Category Archives: holidays

A New Pomonalia

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal …
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance …
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.

ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I don’t like Mabon.

Don’t get me wrong–I love this time of year.  I love the autumnal equinox.  I love the cool crispness that starts to seep into the air in the very early morning (even when you know that summer might rally a time or two or three before Samhain, and maybe even once or twice afterwards).  I love the promise of the land’s slumber, fruits still ripening, acorns ready to drop, the first hints of migration for a multitude of bird species.  I love celebrating the feast of apples just waiting to be plucked from the trees, and gathering the last summer herbs of the season.  I love the last weekends at the beach as the warm water currents receed a bit southward and the dolphins make way for their solitary porpise cousins and the crabs retreat upstream, ready to settle into the mud once it get cold enough.

But I don’t particularly like Mabon.

I’m not alone in questioning its use (or the day itself):

The Triumph of Mabon
Mabon, Mabon Not
Mabon–The Myth of Progress

The problem, for me, comes down to the fact that Mabon (the name, and the mythology of it) doesn’t really mean anything to me.  I don’t live in a part of America with a Northern Europe climate.  We are what is called “humid subtropical” here (according to the the Köppen Climate Classification System, the southeastern US climate is what is classified as Cfa–a trait shared with northern Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, southern Japan, and southern China.  We just aren’t at fall yet.  Its not the year’s bed time yet…more that pre-bedtime, when you think about getting your jammies on and have one last snack before brushing your teeth, and rush around trying to get all the stuff done for the next day.

We have celebrated Mabon as the Apple Harvest–sort of mini-Pomonalia in the past (never mind that Pomona’s feast day is November 1, not being a Mediterranean climate, that (also the Descent of Persephone) doesn’t quite work here either).  I like Pomona.  She probably fits here, though its not as obvious in a costal urban environment as it was when we lived in the midwest, on the edge of a cornfield and down the road from an orchard.  But Mabon still, to me, feels like a manufactured holiday.  If I weren’t Pagan, I doubt I’d even realize that today was the Autumnal Equinox amidst the many things I should be doing right now.

Today is the autumnal equinox, when the hours of sunlight balance the hours of night. For most of human history the equinox — connected as it was to the harvest — was celebrated with elaborate festivals, rites and rituals. The equinox was a compass point. It was a mile marker for the lived year. Life was experienced through sky and season rather than through the construct of the clock. The equinox bound human communities together in a shared time that was both personal and cosmic.

Today hardly anyone notices the equinox. Today we rarely give the sky more than a passing glance. We live by precisely metered clocks and appointment blocks on our electronic calendars, feeling little personal or communal connection to the kind of time the equinox once offered us. Within that simple fact lays a tectonic shift in human life and culture.

Your time — almost entirely divorced from natural cycles — is a new time. Your time, delivered through digital devices that move to nanosecond cadences, has never existed before in human history. As we rush through our overheated days we can barely recognize this new time for what it really is: an invention.

Adam Frank, NPR Blogs (source) 

I think its time to for my celebration of the equinoxes to be a signifier of equal time, balanced time.  A time to think about time.  To think about balance and moderation.  To think about one’s place in cosmic time, and to measure it against the reality of the modern time that we live in.  To celebrate a modern cosmology of the unfolding of the universe.

Yes, we will still eat apples.  Yes, we will still celebrate the harvest that hasn’t come home yet.  Yes, we even will still probably call it Mabon.

But maybe we can do something deeper.

I’m not sure yet what that might look like.

But I’ve got some time to figure it out.

(also, please forgive typos, etc…this post was written from my phone)


Thank you.

The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses:
 who has not heard them?  
They have a silence that speaks for them
at night and when the clock counts.  

They say, We were young. 
We have died. Remember us.   

They say, We have done what we could 
but until it is finished it is not done.  
They say, We have given our lives
but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.  

They say, Our deaths are not ours:
they are yours: they will mean what you make them.  
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope
or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this. 

They say, We leave you our deaths: 
give them their meaning: give them an end to the war
and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war 
and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.

