked at the immediate results I received.  But I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.  Picking songs and lyrics that held a particular significance to me, as well as intention, trust of the cosmos, and my own inner mental and emotional situations created an incredibly powerful combination of power.  The Oracle draws from one’s own energy, as well as tapping into the cosmos, and it’s incredibly effective and meaningful.

This system is very easy to use.  You can use it every night, or every morning.  You can use it before an important event, or just when you have the need for some advice or guidance.  There is no limit.  It’s not a lengthy, time consuming process.  There is no set-up, preparation, or clean-up.  Whenever the urge comes to you, you can consult the Oracle, and get your answer.

I would consult Oracular Spectacular with specific questions a lot of the time.  I’d ask my question and draw the Oracle, and if I needed clarification, I’d draw a second.  If it was still confusing or I was dissatisfied with the answer, I’d ask a different question or put the Jar away for a different time.  Some systems let you keep on asking and asking and asking, but this one definitely has its limit.  If you ask too much, the system gets muddled and confusing, and I feel as if the answers lose their honesty.

Or, of course, you could just ask generic questions.  “What should I know about today?  What should I know about this morning?  How will I do on the test?  What should my focus be right now?  What should I know about my relationship with this person?”  There really are no limits on the questions you could ask when consulting an Oracle like this.

After I’ve consulted the oracle I either paste the slip of paper in my book of shadows or my journal, or I put it back in the jar.  It really depends on my intuition at the moment.  Sometimes I know deep down that the Oracle has spoken, and that particular slip of paper needs to not return to the jar.  But sometimes I’ve gotten a strong sense that the Jar wasn’t done with that particular message, and so back into the Oracle it goes.

I used to use this system a lot, but recently I’ve been studying the runes and the Greek Alphabet Oracle, so my attention has been diverted.  It’s hard for me personally to devote much time to too many divination systems and methods.  I tend to focus on two or three (tops!) at a time.

When I have a new favorite song (or remember an old one that has come back to me with new meaning) I add those lyrics to the jar, too.  Repeat songs and lyrics are also okay.  That way the jar is always being refreshed and renewed, and it will never run out of lyrical and oracular options (in theory.) 

I’ve seen lots of self-made oracular and divination systems over the years, and I’d encourage my readers to explore devising their own systems as well.  I still rely heavily on my tarot cards, but there’s no reason why a witch can’t have many tools in her box!  Plus, exploring divination systems can be a lot of fun, and making one of your own can be a good exercise of imagination, as well as an expression of inner will and power.

And of course, if you come up with or already have your own system, share it here!  I’d love to see what all of my cosmic brothers and sisters are coming up with!

Until then, clear skies!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Pagan Blog Project – week 29 – O#1 – Offerings

cranberry juice and incense on our household altar

Pagan Blog Project – week 29 – O#1 – Offerings

A Note - There are lots of possibilities when it comes to talking about offerings. We could talk about why to give or why not to give offerings, who to give offerings to, what offerings are best for which Deity or which spirits. We could talk about offering etiquette, offering options, offering techniques, and offering methods.

All of this stuff is very important and each of those points are worth their own blog post. This post, however, is just a short survey of offerings – how to give them and what to do after you’ve given them. I don’t intend to leave anything out on purpose, so please just consider this as just presenting a few quick options and points to consider. I’d also encourage any readers to leave their own thoughts and comments in regards to offerings. I’d love to hear more!

A food or drink offering can be left on an altar or at a shrine or in a special spot inside or outside. It’s generally thought offering only the best and most fresh food or drink is acceptable.  (We don’t want to insult the Shining Ones by giving them or leaving them moldy food).  Though there are appropriate times to offer less-than-desirable offerings (such as Hecate’s Deipnon.)

It’s nice to find a space outside that you can leave food offerings when they are ready to be taken away. You can find a space in your yard, or if you are in a city, find a large flower box or other public area with lots of earth and plants to dispose of your offerings.

I have two Druid friends who dispose of offerings like wine and water down the sink with a special prayer to the Roman goddess of the sewers, Cloacina. Or, keep offerings plant and food friendly, like fresh water, bird seeds, grains, etc. These can be sprinkled outside with no harm to nature or animals that might ingest them.

Incense, oils, or other scents can be used as offering as well. I personally love burning incense. Incense is said to carry our prayers to the Gods and spirits. Burning incense is affordable, easy, and long-lasting. It might be good to include a thought or a special prayer, but this isn’t always necessary.

