Beltane Chant – Doreen Valiente

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The images in this classic chant are gorgeous and appeal to both Pagans and Christians alike.  I wish you a joyous celebration of Beltane!

Beltane Chant

Friends that in the circle stand,
Heart to heart and hand to hand,
Bringing Beltane to the land,
Let the sleeper awake!

Let the flames of Beltane burn,
May the Old Ones now return,
May we of their magick learn,
Let the sleeper awake!

Let the streams and fields be pure,
Earth and sky be clean once more,
Love and laughter long endure,
Let the sleeper awake!

Forests spreading, peace returning,
Where the Pagan fires are burning,
Now the inner light discerning,
Let the sleeper awake!

May the Lady’s touch again,
Rest upon the barren plain,
With the sunshine and the rain,
Let the sleeper awake!

Beltane magick here we sing,
Chant the rune and dance the ring,
Joy and blessing shall it bring,
Let the sleeper awake!

[Doreen Valiente’s Spring Rite from 1971]

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Walpurgisnacht: Origins and Celebrations

In honor of my German heritage, I did some research in order to better understand the origin of the Teutonic version of the Celtic holiday, Beltane. Not surprisingly, there is some conflicting information on the internet regarding this subject so I kept pursuing it until a clearer vision of Walpurgisnacht emerged. The most helpful site on this subject was http://www.friggasweb.org/walburga.html. Here’s my theory on the origin and development of this May fertility festival.

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Modern celebration of Walpirgisnacht

According to Llewellyn’s Beltane: Rituals, Recipes and Lore for May Day, “the earliest mention of Walpurgis Night is found in a 1603 edition of a text called Calendarium Perpetuum by Johann Coler, but the holiday likely has earlier origins.” I have no doubt this is true and the best info I can put together is that the night of April 30th was a night when witches (wise women, healers, etc) gathered on the mountaintops in Germany to light sacred bonfires, dance and cast spells in order to drive away the spirits of winter and welcome the arrival of spring. These ancient rituals have their roots in the worship of fertility goddesses such as Nehalennia and also have ties to the theme of the Wild Hunt. I believe these rituals were seen as a positive thing by the villagers who were sick and tired of winter and welcomed the help of the Wise Ones to banish the cold and snowy weather.

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Icon of St. Walburga with grain shock

Opinions toward this ancient pagan festival began to shift with the arrival of Christianity in Germany. Walpurga (a.ka. Walburga,  Waluburg, Waelburga, Wealdburg, and Valderburger) was an 8th century abbess who came from England with St. Boniface in order to convert the German “heathens” to Christianity. As is often the case, they tried to Christianize this festival while demonizing some of the old rituals connected to it.  Apparently they succeeded because eventually Walpurgisnacht (Walpurgis’ Night) was viewed as a time when witches meet on the Brocken mountain to cavort with the Devil. (Sigh!) Meanwhile the “good Christians,” believing it was dangerous to be outside on this night, lit fires and danced wildly in order to deter the witches from coming too close to them or their homes. Another beautiful Pagan ritual ruined!

The interesting thing, however, is that some of the attributes of the Pagan goddess became grafted onto Walpurga after she was canonized as a saint on May 1st around the year 870 CE. We see this same pattern with St. Brigid in Ireland (see my posts on Imbolc). Walpurga’s symbols, as shown in the oldest stone carvings in her chapels, are a dog and a bundle of grain. The dog has often accompanied the goddess in early art including the regional incarnation of the goddess, Nehalennia, who is also pictured with a dog on her altars and votive sites. The shock of grain hearkens back to the Grain Mother and all the old fertility rites of spring.

I think the reason why this happened is because some of the Old Ways of celebrating this holy day never went out of fashion among locals.  Attaching these ancient symbols to the St. Walpurga were an attempt to make it easier for them to convert to Christianity. Thankfully, the Old Ways survived and modern Germanic Heathens celebrate Walpurgisnacht with bonfires on mountaintops, feasting, dancing, and a toast to the god Wotan (Odin) and the goddesses of magic. Some modern fireside rituals also include purification rites, thus reincarnating the way this holy day was originally celebrated.

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Walpurgisnacht video by Faun

If you haven’t seen it, there is an amazing music video by the German band Faun entitled Walpurgisnacht. You can easily find it on YouTube. The imagery is absolutely stunning in its stylistic portrayal of Walpurgisnacht. There are several English translations of the lyrics online but here’s my attempt at it using the English translations of others, my limited understanding of the German language, and my heart as a poet:

Walpurgisnacht by Faun

In the evening sky tonight climb the enchanted ones,
Wild folk and Lilith’s kind lurking, secretly riding the winds.

Let us wander to the bonfires, whispering, reaching for the stars.
Both the good and bad news we carry today will fly away.

In the meadows our dreams will ring and the wind will sing our songs.
Let us jump with the sparks over the fire on Walpurgis Night!

Hear the fiddles, hear the fiddles, the fires are kindled!
Follow the circle dance, follow the circle dance on Walpurgis Night.

Boisterously the fiddles play. Our nocturnal circle dance is spinning,
And we step wildly and freely with this old magic.

Only once in this great circle will we dance in this way,
Until the early morning light breaks through our web of dreams.

In the meadows our dreams will ring and the wind will sing our songs.
Let us jump with the sparks over the fire on Walpurgis Night!

Copyright ©2018 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Seed Planting and Intention Setting Ritual

Here is our spring ritual from last night’s Welcoming Circle:

SPRING RITUAL

CASTING THE CIRCLE—David Taliesin

Light the green candle and say:

Ostara and Easter are behind us,
But 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 ©2018 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Coyolxauhqui: Aztec Moon Goddess

Coyolxauhqui may be a goddess you are not familiar with. Most Pagans I know are drawn to lots of European deities as well as those from Greek and Egyptian mythology. However, the legends from Central America are often overlooked. I have been fortunate enough to tour a number of Aztec and Mayan ruins on my trips to Mexico and fell in love with the art and stories of these amazing ancient cultures. In this post I’d like to introduce you to Coyolxauhqui ((koh-yol-SHAUH-key) who is the moon goddess of the Aztecs.

