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Wheel of the Year

Wheel of the Year

Samhain is considered by Wiccans to be one of the four Greater Sabbats. Samhain is considered by some as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets, and other loved ones who have died. In some rituals the spirits of the departed are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the festival of Beltane, which is celebrated as a festival of light and fertility.

Many Pagans believe that at Samhain the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest point of the whole year, making it easier to communicate with those who have left this world.

Wheel of the Year

Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year. Traditionally, Samhain is celebrated from sunset on 31 October to sunset on 1 November, which is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Similar festivals are held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Brythonic Calan Gaeaf (in Wales), Kalan Gwav (in Cornwall), and Kalan Goañv (in Brittany).

Samhain is believed to have pagan origins and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. The Mound of the Hostages, a Neolithic passage tomb at the Hill of Tara, is aligned with the Samhain sunrise. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and many important events in Irish mythology happen or begin on Samhain. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. As at Beltane, special bonfires were lit. These were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers and there were rituals involving them. Like Beltane, Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. This meant the Aos Sí, the ‘spirits’ or ‘fairies’, could more easily come into our world. Most scholars see the Aos Sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink were left outside for them. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes seeking hospitality. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them. Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting verses in exchange for food. The costumes may have been a way of imitating, and disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. Divination rituals and games were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples. In the late 19th century, Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer suggested that it was the “Celtic New Year”, and this view has been repeated by some other scholars.

In the 9th century AD, Western Christianity shifted the date of All Saints’ Day to 1 November, while 2 November later became All Souls’ Day. Over time, Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ merged to create the modern Halloween. Historians have used the name ‘Samhain’ to refer to Gaelic ‘Halloween’ customs up until the 19th century.

Etymology

In Modern Irish the name is Samhain, in Scottish Gaelic Samhainn/Samhuinn, and in Manx Gaelic Sauin. These are also the names of November in each language, shortened from Mí na Samhna (Irish), Mì na Samhna (Scottish Gaelic) and Mee Houney (Manx). The night of 31 October (Halloween) is Oíche Shamhna (Irish), Oidhche Shamhna (Scottish Gaelic) and Oie Houney (Manx), all meaning “Samhain night”. 1 November, or the whole festival, may be called Lá Samhna (Irish), Là Samhna (Scottish Gaelic) and Laa Houney (Manx), all meaning “Samhain day”.

These names all come from the Old Irish samain, samuin or samfuin all referring to 1 November (latha na samna: ‘samhain day’), and the festival and royal assembly held on that date in medieval Ireland (oenaig na samna: ‘samhain assembly’). Its meaning is glossed as ‘summer’s end’, and the frequent spelling with f suggests analysis by popular etymology as sam (‘summer’) and fuin (‘end’). The Old Irish sam is from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *semo-; cognates include Welsh haf, Breton hañv, English summer and Old Norse sumar, all meaning ‘summer’, and the Sanskrit sáma (‘season’).

In 1907, Whitley Stokes suggested an etymology from Proto-Celtic *samani (‘assembly’), cognate to Sanskrit sámana, and Gothic samana. J. Vendryes concludes that samain is unrelated to *semo- (‘summer’), remarking that the Celtic ‘end of summer’ was in July, not November, as evidenced by Welsh gorffennaf (‘July’). We would therefore be dealing with an Insular Celtic word for ‘assembly’, *samani or *samoni, and a word for ‘summer’, saminos (from *samo-: ‘summer’) alongside samrad, *samo-roto-.

Neopaganism

Samhain and Samhain-based festivals are held by some Neopagans. As there are many kinds of Neopaganism, their Samhain celebrations can be very different despite the shared name. Some try to emulate the historic festival as much as possible. Other Neopagans base their celebrations on sundry unrelated sources, Gaelic culture being only one of the sources. Folklorist Jenny Butler describes how Irish pagans pick some elements of historic Samhain celebrations and meld them with references to the Celtic past, making a new festival of Samhain that is inimitably part of neo-pagan culture.

Wicca

Wiccans celebrate a variation of Samhain as one of the yearly Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year. It is deemed by most Wiccans to be the most important of the four “greater Sabbats”. Samhain is seen by some Wiccans as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have died, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets and other loved ones who have died. In some rituals the spirits of the dead are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the spring festival of Beltane, which Wiccans celebrate as a festival of light and fertility.

Wiccans believe that at Samhain the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest point of the whole year, making it easier to communicate with those who have left this world.

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For 2015 the September 23 equinox is at 08:20:34 UTC.

The holiday of the autumnal equinox, Harvest Home, Mabon, the Feast of the Ingathering, Meán Fómhair or Alban Elfed (in Neo-Druid traditions), is a Pagan ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the Goddess and the God during the coming winter months. The name Mabon was coined by Aidan Kelly around 1970 as a reference to Mabon ap Modron, a character from Welsh mythology. Among the sabbats, it is the second of the three Pagan harvest festivals, preceded by Lammas / Lughnasadh and followed by Samhain.

