Pagan Origins of Spring Equinox

Ostara or Spring Equinox takes place on 20th March and assigns the beginning of Spring time. The Spring Equinox marks the balance of day and night, or in essence this is when the the Earth’s equator passes by the center of the sun making equal amount of light in both hemispheres. From now on the balance is tipped and the days will grow longer, the light will become stronger and the sun brighter until it reaches its peak at Summer Solstice.

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Spring Equinox is most associated with the Christian festival of Easter, but Easter evolved from the Pagan festival of Ostara or the celebration of Spring Equinox.

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Traditions of Ostara 

Eggs, rabbits and chicks. 

The symbols most connected with this time of year are eggs, rabbits and chicks. These are all symbols of fertility, growth, new life and new beginnings.

One of the traditions is to paint eggs. If you’re vegan like me then any kind of egg symbol will do – paper, cardboard, foam… Once you are done display these around your house, at your altar, in your garden or add them to wreaths or garland.

Planting season.

Spring is about new crops and the preparation for planting new crops, flowers and herbs. So get out and tidy your garden up, sweep up, throw out any broken pots, rake your soil, change your compost and get planting those seeds.

Fertility rituals. 

Spring marks the time of new beginnings, the growth of new crops and new life being born in the form of animals and Spring is the perfect time for rituals of fertility and abundance for the upcoming year.

Figure out beforehand what flowers and herbs you want in your garden this year, mark out the best time of year to plant them and prepare well in advance.

One of the most common rituals at this time of year is the blessing of the seeds before you plant them, this is done by placing last year’s seeds or a packet of store bought into a cauldron and performing the ritual.

Meditation, focus and personal goals are best worked on at this time of the year. Set those intents, write down your goals and work out the best way to achieve them.

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Spring cleaning. 

New beginnings; out with the old and in with the new. Clean out what is no longer serving you, this applies to your home too. Don’t use it anymore? Donate it or give it away. If you want to make way for new flowers to grow, you first have to remove the dead ones. Metaphysically speaking, this works the same way for anything, your mind and your home.

Smudge your home and cleanse the air to welcome in new beginnings. Also placing fresh flowers around your home will welcome in the bright, clean air. This is also a great time to place flowers and herbs around your altar.

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Remember there is not right or wrong way to celebrate, just do what you feel is best for you. Most importantly remember every day is a new beginning and a new chance at life and to change what is no longer serving you.

Blessed Be )O(

 

 

 

 

 

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My favourite Pagan Etsy finds

I want to share some of my favourite handmade Pagan items I’ve found available on Etsy. All photos are credited to the respective stores and links are clickable so you can have a browse at all these lovely items too.

I’m going to start with candles. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/EssexWitch has some really nice spell/themed candles for all your witchy needs. These candles are all soy based and are so pretty too.

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This store has some really unique crystal jewellery and Tree of Life themed pendants. I particularly love this Halloween themed one with the skeleton.

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FromTheCauldronUK

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If you’re looking for some decorative Pentagrams this is your shop  www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Angelscrafts1 These are so great, they make great sun catchers, altar Pentagrams or wall decor.

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www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheWitchesCovenJewel What’s not to love about this shop? It  has so many fun ideas for your witch home and some lovely gift ideas too.

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This is a shop for the Hedgewitch. Lots of natural wood bits, tools and runes. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Wildyew

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Corn Dollies and a huge variety of different wheat weavings available in this shop. This witch is my favourite. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheWheatWeaver

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There’s some nice spell boxes and herb kits in this shop. They also sell charms, resins, runes and jewellery. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheCaterpillarQueen

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There are some amazing Green Man plaques in this shop, definitely something for your garden as well as your home. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GardenGuests

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This shop has ritual and spells oils, as well as miniature besoms and various other bits and pieces. www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SacredGroveuk

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There are many finds on Etsy and all with their own individual twist or something for everyone approach. I’ve only referenced a minute variety of what can be found. However, last but not least this is a shop that delves into a whole treasure chest of findings. They  have just about everything you could possibly want.  www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheWitchChandlery

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Blessed Be )O(

 

 

 

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Pagan Origins of Imbolc

Imbolc is a cross-quarterly festival that takes place on 2nd February in the Celtic calendar. It marks the half way point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Also known as Candlemas, it is one of the fire festivals and a celebration of light.

