“Back at the time of Ostara, the Green Man emerged from sleep, cloaked in leaves, with vines sprouting from his beard. He was young and energetic and readily took up the plow and began his task of fertilizing the fields. By the time we arrived in August, to the celebration of Lughnasadh, the Green Man had been busy, and we graciously reaped the fruits of the first harvest.
At this second harvest, we rejoice once more in the bounty of the Earth and the fulfillment and reaping of our labours, both physically and spiritually. But with the changing of the foliage in the Green Man’s crown, we see that he has grown tired. We invite him to eat and drink with us, before sending him to rest while we prepare for the coming of winter.
Today we celebrate the Autumn Equinox, known to us by many names, amongst them the Mabon or Alban Elfed. At this time of balance, we give thanks to the waning sunlight for providing for us the means to be fed and full through the long cold days of winter, and take a moment to pay our respects to the impending darkness.
There is little evidence that Mabon was actually celebrated in Celtic countries, and all that is known of Anglo-Saxon customs of ancient times is that September was considered a “holy month”. The term “Mabon” came into existence in the 1970s, with the celebration since becoming part of our reconstructed Paganism. It is said that the druids honoured the Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees; however, this evening, following this ritual, we will instead break breads together, toast with homemade jams and spreads, and share in each others’ company. And we will be thankful for all that we have, have had, and will come to have in the future.”
–excerpt from our Mabon ritual, York Redoubt, Halifax
Blessed Mabon to everyone!
May your bellies be full, your nights warm, and your hearts complete.
At the beginning of the month, a small group of us came together to cast away our stresses, relish the cool grass between our toes, and embrace the sun-warmed Earth. For the next few months, as the nights begin once again to lengthen and the shortening days are bright and full of life, we can be present and enjoy this rest before the harvests of Fall.
(It is also a good time for gathering herbs, for both magical and mundane purposes.)
It is a pagan custom to honor the dying God, as the sun reaches it’s peak and begins to wane. So we honoured the gods, the ancestors, and the spirits on this beautiful midsummer afternoon, and then we ate and we laughed and we enjoyed each others’ company.
And we wish for you all the loveliest of summers, filled with the juiciest of berries, the sunniest of days, the warmest of company, and the heartiest of laughs.
(And also s’mores. Because s’mores.)
“The birds return from the southern lands, bearing spring time beneath their wings. Nature has awoken, seeds are sprouting, tree buds are bursting, the earliest plants are starting to fight their way from the frozen earth, and the birds and animals are preparing to have their young.”
“Ostara is the time when we recognize the importance of planting, growing, and nurturing new ideas, projects, plans, and plants, while seeking to maintain balance in our lives.”
This past weekend, our grove hosted our Ostara ritual. It was a lovely, happy, sugar-fueled, chaotic gathering, with kiddos running around left, right, and center. It’s amazing how in a few short years, our family has grown to include so many adorable little people, each bearing their own unique personalities, wonders, and curiosities. (And also trouble-making capabilities. Let’s not forget that one.)
As a grove, we have come to deeply cherish these young lives, the energies and the laughter they bring into our circle, and our rituals and our traditions are evolving into these family-friendly, kid-inclusive events, where we get to delight in each others’ accomplishments, in baby’s first steps; where we get to marvel at ever-growing vocabularies and unexpected insights; where we get to share stories and experiences and rejoice in each other as friends, as family, as human beings just living this beautiful life.
“The Spring Equinox allows us to step from the dark into the light half of the year and gives us the first signs of spring in the land.[… It] is a time of creativity, growth, and the seeing of new beginnings.”
Let us celebrate this renewal of life.
Let us breathe in the scents of new blossoms, feel the warmth of a new sun, and hear the songs of the earth below and the skies above.
And, in the spirit of Ostara, let us clean our houses, paint some eggs, and eat some chocolates.
Happy Ostara, from us to you!
(All quotes are excerpts from the afternoon’s ritual.)
