Celebrate! Seasons & Cycles of Magick

Explore the weird, winding, and wonderful ways in which we Pagan-types mark cyclic and special times, events, and celebrations in our everyday lives.

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Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker

Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker

Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker is a writer, college English teacher, and hearth Pagan/Druid living in northwestern Oregon. Her magickal roots include Pictish Scot and eastern European/Native American medicine traditions. Sue holds a Masters degree in nonfiction writing and loves to read, stargaze, camp with her wonder poodle, and play in her biodynamic garden. She’s co-founder of the Druid Grove of Two Coasts and teaches nature studies and herbology in the online Grey School. Sue has authored Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink and The Magickal Retreat (Llewellyn, 2009-2012) and regularly contributes to the Llewellyn Annuals. Visit her at on Facebook.

Encountering the Monomyth

 

Today, we begin a discussion of the hero’s journey.

The hero’s journey—also called the hero’s quest—is a profound metaphor infusing each magickal and mundane path we take throughout our lives. The writer and comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell is credited for his work in identifying the common threads winding throughout world mythology and tradition and linking these under a common idea, which he called the monomyth: the “one story.” Campbell developed this idea of the monomyth after discovering that all of the world’s great cultures tend to tell the same stories, albeit with regional variations. To folklorists and mythologists, a “myth” is a story that a culture tells about its most sacred nature and origins. Thus the monomyth captures the story of humanity, retold over and over in a number of guises.

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  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    And I apologize for the typos above. Augh. Wrote this rather fast before dashing out the door-- that'll teach me!
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thanks, Pegi, for your comments. I am aware of "Campbell criticism"-- I'm a college English professor and a trained folklorist. On
  • Pegi Eyers
    Pegi Eyers says #
    You need to know that there is a a huge critique of the "monomyth" that has been underway for some time. Now criticized as an over

Well, as Samwise said at the end of The Lord of the Rings, “I’m back.” A string of family/personal life events have wrapped me tight physically and emotionally over the past months, and I’m just now climbing back into the writing and blogging saddle, so to speak. I hope some of you are ready to ride along with me again and haven’t forgotten me in the lapse, for I haven’t forgotten you.

CampbellThis entry will be a short one—a teaser, so to speak. I’m planning to launch a series of posts about the mysteries of the sacred and the importance of ritual. I’m an admitted fan of Joseph Campbell’s work (right), particularly his explorations of the hero’s journey and the monomyth—the “one story” that wends throughout the human experience. In the hero’s journey—also called the hero’s quest—an individual receives a call to destiny, embarks upon a series of tests and challenges, and emerges at journey’s end changed in some way and perhaps even having undergone a rite of passage. Each of us makes many of these journeys in our lives, and it’s through these trials that we grow and find out what we’re made of.

What does the hero’s journey have to do with ritual? First, as I’ve said above, that we humans make many such quests throughout our lives, Second, that a life untested—a life without journey—is akin to a type of spiritual stagnation, perhaps even a spiritual death. And third, that ritual is a structure that supports us through all aspects of our journeying, creating a spiritual framework for action, discovery, and celebration, whether that celebration be filled with joy or sorrow. Through ritual, we become part of the monomyth—the eternal story—and we connect with the life-thread that links our past, present, and future.

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Meet the Fool

 

Dear readers…. I’ve been away for a couple of months following my mother’s death. It was the right time to just go quiet for a bit, and I needed time to begin dealing with the paperwork associated with her death and estate, the scope of which I could not have imagined. Work was ridiculously busy, too, and I simply had no time (or energy) left for such luxuries as blogging.

 

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Words for Loss

My mother died early this morning, following a long illness and a rapid recent decline. In her spirit, I offer these words, taken from the Portland First Unitarian Church service last weekend. It's important to remember that all life passages are holy, and all are a cause for celebration, and honoring.

 

When love is felt or fear is known,
When holidays and holy days and such times come,
When anniversaries arrive by calendar or consciousness,
When seasons come, as seasons do,
Old and known, but somehow new,
When lives or born or people die,
When something sacred's sensed in earth or sky,
Mark the time.
Respond with thought or prayer or smile or grief.
Let nothing living slip between the fingers of the mind.
For all of these are holy things we will not, cannot, find again.

