Archives For Harvest

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 22, 2014 — 2 Comments

September 23nd, 02:29 UT, will mark the Autumnal Equinox (the evening of the 22nd in North America) which signals the beginning of Fall in the northern hemisphere (our friends in the southern hemisphere are celebrating the Spring Equinox). On this day there will be an equal amount of light and darkness, and after this day the nights grow longer and we head towards Winter. In many modern Pagan traditions this is the second of three harvest festivals (the first being Lughnasadh, the third being Samhain).

Photo by Jason Thomas Pitzl.

Photo by Jason Thomas Pitzl.

“In the U.S. this equinox comes on September 22 at 10:29 p.m. EDT, 9:29 p.m. CDT, 8:29 p.m. MDT or 7:29 p.m. PDT. In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is rising later now, and nightfall comes sooner. This is our autumn equinox, when the days are getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere. At this equinox, day and night are approximately equal in length. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, people are enjoying the cooler days of autumn even as preparations for winter are underway. South of the equator, spring begins.”Deborah Byrd, EarthSky

The holiday is also known as “Harvest Home” or “Mabon” by Wiccans and Witches, “Mid-Harvest”, “Foghar”, and “Alban Elfed” by some Druidic and Celtic-oriented Pagan groups, and “Winter Finding” by modern-day Asatru. Most modern Pagans simply call it the Autumn Equinox. Here are some media quotes and excerpts from modern Pagans on the holiday.

“Autumn is my favorite season. As the Autumnal Equinox/Mabon/Alban Elfed approaches, I’m thinking of how this season has always carried a sense of magic and spirit… of descent into the sacred secrets of time… a place of reckoning, with a wise power that can see you as you go, while all the foliate cover falls away… a place where truth can’t hide. Truth is powerful and healing and terrible and cleansing and undeniable, and this is the cathartic season where you feast on it, and it feasts on you. Then you journey deep into winter to rest and wrestle and plan, and in spring rebirth comes and you assemble yourself anew, incorporating your truth, with summer being the field to practice it on and cultivate its fruits. It’s a powerful cycle. It’s a part of life for us humans, whether we’re aware of the process or not. It’s nature, and we come from the Earth and her seasons – our psyches formed by our environment… our home… our mother.” –  Lia Hunter, PaganSquare/Sage Woman

“Despite the bad publicity generated by Thomas Tryon’s novel, Harvest Home is the pleasantest of holidays. Admittedly, it does involve the concept of sacrifice, but one that is symbolic only. The sacrifice is that of the spirit of vegetation, John Barleycorn. Occurring one quarter of the year after Midsummer, Harvest Home represents midautumn, autumn’s height. It is also the autumnal equinox, one of the quarter days of the year.”Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats

“On the equinox, everyone helps to make the feast, often with veggies harvested from the garden.  Little ones are given simple tasks like mashing the potatoes, and my oldest daughter loves to help roll out the pie crust for the apricots and apples collected at Grandma’s house.  Like most days, we like to talk about where our food comes from – the cycle of life that provides for us all.  But on this day, things are a little quieter.  There’s important questions to contemplate. Once the bounty is on the table, beginning to cool off, we begin.  First, I take down the special Harvest glass from the cupboard – a simple goblet engraved with fall leaves and wheat stalks.  It’s filled full of grape juice, a reminder of all the fruits and vegetables we harvest in this season.  We pass it carefully around the table, hand to hand, each family member toasting the things for which they are thankful.  In a way, it resembles a Heathen sumbel rather strongly; but instead of separate rounds, the Gods, ancestors, and spirits are hailed haphazardly along with love, family, and many of the other things we appreciate in our lives.” – Molly Khan, Patheos.com

“Although the specific date of the Autumn Equinox was not marked by any ritual in Celtic tradition, there is evidence that, at some point roughly halfway between Lughnasadh and Samhain, communities would involved themselves with a ceremony that reflected the processes then at work in the Year. This was usually a conclusion to ritual themes invoked at Lughnasadh, and focused on the end of the main harvest activities (i.e., the grain harvest), although it did not imply the end of the entire Harvest season, which continued until Samhain.”Alexei Kondratiev, The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual

“The English holiday Harvest Home was a very real holiday for centuries. There was no set date for Harvest Home but the things that were celebrated on the holiday are what most of us would expect in early Fall. There were games, ritual celebrations of the harvest, corn dollies, feasting, and parades. Many of these may or may not be “ancient pagan” in origin but they certainly all feel pagan, and are at the very least pagan in the sense that they revolve agricultural cycles.”Jason Mankey, Patheos.com

May you all enjoy the fruits of your harvest this season.

A Blessed Samhain

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 31, 2013 — 4 Comments

Tonight and tomorrow is when most modern Pagans celebrate Samhain. Samhain is the start of winter and of the new year in the old Celtic calendar. This is a time when the ancestors are honored, divinations for the new year are performed, and festivals are held in honor of the gods. It is a time of final harvest before the long winter ahead. It is perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated of the modern Pagan holidays.

An ancestor altar.

An ancestor altar.

“[Samhain] marks the beginning of an entire new cycle. With the return of Darkness, the Year itself returns to the Otherworld womb from which it will grow to blossom again. All true growth takes place in darkness: the source of vitality is in the unconscious, before consciousness discovers the limiting forms of rationality.” – Alexei Kondratiev, The Apple Branch

This time of year also sees the celebration of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”) by Baltic PagansWinter Nights by Asatru in mid-October, Foundation Night in Ekklesía AntínoouFete Gede by Vodou practitioners, Día de los Muertos for followers of Santeria and several indigenous religions in Mexico and Latin America, Diwali for Hindus (November 3rd this year), and astrological “true” Samhain on November 7th for some Witches and Druids. In addition, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere are currently celebrating Beltane.

