The year marches on bringing us now to Beltane , one of the great fire festivals, and one rich in history and symbolism. One of the most well know aspects of the May Day celebrations is the Maypole , that like Beltane itself, has more than one meaning. In times past the Maypole has been seen as a phallic symbol tying it in to the fertility aspects of this time of year and celebration , though to some it has also had a deeper meaning representing the Tree of Life or World Tree itself. I still remember in elementary school there being a Maypole on May 1st and us dancing around it in the playground ,though I can only guess sometime in the late 1980’s or 1990’s someone in the school systems looked to their history and taking the old world symbolism into account stopped the practice and it fell by the wayside. Beltane has always been seen as a time to celebrate Fertility and in Wicca we see this as a time to honor the coming together and union of the Goddess and God , but it also has another meaning not always as well acknowledged in that it in many ways is the mirror of Samhain and a time when the veil between the spirit and physical world also thins. Indeed as we are celebrating Beltane in the Northern Hemisphere in the Southern Hemisphere Samhain is being celebrated. So while it is a time to honor the union of the Goddess and Her Consort and enjoy the fertile nature of the woodlands showing life everywhere, it also is a time to honor the thin veil and the spirits that on this night also will be active. Sometimes in the past in the COC an actual maypole was erected for the rites , but also at times the besoms were used for this as the phallic nature of way they are carved fits well for that. Wishing everyone a Bright and Blessed Beltane. BB, Aren
The Great Wheel of Year has turned bringing us to Candlemas , the feast of waxing light. Now we see the promise of what will later be the quickening of Spring and the first signs that Winter’s end is in sight. In the COC during this Sabbat we banish the shades of Winter ,to make way for the return of the Sun and warmer days. Also at this time we celebrate the return of the Goddess Persephone from the underworld, as was added to the covens BOS by Lord Shawnus. It was during this ritual he made a practice of having the image of the Goddess draped with a white veil that he later removed after the Goddess was invoked symbolizing Her return. Though we still are technically in the Dark half of the year and snow still covers the ground in many areas the promise of Spring and warmer times draws closer and hopefully this will be a Bright and Blessed time for all. BB, Aren
The Great Wheel has turned again bringing us to Yule , the Winter Solstice. In times past fires were kindled on this night to revitalize the Sun in the hope that the warmer times would come again, now we continue this practice to symbolize that even on this longest darkest night of the year we carry hope for the future and warmth inside us.
Back in the 1970’s there was a small newsletter circulated within the Coven of the Catta contributed to by Lady Phoebe , Lord Merlin , Lady Alsace and many others called The Cat’s Tale. I was recently looking though an old copy and saw where Lord Merlin , Doc Santee, was asked what his favorite time of the year and favorite Sabbat was and why. His reply was this : “Yule , It is a reflective ritual. You seem to be getting together and discussing situations of the dark season. Yule is the most meditative of the rituals. The whole spirit of Yule is total darkness, reflective and meditative. A time to look back over past achievements and also looking to see what the future will bring. “
To me that is a perfect description of this time of year and of this seasonal tide. This darker, colder season brings with it introspection ; looking within and seeing what is there. We are taught to be ruthless with ourselves in terms of self awareness and knowledge. Temet Nosce was inscribed over the door of the old covenstead and was also a phrase Lord Shawnus loved and taught to us all , to know ourselves , dark and bright , the hopes and fears and all that lies in between as they are not always as separate as we might comfortably like to think. This too though is a time of year to keep hope in our hearts. In our practices as there is severity in this way of knowing yourself so there too must be gentleness to balance it , severity and mercy.
Lord Shawnus loved the universality of things , how seemingly different ideas , philosophies and faiths at their heart shared far more in common than they differed. This time of year that rings most true I think. So on this darkest night we will all of us in many different ways join together to focus on the things that makes this time of year sacred : Hope , Love and Peace which are universal. Tonight we gather together to kindle lights upon the altar and honor the Great Goddess as She gives birth to the newborn Child of Promise, also in the coming days others will gather together to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. We all of us in our own ways kindle light and hope within us and share it with those whose lives we share and touch and I can’t think of a better gift to give this Yule. Wishing a Happy and Blessed Yule to all ! BB, Aren
The Great Wheel of the Year has turned again bringing us to Samhain and the thin veil , when the doors to the Summerland swing open allowing us to feel the presence of the Mighty Dead and those we have known and loved who have passed beyond. Tonight we stand in between the old year and the new, and the Lady’s Consort takes up the mantle to see us safely through the coming Winter.Though this is a solemn time it is also one meant for celebration, so as candles are kindled on our altars in honor and remembrance of departed friends and loved ones others glint merrily through Jack-O’-Lantern eyes. On this Samhian night we of the coven of the Catta also honor the lives and memories of the founders of our coven and lineage : Sybil Leek , Lord Merlin , Lady Phoebe and especially Lord Shawnus Merlin Belarion who was a Dear Friend and Teacher to us all. What is remembered lives. Wishing a Blessed Samhain to all ! BB, Aren
The Great Wheel of the Year has turned bringing us to the Autumn Equinox, the Second Harvest Festival of the Year. In some Traditions this is known as Mabon , Alban Elfed , and by other names but in the COC we have kept to the practice of referring to it simply as the Autumn Equinox. As at Spring we once again stand in a place of balance between the Light and Dark halves of the year, but now the Light wanes and the Dark waxes. The abundance of Spring and Summer draws to a close and preparations are made for the coming of Winter and the Dark half of the year. There was more of an emphasis placed on this in days past when the preserving of the harvests yield meant the difference between life and death , but even now we still see the echo’s of this in the gathering of seeds that we will use once the Winter has passed and the harvesting of the roots of those plants we use both medicinally and magically. In these small ways and others can we better align ourselves with the cycles of Nature around us. As I have mentioned previously Lord Shawnus added to the covens rites the honoring of the Goddess Persephone, and at this Sabbat we honor Her Departure as we move toward Samhain when the Lady will pass Her Mantle to Her Consort to hold vigil and watch over us as Winter comes. At this time when we stand poised in balance between light and dark we also seek balance in our lives and actions and give thanks for the blessings and bounty we have received. We of the COC wish a Blessed Harvest and Autumn to all. BB, Aren
The Great Wheel of the Year has turned bringing us to Lammas , the first of the great harvest festivals. This is a time to give thanks to the Goddess and Her Consort for the fruits born of the seeds we have sown , whether they be physical or spiritual. This is a time for abundance and celebration. The sun however did reach it’s height at Midsummer and now as the light and days begin to grow shorter moving us towards the Dark Half of the year it is also a time to prune away and release the seeds , physical and otherwise , that have not born fruit and would hinder us.
