Sunday, July 27, 2014

About Lughnasadh August 1-2

Lughnasadh (pronounced loo’-na-sadh) is the feast which Oakmist initiates celebrate beginning August 1.

In our tradition, Lughnasadh marks the wake of the Old God who received a mortal wound at Samradh and the beginning of the grain harvest. Whether the God is alive or dead, well that is a Mystery. The Old God travels freely between the worlds of Life and Death, while the Goddess accompanies him on his journey and remains in the Darkness, leaving the mourning earth to grow colder and colder in her absence, Sun Child safely nestled in her belly. The Maiden has become the Mother, strong and ready to make difficult choices in order to protect her own. She knows in order to eat, sacrifices must be made. The Cycle of Life isn't for sissies!

It can feel like a dangerous time of year, when the Gods leave the surface of the earth. The days grow shorter as the Gods travels inward.  Chaos can reign.  One day might be scorching hot while the next brings a violent storm. One never knows what tomorrow's weather might bring.  We are forced to face our fears.  But at the same time, we are given hope for the future. The Sun WILL return!

For now, it's time to get the crops harvested and brought in safely.  Into the cool, dark storehouse of our inner selves. 

And the final harvest meant wonderful fairs and markets, a time of sacred peace between tribes that might usually be in war.

These events are connected and recalled in one form or another in myths surrounding life-in-death and death-in-life aspects of gods and goddesses in virtually every culture and religion.

Lughnasadh is the time of the Barley Moon. In older times, the last stalk of grain was ceremonially cut and crafted into a corn dolly, which could represent both the God and the Goddess. 

One aspect of the god who is honored by some Celtic traditions at this time of year is Llew Llaw Gyffes, a Welsh god of light who died and came back to life. He was the ripener of the grain, the Sun. 

 In Ireland, he was called “Lugh, the Long-Handed.” He owned a magic spear which thirsted for blood, and which flashed fire and roared aloud in battle. Lugh was the first to use the horse in warfare, and nobody could gaze upon his face without being dazzled.

In the British Hereditary Tradition, there is a story of Teutates, God of the Waxing Year, Lord of Light, and Taranis, God of the Waning Year, Lord of Darkness. Taranis mortally wounds Teutates at their Midsummer Battle, the battle between light and darkness. The Sun God is then sent to the Underworld until Yule, when he is once again born to the Mother as the Sun-Child. Lughnasadh is the mourning feast for this same Sun God, Teutates-Lugh-Oak King-Corn King. 

At Lughnasadh, the goddess-aspect we celebrate is the Corn Mother. In the Celtic pantheon, this could be Macha, the Triple Goddess. In Roman myth, she appears as Demeter, attended by Persephone, her daughter. In a sense, the Goddess is the grain; or the Mother gives the grain, and the Daughter represents the grain itself. 

Demeter by Zingaia
To many Celtic people, the realms of the Sun were feminine, and our physical sun was the bright spirit of her son, the Solar God, reborn each year at Cuidle. He is a pale mirror who reflects the great white light that is the source of All. The feminine principle is that of immortality while the masculine principle can only be sustained through the cycle of Birth, Life, Death, and Rebirth. The Goddess herself only undergoes metamorphosis of Maiden, Mother, and Crone by her maternal desire to procreate and sustain the cycle of life.

The Goddess sustains the God by never allowing him to achieve old age. She is the Mother who gives him Birth, the Maiden who becomes his Lover, then the Crone who gives him Tutelage. From this union, he sires his other self, who is reborn, and grows to become in turn, the slayer. In this way, the seasons are kept in harmony, and all life dances to this oldest tune of all!

This day was called Lammas by the Saxons from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas or “loaf feast,” referring to the loaves that are baked from the first grain harvested. This celebration of the harvest of the first grain ties in nicely with Lughnasadh. 

The beginning of the last quarter of the year. 
The grain stands tall and golden in the fields, 
awaiting harvest. 
Standing between the rows is the spirit of the God. 
Do you dare look him in the eye?