We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us. 

poem by Archibald MacLeish

Today is about the men and women that have died in service to their country, regardless of their race, religion, political affiliation, gender, sexuality, marital status and nationality.  It is about someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s father, someone’s aunt or uncle or cousin, someone’s grandfather or grandmother or however many great’s one might need to add, someone’s lover, someone’s partner, someone’s friend.

Today is not about a barbecue or camping trip.  It is not about a boat ride, or trip to the beach.  It is not about that furniture sale for snaging a new area rug or an ottoman.  Today is not about you and, even as a veteran, it is not about me–it is about the men and women that never got to come home and hang up their uniform and trade in their combat boots for sneakers or heels.  Today is about the men and women that didn’t get to see their children grow up, or graduate, or give them grandchildren to spoil.  I don’t think the men and women that chose to put themselves in harm’s way because they believed in the ideal of service and freedom would begrudge you any of those things…indeed, I think many of them, were they still with us, would be enjoying a cold one in the hand and hot one off the grill.  But.

A midst our weekend plans, it is our mission to remember that our barbecue or camping trip or visit to the zoo is made possible by the death of our brothers and sisters–of somebody’s mother, somebody’s son.

War is brutal, it is bloody, and it kills.  There is no glory in war, no glory in sending our mothers and fathers and sons and daughters to kill another’s mothers and fathers and sons and daughters.  It is a tragic and painful fact that every nation and every generation has seen conflict escalate to war–whether it be to combat a cruel leader seeking to oppress their people (or another’s people), or a hapless legislature sending their might abroad for spurious reasons.  Humanity will never be perfect, there will always be someone that is willing to kill in the most heinous of ways to achieve power, and there will always need to be someone willing to take up arms against them.  This means that the innocent will die alongside the not-so innocent, and that communities and entire countries will be ravaged, both the people and the land.  There may be no glory in war, but there can be honor in service.  There is honor in protecting our homes, our families, our land, and our ideals.  There is honor in standing up for the downtrodden, for seeking to bring justice where there was tyranny, and to try our damnedest to secure equality and freedom for a new generation.

There are many reasons that men and women choose to serve their country, and there are men and women that are unwillingly selected to serve their country and choose to fulfill that requirement out obligation.  Regardless of reason or length of service, they are all worthy of our respect.  They serve in times of war, in times of peace, as well as the in-between.  Many, if not most, of them come home, but none of them are unchanged by the experience.  And many of them, too many of them, do not return at all.

Let us remember the countless and often unknown women that have served their country from its conception and died in combat, despite prohibitions against such service.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember those that have served their country to protect rights they could only hope that they could one day claim as well, from the Colored Troops of the Civil War to the gay and lesbian troops still fighting for equal protection of the law and equal recognition of their families.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember those of the Pagan community that have given their life in service to their country, despite often being an unrespected minority in both environments.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember those that have died in service, whether that be in the moment of battle, or months or years after they have returned to a home-that-is-no-longer-home, unable to find their way.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember all of those that have died fulfilling their Oath of Enlistment–to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, bearing true faith and allegiance to the same, and doing their job, so that others within our populace do not have to.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us remember the still missing, far from home, whose bodies have never been recovered and returned.  May their families one day find solace and closure.

Hail the honored dead!

Let us celebrate their lives, however short they may have been cut. Let us thank their families and extend them our sympathies, for the anguish of loss that has allowed us to stay home, or to come home safely if we have served. Let us remember, and let us find a way to give their lives and their deaths meaning.

Hail the honored dead!

Let their deaths be a solemn reminder on this day, and every day, to treat one another with compassion, to honor and respect our differences as well as our similarities, and to live our lives in a manner that kindles the spirit of peace a little bit stronger and a little bit longer, pushing back the darkness of war for as long as we are able.

