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Many Pagans, Wiccans, Polythesists, and others today mark Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nuh-sah or loo-NAH-suh; also sometimes called Lammas from the Christianized "loaf mass") on August 1 or August 2 in the northern hemisphere and on February 1-2 in the southern. Some eclectic traditions mark Lughnasadh according to the full Moon that is closest to August 1.Others celebrate it on the nearest weekend for convenience, especially if doing group or public ritual.

The roots of Lughnasadh come from old Celtic traditions, i.e., the Irish, Scot, Manx, Cornish, Welsh, and Breton peoples and probably from those of the Isle of Man as well. Many celebrants today follow traditional agricultural markers (based on extant records, folklore, etc.) rather than calendar dates when timing celebrations. Those practicing Celtic reconstructionist Druidism may locate Lughnasadh according to the appearance of the first late summer fruits or the first grain harvest in their home area. Here in the Pacific northwest, modern CRs use the blackberries to time agricultural Lughnasadh, while CRs on the east coast tend to use blueberries. For most modern practitioners, the emphasis is most often on the rhythms of life in one’s home area rather than on the calendar. For instance, rather than marking Beltaine on May 1, many CRs celebrate it once the hawthorn—or the appropriate local white-flowering tree—blooms. In CR practices, the sacred and mundane are not separate, and the most mundane daily activity is every bit as sacred as the carefully planned “high ritual.” Daily life is a form of spiritual practice, and hospitality is one of the most highly valued of these expressions.

According to Irish mythos, Lughnasadh marks a funeral celebration and feast thrown by the God Lugh (pronounced LOO) in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu. Legend claims that she cleared much of Ireland’s plains to allow for farms to be started, after which she collapsed and died. (Yeah—I’d be tired, too.) The funeral games were subsequently called the Tailtin/Tailtiun games in her honor. Interestingly, because so many healthy, vigorous young people appeared for the games, Lughnasadh also became known as a prime time to make matches-- of the romantic rather than the gaming time-- with many handfastings following.

In folkloric terms—and those of traditional calendar customs—Lughnasadh more or less always marks the harvest of the local berries and of the first ripening grains.

Traditionalists may celebrate Lughnasadh in several ways, including some or all of the following:

1. The celebration is invariably communal. It was typical of the ancient Celtic peoples to gather as communities or even come from great distances for major celebrations, and this was often especially true at Lughnasadh as the weather tended to be better in summer than at the other cross-quarter holidays (although, the needs of one’s farm or animals always limited some from long periods of travel). The celebrations included feasting, games and tourneys (especially horse racing), and ritual fires.

2. The ancient Gods are appeased and thanked with offerings from the first harvest and with ritual. Lugh and Tailtiu, in particular, are often honored honored. Danu, the Irish mother goddess, is often mentioned at Lughnasadh as a benefactress.

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Minoan Ecstatic Postures: The Realm of the Dead

A couple of weeks ago I started exploring some of the ritual postures we find in Minoan art, mostly in the form of bronze and terracotta figurines. I began with the famous Minoan Salute and then had a look at the posture I call Shading the Eyes (and no, that’s not an ancient Minoan Weeping Angel, I promise! LOL).

This week I’ve done some experimentation with a posture that’s most common in Cycladic art, one that appears to link the user to the Realm of the Dead. You can see an example of it in the photo at the top of this post. These figurines, usually made of marble, show a person (most often a woman) with their arms across their abdomen, the left arm above the right.

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My specialty is small group rituals and retreats for women. However, a primary reason behind having women-only rituals at this point in my life is purely logistical. I find it nearly impossible to have a complete “retreat” experience with kids also present! Someone has to take care of the kids during said retreats…hence, single-sex rituals/ceremonies often make the most sense for my local community. However, shorter and simpler rituals are possible with kids, though they have a completely different feel and even function and so that energetic output needs to be balanced with the renewal and restoration we often need as parents, mothers, and women.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Love this post - just makes my heart happy thinking of your family and families all over the world doing this...
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    Thank you! Me too.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A toast to the Minoans!

It can be hard to figure out what kinds of rituals and traditions people of the past had, especially if we don't have any written records of them. But sometimes art can help. The image at the top of this post is part of the Camp Stool fresco from Knossos, the largest of the ancient Minoan cities. It shows a banqueting scene that includes ritual toasting, a common activity in many societies from that time. Here's a reconstruction of the whole fresco, with two rows of people participating in toasts and possibly libations (poured offerings) as well:


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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
How do you know that's a ritual object?

Most of what we know about the ancient Minoans was literally dug up out of the dirt. We've uncovered temple complexes, villages, towns, and all the furniture, dishes, and other items you'd expect to find in people's homes, workshops, and places of worship. But there aren't any Minoans around any more who can tell us what all those things were used for, so the archaeologists have to make educated guesses based on where each particular object was found.

Over in Ariadne's Tribe (my discussion group about modern Minoan Paganism) we frequently post images of lovely Minoan pottery that appears to have been randomly described as a 'ritual object.' Then we consider the possibility that the item isn't really a ritual object, but the archaeologists didn't know what else to call it and 'ritual object' sounds impressive when you're writing an academic paper.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Basic Meditation

Here is a 13 minute basic mindfulness meditation that I created which can be incorporated into your daily practice. I also use it before prayer and ritual, to ground and center myself, preparing for the work.

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Minoan Ecstatic Postures: Saluting the Sacred

If you participate in ritual, you're probably familiar with the idea of sacred postures. Many modern Pagan traditions include gestures such as the "Osiris pose" (arms crossed over the chest with hands on the shoulders) or the "Goddess pose" (arms raised to the sides with hands up and palms facing forward). Ancient religions included sacred postures as well. One of the most famous is the Minoan salute, shown above, with the right arm raised and the loosely-curled fist placed with the back of the hand against the forehead (all images in this post are from Wikimedia Commons).

Those of us who practice modern Minoan Paganism have worked extensively with the Minoan salute. Like other sacred postures, if held for a while, it will induce a gently altered state of consciousness. Belinda Gore and the folks at the Cuyamungue Institute in New Mexico have studied the effects and uses of ecstatic postures for years; I reviewed Belinda Gore's excellent book on ecstatic postures a while back. It turns out, the use of ritual postures goes back to the Stone Age and each one induces an altered state with a slightly different focus. And the Minoans had a whole collection of postures they used, not just the famous salute. Over in Ariadne's Tribe, we've been experimenting with these postures for a while and sharing our experiences so we can have an experiential window into ancient Minoan spirituality.

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