Beltane Sunset to Sunset. April 30th – May 1st

Beltane honours Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. The Maiden goddess has reached her fullness. She is the manifestation of growth and renewal, Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, as the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand. The union is consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant. Together the May Queen and the May King are symbols of the Sacred Marriage (or Heiros Gamos), the union of Earth and Sky, and this union has merrily been re-enacted by humans throughout the centuries. For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun…..

Traditions of Beltane

Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’, or ‘Goodly Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community. Bel had to be won over through human effort. Traditionally all fires in the community were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltane. “This was the Tein-eigen, the need fire. People jumped the fire to purify, cleanse and to bring fertility. Couples jumped the fire together to pledge themselves to each other. Cattle and other animals were driven through the smoke as a protection from disease and to bring fertility. At the end of the evening, the villagers would take some of the Teineigen to start their fires anew.” (From Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred) Green Man – Beltane

To read more interesting things about Northern Hemisphere Beltane click here

Category Samhain/Deep Autumn

WE ARE THE ANCESTORS: MAY WE BE INTERESTING FOOD

May 9, 2020 · by Glenys D. Livingstone · in Samhain/Deep Autumn · Leave a comment Our present lives are formed by all who came before us. We are in-formed by them, whether conscious or not. In PaGaian Samhain ceremony as it has been done traditionally, participants are invited to remember the ancestors in this way: Let us remember our ancestors, those who have gone before, whose lives have been harvested, […]

THREADS OF GOLD IN THE COMPOST

April 20, 2020 · by Glenys D. Livingstone · in Samhain/Deep Autumn · 2 Comments There are threads of gold in the compost, if one has the vision for it. And we may take the golden thread, exclaim the strongest natural fibre known – our creative selves, our imaginations – for the building of a new world made sacred, of our conceiving: yet beyond our knowings, across the vast Darkness between […] For more interesting article about Southern Hemisphere Samhain click here  

5 Simple Mabon Rituals

5 Simple Ostara Rituals

Some Mabon Correspondences

Blessed Mabon and Happy Autumn Equinox 202

This year Mabon/Autumn Equinox is on September 22nd starting at 9:30 AM EDT in the northern hemisphere lasting 89 days, 20 hours, and 31 minutes.

This is the time to start preparing for the colder weather. The time to reap what you had sowed in the spring. The Fea Folk so active outside during the warm weather are stock piling what they need to get through the cold months. This is a time for them to start moving a little slower so if you are in your yard or hiking in the woods and hills in you see the grass or undergrowth move when there is no wind do not be startled or frighten it is only the Fea doing their gathering.

This is the time when the animal born in the spring starting eating more from the land-side or what they are fed to fatten up to survive the cold. They are no longer drink their mother’s milk and have grown quite a bit. This is the time the sheep are sheared, the grain is harvested, and we stock up on stables in our pantries. Here is a trivia question for you…Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable and why?

Some Ostara Correspondences

Five Simple Ostara Ritual Ideas

A Magickal Rite for Mabon: Honor the Dark Mother

 

A Magickal Rite for Mabon

Honor the Dark Mother at Mabon

Demeter and Persephone are strongly connected to the time of the Autumn Equinox. When Hades abducted Persephone, it set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to the earth falling into darkness each winter. This is the time of the Dark Mother, the Crone aspect of the triple goddess. The goddess is bearing this time not a basket of flowers, but a sickle and scythe. She is prepared to reap what has been sown.

The earth dies a little each day, and we must embrace this slow descent into dark before we can truly appreciate the light that will return in a few months.

This ritual welcomes the archetype of the Dark Mother, and celebrates that aspect of the Goddess which we may not always find comforting or appealing, but which we must always be willing to acknowledge. Decorate your altar with symbols of Demeter and her daughter — flowers in red and yellow for Demeter, purple or black for Persephone, stalks of wheat, Indian corn, sickles, baskets. Have a candle on hand to represent each of them — harvest colors for Demeter, black for Persephone. You’ll also need a chalice of wine, or grape juice if you prefer, and a pomegranate.

If you normally cast a circle, or call the quarters, do so now. Turn to the altar, and light the Persephone candle. Say:

The land is beginning to die, and the soil grows cold.
The fertile womb of the earth has gone barren.
As Persephone descended into the Underworld,
So the earth continues its descent into night.
As Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter,
So we mourn the days drawing shorter.
The winter will soon be here.

Light the Demeter candle, and say:

In her anger and sorrow, Demeter roamed the earth,
And the crops died, and life withered and the soil went dormant.
In grief, she traveled looking for her lost child,
Leaving darkness behind in her wake.
We feel the mother’s pain, and our hearts break for her,
As she searches for the child she gave birth to.
We welcome the darkness, in her honor.

Break open the pomegranate (it’s a good idea to have a bowl to catch the drippings), and take out six seeds. Place them on the altar. Say:

Six months of light, and six months of dark.
The earth goes to sleep, and later wakes again.
O dark mother, we honor you this night,
And dance in your shadows.
We embrace that which is the darkness,
And celebrate the life of the Crone. Blessings to the dark goddess on this night, and every other.

