Daily Archives: August 2, 2011

Dying and Rising – The God of Grain at Lammas

Dying and Rising

The God of Grain at Lammas

by Melanie Fire Salamander

 

Lammas, to the Irish Lughnassah, comes at the first of August, the year’s first harvest festival. From the Old English “hlaf-maess,” “loaf Mass” or “loaf feast,” “Lammas” in Christian times was the Mass at which the first loaves of new grain were blessed on the altar. It’s clear, however, that under a thin Christian layer, a pagan feast survived. The early Scots knew Lammas as one of the quarter days for paying rents; Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legendcalls this an obvious Christianizing of an old Saxon first-fruit festival, when tenants brought the first new grain to their landlords. The English also used Lammas as a day of accounts and reckoning, and “at latter Lammas” is an English folk phrase meaning never, or at the day of last accounting. In the Scottish Highlands on Lammas Day, people smeared their floors and cows with menstrual blood, an action of especial protective power at Lammas and at Beltaine.

Lammas comes down to us trailing half-forgotten associations: the death and rebirth of the Grain God, the mystical link between a ruler and the Goddess of the Land. As a first fruits festival, Lammas marks a time of hope and fear, when the people sacrifice the first of the harvest to the gods, praying that the rest can be gathered without trouble or bad weather. All farmers recognize that grain and fruit, riches in the fields, remain unsafe until brought in, and the ancients sacrificed accordingly.

As Lughnassah, this Sabbat is the wake of Lugh, an Irish god whose name means “light” or “brightness.” In the Mediterranean, it marks the death of the Grain God, known by various names. Now the Goddess becomes the Reaper, as Starhawk writes in The Spiral Dance, “the Implacable One who feeds on life that new life may grow.”

Gods of grain and mourning

Grain is traditionally associated with gods that die and are reborn. In southern climates, this grain is corn, rice, or millet; in northern climates rye, barley or oats; in temperate climates wheat, as Pauline Campanelli points out in Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life. The people of ancient Akkad, around 2000 B.C., believed at harvest their grain god Tammuz was slain by another god and went to the underworld. Tammuz was the beloved of Ishtar, great goddess of life and love, and as Ishtar mourned all Nature stopped its cycles of birth and reproduction. They only recurred when She traveled to the land of death to bring Tammuz back.

The Assyrians, Babylonians and Phoenicians called Tammuz Adonis, meaning “lord”; the Greeks took that title as the proper name of the god. Child of the myrrh tree, Greek Adonis, most handsome of young men, seduced both love goddess Aphrodite and Persephone, queen of the dead. The two goddesses battled bitterly over Him. Zeus solved the argument by making Adonis split his time between the sunny glades of Aphrodite and the dark underworld of Persephone, six months a year with each. Adonis died in a boar hunt, the pig throughout the Mediterranean region being sacred to the Great Goddess. He drew his last breaths in a bed of lettuce, associated by the Greeks with death and sterility.

Adonis was a god beloved of women, his chief cultists concubines and courtesans. At the World Wide Web site http://www.arches.uga.edu/~maliced/gothgard/, mAlice reports that Adonis’s devotees grew on their rooftops gardens of fast-sprouting lettuce, barley, wheat and fennel in baskets and small pots. Each garden surrounded a statue of the god. Adonis’s followers planted their ritual gardens when the sun was at its hottest; the plants quickly sent up shoots and just as quickly withered in the sun. Their gardens grew only eight days, after which Adonis’s worshipers threw the withering sprouts into the sea, along with images of the god. At the death of Adonis, the Greek women filled the cities with their keening.

In other cultures, the grain god is killed between millstones, as the grain is ground to make flour. In Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life, Pauline Campanelli associates the circular motion of the millstones with Caer Arianrod, the castle of the goddess Arianrod, also known as the Castle of the Silver Wheel. In Welsh myth, Caer Arianrod is the dwelling place of the dead. Arianrod had a son Llew Llaw, remarkable for his rapid growth, called by different mythographers both a sun god and a grain god. One of the first feats to proclaim his godhead was killing a gold-crest wren, which connects him with the cycle of the Oak King and Holly King. Llew Llaw, a god of death and resurrection, was destroyed through his wife Blodeuwedd, the Flower Face, who like Persephone starts as a goddess of flowers and young spring and becomes a goddess of death.

Llew Llaw is a cognate of the Irish Lugh, or Lug mac Ethne, whose Lughnassah occurs August 1. Celebrants held Lughnassah every year in Ireland at Telltown on the River Boyne, where a mound still marks the spot, according to Funk and Wagnalls. The Irish books of lore The Dinnsenchas and The Book of Invasions and Keating’s History of Ireland all say that Telltown took its name from Tailtiu, Lugh’s foster mother, buried on that spot, and that Lugh instituted Lughnassah fair as an annual memorial.

The Great Rite at Lughnassah

This tale probably reworks a more ancient one forgotten by later generations. Funk and Wagnalls notes that “nasad” seems related to words meaning “to give in marriage.” Telltown fair featured a marriage market; as the men stood on one side, the women on the other, their parents settled marriage contracts between them. Tradition tells that at the nearby “Hollow of the Fair,” couples made handfastings in pagan times, and in the 19th century couples still arranged trial marriages there, only later to have them sanctified by the Church. Presumably the leafy hollow, shaded by new haystacks, gave the newly bonded a consummation bed.

