My little family has started out the new year with a big change. We’ve bought a house! It’s not a new house, it’s over fifty years old, has had a bit of updates done already, and will need more over time. We are excited about the change, for we’ve been living in apartments for far too long.
I got all the items on my house wish list: wood floors, fireplace, and a porch. However, I also got a lot of fix-up projects, but I’m excited about those as well. We were a bit disorganized with the move; we started moving stuff before completely packed, and not having gone through and organized/ thrown stuff out enough ahead of time. However, before moving anything, I did make a trip out to the house to clear and claim the space. This is what I did:
Before even going in, I stood at the front of the yard and lit a candle in a glass holder. I announced to the spirits of the land that this property is under new ownership, that I am the matron of the family, and that we seek to live in harmony with the landvettir of this place. I also announced that all baneful spirits must go in peace for we are under the protection of the gods. Then I walked sun-wise around the property with the candle singing the Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm.
At last it came time to go inside. I made sure that bread and salt were the first items to be carried across the threshold. I then repeated a similar announcement to the one I did outside, this time for the house spirits. I did the Hallowing Charm again, walking from room to room all around the house, this time with the candle and a bell. I went another round, censing with juniper and sage. At last I did a third round asperging with water. Thus completed the ritual cleansing and claiming. Further blessing is yet to come, and I hope to do it with friends.
Though our move was chaotic, we are all unpacked now and settling in rather quickly. It already feels like home, which tells me we’ve chosen well.
The eighth night of Yule is sacred to Skaði and Ullr. Skaði is a jötunn goddess associated with winter, skiing, bow hunting, and mountains. Likewise, Ullr is a god of archery, hunting, and winter.
Now, if you’ve ever been to the Ozarks, you will have noticed that we don’t have much of a winter most years, so you may wonder why someone in this part of the world would want to honor these particular gods. Well, we do live in the mountains, which would put us under Skaði’s domain, and in recent years we have had a few fierce ice storms sneak up on us.
And let us not forget the hunting aspect of their powers; if you have any hunters or archers in the family, this may be a good time for them to do a blessing for their hunting equipment and/or archery gear. If you live on of near a mountain, that would be an ideal place to leave offerings and libations.
Quite a number of poems and invocations for Skaði and Ullr on the Odin’s Gift website. Choose your favorites to use in a simple blót or ritual dinner. For the kids, the night can take on a snow theme; have them make paper snowflakes to decorate the home and altar. If you do have enough snow outside, consider making some snow ice-cream. Our meal for the night is Hunter’s Stew, Pan Rolls, Snow Ice-Cream or Snowball Cookies.
Most of us magical folk know what to do if we’ve been feeling spiritually out of sorts or have had negative energies around our home; we do cleansing and purification rituals. Such rituals get rid of negativity, but often something more is needed. A second step after the purification process should be to replenish one’s spiritual energy. The unhappy occurrences that are sometimes a part of daily life (the occasional upset, argument, or near miss in traffic) can have an accumulative effect on one’s soul, and while it’s not as serious as the trauma of soul loss, it is something we need to remedy. It’s not technically healing magic, though any work of that nature needs to be taken care of first, and purifications as well. Replenishing magic is the work of recovering, building up, and strengthening one’s spirit. Many of the things that I will describe below are things that nourish the body as well as the soul, for as we live, both the body and the soul are one.
- Using your usual ritual format, perform a ritual to your patron deities and guardian spirits, giving special offerings and libations, and asking them for guidance and strengthening of spirit.
- Revitalize your ongoing spiritual practice, if you feel it is lacking. Do daily devotionals of your own devising, with grounding and centering as a vital part of it. Include affirmations and chants in your practice, if you find them helpful.
- Take a soothing balancing mineral bath with Epsom salts and milk.
- Weather permitting, spend some time amongst trees. The effects of forest bathing are real and profound. Hug a tree and let it’s energy soak in and make you whole. Get lots of fresh air and open up windows to air out your house, if possible.
- Drink some revitalizing peppermint tea or mint water.
- Eat some nourishing foods; whole fruits and vegetables (with runes of power carved in), and soups made with bone broth and magic.
- Use a spiritually reviving woodsy essential oil like cedar, sandalwood, or rosewood, in a homemade room spray and/or personal fragrance spray (2 parts distilled water, 1 part alcohol, enough essential oil to scent).
- Wear deep red burgundy colors, and rich maroon. Colors that resemble lifeblood attract growth and vigor. Get a shawl or scarf to use for this purpose, and throws for your furniture. It’s even better if you can weave, crochet, or knit it yourself, as you can utilize knot magic in it’s making.
- Carry strengthening stones or resins (tiger’s eye, quartz, amber, or jasper) as charms in your pocket, a sachet, or as jewelry.
- During this period of rejuvenation, seek out some wholesome “feel good” entertainment; books, music, or movies/video clips that uplift you.