September Equinox

The September equinox is the moment when the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward. Due to differences between the calendar year and the tropical year, the September equinox can occur at any time from the 21st to the 24th day of September.

At the equinox, the Sun rises directly in the east and sets directly in the west. Before the Southward equinox, the Sun rises and sets more and more to the north, and afterwards, it rises and sets more and more to the south. In the Northern Hemisphere the September equinox is known as the autumnal equinox. In the Southern Hemisphere it is known as the vernal or spring equinox.

Europe

The Roman celebration of the Fall Equinox was dedicated to Pomona, goddess of fruits and growing things.
The traditional harvest festival in the United Kingdom was celebrated on the Sunday of the full moon closest to the September equinox.

Neopaganism

Neopagans observe the September equinox as a cardinal point on the Wheel of the Year. In the Northern Hemisphere some varieties of paganism adapt Mabon traditions. In the Southern Hemisphere, the vernal equinox corresponds with Ostara.

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Contemporary Witchcraft

Modern practices identified by their practitioners as “witchcraft” have grown dramatically since the early 20th century. Generally portrayed as revivals of pre-Christian European ritual and spirituality, they are understood to involve varying degrees of magic, shamanism, folk medicine, spiritual healing, calling on elementals and spirits, veneration of ancient deities and archetypes, and attunement with the forces of nature.

The first Neopagan groups to publicly appear, during the 1950s and 60s, were Gerald Gardner’s Bricket Wood coven and Roy Bowers’ Clan of Tubal Cain. They operated as initiatory secret societies. Other individual practitioners and writers such as Paul Huson also claimed inheritance to surviving traditions of witchcraft.

Wicca

During the 20th century, interest in witchcraft in English-speaking and European countries began to increase, inspired particularly by Margaret Murray’s theory of a pan-European witch-cult originally published in 1921, since discredited by further careful historical research. Interest was intensified, however, by Gerald Gardner’s claim in 1954 in Witchcraft Today that a form of witchcraft still existed in England. The truth of Gardner’s claim is now disputed too, with different historians offering evidence for or against the religion’s existence prior to Gardner.

The Wicca that Gardner initially taught was a witchcraft religion having a lot in common with Margaret Murray’s hypothetically posited cult of the 1920s. Indeed, Murray wrote an introduction to Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, in effect putting her stamp of approval on it. Wicca is now practised as a religion of an initiatory secret society nature with positive ethical principles, organised into autonomous covens and led by a High Priesthood. There is also a large “Eclectic Wiccan” movement of individuals and groups who share key Wiccan beliefs but have no initiatory connection or affiliation with traditional Wicca. Wiccan writings and ritual show borrowings from a number of sources including 19th and 20th-century ceremonial magic, the medieval grimoire known as the Key of Solomon, Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis and pre-Christian religions. Both men and women are equally termed “witches.” They practice a form of duotheistic universalism.

Since Gardner’s death in 1964, the Wicca that he claimed he was initiated into has attracted many initiates, becoming the largest of the various witchcraft traditions in the Western world, and has influenced other Neopagan and occult movements.

Stregheria

Stregheria is an Italian witchcraft religion popularised in the 1980s by Raven Grimassi, who claims that it evolved within the ancient Etruscan religion of Italian peasants who worked under the Catholic upper classes.

Modern Stregheria closely resembles Charles Leland’s controversial late-19th-century account of a surviving Italian religion of witchcraft, worshipping the Goddess Diana, her brother Dianus/Lucifer, and their daughter Aradia. Leland’s witches do not see Lucifer as the evil Satan that Christians see, but a benevolent god of the Sun and Moon.

The ritual format of contemporary Stregheria is roughly similar to that of other Neopagan witchcraft religions such as Wicca. The pentagram is the most common symbol of religious identity. Most followers celebrate a series of eight festivals equivalent to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, though others follow the ancient Roman festivals. An emphasis is placed on ancestor worship.

Feri Tradition

The Feri Tradition is a modern traditional witchcraft practice founded by Victor Henry Anderson and his wife Cora. It is an ecstatic tradition which places strong emphasis on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression.

Most practitioners worship three main deities; the Star Goddess, and two divine twins, one of whom is the blue God. They believe that there are three parts to the human soul, a belief taken from the Hawaiian religion of Huna as described by Max Freedom Long.

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Etymology and Definitions

The word “witchcraft” derives from the Old English wiccecræft, a compound of “wicce” (“witch”) and “cræft” (“craft”).

