High Day Recap – Ostara

25 03 2014

I did my Ostara ritual at the moment of the vernal equinox on 20th March. It went well and I had a surprisingly good Two Powers visualisation (perhaps because I was standing up this time and so it felt more real.) As usual I used the Solitary Druid Fellowships basic ritual format with my own additions and changes. I honoured Eostre and Njord as the patrons of this ritual as Eostre is the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, while this is also the beginning of much of our fishing season so Njord seemed appropriate. I honoured Heimdall as my gatekeeper and Hertha as the Earth Mother. I gave oats to the Earth Mother as an offering, silver to the well, oil to the fire and shining ones, an apple to Heimdall, seeds to the nature spirits, cider to the ancestors, oil to Njord and Eostre and bread as a final offering. I also did my Oath at this rite, giving Honey as an offering to all the kindreds.

I took two omens during the ritual. My normal Ostara one using my homemade Ogham set was Luis – protection from the gods, Hawthorn – consequences from the Ancestors and Hazel – creativity from the Nature spirits. I’m not sure what to make of the omen as it’s got both positive and negative elements. I wonder whether the Ancestors want more from me. I will have to meditate on this and seek guidance.

The rest of my celebrations included making a curried scrambled tofu dish as a vegan alternative to scrambled eggs and an attempt at naturally dyeing eggs which only really worked with tumeric. I also decorated my altar with daffodils.





High Day Recap – Imbolc

1 02 2014

I did my Imbolc ritual at 3pm on 1st February. It went reasonably well although I lost one piece of my script for a minute and forgot to light one of the candles. However I felt empowered at several points during the ritual. As usual I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual format although with quite a few additions. I decided that as this was a Celtic holiday, I would honour the celtic pantheon again with the Patrons being Brigid and Manannan (as it was traditionally the beginning of the fishing season too). Manannan was also my gatekeeper. I gave oats to the Earth Mother as an offering, silver to the well, oil to the fire and shining ones, an apple to manannan, seeds to the nature spirits, cider to the ancestors, soya milk to Brigid and bread as a final offering. I also prayed for a blessing over my seeds, tools and land.

I used my Ogham set for the Omen and got – Ceirt (beauty, love) from shining ones, Ruis (Transition ) for ancestors and Coll (Creativity) from the nature spirits. I am taking this as a very positive omen and blessings from the Kindred.

The rest of my celebrations included eating lots of (fake) dairy products, putting cloth out for brigid to bless last night, making a brigid bed, lighting lots of candles and putting them in the windows, leaving bread and butter on the windowsill as an offering, buying a candle making kit, and this evening I will make a spicy lentil shepherds pie.





Seventh High Holy Day Explanation – Imbolc

25 01 2014

Known as Imbolc or Candlemas, the 1st of February is one of the four great festivals of the Celtic year. It marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring. At this time the first signs of spring are appearing in nature – buds are beginning to appear on trees, animals are waking up from hibernation and early spring flowers like snowdrops and daffodils are beginning to bloom. The day is also known as Oimelc which is Gaelic for “ewe’s milk.” The ewe’s are lactating and the lambs are beginning to be born. Milking can begin again, which in ancient times, when food was hard to come by in winter, offered people a lifeline. The sun is getting stronger and the days are noticeably longer. It is time to celebrate the awakening and rebirth of the earth, as well as new beginnings in our own lives.

In the tale of Tochmarc Emire, in which Emer is wooed by the hero Cu Chulainn, Emer talks of “Imbolc, when the ewes are milked at spring’s beginning.” Historian Ronald Hutton says that “The festival must be pre-Christian in origin, but there is absolutely no direct testimony as to its early nature, or concerning any rites which might have been employed then. He does point out that is has something to do with milking as ewes began to lactate and that “it is reasonably certain that behind this alleged holy woman [St Bride]…stands a pagan goddess of the same name.” He further says that there is uncertainty whether she is one goddess or a triple one, but in legend she is “associated with learning, poetry, prophesying, healing and metal-working, and was in general the most pleasant Irish female deity.” A fire was kept burning at her Kildare shrine during medieval times, but Hutton points out that in legend, the goddess “was not especially associated with fire.” By the 1700’s it was believed that she visited households on the eve of her feast to bless people if they were virtuous and many customs of this time are recorded. For example, feasts to mark the last night of winter, bread and butter left outside on a windowsill as an offering, Crosses made of rushes hung up over the door as a sign of welcome or put in stables so the animals would be blessed, and a bed of twigs made so she could rest. There was also a custom of putting up cloth or ribbon the windowsill overnight for her to bless.

