Today marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of Lord Shawnus Merlin Belarion, Elder High Priest of the Coven of the Catta. To those of us who knew him, both personally as well as through his many online posts, writings and communications he was many things; a gifted and dedicated High Priest of the Goddess, a wonderful teacher who loved sharing with others those things he held dear, a loving brother and a true friend to so many of us. In his final years ill health was a constant companion but despite that he remained in good spirits and continued on with the things he loved and lived his life to the fullest. Shawnus was also a talented photographer and writer and the photos that are uploaded here onto this blog are unless otherwise stated ones he took over the years of the area near his home. Though writing is not my forte as it was his, I have updated the coven blog as best I can since his passing as he had asked once years ago. Both this coven blog which he started to share something with the world of the path he was so dedicated to as well as to share some of our coven/Lineages history and his more personal blog, Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge, remain here so that they can be preserved and his writings available for all. What is remembered lives.
BB , Aren
Today we arrive at the Summer Solstice, also known as Alban Hefin, the longest day of the year when the Sun is at the height of its power and influence. There is some variance among different traditions and cultures, largely due to geographical area, as to whether this day in fact marks the true beginning of Summer or whether it is indeed the mid point with true Summer beginning on May Day and ending at Lammas which is reflected in the name Midsummer as this celebration is sometimes called. This has led to some differences in how the day is kept and in what form the rites take though one of the most well known is that of the Oak and Holly Kings. As I have mentioned before in the Catta we do not have the Oak and Holly King mythos, but as with many others do at this time see the rites revolving around the sacred symbols of the spear and cauldron and their symbolic joining of God and Goddess at this time when the sun shines down on the earth during its most fertile period. On the altar, or just beside it, along with seasonal flowers and a loaf of freshly baked bread is the cauldron filled with fresh water for later in the rite. The practice of jumping the bonfire to burn away negatively and ill luck is also a part of the Catta rites, as is a wreath of Summer flowers carried around the circle so that each covener can look through it to gaze at the bonfire and think on it’s meaning both overt and hidden. At this time of greatest light we are mindful that as the great wheel of the year moves forward the dark will begin to wax as bit by bit the hours of day and night will meet as equal at Lammas and days then to grow shorter following the Autumn Equinox. At this time though and on this day we celebrate the light and Sun in its time of greatest strength. Wishing a Blessed and Bright Summer Solstice to all BB, Aren.
We now arrive at Beltane and the beginning of Summer, though it has yet to come to full fruition, and in some places snow still is one the ground with cooler temperatures scattered throughout the country. Despite the lingering cooler weather the blossoming and visible signs of Natures revived life and bounty are abundant, and the promise of warmer times and longer days are close at hand. This festival, one of the four Great Sabbats of the year, is a time for celebration of life, abundance and the coming together of the Goddess and Horned God. This celebration has also been called May Day , Bealtaine and Walpurgis night. In this last name, Walpurgis, we see the echoes of another aspect of this time which is the way in which it is a bright and shining mirror of another of the Great Sabbats, Samhain. Indeed as we here in the Northern Hemisphere are celebrating Beltane and reaching out with honor to the Goddess and God, as well as to the spirits of Nature that are especially present at this time, in the Southern Hemisphere the Samhain candles are being kindled on the altars in remembrance of the Mighty and Beloved Dead. On this day regardless of where we are in the world or which celebration we are keeping we see a common thread, the closeness of the Otherworld and the thin veil which is most definitely a part of this time of year. The world of Spirit is now very close at hand whether it be the nature and elemental spirits coming to grace our festivities as the promise of Summer begins on the path, or the spirits of the dead drawing close to know they have not been forgotten, as well as those of our respective Craft lineages who have passed before to watch and witness the flames that we have kept lit and Traditions held dear.
