Rekindling my Sacred Fires

As the annual Brighid Poetry Slam messages out there have probably already high-lighted for us, Imbolc-tide is upon us once more.  Depending on your individual faith or path as a Pagan, Imbolc or Oimelc can mean many different things.  Those meanings also change depending on matters of where you live and whether you celebrate as a Solitary Pagan or in a Group, and whether your Faith or Path even observes Imbolc or if it’s one of those Holidays that you sometimes go out to a community event for, simply for the Pagan fellowship, or to humor a friend; but for me it has come to be The Festival of Rekindling…

Growing up, and becoming a Witch, in Anchorage,Alaska early February was that time of year where you really started to see and appreciate the returning of the daylight.  In late February/Early March you also had the excitement of the approaching Fur Rendezvous, an annual Winter Carnival held in Anchorage.   So for the longest time Imbolc was a celebration of the returning light and of the first stirrings of the return of light and life and activity after the mad rush of celebrating the Beloved Living at Yule.

The last few years, though, I have had trouble figuring out what Imboc means to me.

Living in Florida the returning of the light is much less a dramatic or sought after turning of the Wheel, and it’s kind of difficult to get into its associations as celebrating the first signs/stirrings of spring when the citrus harvest is finishing up and the Strawberry harvest is on its way… part of my ongoing journey as I seek to truly understand this strange new sub-tropical world of mine.

Imbolc meaning “In the Belly”; Oimelc meaning “ewe’s milk.  Birth, beginnings, creativity, and renewal… those begin to feel closer to the truth of this Sabbat for me.   Though I don’t have much,  except that of a 1/4 Irish lineage, of a relationship with Brigid whose festival Imbolc is widely honored as, She is the Goddess of Sacred Fires and Sacred Springs.  Smithcraft, Arts and Crafts, Poetry, Spirituality, and Healing, Nurturing, Hearthcraft.

These feel, in that deep part of my soul that is touched by the sacred, like the right track…

So before I went to bed this morning (one of the many hazards of an overnight job…) I turned off the computer and the phone, I lit a stick of incense and before I blew out the flame used that stick to light a candle.  I sat holding the candle-glass cupped gently in my hands and meditated a bit.  I sought, not silence really, but clarity.  I let my mind wander over the last few days…

I thought about the New member’s potluck at First Unitarian, how enjoyable it was even though I am clumsy at best at social mixers with large groups of people.  I thought about meeting my sponsor/mentor Mary and talking with here about things around church.  My mind turned to the words of the Chalice lighting  we use at our U.U. Church

“In the Light of Truth,

In the Warmth of Love,

We gather to seek, to sustain, and to share.”

(and for those of you who are thinking “isn’t the Chalice a tool of water?!” Yes, it is, but there’s more than one way to wield a symbol and a tool!   Here is a link about the Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist flaming Chalice)

My mind also thought about how very, very much I enjoyed cooking my variation of Mom’s Classic Greenbeans (a Stewart family Holiday classic!)  for the Potluck; and how eager I was to volunteer to help my mentor Mary by volunteering to put together a Jambalaya for the New Orleans themed coffee hour…

I really do love to cook and it feels good to be able to use the skills and knowledge of years of work and study, and my recent schooling, in a productive way.  I actually see a lot of my future work in Community Building in the Pagan Community as a way to take those experiences and skills and offer them in Service to others… fundraisers and social events of all sorts!

I am really a hearth-Witch at heart I think, not necessarily limited to my own home; more that I am deeply drawn to and my gifts seem to lay in matters of Hearth and Community building.

Thoughts of the Hearth transition my thoughts from my Witchcraft to my Hellenic Polytheism and naturyally bring to mind Hestia.  She who IS the Hearth, and the Hearth Fire, the Sacred light giving, nurturuing, nourishing fire in our homes and lives.  Given this long present, but not entirely acknowledged or understood grounding I have in matters of the Hearth,  I need to find a way to honor Her especially as I seek to Honor the Theoi Ktesioi, the Gods of the Home,  in the coming year on the Noumenia and in my life.

