Lammas/Lughnasadh Playlist: 1 Hour of Music for the August 1st Sabbat

As Witches, we all have different things that get us into the mood for a little Witchery.  Some people like to go outside and talk a long walk.  Others prefer to meditate in a dark room.  Let’s not forget that we all have our own ideas about what Witchery is, too.

The Sabbats are an interesting thing.  For many Witches, they are eight holidays that line the ring of the Wheel of the Year, mostly based on Celtic holidays.  If you’re unfamiliar, they tend to be called Samhain (Oct. 31st-Nov. 1st), Yule (winter solstice), Imbolc (Feb. 1st-2nd), Ostara (spring equinox), Beltane (May 1st), Litha (summer solstice), Lammas/Lughnasadh (Aug. 1st), and Mabon (fall equinox).  Perhaps the reason that these Sabbats are interesting is because, even if you’re a certain type of Witch –kitchen, ocean, natural…the list goes on — the Sabbats mostly have their own distinct flavor and feeling.  Everybody celebrates them differently, sure, but if you’re in the northern hemisphere, Mabon is a harvest holiday, Ostara is a fertility holiday…and there’s not always a lot of wiggle room in that regard.

So, how can we get ourselves into the mood for the Sabbats as they come around?  How can we integrate the distinct feeling of each of these holidays into our busy lives?  For me, one of the best ways is with music.  I can sit at my full-time job desk, do my work, and listen to Spotify.

Of course, not everyone likes the same styles of music, but there’s no denying there is something very, well, Lammas-y about the following songs.  (Some people say “Lughnasadh,” and that’s perfectly fine.  I personally haven’t had the opportunity to work with Lugh, and so I mostly use the term “Lammas” to refer to the grain harvest aspect of the Sabbat.)  The great thing about modern music streaming is that you can listen to a song you really like, and in one click you can find a whole slew of songs by the same artist.  Listening to Sabbat-specific music has introduced me to a number of pagan music groups that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Without further ado, let’s get into this list.  Rather than just ten songs as a lot of playlists are, I’ve given you over an hour of music to really get you into the spirit of the harvest.  They’re not in a particular order, but they’re all available on Spotify, so you can make your list however you want.  An explanation of why these songs are on this list follows.

  1. Songs from “Friday Afternoons”, Op. 7: Cuckoo!  (Benjamin Britten, Choir Of Downside School)
  2. John Barleycorn (Must Die) – Remastered 2010  (Traffic)
  3. Lughnasadh  (Damh The Bard)
  4. Before The Twilight Falls  (Emerald Rose)
  5. Homegrown Tomatoes  (John Denver)
  6. The Scythe  (Gaia Consort)
  7. Lughnasadh Dance  (Damh The Bard)
  8. The Wind That Shakes The Barley  (Loreena McKennitt)
  9. Everything I Own  (Bread)
  10. Harvest Song  (Spiral Dance)
  11. English Country Dances: Scotch Cap  (Musica Pacifica)
  12. The Lammas Tide  (The Corries)
  13. Lammas  (Lisa Thiel)
  14. Scarborough Fair/Canticle  (Simon & Garfunkel)
  15. Benjamin Bowmaneer  (Kate Rusby)
  16. Harvest Season  (Heather Alexander)
  17. Sun King  (Reclaiming)
  18. Deora Ar Mo Chroi  (Enya)
  19. The Door  (Spiral Dance)
  20. Laddie Are Ya Working?  (Heather Alexander)
  21. In The Name Of the Dance  (S.J. Tucker)
  22. Fear No Darkness  (Adrian Von Ziegler)
  23. Burning of the Piper’s Hut/The Piper’s Lament  (Beltaine)

Why These Songs Are On The List

  1. Cuckoo! – Benjamin Britten was a great 20th century composer of children’s music, and this version is on the soundtrack for Moonrise Kingdom, a quirky Wes Anderson film that happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time.  This short gem explains the life of the cuckoo bird, with the following lyrics, “In April I open my bill.  In May I sing night and day.  In June I change my tune.  In July far far I fly.  In August away I must.”  The child-like innocence of the song combined with the melancholy melody of the cuckoo bird leaving in August seems to fit the bittersweet end of summer.
  2. John Barleycorn (Must Die) – This classic song follows the plight of John Barleycorn, the human personification of the grain, as he is taken from the field, stripped from his shell, crushed, and made into food and drink.  Nothing reminds us of the cycle of the Earth as well as knowing how intimately we must work with the land to reap its harvest.
  3. Lughnasadh – Damh the Bard is an awesome singer whose pagan-themed music is great for any Sabbat.  If you’re a trained musician, you may not love his voice, but the imperfection of it is kind of the appeal.  This song is another homage to the Earthiness of this Sabbat and the power of Lugh.
  4. Before The Twilight Falls – Emerald Rose had years of pagan music recordings, and while I don’t believe they’re producing music anymore, their work will be treasured for years to come.  “Before The Twilight Falls” reminds all of us that we have to seize the rest of the summer before winter sets in.
  5. Homegrown Tomatoes – If you’re a fan of the mysterious tone of a lot of pagan music, you may not like this country-style folk song.  But, we can learn a lot from the lyrics, especially in how great hard work tastes in the harvest of our produce.
  6. The Scythe – Gaia Consort uses all the jangly guitars in this song to evoke the image of a dusty country road and the end of the harvest time.  Just a beautiful classic for this time of year.
  7. Lughnasadh Dance – Another great song from Damh the Bard, very dance-y and exciting (as you could expect from the name).  Damh’s knowledge of folktales and legends really comes out in his songs, and this one is no exception.
  8. The Wind That Shakes The Barley – This song has all the nostalgia and sadness that may come with the dying days of summer.  If you’ve never heard music by Loreena before, you’re missing out.  Her voice will make you feel the melancholy of the end of the season.
  9. Everything I Own – This song is probably the least pagan of the music here, but the name of the group is Bread, so….  In all seriousness, this song is all about being grateful for protection and good times, and how to serve the — er, entity — that has served you in return.
  10. Harvest Song – The beginning of this song is a classic harvest rhyme that people may have been singing for hundreds of years (by the sound of it).  The rest of this piece is a little hectic and chaotic in its feeling, and perhaps gets at the root of the frantic approach some take to the end of the summer.
  11. English Country Dances: Scotch Cap – No beating around the bush here.  I just heard this song and thought it sounded like a good Lammas piece!  No words, just classical music with lots of flute and a dance-y melody.
  12. The Lammas Tide – The singers have such a lovely Irish lilt (I think, I’m an American, so what do I know?) that it just brings you to a pub that everybody goes to after they’ve been out in the fields.
  13. Lammas – Lisa Thiel’s take on Lammas (she does songs for each of the Sabbats) is all about gratitude for the harvest.  We could all stand to thank the Earth for everything she provides!
  14. Scarborough Fair/Canticle – Some people prefer this song at Beltane.  However, my Beltane playlist has the version by Damh the Bard, which is less soft and wispy.  Simon and Garfunkel’s version, which with most people are familiar, brings to mind fields of wheat waving in the wind.  The song does refer to the harvest, too.  And, I have to mention that this version does contain the background verses referring to war and soldiers far from home, which again brings in the melancholy of the season.
  15. Benjamin Bowmaneer – This song doesn’t really mention the harvest at all.  However, the somewhat mischievous guitar in the background just seemed to fit this Sabbat.  And, Kate Rusby’s voice is really beautiful, so if you don’t listen to her, you should check out some more of her music.
  16. Harvest Season – I discovered Heather Alexander very recently, but she almost sounds a little like Loreena McKennitt, which is exciting.  Her piece about the harvest is perfect, especially with its fast beat, like a race to finish picking produce before winter.
  17. Sun King – This chant is entirely an homage to Lugh the Sun King, who sacrifices his life for the harvest.  It’s extremely catchy, but I think captures the grief that can affect people at this time of year, as we watch the summer slip away.  (This melancholy starting in June, after the solstice, is something that I only started experiencing once I started studying Witchcraft and understanding the Wheel of the Year.  Still, I definitely feel it!)
  18. Deora Ar Mo Chroi – I picked this song for the playlist because someone had used this song in the background for a YouTube video talking about Lammas.  It seemed to fit well, so here it is on the list.
  19. The Door – Another piece by Spiral Dance, this song rock-esque song, I think, talks about the difference between the light and the dark, which is a huge theme for this time of year.
  20. Laddie Are Ya Working? – A great song by Heather Alexander which evokes the sense of working in the fields.  It definitely reminds us of all the work that needs to be done before the end of the harvest season.
  21. In The Name Of The Dance – S.J. Tucker is probably one of the classic pagan musicians.  She uses a bit of digeridoo in this piece, which is an instrument that is apparently associated with summer (I didn’t realize this until I started listening to pagan music).  This isn’t my favorite one of her pieces, but if this song introduces you to S.J. Tucker’s work, then I’ve done my job.
  22. Fear No Darkness – I actually have this song on my Beltane playlist for its sheer fun nature.  I absolutely love this song, and any of the Celtic Collection by Adrian Von Ziegler.  However, the title works so well with my Lammas playlist because a lot of the songs on this list are quite melancholy.  I think this song near the end is a great reminder that you don’t need to fear the winter (especially in this day and age, what with supermarkets and central heating), because the summer will always return.
  23. Burning of the Piper’s Hut/The Piper’s Lament – Similarly to the last song, I had another version of this piece (by the same group, “Beltaine”), on my Beltane playlist (fittingly enough).  However, that version was much faster and like a dance.  This one is certainly a lament, and I felt that having these two versions as bookends of the summer is about the best way to show how the Wheel continues turning.

I hope that this playlist helps you get into the mood for Lammas.  Sure, this is one of the less hopeful Sabbats in a way, but it’s no less important.  After all, the harvest is a feast time and in the past was a forecast of how well your winter was going to go.  So, don’t forget to get the joy out of this holiday, too, with a lot of feasting.

