Spirit Message of the Moment – Take the Reign of Change

THE SPIRIT ANIMAL – THE RAVEN

“I am Raven. I am the deep magic from the north and the ancient connection between you and the immortal. I am proof that your world is changing. You are missing the hidden threads that bind your experi73372_474598435933242_2130469691_nence. There are great things at work. There are manifestations at your feet. I want to help you see the magic and teach you how to use it. I am the bird that transports you from one realm to the next. I am the portal, granting you access from the solid grounds of Earth. I am that which appears from nothing. There is no greater power than your own will to sustain your vision. When you see me coming down from the lonely mountainside it is time to take the reign. I may appear only once, so grab the chance when you see it. Take your whims and ground them. Take your futility and shatter it to pieces. Stop accepting the chaos around you. Stop allowing your energy to dissipate and give it form and substance.”

MESSAGE FOR YOU

“You are a magician. You are the missing piece of the puzzle. You are connectivity. You are Raven.”

lisahuntToday’s guidance is from The Winged Enchantment Oracle Deck by Lisa Hunt and Lesley Morrison.

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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.

To contact Spiritblogger email me direct angelsoulstorms@gmail.com

Spirit Message of the Day – Bright Beltane Blessings to You 2011

A Blessed Beltane to You

It’s the Beltane season for our Northern Hemisphere readers, and the traditional time to begin observing the fertility celebrations. If you lived in rural England a few centuries ago, you’d be preparing your bonfire, and figuring out which of your lusty neighbors you wanted to pair off with for the evening. In Germanic countries, they’re busy getting ready for Walpurgisnight, and the ancient Romans were gearing up for their annual Floralia party.

Set up your Maypole and get ready to welcome the greening of the earth. No matter how you choose to observe it, Beltane is a time to honor the fertility and rebirth of the land, the abundance of life that returns to us each year after the cold winter months have passed. May you and yours have a fruitful and blessed Beltane.

Beltane Rites and Rituals

There are a number of ways you can celebrate Beltane on May 1. Hold a bonfire ceremony, a traditional Maypole dance, or even a Handfasting celebration! Beltane is a time to celebrate fertility and the greening of the earth. Try some of these celebrations and ritual ideas at Beltane to honor the arrival of spring and new life.

Setting Up Your Beltane Altar – What To Include on Your Beltane Altar

Okay, so we know that Beltane is a fertility festival… but how do you translate that into altar setup? Here are some tips about how to set up your altar to celebrate the Beltane sabbat.

Beltane Altar Photo Gallery

Beltane is a celebration of fertility and fire, and a number of our readers have shared their altar decorations with us. Check out this image gallery to see how other Pagans and Wiccans set up their altar for Beltane.

Celebrate Beltane with a Maypole Dance

The Maypole is one of the traditional symbols of Beltane, and let’s not kid ourselves about its purpose: it’s a giant phallus. Because Beltane festivities usually kicked off the night before with a big bonfire, the Maypole celebration usually took place shortly after sunrise the next morning. This was when couples (and probably more than a few surprised triads) came staggering in from the fields, clothes in disarray and straw in their hair after a night of bonfire-inspired lustiness. Here’s How:

  1. The pole was erected on the village green or common, or even a handy field — thrust into the ground either permanently or on a temporary basis — and brightly colored ribbons attached to it. Young people came and danced around the pole, each holding the end of a ribbon. As they wove in and out, men going one way and women the other, it created a sleeve of sorts — the enveloping womb of the earth — around the pole. By the time they were done, the Maypole was nearly invisible beneath a sheath of ribbons.
  2. To set up your own Maypole dance, here’s what you’ll need:
  • A pole anywhere from 15 to 20 feet long, preferably made of wood
  • Guests who like to have fun

Dig a hole in advance, a few feet deep. You don’t want your friends to wait while you hunt for a shovel. The hole should be at least three feet deep, to keep the pole from flopping over during the ceremony.

  1. Ask each participant to bring their own ribbon — it should be about 20 feet long, by two to three inches wide. Once everyone arrives, attach the ribbons to one end of the pole (if you put a metal eyelet screw in the pole beforehand, it makes it a lot easier — you can just tie each ribbon to the eyelet). Have extra ribbons on hand, because inevitably someone will have forgotten theirs.
  2. Once the ribbons are attached, raise the pole until it is vertical, and slide it into the hole. Be sure to make lots of bawdy jokes here. Pack dirt in around the base of the pole so it won’t shift or fall during the dance.
  3. If you don’t have an equal number of male and female guests, don’t worry. Just have everyone count off by twos. People who are “1” will go in a clockwise direction, people who are “2” go counterclockwise. Hold your ribbons in the hand that is closest to the pole, your inside hand. As you move in the circle, pass people by on first the left, and then the right, then the left again. If you’re passing them on the outside, hold your ribbon up so they pass under it. You might want to do a practice round beforehand. Keep going until everyone runs out of ribbon, and then knot all the ribbons at the bottom.
  4. One thing that’s always welcome at a Maypole Dance is music. There are a number of CDs available, but there are some bands whose music have a May theme to them. Look for the phrase “Morris music” or traditional pipe and drum tunes. Of course, the best thing of all is to have live music, so if you have friends who are willing to share their skill and sit out the dance, ask them to provide some musical entertainment for you.

Tips: If you’re doing a kids’ Maypole, it’s probably easier just to have them all go in one direction with their ribbons. It doesn’t look quite as fancy when it’s done, but it’s still pretty. You may want to have a crown of flowers attached as well — put that at the top once all the ribbons are in place, but before you raise the pole.

What You Need: A pole, Lots of ribbon, Friends who like to have a good time

Hold a Beltane Bonfire Rite

The Beltane bonfire is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The fire was more than a big pile of logs and some flame. It was a place where the entire community gathered around — a place of music and magic and dancing and lovemaking. It was customary to light the fire on May Eve (the last night of April) and allow it to burn until the sun went down on May 1. The bonfire was lit with a bundle made from nine different types of wood and wrapped with colorful ribbons. Once the fire was blazing, a piece of smoldering wood was taken to each home in the village, to ensure fertility throughout the summer months.