However there are other festivals associated with this time that have helped shape how we celebrate it today as modern pagans. Hutton’s book on the Stations of the Sun looks at Candlemas, a Christian feast of purification with a ceremony of kindling candles. He says this was a “celebration of returning light” and that later medieval services use images of “rebirth of light in the dark time of the year” and the “promise of better times not far away.” Meanwhile Bede said that the pagan Anglo-Saxons called February “Sol Monath” ie cake-month as it was a time to offer special cake to the gods.

Historian Peter Berresford Ellis points out that according to Rennes Dinnsenchus, St Brigit was a “ban drui” and was said to have been nourished on the magical milk of Otherworldly cows. She later became a Christian and created a religious settlement at Dumcree. He says that in a biography of her in 650AD, her “cult was mixed with the Irish goddess of fertility, Brigit, after whom she had obviously been named” and that her feast day was “grafted onto the festival of Imbolc….sacred to the goddess Brigit on January 31st and February 1st. He explains that this feast was connected with ewes coming into milk and so “was a pastoral or fertility festival.” The goddess Brigit was a daughter of The Dagda and was a “divinity of healing, poetry and arts and crafts” as well as divination.

There are many customs recorded throughout history in Gaelic countries which honour her and may date back to the time of the ancient Celts. In Scotland, a cold day on Imbolc meant warmer weather was soon to come. Offerings of milk were made to the earth and porridge to the sea to ensure a good yield of fish and seaweed in the coming year. A St Brigit doll was made of corn and dressed elaborately e.g. with snowdrops and primroses. A bed was made for her and she was invited into the house, while a white birch want was placed alongside the bed to represent the wand she used to make vegetation start growing again. Ashes in the hearth were smoothed and left overnight. In the morning, these were checked for evidence she had visited and if not incense was burned to her. In Ireland, celebrations were similar. Imbolc represented not only the beginning of spring but also the fishing season as the storms of the sea were supposed to have been over by then. While some farmers would turn over a sod of earth in a symbolic act to hurry up warmth, the feast was known as a “holiday from turning” and so any type of turning such as weaving, ploughing and spinning was forbidden out of respect for Brigit who it was said had taught women how to spin wool. The house was cleaned thoroughly beforehand and sained or warded, while water was brought from a sacred well to sprinkle around the house. A feast on the evening included sowans, apple cake, dumplings, colcannon and most importantly, butter. Later mashed potato with butter and onions was added. A place was laid at the table for St Brigit and a portion of food left out for her. Items such as ribbons or cloth were left on trees and bushes outside for her to bless and the fire was kept burning with the door open so she could come in and warm herself. St Brigit’s crosses were made of rushes or straw and hung up for protection. It was also a time of charity and hospitality.

ADF suggests that this is a feast of the hearth, a time to celebrate the rekindling of the world’s hearth fire and the return of light, a time to purify the home, a time to prepare for spring planting by blessing tools and fields, and a time to give offerings to the Earth Mother. Alaric Albertsson in Travels through Middle Earth suggests that this is a good time to honour Hertha, the Anglo-Saxon earth goddess. Meanwhile, Neo-pagans celebrate by doing a spring clean, eating spicy or dairy foods, honouring Brigit and placing candles in all the windows of the home to represent the growing strength of the sun. I like to go for a walk on this day to search for the first signs of spring – especially snowdrops. Imbolc is also a time to create poetry and songs or to make candles for the coming year. It is traditionally the time to begin buying seed potatoes and chitting them ready for planting. I will also be celebrating by doing an ADF ritual, eating a spicy lentil and vegetable shepherds pie and having a party with friends.

Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Ellis, Peter Berresford. A Brief History of the Druids. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Cunnigham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Minnestota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

Tairis – http://www.tairis.co.uk

Gaol Naofa – http://www.gaolnaofa.com/festivals/

Gaelic Folkway – http://gaelicfolkway.webs.com/feiseannaomh.htm





High Day Recap – Yule

22 12 2013

I did my ritual at 5pm on the day of Yule because I wanted to time it to coincide with the actual moment of the Solstice. I stumbled a bit at the beginning….I think it was because I was nervous at the fact that my partner was there (though not taking part) so I was self conscious doing it alone but “in public.” As usual, I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual format with some editing of my own. I am trying out switching my hearth culture from Celtic to Norse so I decided to honour Sunna as its the time of the sun’s rebirth, and Odin, the leader of the Wild Hunt as my deities of the occasion. I also changed gatekeepers to Heimdall. The offerings I used were oil for the shining ones, fire and each patron, seeds for the nature spirits, home made cider for the ancestors, silver coin for the well, incense for the tree, oats for the earth mother, an apple for Heimdall as gatekeeper and bread as a final offering. As part of the final affirmation, I lit yule candle to honour the Sun. I didn’t feel anything special happen but I do seem to feel more contented/ fulfilled/ at peace afterwards so I think a switch of Pantheon is the right way forward.

I used the Ogham set for the Omen and asked the Kindred “Grant me true seeing this season that I may know what blessings you have for me.” I pulled three Ogham – Saill/ Willow – Intuition, Nion/ Ash – Wisdom and Ur/ Heather – Dreams or Feelings. I am interpreting this as a positive omen and that the Kindreds are offering me blessings in these areas or saying I need to pay attention to inside feelings/ intuition and dreams to gain wisdom?

The rest of my celebrations included a party with friends, some porridge left out for the house wight and eating a Yule feast.





Sixth High Holy Day Explanation – Yule

16 12 2013

Also known as Midwinter or the Winter Solstice, Yule has its roots in many cultures, including Roman Saturnalia, Christian Christmas and most importantly Scandinavian and Anglo Saxon Yule. It is the longest night and the day when the Sun is “reborn.” Since the summer, the days have been getting shorter and colder, but after Yule they begin to lengthen again as we approach spring. It is a time of light and hope in the depths of cold winter.

The first mention of a midwinter celebration is in the writings of a 4th century Christian who said that at this time pagans celebrated the birthday of the sun by kindling lights, giving presents, feasting and the closure of schools and shops. However this festival of Saturnalia only began in 274ad. By the 8th century there were 12 days of celebration at Christmas. There is little evidence of celebration in Ireland before the 12th century. However, Bede, writing in 730ad said that most important festival of the Anglo Saxons in England had been “Modranicht” or “Mothers Night” on 24th December. This was the night which opened the new year and “they kept watch during it with religious rites.” The word Yule came through Danish rule over England, however there is no mention of it in early Scandinavian literature. However, Snorri Sturluson says that there was a three day celebration at this time, including a sacrifice for a good crop. Historian Ronald Hutton says “the consensus between Bede and Snorri, that the winter solstice was a major feast of the ancient Scandinavian and Norse people’s, and opened their year, is still an impressive one.” There are many records from the 4th to 11th centuries of church leaders denouncing revelries, sorcery, divination, dressing in animal skins and feasting to excess at this time of the year. Across European society, it seems to have been a time for role reversal and the relaxation of norms. Hutton says that Welsh literature also shows good evidence for a midwinter “new year’s feast.” He further states that “it was the general custom in pagan Europe to decorate spaces with greenery and flowers at festivals, attested wherever records have survived.” These were often evergreens such as holly and ivy. Despite this, many of the traditional festivities we associate with Christmas now e.g. stockings, christmas cards, paper decorations and crackers either were invented in the 19th century or came over from Germany at that time. Other traditional Christmas festivities such as the Christmas Tree (in the Rhineland), Yule Log and Wassailing the orchards can be traced back to Tudor times but no further.

Norse reconstructionists celebrate Mothers Night (Modrinacht) as a time to honour the goddesses and ancestors. Twelve days of feasting follow with the burning of a yule log, meditating on the nine virtues, lighting candles, doing divinations and taking oaths on New Years Eve. Yule signified the height of the Wild Hunt, when a ghostly procession led by the god Odin marched across the night sky. In southwest England where I am from, this myth has evolved into a belief that it is hell hounds (known as Yeth or Wisht hounds) chasing sinners or the unbaptised. Similarly, myths surrounding Odin and Thor may have contributed to our modern Santa Claus. Yule is a time for honouring many of the Norse gods – Odin who leads the wild hunt, Thor for stopping the ice giants, Frey for prosperity, Sunna and Baldur for the Suns rebirth and the winter deities Ullr and Skadhi.

