Samhain: Remembering our Ancestors

We are fast approaching the third and final harvest sabbat, Samhain. November 1st marks the time to give rest to all of the autumns harvests and setting in for the long dark of winter.

In olden days, this would have marked the harvest of those animals that will not make it through the winter and the start of preserving their flesh with smoke or salt. Today, we no longer need to wait until the coming of winter to prepare our stores of food. We just walk down to our local supermarket and pick up what we want.

There are so few of us who could understand what it took for our ancestors to make it through a winter and how important it was that every member of a household do their part in making sure that everyone made it through. In my local community, we go to the cemetery and spend time with the forgotten dead. It’s impossible for us to know the lives of all those who have died in our community since its founding but we can spend time to acknowledge their lives and their contributions to our community.

On a more personal level, Samhain is a good time for you to spend time remembering those people in your life who are no longer with you. I am sure that you have lost someone close to you and whether or not it was recent or someone you never had a chance to know in your lifetime like a great grand parents, Samhain offers you that space to reach out to their memory and give thanks to them for their role in your life.

For me, there are two people who I never had a chance to meet in my life because they died long before I was even a thought. They are my mother’s parents, Bill and Peggy Mitchell. Everything that I know about them is second hand knowledge from my mother and her siblings. I know that Peggy was a swimmer training to go to the Berlin Olympics but wasn’t able to go. I know that Bill was a life guard on the beach where he and Peggy met. I wish that I knew more about them but that most of their lives are lost to the memories of those who cannot tell me their stories.

There are other stories lost to time. I don’t know why my ancestors left the shores of Europe. I don’t know what adventures they had. I don’t know their hopes or their dreams. All I do know is that I would not be here if it were not for these people.

How you honor your ancestors is really up to you. I tend to create an altar for them and I burn incense in their honor. This year, I will be doing some journey work to meet up with my first ancestors. I hope to find out more about my roots and where my pagan blood comes from.

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I will also be celebrating Halloween by decorating my home, carving a pumpkin, and handing out sweets to the neighbor kids who come by our door. I will put on my best witch get up and welcome the trick-or-treaters with a smile. For children, this is a special night where they get to be whoever they want to be and get candy. I loved Halloween as a child. I loved running around the houses and collecting candy.

I hope that you have a safe and happy Halloween and a peaceful Samhain this year!

Blessed Be,

Priestess Spiritsong

Mabon Equinox

By now, you have have noticed that the hours of daylight are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler. The Autumnal Equinox and the solar festival of Mabon are here at long last. This is the second of the harvest festivals and marks the beginning of the dark time of the year.

Mabon is my favorite of all of the wheel of the year festivals. Since I live in an area where there are so many apple orchards and vineyards, I feel the strong pull of this season. As a child growing up, thanksgiving was my favorite of the family holidays and for me, Mabon marks the start of that season.

My coven is celebrating our second anniversary this Mabon. We named ourselves the Coven of the Oak and Apple in honor of both the Oak trees that grow all around us and the apple orchards that thrive in our valley. The Oak tree represents our connection of the God energy and the Apple tree represents our connection to the Goddess energy. We use acorns, oak leaves, and apple starts in our clothing and decorations.

The ritual work I do with my coven is often different from the work I will do on my own time. I like to do big magical work with my coven but all my personal work, I do on my own and my coven mates do theirs. Being in a coven is great for getting help with large issues that need more energy behind them. Coven members become like family if you let them in. I share all of my fears and insecurities with them and they help me to overcome them without feeling like I am being judged. When times are tough, we come together to support each other.

Finding pagans that you click with is actually pretty hard. I live in a pretty Christian city and out pagan population is definitely a minority here. There’s plenty of new age people but not a lot of them follow the path of the old gods or want to bring these kinds of practices into their everyday life. I will admit that I struggled with being public about my beliefs for a long time. This was when I was worried about how my beliefs would impact my employment status. These days, I don’t care about that at all. I am out of the broom closet for good now.

For my own personal work this Mabon, I am giving thanks for all of the lessons that I have been gifted this year. Some of them were harsh lessons that I had to learn about myself and what I want out of my life and relationships. I am at a bit of a crossroads as to what to do next and what I want. I feel like I am on the next stage of my life but I am not sure what I want to put my energy into. That’s one of the hard parts of doing ritual work, figuring out what you want to put your energy into.

Since we are at the harvest season, now is not the time to start something new but rather to reflect on what we have received. I am thankful for being able to reconnect with old friends, for the chance to reevaluate my life and needs, and for growing stronger.