 

**Note**
The Hubby and I have been working on a family ritual for Memorial Day for some time.  As veterans, both of us have lost friends–family really, to our current wars.  Both of our families have had somewhat of a tradition of service, and between the two of us, we have had family serve in all four branches of the military and in all of this country’s major wars.  We choose, on this day (or sometimes on the Monday), to pay our respects to the sacrifice of the 1.3-1.7 million Americans that have died (numbers vary a bit) in service to their country, and to their countrymen.   We combine the Pagan traditions of the dumb supper, or of leaving and offering for the gods or one’s ancestors, with the military’s tradition of “the little white table” that features so hauntingly in chow halls and shipboard mess decks to honor the missing and the prisoners of war that cannot be with us, by adding a place at the table as a memorial, a tribute, and an invitation.  Tomorrow (while I’m at work), The Hubby is going to try his first solo craft with the kidlets, making poppies using paper plates and peanut butter cup wrappers, in an adaptation of these instructions.   This year, we’ve decided to add the playing of The Last Post and Taps (The Last Post is a British tradition, but was the original “taps” call for us as well until the writing of Taps during our Civil War) at the beginning and the end of our moment of silence (at this point, about all a 6 and 4 year old can manage), before reading the above (which has been cobbled together and adapted from the past few Memorial Day posts I’ve written), and following it up with a prayer from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s “Bless All Who Serve”.  Over time, as their capacity to understand grows, we would like to include them more and to add some other readings, as well as a roll call of sorts of the number of casualties for each war…and extend the moment of silence for the entire meal–I’d also like to work on creating a special meal, though I haven’t had the chance to work on that yet.


Celebrating Candlemas

IMG_6856Some Pagans celebrate the Feb 1 or 2 holiday as Imbolc, which is Old Irish  for “in the belly” (i=in, bolg=belly).  Old Irish is the Gaelic language introduced to Ireland from Scotland in 500 AD, until it evolved into Middle Irish, sometime around 900 AD.  Others may celebrate this cross-quarter day as Oimelc (which means “ewe’s milk”), although this seems to be a name that is less often used.  Candlemas is another common name for this day, although some Pagans aren’t terribly keen on it, since it originates from Catholicism.

In contemporary Paganism, Brigid is the goddess most often honored at this time of year.  I’ve never been all that in tune with the Celtic deities (or the Norse ones, for that matter), so we celebrate it a bit differently…including appropriating the Catholic term for the holiday, Candlemas (candles are a great symbol of the strengthening of the sun),  borrowing a tiny bit from the Roman holiday of Februalia (mainly honoring Vesta-as-Hestia and cleansing everything from the house to ourselves), and honoring Sedna in her role as mother-of-the-cetaceans (this is the time of the year when the humpbacks make their appearance off our shores).

As with every Sabbat, there are a ton of Imbolc rituals and holiday histories and all sorts of other ideas of what to do for this time of year (this site has one of the most comprehensive starting points I’ve seen yet).  I recommend perusing around a bit to find what suits you are your family’s practice and beliefs (or not), rather than buying into something that doesn’t work for you (of course, sometimes, the only way to be sure, is to try it anyhow!).

Some of my plans include:
Super cleaning the house for a family blessing ritual
Doing some basic cleansing and blessing of myself…I’ve gotten a bit lax and I can feel it Reaffirming my commitment to my self, via my newly established dietary needs
Re-reading T. Thorn Coyle’s Evolutionary Witchcraft
Thinking about some things and doing a little divination work for inspiration on what to do about them

Some of our family plans include:
Ceromancy–Technically, ceromancy is a form of divination using melted wax in a bowl of water, in which the reader interprets the shape and the meaning of the shape. We do it as a form of story telling…the shape you see has to feature in the story you tell.
Making Vestas–We already did this one yesterday…making dipped candles is a great way to charge the candles as you make them!
Baking Sun Cake! we are going with cream cheese icing this year though, and I’m making our cake in a springform pan because I don’t have a bundt cake pan (when we made it last year, we were at Grandma’s house).
Home Blessing…now there’s a post I should blog about again, that one’s from 4 years ago!!
Family altar cleaning, cleansing, and rededication, and building Chickadee her own personal altar (she and Collin have a “baby altar” that mom handles right now)

Also, I’ve been reminded that you all need to meet Citrine! …You may remember the Sabbat faeries, but if you don’t, this post might help refresh your memory!