As the wine is replaced upon the altar, hold your arms out in the Goddess position, and take a moment to reflect on the darker aspects of the human experience. Think of all the goddesses who evoke the night, and call out:

Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hecate, Nemesis, Morrighan.
Bringers of destruction and darkness,
I embrace you tonight.
Without rage, we cannot feel love,
Without pain, we cannot feel happiness,
Without the night, there is no day,
Without death, there is no life.
Great goddesses of the night, I thank you.

Take a few moments to meditate on the darker aspects of your own soul. Is there a pain you’ve been longing to get rid of? Is there anger and frustration that you’ve been unable to move past? Is there someone who’s hurt you, but you haven’t told them how you feel? Now is the time to take this energy and turn it to your own purposes. Take any pain inside you, and reverse it so that it becomes a positive experience. If you’re not suffering from anything hurtful, count your blessings, and reflect on a time in your life when you weren’t so fortunate.

When you are ready, end the ritual.

By Patti Wigington,Paganism/Wicca Expert
Article found on & owned by ThoughtCo

Blessed Ostara and Happy Spring Equinox 2020

This year Ostara falls on September 22 at 11:30 PM AEST. Spring in the southern hemisphere will last 89 days 20 hours and 30 minutes. As your weather warms up in the Southern Hemisphere let us hope there are no bushfires burning out of control and that number of people who contract COVID-19 stays to very low numbers.

May the Goddesses and Gods who help to bring in the spring smile on you as you sow new things to reap in the fall. here’s a trivia questions for you… Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable and why?

This is a time when the Fea Folk start venturing out of their homes to find tender new growth of plants and flowers to replenish their stock that was used up over the cold months. So be careful where you step when in a grassy place or hike up a hillside for you never know what might be forging in the same place.

This is also the time of rebirth and new birth for all wildlife and domestic animals big and small. Remember the babies of any mammal needs it’s mother’s milk especially in the first 24 hours so they get all the things that come in the first milk to help them live healthy lives.

A Very Happy and Blessed Ostara or Mabon

Well, I just learned something new about the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere and the fall equinox in the southern hemisphere. Ostara the spring equinox is on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at 10:49 PM PM CT while Mabon the fall equinox is on Friday, March 20, 2020 at 2:49 PM AEDT in the southern hemisphere. Which means we are experiencing the equinoxes at the exact same time just in different time zones and because of the international date line on a different date.

When I read this I felt it covered more than just a blessing for Ostara and Mabon. I felt it was a blessing to carry with us all through the year.

Northern Brothers and Sisters: May what you sow this spring come to a bountiful harvest in the fall.

Southern Brothers and Sisters: May what you sowed in the spring be bring you a bountiful harvest this fall.

Remember we can sow different things for our own reasons they do not have to be something we plant in the ground and watch grow, they can be something we change in our lifestyle or in our spiritual or magickal path. Then when we harvest them they become part of us and who we are.

Sabbat: NH Ostara Sunday, March 22nd, SH Mabon Monday, March 23rd

All Witches and Pagans are invited to join the Heart’s Spirit Coven as we celebrate Ostara in the Northern Hemisphere and Mabon in the Southern Hemisphere

WHEN:

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 NH

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 SH

At 6:00 PM CDT NH/ 10.00 AM AEDT SH

Circle starts at 7:00 PM CDT NH/ 11.00 AM AEDT SH- SHARP.

45 minutes will be allocated for a chance to talk to our Brothers and Sisters. Please do not enter the chat room once the circle has started. Thank you!

WHERE:

Heart’s Spirit Coven Chatroom

 

Beginning the Sabbat with a Universal Prayer

Just before we begin our Sabbat, I would like to acknowledge all that has happened and is happening in 2020, before and beyond. It is a significant time of much change and challenges for both humanity and the Great Earth Mother and all within her. Let us take a minute to pray for the universal healing in this time of need.

“May the Great Mother and Great Father give us strength and refuge in our time of need. Help us to remain calm and strong in the face of uncertainty, help us find compassion without the overwhelming feeling of empathy. Great Mother and Father teach me humility, acceptance and to remember my kindness”

So mote it be……..

 

Ostara in the NH

Ying Yang Drawing for OSTARA

 

You will need (aside from your altar usual set up)

See how to set up basic elemental altar below:

https://covenlife.co/2017/07/06/simple-basic-altar-set-up/

Green Candle

White candle

Yin/Yang  Symbol- cut out the wholes specified once printed, or you can draw or paint the symbol.