It is a time when some communities acknowledge the Mighty Dead.

“The Mighty Dead are said to be those practitioners of our religion who are on the Other Side now, but who still take great interest in the activities of Witches on this side of the Veil. They have pledged to watch, to help and to teach. It is those Mighty Dead who stand behind us, or with us, in circle so frequently.”

Zan's memorial with Gary Suto (left, with flaming mandala) and parents Kay and Bruce Skidmore (to right of Gary).

Zan Fraser’s memorial.

Many who have been dear to our communities have crossed the veil this past year, joining the ranks of the Mighty Dead, including Layne Redmond, Nevill DruryMestre Didi, Zan Fraser, Allan Lowe, Peggy Hall, Lee Thompson Young, Barbara MertzRituparno Ghosh, Laura Janesdaughter, Victor Elon Anderson, Kyril Oakwind, Dennis Presser, Deena Celeste Buttta, George Lee, and Patricia Monaghan.

“I love that story about Susan Anthony that Zsuzsanna Budapest tells in her book. Some journalist asked Susan Anthony, because she didn’t believe in orthodox religion, I suppose, “Where do you think you’re to go when you die?” She said, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay around and help the women’s movement.” So even if I don’t live long enough to see these things, I’ll be around to make a nuisance of myself.” –Doreen Valiente, the Mother of Modern Witchcraft.

Below you’ll find an assortment of quotes from the media, and fellow Pagans, during this holiday season.

Joseph Mugnaini’s cover illustration for The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury (1972)

Joseph Mugnaini’s cover illustration for The Halloween Tree, by Ray Bradbury (1972)

  • “It’s appropriate to do a saining of the home with juniper — a New Year tradition in the highlands of Scotland — and to set up altars or shrines for the ancestors. On the night of Oíche Shamhna, many of us hold a feast with our friends and family where we invite the honored dead to come and feast with us. A place of honor is laid at the table or on the altar, where the first food of the feast and cups full of drink are placed for the dead. This portion of the food is never eaten by the living, but is instead offered outside when the feast is done. Candles are often lit for the dead, and their names are spoken. Tales about their lives are shared and toasts might be made in their names. Divination is another common feature of this festival, and readings are often done to get a feel for the luck of the coming year.”The CR FAQ
  • “We’ve been doing the Ancestor Vigil here for about 20 years and every year it is a little different but the intention is always the same. It is not a Samhain ritual, it is not a celebration of Hallowe’en, it does not glom onto the trendy love of Dia de los Muertes. It is a ritual commemoration of the Recent Dead, the Beloved Long Dead and the Mighty Dead. We set up a central altar, a candle-lighting station and a place to get more info on Mother Grove Goddess Temple and to leave your food donations for the food pantry. People are invited to place mementos on the altar and there is a place in the ritual where we speak the names of the dead that are closest to us.”Byron Ballard
  • “We see the Hallowmas Woman in the stark November landscape, with its muted tones of olive, ochre, sienna brown. We find her in a cold statue in a graveyard, garlanded with dead roses, thorns, and blood-red rosehips. We see her in fogbound mornings when there is no distinction between sea, stones, and sky, and the Otherworld is just a step away. She lives within the brief days and long nights that draw us toward withdrawal and cocooning. The Hallowmas woman rests. She withdraws into herself. It is not a time of connection. She prefers her own company, turning down invitations to gather with others. The midwinter holidays will be here soon enough.” – Joanna Powell Colbert
  • “In Afro-Caribbean Religions like Voodoo, Vodou, and Lukumi or Santeria the true spirits of Halloween are the ancestors. Festivities run from October 30th to November 2nd. There are delectable dumb supper feasts, elaborate ancestors altars and offerings galore. It’s a time for reconnecting, remembering and honoring all those who have gone before. It is their blood that runs through our veins, they are the primary reason we are here.”Lilith Dorsey
  • “When I think of Samhain I think of the thinning of the veil between the worlds. In my grand model of the Universe – the constantly revised mental map I use to orient myself and make sense of my experiences – the veil is less a thing and more a condition.  It’s possible to travel from this world to the Otherworld at any time.  Drumming, dancing, and ritual can facilitate a meditative journey, as can skilled guides.  But at certain times and places these journeys are easier than at others. Traditionally, in-between times and places are most auspicious:  twilight, seashores, doorways – neither day nor night, neither land nor sea, neither within nor without.  Samhain, which literally means “Summer’s end,” is neither Summer nor Winter.  This is an ideal time to journey to the Otherworld to visit with our ancestors, to gather knowledge and wisdom, and to perform divinations.”John Beckett

May you all have a blessed Samhain, blessings to you, and your beloved dead on this season. Let this new cycle be one of great blessings for all of you.

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 21, 2013 — 2 Comments

September 22nd, 20:44 GMT/UTC, will mark the Autumnal Equinox which signals the beginning of Fall in the northern hemisphere (our friends in the southern hemisphere are celebrating the Spring Equinox). On this day there will be an equal amount of light and darkness, and after this day the nights grow longer and we head towards Winter. In many modern Pagan traditions this is the second of three harvest festivals (the first being Lughnasadh, the third being Samhain).

Setting sun at Spencer Butte, Eugene, Oregon.

Setting sun at Spencer Butte, Eugene, Oregon.