Blessed Be!

~Priestess Spiritsong

Mabon Altar set up #pagan #paganpriestess #covenoftheoakandapple

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Top down #mabon #altar #pagan #paganpriestess #covenoftheoakandapple

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Shape Shifting

When I was a child, I used to like to play pretend. You remember this game, right? You would pick an animal, a character, or a roll and then pretend to be them. My favorites were creatures like squirrels, otters, wolves, dinosaurs, and mermaids.

As I grew up and stopped playing children’s games, I lost a bit of that wonder that you get from becoming a different creature. What I didn’t know as a child was that I was practicing an elementary form of shapeshifting. That is, allowing the spirit of the creature you are challenging to join with you and you take on aspects of that creature.

This is different from spending time with a spirit animal during a journey session. If you have any experience with shape shifting, than you know that when you choose to merge with an animal energy, you bring certain aspects of that animal into your physical and emotional being. For example, if you wish to bring better sight for seeing in the dark, you might call upon the energy of an owl. If you want to be more playful, you might call upon the otter to help you loosen up.

You don’t need to pick animals, you can choose things like dragons, unicorns, and griffins. Keep in mind that what you want to get out of these creatures will depend on what you perceive their energies to be. If you associate dragons with danger, then you will bring that energy into your being but if you perceive dragons to be beings of infinite wisdom, then that’s the energy you will bring into yourself.

You don’t have to be a master of shamanic arts in order to bring small aspects of shapeshifting into your everyday life. All you need to do is go back to your practice of sympathetic magic. Set your intention and then bring physical objects to help you pull out the energy you want to bring into yourself.

Here’s a few ways you can do this:

  • Find a piece of jewellery that represents the spirit you want to hone the energies of
  • Wear an outfit that reminds you of the spirit you want to embody
  • Keep a picture, statute, or some object that represents the spirit on your altar
  • Do a ritual where you can evoke the spirit or invoke the spirit into you

You can use any spiritual being you feel a connection with. This can be an animal, a god or goddess, a mythical creature, or an archetype. Sometimes, I like to take on energies from fictional characters that I like to embody. If you are wanting adventure, you might want to call upon Bilbo Baggins or Jack Sparrow or if you want to take on a strong, independent women, you might want to take on Scarlett O’Hara or Elizabeth Bennet.

I will get more into what invoking rituals in the future and the benefits to them. I have touched upon it in the past with my evoking vs. invoking article but this is a subject that needs a deeper level of discussion. You might say that shape shifting is an introduction to invoking.

Blessed Be,

~Priestess Spiritsong

My Take on the Wheel of the Year

I love the wheel of the year. I think it is the most profound connection I have to our planet. I have been researching it for years from not only a spiritual level but also a historical one. The Wheel of the Year follows closely with the older farming traditions of our ancestors. The way we would plan our year would fall dependant on the seasonal changes. Even in this age of climate change, it’s important to keep these seasonal changes in mind when making any plans for our crops. These crops might be physical ones or fiscal ones, either way, it’s important to keep track of what needs to be done.

As for the spiritual side of the Wheel of the Year, it’s important to feel the connection to the difference seasonal changes and how they relate to the season of your life. The year falls similar to your own life span, from the youth of spring, to the maturity of summer, to the golden years of autumn, and the final years in the winter of your life. We can celebrate the birth, life, and death of the year by following the Wheel of the Year.

The Wheel of the year is broken up into two sections of four, making eight in total. The solstices & equinoxes are Yule, Ostara, Litha, and Mabon. The cross quarters are Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain.

Yule – December 21-22

For me, I start the year off at Yule, or the Winter Solstice. Mostly because that’s the start of when the sun begins its return and longer days ahead. I think of it as a time of rebirth and renewal.

The six weeks that follow are a time to begin preparing for the following year’s growing cycle. So this growth can either be spiritual or developmental. In ancient times, this would be the time of the year when farmers would start getting their plans for the crops in order. They would decide what foods they would want to cultivate and which fields would be tended to.

Since we are not a completely agrarian society anymore, we don’t really have need of this kind of planning. So, instead, we need to prepare for a self cultivation cycle. This is the best time of the year to take on a new project and start planning on what you will do to make it grow. This can be anything from writing a novel to making plans to become more healthy. This is why many people take on a new year’s resolution.

