About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 6)

About.com
Day 6: A Sunset Prayer for Yule                              
Patti Wigington
FromPatti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca                                                                           
As the sun descends into the horizon on the longest night of the year, take a moment to ponder what you will see when you wake the next day.
 

A Sunset Prayer for Yule                            

Set aside some time to meditate upon the meaning of this time of year, and what it signifies for you and your life.


The longest night has come once more,

the sun has set, and darkness fallen.

The trees are bare, the earth asleep,

and the skies are cold and black.

Yet tonight we rejoice, in this longest night,

embracing the darkness that enfolds us.

We welcome the night and all that it holds,

as the light of the stars shines down.          

                   

 

Additional Reading                            

Make those long winter nights a little more refreshing with some freshly blended incense. Put together a batch of Winter Nights Yule Incense, and burn it during rituals, or just to make your home smell comforting in the cold of winter.
Tomorrow: A Nordic Yule Blessing                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        
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About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 7)

About.com
Day 7: A Nordic Yule Blessing                              
Patti Wigington
From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca     
                                                                       
The Norsemen of old had a custom that if two people who were enemies met under a bough of mistletoe, they must lay down their arms. This time of year, set aside old conflicts. Take a moment to meditate upon the relationships you have, and try to find ways to get along with people who normally antagonize and anger you.
 

A Nordic Yule Blessing                            

Yule is a time to set aside animosity between yourself and people who would normally antagonize you. Set aside your differences, and think about finding peace in the spirit of the season.


Beneath the tree of light and life,

a blessing at this season of Jul!

To all that sit at my hearth,

today we are brothers,

we are family,

and I drink to your health!

Today is a day to offer hospitality

to all that cross my threshold

in the name of the season.

Additional Reading                            

For many Pagans and Wiccans, the holiday season becomes a time of conflict with their non-Pagan family. They may not understand what it is you celebrate, or there may be old wounds that surface each year when family gets together that have nothing to do with your beliefs. Regardless, read on for tips on how to Survive the Holidays With Your NonPagan Family.

Tomorrow: Snow Prayer                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        

About.com: 12 Days of Yule Devotionals (Day 8)

About.com

 

Day 8: Snow Prayer for Yule                              
Patti Wigington
From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism /Wicca                                                                           
There’s a lot to be said for the beauty of snow. Welcome the white stuff with a prayer reminding us of why we love it.
 

Snow Prayer                            

Depending on where you live, you may be seeing snowfall long before Yule arrives. Take a moment to appreciate its beauty, both as it falls and once it covers the ground.


From the reaches of the north,

a place of cold blue beauty,

comes to us the first winter storm.

Wind whipping, flakes flying,

the snow has fallen upon the earth,

keeping us close, keeping us together,

wrapped up as everything sleeps

beneath a blanket of white.

Additional Reading                            

You may at some point in the Yule season find yourself stuck inside — after all, if too much of the white stuff comes down, it’s hard to get anywhere! Stock up on reading material, and turn being snowbound into a family treat with Ten Great Books for Yule.
Tomorrow: A Prayer to the Old Gods                            

                                        This email is written by:                                                                      Patti Wigington                                                          Paganism / Wicca Guide                                        

Dealing With Stress at Yule-How to Have a Low-Stress Holiday

Dealing With Stress at Yule

-How to Have a Low-Stress Holiday

By , About.com Guide

It should be the happiest time of year, right? After all, the Yule season is when we celebrate the return of the sun, and the days start to get a little brighter. The mundane world is observing Christmas and Hanukah, gifts are being given all over the place — it should be a season of great joy. Yet for many people, late fall and early winter are a time when frustrations begin to build, and anxiety (and often depression) set in. Between getting together with family, preparing big meals, shopping for gifts, decorating the house, and spending money on others, for many people Yule can be a time of overwhelming stress. Here are a few tips on reducing your stress levels during the Yule season.

Set your limits.

Are you in charge of the community coat drive, the local toy roundup, and getting your entire PTO’s fundraiser up and running? Step back! Be willing to say “No” when someone asks you to commit more time and energy than you have to give. We all want to help others at this time of year, but if you take on more than you really are capable of, you’ll become resentful and angry – and that’s no way to spend the Yule season. Learning to say “No” might be the best gift you can give yourself this year.

Enlist help.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the eighteen boxes of Yule décor in your basement? Fine — put the kids to work. If you don’t have kids — or if yours are too young to decorate — put on a pot of wassail and invite a few friends over for a decorating party. It will take the stress out of the situation if you’re surrounded by people whose company you enjoy. Likewise, if you’re hosting a holiday dinner, ask others to show up early to set the table or to bring part of the meal as a side dish. I’ve learned that if I plan ahead, and just ask, I can usually get someone else to commit to taking care of cleanup afterwards!

