It’s 47F and quite clouded up, even though the computer says, “clear”. There’s just enough of a breeze to stir the leaves and I’m noticing that almost all the yellow leaves are gone from the rugosa and the wild roses are nearly bare, as well. The alder has managed to grow some impressive witch moss over the summer.
Yesterday was long, but productive. We were a touch late again, but got open and started the day very quickly. Tempus and I both had paperwork to deal with a Robyne wandered around, sometimes reading, sometimes snoozing.
Eventually I got to work in back, finishing up some of the projects from Sunday. I have a new stock of wood butter, both for sale (large pots) and for the historical re-creation group. I’ll have more later this week, since I have a large box sitting next to me in the study at the moment, that should have the tins that I ordered. I got the perfume salve set out and the soap balls are drying. I also had a basket of herbs that I harvested in the morning that I had to prep for drying and got a batch of dried heather processed. The pictures didn’t turn out on that, though, just on the whole batch at once.
Tempus took Robyne to the bus mid-afternoon. He called us at around midnight to say he was home, safely. After they took off I spent a while with a box of fabric scraps, sorting the usable ones from the larger pieces for when I get back into making pouches again.
The shop is starting to come back to normal. There are still a few stacks of things on the customer side of the partition, but we’re getting places. There’s still a lot of sorting to do, and I’m tempted to rent a dumpster, but we’re past the worst, I think.
<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Rosewater <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
My next project is to finish the new candle display and then nag Tempus to get the stand for it done.
Today Tempus has already headed out to help our elderly friend with his errands. I have newsletter stuff to work on and necessary updates for websites and blogs… and I’m *so* hoping to do either some writing or some cooking, or both….
Today’s Plant is the Buttercup that flourishes in my area in two types, Ranunculus bulbosus(sometimes called. St Anthony’s Turnip)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranunculus_bulbosus and Ranunculus repens ,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranunculus_repens (called creeping buttercup or crowfoot) which is the variety in my garden. These are non-native plants and invasive, but not usually worried about too much, since they usually grow in grasslands and very poor soil, not suited for agriculture. Although the fresh plant is poisonous, the sap being used as a blistering agent for gout and rheumatism, the dried plant is safe for consumption. Tinctures of this plant have been used on shingles and infusions for “soremouth”. –Masculine, Mercury(Uranus), Fire – These are used in spells for tenacity & stubbornness, both to create and cure, and as a plant of fertility, possibly being the plant that the Flora gave Juno to use to get pregnant with Mars. Carry in sachets (dried flowers only) for fertility or the dried leaves for tenacity. This is also used for harmony and for Sight (and called Frog’s Foot) Use buttercup flower petals in magickal potpourris for spells regarding: divination, energy, innocence, prosperity, youth. Use buttercup in solar spells involving energy and prosperity.
…and, of course today is Hari-Kuyo. I’ll be honoring my needles today. Hari Kugo, the feast of Broken Needles, is celebrated today in Japan. Also called Daitosai, or Good-Luck Market it is celebrated from Nov 30 – Dec 11 , honouring women’s crafts and tools. At Hikawa Shrine, Omiya, Saitama Prefecture, a large market is held selling good luck charms and many products. Source: The Phoenix and Arabeth 1992 Calendar I don’t remember where I read it, but there’s supposed to be a shrine where women take needles that have snapped and poke them into a ball of butter to “soothe their hurts”. I like that idea! I have this as the date, but going to look online, February 8 is usually listed. Hmmm…. anyway here’s a nice link: http://stitchtress.com/2010/02/08/hari-kuyo/ …and I love that picture!
The shop is closed on Tuesday/Wednesday! Fall hours are 11am-6pm Thursday through Monday, although the time that we’re there is drifting earlier with the shorter days. Need something off hours? Give us a call at 541-563-7154 or Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org If we’re supposed to be closed, but it looks like we’re there, try the door. If it’s open, the shop’s open! In case of bad weather, check here at the blog for updates, on our Facebook as Ancient Light, or call the shop.
