Eclipses by Karina BlackHeart

sunlight treesOn April 25 2013, there will be a partial Lunar Eclipse.  Always, on the dark moon following a lunar eclipse, there is a Solar Eclipse.  That one is scheduled for the full moon on May 10. The Lunar Eclipse will be visible in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.  The Solar Eclipse will be visible in Australia, New Zealand and the Central Pacific.

During a Lunar Eclipse, the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth.  In other words, the Earth passes between Sun and Moon, casting a shadow on the moon.

During a Solar Eclipse, the Moon passes between Sun and Earth blocking the light of the Sun.

Astrologers describe eclipses as times when either something which has been hidden will suddenly be revealed and/or something we perceive as stable will be eclipsed out of our lives.

Both Dark and Full Moon phases are powerful in their own right, but an eclipse tends to amp up and intensify that energy.  The energy of an eclipse can last up to a full lunar cycle (28 days), so even if you don’t feel the effects immediately, keep alert!

Eclipse energy is intense.  Rarely, do we find ourselves unaffected. It’s a good idea to consult an astrologer who’ll provide more information as to the aspects surrounding an eclipse (or any Full or Dark Moon, for that matter).  This information will help prepare you for what might be manifesting as a result of the eclipse.

That said, as Witches we want to be the actors rather than being acted upon.  In other words, astrological events are but one of an infinite number of energies flowing through, in and around us at any given moment.  Eclipse energy is big.  Burying our head in the sand won’t keep us from being impacted but, we can be prepared and we can decide how best to flow with and utilize the energy.

A Witch bows before no one–not even the stars and heavenly bodies!  In other words, we needn’t be enslaved by astrology or any other system.  Do as you Will!

As you research and think about the upcoming eclipses, it might be useful to think about and work magic toward the following ends:

Lunar Eclipse:  What is currently in shadow which could use a little more light shining on it?  What needs to be revealed so it can be dealt with and resolved?

Solar Eclipse:  What needs to be “eclipsed” out of your life?  In other words, what are you ready to release and be done with once and for all?

I’m discussing this now so you have a little time to approach these questions and prepare your magic.  Yes, the eclipses will impact us irregardless of our magical intent.  Yet, we can (and should) also align our intention with their energies to bring about the effects we desire in our lives.

Written by Karina BlackHeart

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Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Litha History
Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way, shape or form. On this date – usually around June 21 or 22 – the sun reaches its zenith in the sky. It is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems to just hang there without moving – in fact, the word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which literally translates to “sun stands still.” The travels of the sun were marked and recorded. Stone circles such as Stonehenge were oriented to highlight the rising of the sun on the day of the summer solstice.

Although few primary sources are available detailing the practices of the ancient Celts, some information can be found in the chronicles kept by early Christian monks. Some of these writings, combined with surviving folklore, indicate that Midsummer was celebrated with hilltop bonfires and that it was a time to honor the space between earth and the heavens.

In addition to the polarity between land and sky, Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. He suggests that this may be because this is when the sun is at its strongest yet also the day at which it begins to weaken. Another possibility is that the water mitigates the heat of the sun, and subordinating the sun wheel to water may prevent drought.

Saxon Traditions
When they arrived in the British Isles, the Saxon invaders brought with them the tradition of calling the month of June Aerra Litha. They marked Midsummer with huge bonfires that celebrated the power of the sun over darkness. For people in Scandinavian countries and in the farther reaches of the Northern hemisphere, Midsummer was very important. The nearly endless hours of light in June are a happy contrast to the constant darkness found six months later in the middle of winter.

Roman Festivals
The Romans, who had a festival for anything and everything, celebrated this time as sacred to Juno, the wife of Jupiter and goddess of women and childbirth. She is also called Juno Luna and blesses women with the privilege of menstruation. The month of June was named for her, and because Juno was the patroness of marriage, her month remains an ever-popular time for weddings. This time of year was also sacred to Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The matrons of Rome entered her temple on Midsummer and made offerings of salted meal for eight days, in hopes that she would confer her blessings upon their homes.