My spiritual life has many layers. I have a small group and a larger spiritual community; each espouses a different belief system- one is simple and one is complex, and neither is a perfect fit for my spirituality, but each fulfills a need. So I guess you could say my spirituality tends to get complicated. My smaller group is a local chapter a religious organization that espouses long rituals, and I tend to get burned out on being the organizer (and the main ritual maker/leader, by default) for it. Because of this, I often find myself striving for more simplicity in my personal practices. For the love of simplicity, I offer this, my own ritual format. It is a simple blót. It has helped me find simplicity and peace in my solitary spiritual life. Perhaps it will be of benefit to many of you, as well.
There’s not many steps. Few words means easy memorization, freeing me up to concentrate on other aspects of my spirituality or seasonal celebration; the magic and reverence of folkways, food preparation, music, etc. It can be used for a solitary or group/family ritual without a change to wording– I still say “us” and “we” if doing ritual alone, because I mean to represent my entire household. Also, the rite is written for High Day celebrations and for daily (or weekly, or as-needed) devotions alike.
For this style of ritual, all that’s needed is a flame (candle/lamp/or fireplace), a blótbolli (offering bowl for libations), a tine (evergreen sprig) for the asperging blessing, and a beverage (this is usually mead for most Heathens, but I like to use hard cider) with a drinking horn or cup (I just use a single serving bottle of cider, if doing ritual alone- it’s easier to pour libations from a bottle). My altar is sometimes a shelf in the dining room, or the dining room table itself, or even the kitchen counter (-if I had a fireplace, I’d use the mantle). If you want to try this style of ritual, use any surface or space that represents for you your hearth and home.
- Warding: Anglo-Saxon Hallowing Charm (*Note: you need not ward your home every time you do ritual. You may wish to do it periodically; monthly, yearly, or as needed.)
- Fire Lighting: “In honor of the Holy Ones, I light the sacred flame.”
- The Call: “Hail the Gods. Hail the Goddesses.Hail the Ancestors and Holy Wights. (Or call on specific deities/spirits.) Come to us, your kindred. Be welcome at our hearth and home. Open our eyes that we may see you. Open our hearts to hear your wisdom. Bring to us your blessing bright.”
- Loading & Hallowing: pass drink over the fire and say,“May the Gods hallow and bless.” or “Thunor hallow.” Pour some into the blótbolli.
- Asperging Blessing: Dip a tine into the blótbolli and sprinkle hallowed drink on altar and on yourself and any participants. This may be wordless, or you may say something like: “May the blessings of the Holy Ones be upon us.” (If worshiping alone, you could skip this step and go straight to toasts and libations, if you want.)
- Toasts & Libations: Make personal hails and prayers to specific deities/wights asking for blessings of the season or occasion. (After this step, you can go straight to “Offering & Closing” or proceed with the day’s festivities as follows.)
- Seasonal Customs: if blót is for a holiday, commemorate the occasion with blessings, symbolism, and a special meal. (You may want to have another offering bowl for food offerings.)
- Offering & Closing: At the end of your festivities, give thanks in your own words and pour contents of the blótbolli onto the ground at the base of a tree or onto a hörgr outside. Say: “From the Gods to the earth, to us. From us, to the earth, to the Gods. The cycle continues. The rite is ended.”
The sixth night of Yule is sacred to Eir and healing. Our craft for the day is healing bath crystals. Make this very useful craft to stock you family’s flu kit or to give as gifts. Lavender soothes skin irritations, headaches, and promotes restful sleep. Eucalyptus is especially good for clearing sinuses and soothing achy muscles.
Eir’s Healing Bath Crystals
1 cup epsom salt
1 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons glycerin
up to 1/2 teaspoon eucalyptus essential oil
up to 1/2 teaspoon lavender essential oil
3 drops green food coloring (optional)
Mix epsom salt and baking soda in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together glycerin, essential oils, and food coloring. Stream the liquid ingredients into the salt mixture, mixing as you go along. Mix well, breaking up any clumps that form and incorporating the liquid ingredients well. Transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid and label.
To use bath crystals, add a tablespoon or two to running bath water. (Make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients before using.) These bath crystals can also be used in a foot bath; just add a pinch to a pan full of warm water and soak your feet. Depending on how potent you make it, you could also use it as a quick nasal decongestant inhaler; just open the lid and inhale the vapors.
We celebrated Loaffest a little bit early at our house. We had a week-long trip coming up and I wanted to celebrate before we left. I figured I’d have time in a day or so for a quick solitary ADF ritual (for my DP), but I wanted to first try out my “no-ritual” plan to celebrate with my family. It turned out to be a really memorable High Day, in my book. The day before our celebration, I set up a seasonal altar shelf in the dining area and pulled the dining table out to the center of the room. That night, I asked my youngest daughter to read “Sif’s Golden Hair” from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. With much laughter and funny voices for some of the characters, she did so, with her little brother listening to most of it.