2 eggs colored one darker one lighter

 

Mabon in the SH

You will need (aside from your altar usual set up)

See how to set up basic elemental altar below:

https://covenlife.co/2017/07/06/simple-basic-altar-set-up/

 

A wicker basket

Red Apple

Fallen Branch

Seasonal fruit and vegetables

Incense of your choice

Knife to cut apple

Picture of a large pentacle (I use a pentacle disk or you can draw or print one on a piece of paper)

A candle-(the larger the better, one to re-light, whenever you wish to contemplate during the winter months over your magickal and mystical path. If your candle runs low transfer the light to another large candle with love and intent of the energy of the first. Contemplations are done for short periods of time so candle needs to burn for only a couple of minutes at a time, longer if you wish it is purely up to you. Note; DO NOT BLOW OUT CANDLE, SNUFF THE CANDLE INSTEAD)

See how to snuffing candle

Set up for Ritual:

Mabon SH

Sweep your circle with a broom clockwise (use whatever you have on hand, it’s about physically cleaning your space)

Place the wicker basket with seasonal fruit and vegetables in the center of alter

Tree branch to the right of the wicker basket

Ostara NH

Sweep your circle with a broom clockwise (use whatever you have on hand, it’s about physically cleaning your space)

Have your Yin/Yang symbol prepared, holes cut out as indicated on diagram provided ready for ritual

Hard boil your eggs, colour one darker than the other ready to place on symbol

Purify the self and the Environment NH & SH:

Take a shower or bath with your favorite oils

Play your favorite music

Burn your favorite incense

Meditate and ground yourself

Ostara is the beginning of spring, the season for new beginnings and the renewal of life through planting. This is the time we can now plant seeds and nurture them throughout the coming months to bare their fruit. What is it that you would like to plant in your life? What are you willing to nurture throughout the growing season? For this ritual as this season is also a time for re-birth, new life and fertility we will be concentrating on the symbology of the egg. Think of the dark and light as the feminine and the masculine. The Goddess and the God resorting your outer and inner balance.

Mabon is the second of 3 harvest festivals celebrating the equinox and the harvest of apples. On the day of the equinox, day and night is of equal length. For the next 6 months the nights will be longer than the days.  This is such a great time of abundance. All the hard work that it takes to collect the harvest, it is now a time to rest, reap what you have sown and take the time to look at you hopes and aspirations and reflect how they have manifested. Most importantly spend it with the people you love. This is a time of giving, sharing and loving.

 

Cast the Circle:

Hypatia Casting the circle-

To the Guardians of the North:

I call you into our Watchtowers to protect us.

 

To the Guardians of the East:

I call you into our Watchtowers to protect us.

 

To the Guardians of the South:

I call you into our Watchtowers to protect us.

 

To the Guardians of the West:

I call you into our Watchtowers to protect us.

 

I cast this circle three times three with the assistance of the Great Mother and the Great God.

I call Upon the Guardians of spirit to protect us from above and below. As is above so is below, as is below so is above. May the power of The Great God and The great Goddess join us within this circle now, to protect us and to work with us and allow us to see beyond the veil.

Protect us Great Mother and Great Father for all gathered here and those afar who are unable to be with us. Allow no negative energy to touch us, to harm us and that nothing we call upon will harm us and others. We come together in perfect love and perfect trust.

Greeting:

Hypatia – Merry meet brothers and sisters and honored guests.

Everyone – Respond Merry Greet. Please tell us your first name and state or country you are from.

Ceremony:

Please ALL light your main altar candles (not the Mabon or Ostara candles as yet)

Ritual begins:

Ostara

Place green candle to your left and the white candle to your right. Leaving enough room in the middle to place your Yin/Yang symbol.
Place the Yin/Yang symbol in between the lit candles. Place the darker egg into the hole in the lighter colored side of the Yin/Yang and the lighter colored egg into the hole in the darker side.
When done type in “Ready.”
We offer these eggs to Ostara as all new life grows from an eggs or a seed.
Ostara we ask you to bless these eggs to help us renew ourselves as Mother Earth wakens from her slumber. That we may find new life coursing through us as cleansing energy.
Oak King we ask that your fertilize the hopes and wishes we have written here so they may grow and come to fruition as the year progresses.
As the Spring Equinox is the balance of day and night as equals so is the relationship of all males and females. We ask Hecate and her Consort to bless our relationships with others be they men or women. That we feel equal to them and not above or below them.
Take the eggs and set them on the side. Tape the circle of opposite color into the now empty holes. (Before breaking the eggs to eat them write the same runes on to the circles now in the Yin/Yang symbol. The side you write them on should be the same color as the egg they are written on.
We will take a 2 minutes to complete the Yin/Yang symbol. When you are done type in “Blessed be”.

 

Mabon

Your wand in right hand, facing your alter, arms stretched out above head……….

“Autumn Queen and Harvest God I honor Thee. As the change of seasons begins the Wheel has turned once more. A time to reflect, a time to come together in the here and now in this sacred space where all time becomes one. The second harvest has been reaped, now take the time to rest and feel the change as the season passes from one to the next.

My Mother, go now and slumber

My Father go now and dream of re-birth”

Arms outstretched, lower your head and close your eyes, sit in contemplation for 30 seconds.

When ready open your eyes and lower your arms

Pick up the apple and place it on the pentacle

Cut the apple crosswise to reveal the pentagram bringing the elements into your life

Lift the half apple up as in offering and say….

