Published on Feb 21,
This documentary explores the devices humans have developed to understand mystifying phenomenon and make sense of the universe. Tarot -- used for centuries to predict the future and make sense of the present -- is the focus of this feature, which chronicles its history.
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use under U.S. copyright law because it is (1) noncommercial (2) educational
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St Paddy’s Day — Green, Orange, or by Byron Ballard edited and reprinted from her blog "The Village Witch” at PaganSquare.com
For years I’ve struggled with St. Patrick’s Day. No, not the drinking and eating — no struggle there. But I learned years ago that you wear green on St. Patrick’s day if you’re Catholic and orange (for William of Orange — see the Battle of the Boyne for more info) if you’re Protestant.
I wear a lot of green (and black, to be honest), most of the time. But I am hardly Catholic. And though I’ve threatened to pre-order an orange jumpsuit for Gitmo, I wouldn’t do the Prod thing either.
What’s an Irish Pagan woman to do?
Like Columbus Day which is not at all about Columbus but is all about being Italian-American, St. Patrick’s Day is not about the dreaded saint--at least not in the US. It is a time to be “Irish”, whatever that means. Everyone wants to be Irish for the day--you can buy a hat or t-shirt that proclaims your faux-Irishness. Owning such a classy item gives you entree into the world of cultural stereotypes--will you be drunken Irish? Fighting Irish? Maudlin Irish? Will you bypass all that and proclaim yourself a Celt, wearing a utilikilt and an attitude?
Or perhaps you’d prefer a button with the ubiquitous “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”. Kissing the famous stone in Blarney Castle gives you “the gift of the gab”--what does kissing a person of Irish-extraction give you? Will you achieve the legendary “Luck of the Irish”--which, to me, is always akin to the notion of the Jews as “God’s Chosen People?” Yep, you grab yourself some of that wonderful luck--domination by a neighboring island, destruction of your culture and spirituality by invaders, mass starvation and emigration, a Celtic tiger economy that crashes into devastating poverty…again? Let me know how that sort of “luck” works for you.
So, not green (though I love it) and not orange. What to do?
The answer, as always for me, lay in the land, the “auld sod” to continue our adventure in cultural stereotyping. When I was first in Ireland--I came across the sea from Holyhead, in Wales--there was a kind of call to me from the dirt, the actual soil of the place. Wherever I went, I found myself picking up small stones, kneeling in dirt, touching my hands to the ground. The Hill of Tara caught my breath with its fierce wind and deep history. And little Kildare Town…and the monstrous Glendalough…and the great Boyne Valley.
Each had an underlying vestment of longing and pride and fear and belonging.
So I’ve decided to tie myself to the land of Ireland and not the crashing cymbals of two religious groups I can’t really tell apart. I cleave to the earth of that island that my ancestors called home, so long ago. I fancy that my love of gardening came from
both sides of my family tree--the Irish and the English. And when I throw in the long years here in these old mountains I call home, I athrice blessed with silt and clay and stone.
I will wear brown to honor that connection, to honor the soil from which I come and to which one day I will return. And in between? I’ll grow some vegetables.
BYRON BALLARD is an American rootworker and energy consultant; a freelance writer and an urban farmer; a weaver of words and webs, and prolific blogger. Find her (central) home on the web atwww. myvillagewitch.com
Lughnasadh (pronounced 'loo-nus-uh) means the commemoration of Lugh. Lughnasadh August 1, marks the beginning of the grain harvest.
Lughnasadh also known as Lammas and August Eve is the first Festival of Harvest.
It was orginally celebrated by the ancient Druids as Lughnasadh to pay homage to Lugh, the Celtic sun god. In other pre-Christian Pagan cultures, Lammas was celebrated as a festival of bread and as a day to honor the death of the Sacred King.
On Lammas, homemade breads and berry pies are traditionally baked and eaten in honor of the harvest.
