The Fairy Ring Oracle

fairy ring oracle boxIt’s been a long time since I posted in here with anything original. I’ve been lacklustre for a long while due to ill health. Anyway, I recently purchased a fabulous new oracle deck called The Fairy Ring Oracle by Anna Franklin. Now this deck is styled along the lines of a tarot deck (with suits covering Spring, Summer, autumn and Winter) and numbered cards with character cards such as King and Queen. However, this is where any similarity ends as it is NOT a tarot deck. The link above will take you to Aeclectic Tarot website with a preview of the cards and reviews. It is a large deck, with 60 cards, although it’s nice to find cards that are easy to shuffle as these are not over-sized cards. The deck is based on Celtic (British and Irish) folklore of the Fae, including such characters as the Phooka, Billy Winker (i.e. Wee Willy Winkee), faery animals, the Baen Sith and many others; some good and some bad. The deck is designed to be read with reversals also. What I really like is the lovely art work, which is vibrant and alive. The guide book is an actual book (not a LWB tiny pamphlet) and has history and lore about each character, divinatory meanings and also reversed meanings, along side various spreads and extra information and activities such as path workings with each card. The author, Anna Franklin, is a respected pagan writer who has also written, amongst other things, a glorious book entitled Herbcraft: a guide to the shamanic and ritual use of herbs, which is full of really great information for any discerning witch or pagan.

I’m really looking forward to working with this deck over the coming weeks as I feel really drawn to it, not just because of my love of the Fae, folklore and history but also because I think the Fae are tugging me in this direction to get me over my current ‘hump’. So I’m going to be drawing a card each Sunday as a ‘card of the week’ mainly for my own guidance but hopefully there will be something for my readers to glean from it too. I know I’ve started doing this kind of thing before and not kept up with it but I think you have to have a deck you’re REALLY enthused with and also feeling in the right place. So let’s give it a go.

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Moon…Moon…my love!

The moon is the closest heavenly body to earth, and what a wonderful sight she is. I don’t think there are many people who can say they’re not entranced by this beautiful orb. Even if you don’t hold any particular spiritual belief the moon holds sway over all of us in many more ways than you can imagine. The moon is our night-time light, just as the sun is our day-time light, and both have been lighting humanities way for thousands of years. The moon you see at night is the very same moon our ancestors gazed upon in wonder – that’s an amazing thought isn’t it? There are all kinds of fascinating legends and myths associated with the moon and its cycles.

For instance did you know that the word lunatic comes from the Latin luna, because it was believed that people were more likely to exhibit ‘odd’ behaviour during a Full Moon. Although no conclusive studies have shown this it is true that there seem to be more visits to emergency rooms and accidents during a Full Moon phase. Not only does the Full Moon seem to affect people it also affects animals too – studies have shown that hamsters spin on their wheels more aggressively during this phase of the moon, and in the wild, deer and other herbivores tend to ovulate at this time. Actually I can attest to this last one because the Full Moon is the time when I ovulate and my hormones become all upsy-downsy at this time. An interesting little experiment for us women would be to keep a moon diary for a year and mark on it the times when we menstruate and when we ovulate and see just how near to the Full Moon (or New Moon) these times occur. And of course we all know just how much influence the moon has on the tides due to its gravitational pull.

There is a British legend that if Christmas fell on the day of a dark Moon, the following year’s harvest would be a bountiful one. Some parts of the British Isles believed that a waxing moon on Christmas meant a good crop the next fall, but a waning moon indicated a bad one would come. In some countries, a halo around the moon means bad weather is coming.

