The Fire Beneath the Ice

A great benison during this gruellingly busy week has been the arrival of Jack Gale’s long-awaited study of the Winter Queen, Fraw Holda, brilliantly entitled Queen of Ice and Fire:  the Goddess Holda (Capall Bann, 2015).  Fraw Holda, as She is often addressed, is an ancient Germanic Goddess who is often experienced as an axis point for several historically attested Deities.  Gimbutas suggested that Holda was the origin of Them all.  The name Holda, in my understanding, is simply an Old High German kenning, “the Fair One.”  It may refer to the white and shining appearance of the Winter landscape.  The name Holda reminds one in meaning of Gwyn, the White or Shining One, a male Deity with some similar attributes.  Obviously, Holda is Northern/Germanic, while Gwyn is Welsh, but recent research has suggested that just as the peoples of these regions interacted more than was once thought in old times, their lore may also present many areas of shared gnosis and tradition.

Jack Gale provides some practical ritual suggestions, among them this “anthem,” which I prefer to think of as a carol. It is set to the tune of “God rest ye merry gentlemen,” and I suggest getting in the mood by playing the wonderfully Paganesque video Annie Lenox did a few years ago for that carol.  I changed some of the words provided by Jack to make it more singable for myself and my friends, and also because Holda Herself seemed to want me to re-work the song on my own.  This was the result:

The trees are standing leafless, and sun is standing still
When daylight comes but fleetingly and wind is blowing chill
As Old Year turns to New Year, we heed your Triple Will!

O great Holda, be with us now, be with us now!
O great Holda, be with us now!

From sleeping through the light time, our Goddess She awakes
With snowy white regalia, the silver Crown She takes
Her sacred Sign we now behold as feather bed She shakes!

O great Holda, be with us now, be with us now!
O great Holda, be with us now!

Rise up, O Winter Goddess, return and take Your place
We know Your Shining Presence extends o’er time and space
As Solstice skies grow bright with light upon Your shining Face!

O great Holda, be with us now, be with us now!
O great Holda, be with us now!

Holda’s sacred Sign is the Hagall rune, which looks just like an abstract snowflake crystal, and is a very potent and powerful sigil to which Jack Gale devotes two chapters in his book.  In an essay about Her composed in 2008 (which I cited in my post about Holda last year, but I feel bears repeating), I wrote: “This Rune provides a potent key to descend into Holda’s Well and unlock the secret gateway into Her Inner Sanctum. One way of visualizing this Rune is to see it as a Stave standing in the midst of the Crossroads… Holda holding the Stave at the Center of the Crossroads also embodies how, in the Northern Tradition, the Winter Festival stands as the pivot around which the entire year revolves, and renews itself. The Queen of the Snows also stands guard over the womb of the New Year. The singularity of Her Personality is the final resolution of the dualities of Life and Death embodied in the white quiet of Wintertide. One image that came to me … is that the six points of this Rune are reflected in Holda’s Pool and thus display the Twelve Nights of Yule, an illimitable energy vortex through which manifest Time and Space continually renew themselves. Holda’s Well and the Sacred Cauldron of Rebirth are, indeed, one and the same.”

In the book, Jack Gale reports these words received by a friend during a moment of intense psychic attunement to the Goddess:

I am the hearthfire
That burns deep within the ice,
The enemy of fear,
And lover of the blissful soul.

An aspect of Holda of which I had been unaware before beginning to read this book is Her identification with the ancient Lady of the Elder Tree, about Whom I wrote last year.  She is an imposing, potent Goddess very powerfully connected to the earth and to orchards, Whose presence was felt long after the displacement of the wisdom teachings by the Christian church.

The Power embodied in the phrase “Fire beneath the Ice” for me emphasizes the life-force deep within Earth Herself.  During the most severe months of Winter when everything seems buried under a heavy mantle of snow and ice, She remains alive, aware, and open to our visions and desires.  She is of many forms and many guises, but the pulsebeat of Her flame deep within burns constant and true.  The moment of the Winter Solstice and the tide of Yule and the turning of the Year remind us of this great hope.




