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A Lammas Teaching: The Seasons and Cycles of Breath

Our journey of soul is like breath.

On the in-breath, we enter deep inside of ourselves, to the well-spring of our soul and the mysteries of the sacred dark, seeking guidance and inspiration for our pathwork of healing and transformation, and the seeds of our beauty and wounding that are ready to return to the light of our waking-world consciousness.

On our out-breath, we turn our focus outward, embracing the enervating powers of light and life and letting the seeds of our pathwork express and reveal themselves in the machinations of our everyday existence. Life is our teacher, bringing us the insights, energies and experiences we need to heal, grow and blossom in the sunlit world.

On our return in-breath, we gather up and take back inside everything that we have learned and experienced. We harvest our healing work and life story, and ingest their transformative lessons, letting them nourish and change us. And in this process, we become a newer, more profound and brighter version of our Deep Self.

The turning of the seasons is like breath.

On the in-breath, the natural realm turns inward as the balance shifts from light and life to darkness and death. Nature sinks into stillness and repose, while the land rejuvenates and the seeds of the new gestate in the belly of the dark.

On the out-breath, the returning light and warmth awaken the sleeping seeds of life within the land. Roots dig deep and green tendrils reach upward to kiss the sun. Everywhere in Nature, creation expands outward in a rampant, stunning display of the beauty and abundance of new and blossoming growth.

On the return in-breath, the living world offers up the fruits of its labors for the harvest. The death and sacrifice of some threads of life ensure the nurturance and continuance of others. Yet nothing is truly lost, for contained within death are the seeds of a new season and a future harvest.

And then the cycle begins anew, always turning, never-ending, one breath, one season, one chapter on our journey of soul is followed by the next. In these ways, life sustains and creates more life, and the light of our soul shines ever brighter.

Our busy modern world is not like breath. If anything, we are fixated on a perpetual out-breath, with its expansive, external focus. We are always doing and striving, charting our passage through life by the material markers of achievements and possessions. More is better. Growth is everything.

Yet we can never escape the natural order of things. We can’t breathe out, without breathing in. The outer arises from the inner, and that which grows and expands, in the end, returns to the still, fertile center of things to feed and give rise to the next cycle of life.

Individually and collectively we have reached the end of our extended out-breath. It is time to turn our focus to the return in-breath of harvesting and ingesting what we have learned from the fruits of our efforts, and of winnowing out what needs to die and be sacrificed in service of the balance and wellness of the whole.

This is the work of Lammas, where profound, consciously chosen endings gift us with the seeds of profound, life-serving beginnings, and from these seeds our lives and our world are renewed and reborn.

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The Solar Path - The Sabbats for the Hedge Witch (Part Two)

Samhain

We all know of the modern-day Hallowe’en that falls on the 31st October, but few outside of the Craft know of the origins of this festival. Samhain is a Celtic festival that celebrates the time when the veil between this world and the Otherworld is thin, and we can connect more easily with the unseen, both in the form of the Fair Folk (faeries) as well as the ancestors. The Celts reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, and so Samhain would run from sunset on the 31st October to sunset on the 1st November. The Celts divided the year into two halves, the dark half and the light half, and we see this reflected in much of Modern Witchcraft today. How this is divided depends on the tradition. If you are following on from the Celtic lore, the dark half of the year begins at Samhain, and ends at Beltane, when the light half of the year begins. This is the Celtic beginning of Winter and Summer, for they only considered two seasons in their worldview. Samhain means “summer’s end”. Other traditions of Witchcraft see the dark and light halves of the year commencing at the solstices, with the myth of the Oak King and the Holly King. We will explore this later when we look at the solstices.

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Samhain Teaching: Born Into Life, Born Into Death

The natural world and our human psyches turn toward the mysteries of death at Samhain. Cold and darkness descend upon the land, and the wild world shifts into decay and a death-like sleep. In many cultures, this time of year is marked by offerings and rituals to honor the dead, our beloved ancestors.

Usually we don’t like to think about death. Most of us run as fast as we can from the frightening specter that decline and death conjure in us. It is the ultimate irony that the moment we are born into life, with our very first breath, we are also born into death. And we must live every moment, every breath, knowing that we will die, and that everything around us, all that we love and cherish, will eventually come to decay, to death, to dust.

Samhain teaches us that there is no hiding from death. It comes in the falling of leaves, the lengthening darkness and the cold grip of Winter. It comes in our remembrances of our beloved ancestors that have passed on. It comes in the wrenching of our heart as we witness a dear one slip from this world into the next. It comes with the graying at our temples, the sagging of our flesh and the unstoppable march toward our last breath.

And death comes with gifts in hand if we have the courage to show up raw and naked to our pain, losses and fears.

Death strips us to the basics:
that every breath is a miracle not to be wasted;
that each person, each creature and life form, is worthy, precious, sacred;
that life is oh so hard and oh so exquisite;
that pain and loss help us remember what we cherish most;
and that love, at the end of all things, is what remains.

