August 10, 2020

There is usually a subtle shift in the air that happens in late July or August. It’s a slightly different, cool wind, and a whisper of what is coming. It’s that feeling of Fall being on its way, with summer’s end in sight. This has me simultaneously wistful and excited, as I love summer and yet I also look forward to Samhain. We spiral inward during this time of year, as we head towards the darker part of the year.

Spiraling Inward, Photo by Pixabay

This year, there is a layer over all of this during this time.  COVID-19 shows no sign of ending, and precautions are still in place. The words “back to normal” are fading from our vocabulary, as time marches on, and it’s difficult to make plans, much less think about the future. Each week is a new and unfamiliar territory, or the unrelenting same-ness may be taking its toll.

Part of me surrenders to the unknown, going with the flow, and then there’s a part that holds fast to my practice. It keeps me on task, and helps mark time. This is the time of year where we turn inward, prepare for the colder weather, and reach the culmination of the Wheel of the Year.

Just as we cleanse the energy of our homes and our spaces, so too do we cleanse the energy of the stagnant past few months. Begin simply, by lighting a candle, and spending time at your altar. Has it gotten dusty? Clean it off, and start anew. It may still be fresh from Lammas, or perhaps we have lost all sense of time, and items are on there from March. Move the energy at your altar, stand back once you’re done, and savor how you feel.

Next, plan ahead for your Ancestor Altar, if you don’t keep one up year ’round. Start gathering photos, and while you’re at it, share family stories. Online, in the written word, via email, or FaceTime. Pass along family recipes or share some of the photographs you find. Take up a family hobby you may have forgotten in the mists of time. Is there a certain dish your family would always prepare at this time of year? If you don’t have the recipe, try and recreate it. I made a blueberry cake recently that reminded me so much of my grandmother’s cooking that I cried. She has been dead many years, but I felt that familiar love and connection she always provided. It was a potent link between her and myself that sustained me.

Focus a bit of time on your spiritual practice next. Is it non-existent? Relegated to a corner of your life that you haven’t visited for a while? Rejuvenate that spirit by taking part in an online ritual. There are plenty to be found on Facebook and Instagram, and feeling that energy will invigorate you. If you feel comfortably quarantined and safe, check in with your local friends to schedule a socially distanced ritual in a park or open field. It doesn’t have to be a big, dramatic ritual (unless that’s what you’d prefer). Review what you have harvested this year in a Post-Lammas session, writing out all that you have reaped on slips of paper, and display the mosaic in your group. I promise you, you will be surprised at how much has happened this year, despite being isolated and quarantined. Then plan ahead for what you want to accomplish the rest of this year. Hold each other accountable if that is needed, and relish the sense of connection from sharing and hold space for each other.

After shoring up your spiritual foundations, check yourself next. Are you taking care of your health, both mentally and physically? Time to get more movement, water and breathing into your life, so make a plan to add all those, along with whatever you need to improve your days. Meditation, yoga, biking, nature walks? When was the last time you took a really soothing bath or shower? Have you taken any time for yourself that really felt nourishing? Make plans for an at-home spa day, or a hike, or a picnic. Get something on the calendar that you can look forward to, and make it all about what you need to feel supported and cherished. You’re your own best friend, so what would you like to do? Spend some time thinking on that, make plans and get excited about what’s to come.

Start planning ahead for the cold weather, either by canning or preserving, or ruminating on activities that will keep you busy when it’s cold outside. Start stockpiling witchy books and magazines that will keep you occupied when at home, or gather supplies for an activity you love and haven’t made time for, such as knitting, painting, puzzles, games, or whatever suits your fancy.

Next, reach outward. What is going on in your local community that you are passionate about, and are you able to donate time or resources? Start a food drive, check in with your local voting precinct, offer to drive people on Election Day, and get yourself educated on issues that matter most to you. Start an online book club on subjects you want to know more about, or ask a friend who is proficient in a skill to teach you, offering trades in energy or skills. We don’t exist in a bubble, and there is plenty to do in our community if we only look, and are curious.

I am ever grateful to The Wheel of the Year and our ancestors, who kept a steady rhythm and pace with guideposts of Sabbats to move us onward. It is grounding and centering, despite all the events life throws at us. Align yourself again with the wheel if you have felt disconnected, and prepare for this season of spiraling inward as we head towards Samhain.

 

 

 

July 19, 2020

It’s that time of year I alternately dread and enjoy. Lammas is soon upon us, and I tend to feel wistful. Summer is heading towards its end, with plant-life not quite as lush, and a whisper of autumn around the bend. Loving summer as I do, I feel the tendrils of sadness start to curl up my body. From spiraling outward since Beltane with exuberance, I feel the spiral inward, as we head towards Samhain.

