Posts Tagged With: Scotland

Yule and the New Year

Yule and the New Year

Author: Morgan

There are many traditions associated with the period of Yule that are based in Heathen and Celtic culture, as well as those traditions that have come from a blend of the two cultures were they interacted in parts of Ireland and Scotland. For modern practitioners it can be both interesting and useful to learn about the historical traditions of Yule, which extend from before the solstice through the beginning of the New Year. Many of the older traditions are ideal for inclusion in modern pagan practices, especially those that relate to New Year’s eve and day.

In Germanic and Norse traditions, Yule is a 13 night, 12-day festival that is considered one of the most sacred times of the year. Yule begins on Mother Night, the night before the solstice which is often celebrated in honor of Frigga and the disir; in my family we celebrate Mother Night two days before the calendar date of the solstice because the eve of Yule has developed its own family traditions. Many modern heathens that I know choose to stay up on the night before the solstice in order to greet the dawn on the solstice morning. The day of the solstice itself is considered both the most powerful of Yule and also the most dangerous as both trolls and ghosts are roaming free on the night of Yule. On this day the Yule log is burnt and the most sacred oaths are sworn. Celebrations continue until New Year’s, a day that itself is important since it sets the tone for the year to come; actions taken on the last day of Yule/New year’s eve (or day) influence the year to come.

Swearing oaths and making sacred toasts were sacred activities, as well as leaving out food offerings for the gods and spirits. Odin was especially associated with Yule time, as are the goddesses Perchte, Berchte or Holda. Yule bucks were made (the mask of a goat head, or a straw goat) and used for guising but was also believed to have its own separate spirit that had to be propitiated – often with ale or porridge – in order not to harm anyone in the family. Porridge is also left out as an offering to the house wight or spirit that lives in the home. A Yule tree was used for decoration and a yule log was burnt or in some modern cases a log is set with candles, which are burnt.

Now, working with that as a base, we can look at what we have for Yule traditions in Scotland. In Scotland, McNeill states that while Odin may be known as the Yule Father it is Thor to whom this holiday actually belongs, as does all of the month of December. A Yule log of oak was traditionally burnt and Thor was asked to bring a prosperous new year. She relates a story of Norsemen in Scotland celebrating Yule with a great feast and then a bonfire, around which they danced and then chanted “Thor with us, Thor and Odin! Haile Yule, haile!” (McNeill, 1961, p. 52) .

In Scotland the “Christmas” season ran from Christmas eve until 12th Night, reflecting the older heathen practice of a 12-day celebration of Yule. Prior to the start of Yule the home was cleaned from top to bottom and stocked with food. During the period of Yule all household work like spinning and weaving was strictly prohibited as it was believed that to do such work, even drawing water, during the 12 days of Yule would risk the girls of the house being taken by a Kelpie. The hearth was cleaned and decorated to please the gods and garlanded with rowan to keep out mischievous spirits.

On the eve of Yule the family would go out and collect the Yule log, which would be brought in with great ceremony, an offering of ale is poured over it, and it is placed in the fire to burn through the night. In some parts of the Highlands the Yule log is associated with the Cailleach, the spirit of winter, and in those places the Yule log chosen would be the stump of an old tree. Special breads and cakes were baked on Yule eve, and ale and sowans were made with omens taken from how they cooked. First thing on Yule morning weather omens were taken to predict the year to come; green Yule meant snow in spring, warm Yule a cold spring, and a light Yule a good harvest. The rest of the day was spent in social gatherings and feasting. Another Yule tradition is guisers and mummers who travel from house to house in costume singing and offering entertainment and blessings in exchange for welcome into the home and some food.