This tradition of Lughnassah marriages seems to echo an older tradition, where at Lughnassah the king of Ireland was ritually married to the land. Just so in ancient Akkad did the high priestess of Ishtar perform the Great Rite with the king, marrying him to the earth. A late medieval manuscript says that at Taillne, presumably Telltown, Lug Schimaig made the great feast for Lug mac Ethne to celebrate his marriage to the Goddess of the Land. It’s worth noting that August 1 is nine months before Beltaine, the beginning of summer; at this point Lugh impregnated the land with the following summer.

In a related myth, the great Irish king Conn of a Hundred Battles affirms his sovereignty by means of Telltown festival, according to The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin and John Matthews. One day at Tara, Conn mounted the ramparts with his three druids to check for enemies approaching from afar. Doing so, he trod upon a stone that screamed so loudly it was heard all over Tara. Conn asked one of his druids why the stone screamed and what kind of stone it was. After pondering fifty days and three, the druid by divination answered that the stone’s name was Fal, or fo-all (“under rock”), that it had come to Tara from Inis Fail and that it yearly went to Telltown for the fair. Any king who did not find this stone on the last day of Telltown Fair would die within the year. The number of shrieks the stone made underfoot equaled the number of kings of Conn’s line who would rule Ireland.

Fal thus shows itself a stone of sovereignty, like the Scottish Stone of Scone, now ensconced below the ceremonial throne of British royalty. Fal’s shrieks are the voice of the land, speaking the relationship between the king and the Irish Earth Goddess.

At this point in the myth, a mist drifted over, and Conn and his druids lost their way. A horseman met them and, after making three casts against them, welcomed them to his home, a structure 30 feet long with a ridgepole of white gold. In it sat a girl in a seat of crystal, wearing a golden crown. Before her stood a silver vat with gold corners, a vessel of gold, and a golden cup, and on a throne nearby sat a phantom.

The phantom spoke to Conn and his druids, announcing himself as Lug mac Ethne. The girl in the crystal seat proved to be the Sovereignty of Ireland, the living goddess of the Irish land, and she gave symbolic food and drink to Conn, the ribs of a giant ox and a giant hog and also red ale. Lugh meanwhile told Conn of his rule and that of his sons. Then all disappeared.

Thus Telltown Fair, in other words Lughnassah, celebrates marriage not only of mortal to mortal but of the king to the Goddess of Earth, here the girl in the crystal chair. Just as the nu gig priestess of Akkad, symbolizing Ishtar and the land, married the Akkadian king, symbolizing Tammuz, so too at early Lughnassahs a priestess of the earth may have married the Irish king, symbolizing Lugh. The tales definitely make Lughnassah Lugh’s marriage feast, and the feast is also said to be his wake. At Lughnassah, Lugh fertilizes the Goddess and dies, as we ask for harvest.

Lugh of the many talents

Lugh was beloved of the Celts, who raised more inscriptions and statues to him than to any other deity, according to R.J. Stewart in Celtic Gods, Celtic Goddesses. The Romans associated him with Mercury, and like Mercury he was a patron of the arts and of all crafts and skills, of traveling and money and commerce. He also was a war god, the Celts regarding battle as an art; by Roman times their wars had become mainly ritual contests between champions, or conflicts to be settled by druidic decision, a civilized approach the Romans did not follow. As the battle god Lugh of the Long Arm, Lugh’s chief weapons were the magickal sling and spear, giving him the power of killing at a distance – hence the “long arm.” Such attributes seem appropriate to a god of light, who shines from far away.

Romano-Celtic images of Lugh show a young, handsome man, carrying the symbols of the caduceus and purse, his totems the ram, cock and tortoise. He also appears as bearded and mature, and he’s frequently accompanied by the goddess Rosmerta or Maia, representing wealth and material benefit. Such companionship parallels the marriage of the king to the material goddess of the land.

Lugh possesses skills in many arts simultaneously. In the Irish tale of the Battle of Magh Tuiredh, those in the royal hall of Tara began by refusing Lugh entrance, because though he claimed skills as a wheelwright, metal-worker, warrior, bard, magician, doctor, cupbearer and more, the inhabitants of Tara already boasted those skills. Lugh’s Welsh cognate Llew was also known as a shoemaker, and an inscription from Romano-Celtic times in Osma, Spain, notes the Guild of Shoemakers’ dedication of a statue to the Lugoves, a triple version of Lugh. The people of Tara finally conceded that only Lugh combined all the skills mentioned, so at last they admitted Him.

The Celts also credited Lugh with the invention of ball games, horsemanship and fidchell, a symbolic board game like chess. As Stewart notes, the Celts regarded these three games as having a ritual, magickal significance.

A loaf of bread for Thou

Lugh’s marriage to the goddess of worldly wealth and sovereignty links Him by association to the grain gods Adonis and Tammuz. These gods of grain and their goddess brides stretch back to prehistory. In the Eastern European countries of the Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Hungary, still known for their wheat fields, archaeologists have found small clay temple models dating to 6000 to 5000 B.C., Campanelli writes. Many of these models show humans shaping and baking loaves in bread ovens, and many incorporate bird heads as architectural elements, indicating shrines to Bird Goddess. These bird heads connect to Aphrodite of the Doves, the bread baking to her consort Adonis. Similarly, Ishtar sometimes took bird form, and dying and rising Tammuz is a god of grain.

