Monthly Archives: July 2015

Lammas Moot with Medway Pagans 2015 (My first group ritual!)

Lammas2015 Last night, I had the honour of leading my first ever group ritual for Lammas/Lughnasadh with Medway Pagans. It was such a hugely significant event for me and I’m so glad I did it!

Preparation

As with all rituals, it began with writing it. I’d never written my own group ritual before (my handfasting one was a combination of the one pre-written by Dode with additions from my friend Phoenix Rose), so I felt intimidated the task at first and it took me a long time to actually get down to writing anything! But after reading up on rites for Lammas in my books and online, I got an idea in mind for what to do. I decided to focus on the Golden Bough-esque theme of the Corn Spirit sacrificing himself for our food, and additionally I adapted an old Anglo-Saxon spell in which the Lammas loaf was cut into quarters and each quarter placed at the four corners of a barn to protect the grain. I also incorporated the words from the song “Corn King” by Inkubus Sukkubus and the poem “John Barleycorn” by Robert Burns!

While writing the ritual, it occurred to me that Lammas was a really suitable Sabbat for me to hold my first ever group rite. I was assigned Lammas because it’s perceived as fairly “minor” by several members and it’d therefore be a good one for a beginner, but I actually thought it was perfect for me for several other reasons:

  • It’s the Sabbat closest to my anniversary, which is a very spiritually significant event for me
  • It’s a festival of grain, a key attribute of my patron deity Inari Okami
  • An awful lot of the Lammas concepts, such as the sacredness of bread, and the idea of the God sacrificing himself (and “eating the God” in the form of bread), are shared in Catholicism – and I’m a former Catholic. Indeed, Lammas is one of those Sabbats that is syncretic between Paganism and Christianity.

In fact, once I’d finished writing it, I was struck with how similar so many of the elements of my ritual happened to resemble those of a Catholic mass. One day I shall have to write a post exploring the similarities between Catholicism and Paganism – despite their history of antagonism, there’s a lot they have in common.

I found myself in two minds about whether to begin the ritual with the HI-FU-MI Shinto norito, which is generally what I do at the beginning of my own solo rituals these days. On the one hand, I felt that I wanted to share Shinto with other members…but on the other, the Shinto norito is quite removed from anything in Western Paganism that I thought it might be a little weird, or that people would think I was trying to push Shinto too much. Because I was so undecided about it, I decided to leave it off the ritual script that I printed for participants.

Before leaving for the moot, I did offer norito to Inari-sama at the shrine I’ve now set up for him in the new house (I’ll do a post about this sometime soon). I asked her for guidance and to give me confidence. It also seemed appropriate as I’d included him under the many deities to be invoked at the ritual.

The Ritual

On the day of the moot itself, I was predictably pretty nervous. I had hoped to hold it outside, but the news had forecast rain so rather than take the risk I thought we’d have it inside (actually it turned out to be a very clear night, but never mind!). I had asked everyone to bring something as an offering from the altar, and was overwhelmed by everyone’s enthusiasm and generosity. People brought bread, home-made cakes, biscuits, fruit and flowers, to name but a few. The photo above shows just a small portion of what people brought. It made for a very impressive altar to the Gods and Goddesses!

I’d said on previous occasions that if I ever led a Medway Pagans ritual, I would incorporate a little Shinto somewhere. So people were a little surprised that the altar I’d set up was very traditionally Western Pagan with not much in the way of Japanese things. I took this as an indication that people would be be open to me beginning the ritual with the Shinto norito, so I did!

And I’m really glad I did. Not only was it really well-received, but I think it actually did help to build up the right kind of atmosphere – it certainly helped me to calm my nerves and to feel more in tune with the ritual’s energies, and I hope it made other people feel that way. I do think that norito, when chanted well, really does exert a strange kind of power.

The rest of the ritual went pretty well for my first time – largely thanks to everyone’s support. I’d picked four members to play the roles of North, South, East and West, as they were integral to the Lammas loaf spell, and they were really good at their role. Moreover, Abi Normal (one of the founding members), who has many years’ experience doing this, was really supportive and helped the ritual along by carefully directing people where necessary and reminding me of things I might have forgotten!

After the Lammas ritual, Abi Normal also held a cleansing-charging spell, as the energies of the upcoming Blue Moon made it the perfect occasion for this. In a similar way to our cleansing ritual last year, we purified our crystals, wands, talismans and other tools (I took the opportunity to cleanse my athame) in Earth, Water, Fire, Air (incense) and anointing oils, ready to set out before the Full Moon.

