August Full Moon: Sturgeon Moon

supermoon-sturgeon

According to the Farmer’s Almanac “Some Native American tribes called the August Moon the Sturgeon Moon because they knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this Full Moon.”

Since the habitat of sturgeon is water, perhaps we can use this full moon (Monday, August 03) to reflect on our emotional life which is commonly associated with the element of water. Even though Lughnasadh has come and gone, the harvest continues. In fact, we have two more harvest festivals to go! With this in mind, what “emotional harvest” do we want to reap in our lives at this moment? Is fear preventing us from pursuing our dreams? Is anger alienating us from others? OR do we want to cultivate more peace in our lives? Do we have the courage to feel love again?  I think you get the point.

If this sounds like a worthwhile activity to you, my suggestion is to go outside Monday evening and find a place where you will not be disturbed. Soak in the energy of the full moon and let Divine, in its feminine form, whisper to you the truth about your emotional state at this point in your life. What needs to be cultivated? What needs to be uprooted?

As a side note, several species of sturgeon are harvested for their roe which is processed into caviar.  This is a rare and expensive gift that symbolizes the rare and expensive gifts each of us possess, some of which are emotional. What gifts do you want to reveal this full moon? Claim your power and let your light shine!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Lughnasadh/Lammas: August 1st

lughnasadh

August has a rhythm all it’s own, especially in the South. These hot, humid days force us to slow down our pace a bit, and why not? The soil has been tilled. Gardens have been planted. Many vegetables have already been harvested and more are on the way. The only thing left to do is pray for rain and wait until everything is ripe and ready. In the meantime, we can escape the sweltering heat of the day by “sitting a spell” on the porch with friends, sipping glasses of sweet tea and eating a freshly baked peach cobbler! That’s how we roll in North Carolina and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The first of August is known by several names: 1) Lughnasadh, which is Gaelic for the modern Irish word “Lunasa,” meaning August. In ancient times the Sun God Lugh was honored. 2) Lammas is the English harvest festival which occurs on the same day. The word is Anglo-Saxon for “loaf mass” and was celebrated by Pagans and Christians alike. 3) Festival of Green Corn, which is the name Native Americans attach to this harvest festival, and 4) Feast of St. Peter in Chains, which is an odd ancient Christian observance that has been removed from the liturgical calendar.

Basically, Lammas is the first of three harvest Sabbats or festivals.  This particular one celebrates the first fruits of corn, wheat and barley. Needless to say, this is something to be thankful for, especially in ancient times. A successful harvest meant there would be plenty of grain to last through the cold winter months. The main food for this festival is bread in one form or another. Bread has always been universally symbolic of life, Mother Earth, home, hearth, harvest and vitality. Because of this, ritual bread appears in every religious tradition I can think of.

For early Christians “Loaf Mass” was an adaptation of the Pagan Lammas. In both traditions, bread was baked and presented as an offering to the Divine in thanksgiving for a successful harvest. Here is an ancient Christian prayer that was used on Loaf Mass:

Holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, graciously deign,
to bless this bread with Thy spiritual benediction
that all who eat it may have health of body and soul
and that they may be protected against all sickness
and against all the snares of the enemy.  Amen.

Some of the bread in the Christian tradition was used to celebrate the Eucharist (Holy Communion) on Lammas. The rest of it was blessed and taken home for the Lammas Day feast. I also discovered that in Anglo-Saxon England this blessed bread was used by some to work magic! According to a book of Anglo-Saxon charms, a Lammas loaf was broken into four bits, which were placed in the four corners of the barn in order to protect the gathered grain.

In modern times, we can celebrate Lughnasadh/Lammas not only by giving thanks to the Divine for a successful harvest, it can also be a day to support local farmers. Let’s face it, they work their tails off to grow the food that appears on our tables. Perhaps we can use this holy day to commit ourselves to buying as much locally grown food as possible. I make a weekly trip to a tailgate market that is less than a mile from my house. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us urban dwellers to connect with our agrarian brothers and sisters. I always have wonderful conversations with the vendors there and I’ve learned a lot about how to cook the fruits and vegetables that are grown by them.

As a final note, my Cherokee brothers and sisters still celebrate the Festival of Green Corn. There is always dancing, singing, drumming and the eating of corn in a number of forms. You can Google the topic for more information.