“The 2013 September equinox comes on September 22, at 3:44 p.m. CDT (20:44 UTC). In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is rising later now, and nightfall comes sooner. This is our autumn equinox, when the days are getting shorter in the Northern Hemisphere. At this equinox, day and night are approximately equal in length. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, people are enjoying the cooler days of autumn even as preparations for winter are underway. South of the equator, spring begins.”Deborah Byrd, EarthSky

The holiday is also known as “Harvest Home” or “Mabon” by Wiccans and Witches, “Mid-Harvest”, “Foghar”, and “Alban Elfed” by some Druidic and Celtic-oriented Pagan groups, and “Winter Finding” by modern-day Asatru. Most modern Pagans simply call it the Autumn Equinox. Here are some media quotes and excerpts from modern Pagans on the holiday.

“I thought about how my brother died on the Equinox, on that day when light and dark exist equally. How they only really exist because of each other. Without death, the little and big moments of our lives, our loves, wouldn’t mean as much. And slowly, like drips of honey, this became my after. This life where we ache and love and die. This life where if we dive deep, we might come out the other side, dripping with light.” – Lynn Shattuck, The Huffington Post

“As Ostara is balance tipping into growth, Mabon is balance tipping into decline.  Those of us in the temperate zones are fortunate that our climate is roughly in keeping with the symbolism of the Wheel.  Even here on the mild California coast hints of fall color are becoming visible even as the harvest is in full swing.  Some of the best peaches I have tasted in a long time are finally emerging at the end of our unusually cool summer.  But among the wild plants seed heads are formed or forming, preparing for the changes to come. But I do not really see much in the way of actual decline yet. The Sabbats of balance, Mabon and Ostara, do not usually get as much attention as the great cross quarter ones, or the equinoxes, but at the deepest level I think they teach one of the most profound Pagan insights: that the good life is lived in balance.”Gus diZerega, The Meaning of Mabon

“In the rhythm of the year, Harvest Home marks a time of rest after hard work. The crops are gathered in, and winter is still a month and a half away! Although the nights are getting cooler, the days are still warm, and there is something magical in the sunlight, for it seems silvery and indirect. As we pursue our gentle hobbies of making corn dollies (those tiny vegetation spirits) and wheat weaving, our attention is suddenly arrested by the sound of baying from the skies (the “Hounds of Annwn” passing?), as lines of geese cut silhouettes across a harvest moon. And we move closer to the hearth, the longer evening hours giving us time to catch up on our reading, munching on popcorn balls and caramel apples and sipping home-brewed mead or ale. What a wonderful time Harvest Home is! And how lucky we are to live in a part of the country where the season’s changes are so dramatic and majestic!”Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats

“Although the specific date of the Autumn Equinox was not marked by any ritual in Celtic tradition, there is evidence that, at some point roughly halfway between Lughnasadh and Samhain, communities would involved themselves with a ceremony that reflected the processes then at work in the Year. This was usually a conclusion to ritual themes invoked at Lughnasadh, and focused on the end of the main harvest activities (i.e., the grain harvest), although it did not imply the end of the entire Harvest season, which continued until Samhain.”Alexei Kondratiev, The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual

“With the feast of Mabon, the fall Equinox, we acknowledge the balance of light and dark, life and death, growth and rot. We honor all those things that enable our world to grow and restore itself. On this holy tide, we hail the hunter and the hunted, the predator and the prey, the plough and the scythe, the blessings of growth and of decay. We honor our resources, and the frugality and careful planning of every ancestor whose careful household management got their families safely through the cold constraints of winter. Mabon is a time of remembrance and of culling away, of honoring what we have, what we need, but also what we can provide to others. It is a time to look clearly at where we are weak in spirit, where we are strong, and where we stand somewhere in between, a time to take stock of our portion of gratitude and blessings for the coming season.”Galina Krasskova, Witches & Pagans

“Autumn Equinox (also known as Mabon or Harvest Home) is celebrated when day and night are of equal duration before the descent into increasing darkness and is the final festival of the season of harvest. In nature, the activity of the summer months slows down to the hibernation for the winter. For many Pagans, now is time to reflect on the past season. It is also a time to recognise that the balance of the year has changed, the wheel has turned and summer is now over.”Merlin, The Stonehenge News Blog

“When you give thanks for the bounty of the Earth, you are maintaining your connection to Spirit in a most elemental way. Without good water, good earth, good air, and healthy bees, there would be no crops to celebrate. Indeed, without these things there would be no people to create such a celebration. By honoring Mother Earth seasonally, we recognize not only our spirituality but also our place in the greater scheme of things.”Kate Braun, The Rag Blog

May you all enjoy the fruits of your harvest this season.

Today is Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas) the first of three harvest festivals celebrated in many modern Pagan traditions. Lughnasadh originated as one of the four main Celtic fire festivals and was dedicated to the Celtic god Lugh/Lugus the many-skilled (or, in the case of Ireland, Lugh’s foster-mother Tailtiu). It is a time of thanksgiving, first-harvests, and the end of summer.

Communal harvest altar at Faerieworlds 2013.

Communal harvest altar at Faerieworlds 2013.

Here are some quotes for the holiday.