The next day we set out to pick wildflowers for the altar and take nature pictures. Later, we commenced to concocting our Loaffest feast: cheesy meat pie, salad, honeydew melon balls & blueberries, bread rolls in all different shapes (harvest knots, various spirals and swirls) and toppings (poppy seed, sesame seed, cinnamon & sugar). We had blueberry crisp a la mode for dessert, and blackberry lemonade to wash it all down.
When the food was all laid out on the table, I lit the altar candle and acknowledged the Three Hallows with offerings. We hailed the Kindreds Three, and the patrons of the occasion: Thor and Sif. We placed offerings in an oblong red dish at the end of the dining table closest to the altar. Que the music (via my playlist), and we began our feast! The mood of the day was just right; good food, relaxed atmosphere. We sang along with the music, named our favorites on the playlist, and sat and gazed in awe at our Loaf Fest shrine. The temperature was mild that day so we had all the windows open and the insects were already starting to sing before our meal was through. The boys went outside to play water guns. My daughter and I wrote our prayers and wishes and blessings on little strips of paper and burned them in an old copper pot. She and I ended our “rite” by singing our ending song and blowing out the candle.
Often times, I put way too much emphasis on having a formal (and often public) ritual for any given High Day. I get so preoccupied with it that I forget to play up other customs of the day. Many times I have gotten so worried about speaking at a public ritual, or anxious that things won’t turn out right when I’m in the role of leader, that I would end up not enjoying the holiday at all. I needed to have a “no-ritual” High Day for a change- to just enjoy the turn of the Wheel, and to remind myself and my family that the High Days really are fun and are meant to be enjoyed. Our celebration wasn’t exactly a blót, though it was Norse themed. It had a couple of ADF Druid tidbits, but it wasn’t “core order of ritual” by a long shot. What it was, was just right for celebrating with my family, and it will be a High Day I will remember for a long, long time.
Here are some ideas and resources for celebrating Lughnasadh/Lammas/Freyfaxi with children. These three early to mid- August holidays overlap and share some common themes; the grain (and berry) harvest, fertility of the land, and sporting events and fairs that include horse races.
I disagree with the notion that this was a time of honoring the waning sun. I think that idea comes from the Victorian-era notion that Lúgh is a sun god. The Celtic god Lúgh is most likely a lightning god; his name means “flashing light” and his epithet lonnbeimnech means “fierce striker”. In County Mayo thunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lúgh and Balor. Balor’s evil eye represents the scorching late-summer sun. Lúgh’s defeat of Balor represents August storms defeating the crop-threatening summer heat and drought. Lightning strikes help fertilize the soil with nitrogen, and of course, the rain that comes along with the thunder and lightning is essential for a good harvest.
Many of the (otherwise somewhat useful) books and stories suggested below have a few lines or words in them describing Lúgh as a sun god. Unfortunately, this is true of many, if not most, children’s mythology books. When I find some that are more accurate, I will happily (joyfully!) update this list. So, as with anything, read to yourself before reading aloud to your kids to correct historical mistakes and inaccuracies.
EXPLANATION & INFORMATION
- “Saving Freyfaxi” by Christy Lenzi, a four-part story starting in the July/August 2010 issue of Cricket magazine. The story is about a Viking girl who is put in charge of a sacred horse, Freyfaxi, dedicated to the god Frey.
GAMES Games are of special significance for this holiday; the death of Lúgh’s foster-mother, Tailtiu, is commemorated by the Lughnasadh Games.
- More familiar games well suited to this holiday are horseshoes/ ring toss, footraces, tug-of-war, and sack races, etc.
- Idea for an indoor game: play the board game “Hi-ho Cherry-O” with real blueberries instead of the plastic cherries.
CRAFTS / ACTIVITIES
- Visit a horse ranch. Horses are associated with both Lúgh, and with the Norse god Freyr.
- Help a grown-up with bread-baking; practice kneading and shaping dough into harvest knots and other shapes.
- Make deity coloring pages to decorate your altar; use an internet image search to find one you like, save it, and go to a photo editing website like ScrapColoring to convert your image.
- Try wheat weaving. Braided wheat straw decorations are symbols of good luck and prosperity. They are part of the harvest celebrations of many cultures. They are often called “corn dollies”, but this kind of corn dolly is not shaped like a person. (Also, corn dollies are not made with corn husks. In Europe, corn means a grain like wheat, barley, or rye.) For a simple first wheat weaving project, take three wheat stalks of equal length and soak the stems in warm water until they bend easily. Line them up beside each other. Starting at the wheat heads, braid the stalks all the way to the end, loop it around and tie to just above the wheat heads with a red ribbon. Find a book at the library on wheat weaving and work your way up to making more difficult wheat weaving designs.