~Max. A Coots

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Dear Susan, I am so sorry for your loss. If you feel the need/desire to talk, call me 888-724-3966. I lost my dad and mom as a yo
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thank you, Anne....
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thank you, Natalie. I appreciate it....

It’s the Sixth Day of Twelvetide, and tonight we welcome in the Gregorian New Year of 2013! This is traditionally a night of festivity and merrymaking. Many religious communities celebrate this as “Watch Night.” Gathering before midnight, they watch the old year pass and the new one begin, giving thanks and asking for good favor in the next 365 days.

 

The ancient Egyptians held a celebration along the Nile Delta at the start of the New Year. Lasting for twenty-four hours, the festivities included offerings to the gods, most likely asking that the Nile behave itself and the crops flourish in the coming year. Shrines and offerings were placed on ceremonial barges and towed down the river to Luxor, while people lined the Nile’s banks to play homage.

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  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thanks for sharing....
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    At the turn of the millennia, we had the perfect First Footer--a handsome, dark-haired man bringing alcohol and chocolate. I've f
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    That's fabulous, Anne! One year, we tried to stage a first foot-- but my dog beat everyone else across the threshold. At least he

AUGHDec. 26 (corresponds with February 2013): An hour this morning spent on the phone dealing with a mixed-up medical bill. Caught in the midst of a system changeover, the charge posted to the "old" system went into a billing black hole and was eventually sent to collections for my "unresponsiveness." AUGH! And this was true even though I had paid the bill in full on the "new" system. Sigh.... Does this portend frustration and mired red tapeyness in February 2013? Stay tuned....

Dec. 27 (March 2013): This morning, it's all about the birds. I woke to see a hummingbird fluttering around the feeder outside the kitchen window. Last night I was thinking I hadn't changed the nectar in the hummer feeder for several days-- it's been around freezing, so leaving it for a few days works fine-- and had decided to boil up a fresh batch (1 tablespoon white sugar to 1/4 C. water, for those who'd like to try this). So, this morning, this little ruby-throated guy (or gal) reminded me, and I went out to switch feeders, hanging up a clean one full of nice, cold, juicy nectar. While out there, three Western scrub jays started up a racket, so I tossed a handful of peanuts (raw, in-shell) out into the labyrinth in my side yard, and they immediately swooped down and began gathering them up. All of this activity then alerted the crow pair who live behind my home. They landed on the adjacent power lines and began cawing. So.... I tossed more peanuts. And just as I did this, there was a gorgeous flyover of two huge V's of Canada geese, flying from west to east and finally settling, amid lots and lots of noise, into the wetlands behind the house.

All of this happened in a five minute period. So today, it's apparently about birds, and perhaps about patterns, and interrelationships, and maybe expectations versus independence. Then there's that whole west-to-east angle....  I'm going to have to ponder this for a bit....

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For those celebrating Christmas as either a sacred or secular holiday, merry merry! And the party goes on: the Twelve Days of Christmas begin today—on Christmas Day—and extend for twelve days, through Jan. 5. [Note: Some traditions begin the count on Christmas night and end the Twelve Days on Jan. 6.] Also known as “Christmastide” or “Twelvetide,” the modern traditions are Christian in nature but spring from a number of Pagan and magickal folkways.

CloudsOne of these is the Welsh custom of the Omen Days, of which I was reminded by author Caitlin Matthews on Facebook this morning. The Omen Days spring from Welsh/Scot traditions, which are near and dear to my heart as I’m a member of Family Huntly and Clan Gordon (Bydand!). At one point, the Omen Days were considered so important they affected the way business and legal issues were conducted. For example, during the Twelve Days, courts were said to lack their usual power and cases often sat untried or were released for lack of decision. Work was often reduced or suspended during the Omen Days, and it was a time for ritual and feasting. If one died during the Twelvetide, some believed it to be a dangerous omen for the departed one’s families, while others felt it to be exceptionally lucky, believing the newly dead would go straight to Heaven.