“Lammas, or Lughnassadh can easily be a forgotten Wiccan/Pagan holiday. It is not as showy as Samhain, or as lusty and festive as Beltane. But it remains one of the major sabbats, and should be recognized as such. The harvest is a time to gather: thoughts and blessings. It is about taking stock. We are getting ready for the next big seasonal shift. It is actually quite a powerful time, if you stop to ponder it. What better way to celebrate than to host an intimate gathering, simply to bake and break bread together; to just be?” – Colleen DuVall, “Harvest Some Fun For Lammas,” PaganSquare

“This time of the year is an invitation to harvest what you have planted in your work and your life, both spiritually and mundanely. It is the time to stand fearlessly and with great care scrupulously cut away what no longer serves and will not sustain you through the time of turning within and the continued waning of the year. The tricky thing about sacrifice is that for most people the idea of sacrifice usually pertains to something that they willingly give up. There is the implied choice in the matter and although sacrifice can be disruptive and emotionally charged deep down there was still the ability to choose what the sacrifice would be. The sacrifice I am referring to implies neither choice nor selection. But definitely requires faith that all will be resolved in a productive manner if you are willing to surrender to what must be. Sacrifice in its refined form is the release of something that you ultimately want to cling to, whether negative or positive in its form despite the negative impact that you THINK it will leave.”  – Robin Fennelly, “Lammas: The Sacrificial Harvest,” The Witches’ Voice

“As we prepare to celebrate the first of our three harvest festivals, let’s not forget that so many of the foods we eat in celebration would not exist without pollinators. The most important of these are bees. And the bees are dying. [...]  It’s true that honeybees are not native to this continent, but were brought here by Europeans. Other native pollinators took care of the needs of the fruiting trees and other plants that are native here. However, bees are essential to the kinds of food production—even local, organic and sustainable methods—that we need to sustain ourselves. Whether you take action by signing a petition, contributing money, or taking individual action in planting bee-friendly yards, action is important. Without bees, it would be a sad Lughnassadh indeed. So include the bees in your prayers of thanks. And if you like, add one to the many bee goddesses to bless the bees.”Kathy Nance, “Bless the Bees — It Wouldn’t Be Lughnasadh Without Them,” Patheos.com

“Because my path is Earth-centered, I believe it is less important to hold to the “traditional” meaning of the sabbats than it is to attune to the energy of the place where you actually live, where (hopefully) your own food is grown. The seasons of Ireland are a far cry from the seasons of the Ozark Mountains. Here, gardens and farms are in the fullness of activity and production (Goddess willing). We have been harvesting many crops for weeks now – including the native Three Sisters: corn, beans and summer squash. August, while indeed a time to harvest, is also a time for planting the fall short-season crops. Therefore, my “locavore” version of Lughnasadh recognizes that this is also a time for renewal: strengthened by the warm soil and full bounty, we can plant new seeds in our lives and communities.” – D. R. Bartlette, “Lughnasadh In The South,” PaganSquare

“Today, Lammas reminds us it’s time to “reap” (recognize, give thanks for) what we have sown (done) in the past year and to prepare for the coming autumn/winter. August in the northern hemisphere is when the heat is most intense. We look forward to the cooling days of fall when the apples are crisp and the last of the corn, chilies and tomatoes are harvested. In early religions the grain harvest represented the cycle of life and death. Stories were told of Persephone taken to the underworld and grief-stricken Demeter, her mother, grief-stricken, making the leaves fall (portraying winter). But before the autumn season, there was festivity, celebration, gathering fruits and grains and baking the first loaves of bread. Let us too give pause, recognizing our abundance, beautifying with grape vines, leaves, sheaves of wheat and oats, making corn dollies, sharing late summer fruits, celebrating skills, talents and craftsmanship and baking bread together from the first harvest.” – Risa D’Angeles, “Lammas – First Harvest,” Good Times Weekly

“The August festival of Lammas or Lughnasadh was celebrated in Ireland, but not necessarily in many places across the British Isles. So our “wheel” is a relatively recent construction, made out of various components drawn from folklore and the imaginations of more recent practitioners [...] This cycle is reconstructionist at best and artificial at worst; but the same might be said with regard to any religious festival sequence and ritual practice. All start somewhere, and the virtue of the current cycle is its reminder of an agricultural and seasonal cycle from which it is easy to become divorced. Why, in a 21st-century society, should we need that reminder? Well, many feel that they require a link with the natural world, even – or especially – in the middle of the city, and whether that’s primarily spiritual, or primarily aesthetic, it is surely hardly harmful.”Liz Williams, “Paganism: The Wheel of The Year,” The Guardian

May you have a fruitful holiday!

A Blessed Samhain

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 31, 2012 — 10 Comments

Tonight and tomorrow is when most modern Pagans celebrate Samhain. Samhain is the start of winter and of the new year in the old Celtic calendar. This is a time when the ancestors are honored, divinations for the new year are performed, and festivals are held in honor of the gods. It is a time of final harvest before the long winter ahead. It is perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated of the modern Pagan holidays.

An ancestor altar.

An ancestor altar.

This time of year also sees the celebration of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”) by Baltic Pagans,Winter Nights by Asatru in mid-October, Foundation Night in Ekklesía AntínoouFete Gede by Vodou practitioners, Día de los Muertos for followers of Santeria and several indigenous religions in Mexico and Latin America, Diwali for Hindus (November 13th this year), and astrological “true” Samhain on November 6th for some Witches and Druids. In addition, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere are currently celebrating Beltane.

It is a time when some communities acknowledge the Mighty Dead.

“The Mighty Dead are said to be those practitioners of our religion who are on the Other Side now, but who still take great interest in the activities of Witches on this side of the Veil. They have pledged to watch, to help and to teach. It is those Mighty Dead who stand behind us, or with us, in circle so frequently.”

