Day 137: Lammas

As is widely known, Lammas gets its name from “loaf mass” which calls to mind the mass said over the first loaves of bread made from the year’s grain harvest.  I actually prefer this name, but–in keeping with the more Gaelic names I use for the other Sabbats, I call this holiday “Lughnassadh” (Loo-nah-sah), which roughly means “feast of Lugh” where Lugh is an Irish god or mythological being that has been associated with the sun since Victorian times at least, but is often more of a trickster figure in mythology and the ‘light’ aspect of his name is likely more akin to lightning, as storms were considered battles between him and another god, Balor.  In mythology, the feast was begun  by Lugh in commemoration of his foster-mother’s funeral–she died after clearing Ireland’s fields for agriculture.

Roderick notes that the theme of sacrifice was an important aspect of Lughnassadh, but he doesn’t mention the mythology, saying instead that this sacred harvest represented the sacrifice of the horned god as he manifests through grain to sustain human life.  I find that a little problematic with some wheel of the year interpretations:  if the lord dies at Lughnassadh, Yule, and Litha…well, we’ve got a lot of death to deal with.  It seems a little unbalanced to me.

At any rate, celebrants of Lammas or Lughnassadh might have celebrated with circular dances performed with the intention to regenerate the earth and sustain the community or with offering harvested crops as sacrifices.  That latter bit shares similarities to today’s practice.

Practice:  Harvest Luck and House Protection

  • Fresh produce of your choosing
  • A brown taper candle about 5-6 inches in length

One magical Lughnassadh custom was bringing the prized and highly magical first sheaf of corn across the front door threshold of one’s home.  The custom would ensure luck and protection from illness and poverty for the coming year.  In your practice today, select a produce or grain item that as symbolic attributes that represent a quality you would like to bring into your life.

Bring the produce or grain to your home, but before you bring it inside, light a brown taper candle (a color that represents the earth and harvest) and hold it in your left hand.  Stand before the front door of your house, hold the food item above the lit candle flame, and say:

Oh Holy Lugh, Lord of the Harvest
Bring [state your desire] into my home,
With this harvested fruit of the land.

Step over the threshold of your front door.  Place the food item somewhere near the door through which you just entered and set the candle close by.  Allow the candle to burn completely out.  After the candle extinguishes, prepare and eat a portion of the food item in silence.

My candle and minneolas by my bedroom door

For this working, I was pretty set on citrus fruit for three reasons:  they’re currently in season, I can’t get enough of them, and the giant orange minneola tangelos are just about the sunniest fruit I can imagine, and I need solar energy.  To me, citrus equals sun, and I need the warmth, the transformative power, the fuel, and the follow through of the sun in my life right now.

So I brought them up, lit my candle, took a moment to focus on Lugh, his energy, and my own desires, and repeated the request, asking specifically for motivation and follow through.

Given the fact that I’ve basically got a 12-inch taper, I did not wait for it to extinguish, but I gave it a good few hours of burning and manifestation.  And man, was that minneola good!

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Day 135: Summer Solstice, More Stone Waters

Oh, I dearly love it when Roderick gives his readers a little break.  I was starting to get a little bit flagged with all these new and varied workings.  Beltane didn’t seem nearly as involved.

Today is largely a repetition of yesterday’s practice.  Basically, we pick a stone, hold it up to the morning sun and imagine that it absorbs the suns rays, then pop it in a glass jar of water and let it steep in the sunshine all day.  Then we drink the water.  Roderick gives the following short list of minerals and properties to help make a decision:

A bloodstone bath...

Amber: To enhance beauty
Amethyst: Magical dreams and visions, tranquility, spiritual awareness
Bloodstone: For success in business, courage, and healing magical power
Jade: Luck, love, longevity, health, prosperity, wisdom
Moonstone: Moon goddess energies, psychic ability, love
Marble: Success, prosperity, solidity
Obsidian: Peace
Opal: To bring about change, magical ability, prosperity
Quartz crystal: Psychic ability, awareness, receptivity

I’m not sure I would have chosen all of these stones to present on a short list of possibilities.  Opals are pretty pricey gems; people don’t have them just lying about the place.  Marble isn’t quite as expensive, but you don’t usually see “small” marble pieces.  They’re usually substantial features like counter tops or bookends.  And amber is sort of a special case; you definitely try to keep amber out of direct sunlight as heat can damage it, so I’m not sure I’d recommend using any amber pieces you especially liked in this application.

