Thursday, February 2, 2017

When is Imbolc?

I often see people asking about when, exactly, Imbolc is celebrated. The truth is the answer is a bit complicated. People see Imbolc listed in books as either the first of second of February, and figure maybe it moves around like the solstices and equinoxes do, and that's not always the case. For many, Imbolc is a fixed-date festival and does not move (although it does for some, more on that later).

I think part of the problem comes from the fact that the ancient Celts considered sunset to be the start of the new day, as several ancient cultures did. So, matching that to how we view our days, a holiday might start on the sunset of the 1st, and last until the sunset of the 2nd. (Or the 31st to the 1st.)

Another source of confusion comes from Imbolc versus Candlemas, and how the name is sometimes seen as interchangeable within neo-paganism. Imbolc is an old Celtic festival, and has strong ties to the goddess Brigid. Brigid became a saint in the Catholic church, and her feast day is still the 1st of February. On the other hand, Candlemas is a Christian holiday, which has ties to quite a few old pagan customs, and is still celebrated on the 2nd of February. Groundhog Day is another date that can be considered in all this, as weather divination would be popular around the time of Imbolc, and of course that is what Groundhog's Day is all about - which, again, falls on the 2nd.

To make matters more complicated, remember how I said the festival moves for some? Some choose to celebrate on the exact date between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Since the solstice and equinox shift from year to year, this means the date of Imbolc also moves when using this method. For those curious, this year that date is he 3rd of February.

Let's make things more complicated... some instead choose to celebrate on the full moon nearest the 1st, or when the first signs of spring actually show up, or traditionally with the blooming of blackthorn, or the beginning of the lambing season, which of course can all vary from year to year.

All this is a long way of saying that Imbolc is celebrated... well, whenever you or your tradition says it should be celebrated. Do you want to celebrate from the 31st of Jan to the 1st of Feb? From the First to the second? Just the first? Just the second? Or how about on the third, or the full moon, or...? It really comes down to the individual practitioner, and what makes sense for their tradition.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy 2017!

With the hectic travel and holidays of December over, I've finally been able to sit down and spend a bit of time thinking about what direction I want to go in, in 2017.

First and foremost, my health. I need to stay consistent with my meds, and I need to lose some weight (at least the bit of weight I gained last year, but more would be better). The first should hopefully help with the second. Health first, or else the other things will be much harder.

I want to spend more time honoring Artemis this year. She's my chief deity and her shrine has been sitting unattended for months now, for crying out loud! While I have been doing other rituals for her, the daily practice has lapsed. That's pretty unacceptable to me, so that needs to change right away.

I also want to dedicate more time to spirit journeying/spirit work. I've fallen out of that aspect of my practice a bit, and it's time to get back into it.

With my fancy new book, I want to work on transferring my information (which is currently mostly on the computer) to that. I want to have added at least 45 finished pages to the book, which is less than one a week, and should be doable.

Finally, I want to get out of my comfort zone a bit and do some videos on YouTube. There are several things I've wanted to write about, but I think would be easier to do in video. Might be interesting to do something different.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hestia, Days Twenty and Twentyone

20. Art that reminds you of this deity.
21. Music that makes you think of this deity.


The first thing that comes into my mind is the veiled Vestal Virgin statues (in particular, the one shown), perhaps for obvious reasons. I remember learning in art class that to those studying sculpture in years past, making such a veiled sculpture was almost a final test of sorts, as they are especially difficult to do. (Art class was over a decade ago now, so hopefully I'm remembering that right.) Perhaps less obviously, often when I see a warm autumn or winter fire scene, those tend to remind me of Hestia, as well.

Veiled Vestal Virgin
Raffaelle Monti (1818 - 1881)
As for music, there's not really any music in particular that reminds me of Hestia. Perhaps some Christmas carols, as they always remind me of being much younger, at home, bringing up good winter memories of family for me.

To add on some extra, I see scent is not mentioned on the 30 days, but scent is such a huge trigger for memory for me. The scent of baking bread, of baking sweets like apple pie, pumpkin pie, mincemeat, cinnamon rolls, ginger cookies... all those warm baking scents remind me of home and the hearth. Amber, as well, is a scent I have come to associate with Hestia, and with a few other hearth goddesses as well. I forgot to mention this on the day for offerings, but amber incense is something I occasionally offer to Hestia (occasionally, as my kitchen doesn't have a window, so I don't like to burn too much incense there as it bothers my partner), but I also keep a small box of amber resin tucked away that I bring out to hold and smell when meditating on the hearth.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hesta, Day Nineteen

19. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?

Hestia is an interesting deity, because, to me anyway, there's not much to find troubling. Unlike some deities who have questionable myths, or sides to them that are hard to mesh with, I do not feel that with Hestia. I mean, the biggest thing for me would be that Hestia has ties to bread baking, and carbs aren't good for me. Even if I love them. Stop tempting me with delicious carbs!

