Ostara Ritual

Here is the Ostara Ritual we used at tonight’s Welcoming Circle:

OSTARA RITUAL

CASTING THE CIRCLE— from https://www.thoughtco.com/hold-an-ostara-ritual-for-solitaries-2562480

Light the green candle and say:
The Wheel of the Year turns once more,
and the vernal equinox arrives.
Light and dark are equal,
and the soil begins to change.
The earth awakes from its slumber,
and new life springs forth once more.

Light the yellow candle and say:
The sun draws ever closer to us,
greeting the earth with its welcoming rays.
Light and dark are equal,
and the sky fills with light and warmth.
The sun warms the land beneath our feet,
and gives life to all in its path.

Light the purple candle and say:
Spring has come! For this, we are thankful!
The Divine is present all around,
in the cool fall of a rain storm,
in the tiny buds of a flower,
in the down of a newborn chick,
in the fertile fields waiting to be planted,
in the sky above us,
and in the earth below us.
We thank the universe* for all it has to offer us,
and are so blessed to be alive on this day.
Welcome, life! Welcome, light! Welcome, spring!

Take the crystal athame and say this while tracing the circle:
We cast this circle and create
a sacred space for us to dwell.
May it protect us from all spirits and powers
that seek to do us harm. So mote it be! (by David Taliesin)

CALLING THE QUARTERS—http://home.earthlink.net/~josquin88/ostara.html
Spirits of the East, powers of Air,
Awaken us with the Spring breeze.
Fill our lungs, and join us
In celebration of the endless renewal of light and life.

Spirits of the South, powers of Fire,
Warm us with the rising sun.
Quicken our hearts, and join us
In celebration of the unfolding of the Earth.

Spirits of the West, powers of Water,
Wash us in gentle rain.
Revive our longing, and join us
In celebration of boundless possibility.

Spirits of the North, powers of Earth,
Clothe us in the finery of new growth.
Support our steps, and join us
In celebration of a world made green again.

Goddess of Earth, mother of all,
With love we greet you
As night and day once again
Greet each other in passing.
Be with us, complete our circle,
And help us always to see your face
In all that lives. We bid you welcome!

The circle is cast, the ritual begun.
May the powers of the Ancient One,
Source of all creation,
May the powers of the Goddess, bright lady of the moon,
And the God, horned hunter of the sun,
May the powers of the guardian spirits,
Rulers of the elemental realms,
May the powers of the stars above and the Earth below,
Bless this time, this place, and all who gather here.
Blessed be!

SETTING SPRING INTENTIONS—David Taliesin
The egg is a symbol of fertility and new life which were decorated in days of old to honor the Goddess. Tonight I ask that you take one of the plastic eggs in the basket and hold it in your hands. Take some time in silence to think about the things you would like to give birth to this Ostara and Spring. In order to birth something new, part of your intention may be to let something go. When your vision for what you would like to accomplish is clear, take a pen and as many strips of paper as you need. Write your intentions on theses strips of paper and place them in the egg. (Pause until everyone is done.)

Now we will raise energy to empower the intentions that are contained in our eggs. We’ll use the Om-ah…..Now direct the energy into your egg. One, two, three, release.

After our ritual is over, I ask that you take these home with you and place them in a prominent place in your home such as an altar. Periodically open the egg and take a look at the intentions you’ve made tonight. See how well you are doing in fulfilling them.

BLESSING FOR SETTING INTENTIONS—LLewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials
Great Goddess, Mother to us all,
giver of life and creator of all things,
life has many twists and turns
and now I embark on a new path
I am afraid to travel alone.

I ask for your guidance,
and your loving helping hand
to support me on my way.

I ask that when needed
you will lead me in the right direction
and steer me away from wrong turns.

Help me to keep on the path
and to not stray away even when I’m tempted.
Assist me in moving forward, and not in reverse.
Comfort me when needed.

Bless my path and the journey I undertake on this path.
Encourage me in times of self-doubt.
Protect me from those willing to harm me, even if it is myself.