THE THEOI KTESIOI were the gods of house and home. They were led by Zeus protector of the home (Ctesius) and of the family courtyard (Hicesius) along with Hestia, the goddess of the hearth. Hecate and Hermes were also important household gods who protected the gates and entranceways. -from an entry at Theoi.com

Chronologically, my thoughts carried me to the next day and back to thoughts of Witchcraft.   Waking up early at 3pm and performing my first, full and formal Witches Circle in…. well, in ages.  I remember how wonderful it felt to finally and formally welcome them into my live and works and to share with the Guardians of the Watchtowers in the Blessings of the Lady and Lord.  I had not realized how much I missed the immediacy and intimacy of my connection and communion with Them in a full Circle.

Then after Circle there was the mad rush of shopping for and prepping the ingredients for the Jambalaya, then work from 11pm-7am, then rushing home to actually cook the blessed dish, then off to Church to help with the coffee hour and to act as a Greeter.

My thoughts ranged over how much I am enjoying being involved in a community once more, and how eager I am to use my talents, experience, and education in service to that community.  Not only First Unitarian, but also the Mystic Grove, which is the Pagan/Heathen Affinity Group at the Church.  I am in that tricky stage of getting involved, but trying to not over commit myself or over extend myself… very tough to do for me, and from some of the conversations I’ve had with others at the Church I would guess U.U.’s in general.  This congregation, at least, seems to have a lot of that ‘somebody should do something about this’ energy that is so familiar to me…

I had to laugh to myself when someone described a Unitarian Universalist congregation like “herding cats”, how many times had I heard that phrase used to describe Pagan community… many!

I also, oddly enough, thought of the new involvement I have with a table-top role-playing group, getting my geek on and making new friends and reveling in the creativity and imagination of this cherished and long neglected hobby….

So for me the Festival of Rekindling is a time renew and recommit to those things that nurture the self and nurture and reconnect us to the wider world.  To take pleasure in our creativity, to explore and contemplate our new beginnings or what we might begin as the Wheel turns.  To celebrate the return to life and activity after the period of rest after the Winter Holidays.

As I breathed in my meditations by the light of that candle’s flame, focusing ever so slightly on the out-breath, I imagined breathing onto a charcoal or onto kindling, nurturing the fire with my breath to bring it to fullness and life…

Then after some Still and Sillent meditation, I blew out the candle, and welcomed the light of dawn.

“we extinguish the flame,

But not the light of truth,

The warmth of community,

Or the fire of commitment,

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.”

May your Hearth and Home be blessed,

May you have food and clothing to warm your body,

May you have good friends to share your blessings with to warm your heart and soul,

May you find beauty and inspiration and creativity in your journey,

Blessed be!

And, as always,

Peace,

Pax

Discussion of my recent Beltane post…

So the ever fabulous Tracy the Red posted a reply to my recent Beltaine related post.   I should like to share it and my reply, with you my dear readers and encourage more discussion on this, here, and on the Pagan Community Builders list, and elsewhere in the community.

Anyway Tracie posted this to my comments section…

“Be careful there, darlin’ because Beltane is a festival that is directed at the Celtic fire God Bel and Aphrodite is Greek. She has Her own holy tides and we all know how stroppy She can get if She doesn’t receive Her proper worship. Beltane also doesn’t involve Maypoles either; that’s May Day. Maypoles are something Germanic peoples are into, even to this day. May Day itself is a day sacred to Freyja and is a lot more “Samhain-esque” than most would realize.

Wouldn’t mixing and matching deities and festivals fall under “cultural misappropriation?””

Well, I’ve written a small bit about cultural misappropriation recently, and also had a bit of a chat on the topic with Tracie the other day (pray for her air-conditioning unit folks!), so the topic is hovering about and well worth bringing up.  It is also an issue I have started to seriously wrestle with as both a Neo-Pagan Witch and a budding Hellenic Polytheist.

I have re-read the article, and I can see where, as a result of some inspecifics in my writing of it, I did commit some cultural misappropriation… or an least provide opportunity for it to flourish.

I would say there are two areas where I could have written things out better.