Modern Neopagans like Wiccans celebrate this day with the myth of the mother goddess who gives birth to the sun god, while Druids tell of a battle between the Oak King and the Holly King, in which the Oak King overcomes the Holly King on this day and rules until Midsummer.

It is traditional to celebrate Yule with gift giving, spending time with loved ones, decorating with evergreens, having a yule tree, drinking and feasting. Wassailing is another tradition and in medieval times, villagers in southwest England would go to orchards and wassail the apple trees to scare away evil spirits and ensure a good harvest in the Autumn. This year I intend to light a candle on each of the twelve nights, honour a norse deity and do a divination for each month of the coming year. I will also have a big feast, celebrate with friends, decorate the house, do an ADF ritual and go for a walk in nature to greet the sunrise in the Solstice morning.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Cunnigham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Minnestota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Hunt

http://theasatrucommunity.org/holidays/yule/





High Day Recap – Samhain

5 11 2013

I did my ritual on Samhain evening at home alone. It started off quite badly as I was only using candlelight and I couldn’t see the words of the ritual that I had written. I had to add extra candle light which mucked up the flow. Eventually I sorted it and things went relatively smoothly from then on. I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual format with some changes. As Morrighan is associated with death, Donn is lord of the dead and Cailleach Bheur has roots in both Ireland and Scotland relating to winter, I thought it was appropriate to honour them as patron and write prayers to them. The offerings I used were oil for the shining ones, fire and each patron, seeds for the nature spirits, home-made cider for the ancestors, silver coin for the well, incense for the tree, oats for the earth mother, an apple for Manannan as gatekeeper and bread as a final offering. I also chose to integrate some extra workings into my ritual including a house cleansing, warding and blessing, as well as specific actions to honour my ancestors. These extras meant the ritual took over an hour to do but helped the whole flow of the ritual. I also used the two powers meditation in the ritual. To honour my ancestors I lit a candle for each of my grandparents and a friend who had died, as well as spending a minute in silence to honour them. I didn’t feel anything special happen in the ritual and I think I need to make more effort with gestures and raising my voice to have more of an effect.

This was the first time I used the Ogham set I had made for the Omen. I asked “Grant me true seeing that I may know what blessings you have for me” after seeing it used by another ADF member in one of their rituals. The Omen was Huathe – Consequence, Fearn – Endurance and Saill – Intuition. I am interpreting this as saying that the blessings that will be the consequence of this ritual are endurance and help in developing intuition. Or it could relate to the need to have endurance and commitment/ discipline to follow a new direction of meditation and looking inward/ developing intuition which I seem to be moving towards in my life. I am interpreting this as a positive omen.

The rest of my celebrations included a party with friends, leaving out food for the ancestors, carving a pumpkin and eating a meal of spicy butternut squash soup, colcannon with vegan sausages and baked apple.





Fifth High Holy Day Explanation – Samhain

29 10 2013

Also known as Halloween or All Hallows Eve, Samhain is the festival on which the ancient Celts celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Winter.

At this time the earth appears to die, laying dormant through the dark cold times ahead. The leaves are changing colour and falling from the trees. The harvest has been collected from the fields and they lie empty. The livestock have been brought down from the pastures, the weakest animals have been culled for food and people return to their homes for feasting. Summer is over and winter begins. The days are getting much shorter and colder, the frosts have begun and animals are busy making final preparations for winter. Traditionally it was believed to be bad luck to harvest anything after this date and therefore any remaining harvest is left as an offering to deities or nature spirits. It was a time to give offerings to the gods in thanksgiving for the good harvest the people had.

