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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in bonfire
One Moon for All the World: New Year’s Council Fire

Any discussion of rituals for the month of January must include New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I remember the drama that ensued as people around the globe stood by to witness the sunrise on January 1, 2000, perceived as the beginning of the new millennium. While many other cultures observe their New Year at other times during the year, January 1 has also become a time of celebration, reflection and an opportunity to embrace change.

For many millennia, indigenous peoples have celebrated their own New Year in unique ways. One common element is the use of fire rituals by North, Central, and South American peoples. The Pilgrims who arrived to what was to become New England observed and documented that the Iroquois and other tribes they encountered had a New Year’s Council Fire, a time when the tribe gathered to review the past year, listen to their elders and speak their hopes, dreams, and visions of the coming year. In addition to your personal New Year’s ritual with the significant people in your life, I recommend a Bonfire Ceremony as a powerful way to bring positive change of the New Year into your life.

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The bonfire is a universal symbol of human celebration.

The flaming cauldron is a distinctive symbol (in the English-speaking world at least) of the new paganisms.

Here's the story that marries these two divergent facts.


Bonfires are really pretty impractical things. For one, they're a waste of wood. They're of no use for cooking; a bed of coals is much better for that purpose. Likewise, a small fire is a much better means of keeping warm. You can't really get close enough to a big fire for long enough to warm yourself through.

That's why, universally, a bonfire means: something special, out-of-the-ordinary, spendthrift. That's why a bonfire means: celebration.


In the normal way of things, cauldrons have fire on the outside, not the inside. Generally, fire in a cauldron means a burned dinner.

Yet, by virtue of this very unusualness, the flaming cauldron has become a distinctive symbol of Wicca: so much so that, from within the movement, its self-contradictory nature has gone largely unremarked.



Here's the story. In the beginning, modern revival witchcraft insisted on skyclad ritual. For practical reasons, both meteorological and sociological, this mostly meant indoor ritual.

But you can't have a bonfire indoors.

Enter the flaming cauldron.

At this remove of time, we no longer know who lit modern paganism's first flaming cauldron. A likely candidate would be “Aunt” Doreen Valiente who, as a novice, was tasked with creating Wicca's first Yule ritual. (“Emeth, dear, write us up a nice Yule for tonight, would you? There's a good girl.”) The rite that she crafted on the fly that afternoon in December 1953, with the flaming cauldron at its very heart, has become the Book of Shadows' quintessential rite of Yule.

The cauldron-as-indoor-firepit is a brilliant use of available resources. Though historically an intimate attribute of the witch—being shorthand for potion-brewing—the cauldron otherwise has (with one exception) little presence in classic Wiccan ritual, an odd fact directly attributable to Wicca's rootedness in Ceremonial Magic. (Few, if any, historic witches would have had even the slightest idea what a "pentacle" was.) Most lists of Wicca's sacred tools don't even include the cauldron.


Modern Paganism has an Indoor Problem. “Nature religion aside,” as Bast observes in Rosemary Edghill's Bowl of Night, “most pagans are indoor people.”

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Burning the Bones: Bonfires at Midsummer

It’s Midsummer, a day of feasting, bonfires, and dance. It’s a celebration of solar powers at their greatest, of warmth and bursting fruits and the year’s longest light. Like other holidays, it has gone by different names throughout its long history, and various spirits and gods are honored and receive sacrifices at this time. In Southern Slavic countries like Bulgaria, Midsummer Rusalia is celebrated at this time to honor the rusalki, female spirits of water and fertility. According to the folklore, these spirits are the souls of dead young women of the community who never spent their fertile powers during their young lives and therefore have the power to confer that fertility to the earth and their living community in death. Feasting and dances entice them, invoke their powers, and channel those powers into the fields and the bodies of those who wish to have children (Barber 17).


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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Long Nights Moon

Call it Cold, call it the Long Nights Moon. It is here tomorrow, and if it’s not too cloudy where you are, you should get outdoors to try and appreciate it. This is because it will appear larger than normal, due to its proximity to earth. Referred to as the Cold Moon by Native American Indian cultures, this was due to its proximity to the Winter Solstice, marking the longer nights and the colder section of the year. Here are some notions to mark the occasion and keep the Solstice celebration going all weekend long!

Build a bonfire or make a firepit fire to moon gaze under. You may even catch a meteor shower this year, if you’re far away from the city lights. Toast marshmallows and make homemade Moon Pie cookies, putting the melty goodness between two small graham cracker-style cookies (see recipe below). This is always an ideal time of year for quiet reflection. Choose the scrying method of your choice (I prefer a detailed tarot read that I can note in my Book of Shadows) and meditate on what the signs have to tell you as guides for the coming year. Consider your immediate past, present, and future: are you focusing your energies on being your best self? Imagine how you can better align any areas of your life that are out of whack. Your relationships will suffer if not all is right with you. Plan a “me time” date with yourself once a week throughout the month of January and stick to it. This can be both a time of letting go and replacing the dark with more positive energies and activities in your life.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs


Markswoman Blessing

May you honor the fire
behind your eyes.
May you release the arrow.
May you love your art to life.
excerpt © Shelly Anne Tipton Irish 2016

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Fire in Water

Midsummer's Eve 1940, German-occupied Denmark.

For the first time in perhaps 3000 years, no Midsummer bonfires burn in Denmark.

The Nazis have forbidden them.

Throughout Scandinavia and the Baltics, Midsummer's Eve is the greatest summer feasting of the year. Bonfires burn on every hilltop. In the countryside, one can see them literally from horizon to horizon.

In Denmark, a nation of islands and coastline, it is long-standing custom to build these solstice fires on the beach, where, in their reflections, one may behold the mythic fire that burns in water.

But a surprise awaits the occupiers.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sacred Skinnydip

Me, when I hear “Midsummer's,” I tend to think "Bonfire."

But of course, that's not the whole story.

Because on Midsummer's Eve there's not just a blessing on the Fire. There's also a blessing on the Waters.

They say that on this night the Sun and the Moon come down to bathe in the waters. For Christian folk it's John the Baptist's night, and what does “baptize” mean in Greek but “dunk” in plain old English? People may have different reasons, but they all agree on what you're supposed to do.

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