I’ve never met Citrine, but Chickadee tells me that she is the faerie that oversees Candlemas. I have it on good authority that Citrine lives in a stand of my second favorite tree  (Emerald apparently lives in my favorite tree, but Chickadee won’t tell me any more than that until Beltane), the Live Oak (its called the Live Oak because it is an evergreen oak tree).  In the winter, she shares the home of a rabbit friend in a burrow at the base of the branchiest Live Oak of them all.  If you’ve never seen one before, Live Oak trees are very branchy…and very gossipy; they are always ready to tell a good yarn about someone or something that has passed them by!  In the summertime though, she stays in a hammock that sways in the breeze from one of the tree’s many branches.

According to Chickadee, Citrine is friends with The Shining Ladies–you know, those goddesses that some people choose to celebrate at this time of year, who usually have something to do with candles and flame and coziness and inspiration and all sorts of stuff like that, who have given her a number of tasks to organize for this time of year?  Citrine checks on the hibernating animals to make sure that they are still snug and hidden, and she makes sure that the the birds and other animals that are not hibernating have enough food to last them a little while longer.  Citrine, if asked (and left a treat of oats, or dried fruit or nuts), will also bless candles made at this time of year, and will send her friends to add a little faery sparkle to newly cleansed and blessed homes.


The Return of Sol Invictus

Just because the Apocalypse didn’t happen, doesn’t mean this isn’t true:

And the reason ^ is true is because, well…this is true:

Lets face it, Humanity is on a funky sort of of feedback loop–change is inevitable and progressive, but the struggle is eternal.

Which is why the Solstice matters.

if the universe existed in a single year...

if the universe existed in a single year…

Billions of years ago (14 actually), something happened.  Something that might have been special, that might have been miraculous…or it could have actually been pretty darn routine.  Its hard to say though, since none of us were here (or there) and we lack the capacity to see quite that far yet.  But, either way, in the beginning, a giant explosion hurled existence into being and set forth events that would lead to us.

Our Sun (a pretty average sort of star), was born from some of the matter ejected in this explosion.  One of many, many swirling clouds of matter contracted under its own weight, spinning* itself into the shapes we know today as the Sun and its solar system.  It didn’t happen overnight–the sun’s formation took about 9 billion years (that is one heck of a pregnancy!), and in its birthing, the “extras”, the left over material that had formed in bands around the developing proto-Sun, conglomerated into the planets…including Earth.

The Solstices (and Equinoxes) celebrate the cycle of the Earth’s journey around the Sun, journey that is mimicked in our own lives, in Humanity, and by the Sun itself.  There is no Baby Sun King, no Dying Solar God–there is a planet, with a tilt.  But the Sun does live…it was born, and it will die, on a timescale that we have no possibility of understanding.  Mankind with long have ceased by the time the Sun burns out.

In the timescale of the Universe, our Sun is at his peak–midway through its life. We might allegorically celebrate this as the time of the Sun’s rebirth (or the Sun’s height, for those in the Southern Hemisphere), but its really about our rebirth.

Our renewal.

Our chance to keep fighting the fire of our existence.

Our reminder to make this the end of the world as we know it.

Because, maybe then, we can keep spinning until we become something better.

Change takes time.  It took the Sun 9 billion years to be birthed.  And the Earth and the Sun working together another 4.5 billion** years to make complex life.  It has taken us, by comparison, 8 million years to evolve*** from our nearest common ancestor with successful descendants. Our species, Homo sapiens, has only been around for 100,000 years, and only in the past 10,000 years did we lay the foundations for the societies of today (through the “invention” of agriculture).

Every year, we celebrate the turning of the wheel–the Wheel of the Year, but also of our time, because the former is a microcosm of the latter. We celebrate the Sun, because it is the ultimate giver of life on this planet, whether we take the time and energy to worship it as a solar deity or just respect its plain damn awesomeness.

Addendum:
*The Sun is still spinning
**I just love this site
***…and we are still evolving!

