Falling Leaves Meditation

I used this meditation in a class I taught and it worked well for the participants as a way of tuning into the energies of this season and letting them reflect back on our lives.

treemeditation021. Place the image of the tree in your lap or on a table in front of you where you can see it.

2. Sit still and upright, relaxed and alert.

3. Focus on your breathing. With each exhale let your body relax more deeply.

4. When you are ready take a look at the tree. Focus your attention on the TRUNK of the tree. This represents a GOAL you’d like to accomplish in this season of your life. When a goal comes to mind, write it next to the tree trunk. Don’t force a goal to materialize. Spend some time in silence listening to your heart and spirit until it emerges with absolutely clarity.

5. When you have a goal in mind, turn your attention to the LEAVES on the tree. Think about the THINGS YOU NEED TO LET GO OF in order to make room in your life for this goal to be accomplished. This is a time to think about the things that no longer serve a useful purpose in your life. When these things come to mind, write them next to the leaves on the tree. If you have trouble letting go of things, remember that they will become the compost that provides nourishment for the tree. (Some people might find it helpful to close their eyes during this part of the meditation.)

6. Finally, turn your attention to the ROOTS of the tree. Think about the PEOPLE AND RESOURCES you will need to bring into your life in order to accomplish your goal. What kinds of things will feed and nourish your goal as well as yourself? When these things come to mind, write them next to the roots of the tree. (Some people might find it helpful to close their eyes during this part of the meditation.)

7. As a last step, close your eyes and take the image of this tree into your minds’ eye. Sit with it for a while and see if any additional insight arise. If they do, write them down on the page after you open your eyes. Keep this image with you and refer to it on a daily basis until you achieve your goal. Continue to write insights on the leaves and roots as they come to you.

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

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The Herbcrafter’s Tarot

These days there are a zillion tarot decks out there ranging from the traditional Rider-Waite deck to pop-culture, trendy versions such as Star Wars and Game of Thrones. So why review this particular set of tarot cards? Well, if you’ve been following my blog you know that I have a passion for medical herbalism and have studied the subject for several years. I also have a love of tarot cards so this deck immediately caught my attention when I stepped into Asheville Raven & Crone, our local metaphysical bookstore.

Perhaps the biggest strength of The Herbcrafter’s Tarot are the illustrations. WOW! They are breathtakingly beautiful and cover every aspect of an herbalists’ journey, including all the tools we use to make plant medicine. While the plants are those grown in the Pacific Northwest where the author and illustrator reside, most of them are ones I grow and use in the mountains of North Carolina. These are not exotic herbs that can only be found on a mountaintop in Nepal. They are the tools of my trade and it’s nice to see a deck that focuses on plants that grow on our continent.

The second strength of The Herbcrafter’s Tarot is the tremendous amount of thought that went into selecting the herbs for each card. The accompanying booklet contains detailed explanations for each card and will give those who use it plenty of thought regarding the medical and magical uses of these herbs.

I’m not sure yet how much I will use this deck for doing readings. However, it will be a wonderful visual aid for meditation and magical intentions. I’m certain these cards will make regular appearances on my home altar in the future.

So, if you have an interest in herbology, then this deck is for you. I’ve seen other herbal tarot decks before but this one is far superior to anything else I’ve ever seen on the subject. Blessed be!

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

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September Full Moon: Raven Moon

raven-moon

Wingsdomain Art and Photography, http://www.fineartamerica.com

September’s full moon is this coming Friday, September 14 at 12:33 AM ET. Native Americans call it the Harvest Moon if it falls nearest to the Fall Equinox, or Full Corn Moon if the Harvest Moon occurs in October. Some tribes also call it the Barley Moon since barley is usually harvested this time of year. Some witches call it the Raven Moon which is the name that resonates most deeply with my soul. Perhaps you can relate!

This time of year, the figure of a Raven sits on my altar. He stays there until sometime in November. According to Medicine Cards by Jami Sams and David Carson, the Raven is the bringer of magic. “Raven  magic is a powerful medicine that can give you the courage to enter the darkness of the void, which is the home of all that is not yet in form. The void is called the Great Mystery. Great Mystery existed before all other things came into being. Great Spirit lives inside the void and emerged from the Great Mystery. Raven is the messenger of the void.”

While a lot of the themes of September focus on harvesting, it might also be a good time to focus on “all that is not yet in form” as the days grow darker and darker. For me September and October have always been a powerful time to try and connect with the great Wisdom of the Ancestors and the Divine. As we make our way toward the celebration of Samhain, the Veil grows thinner and communication between our world and the Spirit world is at its strongest. Raven energy helps us to connect more strongly with the Other Side in a way I cannot fully explain.  This powerful messenger can be our ally during this time of year.

One way to connect with the Raven this full moon is to place several pictures of ravens on your home altar or buy one of those decorative ones you find at the craft store. Then I suggest you find an mp3 of some Shamanic Drumming. Light some candles and incense. Cast your circle and after you have taken the time to ground yourself and your focus is clear, play one of the starter recordings and focus all your attention on the Raven. As other thoughts occur to you, let them float by without judgment and turn your attention back to the Raven. With this image fixed firmly in your mind you may want to close your eyes, caring the image of the Raven within, and see what message the Raven may have for you. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2019 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.

Both Christians and Pagans have their own forms of this 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 ©2019 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Reaping an Abundant Spiritual Harvest Ritual

Here is the ritual from tonight’s Welcoming Circle:

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]

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 God and Goddess for the wisdom and insight we have received tonight. We thank them for this Circle, and for those who made the choice to join us and create space for holy conversation.
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 ©2019 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. Some 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 ©2019 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 © 2019 by sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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