At any rate, I could do with an infusion of success, healing, and courage in my career, so I went the bloodstone route.  Also, I have a strong fondness for bloodstone anyway so it was a win/win choice.  After I drank the water, I did feel better in a whole body way.  Granted, it could have simply been related to drinking a whole pint of water in a sitting–I think I am a bit dehydrated as of late–but I do feel a bit stronger, like I’ve got the courage to face up to my fears.

As with the sun water earlier, I popped the stones into my jar early in the morning and arrived back home just as evening was falling.  The energy I felt this time was different.  Instead of ‘growing’ energy, this one felt more…well, more like ‘warrior’ energy.  It was much more focused and had an aggressive edge to it.  I guess I can see the associations with business, courage, and healing with bloodstone–all of those require careful, measured aggression.

Day 134: Summer Solstice, Stone Waters

Today, Roderick introduces the concept of ‘stone water’, which–unlike stone soup–is not a collaborative exercise in culinary creativity.  Essentially, you just take a stone, mineral, or gem of the properties you desire, pop it into a jar of water, then pop the jar onto a windowsill to steep in the power of the sun or the moon, depending on the energies you desire.  I’m of the mind that this is an excellent solar activity because the sun undeniably steeps matter into pure water.  Remember making sun tea?  Remember how it was the best darn iced tea you ever had–summer in a glass?  Yup, that was the solar energy.

Apparently we have the early Celts to thank for the practice of infusing stone energy into water as they’d boil quartz and use the infuse as a healing potion.  Roderick asks us to tweak the practice to make a stone water a bit more keyed to the sun.

What you’ll need:

  • A small clear-glass container
  • A small piece of topaz or a piece of gold

The method is simple. Hod the small topaz or the piece of gold up to the first rays of the sun.  Imagine that your mineral absorbs the sun’s rays.  Next, set the stone into a small clear glass container of water.  Place the container with the crystal on a window ledge where the sun can shine on it all day long.  At the end of the day, remove the stone and drink the water.  As you do this, you will absorb the energies of the sun.

The memories that linger and the ones we cherish most are those of Delta Gamma let us rise and sing our tooooooast!

Funny, but after I got my jar all filled up with water, I realized I didn’t have any topaz in my (embarrassingly extensive) rock collection.  A quick peek through my jewelry box revealed that I’m not a big fan of gold jewelry either.  I had just two pieces: my mother’s wedding ring and my sorority pin.  Frankly, with my parents’ divorce looming on the horizon, I didn’t want to be imbibing any residual energies from that jewelry, so I turned to my sorority pin which, really, has nothing but good memories for me.

Yes, I am a sorority girl.  No, that does not mean I was a sorostitute.  Great Greek systems are much more about solidarity, community, and sisterhood than they are about short skirts.

Anyway, I charged my pin and popped it into the water early in the morning.  When I came back home later in the evening, I debated whether or not to drink the water–after all, how ‘sun charged’ did I want to be at night?  Curiosity won out, though, and I downed the pint.

I think that perhaps energy work sometimes give us just what we need.  I felt just productive enough after drinking the sun water to proactively tackle my evening workload and have restorative sleep afterward.  All in all, a very nice magical technique to have under one’s belt.

Day 131: Summer Solstice, Solar Healing

The sun has magical healing properties from which Witches and magical folk draw.  Witches traditionally practice this sun-drawing technique at sunrise–or at least within the first hours of sunrise.  Go to some place where you can have a full view of the rising sun.  Face the sunrise, close your eyes, and feel the solar warmth on your skin.

Now imagine that the sun draws out from you any heavy, dark energies.  Any illnesses or emotional difficulties you face can be eased if you allow the sun to draw them out from you now.  Imagine them leaving you, floating up and out toward the sun, where they are annihilated forever.

As you stand there imagining the energies leaving you, repeat the following chant to the sun thrice:

Morning sun, take my pain!
Ease my heart; illness wane.

Conclude the rite by anointing your heart chakra (at the center of your chest) with chamomile essential oil, which aligns you with the essence of solar energy.