To celebrate this dying and rising god of grain, it’s appropriate to bake and eat ritual bread. From a ritual point of view, the important point is to focus while baking on imbuing your bread with the spirit of the God of Grain, however you see Him. From a practical point of view, a breadmaking acquaintance offers a few tips:

  • Making bread is very easy.
  • Make sure you use flour with a high gluten content, as opposed to baking flour. Gluten provides protein; baking flour specifically has very little protein.
  • When you mix flour and your water or yeast mixture, don’t worry too much about portions. Basically, you take flour and add liquid until it’s the right consistency. Bread is a tactile thing.
  • When you knead your bread, knead till the bread feels right, elastic but not too heavy.
  • You can let the bread rise and reknead as many times as you want. The more times you knead, the smaller bubbles will occur in the loaf, resulting in a finer bread.
  • Put a little fresh rosemary or other herbs in your bread for a different tang.

Almost any general-purpose cookbook, including The Joy of Cooking, includes bread recipes. Pauline Campanelli offers the following recipe and ritual for multigrain bread:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine two cups warm milk, two packages dry baking yeast, one teaspoon salt, one-half cup honey and one-fourth cup dark brown sugar.
  • Cover the bowl and set it aside in a warm place till the mixture doubles, about half an hour.
  • Add three tablespoons softened butter and two cups unbleached white flour and stir till bubbly. Campanelli suggests at this point also adding sprouted wheat, expressing the idea of a god that dies and is reborn. If you do so, start your wheat sprouts a few days before you bake the bread.
  • Next, mix in one cup rye flour and two cups stone-ground whole wheat flour.
  • With floured hands, turn the dough onto a floured board and gradually knead in more unbleached white flour until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your fingers.
  • Place the dough in a greased bowl, and turn it so the dough is greased.
  • Cover the dough with clean cloth and keep in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour.
  • Punch the dough down, divide it in half and shape the halves into two round, slightly flattened balls.
  • Place these balls onto greased cookie sheets, cover them and return them to a warm place to let them double again.
  • When the final rising is almost complete, with your athamé incise a pentagram on the loaves with ritual words. Campanelli suggests “I invoke thee, beloved Spirit of the Grain/Be present in this Sacred Loaf,” but whatever words you want to say to the god of grain and material harvest are appropriate.
  • Beat a whole egg and a tablespoon of water together and brush this onto the loaves.
  • Bake the loaves in a 300-degree oven for about an hour, or until they are done and sound hollow when tapped.

Make and eat your ritual loaf in celebration of the dying summer, to be reborn after nine months at Beltaine. Celebrate too your summer’s harvest, your wealth of material life, for we are all wealthy while we live. At Lammas, the loaf-feast, we greet Lugh in the loaf, hail his marriage to the earth and eat him. By so doing, we avow our wealth and our mortality.

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Essential Pagan Etiquette

Essential Pagan Etiquette

by Amanda Silvers

 

I have been to a number of “open pagan events” recently, and I’ve observed that some people don’t seem to know the generally understood codes of conduct. Since I hadn’t seen a good piece on pagan etiquette for a good long spell, I thought I’d put a few of my reflections on paper.

I know that not everyone will know how things should go, for example if you’ve never attended a ritual before. That’s okay; every one of us began somewhere, and we didn’t know how to act either! If you’re a beginner, say so. People will help you and introduce you around and forgive your faux pas (if you make any).

On the other hand, most of my suggestions will come as nothing new to many of you. Practically all standard rules of courtesy pertain to pagan events and gatherings.

The following bits of advice, some general and some specific, cover open pagan events, festivals and rituals. They are commonly relevant to private functions as well. Don’t regard them as comprehensive, though. Always investigate and find out whether there are any special rules for the gathering that you are planning on attending.

Arrival times

Arrival times are frequently set at a certain interval of time preceding the actual beginning of the ceremony, feast or festivity. For example: Arrival time 4 p.m., ritual to follow at 6 p.m., feast after, then drumming. This time interval is generally built in – for latecomers, for people to get their energy settled, visit, have a drink or bathroom visit and so on.

Check with the high priestess, host or event coordinator to confirm that this is the custom of the group you are joining for the event. Festivals generally have a set time at which the space opens, and you cannot arrive prior to that. There is often an opening festival ritual that you will want to attend. Try to arrive in time to participate; it helps the whole group feel cohesive and connected in a different way than if you miss it.

Double-check times always, and don’t arrive after the rite has begun unless you’ve cleared it with the hosts ahead of time. It is generally safe to arrive a bit early and volunteer to help with setup. Particularly if you are new to the area or are attending an event put on by a particular group for the first time, assisting will give the impression that you are sociable and helpful, and people will remember you.

If you do arrive early, and the ritualists are conferring or doing a pre-ritual run through, don’t disturb them!

Certain groups have a policy to lock the door after a certain time, and you won’t be able to get in if you are later than that. “Pagan standard time” (that is, late) is not a standard to aspire to!

What to bring

Do bring a benevolent disposition, a cooperative spirit and an open attitude. Shower or bathe and brush your teeth just prior to ritual if you can; it gets very gamy quickly when 50 to 100 people are in a warm closed room, very close together. Besides, you should cleanse your body just prior to ritual anyway, as an offering to the gods! Also, don’t wear heavy perfumes. They can be almost as offensive as bad body odor. Especially, patchouli and musk oil can be very potent.

Wear a smile, and for most events your fanciest ritual wear (if you have it), ritual jewelry and so on will be appropriate. This is the time and place to don a cape and your best or weirdest ritual array – entirely black clothes or your coffee-cup-sized pentagram.

It is always a good idea to bring a snack or a nonalcoholic drink to share. Offering a snack is a really good way to make new acquaintances! Bring any flyers, announcements, business cards and so on that you want to share with the community.

Bring drums, rattles and musical instruments for yourself and one or two extra to share, if you have them, especially if music or drumming is mentioned in the invitation.

