Dragon and Weather Magick

Dragon and Weather Magick

 

Chinese dragons are said to have a 4,000 year birth cycle and do not grow their wings to fly until the last thousand years. They are described as having bearded lion’s mane-like faces, 81 or more scales on their back (in multiples of nine, their sacred number) and five huge claws. Japanese dragons only have three claws.

Chinese dragons are made up of the parts of many creatures, including two antlers like horns on their heads. They are depicted in blue, black, white or red and often carry a pearl in their mouth or between their claws. The pearl symbolizes wisdom, the power of healing, fertility and the moon.

Their mating and birthing cycles can cause extremes of weather, whirlwinds, hurricanes and storms that last for many hours, especially when the male dragon stirs up the energies of the newborn dragon (a mere 1,000 years old) as it emerges from its jewel-like egg.

Clouds, mists and fog were believd to be formed from dragon breath and rain was thought to fall as they fought. Rain also was caused if their claws caught in a cloud as they roamed across the skies. If the fighting became too fierce, a storm occurred. Certain powerful dragons could regulate the rainfall to ensure a good harvest and they are still recalled in dragon processions like those held on the Chinese New Year.

Chinese and Japanese dragons are also associated with waters, such as lakes, river and the ocean. The four Japanese dragon kings who control the four seas, are given offering if there is too much or little rain since they, like the Chinese dragons, are believed to have the power to control the weather.

Dragons of Wind, Storm and Weather

Dragons of Wind, Storm and Weather

 

 

Dragons of wind and storm and weather in general belong to a subspecies of Air dragons. They are long, slender dragons, some of them with great gauzy wings, others with the Oriental “flying-lump” on their foreheads. Down the spine of the back flutter thin fringes of membrane tissue. They tend to be pale yellows and blues, but change to angry red-orange, purple, or black when they call up storms. Long, feathery antennae rise above their eye ridges.

Dragons of wind, storm, and weather are excellent helpers to control excesses in the weather; get things moving in your life, especially in the areas of creativity and the mental processes; protection; flexibility of the mind; openness to new ideas; sweeping away obstacles, most often in a dramatic fashion.

Sometimes these dragons have feather-looking scales that surround their eyes and necks. Such a dragon was the British Henham dragon, which was well documented in 1669. It as described as being only about nine feet long with small wings and rather curious eyes surrounded by “feathers.” The Henham dragon put in repeated appearance before a great number of observers for several years before it disappeared.

These dragons inhabit cloud banks or very high mountain peaks where the winds never cease. Some Oriental weather dragons live in pools and ponds. They are in almost constant motion, riding the breezy air currents or roaring along with a whistling gales. Sometimes two or more of them join forces, either in play or a temporary dispute, thereby creating tornadoes and hurricanes. When they roll together, lightning and thunder occur.

The ancient Chinese writer Wang Fu wrote that dragons scream like struck copper basins when rain is near. Their breath became clouds. After the fourth month of Summer, the dragons were said to divide the land into territorial sections, thus accounting for the wide diversity of weather in any given region. The Chinese believed that careful observation of dragon activity in the skies could predict the future and the weather. For instance, dragons fighting each other was an omen of a rough journey or approaching storms.

Chinese tradition says that the cry of a male dragon makes the wind rise, while the cry of the female makes it calm again. Their mid-air mating, which is more frequent than with Western dragons, causes great storms and downpours of rain.

The Chinese celestial dragon with the name of Fei Lin was said to appear as a dragon with a bird’s head, deer’s horns and a snake’s tail. The Chinese still hold dragon processions to mark their New Year and to ask for rain and fertility. These festivals are accompanied by lots of noise and dancing to give the dragon and spring a good welcome.

The greatest and Lord of all Dragons was the Celestial Lung. He was different from others of his species as he had five claws on each foot instead of the usual four and had a pair of wings, something missing from most Oriental dragons. He appears to have been a dual-element dragon, since he lived in the sky during the spring and summer and in the ocean during the autumn and winter. Celestial Lung had power over the fertility of all creatures and the land itself. He appointed other Oriental dragons to control areas of human activities, such as music, literature, the military, bridge building, law and architecture.

Many of the Celtic intertwined serpent-dragons were of the Air Element. Above the gate of Kilmainham jail in Dublin can still be seen a large carving of entwined Celtic serpent-dragons. The Danish Ringerike style of carving shows the same kind of dragon. These carved, twisting shapes are full of energy, giving the illusion of constant movement. A Buckle from the Sutton Hoo burial site also portrays these aerial serpent-dragons.

Janet Hoult, in her book “Dragons: Their History & Symbolism (Gothic Image, 1990)” tells of seeing such an aerial display of these dragons above the houses in London. She describes it as a fiery ball of golden “serpents” which looped and writhed around each other in a strange dance in the morning skies.

When the Ringerike style went out of fashion in the Middle Ages and dragons began to be more realistically portrayed, this looping movement was retained in at least the tail if no other part of the body. Since even the vilified Christian dragons had at least one loop in their tails, this may have been a symbol for the great and limitless energy of dragons.

Although one does not usually think of the Australian Rainbow Serpent as being a dragon,, it falls into the category of both weather and water dragons. The Rainbow Serpent is known as a rainmaker in Australia, North America, and West Africa. The Australians say that when the rainbows arch across the land, the Rainbow Serpent is traveling from one water hole or water course to another.