Well, I must admit it:  7:33 in the morning is not exactly the crack of dawn…but it’s close.  The local sunrise time today was 6:43 am.  I was up in plenty of time to make the sunrise, and I did my usual routine of showering and grabbing breakfast, but I got all discombobulated when I found that one of my housemates had left the fridge door open all night.  Somewhere around my penning a little e-mail to my housemates, the sun rose.  I suppose things happen.  At any rate, I get more sun streaming through my window a little later in the morning anyway, which made this visualization a little easier as it was raining and not sunny in the least.

I do feel lighter after performing this healing–less like the world is crashing down upon my shoulders and more like I can shift the load about comfortably.  There’s also a little buzz of solar energy infusing my being, which is always welcome.  I’m even enjoying the lingering smell of cedar oil on my person (no chamomile, sorry!).  It vaguely reminds me of childhood guinea pigs, which is odd, but it’s such a strong, solid, supportive, masculine scent that it’s bringing me some auxiliary balance, too.

Day 130: Summer Solstice, Sun Vigil

Today, honor the sun by watching it set.  Go to a favorite natural setting where you can clearly see the sun set on the horizon.  Before you do this, check in your local newspaper or almanac to know the exact time of the sunset–otherwise you may be waiting for a long time for the big event.

When you arrive at the viewing spot, lay out a comfortable blanket and sit on the ground.  Close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.  Mentally thank the sun for bringing light into your day.  You can make and offering of sweet cakes or a libation of wine on the earth at this time.  Without directly looking into the sun’s light, peer now and again at it as it sinks into the west.  After the sun has set, take time to consider the following:

  • What personal associations do you have with the sun?
  • What memories do you have related to the sun (sunburn, a favorite sunny day, etc.)?
  • What feelings or energies do you sense as the sun sets?
  • How might the energies you have sensed be useful to you in your life?

I’ve not really noticed sunrises or sunsets all that much since moving to Eugene.  Where I am, you can’t really see the sun rise or set–there are too many hills and houses and trees blocking the view, so you don’t really see the sun itself until later in the day.  If I want a good sunset, I’ve got to go up–onto my roof or a higher story of PLC–or to the beach.

Neither would have helped me today.  The sky was so thick with rainclouds that you really didn’t see the sun set as much as you noticed it was getting darker.  There wasn’t going to be much “feel the warmth” happening this evening–nor any other evening in the foreseeable future–but at least I can answer some questions now.

My personal associations with the sun…well, warmth and life, really.  From the sun, all life is possible.  The sun allows organisms to spin sugar from air.  It’s an incredible, mind blowing thing.  But too much sun or not enough, we either fry or freeze.  It’s a power that has to be carefully, carefully balanced.

My memories of the sun–oh, hot, hot summer days of childhood and bicycles and running around in the woods and through the creek.  And the beaches…all the beaches my parents took us to.  I’d get a sunburn on the first day and be miserable for the next four.  Hilton Head Island was the worst:  2nd degree burns.  I couldn’t stand to have clothes on, I couldn’t stand to lay down and sleep.  I was so, so tired and in so much pain.  But that day was glorious.  It was one of the last days that I played like a child.  We found sand dollars and swam in the rough Atlantic surf and really let our trick kite soar.  I don’t even remember resting much at all that day.

When I do manage to catch a sunset, I feel energies drawing to a close.  I feel lulled to a comfortable, natural rest, one of near perfect peace and one of a sweet hope for the new day.

Energy, balance, and rest can all obviously be useful in my life, but in order to really feel true energy or true rest, I’ve got to work so hard on striving that crucial balance, lest I freeze or frizzle.

Day 17: Tracking the Sun and Moon

Argh. Keeping track of the sun and the moon is a pretty big part of the daily practice of Wicca. And it is also one where I consistently fail in. I’m too apt to get caught up in life and then realize a month and a half later that the days are now much shorter than they were the last time I noticed, or that the moon’s slipped from full to new and back again before I knew it.

I should know better. Roderick is pretty clear that “in the world of Witchcraft, the stage and location in the heavens of the sun and moon signify magical and spiritual energy tides.” And these tides can have a lot of influence on activities. Still, the activities have got to be done whether the moon is in Cancer or Aquarius, full or new, spring or fall.