1. I did not write clearly enough about which Beltaine I was writing about.

Beltaine/May Day/Walpurgisnacht are three inter-related festivals that have some very different meanings for different branches of our Pagan movement.  I tried to speak to this within the post

“Especially this time of year.  Beltane, or May Day, is the time of year when many of us modern Pagans celebrate fertility and passion and joy and love and lust.”

Note the use of the word “many”… not “all”; but I should have been more detailed.

To a Celtic Reconstructionist, it is the fire festival celebrating the beginning of Summer and a festival for Bel.

To Heathens it may be a festival of Spring, and a time to honor Nerthus and Njord.  (for some Kindreds anyways….)

(And in both of the above examples different groups and individuals will have different observances, and ways of relating to and honoring the holiday.)

For the Hellenic Recons and well Beltaine really has little to do with the directly reconstructionist path.  Some have already celebrated Anthestreria.  (more on this Dionysian festival later)

Then of course for the Neo-Pagan and Witch and Wiccan communities the Beltaine Sabbat takes elements of  all of the above with a heavier focus on the light-hearted fertility and spring and a little less on the Samhaineque elements.

(by the by Tracie I am officially filing the serial numbers off of ‘Samhainesque” and going to be slipping it into as much everyday conversation as is possible)

It was this last iteration of Beltaine, one of the more widely celebrated ones (currently) in the Pagan movement, that I was speaking to in my recent article.

2. I did not explain a few things about my Hellenic Polytheism

See even though I am a self-described Hellenic Polytheist, and I am currently researching and involving myself in some Hellenic and Greco-Egyptian Recon subjects/groups… I am not a hard core recon… at least not yet, I am more than willing to concede that my thoughts and feelings on this issue may change and evolve, but here is where I am at the moment.

~I am drawn to the worship of the Immortal Gods, the Olympians, the Cthonic Dieties and a number of others from the Hellenic Pantheon, most especially Dionysus and Hecate with some burgeoning relationships with Antinous, Aprhodite, and Pan.  I make offerings of incense and pour libations of water and, as I am able, wine to Them whilst reciting from the homeric and orphic hymns and sometimes my own poetry striving to do Them justice and honor.

~ It is my heartfelt belief that the Gods are real are many and have always been with us, to paraphrase Plethon.  They didn’t go up onto some shelf at some point in History.  Thus they are as much a part of the modern world as say cell phones or Valentines Day.

~ At the moment I am welcoming the Gods into my life in the Modern world… Honoring Aphrodite at Valentines for example… and Dionysus during the two Florida Wine Harvests  (June and August).  I am looking at some of the Recon calendars… but my thing is I am not living in Ancient Alexandria or Athens… I am living in Davenport, Florida USA.   The agricultural and spiritual rythms, the rhythms of the natural world around me, are very different than those in the lands where the Theoi were first honored.

~This also relates to a similar difficulty I have had with the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the year since moving to Florida.  What does Beltane really mean in a land where fertility is never in question and Winter Solstice and Imbolc are the Citrus and Strawberry Harvests respectively?

So those are some of the issues I am trying to sort out for myself right now, and part of why I wrote of Aphrodite in association with Beltane.  I was not trying to claim that Beltaine is a festival of Aphrodite, more that Beltaine celebrates things that are a part of Aphrodite’s concerns…

I send my apologies to Aphrodite, Bel, any hardcore Recons reading the blog for any offense the piece may have caused.

Though, in the end, I must also stand by the posts core message of honoring fertility and sex and sensuality, honoring the Goddesses and Gods related to those things, and honoring ourselves through responsible behavior.

Peace,

Pax

_PS_ this may seem like a silly post to some, but if I am going to speak about how words and language has power I need to be very conscious of how I use them.  Also, if I am going to kvetch to people about a local Pagan groups “Native American” Pipe Cermony (which doesn’t actually involve ANY native americans nor any sort of sanction approval from the Lakota people whose ceremony they are stealing)…. well, if I am going to complain about such things I need to keep my own spiritual house clean!!

Imbolctide!!!

So there is this idea in a lot of sources is of Imbolc as somehow being the first stirring of Spring.  Coming from Anchorage, Ak. and now living in Orlando, Fl. ~ I am really not all that into Imbolc as a stirring of Spring…

Although January and February do mark the Strawberry harvest, among others, in my locale!

For me, and this lack of Springy spirit may in part be due to the annual influence on my childhood of the Fur Rendezvous festival in the Anchorage, area.  Fur Rondy, is an annual Winter carnival that includes the World Championchip Sled Dog Races, carnival rides and games set up in downtown Anchorage, arts and crafts fairs and competitions, and social events of all sorts.  In part this is a celebration of the lengthening days as we move from Winter to Spring.

For me this returning of light and sense of renewal and creativity is the big part of what Imbolc is all about.  It’s why, despite my mixed past with the Celtic Gods, I really really dig Bride and the Poetry and Hearth and Crafts related aspects of Imbolc.

Imbolc is about  new beginings, creativity and invention are the themes for this season as we reach outward into the light half of the year.  This is a time of continued and growing engagement with the world around us, beyond our home and hearth, after the deep focus on our friends and families of Yule.  We start to look forward to the activities of Spring and Summer, we start looking towards the new secular year and the things we want to do…

I am realizing, that for me at least, on a very deep level the Wheel of the Year is overlaid with Spirals that wind in and out and intertwine with one another.  For half the year we are Spiraling outward from Samhain to Beltaine, from Death (and the mysteries of what lies beyond) to Birth and Beginigns and Growth and learning and LIFE…

Then, for half of the year we spiral inward from Beltaine to Samhain…

Death and Growth and Life and Learning and Death and Life again…

Time to pour a few libations in the chilly Florida air…

Peace foks,

Pax

Happy Winter Solstice and a Blessed New Year!

Cookie decorating a Tradition in our home...

Cookie decorating a Tradition in our home...

Yule is…

For me at least the turning of the year is one of the facets at the heart of Yule.  I’ve been trying to identify these core facets of the Sabbats ever since my life’s journey took me from Alaska to Florida, from the Sub-Arctic to the Sub-Tropical.  So setting aside some of the climactic and seasonal associations of the Sabbats and trying to find the core concepts has been concerning me of late.

“New Year”, not just cause Yule is followed closely by the secular/calender New Year, but for me Winter Solstice has always felt more like the turning point of the years from one to the next.  Naturally enough I suppose for someone who spent 33 years of his life living in a land where Winter Solstice sees around 4 hours of daylight, and you know that from that point on the days get 5 minutes longer each day…

This is when we turn our focus and attention from the Beloved and Honored

Not a bad substitute for a hearth, sometimes...

Not a bad substitute for a hearth, sometimes...

Dead of Samhain, to the Honored and Beloved Living.  We turn from the introspection of inner mysteries to the mysteries of the hearth and heart and home.  We make cookies and prepare feasts and call up friends and family far and near.  We come back out of the shells of our introspection, that so many of us turn to at Samhaintide, and start to connect and reconnect with our families of biology and choice, with our dear friends, and to the earthly world around us.

It is a time to reconnect to that most essential of questions,

‘What can I give, what can I do to bring joy and peace into the world?’

It is easy to lose site of this aspect of the Yuletide with the crass commercialism of the modern day, but isn’t sharing our love and spreading joy to those we love and hold dear what this time of year is all about?

Yule is a grounding into our earthly lives as we prepare to honor the cycles of the world once more starting with Imbolc.

I spent this Yule at work at the park for a part of the day.  That evening I spend some quite time at home, took a few minutes to enjoy the night and the quite and thank the Divine for this Yule and the last year and the one ahead, and then snuggled up next to The Big Guy for a good nights sleep.

Not the flashiest Yule observance, but a nice and quiet one.