Love & Light,
Waxing Moon Magick – The waxing moon is for constructive magick, such as love, wealth, success, courage, friendship, luck or healthy, protection, divination. Any working that needs extra power, such as help finding a new job or healings for serious conditions, can be done now. Also, love, knowledge, legal undertakings, money and dreams. Phase ends on 12/6 at 4:27am. Waxing Gibbous Moon – From seven to fourteen days after the new moon. For spells that need concentrated work over a ¼ moon cycle this is the best time for constructive workings. Aim to do the last working on the day of the Full moon, before the turn. Keywords for the Gibbous phase are: analyze, prepare, trust. It is the time in a cycle to process the results of the actions taken during the First Quarter. During this phase you are gathering information. Give up making judgments; it will only lead to worry. Your knowledge is incomplete. Laugh. Analyze and filter. LOOK WITHIN. God/dess aspect: Maiden/Youth, but in the uncommitted phase, the Warriors Associated God/desses: Dion, Dionysius, Venus, Thor. Phase ends on 12/4 at 7:27pm.
The Moon shines in the southeast soon after dark. Look below it, by a bit less than a fist at arm’s length, for Alpha Piscium, the 3.8-magnitude star in Pisces that traditionally marks where the cords from the two fishes’ tails are tied in a knot. Its name, Alrescha, is from the Arabic for “the rope,” based on the ancient Greek description of the constellation.
Also this evening: Telescope users can watch the Moon’s thin, invisible dark limb occult (black out) the 4.3-magnitude star Omicron Piscium as seen from the eastern half of North America except the southeast. Map and timetables.
Mercury is hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.2, in western Leo) rises in the east-northeast around 10 or 11 p.m. About 40 minutes later, fainter Regulus (magnitude +1.4) rises below it. By dawn they shine high in the south, with Regulus now to Jupiter’s left.
Goddess Month of Astrea runs from 11/28 – 12/25
Celtic Tree Month of Ruis/Elder, Nov 25 – Dec 22
Runic half-month of Isa/ Is November 28-12 Literally, ‘ice’: a static period. The time of waiting before birth. Nigel Pennick, The Pagan Book of Days, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont, USA, 1992, 1992
©2014 M. Bartlett, Some parts separately copyright
Ruis/Elder – Nov 25 – Dec 22 – Ruis – (RWEESH), elder – Celtic tree month of Ruis (Elder) commences (Nov 25 – Dec 22) – Like other Iron Age Europeans, the Celts were a polytheistic people prior to their conversion to (Celtic) Christianity. The Celts divided the year into 13 lunar cycles (months or moons). These were linked to specific sacred trees which gave each moon its name. Today commences the Celtic tree month of Elder.
Elder or Elderberry (Sambucus) is a genus of fast-growing shrubs or small trees in the family Caprifoliaceae. They bear bunches of small white or cream coloured flowers in the Spring, that are followed by bunches of small red, bluish or black berries. The berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds.
Common North American species include American Elder, Sambucus canadensis, in the east, and Blueberry Elder, Sambucus glauca, in the west; both have blue-black berries.
The common European species is the Common or Black Elder, Sambucus nigra, with black berries.
The common elder (Sambucus nigra L.) is a shrub growing to 10 m (33 feet) in damp clearings, along the edge of woods, and especially near habitations. Elders are grown for their blackish berries, which are used for preserves and wine. The leaf scars have the shape of a crescent moon. Elder branches have a broad spongy pith in their centers, much like the marrow of long bones, and an elder branch stripped of its bark is very bone-like. The red elder (S. racemosa L.) is a similar plant at higher elevations; it grows to 5 m (15 feet). Red elder extends its native range to northern North America, and it is cultivated along with other native species, but common elders are seldom seen in cultivation. Elders are in the Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae).
