The second of the Harvest Festivals, this is a celebration of Thanksgiving! At this time, the Harvest season is in full swing and there is much to be grateful for. Vegetables are being brought in from the garden by the barrel full, the last of the grains are being harvested, and everywhere you look the Earth yields Her bounty, an offering to the life She created and now sustains in love. Now is the Harvest of fruit: of apples and grapes. As such, this is also a celebration of Wine as last year's wine is cured to perfection and now able to be drunk to celebrate the fresh harvest of grapes and newly vinted supply.
Common Mabon Traditions
Here are a few ideas for ways you can celebrate Mabon.
The Harvest surrounds us. The bounty of Summer, the fruit of our labor, is ripe and hanging heavy on the vine. The theme for this Holiday is abundance and thanksgiving, rightfully so, as Mabon is the second of the harvest holidays and the most productive, and labor intensive, of the three. In many places, this harvest marks the peak of the garden harvest and the beginning of the fruit harvest, especially of grapes and apples. Due to the grape harvest and the nature of wine making, this is also a wine celebration, as last year’s vintage is finally able to be enjoyed and a new batch is now being started.
This day is also the Autumnal Equinox, a day when day and night are equal, balanced. From here on out the days will be shorter, the nights longer, the Winter that much closer. A chill in the air, frost on the grass, these mark the entrance of the spiders into our homes, a desperate effort to escape the cold and perhaps survive a little longer.
Within these few characteristics of Mabon, there is an underlying theme: connection. Who is it that we worked so hard with to create the abundance we now enjoy and pull in, but our community, those with whom we are most intimately connected. Our family, our friends, they are our community and they are the ones who celebrate all of our joys with us, with whom we give thanks and of whom we are thankful for. Even the entrance of the spiders into our homes, taking up residence in the corners where they will happily take care of any biting insects, echoes this theme of connection, this time to the larger community. The spiders remind us that we are never fully removed from Nature, even when we hide ourselves away in our climate controlled homes, surrounded by technology and “proof” of our superiority over the natural world.
The energy of the Autumnal Equinox spills over, and at this time when there is so much, we find ourselves pulled to share the abundance with those around us. At this time when Day and Night are equal, so, too, are all people equal; divisions and barriers are taken down, and we are reminded that we are all the same and we are all truly members of the same community.
It’s all cause and effect. When we start to acknowledge our connections, that we are not separate, it is then that we notice the Community to which we belong and notice just how far the breadth of that Community stretches. We notice our place in the scheme of things, and this leads to compassion, to the desire to share what we have with those around us. This sacred day reminds us of the need for community, the blessing of community, and the obligations we have as members of a community.
The Dark Moon is not truly well suited to magickal endeavors; rather, this time is better spent by focusing inward. Divination is appropriate, as it is a means to connect with one’s intuition: “that little voice” inside of ourselves. Another method to utilize at this time of heightened Crone energy is meditation.
Meditation is a means of quieting the conscious mind, allowing the subconscious to come forth and enabling us to connect with our Higher Self, as well as any Spirit Guides, and even our Gods. It can foster greater relaxation and helps in dealing with stress, even if only done for a few minutes.
Anyone can meditate, even small children. However, you will be the one to determine if and when your child is able to start meditating. Some kids will be able to learn how at about age 3, others perhaps not until 8. How soon is not an indication of anything in regards to your child, after all, there are many adults who struggle with meditation.
The first of the Harvest Holidays and marking the beginning of Autumn, this is the harvest of grains. The bounty of the Earth has ripened and now sacrifices itself so that other life may continue. The days are still warm, though the Sun weakens. Preparations are begun for the long Winter ahead.
Common Lammas Traditions
These are just a few of the many traditions that many Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans enjoy in celebration of Lammas.
Prayers are a common part of nearly every religion, even a religion such as Wicca, where magick is used frequently to attain goals. The use of prayer in a belief system that utilizes spells, though, can seem odd, almost redundant. But, there is a difference between the two, not just in what they are, but in how one goes about praying versus how one casts a spell. And because of these differences, both can be effectively employed in one’s spiritual practice to attain the heart’s desires.
