Midsummer Night’s Eve Magic and Summer Solstice Blessings

December 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm (Magic, Wheel of the Year) (, , , )

Tomorrow, December 22, at 4.30pm Australian eastern summer time is the summer solstice, the moment that the sun halts its journey southward and stands still, before turning back and heading towards the north. Of course it’s not really the sun doing the moving, it’s us and our position relative to the sun, but that’s how it appears to us because of our belief that everything revolves around us 🙂

And tonight is Midsummer Night’s Eve, the night of the fae, of magic and enchantment, of late sunsets (if we could see the sun, here in cloudy Sydney) and immense potential and promise…Of course in the northern hemisphere it is Yule, the winter solstice, a time of new beginnings and new light…
Wishing you love and happiness on this enchanted day, and a wonderful festive season, however you celebrate it!


In the southern hemisphere tomorrow is Litha, the summer solstice. It’s the longest day of the year, and the shortest night, and a time of energy, reawakening, passion and hope. It’s a time to celebrate all you have achieved, to soak up the fruits of your labours and bask in the abundance of your life and the joy you find in your friends and family. That’s why so many pagans still celebrate the traditional idea of Christmas at this time of year, in addition to their Litha rituals. It’s a time to be close to loved ones, to feast and celebrate and honour your own wisdom and how far you have come in the past year, to celebrate power, joy, and the courage to walk boldly into the new year. It’s a bountiful, abundant, fertile time, a time of flowers and ripeness and heat. Breathe in the scent of red, gold and orange blooms, of herbs like chamomile, honeysuckle, lavender, yarrow, thyme and elder, light an oil burner with inspiring, activating, energising oils like orange, lemon, rosemary and jasmine. Breathe in the power of the sunshine, the warmth of the land, the energy of the universe that you can attune yourself to to motivate you to move forward. Litha is also the magical, mystical, enchanted Midsummer Night’s Eve, the famous time of fairies and fun and mischievous sprites who dance through the air, and through your heart, and encourage you to enjoy the beauty of the world, and the magic of your life. (Image thanks to Museum Victora)

In the northern hemisphere however tomorrow is Yule, the winter solstice, the day of magic that celebrated the rebirth of the sun, and which the traditions of Christmas are all based on. Pagans in the northern hemisphere celebrated the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year, which indicated the return of the sun – for centuries before the coming of Christ. For them it was symbolic of the goddess giving birth to the god, of the turning of the wheel of life from the barrenness and death in the fields to the rebirth promised by the lengthening of the days. It was the time of the great feast, when the last of the winter’s stores would be used up, knowing the sun was on its way back to bring new life, and of gift giving and celebration.
On the same day, the ancient Egyptians celebrated the birth of the son of the goddess Isis, the Arabs the birth of the moon, and the Romans the winter festival of Saturnalia, focused on Saturn, the god of the harvest. Feasting, celebration, partying and gift giving were common to all of them.
(For the first three hundred years AD, there was no festivity of the birth of Jesus, and from the biblical description it’s highly unlikely he was born in December. But in 350AD, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25, to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing their feasts would not be taken away from them. At the end of the fourth century the Bishop of Constantinople wrote: “On this day the Birthday of Christ was lately fixed at Rome in order that while the heathen were busy with their profane ceremonies, the Christians might perform their sacred rites undisturbed. They call this the Birthday of the Invincible One (Mithras); but who is so invincible as the Lord?”)

