Litha History – Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Litha Comments & GraphicsLitha History

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source:
Author: Patti Wigington
Source: Article found on & owned by About.com

Litha History – Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Litha History – Celebrating the Summer Solstice

 

An Ancient Solar Celebration:

Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way, shape or form. On this date – usually around June 21 or 22 (or December 21/22 in the southern hemisphere) – the sun reaches its zenith in the sky. It is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems to just hang there without moving – in fact, the word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which literally translates to “sun stands still.” The travels of the sun were marked and recorded.

Stone circles such as Stonehenge were oriented to highlight the rising of the sun on the day of the summer solstice.

Traveling the Heavens:

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

Fire and Water:

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

Saxon Traditions:

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

Roman Festivals :

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

Midsummer for Modern Pagans:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Source:

5 Easy Decorating Ideas for Litha

Need some quick and affordable decorating ideas for Litha, the summer solstice? Here are some tips on how to bring the season into your home without breaking your bank account!
Celebrate the sun at midsummer!. Image by Peter Cade/Image Bank/Getty Images

Suns and Solar Symbols

The Litha sabbat falls on the longest day of the year – that means you have more hours of daylight on the summer solstice than on any other day, and that’s definitely worth celebrating! Solar symbols like suns and circles, gods eyes, Brighid’s crosses and sunwheels are all perfect representatives of this season – hang them on your walls and doors, or add them to your Litha altar. More »

Fresh Blossoms and Blooms

By the time midsummer rolls around, our flower gardens are in full bloom. This is a time to gather up those blossoms and enjoy their beauty – collect an assortment of brightly colored flowers and bring them indoors to keep you company. Consider, especially, flowers in bright sunny colors like yellows and reds and oranges. Sunflowers, tulips, roses, tiger lilies, and black-eyed Susans are all associated with the sun at the height of its power.

Bring the bounty of your garden inside to celebrate the midsummer harvest. Image © Patti Wigington; Licensed to About.com

The Bounty of the Garden

In addition to fresh flowers, we’ve also got fresh produce rapidly filling our gardens. The sun brings warmth to the earth, which in turn brings new life to our plants. Harvest your midsummer fruits and vegetables, and leave them in bowls and baskets around the house. Some goodies, like onions and herbs, can be hung up to dry, which will allow you to enjoy the scents as well as the flavor.

Fire and Light

Carrying on the solar theme, Litha is a celebration of fire – after all, that’s what the sun is, right? Use big candles all around your home, in yellows and golds and other sunny colors. You can also string festively colored lights along your walls and windows, to bring that brightness indoors. For your outdoor decor, use a tabletop brazier or even Tiki torches to celebrate with flames and fire. More »

Litha is a time of opposites, between light and dark.Image by Alan Thornton/Image Bank/Getty Images

Opposites

At Litha, the summer solstice, it’s the last day of the sun’s full power. For the next six months, darkness will begin to take over, growing stronger until Yule, the longest night of the year. At that point, the process will reverse once more and the light return. Decorate your home with symbols of opposites – fire and water, earth and air, darkness and light, yin and yang.

 

Herb of the Day – Vervain, The Witches Herb

Witchy Comments & Graphics
Herb of the Day – Vervain, The Witches Herb

Vervain

(Verbena officinal is)
Feminine. Venus. Earth.

Deities: Cerridwen, Mars, Venus, Aradia, Jupiter, Thor, Juno

The Witches Herb. Love, Protection, Purification, Peace, Money, Youth, Chastity, Sleep. Healing. Empowers any magick, especially love spells. Enhances the dreaming process and is recommended for dream quests. Used to consecrate and empower any ritual tools. Protects from negative emotions and depression. Used in house and home blessings. Turns back negativity. In love spells: add to recipes to attract mates, find true love, achieve sexual fulfillment, work sexual magick, an for bringing extra bliss on the wedding night. The herb of poets, singers, and bards. Inspires artistry. Instills a love of learning. Best when gathered at Midsummer.

Celebrating Spirituality 365 Days A Year – July 17th, Turtle Day

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July 17th

Turtle Day

Snapping turtles weigh about 10 to 12 pounds and are generally active during Midsummer. It was around this time of the year in Churubusco, Indiana, that Gale Harris, a farmer, heard that a turtle the size of a tabletop lived in the lake on his property. While Harris was patching his roof with the help of his minister, the turtle was spotted at a distance. Upon a closer look, it appeared that the turtle was four to five feet wide and about six feet long–in short a monster! With significant effort, and help from his neighbors, Harris sought to capture the turtle.

It seems that Harris tried nets, grapples, homemade nets and pens, professional divers, and even a female turtle as a decoy. After articles appeared in local papers, crowds began to gather to watch the various efforts. But, the turtle who came to be known as Oscar always managed to escape unscathed. In 1950, the town needed to raise funds build a new meeting hall and decided to exploit the fame of Oscar, the so-called Beast of Busco, as its main attraction. The festival was such a success that the Midsummer pattern for Turtle Day was set and continues today.

The Turtle

Because of its slow and deliberate movement, the turtle is regarded as intelligent and prudent. Its ability to reach very old age assures it great respect. In most African legends, the turtle always comes away victorious and is usually associated with the God of rain, because of its ability to live both on land and in the water.

