What I Did for Lughnasadh

Five members of our Grove gathered together last week to celebrate Lughnasadh.  We chose to assemble at the lake on top of the mountain, which is probably the highest accessible meeting place here on the island.  We were surrounded on all sides by the forest, with mountains in the distance, the beautiful lake, and the large reservoir (symbolically – the Well) which provides drinking water to half of us.

We found a circular clearing of trees, with two logs for benches.  I preceded the ritual by reading a lovely guided meditation and visualization exercise, written by Glyn Williams and available to read here (© 2000-2005 Glyn Williams). The meditation gives some background to the Lughnasadh festival, including the story of John Barleycorn. I could feel that our assembled group was connecting with the exercise, and the energy raised was quite powerful, almost tangible.

After that was finished, I led a scaled-back version of an ADF-style Celtic Lughnassadh Rite (available here), written by Ian Corrigan (the wonderful writer, blogger, and Archdruid Emeritus of the ADF).  The rite is dedicated to Lugh and Morrigan.  We made offerings of ale and water, bread and wine.  During the invocation of Morrigan a strong wind suddenly arose, and I definitely felt the powerful presence of The Great Queen.

Following the rite, we shared a lovely potluck meal, which included many fresh items from our respective gardens.  Surrounded by trees and mountains and water, nourished by good food and good fellowship, we watched the sun slowly set.  We discussed the harvest, both the literal harvest (in the case of our gardens), as well as the metaphorical harvest, which includes the next phase of a number of new projects we are either finishing or embarking upon, some of which I hope to be announcing and discussing very soon!

And that’s what I did for Lughnasadh.


A Solstice Passing . . .

Last night my beloved grandmother died.  My husband, my mother, and I were in my hometown, at her bedside, for the last few days (which is why I haven’t been posting).  She was an amazing woman, my Greek grandmother, and we’ve always had a very special bond.  She was the first person to introduce me to the Greek myths as a child, reading me the myths as I sat on her lap.  She bought me my first book of Greek mythology (which transformed my life in so many wonderful ways), she visited Greece when I was a child and brought me back many stories and pictures of the homeland, and she was one of the few people in my family (apart from my mother and my husband) who completely understood my spiritual beliefs.  Whenever we talked about the gods, the myths, and the ancient religion, it turns out that she even shared many of my beliefs about the gods and the divine.  Before I went to France last month, we spoke on the phone for about an hour . . . we talked about death, the soul, the afterlife, and the gods.  We talked about ideas from the Orphic tablets, Plato’s Phaedo, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Buddhist Pure Land Sutras.  We talked at length about Hermes as the Guide of Souls.  She told me she was ready, that she’d been ready ever since my grandfather died a few years ago (they were married almost sixty-five years, and she honestly couldn’t endure life without him).  Every fiber of my being told me that she was close to death, and I offered to help her cross over when the time came.  We discussed specific rituals and prayers and texts.  And for the past few days (and for the next 49 or so) her transition from this world to the next has been my entire focus.  I am at peace with her passing, and know that Hermes the Guide of Souls has taken her by the hand and is leading her to the Western Lands, to the Isles of the Blessed.  But the last few days have been incredibly difficult, and I am completely tapped out, physically and emotionally and spiritually.  I will definitely write more about her when I am ready (and I will be giving the eulogy at her memorial), but right now much of what I feel can be found in a very special poem.  You see, my grandmother was named after a poem.  She continued this literary tradition by naming my mother after Cathy in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.  My mother then named me Ryan (which means “Little King” or “Little Prince”) in homage to The Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  And my grandmother was named after the last poem written by Edgar Allan Poe.  Her name was Annabel Lee.  My beloved Grandma Anne – the beautiful Annabel Lee.  And while the poem is of course about a bride instead of a grandmother, everything I feel at this moment can be found here:

Annabel Lee
by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love —
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me —
Yes! — that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we —
Of many far wiser than we —
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

What I Did For Walpurgis Night/Beltane

This post inaugurates the “What I Do Series.” The premise of this series of posts is to describe the specific ways I honor the gods, be it a festival celebration with friends and family, or the practicalities of my solitary daily devotions.

Last weekend my group of pagan friends and family gathered to celebrate Walpurgis Night and Beltane.  Our little group of eight has recently begun gathering regularly to celebrate the Pagan Wheel of the Year.  Since our Spring Equinox celebration was very contemplative, and a bit formal as far as rituals go, we decided that Walpurgis Night should be more low-key and joyous. The flowers are in full bloom, the Sun has returned (even to the Northwest) . . . the beginning of May should be a time of revelry!  And for us that means good food, good wine, and good company.

Scarlett and Will were our hosts, and their beautiful backyard was the perfect setting.

Clover rescued a little scarab friend, who joined us to roll out the sun.

Mom brought crepe paper streamers, and we all helped Wildstar transform the backyard tetherball pole into a proper maypole, topped with a bouquet of fresh flowers from Scarlett and Will’s yard.

I honestly haven’t danced around a maypole since I was little kid, and we were all laughing and getting tangled up with each other. I then read a short blessing, thanking the gods for the feast.

And what a feast it was. There was probably enough food for about twenty people. Everyone brought a dish. Will built us a nice bonfire and grilled our main course directly over the open flame. Scarlett made some delightful side dishes, and Pam brought a fresh salad made entirely from her amazing garden and garnished with edible flowers. Pandora and Clover brought for S’mores for dessert. I made Bread and Wine, a simple recipe from The New Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others by Ann Rogers, a book Scarlett gave me years ago. If you’re ever looking for a unique alternative to garlic bread that also happens to make a great ritual offering, I highly recommend Bread and Wine. It’s really easy to make:

Recipe for Bread and Wine
• 1 baguette or other long loaf of French bread
• 1/3 cup soft butter
• ¼ cup red wine
• a dash of salt and cayenne
Cut the baguette in half length-wise in the same way you would make garlic bread. Beat the wine, salt, and cayenne and into the butter until you have a nice, creamy purple mixture, and then spread over the bread. Pour any excess wine over the bread. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Cut or tear the baguette halves into pieces and serve. That’s it! One baguette was enough for all eight of us to have a piece or two of bread for ourselves and another to toss in the bonfire as an offering to the gods.

After the meal, Wildstar led a contemplative ritual around the bonfire. We passed out pens and paper, and Wildstar asked us to write down the things we wanted to let go as the new season approached. We wrote them down and cast them into the bonfire, letting them burn away and releasing their power over us. It was a very moving and empowering experience.

The rest of the evening was filled with great conversations and stories and jokes and games and lots of laughter. No, this wasn’t a formal ritual of Ceremonial Magick or an elaborate reconstruction of an ancient rite. No circles were cast, nor did we strictly follow the Proto-Indo-European tripartite structure of earth, sea, and sky. I very much enjoy all of those things, but this was something different. This was simply a group of family and friends gathering together to mark the beginning of summer and honor the gods, all while enjoying each other’s company with good food, good wine, and good fellowship. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. And that’s what I did for Beltane.

Thank you Scarlett and Pandora for the photos!

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