From the deserts of Arizona to the peaks of the Andes, the great Feathered or Plumed Serpent Quetzalcoatl was known as a kindly benefactor and rainmaker. When he arched himself across the heavens, he was an awesome sight, with multicolored scales and bright feathers about his neck and head. When he appeared among his human followers, he chosen the form of a handsome young man attired in a cloak of feathers from the quetzal bird. Quetzalcoatl was the god of win, creator of all life forms, the loving father who produced fertility and ample rain. He taught humans the arts and crafts of civilization and gave them the gift of fire. When Tezcatlipoca, god of war, turned the people to sacrificing living human hearts, Quetzalcoatl left the land.

Even in the British Isles, there are still a few remnants of ancient dragons processions for good spring weather. At one time there were a great many suck festivals. Most of the significance has been lost because of the extreme propaganda by the church. In Britain many of the dragon figures carried in the processions have been destroyed. One of the very few remaining is carried each May as part of the Helston Furry Dance. Two very old dragon effigies now hang in the Castle Museum at Norwich. The Civic Snap, which is the older of the two, dates from about 1795; the Pockthorpe Snap was made by the people of a neighboring village.

Throughout the Middle Ages, these dragons effigies for the spring festivals were very elaborate. They had wings that flapped, horseshoes for gums that made a clacking noise as their mouths opened and closed, and gun powder that made them belch smoke and fire. They were painted in bright colors and quickly became the centerpiece and most popular part of the processions.


In Central and South American and the Caribbean there was a dragon called Huracan; hurricanes were named after him. He was also responsible for earthquakes. In Olmec and Mayan carving of Huracan, he is shown with two forelegs one crooked up , the other down, to suggest his spinning movement. He has only one hind leg the destructive leg that sweeps across the Earth. Other carvings show a man sitting inside what was called Dragon-mouth Cave, and identify this person as Huracan’s brother; it is more likely an initiate. Dragon-mouth Cave has the dragon’s eye on its top with the dragon’s flaming eyebrows; the pupil of the eye is an X. Out of the cave mouth issues clouds of mist-laden breath, a symbol of both rain and the fertility of spirit. Carved near this cave mouth are four sets of concentric circle, the South American sign of precious jade-water (spiritual moisture or blessings).

In ancient Greek culture Typhon was one of the children of the Goddess Gaea and Tartarus. He created powerful, destructive whirlwinds called typhoons. He was pictured with a human body, legs of coiling serpents, a hundred dragons’ heads and many wings. Fire glittered from his many eyes.

This subspecies of dragons is petitioned for weather changes, such as bringing rain, abating a storm or calming wind. Obviously, the magician cannot collect any substance from their dwelling places, but he can entice them by using a small drum and the gong or bell to draw their attention. Wind chimes and winds socks also attract them. The magician can easily work outside with this dragon force. However, do not go outside, particularly under trees or with any metal objects, during a thunderstorm! Such action can be potentially dangerous, because lightning could strike you.

Chant while beating the drum or striking the gong with a slow, steady beat:

THE WINDS ARE HOWLING THROUGH THE TREES.
THE CLOUDS ARE RACING ‘CROSS THE SKY.
THE WEATHER IS CHANGING ONCE AGAIN.
GREAT DRAGONS ARE PASSING BY.
BY THOUGHT I FOLLOW YOUR AIRY DANCE
THROUGH MOUNTAINS OF CLOUDS ABOVE SO HIGH,
BRING US GOOD WEATHER FOR THIS LAND.
GREAT DRAGONS, PASS ON BY.

The Preliminaries to Cast a Spell or Setting up a Ritual

The Preliminaries to Cast a Spell or Setting up a Ritual

  

As when organizing a party, it is important to spend a little time planning your spell casting. Think about the precise purpose of the spell, the best time, most appropriate setting and for whom the spell is being cast. For a ritual you need to consider the underlying as well as the obvious focus of the ritual Do you need to change the emphasis of a tried and tested format? Even a seasonal rite will have a theme, for example the May eve/Day celebrations have traditionally been associated with fertility. This fertility applies in whatever way it is needed, whether personally, ecologically or globally. Therefore you and the guests or participant should decide in advance precisely what you are working towards and carry out rituals to take advantage of the prevailing energies.

Location is important even for a quickie spell. You wouldn’t set a child’s birthday party in the same place you would your great-aunt’s golden wedding. With open air spells or rituals you need a wet weather or sheltered location plan just in case a force 8 gale blows up. Some spells can be planned in advance for a day out or weekend away, but others will be spontaneous, when you happen to come across a perfect location while on your way to somewhere else. There are also urgent occasions when you will have to imagine that crashing sea while stood by the local canal at lunchtime. The timing of a spell is also vital.

Before you cast the spell you also need to decide how long you want the effects of the spell to last and how quickly you need results. Do you want an immediate infusion of power within the 24 hours following the spell? Will the effects take longer–before the next full moon, within three months? You should build this time frame into the spell and declare it in the purpose of the spell.

Should it be a single spell or one carried out, for example, every Friday for a month or on the three days before the fulll moon in order to build up the powers?