What I admire about Hestia is that she is stability. She is the home. She is the warm hearth fire. She is welcoming and hospitable, but she will not be trampled on - disrespect a fire and see how well it goes for you. Yet she is forgiving, understanding, compassionate. She is unwavering in her dedication to follow her own path and purpose.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hestia, Day Eighteen

18. How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG)

Oh Hestia, I have not forgotten about you! After a two year pause (where did those years go?!), I am finally committing to finishing this project for Hestia.

Historically speaking we know Hestia chose to remain a virgin, unmarried, never having children. We know that her Roman counterpart, Vesta, was served by a group of virgin priestesses. But that is all we know.

We don't know how Hestia felt about those who did marry, those who did not, those who had children, and those who did not, those with many partners, those with few, those with none. We don't know about how she felt about people attracted to their own genders, another gender, we don't know how she felt about gender in general. We can know what was the cultural norm in parts and particular times of Ancient Greece, but we do not know, in particular how Hestia feels. It's just never spoken of. It does not come up in myths. It doesn't seem to be addressed in hymns. And in my opinion? It's because she just doesn't care.

Hestia made the best choice for herself, and she wants you to make the best choice for you, period. Hestia wants you to have a happy and stable home, whatever that might look like for you. Not what it might be for you your culture, your neighbors, your parents, or anyone else, only what it is for you.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Physical and Mental Illness in the Pagan Community

Lupa Greenwolf recently wrote an amazing article inspired by an image I've seen floating around the community. The original image showed a forest and labeled it as an 'anti-depressant,' then blow that an image of anti-depressant pilled labeled 'shit.'

I have had a very hard time trying to put into words why this sort of stuff is so frustrating, and so thankfully, someone has done a wonderful job doing something I haven't been able to!

I will say, though, as someone who spends a boat load of time in the deep woods, in grain fields, at rivers, in meadows, etc. - I still need my anti-depressant medication because that's not really how depression works for a lot of people. Thanks.

And I always want to stop and say, hey, if someone had a physical chronic illness you wouldn't tell them not to take their medication, would you? That hugging a tree would cure them? But... yeah, a lot of people would. I know, because having a chronic physical condition as well, I've heard it plenty of times.

And hearing, well, just cure yourself! But that's not how it works... Or even worse, hearing people say that anyone with any sort of mental or even physical illness shouldn't be a witch, or even a pagan. (As if any sort of ill person should be banned from religion?) What in the world? Look, I've been a witch and a pagan for well over a decade, and the idea I shouldn't be doing this because someone else, who doesn't have any idea what it's like to deal with one of these illnesses, thinks they can make that call for me? Fuck off with what nonsense.

Not all mental illnesses are the same. Not all people dealing with even the same mental illness face the same situations. If you've never been in that situation, and you're trying to make that call for someone else, maybe you need to step back and actually listen to the people who are actually living with it - and there are plenty of us in the community doing just that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is in two days here in the US, and I think this is the first Thanksgiving in a few years where I am basically free from kitchen duties! Usually Thanksgiving is at my grandparents, and I help them cook. This year my partner and I are in Denver with her family, and she's the one who gets to help with most of the cooking. My contribution is a bag of frozen meatballs dumped into a crock pot with some whole berry cranberry sauce, and some cocktail sauce. Might sound strange but it tastes good. Thank the Gods for crock pots, let me tell you. Even my grandmother gets a year off, since she is going to my Dad's where he will have done the work. (He bought a new house earlier this year which actually fits guests!) It's not that I don't like cooking, but who doesn't want a break now and then? I'm sure after a million years Mama feels the same.

Since I'll have more free time this year, I've decided to take the time to properly honor Hestia, and make the offerings for a safe winter, since I did not do this during Samhain as I normally would (and it's finally getting cooler out). Since it's Thanksgiving, it seems like an appropriate time to, you know, actually give thanks and all that.

Speaking of Hestia, my hymn was accepted for the devotional to her that will eventfully be coming out, so that's quite exciting for me!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moon Phase Wall Calendars

I have a product to plug for today's post - nothing I'm selling or anything like that, just something someone recently told me about, and I think it'll be amazingly useful for me, so I'm passing the info along.

I'm sure these are old news for some people, but they're new to me, wall calendars that have the moon phase pictured on every day. The one that was originally shown to me was this one Lunar 2017 Wall Calendar: A Glow-in-the-Dark Calendar for the Lunar Year. Each month has a photograph of the moon as it's image, and each day has the moon phase drawn out, rather than just a percent listed. Also, it apparently glows in the dark, which is always a bonus in my book.