The making of corn dollies (small figures fashioned from braided straw) is another old Lammas custom. The corn dollies (or kin babies, as they are sometimes called) are placed on the Sabbat altar to symbolize the Mother Goddess of the harvest. it is customary on Lammas to make (or buy) a new corn dolly and then burn the old one from the past year for good luck. (Wicca, Candle, Magick Gerina Dunwich)
Lughnasadh marks the last heyday of the Sun God. Beneath the Barley Moon and Summer stars we, too, enjoy the expiring passion of the season. Robert Burns tells us, it is "happy night" that he spends in the cornfields with his love. (Celebrate the Earth - A Year of Holidays in the Pagan Tradition Laurie Cabot with Jean Mills)
Throughout Britain ans Ireland, Christianity notwithstanding, the may Eve greenwood love making which so shocked the Puritans found its cheerful echo not only among the bilberries but in the Lammas (Lughnasadh) cornfields; on which the theme, if you like songs at your Sabbats, Robert Burns's It was upon Lammas Night- ( The Witches Bible)
Robert Burns It was Upon a Lammas Night
It was upon a Lammas night,
When the corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon's unclouded light,
I held awa to Annie,
The time flew by, wi' tentless heed,
Till 'tween the late and early,
Wi' sma' persuasion she agreed,
To see me thro' the barley.
The sky was blue, the wind was still,
The moon was shining clearly,
I set her down, wi' right good will,
Amang the rigs o' barley
I ken't her heart was a' my ain,
I lov'd her most sincerely,
I kiss'd her owre and owre again,
Amang the rigs o' barley
I I loc'd her in my fond embrace,
Her heart was beating rarely,
My blessings on that happy place,
Amang the rigs o' barley!
But by that moon and stars so bright,
That shone that hour so clearly!
She ay shall bless that happy night,
Amang the rigs o' barley.
I hae been blythe wi' Comrades dear,
I hae been merry drinking,
I hae been joufu' gath'rin gear,
I hae been happy thinking
But a' the pleasures e'er I saw,
Tho' three times doubl'd fairly,
That happy night was worth the a'
Amang the rigs o' barley.
Corn rigs an' barley rigs,
An' corn rigs are bonie,
I'll ne'er forget that happy night,
Amang the rigs wi' Annie.
Some see Merlin as a madman when he isolated himself from people to live in the woods. I think maybe he no longer wanted to live in a world full of so many non-truths; war, anger, greed, and lust.
I believe he became a wizard who loved living with the world of nature. He had power in his hands and voice to harness the wind, rain, sun and storms. He could conjure spells and illusions which could fool the wisest. The energy from his palms had the ability to cure disease of the human and animal body.
Legends states there came a time Merlin, in his heart could no longer carry the cruelties of war: the actions humans did to one another. He left the kingdom to go into the forest to live among the beasts. Sometimes he would be seen wearing a cloak of feathers.
When his sister Gwendydd, who ruled Cambra with her husband King Ryddrach, heard of her brother's departure, she sent message promising him great riches if he would return to her court. Merlin denied her request.
Again Gwendydd sent a message, this time telling Merlin that since he abandoned his wife she was living with great heartache. Merlin returned, only wanting to visit and explain his reasoning to his bride.
His sister had him chained to a post. While chained Merlin broke into a fit of laughter watching King Ryddrach fawning over his wife. "My sister is untrue to you, she spends the mid-sun with her lover among the groves," he said to the king.
Gwendydd knew what her brother said was a fact and released the wizard, declaring him mad.
Merlin living in the deep woods once again, received word from his sister that his wife would like to wed another. Merlin gave permission as long as he never had to see her new husband.
Merlin rode into the kingdom on a mighty stag, on his ex-wife's wedding day. He saw the bride and called out to her. Behind him, he heard the groom snicker. Furious for his lack of respect, Merlin took the groom's life force by breaking an antler from the stag and driving it deep within.