Gothic Gardening

Gothic Gardening

A Garden as Black as Your Cloak!

by mAlice

Need an idea for your garden? Don’t want the same old pansies and marigolds this year? Here’s some ideas for making your garden a more gothic place…

Gardening for the Fey

Let’s get one thing straight here: Fairies are not cute. Shakespeare made them seem cute, and Disney finished off the job (sorry, Heather, but it’s true). The fey are capricious, mischievous, arrogant, menacing and sometimes downright evil and dangerous to humans. The fey include elves, fairies, gnomes, trolls, goblins and a host of other supernatural beings who are somewhere “between men and angels.” Almost all of these beings have a very close connection to nature.

Rosemary: Sicilians thought that this was a favorite plant of the fairies and that young fairies would take the form of snakes and lie amongst the branches, and the baby fairies would sleep in the flowers.

Ragwort: Also known as St. John’s wort, this plant has a strong connection with the fey. In Ireland, it’s called fairy’s horse, since supposedly fairies would ride through the air on it. Leprechauns are supposed to have buried their treasure underneath the roots of this plant. And on the Isle of Man, there is the belief that if you stepped upon a ragwort plant on St. John’s Eve (Midsummer Eve) after sunset, a fairy horse would spring up out of the earth and carry you off until sunrise, at which time it would leave you wherever you happened to be.

Elder: Almost all trees are home to some sort of elven kind, including elm, oak, willow, yew, fir, holly and so on. However, elder trees have the highest elf population. The Elder Mother who dwells within the tree is very protective of her domain, and it is taboo to cut part of the tree without asking her permission first. Stories tell of the Elder Mother tormenting children who were in cradles of elderwood (which had not been asked for) by pulling them by the legs. The chant for asking permission is:

“Old Woman, Old Woman, Give me some of your wood And when I am dead I’ll give you some of mine.”

And if you stand under an elder tree at midnight on Midsummer Eve in Denmark, you will see Toly, the King of the Elves, go by.

Oak: In Germany, this is the fairies’ favorite dwelling place, and they are especially fond of dancing around it.

Barley: A common grain, but one of the main foods of the fairy. Fairies would often borrow oatmeal from storehouses and return a double measure of barley as repayment.

Silverweed: Also known as silver cinquefoil, the roots of this plant were another of the fairies’ favorite foods, which they called brisgein. However, it likes to grow in marshy areas, so cultivating it might be a problem.

Heather: This is another of the fairies’ favorite foods.

Wild thyme: Another herb that was thought to be home to fairies, since they liked the aromatic flowers and spent their leisure time among them. If you picked the flowers from a patch of wild thyme where the little folk did live and placed them on your eyes, you would be able to see the fey.

Cowslip: This flower is also known as fairy cups in Lincolnshire and was often a hiding place for frightened fairies. At dawn, as the light shines on the dewdrops, the fairies “hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.”

Ferns: This plant was guarded by Oberon on Midsummer Night, since this is when the fern would flower – a beautiful sapphire blue – and Oberon wanted to prevent mortals from obtaining the fern seed. If you managed to collect it despite him, you would be under the protection of spirits, and while you carried the seed it would render you invisible.

Clover: Finding a four-leaved clover grants you a wish and gives you the power to see the fairies dancing in their fairy rings. This is also the main ingredient of fairy ointment, which gives you the power to penetrate the fairies’ glamour and see them as they truly are. Be careful, though: If you unknowingly carry a four-leaved clover (in a bundle of grass), the fairies have the power to enchant you.

Foxglove: The flowers serve as petticoats for the fairies, and in Ireland they serve as fairies’ gloves. Also, flowers are used as thimbles when fairies mend their clothing.

Furze bushes: The cobwebs collected on their branches are used to make fairies’ mantles.

Stichwort: In Devonshire, people do not pick this for fear they be “pixy led.” Held in special honor by fairies.

Strawberries: In Bavaria, fairies are very fond of strawberries and peasants will tie a basket of strawberries between cows’ horns to assure an abundance of milk.

Rose: In Germany and Scandinavia, this plant is under special protection of dwarfs and elves, both who are ruled by King Laurin, Lord of the Rose Garden.

Cabbage stalks: Also serve as transportation for fairies, who ride these like horses.

Cuscuta Epithymum: In Jersey, known as “fairies’ hair.”

Peziza Coccinea: Used for fairies’ hats.

Elecampane: In Denmark, this is known as “elf-dock.”

Toadstools: These are thought to be “stylized pixy stools” and in the north of Wales are called “fairy tables.”

Pyrus Japonica: Used as kindling for fairy fires.

Tulips: Flowers are used as cradles for fairy children.

Wood anemone: Shelters fairies in wet weather.

Wood sorrel: From Wales, its white flowers are known as “fairy bells” and are used to summon fairies to their reveries.

Mallow: The fruit of this plant is called “fairy cheeses” in the North of England.

Nightwort: Evil elves prepare poison in this plant. It is also one of the sacred plants of the Dutch Alven, along with elf-leaf, which they watered and strengthened against the coming day. The Alven would sicken or kill people or cattle that touched the plants.