There are two versions of her story. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the first version depicts Coyolxauhqui as the mother of Huitzilopochtli, the sun god. A conflict arises when Coyolxauhqui insists on staying at the sacred mountain of Coatepec (Snake Mountain) instead of following her son’s plan of resettling at Tenochtitlan which, historically, became the capital of the Aztec empire. Huitzilopochtli got his way by decapitating her and eating her heart. Then he led the Aztec people to their new home.

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Coyolxauhqui Stone, ca. 1469 Museo del Templo Mayor, Mexico City

This version is NOT my favorite the two. Some scholars see it as a legend of warning to the enemies of the Aztecs who often suffered the same fate if they were captured. The Coyolxauhqui Stone, which was discovered in 1978 at the Templo Mayor (main temple) in Tenochtitlan, is one of the most well-known art images we have this this goddess. She is depicted on the stone as decapitated and torn from limb to limb. Some Chicana feminist writers have tried to redeem this image as a symbol of the struggle of women against both colonialism and male patriarchy.

The second version of the story is the one that I find to be the more powerful of the two. You will find many variations of this tale online but this is the way I like to tell it: One day
Coatlicue, the earth goddess, was sweeping the floor of the temple on Coatepec (Snake Mountain), when a tuft of feathers fell from the sky. She tucked them into her belt and later discovered that they had disappeared. She also discovered that she was mysteriously pregnant.

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Coyolxauhqui Statue, J Paul Getty Museum, photo by  Jonathan Cardy 

Her daughter Coyolxauhqui felt dishonored by the pregnancy so she hatched a plot along with her 400 brothers, to kill their mother. However, this was not to be. The child Coatlicue was carrying was none other than Huitzilopochtli, the sun god. When Coatlicue was about to meet her demise Huitzilopochtli was born as a full grown man. He was armed and ready for battle and decapitated Coyolxauhqui. Her body tumbled down to the base of the temple and was broken into pieces.

Coatlicue regretted such violence. So Huitzilopochtli threw Coyolxauhqui’s head into the sky to form the Moon so that his mother would be comforted in seeing her daughter in the sky every night. Huitzilopochtli also attacked his 400 brothers. Those who survived became the Southern stars in the sky.

In this version of the legend we see several powerful themes emerge. The first is the triumph of the sun over the moon and stars which is a common theme in Aztec and Mayan mythology. It’s seen as a daily struggle where the sun god is reborn every day. Stories similar to this appear in many ancient cultures. I see it as the story of the Wheel of the Year where both day and night have their place and purpose in the great cosmic dance. Darkness and light, feminine and masculine, goddess and god, each one is a gift and a blessing to all of us. When they are out of balance, we all suffer.

The second theme that emerges for me is a story of transformation and rebirth. Coyolxauhqui was literally torn apart. She was broken and defeated. However, her rebirth came as she ascended into the sky and became the moon goddess. The cycles she travels from new moon to full moon and back again, speak to us of fertility, rebirth and regeneration. When I see a picture of the Coyolxauhqui Stone, it reminds me that there is always hope. We may feel like we’ve been broken and torn apart by oppressive powers and people, but this incarnation of the Divine Feminine reminds us that we can rise from death to new life. We can be recreated and make the journey from brokenness to whole. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2018 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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Blue Moon: Mar 31

Full-Moon

When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have established; what are human beings that You are mindful of them, mortals that You care for them?  [Psalm 8:3, NRSV]

The night of March 31st is the second blue moon we’ve had this year. (The first one was January 31st and we won’t see another one until 2020!) This does not mean that the moon will appear with a blue hue.  That’s another phenomenon altogether which is caused by volcanic eruptions or an exceptionally large fire.  The kind of blue moon I’m talking about is when there are two full moons in one month.  The second is known as a blue moon.

There are a lot of opinions regarding what we should do when a blue moon occurs.  Some treat is just like any other full moon and take advantage of its ritual power.  Others see it as a special gift that should be used for special purposes.  A number of those who fall in the second camp see it as a time to write down the goals we wish to accomplish during the remainder of the year.  Since this blue moon falls in March, which is a time for seed planting and germination, it might be a good time to reflect on what dreams and goals we would like to plant in the soil of our lives during this season of growth and new beginnings.

As I was thinking about what ritual I wanted to create for this blue moon, the words from the above Psalm came to mind. I picture the Psalmist staring at the heavens with the full moon shining luminously upon him/her. This sight inspires him/her to ponder one of life’s greatest mysteries: The Divine Presence who created everything the Psalmist sees also draws near and pays attention to him/her. If that’s not a humbling and powerful experience, I don’t know what is!

So, this blue moon, I’m going to ponder the same mystery the Psalmist did.  I’m going to go outside and sit in silence, taking in the majesty and power of the blue moon. I will create space for the Divine Presence to speak and to inspire me regarding the magical work I need to be doing for the remainder of the year. When my vision feels clear, I will write down these goals along with what steps I need to take in order to accomplish them. Then I’ll celebrate the occasion by dancing under the light of the blue moon (if no one’s watching!) and sing a song praise and gratitude to the Great Mystery whose presence is known to us in so many varied and wonderful ways! Blessed be and Amen!

Copyright ©2018 by sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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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 two 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 ©2018 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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St. Patrick’s Day: The Great Snake Controversy

st-patrickFor 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 © 2018 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com

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