In the Catta, as in many Traditions, there is a custom of having a maypole erected as part of the celebrations if they are being held outdoors with brightly colored ribbons to honor this special times past as well as its present. The Maypole is just one of the many customs traditionally held at this time of year, though it is one of the most enduring and one that many are most familiar with. Given present circumstances this is one part of the celebrations that many are forgoing this year, as well as large gatherings or even smaller coven meetings, to instead keep this sacred time in a way that both honors the cycling season but also keeps in mind the well being of our Brothers and Sisters in the Craft. Beltane was always a time of dancing, feasting and merry making and with everything that is going on in the world right now and the shadow that very much has impacted us all in one way or another it seems that this celebration of life is doubly important. Hopefully however we each of us hold this time of year and celebrate it, whether it is with the rites of Beltane here in the Northern Hemisphere or Samhain to our Brothers and Sisters in the Southern, this will be a joyous and hopeful time . Wishing a Blessed and Bright May Day to all. BB Aren
The Wheel has turned and we arrive now at Imbolc or Candlemas, and the very first stirrings of new life in nature that will later give way to Spring. Though snow and cold winds still hold sway in many areas there is now in nature a growing tide of rebirth and new life that is taking place, here the very first azalea buds are showing again and all around in many small ways this promise is being shown giving us something to look forward to in coming days. When we make a concerted effort to look to nature and attune ourselves to it, to notice as the seasons shift and the cycle of the nature expresses itself in small and larger ways we get to the heart of what our Craft and practice is or at very least one of the main and enduring cornerstones of it. In the Catta we at this time banish the shades of winter as part of the Sabbat celebrations as we welcome the Goddess in her Maiden aspect, Persephone returning from the Underworld as Lord Shawnus added to the rites many years ago, and honor the hope of light returning and bringing with it warmer weather and longer days. This is also a good time to do a thorough cleansing of the energies in our homes to make way for the rising tide of life and light and put behind us the Winter and old year to make way for the new. Wishing a bright and happy Candlemas and New Year to all. BB, Aren
As the Sun sets on this Winter Solstice we prepare for the longest night. This is a sacred time of year both to Pagans and Christians alike the world over, with a long and rich history. One of those most recognized and beloved traditions of this time of year is the trip to the forest, or tree lot, to pick out a tree to take home and decorate. In the brightly decorated Christmas tree and evergreen boughs brought indoors we see the echo’s of the early practices of the Roman Kalends Festival where boughs of greenery were brought indoors and candles were lit as a part of the celebrations, while the bringing in of Fir trees has roots in older Teutonic practices at this time of year. The brightly glinting lights decorating the trees are themselves echo’s of the practice of lighting and careful tending of fires on this longest Winter night to both bring in warmth and to encourage the rebirth of the Sun, with it bringing the hope and promise of brighter and warmer times. Another beloved tradition is the lighting of the Yule log which is seen as a symbolic encouragement of the fiery warmth of the Sun to be reborn. A small bit of the log is preserved all year to light the next years Yule log, which honors the cycle of the year as the great wheel turns. In many homes both Pagan and Christian we will also find displayed mistletoe with it’s long history of association with Druidry and having it’s own unique associations with the Sun. In many ways though the concept of what is being celebrated may differ there are a myriad of things that are shared and are universal about this time of year which links us together, both Pagan and Christian. As I have written about before at this time of year most especially Lord Shawnus saw the deep and abiding ties of both the old ways and the new, and that one did not take away from or preclude respect towards the other. This time of year regardless of how we celebrate it, or by what name we call it, is about hope and the rebirth of the Light. On this longest night whether we are are kindling candles on our altars or lighting and tending the Yule log in the hearth we are each of us honoring the rebirth and rising of the Sun and the hope of the Wheel turning bringing us to warmer times. Wishing a Blessed and Bright Yule to all. BB, Aren
The Wheel has turned and Samhain or simply All Hallows as we in the Catta call it has come again. This time of year has also been called by some Oiche Shamhna, Sauin , and Calan Gaeaf among others. As it has had a myriad of names in different languages and cultures so also is it rich in traditions and folk lore as well as bringing with it a sense of nostalgia for the simple joy and magic this night held for us when we were children. Dressing in costume and walking from house to house with the chilly night air swirling the fallen leaves around us, and carving Jack O Lanterns to put by the front door. So many of these simple childhood memories hark back to older practices and beliefs and are a part of what makes this time of year so special. It is this remembering that is one of the cornerstones of Samhain , but not just the remembering of Halloweens long past but also the remembering and honoring of our Beloved Dead as well as those of our lineage that have passed before us. We on this night when the veil is thinnest reach out with respect and love to honor those who we have loved that have passed on before us, as well as the Mighty Dead of times past. We draw comfort from this as do we believe they do as well since in a way it is very true that what is remembered lives.
In many Craft Traditions on this night the Goddess’ Consort assumes the mantle to guide us both to the reunion with our Beloved Dead but also through the coldest, darkest part of the year to come. In other Traditions and paths the Goddess in her oldest aspect holds sway, but regardless of those differences the meaning of this time is the same. In many places the first snows have already fallen on the ground and nature has began to shift in preparation , while animals have also begun to prepare for the coming Winter.. It is a time of drawing within and in that inward gaze and focus we find and hear the voices the wind brings to us as we stand in circle or outdoors with leaves dancing to an unseen breeze.
This year in the Catta we have another photo added to the altar along with those of Sybil Leek , Dr. Frederick Santee (Lord Merlin) , Lady Phoebe and Lord Shawnus, as this Hallows we also honor the passing of Lady Alsace and place her photo along side the other Elders of our Tradition who have passed beyond.
