Thursday, January 31, 2013

Charming of the Plow

No sign of Spring, yet.  The blizzard has stopped and the winds are slowing.  The temperature is below zero but Sunna is shining bright, giving way to Manni soon.  Blessed Imbolc!




This is the time of the feast of torches,
When every lamp blazes and shines
To welcome the rebirth of Spring.
We celebrate the Goddess,
We celebrate the God;
All the Earth celebrates
Beneath its mantle of sleep.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


By February, most of us in the North are tired of the cold, snowy season.  Imbolc marks the beginning of the lambing season, signaling the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life.  Most commonly it is celebrated on 2 February (or 12 February, on the Old Calendar) in the Northern Hemisphere and 1 August in the Southern Hemisphere.  The moon will be waning, last quarter this year.  Imbolc reminds us that Spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. The sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we know that life is revive within the soil.
Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc.  Some people focus on the Celtic Goddess Brigid, in many aspects a Deity of fire and fertility.  Others aim their rituals more towards the cycles of the season and agricultural markers.  Rituals and activities might include the making of candles, planting Spring flowers, reading poetry and telling stories.

In Norse, the Charming of the Plow is a festival of fertility and beginnings of the planted seed.  Many celebrate the courtship by Freyr of the Maiden Gerd; a symbolic marriage of the God of Fertility with the Mother Earth.  In much of Northern Europe, grain cakes were offered for the soil’s fertility and were invoked to that end.  

In other areas, the plow is decorated and then whiskey or ewe's milk is poured over it.  Pieces of cheese and bread are left by the plough and in newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits.  It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants during this time.  Some more modern traditions may use other garden tools such as the rake, shovel or hoe.

The holiday also generally honors all Goddesses and female ancestor spirits who bring blessings of fertility as well as important lessons.  This is a good time to recall outstanding women in one’s family line.  For those of you who garden, this is the time to plant seeds indoors to later be transplanted into the Spring garden. Another way to make the day is to meditate upon you dependence on the soil.

You live on soil, gleba, Earth, land, erz - whatever you call it, it is common dirt that everyone shares.  Soil supplies over 90 percent of the world's food - rice, corn and wheat.  The early people thought of the Earth as sacred.  Earth was home and the provider of life.  But now the world's supply of soil is shrinking - lost to cities, floods and paved roads.  Most of the food today comes from huge farms doused in pesticides. 
The Gods give us gift for gift, honor for honor, truth for truth, respect if we are worthy, council if we ask for it and insight if we are ready.  Forseti, the Presiding One, is a God of justice, savior of the devout, winner of just lawsuits.  He represents justice, truth, good laws, arbitration, peace and fairness.

Truth is simply being honest about what you believe or know to be true and right.   Var, Goddess of awareness, personifies an idealized concept of truth and honesty. Var and Vor were handmaidens of Frigg, and are invoked to witness oaths and to punish oath breakers.  Goddess of love-vows, she listens to (and punishes those who break) agreements between men and women.  Newly married couples say her name when they take each other's hands.

The truth is not absolute, it changes over time. (The Earth use to be the center of the universe once upon a time).   Spend today reviewing what is in your food.  What is going into your garden in a few months.  What you can do to honor Earth and treat it well.  Take a nature walk and look for the first signs of Spring.


The Goddess Brigid

The Irish Goddess Brigid is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth.  To honor her, purification and cleaning are a wonderful way to get ready for the coming of Spring. In addition to fire, she is a Goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.  When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was hard to convince people to get rid of their old Gods, so the church allowed them to worship the Goddess Brigid as a saint -- thus the creation of St. Brigit 's Day. Today, there are many churches around the world which bear her name.  Brigit's Cross is a traditional fire wheel symbol - found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection.

Sacred Feminine

Imbolc or Candlemas is a great day to honor the Sacred Feminine.  It can be done in a traditional way, like burning candles and offering flowers at a shrine in Her honor. This date also coincides with the feast of St. Brigit, a Irish Catholic nun whose life work was to tend to women’s health, particularly in childbirth.  What better way, then, to honor this special day by volunteering or making a donation to your local women’s shelter.


