Posts Tagged ‘Pagan’

The Ancient History and Living Mystery of Wassailing ~

Crook Morris & Friends Wassailing The Damson Tree 2015 ~

On the bitter cold and frost of a January morning, small groups of people muffled against the chill, proceeded up the country lanes of Lyth valley into the damson orchard. Some in silence, others with as much noise as they could muster, to chase away the evil spirits. One carried the three handled Wassailing bowl filled with a steaming brew of mulled beer or cider, the steam mingling with the cloudy breath of the participants. Carols were sung, the tree and orchard blessed……..

This is the traditional folk custom of Wassailing fruit trees – a ceremony intended to begin the process of waking the fruit trees from their winter slumber and the first fertility festival of the folk calendar. The word wassail derives from the Old English / Anglo Saxon words wæs (þu) hæl which means variously ‘be healthy’ or ‘be whole’ – both of which meanings survive in the modern English phrase ‘hale and hearty’. Thus Wassailing likely predates the Norman conquest in 1066. This is a traditional ceremony which seeks to start off the first stirrings of life in the land and to help it emerge from winter and to ensure that the next season’s crop of fruit, especially apples and pears, will be bountiful.

The most common date for this custom to take place is the eve of Twelfth Night or Old Christmas Eve, ie 5th January, just at the end of the midwinter period when the Wild Hunt rides and chaos traditionally rules as the otherworldly horde broke through into human realms. In some cases, however the ceremony takes places a little later on 17th January, depending on whether the celebrants prefer to follow the old or new calendar. This first fertility ceremony of the year marks a return to human ‘normality’ after the dark and dangerous days of midwinter –  The ceremony takes place a couple of weeks before Imbolc, the festival which for modern pagans is generally as being the first fertility festival of the year.

The singing of carols at the Wassail can be traced back to the pagan tradition of carol singing from before the advent of Christianity. The word carol is derived from the Greek word ‘choraulein’ which meant a dance accompanied by the playing of flutes. Such dancing—usually done in ring form—was very popular in ancient times among the Greek and Roman people. The Romans brought the custom and its name to Britain.

In medieval England ‘carol’ meant a ring-dance accompanied by singing. The dancers would form a circle and, joining their hands, walk in rhythmic dance-step while keeping the form of the circle (as our children still do in their “ring-around-a-rosy” game). Chaucer describes such a ring-dance in his Romaunt of the Rose, using the word “carol” for the dance itself. He pictures himself approaching a group of dancing young ladies, and one of them “ful curteisly” calls him:

    “What do ye there, beau sire?” quod she;

    “Come neer, and if it lyke yow

    To dauncen, daunceth with us now.”

    And I, withoute tarying,

    Wente into the caroling.

Gradually the meaning of “carol” changed, and the word was applied to the song itself. As carols were already an established custom, early Christians made the shrewd decision to integrate Christian songs into the tradition rather than ban the singing. Before singing christian carols in public became popular, there were official carolers called ‘Waits’. Waits were people sanctioned by the local officials to sing carols on Christmas Eve and collect money for the poor.

There was a short interruption in 1647, when the puritans came to power after the English Civil War. The puritans, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, disapproved of the celebration of Christmas. There was even a fine of up to five shillings for anyone caught singing Christmas carols. When King Charles II came back to the throne in 1660, the public singing of Christmas carols was permitted again.

Wassailing falls into two distinct categories:   

The House-Visiting Wassail and the Orchard-Visiting Wassail. 

The House-Visiting Wassail, caroling by another name, is the practice of people going door-to-door singing Christmas carols.It was a chance for peasants to get some much needed charity from their feudal lords. This singing for money developed in a custom involving traveling musicians who would visit wealthy homes, singing in the hope of receiving money food or gifts in return.

Wassail, oh wassail all over the town
The cup it is white, the ale it is brown
The cup it is made of the good ashen tree
And so is the beer of the best barley  

There appear to have been other British customs involving the Wassail bowl including carrying the bowl of hot spiced ale or cider from door to door in a community by a group of young people. Householders who were visited were expected to give a little money to the wassailers who either then gave the donor a drink from the bowl or drank to the health of the donor and his family and household. In other cases, the Wassailers engaged in a series of challenges or riddles with the householder and sought to gain entry to the house by wit or persuasion. If they succeeded then they were given food and money.

The Orchard-Wassail is the ancient custom of visiting orchards in England, reciting incantations and singing carols to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year.

The ceremony generally begins with the tree, usually the oldest and most venerable tree in an orchard, being serenaded with traditional “wake up” type of chants, rhymes  and sung carols, alternating with speeches by the group’s leader in praise of the tree, its fruitfulness in previous years and exhorting it to do even better in the coming year.

Wassaile the trees that they may beare

You many a plum and many a pear

For more or less fruits they will bring

As you do give them wassailing.

