The Wicca Book of Days for June 21 – Litha or MidSummer

The Wicca Book of Days for June 21st

Litha or MidSummer

 

The Summer Solstice occurs around now. It is celebrated by Wiccans at their Litha, or MidSummer Sabbat. The Horned God is at the height of his powers – the hours of daylight are longer than those of darkness, and His solar rays and heat are at their fieriest. Their child is growing in the Goddess’s womb, and the world basks in sunshine, while all around the natural evidence of their fruitful union is evident. Yet the Horned God’s strength will start to wane from now on, which is why the Oak King’s rule is said to give way to that of the Holly King at Litha.

 

Harvest Herbs

 

Herbs are particularly potent on the Summer Solstice, which is why Wiccans and Witches harvest them on this day (or night) for future use in potions and remedies. So if you have herbs in your garden, cut yourself a supply today.

The WOTC Wishes You & Yours A Very Happy & Blessed Litha!

Litha Comments & Graphics Good morning to all my dear friends! I must start out by apologizing to you for yesterday. I did not do a “good morning, how ya’ll doing?” or any kind of post at all to start things off. I had posting on the brain, I realized that I was running late. And that was it, got to post, got to post! Worse than a damn robot, lol! But I didn’t realize it till I was all the way into the Moon Phase and I felt so bad. Then I decided I would do a “Good afternoon” post. Well, I don’t remember what came up but that didn’t happen either. Again, I am so sorry.

 

Well the wheel has turned to one of our Sabbats and I am at a dilemma. My dilemma is when to celebrate it.  I know I have read some articles that proclaim today as Litha/MidSummer. Well you see, the Tradition I grew up in was one that practice the Ways of the Old. They celebrated Litha/MidSummer on June 21. So what’s a witch to do? I am going to be very diplomatic about this. I am going to wish you a very happy & blessed Litha/MidSummer on both days! How does that sound? I should make everyone happy, shouldn’t I? Then I remember also reading there are some that celebrate Litha/MidSummer from June 20 to June 23. Oh, my! It’s enough to make a poor witch’s head spin, lol!

 

For those of you celebrating Litha/MidSummer today,from the bottom of my heart,I wish you and yours a
Very Happy & Blessed Litha!

Lady A

Magickal Graphics

A Midsummer’s Celebration

 by Mike Nichols

The young maid stole through the cottage door, And blushed as she sought the Plant of pow’r; — “Thou silver glow-worm, O lend me thy light, I must gather the mystic St. John’s wort tonight, The wonderful herb, whose leaf will decide If the coming year shall make me a bride.”

In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices, and the two equinoxes. In folklore, these are referred to as the four “quarter days” of the year, and modern Witches call them the four “Lesser Sabbats”, or the four “Low Holidays”. The summer solstice is one of them.

Technically, a solstice is an astronomical point and, due to the calendar creep of the leap-year cycle, the date may vary by a few days depending on the year. The summer solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, and we experience the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Astrologers know this as the date on which the sun enters the sign of Cancer.

However, since most European peasants were not accomplished at reading an ephemeris or did not live close enough to Salisbury Plain to trot over to Stonehenge and sight down its main avenue, they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, June 24. The slight forward displacement of the traditional date is the result of multitudinous calendrical changes down through the ages. It is analogous to the winter solstice celebration, which is astronomically on or about December 21, but is celebrated on the traditional date of December 25, Yule, later adopted by the Christians.

Again, it must be remembered that the Celts reckoned their days from sundown to sundown, so the June 24 festivities actually begin on the previous sundown (our June 23). This was the date of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Which brings up another point: our modern calendars are quite misguided in suggesting that ‘summer begins’ on the solstice.  According to the old folk calendar, summer begins on May Day and ends on Lammas (August 1), with the summer solstice, midway between the two, marking midsummer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that summer begins on the day when the sun’s power begins to wane and the days grow shorter.

Although our Pagan ancestors probably preferred June 24 (and indeed most European folk festivals today use this date), the sensibility of modern Witches seems to prefer the actual solstice point, beginning the celebration on its eve, or the sunset immediately preceding the solstice point. Again, it gives modern Pagans a range of dates to choose from with, hopefully, a weekend embedded in it.

Just as the Pagan Midwinter celebration of Yule was adopted by Christians as “Christmas” (December 25), so too the Pagan Midsummer celebration was adopted by them as the Feast of John the Baptist (June 24). Occurring 180 degrees apart on the wheel of the year, the Midwinter celebration commemorates the birth of Jesus, while the Midsummer celebration commemorates the birth of John, the prophet who was born six months before Jesus in order to announce his arrival.

