Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere

Hawthorn Berries that were used in today's Autumnal Equinox Ritual

Here in New Zealand it is currently autumn heading towards winter, I have just celebrated the Autumnal Equinox, with a bunch of local pagans up at The Woolshed, a local pagan place where the Sabbats are generally held.  The next Sabbat will be Samhain, which is at the end April beginning of May.  The southern hemisphere wheel has turned to the dark side of the year where the nights are longer than the days.  In the northern hemisphere they have just celebrated the Vernal Equinox, spring is Spruning and their wheel has turned towards the light half of the year where the days are longer than the nights.  Do you get where I am going here?  In essences our seasons are in reverse of the seasons in the northern hemisphere.  

It seems simple enough to transpose the dates of the Pagan seasonal Calendar, which was cobbled together in England, six months and hey presto you have a southern hemisphere sabbatical calendar.   All good right?   Right?    Well actually no.  There are a few other things to take into account when living in a country where the original seasonal calendar did not originate, and more so when it is in a different hemisphere, Not only are the seasons reversed here in the southern hemisphere, so too is the direction of how we cast our circles, which here in the New Zealand is anti-clockwise.  Our sun rises in the east as it does all over the world, but tracks north in the sky and sets in the west, rather than tracking south as it does in the northern hemispheres. And as a point of interest, if you happen to live near the equator, you will find that the sun tracks both north and south, depending on the time of the year.  It is that squiggly line you sometimes see around globes, the path of the sun.  However here in the southern hemisphere the fact the sun tracks north,  also means the ‘traditional’ correspondences for north and south are also reversed, with northing being fire, and south being earth.  but that is a topic for another post.  this post is about seasons.

These Sabbats that were cobbled together by Gerald Gardner and Ross Nicolas while hanging about sans clothes at Fiveacres Nudist club, in England, where made for English Witches who lived in England.  These where not necessarily put together with other countries in mind, so to speak.  Sure here in New Zealand we have 4 distinct seasons, however we are further away from the South Pole than England is from the North. There is a variation between the ‘traditional’ seasonal correspondents that if often found in Pagan books and what is actually happening on the ground here in New Zealand.  There is also quite an interesting variation of seasonal growth and temperatures from one end of the country to the other, and I presume that this is the same for England, however my point here is that your seasonal wheel should be something more than just transposing the dates by six months, it should be shaped to the seasonal norms for the land you are living. 

Now this is all very good and well but here in New Zealand the British Settlers did not alter their various British traditions such as Christmas, New Years and Easter to the reversed seasons of New Zealand, and recently Halloween has become a thing in New Zealand, but it is celebrated at the end of October rather than the more seasonally appropriate end of May.  So this causes some interesting conundrums for Pagans and Witches here. What this means is that while the rest of New Zealand is gearing up for Easter,  a Spring themed celebration, as it currently is the Kiwi Pagans are celebrating the Autumnal Equinox.  As I mentioned in my first post I have found this to be quite difficult to consolidate in my head and something that I am constantly working on? With? Hm.   I can remember when I was a small child communing with the Christmas Tree, which was a pine tree my uncles had gotten, with its lights and shiny decorations, it was one of the first magical experiences that I can remember.  However I have had difficult over the years consolidating the distinct winterness of Christmas decorations and trimmings, with the fact that here in New Zealand it is the summer solstice.  Not however mid summers, as the Summer Solstice marks the beginning of summer here and not the middle.  Our hottest times of the year or what I would consider mid summers is generally January and February.  The duality of mainstream celebrating new life, and the season turning towards harvest and the end of life makes for some very interesting contemplation.  Maybe this year I will make Easter eggs with skulls on them and try to get past the disgruntled feeling I get when the mainstream is celebrating the wrong thing in the wrong season. 

