Origins of Lupercalia

WOLVESOrigins of Lupercalia

Type of Holiday: Ancient

Date of Observation: February 15

Where Celebrated: Rome

Symbols and Customs: Blood, Februa, Goat, Milk, Wolf

Colors: Red and white, in the form of BLOOD and MILK , both played a part in the earliest observance of the Lupercalia. Nowadays these are the colors associated with Valentine’s Day, to which this ancient festival has been linked.

Related Holidays: Valentine’s Day

ORIGINS
The Lupercalia was a festival in the ancient Roman religion, which scholars trace back to the sixth century B . C . E . Roman religion dominated Rome and influenced territories in its empire until Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the third century C . E . Ancient Roman religion was heavily influenced by the older Greek religion. Roman festivals therefore had much in common with those of the ancient Greeks. Not only were their gods and goddesses mostly the same as those in the Greek pantheon (though the Romans renamed them), but their religious festivals were observed with similar activities: ritual sacrifice, theatrical performances, games, and feasts.

The Lupercalia festival was held in honor of the WOLF who mothered Romulus and Remus, the legendary twin founders of Rome. During the original Roman celebration, members from two colleges of priests gathered at a cave on the Palatine Hill called the Lupercal-supposedly the cave where Romulus and Remus had been suckled by a she-wolf-and sacrificed a GOAT and a dog. The animals’ BLOOD was smeared on the foreheads of two young priests and then wiped away with wool dipped in MILK . The two young men stripped down to a goatskin loincloth and ran around the Palatine, striking everyone who approached them, especially the women, with thongs of goat skin called FEBRUA . It is believed that this was both a fertility ritual and a purification rite. It may also have been a very early example of “beating the bound, or reestablishing the borders of the early Palatine settlement.

There is some confusion over which god the Luperci or priests served; some say it was Faunus, a rural deity, and some say it was Pan, the god of shepherds who protected sheep from the danger of wolves. All that is certain is that by Caesar’s time, the annual ceremony had become a spectacular public sight, with young men running half-naked through the streets and provoking much good-natured hysteria among the women. February 15 was also the day when Mark Antony offered Julius Caesar the crown. Thanks to this historic event, and Shakespeare’s account of it in his play Julius Caesar, the Lupercalia is one of the best known of all Roman festivals.

It is interesting that such a rustic festival continued to be celebrated in Rome for centuries after it had been Christianized. Its survival can be partially credited to Augustus, who rebuilt the Lupercal in the first century B . C . E ., thus giving the celebration a boost. It continued to be observed until 494 C . E ., when Pope Gelasius I changed the day to the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary. There is some reason to believe that the Lupercalia was a forerunner of the modern VALENTINE’S DAY: Part of the ceremony involved putting girls’ names in a box and letting boys draw them out, thus pairing them off until the next Lupercalia.

Source:
The Free Dictionary

As Imbolc Approaches

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
As Imbolc Approaches

a guide to the Sabbat’s symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: February 1 or 2.

Alternative names: Imbolg, Candlemas, Oimelc, Brighid’s Day, Lupercus, the Feast of Lights, Groundhog’s Day

Primary meanings: The name “Imbolc” derives from the word “oimelc,” meaning sheep’s milk. It is considered a time of purification, preparation and celebration for new life stirring, anticipating spring. The holiday is also known as Candlemas; the custom of blessing candles at this time signifies awakening of life and honors the Celtic goddess Brighid, to whom fire is sacred. This Sabbat also celebrates banishing winter.

Symbols: Candle wheels, grain dollies and Sun wheels, a besom (witch’s broom), a sprig of evergreen, a bowl of snow and small Goddess statues representing her in the maiden aspect.

Colors: White, yellow, pink, light blue, light green; also, red and brown.

Gemstones: Amethyst, aquamarine, turquoise, garnet and onyx.

Herbs: Angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, clover, dill, evergreens, heather, myrrh, rosemary, willows and all yellow flowers.

Gods and goddesses: Brighid, the Celtic goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft; all virgin and maiden goddesses; all fire and flame gods, connected with the newborn Sun.

Customs and myths: In Irish legends of the Tuatha De Danaan, Brighid is the name of three daughters of Dagda who over time were combined into one goddess. She was venerated in Scotland, Wales, on the Isle of Man and in the Hebrides. When celebrating Candlemas or Imbolc, spellwork for fertility, inspiration and protection are appropriate, defining and focusing on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order — physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to bring in the new and clearing out the old. Make and bless candles; light one in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Carry out rites of self-purification. Burn mistletoe, holly and ivy decorations from Yule to signify the end of harsh weather and old ways.

Calendar of the Sun for Friday, January 31

Calendar of the Sun

31 Wolfmonath

Imbolc Eve: Day of the Bean Sidhe

Color: Black
Element: Air
Altar: Upon cloth of black place a cup of blood, kept from the last slaughtering. Before it lay bloodstained rags and a flute, and many small unlit votive candles. Block the windows and shut out all sunlight.
Offering: Give aid to a child who has lost their mother.
Daily Meal: Red meat and milk.

