Blessed Be to those in the Southern Hemisphere. As we watch the colder days come upon us may we be safe and warm throughout the winter months.
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.
Ostara – Northern Hemisphere
To those in the Northern Hemisphere I bid you blessings as the seasons change, the flowers begin to bloom and the sun shines brightly. Make you bask in the glow of the suns warmth.
History of Ostara
The Spring Equinox
Many Holidays, Many Names:
The word Ostara is just one of the names applied to the celebration of the spring equinox on March 21. The Venerable Bede said the origin of the word is actually from Eostre, a Germanic goddess of spring. Of course, it’s also the same time as the Christian Easter celebration, and in the Jewish faith, Passover takes place as well. For early Pagans in the Germanic countries, this was a time to celebrate planting and the new crop season. Typically, the Celtic peoples did not celebrate Ostara as a holiday, although they were in tune with the changing of the seasons.
A New Day Begins:
A dynasty of Persian kings known as the Achaemenians celebrated the spring equinox with the festival of No Ruz — which means “new day.” It is a celebration of hope and renewal still observed today in many Persian countries, and has its roots in Zoroastrianism. In Iran, a festival called Chahar-Shanbeh Suri takes place right before No Ruz begins, and people purify their homes and leap over fires to welcome the 13-day celebration of No Ruz.
Mad as a March Hare:
Spring equinox is a time for fertility and sowing seeds, and so nature’s fertility goes a little crazy. In medieval societies in Europe, the March hare was viewed as a major fertility symbol — this is a species of rabbit that is nocturnal most of the year, but in March when mating season begins, there are bunnies everywhere all day long. The female of the species is super fecund and can conceive a second litter while still pregnant with a first. As if that wasn’t enough, the males tend to get frustrated when rebuffed by their mates, and bounce around erratically when discouraged.
The Legends of Mithras:
The story of the Roman god, Mithras, is similar to the tale of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Born at the winter solstice and resurrected in the spring, Mithras helped his followers ascend to the realm of light after death. In one legend, Mithras, who was popular amongst members of the Roman military, was ordered by the Sun to sacrifice a white bull. He reluctantly obeyed, but at the moment when his knife entered the creature’s body, a miracle took place. The bull turned into the moon, and Mithras’ cloak became the night sky. Where the bull’s blood fell flowers grew, and stalks of grain sprouted from its tail.
Spring Celebrations Around the World:
In ancient Rome, the followers of Cybele believed that their goddess had a consort who was born via a virgin birth. His name was Attis, and he died and was resurrected each year during the time of the vernal equinox on the Julian Calendar (between March 22 and March 25). Around the same time, the Germanic tribes honored a lunar goddess known as Ostara, who mated with a fertility god around this time of year, and then gave birth nine months later – at Yule.
The indigenous Mayan people in Central American have celebrated a spring equinox festival for ten centuries. As the sun sets on the day of the equinox on the great ceremonial pyramid, El Castillo, Mexico, its “western face…is bathed in the late afternoon sunlight. The lengthening shadows appear to run from the top of the pyramid’s northern staircase to the bottom, giving the illusion of a diamond-backed snake in descent.” This has been called “The Return of the Sun Serpent” since ancient times.
According to the Venerable Bede, Eostre was the Saxon version of the Germanic goddess Ostara. Her feast day was held on the full moon following the vernal equinox — almost the identical calculation as for the Christian Easter in the west. There is very little documented evidence to prove this, but one popular legend is that Eostre found a bird, wounded, on the ground late in winter. To save its life, she transformed it into a hare. But “the transformation was not a complete one. The bird took the appearance of a hare but retained the ability to lay eggs…the hare would decorate these eggs and leave them as gifts to Eostre.”
Source: Lady of the Abyss