In the CoC we at Lammas honor the bounty of the land and also Invoke the Goddess Persephone giving honor to the Lady in Her aspect as Goddess of Vegetation. The honoring of Persephone at Harvest and Fall and Her return at Candlemas was added to the coven BOS many years ago by Lord Shawnus and has since stood the test of time and adds a special resonance with the yearly cycle.
In addition this year at Lammas we have a New Moon rising in the area of the sky known as Ashlesha. The Deities for Ashlesha in Vedic astrology are the Nagas , the Serpents of Wisdom who were deeply honored and loved by Lord Shawnus and as the new moon in Ashlesha Nakshatra also opens up the Shravan month celebrating the victory of Lord Shiva it would have been an especially sacred time for him. He always sought to instill in all of us , friends and students alike , a deep appreciation and reverence for systems and beliefs both East and West and this like his memory lives on in all of us. Wishing everyone a Blessed Lammas and Bountiful Harvest ! BB, Aren
The Great Wheel of the Year has turned again bringing us to the Summer Solstice. Today the Sun reaches it’s zenith in the heavens and stands in strength giving us the longest day of the year and shortest night ,but on this night we see something rare , a Full Moon also rising to it’s height on the Solstice. So on this day the celestial symbols of the Divine Masculine and Feminine ,the Great God and Goddess , will share the heavens in balance. During the day the Sun will illuminate the sky and earth and tonight the Moon will do the same casting it’s light upon us all. This makes for a doubly sacred time and one to be celebrated with joy. It was traditional also at this time when the Sun stood at it’s strongest to gather protective herbs to make charms to protect the home and hearth, with the thought in mind that as all things cycle so too now after this Solstice do the days begin to grow shorter. This was also a time to protect livestock and cattle and one way the Pennsylvania Dutch did this was the use of Hex Signs on their barns to bring good fortune and protection. Lord Shawnus living in Pennsylvania dearly loved the symbolism and beauty of the old Hex Signs and would make beautiful ones drawn on glass plates which he later hung by doorways or gave away as gifts. The early Pennsylvania Dutch had their own beliefs , practices and folklore but the symbolism of the Hex Signs are universal and can be used and appreciated by all. As the Sun and Moon illuminate all on this Sacred Day we of the Coven of the Catta wish everyone a Blessed Solstice. BB, Aren
The Great Wheel has turned bringing us to the Vernal Equinox and Spring’s rebirth. On this sacred day celebrated by peoples all over the world in different ways and under different names , though with a similar underlying meaning , we see the hours of daytime and nighttime standing poised and equal in length as the season of darkness wanes and the season of light waxes and days grow longer . For those of the Christian faith this time of year brings us to Easter and the Resurrection of Christ , while we Pagans celebrate the fruition of the promise of Natures rebirth and resurrection from Winters hold which was given and initiated at Candlemas. As with many aspects of Spirituality the outer forms may seem to differ though the inner meanings ring true and universal, for in this time of year whether Pagan or Christian we celebrate a time of resurrection and rebirth. I was not raised a Christian so much of it’s liturgy is not wholly familiar to me but my teacher and friend Lord Shawnus loved to attend Easter service when he could as well as celebrating the Traditional Sabbat and saw in both the same expression of the Light which is Universal. This way of seeing things and embracing the best of all faiths is a lesson that he taught which I treasure and always will. So whether this time of year see’s us celebrating during Sunday services or giving thanks to the Goddess for Her renewal of the Earth through Her and Her Consorts love and union , whether we dye colorful Easter eggs or the older more complex Pysanky of Ukrainian origin symbolizing fertility , protection and the cycles of birth , death and rebirth ; let us try and honor and embrace all the Blessings and meanings of this special time of new beginnings and Natures rebirth. BB , Aren