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.

Happy Mabon to all

It is time for Mabon; the Autumn equinox. At this time of year we celebrate the second harvest; the making of preserves and dried foods. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet up for this Sabbat this year but we celebrated at home with a special meal and the lighting and extinguishing of a symbolic candle.
At this time of year the masculine forces of nature (sunlight, flowering, heat, etc) have faded noticeably and the feminine forces (fertility, darkness, cold) begin to take over. We symbolise this by sending our Lord to the underworld; covering the Lord’s mask with a black veil and extinguishing a candle. We give thanks for the riches the year has bought us and hope for more to come.

Lammas….the festival of first harvest

Today we are celebrating Lammas; the festival of first harvest, or the bread feast.
At Lammas we harvest seeds from our crops; an activity filled with symbolism. When we harvest seed from our crops we are reaping the rewards of our labors during the season (if I hadn’t planted, weeded and carried bath water to the silverbeet all summer, I wouldn’t be harvesting seeds from it now), we are also gathering the hope for future seasons (I will plant the seed I harvest to grow more silverbeet).

Lammas in Australia

The song ‘John Barleycorn must die’ is a song about the yearly cycle of grain growing…symbolically.

This year we made a bread man to share and harvested the corn we planted in the sacred garden at Ostara. We also made some corn dolls to be buried with the corn when we plant it next Ostara.
Corn dolls are a really old tradition/ art from our various ancestors; making a doll from some of the harvest gives the spirit of the grain a place to live until it is planted again. They also make a sweet little decoration for the altar.

Amerind corn dolls
Celtic corn dolls

How to make corn dolls

The seed packets I made to hold our corn seed.

The corn dolls and some seed packets.

A close up of my Corn Lady, she is tied together with home spun wool (that I spun myself)

The Bread Man, he represents a thank you for the sacrifice the wheat makes so that we can eat bread for the year.

Our Lammas altar.

Hanging the Corn Lord mask

The corn before the harvest in the sacred garden.

The altar in the dusk.

It’s almost time to replant the sacred garden. There are still pumpkins in there for Samhain though (well, A pumpkin)

Harvesting the corn

The Bread Man loses his head (with an appropriate thank you)

Bread Man dipped in honey; is there anything more yummy at this time of year?

We also got a cute twinned cob

Happy Litha to all

Yesterday was Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere (which includes us). The Earth’s annual journey around the sun has bought us back to the peak of solar strength and the promise that ‘this too shall pass’ and winter will come again.

Every year we head to water for our Litha celebration; it pays to have water close when playing with fire.
Litha is a celebration of the sun reaching the height of his strength and a realization that everything is cyclic and even the awesome power of the sun waxes and wanes. We decorate the altar and surrounds with sun symbols and imagery. We perform a ritual to say thank you for the light and heat that let us live on this planet, then we party.

Decorating the tree behind the altar (facing North)

The altar is coming together nicely too

I love the twisted branches of this tree.

The Sun Lord’s mask.

My partner wearing his Litha crown.

The Sun Lord in a light hearted moment.

The mask after the ritual, hanging in the tree, watching over our revels.

The Sun Lord casting the flaming spear into the water to symbolize his current strength and the shortening of the days from this point onward as the suns strength wanes towards winter.

Feasting from the altar.

The spear is floating in there somewhere

Happy Litha to all. I hope your day was as pleasant as ours.

A holed rock hanging in the tree.

A rock with a hole in it (naturally formed) is called a hagstone. It protects the area it is hung in from negative energy and if you look through it maybe you will see the faerie world.

Happy Beltane

The maypole is up and the circle is being set.

Happy Beltane to everyone.