Don’t overspend.

One of the biggest holiday stress-outs is the knowledge that you’ll be paying off Yule until June. Don’t let this happen. Make a budget, and stick to it. For more on how to do this, read about How to Have a Budget Friendly Yule. Also remember, you don’t have to go crazy with the gifts. Do you want to teach your children about the value of the holiday season, or that whoever gets more stuff wins? In many families, parents have learned to limit the number of gifts each person gets — in mine, each kid gets one really big gift, and then three smaller gifts such as a DVD, a pair of cute winter pajamas, and a game to play or a book to read.

Set boundaries.

A lot of people stress out over family relationships during the holidays. If you’re one of those people, you need to decide ahead of time how you’re going to deal with family members who aggravate you. Got a non-Pagan family member who just won’t leave you alone? Brush up on coping strategies at Surivivng the Holidays with Your Non-Pagan Family.

Decompress.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed in the middle of the season, and you know you still have things that need to get done, take a break. Turn off the phone, shut the door, and go have some Me Time. Take a one-hour power nap, enjoy a bubble bath with some nice scented candles, invite a friend out for a quick coffee date. Set aside a few minutes each day to meditate and get yourself grounded. You’ll appreciate it in the long run.

Recognize burnout.

A big problem many people seem to have is they just fail to realize they’re burning themselves out. Stress creeps up on us, and then we tend to justify it by saying, “Well, it’s the holidays.” Learn to recognize the signs of burnout, and react accordingly. Some signs include:

  • Depleted levels of physical energy
  • Lowered immune system, feeling run-down or ill
  • Lack of interest in things that you normally enjoy
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Negative, pessimistic outlook
  • Anger directed at people who don’t deserve it, like kids and sales clerks

If you start seeing these behaviors in yourself, it’s time to take a step back and recognize that you’re stressing out. Now that you’ve discovered the problem, take time to fix it, so that you and the people around you can have a happy and healthy Yule season.

“Reclaiming Samhain”

 

“A year of beauty. A year of plenty.
A year of planting. A year of harvest.
A year of forests. A year of healing.
A year of vision. A year of passion.
A year of rebirth.

This year may we renew the earth.
This year may we renew the earth.

Let it begin with each step we take.
And let it begin with each change we make.
And let it begin with each chain we break.
And let it begin every time we awake.”

– Starhawk, Reclaiming Samhain

How To Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death

How To Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death

By , About.com Guide

Samhain is a time like no other, in that we can watch as the earth literally dies for the season. Leaves fall from the trees, the crops have gone brown, and the land once more becomes a desolate place. However, at Samhain, when we take the time to remember the dead, we can take time to contemplate this endless cycle of life, death, and eventual rebirth.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varied

Here’s How:

  1. For this ritual, you’ll want to decorate your altar with symbols of life and death. You’ll want to have on hand a white candle and a black one, as well as black, red, and white ribbon in equal lengths (one set for each participant). Finally, you’ll need a few sprigs of rosemary.

    Perform this rite outside if at all possible. If you normally cast a circle, do so now.

  2. Say:

    Samhain is here, and it is a time of transitions. The winter approaches, and the summer dies. This is the time of the Dark Mother, a time of death and of dying. This is the night of our ancestors and of the Ancient Ones.

    Place the rosemary on the altar. If you are doing this as a group ceremony, pass it around the circle before placing on the altar. Say:

    Rosemary is for remembrance, and tonight we remember those who have lived and died before us, those who have crossed through the veil, those who are no longer with us. We will remember.

  3. Turn to the north, and say:

    The north is a place of cold, and the earth is silent and dark. Spirits of the earth, we welcome you, knowing you will envelope us in death.

    Turn to face the east, and say:

    The east is a land of new beginnings, the place where breath begins. Spirits of air, we call upon you, knowing you will be with us as we depart life.

  4. Face south, saying:

    The south is a land of sunlight and fire, and your flames guide us through the cycles of life. Spirits of fire, we welcome you, knowing you will transform us in death.

    Finally, turn to face the west, and say:

    The west is a place of underground rivers, and the sea is a never-ending, rolling tide. Spirits of water, we welcome you, knowing you will carry us through the ebbs and flows of our life. 

  5. Light the black candle, saying:

    The Wheel of the Year turns once more, and we cycle into darkness.

    Next, light the white candle, and say:

    At the end of that darkness comes light. And when it arrives, we will celebrate once more.

  6. Each person takes a set of ribbons — one white, one black, and one red. Say:

    White for life, black for death, red for rebirth. We bind these strands together remembering those we have lost.

