Spirit Message of the Day – Winter Solstice 2011

A Blessed Solstice to You!
It’s the time of the winter solstice, or Yule, for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. We’re celebrating Yule, and marking the return of the sun after the longest night of the year. It’s a time of rebirth and renewal, and the long journey back out of the darkness.

For those of you down below the equator, you’re observing the summer solstice, or Litha, right now — gardens are in full bloom, the earth is vibrant and alive, and the days are long and sunny. Both Yule and Litha are celebrations of the sun — different aspects of it, but solar holidays nonetheless. Whichever one you are celebrating this weekend, may you and your loved ones have a blessed and bountiful solstice Sabbat!

Yule, the winter solstice, is a time of great symbolism and power. It marks the return of the sun, when they days finally begin to get a little longer. It’s also a time to celebrate with family and friends, and share the spirit of giving during the holidays. Here are some great Yule rituals that you can do to celebrate this winter Sabbat, either as part of a group or as a solitary.

The History of Yule
Many cultures have winter festivals that are in fact celebrations of light. In addition to Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and any number of other holidays. The Pagan holiday called Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21. Learn about the History of Yule, as well as the Deities of the Winter Solstice and Winter Customs Around the World

A Festival of Light
Many cultures have winter festivals that are in fact celebrations of light. In addition to Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and any number of other holidays. The Pagan holiday called Yule takes place on the day of the winter solstice, around December 21. On that day (or close to it), an amazing thing happens in the sky. The earth’s axis tilts away from the sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sun reaches at its greatest distance from the equatorial plane. As a festival of the Sun, the most important part of any Yule celebration is light — candles, bonfires, and more.

Origins of Yule
In the Northern hemisphere, the winter solstice has been celebrated for millenia. The Norse peoples viewed it as a time for much feasting, merrymaking, and, if the Icelandic sagas are to be believed, a time of sacrifice as well. Traditional customs such as the Yule log, the decorated tree, and wassailing can all be traced back to Norse origins.

Celtic Celebrations of Winter
The Celts of the British Isles celebrated midwinter as well. Although little is known about the specifics of what they did, many traditions persist. According to the writings of Pliny the Elder, this is the time of year in which Druid priests sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe in celebration.

Roman Saturnalia:
Few cultures knew how to party like the Romans. Saturnalia was a festival of general merrymaking and debauchery held around the time of the winter solstice. This week-long party was held in honor of the god Saturn, and involved sacrifices, gift-giving, special privileges for slaves, and a lot of feasting. Although this holiday was partly about giving presents, more importantly, it was to honor an agricultural god.

Welcoming the Sun Through the Ages
Four thousand years ago, the Ancient Egyptians took the time to celebrate the daily rebirth of Horus – the god of the Sun. As their culture flourished and spread throughout Mesopotamia, other civilizations decided to get in on the sun-welcoming action. They found that things went really well… until the weather got cooler, and crops began to die. Each year, this cycle of birth, death and rebirth took place, and they began to realize that every year after a period of cold and darkness, the Sun did indeed return.

Winter festivals were also common in Greece and Rome, as well as in the British Isles. When a new religion called Christianity popped up, the new hierarchy had trouble converting the Pagans, and as such, folks didn’t want to give up their old holidays. Christian churches were built on old Pagan worship sites, and Pagan symbols were incorporated into the symbolism of Christianity. Within a few centuries, the Christians had everyone worshipping a new holiday celebrated on December 25.

In some traditions of Wicca and Paganism, the Yule celebration comes from the Celtic legend of the battle between the young Oak King and the Holly King. The Oak King, representing the light of the new year, tries each year to usurp the old Holly King, who is the symbol of darkness. Re-enactment of the battle is popular in some Wiccan rituals.

Winter Around the World
Whether you observe Yule, Christmas, Sol Invictus, or Hogmanay, the winter season is typically a time of celebration around the world. Traditions vary widely from one country to the next, but one thing they all have in common is the observance of customs around the time of the winter solstice. Here are some ways that residents of different countries observe the season.