Here’s How:

  1. This was typically the time of year when fairs and markets were held, and as most country villages had a common or a green of some sort, there was always room for merriment. Depending on where you live, you might not have enough space for a big bonfire or dancing — and that’s okay. Just make do with what you have. An alternative to a large bonfire might be a small fire bowl (they’re usually available at discount stores and home improvement chains) or even a tabletop brazier. If you’re in an apartment and space is at a premium, consider building your fire in a small cauldron or other heat resistant bowl.
  2. Beltane is the spring counterpart to Samhain. While in the autumn, everything is dying, in spring it comes alive, glorious and bursting free from the earth. Beltane is about fertility and sex and passion and life. This ceremony is designed for a group, and includes a symbolic union of the May Queen and the King of the Forest. Depending on the relationship between the people playing these roles, you can get as lusty as you like. If you’re doing a family-oriented Beltane celebration, you may choose instead to keep things fairly tame.
  3. For this ritual you’ll need the following:
  • A bonfire — set it up ahead of time, and designate someone to be in charge of lighting and tending it
  • A May Queen — if possible, select a woman to play this part who is still within her childbearing years
  • A King of the Forest — any adult man can play this role, but it’s even better if he’s someone who is actually partnered with the woman playing the May Queen
  • Drums and other noisemakers
  • Optional: a crown of flowers for each of the females present
  • Optional: a headdress of antlers for each of the males present
  1. First, have the group circle around the fire, with the May Queen and the King of the Forest on opposite sides. The High Priest (HP) or High Priestess (HPs) should welcome everyone with something like this:

Beltane is here! It is a time when the earth is fertile and full.
Long ago, our ancestors planted their fields at Beltane.
The fields that lay fallow for months are now warm and waiting.
The soil that was dormant for the winter now begs us to plant our seeds.
The earth is awakening and ripe, and this is a season of love and passion.
It is a season of fire.

  1. At this point, the fire starter should begin lighting the bonfire. The HP or HPS continues:

As our fires grow, lighting up the night sky, the fire within us grows stronger.
It is the fire of lust and passion, knowing that like the earth, we too are fertile.
Tonight, the God emerges from the forest. He is known by many names —
he is Pan, Herne, Cernunnos, the Green Man. He is the God of the Forest.
Tonight is the night he will chase and capture the maiden.
She is the Queen of the May, Aphrodite, Venus, Cerridwen.
She is the Goddess of fields and flowers, she is Mother Earth herself.

  1. As the HP introduces the God of the Forest and the May Queen, they should each step forward into the circle. The HP says:

Bring fertility to the land! Let the hunt begin!

  1. At this point, the May Queen and the God of the Forest begin the chase, traveling sunwise around the circle, weaving in and out of the other participants. Remember, the May Queen wants to make love to the God of the Forest. This is a fun chase, a joyful courtship, not a mock rape; make sure both parties understand this and prepare accordingly. She can even allow him to get close to her, pretending she’s ready to join him… and then slipping away at the last second. They should travel the circle three times in the chase, and finally stop at a point in front of the bonfire — hopefully, it will be burning well by now.
  2. While the God of the Forest is pursuing his lady love, everyone else in the circle starts drumming. Start of slowly — after all, a courtship can take some time to get started. As the couple begins to speed up, increase the tempo of the music. If you’d like to chant instead of or in addition to drumming, go ahead. There are many popular traditional chants in Wicca and Paganism, and nearly all sound good when you sing them with a group. When the May Queen and the God of the Forest finally complete their three-times journey of the circle, the drums should stop abruptly.
  3. The HP says:

Fire and passion, love and life, brought together as one.

At this point, the May Queen says to the God of the Forest:

I am the earth, the womb of all creation.
Within me, new life grows each year.
Water is my blood, air my breath, and fire is my spirit.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.

The God of the Forest replies to her, saying:

I am the rutting stag, the seed, the energy of life.
I am the mighty oak that grows in the forest.
I give you honor, and shall create new life with you.

  1. The couple kisses, long and passionate. If they’re feeling really lusty, they can fall to the ground and roll around for a while — feel free to cover them with a blanket if you like. This kiss (or more) is the symbolic union of the male and female spirit, the great rite between man and woman. Once the embrace is broken, the HP calls out:

The earth is once more growing new life within! We shall be blessed with abundance this year!

  1. Everyone else in the circle claps and cheers — after all, you’ve just guaranteed that your village will have hearty crops and strong livestock this year! Celebrate by dancing around the bonfire, drumming and singing. When you are ready, end the ritual.

Tips:  If you have a woman in your group who is trying to conceive, she is absolutely the best choice for the role of May Queen. Her partner or lover may act the part of the God of the Forest, or another man may stand in as a symbolic consort.

What You Need: A bonfire, A couple willing to play the parts of May Queen and God of the Forest, Drums and noisemakers

Handfastings: A Pagan and Wiccan Wedding Primer

More and more Pagans and Wiccans are turning to handfasting rituals, rather than traditional weddings. Here’s where you’ll find information about the history of the custom, as well as proper handfasting etiquette, and ideas for ceremonies.

Pagan Clergy Listings

Are you Pagan clergy with services to offer our readers, such as handfastings, baby blessings, or memorial celebrations? You can post your listings here! Readers, if you’re looking for Pagan clergy in your area, be sure to check our listings to see who’s near you.

Handfasting History: An Old Tradition Made New

Handfasting was common centuries ago in the British Isles, and then vanished for a while. Now, however, it’s seeing a rising popularity among Wiccan and Pagan couples who are interested in tying the knot. Find out where this custom came from, and what brought it back.