This festival is about encouraging the passing of winter and the enticement of spring to make its first appearance soon.  Slowly the days will be getting lighter little by little and the first sign of the spring bulbs will soon be sprouting. Imbolc is about the Sun God returning and this is where the old Crone transforms back into the Maiden ready for spring time.

This is the time to think about new beginnings, while being a symbol of purification, renewal and fertility. Imbolc is the start of the new agricultural year, it’s the time when the cold, dark, barren winter is being left behind and the earth once again comes to life.

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Traditions of Imbolc

Corn Dollies – Imbolc is about the spirit of the corn once again leaving its winter home found in the corn dolly to return back to the fields, to ensure a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year. Corn Dollies at this time of the year are most associated with Brigid and her cross or Brigid lying in her bride’s bed.

Fires and candles – Candles and fires are a symbol of the sun, often lit to entice the sun to return quicker and to give strength to the Sun God.

As this time of year represents new beginnings, this makes it the perfect time to clear out the old by having a spring clean. It’s time to let go and welcome in the new possibilities for the rest of the year. Clean out the clutter and the things you no longer use, purify the air and let go from the stagnant and bad energy. In the next few weeks place some fresh flowers in the house or even hang herbs if you have any left over from last year. The wheel keeps on turning, release yourself from the energy that is holding you back.

Blessed Be )O(

 

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Pagan Origins of Winter Solstice

The time has fast approached where all the beautiful colours have disappeared and the last remaining leaves of the season have now turned into a squelching mess on the floor. Winter Solstice will soon be here again towards the end of this month.

Yule or Winter Solstice will take place on the 22nd December, this is the day where we have the shortest amount of sun light; which compromises of the longest and darkest night of the year.

For those following a Pagan path and paying close attention to the God and Goddess, this is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the Sun King. In essence the Sun God (Horned God) represents that after the longest night of the year (Yule) the sun begins its ascent into the sky once again, where the days will get longer, brighter and stronger until it reaches its peak at Summer Solstice.

Winter is about bringing as much light and fertility symbols into the home as possible to entice the sun and springtime to return where life can begin to bloom again.

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What are the traditions of Winter Solstice? 

Trees, mistletoe, holly and Ivy. 

Evergreens are a representation of fertility and life, they are the only plant life that grows all year around while still looking green and full of life even in winter when everything is cold, bare and lifeless. Pine trees are used at winter as a symbol of welcoming in light, life, love, fertility and preparing for the oncoming spring time.

To place a pine tree inside the home is also said to honour the many woodland spirits by giving them a home for winter. Fairies are known to grant wishes, so appease them well and you just might be in luck!

Mistletoe, holly and Ivy are all fertility symbols. Mistletoe is especially a symbol of fertility, love and peace. To kiss under the mistletoe is a promise of marriage, it also brings good fortune, goodwill, happiness, health and longevity.

Wreaths made from evergreens represent the wheel of the year.

Witch Balls and Tree decorations. 

A Witch ball is a bauble shaped charm that is traditionally hung in the window or entrance way to your home. The reflective nature of this ball is said to trap inside any evil spirits, ill-wishes from others or negative energy and therefore prevent it from entering into your home. This charm is often filled with various herbs, spices or natural elements to bless the home or give added protection. At Yule time witch balls began to be hung from the tree and therefore developed into baubles.

Winter food like nuts, berries and dried fruit were hung from the tree to signify the want for a bountiful harvest in the upcoming year and to entice the return of spring quicker in order to plant and grow crops.

Bells are also placed on the tree in order to repel negative spirits and energy, while a Pentagram is placed on top.

In some tales it’s said that the woodland spirits that inhabit the tree for winter will eat the food that’s been placed on it and all satisfied spirits will ring the bells in order to show their appreciation.