    Each person should then braid or knot their three ribbons together. As you do so, focus on the memories of those you have lost in your life.

  7. While everyone is braiding or knotting, say:

    Please join me in chanting as you work your energy and love into your cords:

        As the corn will come from grain,     All that dies will rise again.     As the seeds grow from the earth,     We celebrate life, death and rebirth. 

    When everyone has finished braiding and chanting, take a moment to meditate on the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Is there someone you know who reminds you of a person you’ve lost? Have you ever looked into a baby’s eyes and seen your late grandfather looking back?

  8. Finally, ask everyone to take their knotted ribbons home with them and place them on their personal altar if they have one. That way, they can be reminded of their loved ones each time they pass by.

Tips:

  1. Rosemary is used in this rite because although it seems to go dormant over the winter, if you keep it in a pot you’ll get new growth in the spring. If there’s another plant you’d rather use, feel free.

What You Need

  • Ribbon in black, red and white
  • A white candle and a black one
  • Rosemary

Samhain Ancestor Meditation

Samhain Ancestor Meditation

Calling Upon the Ancient Ones

By , About.com Guide

 

When performing an ancestor meditation, people experience different things. You may find yourself meeting a specific person that you are aware of in your family history — maybe you’ve heard the stories about great-uncle Joe who went out west after the Civil War, and now you have the privilege of chatting with him, or perhaps you’ll meet the grandmother who passed away when you were a child. Some people, however, meet their ancestors as archetypes. In other words, it may not be a specific individual you meet, but rather a symbol — instead of adventurous great-uncle Joe, it may be a non-specific Civil War soldier or frontiersman. Either way, understand that meeting these individuals is a gift. Pay attention to what they say and do — it may be that they’re trying to give you a message.

Setting the Mood

 

Before you perform this meditation, it’s not a bad idea to spend some time with the tangible, physical aspects of your family. Bring out the old photo albums, read through wild Aunt Tillie’s diary from the Great Depression, get out your grandfather’s old pocket watch that almost sank with the Titanic. These are the material things that connect us to our family. They link us, magically and spiritually. Spend time with them, absorbing their energies and thinking of the things they’ve seen, the places they’ve been.

You can perform this ritual anywhere, but if you can do it outside at night it’s even more powerful. Decorate your altar (or if you’re outside, use a flat stone or tree stump) with the symbols of your ancestors — the photos, journals, war medals, watches, jewelry, etc. No candles are necessary for this meditation, but if you’d like to light one, do so. You may also want to burn some Samhain spirit incense.

Claiming Your Birthright

 

Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Think about who you are, and what you are made of, and know that everything within you is the sum of all your ancestors. From thousands of years ago, generations of people have come together over the centuries to create the person you are now. Think about your own strengths — and weaknesses — and remember that they came from somewhere. This is a time to honor the ancestors who formed you.

Recite your genealogy — aloud if you like — as far back as you can go. As you say each name, describe the person and their life. An example might go something like this:

I am the daughter of James, who fought in Vietnam and returned to tell the tale. James was the son of Eldon and Maggie, who met on the battlefields of France, as she nursed him back to health.    Eldon was the son of Alice, who sailed aboard Titanic and survived. Alice was the daughter of Patrick and Molly, who farmed the soil of Ireland, who raised horses and tatted lace to feed the children…

 

and so forth. Go back as far as you like, elaborating in as much detail as you choose. Once you can go back no further, end with “those whose blood runs in me, whose names I do not yet know”.

If you happened to meet a certain ancestor, or their archetype, during your meditation, take a moment to thank them for stopping by. Take note of any information they may have given you — even if it doesn’t make sense just now, it may later on when you give it some more thought. Think about all the people you come from, whose genes are part of you. Some were great people — some, not so much, but the point is, they all belong to you. They all have helped shape and create you. Appreciate them for what they were, with no expectations or apologies, and know that they are watching over you.

How To Honor the Ancestors at Samhain

How To Honor the Ancestors at Samhain

By , About.com Guide

For many modern Pagans and Wiccans, there has been a resurgence of interest in our family histories. We want to know where we came from and whose blood runs through our veins. Although ancestor worship has traditionally been found more in Africa and Asia, many Pagans with European heritage are beginning to feel the call of their ancestry. This rite can be performed either by itself, or on the third night of Samhain.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varied

Here’s How:

  1. First, decorate your altar table — you may have already gotten it set up during the End of Harvest rite or for the Ritual for Animals. Decorate your altar with family photos and heirlooms. If you have a family tree chart, place that on there as well. Add postcards, flags, and other symbols of the country your ancestors came from. If you’re lucky enough to live near where your family members are buried, make a grave rubbing and add that as well. In this case, a cluttered altar is perfectly acceptable — after all, each of us is a blend of many different people and cultures.
  2. Have a meal standing by to eat with the ritual. Include lots of dark bread, apples, fall vegetables, and a jug of cider or wine. Set your dinner table, with a place for each family member, and one extra plate for the ancestors. You may want to bake some Soul Cakes.