In anthropological terminology, a “witch” differs from a sorcerer in that they do not use physical tools or actions to curse; their maleficium is perceived as extending from some intangible inner quality, and the person may be unaware that they are a “witch”, or may have been convinced of their own nature by the suggestion of others. This definition was pioneered in a study of central African magical beliefs by E. E. Evans-Pritchard, who cautioned that it might not correspond with normal English usage.

Historians of European witchcraft have found the anthropological definition difficult to apply to European and British witchcraft, where “witches” could equally use (or be accused of using) physical techniques, as well as some who really had attempted to cause harm by thought alone. European witchcraft is seen by historians and anthropologists as an ideology for explaining misfortune; however, this ideology has manifested in diverse ways, as described below.

Overview

Alleged Practices

Historically the witchcraft label has been applied to practices people believe influence the mind, body, or property of others against their will – or practices that the person doing the labeling believes undermine social or religious order. Some modern commentators believe the malefic nature of witchcraft is a Christian projection. The concept of a magic-worker influencing another person’s body or property against their will was clearly present in many cultures, as traditions in both folk magic and religious magic have the purpose of countering malicious magic or identifying malicious magic users. Many examples appear in ancient texts, such as those from Egypt and Babylonia. Malicious magic users can become a credible cause for disease, sickness in animals, bad luck, sudden death, impotence and other such misfortunes. Witchcraft of a more benign and socially acceptable sort may then be employed to turn the malevolence aside, or identify the supposed evil-doer so that punishment may be carried out. The folk magic used to identify or protect against malicious magic users is often indistinguishable from that used by the witches themselves.

There has also existed in popular belief the concept of white witches and white witchcraft, which is strictly benevolent. Many neopagan witches strongly identify with this concept, and profess ethical codes that prevent them from performing magic on a person without their request.

Where belief in malicious magic practices exists, such practitioners are typically forbidden by law as well as hated and feared by the general populace, while beneficial magic is tolerated or even accepted wholesale by the people – even if the orthodox establishment opposes it.

Spell Casting

Probably the most obvious characteristic of a witch was the ability to cast a spell, “spell” being the word used to signify the means employed to carry out a magical action. A spell could consist of a set of words, a formula or verse, or a ritual action, or any combination of these. Spells traditionally were cast by many methods, such as by the inscription of runes or sigils on an object to give it magical powers; by the immolation or binding of a wax or clay image (poppet) of a person to affect him or her magically; by the recitation of incantations; by the performance of physical rituals; by the employment of magical herbs as amulets or potions; by gazing at mirrors, swords or other specula (scrying) for purposes of divination; and by many other means.

Necromancy (Conjuring the Dead)

Strictly speaking, “necromancy” is the practice of conjuring the spirits of the dead for divination or prophecy – although the term has also been applied to raising the dead for other purposes. The biblical Witch of Endor performed it (1 Sam. 28), and it is among the witchcraft practices condemned by Ælfric of Eynsham:

  • Witches still go to cross-roads and to heathen burials with their delusive magic and call to the devil; and he comes to them in the likeness of the man that is buried there, as if he arise from death.

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Magic Circle Mk01

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Magic Circle Mk05

A magic circle is circle (or sphere, field) of space marked out by practitioners of many branches of ritual magic, which they generally believe will contain energy and form a sacred space, or will provide them a form of magical protection, or both. It may be marked physically, drawn in salt or chalk, for example, or merely visualised. Its spiritual significance is similar to that of mandala and yantra in some Eastern religions.

Common Terms and Practices

A solomonic magic circle with a triangle of conjuration in the east. This would be drawn on the ground, and the operator would stand within the protection of the circle while a spirit was conjured into the triangle.

Traditionally, circles were believed by ritual magicians to form a protective barrier between themselves and what they summoned. In modern times, practitioners generally cast magic circles to contain and concentrate the energy they raise during a ritual.

Creating a magic circle is known as casting a circle, circle casting, and various other names.

Techniques

There are many published techniques for casting a circle, and many groups and individuals have their own unique methods. The common feature of these practices is that a boundary is traced around the working area. Some witchcraft traditions say that one must trace around the circle deosil three times. There is variation over which direction one should start in.

Circles may or may not be physically marked out on the ground, and a variety of elaborate patterns for circle markings can be found in grimoires and magical manuals, often involving angelic and divine names. Such markings, or a simple unadorned circle, may be drawn in chalk or salt, or indicated by other means such as with a cord.

The four cardinal directions are often prominently marked, such as with four candles. In ceremonial magic traditions the four directions are commonly related to the four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel (or Auriel), or the four classical elements, and also have four associated names of God. Other ceremonial traditions have candles between the quarters, i.e. in the north-east, north-west and so on. Often, an incantation will be recited stating the purpose and nature of the circle, often repeating an assortment of divine and angelic names.

In Wicca

In Wicca, a circle is typically nine feet in diameter, though the size can vary depending on the purpose of the circle, and the preference of the caster.

