Happy Yule to all

Happy Yule to everyone. The winter solstice is here again, and so much faster than last year (I must be getting old). This year we decided to break with tradition and go on a coven excursion to the Lismore Lantern Parade for the solstice. There was a Viking recreation village set up in a convenient park to visit and a hunting party drifting around town (looking for boar and elk no doubt).
We started the celebration with lunch and an exchange of Yule gifts then went off to tour the Viking village where we felt right at home. I gathered lots of ideas for building and making things and admired the leather bound warriors who drifted by occasionally or could be seen sitting beside their fires making socks and sharpening axes. Finally we found ourselves a prime spot beside the road to watch the parade go by once night fell (we took thousands of really blurry photos but I have included the best ones below).

Yule gifts
More Yule gifts
Even more Yule gifts

A Viking tent with straw under the canvas floor, what a good idea.

Warriors beside the fire making things with a pole lathe. The seated warrior is naalbinding a pair of socks (more on that later)

Sleeping skins in a tent

A game of chess (sort of) set up to play when the women are finished cooking.

A pegged bed (no nails) I loved this tent, so neat and tidy. The shield by the door tells everyone who’s tent it is.

Some traditional Viking tools: nallbinding needles, sewing needles, card looms, needle holders, spindles and the essential drinking horn.

An old friend who used to come to circle as a child, who knew there was a Viking lurking in there.

Some of the beautiful lanterns at the parade.

The Viking ship sailed by accompanied by a crowd of fur and leather dressed villagers. The smell of leather and wood smoke in the air and the sound of a marching chant and drums just made me goosebumps all over.

Where the wild things are is one of my favourite books.

Gaia in person

The Green Mand was there to welcome the sun back.

A better shot of the long boat.

I have decided to try naalbinding this year as it looks amazingly complicated. I watched several people making socks and pouches at the Viking village. Apparently the Vikings didn’t know how to knit, they made woollen clothing using a sort of macrame with a needle: naalbinding. Check out the video below for a quick explanation and a demonstration…

Look out for a post about naalbinding in the future.

Exploring crystals and gems

I’ve been quiet for a while, mostly because I use this blog to chart new things I’m doing or learning and I haven’t been doing anything new. Instead there has been a lot of knitting, crochet, spinning, book making, underwear sewing, etc going on, but nothing new.

A cardigan knitted and embroidered for a niece (home spun alpaca yarn)

Some little cloth covered journals for my Etsy shop

A little memory book for a gift

Some envelope note books made from recycled materials

Inside the note books. I’m selling these too.

An itty bitty cardigan for a new baby in the family.

Except for my new interest in crystals and gems…

My optical calcite necklace

The quartz piece in a pouch for one of the dogs, who tends to get into trouble (protection)

A beautiful turquoise necklace for a daughter

A Herkimer diamond for my Kabbalah collection

It all began with my Kabbalah learning; I have been exploring the correspondences of each Sephiroth (points on the Tree of Life), each Sephiroth has one or two crystals associated with it, so I have been slowly collecting examples (mostly from this shop) of each one and meditating with them to ‘get to know’ them.

In the process I learned to make pendants for my daughters (and one for the dog) as little presents.

One daughter wanted help with study (I can so relate to that) and she noticed that I had an optical calcite necklace which I wear when I study, so I went and found one for her. Then I had to figure out how to make it into a wearable item. Good old You Tube came to the rescue again with this clip…

Making these little pendants proved to be so easy that I now have a little pile of crochet covered stones in bowls around the house, oh and I made one for my daughter too.

The necklace I made for my daughter

A little lump of orange calcite

My interest in crystals is still new and I don’t know very much about them. Do you have anything to share about crystals? What has been your experience with them?

The wheel of the year – everything goes around and around

In our home life we use the pagan ‘Wheel of the year’ as a calendar to plan work and play on and off our property. I find that using sabbats as a guide for farm work is efficient and just makes sense.

What is the Wheel of the year?

Image from http://www.celticai.com.au/2014/01/moon-phases-and-skywatching-2014/

The Wheel of the year (hereafter known as the Wheel) originated in the northern hemisphere, in the Celtic world (and probably many other cultures too). This means that the traditional festivals and feast days that mark the turning of the seasons (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Candlemas, etc) just don’t apply to us here in the southern hemisphere. We all know that when it is summer here it is winter in the UK and US, don’t we? Because of the tilt and spin of our planet we have endlessly varied seasons and climates. This also means that pagans need to recalculate their sabbats so as to be in line with the natural world, fortunately this is easy; we just ‘spin’ the Wheel forward by six months.

As most pagan religions arose from rural farming societies and worship Nature in her many forms, the sabbats and rituals which are common to them have a practical side. I know that when the snowdrops and hardenbergia flower at Imbolc (beginning of spring) that the sheep will soon be giving birth. I know that when I bless the beans, squash and corn seeds on our Ostara (spring equinox) altar it is time to plant them in the garden. I know that when I pick a pumpkin to make a Samhain (beginning of winter) jack-o-lantern it is time to bring in the whole pumpkin crop because frosts are imminent and that when I let the house fire die at Yule (winter solstice) and bring home a candle or a living coal from the Yule fire to relight it I have cleaned out the fire box of all it’s accumulated ash just before the deep bone chill of winter sets in.

I have been making myself a graphic organiser showing all the jobs around the humpy that relate to the Wheel. What do you think?

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Harvest seed crops and preserve foods; jams, chutneys and dried food. Put harvest foods on the altar. Spare lambs go to new homes.

Ostara

Beltaine

Imbolc

Yule

Samhain

Mabon

Lammas

Litha

 

 

Begin planting winter vegetables. This is the time to harvest grains and make hay. The bread man is on the altar. Roosters go to new homes. Ram to the ewes

Lambs are born. People burn off. Snow drop and hardenbergia flower. Begin planting summer vegetables.

Harvest all pumpkins and bean seeds. Carve a punkie for the altar.

Clean out fire and relight with coal from Yule fire.. Burn the year’s collected rubbish in a bonfire.

Begin cutting fire wood for winter.

First chickens are hatched.

Afternoon storms season. Plant second lot of summer vegetables.

Put up extra shelters for sheep and chickens.

Put out extra water pots for all animals.

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Of course it doesn’t show all the work of the year yet. It’s a work in progress, like so many other things here at the humpy. 

Happy Lammas to all

Lammas is the sabbat of first harvest; the time of year when we pick the last of the summer fruits from the garden and preserving for the winter is in full swing. At this time of year the animals are usually fat and healthy, the young ones have grown into that awkward teenage phase and the harvesting of staples like wheat, corn and potatoes begins.
Lammas is also known as ‘loaf-mass’ as this is the time when the first bread is made from the newly harvested grain. The Corn Lord gives up his life for the ripening of the grain at this sabbat and to celebrate this we eat newly baked bread and honey.
This year we had a quiet, gentle ritual with a few examples of our harvests on the altar and feasted in the evening by the light of an almost full moon.

A very fruitful Lammas to you all. May all your harvests be huge.

Making a refillable traveler’s journal

As most of you already know; I am a witch. I celebrate the Wheel of the Year, I follow the basic commandment of ‘An it harm ye none, do what thou wilt’, I believe in the three-fold law and I collect information. Being a witch is (for me) about learning new things and exploring new ways of looking at life. Being a crafty witch, I make my own tools.

