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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Samhain: Ancient and Modern

Calan Gaeaf (Welsh) or Samhain (Irish) begins at sunset of 31st October and runs to to sunset 1st November according to most Western Pagan traditions. If working by the moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Scorpio. If working by the natural landscape, it is when the first frosts bite. Samhain was termed the Celtic New Year, as it marked the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another. The Celts reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, and so the start of the year would begin in the dark time at the beginning of winter. Samhain marked the first day of Winter.

Calan Gaeaf, however, is a time that is not a time, and therefore some Pagans honour this tide and season from 31st October right through to the Winter Solstice. It is a time after many things have died, and there is a stillness to the air, an Otherworldly feel in the silence. It's a dark time here in the UK, with long nights on our northerly latitude, and usually a very wet time as well. It's not hard to see how these months could be seen outside of time, outside of the cycles of life, death and rebirth.

Calan Gaeaf, Samhain, Hallowe'en, All Soul's Night - for many pagans this is the ending of one year and the beginning of another.  It is often seen as the third and final harvest - with the last of the apples harvested, the cattle were prepared for winter and the grain stored properly.  It is also a time when it is said that the veil between the worlds is thin, and the realms of the living and the dead are laid bare to each other. We are approaching the darkest time of the year, and the killing frosts and snows await just around the corner.  It is a time of letting go, of releasing into the dark half of the year, and getting rid of the dross in our lives so that we do not have to carry them with us through the long winter nights.  We consciously make the effort to live better, meaningful lives and let go of all that holds us back - our fears and worries, our anger and hatred.  We nurture the beneficial and the good that we have in our lives, ensuring that they are well kept for our plans to come at the winter solstice. So the cycle continues.

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  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    A very lovely and evocative description. Thanks for sharing, blessed be, Tasha
A World Underfoot: Meeting Goddess in the Smallest Creatures

Picture a girl or woman coming across an insect unexpectedly. Perhaps you just heard her shriek. Women have been trained to let men stand in and defend them from this fearsome beasts. It’s kind of strange if you think about it, given that any physical strength advantage is relatively meaningless in response to something about an inch or smaller in length. I think I’ve fallen into this squeamish behavior myself for long enough; it’s time to put on my hiking boots and get to know some of Gaia’s smaller beings. As a practitioner of Earth-based Goddess Spirituality, I wanted to take some time to explore ways in which we might learn spiritual lessons from insects as they reflect the presence of Goddess.

Bees

Many insects, including bees, function as a collective. The queen bee is responsible for laying eggs and releasing a pheromone to give the bee colony a unique chemical perfume. The female worker bees feed her, tend to the hive and take care of the offspring. The drones have it pretty rough; they exist to mate with the queen. They are killed in the mating process or kicked out of the hive to starve during winter.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In much of ancient Indo-European times, deities of waters were worshipped.  Springs, rivers and seas all have gods and goddesses that were prayed to and honored in hopes the bodies of water would remain plentiful and yet at the same time, not flood.  Water was critically important to the life and well being of the village.  So much so that the person in charge of the tribe would be granted sovereignty only with permission of the local water (and surrounding land) deity.

 

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grab your wallet: how vegans exemplify consumer advocacy

 b2ap3_thumbnail_Gandhi-greatness_of_nations.jpg

In today's political climate, I've noticed more and more folks talking about consumer campaigns around "grabbing your wallet" when you disapprove of certain individual or industrial practices. I think this is great. It reminds me of the activist magic at work behind veganism. Every single one of us votes with our consumer dollars in one way or another. Veganism is one example of a "boycott," in the sense that we are grabbing our wallet and refusing to pay for certain practices. The concept was popularized (though not invented) by Gandhi as non-cooperation with an oppressive group or practice.

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Lammas, Lugh and the Miracle of the Harvest

Though the heat of Summer still burns bright and strong, the sunlit hours wane with every passing day. Now is the time of Lammas, the pagan Sabbat of the early harvest. Lugh, the Celtic God of light, waits for you on the summit of a hill, ready to guide you in the mysteries of life and rebirth held within the living land and your living body.

The sun has begun is downward arc toward the horizon, and a panoramic view of golden fields, ripe for the early harvest, spreads out before you.

“Behold the great exchange of life,” Lugh says, “the mysteries of sunlight turned into grain to feed the hungry bellies of this world.  But there is a price for this miracle: something must die to nourish the living, and for something new to be born. Everything has its season. One cycle ends so another can begin.”