Happy Yule to all!

~~~~~~~~~~~

A few delightful links that speak to me about Yuletide…

Why Santa Claus is a Kachina

Bringing Light Where You Can

It’s a Narnia Christmas

Pagan Yuletide Media (mostly from Youtube)

A Pagan Yule

Solstice Bells (this I discovered thanks to Evn)

Beltaine!

Beltane celebrates fertility.  In ancient times this festivals celebrations were interwoven with many traditions relating to encouraging fertility in the fields and flocks and herds.  Strong themes of sensuality and sexuality are a part of the warp and weft of this Sabbat.    Within Witchcraft the union of the Goddess and God is intertwined with these themes.

Yet, what does Beltaine mean in a green and evergrowing land like Florida?  Bringing Summer in… what does that mean here?

Here in Central Florida it’s not like the flowers or fruits of the green and growing world are1 ever absent… Nature does go through it’s cycles and different fruits and flowers (and vegetables) have their own times of year and yet something is always blooming down here!  In Central Florida we are sub-tropical and two is the number of Seasons, not four.  A rainy season in the Summer/Autumn and a dry season in Winter/Spring. 

Summer brings challenges.  Withering heat and opressive humidity.  Hurricane season starts in another month or so.  Mosquitoes, Jellyfish, new generations of cockroaches, and Hammerhead Sharks are all creatures of summer down here.

And Yet, Summer brings blessings.  Cooling and quenching rainstorms each afternoon, bringing much needed water to a land left very thirsty from unthought out development and growth.  Hot evenings swimming in the pool.  Warm evening walks or time spent sitting on the porch swing sipping iced tea.  Time spent in the garden in the cool of late afternoon or early evening.

Beltaine is at the cusp of the changes from the Dry to the Rainy and we can celebrate the Rainy seasons return as the blessing of continued fertility on our peninsula.  Like anywhere else you give thanks for the blessings, accept the challenges, and, unlike elsewhere, you look forward to the cooling breath of winter.

Peace, and a Blessed Beltaine

Pax

Figuring out my Liturgical Callendar

So having recently embraced Hecate and Dionysus into my heart and life as a Witch, I am presented with the dilemma of how to integrate them into my recently renewed liturgical life; and how to integrate honoring them with my duties to the Horned God and Moon Goddess of the Witches – who I have given myself to oh so many years ago…

I am still sorting the second issue out for myself, but as for the first I had thought I had settled it for myself but I am beginning to realize that the Gods are not easily fit into ones life or schedule. (You’d think I would have grasped this already, after 17 or so years of study and practice, but we can all be a little slow sometimes…)

I have signed up onto some Hellenistic (Greek Recon Pagan) Lists and have been having a few good conversations with folks and trying to learn all I can about the ways in which Dionysus and Hecate, and the rest of the Gods, were honored in the ancient days. This has been helpful not only in figuring out HOW to honor the Gods, but also WHEN to do so. At the same time though I am a modern Pagan, and I don’t know if adopting an ancient Greco-Roman Calendar makes sense for me.

After all, I am neither an Ancient Greek, nor an Ancient Celt or Norseman; I am a modern Pagan! (if your confused as to where the Celts and Norse come into it, those cultures are the ones that contributed the most to the modern Pagan Wheel of the Year) For Me, for now, I think keeping to the Gregorian Calendar and adopting some of the modern ways of thinking to my Pagan theo/thea-logy will work. As a modern Pagan I will Honor the Gods as appropriate and in line with how they are rightly approached and the times and tides of the world around me.

For example…

Hecate was traditionally honored on the New Moon, which is something I can definitely work with.

Dionysus, as appropriate to His nature, will not be so easily fit into a regularly scheduled program… (why is it I am attracted to challenging men and gods?) I will strive to honor and celebrate him at Sabbats, especially in the Spring and Harvest times… and whenever I feel led to.

The Lord and Lady of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, to whom I dedicated myself so many years ago, will of course be honored on the Full Moon.

Then we have things like February and April… April was the month of Venus to the Romans, and February is associated in the Modern mind with “Valentine’s” day and celebrations of Love. Do I honor Aphrodite in February, April, both?!? Still sorting some of this out. I suppose February makes some sense since the minds of more than a few million folks will be turned to thoughts of Love… and then perhaps something in April for Dionysus and Aphrodite?

(While not especially involved with the Goddess Aphrodite, She IS {imho} one Goddess whom I think all Pagans could afford to familiarize themselves with!)

Then of course there’s the Wheel of the Year… fitting 2 Gods and 2 Goddesses into the Sabbats… some of this is really easy… Beltaine really seems like an especially good time to Honor Dionysus. At Samhain..well, Hecate IS the Queen of Phantoms… but what about Imbolg?

If your reading this please feel free to post about how you’ve dealt with this sort of question…