All Excerpts from Patti Wiginton on about.com

Spirit Message of the Day – Fly With Courage Into the Unknown

THE GUARDIANS
“For wonderful outcomes; all decisions must be made in the spirit of trust and adventure: the very spirit you have displayed in asking us to assist you. In order for you to understand which direction you must now travel in, you must gain a higher perspective. It is not mean to try and be ‘better’ or in any way ‘higher’ than anyone else, but to fly as an eagle or one of the Dragonfae would, high above the situation, so you can see its ramifications and lessons, its wisdom and knowledge spreading through time and space. This way you will know which direction to take next.”

“Ask the Dragonfae to send you visions and messages from this higher perspective, so we can assist you to make the decision, always understanding that while you may see much from this perspective, you will never know all. We will fly you high above this crossroads and from this point you will see your choices in their splendour and diversity.”

ABOUT THE GUARDIANS
“These beings are  your magickal helpers, they are able to lift you up in order to assist you in seeing. If you feel you cannot see, they will describe to you the choices before you, but they will also help you to understand that at this time you are indeed at a crossroads, and that you are under their care. They are kin and they will walk or fly the road with you, until you are ready to take the steps yourself. Be unafraid of the decision you now need to make, of the move that may be necessary. Your haven is within  your heart, your sanctuary is within your soul. Be ready to become a being who travels and explores, who is about to embark upon an adventure to unknown lands, both inner and outer.”

MESSAGE FOR YOU
“Travel, change of address or circumstance, be prepared to carry what you feel is yours forth into the new place that is calling you in the world, a new time, a shedding of your sacred place-skin, a return to an ancient home; a calling to a future self, and an answer. help from powerful companions when it comes to relocating, friendships in faraway places. Astral travelling to lands that are sometimes known as ‘fantasy’ realms, but which are in fact dimensional realities you have access to – now. Ask the Dragonfae to carry you safely there are back. Promotions, recognition, increase in attention in your career.”

WORKING WITH THE GUARDIANS
“Making plans to move forward, packing up and letting go of the old, reducing the amount of material possessions that no longer speak to you, becoming the wanderer, the traveller for a time, a time of exile where you may be unsure of where your home lies. Know that this is the time of the being who migrates and takes flight, and who has many lives and homes in this one span of time where you are in your present earth body which, by the way, is a sacred tool. Use it to fly above what you can see from the ground, and gain a higher viewpoint. Think of the Dragonfae, flying high above, and you will fly further than you have dreamt of. Consider the element of air more often.”

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

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Spirit Message of the Day – Ideas to Connect With Your Ancestors

Samhain Rituals and Ceremonies
Looking for a ceremony or ritual to celebrate the Pagan sabbat of Samhain? Here’s where you’ll find a number of rituals, all of which can be adapted either for solitaries or a group. Samhain Ancestor Meditation: It’s Samhain, and that means for many Pagans and Wiccans it’s time to commune with the ancestors. Use this simple meditation technique to call upon those who walked before us — you may be surprised at some of the people you meet! Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death Samhain is known as the witch’s new year. It is a time to think about the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. With this ritual, you can celebrate all three aspects either with a group or as a solitary.

A Time of Darkness
Samhain is known as the night when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. It’s a time to sit back and honor the spirit world, and call upon those ancestors who came before us. After all, if not for them, we wouldn’t be here. We owe them something, some gratitude for their ability to survive, their strength, their spirit. Many Wiccans and Pagans choose Samhain as a time to honor their ancestors. If this is something you’d like to do, you can celebrate with a ritual or by hosting a seance or dumb supper in their honor.

In addition to these more formal rituals, you may also want to take some time alone for a quiet meditation. This is a point in the Wheel of the Year when the spirit world is a bit closer than normal, and if you’ve never tried to contact your ancestors before, now is a good time to do it.

How to Honor the Ancestors at Samhain
For many modern Pagans and Wiccans, there has been a resurgence of interest in our family histories. We want to know where we came from and whose blood runs through our veins. Although ancestor worship has traditionally been found more in Africa and Asia, many Pagans with European heritage are beginning to feel the call of their ancestry. This rite can be performed either by itself, or on the third night of Samhain, following the End of Harvest celebration and the Honoring of the Animals.

Here’s How:

  1. First, decorate your altar table — you may have already gotten it set up during the End of Harvest rite or for the Ritual for Animals. Decorate your altar with family photos and heirlooms. If you have a family tree chart, place that on there as well. Add postcards, flags, and other symbols of the country your ancestors came from. If you’re lucky enough to live near where your family members are buried, make a grave rubbing and add that as well. In this case, a cluttered altar is perfectly acceptable — after all, each of us is a blend of many different people and cultures.
  2. Have a meal standing by to eat with the ritual. Include lots of dark bread, apples, fall vegetables, and a jug of cider or wine. Set your dinner table, with a place for each family member, and one extra plate for the ancestors. You may want to bake some Soul Cakes.

If your family has household guardians, include statues or masks of them on your altar. Finally, if a relative has died this year, place a candle for them on the altar. Light candles for other relatives, and as you do so, say the person’s name aloud. It’s a good idea to use tealights for this, particularly if you have a lot of relatives to honor.

  1. Once all the candles have been lit, the entire family should circle the altar. The oldest adult present leads the ritual. Say:

This is the night when the gateway between
our world and the spirit world is thinnest.
Tonight is a night to call out those who came before us.
Tonight we honor our ancestors.
Spirits of our ancestors, we call to you,
and we welcome you to join us for this night.
We know you watch over us always,
protecting us and guiding us,
and tonight we thank you.
We invite you to join us and share our meal.

  1. The oldest family member then serves everyone else a helping of whatever dishes have been prepared, except for the wine or cider. A serving of each food goes on the ancestors’ plate before the other family members recieve it. During the meal, share stories of ancestors who are no longer among the living — this is the time to remember Grandpa’s war stories he told you as a child, tell about when Aunt Millie used salt instead of sugar in the cake, or reminisce about summers spent at the family homestead in the mountains.
  2. When everyone has finished eating, clear away all the dishes, except for the ancestors’ plate. Pour the cider or wine in a cup, and pass it around the circle (it should end at the ancestor’s place). As each person recieves the cup, they recite their genealogy, like so:

I am Susan, daughter of Joyce, the daughter of Malcolm, son of Jonathan…

and so forth. Feel free to add in place names if you like, but be sure to include at least one generation that is deceased. For younger family members, you may wish to have them only recite back to their grandparents, just because otherwise they can get confused.

  1. Go back as many generations as you can, or (in the case of people who have done a lot of genealogy research) as many as you can remember. You may be able to trace your family back to William the Conqueror, but that doesn’t mean you have it memorized. After each person recites their ancestry, they drink from the cider cup and pass it to the next person.
  2. A quick note here — many people are adopted. If you are one them, you are fortunate enough to be able to choose whether you wish to honor your adoptive family, your biological family, or a combination of the two. If you don’t know the names of your birth parents or their ancestry, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Daughter of a family unknown.” It’s entirely up to you. The spirits of your ancestors know who you are, even if you don’t know them yet.
  3. After the cup has made its way around the table, place it in front of the ancestors’ plate. This time, a younger person in the family takes over, saying:

This is the cup of remembrance.
We remember all of you.
You are dead but never forgotten,
and you live on within us.

Take some time to meditate on the value of family, how fortunate we are to be able to know the connections of kin and clan, and the value of heritage. If your family has a tradition of music or folktales, share those as a way to wrap up the ritual. Otherwise, allow the candles to burn out on their own. Leave the plate and cup on the altar overnight.

Tips:

  1. If you didn’t do a separate ritual for animals, you can add photos and candles for deceased pets to your family altar.
  2. If you like, you may wish to follow this ritual with a Seance.

What You Need:

  • Items to represent your family members
  • A meal to eat
  • A cup of cider or wine to drink
  • Candles

A Feast with the Dead – Speaking to the Dead
Although traditionally a seance is a good way to communicate with those who have crossed into the spirit world, it’s also perfectly fine to talk to them at other times. You may find yourself walking into a room and suddenly reminded of someone you’ve lost, or catching a whiff of a familiar scent. For me personally, every February I find myself picking over birthday cards and thinking to myself how funny my grandfather would find this one or that one. I make a point of telling him about them, even though he died in 2002. You don’t need a fancy or formal ritual to speak to the dead. They hear you.

How Do We Know They’re Listening?
In some spiritual paths, one may be viewed as crazy — or at the very least, a little bit daffy — if they speak to the dead. But think of the people you know who have lost a spouse, particularly one they were married to for a long time. Many of them will tell you they talk to their deceased loved one. We can ask them for assistance, for companionship, or just for them to hear our words. Chances are good that if you ask, your life will change significantly.

What Can We Say to Them?
Ask anyone who’s lost a loved one, and there’s a good chance they have something they didn’t get to say. Whether it’s “I love you”, “I forgive you,” or just plain old, “I really miss you,” there’s nearly always something we wanted to say but never got around to. When you talk to the dead, share with them the things in your life that are important. Maybe you need to let Grandma know that you’re finally going to have that baby girl she’d been hoping for. Or perhaps you need to tell Cousin Joe you’re sorry you broke his iPod. Whatever it is, if it’s on your mind say it. Only then will you be able to move on.

An Altar to the Ancestors
In many cultures, ancestor worship is an ancient practice. Although traditionally found more in African and Asian societies, more and more Pagans of European heritage are beginning to embrace this idea. After all, we all want to know where we came from. You can build an altar to honor your ancestors, featuring photos, heirlooms, and even a family tree sheet. Leave it up all year long, or set it out at Samhain. This is a good time to perform a ritual for Honoring the Ancestors.

Why on Samhain?
Why hold a Dumb Supper on Samhain? Well, it’s traditionally known as the night when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its most fragile. It’s the night when we know for sure the dead will hear us speak, and maybe even speak back. It’s a time of death and resurrection, of new beginnings and fond farewells.

Menus and Table Settings
Your menu choices are up to you, but because it’s Samhain, you may wish to make the traditional Soul Cakes, as well as serving dishes with apples, late fall vegetables, and game if available. Set the table with a black cloth, black plates and cutlery, black napkins. Use candles as your only source of light — black if you can get them. Realistically, not everyone has black dishware sitting around. In many traditions, it’s perfectly acceptable to use a combination of black and white, although black should be the predominant color.

Host/Hostess Duties
When you’re hosting a Dumb Supper, clearly the point is that no one can speak — and that makes a host’s job very tricky. It means you have the responsibility of anticipating each guest’s needs without them communicating verbally. Depending on the size of your table, you may want to make sure each end has its own salt, pepper, butter, etc. Also, watch your guests to see if anyone needs a drink refill, an extra fork to replace the one they just dropped, or more napkins.

The Dumb Supper
In some Pagan and Wiccan traditions, it has become popular to hold a Dumb Supper in honor of the dead. In this case, the word “dumb” refers to being silent. The origins of this tradition have been fairly well debated — some claim it goes back to ancient cultures, others believe it’s a relatively new idea. Regardless, it’s one that’s observed by many people around the world.

When holding a Dumb Supper, there are a few simple guidelines to follow. First of all, make your dining area sacred, either by casting a circle, smudging, or some other method. Turn off phones and televisions, eliminating outside distractions. Secondly, remember that this is a solemn and silent occasion, not a carnival. It’s a time of silence, as the name reminds us. You may wish to leave younger children out of this ceremony. Ask each adult guest to bring a note to the dinner. The note’s contents will be kept private, and should contain what they wish to say to their deceased friends or relatives.

