Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Wheel of the Year — Lughnasadh and Its Lore

Lughnasadh, often called Lammas or Loafmas, falls on August 1st. It marks the first harvest of the season and is a time to give thanks. It is the festival of Lugh, Celtic Sun God, and in honor of this one man would often be chosen as King for the day. In ancient times, this King would be given the best foods and would later lead the villagers to the fields to begin the harvest.

As a part of the Wheel of the Year, Lughnasadh is the time when the God, in His aspect as King, watches as the Goddess continues to grow with his child. He watches this with sorrow, sensing that his death will not be long in coming. And yet, Lughnasadh is the season of transformation, when grain becomes bread, and so he knows that he will only be changing form, not vanishing forever.

Themes and Practices of Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh celebrates the death and rebirth of Lugh. It is a time of sacrifice and thanksgiving, and in ancient times true sacrifice often happened at this festival. Today, Wiccans celebrate by sacrificing those things that are inappropriate in life, such as hatred, fear, or illness. Lughnasadh is also about making sure we have given enough for what we have received. It is often easier to think about what we have and what we can get than it is to think about what we have given. Therefore, many Wiccans make it a point to give back on this day in whatever manner they feel is appropriate for them.

There are many symbols that are associated with Lughnasadh. Some of these include:
  • Transformation
  • Bread
  • Corn dollies
  • Gingerbread men representing the Sacrificial King
  • Sheaves of grain
  • Dark green plants such as ferns
The Feast of Lughnasadh
The central part of your meal should revolve around grains. Breads, pastries, cookies, and pies are all good ideas. Breads in the shape of men that can be sacrificed (eaten or even thrown into the fire) are especially appropriate.
Any game meat can be served at Lughnasadh. Rabbit is traditional, as rabbits would be chased from the fields as the harvest began, but you can use anything you like. Chicken and pork both work well. Vegetables and fruits of the season can be served alongside your meat and bread for a full meal.
There are many options for creating a full Lughnasadh feast, including:
  • Meat pies
  • Cornish-style pasties
  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Gooseberries
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Salads made with dark green vegetables and light olive oil dressing
Beverages for Lughnasadh
When choosing beverages for this Sabbat, keep in mind the colors of the harvest and the various grains, fruits, and vegetables naturally available. Yellow ales and ciders are popular, as are fruit juices and lemonade. If you want to get a little more festive, consider making Harvest Mead. You’ll have to plan for this in advance, since a good Harvest Mead can’t be made in an hour. If you’re hosting games or other physical activities, have sparkling water on hand to quench thirst.
Celebrating Lughnasadh
One of the most traditional ways to celebrate Lughnasadh is to make your own Sacrificial King out of cornhusks, straw, or sheaves of grain. Take your straw (or whatever you happen to be using) and gather it together. Fold the entire thing in half and tie off the top so you have a head. Add another tie about midway down the body for a waist. Divide the straw below the waist into two and tie off for legs. Use another bundle of straw to make arms and tie this to the body. To be really traditional, you should use straw to tie the bundle, but I use thread in a matching color. It’s easier to work with and thin enough that you don’t even see it.
Once you have your Sacrificial King, use him to decorate your ritual space. Later, make a game out of slaying the Sacrificial King. Stand him up or tie him to a tree and fire arrows at him. Whoever gets closest to the head or heart wins. Or assign points to certain areas of the body and give everyone three tries. If you can’t fire an arrow, use darts. Just make sure you’re careful with this. You don’t want one of your guests or family members to be hit with an arrow or dart!
This Sacrificial King can be used again when the bonfire is lit. Throw him into the fire and see your negative emotions or bad habits burning with him. Keep watching him until he is reduced to ash.
Games that honor Lugh are common for a Lughnasadh celebration. Anything that tests a skill can be used as a game. Try archery contests, wrestling, games of chess, poetry readings, or anything else that’s fun and inspires competition. Award prizes for the winners.
You will probably also celebrate Lughnasadh with a ritual or ceremony. However, magick not in keeping with the themes of the Sabbat should be avoided. Try to use the Sabbats as a way to honor the Goddess and the God, not practicing magick for your own ends.
Dressing for Lughnasadh
Get into the spirit of the season by dressing for Lughnasadh. Pick clothing in the traditional colors of yellow and dark green. You might wish to wear ritual robes or something even fancier. Whatever you choose should be comfortable, functional, and possibly even decorated with the symbols of Lughnasadh. You could also choose the colors of the Goddess and the God. The God is often associated with gold, yellow, and orange during this festival while dark green or even red is for the Goddess.
Lughnasadh represents the beginning of the harvest season. It is a time to be thankful for what we have and an acknowledgement that everything we are given must be paid for.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Faery Lineage and Irish Mythology — The Flower Fairy

As society changes, so does its mythology. This rule applies equally to the continuous development of the Faery Lineage. With the arrival of the 18th century, the Jacobean Fairy of the previous century changed and adapted, splitting into the Flower Fairy and the Folk Tale Fairy. Both of these forms have endured into modern times, but it is the Flower Fairy that most people envision when they hear the term ‘fairy.’

The Nature of the Flower Fairy

Above all, the tiny Flower Fairy was said to be gentle and generous. Flower Fairies were the gentle spirits of the earth. They were thought to exist wherever nature flourished. They lived in the hills and the mountains, the lakes and the oceans, and they would flit from flower to flower in every garden.