Many cultures and pagan traditions associate certain deities to the Moon. In the legends of the Inuit peoples, Alignak is the god of both the moon and weather. He controls the tides, and presides over both earthquakes and eclipses. In some stories, he is also responsible for returning the souls of the dead to earth so that they may be reborn. Alignak may appear in harbours to protect fishermen from Sedna, the wrathful sea goddess. Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt. Because her twin brother, Apollo, was associated with the Sun, Artemis gradually became connected to the moon in the post-Classical world. During the ancient Greek period, although Artemis was represented as a lunar goddess, she was never portrayed as the moon itself. Typically, in post-Classical artwork, she is depicted beside a crescent moon. She is often associated with the Roman Diana as well. Cerridwen is, in Celtic mythology, the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge. She is the giver of wisdom and inspiration, and as such is often associated with the moon and the intuitive process. As a goddess of the Underworld, Cerridwen is often symbolized by a white sow, which represents both her fecundity and fertility and her strength as a mother. She is both Mother and Crone; many modern Pagans honour Cerridwen for her close association to the full moon. In Chinese mythology, Chang’e was married to the king Hou Yi. Although he was once known as a great archer, later Hou Yi became a tyrannical king, who spread death and destruction wherever he went. The people starved and were brutally treated. Hou Yi greatly feared death, so a healer gave him a special elixir that would allow him to live forever. Chang’e knew that for Hou Yi to live forever would be a terrible thing, so one night while he slept, Chang’e stole the potion. When he saw her and demanded she return the potion, she immediately drank the elixir and flew up into the sky as the moon, where she remains to this day. In some Chinese stories, this is the perfect example of someone making a sacrifice to save others. In Aztec stories, Coyolxauhqui was the sister of the god Huitzilopochtli. She died when her brother leapt from their mother’s womb and killed all of his siblings. Huitzilopochtli cut off Coyolxauhqui’s head and threw it up into the sky, where it remains today as the moon. She is typically depicted as a young and beautiful woman, adorned with bells and decorated with lunar symbols. Much like the Greek Artemis, Diana began as a goddess of the hunt who later evolved into a lunar goddess. In Charles Leland’s Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, he pays homage to Diana Lucifera (Diana of the light) in her aspect as a light-bearing goddess of the moon. Hecate was venerated as a mother goddess, and during the Ptolemaic period in Alexandria was elevated to her position as goddess of ghosts and the spirit world. Many contemporary Pagans and Wiccans honour Hecate in her guise as a Dark Goddess, although it would be incorrect to refer to her as an aspect of the Crone, because of her connection to childbirth and maidenhood. It’s more likely that her role as “dark goddess” comes from her connection to the spirit world, ghosts, the dark moon, and magic. Selene was the sister of Helios, the Greek sun god. Tribute was paid to her on the days of the full moon. Like many Greek goddesses, she had a number of different aspects. At one point she was worshipped as Phoebe, the huntress, and later was identified with Artemis. Her lover was a young shepherd prince named Endymion, who was granted immortality by Zeus – however, he was also granted eternal slumber, so all that immortality and eternal youth was wasted on Endymion. The shepherd was doomed to sleeping in a cave forever, so Selene descended from the sky every night to sleep beside him. Unlike most other lunar goddesses of Greece, Selene is the only one who is actually portrayed as the moon incarnate by the early classical poets. These are just a few deities who are attributed to the moon, although there are many more.

For many Pagans and Wiccans, the cycles of the moon are important to magical workings. It’s believed in some traditions that the waxing moon, the full moon, the waning moon and the new moon all have their own special magical properties, and so workings should be planned accordingly. If your tradition follows these guidelines — or if you think you’d like to time your magic based upon the phase of the moon — here are some tips on what sort of magic to perform during the various lunar stages:

The Waxing Moon – is the phase during which the moon grows from dark to full, and it takes about 14 days for this to happen. This is a good time for ‘positive’ magic, increase, drawing things to you. For example, bringing love into your life, fertility or prosperity, getting a new job or home.

The Full Moon – is when we can see the whole moon in the sky (actually only an entire side of the moon as we never see the other side). For magical purposes this phase includes one day before and one day after, so a total of 3 days. It’s a good time to focus your spells or rituals on personal growth and spiritual development. For example, working with your intuition, healing, rituals that connect you closely with deity, developing magical skills, thanksgiving etc.

The Waning Moon – the phase during which the moon goes from full to dark once again, and like the waxing phase lasts for about 14 days. In many traditions of Wicca and Paganism it is the time to do ‘baneful’ magic – that which sends away, gets rid of something (or someone), that which you no longer wish to be burdened with (banishing). For example, magic to banish negative or toxic habits or people from your life, any magic to reduce things, like debt, illness etc.

The Dark Moon – this is the phase where you cannot see the moon at all in the sky, her face is dark and it comes just before the New Moon. This is a time for communing with Dark Gods and Goddesses, divination, doing shadow work etc.

The New Moon – come just after the Dark Moon and the moon will only appear as a faint sliver of light low on the horizon. It is sometimes amalgamated in with the Dark Moon because these two phases are so very near each other. It is considered a fallow period, a time of rest before the moon starts really waxing again. It is a time for rest and rejuvenation, cleansing and purifying body and mind, rituals that cleanse and purify sacred space or divination.

A wonderful way of celebrating the moon is to create a moon garden. There are lots of plants which bloom at night, or give off a wonderful fragrance during the dark hours, and cultivating a moon garden is a great way to get in touch with nature, and provides a beautiful backdrop to your moonlit rituals during the summer months.