Many who have been dear to our communities have crossed the veil this past year, joining the ranks of the Mighty Dead, including Russell Means, David Godwin, Gabrielle Roth, Richard Ravish, Owain PhyfeMike Gleason, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Anne Ross,   Margaret Mahy, David Grega, Katrina “Foxglove” Kessler, Grey CatFrisner Augustin, Richard Carpenter, Lord AthanorDe-Anna Alba, Nicol WilliamsonDanelle Dragonetti, and Roger Tier (Myrddin).

“I love that story about Susan Anthony that Zsuzsanna Budapest tells in her book. Some journalist asked Susan Anthony, because she didn’t believe in orthodox religion, I suppose, “Where do you think you’re to go when you die?” She said, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay around and help the women’s movement.” So even if I don’t live long enough to see these things, I’ll be around to make a nuisance of myself.” –Doreen Valiente, the Mother of Modern Witchcraft.

Below you’ll find an assortment of quotes from the media, and fellow Pagans, on the holiday.

“Now is a time to lay down your tools, the symbols of your productivity, and light a fire to honor not only what has been done throughout the past year, but also all that has preceded you — in this life, and in all the lives lived before. Now is a time to make space, in your heart and in your mind, for the stillness and silence of death.”Teo Bishop, “Samhain: May The Silence Open Your Heart,” The Huffington Post

“This is a time of year to remember those who have died, and also a time of year to celebrate those newly born, those who will inherit a degraded environment. Let the newly born call us to our aliveness and responsibility. May emerging truths compel us to choose actions of beauty and compassion. May these acts grow and multiply beyond our wildest dreams as we regroup in the aftermath of the storm, and reclaim our world. Blessed be.”Grove Harris, “Samhain 2012: Acts Of Beauty And Compassion,” The Huffington Post

“The Spiral Dance is inspired by the altar-building traditions of the Día de los Muertos. But primarily, the ritual is a solidly Pagan, Goddess religion-centered remembrance of the Beloved Dead, the Mighty Dead, and the Ancestors – loved ones who have died in the past year, those who have died recently or in the distant past who inspire our spirits, and our personal ancestors of blood, bone and breath. [...] The Spiral Dance differs from either ancient Pagan or Catholic traditions of remembering the dead because  it is also a celebration of rebirth – both inner and outer.” – Elinor Predota, “Samhain: Blessed Be All Souls,” Patheos

“Halloween is thought to date back more than 2,000 years to a time when Celtic people celebrated New Year’s Day, or Samhain, on the equivalent of November 1. Legend has it that the day before, or Samhain eve (now known as Halloween), fairy and demon spirits would appear in the ether as they traveled to the afterlife. Celts dressed in costumes to stave off the evil spirits and tap into the souls of their ancestry.”  – Emily Spivak, “The Witches of Halloween Past,” Smithsonian Magazine

“To Witches, Halloween is one of the four High Holidays, or Greater Sabbats, or cross-quarter days. Because it is the most important holiday of the year, it is sometimes called “The Great Sabbat”. It is an ironic fact that the newer, self-created covens tend to use the older name of the holiday, Samhain, which they have discovered through modern research. While the older hereditary and traditional covens often use the newer name, Halloween, which has been handed down through oral tradition within their coven. (This often holds true for the names of the other holidays, as well. One may often get an indication of a coven’s antiquity by noting what names it uses for the holidays.)” – Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats

May you all have a blessed Samhain, blessings to you, and your beloved dead on this season. Let this new cycle be one of great blessings for all of you.

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 22, 2012 — 17 Comments

Today is the Autumnal Equinox which signals the beginning of Fall in the northern hemisphere (our friends in the southern hemisphere are celebrating the Spring Equinox). On this day there will be an equal amount of light and darkness, and after this day the nights grow longer and we head towards Winter. In many modern Pagan traditions this is the second of three harvest festivals (the first being Lughnasadh, the third being Samhain).

Photo by Brian Griffin (from Depeche Mode's "A Broken Frame" album.)

Photo by Brian Griffin (from Depeche Mode’s “A Broken Frame” album.)

The holiday is also known as “Harvest Home” or “Mabon” by Wiccans and Witches, “Mid-Harvest”, “Foghar”, and “Alban Elfed” by some Druidic and Celtic-oriented Pagan groups, and “Winter Finding” by modern-day Asatru. Most modern Pagans simply call it the Autumn Equinox. Here are some media quotes and excerpts from modern Pagans on the holiday.

“The living earth provides us endless opportunities to experience reverence and worship. We have the freedom to do so in the way that is most appropriate to us. We must simply exercise that freedom. So may you pray with a good fire on this Autumn Equinox. May you harvest the light and keep it burning brightly in your heart, so that when the deepest darkness of winter is upon us, you will remember the summer sun.”Teo Bishop, The Huffington Post

“As autumn approaches, think about what you’ve accomplished over the year. What seeds did you plant last spring that have grown and flourished? How will you prepare for the coming winter, a perfect chance for contemplation and planning? What will you harvest? My grandmother called this time of year the “wintering in”—the time to pile up a stack of books, fill one’s root cellar, put wool blankets on the beds, and be prepared for whatever was to come. How will you manage your own wintering-in, and how will you celebrate autumn’s arrival?” – Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker, PaganSquare at Witches & Pagans Magazine

“For scythe-bearing farmers of yesteryear, it was a dynamic time of harvest and wine-fueled revelry as people, standing still on the precipice of winter’s chill, took stock of once vibrant fields now laid bare. After reaping the harvest, entire communities would cast off the burden of work and get down by partying, making music and creating art. Keeping with the theme of balance, it was also a day to journey inward, and to prepare for upcoming changes by initiating them through meditation. While today’s hectic, technology-saturated lifestyles based on arbitrary notions of time may seem far removed from nature’s moods, the returning dark days of Mabon remain an ideal occasion to take pause as seasons enter the next phase.” – Shawna Burreson, MonroviaPatch