Midsummer for Modern Pagans
Litha has often been a source of contention among modern Pagan and Wiccan groups, because there’s always been a question about whether or not Midsummer was truly celebrated by the ancients. While there’s scholarly evidence to indicate that it was indeed observed, there were suggestions made by Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, that the solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes) were actually added later and imported from the Middle East. Regardless of the origins, many modern Wiccans and Pagans do choose to celebrate Litha every year in June.

In some traditions, Litha is a time at which there is a battle between light and dark. The Oak King is seen as the ruler of the year between winter solstice and summer solstice, and the Holly King from summer to winter. At each solstice they battle for power, and while the Oak King may be in charge of things at the beginning of June, by the end of Midsummer he is defeated by the Holly King.

This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. Crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but may require water to keep them alive. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent, and the earth is fertile with the bounty of growing life.

For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and meditate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. Celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year with fire and water, night and day, and other symbols of the triumph of light over darkness.

Litha is a great time to celebrate outdoors if you have children. Take them swimming or just turn on the sprinkler to run through, and then have a bonfire or barbeque at the end of the day. Let them stay up late to say goodnight to the sun, and celebrate nightfall with sparklers, storytelling, and music. This is also an ideal Sabbat to do some love magic or celebrate a handfasting, since June is the month of marriages and family.

Litha Legends and Lore
In England, rural villagers built a big bonfire on Midsummer’s Eve. This was called “setting the watch,” and it was known that the fire would keep evil spirits out of the town. Some farmers would light a fire on their land, and people would wander about, holding torches and lanterns, from one bonfire to another. If you jumped over a bonfire — presumably without lighting your pants on fire — you were guaranteed to have good luck for the coming year.

After your Litha fire has burned out and the ashes gone cold, use them to make a protective amulet. You can do this by carrying them in a small pouch, or kneading them into some soft clay and forming a talisman. In some traditions of Wicca, it is believed that the Midsummer ashes will protect you from misfortune. You can also sow the ashes from your bonfire into your garden, and your crops will be bountiful for the rest of the summer growing season.

It is believed in parts of England that if you stay up all night on Midsummer’s Eve, sitting in the middle of a stone circle, you will see the Fae. But be careful – carry a bit of rue in your pocket to keep them from harassing you, or turn your jacket inside out to confuse them. If you have to escape the Fae, follow a ley line, and it will lead you to safety.

Residents of some areas of Ireland say that if you have something you wish to happen, you “give it to the pebble.” Carry a stone in your hand as you circle the Litha bonfire, and whisper your request to the stone — “heal my mother” or “help me be more courageous”, for example. After your third turn around the fire, toss the stone into the flames.

Astrologically, the sun is entering Cancer, which is a water sign. Midsummer is not only a time of fire magic, but of water as well. Now is a good time to work magic involving sacred streams and holy wells. If you visit one, be sure to go just before sunrise on Litha, and approach the water from the east, with the rising sun. Circle the well or spring three times, walking deosil, and then make an offering of silver coins or pins.

Sunwheels were used to celebrate Midsummer in some early Pagan cultures. A wheel — or sometimes a really big ball of straw — was lit on fire and rolled down a hill into a river. The burned remnants were taken to the local temple and put on display. In Wales, it was believed that if the fire went out before the wheel hit the water, a good crop was guaranteed for the season.

In Egypt, the Midsummer season was associated with the flooding of the Nile River delta. In South America, paper boats are filled with flowers, and then set on fire. They are then sailed down the river, carrying prayers to the gods. In some traditions of modern Paganism, you can get rid of problems by writing them on a piece of paper and dropping them into a moving body of water on Litha.

William Shakespeare associated Midsummer with witchcraft in at least three of his plays. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and The Tempest all contain references to magic on the night of the summer solstice.

Litha Fire Incense
Midsummer is a great time for herb gardens, because there are buds and blooms everywhere. This is a powerful time to gather herbs, and also to prepare and use them. Any fresh herb can be dried simply by picking it and tying it up in small bundles in a well-ventilated area. Once they are completely dry store them in airtight jars in a dark place.