Embrace me in your loving arms, to give me peace
and surround me in perfect love and perfect trust.
So mote it be! Amen!

CLOSING THE CIRCLE—http://home.earthlink.net/~josquin88/ostara.html
Goddess of Earth, mother of all,
For the Spring, for your love,
For your power, for the pomegranate,
For the fertility of the world we share,
For your presence within our circle,
We thank you, and ask your blessing,
Until we gather here again. Farewell!

Spirits of the North, powers of Earth,
We thank you for your presence here
And ask for your blessing as you depart.
May there be peace between us now and forever. Farewell!

Spirits of the West, powers of Water,
We thank you for your presence here
And ask for your blessing as you depart.
May there be peace between us now and forever. Farewell!

Spirits of the South, powers of Fire,
We thank you for your presence here
And ask for your blessing as you depart.
May there be peace between us now and forever. Farewell!

Spirits of the East, powers of Air,
We thank you for your presence here
And ask for your blessing as you depart.
May there be peace between us now and forever. Farewell!

The circle is open but never unbroken
Because it is a circle woven in love.
Whatever energy is left in this space
We return to the earth with a spirit of gratitude.
Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.

 

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Ixtab: Mayan Goddess of Suicide

ixtab

Ixtab: Dresden Codex

Suicide is a difficult subject to address because it’s so painful. I have lost three friends over the years due to suicide and each death has left its mark upon me. This is further complicated in Christian circles by the belief some espouse that suicide is an unforgivable sin. For the record, I am not one of those people! If God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” as the Torah says, how can this same God not embrace those whose pain and lack of clear thinking led them to such a desperate act. All three of my friends were not really in their right minds when they chose to take their lives. I cannot worship a Divine being who would refuse to embrace these lost lambs and condemn them to more suffering. Sermon over!

Enter Ixtab, the Mayan goddess of suicide we see as depicted in the Dresden Codex. Her name means “woman of the rope.” Ixtab is depicted as hanging from the sky by a rope which is coiled around her neck. Her eyes are closed in death and on one of her cheeks is a black circle which represents the discoloration of the flesh due to decomposition.

It is believed that those who committed suicide or died by hanging, together with slain warriors, sacrificial victims, priests, and woman who died in childbirth, went straight to eternal rest in paradise. Ixtab gathered them and brought them there. According to Wikipedia, It is here that “they enjoyed a delectable existence rewarded with delicious food and drink and resting under the shade of a pleasant tree, Yaxche, free from all want.”

I find this description of Ixtab very comforting. Although there is only this one surviving image of her, I would like to believe that this is how the goddess works in our world. She is the Mother of Compassion who comes to us in our most desperate hour and cradles us in her loving arms. She is, in the words of Jesus, the One who left the ninety-nine sheep on the mountains and went in search of the one that was lost until She found it. [Matt 18:12-13, Luke 15:3-6]

So, maybe it’s time for us to add this image of Ixtab to our iconography of the goddess. It might be very helpful to those who are coping with the loss of loved ones due to suicide.

Blessed be!

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbath.com

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The Easter Witch?

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The Easter Witch? Yes, that’s what I said!. There was an interesting AP article by Matti Huuhtanen that appeared in my newspaper last year entitled “Little Witches in Finland Cast Good Spells Before Easter.” (Google it!) Needless to say, it got my attention.

I did a little digging in cyberspace and this is what I found. Apparently there is an unique and unusual tradition in Finland that involves little girls dressing up as witches and going door to door on either Palm Sunday (by children from Orthodox families in Southeast Finland), or Holy Saturday (by kids from the Lutheran families of Western Finland).

Children’s culture expert Reeli Karimäki of the Pessi Children’s Art Centre in Vantaa, had this to say abut the tradition: “In the most popular family tradition, young children (especially girls) dress up as Easter witches, donning colorful old clothes and painting freckles on their faces. “The little witches then go from door to door, bringing willow twigs decorated with colorful feathers and crepe paper as blessings to drive away evil spirits, in return for treats.”