Some varieties of Wicca use the common ceremonial colour attributions for their “quarter candles”: yellow for Air in the east, red for Fire in the south, blue for Water in the west and green for Earth in the north (though these attributions differ according to geographical location and individual philosophy).

The common technique for raising energy within the circle is by means of a cone of power.

The barrier is believed to be fragile, so that leaving or passing through the circle would weaken or dispel it. This is referred to as “breaking the circle”. It is generally advised that practitioners do not leave the circle unless absolutely necessary.

In order to leave a circle and keep it intact, Wiccans believe a door must be cut in the energy of the circle, normally on the East side. Whatever was used to cast the circle is used to cut the doorway, such as a sword, staff or knife (athame), a doorway is “cut” in the circle, at which point anything may pass through without harming the circle. This opening must be closed afterwards by “reconnecting” the lines of the circle.

The circle is usually closed by the practitioner after they have finished by drawing in the energy with the athame or whatever was used to make the circle including their hand (usually in a widdershins: that is, counter-clockwise fashion). This is called closing the circle or releasing the circle. The term “opening” is often used, representing the idea the circle has been expanded and dissipated rather than closed in on itself.

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Wheel Year Mk01

Wheel Year Mk02

Wheel Year Mk03

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Wheel Year Mk07

The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans. It consists of either four or eight festivals: either the solstices and equinoxes, known as the “quarter days”, or the four midpoints between, known as the “cross quarter days”; syncretic traditions like Wicca often celebrate all eight festivals.

The festivals celebrated by differing sects of modern Paganism can vary considerably in name and date. Observing the cycle of the seasons has been important to many people, both ancient and modern, and many contemporary Pagan festivals are based to varying degrees on folk traditions.

Among Wiccans, the festivals are also referred to as sabbats, with Gerald Gardner claiming this term was passed down from the Middle Ages, when the terminology for Jewish Shabbats was commingled with that of other heretical celebrations.

Origins

The contemporary Wheel of the Year is somewhat of a modern innovation. Many historical pagan traditions celebrated various equinoxes, solstices, and the days approximately midway between them (termed cross-quarter days) for their seasonal and agricultural significances. But none were known to have held all eight above all other annual, sacred times. The modern understanding of the Wheel is a result of the cross-cultural awareness that began developing by the time of Modern Europe.

Mid-20th century British Paganism had a strong influence on early adoption of an eightfold Wheel. By the late 1950s, the Wiccan Bricket Wood Coven and Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids had both adopted eightfold ritual calendars, for balance and more frequent celebrations. This also had the benefit of more closely aligning celebration between the two influential Pagan orders.

Due to early Wicca’s influence on Paganism and their syncretic adoption of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic motifs, the most commonly used English festival names for the Wheel of the Year tend to be Celtic and Germanic.

The American Ásatrú movement has adopted, over time, a calendar in which the Heathen major holidays figure alongside many Days of Remembrance which celebrate heroes of the Edda and the Sagas, figures of Germanic history, and the Viking Leif Ericson, who explored and settled Vinland (North America). These festivals are not, however, as evenly distributed throughout the year as in Wicca and other Heathen denominations.

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Celebrating the Lammas

Participants

High Priest
High Priestess

Material Needed

Traditional Foods: Apples, Grains, Breads and Berries.

Herbs and Flowers: All Grains, Grapes, Heather, Blackberries, Sloe, Crab Apples, Mint, Meadowsweet, Sunflower and Pears.

Incense: Aloes, Rose and Sandalwood.

Sacred Gemstone: Carnelian.

Before The Ceremony

High Priest

Clean the tools and ingredients with Copal-Cinnamon incense.

Statement Of Intent

High Priest

The Goddess at Lammas

The Grain Mother

At Lammas the Goddess is in Her aspect as Grain Mother, Harvest Mother, Harvest Queen, Earth Mother, Ceres and Demeter. Demeter, as Corn Mother, represents the ripe corn of this year’s harvest and Her daughter Kore/Persephone represents the grain – the seed which drops back deep into the dark earth, hidden throughout the winter, and re-appears in the spring as new growth. This is the deep core meaning of Lammas and comes in different guises: it is about the fullness and fulfillment of the present harvest holding at its heart the seed of all future harvest. (It is a fact that a pregnant woman carrying her as yet unborn daughter is also already carrying the ovary containing all the eggs her daughter will ever release – she is already both mother, grandmother and beyond, embodying the great Motherline – pure magic and mystery.)

So as the grain harvest is gathered in, there is food to feed the community through the winter and within that harvest is the seed of next year’s rebirth, regeneration and harvest. The Grain Mother is ripe and full, heavily pregnant she carries the seed of the new year’s Sun God within her. There is tension here. For the Sun God, the God of the Harvest, the Green Man surrenders his life with the cutting of the corn.