Then you need to decide on the symbol or symbols that will act as the focus for the spell energies (you can’t dance and chant round a would-be lover in the office).
Do you need to emphasize any one element in the spell? Is the spell mainly fire based for power or is there a fairly evenly spread elemental mix, for example to resolve a long-term justice or court matter.

You need to think about any special props, magickal tools or substances that are required. After all, you wouldn’t use the same chine or serve the same food at your teenager’s post-exam party as you would if the boss was coming to dinner. Do you want a full altar or will it be mainly a word- or personal-movement-based spell? If on a beach or in the woods, can you use what you find there as tools and symbols?

Finally, who are you inviting to your spell or rite? The friend who has lost the animal you are casting the spell for? Your sister to help you with a love spell? Are you organizing a welcome-into-the-world party for your family, to celebrate the birth of a baby to a family member who lives in another country? Are you entrusted with the organization of your magick group or coven’s autumn thanksgiving?

If you work alone, as many witches including myself do most of the time, you’re still not a magickal Billy or Betty No Mates. You won’t be short of spiritual company. You can welcome the guardians of the four quarters even in a relatively simple spell; invite the wise ancestors to celebrations such as Samhain or Hallowe’en or New Year.
As for the nature essences, whenever you work outdoors or even indoors in a circle of pot plants (my favorite setting on a really foul day) they will be curious. So invite them in and benefit from their energies.

Visiting the Well of Release

Visiting the Well of Release

A Meditation to Process Pain

by Melanie Fire Salamander

Okay, it’s that time of year again. I don’t know about you, but the first part of the year, New Year’s through Valentine’s, way too often finds me breaking up with someone. I hate it! You’d think I’d have figured out how to avoid it by now. But the pain of leaving, or worse of being left, never seems to get easier. All I seem to be able to hope for is a few more tools for dealing with it.

Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid this pitfall, pain is all around us. Life, as the Buddha said, is suffering. This is a bad time of year for family pain, our having just gone through the holidays. The earth lies fallow, exposing her wounds: building sites like open sores, old mines and dumps, places whose ruin makes you weep. And it’s a dark time of year, when during long nights and short dreary days all the specific, personal drek we’ve avoided in summer and fall can rise and engulf us.

Don’t let that happen! You can process pain. Not shove it, to find it later, having grown runners to other, older pains, but truly process it — be in it, feel it deeply, then let it go. It’s not a hasty process. Expect to do this work over and over again. But each time you do, I promise you, you can and will let go a little pain. It’s hard work, because to release the pain, I find, you have to feel it again and know its roots, its causes, which usually go back to sufferings of early life or even before. But if you’re willing to do the work, you can heal.

Following is a meditation to help that process happen. In honor of the season and of the goddess Brigid, I’ve built into the meditation an image of a sacred, healing well, an image of this goddess, whose holy day Imbolc or Candlemas is. To use this meditation, either record it on tape and play it back or ask someone to read it to you. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

Before starting, find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed; take the phone off the hook and if necessary shut out your pets. If you’re prone to falling asleep, try sitting up as you meditate, preferably on a chair or against a surface that helps keep your back straight; alternatively, you can sit cross-legged or in lotus position. If you have problems relaxing, stretch out on a bed, couch or the floor.

The Meditation

Close your eyes, and begin to relax. Take a few deep breaths: in, out; in, out. Feel your body, wriggle your fingers and toes, your nose, your hips and arms; roll your head. Feel where your body ends and what’s around you begins. Feel the air around you, the surface underneath you. Be here now, present in your body, in the present moment. Feel yourself begin to relax.

Continue to breathe deeply, and begin to release the cares of your day and week with your breath. Be completely here in the present moment.

Throughout this meditation, you will have a complete, deep experience, and you will remember everything you sense and learn. If you need to return, you can always recall yourself to the physical world by moving your fingers and toes. You will feel utterly safe and protected throughout.

Relax more fully still, and breathe deeply. Feel in the center of your body, behind and below your belly button, a spark of life, your life, your eternal fire. Feel that flame pulse with life. Let that flaming center send a spark of energy downward, a liquid trail like molten fire, down through your groin into your base and down into the earth. Feel this energy flow downward, through the foundation of the building, down into the deep, wet, cold earth, the soil, through hidden underground streams, cool water slick on rocks, and below that into the solid rock of the earth’s mantle. Feel the personal flame from your body push down through rock into the deep core of the earth, the earth’s molten center, where all is fire as it is fire inside you. Feel your own personal fire connect with the energy of the earth, deep and red, the red glowing heart of the earth.

At the same time, feel a spark of energy flare upward from the center of your body, up through your torso, through your neck, through your head, through the top of your head into the air. Let this energy flow upward through the air of the room, through the ceiling, through the roof of the building into the cold air. Let the energy fountain up, up, up, through the cold damp air, past clouds of rain and ice, up into the clear sky above all clouds. Feel your personal fire energy connect with the fires of the sky, the energy of sun and stars and moon, fiery, swirling sky energy.

Feel your deep energetic connections to both earth and sky, tap into those connections and deeply feel them. Let sky energy begin to flow downward into you, and at the same time let earth energy flow upward into you. Feel the two energies combine in your center, swirling together gently and cleanly, into one combined healing energy. Let this energy flow outward from your center, filling your torso, filling your lungs and throat, filling your head, filling your groin and pelvis, your legs and arms, touching and washing away remaining tension, cleansing and healing. Let all negative energy you can let go of flow with this wave out through your grounding. Let negative energy, tension and pain and anger and everything you want to let go of flow sweetly and cleanly down your grounding, into the earth, which can reuse the energy for other things.