“Now is the time of stirring, when the earth begins to soften and the waters to flow. While frost still bites and winds blow, and the light is growing stronger, and life begins to wake.”
“Imbolc is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter and make way for Spring. It is the day we honour the rebirth of the Sun. It is also a day of celebrating the Celtic Goddess Brigid. […] This is a time for communing with her, and tending the light of her sacred flame. At this time of year, we will light multiple candles or lanterns to remind us of the passing of Winter and the entrance into Spring, the time of the Sun.”
This past weekend, we joined the Pagan Presence Committee in the celebration of Imbolc as part of the 2017 Interfaith Harmony Week, a week which sees groups of multiple and diverse religions, faiths, and spiritualities open their doors to the public, inviting anyone interested in learning about and experiencing various traditions.
The evening opened with our Grove hosting a ritual, and followed with a “meet & greet”, where attendees got to explore a number of pagan tables and ask questions about the different paths and denominations. Snacks (including a chocolate fountain!! –yes, too exciting not to mention) were shared, and wonderful conversations were had. It was a lovely event, and we were pleased to be a part of it.
Happy Imbolc, everyone! <3
(All quotes are excerpts from the evening’s ritual, and photocred goes to Karen.)
“Back at the time of Samhain, the Green Man, old and tired and naked of leaf and vine, bundled himself against the impending long, cold, dark nights and welcomed a deep and well-deserved rest. While he settled to sleep, we cast into the universe our hopes, dreams, desires, and wishes for the new year, before we too pulled our blankets up and waited for the days to once again grow long.
The night of Yule, the Winter Solstice, brings with it the rising of a new sun and the rebirth of the Green Man. We have made it through the darkest time of the year, the longest night, and we rejoice. Through the burning of the Yule log, we invite the light back into our homes, and we celebrate the knowledge that with all endings come new beginnings.”
Last night, we were finally able to get together for the celebration of Yule. There was singing and laughing and the sharing of bowls of homemade chili and cornbread and too many butter-tarts.
And also cat cuddles. (Because sometimes stereotypes are real.)
As spoken in ritual,
“let us take a moment to reflect on the love and respect we share for ourselves, each other, and this family. Let us continue to be present in each others’ lives, and to support one another through whatever challenges we each may face. […] Let us laugh and share, and be grateful for this life and this day, this fire and this food, these precious young souls, our homes, our jobs, our abilities to breathe, to speak, to listen, and to love.”
Happy Yule from all of us here in the GNSD!
The apple is the symbol of the Fruit Harvest. It is the symbol of life and immortality, of healing, renewal, regeneration, and wholeness. It is associated with beauty, longevity, and restored youth. In the Ogham, “Apple”, or “Queirt”, represents health and vitality. It is the heart of the Ogham Grove and the source of life.
The apple also holds a pagan secret: when cut width-wise, it will reveal a pentacle.
This afternoon, the Grove gathered together to celebrate Mabon, or Alban Elfed, the second harvest of the season. There was paint, snacks (coffee!), good weather, and gratitude. There was catching up, joking around, missing, sharing, laughing, and loving. Most importantly, there was friendship and there was family, and for these we are the most thankful.
A very happy [early] Mabon to you all!
Back in October, members of the Grove got together to kick-start some family mead making. While the initial phases were completed that weekend, there was a long wait between that first step and the next (or possibly the third, as I believe Dan may have actually done some extra things on his own to somehow advance the process… I don’t understand how this stuff works haha).
(See pictures from mead making get-together numero uno here.)
The phase completed last week was the final one. It involved filtering the aged mead from one carboy into another and then into bottles, which are then corked and will eventually be labeled (maybe). The whole process is sterile. Small glasses are passed around for tasting.
These three batches passed the test.
The rest of the time is spent catching up, consuming excessive amounts of coffee, and cooing over the babies. We genuinely enjoy each others’ company, so this is actually pretty swell. And adorable. Because babies. (Little Atticus –below– actually tried his first taste of solid food. He did not appear disappointed.)