Or burn a candle. Make sure it’s in a safe place so it won’t fall over or an animal can’t get to it. Again, a prayer or nice thought is appropriate.

For those who can’t use fire or incense because you are in a dorm or similar setting, you can still pray at a special place! Or sprinkle potpourri or loose incense or dust, just without burning it.  

Actions and deeds can also be given as offerings. Volunteering, spending time with people in need, being generous with your love or money - there are very few limits when it comes to the possibilities of giving offerings.

One of the keys to giving offerings is to do them with intention. Any act can be an act of loving devotion if the intention is there. And also, trust your intuition! This can be very powerful and endlessly important.

An example - I recently did a ritual to a Deity who I hadn’t really formally worked with before. I felt as if the gifts I gave were not enough, but I wasn’t sure what else to do. So I spoke this concern out loud and asked that She be kind and help guide me so I could properly offer to her.

the Omen from our July 4th ritual
I asked my Druid friends their opinions, and they said that in their tradition, Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), oracles are conducted as part of the ritual structure to see if an offering is well received. Offerings are given, and then an oracle is consulted. If the oracle is unfavorable they offer more offerings, then ask another oracle (tarot cards, runes, etc). 

They have three times with in the ritual to offer an offering, and after three unfavorable oracles, they stop the ritual. This seems very useful to me to see, right away, if an offering is well received. Though honestly, I don’t think it’s appropriate for every ritual or situation. Intuition really goes a long way, and trusting your intuition is a skill we all should develop.

After my ritual, I went back a few days later and did another one. I offered some more prayers and incense, and I felt as if it was well received. It just felt different. I believe that this is because I wasn’t “cold calling” upon this specific deity. I was taking steps to develop more of a relationship, out of love and respect and trust.

Sometimes we make mistakes, and that’s okay. Just like with any other mis-step or mistake, admit it, apologize, and then move on, while taking steps to rectify or change the mistake so it doesn’t happen again. It’s a learning process!

So go, make offerings. Abundant offerings be upon our Shining Ones! Think outside the box, be kind, be intentional, and trust your instinct and intuition. Our Gods and Spirits and Ancestors and Guides are much deserving of our love and respect, and they appreciate our gifts, no matter how large or small.

And lastly, be open to their gifts as well. Our lives are full of blessings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pagan Square - Melancholia, Moon Dreams and the Goddess

Please check out my latest post over at Pagan Square! 

"I recently received some particularly hurtful and insulting comments from a family member concerning Paganism.  These comments came as a great surprise to me, and also served as a wake-up call.  Being a Space Witch isn’t all moonshine and glitter, unfortunately."

read my post here!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July Announcement: "Magical Musings and Memories"

Already tired of the heat of the summer?  Tired of long days and short nights, sweltering sun and unpredictable and humid summer storms?  Already looking forward to the cooler months, to crisp evenings and warm scarves?  Delicious gifts of joy and cheer?

So am I!  So that's why I'm so excited to announce a winter writing project that is int he works - Magical Musings and Memories: a joint compilation of holiday cheer."

My good friend Vickie over at Aoibheal's Lair invited me, as well as a group of her wonderful lady friends to contribute to Magical Musings. Her idea is for all of us to include holiday memories, crafts, recipes, poetry, and other fun, exciting, and jolly articles and art projects.  What a great idea!

I'm excited to be invited to contribute to a fun project like this, and I'm excited for the friendships and connections that will be made throughout this process.  The holiday season might be just under six months away, but there's no reason to not get started now! 

So check out "Magical Musings and Memories: a joint compilation of holiday cheer" on these various media platforms, spread the good tidings, and see you over there in December!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Pagan Blog Project - week 28 - N - New Moon Oil

Pagan Blog Project - week 28 - N - New Moon Oil

Here is the recipe for a new moon/new year oil I made in January:

14 drops of sandalwood essential oil
14 drops of jasmine essential oil
14 drops of lavender essential oil
14 drops of myrrh essential oil (I always try to use myrrh when doing moon-focused spells and charms)

Top it all off with a base/carrier oil of your choice. (I used grape seed oil).

Shake it 14 times while thinking of newness and change and beginnings. Or chant and sing or dance. What ever works for you!

Leave it outside during the new moon to charge up.

Adjust and specialize according to your needs and desires - change the oils, change the number of drops, etc. There are no limits!

If you have any questions about essential oils, please read my post here!

also check out my Imbolc oil recipe. Perfect for Brigid and transitions!