If you enjoyed this playlist, please follow my blog and feel free to look back at my older posts.  I’ve been a little MIA recently but I’m back and ready to overhaul this site to be more user-friendly to readers.  Thanks for reading!

Year and a Day Journal #43: August 26th, 2016

As the people who consistently read this blog know, I just finished living in a foreign country for almost eleven months.  Coming back was actually easier than I thought it was going to be, probably because, while the city I was temporarily living in did come to feel like my home, I have lived in my US city for my entire life, and you can’t replace it.  So coming home felt like coming to another familiar place.  Then, shortly after I came home, I got engaged, and got a part-time job, and things have been just flying around at the speed of light.  And maybe I never really got a chance to feel loss.

Now, though, I’ve been away from my foreign country and my foreign friends for a month and a half, and it’s starting to feel difficult.  I’ve been trying to keep in contact with them, but I’ll never carve out as much time here as I spent with them there.  I saw some of my friends maybe three or four times a week when I was there, and here I’m lucky if I get to call or text them once a week.

So, therein lies the question I’d like to pose today: How does loss impact your path?  How can you make it something constructive? 

I wish that loss was one of those things that made people really motivated to do stuff, but as I recall BBC’s Sherlock saying in A Study in Pink, sadness is a paralytic (therefore ruling out that the cabbie would kill people because he was also dying, but that’s neither here nor there).  So certainly for me, I’ve noticed that while I’ve been home, I haven’t done much with my path.  I’ve been trying to write on this blog, certainly, but my practice has dropped off sharply.  That probably has many reasons (one of them being that I’m now living in the same house with my mother, brother, and two long-term house guests) but who’s to say one of them isn’t that I’m kind of sad about leaving my friends behind?  I mean, they even made a video for me that had interviews with all of them, and pictures and videos, and it made me cry in the airport.  Now I’m trying to make a video compilation of my experience there, and it’s not helping me cope either.

So on to the more important question of the two: how can you make it something constructive?  Short of making an inevitably creepy shrine for my friends and burning incense for them or something, I have just one idea.  Rather than think about how the loss of friends affects my practice, I should think about how having those friends affected my practice.  And it should be a motivator for me to stay in contact with them (because I am the worst at keeping in touch with people).

I know it’s not very much for today, and perhaps not very much insight for any of you, but I’ve definitely got a lot on my plate (as you can probably tell).  Thank you to everyone who does read this blog.  (You rock.)

 

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #42: August 11th, 2016

*Because I couldn’t figure out how to gracefully work in this question later on in the post, I’ll start off with the spoiler: What is your concept of the afterlife?  How does it work on your path? 

When I got off work today in the evening, a big storm was just rolling in.  I looked out the windows of my job and realized it looked much, much too dark for 7:15, but I decided to dilly-dally anyway.  By the time I finally headed out to my car, a massive, ominous, tidal-wave-looking cloud had shrouded the whole sky, leaving only a thin strip of whitish sky that was quickly being overpowered by the front moving in.  Thankfully I managed to make it home just as the drops were starting, and within two minutes of getting inside, it started to rain in earnest.  There was lightning, thunder…a real dark and stormy night.

I currently have four adult housemates (all right, one is my mom and one is my brother, and the other two are a couple from my foreign country), and the foreign woman suggested that we watch a horror movie, since the weather was very fitting.  We ended up scrolling through Netflix for ages (it has a surprisingly good selection) and finally settled on The Awakening, a 2011 British film about a woman who is an avid non-believer in ghosts, until she is hired to investigate one at a boys’ boarding school.

The movie was pretty good, very touching, and although somewhat predictable in hindsight, I was certainly captivated by it in the moment.  The main character was a woman named Florence, a university-educated woman in 1921 England.  She didn’t believe in ghosts, she didn’t believe in the afterlife, and she didn’t believe in God.

Quite honestly, although I knew that Florence would eventually meet a ghost that couldn’t be scientifically explained, I was rooting for her in the beginning.  We all know I’m not a huge fan of the Christian God, and I don’t like to believe in Heaven or Hell.  (It seems awfully boring in Heaven, to be honest–I don’t particularly want to worship at God’s feet outside a gleaming Jerusalem for all eternity.)  The ideas of a perfect Heaven or a absolutely abhorrent Hell are difficult to imagine, certainly, especially in a logical sense.  After all, what is happiness without sadness, and what is torment without relief?

Because of my desire to refuse the Christian afterlife, I similarly have trouble recognizing or wanting to believe in any other kind of afterlife.  I know that a lot of Wiccans believe in reincarnation, something that I understand from Scott Cunningham’s books.  But obviously not every Pagan or Neo-Pagan or Witch believes the same thing.  For example, reincarnation seems a horrible thing to me right now, where I am in life.  Let me explain.

In college, when I was really in the throes of philosophical quandaries about my religion, and about God, and about the afterlife, I was also a terribly tired individual.  I wouldn’t sleep until projects were done; I did a lot of extracurricular activities and I worked a campus job on the side.  Sometimes I wanted to fall into bed and sleep for the rest of my life.  Severe exhaustion does weird things to a person’s mind, and it may have been around that time that I decided that “living” forever, no matter how perfect eternal life might be, would suck.  I was so tired that honestly, the idea of just dying and sleeping in the ground forever sounded pretty damn good.

While I’m not so depressingly bleak these days, I still think that, after living a good long life (which I hope I do), being faced with reincarnation would be the last thing I would want.  I’m still thinking that it would not be a bad thing to just die and be done with it.  My body would go into the earth.  Maybe a tree would grow where I was buried.  Maybe I’d have a legacy or maybe I’d be forgotten almost right away.  In any case, I lived while I lived, and I don’t need anything more than that.

Of course, I know that there is a huge possibility that things might not be that simple.  I’ve never personally seen a ghost, but I can imagine that they could exist.  It’s more plausible to me than Heaven is, at least.  And I know that as my path takes shape, I might change my mind about what I believe.  But for now, there isn’t necessarily a need for me to have an afterlife.  I think people, over thousands of years, created these religious afterlives to deal with facing death.  And while it always sucks when someone close to you dies (especially if you don’t believe in an afterlife), I’m not sure I’m afraid of dying if I live a long life and do the things I want to do (again, fingers crossed here).  I’m afraid of dying now, certainly–I haven’t done everything I want to do.  But an afterlife isn’t going to help me do those things either.  I’m not going to write a YA novel or get married or have children or travel the world while I’m sitting in Heaven or Hell.

I suppose that was the long answer to a very full question.  I’d be interested in hearing what some of your ideas are.  I’m always open to new ideas.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #41: August 8th, 2016

After being home about a month (and procrastinating for much of that time), I finally marched out to my living room yesterday and did some yoga.  It wasn’t much–really, it wasn’t–but it felt like a huge step in the right direction.  Certainly, getting over the hump of starting something for the first time can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.  (Maintaining it is similarly extremely difficult, but I’m hopeful.)

Today’s journal prompt is of my own creation, inspired by my blind optimism toward keeping up a yoga routine.  How do everyday physical activities help you on your path? 

I’ll start by saying that physical activities here don’t necessarily mean “exercise.”  You don’t have to do Pilates to be doing good things for your body.  Sleeping, for example, is a great activity–one that I still have to get better at, despite doing it (almost) every day for the last twenty-three years–and getting enough sleep, for me, is a really important aspect of my path and the life that I want.  Not getting enough sleep is not healthy for me or my mind, and certainly not for my spirituality.

Yoga, of course, has to have a moment on this post.  Yoga was my first introduction into a different spirituality than the one I was raised in.  Before doing yoga, I had thought of it as just a dancer-like stretching activity.  After all, acro-style dance and yoga look pretty similar in photographs.  However, after one of my college friends introduced me to it and started taking me to a good studio in our college town, I realized that it was a lot more than what I had previously expected.  I started liking the idea of meditation, and I did yoga probably four times a week, at least.  Now I’m trying to get back into it, of course, because it fell off horribly while I was in my foreign country, but on the whole yoga still plays an important part in my life and my path.  The transcendental spiritual side of yoga was my inspiration.

Because I need to make this a short post, the last thing I’m going to talk about is walking/bicycling.  These are two things I try to do every day, especially in the summer.  Walking is great because you can do it with friends, chat easily, play Pokemon GO even….  It’s a very social activity, if you want it to be.  Or it can be entirely solitary, and you’re going slowly enough to enjoy every little thing that you see.  Bicycling, on the other hand, is also amazing, because though you can kind of make it a social activity, it tends toward the side of self-focus and even reflection.  You can’t really use a phone on a bike, and you’re going fast enough to cover a lot of ground, but you are small enough to go deep into nature.  And nature is one of my big facilitators.

Sorry that this was such a short post, but some days the thoughts just have to get put out quickly.  I also want to say that I was thrilled at my stats from last week–the Pagan Perspective video certainly gave me a big boost, and I’m grateful.

I hope that everyone has a spectacular day.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

Year and a Day Journal #40: August 4th, 2016

Forty and fine!  I have a feeling that this Year and a Day is going to last a lot longer than a year and a day….

First of all, I’d like to give another shout out to the Pagan Perspective channel on YouTube, and especially to cutewitch772, because they’re doing a topic inspired by my blog this week, and it’s brought a lot of traffic to my blog (relative to what I normally get–I mean, we’re talking like ten views compared to one or two), so thank you again.

Today’s topic comes from Wicca: A Year and a Day by Timothy Roderick.  On Day 6 he asks the reader to consider the following: Describe your own “calling” to the Witch’s path.  We all have characteristics of both the shaman and the madman.  In what ways are you a shaman?  In what ways are you a madman or madwoman?

The Day 6 section was about shamanism in Wicca, or rather how Wicca is a shamanistic religion.  Now, I don’t necessarily label myself as Wiccan, but I understand that it is the sort of more-widely-heard-of branch of magickal spirituality.  I also don’t know much about shamanism, like, at all.  It seems to me that considering myself to be shaman-like is a big stretch, because I’m, you know, just Chloe lying on my stomach on my bed right now, writing this thing, and maybe I’ll eat some spaghetti later.  “Shaman” is one of those titles that makes me sort of go, “Oh God, okay, this is getting serious.”

That being said, let me start with the first question.

My “calling” to this path is sort of a lifelong fascination with magic and the sort of magical time in history.  I love Renaissance festivals, for example, and literally every summer since I was a child, my parents have asked me, “Okay, this year–the State Fair, or the Renaissance Festival?” and I’ve been like, “Is that even a question…?”  Of course they’re not historically accurate or anything, but this sort of world where magic is real and wizards and fairies and mystical forests with bands of jugglers exist…it has always drawn me in.  By some extension of that, I love fantasy novels.

I suppose therein lies my “shaman” aspect.  I love reading and writing fantasy–the sort of ability to get lost in and control a non-physical world, something just inside my head where anything is probably possible.  When I write fantasy, I’m creating something no one else has ever experienced yet (unless I’m over-inspired and end up plagiarizing a bit and it just sits in my computer forever).  And of course my venture onto this path is an attempt to understand and interact with the non-physical world.

The “madwoman” aspect comes into play, according to Roderick, when you get completely lost in this otherworld and you can’t function in society.  While I obviously don’t want to consider myself a madwoman, I think that my desire to write fantasy for a living could indicate a desire to completely get lost in this fantasy world.  Or perhaps coming onto this path, instead of just cosplaying at festivals, is an attempt to consume my life with the fantastic.  But I think I balance it well (after spaghetti today I’m going to my part-time job tomorrow).

In any case, it was an intriguing question to think about this lovely August day.  Sometimes I don’t take the time to include my path in my every day life, but I’m trying to get better at it.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #39: August 3rd, 2016

I’m going to give a heads-up right now that this journal doesn’t have a question in it, per se, just some interesting news….

Things have been pretty intense since I got back from my foreign country.  If you regularly read my blog, you know about my dear boyfriend, who waited for a very long time for me while I was off in foreign places.  When I came back, he took me on a special trip and PROPOSED, which I did not see coming.  We have been together for a long time, so it’s not outlandish that we’d be engaged now, but it still seems weird (probably since we’ve been together for so long as boyfriend/girlfriend).  Also, somebody give this kid props because he picked out a gorgeous ring.  And he went for some pretty deep symbolism in it, and when he explained it, I realized again how much my significant other is the kind of ideal in many ways that a lot of women spend a long time searching for.  So I feel very lucky.

The interesting part about getting engaged was that, in the car on this trip, I was telling him about the full moon ritual I’d done (in a somewhat uncertain way, since honestly, I think he’s still getting used to this path I’m going on, and he doesn’t exactly know what to make of it), and yet, despite how strange it probably all sounded, he asked me to marry him later that day.

The high of the moment doesn’t last forever, though, and when we got home from our short trip, and we finished celebrating with my family, reality sort of crashed in.  Now I have to plan a wedding–a wedding that my mom, the Catholic who doesn’t know anything about my spirituality, will be overseeing and contributing to and helping finance.  I realized that now I have a finite amount of time either to tell her about my path or to just suck it up and keep it intensely secret.  My fiance thinks that there’s no reason to tell my mom if I don’t want to, but…I mean, guys, she wants me to have a Catholic wedding in a Catholic church with a Catholic priest.  And definitely–at the absolute least, like if I have an outdoor wedding–she wants a member of the clergy to officiate.  I think my family might combust if I don’t have the clergy involved.  (My aunt literally said to me, “But the clergy is going to be involved in some way, right?”)  And my fiance’s mom is even MORE staunchly Christian.

I’m not sure what I should do.  On one hand, I want to have a really classic wedding, with beautiful flower sprays and a gorgeous dress and everything.  It’s been my dream since I was a kid.  But now that it’s real, and I want to think about how my spirituality is involved in such a huge event, maybe I want some tradition that plays more into my path.  Maybe a handfasting, or something.

Or perhaps I should separate the two.  I’ve heard of people doing handfastings a year and a day before their scheduled wedding, as a sort of extra engagement.  Maybe I could have a very small, adorable little Pagan handfasting, and then my wedding will be for the people, Biblical rhetoric and all.  I mean, I still don’t think I could manage having it in a Catholic church (my fiance isn’t Catholic, either), but I understand compromising with my mom on this one.

If any of you guys have had a handfasting or been to a Pagan wedding, let me know what it was like or if you have any suggestions.

By the way, this week the Pagan Perspective channel on YouTube is doing a video inspired by my blog (THANKS GUYS!).  Head on over to their channel to check them out.

 

I hope you’re all having a beautiful summer (and Lammas/Lughnasadh if you celebrate it!).

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

 

Lonely Moon

I guess I’m what I, and others, would consider a solitary practitioner.  Having discovered Witchcraft in the way that I did–in an ashamed, secretive way–and bringing in the sort of religious background I have, which is one in which community is absolutely necessary, I suppose I approached Witchcraft thinking that my whole life I could just be a mysterious woman who maybe did spells in her spare time but never shared them with anybody.

