Spirit Message of the Moment – Celebrate Summer Solstice

TIME TO CELEBRATE LITHA – MidSummer

“Also known as Summer Solstice, Litha, Alban Hefin, Sun Blessing, Gathering Day, Feill-Sheath246Fairy_Song-main, Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide, Vestalia, Thing-tide, St. John’s Day. In addition to the four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year, there are four lesser holidays as well: the two solstices, and the two equinoxes. In folklore, these are referred to as the four ‘quarter-days’ of the year, and modern Witches call them the four ‘Lesser Sabbats’, or the four ‘Low Holidays’. The Summer Solstice is one of them.

Litha is usually celebrated on June 21st, but varies somewhat from the 20th to the 23rd, dependent upon the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. According to the old folklore calendar, Summer begins on Beltane (May 1st) and ends on Lughnassadh (August 1st), with the Summer Solstice midway between the two, marking MID-Summer. This makes more logical sense than suggesting that Summer begins on the day when the Sun’s power begins to wane and the days grow shorter. The most common other names for this holiday are the Summer Solstice or Midsummer, and it celebrates the arrival of Su481857_555874064427104_2129480533_nmmer, when the hours of daylight are longest. The Sun is now at the highest point before beginning its slide into darkness.

Humanity has been celebrating Litha and the triumph of light since ancient times. On the Wheel of the Year Litha lies directly across from Yule, the shortest day of the calendar year, that cold and dark winter turning when days begin to lengthen and humanity looks wistfully toward warmth, sunlight and growing things. Although Litha and Yule are low holidays or lesser sabbats in the ancient parlance, they are celebrated with more revel and merriment than any other day on the wheel except perhaps Samhain (my own favourite). The joyous rituals of Litha celebrate the verdant Earth in high summer, abundance, fertility, and all th208409_412438415499113_911770147_ne riches of Nature in full bloom. This is a madcap time of strong magic and empowerment, traditionally the time for handfasting or weddings and for communication with the spirits of Nature. At Litha, the veils between the worlds are thin; the portals between “the fields we know” and the worlds beyond stand open. This is an excellent time for rites of divination.

Those who celebrated Litha did so wearing garlands or crowns of flowers, and of course, their millinery always included the yellow blossoms of St. John’s Wort. The Litha rites of the ancients were boisterous communal festivities with morris dancing, singing, storytelling, pageantry and feasting taking place by the village bonfire and torch lit processions through the villages after dark. People believed that the Litha fires possessed great power, and that prospernahimaity and protection for oneself and one’s clan could be earned merely by jumping over the Litha bonfire. It was also common for courting couples joined hands and jump over the embers of the Litha fire three times to ensure a long and happy marriage, financial prosperity and many children. Even the charred embers from the Litha bonfire possessed protective powers – they were charms against injury and bad weather in harvest time, and embers were commonly placed around fields of grain and orchards to protect the crops and ensure an abundant reaping. Other Litha customs included carrying an ember of the Litha fire home and placing it on one’s hearth and decking one’s home with birch, fennel, St. John’s Wort, orpScreen-shot-2013-08-10-at-8.12.55-AMin, and white lilies for blessing and protection.

The Litha Sabbat is a time to celebrate both work and leisure, it is a time for children and childlike play. It is a time to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and the beginning of the waning year, in preparation for the harvest to come. Midsummer is a time to absorb the Sun’s warming rays and it is another fertility Sabbat, not only for humans, but also for crops and animals. Wiccans consider the Goddess to be heavy with pregnancy from the mating at Beltane – honor is given to Her. The Sun God is celebrated as the Sun is at its peak in the sky and we celebrate His approaching fatherhood – honor is also given to Him. The faeries abound at this time and it is customary to leave offerings – such as food or herbs – for them in the evening.

Although Litha may seem at first glance to be a masculine observance and one which focuses on Lugh, the day is also dedicated to the Goddess, and Her flowers are the white blossoms of the elder.”

Today’s excerpts are from twopagans.com

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Spirit Message of the Moment – Ideas To Celebrate Yule 2013

CELEBRATING THE PAGAN SABBAT: YULE
In many Pagan and Wiccan celebrations, often the cornerstone of a succe205537_450257608364328_1060900443_nssful Sabbat is the food. Yule is a time of rich, delicious cooking for many of us, so start planning your menu ahead of time. Open up your hearth and home for your guests, and once you’re seated at your meal, take a moment to be thankful for all the bounty and blessings you have before you this Yule season!

Food Blessings, Pagan and Wiccan Style
Many religions celebrate the consumption of food with some sort of prayer of thanksgiving. Many Pagans and Wiccans believe that not only should we thank the gods for our food, but also the earth and the food itself. After all, if you’re eating plants or meat, something had to die so that you could have a meal. It seems rude not to thank your food for its sacrifice. Any of the following may be said over a meal, a Cakes and Ale ceremony, or any other event where food is served. Feel free to include the names of the deities of your tradition, of you prefer.

• This Simple Meal Blessing offers thanks to the God and Goddess for a meal.

• A Prayer to the Earth shows gratitude for the planet’s bounty.

• If you’re eating a meal that once walked around, offer a prayer Celebrating Meat.

Invite the Gods to dine with you.

Make an Offering of a bit of your food.


Basic Wassail Recipe

Hot WassailWassail was originally a word that meant to greet or salute someone — groups would go out Wassailing on cold evenings, and when they approached a door would be offered a mug of warm cider or ale. Over the years, the tradition evolved to include mixing eggs with alcohol and asperging the crops to ensure fertility. While this recipe doesn’t include eggs, it sure is good, and it makes your house smell beautiful for Yule!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Ingredients:
• 1 Gallon apple cider
• 2 C. cranberry juice
• 1/2 C honey
• 1/2 C sugar
• 2 oranges
• Whole cloves
• 1 apple, peeled and diced
• Allspice
• Ginger
• Nutmeg
• 3 cinnamon sticks (or 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon)
• 1/2 C – 1 C brandy (optional)

Preparation: Set your crockpot to its lower setting, and pour apple cider, cranberry juice, honey and sugar in, mixing carefully. As it heats up, stir so that the honey and sugar dissolve. Stud the oranges with the cloves, and place in the pot (they’ll float). Add the diced apple. Add allspice, ginger and nutmeg to taste — usually a couple of tablespoons of each is plenty. Finally, snap the cinnamon sticks in half and add those as well.

Cover your pot and allow to simmer 2 – 4 hours on low heat. About half an hour prior to serving, add the brandy if you choose to use it. Buttered RumButtered rum was a popular recipe in colonial America, and it’s easy to see why — it’s GOOD. You can brew this up in your crockpot, ladle out a nice big mug and sit by the fire on a chilly winter evening. It’s the perfect warm drink for Yule. If you leave out the rum, your kids can enjoy it too (here’s a tip — when your little one wants to have a Harry Potter party, make a rum-free pot of this recipe and call it butter beer).

Ingredients:
• 2 Quarts apple juice
• 2 C firmly packed brown sugar
• 1 stick butter (use the real stuff, not margarine)
• 3 Tbs. cinnamon
• 1 tsp. ground cloves
• 1 tsp. nutmeg
• 2 C. your favorite rum
• Refrigerated whipped dessert topping
• Cinnamon sticks and nutmeg for garnish

Preparation: Warm up the apple juice and brown sugar in a pot. Add the butter (dice up the stick before you put it in there, so it’ll melt faster). Stir until the butter is melted. Add the spices and the rum. Cover the pot, and allow to simmer on low for 2 – 4 hours. Ladle into mugs for serving. Top each with a dollop of whipped topping and a cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg.