The custom may include the tree or trees being beaten about the trunk with the sticks. This is believed to begin the process of awakening the tree and starting the sap flowing up the trunk. It is accompanied by much shouting and the making of as much noise as possible, and shotguns are sometimes fired up into the branches. Again, this is believed to assist the tree in awakening from its winter sleep as well as frightening away any evil spirits which might be lurking in the branches.

Finally pieces of toasted bread soaked in the prepared drink are thrust up into forks in the branches or hollows in the tree and left there as offerings, whether to the tree or to the robins. The remainder of the drink is generally sloshed around and over the trunk of the tree, though in some places part of it may also be ceremonially drunk by the participants.

Wren Day, a related tradition, may also be carried out at this Wassail ceremony, although it was traditionaly celebrated on 26 December, St. Stephen’s Day. The wren traditionally symbolised winter and the robin summer. The tradition consists of “hunting” a fake wren, and putting it on top of a decorated pole or in a garlanded box to symbolise the death of winter and then taken from door to door. The crowds of mummers or strawboys celebrate the wren (pr wran) by dressing up in masks, straw suits and colourful motley clothing and, accompanied by traditional céilí music bands, parade through the towns and villages. These crowds are sometimes called wrenboys.

At each house this song was sung an the occupants asked to pay to see the dead wren with the words “Please to see the King.”

Here I am happy to say a symbolic wren was used and inplace of killing the good folk bowed to wish  the Wren King well in his passing.

From Somerset comes a most powerful rhyme for calling blessings down on beasts and crops:

Good luck to the hoof and horn
Good luck to the flock and fleece
Good luck to the growers of corn
With blessings of plenty and peace.

WassHail!!

On The Yule Tree and her Greenery;

On The Yule Tree and her Greenery;

The peoples mid winter celebrations of life with evergreen plants is an ancient tradition in which folk decorate their homes with winter greenery and berries.
As an evergreen of protection, Holly’s spiky bristles repel unwanted spirits. Holly, sacred to Holle, the Germanic underworld goddess, symbolizes everlasting life, goodwill and potent life energy. Its red berries represent feminine blood. Together, mistletoe and holly represent the Sacred Marriage at this time of year with the mid winter Solstice, the re-birth of the Sun.

The Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is in terms of sunlight the shortest day in the year and the longest night (December 22/23). Religious ceremonies are held att this time in honour of the return of the Sun which at the Winter Solstice begins to regain its power and to ascend on the horizon. Bonfires are lit in the fields and crops and trees are ‘wassailed’ with carols sung to wish them good healthas they are toasted with cups of spiced cider. Apples and oranges which represent the sun, are laid in baskets of evergreen boughs, to be shared with friends and neighbours.

The ancient Celts believed that the first humans were descended from trees and as such trees were highly revered by them, particularly the mighty Oak tree.
Evergreens were also sacred to the Celts, because they did not ‘die’ they thereby represented the eternal aspect of the goddess. Their greenery was also symbolic of the hope for the suns return and with it the life abundant of all growing things. At Winter Solstice they therfore decorated their trees with images of the things they wished for the waxing year to bring them – fruits for a successful harvest, charms for love, nuts for fertility and coins for wealth…

At this time, the Earth spirits are at rest, preparing for the hard work ahead, of replenishing the Earth with new life in the coming spring and naturally, celebrations are held in honor of these worthy spirits.

In Scandinavia, Yule trees were first brought into homes, decorated with bells, candles and ribbons to attract these spirits, to provide shelter through the winter. Bread, fruit and nuts were hung from the branches to provide food for them in the trees.

The evergreen tree has also been long associated with gift giving as citizens of ancient Rome celebrated the ‘Saturnalia’, a week long December festival honoring the God Saturnus, by exchanging gifts attached to evergreen branches.

In an old Norse tradition, the evergreens were burned to encourage the return of the Sun. A direct descendant of this practice still carried out today is the burning of the Yule log. The ceremonial Yule log, ideally of Ash – from the Norse world tree Yggdrassil, is the highlight of the Solstice festival. In accordance with tradition the Yule log must either be harvested from the householder’s land or given as a gift, but never be bought. Once dragged into the fireplace it is decorated with seasonal greenery, blessed with cider or ale and set ablaze by a piece of last years log which has been kept for just this purpose. The log will then burn through the night, smolder for 12 days and will be ceremonially extinguished. The Yule log’s role is one of bringing prosperity and protection from evil, as a magical protective amulet – by keeping the remnant of the log all the year long the protection of warmth and light will remain throughout the year.

Putting the Solstice sun and sacred trees together we have the waxing and the waning of the sun ritualized therough the death and rebirth (resurrection) of the trees and their respective Kings of their seasons.

The hanging of robin and wren ornaments on the Yule tree commemorates these deeper meanings as the robin is the animal equivalent of the Oak King, the wren of the Holly King. Each Yule and Midsummer they play out the same battle as the two kings battle for the season.The robin – ie Oak King, symbolically kills the wren to signify the return of light – the end of the reign of the Holly King presiding over the darker part of the year. A contemporary reminder of this is the tradition of the wren boys, celebrated on 26 December (also St. Stephen’s Day). The tradition consists of ‘hunting’ a fake wren and putting it on top of a decorated pole. Then the crowds of mummers or strawboys celebrate by dressing up in masks, straw suits and colourful motley clothing and, accompanied by traditional ceilidh bands, parade through the towns and villages.