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The Old Way of Wild Faery


Recently, as part of my Samhain meditation, I was reading some things written by my Oathmother, Eldri Littlewolf.  This was posted to a journaling site we are both on, back in January, 2011.  And it really bears repeating.  Many of you who are reading this space now never saw it back then.  Eldri is speaking here about the Split in the Tradition–described by another Initiate at the time as “the Sundering of Feri.” Eldri’s words are so earthy, potent, and resonant for me that I can think of no more apt and accurate expression of my personal feelings about where we are now in the Tradition.

There seems to be confusion–no doubt understandable, given the vagaries of google and how little known our history is to outsiders–about the differences between the old (some call it Wild) form of the Teaching, and the newer Tradition which others are promoting through various endeavors, venues, and activities.  In the past we have seen Reclaiming and Third Road ™ take material from the old Teaching and craft it into something new. That process is happening again on several fronts, involving multiple projects set forth by several individuals.  Meanwhile, some of us continue in the older way.  As Eldri states so movingly, the Old Way isn’t better, it is just different.   In some of what I have written here in the past year, I have tried not simply to  state didactically  just how one works and lives in the Old Ways, but to exemplify through more straightforward storytelling and poetry HOW IT FEELS.

I will note that we have attempted to return to the spelling Faery (preferred by my late Teacher), to distinguish ourselves from the “public” face of the Tradition with its web boutiques and Skype classes.  But that doesn’t really work since various folks on that side (or sides) use Faery as well.  Furthermore, on a personal note, my own Oathmother actually prefers Feri because that was how Victor, who was (and to some of us, STILL IS) the Grandmaster, requested us to spell it.

Further details can be found on the site  Click on the tab marked Principles for specifics of what we have agreed upon in common. This is I think what Eldri means when she says we have “a page” we can point to.  Now, four years after the words below were written, “the page” is a fully-fledged site with essays, reflections and words from many Initiates, and other resources to explore.  I am immensely pleased about this development.

It is worth noting again that those of us who hew to the Old Ways share many differences–differences of approach, method, belief, lore, and preference.   What we hold in common is a commitment to honor the principles set forth and agreed upon back in 2011.  For me personally, to honor these principles is to live by the Oath I swore and the Word I gave when I was made an anointed child of God Herself in the rites.

Eldri’s words:

Long ago, all dogs were wolves. Now there are Many kinds of dogs—each with a thing they (to human eyes) Do well. The others are not ‘Wrong’, just not that breed…
English Springers, American Springers —Now judged to ‘Different Standards’ still springers. Still dogs.

Apples: some sweet, some tart, some store well, some with *Pink Flowers!*-
all apples. No one would take them for plums.

Feri; some public, some private—*Still Feri* just not the *Same kind* of Feri.
Different needs, from deep in our souls—All still changing, and growing, all Her children.

…We are still working out our ‘standards’ here.
To Stop kinstrife this Had to happen–It Did Happen, years ago. (That part is done.)
Nobody is ‘better’,’more Feri’,or ‘less Feri’: we are Different, and that is Good.
When tribes get too big, they often divide—bands go different Directions- (hunt different game)–sometimes they meet up and camp together, later, then go separate ways once more.
This is not war–only clan division.

Change happens, we are witches.
We choose our paths, sometimes they diverge, that does not make us, better, or worse, than those who have taken another path. But, we Cannot remain tied together, and still freely follow All Paths.
—Paths need walking, some are called to one, some to another.

We chose to cut the rope instead of *Endlessly Tugging* trying to make others follow One path, instead of the ones that call their feet.
Now we have fallen in a Heap—and some are hurt, and angry.
Hopefully we can get up, go our ways, agree to ‘report back’ our adventures, when next our paths may cross-
-or *Write* in civil words, and with respect, what we have found.

I hear a lot of loose talk about ‘evolution’. I don’t buy it.
We can Not know about that, we haven’t the time scale- Changes, sure, That we have Got.
No one in our tradition is Exactly the same–as each other, as we were when we were ‘brought in’—and, isn’t that kind-of the point?