Wiccans do, however, divide our year into eight seasonal festivals: four of which deal directly with the phases of the sun. We also honor the moon through many more Esbats celebrated throughout the year. Tracking the sun and the moon should be basic, daily activities.

As Roderick notes, it’s easy to artificially check what phase the sun is in: just open a newspaper. It’ll also tell you what time the sun rises and sets in your area. The moon waxes from new to full and wanes from full to new. It’s easy to tell if it’s waxing or waning just by looking at it: If the roundest side curves like a D, it’s waxing. If it curves like a C, it’s waning. Easy peasy. The sun ‘waxes’ from the Winter Solstice (which happens when it’s the shortest day of the year) to the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year) and ‘wanes’ from the Summer to the Winter. And, as Roderick notes, the Winter Solstice occurs when the sun enters Capricorn (sometime between Dec 20-23rd), the Spring Equinox occurs when the sun enters Aries (between March 20-23rd), the Summer Solstice happens when the sun enters Cancer (between June 20-23rd) and the Fall Equinox occurs when the sun enters Libra (between September 20-23rd).

Exercise: Sun and Moon Cycles

The Farmer’s Almanac can tell you when the seasons change. You can also check with an astrological ephemeris, which charts the passage of the sun and the planets of the solar system as they progress through the twelve constellations of the zodiac.

In later days you will discover the importance of knowing these luminaries and their rhythms, but for now, develop a habit of knowing the cycles of the sun and the moon on a regular basis. This alone will begin the process of attuning you to the energies of the goddess and god.

So no basic work today, just the note to consult an almanac every day.

I have purchased a Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac just about every year since I’ve began studying Wicca. I think I might have missed the first year or two, but it’s been constant since at least 1999. But I didn’t buy one this year. All I need are the almanac sections: the articles just don’t even begin to interest me the way they once did. I don’t need an essay about the chupacabra or the yeti to be a Wiccan. In fact, while those things may be interesting…they’re just noise. The important things–the rise/set times of the sun and moon, the moon’s astrological sign for my geographical location–these are things better answered by local sources and ephemerides. So that’s what I’m sourcing for now.

Day 16: Divine Polarity in the Sky

You’d have to be either completely ignorant of Wicca or a downright fool to think that Wiccans worship the sun and the moon. That would be like thinking Catholics worship statues.

We do, however, highly revere them as symbols. As Roderick notes, without either one, life on this planet would shrivel up and die. We rely on the sun to give us light, which literally and figuratively feeds us. We rely on the moon to regulate our tides, which in turn helps to regulate cyclical weather. The cycle of day and night give us time to be active and a time to rest. Because of this, we see the sun as representing masculine, active god energy and the moon as representing feminine, receptive energy. And, as Roderick rightly says, “the interplay of the sun and the moon gives rise to the Wiccan mythology suggesting that god and goddess not only maintain all life but infuse it.”

Exercise: Solar and Lunar

Use the list you developed in yesterday’s exercise to help you think of your life in four basic categories: your thoughts, your activity, your feelings, and your body. Consider whether the sun or the moon best represents your energy in each of the four categories. For example, someone whose thoughts are solar would have linear, analytical thinking much of the time. Someone whose thoughts were lunar would have more intuitive and circular thinking processes. Below is a list of words that can help you discover your own symbolic representational energies of both moon and sun in your four categories.

Sun

Active, lively, vigorous, dynamic, direct, orderly, energetic, bold, assertive, proactive, confident, assured, logical, rational, careful, sequential, cheery, high-spirited, joyful, vain, haughty, pompous, hot-headed, muscular, angular, thin, firm.

Moon

Receptive, indirect, passive, reflexive, reactive, subtle, fine, understated, circular, inclusive, intuitive, spontaneous, holistic, reflective, moderate, introspective, moody, disorganized, insecure, timid, apprehensive, emotional, touchy, round, soft, plump.

My thoughts, activity, feelings and body you say? Well, let’s start with the easiest. My body is so moon, there’s no question about it. Plump and soft are incredibly kind words.

As far as my thoughts go…I’d like to say they are active and vigorous, but they generally follow circular and intuitive trains. My activity tends to be more reflexive than proactive, and while I am rather vain and pompous, my feelings generally slide toward the introspective, timid, and apprehensive. So I think that I’ve got conditions of both in most categories, but eventually come out as lunar on all counts.

