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
We arrive today at the Spring Equinox, when the first stirrings and promise of Spring that we saw at Candlemas come into fruition. All around us buds and blossoms are emerging as bees are making busy with their work. In the Catta we celebrate the mythos of Persephone, stirring at Imbolc/Candlemas and fully awakening at Spring, manifest in Her young and bright Maiden aspect, so on this date we welcome and celebrate the Goddess and the returning warmth and promise of all that spring brings; longer and warmer days and the beauty of nature all around us as it fully casts off the vestiges of Winter and warmer days return. This year we have only just seen the rising of the Crow Moon, the last full Moon of the Winter season, and in this too we celebrated the end of Winter and the arrival of a new and brighter season. Today nature stands in balance between the Light and the Dark but tipping towards the Light as we move towards the time of the Sun and Light’s apex at Summer Solstice. At this time and in the coming days we seek to attune ourselves to and to mirror the energy of this season, this time of vibrancy and growth both in our inner and outer lives. This is a time of life, joy, and renewal, so no matter how we celebrate it each of us in our own ways and to our own traditions hopefully this will be a Blessed and Bright time for all. BB Aren
This Candlemas or Imbolc as it is also called arrives on the heels of a Winter storm that has been especially harsh in some areas, yet despite strong winds and freezing temperatures there are still signs that the seasons are shifting as we move more fully into the Light half of the year. As days have gradually gotten longer and nightfall creeping back in increments the first stirrings and signs of Springs approach are appearing, indeed some flowering plants have already begun to bud and in some cases come into full flower despite the lingering cold. Those signs of the Spring that is to come as the wheel turns a bit further are at the heart of this celebration; we see the hope and promise of what is to be as the Goddess in her Youthful aspect awakens the stirring of life within the earth and nature and makes way to bring it into fruition. At this time we seek to put behind us the darkness of Winter and move forward refreshed and renewed into the new year. In the Catta we do not have any specific mythos or rituals dedicated to the Goddess Brigit per se, with the preparation of the Bride’s bed placed by the door with lit candles to welcome the Goddess and to bless the home and hearth for the coming year as is still done in some places, but we do welcome in the Sun of Candlemas day and work to encourage its rising tide, as well as welcome the return of the Maiden of Spring. Over all this is a celebration of the hope of what is soon to be and the first beginnings of a return to brighter and warmer days. The moon has just passed through it’s dark phase and we see a new moon in the night sky which also is symbolic of fresh beginnings and the tide of life rising and growing. However it’s celebrated hopefully this new and fresh beginning of things to come will carry over into the new year we have just embarked on. Wishing a Blessed and Bright Candlemas to all. BB , Aren
The turning year has brought us to the Winter Solstice also called by some Alban Arthan. On this shortest day we see the arrival of the height of the Dark half of the year with the longest night before us. In much of the northern hemisphere this is a time when cold and snow covers the land. The shorter days symbolizing the dying light of the year that is to be reborn after this longest night, after which the Sun will be seen to grow in strength moving us towards the end of the Dark half of the year at the Spring Equinox and out of Winters embrace. On this Winter’s longest night the darkness will be somewhat lessened by the still bright light of the full Cold Moon that rose to it’s zenith only a couple of days ago, the universal symbol of the Great Mother shining in the skies brightening the long night and this sacred time when the Divine Horned Child will be reborn. Even as these colder, darker times with shorter days has lent itself to introspection and a drawing within this was always a time of celebration and joy to focus on and encourage the Lights return and with it the hope of longer warmer days. As the sun rises tomorrow we will see the shift towards gradually longer days and the land making its readiness waiting for the first promise of Springs return we see at Lady day or Candlemas.
Many of us still maintain the customs of our childhood with the brightly decorated tree and festive decorations that meant so much to us then and still does now. The Christmas Tree has older connotations with the Yule Log so there is no conflict in this and indeed the custom of the Yule log especially is one of the more enduring and meaningful of this time as well as one of the most beautiful. The lighting of the log on the darkest, longest night to encourage the rekindling of light and warmth. The log also has many magical associations as well, with the ashes being kept for use in protective charms and even some added to the seeds to be planted when Spring arrives being among them. This is a sacred time of year to so many both Pagan and Christian alike as we all honor the return and re-birth of the Light though we may see this thorough differing eyes and lenses. Tonight we light candles on our altars and Yule logs in our hearths just as our ancestors once lit fires to encourage and symbolize the lights return and a shift to brighter longer days ahead. As I have written before this was a much loved celebration of Shawnus’ and how in it he saw the interconnections of the Divine in many different paths and this Holiday exemplifies that with it’s close associations with the cycles of birth , death and re-birth which is held sacred in many cultures and religions. However we celebrate on this longest night to kindle hope and a joyful return of the Light may it be a Blessed time for all. BB, Aren