Globe flower: Also called the “troll flower.”

Hawthorn: In Brittany and Ireland, also called “fairy thorn,” this tree is the trysting place of fairies. To pick a branch or leaf from a hawthorn is to court the displeasure of the fairies.

Wormwood: This is “Dian’s bud,” which Oberon used to remove the enchantment from Titania. Wormwood is also protection against the Rusalky of Russia, who will tickle you to death if they find you in the woods without some of this in your pockets.

Flax: The flowers are not only protection against sorcery but also are beloved of Queen Hulda, who leads a procession through the valley between Kroppbuhl and Unterlassen while the flax is blooming. Fairy-flax is used by the fairies to weave all their linen. Poludnitsa, the Noon Woman, interrogates women she finds in the flax fields at noon, to make sure they know how to cultivate and spin flax. If they answer incorrectly, she kills them.

To prepare a sleeping place for Queen Titania, you should plant these flowers:

“Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, Quite over-canopied with lush woodbine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine, There sleeps Titania sometime of the night Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.”

Any fruit out of season or remaining after the harvest is the property of the fairies. In the West of England, strays are left to assure fairy goodwill. Fairies, like witches, don’t like yellow flowers and will go out of their way to avoid them.

Many thanks to my gothic garden researcher, Anagram…..

Ritual Death: The Adonis Garden

Adonis was worshipped as a god of vegetation, or at least a god associated with vegetation, in the Hellenic world. (I won’t discuss the radically differing viewpoints on this.) Adonis was born of Myrrha, the myrrh tree, seduced both Persephone and Aphrodite with his androgynous charm and died young, killed by his ineptitude in a boar hunt, and his body was found in a bed of lettuce. Some tales even have Aphrodite hiding him in that bed of lettuce.

Devotees of his cult, mostly concubines and courtesans, would grow on their rooftops a garden with fast-sprouting plants in baskets and small pots, which surrounded a statue of the god. The plants were always lettuce, barley, wheat and fennel. The rites of Adonia were performed in the middle of the summer, during the time when the sun was at its hottest, so these plants quickly sent up tender young shoots and just as quickly withered in the heat from the sun. They were allowed to grow for only eight days, after which the dry, withering sprouts were throw into the sea, along with an image of the god.

Lettuce, in particular, seems to have a lot of associations with death and sterility in the minds of the Greeks. Of course, it was in a lettuce bed where Adonis met his fate. The Greeks considered lettuce a “wet” plant, and this wet nature suggested to them bogs and decaying corpses. In fact, in one of his comedies, Euboulos wrote, “Lettuce is a food for corpses.”

The Somber Garden

This is the original theme that gave me the idea for Gothic Gardening and will obviously discuss black (or near-black, since in nature black is a fairly rare color) plants. It seems that about once a month on rec.gardens someone asks the question “Are there any black flowers I can grow?” This list is not all-inclusive, but it’s as complete as possible.

Note: I’ve included many plants in this list that I have no earthly idea of where to find them.

Flowers

Roses: I’m sorry to say, there’s just no such thing as a black rose. I could probably write an entire column on near-black roses alone, since this seems to be the black flower everyone wants (but not me… I’d rather have true-black tulips). “Taboo” claims to be the nearest yet, but I found the flowers to be fairly red. The Taboo rose came from Germany, which does earn it some goth points, but it’s still not dark enough for me. In Germany, it’s known as Barkarole. The experts on rec.gardens.roses recently discussed the question of black roses, and the list of cultivars I have is derived mainly from them. I haven’t personally seen many of these roses, so I can’t vouch for just how dark they are, and I am most certainly not a rose expert….

(Note: Many people have e-mailed me to tell me many of these roses are nowhere near black. Caveat emptor.)

  • “Ink Spots”: supposed to be slightly darker than “Taboo” and also supposed to be better able to withstand heat. One description was “sooty black over fiery red.”
  • “Ingrid Bergman”: dark red rose, highly recommended.
  • “Oklahoma”: dark red buds, a dark, purplish red bloom, hybrid tea rose, also highly recommended.
  • “Sympathie”: a climbing rose with dark red buds.
  • “Black Jade”: a miniature rose that is dark red, reportedly about the same shade as “Ink Spots.”
  • “Brian Donne”: another miniature, slightly lighter than “Black Jade.”
  • “Love’s Promise”: a black/red rose with a raspberry scent.
  • “Tuscany” and “Tuscany Superb”: antique roses, deep red with blackish overtones and lots of fragrance.
  • “The Squire”: a David Austin rose with near-black buds and dark red blooms.
  • “Souvenir du Dr. Jamain”: a Hybrid Perpetual, deep burgundy, with some purple.
  • “Nuits de Young”: a purple-black moss rose.
  • “The Prince”: a dark red-purple English rose.
  • “Papa Meilland”: dark red-black in colder climates.
  • “Kentucky Derby”: similar to Papa Meilland.
  • “Onyx”: a Hybrid Tea, dark red-black.
  • “Black Tea”: not really black, but brown.
  • “Deep Secret”: red-black buds, dark red flower, fragrant.
  • “Black Lady”: again, near-black buds and dark red blooms.
  • “Cardinal de Richelieu”: a dark purple Gallica rose.
  • “Deuil de Paul Fontaine”: a dusky purple-red moss rose. Goth points for the name – it translates to “mourning for Paul Fontaine.”