Although modern Witches often refer to the holiday by the rather generic name of “Midsummer’s Eve”, it is more probable that our Pagan ancestors of a few hundred years ago actually used the Christian name for the holiday, “St. John’s Eve”. This is evident from the wealth of folklore that surrounds the summer solstice (i.e., that it is a night especially sacred to the faerie folk), but which is inevitably ascribed to “St. John’s Eve”, with no mention of the sun’s position. It could also be argued that a coven’s claim to antiquity might be judged by what name it gives the holidays. (Incidentally, the name ‘Litha’ for the holiday is a modern usage, possibly based on a Saxon word that means the opposite of Yule. Still, there is little historical justification for its use in this context.) But weren’t our Pagan ancestors offended by the use of the name of a Christian saint for a pre-Christian holiday?

Well, to begin with, their theological sensibilities may not have been as finely honed as our own. But secondly and more  mportantly, St. John himself was often seen as a rather Pagan figure.  He was, after all, called “the Oak King”. His connection to the wilderness (from whence “the voice cried out”) was often emphasized by the rustic nature of his shrines. Many statues show him as a horned figure (as is also the case with Moses).  Christian iconographers mumble embarrassed explanations about “horns of light”, while modern Pagans giggle and happily refer to such statues as “Pan the Baptist”. And to clench matters, many depictions of John actually show him with the lower torso of a satyr, cloven hooves and all! Obviously, this kind of John the Baptist is more properly a Jack in the Green! Also obvious is that behind the medieval conception of St. John lies a distant, shadowy Pagan Deity, perhaps the archetypal Wild Man of the wood, whose face stares down at us through the foliate masks that adorn so much church architecture. Thus, medieval Pagans may have had fewer problems adapting than we might suppose.

In England, it was the ancient custom on St. John’s Eve to light large bonfires after sundown, which served the double purpose of providing light to the revelers and warding off evil spirits.  This was known as “setting the watch”. People often jumped through the fires for good luck. In addition to these fires, the streets were lined with lanterns, and people carried cressets (pivoted lanterns atop poles) as they wandered from one bonfire to another. These wandering, garland-bedecked bands were called a “marching watch”. Often they were attended by morris dancers, and traditional players dressed as a unicorn, a dragon, and six hobbyhorse riders. Just as May Day was a time to renew the boundary of one’s own property, so Midsummer’s Eve was a time to ward the boundary of the city.

Customs surrounding St. John’s Eve are many and varied.  At the very least, most young folk plan to stay up throughout the whole of this shortest night. Certain courageous souls might spend the night keeping watch in the center of a circle of standing stones. To do so would certainly result in either death, madness, or (hopefully) the power of inspiration to become a great poet or bard. (This is, by the way, identical to certain incidents in the first branch of The Mabinogion.) This was also the night when the serpents of the island would roll themselves into a hissing, writhing ball in order to engender the “glain”, also called the “serpent’s egg”, “snake stone”, or “Druid’s egg”. Anyone in possession of this hard glass bubble would wield incredible magical powers. Even Merlyn himself (accompanied by his black dog) went in search of it, according to one ancient Welsh story.

Snakes were not the only creatures active on Midsummer’s Eve. According to British faery lore, this night was second only to Halloween for its importance to the Wee Folk, who especially enjoyed a ridling on such a fine summer’s night. In order to see them, you had only to gather fern seed at the stroke of midnight and rub it onto your eyelids. But be sure to carry a little bit of rue in your pocket, or you might well be “pixie-led”. Or, failing the rue, you might simply turn your jacket inside out, which should keep you from harm’s way. But if even this fails, you must seek out one of the “ley lines”, the old straight tracks, and stay upon it to your destination. This will keep you safe from any malevolent power, as will crossing a stream of “living” (running) water.

Other customs included decking the house (especially over the front door) with birch, fennel, St. John’s wort, orpin, and white lilies. Five plants were thought to have special magical properties on this night: rue, roses, St. John’s wort, vervain, and trefoil. Indeed, Midsummer’s Eve in Spain is called the “Night of the Verbena (Vervain)”. St. John’s wort was especially honored by young maidens who picked it in the hopes of divining a future lover.

And the glow-worm came With its silvery flame, And sparkled and shone Through the night of St. John, And soon has the young maid her love-knot tied.

There are also many mythical associations with the summer solstice, not the least of which concerns the seasonal life of the God of the sun. Inasmuch as I believe that I have recently discovered certain associations and correspondences not hitherto realized, I have elected to treat this subject in some depth in my ‘Death of Llew’ essay.  Suffice it to say here, that I disagree with the generally accepted idea that the Sun God meets his death at the summer solstice. I believe there is good reason to see the Sun God at his zenith—his peak of power—on this day, and that his death at the hands of his rival would not occur for another quarter of a year. Material drawn from the Welsh mythos seems to support this thesis. In Irish mythology, midsummer is the occasion of the first battle between the Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha De Danaan.

Altogether, Midsummer is a favorite holiday for many Witches in that it is so hospitable to outdoor celebrations.  The warm summer night seems to invite it. And if the celebrants are not, in fact, skyclad, then you may be fairly certain that the long ritual robes of winter have yielded place to short, tunic-style apparel. As with the longer gowns, tradition dictates that one should wear nothing underneath—the next best thing to skyclad, to be sure. (Incidentally, now you know the real answer to the old Scottish joke, “What is worn beneath the kilt?”)

