Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sacred Yule Plants and Herbs

So in recognition of Yule (this happens to be my second favorite Sabbat), I would like to post a little something about sacred Yule plants and herbs. In fact, I have a jar of Mistletoe sitting on my newly decorated altar right now. So I just want to give a brief description of each of these plants and why they are important for this holiday.

Yule usually falls between December 20th and December 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere. It's considered a minor Sabbat and is also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day in the year. It symbolizes the rebirth of the God and also the defeat of the Holly King by the Oak King.

1. Evergreens - Fir, Juniper, Cedar, Pine, these are all from the evergreen family. Typically the Yule tree or as people of the Christian faith like to call them Christmas trees are constructed from the evergreens. They symbolize protection, prosperity, and renewal.

2. Holly - Holly is generally a positive, healing wood. It is also a very protective wood and is used in the construction of many wands. It represents the Holly King which can be equated to Santa Claus in the Christian tradition.

3. Ivy - This plant can be used to bind family and romantic relationships together. It is also used in protection, as a barrier between you and a toxic situation, and can be used to improve relationships.

4. Mistletoe - This is a plant of peace and is used to end discord and strife. Everyone knows about hanging a sprig of Mistletoe over the doorway to get a kiss. The kiss represented peace.

5. Birch - This is a very versatile wood. It is often used as a Yule log along with Oak and is used to craft besoms. It is the first tree in the Celtic year and symbolizes rebirth.

6. Oak - Also used for the Yule log, it represents the Oak King. They symbolize power and endurance and I believe are one of the most majestic trees there are.

7. Yew - This tree is associated with immortality and longevity. It tells us this is a time of change and is associated with the Crone aspect of the Goddess.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Familiar, Salem

So continuing on with showing some pictures from my own life, I'd like to introduce my familiar, Salem. I rescued him from the local animal control when he was 7 months old. He's now a little over a year (his first birthday was in July).

Here he is helping me out with my altar.

My Altar

So I wanted to post some pictures of my altar for Samhain. I usually change my altar with the seasons so I put Autumn decorations on it from August to October, Yule decorations from after Samhain to the end of January. Spring decorations from Imbolc to Beltane. And of course, Summer decorations from May back to August.

Some people change their altars much more often to celebrate all esbats while some never change their altar at all because they may believe it messes up the energy they've built up. It all depends on preference. For me, I really admire the changing of the seasons and the Wheel of the Year so I fashion my altar to match it and to me I'm also honoring those changes and embracing them and their gifts.

So this is my little altar. I really love it and I'm about to change it up once again for Yule! I also have a very nice book of shadows but I'll save that for another post.

Blessed be everyone!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Friday the 13th: Origins

So I absolutely adore Fridays, especially if they're the 13th. There's such a negative connotation associated with them. People throughout the years have cringed before them because they consider them extremely bad luck, but why? I'll tell you.

Fridays and the number 13 have been consider unlucky since medieval times. However, the two weren't put together until the late 19th century. There is no set in stone theory as to why Friday the 13th is exactly an "evil" day but there are some popular theories out there. The best theory for Fridays being considered evil stems from Christianity. It is believed that Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge on a Friday. It is believed they both died on a Friday. The Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday. And of course, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Of course, the day Friday was not even around yet during Adam and Eve's time so that day may be off.

Predating Christianity, Friday was named after the Norse Goddess Frigg, otherwise known and Freya. She was the Goddess of love, wisdom, beauty, war, death, and magic. It was considered unlucky to be married on a Friday as it would take away from the lovely Goddess.

Even though the origins are extremely old, it appeared the masses didn't really popularize Friday as an unlucky day until the mid-17th century. As for the unlucky number 13 there are quite a few theories to that, one of them being also from Christianity. It so happens that having 13 people present at your dinner table is unlucky because Judas was the 13th person at the Last Supper. Also, in Hinduism it was believed to be bad luck for 13 people to gather under any circumstances.

In Norse Mythology (my favorite theory), it was said that 12 Gods were feasting at the hall of Valhalla when Loki, the God of Mischief, arrived uninvited. Loki convinced Hod, the blind God of Winter and Darkness to kill Balder the Good. He did this with a spear of mistletoe.

In Goddess worshipping cultures, the number 13 was revered. It represented the number of lunar and menstrual cycles throughout the year. Of course, as patriarchal cultures came into play, the number 13 was demonized. In Ancient Egypt, they believed that life unfolded in stages, 12 of which being during life and the last, the 13th, being in death.

So now that we've looked at the day and number separately, when did they get together? Of course, there are a couple of theories and dates to this as well. It could be attributed to when the Knight's Templar was arrested which was on Friday, October 13, 1307. It could be the last day of King Harold II's reign on Friday, October 13, 1066 in which he was defeated by William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.

However this day seemed to form, the theories are quite fascinating! Of course, being one of the Goddess worshipping culture, I will be celebrating this coming Friday the 13th with my own special ritual and you can too! If you wish to join me there are several things you can do for this day such as honor Freya on her holy day or honor the afterlife like the Egyptians.