Lammas bread by Unsplash

I’ve written before about Lammas being my personal reset button, and this year is no different. The Wheel of the Year turns ever onward, with the duality of “It’s almost Lammas already?!” coupled with excitement of plans. During the time of COVID-19, and with myself still keeping quarantined due to immunocompromised family members, public ritual is not in the cards for me, so I turn to other ways to celebrate.

Baking  Bread-making has been quite popular during this time of quarantine, but there is something really special about making bread for Lammas. The word Lammas itself means “loaf mass”! It is a grounding and centering activity, and magical as well, as you set your intentions while you knead the dough. This year, in addition to making bread, I am also going to make a blueberry pie, filled with blueberries harvested by a friend on her home farm. Friendship and farm-to-table berries, along with gratitude for both will be baked into that pie, and I am looking forward to that first bite, topped with the sweetness of whipped cream. With baking at Lammas, not only will I be feeding my family, I will honor my deities with baked offerings, and set my personal intentions for the rest of the year.

Nature  I am spending as much time as possible in nature, storing up that vitamin D in my bones, and breathing in the summer smells of nature. I am fortunate to live in a place surrounded by trees and mountains, but I strongly urge you to explore your own natural habitat. A change of scenery helps with perspective, and hugging a tree dulls that ache of not being able to hug people right now. Outside my office window, some Carolina wrens have begun making their nests, and their friendly and cheerful socializing right outside my window is indeed some magical times. Wrens embody all the boosts I need right now, so I am filled with appreciation for this magical addition to my days. Sunflowers have also been an bonus joy to my gardening this year, with their bright and cheerful petals always bringing a smile to my face. At Lammas, I will tend to my plants, hug trees, and honor the nature that surrounds me with much gratitude.

Wrens by Unsplash

Authenticity Being away from people for the most part, I find myself deeply appreciating the authentic people in my life. Those who show up as themselves, and not as an aesthetic, are especially treasured. Seeing people from afar who are doing the work, helping those around them, and keeping in touch despite corona angst-filled days are especially treasured by me. Being in contact with such people is also grounding, and bring me back to center when I too am faced with feeling overwhelmed. During this time of Lammas, I will offer gratitude for authenticity in my life, and doing my own check-list to make sure I am being truly authentic myself.

Writing  I have been picking up my pen, stepping away from the keyboard and writing. Writing lists, letters, postcards, and more. Rediscovering my own hand-writing has been a joy, since it had turned to chicken scratch with so much computer usage. Stamps and stationery have once again been added to shopping lists, and I am deeply in the joys of pen pals. Deepening bonds of friendship, along with making plans for future visits and activities is like adding fertilizer to my soil. It lets me know there are better days ahead, and keeps my sights firmly faced forward in these uncertain times. I will be spending time at Lammas writing to those who have enriched my life, thanking them and sending healing energy with my written words.

Spirituality My practice has deepened, what with divination, healing work, research, writing, and rituals filling my weeks. Turning inward as the spiral of the year slowly tightens its journey, I relish the time spent with my deities, in quiet meditation, or while learning, always learning more. I try to be still, and listen. It is the most valuable part of my spirituality, when I feel I have been programmed to stay busy and achieve. When I am still and listen, the quiet panic quells, and I feel connected to those who have guided my path all along. Time at Lammas will be spent honoring and communing with my deities, enjoying community when I cannot be with other people. 

Letting Go  One of the many gifts of corona is a constant letting go. Letting go of control, expectations, plans, preconceived ideas, and more. I let go of control, and it’s not the scary, out-of-control feelings of my dysfunctional childhood. Instead, it’s with an understanding that none of us really have control over anything. Anything, that is, except our reactions. This bit of serenity is hard-won, but it has added calm to my life, at a time when we all need it. At Lammas, I am letting go completely of what I thought this year would look like, and instead, continuing to embrace the here and now.

Whatever and however you celebrate, whether it is Lammas or Lughnasadh for you, take some time to truly honor the celebration. It’s not merely something to check off your list, but a time to pause, reflect, reset, and lean into the life you’ve created thus far. Be present, and be mindful. Life is more vivid that way, and a bit less fearful. Blessed Be!

 

 

July 28, 2019

It’s almost Lammas/Lughnasadh (Do you celebrate one or both?), and I am a bit giddy with excitement. Last year, I wrote of Lammas and harvesting my dreams. Hard to believe, it’s a year later, and I look back on that celebration with fondness. It was the quiet before the storm, but it was a grounding time, much needed before what was to come. Not much happened at Lammas, really. I made a few loaves of bread, which was something I hadn’t done in a long while. All was well in my world, summer was winding down, and I was looking forward to making plans for the rest of the year.