New Year’s Eve, called Hogmany, has many traditions of its own, including special cleaning of the home, settling any debts, returning borrowed items, and generally setting everything in the household right in preparation for the new year. At the exact stroke of midnight on New Year’s eve the head of the household opens the front door and lets the old year out while welcoming the new year in with the words “Welcome in New Year! When ye come, bring good cheer!” (McNeill, 1961, p. 104) . Another important tradition of New Year’s is first footing, or the belief that the first non-family member who enters the home after midnight on new years while indicate the family’s luck in the coming year, with a cheerful dark haired man being the best first-footer, with a pretty woman being second best. Anyone born with a deformity, of bad character, who is stingy, whose eyebrows meet in the middle, or who may have the Evil Eye are bad luck. To avert the ill luck of a bad first footing throw salt in the fire, burn a wisp of straw, or put a burning coal in water.

In Scotland, New Years is also a time of blessing the home and of omens. Holly, Hazel, and Rowan are hung up around the home and the entire home was fumigated with burning juniper. Burning the juniper was considered very important to cleanse the home and was done immediately upon waking before anyone ate breakfast. On New Year’s eve, a silver coin was left out on the doorstep and if it was still there in the morning it was seen as a sign of prosperity for the year to come, but if it was gone it was an ill omen. Wearing new clothes on New Year’s day is good luck so is carrying a silver coin in your pocket. To see a red dawn on New Year’s day means bad luck and strife to come and the direction of the wind is an omen of the year to come as well: “Wind from the west, fish and bread, wind from the north, cold and flaying, wind from the east, snow on the hills, wind from the south, fruit on trees.” (McNeill, 1961, p. 115) .

In Ireland, Yule was also started with a complete cleaning of the home, which was followed by decorating with Holly, Ivy, Bay and other evergreens, and as in Scotland food was stocked up on. Preparations were made that included placing lit candles in the windows of the home; these are now associated with Christmas but may well be older as some believe the candles’ light serves to guide and welcome the visiting dead who wander at this time of year. Some choose to light a special candle for any family members who have passed in the last year. As in Scotland the weather is seen as being an omen of the year to come with cold weather foretelling a warm spring; additionally a new moon was seen as especially lucky.

Mumming and guising is also seen and New Years eve and day were strongly associated with divination and omens. While first footing isn’t seen in Ireland the way it is in Scotland there is a belief that if the first person or animal to enter the home after midnight on New Year’s eve is male and black or dark haired the house will have good luck. A special bread was baked and then hit three times against the door while the head of the house or house wife chanted either “We warn famine to retire, To the country of the Turks, from this night to this night twelvemonth, and even this very night.” or “Happiness in and misfortune out from this night, Until a year from to-night” (Danaher, 1972, p. 261) . After this the loaf was tossed out the door.

I can easily see how to incorporate the specific New Year’s eve and day traditions, such as welcoming the new year in and also the Irish custom of banging the bread on the door. And the multitude of divinations and omens can easily be used on New Year’s day, as can the cleaning of the home before the start of Yule and the cleansing and blessing rituals of New Year’s day. For those who already celebrate Yule on the solstice it may be beneficial to add a ritual on New Year’s eve or New Year’s day, which could incorporate any of the traditions mentioned above.

_______________________________________________

Footnotes:
Our Troth, volume 2, the Troth, 2007
The Year in Ireland, Danaher, 1972
The Silver Bough volume 3, McNeill, 1961

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Deity of the Day for November 12th – Cailleach, the Ruler of Winter

Deity of the Day

 

Cailleach, the Ruler of Winter

 

The goddess known as Cailleach in Scotland and parts of Ireland is the embodiment of the dark mother, the harvest goddess, the hag or crone entity. She appears in the late fall, as the earth is dying, and is known as a bringer of storms. She is typically portrayed as a one-eyed old woman with bad teeth and matted hair. Mythologist Joseph Campbell says that in Scotland, she is known as Cailleach Bheur, while along the Irish coast she appears as Cailleach Beare. Her name is varied, depending on the county and region in which she appears.

According to The Etymological Dictionary Of Scottish-Gaelic the word cailleach itself means “veiled one” or “old woman”. In some stories, she appears to a hero as a hideous old woman, and when he is kind to her, she turns into a lovely young woman who rewards him for his good deeds. In other stories, she turns into a giant gray boulder at the end of winter, and remains this way until Beltane, when she springs back to life.