To make your own magical summer incense, first determine what form you’d like to make. You can make incense with sticks and in cones, but the easiest kind uses loose ingredients, which are then burned on top of a charcoal disc or tossed into a fire. This recipe is for loose incense, but you can always adapt it for stick or cone recipes.

As you mix and blend your incense, focus on the intent of your work. In this particular recipe, we’re creating an incense to use during a Litha rite — and since Litha is all about the sun and its strength, we’re going to make this a fiery and powerful incense.

You’ll need:

• 3 parts myrrh
• 1 part apple blossoms
• ½ part bay leaves
• ½ part cinnamon bark
• 1 part chamomile flowers
• 1 part lavender flowers
• 2 parts mugwort
• ½ part rosemary
Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or blossoms need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent. You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation, such as:

Balance of the heavens and earth below,
The power of the sun in this incense grows.
Cinnamon, mugwort, apple and bay,
Fire and water, on this longest day.
Herbs of power, blended by me,
As I will, so it shall be.

Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its intent and name, as well as the date you created it. Use within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.

Source: Patti Wigington

Birch Moon (Beth) – 24th Dec to 20th Jan

To the Druids, the Birch (often referred to as the “Lady of the Woods” due to its grace and beauty) represented renewal, rebirth and inception, since it was the first tree to come into leaf after the Winter Season. The Birch along with the Elder were said to stand on either side of the one “Nameless Day” (December 23). This slender but determined tree, which represented the seed potential of all growth, is hardier than even the mighty Oak and will thrive in places where the Oak will fail to flourish. It also signifies cleanliness and purity. Witches would use Birch twigs bound with Ash for their broomsticks or “besoms.”

The Birch deity is Lugh, also known as the “Shining One.” Lugh was a Hero God whose symbol in Wales was a White Stag and whose sacred symbol was a spear. Always accompanied by two Ravens, Lugh is sometimes depicted as having only one eye. The animals connected to the Birch are the Golden Eagle and the White Stag.

The Golden Eagle – The Golden Eagle once symbolized the soul…signifying resurrection and rebirth…the power of life over death. It also represented a metamorphosis or change of spirituality on all levels. Now almost extinct in Britain, this magnificent Bird is seldom seen except in the North of Scotland. Scottish Highland Chieftains still wear three golden-eagle feathers in their bonnets to proclaim their high rank. The Druids were believed to have the ability to change into the form of all birds and beasts, but among their favored choices was the Eagle, as well as the Raven and the Crow.

The White Stag – The Stag of ancient times was considered a beast of royal lineage and, as a horned deity called “Cernunnos,” became an important intermediary for the Celts between the animal kingdom and man, being guardian of the gateway connecting these two worlds. The Stag figures prominently in Celtic myths and legends. Antlers have been unearthed in Newgrange (Ireland), as well as at various sites in Britain, including Stonehenge and Glastonbury. It was a symbol of the metamorphic process of spiritual growth, high ideals and aspirations qualities associated with birch include inception, fertility, conception, cleansing, purification, birth and rebirth.

 

Elder Moon (Ruis) – 25th Nov to 22nd Dec

The Elder Moon contains the darkest days of the year. Elder (also known as the “Tree of Faeries,” “Old Gal,” “Pipe Tree” and “Lady Ellhorn,” among others) is sacred to the Wiccans. Elder shows the path through the maze, the spiral path that leads within, and the meeting place where birth and death are one. Its twigs were said to enable the wearer to see spirits and experience visions. Justice was dispensed by the Druids beneath this tree. The Druids believed that it was during this period that their Sun or Solar Spirit was being held prisoner. It was also considered a time of trouble and indicative of the struggle for supremacy. By virtue of being considered sacred to the faeries, Elder branches were once hung above stables in order to protect horses from evil spirits

The day after the end of the Elder Moon month, before the start of the Birch Moon, is no month at all, but an “in between” day. Nameless Day: 23 December.

