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Posts Tagged ‘Wheel of the Year’

An altar with three peaches, a pomegranate, three copper cups, three corn men, a painted wooden spoon, and several assorted jars

When it came to Mabon this year, our hive had some different feelings about which direction we should go. I was feeling a lot of water energy, and Mabon is also a Sabbat I tend to associate with the Celts (though I know that the historical evidence for it is sketchy at best, it’s the association which has stuck with me, sorry). Ivy really wanted to make sure we remembered to burn the corn men we’d made at Lammas, and Kian was interested in the harvest sacrifice/turning of the light half of the year into the dark half of the year aspects.

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Close-up of the Mabon altar with fruit and tools

Meanwhile, I’d been feeling a little caught up in ongoing interpersonal drama, in spite of not being directly involved myself, and it had also come up that there were potentially some folks out there who were, for lack of a better way of phrasing it, wishing us all well to our detriment. (You know that thing where someone really really wants something for you, with at least mostly good intentions, but it’s a thing that you would not actually welcome or find beneficial? Yeah, that.) So, it seemed like a good time to do some cleansing/warding/blessing magic in order to make very sure that any influences we did not consent to were reflected back at the sender, to make sure our wards and bounds were being respected, and to do a general cleansing and blessing of our spaces and selves.

We went to a beach near us, with corn men in tow, and all of our assorted supplies. Our hive dedicated ourselves several years ago to a deity who is private to us, a hearth mother goddess of Slavic/Eastern origin, and we each own a painted Russian spoon which we use to give offerings into our little copper cups in her honor if there is not a fire. If there is a fire, she gets the first offerings. In this case, the first offering was a pomegranate, for the movement of the light into darkness and the journey into sleep and the Underworld, so we squeezed some pomegranate juice onto our corn men as they began their travel into death and transformation.

 

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Three corn men burning on a grill

We ended up having a hell of a time getting a fire going, as it was too breezy by the water, but we finally got the little pile of corn bodies to catch, they burned great. Kian read the poem of John Barleycorn for them as they turned to ash, and we thanked them for their sacrifice that they might provide life from the earth again when the wheel turns back to life in the spring.

I always struggle with feeling disconnected from the land, living in an urban area without the distinct seasons I grew up with, and I wish this could have been corn I grew from my own fields, and burned on my own land instead of a grill in a public park, but I guess we all just have to work with what we have on hand. There are things I like about being an urban witch, but I’m a farm kid at heart, and sometimes that’s more apparent than others.

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Four tarot cards, a painted wooden spoon, and two peaches on a dishtowel

After we’d burned the men, we took a little time to do some magic- I’d pre-prepared some ingredients for a cleansing mix, a protection rub, and a blessing ointment. We mixed them up in our three copper bowls and distributed them to each of us, so that we could take them home and use them. We’d done our Mabon ritual the weekend before Mabon, as it fell on a Thursday, but we agreed to do the actual cleansing, warding, and blessing on the day itself. Particular attention was going to be paid to our mirrors and windows, as they can be inadvertent openings into yourself and into your home if left unprotected.

We also drew a card each for our divination for the next space of time before the next Sabbat- the wind also helpfully picked one for us. Three sword cards and a pentacles, which is interesting- though, helpfully, none of the sword cards were the truly ominous ones. Still, there’s something to being on our guard and careful in the next while, I think.

Three small jars, one containing cleansing mix, one containing protection herbs, and one holding the ingredients for a blessing anointment

As our last acts before we left, we ate pomegranate seeds to help us transition into the coming darkness, and made some fruit offerings to the sea (and to the seagulls and crows, which would no doubt partake on the sea’s behalf).

(I liked the kitchen-witchery aspect of this Sabbat- I use herbs fairly widely, but I don’t tend to spend a whole lot of time on making things to use for tinctures and potions and rubs and so on, but I enjoy it when I do it.)

Next up: Samhain!

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Almost a full year ago, I retired from public service with the coven of which I’d been a member for more than eight years. Shortly after I retired, the two remaining members of my initiatory class also retired, and we spent the rest of the next year in retreat from public ritual, enjoying the mental and emotional and spiritual space after having been members of a large group for a long time, and also re-grouping and re-discovering who we were as private pagans, as semi-solitaries once again.

During this time, one of the things that I came to realize, and which the other two agreed with me on, was that we missed having regular observations of the solar year.

Our coven observed each Sabbat with quite a bit of pomp and circumstance, and over the years, had re-invented them to be specific to the coven, with specific non-ancestral names and ritual actions that accompanied them. Some of this I liked, as it gave some continuity to Sabbats which can otherwise be a little meaning-obscure beyond random traditions (Ostarra and easter eggs, for example), but we had all three missed the more seasonal component, which had seemed to us to get a little lost in the shuffle. We’ve all grown up in areas of the country with distinct seasons, and turning the wheel of the year felt important to us, along with the recognition of the more ancient roots and practices that went along with these holidays. So, we decided that we would like to start observing them again, though not publicly at first, and do the work of figuring out what their meaning and importance was to us on an individual and group level.

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Spell work with divination cards laid out on a table

We had been discussing this for a while, but the next Sabbat really coming up by the time we felt ready to venture into ritual again was Lammas/Lunadsagh. So, the first thing was to figure out what pieces of Lammas felt important to us: for my hive-sister, Ivy, the harvest aspect of it was important, particularly the idea of the fruit harvest. For me, it’s a feast of bread and the first grains, and also closely tied to Mary. For Kian, our third hive-member, Lammas was less of an important holiday to him, but he was on board for the ritual eating and drinking! We also decided that divination and/or spellwork at every Sabbat for the period of time following it was important, and we inaugurated that at this event.

It was a relatively small affair, but it felt really good to be doing even just small ritual again. Ivy and I baked a bunch of bread, hers with fruit in it, which was delicious. I created an altar that celebrated Mary, Sif (a Norse grain and hearth and home [among many other things] goddess to whom I’m dedicated, and the general theme of abundance and the first of the harvests, with offerings of fruit and grain and honey and wine.

Ivy working on her corn dolly, with a two corn dollies standing up in front of her next to a pink teacup

Ivy brought corn husks, and we made corn dolly men and women, which was a lot of fun- we’re keeping the corn women until Imbolc, at which point we will ritually drown them, and the corn men we will burn at Mabon as a sacrifice. We also took the time after we’d eaten to draw cards from a variety of decks, and lay out a spell for what each of us wanted to manifest in the time before Mabon- you can see mine above.

We’re still a long way from doing anything public, if we ever do, and we’ve scaled everything way back from what it was with a large group, of course. It was an interesting feeling, I have to say- it very much feels like a cycle of re-discovery, moving from the way I celebrated the solar holidays on my own as a solitary witch, then how I learned to observe them working in a large group, and now falling to somewhere in the middle. It’s good, though- a re-birth of sorts just in time for the feasts of abundance.

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A back-lit corn man standing in front of flowers and offerings on a plate

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