Cauldron Care

By Erin Coats
on June 27, 2017

Cauldron Care

     Let’s be honest with ourselves.  We don’t treat our cauldrons very well.  We burn all number of things in them from petition scrolls to candles.  We fill them with water for potions or scrying and cover the bottom in salt or sand and alcohol for cauldron fires, the later usually resulting in a nasty clean up job.  If you have an unpainted, cast iron cauldron and you haven’t seasoned it in a while (or ever), you’ve probably got a rusty mess on your hands (literally).

    

     Treat your cauldron as you would any other piece of cast iron cookware and season it.  This can be done whether the cauldron is new and has never been used, or if you have a hot mess on your hands like I did.

 Rusty Cast Iron Cauldron

 By Odin's Beard!  What have you done to this thing?!?!

 

  1. Start by thoroughly cleaning your cast iron cauldron – new or old. Scrub the entire cauldron with steel wool or a stiff bristled brush using hot water and a mild dish soap.
  2. Towel dry and place it on a warm stove top to ensure it dries completely. Leaving moisture in your cauldron promotes rusting.
  3. Once your cauldron is completely dry, use a paper towel to apply a thin layer of oil to every surface, even the outside and bottom. Make sure you do not overdo it with the oil as it will leave a sticky residue.  Vegetable oil is a practical choice for this process, but flaxseed has become popular as of late and is said to last longer.
  4. Line a cooking sheet with foil and place that on the bottom rack of your oven to catch oil drops. Place your cauldron upside down on the rack above the cooking sheet.  Bake the oil for 1 hour at the temperature specified in the list below (dependent upon which oil you use).  Allow the cauldron to remain in the oven afterwards to cool on its own.
  5. You may need to do this process a few times.

 

Oil

Smoke Point

Coconut (Unrefined)

350°

Coconut (Refined)

450°

Flaxseed

225°

Lard

370°

Vegetable

325°

 

 Seasoned Cauldron

We had to season this baby twice!

 

Maintenance & Tips

  • Clean your cauldron out immediately after use, scrubbing it with salt and hot water or a tiny bit of soap and hot water.
  • Towel dry thoroughly and leave it on a warm stove for a few minutes to allow the rest of the moisture to evaporate.
  • Never leave liquids in your cauldron.
  • Do not wash your cauldron in the dish washer.
  • Re-season if you notice any more rusting.

The Muses Soft Mojito Mead

By Erin Coats
on June 20, 2017

The Muses Soft Mojito Mead

With Litha comes the abundance of honey. And what better use for honey than mead? Traditional mead is a fermented drink made with spring water, honey, lemon and sometimes warm spices like nutmeg. Soft mead is non-alcoholic. This recipe is delicious on it's own and equally tasty with a shot or two of rum!  The amount of honey can be adjusted to your liking. If made as directed it is very sweet, but the addition of spirits tones that down a bit.

 

The Muses Soft Mojito Mead
 
4 c. spring water
1 c. honey
¼ c. fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut in wedges
½ t. mace or 1 t. nutmeg

 

  • Bring water and honey to a low boil. Skim off any scum that comes to the top and discard it. Continue this until liquid is clear.
  • Add mint and mace.
  • Squeeze lime wedges into the pot and add the rinds as well.
  • Simmer to extract the flavors for about 10 minutes.
  • Cool and strain into a sealable jar.
  • Refrigerate.

Once it is chilled, pour over ice in a tall glass…or pour over rum and ice in a tall glass! Sláinte !

Citrus Berry Cheesecake

By Erin Coats
on June 09, 2017

Citrus Berry Cheesecake

Take advantage of what Gaia offers this Midsummer when you are looking for a special treat. This luscious cheesecake is bursting with tangy lemon and topped with sweet, ripe raspberries. The delicate almond crust is just right for this refreshing dessert!

 

Citrus Berry Cheesecake

 

Crust

¾ c. almond flour/meal

1T sugar

1T flour

2T melted butter

Pinch of salt

 

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until crumbly. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of an 8” spring-form pan or pie plate. Set aside.

 

Filling

2 8 oz packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened

½ C. sugar

1 ½ T. flour

2 eggs

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of salt

Beat cream cheese with sugar and flour until smooth and free of lumps. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping bowl as needed. Add salt and lemon juice and zest. Beat to combine. Pour over crust in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until center is just set. Baking times will vary according to your oven. Cool in pan completely. If using a springform pan, loosen sides and bottom and transfer to a serving platter. While cake is baking, prepare Compote.