As always, another lovely time in the company of lovely lovely people.
For an opportunity to actually partake in one of these batches of home-brewed mead, join us at AEGIS, where the Grove plans to share, laugh, and be merry.
This year’s Beltane ritual was my first experience at holding the lead position in a major ritual. Not being accustomed to speaking in front of people, I was fairly nervous going into it, but also looked forward to the experience and the chance to face my fears and the challenge head on. Doing my due diligence, I researched the gods and goddesses associated with this festival, settling on the Welsh goddess Creiddylad and the Irish god Belanus. These deities both seemed to call to me. Belanus being the more obviously associated, being the namesake of Beltane — Bel (Belanus) and tane meaning fire — but also Creddylad, being the goddess of flowers and love and the daughter of the sea god Lir. These two gods seemed to balance and compliment one another like the best relationships seem to do, and being a traditional festival in which to hold marriage ceremonies, this seemed appropriate.
The ritual was going as well as could be expected, given that it was a cold and cloudy day. The rain held off, which was a god sent (pun intended). It was even a bit inspiring seeing the mist of my own breath escaping my lips. Images of the mists of Avalon jumped to mind briefly. Thankfully, I was able to project my lines for all to be able to hear, as that was a concern for me, being a quiet spoken individual by nature.
When the first Ogam was drawn –Blackthorn (“Wounding”) for the Omen– we were all a bit thrown. Were the gods displeased? We didn’t forget any of the offerings. We didn’t skip over anything vital. Why were the gods showing their displeasure at our gifts? So, adding a couple of more offerings to the fire, we drew another Ogam. This time, Yew (“Transition”) was drawn. A little better (and upon later reflection, explaining much). We were all relieved when, in return, the gods blessed us with the Ogam of Apple (“Wholeness”).
I must admit, I was rather thrown in the moment by what had been drawn. I even shed a few tears, but recovered enough to enjoy the maypole dance and other festivities, and then to close the ritual properly. Over the next couple of days, I reflected on the Ogams that we drew, and read over their meanings in greater depth. Blackthorn, although quickly translated to “Wounding”, also “offers initiation into the mysteries of self-conquest and transcendence”. Yew’s main translation, “Transition”, is also known for “transformation, renewal, (and) rebirth. An opening, a new element approaching.” Looking further into Apple was interesting as well. Not only was it’s basic meaning “Wholeness”, a very good blessing indeed to receive from the gods, but also a deep connection to the universe. While reading the section on Apple, a few more unexpected connections popped up. “The apple tree in Celtic myth is associated with Avalon, the Island of Apples,” where King Arthur is said to have gone to heal from “grievous wounds”. Belanus, the festival of Beltane, and the Son of Lir were all also mentioned within Apple’s explanation. The interconnections at play were numerous. Since thoughts of the mists of Avalon had come to mind due to the chill in the air and seeing my breath at the very start of the ritual, it being mentioned in the Apple’s texts was fascinating. For a connection to then appear for both of the deities that I had chosen to call upon, Beltane directly and Creiddylad, daughter of the sea god Lir (and therefore sister of the son of Lir), well, I must say, it felt as if the gods were definitely working their magic.
So, looking at the Ogams drawn for the Omens and Blessings received from the gods, I think that their combined meanings tells a larger story. We may all be wounded in many ways (Blackthorn, wounding), but it is through the healing (Yew, transition) of those wounds that we can become whole again (Apple, wholeness). It’s the point of the human experience really. The greatest lessons in life are often the result of the healing process from traumatic life experiences. This time of year, when the flowers spring forth from the ground and love is in the air, this is a time for transformation and rebirth. A reminder to let go of old wounds and to transition into wholeness. To learn from our experiences and become wholly who we are meant to become, both individually and as a grove.
So say we all.
-Written by Lily M.
(Quotes all taken from Ogam: the Celtic Oracle of the Trees by Paul Rhys Mountfort.)