As I’ve continued walking down this path, however, I find myself sometimes wishing that it didn’t have to be a secret, and that I didn’t have to do everything alone.

Last summer, I suppose about a year and a month ago, I celebrated my first Esbat.  I went outside with my Tarot cards and some water to bless and I felt the power of the Mother shining through me.  I even managed an impromptu poetic verse invoking the power of the moon.  For my first time, it was an influential experience in my path.  It was also a wholly solitary experience, and sort of squirreled away in secret.

The next month I did my Esbat with Ibis, which I posted about a long time ago in one of my first Year and a Day Journal entries.

In that case, I don’t know if I did my Esbat with Ibis because she happened to be at my house, or if I already felt like I needed someone else to share my spirituality with, but regardless, I shared it outright.  I’ve always been a very open person, and with Ibis I could even share my new path, which was just barely becoming visible.

Now, a year later, I went outside and stared up at the Buck Moon and bathed my Tarot cards, my journal, some other special items, and some water in the crisp white light.  The warm summer breeze was gorgeous and the sky crystal clear–I’ve always been in love with summertime, if that’s not obvious–and even though I’ve been on this path for well over a year, I still felt a shiver as I wondered if anyone could see me from their house or window.

It looked very much like my first, shy Esbat.  And I wish it didn’t have to be like that.

I want to go outside and dance in the moonlight.  I want hold hands in a circle and light candles and watch them flicker in the wind.  I want to talk with people who wholeheartedly understand my ideas and have new ones to add.  I may think of myself as a solitary Witch, but it gets lonely being a secret Witch.

About ten minutes after I came inside from my short midnight moon session outside, I turned off the light in my bedroom and saw the silhouette of a person outside on our driveway.  I could easily see from his shape that it was my brother.  He and I both froze–perhaps he saw the light go off in my window–and waited, feeling, for a moment, we were both being watched.  Then, slowly, he put his hands in his pockets and turned to look at the moon.

I watched him for a moment, then I, too, took a step toward my window and peered at the silver circle between the black leaves of the maple outside.  And, for one quiet minute, we together looked at the moon in all her glory.

My brother is a self-proclaimed atheist.  He believes too solidly in the chemical workings of the brain to be able to accept the concept of souls.  But he can appreciate things of wonder and beauty, and in the end, that’s all I’m doing, and maybe I’m not as alone as I think.

I suppose the difference is that when he turned around a minute later, and I heard the front door open and close, I knew that he was going back to his computer desk and I was going to my makeshift altar.  But even these things are maybe not so different in the end.

If only I had the courage to open the broom closet so we could all go out and dance.

 

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #38: July 19th, 2016

This entry is based on Day 3 of Wicca: A Year and a Day by Timothy Roderick.

I think, as Witches (or whatever you call yourself), we have a nice, looming obstacle in the way of peaceful practice.  When I considered myself to be a Catholic Christian, my faith was out in the open (not everybody agreed with Catholicism, but still, it wasn’t a secret that I was Catholic).  When I got baptized, it was a big event.  When I had my first communion–another big event.  When I got confirmed, my whole family came and watched and I got a big pink cake with a cross on it and like a half-dozen family heirloom rosaries.

If you strip away the common factor that makes these things acceptable to our society–Jesus–then suddenly you have a bunch of rituals, and, to be quite honest, rituals that could easily be mistaken for Pagan rituals.  Baptism is water symbolizing birth and being washed clean, and a candle is lit to symbolize spirituality.  Communion is partaking in the fruit of the vine and the work of our hands to worship (although, Catholics believe in transubstantiation, wherein the wine is really the blood of Christ and the bread is really the body of Christ, so that’s a little bit more involved).  And at confirmation, I was anointed with oil and even given a different, spiritual name.

And yet.  Those rituals are acceptable to society, and Pagan stuff is apparently terrifying.

Of course, it’d be nice to think that we have just the one obstacle–society–and nothing else stands in our way.  That’s rarely true.  In fact, I think that one of the biggest obstacles that blocks my way is, unfortunately, myself.  Half the time, I don’t feel comfortable with what my path is, and with using terminology.  Reclaiming and all that aside, it’s not an easy task to call yourself a Witch in front of friends and family, or to say that you do magick or spells.  I know as well as they know what exactly comes to mind when you tell someone you’re a Witch.  They start thinking you’re delusional, is what starts happening.

I mean, truly, it’s not all that different than believing in a Christian God who will answer your prayers (and yet somehow it’s a hundred times more appealing than relying on God).  Either way, there’s some unseen force that exists in the Universe and you must appeal to it, whether that’s by sticking your own hand in and guiding it (magick) or praying (a whole host of religions, including Pagan ones), or calling on the saints for intercessions.  But Witchcraft just sounds dirty to the untrained ear.  And my ear is sometimes very untrained.