Day 7: Witches and Sacred Symbols

Symbols. My gods, sometimes I hate symbols.

This is, of course, because I’m a lit student. We quickly learn that everything can be a symbol…and that you get extra special brownie points if you can argue a case for symbols no one’s ever seen before. So too are the symbols of Wicca. Among some Wiccans, the brownie points go to the Witch who’s just uncovered the latest obscure “correspondence.” Oy! Common sense, people!

So it is with noted trepidation that I approach Day 7. But you know, it’s not that bad. Roderick basically begins by nodding toward the work of anthropologist Adolf Bastian, whom he says “was first to recognize that certain basic principles reoccur as symbols through the world’s mythologies and religious systems.” (These ‘elementary ideas’ as Bastian called them are along the lines of “life must feed on life” or “life does not end with death.” You know, the really big ones.) Bastian went on to say that although the ‘elementary ideas’ are basically the same across culture, the different sayings and interpretations differ from one culture to the next. What Roderick extends this to is the thoguht that “Wicca taps into these elementary ideas through symbols and ideas common to all cultures.”

You know, I understand that symbols ‘speak a poetic language’ and that Wicca uses them as ‘the primary means for reaching and transforming the deep mind (unconscious.’ I get that. And I agree with it. But I am a little confused with Roderick’s explanation. The headnote is fraught with quips like “The sunrise, a circle, the change of season and fire are examples of Wiccan symbols that transcend culture, time, and place,” but Roderick never says what these objects are symbols of. And the ‘of’ makes all the difference. Maybe it’s the lit nerd in me talking…but the object isn’t the important part of the equation. Worrying about how “the critical mind erroneously interprets symbolic information as fact, etc” isn’t all that important. A symbol isn’t a symbol until the object delivers an “Ah!” moment. At that point fact really doesn’t matter anymore. The poetic nature takes over.

So I’m just a little grumpy about today’s notes. But I do think that I need to start looking at the world around me and stop noticing objects for themselves. I’ve lost my poetic vision, and I need to get it back. And today’s exercise is a great place to start.

Practice: Sunrise, Sunset, Symbols

Take time today to witness either the sunrise or the sunset. It is important that you don’t substitute an “imagined” sunrise or sunset–really go outside and engage in nature. As you experience either the sunrise or sunset, take note of your feelings and your state of mind. AFter this, take time to commit your thoughts to paper regarding these questions:

  • What did you experience internally as you witnessed this event?
  • From this experience, what do you imagine this sunrise or sunset could symbolize?
  • Now think about a symbol from a spiritual path from your past. Spend time contemplating this symbol’s meaning. What could this symbol mean for you today?
31 am.

Photographic proof I saw 6:31 am.

It is a rare thing that I wake up before 9 am these days. I go to bed very late, and seem to require above 8 hours of sleep. But I felt compelled to aim for the sunrise instead of the sunset. For me, the sunrise is about birth and the sunset death. I see so much of the ‘death’ end of things these days that I really wanted an opportunity to experience the other side. And perhaps maybe the newness of starting a day so damn early would help shift my mindset for the rest of the day, too.

Internally, I experienced a whole helluva lot of tired. I woke up a little earlier than the required 6:31 am to make a cup of fortifying tea, but didn’t leave much of a chance for it to take effect. But once I did settle down to watch the subtle changes of a sunrise, I did feel a calm. The sun began to reflect off the low lying clouds in a small riot of yellows, oranges, pinks, and lavenders, the mist over the grassfield across the street began to roll off. The dew began to coagulate and dissipate. The world was tossing off her nighttime blanket and taking a stretch. It was calming. It was reassuring. It was hopeful.

So yes, I think the sunrise well symbolizes birth and rebirth; new beginnings, awakenings; hope and the very beginnings of realized potential.

After such a pleasant beginning, I don’t particularly want to think about the tried and trite symbols of my spiritual past. What am I going to say? The cross? The lamb? The dove? The cross is often a symbol of death and rebirth, the lamb of innocence and trust, and the dove of peace. I can’t say any of these have changed for me. In Wicca, the equal-armed cross is a symbol of the elements, but that is a slightly different cross than the Christian one. It’s not quite the same thing. Meh.