Theme and Purpose of Rites 

Summer is at its height of fruition. The grain and first fruits have ripened. Harvest and wine making begin. People mourn the death of the Sun God and celebrate his life. This is a tie to secure the approval of the gods for the harvest. Magic is done to avert storms, rains, floods that would destroy the harvest. Thanks is given for the harvest. Puberty rites (Red Feasts) are performed for girls. Crops, herbs to be used in medicine, hives, the tools, vehicles, and beasts used in harvest work are ritually blessed. The Blessing of the Animals was performed by the Catholic Church just two weeks ago!

Folk Customs 

The funeral games of Lugh were marked by Tailtean (or Teltown) marriages in honor of Lugh and his capricious bride. These were trial marriages lasting for “a year and a day.” They could only be dissolved by an act performed in the place where the vows had been taken. The man and woman stood back to back in the center of the circle and walked apart, one to the north, the other to the south. Tailtean marriages were actually legal up to the 13th century.

Well-dressing takes place at this time. Vines, fruits, herbs, grains, and other crops are blessed. The first sheaf of grain is ceremonially cut and made into an image of a woman, called the Corn Mother or Kern Dolly, which is set up and honored at the festivals. The last sheaf of corn is ceremonially cut and called John Barleycorn, or some other name for the dying god.

The Puck Fair in England lasts three days. Father Time, a figure derived from Kronos or Saturn (Old God), crowns the little Queen of the Fair, who in turn crowns a billygoat as King of the Fair (New God). There is an ancient tournament of Bards held in Wales.

A Native American custom has girls who have had their first menstrual period during that year secretly compose an image of the Corn Maiden. The body is a bundle of cornhusks resembling a flowing robe. Head, face, hair and ornaments are all made of natural materials. One doll is chosen to represent the Goddess at the festival. Its maker is made Queen of the Festival. The remaining dolls are burned in the ritual fire as an offering.

The first three days of August are sacred to the Dryads. Trees and vines may not be cut and offerings should be made to the dryad of a favorite tree, such as the tree from which you cut your wand.

Symbolic Decorations 
Vines, grapes, sheaves of grain, corn, roses, the colors white, red, purple, & yellow.

Ideas for the Rite. 

The ritual takes place at sunset in a garden or outdoors if possible. Mark the Circle area with golden, yellow, and red flowers & harvest fruits. Wear wreaths of roses, marigolds, poppies, corn, or ripe grain. Wear bells.

Make a likeness of the Goddess from corn or grain sheaves. Make it life-sized if possible. Crown the figure with ears of grain and flowers. Heap sheaves of grain and other harvest fruits on and near the altar.

Bake a loaf of bread in the form of the Goddess. Break and distribute it during the Cakes/Wine portion of the ritual.

Use a broom to sweep and cast the Circle.

Offer the first-fruits of your life to the Goddess as acknowledgment that all crops belong to her. Ask her blessing upon your harvest.

Petitions can be written on paper or dried leaves and burned in the fire, which may be in cauldron or fire-pit.

Make a toast to Llew! Keening (mournful wailing) is appropriate during this rite. Extinguish all lights except for one, symbolizing the hope for the Sun’s rebirth and return. 

Ideas for Families with Children

Spray paint a Frisbee gold and teach children to throw it.
Relay and sack races, water balloon fights or tosses, egg tosses. 
Make chains from corn husks to decorate the house. Make candleholders from apples. Bake a loaf of bread shaped like the sun! Make cookies and decorate them like the sun. Make corn and seed necklaces or bracelets or seed mosaics. 

Pooka Pages is a great resource for families with young children. Here is the link for the Lughnasadh issue:

Pooka Pages

Traditional Family Witchcraft

Last year, I went on a rant.
A full-blown, kick ass, wave my hands in the air 
and blow-fire-like-a-dragon rant.

And what was the straw that broke the camel's back?
A photo of a dog's ass with Jesus photoshopped onto it.

It was posted out of ignorance.
It was hate speech, really.
It was beneath any follower of the Craft.