Opening Of Circle

Together

(Walking clockwise from East)

By the air that is her breath
By the fire that is her bright spirit
By the living waters of her womb
And by the earth that is her body
The circle is cast,

(Tie the knot of the circle)

So Mote It Be!

Invoking The Watchtowers

Together

East (Air)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East,
The powers of air.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

South (Fire)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South,
The powers of fire.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

West (Water)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West,
The powers of water.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

North (Earth)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North,
The powers of earth.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

Invoke The God And Goddess

High Priest

I now do call the Eternal God to our circle today, send thy Spirit forth! Pierce our Sacred Circle with thy vibrant presence. Flow through our bodies this day. Blessed be the Eternal God.

High Priestess

I call the Eternal Goddess to our circle today, send thy Spirit forth! Pierce our Sacred Circle with thy vibrant presence. Flow through our bodies this day. Blessed be the Eternal Goddess.

High Priest

The Circle is cast; we are between the worlds. In this place that is not a place, in this time that is not a time, with a willing suspension of disbelief, we consider the possible, explore the probable, and question the truth.

So mote it be!

Together

May the place of this rite be consecrated before the gods. Eternal Gods and Goddesses of Nature are with us.

Blessed Be!

High Priestess

Be with us here, O beings of the Air may your warmth bring us love and success!

(High priestess lights incense)

High Priest

Be with us here, O beings of the Fire may your presence give us the strength so that our future is bright!

(High priest consecrates and lights the large candle)

High Priestess

Be with us here, O beings of the Water may your presence enlighten us with your wisdom!

(All drink sherry from the glass)

High Priest

Be with us here, O beings of the Earth may your presence bring us joy that will be long lasting!

(High priest scatters salt on altar)

Ceremony Begins

High Priestess

It is marks the middle of Summer and the beginning of the harvest. It is the first of three harvest festivals and is usually associated with ripening grain. It heralds the coming of Autumn. The Goddess manifests as Demeter, Ceres, Corn Mother, and other agricultural Goddesses. The God manifests as Lugh, John Barleycorn, and vegetation Gods. Colors are Golden Yellow, Orange, Green, and Light Brown. It is a festival of plenty and prosperity.

Blessed Be!

High Priest

Behold the God and Goddess, Lord of the Forest and his Bride, once again the Earth is blessed by their presence.

So mote it be!

High Priestess

This is the time of purification, and a renewing of life. This is the time of the quickening. At this time and in this place between the worlds, I come into the presence of the Lord and the Lady that I may gain wise and truthful counsel.

Blessed Be!

Together

Every beginning has an ending, and every ending is a new beginning. In Life is Death, and in Death is Life. Watch over us, loved ones, and all of our Brothers and Sisters, here and departed, who, tonight are joined together again for fellowship and celebration. Bless us all as we light our bonfires, our hearth fires, and the eternal fires in our hearts. Guide us and protect us, tonight and throughout the coming year.

Blessed Be! Blessed Be!

High Priest

Places a pinch of salt on each member’s tongue. My body is salt, taste the breath of death.

High Priestess

You are entering a space of perfect freedom as each visualizes their hopes for their life to come with the coming of the Sun, places a drop of honey on each member’s tongue. Taste the sweetness of life.

Together

Looking at the candle I who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday! (repeat)

This is the birthday of life and love and wings, and the great joyous happening inimitably earth. We are born again, we shall live again! (repeat).

The Sun Child, the Winterborn King!

High Priest

Lord, You who is the freedom of the wild things, the bright sun that lights the day, the mystery of the forest, he resolve in the heart of humanity, we welcome you in our midst for you are the body of nature who gives life to the universe. We thank thee for all the good and the bad that happened to us in the past year. The good as it makes our lives happier. The bad as it makes our souls stronger and strengthen our resolve to do better.

So mote it be!

Together

So mote it be!

High Priestess

The old solar year has run its course and completed its cycle. So has some of our habits or traits completed their cycles and outlived their usefulness. This is a time for shedding that which is no longer needed. Take a few moments now to consider which things you would leave behind as you go into the coming year.

So blessed be!

(Pause)

As the old year dies away so to will these old ways will fade into memory.

So mote it be!

Together

So mote it be!

Together

(Consecrates the assorted small candles with oil and then light them)

Water, Air, Fire, Earth
We celebrate the Sun’s rebirth
On this dark and longest night
We burn the sacred candles bright

We thank thee for the light of the sun
Hail to thee, O Great Horned One

So mote it be!

Spellwork

(Spellwork & Magic are anything but supernatural for most Wiccans and Pagans. Learn about magical theory, how energy is manipulated, choosing your magical name, herb and candle magic, and protection rituals. Also covered: should you pay someone else to cast a spell for you?)