Strong opposition to Christmas trees by Puritan settlers kept the Christmas tree tradition out of America until the nineteenth century, when German settlers bringing their own seasonal celebrations popularized the tradition.

Gradually the sacred tree and its traditions have been absorbed, its meanings minimalized by the pervasive christian and ensuing materialistic culture. But our collective unconscious naturally returns to the deeper significance of the evergreen tree and its promise of life renewed as we decorate our Yule Trees.

In practicing this ritual of dressing the Yule Tree/Christmas Tree, we are celebrating the turning of the great wheel of the year, the return of the sun at midwinters solstice time, our thanks for the forces of nature that bless us and our joy at the life it brings to us all.

Preparing for the Samhain BoneFire

Preparing for the Samhain BoneFire

Crops and the bones of animals which had been culled were burnt in the Samhain fires at this festival as offerings once lighted on every hilltop in Britain and Ireland as soon as the sun set on October 30th – Samhain Eve, and were the center piece of community festivities and celebrations that could carry on throughout the night.. Our modern word, ‘bonfire’, comes from the words bone and fire meaning “fire of bones” and refers to this practice. Personal and symbolic items were also burned as offerings for relief from sickness or bad fortune. 

After the presiding Druid, Wise Women or elders lit the fires, the people wore costumes, and danced around their bonfire. Many of the dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle of Wheel of Life. The costumes worn were adorned for three primary reasons;

”The first was to honor the dead who were allowed to rise from the Otherworld. The Celts believed that souls were set free from the land of the dead during the eve of Samhain. Those that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead and sent to their new incarnations. The wearing of these costumes signified the release of these souls into the physical world.

Not all of these souls were honored and respected. Some were also feared as they would return to the physical world and destroy crops, hide livestock or ‘haunt’ the living who may have done them wrong. The second reason for these traditional costumes was to hide from these malevolent spirits to escape their trickery.

The final representation was a method to honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of the harvest, fields and flocks. Giving thanks and homage to those deities who assisted the village or clan through the trials and tribulations of the previous year. And to ask for their favor during the coming year and the harsh winter months that were approaching.” More details here

When the community celebration was over, each family would take a torch or burning ember from the sacred bonfire and return to their own home. The home fires that has been extinguished during the day were re-lit by the flame of the sacred bonfire to help protect the dwelling and it’s inhabitants during the coming winter. These fires were kept burning night and day during the next several months. It was believed that if a home lost it’s fire, tragedy and troubles would soon follow.

Protect then your sacred Samhain fires
& may only blessings follow ~

Soul Cakes for Samhain

Soul Cakes for Samhain

In medieval Catholic and Orthodox Europe, the attempt to divorce respect for the dead from the traditions of the Old Ways failed completely. The departed souls so people believed, were allowed home, albeit from a christian purgatory rather than eternal Summerlands, for two days. Candles were lit on their graves and in the windows of houses to light them home. Fires were kept burning to warm their cold bones. Food and drink were left ready and they were invited to attend the feasts held in their honour.

In Britain, the christianised version of this tradition entailed almsgiving to others as an act of virtue on behalf of the deceased – to alleviate their suffering in purgatory. These alms took the form not of cash for candles as in many Church sanctioned transferals of custom from the earlier pagan to later christian, but of cake. Bands of ‘soulers’ went from house to house singing ancient ‘souling’ rhymes; and small loaves, quickbreads or cakes were handed out to them to be eaten hot while saying a prayer for the departed. Even after the Reformation, when prayers were officially no longer thought necessary to ease the passage of souls to Heaven, the idea that the giving and receiving of food by the living somehow benefited or pleased the dead persisted, for ‘souling’ continued, although the souling rhymes became straight begging-songs.

The tradition of giving Soul Cakes at Halloween then, which is one of the origins of today’s Halloween trick-or-treating, has been celebrated in Britain since at least as early as the Middle Ages when it took over from earlier pagan Samhain feasts. The cakes were usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger or other sweet spices, raisins or currants, and before baking were topped with the mark of a cross to signify that these were alms. They were traditionally set out with glasses of wine on All Hallows’ Eve. On All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day children would go “souling”, or ritually begging with song, for cakes, from door to door.

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

How To Make a Soul Cake for Samhain;

Quickie Shortbread Soul Cakes –

1 stick of butter, softened
4 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 C flour

Cream together the butter and sugar. Use a flour sifter to add the flour to the bowl, and mix until it’s smooth. Divide the dough into two parts, and shape each half into a flat circle about half an inch thick. Put them on an ungreased baking sheet (baking stones are really nice for this) and poke lines with the tines of a fork, making eight separate wedges in each cake. Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown at 350 degrees.