Many night blooming plants have white or silver flowers and have a luminous appearance, just like our beautiful moon. you can also mix them with silver foliaged plants for awesome effect. Of course probably the most well known of the night bloomers is the Moon Flower, which really does bloom at night (during the day its petals are tightly closed up) and it also has a lovely lemon scent when it blooms at night. Its cousin is the Morning Glory (another beautiful plant) and both are climbers and can reach about 8 feet in height with large flowers that span from 5 to 6 inches across. Another wonderful flower for a moon garden is Evening Primrose (yes, you know it – they make a wonderful oil) but this does spread rapidly. Nevertheless, when the flowers open at dusk they release a lovely sweet aroma. Night Phlox is such a pretty little plant, with tiny star shaped flowers that open at dusk and have a gorgeous scent rather like honey or vanilla.

Night Flox

Evening Primrose

Moonflower

You can add day blooming white flowers and silver foliaged plants to your moon garden. Pick plants like Dusty Millars, Silver Thyme, Lamb’s Ears, Mugwort (Artemesia), Silver Sage, Calla Lilies and so forth. Other herbs and flowers with strong lunar connections are camphor, eucalyptus, gardenia, jasmine, moonwort, sandalwood, willow, water lily and sleepwort. With a bit of research I’m sure you can find many more.

So what can you do with a moon garden – well the possibilities are endless! With flowers that bloom under the powerful energy of a Full Moon you can harvest and dry them for talismans or charms, use them to dress candles with, use them as part of a flower bath, include them in incense to help enhance intuition and wisdom…or just sit out under a Full moon and enjoy their gorgeous scent…a gift from the Moon!

 

F is for Fox

In particular the Red Fox or Vulpes vulpes to give it its proper classification. The modern English word Fox comes from the proto-Germanic word fukh, the Old Norse foa, all stemming from the Proto-Indo-European word *puk meaning ‘the tail of it’. This is completely understandable when you see a red fox’s big bushy red tail with its white tip. In fact it’s probably the most distinguishing feature of the red fox.

Foxes are Canids of the Vulpini tribe, medium sized with a long narrow snout, pricked ears and that indomitable bushy tail, otherwise known as the ‘brush’. In the wild foxes can live up to 10 years old but it’s more likely only 2 or 3 years because of hunting, diseases and road accidents. The males are called Reynards and weigh about 13 pounds, whilst the females, or Vixens are only about 11 pounds.

Unlike many other members of the Canid family, foxes are not usually pack animals although they tend to live in small family groups consisting of the mother and cubs along with the father. However often it is just mum and cubs. Litters sizes vary depending on the availability of food, the average sized litter is four to five but some litters have been known to be as large as eleven cubs. Unfortunately not all baby foxes live until their first birthday. They are opportunistic feeders hunting live prey (small mammals such as rabbits, mice and birds as well as insects) but they will also raid rubbish bins and are often seen at the edges of land-fill sites, where they root around for discarded food that us humans have thrown away. They will also eat fruits and berries.

Red foxes either establish a home range or have no fixed abode. They mark their territory with urine which has a strong acrid scent even us humans can smell. Red foxes may leave their families once they reach adulthood if the chances of winning a territory of their own are high. If not, they will stay with their parents, at the cost of postponing their own reproduction.

The Red Fox features prominently in folklore and mythology. In Greek mythology the Teumessian fox, child of Echnida, was a gigantic animal that was destined never to be caught. It was sent to prey on the children of Thebes as a punishment. However, Amphitryon fetched the magical dog Laelaps who was destined to catch everything it chased. At this Zeus turned the two beasts to stone and they were cast into the heavens.

In European folklore Reynard the Fox is a symbol of trickery and deceit and he appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (The Nun’s Priest’s Tale), where many of his adventures probably stem from observations of actual fox behaviour. For example, in the tale Reynard is fond of blackberries and grapes, and it is well known that foxes do eat all kinds of edible berries to supplement their diet.

The fox also appears in many other cultural mythologies – Chiniese, Japanese, Arabian, Hebrew, Native American as well as others. In all of these, as well as European, the fox is portrayed as cunning, sly or deceitful, which is a shame because the fox is nothing of the sort. Yes, he is extremely clever, resourceful and elusive but sly and deceitful? NEVER!

It is reckoned that in Britain now there are more foxes living in urban areas than there are in the countryside. In fact, in 2006 it was estimated that there were about 10,000 foxes living in London. Why so? Well, urban living has certain advantages for foxes – more food and relatively few predators. Because of this urban foxes are normally larger than their country brothers and sisters and have the potential to live longer. Moreover, some researchers even postulate that the urban fox is evolving into a different species from its countryside cousin due to its largely man-made diet, different survival skills (e.g. its ability to cross roads safely), a lack of natural fear of humans and its larger size.