(Have a magical picnic and break bread with friends. Do a meditation in which you visualize yourself completing a project you have already begun. Make a corn dolly charm out of the first grain you harvest or acquire. Bake a sacred loaf bread and give a portion of it to Mother Earth with a prayer of appreciation. Make prayers for a good harvest season. Do prosperity magic. Harvest herbs in a sacred way for use in charms and rituals. Kindle a Lammas fire with sacred wood and dried herbs. If you live in or near a farming region, attend a public harvest festival, such as a corn or apple festival.)

Conclusion

High Priest

May the rest of this year bring us happiness! We shall never forget the turning of the wheel, only then in the forgetfulness and neglect will it fail us.

So mote it be!

Together

So mote it be!

High Priestess

By earth and water, air and fire hearken onto my desire my home be charged by magic charm safe protected from all harm blessed with health, vitality by Sun and Earth, by three times three in love and trust.

So mote it be!

High Priest

By this act of faith I proclaim my belief in my place on the Eternal cycle of life blessed be the Great Rite the God and Goddess reign eternal.

Dismiss Watchtowers

Together

We thank you for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be

North (Earth)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North.
The powers of earth.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

West (Water)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West.
The powers of water.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell,aAnd harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

South (Fire)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South.
The powers of fire.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

East (Air)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East.
The powers of air.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell,and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

Open The Circle

Together

(First cut the knot. Walking counterclockwise from East.)

By the air that is her breath
By the earth that is her body
By the living waters of her womb
And by the fire that is her bright spirit
The circle is open but not unbroken.

May the joy of the Goddess live in our hearts
Merry Meet,
Merry Part,
And Merry Meet Again!

The Lost Bearded White Brother

In some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, August 1 is Lammas Day, the festival of the wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide.

The loaf was blessed, and in Anglo-Saxon England it might be employed afterwards to work magic: a book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the lammas bread be broken into four bits, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain.

In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called “the feast of first fruits”.

Lughnasadh or Lammas is also the name used for one of the eight sabbats in the Neopagan Wheel of the Year. It is the first of the three autumn harvest festivals, the other two being the autumn equinox (also called Mabon) and Samhain. In the Northern Hemisphere it takes place around August 1.

Lughnasadh is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Originally it was held on 1 August, or about halfway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox. However, over time the celebrations shifted to the Sundays nearest this date. Lughnasadh is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals; along with Samhain, Imbolc and Beltane. It corresponds to other European harvest festivals such as the Welsh Gwyl Awst and the English Lammas.

Lughnasadh is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and is believed to have pagan origins. The festival itself is named after the god Lugh. It involved great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests (most notably the Tailteann Games), feasting, matchmaking and trading. There were also visits to holy wells. According to folklorist Máire MacNeill, evidence shows that the religious rites included an offering of the first of the corn, a feast of the new food and of bilberries, the sacrifice of a bull and a ritual dance-play. Much of this would have taken place on top of hills and mountains.

Wicca

Wiccans use the names “Lughnasadh” or “Lammas” for the first of their autumn harvest festivals. It is one of the eight yearly “Sabbats” of their Wheel of the Year, following Midsummer and preceding Mabon. It is seen as one of the two most auspicious times for handfasting, the other being at Beltane. Some Wiccans mark the holiday by baking a figure of the “corn god” in bread, and then symbolically sacrificing and eating it.

The Lost Bearded White Brother

Celebrating the Litha – Summer Solstice

Participants

High Priest
High Priestess

Material Needed

Traditional Foods: Garden fresh fruits and vegetables are made into a variety of dishes and eaten by Pagan’s who choose to celebrate this day.

Herbs and Flowers: Mugwort, Vervain, Chamomile, Rose, Honeysuckle, Lily, Oak, Lavender, Ivy, Yarrow, Fern, Elder, Wild Thyme, Daisy, Carnation.

Honey: Our lovely bees are now making honey. Midsummer full moon is known as the ‘Honey Moon’ for the mead made from honey now available. This is often part of handfastings performed at the Summer Solstice. Mead is regarded as the divine solar drink, with magical and life-restoring properties. Drink to celebrate and toast the life-giving abundance of the Sun.

Incense: Lemon, Myrrh, Pine, Rose, Wisteria.

Woods Burned: Oak.

Sacred Gemstone: Emerald.

Before The Ceremony

High Priest

Clean the tools and ingredients with Copal-Cinnamon incense.

Statement Of Intent

High Priest

The Goddess at Litha

At the Summer Solstice, the Goddess is the Generous Mother, Freya, Flora, Habondia, she who gives life and fruitfulness to all her children. Everything in nature is generous – otherwise we could not live. The apple tree makes hundreds of apples every year, when only one seed in one apple would be enough to reproduce the tree. Bees make honey so that the hive can survive the winter, but they keep on working all summer long, storing enough to share. Life could exist without climbing roses, striped butterflies, songbirds, raspberries, or wildflowers, but the Goddess keeps making new forms of beauty for us to enjoy.