The two chief icons of the holiday are the spear (symbol of the Sun God in his glory) and the summer cauldron (symbol of the Goddess in her bounty). The precise meaning of these two symbols, which I believe I have recently discovered, will be explored in the essay on the death of Llew. But it is interesting to note here that modern Witches often use these same symbols in their Midsummer rituals. And one occasionally hears the alternative consecration formula, “As the spear is to the male, so the cauldron is to the female.” With these mythic associations, it is no wonder that Midsummer is such a joyous and magical occasion!


Document Copyright © 1983 – 2009 by Mike Nichols. Text editing courtesy of Acorn Guild Press. Website redesign by Bengalhome Internet Services, © 2009

About Litha

a guide to the Sabbat’s symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: June 20-23 (usually, the date of the calendar Summer Solstice).

Alternative names:                 Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Midsummer’s Eve, Alban Heruin, Alban Hefin, Gathering Day, Vestalia, La Festa dell’Estate (Summer Fest), the Day of the Green Man.

Primary meanings:                  This Sabbat celebrates the abundance and beauty of the Earth. From this day on, the days will wane, growing shorter and shorter until Yule. It is a time to absorb the Sun’s warming rays, and to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and beginning of the waning year in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is another fertility sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. This is a time to celebrate work and leisure, to appreciate children and childlike play and to look internally at the seeds you’ve planted that should be at full bloom. Some people believe that at twilight on this day, the portals between worlds open and the faery folk pass into our world. Welcome them to receive their blessings.

Symbols: Fire, the Sun, blades, mistletoe, oak trees, balefires, Sun wheels, summertime flowers (especially sunflowers), summer fruits, seashells and faeries. If you made Sun wheels at Imbolc, display them now prominently, hanging from the ceiling or on trees in your yard. You may want to decorate them with yellow and gold ribbons and summer herbs.

Colors: White, red, maize yellow or golden yellow, green, blue and tan.

Gemstones: All green gemstones, especially emerald and jade, and also tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli and diamond.

Herbs: Chamomile, cinquefoil, copal, elder, fennel, fern, frankincense, galangal, heliotrope, hemp, larkspur, laurel, lavender, lemon, mistletoe, mugwort, oak, pine, roses, saffron, St. John’s wort, sandalwood, thyme, verbena, wisteria and ylang-ylang. Herbs gathered on this day are said to be extremely powerful.

Gods and goddesses: All father gods and mother goddesses, pregnant goddesses and sun deities. Particular emphasis might be placed on the goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar and Venus and other goddesses who preside over love, passion and beauty. Other Litha deities include the goddesses Athena, Artemis, Dana, Kali, Isis and Juno and the gods Apollo, Ares, Dagda, Gwydion, Helios, Llew, Oak/Holly King, Lugh, Ra, Sol, Zeus, Prometheus and Thor.

Customs and myths: One way to express the cycle of the Earth’s fertility that has persisted from early pagan to modern times is the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King, gods respectively of the waxing and waning year. The Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer, the period of fertility, expansion and growth, and the Holly King reigns from Midsummer to Midwinter, the period of harvest, withdrawal and wisdom. They are light and dark twins, each being the other’s alternate self, thus being one. Each represents a necessary phase in the natural rhythm; therefore, both are good. At the two changeover points, they symbolically meet in combat. The incoming twin — the Oak King at Midwinter, the Holly King at Midsummer — “slays” the outgoing one. But the defeated twin is not considered dead — he has merely withdrawn during the six months of his brother’s rule.

On Midsummer Night, it is said that field and forest elves, sprites and faeries abound in great numbers, making this a great time to commune with them. Litha is considered a time of great magickal power, one of the best times to perform magicks of all kinds. Spells and magick for love, healing and prosperity are especially effective now. Wreaths can be made for your door with yellow feathers for prosperity and red feathers for sexuality, intertwined and tied together with ivy. This is also a very good time to perform blessings and protection spells for pets or other animals.

Nurturing and love are key actions related to Midsummer. Litha is a good time to perform a ceremony of self-dedication or rededication to your spiritual path as a part of your sabbat celebration. Ritual actions for Litha include placing a flower-ringed cauldron on your altar, gathering and drying herbs, plunging the sword (or athamé) into the cauldron and leaping the balefire (bonfire) for purification and renewed energy. Giving away fire, sleeping away from home and neglecting animals are considered taboo on this holiday.

The Dark Side of the Water Witch

The Dark Side of the Water Witch

Water rules the emotions, and the Water Witch has a predisposition to think with the heart and not the head. As she is devoted to water, she believes wholeheartedly that a tiger can change its strips by virtue of cleansing away the negative. She will give a second chance in the case of an innocent mistake. However, if crossed intentionally, the Water Witch will hold a grudge until the end of time. She is a wall builder and will not hesitate to block out anyone who deserves it. Her code of justice is so strict that she often entertain notions of revenge. She is known to overdo it in these matters.