I celebrate Yule with a mix of Christmas traditions and also welcoming the Sun’s return to the Earth. I cannot fully escape Christmas in my country so I would rather work with it, then against it. After all, they celebrate the birth of a “sun” king too! However, I also bring Sol and Skadi into my practice. Sol for the sun and Skadi for the blessings of winter. I actually love winter and snow. I like to decorate my home with images of stars, trees, deer, and the colors of red, gold, silver, and green. I burn candles all winter to help with bringing coziness to my home.

Imbolc – February 1

Imbolc has always been a challenging time of the year for me. It’s that time of the year where winter is still very much here but you can feel spring hanging at the edges. This year, our Imbolc was very much on the winter side of the year. It took a long time for the signs of spring to start showing up. Normally by February first, the snow is gone. This year, the snow didn’t leave until just before the Equinox.

Typically, I would celebrate with lighting candles and inviting warmth to return to my life. Imbolc marks the time of the year when the lambs are dropping and beginning to nurse. In a sense, this would be the time of the year when you would finish up your planning and start the work for the year. Farmers would begin setting aside the seeds they want to ready for spring and caring for the newborns in the barn.

For my rituals, I tend to bring honor to the Gods as they prepare the way for spring to come. I like to do magic that involve rekindling inspiration and creativity. It’s also a good time to burn away anything that no longer serves you.

Ostara – March 21-22

That brings us to Ostara and the Spring equinox. This is the one of the two points in the year where the light and darkness are in perfect balance. This time of the year marks the point when daylight starts becoming longer than night time. This would be the point in the year when farmers would start clearing the fields and start some seeds that will eventually be transplanted into their fields or gardens. This is when the livestock would be let out of the barns to start feeding on the new grass growing.

For my practice, this is the time of year when I seek balance with myself. Having come out of the darkness of winter, I am ready to start being outside again. This is when I start cleaning up my yard from winter. It’s also the time of the year when I access my work and plans for the year. It’s a time in which I clear away the debris from the previous year and start anew.

To celebrate, I normally like to praise the Gods for their new life and work divination magic. THis is a good time to find out what advise the Gods have for you are your projects start picking up speed.

Beltane – May 1

Beltane marks a time for fertility. This is when farmers would begin planting their seeds in the Earth. This also marks the start of summer and the warmest time of the year. It’s also a time of year when lovers start marking their feelings more apparent. In my case, it’s the make or break time of year. It’s when I decided if my partner will be the father of my children. So far, I have not found someone who would fit that case for me. All of my major break ups in my life have taken place between May and June. I don’t think it’s any surprise that my latest break up also took place during this time.

Speaking of fertility, I have been researching the male fertility cycle. This cycle is yearly rather than monthly like the female’s cycle is. In the times between April and June, men’s testosterone cycle is at it’s lowest point. This is the time of the year when their hormones are more devoted to wooing a partner and securing them. This is why love seems to be in the air during late spring and early summer. The fall is the peak of the male cycle, which is why you start to see male driven ads for trucks and sports cars during the fall. It’s also the start of major male sports like Football and Hockey start at the beginning of the fall and end in May.

There’s a ton of creative energy that comes with Beltane. If you were working on a project that you started at Yule, this would be a time of year to start making a real dent in those projects. Or this is a good time to make your dedications of love and romance to your partner. If you were going to propose, this is an excellent time to do it.

The ritual work I like to do at this time depends on if I have a partner or not. If I do, then I like to bring together the sexual union of the Goddess and God as they bring fertility back to the Earth. If I do not have a partner or one who is not pagan, then I will do a symbolic fertility union involving the actual earth and planting seeds.

A fun spell to do during this time is to burn away any old dead leaves, grass, twigs and use their ashes to bring life back to the earth. You can also take objects that are safe to burn such as paper and write down your wishes that you would like to see brought to life.

 

Litha – June 21-22

The Summer Solstice, or Litha, is the point in time when the sun is at its peak. This is the longest day of the year and it marks the return of darkness to the world. The days from this point start being shorter and the nights longer. It’s also marks the start to the hottest time of the year for the Northern hemisphere. This is the halfway point of our year of cultivation. This is when we would be working hard in the fields to keep them free of pests and weeds. We also need to make sure that our gardens and fields get the water that they need. In our life, this is the time of the year when the real work is getting done.

I tend to celebrate the solstice by having a fire and barbeque. This is a great time of the year to feast and celebrate all of your accomplishments so far. It’s also a great time to put forth your energy to the second half of the year.

I like to use Litha as a time to rededicate myself to my practice. I spend time with the Gods in meditation and celebration round the fire. I will do concentration of my tools during this time. I like to use the energy of the sun to fuel my passions so that I can continue to work on them until Yule.

