The Grovedaughter’s Year – First Robin Day

(This is my personal lore and may or may not match with anyone else’s view of the seasonal rotations or deities associated with such things.)

When I lived in Pennsylvania, we used to mark the day that we saw the first robin after the new year. Up north, it was usually sometime in February or early March, but apparently here in Virginia, late January works just fine too.

(We have the January Thaw here, where there’s a couple of random days in January that are unseasonably warm before another cold front blows through and freezes things solid again. Thanks, Global Warming.)

As a witch, I’ve started celebrating First Robin Day as one of the first signs of spring. It’s a simple thing, mostly involving opening windows and airing the house, and scattering a cup or two of birdseed for the robin and his winged brethren.

It’s also a day for self-care and re-awakening of the self. First Robin Day is a good day to do a bit of cleaning, to re-evaluate goals for the coming months, and to get a bit of fresh air. Pay attention to your health on this day and take time to do something that makes you feel awake and alive.

Lore

Brighid, tending Her fires through the winter snows, sends a messenger to see if the world is ready to be awakened yet. With the red-breasted messenger comes a rush of warmth from the forge, which stirs the wintering world and causes it to turn over in its’ sleep.

The robin returns to Brighid and twitters, “Not yet, not yet. But soon! Very soon!” The Lady smiles and goes back to the forge until Her feast day of Imbolc (Feb. 2) or the Spring Solstice (Mar. 20-21), whichever is soonest after the robin’s first flight.

On Imbolc, Brighid may walk abroad herself. If Imbolc is sunny, She will gather more wood for the forge, resulting in six more weeks of winter. If Imbolc is cloudy, She will stay in to tend the fires and spring will come all the sooner for Her efforts.

By the Solstice, the wheel has turned. Brighid takes over for the winter gods in the beginning of March, and She sets to work waking the earth and bringing things into bloom.

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Holiday Wish Witchballs

For health, wealth, and good fortune in the new year.

  • Juniper Berries
  • Allspice Berries
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Honeysuckle
  • Bay Leaf
  • Oats or Oatstraw
  • Sea Salt

Mix as you see fit and pour carefully into glass or plastic ornaments. Ribbons, glitter, jingle bells, and craft gems make excellent additions for an aesthetically-pleasing charm. Decorate and distribute to your near-and-dear as gifts.

Happy Holiday Witching! 🙂

The Annual Christmas Debate

As we approach the winter holiday season, I invariably end up with something in my inbox to the tune of “What’s this Christians Stole Christmas thing I keep hearing about?” This year is no exception. And here is this year’s version of my seemingly-endless, whiskey-fueled attempt to set the record straight.


” I keep seeing reference to Christians stole Christmas? Is there a link you can point me too? I’m just curious as I’ve heard this for years. “

HOLY MOTHER OF MITTENMICE, CHILD. Back away slowly, you know not what madness you toy with. It is an unholy can of worms which opens each year around this time and believe me when I tell you, there are many of us who dread it like the clomping hooves of Krampus upon our doorsteps. It is a wraith of woe and suffering which visits us not once, but SEVERAL times each year, resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The whole mess makes me want to deck the halls with barfed-up holly and when I see those posts start to make the annual rounds, I always need a little Christmas right this very minute. If by “Christmas” we mean “copious amounts of Irish whiskey.” It makes a witch wish fervently for a silent night.

-sigh- Well, the lid’s off. Best get this over with.

There is an annual debate…and I’m using the term very generously….which centers around the juxtaposition of Christmas and Yule, the key points of which generally hinge upon the inability of some pagans to tell the difference between cultural integration and outright theft.

Key terms in this debate are “syncretism” (the blending or amalgamation of cultures, traditions, and philosophies over time) and “conflation” (the merging of two or more similar or related ideas into a single concept, not always correctly). It is largely the latter that is the cause of our pain, namely in the mistaken assumption that since Christmas and Yule occur at the same time of year and share a number of traditions and symbols that they must be the SAME holiday and/or that the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus is entirely adapted or “stolen” from older pagan festivals.

Which is about as correct as saying that because there is a Dublin in Ireland and a Dublin in Pennsylvania, both sharing a large population of Irish people, a similar climate, and a surrounding of dairy farms, that they therefore must be the same town and/or the more recent settlement’s ways were maliciously purloined from the elder.

If you’re already frowning and saying, “Wait, that makes no sense,” you’re beginning to get an idea of what several of us have to deal with every winter solstice. And every Halloween, every Easter, and more recently, on Walpurgisnacht as well. It’s maddening and headache-inducing, and trust me when I tell you, the battles get ugly.

The short version of the stance held by witches who are students of academic history (rather than whatever Llewellyn is limping to the barn with) is that Christmas and Yule share festival traditions and symbols because of generations of coexistence and cultural blending between the Church and the pagan country folk. Christmas is as much a secular holiday as it is a religious one, and many pagan traditions became secular traditions during the process of conversion. This is particularly true of symbols and celebrations connected to solstice festivals. Ergo, over time, formerly-pagan secular traditions were adapted and adopted into the secular festivities associated with the Christmas season.

Yule, as we know it in modern paganism, is largely adapted from Gerald Gardner’s interpretation of the older Norse holiday of the same name. In Scandinavia, Christmas and Yule are celebrated as one and the same. In fact, the word for Christmas in Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish, and Icelandic is some permutation of Jul or Jól. (It’s their word and their festival, they can conflate the two as they see fit. Are you gonna tell them no? I’m certainly not.)