With a wave of His hand, the scene shifts, revealing the elemental forces that underlie the golden fields.  All is not well.  The earth is parched and barren. The air is filled with contaminants. The fire heat of the sun is too harsh. The water in the nearby stream is clouded with murky sludge.

“Like the turning of Nature’s cycle of light and life at Lammas, humanity is also coming to the end of a cycle,” Lugh says, “For too long, your kind has forgotten the ways and rhythms of the Mother Earth.  You have taken, and taken, and taken, despoiling the air, water and land that sustain you. This imbalance has come to an end point, and a reckoning is upon you.”

Lugh is grave and silent, leaving you to consider the import of His words. The stark evidence of humanity’s environmental excesses and disregard surrounds you. The Mother Earth is weighted down and weary, with Her fragile, precious systems stressed and failing.

“I don’t share these things to burden you with a vision of despair,” Lugh continues, “Look to Nature as your guide, with its Lammas teaching of the miracle of the harvest. Within everything is the seed of a new season, with its promise of a fresh beginning and future harvest.

“You too have come to the end of a cycle,” Lugh says, “and your personal healing and evolution are intimately intertwined with that of humanity and the Earth.

“The imbalance you see before you is also inside of you, side by side with your personal imbalances and discontent, and those of your human society. And the seeds of the new are there as well, within your living body and life story.  With these seeds, you can mend and renew your life and this world.

“But there is a price to be paid for this miracle. Something must die, must be sacrificed, for something new to be reborn. You must be willing to change in profound ways.”

Lugh turns toward you, His face suffused with compassion and love. He places His warm, golden-skinned hand on your midbody, sending His deep wisdom into your very core.

“You must ask yourself: what is ready to be harvested and cut away in my life in service of my soul work, and a more sustainable, life-serving exchange between myself and the Mother Earth? What lessons must I ingest to aid my transformation? What am I willing to sacrifice for new seeds to take root in my life and the greater world?”

The sun now dips below the horizon, bringing on the chill of impending darkness. Your time with Lugh is ending. As His light dims, He leaves you with one last gift of illuminating wisdom.

“Remember that the seeds of the new are held within the body of the living. Everything you need to heal, grow and transform yourself and your world is present in this now moment, in the golden field that is your life story. Be brave. Be wise. Be guided by the profound endings and new beginnings arising within you.”

As Lugh and His hilltop vision fade away, know that a time of reckoning has indeed arrived; we must make sacrifices and change if we are to preserve the beauty and abundance of our Earth home.  Some things must end, must die, for something new to be reborn. Within each of our lives are the seeds, the miracles, of the new season and harvest to come.

Photo Credit: Emma Van Sant on UnSplash

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Lughnasadh and the State of Grace

Lughnasadh is upon us, and the farmers are anxiously looking to the skies for a few clear hours when they can harvest their crops of wheat in my area. It has been a hot, dry summer, and of course, just when the harvest is due to come in we get changeable weather with rain showers every day; not ideal when you need to gather in a crop like wheat totally dry, or else it will rot. So just like our ancestors, we look up and hope and pray for some dry weather, and for the farmers, that they’ve rented the combine harvesters on the best day for it, and not when it's going to dump it down halfway through their work.  

Things are unpredictable in life. It's just something that we have to accept. With a little grace, we can face the problems and triumphs, the highs and the lows with equanimity. Grace is a word that is little used today, but one which I think is important, and one that I've been trying to live each and every day.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Foundations of Incense: Sandalwood

In the next several entries I plan to quickly explore the materials that have formed the basis of incense historically as well as those that modern incense makers use regularly.  One of the most important incense ingredients historically is sandalwood.

There are 5 different varieties of sandalwood that are used in scented products, although only 3 of those have commonly been used in modern times.  Indian yellow sandalwood (santalum album) has historically been a preferred base material for incense in Asia and Africa.  Even in modern times, sandalwood is burned in every form from large pieces in fires to powdered bits in incense sticks and cones.  The biggest consumer of sandalwood, by far, is the perfume industry.  Sandalwood is a key ingredient in many popular perfumes.  Once you work with the fragrance for a while you will begin to recognize it in colognes and perfumes.  The popularity of sandalwood over the centuries has led to its endangered status in India, the motherland of incense.  International treaties have reduced the trade in sandalwood from India to the realms of bootleggers.  For some years now the only sandalwood from India that was legally available in the USA was from existing stockpiles.  It is now virtually impossible to get real sandalwood from India in the USA, although there are many imitation products sold under the label of “Indian sandalwood”.

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