Photo by Pixabay

And then it all stopped. My youngest, who had survived a week in the ICU with extensive blood clots a few months earlier, was beginning to feel some pain. That pain ended up lasting close to two months, while we tried to get answers from both bewildered and sometimes indifferent doctors. A few months later, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Now he is cancer-free, his hair has returned, and he is beginning to pick up a life that was disrupted. As for me, I am learning to breathe again, with longer stretches between panic attacks and worried-mother obsessions. We both have felt forged by fire, and I am thinking deeply about fire and strength during this Leo season. Our cores may be strong, but sometimes it can feel a bit wobbly.

It may seem simple, that baking of the bread. Yet that moment was a turning point for me. I am grateful for the Wheel of the Year, and how it makes us pause, celebrate and remember. I am fortunate to live in a place where I feel the seasons deeply as well as physically. While those memories of last year can be unbearable at times, I know my strength came from that grounding and centering action: baking of bread. I may not be a farmer, and not harvesting grains or a garden, but I harvested much this time last year. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Lammas is celebrated as First Harvest, and one tradition had the first loaf of bread blessed, then chunks were torn off, to be put in all four corners of the barn or land, to encourage more harvesting, or to provide protection. I am doing the same this year, for while I feel protected, guided and loved, I do so to honor my ancestors, to provide extra protection for my youngest. While we both have much to be grateful for, we have also planted seeds for our new lives that have sprung from that fire. We will never take good health for granted, and we recognize those who supported and loved us during those trying times.

This year, I am making a version of Elven Lembas Bread, found on a medieval cooking site, with a wee variation added by me. I look forward to making it, sharing some, casting protection on our home, and celebrating. Making bread is a steadfast process, which makes you slow down, pause and think. As I gather ingredients, knead and form shapes with the mixture, I will be setting intentions not only for myself and my family, but also for the world at large, sending out hopes for an improving world, instead of a seemingly disintegrating one. Join me? Let me know how yours turns out.

Lammas Elven Bread

6 tbsp. butter, slightly softened

2 cups self-rising flour

1 tbsp. granulated sugar

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 egg well beaten

1/2 cup milk

4 tbsp. heavy cream 

Parchment paper

With a fork, cut butter into the flour in a mixing bowl, until it resembles cornmeal. Do this rapidly, so that the butter does not melt. Add sugar and raisins. In a different bowl, beat egg and milk together until mixed. Reserve one tablespoon of this mixture to brush the top of the bread,. Add the cream and egg mixture to the flour and mix until it is a stiff, soft dough. Knead three times on a lightly floured surface. Set your intentions. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness, and cut with cookie cutter, or into squares, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Leave at least one inch of space between each piece. Brush the tops with the egg-milk mixture. Makes about 1 1/2 dozen. Bake for 12-13 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven.  When thoroughly cooled, wrap in parchment paper, and decorate with Lammas designs (bread, wheat sheaves, leaves, etc.) Pass out as gifts, or enjoy with your family and community.

Blessed Be!

 

 

 

 

 

July 26, 2018

Lammas at first had seemed to me like a second-rate celebration. I think it’s probably because I am in denial. It marks the beginning of the end of summer, which is my favorite season. Yes, I am one of those strange people that enjoys heat and sunshine. So for me, it’s one long noooooooo! I don’t want to celebrate the end of summer. I’m never ready for that.

Then there’s the bread. We celebrate bread? First harvests? I’m not a farmer. I’m not a baker. Yes, I was lazy and didn’t really look into this much at all. I was dismissive.

First few times, I celebrated half-heartedly (apologies to my tribe, my heart wasn’t in it!) A few years later, a friend told me Lammas was the beginning of her journey as a pagan, and it was special to her. Warm feelings flooded my heart. I should look more closely into this Lammas, I thought. It meant so much to someone I respect highly, so there must be something to it, right?

The Wheel of the Year turns, as it does. At first, I didn’t really follow through my plans to learn more. Then one article caught my eye. First harvest of grains, yes. It’s not merely bread. What about harvesting your dreams earlier in the year, the ones from the last celebration, the last new moon? That is indeed a way of harvesting, and can provide the impetus to keep that momentum going into the rest of the year.

Seems simple, but as the world is increasingly chaotic, it may seem impossible to stop and review. There’s so much TO DO. Yet, the Wheel of the Year has provided us markers in which we do stop and slow down. I intend to do so this year.

For myself, this journey I am on has gone down a path where I am able to help lead ritual in a peace garden. I am collaborating, helping to write ritual, celebrating with others in a lovely garden that has been created from a barren spot. I had helped with a ritual there previously, and a participant told me my words brought a peace and comfort that she had not felt in a long time. To do so again is a dream realized.

As this year has whirled by, I recognize that I have scattered my dreams into words written in various journals and lists. This year, Lammas is calling me to organize and realize what seeds I have planted. It is my first harvest this year. A few months ago, I realized that much of my work this year had come to fruition from seeds I had planted last year. Has this ever happened to you? I’m gratified, however, that the seeds I planted this year, although fewer and shoddily planted, are still delicate and growing. They are still very much alive and fighting for growth.