    If your family has household guardians, include statues or masks of them on your altar. Finally, if a relative has died this year, place a candle for them on the altar. Light candles for other relatives, and as you do so, say the person’s name aloud. It’s a good idea to use tealights for this, particularly if you have a lot of relatives to honor.

     

  3. Once all the candles have been lit, the entire family should circle the altar. The oldest adult present leads the ritual. Say:

    This is the night when the gateway between our world and the spirit world is thinnest. Tonight is a night to call out those who came before us. Tonight we honor our ancestors. Spirits of our ancestors, we call to you, and we welcome you to join us for this night. We know you watch over us always, protecting us and guiding us, and tonight we thank you. We invite you to join us and share our meal.

  4. The oldest family member then serves everyone else a helping of whatever dishes have been prepared, except for the wine or cider. A serving of each food goes on the ancestors’ plate before the other family members recieve it. During the meal, share stories of ancestors who are no longer among the living — this is the time to remember Grandpa’s war stories he told you as a child, tell about  when Aunt Millie used salt instead of sugar in the cake, or reminisce about summers spent at the family homestead in the mountains.
  5. When everyone has finished eating, clear away all the dishes, except for the ancestors’ plate. Pour the cider or wine in a cup, and pass it around the circle (it should end at the ancestor’s place). As each person recieves the cup, they recite their genealogy, like so:

    I am Susan, daughter of Joyce, the daughter of Malcolm, son of Jonathan…

    and so forth. Feel free to add in place names if you like, but be sure to include at least one generation that is deceased. For younger family members, you may wish to have them only recite back to their grandparents, just because otherwise they can get confused.

  6. Go back as many generations as you can, or (in the case of people who have done a lot of genealogy research) as many as you can remember. You may be able to trace your family back to William the Conqueror, but that doesn’t mean you have it memorized. After each person recites their ancestry, they drink from the cider cup and pass it to the next person.
  7. A quick note here — many people are adopted. If you are one them, you are fortunate enough to be able to choose whether you wish to honor your adoptive family, your biological family, or a combination of the two. If you don’t know the names of your birth parents or their ancestry, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Daughter of a family unknown.” It’s entirely up to you. The spirits of your ancestors know who you are, even if you don’t know them yet.
  8. After the cup has made its way around the table, place it in front of the ancestors’ plate. This time, a younger person in the family takes over, saying:

    This is the cup of remembrance. We remember all of you. You are dead but never forgotten, and you live on within us. 

    Take some time to meditate on the value of family, how fortunate we are to be able to know the connections of kin and clan, and the value of heritage. If your family has a tradition of music or folktales, share those as a way to wrap up the ritual. Otherwise, allow the candles to burn out on their own. Leave the plate and cup on the altar overnight.

Tips:

  1. If you didn’t do a separate ritual for animals, you can add photos and candles for deceased pets to your family altar.
  2. If you like, you may wish to follow this ritual with a Seance.

What You Need

  • Items to represent your family members
  • A meal to eat
  • A cup of cider or wine to drink
  • Candles

Samhain Spirit Incense

Samhain Spirit Incense

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

 

This recipe is for loose incense, but you can adapt it for stick or cone recipes. As you mix and blend your incense, focus on the goal of your work. Do you wish to contact the spirit of a long-dead ancestor? Are you hoping to bring some visions your way in a dream?  Focus your intent as you blend your ingredients.

You’ll need:

 

  • 2 parts Cinnamon
  • 1 part ground cloves
  • 1 part Dragon’s Blood resin
  • 1 part Hyssop
  • 1 part Patchouli
  • 2 parts Rosemary
  • 1 part Sage
  • A dash of sea salt

 

Add your ingredients to your mixing bowl one at a time. Measure carefully, and if the leaves or blossoms need to be crushed, use your mortar and pestle to do so. As you blend the herbs together, state your intent. You may find it helpful to charge your incense with an incantation. For example, if you were going to use your incense during a seance, you could use this:

The veil has thinned, the moon is bright and I blend this magic on Samhain night. Celebrating life and death and rebirth with these herbs I’ve harvested from the earth. I send my intent by smoke in the air and call on those whose blood I share. I ask my ancestors to guide and watch over me, As I will, so it shall be.

 

Store your incense in a tightly sealed jar. Make sure you label it with its intent and name, as well as the date you created it. Use within three months, so that it remains charged and fresh.