I liked Day 3 of the Wicca book I’m reading because it asked me, the practitioner, to Consider some essential words: Wicca, Witchcraft, Power, Ritual, Magic, Occult, Pagan, Spell, and Earth-Religion.  Answer the questions for each: a) What is my comfort level using each word? b) How do I understand each word? c) How do I imagine each word impacts other people who are not involved with Wicca?

I don’t want to go into immense detail about what I decided for each word, because it’s pretty personal, I suppose.  But I wrote a lot about skepticism, misunderstanding, and fear from both sides (myself and others).  In the end, I narrowed it down to one word–confusion.  I think that summarizes the negative emotions that both I and others feel about many of the key words that the book asked me to consider.

The book then asked me to write this one summarizing word on the side of a taper candle, to be burned away and the remaining wax buried far from my home.  But in the meantime, it wanted me to think of where this emotion comes from.  A scary cartoon about witches? the book suggested, or….

Well, I think I can understand where much of my confusion comes from.  I was raised Catholic, after all, and while Witchcraft-removal isn’t the main thing on the docket these days for the Catholic Church, certainly drilling into my head that there is One True God and only those that believe in and worship Him can have eternal life isn’t exactly Witchcraft-friendly.  Likewise, learning the history of Witches as only those Puritans who were tried and hanged in 1692-1693 and not as any real practitioners doesn’t do anything to help suggest Witches could be real people.  And the way that some parents react to children’s books with magic themes (Harry Potter topping the challenged book list, anyone?) definitely paints a picture of a society where hostility towards Witchcraft is alive and well.

And yet, as I was lying on my back thinking of where all the negative stuff came from, I also thought about how I was drawn to Witchcraft–how it felt like the right thing, how my fascination with magic had been something real and strong my whole life, how even when I wrote fantasy stories, magic wasn’t something that you could just snap your fingers and get, but something real, something simultaneously tangible and intangible and physical and something that required your effort.  I thought about how I fell in love with Renaissance festivals and the world of magic and whimsy there, and how every Halloween I was a witch or a sorceress.  How Harry Potter didn’t make me want to be a Witch, but how wanting to be a Witch made me devour Harry Potter. 

I know that this is all far from easy.  I watched my mom absolutely mock my brother this weekend for considering himself an atheist, and I could only sit there and think how much she would be appalled if she knew of my Tarot cards and essential oils.  I can hope that someday it’s not all so terrifying and confusing.  I’m trying to melt away some of that confusion now.

Well the candle burns down.  And only time will tell.

 

Blessed be!

)O(

(And a happy full moon to you all!)

 

 

Back in the United States

Well, I’m back from the land of not writing.  I know that I took over a month-long hiatus, but to be fair, I finished up working in my foreign country, spent almost 40 hours traveling, and I’ve now returned to the United States to engage in my previous life.

I thought it would be depressing, but I’ve sort of just slid back into normal life so easily, it’s like I never left.  Plus, two of my good friends from the foreign country immigrated to the US and are now staying at my house, so I kind of took my work home with me.  I suppose I couldn’t really ask for an easier transition.

Finding work back here isn’t going to be easy, because I’m trying to figure out who I am as an adult now.  It could be tempting to go back to exactly the way things were before, but it seems that there is, deep within me, something fundamentally changed from the girl I was a year ago.  It’s hard to explain, but I hope that I can use it to my advantage.

In the meantime, you may be wondering if this Year and a Day thing is ever really going to be consistent.  After all, I started it in November, it’s now July, and I’m only 38 days in.  Sure, there have been some posts I’ve done that weren’t tied with the Year and a Day theme, but on the whole, we all know that this hasn’t been exactly according to plan.

Now, I’m not trying to be over-ambitious or delusional or anything, but now that I’m home I have more ways to actually work on my Year and a Day writings.  After all, I have some Witchy resources here (more than I did in the foreign country) and I just bought Wicca: A Year and a Day: 366 Days of Spiritual Practice in the Craft of the Wise by Timothy Roderick.  If you’ve already read this particular book and come to the conclusion that it’s not the best for whatever reason, don’t worry, I’m not taking it as a Bible or anything.  Or rather, maybe I AM taking it as a Bible–and that being with a grain of salt, and ideally understanding it for what it is.

I might not use it for prompts every day, but it is going to provide me with some healthy inspiration and stuff to think on, thereby providing me with things to write about when I have absolutely no clue what I want to say.  And really, in the end, I’m just trying to learn more here for this journey.  It is my journal after all, although I’ve kind of made it a spectator sport.

I appreciate everyone who reads my blog posts, even if it’s occasionally.  I love getting comments from people too, because interacting with the community makes it feel a bit less like a shout into the void.

I hope you’re all having an amazing summer.

Blessed be!

)O(

 

 

 

 

 

Year and a Day Journal #37: June 5th, 2016

Well, here I am again, kind of wondering what to write about.  Why is there no full and complete list of 366 journal prompts somewhere on the Internet?  Somebody needs to make that happen.  I mean, I guess I’m doing it, but…somebody else should be in charge of this.  I can barely make toast some days.  As I’m writing this, I’m realizing I’m out of soy milk, too.