“Mythically, this is the day of the year when the God of Light is defeated by his twin and alter ego, the God of Darkness. It is the time of the year when night conquers day. And as I have recently shown in my seasonal reconstruction of the Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd, the autumnal equinox is the only day of the whole year when Llew (light) is vulnerable and it is possible to defeat him. Llew now stands on the Balance (Libra/ autumnal equinox), with one foot on the Cauldron (Cancer/summer solstice) and his other foot on the Goat (Capricorn/winter solstice). Thus he is betrayed by Blodeuwedd, the Virgin (Virgo) and transformed into an Eagle (Scorpio).”Mike Nichols, The Witches’ Sabbats

“It is the time of the autumn equinox, and the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. On or around September 21, for many Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time of giving thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops or other blessings.”Patti Wigington, About.com

May you all enjoy the fruits of your harvest this season.

Today is Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas) the first of three harvest festivals celebrated in many modern Pagan traditions. Lughnasadh originated as one of the four main Celtic fire festivals and was dedicated to the Celtic god Lugh/Lugus the many-skilled (or, in the case of Ireland, Lugh’s foster-mother Tailtiu). It is a time of thanksgiving, first-harvests, and the end of summer.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary leading a Lammas bonfire ritual.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary leading a Lammas bonfire ritual.

Here are some quotes for the holiday.

“The First Harvest is a time to take stock of our fields; to survey all that has grown throughout this year. Some seeds planted took root, and others did not. Some soil was better prepared, and better tended to. But, it’s undeniable that there has been change, and that change came through our hard labor, our perseverance, and on occasion, an unexpected storm.”Teo Bishop, Patheos.com

“Modern Wicca, which only began to be defined in the 1930s, also moves those old rhythms of moon and sun, summer and winter, into a meaningful connection with modern life. That’s what [Wiccan high priestess Carol] Kirk emphasizes during rituals where she presides. Kirk, who also has worked as a hospital chaplain, is studying for a master’s in pastoral counseling at Cherry Hill Seminary in South Carolina, one of the world’s first pagan seminaries. Lamas, for example, is the beginning of the harvest season – a time to consider what we want to gather from our lives, what we want to preserve and protect, what we want to celebrate.” – Kay Campbell, The Huntsville Times

“Throughout Britain, Lammastide was the time for paying up rents and other obligations. For the many people who did not own land or even work a plot, at Lammastide it was customary to bake special loaves, called “Lammas Bread”, and offer them to the landlord and to the parish vicar.  There is good reason and much historical evidence to suggest that this tradition found its roots in Roman Britain, where the goddess Demeter and similar Celtic deities were given special offerings at – or around – the first day of August.  Regardless of its exact origin, Lammas is a very old tradition in the British Isles which is continued in North America, and it remains a time of accounting – literal and figurative.” – In Puris Naturalibu

“Even though we know today that the days are not getting shorter since Midsummer/Litha because the sun is dying, Lammas is still a festival of honering sacrifice and harvest for me, because even though the sun’s not dying he’s still showering us with his strength and light every day. The grain and fruits are still nourished and strengthened by his generous offering. Whenever we eat something, it’s ultimately the life force of the sun made manifest in plant and animal that we are taking in. We ourselves run on solar power, because all energy of our food literally originates there!” – Gwydion Blackrose, Courting the Serpents

“Since the main theme of the feast was the successful reaping of benefits from the Land by the Tribe, the communal enjoyment of first fruits was the high point of the day’s ritual. This would include both cultivated crops and wild-growing edible fruits, which were also made accessible for the Tribe’s use by Lugh’s intercession. Even if, because of weather conditions or circumstantial factors, the full harvest would not begin until later, it was absolutely necessary to gather and ceremonially consume a small portion of the crops on Lughnasadh.” – Alexi Kondratiev, “The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual”

May you have a fruitful holiday!

A Blessed Samhain

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 31, 2011 — 17 Comments

Tonight and tomorrow is when most modern Pagans celebrate Samhain. Samhain is the start of winter and of the new year in the old Celtic calendar. This is a time when the ancestors are honored, divinations for the new year are performed, and festivals are held in honor of the gods. It is a time of final harvest before the long winter ahead. It is perhaps the best-known and most widely celebrated of the modern Pagan holidays.


An ancestor altar.

This time of year also sees the celebration of Velu Laiks (“the time of spirits”) by Baltic Pagans,Winter Nights by Asatru in mid-October, Foundation Night in Ekklesía AntínoouFete Gede by Vodou practitioners, Día de los Muertos for followers of Santeria and several indigenous religions in Mexico and Latin America, Diwali for Hindus (October 26th this year), and astrological “true” Samhain on November 7th for some Witches and Druids. In addition, Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere are currently celebrating Beltane.

It is a time when some communities acknowledge the Mighty Dead.

“The Mighty Dead are said to be those practitioners of our religion who are on the Other Side now, but who still take great interest in the activities of Witches on this side of the Veil. They have pledged to watch, to help and to teach. It is those Mighty Dead who stand behind us, or with us, in circle so frequently.”

Many who have been dear to our communities have crossed the veil this past year, joining the ranks of the Mighty Dead, including Jehanah WedgwoodPeter ‘Sleazy’ ChristophersonShakmah WinddrumJanine Pommy VegaKenneth Grant, Bone Blossom, Merlin StoneLord SenthorBronwen ForbesSilva JosephBrian Fairbrother, Arthur Evans, and Lord Merlin.

