The seasons shift and the Wheel turns bringing us to Beltane, also called Roodmas, Bealtaine in Irish Gaelic, Bealtuinn in Scottish Gaelic meaning Bel-Fire and Walpurgis. It is under this last name of Walpurgis that we see the mirrored image of Samhain that is even now being celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere. These two points on the seasonal wheel and celebrations may seem to be quite different with one taking place in the Light half of the year and the other the Dark, but both have some correlations and shared underlying meaning with Beltane and Samhain tied each in their way to the Spirit world. At Samhain we honor the Mighty Dead and the thinned veil, and at least in the older lore of Walpurgisnacht we see something similar being celebrated, while the more widely held folklore of Beltane sees this time as more a celebration of life and fertility with the spirits of nature being honored as they too are more easily felt on this mirrored thinning of the veil which is only fitting at this time of year as we stand midpoint between Spring and Summer with the tide of life and light rising still.
Beltane is a celebration of life and nature that is rich in history and meaning, many see this as a time of the coming together of the Great Goddess and Horned God symbolizing both fertility and life, this being echoed in some of the older village practices from the United Kingdom where a Queen and King of May were chosen to symbolize and celebrate this sacred time. There was also the of the famous, and infamous at least to the puritans, maypole with it’s dances and customs, traditionally made of oak, fir or similar and cut close to or on the day of celebration. In the present day this is not always possible and in the catta tradition the besom, phallic topped staff , can and has stood in for the Maypole for the celebrations. Whenever possible this Sabbat is best held outdoors to better unite with and honor this special and magical time, space and safety permitting having a bale fire as well that herbs scared to this time can be cast into as a natural incense and offering is always a welcomed addition. There are many different ways to celebrate this special day and however we each of us honor the Green Goddess of Nature and Her Consort hopefully it will be a Blessed and Bright time for all. BB, Aren
The Vernal Equinox dawns on a particularly chilly morning but with it heralds an end to the darker months of Winter. Today we see a return to gradually longer and warmer days as around us life is seen stirring in the natural world and a tide of vitality and renewed activity is seen in animal and plant life as about us natures greening has truly begun. Though snow is still upon the ground in some area’s on this day, when the Sun enters Aries and all stands temporarily in balance, we are at the tipping point of the Sun growing in strength as it rises to it’s peak of power at the Summer Solstice. This waxing tide of life, light and vitality is a welcome change from the shorter days and colder nights that have been with us since last year when the tide of light began to wane and we entered the dark half of the year. We arrive on this sacred day known as Alban Eilir to the Druids as well as being named Ostara by others and celebrate the first promise of Springs return we saw at Candlemas kindling into fuller life, though for many the signs of Spring may be subtle at first that will soon give way to a waxing tide of growth and vibrancy all around in nature and in our lives both inner and outer after the passing of colder, darker times when introspection and inner work has most held sway. We can again go out more easily and see around us, feel around us, the wonder and beauty of nature, the bounty of the earth and the Great Mother Goddess. However we each of us celebrate this sacred time of rebirth and renewal hopefully it will be a Happy and Blessed one for all. BB, Aren
The sun of Candlemas morning has risen bright in the skies despite a polar vortex even now effecting much of the country with snow and winds making it seem as though Winter’s reach is lingering. Despite the cold and wind the Eve of February still heralded in Imbolc or Candlemas as this celebration is called in the Catta. Today we stand in-between the Dark of Winter and the Spring Equinox with the tide shifting towards the time of warmer weather and a quickening of life and of the year itself. We see now the end of Winter on the horizon and the brighter times of Spring ahead. That quickening of the year is even now reflected in the first stirrings of life in the natural world around us as the power of the Sun begins its waxing journey. Though we do not have snowdrops here to signal the beginning of this tide the azaleas here are beginning to move from bud to flower as all around us nature stirs and makes ready. Though this is a fire festival welcoming in and heralding the years journey towards more temperate weather and the emergence of life renewed from the womb of the earth this also carries with it one of the deeper meanings of this time as the Goddess is seen to return to us in Her aspect as the young Maiden, bringing with Her signs of vibrant life and renewal to herbs, plants, and land itself. At this time we honor and welcome the Maiden Goddess as we make use of this in-between time we find ourselves in from now till the Vernal Equinox to look within and from that understanding seek to bring transformation into our lives even as the landscape in coming weeks will begin it’s own transformation. There are a myriad of ways to keep and celebrate this festival and time of year, both inner and outer, but however we each of us do this hopefully it will bring with it a renewal and quickening of life and hope. Wishing a Blessed and Bright Candlemas to all. BB, Aren
The Winter Solstice arrives on a wave of cold that seems to be sweeping through the whole of the Northern Hemisphere. Snow covers the ground already in many areas and winds blow fiercely. We are far from the warm days of summer or promise of Spring as we arrive at the longest night in this deep cold half of the year. It was at this time our ancestors acknowledged that the sun’s strength seemed to have grown most dim and rituals were held to symbolize it’s rebirth and the rise of the Light that would see days gradually growning longer and nights shorter as the Sun seemed to rise back to its strength with the turning wheel; bringing with it hope and the regeneration of nature itself.
On this longest cold night we honor the Great Mother giving birth to the Divine Child of Light, awaiting and looking forward to seeing the Suns promise and power maturing along with Him as the great year wheel turns. On this night we honor the Great Goddess and reach out with love and hope to the newborn Child of Light who carries within Him the hope of Springs promise and our emergence from the dark half of the year. On this night we honor the Light and all that it means to us across all traditions and faiths. On this night we honor the inner essence of that which binds us all together and the hope for better times that brings. Though we may all do so differently the inner essence and meaning of this sacred time is universal. On this longest night may light and hope be kindled within us even as the candles are kindled upon the altar. Wishing a Blessed and Happy Winter Solstice to all.
The great wheel of the year has turned and we greet Samhain again. The leaves have changed their hues to gold and red, twillight falls a bit earlier and cooler crisper mornings greet us as we fully move into the Dark half of the year. Tonight we arrive at that most magical of nights, All Hallows Eve, when the veil between the worlds draws most thin and we remember and honor the beloved dead who have passed to the Summerlands before us as well as honoring those of our Craft family and lineages. This is a night of remembrance and a time to reach out with love to those who have gone before to let them know they have not been forgotten and that love and friendship endures; a night to remember and to be remembered by those who cross the veil to visit and sit for a time with their lived ones enjoying this special time and celebration.
Tonight we prepare Jack o lanterns carved and set out with flickering flames inside as a beacon to light the way of visiting souls as well as for costumed wanderers looking for treats as jewel toned leaves rustle to the step of unseen feet. Tonight we kindle flames and candles upon our altars to celebrate this magical time and to honor the Dark Queen and the Horned One who rules and tends the Summerlands. Tonight we light candles and say Prayers and Blessings for our Beloved dead as well to those of our lineage and House. Tonight in the Catta Coven we honor Sybil Leek , Dr Frederick Lamotte Santee , Lady Phoebe , Lady Alsace and Lord Shawnus who taught so many of us and shared his love of the Craft and knowledge so freely. What is remembered lives and on this night the path of remembrance is before us. However we each of us celebrate this hallowed evening, alone or with coven present, with candles ,specially prepared incense and our memories to light the way even as Jack o lantern eyes glint in the darkness hopefully it will be a Blessed and Joyful night for all. BB , Aren
Today we welcome the Autumn Equinox or Alban Elfed as it is called by some. We stand in balance on this day and at this time though tipping towards the Dark as twilight will soon begin to fall earlier and nights will seem to last a bit longer before the sun returns each morning. All around us we begin to see the signs of the changing season as the sights and feel of Autumn is in the air, as leaves begin to change their hues and crisper mornings and cooler nights approach. At this time of perfect balance we are reminded of how important it is to seek and maintain that quality in our lives as well as in our craft
In many traditions this is the time of the yearly cycle when the Horned God departs to the land of Youth there to take up His mantle, while in the Catta at this time we also celebrate the Descent of Persephone as added to the BoS by Lord Shawnus. This echoes in many ways the legend of the Goddess’ Decent that we hear repeated at certain rites of induction, it is a beautiful and moving legend with ancient ties to the tale of Inanna’s descent. We give thanks at this festival for this final Harvest before All Hallows and the colds of winter approach , at this time the altar is decorated with the scythe, which carries it’s own meaning and mysteries, ears of corn and seasonal gourds. On this day we give thanks to Goddess and her Consort for the blessings they have given us throughout the year. As with all the seasonal rites there will always be differences between lines ands Traditions as to how the sacred days are kept and honored, but however we each of us keep this special day hopefully it will be a bright and joyous one for all. BB, Aren
Today we remember and honor Dr Santee who was born on this day in 1906. Dr Santee , an initiate of Sybil Leek, along with Lady Phoebe as his HPS founded the Coven of the Catta and served as HP until his passing. At this time when we even now begin to move towards the seasonal tide which brings us to the thin veil we honor and remember our covens founder. What is remembered lives. BB, Aren
The Great Wheel turns and we arrive once again at Lughnassadh, also called Lunasa and Loaf Mass, though in the Catta it has always simply been called Lammas. At Lammas our ancestors honored the Harvest, most especially the grain harvest, as without which bread could not be made making this an especially important time. Lammas marking the beginning of the grains harvest carried with it a custom for the newly reaped grain to be made into loaves of bread to later be blessed to bring good fortune for the household. In many Traditions a loaf of freshly baked bread is a common aspect and addition to this celebration even today and this also has been continued in the Tradition as passed to us. To our ancestors a successful grain harvest could very well mean the difference between life and death so while this was a very serious time and certainly a busy one it also was a time to celebrate the results of the hard work they had put into the land and its stewardship. Stewardship of the land is still an important issue perhaps especially so now when we are being told due to a very harsh drought in many areas as well as other factors the grain harvest for this year will not be what it normally should be, for us this is a cause of significant concern but for our ancestors it would have been disastrous. One of the more enduring aspects of paganism across many currents and Traditions is that of us being stewards of the land and caring for it in whatever ways we can both great or small. In this way we also have our harvests to celebrate and customs to keep while doing our part to preserve the land which is at the heart of our faith along with the Great Goddess and Her Consort. Lammas as with many of the old festivals has many layers and aspects to it, with it also being an in- between time as it falls at the midpoint between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox. The ancient Celts felt that which was in-between, neither one nor the other, but the hinge point between two states of time and being was especially magickal so this lends yet another aspect to this special time. With Lammas being a midpoint celebration the date is not always a fixed one and different people and groups will vary in the timing of their gatherings, some on the traditional Calander date and others on the more clearly defined astrological date which for this year falls later this week on the 7th. However we keep this celebration of harvest, this time to honor the Goddess and God and our connection with the land which fosters us, and whichever date upon which we do so hopefully it will be a Bright, Happy and Blessed one for all. BB, Aren
“Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight, or he would call it a sin;
But – we have been out in the woods all night, A conjuring Summer in !
And we bring you news by word of mouth- Good news for cattle and corn
Now is the Sun come up from the South, With Oak and Ash, and Thorn.”
The above is from A Tree Song by Rudyard Kipling , in it we see echoes of the importance our ancestors held for this time of year, having arrived at Summer Solstice or Litha as it is sometimes called. Our ancestors whose lives were more closely attuned to the earth , Her rhythms and cycles as well as the Celestial tides knew the importance of the Sun without which the crops would not grow and life would not be. At this time the Sun has reached it’s height and its power is seen as triumphant; with how important the Sun was in the lives of our ancestors it’s only natural that they would have a special reverence for this time of the Suns greatest strength, the longest day of the year when night is pushed back just a bit and only for a time in honor of this day of celebration. This was of old a fire festival of great popularity, widely celebrated and kept by the lighting of Bale fires with dancing around them and leaping over the flames to both bring good fortune and purify ills ; cattle was driven through the smoke of the balefires to purify them as well and fire carried from farm to farm, these are only a few of the customs kept at this time but which illustrates also the connection with the Sun to the element of fire and hearth-home. There were many and varied practices and customs to celebrate this special day and festival, another element we see in the above poem is the mention of Oak, Ash and Thorn and their link in the older folklore to the Fae and nature spirits, this was also a time when it was held that the veil between the world of the Fae and that of mankind was thin and the Fair Folk wandered freely in this world so too were there customs used to win their favor and ward off their wrath. In this we see the dual side of the longest day as even as that is celebrated it’s also accepted that we have reached the half way mark in the years progress and from here forward days will begin to grow gradually shorter as the tides shift and the dark half of the year grows closer; so while the one side of the coin may carry the bright shining face of the Sun the other side perhaps a bit darker holds the promise of longer nights and the march towards Winter that will now begin with the setting of the Solstice Sun.
We may no longer drive cattle though the smoke of the balefires or remain out in the woods all night in celebration and anticipation of the Solstice Suns rise to power but we do have echoes of these practices still in the dancing that takes place around the balefire, even if that is a candle inside a cauldron and not a great bonfire built carefully with select woods, and the blessing of the dancers for the remainder of the year. There are many ways to keep this great festival and each path and tradition has it’s own ways of doing this but none of this has to be terribly elaborate, it costs nothing to simply go for a walk or work for a bit in your garden and soak up the Suns warmth and remember and honor all that it meant to our ancestors and what it still means to us now. However this celebration is kept hopefully it will be a Blessed and Happy one for All. BB, Aren
Today we welcome the month of May and with it Beltane or May Day as it is often called. Beltane is one of the Great Sabbats and fire festivals standing between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice on the Great Wheel of the Year. In the earliest Wica teachings, as well as what Sybil Leek herself taught early on, there were four Great Sabbats that had to be kept and Beltane was one of them. It has a long and rich history with it’s varied customs and ways of celebrating this time always deeply tied to the fertility and vitality of the Land, livestock and even people. We see at this time Spring at it’s zenith as we move forward into Summer as the Wheel turns. At this time nature is alive with growth and renewal and it is this which we celebrate now more so than the older customs our ancestors may have kept at this time to ensure the health and well being of livestock and crops, we also do not place the emphasis on human fertility and sexuality that was also a part of some older rites focused on the coming together of the May Queen and Forest Lord. There were many customs that touched upon this aspect of sexuality and fertility but time moves forward even as the Great Wheel turns and with that comes nuances of understanding about how we celebrate and resonate with these old festivals in more modern times. We still however honor and keep the enduring symbols of this sacred time and balefires are still lit in some areas to honor this Great Sabbat, even as candles are lit upon the altar or fires in the hearth to harken back to the older practices. We may no longer drive livestock and cattle between two great balefires to purify them and help ward off illness but we do kindle flames upon our altars to honor that quickening of life and vitality that this seasonal tide carries so deeply within in. We may no longer go “maying” in the forest to ensure fertility to the village or tribe but we do still dance around the maypole and honor the early and much deeper symbolism that carries with it, that too is still a part of the Catta May Day celebrations as passed down to us by Shawnus and Lady Alsace. Beltane is a joyous time of year as Spring reigns triumphant, and however we each keep this Great Sabbat in our own ways and to our own traditions hopefully it will be a Blessed one for All. BB, Aren