Set a place at the table for each guest, and reserve the head of the table for the place of the Spirits. Although it’s nice to have a place setting for each individual you wish to honor, sometimes it’s just not feasible. Instead, use a tealight candle at the Spirit setting to represent each of the deceased. Shroud the Spirit chair in black or white cloth. No one may speak from the time they enter the dining room. As each guest enters the room, they should take a moment to stop at the Spirit chair and offer a silent prayer to the dead. Once everyone is seated, join hands and take a moment to silently bless the meal. The host or hostess, who should be seated directly across from the Spirit chair, serves the meal to guests in order of age, from the oldest to youngest. No one should eat until all guests — including Spirit — are served.

When everyone has finished eating, each guest should get out the note to the dead that they brought. Go to the head of the table where Spirit sits, and find the candle for your deceased loved one. Focus on the note, and then burn it in the candle’s flame (you may wish to have a plate or small cauldron on hand to catch burning bits of paper) and then return to their seat. When everyone has had their turn, join hands once again and offer a silent prayer to the dead. Everyone leaves the room in silence. Stop at the Spirit chair on your way out the door, and say goodbye one more time.

Samhain Ancestor Meditation – Calling Upon the Ancient Ones
When performing an ancestor meditation, people experience different things. You may find yourself meeting a specific person that you are aware of in your family history — maybe you’ve heard the stories about great-uncle Joe who went out west after the Civil War, and now you have the privilege of chatting with him, or perhaps you’ll meet the grandmother who passed away when you were a child. Some people, however, meet their ancestors as archetypes. In other words, it may not be a specific individual you meet, but rather a symbol — instead of adventurous great-uncle Joe, it may be a non-specific Civil War soldier or frontiersman. Either way, understand that meeting these individuals is a gift. Pay attention to what they say and do — it may be that they’re trying to give you a message.

Setting the Mood
Before you perform this meditation, it’s not a bad idea to spend some time with the tangible, physical aspects of your family. Bring out the old photo albums, read through wild Aunt Tillie’s diary from the Great Depression, get out your grandfather’s old pocket watch that almost sank with the Titanic. These are the material things that connect us to our family. They link us, magically and spiritually. Spend time with them, absorbing their energies and thinking of the things they’ve seen, the places they’ve been.

You can perform this ritual anywhere, but if you can do it outside at night it’s even more powerful. Decorate your altar (or if you’re outside, use a flat stone or tree stump) with the symbols of your ancestors — the photos, journals, war medals, watches, jewelry, etc. No candles are necessary for this meditation, but if you’d like to light one, do so. You may also want to burn some Samhain spirit incense.

Claiming Your Birthright
Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Think about who you are, and what you are made of, and know that everything within you is the sum of all your ancestors. From thousands of years ago, generations of people have come together over the centuries to create the person you are now. Think about your own strengths — and weaknesses — and remember that they came from somewhere. This is a time to honor the ancestors who formed you.

Recite your genealogy — aloud if you like — as far back as you can go. As you say each name, describe the person and their life. An example might go something like this:

I am the daughter of James, who fought in Vietnam
and returned to tell the tale.
James was the son of Eldon and Maggie,
who met on the battlefields of France,
as she nursed him back to health.
Eldon was the son of Alice, who sailed
aboard Titanic and survived.
Alice was the daughter of Patrick and Molly,
who farmed the soil of Ireland, who
raised horses and tatted lace to feed the children…
and so forth.

Go back as far as you like, elaborating in as much detail as you choose. Once you can go back no further, end with “those whose blood runs in me, whose names I do not yet know”. If you happened to meet a certain ancestor, or their archetype, during your meditation, take a moment to thank them for stopping by. Take note of any information they may have given you — even if it doesn’t make sense just now, it may later on when you give it some more thought. Think about all the people you come from, whose genes are part of you. Some were great people — some, not so much, but the point is, they all belong to you. They all have helped shape and create you. Appreciate them for what they were, with no expectations or apologies, and know that they are watching over you.

How To Celebrate the Cycle of Life and Death
Samhain is a time like no other, in that we can watch as the earth literally dies for the season. Leaves fall from the trees, the crops have gone brown, and the land once more becomes a desolate place. However, at Samhain, when we take the time to remember the dead, we can take time to contemplate this endless cycle of life, death, and eventual rebirth.

Here’s How:

  1. For this ritual, you’ll want to decorate your altar with symbols of life and death. You’ll want to have on hand a white candle and a black one, as well as black, red, and white ribbon in equal lengths (one set for each participant). Finally, you’ll need a few sprigs of rosemary.

Perform this rite outside if at all possible. If you normally cast a circle, do so now.

  1. Say:

Samhain is here, and it is a time of transitions.
The winter approaches, and the summer dies.
This is the time of the Dark Mother,
a time of death and of dying.
This is the night of our ancestors
and of the Ancient Ones.

Place the rosemary on the altar. If you are doing this as a group ceremony, pass it around the circle before placing on the altar. Say:

Rosemary is for remembrance,
and tonight we remember those who have
lived and died before us,
those who have crossed through the veil,
those who are no longer with us.
We will remember.

  1. Turn to the north, and say:

The north is a place of cold,
and the earth is silent and dark.
Spirits of the earth, we welcome you,
knowing you will envelope us in death.

Turn to face the east, and say:

The east is a land of new beginnings,
the place where breath begins.
Spirits of air, we call upon you,
knowing you will be with us as we depart life.

  1. Face south, saying:

The south is a land of sunlight and fire,
and your flames guide us through the cycles of life.
Spirits of fire, we welcome you,
knowing you will transform us in death.

Finally, turn to face the west, and say:

The west is a place of underground rivers,
and the sea is a never-ending, rolling tide.
Spirits of water, we welcome you,
knowing you will carry us
through the ebbs and flows of our life.

  1. Light the black candle, saying:

The Wheel of the Year turns once more,
and we cycle into darkness.

Next, light the white candle, and say:

At the end of that darkness comes light.
And when it arrives, we will celebrate once more.

  1. Each person takes a set of ribbons — one white, one black, and one red. Say:

White for life, black for death,
red for rebirth.
We bind these strands together
remembering those we have lost.