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Happy holidays, people! Or, should I say Merry Christmas? Or Good Yule? Or maybe Happy Hanukkah?

 

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It’s December first…. The symbolic beginning of the winter season, at least in terms of our modern calendar. It is, above all else, the beginning of a season of light.

But why light, we may ask? Why thoughts of light right now, when the days are so short and the nights long and cold? Why thoughts of light at a time of year when the land is muddy and skeletal, when cold rains fall and winds gust and one must bundle against the ice and snow?

Imagine yourself as a Stone Age person living more than two millennia ago. You would have spent your life living subsistence fashion, and when winter came, you and the tribe would have taken to a nearby cave to huddle against the cold, working by firelight and living off the provisions you’d managed to gather and store during the kinder summer months. You’d nourish yourself with soups and teas, sharing stories around the fire at night as way to gather your courage against the dark and cold, even as storms wailed outside. You’d do your best to be brave, ignoring the wee inner voice that wondered if the winter might never end.

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I’ve been busier than planned in mundania for the last few weeks—hence the lag in my blog posts. I’m going to try and make it up to you by posting a couple more times during November, in hopes of restoring my blogger cred.

RedHere in Oregon (that’s Ory-Gun to you non-US-west-coasters), autumn has arrived for real, with the trees dropping leaves and nighttime temps creeping toward freezing. We’ve had some wind and rain, but we’ve had glorious weather, too—including a recent handful of days near 70 degrees.

Every year, when we have these postcard-perfect fall days, I hear people start talking about “Indian summer” this and “Indian summer” that, and I grimace a bit, because their use of the term isn’t quite right. Indian summer—the real deal—is something very special, and it’s more than simply a nice autumn day.

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Hi everyone, and welcome to my inaugural blog post for Witches and Pagans. I'm happy to be here, and I hope you'll enjoy reading along with my monthly meanderings. This blog—Celebrate!—is about exactly that: the ways we Pagan-types mark cyclic and special times, events, and celebrations in our everyday lives. Expect the path to be winding…. We'll probably talk about the traditional eight Sabbats from time to time, also known as the quarter and cross-quarter dates. We may explore the fire festivals associated with the ancient Celts. We might drift into purely agricultural season markers or gaze heavenward for a lesson in seasonal astronomy and reading the night sky. You might join me as we ramble off-trail, touching on wildcrafting or phenology or biodynamic gardening as a way to shape an observance. Or, we might gather in the kitchen for a bit of hearth magick. We could even pull a couple of comparative mythology books off the shelf, considering religious or cultural approaches to celebration and commemoration or following Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. And we're almost sure to read some folklore and practice some magick along the way…. I want this blog to be interesting, entertaining, and, I hope, thought-provoking, and I'm looking forward to your feedback to help me fine-tune the process.

A technical note: I live in Oregon, in the northwestern corner of the United States and very close to the 45th parallel. When I talk about time, I'll be using my own Pacific time zone, and all references to the seasons and the heavens will be north-hemisphere centric. For my readers "down under," please adjust as needed. ? Also, I'll be using the US system of weights, measures, and temperatures.

As I write this, the first day of "astronomical autumn" is just around the corner, with the autumnal equinox due to arrive on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7:49 am (US Pacific). An equinox occurs when the Sun's visible path through the sky—known as the solar ecliptic—crosses the celestial equator. What's the celestial equator? Imagine you're standing on Earth's equator. Now imagine extending the entire equator outward into the heavens, and you'll have created the celestial equator, an important marker we use to talk about movements of the Sun, Moon, and other heavenly bodies. The Sun's ecliptic crosses the celestial equator twice a year, creating the autumnal (autumn) and vernal (spring) equinoxes. At the equinoxes, night and day are approximately equal in length, making it easy to see how these astronomical points mark a shift in the seasons.

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  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Theresa, forgive me for the slow reply-- it's lovely to meet you! Rebecca, at this point, anything's possible. And thank you for
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Welcome to PaganSquare! Will you by any chance be writing about modern festivals created by co temporary Pagans? For instance, He
  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    Idunn and Pomona have been very generous this year! We can't keep up with the apple yield from the one Gravenstein in our backyard

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