Cailleach rules the dark half of the year, from Samhain to Beltane, while her young and fresh counterpart, Brighid or Bride, is the queen of the summer months. She is sometimes portrayed riding on the back of a speeding wolf, bearing a hammer or a wand made of human flesh.

Interestingly, even though Cailleach is typically depicted as a destroyer goddess, she is also known for her ability to create new life. With her magical hammer, she is said to have created mountain ranges, lochs, and cairns all over Scotland. She is also known as a protector of wild animals, in particular, the deer and the wolf, according to the Carmina Gadelica.

In some Irish counties, Cailleach is a goddess of sovereignty, who offers kings the ability to rule their lands. In this aspect, she is similar to the Morrighan, another destroyer goddess of Celtic myth.

 

Source:

Author:

Website Article Found On & Owned by About.com

 

 

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, Deities, The Goddesses | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days A Year for Sept. 25 & 26 – Old Holy Rood Day


Dragon Comments & Graphics

September 25& 26

Old Holy Rood Day

 

Old Holy Rood Day, known as Mid-Autumn Day in the Highlands of Scotland, is traditionally the beginning of mating season for deer. It is believed that whatever the weather is like in Scotland this day will continue for 40 days thereafter.

This is also the traditional day for women and young maidens to gather St. Michael’s carrots. The root vegetable had to be taken in a special way by digging a triangular hole (the shape of St. Michael’s shield) with a three-pronged mattock. The carrots were then tied with three strands of red thread and presented to male visitors on Michaelmas Day. Forked roots were exceptionally lucky and a portent of marriage.

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time

Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time

Author:   Morgan 

This holiday is called many names including Imbolc, Oímealg, Lá Fhéile Bríde, Laa’l Breeshey, and Gwyl Mair Dechrau’r Gwanwyn and was originally celebrated when the ewes first began to lactate. Some older sources mention Imbolc being celebrated on February 13th, although now the date is fixed on February 2nd. This holiday is a celebration of the loosening of winters hold on the land and the first signs of spring’s immanent arrival. Three main types of ceremonies could be undertaken – purification with water, blessing with fire, and consecration of talismans or charms. In addition, the main ritual theme centered on inviting the goddess Brighid into the home, either in effigy or in the form of a person acting the part.

The fire represents the growing light of the sun. Candles are lit to celebrate the increased daylight, and often candles were blessed for use in the year to come; this connection to candles offers another alternate name for the holiday, Candlemas. In my personal practice I light special “sun” candles, and bless my candleholders for the year to come.

Ritual washing was done to cleanse and prepare the people for the agricultural work of the coming seasons. Water was blessed and then used to ceremonially wash the head, hands, and feet. Each year when I do this, I dip my fingers in the blessed water and run them over the body parts in question, asking that I be cleansed of winter’s cold and filled with summer’s warmth to work towards a new season. Then I pour the remaining water out onto the earth thanking Brighid for her blessing.

The main charms and talismans of Imbolc are related to Brighid. First there is the Brighid’s cross, a woven sun wheel shape which represented the cycle of the year and the four main holy days, according to the book Apple Branch. On Imbolc, you can weave new Brighid’s crosses, or bless ones you already have, although it may be better to burn the old and weave new each year when possible. A Brighid’s cross is protective and healing to have in the home.

A second talisman is the brídeóg, or “little Brighid” a small cloth or straw doll wearing white clothes which is an effigy of the goddess. In some cases, the brídeóg would be made from straw saved from the previous Lughnasadh. This doll played a role in ritual after being brought outside, usually carried by the eldest daughter, then invited to enter the home where it was led with all ceremony to a specially prepared little bed. The doll was left in the bed over night and its presence was believed to bless all those in the household.

Another talisman connected to Imbolc is Brigid’s mantle, or an brat Bríd, a length of cloth left out on the window sill over the course of the holy day and night. It is believed that this cloth absorbs the energy of the goddess during the ritual, and can be used for healing and protection throughout the year. This talisman would be kept and recharged every year, attaining full power after seven years.