Imbolc Eve Invocation

Go, my children, to the riverbank,
In the dark of the night when the wind is howling,
And you shall hear the wails of one who mourns,
And you shall see her kneeling by the water,
Washing the bloody clothes of those
Who did not survive the giving forth of life.
She weeps for the mothers lost,
She weeps for the children lost,
She weeps for the life cut short,
What should have been a joyous day
Become a night of mourning.
She weeps above all for those
Who have no one else to weep for them.
So we shall light a candle, on this night
Before the morn of Candlemas,
For all those who have no one to weep for them,
And we shall shed the tears
And we shall be the voice,
And we shall do the work
Of the lonely Bean Sidhe.

(The cup of blood is poured as a libation. Each comes forward and lights a small votive candle, and then all wail in a great torrent of sound together, with one playing the flute wildly over the cacophony. Those who can shed tears should do so. This should go on until all are exhausted from wailing, and then all should go quietly to their other tasks in silence until Hesperis.

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Enhanced by Zemanta

C A N D L E M A S: The Light Returns

C A N D L E M A S:  The Light Returns
=====================================
by Mike Nichols

It seems quite impossible that the holiday of Candlemas should be considered
the beginning of Spring.  Here in the Heartland, February 2nd may see a blanket
of snow mantling the Mother.  Or, if the snows have gone, you may be sure the
days are filled with drizzle, slush, and steel-grey skies — the dreariest
weather of the year.  In short, the perfect time for a Pagan Festival of Lights.
And as for Spring, although this may seem a tenuous beginning, all the little
buds, flowers and leaves will have arrived on schedule before Spring runs its
course to Beltane.

‘Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older
Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc.  ‘Imbolc’ means, literally, ‘in the belly’
(of the Mother).  For in the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings.  The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows.  ‘Oimelc’ means ‘milk of ewes’, for it is also lambing season.

The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish
Goddess Brigit.  At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of
19 priestesses (no men allowed) kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor.
She was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and
healing (especially the healing touch of midwifery).  This tripartite symbolism
was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had two sisters, also named
Brigit. (Incidentally, another form of the name Brigit is Bride, and it is
thus She bestows her special patronage on any woman about to be married or
handfasted, the woman being called ‘bride’ in her honor.)

The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of
Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be ‘Saint’
Brigit, patron SAINT of smithcraft, poetry, and healing.  They ‘explained’ this
by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was ‘really’ an early Christian
missionary sent to the Emerald Isle, and that the miracles she performed there
‘misled’ the common people into believing that she was a goddess.  For some
reason, the Irish swallowed this.  (There is no limit to what the Irish
imagination can convince itself of.  For example, they also came to believe that
Brigit was the ‘foster-mother’ of Jesus, giving no thought to the implausibility
of Jesus having spent his boyhood in Ireland!)

Brigit’s holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since
she symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the
fire of poetic inspiration.  Bonfires were lighted on the beacon tors, and
chandlers celebrated their special holiday. The Roman Church was quick to
confiscate this symbolism as well, using ‘Candlemas’ as the day to bless all the
church candles that would be used for the coming liturgical year.  (Catholics
will be reminded that the following day, St. Blaise’s Day, is remembered for
using the newly-blessed candles to bless the throats of parishioners, keeping
them from colds, flu, sore throats, etc.)

The Catholic Church, never one to refrain from piling holiday upon holiday,
also called it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (It is
surprising how many of the old Pagan holidays were converted to Maryan Feasts.)  The symbol of the Purification may seem a little obscure to modern readers, but it has to do with the old custom of ‘churching women’.  It was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving birth.  And since Mary gave birth at the winter solstice, she wouldn’t be purified until February 2nd.  In Pagan symbolism, this might be re-translated as when the Great Mother once again becomes the Young Maiden Goddess.

Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore.  Even our American
folk-calendar keeps the tradition of ‘Groundhog’s Day’, a day to predict the
coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be
‘six more weeks’ of bad weather (i.e., until the next old holiday, Lady Day).
This custom is ancient.  An old British rhyme tells us that ‘If Candlemas Day be
bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.’  Actually, all of the
cross-quarter days can be used as ‘inverse’ weather predictors, whereas the
quarter-days are used as ‘direct’ weather predictors.

Like the other High Holidays or Great Sabbats of the Witches’ year,
Candlemas is sometimes celebrated on it’s alternate date, astrologically
determined by the sun’s reaching 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas Old Style (in 1988, February 3rd, at 9:03 am CST). Another holiday that gets mixed up in this is Valentine’s Day.  Ozark folklorist Vance Randolf makes this quite clear by
noting that the old-timers used to celebrate Groundhog’s Day on February 14th.
This same displacement is evident in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well.
Their habit of celebrating the birth of Jesus on January 6th, with a similar
post-dated shift in the six-week period that follows it, puts the Feast of the
Purification of Mary on February 14th.  It is amazing to think that the same
confusion and lateral displacement of one of the old folk holidays can be seen
from the Russian steppes to the Ozark hills, but such seems to be the case!