Yule log and candles. 

All fire during wintertime represents the sun and the impending need for it to return, as the fire is said to give strength to the sun. The Yule log is a specially selected piece of tree that has to be foraged from the land or given as a gift, but in tradition it cannot be bought. The piece of wood is continuously burnt down until only a small remnant remains. That piece is then saved until next year and is used to start the fire that will burn the new log. Any ashes that are taken from the fire can be used in amulets to promote fertility.

A modern day Yule log is now used from a piece of wood that has candles placed inside small holes. Candles promoting light and the sun were traditionally placed on the tree.

Lighting a candle on winter solstice and letting it burn through the twelve days until the new month is said to bring good luck and good fortune. If the candle was blown out, moved or touched by anyone else it’s said to be an omen and to bring bad luck into the household.

Carol singing and mulled wine.

Both these more modern traditions have developed from a festivity called wassailing. The old Pagan custom was to visit all your neighbour’s houses with a bowl of wassail and there together you would sing songs with each other. This is essentially spiced cider and this ritual is a method of caring and sharing, in order to invoke a community spirit. Sharing some wassail is thought to bring good wishes and fortune onto your neighbours and community.

These are just a few of the many Pagan traditions that have now been Christianised. It’s really up to you how you choose to celebrate and what you feel comfortable with. Remember this is a time of celebration, no one should feel forced or pressured into anything. Just have fun!

Blessed Be )O(

 

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A Minimalistic Approach to the Holidays

One thing I love about being an artisan is the stories I get to tell. Sometimes I wake up and can’t believe I get to do what I love everyday. I don’t have a typical 9 – 5 job. I do what I love and I love what I do. My crafts and artistic expression are my life and I put my heart and soul into my crafts.

So what do I mean when I say I have lots of stories to tell? 

Every item I make has its own story. I could you tell about the day I spent in the forest collecting scraps of wood. About the 12 pm late nights still working at my desk because I’m full of inspiration and the day spent drying out oranges over and over again because I burnt the first two batches. Collecting nature’s spent items has given me lots of beautiful sunny afternoons and cold autumn days in the leaves. The hours spent in the garden collecting flowers for drying out and attending my herbs before anyone decides to call them lunch. The times I’ve been showered in saw dust and all the sore fingers I’ve had.

These memories are imprinted on each individual item I make. I want people to feel like they have bought into love and will receive something special just for them. I want people to bring out the items year after year and still look at them with some meaning. No crafter or artist ever wants to feel like their work is something to be disposed of after a brief time, they want it be a treasured memory.

I’ve never been one for clutter or hoarding too many items. My preference has always been minimalism, with my kind of style being rustic and nature orientated. I love being around wooden furniture, with accents of glass and items I have made myself from natural elements. I try to keep plastic down to a minimum as I find it blocks the natural flow of energy around the room.

I don’t see the point in having stuff for the sake of having it, because your friends have it or because some advert on TV tells you to have it. We live in such a disposable, wasteful society. With no real connection to each other or the nature around us. Wanting to buy cheap items often comes at a price; along the way someone is being exploited, either the workforce or the supplier. People buy unnecessary cheap plastic items that break within no time. Then what happens to them? The resources it takes on the planet to formulate the parts in the first place, only to make non-recyclable items which end up in the landfill. We live in such an instant gratification society, where everything is so readily and immediately available, that we have lost touch with the fact that everything comes at a price.

Particularly at this time of the year there is mass hysteria over buying stuff. Between Black Friday and Christmas, people buy like it’s going out of fashion but not only that we get to see the dark side of humanity. If you’ve ever watched the videos of people stomping over and beating each other up over a TV you’ll know what I’m talking about. Do possessions really matter that much? 

This kind of behaviour is killing our planet and our souls. Memories are the most treasure possessions we can have. For those wanting to clean out a little and minimise, remember you don’t have to throw anything away. Always give to charity, homeless shelters or other organisations that distribute items to those that need them.