The trouble arises when witches who are students of authors who were students of Gardner (or at least his writings) claim with the majestic authority of having-no-one-around-to-say-them-nay-back-in-the-1980s that Christians, the ostensible enemy of all things pagan, are still persecuting us in the present age by daring to have a holiday with shared history and traditions to one of our own. Ravenwolf and Buckland, we’re all looking at you. Glaring, even.

(Please note that despite similar timing, traditions, colors, and symbols, nothing is EVER said of Yule and Hanukkah being conflated, which illustrates the other part of the problem: some pagans just seem to need the crutch of perceived Christian oppression in order to feel validated. And so they see fit to ruin everyone’s holiday cheer by complaining about problems which are either hundreds of years dead and gone or which never existed in the first place.)

There’s SO much more to it than this, but it begins to delve into minutiae and I’ll just wind up writing yet another book. Suffice it to say, it is far wiser and far more in keeping with the spirit of both Christmas AND Yule to offer each other peace and goodwill, rather than bickering over who really owns the religious version of intellectual property rights to decorated evergreens and flying reindeer.

Supermoon Wish Jars

To help harness the energy of the supermoon, or any full moon, to help your wishes come true, here’s a fun little project you can do by yourself or with your witchy friends. This also makes a nice activity for esbats that doesn’t require a lot of setup.

Materials:

  • Small Jar with tight-fitting lid
  • White or Black candle
  • Incense of your choice
  • Herbs and Items representing your wish

Find a clear space to work. Make sure it’s free of fire hazards. If possible, try to work near a window through which you can see the moon. (If you don’t have one, that’s all right too, since you’ll be setting the jar out for the moonlight when finished.) Light your candle and choice of incense and get to work.

Select herbs and trinkets which fit inside the jar to represent your wish. For example, if your wish is for money or prosperity, you might include coins or metallic glitter or small craft gems. If your wish is for health, you might include vitamin pills or a charm representing medicine.

Check your books for herbs or crystals that correspond to your wish as well, to give the jar plenty of oomph. The contents of the jar can be whatever you want. Use the materials that resonate best with you.

Some basic herbs for wishmaking include:

  • Bamboo
  • Bay Leaf
  • Beech
  • Black Walnut
  • Blue Violet
  • Buckthorn
  • Chicory Root
  • Dandelion Seeds
  • Dogwood Petals
  • Lotus Root
  • Nutmeg
  • Peppermint
  • Pomegranate
  • Sage Leaf (any color)
  • Sandalwood
  • Spearmint
  • Straw
  • Sunflower
  • Tonka Bean
  • Walnut
  • Willow Bark or Leaves

Once your jar is complete, drip three drops of wax from the candle into the jar and circle the mouth of the jar three times with the incense. Then seal the jar and place the jar somewhere that it will be touched by the light of the full moon and leave it overnight.

The jar should work for about a month, or slightly longer if you’re working with a supermoon. When the next full moon rolls around, you can recharge the jar by leaving it out overnight again, or make a new jar with a new wish.

Happy Witching!

Announcement – Witches&Pagans, Dec. 2017

Fantastic news, witchlings! A review of my best-selling book, Grovedaughter Witchery, is set to be published in the December issue of Witches&Pagans magazine!

I’ve read the advance copy of the review, written by one Hugh Eckert, and I can tell you – it’s a review that ANY author would be proud to have attached to their first solo effort. It’s a red-letter day when words like “impressive” and “innovative” are used to describe a book by an indie author in the pagan circuit.

Please join me in supporting the magazine by picking up a copy next month!

Lore Podcast, Episode 70 – “Familiar”

 

Those of you who have talked podcasts and/or folklore with me at some point may already know, but I LOVE the Lore podcast. Aaron Mahnke does all his homework and presents a practical view of mysterious events in history that is both engaging and serious without ever being dry. Every episode is spellbinding, and the latest one is no exception.

Episode 70, “Familiar,” deals with witches and witch trials. It’s a topic the podcast has covered before, most notably in episodes 12 (“Half-Hanged”), 28 (“Making A Mark”), 41 (“Hole in the Wall”), and 57 (“Quarantine”). There are others where witchcraft is mentioned, but those are the ones that stand out in my memory. This time around, Mahnke delves into the tale of Matthew Hopkins. If you’re a witch who also happens to be a student of English History, that name might inspire a wince, and with good reason.

During his sordid career in the 1600s, the self-styled “Witchfinder General” took advantage of superstition and religious upheaval to accuse, torture, and ultimately execute close to three hundred people, all on almost entirely baseless charges of witchcraft.  Some of you may recall me talking a lot about King James in relation to the standards and practices involved in persecuting witches. Oh yes, he’s mentioned here too.

Mahnke addresses the social circumstances, historical documents, and civil unrest which played into Hopkins’ rise to power, as well as the horrific consequences of his “work” and a poignant reminder of just how little society has changed.

This episode is a must for anyone looking for a historical perspective on witch trials, what caused them, and what actually happened during the period some modern revisionists term “the Burning Times.”

A Lesson For Young Witches

If you cannot find representations for a given element, remember…

You are supported by a rigid skeleton made of minerals. You are earth.

Your body is over 70% fluid. You are water.

Your lungs take in and expel breath. You are air.

Your blood is warm and your brain runs on electrical impulses. You are fire.

Your essence, however you describe it, resides within you. You are spirit.

You are composed of gifts from every element, and every element is given marvelous life in you.

Never feel that you are insufficiently magical for lack of icons or accoutrements or accessories.

You are ALWAYS magic. You are ALWAYS enough.