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Wednesday, August 27

Litha Ritual 2014

I wanted something that had a lot of little roles, lots of small parts so that it would be suitable for a large family or something that a community with many children could use.  I wanted a song or fun chant.  I wanted sparklers.  I wanted teaching moments.

I think I did it.

This is the ritual my community used for Litha in 2014.  It was performed in a decorated circle with elaborate elemental shrines, chimes, and banners.

Prior to the ritual, you will need to create a large sun to be burned.  The creation of this is covered HERE.

Note that we chose the celtic Lugh to be our sun god in 2014.  You could use any sun deity of your choosing to honor.  Simply change out the myth told during that part of the ritual.  

***

The Mama Stacey's Clan Litha Ritual
- to Rejoice in the Glory of Lugh -


Items needed we used:

Singing Bowl
Smudge Stick
Smudging Bowl
Lighter
Besom
Ritual Oil (something sunny, like calendula or grapefruit)
Cornmeal in an upcycled Tequila bottle
Cornmeal in 4 upcycled beer bottles (any glass bottle, will do)
Cards with elemental symbols drawn on them
Torch (try this one)
Athame
Drums, Rattles, and other instruments
Bowl of Herbal blend (lemon peel, epsom salts, marjoram, pine and other 'cleansing' plants)
Compass
Sparklers
2 Yellow candles
"Lugh" by Kelliana on MP3
"Element Chant" by Spiral Rhythm on MP3
Sun Wheel
Cookies
Tray of Ale (we use shot glasses)
Elaborate decorations for the circle (large elemental shrines, banners, flags, chimes, etc.)


Ritual Roles: 
Eastern Elemental (EE)*
Southern Elemental (SE)*
Western Elemental (WE)*
Northern Elemental (NE)*
Sun Spirit (or priest)**
Myth Keeper**
Priestess

*Each elemental has two actions during the ritual.  If you have a lot of volunteers (or want to make sure that everyone has a role in ritual) there can be two elementals per direction (1 to do the circle's direction invocations and 1 to do the ritual job).  

**If you have the opposite problem, a lack of volunteers, you can easily combine the roles of Sun Spirit and Myth Keeper to create a 'Priest' role or simply add them the the Priestess's duties. 


PRE-RITUAL PREP

Elemental shrines are marked and decorated.  An entrance to the circle is created beside the Eastern shrine.  For us, this was a seashell outlined pathway, but for you could be an archway, some lanterns, a special mat or runner, etc.  There should be a stacked firepit in the center of the circle, unlit.

To the northwestern side of the firepit, there should be a small Goddess shrine with a candle, bowl of sparklers, and goddess decor.  We chose a theme of blue and sea green to honor the ocean and water goddesses.  

To the southeastern side of the firepit, there should be a small God shrine with a candle, bowl of  sparklers, and god decor.  We chose red and gold colors for this altar in honor of the sun.

For ritual purposes, the elemental shrines should be well decorated with your choosing of items, however will need the following specific items:

East: 1 small bottle of cornmeal, a card with an air element symbol drawn on it, a singing bowl, bowl of mixed cleansing herbs

South: 1 small bottle of cornmeal, a card with a fire element symbol drawn on it, smudge, smudge bowl, lighter, wax torch, sun wheel

West: 1 small bottle of cornmeal, a card with a water element symbol drawn on it, tray of ale glasses, besom

North: 1 small bottle of cornmeal, a card with an air element symbol drawn on it, large cornmeal bottle, plate of cakes
Myth Keeper should have a stereo or set of speakers with MP3 player attached set up within reach of the circle, a written copy of the Lugh mythology to be recited should be on their person

We begin with all attendees waiting outside the Eastern entrance to the circle.  The Ritual Roles create the sacred space.


CREATING SACRED SPACE

EE rings the singing bowl around the ritual space, walking deosil.  EE returns the singing bowl to the altar and then stands before the eastern shrine.

SE carries the the lit smudge around the ritual space, walking deosil.  SE passes the smudge to the Priest/ess and then stands before the southern shrine.

WE swipes the besom around the ritual space, walking deosil.  WE sets the besom near the entrance to the circle and then stands before the western shrine.

