September Full Corn Moon

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According to the Farmer’s Almanac the September Full Moon, Sept. 20, is called the Full Corn Moon by many Native American tribes because it traditionally corresponds with the time of the harvesting moon. Other tribes call it the Barley Moon for the same reason. Living in the mountains of North Carolina, however, the corn harvest is long gone but there are many things that are being harvested including apples, squash, gourds and pumpkins.

No matter where you live, the energy of this moon corresponds to harvesting. It’s a good time to reflect on what is ready to be harvested in our lives. What project can be completed with just a little effort? What relationship can be nurtured with a little more time and attention? What idea has been rolling around in our brains that come to fruition if we focus our energies on it?

These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves this full moon. and as we soak in its powerful energy, perhaps, we’ll find the energy and motivation to manifest something good in our lives and in our world. Blessed be!

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

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Seasons of a Magical Life: Book Review

Byron Ballard lives and breathes Appalachian culture and magic. Her roots in this region run very deep with many generations of her ancestors calling this land home. She pours her depth of knowledge and experience into what may well be her finest book to date. Seasons of a Magical Life takes us on a journey through the Wheel of the Year. Byron expertly weaves stories, history, magic,herbalism, gardening, seasonal activities and humor into a rich stew that you will want to savor slowly and enjoy every bite.

The first part of the book is a series of essays that set the stage for what comes next. Then Byron takes us through the Wheel of the Year starting with Samhain and ending with Mabon (the fall equinox). The framework which holds it all together is not only the Wheel of the Year but also her journaling which occurred over the span of a year as she spent time in her garden which is located at a remote cabin she calls her “small forest farm.” It is, indeed, a magical and mystic location that is full of awe and wonder (and a lot of hard work). Her enthusiasm for it is contagious, and it’s the perfect literary device for exploring all the themes attached to each spoke on the Wheel of the Year.

The other thing Byron does really well is reference Christian history and spiritual practice throughout the book. This, of course, is of particular interest to me and to the readers of this blog. She does this with great ease and challenges us to look at the ways we’re tied together rather than focusing on the things that make us different. This definitely sets her apart from other authors. It’s also the reason why she and this Christo-Pagan have forged such a deep friendship. We need more people like Byron in both the Pagan and Christian communities!

I don’t want to spoil the joy of discovery that awaits the reader of this book so I’ll end my review here. If you are not familiar with Byron’s writings, what are you waiting for? She’s the real deal and walks a spiritual path that many of us who know her personally love and admire. It doesn’t matter whether you’re new to earth based spirituality or you’ve walked a Pagan path for decades. Everyone will find something in Seasons of a Magical Life that will make their spiritual practice sparkle. I highly recommend it!

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

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Reaping an Abundant Spiritual Harvest Ritual

Here is a small group ritual (socially distanced, of course) that can be done as we move toward Mabon/The Fall Equinox. If you are a solitary practitioner, simply change the pronouns to singular. Please feel free to adapt this in order to bring it more in line with your spiritual path/practice.

REAPING AN ABUNDANT SPIRITUAL HARVEST

MABON INCENSE—Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials: Mabon

Pinch dried marigold/calendula
Pinch dried spearmint
Pinch dried sage
2 to 3 cloves or a small pinch of ground clove

Mix together and store in a jar in a cool, dry place. Use a pinch of it on a charcoal briquet as we journey toward Mabon.

CASTING THE CIRCLE
Incense all four directions with the following chant. Use a feather or feather wand to waft the smoke in each direction.

May the harvest be plentiful in our lives
That we may be agents of change and transformation
In our community and in our nation.

CALLING THE QUARTERS—David Taliesin

Guardians and Ancestors of the East, Spirits of Air, keepers of wisdom and mystery, whisper into our ears all that we need to know. May the cool fall breezes that rustle the leaves beneath our feet point us in the direction we need to go. Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the South, Spirits of Fire, purifiers of heart and mind, burn away the clutter and confusion from our lives so that we may have absolute clarity regarding your will for our lives. May the bonfires of fall that give us light and warmth, bring comfort to our weary souls tonight. Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the West, Spirits of Water, vessels of peace and compassion, may our thirst for justice and equality be quenched. May the fall rains which nourish the roots of the trees, give strength to the dreams you have planted in us. Hail and welcome!

Guardians and Ancestors of the North, Spirits of Earth, stewards of hearth and home, gather around us the community we need to make us feel safe and loved. As the fall harvest continues, we ask you to bring about a harvest of good things into our lives, Hail and welcome!