In one of my earlier posts ~ D is for Directions I talked about the animals that represented the cardinal points in my own spiritual path. For the West I have the Fox as my Guardian. It seems, at first, a bit strange to have fox in the west but let me enlighten you. As with all the animal guardians I have, fox came to me through personal experience. I have often observed fox on the edges of fields, weaving his way through the undergrowth – seen and unseen, suddenly there and just as suddenly not there. Elusive is a great word to describe fox. He is especially seen at the twilight times – at dusk and just before dawn. Many are the times I’ve watched my local family of foxes scout our street for pickings from the rubbish bags left outside for the trash men. They weave in and out of the parked cars, up and down the garden paths, in and out of shadows…you see them…then you don’t! I have even sat silently and still in my own back garden with a fox not 5 feet in front of me…and he sat there just watching me back. I think he was daring me to make the first move. Suddenly he vanished before my very eyes back to the woods at the back of my house. It was an amazing experience. I’ve also met fox in my shamanic journies, where he offered to be my guide for the West, although he told me he doesn’t particularly like getting his feet wet.

Associations for Fox: Feminine magic, camouflage, shapeshifting, invisibility, controling and changing the aura, energy balance, feminine creative energy, alertness.

Power times: Night, Dawn, Dusk

References: Wikipedia (Internet), The Fox Website (Internet), Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.

Celebrate the Autumn Equinox

It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. On or around September 21, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings.

Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Mabon, but typically the focus is on either the second harvest aspect, or the balance between light and dark. This, after all, is the time when there is an equal amount of day and night. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have food to eat, but the crops are brown and going dormant. Warmth is behind us, cold lies ahead.

The idea of a harvest festival is nothing new. In fact, people have celebrated it for millennia, all around the world. In ancient Greece, Oschophoria was a festival held in the fall to celebrate the harvesting of grapes for wine. In the 1700’s, the Bavarians came up with Oktoberfest, which actually begins in the last week of September, and it was a time of great feasting and merriment, still in existence today. China’s Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the night of the Harvest Moon, and is a festival of honoring family unity.

The harvest is a time of thanks, and also a time of balance — after all, there are equal hours of daylight and darkness. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have food to eat, but the crops are brown and going dormant. Warmth is behind us, cold lies ahead.

Some symbols of Mabon include:

Mid-autumn vegetables, like squashes and gourds
Apples and anything made from them, such as cider or pies
Seeds and seed pods
Baskets, symbolizing the gathering of crops
Sickles and scythes
Grapes, vines, wine

Early agricultural societies understood the importance of hospitality — it was crucial to develop a relationship with your neighbors, because they might be the ones to help you when your family ran out of food. Many people, particularly in rural villages, celebrated the harvest with great deals of feasting, drinking, and eating. After all, the grain had been made into bread, beer and wine had been made, and the cattle were brought down from the summer pastures for the coming winter. Celebrate Mabon yourself with a feast — and the bigger, the better!

Nearly all of the myths and legends popular at this time of the year focus on the themes of life, death, and rebirth. Not much of a surprise, when you consider that this is the time at which the earth begins to die before winter sets in!

Perhaps the best known of all the harvest mythologies is the story of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter was a goddess of grain and of the harvest in ancient Greece. Her daughter, Persephone, caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. When Hades abducted Persephone and took her back to the underworld, Demeter’s grief caused the crops on earth to die and go dormant. By the time she finally recovered her daughter, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, and so was doomed to spend six months of the year in the underworld. These six months are the time when the earth dies, beginning at the time of the autumn equinox.

The Sumerian goddess Inanna is the incarnation of fertility and abundance. Inanna descended into the underworld where her sister, Ereshkigal, ruled. Erishkigal decreed that Inanna could only enter her world in the traditional ways — stripping herself of her clothing and earthly posessions. By the time Inanna got there, Erishkigal had unleashed a series of plagues upon her sister, killing Inanna. While Inanna was visiting the underworld, the earth ceased to grow and produce. A vizier restored Inanna to life, and sent her back to earth. As she journeyed home, the earth was restored to its former glory.

For contemporary Druids, this is the celebration of Alban Elfed, which is a time of balance between the light and the dark. Many Asatru groups honor the fall equinox as Winter Nights, a festival sacred to Freyr.

For most Wiccans and NeoPagans, this is a time of community and kinship. It’s not uncommon to find a Pagan Pride Day celebration tied in with Mabon. Often, PPD organizers include a food drive as part of the festivities, to celebrate the bounty of the harvest and to share with the less fortunate.

If you choose to celebrate Mabon, give thanks for the things you have, and take time to reflect on the balance within your own life, honoring both the darkness and the light. Invite your friends and family over for a feast, and count the blessings that you have among kin and community.