The ritual for Brighid on Imbolc centers on inviting the goddess in and offering her hospitality. In some cases a woman was chosen to play the part of the goddess, in other cases the brídeóg was used. The door would be opened to her and she would loudly be invited in, shown to her “bed” and offered specially baked bread. Candles would be lit at the windows and next to her “bed”, songs would be sung and prayers said calling on Brighid to bless all present in the coming seasons, and grant health and protection to the household.

A small broom or white wand would be placed next to the “bed”, and the ashes from the fire would be smoothed down in the hopes that the morning would reveal the marks of the wand, or better yet, the footprints of the goddess herself, either of which would be a sign of blessing. Placing the doll in her bed at night would be followed by a large family meal.

In Scotland a hundred years ago when entire communities still celebrated Imbolc in the old way, a sheaf of corn would be dressed as Brighid and taken from house to house by the young girls. The girls would carry the doll from home to home where the “goddess” would be greeted and offered food and gifts. After visiting each home, the girls would return to the house they started from where a party would be held with music, dancing, and feasting until dawn; all the leftover food would be handed out to the poor the next day.

Other rituals involve blessing the forge fires for blacksmiths and Otherworld divinations. In some Scottish mythologies, it is believed that Brighid is held by the Cailleach Bhur during the winter months but escapes, or is rescued by her brother Aonghus mac óg, on Imbolc. In others, it is said the Cailleach drinks from a hidden spring and transforms into Brighid on this day.

For modern people seeking to celebrate Imbolc in a traditional way, there are many options. Rituals can be adapted to feature the brídeóg. If you celebrate in a group, you could have one person wait outside with the doll while the other members prepare her bed, and then the group leader could go to the doorway and invite the goddess in. This could even be modified for use in an urban setting with the brídeóg “waiting” out in a hallway or separate room to be invited in.

Once invited in the goddess can be offered food and gifts as was done in Scotland and stories about Brighid from mythology could be told. Water can be used for purification; blessing with fire or of candles can be done, as well as making and consecrating the charms associated with Brighid. After ritual, the doll could be left in the bed while the group celebrates with a party; to keep the spirit of the way this was done for a modern time all members should bring food to donate to a local food pantry. A solitary celebration could still include inviting the goddess in, placing the brídeóg in her bed, making offerings to her, and a private celebration and food donations.

Imbolc is a powerful holy day with many beautiful traditions. By understanding how this day was celebrated in the past, we can find ways to incorporate those methods into modern practice and preserve the traditions that have surrounded Brighid’s day for so many generations

____________________________

Footnotes:
Carmichael, A. (1900) . Carmina Gadelica. Floris books. ISBN-10 0-86315-520-0
Evert Hopman, E. (1995) . A Druid’s Herbal of the Sacred Earth Year. Destiny Books ISBN 0-89281-501-9
Kondrariev. K. (1998) . The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. Citadel Press ISBN 0-8065-2502-9
McNeill, F. (1959) . The Silver Bough, volume 2. McLellan and Co.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Up-Helly-Aa

Witchy Comments & Graphics
Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Up-Helly-Aa

January 28th – 29th

Up-Helly-Aa

Up-Helly-Aa is a centuries-old fire festival held in the Shetland Islands. It is derived from the ancient Yuletide festival celebrating the triumph of the sun over darkness and winter, and it pays

tribute to the ancient Viking Gods and Goddesses. The festival began with torch light processions that ignited giant bonfires and culminated with the burning of a replica of a Viking ship. It was believed that the fire would dispel evil spirits from the villagers and their homes. The festivities usually ended with great feasting and dancing until dawn.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calendar of the Sun for December 31

Calendar of the Sun

31 Yulmonath

Hogmanay

Color: Brown
Element: Earth
Altar: Upon a brown cloth set symbols of all the projects around the house that need to be finished, as well as a bottle of wine or beer and cups.
Offerings: Cleaning and finishing projects.
Daily Meal: Leftovers.