Purification and Light

For Christians, February 2nd continues to be celebrated as Candelmas, the feast of purification of the Virgin. By Jewish law, it took forty days after a birth for a woman to be cleansed following the birth of a son.  Forty days after Christmas – the birth of Jesus – is February 2nd.  For the Christian calendar, this holiday was reformed and renamed 'Candlemas' when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary.   Candles were blessed, there was much feasting to be had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed a little brighter.


Love & Courtship

February is known as a month when love begins anew, in part to the widespread celebration of Valentine's Day.  In some parts of Europe, there was a belief that February 14th was the day that birds and animals began their annual hunt for a mate. Valentine's Day is named for the Christian priest who defied Emperor Claudius II's edict banning young soldiers from marrying.  In secret, Valentine 'tied the knot' for many young couples.  Eventually, he was captured and executed on Feb. 14, 269 C.E. Before his death, he smuggled a message to a girl he had befriended while imprisoned -- the first Valentine's Day card.


Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens may be a forerunner to the North American Groundhog Day.  Some people believed that Imbolc predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. If Imbolc Day be fair and bright, winter will have another fight.  If Imbolc Day brings cloud and rain, winter won't come again.


May you have a blessed Imbolc!


End of Winter Meal Blessing

The winter has come to an end
The stores of food are dwindling,
And yet we eat, and stay warm
In the chilled winter months.
We are grateful for our good fortune,
And for the food before us.

Blessed be.


Saturday, January 19, 2013


The word "deer" was originally broad in meaning, but became more specific over time.  In Middle English der meant a wild animal of any kind.  This was as opposed to cattle, which then meant any sort of domestic livestock that was easy to collect and remove from the land, from the idea of personal-property ownership.  Deer are ruminant mammals including white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, reindeer, fallow deer and chital.  Most food for ancestors came off farms, but hunters provided meat from deer, elks, seals, birds and more. 

For most types of deer in modern English usage, the male is called a "buck" and the female is termed a "doe", but the terms vary with dialect, and especially according to the size of the species.  For many larger deer the male is termed a "stag", while for other larger deer the same words are used as for cattle: "bull" and "cow". 

Deer are represented in heraldry by the stag or hart, or less often, by the hind, and the brocket (a young stag up to two years). Stag's heads and antlers also appear as charges.  Several Norwegian municipalities have a stag or stag's head in their arms: Gjemnes, Hjartdal and Voss.
Deer have significant roles in the mythology of various peoples.  Cernunnos was a god in Celtic mythology that possessed two deer antlers on the top of his head.  The deer is considered by some Christians to be a symbol of Christ.  In Greek mythology, the deer is particularly associated with Artemis in her role as virginal huntress.  In Hindu mythology, the goddess Saraswati takes the form of a red deer called Rohit.  In Slavic fairytales, Golden-horned deer is a large deer with golden antlers. 

The deer serves as a bridge between the wild and the tame.  This is because the deer will often be seen on the edges of the wilderness it calls home.  Deer will also venture into our roadways and gardens.  Deer have acute senses, they are always on alert to keep themselves from harm's way.  Deer totems may appear when danger is lurking, it also serves as a reminder to be watchful and be family oriented. 

In some Pagan and Wiccan traditions, the deer is highly symbolic, and takes on many aspects of the God during the harvest season.  For many Wiccans, the antlers of the stag are associated directly with the fertility of the God. The Horned God, in his many incarnations, often appears wearing a headdress of antlers. In some depictions, the horns grow directly from his head. Early Paleolithic cave art shows men wearing antlers on their heads, so it would appear that the horn or antler has long been a symbol of worship in some form or another.  A popular Mabon chant to sing is entitled, Hoof and Horn.

In Norse mythology, four stags eat among the branches of the World Tree Yggdrasill.  Their names are given as Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór.  Early suggestions for interpretations of the stags included connecting them with the four elements, the four seasons or the phases of the moon.  The stags biting the leaves of the tree, is also sometimes interpreted as winds tearing at clouds. The fact that Dáinn and Dvalinn are also dwarf names, is connected with dwarves having control of winds.

The Algiz x rune’s traditional meaning is 'elk'. It is the rune which comes between us and harms way in the physical world as well as the spiritual. This rune often also represents peace and interestingly, today’s ‘Peace’ sign/symbol is the Algiz rune, encircled.


Even a plant can cause harm
if used without caution;
danger lurks even in the safest place.
So may it be.


Bovine is derived from Latin bos, "ox".  Bovines includes a diverse group of medium- to large-sized ungulates, including domestic cattle, bison, the water buffalo, the yak, and the spiral-horned antelopes.  General characteristics include cloven hoofs and usually at least one of the sexes of a species having horns.  In most countries, bovines are used for food.  

Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated bovines, an estimated 1.3 billion cattle are in the world today.  Cattle occupy a unique role in human history, domesticated since at least the early Neolithic.  Bulls were used as offerings to the Gods in pagan era sacrifices.  Cattle are raised as livestock for meat (beef and veal), as dairy animals for milk, and as draft animals (pulling carts and  plows).  Cattle are eaten almost everywhere except in major parts of India and Nepal, where bovines are considered sacred by Hindus.  Other products include leather and dung for manure or fuel. 

Cattle symbolism differs in that cow represents the feminine nature; bull, the masculine. These bovines are subjects of myths and superstition. Druids associated the bull with solar energy; the cow, earth energy.  The Egyptian Sky Goddess Nut was, sometimes, depicted as a cow having four stars on her belly that represented the four cosmic quarters of the earth and the respective energy from which each direction’s energy flows.  Hindus and Buddhists symbolism of the cow is patience and holiness.  In Norse belief, Audhumla was a cow whose utters emitted the four rivers of power that provided nourishment for the giants that ruled the First World. 
There are also numerous cattle, cow and bull superstitions.  Cattle were driven through the smoke of bonfires made from ash and rowan wood to protect them from faeries. White cows give inferior milk; red ones, the best.  If cows turn their tails upright or lie down in pastures, rain will soon come.  An omen of bad weather is a cow slapping her tail against a fence or tree.  Keeping a tip of a calf’s tongue protects people from danger and ensures that they will always have money.

The aurochs originally ranged throughout Europe, North Africa, and much of Asia. In historical times, its range became restricted to Europe, and the last known individual died in Poland.  Uruz rune u is symbolized by the Auroch, or ox. The ‘auroch’ was a species of wild oxen or huge bovine, similar to a longhorn bull, that was once found all over Europe. They had become extinct since sometime in the 17th Century. Aurochs were reputed to have had horns as long as six feet and were highly prized by people as drinking horns. Paintings of aurochs have been found in Neolithic caves. It was believed that the hunting of the aurochs had a significance as a ‘rite of passage’ for boys entering manhood. Uruz is the rune of the ‘God of the Sacred hunt’ and his shaman or priest.

The ancient people of the Norse saw the horn of the auroch as a symbol of strength. It was used to swear oaths upon, make firm friendships by and to clinch deals.

 The importance of cattle to the early Germanic peoples is shown by the fact that, as aurochs became domesticated cattle, a second rune in the runic alphabet was created to describe the domesticated animal, symbolized by the rune fehu f, which literally means "cattle".  Over time, the rune came to mean "wealth, money, fee," for cattle were the measure of wealth in early Germanic society.
Within its historical background this rune refers to cattle. The ownership of cattle gives potential for further expansion and empowerment. To own cattle ensures there would be meat for the family, or alternatively, it could be sold or traded for other necessities, wants and wishes. To be the owner of cattle in ancient times, signified that you were a person of sound decision making skills, as portrayed by your management talents and deft wisdom and knowledge.

To our ancestors, as with us in today’s society, the accumulation of wealth, when gained honorably, is a positive thing. It ensures survival as wealth in its purest sense is a steady food supply. The cattle gives financial security, which in turn delivers comforts needed on all levels.

The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
grab life by the horns,
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of strength.