NE pours the large bottle of cornmeal around the ritual space, walking deosil.  NE pours any remaining cornmeal into the firepit and then stands before the northern shrine. 

Priestess and Sun Spirit smudge each other and present the question,
"This is a temple of love and light.  How do you enter?" 
Proper responses are something along the lines of
"With an open mind and open heart." or "In perfect love and perfect trust."
Each then blesses the others third eye with a touch of ritual oil.  

Starting in the East, the Priestess and Sun Spirit smudge, present the question, and bless the third eye of the Elementals and the Myth Keeper.   

Next, the Priestess stands to one side of the entrance with the smudge.  The Sun Spirit stands at the other side with vial of ritual oil. Attendees enter one at a time and are smudged, presented with the question, and blessed with oil. 

After each attendee enters, Priestess says:
"Welcome to our circle.  Please walk once around the circle and then find a space that is comfortable for you."


WELCOMING

Priestess stands near the center so that all can hear.
"We'd like to welcome everyone hear today as we honor the Summer Solstice.  It is also known as Midsummer or Litha.  This is the day that the sun is at its zenith.  This day is often called 'longest-day, shortest-night', because the sun's light brightened the sky at 3:30 this morning and will glow until 11 o'clock tonight.  It is in awe and admiration of the sun's strength today that we gather."


CASTING SACRED SPACE

Priestess takes up the singing bowl.
"We will begin this ceremony with a series of breaths and yogic body rolls.  Stand tall with your feet steady on the ground, hands reaching up to the sky.  Now, allow yourself to roll forward at the waist, dangling your arms towards the Earth Mother.  Go only as far as is comfortable and relaxing for you.  With each deep breath, we will roll back up, arms to the Sky Father, and hold until the bowl is quiet.  On the out breath, we will roll back down."

"Our first breath in..."
Priestess rings the singing bowl once.
"And as you breathe out, feel your feet firmly on the groung, rooting down into the Earth.  Let Gaia support you."

"Our second breath in..."
Priestess rings the singing bowl once.
"And as you breathe out, let all the tension inside of you drain out through your fee.  Let Gaia take it away."

"Our third breath in..."
Priestess rings the singing bowl once.
"And as you breathe out, let the love and light from the heavens pour over you.  Let it rinse you clean, from the crown of your head to the roots of your feet.  Let if flow."


ELEMENTALS

Priestess:
"I ask for our Elementals to now lift up their bottles."
EE, SE, WE, and NE hold their bottles of cornmeal up.
"This is cornmeal, an item golden as the sun and sacred to the Celtic sun god, Lugh.  Lugh is a charmer, an achiever, a smiter of evil, and above all the Hero and High King of the Tuatha de Danann.  This golden meal will be used today to invoke the elements."

Myth Keeper begins a simple drum beat and says,
"We will us an old Pagan chant that you are invited to sing along with.  It goes like this: Earth my body, Water my blood, Air my breath, and Fire my spirit."

Myth Keeper continues to beat drum and chant the Elements chant.  Myth Keeper can play an MP3 of the song if needed.

Priestess cues the Elementals to begin while the circle chants.

EE pours cornmeal on the ground like sandart, forming the 'AIR' symbol on the ground.  EE uses the symbol card if they are unsure what the 'AIR' symbol looks like.  

SE pours cornmeal on the ground like sandart, forming the 'FIRE' symbol on the ground.  SE uses the symbol card if they are unsure what the 'FIRE' symbol looks like. 

WE pours cornmeal on the ground like sandart, forming the 'WATER' symbol on the ground.  WE uses the symbol card if they are unsure what the 'WATER' symbol looks like.  

NE pours cornmeal on the ground like sandart, forming the 'EARTH' symbol on the ground.  NE uses the symbol card if they are unsure what the 'EARTH' symbol looks like.  

Myth Keeper ends drumming and music.

Priestess raises athame to the cosmos.
"As above!"
Lowers the athame to touch the ground.
"So below!  May the Great Spirit fill this place."