Incidentally, there is speculation among linguistic scholars that the vary
name of ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins.  It seems that it was customary for
French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v’.  Consequently,
the original term may have been the French ‘galantine’, which yields the English
word ‘gallant’.  The word originally refers to a dashing young man known for his
‘affaires d’amour’, a true galaunt.  The usual associations of V(G)alantine’s
Day make much more sense in this light than their vague connection to a
legendary ‘St. Valentine’ can produce.  Indeed, the Church has always found it
rather difficult to explain this nebulous saint’s connection to the secular
pleasures of flirtation and courtly love.

For modern Witches, Candlemas O.S. may then be seen as the Pagan version of Valentine’s Day, with a de-emphasis of ‘hearts and flowers’ and an appropriate
re-emphasis of Pagan carnal frivolity.  This also re-aligns the holiday with the
ancient Roman Lupercalia, a fertility festival held at this time, in which the
priests of Pan ran through the streets of Rome whacking young women with
goatskin thongs to make them fertile.  The women seemed to enjoy the attention
and often stripped in order to afford better targets.

One of the nicest folk-customs still practiced in many countries, and
especially by Witches in the British Isles and parts of the U.S., is to place a
lighted candle in each and every window of the house, beginning at sundown on
Candlemas Eve (February 1st), allowing them to continue burning until sunrise.
Make sure that such candles are well seated against tipping and guarded from
nearby curtains, etc.  What a cheery sight it is on this cold, bleak and dreary
night to see house after house with candle-lit windows!  And, of course, if you
are your Coven’s chandler, or if you just happen to like making candles,
Candlemas Day is THE day for doing it.  Some Covens hold candle-making parties and try to make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day.

Other customs of the holiday include weaving ‘Brigit’s crosses’ from straw
or wheat to hang around the house for protection, performing rites of spiritual
cleansing and purification, making ‘Brigit’s beds’ to ensure fertility of mind
and spirit (and body, if desired), and making Crowns of Light (i.e. of candles)
for the High Priestess to wear for the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn
on St. Lucy’s Day in Scandinavian countries.  All in all, this Pagan Festival of
Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of the most beautiful and
poetic of the year.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Imbolc…or As The Wheel Turns

Imbolc…or As The Wheel Turns

Author:   Morbek 

As the wheel turns…

Sorry, that was a, now obscure, reference to an old soap opera. Imbolc is tomorrow! The meaning of the word it’s self is “in the milk” or something close to that. The real meaning of Imbolc is that we are beginning to see the changes in the days and that spring will eventually be here!

The promise that we will be able to survive another year and thrive is starting to materialize. When Imbolc was Christianized, it became Candlemas, and is a celebration of light. We have just moved through the darkest part of the year and we are headed for the light.

So, beyond the textbook stuff, let’s look at what this Sabbat means to 21st century people. Since we get our milk and meat from the grocery store and no longer have to plan out how and what we will be eating for more than 24 hours, agrarian celebrations no longer resonate with a clear message or meaning for most of us.

We get up in the morning, go to work, grab lunch…. you know the routine. How or even why do we care if ewes are starting to produce milk? We don’t and it is that simple. But if you think about what the last few months have been like, dark, wet dreary, you can identify with the longing for bright blue skies and nice warm weather. Imbolc reminds us that, in a chaotic world, there are many things we can still predict. Stability is important to us.

This Sabbat is also an opportunity for us to bring ourselves, spiritually, into the light. The “Dark night of our soul” is almost over and we have a chance to reflect about the lessons we’ve learned through the tough times and integrate them into our personal wisdom and offer them to others’ through collective wisdom.

I encourage everyone to recognize that what we’ve gone through is over and we never have to visit those same dark days again. Remember the difficulties, glean the lessons learned and then let go of the pain and fear. There is no way to move forward into perfect love and perfect trust if you are clinging onto fear or emotional pain. Imbolc presents an occasion to learn and let go!

Humans are obsessed with marking time. Months, years, decades, centuries, are important mental markers. They Mayan people were so obsessed with time keeping that they wrote a calendar for the past as well as the future. I think our obsession is, in part, a need to compare our personal growth. We need mental cairn to see “from whence we came’.

So, where was I 10 years ago? Living in Pony, MT!

I was secretly wishing that the world would go to hell in a hand basket because of Y2K but I knew it wouldn’t because some pretty smart people who caused that little glitch, were still around to fix that little glitch. I was dealing w/that lovely inner ear/vertigo issue that I have called Meniers’ disease for the first time! I was scared because I had no spirituality and I was on the run from a stalker (hence, why I was in Pony (middle of no where) Montana) .