Later, she adds “This Finnish children’s custom interestingly mixes two older traditions – a Russian Orthodox ritual where birch twigs originally represented the palms laid down when Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; and a Swedish and Western Finnish tradition in which children made fun of earlier fears that evil witches could be about on Easter Saturday.”

In the AP article, Matti Huuhtanen wrote “Ethnologists say Finland’s Easter practices came from the eastern region of Karelia, where Russian traditions were strong even when it was a part of Finland. Farmers in Karelia for centuries have taken pussy willows in lieu of palm leaves to their neighbors on Palm Sunday as a gesture of blessing.”

The candy of choice is chocolate foil wrapped Easter eggs which are placed in a copper pot the “little witches” carry with them. They also sometimes receive money, in the form of coins, as the treat. Those who make a donation are given a blessed willow branch in return.

I find this activity delightful and quite unique. The Pagan and Christian elements of this tradition live happily side by side and no one in Finland seems to bat an eye. It gives me hope that we can appreciate one another’s spring equinox celebrations, no matter what they may be!

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Ostara: Balance and Growth

Young plant growing in sunshineThis coming Monday, April 20, is the Pagan Sabbat of Ostara which is always celebrated on the vernal equinox.  Since we have equal hours of sunlight and moonlight on Ostara, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the balance of all things: male and female, physical and spiritual, life and death, thought and action, etc.  It’s also an opportunity to take a critical look at ourselves and ask the question “What in my life is out of balance?”  If you can’t think of something, you’re not thinking hard enough!  Everyone has something in their lives that’s “not quite right.” Ostara is the perfect opportunity to plant “seeds of intention” that will help us to grow and draw closer to the Divine.

I think Jesus had this in mind when he said, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Mt 7:7, Lk 11:9)  Many Christians misunderstand the intention of this saying.  It’s often interpreted as “God will give me what I want…if I pray hard enough and believe it will happen,”  That’s ridiculous!  It makes us sound like whiny children who throw a temper tantrum until we get what we want.  It also makes the Divine look like an over-indulgent Santa Claus who will do anything for us, as long as we stop crying!  Talk about being out of balance!

Thankfully, if we read a little farther, Jesus clarifies the meaning of this saying, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?”  (Mt 7:9-10, Lk 11:11-13)  In other words, the Divine desires to give us what we “need,” not what we “want.” The Holy One wants to place in our hands the tools we need to help us to mature and be more in harmony with nature, others and the Sacred.  If we ask and search for this kind of Truth and Knowledge, it will be given to us.  Guaranteed!

So Happy Ostara to my Pagan friends and a Blessed Easter to my Christian friends.  May the seeds of intention we plant this Holy Season sprout from the earth of our lives, and grow into beautiful spiritual herbs, gorgeous emotional flowers, and a more balanced life.  So mote it be and Amen!

Copyright © 2017 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Happy Eostre…Or Is That Easter? Or Ostara?

Here comes Peter Cottontail,
hopping down the bunny trail.
Hippy, hoppity, Eostre’s on its way! 

eastereggsOr is that Easter?  Or Ostara?  To be honest, it’s really hard to tell the difference.  Nearly every Christian tradition associated with the celebration of Easter can be traced back to its Pagan roots.  The connections are many and not particularly veiled.

Ostara is celebrated on the spring equinox, when day and night are equal.  Ostara is Latin for the ancient German spring goddess Eostre (for whom the Christian holiday of Easter is named.)  The ancient Greeks called her Eos or Aurora.  Ostara celebrates the balance of all things male and female, physical and spiritual, etc.

Here’s a list of common Easter traditions and their Pagan connections:

Eggs – They are a symbol of fertility and new life which were decorated to honor the Goddess.  Almost all Pagan cultures gave brightly colored eggs to each other as gifts during this time.  Eggs were also used in a number of rituals as well.