Bring the site fee if there is one, in cash – check ahead to find out so there are no surprises. More about site fees later on.

What to leave at home

Do not bring your disagreeable or superior attitude, head games or grudges or animosity toward others into the circle.

Do not bring animals of any kind. As much as most of us like them, many people are allergic, they can be disruptive to the circle, they may get into the food and so on. It’s okay to allow your familiar into your own circles if you like, but please don’t presume to subject a public group to your pets.

Please, do not bring small children – unless you are prepared to supervise them closely, and to get cut out of the ritual if they become disruptive. (If they do become obtrusive, please motion to one of the ritual staff that you’d like to depart from the circle.) It’s very difficult to concentrate or meditate when there’s an infant shrieking beside you. We all (or most of us, anyway) actually enjoy children when they are reasonably well-behaved, but tempers flare when they begin to encroach on the experience of those who took the trouble to get a sitter or are childless by choice.

Do not bring illegal drugs or alcohol unless you have been assured by the hosts that such is gladly received. With innumerable pagans in recovery now, it’s a good bet that a lot of the people attending an event will be clean and sober. If you do feel that you must have a wee drink or toke, do so very prudently. You never know which person around you might be inclined to call security.

Munchies

Make sure to determine if there is a potluck, and if there is, bring a dish to share that will feed 8 to 12 people. Please be creative when you select what to bring for the potluck. Many times, I have seen four or five containers of deli potato salad and no cheese, bread, drinks, fruit, veggies – well, you get the idea. I recently brought fresh fruit of various kinds and Devonshire cream to an open full moon – it went over very well and was gone in a twinkle.

Homemade is always preferred, hot dishes are frequently at a premium, and meat is popular. However, vegetarian dishes are always a reliable bet, and if you have a specialty that you feature, bring that! Unusual drinks, breads, cheeses, desserts and appetizers are a good risk, as is unique ethnic cuisine.

Check to see if you need to provide your own dishes and tableware, and don’t forget a serving spoon or fork for your contribution, as well as napkins, cups or glasses! I have a fairly large picnic basket that I keep packed with everything I might need – plates, bowls, knives, forks and spoons, napkins and all, including blue plastic goblets and salt and pepper!

If there is no potluck planned, be sure to eat something substantial prior to attending. Keep your blood sugar level up, and you have less of a chance of falling over due to hunger.

Social interaction

Behave toward others with courtesy, kindness and respect. Introduce yourself to and make an authentic effort to meet and make the acquaintance of at least three additional people at each gathering you attend. Expand your foundation of friends, and make other newcomers feel like the local pagan community is gracious and sociable.

Do be cautious when encountering strangers – don’t rush up and leap on them like a puppy with bad manners! Approach them with consideration. Don’t interrupt a conversation, but do contribute if you sense that you have something to add. Query, but don’t pry. Certain pagans are yet in the broom closet and may not wish to divulge a lot of personal information. Take a cue from how candid and friendly they appear to be.

Bringing a small gift for the host or something for the altar is an excellent notion. Flowers are usually appreciated for either.

Ritual behavior

Attempt to observe the customary conduct of others and follow along. Please do not talk, jest or criticize the ritual cast during the ritual. (I have been guilty of this one myself, and I apologize!) Endeavor to not disrupt the ritual energy at all, unless you absolutely can’t wait, and use the bathroom prior to joining the circle!

If there is music, chanting, singing and so on – don’t sing along with the music unless invited to do so by the performers. Then sing only after you’ve listened long enough to be able to sing the words and melody correctly. Respect and honor what the performers have spent their time and energy learning by lending an ear.

Do not touch the altar, ritual items, the ritual cast or anything that does not belong to you without asking first! This includes people’s jewelry and knives. Keep your paws off if it’s not yours!

Energy

You may or may not experience the energy in a public ritual. Practically all are intentionally performed at a “lite” energy level, for the best interests of the collective. The ritualists can never know the skill level of all of the participants.

If you focus and breathe and follow along with the priest or priestess, you will get much more out of the experience. Furthermore, why take the time and effort to attend an event just to convince yourself that it was not satisfactory and then complain about it. Where is the fun in that?

Be mindful, though, that you don’t get “ritual energy overload” if the ritual does in fact have some “juice” to it. If you feel that this is happening or if you get any symptoms such as ringing or buzzing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, queasy stomach, feeling suddenly very hot or flushed or very cold (unless you’re outdoors in October!), you may be getting an energy blast.

If you think you might collapse, or vomit, please make your condition known to the high priestess or priest. It will be much less embarrassing to be ushered out of ritual than just to crash to the ground! Not to mention how unpleasant it might be for others if they believe that you’ve had a heart attack or something.

Not infrequently, you can surf through an intense energy surge by grounding and breathing slowly, maybe by moving your body or by eating or drinking something, if possible.

Personal matters

In my experience producing events, there is no way you can ever make all the people happy all the time – no matter how hard you strive. Please take the time to think about your complaint prior to voicing it. Is it that important to you? Will it be productive? Will it make any kind of difference? Are you willing to help or offer useful, positive suggestions on how to improve things? Are you just having a bad day? My opinion is, if I’m the hostess, I get to do things my way. If someone else has a better idea, they’re welcome to go do it! Don’t just bitch at the producers of an event because you don’t like what they’re doing. If you positively don’t like it, make a note not to attend again, but endeavor to have the best time you can while you’re there and permit others their experience.