Grapes. They’re everywhere in the fall, so it’s no surprise that the Mabon season is a popular time to celebrate winemaking, and deities connected to the growth of the vine. Whether you see him as Bacchus, Dionysus, the Green Man, or some other vegetative god, the god of the vine is a key archetype in harvest celebrations.

The Greek Dionysus was representative of the grapes in the vineyards, and of course the wine that they created. As such, he gained a bit of a reputation as a party-hardy kind of god, and his followers were typically seen as a debauched and drunken lot. However, before he was a party god, Dionysus was originally a god of trees and the forest. He was often portrayed with leaves growing out of his face, similar to later depictions of the Green Man. Farmers offered prayers to Dionysus to make their orchards grow, and he is often credited with the invention of the plow.

In Roman legend, Bacchus stepped in for Dionysus, and earned the title of party god. In fact, a drunken orgy is still called a bacchanalia, and for good reason. Devotees of Bacchus whipped themselves into a frenzy of intoxication, and in the spring Roman women attended secret ceremonies in his name. Bacchus was associated with fertility, wine and grapes, as well as sexual free-for-alls. Although Bacchus is often linked with Beltane and the greening of spring, because of his connection to wine and grapes he is also a deity of the harvest.

In medieval times, the image of the Green Man appeared. He is typically a male face peering out from the leaves, surrounded by ivy or grapes. Tales of the Green Man have overlapped through time, so that in his many aspects he is also Puck of the midsummer forest, Herne the Hunter, Cernunnos, the Oak King, John Barleycorn, Jack in the Green, and even Robin Hood. The spirit of the Green Man is everywhere in nature at the time of the harvest — as leaves fall down around you outside, imagine the Green Man laughing at you from his hiding place within the woods!

Mabon Balance Meditation

Now that fall is here, why not do an autumn version of Spring Cleaning? Get rid of any emotional baggage you’re dragging around with you. Accept that there are darker aspects to life, and embrace them, but don’t let them rule you. Understand that a healthy life finds balance in all things.

You can perform this ritual anywhere, but the best place to do it is outside, in the evening as the sun goes down. Decorate your altar (or if you’re outside, use a flat stone or tree stump) with colorful autumn leaves, acorns, small pumpkins, and other symbols of the season. You’ll need a black candle and a white one of any size, although tealights probably work best. Make sure you have something safe to put them in, either a candle holder or a bowl of sand.

Light both candles, and say the following:

A balance of night and day, a balance of light and dark
 Tonight I seek balance in my life
 as it is found in the Universe.
 A black candle for darkness and pain
 and things I can eliminate from my life.
 A white candle for the light, and for joy
 and all the abundance I wish to bring forth.
 At Mabon, the time of the equinox,
 there is harmony and balance in the Universe,
 and so there shall be in my life.

Meditate on the things you wish to change. Focus on eliminating the bad, and strengthening the good around you. Put toxic relationships into the past, where they belong, and welcome new positive relationships into your life. Let your baggage go, and take heart in knowing that for every dark night of the soul, there will be a sunrise the next morning.

Adapted from articles by Patti Wigington

 

Beltane ~ Celebrating the Fertility of Spring

April’s showers have given way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land greens, there are few celebrations as representative of fertility as Beltane. Observed on May 1st, festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It’s a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long history. The Celts honored the fertility of the gods with gifts and offerings, sometimes including animal or human sacrifice. Cattle were driven through the smoke of the balefires, and blessed with health and fertility for the coming year. In Ireland, the fires of Tara were the first ones lit every year at Beltane, and all other fires were lit with a flame from Tara.

The Romans, always known for celebrating holidays in a big way, spent the first day of May paying tribute to their Lares, the gods of their household. They also celebrated the Floralia, or festival of flowers, which consisted of three days of unbridled sexual activity. Participants wore flowers in their hair (much like May Day celebrants later on), and there were plays, songs, and dances. At the end of the festivities, animals were set loose inside the Circus Maximus, and beans were scattered around to ensure fertility. The fire festival of Bona Dea was also celebrated on May 2nd.

May 6 is the day of Eyvind Kelve in Norse celebrations. Eyvind Kelve was a pagan martyr who was tortured and drowned on the orders of King Olaf Tryggvason for refusing to give up his pagan beliefs. A week later, Norwegians celebrate the Festival of the Midnight Sun, which pays tribute to the Norse sun goddess. This festival marks the beginning of ten straight weeks without darkness.