Hollyhocks: Found labeled as Althaea rosea nigra, A. nigra or “The Watchman,” these are single saucer-shaped blooms that are a deep, chocolate maroon. This was grown by Thomas Jefferson. I wonder if he was secretly a goth….

Snapdragon: The “Black Prince” cultivar has foliage that is dark green with dark reddish maroon overlay. When it flowers, the blooms are very dark, velvety crimson.

Gladiolus: Cultivars I’ve seen listed that all seem to be dark black-red, rather than a true black, are “Morocco,” “Black Stallion,” “Black Swan,” and “Bewitched.”

Canna lily: The “Black Knight” canna lily doesn’t look that dark to me. It’s supposed to be deep red with burgundy foliage.

Sunflowers: There isn’t any such thing as a black sunflower, but there are several options for dark colored ones… which are a dramatic change from the big, bright yellow ones people are used to. Deep-hued “Evening Sun” sunflowers have deep, rich, earthen tones (mahogany-red, rusty bronze, deep gold, burgundy and bicolored combinations all with dark center disks). Two other dark cultivars I’ve seen are “Floristan” and “Velvet Queen.”

Salvia: Andean Silverleaf or Peruvian Sage, Salvia discolor, has spikes of dark purple-black flowers and silvery foliage. The scent is a combination of fruit, eucalyptus and resin.

Tulips: “Queen of Night” dwarf tulips are a deep velvety maroon, as is “Black Diamond.” Supposedly, when tulip breeding was an art several centuries ago, there were black tulips. This is the closest I’ve seen commercially available. There’s also a “Black” Parrot tulip, which is deep purple and has “whipped” petals, and a “Black Hero” double tulip, which is derived from “Queen of Night” and has flowers resembling a peony. I’ve also seen a listing for the “Black Swan Tulip,” Tulipa gesneriana, but I don’t know how black it is, or if you can buy it.

Bachelor’s Buttons: Also know as cornflowers, there is a deep maroon variety, known as “Black Ball” or “Black Boy.”

Columbine: Aquilegia vulgaris has a deep maroon and white spurred variety, which is known as “Magpie” or “William Guiness.” A. atrata is the black columbine and has purple-black flowers. A. viridiflora has jade green and black flowers.

Cosmos: The chocolate cosmos has burgundy-black flowers and a slight chocolate scent.

Kangaroo paws: This flower is native to Australia. The black kangaroo paw has flowers and stems that are covered by black hairs – the green barely peeks through.

Fritillaria: F. camschatcensis, also known as the black rice root lily, black lily, chocolate lily, or Black Sarana, has bell-like flowers that are ruby-black. F. davisii has deep-green bell flowers that are heavily tessellated with purplish-brown so they appear black. F. persica has spikes of very dark plum flowers.

Daylilies: The darkest daylily cultivar I’ve seen is “Smoking Gun,” which is a maroon-brown-black color with yellow star points. There are lots deep red-black and purple-black daylilies, including “Eleventh Hour,” “Night Raider,” “Cairo Night,” “Vintage Bordeaux,” “Dominic,” “Ed Murray,” “Khans Knight,” “Midnight Magic,” “Night Wings,” “Super Babe” and “Troubled Waters.”

Scabiosa: Also known as the pincushion flower, the “Satchmo” variety is a deep maroon. These are excellent cut flowers.

Hyacinth: “Distinction” isn’t that close to black but is deep cherry with a maroonish-black stripe down the center of each petal. Simply gorgeous.

Dianthus: Dianthus includes pinks, carnations and sweet william. Dianthus nigricans has very dark flowers, and there is a cultivar known as “King of Black,” which I haven’t seen, but I suspect is dark. There is also a cultivar that is deep purple-black with white edging, which I’ve seen named “Velvet and Lace” or “Black and White Minstrel.” I’ve seen mention of a black carnation, but the closest I’ve found is a deep crimson variety, “Douglas Phu.” Sweet william, Dianthus barbatus, has a variety called “Sooty,” which is near black and has green-black leaves.

Dahlia: The pompom form of this flower has several deep purple-black varieties available, including “Glenplace,” “Moorplace,” and “Black Tuber.”

Nemophilia: This is a very short plant with penny sized blooms. “Penny Black” has flowers black flowers edged with white, and “Freckles” has white flowers covered with tiny black spots.

Poppy: The peony-flowered poppy has a black cultivar, sometimes listed as “Black Cloud.” These are a deep purple-black.

Iris: Unlike other flowers, black varieties seem to plentiful in the iris family. Bearded iris varieties include “Superstition,” “Study in Black,” “Licorice Stick,” “Swazi Princess,” “Night Ruler,” “Hello Darkness,” “Paint It Black,” “Night Owl,” “Black Tie Affair,” and “Before the Storm.” There’s the “Black Gamecock” Louisiana iris. And the Chinese iris, Iris chrysographes, has a black, non-frilly flower.

Butterfly Bush: The “Black Knight” cultivar has blue-black flowers.