Buttery Soul Cakes –

Two sticks butter, softened
3 1/2 C flour, sifted
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg & saffron
1 tsp each cinnamon & allspice
2 eggs
2 tsp malt vinegar
Powdered sugar

Cut the butter into the flour with a large fork. Mix in the sugar, nutmeg, saffron, cinammon and allspice. Lightly beat eggs, and add to flour mixture. Add malt vinegar. Mix until you have a stiff dough. Knead for a while, then roll out until 1/4″ thick. Use a floured glass to cut out 3″ circles. Place on greased baking sheet and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with powdered sugar while the cakes are still warm.

Thanks to ‘recepies for a pagan soul’ for the recepies, more here .
Wishing you a Sacred Samhain ~

Gwydion Caer Wydion

Gwydion Caer Wydion

Gwydion (Goo-Eed-Yon), Caer Wydion the Celtic Bard born of the trees, at ‘the Castle of Gwydion’ which was the traditional Welsh name for the Milky Way ie under the Sky above ~

Gwydion is a Celtic Bard, Sorcerer and Trickster of Welsh mythology, appearing most prominently in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the Welsh Triads and the 14th century medieval Welsh book of poetry The Book of Taliesin by the Bard Taliesin, whose name means Radiant Brow.
Here we hear Gwydion recite a verse from the Cad Goddeu – the Battle of the Trees, found in the The Book of Taliesin which tells the story of a battle fought between Gwydion and Bran. Gwydion enchants the trees to fight as part of his army, which he is empowered to do as he is himself ‘Born Of Trees’ which is the meaning of his name.

In the section of the poem narrated here, Gwydion is declaring his magical lineage and shared spiritual existence with the underlaying forces below and beyond nature, he is a poetic shaman of the highest order.

Before I assumed a consistent form,
I have been a sword,
Narrow variegated,
I will believe it when it appears.
I have been a door in the air,
I have been a shinning star,
I have been a word among letters,
I have been a book originally.
I have been the light of lanterns,
A year and a half.
 
I have been a course,
I have been an eagle,
I have been a corricle in the seas,
I have been compliant in the banquet,
I have been a drop in a shower,
I have been a sword in the grasp of a hand,
I have been a shield in battle,
I have been a string in a harp,
Disguissed for nine years in water –
In foam.
I have been sponge in the fire,
I have been wood, in the covert,
There is nothing in which I have not been.
 
Neither of mother or father, when I was made,
Was my blood or my body.
Nine formed faculties.,
Of the fruit of fruits, of fruit God made me,
Of primroses and blossoms,
Of thyme hill,
Of the flowers of trees and shrubs,
Of Earth, of an earthly course,
When I was formed.
 
Of the flower of nettles,
Of the water of the ninth wave.
 
I was enchanted by Math,
Before I became Immortal,
I know the star knowledge,
Of the stars before the Earth was made.
c. Taliesin from the Cad Goddeu.
 

On the Power Of Trees; Mytho Poetic Beings Rooted in the Here and Reaching Hereafter;
In many mythologies Trees are embued with far reaching powers that are infact commensurate with their actual influence over the nature and wildlife of their environs. The mythologies have explored these connections further than the mere material, as can be seen in the words for Oak and Door in Irish and Welsh being related (dair — the same word for both in Irish — derwen and drws, and even English “door”, Norse dyrr and Greek thura), implying perhaps a view of the Oak as door to the Otherworld. In addittion also consider the Norse World Tree Yggdrassil.

The original poem is fragmented and full of riddles which has given rise to a wide range of interpretation and speculation. Most famous of these is Robert Graves remarkable mytho-poetical study ‘The White Goddess’.

On The Excellence of the Poetic Word; Druid Rhetoric and Shaman Transormations;
We see many details about Gwydion exisiting as diverse beings in this poem, as shapechange itself is a well known device of Druids, Bards and Shamen. Joan Halifax, in ‘Shaman: the Wounded Healer’ (1982), says: “To the heavens, to the well at the end of the world, to the depths of the Underworld, to the bottoms of spirit-filled lakes and seas, around the earth, to the moon and sun, to distant stars and back again does the shaman-bird travel. All the cosmos is accessible when the art of transformation has been mastered.” (p. 24)
Thus the Shamanic technique of flight which encompassess many transformations is often expressed, evoked and even facilitated via the Bardic power of the word, the hypnotically chanted word, the alliterative or allegorical poem, and the very wings of the song. As such, i’m sure that many will easily recognise, tales, poems and songs do indeed hold a transformative power over our individual awareness and ensuing spiritual essence, empowering changed perceptions and consequently lives and worlds..