As we draw closer to Mabon, the Fall Equinox, things come into balance, day and night, light and dark, God and Goddess. As we journey into the dark time of the year, May the Divine bring balance into our lives and into this Circle. We are honored by your presence and draw strength from you.

Hail Demeter and Lugh, Mabon and Osiris.
Hail Parvati and Tammuz, Pomona and Dagon,
Hail all harvest gods and goddesses
Who see us into the dark half of the year,
We bid you welcome!

The Circle is cast. We are in protected space.
May we use this time to gather what we need
For the journeys which lie ahead. Blessed be!

MEDITATION ON BALANCE [Mabon Activity Sheet and then discuss if in a small group]

CLOSING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

We ask the Divine Presence, who is known to us by many names, to help us find balance in our lives May the Fall Equinox inspire to to take the steps necessary to accomplish this task. We also thank the Divine Presence  for the wisdom and insight we have received tonight. Blessed be!

We turn to the North and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Earth keep us grounded in the days ahead and surround us with people who make us feel safe and loved. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

We turn to the West and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Water calm our fears, and increase our ability to be compassionate to the struggles of others. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

We turn to the South and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Fire give us the energy and motivation we need to accomplish the goals we have set tonight. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

We turn to the East and give thanks for the Guardians and Ancestors who dwell there. May the Spirits of Air blow through our lives, filling them with magic and mystery. Stay if you will, go if you must. We bid you farewell!

Our Circle is now 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 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Oktoberfest, Rally Day and Mabon

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Hofbräuhaus Hall Oktoberfest in Munich

Several years ago, while I was on vacation in Munich, I got the opportunity to attend the city’s infamous Oktoberfest. The best way I can describe it is a county fair on steroids! There are amusement rides for the kids, booths selling all kinds of yummy foods and trinkets and, of course, the beer halls. These halls are enormous and can seat thousands of people. I had lunch in the hall sponsored by the Hofbräuhaus which is one of Munich’s oldest breweries. The place was decorated with hops from floor to ceiling. Beer flowed freely, the band played traditional German music, the food was incredible, and there was lots of singing and celebrating. Oktoberfest is a celebration of life in all its exuberance. It’s a time to give thanks and enjoy the company of family and friends. A German friend of mine remarked that Oktoberfest and the Christmas Markets are the two times of the year Germans give themselves permission to set aside the formalities of their culture and really let their hair down. Trust me, they know how to throw a party.

No matter what culture we are a part of, there is something about this time of year that calls us to come together as a tribe and give thanks. Perhaps, it’s because in older times the harvest was mostly completed and the hard work of farming was coming to an end. It was a time to preserve and store food for the hard winter months ahead as well as give thanks to the Divine for the bounty of the land. Unfortunately, this year we’re going to have to get creative due to the coronavirus. Large gatherings are not even a remote possibility. They even cancelled Oktoberfest in Munich so you know these are dangerous time we live in.  Hopefully, we can all find a way to observe this changing of seasons even if it is on a smaller scale than usual.

Historically, both Christians and Pagans have their own forms of some kind of fall ritual observance.  Many Southern Churches where I live celebrate something called Rally Day.  It’s usually held the first or second weekend after Labor Day and is a time when most churches kick their activities into full gear. Sunday School resumes after a summer break and attendance goes up in worship because vacation time is over. Many churches have a Pot Luck lunch on Rally Day or a special time for celebrating and catching up with friends. It’s the antiseptic version of Oktoberfest that has been filtered through our American Puritan heritage. It also has its roots in our Pagan past as is reflected in a familiar hymn of the season:

Come ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home:
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied:
Come, to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

Harvest Home, which is also called the Ingathering, is a traditional English harvest festival that has been celebrated for thousands of years. Like Oktoberfest, it’s a time of singing, dancing and decorating the town with symbols of the harvest. My Wiccan friends call this festival Mabon which is named after the Welsh God, Mabon, the son of Earth Mother goddess Modron.  They mark the holiday with feasting and enjoying seasonal foods like apples, pomegranates and root vegetables. From a spiritual perspective, Mabon is a time to reflect on the previous year, giving thanks for our successes (i.e. the things we have harvested) and assess which crops, projects, or dreams didn’t come to fruition. It’s a time to let go of that which no longer serves a useful purpose in our lives, so that we create space for something new to grow.

There is tons of information available on the origins and celebration of Mabon, so I won’t repeat it here.  What interests me the most is how the Fall Equinox calls us all to give thanks and celebrate, no matter what our culture or spiritual path. It’s one of the times of the year when nature’s message to us appears to be heard and received by all.

