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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Thanksgiving - Minoan Style

Thursday is the holiday of Thanksgiving where I live in the U.S. As these things go, it’s a relatively modern one, instituted in the nineteenth century to help bring the nation back together after the Civil War (and please, let’s set aside the horrid historical revisionism about the Pilgrims and the native North American nations for the moment – I’m aware that many people choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving because of this issue). But the concepts on which Thanksgiving is founded are ancient. Essentially, it is the American harvest festival. And some of us find sacredness in that fact.

Across the world and throughout time, virtually every agrarian society instituted some sort of religious festival to celebrate the completion of the harvest. In many cases, these celebrations included the honoring of the Ancestors, both those recently deceased and those long gone. The Minoans were no different from any other ancient culture in this regard.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Goat-Man of the Hindu Kush

The Kalasha are the last remaining pagans of the Hindu Kush. Numbering about 4000, in three adjoining valleys in northwest Pakistan, they are known for their proud polytheism, the freedom (and beauty) of their women, and their wine-drinking.

The Kalasha are a transhumant society. In the spring, the young men take the herds of sheep and goats up to the high mountain pastures, where they spend the entire summer and autumn. In late October, they return, just in time for the Prun, the three-day harvest festival that marks the end of the growing season, the return of the flocks, and the first drinking of the New Wine, led by a mysterious figure called the Budálak, the Goat-Man.

The Budálak wears horns and goat-skins, and on the third and final night of the festival, as drums throb around the bonfires and wine flows freely, the women garland him and he joins their wild dance. He is the embodiment of the purity, fertility, and rampant maleness of the high mountains, the realm of the peri (“fairies”), and his role is to transmit this fruitfulness to the entire community.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
On eating a pear - a harvest prayer

It is harvest season and my Mabon altar features the bounty of my farmbox. Piles of fruit and vegetables arranged carefully around ritual tools with a sunflower bouquet in the center. I sit back to admire how beautifully balanced the altar looks - for about 10 minutes. That’s when my cats discover the changed altar and promptly invent a game of apple soccer, sweet potato rugby, and squash - played with real squash. The apple is round enough to roll gently, the scratches on the sweet potato don’t bother me, and the squash has thick skin so I let them have at it. But when my precious pomegranate gets unceremoniously dumped off the altar, bruising and bleeding red on my bedsheet, I draw the line and stage a rescue mission amidst sharp teeth and claws.

 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Harvest-tide

     The full Harvest Moon rises tonight. As its clear light falls on forest and field, take a moment to meditate on the majesty of the season. Harvest-tide is a time to be thankful. Our ancestors knew this abundant season was their only hope for the winter months. Successful harvests meant survival. Today that dreadful uncertainty is taken from us. Of course we will survive the winter. There are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and breads available at the local grocery store. We have nothing to worry about.

     Or do we? This year-round abundance is available to us at a cost. Pollution from shipping, from poorly managed factory farms, over-planted fields stripped of nutrients, herbicides, pesticides--they are all eating this planet alive. I am as guilty of purchasing off-season produce as anyone else: my four year old adores strawberries and apples, and in my effort to instill healthy eating habits I am not going to refuse him fresh fruit in January.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
A harvest of hats

I’m late with this post. I normally aim to blog in the first two days of the month, and in truth this time I nearly forgot. The 1st brought me a handfasting, the 2nd a political launch and as I swapped hastily between celebrant and press officer hats, the Druid blogger hat didn’t get a look in. I wear a lot of hats, so this kind of thing happens now and then.

When you have one identity defined by one thing you are doing, it’s much easier to steer the course of your life and pace yourself in line with the year. The more hats you have, the harder it is to keep an overview. I frequently end up running from one kind of job to another, so busy trying to be in the right headspace for the task in hand that I don’t pay as much attention as I might to the bigger picture. So here I am wondering how it got to be September already, and nearly missing a post.

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  • Lynda Ryder
    Lynda Ryder says #
    You've got me thinking now about how many hats I find myself wearing during a typical day/week/month... And you're so right about
New Moon in Virgo: A Practical Priestess

The New Moon this month occurs in the sign of Virgo (2'19) on Monday, August 25th, at 7:13 am (PDT). Virgo is the archetype of the Virgin goddess, originally meaning, “whole unto herself”.  And, no matter how devoted Virgo is to the people in his or her life, a certain part of Virgo’s psyche always remains “untouched” by the opinions or influence of anyone else. Virgo is a Mutable Earth sign, meaning it is a threshold sign, bridging one season into the next, and it resonates with the grounding and stable element of Earth. Virgo season is summer transitioning into autumn, and this energy is indelibly imprinted into the archetype, giving way to a Mercurial nature in the Virgo personality. The Virgo archetype echoes with the preparation for harvest: we begin the task of separating the grain from the chaff in our lives.  This requires clear-headed logic, as well as attention to our deep intuition about what crops we will harvest, and what needs to be turned back into the soil, or allowed to die on the vine.  The Virgo personality is often lauded as analytical, discerning, and as having a superior flair for organizational activities. When you think of the qualities of the season, this makes sense.  And, although this time of year is fast paced and busy as we get ready to go back to school or work, there is also a quiet turning within now.


Virgo embodies the aspect of the Priestess that is self-purified and dedicated to the practical expressions of serving the divine.  The archetype is associated with all types of ritual, and integrated daily spiritual practice. There is a visceral body/mind connection with Virgo, and you can find many with Virgo strong in their charts working as nutritionists, yoga teachers, herbalists and holistic practitioners.  Health, healing and daily care of the body are all Virgo preoccupations. Virgo is also the inspired craftsperson, using their attention to detail to produce beautiful works in a variety of mediums.  Additionally, they have an innate talent to elevate what others might term “puttering”- beekeeping, gardening, flower arranging and so forth - into an everyday art form.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Golden God

I hear that if you go into a supermarket in Latvia and take a box of cereal off the shelf, you'll find that it's marked with the sign of the Grain God: Jumis.

I say God of Grain, but Jumis (you-miss) is much more than that. His name means “double” or “twin” (it's the same as Sanskrit jama, “twin,” or Latin Gemini, for that matter), and doubled things are his: twins, double fruits and nuts, eggs with two yolks. Abundance, fertility, marriage, all the good things: these are his gifts. His sign, shown above, represents two crossed grain stalks, heavy heads hanging: it is, one might say, shorthand for “sheaf.” (The motif has been used continuously in Latvian art since the Bronze Age.) He is the Baltic John Barleycorn, the Latvian Frey, the merry big-dicked god of bread and beer and other good things.

The harvest is, of course, his special feast, and lots of hymns to him survive. Many of them, like harvest songs everywhere, tend towards the bawdy. A stanza from one of my favorites:

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