 

Raspberry Compote

2 1/2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries, divided

¼ c sugar or honey

1 t. corn starch

2 t. water

 

Combine 2 c. raspberries with remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Over med-high heat, bring to a low boil, stirring often. Cook until mixture begins to thicken and becomes translucent. Remove from heat and gently stir in remaining 1/2c whole berries. Transfer to covered jar or serving pitcher. Chill. Pour over cooled, individual cheesecake slices.

Beltane / May Day

By Erin Coats
on April 29, 2017

     Beltane (meaning “bright fire” (Grimassi)) is probably one of the most popular of the Sabbats, second only to Samhain and falling directly across the Wheel of the Year from it.  While Samhain is an acknowledgment and celebration of death and the end of a cycle, Beltane honors birth and life.  Warmer times are upon us; we’ve shed our heavy winter attire for lighter apparel.  The flowers are in full bloom and love is in the air.  Lust too. ;) 

     Beltane marked the beginning of summer and the pastoral growing season for the ancient Celtic people, though in our calendar it falls between spring and summer. The Sabbat is one of four original Celtic fire festivals.  Some believe the bonfires of Beltane were symbolic of the growing sun and attribute the holiday to the Celtic sun god, Belenus or Bel. A major theme of the celebration was the promotion of fertility for humans, live-stock, and crops.  On the eve of Beltane, all the fires in the village were extinguished to be lit again from the flame of the sacred “need-fire” which was said to be lighted on hill tops and used as a means of purification and blessing.  The Celts used a specific process in the building of their need-fire – they began by cutting a circle or square shape into the turf.  In the center of the shape they laid out a cross hatched pattern of wood which was decorated with ribbons of wool and hawthorn flowers (Grimassi).  Though it is said that the druids built the need-fire in earlier years, the task was later taken up by lay people after the islands became Christianized.  Often two fires were built near one another and the cattle driven between them or even over a fire to purify, protect them from disease, and insure fertility in the coming year.  People also walked between the fires of leapt over for the same purpose.  Some even bathed in the smoke (“Beltane”). There was a feast complete with Beltane Bannocks (oat cakes) along with singing and dancing around and over the fires.  When the celebration was over and the ashes cooled, they were spread across the fields to ensure the fertility of the crops (Grimassi).

     The ancient Romans had their own version of Beltane, a festival beginning near the end of April and ending a few days into May.  Floralia was something of a religious holiday in that it was dedicated and celebrated in the name of the flower and plant goddess, Flora.  Celebrants replaced their white garments for more colorful attire.  The festival included games of sport, theater and miming.  The prostitutes performed theater in the nude and even fought nude in the gladiatorial ring.  “In the Circus Maximus, deer [some translate goats] and hares, symbols of fertility, were let loose in honor of the goddess as protector of gardens and fields… Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, another symbol of fertility) also were thrown to the people in the Circus” (Grout).

     Many believe the celebration of Beltane and Floralia inspired our more modern observances of May Day which also center around spring’s abundant bounty and fertility.  One of the more well-known aspects of May Day is the maypole (revered as a phallic symbol or perhaps a throwback of sacred tree worship) and the dances performed around it.  In ancient times, the maypole was a living tree, decorated with ribbons, greenery, and flowers (Grimassi).  Our modern poles tend to be manufactured and mobile to some degree, though they can be permanent fixtures.  The top of the pole is often adorned with a wreath, also covered in ribbons, greenery, and flowers, a nod to nature’s fertility and the vibrancy of the spring and summer months. 

     It is customary to dance around the maypole.  You should probably begin with simple dances such as taking up the ribbon and moving forward and backward without actually plating the ribbons.  You can graduate to a circle dance, wrapping the ribbons around the pole in a single direction.  Make sure that no one dancer overtakes another.  Graduate to what is called The Grand Chain.  My group tried The Grand Chain years ago and our maypole looked a hot mess when we finished.  We had a great time, just the same!  Make sure everyone is aware of their job before you begin.  Divide the dancers into two equal groups – A and B.  Space everyone out around the pole equally, alternating between a team A person and a team B person, with each participant facing a person of the opposite team.  All dancers are to hold a ribbon in their right hand and gather the excess in their left.  When the music beings, “each of [t]eam A should pass right shoulder with their first [t]eam B dancer and then left with the next (do not turn back on yourself), carrying on alternately until the ribbons are…exhausted. As dancers pass each other, they should raise and lower their right arm rhythmically to guide the ribbon over the other dancer. To unwind, remember to retrace your steps accurately, passing your last dancer first and then alternate shoulders until the ribbons unwind. Make sure that everyone dances at a constant pace and that no one overtakes” (Stradling).

     The maypole isn’t the only custom of the May Day celebration.  Often the maypole dancing is preceded by a parade or procession through the town or village.  At the head of the procession is the May Queen, usually a young girl, crowned and dressed in white.  Some newer traditions allow the May Queen to crown a May King and others even a private, physical reenactment of the Great Rite (with participants being consenting and of age, of course) (“About”).  Mummer’s plays are also a component of the festivities.

     The hobbyhorse plays its own part in May Day celebrations, though where exactly it originated and why is a mystery.  One may extrapolate that the connection between the hobbyhorse and the rights of May originated with the Celtic God Belenus and the depictions of the god on a horse drawn chariot or riding a horse.  This, however, is my own personal musing and I can offer no historic accounts to back the claim.  The hobbyhorse costume usually consists of black material stretched over a large hoop with the snapping wooden head of a horse mounted on top of it (Grimassi), though there are variations.  Sometimes the head of the horse is the actual skeleton of a horse and other times the man inside the costume is made to look as if he were riding the horse instead of being hidden inside it.  The procession begins in a tavern and includes a teaser, a silly jester-like character holding a wand.  The hobbyhorse runs, dances, and chases maidens through the streets, sometimes capturing one beneath the hoop.  The woman is released from the skirt with a black mark upon her face, a symbol of good fortune.  The mark promises a marriage for a single lady or a baby for a married woman (Grimassi).

     Though the tradition is observed less frequently now, a May Doll, some say symbolic of the goddess Flora or perhaps of the season itself, was carried through the village.  The doll’s face was hidden under a white piece of cloth and people would pay to have her face uncovered, as seeing the face of the doll (or perhaps being seen BY her) was considered lucky (Grimassi). 

     Fairies play a major role during this time of the year, and I’m not talking about the cute, happy little winged variety.  If we look to folklore, the fairy people were a helpful sort, but could also be a terrible nuisance if disrespected.  Some believe that the ancient Celtic god-like race of the Tuatha de Dannan are fairies.  It is said that at Beltane and Samhain, the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest.  While the souls of the dead move into the realm of the living during Samhain, the fairy folk become more active during Beltane.  With the understanding that the fairy folk are the stewards of nature and all things growing, it’s no wonder this belief persists.  If you’re looking to forge a relationship with the fairy spirits or plant devas in your local area, this is the perfect time to begin.  Leave an offering of honey or coins in wild places, but be sure you are consistent.  It isn’t wise to anger the fae.    

     In the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, Beltane is a celebration of the joining of female and male energies as seen through the consummation of the green god of the harvest and the maiden goddess.  Through their joining we are insured a successful and bountiful harvest.  Beltane is a time for fertility or abundance work, love magick, and to commune and work with nature and the fairies if you so choose.  With such a vibrant and expansive history as Beltane, you have no end of inspiration for making your own celebrations.

 ***

“About the May Queen and King”.  Beltane in the Grove.  http://www.beltaineinthegrove.com/about/the-may-queen-king/. Accessed 29 Apr 2017.

"Beltane." New World Encyclopedia.  13 Dec 2016.  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Beltane&oldid=1001941.  Accessed 28 Apr 2017.

Grimassi, Raven.  Springtime Rituals, Lore & Celebration – Beltane.  Llewellyn Publications, 2001, St. Paul, MN.

Grout, James. “Floralia.”  Encyclopaedia Romanahttp://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/floralia.html.  Accessed 29 Apr 2017.

Stradling, Rod.  “The Maypole Dance”.  All About Maypole Dancing.  2015.  http://www.maypoledance.com/maypoledance.html.  Accessed 29 Apr 2017.

The Law of Return – A Lesson in Unintentional Cursing

By Erin Coats
on March 26, 2017

In my studies with the Temple of Witchcraft, we’ve been trained to use instant magick with a pre-programmed trigger – generally a subtle hand gesture backed with intention.  The instant magick is used in times of need when a full-out ritual isn’t possible, like for weather magick, when you’re parked ten blocks away during a downpour and forgot your umbrella, or when you know you’ll have to park ten blocks away and that just won’t cut it - you pull your trigger and intend to find a close parking spot, visualizing yourself having already claimed your rock-star parking. 

Or, as in my own case, the acting High Priestess asks you to arrive early to assist her with ritual cleansing and set-up for Ostara and you, being a complete jerk, don’t leave in time to arrive at the appointed hour.  So I did what any trained witch would do, pulled my trigger and intended to either arrive by 5 p.m. or at least before she did.  What I didn’t do was add that little safety net in, “for my highest good, harming none”.  This is unusual for me, as the safety net is as in-grained in me as the trigger, or at least I thought so.  But I was frazzled having already left later that I’d planned and had to stop for the ice, a compliment to the warm 2-liters rolling around in the bottom of my car and my sad contribution to the potluck. 

The High Priestess called me exactly 5 minutes before our appointed meeting time to explain she was running late.

 “Phew!  Because I’m going to be late too,” I fist pumped the air and congratulated myself for my successful trigger without considering what I’d done to the unsuspecting HP.

“You cursed me!” she laughed.  “My child has lost his mind!”  She continued to explain that all hell had broken loose at her house ten minutes before her intended time of departure and that she’d had the car packed and ready to go for hours.

That’s when I realized I’d failed to cast the safety net.  I apologized and explained my faux pas and she reminded me that my little mess up put me in the position of moving around a massive amount of chairs by myself.  That was the beginning of the energy return.  We laughed at this and I managed to arrive only 5 minutes late. 

I did indeed have to do all the furniture moving solo and this included a rather heavy piano that someone had lovingly turned into an ancestor shrine of sorts, complete with a photo, candles, and an old quilt draped over the top to hang off the back.  I didn’t want to roll over the quilt, so I moved it off the ground and was instantly hit with the rest of the energy return – there, under the quilt, was the corpse of a squirrel.  As soon as I’d disturbed the fabric, the smell hit me.  I was as respectful as one can be with the remains of stinky, old, dead squirrel and committed its little body to the bushes in the backyard, but I wasn’t happy about it.

While I don’t believe in the exactness of the “Law of Three”, I do believe that what goes around comes around.  In my training as a witch I’ve been taught that my energy is the same as everyone else’s energy and that we are all connected in our sameness.  I don’t look at the “Law of Return” as a system of reward and punishment, but simply as a cycle of cause and effect.  Anything we do will have an effect on ourselves, others, and/or our environment to varying degrees.  I cast a spell without a safety net and caused my High Priestess to be late for ritual set up; therefore I was left to do much of the work, including ridding the building of a dead animal.  The spell was the cause and the aftermath the effect of my actions.  Let this tale be a reminder in your own work; use a safety net, unless you’re into that kind of thing. ;)

Brightest Blessings,

Muse Lily

Ostara – The Vernal Equinox

By Erin Coats
on March 17, 2017

Called by the sunlight, we emerge from our homes, tentative at first, for old Cailleach is a stubborn one and she fights for her winter mantle.  We are emboldened by what we see, the green has returned in our yards and vibrant color to the countryside – a drape of purple wisteria, a pink spray across the redbud tree, and a tiny cluster of wild violet.   

What are the origins of Ostara?  It is likely that Aidan Kelly was influenced by Jacob Grimm’s assumption about Easter in his treatise, Deutsche Mythologie.   The modern take on the history and symbolism of Ostara is precarious at best.  There is a prevalent belief that the name of the Sabbat was taken from an Anglo-Saxon goddess named Eostre and that the Easter bunny and Easter eggs are symbols borrowed from Ostara.  We have very few sources to rely upon when researching the validity of these claims or to establish the true nature of the rites of spring. 

In 725 C.E. a Christian monk named Bede made reference to Eostre in his treatise, “The Reckoning of Time”.  Bede speaks of Eosturmononath, the fourth lunar month which took place from mid-March to mid-April, stating that the old name for this time was “Paschal month”, but that it had been replaced with the name of the goddess (Eostre) whose feast days were observed during that month.  It wasn’t until 1839 that Ostara or Eostre was mentioned again in literature.  In Deutsche Mythologie Jacob Grimm theorizes “that the Old High German name for Easter (Ostern) must be derived from Bede’s Goddess” (McBride).  He also suggests that “Easter games” and eggs were a pagan tradition absorbed into the Christian Easter holiday.  It is likely that an Angelo-Saxon goddess named Eostre existed, but there is no concrete evidence to back Grimm’s assumptions.  While the egg can be equated to the cosmic egg employed in numerous creation myths from various mythologies, it can also be attributed to the resurrection of Christ in the Christian world view (McBride).