In personal matters, the Water Witch’s intuition does not function at its fullest capacity. She can be quick to assume a slight was intended by an innocent remark and operate strictly on that notion, regardless of its truthfulness. Unfortunately, once this happens the Water Witch can muddy her own waters.

Dying and Rising – The God of Grain at Lammas

Dying and Rising

The God of Grain at Lammas

by Melanie Fire Salamander

Lammas, to the Irish Lughnassah, comes at the first of August, the year’s first harvest festival. From the Old English “hlaf-maess,” “loaf Mass” or “loaf feast,” “Lammas” in Christian times was the Mass at which the first loaves of new grain were blessed on the altar. It’s clear, however, that under a thin Christian layer, a pagan feast survived. The early Scots knew Lammas as one of the quarter days for paying rents; Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legendcalls this an obvious Christianizing of an old Saxon first-fruit festival, when tenants brought the first new grain to their landlords. The English also used Lammas as a day of accounts and reckoning, and “at latter Lammas” is an English folk phrase meaning never, or at the day of last accounting. In the Scottish Highlands on Lammas Day, people smeared their floors and cows with menstrual blood, an action of especial protective power at Lammas and at Beltaine.

Lammas comes down to us trailing half-forgotten associations: the death and rebirth of the Grain God, the mystical link between a ruler and the Goddess of the Land. As a first fruits festival, Lammas marks a time of hope and fear, when the people sacrifice the first of the harvest to the gods, praying that the rest can be gathered without trouble or bad weather. All farmers recognize that grain and fruit, riches in the fields, remain unsafe until brought in, and the ancients sacrificed accordingly.

As Lughnassah, this Sabbat is the wake of Lugh, an Irish god whose name means “light” or “brightness.” In the Mediterranean, it marks the death of the Grain God, known by various names. Now the Goddess becomes the Reaper, as Starhawk writes in The Spiral Dance, “the Implacable One who feeds on life that new life may grow.”

Gods of grain and mourning

Grain is traditionally associated with gods that die and are reborn. In southern climates, this grain is corn, rice, or millet; in northern climates rye, barley or oats; in temperate climates wheat, as Pauline Campanelli points out in Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life. The people of ancient Akkad, around 2000 B.C., believed at harvest their grain god Tammuz was slain by another god and went to the underworld. Tammuz was the beloved of Ishtar, great goddess of life and love, and as Ishtar mourned all Nature stopped its cycles of birth and reproduction. They only recurred when She traveled to the land of death to bring Tammuz back.

The Assyrians, Babylonians and Phoenicians called Tammuz Adonis, meaning “lord”; the Greeks took that title as the proper name of the god. Child of the myrrh tree, Greek Adonis, most handsome of young men, seduced both love goddess Aphrodite and Persephone, queen of the dead. The two goddesses battled bitterly over Him. Zeus solved the argument by making Adonis split his time between the sunny glades of Aphrodite and the dark underworld of Persephone, six months a year with each. Adonis died in a boar hunt, the pig throughout the Mediterranean region being sacred to the Great Goddess. He drew his last breaths in a bed of lettuce, associated by the Greeks with death and sterility.

Adonis was a god beloved of women, his chief cultists concubines and courtesans. At the World Wide Web site http://www.arches.uga.edu/~maliced/gothgard/, mAlice reports that Adonis’s devotees grew on their rooftops gardens of fast-sprouting lettuce, barley, wheat and fennel in baskets and small pots. Each garden surrounded a statue of the god. Adonis’s followers planted their ritual gardens when the sun was at its hottest; the plants quickly sent up shoots and just as quickly withered in the sun. Their gardens grew only eight days, after which Adonis’s worshipers threw the withering sprouts into the sea, along with images of the god. At the death of Adonis, the Greek women filled the cities with their keening.

In other cultures, the grain god is killed between millstones, as the grain is ground to make flour. In Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life, Pauline Campanelli associates the circular motion of the millstones with Caer Arianrod, the castle of the goddess Arianrod, also known as the Castle of the Silver Wheel. In Welsh myth, Caer Arianrod is the dwelling place of the dead. Arianrod had a son Llew Llaw, remarkable for his rapid growth, called by different mythographers both a sun god and a grain god. One of the first feats to proclaim his godhead was killing a gold-crest wren, which connects him with the cycle of the Oak King and Holly King. Llew Llaw, a god of death and resurrection, was destroyed through his wife Blodeuwedd, the Flower Face, who like Persephone starts as a goddess of flowers and young spring and becomes a goddess of death.

Llew Llaw is a cognate of the Irish Lugh, or Lug mac Ethne, whose Lughnassah occurs August 1. Celebrants held Lughnassah every year in Ireland at Telltown on the River Boyne, where a mound still marks the spot, according to Funk and Wagnalls. The Irish books of lore The Dinnsenchas and The Book of Invasions and Keating’s History of Ireland all say that Telltown took its name from Tailtiu, Lugh’s foster mother, buried on that spot, and that Lugh instituted Lughnassah fair as an annual memorial.