“The year gives way to the next as the season passes and the Great Wheel turns. Ancestors, Guardians and Wise ones guide me. Every begging has an ending and every ending a new beginning”.

Light your Mabon candle now

Take a bite of the apple, put aside to share with nature later

Take the tree branch and shake in each direction, starting with the North, then West, South, East and say…….

“Allow me to remember the summer past as the days grow longer and the days shorter. Memories will warm my soul as the sunlight fades and hearth becomes inviting through this divine light of the candle dedicated to the Mother and Father.

Great Mother calls me forward to rest and lull myself to sleep with her songs as I cling myself to her bosom”.

Face the altar and branch held out in front of you and say……

“May I never forget the summer memories and continue to strive during the colder months. May I take this time to go within and reflect on the Mysteries that lead me to a better understanding of myself, of others and all that is in life and death”.

Put the tree branch back on the altar, take 30 seconds to contemplate about :

The symbols that you have mentally attached to this ritual,

The various projects that you will put in action over the winter months, no matter how small or insignificant they may feel.

After the ceremony please feel free to share the consecrated fruit and vegetables in a beautiful meal with family and friends. Make a beautiful dinner for all to enjoy and be thankful for what is.

 

CLOSING

Dismiss the circle:

  • To the Guardians of the North:

I dismiss and thank you from our Watchtowers and give Gratitude for protect us.

 

  • To the Guardians of the West:

I dismiss and thank you from our Watchtowers and give Gratitude for protect us.

 

  • To the Guardians of the South:

I dismiss and thank you from our Watchtowers and give Gratitude for protect us.

 

  • To the Guardians of the East:

I dismiss and thank you from our Watchtowers and give Gratitude for protect us.

 

As you leave here tonight may the Lady and Lord bless you with all that you need.

 

I bid you Blessings and great Joy Brothers and sisters of the Craft

 

Thank you and farewell

 

8 Ideas for Celebrating Ostara


Ostara Comments

8 Ideas for Celebrating Ostara

 

Ostara, the Spring Equinox, is always especially beautiful here in Sonoma County, California. This year seems especially nice. Winter’s rains have been lighter than we would like, but they have been gentle and well timed. My farmer friends with whom I’ve spoken are feeling good. Warming temperatures and longer days have brought forth the first abundant flowers, especially the wild mustard that makes it seem as if our craggy valley oaks and vineyards have their feet awash in bright yellow paint. The threats from frost are virtually over.

Our season and Ostara’s symbolism are in perfect harmony.

Wiccan Sabbats celebrate our Wheel of the Year, and the Wheel of the Year, like the phases of the moon, symbolize to us the stages of life, from birth to death to rebirth. Four Sabbats are “Greater Sabbats” originally linked with Celtic agricultural cycles: Brigit, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain. The other four “cross quarter” Sabbats are correlated with the cycles of the solar year, the solstices and equinoxes. On the 21st of this month, Witches and many other Pagans will celebrate Ostara, the Spring Equinox.

Equinoxes are times of balance between day and night, light and darkness. But the balance is dynamic, lasting a day, before shifting into playing a role in that greater balance that is the Wheel of the Year. For me this sense of balance should be the dominant theme of either Ostara, or Mabon, the Fall Equinox. But they are very different Sabbats otherwise, for after Ostara the light will continue to grow, whereas after Mabon, it is darkness that increases.

There is another aspect of balance that comes to mind as a am mulling this post over, that between the universal and the concrete. Solar Sabbats are universal, the Greater Sabbats are specific to time and place. Together, they balance the universal with the variety that is local. So while I think it is important to make sure Greater Sabbats are strongly connected with where we live, it is not as important for the Cross Quarter ones.

With these thoughts in mind, I have a few ideas for celebrating Ostara I want to share. All are suitable for Solitaries.

  1. On my altar I will have 4 candles. I will light two, and with sundown, light another. I have tried to figure out a simple but visually beautiful way of symbolizing Sabbats and their meaning, and here is my scheme into which this simple observance fits.

Yule – 1 candle lit during ritual.

Imbolc – 1 candle lit, a second during the ritual.

Ostara – 2 candles lit, a third lit at end of ritual or at sunset.

Beltane – 3 candles, one lit during ritual, making

Midsummer – 4 candles, one extinguished at end of ritual.

Lammas – 3 candles, one extinguished during ritual.

Mabon – 2 candles, one extinguished at sunset or end of ritual.

Samhain – 1 candle lit, but extinguished during ritual.

  1. I will fill my place with local flowers. I just spoke with a friend in Maine. The garden I helped plant still looks like a snow drift. Maybe the willows are changing their color as the sap tentatively rises, making for a good altar decoration. If not, it’s good that this is a solar Sabbat!

3. I will watch the dawn, and do some invocations and prayers while I do it. Ostara is said to have been a Goddess of the Dawn as well as spring, so this is fitting, although very little is known of Her. If I was in Fairbanks, I might let this slide.

