Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blue Moon

Tomorrow is not only New Year's Eve and a full moon, it's also a rare Blue Moon that we see roughly only every two and half years or so. In fact, the last time we saw a Full Blue New Year's Eve Moon was in 1990 and there won't be another one until 2028, so be sure to channel the power of this rare moon (on an already intense night) while it's here.

The Blue Moon heralds a time of great change and while the change may not always be pleasant, it's essential to life and very powerful. There are two sides to everything: both benefits and detriments, and it's important to recognize that while the strength of this moon can be a benefit when it comes to magick and spell casting, the degree of that strength can be overwhelming for some and if one isn't careful this can have negative repercussions. This moon ups the intensity of that part of the year in which it falls. Everything during that time is affected: the power of the moon, the sun and planets, potions, spells, and people. It's important to be aware of it all before you call on the power of this moon in any undertakings. Spiritually, this will be an amazing moon for honoring the Goddess and Drawing Down the Moon.

Native American belief states that the animal totem for this moon is the snake and like the snake, this is a very mercurial and often misunderstood full moon. Regardless of whether you choose to harness some of its power for magickal work or just ring in the New Year with friends, be sure to take a moment to enjoy and honor this beautiful Blue Moon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yule Altar

This year's Yule altar shot on the night of the solstice this past week. There was so much more I wanted to do with it, but alas it was not to be. I'm not too sad about this though as it already gives me much to look forward to for next year's altar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Winter Solstice

Today is the perfect day for the solstice: cold, crisp and snowy white. And while this sabbat is meant to ring in the returning of the light, it's important to remember that with this being the longest, darkest day of the year, some time should be spent in contemplation of that darker side.

Before the lights are turned on, the candles lit, the drinks poured, the food shared and the warmth spread, take a few moments in the solitude of this cold winter's day to actually feel that quiet. I like to take some time to be alone with myself (preferably outdoors beneath the glorious moon) and take stock of my life, including all the less than lovely things in it. I give thanks for what I have and I spend some time thinking about that which I don't have and why this might be so. I let go of that which is old or dead and make tentative plans for the new year and all the possibilities that new life and light will bring to my humble world.

Feeling the darkness of this day is equally as important as being joyous in its light. Being alone with it (even for a moment) is as important as being surrounded by friends and loved ones, for without the dark there cannot be light. And without the introspection there cannot be an outward celebration.

Photo courtesy of the amazing Giles C. Watson on flickr. Thanks again, Giles!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Winter Hag

There are countless weird Yule, Solstice and Christmas stories, but this one is without a doubt not only the most unpleasant one, but also the single most violent one I have ever heard.

In Germany it was a holiday custom to eat as many greasy pancakes as you could consume on the night of the Winter Solstice and then leave a few of them out for the Winter Hag as she made her rounds from house to house. If you foolishly forgot to leave her a few it was believed that she would become so enraged at this slight that she would hunt you down and with an enormous knife, cut open your belly and steal the pancakes right from your stomach. The reason that you had to eat those pancakes really greasy was that the grease would make your belly so slippery the Hag would be unable to cut into you. Her knife would just slip off your slimy tummy and no matter how hard she tried, she wouldn't be able to steal your pancakes away from you.

I don't know about you, but it had to be one hell of a long and frightening night for children, eh? I know if I were a child then, I'd be dreading that night all year long.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yule Log Magick

Your Yule log can be of any wood that speaks to you magickally and each has its own properties you can utilize to manifest your wishes and desires. Here are a few of the more popular woods chosen.

Ash: brings prosperity, protection and health
Birch: signifies new beginnings and death of the old
Holly: inspires psychic visions and knowledge of your past lives
Oak: burn oak for healing, wisdom and strength
Pine: brings prosperity and growth
Willow: burn willow to invoke the Goddess and have your desires granted

Keep in mind that the longer your log burns the greater the magickal power you will raise and the more luck you will have in the new year. Traditionally, the log would be burned from Christmas Eve on December 24 to Epiphany on January 6. If you have a fireplace, and to ensure your log will burn for a good long time, choose the fattest log you can find and don't forget to dowse it with cider or ale which will also aid in prolonging the fire. It was believed that if the log fire died out too soon, bad luck would befall those in the household. And as long as the Yule log burns, members of your household and guests should refrain from working (this was part of the sabbat's popularity in former times as slaves and servants were given all the days off that the log continued to burn). This is a time to celebrate and party, not to worry about work!

Write down on small slips of paper all your faults, mistakes and bad choices from the past year and burn them in the fire to purge them from your life and start the new year clean and unburdened.

And lastly, this ancient rhyme may be chanted as you light your Yule fire:

May the log burn,
May the wheel turn,
May evil spurn,
May the Sun return.

Photo courtesy of images by lou on flickr.
Ancient chant of unknown origin courtesy of

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yule Lore

The solstice this year occurs at 12:47 PM EST on December 21.