Of the Battle of the Trees itself;
The Battle of the Trees originated when Amaethon stole a dog, a lapwing, and a roebuck from Arawn, the god of the Underworld (called Annwn). Robert Graves, who speculated that Bran and Arawn were names for the same Underworld god, wrote that the battle was probably not meant as a physical one but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship. Gwydion’s forces could only be defeated if the name of his companion, Lady Achren was guessed (her name meant “Trees”), and Arawn’s host could only be defeated if Bran’s name were guessed (which Gwydion did).
The trees who fought in the battle were also part of the Druidic alphabet known as Ogham, where each sound is represented by a pattern of notches and a particular tree. Each tree had a meaning and significance of its own, which was why Gwydion was able to win the battle: he guessed Bran’s name by the Alder branch Bran was carrying–the alder being one of Bran’s prime symbols.

Blessed Be By Star And Stone *~

Merry England before the Modern Age.

The Rise and Fall of Merry England: The Ritual Year 1400-1700

by Ronald Hutton, My Review;

 

 

Charting the progress from the communal year and it’s festivals both sacred and secular towards a more centralised control and ensuing decline of festival times, holy days, rituals and revels.

The Protestant Reformation and its austere Puritanism is clearly the largest single cause which drew to a close earlier ‘Papist’ traditions of the Catholic imbued culture that had supported spiritual ritual and secular pagentry for hundreds of years.

 

 

To set the context, the English Reformation under Henry VIII had broken the Church of England from the authority of the Pope and Roman Catholic Church. From 1553, under the reign of Henry’s Roman Catholic daughter, Mary I, Henry’s Reformation legislation was repealed and Mary sought to achieve the reunion with Rome. Following Mary’s childless death, her half-sister Elizabeth inherited the throne. As Elizabeth could not be Catholic, that church considered her illegitimate, communion with the Catholic Church was again severed by Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s reign saw the emergence of Puritanism, which encompassed those Protestants who felt that the church had been but insuficciently reformed. Puritanism ranged from hostility to the content of the Prayer Book and “popish” ceremony, to a desire for church governance and inded for society at large to be radically reformed.

The Civil War broke out less than fifty years after the death of Elizabeth I of England in 1603.

The English civil war was far from just a conflict between two religious faiths, it had much more to do with divisions within the one Protestant religion. The austere, fundamentalist Puritanism on the one side was opposed to what it saw as the crypto-Catholic decadence of the Anglican church on the other. Divisions also formed along the lines of the common people and the gentry, and between the country and city dwellers.

In this politically charged and religiously swaying environment, alternately pushing an oppresive new religious austerity or inclusively reinstalling the traditional milieu of sacred and secular traditions of British life, the festive, communal culture and its traditions waned and dwindled. Each fresh onslaught of punitive policy and legal measures gradually depleted the social enthusiasm which had bound the culture together in earlier times.

 

 Charles Landseer – The Eve of the Battle of Edge Hill, 1642

 

Among the church rituals and communal activities considered innapropriate by the changing authorities, was the ornamentation of churches with garlands at festival times such as holy and ivy at christmas, the lighting of candles below icons, boy bishops and their processions, church ales which collected money for the church rituals, rogation or blessing of fields at spring, appointment of lords of misrule to preside over festivities, morris dancers, musicians and dancing at may poles.

 

The time afforded such holy days and communal activities had also afforded an ocassion to gather in dissorder and this sometimes developed into protests against government restrictions and taxations.

 

Village fair by Flemish artist Gillis Mostaert 1590

The earlier potent mixture of rituals and revels, pagentry, music and costumes, wholesome earthy fun and good humour which had been accepted as such by the long interwoven traditions of populace with Catholic church, was uprooted and destroyed by the ardent and extreemly keen Protestants to such an extent that various of the ensuing Crowns sought to ammeliorate on behalf of the people and their traditions but with little success.

The decline continued under the fervant Protestant condemnation of such frivolities and lewdness as dancing, singing and even laughing – quelle horror! Protestant authors and clergy persued their ‘souless’ and mirtless New World Order replacing a sacral Catholic yearly cycle with secular and anti Catholic new Protestant celebrations such as of Nov 5th (Guy Fawkes night), and Royal birthdays/Accessions etc. The dissolution continued under the rising agrarian capitalism and nascent industrialism.

 

 

Highly recommended reading for any who are interested in the cultural connections between the ‘old religion’ (which actually meant the all embracing ‘magical Catholicism’ of early medieval England – and amongst these traditions were many pre Christian survivors ) and the Protestant modified puritanical exegesis and transformation of a formerly Merry England into a more dour, serious, self effacing, God fearing nation, under the varying vagaries of the Parlaiment and it’s often relentless officers.

 

 

It may be hard for us now to imagine the full extent of a medieval and earlier pagentry imbued Britain, alternately revelling and worshiping its way through the sacred year, with churches drawing on hundreds of years of iconography decoration to embellish and add impact to the many sacred days and rituals which were widely observed, town and merchant guilds hosting processions of costumed and robed actors, with giants, dragons and unicorns represented in huge models animated by their wearers, individuals taking part in group as well as singular traditions from the milk maids dances and green men in spring (the chimney sweeps as it happens) to finding (or capturing) a maypole for dancing, to say nothing of seasonal feasts provided by local landowners and gentry for their tenants and neighbours. I offer for comparison the more widely known religious traditions of Tibet as they until recently held communal religious and social activities which comprised thousands at a gathering, with elaborate ritualised dramas and with embroderies as large as hills, with weeks long events of one sort or another. Similar in commitment if not form were many among the earlier traditions of Merry England.