Historian Ronald Hutton says “A feast with ritual practices…was…well known in both ancient Ireland and ancient Scandinavia, and represented by folk practices in the uplands of Wales and Scotland. There was, however, no common rite as there had been at Beltane.” He further states that “there seems to be no doubt that the opening of November was the time a major pagan festival was celebrated” but that there is no evidence that it was connected with the dead or that it was the new year. Rather, the association with the dead came through Christianity and the development of All Souls Day. However, it was a time to guard against and propitiate supernatural forces.

Samhain is the most widely mentioned festival in Irish mythology and the Gaulish Colignay calendar also mentions it as the end of the pastoral year. It is mentioned as the first festival in the Irish tale of Tochmarc Emire as “Samhain, when summer goes to rest.” It is the time when the Morrighan and An Dagda mate in a river for victory at the second battle of Magh Tuiredh, and it is a time to honour Donn, the father of the Irish race and chief of the sons of Mil. He is the Celtic lord of the dead, the dark one who was drowned in the battle to invade Ireland. He now dwells on a small island named Tech Duinn, the waiting place of the dead before they journey to the Otherworld. In contrast, Historian Peter Berresford-Ellis says that the god Bile is also a god of the dead who transports souls to the Otherworld. Another story related to this time of harvest is the story of why offerings are given to the Tuathe De Danaan. After the Milesians (ancient Irish) conquered Ireland from the Tuatha De Danaan, the land was divided up with the Milesians on the land and the Tuathe De Danaan under the ground. But the Tuathe continued to destroy the crops and stop cows producing milk so an agreement was reached with An Dagda so that the Irish offered a portion of their harvest to the Tuathe De Danaan in exchange for their friendship and blessing on the land. The Cailleach Bheur, the old hag of winter can also be honoured at this time.

Bede said october was named “Vuinter-fylleth” as it signified the beginning of winter, while November was named “blod-monath”because this was when the annual slaughter of livestock occurred to reduce the number of animals kept through the lean months. Hutton says that pagan Scandinavia held its own major festival at the opening of winter, called winter nights, on the saturday between 11th and 17th of October, but that there is no evidence this ever came to Britain.

For the ancient Celts who split the year into two halves, Samhain marks the transition from the summer half of the year to the winter half, from life to death. They believed that any time or place of transition was sacred. Just like Beltane, at this time the veil between this world and the Otherworld was at its thinnest and therefore the spirit world and human world could interact. As a night of liminality, transition, uncertainty, chaos and danger, it was believed that many otherworldly beings would be roaming on this night.

While there were fires lit in some areas on Samhain eve e.g. Scotland and Wales, this was not the case in Ireland, where Parshell Crosses were placed in the entrance to the house instead. Other practices at this time have included communal meals, candles being lit and prayers said for the dead, drinking and games, putting pieces of bread on windowsills for one’s ancestors, taking precautions against witches, divination by casting nuts into the bonfire to learn about death and marriage, carrying lights around in turnips and dressing up as monsters while causing mischief. It is also a time to sain and ward one’s property by walking the boundaries with fire and making rowan charms.

Gaelic reconstructionists avoid going out on this evening as the spirits as most active, or if they do, its in disguise. They light bonfires and carry flames around their property to protect and sain it. They carve turnip lanterns, hold big feasts, do divinations, give offerings to the gods and ancestors, leave food out for the dead and light candles for them. Its also a time to play games, sing songs and make a parshell cross.

ADF suggests that this is another spirit night, the feast of the dead, when the harvest is in and its time to give thanks. The cycle of death and rebirth can be celebrated as the ancestors feast with the living. Neo-pagans often celebrate this time with a dumb supper to honour the dead. For Norse reconstructionists, its a good time to honour Odin as the Norse god of the dead as well as the ancestors, especially the Disir.

It is traditional to celebrate this festival by eating a large feast of late harvest foods e.g. pumpkins, apples, nuts, root vegetables and barmbrack bread. It’s also the traditional time for remembering our ancestors and those we have loved and lost e.g. by visiting their graves and putting fresh flowers there. Personally, I build an altar and put photos and mementos of those I have lost recently on it. This year I have managed to get a few more mementos to add to the altar. I also put up my family tree. On Samhain eve I perform a ritual of remembrance, lighting a candle for each person I am remembering and holding a minutes silence in respect. I am also having a party with friends, decorating the house and eating traditional foods like Butternut squash soup, Colcannon (mashed potato with kale or cabbage), baked apples and gingerbread. I will do a house saining ritual, carve a pumpkin, and leave out a meal for the ancestors and porridge for the nature spirits. The nearest Celtic area to me is Cornwall and this time is celebrated there as Allantide, where it is customary to give an Allan apple to each family member as a symbol of good luck and children would often put it under their pillows. I will probably do that too if I can find some.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

 Ellis, Peter Berresford. A Brief History of the Druids. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002.