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

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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 (Sunday, August 22) 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 Sunday 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 ©2021 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Lessons Learned During the Pandemic: Simplicity

Today, on the eve of the celebration of Lammas/Lughnasadh, I spent the day in the garden and in the kitchen. I harvested herbs, flowers and fruit which where then prepared for drying or infused in oil/alcohol on their way to becoming ingredients for homemade soap or tinctures. I also brewed a batch of blackberry elderberry mead which is now happily bubbling on my kitchen counter (a sign that formation is, indeed, taking place).

During this time I left social media behind and was fully focused on the tasks at hand. By the time I sat down to eat supper, I felt so relaxed and content. This reminded me that one of the lessons I learned during the pandemic was the power of choosing to live a simpler life than I did before the coronavirus forced us to “shelter in place.”

Last summer, while on lockdown, my husband and I tore up part of our front lawn and built a raised bed for vegetables. It was an experiment in urban farming and we quickly learned what grew well in that spot (green beans) and what did not (cucumbers). We also grew lots of tomatoes in big pots that we placed in a sunny spot near the garage. Much to our surprise and delight, we had a good harvest and enjoyed our “yard to table” lifestyle.

This year, we increased what we planted and applied the lessons we learned last year. Not surprisingly, we had an even bigger yield which we transformed into sweet pickles, spaghetti sauce, fried green tomatoes and lots of pots of beans for supper. I have no doubt this is the “new normal” for both of us. We’ve found great joy in a simpler lifestyle that includes less eating out and more eating in. I don’t think this would have happened without the pandemic. It is one of the hidden blessings that has come out of this difficult time in the life of our planet.

Blessed Lammas! David T

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

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Harvest Festivals

HARVEST FESTIVALS
Compiled by Tree Higgins and David Taliesin

Harvest festivals have been with us since the earliest of times. The basic theme for these festivals is 1) giving thanks and 2) reflecting on the sacrifices necessary for us to survive the coming winter months.

In modern times, the first harvest festival is Lammas or Lughnasadh. Contrary to what you’ve read on the internet, they are NOT the same festival.

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. It celebrates the first fruits of corn, wheat and barley. The main food for this festival is bread in one form or another.

Lughnasadh is Gaelic for the modern Irish word “Lunasa,” meaning August. In ancient times the Sun God Lugh was honored.

Green Corn Festival is an annual ceremony practiced among various Native American peoples including the Cherokee. It is associated with the beginning of the yearly corn harvest. Historically, it involved a first fruits rite in which the community would sacrifice the first of the green corn to ensure the rest of the crop would be successful. The Green Corn Ceremony typically occurs in late July–August, determined locally by the ripening of the corn crops.

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The second harvest festival is known in modern times as Mabon. In early times it was simply referred to as the Fall or Autumnal Equinox. It is the day when light and darkness are in balance with one another.

Mabon is a modern term coined by Aiden Kelly. It’s a reconstructed celebration that incorporates many of the old ways of celebrating the Autumnal Equinox.

Michaelmas was first celebrated in 1011. Named for the archangel Michael (protector), Sept 29, became a harvest festival and a time of taking stock, hiring help an settling debts. Around Michaelmas families decided which animals to keep through the winter and how many to sell or slaughter. Intended to replace Harvest Home, Michaelmas marked the point near the end of the reaping season and concluded with a dinner for landowners and tenants. These dinners gave landlords an opportunity to collect their seasonal rents.

Harvest Home is the English name for the harvest festival that occurred near the Fall Equinox throughout Europe. Some ancient Pagans also referred to this time as the Ingathering. Many of these traditions came from old Pagan fertility rituals; over time the ruling church dedicated the rituals to Christian saints instead of the original Pagan gods.
Other adaptations of the Harvest Festival are Oktoberfest in Germany and Rally Day in Southern Christian churches. You will see elements of the old celebrations reflected in each.

The Christian hymn known as “Harvest Home” or “Come, You Thankful People, Come” reflects the themes of the harvest in a way that may sound surprisingly Pagan! Here are the first two verses:

Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come; raise the song of harvest home!

We ourselves are God’s own field, fruit unto his praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown;
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Grant, O harvest Lord, that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

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The third harvest festival is Samhain, which also includes other elements such as divination and communication with the other side. Christians adapted this festival and transformed it into All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day.

