Celebrating the New Moon – Dec 2014

Ancient people’s considered the Moon to be a deity. For the Romans, she was the goddess Luna, while for the Norse and Anglo Saxons, he was the god Mani or Mona. Today is the New Moon. There are eight phases in the lunar cycle – from the new moon to the full moon and back again. The moon is very important for life on earth – especially for controlling the tides (natures recycling plan).

In ancient times, many cultures planned their calendars by the moon and there are still farming communities today who plant according to it. The metonic cycle of 19 years is the time it takes for the lunar and solar calendars to come together in sync and that might be why 19 years is mentioned in Druidry.

I think the best times to celebrate the lunar cycle are at the full moon and the new moon. The new moon is a great time for going stargazing and focusing on our relationship with the universe. It’s also a time for meditation and inner reflection. It is a time to look back over the past month to evaluate it and to make plans and goals for the next. Its also a time for cleaning your house or altar. Pouring a libation to the Moon at this time can also be a good practice.

In Hellenic Reconstructionism, the new moon is a very important time and three days of celebration are often held. The first day (the day before) is Hekates Deipnon, when one honours Hekate as bringer of life. Homes are prepared for the transition and it is a time of purification of self, home and one’s affairs. A meal offering is given to Hekate either on an altar or at a crossroads. Something is also given to those less fortunate. Meanwhile, the fridge and altar are also cleaned. Day two is Noumenia, the first day of the visible new moon, when Selene and Hestia are honoured. It is the start of the month so they ask for blessings on the household. The home is decorated with seasonal flowers and there is a big feast. It is also the time to create a list of goals for the month. Finally, the third day is Agathos Daimon when there is a libation to the personal household or family spirit (often personified as a snake) and prayers for continued blessings on the family. As it is also associated with Dionysus, the celebrations are finished with a small glass of wine.

There are many ways to celebrate the New Moon as Naturalistic Pantheists. Do you celebrate it in your practice? What do you do?

Celebrating Yule 2014

Happy Yule everyone. Also known as Midwinter or the Winter Solstice, Yule has its roots in many cultures, including Roman Saturnalia, Christian Christmas and most importantly Scandinavian and Anglo Saxon Yule. It is the longest night and the day when the Sun is “reborn.” Since the summer, the days have been getting shorter and colder, but after Yule they begin to lengthen again as we approach spring. It is a time of light and hope in the depths of cold winter.

The first mention of a midwinter celebration is in the writings of a 4th century Christian who said that at this time pagans celebrated the birthday of the sun by kindling lights, giving presents, feasting and the closure of schools and shops. However this festival of Saturnalia only began in 274ad. By the 8th century there were 12 days of celebration at Christmas. There is little evidence of celebration in Ireland before the 12th century. However, Bede, writing in 730ad said that most important festival of the Anglo Saxons in England had been “Modranicht” or “Mothers Night” on 24th December. This was the night which opened the new year and “they kept watch during it with religious rites.” The word Yule came through Danish rule over England, however there is no mention of it in early Scandinavian literature. Icelandic writer Snorri Sturluson says that there was a three day celebration at this time, including a sacrifice for a good crop. Historian Ronald Hutton says “the consensus between Bede and Snorri, that the winter solstice was a major feast of the ancient Scandinavian and Norse people’s, and opened their year, is still an impressive one.” There are many records from the 4th to 11th centuries of church leaders denouncing revelries, sorcery, divination, dressing in animal skins and feasting to excess at this time of the year. Across European society, it seems to have been a time for role reversal and the relaxation of norms. Hutton says that Welsh literature also shows good evidence for a midwinter “new year’s feast.” He further states that “it was the general custom in pagan Europe to decorate spaces with greenery and flowers at festivals, attested wherever records have survived.” These were often evergreens such as holly and ivy. Despite this, many of the traditional festivities we associate with Christmas now e.g. stockings, christmas cards, paper decorations and crackers either were invented in the 19th century or came over from Germany at that time. Other traditional Christmas festivities such as the Christmas Tree (in the Rhineland), Yule Log and Wassailing the orchards can be traced back to Tudor times but no further.

Norse and Anglo Saxon reconstructionists celebrate Mothers Night (Modrinacht) as a time to honour the goddesses and ancestors. Twelve days of feasting follow with the burning of a yule log, meditating on the nine noble virtues, lighting candles, doing divinations and making oaths on New Years Eve. Yule signified the height of the Wild Hunt, when a ghostly procession led by the god Odin marched across the night sky. It was a time when the dead were permitted to leave their mounds and return to the land of the living. In southwest England where I am from, this myth has evolved into a belief that it is hell hounds (known as Yeth or Wisht hounds) chasing sinners or the unbaptised. Similarly, myths surrounding Odin and Thor may have contributed to our modern Santa Claus. Yule is a time for honouring many of the Norse gods – Odin who leads the wild hunt, Frigg as the goddess of the home and hearth, Thor for stopping the ice giants, Frey for prosperity, Sunna and Baldur for the Suns rebirth and the winter deities Ullr and Skadhi.

Modern Neopagans like Wiccans celebrate this day with the myth of the mother goddess who gives birth to the sun god, while Druids tell of a battle between the Oak King and the Holly King, in which the Oak King overcomes the Holly King on this day and rules until Midsummer.

