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 three years ago 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 ©2019 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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April Full Moon: Pink Moon/Beaver Moon

pinkmoonAccording to the Farmer’s Almanac, the name of April’s full moon, which occurs on the 19th, “came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. As a way of utilizing the power of this full moon, perhaps you can use it as a time to reflect on the question: “What opportunities are just beginning to flower in my life? What can I do to nurture them so they continue to grow?” It is also a great time to do magical and energy work toward new projects we are just beginning to undertake.

beavermoonAnother name for the April full moon is the Beaver Moon. During this time of year beavers are busy constructing dams to provide shelter and places to fish. Therefore April’s full moon is a good time to contemplate the spiritual energy the Beaver brings into our lives. According to Jamie Sams and David Carson’s Medicine Cards, the Beaver tells us “it may be time to put your ideas into action or to complete some project that has been neglected. The Beaver can also be asking you to settle differences with fellow workers or friends. Beaver tells you to look for alternative solutions to life’s challenges and to protect the creations which you put your love and energy into.”

Happy full moon!

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin, www,sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Spring Ritual

5b844cc2006bc2bf878594bf90f06defHere is the ritual we used at Sunday night’s Welcoming Circle:

SPRING RITUAL

CASTING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

Light the green candle and say:

Ostara is behind us, Easter is before us,
And spring has just begun.
Baby plants are emerging from winter’s soil.
Dandelion, chickweed and nettle
Provide nourishment for our bodies.

Spring is a season to consider
What things we would like to grow
In the garden of our lives.
It’s a time to plant and nurture
New projects and new goals.

May the greening of spring
Be our source of inspiration tonight!

Light the yellow candle and say:

Spring is a season where the days grow longer
And the sun feels warm against our skin.
Our focus shifts from indoors to outdoors
As we awake from winter’s hibernation.

We garden. We hike in the woods.
The little child that lives in us
Asks us to come out and play…
And we accept the invitation.

May the sun’s golden rays
Be our source of inspiration tonight!

Light the purple candle and say:

Spring is a season where the Divine
Breathes new life into us,
Waking us up from winter doldrums,
And filling us with creative energy.

We awaken to wonder, miracle, and mystery.
We see bold visions and dream dreams of new adventures
That fill us with vitality and purpose.
May the Divine’s energetic presence
Be our source of inspiration tonight!

Take the crystal athame and cast the circle, while saying:

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!

CALLING THE QUARTERS—David Taliesin

Guardians and Ancestors of the East,
Spirits of Air,
You blow through our lives like a warm spring breeze
Whispering into our ears the mysteries of the universe.
Lend your wisdom and insight to us tonight.
Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the South,
Spirits of Fire,
You illumine our path like the rays of the sun,
Showing us the way forward.
Lend your guidance and clarity to us tonight.
Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the West,
Spirits of Water,
You nourish our spirits like a gentle rain,
Filling us with peace, love and gratitude.
Lend your compassion and shalom to us tonight.
Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the North,
Spirits of Earth,
You cause new growth to germinate in us,
And give us a firm foundation to stand upon.
Lend your stability and strength to us tonight.
Hail and welcome!

Great Spirit, Divine Presence,
Who is known to us by many names,
You are the power of rebirth and regeneration
You are the promise that spring will come
After the winter seasons of our lives.
Bless us and be with us tonight.
We are honored by your presence.
Hail and welcome!

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 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—adapted. LLewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials

Great Spirit, Divine Presence,
Giver of life and Creator of all things,
life has many twists and turns
and now we embark on a new path
We are afraid to travel alone.

We ask for your guidance,
and your loving helping hand
to support us along the way.

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

Help us to keep on the path
and to not stray away even when we’re tempted.
Assist us in moving forward, and not in reverse.
Comfort us when needed.

Bless our paths and the journeys we undertake.
Encourage us in times of self-doubt.
Protect us from those willing to harm us,
even if it is ourselves.

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

CLOSING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

Great Spirit, Divine Presence,
We thank you for your presence in our circle tonight.
We thank you that you walk with us
Every step fo the way as we leave this place
And go out into a world that is sometimes
Cruel and unforgiving.
Stay if you will. go if you must.
We bid you farewell!

Guardians and Ancestors of the North,
Spirits of Earth,
We thank you for your presence in our circle tonight.
May your stability and strength travel with us
As we leave this place.
Stay if you will. go if you must!
We bid you farewell!

Guardians and Ancestors of the West,
Spirits of Water,
We thank you for your presence in our circle tonight.
May your compassion and shalom travel with us
As we leave this place.
Stay if you will, go if you must.
We bid you farewell!