Davidson, H. R. Ellis. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin Books, 1964.

http://www.tairis.co.uk/

http://www.gaolnaofa.com/festivals/

http://gaelicfolkway.webs.com/feiseannaomh.htm





Dedicant Path Week 29 – High Day Recap – Mabon

25 09 2013

I did my Autumn Equinox ritual on Sunday afternoon. The ritual started off a big haphazard but I got into the swing of things quite quickly and it went well from then on. I used the Solitary Druid Fellowship’s ritual with a few changes of my own, including using the words “parting the veil” rather than “open the gates” in order to make it more Celtic. I chose to honour An Dagda as the main god of this ritual because he is the Irish Celtic god of the Earth and the turner of the seasons. He also has a cauldron of plenty which I felt fitted in nicely with the harvest theme of this festival. I wrote a praise prayer to him myself and used that in the honouring the deities of occasion part. As I had already done a 20 minute meditation in nature during the day, I kept the meditation part very short but I don’t think it harmed it in any way. The offerings were the same as normal except for an extra portion of oats for An Dagda. My normal offerings are an apple for Manannan, oil for the fire and for the shining ones, a silver coin for the well, incense for the tree, seeds for the nature spirits, cider for the ancestors (I have just finished brewing my own so I used that in this ritual) and oats for the Earth Mother. I didn’t feel anything special happen in the ritual but this is the second time when I’ve felt a sense of readiness/ confidence/ empowerment once the ritual was ended. I have decided I need a better final offering for all the Kindreds instead of just water so I will need to have a think about that at Samhain. I also mucked up a little on the oil and to keep pouring it in the middle of ritual ruins the flow of things so I need to make sure I have it already poured out beforehand next time.

The omen was confusing but positive I think. I pulled three tarot cards. First I asked – “how were my offerings received?” I was given Two of Stones – Challenge. Reading the handbook for the Tarot, it talks about challenge, rivalry, adversity, something born of insecurity in the subconscious. It’s also about having personal integrity and sincerity, standing my ground and remaining clear and focused on objectives. I’m not 100% sure whether this is meant to be positive or negative. Do they feel challenged or do they want to challenge me? Do they want to challenge me about my offerings? Perhaps they don’t like them?The second question was “how shall you respond?” For this I pulled the Green Woman. This is a symbol of the universal mother, the womb of nature, the female archetype of wildness and the bounty of the great mother or goddess of sovereignty. She challenges all comers to brave her tests and offers them inner kingship, love and a deep bond to the riches of the earth. It’ about the blessings of the earth mother, fertility, nurturing, protection and the path of communion with nature. I’m taking this as meaning they are offering blessing, fertility and abundance so its a big positive.
The final question was “what more would you have me learn?” For this I pulled the six of vessels – Reunion. This is confusing again. Its about affection and love in a situation which needs resolving or could be a reunion in the soul – of the individual with their own nature. I think the Kindred are saying there is something in me that needs resolving or reuniting.

I think I need to have much clearer questions and use my new Ogham set rather than the Tarot to make things a lot simpler and easier to understand.

For the rest of my celebrations, I made an Ogham set using local pebbles. I had a big potluck meal with friends and drank cider I had brewed myself, and I decorated the house with lots of leaves and other things from nature.





Dedicant Path Week 22 – Fourth High Holy Day Explanation – Harvest Home

20 09 2013
English: Autumn fruits - hedgerow crab-apples

Autumn fruits (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Autumnal Equinox, also called Harvest Home, Mabon or Alban Elfed is a time of transition and change, a time of honouring the changing seasons and a time of reflection and thanksgiving. It is also a time of balance. The Autumn Equinox is the midpoint between the summer and winter solstices, when the day and night is of equal length and light and dark are balanced. It marks the beginning of the dark half of the year for the northern hemisphere, when nights are longer than days.