My response went like this:

"People who claim a religion with a history barely over 50 years old, who walk around with stars around their necks, chanting really bad poetry and pretending to cast spells, who can't take care of their primary tool, so how the hell can they do magic, who claim to worship and believe in invisible Gods and Goddesses who practice not only sibling incest but also parental incest, who post blast other religions, poke fun at other religions, post juvenile crap like Jesus on a dog's ass, but who would get REALLY pissed if that was the GODDESS on the dog's ass, and then post bullshit about peace and love and equality and how they "do no harm" need to take a long fucking look in the mirror. I mean really…. you believe in WHAT? What is fun about making fun of someone else's religion? I am pretty sure that's a form of hate speech and bullying, but of COURSE, since YOU are doing it, it's harmless right? Wrong. I think we (all humans) should be more kind to each other and if we want others to accept us, we should accept them. What if it was a Down's Syndrome Child on the dog's ass… would it be funny then Or a gay person. I personally find it offensive, since I identify in public as a Christian."

Oh, you're surprised that I identify as Christian?
Don't be.
I've never claimed the Craft as my religion.

In fact, I've always publicly stated that the Craft is my CRAFT, 
and my religion is personal.

The post was made by a person who probably was 
as gobsmacked by my response as I was by her post.
I'm sure she MEANT no harm. 
But since she is the member of a group of people 
who identify as Wiccan, 
my rant was directed at ignorant Wiccans in particular. 

Not serious practitioners who actually study and progress,
but those Wiccans who haven't done their homework 
and don't know the history 
nor follow the tenets of their own religion.

Wiccans who have never studied past Llewellyn
or Silver Whoever,
who have gleefully by-passed any serious training, 
many of whom are allowing
their primary tool to bloat and rust,
while they cheerfully praise Goddesses
whose energies they don't fully understand
and wonder why their butts are getting constantly kicked
by the Laws of the Universe.

Now that's ok.
People should do what makes them happy.
And these folks appear to be quite happy.
and that's alright. 
Really, it IS. 

But when they
begin attacking other religions, 
my pointy nose gets a bit out of joint, 
and I"m tempted to grab the Eye of Newt.

Today, I  no longer go into "Bakersfield Redneck" mode.
These days I beat up the keyboard.
I've come a long way, baby.

And I admit I feel better after blowing off steam
and waving my hands in the air.

This rant led me to some research
which led me to certain material,
which led me to consider the differences
between Wicca and witchcraft.
The author of a very good essay
has asked her essay not be posted.
And so, I won't post it.

I thought I'd post some of my gleaned thoughts here.


There are some major differences between Witchcraft and Wicca.

Wicca can be defined as a modern goddess-centric religion. 
Witchcraft can be defined as an ancient and sometimes dark Art.

Wicca is loosely organized, 
centering around the books and theories of Gerald Gardner 
Wicca is a term applied by many people to all forms of witchcraft. 
Many believe that the word ‘wicca’ is derived from a saxon word meaning wise. This has been disputed by both historians and linguists alike. 
Wicca is an eclectic religion blending Celtic, British, Eastern and Native American philosophies. It is constantly evolving. 
The main characteristics of Wicca include the keeping of a‘Book of Shadows’ and adherence to a ‘rede’ or threefold law; a form of Karmic law, which states that should you try to harm anyone, theill-wish will rebound on you with three times the force. 

Wicca has become increasingly politically correct, 
centering on a philosophy of positive thought and healing light. 
At the same time, Wiccans often Christian-bash, 
which seems to go directly against their philosophy. 

Wicca first and foremost a religion, goddess-centric and pan-theistic. 
Wicca is also an industry. 
Spells, sacred names, secrets, herbs and oils and potions are prepackaged, 
ready mixed and ready for purchase, 
much like the blessed hankies one gets 
from the local Christian tv preacher! 

* * *

Witchcraft (aka the Craft) is a form of pagan ritual and knowledge 
carried forward from ancient times. 
It contains certain truths that never change. 
The Catholic Church has done much to preserve the Craft, 
veneering certain ritual and knowledge with Christian wood. 
The Celtic lands themselves have preserved the Craft 
in the landscape and names of such. 