  1. In Pagan times eggs and hares were associated with the creation of life and fertility, for obvious reasons. While it seems all folklore of ancient provenance has disputed origins, regardless of how these customs arose and survived, they are perfectly fitted for symbolizing this time, when almost everywhere spring has arrived or is coming soon. Dyeing the eggs in Spring-time colors, and having a good old fashioned Ostara Egg hunt is a wonderful thing for kids.
  2. A good smudging, followed by a good airing if the weather permits. Burning sage is the easiest way to smudge a place, though any cleansing incense is worthwhile. Be sure to get corners and dark places. Energy collects and stagnates in those places, and most of us have had all winter for that to happen.
  3. Plant a seed associated with a magickal ritual for something you want to grow. Simple and personal is best. Focus your intent strongly on the seed, then on the pot of soil after you have planted it. Take care of it. I’d recommend a perennial, that you can plant and let continue to flourish with your care, but maybe an annual will do the trick. Depends on your project.
  4. If you have a yard, this is a good time to begin getting in touch with the spirits of your place. But as with any relationship, it will normally take some time to grow. The last time I lived for any length of time in a house with a yard, I would make weekly offerings in a out of the way part of my yard, that I otherwise left alone (all the rests was garden). I would leave a small glass of rum, some tobacco, and a votive candle (be very careful about fire if you do this). After some months the ‘feel’ of my back yard began to change in ways I and others liked a lot. But remember, attitude makes or breaks this kind of thing – as with all relationships.
  5. If there is a public Sabbat celebration, and you are not part of a coven, try and go. Some are well done, some can seem like ‘ritual abuse,’ but either way, this is a good way to begin meeting other local Pagans. In my view the real magic of what we do is most powerful when we work and celebrate together

Source

Information from Beliefnet

Author: Gus diZerega

Blog: A Pagan’s Blog

Being An Upside Down Witch – for those Living in the Southern Hemisphere

Goddess Pages
British spiritual magazine

Living in Australia – or anywhere in the southern hemisphere for that matter – can be a little confusing for a witch. All the books about magic print elemental correspondences that are back to front (the fire of the sun is certainly not in the south down here!), and list dates for the sabbats that bear no relation to the actual cycle of our seasons. I’ve met a surprising number of people from the US and UK who didn’t realise that our seasons are six months behind (or ahead, depending on how you look at it) the northern ones. Our Midsummer falls around December 20-23, when the north is blanketed in snow, while our winter solstice falls around June 20-23, the height of summer up there.
Perhaps long ago we may have followed the oft-printed dates and celebrated these rituals along with our northern friends, linking up psychically in December to celebrate Yule and welcome the birth of the sun god, even as here he was about to start fading as summer reached its peak, or doing autumn rituals of harvest and release while our land was quickening with the new growth of spring.
But I don’t know of a single southern witch who follows the northern model. At coven rituals, open celebrations and alone at home, groups and solitary practitioners follow our own seasonal cycle, because paganism and goddess worship are intimately attuned to the heartbeat of the planet and the seasons, and these festivals are prescribed by the movement of the earth in relation to the sun, not a fixed date on a modern calendar. The land, as the embodiment of the goddess, speaks to all of us, and the goddess path is about learning to hear this language of nature, to sense the movement and emotional shifts as the earth moves through its cycles, and feel the rhythm of its turning. And so a spring fertility festival will be marked in spring, when the planet is alive with new life and energy, regardless of what is happening on that day in the other hemisphere.
There has been mention in these pages that it is wrong to import “northern” festivals to the southern lands. But celebrating the beauty and bounty of nature and the dance of the seasons is not anyone’s exclusive right. Maybe people in the Celtic lands can feel historically possessive of the names themselves (Lughnasadh, Beltane), but they have no ownership of the winter solstice or the first day of spring, and this is what these festivals are.
The Wheel of the Year reflects the constant universal cycle of life, death and rebirth. Mythologically it is tied to the story of the god and goddess as she shifts from young lover to mother to crone, and he is born, grows in power, sacrifices himself then is reborn, but literally it refers to the changing seasons – the fertility and vibrant life force of summer, the balance and harvest of autumn, the introspection and endings (death) of winter, and the rebirth of spring. Being in the southern hemisphere doesn’t necessarily change this seasonal pattern, it merely shifts the dates. There are parts of Australia such as the Red Centre – and parts of the northern hemisphere too – where the seasons don’t play out in a standard, balanced rhythm through summer, autumn, winter and spring. Some places experience just two main seasons, wet and dry, yet even there the people living in harmony with the land are able to feel the earth as it surges with new life, grows, becomes ready for harvest then withdraws its energy within the earth again, and celebrate their own personal Wheel that reflects their reality.
But in much of the coastal region of the country, where around eighty per cent of the population is based, the seasons do follow a regular pattern, and many witches celebrate the traditional Wheel of the Year, moved forward six months to reflect their personal experience. Of course it can seem a little strange and out of whack sometimes, because the Christians hijacked so many of the magical sabbats and they have become such a part of western life. So how and when do we celebrate the turning points of the witches’ year Down Under, and how do we deal with the inconsistencies of modern festivities?

