Many blessing on Ostara for all here in the Southern Hemisphere as we begin to feel the warmth on our skin and the sun shines through the clouds.
Ostara – Southern Hemisphere
From: “The Witches Year” ~ by Lucy Cavendish
Each year around the 20th of September in the southern hemisphere (in 2003 it will be the 23rd of Sept) our beautiful green and blue planet earth lies “flat” in her orbit of the sun. Neither her north nor her south poles are tilted into or away from the sun. She is fully facing the sun – no turning away. During the coming 24 hours, she will rotate once on her axis – thus the sun’s rays will have a unique opportunity to strike her surface equally from north to south poles, resulting in precisely twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night. From this day forward the light will increase with each day or degree she turns. This is the magical, ancient and revered vernal, or spring, equinox.
It is a truly sacred time. They may be called the lesser sabbats, but to the ancients and to witches who understand the laws of nature, these astronomical festivals once were (and in fact still are) as significant as when the Druids gathered at Stonehenge, or the Mayans around their wheel of the year, because with the spring equinox we usher in the return of the force of life itself.
These festivals of spring equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox and winter solstice, are immeasurably important in our human history, as the planetary movements revealed to humanity that the light, the sun, upon whose rays every single living thing depended was not only increasing, it would overpower the dark. Ancient people had no way of knowing that the stars would always be there, that the Sun was many millions of years old and would continue to exist for many more millions of years. Each winter meant the dread of eternal winter– indeed, how complacent should we be about the return of life each year? Are our inventions not as likely to blot out life on this planet as the loss of the light itself? Can we be sure how long we as individuals have on this planet this lifetime? The spring equinox is still signifies the coming of the light, of warmth, of the return of life itself. The myths of Celts, Romans, Greeks, Norse and the Egyptians all recognize the spring equinox as the new beginning.
Spring in colder climates may seem to be more a dramatic appeal to life than in Australia. Not so. Even in the Golden Bough, the 20th century bible of anthropology and myth by James Frazer, it recognizes Australia has its own seasonal rebirth.
“The natives of central Australia regularly practice magical ceremonies for the purpose of awakening the dormant energies of nature at what might be called the approach of the Australian spring. Nowhere apparently are the alterations of seasons more striking than in the deserts of central Australia, where at the end of a long period of drought the sandy and stony wilderness, over which the silence and desolation of death appeared to brood is suddenly, after a few days of torrential rain, transformed into a landscape smiling with verdure and peopled with teeming multitudes of insects and lizards, of frogs and birds.”
Even if the language is flowery, the point is well made. It is a sacred tradition to awaken spring through enacting sacred rites. The questions is, what is the modern, often city-bound witch to do?
To answer that, ask yourself, what is spring? At its heart, it seems to me to be a natural revival. As yourself what needs reviving in your life? Hope? Passion? Health? Following your heart? Vocation? This is a great time to literally start again. At the basis of spring is creative growth – the energy that fuels the obvious displays of later spring and summer. But first the sap must rise – or your energy must be increased. Your energy will naturally have been changing since the winter solstice – the sluggishness of winter becomes easier to shrug off once the darkest day is past. But now you need to reactivate your core energy.
Here’s a simple way to do that: Stand facing the sun each day. Feel its rays. Meditate on that which you desire to grow in your life. After doing this, take a green ribbon and tie it to a branch of a flowering tree (jasmine, magnolia, or even a fruit tree is perfect – you need a strong branch – jasmine is also lovely, but use a lightweight ribbon. If you have two areas you desire growth in, choose two ribbons. Chose the colours to correspond to that which needs stimulation. Weave your intent into the ribbon/s, and tie them about your branch with care.