Where am I now? In Killeen, TX!

The world did go to hell in a hand basket but it had nothing to do with a computer glitch.
I still have the Meniers disease but it’s under control with medication. I have a spiritual system that works especially well for me so I am no longer afraid. And I have taken a stand against the stalker (yes…. 10 years later. He is still at it) .

Imbolc 2010 has presented me with an inner reflection opportunity. Having just attended the Army’s “Spiritual Fitness Summit” with some really smart, spiritual and powerful chaplains, I discovered what has kept most of us from being open to acceptance of other religious systems is fear.

Once I started talking while we were working in our small groups to set the U.S. Army’s definition of spirituality, everyone began to relax. I am guessing that they figured out that I wasn’t going to sacrifice anything in the middle of the room!!! Then this group of men did something I did not expect them to do…they listened to me! Balance will now be included in the definition of healthy spirituality as well as the recognition of nontraditional religions, either formal or informal!

What should be addressed here isn’t “wow, look at the good stuff I’ve done. Yay me!”

I want to look at the road that it took to get to where I am. I want to remember the lessons that I learned on that road (which was full of pot holes and always a construction zone) and i want to, somehow, help others to see that life is a good place to be when you are living in the moment!

I have always felt a call to serve others. Even when I was much younger and being self-centered, spoiled and without a clue what Personal Responsibility, Compassion and Unconditional love meant. I thought that I was too fat for the military so serving there was not going to work and I needed to be doing something that earned money. I wanted to raise children, so the convent was out! Besides….I like sex way too much to give that up for the god of Abraham! What to do? I was stuck at 20…then, along came my eldest child and, thankfully, my (still) best friend, Tara.

Yes, I know…I went back MUCH further than 10 years, stay with me here.

Because of my choice to become a mother, I learned responsibility and because of my oldest daughters’ network of friends (thanks Mark…I owe you one for this lesson) I learned personal responsibility and compassion.

Tara stood by me through all of my thoughtlessness, insults, screw-ups and selfishness. Tara was there for all times, the good and the horrible. Tara taught me that you could love the person but not their actions. She taught me that you love without conditions and you love freely without expectations of being loved back. Because of Tara, I learned unconditional love.

So, what am I doing with all of these lessons? I am making an attempt to teach them to others in a gentler manner than I learned them. I am leading, as best I can, by example. I have been smart enough to form friendships with deep connections with people who will call me on my bullsh*t so that I can do it while not giving all of myself while serving others…or so that I can do it and not be a hypocrite by doing it for my ego.

November 5th is the day my father died when i was 15. November 5th two thousand and nine is the day that I found my feet. It is the day that I honestly answered that call to serve others. THAT is another article for a later time.

Blessed Imbolc, be fearless and loving!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Candlemas: The Light Returns

Candlemas: The Light Returns
by Mike Nichols

It seems quite impossible that the holiday of Candlemas should be considered the  beginning of Spring.  Here in the Heartland, February 2nd may see a blanket of snow  mantling the Mother.  Or, if the snows have gone, you may be sure the days are filled with  drizzle, slush, and steel-grey skies — the dreariest weather of the year.  In short, the  perfect time for a Pagan Festival of Lights.  And as for Spring, although this may seem a  tenuous beginning, all the little buds, flowers and leaves will have arrived on schedule  before Spring runs its course to Beltane.

‘Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older Pagan names  were Imbolc and Oimelc.  ‘Imbolc’ means, literally, ‘in the belly’ (of the Mother).  For in  the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision,  there are stirrings.  The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening  and the new year grows.  ‘Oimelc’ means ‘milk of ewes’, for it is also lambing season.

The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit.   At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of 19 priestesses (no men  allowed) kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor.  She was considered a goddess of  fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing (especially the healing touch of  midwifery).  This tripartite symbolism was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had  two sisters, also named Brigit. (Incidentally, another form of the name Brigit is Bride,  and it is thus She bestows her special patronage on any woman about to be married or  handfasted, the woman being called ‘bride’ in her honor.)

The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a  demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be ‘Saint’ Brigit, patron SAINT  of smithcraft, poetry, and healing.  They ‘explained’ this by telling the Irish peasants  that Brigit was ‘really’ an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle, and that  the miracles she performed there ‘misled’ the common people into believing that she was a  goddess.  For some reason, the Irish swallowed this.  (There is no limit to what the Irish  imagination can convince itself of.  For example, they also came to believe that Brigit was  the ‘foster-mother’ of Jesus, giving no thought to the implausibility of Jesus having spent  his boyhood in Ireland!)

Brigit’s holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since she  symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the fire of poetic  inspiration.  Bonfires were lighted on the beacon tors, and chandlers celebrated their  special holiday. The Roman Church was quick to confiscate this symbolism as well, using  ‘Candlemas’ as the day to bless all the church candles that would be used for the coming  liturgical year.  (Catholics will be reminded that the following day, St. Blaise’s Day, is  remembered for using the newly-blessed candles to bless the throats of parishioners,  keeping them from colds, flu, sore throats, etc.)