By the time of the Autumnal Equinox, the earth around us is showing the signs of the journey into winter – with later dawns and earlier sunsets, the weather is cooler and the leaves on the trees are turning wonderful colours. The animals are busy preparing for winter – squirrels collecting nuts and acorns while birds prepare to migrate to warmer climates. Most of the grain harvest has been gathered in and its now time to harvest the fruits – apples, blackberries, grapes, squashes and nuts, to preserve them for winter.

Historian Ronald Hutton writes that the end of the harvest was often celebrated in the medieval times with a harvest feast or supper and ceremonies involving the last sheaf of corn. It often involved a lot of drinking. According to Bede, September was called haleg-monath (holy month) and Hutton says “it can be surmised that this was derived from religious ceremonies following the harvest.”

I am not aware of any evidence or mythology to suggest that this day was celebrated by the Druids in ancient Gaelic cultures. However, there are a few ancient Irish temples which line up with the sun at the spring and autumn equinox which suggests they might have considered the day sacred. It is also very close to the time of Michaelmas which may have absorbed previous festivities in ancient Irish culture at this time, for example – picking carrots on the eve before, an emphasis on giving to charity and the beginning of the apple harvest and hunting season.

In modern times, Druids honour the Green Man of the forest by offering cider libations to trees. It is also good to celebrate this time by visiting an orchard to pick apples, making jams and cider or eating a meal of autumnal fruits and vegetables. ADF suggests that this is the time of the harvest, of reaping and gathering in. For Norse reconstructionists, it is the time to honour Thor and Sif as gods of the weather and harvest. Meanwhile Neo-pagans celebrate it as a day of balance, when the night and day are equal and nature is declining.

For me, this is a time to give thanks for the abundance of nature. It is a time to party and celebrate with all the wonderful food that is around. It’s one of my favourite times of the year because its so beautiful at this time as the leaves are turning. I love to decorate my altar with fruits, vegetables, nuts and leaves, as well as making leaf garlands to hang around the house. I will be celebrating by making cider, drinking lots, honouring An Dagda (as he is the god of the earth and abundance in ancient Irish culture, as well as the one who turns the seasons) and making an Ogham set.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Cunnigham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Minnestota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003





Dedicant Path Week 18 – High Day Recap – Lughnasadh

11 08 2013

I did the ritual on my own about an hour before sunset on eve of Lughnasadh. The ritual went really well as I used the Solitary Druid Fellowships ritual with a few of my own modifications. These were a change in the prayer to the earth mother (to one I had written myself) and a different statement of purpose. I also included a three minute meditation during the centering and grounding part as I learned from the last one that having it further on seemed to break up the flow of the ritual. This time it worked well. Manannan Mac Lyr was my gatekeeper and the patron was Lugh. The offerings were as before – oil for the fire and gods, apple for the gatekeeper, silver coin for the well, oats for the earth mother, cider for the ancestors, seeds for the nature spirits and a special offering of bread for Lugh that I had made myself. I also wrote a prayer to Lugh. The ritual went well but I didn’t feel anything special.

The omen was very positive. First I asked how were the offerings accepted and got back the knight of vessels – the eel. The Eel is the purveyor of wisdom and protection, it can become a weapon of warriors and it swims through the weeds. The card is also associated with attraction, welcoming, compliance, agreement and union. I felt this meant the offerings were received positively. The second question was – how shall you respond? The card was Queen of Stones – the bear. This means power and protection of the land, richness and plenty, pragmatism, generosity and prosperity. It can also mean a demanding individual, assurance and frankness. The final question was – what more would you have me learn? This came out as Ten of Bows – responsibility. It talks of a struggle up a path towards the reassuring glow of security and companionship, the need for inner fortitude, stoic resolve and determination to take on the task handed to me, to take responsibility for actions and learn valuable lessons. I am interpreting this as a very positive omen and that the kindred accept my offerings and give me prosperity in return but they expect me to be responsible and determined in the tasks I have to deal with.

The rest of my celebrations included making bread as a symbol of the first harvest of grain and picking blackberries from behind my house and putting them on my altar along with sweetcorn. I didn’t have a party this year because people were too busy but hopefully I will for autumn equinox.