Some of the pagan traditions of modern Christmas
The tree Live evergreen trees were brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder that their crops would soon grow again. Evergreen boughs were carried as totems of good luck and were present at weddings, representing fertility. The druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies around them. Trees were first decorated for Christmas in Germany, with candies, fruit and paper roses.
The Yule log Magic, with its tenent of “As above, so below,” meant pagans believed that to have a blazing fire on earth would encourage the sun to grow stronger. The winter solstice is a fire festival, with bonfires being lit to help the sun grow stronger. The Yule log also served a more practical purpose of warming the home during a cold night in which many people stayed awake for longer than usual. The word Yule means wheel, the wheel being a pagan symbol for the sun. Armenians make a wish on the Yule log when it’s ignited and sometimes make divinations by the cinder patterns left over.
Mistletoe This is an old pagan symbol of regeneration and eternal life, and is associated with healing. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant by the druids, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. The Romans valued it as a symbol of peace, which led to its use as one of the common symbols of Christmas. In Scandinavia, it is associated with Frigga, their goddess of love.
Holly Pagans placed holly leaves around homes in winter to provide shelter for fairies, and holly berries were thought to be a food of the gods. In ancient Rome holly was associated with Saturn, the god of the harvest. Early Christians probably adopted this tradition to avoid persecution. It was later reinterpreted with Christian symbolism – the pointy edges are said to represent the crown of thorns and the red berries Christ’s blood.
Candles For pagans, it was customary to light a candle to encourage the sun god, and the sun, to reappear next year. Candles are also for protection. Later, in Victorian times, candles were placed in windows of homes to let the poor know there was shelter available for them there.
Christmas carols People used to dance and sing to celebrate the shortest day of the year, and this evolved into the singing of Christmas carols. In ancient Rome, their winter holiday Saturnalia was marked by much merrymaking. It is there that the tradition of the Mummers was born, groups of costumed singers and dancers who travelled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. From this, the Christmas tradition of caroling was born.

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A magical book series by Debora Geary

December 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm (Book reviews, Favourite books) (, , , )

A Modern Witch series by Debora Geary

I bought a Kindle when I was teaching myself to convert Faery Magic and Mermaid Magic into eBooks. And I’m so glad I did, because without it I would never have discovered Debora Geary’s wonderful A Modern Witch series. She has created a beautiful, magical community made up of funny, warm, occasionally crotchety but always endearing people who happen to have witchy powers, set in the modern-day real world. There are no grand battles of good vs evil, no violent clashes, suspenseful horror or nasty villains. Instead the reader is submerged into a place of friendship, family and community.

Each witch is unique and fully realised, and the descriptions of their connection to nature and their workings with the element they have an affinity with are beautiful. Each character’s discovery of their power and how it impacts on their life and personality will resonate with everyone who works with magic in some way (and oh how you’ll long to be able to go the extra mile, as these characters do, flying on broomsticks and teleporting with an internet spell).

The magic in this series is based on what real-life witches do every day – healing and spellwork, rituals for the sabbats, sharing and learning and personal growth, all beautifully told – with a little bit of fantasy thrown in that you’ll ache with longing for it to be true. I laughed a lot, and was moved to tears a few times too, totally absorbed into these witches’ worlds, their emotions, their personal growth and their magical challenges.

The first book, A Modern Witch, focuses on Lauren, a successful Chicago real estate agent, happily climbing the professional ladder and proud of her practical, sensible nature. When a witch-fetching spell fetches her while she’s online grocery shopping, she’s adamant there’s been a mistake. Witches don’t exist, right? And she doesn’t have time for such things. But as she and her yoga-loving, non-magical best friend discover, life is full of surprises – and their welcome by the west coast witching community turns both their lives upside down, as well as reminding them of the everyday magic of family, friendship and community.

I love that Lauren doesn’t fall for the handsome witch who’s training her, as some other author may have done, and that the story focuses not on her love life but on her journey of self discovery, as she learns about her limits and faces up to the challenge and responsibility of being a frighteningly powerful mind witch. I was completely absorbed by the story, as well as by the mix of traditional witchcraft, as taught by healer Aunt Moira from a small coastal community in Nova Scotia, with the new style of magic and technology that San Francisco matriarch Nell and her siblings, triplet daughters and precocious four-year-old witchling son practise in life and within their online gaming empire. This book was so compelling that I bought the next one the minute I finished it (one of the joys of a Kindle!). Despite the author’s offer to send the next instalment for free if you write a review, I didn’t want to wait even that long to start reading it…

The second book, A Hidden Witch, opens in Nova Scotia, where Aunt Moira’s granddaughter Elorie helps her train young witches in the Old Ways, despite having no magic of her own. It has been hard for Elorie to live at the heart of the witchy community without any powers, but she has made peace (of sorts) with her life as an artist and a trainer. But the modern world and the witches so at home in it are about to turn her life upside down (yes, this transformation of the central character in each book is a theme!), in wonderful, magical ways. The awesome characters from the first book are a big part of the story, and we learn more about their talents, their challenges and their lives, and we meet new characters too, as Elorie goes on her own incredible emotional journey.