3799_10151600879139616_1867875314_nSunshine Skillet
When the sun comes up on Yule morning, there’s nothing quite like it. If your family celebrates with a solar ritual, after you’re done, head to the kitchen for a big breakfast. This sunny skillet dish is full of good stuff — if you’re vegetarian, simply substitute something else for the sausage, or leave the meat out altogether. This is fabulous with some nice warm biscuits and gravy.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
• 2 Tbs. butter (use the good stuff, not margarine)
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1/2 C shiitake mushrooms, chopped
• 2 C southern-style hashbrown potatoes, thawed
• 6 eggs, beaten
• 2 C sausage, browned
• 2 C cheddar cheese, grated
• Fresh rosemary and sage
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1/2 C Asiago cheese, grated
• 1 green onion, chopped
• 1 small tomato, diced

Preparation: Preheat your oven to 350. Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions, sautéing until they are opaque. Add potatoes, and cook until browned, stirring occasionally. In a buttered or greased casserole dish, spread the potato mixture around to evenly cover the bottom. Mix the eggs, sausage, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper together in a small bowl, and then pour over potatoes. Bake in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. About ten minutes into the bake time, sprinkle the Asaigo cheese on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. To serve, dish onto plates and garnish with tomatoes and onions.

Suggested Readings

All Above Excerpts authored by Patti Wigington

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405368_10150500037554734_1317162623_nMESSAGE FROM SPIRITBLOGGER
A warm welcome to December and wish to you for a bright and merry Winter Solstice this year. In my search to find spiritual significance for this Winter Solstice 2013, I kept thinking about the concepts of building and recreating life; which, always seems to give us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and constantly reshape and refine our lives to best align with our highest soul self. This involves a bit of re-imagining who we are at times and then manifesting who we are meant to be, as we embrace our whole selves. I found an online article called “Winter Solstice – Beauty in the Darkness” by Sara Dawn I wanted to share with you. Perhaps it might resonate with where you’ve either been, or currently find yourself in this day, or in this very moment. Thank you for all your messages this past year, good wishes, and support on both the blog and Facebook page. Bright Wishes To You All for a Meaningful Winter Solstice.
– Angela

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“Yes, there is beauty here in the shadows of ourselves. There is great beauty in the darkness. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Since neolithic times it has been celebrated and honored as a sacred time of renewal and rebirth. As the earth continues on her magical orbit the days now grow longer and nights shorter. The sun is dawning after the increasing darkness of winter.  The Winter Solstice is nature’s physical equivalent of a spiritual awakening and enlightenment.

whitecandleMy wish for you this Winter Solstice is that you awaken to the sheer brilliance of your being, the very essence of Life that you are, your inner most nature. And that with this new-found strength you delve deep into the darkness, deep into your shadows and fears, and shine on them the light of awareness with love and compassion. Nothing is more powerful or bigger than this light and love. Like the sun, the light of awareness and love overcomes any darkness. When we dare to face our deepest, darkest fears and overcome them we can truly experience the ecstasy of life. We become confident and stronger. We discover ourselves and we know who we are. We begin to trust life and know that it is a force that is both for us and within us. The Winter Solstice marks this triumph of our quest for a greater good. It is a journey we all have the opportunity to take, many times in our lives.

If you are stuck in any area of your life or if you are in pain, the invitation and my wish for you here is to take that stuck energy, take that pain and compost it into something beautiful! Like the earth breaks down decaying, useless matter and turns it into fuel for life and growth, take your shadows and darkness and use them to create life and beauty. The Winter Solstice is a great time to realize this.”
– Sara Dawn

scroll2“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson

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Spirit Message of the Moment – Celebrate Mabon 2013

THE PAGAN HOLIDAY MABON – THE AUTUMN EQUINOX – A Spiritual Celebration
“Mabon is the time of harvesting the full yield of nature. What was planted at the spring equinox is nMabon Mickie Muellerow ripe and mature. The card depicts the ritual setting for the Mabon festival, which is marked by the autumn equinox. Statues of the Goddess and God appear behind an altar, with the sun setting, casting shadows upon the ground. here they stand as the Lady of the Harvest and the Lord of the Sheaf.

The God is decorated with the intertwined red, black, and white woven cords of the mystery tradition, from which hang the sacred silver and golden boughs. Red represents the living blood of our ancestors, which flows in our veins. Black represents the deep shadows that contain the enlightenment awaiting the true seeker. White symbolizes what remains behind, a metaphor of the bone, representing the wisdom and knowledge left behind by our ancestors. 

On the God statue appear oak leaves and acorns, representing his divine woodland nature. The Goddess statue holds a lighted candle, which symbolizes her divine presence. At her feet is an empty cauldron with nine white shells set in front. The cauldron represents the gateway to the Underworld through which the Harvest lord must pass. For from the Goddess does all life issue forth, and to her must all life return. The nine white shells symbolize her triformis nature as the three Fates, plus her three aspects as maiden, mothers, and crone, plus her rulership over the three realms of the Overworld, Middleworld, and Underworld.

Between the statues, the altar is set with a reed basket filled with the sacred harvest cakes. The basket is now the tomb of the God (as it had once been his cradle at Yule) and bears the symbol of the sun. Apples, pumpkins, and acorns adorn the altar. The basket is flanksweeped by two white candles representing pillars between which the portal to the Underworld or Otherworld is entered. At the time of Mabon the God dies and journeys to the Underworld, where he waits in the realm of Shadow for his rebirth at Yule.

Behind the altar stands an upright sickle, which represents the harvester. A raven, the messenger of the Otherworld, swoops downward to land upon the sickle. This marks the death of the Harvest Lord, who must willingly fall so that his seed will ensure the renewal of life.”

MESSAGE FOR YOU
“When this card appears the work is done, and the manifestation and realization of your plans is at hand. It is time to celebrate. Three words summarize this season: harvest, completion, and fulfill. The Mabon/Autumn Equinox card reveals the harvest we have reaped from what was sown in an earlier season. In a spiritual sense this is the measure of the soul’s journey through life. It is here that we look at the state of our lives, our condition, our relationships. The harvest is the time to look at what has been sacrificed and what has been gained.”  

TREE IN FALL
“It is time to release what no longer works. The tree in fall symbolizes decline, shefallTreedding, and release, and tells us to shed that which no longer serves the greater good. A tree in fall does not lament waning and loss. It stands as a tree in fall, embracing what is natural to the condition surrounding it while it strips away what cannot be sustained in the coming winter season.  The tree in fall depicts the liberation of fall with a tree casting off its foliage.”

THE SHADOW’S EDGE
“The Tree in Fall takes up the idea of shedding that which no longer serves the successful continuation of our lives. The message of this card is that we must rid ourselves of things that drain our energy and resources or detract from our necessary goals. Holding on to things that no longer serve the common good is to risk future health, prosperity, and vitality.”

All above excerpts are from The Seeker’s Guide to The Hidden Path by Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor with art by Mickie Mueller which I highly recommend purchasing for your tarot/oracle card collection if you haven’t already. 

THE AUTUMN EQUINOX
It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked anMabon Acornd stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. On or around September 21, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings. With it being a few weeks away, now is a good time to start decorating your home for the autumn equinox, and planning your fall craft projects! ” 

“Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways you can celebrate Mabon, but typically the focus is on either the second harvest aspect, or the balance between light and dark. This, after all, is the time when there is an equal amount of day and night. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have food to eat, but the crops are brown and going dormant. Warmth is behind us, cold lies ahead.”

– Patti Wigington

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MESSAGE FROM SPIRITBLOGGER405368_10150500037554734_1317162623_n
Welcome to Fall! This is my absolute favorite time of year; there is change in the sweet smelling air, the nights get a little cooler, and the trees and plants begin to change their color from bright green to beautiful degrees of orange and red. It’s a great time of year to quietly turn inward and focus on your spiritual development and then turn outward, be social, and share feasting and celebration of the change of season with family and friends.