Australia
Althought Australia is huge geographically, the population sits at under 20 million people. Many of them come from a blend of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and celebration in December is often a mix of many different elements. Because Australia is in the southern hemisphere, December is part of the warm season. Residents still hhave Christmas trees, Father Christmas, Christmas Carols and gifts which are a familiar Christmas and gifts, as well as being visited by Father Christmas. Because it coincides with school holidays, it’s not uncommon for Australians to celebrate the season on vacation away from home.

China
In China, only about two percent of the population observes Christmas as a religious holiday, although it is gaining in popularity as a commercial event. However, the main winter festival in China is New Year celebration that occurs at the end of January. Recently, it’s become known as the Spring Festival, and is a time of gift-giving and feasting. A key aspect of the Chinese New Year is ancestor worship, and painings and portraits are brought out and honored in the family’s home.

Denmark
In Denmark, Christmas Eve dinner is a big cause for celebration. The most anticipated part of the meal is the traditional rice pudding, baked with a single almond inside. Whichever guest gets the almond in his pudding is guaranteed good luck for the coming year. Children leave out glasses of milk for the Juulnisse, which are elves that live in peoples’ homes, and for Julemanden, the Danish version of Santa Claus.

Finland
The Finns have a tradition of resting and relaxing on Christmas Day. The night before, on Christmas Eve, is really the time of the big feast — and leftovers are consumed the next day. On December 26, the day of St. Stephen the Martyr, everyone goes out and visits friends and relatives, weather permitting. One fun custom is that of Glogg parties, which involve the drinking of Glogg, a mulled wine made from Madeira, and the eating of lots of baked treats.

Greece
Christmas was typically not a huge holiday in Greece, as it is in North America. However, the recognition of St. Nicholas has always been important, because he was the patron saint of sailors, among other things. Hearth fires burn for several days between December 25 and January 6, and a sprig of basil is wrapped around a wooden cross to protect the home from the Killantzaroi, which are negative spirits that only appear during the twelve days after Christmas. Gifts are exchanged on January 1, which is St. Basil’s day.

India
India’s Hindu population typically observes this time of year by placing clay oil lamps on the roof in honor of the return of the sun. The country’s Christians celebrate by decorating mango and banana trees, and adorning homes with red flowers, such as the poinsettia. Gifts are exchanged with family and friends, and baksheesh, or charity, is given to the poor and needy.

Italy
In Italy, there is the legend of La Befana, a kind old witch who travels the earth giving gifts to children. It is said that the three Magi stopped on their way to Bethlehem and asked her for shelter for a night. She rejected them, but later realized she’d been quite rude. However, when she went to call them back, they had gone. Now she travels the world, searching, and delivering gifts to all the children.

Romania
In Romania, people still observe an old fertility ritual which probably pre-dates Christianity. A woman bakes a confection called a turta, made of pastry dough and filled with melted sugar and honey. Before baking the cake, as the wife is kneading the dough, she follows her husband outdoors. The man goes from one barren tree to another, threatening to cut each down. Each time, the wife begs him to spare the tree, saying, “Oh no, I am sure this tree will be as heavy with fruit next spring as my fingers are with dough today.” The man relents, the wife bakes the turta, and the trees are spared for another year.

Scotland
In Scotland, the big holiday is that of Hogmanay. On Hogmanay, which is observed on December 31, festivities typically spill over into the first couple of days of January. There’s a tradition known as “first-footing”, in which the first person to cross a home’s threshold brings the residents good luck for the coming year — as long as the guest is dark-haired and male. The tradition stems from back when a red- or blonde-haired stranger was probably an invading Norseman.

