The time of the vernal equinox was auspicious in ancient cultures. In the Anglo-Saxon calendar, Eostremonath was named after Eostre (Ostara in Old High German), the maiden goddess of dawn and the spring. At the time of the equinox a feast is celebrated in her honor, replete with offerings of rabbit shaped cakes and colored eggs. This is because Eostre adopted both the hare and egg as her symbols.
According to legend, a magical white hare wanted to please Eostre by bringing her a gift. After careful contemplation of which gifts to bring, he settled on eggs, however, not the usual white or brown ones. Using his magical powers, he charmed the eggs, so the shells were a variety of pretty colors. In lieu of a basket, he presented his gift in the very same nest from which he stole the eggs. The goddess was very pleased with the gift and bestowed upon the hare the nickname ‘Egg Bringer.’ For this reason rabbits and hares, especially white ones, are sacred to her. Continue reading →
I picked up an autographed copy of this book at an author signing event at BookPeople of Moscow. It can be a little frightening to try a new author, but Christian Cohen did not disappoint. Being a person who also dislikes having other people’s winter holidays thrust upon me, I found the main character’s resistance to winter festivities not only relatable, but a delightfully refreshing character trait.
Being an impoverished fifteen-year-old kitchen maid is tough. Survival is even more difficult when the entire village believes your family has been cursed. Yet, this is Cora Nikolson’s lot in life. And she knows exactly where the blame lays, with the Winter King. The God cursed her family, took her father’s life, and brought them to the brink of starvation. Cora has no love for God, King, or country. She despises religion and the Aldormany who carry out the Winter King’s cruel edicts.
After her mother loses her position as head cook, Cora takes on additional work as a housemaid, hoping the extra wages will keep her family from starving. While dusting shelves in the library, she overhears a conversation between the Master House Steward and the High Aldorman. They are discussing a book containing secrets regarding the Winter King. Despite repeated attempts, they have been unable to destroy the book and it is imperative that no one in the village learns about its existence. Continue reading →
Of all my favorite holidays, Christmas isn’t. All the other December holidays come and go peacefully. Unfortunately, there is something about Christmas that just brings out the worst in Christians. The simple action of wishing someone “Happy holidays” has them frothing at the mouth, insisting everyone has declared war on Christmas.
This simply isn’t true. No one has declared war on Christmas. Christmas has declared war everyone else.
Halloween is the only time of year witches are in vogue. Suddenly everyone is interested in black magic, spell craft, hexing their neighbor, and a host of other things that bear little resemblance to actual Paganism. Despite the annual autumnal uptick in interest in all things occult, Halloween isn’t a Pagan holiday. That doesn’t mean we Pagans won’t dress up in costumes and join our Christian brethren in unholy revelry, general debauchery, and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, but we do have our own holiday to celebrate, Samhain.
Samhain translates as sam, “summer,” and fuin “end.” With fluttering leaves in shades of copper, amber, and crimson, there can be no doubt that summer is truly at an end. To Celtic peoples the Feast of Samhain is a fire festival that marks the first day of winter and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Continue reading →
The timing of the Harvest Festival is a tricky one for Pagans, as harvest occurs at different times in different regions. There is no specific date across Celtic culture that corresponds to a harvest festival, despite the fact that such festivals very much did exist. Herodotus first mentioned the Celts in 5 BCE and noted that they principally lived along the upper Danube River. At the time, their principal festivals, Imbolg, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhain, marked the changing of the seasons.
The connection between harvest and the autumnal equinox traces its origins back, not to Celtic, but to Germanic traditions. Roman historian, Tacitus, first described Germanic people in 98 CE, placing them in upper Germany and Denmark, in an area which bears the name Angeln. Like the Celts, the Anglo-Saxon Pagan year also contained four holy days to mark the changing of the seasons: Yule, Lencten Efniht (lengthening equal-night), Litha, and Haerfest Efniht (harvest equal-night). Eostre was not recorded in the place of the Lengthening equal-night until the 8th century. Continue reading →
This year, Imbolg falls on
February 2nd, as that is the mid-point between the winter solstice
and the vernal equinox. This is the time
of the Rowan Moon, when we long for winter to be over and begin seeing the
first signs of spring. Nowhere is this
more evident than the lambing barns, where in the depths of winter the ewes
bring new life to the world. The word
Imbolg roughly translates as, ‘the time of lactating ewes.’
This year I complied some
information on Imbolg for my Study Moot.
Some of that information is presented below.
There is nothing like bawdy, irreverent, and satirical drinking songs to put you in the holiday spirit. This year’s edition of Laughter and Libations includes more songs and new recipes for favorite winter drinks. Those interested in trying their hand at culinary delights will also find two alcohol infused recipes for “Figgy Pudding” which are sure to be crowd pleasers.
In addition to the new recipes, revilers will find three categories of songs: Continue reading →
June . . . love is in the air. It’s the traditional month for weddings. The solstice is upon us and the days are filled with light. The wedding month traces its roots back to Celtic origins and the story of a marriage which resulted in an unnaturally long day.
Celtic mythology states that Dagda and Danu loved each other so much that they married in secret and hid themselves on the Earth in order to make love away from the prying eyes of the other gods. Their marathon love-making session lasted nine days and nine nights. When Danu finally climaxed a great rush of water issued from her, creating the Danube River. From their union the goddess conceived. To prevent discovery of her pregnancy Dagda harnessed the sun and held it in place until Danu gave birth, thus their son was conceived and born on the same day.
The marriage of Dagda and Danu represents the union of a tribal god and a mother goddess, uniting land and people, a concept that remained popular in the sacral marriages of kings to their goddesses in later generations. If the king upheld the duties of a husband well, the land and his people prospered. Fail to show adequate love, respect, and devotion to the Goddess and the kingdom would fall into disarray, just like the household of any unhappy marriage. And that is the whole point of writing today: sometimes relationships stumble. Continue reading →
It’s that time of year again. Beaten down by rampant consumerism, we’re all left wondering how to balance work and pleasure. Laughter and Libations is a survival guide of sorts, helping people to drink and be merry during a season over-powered with puritanical messages. This year’s edition includes recipes for favorite winter drinks along with three categories of songs: Traditional Treasures, Simple Substitutions, and Ridiculous Rewrites. Traditional Treasures can be traced back to a less than pious origin whereas Ridiculous Rewrites takes an originally pious hymn and alters it to appeal to our most base and carnal instincts.