 

 

nb book priced at ₤50 pprbk is doubtless worth it for the extensive research alone, but I got my copy well thumbed from a second hand book dealer.

 

Environmental Serenity Prayer

Gaia grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

the brevity of a beautiful day and my time upon the earth,
the harshness of the seasons and futility of a world without mirth.
Of people who are foolish, the heartless and the cruel,
the death of all our loved ones – natures immutable rule.

Gaia grant me the courage to change the things that I can;
such as impatience with ignorance in all its forms –
consciousness raising to basic humanitarian norms,
respect for our ancestors bones and sacred circles of stones –
spiritual diversity imbues this life with mysterious meanings unknown,
saving ancient forests and trees who make the air that we breathe –
our narrow parameters of existence enabled by evironments we need,
getting rid of greenhouse gassess and anthropogenic emissions –
by curbing industrial air pollution and such short sighted commissions,
offsetting offsetting because lifes microhabitats are rare –
and cannot be replaced at goblin markets of biochemical fare,
forgoing fracking – both public and secret –
that earth be safe without carcinogenic chemical seepage,
dropping dioxin toxins and plant pesticide armagedon –
by fostering farming that is safe to the seventh generation,
barring gene splicings and science fiction mutations –
by supporting a sustainable world built on ecological foundations,
rescinding radiation, nuclear-atomic aberration –
for sunlight and windpower and possibly clean fusion salvation,
ommitting oil spills from oceans by choosing –
other forms of energy and greater care using,
abandoning xenoestrogens in birth control pills –
and countless strange medecines that do not cure our ills,
ending genocide and ecocide in all of its forms –
by supporting green business that all survive lifes storms,
not a call for new luddites and progress avoiders,
but rather for compassion, so please come and join us.

Gaia grant me the wisdom to know the difference today,
to take personal action in every small way –
choices I make to give and to take,
to understand the consequences and blessings awake.

c. Celestial Elf 2014.

 

Samhain Song

 

The sun is bright nolonger – nor warm,

Old branches hung with sleeping.

The great wheel turns, another year,

Into the darkness fleeting.

Of questions asked with breath bowed words,

leaf rustle – bird’s wing whispers.

The rivers tale unfolds a dream,

Moonlight paints winters whiskers.

As darkest night cracks silent stars,

And shapes shift slowly creeping.

In meadows that the scythe has hewn,

Now Samhain fires are leaping.

The dance of life is spinnning on,

Death cleaves and weaves light lowly.

The welcome chant as earth grows cold,

my heart, a north wind only.

The Veil Is thin and gates wide swung,

The Netherworld is dawning.

Samhain arrives with setting sun,

An Otherworld is yawning.

“Ancestors one and Kinsfolk all,

We invite you now to hearth and hall.

Come tell us of your travels hence,

And share your wisdom, recompence.

I ask you lay your blessings here,

In this season of waning of light.

That darkness not be heavy to bear,

And journeys end be bright.

Now hear the voices of the dead,

Uncounted jewels around us.

Of grandafther gone – grandmother led,

from sky – tree – earth they found us.

And one by one the spirits come,

laughing beside our firesides.

Tender tales of sights unknown,

forewarnings of the darksides.

And all too soon the gathering ends,

beloved friends departing.

To Otherworld they do return,

Another year advancing.

As fires quell – through mists one yell

Samhain’s bright blessing heard we;

My time is come – now heed my tell,

And Ever Joy beside thee;

Our ancient blood runs in your veins,

The spirit of our heart your keep.

Our wisdom shared to guide you on,

Thus Take and Give – Remember.

By Cauldron of Earth and Blossom of Bone,

The Circle of Life is Unbroken.

By Depth of Sea and Light of Star,

The forms of Life are but Token.

So Mote It Be!

Samhain Song by Celestial Elf (60)

Samhain the beginning of the “darker half” of the year – the veil is thin between the worlds of the living and dead. As at Beltane, special bonfires are lit to protect the community. Feasts are also held, at which the souls of dead kin are invited and a place set at the table for them.Originally the “Feast of the Dead” was celebrated in Celtic countries by leaving food offerings on altars and doorsteps for the “wandering dead”. Single candles are also lit in a window to guide the spirits home. Original Poem c. Celestial Elf 2013 c. Celestial Elf. 2013

Rituals for Yule


SUPPLIES: Yule log (oak or pine) with white, red and black candles on it (set it in the fireplace), chalice of wine, small piece of paper and pencil for each person.
The altar is adorned with evergreens such as pine, rosemary, bay, juniper and cedar, and the same can be laid to mark the Circle.

