Merry Meet and Welcome!

Merry Meet and Welcome!

We hope that you will find our content to be uplifting and educational. Please keep in mind that this is not a space for debate or criticism but rather a place for respect, curiosity and learning.

You are encouraged to take what you can from what we share here. If you want to know more, do not look to the contributors of this blog to teach anything beyond what we post. Seek out what feels right for you, trust the Spirit to guide you and have faith in our heavenly parents who are the givers of all pure knowledge.

April 30, 2011

Beltane/May Day

Beltane is traditionally celebrated on April 30 or May 1 (or most traditionally, overnight from April 30-May 1). Some of us may be familiar with pop culture representations of Beltane, which focus on the celebration of the union between the Great Mother and her young Horned God. Their coupling brings fresh new life on Earth. Some form of this Great Rite is enacted on this sabbat in nearly every modern pagan circle. The Great Rite symbolizes the sacred marriage, or sexual union, of the the Lord and Lady [you can read what I wrote about the Great Rite here at MotherWheel]. Often the rite is performed symbolically by a male and female who place a knife (a phallic symbol) into a chalice (a female or yonic symbol). In Old Europe, whole villages would celebrate May Day by slipping away into the woods for indiscriminate sexual encounters. [source]. But Beltane is about more than sex.

Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility festivals, the others being Imbolc and Ostara. It traditionally marked the arrival of summer in ancient times. Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons, winter (Dark Part) and summer (Light Part). As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life. It is the time when the sun is fully released from his bondage of winter and able to rule over summer and life once again.
Beltane, like Samhain, is a time of "no time" when the veils between the two worlds are at their thinnest. No time is when the two worlds intermingle and unite and the magic abounds! It is the time when the Faeries return from their winter respite, carefree and full of faery mischief and faery delight...When the veils are so thin it is an extremely magical time, it is said that the Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse. Roving about on Beltane eve She will try to entice people away to the Faeryland.
Beltane translated means "fire of Bel" or "bright fire" - the "bale-fire". Bel is the known as the bright and shinning one, a Celtic Sun God. Beli is the father, protector, and the husband of the Mother Goddess.
Beltane is the time of the yearly battle between the Welsh God of death and the hero Gwythur for the hand of Creudylad [the beautiful maiden]. A myth of the battle of winter and summer for the magnificent blossoming earth.
The Bel fire is a sacred fire with healing and purifying powers. The fires further celebrate the return of life, fruitfulness to the earth and the burning away of winter. The ashes of the Beltane fires were smudged on faces and scattered in the fields.
Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, maypole dancing, leaping over fires to ensure fertility, circling the fire three times (sun-wise) for good luck in the coming year, athletic tournaments feasting, music, drinking, children collecting the May: gathering flowers. children gathering flowers, hobby horses, May birching and folks go a maying". Flowers, flower wreaths and garlands are typical decorations for this holiday, as well as ribbons and streamers.

  • Sexual symbols, such as the maypole, or the dagger and chalice.
  • The color green
  • "Flowers are a crucial symbol of Beltane, they signal the victory of Summer over Winter and the blossoming of sensuality in all of nature and the bounty it will bring"[source].
  • "Water is another important association of Beltane, water is refreshing and rejuvenating, it is also imperative to life. It is said that if you bathe in the dew gathered before dawn on Beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year. Those who are sprinkled with May dew are insured of health and happiness. There are other folk customs such as drinking from the well before sunrise on Beltane Morn to insure good health and fortune" [source].