Easter Lilies – Most Christian churches are decorated with white lilies on Easter Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  This tradition goes back to ancient Greece and Rome where they decorated Ostara altars and temples with lilies to honor the Goddess.

Easter Bunny – Yep, even the Easter bunny goes way back!  There is an Eostre legend of a rabbit who wanted to please the Goddess, laid sacred eggs in her honor (pretty impressive for a rabbit!), decorated them, and presented them to her.

Easter Clothes – German Pagans believed it was bad luck to wear spiring clothes before the celebration of Eostre.  They worked on a new spring outfit in secret all winter long and unveiled it during this holy-day.

Lamb – Lamb is sacred to almost all virgin Goddesses of ancient Europe and beyond.  It was first adopted by the Jews as a part of the Passover story, and then Christians piggy backed on this tradition as well.  While ham in now the popular choice for Easter dinner, lamb was the meat of choice in earlier times. (Eating ham to honor a resurrected Jew makes no sense to me, anyway!)

Hot Cross Buns – Yes, even the hot cross bun was first created by Pagans as a representation of the Sun Wheel/Wheel of the Year.

Resurrection and New Life – Hold your breath.  In Edain McCoy’s excellent book Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways, she says the following about the celebration of Ostara: “In Slavic Pagan traditions this was believed to be a day when death had no power over the living.”
The ancient Greeks told the story of Persephone who went to he underworld to guide the spirits of the dead to their eternal rest.  Meanwhile, her mother, Demeter, put her life on hold and waited for her daughter to return.  During this time, grain and other plants did not grow and the weather was cold.  When Persephone returned, the earth came alive again.
In addition to the Persephone legend, most spring equinox myths are about Deities who visit the Underworld, where they struggled to return back to earth.  When they emerged triumphant, new life appeared.

I believe the reason why there are so many connections is because these ancient celebrations were so much a part of the cultures they came from that Christians had to join the party.  Therefore, they set their own story of resurrection and new life at the same time as these other spring celebrations.  It only makes sense and is the pattern of the early Church as they wrestled with Pagan culture and traditions.  I like to think that Christians “borrowed” instead of “stole” these rituals because they were rich with meaning and easily fit the theology of the Christian church with a few little tweaks.

As a final note: Here’s an excellent article that argues for the existence of the goddess Eostre from the Keeper of Seasons Hall web site.  Here’s the link http://www.koshabq.org/2012/03/09/celebrating-eostre/

Here’s another that counters much of what I’ve written here.  It’s hard to know who to believe which means more academic research needs to be done on this subject.  Here’s the link from the Association of Polytheist Traditions: http://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/essays/Eostre.shtml

Copyright © 2017 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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St. Patrick’s Day: The Great Snake Controversy

st-patrickFor most people, St. Patrick’s Day is simply a day where we celebrate all things Irish, including the color green, shamrocks and drinking LOTS of Guinness. Americans go crazy for this secularized holiday and, according to an Irish friend of mine, make a bigger deal out of this holiday than they do in Ireland.

But not all is fun and games. According to some Pagans, St Patrick’s Day has a dark side.  One of the most popular legends about St Patrick is that he drove out all the snakes from Ireland. However, according to The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, there is no evidence that snakes ever lived in Ireland. This has led some Pagans to believe that “snakes” are a metaphor for Pagans, and view St. Patrick as the one who committed cultural genocide on the Celtic people.

One of the most interesting articles I read that questions this connection is a piece by
Jason Pitzl-Waters on his blog The Wild Hunt: A Modern Pagan Perspective. It can be found on the excellent site patheos.com. Here’s a link to the original article: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2012/03/saint-patrick-druids-snakes-and-popular-myths.html

Pitzl-Waters says “The simple fact is that paganism thrived in Ireland for generations after Patrick lived and died, and, as Lupus puts it, ” the ‘final’ Christianization of the culture didn’t take place until the fourteenth century CE.” There was no Irish pagan genocide, no proof of any great violent Druid purge in Ireland, it simply doesn’t exist outside hagiography. By the time hagiographers started speaking of snakes and Druids, Irish paganism was already a remnant, and Irish Christianity the dominant religious force on the island.”