As with so many of our recreated pagan holidays, the lack of historical evidence should not dissuade you from immersing yourself in the energy of the season.  Ostara marks the first day of spring - a day of balance with light and dark lasting in equal proportion.  This is the tipping point in our journey into the lighter, brighter, and warmer months.  Our days are longer than our nights from here forward.  The themes of renewal and rebirth are deeply engrained in the vernal equinox.  The world is awakening all around us, from the unfurling leaves to the budding flowers, even the wildlife seems to be revitalized with the coming spring.  The maiden goddess, awoken at Imbolc, is vibrant and energetic.  She wanders the warm countryside, bringing life to a barren landscape.  The god, reborn at Yule, grows into a randy young man, goat horned and footed or the fresh faced Green Man.  What is now a youthful, flirtatious courtship with the maiden goddess will soon be consummated at Beltane.

How do we honor the season and celebrate Ostara?  As we plant the gardens in our yards, so too do we plant our spiritual gardens.  This is the time of year to set forth our intentions, to break the earth with plow or our own hands and plant the seeds of what we wish to manifest in the coming year.  Plant your own magickal garden, plotting a pattern to mirror the zodiac, the Wheel of the Year, or another system that calls to you.  Plant an herb, seed, bulb, or tree with a magickal intention and be sure to nurture your work, aiding its growth and manifestation for your highest good.

Though we are unsure of the historical connection between the decorated egg and Ostara, we can be confident that the egg is a strong symbol of life, of creation and growth, the renewal of spring, and to some, resurrection or immortality.  Employ the egg in your own rites by hard-boiling and decorating it with symbols of the season as an offering to the gods and your guides.  Or paint or draw symbols congruent with your intention.  Bury the egg outside your home near your entryway or plant it under the herb, seed, bulb, or tree you’ve purposed toward the same intention.  If you’ve saved some snow, melt it down and water your plant with the wisdom you’ve garnered from the darker month’s introspection.  Take a walk and enjoy the scents and sights of spring.  Put out a bird feeder or leave feed out for the wildlife as the animals becomes more active after the winter.  Journey to connect with the hare, hen, or any local animal you take strong notice of.  Work with the first flowers of the season or make your own flower essences.  Bring the balance of Ostara into your own life and employ the equal-armed cross as symbolism.  Spring is also a good time to work love magick to blossom a new romance or revive a failing one.

 

McBride, D.C. “A Brief History of Ostara”. Patheos, 17, March. 2016. www.patheos.com/blogs/naturespath/2016/03/a-brief-history-of-ostara/. 15, March. 2017.

Imbolc / Candlemas

By Erin Coats
on January 21, 2017

Imbolc / Candlemas

                At Yule, we celebrated the rebirth of the sun and the Sun God.  Imbolc (falling around February 1st or 2nd) continues that celebration of the return of the light.  Imbolc is one of four Celtic fire festivals (along with Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain).  It is a small reminder in a cold, dark, and harsh time that warmer, brighter days draw near.  It is a celebration of hope.  Imbolc marks the half way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, it is that little oasis in the middle of a long trek through the desert – or perhaps we should liken it to the first flower pushing up through a carpet of snow.  For people in the northern hemisphere the days are still cold, wet, and windy, with the sun’s light a faint gray glow on the horizon.  With the harvest well behind him, ancient man’s pantry would be getting a little empty around this time of year and what was left was probably less than fresh.  The birth of new livestock and the first hints of spring were call for celebration.

The Celts celebrated Imbolg (or Imbolc) taken to mean “in the belly”.   This referred to the pregnancy of the sheep they herded.  Another name for the holiday is Oimelc (“ewe’s milk).  Being a pastoral herding society, the birth of the sheep and subsequent supply of sheep’s milk was a big deal.  The milk was a major part of the people’s nourishment and to give thanks to the gods for their bounty, the Celts would pour a bit on the ground near their doorways or leave a small bowl out as libation.