a Green Man cake
  • Bannock, or oat scones (this isn't a traditional Beltane recipe, but it's one we like. Here is a more traditional recipe)
  • Make a Green Man cake (a cake decorated to look like the Green Man)
  • Serve punch or water with ice cubes that have flowers frozen into them
  • Spring salad
  • Sweet breads, usually with sweetmeat or spices in the center
  • Colorful fruit
  • Dairy foods
  • Honey

leaping the bonfire (source link)
  • Wear bright colors
  • Wear flowers in your hair
  • Have a bonfire! If you're daring, make it a low narrow one (or not!), and jump over it
  • Raise a May Pole, and dance the ribbons around it (here are directions, you can use a branch or a tetherball or volleyball post for your pole)
    winding the ribbons around the may pole
  • Gather flowers, and decorate the house with them
  • Take flowers to your friends and neighbors
  • Gather the first herbs of the season
  • Go on a picnic
  • Wash your face in the dew at sunrise on Mayday (or in the evening dew on Beltane evening)
  • If it rains, go out and get your face and hair wet in it, feeling the blessing of the life-giving water
  • Hold a mock battle between Winter and Summer (they did this in ancient Scandinavia)
  • Make love with your spouse outdoors (in the woods, or in the privacy of your own backyard) (If you didn't follow the link before, check out my post about the Great Rite)
  • Go on a walk in nature. 
  • Look for fairies! 
  • Read fairy stories
  • Decorate your yard with ribbons, flowers and shiny things to attract fairies
  • Build little fairy homes in your yard with rocks, leaves, sticks, ribbons, buttons, etc
  • Say a blessing over your garden (the space or the new starts growing)
  • Read in the scriptures about when God put plants on the Earth
It is the child's unrestrained expression of bliss and delight that is what Beltane is all about. It is the sheer joy of running through fields, picking flowers, rapturing in the sunlight, delighting in the fragrance of spring, dancing in the fresh dew covered grass. Our children guide us through the natural abandonment of our adult sensibilities and show us how to take grand pleasure, warmth and bliss from the gift of Beltane.


April 28, 2011

Preparing for Beltane

Our Beltane table top adornment cut from study card stock.

May Day, also called Beltane, is an ancient Scottish Gaelic spring celebration. It marks the mid point in the sun's journey from Spring Equinox to Summer Solstice. It is the time when we travel from winter into the fullness of spring. This is when we sew our crops and pray for a good harvest come fall.

The date for the holiday varies from May 1st, to the full moon falling nearest to the 1st of May, which is called Lunar Beltane. Traditions from Beltane include dancing around the May Pole (which was often made from the past year's Winter Solstice tree) and wreaths of flowers adorning one's hair. 

Bonfires are often lit at this festival and jumping over them is a cleansing ritual for the upcoming year. Beltane is also when the veil between the world of the faeries and our world is at it's thinnest so this is a time for faerie sightings, faeries hunts, and other such merriment.

 A somewhat cross or puzzled Avington stands near our blooming onion patch.

For those of us who live close to the land we are seeing the return of some of our crops and we are planting others, watching the nightly freeze reports to see when we may finally put our starts into the ground.

 The children's chalk art on one of our gates.

Much outside decoration takes place this year. Bright colors, paints, ribbons and flowers all mark the return of bright blue skies after winter's long greyness.

 The Faerie Queen

Some ideas for celebrating Beltane include:

- A trip to your local plant shop to purchases starts for the new year

- Saying a blessing over your starts or over your garden space. Thanking our Heavenly Father for His blessings and asking for an abundant year.

- Tying ribbon, buttons, and other pretty things to trees and bushes in hopes of attracting faeries.

- Building faerie homes in your garden from sticks, rocks, mud etc.

- Erecting a May Pole, here's how.

- Making a flower garland, here's how.

- Attending your local Farmer's Market which usually hosts it's opening day around the first of May

- Having a family camp out in your backyard with a camp fire if possible and a greeting of the rising sun in the morning.

-Reading faerie stories, I recommend this one and this one.

- Reading or reciting this Christian liturgy for Beltane.

- Reading Genesis and discussing how God created all the plants and fruit trees.

Dancing the May Pole

Relevant Scriptures for Beltane:  
Isaiah 61:11  For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. 
Isaiah 60:21  Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
 Matthew 15: 12-13  Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
This Beltane article is cross posted on my personal blog, A Wise and Glorious Purpose.

April 18, 2011

For All Eternity ~ An Anniversary Ritual

Wedding anniversaries are a great time to do a little ritual of your own. I searched the internet for 'vow renewal' and 'handfasting' to come up with ideas for the ritual we did at our last anniversary.