Take a moment for reflection to ponder the life you currently find yourself in. What’s new or different compared with where you were at the spring equinox? Take time to count your blessings, feel the abundance that surrounds your life, take stock, and celebrate all of your hard work and what’s been accomplished to date before moving forward to set goals for the pagan new year (which begins at Samhain on October 31st). Try making a warm apple or mulled cider, or making a special harvest bread to eat with homemade herb butter, or hosting an elegant autumn harvest dinner and serve foods you find most comforting to welcome in the new season.

Wishing You Brightest Autumn Wishes and Warm Blessings, 
Angela

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Spirit Message of the Moment – Time to Celebrate Litha 2013

Pagan Holiday Litha History – Celebrating the Summer Solstice 2013

An Ancient Solar Celebration
“Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way, shape or form. On this date – usually around June 21 or 22 (or December 21/22 in the southern hemisphstonehenge1ere) – the sun reaches its zenith in the sky. It is the longest day of the year, and the point at which the sun seems to just hang there without moving – in fact, the word “solstice” is from the Latin word solstitium, which literally translates to “sun stands still.” The travels of the sun were marked and recorded. Stone circles such as Stonehenge were oriented to highlight the rising of the sun on the day of the summer solstice.

Traveling the Heavens
Although few primary sources are available detailing the practices of the ancient Celts, some information can be found in the chronicles kept by early Christian monks. Some of these writings, combined with surviving folklore, indicate that Midsummer was celebrated with hilltop bonfires and that it was a time to honor the space between earth and the heavens.

Fire and Water
In addition to the polarity between land and sky, Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water. He 935935_513514102030876_2146289176_nsuggests that this may be because this is when the sun is at its strongest yet also the day at which it begins to weaken. Another possibility is that the water mitigates the heat of the sun, and subordinating the sun wheel to water may prevent drought.

Saxon Traditions
When they arrived in the British Isles, the Saxon invaders brought with them the tradition of calling the month of June Aerra Litha. They marked Midsummer with huge bonfires that celebrated the power of the sun over darkness. For people in Scandinavian countries and in the farther reaches of the Northern hemisphere, Midsummer was very important. The nearly endless hours of light in June are a happy contrast to the constant darkness found six months later in the middle of winter.

Roman Festivals
The Romans, who had a festival for anything and everything, celebrated this time as sacred to Juno, the wife of Jupiter and goddess of women and childbirth. She is also called Juno Luna and blesses women with the privilege of menstruation. The month of June was named for her, and because Juno was the patroness of marriage, her month remains an ever-popular time for weddings. This time of year was also sacred to Vesta, goddess of the hearth. The matrons of Rome entered her temple on Midsummer and made offerings of salted meal for eight days, in hopes that she would confer her blessings upon their homes.

Midsummer for Modern Pagans
Litha has often been a source of contention among modern Pagan and Wiccan groups, because there’s always been a question about whether or not Midsummer was truly celebrated by the ancients. While there’s scholarly evidence to indicate that it was indeed observed, there were suggestions made by Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, that the solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes) were actually added later and imported from the Middle East. 0029-Arch-Druid-in-his-full-Judicial-Costume-q75-356x500Regardless of the origins, many modern Wiccans and Pagans do choose to celebrate Litha every year in June.

In some traditions, Litha is a time at which there is a battle between light and dark. The Oak King is seen as the ruler of the year between winter solstice and summer solstice, and the Holly King from summer to winter. At each solstice they battle for power, and while the Oak King may be in charge of things at the beginning of June, by the end of Midsummer he is defeated by the Holly King. This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. Crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but may require water to keep them alive. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent, and the earth is fertile with the bounty of growing life.

For contemporary Wiccans and Pagans, this is a day of inner power and brightness. Find yourself a quiet spot and meditate on the darkness and the light both in the world and in your personal life. Celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year with fire and water, night and day, a155207_1553836443019_1476986_nnd other symbols of the triumph of light over darkness.

Litha is a great time to celebrate outdoors if you have children. Take them swimming or just turn on the sprinkler to run through, and then have a bonfire or barbeque at the end of the day. Let them stay up late to say goodnight to the sun, and celebrate nightfall with sparklers, storytelling, and music. This is also an ideal Sabbat to do some love magic or celebrate a handfasting, since June is the month of marriages and family.”

Excerpts from Patti Wigington

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Spirit Message of the Moment – Celebrate May Day 2013

THE PAGAN HOLIDAY BELTANE – May 1st 2013

Happy Beltane Spiritblogger Fans!
May Day is fast approaching and I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all your love523371_493853787340916_1964626020_n, light, and support for the site! Thanks for all your emails and feedback – I really appreciate each and every message you’ve sent! I’ve really enjoyed running this blog for the last four years since my first post in May of 2009.

While my blog used to be a daily post, working full time, and having a new baby, it has now become posting an important message for the moment since everyone may come across each post and topic in their own time and in their own perfect moment. It is in that moment of discovery, that it will hopefully resonate with you, your being, life, and re-spark your imagination and memory to remind you of your soul, life path, and current journey.

Message To You From Spiritblogger
May is a good month to let the magic work in your life. Let go of trying to control situations, circumstance, people, and outcomes. Hold new hope without expectation and create new life, projects, perspectives, and adopt new ways of thinking, being, and doing. It is a good time to form unions and bonds with others and with self. Let this be a time to attract new elements into your life so that they can join together for a greater purpose and function and allow you visibility into the unknown; your future; your life which you are actively creating each day.

Whether mundane, routine, or spiritual, see the magic, depth, and emotion behind everything you think, say, and do. Bond with your shadow and light self; embrace the two opposite polarities and bring them into harmony so that your creative process and ability to manifest something new, better, or different becomes possible. Allow your spirit to expand, develop, and grow and have confidence to shine brightly. I wish for you the brightest of 405368_10150500037554734_1317162623_nblessings and success for all that you create and manifest.

Thank You & Enjoy Your Month of Maying!
with Light & Love, Angela

Traditional May Day Celebrations

May Day is related to the Celtic festival of Beltane and the Germanic festival of Walpurgis Night. May Day falls exactly half a year from November 1, another cross-quarter day which is also associated with various northern European pagan and the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations.

As Europe became Christianized, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either changed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were merged with or replaced by new Christian holidays as with ChristmasEasterPentecost and All Saint’s Day. In the twentieth and continuing into the twenty-first century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival again.
Origins

397px-John_Collier_Queen_Guinevre's_MayingThe earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe. A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning of the Queen of the May. Various Neopagan groups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on May 1st. The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of Spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, thesummer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary’s month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this connection, in works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary’s head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning. Fading in popularity since the late 20th century is the giving of “May baskets,” small baskets of sweets and/or flowers, usually left anonymously on neighbours’ doorsteps.[2]

Europe
Great Britain
Traditional British May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and celebrations involving a Maypole. Much of this tradition derives from the pagan Anglo-Saxon customs held during “Þrimilci-mōnaþ[3] (the Old English name for the month of May meaning Month of Three Milkings) along with many Celtic traditions.

1-2-18DF-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0l9q9-a_349

May Day has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the centuries. May Day is most associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility (of the soil, livestock, andpeople) and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings. Since the reform of the Catholic Calendar, May 1st is the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of workers. Seeding has been completed by this date and it was convenient to give farm labourers a day off. Perhaps the most significant of the traditions is the Maypole, around which traditional dancers circle with ribbons

May Day is most associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility (of the soil, livestock, andpeople) and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings. Since the reform of the Catholic Calendar, May 1st is the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of workers. Seeding has been completed by this date and it was convenient to give farm labourers a day off. Perhaps the most significant of the traditions is the Maypole, around which traditional dancers circle with ribbons.