Also in May, the Greeks celebrated the Plynteria in honor of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and battle, and the patroness of the city of Athens (which was named after her). The Plynteria includes the ritual cleansing of Athena’s statue, along with feasting and prayers in the Parthenon. On the 24th, homage is paid to the Greek moon-goddess Artemis (goddess of the hunt and of wild animals). Artemis is a lunar goddess, equivalent to the Roman moon-goddess Diana – she is also identified with Luna, and Hecate.

A number of pre-Christian figures are associated with the month of May, and subsequently Beltane. The entity known as the Green Man, strongly related to Cernunnos, is often found in the legends and lore of the British Isles, and is a masculine face covered in leaves and shrubbery. In some parts of England, a Green Man is carried through town in a wicker cage as the townsfolk welcome the beginning of summer. Impressions of the Green Man’s face can be found in the ornamentation of many of Europe’s older cathedrals, despite edicts from local bishops forbidding stonemasons from including such pagan imagery.

Today’s Pagans and Wiccans celebrate Beltane much like their ancestors did. A Beltane ritual usually involves lots of fertility symbols, including the obviously-phallic Maypole dance. The Maypole is a tall pole decorated with flowers and hanging ribbons, which are woven into intricate pattern by a group of dancers. Weaving in and out, the ribbons are eventually knotted together by the time the dancers reach the end.

In some Wiccan traditions, Beltane is a day in which the May Queen and the Queen of Winter battle one another for supremacy. In this rite, borrowed from practices on the Isle of Man, each queen has a band of supporters. On the morning of May 1, the two companies battle it out, ultimately trying to win victory for their queen. If the May Queen is captured by her enemies, she must be ransomed before her followers can get her back.

There are some who believe Beltane is a time for the faeries — the appearance of flowers around this time of year heralds the beginning of summer and shows us that the fae are hard at work. In early folklore, to enter the realm of faeries is a dangerous step — and yet the more helpful deeds of the fae should always be acknowledged and appreciated. If you believe in faeries, Beltane is a good time to leave out food and other treats for them in your garden or yard.

For many contemporary Pagans, Beltane is a time for planting and sowing of seeds — again, the fertility theme appears. The buds and flowers of early May bring to mind the endless cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth that we see in the earth. Certain trees are associated with May Day, such as the Ash, Oak and Hawthorn. In Norse legend, the god Odin hung from an Ash tree for nine days, and it later became known as the World Tree, Yggdrasil.

Beltane is a time of great fertility — for the earth itself, for animals, and of course for people as well. This season has been celebrated by cultures going back thousands of years, in a variety of ways, but nearly all shared the fertility aspect. Typically, this is a Sabbat to celebrate gods of the hunt or of the forest, and goddesses of passion and motherhood, as well as agricultural deities.

Deities

Artemis (Greek): The moon goddess Artemis was associated with the hunt, and was seen as a goddess of forests and hillsides. This pastoral connection made her a part of spring celebrations in later periods.

Bes (Egyptian): Worshipped in later dynasties, Bes was a household protection god, and watched over mothers and young children. He and his wife, Beset, were paired up in rituals to cure problems with infertility.

Bacchus (Roman): Considered the equivalent of Greek god Dionysus, Bacchus was the party god — grapes, wine, and general debauchery were his domain. In March each year, Roman women could attend secret ceremonies called the bacchanalia, and he is associated with sexual free-for-alls and fertility.

Flora (Roman): This goddess of spring and flowers had her own festival, Floralia, which was celebrated every year between April 28 to May 3. Romans dressed in bright robes and floral wreaths, and attended theater performances and outdoor shows. Offerings of milk and honey were made to the goddess.

Hera (Greek): This goddess of marriage was the equivalent of the Roman Juno, and took it upon herself to bestow good tidings to new brides. A maiden about to marry could make offerings to Hera, in the hopes that she would bless the marriage with fertility. In her earliest forms, she appears to have been a nature goddess, who presides over wildlife and nurses the young animals which she holds in her arms.

Kokopelli (Hopi): This flute-playing, dancing spring god carries unborn children upon his own back, and then passes them out to fertile women. In the Hopi culture, he is part of rites that relate to marriage and childbearing, as well as the reproductive abilities of animals. Often portrayed with rams and stags, symbolic of his fertility, Kokopelli occasionally is seen with his consort, Kokopelmana.

Priapus (Greek): This fairly minor rural god has one giant claim to fame — his permanently erect and enormous phallus. The son of Aphrodite by Dionysus (or possibly Zeus, depending on the source), Priapus was mostly worshipped in homes rather than in an organized cult. Despite his constant lust, most stories portray him as sexually frustrated, or even impotent. However, in agricultural areas he was still regarded as a god of fertility, and at one point he was considered a protective god, who threatened sexual violence against anyone — male or female — who transgressed the boundaries he guarded.