Ruis – Elder Ogam letter correspondences
Month: Makeup days of the thirteenth Moon
Meaning: End of a cycle or problem.
to study this month Straif – Blackthorn Ogam letter correspondences
Letter: SS, Z, ST
Meaning: Resentment; Confusion; Refusing to see the truth
Tides for Alsea Bay
Day High Tide Height Sunrise Moon Time % Moon
~ /Low Time Feet Sunset Visible
Tu 2 Low 2:19 AM 1.9 7:34 AM Set 3:13 AM 76
~ 2 High 8:41 AM 8.5 4:38 PM Rise 2:31 PM
~ 2 Low 3:35 PM 0.5
~ 2 High 9:42 PM 6.4
Affirmation/Thought for the Day – Lifestyle is the art of discovering ways to live uniquely.
~ Quality is not an act. It is a habit. – Aristotle
~ Four rules for life: Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Don’t be attached to the results. – Angeles Arrien
~ I’m all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me! – Dr. Seuss
~ Men may die, but the fabrics of free institutions remains unshaken. – Chester Allen Arthur (1830-1886) US President (21st), VP (20th)
ANSWER TO A CHILD’S QUESTION
Do you ask what the birds say? The Sparrow, the Dove,
The Linnet, and Thrush say, “I love and I love!”
In the winter they’re silent — the wind is so strong;
What it says I don’t know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving — all come back together.
Then the Lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
That he sings, and he sings, and for ever sings he –
“I love my Love, and my Love loves me.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), English Romantic poet
Yule Magick – Lore – The Lost Female Figures of Christmas – for the full two-part article with pictures and more links, please visit: http://carolynemerick.hubpages.com/hub/The-Forgotten-Female-Figures-of-Christmas
Introduction and Background
It may come as a surprise that there were a great many female figures associated with this time of year that have been obscured from much of our contemporary memory. Many of these figures are still popular in their home countries. But, America has a very different historical landscape when it comes to holiday practice, and it is the American brand of Christmas that has recently been exported to non-Western parts of the world.
Much has been said about Santa Claus being an amalgam of influences, and especially about his image being based on the Germanic god Odin. But, it is important to realize that there were many other holiday figures, both male and female, that did not find their way over to our modern American Christmas celebrations. German male figures such as Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht are coming up more and more in news and entertainment media. So I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the female side of Old Yule.
Mōdraniht – Mothers Night
A great place to start is the Germanic holiday of Mōdraniht. This holiday was part of the Yule festivities. Many people already know that the Twelve Days of Christmas comes from the fact that Yule was not just a one day celebration, but rather a festival that lasted for several days before and after the Winter Solstice.
Mōdraniht is literally translated as Mothers Night, or Night of the Mothers. We don’t know a lot about this celebration because it would have been suppressed after conversion to Christianity. We do know that it was a time to celebrate motherhood and probably other female ancestors. This celebration of the feminine may be related to the age old correlation between the fertility of women with fertility of crops, and with rebirth of new life. The Winter Solstice, after all, celebrated the rebirth of the Sun and lengthening of days.
Just as it is in other indigenous religions, ancestor veneration was a very important aspect of Germanic spirituality. Both male and female ancestors were honored. But, it seems that female ancestors played an important role as guardians of the family line.
The Important Roles of Germanic Women
Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that women were often the ones home guarding the homestead while men were off at war, raiding, or trading. We do know that like the Celts, Germanic women were often trained to wield a sword. Although women on the battle field was not as common as men, it was not uncommon either. There are accounts of female bravery in battle, and it is known that certain battle tactics were designed specifically for the shield maidens. So, it might be that the women who tended the homestead were seen as strong protectresses by their children. Indeed, many Germanic female names have elements of strength and battle in them. For example, the name Mathilde translates as “mighty battle maiden.”
Whatever the case may be, we know that female ancestors remained a prominent element in Germanic heathen religion. They were celebrated not only during Mōdraniht, but they also enjoyed another holiday during the Autumnal Equinox – Dísablót. While Mōdraniht is attested in Anglo-Saxon sources, Dísablót is attested in the Norse. However, both cultures share a linguistic and cultural heritage.
Also, votive inscriptions along the Rhine demonstrate that a cult of “the Mothers” (also called Matres and Matrones) existed in southern Germany, Gaul, and Northern Italy. Half of the inscriptions are Germanic, while the other half are Celtic. This again demonstrates that the Old Religion placed a high emphasis on celebrating maternity and the feminine.
Mōdraniht was celebrated on the date that we now call Christmas Eve. So this year, raise a glass and toast to your own mother, grandmother, aunts, great-aunts, and all the women who have helped raise you and yours. This is surely an old custom that can be appreciated by people of any religion today!
Obstacles in Getting to Our Roots
There are many aspects of folklore, tradition, and folk custom that have very deep roots. We must remember that some traditions have been immersed in Christian practice for many years, but their true origins exist in the dark crevices of old heathen custom.
The origin of such practices can be difficult to identify for a variety of reasons. The pre-Christian cultures in Northern Europe passed on their wisdom, histories, poetry, and myths orally. So in most cases, they didn’t leave written records.
Another major obstacle is the way that the Catholic Church absorbed paganism, at the same time re-branding and replacing specific customs and figures. Gods became saints, pagan holidays became Christian ones. This comes as no shock to most readers. Most Christians are well aware that Christ was not born in December, that Easter is named for the pagan fertility festival in honor of the goddess Eostre, and so forth. It is commonly known that the Catholic cult of saints arose to turn people away from local deities.
Hagiography Throws People Off
Any student of Medieval history should be familiar with a genre of literature known as “hagiography.” This is the writing of the lives of saints. Now, this genre differs greatly from biography or history because hagiographers had no intent to portray the truth in their writings. Medieval studies students are told to read hagiographical texts with a grain of salt because their purpose had more to do with an agenda than any goal of portraying the truth. The agenda being to build new figures of veneration to replace the old pagan gods and goddesses.
Now, this is not to say that all saints are bogus. But when it comes to early Medieval examples, if there is not a shred of evidence outside of the hagiographical text, if the saint is closely associated with a holiday or deity, then the story of the saint should be considered nothing better than a folktale invented to replace earlier folktales, and a new religious figure invented to replace an previous one. Sometimes the stories are a mixture of fact and fiction. And, sometimes a true historical person’s story could be grafted over a pagan legend.
Saint Lucy is an example of a widely traveled saint. She originated in the Mediterranean and is still celebrated in certain parts of that region. But, she was greatly embraced in Scandinavia where she is known as Saint Lucia. Whether or not this saint existed as a true person, I cannot say. However, whether she did or not is irrelevant to her role in Northern Europe. Saint Lucia clearly became a new entity in Scandinavia, apart from what she had been in Southern Europe.
In both parts of Europe, Lucia was and is associated with light. So, that her holiday is celebrated on December 13th is significant. This strengthens Saint Lucy’s ties with pagan customs. Saint Lucy’s Day is one of the early mid-Winter celebrations that mark the coming of the Winter Solstice. In indigenous European religions, Solstice marked the rebirth of the Sun. It was the end of nights becoming longer and welcoming the start of them getting shorter. Celebrating light was common at this time.
In Scandinavia, there are other symbolic elements that connect Lucia to pagan times. She is often depicted carrying sheaths of grain, which is a common symbol of pagan agrarian deities. Another feature is that she is sometimes accompanied by young boys called stjärngossar (star boys) or tomtenissar. This is significant because the words “tomte” and “nissar” both relate to elves. Elves are a prominent feature in old Norse religion.
A similar figure is Germany’s Christkind. Unlike Lucia, she is not representative of any saint. However, what she represents is even more fascinating. Literally translated, Christkind means Christ Child. How curious that the Christ Child is represented by a grown woman!
The Christkind is often the one who delivers gifts to children for the Christmas holiday, as well as Saint Nicholas (who is a separate figure from Santa Claus in Germany).
