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

Posted in Herbology, Litha, Magic, Midsummer | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Litha, Liturgical Calendar, Midsummer, Wheel of the Year | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Litha (Summer Solstice) For Introverts

shy-speaker

Litha, or Summer Solstice, is the longest day of the year. This year it occurs on Friday, June 21st. 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 ©2019 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

Posted in Litha, Midsummer, Wheel of the Year | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Wand of Moses?

moseswand

Moses getting water from a rock. Duomo Cathedral, Milan ©2019 by David Taliesin

While I was in Milan, a panel on the outside of the Duomo caught my eye. It looked as if the person in the picture was wielding a wand. I captured the image and did some research when I returned home. It is, indeed, the story of Moses striking a rock in the desert from which water miraculously began to flow. This is mentioned in the Torah in Exodus 1:1-7 and Numbers 20:9-11:

So Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he had commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. [NRSV]

Now realize the English translation above says it was a “staff.” It’s the same staff that Moses used to perform other miracles while the Israelites were in Egypt. However, the Hebrew word used here can also be understood as a “rod” used for chastising, a “scepter” used by a king or queen, a “lance” that is thrown, or a walking “staff.” It would appear the length varies. Some are short, some are long.

The use of a shorter staff or wand by Moses is not only seen on the Duomo, it appears in other images of Moses as well such as the photo below from the Catacomb of St. Callixtus, Rome:

mosesrock02

This looks more like an elongated wand due to the way he holds it. One would probably wield a staff differently.

Not surprisingly, the wand also appears in ancient Egyptian art as well. We see examples of this in the Tomb of Sennefer in Luxor:

sennifer01

Priest holding a scepter, Tomb of Sennefer, Luxor

sennifer02

Priests holding serpent staffs. Tomb of Sennufer. © Scott Noegel

Acts 7:22 says that “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.” [NRSV] Perhaps we can infer from this that Moses was taught the spiritual/magical practices of the Egyptian priests. Therefore, a shorter staff is not out of the question.

Now, I know there are some of you out there who probably think I’m crazy for even proposing this idea. But Google “Christ the Magician” and you will see similar wands in the hands of both Jesus and Peter! Early Christians seemed to have no problem with this portrayal of their Biblical heroes. Then why should we?

In my own spiritual practice I don’t often use a wand. But when I do, I understand it to be a focusing device, an extension of my arm through which power flows. I do not believe it has any power on it’s own (forget all the Harry Potter BS you’ve seen in the movies). It is a conduit through which I can direct both Divine and Earth energy toward it’s intended purposes. I can do the same thing with my hands or a crystal but, sometimes, it just feels like the wand is the right tool to get the job done.

So, I have no problem with the notion of Moses using a shorter wand instead of a staff. Some early Christians had no problem with it either. The Torah tells us that Moses understood his staff/wand to be an instrument through which the power of YHWH could be directed. It had no super powers in and of itself, and that really resonates with my understand of this tool’s function.

If your beliefs are different from what I’ve posted, I totally respect that. If you need Moses to yield a staff like Charlton Heston, I’m good with that, too. I share this information as a way to connect some dots that I don’t see to many other people connecting. But that’s my job with Sabbats and Sabbaths, as I explore the connections between Pagan and Judeo-Christian spirituality.

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

Posted in Magic | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sharks Teeth Meditation

shark-teeth-2Last summer I was at the beach toward the end of a tropical storm. The guy who took my bags to my hotel room told me it was a good time to look for fossilized sharks teeth, so that’s what I did the next morning after the rain had stopped and the winds died down.

Unlike sea shells, which are much easier to spot, sharks teeth require a little more effort and patience. They are small and black and everyone who was on the beach looking for them has their own secret method for increasing their odds of finding them. Thankfully, everyone was willing to share their secret if you struck up a conversation with them!

The method that worked best for me was to go on the beach after high tide as the waves were receding. They are easier to spot as the waves are pulling back and you’re standing where the waves meet the shore. After I found my first tooth, I was hooked and spent part of every day of my vacation looking for these elusive fossils that are at least 10,000 years ago.

I turned the whole thing into a meditation exercise where I kept my focus on the shallow water, looking for these small black triangles to reveal themselves. I let go of any other thoughts that would drift through my mind and kept coming back to looking for the teeth.

After doing this for a while, I realized this was a great meditation exercise to train your brain to focus on your intended goal. If you are a practitioner of magic, focus is the most important tool you bring to your work. You can have all the props in the world to cast a spell, but if you cannot focus on what you’re trying to achieve, your magic will be ineffective.

So, next time you find yourself at the beach, give this meditation exercise a try. The added bonus is that you end up with a handful of ancient fossils you can use in your practice of the Craft. I keep them on my ancestor altar. Blessed be!

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

Posted in Magic, Meditation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

June Full Moon: Strawberry Moon

strawberry-moon-squareAccording to the Farmer’s Almanac, the June full moon, which occurs this coming Monday, June 17, is known as the Strawberry Moon. (Other names for this moon include the Rose Moon and Hot Moon.) The Algonquin tribes knew this Moon as a time to gather ripening strawberries. Since strawberries are such a sensual fruit perhaps we can use this full moon to do a little self-care. Keep the night simple. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage or decadent dessert. Sit under the full moon in a comfortable chair and soak up her powerful energy. Spend time grounding and letting go of any anxieties and worries you are carrying. When you feel like you’re in a place of complete calm, have that lovely glass of wine or hard cider you brought with you and savor every sip. Eat a piece of pie or cake but do it slowly and appreciate each sensuous bite. In light of the ridiculous and disastrous decisions that keep coming out of Washington DC on a daily basis, along with whatever challenges we are dealing with in our personal lives, we all need time to rest and recharge our spiritual batteries. Take good care of yourselves, friends so that we may be the warriors of justice and compassion our world needs us to be! Blessed be!

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

Posted in Esbats | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

May Full Moon: Flower Moon

flower_moon_0

Native Americans named May’s full moon (which occurs on Saturday, May 18) the Flower Moon for obvious reasons. May is the month when everything is coming into full bloom and there are flowers popping up everywhere. It’s a time for us to focus on spiritual growth where the seeds we planted on Imbolc have germinated and are well on their way to maturity. You may want to take some time this full moon to reflect on projects and activities that need a little TLC in order to come to full fruition.

It is also called the Mother’s Moon, Corn-Planting Moon and Milk Moon (from the Old Anglo-Saxon). All of these make sense since May is a time of increasing fertility, both in the animal and plant world. Some also say May’s full moon is also a “blue moon” but, technically this is a bit of a misnomer. A “blue moon” is commonly defined as the second full moon to occur within a single calendar month. This is the way I’ve always understood it. But, apparently, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, the original definition of a “blue moon” was the third of four full moons to occur within one astronomical season. Personally, I think this muddies the water so I do not consider May’s full moon to be a “blue moon.” (And PLEASE squash any silly rumors that it will be blue in color!)

If the weather is good and you have a fire pit, it’s a good night to light a bonfire in the spirit of Beltane which occurred May 1st. If you have some dried yarrow, throw a little bit of it in the flames for courage (or use other courage herbs if you don’t have yarrow) and ask your Divines for the strength to be a force of change and transformation in the world around you. Let the energy of that moon plant fertile seeds of change in your life. Blessed be!

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

Posted in Esbats, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment