Tag: wheel of the year

Review: Lammas, by Anna Franklin

By Mike Gleason | September 19, 2003 | Leave a comment

Lammas: Celebrating the Fruits of the First Harvest, by Anna Franklin
Llewellyn Publications, 0738700940, 216 pp. (+ appendices, glossary, bibliography and index), 2003

In a pleasant change from the average Pagan book, the authors of this work admit that there is very little documentation, folklore, or anything known for sure about this festival, or even when it was held. It was, apparently, a fairly regional celebration (Britain, Ireland, Gaul and possibly northern Spain).

A number of associated festivals and observances are explored, as well as traditions (both Pagan and Christian) which grew up around this time of year. There is no attempt made to assert primacy for any of these. They are simply presented to the reader as information to be enjoyed.

During discussions of the representation of the vegetation gods, there are constant references to the use of corn as a symbol, without making any mention of the fact that, in much of the ancient world, corn was synonymous with grain in general, and did not necessarily refer to corn as it is commonly seen today. Thus, when “an ear of corn” is referred to, it may be more accurate to think of a “head of wheat.”

This book is moderately “padded” by the restatement of the same information several times in various places; but, as many people tend to “browse” through books of this type, this “padding” serves the useful purpose of increasing the likelihood of that information sticking in the reader’s mind.

Several short lists of deities appropriate to various celebrations occurring at this time of year appear in Chapter Four. While these lists are quite limited, they do serve as a starting point for ongoing investigations. Suggestions for food and games appear in later chapters.

Chapter Five is dedicated to basic magics associated with this festival. Instructions are included for the construction of several different forms of corn dollies. The examples they offer use “corn” in its generic sense, since wheat stalks are the basis of these dollies.

There are sample spells for friendship and love, as well as practical advice on making a staff. There is a recipe for Vervain Lustral Water on page 97 about which I have some reservations. My uncertainty is about the amount of vervain – the conversion from U.S. to Imperial measurement just doesn’t seem right to me. Interpretations of some omens are included as well as suggestions of stones to be used in household protection.

There are nine pages of incense recipes for a variety of deities from a number of cultures. If you can’t find one you like out of this bunch, you’re not trying. I would recommend making a small bit of each of them (and burning them), so that you can see which works best for you. Don’t be afraid to tinker with the proportions, if you are so inspired.

Paul provides insights into the dyeing of fabrics, including some plants as source material and instructions in basic dyeing techniques.

Chapter Six consists of games and competitions to liven up your Lammas gathering. With a couple of exceptions all of them are quite enjoyable ways to divert yourself and your guests.

Chapter Seven includes recipes for body paints, and making stencils; as well as mask and shield making; and suggests ways to find your totem and power animals. The relaxation techniques and visualizations are pretty standard. There is a healthy amount of information given about a reasonably large group of animals. This part of the chapter is a valuable resource and should not be overlooked.

Chapter Eight consists of recipes for the Lammas/Lughnasa feast. All measurements are provided in American, Imperial, and metric quantities so, no matter what system you are used to using, you don’t need to make conversions.

Naturally, being a harvest feast, there are plenty of bread recipes, but no aspect of the feast – from the salad course to the dessert – is neglected. This chapter will enable you to plan a real harvest feast.

As in Midsummer, which I have previously reviewed, the final chapter is dedicated to ritual ideas from a variety of sources. The instructions for ritual preparations are fairly simple and standardized.

The “Lughnasa Calendar” in Appendix One runs from July 15th through August 25th, and includes many festivals [Greek, Chinese, Roman, Christian, and Nordic (among others)].

Appendix Two is simply a listing of alternate names for this festival.

Appendix Three provides a short list of symbols associated with, and appropriate for, Lammas; while Appendix Four gives some of the associated deities. The seventeen pages which make up Appendix Four should serve as a starting point for your own explorations.

Appendix Five gives the words (but not the music) for a few songs and chants relevant to Lammas, as well as a bit of their background.

The two page Glossary was hardly needed. It is too short to be of much help, and the terms have already been dealt with adequately in the text.

As with the other books in this series which I have read, it is a good source for general background on the holiday. It is NOT what I would consider a “must have” book, but it is well worth adding to the Coven library for basic information.


Review: Midsummer, by Anna Franklin

By Mike Gleason | September 13, 2003 | Leave a comment

Midsummer: Magical Celebrations of the Summer Solstice, by Anna Franklin
Llewellyn Publications, 0738700525, 173 pp (+ appendices, glossary, bibliography and index), 2003

One of the books dealing with the Sabbat cycle, this book shares all the basics of that series.

First there is the mythic and historic background of the festival, drawn from a number of cultures and historical periods. We also get some basic divination forms which are traditionally used on this date. Ms. Franklin also includes instructions for making a set of runes and for interpreting Tarot and the runes as well as the use of playing cards and oghams.

She includes some basic lore on fairies, as well as gemstones, wand making and herbalism.

Spells are given, and their folklore and background explained. The roots of the folk magic which underlie many of our customs are explored and explained.

Chapter Five deals with traditional herbcraft and production of gargles, oils and teas. While by no means extensive, there is a good sampling of herbs and their uses. There is also a fairly extensive listing of incenses for various deities, Sabbats, etc., and a short list of oils. While not as thorough as Cunningham’s works, it is a good basic section which will give you a working foundation on which to build.