“I love that story about Susan Anthony that Zsuzsanna Budapest tells in her book. Some journalist asked Susan Anthony, because she didn’t believe in orthodox religion, I suppose, “Where do you think you’re to go when you die?” She said, “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to stay around and help the women’s movement.” So even if I don’t live long enough to see these things, I’ll be around to make a nuisance of myself.”Doreen Valiente, the Mother of Modern Witchcraft.

You can also find a list of departed pioneers, founders, and elders at the Green Egg Zine.

Below you’ll find an assortment of quotes from the media, and fellow Pagans, on the holiday.

“Folklore holds that liminal times and spaces (crossroads, thresholds, midnight, Samhain) bring us to a closer relationship with the Otherworlds, lands of enchantment and imagination. The Veil between our everyday world and the Otherworlds begins to thin. The inhabitants of the Otherworlds reach out to us and make themselves felt.. The nature of those inhabitants varies across stories and traditions – they may be the Good Folk, the puca and the bean-sidhe, the kelpie of the well and the hinkypunk of the marsh, and other kinds of creatures as well. Many of the secular traditions of Halloween are inspired by the tales of these creatures, playing on the possible relationships between humans and spirits.” - Literata and Morwen, The Slacktiverse

LGBT writers, such as poet Judy Grahn, have written of Halloween as a “great gay holiday.” Grahn wrote in her history of gay culture, Another Mother Tongue, that Halloween came to be observed by gay people as their special night because LGBT people had served as priests, witches, shamans, healers and intermediaries between living and spiritual worlds in many societies throughout history. [...] Jesse Monteagudo, a gay South Florida writer, wrote in Halloween: the Great Gay Holiday, that he believes LGBT people adopted Halloween as their special night because it had “a lot to do with our role as outsiders in society; our propensity for cross-dressing and gender-bending; our love for the unusual and the fantastic; our ability to find humor in the absurdities and misfortunes of life; our fascination with festive costumes and the world of make-believe; and our special capacity to have fun.”David Webb, Dallas Voice

In his book The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween, Jean Markale describes Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”) as an important festival that served to unite the tribe. To commemorate the New Year, fires all over the Celtic world were extinguished the night of Samhain, then relit from ceremonial blazes kindled by Druids, the religious leaders of the pre-Christian Celts. Animals were slaughtered and sacrificed to Celtic deities. “In marking the onset of winter, Samhain was closely associated with darkness and the supernatural,” adds Nicholas Rogers, a York University history professor, in Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. “The festival was closely related with prophecy and story-telling.” It was a time out of time, “charged with a peculiar preternatural energy.”Chris McGowan, The Huffington Post

Miguel de la Torre, Professor of Social Ethics at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, relayed a story told to him by a Protestant pastor. This man was in Mexico doing missionary work and had, for many years, refused to participate in annual Day of the Dead celebrations. He complained about the money that the people spent on candles and lamented their engagement with what he saw as “evil.” However, the year his father died, he reluctantly went to the cemetery. As the night went on, the pastor “lit candles, told stories of his father, and saw that as a healing moment and began to develop relationships with the people.”Mary Valle, Religion Dispatches

“Halloween or the Festival of Samhain for Wiccans is by far Salem’s biggest holiday of the year. There are all kinds of parties, celebrations like the “Temple of Nine Wells Samhain Magick Circle,” eerie séances, magic shows, concerts, readings and other “haunted happenings” to experience throughout October leading up to the big night. Ask around and you might get invited to some of the spookier, more exclusive events. Salem gets crowded during late October, but the spirit of the city is most alive during the sliver between our world and the next. This otherworldly revolving door is said to be the thinnest on All Hallows Eve.”Bob Ecker, Napa Valley Register

“The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, honors departed souls of loved ones who are welcomed back for a few intimate hours. At burial sites or intricately built altars, photos of loved ones are centered on skeleton figurines, bright decorations, candles, candy and other offerings such as the favorite foods of the departed. Pre-Columbian in origin, many of the themes and rituals now are mixtures of indigenous practices and Roman Catholicism.” – Russell Contreras, The Associated Press

May you all have a blessed Samhain, blessings to you, and your beloved dead on this season. Let this new cycle be one of great blessings for all of you. Also, in recognition of the holiday, I’ve created a special edition of my podcast chock-full of Halloween and Samhain-themed music! Enjoy!

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 23, 2011 — 13 Comments

Today is the Autumnal Equinox which signals the beginning of Fall in the northern hemisphere (our friends in the southern hemisphere are celebrating the Spring Equinox). On this day there will be an equal amount of light and darkness, and after this day the nights grow longer and we head towards Winter. In many modern Pagan traditions this is the second of three harvest festivals (the first being Lughnasadh, the third being Samhain).


Anderida Gorsedd, The Long Man of Wilmington, Autumn Equinox
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The holiday is also known as “Harvest Home” or “Mabon” by Wiccans and Witches, “Mid-Harvest”, “Foghar”, and “Alban Elfed” by some Druidic and Celtic-oriented Pagan groups, and “Winter Finding” by modern-day Asatru. Most modern Pagans simply call it the Autumn Equinox. Here are some media quotes and excerpts from modern Pagans on the holiday.