As the spring days gather, and as the sun lengthens its stay in the sky on this half of the planet, your plant will unfurl and reach towards the light – this is exactly the growth you need to emulate. There comes a time when staying dormant and static becomes far more uncomfortable than the pain we imagine risk taking, growth, reaching out is – and so spring is the time for personal growth – the timing means that any chances you take are in harmony with the energy of the season and so your chances of success are magnified. You will literally be going with the flow. But back to the enchanted garden of spring ritual: If your plant flowers sooner than you expect, or if the flowers struggle to appear, these are all portents of your desires, and by reading the growth patterns of the flowers this spring, and for others in the future, you can see where you need to focus your energies.
Ritual for Spring Equinox
Decorate your altar with:
- Green cloth
- Green and golden candles (for the element fire)
- seeds (for the element earth)
- Salt for the cleansing and purity of spirit and intent
- Spring water/dew from equinox morning (for the element water)
- Open the magic circle
- Light a cone or stick of jasmine incense (for the element air)
- Raise each object one after the other, and invoke the elements (please see previous rituals for the method)
- Once you have raised power, and welcomed the elements and guardians,
- Write three wishes down the length of three separate ribbons.
- Weave these together.
- Place them on your magical altar
- (You can use this charged magic binding for Beltane as part of the ribbon ritual)
- Thanks the elements and the guardians
- Thank the Goddess
- Close the circle
- So mote it be!
The Spring equinox is a time to celebrate the return of hope in your own life. By connecting with the dance of nature, you connect to your own being. It’s not a coincidence that humans become more sluggish during winter, that seasonal depression can take hold. The light, apart from we are creatures just as the blades of grass and small animals are: we need the light to live, and everything we live upon needs it too. We are reminded at this time to acknowledge our place in the web of life – not as some kind of center at the top of a mythical food chain, we are a part of life, effecting it and absorbed by it, influencing it yes, but no more powerful than any other agent of life. If we honour our place in life, we will have many more years on this planet. By inhabiting nature gladly and fully, we will continue to live, and to be guardians of the planet. If we do not, we will bring about our own catastrophic destruction.
Sacred travel for Spring Equinox
This would be an ideal time to make some kind of spiritual pilgrimage. The solstices and equinoxes are the times when landmarks like Stonehenge and mount warning in far northern nsw are visited. Astronomically, we are witnessing our own promise of life. The Celtic witches myth sees this time as the planting of the seed of light – the birth of the son of the God. (It’s strangely akin to the mystical Christian tale of Jesus.) One way to commemorate the life force of the spring equinox is to take an egg and paint it with symbols of the god and goddess, who are in complete harmony at the time of the vernal equinox, just as they are at the autumn equinox. Thus it is a favoured time to work out power balances with relationships, to handfast or marry, or to conceive a child.
Make a magical wand for spring
*As this is the season of the air it is an auspicious time to make your own magical wand, which is the witches tool that corresponds to the element of air, it will have been created in the perfect season and will have great power.
(This essay was copied from an old version of Lucy’s website which is no longer available online. Her new website is at http://www.lucycavendish.com)
Mabon – Northern Hemisphere
To everyone in the Northern Hemisphere I wish you a blessed Mabon as the cooler days come your way.
From: “The Witches Year” ~ by Lucy Cavendish
The descent of Persephone
The bitter and the sweet collide at the festival of Mabon. It is at once a time to give thanks for the bounty you have created in your life – and a time to grieve for the little deaths we all must endure to truly be alive.
When the wheel of the year turns each year to Mabon, or the lesser sabbat of the Autumn Equinox, it is time to give thanks for whatever has come to fruition over the past year. Be it a new relationship you nurtured from raw beginnings, something you made, built, studied or created, any goals once desired and now attained must be honoured.
This is your chance to acknowledge the combination of your creative energy and the natural order, both of which helped you to grow this year. The purpose of paying this respect is twofold.
Firstly, the acknowledgement of change brought about by the power of your will brings symbolic closure to a phase. That in turn will leave you free to move forward. Secondly, honouring your achievements establishes magical growth as a soul principle – and positive reinforcement will give you the incentive we all need to make positive changes in the future. Processing this soul development at Mabon means you show the Goddess that you actively value enriching and nurturing yourself as a spiritual being in the Craft. This in turn, will bring you more blessings during the coming months.