The Elder Moon’s qualities include death and regeneration, the Crone phase of the Goddess, wisdom, transformation, and the Underworld.

The Celts believed that the elder could never be cut unless permission was asked of the trees.

Wiccans believe Elder should never be burned in the cauldron. See the Wiccan Rede.

The Elder deity is Pryderi, son of Pwyll Penn Annwn and the Goddess Rhiannon.

Also associated with the Elder is The Cailleach, also known as Cailleach Beara and the Crone of Beare. In some parts of Ancient Britain, this deity was the Goddess of Winter, depicted as a blue-faced hag who was reborn every October 31 (Samhain). She brought the snow until the Goddess Brigit annually deposed her and she eventually turned to stone every April 30 (Beltaine). In later times, the mythical witch-like figure of “Black Annis” is believed to have derived from The Cailleach. An ancient Goddess of the pre-Celtic people, The Cailleach was thought to control the Seasons and the Weather, as well as being the Goddess of Earth, Sky, Moon and Sun. Animals connected to the Elder are the Black Horse, the Badger and the Raven.

The Black Horse – A popular Celtic totem animal, the Horse was sacred to the Goddesses Epona and Rhiannon. Thought to be a faithful guide to the Otherworlds, it symbolized stamina, endurance and faithfulness.

The Badger – An animal said to possess unyielding courage in the face of danger, the Badger was noted for its tenacity. In the Welsh tale of Pwyll’s courting of Rhiannon, a Badger was mentioned as a guide during dreaming. The Badger was symbolic of the fight for individual rights and the defense of personal spiritual ideas.

The Raven – A symbol of healing and protection, it was cautioned that great care should be taken when dealing with this important totem animal of the Celts. In Ireland, the Raven was associated with the battlefield and such Goddesses as the Morrigu or later Welsh Morrigan (as was the Crow). This bird was also connected to Bran the Blessed…in Welsh, “Bran” means “Raven.” Although its reputation was sometimes dubious, the Raven was considered an oracular Bird, often representing the upsets and crises of life which were deemed necessary for anything new to be created.

 

Reed Moon (Ngetal) – 28th Oct to 24th Nov

Reed, although not a tree but a grass-like plant, the Druids believed the Reed to be a tree because of its dense system of roots. It is usually associated with Samhain, the Celtic New Year. The Reed Moon means winter is approaching. It is a month of turning our energies toward hearth and home. The tree symbolises family, fidelity and trust.

Reeds are burned to honour household spirits and a family’s patron deity; and in ancient Scotland, a broken reed was an omen of familial betrayal. Reeds may be placed through your home, especially the kitchen area, to bring the blessing of unity to your family. Reed represents the turning within that we must undergo to nurture our souls hunger for spirituality. It’s qualities also include protection, spiritual progress and hunger for truth.

The Reed deity is Arawen (or Arawn), King of the UnderWorld, also known as “King of Hell” and “God of Annwn.” His name means “silver-tongued.”

Also associated with the Reed is Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed (in what is today known as Wales). His chief court was said to have been at Arbeth. Strongly associated with the OtherWorld, he was the occasional ruler of that Realm (an honor he shared with Arawen), at which times he was bestowed with the title “Lord of Beyond.” Pwyll was given “The Stone” (one of four treasures) for safekeeping. “The Stone” symbolized the right of monarchs to possess divine power. Animals connected with the Reed are the Owl and the White Hound.

The Owl – These birds were most often associated with the Crone aspect of the Goddess. The Owl was often considered a guide to and through the UnderWorld, being a creature of keen sight in darkness and a swiftly-silent hunter. The Owl could help unmask those bent on deception or seeking to take advantage. In the tale of Culhwch and Olwen, Gwrhyr encountered an Owl as one of the oldest creatures in his search for the Mabon (Divine Child). In another Celtic legend, Blodeuwedd, Maiden of Flowers, was transformed into an Owl after plotting to kill her husband Lleu. An Owl before a gateway was once said to be representative of the transformation of the soul

The White Hound – A title of honor for Celtic chieftains and representative of the Dogs which guarded the lunar mysteries. Hounds in general symbolized enduring loyalty and guarded the entrances to the Underworld.