The Catholic Church, never one to refrain from piling holiday upon holiday, also called  it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  (It is surprising how many of  the old Pagan holidays were converted to Maryan Feasts.)  The symbol of the Purification  may seem a little obscure to modern readers, but it has to do with the old custom of  ‘churching women’.  It was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving  birth.  And since Mary gave birth at the winter solstice, she wouldn’t be purified until  February 2nd.  In Pagan symbolism, this might be re-translated as when the Great Mother  once again becomes the Young Maiden Goddess.

Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore.  Even our American  folk-calendar keeps the tradition of ‘Groundhog’s Day’, a day to predict the coming  weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’  of bad weather (i.e., until the next old holiday, Lady Day).  This custom is ancient.  An  old British rhyme tells us that ‘If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two  winters in the year.’  Actually, all of the cross-quarter days can be used as ‘inverse’  weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days are used as ‘direct’ weather predictors.

Like the other High Holidays or Great Sabbats of the Witches’ year, Candlemas is  sometimes celebrated on it’s alternate date, astrologically determined by the sun’s  reaching 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas Old Style (in 1988, February 3rd, at 9:03 am  CST). Another holiday that gets mixed up in this is Valentine’s Day.  Ozark folklorist  Vance Randolf makes this quite clear by noting that the old-timers used to celebrate  Groundhog’s Day on February 14th.  This same displacement is evident in Eastern Orthodox  Christianity as well. Their habit of celebrating the birth of Jesus on January 6th, with a  similar post-dated shift in the six-week period that follows it, puts the Feast of the  Purification of Mary on February 14th.  It is amazing to think that the same confusion and  lateral displacement of one of the old folk holidays can be seen from the Russian steppes  to the Ozark hills, but such seems to be the case!

Incidentally, there is speculation among linguistic scholars that the vary name of  ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins.  It seems that it was customary for French peasants of the  Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v’.  Consequently, the original term may have been the  French ‘galantine’, which yields the English word ‘gallant’.  The word originally refers to  a dashing young man known for his ‘affaires d’amour’, a true galaunt.  The usual  associations of V(G)alantine’s Day make much more sense in this light than their vague  connection to a legendary ‘St. Valentine’ can produce.  Indeed, the Church has always found  it rather difficult to explain this nebulous saint’s connection to the secular pleasures of  flirtation and courtly love.

For modern Witches, Candlemas O.S. may then be seen as the Pagan version of Valentine’s  Day, with a de-emphasis of ‘hearts and flowers’ and an appropriate re-emphasis of Pagan  carnal frivolity.  This also re-aligns the holiday with the ancient Roman Lupercalia, a  fertility festival held at this time, in which the priests of Pan ran through the streets  of Rome whacking young women with goatskin thongs to make them fertile.  The women seemed  to enjoy the attention and often stripped in order to afford better targets.

One of the nicest folk-customs still practiced in many countries, and especially by  Witches in the British Isles and parts of the U.S., is to place a lighted candle in each  and every window of the house, beginning at sundown on Candlemas Eve (February 1st),  allowing them to continue burning until sunrise.  Make sure that such candles are well  seated against tipping and guarded from nearby curtains, etc.  What a cheery sight it is on  this cold, bleak and dreary night to see house after house with candle-lit windows!  And,  of course, if you are your Coven’s chandler, or if you just happen to like making candles,  Candlemas Day is THE day for doing it.  Some Covens hold candle-making parties and try to  make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day.

Other customs of the holiday include weaving ‘Brigit’s crosses’ from straw or wheat to  hang around the house for protection, performing rites of spiritual cleansing and  purification, making ‘Brigit’s beds’ to ensure fertility of mind and spirit (and body, if  desired), and making Crowns of Light (i.e. of candles) for the High Priestess to wear for  the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn on St. Lucy’s Day in Scandinavian countries.   All in all, this Pagan Festival of Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of  the most beautiful and poetic of the year.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Esbats and Sabbats – The Holy Days of Witchcraft

Esbats and Sabbats – The Holy Days of Witchcraft

By

Every religion has its own days of power, reverence and  celebration. Wicca is no different in this regard. The holidays that Wiccans  celebrate are referred to as Sabbats, or the Eight High Holy days. They occur  approximately every six weeks, and denote the changing of the seasons. The sun,  as a representation of the God, is revered during a sabbat, and the ceremony for  a particular holiday is often performed at high noon. The other type of holy day  that is more familiar to most people is the Esbat. The Esbat is a monthly  occurrence that generally coincides with the moon being full. It is the night  when witches gather to perform ritual and magickal workings for the coming  month.

This article will detail all of these holy days and  hopefully shed a little light on what witches do throughout the year to honor  their Deities.