One of the most important tools a witch has is her (or his) books, they hold the tiny crumbs of wisdom and knowledge we manage to gain in our life and can be passed on to another witch to use once we die. I make my own books; one for every new ‘subject’ (although they all interlock in some way); I made a massive, red leather, hard covered, parchment filled tome for my Book of Shadows (tools, correspondences and rituals); I made a cute little upholstery fabric covered book to record my life changing journey through the Sacred Cord (sort of like a rosary that takes two and a half years to complete); I made a black suede, hard covered slim lined book to record my divinations and dreams (Tarot, runes, iChing, scrying, etc); I made a decorated hardwood, post bound tome for my Tarot learnings (meanings, correspondences, Kabbalah and, layouts, etc) and now I have made a versatile, refillable, black leather traveller’s journal for my Kabbalah learnings.

My first Book of Shadows

My Sacred Cord book

My divination book
The cover of my Tarot book
Inside my Tarot book

Because I used what I could find about the house, my journal is a rough item, but I am fairly pleased with it. The first thing I did was; make a cup of coffee (essential to the creative juices), then I got down to business. I wanted the pages to look old and worn so I found a ream of photocopy paper, carefully folded each page in half (not the whole ream, only about 32 pages), dipped each one individually in strong instant coffee and laid them out on a towel to dry. This makes the pages unpredictably brownish yellow with blotches (perfect for that aged look).
My instant coffee bath

Some of the pages laid out to dry
You can see the difference in colour between the new paper on the left and the coffee stained stuff on the right.

While the pages dried, I dug out an old leather skirt (it was the eighties OK) and cut a piece that was  2 cm or so higher than the folded A4 paper (A5 size page) and 6 cm or so wider than an open sheet of A4 paper (A4 size page). The leather was fairly thin and would have been too floppy for a book cover on its own so I also cut a piece of heavy duty interfacing and some pretty orange material the same size as my leather.

Old leather skirt

Heavy duty interfacing on top of the material square

These three sheets were glued together with the interfacing in the middle, clamped and hung to dry for a while.

My cover drying in the breeze.

While the cover dried I began making the note book to go inside this cover. I followed the clip below to the letter, but my finished print block was much messier than hers. Undeterred, I decided it added to the antique-y charm of the project and used it anyway. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this step (I got lost in the process and forgot what I was doing).

I then trimmed the outside edges and punched some holes in my cover and threaded hat elastic through them in the sequence described in the clip below.

Here is the inside of my cover with the elastic in place.

Next I simply threaded my text block into the elastic holders and it was finished.

Spot the dog loved it; a leather paw rest, how innovative.

Then I started filling it up with collected bits of understandings and knowledge.

The three elastic bits mean I can add another two text blocks as I fill the original one up.

I loved making this project, I think I will make some more soon.

Somewhere down the track, I have plans of making my two daughters a book each and fill them with little snippets of information I think they may need, the sort of thing you ring your mum for…like;
‘How do I unplug the bathroom drain..without putting my fingers in there?’
‘How do I make pancakes?’
‘Is it better to close the windows in a wind storm or leave them open?’
‘Where do I go to register to vote?’
‘How do I make soap?’
‘What herbs are good for a cold?’

and many others.

Maybe one of these journals would be appropriate for that, new books can be added as more questions arise.

What do you think of this project?
Do you like the old and battered look for books and journals?

Happy Litha to everyone.

 It’s Litha…summer solstice, time for solar symbols, fire and water. We honour Apollo; one of the sun gods, he is at his height at this time of year, as is the sun itself. At this time of year the grass seems greener and the flowers more vivid, sounds carry further and everything is so alive it vibrates.This point marks the middle of summer for us as the sun reaches it’s southern-most position in the sky and begins the journey back to the north.

It also brings with it the usual pressure to conform to the Christmas madness.

I don’t do Christmas now my children are adults; when they were young we bought them presents and dragged them around to see relatives only glimpsed at this time of year, but now my partner and I are happy to sit back and relax a bit. I am the sort of person who likes to understand the symbolism of rituals and Christmas always confused the Hel out of me.

On one hand we are told that the date marks the birth of the SON (you know, the messiah, saviour of the universe) and asked to be kind to our fellow human in his name (and make your way to church too). On the other hand we spend our hard won cash on plastic presents for people we only see once a year (if at all) and hang bright bits of plastic on a tree (also plastic) in preparation for the arrival of an inappropriately dressed fat man. The symbolism escaped me as a kid and for many years of my adulthood, until I attended my first Yule celebration (in August). Here were all the traditional symbols; decorated tree (real), solar symbols (shiny golden balls and candles), presents, spiced mead, stories, feasts of heavy foods and a shaman dressed in red and white, in a setting I could understand; winter solstice. The meaning of the symbols were explained to us as we decorated the tree and held the ritual, it all made sense to me. So I choose to celebrate the height of the sun’s strength and it’s inevitable wan at this time of year rather than the birth of the sun and it’s inevitable waxing (as does the Christmas crowd).

On my Litha altar I have oak leaves, candles and solar symbols, to me they represent the height and strength of the sun and the recognition that the sun’s strength will begin to wan from this point onwards (until Yule). This year we were to meet up with friends for a Litha picnic, but an inconveniently falling branch kept us home to clean up. We held a small family ritual instead.

Inconveniently fallen branch

Our downsized Litha altar

What do the symbols of Christmas mean to you?

Happy Beltane to all

Once again it is the season of love…
Beltane marks the beginning of summer on our calendar (maybe not yours though) and brings with it a sense of joy and fun. This is the time for the ewes to begin cycling (coming into season) in earnest and they will cycle more and more regularly now until the autumn equinox (Mabon) when I will let Stag the ram out with the girls to make more lambs. Beltane also begins the storm season, with afternoon storms sweeping over regularly, bringing fertility to the land.

This year we had planned to go dance the Maypole (should we call it a November pole in the southern hemisphere?) but I was unfortunately incapacitated by a migraine yesterday. Instead we will do some fertile, life affirming acts here at home today and have a Beltane feast of our own;

I have seedlings to go into the garden; at this time of year we show faith that the coming season will be a good one by blessing crops. To nurture plants through the long summer takes commitment and patience and we begin the process now. Long ago the Celts blessed the fields at Beltane after the planting at Ostara by making love on the ground, but I think I will stick with spilling a little blessed wine.

The Hugelkulture beds have some space for seedlings.

The lambs need a drench; Beltane is primarily a fertility sabbat, but it also is a time of protection, especially for domestic stock. It is the time of year when babies are becoming juveniles in the flock and require a lot of care and protection. Traditionally, the stock are driven between two bonfires at this time to ensure their health for the coming year, I will be drenching the lambs with the same state of mind and intent.

I found a great frame loom plan I could make; fertility is not always about having babies, it is also about letting your creativity flow. I will research my new loom and make notes of what I need to build it as a Beltane gift to myself.

That is my Beltane…how was yours?

The season’s first chickens hatching; it must be Ostara

Happy Ostara to all; it is the spring equinox, which means that day and night are equal, due to our planet appearing to have no tilt at this stage of its orbit around the sun. It also means that my hens will bring forth chickens (and they have, right on cue), the sheep girls will cycle for the first time since they birthed their babies at Imbolc (it’s driving Stag the ram crazy as he is locked away from them until Mabon, at the end of March) and daffodils flower in the garden. In the bush the kangaroos all have bulging pouches and the wattle is flowering like little golden suns.

At this time of year the world is new and fresh, new life springs forth from every corner and the potential of the summer is revealed. This time of year is so inspiring.

This year we celebrated by taking a Cheese and Garlic tour. We visited some market gardens in the area and a cheese factory and ended up at a brewery for lunch (of course). It was a brilliant day. Unfortunately all the photographs I took of the day were lost when my phone threw an SD card (that’s how my partner phrased it). Instead I will share some photos of Ostara at the humpy….

This is Steve; he comes to the ‘Retired chooks’ pen for a feed when I refill their feeder. He is a King Parrot and his mate’s name is Kerry.

We have two batches of chickens at the moment; one lot was hatched two weeks ago and one hatched on Ostara morning (20th September) 

There are some chicks from each hatch in this photo; our hens tend to mother all the babies together.

The zucchini are beginning to fruit.

The cabbages are hearting up

The Hugelkultur beds are looking green and productive

Yes, we planted lettuce, even though they will bolt to seed after a very short pick. I love lettuce at this time of year.

The last planting of snow peas are fruiting. The other two plantings were eaten by chooks so this will be our first harvest.

I also went to a spring garden tour in my mother’s garden, I have a lot of photos from that, but the garden is so awesome it deserves its own post.

What did you do for Ostara?

Happy late Yule to all

Happy Yule to all

We were about two weeks late for Yule this year but when we did get to it we had a lot of fun.

Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice; the shortest day of the year which falls on the 21st/22nd of June here in the southern hemisphere. It is the time of the long, dark, cold night that reminds us of the suffering our ancestors went through to survive this time of year, when food is scarce and it seems that the warm days of spring may never come. To answer these feelings we have a feast (showing faith that we will be able to grow more food) and light a fire as a symbol that the sun will return and grows stronger from this time onwards to Litha (summer solstice).

We celebrate Yule by thanking the elements for another year of abundance, telling stories and lighting a candle each to symbolise the rebirth of the Sun. We also have a bonfire and swap handmade presents. This year I got a beautiful crochet poncho. In past years we have decorated an evergreen tree with solar symbols and decorated the circle with branches, but as there are only us old pagans left we toned it down to the essentials.
One element that is always present though is the gluhwein (mulled wine). It warms the blood and makes the long night speed by.

Getting everything ready for the ritual (making a list, checking it twice)

The master bonfire maker.

The apprentice

Our altar, ready to go as the darkness fell. Presents, candles and gluhwein (mulled, spiced wine)

The glorious bonfire, giving us warmth and light.

The candles burned down as the night went on, feasting and talking. They made frozen wax waterfalls.

The bonfire burned down to ashes too, but still kept us warm.
My gorgeous poncho

It makes much more sense to me to hold this celebration at midwinter rather than in December; the symbols all make sense now.
Have a happy Yule everyone.

Happy Samhain to all.

Well, maybe happy isn’t the word……

At the end of April we hold Samhain in the Southern hemisphere (some people know it as Halloween).
It’s the time to celebrate the coming of Winter, with it’s cozy fires, hearty soups, specialty breads and family togetherness as we all gather close to fend off the cold. The other side of the coin is that at this time we lose the old, the sick and the ones too young to survive the harsh season (usually roosters, chooks, ducks and sometimes a dog or horse, but humans too). Traditionally we would slaughter our excess stock (not people) now so we don’t have to feed them through the winter.

This Sabbat is all about honouring our dead…..the ones who die so we can live; both the stock we slaughter for food and the old or sick who let go so there is more to go around. We say thank you to those who have made the sacrifice before us and realise that one day it will be our turn to make the decision to let go or hang on for one more turn of the wheel.

In past years we have gathered at a local cemetery to carve jack-o-lanterns (punkies) and put flowers and candles on the graves, before holding a dumb supper (completely silent) and laying out some food for the shades who come to visit. This year, as we are all getting older, we held Samhain in our circle with a huge comforting bonfire and we invited shades to join us through the gate in the West. It’s nice to visit with our departed loved ones (my Nanna is a real entertainment) and to feel that sense of connection to them once more.

This was our western altar. It wasn’t really on its side, it just came out that way. The punkie on the altar was grown in our sacred garden we saved the seed to grow more for next year. 

Another shot of the western altar.

Our expert bonfire builder has been at it again. That fire sure warmed our old bones.

The western altar before we raised the veil and invited the shades to join our feast.

One of our happy little punkies

Nothing beats a warm fire on a cold night.

Our sacred garden in the background, waiting for spring and more planting.