A prayer, at the most fundamental level, is simply a request. In prayer, we call upon a power outside of ourselves to manifest our goal. This power that we call upon may be a God, a Goddess, an Ancestor, a Saint, or any other spiritual or energy based entity. But the emphasis is that, in prayer, we are asking Someone else to grant our request, we are putting the power to manifest our desire in Someone else’s “hands.”
With a spell, we are taking control of forces outside of ourselves, manipulating them as per our own will, and manifesting our goal. There is no asking, supplication, offerings, or such: we grab onto the appropriate energy and our will be done! So, we use the energy about us in combination with the energy within us to bring about our desire; we “take matters into our own hands.”
Both prayers and spells can be accomplished in similar ways. They may both involve incense, tossing paper with words written upon it into a fire, chanting, and the presence of the Gods and other entities. But a prayer involves asking the Gods, or other entities, for Their help and leaves it at that; a spell requires you to raise the energy and send it out; the Gods don’t manifest your goal you do. Granted, the Gods may see fit to prevent your spell from coming to realization (They can do that, you know,) but, none-the-less, you are the primary force responsible for creating your desired change.
Prayers and spells are also able to be combined into an effective single working, and though the use of tools and props is nice, neither requires anything more than a clarity of thought and focus.
Many religions have a special ceremony marking the entrance of an individual into that religion. Within Wicca, specifically within British Traditional Wicca, there are several such initiations. But the first that may take place is for that of a child and is called a Wiccaning.
Like many Rites of Passages for children, the Wiccaning marks the entrance of that child into that religion. In this respect, a Wiccaning is much like that of a Christian Baptism. However, there is a significant difference between a Wiccaning and a Baptism; this is found in the meaning of the Rite.
Within Wicca, as well as most Neo-Pagan religions, there is an emphasis on free-will, respect for all life, and spiritual progression. What this translates to in a Wiccaning is that it is a dedication of the religion to the child (not the child to the religion as with a Christian Baptism) as all must come to this path willingly and are free to leave whenever they so choose; none are forced against their will. This dedication takes place in the form of a promise by the community to not just teach the child the ways of the religion, but to be there in the form of support and guidance throughout that child’s life, respecting the choices and decisions they make. In this context, the term community refers to the parents and any other family members and friends that may be present at the Rite.
Common to all Wiccanings, regardless of Tradition, is this promise by the community, a Blessing by the Gods and Elements (and perhaps by the Ancestors, too,) and the giving of one or more gifts by the community. This Blessing is not to be confused with a Baby Blessing, which introduces the child to the Gods and asks for Their blessing and protection of the child. The Blessing within a Wiccaning asks for the Gods to bless the child and calls Them to bear witness to the promises made by the community to the child, as well as introducing the child to the Gods as one of Their own (as the child is now to be raised in knowledge of Them and taught how to honor and worship Them.)
The gifts that are given vary per Tradition in quantity and significance, such as four gifts each representing an Element, one gift from everyone present representing various qualities of that child’s gender (e.g. something symbolic of strength for a boy child, something representing grace for a girl child, etc.) or one gift representing the religion or community.
Wiccanings are found within both British Traditional Wicca and Eclectic Wicca and can be a very positive, unifying event for a family. This Rite may or may not be performed within a coven setting and may or may not include a High Priest(ess) or other Pagan clergy. It is a Rite well suited to be performed with just the parent(s) and that child.
Working with energy is fundamental to the practice of Witchcraft for it is the very basis of its practice. Magick involves feeling and recognizing the energies around us, then reaching out and making changes to that energy. This is done by raising the appropriate amount of energy and sending it out into the Universe, where it affects the goal and causes change to ripple outwards.
But, to be able to do this, one must first learn to recognize the energy that exists about and within us. Without being able to recognize energy, it makes it incredibly difficult, though not impossible, to work magick. Consider the act of casting a Circle, fundamental to Wicca and used frequently within Witchcraft. You can say all the Words you want, wave around some tools, but if you can’t feel the energy change or see the Circle cast about you, how are you sure you actually cast a Circle at all?
So, how does one go about learning to recognize energy? Thankfully, it’s really not that difficult. One of the simplest ways is by learning to first feel it. To do this, one needs a physical object that naturally has a strong vibration rate; trees are good to use, as are certain crystals like Quartz or Amethyst.