To honor my path, and to fully celebrate Lammas this year, I plan on making my own bread.  I’ve never made my own bread before, mostly because it seems so complicated, and bread is not high on my list of favorite food items. Yet it seems fitting to honor my journey and my newfound respect for the celebration of Lammas. I approach it with gratitude this year, and look forward to a deepening knowledge and fondness for it.

Now about that Lugh…

More to learn.

July 26, 2022

As evidenced by my many blogs on the subject, I LOVE Lughnasadh. Also known as Lammas, Lughnasa, etc. the First Harvest Festival on the Wheel of the Year brings me great excitement. Why, you may ask? Well, a few years ago, I decided two things: to always bake bread on this day, and to renew my spiritual practices at this time. It may seem odd to renew spiritual practices on an August date, but as a person who loves Summer, it helped make this part of the year much more festive and celebratory.

Sunflowers. Photo by Bru-nO via Pixabay

So, I look forward to this Sabbat as a boost to my spiritual practices, a renewal of my dedication, a time to cleanse, offer gratitude and celebrate. I like to bake bread, because while I am not a farmer, I do consider myself a bit of a gardener. I set intentions as I mix the ingredients, and my family enjoys the lovely taste of homemade bread, and they join in on my celebrating.

If you find yourself at a loss as to how to celebrate this festival, and worry because it is soon upon us, fear not! I have plenty of ideas. A few are below.

Bake Bread  This one is most commonly done, but don’t worry if you have never made bread before, or you don’t regularly use yeast. I use this Homemade Rustic No Yeast Bread recipe, and it is soooo easy to make. Set intentions for the coming season as you mix the ingredients. Enjoy! And savor it with whatever toppings you like.

Reset your altar  Clear it all off, and start over. Clean the space thoroughly, and change the energy with smoke, salt or Florida Water. Get fresh candles, create a bowl of seasonal fruits and vegetables, decorate with wheat or sunflowers. Be festive! Get one new item for your altar to liven up the energy.

Renew your spiritual practice  This doesn’t have to be time-consuming: acknowledge the ways your spiritual practice has gone this year, see where it can be enhanced, make a list, set intentions. Think about how your senses can be engaged in your spiritual practices: light candles, play music, incorporate water, leave food or drink offerings. Write these down in your journal or on a piece of paper, or create a collage of what you would like to incorporate, and add that to your altar space.

Watch Dancing at Lughnasa  One of my traditions is to watch this movie, made in 1998, starring Meryl Streep and Rhys Ifans. Not the most cheerful of movies, but there are festive moments amongst this fractured family. Plus, it takes place in Ireland, which is always a joy to watch. Part of the movie takes place during the local celebrations of Lughnasadh as well.

Ritual Bath  We Pagans love our water! Get festive with your bath or shower, incorporating herbs and flowers, use bath salts or bubble bath, play your favorite music, light candles, and wash away all that no longer serves you. Make a true ritual out of this time in the water, with meditation, a ritual of your own creation, or a deeply thoughtful soak.

Celebrate Sunflowers  Pick sunflowers at a local farm, buy some at the store, print out a photo of sunflowers, visit a Van Gogh Immersive Experience, or take photos of any you find out in nature. Look at one up close, or offer sunflower bird seed for the birds outside.

Celebrate Blackberries  Or choose whatever fruit(s) you love most this time of year. Find new creative ways of serving them. A quick Blackberry Bruschetta recipe is a favorite of mine to use.

Clean up a natural space  Help your local environment by picking up trash, whether it be in your neighborhood or at a local park. Join an environmental organization or look around where you live to see if you can volunteer your time. Take time to clear your own space, if it has gotten a bit overgrown or neglected.

Create an outdoor altar  If you have the space around your home, create an outdoor altar space. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it can be started with a fallen branch from a tree, and a few stones you’ve collected. Designate a space that you know you will return to time and again, and brighten it with colorful flowers, plants, leaves or other flora you find.

Enjoy a Lammas Feast  Go to a local farmers market, and revel in the abundance. Try a fruit or vegetable you usually don’t use, or create a salad filled with local garden goodness. Add whatever items that catch your eye, and feel part of this season. Celebrate with family, friends or by yourself if now is a busy time. Savor the meal, and make it as colorful as possible.

These are the colorful memories that will sustain us as we begin to spiral inward towards the darker part of the year. Enjoy, celebrate, and make this a Lughnasadh to remember!

 

August 29, 2021

Samhain is often the star of our Pagan Year, so we tend to blow by August and September in our haste to embrace Autumn in all its glory. I get it. There is much to look forward to, and many things to plan for our busy Octobers.