First I spent some time writing a sort of vow renewal. I knew there would not be an officiator, and in my case I was doing it as a surprise for my husband, so I knew he would not have anything to read back to me, so I didn't worry about it being a bit on the long side (it was almost a full page).

I gathered a bunch of tealights, and one larger candle, and arranged them in a spiral on our table. The spiral is a symbol for "eternity" and since we have a temple sealing, we are married for eternity and I wanted a symbol of that. I laid them out on a ribbon because without the ribbon it just looked like a bunch of candles, the spiral wasn't clear. (The ribbon and central candle were different shades of blue, which was what we'd had for our wedding colors.)

Then, after the kids were in bed, I turned out all the lights, lit the candles, and brought my husband into the room. We held hands and I read him the things I had written.
Here is an excerpt:
And so, seven years later, I still give myself to you, to be your faithful partner, constant friend, devoted lover, and imperfect housekeeper for time and all eternity. With the knowledge that there is opposition in all things, I still commit to walk together with you on the path toward eternity, whether in the valleys or on the mountain tops or on the monotonous switchbacks in between. I promise to follow the Lord by your side, as priest and priestess, supporting one another on our way to become the god and goddess we have the potential to become.
And when the road is long, or the journey hard, I still covenant to stand with you against the whirlwind. For all eternity.

Source ideas for what to write/read:
  • search the internet for "personalized wedding vows" or "vow renewal"
  • lyrics of romantic songs (especially if you have a song that is special to you as a couple)
  • consider metaphors for married life: such as harmony, a growing plant, or riding together in a car (can you think of others? please comment!)
 A few other ideas:
  • Share some ritual food or drink, perhaps foods that you had at your wedding, or maybe feeding each other.
  • Have yourself some Hieros Gamos!

April 6, 2011

Hieros Gamos ~ The Great Rite

Ancient traditions taught the idea of the hieros gamos, the "great marriage" or sacred sexual union between the God and Goddess. Sometimes it was literally enacted between the high priest and priestess, or between a priestess and the king, or some other pairing of that sort. At other times it was (or is) done more symbolically, by placing a dagger into a chalice, or winding ribbons on a may pole. In all cases it was symbolic of the union of Deity.

Why was this union such a big deal? Because it made balance between the forces of the universe: male and female, material and spirit, light and dark, stillness and motion... It joined opposites into a whole that was greater than the parts, and found resolution in the dichotomies of existence.  It re-calibrated nature so to speak. This union and balance were represented with symbols as well as actions. One that might be familiar is this one from the Middle East (one that most of us now recognize as the "Star of David"). 

Another translation of hieros gamos is "temple marriage." That certainly caught my eye from an LDS perspective since we teach that a temple marriage (or temple sealing) is the only kind that will last past death and for all eternity. Indeed, this hieros gamos is supremely important and sacred.
Take that in conjunction with the belief that we all have the potential to become gods/goddesses (some say we have a "godseed" in us), then when we practice hieros gamos we are indeed participating in the joining of deities.

Here is where I integrate this old idea with my modern life:
try looking at sex as a sacred ritual (for those who are not married of course you'll have to stick with just thinking about it, but for those who are married, try to take this perspective to bed with you next time and see how it goes!)
As Scott Cunningham said in his book, ancient shamans found spirituality and power "...through ecstasy--alternate states of consciousness in which they communed with the forces of the universe."  From this perspective, sexual experiences, in particular intercourse and orgasm, can be deeply spiritual.

