June Full Moon: Strawberry Moon

strawberry-moon-squareAccording to the Farmer’s Almanac, the June full moon, which occurs this coming Monday, June 24, is known as the Strawberry Moon. (Other names for this moon include the Rose Moon and Hot Moon.) The Algonquin tribes knew this Moon as a time to gather ripening strawberries. Since strawberries are such a sensual fruit perhaps we can use this full moon to do a little self-care. Keep the night simple. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage or decadent dessert. Sit under the full moon in a comfortable chair and soak up her powerful energy. Spend time grounding and letting go of any anxieties and worries you are carrying. When you feel like you’re in a place of complete calm, have that lovely glass of wine or hard cider you brought with you and savor every sip. Eat a piece of pie or cake but do it slowly and appreciate each sensuous bite. We all need time to rest and recharge our spiritual batteries. Take good care of yourselves, friends so that we may be the warriors of justice and compassion our world needs us to be! Blessed be!

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

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Calendula: Solstice Flowers on Steroids

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Even if you don’t have a particularly green thumb, you can grow calendula in your garden. They love lots of sun and produce prolific amounts of beautiful yellow and orange blossoms that can be used for magical, medicinal and culinary uses. They also grow well in pots if you live in an apartment or condo. The trick to getting lots of blossoms is to keep harvesting/ deadheading them as they flower. In the hottest part of the summer they may stop producing flowers but don’t give up on them. When the temperature drops a bit they will start blooming again and, depending on where you live, can produce flowers well into the fall. They can reseed themselves with little effort on your part but you can also save the seeds from the dried involucres (green base of the flower head). This is also where the highest concentration of medicinal resinous oils are found.

Medicinally, calendula has lots of healing properties. A salve made from the whole blossoms is very nourishing to the skin and can help with all manner of cuts, bruises, rashes, burns, insect bites, etc. Tea made from the dried blossoms is also a great way to beat the winter blahs. I combine it with other herbs to promote a sense of well-being and happiness.

As a culinary ingredient, calendula petals can be eaten raw and add beautiful color to fresh garden salads. Dried petals have also been used in place of saffron as a colorant and flavor ingredient.

Magically, calendula is an overlooked and underappreciated herb. Scott Cunningham says that calendula flowers gladden and strengthen the heart. Garlands of calendula strung on doorposts stop evil from entering the house, and placed under a bed will protect you while you sleep. I find that their energy is joyful and vibrant and can be used in any ritual where sun/fire energy is called for. Even a small vase of calendula placed on my home altar feels empowering and inspiring.

Paul Beyerl in his excellent book “A Compendium of Herbal Magic” says that the dried petals can be used alone or mixed with a dry incense to consecrate tools of divination, and the petals may also be macerated in sunflower oil to make an oil of consecration. It’s sunny color and fire energy are also good for clearing negative energy.

As a side note, the common name “marigold” refers to the Virgin Mary and may have previous associations with a nature goddess. If anyone has any historical info on this, let me know. The more common variety of marigold that most people are familiar with is also used in Dia de los Muertos celebrations. It is placed on altars and graveside to honor the dead. Given that calendula can flower into the fall in some climates, it may also be used for this purpose.

So, what are you waiting for? Make plans to add calendula to your garden next year. You will love the many uses for this versatile flower.

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

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Litha (Summer Solstice) For Introverts

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Litha, or Summer Solstice, is the longest day of the year. This year it occurs on Sunday, June 20th. It’s the day of the year when the sun is at its full life-giving power. Many feel vibrant and alive this time of year. I’m not one of them! 90 degrees is not my anointed temperature. I sweat like crazy and have to slow down my activities quite a bit. My brain also feels a little foggy. Therefore when the sun is at its full power, I am not. I’m one of those weird people who feels more alive and creative in January than I do in July. Perhaps that’s because I’m an introvert and January is definitely a more introverted month than July.

If you’re like me and don’t feel like lots of merriment this Litha, it’s a good time to reflect on the significance of this turning point in the wheel of the year. Wait for the cool of the evening if that’s possible. Light some candles. Pick an incense with a floral or citrus scent. Have a nice glass of wine or other relaxing beverage. Then take time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished since Yule. Have the seeds of ideas and projects you planted during the first part of the year been able to grow? If not, is there anything you can do to help them germinate during this time of the year that is focused on the greening of the earth?

The second part of your reflection should include the observation that June 21st begins the “long dying of the year” as each day gets shorter and shorter. It’s the time to begin thinking of the things you need to let go of: emotional weights that are preventing you from moving forward, project that just aren’t going to happen, etc. For me, this is not a morose activity.  t is very life-giving as we lighten our load so we can move more joyfully and freely in the world.

So, that’s my Litha celebration for introverts. I’m looking forward to a quiet evening and if that’s your thing as well, I wish you a calm and cool evening!  Blessed be!

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

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Summer Solstice: Let Your Light Shine

summersolsticeLitha or Summer Solstice (June 20) contains powerful themes that are of interest to Christians and Pagans alike. In fact, I suspect this powerful day in the Northern Hemisphere has been revered ever since human beings began noticing the cycles of nature around them. The term Litha comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase Aerra Litha, which means “before Midsummer.” For many Pagans it is a day with the themes of fertility and fire, since the Goddess is fully pregnant with child and the Sun God is at the height of his power. In earlier times Europeans farmers lit bonfires to mark this day and then spread the ashes over their fields to insure fertility of their crops.

Not surprisingly, the Christian Church appropriated this celebration (If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!). They set aside June 24th to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist, calling it St. John’s Day. It is one of the oldest festivals of the Christian Church, dating back to 506 CE. It’s tie-in to the theme of fire can be found in the gospel of John 1:6-9 which talks about the relationship between John and Jesus: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” The light, in this passage, is Jesus who takes the place of the Sun God as the light who “shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (Jn 1:5)

For both Pagans and Christians this is the perfect time of year to celebrate the gift of life with bonfires, which for any of us have become charcoal and gas grills and fire pits! This weekend is also Father’s Day which means it’s a great day for family get-togethers and picnics. This is definitely resonates with the spirit of Litha.

From a spiritual perspective, the Solstice it’s a good time to meditate on the fertility of body, mind and spirit. It’s a time to capitalize on our strong points and use the gifts and talents the Divine has given each of us to help give birth to a greener, healthier and more peaceful world. The Bible passage that keeps coming to mind when I think about Litha is Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

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

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Drying Yarrow: Urban Farmer Method

What practitioner of magic does not desire to live out in the country with plenty of land to plant magical herbs and a forest nearby where we can go wildcrafting? Yet, I have the suspicion that many of us are city dwellers who often practice our magic indoors and have little or no land at our disposal. This does not mean we cannot connect with our Earth Mother in meaningful ways.

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Yarrow and bee balm in the corner of my yard.

The front yard of my house is the only place that gets enough sunlight to grow things besides ferns and other shade plants. It’s very small but I grow a number of medicinal herbs and bee friendly flowers. If you have no yard whatsoever, you can also plant many of these plants in container gardens.

Yarrow is one of my favorites, no only because it has a long bloom season, it also dries easily and is one of my go-to plants for magic spells. Yarrow is also a perennial so it keeps coming back and multiplying year after year. I only harvest what I need and never gather more than 1/4 of the stems that germinate and grow. It’s amazing how much dried yarrow a few stems produces so harvest it cautiously.

Drying yarrow by the “urban farming” method is easy! First cut the flowers off the stem by pushing your kitchen shears as close to the bud as you can get them.

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Take all the leaves off the stems as well. Return the stems to the earth for composting.

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Next, place the buds and leaves (I do them separately) in a large plastic or metal container that is lined with a paper towel. Place the container in the rear window of your car and keep it there until the buds and stems are dry which only takes a few days.

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Another method is to place them on a brown paper bag from the grocery store instead of a plastic oe metal container. Who needs an expensive dehydrator? This does the job quickly and inexpensively!

The finished product is gorgeous. When the buds are dried they can be easily separated into individual pieces. The leaves can either be crumbled by hand or placed in a food processor until they reach the desired consistency. I use this method of drying for most of my herbs and it’s as easy as it gets! Give it a try!

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

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Lessons Learned During the Pandemic: Connection

Even though the pandemic is not over, I’ve found myself asking the following questions: What have you learned from this time of crisis that you want to carry with you into the future? What do you want to leave behind?