I have also read that the Church designated St. Patrick’s feast day as February 17th to provide an alternative Christian holiday to the Pagan celebration of Ostara. I’m not sure this connection can be made either. History.com sets St. Patrick’s death date as February 17th.  It may simply be a coincidence that the two holidays fall so close together.

As a final thought History.com offers the following positive info about St. Patrick and his relationship to Pagan culture. “Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.”

Perhaps St. Patrick was not the geneocidal maniac some make him out to be, but he might not be 100% saint either.  The jury is out on this one.  You’ll have to draw your own conclusions regarding the origins of this Irish saint.

Copyright © 2017 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Ixchel: Mayan Goddess

One of the things I’ve noticed in the Pagan circles I’m a part of is a lack of god/goddess imagery from Central America. Most of what I’m accustomed to seeing is European or a precursor to European Pagan religion such as Roman and Egyptian. So, I’d like to remedy this situation and introduce you to a few of the goddesses I encountered during my time in Mexico. Let’s start with my favorite: Ixchel.

According to the Ix Chel Center (http://www.holisticnp.com/ixchel.html), Ixchel is the ancient Maya goddess of fertility & healing. “Ix” means goddess of the feminine. “Chel” means rainbow or light. In other words, she is the: Lady of the Rainbow, Goddess of the Rainbow and Lady of Sacred Light. She is always associated with bodies of water, lakes, streams, rivers and creeks. Anywhere you would be likely to see a rainbow.

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Ixchel: Dresden Codex

The predominant image of Ixchel comes from the Dresden Codex which is the oldest surviving book from the Americas and dates back to the 13th or 14th century. Here, she is portrayed in her Crone aspect. The symbols which surround her are as follows:

Serpent—The serpent is a powerful symbol in ancient Mayan culture. It represents may things including wisdom (Google Vision Serpent), rebirth, transformation, initiation, and Divine communication.

Water Jug—This vessel is symbolic of the womb and speaks of Ixchel’s role as midwife and goddess of childbearing. It also speaks of her power as a healer and one who brings new life into the world.

Crossbones—These are seen on her back. It is a Mayan symbol of foreboding/warning. It may indicate that over time Ixchel morphed into a warrior goddess in addition to her healing/birthing powers. Needless to say, she is a goddess to be reckoned with!

2c7485dfd2036c2ed82cd6d0879fef34In addition to the Dresden Codex, other symbols which may accompany Ixchel speak of her Maiden and Mother aspects:

Moon—Scholars disagree regarding whether this symbol is attached to Ixchel. However, it makes perfect sense to me that it is associated with this powerful deity. The Moon is a Mayan symbol of regeneration and birth which ties in with the serpent and water jug found in the Dresden Codex. It also speaks of shadows and mystery which are common attributes of the goddess in most ancient cultures.

Rabbit—The rabbit is often synonymous with the moon in Mayan symbology. It is also a symbol of fertility in many cultures.

According to The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya by Mary Miller and Karl Taube, “At the time of the Spanish Conquest, Ixchel was a prominent Maya goddess, patroness of childbirth, pregnancy, and fertility. Women from all over Yucatan made long pilgrimages to seek her attention at shrines on Cozumel and Isla Mujeres…She also appears to be a patroness of of weaving, divination. and midwifery.” To add to the observation that few sources agree on Ixchel’s true identity, they add “She is probably not the beautiful young weaving woman given form in a number of Jaina figurines. Nor is there reason to think that she is the beautiful young moon goddess of Classic Maya art with whom her name has been widely identified: that young woman, sometimes depicted within the crescent of the moon, does not bear the name Ixchel or Chac Chel.”

So Ixchel came to represent many things to the Mayan people throughout the ages including other aspects I have not mentioned in this post such as earth goddess and patroness of weaving. Her image may be a powerful one for us to utilize as we contemplate and work with the Divine energy of the goddess.

Blessed be!

Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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