Again, please abandon your “attitude” at the door. I have attended numerous events where there were one or two troublemakers, complainers, disrupters and just ordinary assholes. Such people are a pain in the butt for the ritual staff, and often for the attendees as well. After the staff works really hard to make an event happen for the community, then they are subjected to a person who does nothing but complain because the staff hasn’t provided especially for the complainer’s particular, probably unexpected requirements.

Hedonistic composure

I am extremely sex-positive, but I want to say that pagan events are not a place to try to get laid. Ritual is not a place for sexually predatory behavior, and if you do exhibit this, you will quickly gain the reputation of a wolf, cad, or loose woman. You may not be invited – or allowed – to return.

It’s okay to flirt and even to “come on” to someone if who seems receptive, but make sure that person is interested and that you know his or her relationship status (and that person knows yours) before you leap!

If a person says no, respect that! No means no! If someone is not interested, move on to someone else. If you do move from man to man or woman to woman at a ritual or festival, be assured there will be some people who will notice your conquest mentality. A lot of people won’t want to be just another notch on your wand. So use discretion and common sense when choosing sex partners.

At some events, there will be the opportunity for sexual expression for those who wish to revel in it. I really appreciate it when there is a shrine provided for worship of Aphrodite or Pan or other gods that are sexually oriented, and I feel it is appropriate to make a sacrifice to them in this way.

However, if you partake of the shrines and make a mess, please clean it up! Dispose of condoms, gloves and dams properly by wrapping them in a tissue and putting them in the garbage. I don’t know how many times I’ve found used condoms lying in a shrine. Ugh!

Furthermore, wipe up any spills or mess, put out the candles and the incense, throw away the tissues, fold the blankets and so on. Leave the place as you would like to have found it. Remember this is the gods’ domain; you owe it to them.

Also, just as in any similar situation – if you are having sex with a new partner, use latex! We’re living in the ’90s, people. There are many, many incurable diseases that you can catch or pass on. Some strains of hepatitis can be fatal, and several are sexually transmitted. Thus, even if your partner is not at risk for HIV, they could give you hepatitis B or C or herpes. Latex should always be used for all activities involving body fluid exchange with a new partner.

Cleanup

Please pick up after yourself and your party. Make sure the area is as clean or cleaner than when you arrived. You might ask the ritual staff if they need any help with cleanup of the ritual space, kitchen or whatever. Again, volunteering to do these little things shows you are willing to go out of your way, and that is a welcome trait. It also helps you get acquainted with people you may never have met.

Some groups have a work exchange program, so if you want to get in free, ask. Some will require you to do setup and cleanup. Some will not require much at all. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and pay if you’re able. If you want the events to continue to be available – support them, bring your pagan or pagan curious friends!

Time to go?

There are usually times posted for public events, as in: Ritual from 7-8:30. Such a schedule is sometimes loose, and sometimes not. If the event promoters have to pay extra for the building after a certain time, it is annoying to have people just hang out for hours after the ritual is over. Take your cues from the majority of the people: When they leave, make for the door.

When you are at someone’s home, be sensitive to the fact that your host may be tired and want to go to bed. If he or she is yawning and everyone else is gone – go home!

Final suggestions

The time to discuss, analyze or process your experience is when you’re home, behind closed doors. If you have serious criticism, call the promoter or ritualists and ask if they want your feedback. If so, try to convey it in a nonjudgmental tone. If you come across as a whiner, they won’t hear or heed your words!

Don’t forget to express your thanks and appreciation of an event well done, too. Remember, no one and nothing is perfect, so if things went fairly well and you had a good time – call and let them know that too! It’s is a thankless job (most of the time) to produce events, and it’s nice to get some positive feedback occasionally instead of just bitching.

Take advantage of the public events to connect with the pulse of the local pagan community. Experience the diversity of the traditions in the area. Enjoy yourself and learn something new, and honor the people who produce the events and rituals with your presence, attention and energy. Most of all, worship the God and Goddess with those of a like mind. And have a great time doing it!

Tell them I sent you.

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The Broomstick

The Broomstick

by Tiger Von Pagel

 

This issue’s topic, Lammas, is the first Sabbat of the harvest season, focusing on the first cut of the first crop ready to harvest, often a grain such as wheat or barley. The harvest reaches its peak at Mabon and concludes with the final reap at Samhain. Because of the association with the grain Lammas is traditionally a beer Sabbat.

While most circles and Sabbats have wine or juice as the traditional libation, this time of year is dedicated to beer. Beer making is usually most associated with Germany, however the Irish will tell you that their brews are their life’s blood. Ireland has built an entire culture out of the brewing and consumption of beer.

The most famous brewery in Ireland is the Guinness brewery, located on the banks of the River Liffey in Dublin. Two lesser known stouts are brewed in the southern city of Cork, Murphy’s and Beamish. Breweries are open to the public and offer tours as well as tasting, but the experience can feel a bit too touristy at times, especially at the Guinness brewery, which includes a souvenir store next door.

For a more authentic Irish experience, it is best to visit the local pub. In smaller Irish towns, the pub is the center of all evening activities, offering food, live music, lively conversation and, of course, pint after pint of beers, ales and stouts. In the larger cities, pubs can number into the hundreds. James Joyce once wrote, “Good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub,” and of course, the answer to that is don’t pass them, just go in each one. Dublin’s oldest pub is the Brazen Head, first established in 1198, and much of it is exactly the same as it was 800 years ago. You may even suspect that some of the more colorful occupants are left over from opening day.

