The sun now rises on Imbolc, also called Oimelc and Gwyl Forwyn in Gaelic and Welsh traditions. In our coven it is known as Candlemas and is a time when we see the first promise of Winters end and warmer days that will later come to fruition at the Spring Equinox , at this time in addition to seeing the first signs of Winter giving way we also see the first signs of new life beginning to stir in nature. This is very much a Sabbat celebrating the Goddess as she once again rises and is honored as the Maiden. I have written about a practice Shawnus always enacted in this rite beginning with the Goddess figure on the altar covered with a white cloth which is removed symbolizing Persephone’s awakening and return and when done with proper intent and visualization it does resonate deeply. This is a time , though still cold and harsh in some areas , of waning darkness and rising light and is also a time to cast behind us the ills and effects of Winter. In our coven we have a practice of banishing the shades of Winter which is enacted at this Sabbat to help us move more easily from last vestiges of the dark half of the year and look forward to warmer more pleasant days ahead. Candlemas does share in part some of the energies of Yule as it is a time to focus on hope and renewal in both nature and in ourselves. Wishing Brighter and Warmer days ahead for all. BB, Aren
We have arrived at Yule , The Winter Solstice and counterpoint to Midsummer. The longest night of the year is before us, yet in spite of this shortest day and long cold night this is a solar festival and a time of hope and promise. We come together to celebrate the Great Mother giving birth to the Divine Child and to embrace the hope of that rebirth being echoed in nature in the months to come, even though snow still lies heavy on the ground. The Oak and Holly Kings are not part of the mysteries in our coven but we do often have those elements present for the midwinter rites in the form of the Yule log , made of oak and decorated with fir and holly, as their significance to this time of year is enduring and resonates on a deep level. At this time we also see the hope of the ending of the Dark Half of the year and the coming of warmth and light that makes this such a special and important celebration in the yearly cycle. In times past fires were lit on this night to symbolize the sun , urging it to return in strength and bring warmth to the frozen ground. In the present fires are still lit on this night symbolizing the movement of the year from it’s darker cycle into warmer ,brighter times and also symbolizing what this time of year has meant to so many cultures and differing faiths and traditions : Rebirth , Renewal and Hope. These are such powerful and enduring concepts and forces and on this night we embrace their gifts and let their promise burn in our hearts even as other fires burn in our hearths or upon our altars. Wishing a Joyous and Blessed Yule to all ! BB, Aren
The Great Wheel of the Year has turned and Summers warmth finally seems to have lost it’s hold. We are now in the Dark Half of the Year and have arrived at Samhain , or as we in the Catta coven simply call it All Hallows. To many of us this time of year brings back fond memories of carving jack-o-lanterns with glinting eyes and seeing fall leaves rustling in the wind seeming to dance all on their own. There was , and is , a sense of wonder and magic about this time of year and rightfully so as on this day ,and in some traditions for a week to come leading up the the actual cross quarter on November 7th, the veil between the world of the living and the spirit realm draws thin. At Samhain we of the Wica , as well as many other pagans practicing in different belief systems, honor the spirits of the Mighty Dead and the passing of the mantle from the Great Lady to Her Consort to watch over us through the Winter days and long nights to come. This is a time to embrace the feeling of wonder and magic and remember all those we have loved and known who have passed into the Summerlands, and on this night perhaps light a candle in honor and remembrance of them , to let them know they are not forgotten and perhaps we will receive a sign in return letting us know that we ourselves have not been forgotten by those who have preceded us into the lands of Youth. In our coven it is also a time to remember and honor those of our Linage who have passed beyond the Veil : Sybil Leek , Doctor Santee , lady Phoebe , and Lord Shawnus Merlin Belarion who was my teacher and dear friend, as he was to many of us, as well as being Elder High Priest of our coven for the last 30 years of his life. Shawnus loved this time of year and took great joy in the mix of wonder and magic that comes to us when we think back to Hallows evenings long past and the deeper spiritual elements that make this one of the Great Sabbats and Festivals of the Year. So tonight we light the candles of remembrance on our altars as beacons to those who may visit on this Hallows night as well as the candles in the merrily carved jack-o-lanters we place about to honor Samhains past and the memories we have of this most magical night. Wishing a Merry and Blessed All Hallows to all ! BB, Aren