Hellebores: Hellebores are one of those flowers that have a range of colors from white to near-black. They are prized by many because they are in bloom in late winter, when not much else is growing, let alone blooming. The H. orientalis hybrid “Atrorubens” is fairly easy to find and has plum colored flowers. However, there are blacker varieties out there; they’re just more difficult to find. Some blackish-purple strains I’ve seen listed include “Alberich,” “Andromeda,” “Ballard’s Black,” “Black Knight,” “Castor,” “Pollux” and “Sorcerer.” “Nigricans” is indigo blue-black, and “Philip Ballard” is a very dark blue-black. I’ve also seen some stunning pictures of H. torquatus, which grows wild in (the former) Yugoslavia. The flower color is variable, with dark plum, violet-black, grey (!), and green inside/black outside all seen. This is often the species used to hybridize H. orientalis to get the darker colored flowers.

Geraneum: Geraneum phaeum has very dark purple flowers. It was once known as Mourning Widow because its flowers are so dark.

Sweet Peas: Grown for the blooms, not a vegetable. “Pageantry” is a beautiful deep red-purple. Sweet peas are found most commonly in mixes, though, and almost all the mixes will include a deep maroon or deep purple one.

Primrose: There are very deep purple primroses that look almost black available at most nurseries. There is also a gold-laced primrose, “Black and Gold,” which has a yellow eye at the center of the flower, nearly black petals and a rim of yellow on each petal (the “lacing”). There are show auriculas that have white centers and black petals, although the color of the petals is obscured by either a grey-green or green color, so that there’s only a ring of black around the center.

Heather: The darkest colored heather I’ve seen mentioned is a cultivar of Erica cinerea known as “Velvet Night.” The blooms are supposed to be purple-black.

Rudbeckia: An unusual daisy, “Green Wizard” has only green sepals (no petals), and a prominent black cone. Very odd.

Viola or pansy: Violas and pansies are not the same flowers but are often listed interchangeably. The black pansy really looks black, although you can see the slightest hint or purple around the yellow eye. I’ve seen it listed as “Bowles Black,” “Black Prince,” “Molly Sanderson,” and “Black Magic.”

The Gothic Gardening “Black Thumb” award goes to Clive Lundquist for sending all of the following suggestions for black flowers:

  • Arum conophalloides var. caudatum: Gorgeous, deep purplish black arum.
  • Eminium rauwolfii: As above but very black. Needs dryness.
  • Trillium sessile: Commoner, blacky/purplish “flower.”
  • Calochortus nigrescens: Black hairy flowers but needs warmth and likes it dry in winter.
  • Roscoea scillifolia: Very black, very small, short-lived flowers
  • Gladiolus atroviolaceus: Needs dry summer, black flowers in spring.
  • Arisaema ringens / triphyllum: Black, gorgeously gothy.
  • A. speciosum / griffithii: Brownish but still very gothy aroids.
  • Bellevalia pycnantha: Deep browny-black grape hyacinth.
  • Muscari commutatum: As above.
  • Iris nicolai: Black and white flowers in midwinter (often called I. rosenbachiana black and white).

Ornamentals

Clover: Black four-leaf clover, Trifolium repens “Purpurascens,” is actually chocolate brown with light green edges.

Tiarella: False Miterwort has a new cultivar known as “Inkblot,” which has glossy leaves that are green on the edges, but blackish in the center. It has light pink flowers in the spring (cut ’em off!).

Heuchera: The “Pewter Moon” variety of this plant has purplish black leaves with a silver gloss.

Pussy willow: The black pussy willow comes from Japan. The catkins are so dark that they appear black against the red twigs.

Black Mondo Grass: Ophiopogon planiscapus “Nigrescens” is not actually a grass (it’s really a member of the lily family). It has purple-black leaves and small pink flowers that are followed by glossy black berries.

Bamboo: Phylostachys nigra has pitch black stems. Warning: Bamboo is usually invasive. Grow it in a pot.

Ornamental Sweet Potato: Ipomoea batatas “Blackie” has black leaves and stems.

Taro: The “Jet Black” ornamental taro is actually deep burgundy.

Fountain grass: Black fountain grass, Pennisetum alope “Moudry,” has ribbon foliage with ebony seed plumes. P. staceum “Rubrum” has bronze-purple leaves and flower spikes.

Smoke Bush: The “Royal Purple” cultivar has foliage that opens red but matures to a deep purple. The flowers are feathery purple plumes.

Carpet Bugle: Ajuga “Royalty” has midnight purple leaves. This is used as a ground cover and can be walked on!

Ornamental Pepper: Capsicum annuum “Black Prince” has black-purple foliage. The young fruit is red but turns black as it matures.

Durum (ornamental wheat): “Black Bearded” durum has cream-colored heads that splay out into 4- to 6-inch stiff bristles, which turn dark black when mature. “Black Eagle” has glumes that are partially black and continue onto the awns.

Broomcorn (sorghum): Two varieties are of interest: “Black Kafir” has black club-shaped heads. “Black Amber” has amber seeds covered with a shiny black coating.

Oats: Yet another ornamental grain, the “French Black” cultivar has jet black heads. All of the ornamental grains work well for unusual flower arrangements.