We ended by closing our circle as usual! Everyone was so nice afterwards and gave me some really nice comments on how the ritual went.

After the Ritual

It’s become something of a tradition that when we hold indoor rituals, we take a little of the cakes and ale outside to offer to the trees (there’s some lovely oak trees outside the club). When we went out this time, something amazing happened – we spotted a fox! This is the first time I have ever seen a fox by the club post-ritual and it was incredible – not only are foxes the messengers of my patron Inari-sama, but we had specifically called upon Inari-sama during the ritual. This fox was really bold, and watched us with an unusual intent; he was sat bolt upright on his haunches, rather like a cat. This is in fact the post that many fox statues at Inari shrines take. I took this as a very significant sign that Inari-sama was happy with how the ritual went and was pleased that I had included the norito and mentioned her.

Once we all went indoors, there followed the rather long task of dismantling the altar and tidying up.

Reflections

As I said, I was so, so happy to have led a ritual for the first time. It’s really hard work – holding a ritual, including research, writing, getting materials, setting up the altar, and tidying up, takes hours. But it was so rewarding, I would very gladly do it again. Yes it was nerve-wracking, and it’s certainly much calmer and more relaxed to have someone else take the lead, but I am so proud to have done it. And it certainly made me appreciate the level of dedication and enthusiasm that other people put into their rituals – I realise now that they only made it look easy, when in fact it’s not so easy at all! When the circle closes around you and you’re the centre of attention beside your altar, it’s easy to get stage-fright. It’s also made me realised the importance of a kind, supportive and enthusiastic group – without everyone’s encouragement and guidance, it definitely wouldn’t have been as successful.I have learned a lot from the experience and I can’t wait to do lead my next one!

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A cheeky little something for Lammas!

lambass

Made this in time for Lammas! Feel free to share with your Pagan friends 😉

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First Anniversary at Dode

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The stone circle at Dode where we were handfasted (and where we renewed our vows this year). You can see both the church and the retreat in the background

It’s been a long time since I’ve been around, due to moving house (at last!) and my laptop getting sent away to be fixed. However, the laptop’s now with me again and we’ve settled into our new place (which I’ll probably write about later), so I thought it would be a good time to talk about our recent get-away to Dode, the “Lost Village” where my husband and I got married and handfasted, in order to celebrate our first anniversary together.

There’s a beautiful little rustic retreat beside the church at Dode, and although we did stay the night there for our wedding, we didn’t feel as if we had a proper stay there as we had to be up early the next day and leave (we also didn’t get to explore much of the surrounding area). So going to Dode for our anniversary seemed perfect for having a break away together.

We arrived on Friday evening and had some quality time checking out the retreat where we stayed. It’s a beautiful little cottage designed by Doug, the man who was also responsible for the rebuilding of Dode church.

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These little cups were above the sink. One was filled with salt, which I suspect (given Doug’s Pagan leanings!) was intended as an offering / purification

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There was also a little bowl of dried lavender

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This walking stick was apparently made by Doug or his wife for ramblers to use…

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….There was even a sheet explaining how it was made and its significance!

The next day (a beautiful summer’s day), I spent the morning exploring the grounds of Dode I love so well. I actually felt quite overwhelmed to stand at the top of the mound and look down towards the fields – it’s such a beautiful place with so many amazing memories that I was almost moved to tears. I spent some time walking among the standing stones and even sat down and meditated for a while.

And in the afternoon, we were joined by my sister, brother-in-law and my nephews and we had a picnic outside the church! In the evening, we went out for dinner with my parents.

Returning in the evening, it was still so warm and lovely that I went out to the stones again. Again I sat down and meditated, chanting the “Hi-fu-mi” norito as both a means of getting into a meditative state and a way of expressing my gratitude and awe to the spirits of the place.

The next day was our anniversary itself. We spent the day walking the countryside around Dode. Here’s some of the things we saw…

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When the sun set, we performed a simple ceremony among the standing stones to renew our vows. It was incredibly atmospheric – owls were hooting and bats were flying overhead as we stood there! We gave thanks to the spirits of Dode and the seven deities whom we called upon at our handfasting for their blessings, and asked them to continue to bless us. We also pledged to keep upholding the seven vows made one year ago, and ended by feeding each other “cakes and ale” (this was actually bread and a letftover bottle of Cava from our wedding!)

It was an absolutely wonderful way to spend our anniversary, especially as the day we returned we also had to start our house moving! A fantastic “calm before the storm” – we’re already thinking about returning next year!

If you want to visit Dode (and I think you must certainly do so if you find yourself in Kent), their website is here.