On this Samhain night as we carve Jack O Lanterns to guide the steps of the little costumed ghosts and goblins who may be paying us a visit and later light our candles upon our altars to honor the other visitors who may also be visiting from beyond the veil hopefully we all will take comfort and joy from this night and time of remembrance.
Wishing a Blessed and Bright Samhain to all. BB, Aren
Though Summers heat seems in many areas to still be holding sway the wheel has turned and we have arrived at the Autumn Equinox, also called Alban Elfed or Harvest Home. Today we and nature stand in balance with equal hours of day and night but with the awareness that after this tipping point the Dark half of the year rises as we move towards Winter. In the present it can be difficult for us to fully realize just how important this time of year was to our ancestors both spiritually and in terms of every day life since they were so closely dependent on the harvest . The Autumn harvest was of vital importance in seeing them safely though the Winter and largely because of this there were many customs that arose over time tied to this time of year to both honor and protect this time of bringing in the last of the years harvest to prepare for coming Winter. Today while we may not depend on the harvest which we have planted and tended in a mundane sense this still is a time to harvest and give thanks for the many things that we have set in motion and brought to fruition in our lives mundanely and spiritually. It also is a time to keep in mind the importance of natures balance and seek to remember that balance in both our Craft and in our daily affairs. At this time we see the Lady’s consort , the Horned One, beginning His passage to the land of Youth to prepare for All hallows and His rebirth to the Great Mother at Yule. In the Catta we place corn, necklaces made of acorns and other seasonal items on the altar, we also at this time celebrate the Descent of Persephone , added by Lord Shawnus to the rites many years ago to also help attune us to this time of year and it’s inner an outer resonances.
Also on this Autumn Equinox the Black Sun Coven (www.blacksuncoven.com ) founded by lady Augur and Lord Typhon , hived from the Coven of the Catta , will be celebrating their first Autumn together so it is also a time for them to see the fruit of the seeds they have planted and hard work harvested brought to fruition.
Wishing a Joyous and rich Harvest and Autumn to all. BB, Aren
The year moves onward and we stand at Lammas, or Lughnasadh as it is sometimes called, the first of the harvest rites. This year we have a black new moon rising on Lammas eve to usher in the celebration which makes it a doubly important time to both move beyond and past the effects of the retrograde that we have all been working through and also to mark the Lammas celebration as a time of positive change and thanksgiving.
At this Sabbat we in the Catta place vines, sheaves of golden wheat, and a bowl of various fruits upon the altar. The wheat symbolizing the mysteries of the God, with its association with the cycle of life, death and rebirth which He shares with us all, and also the celebration of the first harvest of the year. After calling upon and honoring the Gods later in the rite the fruits are offered to Them asking for Their blessing and in thanksgiving of the harvest we have seen both mundane and spiritual. A loaf of freshly baked bread is also present for this rite echoing the celebrations earlier meaning and customs which lead to it sometimes being called loaf mass, where we see the grains harvest sustaining us as we give thanks and honor to nature for that bounty.
There are a myriad of traditions within the craft and each will have slightly differing ways of celebrating this sacred time and festival but there are strands and root practices that we all share which helps to link us together, so however you celebrate this time hopefully it will be a bright and blessed one for you ! Wishing a Happy Lammas to all. BB, Aren
The longest day of the year, Summer Solstice or Alban Hefin as it is sometimes called, has arrived. The Sun having risen to the apex of its strength heralds in the power of the Light and the God’s influence at its height. We stand with the Suns power triumphant and celebrate this time of nature’s bounty and beauty, but are ever aware that from this point onward we slowly continue our journey towards the Dark half of the year when the Suns power will wane and days will become shorter. We all of us keep the Sabbats for various reasons and in a myriad of different ways, many of them specific to our personal beliefs and traditions. What we do share in common is a wish to honor both nature and the Goddess and Her Consort, as well as to through our rites and customs help keep alive and foster that oneness we seek with the natural cycle of things. Remembering and marking these days makes us more mindful of both nature and our place within it. We may most of us no longer have fields or crops to care for and harvest but remembering and honoring the seasonal celebrations helps to attune us to the natural world around us which is the basis for our Art and Craft, as well as helping us to honor our ancestors and the ways they themselves lived and worked with nature.
In the Catta coven we do not have the mythos of the Oak and Holly Kings as found in some branches of BTW Craft, but we do honor the Suns journey to its height and ask the God for His special blessings and protection at this time. The harvests have not yet begun in preparation for the colder, darker half of the year but as we celebrate and enjoy this longest day we still bear in mind that what rises also sets to rise again as the Great Wheel turns. Wishing a Blessed and Bright Summer Solstice to all. BB, Aren