The May Day bank holiday, on the first Monday in May, was traditionally the only one to affect the state school calendar, although new arrangements in some areas to even out the length of school terms mean that the Good Friday and Easter Monday bank holidays, which vary from year to year, may also fall during term ti7203_507469522646361_1035649369_nme. The May Day bank holiday was created in 1978. In February 2011, the UK Parliament was reported to be considering scrapping the bank holiday associated with May Day, replacing it with a bank holiday in October, possibly co-inciding with Trafalgar Day (celebrated on 21 October), to create a “United Kingdom Day”.[4]

May Day was abolished and its celebration banned by puritan parliaments during the Interregnum, but reinstated with the restoration of Charles II in 1660.[5] 1 May 1707 was the day theAct of Union came into effect, joining England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

In Oxford, it is traditional for May Morning revellers to gather below the Great Tower of Magdalen College at 6:00 am to listen to the college choir sing traditional madrigals as a conclusion to the previous night’s celebrations. It is then thought to be traditional for some people to jump off Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell. However this has actually only been fashionable since the 1970s, possibly due to the presence of TV cameras. In recent years, the bridge has been closed on 1 May to prevent people from jumping, as the water under the bridge is only 2 feet (61 cm) deep and jumping from the bridge has resulted in serious injury in the past. There are still people who insist on climbing the barriers and leaping into the water, causing themselves injury.[7]

In Durham, students of the University of Durham gather on Prebend’s Bridge to see the sunrise and enjoy festivities, folk music, dancing, madrigal singing and a barbecue breakfast. This is an emerging Durham tradition, with patchy observance since 2001.

Whitstable, Kent, hosts a good example of more traditional May Day festivities, where the Jack in the Green festival was revived in 1976 and beltane may day polecontinues to lead an annual procession ofmorris dancers through the town on the May Bank Holiday. A separate revival occurred in Hastings in 1983 and has become a major event in the town calendar. A traditional Sweeps Festival is performed over the May bank holiday in Rochester, Kent, where the Jack in the Green is woken at dawn on 1 May by Morris dancers.

At 7:15 p.m. on 1 May each year, the Kettle Bridge Clogs[8] morris dancing side dance across Barming Bridge (otherwise known as the Kettle Bridge), which spans the River Medwaynear Maidstone, to mark the official start of their morris dancing season. Also known as Ashtoria Day in Northern parts of rural Cumbria. A celebration of unity and female bonding. Although not very well known, it is often cause for huge celebration.

The Maydayrun involves thousands of motorbikes taking a 55-mile (89 km) trip from London (Locksbottom) to the Hastings seafront, East Sussex. The event has been taking place for almost 30 years now and has grown in interest from around the country, both commercially and publicly. The event is not officially organised; the police only manage the traffic, and volunteers manage the parking.

Padstow in Cornwall holds its annual ‘Obby-Oss‘ (Hobby Horse) day of festivities. This is believed to be one of the oldest fertility rites in the UK; revellers dance with the Oss through the streets of the town and even through the private gardens of the citizens, accompanied by accordion players and followers dressed in white beewith red or blue sashes who sing the traditional ‘May Day’ song. The whole town is decorated with springtime greenery, and every year thousands of onlookers attend. Prior to the 19th century distinctive May day celebrations were widespread throughout West Cornwall, and are being revived in St. Ives and Penzance.

KingsandCawsand and Millbrook in Cornwall celebrate Flower Boat Ritual on the May Day bank holiday. A model of the ship The Black Prince is covered in flowers and is taken in procession from the Quay at Millbrook to the beach at Cawsand where it is cast adrift. The houses in the villages are decorated with flowers and people traditionally wear red and white clothes. There are further celebrations in Cawsand Square with Morris dancing and May pole dancing.

In St Andrews, some of the students gather on the beach late on April 30 and run into the North Sea at sunrise on May Day, occasionally naked. This is accompanied by torchlit processions and much elated celebration.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow organize Mayday festivals and rallies. In Edinburgh, the Beltane Fire Festival is held on the evening of May eve and into the early hours of May Day on the city’s Calton Hill. An older Edinburgh tradition has it that young women who climb Arthur’s Seat and wash their faces in the morning dew will have lifelong beauty.

Romania
On May Day the Romanians celebrate the “arminden” (or “armindeni”), the beginning of summer, symbolically tied with the protection of crops and farm animals. The name comes from Slavonic Jeremiinŭ dĭnĭ meaning prophet Jeremiah’s day but the celebration rites and habits of this day are apotropaic and pagan (possibly originating in the cult of the god Pan). The day is also called “ziua pelinului” (mugwort day) or “ziua bețivilor” (drunkards’ day) and it is celebrated, in order to insure good wine in autumn and, for people and farm animals alike, good health and protection from the elements of nature (storms, hail, illness, pests). People would have parties in the nature with “lăutari” (fiddlers), for those who can afford. There, it is customary to roast and eat lamb, also eat new mutton cheese and drink mugwort flavoured wine or just red wine to refresh the blood and get protection from diseases.

On the way back, the men wear lilac or mugwort flowers at their hats. Other apotropaic rites include, in some aremaydaydanceas of the country, people washing their faces with the morning dew (for good health) and adorning the gates for good luck and abundance with green branches or with birch saplings (for the houses with maiden girls). The entries to the animals shelters are also adorned with green branches. All branches are left in place until the wheat harvest when they are used in the fire which will bake the first bread from the new wheat. On May Day eve, country women won’t work in the field as well as in the house to avoid devastating storms and hail coming down on the village. Arminden is also “ziua boilor” (oxen day) and thus the animals won’t be used for work, or else they could die or their owners could get ill. It is said that the weather is always good on May Day to allow people to celebrate.

Ireland
May Day has been celebrated in Ireland since pagan times as the feast of Bealtaine and in latter times as Mary’s day. Traditionally, bonfires were lit to mark the coming of summer and to banish the long nights of winter. Officially Irish May Day holiday is the first Monday in May. Old traditions such as bonfires are no longer widely observed, though the practice still persists in some communities, such as Arklow, County Wicklow.[9]

France
On May 1, 1561, King Charles IX of France received a lily of the valley as a lucky charm. He decided to offer a lily of the valley each year to the ladies of the court. At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime, on May 1. The government permits individuals and workers’ organisations to sell them tax-free. Nowadays, people may present loved ones either with bunches of lily of the valley or dog rose flowers.[10]

Germany
In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of a Maibaum (

beltane9a8475sk7maypole). Young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air. Motto: “Tanz in den Mai!” (“Dance into May!”). In the Rhineland, May 1 is also celebrated by the delivery of a maypole, a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before. The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike. Females usually place roses or rice in form of a heart at the house of their beloved one. It is common to stick the heart to a window or place it in front of the doormat. On leap years, it is the responsibility of the females to place the maypole. All the action is usually done secretly and it is an individual’s choice whether to give a hint of their identity or stay anonymous. May Day was not established as a public holiday until 1933. As Labour Day, many political parties and unions host activities related to work and employment.

Finland
Celebrations among the younger generations take place on May Day Eve, see Walpurgis Night in Finland, most prominent being the afternoon ‘crowning’ of statues in towns around the country with a student cap. May Day is known as Vappu, from the Swedish term. This is a public holiday that is the only carnival-style street festivity in the country. People young and old, particularly students, party outside, picnic and wear caps or other decorative clothing.

Some Finns make a special lemonade from lemons, brown sugar, and yeast called “sima“. It contains very little alcohol, so even children can drink it. You can also buy a similar product in all stores. Some Finns also make doughnuts and a crisp pastry fried in oil made from a similar, more liquid dough. Balloons and other decorations like serpentines are seen everywhere.