Standing at the Crossroads with Hekate

Decisions are hard for all of us. Which way do I go now, which path is the right one, what do I do next, or, most urgently, where do I go from here? Life is never easy and some decisions can be hard ones, very hard. And, at times, it can seem as if there is no answer, although we know that is untrue and every situation has a solution, no matter how hard it can be to glimpse it at times.

This is where Hekate comes in. Hekate is the goddess of the crossroads. She is also the mistress of the magic arts, and is included in the grouping of the Moon goddesses. In ancient portraits she is shown to have three heads and they look in each of three directions.

When we are at a crossroads Hekate is there with her torch light and her ability to transcend both heaven and hell and her dwelling place on the earth. She can bring both the conscious mind and the unconscious mind together, and the need to live in day to day reality home to us. She is the one to go to for direction when we don’t know which path to take and which road makes the best choice.

Hekate uses the wise owl as her messenger and she relies on the willow tree for sustenance. She is a goddess of the Moon and when the Moon is dark she can use her torch for light and in search of the best pathway to take. When we need to make a hard decision for ourselves we are calling on Hekate for guidance, since she travels through the realms of sky, earth and Hades, the underworld.

Hekate is called the most lovely one of the Moon, and Hekate is there when a child is brought into the world, as she is the goddess associated with midwifery. When Ceres lost her daughter Persephone, Hekate used her torch to help Ceres look for her in the underworld. When we are unsure of ourselves or when the light around us is fading, and everything looks dark, we are traveling by night in the most metaphysical sense.

I believe that Hekate’s province as goddess of the crossroads led inevitably to her status as goddess of the magic arts. One would naturally lead to the other. Who better than Hekate would know how so often our indecision leads us to call upon the energies present in the universe to ask for help and guidance when we cannot figure out what to do. Once a decision has been made, asking the powers that be to help incarnate that desire would naturally fall upon, who better, the goddess who shows us all the different roads available to us.

Hekate is the 100th asteroid named and discovered on July 11, 1868. In her manifestation as 100 Hekate, her asteroid designation, she is the place we go to in our astrological charts to find out what we need to do to discern our direction in life. She is the also the place we go to find those parts of ourselves that were lost. When we are in need of using our magical selves to find or answer questions, Hekate as goddess of magic is there.

By looking up her placement in our charts we can see what astrological sign and house she occupies. Looking at my own chart I found that Hekate is in the 9th house, the house of religious belief and philosophy and law. She is exactly by 0 degrees square both Mercury, the mind, and Jupiter, the natural ruler of the 9th house. This tells me that at times I allow my conscious mind and my wish for how I want things to be to cloud my inner wisdom and natural thought. That when I need to find the place to go to for guidance I need to go to the 9th house. Perhaps I over analyze situations too much and do not allow the wisdom that can be found in religion and philosophy to tell me the answer.

To compound matters Hekate is in the sign of Cancer, a sign I have no other placements in. I am not personally familiar with the energy of Cancer, since while I have water signs in my chart, Cancer is not one. Perhaps this unfamiliar position is the one I need to learn from the most. Cancer is of course ruled by the Moon and represents feeling in its purest sense. So perhaps I need to use more Moon guidance in my discernment of the pathway, or perhaps I need to go emotionally on decisions and let the thought process be stilled, and use intuition more.

I know on the day I first began to become interested in Hekate, I looked up her current sign in the zodiac and she was at 0 Aries. 0 Aries is a power point sign, it is the world placement sign, and is the beginning of the spring solstice, a time of new beginnings for the earth as a whole. I believe Hekate is asking for notice and asking to speak to us. She is telling us she, not usually included in the more commonly known pantheon of goddesses, has been neglected for far too long.