Here in Seattle we are fortunate enough to have several “authentic” Irish pubs. Downtown in Post Alley is the Owl and Thistle, a spacious tavern which combines Irish decor with a waterfront atmosphere. Live music is the major attraction here, with the best nights belonging to the Owl and Thistle Band, a trio which performs Irish folk tunes alongside original music and the requisite rendition of “Danny Boy.” The Owl and Thistle has a great menu too, with fish and chips and the best brown bread outside the Emerald Isle.

In Fremont there is the Dubliner Pub, a smaller, more cozy venue which offers Guinness, a number of microbrews on tap and not just one but twodart boards (and real dart-boards, too, with score kept on an old fashioned chalkboard, not one of those electronic facsimiles). They serve meals as well, including delicious lamb stew, but be warned, the kitchen closes early.

In addition to the numerous breweries in the area, you can actually try your hand at brewing your own at U-Brew Seattle in the Greenlake area. U-Brew Seattle offers recipes which imitate all the most popular brands on the market, including Guinness of course. They provide all materials and tools necessary for the process, they sell bottles or you can bring your own to recycle, and, best of all, they do all the cleanup. Brewing your own can be a time consuming process, and two sessions are required, one for the actual brewing and another a few weeks later for the bottling.

For those of you who wish to imbibe without waiting, might I suggest that you check out the specialty brews of Samuel Adams? Much like the traditional European brewers, Sam Adams offers seasonal beers, which at this time of year include a light Summer Ale and a Cream Stout which has a sweet, almost chocolaty taste.

Of course, you may wish to be a part of the harvest process from start to finish, and later this month there is a unique opportunity to do just that in Eastern Washington. The town of Colfax in Palouse County holds the Palouse Empire Fair on Labor Day Weekend. The entire town, along with several hundred tourists, gather for a traditional county fair which culminates in the harvest of the barley fields. The cutting is done the old fashioned way, with swinging scythes and horse drawn wagons. The fields, which could be cut in a manner of hours with modern machinery, take two or three days to complete, and visitors are left with a rare glimpse of the bounty the Gods provide to us, as well as the serious amount of work it takes to bring this bounty to fruition.

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The Hanged Man Speaks – meditation/evocation

The Hanged Man Speaks

by Miriam Harline

meditation/evocation

In the early evening, orange-gold light still pouring through half the sky, purple hazing the east, you walk along a country lane, two tracks of dust fine as corn meal and cool on your bare feet. The air smells sweet, of cut hay, and as you crest a hill you see before you a half-mown hayfield. Its dark stubble lies close-shorn on the earth; among the stubble conical haystacks rise regularly. Through a dent in the hills, the last rays of sun gild the remaining hay; its blond heads nod, rustling, in the breeze.

Something about the hayfield attracts you, and you cut off the road, clamber over the grey-tan split-log fence into the field, carefully pick your way through the blunt stubble. It’s only after a few moments you see, against the bright ridge of hay still standing, a dark form. A scarecrow, you think, but why, in hay? You go forward, curious. The sun lies on the horizon, molten; as you look, the last gold bit winks out. A cold breeze brushes your arm.

Walking forward, you see the scarecrow hangs from a gibbet, the form silhouetted black against the sky. A cold finger runs down your spine; someone here has a strange sense of humor. Still you go forward; you think maybe this is art.

You close on the scarecrow. At the base of its square pole, a sickle leans; the edge of the steel blade gleams violet. You look up, and you see this is no scarecrow, but a man, hanging upside-down by his left ankle, right leg bent behind left in the pose of the Hanged Man of the Tarot. You take a sharp breath in.

“Hello,” the man says. He smiles at you: it looks strange upside-down. You can’t seem to reply. “I’ve a favor to ask you.”

“What’s that?” you stammer.

“Untie me, will you?” Catching hold of the gallows pole, the man climbs up hand over hand till he can grab the rope from which he hangs, curls himself in a ball. “I’m ready.”

His rope is rough hemp three fingers thick, tied low on the pole, knot big as a fist. You think, I’ll never get anywhere with this; still, feeling his gaze on you, you begin picking at the knot with your nails. Just when you begin to despair, the first loop loosens; bit by bit, you manage to untie the knot.

The last loop falls. Landing with a thump, the man quickly frees his ankle, rubbed raw by the rope. He jumps up brushing his hands, extends one to you. “Many thanks.”

So athletic was his pole-climbing and leap up you can’t help wondering why he didn’t untie himself. “It’s a geas, a rule, that somebody has to untie me. I can’t do it myself. Now I owe you a favor.” As he stands before you, you notice his strange clothing, a kind of jumpsuit quilted all of diamonds of blue, yellow and red. “Where were you going just now?” he asks.

“I was taking a walk.”

“Mind if I walk with you?” You shake your head, and presently you walk together down the lane’s two dust tracks.

The lane cups the hayfield in a long curve, then veers to the left, where girdled by a split-log fence a wood rises. On either side of the fence-break where the path enters, sentinel tree-trunks stand; beyond, shadows fall black and green.

The wood gives you pause, but the hanged man walks right in, and you follow him. The air in the wood is noticeably cooler; it smells of leaf-mold. Great trunks of trees loom to either side; in the undergrowth creepers tangle saplings.

“Hot day today, wasn’t it?” the hanged man asks conversationally.

“Yes.”

“But autumn’s coming, nonetheless.” He smiles a little. “Autumn’s always coming.”

“I guess that’s true.”

“At autumn comes harvest.” You nod, looking over at him; is he going somewhere with this peculiar conversation?

Just then the track you’re following comes to a crossroads. The crossing path runs perpendicular to yours and is just as wide, its dirt the same dark grey. “Which way do you want to go?” the hanged man asks.