The Esbat
As stated  above, the Esbat is a ceremony that coincides with the cycles of the moon.  Generally, the day that it is done occurs when the moon is full, though this is  not necessary. The full moon is significant because witches firmly believe that  the power of magickal workings wax and wane with the phases of the moon. When  the moon is waxing, or becoming fuller, it is good to perform rites that are  drawing things to you or increasing positive influences in general. When the  moon is waning, or diminishing, it is good for banishing influences that are no  longer wanted, or getting rid of negativity. Yet when the moon is full, the  magickal workings are at their peak, and it is good for nearly any rite that a  witch may wish to perform. The new moon, or dark moon, occurs when the moon is  not visible at all. During this time, the rites that are performed are either  for extreme protection rites or negative magicks.

On whatever day the esbat is performed, it is done in the  evening or at night. The reason behind this is that these rites are meant to be  working with the Goddess, who represented by the moon.

The actual process of performing the esbat can be summed  up very concisely. The witch or coven will gather at a designated ritual space.  There, they will cast a circle, and perform rites that will raise their magickal  and psychic power, and then direct that power at their desired goal. Since there  are so many variables as to what a witch or group of witches may wish to direct  their energy, it is difficult to offer up an example of what these rites may  entail.

However, one of the things that is a common theme among  esbats is that it is a time for connecting and communing with Deity. This is  often done by the reciting of The Wiccan Rede and The Charge of the Goddess  while in circle. Afterwards, time may be spent in either meditation or  performing acts of divination with tarot cards, runes or other means. This is  followed by a communion of cakes and wine, where the gathered witches will  celebrate their coming together and catch up on the previous month and make  plans for the coming one. Then the ritual circle is opened, the leftover cakes  and wine are offered up to Nature, and the witches will go their separate  ways.

The Eight High Holy Days
There are eight major holidays that Wiccans celebrate:
Samhain (pronounce saw-vin or sow-en)  – Yule – Candlemas – Ostara – Beltane – Midsummer –  Lammas – and Mabon

Each of the Holy Days represents a different turning of  the seasons, and a different phase of life. The common representation of these  phases is the God, though many practitioners incorporate an aspect of the  Goddess in some fashion as well. They are primarily Sun festivals, and, unlike  esbats, the rituals are often performed when the sun is at its highest in the  sky.

Sabbats are usually large gatherings where entire families  will come together and celebrate with food and drink in addition to the  religious rites.

Samhain
Samhain is  probably the most recognizable of all of the Wiccan Sabbats. It falls on October  31st and signifies the ending of one cycle of the year. While many view it as  the beginning of the next yearly cycle, that does not actually occur until Yule  in December.

The main symbolism behind this holiday is death and  honoring loved ones that have passed on. It is commonly thought that on this  night, the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, and witches take  advantage of this opportunity to communicate with their family and friends who  have passed on.

Samhain is also the last harvest festival of the year, and  the last opportunity for the coven and their families to come together to share  their resources before digging in for the winter. The period of time between  Samhain and Yule is spent contemplating plans for the coming year and  remembering the year that has passed.

Yule
Yule is  generally thought to coincide with the Christian holiday of Christmas. This is  not precisely so. Yule actually falls on the day of the winter solstice, which  generally falls on or around December 21st.

The significance of this holiday is that of rebirth. This  is the day where the days begin to grow longer, and the sun is making a  comeback. The general representation of this is of Holly King, a Dark God,  passing and being replaced by the Oak King, or Sun God. Though the sabbat that  signifies the beginning of the year may vary from tradition to tradition, this  is the one that is most popular in signifying the beginning of the year.

All of the sabbats represent a phase of life, and Yule  falls into the fertility category. This is a time of conception, where the  beginnings of life begin to stir. When covens and families come together on this  holiday, plans begin to be made for the coming year, as well as preparations for  the coming spring.

Candlemas
Candlemas  is also known by the name of Imbolc. It is well and truly the first fertility  festival of springtime. The specific date that this day falls on varies from  tradition to tradition, but it can be anywhere from January 31st to February  2nd. At this time, we are beginning to see the very first signs of spring, and  the renewal of life.

The festivities for Candlemas all center on clearing out  the old and making way for the new. The Maiden aspect of the Goddess is honored  at this time, as are any Gods and Goddesses that relate to love and fertility.  This holiday is considered an especially auspicious time for a new marriage or  relationship.

One of the traditional symbols of Candlemas is the plough.  They are often decorated and incorporated into the festivities. Another  tradition for the holiday is to create a besom, a simple broom constructed of  twigs or straw, and use it to ritually cleanse the home. It is then placed near  the front, symbolizing sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

Ostara
Also called  Eostar, this High Holy Day falls on the spring equinox, on or near March 21st.  This is the second of the three fertility festivals. Springtime is coming on  full force at this time, and planting for the year’s crops is well underway. New  spring growth can be seen everywhere, and the Gods are petitioned for luck with  the crops and the home.