Vegetables

Everyone knows eggplants are nearly black, but here are a few unusual black vegetables….

Tomato: “Black Krim,” “Black Prince” and “Southern Nights” are all varieties that produce black tomatoes, which are really a dark brown-red or garnet. All of these varieties are heirlooms from Russia. The reason these tomatoes are black is that they retain their green pigment even as they develop the red pigment… other tomatoes lose the green.

Lettuce: The “Ibis Hybrid” variety is such a dark red that it appears black. Another “greens” alternative is Tatsoi, which is an oriental green with black-green spoon shaped leaves.

Bell pepper: There are chocolate peppers, which are really dark brown, but closer to black is the “Purple Beauty” cultivar, which as you may have guessed is very dark purple.

Black Spanish radish: One of the oldest of heirloom vegetables, black Spanish radish has been cultivated since the sixteenth century. The skin of the roots is deep, deep, purple, almost black, with white flesh. Of course, you can’t see the roots while it’s growing, but you could always prepare a gothic salad of black lettuce, black tomato, black bell pepper and black radish.

Black Aztec corn: A sweet corn that should be eaten when the kernels are white but will turn black when fully mature. This was apparently the first corn noted by the Europeans in 1493.

Basil: This is an herb, not a vegetable. The “Dark Opal” variety has very dark purple leaves. It is excellent for flavoring vinegars and oils.

Snap Beans: The “Royal Burgundy” or “Purple Tepee” varieties have beans that are almost black – but unfortunately turn green when cooked.

Fruit: This is a fairly common province of black in nature, including black cherries, black raspberries, blackberries and black plums. These are all really common, so look them up yourself.

The Night Garden

Since you gothy types rarely seen the light of day, what good does a garden do you? Well, here is the answer: a garden that consists of night-fragrant or night-blooming plants. Of course, you can’t really see that black garden at night. The key color here is white. White glows in moonlight. And there are several varieties of plants that bloom exclusively at night, or whose flowers may be open during the day but don’t release their scent until the evening.

Night-Flowering Plants

Evening primrose: “These soft-scented flowers have four satiny heart-shaped petals that come together forming 2-inch open cups with frilly long stamens. When they open in the evening, the blossoms are a soft clear white that gradually fades into pink as the flowers mature. Their luscious scent reminds us of a cross between honeysuckle and lemon custard. The flowers open every evening throughout summer until first frost.”

Sweet-scented nicotiana: These nicotianas (yes, that’s the tobacco plant) have creamy-white tubular flowers borne in graceful sprays on softly draping branches. The 2- to 3-inch trumpet-shaped blossoms are closed in the daytime, but in the late afternoon and evening they fill the air with a jasmine-like scent.

Moonflowers: These 6-inch trumpet flowers unfurl in slow motion every night just at sunset. Pure white with faint green tracings, the blossoms are very fragrant all evening. By noon, the flowers dwindle and close and are barely seen in the dense foliage.

“Midnight Candy” night phlox: “These tidy upright plants bear umbrella-like clusters of small, delicate phlox-like flowers. The insides of the petals are pure white, and the outsides are a satiny maroon with a hint of white where petals overlap. During the day, the flowers are tightly closed, just showing a hint of color. As dusk comes on, there is a magic moment when they open like a display of little firework stars, releasing a delicious almond/ honey/vanilla-like fragrance that wafts throughout the garden.”

Angel’s Trumpet: Datura meteloides has 6-inch white trumpet flowers that open at night and remain open well into the following day. This flower is a favorite subject of Georgia O’Keefe. This was also used by California Indians as a narcotic for the youth to seek their visions and be initiated into society. Warning: poisonous. Don’t eat it to get a high.

Evening stock: Many-branched 1½-foot plants have grey-green leaves and 1-inch star-shaped flowers of very pale violet. The blooms are closed tightly all day but open at dusk to pour out a fantastic spicy fragrance.

Nottingham catchfly, night-flowering catchfly and white campion: These are all members of the genus Silene, which also has several day-blooming members. These plants have sticky stems, hence the name “catchfly.” The odor of the Nottingham catchfly is described as sweet and reminiscent of hyacinths, and its flowers open on three successive nights before withering.

Bouncing Bet (also known as soapwort): With either pink or white blossoms, this plant fills the night with sweet perfume. Also used to make detergent – hence the soapwort moniker.

Four o’Clocks: In late afternoon, Mirabilis jalapa’s 2-inch trumpet-shaped flowers unfurl, releasing a rich jasmine-like perfume. These plants, with blooms in pink, rose, white, orange and yellow, are very easy to grow and fast growing. They’re also known as “Marvel of Peru.”

August lily (fragrant Hosta): The leaves are about six inches long and four inches wide, with eight pairs of impressed veins. The white, waxy, trumpet-shaped flowers appear on 30-inch scapes, and each is five inches long and three inches wide. The scent is of pure honey.

Vesper iris: A native of Mongolia, the sweetly fragrant flowers are a dull greenish white spotted with brownish purple or reddish purple with white splotches. Like many iris blossoms, they become spirally twisted after flowering.