Folks are taking offense where *None was intended* —and then not listening when we say,–that Is Not what we meant.

“Look, we had to move the work-bench, folks were jostling our elbows—“

Outsiders were Telling me what my tradition was… I get Tired of it.
I spent many years defending the honor of Wolves, (no, really, kids, they were Hated) or explaining that all ‘hippie chicks’ do not sleep with anything that moves…
That part is done,… but now I have to start all over with my religion…NO.

Now I can just say, “Sorry, you mean those other Feri, over there…”
I can point to a page that explains, with *No Name Calling*, what *I* am about.
I am private, and do not Owe my time to strangers, but feel like I ought to explain.
“I am not a ‘red delicious’ I am some other apple from that”
I bid you all,
Good Hunting!–Eldri Littlewolf, January 2011



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Some reflections upon the Men’s Mysteries


In various sources on the subjects of Paganism and Witchcraft, we often see references to Men’s Mysteries and Women’s Mysteries. In today’s world of shifting terrain around gender definitions and boundaries, there may well be questions as to how relevant, if at all, such terms and the rites they denote may be to seekers of Pagan wisdom in this challenging year of 2015. I would like to offer some brief reflections on this topic. By necessity, these will have to be quite preliminary, and there may be future writings from me taking specific aspects under deeper consideration.

The word Mysteries really means rites. But I would divide these into three categories: first, rites that involve passageways into changes of status, such as rites of adulthood (or, more accurately, manhood in the old Men’s Mysteries). The latter specifically have been widely described across many cultures in the works of ethnologists. Secondly, rites of sodalities that usually have a professional character. The classic case is the rite initiating an apprentice into full status as member of a guild. Nigel Jackson speculates (in a long essay he composed on the Tarot) that in the early Middle Ages, such guilds may have carried some esoteric teachings from the old Mystery cults of Antiquity, particularly those related to the visual and plastic arts. Until the 20th century, many professions were specifically closed to women. (There was a much smaller number traditionally avoided by men and dominated by women.) Thirdly, esoteric initiatory men’s mystery rites with an erotic element are hinted at in some of the old lore, notably the material so diligently collected by Randy Conner in his book Blossom of Bone. We find modern day attempts to revive such rites in such traditions as the Order of Chaeronea founded by George Ives in 1897, the Circle of Loving Companions begun by Harry Hay and John Burnside in the 1960s, or the Minoan Brotherhood established by Lord Gwydion in the 1970s. In Terence DuQuesne’s writing about Anubis, he speculates–evidently based on personal gnosis–that a male priesthood characterized by erotic rites may have had an initiatory ceremony dedicating a new acolyte to the Deity with specific acts. There are other instances that could be cited from the byways of the literature.

I will note parenthetically here that one of the most beautiful descriptions of a Women’s Mysteries rite I can recall reading was a menarche ceremony described by Emma Restall Orr in one of her books.  It is well worth reading for those with an interest in how such rites could be carried out today.

In Cora Anderson’s book Fifty years in the Fairy Tradition, she provides very brief lore regarding the Grey Dove covens which were working groups formed by men.  There were also Grey Wolf covens for women.   The image of the Grey Dove suggests Aphrodite, while the Grey Wolf makes one think of Dionysos and the wild women who terrorized the countryside in the play The Bacchae by Euripides.  It is worth noting that in the latter play, Dionysos acts as the Guardian of the Women’s Mysteries.  The language of the play describes him as being in between male and female in his own nature, which leads to devastating consequences for the ruler of Thebes, Pentheus, who is outraged by the ways in which the God flouts the conventions and social order of the city. This leads to my next point.