The Great Rite at Lughnassah

This tale probably reworks a more ancient one forgotten by later generations. Funk and Wagnalls notes that “nasad” seems related to words meaning “to give in marriage.” Telltown fair featured a marriage market; as the men stood on one side, the women on the other, their parents settled marriage contracts between them. Tradition tells that at the nearby “Hollow of the Fair,” couples made handfastings in pagan times, and in the 19th century couples still arranged trial marriages there, only later to have them sanctified by the Church. Presumably the leafy hollow, shaded by new haystacks, gave the newly bonded a consummation bed.

This tradition of Lughnassah marriages seems to echo an older tradition, where at Lughnassah the king of Ireland was ritually married to the land. Just so in ancient Akkad did the high priestess of Ishtar perform the Great Rite with the king, marrying him to the earth. A late medieval manuscript says that at Taillne, presumably Telltown, Lug Schimaig made the great feast for Lug mac Ethne to celebrate his marriage to the Goddess of the Land. It’s worth noting that August 1 is nine months before Beltaine, the beginning of summer; at this point Lugh impregnated the land with the following summer.

In a related myth, the great Irish king Conn of a Hundred Battles affirms his sovereignty by means of Telltown festival, according to The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom by Caitlin and John Matthews. One day at Tara, Conn mounted the ramparts with his three druids to check for enemies approaching from afar. Doing so, he trod upon a stone that screamed so loudly it was heard all over Tara. Conn asked one of his druids why the stone screamed and what kind of stone it was. After pondering fifty days and three, the druid by divination answered that the stone’s name was Fal, or fo-all (“under rock”), that it had come to Tara from Inis Fail and that it yearly went to Telltown for the fair. Any king who did not find this stone on the last day of Telltown Fair would die within the year. The number of shrieks the stone made underfoot equaled the number of kings of Conn’s line who would rule Ireland.

Fal thus shows itself a stone of sovereignty, like the Scottish Stone of Scone, now ensconced below the ceremonial throne of British royalty. Fal’s shrieks are the voice of the land, speaking the relationship between the king and the Irish Earth Goddess.

At this point in the myth, a mist drifted over, and Conn and his druids lost their way. A horseman met them and, after making three casts against them, welcomed them to his home, a structure 30 feet long with a ridgepole of white gold. In it sat a girl in a seat of crystal, wearing a golden crown. Before her stood a silver vat with gold corners, a vessel of gold, and a golden cup, and on a throne nearby sat a phantom.

The phantom spoke to Conn and his druids, announcing himself as Lug mac Ethne. The girl in the crystal seat proved to be the Sovereignty of Ireland, the living goddess of the Irish land, and she gave symbolic food and drink to Conn, the ribs of a giant ox and a giant hog and also red ale. Lugh meanwhile told Conn of his rule and that of his sons. Then all disappeared.

Thus Telltown Fair, in other words Lughnassah, celebrates marriage not only of mortal to mortal but of the king to the Goddess of Earth, here the girl in the crystal chair. Just as the nu gig priestess of Akkad, symbolizing Ishtar and the land, married the Akkadian king, symbolizing Tammuz, so too at early Lughnassahs a priestess of the earth may have married the Irish king, symbolizing Lugh. The tales definitely make Lughnassah Lugh’s marriage feast, and the feast is also said to be his wake. At Lughnassah, Lugh fertilizes the Goddess and dies, as we ask for harvest.

Lugh of the many talents

Lugh was beloved of the Celts, who raised more inscriptions and statues to him than to any other deity, according to R.J. Stewart in Celtic Gods, Celtic Goddesses. The Romans associated him with Mercury, and like Mercury he was a patron of the arts and of all crafts and skills, of traveling and money and commerce. He also was a war god, the Celts regarding battle as an art; by Roman times their wars had become mainly ritual contests between champions, or conflicts to be settled by druidic decision, a civilized approach the Romans did not follow. As the battle god Lugh of the Long Arm, Lugh’s chief weapons were the magickal sling and spear, giving him the power of killing at a distance – hence the “long arm.” Such attributes seem appropriate to a god of light, who shines from far away.

Romano-Celtic images of Lugh show a young, handsome man, carrying the symbols of the caduceus and purse, his totems the ram, cock and tortoise. He also appears as bearded and mature, and he’s frequently accompanied by the goddess Rosmerta or Maia, representing wealth and material benefit. Such companionship parallels the marriage of the king to the material goddess of the land.