DEITY INVOCATION

Priestess lights the Goddess candle.
"I call upon the energies of the divine feminine, the Venus, the Ocean Mother, the Great Matriarch to be here with us today.  She is known by many names and faces.  I now invite you to call Her into this circle by the name She has revealed to you."

Attendees step forward and take a sparkler from the Goddess altar, light them from the candle, and call out a Goddess name or energy.  Spent sparklers are tossed into the fire pit.

Sun Spirit lights the God candle.
"I call upon the energies of the divine masculine, the Greenman, the Sky Father, the Dancing Lord to be here with us today.  He is known by many names and faces.  I now invite you to call Him into this circle by the name He has revealed to you."

Attendees step forward and take a sparkler from the God altar, light them from the candle, and call out a God name or energy.  Spent sparklers are tossed into the fire pit.


GLORY OF LUGH CEREMONY

Myth Keeper stands in the center of the circle for all to hear.
"Lugh is one of the oldest Lords of the Sun in European culture.  His grandfather was  Balor, the Lord of the Underworld.  A prophecy told Balor that Lugh would one day kill him.  Balor tried to have Lugh drowned as an infant, but Lugh rolled away into the harbor and went on to live and study with master smiths, sailors, swordsmen, and crafters.  He returned as an adult to challenge Balor.  

Now, Balor's power lay in his eye.  He had an evil eye that should he look upon you with it, you would die.  Lugh used a sling to hit Balor's evil eye with a rock and defeated his grandfather, just as the prophecy had stated.  Lugh went on to become the leader of the Tuatha de Danann, the Celtic people.  He ruled with a flaming spear at his side.  He is worshipped as a defeather of evil, a man of eternal youth, a soldier, a craftsman, and King of all other gods.

Lugh is our champion today!  And, as the ancients and ancestors did for centuries, we will honor Him with fire."

Myth Keeper plays Kellianna's "Lugh" on the stereo or MP3 player while the fire is lit and grows.

SE steps toward the fire with the wax torch, lights it, and ignites the wood stack in the firepit.  

When the song is finished and the fire is burning, the Sun Spirit steps to the center of the circle.
"As the sun blazes in teh sky above us, I now ask that that same power and fierceness be extended to us.  Lugh, we invoke your might!  Burn away our troubles.  Blast away the tarnish in our lives to that we may shine brightly!"

EE walks the bowl of herbal mixture around the circle while the Sun Spirit explains.
"As this bowl comes around, take a handful and hold it tightly in your hands.  Close your eyes and push your darkness into it.  Push your pain, your fears, your burdens, and hold-backs into it.   When you are ready, approach the fire and throw it in.  Return to the circle."

When all are done, the Sun Spirit holds up the Sun Wheel.
"This is our Sun Wheel, a handmade offering for the Divine.  It was created by man of the folks here today and sat on our community altar all day yesterday to be changed with good thoughts and positive energy.  Some of you added to this blessing when you arrived today.  It is our offering so that Lugh may bless our lives."

All begin to drum, clap, and make noise to mimic a heartbeat.  The Sun Spirit holds the Sun Wheel up high and walks it around the circle deosil.  After the third circle, the Sun Spirit holds it over the fire.  Drums frenzy as it is placed in the fire.


COMMUNION

WE lifts the tray of Ale.  Priestess draws a pentacle over it.  
"Lady of abundance, bless these drinks that we may never thirst."

NE lifts the tray of cakes.  Priestess draws a pentacle over it.
"Lord of the harvest, bless this food that we may never hunger."


CLOSING

Priestess and Sun Spirit stand before the Goddess and God altars.  Priestess announces,
"Lord and Lady, we thank you for witnessing our joy this day.  Stay if you will, go if you must."
Goddess and God candles are extinguished.

"Elementals, we thank you for your blessings today.  Stay if you will, go if you must."

Priestess sweeps the besom widdershins around the circle to open.  She then rings the singing bowl a final time, allowing the vibration to dissolve the circle.

"Let the circle be open and let peace and love be carried in your hearts as you leave here.  Aho, Amen, and Blessed Be!"