Now let a wave of sky energy come through you again, combine with earth energy, and fill you, cleansing you, and wash away another layer of negativity down your grounding. Release everything you need to release. Keep any information you require, but release pain, tension, fear and error with the cleansing, healing energy down your grounding.

And again, let another wave of sky energy come into you, combine with the energy of earth, fill you and cleanse you, washing trouble and pain away down your grounding into the earth. Feel your deep connection to earth, and let trouble and pain wash into the earth. Keep any information you require, but let all the pain you can go into the earth.

Feel yourself cleansed and sparkling, full of earth and sky energy, and deeply connected to both earth and sky. Ground out any energy you

don’t need into the earth.

Now imagine yourself at a stone boundary marker, standing beside a gravel road. It is dusk, wintertime, and you are in farm country. The landscape is wintry, with a light dusting of snow, the tree branches bare of leaves, but you don’t feel the cold. Smoke rises from chimneys of houses here and there, some far away on bare hills of cropped brown. The air smells cold and of woodsmoke.

You turn and walk a while down this road. To either side are fields full of stubble, tan. As you pass, crows rise cawing. Far across a field, you see a lone scarecrow standing.

The road slopes gently down a hill, and you come into a small wood. Tree limbs rise gnarled and black around you, shadowing the road. A rabbit raises its head, brown against white shadowed snow, looks at you a moment and bounds away.

You come out of the wood into a flat landscape, cropped fields to either side behind board fences. You walk awhile, the scenery barely changing, all in colors of brown and grey. The smell of the air changes, and you realize you must be coming to a body of fresh water. Walking forward, you crest a shallow hill and see before you stands of rushes around a large lake.

You continue forward on the road. The gravel stops, and you keep going on an earthen path. Tall rushes stand at either side, the air brushing through them, whispering. You push down the path through the rushes and find yourself at a dock where a small rowboat is tied up, oars lying in its bottom.

From here, at the lake’s edge, you have a clear view across. A band of gold haze lies along the horizon, between long bands of grey-purple cloud. The water is steel-grey, and in the center of the lake lies a small island, crowned by a grove of birch trees. The island attracts you strongly, and you decide to row out to it.

Knowing this is the custom of the place, you get into the boat, untie it, and fitting the oars to the oarlocks begin to row. The island is not far away, but it takes longer to get there than you think it will. The boat moves slowly and dreamily through the twilit water. The twilight stays constant; the sky does not get darker. This seems strange, but you feel perfectly safe and protected, and you accept that twilight stays in this place.

You come to the island shore, step out onto gravel and pull the boat up so it won’t float away, setting the oars in its bottom. The grey water, tinged lavender in the light, laps the gravel shore. You walk toward the grove of birch, and again though the trees don’t seem far away, it takes you longer to get to them than you thought it would. Things move slowly in this place. All around you lies dusk-purple light. Know that you will remember everything you need to from this place.

You edge between two birch trees and come to the center of the island. Here sits a stone well. Over the well hangs a weeping willow. The long arms of the willow move gently in the air, rustling.

You see among the willow branches, sitting on the edge of the well, a woman clad in sage-green. Her hair is long, falling almost to the ground, and a very fair blonde, or colorless, or grey — it’s hard to tell in the light. She greets you and tells you that this is the Well of Release, and she is its keeper.

You greet her with reverence. You know she is no ordinary person but a goddess. (Pause briefly.)

She asks you what you would release, and you tell her. (Pause briefly.)

She asks you to sit on the edge of the well, sit comfortably. When you are seated, she asks you go deeply into the problem you would release, saying she will protect you as you do.

You agree to her suggestion and begin to go into the problem in your mind. See the problem in your mind. See pictures of scenes around this issue, the people involved, the places. Take some time and bring the problem you want to release fully into your consciousness and emotions. (Pause for some time.)

Feel the emotions around the problem. Name these emotions. Be in them. Avoid resisting them, but let them be present and flow through you. Feel them fully. (Pause for some time.)

The keeper of the well watches you, understanding fully and protecting you as you do this work. When you have fully gone into, recognized and felt the emotions around this problem, she nods deeply and says she will give you something to hold this issue, a symbol or object to contain this pain. She holds out her hands, and between them is this symbol or object. (Pause briefly.)

You take it into your own hands. This symbol is a container and is meant for your use, to protect you. You feel perfectly safe and protected.

She instructs you now to put the problem you want to release into the symbol, to let flow into the symbol everything you need to let go. You do so gently and fully, letting your emotions and memories and thoughts flow into the symbol, keeping only that information you need and letting go all pain into the symbol. (Pause for some time.)

Once you have put what you need to into the symbol, the keeper of the well cranks the well-handle and draws up the bucket. She instructs you to put your symbol into the bucket, and you do. It goes easily, no matter how big or amorphous it is, as if that’s where it belongs. It disappears into the bucket.