Bonus Track: Teach your kids about the Earth’s travels with an orange, a stick, and a flashlight.
solstice


From the Wee Grimoire: Twas the Night before Yule

‘Twas the night before Yule, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that the Yule Faeries soon would be there;
The children weren’t nestled all snug in their beds,
They were dancing ’round a bonfire, instead.
With Mama and her drum, and the stars shining bright,
As we settled in to celebrate the longest of nights —
When up near the house there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the circle to see what was the matter.
Away up the path, I flew like a flash,
Peeked in through the windows, and took a great gasp.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But eight tiny fairies, with wings so perfectly clear!
They carried presents much bigger than they–
I knew it was magic they brought on this day.
Everything they touched glinted and glowed
As they laid out each gift in a sparkle of snow.
They sang and danced, all cheery and free’
“We’re helping Santa to make his deliveries
for all the children that dance and play
to celebrate the Sun King’s birthday.”
I crept away slowly, not wanting to bother,
and headed back down to where we were gathered.
I’m sure I was spotted, as the faeries flew high,
For a flash of wings glittered near my eye
As I heard one say “Have a blessed Night!”
And I know now that Mama was right–
While Santa is busy getting ready for Christmas,
He has special helpers for the littlest Pagans and Wiccans!

by me

Meet Garnet: You might remember the Sabbat Faeries…but if you don’t, its okay–I can tell you again!  You do remember that tonight is The Longest Night, where we celebrate the dying of the Old Sun King and the birth of the Baby Sun King?  Tomorrow is what we call Yule, or the Winter Solstice–the time when the Baby Sun King is reborn and the days will start to grow longer again as the Sun gets stronger.

Yule is the favorite holiday of Garnet, who loves the snow and evergreens.  In fact, Garnet actually lives in an evergreen–the 34th branch of the biggest, tallest pine tree in the Piney Woods!  When Garnet decided to move from the city to be closer to her friends (she used to live in New York City’s Central Park), a cardinal friend built her a nest there, so it would feel like being in the city, with its tall buildings.  He even donated some of his feathers to make a nice waterproof roof, and a fox friend donated some of her fur to make the nest cozy and warm.  Garnet loves her perch in the Piney woods, where she can see all the way across the forest.

Garnet is in charge of the Winter Solstice, and organizing all the fairies to deliver the gifts for Pagan children that celebrate the Winter Solstice.  She had gotten to know Santa one winter, and he was so upset that he felt he wasn’t doing a proper job at Yule, because he was still trying to get ready for Christmas, that she offered for her and her friends to help.  You see…during the rest of the year, Garnet is busy with her regular job–she helps teach the baby birds how to sing their special songs, but by winter, they’ve all learned them!  She was happy to help Santa out since she would be sitting around waiting for Spring to come around again otherwise.  And so, Garnet makes sure that the fairies pick up the presents from Santa on time to deliver them to all the boys and girls that celebrate Yule while Santa double checks his list and packs his sleigh.

What was that you asked?  What about Santa’s cookies and hot chocolate?  Oh!  don’t worry–that’s why we make the cookies extra small!  And use your doll tea set!  Besides…fairies have a very high metabolism.  Why, I bet they eat as much as Santa!

Chimneys?  No…fairies don’t like those–the soot makes them sneeze!  And since they are so very tiny, they can fit through key holes and window cracks.

How do the presents not get squished?  I have no idea…except to say, its magic.

http://nuannaarpoq.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/22973-yuleblogparty.jpg?w=490&h=303

A note from Mom:  This is where I probably should mention that we don’t normally treat Santa or the Sabbat Fairies as “real”–at least not as “real” as the literal, physical (or otherwise) sort of entity.  We don’t lie to our kids.  Chickadee would be the first to tell you that Santa is “made up, but that’s ok because he’s still cool” followed up by a “but I’m not supposed to say he’s not real, because it might hurt someone’s feelings” (she’ll probably tell you the same thing about Jesus) (my objection isn’t to her saying he’s either isn’t real, but that she hasn’t learned to do so with much tact yet).  But we do tell stories.  There is a difference, and even a very small child is capable of understanding that difference.  Kids are much better at suspended disbelief than we are.  We have always (from the get go) separated the idea of something being “true” from something that contains “Truth”.  We follow a belief system seeped in mythology, mythology that is symbolic and allegorical and powerful…but not true.  So, for our kids…Santa (and the Sabbat Faeries) are a story, and stories are important.


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