I will suggest that a new type of rite is appearing today, and one way of thinking about such rites is as Gender Mysteries. In the material collected by Randy Conner in the book mentioned above, in such cases as the Galli Priest/esses of Cybele Magna Mater or the Hijra of India, we see that there are forerunners. These were orders for people who were in some way embodying what was once called a Third Gender or Third Sex.  One very special quality of the Gender Mysteries is that while the rites specific to men and women often bring about a defined change of status, the Gender Mysteries may be about what Kate Bornstein has called “the space of no gender”–a spiritual land in betwixt and in between. I personally feel there is deep Power being tapped in such Work. It is all quite vibrant and dynamic and emerging in an organic way out of multiple processes and from the hands of many agents and activists. It feels way too early to me to try to say anything definite about where such work is leading. I have found some exciting new vistas being shown to those of us who are interested in learning from the Priest/esses of the Gender Mysteries about the new Wisdom they are revealing.

The nature of a Mystery rite is that is only going to be appropriate for certain individuals who are at a particular phase of personal development. In the rhetoric dominant in the present age, where we want to believe that every experience and every teaching should be accessible to everyone interested in learning of it, this is a difficult concept to consider. I have given my reasons elsewhere for why I, as a Mystery Priest/ess myself, take very seriously the responsibility involved in only sharing what has been bequeathed to me in due time, with due regard to place and person, in a way that I feel properly upholds the integrity I swore to guard with my life before the Mighty Ones. This isn’t melodrama. It’s knowing the character of a person before you hand her a sharp knife and invite her to go off and play.

In the case of Men’s Mysteries, I think that what is happening is that the rites are shifting from being collective experiences shared by all adult males, to being the province of more specifically defined affinity groups.  In the mythopoetic men’s movement which took off in the 1980s from admirers of Robert Bly’s work, there was a very sincere attempt to reconfigure ritual, collective work specific to the needs of men who felt wounded by the upheavals they had gone through in their lives.   This work provides many examples of attempts to find new strategies for performing men’s mystery work in the current era.  It is work that serves the needs of specific communities, and these communities have often emerged–and in some cases, fragmented and fallen apart–through the experience of seeking to do this work.

So, you may now wonder what the point of pursuing the Men’s Mysteries may be in this brave new world we now inhabit. As one answer–there are many more to be articulated, meditated upon and pondered–I offer these words.

In an entry written in August 2014, I quoted this passage from the writings of Dennis Melba’son, describing a spontaneous ecstatic rite which occurred at the climax of a 1980 Radical Faerie Gathering:

Suddenly there appeared before me Cernunnos, who pulled me into Him. The cape enveloped His body and we kissed. Then He asked me to lift the shawl above our heads and walk with Him around the circle, drawing Fairies closer to the central pole, where we hung the shawl for all to see. The circle drew in tighter and tighter. The seven Names of the Goddess were being chanted louder and louder. Suddenly there leaped into the circle a young dancer, fully clothed. He began to undress. All around the circle–now quite tight, perhaps 2-3 Fairies deep–buttons began to be popped, shoes untied, pants unzipped. Clothes were thrown at the base of the pole, offerings to Cernunnos, as naked Fairies leaped into the inner circle and began to dance. The Chant of the Seven Names grew faster, more insistent. Cocks grew hard. Mouths and bodies enveloped them. Strong arms encircled my body. The dancer leapt up the pole. The chant changed: Pan, Cernunnos, the Horned One Comes … PAN, CERNUNNOS, THE HORNED ONE COMES! The figure behind me pressed closer. I could feel His hard cock through the cape. He pulled me closer–pressing, caressing. The dancer came against the pole and was lowered gently into loving arms. I turned to see the face of my lover. No one was there.

I turned back into the inner circle. Naked Fairies were getting down on it all over. The outer circle began to chant: NO MORE GUILT. The bodies writhed in ritual Sex Majik that healed us all. The chants changed to groans and moans and sighs and whimpers and cries of ecstasy. The God descended. The Horned One came. (RFD issue 25, Winter 1980, pp. 14-15)

Poseidon and Pelops

Poseidon and Pelops

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Diary of a Witch

(The Wild Hunt, Nigel Aldcroft Jackson)

Black spirits and white,
Red spirits and grey,
Come ye, come ye, come ye that may.
Throughout and about, around and around,
The circle be drawn, the circle be bound.