The fact that Germany, who’s heritage shares much with that of Scandinavia, maintains a beautiful and otherworldly female figure with such a pronounced presence during Christmas celebrations is yet more evidence that the feminine was every bit as significant to our ancestors’ Yuletide celebrations as male figures are at Christmas today.
This is not to insinuate that male figures were not celebrated in the past – they absolutely were. But, the point of this article is simply to demonstrate that the masculine and feminine influences were once more balanced than they are even today.
Snegurochka – Snow Girl
Although most of this article has addressed Germanic figures associated with Yule, it should be said that Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, and Finno-Ugric cultures shared many similarities in the past. There are distinct differences, but they share a common Indo-European background (barring the Finno-Ugric speakers). They also share similar climates, customs, and their native religions had much in common with each other. There is often a blending of tradition between these cultures, especially where they neighbor one another.
On that note, I introduce you to Snegurochka, a Russian Christmas figure. Usually translated to ‘Snow Girl’ in English, she is another Christmas character with complicated origins. Snegurochka is generally considered to have roots in the old Slavic pagan past. It is possible that she was once a patron goddess of winter like the Norse goddess Skaði. (And, indeed, the word Russia stems from the Norsemen who settled in the area – the Rus).
Like many European goddesses, Snegurochka lived on in the folklore of her people, even after they were converted to Christianity. Often goddesses were diminished into fairy creatures, fairy godmothers, etc. The late 19th century saw a great revival of folklore all over Europe. The most famous folklorists of this period are the Brothers Grimm. Just as they collected folktales from all over the German speaking world, Russian folklorist Alexander Afanasyev preserved the tales of his own people. Thus, the pre-Christian figure Snegurochka lived on during Christian times.
Religion was banned in Russia during the Soviet era. However, celebrating Russian history, and especially the history of the people (peasants), was encouraged. So, an old god of winter who had been remembered in folklore as a wizard was reinvented as the Russian version of Santa Claus – Ded Moroz. However, unlike the American Santa Claus, Ded Moroz travels with a lovely female companion… his granddaughter, Snegurochka.
Holle, Bride of Wotan
Frau Holle is an enigmatic figure, too complicated to fully explore in this article. It should be noted that she maintains many similarities with other European goddesses, as well as those mentioned here. It is thought that she was once an important deity who was probably attacked by the Church (we will explore this further in Part II).
Like Snegurochka, Holle lived on in folk legend. Her tales were recorded by the Grimm brothers. They found her stories to be widespread all across the German speaking parts of Europe. Her tales exist in the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, the Alsatian region of France, Poland, and even into the Czech Republic.
Also like Snegurochka, Holle is associated with a powerful pagan god, Wotan. In Scandinavia, where he is known as Odin, Wotan is married to Frigga. However, in Germany, it is Holle who wears this crown. The pair ride together as they lead the infamous Wild Hunt.
The Wild Hunt was a myth known throughout Northern Europe. It consisted of a host of other worldly night riders traversing the skies in a terrifying chase.
As mentioned above, it has been said that Santa Claus is at least partially influenced by Odin. Just as Santa rides through the sky each Christmas Eve, Odin rode through the night skies with the Wild Hunt during Yuletide. Unlike Santa, however, Odin brings a woman. And, sometimes, Holle was known to lead the hunt herself, without him.
Like so many of the figures discussed before, Perchta is multifaceted. She is considered to be related to, or even another form of the goddess Holle (who was discussed at the end of Part I).
Perchta is known all around the German speaking world and neighboring areas. She is sometimes seen as a beautiful lady in white, and sometimes seen as a hideous monster. Perchta also goes by many names. As Holle she is also known as Holda, Hulda. Perchta is sometimes called Berchta, Bertha, and many other variants.
In Part I it was mentioned that Holle is such an enigmatic figure that she can’t be explained well by a short summary (I will be writing more on her in future, so stay tuned). But, for our purposes here, it should be said that Holle/Perchta appears to have been very wide-spread and greatly honored by the Germanic people of the continent. And, as such, a large scale campaign to halt her veneration seems to have been launched by the Church (not unlikeOstara and the campaign against herthat still rages today).