In the deepest depths of winter, it is traditional to celebrate Yule with gift giving, spending time with loved ones, decorating with evergreens and lights, having a yule tree and yule log, drinking and feasting. Wassailing is another tradition and in medieval times, villagers in southwest England would go to orchards and wassail the apple trees to scare away evil spirits and ensure a good harvest in the Autumn. As Naturalistic Pantheists who want to celebrate the cycles of nature and connect with the world around us, we can go out and watch the Solstice sunrise, ringing it in with the sound of bells. We can also go for a walk in nature, toasting the trees, and putting out food for the birds and animals struggling to find something to eat in the cold winter. Boxing day (26th December) was traditionally a time when the rich would give their servants the day off and provide food/ drink for them. I think dedicating this day to helping others would also be a great practice for Naturalistic Pantheists.

My Yule feast this year will include a nut roast, sage & onion stuffing, mapled brussel sprouts with apple and walnuts, sweet & sour red cabbage, spiced swede mash, cranberry sauce and garlic & herb roast potatoes. I will also have a party with friends, burn a yule log, do a ritual, stay up all night to greet the morning sunrise, go for a walk in nature and eat a traditional yule breakfast of porridge. Twelfth night (new years eve) is a good time for reflection, making plans for the next year, doing a cleaning of the house and eating a traditional new years cake. It is also the time to have a big party with friends, to burn the yule log of the season and to wassail the apple trees.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

Yule & Ritual 2014

On Sunday it is the great feast of Yule, the rebirth of the Sun. This year I am again using a ritual from ADF Solitary Druid Fellowship. A Naturalistic Pantheist ritual can be found on my ritual page here. I will be using the following in the “explanation” part of the ADF ritual but this can also be used for the Naturalistic Pantheist one too.

When it reaches the “Explanation” section, I do the following…

Say: “As I stand here on this celebration of Yule, the sacred wheel of the year has turned once again and it is now midwinter. As my ancestors did in times before and my descendants may do in times to come, I honour the old ways. It is the Solstice, the longest night and shortest day. Today I celebrate the rebirth of the Sun. Though the night is dark, and the Earth sleeps in winter, I await with patience the return of light and life to the world. Since the summer, it has gradually become colder and darker, but from this time forwards, the days shall get longer and lighter and warmer again. The Solar year has run its course and completed its cycle and a new year begins, bringing light, life and hope to the earth.”

yule1

Celebrating the Full Moon – Long Nights Moon – Dec 2014

Ancient people’s considered the Moon to be a deity. For the Romans, she was the goddess Luna, while for the Norse and Anglo Saxons, he was the god Mani or Mona. Today is the Full Moon. I call it Long Nights Moon because we are close to Yule now and the nights are their longest. It is also known as the Oak Moon or Cold Moon but I prefer that name for January’s moon. There are eight phases in the lunar cycle – from the new moon to the full moon and back again. The moon is very important for life on earth – especially for controlling the tides (natures recycling plan).

In ancient times, many cultures planned their calendars by the moon and there are still farming communities today who plant according to it. The metonic cycle of 19 years is the time it takes for the lunar and solar calendars to come together in sync and that might be why 19 years is mentioned in Druidry.

I think the best times to celebrate the lunar cycle are at the full moon and the new moon. The full moon is a time of thanksgiving. It is a good time to get together with family or friends, have a big feast with lots of moon shaped foods e.g. fajitas or pizza, create a full moon altar or go to a local water source to watch the tides. It is also considered a time for peace, so it is a good day to spend focusing on helping the community and working for peace locally or globally. Other possibilities include researching and learning more about the moon or indulging your creative side (often the moon is seen as feminine and creativity is often seen as a feminine attribute) e.g. by writing poetry.

There are many ways to celebrate the Full Moon as Naturalistic Pantheists. Do you celebrate it in your practice? What do you do?

Celebrating the New Moon – Nov 2014

Ancient people’s considered the Moon to be a deity. For the Romans, she was the goddess Luna, while for the Norse and Anglo Saxons, he was the god Mani or Mona. Today is the New Moon. There are eight phases in the lunar cycle – from the new moon to the full moon and back again. The moon is very important for life on earth – especially for controlling the tides (natures recycling plan).

In ancient times, many cultures planned their calendars by the moon and there are still farming communities today who plant according to it. The metonic cycle of 19 years is the time it takes for the lunar and solar calendars to come together in sync and that might be why 19 years is mentioned in Druidry.

I think the best times to celebrate the lunar cycle are at the full moon and the new moon. The new moon is a great time for going stargazing and focusing on our relationship with the universe. It’s also a time for meditation and inner reflection. It is a time to look back over the past month to evaluate it and to make plans and goals for the next. Its also a time for cleaning your house or altar. Pouring a libation to the Moon at this time can also be a good practice.

In Hellenic Reconstructionism, the new moon is a very important time and three days of celebration are often held. The first day (the day before) is Hekates Deipnon, when one honours Hekate as bringer of life. Homes are prepared for the transition and it is a time of purification of self, home and one’s affairs. A meal offering is given to Hekate either on an altar or at a crossroads. Something is also given to those less fortunate. Meanwhile, the fridge and altar are also cleaned. Day two is Noumenia, the first day of the visible new moon, when Selene and Hestia are honoured. It is the start of the month so they ask for blessings on the household. The home is decorated with seasonal flowers and there is a big feast. It is also the time to create a list of goals for the month. Finally, the third day is Agathos Daimon when there is a libation to the personal household or family spirit (often personified as a snake) and prayers for continued blessings on the family. As it is also associated with Dionysus, the celebrations are finished with a small glass of wine.

There are many ways to celebrate the New Moon as Naturalistic Pantheists. Do you celebrate it in your practice? What do you do?