Lughnasadh – August 1

Lughnasadh is also known as Lammas, the bread harvest. This is the very first of the three major harvest festivals in the Wheel of the year. This is when you should start to see the fruits of your labour being brought forth. In ancient times, this is when the wheat and other grains would be harvested from the fields and stored away for winter.

I like to celebrate this time of the year with eating vegetables from the garden and celebrating the hard work that has been done so far. Typically, I will serve bread that I have baked along with the bounty from the garden. If I did not have a good harvest, I will source out the produce from my local farmer’s market instead.

This isn’t a time to rest though, there’s still more harvest to come and winter to prepare for. The days are shorter now and there’s a sense that there’s not enough time to prepare. If you have been working on a project, think of this time as a point on reflecting on your sacrifices so far and what you will still need to do to complete your work.

Mabon – September 21-22

This is the second of the three harvest festivals. This is when the apples and other tree fruits and nuts are ready for harvest. It’s also when the grapes come off the vines and the crush begins for the following year’s wine.

If you have been working on a project, you should be able to see the ending of it coming into sight now. There is still more work to be done but you will start to get the feeling that you are almost done.

This is also the second of the two equinoxes. This time, the days become shorter and shorter. The darkness has returned and the leaves will start to fall from the trees. This signals the beginning of the death of world before winter settles in.

I celebrate this time of the year with a feast of the bounty of the season. There’s lots of apples, nuts, and squashes. I will have a feast of either my own food or food from the local markets. To me, Mabon is my favorite of the Sabbats. The Okanagan valley is perfect for apples and grapes and we have orchards and wineries abound. So I will also serve wine and apples with my Sabbat feasts to celebrate my local spirits.

The magic I work at this time of the year is all about storing away energy for winter. For bringing protection to family, friends, and pets so that their winter is sustainable.

Samhain – Oct 31- Nov 1

This end of the year and the third and final harvest festival. Samhain is also known as the blood harvest because this is the time of the year when the livestock that won’t survive the winter is killed and saved for winter. This is also when all the other crops of the year should be saved and stowed away. All of your summer canning should be put away for use in the winter and your wine racked off and bottled.

This is also the time of the year when you reconnect with your lost loved ones by cleaning their graves or taking some time to remember them. They have lessons to teach you about their lives and they need to be celebrated and remembered.

If you have been working on a project, this is the time of the year when you would be finishing up. You can start enjoying the fruits of your labours now. I like to celebrate this time of the year with a feast of all the bounty from the fall harvest. I also like to make soups and grill up root vegetables. I tend to relax this time of the year and enjoy walks in the crisp fall air and hearing the crunch of leaves as I sip on my pumpkin spice latte.

This is also the time of the year when many other cultures celebrate their ancestors and their dead. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is likely the biggest celebration of the year. It’s common to have a giant feast for the dead and take time to visit the graves to let them know that you honor and remember them. I have often gone to my local grave yard on Samhain to help clean up grave sites and give gifts of incense.

This bring us back to Yule and the start of a new year!

I would love to hear what you do to celebrate your Wheel of the Year or if you have other traditions that you celebrate.

Blessed Be!

Priestess Spiritsong

Invoking vs Evoking

A question came up on a previous article I posted asking, “Why do you invoke the gods?”. This is somewhat a double sided question. On one hand, the question is asking what the purpose in invoking the gods and on the other hand, the question is asking why would someone want to invoke the gods.

To answer the first question on why do you invoke the gods in ritual. Simply put, you invoke the gods to gain greater insight and understanding for your practice. By invoking the gods, you are allowing them to be pulled down into your being and have them to speak through you. This is not to be confused with evoking the gods, which is to call upon them and asking for their support and guidance.

The ritual format I described in the previous article about Beginner Rituals, was the order of events and didn’t really give a good description as why the acts are done and how you can do them. The purpose of that article was to get you thinking about ritual structure and ways that you can make up your own. If you are new to pagan ritual practice, I do not recommend that you invoke the gods to start with, instead, I recommend that evoke them. This will bring their attention to you without having them come down into you. The longer your practice with your chosen gods, the better your relationship will be with them. Once you feel ready to invoke your gods, then ask them for their permission.

I have updated my previous article in order to give a better idea on how to go about these two different styles of ritual. For further reference on invoking, I recommend that you check out the Drawing Down the Moon ritual.