The Summer Solstice
As the western world gears up for Christmas and northern witches mark Yule, in the southern hemisphere we are celebrating the summer solstice. In 2008 this fell on December 21, and in 2009 it will fall on December 22. This is Midsummer Day, when the sun reaches its southernmost latitude before it turns and heads back towards the north. In some ways it would be easier to celebrate Yule during this festive season, as our northern hemisphere counterparts do, when everyone is feasting, exchanging gifts and acknowledging the birth of the son of God – or the sun god. But Down Under this is the longest, not shortest, day of the year. The sun is strong (some would say merciless), and the energy is fast and active. It’s a time of abundance, achievement and culmination. Despite the snow-covered decorations, men sweating in Santa suits and hot roast dinners – a legacy of our ancestors – on this day we absorb the solar energy, feast on luscious summer fruits, give thanks for the goals we’ve reached and revel in the strength and heat of the long day of sunshine and the power of the sun god.
Sometimes I go to the beach at dawn and watch the sun rise over the ocean, or climb the hill in the park near my house at sunset, farewelling it as it begins its journey back to northern parts, and its energy starts to wane from this day forward as it begins its descent into the dark half of the year. Sometimes I do a formal ritual with a group, or have a feast of celebration with my magical friends, wrapping pots of sunshiney flowers and summer herbs in gold and red velvet as gifts, and breathe in the scent of orange blossoms, lavender and rosemary. I celebrate Christmas with my family too, but I see no conflict here, as the modern version has little to do with the real Yule in intent or meaning, and I’m quite happy to honour the power of the summer solstice and then a few days later enjoy the spirit of giving of the festive season.

Lughnasadh
In the first week of February we celebrate Lughnasadh, the cross-quarter day that marks the end of summer and the first day of autumn, although where I live it will still be hot and fiery for some time to come. In the north it’s Imbolc, linked to fertility, love and Valentine’s Day, but down here it’s the opposite. The earth is still throbbing with life and energy, but it’s mature, fully ripened and almost over-abundant. This is the first harvest festival, and fruit picking becomes a popular form of employment for many travellers, with farms all over the country taking on seasonal workers. The grape harvest begins, to make the wine that is now internationally renowned, and an abundance of other delicious fruits and vegetables, as well as golden wheat and other cereal crops, are also picked at this time.
As well as a time of feasting and of thanksgiving for the life-giving properties of our crops, and recognition of the cycle of sowing and reaping, Lughnasadh is also about the symbolic things we grow and create in our life. It’s a day of harvesting the fruits of our labours and acknowledging our successes and what we’ve achieved in the past year. A month after New Year’s resolutions are made, it seems a good time to take stock. On this day I perform a ritual to celebrate and acknowledge the goals I’ve reached, making a list of all the things I’ve gained – the gifts I’ve been given, the new talents I’ve developed, the friends I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, the healings I’ve received, the opportunities I’ve pursued – and giving thanks for it all. We may no longer be so connected to the creation and production of our food, as in days gone by, or believe that our prayers or sacrifices influence the success of the crops, but being grateful for what we have and giving thanks is still a beautiful way to live. I also try to pass on some of my good fortune so the energy of abundance continues and is strengthened, by giving time or money to a charity of some kind.

Autumn Equinox
Late March is another strange time for Down Under witches, because the stores are filled with chocolate bunnies and eggs in preparation for Easter, the Christian holiday based on the spring festival of Ostara, which northern hemisphere witches are marking now. While most of the world – both pagan and non-magical – celebrates rebirth, resurrection and new life with the fertility goddess Ostara’s symbols of eggs and hares, in Australia it’s the middle of autumn, a time of crisp, chilly mornings, pale blue skies and a world aflame with colour as the trees turn a hundred shades of red-orange-yellow-brown. Daylight savings ends, and from the autumn equinox onwards, which this year falls on March 20, the days start getting shorter and the weather cooler, but this day of equal light and dark is the moment of balance in nature and within – a time of harmony, joy and gentle calm. While I certainly eat my share of chocolate eggs at this time, acknowledging on some level the energy of Ostara, I also prepare a harvest feast of richly coloured fruits and root vegetables, golden grains and heavy warm breads, and start drying my herbs. I feel immense joy as I skip through the crackling autumn leaves and chart the turning of the seasons by the patterns of leaves on the trees. I give thanks for my metaphorical harvest, honouring my achievements, experiences and wisdom in a way that feels right to me, be it with a big celebration or a personal ritual of gratitude. It’s a time of balance – my world is poised between summer and winter, and day and night are in harmony, which is reflected in the earth’s energy and within me.