***


Monday, August 11

Gratitude and the Supermoon

Last night, my family attended a full moon circle for the supermoon.  There were Doctor Who debates, glasses of dark rum, children tickling each other, plates full of cooked cabbage and potato pierogies, and of course... drums!  We honored the importance of community and gave gratitude for each others company. 







Today, I continue to carry that gratitude in my heart as I realize just how lucky I am to be living an earth-centered Pagan life.  I planted a second crop of potatoes today while my daughter napped in the cool autumn-like air.  It started to sprinkle and I retreated inside to find my son playing a hand drum.  The sound of that mixed with the rain and a memory of Papa J kissing me in circle last night made my heart swell.  "I'm so glad I married a witch," he'd whispered to me.

I love my life and love where I'm heading with my little family and our diverse community. 

Tuesday, August 5

The Squirrel Mystery

Somewhere out there is a long-lost recording of Pagan children's songs that were written by a person named 'Squirrel'. The vocals on this cassette are credited to Mariah & David Redmond. The album is called "Mother Earth, We Sing to You" and is a treasure!

Unfortunately, I cannot find any information about it online, but have put my feelers out in an attempt to either find the original artist or track down digital copies.  ** In February of 2013 I was given a name to contact on Facebook, but all attempts at communication have gone unanswered. In August of 2014, I attempted to contact the copyright holder, Laura, via her remarried name. **


I came by it through my dear Doodlebug. One summer solstice, at the Pagan Spirit Gathering [when it was held in southern Ohio], my son participated in a children's magickal gift exchange. He received this cassette from a family whose child had grown out of it. It didn't leave our van's tape deck for 3 months.

The tracks include: "A Pagan Child Am I", "A Child's Charge of the Goddess", "Casting a Solstice Circle" and seventeen more wonderful songs. If you ever come across it at a magickal swap or a flea market or antique store, snatch it up as it is absolutely unheard of to most of the world.

Here is a photo of the cassette case's insert:




Monday, August 4

Making John Barleycorn with Kids

Almost every website and book out there will tell you to bake bread on Lammas.  It is "Loaf-mass" after all ;) 

I've been a Pagan for 20+ years and I've never done it.  I've roasted corn.  I've made corn dollies.  I've braided grass and wheat.  I've even made sugar cookie men and decorated them, but I've never made a bread-man. 

If you've been following along on our Facebook page, you'll know that a mobile Bible school has been camped out on our front lawn (we live in an apartment complex) this week.  Doodle Bug has struggled with the things he's overhearing and so we have gone Pagan-kid crazy in our house.  Coloring pages, music cd's, videos, story telling, puppet-making, drumming, smudge making... anything I can think of to keep him reassured of his faith in the Greenman and Goddess. 

So, when he came running into the room pointing to the picture of a man-shaped loaf of bread in a book, I had to comply.  I found a loaf of frozen bread dough in the back of the freezer and set it out to thaw.  The rest is completely made up off the top of my head!

I suppose it would be more inspiring to make the bread from scratch, but I was working within time restraints.  I think that just about any yeast bread would work for this.  I prefer vegan recipes, but use what you like.  

1.  Allow your bread to rise once.  Keeping it covered and moist is essential.

THAWED WHITE BREAD DOUGH.


2.  We sliced the bottom third of the loaf in half. 

BOTTOM THIRD WAS SPLIT TO FORM LEGS


HE TOOK THE CREATION OF JOHN BARLEYCORN VERY SERIOUSLY. 

3.  We used clean hands to lightly twist the legs and rolled the very tip outward, hoping to create the suggestion of feet.  (No picture.)

4.  We made a diagonal cut on each side of the 'middle' third of the bread.  This was our assumed torso.

SLIGHT DIAGONAL TORSO CUTS TO MAKE ARMS.

5.  We lightly twisted the arms in the same way we did the legs.  A little roll and tuck at the end helped to suggest hands (we hoped!).  I didn't want to cut fingers for fear of them burning.
 
WE TWISTED THE ARMS OUT TO MAKE SURE THEY DIDN'T MELT INTO THE BELLY.
6.  Next, we made very small cuts to provide shoulders and shape the head.