Each person should then braid or knot their three ribbons together. As you do so, focus on the memories of those you have lost in your life.

  1. While everyone is braiding or knotting, say:

Please join me in chanting as you work your energy and love into your cords:

As the corn will come from grain,
All that dies will rise again.
As the seeds grow from the earth,
We celebrate life, death and rebirth.

When everyone has finished braiding and chanting, take a moment to meditate on the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Is there someone you know who reminds you of a person you’ve lost? Have you ever looked into a baby’s eyes and seen your late grandfather looking back?

  1. Finally, ask everyone to take their knotted ribbons home with them and place them on their personal altar if they have one. That way, they can be reminded of their loved ones each time they pass by.

Tips:

  1. Rosemary is used in this rite because although it seems to go dormant over the winter, if you keep it in a pot you’ll get new growth in the spring. If there’s another plant you’d rather use, feel free.

What You Need:

  • Ribbon in black, red and white
  • A white candle and a black one
  • Rosemary

Excerpts taken from Patti Wigington via About.com.

Click here to learn more about spiritblogger. Click here to learn about the history of Samhain.

Spirit Message of the Day – Direct Your Focus

READY, AIM, FIRE
“If all the want were squelched in me, there’d be no march through eternity.’

“Without a port, the ship will stay at sea. Without a target, the arrow hits the ground. Without a destination, the journey’s incomplete. And without desire, a soul is half alive. Fellow adventurer, let your heart choose your targets in time and space. Fill yourself with expectation and revel in the awareness that your desires are meant to be.”

Today’s message is from the author Mike Dooley’s book entitled Choose Them Wisely, Thoughts Become Things!

Spirit Message of the Day – Vow Integrity

AS GOOD AS YOUR WORD
“Ever since human beings could speak to one another, they have been making promises and keeping them or not keeping them. Those who keep their promises are regarded as people of integrity, while those who don’t keep their promises are regarded as people who at best can’t be taken seriously and at worst can’t be trusted. Sometimes we forget how powerful our words are, and we use them haphazardly or unconsciously, creating expectations that are never fulfilled, leaving disappointment and distrust in our wake.”

YOUR PROMISES
“On an even deeper level, there are promises we may have made to ourselves that we don’t remember because they have slipped into our unconscious. An early heartache may have been followed by a promise never to trust love again. Without realizing it, we may be fulfilling that promise and wondering why our love life looks so grim. At an even deeper level, many people who recall past lives become aware that they made a promise lifetimes ago that they are still keeping. For example, a vow of poverty taken in a lifetime as a monk may be holding someone back from fulfilling his earning potential now. Upon realizing that we have made a promise we no longer wish to be beholden to, we can perform a ritual of requesting release from that bond. In doing so, we clear ourselves of outmoded connections and patterns, returning ourselves to a clean slate. Then we can resolve to remember that our word is sacred and to be very conscious of any promises we make to ourselves or to others.”

“We may ask to be released from any promises made to ourselves or others in our present, past, or future lives, consciously or unconsciously, that are holding us back from fulfilling our greatest good. We may ask that love, light, and healing be sent to any souls who have suffered from our inability to be true to our word, including ourselves. We can ask for the wisdom to do our best and from this point forward to be true to our word, promising only what we truly intend to deliver.”

“The resulting clear conscience and liberated energy will illustrate this truth: We are only as good as our word.”

– Northwest Author Unknown

Spirit Message of the Day – Breathe Happiness

VISUALIZE YOUR HAPPINESS
“Every thought you think sends waves into motion. Every word we speak reaches millions of ears. And every act you perform literally rearranges the stars. Now what was it you wanted me (the universe) to do for you?” I am at your command.

“In a world as totally awesome as yours, where do you even start? Visualize. Just once a day, because if you do it more, you may become too anxious over the future you are dreaming of, perhaps becoming discouraged. Besides, why do it more when there is so much you already have and so much you already are that can be enjoyed in the present.”

“Visualize the ultimate emotion you’re after: happiness. Feel the joy.  Hear yourself excitedly talking and laughing with friends. Emotion, after all, is what supercharges your thoughts and accelerates the manifestation of your dreams. Practice FEELING what you really want to feel. Not only will you draw experiences that will match those feelings into your life, but you will achieve it all so much faster!”

Today’s message is from Mike Dooley’s book entitled Choose Them Wisely – Thoughts Become Things!

Spirit Message of the Day – Creative Renewal Cycle

CELTIC TREE MONTH – RUIS – ELDER
The Elder is linked to the eternal turnings of life and death, birth and rebirth. It represents the end in the beginning and the beginning in the end; life in death and death in life; the casting out of devils of the old year and the renewal and creativity of the new; the timelessness of the cycle by which the fading of old age is always balanced by the start of new birth.

Magickal Associations: Exorcism, prosperity, banishing, healing

Elder (Ruis) 25 November–22 December

  • The Elder Moon contains the darkest days of the year
  • The day after the end of the Elder Moon month, before the start of the Birch Moon, is no month at all, but an “in between” day. Nameless Day: 23 December
  • The Elder Moon’s qualities include death and regeneration, the Crone phase of the Goddess, wisdom, transformation, and the Underworld.
  • Elder is sacred to Wiccans. Elder shows the path through the maze, the spiral path that leads within, and the meeting place where birth and death are one.
  • The Celts believed that the elder could never be cut unless permission was asked of the trees.
  • Wiccans believe Elder should never be burned in the cauldron. See the Wiccan Rede.

Excerpt taken from http://irelandsown.net/celtictrees.html

ELDER LORE

  • 13th Moon of the Celtic Year – (Nov 25 – Dec 23)
  • Latin name: Dwarf Elder – sambucus ebulus; Elderberry – sambucus canadenis.
  • Celtic name: Ruis (pronounced: roo ish).