You frown at him. “I don’t know. I was just taking a walk.”

He stares back, a smile quirking the corner of his mouth. “Turn left, why don’t you? You seem like you need some luck.”

You stare at him. Can you trust him to steer you? What does he mean by luck? What are you doing with him in this dark wood? His smile broadens a little; you feel that he can hear what you’re thinking, and that he’s laughing at you.

Turning on your foot, you do as he says. His and your footfalls pad quietly in the leaf-mold together; branches whisper as you brush by. The wood grows darker, shadow collecting in the underbrush and at the bases of the trees. A crow caws behind you.

Fear rises in you. You don’t want to be lost in this forest at night. But just as the fear tightens, you see on the path paler light ahead.

You emerge from the wood into countryside, hazy blue with dusk. Your new track borders a hayfield; you see it’s the same field, the uncut side. “Come,” the hanged man says, and you both climb the fence into the field.

You brush through hay taller than your head. Dry stalks crush below your feet, releasing perfume; seeds fall into your hair and clothes; your movement makes a sound like water. The hanged man walks ahead of you, the colors of his suit almost lost in dusk.

Then you break through the last unmown hay into stubble, dark and damp now with dew. The sickle still leans against the gallows-post, a shadow against a shadow; you touch the gnarled wooden handle worn smooth with use.

“I’ve a favor to ask you,” the hanged man says. “Tie me up again.”

You stare at him in blue near-darkness. You sense he is smiling.

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The Eternal Return – Experiencing the Magick of Giving Back

The Eternal Return

Experiencing the Magick of Giving Back

by Sylvana SilverWitch

 

The smell of the earth is moist and mysterious, the plants are bursting with a vivid kaleidoscope of flowers, the fruit is sweetening on the branch, the sun is shining hot on my back, and I am happy. This time of the earth’s bounty makes me think of giving something back… to the earth, to the greater community, to my clan, to my lover, to a stranger on the street.

One of the things I know unequivocally is that to be competent at creating what you desire in life, you must give, give, give and then give some more. Giving works as if to illustrate to the Goddess/God/universe that you trust absolutely in the greater scheme of things and that the universe will provide for you and your needs, and as if to create a spell of abundance in your life. Sometimes the giving has such an effect on the person given to that it changes his or her life. Such change has happened to me; I have, remarkably, been on both ends.

To receive, you must give; it helps to ask as well. In this time of impending harvest, I offer you a spell in three parts: appreciating and giving thanks for what you have in your life already, giving the universe your desires and giving back to the world just as it gives to you.

I work at making the spell of giving and receiving a part of ordinary life, and I do my best to give to my community, my friends, my coven, my lover and whoever else seems right – whether it’s love, food, money, advice, help, time or energy. I cannot always immediately see the results of giving, and unquestionably, we shouldn’t give with a mind to what we will get back – that ruins the energy of it. But we may give humbly, knowing that our energy will return to us threefold, at least.

Occasionally, something I do or say has an immediate profound effect on a person, and I receive my reward right away in the awareness that I have aided the person. Sometimes I am rewarded in an unusual and unforeseen way. For instance, the phone company keeps sending me money whenever I really need it, and I still have not figured out why. Oh, well – I just trust that everything will come out as it should, and it does.

The following is a very simple spell that anyone can do, any time, any place. It is chiefly about consciousness and awareness and about being present to the gifts that are yours every day of your life. To perform the spell successfully, it helps to be centered in being conscious of what you have rather than focusing your energy on what you don’t have.

First, take a few moments to contemplate and give thanks for all of the amazing, powerful gifts you have received so far this year. Your body, your breath, your life. Your family, friends, children, lover, clan, community. Did you get the job that you really wanted? Did you finally learn some hard lesson, so you can now move on? Did you meet just the right person to help you on a project? What favors have the gods bestowed upon you recently? Take a minute or two from your day every day to focus on what you do have, and what you have received that you asked for or needed.

Then make a list, and on it list everything you can think of that you wish for. Begin with the things that you can easily accomplish in a day or a week. Start with the very next day, as in “I want (fill in the blank) tomorrow,” then move on to next week, then next month. Follow with wishes for three months, six months, nine months, a year, three years, five years, ten years and so on. List material things, job goals, relationship goals, whatever you can think of (you can always add more things later as you remember them). I always make mine a list of dates with items next to them – for example: August 1, 1996, new job making great money in a place I like with people I respect and like.

Next, sense yourself into the future and into what you want to achieve, as if it is already happening. It is! As soon as you put power into it, you begin the movement in the direction of that actuality.

Once you’ve done that for every wish, locate a spot to hang your list where you will view it every day, preferably more than once a day. Seeing the list daily reminds your subconscious of where you are going without you having to think about it. Place the list in a location away from the eyes of those who would deter or discourage you.

Then, once the list is hung up, let the desires go. Doing so is important, and the point where a lot of spells get hung up. Forget about the list except when you glance at it or when you cross off a desire that you have accomplished. (Do cross off listed wishes as you achieve them, but leave them readable, as you want to be able to see the results of your spell and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from success.)

Once you have hung up your list, sit down, preferably in a quiet place where you can sit on the ground, but anywhere will do. Close your eyes, and give thanks and appreciation to the earth, to the sky, to the God and Goddess, to the elementals, to the fey kingdom for all that is, for your place to live here on the earth.

Give thanks, and then go and give away something that you truly treasure; give away a little something every day. Give a present to your best friend or your lover for no reason. Give some coins to a person less fortunate than you; there are always the less fortunate. Do not judge them, or what they will do with the money; that’s not important; it’s only important that you give freely.