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“Paganism and Motherhood” by Trellia

Another older post on Humanistic Paganism!

Humanistic Paganism

This essay was originally published at The Mirror Book.

When you’re a woman of a certain age, you suddenly find all your friends are having children and you can no longer put off thinking about that old biological clock ticking. Even in modern society, I think there is still a great social pressure (even if it’s simply a form of passive peer pressure) to have children if you are a married woman. So what does Paganism have to say about becoming a mother?

2015-02-07-2350_54d696b62a6b220820fb843ePaganism places a particular significance on Motherhood – more so than most other religions I would say. Perhaps this is natural considering the importance placed on women in Paganism. The Great Goddess is often referred to as the “Mother Goddess,” “Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature,” or she is seen (especially in Celtic Paganism and Wicca) as a Triple Goddess consisting of Maiden, Mother and Crone. The…

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“Issues with Masculine/Feminine Duality in Paganism” by Trellia

One of my older posts has been featured on Humanistic Paganism!

Humanistic Paganism

This essay was originally published at The Mirror Book.

In many forms of Paganism, emphasis is placed on a masculine/feminine duality within the forces in nature. This is particularly prevalent in Wicca, where the Great God and and the Great Goddess are worshipped as the primary deities, with all other deities generally seen as aspects or incarnations as either the God or Goddess.The nature of masculine/feminine forces in Paganism very much mimics that in traditional Chinese philosophy. Thus the masculine equates to the Sun, the Sky, Heat, Activity, Light, and Fire, while the feminine is attributed with the opposite: the Moon, the Earth, Cold, Passiveness, Darkness and Water.

I don’t disagree with this division of natural forces into masculine/feminine, and I usually make reference to the Great God and the Great Goddess in my own personal rituals. It’s certainly a very neat and graceful way to divide up the…

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July Full Moon Esbat / Tanabata 2015

FullMoon

Last night we were blessed with a very warm, still night and a beautiful yellow Full Moon. I performed what will definitely be the last ever Full Moon Esbat ritual at our current address, as we now know that we will be moving house in a couple of weeks.

Tonight’s ritual was one of many thanks. As it is soon our anniversary, I prayed to the seven deities who we invoked at our handfasting – Diana, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Apollo – and thanked them for blessing us for such a wonderful first year of marriage filled with love and happiness. I also thanked Inari Okami for being my watchful patron and for keeping myself, my family and my house safe for so long, and asked her to keep on blessing not only ourselves, but also the local foxes and the next people who will come to live in our flat.

It’s also close to the Tanabata Star Festival (July 7th), and this combined with the previous night’s alignment between Venus and Mars made it seem like a perfect time to commemorate this festival. I gave thanks to the kami associated with Tanabata and hung some tanzaku with wishes for a happy life, healthy family, environmental healing and world peace upon the vines growing outside our house.

Towards the end of the ritual, I heard the foxes calling. I will miss them when we move into our new house.

The next Full Moon ritual will probably take place in the garden of our new house – I wonder what it will be like…

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Venus-Jupiter Convergence, June 30th 2015

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Jupiter and Venus depicted on a 330BC Greek vessel. By Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup from Centennial, CO, USA (Getty Villa – Collection Uploaded by Marcus Cyron) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Last night I went out to see the convergence of the planets Venus and Jupiter. It’s a shame I couldn’t get any pictures – it was really beautiful. We couldn’t see the whole spectacle as there were some dodgy people up on the hill where we were which made us nervous, but I’m so glad I managed to see it.

The convergence of Venus and Jupiter is quite significant. It’s a union between the Masculine and Feminine. I’ve seen several articles in the press mention that the biblical Star of Bethlehem may have resulted from Venus and Jupiter converging, which I find interesting – not so much because it might be true, but again because of the symbolism. The Star of Bethlehem is sometimes conflated with the Star of David or Hexagram, ✡ ,which also represents a union between Masculine and Feminine – it is a combination of an upward-pointing triangle (male) with a downward-pointing triangle (female).

The date of this event is also highly significant. It’s on the same week as Tanabata, the Japanese festival which, coincidentally, celebrates the union of two stars, Altair (personified as Hikoboshi the Cowherd Prince) and Vega (Orihime the Weaver Princess). Although the stars are not Venus and Jupiter, it is very interesting that Altair and Vega too are seen as Masculine and Feminine.

I will be commemorating Tanabata at my Full Moon Esbat tonight. I will also be taking the opportunity to commemorate our upcoming anniversary of our wedding and handfasting – another union of Masculine and Feminine!

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