“This week of the Autumnal Equinox, my thoughts, as usual, turn to those of balance. The sun has returned once more to the San Francisco Bay, vanquishing the fog to bring our usual days of heat before the winter rains begin. Everything basks in this golden gaze, including the homeless men and women sleeping on wooden benches under the potted roses yesterday as I swept the concrete free of cigarette butts and bits of paper napkin. Washing an industrial sized salad bowl, I asked myself what is it about balance that intrigues me. Being a child of autumn, who holds the scales, this question has been with me my whole life. Something deep inside my skin appreciates the equalization of night and day, and the way light changes on the leaves of trees this particular time of year. Seeking balance is my natural state. Yet, through years of study, spiritual practice, and deepening, I have come to understand that balance is not a static thing. It includes movement, to and fro. I have to recognize that my current viewpoint is not necessarily an underlying reality.”T. Thorn Coyle, “Balancing Act(ion): Equinox”

“Throughout history, the first day of autumn has been considered a good time to take stock of the year’s successes and failures. For our hemisphere, Libra (the scales) — the only inanimate sign of the zodiac — is an occasion for balancing accounts. A myth in many cultures holds that some mystical force lets us stand eggs on their ends — but only for a few hours immediately before or after the exact time of the equinox.”Richard Cohen, New York Times

“It is time to finish old business as we prepare, as the earth slows from the robust work of nature in the fields, and prepares itself for the quiet, sleeping winter months, and the spring to follow. It is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families or just coping with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It is a good time to prune your life of any non-essential activities, just as the apple trees shed their last ripe apples, gather your energies, as the trees draw back their sap into their trunks, and reflect on your season of growth and harvest. Some say this is best done over a fresh cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie!” – Terry Smith, Pineville, Louisiana.

“Mabon is traditionally a time of giving thanks for the bounty from the earth. The harvest ritual allows us to give thanks for coming together and celebrate our commonalities, as well as celebrate the blessings we have received throughout the year.” – Dru Ann Welch, Volusia Pagan Pride Day co-organizer.

“This is what I love about Mabon; more, perhaps, than any other Sabbat, it is a festival about which Pagans are actively making their own myths, in all their many forms. Mabon is an opportunity for us to look at our myths, and the stories we tell ourselves about our world, our past, and our potential futures. And since Mabon is so open to reinterpretation, it reminds us that if we don’t like those stories, or where they’re going, then maybe we can start telling the story differently, trying many versions, until we find the ones that we can live with and live in.”Literata, The Slacktiverse

“As Ostara is balance tipping into growth, Mabon is balance tipping into decline.  Those of us in the temperate zones are fortunate that our climate is roughly in keeping with the symbolism of the Wheel.  Even here on the mild California coast hints of fall color are becoming visible even as the harvest is in full swing.  Some of the best peaches I have tasted in a long time are finally emerging at the end of our unusually cool summer.  But among the wild plants seed heads are formed or forming, preparing for the changes to come. But I do not really see much in the way of actual decline yet. The Sabbats of balance, Mabon and Ostara, do not usually get as much attention as the great cross quarter ones, or the equinoxes, but at the deepest level I think they teach one of the most profound Pagan insights: that the good life is lived in balance.”Gus diZerega, The Meaning of Mabon

May you all enjoy the fruits of your harvest this season.

Today is Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas) the first of three harvest festivals celebrated in many modern Pagan traditions. Lughnasadh originated as one of the four main Celtic fire festivals and was dedicated to the Celtic god Lugh/Lugus the many-skilled (or, in the case of Ireland, Lugh’s foster-mother Tailtiu). It is a time of thanksgiving, first-harvests, and the end of summer.


John Barleycorn dancing at the Lammas Festival in Eastbourne, UK on 31st July 2010.

Here are some quotes for the holiday.

“This late summer season, I give thanks for what I have that feeds me and the ways in which my life can help feed others. I also intend to practice walking the fine line between consolidating energy and attention, and letting go. Yes, I will show up. Will I deliver the fruits of my labor? Time will tell. There is always a harvest, whether or not it yields what we expected.” - T. Thorn Coyle, “Are You Harvesting What You Expected?”

“The Anglo-Saxons held their own feast of the opening of harvest upon 1 August, the ‘hlaef-mass’, or ‘loaf mass’, from which derived its medieval English and Scottish name of Lammas. As such it appears regularly in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, explicitly (in 921) as ‘the feast of first fruits’.”Ronald Hutton, “The Stations of The Sun”

“How can we, separated from the agricultural process by city and century, appreciate the atmosphere of the season which surrounds us, but which we cannot see? What is the goddess of grain to us of the boulangerie? The patisserie? We who buy our grain in bags, in boxes, premixed, pre-measured, prepackaged, prepared, sown, grown, harvested, hulled, milled, by someone else, somewhere else. How can we identify with the earth values taught by terra mater during this time of year from where we are held captive in the synthetic heart of the genetically modified pop tart culture which claims us? Well, we can behave, as they say, as if we were born in August. We can, in fact, become August — wise and generous and gloriously noble, each on our own chosen paths. We can hone our skills as the tenders of mother earth. We can hoe our row. We can carry our load. We can break bread together. We can feed the hungry. We reap what we sow.”Donna Henes, “Celebrating the Halfway Point of Summer”

“Since the main theme of the feast was the successful reaping of benefits from the Land by the Tribe, the communal enjoyment of first fruits was the high point of the day’s ritual. This would include both cultivated crops and wild-growing edible fruits, which were also made accessible for the Tribe’s use by Lugh’s intercession. Even if, because of weather conditions or circumstantial factors, the full harvest would not begin until later, it was absolutely necessary to gather and ceremonially consume a small portion of the crops on Lughnasadh.”Alexi Kondratiev, “The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual”

“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 the entranced on-lookers. The atmosphere must have been quite similar to our modern-day Renaissance festivals.”Mike Nichols, “The Witches’ Sabbats”

May you have a fruitful holiday!