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
With sadness I have to report that Lady Alsace Isa Brie , The Elder High Priestess of the coven of the Catta has passed into the Summer Country. Lady Alsace was born in Australia later emigrating to the United States after her marriage to a soldier who was stationed overseas. Lady Alsace was a vibrant and intensely psychic person who loved art and nature , finding joy and spiritual connection through her garden which she deeply cared for and where she could most often be found when not giving psychic readings from her home as she did for many years. It was through her love of art that she first met Lady Phoebe in an art class they both attended and which later led to her joining the coven of the Catta, receiving 1st and 2nd degrees, and finally receiving her 3rd degree from Lord Shawnus in 1998. Lady Alsace was a warm and caring person with a great sense of humor and it was impossible to have a conversation with her either in person or on the phone that this did not come through readily , just as readily as the impromptu psychic reading she always added in which often left you trying to take notes while still upholding your half of the conversation. As mentioned above her love of art introduced her to the craft and coven and also figured into the Cat Tales, which was a small inner coven newsletter produced by the coven during the 1970’s and 1980’s , in which her art work is featured in many of the issues. We are very fortunate to have digital copies of the old newsletters with her artwork and other coveners contributions preserved. Lady Alsace and Lord Shawnus as Elder High Priestess and Elder High Priest kept the coven of the Catta alive in the Berwick area after Lady Phoebes passing, often meeting in the gardens that she loved and cared for to hold the four Great Sabbats. Lord Shawnus passed in 2015 and now with lady Alsace also passing another photo will be added to the coven altar later this year at Samhain to honor and remember them, both for the happy memories and friendship shared as well as all that they did to preserve the coven and pass it’s teachings and Lineage onward. Blessed Be, Aren
The Wheel has turned bringing us again to Beltane, also known as May Day or Roodmas, one of the four Great Sabbats. Beltane is also one of the traditional fire festivals where the balefire was a cornerstone of the celebrations. In honor of this in our coven there is a cauldron placed in the east of the circle with a candle inside which is lit during the ceremonies to carry on that tradition. Another very old custom relating to May Day or Beltane is the Maypole which is in and of itself rich in symbolism, both of the world tree itself as well as a phallic symbol of the Lord of the Greenwood at this time of year in which we come together to celebrate the marriage of the Goddess and God and their sacred Union. While the Maypole is not formally a part of the Catta Beltane rites Lord Shawnus did encourage it be added as it was used at times in the original coven with brightly colored ribbons woven clockwise and counterclockwise around the pole symbolizing the coming and going and dance of Life itself. It is also a tradition to gather fresh greens and flowers to decorate the altar especially for this celebration which seems to echo the older practice of Bringing in of the May. Beltane, as one of the four Great Sabbats is an especially sacred time of year and celebration as we honor the union of the Great Goddess and Her Consort as well as the beauty of nature that has quickened and come to life all around us. If at all possible this is one ritual best held out doors, but each coven and individual has their own ways of keeping this special time of year and because of the close associations with the thin veil this is indeed a very magical night. Wishing everyone a Blessed and Bright Beltane. BB , Aren
The Spring Equinox also known as Alban Eilir and Ostara, has arrived. At this time the powers of Dark and Light stand in balance and the hours of night and day are equal though we move towards a rising of the light with warmer, longer days ahead. The promise of Candlemas has kindled and comes now into fuller life all around us. Here citrus buds have begun to blossom and their heady fragrance is in the air, as well as Azaleas now coming into full bloom. We also see this year a full Worm or Plough Moon coinciding with the Equinox which makes it a doubly potent time for initiating change and new beginnings, indeed one of the deepest messages of this seasonal tide is that of new beginning. Our ancestors lived closely attuned to the paths of the Sun and Moon and in the names they had for the moons we still see the echo’s of this. The Worm Moon of March was so called due to the softening ground making way for earthworms to begin to appear at Winters end, and the Plough Moon signifying the time the earth was traditionally made ready for the planting of seeds. Indeed at this time in many traditions the blessing of seeds is a part of the Spring ceremonies. In the Catta we have green candles placed in the quarters symbolizing the rejuvenated earth and silver candles on the altar symbolizing the Goddess in her bright Springtime aspect. This is a bright and happy celebration and one of the first that can more easily be held outdoors to better mark this seasonal shift. At this in-between time as we stand poised but ready to embrace and enjoy longer, warmer days hopefully we all will begin planting the seeds of our new beginnings. Wishing a Blessed Spring Equinox to all. BB, Aren
The turning wheel has brought us to Imbolc, or Candlemas as we in the Catta coven celebrate it. We now stand at a midpoint between Yule and Spring, this is a time of hope and renewal as we celebrate the return of the light. At this time we see the end of the Dark Half of the year in sight, even though snow still covers the ground in most areas there is a stirring in the earth of the life that will later bloom and blossom once Spring fully returns. Imbolc has a long and rich history and its name also has meant “In the belly” referring to the seeds and plant life that now reside in the belly of the Mother ( earth ) waiting for the snows to recede so that new life can emerge. We see in this time of year the promise of warmer and brighter days ahead, when we were a more agriculturally based society this would also have been the time to begin preparations for Spring and Summer and seeing that all was in readiness. In many Traditions, as well as the Catta, we also see at this time the return of the Goddess in her Maiden aspect. As I have written about before, Lord Shawnus had a practice of having the Goddess image on the altar at the beginning of this rite covered by a white cloth that was later removed at the point in the ritual when we welcomed Persephone’s return which does add a deeply symbolic aspect to the ritual. We also at this time work to banish and put aside the worst of the Winter and it’s associations and begin looking forward to the return of longer days and warmer times. However you celebrate it hopefully this will be a Bright season for all. Wishing everyone a Blessed Candlemas, BB, Aren