From Patti Wigington, your Guide to Paganism / Wiccan

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Published in: on December 22, 2010 at 10:02  Comments (1)  

Spirit Message of the day – Time to Make Room for New

A DRUID PLANT NAMED GARLIC
“Garlic is a bulbous perennial related to the onion and the leek. Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum), usually called Ramsons, is indigenous to Britain. Common Garlice (Allium sativum), now used for cooking and medicine, was probably introduced by the Romans, and perhaps originated in Siberia or southwest Asia. The card shows Ramsons growing in the Ash woods of Crafnant – the valley of the Ramsons in Snowdonia, Wales. Like Bluebells, they favor damp woodland, where they gather in the vast drifts of green and white.”

MESSAGE FOR YOU
“Garlic has the ability to flavor food deliciously, as well as being a powerful antiseptic and antibiotic. the combined qualities of purification and flavoring are surprising and unusual. Selecting this card may indicate a need to consider how you can purify and strengthen an aspect of your life without introducing any element of sterility. Often, when we feel the need for change, we envisage removing things from our life – and this may be the right course to take – but consider first whether there is something you can add to your life that will naturally replace that which is bothering you, without you needing to exert any effort in eliminating it. This card may indicate it is time to introduce something new into your life, something that in the past you had considered too exotic or unconventional, but which now is starting to attract you.”

Today’s message is from The Druid Plant Oracle by Philip and Steaphanie Carr-Gomm.

Spirit Message of the Day – A Quiet Strength

A FLOWER SPIRIT NAMED WILD CARROT
“The myriad flowers of the delicate Wild Carrot send their spirit’s message, calling on us to soften our defenses and learn to be who we really are. It is time to soften those hard, overprotective edges of your character to reveal a gentler, more accepting side of yourself. It is important to be aware of and nurture both our feminine and masculine energies and to create harmony with both.”

“Perhaps there is an appropriate message for you here from the Wild Carrot flower spirit to access your own inner gentle harmony. Have a look at your closest relationships and observe how many different roles you are acting out. Do you tend to mother and nurture those around you, or do you expect someone else to do that while you concentrate on achieving goals and expressing a more masculine energy? Often we fall into a set patterns and lose sight of the inner gentleness and acceptance that is in all of us.”

“Be still and become more whole by accessing the powerful, gentle nurturer within you. We all need to feel safe and protected in order to open out to our vulnerable soft nature, which is beautiful and soothing. Take time to notice where you are denying your own gentleness and begin to ease it out into the open again. Reveal the real you behind your protective shell and witness how much strength you gain by allowing a new vulnerability and honesty into your life. Your newfound softness will be your strongest guardian from now on and will create more balance in your entire being.”  

Today’s guidance is from Flower Spirit Cards by Melanie Eclare.

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Spirit Message of the Day – A Sacred Act of Love; A Wild and Pure Heart

A MESSAGE FROM WU WANG
“In times of olde, they said that only those who were pure could connect with those like myself. That the virgin could connect with Unicorn. That the child could see the meaning of God. That the Fae would truly see into your heart, and finding it corrupt, would never appear to you. I am here to tell you that your heart is pure and wild and innocent. It is that you have forgotten how to see us, that you have been told that in order to see us, you must be perfect. That in order to see us, you must be mad, unclean, broken, and if you say you have seen us, you face being shunned.”

“I am here to say to you that we appear to those who have looked into the hearts and have seen beyond the woundings…because within you there is a wild and untrammelled heart space which is free of any taint. In that space we can enter and therefore, we can and will be seen again. You were not born into this world wrong or sinful. There may be karmic markings, but you are no sinner, nor are you corrupt or unworthy. Foster that which is wild and pure and good within you, and we will begin to appear and come forth. You will feel us on the wind, in the water, see us in the fire and hear our voices emanating from the heart of our mother, the Earth. You are a child of the Mother, call her what you will, and at your core you are a one of the wild ones. That is my message for you.”

ABOUT WU-WANG
“Wu-Wang is a Dragonfae Lord who has been both a dynastic ruler in human form and whose energy has entered the Chinese system of philosophy and divination known as the I-Ching. His mind is very natural and honest; he has an innately good nature and encourages us to be the same, and to know we can be the same, no matter how we have behaved in the past. Truth and innocence of nature can be reclaimed and furthermore, these traits bring about good fortune personally, and for Gaia, Dana and our Mother.”