There are also about 50 different cultivars of daylilies that bloom at night. Some of my favorites are called “After the Fall” (tangerine and copper blend with yellow halo), “Jewel of Hearts” (dark red flowers with a red-black center), “Moon Frolic” (near white), “Toltec Sundial” (fragrant sunshine yellow) and “Witches Dance” (dark red with a green throat).

Night-Fragrant Plants

Many plants will have flowers open during the day, but they don’t release their scent until evening.

Perfumed fairy lily: Chlidanthus fragrans has a rich lily fragrance at night. Three or four yellow, funnel-shaped flowers are carried on stems up to a foot high.

Night gladiolus: Gladiolus tristus has creamy yellow blossoms that are intensely fragrant at night with a spicy-sweet perfume, and the unusual leaves look like a pinwheel cut in half.

Tuberose: Victorians loved this sweet and heady (almost overpowering) fragrance. The flowers are waxy white and two inches long.

Carolina jessamine (also known as evening trumpet flower): The evergreen leaves surround sweetly fragrant, bell-shaped flowers of bright yellow that are particularly sweet as evening approaches. This grows wild in the South.

Finally, some suggestions for plants that don’t necessarily bloom only at night or release fragrance then but which have white blooms to glow in moonlight:

  • “Purity” cosmos
  • “Armour White” verbena
  • “Alba” foxglove
  • Summer hyacinth
  • “Bride” impatiens
  • “Alba” bleeding heart
  • “Moonraker” Cape fuchsia
  • “Perry’s White” oriental poppy
  • “White Swan” camellia
  • White forsythia
  • “Alba” columbine
  • “White Lace” Dianthus

And for a note of interest: silver thyme, “Alba” eggplant (egg-shaped fruits of glistening white), “Casper” or “Boo” white pumpkins and Fraxinella (the gas plant: at night, if you hold a match to the plant, either the plant glows with a blue flame – that doesn’t harm it – or the flowers burn with an orange flame and release the smell of lemon into the air).

The perfect accessory for any night garden, besides some lovely gargoyles, would be a moondial.

There are many, many more plants that can be included in the night garden. If you want more information, I suggest either The Evening Garden by Peter Loewer, or Evening Gardens by Cathy Barash, both written exclusively about gardening for the evening and night hours.

The Snow Maiden

The Snow Maiden

(Russia)

Many readers will already be familiar with the tale of the Snow Maiden. It come to us from Old Russia, a land of sparkling forests and frozen palaces. The tale begins, as do so many folktales the world over, with an old childless couple. They are poor and devoutly religious (poverty and piety being de riguer for old childless couples in folktales). While cutting wood in the forest, they take a break to build a snegourochka, a little girl made of snowballs. Lo and behold, the snegourochka comes to life, and she is everything the old couple ever dreamed of in a daughter. She is pretty, respectful and well dressed in fancy boots, cloak and diamond tiara. She helps out around the house and conveniently for her elderly parents, she’s bypassed the diaper stage.

The storyteller would have us believe that this Snow Maiden is a gift from God, a reward for the old couple’s unwavering faith. Given the outcome of the story, however, the exercise seems cruel and pointless in God’s part. For Snegourochka is not a child of flesh but of snow. In some versions of the story, she crumples at the first sign of spring. In others, she lasts until Midsummer, only to be vaporized by the St. John’s Day fires. A few writers hint at the possibility that, like Frosty, she’ll be back again someday, but this is a modern gloss. When the girl is gone, she’s gone and the old couple is left with nothing but a soggy patch of forest floor.

No doubt it was a witch and not an angel hiding behind one of the snowclad fir trees in the forest that day–perhaps Baba Yaga or one of those pesky German witches flown over from the west. “Be careful what you wish for, “ she might have cackled to herself as she worked her magick over the doomed little snegourochka.

Excerpt from:

The Snow People
Linda Raedisch
Lllewellyn’s 2012 Witches’ Companion
An Almanac for Everyday Living

A Little Humor – Learning your ABC’s for Witches and Pagans

Learning your ABC’s for Witches and Pagans

To learn your letters you must start With a clever mind and a willing heart Each one is special, just like you And you will learn them all by the time we are through!

  • A is Athame, the knife that we use
  • B is for Beltane, when partners we choose
  • C is for Circle where we all are one.
  • D is for Deosil, path of the Sun.
  • E is for Esbat, when we gather round
  • F is for Fire and its crackling sound
  • G is the Goddess in beauty and love.
  • H is the Horned One, our Father above.
  • I is for Imbolg, candles light the way,
  • J is for June when it’s Midsummer’s Day
  • K is for Karma, the things that we do
  • L is for Lammas, harvest’s almost through!
  • M is for Moon, riding way up so high,
  • N is for Nighttime, which darkens the sky
  • O is for Ostara, when we hunt for eggs,
  • P is for Pan, with hairy goat legs
  • Q is the Quarters and there are just four,
  • R for the Rites when we open the Door
  • S is for Samhain, end of the year,
  • T is for Tarot cards, futures to hear
  • U is Undines from the watery West
  • V is Vervain for protection and rest
  • W’s Widdershins, the path of the moon.
  • X is the sign that’s the sign of the God
  • Y is for Yule and the sun’s return
  • Z is the Zodiac, 12 signs to learn

To learn them all you will have to try And now it is time to say goodbye Merry have we met, and Merry have we been Merry shall we part and Merry meet again!