Lugh possesses skills in many arts simultaneously. In the Irish tale of the Battle of Magh Tuiredh, those in the royal hall of Tara began by refusing Lugh entrance, because though he claimed skills as a wheelwright, metal-worker, warrior, bard, magician, doctor, cupbearer and more, the inhabitants of Tara already boasted those skills. Lugh’s Welsh cognate Llew was also known as a shoemaker, and an inscription from Romano-Celtic times in Osma, Spain, notes the Guild of Shoemakers’ dedication of a statue to the Lugoves, a triple version of Lugh. The people of Tara finally conceded that only Lugh combined all the skills mentioned, so at last they admitted Him.

The Celts also credited Lugh with the invention of ball games, horsemanship and fidchell, a symbolic board game like chess. As Stewart notes, the Celts regarded these three games as having a ritual, magickal significance.

A loaf of bread for Thou

Lugh’s marriage to the goddess of worldly wealth and sovereignty links Him by association to the grain gods Adonis and Tammuz. These gods of grain and their goddess brides stretch back to prehistory. In the Eastern European countries of the Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Hungary, still known for their wheat fields, archaeologists have found small clay temple models dating to 6000 to 5000 B.C., Campanelli writes. Many of these models show humans shaping and baking loaves in bread ovens, and many incorporate bird heads as architectural elements, indicating shrines to Bird Goddess. These bird heads connect to Aphrodite of the Doves, the bread baking to her consort Adonis. Similarly, Ishtar sometimes took bird form, and dying and rising Tammuz is a god of grain.

To celebrate this dying and rising god of grain, it’s appropriate to bake and eat ritual bread. From a ritual point of view, the important point is to focus while baking on imbuing your bread with the spirit of the God of Grain, however you see Him. From a practical point of view, a breadmaking acquaintance offers a few tips:

  • Making bread is very easy.
  • Make sure you use flour with a high gluten content, as opposed to baking flour. Gluten provides protein; baking flour specifically has very little protein.
  • When you mix flour and your water or yeast mixture, don’t worry too much about portions. Basically, you take flour and add liquid until it’s the right consistency. Bread is a tactile thing.
  • When you knead your bread, knead till the bread feels right, elastic but not too heavy.
  • You can let the bread rise and reknead as many times as you want. The more times you knead, the smaller bubbles will occur in the loaf, resulting in a finer bread.
  • Put a little fresh rosemary or other herbs in your bread for a different tang.

Almost any general-purpose cookbook, including The Joy of Cooking, includes bread recipes. Pauline Campanelli offers the following recipe and ritual for multigrain bread:

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine two cups warm milk, two packages dry baking yeast, one teaspoon salt, one-half cup honey and one-fourth cup dark brown sugar.
  • Cover the bowl and set it aside in a warm place till the mixture doubles, about half an hour.
  • Add three tablespoons softened butter and two cups unbleached white flour and stir till bubbly. Campanelli suggests at this point also adding sprouted wheat, expressing the idea of a god that dies and is reborn. If you do so, start your wheat sprouts a few days before you bake the bread.
  • Next, mix in one cup rye flour and two cups stone-ground whole wheat flour.
  • With floured hands, turn the dough onto a floured board and gradually knead in more unbleached white flour until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your fingers.
  • Place the dough in a greased bowl, and turn it so the dough is greased.
  • Cover the dough with clean cloth and keep in a warm place to rise until doubled, about an hour.
  • Punch the dough down, divide it in half and shape the halves into two round, slightly flattened balls.
  • Place these balls onto greased cookie sheets, cover them and return them to a warm place to let them double again.
  • When the final rising is almost complete, with your athamé incise a pentagram on the loaves with ritual words. Campanelli suggests “I invoke thee, beloved Spirit of the Grain/Be present in this Sacred Loaf,” but whatever words you want to say to the god of grain and material harvest are appropriate.
  • Beat a whole egg and a tablespoon of water together and brush this onto the loaves.
  • Bake the loaves in a 300-degree oven for about an hour, or until they are done and sound hollow when tapped.

Make and eat your ritual loaf in celebration of the dying summer, to be reborn after nine months at Beltaine. Celebrate too your summer’s harvest, your wealth of material life, for we are all wealthy while we live. At Lammas, the loaf-feast, we greet Lugh in the loaf, hail his marriage to the earth and eat him. By so doing, we avow our wealth and our mortality.

The Lion King Explains the Wheel of the Year

The Lion King Explains the Wheel of the Year

Author: Sevati Pari

The Wiccan tradition celebrates eight festivals or Sabbats that follow the Wheel of the Year (their term for the Earth’s seasons) (Wikipedia) . Among these are Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha or Midsummer, Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain (Healing Happens) . Allow me to tell you a little about each Sabbat and the mythology behind it before moving on to concentrate on Yule and Litha for my pop culture reference.

For reference though the Wiccan Goddess is a triple goddess. She is Maiden, Mother, and Crone separate and simultaneously. The Maiden is when she’s a youth still young and virginal, the Mother is after she gives birth to the Sun God who becomes the Horned God at Beltane, and the Crone is the wise woman she becomes in her elder years when the cycles of her life are done.