Samhain
In the first week of May we celebrate the cross-quarter day that marks the end of autumn and the beginning of the coldness and dark of winter. In the north it’s all hot, fertile love energy, with abundant blossoms, the hatching of birds, bees pollinating flowers and lovers leaping the Beltane fires. But in the southern hemisphere at this time it’s the opposite. It’s the start of winter, a season of introspection and darkness both metaphorically and literally. Traditionally this was the time to store food for the cold barren months ahead; symbolically it’s about rest and renewal, of preparing for what’s ahead and withdrawing a little to conserve your energy. While the grass becomes green and lush at this time with the onset of rain, many of the trees are stripped bare, and bitterly cold winds add to the starkness of the season. This is the time we start readying ourselves for the rebirth we’ll experience at Yule, a time of inner reflection and contemplation, of studying the Mysteries (of our tradition or our life), and scrying for answers and illumination. It’s also the night when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, and we honour our ancestors and commune with the dead. Of course southern witches do find it hard to explain to people that we are celebrating “Halloween” at this time, but if you pay attention to the earth, to nature, to the seasons, it’s very clear that this is our Samhain.

The Winter Solstice
In late June we celebrate the winter solstice; this year it will fall on the 21st. This is our midwinter – the longest night and shortest day of the year, when the sun is as far north as it will get, making it midsummer in the northern hemisphere. Snow falls in some parts of Australia, and in others it’s cold and rainy. Even in the Red Centre, where winter is their dry season, nature is introspective at this time – the seeds are all closed up, waiting for the heat and rainfall of summer to explode into life. Winter, and this midpoint in particular, is a time to rest and reflect, to acknowledge sadness and loss – of dreams, of friendships, of parts of your self – and conserve your energy and life force.
Yet it’s a day of hope too, for the solstice is the turning point in this time of darkness, introspection and dreaming. Considered the dark night of the soul that gives birth to the creative spark, it marks the period when the dark half of the year relinquishes its hold to the light half. From this day forward the days slowly start to lengthen, the sun becomes stronger and the energy within and without increases and builds. On Midwinter’s Night Eve I light a candle to symbolise the sun and its activating energy, and list my dreams for the coming year. Sometimes I stay up all night to await the return of the light, other years I get up for the sunrise and toast the dawn and give thanks for this energetic reawakening. As the sun is reborn I open myself up to the promise of new growth and achievement, the energy of renewal and the rebirth of my own self and creativity.
I’m more inclined to refer to this festival as Winter Solstice rather than Yule, because the latter has connotations of Christmas, which is still six months away for us, yet many southern witches retain the traditional name, particularly in colder areas where open fires and Yule logs are more typical. Interestingly, there is now increasing recognition in Australia that Christmas is based on a winter tradition that involves magic, and many mainstream events are planned to coincide with our winter solstice. The Pagan Awareness Network holds Hollyfrost, an annual Midwinter retreat and ritual, and in the Blue Mountains the Winter Magic Festival is held on the day of the solstice and is open to everyone, regardless of beliefs. And the more touristy than magical Yulefest and Christmas in July are also celebrated around this time, in recognition that here Yule should not take place in December, in the heat of the Australian summer, but in the cool of winter.

Imbolc
In the first week of August, we in the southern hemisphere honour the cross-quarter day that marks the end of winter and the first day of spring. The earth starts to shake off the severity of the cold period and emerge back into the light. Some of our stunning wildflowers, like the delicate golden wattle, explode into glorious bloom, and it’s a time of hope, renewal and fresh starts after winter’s sluggishness. The sun starts to strengthen and the days grow longer, symbolising the return and renewal of the life force of the land and its people. Energetically it’s a time of awakening and new energy, and is the day we sow the seeds of what we want to achieve in the coming year. It’s also a time of purification and cleansing after the long dark of winter, when I feel motivated to physically clean my house and energetically clear my space, sweeping out old energy and thoughts so the new can thrive. Imbolc represents new beginnings, initiations and inspiration, and the budding plants, swooping baby birds and buzzing bees always fill me with vitality, passion and the impetus to start (or rededicate myself to) new projects.