Then the well-keeper lets the bucket back down into the well. The Well of Release, she tells you, lets into an underground stream, a stream that is able to change and break up pain and trouble and old blockages and let energy go where it belongs. You look down into the well, and you see the bucket hit the water, the dark water with just a ripple of light, see the bucket go into the water, disappear into the water. As it does, you feel released of your pain, you feel it gone. (Pause briefly.)

Now the keeper of the well brings out a crystal decanter full of water, and she motions you to stand in a silver-edged basin whose drain feeds into the source of the well. “This is the cleansing Water of Release,” she tells you. You see the water in the decanter sparkle with its own inner light. She pours the water over your head; it cascades down over you, and you feel not wet but as if cleansing, healing energy were going through you, washing away the last vestiges of pain and trouble, releasing the last blocks and letting them pour downward into the underground stream and into the earth. (Pause for some time.)

The well-keeper smiles at you and says, “Now you are cleansed and healed, and in token I give you a gift.” In her two hands she holds out this gift, and you take it. You examine it, and she tells you what you need to know to understand it. (Pause briefly.)

Know that you will keep the memory of this gift as you need to, and all else that you need to retain.

Now you say your good-byes to the keeper of the well and thank her. (Pause briefly.)

Leaving her, you pass out between the birch trees, and on the gravel shore find the boat. You draw it toward the water and get in, push off with your oar and slowly row back to the lake shore.

At the lake’s edge, you tie the boat to the dock, replace the oars in the boat bottom and, turning, walk back through the rustling reeds along the path. You pass through the reeds to the long flat land, the road with brown fields on either side, and into the dark wood. You notice that it has begun to get dark. But it is a reassuring darkness, a warm and protective darkness, a blanket drawn over the land that lets it sleep.

You pass under the black, gnarled branches and out of the dark wood, and you walk up the slope of the hill, looking at the cropped fields on either side. You greet the scarecrow and the crows that rise from the fields to caw at you. You continue along the gravel road, the landscape getting darker around you, and you find yourself back at the boundary marker from which you started.

You settle down beside this marker. All around you darkness falls, comfortable, comforting and calm. Know that you will remember everything you need to from this meditation. You will keep everything you need to keep.

You begin once more to feel your body. You are coming up from trance, feeling warm and relaxed yet energetic. Feel your body; wiggle your fingers and toes. Feel the surface below you and the air above. Retain in your mind everything you want to remember from this meditation.

Feel yourself present in your body, present in the here and now. Notice your breath; feel yourself draw breath deep into your lungs and let it go. You feel present and calm yet full of warm energy.

Breathe deeply once more, and open your eyes.

Waiting for Spring: How One Pagan Greets the Earth at Imbolc

Waiting for Spring: How One Pagan Greets the Earth at Imbolc

by Catherine Harper

Spring comes to Puget Sound early and slowly. First, there is the false spring in January, the few warm bright days that arrive along with the seed catalogs so soon after the Winter Solstice and tempt the gardener outside. I always seem to plant a few seeds for New Year’s, no matter how well I know that winter is not over, a few broccoli and hardy lettuces, or a row of radishes. By the middle of the month, the ground has frozen again. Yet the first stirrings of a lasting spring aren’t far behind.

As the days lengthen, even if the skies are leaden, the air full of rain and the thermometer nailed at 40, plants again begin to grow. It’s an odd time of year for eating. What’s in season is what has lasted from the year before — root vegetables, squash and suchlike — and what can be kept in the garden, such as cabbages and leeks that hold well there even if they don’t grow. And then there are the first shoots of new growth. The corn salad that went to seed in my garden last summer and sprouted in the fall has resumed its growth, giving me half a bed of 4-inch leaves for salads. In my herb garden, the salad burnet is producing new green leaves like serrated coins, tasting of cucumber. And throughout the yard are the tender young rosettes of wild sorrel, dandelion and pepper grass.

It isn’t much of a season for foraging; your time and effort will grant you only damp knees, cold fingers and a scant handful of leaves. But I find these few young shoots and last year’s gleanings irresistible, the first new tastes in the kitchen since the end of last year’s harvest. My salads are tiny handfuls, sometimes, masses of little leaves more strongly flavored than lettuce. I dress them simply with a sprinkling of oil and a few drops of good wine vinegar from our vinegar barrel — unlike the tough imported commercial greens of this season, their taste is worth savoring. Dandelion, picked young, is tender and only pleasantly bitter, rather like the taste of a cultivated chicory. Sorrel is a sharp green lemon, pepper grass a spicy cress, corn salad mild and crisp. And soon, within weeks, perhaps even only days, the first sprouts of chives will appear above the surface, marking another start of the year.

When writing for a pagan audience, it’s sometimes tempting for me to discuss these forays in terms of ritual practice: a recognition and greeting of earliest spring, or an opening to a discussion of holidays and symbolic significance. There’s something a little naked about saying “I went out today and saw a beautiful tree, and it made me tremble at my very roots,” and sometime I find it comforting to hide behind history, behind symbolic reference, behind, essentially, my own intellectual understanding of magic.

Yet in some ways, whatever lofty words I use will be but an abstraction of the simple physical reality. Outside, right now, there are green shoots. The waxing of the year might not be very far along, but it has started, because these shoots are growing more quickly now after almost stopping altogether only a few weeks ago. If you check on them regularly, you can see this. And if you go out into your yard, or someone else’s yard, a park or an overgrown lot, you can find them growing among the grass, plantain and pineapple weed. If you are hungry, you can pick them and eat them. There is still in me a great love of ritual, and yet at times all the ritual seems to pale before taste of these greens on my tongue.