Mabon brings equilibrium; the second time in the entire year when this happens (the other is at the spring equinox). Though Mabon’s light is as long as its dark, from this time forth that light will begin to shorten. With the lengthening of the night comes the increasing power of your own shadow self. Thus Mabon is the beginning of the wisdom of dark mysteries, of wise blood, of premonition, divination and facing your shadow. Working through any negativity that arises is actively promoted at Mabon. Don’t be afraid of working through your own darkness – it’s important to honour and respect your anger, your mistrust, your depression, your sorrows. We learn nothing from denial and repression – we need to engage with our shadow self and give it healthy expression.
But before your shadow self absorbs the light, it is vitally important for you to ready your psyche and your body for the intense crone energy that will grow more powerful each time the earth turns from Mabon forth.
How will you know when you are being affected by this energy? Even though you can pinpoint the turning of the earth into its flat zone with modern technology (and good astronomy sites!) there are plenty of seasonal signals that the sun god is dying. Watch for migrations of animals, particularly the birds, falling leaves, golding of the leaves, flowers becoming less abundant, the ground becoming colder and harder to the touch, and morning’s getting a distinct chill on them. The energy begins to go within in order to preserve itself. Personally you may find you look back, withdraw, feel aloof or confused regarding your relationships. You may feel less generous than you normally do, and you may also be nervous about any debt you may have accumulated over summer. You might feel it’s time to clean up your act – both in terms of your health and in terms of who you are.
It can be hard to let go of summer’s energy, its sensuous warmth and easy good times. Farewelling its carefree spirit made easier by witches observation of the astronomical and agricultural seasonal sacred signposts. That’s why, on a mundane level, it’s a wonderful season to begin:
- a savings plan
• set goals for the future
• make jams and preserves for winter
• restock your herbal medicine cabinet
• clean out any essential oils, flower remedies etc that have lost their energy
• completely clean out your fridge
• repair broken windows,
• think of how best to make your home secure and snug and warm for the coming introspection of Samhain
• cooking soups, stews, any slow cooked foods with root vegetables
It’s a fortuitous time to clear energy in your house – sort of the reverse of spring-cleaning. This clean-up is to make ready for the colder nights coming, to acknowledge that the bare landscape has its own beauty and lessons – as well as a mental clarity and deep wisdom of experience that can be difficult to achieve during Beltane’s sensuous haze, and Litha’s youthful joy. This is older, wiser, deeper, sadder – and somehow more beautiful. Prepare to snuggle into it and delve into your own shadow side in comfort.
It’s essential to give thanks for bounty. Write down on a piece of parchment all you have achieved. If you like, use russet-red ink on coppery autumn leaves – I love doing this. Write down on each leaf something you felt you really mastered. It can be a small thing – to others – or a great success. It can be a relationship that you gained closure with – and this is a good time to remember any pain you may have gone through. This could also be a time for letting go. This is the phase of the natural year in which the earth goddess Demeter learned that although her daughter would be returned to her for six months of the year, she also was told that Persephone had eaten six seeds of the underworld fruit, the pomegranate, ensuring her daughter would be forever linked to Hades and live underground for six months. This is the beginning of Persephone’s departure from her mother’s home to return to her husband and the underworld, and thus the start of Demeter’s wild grieving. It was her grief that turned the earth cold, and it was the approaching winter that forced the people of the land to gather their second and last harvest of the year. Those who didn’t would be forced to confront the realities of a barren earth, perhaps without enough stores to get them through.