In the third book, A Reckless Witch, the San Francisco community happen upon a totally wild, totally untrained and totally reckless orphan, Sierra, who’s quite happy to wreak havoc on the world with the weather witch skills she has but doesn’t understand. They want to help her, to teach her and nurture her, but after years of anguish being passed around foster families, Sierra is full of anger and deeply mistrustful. Like each of the books in this series, this one is woven loosely around a single character’s oft-fraught journey to come to terms with their power, but the stories of every other character in the book are also fascinating.

The fourth book, A Nomadic Witch, is due out around May this year – this one centred on Marcus – and five more are planned, which means these memorable, magical characters will be casting their spell for years and years. There’s also a wonderful spin-off trilogy, Witches on Parole, which has given some more characters their own book as well as introducing great new ones. The first one, Witches on Parole: Unlocked, is out now, with the second, Witches on Parole: Unfettered, out in late January and the third in February (hooray!). At least two more spin-off trilogies are planned too, and with a whole world of fascinating, complex and magical witches to profile, Debora will be weaving wonderful, compelling stories for a long time to come…

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Total lunar eclipse: late night at Sydney Observatory

December 10, 2011 at 6:07 pm (Magic, With thanks) (, , )

Total lunar eclipse: December 10, 2011…

From Sydney Observatory… At 11.45pm the Moon starts to enter the Earth’s shadow and Sydney Observatory’s special late night lunar eclipse viewing evening begins. From 1.06am the Moon will be fully immersed in the shadow for 52 minutes, and then fully clear by 3.18am.

Whilst this lunar eclipse can be viewed safely with the naked eye, Sydney Observatory has astronomers on hand to assist with viewing through binoculars and telescopes, weather permitting. The evening also includes short talks and presentations in the 3D Space Theatre and information about Indigenous interpretations of a lunar eclipse.

It is the last total lunar eclipse until 2014…

With thanks… Saturday December 10… Full moon lunar eclipse…
Today I am grateful for a day off with my beloved, and time to just be. It’s been a crazy few weeks at the magazines…
I’m grateful for time curled up on the couch together reading (the third book in the Witch Fairy series), and watching a couple of Game of Thrones episodes…
I’m grateful to all the people who have been contributing photos for a little project I’m working on, especially the digital ones – I spent a long time scanning today 🙂
And I’m grateful for the beauty and mystery of the eclipse. Such a beautiful sight, which reminded me of the eclipse Ang, Juz and I watched together a while ago, having a night-time picnic in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as we watched the moon rise out of the ocean and climb over the city before it was dramatically eclipsed… It’s no wonder people of old thought it was a sign from the gods – it’s hard to miss, and it is so full of mystery and wonder…

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Blessed Bee – Buy One, Get One Free

December 5, 2011 at 11:39 am (News and updates, Publishing) (, )

Apologies for not updating for a while – life at my other job, at the magazines, has been a bit crazy. In the meantime, here’s a special Blessed Bee offer – buy a copy of Mermaid Magic and get a free copy of Faery Magic, and/or buy a copy of Seven Sacred Sites and get a free copy of A Magical Journey.

Click here for the secret link…

It’s perfect timing for Christmas – buy one for yourself and get a free book for a friend… Or keep them both 🙂 Postage within Australia is included in the price, and a free Mermaid Magic bag will be included too.

(Overseas friends, international postage is between $20 and $30 per book to send from Australia (crazy I know). I can send them to you direct from the US printer, but they won’t have the Mermaid bag or be signed…)


 

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