There is a part of the Inner Planes, the Other World, which is called Witchdom.  There you may learn much, if you can contact it.  There are spells and chants, dances and music and such woods and streams as delight the hearts of witches.  … Nothing is lost, but much is stored deep. … Do not be in a hurry. Find few people and good. When the full moon is out, you can come close to Witchdom. The rays of the moon have power, when they bathe the earth with its light. It is the window, in more ways than one. You too can see through the window.– John (“Nicholas”) Breakspeare, as channeled by Doreen Valiente, 1966

The Waning Moon, void-of-course, the Wheel turning steeply towards Samhain–it’s not surprising that my thoughts turn to matters beyond this narrow span of years that limit mortal life.  Tonight I mark the first solar return of the passing of one of my dearest friends and mentors in the Craft, Niklas Gander.  There seem to be a huge crowd of mediocre, listless people who hang on endlessly while those whom the gods love die young (as the Greeks said of old).  But what can one do.  Those who are remembered, and kept close in our hearts, live.  And as Nicholas Breakspeare wrote through Old Doreen’s pen nearly fifty years ago now, much is stored deep.

I have been thinking of Niklas, and of another Brother of the Art we lost last year, Brian Dragon, as I have been reading Stephen Skinner’s fascinating volume, Techniques of Solomonic Magic.  I have become sufficiently engaged with Skinner’s narrative to page the prequel, Techniques of Greco-Egyptian Magic, from the library .  It’s fascinating, to judge from what the most up-to-date scholarship has confirmed, just how much of magical practice persisted from the era of Pax Romana down to a very recent age.  Francis Barrett’s The Magus, originally published in 1801, drew largely upon Agrippa, who was firmly in the Solomonic tradition.  That tradition, in turn, seems mostly to have drawn from Greco-Egyptian sources–sources I would call Hermetic, but then, I’m just a practitioner, not a scholar.  And if I’m not mistaken, The Magus was a key work in the activities of the Cambridge magical circle of the early 19th century, which led on to the magical revival of the mid to late years of the Victorian era.  I’m finding it all very thought-provoking to read through.  If I could call Niklas and discuss it with him, I know at some point he would ask me:  “But Shimmer, what impact does it have upon your practice?” Because a Witch is above all things practical.  But Niklas also loved learning for its own sake, and unfolded many vivid tableaux of lost lore before me during our conversations.  I cherish those memories.

I remember one night of sharing stories and songs of the Art that enthralled us both, over the telephone.  Even though we were disembodied voices to one another, a picture built up in my mind of both of us hovering over the hearth in our cowls and cloaks, brooding over the darkly shimmering flames of an autumnal fire, sharing the mead of good companionship and the wise words of the Old Ones.  Somewhere, somehow, that fellowship goes on.  The Wisdom weaves Herself ever more fully into the tapestry of the lives of those who continue both on this plane and in the Beyond, and the time that is to come may yet bring new secrets to light for us, of Witchery yet undreamt-of.

…Nothing is lost.
This half of a fruit from the tree of Avalon
Shall be our reminder, among the fallen leaves
This life treads underfoot. Let the rain weep.
Waken in sunlight from the Realms of Sleep.

 –Doreen Valiente, Elegy for a Dead Witch

Death, Visconti-Sforza Tarot, circa 1440-1470

Death, Visconti-Sforza Tarot, circa 1440-1470

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Dance of Darkness and Light

Fraw Holle by Nigel Aldcroft Jackson--the Hag riding high in Autumn skies

Fraw Holt (another Name for Freyja) by Nigel Aldcroft Jackson–the Hag riding high in Autumn skies

Hail, Blessed Mother,
whose body is light
and whose voice is truth.
Power of darkness
and womb of light.

Prayer to Kali by Victor Anderson

The Blood Moon of September 2015 will certainly live in memory as a night of Witchery at its most inwardly wild and unfettered. As I said to a friend at the end of the evening–our bones are of the Earth, but our blood is of the stars, and the Moon is the Gate to that Wild Ride from one to the other. She makes our souls sing as we hurtle betwixt and between these realms.

The Autumn Equinox was such a powerful throb in the pulsing pounding turn of the Year-Wheel this time around. I strongly felt the Presence of the Twins in Their Divine Dance of Shadow and Sunlight, feeding and filling one another in this surging sweetness of equal Day and Night. As I contemplate the Year, I feel such Balance in the way in which Feasts associated with the rhythms of Darkness and Light alternate with the great Four Sabbats. It’s all about the rhythms that move each Year through Her changes. The Solstices and Equinoxes, for me, are related to how the Year Tides help me to attune to these swiftly shifting energies. From Samhain, with its serene remembrance of our Dead; through the Fallow Time of rest to Imbolc, glimmering candle-lit beacon of Spring; through the joyous renewal of Beltane and its Rites; to the solemn harvesting of Lammas. The Equinoxes and Solstices counterpoint each of these grand Events with a kind of reflective pulsation that is both magical and memorable.

My late Teacher loved meditating upon the Isle of Apples at this season of the Autumn Equinox; I think he saw it, in some ways, as a movement towards the threshold of the season of Samhain. A time when ancestral fires begin to re-kindle once again as the Old Ones draw near and the darkness begins its inevitable waxing thrall towards Yule.

As I turn the Wheel, I pause at each point to meditate upon the gifts the Twins of Darkness and Light bestow. At the coming of Autumn, these are gifts of harvesting, of reflection, of seeking an inward renewal. This year, the Equinox fell in the midst of a period of Mercury Retrograde, which for me provided an extra deep layer of meditation and musing. The image of a Crimson Full Moon high in the sky like a great Apple upon the bosom of Lady Night was somehow the perfect pendant to the deep serene joy of this Holy Tide.

(Painting of the Divine Twins by Paul B. Rucker)

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The Hilltop Spirit

img_2796The August Full Moon brings a time of reaping.  And as the Moon begins to wane, we begin the downward slide towards Autumn.  Last Tuesday evening, I stood watching the eldritch beauty of the heat lightning flickering eerily in the distance. Huge banked clouds at the back end of the sky were outlined here and there with snaky, jagged tongues of fire and glimmering flashes of spectral light.  And I thought of the coming nights.  Nights when cool breezes will begin to waft, apples will tumble from the trees and blankets will be trundled out of closets and cupboards.  The shifting tide of the seasons brings an air of melancholy–but it is a sensation I find agreeable.

Hand to hand we pass the blade
Unsheathed by the Ivy Maid
Keen the edge that cuts the hand
Of the dancer unwary

–sang Gwydion Pendderwen long ago in his Harvest dance ballad. The time of Harvest, like all the gifts of the Gods, is a double-edged sword; all that has come to fruition must be gleaned and stored in a timely manner. There is work, diligence, toil; but at the end of it all, merriment and joy. There will be a few delicious frolics before the Winter darkness begins to gather.  It is a serene and beautiful moment in the turning of the year.

A book I often revisit in autumn is Arthur Waley’s lyrical and elegiac translation of The Nine Songs, ancient Chinese lyrics of shamanic dream and epiphany. I am vaguely aware that there has been a great deal of scholarly attention devoted to these texts and other relics of shamanic culture in China, but the simplicity and directness of Waley’s translations deserve to stand on their own merits. These lines from the ninth of the songs, “The Mountain Spirit,” always come to mind as the year turns towards Autumn:

Driving red leopards, followed by stripy civets,
Chariot of magnolia, banners of cassia,
Clad in stone-orchid, with belt of asarum,
I go gathering sweet herbs to give to the one I love.
I live in a dark bamboo grove, where I never see the sky ;
The way was perilous and hard; that is why I am late for the

High on the top of the hill I stand all alone ;
Below me the clouds sweep past in droves.
All is murk and gloom.  Ch’iang!  Darkness by day !
The east wind blows gust on gust, spreading magic rain.
Waiting for the Divine One I linger and forget to go back.
The year is drawing to its close ; who will now beflower me ?
I pluck the Thrice-blossoming amid the hills,
Among a welter of rocks and vine-creeper spreading between.


