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Evergreen: A Year of Yule Tree Crafts and Rituals... Decking the Halls for Eostre

The spring or Vernal Equinox is one of the two points on the agrarian calendar of equal night and equal day. The rabbit and the egg, symbols of Eostre (the Saxon fertility goddess honored at the dawning of spring), bespeak of the same sense of victory over death; in pagan belief, the “death” of winter. Eggs represent not only sustenance but also the potential of new life. Rabbits symbolize endurance and fecundity—a prey animal that still manages to survive, thrive and multiply. Beyond hard-boiled ovum and chocolate hares, the evergreen Yule tree can again lend itself to the festival of the season in traditional ways.

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At each spoke of the wheel of the year, it was customary to cleanse the environment. This would be a through sweeping of the house and barns, a replacing of straw and bedding, and “smooring” (or smoothing over) the fire in the family hearth and setting a new blaze. Finally, a token indication would be created to show that the homestead had been purified and made ready for the next Sabbat season. The most recognizable form of this custom was the “decking the halls with boughs of holly” at Yule, and the making of flower garlands and daisy chains at Beltane. At other times, special swags were created for over the front door (or over the altar), incorporating plants, woods and herbs sacred to the season. The crafting of an Equinox swag carries the seeds of the Yule spirit forward. If you need to backtrack a bit, have a look at our introduction to this year-long magical project and tips for preparation and storage. If you do not have access to a Yule evergreen, fallen branches from other trees can be used for this craft. Use your favorite resource to identify the tree from which the branch came, and what energy that particular tree will bring to this work.

Materials

  • 4-6 Yule tree branches, balsam on Note: If the balsam on your Yule tree branches is dry or has fallen off, bare branches can be used for this craft. Greenery can be added in the form of ribbons, and faux greens and vines which can be recycled when the swag is taken down.
  • 4-6 branches of spring time buds or flowers such as pussy willow or lavender
  • Ribbon (use whatever color represents Spring to you; wide, wired ribbon works best as it will hold its shape)
  • Floral wire
  • Optional: A small cup to hold flowers and water, or soil and seeds

Tips to make this a greener craft: Items such as feathers, shells and stones can be gathered in nature, and bring added energy to magical work. If you cannot purchase wired ribbon for this project, use ribbons recycled from gift packaging. Yarn can be substituted for ribbon. Use leftover yarn from other projects, or reclaimed from articles of knit clothing that are no longer wearable such as hats, mittens, and sweaters. When using recycled materials of this nature (especially articles of clothing) be sure that the material is clean and free of stains, and sprinkle it with salt to remove any unwanted energies and associations that may be attached to it. Cups to hold floral offerings or soil and seeds can be those that were previously used for drinking.

Crafting

  1. Divide the evergreen and spring branches into two equal piles on your work surface, laying the pussy willows on top of the evergreens.
  2. Line up the cut ends of each pile, keeping the spring branches on top of the evergreens, and wrap with the floral wire to secure.
  3. Trim any balsam or smaller branches if needed.
  4. Cross the wrapped ends and bind them together with pipe cleaners or wire. Your evergreens and pussy willows should now be pointed left and right, with the bare ends all joined in the middle.
  5. Make a bow with the ribbon and secure it to the swag to cover the wired portion in the center.
  6. Thread a length of wire through the ribbon at the back of the swag and form a loop for hanging.
  7. For further embellishment, a colorful bag of cleansing herbs, crystals, feathers, or other springtime objects can be incorporated into the swag. Bells can be threaded and tied on to the swag with thinner ribbon that compliments the color or pattern of the larger bow. Depending on where you intend to place the swag, a plastic cup or chalice can also be wired on to accommodate fresh cut flowers or soil and seeds.

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Ritual

Wherever you chose to place your swag, speak or sing these words to invoke the spirit of the season:

With ever-green, And gray-tipped bough,

I bid the Spring come to this place.

With light and warmth, With gentle rain,

Bless and cleanse this humble space.

If you have incorporated a chalice or cup to hold fresh cut flowers or to start a seedling, be sure to maintain it; keep baby plants watered and change flowers as they fade. Repeating the ritual spell as you refresh the swag renews the magic of its creation.

Up Next... A blessing for new trees

Artwork by Robin Ator (http://glowinthedarkpictures.com/tarot/). Please visit our blogs: Katharine Clark (http://irishelder.blogspot.com) and Natalie Zaman (http://nataliezaman.blogspot.com)

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From 2006 to 2010, www.broomstix.com was an online magazine for families following alternative spiritual paths. Relaunched in 2013, Broomstix has a new format, but the same, simple goal: to be a positive community resource where folks can share their knowledge and talents.

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