Plant Kingdom Helps and Hints

Plant Kingdom Helps and Hints

The fresher a plant (or a plant preparation) is the better it responds to magical energy, unless you leave that item where it  will receive constant charging.

Dry plants and plant parts are fine for convenience, but they don’t have the magical vitality fresh ones do because the vital oils (and life energy) are  also “dry.” Mind you, there are cases when the dry quality may help your magic, such as when performing a good-weather spell!

The essential oil from a plant is a perfectly good substitute for fresh parts. Just be careful–these oils can be harsh on the skin, and some are toxic to  pets.

Growing your own magical plants and harvesting them at a traditional tie (e.g., Midsummer’s Day) does seem to boost the magical energy within.

If you have to buy plants from a supplier, organic plants have the best magical potential (chemicals can obscure magical intention). Also, find a supplier  you can trust. One green leafy thing looks a lot like another, and not all companies are honest in their packaging.

Along the same lines, as you collect plants for magical work make sure to carefully label everything both inside and outside the container. Always trust this  rule: If you’re not sure what it is, don’t use it!

Magickal Herbal Use: Lesson 2 – Basic Herbs

Lesson Two: Basic Herbs

by Leillan

Most people will have at least the basic kitchen herbs in their cabinet. Remember the term “herb” does not exclude flowers and trees. You may be surprised to know how many different flowers and woods fall into the magickal category.

Roses are traditionally aligned with water. They can be used for psychic powers, love divination, luck, protection, and healing. Use a single rose in a vase on the altar for powerful help in love divinations. A cup of rosewater tea at bed time can help you dream prophetic dreams.

Even a Daisy has power where lust and love is concerned, and is said to bring love when worn. A simple divination that’s been done for years can be done with a daisy. Remember the “He loves me, He loves me not?”  That is love divination in its most basic form.

Carnations can offer protection, healing and strength. Place carnations on the altar during healing rituals, and use the petals in amulets and incense.

Oak is good to use for money, protection, potency, fertility, and luck. It is said that carrying any piece of oak will draw good luck. Take 2 twigs from an oak tree and tie them together in an equal armed cross; hang them in your house to guard against evil. Make a small equal armed cross and carry it with you in your wallet or purse for protection during the day.

So much for the garden, on to the kitchen.

Have you ever felt the need for just a little extra strength?  Take out the Bay Leaf. Bay lends strength to you or your purpose. Use bay in workings involving purification and protection. Bay is also used for wisdom blends. Burn bay in incense for help in solving a problem, or use  it in a ritual bath when you’ll be facing a situation where you’ll really need your wits about you.

Basil has been called “the Witches Herb” for centuries. Basil has been used for exorcism, protection,  in “flying ointments”, and love potions. “Where Basil grows, no evil goes!” and “Where Basil is, no evil lives,”  goes the old adages. Basil, given as a gift, will bring good luck to a new home. Sprinkled around the house, it wards off evil.

Sage helps to promote wisdom. It can also be used for wishes and protection. Carrying sage is said to bring you wisdom. Some traditions say it is bad luck to plant sage in your own garden; instead, you should have someone else do it for you. If you take a sage leaf and write your fondest wish upon it, then place it under your pillow for three nights, it is said you’ll dream of what you wish, and your dream will come true. I use sage in incense to help with learning.

Anise is good for protection and purification. I use it sometimes in candles or incense for meditation and protection.

Last but not least, is Salt. Sea salt is best. Salt cleanses and purifies. It can be used in cleansing rituals, and banishings. Use salted water to purify new tools. If you have a fire place, throw pine needles into into the first fire of the season. After they begin burning, throw some salt into the flames. This will help protect your house, dispel evil, and bring happiness to the home.

More Common Herbs

Chamomile gives relaxation, calmness, love, and purification. This is an excellent herb to include in a ritual bath sachet. It brings peace and protection to the user. It is a love herb but what is so different about it is the fact that it can help get rid of evil. (That’s a little different for an herb that is used in love and relaxation).

Use Pennyroyal for strength, protection and peace. Known as the “Herb of Peace,” pennyroyal given to two fighting partners will cause them to stop fighting. Used in ritual, pennyroyal adds strength to you and your working.

Use Wood Betony for protection, purification, and love. Betony is added to purification mixtures and incenses. It is traditional to burn betony in a bonfire on Midsummer and then jump through the smoke to purify the body of ills and evil. Betony is also said to help people be more attractive to the opposite sex.

Use Catnip for Love, Happiness, and (of course) cat magick. Given to your cat, it will create a psychic bond between the two of you. However, it can be intoxicating to the cat. Catnip and rose petals are used in love sachets.

Damiana is burned for visions, and is also used in lust spells.

Ferns are good for protection, luck, riches, and banishings. Dried fern is thrown upon hot coals to banish evil and protect the home. Wearing Fern is said to draw the riches to the wearer. You can also use it in natural incense for a little extra power. Fern is like a little push; it kind of hides in the blend until the right moment, and then comes out to add that last little kick, just when you need it most.

Honeysuckle is used to increase psychic powers and provide protection. A honeysuckle bush growing near your house will bring good luck.