 
~* Ritual for Yule *~
After casting the circle the Priestess should say:”Since the beginning of time, we have gathered in this season to
celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.
On the Winter Solstice, the darkest of nights,
The Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again
gives birth to the Sun and the new yearly cycle,
Bringing new light and hope to all on Earth.
On the longest night of winter,
and the dark night of our souls,
there springs the new spark of hope,
the Sacred Fire,
the Light of the World.
We gather tonight to await the new light.
On this night, the Maiden, who is also Mother
and Crone, prepares to welcome the Sun.
Let’s now prepare to welcome the new light within.”

~Invocation to the Goddess and God:
(Priest) “I light this fire in your honor Mother Goddess
You have created life from death, warmth from cold
The Sun lives once again, the time of light is waxing.
We invite you, Great Mother, to our circle
Bring us new light, the light of your glorious Son.”

(Priestess light the white candle on the Yule log and say):
“I come to you as Maiden
Young and free, fresh as springtime
Yet within me a yearning stirs to create and share
and so I become…

(Light the red candle) The Mother
I bring forth the fruit of my creativity
Yet an ancient prophet once told me, as I stood with my son,
A sword shall pierce through thy own heart also
And I knew that I must become…

(Light the black candle) The Crone
The ancient wise one, Lady of Darkness
We three – in – one who brought forth that special child
as long ago, also anointed him for burial-
A bright light that grew and was sacrificed to be reborn
as a new light.”

(Priest) “Ancient God of the forest, we welcome you
Return from the shadows, O Lord of Light.
The wheel has turned. We call you back to warm us.
Great God of the Sun
I welcome your return
May you shine brightly upon the Earth.”

~Consecration of the Yule Log
(Priestess) “Yule is the end of the old solar year and the beginning
of the new one. Traditionally, the end of the year is a time
to look back and reflect. It is a time to look ahead
to the future, to make plans and set goals.”

On your piece of paper, write something you hope to accomplish during the coming year.
When you are finished, attach the slip of paper to the Yule Log.

Priest picks up the chalice and says:
“We toast the new year (sprinkles wine on the log) and in token
of its promise, we consecrate this sacred wood as a focus for the
energies through which we accomplish our tasks and manifest our
desires during the coming cycle.”

~All drink from the chalice.

(Priestess) “You who have died are now reborn. Lend us your light throughthe winter months as we await the spring. 
Let us now light the Yule Log.
Once having burned with the Yule fire, 

these candles will contain the luck of the log 
throughout the coming year.”
(remember to save a small piece of the log for next Yule 

or save the ashes or the candles.)

~Priest and Priestess light the Yule log together.

~Closing:
(Priestess – extinguishing the God taper)
“Thank you Bright Lord
for the light you have brought to us this night
May we carry it within us throughout the coming year.”

(Priest – extinguishing the Goddess taper)
“Thank you most gracious Lady
for your freshness of spirit, your nurturing care
your infinite wisdom
Live within us throughout the coming year.
So mote it be.”

~Close the circle the way you usually do.~

My thanks to The White Goddess for this ritual.

~* A Solitary Yule Invocation *~

Morning light will flood the chamber
– winter solstice sun.

 
Energy unfolding,

Saturn’s rule has just begun.

 
Crystals formed of ice and frost
freeze field and forest green.

 
While Mighty Oak and Holly
Fight for favours from our Queen.

 
The Great Wheel brings conception,
birth, and death as days of yore.

 
Each bonfire on a leyline
honours what has gone before.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres,
seven gates swing open.

 
I lift my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
I conjure water spirits,
Pour forth the sacred winds
come hither, O great fire!
The magick now begins!

 
Solar vapors, starry heavens
clouds and earth and waves
unite in your perfection
on this shortest solstice day!

 
I hold the key of secrets
and the phantoms will avail
the crossroads shimmer open
as the rod connects to grail.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres,
seven gates swing open.

 
I list my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
Beribboned Yule logs burning
each spark a blessing brings.

 
Red and green, the sacred blood
of past and future kings.

 
Mistletoe and bayberry,
winter’s leaves and resin.

 
Spice and myrrh and evergreen
connect the Earth to heaven.

 
Through scented smoke and sacred prayer
I manifest good will.

 
Bring peace and joy to hearth and home
and every wish fulfill.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres
seven gates swing open

I lift my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
Author Unknown ~
May The Sun Shine Upon Your Life
~ * Blessed Yule To You * ~

The Helmsman

The Helmsman;
Nine days and nights in Odin’s tree,
Of questions ask and answers see-
Nine days and nights sing skaldic scribes
Of this and many other lives-

Praise not the day till it is ended
Praise not the sword till battle blended
Praise not the path till it is wended
Praise not the way, but apprehend it!