February 1st marks the feast day of Brigit, a mysterious figure whose been called both goddess and saint.  Much of her mythology as goddess has been lost to the ages.  She is often thought to be a triple goddess though some Celts and Romano-British pictured her as a single deity called Brigantia.  She was a goddess of sovereignty and war in this aspect - wearing a crown and wielding a globe and spear.  The kings may have married her symbolically to rule in her name – the land united to the crown.  Brigit has also been viewed as a dual goddess - Bride as the youthful spring goddess of fertility and life and the crone Cailliach (or her Scottish version, Beira), bringing about destruction and death in the winter months.  While mythology seems to separate these beings into distinct entities, some believe them to two sides of the same coin.  Brigit’s roots are old and grow deep.  She’s called by many names in many regions and has countless epithets.  Some say she is the daughter of Dagda and in one of her aspects she is said to have taken Bres the Beautiful as her lover, though other accounts call her a virgin goddess (K & K).

Brigit is heavily associated with the element of fire and as a triple goddess she rules the creative arts, healing, and blacksmithing.  She is the fire of inspiration – that sudden brilliant spark of creativity.  Well loved by bards and poets, the goddess offered protection and insight into their craft.  Brigit presides over the fire of the hearth as a healer and a fertility goddess.  She was said to have taught the healing arts and herbal remedies.  She is also patroness of dozens of healing wells and sacred springs.  Brigit was called upon for the protection of domesticated animals and farmed crops.  She was also concerned with human fertility and it wasn’t uncommon to call upon her to protect women during childbirth as well as their newborn babies.  As matron of blacksmithing, Brigit played teacher to the first smiths.  She taught her pupils how to make and tend the sacred flame and how to forge tools and weapons (K & K).

Saint Brigid’s history is as mysterious as that of her goddess persona with accounts of her life being written well after her death.   Many of the goddess’s qualities and associations overlap that of the saint.  Born out of wedlock to a slave, it was prophesied that Brigid would be a “conspicuous, radiant, who will shine like a sun among the stars of heaven.”  The story tells that a pillar of flame shot from Brigid’s head upon birth.  She was renowned for her purity and charitable nature and revered as a healer.  Countless tales talk of her prayers being answered by God.  Saint Brigid founded two monastic institutions including the famous Kildare and an art school complete with scriptorium and metalworking.  “Brigid died at Kildare on February first...” which marks her feast day, also known as Imbolc (K & K). 

The Christians have their own observance on February 2nd - Candlemas, also called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin or Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  This marked the day in which Mary first presented baby Jesus to the church.  It was law that a woman could not attend church after giving birth, as she was considered unclean.  Mary was made to wait 40 days from December 25th before re-entering the church and dedicating Jesus to her god.  This day was marked with a great feast for the Lord and a candle procession.  On this day, it is customary to bless all the candles to be used in the church for the coming year.  Parishioners are welcome to bring candles from home to receive the blessing as well.

How can you honor Brigit and celebrate Imbolc?

Leave a candle burning in the window (or maybe one of those LED candles for the sake of safety) as an invitation to the lady.  Ask that she bless your home in the coming year with good health on all levels, inspiration, and fertility whether that means children or a raise.  Leave a libation for Brigit in thanks for her blessings – a bit of buttered bread and milk. 

Encourage the spring and the returning sun by doing sympathetic candle magick or lead a ritualized procession by candle light.  If you enjoy crafts, make a wreath or crown of candle light to use or wear in your own rites.  We suggest you go the LED candle route if you decide to make a crown.

Gather around the hearth to honor the lady or do a magick working at your hearth or fire pit.  Study the magickal properties of trees and add something special to your fire to correspond with your work.  Use a branch of rowan or birch for protection, ash for divination, study, or to promote intellect and wisdom, or apple for love or fertility work.

Make a Brigit corn dolly - It was customary for the last bit of grain (usually not corn, but wheat) to be made into a corn dolly at Lughnasa.  It was believed that the spirit of the grain was housed inside the last sheaf which would become the first seeds of the next planting season, continuing the cycle.  Make your own corn dolly or use the one you made at Lughnasa if you aren’t planning to dispose of it ritually.  Dress her in white as the spring bride and place her in a “Bride’s bed” made of a blanket, on a pillow, or in a basket.  Add a phallic shaped wand and/ or walnuts for fertility or abundance. 

Bride's Bed

Create a Brigit’s Cross or Sun Wheel - The Brigit’s Cross may have been connected to the planting season of spring in the same manner as the corn dolly, or it may have been employed for sympathetic magick to strengthen the growing sun for the coming season.  The crosses were traditionally made on February 1st with straw or reeds.  Hang your Brigit’s cross on your front door or over your mantle for prosperity, protection, and fertility.

Brigid's Cross

Any time between Yule and Ostara (the spring equinox) is great for deep cleaning.  Rid your home and mind of all that does not serve your highest good as you embark upon a new year.  This is also the perfect time to cleanse and re-consecrate your altar tools.  Cleansing can be done in many ways.  The most popular and easiest are smudging with a smudge stick or incense or asperging (sprinkling) the item with a holy water.  Items can also be left out in the sun light or the light of a full moon.  And depending on the tool, it can be held under running water, passed through a flame (very carefully), or even buried.

However you decide to celebrate Imbolc, set your intention to welcome the coming of Spring and all things fresh and new.

-----

K, Amber & K, Azrael.  Candlemas – Feast of Flames.  Llewellyn Publications, St Paul.  2001.

Yule - The Winter Solstice

By Erin Coats
on December 15, 2016

               Almost everyone celebrates something near the Winter Solstice.  We spend time with family and friends and embrace a tradition of gift giving and charity, good food and cheer.  We pause to appreciate the abundance and blessings in our lives, those self-made and those given to us by others.  We spend time reflecting on the past year and reviewing things we may want to add, subtract, or change.  And we make resolutions to ourselves, our loved ones, and the world that we may become stronger, wiser, or better ourselves in some other fashion.  While some of us thrive in the colder months, many people slow down and move inward both physically and mentally at this time of year.  Many of our activities move indoors with a focus on hearth and home. 

                Yule marks the longest night of the year and is a celebration of the return of the light.  While we still have a few long, dark months ahead of us, we rejoice in the knowledge that the days will grow longer from this point onward.  In the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, the Goddess gives birth to her child / consort at Yule before retiring to the Underworld until Imbolc.  The God Child strengthens and grows with the return of the sun as the days grow longer.  Some traditions tell the tale of the Oak and Holly King.  The kings do battle at the summer and winter solstices, the victor reigning until the next melee.  The Holly King rules from Litha to Yule where he will be defeated and the Oak King takes over.  While we celebrate the rebirth of the sun and the God as we look forward to a brighter, warmer time, we also embrace this peaceful period in the cycle and acknowledge the value of a much needed rest to bolster ourselves for the coming year.

                Though the stories and some of the traditions of Yule may be modern, it stems from a much older holiday.  The Scandinavians slaughtered their cattle in December so they would not have to be fed during the cold months.  They celebrated the winter solstice with a feast of fresh meat and spirits.  They are responsible for the tradition of the Yule log which was burned in honor of the returning sun (History of Christmas).

                Some scholars have suggested that the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia was the precursor to the Christian Christmas.  It originated as a holy day to honor the agricultural god Saturn.  The day was marked with a sacrifice to Saturn in his holy temple and followed by a ceremony in which the leather bindings on his feet were removed as a symbolic act of liberation.  Everyone celebrated with a grand feast.  The social order was inverted on this day with slaves being served by their masters and children left to run the household.  Public gambling was allowed, wine flowed freely, and all work was halted.  Gift giving was a common practice with candles being the most common present, a symbol of the growing sun (Grout, James).

                Yalda (meaning birth) is the ancient Persian holiday observed by the Iranians on the winter solstice.  The Persians believed the on the longest night of the year evil forces went to battle with the Lord of Wisdom, Ahura Mazda who would be victorious by the coming morn.  Celebrants stay up late into the night, snack on “dried nuts, watermelon and pomegranate” and read classic poetry and mythology (Mirrazavi, Firouzeh).

                The Hopi Indians celebrate the winter solstice as the Soyal Ceremony (meaning “Establishing Life Anew for All the World.”)  The Hopi use prayer, song, dance, and ritual to ceremonially turn “the sun back toward its summer path”.  The Kachinas (guardian spirits of the Hopi) come down from the mountain to dance with the people and are said to leave gifts for the children (Eidt, Jack).

                Many cultures, both past and present, acknowledge and celebrate the winter solstice with its promise of light and warmth.  We can look to the past when beginning our own Yule traditions by honoring the growing sun in whatever form best fits your own beliefs.  Provide a bit of warmth and cheer for those who may be feeling down at this time of year.  Share the joy of the season with friends and family or help a stranger in need.  Pick a Yule log to dry for next year, or burn a candle on your altar in honor of the Sun God or as a form of sympathetic magick.  Do an early spring cleaning to rid yourself of the old before embarking on a new year.  Burn a petition spell during the waning moon to release unwanted patterns or behaviors or burn one during the waxing moon to draw what you desire.  And above all, enjoy and embrace the winter solstice in all its quiet solitude as we move toward the abundance of spring.

                 The Muses wish you and yours a joyous and blessed winter solstice!

               -----

Eidt, Jack. “Soyal Ceremony: Hopi Kachinas Dance at Winter Solstice”. WILDERUTOPIA.  22 December 2011.  Accessed 14 December 2016. http://www.wilderutopia.com/traditions/soyal-ceremony-hopi-kachinas-dance-at-winter-solstice/

Grout, James.  “Saturnalia”. Encyclopaedia Romana.  Accessed 14 December 2016.  http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/calendar/saturnalia.html

“History of Christmas”. History.com. A + E Networks. 2009.  Accessed 14 December 2016.  http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas

Mirrazavi, Firouzeh. “Celebrating Yalda Night”. Iran Review.  19, December 2015.  Accessed 14 December 2016. http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Celebrating_Yalda_2.htm

Yule Altar Sweepstakes !

By Erin Coats
on December 11, 2016

Yule Altar Sweepstakes !

The Muses are hosting another altar sweepstakes! Just register for an account on https://theeccentricmuse.com and email a photo of your Yule altar to inspired@theeccentricmuse.com for a random chance to win this pentacle amulet! Be sure to include all the required information in your submission to be qualified! Please send your entries in by December 24, 2016 to be included. The drawing will be held on December 26!

All entries must include:

  • your legal first and last name, plus the name you'd like to have used if you are a winner
  • a valid email address
  • home address
  • phone number,
  • a statement indicating you either DO or DO NOT grant The Eccentric Muse permission to reproduce your entry photograph on its website and social media accounts, including but not limited to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Full list of sweepstakes rules, terms, and conditions.

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft - Water and the Cup of Compassion

By Erin Coats
on December 11, 2016

The Four Hallows of Witchcraft - Water and the Cup of Compassion

     We place a cup in the west quadrant of our altar to represent the element of water.  The chalice is used to store and direct water energy.  Water changes shape and form as it moves to fit and fill the container.  Water magick employs the same practice by aiding a transformation in shape, moving things along, or helping them flow more freely.  If air is the mind, than water is the heart.  Like water, our emotions are fluid and inconstant.  They drift this way and that, affected by environmental changes from within or without.  Disturb the surface of a lake and that change will reverberate throughout the system before settling back into its normal state.  When our feelings are disturbed it can be perceived with our entire bodies, whether that disturbance is affirming or unfavorable.  All forms of love belong to the realm of water, but its highest form, that of unconditional love and compassion are the most elusive and sought out.  The chalice represents the womb of the goddess and the well of creation. The cup is employed in the Great Rite, a symbolic act of divine copulation and creation involving the joining of the god (blade) with the goddess (chalice).  Water is also associated with the shifting energies of the astral plane, the realm of the dead, psychic abilities, dream work, and healing.

     The most popular witch’s tool associated with water is the chalice.  A traditional chalice is made of silver or is silver plated and is symbolic of the Moon Goddess.  My first chalice, made of pewter, served its purpose without issue.  Chalices and goblets come in a variety of materials including glass, stone, and stainless steel and can be ornate or of simple design.  Though the drinking horn is often associated with male energy, it can also be used in place of the chalice.  The Egyptian Hathor and Hindu Kamadhenu are bovine goddesses often depicted with horns.

Small Stainless Steel Blessed Be Chalice     The Tuatha Dé Danann’s Cauldron of Dagda is said to be never-ending.  It refills itself constantly, an eternal source of abundance and nourishment.  We seek the Cup of Compassion for our own divine nourishment.  We claim and drink from the cup to heal our emotional wounds by finding common ground and understanding with those around us.  Perfect love does not mean we strive to like everyone we meet.  It does not mean we aren’t allowed to disagree with someone.  Perfect love is the recognition of the divine in every living being.  We search, claim, and drink from our Cup of Compassion through careful introspection and work in our craft and we place our Cup of Compassion in the west of our altar to store and direct energy and as a reminder to be empathetic to another’s feelings or situation, while also allowing ourselves to maintain a healthy distance.