To start, it’s best to be calm: quiet your mind and try to be open to whatever may or may not come. Sticking with the above suggestions of a tree or crystal, lay your hand gently on the tree or hold your hand over, but not touching the crystal. Close your eyes and pay attention to any sensations you get in your hand.
You should start to feel something. What you feel may differ from what someone else feels, but, generally, you may feel warmth, cold, and/or a tingle that may spread all the way up your arm. That is the energy within your object. And that is the same type of energy that is used within the practice of Magick.
Once you know what energy feels like, you can begin to try to work with it and even see it. Raising energy is the next step, as it easiest to learn to work with your own innate energy before learning to work with external energies. A simple exercise to this effect is in the creation of energy balls.
Stand or sit comfortably. Relax. Hold your hands out in front of you, palms together, as if you were praying. Close your eyes and visualize a small ball of light forming between your hands. Move your hands about an inch away from each other. Open your eyes and gaze (do not stare!) at the space between your hands. Concentrate on that little ball of energy forming and existing there. Push more energy through your hands and into the little ball, feeding it and making it larger; move your hands apart a bit more to accommodate the size change. Continue to see and feel the ball of energy you created. Feel the warmth in your hands as the energy moves through you and to the ball and the warmth of that ball as well. You may see the ball as well, perhaps as a swirling ball of pale light.
Play around with the ball of energy you’ve created. Push more energy into it, making it larger, squish it to make the energy denser, or stretch out into a ball so large that it surrounds your entire being.
Exercises like these are a great start to building competency in working with Magick, but they are, of course, not the only ways that one can learn to work with energy.
aka Litha, Midsummer
The height of Summer! All of Nature is at its peak & celebrates the abundance of life and the strength of the Sun. This is the longest Day of the Year, from here after the Days will get shorter, the Nights longer. But today is bright, warm, and full of power and energy.
Common Midsummer Traditions
These are just a few of the many traditions that many Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans enjoy on Summer Solstice.
A key component to all Wiccan rituals and works of magick is the Magick Circle. And although its presence is basic, the creation of a Magick Circle is not.
What makes it difficult to properly cast a Circle, is that it is entirely an energetic construct. The world in which we live is very much a physical one, where even emotions come second to tangible truth. So, learning to recognize our world as an energetic one and then to manipulate the varying energies as per our own will can be rather difficult.
As hinted above, there are two factors essential to being able to not only cast a Circle, but work magick of any kind (for, yes, truly, casting a Circle is a magickal act.) The first is being able to recognize energy, to feel it and, possibly, see it. The second is being able to manipulate that energy.
Without being able to recognize energy, it is increasingly more difficult to work with energy, though not impossible (this is where that favorite maxim of the magickal world comes into play: fake it till you make it.) This is why many times when first learning to cast a Circle, you may not feel any change in your surroundings. This can be either because of not having learned how to feel the energy, or because the casting just simply didn’t happen. Either way, like all aspects magick and Witchcraft, it takes practice and isn’t always accomplished the first try (or the second, or third…)
Here is a relatively simple method for casting a Circle. It involves no tools.
Physically mark out your Circle. This can be done with flowers, stones or crystals, pinecones, or string or rope, for example. While it isn’t necessary to actually mark out the Circle, it can be helpful as it gives you a visible reference point to where you are going to lay the energy.
Stand at the North Quarter of your marked out Circle. Close your eyes; breathe slow and deep. Feel your connection to everything. Know that just as much as you are a part of all of Nature, it is a part of you, you are One.
Focus your attention inwards and with every in breath, concentrate on forming a glowing ball of light within you. Every in breath makes it larger, every out breath makes it stronger. Feel this energy swirling inside of you, filling you, waiting to be released.
Open your eyes. Hold out one hand so that it touches the air above your marked out Circle. Walk clockwise now, toward the East, then South, then West, and finally back to North. As you walk, push this glowing ball of light down your arm and out through your hand. See it form a glowing line in the air above your marked out Circle. As you return to North, the line joins itself and becomes a circle, then stretches, forming a beautiful glowing sphere of energy around you, Above and Below.
The Circle is Cast.