Hekate entered the sign of Taurus on June 11, 2005, and will be there until April 9, 2006. In Taurus Hekate will be bringing her energy to Taurus symbolism. And what does Taurus symbolize? The greenery of the earth; planting, growing, creating beautiful gardens. Cooking, eating, enjoying the results of the fragrance of the seeds we put into the ground, and the nourishing foodstuffs we obtain from vegetables and fruits.

Taurus also rules our sensual side since Taurus is a sign that favors the five senses; taste, touch, sight, sound, aroma. Once Hekate enters Taurus it is a time to allow ourselves to experience the pleasures each of the five senses has to offer us, as we partake of the garden of life.

Letting ourselves feel secure enough to make the right decision is also a part of Hekate’s foray into Taurus, since Taurus is a very security minded and ‘I want to be risk-free’ sign. That’s good to know, too, since we will certainly make better decisions the more secure we feel.

As you learn who Hekate is, and what she has to tell you this year, you will discover a vast fountain of information you never knew she, or you, possessed.

Written by Isabelle Ghaneh

Hawthorn Moon (Huath) – 13th May to 9th Jun

Hawthorn, or whitethorn, is associated with the festival of Beltane (although some sources list willow for Beltane) and is often associated with faeries.

Both Celts and Wiccans believe it is unlucky to bring hawthorn blossoms indoors. The only time one should break or cut hawthorn branches is on Beltane Eve.

Hawthorn is linked with the bridal link of the Goddess and uninhibited sexuality.

Places where hawthorn grows profusely often seem to mediate earth energies and evoke a connection to ancient times when people were more in tune with the land.

The symbol of the Chalice is also associated with the Hawthorn, being representative of divine secrets and everlasting life.

According to some Arthurian sources, Nimue trapped the besotted Merlin in a Hawthorn tree, where his voice may be heard to this very day, but perhaps the most famous Thorn tree was at Glastonbury (the site of Glastonbury Abbey), which is said to have sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea and reputed to have blossomed only on Christmas Day. The original tree is believed to have been felled during the English Civil War…although Hawthorn Trees may still be found around the Abbey, which are said to be the cuttings of the ancient original.

The Hawthorn was a symbol of psychic protection due to its sharp thorns. It was also generally seen as a tree which brought good luck to the owner and prosperity to the land upon which it stood. It belongs to the trilogy of sacred Irish trees (the other two being the Oak and the Ash). Faery spirits were believed to dwell in Hawthorn hedges, which were planted as protective shrubs around fields, houses and churchyards. The Hawthorn was once thought to offer psychic protection to the traveler. The twigs would frequently be used as a curative for depression and the powdered seeds used to cure gallstones. Often used for walking sticks and to make fires.

The Hawthorn deity is Govanna (also known as Govannan or Goibnui). Equated to the Roman God Vulcan, Govanna was the Blacksmith God…custodian of celestial fire and higher powers of the mind. The weapons made by Govanna were deadly in their aim and his armor unfailing in its protection. It was said that those who drank from his sacred cup need never fear old age or infirmity.

Also associated with the Hawthorn is the Summer Flower Maiden named Olwen (also known as Olwyn). A daughter of the King of Giants, Ysbadadden Penkawr, her name means “the golden wheel.” She was also called the “Lady of the White Tracks” or “White Footprint” due to the legend that wherever she walked, the trefoil plants commonly called Shamrocks would spring from the ground. The animals associated with Hawthorn are the Bee and the Owl.

The Bee – Usually mentioned in connection with honey and mead (which was made from honey), the Bee is an industrious, single-minded creature when performing a task and fearless in defense of its home.

The Owl – These birds were most often associated with the Crone aspect of the Goddess. The word “cailleach” in Scottish-Gaelic means “owl.” Often a guide to and through the Underworld, the Owl is a creature of keen sight in darkness, as well as being a swift and silent hunter. The Owl aids in unmasking those who would deceive or take advantage. Being a symbol of wisdom and patience, Hawthorn individuals need to be guided by the Owl since they are often short on patience and tend to engage in hasty actions which can sabotage their best efforts.