Sweden
The more traditional festivities have moved to the day before, Walpurgis night (“Valborgsmässoafton”), known in some locales as simply “Last of April”.The first of May is instead celebrated as International Workers’ Day.

North America
Canada
May Day is celebrated in some parts of the Province of British Columbia. Celebrations often take place not on May 1 but during the Victoria Day long weekend, later in the month and when the weather is likely to be better. The honour of having the longest continually-observed May Da227603_324713214310645_881940249_ny in the British Commonwealth—since 1870—is claimed by the BC city of New Westminster.

United States
May Day was also celebrated by some early European settlers of the American continent. In some parts of the United States, May Baskets are made. These are small baskets usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone’s doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away. The person receiving the basket tries to catch the fleeing giver. If they catch the person, a kiss is exchanged.

During the Cold War, May Day celebrations fell out of favor due to its association with the USSR. Modern May Day ceremonies in the U.S. vary greatly from region to region and many unite both the holidays “Green Root” (pagan) and “Red Root” (labor) traditions.[11] May 1 is also recognized in the U.S. as Law Day.[12]

Hawaii
In Hawaii, May Day is also known as Lei Day, and is normally set aside as a day to celebrate island culture in general and native Hawaiian culture in particular. Invented by a poet and a local newspaper columnist Eric Kosciuszko in the 1920s, it has since been adopted by state and local government as well as the residents, and has taken on the sense of a general spring celebration. The first Lei Day was proposed in 1927 in Honolulu by poet and artist Don Blanding. Leonard “Red” and Ruth Hawk composed “May Day is Lei Day in Hawai’i,” the traditional holiday song. Originally it was a contemporary fox trot, later rearranged as the Hawaiian hula song performed today.

Excerpts taken from Wikipedia.

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Spiritblogger’s Message of the Moment – Happy Heart Day 2013!

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Come Into The Garden Maud

Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, Night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the roses blown.For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

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All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirr’d
To the dancers dancing in tune:
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.

I said to the lily, “There is but one
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play.”
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.

I said to the rose, “The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lordlover, what sighs are those
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine,” so I sware to the rose,
“For ever and ever, mine.”

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And the soul of the rose went into my blood,
As the music clash’d in the hall;
And long by the garden lake I stood,
For I heard your rivulet fall
From the lake to the meadow and on to the wood,
Our wood, that is dearer than all;

From the meadow your walks have left so sweet
That whenever a March-wind sighs
He sets the jewelprint of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes,
To the woody hollows in which we meet
And the valleys of Paradise.

64560_572678149415250_742256511_nThe slender acacia would not shake
One long milk-bloom on the tree;
The white lake-blossom fell into the lake,
As the pimpernel dozed on the lea;
But the rose was awake all night for your sake,
Knowing your promise to me;
The lilies and roses were all awake,
They sigh’d for the dawn and thee.

Queen rose of the rosebud garden of girls,
Come hither, the dances are done,
In gloss of satin and glimmer of pearls,
Queen lily and rose in one;
Shine out, little head, sunning over with curls,
To the flowers, and be their sun.

Black Magic Rose

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;”
And the white rose weeps, “She is late;”
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;”
And the lily whispers, “I wait.”

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

by Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Spirit Message of the Moment – Ideas to Honor and Celebrate Imbolc 2013

IMBOLC – A SPIRITUAL SABBAT
By February, most of us are tired of the cold, snowy season. Imbolc reminds us that spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. The sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we552996_437260819678953_875035806_n know that life is quickening within the soil. There are a number of different ways to celebrate this Sabbat.

Rituals and Ceremonies
Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc. Some people focus on the Celtic goddess Brighid, in her many aspects as a deity of fire and fertility. Others aim their rituals more towards the cycles of the season, and agricultural markers. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying. Imbolc is a time of celebration and ritual, often honoring Brighid, the goddess of the hearth. This is also a time of new beginnings and of purification. Celebrate the Imbolc season by performing rites and rituals that honor the themes of the end of winter.

Imbolc House Cleansing Ceremony
Many people have gotten into the habit of doing a spring cleaning, and it’s a good way to get yourself inspired. Once you’ve done a physical cleaning, invite your loved ones to join you in a spiritual cleansing as well.

Hold an Imbolc Candle Ritual (for Solitaries)
Imbolc is also known as Candlemas, and is considered a festival of fire. If you practice as a solitary, this ritual is a good one to do if you want to honor the aspects of fire and light that are observed on this day. Celebrate Imbolc with this fiery (yet simple) ritual.

Hold a Farewell to Winter Ritual
Tired of the snow and cold weather yet? At Imbolc, you and your family can do this simple rite to say goodbye to old man winter, and encourage the spring thaw to come along a bit sooner.

Imbolc Prayers – Prayers for the Imbolc Sabbat
If you’re looking for The Goddess Brigidprayers or blessings to celebrate the Sabbat of Imbolc, here’s where you’ll find a selection of devotionals that bid farewell to the winter months and honor the goddess Brighid.

Imbolc Meal Blessings
Imbolc is the celebration of the hearth goddess Brighid. Use one of these meal blessings as part of your Imbolc celebrations.

Brighid’s Fire Meal Blessing
Use this meal blessing to celebrate the fires of hearth and home.

Giving Thanks to Brighid Meal Blessing
Use this meal blessing in ceremonies honoring Brighid, the Irish goddess of hearth and home.

End of Winter Meal Blessing
Use this meal blessing in your ceremonies celebrating the end of winter.

Smooring the Fire – A Prayer to Brighid
The folklorist Alexander Carmichael collected hundreds of poems in prayers in his Carmina Gadelica. This is one variation on the theme of smooring the fire at Imbolc.

Brigantia, Keeper of the Forge
In her aspect as a goddess of the forge, Brighid is often seen as Brigantia, a warrior protectress of those who would swear her loyalty.

Brighid, Bride of Earth
In her role as the bride, Brighid is the patroness of domesticity and home. She also is associated with the Fae and the Tuatha de Danaan in Irish legend.

Brighid, Keeper of the Flame
Pay tribute to the hearth goddess Brighid, with this prayer honoring her role as the keeper of sacred flames.

Imbolc End-of-Winter Meditation

Say Farewell to the Dark Half of the Year

This meditative journey is one you can read ahead of time, and then recall as you meditate, or you can record yourself reading it aloud, and listen to it as a guided meditation later on. You can even read it alo2022_183499725124907_505103386_nud as part of a group ritual. The ideal place to perform this meditation is somewhere outside — try to pick a day that’s warm, or at the very least sunny. Go out in your garden, or sit under a tree in a park, or find a quiet spot near a stream.

Visualize yourself walking along a path. You are traveling through a forest, and as you walk, you notice that the trees are covered with the vibrant hues of autumn. There are reds, oranges, and yellows everywhere. A few leaves have fallen on the ground beside you, and the the air is cool and crisp. Stand for a moment, and take in the scent of fall.

As you continue down the path, you see the sky getting darker. The air has become more brisk, and the leaves are gently falling around you. Soon, the trees are bare, and there is a crunching sound beneath you. When you look down, the leaves are no longer bright with autumn’s colors. Instead, they are brown and brittle, and there is a light touch of frost on them. Winter has arrived. Breathe deeply, so that you can smell and taste the difference in the air.

The darkness is full now, but above you there is a full moon lighting your way. A snowflake falls in front if you, drifting down ever so slowly. Soon anoth8003_235841496519175_503883171_ner drifts down, and another. As you walk further, the snow begins to fall heavily. The crunch of your feet on the leaves is muffled, and soon you can’t hear anything at all. A blanket of pure white snow covers the forest floor, and everything is quiet, and still. There is a sense of magic in the air — a feeling of being in some other, special place. The real world has vanished with the sun, and all that remains now is you, and the darkness of winter. The snow glistens in the moonlight, and the night is cold. You can see your breath before you in the moonlit air.