Folk or Common names: Lady Elder, Elder, Elderberry, pipe tree, bore tree, bour tree, Eldrun, Hyldor, Hyllantree, Ellhorn, Sambucus. Parts Used: Bark, leaves, flowers, berries, wood. Herbal usage: The Elder has many medicinal uses, and can be used to treat over 70 conditions. The bark can be used fresh for headaches and to promote labor, or can be dried and powdered and used in small doses as a diuretic. The leaves and flowers can be made into drinks, poultices and salves. Elderberry flower water is useful for soothing sunburns. The berries are safe to eat when eaten ripe, and they can be used to make wines, jams and teas.

Magical History & Associations:
The Elder is a tree of Venus and is associated with the element of air. The bird associated with the month of Elder is the rook, the color is blood-red, and the gemstone is dark green malachite. The Elder also is associated with Black Horses, Ravens, and Badgers. The Elder is linked to the eternal turnings of life and death, birth and rebirth, and creativity and renewal. It represents the end/beginning and beginning/end. It is sacred to the deities of Bran, Venus, Hel, Callech, Holda, the White Goddess, the Great Goddess, and Pryderi (The Celts believed that it was during the time of Elder that their sun or solar spirit was held prisoner, just as Pryderi was forced into exile).  

The Elder is the Old Crone aspect of the triple Goddess, wise old energy at the end of the year’s cycle, and is sometimes called the “death tree” because of this. Funerary flints found in megalithic long barrows were Elder leaf shaped, suggesting the association of Elder with death goes back a long way. Elder is also called the “witch’s tree” and certainly the village hedge-witch would have used the elder in healing and Magick. The Elder is also associated with a dryad (tree spirit). Early European legends tell of a dryad called Hylde-moer, The Elder Tree Mother, who lives in the Elder tree and watches over it. Should the tree be chopped down and furniture made of the wood, Hylde-moer would follow her property and haunt the owners.

Magickal Usage:
The month of Elder includes the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated as the Sabbat of Yule, a day to mark the return of the Sun. Therefore, calling upon the Sun God or Goddess is good to do during this month. Elder has the Magickal powers of Healing, Visions, Faery Magick, Spirituality, Cleansing, Sleep, Exorcism, Offering, Love, Protection, and Prosperity. Elder is often used to produce visions. At Samhain, the last of the Elderberries were picked with solemn rites. The wine made from these berries was considered the last sacred gift of the Earth Goddess, and was valued and drunk ritually to invoke prophecy, divination and hallucinations. Elder twigs were woven into head-dresses to enable the wearers to see spirits.

The Elder is very useful in Magick dealing with Nature Spirits and the Fae. Wood spirits are said to live in Elder forests, and wood elves are said to come to listen to music played by flutes made with Elder wood. The Elder has strong protective qualities. Tiny twigs of Elder or dried Elderberry can be worn in a bag around the neck as a charm for protection against physical or psychic attack. As a protection against evil (and later against witchcraft) Elder branches were hung in doorways of houses and cowsheds. Elder can be used to bless a person, place or thing by scattering leaves and berries to the four directions, and over the thing or person being blessed. It is said that if you stand under an Elder tree, you will never be struck by lightening. Elder was also buried in graves to ward off evil spirits, and is considered protection against earthbound, “physical” spirits like vampires. Elder as Vampire-Repellent is older folklore than the lore about garlic. When you put Elder on a threshold or windowsill, you can force a vampire to count over the thorns and the berries until morning comes, because vampires are obsessive-compulsive about counting things.

Also, Elder blossom were worn at Beltane to signify witchcraft and magic, and Elder twigs can be used to undo evil magic. Elder is a traditional wood for making Magickal tools, like besoms and wands. It is said in Irish folklore that it is Elder and not Ash which is used by witches for their magic ‘hobby horses’ and besoms. Justice was often dispensed under an Elder, so the hilt of a coven sword was often made of Elder wood. Elder is also a good wood to use to make Protective Wands. There are very strong superstitions about not cutting down or burning an Elder (maybe caused by a fear of releasing the tree’s Hylde-moer – or maybe out of a deep respect for the tree), so be sure to remember to ask the tree if it will allow you to take a branch. It is traditional to say this before you cut a branch:

“Lady Ellhorn, give me of thy wood,
And I will give thee of mine,
when I become a tree.”

Excerpt taken from http://www.dutchie.org/Tracy/trees/celtic_tree_elder.html

ELDER HISTORY
The American elder (canadensis) , also known as Elderberry, is small tree that grows to 12 feet and is native to North America. The European elder (nigra) grows to 30 feet, is found throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been naturalized in the United States. The tree has been called “the medicine chest of the common people.

The fruits have been used to make elderberry wine, and when cooked, can be used in pies and jams. The berries contain more vitamin C than any other herb except rosehips and black currant.

http://www.viable-herbal.com/singles/herbs/s240.htm

The Elder tree berry has been used for centuries as a natural intestinal cleanser. Both the flower and the berry possess powerful antioxidant properties that help protect your health by attacking harmful free radicals that damage cells. Elderberries also nourish the circulatory system. Herbalists praise Elderberry as an invigorating, rejuvenating general tonic.

Official Latin Name: Sambucus nigra

Elderberry, also known as Black Elder, Boor Tree, Bountry, Elder, Ellanwood, Ellhorn, European Elder, and German Elder, grows in Europe and North America. The name Elder is thought to refer to an old Anglo-Saxon term, “aeld”, meaning fire or kindle, as the hollow stems of the Elder were blown on a fire to get it started. Many cultures felt this tree was so special that they refused to burn the wood or use it to make furniture, lest it bring bad luck to the household. It was planted by homes to protect the house from lightning, bring prosperity, happy marriage and healthy children, and protect from evil. Elderberry helps strengthen and maintain the immune & respiratory systems. Elderberry may be taken to help prevent colds and flu. Taken at the first sign of cold or flu, Elderberry will generally reduce the course of the infection down to one or two days. Elderberry focuses on the nutritional needs of the immune system offering the body additional amounts of vitamin C, fruit acids and traces of essential oils and anthocyanci pigments.