Photo by Philippe D. on Unsplash

Yet after Samhain…then what? I wrote last year of this time of spiraling inward during a pandemic. We find ourselves in a similar situation this year. Despite our myriad feelings, the Wheel of the Year moves ever onward, so it is up to us as individuals to make preparations as we head towards the end of the calendar year. The holidays and the increasing darkness can distract us, so it is imperative that we begin making plans for the days ahead.

It may be sunny and summery where you are now, yet there is the usual whisper of the changing season underneath our daily activities. Below are a few things you can do to add to your days so that you can greet the days after Samhain prepared and ready:

Get out in nature  Spend as much time outside as you possibly can, soaking up those moments in the sun or hiking in forests, boating or swimming. Charge your personal batteries by as much interaction with the natural world as you can fit in your calendar. A walk to the park, a visit to a nearby state park or whatever natural wonders in your area are worth visiting and re-visiting.

Deepen your friendship circle  Gathering in person as we head into winter is not ideal, but there are other ways to strengthen your friendship bonds. Check on friends you haven’t heard from in a while, schedule a video or Facetime call, write letters, send texts, exchange recipes or start a new hobby together. Your friendship circle may have changed during the course of the pandemic, so reach out now to people you enjoy, and schedule some time with them. It doesn’t take much effort, and it will help sustain you as the winter months deepen.

Enhance your spiritual practice  Refresh your altar, begin a new spiritual practice, learn more about a subject you are interested in, read up on the gods and goddesses. Spend time in meditation and with your deities, and really spend some time in the quiet. And listen. Sometimes we avoid sitting still and looking deep within because it’s uncomfortable. Remember that nothing will change if you find yourself doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result.

Build your apothecary  It is always good to have fire cider and elderberry syrup on hand, as well as some soothing natural teas. Curious about herbalism? Read up on it or take an online course. Eat foods that nourish you, and make sure your comfort foods are truly comforting, and not full of artificial ingredients. Take a CPR course (they are available online), and make sure you have basic medical supplies on hand. Move your body as often as you can, and if you are out in nature, even better. Breathe deeply and often. Try yoga or have your own personal dance party. Keep moving and breathing, and stay hydrated!

Read  Put down the phone and schedule a reading night, if you have gotten out of the habit of reading. Lose yourself in a book, whether it be an old favorite or one you have been meaning to get to, in that pile on your nightstand. Learn more about your spirituality, discover a new hobby or read some of your favorite authors from when you were younger. If you get into the habit now, it will be a natural part of your routine by the time the end of the year arrives.

Try some divination  If you have gotten out of the habit, or have never begun, divination is a great way to move through the days. You can start with a new deck of cards, and pull one each morning. Journal about it, and note how the card reflected your day.  If your intuition feels very quiet, try a pendulum and use it for simple yes or no answers. Learn more about astrology or palm reading, subjects you can learn at home. Get the same deck as a friend, and do readings for each other. Move divination into a daily practice, as opposed to reaching for cards only when you are in a panic.

Hopefully this list inspires you to come up with your own ideas for the time post-Samhain. Preparation can feel like yet another thing you have to do, but the rewards will be so worthwhile. Enjoy the process!

 

 

 

 

July 28, 2021

The spiral inward begins at the beginning of August. Lughnasadh/Lammas is celebrated August 1st as a Harvest festival, as our gardens yield their treasures, and the earth feels like it’s about to burst with so much growth, lushness and space. It’s the feeling of the earth reaching its zenith with the latest turn of the Wheel of the Year, and the wistful beginnings of autumn.

First Harvest. Photo by Pixabay.

I find this time of year being both a time of looking forward as well as  looking back, so it’s an excellent time for an inventory and reset ritual. We have passed the mid-mark of the year, where there are fewer days ahead of us than there are behind us. It’s a time for hitting that reset button on your spiritual practices, a review of the year thus far, and from there, making plans for the rest of the year.

First Harvest Inventory & Reset Ritual

Take one evening (or morning, if that is preferable), and gather your favorite summer food and drink. Find yourself some sunny orange or yellow candles, and some herbs that represent the richness of summer to you. I like to use mint, as it sweetens my iced tea, or basil for its wondrous smell, but whatever herbs you feel called to, have a little bowl of them at the ready. Add a crystal of rose quartz (for love) or citrine (representing the sun), and place all these on your altar or sacred space.

Have a journal and pen at the ready.

Set up your sacred space, with the crystals, incense, candles, and herbs.

Add your favorite tarot or oracle deck as well.

Play some background music that evokes the summer feelings within you.

Light some incense, whatever summer scent that is evocative for you.

Take some deep breaths, and begin.