Gwendyyd, fearing her brother's safety, commanded her men to build a fortress inside the largest oak tree they could find. She wanted seventy windows and seventy doors constructed, so he could spend his days mapping the stars and observing nature's laws.
When his sister returned to her kingdom, her husband had died. After mourning her mate, she joined her brother in the oak tree and spent her days observing the patterns of the heavens, learning all of Merlin's magical gifts. She soon outgrew the teacher. Being a seer, Merlin already knew that his sister would carry on the prophetic wisdom.
Arianrod, a Moon Goddess, whose name means silver circle or silver wheel. She is the daughter od Don, sister of Gwydion.
Arianrod came to Caer Dathyl to serve as Math, a Great Wizard's Foot-holder, an honor only held by a virgin. Legend states that on the day she arrived for duty she brought with her shame. Arianrod claimed to be a virgin but, on that day, she bore two sons. Disgraced, she abandoned the infants to flee to her castle by the sea. Her first child was a son named Dylan who leaped into the water possibly to avoid the curses from his mother. The second son was rescued by Gwydion. He raised him and passed on his knowledge of magic on to the boy.
Arianrod's choices led her to despair. She became bitter by the experience in her life and swore revenge on all men, even her second son. When Gwydion politely asked her to name her son, she refused. Arianrod denied him a name and would not allow the boy to bear arms or marry. Gwydion tricked her with his magic into naming the child Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Later, Gwydion created an illusion while he and Lleu Llaw were disguised as Bards, of a fleet of mighty warships ready to attack her castle. It was Arianrod herself who armed Lleu Llaw when she was fooled by the vision.
Arianrod's black heart sealed her son's fate. With pure hatred, she cursed her son to solitary bed. She told the pair that Lleu Llaw would never know true love from a woman. Gwydion and the Great Wizard, Math, harnessed their magical powers together to help Lleu Llaw overcome the curse. They conjured up a bride from flowers, herbs, bark, spring water and the energies of the Sun and Moon cycles. When the flower woman came to life the wizard named her Bloodeuwedd or Flower face, then gave her to Lleu Llaw to wed. Gwydion and Math believed the curses were overturned.
Arianrod's choices in her life affected many people who were connected to her. The choice she made in the past had a consequence which then had a great impact on her future. Her life turned at an accelerated rate. He fortune rose and fell. She gained and lost, was of discord, destruction and despair.
The dark side of her nature created her bleak reality. Her reactions affected the cycle of events. She had three opportunities to change and improve the situation. She could have taken steps to turn from selfish person into one who helped others. Instead, the events which took place were episodes of misfortune because she refused to follow the Law of Karma, a witches rede:
BIDE THE WITCHES LAW YE MUST,
IN PERFECT LOVE, IN PERFECT TRUST,
EIGHT WORDS OF THE WITCH'S REDE FULFIL,
AN YE HARM NONE, DO WHAT YE WILL,
WHAT YE SEND FORTH COMES BACK TO THEE,
SO EVER MIND THE RULE OF THREE.
FOLLOW THIS WITH MIND AND HEART,
AND MERRY YE MEET AND MERRY YE PART.
A maiden witch slept beneath the starry night, wishing to marry the brightest star. The next day the girl spotted a porcupine high in a tree. She decided to greet the prickly creature. No sooner had she done so than the tree began to grow taller and taller until the land could no longer be seen. The porcupine spoke to her, revealing that he was the brightest star of all, the one she had wished for, and he had come to claim her to live among the stars.
Together they lived in the sky just as we would on earth. In time they had a son named Star Boy. One day, when the she and the young boy were collecting spacial roots, the child wanted a different root found in the ground that her husband told her to never disturb. The child put up such a fuss she finally pulled his want from the soil. His mother looked down to earth and saw her friends and family happily living their lives.
The voice of a crone broke the silence. She told her she could help her return to her loved ones if that's what she desired to do. She instructed the witch to collect 100 sinews, no more, no less, from which she would create a ladder to grant her her wish.