As you continue through the forest, you begin to see a faint glimmer of light ahead. Unlike the silvery light of the moon, this is red and bright. You are beginning to get colder now, and the idea of warmth and light is promising. You walk on, and the red light draws closer. There is something special about it, something of relief and change and warmth.

You walk through the snow, up a steep path, and the snow is now up to your knees. It is becoming more difficult to travel, and you’re cold. All you want, more than anything, is a warm fire, and some hot food, and the companionship of your loved ones. But it seems that there is nothing but you and the snow and the night. It seems as though the light has grown closer, and yet is still unreachable. Eventually, you give up — there’s no reaching it, and you just keep walking through the snow.

As you come over the hillside, though, something happens. The forest is no longer surrounding you — in fact, there are only a few trees left on this side of the hill. Off in the distance, to t197321_430962586966295_1439268241_nhe east, the sun is rising. You continue on the path, and the snow fades away. No longer are you walking through great drifts — instead, you are on a muddy track, crossing an open field. In the meadow are tiny buds. Grass is peeking up from the dead, brown earth. Here and there, a cluster of bright flowers appears beside a stone, or beside the path. As you walk, the sun rises higher and higher, bright and orange in its glory. Its warmth embraces you, and soon your night of cold and darkness is forgotten.

Spring has come, and new life abounds. Flowers and vines are beginning to grow, and the earth is no longer dead and brown, but vibrant and fertile. As you walk in the sun’s warmth, you realize that winter has truly left you, and that you are renewed and reborn once more. Stand and bask in the light for a few minutes. Meditate on what sort of abundance you are looking forward to this season. Think about what you will plant in your own garden, and what new life you will bring forth.

Imbolc Traditions, Customs and Folklore
Ever wonder why we celebrate Imbolc the way we do? From the ancient Roman festival of Februalia to the legend of St. Valentine, this time of 538612_484567574933186_1050278486_nyear is rich in custom and tradition. Learn about some of the folklore and history behind today’s Imbolc celebrations.

Lupercalia: Celebrate the Coming of Spring

The ancient Romans celebrated the festival of Lupercalia in the middle of February. Learn how this Pagan celebration was an early version of Valentine’s Day.

Februalia: A Time of Purification

As times and spiritual needs changed, a number of different gods and goddesses were honored during the celebration of Februalia. This is a time of purification and cleansing, as well as of making offerings to the divine.

The Festival of Sementivae

Learn about the Roman festival of Sementivae, which falls every year during the Imbolc season.

All About Brighid

Brighid was an Irish hearth goddess who is still celebrated today by many Pagans. Learn about the different myths and legends associated with her, as well as rituals, prayers, and craft projects you can do in her honor.

All excerpts from Patti Wigington on about.com

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Spirit Message of the Day – Winter Solstice 2011 – A Season of Giving

CELEBRATING THE WINTER SOLSTICE
The December solstice will occur at 05:30 (or 5:30am) UTC on December 22, 2011. It is also known as the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and the summer solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences.

“Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel. Today, many people in Western-based cultures refer to this holiday as “Christmas.” Yet a look into its origins of Christmas reveals its Pagan roots. Emperor Aurelian established December 25 as the birthday of the “Invincible Sun” in the third century as part of the Roman Winter Solstice celebrations. Shortly thereafter, in 273, the Christian church selected this day to represent the birthday of Jesus, and by 336, this Roman solar feast day was Christianized. January 6, celebrated as Epiphany in Christendom and linked with the visit of the Magi, was originally an Egyptian date for the Winter Solstice.

Most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with “Christmas” actually are linked to Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures. While Christian mythology is interwoven with contemporary observances of this holiday time, its Pagan nature is still strong and apparent. Pagans today can readily re-Paganize Christmastime and the secular New Year by giving a Pagan spiritual focus to existing holiday customs and by creating new traditions that draw on ancient ways. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Celebrate Yule with a series of rituals, feasts, and other activities. In most ancient cultures, the celebration lasted more than a day. The ancient Roman Saturnalia festival sometimes went on for a week. Have Winter Solstice Eve and Day be the central focus for your household, and conceptualize other holiday festivities, including New Year’s office parties and Christmas visits with Christian relatives, as part of your Solstice celebration. By adopting this perspective, Pagan parents can help their children develop an understanding of the multicultural and interfaith aspects of this holiday time and view “Christmas” as just another form of Solstice. Have gift exchanges and feasts over the course of several days and nights as was done of old. Party hearty on New Year’s Eve not just to welcome in the new calendar year, but also to welcome the new solar year.
  • Adorn the home with sacred herbs and colors. Decorate your home in Druidic holiday colors red, green, and white. Place holly, ivy, evergreen boughs, and pine cones around your home, especially in areas where socializing takes place. Hang a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold and leave it there until next Yule as a charm for good luck throughout the year. Have family/household members join together to make or purchase an evergreen wreath. Include holiday herbs in it and then place it on your front door to symbolize the continuity of life and the wheel of the year. If you choose to have a living or a harvested evergreen tree as part of your holiday decorations, call it a Solstice tree and decorate it with Pagan symbols.
  • Convey love to family, friends, and associates. At the heart of Saturnalia was the custom of family and friends feasting together and exchanging presents. Continue this custom by visiting, entertaining, giving gifts, and sending greetings by mail and/or phone. Consider those who are and/or have been important in your life and share appreciation.
  • Reclaim Santa Claus as a Pagan Godform. Today’s Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by  goats), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), and the Tomte (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year). Santa’s reindeer can be viewed as forms of Herne, the Celtic Horned God. Decorate your home with Santa images that reflect His Pagan heritage.
  • Honor the Goddess as Great Mother. Place Pagan Mother Goddess images around your home. You may also want to include one with a Sun child, such as Isis with Horus. Pagan Goddess forms traditionally linked with this time of year include Tonantzin (Native Mexican corn mother), Holda (Teutonic earth goddess of good fortune), Bona Dea (Roman women’s goddess of abundance and prophecy), Ops (Roman goddess of plenty), Au Set/Isis (Egyptian/multicultural All Goddess whose worship continued in Christian times under the name Mary), Lucina/St. Lucy (Roman/Swedish goddess/saint of light), and Befana (Italian Witch who gives gifts to children at this season).
  • Honor the new solar year with light. Do a Solstice Eve ritual in which you meditate in darkness and then welcome the birth of the sun by lighting candles and singing chants and Pagan carols. If you have an indoor fireplace or an outdoor fire circle, burn an oak log as a Yule log and save a bit to start next year’s fire. Decorate the inside and/or outside of your home with electric colored lights. Because of the popularity of five pointed stars as holiday symbols, this is a good time to display a pentagram of blue or white lights.
  • Contribute to the manifestation of more wellness on Planet Earth. Donate food and clothing to poor in your area. Volunteer time at a social service agency. Put up bird feeders and keep them filled throughout the winter to supplement the diets of wild birds. Donate funds and items to non-profit groups, such as Pagan/Wiccan churches and environmental organizations. Meditate for world peace. Work magic for a healthier planet. Make a pledge to do some form of good works in the new solar year.”

References

  • Campanelli, Pauline & Dan, Wheel of the Year: Living the Magical Life. St. Paul: LLewellyn, 1989, pages 1-16.
  • Crim, Keith, editor, The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989, pages 154, 182.
  • Ek, Hildur, Jul Tomtar, Jul Bockar and Sheaves of Grain. Lindsborg, KS: Barbos Printing, 1983.
  • Farrar, Janet & Stewart, Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Hale, 1981, chapter 11.
  • Funk & Wagnalls, Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1979, pages 229-230, 974-975,
  • Royale, Duncan, History of Santa: from 2000 BC to the 20th Century. Fullerton, CA: M. E. Duncan, 1987.
  • Scullard, H. H., Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981. pages 205-212.