Anyway, no one should be surprised, I suppose, that I’m again taking some inspiration from the Pagan Perspective!  Seriously, if you haven’t checked them out, you need to do that pronto.   They have some really great information for pagans, whatever level of experience you have.

This week’s prompt is also taken from my own life, really, because this is it: How does food play into your path? 

Now, if you have the chance, go back and read my previous post, which was Food-for the Soul?  I don’t know why exactly, but it got a lot of hits, and I have the suspicion that it’s because that topic speaks to a lot of us.  Or maybe because it had a proper title unlike most of my posts, but that’s neither here nor there.  Anyway, probably 90% of the population has a weird relationship with food at best.  But, as I said in the end of that post, we have to try to mend this relationship in order to be at our spiritual best (or something to that effect).  Perhaps there’s no better way to mend this relationship than to make food into something spiritual in itself.

I’m leaving this prompt wide open, so if you ever use my prompts as inspiration, you can take it however you’d like.  Maybe you want to think about some recipes you make for the different sabbats.  Maybe you want to talk about how eating everyday is some kind of spiritual experience for you.  Maybe you want to talk about how your food choices are tied to your beliefs.  Now that I’ve suggested these things, I’m going to do all three.

Firstly–recipes for the sabbats.  I don’t freely celebrate the sabbats due to still being firmly located in the broom closet, but a lot of these recipes are just seasonable dishes that you can make without raising too much suspicion.  For example, for Yule I made wassail, which is a drink utilizing apple juice and spices.  There’s nothing inherently magickal about this particular recipe or anything, but the spices in your nose and wafting through the kitchen can help to warm your spirits.  I even used it as an offering for my Yule ritual.  I think the most important thing about sabbat recipes is to bring the essence of the sabbat into your cooking.  Why not make recipes with flowers for Beltane, or lots of wheat bread for Lammas?  Make stuff with pumpkins for Samhain, and stuff with eggs for Ostara (if you eat eggs).  For inspiration, I really enjoy the book The Kitchen Witch, by Soraya.  I have the Kindle version.  The author compiled lots of recipes for each sabbat and even has some extra tips.  The only frustrating thing about it is that the majority of the recipes including meat and dairy, which I tend not to eat.  But the book is really interesting and helpful, nevertheless.

Secondly–making food spiritual in itself.  It might be helpful here to insert the beautiful phrase, “Self love is synonymous with self care.”  I heard that once on YouTube (I’m so enlightened).  Regardless of the source, though, I think that the message is really important: if you want to love yourself, you have to take care of yourself.  If you want to take care of yourself, you have to love yourself.  So when you’re cooking, you’re (hopefully) caring for yourself.  You need food to live, to survive, to thrive.  The act of making your sustenance is the act of caring for yourself.  It is, perhaps, a very personal thing.  A ritual in itself.  Some people choose to treat it as any other ritual, with the lighting of a candle and the use of special utensils.  Sometimes I’m not that focused.  But once in awhile, if I’m making something that feels especially witchy (like homemade soup), I’ll actually set an intention for the food and I’ll put energy into the spices and herbs.  I’ll stir the thing deosil or widdershins.  Usually I make this soup for the purpose of healing and health, so it’s packed with tons of vegetables and good intentions.  I’ve eaten it myself when I had a cold to help me recover, and I’ve given it to friends who were sick.  I even told my friends that it was “special healing soup” and that it would make them better, because mentality is sometimes half the battle.

Lastly–food choices in relation to our beliefs.  As you can probably figure, I’m referring to certain lifestyles like vegetarianism and veganism.  For me, personally, my ideal lifestyle is vegan.  I was vegan for a few years, and while I’ve been abroad I’ve been vegetarian/pescatarian (the food culture here makes it very difficult to cut out dairy, eggs, and fish).  When I buy food to make for myself, it’s almost always vegan, but eating with friends or in restaurants is usually another story.  When I return to the United States, I hope to go back to being about 95% vegan.  Of course, people in the vegan community might tell you that there’s no such thing as being 95% vegan, and if you are truly vegan, you’re 100%.  But I’m kind of a believer that each time you make a positive choice is what matters, and doing something positive is better than nothing.  For me, veganism started out as a diet choice based on my weight and my obsession with food, but at least in the midst of my obsession I did get to learn a lot about the meat and dairy industries, and how veganism can impact these industries.  I don’t like to hurt animals.  I don’t really like to eat animals or animal products, at least not when I think about it.  I don’t want to harm anyone or anything.  Does that sound like a familiar lesson we Witches learn?

Food is such a complex thing sometimes, but I truly hope that someday I, and everyone else, can have a healthy relationship with food.  Regarding food as a spiritual tool may be one way to make that happen.  When I eat, I want to know that it is the best thing for me, and that it doesn’t conflict with my values.

If you’re interested in hearing more about other Pagans and their food choices, check out the Pagan Perspective channel on YouTube from a few weeks ago.  They touched on veganism and had some pretty interesting things to say.

I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend.

Blessed be!

)O(