Flower Fairies were passionate in their pursuits. They admired love and beauty, but abhorred ugliness and greed. They held in contempt those who were tightfisted with their time or wealth.

Those humans who left a bit of food or drink for them at night earned their love. They were said to wander the physical realm at night, collecting the last bit of grain from the field, the last fruit off the tree, and the last drop of milk from the pail. They also enjoyed a bit of wine, but Flower Fairies never became intoxicated.

Superstitions Surrounding the Flower Fairy

In 18th century Europe, including Ireland, superstition was still very much a part of daily life. Common knowledge of the era held that the blessings of the Flower Fairy could be brought into a household with a few simple actions.

Those households wishing to draw the Flower Fairies into their homes were advised not to sit up too late, as the fairies might wish to come into their home after dark. They would leave some food or milk for the fairies to dine, and a vessel of clear water for them to bathe. Those who made the effort to provide the fairies with these small comforts were said to be rewarded quite richly in the form of luck and protection.

This charming fairy would endure into the modern era, and continues to be a part of popular mythology. With the rise of Wicca and other Pagan movements in the 20th century, the Flower Fairy was reinvented, slowly becoming the Elemental Fairy.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Faery Lineage and Irish Mythology — The Heroic Faery

In the centuries before the Middle Ages, the Daoine Sidhe began to dwindle and diminish. As this happened, they changed form once again. In time, they became the Heroic Faeries of myth and legend.

The Heroic Faery and the Fenian Heroes

Though they existed during different era, from a mythological standpoint, the Heroic Faeries had much in common with the legendary Fenian Heroes. They both were a form of diminished or fallen gods, descendants of the Tuatha De Danann. Cut lose from what they once were, they became closer to humans than their predecessors ever were. Sometimes, they even became close enough to mate, resulting in human children with faery gifts.

However, there were some key differences between the Fenian Heroes and the Heroic Faery. The Fenian Heroes were true warriors, ready to die for kind and country. The Heroic Faery, on the other hand, could be more accurately describes as aristocrats. They were more likely to spend the day hunting or riding than defending the kingdom, much like the human nobles of the era. They were lovers of the arts, prone to spending the evening indulging in music and dance. The Heroic Faery was a reflection of the nobles of the time, while the Fenian Heroes were the reflection of the warriors of the past.

The Heroic Faery and the Medieval Fairy

By the 11th and 12th centuries, the Heroic Faery had developed to include characters who were fine warriors and champions of the people, as well as patrons of the arts and lovers of cultures. As human culture evolved, so did the Heroic Faery, and the line between warrior and poet began to disappear. It is at this point in time where the Faery Lineage begins to converge.

The Medieval Fairy, a descendant of the Fenian Heroes, had grown to encompass newer legends, such as that of Avalon. However, the characters, while well-versed in the arts of magick, lacked the feel of nobility and aristocracy that the Heroic Faery possessed. The two lines merged, for a time, before they both began to diminish further, changing form once more.

With the passage of time and the changing of the people, the faery changed as well. They slowly dwindled, becoming the Diminutive Fairy.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Beach Spells for Spring and Summer

As the Spring Equinox approaches and the sun begins to warm the earth, our thoughts turn inevitably toward the beach. The beach is a destination, a place to feel the hot sand beneath our fee, the cool water upon our skin, and the powerful sun upon our backs. But it can also be a place to case some simple spells.

The Magick of the Beach

It is difficult to find a more magickal place than a sunny beach. It is one of the few places on earth where all four elements — earth, air, fire, and water — are present at the same time. Earth is the sand beneath your feet. Air is the wind blowing across your cheeks. Fire is the blazing sun. And water is the cool lap of the ocean or lake against your skin.

On land, only a lightning storm combines the four elements in such a natural way. But a lightning storm is harsh and distracting. The beach is gentle and soothing. The perfect place to work some magick.

Simple Spells for the Beach

Simplicity is often the core of powerful magicks. This is especially true of magick at the beach. You can honor the Goddess and the God, in their aspects as water deities, by tossing bread crumbs into the water while your feet are buried in the sand. Do this at sunset or sunrise to invoke Their blessings. It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

Find a flat area of sand that will remain fairly undisturbed and draw a symbol to represent something you desire. This may be a career, love, a new home, or anything else you can think of. Draw your chosen symbol with a stick, your finger, or environmentally-safe paint that dissolves in water. Infuse the symbol with your intent as you do this. Allow the symbol to wear away naturally as your spell manifests.

The spot where the water meets the sand has great magickal potential and is symbolic of being between two worlds. Take a seat in the sand where the water washes over the shore and meditate. As you do so, visualize your desires flowing back and forth between these two worlds, passing through you to get to each other. This will help your desires to manifest in your life.

If you’re looking for a talisman or ritual tool, sit at the shoreline and ask the deities of the water to send you a gift. Close your eyes, and if you wait long enough, you might find your request granted. You’ll have to be patient and dedicated for this to work.

Alternatively, you can actively seek out things such as natural ritual tools and talismans. Search along the beach for shells, stones, fossils, or anything else you might find useful. You might even find a hagstone, a stone with a whole worn through the center by the eroding action of water and sand. These are symbols of the Goddess, and can be worn about the neck as talismans of protection and fertility.

There are many other ways you can use the beach as a place of power. You might choose to immerse yourself in the water as an act of purification. You could bury your feet in the sand to fully center and ground yourself. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.