In the kitchen, it’s a vexing, restless season, the time I am most tempted by imported peppers and avocados. With so little new choose from, it’s hard not to reach for some faint echo of summer. But it’s a time for patience, too, a time to acknowledge the cold and dark that is so much larger than our little pools of light, instead of trying to ignore them. At this time of year, I fire my brick oven frequently and bake bread, and then while the oven is hot I make dinners in clay pots — mousaka or lasagna, roast game hens, braised leeks. Late in the evening, using the recipe of a Finnish friend I put a pot of oats in the warm oven (a brick oven, once fired, holds heat for at least 20 hours) with water, cream and perhaps a little cinnamon, honey or molasses. In the morning I open the heavy iron door and pull out hot porridge, slow-cooked over the night.

It’s a good time of year to see what can be made with what you already have. Risotto with chanterelles saved from last autumn, or stored butternut squash and prosciutto. Dried black-eyed peas cooked with ham hock, dried tomatoes and peppers. Muffins with a handful of last year’s frozen blueberries. Potatoes sliced and baked with leeks and a little cheese.

And, of course, it’s the season of soup. I love soup. Noodle soups built on the last of the frozen broth from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass. Eight-fungus hot and sour soup. Red lentil tomato soup (which has the virtue of neither looking nor tasting like mud, a challenge that faces all lentil soups). Thin soups with ginger and pepper to drink when you have a cold. Thick soups for dinner with crusty bread. Winter minestrone to simmer on the back of the stove and feed whatever hordes might descend on your kitchen. Borscht to teach you a proper respect for those stout winter vegetables. On that note…

Winter Minestrone

This almost falls in the category of reaching for summer…. but the tomatoes are canned, oregano is growing in my garden, and even in the darkest months I can usually come up with a handful or two of greens fit for the pot. Broccoli greens are a favorite for this, though kale, chard, cabbage or even spinach will work just as well.

  • Dried beans
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • Canned tomatoes (at least two 14-ounce cans, but amounts are approximate)
  • 1 chunk parmesan rind
  • At least a double handful of noodles (shells are my favorite)
  • A couple of handfuls pot greens, coarsely chopped
  • 1 glug red wine
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or a teaspoon or two dried

Cover the bottom of a soup pot with dried beans, though the layer should be no more than two beans thick, and one is plenty. Soak the beans for at least three hours in warm water; overnight is better. Drain off the water, replace with some inches of fresh water and simmer gently over low heat until the beans begin to be tender. Add onions, garlic, tomatoes and parmesan. Simmer for another half-hour or so. Add noodles. Around the time the noodles just start to get tender, add greens, wine and oregano (you can also add a similar amount of dried basil, or of fresh basil should you be so lucky as to have any). Salt and pepper to taste, and serve when the greens are tender with crusty bread.

Borscht

I cannot claim any lineage of note for this borscht. The base recipe came from a cookbook some years ago, and I have adapted it (some might say taken liberties with it) to suit my tastes. Somehow borscht — even without either bacon or sour cream — manages to be more warming and filling than can be expected from a bowl of vegetables.

  • 2-3 pieces farmer’s bacon (optional)
  • 1 large leek (or two smaller ones)
  • 3-5 medium beets
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 1 small or 1/2 large head cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 glugs wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Sour cream

Cut the bacon into small pieces, and fry them in the bottom of a large thick-bottomed pot. Chop up the leek, and fry it in bacon grease (or omit the bacon and use some decent oil). When you can no longer prevent everything from sticking to the bottom of the pot, add a bit of water. Finely dice beets and carrots, add them to the pot and add enough water to cover. Chop cabbage (reasonably fine) and add it to the pot — add water if necessary, but remember that the cabbage will go limp soon and release its fluids. It doesn’t really need to be covered all the way. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add paprika, vinegar and salt. Cover and cook a few more minutes, and correct seasonings. Serve big steaming bowls, each with a dollop of sour cream.

OIMELC – February 2

OIMELC – February 2

Down with Rosemary and so
Down with baies and mistletoe;
Down with Holly, live and all
Wherewith ys drest the Yuletide Hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least Branch there left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.
–Robert Herrick

Oimelc – Imbolc in the Saxon – marks the first stirring of life in the earth.
The Yule season originally ended at Oimelc. But with increasing organization and
industrialization, increasing demands for labor and production, the holiday kept
shrinking, first to the two weeks ending at Twelfth Night, then to a single week
ending at New Year’s, then to a single day.

Oimelc begins a season of purification similar to that preceding Yule. It ends
at Ostara. No marriages, initiations or puberty rites should be celebrated
between Oimelc and Ostara.

The candles and torches at Oimelc signify the divine life-force awakening
dormant life to new growth.

THEMES

Growth of roots begin again. Bare branches begin to swell with leaf buds, and
growth appears at the tips of evergreen branches. The tools of agriculture are
being make ready for Spring.

Xian feasts of St. Brigid, and Celtic feast of Brigit, the maiden aspect of the
triple goddess and mother of Dagda. Her symbol is the white swan. A Roman feast
of Bacchus and Ceres. The Lupercalia, a feast of Pan. The Nephelim or Titans,
those offspring of human-divine unions said to have ruled Atlantis.