The Spring Equinox
In the southern hemisphere, the spring or vernal equinox falls in late September – this year it’s on the 23rd. It’s a beautiful time of year, with bright blue skies and pale sunshine without the merciless heat of summer… perfect temperate weather. It’s one of only two times of the year when the length of day and night is equal, and on a personal level it’s a time of balance and harmony too, of union between the physical and spiritual as the balance of universal energies is reflected within. It’s also a time of growth and fertility, when crops are sown, the buds on the trees open, birds build nests and lay eggs and new life is celebrated. Energetically it’s also a very fertile time, as the seeds we sowed of our goals begin to sprout and gain momentum. Traditionally the spring equinox is tied up with rabbits, eggs and fertility goddesses, so it does feel a bit strange to be celebrating “Easter” at this time, but the beautifully blossoming and budding earth and the wild energy and vitality make it obvious that it’s the time for it. It’s a celebration of new life, hope, passion, growth and energy, the time of year that I meditate on my metaphorical fertility and my ability to manifest dreams into reality. In many ancient cultures, including the Romans whose calendar ours is based on, the spring equinox was the first day of the year, and the sense of new hope and optimism inherent in this day remains. It hasn’t always fallen around March/September 21 – our dating is a modern invention – and there are still countries where this is the first day of the year. The Ancient Roman year began on the spring equinox, the day they called Martius 1, which is March 21 in Gregorian terms. In the modern Iranian calendar, used in Iran and Afghanistan, each new year begins on the spring equinox as precisely determined by astronomical observations from Tehran and Kabul (making it the perfect solar calendar, because each calendar year corresponds exactly to the solar year, with no leap days necessary). The Baha’i calendar also begins on the spring equinox.
I got married on September 22 – our spring equinox – a few years ago, so we celebrate our anniversary on Ostara each year. Yet we ran away and wed in the northern hemisphere, which means where we were that day was actually the autumn equinox. Thus each year as we celebrate our anniversary at home, in the springtime, we also acknowledge the energy of autumn. I add a few autumn colours to my spring bouquet, and consider not only what seeds we want to plant for the next year of our relationship, but what we have harvested over the previous one. As Mabon and Ostara are the two days of the year when all is balanced, within and without, they are both good days to renew commitments or pledge a new one, be it a vow of love, magic, career or anything else. I feel like I incorporated the best of both worlds by making my wedding day span both festivals.

Beltane
In the southern hemisphere, the first week of November brings the cross-quarter day that marks the end of spring and the start of the heat and energy of summer, and the festival of love. It’s a time of lovers and spells to attract love, and celebrating the fertility of life, not just physically, but also of our dreams and ambitions. Symbolically this day marks the igniting of the fires of creativity and passion, of the fertility of our desires being made manifest, as the universe bursts with a raw energy and power that we can tap in to simply by breathing it in.
In the northern hemisphere Beltane falls around May Day, and while it has no relevance to us in terms of timing, I have been part of a coven ritual that involved a maypole dance, to represent the union of god and goddess at this point in the Wheel of the Seasonal Year. I’ve also leapt over the Beltane fires, although that was before I met my husband, when I jumped over it with friends as part of a personal ritual of purification and preparation, leaping out of my past, burning away the relationship issues that had kept my heart closed, and towards a future where love was possible (I met my partner two months later).
While I’ve been known to dress up as a vampire or a fairy and go to a Halloween party on October 31, privately or with coven members or witchie friends I’m celebrating the new blossoms and the vitality and fertility of Beltane at this time.

So, while it’s perhaps a little easier for northern hemisphere goddess worshippers to celebrate the cycle of the seasons, given that so many of them are actually woven into “normal” life, when you tune in to the earth and the rhythms of nature it is easy to know when it’s the right time to celebrate any of the old festivals. Because whether you live in the north, where they began, or the south, adding your own personal meaning to the traditional forms of celebration, the sabbats are still relevant to our lives. Even today, when we no longer live in harmony with the earth’s rhythms or agricultural cycles, modern pagans celebrate the Wheel of the Year as an honouring of nature and an acknowledgement of the continuing cycle of life, death and rebirth, both literally and symbolically. Becoming aware of the seasonal shifts and the patterns of nature wherever you live, and celebrating these ancient but still relevant festivals, is a simple way to tap in to the magic of the universe and harness it for your own growth. We may no longer grow our own grain or purify the fields with fire, but these celebrations still have power, particularly in the symbolic form – planting the seeds of our dreams in the metaphorical spring, watching them grow and manifest in the world before we give thanks for our literal harvest, then allowing the things that no longer serve us to die off or be released in our own personal winter, then starting all over again with new dreams as we celebrate our own rebirth.
I’ve spent a few sabbats in the northern hemisphere, leaping the Beltane fires in Glastonbury’s Chalice Well Gardens, sitting inside the Great Pyramid on the morning of the summer solstice, watching the sun set over the Hill of Tara at Lughnasadh, and the energy of each season is intense, real and tangible no matter which hemisphere I am in. Whenever I celebrate these magical turning points of our planet I feel so strongly a part of the earth, at one with nature and the universe. And so, regardless of which half of the world I’m in, I always acknowledge the opposite festival as well, in some small way. Perhaps this isn’t as important for those in the north, but for me it seems right to acknowledge the turning seasons all over the world, the beautiful, gracefully balanced dance of light and dark, heat and cold, day and night, that makes up this world that we are all a part of.
We are all connected to the earth, no matter where we live, and we need to learn how to (and accept that we can) follow the seasons of nature in our own unique way, based on the rising and setting of the sun in our own home town, the cycles of the moon as it crosses our part of the sky, and the very personal language of nature that is so different – and yet so similar –according to our own unique landscape.


Serene Conneeley is a healer, writer and witch who lives in Sydney, Australia. She is a reconnective healing practitioner and has studied magical and medicinal herbalism, reiki and many other healing modalities, as well as politics and journalism. Her first book, Seven Sacred Sites: Magical Journeys That Will Change Your Life, has just been published. Visit Goddess Pages magazine here.