The Goddess at Summer Solstice gives us not just what we need, but extra. We can feel close to her by being generous, giving more than were asked to give, and doing more than just our fair share. That way, we make abundance for all.

The rose is the Goddess symbol at this time of year. Roses bloom abundantly in June, and we can take joy in their sweet scent and the lovely colors of their petals.

Opening Of Circle

Together

(Walking clockwise from East)

By the air that is her breath
By the fire that is her bright spirit
By the living waters of her womb
And by the earth that is her body
The circle is cast,

(Tie the knot of the circle)

So Mote It Be!

Invoking The Watchtowers

Together

East (Air)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East,
The powers of air.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

South (Fire)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South,
The powers of fire.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

West (Water)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West,
The powers of water.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

North (Earth)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North,
The powers of earth.

We welcome you all to our circle today.

So Mote It Be!

Invoke The God And Goddess

High Priest

I now do call the Eternal God to our circle today, send thy Spirit forth! Pierce our Sacred Circle with thy vibrant presence. Flow through our bodies this day. Blessed be the Eternal God.

High Priestess

I call the Eternal Goddess to our circle today, send thy Spirit forth! Pierce our Sacred Circle with thy vibrant presence. Flow through our bodies this day. Blessed be the Eternal Goddess.

High Priest

The Circle is cast; we are between the worlds. In this place that is not a place, in this time that is not a time, with a willing suspension of disbelief, we consider the possible, explore the probable, and question the truth.

So mote it be!

Together

May the place of this rite be consecrated before the gods. Eternal Gods and Goddesses of Nature are with us.

Blessed Be!

High Priestess

Be with us here, O beings of the Air may your warmth bring us love and success!

(High priestess lights incense)

High Priest

Be with us here, O beings of the Fire may your presence give us the strength so that our future is bright!

(High priest consecrates and lights the large candle)

High Priestess

Be with us here, O beings of the Water may your presence enlighten us with your wisdom!

(All drink sherry from the glass)

High Priest

Be with us here, O beings of the Earth may your presence bring us joy that will be long lasting!

(High priest scatters salt on altar)

Ceremony Begins

High Priestess

All through the first half of the year, since his birth at the Winter Solstice, the God has been growing into this life in the visible, tangible world. Now, at the Summer Solstice, he transforms. The daylight is longest and strongest at this time, but now the power of night must begin to grow again. Everything and everyone who fulfills their purpose must change. The God dies in this world in order to be born into the Otherworld. Before, he was awake in this world and asleep in the Dreamworld. Now he becomes the Dreamer, asleep in this world but awake in the world of dreams and visions, the seed of what will come to be in this world. He becomes the Messenger, carrying our hopes and prayers to the spirit realms.

Blessed Be!

High Priest

Behold the God and Goddess, Lord of the Forest and his Bride, once again the Earth is blessed by their presence.

So mote it be!

High Priestess

This is the time of purification, and a renewing of life. This is the time of the quickening. At this time and in this place between the worlds, I come into the presence of the Lord and the Lady that I may gain wise and truthful counsel.

Blessed Be!

Together

Every beginning has an ending, and every ending is a new beginning. In Life is Death, and in Death is Life. Watch over us, loved ones, and all of our Brothers and Sisters, here and departed, who, tonight are joined together again for fellowship and celebration. Bless us all as we light our bonfires, our hearth fires, and the eternal fires in our hearts. Guide us and protect us, tonight and throughout the coming year.

Blessed Be! Blessed Be!

High Priest

Places a pinch of salt on each member’s tongue. My body is salt, taste the breath of death.

High Priestess

You are entering a space of perfect freedom as each visualizes their hopes for their life to come with the coming of the Sun, places a drop of honey on each member’s tongue. Taste the sweetness of life.

Together

Looking at the candle I who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday! (repeat)

This is the birthday of life and love and wings, and the great joyous happening inimitably earth. We are born again, we shall live again! (repeat).

The Sun Child, the Winterborn King!

High Priest

Lord, You who is the freedom of the wild things, the bright sun that lights the day, the mystery of the forest, he resolve in the heart of humanity, we welcome you in our midst for you are the body of nature who gives life to the universe. We thank thee for all the good and the bad that happened to us in the past year. The good as it makes our lives happier. The bad as it makes our souls stronger and strengthen our resolve to do better.

So mote it be!

Together

So mote it be!

High Priestess

The old solar year has run its course and completed its cycle. So has some of our habits or traits completed their cycles and outlived their usefulness. This is a time for shedding that which is no longer needed. Take a few moments now to consider which things you would leave behind as you go into the coming year.

So blessed be!

(Pause)

As the old year dies away so to will these old ways will fade into memory.

So mote it be!

Together

So mote it be!