The other interesting thing about seasonal Sabats here in New Zealand is that while on the one hand we have four distinguishable seasons, they are not quite the same as in Britain, where they originated.   As I mentioned above Britain is closer to the north pole that we are to the south pole.  This means that we have in relation quite a temperate climate.  Here in Wellington it does not often fall below zero degrees, during the winter and we only have snow in very small quantities in the city every bazillion years or so.  Actually we had snow last year.  And during the summer it does not often get above 30 degrees

But then to my mind celebrating and honouring a Pagan seasonal calendar not just about the dates and their ascribed meaning, but also about celebrating seasonally in the land you live, which will often deviate from the prescribed description found in books.  This also means that your seasonal celebrations and times may differ from year to year. 
After spending a year gardening for other people I became a lot more observant about my environment around me.  I paid more attention to plants and trees and have come to rely on them to tell me what the seasons are doing.  

Actually this year I felt the death of summer in quite distinctly in early March as I mentioned in previous post.  Also I have noticed as mentioned above the prescribed seasonal Sabbat dates, for the southern hemisphere  more mark the beginning of any given season rather than the middle, and that the cross quarters Samhane, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Brigid are more fluid than the equinoxes and solstices which mark the passage of the sun

Luckily on 1995 updated and re-released in 2005, Juliet Batten wrote one of New Zealand’s only Pagan books, Celebrating the Southern Seasons, which is an excellent guide on New Zealand seasons and the various customs and suggestions on how to celebrate season here in New Zealand  It is a book that I have found myself going back to again and again as my understanding of the cyclic year deepens, something Juliet wrote I agree with and other things I don’t but I always find things of interest.

So for those of you who are interested here are the Southern Season Sabbat Dates starting from the current one
Autumnal Equinox             March 20-23rd
Samhane                  April 31st – May 1st
Winter Solstice                   June 20-23rd
Brigid                                   August 2nd
Vernal Equinox           September 20-23rd
Beltane                       Oct 31st – Nov 1st 
Summer Solstice         December 20-23rd
Lughnasadh                    February 2nd   

Todays colourful Sunset

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not Writers Block

I was going to post about rituals, and I was going to post about the equinox in the southern hemisphere, which is always chaotic, and also the Autumnal equinox, cause I do like to remind those in the northern hemisphere that it’s not spring time in the world but AUTUMN down here in New Zealand. *coughs* but instead I am going to post about my day.  

Today was a most excellent day, I had cups of tea with a fellow Witch, and we had one of those awesome rambly conversations that covered a myriad of topics, lasted several hours and left me feeling very full. One of the topics that we discussed was in essences, the amount of interesting somewhat academic knowledge that I have in my head and why I am not writing about it.  It is this part of the conversation that made my ears perk up in that way it does when you know that you should be listen to this. When you just know that it is something important here.  

Actually that very topic was a part of todays’ rambly conversation, that picking up on what was said and topics that were covered because they have hidden meaning.  Perhaps it is why I have picked up on not just the writing aspect but also several other topics, which need further contemplation.    

Often when you get the chance to spend time with fellow Witches and take part in a rambly conversation over several hours, there is something or several something’s, in that conversation that needs to be  paid attention to and sometimes it can take several days or weeks for what it is to come out.  Other times like today it can take the walk home and a conversation with your inner voices to figure it out that there is something more here, and it now needs your attention.  

You see a little while ago I was asked by two wonderful Canadian stoics, if I would write/finish my thesis which is on Modern Pagan Books from 1954 to the present day, and by Pagan I mean mostly Wiccan. A little while ago I was put in touch with a person who is editing a book about Southern hemisphere Paganism and I offered to write a chapter on New Zealand Pagan History. I offered but have not finished said chapter.  I have started writing and have several pages of notes and a whole bunch of research but have not yet finished it.  Today I was asked again why I was not writing about New Zealand Pagan history as it was important information that is currently locked away in my head and really should be shared.   

Well why have I not done this, three times, a charm some would say, and I have been asked three times to write something on topics that I am very familiar with and topics that I have researched into for years.  I ran away from university because I was unable to write, or, believed I was unable to write and therein lies the issue. That topic that has been prompted so strongly during todays rambly conversation with a fellow Witch.    A part of me still believes that I am unable to write, despite, earning a degree, which was mostly writing, and a blog which I am now updating regularly.  As of today I am beginning to understand more about why this is.  Let me explain. 

You see I am dyslexic, and all through primary and secondary school I was told I was lazy and stupid, and often if you are told something enough times it gets in.
  What I am now coming to realise is, that sort of long term programming gets in really deep, on a subconscious level, because I can also remember loving to write when I was at started school, not for class but for fun.  At high school when I was about 14 or 15 I wrote, what today would be considered fanfic about Robin Hood from the TV series Robin the Hooded Man.  Me and my best friend used to write and then read each other’s stories.  We wrote with red pens and on the Mighty Jotter Pad, the one with the big pink elephant on the cover.. gosh..

The other reason is to do with how I was brought up, you see I am from a blue collar working class family, and things like writing or sitting down to write where not done.  Ok so it’s not like I was yelled at or anything and it certainly was not a malleolus thing but has I have gotten older and seen how other families work, I have come to the realisation that my family were not accustom to sitting still, and if you were sitting still, be that reading a book, or writing on a jumbo jotter pad in red pen then obviously you had nothing to do thus jobs were found that could be done.  These jobs where more physical in nature.  Crafts were fine, knitting, sewing, crocheting, digging, cooking, household chores and the like and to a degree reading, although that was generally reserved for night/evening time.  But writing, that was for homework, not for hobbies, or for time that could be spent better by doing chores, or so it seemed.  Of course viewing this with adult yes things are viewed clearer now.  It was not that my parent did not want me to do well at school, it was more that doing physical things while at home was more important than sitting down and writing, be those physical things knitting and sewing, digging the garden or doing house hold chores.  

At the time it was just how it was, but also at the time it was a distraction from writing as such.  I know this because I just went down stairs and asked my flatmate if I could help with dinner,  but actually I am writing.  And while she said nar she is fine, it comes back to that if you are sitting down writing as I am doing then obviously I have nothing to do thus should find something physical do to, like sewing or cooking, or digging the garden or helping my flatmate cook… Very curious or should that be obvious?  

Obviously there is a block, obviously there is reprogramming that is needed, obviously, very obviously, consciously even, but it has not been until today that I have made that connection, that connection between believing that I am unable to write, the programming that got in, and the excuses that I have been making to myself as to why I can’t write and how that all fits together.    Most often I tell people that I speak not write but actually I can write, and oddly or not so oddly I write like I speak, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s a style thing.  And I have found that if I go read aloud what I have written then I can do a pretty ok job about editing it, and today I am starting to realise this.  Realise that yes I can write and that yes I have something important to say with my writing, it is a part of why I have started this blog and am making an effort to update it weekly, so that I write something every week so that I can fall into a rhythm of writing in a regular way, so that I can realise that I can actually write and that my writing is worthwhile.  

This will be my work for the week, actually probably for the next few months to continue to realise that yes I can actually write, that I write like I speak and that’s ok, good even, makes it easier to read a friend has told me, and that despite whether or not I get this chapter finished on New Zealand Pagan history in time to email to the editor, doesn’t actually mean that I should not write it.  Because actually I can write, and actually I do write and it is not idle time it is writing time.  

 PS: if you would like to suggest edits, or point out where the spelling of any of my posts is squiff then please do so, you can leave a comment or contact me on my email  i am always happy for help in that aspect. !!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Druid Priestess Robe and Tabard

Today i received in my email box pictures of the robe and tabard that i have been making over the last few weeks, which you can see a post about the beginnings of in Robes not Sacks. I have decided to call it the Druid Priestess Robe and Tabard given how wonderful Joanne who is a Druid Priestess, looks in it.  Joanne also became a Grandmother this March Full Moon. 


I am always impressed when I sew a shiny type fabric as an accent to a non-shiny cotton fabric.  It lends a richness to the entire outfit and gives it some sort of edge.. or something.. I noticed this years ago when I was making fabric bunnies with frilly dresses, from cream calico, which is a pretty plane fabric, but if i sewed cream satin ribbon on it, it always looked much fancier.  This time I have used a shot sort of silk, that is the turquoise blue of the dress and the royal blue of the tabard, neat ey? Especially as it was stuff I had laying around in my fabric box.. most excellent!!  *beams*