Once the rope was prepared, the crone lowered the witch and child through the hole to the earth below, requesting she keep her eyes closed until she felt the cool soil between her toes. But the rope suddenly stopped, too high for her to land on her feet on the tallest blade of grass. The crone told her that the sinews were counted incorrectly and there was no more she could do but leave her and her son hanging.
When the star husband returned from the hunt, he began to worry when he couldn't find his wife and child. As the light faded, he went in search for his family and discovering the hole, he looked down. He lifted the largest stone and tossed it upon his wife, killing her instantly. To him, her spark burned out when she decided to take their son and abandoned him.
Her family saved the child when he fell from the sky. By the time the Star Boy reached manhood, he had earned respect for all his great feast he preformed in the name of good.
Where do all the lonely hearts go? They beat strong once again when they find self-love. There are many aspects to love and life. There is destiny, compassion, pain, hate, greed, jealousy, trust, betrayal, faith and friendships.
Our journey in life is about how we affect those whom we come in contact with on the path. The choice is ours on how we will be loved and remembered.
There are no guarantee in love but it is a gamble worth taking. The gain is priceless, the loss unforgettable.
FREED FROM FALSE ILLUSIONS - understands and respects the opposite sex, releases emotions in a productive manner, is friendly in competitions, has good sportsmanship, builds structures piece by piece, understands and accepts self, and does not belittle others for mere ego gratifications.
TALIESIN - An object, ritually charged with power to attract a specific force or energy to its bearer.
On a mountain lake known to the ancients as the "Land Beneath the Waves," in Penllyne,Wales, lived Cerridwen. She had borne a son. Legend states his body was as hairy as a stag and a cloud of darkness surrounded him. He was named Morfran, "Utter Darkness." Seeing his fate, his mother set out to change his destiny. She studied day and night and found the perfect potion that would give him wisdom and knowledge of the world to compensate for his appearance and change him into an enchanter.
Cerridwen gathered herbs when they were the most potent and magically charged. She used water and proper energies from the Sun, Moon, and stars. For a year in a day in a cauldron her potion needed to be stirred as she breathed life into her desire and someone eles to keep the fires burning. A blind man and his aid Gwion Bach would assist with the stirring.
Cerridwen knew the time drew near when three drops of brew would jump out of the cauldron onto her son and her spell would come true. Her son Morfran was placed close to the cauldron for the final stages. Cerridwen exhausted instructed either the blind man or his aid to come and wake in the forest before daybreak so she could witness the transformation.
All was quiet in the castle as the blind man and Morfran slept while his aid attended the fire. For almost a year and a day the aid, Gwion listened to the chants and began to want the gift that was being offered to another. He decided to take Morfran's place. As the brew began to bubble fiercely, Gwion pushed Morfran side to allow the three drops to spring onto him. The mixture boiled over with wailing shriek, cracking the cauldron, and spilling the potion into the flame.
Cerridwen awoke. Gwion Bach, now transformed, could see her rage because her wish for her son had been destroyed. Gwion turned himself into hare and begun running through the corridors of the palace. Morfran's mother, shaped as a hound, nipped at his heels. Gwion fled outside the castle and through the long grass. Glancing behind, he saw the white of her fangs. Gwion reached the shore of the island and changed his shape into a fish and swam through the reeds. When he glance behind again, he saw an otter on his tail. Shooting to the surface, he shape-shifted into a swift (bird) and soared across the sky. Behind him, with fire blazing in her eyes and talons ready, Cerridwen had changed form into an eagle prepared to kill. Gwion dropped toward earth. He spied a wheat field and turned himself into grain. With razor sharp eyes, Cerridwen saw what he'd become and shaped herself into a hen who hunted and pecked until she devoured all Gwion had been.