Love is death’s most precious gift to us. Love, not money, possessions, career, social esteem and the many other alluring outer trappings of life, is the balm that soothes us in the face of death. Love is what connects us to those who have passed on. Love calls us to reach out and hold each other in our grief. Love is what joins us heart to heart and soul to soul to another. Love is our best offering from our Deep Self to the world.

Samhain is a time to contemplate the mysteries of death, not from a place of fear and resistance, but from an acceptance of death as a teacher and guide for the living. Yes we are born into life and born into death, and it is this very, inescapable fact that makes every moment so precious, fragile and bittersweet beautiful.

Death isn’t a summons to fear, it is an invitation to love, deeply, wildly, joyfully. And when death seeks us out at the end of our days, let our last breath be a prayer to love.

Photo Credit: Chris B on Unsplash

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Night on Witch Island

Have you ever been to Witch Island?

You know the one I mean. That island out in the river (or: lake) where the witches go for their...doings.

You've heard the stories. Nobody else goes out there.

(Well, there were those kids that once. Did you ever hear what they saw there? All that weird shit carved on the rocks? The big pile of ashes? The bones? Did you hear what happened to those kids?)

You've seen the fires out there among the trees at night. You've seen the shadows of the dancers.

You've heard the drums, the crazy singing.

You've heard the howls.

The screams.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Question Any Witch Can Answer

Going to sabbat, expect the tylers.

They'll stop you on your way through the woods. You'll know them by the leaves in their hats, and the gleam of their blades.

They'll ask you the question that any witch can answer.

Then, when you've answered rightly, they'll give you your token, and send you on.

Fear not, you'll know the answer. If you're of Ours, you'll know.

And if you're not of Ours, then?

Well, now.

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  • Kimberley
    Kimberley says #
    I have never heard of these, I must say. But learn of them and become one of you, I will one day. For I have a high thought to

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Turn up the Heat and Chill Out

Imbolc is a natural time for contemplation and quietude. The weather often compels us indoors and forces us to slow down and partake in some sort of hibernation. If we stay this way for too long however, restlessness and boredom can set in. How does one cope with extreme temperatures and no waiting plane ticket to sunnier climates in sight? Sometimes even simulated heat is better than none.

On those winter nights that you're feeling chilled to the bone, turning up the heat and meditating could be just what is needed to help in biding your time until spring. Don't be afraid to boost it enough to break a sweat. Yes, it's an indulgence, but you can always turn it down to normal right after. Bundle up, put on your heaviest wrap-around scarf, wool hat, leg warmers, arm warmers, fuzzy socks, and fashion a Snuggie-worthy blanket around the back of your shoulders. Prop yourself up on too many comfy pillows.

Before you get completely settled in though, light your favorite scented candle, dim all the lights and light some relaxing incense as well, preferably something such as "Tranquility," by Essential Essences, with lavender mixed in. Likewise, heat up a lavender and chamomile Anti-Stress Comfort Wrap, such as the one from Earth Therapeutics to drape over your shoulders.

A Himalayan salt lamp is a great tool for assisting on nights such as these, and has been known to help in removing toxins, stale energy, and even allergens out of the dry air, as well. Speaking as one prone to allergies, I noticed a difference immediately. Turn on your favorite soft-voiced guided mediation or mood music, or tune in to the white noise of a radiator, wood burning stove, or fireplace, if you're lucky enough to have one in your home.

Breathe deep and give yourself a good 20-30 minutes to completely relax, recharge your energies and realign your chakras – there's a nifty guided meditation to do just that at the end of this article. Breathe in the positive and let go/breathe out that which no longer serves you. When you feel that you have reached your optimum peaceful state of mind, express gratitude to the Goddesses and Gods for the unique opportunity to take the time to do this exercise. Finish with a cup of hot brewed herbal tea, and sprinkle a few drops out on your back porch in offering to Mother Nature.

Leave the salt lamp on for the night and take note of the interesting dreams that you may remember in the morning. And don't forget to turn down the heat again!

Resources:

“Yoga Pose Shows Exercise Wellbeing And Health” by Stuart Miles from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

https://www.today.com/health/himalayan-salt-lamps-are-health-benefits-real-t107117

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i50ZAs7v9es

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8LIbeKQ60U

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"Just Like in the Woodcuts"

Our chant begins low and slow, but soon we are shouting, frenzied.

Horned One! Horned One! Horned One!

From the woods, a horn rings out. Another joins it, nearing, and another.

We call, He comes.

In the moving torchlight, He shines. Borne high, He stands astride, arms raised. His horns reach up to heaven.

At a run, His bearers cross the final slope and enter our midst, bringing Him in. He steps, precisely, from palanquin to altar. The drums fall silent.

In the sudden stillness, He scans our fire-lit faces. Between His antlers, constellations revolve.

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