CREATING THE SHOULDER-NECK-HEAD PORTION.
7.  We used olives to give him a little character and brushed him down with a little egg-wash (egg whites mixed with water). 

SMILING OLIVE EYES.

8.  Our bread man rose a second time.  I forget how long this took.  Perhaps an hour?

BABY E JUST HAD TO SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS WAS ABOUT.
9.  We baked him (our bread went for 25 min at 350*) after he puffed up again.  It was soooo worth it to have this during our Lammas celebrations.  We want to do it every year.  





Creating Traditions with the Family

It has been my goal over the past 2 years to take the eight (generally accepted) Pagan sabbats with absolute seriousness.  I have been diligently building traditions and customs for my family that will hopefully be passed down to grands and greats.

If you are doing this too, then you know that each sabbat is only 6 weeks apart.  When you mash up 8 sabbats, 13 full moons, 13 new moons (if you celebrate), legal holidays, birthdays, secular holidays, school concerts, sports meets, and the eventual family obligation (wedding/graduation/funeral)...  that's a whole lot of SPECIAL days to cram down a family's throat.  Seriously.  How is one supposed to hold down a full time job, tend the garden, tend the children, AND come up with these traditions???


I've found that the answer is: "Very slowly."

We are lucky to have a semi-fertile Pagan community.  What I mean by that is that if I am too burned out to throw something together, we don't have to scrap Samhain or Ostara all together.  There is usually another group, circle, or Unitarian church we can celebrate with without me pulling my hair out.  Because I have this safety net, I have had the luxury of working out the details and ideas for our family's sabbat traditions slowly.

To start, I pick a holiday that is not a strength for us.  I read through my library of books, search Pinterest, troll blogs, and keep notes for a few months.  And believe me, it DOES take that long.



A friend and I were sitting out chatting around the fire at Litha (our Midsummer Huddle) and I lamented that I'd had to rush the writing of the Litha ritual because I'd had to start working on the designing of our Lammas celebration at the start of June.  She agreed that in order to get everything done for a large group or family, you certainly have to start planning months before a sabbat.

This is especially true for me.  I am not a half-asser.  I believe in eating seasonal foods, creating cloaks, learning chants, harvesting specific woods for the fire, hunting out just the right ritual libation, finding a "perfect triad" craft for the children (inspirational, entertaining, cheap).  I sew and cook and haul and sing and pour my heart into my family's holiday celebrations so that they may come to be touched as deeply by the God and Goddess as I have.  This is the legacy I am leaving for my great-great grandchildren.  

I have had rock-solid plans in place for only Ostara, Litha, Mabon, and Yule.  Every other holiday or moon has left me with weak plans or sent us dashing to the nearest circle.  I only just solidified our Lammas traditions this past month. 


We had a very fun Lammas and have all agreed that we liked it just the way it was.  Doodle Bug even asked if we could invite friends to join us next year.  I said "yes".  I feel comfortable with that, now.  If he were asking about Samhain or the full moon, I would have to say "no".  We don't have a fix on those holidays just yet.  

Of course, I understand that our plans may not stay exactly the way we've written them in our family book.  They're traditions.  They're meant to stretch and bend and grow with our family.  But the basic ideas, the central focus of the holiday, has been clarified for us and our family's path.

In our family grimoire, Lammas is celebrated with the following:

  • a ritual enactment of the cutting down of John Barleycorn
  • baking of a man-shaped loaf of bread (Mr. Barleycorn)
  • masks, crowns, face-paint, and other theatrical fare
  • large balefire heaped high with the first of the harvest debris (shrubbery cuttings, etc.)
  • feast prepared from our garden and items from farmer's market
  • bourbon shots (for the adults!)
  • the playing of Tailteann-style games
  • blessing the garden with smudge and rainstick
  • Lugh, solar disks, flames, and various sun-god imagery
  • Ocean Mother, shells, fish, and various sea-goddess imagery
  • corn, grain, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, beans, cucumbers
  • peaches, lemons, berries, cherries, melons
  • singing of harvest songs and chants

If other activities come along that we feel fit the theme of our family's Lammas, so be it.  If a large Lammas festival sprouts up in the area, we may decide to travel there instead of staying at home.  Perhaps we will find that we like to perform earthworks this day.  Maybe we'll get crafty and weave our harvest debris into a shape and burn it.  It wouldn't be odd for us to have a cold snap or blight that drains the life from our garden... veggie pizza sounds kinda Lammas-y to me :)

Will we always get everything to fit?  No.