The season has shifted bringing us to the first day of Fall , the Autumn Equinox, which is also known to some as Alban Elfed , and to others by the more modern name of Mabon. In the COC we have always just referred to it as the Autumn Equinox and on our altars we place corn , squash , dried flowers and a cauldron with fresh fruit in the West. At this time nature stands in balance and day and night are equal. We of the Wicca also stand in balance at this time poised between the Bright and Dark halves of the year. This is a time of celebration to honor the abundance we have harvested from Natures bounty and to give thanks for all that we have sown, both materially and spiritually , but also a time to look towards the needs of the coming Winter as from this point on the days will grow shorter leading us into the Dark Half of the year. In the COC many years ago Lord Shawnus added to our Autumn celebration the honoring of the Departure of Persephone , representing the seasonal shift when we enter into the darker, colder months of the year awaiting Spring and Persephone’s return when the seeds buried deep within the earth and sheltered by snow emerge and bloom into life. We each of us have our own ways of honoring and celebrating this second harvest festival of the year and however you do so hopefully it will be a Blessed and Bright one for all ! BB, Aren
The Great Wheel turns bringing us to Lammas , or Lughnasad as it is also called, and we come together to celebrate the first of the great Harvest festivals of the year. On our altars in the COC to honor this celebration we add bowls of fruit , a loaf of freshly baked bread and sheaves or small bundles of wheat in which we see the mysteries of our God , the Consort of the Goddess , who walks the path of Life as do we resting in the Summerland for a time and being reborn by the Lady’s Grace in the Dark of the Year on the longest night. Though this is a time of Harvest and honoring the abundance that Nature has to offer it also is a time when the bounty of Spring and Summer has largely come to fruition and we begin to make way towards the darker half of the year. Though the majority of us here in the present no longer rely on the fruits and grains we have ourselves planted and harvested from the earth as our ancestors once did it is still a time to honor the past and to begin gathering what fruits ,herbs and plants we may have need of later in the year and carefully canning , drying , preparing and storing them for later use. This is though a time of celebration and that cannot be forgotten so the altar lays full with natures bounty and dancing and merry making are a common theme regardless of Tradition. In the COC we either dance with besoms pointed inwards towards the circles center like the spokes of a great wheel or with right hand on the shoulder of the covener in front , celebrating the bright harvest and the deeper meanings of this time of year. So as we harvest the results of the seeds we have planted , both physical and otherwise, this is a time to preserve what has flourished and release what has not. Wishing everyone a Harvest rich in Blessings. BB, Aren
Today we stand at Midsummer , the Great Wheel has turned bringing us to the longest day of the year. On this day the Sun stands in the fullness of it’s power having risen to it’s zenith. We of the Wicca honor the terrestrial and earth based mysteries and always strive to attune ourselves with nature in all ways we can. This is an intrinsic part of our chosen path, but as we honor the terrestrial mysteries so too do we honor the celestial. The Moon, in whose phases and tides we see the face of our Lady in her various aspects , and also the Sun and it’s path through the seasons. Without the suns warmth and light we would not be. On this day the sun stands in strength and Midsummer is a time rich in history and symbolism. Midsummer night , the shortest though it may be of the year , is also a sacred time as even though the sun trades it’s place in the sky with the moon the magic of this time continues on as on this night the spirits are said to be about , both those of the Mighty Dead and the Nature Spirits and Fae as well. This is a time traditionally when bonfires lit the night , when magic and divination were believed to be especially potent. However you celebrate and honor this longest day and magical night we of the Coven of the Catta wish a warm and bright Summer Solstice to all ! Blessed Be , Aren
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