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 a number of 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 ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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March Full Moon: Worm Moon

The-Worm-Moon

“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 Sunday, March 28th, 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 © 2021 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Ostara Intention Setting Ritual

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Here is the ritual we used at Welcoming Circle (pre-pandemic):

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 ©2021 David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

Posted in Easter, Magic, Meditation, Ostara, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

St. Patrick’s Day: The Great Snake Controversy

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For 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 © 2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Ostara: Balance and Growth

Young plant growing in sunshine

This coming Saturday, 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 © 2021 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! 

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Or 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.

Here’s an article 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 © 2021 by David Taliesin, sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Ostara Seed Bombs

seedbombAt an Ostara celebration I attended several years ago, one of the rituals we did was make seed bombs. [Google it] Participants were given a small plastic baggie into which we scooped a big tablespoonful of red clay dirt that had carrot, radish and kale seeds mixed in it. We watered the dirt with a garden mister and used the bag to form it into a ball. We were then told to let these balls harden for about 24 hours.

Participants were encouraged to toss their ball onto any patch of ground that needed something to grow on it. Suggestions were made such as an abandoned lot, a park, etc. The idea is that once the seeds germinated there would be food produced for animals and humans to eat. I thought it was a creative idea.

Seed bombs could also be used for Earth Day celebrations. I would be inclined to mix native wildflower seeds into the dirt to add a little color to your neighborhood as well as provide a source of pollen for bees and butterflies. It’s a cool idea rich with symbolism and meaning. It’s also a creative way to love our planet. Happy Ostara everyone!

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Prayer for the Dead

Perhaps on this coming full moon, February 27th, we can take a moment and say this beautiful prayer written by a mentor and colleague of mine, Byron Ballard. She says this particular prayer even night at sundown to remember those who have died from COVID-19. Since we passed the 500,000 mark, I hope we can add our voices to hers and pray that the Blessed Dead cross the veil and find their way to a place of peace.

Blessed be! David Taliesin

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February: Cougar Moon

cougarmoon

The February full moon (February 27th) goes by many names such as Cougar Moon, Snow Moon (Native Americans), Moon of the Seer, and Quickening Moon. Typically, winter snows are the heaviest in February and the scarcity of food favors solitary hunters such as the cougar. Feb 27th is a good night to contemplate the energies the Cougar brings into our lives.

According to Jamie Sams and David Carson’s excellent book Medicine Cards, “By observing the graceful pounce of Mountain Lion/Cougar you will learn how to balance power, intention, physical strength, and grace.  This relates, in human terms, to the balance of body, mind, and spirit.” Cougar energy also speaks of the times in our lives when we need to step out as leaders/pioneers without any followers behind us.

So go outside if it’s a clear night. Light a candle inside if it’s not. Then spend some time asking yourself if there are any imbalances in your life at the present moment and strategize what it would take to right them. You might also want to contemplate if the Divine Presence is asking you to have the courage to step out and lead. Is the Cougar calling you to pounce on an opportunity that has been in your field of vision for a while? Only you can answer this question!

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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The Lost Spells: Enchanting Reading

Recently, a friend gave me the most marvelous gift I’ve received in a long time: The Lost Spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. This small, hardbound book is filled with delightful poetry and beautiful illustrations from the natural world.

The Lost Spells is one of those books you will definitely find yourself returning to again and again. It could also be one of those books you leave out for guests to read when they are staying at your house. (And yes, it could also be bathroom reading but I mean that in the best way possible!)

If you’re looking for traditional magic spells, this is not the book for you. (The title is a bit misleading) If you’re looking to be spell-bound and inspired by nature, then this fits the bill quite nicely. There is always power and creativity to be harnessed as we give nature our full attention. The Lost Spells may help you to attune yourself more to some of the animals and plants that live inhabit the world around us.

A book like this is meant to be experienced rather than simply read. If you’re looking for something to perk you up during this pandemic, The Lost Spells will definitely do the trick.

Copyright ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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