Grannus, a mysterious Celtic god whom the Romans identified with Apollo.

PURPOSE OF THE RITES

To awaken life in the Earth. Fire tires to strengthen the young Sun, to bring
the fertilizing, purifying, protective and vitalizing influence of fire to the
fields, orchards, domestic animals, and people. To drive away winter. To charm
candles for household use throughout the year.

FOLK CUSTOMS

The three functions of Oimelc – end of Yule, feast of candles or torches, and
beginning of a purificatory season – are divided by the Xian calendar among
Twelfth Night, Candlemas and Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras, Carnival). The customs
of all three feasts are derived from Oimelc, with at most a thin Xian gloss.

Parades of giant figures (Titans?) in rural towns in France and at Mardi Gras
and Carnival celebrations. A figure representing the Spirit of Winter or Death,
sometime made of straw, sometimes resembling a snowman, is drowned, burnt or in
once case, stuffed with fireworks and exploded. They symbol of Montreal’s Winter
Carnival is the giant figure of Bonhomme di Neige (snowman).

Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year and St. Valentine’s Day customs.

The French provinces are so rich in Oimelc customs they cannot be listed here.
Refer to “The Golden Bough”.

Wassailing the trees: at midnight, carolers carry a bucket of ale, cider or
lamb’s wool in a torchlight procession through the orchards. The leader dips a
piece of toast in the drink and sedges it in the fork of each tree, with the
traditional cheer (variations exist) of: “Hats full, holes full, barrels full,
and the little heap under the stairs!”.

Who finds the bean in the Twelfth Night cake becomes king of the feast; who
finds the pea becomes queen – never mind the gender of the finders. Rag-bag
finery and gilt-paper crowns identify the king and queen. The rulers give
ridiculous orders to the guests, who must obey their every command. They are
waited on obsequiously, and everything they do is remarked and announced
admiringly and importantly: “The King drinks!”, “The Queen sneezes!” and
everyone politely imitates the ruler’s example.

SYMBOLIC DECORATIONS

Snowdrops are picked for vases, but otherwise no special decorative effects are
indicated. Go carnival, balloons and confetti.

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

Parades, with showers of confetti, gala balls, masks, street dancing, mumming,
winter sports, ice and snow sculpture.

THE RITE

Dress in dark colors with much silver jewelry. Outdoors, after dark on the Even,
have the site arranged with a fire in the cauldron and the altar draped in
white, at the Northeast. The fire may be composed all or in part of Yule greens.

Go in a torchlight procession to the Circle. Include a stamping dance, possibly
beating the ground with sticks, before the Invocation. The invocation may end
with the calling of Hertha, a Teutonic goddess of the earth and the hearth. Call
her name three times and at each call beat on the ground three times with the
palms of both hands.

A figure representing Winter should be burned in the fire. Communion may consist
of Sabbat Cakes or a Twelfth Night cake (there are many traditional recipes) and
cider or wassail. A procession may leave the Circle for a time to wassail a
nearby orchard. Couples may leap the bonfire. Supplies of candles brought by the
coveners are blessed.

Boys puberty rites may be celebrated. These usually include mock plowing by the
boys.

Close the Circle and go indoors for the feast.

Celebrations Around The World, Jan. 23

New Year of the Trees (Palestine)
Handwriting Day
Lichtenstein Foundation Day
National Pie Day
One-Tooth Rhee Landing Day
Goddess Month of Bridhe begins
St. Ildephonsus’ Day
Grandmother’s Day (Bulgaria)
Measure Your Feet Day
Birthday of the Grand Duchess (Luxembourg)
Ragwort Dance (Pixies only)
Quebec International Bonspiel (Curling Tournament)
St. Emerentiana’s Day (patron against stomachaches)
National Rhubarb Pie Day

Chinese New Year, Year of the Water Dragon

The Chinese New Year Festival

The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordination with the changes of Nature). Its origin is too old to be traced. Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means “year”, was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year (Do not lose track here: we are talking about the new year in terms of the Chinese calendar).
One legend goes that the beast Nian had a very big mouth that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, “I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?” So, swallow it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harassed people and their domestic animals from time to time.

After that, the old man disappeared riding the beast Nian. He turned out to be an immortal god. Now that Nian is gone and other beasts of prey are also scared into forests, people begin to enjoy their peaceful life. Before the old man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year’s end to scare away Nian in case it sneaked back again, because red is the color the beast feared the most.

From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of Nian is carried on from generation to generation. The term “Guo Nian”, which may mean “Survive the Nian” becomes today “Celebrate the (New) Year” as the word “guo” in Chinese having both the meaning of “pass-over” and “observe”. The custom of putting up red paper and firing fire-crackers to scare away Nian should it have a chance to run loose is still around. However, people today have long forgotten why they are doing all this, except that they feel the color and the sound add to the excitement of the celebration.

The Holiday Spot

History of the Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year has a great history. In our past, people lived in an agricultural society and worked all year long. They only took a break after the harvest and before the planting of seeds. This happens to coincide with the beginning of the lunar New Year.

The Chinese New Year is very similar to the Western one, rich in traditions, folklores and rituals. It has been said that it is a combination of the Western Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. This is hardly an exaggeration!