There are two different myths that follow the wheel of the year. One being the Goddess/God duality where the Sun God is born to the Mother/Crone at Yule, The Mother becomes the Maiden at Imbolc as the God grows in power and courts the Goddess in her Maiden aspect during Ostara, He impregnates the Goddess Beltane during the height of his power becoming the Horned God, he begins to wane in power during Lammas, and passes away at Samhain becoming the Sacred King who dies so that the land might be reborn, to be born again to the Mother/Crone at Yule (Healing Happens, Sherri Maddon) .

Another myth is that of the Holly King and the Oak King. One rules winter the other rules summer. The Holly King fights and defeats the Oak King at Litha only to have the tables turned at Yule when the Oak King comes back to challenge and defeat the Holly King (About.com) .

Samhain begins our calendar as the beginning of the Pagan New Year. It falls on October thirty-first and corresponds with the Christian’s Halloween. It’s a celebration of the final harvest and a day to honor those that have passed before us. Samhain is not a mournful holiday in which we mourn their passing but more a celebration of their life. It is on this Sabbat that the Horned God passes on to the Summerland (Wiccan afterlife) .

The wheel continues on to Yule which falls anywhere from December twenty-first to December twenty-fifth depending on when the Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year is) . It is a celebration that even in the dark there is light, of the hope that spring will come again and winter soon will be over.

It is on this night that the God is born to the Goddess in her Crone aspect. Imbolc is the next Sabbat on the wheel’s cycle. It’s celebrated on February second and is one of the first spring festivals. It’s also a time for purification as the Goddess moves from her Crone state to that of the Maiden.

Following Imbolc is Ostara, which lands on the Spring Equinox usually around March twenty-first. It corresponds with the Christian’s Easter. It’s a celebration of Spring. Then comes Beltane celebrated on May first.

Beltane is a celebration of the fertility of the land and would usually end up in more than one woman walking away from the Beltane fires carrying a baby in her belly. The Sun God mates with the Maiden and she walks away a Mother while he walks away as the Horned God. The days grow longer till we reach Midsummer, which falls on June twenty-first, or the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year) .

Midsummer is a celebration life in general. Next on the wheel is Lammas celebrated on August first. It’s one of the first harvest festivals. It is a time to celebrate the fruit of our yearly labors.

The days progressively decline till we reach Mabon, which actually just passed on September twenty-first. Mabon celebrates the Fall Equinox and is a day of Thanksgiving. It’s a day to be thankful for what you have and for those you have to share it with, much like the American holiday of Thanksgiving that falls in November.

As the day’s decline we swing back around to Samhain where the Horned God becomes the Sacred King and dies so that the land may be reborn (Healing Happens, Sherri Madden) .

I know I went a little off topic here telling about all the Sabbats but I wanted to give you some basic knowledge so you could understand the two I chose for my pop culture reference example, which was that of Walt Disney’s “The Lion King.”

The story was actually based off of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Disney’s movie Bambi but I doubt Walt even knew of the story of the Holly King and Oak King or the Wheel of the Year when he set about making this Disney Classic and created the “Circle of Life.” At the beginning of the movie you see Simba being presented to the kingdom as heir, much as the Goddess presents the Sun God at Yule.

Then later on Mufasa gives Simba a tour of the lands he will one day rule teaching about the “Circle of Life” and how everything is born and dies but even in death nurtures the land (i.e. the wildebeest eat the grass, the lions eat the wildebeest, and when a lion dies his body becomes nourishment for the grass which keeps the circle going) , a clear reference to the Wheel of the Year.

Scar (Simba’s uncle) leads him into the gorge for a “surprise” for Mufasa that turns out to be a stampede that Mufasa tries to save Simba from. He saves him only to be pushed off a cliff by Scar a clear example of the fight of the Holly King vs. the Oak King, Scar being the Holly King and the Winter of Pride Rock.

Simba runs away and grows up meeting Nala (a childhood friend) , they fall in love, and she convinces him to come back to save Pride Rock an example of Ostara and Beltane when the God courts and mates the Goddess. Simba returns and exiles Scar but Scar attacks him forcing Simba to push him off a cliff like Scar did to Mufasa.

Again this is a reference to the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, this time with Simba being the Oak King and the Summer of Pride Rock. Scar survives the fall but finds himself surrounded by Hyenas who attack him (Wikipedia) .

I didn’t even think of this till I got further into my studies as a first-year initiate in Wicca and I started this class. I just happened to be watching the movie with my little sister and it all fell into place. It was one of those Ah Ha/Eureka moments where the light bulb goes off in your head. But now the movie makes perfect sense to me.

Then I started thinking about how Lion King has affected pop culture. Snippets of the movies have shown up in other movies, TV shows, and books. It’s shown on Home Improvement multiple times since Jonathan Taylor Thomas played Simba voice one clear example was: “I found another Lion King reference on Home Improvement [episode titled “Say Goodnight, Gracie”– 7th season, 15th episode].