While goddess Holle lived on in folklore as Frau Holle, Perchta lived on as a hideous monster who comes out of the forest to terrorize villagers at Christmas.
Conversion Demonized Pagan Figures
It should be noted that the Germans of the continent were converted by and large by force. Charlemagne made it his mission to unite the Germanic tribes under one banner. But, it is easier to unite a people if they worship only one God, one system of belief. During this campaign, Germanic indigenous culture was attacked with vigor. Ancient holy trees in sacred groves were chopped down, and pagan holidays and holy figures were banned. (I touched on this in my article on Externsteine. And here is another article on the conversion of Northern Europe).
Because of this history, it is difficult to know if Perchta would have had both of these faces in her original context. We know that pre-Christian supernatural beings were often twisted into demonic creatures by the Church. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that creatures we view as cute and harmless, such as fairies and elves, met the same fate. Fairies were even strongly associated with witchcraft and were often a key feature of witch trials (Please see my article “When Witches Communed with Fairies” for more on this).
In any case, the hideous Perchten creatures come out each year around Christmas and New Years to harass and frighten the good people who dwell in the Alps. The Perchten typically parade with another “demon” of Christmas known as Krampus, and are similar in appearance.
From Christmas demons to a Christmas witch! Children in Italy have little use for Santa Claus, it’s la Befana who brings joy and presents.
Befana is said to have a possible connection to Perchta. In fact, Northern Italy has holiday creatures very similar to the Alpine Perchten, especially where Italy borders the Alps.
There are other connections as well. Perchta/Holle is thought to be related to the Witte Wieven. As mentioned above, the goddess Perchta was a lady dressed in white. The Witte Wieven are feminine spirits related to the “white women” of European folklore. These women and similar ones were known all around Europe in pre-Christian times, and are still a part of Dutch folklore today. It is thought that the origins Witte Wieven stem from the veneration of the spirits of dead wise women. And, as we know, the word “witch” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “wicce” meaning exactly that.
Witches remained very common in folklore all around Europe. Today we are most familiar with the demonized versions, the evil old hags. But, there were benevolent witches as well. La Befana is a great example of this. Good witches remained common in German folklore as well. To this day kitchen witches are found hanging on the walls of the kitchens of German women. Further, witches enjoyed their own holiday in Germany known as Walpurgisnacht, Night of the Witches, which takes place in the Spring.
Italy has its own history of traditional witchcraft as well. The Benandanti were a group of witches, both men and women, who met in secret during the 16th and 17th centuries. When interviewed, they admitted to going into trance to meet up with the souls of other witches to do battle against the forces of evil. Their purpose was to protect the crops from unseen malevolent forces.
La Vecchia Religione is Italian for “the Old Religion.” It said by some to have survived underground in secret all of these years. Indeed, many Italians and Italian-Americans have had a superstitious grandmother who warned against such things as “the evil eye.” The Old Religion in the Italian Tradition is being revived today under the name “Stregheria.
Befana the Christmas Witch, along with the many old Italian superstitious beliefs which remain prevalent today, demonstrate that even in seat of the Catholic Church, old beliefs die hard.
Another witchy figure associated with Christmas is Grýla – an Icelandic giantess. Although she was not known to be part of Christmas festivities until the 17th century, Grýla enjoys a long history of tradition among Icelanders. She mentioned by Snorri Sturluson in the poetic Edda, so she was possibly known to the Norse of previous eras as well.
In Icelandic tradition, Grýla is the mother of the Yule Lads, a group of mischievous gnomish creatures who descend from their mountain to wreak havoc in the towns below.
Grýla plays the role of the punisher of naughty children. Just as Krampus in Germany drags away bad children, Icelandic children who do not behave themselves may find themself being carried away by the wicked Grýla.
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If you enjoyed this, read some more unusual Christmas history in “The Hidden History of Christmas Carols.”
Icelandic Christmas Creatures – Live in Reykjavik
Last updated on December 27, 2013