Hogmanay Invocation

We stand at the turning of the year,
In the place predicted by the Fates.
We are here because this time, this place
Is where we were destined to be,
Though we never knew before this moment,
We could not have seen this time and place.
Yet here we are, standing together with each other,
Hand to hand, soul to soul, with open eyes.
Yet well we know that nothing lasts forever,
And things well begun should not be left half done.
So it is that we shall take up the tools
And finish those things left undone,
Tying up the strings of our existence
Before the turning of the New Year
And the coming of the Fates yet again.
Hail to the Fates! We await your day,
And the next year, to see what it may bring.

(Each goes forth and takes up the symbol of some thing that is yet undone around the House, and declares that they will do it, and what it will mean for them to complete that task. Then the wine is shared around, a toast is made to the new year, and the rest is poured out as a libation.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Mumming, New Year’s Eve, Hogmany

Celebrating Spirituality 365 Days A Year

December 30 and 31

Mumming, New Year’s Eve, Hogmany

The end of December ushers in the New Year, a time of anticipation and celebration. For our pre-Christian ancestors, most of the New Year’s festivities were designed to ward off the barrenness of Winter and insure the fertility of Spring. This was accomplished with the actual or symbolic killing of the king of the old year and the welcoming of a new king—a metaphor still dramatized in the popular British mumming play.

It was during the 19th century, when the hustle of the Christmas Day celebrations were over and the new year was fast approaching, that the mummers took to the streets, pubs, and private homes to act our their plays. Masked and costumed, they portrayed three different themes: the Hero-Combat of St. George, the “Sword Dance,” and the Plough or Wooing play. Of the three, the Hero-Combat was the most favored.

The central part of the play begins with the Hero fighting an opposing champion or, occasionally a whole succession of enemies—the Black Prince, the Turkish Knight, or the Bold Slasher. After a spirited battle, in most but not all cases, the villain is slain. Suddenly a doctor appears, who boast lengthily (with a great deal of buffoonery) of his skill and travels, after which the dead man suddenly regenerates. Once the mummers have been paid, they journey to their next performance.

It might not be as well know as Christmas or New Year’s Eve, but Hogmanay is still celebrated in parts of England and Scotland. Although the word Hogmanay has never been satisfactorily established, it very well may come from the Anglo-Saxon Haleg Monath (Holy Month) or from the giant Gogmagog or Hogmagog, guardians of the cities of London and Plymouth. For the most part, Hogmanay is met with massive enthusiasm. Parties are held, people ring bells, fireworks are set off, and everyone makes a conscious effort to make a clean break with the past by making New Year’s resolutions.

Scotland has always made more of Hogmanay than England and still has a variety of customs associated with the holiday. Some of these include divination, of which Bibliomancy is the most popular. The Family Bible is prayed over, and then the person Seeking his or her future will open the Bible at random. Without looking, a verse is marked with the index finger and then read. Whatever the verse discusses will be the person’s fortune for the year. Another popular custom is to open the back door of the home and then close it just before midnight to let out all of the bad luck. At the stroke of midnight, the  front door is then opened to let in the good luck. Finally, Hogmanay is a favored time for predicting the weather by observing the direction of the wind with this old Scots rhyme:

“If New Year’s Eve night-wind blow south, That betokens warmths and growth. If
west, much milk, and fish in the sea, If north, much cold and storms will be. If east,
the trees will bear much fruit, If north-east, flee it, man and brute.”

 

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuesday Is Ruled By Mars

Tuesday Is Ruled By Mars

Archangel: Samael

Candle colour: Red

Incenses: Dragon’s blood or cinnamon

Crystals: Jasper or garnet

Use Tuesdays for spells for courage, change, independence in home or business life, for overcoming seemingly impossible odds and for passion.

Where possible, work near a fire or a bonfire or with a huge red beeswax candle as a focus; alternatively work next to a flowerbed or large vase of red, orange and/or yellow flowers.

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,583 other followers