For the second question as to why you would choose to invoke a god into you, that would actually be up to you to decide. I highly recommend that you have a purpose for it. If you are in a coven, you may have one or two members of the coven invoke gods to ask them questions, seek direct guidance, learn new stories, or spells to proceed with. I sometimes invoke my matron Goddesses or patron Gods to just sit with them within me and ask them if there is any work they would have me do and allow them to work within me until their task is completed.

I will say that it has taken me almost twenty years of practice to gain this much understanding with them. I don’t tend to invoke beings that I have not worked with, I find their energy is hard to understand and they cannot stay within me long. In which case, I will choose to evoke them instead. In which case, I call upon their guidance to help me move my own energy into the ritual.

Building a relationship with a deity or spiritual being is time consuming and requires dedication. I have spent the recent full moon cycle working with my matron goddesses in order to build a stronger relationship with them. I hope to upload a version of this practice that you can purchase to use in your own practice. Keep an eye out for a post about this soon!

Blessed Be!

Priestess Spiritsong Dreamweaver

Completion of my 28 Days of Walking the Path of the Goddess

With the past full moon, I completed my month of working with the Goddess. It was certainly an interesting month of personal and spiritual growth. The first part of the month was spent focused on daily devotional work and the second part was focused on getting out and living my life with being mindful of the Goddess.

I have to admit, that planning a two week vacation in the middle of my 28 days might not have been the best idea but it certainly showed me that I am not really good with daily devotionals when my life is not in its regular day to day business. Instead of sitting down in front of an altar on my vacation, I instead went and visited places where I get the presence of the Goddess and while there, I also found the presence of the God.

The best part of my focus on the Goddess this past month was the return of my Red Moon. I have never been so thankful for its return in my life. With it being back, I finally feel the release from the past year. It felt like I was whole again.

My plan for this month is to fine tune my devotional practice to fit better in with my life. I also hope to be less busy this month. As the summer whines down and the chill starts to return to the air, I want to focus more on my harvest and prep for winter (it’s coming after all). I have already started baking bread and my knitting. With this prep, I also want to bring my Goddess and God practice into balance as well. I learned a few things while at a pagan festival a few weeks back that I want to put into my practice. I will share more about this in a future post.

I have also set up a group on Facebook called “Call of the Wild” and it will be for setting up events in my home city of Kelowna that focus on pagan practices in the outdoors such as hunting, fishing, gathering, martial skills, archery. There will also be cooking, knitting, sewing, and other domestics of the home with a focus on natural materials gathered locally. I have a Facebook page called “Call of the Wild Pagan” that will be used to sharing any resources I find online too.

This is a project that my coven and I will be working on together. We are just about at our two year anniversary and it’s time we stepped out into the public a little more. We will all be in our third year of growth, the Tree stage as we call it and it will be time to deepen our roots. I will talk more about our coven’s practices in a future post though.

Blessed Be,

Priestess Spiritsong Dreamweaver

Beginner Rituals

Rituals provide a template to guide our emotions and actions according to situations. Thereby, they bring a sense of familiarity and order in our life. The purpose of a pagan ritual is to bring our focus to effect personal and environmental change, particularly changes in consciousness.

Ritual: a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

Rituals provide a template to guide our emotions and actions according to situations. Thereby, they bring a sense of familiarity and order in our life. The purpose of a pagan ritual is to bring our focus to effect personal and environmental change, particularly changes in consciousness.

Wiccan rituals have one of the simplest ritual formats you will find. Each step is clearly marked out and has a purpose. My former teacher used to describe holding ritual like throwing a fancy party for some distinguished guests.

First, you clean your house:

Clear the space of negative energy
Cleanse the ritual tools

Then you decorate:

Create a sacred circle
Set up the altar

Make sure you have security for your guests:

Summon the elemental protectors

Be sure to send out the invitations to your guests:

Evoke the Gods if you want to have their support for your ritual. If you want to draw the Gods into you, then you Invoke them. For for information read my post about Invoking vs Evoking.

Oh, your guests are hungry when they arrive, better thank them for coming and feed them:

Give thanks to the Gods
Give offerings

Now, time for the entertainment:

Perform magic or other work

Party is over, better say goodbye to your guests:

Say farewell to the Gods

Pay the security team and thank them for their help:

Give offerings to and release the elemental guardians

Lock up the house till next time:

Open the circle and release the energy

Once you have the basic format of a ritual, you can improvise and alter it as much as you like.

If you have any ritual formats that you would like to share or have a blog post about yours, I would love to read them. Please post them in the comments.

~Priestess Spiritsong Dreamweaver