This is the time of year when we celebrate new life. I know that the northern hemisphere is celebrating the beginning of winter with Samhain (or Halloween), but here in Australia it is the beginning of summer. We know it’s Beltane because the cows and ewes (who all calved/ lambed around Ostara) are cycling again for the first time since then and will perform their mating rituals if a suitable mate is available. The hens (who began hatching eggs at Ostara) are ready to go back to the chook pen and leave their babies to fend for themselves. The rabbits (who birthed at Ostara) have weaned their young and are ready for a night on the town with any available buck and all over the country spring weddings are happening.

This year we set a pretty altar, the men crowned the women then the women crowned the men (not with blunt objects) and we danced the maypole. There are only a few of us now, and we are getting older, so we made it a stately, dignified pole dance. We then jumped the cauldron to rid ourselves of negativity for the coming year (and to prove that we still could).

Our Beltane altar with Pan and Athena as representatives of the generative forces.

Waiting to begin

As the sun sets, we thank the land for fertility.

The sabbat ritual is important as it marks the passing of the seasons in our minds and reminds us of the things which must be done to preserve our lifestyles (if we don’t sow pumpkins at Ostara, we don’t pick pumpkins at Samhain).
 I love my religion; it keeps me in touch with my little patch of Earth and it’s a lot of fun too.

You can’t really see it well in the video, but there was a red shadow dancing around the cauldron. Some chose to believe it was the exposure setting on the camera, I choose to believe it was an elemental spirit come to join the fun. 

Our Ostara planted sacred garden is growing well.

On a related note; I found a carpet python in my chook house, swallowing one of the broody hens (sitting on guinea fowl eggs). This is a common occurrence, we lose one or two chooks every year to the snakes (I think of it as paying the rent, after all they were here first). We moved her down to the nearest water way in the hope that she won’t come back.

She is a beauty. When I picked her up I had to use both hands, she was very heavy.

Ostara; the Spring equinox

Happy Ostara everyone,
It’s that time of year again; eggs, fertility (rabbits) and planting seeds. The spring equinox is one of two times in the year when day and night are of equal length, this day marks the middle of spring (for the planet not the calendar). It is the time for birthing lambs, first chickens hatching and summer vegetable crops being planted.
This year for Ostara our little Grove (a small group of witches) built a sacred garden bed and planted it with corn, beans and pumpkin (the three sisters).
We measured the bed using our Athames and a cord in the traditional manner

The bed and the post positions were marked out with gypsum (no ritual significance in gypsum, we just had some)

We measured and measured again; my High Priestess is a Libra.

The quarters (four directions) were marked with posts, then the cross quarters were marked with more posts (steel pegs really)
A poly pipe frame was added, then wire around the base and a bird net over the top.
Oh and a gate was added. 
The bed is made up of layers of newspaper, alpaca poop and bladey grass mulch in a no-dig garden style.

It took us about half a day to build the bed, but it was time well spent.
Then we held our ritual where we blessed the seeds for the year’s planting and planted our crop in the garden.

I found the seed blessing below online, but I can’t seem to find it again; so thank you to whoever wrote it. We held our seeds and said this blessing over them before planting.

Seed blessing

Now the dark half of the year is passing
Now the days grow light, and the Earth grows warm
I summon the spirit of these seeds
Which have slept in darkness
Awaken, stir, and swell
As you are planted in the Earth
To grow and bring forth new fruit.
Blessed be!
And this morning when I got up, one of the hens has hatched a chicken; perfect timing.

Imbolc already and spring is here

It’s that time of year again; the snow drops are flowering, so is the hardenbergia in the bush. The chooks are laying and looking for nest sites. All my seedlings are coming up and I have an urge to plant more than we could possibly eat; it must be spring.
At the start of spring we hold the festival of Imbolc; it is held when the first snow drops flower and celebrates the return of life and heat to the land. We also have a bonfire, an outdoor meal and lots of mead.

snow drops…or snow flakes; I can never remember which is which and they flower at the same time.

Seedlings in newspaper pots starting to emerge.

Hardenbergia in the bush

Our Imbolc altar

The bonfire

The alter after dark