Artisans are greatly underappreciated and undervalued. I know when it comes to purchasing handcrafted items the price is a deciding factor for many. Firstly, you have to realise how much time, effort, love, frustration and a billion other things  that go into making a uniquely handcrafted item. Handcrafted items might seem expensive but in the long run if you buy one item for £10 that you will keep for the next ten years, seems a whole lot better than buying ten items at £1 which will constantly break in no time. Would you rather buy a one of a kind item that feels like it’s been made especially for you or would you rather buy something hundreds of other people have? 

Secondly, these people are trying to make a living just like you or anyone else. Except when you have your own business it’s a sink or swim situation, you have to dedicate the time, effort and resources to make it work. That sometimes means working until midnight or at weekends and often you have to put your own life on hold. Artisans are doing these out of love and since they make everything by hand, the impact on the planet is minimal and no one is getting exploited. Wouldn’t you rather have something made by love rather than a mould? 

Thirdly, the constant need to be buying new Yule decorations every year is wasteful. You have to ask yourself, do you really need them?  Can you afford them? Is the whole buying into the extravagance through the media, societal and peer pressure making you happy? Is it causing you stress? Are you really living the life you want?  

For me a minimalist lifestyle and handcrafted items go hand in hand. We live in a society where put more value on possessions and become too attached to objects in order to compensate for the detachment we feel to each other and Mother Earth. I feel like a minimalistic life strips back all these things and anything unnecessary that is stifling us from becoming purer forms of ourselves.

Life is about improving ourselves, I’m trying to improve my own minimalistic approach to life and especially around this time of year. I spend a lot of time making items for other people but I’m trying to set aside a little time to keep creating for myself. Something personal, something meaningful, something that I will keep getting out year after year. These are a few rustic Yule decorations I made for myself recently.

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I have similar items to these listed in my shop, which you can find here.

Some ideas for a minimalistic approach to Yule.

It might be getting cold but the best place for inspiration is outdoors, so get your coat on and get out. If you live by a beach, take a walk along it. If you’re lucky enough you might be able to find some craft inspiration; pieces of drift wood, uniquely shaped rocks and even some sea glass. It’s the same if you live near a forest, a park or just any outdoor space where you could find wood, rocks, natural elements, leaves or winter flowers. Whilst you are out there, why not make it a family activity? It’s also fun to learn about the different types of trees or even see if you can spot any wildlife.

If you’re looking for inspiration of what you could make with your finds, why not have a look at my winter craft ideas on Pinterest, which you can find here.

Let loose on your creativity, it’s far more fun and far more valuable for creating memories. If you don’t have time to craft then remember to shop for handmade or local items.

Blessed Be )O(

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Howick Park Haunted House 2016

If you’re a massive horror fan like me and like a good scare around Halloween time, then you’re going to love this haunted house. I became aware of this particular house haunt this year by stumbling upon it on the local news, it’s located in Preston and if you live anywhere in the North-west then perhaps you have come across it too.

This father and daughter team who love Halloween so much that they spend most of the year planning for it, by doing so they take a trip to America every year in order to source out the scariest horror props, spending thousands of pounds to transform their everyday regular suburban house into something that would invoke nightmares.

After hearing what a great transformation this house goes through, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see the house of my dreams. I decided to take a trip out to it during the day in order to have a browse around at the props.

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To my amazement I discovered a life-sized coffin and hearse, which was complete with it’s very own skeleton drivers.

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The front garden was completely transformed into a graveyard and all the gravestones were made by hand by a family member.

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Whilst I was browsing at the cemetery, this black cat came hurtling down the street at me. (I love cats and I am a cat magnet but that’s a whole other story). I don’t know where this little kitty lives but they very much looked right at home in this house.

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They even gave me the tongue.

Anyway, whilst there I discovered they open up their house two nights each year for a walk-through. Oh no, the decorations don’t stop at the front of the house. In fact a building has been constructed all the way down the driveway, which connects to the garage. All the construction, carpentry and electrics are done by family members and friends who donate their time and skills to the cause.