Cerridwen returned to her castle satisfied justice was served, only to realize she was pregnant with the seed of Gwion. For nine months she thought of ways to rid herself of the seed growing inside, vowing to destroy that which she bore. On Beltane, she took the young Gwion to the waters and cast him where he drifted, leaving him to his fate.
At the sea's edge near Castle Degney, in north of Wales, a lord's son identified as Elphin was fishing for salmon. While moving through the reeds he came upon the child. He looked at the boy and quickly named him, "Beyond the Radiant Brow." The infant replied, "Taliesin, it is." Lord Elphin was not a wise man, squandered his money but his heart was pure. He and his wife raised the Taliesin who became loved by the Celts. The people of the land were amazed by his knowledge of words. He understood that they were the foundation of every spell and charm.
The Welsh wizard Taliesin songs were about creation and transformation, and they made those magical things occur.
With the power, knots, images, and charms, the witches focus is heightened, chanting, incantations, strengthens spells charms to protect, some against the unwanted, some hold healing.
The beginning of August heralds the first harvest, Lughnasadh. Sacred to the Celtic Sun god Lugh, the man of many skills, this is the day to enjoy the first fruits of ones labors that began at Imbloc.
As the harvest of grain and corn, arrives, we begin to think about the coming autumn and winter. Even though the warm weather is still present, the sun slowly continues to rise each day further south and the nights become longer to single first harvest.
August first, Lughnasadh marks the point in the sun's cycle to remind us of the endless loop of birth, life and death.
In the first harvest of the wheel, we honor Lugh, son of Goddess of fertility, Danu, the great father of all, Dagna. The Goddess carried the young seed throughout the winter months then gave birth on Ostara. From that day forth Lugh grew in power and strength living his life on earth to mature at this time of the seasonal wheel.
Lugh is known as both Sun God and God of Grain.
Long ago Lugh saved Ireland from his grandfather, King Balor. The Formorians, living on the northwest coast of Ireland, ruled the people with an iron fist, laying laws and taxing any bounty they wished. Their great ruler, Balor,"of Strong Blows" was a Cyclops. As his glance would destroy anything in its path, his eye was always closed, but for those times it was required, Balor would command his guides to open the eye and place an ivory ring in the center to release the deadly power.
Balor had a daughter who later was united with a great warrior Dagna of the Tautha d' Dannan. By joining her beauty and his spirit they bought forth a son, Lugh,"of the Long Hand," When Balor learnt of the birth, he took the infant and cast him into the angry Irish sea. There he was rescued and raised in secret by the people of the Tautha d' Dannan who feared revenge from the mighty King Balor, leader of the Formorians.
Lugh possessed the magic of the Tautha d' Dannan. He grew to be a man of many skills. His father, Dagna was pleased to see a man so wise with the face of a god. Then, one day, when the soldiers from Balor's kingdom came to collect the taxes the King extorted from the Tautha d' Dannan, Lugh decided to take a stand against the Formorians. In the ensuing fight, nearly all the soldiers were slain, but for nine men who were sent back to tell King Balor of their defeat. Lugh gathered warriors to prepare for the battle he knew would surely come. When Dagna heard of the war being launched, he sought to protect his son by caging him with around-the-clock guards.
No one could have for seen the blood spilled of friends and enemies side by side that continued for days. In the confusion, Lugh escaped the prison to search for his grandfather, King Balor. He soon found the mighty Cyclops and challenged him to a one-on-one battle. The King jumped from his chariot commanding his guides to open his eye. They did as they were told and just set the ivory ring in place when Lugh fired a spear straight into the King's eye, spilling blood that brought death to all it touched. Once Balor was destroyed, the Formorians did not know how to survive. They knew only the force of arms and did not possess the knowledge of working as a team in their community.
Lugh spared the life of a captured enemy leader named Bres and gained in exchanged all his agriculture secrets. The legend states that four soldiers of King Balor's army who lived, dove into the northern sea and were exiled to the small islands around Connacht region of Ireland.