So I wish everyone a most blessed Lughnasadh/Lammas celebration. If you’re ever in North Carolina I have a glass of sweet tea and a peach cobbler waiting for you!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Practical Magic

So, how are you holding up? The adjective that best describes me these days is “weary.” I’m tired of watching the shit show that passes for American democracy these day. I’m tired of convincing people of the need to wear masks, social distance, and care about someone other than themselves. I’m tried of not seeing my friends, especially my magical ones. And, yes, I’ve done some magical work online with others but it’s not the same!

If “weary” describes you as well, the thing that helps me get through each day is narrowing my focus and putting my energy toward the places I can make a difference. Right now my medicinal herb garden is flourishing and I’m enjoying watching the bees dance happily on my flowers as I harvest and process my herbs for the coming year. This kind of “practical magic” feeds my soul. I try to connect with each plant on a spiritual level. It helps to remind me that beauty and wonder are still happening in our world even if it is only on a smaller scale.

The other thing that gives me strength is the time I spend babysitting my new granddaughter. She was born at the beginning of this pandemic and I wasn’t able to see her for over a month after she was born. So these days I treasure the time we spend together. I marvel at her soulful eyes and every time she smiles at me, my heart is at peace.

It’s okay if you’re not doing “big things” to change the world for the better. We don’t always have the strength to do this kind of transformative work. (If you do have the strength then, please, do everything you can to topple the oppressive patriarchal system we are living in!) If you’re feeling “weary,” then, by all means, give yourself permission to rest, to narrow your focus, and manifest the kind of practical magic that can fill your life, and the lives of those you love, with healthy, vitality and strength. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Drying Yarrow: Urban Farmer Method

What practitioner of magic does not desire to live out in the country with plenty of land to plant magical herbs and a forest nearby where we can go wildcrafting?  Yet, I have the suspicion that many of us are city dwellers who often practice our magic indoors and have little or no land at our disposal.  This does not mean we cannot connect with our Earth Mother in meaningful ways.

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Yarrow and bee balm in the corner of my yard.

The front yard of my house is the only place that gets enough sunlight to grow things besides ferns and other shade plants.  It’s very small but I grow a number of medicinal herbs and bee friendly flowers.  If you have no yard whatsoever, you can also plant many of these plants in container gardens.

Yarrow is one of my favorites, no only because it has a long bloom season, it also dries easily and is one of my go-to plants for magic spells.  Yarrow is also a perennial so it keeps coming back and multiplying year after year.  I only harvest what I need and never gather more than 1/4 of the stems that germinate and grow.  It’s amazing how much dried yarrow a few stems produces so harvest it cautiously.

Drying yarrow by the “urban farming” method is easy!  First cut the flowers off the stem by pushing your kitchen shears as close to the bud as you can get them.

yarrow02Take all the leaves off the stems as well.  Return the stems to the earth for composting.

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Next, place the buds and leaves (I do them separately) in a large plastic container that is lined with a paper towel.  Place the container in the rear window of your car and keep it there until the buds and stems are dry which only takes a few days.

yarrow05Another method is to place them on a brown paper bag from the grocery store instead of a plastic container.  Who needs an expensive dehydrator?  This does the job quickly and inexpensively!yarrow06

The finished product is gorgeous.  When the buds are dried they can be easily separated into individual pieces.  The leaves can either be crumbled by hand or placed in a food processor until they reach the desired consistency.  I use this method of drying for most of my herbs and it’s as easy as it gets!  Give it a try!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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July Full Moon: Buck Moon

buckfullmoon

Native Americans call July 5th’s (after midnight on July 4th) full moon the Buck Moon because in North America bucks (male deers) are beginning to sprout their antlers. Symbolically this ties in with the first harvest theme of Lughnasadh which we will celebrate in a few weeks on August 1st. A good reflection question to ask ourselves during this month’s full moon is “What do we want to harvest in our lives? What do we want to manifest in our world?”

These days there is a lot to be fearful about and we can choose to give into that fear and manifest anxiety and worry. OR we can draw our strength from nature and the Divine and harvest a new crop of love, compassion, reconciliation, hope, etc. May we use tomorrow tonight’s full moon to ground and center ourselves so we will remain strong in these trying times. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Wicca For Beginners: Book Review

It’s a brave thing to write a “Wicca 101” book, because there are so many of them out there. My introduction to Wicca came through a group led by two mountain witches whose wisdom and friendship I treasure to this day. They pointed me in the direction of Scott Cunningham’s “Wicca For the Solitary Practitioner” which I consider to be one of the definitive books of the American expression of Wicca. However, it was written in 1989 so there is definitely room for new authors to expand upon this ever-evolving tradition.

Enter Lisa Chamberlain’s Wicca For Beginners: A Guide to Wiccan Beliefs, Rituals, Magic and Witchcraft from Sterling Ethos. I’m happy to report that there is so much about this book to like. First of all, Lisa’s writing style is clear and concise. She is able to tackle numerous subjects without making this book the size of a Stephen King novel.
It’s a quick read but don’t let that fool you. There is a lot of wisdom and food for thought in these pages.

The thing I appreciate most about her book is it’s flexibility. Like Cunningham before her, she lets the reader know there are many ways to practice Wicca. This is not a definitive text, but rather, a guideline for those just beginning to study the Craft. I have always found this to be one of the strengths of Wicca. It is what you make of it. I’m an eclectic practitioner myself and Chamberlain encourages the reader over and over again to experiment and find those practices, tools, and rituals that feel authentic to the person using them. Well done!

The book itself is beautifully illustrated and impeccably organized into four main sections:

What is Wicca contains a detailed history of the origins of Wicca that I thought was more extensive than most introductory books. It also explores some of Wicca’s core elements such as the Deities, the Wheel of the Year, Sabbats, and Esbats.

Wiccan Ritual contains all the basic information you would expect in such a book, including casting a circle, ritual tools, etc. Chamberlain’s strength in this section is that it’s loaded with ideas and options for the reader to consider.

Wiccan Magic helps the reader to understand the difference between practical magic and ritual magic. I was also pleased to see a few words on the connection between science and magic where science is beginning to catch up with what we witches already know from personal experience. It also includes basic information and charts on candles, herbs, crystals, etc.

Advice for Aspiring Wiccans & Witches wraps things up with advice on a few topics not yet covered in the book. It includes this parting word of wisdom, “As you read and study further, and as you meet and interact with fellow practitioners, you might find that some people’s views vary wildly from those presented here. Nonetheless, the goal of this guide has been to provide a general orientation to Wiccan beliefs and practices from an unbiased perspective.” There is a lot of truth in this quote and as you read my blog you will find information that is sometimes different from what Chamberlain presents in her book. However, Wicca For Beginners is a good place to start if you’re new to Wicca and it’s core beliefs and practices. Well done!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Calendula: Solstice Flowers on Steroids

calendula-illustrationG/P/E Masculine, Sun, Fire

Even if you don’t have a particularly green thumb, you can grow calendula in your garden. They love lots of sun and produce prolific amounts of beautiful yellow and orange blossoms that can be used for magical, medicinal and culinary uses. They also grow well in pots if you live in an apartment or condo. The trick to getting lots of blossoms is to keep harvesting/ deadheading them as they flower. In the hottest part of the summer they may stop producing flowers but don’t give up on them. When the temperature drops a bit they will start blooming again and, depending on where you live, can produce flowers well into the fall. They can reseed themselves with little effort on your part but you can also save the seeds from the dried involucres (green base of the flower head). This is also where the highest concentration of medicinal resinous oils are found.

Medicinally, calendula has lots of healing properties. A salve made from the whole blossoms is very nourishing to the skin and can help with all manner of cuts, bruises, rashes, burns, insect bites, etc. Tea made from the dried blossoms is also a great way to beat the winter blahs. I combine it with other herbs to promote a sense of well-being and happiness.

As a culinary ingredient, calendula petals can be eaten raw and add beautiful color to fresh garden salads. Dried petals have also been used in place of saffron as a colorant and flavor ingredient.

Magically, calendula is an overlooked and underappreciated herb. Scott Cunningham says that calendula flowers gladden and strengthen the heart. Garlands of calendula strung on doorposts stop evil from entering the house, and placed under a bed will protect you while you sleep. I find that their energy is joyful and vibrant and can be used in any ritual where sun/fire energy is called for. Even a small vase of calendula placed on my home altar feels empowering and inspiring.

Paul Beyerl in his excellent book “A Compendium of Herbal Magic” says that the dried petals can be used alone or mixed with a dry incense to consecrate tools of divination, and the petals may also be macerated in sunflower oil to make an oil of consecration. It’s sunny color and fire energy are also good for clearing negative energy.

As a side note, the common name “marigold” refers to the Virgin Mary and may have previous associations with a nature goddess. If anyone has any historical info on this, let me know. The more common variety of marigold that most people are familiar with is also used in Dia de los Muertos celebrations. It is placed on altars and graveside to honor the dead. Given that calendula can flower into the fall in some climates, it may also be used for this purpose.