In my last blog post I mentioned SIMPLICITY as the first thing I want to carry with me into the future. The second is authentic CONNECTION with other people. All of us spent a great deal of time in isolation, especially during the first months of the pandemic. Even for an introvert like me, it was very disorienting. Like everyone else, I learned to navigate the world of ZOOM meetings, WhatsApp video chats and the like. But they were definitely a poor substitute for genuine human contact.

Now that I’m vaccinated, I’ve been able to safely meet with friends and family who are vaccinated as well. Hugs have been long and heart-felt. Conversations have been deeper. These visits are holy moments that have improved my mood tremendously. They’ve also helped me to realize what a gift it is to have these kinds of moments in our lives.

With this in mind, I want to carry into the future the value of authentic CONNECTION with other people. When I’m with family and friends, I want to give them my full attention and appreciation. My cell phone will stay in my pocket. I will try to not be distracted by other things, especially thoughts about what I need to do when our visit is over.

It also means I want to leave behind superficial interactions and conversations. Life is short. I’m not getting any younger, Therefore, I want to make the time I spend with others count. This also means I want to spend less time with people who are soul-sucking instead of life-giving. (We all have them in our lives.) I just don’t want to give them the energy it takes to sustain a relationship with them. The pandemic has helped me to separate my true friends from my acquaintances. And these days, I’m very careful with whom I invite into my circle of friends.

What lessons have you learned during this pandemic?

Blessed be! David T.

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Lessons Learned During the Pandemic: Simplicity

Even though the pandemic is not over, I’ve found myself asking the following questions: What have you learned from this time of crisis that you want to carry with you into the future? What do you want to leave behind?

Today I’d like to quickly explore one of the things I wish to carry with me into the future: SIMPLICITY! Before the pandemic, my schedule was not very life-giving. I had too many irons in the fire (including this blog). These days, my life has a much healthier rhythm. I spend two days a week babysitting my granddaughter which is an absolute joy. She has a deep curiosity about the natural world so we do a lot of exploring together. I believe she’ll be the only first grader who knows the name of all the plants that grow in our area! Her sense of wonder rubs off on me and I get to rediscover many things I’ve taken for granted in nature that she finds absolutely amazing. What a wonderful gift she has given me!

I also enjoy my daily adventure early in the morning at the dog park. It has a lovely lake beside it and my pooch and I enjoy watching the wildlife that calls this lake home, including a healthy and cantankerous flock of Canadian geese. In the past, I used to resent this task sometimes, but now I see it as a holy time that prepares me for the day.

I also love working in my medicinal herb garden and find a quiet magic there that is grounding and peaceful. It’s always been one of my happy places, but I find I value it more now than I did before the endemic began.

I also invest more time in my relationships with those who are closest to me and less time on peripheral ones. I’m not as readily available as I used to be and this is a healthy thing for me. I’ve set some healthy boundaries that I want to keep in place as I move forward into the future.

My full time job as the leader of a faith community has been quite exhausting and challenging this past year. I’ve had to learn to reinvent the wheel quite a bit. However, as things return toward that dreaded word we call “normal,” I will take some new technologies with me such as Zoom. Who would have thought you could teach a meditation class on Zoom and have it be a meaningful experience? I’ve also found it to be more efficient to have meetings on Zoom since people don’t have to drive to attend and its kinder on the environment as well.

My magical life is a bit different too. It’s simpler and a little less flashy. I don’t use as many “props” but try to be more open to being a vessel through which both Earth and Spirit energy flow to bring health and healing to others. It feels like a deeper and more grounded practice and I find I take whatever time I need to do the work rather than doing it quickly in order to get on with the next thing I have to do.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! I didn’t share this post to make you feel bad or to brag. The opposite is true! I hope you will take time to figure out everything that was of value to you during this time of pandemic and make sure you don’t leave it behind. COVID-19 has been both a curse and a blessing! A curse because we lost a lot of good people along the way. A blessings because those of us who have survived have been given a rare opportunity in life to hit the reset button. Don’t let this holy moment pass you by!

I hope all of you are well and that you’ve been able to find simply joys in the midst of one of the most challenging years we’ve had in our country and throughout the world.

Blessed be! David T

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

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“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

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