 

As cattle, fish and fowl do die
Each mortal life is measured-
Yet strange new lands before us lie
We chase with hearts uplifted-

Hear the spirit song of Ulfr Sigurdsson
In Odin’s Raven’s caw…
With wit and wisdom his longships leaped
Through battles, storms and more…

Yet even Vanir of Vanaheimr
Cannot keep men’s fate at bay-
And so it came one grimstone night
And Ulfr fell away…



Launched on his voyage past realms of dead
Past Hel and Holy Mountain
A silver star to guide him on
And Heimdall’s horn to found him!

As choirs call and fires roared
The rainbow bridge did open-
Bifrost bit and blazing lit
And Ulfr dreaming – woken

Now Midgrad falls and Nine worlds fall
As Yggdrassil is spinning!
Past Valhalah and Folkvangar
A new world here did win him-

And stepping out with mighty shout
Ulfr Sigurdsson set about him-
Traversing time and inner space
A spiritual transition mounting

Galactic tides neath cosmic skies
The Helmsman now arisen
Northwind has blown beyond self home
And courage follow vision

Beyond the stars in longships far
Above the heavens highness
Across Oceans vast and deep and fast
The voyage is inside us..


Cross  Fjords of Space a Cosmic race
Earth energy is learning
Light years of time within sublime
The spirit song returning…

Original Story c. Celestial Elf. Original music c. Crum of Moonloonies.
Presented by Odin Allfather, 
& Inspired by the Havamal, The Wisdom of the North 
or The Sayings Of The High One 
in the Poetic Edda,
This is the tale of the Death and Life of Ulfr Sigurdsson,
Viking Helmsman and Northman of both Earth and Beyond.


Ulfr has been a worthy Captain of many a Longship in his time,
And brought his crew safely through assorted dangers. 

Longships were called ‘Dragon Ships’ by their enemies.

The average length of a Longship was 21 metres,

the longest ever was 70 metres,

and could hold 30 oarsmen…

However and despite the well wishes of the Vanir of Vanaheimr
Loki with a heart of darkness moved beyond matter 
and killed Ulfr.
The Helmsman is given a fine send of on a Funeral ship.
As he goes to the beyond realms 
he finds the Rainbow Bridge within himself. 
Traveling this pathway to the Otherworlds, 
He pauses at the Astral realms
where he meets the goddess Freyja 
who guides him onwards. 
As they travel,
Ulfr notices that his spirit self is transforming further, 
He is becoming a star….

Odin;

In Norse mythology, One of Odin‘s names was Hangatyr, the god of the hanged,
for having hanged nine days and nine nights on the tree Yggdrasil,
a sacrifice to himself, in order to gain wisdom and knowledge.

When Odin hung on the World Tree in search of knowledge that is unknowable to the living,  he peered into the depths beyond the dead, into the void of nothingness called Ginnungagap (‘beguiling void’) that existed before all else in the Norse Universe.

Here he discovered the secret of the Runes, the letter-characters that were used throughout the entire world that was inhabited (or even visited) by the migrating Germanic tribes including Sweden, Iceland, England, and even Constantinople.

He also saw into the future, past the great battle of the End of Times called Ragnarok and beyond this into the new World that would emerge and exist after this, although it would not include himself

nor most of his kin.


Vanir;

In Norse mythology, the Vanir (singular Vanr) are a group of gods associated with fertility, wisdom and the ability to see the future.

The Vanir are one of two groups of gods (the other being the Aesir) and are the namesake of the location Vanaheimr (‘Home of the Vanir’).

After the Aesir–Vanir War, the Vanir became a subgroup of the Aesir. Subsequently, members of the Vanir are sometimes also referred to as members of the Aesir.

The Vanir are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, both written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; and in the poetry of skalds.

Loki;

Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr.

Loki is a shape shifter and in separate incidents he appears in the form of a salmon, mare, seal, a fly, and possibly an elderly woman. Loki’srelations with the gods end with his role in engineering the death of the god Baldr. Loki is eventually bound by the gods and banished.

The Rainbow Bridge;

Bifröst or The Rainbow Bridge is a burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Midgard (the world) and Asgard, the realm of the gods.

In my version however, this Rainbow Bridge is an analogy for a sacred, spiritual pathway to the inner realms beyond life and death…

Freyja;

Freyja is a goddess associated with love, beauty, fertility, gold, war, and death. Freyja rules over her heavenly afterlife field Fólkvangr and there receives half of those that die in battle, whereas the other half go to the god Odin’s hall, Valhalla.

About Moonloonies

Crum formed Moonloonies in 1991 out of the remaining ashes of Shockhead. Shockhead combined psychedelic sounds and the the driving beat, distortion and heavy bass of Hawkwind with a dub style and a dread-locked Rasta lead singer.

Crum also co-wrote the ‘AGENTS OF CHAOS’ with DAVE BROCK

( HAWKWIND Captain )

& played Keyboards on Hawkwind British & European tours.

Two subsequent live albums were recorded

‘In your area’ and’ Live’.

Moonloonies are currently working on their 8th CD.

  

Be your friend’s true friend, 
Return gift for gift.
Blessed Be 
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