So, what are you waiting for? Make plans to add calendula to your garden next year. You will love the many uses for this versatile flower.

Copyright, ©2020 by David Taleisin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Summer Solstice: Let Your Light Shine

summersolsticeLitha or Summer Solstice contains powerful themes that are of interest to Christians and Pagans alike. In fact, I suspect this powerful day in the Northern Hemisphere has been revered ever since human beings began noticing the cycles of nature around them. The term Litha comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase Aerra Litha, which means “before Midsummer.” For many Pagans it is a day with the themes of fertility and fire, since the Goddess is fully pregnant with child and the Sun God is at the height of his power. In earlier times Europeans farmers lit bonfires to mark this day and then spread the ashes over their fields to insure fertility of their crops.

Not surprisingly, the Christian Church appropriated this celebration (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!). They set aside June 24th to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist, calling it St. John’s Day. It is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian Church, dating back to 506 CE. It’s tie-in to the theme of fire can be found in the gospel of John 1:6-9 which talks about the relationship between John and Jesus: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” The light, in this passage, is Jesus who takes the place of the Sun God as the light who “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5)

For both Pagans and Christians this is the perfect time of year to celebrate the gift of life with bonfires, which for any of us have become charcoal and gas grills and fire pits! This weekend is also Father’s Day which means it’s a great day for family get-togethers and picnics. This is definitely resonates with the spirit of Litha.

From a spiritual perspective, the Solstice it’s a good time to meditate on the fertility of body, mind and spirit. It’s a time to capitalize on our strong points and use the gifts and talents the Divine has given each of us to help give birth to a greener, healthier and more peaceful world. The Bible passage that keeps coming to mind when I think about Litha is Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Litha (Summer Solstice) For Introverts

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Litha, or Summer Solstice, is the longest day of the year. This year it occurs on Saturday, June 2oth. It’s the day of the year when the sun is at its full life-giving power. Many feel vibrant and alive this time of year. I’m not one of them! 90 degrees is not my anointed temperature. I sweat like crazy and have to slow down my activities quite a bit. My brain also feels a little foggy. Therefore when the sun is at its full power, I am not. I’m one of those weird people who feels more alive and creative in January than I do in July. Perhaps that’s because I’m an introvert and January is definitely a more introverted month than July.

If you’re like me and don’t feel like lots of merriment this Litha, it’s a good time to reflect on the significance of this turning point in the wheel of the year. Wait for the cool of the evening if that’s possible. Light some candles. Pick an incense with a floral or citrus scent. Have a nice glass of wine or other relaxing beverage. Then take time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished since Yule. Have the seeds of ideas and projects you planted during the first part of the year been able to grow? If not, is there anything you can do to help them germinate during this time of the year that is focused on the greening of the earth?

The second part of your reflection should include the observation that June 21st begins the “long dying of the year” as each day gets shorter and shorter. It’s the time to begin thinking of the things you need to let go of: emotional weights that are preventing you from moving forward, project that just aren’t going to happen, etc. For me, this is not a morose activity.  t is very life-giving as we lighten our load so we can move more joyfully and freely in the world.

So, that’s my Litha celebration for introverts. I’m looking forward to a quiet evening and if that’s your thing as well, I wish you a calm and cool evening!  Blessed be!

Copyright ©2020 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Strawberry Runners: We Are All Connected

This past full moon, Byron Ballard, led a powerful ritual that was streamed live on Mother Grove Goddess Temple’s Facebook page. (You can still view it on their page so check it out!) The main focal point in her guided imagery exercise was to examine closely the strawberry plant and how they grow.

Did you know that cultivated strawberries send out runners as a means of propagating themselves? These runners are called “stolons,” from the Latin word “stolo” meaning a shoot, branch, or twig springing from the root. A cloned plant is grown at the end of the stolon and then the new plant puts its own roots into the soil, while remaining connected to the mother plant.

This is a beautiful way for us to visualize what community looks like! In these days where we are battling both a virus and systemic racism, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. However, each of us can send a “runner” out to someone who needs our support. Take time this week to make a mental inventory of your gifts and abilities, your responsibilities and time constraints. Then, with the help of the Divines, discern a path forward. Where can you do the most good with what you’ve been given? How can you make a difference and advance the cause of justice and dignity for all people?

The Tower is falling and all the evil and corruption that exists in our world economic and social systems has been laid bare of all of us to see. The only question remains is “What are we, personally, going to do about it?” Blessings to all of you in these difficult times. We can change the world for the better! I know we can!

Copyright ©2020, David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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