A late harvest is better than none

This evening I finally got round to changing the candles on my altar from Lammas to Mabon. Yes, I’m celebrating the Autumn Equinox four weeks late and ten days before Hallowe’en, mostly due to a lack of privacy and time, and when I did have the privacy and time, being ill. But I realised today at work while writing the date that Samhain was getting ever closer, and that if I wanted to do something spiritual for Mabon then I’d better hurry up.

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My ‘Mabon’ altar. Note the harvest-coloured candles and… that’s it really.

It has to be the simplest thing I’ve done all year to mark a festival – no circle, no music, and no other candles lit either – I just swapped the candles out and lit the new ones from my Imbolc candle. I recalled the Equinox, a time of balance between light and dark, and said a short prayer to help me find and keep balance in my life between things like work and home, friends and family, rest and labour. I also asked for help in balancing my finances, which I’ve had issues with recently. I then gave thanks for the harvest so far, which will help feed us through the winter and the darkening days ahead. In all, it took about two minutes from getting out the candle box to snuffing the candles.

Still, at least I’ve done something to mark the Sabbat that’s centred around my altar as well as something practical, as a couple of days after Autumn Equinox I went out and collected conkers.

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This year’s conker harvest, which I caught just after they’d started dropping.

I tend to think of the Equinox as the berry and nut harvest, coming after the grain and fruit and before the culling of livestock and the collection of the last of the growing things, so as I was walking around my local park looking for the beautiful red-brown of conkers in the grass I took note of the leaves that had already fallen, a sure sign that autumn is here and winter’s on the way. Plus I have a lovely load of conkers to put in every room of my flat to keep the spiders out – I don’t like them and they don’t like conkers.

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Sneaky Sabbat

Litha always creeps up on me. Even before I became a practising Christo-Pagan I was always surprised when the longest day happened, as it just never seems far enough away from Yule yet for the nights to start getting longer.

Back when I was studying, both at school and university, my summer holidays had only just started, and we had at least another two months when we could expect/hope to have ‘proper summer weather’ – a lot less rain, visible sky, actual sunshine that caused shadows, and temperatures warm enough to wear a tshirt, shorts, and sandals. It also doesn’t help that my family’s annual summer holiday has for the last twelve years been Sidmouth Folk Festival, held the first full week in August, so summer seems an awful lot further away than something that has its middle in late June.

Still, I didn’t forget to celebrate Midsummer, although my celebrations were done during twilight rather than at dawn as I’d stayed at a friend’s on the Saturday night and as a result of staying up late ended up sleeping through a significantly large chunk of the longest day of the year. Everything was very simple – I lit the two coloured candles I’d chosen to represent the Sabbat, lit a yellow spell candle to represent the sun at its fullest, and charged a piece of citrine with Solstice energy. It’s the same chunk I used last year, so hopefully I’ll end up with a fair bit of solar-derived energy to draw on when needed. I was originally going to use a gold spell candle as it’s that little bit more sun-masculine-special coloured than just plain yellow, but I seemed to have used up all of my gold candles and forgotten to order any more.

My Litha altar so far.
My Litha altar as it stands at the moment.

I didn’t leave the candles burning long as you can see, but I’m planning to do a fuller ritual with a circle and incense and everything as soon as I can get the privacy, which is why my Litha candles are still up instead of being replaced by my everyday white ones. The rest of my celebrations involved a guided-meditation CD that Pagan Dreams used to include in their Litha celebration kit, and turning my mini Spiral Lords round.

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My Spiral Lords by Abby Willowroot in their darkening year position. Around the edge of the photo you can see my ‘Christus’ statue, the red glass votive holder I use to honour the masculine aspects of Deity, a white pebble I painted years ago with the Horned God symbol, and the pottery bowl I use to burn charcoal discs and loose incense at the Sabbats, which sits on a ceramic Apollo coaster on top of what’s supposed to be my regular incense holder.