Play the music, close your eyes, and take your memories back to the beginning of this calendar year. Go through your memories, letting the images float through your mind. What has been your harvest this year? Think back on highlights, events, meaningful moments, your spiritual practices, feelings, locations, people you’ve encountered, etc. Try not to control this, and don’t get anxious about feeling it needs to be in chronological order. Whatever needs to be present will cross your mind. If nothing crosses your mind (it happens) breathe a bit more, and see what images or thoughts form. There are no wrong answers.

Take your journal, and write down those highlights. Some questions you can ask yourself: is there a theme? What brings you comfort? Which people made you happy when you spent time with them? Who did not bring you joy? How has your spirituality been? What were the most beautiful sights you saw? What are you proud of? What made you sad? What did you learn? If you could sum up these past few months, what word(s) would you use?

Take as long as you would like to get all your thoughts and visions out, then close your journal. Breathe in the incense and note all your senses in the moment. What are you seeing, feeling, tasting, touching, hearing?

When you feel complete, get your tarot or oracle card deck out. Take a few more deep breaths, and still your mind. Cast you inner vision forward, and shuffle your cards. Be thinking of the next few months, what will that look like? What question do you have about that time? When ready, choose a card.

Open your journal again, and write down the card, its meaning, and what your thoughts were upon seeing it. Is it something that resonates with you, or startles you? Using it as a springboard, what does the card tell you about these coming months? From there, let your thoughts move into ideas and possibilities that would make you feel satisfied.

When you feel complete with that, ground yourself with your food and drink.

Some time soon after this ritual, prepare foods that represent this first harvest festival. While you are preparing the food, set your intentions for the rest of the year, and be really present as you stir, chop, bake and create.

However you celebrate this first harvest festival of Lugnasadh/Lammas, may it be satisfying and fruitful.

 

 

 

 

December 29, 2019

The liminal space is defined as the space between “what was” and “what’s next”. To me, no better time period personifies this than the space between Christmas/Yule/All the Holidays and the New Year. The celebrations have been celebrated, food has been eaten into infinity, and the merriment is wearing a bit thin. We breathe a sigh of relief as we head into the new year, for beyond that time is the shining bright space of quiet and hibernation.

Photo by Wikimedia

Our ancestors knew how to hibernate, but I fear it is a process now lost. Even as I write this, I know that January has a three day weekend, as I live in a tourist town. I remain hyper aware of holidays, because the population swells and the driving gets worse. Valentine’s Day items are already on the shelves, I have no doubt (I am avoiding stores as long as I can). Winter is predicted to possibly be mild, or conversely, regular snow will be turned into “snowmageddons” via the feverish media.

Take a moment and pause. The week between Christmas and New Year is a liminal space. A space where time seemingly stands still, or moves very, very slowly. Calories are still not magically counted. Work may be peaceful, as your co-workers take time off, or you are furloughed for the week if you are a contractor. It’s a perfect time to slow down and focus on your practice.

Sure, people make New Year’s resolutions and the like. Gyms are gearing up for the onslaught of people who resolve to live healthier and exercise. You may be thinking of a trip you want to take, a new job you want to pursue, or a plan to change up your life.

Yet you may be sitting in your pajamas, half-heartedly watching movies, gesturing vaguely at the future as you read this. New Year’s Day seems awfully, close but you will deal with that tomorrow.

Instead, I urge you to take this time and do the following:

Find a word: A friend of mine started this tradition with me years ago, and it’s certainly not a new concept. Find a word to define your year. My words in the past have been transform, unfolding, mastery, simplify, and more. Use this word as your mantra, post it on your bathroom mirror, and tattoo it on your arm. Let this new year and decade be one of the strongest you’ve experienced, and it all can begin with one powerful word. If you are the sociable type, have a party where you and your friends really sit with the process, and reveal your words to each other at the end. You can become accountability partners as time passes by, to make sure you are holding firm to the concept of your word.

Practice Commitment: By this I mean to commit to practicing your spirituality. Commit to doing one thing, whether it be to change up your altar, create one for your deity, add a kitchen altar, keep up with your Book of Shadows, practice spell work regularly, or participate in community ritual. Excellent if you do all of those, but commit to one, and see what develops.

Follow The Wheel of the Year: While you’re at it, commit to really following The Wheel of the Year. Even if you are a solitary practitioner, you can celebrate each Sabbat, no matter how small a celebration. Light a candle for Imbolc, pick flowers at Beltane, and bake bread at Lammas. It doesn’t have to be a huge effort on your part, but let it be meaningful. You decide how much or how little you want to do, but go ahead and take this time to plan now.

Envision Your Life: What do you want your life to look like? People shudder when I ask that question, and I get it. Seems overwhelming to overhaul your life. So don’t. Take one section of your life and envision it: your health, your community, your spiritual practice, or your environment. Pick one, really decide what you want it to look like, and write out steps to change it into what you want. It’s not as overwhelming when you just focus on a section. Yet the magic happens when one part of your life improves, because you will be nudged to work on other parts of your life.