In one scene, Tim and a little girl named Gracie are playing with some Lion King animals. Randy gets a chance to tell Gracie about “his” experiences impersonating a lion cub. Tim says, “Oh sorry, I’ve never been a lion cub before, ”

Then Randy replies, “Well, I have. And let me tell you. It’s a tough gig. Everybody expects you to be king.” (Lion King Sightings) .

There’s also a scene in Aladdin and the King of Thieves where Genie turns to Pumbaa and says “Hakuna Mattata” Then turns back and goes “Whoops, I just had an out of movie experience, ” (Lion King Sightings) .

 



Footnotes:
Works Cited
About.com: Paganism/Wicca. 23 September 2008. About.com
http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/yulethelongestnight/p/Holly_KIng_Yule.htm

Healing Happens. 23 September 2008. http://www.healinghappens.com/wheel.htm

Lion King Sightings. 4 August 2008. Brian Tiermann. 24 September 2008.
http://www.lionking.org/sightings/

Madden, Sherri. Personal Interview. No specific date (classes)

Wikipedia. 25 August 2008. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 23 September 2008.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_of_the_Year

Wikipedia. 25 August 2008. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 23 September 2008.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King

About Litha: A Guide to the Symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

About Litha: A Guide to the Symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

a guide to the symbolism of the Wiccan Sabbat

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: June 20-23 (usually, the date of the calendar summer solstice).

Alternative names: Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Midsummer’s Eve, Alban Heruin, Alban Hefin, Gathering Day, Vestalia, La Festa dell’Estate (Summer Fest), the Day of the Green Man.

Primary meanings: This Sabbat celebrates the abundance and beauty of the Earth. From this day on, the days will wane, growing shorter and shorter until Yule. It is a time to absorb the Sun’s warming rays, and to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and beginning of the waning year in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. This is a time to celebrate work and leisure, to appreciate children and childlike play and to look internally at the seeds you’ve planted that should be at full bloom. Some people believe that at twilight on this day, the portals between worlds open and the faery folk pass into our world; welcome them on this day to receive their blessings.

Symbols: Fire, the Sun, blades, mistletoe, oak trees, balefires, Sun wheels, summertime flowers (especially sunflowers), summer fruits, seashells and faeries. If you made Sun wheels at Imbolc, display them now prominently, hanging from the ceiling or on trees in your yard. You may want to decorate them with yellow and gold ribbons and summer herbs.

Colors: White, red, maize yellow or golden yellow, green, blue and tan.

Gemstones: All green gemstones, especially emerald and jade, and also tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli and diamond.

Herbs: Chamomile, cinquefoil, copal, elder, fennel, fern, frankincense, galangal, heliotrope, hemp, larkspur, laurel, lavender, lemon, mistletoe, mugwort, oak, pine, roses, saffron, St. John’s wort, sandalwood, thyme, verbena, wisteria and ylang-ylang. Herbs gathered on this day are said to be extremely powerful.

Gods and goddesses: All father gods and mother goddesses, pregnant goddesses and Sun deities. Particular emphasis might be placed on the goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Freya, Hathor, Ishtar and Venus and other goddesses who preside over love, passion and beauty. Other Litha deities include the goddesses Athena, Artemis, Dana, Kali, Isis and Juno and the gods Apollo, Ares, Dagda, Gwydion, Helios, Llew, Oak/Holly King, Lugh, Ra, Sol, Zeus, Prometheus and Thor.

Customs and myths: One way to express the cycle of the Earth’s fertility that has persisted from early pagan to modern times is the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King, gods respectively of the Waxing and Waning Year. The Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer, the period of fertility, expansion and growth, and the Holly King reigns from Midsummer to Midwinter, the period of harvest, withdrawal and wisdom. They are light and dark twins, each being the other’s alternate self, thus being one. Each represents a necessary phase in the natural rhythm; therefore, both are good. At the two changeover points, they symbolically meet in combat. The incoming twin — the Oak King at Midwinter, the Holly King at Midsummer — “slays” the outgoing one. But the defeated twin is not considered dead — he has merely withdrawn during the six months of his brother’s rule.

On Midsummer Night, it is said that field and forest elves, sprites and faeries abound in great numbers, making this a great time to commune with them. Litha is considered a time of great magickal power, one of the best times to perform magicks of all kinds. Especially effective magick and spells now include those for love, healing and prosperity. Wreaths can be made for your door with yellow feathers for prosperity and red feathers for sexuality, intertwined and tied together with ivy. This is also a very good time to perform blessings and protection spells for pets or other animals.

Nurturing and love are key actions related to Midsummer. Litha is a good time to perform a ceremony of self-dedication or rededication to your spiritual path as a part of your Sabbat celebration. Ritual actions for Litha include placing a flower-ringed cauldron upon your altar, gathering and drying herbs, plunging the sword (or athamé) into the cauldron and leaping the balefire (bonfire) for purification and renewed energy. Considered taboo on this holiday are giving away fire, sleeping away from home and neglecting animals.