Another I found was Lunaria 2017 Lunar Astrology Wall Calendar. This one has various classical paintings, with poems, myths, folklore, and so on. This calendar also has the moon phases clearly drawn on each day, but it also includes more astrological information on each day. This one is also actually laid out in lunar months, meaning it begins with the new moon (0% illuminated), rather than following calendar months - although each standard calendar month/day is listed as well.

I like the simplistic approach of the first, since I don't really need all the extra astrological information, but the art and such of the second appeals to me more. (As well as actually being laid out by lunar months!)

I know there are various apps and the like out there, but for me it's nice to have something paper that I can flip through to plan out festivals and such, since most of them are calculated by the lunar date. Should be a helpful item to have.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hekate's Night?

So, apparently yesterday was the festival of Hekate's night. I've read about this a bit before, but it's something I chose not to incorporate into my practice. Since my personal practice has a mix of modern and ancient holidays, I thought I'd write a little about how I do choose to bring in festivals, using this as an example.

First, I like to look at the details and history of the festival (be it ancient history, or more modern). In this case, Hekate's night does not seem to be an ancient festival, either Greek or Roman. Perhaps it comes from some other culture, but I have found no evidence for that.

I have sometimes seen this festival called Hecatesia, with an alternate date of August 13th or 16th, but again, there doesn't seem to be any real information on this festival. Sometimes the August 13th festival is presented as something different. Since I have seen Artemis mentioned with this one, I wonder if it stems from the Kourotrophos festival? There are also possible Roman origins there, but again, in those cases it would be something other than what is presented on November 16th.

All of this kind of hits on a personal pet peeve of mine, which is modern 'made-up' information being passed of as something with legitimate history behind it... but of course, the history is rarely really there.

So, looking to the modern practices, information is kind of scarce there, as well! Hekate is described as wandering that night with her hounds and other spirits, and suppers are left out for her, which sounds no different from the Deipnon - which is a monthly festival I already celebrate. (Actually, a theory I have seen is that the date comes from a misunderstanding. Someone wrote about celebrating the Deipnon on that night, but did not note that it was a moveable lunar festival, and copy and paste, copy and paste... and so Hekate's night was born.) The only additional tidbit I can find is it's apparently a night that witches are initiated into her cult, but again, there never seem to be sources to dig into this deeper. Also, this wouldn't fit in with my particular practice anyway.

Another aspect to celebrating holidays in general is fellowship, knowing you're celebrating something other devotees are, but... well, again, I get that with Hekate's Deipnon each month. Aside from that, I feel more called to the modern Rite of Her Sacred Fires when dealing with that aspect - that's the real fellowship night of the year for me, since a large part of the festival often involves sharing your altar and experiences with others. I did consider that a celebration in November might be an interesting counterpoint to Sacred Fires, which is held in May, but that's basically what Samhain is acting as these days.

One last thing to consider is that the more parties, the better, right? Well... my personal calendar isn't exactly empty, you know? (I should blog the whole list, some day...) That's why I consider which festivals to celebrate a bit more carefully. If it's not adding something different or particular for me, there are other things I could be putting my energy towards. That's how I feel in this case. There's nothing particularly special about this night, it is too similar to other aspects of my practice, and I don't feel I'd get much from it. It doesn't mean that no one should celebrate it, of course, but for me it's a no go.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Full Moon Ritual for Selene

This is a simple little ritual that I try to do each month when the moon is full. I prefer to do this ritual outside if at all possible, even on cloudy nights, or inside at a window from which the moon is visible if outside isn't an option.

I begin the ritual by lighting some incense. I often just use sticks or cones of jasmine, gardenia, or other white flowers. For those who prefer lose incense, the Orphic hymns recommend burning aromatic herbs such as bay, lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon balm, and chamomile.

I take a few moments to focus myself, and then I recite the Orphic hymn to Selene (hymn number 9):
Hear me, O Divine Queen,
O light-bringing and splendid Selene,
O bull-horned Moon,
crossing the air as you race with night.
Nocturnal, torch-bearing,
Maiden of the beautiful stars,
O Moon, waxing and waning,
feminine and masculine,
luminous, lover of horses,
mother of time, bearer of fruit,
amber-colored, moody,
shining in the night,
all-seeing and vigilant,
surrounded by beautiful stars,
you delight in the quiet and in the richness of the night,
you grant fulfillment and favor as, like a jewel, you shine in the night.
Long-cloaked marshal of the stars,
wise maiden whose motion is circular,
come, O blessed and gentle Lady,
lady of the stars,
through your own light shine and save, O maiden, your *initiates.
(Original line is new initiates. I also sometimes replace initiates with devotee/devotees.)

After reciting the hymn a small libation is poured out for Selene. I often just use cool water. While pouring I say something along the lines of, O Selene, may you be well pleased with this offering.

I follow the libation either with my own personal prayers, or more often, silent meditation. After I thank Selene for her presence, and leave the ritual space.