A MESSAGE FOR YOU
“Know you are innocent and cultivate that aspect of yourself. Know that your innocence and goodness lies within you no matter what actions you have taken in the past: This present moment is a chance to reclaim that pure and wild heart. When  you do that, you will be able to see, feel and sense clearly the presence of magickal beings, including the Dragonfae and particularly the Unicorn. Wu-Wang will also help you to eat organically, well and healthfully. Take nothing into your body without contemplating whether it will erode or grow that wild pure heart and act accordingly. Dance, sing, play music, and make love…all of these acts, done with innocent, wild joy, are healing and part of the sacred act of Love.”

WORKING WITH WU-WANG
“Stay pure and wild and innocent. Devote part of your daily life to the development of the pure wild part of you. Let something be beyond your control. Do not attempt to control and predict the outcome of all. Know that innocent also means that you have not known all; and come from that place, which is noble and humble. When we do so, our expectations and controlling behaviors depart, as does the drama. In their place come insights and much communication with the magickal web of life, including mermaids, unicorns, centaurs, and the Dragonfae, dryads and other innerworld beings that may have yet been unseen by your eyes.”

Today’s message is from Oracle of the Dragonfae by Lucy Cavendish.

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Spirit Message of the Day – A Crafty Idea for Meditation

How to Make a Witch’s Ladder
A witch’s ladder is one of those nifty things we sometimes hear about but rarely see. Its purpose is similar to that of a rosary – it’s basically a tool for meditation and ritual, in which different colors are used as symbols for one’s intent. It’s also used as a counting tool, because in some spell workings there is a need to repeat the working a particular number of times. You can use the ladder to keep track of your count, running the feathers or beads along as you do so. Traditionally, the witch’s ladder is made with red, white and black yarn, and then nine different colored feathers woven in.

Here’s How:

  1. Realistically speaking, it makes more sense to use yarn colors that have a significance to you and your working. Also, finding nine differently colored feathers can be tricky if you’re looking for them out in the wild — you can’t just go plucking feathers from local endangered species — and that means a trip to the craft store and some oddly tinted feathers. I’d recommend using either found feathers of any color, or something else entirely — beads, buttons (see our discussion on the magical uses of buttons), bits of wood, shells, or other items you have around your home.
  2. To make your basic witch’s ladder, you’ll need:
  • Yarn or cord in three different colors
  • Nine items that are similar in property but in different colors (nine beads, nine shells, nine buttons, etc)

Cut the yarn so that you have three different pieces in a workable length – usually a yard or so is good. Although you can use the traditional red, white and black, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you must. Tie the ends of the three pieces of yarn together in a knot.

  1. Begin braiding the yarn together, tying the feathers or beads into the yarn, and securing each in place with a sturdy knot. Some people like to chant or count as they braid and add the feathers. If you wish, you can say something like this variation on the traditional chant:

By knot of one, the spell’s begun.
By knot of two, the magic comes true.
By knot of three, so it shall be.
By knot of four, this power is stored.
By knot of five, my will shall drive.
By knot of six, the spell I fix.
By knot of seven, the future I leaven.
By knot of eight, my will be fate.
By knot of nine, what is done is mine.

  1. As the feathers are tied into knots, focus your intent and goal. As you tie the final and ninth knot, all your energy should be directed into the cords, the knots and the feathers. The energy is literally stored within the knots of the witch’s ladder. When you’ve completed the string and added all nine feathers or beads, you can either knot the end and hang the ladder up, or you can tie the two ends together forming a circle.

If you’d like your ladder to be more like a rosary string, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of Pagan Prayer Beads by John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn.

Tips:

  1. Author Ann Moura has a small but good photo of a witch’s ladder on her website, if you’d like to see what one looks like!

What You Need:

  • Yarn or cord in three different colors
  • 9 Feathers or other items to braid into your ladder

Suggested Reading

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

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