Will I always be able to rally the troops to throw balls and draw lots?  No.

But, will we always strive to celebrate Lammas?  Yes.

And that's the point.


If YOU are trying to create family traditions for your family and need some ideas, check out these links for help making the decisions that need to be made:

Seasonal Foods for your area can be found here { EAT THE SEASONS }
My personal Pinterest page divides each sabbat into "Recipes", "Lore", and "Activities"  { MAMA STACEY'S PINTEREST }
Selena Fox, High Priestess of Circle Sanctuary, offers a fast rundown of the basics for each sabbat here: { CELEBRATING THE SEASONS }


Our Rainy Lammas

I really think I need to hire a photographer, at least for sabbat days.  I have put serious thought into giving my open-minded Christian neighbor $20 to take pictures of our family rituals and celebrations because I generally forget to, or am participating in the ritual and find it rude to have electronic devices in circle.

The children and I (poor Papa J had to work) participated in a community Lughnasadh ritual two  weekends ago.  The rite involved a bit of ritual drama wherein a character known as "The Harvester" used a scythe to cut down a character known as the "Corn King".  It was terribly fun to watch them enact the chase and eventual 'death' of the spirit of the fields.  When everyone saw the Lammas masks that we had created, I was tasked with creating a crown for the Corn King to wear next year.  I look forward to the project. 

This past weekend, we engaged in a growing tradition of playing games (in the styling of the historical Tailteann Games).  We aren't equipped for chariot racing or anything quite so heavy duty, but we do have lawn games, board games, charades, and other fun activities that cover a range of talents.  Especially when children are involved, you want to make sure you have a few activities that everyone will excel at so that no one feels left out.

We began our Tailteann Games by honoring the gods at our altar.  We had set it up in a bald-spot in the garden.  Doodle Bug donned his Greenman mask (he's been in love with that thing since Midsummer) and smudged all of the participants.



Some adults did not quite feel like competing, but we made them 'honorable judges' and smudged them too.  ;)  They honored the harvest by soaking up some sun and drinking beer.  To each their own.  Haha.


We also smudged the garden and took extra care to point out budding pumpkins and ripening tomatoes to each other.  We admired and showed gratitude to our garden plot.



And then the games began!  Of course, I forgot to take pictures.  We had a stomp rocket, ping-pong, badminton, a frisbee, and  other outdoor games.  When the rain hit, we ducked for cover in the gazebo and converted to games like pictionary and tic-tac-toe.  (When our paper got wet, we played pictionary by drawing on each other's arms with washable markers.  This was highly entertaining.)




We made salt dough 'sun medallions' to hand out to the winners.  We had planned to hold a corny awards ceremony, complete with the Olympic theme playing in the background, but the weather had other ideas.  We were rained out pretty good only two hours or so into our festivities.


We did manage to get some swimming and relaxing in before the thunderstorms hit, though.






Our feast was very basic.  Even though we are vegetarian, not all of our guests are and so we usually cook up some animal meat... except for this time.  I was so impressed with the bounty of the farmer's markets and our own garden that we dined on chickpea salad, braided bread rolls, smoked cheese with fruit, cornbread with raspberry jam, fresh veggies witch dijon dip, and blueberry lemonade.

Of course, we also sacrificed our John Barleycorn.  Doodle Bug made the first cut, slicing off his leg.  He ran out to where everyone was sitting, holding the bread-leg aloft to show off the first cut.  He's really getting into the sabbats and it makes my heart swell :)



We had thunderstorms all night and most of the day on Sunday.  Tonight should be the first dry night and we hope to light our balefire then.  Several of our pet mice have recently passed and they will be sent to the spirit world funeral-pyre style, as well.


 We hope you had a fun Lammas, just like we did!  Love and Light, from the Mama Stacey clan.  Smooches!