Boundaries: What do we do best at this time of year? Let go of what no longer serves us. That includes uncomfortable or painful relationships, efforts that are not appreciated, unhealthy habits and time drains. Review what your day-to-day life is like, and see what no longer serves you. Replace it with something you’d prefer doing. You don’t have to decide to do it all at once. Commit to a week, and see what happens at the end of it. If you are still unhappy, tweak it a bit and try again. Or, if you’re not ready, use this time period to bolster you when you want to revisit it down the road.

Deepen Your Relationships: Especially with your deities. You know they are there, and you may have not been as devoted as you have in the past, so revisit that. See if new books have been written, new websites developed, or write up your own book about your practice. Be still, and listen. Your deities will tell you what they need, so make a commitment to follow through. Spend at least one day a month communing with them. This also works for your ancestors, and your personal relationships. If you have been neglecting some or all, see how you can get back to regularly integrating those relationships into your life. Your efforts will be well rewarded.

Lists: Make a list of what you like about yourself. If it is short, then take that as momentum to really add to that list. Really focus on yourself, and see what you’d like to change. Many of us spend so much time focusing outwardly, because honestly, we avoid going inward. Try doing that at at least one day a week. Go inward, see what you would like to change, and figure out ways to do it. If you are lonely, get out there and do activities. Friends and community will not magically appear in front of you without effort. It requires effort, and if you are self-absorbed, or all gloom and doom, you may want to be more aware of this. If you are content to be by yourself, and actively enjoy your own company, then kudos. Build upon that, and see if you can share your knowledge of how to do this with the world. Commit to volunteer, and help others. This will change up your life in so many ways.

Hibernate: Commit to truly hibernating this winter. Read those books piled up by your bed, and finish one book completely. Then get another. Watch a series you’ve been interested in, or revisit one you’ve loved. Commit to healthy foods and make meals you enjoy. Get your rest, stay hydrated, all those things you know you should be doing.

This week only comes but once a year! Use its magic to transform and change your life. It starts with one step. Take that step. So mote it be.

 

August 11, 2019

I’ve written about September wistfulness before, but again I noticed this year an undercurrent of Autumn creeping in under these sunny days in early August. I am in a happy daze from Imbolc to Lammas, because it is my season. Yet, as the Wheel of the Year turns ever onward, I get a bit wistful and melancholy when August arrives. I read somewhere once that August is like a month full of Sunday blues, and that’s not far off the feeling at all.

Photo by iStock

By now, Lammas is over, the bread has been eaten, and we all eagerly look forward to Samhain. If, like me, the summer feels like it lasted a week at most, you start digging your heels in, wanting to wring every last drop of summer out. All the while, you are surrounded by people giddy for Samhain, fall weather and more. I get there, eventually. After Labor Day, I start going with the witchy celebratory flow. But it is still August. What’s a witch to do?!

Carpe Augusta: Now’s the time to squeeze in those things you meant to do, but didn’t get around to, so seize the entire month of August. I had my first picnic today (better late than never), am planning a kayak adventure, and a few explorations. I will wear my sandals until it’s too cold to do so, and will enjoy swimming and all the summer things I can while I can. Sure, there is a wee bit of panic setting in, but I will work through it.

Acceptance: Nothing I can do about the onward march of the season, so I do accept it. I plan on going to a craft store to check out all the holiday gear (Halloween starts in August, obviously) and get some ideas for fall decor. Lots of deep breathing goes on, and I meditate more deeply on summer moments. Every moment I am in the sunshine, I revel in it, storing that Vitamin D in my bones.

Divination: One of the events I look forward to in the coming months is my participation in a Psychic Fair, so of course I had to get a few new decks to work with in the meantime. One of the things I love about Divination is how much insight you gain from the cards. Ideas, concepts, suggestions for areas I’d been neglecting or hadn’t thought of, a revelation or two, or just plain reminders of what I’ve been ignoring. It’s also a great time to truly go through your favorite deck, by picking a card a day and journaling about it. Get to know your decks more deeply, or focus on just one, and see what you learn.

Altar Time: It’s a great month to deepen your spiritual practice. Clear the altar, and place only the most basic items on it. I like to make sure that all the elements are represented, so will add items from my hikes or from nature as much as possible. The simplicity draws me to it, and I can build on it with more items as the month goes on. If there is a deity you are called to, or one you are beginning a relationship with, now is a good time to dedicate an altar to them. Begin an online course, do research and reading, or create some art surrounding your deity and their attributes. Now is the time to start deepening your spiritual practice, if it’s been gathering dust like your altar had been. All this can be in preparation as the Wheel turns towards Samhain, our pivotal celebration.