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Harvest Festival Symbols

Corn dollies—The word “corn” in Europe referred to all kinds of grain, not just the maize crops familiar to North America. Because of this, the term “corn dolly,” meant a figure fashioned form grain—usually wheat, but rye, millet, oats, and even maize also suited the purpose. There is evidence that this tradition does not originate in Europe, but came from ancient Egypt.

Cornucopia/Horn of Plenty—In classical antiquity, the cornucopia was a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers or nuts. he cornucopia became the attribute of several Greek and Roman deities, particularly those associated with the harvest, prosperity, or spiritual abundance. In modern times it is associated with Thanksgiving and harvest.

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Lughnasadh/Lammas: August 1st

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

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Honoring a Dead Hawk

Some Native Americans call this majestic bird Cetan-luta. Us Anglos who live in the Appalachian mountains call them red-tailed hawks. We had one who was the spiritual guardian of our church. I would sometimes see him perching on top of the cross on the spire of our building, or flying from treetop to treetop among the poplars and pines that grow on the mountain behind our church. Today, we lost our friend.

After worship this morning, one of my parishioners pulled me aside and quietly guided me to what was left of the body of a red-tailed hawk. He/she had obviously been eaten by a predator, but there is no way to tell whether he/she died first or was somehow caught by the predator. At least his/her body fed another living animal so it did not go to waste.

I had to leave church quickly but as I was driving away I thought about how I could honor our fallen comrade. In the midst of a number of options that ran through my head, a single, clear voice asked me “What would you do for a human who died?” The answer was obvious. I would bury this beautiful creature and say some prayers honoring his/her life. It was clear the Spirit has given me the direction I sought.

So this afternoon I donned some plastic disposable gloves, grabbed a shovel and carried the bird to the top of the hill that overlooks our church building. I let the Spirit guide me to the perfect spot and found some nice level ground that was nestled between a few trees. I dug a hole and buried our friend, placing a log I found nearby on top of his/her grave. I said my prayers of thanks as I lit a little homegrown sage and covered the grave with sacred smoke.

Then I went back to the church and circled it with the same same sacred smoke, saying the following prayer repeatedly, “Thank you for being our guardian. May you rest in peace.”
As I write this blog there are tears welling up in my eyes. My grief is deep. Red-tailed hawks have always been one of my favorite birds, along with crows. I feel a connection to these majestic creatures that is unexplainable but nonetheless real. I don’t know if we’ll have another guardian as beautiful as our Cetan-luta. But, today, I honored the gift that was given to our faith community in the presence of this hawk.

(In case you’re wondering I DID NOT take any of this bird’s feathers with me. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to possess them. Plus it simply didn’t feel right to do such a thing to our guardian and friend.)

Blessings, David T

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

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Lavender: The Great Nard Controversy

lavenderIt is common knowledge that lavender is an herb which promotes relaxation, emotional balance and serenity. But things start to get heated when the question is asked as to whether lavender is the same thing as “spikenard” or “nard” that is found in the Bible. I believe they are two different herbs. Here’s why:

Lavender (genus Lavandula) is named from the Latin “lavare,” which means “to wash.” Ancient Romans used lavender in their famous baths as a perfume. People knew you were clean because you smelled of it afterward! The confusion begins to arise because the Greeks called lavender “nardus,” referring to the city Naarda, where lavender was often sold. Many simply called the plant “nard.” However, the Romans called lavender “asarum,” because they believed the poisonous asp viper lived among lavender bushes.

Spikenard (nardostachys jatamansi) is a flowering plant of the Valerian family that grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China and India. It is the more valuable of the two because lavender (lavandula stoechas which we now call French or Spanish lavender) was grown locally as well as regionally. Spikenard had to be imported from a great distance, hence its value. All of the scientific and biological resources I checked all agree these are two different herbs. The confusion probably comes from the Greek’s calling lavender “nardus.”

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s all inhale a little lavender oil and relax! This noble herb has been used for over 2,500 years, starting with the ancient Egyptians who used it as a part of the mummification process and also as a perfume. It’s use was also widespread among the Arabs, Romans and Greeks. Modern Wiccans believe its magical properties include sleep, long life, peace, wishes, protection, love, purification, visions and clarity of thought. Christians of earlier times regarded lavender as a safeguard against evil, and hung a cross of lavender over their door for protection.

The most beautiful and holy use of lavender I’ve encountered is at one of our local hospice centers who bathes its dying patients with lavender-scented water. It relaxes the patient as well as their family! What a lovely gift to both!

Copyright © 2021 by sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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