Elderberry helps eliminate toxic stagnations that are typically the home for infectious bacteria. The antibiotic, antiviral and antibacterial properties found in Elderberry also work to stimulate the skin, kidneys and lymphatic system. The Flavonoids, including Quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic effects of the Elderberry flowers and berries. A study in humans determined that an extract of Elderberries is an effective treatment for influenza. Animal studies have shown the flowers to have anti-inflammatory properties. The common name Elder also includes the species  Sambucus canadensis, which is used interchangeably with  Sambucus nigra.

Excerpt taken from http://www.kcweb.com/herb/elderberry.htm

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

The American elder (canadensis) , also known as Elderberry, is small tree that grows to 12 feet and is native to North America. The European elder (nigra) grows to 30 feet, is found throughout Europe, Asia, North Africa, and has been naturalized in the United States. The tree has been called “the medicine chest of the common people. The flowers, leaves, berries, bark and roots have all been used in traditional folk medicine for centuries. The fruits have been used to make elderberry wine, and when cooked, can be used in pies and jams. The berries contain more vitamin C than any other herb except rosehips and black currant.

The elder also has a rich background of cultural superstitions. In the Middle Ages legends held that tree was home to witches and that cutting down one would bring on the wrath of those residing in the branches. The Russians and the English believe that elder trees ward off evil spirits and it was considered good luck to plant a tree near your home. Sicilians think that sticks of elder wood can kill serpents and drive away thieves.

This herb has a long history dating beyond the stone ages. Egyptians discovered that applying its flowers improved the complexion and healed burns. Many early Indian tribes used elderberry, and its variants, in teas and other beverages. In the 17th century the British often drank home made wine and cordials that was thought to prolong life and cure the common cold. The berries from the elder contain a considerable amount of vitamins A, B and C, as well as flavonoids, sugar, tannins, carotenoids and amino acids. Warm elderberry wine is a remedy for sore throat, influenza and induces perspiration to reverse the effects of a chill. The juice from the berries is an old fashioned cure for colds, and is also said to relieve asthma and bronchitis.

Infusions of the fruit are beneficial for nerve disorders, back pain, and have been used to reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder. Raw berries have laxative and diuretic properties, however the seeds are toxic and may induce vomiting and nausea. Elderberries are edible when cooked. Elder leaves contain the flavonoids rutin and quercertin, alkaloids, vitamin C and sambunigrin, a cyanogenic glucoside. Fresh elder leaves also contain hydrocyanic acid, cane sugar, invertin, betulin, free fatty acids, and a considerable quantity of potassium nitrate. Elder flowers and elder flower water have been used in a variety of ways topically and as a tonic mixture.

Elder flowers are a mild astringent and are used in skin washes to refine the complexion and help relieve eczema, acne and psoriasis. Flower water makes a soothing gargle and when strained makes an excellent eye wash. The leaves and flowers are a common ingredient in ointments and poultices for burns and scalds, swelling, cuts and scrapes. Infusions and preparations with the blossoms combined with other herbs have also been used to quicken recovery form the common cold and flu. Parts Used: Bark, leaves, flowers, berries.

Common Use: Topically for infections, inflammations and swelling. As a wash for skin healing and complexion purification. As a tea and cordial to sooth sore throats, speed recovery from cold and flu and relieve respiratory distress. Cooked and used in jams and conserves. Care: Prefers sandy or loamy soil rich in humus and nitrogen. Full sun or partial shade. http://www.patch-work.demon.co.uk/elder.htm

The first shoots of the Common Elder boiled like asparagus, and the young leaves and stalks boiled in fat broth, do mightily carry forth phlegm and choler. The middle or inward bark boiled in water, and given in drink works much more violently; and the berries, either green or dry, expel the same humour, and are often given with good success to help the dropsy; the bark of the root boiled in wine, or the juice thereof drank, works the same effects, but much more powerfully than either the leaves or fruit. The juice of the root taken, mightily procures vomiting, and purges the watery humours of the dropsy…

Nicholas Culpeper, 17th century herbalist
The elder flowers in June in large, flat plates of flowerheads (called umbrells) made up of many tiny cream-white flowers. If you make sure they are clean of bugs, they can be eaten sraight off the branches on a hot summers day. The berries can be considered ripe when the clusters begin to turn upside down. Avoid picking berries that have become over-ripe. Wash well and strip from the stalks using a dining fork. The berries can be added to apple pie (40 elderberries:60 apple) or blackberry jam (50:50). The elderberry is often known as the Englishman’s grape, and it’s nutritional values show that it is similar to the grape and more so…Please note: For safety reasons DO NOT use the leaves, bark or roots of Elder for consumtion. They can be poisonous!!!

Black Elder Botanical name: Sambucus nigra
Black Elder – also known as Common Elder – is a deciduous bush, shrub or small tree that grows to a height of 8 meters. It grows wild in woods, hedgerows, and along roadsides. It’s also a very common plant in home gardens, parks and other areas with nutrient-rich soil. The black elder plant has corky grey-brown bark and green, pinnate and toothed leaves. The leaves have a characteristic and unpleasant smell when crushed.

The small, cream-coloured flowers are arranged in flat-topped clusters. They have a strong, aromatic and very pleasant, musky fragrance. The ripe, globose stone-fruits – the elderberries – are black, juicy and bitter to taste though they become milder and sweeter after the first frost – or after a week or so in the freezer. Black elderberries are very rich in antioxidants. Leaves, bark, flowers and fruits are used for many medicinal and culinary purposes including wine making. Black Elder has been called the medicine chest of the people, and earlier there was much folklore, superstition, and witchcraft associated with this plant. WARNING! Do not confuse Black Elder or Common Elder with Red Elder (Sambucus racemosa). RED elderberries are POISONOUS.

Excerpt taken from www.homestead-farm.net