Volunteer: At our community Lammas ritual, I was moved by the attendees, as they discussed their dedication and interest in volunteering. None of us seem to have much spare time, but it awakened in me a determination to add volunteering to my schedule soon. People were contributing to may areas: food banks, school backpack supply gathering, working with the homeless population, and more. Look around your community, and see what needs to be done. If possible, tie it into something you love: working with children, gardening, books, etc. If we all do a little bit, it can add up to a lot of good in the world.

Socialize: Been a hermit in the heat? Make time to be with friends, arrange to meet a friend for a beverage, play tourist in your own town, find out local art events (plays, art exhibits, poetry readings, book signings, etc.) and attend. Like sports? Go to your local baseball team’s game. Love to cook? Meet a friend at the Farmer’s Market, and discuss recipes while you gather your supplies.

Organize: Now is the time to organize your supplies. Bottles of moon water stacked all over the place? (raises hand). Piles of herbs, melted candles, and clutter everywhere? Prepare for the darker days ahead by having your supplies organized and ready to go. Find a new storage container or space if items are haphazard all over the place. Have it all organized for the longer, darker days ahead. We have lots of work to do as the year winds down, so make sure you are prepared.

Do nothing: Schedule a day where you do absolutely nothing. Just gather all the books you wanted to read, decide on a pile of movies you want to watch, stare at the ceiling for hours and revel in the bliss of doing absolutely nothing for twenty-four hours. Take bubble baths, eat your favorite treats,  and stay off all social media. Don’t do guilt, don’t do lists, just be. Consider that time recharging your batteries, because we will need you in the days ahead.

Whew, just writing that list made me feel a bit excited about August now. We have lots to do as the year moves onward, so if you have Witchy Ennui, take a look at this list, or make your own. May your August be filled with some memory-making moments, and filled with as much or as little as you deem necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 17, 2018

As the Wheel of the Year moves ever onward, we celebrate the second of three harvest festivals. More harvesting? It can give you pause, but our ancestors knew what they were doing.

Courtesy of Coulourbox

This time of year can be challenging for me, as I drag myself further away from the sunny brightness of summer. There is a grudging acceptance I feel as the days get darker sooner, and the air grows cooler. Change can be hard to accept, and Fall is certainly a time of change. The trees show us how beautiful it is to let things go, as the popular meme states.

The season since Lammas has been one of change, of letting things go that no longer serve me. The layers of myself that have been shed have led to a well-honed core of what is important to me: family, friendships, work, writing, poetry, words, community. All these things are my mantra as I move through the busy hum of this time of year.

Compared to last year, when I was in a giddy swirl of manifesting and reaping, this has been a more somber year. My youngest has faced health issues that has brought me to the brink of despair, inspired me with the grace in which he deals with it, and strengthened my resolves in many areas. Magic and the Wheel of the Year has served me well in these areas, focusing, resetting, providing me with things to do so I don’t feel quite so helpless. My body feels in tune with the season, and there is less fear of the colder and darker days ahead. Following the seasons feels right, and I feel a certain hum underneath the daily grind of life that soothes me.

So what am I harvesting? Harvesting was always the giddy anticipation of gaining something. The fruits of my labor. Like the ripe, luscious tomato that is harvested from the garden, the fragrant herbs or the spicy peppers that would fill my bowl. Now it feels more that I am digging deep in the ground, unearthing treasures that I find.  I dig deep, and it a satisfying sensation. I have harvested a renewed commitment to my magical practice, and I have returned once again to honoring and communing with my ancestors. Not that my ancestors have given me much choice, as they were lamenting all summer in a dusty corner that I seemingly abandoned them. They surround me and my sons with love and guidance, and it is comforting to know that we still have that attachment. Darker and less welcome ancestors have shown up as well, but in facing them, a strength has been derived that this too can be overcome.

My harvest has been facing the darkness that is within myself, as I silently wail, again?! Does this ever end? And I have learned: no, it does not. Like the potato that is harvested, I dig deep in the loamy soil to find that stubborn stone that has hindered growth, examine it, work with it, and move it away, so the growth can continue. I have faced things in myself that I thought was long put to rest, to only discover that it was still there, lurking. It’s not an easy harvest this year. My face has been streaked with tears and grime from the hard work, but there is a satisfying ache in my bones from work well done.

So here we are, at the second harvest festival. Heading towards the zenith of our year, Samhain. I am weary, and battered, but ultimately a stronger person for it. It has been a year of learning and harvesting. Grudgingly, for I was never a farmer. Or so I thought. Yet with my little plot, I have reaped some interesting and fruitful crops. I will celebrate with friends, partake in ritual, and feel fully present in the moment. I know I can face the coming darkness more solid as a person than I have ever been. It is a harvest I am proud of, and one that will serve me well in the coming months.


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