Guardians and Ancestors of the South,
Spirits of Fire,
We thank you for your presence in our circle tonight.
May your guidance and clarity travel with us
As we leave this place.
Stay if you will, go if you must.
We bid you farewell!

Guardians and Ancestors of the East,
Spirits of Air,
We thank you for your presence in our circle tonight.
May your wisdom and insight travel with us
As we leave this place.
Stay if you will, go if you must.
We bid you 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.

Copyright ©2019 David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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March Full Moon: Worm Moon

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“Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold…Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” [Mark 4:8-9, NRSV]

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, March’s full moon “is traditionally called the Full Worm Moon by the Native Americans who used the Moons to track the seasons. Colonial Americans adopted these names, especially those named by the local Algonquin tribes who lived in the areas from New England to Lake Superior. At the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. In some regions, this is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.”

On the evening of Tuesday, March 20th, we might want to use this time to think about the soil of our lives. Where is it “hard” and needs to be softened up so that green things can grow in it? In nature, worms provide this service! They increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. They also break down organic matter into nutrients that plants can utilize. Finally, their “castings” or poop is excellent fertilizer for the soil.

With this in mind, we can use this Worm Moon as a time to think about what we need to bring into our lives that will nurture us and provide an excellent environment for growth. In Jesus’ parable of the Good Soil, he reminds us that even the tiniest patch of fertile ground can yield amazing things; even a hundred times more than what we thought was possible. Let’s claim this promise for ourselves this spring and ask the Divine Presence to enrich the soil of our lives so that we may harvest beautiful and wonderful things when the time is right.  Blessed be!

Copyright © 2019 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Empowerment Ritual

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Midwinter Altar with Altered Playing Cards, Welcoming Circle, Photo by David Taliesin, ©2019.

This past Sunday night I taught the folks at The Welcoming Circle how to make altered playing cards [mini-collages] as a way of helping us to set our magical intentions and personal goals. We then closed with a ritual to empower of newly created cards:

EMPOWERMENT RITUAL

ANOINTING WITH BRIGID OIL—David Taliesin
[Recipe for Brigid Oil is found in Cunningham’s Incense, Oils and Brews]

May your magical intentions be strong and true
To bring healing and transformation
To the world around you.

CASTING THE CIRCLE

Elements of the east,
place of air, the breath of life,
that which we cannot see
but which fills us with inspiration,
be with us now.

Elements of the south,
place of fire, heat of heart’s blood,
that which courses through us,
filling us with passion
and infusing us with life-giving heat,
be with us now.

Elements of the west,
place of water, shape-shifting,
that which constantly moves and transforms,
nurturing creativity
and gifting us with fresh vision,
be with us now.

Elements of the north,
place of grounding, place of birth,
fierce winter land of ice and cold,
endings and beginnings,
always calling us home,
be with us now.

Ancient Mother of Midwinter,
Watcher over life and death,
The one who rebirths the world,
Be with us on this night!
See us through the dark hours
And stand with us
As dawn births the promise of new life.
So mote it be!

EMPOWERMENT RITUAL—David Taliesin

Close your eyes.

Visualize pulling the energy from the earth up though the souls of your feet and into your body until the souls of your feet tingle. Go with whatever color comes to mind.

Then pull the energy of the moon and stars down from the sky and into your body and let these two energies intertwine. Again, go with whatever color coms to mind.

Let them grow and expand until they fill your body with energetic light which you may picture as a sphere or a double helix or any other image that comes to mind.

When you’re ready, open your eyes and reach our your hands toward the center altar and the playing cards we’ve created. Let that healing energy flow into them.

As you are doing this think about the card you’ve reader and the magical intention it represents.

Remember, this is not your energy. You are just a vessel through with it flows. In order to keep it flowing, join me in the following Druidic chant…Oh-ee-ah.

Now, we are going to release this energy toward the cards on the center altar. Think of what you want to accomplish this coming month. One two, three, release! (Pause)

DISMISSING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

Elements of the North, Powers of Earth, Stone and Oak, thank you for your presence and grounding energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elements of the West, Powers of Water, Snow and Ice, thank you for your presence and healing energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elements of the South, powers of Fire, Lightning, and Sun thank you for your presence and courageous energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Elements of the East, powers of Air, Smoke, and Moon, thank you for your presence and inspirational energy in our circle tonight. Stay if you will. Go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Ancient Mother of Midwinter,
You bless us with your presence in our circle tonight.
Keep our intentions as strong as winter ice.
May your winds of inspiration blow mightily through our lives,
And help our magic to blanket the world
Like snow upon the ground.
Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

And now 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 and to the animals around us
Who need its strength this winter.
Merry meet and merry part, and merry meet again.