Much of the time, traditional Craft is kept intact by families. 
Each family has a branch which preserves and practices the Craft secrets 
passed down through generations. 
If a practitioner dies without children, 
the expertise is passed to the nearest female blood relative, 
 or in some cases, the nearest female relative by marriage, 
who then promises to pass the information down through the line.
This is the case I experienced personally. 

In our case, the knowledge must pass female to male to female. 
Initiation ritual is not mandatory in traditional family Craft. 
While the practitioner may be initiated, 
the immediate family may not be aware of this.
They may admit that "Uncle Jimmy could take away warts," 
but never that he was a "witch." 

If there is no chance to properly initiate or train a successor, 
the person to whom the Craft is meant to be passed to 
may spend a lot of their life seeking truth, feeling lost, 
never quite able to put their finger on what it is that is nagging at them. 
They often do, through hit or miss, find the path, 
but it can be a winding road. 

With initiation,the path is discovered much more quickly 
and the initiate progresses with much more ease. 

In witch families, the Craft is often said to be "in the blood." 
You either ARE or you are NOT a witch, 
and no amount of wishing will make it otherwise. 
And it is said, the longer the line of witches in your bloodline, 
the greater the repository of energy at your disposal. 
Certain spiritual "helpers" are also passed down through families. 

Unlike Wicca, the Craft is not usually considered a religion. 
 It is often practiced simply as a Craft. 
Religion is thought to be a personal choice. 

Often, the god/desses of the old religion are seen as complementary to, 
rather than in conflict with, the Christian church. 
 "One more god" can be helpful! 
And in most cases, god/desses 
are simply seen as energetic aspects of The One. 
Many older practitioners of the Craft
would be horrified to have been called a witch. 
No, they were steadfast Christians! 

Most traditional practitioners do not adhere to the rede or rule of 3, 
but rather to an older rule; 
 "Do what you WILL if you KNOW what you do!" 
This means you can do whatever you choose to do; 
however, you must be prepared for the consequences, 
and understand them. 
 Know that there is balance in the Universe. 
 When you take you also must give; 
when you create you also destroy. 

The principles and ethics of each, Wicca and Witchcraft, are quite distinct. And for some witches, it's frustrating to be put in the same boat.

One author writes,

"After centuries of careful and discreet practice,
after countless generations of witches refining and
extending the knowledge and power of their
predecessors, the eruption of modern Wicca onto the
scene has come with all the force of the proverbial
bull in the china shop; inexperienced and in some
cases, downright ignorant acolytes of Wicca run amok
through the once secluded glades of Hecate. Spells,
like baking recipes are exchanged across the Internet
and through New Age publications. People practice for
a year and day and on day 367 start campaigning for
days off around the winter solstice and the right to
wear pentagrams to work. "

And then there's the controversy set around the Burning Times; the medieval, and more particularly Seventeenth Century persecution of Heretics and Witch-hunts. This tragedy of which grew out of political machinations, 
religious fanaticism and land greed 
has become a revisionist historian's rallying cry! 

In reality, not one of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials was a witch, a fact which seems to be irrelevant to the revisionist historians. Across Europe in the middle ages women were in fact burned at the stake under charges of witchcraft, but these were often midwives and herbalists persecuted by the new rising male profession of Doctor.

The Church also persecuted both men and women as Satanists. 
There are plenty of books one can read on that topic.

Through these persecutions, 
hereditary and traditional witches (there were no Wiccans yet) survived. 

Because as the world spun around them, 
they faithfully attended church meetings and quietly practiced their art… 
in secrecy…
not shouting it from the street corners.

They were known to their families and communities as "good Christians." 
They fit in. 
They didn't frighten people by wearing outlandish outfits, 
and spouting hateful or silly rhetoric.

They did not call attention to themselves.

And in backing into the shadows,
they preserved the Craft.

So, here they are.
A few differences.

Often, as I approach old age, 
I think the Old Ways were the Best Ways. . . 

It's something to consider.