Sheela-na-Gig (Celtic): Although the Sheela-na-Gig is technically the name applied to the carvings of women with exaggerated vulvas that have been found in Ireland and England, there’s a theory that the carvings are representative of a lost pre-Christian goddess. Typically, the Sheela-na-Gig adorns buildings in areas of Ireland that were part of the Anglo-Norman conquests in the 12th century. She is shown as a homely woman with a giant yoni, which is spread wide to accept the seed of the male. Folkloric evidence indicates that the figures are theory that the figures were part of a fertility rite, similar to “birthing stones”, which were used to bring on conception. 

Xochiquetzal (Aztec): This fertility goddess was associated with spring, and represented not only flowers but the fruits of life and abundance. She was also the patron goddess of prostitutes and craftsmen

Legends & Lore

Like Samhain, the holiday of Beltane is a time when the veil between the worlds is thin. Some traditions believe that this is a good time to contact the spirits, or to interact with the Fae. Be careful, though — if you visit the Faerie Realm, don’t eat the food, our you’ll be trapped there, much like Thomas the Rhymer was!

Some Irish dairy farmers hang a garland of green boughs over their door at Beltane. This will bring them great milk production from their cows during the coming summer. Also, driving your cattle between two Beltane bonfires helps protect your livestock from disease.

According to a legend in parts of Wales and England, women who are trying to conceive should go out on May Eve — the last night of April — and find a “birthing stone”, which is a large rock formation with a hole in the center. Walk through the hole, and you will conceive a child that night. If there is nothing like this near you, find a small stone with a hole in the center, and drive a branch of oak or other wood through the hole — place this charm under your bed to make you fertile.

If you go out at sunrise on Beltane, take a bowl or jar to gather morning dew. Use the dew to wash your face, and you’re guaranteed a perfect complexion. You can also use the dew in ritual as consecrated water, particularly in rituals related to the moon or the goddess Diana or her counterpart, Artemis.

In the Irish Book of Invasions, it was on Beltane that Patholan, the first settler, arrived on Ireland’s shores. May Day was also the date of the defeat of the Tuatha de Danaan by Amergin and the Milesians.

Eating a special oatcake called a bannock or a Beltane cake ensured Scottish farmers abundance of their crops for the year. The cakes were baked the night before, and roasted in embers on a stone.

A Prayer to Cernunnos
God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.

You are the man in the trees,
the green man of the woods,
who brings life to the dawning spring.
You are the deer in rut,
mighty Horned One,
who roams the autumn woods,
the hunter circling round the oak,
the antlers of the wild stag,
and the lifeblood that spills upon
the ground each season.

God of the green,
Lord of the forest,
I offer you my sacrifice.
I ask you for your blessing.

Am Beannachadh Bealltain (The Beltane Blessing)
In the Carmina Gadelica, folklorist Alexander Carmichael shared with readers hundreds of poems and prayers that he had collected from residents in various areas of Scotland. There is a lovely prayer in the Gaelic entitled simply Am Beannachadh Bealltain (The Beltane Blessing), which pays tribute to the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is a much shorter version, and has been adapted for a Pagan-friendly format.

Bless, O threefold true and bountiful,
Myself, my spouse, my children.
Bless everything within my dwelling and in my possession,
Bless the kine and crops, the flocks and corn,
From Samhain Eve to Beltane Eve,
With goodly progress and gentle blessing,
From sea to sea, and every river mouth,
From wave to wave, and base of waterfall.

Be the Maiden, Mother, and Crone,
Taking possession of all to me belonging.
Be the Horned God, the Wild Spirit of the Forest,
Protecting me in truth and honor.
Satisfy my soul and shield my loved ones,
Blessing every thing and every one,
All my land and my surroundings.
Great gods who create and bring life to all, I ask for your blessings on this day of fire.

(Sourced from About ~ Internet)

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.

Celebrate British Apples

Tuesday October 21st is British Apple Day, a day when throughout Britain we celebrate our wonderful native apples.

The Romans first brought the apple to the Britain and how hard it is to imagine our landscape without the orchard or gardens without the apple tree. Nevertheless, if we let things continue the way they have in recent times, this, sadly, will be the reality. The arrival of cheap imported supermarket fruits – polished impostors with their EU imposed shape and size – has led to a rapid decline of many orchards with the loss of many old apple varieties.

There are over 1200 native British apples for eating, cooking, as well as for cider making and crab apples for pickling. They have enchanting names: Acklam Russets, Barnack Beauty, Nutmeg Pippin, Knobby Russet…and many more. Apple Day is a celebration of these wonderful fruits, so in support I shall be cooking with them and eating them…yum!