Two of the traditional symbols for this holiday are the  egg and the rabbit. The egg is an emblem of new life and new growth, and it is  incorporated into many ritual workings and festivities at this time. The rabbit,  known for its prolific mating habits, is also a symbol of growth and abundance.  Both also symbolize change. The Christian faith has fully adopted both of these  symbols into their celebrations that occur at near the same time.

Beltane
Also know as  May Day, this Holy Day falls on May first. It is the last of the fertility  festivals for the year, and with it comes unabashed sexuality for many  traditions. The May Pole is one symbol of this holiday that is found throughout  many traditions. It is a tall pole set in the ground, symbolizing the Sun God  uniting with Earth. It is decorated with long ribbons and fresh flowers, and, of  course, maidens traditionally dance around the pole.

One of the traditional May Day activities for this holiday  is to secretly leave baskets of flowers and goodies at the doors of your  neighbors.

Generally, this is a holiday that celebrates and revels in  the return of the sun.

Midsummer
This Holy  Day celebrates the God, represented by the sun in all of his glory. It is  celebrated on the summer solstice, when the longest day of the year takes place.  Midsummer is neither a fertility festival nor a harvest festival. In this way,  it is similar to Yule. On this day, rites often center on protection for the  home and family for the coming year, rites of divination, and celebrating the  abundance of The Oak King in his prime of life.

For those who work with faerie energy in their rites,  Midsummer is an ideal time to commune with them. It is a common tradition for  witches to go out in the twilight and look for faerie folk in stands of oak, ash  and thorn trees.

Lammas
Another name  for this holiday is Lughnassadh. It occurs on August 1st, and it is the first of  the three harvest sabbats celebrated by witches. Attention turns now to harvest  the crops and gardens, and preparations begin for the coming winter. The days  are beginning to grow shorter, and the Sun God begins to lose his strength as  the days grow shorter.

As this is the time of year when we first begin to reap  the bounties of harvest, it is often a holiday accompanied with feasting and  celebration. Decorations and dollies are often made from dried ears of corn, and  used in rites and to decorate the home.

Mabon
Mabon is the  primary harvest festival, counterpoint to Ostara, and it occurs on the Autumnal  Equinox. On this day, witches pay homage to retreating daylight, and prepare for  the coming winter. This holiday symbolizes the God in old age and readying for  his impending death and rebirth.

Though this holiday is a little more somber than the rest  of them, it is also one where Wiccans are sure to give thanks for what they have  received throughout the past year. It is a popular time of year for witches and  pagans to give back to their communities, and generally share their bountiful  harvests.

With so many holidays to celebrate, Wiccans always have  something to look forward to in their faith. As the seasons come and go, witches  around the world celebrate the wheel of the year. Though traditions and names  may be a little different from place to place, they are all basically the same  at heart.  Thanks for reading, and, as  always: Blessed Be!!