Chapter Six is devoted to recipes. The information given is fine, but there are some minor glitches. On page 136 Ms. Franklin says “Christians believe that the bread and wine is the transubstantiated flesh and blood of God.” While that is true of Catholics, it is not necessarily true for all branches of Christianity. It is, as such, an overly broad statement.

Chapter Seven is about rituals, both indoor and outdoor. The rituals are drawn from a variety of traditions, and the reader is sure to find inspiration in them. It also includes a suggested hand-fasting ritual. My only quibble with the basic instructions for setting up an altar is the same one I have with the majority of books which include such instructions: On page 144 she says “The Goddess image is placed on the left, and the God image on the right.” Is that as the officiator faces the altar or as the altar faces the circle (since the altar is placed in the north in this situation)?

All of the rituals included are designed for group involvement, but could be easily adapted for solitary use.

The appendices include animal totems appropriate for this time of year, ranging from bees to snakes to reindeer; a midsummer calendar; correspondences; deities of midsummer; and symbols of the sun.

The glossary is a bit thin (actually it is VERY thin), but the index and bibliography help to make up for this shortcoming.

This books gives a lot of good, basic information. If you have never done a Midsummer ritual, you will find inspiration here. If you have even wondered about some of the traditions associated with this time of the year, this book is an excellent starting point. It is easy to read and quite enjoyable. While it will not my “Required Reading” list for students, it would certainly be a nice addition to a coven library.


Imbolc

By Psyche | January 6, 2001 | Leave a comment

2 February NH
31 July SH
First Full Moon in Aquarius

Some etymologists believe the word ‘Imbolc’ comes from the Gaelic Oi-melc, ewe’s milk. A variation of the spelling, ‘Imbolg’ is also common. This festival is especially sacred to Brigid, which is why it is also called ‘Brigantia’. Among Christians, it is known as ‘Candlemas’, a festival of candles.

This festival is dedicated both to the Goddess and the God, celebrating the light returning once again to the land.

The Goddess is seen as being Mother, as she has recently given birth to the Sun God, and is nurturing Her young Son. In some traditions the Goddess is seen as dwelling in the Underworld during the cold, harsh winter times as the Earth is barren. Near Imbolc, however, the Earth is beginning to show signs that the winter is receeding. Therefore the Goddess is also seen as Maiden, young as the growing year.

In many traditions, Yule is the time when the God is reborn anew, the day of the longest night of the year. After this, the daylight hours start getting longer, until the peak at Litha. Around Imbolc it becomes more noticible that the days are indeed lengthening and the Sun rises earlier.

Neo-pagans today celebrate Imbolc in various ways. In some traditions the Goddess is invited to leave the Underworld and live again in the Middle World, or Nature is called back. Sometimes invited by invocation, by one person or many in a coven ceremony, sometimes by lighting candles, or bonfires, or chanting, dancing, leaving offerings, lighting candles, etc.

The Celtic Goddess Brigid (Bride) is often invoked at Imbolc. She is seen as being a ‘Fire Goddess’ and is therefore very appropriate when considering that this is a festival to celebrate the return of the Sun. For those who favour a Roman pantheon Vesta is also suitable.

Popular themes for this time of year include ‘Reawakening’, ‘Purification’ and ‘Initation’. Imbolc is a favourite time for initation among many covens, or if already initiated, Reaffirmations to the Goddess and the God.


Samhain

By Psyche | October 24, 2000 | Leave a comment

31 October NH
30 April SH
First Full Moon in Scorpio

Most people are more familiar with Samhain than some of the other Wiccan and neo-pagan festivals because of customs associated with Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night in England.

Samhain is often seen as the old Celtic New Year, though it is not certain that this was the start of the New Year in all Celtic areas. It may seem strange that this season of death be considered the new year, for this is the time when the harvest is over, this is the season of rusty leaves, grey mists and an ever-increasing bite in the air is present. Life is fading, sleeping or dying. However, in ending cycles one can create new ones. In this time of death one becomes aware that new life will come, from under this frost bitten land. When outer life decays it is the inner strength that must become stronger to persevere.

The God is true Lord of the Underworld at this time, and the Goddess is the Wise Crone. They are both old and clothed in Mystery. This is a time of death, leading then to rebirth once more at Yule.

The Goddess is present as Crone and Wisewoman. Her time of fruits and harvest is complete. Now She offers secrets of the inner realm, of wisdom and magickal power. Within Her glimmers the light of the Maiden, for She is also seen as Lady of Life-in-Death, as Mother too, for she carries the Sun God in the secrecy of Her womb.

The God, having been cut down with the corn of Lammas and Mabon, is making the final journey into darkness and is with present as Lord of the Underworld.

The veil between this world and the spirit world is thin at this time, and it is traditional to ask the beloved dead to be with us – but they are asked, never commanded or summoned.

The God’s descent is honoured by identifying with the way life is retreating, and by allowing what must die in our lives to do so. The Crone is honoured by seeking Her wisdom.

It is a time of coming to terms with death, not only the death of the body, but the death of other things that have ceased over the year, such as relationships, jobs, hobbies, material wealth.

Samhain takes place during Scorpio, which is ruled by the element water. Water transforms and changes, and during Samhain it is a good time to meditate and wash away the pains and sorrows that have taken place during the course of the year.

The theme of this festival is ‘descent’ – descent into our own Underworld, our inner minds – facing our fears, discovering latent talents.


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