The origin of the Chinese New Year itself is centuries old – in fact, too old to actually be traced. It is popularly recognized as the Spring Festival and celebrations last 15 days.

Preparations tend to begin a month before the date of the Chinese New Year (similar to a Western Christmas). During this time people start buying presents, decoration materials, food and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway days before the New Year, when Chinese houses are cleaned from top to bottom. This ritual is supposed to sweep away all traces of bad luck. Doors and windowpanes are often given a new coat of paint, usually red, then decorated with paper cuts and couplets with themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity printed on them.

The eve of the New Year is perhaps the most exciting part of the holiday, due to the anticipation. Here, traditions and rituals are very carefully observed in everything from food to clothing. Dinner is usually a feast of seafood and dumplings, signifying different good wishes. Delicacies include prawns, for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters ( ho xi), for all things good, fish dishes or Yau-Yu to bring good luck and prosperity, Fai-chai (Angel Hair), an edible hair-like seaweed to bring prosperity, and dumplings boiled in water (Jiaozi) signifying a long-lasting good wish for a family. It is customary to wear something red as this colour is meant to ward off evil spirits. But black and white are frowned upon, as these are associated with mourning. After dinner, families sit up for the night playing cards, board games or watching television programmes dedicated to the occasion. At midnight, fireworks light up the sky.

On the day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, meaning Red Packet, takes place. This involves married couples giving children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes. Then the family begins to say greetings from door to door, first to their relatives and then to their neighbours. Like the Western saying “let bygones be bygones,” at Chinese New Year, grudges are very easily cast aside.

Tributes are made to ancestors by burning incense and the symbolic offering of foods. As firecrackers burst in the air, evil spirits are scared away by the sound of the explosions.

The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns, which is a celebration with singing, dancing and lantern shows.

At the Festival, all traditions are honored. The predominant colors are red and gold. “Good Wish” banners are hung from the ceilings and walls. The “God of Fortune” is there to give Hong Baos. Lion dancers perform on stage continuously. Visitors take home plants and flowers symbolizing good luck. An array of New Years specialty food is available in the Food Market. Visitors purchase new clothing, shoes and pottery at the Market Fair. Bargaining for the best deal is commonplace!

The Holiday Spot

Happy Chinese New Year, dear friends! It’s The Year of the Water Dragon!

Wiccan Images, Pictures, Comments
Good morning, dearies! Happy Chinese New Year to All! I tried to find a graphic that fit the occasion, but……there was none to be found. I hope everyone is having a fantastic Monday.  I am feeling pretty good. The Sun is shining in all of its majestic glory. I think everyone feels better when the Sun shines. We had some bad storms come through here last night. I think I was up half the night holding my pup and wildcat (Razzy). Razzy hasn’t experienced a thunderstorm and high winds before. It was something else trying to keep her calm during the storm. But I finally managed it this morning around 4:00. I think she was too tired to care anymore. Of course, I was propped up against a file cabinet going, “cat are you ever going to sleep, Good Grief!” All I know is I woke up still propped up on the cabinet and she was asleep beside me. Considering all that I feel pretty good. I haven’t asked Razzy yet how she feels, lol!

You have a fantastic Monday and Happy Year of the Water Dragon!

 

Today’s Affirmation for Jan. 23rd

“I have a wealth of knowledge and talents. Each day I spend some time in quiet contemplation to allow these riches to emerge.”

 

Today’s Thought for Jan. 23rd

Your Special Gifts

We all have gifts that we may not fully appreciate – unique talents that enrich our esperiences and help us to face the challenges in our lives. Spend time reflecting on them. What personal qualities and creative talents do you have? Perhaps you are empathetic, funny or eloquent, a talented singer or a beautiful dancer. Acknowledge and cherish these unique gifts. Recognize them as blessings bequeathed to you for the benefit and enjoyment of yourself and others.

 

Correspondences for Monday, Jan. 23rd

Magickal Intentions: Psychic Sensitivity, Women’s Mysteries, Tides, Waters, Emotional Issues, Agriculture, Animals, Female Fertility, Messages, Theft, Reconcilliations, Voyages, Dreams and Merchandise
Incense: African Violet, Honeysuckle, Myrtle, Willow, Wormwood
Planet: Moon
Sign: Cancer
Angel: Gabriel
Colors: Silver, White and Gray
Herbs/Plants: Night Flowers, Willow Root, Orris Root, Birch, Motherwort, Vervain, White Rose and White Iris
Stones: Carnelian, Moonstone, Aquamarine, Pearl, Clear Quartz, Flourite, Geodes
Oil: (Moon) Jasmine, Lemon, Sandalwood
Monday belongs to the Moon. Monday’s energy best aligns itself with efforts that deal with women, home and hearth, the family, the garden, travel, and medicine. It also boosts rituals involving psychic development and prophetic dreaming.

 

Spellcrafting for Monday, Jan. 23rd

SPELL TO INCREASE HEALTH AND VITALITY

You will need: quartz crystal
If you have a piece of quartz, first wash it in warm soapy water and rinse it with running water.
Then hold the crystal in both hands. Close your eyes and imagine being bathed in white light.
Visualize the area of your illness and point the crystal to that site. Imagine a stream
of light flowing from the crystal and bathing the area in its pure rays.
Place your crystal under your pillow while you sleep.