Together

(Consecrates the assorted small candles with oil and then light them)

Water, Air, Fire, Earth
We celebrate the Sun’s rebirth
On this dark and longest night
We burn the sacred candles bright

We thank thee for the light of the sun
Hail to thee, O Great Horned One

So mote it be!

Spellwork

(Spellwork & Magic are anything but supernatural for most Wiccans and Pagans. Learn about magical theory, how energy is manipulated, choosing your magical name, herb and candle magic, and protection rituals. Also covered: should you pay someone else to cast a spell for you?)

(This is a Midsummer Charm to help bring abundance to your kitchen, joyous celebration, bonfire, barbeque and feel free to include dancing, clapping and music)

Conclusion

High Priest

May the rest of this year bring us happiness! We shall never forget the turning of the wheel, only then in the forgetfulness and neglect will it fail us.

So mote it be!

Together

So mote it be!

High Priestess

By earth and water, air and fire hearken onto my desire my home be charged by magic charm safe protected from all harm blessed with health, vitality by Sun and Earth, by three times three in love and trust.

So mote it be!

High Priest

By this act of faith I proclaim my belief in my place on the Eternal cycle of life blessed be the Great Rite the God and Goddess reign eternal.

Dismiss Watchtowers

Together

We thank you for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be

North (Earth)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the North.
The powers of earth.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

West (Water)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the West.
The powers of water.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell,aAnd harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

South (Fire)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the South.
The powers of fire.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

East (Air)

Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtowers of the East.
The powers of air.

We thank you all for joining our ceremony today. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell,and harm ye none on your way.

So Mote It Be!

Open The Circle

Together

(First cut the knot. Walking counterclockwise from East.)

By the air that is her breath
By the earth that is her body
By the living waters of her womb
And by the fire that is her bright spirit
The circle is open but not unbroken.

May the joy of the Goddess live in our hearts
Merry Meet,
Merry Part,
And Merry Meet Again!

The Lost Bearded White Brother

Modern Wicca and Neo-Druidism

In Wicca, the narrative of the Wheel of the Year traditionally centres on the sacred marriage of the God and the Goddess and the god/goddess duality. In this cycle, the God is perpetually born from the Goddess at Yule, grows in power at the vernal equinox (as does the Goddess, now in her maiden aspect), courts and impregnates the Goddess at Beltane, reaches his peak at the summer solstice, wanes in power at Lammas, passes into the underworld at Samhain (taking with him the fertility of the Goddess/Earth, who is now in her crone aspect) until he is once again born from Her mother/crone aspect at Yule. The Goddess, in turn, ages and rejuvenates endlessly with the seasons, being courted by and giving birth to the Horned God.

Many Wiccan, Neo-Druid, and eclectic Neopagans incorporate a narrative of the Oak King and the Holly King as rulers of the waxing year and the waning year respectively. These two figures battle endlessly with the turning of the seasons. At the summer solstice, the Holly King defeats the Oak King and commences his reign. After the Autumn equinox the Oak King slowly begins to regain his power as the sun begins to wane. Come the winter solstice the Oak King in turn vanquishes the Holly King. After the spring equinox the sun begins to wax again and the Holly King slowly regains his strength until he once again defeats the Oak King at the summer solstice. The two are ultimately seen as essential parts of a whole, light and dark aspects of the male God, and would not exist without each other.

The Holly King is often portrayed as a woodsy figure, similar to the modern Santa Claus, dressed in red with sprigs of holly in his hair and the Oak King as a fertility god.

Litha (Midsummer)

Midsummer, also known as St John’s Day, or Litha, is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, and more specifically the Northern European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice or take place on a day between June 21 and June 25 and the preceding evening. The exact dates vary between different cultures. The Christian Church designated June 24 as the feast day of the early Christian martyr St John the Baptist, and the observance of St John’s Day begins the evening before, known as St John’s Eve.

These are commemorated by many Christian denominations. In Sweden the Midsummer is such an important festivity that there have been serious discussions to make the Midsummer’s Eve into the National Day of Sweden, instead of June 6. It may also be referred to as St. Hans Day.

Midsummer is one of the four solar holidays, and is considered the turning point at which summer reaches its height and the sun shines longest. Among the Wiccan sabbats, Midsummer is preceded by Beltane, and followed by Lammas or Lughnasadh.

Some Wiccan traditions call the festival Litha, a name occurring in Bede’s Reckoning of Time (De Temporum Ratione, 7th century), which preserves a list of the (then-obsolete) Anglo-Saxon names for the twelve months. Ærra Liða (first or preceding Liða) roughly corresponds to June in the Gregorian calendar, and Æfterra Liða (following Liða) to July. Bede writes that “Litha means gentle or navigable, because in both these months the calm breezes are gentle and they were wont to sail upon the smooth sea”.

The Lost Bearded White Brother