Article by Selena Fox – Circle Sanctuary.

To read SpiritbloggerKIDS blog click here to learn additional ideas to celebrate Winter Solstice 2011.

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Spirit Message of the Day – Celebrate Samhain 2011

Samhain’s History
Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), dates back to the ancient Celts who lived 2,000 years ago. Contrary to what some believe, is not a celebration of a Celtic god of the dead. Instead, it is a Celtic word meaning “summer’s end.” The Celts believed that summer came to an end on October 31st and the New Year began on November 1st with the start of winter. But the Celts also followed a lunar calendar and their celebrations began at sunset the night before.

Many today see Halloween as the pagan holiday. But that’s not really accurate. As the pagan holiday of Samhain is on November 1st. But their celebrations did and still do, start at sunset on October 31st, on Samhain Eve. During the day on October 31st, the fires within the home are extinguished. Often families would engage in a good “fall” cleaning to clear out the old and make way for the new. Starting the winter months with fresh and clean household items.

At sunset on October 31, clans or local villages begin the formal ceremonies of Samhain by lighting a giant bonfire. The people would gather around the fire to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. It was a method of giving the Gods
and Goddesses their share of the previous years herd or crops. In addition these sacred fires were a big part of the cleansing of the old year and a method to prepare for the coming new year.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, and danced around the bonfire. Many of these dances told stories or played out the cycles of life and death or commemorated the cycle of Wheel of Life. These costumes were adorned for three primary reasons.

The first was to honor the dead who were allowed to rise from the Otherworld. The Celts believed that souls were set free from the land of the dead during the eve of Samhain. Those that had been trapped in the bodies of animals were released by the Lord of the Dead and sent to their new incarnations. The wearing of these costumes signified the release of these souls into the physical world.

Not all of these souls were honored and respected. Some were also feared as they would return to the physical world and destroy crops, hide livestock or ‘haunt’ the living who may have done them wrong. The second reason for these traditional costumes was to hide from these malevolent spirits to escape their trickery.

The final representation was a method to honor the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of the harvest, fields and flocks. Giving thanks and homage to those deities who assisted the village or clan through the trials and tribulations of the previous year. And to ask for their favor during the coming year and the harsh winter months that were approaching.

In addition to celebrations and dance, it was believed that this thin veil between the physical world and the Otherworld provided extra energy for communications between the living and the dead. With these communications, Druid Priests, and Celtic Shamans would attempt to tell the fortunes of individual people through a variety of methods. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

These psychic readings would be conducted with a variety of divination tools. Such as throwing bones, or casting the Celtic Ogham. There is some historical evidence that additional tools of divination were also used. Most of this comes from writings recorded by Roman invaders, but there are stories of reading tea leaves, rocks and twigs, and even simple spiritual
communications that today we’d call Channeling. Some historians have suggested that these early people were the first to use tiles made from wood and painted with various images which were the precursor to Tarot Cards. There’s no real evidence to support this, but the ‘story’ of these tiles has lingered for centuries.

When the community celebration was over, each family would take a torch or burning ember from the sacred bonfire and return to their own home. The home fires that has been extinguished during the day were re-lit by the flame of the sacred bonfire to help protect the dwelling and it’s inhabitants during the coming winter. These fires were kept burning night and day during the next several months. It was believed that if a home lost it’s fire, tragedy and troubles would soon follow. With the hearth fires lit, the families would place food and drink outside their doors. This was done to appease the roaming spirits who might play tricks on the family.

The Romans began to conquer the Celtic territories. By A.D. 43 they had succeeded in claiming the majority of the Celtic lands. They ruled for approximately four hundred years combining or influencing many Celtic traditional celebrations with their own.
Two Roman holidays were merged with Samhain.

  1. Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.
  2. Pomona’s Day of Honoring, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

Samhain to Halloween
With the coming of Christianity in the 800s AD, the early Church in England tried to Christianize the old Celtic festivals. Pope Boniface IV designated the 1st of November as “All Saints Day,” honoring saints and martyrs. He also decreed October 31 as “All Hallows Eve”, that eventually became Hallow’een.  Scholars today widely accept that the Pope was attempting to replace the earlier Celtic pagan festival with a church-sanctioned holiday. As this Christian holiday spread, the name evolved as well. Also called All-hallows Eve or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day). 200 years later, in 1000 AD, the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It is celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints’, All Saints’, and All Souls’ day, are called Hallowmas.

November 1st or May 13th?
Some people confuse Samhain being originally celebrated in May with other pagan and early Christian holidays. Samhain comes from the Gaelic word samain. “Sam” – summer and “fuin” – end. It literally means Summer’s End. The early Irish and Brythonic cultures believed the year was divided in half. The dark half and the light half. Samhain marked the end of the light half and the beginning of the Celtic new year or the dark half.

According to Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia (1979 Vol 12 p 152), The Druids originated the holiday. It was a celebration of Saman Lord of the Dead who was the God of Evil Spirits. There is some debate about this origination as the Druids were not the only, or the first spiritual pagans of Ireland.

Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of the Celts come from their trade routes with the Greeks. Their culture can be followed with great precision from the 5th Century BC through the La Tène culture. From these early records with the Greeks we know of some of their great festivals and in particular one of their biggest Samhain the new years festival. Certainly we can gain information from Julius Caesar who wrote extensively about the Gauls during his invasion campaigns in Ireland during 4th Century BC. Eventually Rome is sacked by the Celts in 3rd Century BC, around 390BC. The Romans in general wrote of their warlike inhabitants and many of their barbaric celebrations which included Samhain

The confusion of May to November 1st probably comes from the Christians and pagan Roman festivals. The Roman Empire was a pagan culture. During their reign they held many pagan festivals and celebrations, one being the Feast of the Lemures on May 13th. During this time malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were appeased and participants would attempt to gain the favor of the spirits. The feast covered a three day period that honored “all the dead” with food, drink and sacrifice.

At the same time Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs. This was celebrated in the west from May 13, 609 to 610. Pope Gregory III (731–741) during an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, moved All Saints Day to November 1.

This is further confused by the early Irish churches who did not celebrate All Hallows Day in November or May, but rather in early spring on April 20th during the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Talaght. A festival of All Saints was already widely celebrated in the days of Charlemagne in November. But it took a decree at the insistence of Pope Gregory IV to all the bishops, that the celebration be confirmed on November 1st.

These early similar celebrations come together around 835AD. The Roman pagan festival is over taken by the early Church, the Irish Church conforms it’s celebrations with Rome, and everyone seems to move their day of the dead to coincide with early Irish pagans and their celebration of Samhain on November 1st. There’s no doubt, however, that the Irish festival of Samhain has always been at the end of summer on November 1st, and has been one of the prominent harvest festivals for Celtic pagans from the past and the present.

The Evolution Of Halloween
“Trick-or-treating” is a modern tradition that probably finds it’s roots in the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

“Dressing up” for Halloween gets it roots from dressing up around the sacred bonfire during the original Celtic festival. Some suggest, this practice originates from England, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world on Halloween. People thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes, so to avoid being recognized people would wear masks after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. In addition, these early English people, would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter or cause harm to their homes. A tradition obviously taken from the ancient Celtic pagans.

As European came to America, they brought their varied Halloween traditions with them. Celebration of Halloween in colonial times was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. Primarily because Celtic immigrants settled more in these regions than in the north.

As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups meshed together a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America entered an age of mysticism. What was more often termed spiritualism. Metaphysical groups and clubs began to spring up throughout the Golden Age and the wealthier set of Americans. At the same time, America was welcoming a new group of immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846. This new cultural influence brought with it a melding of Irish and English traditions, and a new Americans culture was born. People began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of their efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the
beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during
the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated.

Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. By the 1990s, Americans have made Halloween one of the largest commercial holidays. Spending an estimated $6.9 billion annually on Halloween costumes, accessories, decorations and pumpkins.

Samhain Traditions
To pagans the world over, November 1st, still marks the beginning of the New Year. To Witches and Pagans, Samhain is the Festival of the Dead, and for many, it is the most important Sabbat (Holiday) of the year. Although the Feast of the Dead forms a major part of most Pagan celebrations on this eve, and at Samhain voluntary communications are expected and hoped for. The departed are never harassed, and their presence is never commanded. The spirits of the dead are, however, ritually invited to attend the Sabbat and to be present within the Circle.

Orange and Black
The colors of this Sabbat are black and orange. Black to represent the time of darkness after the death of the God (who is represented by fire and the sun) during an earlier Sabbat known as Lughnasadh, and the waning of light during the day. Orange represents the awaiting of the dawn during Yule (Dec. 21st to Jan. 1st) when the God is reborn.

Jack O’Lanterns
There is some debate about the origination of Jack-o-lanterns. One line suggests this custom originated from the lighting of candles for the dead to follow as they walked the earth. These candles were placed in hallowed out gourds and put on the ground to light the way. Others suggest the practice originates from a Christianized Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.”

Stingy Jack and the Devil enter a pub to have a drink. Jack convinces the Devil to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks. But instead of using the coin, Jack slipped it into his pocket and next to a silver cross. The cross prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. But Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year. And if Jack should die during that year, the Devil would not claim his soul. And the Devil agreed to these terms.

Jack again tricked the Devil. This time, the Devil climbed into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree’s bark so that the Devil could not come down. Once again, Jacked struck a bargain with the Devil. He would free the Devil from the tree if he promised not to bother Jack for ten more years. And if Jack died during those years, the Devil would not claim his soul. And the Devil again agreed to these terms.

Not long after this, Jack did indeed died. But because of his trickery, God would not allow him into heaven. In keeping his word not to take his soul, the Devil also would not allow Jack into hell. Instead, the Devil sent Jack out into the darkness of the world between worlds with nothing but a burning piece of coal. Jack placed the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since. The Irish began to refer to Jack’s ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply as “Jack O’Lantern.”

The Irish and Scottish people began making lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away the wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets were used. Immigrants from these countries brought the tradition to America where they found the pumpkin, a fruit native to America, that made the perfect jack o’lanterns.

Tricks & Treats
Treats also originated from an old custom of leaving cookies and other foods out for those relatives to enjoy as they shared this one night of feasting. The ‘trick’ portion of “Trick or Treat” was an invention of the Christians. The tricks were supposedly caused by the dead who didn’t receive a treat of food left for them when they arrived at your door.

The Controversary of Samhain and Halloween
As Halloween, All Hallows Eve are Christian created holidays devised by the early Churches of Europe as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. The celebrations were indeed taken from pagan practices, but their purposes have long since been corrupted and are no longer pagan in nature. Right down to being practiced on October 31st. The modern celebrations of Halloween do not take away or alter the spiritual significance of Samhain for pagan practitioners. The Sabbat is still intact and still honored with reverence and in the traditional methods practiced by our ancient pagan ancestors. The main focus of the holiday for pagans is still to honor our loved ones who have passed on and to share in communication with them during this time when the veil between worlds is narrowed.

Excerpts taken from paganspath.com.

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Spirit Message of the Day – Celebrate Mabon 2011

AUTUMN EQUINOX RECIPES FOR MABON 2011
“Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year’s crops. The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.

At this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain. It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of rest, relaxation, and reflection.

Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life. May your  Mabon be memorable, and your hearts and spirits be filled to overflowing!” (Excerpts from http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/mabon.htm)

DARK HONEY WHEAT BREAD
“At Mabon, we celebrate the goddess in her aspect as the crone, or the Dark Mother. She is Demeter, she is Hecate, she is the wise old woman wielding a scythe rather than a basket of blooming flowers. This honey wheat blend is a delicious way to celebrate the end of the harvest and say farewell to the fertile months of summer. Serve warm with herbed oils for dipping, or with a big scoop of Apple Butter. Make this either in your bread machine, or by kneading it by hand.”

  • 2 C. warm water
  • 1 Tbs. active dry yeast
  • 1/3 C. honey
  • 3 C. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 4 C. all purpose baking
    flour
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon

“Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add honey and mix well. Stir in the whole wheat flour, salt, cinnamon, vegetable oil, and butter and mix until a stiff dough has formed. Gradually work the all-purpose flour into the mix, one cup at a time. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured countertop, and knead for about fifteen minutes. When it reaches the point where it’s sort of elastic, shape it into a ball and place it into an oiled bowl. Cover with a warm, damp cloth, and allow to sit and rise until it’s doubled in size — usually about 45 minutes.

Punch the dough down and cut in half, so you can make two loaves of bread. Place each half in a greased loaf pan, and allow to rise. Once the dough has risen an inch or two above the top of the loaf pan, pop them in the oven. Bake at 375 for half an hour, or until golden brown at the top. When you remove the loaves from the oven, allow to cool for about fifteen minutes before removing from the pan. If you like, brush some melted butter over the top of the hot loaves, to add a pretty golden glaze to them.

Note – If you’re doing this in a bread machine, remember, the recipes makes two loaves. Halve everything if you’re allowing the machine to do the mixing. If you hand mix it, you can still drop the single-loaf balls of dough into the
machine to bake.”

APPLE BUTTER
Apple butter is a delicious treat all year long, and if you make it in the fall with fresh apple sauce, you can preserve it to eat later on. Enjoy this tasty spread on warm bread, or just straight from the jar! You’ll need basic canning supplies like Mason jars with lids, a pair of tongs, and a big pot to get started. This recipe should yield you about ten pints of apple butter.

  • 9 quarts of applesauce
  • 2 C. apple cider
  • 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs, ground cloves
  • 1 Tbs. nutmeg
  • 3 C. sugar (more if you
    like really sweet apple butter)

You can make this recipe with homemade or store-bought applesauce. Homemade tastes far better, so if you’ve never made your own applesauce, check out the Applesauce recipe at our Family Crafts site. Fill a crock pot with as much applesauce as it takes to bring you about an inch from the top — this will NOT hold all of the applesauce, unless you have a REALLY big crock pot, but that’s okay. It should take about half the applesauce if you use a 5-quart crock.

Add 1 C. of the cider, half the cinnamon, half the cloves and nutmeg, and 1 1/2 C. of the sugar. Set the crock pot on Low, and cover. Allow the applesauce to cook on low setting for about 8 – 12 hours.  Around the 10-hour point, check the amount of applesauce in the pot. It should have reduced significantly by now, so add in the remaining quarts of applesauce, spices, cider and sugar. Mix thoroughly to blend with the applesauce that’s already in the pot, and allow to simmer for a few more hours, until the applesauce has reduced to a nice, thick brown apple butter.

Optional – use a hand-held mixer to blend the apple butter into a creamy, smooth texture. Finally, can the apple butter using the following steps: Home Canning Basics, so you’ll have apple butter that lasts for months in your pantry. Serve your apple butter with a loaf of warm, soft bread, or eat it straight from the jar! (Excerpts
taken from http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/maboncooking)

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 (2 to 3 pound) butternut squash, peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • ½ teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Saffron
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut squash into large chunks and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until fork tender with an olive oil sprinkle. In large pot melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent, then garlic. Add roasted squash and stock.
Bring to a simmer. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and place in a blender and puree. Return blended squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron, salt, and pepper. Serve with a splash of olive oil and bread. Enjoy!

To make apple shrunken heads – click here to visit Spiritblogger for KIDS!