Witch Works: Spells and Rituals for Every Season

Witch Works:  Spells and Rituals for Every Season
A Column by Kelly
.
Candlemas Edition
Candlemas, or Imbolc, is the Feast of Flames. Usually celebrated on February 2, Candlemas was a celebration of the coming spring with all of its promise and bounty.  Even though the winters were long and the food supply was dwindling by this point of the year, the ancient Celtic people who first celebrated Candlemas still found reason to do just that: celebrate!  Traditionally, Candlemas involved an extinguishing of the all of the lamps, candles and the central home hearth, followed by a relighting celebration which became the Feast of Flames. Below are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate Candlemas. Try them out for yourself or combine them with your existing Candlemas traditions!
Candlemas Altar Decoration
Candlemas is most closely associated with the Celtic Goddess Brigit. If you are not already familiar with Brigit, Candlemas is the perfect time of year to introduce yourself!  Try incorporating Brigit and her sacred symbols into the magick you perform this Candlemas.  Brigit had several animals that were considered sacred to her: the boar, the cow, the fish, the sheep, the snake or serpent, the wolf, the bear and the badger.  If you plan to decorate your altar for Candlemas, try utilizing her sacred animals as well as the colors of Candlemas (red and white) into your decoration theme!
Candlemas Magick
Being that Candlemas is the Feast of Flames, any magick that calls for fire will be especially sacred at this time of year.  If you are not already familiar with pyromancy, divination by fire, there are several formats you can try.
First, there is flame scrying.  Take a white candle and place it in front of a black scrying mirror. Focus on the candle’s flame in the mirror and wait for the images to reveal themselves.  This is a highly effective form of pyromancy. Second, if you plan an outdoor celebration that will include an open pit fire, try sitting beside the fire and meditating on the flames as they dance.  Relax and wait for the dancing flames to reveal their message to you.
Libanomancy, or divination from smoke, is another excellent form of magick to engage in during Candlemas.  You can either use the smoke from stick incense that you have burning or you can burn some herbs on a charcoal brick. Try to divine the images the smoke produces.
A lesser known form of divination is called ceromancy, which is melting max in a traditional manner and pouring the melted wax into a large bowl of water and then looking for symbols and images that the wax produces.
Candlemas Ritual
There are several rituals that go hand in hand with the spirit of Candlemas. The first is a self-blessing ceremony. With the beginning of a new year, some people like to clear themselves and get s fresh start, so to speak. A self-blessing ritual is a perfect extension of that ideology.    A self-blessing ritual you can follow is below, or write your own if you are inspired!
Step 1 – Take a ritual bath and dress yourself in white clothing or go skyclad.
Step 2 – Cleanse the area you are going to work in
Step 3 – Ground and Center
Step 4 – Cast a circle
Step 5 – Call the elements or deities you like to work with. Don’t forget that Brigit would be an excellent choice for this!
Step 6 – With anointing oil or holy water, dip your fingers into the substance and anoint your feet, groin area (not internally!), stomach, heart, throat or lips depending on the substance, eyes and forehead or third eye, repeating a blessing on each part that you anoint. The blessings need not be complicated. You could say “bless my feet that aid my physical earthly journey, bless my loins that bring pleasure and life” etc.
Step 7 – Meditate on clearing yourself and seeing yourself as blessed.
Step 8 – Thank your deities and elements and release them from the circle.
Step 9 – Break down your circle and then rest.
Repeat this ritual as often as needed.
Candlemas is a wonderful time to perform a house/room cleansing or blessing as well.  Clean the house/room thoroughly before you begin. Then you can simply smudge the locale with a smudging stick or incense, repeating a simple house blessing as you smudge, such as “bless this space in the name of The Goddess. Let it be free from negativity and filled with love.”
Also, if you have a personal sanctuary or room for your spiritual practices, now would be an opportune time to clean it out, physically and spiritually. Or, you maybe find your altar is in need of revamping. Spend a little time cleaning it and maybe reorganizing the layout of the altar.  Cleanse and reconsecrate your altar tools as well.
Candlemas Projects
Given its name, Candlemas is my favorite time of year to make candles!  On Candlemas, I like to replenish my candle stock.  I check and see what colors or shapes I am running low on and spend some time making candles for the upcoming Ostara and daily meditation and ritual use.  Candle-making is really simple and an excellent creative outlet! If you have not tried making your own candles before, stop by your local craft store and pick up a few candle molds and experiment!
Have a blessed Candlemas!
About the Author:  Kelly is a solitary practitioner from the Midwest.  She is currently a student at The White Moon School, studying to become a High Priestess. Kelly has been a practicing witch for 4 years and performs tarot readings and long distance energy work via the Internet.

The Celtic Calendar for February 2nd – Imbolc and Candlemas

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

February 2nd – Imbolc and Candlemas

The festival of Candlemas has ancient roots, for in Pagan Europe, fires were kindled at this time of year to reflect and encourage the growing strength of the Sun. It’s name is Christian, however, being derived from the tradition of the future year’s supply of candles being blessed before the first mass of February 2, and then being carried around the church in a pious procession. This is also the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple; the parallels between the Virgin Mary and the Goddess in Her maiden aspect, and Baby Jesus and the solar child of promise, are unmistakable.

 

Candlemas Creativity

White represents purity, pale gree denote a fresh start and growth, and a flame signifies the kindling of creativity. Light candles of these colors to commemorate the concepts symbolized by Candlemas. As you gaze at the flaming taper, ask the Goddess for inspiration.

Calendar of the Sun for January 31st

Calendar of the Sun

31 Wolfmonath

Imbolc Eve: Day of the Bean Sidhe

Color: Black
Element: Air
Altar: Upon cloth of black place a cup of blood, kept from the last slaughtering. Before it lay bloodstained rags and a flute, and many small unlit . Block the windows and shut out all sunlight.
Offering: Give aid to a child who has lost their mother.
Daily Meal: Red meat and milk.

Imbolc Eve Invocation

Go, my children, to the riverbank,
In the dark of the night when the wind is howling,
And you shall hear the wails of one who mourns,
And you shall see her kneeling by the water,
Washing the bloody clothes of those
Who did not survive the giving forth of life.
She weeps for the mothers lost,
She weeps for the children lost,
She weeps for the life cut short,
What should have been a joyous day
Become a night of mourning.
She weeps above all for those
Who have no one else to weep for them.
So we shall light a candle, on this night
Before the morn of Candlemas,
For all those who have no one to weep for them,
And we shall shed the tears
And we shall be the voice,
And we shall do the work
Of the lonely Bean Sidhe.

(The cup of blood is poured as a libation. Each comes forward and lights a small , and then all wail in a great torrent of sound together, with one wildly over the cacophony. Those who can shed tears should do so. This should go on until all are exhausted from wailing, and then all should go quietly to their other tasks in silence until Hesperis.

 

[Pagan Book of Hours]