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Imbolc vs. Candlemas

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Candlemas @ All Saints Ashmont, Boston, MA

Even some of my Wiccan books get this one wrong! Imbolc and Candlemas are not the same holiday, but they are tried together thematically as we shall see. Imbolc is a Gaelic celebration that usually occurs on the night of February 1st. It honors the goddess Brigid who is often associated with fire among other things. One of Imbolc’s main themes is Brigid’s turning of the Wheel of the Year toward spring. Therefore, light plays an important part in the celebration. Some NeoPagans light outdoor bonfires while others employ lots of candles in indoor settings.

Candlemas is a Christian holiday that is observed on February 2nd. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox celebrate it as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Candlemas commemorates a story found in Luke 2:22-40 where Joseph and Mary take baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth, as required by Jewish Law. After making the required sacrifice, Mary is then considered to be ritually clean and Jesus is presented at the Temple since he is their first born son. A man named Simeon witnesses this event and gives a heartfelt prayer known in Latin as the Nunc Dimittis. The theme of the prayer is that Simeon has now beheld the “light” that will shine on Gentiles and Jews alike.

Christian celebrations of Candlemas include the blessing of beeswax candles, and a candle-lit procession precedes the worship service that day. In some part of Europe, especially France, they eat crepes on Candlemas (I’m not exactly sure why!). Each member of the household cooks their own crepe while holding a coin in their hand. They believe it assures wealth and happiness until the next Candlemas celebration.

I’ve read a number of articles that connect Candlemas with Imbolc, as well as the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Personally, I’m not convinced the tie is as strong as some people suggest. Both Imbolc and Candlemas are festivals of light. However, there are numerous light festivals during the winter season that appear in many cultures and religions. If anyone out there has a strong argument regarding how they tie together, I’m all ears. Please cite the sources that helped you to draw this conclusion.

There is a good possibility, however, that Candlemas got its start as a Christian alternative to Imbolc. This has certainly been true of many Pagan festivals so it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

 

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Brigid: The Goddess Behind the Saint

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St. Brigid from wikkicommons

St. Brigid is both historical figure and character of folklore and shared more than a name with her Pagan Goddess counterpart. It is through St. Brigid that the clearest glimpse into Brigid the Goddess can be found.—Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess, Courtney Weber

If you spend any time researching the subject, there are numerous theories that describe how the Saint and Goddess are connected. The one that resonates with me most strongly these days comes from the excellent research done by Courtney Weber in Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magic of the Celtic Goddess. According to Weber, one of the commonalities between various Celtic cultural traditions was a term for an exalted being: Brig or Brid. It was applied to more than the Goddess, and was also used to refer to women in positions of power in society. One example is a first century Irish lawyer called Brigh which was probably not her name but was a reference to her occupation as a female judge.

When nuns take their vows, they leave their secular name behind and choose a new one. Based on Weber’s work it is possible that the nun in question chose the name Brigid which was quite fitting since she held a powerful position as the founder the cathedral in Kildare (which was built on top of a Pagan shrine) and abbess of a monastery. She also had a reputation for being generous to the poor and was known for healing miracles and compassionate care for animals.

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Cross from St. Brigid’s Cathedral

When Brigid died and was declared a saint, there is no doubt the folklore surrounding her continued to grow. It’s my theory that many of the qualities that were once attributed to the Goddess Brigid became attached to St. Brigid since the worship of the Goddess remained strong in Ireland in spite of Christian attempts to eliminate it.  This way, the Celts could have their Goddess in the guise of saint’s clothing.  It was a win/win for both sides!

There are others beside myself who believe in this theory. Robert Ellsberg in All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses For Our Time, says “It has been noted that in ancient times Brigid was, in fact, the name of the Celtic sun goddess. This has given rise to the suggestion that in St. Brigid, a nun and abbess of the fifth century, we find the repository of primeval religious memories and traditions. In any case, it seems that with the cult of St. Brigid the Irish people maintained an image of the maternal face of God with which to compliment the more patriarchal religion of St. Patrick and subsequent missionaries.”

Edward C. Sellner in Wisdom of the Celtic Saints, says “These attributes (of the goddess) were eventually identified with Brigit, the saint, whose feast day, February 1, came to be celebrated on the same day as that of the Pagan goddess. Early hagiographers also portray crucial turning points in Brigit’s life  and ministry as touched with fire. It i clear that St. Brigit stands on the boundary between Pagan mythology and Christian spirituality.”

In my own personal spiritual practice, Brigid plays a big part as my “go-to” Goddess. I have an icon of her above my altar in the form of St. Brigid to remind me of the connection between my Christian and Pagan paths. For me she is a bridge-builder and reconciler whose healing power might help to bring us all closer together!  Hail Brigid, and I wish you all a blessed celebration of Imbolc!

Copyright ©2019 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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