Lughnasadh: Reflections on Summer

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My “wicker” man perched atop my altar.

It feels like ages since I’ve posted, and yet like the summer has absolutely flown by in the blinking of an eye. A great deal has happened and it feels like a great unraveling and re-weaving of a tapestry. It’s all seemed a blur, but I’m able to sit now and reflect and give thanks for the process though I know the work is not yet over… but after all, that is what Lughnasadh is about, isn’t it? Giving thanks for the first fruits of our labor though we know there is still much left to do.

In the past months since posting, I’ve moved back to Michigan from Georgia and, on mutual terms, ended the long-term relationship I’d been in. I left a living and job situation that was not promoting growth and stability like I had hoped that it would. The stars (or energies, or whatever) aligned so that I was able to get my job back in my home town, and I have my own little bit of space in my parents’ house. Right now, I’m looking at returning to school to become an English teacher. I have the freedom to drive where I please. There’s a great deal I’ve been thinking and feeling, that for sake of privacy I won’t divulge here, but for the first time in I can’t quite remember when… I feel happy and fulfilled and hopeful for the future.

This year, as I was crafting my “wicker” man (he’s truthfully made out of sticks, wild grapevine, leaves, tigerlilly stems, and all manner of other foliage from my back yard), I began with a poppet. I’d wanted him to be a little bit more stable, but I also decided to fill him with written prayers of thanks, affirmations of the personal transformations I’ve been undergoing, herbs and scraps from spells over the past winter, and all my hope for the coming fall and winter.

Lughnasadh has always been for me one of those important touchstone holidays. I may skip nearly every other sabbat in the Wheel of the Year, but I’ll find time to bake and to get crafty and gather friends together to mark the start of Summer’s end. I make the first pumpkin bread of the year. The Halloween costume shops start to crop up around town. There’s a cool breeze now and again in the air that smells like the coming rains of autumn. The leaves and grasses are more yellowed with the languid late-July/early-August heat, and the spring and summer flowers are fading away. Crows have moved into my family’s yard and chatter away each morning. The countdown to the renaissance festival has begun.

As I write this, my bread has just finished baking and my wickerman is perched upon the altar awaiting a small rite tomorrow. I am deeply thankful for the lessons and the strength the beginning of 2019 has given me. I look forward to whatever the coming months have in store.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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Thinking About: Samhain

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A small shrine I set up on my altar. On it, are pieces of jewelry from my mom, my grandmother, and great grandmother.

In this corner of Michigan, it feels almost as though Samhain and Autumn itself have been skipped. The weather has gotten incredibly chilly already, and it seems like the leaves have been dropping a bit faster than they used to. With the all of the warnings about the dangerous changes in the climate, I can definitely feel on these frigid blustery days that something is amiss.

But even the spirit of autumn seems absent. It feels like a dreary veil of grey has sort of fallen over the whole ordeal. Where I would usually be preparing for Samhain, I’m filled with a sort of apathy. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the environment. Perhaps with all that is filling my mind between the horrors of United States politics, the climate, and what’s going on in my own personal life, I just don’t have the energy left.

The time between Mabon, which passed with very little feeling for me this year, and Samhain are usually filled with a great deal of creativity and spiritual activity. The Wylde Hunt appears again in the blustery winds and the rolling thunderstorms. But this year it feels stagnant, and murky. It’s hard to feel as connected as I typically do.

However, I’m of the opinion that succumbing to that feeling of despair and hollowness only gives it a further foothold. Today, after several weeks of disuse, I approached my altar, lit some candles, placed some items in its center to honor my ancestors and family. The feelings of autumn might feel missing, but there is still time to reflect; to tend to the decaying and changing happening under the surface; to honor what was, what is, and what shall be; and to reach out and feel that yes, those energies are still there even when we don’t feel them to be present in our lives.

I suspect Samhain will be a quiet one for me this year. There’s much to think about, and much that needs to change- on a global level and a personal level. Last year was about re-attuning to the cycles and finding the rhythm without the old markers for shifts in the seasons. This year has been a lesson in subtlety, and feeling connected even when it feels most difficult to do so.

What are your plans for Samhain? How are you preparing for the darker part of the year, and the changes still ahead?

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

Imbolc: The Light in the Darkness

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As the new solar year gets under way, it is nearing the time of Imbolc. In Druidry, and indeed for many neo-Pagans, this is a festival that marks the returning of spring. The light has started to return to us following the Winter Solstice, or Yule, and the first signs of new life can begin to be seen. It is associated with a return to youth, light in the last dark months of winter, a time for stirring from our post-holiday stupor, as it were.

I do quite honestly believe that this year is the first year in which I feel these things in any sort of real sense. For several years, my practice often completely overlooked the festival altogether. How could I celebrate the coming of spring when I’m up to my rear in snow? Where was the light at the end of the tunnel when we’d hit only about a quarter of the way through the Winter Semester of the academic year? After the solar New Year’s glimmer and excitement had faded, it was altogether much more difficult for me to find that same light still burning by the time we had reached Imbolc. A bit of a seasonal rut and bout of depression seemed to hit every February without fail as I juggled work, school, and social life, as well as trying to even find the motivation for the simplest of continuances of my pagan practice. Celebration and ritual generally wasn’t in the schedule for me.

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This year feels different, and I’m a little disappointed that it a) took me this long to find a connection with that idea of hope and of light returning for this sabbat, and b)is occurring right before I move to a drastically different climate where I’ll have to learn again the patterns of the Wheel of the Year as they unfold in the tropics rather than in my rather temperate home state. Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having; I was able to take a walk in the ravines this afternoon without gloves or anything of the sort because it was nearing forty degrees Fahrenheit. I’m almost more willing to believe that spring is nearing this year. It might also be that I’ve something new to look forward to in the coming months: graduation and the start of a new life.

Early January was sort of riddled with a deep depression that I had sunken into, but now that things have started to move forward, I’m gradually feeling a bit better. There’s something stirring, and I’m hoping it’s something better than last year had to offer about this time.

Here’s hoping you all have a blessed sabbat however you do- or don’t!- celebrate it. May the quiet and steadfast light of hope and life reborn be with you as The Wheel continues to turn.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel