Muin Light: Lughnassad, C.E. 1995
All through the night, the dance spirals on ... with joy, harmony, beauty, truth, and meaning. Faster and faster the dollies dance... weaving in and out, in and out, ... weaving the fabric of existence for future generations.
Known as Lughnassad (Celtic), Cornucopia (Strega), Thingtide (Teutonic), Lammas, and Lammastide, this fire festival marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Lammas occurs 1/4 of a year after Beltane. It's true astrological point is 15 degrees Leo, but tradition has set August 2nd as the day Lammas is typically celebrat-ed. The celebration proper would begin on sundown of the previous evening, August 1st, since the Celts reckon their days from sundown to sundown. British Witches often refer to the astrological date of Aug 6th as Old Lammas, and folklorists call it Lammas O.S. ('Old Style'). This date has long been considered a 'power point' of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the Lion, one of the 'tetramorph' figures found on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune (the other three figures being the Bull, the Eagle, and the Spirit). Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four 'fixed' signs of the Zodiac, and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft. Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gos-pel-writers.
Lammas was the medieval Christian name for the holiday which comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'hlaf-maes', and it means 'loaf feast or loaf mass', referring to the loaves that were baked from the first grain harvested, blessed by the Priestess and Priest (and later by a Christian priest) and then distributed to the members and/or congregation. It was a day representative of first fruits and early harvest. Lammas occurs between the hay harvest and the corn harvest.
Ancient peoples viewed the grain as a manifestation of the divine force ... personified as the "green man," a resilient god figure, growing sturdy and solid through spring and summer, cut down by the Harvest's scythe, sleeping through the cold winter in the bosom of the Earth Mother, and returning once again, as a reborn infant, clothed in green with spring. Bread and brew - products of the grain harvest - represent the mystery of transformation, the metamorphosis of the grain by fire. The oven becomes a sacral, life-transforming vessel, thus playing a role in the female mysteries, for it can be compared to the womb. They honored this cycle from birth through growth, consummation, sacrifice, death, and inevitable rebirth with rituals, processions, dances, and feasts.
In Irish Gaelic, the feast was referred to as Lugnasadh, (or Lughomass) a feast to commemorate the funeral games of the Goidelic sun-god Lugh. Llew Llaw Gyffes ('the Lion with the Steady Hand') is generally identified with Lugh. Lugh may be connected with the Latin 'lux', which means "light." Llew is a different word, connected with 'Leo' (lion), which was an appellation of Lugh's. At first glance, it may seem that we are cel-ebrating the death of Lugh, but the God of Light does not really die (mythically) until the autumnal equinox. It is not Lugh's death that is being celebrated, but the funeral games which Lugh hosted to commemorate the death of his foster- mother, Tailtiu. That is why the Lugnasadh cel-ebrations in Ireland are often called the 'Tailltean Games'.
One common feature of the Games were the 'Tailltean Marriages,' a rather informal marriage that lasted for only 'a year and a day' or until next Lammas. At that time, the couple would return to the place of the ceremony and decide whether to continue the arrangement if it pleased them, or to stand back to back facing north and south and walk away from one another, thus bringing the Tailltean marriage to a formal close (or divorce). Such trial marriages (obviously related to the Wiccan 'Handfasting') were quite common even into the 1500's, although they weren't recognized by the Church. Indeed, such ceremonies were usually solemnized by a poet, bard, or shanachie (or, it may be guessed, by a priest or priestess of the Old Religion).
Lammastide was also the traditional time of year for craft festivals. The medieval guilds would create elaborate displays of their wares, decorating their shops and themselves in bright colors and ribbons, marching in parades, and performing strange, ceremonial plays and dances for theentranced onlookers. The atmosphere must have been quite similar to the modern-day Renaissance Festivals or Green Corn Dance festivals of the Native Americans.
A ceremonial highlight of such festivals was the 'Catherine wheel'. Although the Roman Catholic Church moved St. Catherine's Feast day all around the calendar with bewildering frequency, it's most popular date was Lammas. They also kept trying to expel this much-loved saint from the ranks of the blessed because She was mythical rather than historical, and because Her worship gave rise to the heretical sect known as the Cathari. During the merry making, a large wagon wheel was taken to the top of a near-by hill, covered with tar, set aflame, and ceremoniously rolled down the hill. Some mythologists see in this ritual the remnants of a Pagan rite symbolizing the end of summer, the flaming disk representing the sun-god in his decline. And just as the sun king has now reached the autumn of his years, his rival or dark self has just reached puberty.
This was the time of the Corn Maiden. The young girls of the village would secretly make a doll from the cornhusks and all natural materials in the image of the Mother Goddess. Great care was lavished on the head, face, hair and other ornaments. During the festival the old women of the village would judge the dolls and the most life-like was chosen to represent the Goddess at the ritual. Its maker was made Queen of the Festival. All the remaining dolls were burnt in the ritual fire as an offering to the god/desses.
The days now grow visibly shorter and by the time we've reached autumn's end (Oct 31st), we will have run the gamut of temperature from the heat of August to the cold and (sometimes) snow of November. Lammas is also known as a new-wine festival and a kick-off feast for the hard working harvest season, encompassing other chores such as candle making, replacing curtains, tablecloths, and rugs, and preparing and preserving food for the winter months.
I was in darkness for a long time. I heard no sounds, felt no touch, saw no sights. For a long time I was there and then magic happened. I heard. There was a sound. No light first, I felt it inside. It grew louder and louder till it was everything and the darkness was no more. I was in the music for a long time and then magic happened. I felt a touch. It was so soft, so light, like a whisper on my soul. It grew and grew and grew until it became everything. The music was no more. I was surrounded with a touch for a long time. Then magic happened. A light became. At first it was just a spark, but it grew and grew and grew until it was everything. I was in the light for a long time and then magic happened. A friend found me and the music again did sound, the touch came back and the light returned. It all stayed.
During this past work weekend at Muin Mound there was discussion surrounding natural therapeutics. I remembered that this book has been a great help to me on various occasions. "The Art of Aromatherapy" by Robert B. Tisserand is an excellent resource for "The Healing and beautifying properties of the essential oils of flowers and Herbs."
Aromatherapy belongs to the realm of natural therapeutics, it is based on principals shared by acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy, among others. These principals are complimentary and are based on man's interpretation of life and nature. The basic principals involve: life force, yin-yang, and organic foods.
Nothing is more fundamental than life itself, Tisserand explains. It is the one thing that we share with all other human beings. Life force, in its essence, is intangible; you cannot touch, see, smell, or analyze it in any way although you know it exists, just as you know that the seasons will change or that you will continue to breath in the next five minutes. There are many words for the life force; it is called "prana" by the Native Americans, "chi" by the Chinese, and we call it "energy". What we are trying to describe is the truth or the essence of things. As each of us as individuals has our own unique essence, so does each species of plants. It has it's own sets of properties or personality. Extracting this essence of the plant we may use it to work in harmony with our own body. Plants often have a "normalizing" action. It is the prerogative of Mother Nature to bring the body back to it's normal state without the violent, calculated or impersonal action of drugs used in conventional medicine.
Our bodies are a miracle of divine engineering and if we recognize the existence of life force we can help heal the body by encouraging the natural healing force within. Within the disease process is the healing process at work, underlying the homeopathic principle that "like cures like".
Yin and Yang is the second aromapathic principle. This is seen as positive/negative, or active/passive: often these dualities are seen in the workings of the human body. The body strives for balance, we see it at work within the circulation and the respiratory systems. The heart contracts and dilates, the blood changes from red to blue and back again, the breath goes in and then out. All functions of the body manifests two forces and understanding this interrelationship and the way it manifests in the body is an asset to the healing arts. Yin and Yang balance each other out but do not always neutralize each other. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Chronic disease, for example, is a state of serious imbalance. Remedies should be given that restore balance and bring about a state of health.
The third principle important to aromatherapy is the use of organic foods. The importance of an organic diet is being recognized by more and more people. We realize that our health depends on whole foods as unrefined as possible.
Our refined foods are sadly lacking in life force which cannot be synthetically replaced. Ingredients of natural foods are in perfect proportion to each other and do not need to be added or subtracted from. The same should apply to our medicines. They should be as natural, untreated and organic as possible in order to work harmony with our bodies. A great number of aromic herbs and their essential oils have come into use again. The early herbalists were concerned, not only with working to cure disease but with bringing the body to as healthy a state as possible. This is a positive approach to healing. The drugs developed later, in conventional medicine, suppressed infection but what we forget is that the body has a natural ability to fight infection. If this was not true the human race would have died out thousands of years ago. Essence should not always be substituted for antibiotics or other conventional medicines but used as an alternative, reducing our dependence on drugs. We should be paying greater attention to the positive, natural healing methods available to the conscientious individual.
Finally, as homeopathy and aromatherapy are aware that the mind and body are constantly interacting on the deepest levels, we have both mental and physical elements which medical experts finally admit can not be separated. Our mental states affect our physical states so by achieving mental stability we can expect to find a balance in our physical self as well. These basic principles, working hand in hand, with positive mental projection will help the individual maintain a more healthy, harmonious state of being.
Bread has fostered fellowship for a long time. For thousands of years, bread has been a staple of the home and a symbol of hospitality and trust.
Oatmeal Bread for Lammas
1 cup wheat flour 3 medium apples, chopped 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup raisins 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon ginger 1/2 cup brown sugar 1-1\2 cups rolled oats 1 cup butter 1 egg, beaten 1\2 cup nuts 1-1\2 teaspoons vanilla or orange
Mix above ingredients together completely, then place in a greased 9-inch cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until it begins to move away from the sides of the pan. When cooled, this bread may be shaped for ritual. Also, the fruits and nuts may be changed for different seasons.
Before ritual, we will have a corn husk doll workshop. Bring dried corn husks, cobs and silk, string, glue, and adornments to make your dollie pleasing to the God/desses! Winning dollie will be hung on the Temple.
There will be camping, drumming, and chanting for Lughnassad weekend. Bring a tent, instruments, and some food for the feast.
The Aegean Pantheon
Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God:Primitive Mythology
During the process of reacquainting myself with the various Pantheons, beginning with the Aegean, it occurred to me that others might like the info for their own update. In this spirit, Gods and Goddesses of the month will appear in the newsletter for you to enjoy. The experiences I had while living in Athens, Greece put me in awe of my female experience and the power we have descended from, my love of the Goddess doubled and beyond walking the ancient paths. Enjoy with me the rich "herstory"!
We now know that before the people that we know as the Greeks emerged from primitive Barbarism, there existed a Mediterranean civilization at the basis of the Aegean Sea, its center being in Crete. In early Crete there was an unprecedented flowering of learning and the arts which was cultivated by the Great Goddess. So invincible was the aura of Her protection that the Minoan Cretes lived in unfortified coastal towns. They prospered in the shipping trade and enjoyed a great peace that spanned a thousand years.
The Greek Pantheon was established as early as the Homeric epoch. The many divinities of which it was composed generally appear in the Iliad and the Odyssey. It was only later that the Greeks felt the need to provide their gods and goddesses with a genealogy and lineage. They explained the formation of the world and the birth of the Gods beginning with Chaos and Gaea. In the beginning, the story goes, there was Chaos, vast and dark, then appeared Gaea, the deep-breasted earth, and finally Eros, "the love which softens the heart". These three were the fructifying influence which would preside over the formation of beings and things. From Chaos were born Erebus and Night, who, uniting gave birth in their turn to Ether and Hemera, the day. On her part, Gaea bore Uranus, the sky crowned with stars, whom she made equal in her grandeur, so that he entirely covered her. Then she created the high mountains and Pontus, "the sterile sea", with it's harmonious waves.
The universe having been formed it remained to be peopled. Gaea united with her son Uranus and produced the first race- the Titans. there were twelve of them, six male and six female: Oceanus, Coeus, Hyperion, Crius. Iapetus, Cronus; Theia, Rhea, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Tethys, and Themis.
The chief deity of the Aegans was the Great Goddess or Universal Mother, in whom were united all the attributes and functions of divinity. Above all she symbolized fertility, her influence extended over plants and animals, as well as humans. The Great Goddess was depicted either crouching or standing, sometimes nude or sometimes dressed like a Cretan woman.
What was the name of the Mother-Goddess of the Aegans? In the absence of documentation we are left to conjecture. She was worshipped in Crete under Rhea, associated with the ancient cult of Zeus. Two other names for the Cretan goddesses have been preserved: Dictynna and Britomartis. In Greek legend both names were applied to the same divinity.
With the Great Goddess the Aegeans associated a God, subordinate to the Goddess, yet little has come to light in regard to the relationship between the Aegean god and Goddess. He bore the name Asterius (the starry) He is found under the name Asterion, King of Crete. Afterwards he was assimilated with Zeus himself.
The peculiarity of the Cretan god was the mingling of animal and human features which composed his features. The bull had been adopted as the Aegean symbol of strength and creative energy. It later became the emblem of the Great God and played an important part in Cretan legends. Minotaur is analogous to the bull-god and was not the only aspect under which the Cretan God appeared. Besides Minotaur was also Minos.
The earliest deities, such as the Goddess Gaia, were known only through relatively late myths of the classical period. When invaders entered Greece, around 2500 BC, they found that the Goddess was enmeshed in people's daily experiencing of the energy force in life. Olympian Gods were distant and removed, "up there", unlike the flowing, protective love of the Mother-Goddess, The Pre-Hellenic Goddess was powerful and compassionate, the Olympian Gods judgmental. The worship of the Goddess evolved from the awe experienced by our early ancestors as they regularly observed woman's body as the source of life. The earliest expressions are of the female body as a living microcosm of the larger experience of cyclic change, birth, renewal and nature. These energies became embodied in the sacred presence of the Great Goddess, the encompassing matrix of female power.