Here are a few practical ideas for integration:
  • Think about things like what I mentioned above (both in and out of the bedroom): the unified whole being greater than the parts, the physical unification being a symbol for spiritual and other unity in your marriage, etc. Discuss these ideas with your spouse.
  • Lighting candles. We have a few fancy ones, but mostly we have cheap tealights and they work just as well. The ambiance of candlelight is not only romantic, but many religious ceremonies utilize candles, and the light/fire of a candle has many spiritual connotations.
  • Try a bath (you can add candles there too!) Ritual washings are part of many religious observances, so try washing each other before proceeding to other activities.
  • Massage one another with oil (or lotion). Anointing with oils and formalized touching are found in many spiritual practices. Take the opportunity to use repetitive motions and physical touch to arouse and relax your spirits as well as your bodies.
  • Choose 'ritual' words, whether terms of endearment or phrases of desire, a few well-chosen words repeated each time (or within one time!) can add to the experience.
  • Anything which shuts out the world can be a way to tune into the spiritual. So, in intimate times, shut out the world, and tune into your own spirit, your spouse's spirit, and the Spirit that is over your marriage.
  • If consummation is the 'magic moment' (after which you are 'married' and would have to seek a 'divorce' rather than an 'annulment'), then every time you re-consummate your marriage it could be considered a way of renewing your vows. Think about that!

April 5, 2011

Wicca: A guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham

Scott Cunningham has written several books about Wicca, ranging from herb guides to books about divination or ritual, and probably the most popular, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner which is a little bit introduction to what Wicca is, and mostly a guide for how to practice Wicca if you don't have anyone around to teach you in person.

Obviously we here at Mother Wheel are not practicing Wicca, but Wiccan guidebooks are helpful because their belief and worship system is quite similar to ours, centered primarily in belief in the God and Goddess (whom we know as Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother), and observations of the Wheel of the Year and Lunar Esbats. Furthermore, as Cunningham says, there is no right or wrong way for a wiccan to worship or celebrate; each practitioner should consider what is meaningful to them and then develop their own rituals and traditions. Because of this, the book is most definitely a guide (to creating your own worship and ritual), but not so much a "here's what to do" book. In that, I feel it was a great resource for an LDS observer of the Wheel of the Year, Lunar cycles, and/or the Divine Feminine.

Cunningham does give many suggestions about how to develop rituals and deepen personal interpretations of spirituality. He writes at length about various symbols and tools which are commonly used for rituals; but also continually reminds the reader that is an open spiritual path in which there is no 'right way' to do things, but simply just the way that feel best to the practitioner. The book also includes his personal "Book of Shadows" (which is the title for any wiccan collection of rituals and spells), so there are many ideas to help a beginner with developing their own things.

One part of the book that particularly stuck out to me was in the beginning, where he talked about his experiences with shamans from various parts of the world. He explains that shamans found spirituality and power "...through ecstasy--alternate states of consciousness in which they communed with the forces of the universe. Early shamans first attained this state through the use of such 'tools' as fasts, thirsts, self-infliction of pain, ingestion of hallucinogenic substances, concentration, and so on....
"Today, Wicca has dropped the ordeals of pain and the use of hallucinogens in favor of chanting, meditation, concentration, visualization, music, dance, invocation, and ritual drama. With these spiritual tools, the Wicca achieve a state of ritual consciousness similar to those attained by the most brutal shamanic ordeals. 
"I deliberately used the term 'alternate states of consciousness.' Such changed consciousness states aren't unnatural, but are a deviation from the 'normal' waking consciousness. Wicca teaches that nature includes a broad spectrum of mental and spiritual states of which most of us are ignorant. Effective ritual enables us to slip into such states, allowing communication and communion with the Goddess and God."
I really liked that explanation of the purpose of ritual--to bring us out of our mundane 'normal' mind and into a state of heightened awareness of and 'communication and communion with' our Heavenly Parents. I also appreciated the point that there are many ways to reach that state of awareness, and that the key is not to do a certain thing (such as a specific ritual) so much as it is to do whatever thing it is that brings me, personally, to the relevant mental state.

April 2, 2011

Ostara in Alaska

The supermoon from my porch

The family went down to the beach for a while to enjoy the mountains, sunshine, ocean waves, and wind
 Our Ostara Feast

A salad with spring greens and eggs
steamed carrots, chicken gravy, and vaguely egg-shaped rolls (an egg bread, but in rolls rather than a big loaf)

roast chicken, the salad (and potatoes to go with the gravy)