Here are some of the many wonderful varieties of English apples, many of which are unavailable in our supermarkets. So be adventurous and seek out these juicy gems. all of these varieties can be seen at Brogdale, the national collection.

Bramley

 

Barnack Beauty
Knobbly Russett
Nutmeg Pippin

The History of Apple Tree Wassailing

In Southern England a…set of customs…was grouped under the name of wassailing. They consisted, in essence, of wishing health to crops and animals much as people passing the wassail bowl wished it to each other. Most are well recorded in the early modern period, and they may quite easily have descended directly from pagan practices, although it is also possible that they developed outwards from the domestic wassail. The most widespread, famous, and enduring concerned fruit trees. It is first mentioned at Fordwich, Kent, in 1585, by which time it was already in part the preserve of groups of young men who went between orchards performing the rite for a reward. Robert Herrick, almost certainly writing about Devon and in the 1630s, spoke of ‘wassailing’ the fruit-bearing trees in order to assure good yields, and in the 1660s and 1670s a Sussex clergyman gave money to boys who came to ‘howl’ his orchard (being the enduring local term). John Aubrey, describing West Country customs in the same period, said that on Twelfth Eve men ‘go with their wassel-bowl into the orchard and go about the trees to bless them, and put a piece of toast upon the roots, in order to it.’

The History of the Word “Wassail”

Apple tree wassailing is a ceremony which involves drinking to the health of the apple trees.

The Anglo-Saxons used the phrase Wæs hal! as an everyday greeting. Wæs is a form of the verb “to be” related to modern English was. Hal is the ancestor of the modern English words whole and hale. Thus, wæs hal literally meant “Be healthy!”. The Vikings who later settled in Northern England used a dialectal varient of the same phrase: Ves heill!. Since the Anglo-Saxons and Norse shared a custom of welcoming guests by presenting them with a horn of ale (or cup of mead, or goblet of wine), the greeting evolved into a toast.

The phrase was eventually contracted into one word,wassail, and came to refer to the act of toasting to someones health, wassailing, and to a type of alcoholic beverage (spiced ale or punch) used to toast people’s health on special occasions. The use of wassailing to mean “caroling” (as in “Here we go a-wassailing…”) stems from the habit of singing songs whilst drinking from the “wassail-bowl” during Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Source: The Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton

Apple Tree Wassailing Chants and Rhymes

From Cornworthy, Devon, recorded 1805

Huzza, Huzza, in our good town
The bread shall be white, and the liquor be brown
So here my old fellow I drink to thee
And the very health of each other tree.
Well may ye blow, well may ye bear
Blossom and fruit both apple and pear.
So that every bough and every twig
May bend with a burden both fair and big
May ye bear us and yield us fruit such a stors
That the bags and chambers and house run o’er.

From 19th century Sussex and Surrey

Stand fast root, bear well top
Pray the Gods send us a howling good crop.
Every twig, apples big.
Every bough, apples now.

Source: Skvala, Internet

Samhain Apple Recipes

Samhain Mulled Cider : Serves 8

2 litres of sweet apple cider
½ litre fresh orange juice
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
Cinnamon sticks and orange slices to float in the pot

Method : In a large pan or cauldron if you have one available for cooking, combine the apple cider, orange juice nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Simmer slowly on low heat for about 15 minutes. Take care that the cider does not boil. Add the cinnamon sticks and orange slices and served whilst still warm. You can refrigerate any leftover mulled cider, it’s nice cold as well.

Irish Apple Fritters

5 ounces Flour
5 fluid ounces Water
1/4 teaspoon Salt
2 each Eggs (separated)
1 tablespoon Melted butter
2 each Large cooking apples
4 ounces Sugar
Lemon juice
Oil for deep frying

Method: Make batter at least an hour before required, using following method. Sift together flour and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the cooled melted butter and some of the water and egg yolks. Work in the flour and beat until smooth. Add remaining water. Leave to stand. Just before using, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into batter mix. Peel, core and slice apples (slices about 1/4-1/2 inch thick). Dip into batter and deep fry in very hot oil (175-180C) until golden. Drain and serve dredged with sugar and sprinkled with lemon juice.

Dorset Apple Tray Bake

450g cooking apples (such as Bramley)
juice of ½ lemon
225g butter , softened
280g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
350g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
demerara sugar , to sprinkle

Method: Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line a rectangular baking tin (approx 27cm x 20cm) with parchment paper. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples then squeeze the lemon juice over. Set to one side.
Place the butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix well until smooth. Spread half the mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange half the apples over the top of the mixture, then repeat the layers. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar. 3 Bake for 45-50 mins until golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool for 10 mins, then turn out of tin and remove paper. Cut into bars or squares.