The celebration of Yule has always revolved around fire and light, this being the longest night of the year. From this day on, the sun once again gains in strength with each passing day. On the night of the solstice, villagers would celebrate the rebirth of the Oak King and the coming light with enormous bonfires built in their fields and they wassailed the crops and trees of those fields with spiced cider and other drinks. Wassailing comes from Middle English by way of old Norse and traditionally meant to toast one's health or luck with drink but the word wassail has since most frequently been used to refer to the actual drink of mulled cider, wine or beer that has had sugar, cinnamon, apples and other fruits added to it and served as a Christmas punch. The term wassailing can also be used to refer to revelry in general, which is fitting for the celebration of this sabbat.

Children would be escorted from house to house with apples and oranges spiked with fresh cloves and these would be placed in baskets lined with evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The oranges and apples were symbolic of the sun, the evergreens eternal life, the wheat represented the abundance of the harvest and the flour the triumph of light and life. Holly, mistletoe and ivy were used to decorate inside the house as an invitation to the Nature Sprites, in the hopes that they would join in the night's celebrations. A sprig of holly was frequently kept by the front door year round to ensure good fortune for those who dwelled within.

The highlight of the night's celebration was the lighting of the Yule log, which must either have been harvested from the owner's land or given as a gift. Traditionally, a Yule log must never be bought. It was then placed within the fireplace, decorated with evergreen boughs, sprinkled with cider or beer, dusted with flour and then set ablaze where it would be left to burn throughout the night and then worked so as to remain smoldering for twelve days before being put out. A small piece from the fire was kept and used the following year to start the next year's Yule fire. Various woods are believed to be the traditional one for a Yule log fire, from ash to oak to willow, but my personal preference is for birch.

However you choose to celebrate this sabbat, do it with great joy and energy! Feel the delight in your heart as you welcome back the sun as it warms our planet and brings new life in the wonderful new year to come. Peace!

Photo courtesy of mukumbura on flickr.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hand Injury

I have given myself a fairly significant (and incredibly stupid) accidental injury to one of my hands and as such, am forced to type with only a couple of fingers which is rather time consuming. As a result, I'll be taking a few days more off from this blog until I am no longer sporting a giant mitt and can once again get back down to business here in a more efficient manner.

I will talk with you all soon. Blessed be to everyone who pops in here for a quick read or two.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Worshipping the Ancestors

Sometimes, it's just synchronicity and nothing less. Recently I went shopping at a very nice cigar shop that I had never before been in to purchase some loose tobacco. I was preparing for a ritual in which I planned to honor my Native American ancestors and at first I held back when answering the shop owner's question as to what exactly I was looking for and why (clearly I looked more than a bit out of my element in his shop). I am generally cautious with strangers when explaining myself, not because I am in any way ashamed to be forthright in who I am and what I believe in, but because to be honest, you never know how the other person might react. Still, after a moment's hesitation, I just came out with it and said, "I need loose tobacco of the highest quality for a Native American rite." Without a pause, he handed me a small packet of pure, organic tobacco for just that purpose, and added a very warm and friendly smile along with it.

I bought my needed item and then wandered about the shop looking into the humidors. My beloved Uncle Fred was a cigar salesman for many, many decades but oddly as soon as I went looking for the maker he worked for, I suddenly couldn't remember their name. When the shop owner asked if there was anything else he could help me with, I mentioned that my uncle worked for a cigar company but for the life of me, I could not remember the name of it. He asked my uncle's name and when I told him, he immediately pointed across the shop to the humidor I was looking for. He said he knew my uncle and that upon meeting him for the first time he instantly recognized my uncle for the amazing man he was. He added that my Uncle Fred was considered a legend in the cigar business, one of the most well-respected men in the industry who everyone loved and admired. I agreed, saying that he was also an amazing man in our family's life and is very sadly missed. He told me some Fred stories and I shared a few of my own.

As I was leaving I realized that not only was I going to be honoring some of my ancestors at the next full moon, but that I had just honored another much adored ancestor with not a single prop and with no formal ritual whatsoever. Two complete strangers connected with the only thing we had in common: my dear uncle and the joy he brought to both of us and the way he touched each of our lives in his own special way.

I went into that shop with the intention of creating a moment of pure love for those who went before me and I did just that, in more ways than one. Perfect synchronicity.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Full Cold Moon

Today is the Full Cold Moon, so named by the Native American tribes of the northern and northeastern lands for the biting cold that begins this month. Another Indian name for this moon is the Long Nights Moon (which is also its neo-pagan name as well). Some other names for today's moon are the Christmas Moon, the Bitter Moon, Snow Moon, Oak Moon and rather inexplicably given this time of year, the Peach Moon.

Given that today's moon is in Gemini, which is the sign of communication, take a moment to tell those around you how much you love and value them. Have a tender talk with someone you care about. Listen and learn and feel the peace, light and love of this Yule season. And in case this season wasn't special enough, keep in mind that on December 31 we will be blessed with a rare Blue Moon whose powers will be felt intensely by all.

Blessed Be.