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A projector of dancing skeletons in the window.

I returned on the second evening of the walk-through, even arriving before opening time I couldn’t believe how the queue was all the way down the street. The house looked even better in the dark, all lit up it was spooky.

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The entrance started at the gates and you entered into the extension building, only small enough to let a handful of people in at a time. It was filled with amazing mechanical, sound and light props. The prop in the first room jumped out at you, which is the creepy looking person in the picture above.

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The connecting corridor was filled with mechanical zombies. From there on there was an option to turn left to the really scary bit or to turn right to skip the scary bit.

I went left of course….

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The extension down to the garage was three different scenes; one a zombie nurse with a surgeon and a bloody corpse, a skeleton biker and a Doctor Frankenstein style theme.

They were blood curdling, amazingly scary and all accompanied by family members and friends who had given their time to do some acting (And what great actors some of them were, particularly the doctor above, he was freaking scarily into character)

Heading into the garage was a labyrinth, a pitch black maze with people in costume jumping out at you and banging on walls. It was very small and very dark, I have no idea how they fit so much into a small space. It was like the Tardis in there, bigger on the inside. From there on lead out into the back garden.

The only criticism I have, is that there was no prior warning or notices of strobe lighting or confined spaces (Although the second one might be assumed). Definitely not good for anyone who has claustrophobia or suffers from any medical conditions. Also, after seeing what a scary place it was, I think there should have been an age limit on entrance. If you have an aversion to children like me, the crying kids who turned back because they were scared shitless and had to squeeze past you was definitely of an annoyance. This place is definitely too scary for younger kids.

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Out of the garage and into the back garden was full of zombies. I literally thought I had walked onto the set of the Walking Dead.

Travelling through the back door was a scary Alice in Wonderland themed area leading into the living room. This is the less scary bit you are diverted too, leading onto the exit which is the front door.

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When walking through this house, it’s hard to believe someone has opened up their home to complete strangers. While it no longer looks like a home, the settings and decorations have been done to the highest standard. I definitely had a few screams walking through here and came out laughing my head off.

I would take coming here over any commercial event, the best kind of entertainment is one done through passion and enjoyment. This is one community spirited family that offers their time, money, skills, labour and passion for the enjoyment of others.

They do have a charity bucket at their home but donations are voluntary, not mandatory, so even if you don’t donate you can still enter the house. I do believe it’s the same charity every year – Cancer Research. However if you’re like me and don’t wish to participate in funds going towards animal research, I would like to make another place known.

www.drhadwentrust.org  It’s a medical research facility that uses non-animal testing methods.

Even if there was an entrance fee to this home, I would have been like here take my money. It was exceptionally well worth it and I shall be returning next year.

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Blessed Be )O(

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My Samhain 2016

I couldn’t let my favourite holiday pass by without sharing a few snap shots of it.

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My roots for celebrating Samhain are very much from Paganism. Samhain, the cusp of the Celtic New Year and my birthday on the 2nd means a part of the celebrations for me includes a lot of reflection and implementing changes into my life.

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Leaving out a lantern on the gate to guide wondering spirits home.

However, as much as I celebrate the meaningful and spiritual aspects of Samhain, I love to decorate and have fun. As with any holiday, I do believe the most important part is to celebrate only if you want to or if it means something to you and how you choose to celebrate it should be in a way you’re comfortable with.

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Halloween has always been a part of my yearly routine since I can remember. When I was growing up it was always the porch that got decorated. In the last five years or so, we have been turning the garden into some kind of mini-haunt.

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Every year we always try to change the layout about slightly, while we always leave the gazebo up from summer to turn it into a spooky hideout. As much as I love looking at all things creepy, there’s some kind of community spirit about putting on a display for the local kids. This is something that doesn’t exist anymore, the point of events should be to bring people together and I think we manage that.

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Managed to go see a professional pumpkin carver this year.

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How ever you chose to celebrate this year, I hope you stayed safe and had fun!

Blessed Be )O(

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