Persephone and Demeter: a Mabon ritual
Here is a very special spell. I developed it over a period of about one year, during which a very close friend endured a painful separation, and divorce, which had many ramifications on her relationship with her daughter. (This spell can be adapted to suit any situation – a job ending, a friendship changing, a household breaking up – or simply, then end of summer. It can even be used for an actual death, though I sincerely wish that none of you will have need for it in that regard.) Whatever you use it for, remember it is a spell to help heal the pain of parting, to help you deal with the whirlwind of emotions separation can inspire. It will plug you into the Goddess energy of Persephone and Demeter – two mother and daughter deities who know all about leaving each other – and leaving lovers. It’s also a great spell to perform if you’re experiencing tension between your family and your lover. And, as a mother, I can imagine no greater suffering that the separation from a child. Even though Demeter knows Persephone will return, her anguish is such that her mourning brings increasing cold to the earth. But it also means that the life energy goes underground to become strong again – which yours will do.
Grieving takes time. But with this spell, when the wheel next turns, we can be sure to be progressing through our sadness into a new era in our lives. It will help you avoid the tragic state of being stuck in a situation and in emotions of a situation that is dead.
You will need:
Real clay – green or it must be organic and able to decompose (enough for small figures, which you will shape by hand)
One small lemon verbena plant, and ample earth and a clay pot for it to be planted in. (If you wish, you could tend it from a seedling prior to the spell so you feel confident it will survive. Lemon verbena has wonderful qualities, both healing, calming and yet vigorously cleansing)
You must work this spell skyclad – anything that you wear during it can retain the energy. So no jewellery. You must not bathe until AFTER the spell is completed, after which you will thoroughly cleanse yourself with lemon myrtle soap, or a citrus-based cleanser. If you wish to take a natural approach, the fruit acids in a lemon will work just as well – grate up some rind and mix with one part olive oil and two parts sea salt. This will literally slough take any dead skin cells off, leaving you energised and refreshed. Water, blessed, in a ceremonial cup
One pot – you’ll need it for planting your healing lemon verbena tree
- On the morning of the autumn equinox, cast your circle in your usual manner
• Within the sacred circle, pour the earth into the pot and charge it with healing energy.
• Still in the center of your circle, take your clay and forge two figures. These little people now represent you and the person or the situation that you are moving away from. Pour your emotions into them. Do not judge them, do not hold back, but do not let them own you.
• Now, bury your little people deep in the earth.
• Now, connect with your crone energy and feel her power merge with your essence Ask the crone to give you the wisdom to grieve well, and to move on when the wheel has turned
• Cover the figures completely with the earth, and feel the relationship moving into the past.
• Now, move your energy back to that of the crone. Meditate on moving on, and how best you can manifest that goal. When you feel the power peak, take a pen and write down everything you would like to achieve over the following year.
• Once this is completed, ask the Crone to bless your plans and ask for her wisdom to guide you in manifesting them.
• Finally, take your little lemon verbena tree, and plant it on top of the figures you have out in the earth. Water it with some water from your cup. Know that life is a wheel, that as there is sadness, there will be joy. That as there is growth, there is the dying off. That the past, with all its sadness, can feed a better future.
Say three times:
This wheel shall turn
This wheel shall turn
This wheel shall turn
Close you circle by walking widdershins round it.
Place your magical pot plant somewhere you can see it – NOT beside your bed. Somewhere you can see it but not obsess over it. Nurture the plant and notice its growth – this is your emotional and psychic progress made living green symbol. Over time, the clay figures to become one with the earth, and nurture the roots of the plant. This is the symbol that signals to you that there can be a natural, organic end of a relationship. At some time it will become indistinguishable from the earth itself. And the earth itself can bring forth new life. There is only one question. Are you ready to let go? You will know you have absorbed this relationships’ wisdom into your life, strengthening your very soul, when you can drink tea from the leaves of the verbena tree you planted.
You will know how hard you are holding on if you are tempted to dig up the clay figures. If you do dig them up, wait till the next waning moon, and repeat the spell. But do not repeat your mistakes.
Second harvest festival
The feast of Avalon
Morgon, snake woman
Morgan le Fey
Mabon’s sacred animals
Birds of prey
Mabon’s magical stones
Mabon’s ritual plants
Mabon’s enchanted herbs