Hugs, kisses and love are things you can give freely whenever you feel affection for someone. Bring a gift when you visit; send a cheerful card or letter to a parent or other family member; give a flower to a child; give a treat to an animal friend; leave out offerings to the fey and to the other wild things. Try the charming Santería custom of kissing your money as you make an offering (or spend it); Santería devotees believe that kissing money ensures it will return to you (and I do too!).

Explore how much you can give with love, joy and generosity, and this will tell you where your prosperity potential is. The more difficult it is for you to be generous, the harder it is for you to be prosperous yourself.

See how it feels to feel as if you have enough, as if you are rich, as if you have all your needs fulfilled – as if you are the opulent Earth Mother giving to all her children!

Thank all for whatever you have. Put out the energy of generosity and good will, and that is what you will manifest in your life.

Give love, every day, to someone who needs some, and if nothing else, give a smile.

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When Maiden Becomes Mother – Lammas Traditions from Nebraska to Wales

When Maiden Becomes Mother

Lammas Traditions from Nebraska to Wales

by Brighid

 

Once again, we approach the fall rituals of harvest and riches of the Earth Goddess, thankful for Her bounty She bestows on us. Lammas, August 1 (its celebration typically held the night before, July 31), is the time of the first grain harvest, with objects made of grains (wheat, barley, corn and so on – for example, a bundle of corn stalks) being considered very magickal, for they represent the generosity of the Mother.

Lammas is directly contrasted in the wheel of the year to Imbolc. The two holidays represent opposite aspects of the Goddess. At Imbolc She is the Corn Maiden, fresh and new after her winter rest, and at Lammas She is the Corn Mother, the crone with all development and fruitfulness coming to an end. Lammas also involves the Sun King becoming the Dark Lord, giving of his energy to the crops to ensure life. It is the time of the death of summer and the start of fall, with the days growing shorter and the foliage ending its growth and fruit-bearing cycles. It is the time to share the fruits of the earth, of your own accomplishments with others.

Almost every culture has a celebration in thankfulness for the reaping of the crops in this time of year.

The Celts knew this holiday as Lughnasadn (pronounced loo-na-sa), celebrating the harvest of the grains, marking the last days of the sun god, Lugh. However, races and games that were held in Lugh’s name were more the funeral games for Lugh’s mother, the goddess Tailtiu, in her time of being crone. The Celts believed that the grain held the spirit of the harvest; as each sheaf was cut, the next would absorb the spirit energy of the cut sheaf. Thus, when reapers came to the last sheaf, it contained the whole spirit of the field. A corn doll was made of it in the image and honor of the Mother. In some groups, the person gathering the last grain, often in some special feat of sickle-wielding, was honored by receiving the magick of the grain. Lammas was also a time for Tailltean marriages, informal marriages that lasted a year and a day, similar to handfastings.

In the Bronze Age, there was a Lughnasadn tradition that a High King or God King was chosen then to serve a year and a day, after which his reign ended and so did his life in honor of the Goddess. He was a symbol of the grain, which has to die before its seeds are sown. As by request of Lugh himself, this ritual was put to an end and a great feast was instituted in its place.

The English (Saxons) called this holiday Lammas, “loaf mass,” the mass after the loaves are made from the new grain. At Lammas, couples would run hand-in-hand over bonfires to purify their relationships, a tradition perhaps connected to the Celtic Tailltean marriages.

The Welsh also had a Lammas holiday, and using the muscles gained from the summer work, they held games to test their strength. These games are still held today, alternating between North and South Wales.

The Italian streghe (witches) associated this holiday with the symbol of the cornucopia overflowing with fruit and the harvest grains.

When I was a young girl, we in Nebraska had our own ritual when the big combines would roll into our small farming town. My girlfriends and I would spread out on lawn chairs in my front yard – my house was closest to the road – and watch the hired Texan and Oklahoman farmhands steer those massive machines into our area. Watching the men work, their young muscles bronze and sweaty, over the corn harvest, we would place bets – betting our tip money (very vital since it also was our party money) on which boy we could charm with our wiles and snatch a few intimate moments with. Ah, the harvest we had!

Whatever your celebration ritual may be, let us all remember this is a time for appreciating all that She has given us and for sharing that bounty with others. Enjoy your Lammas!

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Your Daily Influences for August 2nd

Your Daily Influences
August 2, 2011

Tarot Influence

Rune Influence


Charm Influence
Seven of Cups Reversed
The re-emergence of will and determination. Strengths working in unison. Choices made wisely.
Berkano
Berkano reversed may foretell family problems and dissatisfaction. Your life path my not be clear to you at this time. Be careful to protect that which is yours.
The Hei Tiki
The Hei Tiki tells you it is time to relax, step back from your daily routine. Stop pushing yourself so hard and partake in some enjoyment. Relaxation will improve this aspect greatly.
Your Daily Influences represent events and challenges the current day will present for you. They may represent opportunities you should be ready to seize. Or they may forewarn you of problems you may be able to avoid or lessen. Generally it is best to use them as tips to help you manage your day and nothing more.
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Your Animal Spirit for August 2 is The Loon

Your Animal Spirit for Today
August 2, 2011

your daily animal spirit for today

Loon

Loons mate for life, and their medicine is about loyalty, family, and deep caring for one another. If you’re experiencing a relationship fraught with power struggles, you are NOT practicing Loon medicine. If your relationship has BECOME a power struggle, Loon has appeared to remind you that this is a time of equal sharing and equal happiness. Something is amiss and Loon thinks you already know what it is.

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