He of the hills is fragrant with the scent of galingale,
He drinks from a spring amid the rocks,
He shelters under cypress and pine.
His chariot thunders, the air is dark with rain,
The monkeys twitter; again they cry all night.
The wind soughs and soughs, the trees rustle ;
My love of my Lord has brought me only sorrow.
Now to the measure of the drums we have finished our rites,
From dancer to dancer the flower-spray has been handed,
Lovely ladies have sung their slow measures.
In spring, the orchid, in autumn the chrysanthemum;
So shall it be forever, without break.

Words like gems found in a hilltop field, reminding us that if autumn is the season of the “dying fall,” it is also a time of beauty and richness–in its own way, blessed by the Gods. And Samhain, perhaps the most important sabbat of all, comes at the close.

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11705162_10153475422431322_4944748685524819737_nLugh, the light of summer bright,
Clothed all in green,
Tailtiu, his Mother true,
Rise up and be seen.

At your Festival sounds the horn,
Calling the people again,
Child of barleycorn, newly summer-born,
Ripening like the grain.

—Gwydion Pendderwen, Lughnasad Dance

Lammas is a Feast observed in the Old Calendar.  It marks the offering of the First Fruits before the holy altars of the Guardians of the Land and the Old Ones, revered by our ancestors.  As a “cross quarter day,” it falls traditionally between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox.  My personal preference is to honor it in accord with events observed in the local harvest cycle, though I usually celebrate with my beloved Green Men in mid August or later, depending on how busy everyone always is in High Summer.

As the date of August Eve approaches, I wait for that sudden gust of bracingly cool air that always seems to raise the hackles on my flesh.  So unexpected in the heat of Summer–it makes one think of the gleam of a suddenly drawn blade by moonlight.  I had just this experience last Saturday, two days before writing these words.  I was walking down a lane near my home and suddenly a blast of cool air, seemingly from nowhere, made me pause and shiver.  And I reflected on the season of the year and marked the sign of the Lammas tide drawing in.

After I had been turning the Wheel of the Year for awhile, I began to notice that Lammas is a very special Sabbat for me.  These days inevitably bring forth a brooding, heavy energy.  The Blade of Necessity is endowed with the twin edges of Sorrow and Fortitude.  On Market Day, the local Farmers bring out the bounty of their fields by the groaning cartload.  This morning I ate a dish of local peaches, blueberries and raspberries, and the flavors were finely ripened.   I bring the peaches home from the Market and set them on a window ledge where the sun coaxes them into warmth and a firm, juicy softness.  Lammas may have tinges of sorrow, but it is inevitably a deeply sensuous, even sexy time of year.

This is the first of three Holy Feasts associated with the Harvest, and as such, for me it inevitably adumbrates the twilight of Summer and intimations of Fall.  The stories of the Tailtiu Games that have been recorded in some of the sources show that this was a time of fairs and merry-making, of games and diversions, singing and dancing.  Some of the “games” that have been set down sound like quite the field day for pranksters, too.  The peak of Summer is passing, but there is still time for fun, innocent or otherwise.  Even in recent times the month of August, when all Europe traditionally goes on vacation, was described as the “silly season” in the news.

Perhaps it is all a reminder that where there is sun, there must also be shade.  The Blessings of Darkness and Light are the twin Powers that rule the Wheel of the Year.  And Lammas is a most significant point in that great Turning.  There is sacrifice, but there is also hope for renewal, and an omen of new harvests yet to be envisioned awaiting us in the future.

I like to remember these words:

Thus the rite is done, the price paid, the sacrifice taken. But from this now dead ear shall spring new life, and each of you will in time take one seed from it. Plant it in your own homes, watch it grow, and then bring back to this our circle the seed from its growing. … As with the symbol of the seed, so may we take away with us some small part of the wisdom of the Mother.
(words from Lammas Liturgy, as recorded in Witchcraft: a Tradition Renewed, by Doreen Valiente and Evan John Jones)


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