So may it be.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Ansuz A
Vallaha is exceedingly high and precious to men.
With its sturdy ash trunk it offers a stubborn resistance,
though attacked by many a man.
Air we cannot see,
Swirls of laughter and music. 
Air is the element that we breathe into our busy lungs.
Algiz z
Even a plant can cause harm
if used without caution;
danger lurks even in the safest place.
Berkanan b
Your green leaves bloom early
giving us knowledge
that Spring has come again.
Cen c
The inner light which is never extinguished
brightens the dark weary world.
This body is a great hall;
the mind sits in the body's high seat.
The call to faith
a torch carrying procession.
We have been through the fire
We have been the funeral pyre
We have learn to purify, to cast aside
that which keeps us from living fully
And now we blaze as well as flame.
Daeg d
We shine in the light of the deities.
Day is followed by night;
life by death,
we know that after night comes a new day.
So death is followed by new life
in whatever way that arises. 
Dragons flying in the sky,
swooping down and soaring high. 
Mighty wings, so awe inspiring, always moving, never tiring.
Ehwaz e
The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.
A steed in the pride of its hoofs,
when rich men on horseback bandy words about it;
and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless.
Ear  q
Death is the end of all.
Even the most powerful
and wealthy people
are seized in the end.
Yet don't despair,
for life goes on
and so do all which die
come back to some form of life.
Eiwaz I
The yew is a tree with rough bark,
greenest of trees in winter,
hard in the earth, supported by its roots,
a guardian of flame and a joy upon an estate.
Fehu f
Wealth should flow,
constantly circulating
to promote the common good.
Sellers, buyers, investors, and the taxing authorities
portion out between them
the incomes of the folk.
Money sitting idle
causes only harm.
Gar  G
If you`re not afraid of the fire, my spear will bar your way for you!
My hand still holds
the haft of power;
the sword you wield
was shivered ere now by this shaft:
once more let it
splinter upon my eternal spear!
Haglaz h
Even a good life has its days.
As a hard rain good for the crops
turns to a hail storm that flattens them.
Even then the bad times don't last;
even the thickest hail
melts away.
Isaz i
Ice is very cold and immeasurably slippery;
it glistens as clear as glass and most like to gems;
it is a floor wrought by the frost, fair to look upon.
Inguz N
Freyr moves across the lands;
visiting his farmer friends
giving gifts of great bounty.
Iar j
The world serpent has us all
in its grip;
lord of eternity
the cycle of birth and death.
Ingwaz q
The sky wolves have retreated;
Sunna warms the land below.
Freyr and Freya have
bestowed upon us a great bounty
for all the folk.
Jera j
Summer is a joy to men,
suffer the earth to bring forth shining fruits
for rich and poor alike.

Kenaz k
The torch is known to every living man
by its pale, bright flame; it always burns
where warriors sit within.
Kalc K
Drink from the chalice of such wondrous design,
as it is lovingly held.  Filled with mead,
an offering to love’s grace.
Laguz l
Water we cannot understand,
splashes of coolness and purity. 
Water is the element that we drink,
gulping down freely through our throats.
Mannaz m
Be happy in life.
Bring happiness to your friends
and relations.
Yet be aware that death is always waiting.
Moon d
Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in his silver shoon;
This way, and that, he peers, and sees
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
And fish in the water gleam.
Naudiz n
Trouble is oppressive to the heart;
yet often it proves a source of help and salvation
to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it.
Othala  o
An ancestor is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.
Peord  p
Peorth is a source of recreation and amusement to the great,
where warriors sit
cheerfully together in the banqueting-hall.
Raido r
When one sits in one's home
everything looks so easy;
talk is easier than action.
To walk in another's shoes
and do better,
that is a most difficult task.
Sowilo s
Sunna is the goddess of hope.
She points out the way
and gives us the energy for life's work. 
From the outside the stone is a riddle,
even though a cow steps on it.  But when two stones are rubbed,
sparks fly out.  Perhaps there is a moon shining from somewhere
or perhaps it is just cool and quiet.
Teiwaz t
Tyr is the way.
He is the sky father
who guides us
thru life winding paths,
never abandons us
to darkness.
Thurisaz T
Computers crash
and planes fall out the skies.
That is the nature of things
and not always evil in intent.
Even good people sometimes cause
good people harm. 
Uruz u
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast that fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of strength.
One must grab life's challenges by the horn's.
Wunjo w
It is bliss to reach the state of happiness:
no suffering, no sorrows, great joy.
To have the necessities of life
and to be able to help others.
Even in a reversal of fortune
one who is truly free
can still find joy
in this world and in other realms.
Yr  y
I fly straight as an arrow
to my destination.
May we have the power
to withstand the attacks
of our enemies.