From this beginning sprang the glorious Greek pantheon.
Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion
Goddess of the Month
Gaea or Gaia is the ancient Earth-Mother who brought forth the world and the human race from the gaping void, Chaos. In the Greek imagination the earth is the abode of the dead, so the earth deity has power over the ghostly world. Because dreams, which often were felt to foreshadow the future, were believed to ascend from the netherworld, Gaia acquired an oracular function. Her oracular function appears in records of her worship at Delphi, Athens and Aegae. She was the earliest possessor of the delphic oracle, before Poseidon, Dionysus, or Apollo. She was called the Primeval Prophetess, most ancient earth.
Her shrines were known across the lands of ancient Greece, at Tetrapolis and Claaros, at Patara and Patrai, at Aegira and Argos, at Erythrae and Kyme, at Athens and Tegia, at Salamis and Phyle, and at Gaios where the most ancient wooden images stood in Her sanctuary. There they celebrated the ancient rites, where they called upon Her name until intruders from the northern lands claimed Her sacred shrines for their own. They dared to diminish Her majesty yet were unable to deny Her primacy, so when speaking of their God Zeus, they said She must have been his grandmother, so long had she been known.
Gaia was known best at the foot of Mount Parnassus, the site of the ancient Pytho, sacred to Delphi, that place of holy oracles and divine words given by prophetic tongues. She is praised as the oldest of divinities, "Mother of the Gods", "wife of starry heaven". The young Priestesses of Dodana preserved her name in their chanted litany: "Earth sends up fruits, so we praise Earth the Mother." At Delphi the priestess begins her formal ritual address to the gods thus: "First in my prayer before all other gods, I call on Earth, primeval prophetess."
Bibliography for articles "The Aegean Pantheon" and "Goddess of the Month": Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood, Merlin Stone, Beacon Press, 1979, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven, Shirley Ann Ranck, UUA Press, 1986, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, Charlene Spretnak, Beacon Press, 1992, New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, Introduction by Robert Graves, Crescent Books, 1968
The Myth of the Corn Husk Dance
by KiaMarie Wolfe
The warm summer wind effortlessly sways the first harvest cornstalks no longer bearing the weight of their yield. The setting sun casts brilliant shades of brown, growing darker as the sun god retires beyond the horizon. But all is not asleep, for young girls with nimble fingers sit upon beds of straw, crafting heads, and arms and legs from the husks of the corn... with great care weaving likenesses of the Lady. On the morrow their efforts will be judged. With sleep creeping into tired eyes, the task is completed as a painted-on face seems to look back. The dollies are delicately enthroned upon mantles or nightstands, and admired until slumber overtakes the creator. Dreams of unicorns and singing float lazily through the quiescent mind of the potential Corn Maiden... tomorrow will tell.
Except for the occasional chirp of a cricket and the deep restful breathing of all of humanity, the earth would seem to be at rest. But out of the shadows, out from between the massive roots of the trees, from beneath fallen leaves... creeping into the half-light of the twilight hour, emerge the forest folk... the nature spirits... the denizens of the fields... mayhaps better known to you and I as, yes, the Faeries! Aye, the Faeries. 'Tis said that the Faeries sing the lullabies in your dreams, that they put the scent into the flowers, and that they have magickal powers far beyond the comprehension of mortal man. Some say that on a real quiet night, you can hear them sing their songs in voices like the wooing of a breeze through branches.
On the eve of the first harvest festival, Faeries from all over the world sneak into the homes where the corn husk dollies wait and spin their Magick by kissing the dollies on their freshly painted faces, bringing them to life. Like a grand processional... across the land, over the seas, and through the air, the Faeries lead the dollies back to the place of their birth - the Corn Field! What power fills the air as the throng of sisters assemble together!
Tonight is a special night, for each corn dollie returns to the place where she has spent the season and rejoices in the miracle of Life... it started in the spring, when the Great Mother poured from her chalice the waters of life, nourishing the soil until life sprang up from its bosom. The Father smiled warmly as the delicate stems peeked out and reached up to him. Days passed and the corn stood tall, reaching... reaching. The moon waxed, grew full, and waned, teaching them the never-ending cycle of life. Birth, growth, life, and purpose had been realized, and tonight was the culmination of All things realized!
Each corn dollie, a visage of the Goddess... a goddess in her own right, begins the dance that has been danced since time began. Together they join in a celebration that transcends time, that transcends this earth, that goes beyond the sum of their whole. The Faeries set the rhythm and begin a song written when the first spark of Knowing looked up and Was. It is the song that the Goddess, with quivering lips and eyes filled with tears of joy, sang when she first knew Love. It is the song that knows no mortal words, for no words can express such beauty.
All through the night, the dance spirals on and on... with joy, harmony, beauty, truth and meaning. Faster and faster the dollies dance... weaving in and out, in and out... weaving the fabric of existence for future generations.
As the sky begins to lighten, the dance must end. Such is the great Truth that governs us all. The dollies weep tears of ecstasy, for they have travelled the path full circle and now is the time to return to the Mother. Each dollie returns to the mantle and the nightstand, leaving a trail of love and Magick where she has been.
Later that day, the young girls proudly display their dollies. The Magick lives on. May the Magick live on for you as the timeless song echoes through your soul.
A good resource in researching some of our Wiccan roots in healing is the "Power of the Witch" by Laurie Cabot. Laurie writes very simply, in terms that someone new to the craft can understand.
She reminds us that certain things are everlasting and that magic is one of them. It belongs to every culture and society, whether they call themselves shamans, witches, or sages. They all use secrets of the earth for healing. Magic makers have long been healers who could diagnose illness and prescribe correct medicines. The ancient healing magic worked because it was wholistic and was drawing on a person's own innate healing powers. Individuals were working with elements in their own environment with results. In dealing with the physical and spiritual causes of disease, be it substances or debilitating effects of soul loss, you must look to the basics of these beliefs. They teach that these gifts are not supernatural but natural methods, using a connectiveness with nature. Wiccans believe that the earth is not our enemy, that we should understand that the earth and all living things share the same life force.
Historically woman were the first herbalists and pharmacologists since they were the primary gatherers of herbs, grains, nuts and berries. With their knowledge of medicinal properties they became the first official healers and health care providers. The women taught their daughters the art of cataloging and cross-referencing herbs for specific ailments. The premise of Wiccan healing has been the integration of body, mind and spirit, using the secret nature of herbs and plants. The early witch persecution, in part, had to do with the fact that Wiccan healers were offering an alternative to the new medicinal practices being taught in the universities. The new medicinal arts, practiced by men, were restricted to a group who set their own fees and exclude whom they chose. In 1322 a woman was arrested and tried for practicing wholistic medicine although the verdict stated that "she was wiser in the art of surgery and medicine than the greatest master or doctor in Paris".
Many Wiccan remedies were painless and more effective than the bleeding, leeching and purging that were standard practice of the day. In addition, witches were subversive of religious orthodoxy, eliminating pain, especially surrounding childbirth was anti Christian. A woman's suffering in childbirth was due to Adam and Eve's fall from grace. The early midwives, unlike the doctors of the time, did not believe in needless suffering.
The Wiccan healers had painkillers, antiinflammatory treatments, many of which are the basis for pharmaceutical products today. Fortunately for us, we see a renewed interest in a more natural, healthy lifestyle. Around the turn of the century there was much study on spiritualism, metaphysics and a return to the use of wholistic herbs and medicines.
Herbs and plants have always played an important part in healing but regretfully, our civilization has been destroying the earth's resources at such an alarming rate that we have lost a vast majority of medicinal roots, herbs, barks and flowers curing a variety of ailments. It is our responsibility to begin making a serious effort to save our natural resources so that these natural remedies may be available to us. By becoming more educated and concerned about our bodies we can use alternative methods to the "fix it" approach of modern medicine. What conventional medicine ignores is the mental, emotional and spiritual suffering that accompanies disease. We have been led to believe that psychic powers are elusive, coming and going on their own, temperamental and terribly unreliable. The truth is that your own innate power can be controlled and directed, pulled out of your pocket and used whenever you need it. It is based on science and can be taught and researched scientifically. It is based on the ability to enter into an altered state of consciousness, one in which we call "alpha state". In this state the mind opens up to nonordinary forms of communication. Entering into alpha state we are able to reverse physical damage to the body, store energy and create well-being. We do this through a power that flows through our breath, our thoughts, our words and our touch. It is available to anyone through work and dedication to their own best mental and physical health and happiness.
With a knowledge of natural wholistic techniques and a dedication to self-healing you may find you are your own best medicine.
Elections will take place at Lughnassad. Skip will be running for Scribe, Sharon for Pursewarden, Heidi for Chronicler, KiaMarie for Senior Druid(ess) and Liturgist, Phoenix for Bard. Other positions such as Diviner, Healer, and Registrar are also available. If you're a voting member, please get involved. We Love You!
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