St. Brigid’s Day

Eesh, it’s been a while since I posted here. I haven’t forgotten about the blog, and in fact I’ve been writing entries in my head for a while now, but what with New Year’s Day and flat-hunting and forced overtime at work I haven’t really had the chance to sit down and write anything, mostly because after work I’ve needed to do the responsible adult stuff of laundry and tidying and things, and in my downtime all I want to do is sleep or vegetate in front of the TV.

However, I am determined not to let this blog fall by the wayside, so here is the first of two posts regarding my celebrations of Candlemas/Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day.

Unlike Yule, I actually managed to celebrate on the day itself which I was quite proud of, even though it meant going to bed 20 minutes later than I would have liked. I changed my normal altar candles to the ones I bought for Imbolc celebrations, lit those and my deity candles, cast a circle and lit my quarter candles. I didn’t use my chalice or incense, or use the other two candles I usually light during my devotions, partly due to time constraints and partly so I didn’t get complaints about burning incense upstairs and making the house smell just before everyone went to sleep. I then took a white spell candle which I anointed, lit, and set in its holder.

As it burned I said what the candle meant to me – as Candlemas is the traditional day to bless all the candles for the year I would use it instead of a taper to light all my religious candles until next Imbolc. It represents the light returning to the world, as the days are now growing visibly longer as we move from the Solstice to the Equinox. White is the colour associated with purity, and the day is known as the Purification of the Virgin in the Christian calendar. Brigid is a goddess closely connected with fire and is partoness of the forge, represented by the candle flame. I then had a moment of reflection on the events of the day that were connected to the festival, dismantled the circle, snuffed the candles, and went to bed.

That morning I had overslept slightly. Not enough to make me late for work, but enough that I didn’t have time after I got off the Tube to get one of Caffè Nero’s gorgeous Milano hot chocolates. Now that had happened a few times since I started work on that site, and no matter whether I was early, on time, or late it was still dark whenever I reached St. Paul’s. On the morning of the 2nd, however, it wasn’t. It wasn’t daytime, but it definitely wasn’t nighttime either, so the sun had either just risen or was just about to rise – proof positive that the days are in fact getting longer. This made me smile and think ‘yep, definitely Candlemas’, and almost made up for the lack of hot chocolate.

And that was pretty much all I expected from the day – I’d seen with my own eyes the lengthening of the days, and I had a mini-celebration planned for when I got home. However, it seems Brigid had other ideas. As well as associations with fire, crafting, poetry, and healing, she is also associated with holy wells and springs.
Now for the past few days I’d been cleaning the area I was working in, which involved first getting rid of a load of modern rubble and crap, and then taking out a layer of post-mediaeval brick and mortar demolition rubble. Very routine, rather boring, not much interest and excitement. So I got rid of the demo rubble, gave the area a clean with my trowel, and found a well. On St. Brigid’s Day. That no-one expected to be there as we had no idea what the building on the old maps was used for. I was impressed!

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I wasn’t allowed to dig it out as we’d reached formation level, but here it is – my Brigid’s well.

And then the next morning I got a lovely surprise as I walked out the door – snow! The first snow of this winter as well, at least where I live. There wasn’t much, only about a centimetre, but it’s still snow, and thankfully not enough to make the city grind to a halt – that takes two centimetres. Anyone reading this who either lives or comes from elsewhere, please feel free to laugh at this juncture. London (as an entity) has what might be described as a phobia about snow.

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My view as I walked out the door on the 3rd. Although you can’t tell from the photo, the snow was still falling.

So far it’s been the only snow, but I’m happy it fell about as close to Imbolc as it could get, as according to Dad it started at about 1am. Snow is often used in Imbolc celebrations if it’s available, ice candle-holders can be made if there’s no snow, and salt can be used as well to represent snow. If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed to get to work I’d have tried to find a spare jar or bottle to collect some in, so instead I made do with eating some of it and trying to catch snowflakes on my tongue as I walked down the street. There are just some things you have to do when it snows.

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The hedge in front of my house, and snow!