I was also totally stoked at how this Druid Priestess Robe and Tabard came out.  Both fit well and are not sack like in the least, which to my mind, is as it should be for ritual wear, especially if you are playing with others.  OK so it doesn't really matter if you are playing with others but, I am a little over ritual robes being little more than sacks with arms or some weird sort of medieval fantasy frock, not that I have anything against medieval clothing but there is a time and place. I am more drawn to modern style robes, with influences from fantasy and medieval sure, but also something that could be warn every day, something that is comfortable to wear, something that you can wear down the street without people starring as often happens when wearing medieval garb. Something that would almost blend in.  I have been thinking about for quite some time.  Anyway back to the Priestess Druid Robe and Tabard *points below*

 The Back of the Tabard with the Goddess and Moon,the way the moon is here in NZ would be a New Moon.  This moon thing is something I was in Canada last year, the moon there was upside down!  It was quite weird but it does mean that the traditional triple moon/goddess symbol --> )o(  for the southern hemisphere  would look like --> (o)  just as a side note.  

 Also the fabric I used for the Goddess and this bag is a New Zealand craft print and shows various types of traditional weaving, which is often used in making Kete a traditional woven bag, so it is appropriate that I used it to make a bag yes? 

For the Awen symbol that I sewed onto the tabard,  is appliquéd using a gold print craft fabric that I have used on three other tabards, see pictures below they are the green ones.  the three awens are made from NZ craft print and is a print of the ocean, which suited our Druid Priestess well as she loves blue and I believe the ocean.  The three dots, drops of inspiration are paua shell buttons, a nice touch I believe.  The trick to good appliqué is iron on stiffener, and not the expensive stuff but the cheap stiffer stuff, as it holds the fabric nicely, especially when sewing it on with an ordinary sewing machine 

 Awen Symbol appliqué that i have made

Another Awen Symbol appliqué that i have made

 Here for your viewing pleasure,  is a close up for the back with the Goddess and Moon.  I edged both of these in dark brown cause I thought that black would be a weird combination given the colour of the fabric for the Goddess herself.  it came out rather well. 

All in all, I have to say that i am very proud of how this Druid Priestess Robe and Tabard turned out and I feel very privileged to of being asked to make it for Joanne, who is just as wonderful as the photos show.  

There is a certain magic to sewing like most crafts.  In our family we have always been crafty one way or another, and I could always tell the jumpers that my mother knitted to that of other peoples or commercially knitted jumpers. And now that I think about it the bits that my grandmother knitted as well.  I once had a jumper that was knitted by both my mother and grandmother,  now that was pretty awesome!! I used to tell my friends that it was love, and in away that is true, but there is also a certain kind of magic that goes into knitting and sewing, a certain crafting you could say>  It sets these clothes a part form all the rest.  

I hope to that I have managed to imbue this Druid Priestess Robe and Tabard with the same type of intent and energy that both my Mother and Grandmother did when they were making stuff.  Especially as our Druid Priestess will be spending the next three or four months travelling around Europe, and attending the OBOD summer meeting at Glastonbury, where I am told all the other Druids where White!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

There’s Change in the Air, A Deepening

Currently I am reading several books, Avalon Within, by Jhenah Telyndru which I started a couple weeks back, and In the Shadow of 13 Moons by Kimberly Serman-Cook which I started today. Both of these books are books that I brought a last year but have never read.  This is often the way of Pagan books for me, I purchase them and they sit on my book shelf looking all shiny and new, with that new book smell until until I get an urge to read them.  And it is an urge, like a guiding hand or little voice that says you know those books you brought x months ago, it is now time to read them.  Only this time the little voice also said, and quite firmly I might add, this time you will be doing the work in said book.  O.O gosh!  

Both books have a theme of self development and use a Pagan style frame to do the work.  Both books are concerned with shadow work and working with a cycle of healing that involves a lot of looking at the self.   Perhaps the words 'deepening the understanding' of the self is better phrasing.  Both of these books use the seasons and the moon cycles as important aspects of the framework to use for this self exploration.  Gosh it’s like there is a theme or something,*coughs*  or something.  Self ! I do believe I will be doing some self development of sorts yes?.. *smiles*

Avalon Withins' Author,Jhenah Telyndru is from the Sisterhood of Avalon.  This book talks about a healing cycle of self healing, which from further reading on the Sisterhood of Avalon  site is a stong theme of the Sisterhood tradition.  This books lays out the five points on this cycle, Descent, Confrontation, Emergence, Resolution and Integration, these five points are combined to create a cauldron of transformation.  Much of what I have read so far uses imagery from the Avalonian myth cycle, that I have to admit has great appeal.  I always was a fan of the Mists of Avalon by Marian Z Bradley, that book for me was quite seminal in how I understood a witch and priestess to live her life.  

So far I have done several of the meditations from this book, which have worked out well, an is the descent part of the cycle.  I have meet my Avalonian guide and am now becoming acquainted with the huge apple tree which is the mother tree on the Isle of Avalon.  I have also just down loaded the companion CD for this book which can be found on Jhenah Telyndru site. The CD has the several of the meditations read out, so that you can play along at home.  I figure this will make it easer as it can be quite difficult for me to remember where I was meant to be going and who i was meeting.  I did contemplate recording these meditations myself, but then realised that recordings of me sound weird to me so it would end up being to distracting, yeah, so the CD it is.

Next up for me with this book, Avalon Within,  is to visit the healing/reflective pool and see what that has to show me.  Once I have done that I will be ready for the second station or point on the cycle which is the confrontation.  This is where I confront who I am currently and the shadow of who I am.  It is, in a word, confrontational but then that is the point.    A quote from the book sums it up nicely "Confrontation is the deepest point of the Cycle of Healing, the place where the roots of our disconnection and lack of wholeness are brought to light." pg108  The author also points out that this cycle of healing can be difficult the first time you do it, but is not as bad when you repeat the cycle and that this cycle of healing is an ongoing process.  During your lifetime this cycle should be repeated many times, and I am with the author on this one.  I have spend a large amounts of time on this path looking within and trying to figure out what it all means and who I am.  its a thing. *grins*

With the second book Shadow of 13 Moons I have only just started to read it so am unable to give a fuller account.   I am currently reading pg 15, so it is only just introducing what the author means by Shadow and darkness.  I am however finding the book so far quite interesting and thought provoking, in a similar way to how I am finding reading Avalon WithinThere are not a lot of book reviews on Shadow of 13 Moons that I have managed to find, but given what I have read in the book so far and the one book review I also have read, I suspect that it will be one of those books that takes time for it to become popular, or more popular than it currently is.  So I guess we shall see.  

What all this points to is that it is time for me to do some personal work.  Work on who I am, where I am and what I am, deepening of the self as it were. This work will involve exploring the shadow and looking into the dark corners.  I was going to say looking into the dark corners and bring what is in there out into the light, but  i feel that for the part that would be wrong.  My instincts say that shadow self is as much a part of me, as that which is in the light, its just that it is in the shadow, and perhaps not something that should be in the light, unless it should.  Gosh this is becoming circular. *ponders this*  My guess is, this is what the current reading and workings will all be about for me to some degree.  This will be a period of getting to know more about my shadow, as well as getting to know more about the light aspect, it’s a balancing thing. 

I believe the deepening of the self is something that is always going on especially for magical people, or it should be.  This is something that is in so many ways cyclic, where each turning of the cycle reveals a new layer of the deeper self.  Which is also like an onion with its layers. As you peel back one layer more is revealed, and while you are peeling your onion remember that not all the layers and what they reveal should be discarded.  Accepting your whole self, your darkness, your light and every other shade in between should be, as I see it,  the aim of the game.  

Sometimes these cycles of deepening the self are not consciously active or conscious for that matter and at other times they are.  This time for me I have a feeling that this deepening of the self will be a much more concious thing , more mindful, and will probably involve more actions in the form of ritual and meditation.    This of course  comes with several warnings, don’t make shit up, sometimes it is what it is or perhaps not time to look in that dark corner just yet.  But it is however time to actively seek, to dare I say it get jiggy with, the active ritual side of my faith in relation to the deepening of myself.  

I felt the death of summer this morning, and the birth of Autumn, here in New Zealand and the year slip closer to its dark half. We shall see how this deepening of the self all goes as the dark half of the year is a good time for some self reflection.  It may lead to a more active practice, with formal rituals, daily devotions, and a variety of other practices, which for me in some ways is something new as  I have always been less formal in my practices and devotions.  I don’t know how long this will all take, or where it will lead but it will lead somewhere..