What are you doing for Summer Solstice?


I often have great ideas about how I will spend Summer Solstice but they rarely come to fruition. Some years it’s because everyone is busy, other years it rains, and last year I had been unwell and hadn’t the energy to do anything much. I rarely hold a ritual as even though I am studying as an Ovate with the OBOD I have never been fond of set ritual and so tend to avoid them. I probably should just do as I do at other times of the year, wait until the day, spend time connecting with my guides, the energy around the time of year and the spirits of the space I am spending it in and take it from there. Summer Solstice for me though always feels different for some reason.

This year at Bealtain I spent time in my stone circle, tidying, removing anything that had found its way there over the winter, knowing as I did that I was thinking that I would like to spend Summer Solstice amongst the stones. Then a few weeks ago I took delivery of a load of wood chip and so this was moved to refill the wood chip that had mulched down over the last twelve months. As I was refilling the circle I knew that I was preparing it for Summer Solstice and that the day would find me there.

Lunch with a friend I often work with, found that she too was free on 21st June. We had both been talking about the need to be still, to reconnect, to drum and to hold a fire ceremony and so plans were set.

Tomorrow we will meet, we will sit amongst the stones, tune in and connect with our guides and the spirits of the place, we will drum, we will probably make a Despacho to offer to the spirits, and we will have a fire ceremony. The weather this year is on our side with the forecast of a dry sunny day so we will be able to fully connect with the sun at midday. Fingers crossed that all of this will actually come to pass.

This all got me wondering what other people were doing for Summer Solstice so how are you spending it?

If you are looking for some ideas of what to do then this link will take you to some Ancient Celtic Traditions which might provide some inspiration.

Whatever you do, even if it is nothing, I wish you all Solstice Blessings.


Sowing Seeds

With Imbolc almost upon us, although many rituals are about purification for me it is the perfect time to think about sowing seeds, the seeds that will then have chance to germinate as we move through the spring and this gives everything a head start.  

I am of course not talking about actual seeds in the garden, as the earth is too cold for us to do that still, at least it is where I live, but the seeds of ideas, plans, intentions for the things that we would like to bring in during the coming year.

If, like me, you have been using the past weeks to reflect and let go of whatever is no longer needed, then space has been cleared for the new to come in, if not then there is still time to do this, no one says this can only be done once a year or only during the winter. The more space there is in our lives the more we can co-create, without space it is a bit like piling more and more in the wardrobe without moving anything out, something I am  unfortunalty very guilty of. Fortunately in the rest of my life I am much better at having a regular clear out 🙂 

As an OBOD Ovate I have plenty of access to rituals, but as a shamanic and energy healer I much prefer to use my intuition, listen to my guides and allies and work with the energy of both the place I am holding my ritual in and of course the day itself. Consequently I have no idea what type of ritual or ceremony I will have for Imbolc yet.

These are just two ways that could be used to sow seeds at Imbolc though :

1. Planting Actual Seeds

  • Prepare a pot with soil and have a handful of seeds ready. 
  • Take one seed and hold it in your hand, focus on ONE thing you want to bring in and breathe this into the seed
  • Plant the seed in the pot 
  • Repeat with one seed for each idea
  • Water the seeds and place the pot where you will see it regularly 
  • Every time you see the pot, every time you water the seeds think of all the things you are growing 

2. Working with the Elements Fire and Air

  • Take a sheet of paper and cut it into strips
  • On each strip write one idea, plan or intention 
  • Find a safe place to have a small fire, or use a burning bowl, 
  • Taking one piece of paper at a time read what you have written there.
  •  Do this twice, once internally for your heart and once out loud using your voice and the air of your breath to give your intention power.
  • Place this piece of paper into the flame so the element of fire can transform the energy of your idea. 
  • Repeat with each piece of paper
  • When the fire has dies down and the ashes are cool, blow or throw them into the air doe the element Air can breathe life into your ideas. 

Modranicht – Celebrating the feminine

I have just come across Modranicht which in Old English is said to mean ‘Night of the Mothers’. This was an event held on either the eve of Winter Solstice, or Christmas Eve, although as it is thought to have been an Anglo Saxon Pagan event it does seem to me, more likely that it was held on the eve of Solstice rather than Christmas.

What caught my attention about it at first was that the person mentioning it spoke of it their seeing it as a night for celebrating Mother Earth and giving thanks to the Earth Mother which seemed a lovely thing to do at any time of year. How nice to have a day in this festive season to take time out, to reflect on, celebrate and make offerings to the Earth.

Then having looked at it a little more closely today I have also seen that it can be a time for celebrating Brigid as the representation of the triple goddess, one of the great mothers of the Celts. As a healing goddess and goddess of fertility Brigid oversees childbirth. Although Brigid has her own day on 1st February it is clear why some choose to celebrate her at Mondranicht as well.

The translation as ‘Night of the Mothers’ seems to suggest that this would have been a time when the feminine as depicted by motherhood in all its creative forms was celebrated which seems to me a very worthwhile celebration. How lovely if we could bring back a celebration of Mother Earth and the feminine at Modranicht in some way. This year on the eve of Winter Solstice I for one will be doing just that.

Pagan Blog Project – Yule

imageThis is about the third attempt at posting something about Yule. My first one was on the history of Yule and the second on the traditions but neither felt right, so instead I have chosen to share with you a few of the ways I’ve celebrated Yule over the years.

Yule, Winter Solstice or even Alban Arthan is usually celebrated on or around 21st December. I for one always try and do something on 21st, something that will mark the turning of the wheel and the move from the darkest part of the year towards the light. Something that reflects on what I have gained from my time with the darkness and which celebrates the change, the shift towards the light once again.

Some years I have celebrated at home with friends and when this has happened it usually takes the form of a guided meditation to spend time reflecting in the darkness, the lighting of candles to symbolise the return to the light and the sharing of food, there may even be some drumming. Because I work shamanically the exact form of the guided meditation varies each time as it depends so much on the energy of the people present and what we need as a group.

Some years I have celebrated alone, often by choice, sometimes by circumstance. Here it always begins with the opening of sacred space, drumming and rattling, a calling in of the spirits, of the four directions and a connecting up with my guides and allies. This is then followed by a shamanic journey maybe to gain insight on the year that has passed and to let go of that which is finished, to ask for insight for the year to come or to give thanks for the year that has come to its end. There would then be candles lit to represent the coming of the light, some quiet reflection and often a spot of journalling.

Last year, deep in the Gwers of the OBOD Bardic training I held a solitary ceremony following the ritual of the OBOD which gave me a slightly different perspective on celebrating the solstice taking me deep within my own sacred grove.

This year if all goes according to plan I will be celebrating with others in the stone circle at Drombeg in Co. Cork. Although I have worked in the stone circle many times including performing initiations there, this will be my first time in the stone circle for Winter Solstice an experience I am looking forward to. It is planned to be a co-created ceremony which will be another first for me.

I don’t think it matters exactly how Yule, Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan, is celebrated. It is the recognition of the time of year, the connecting with the seasons, the wheel of the year, and all that it represents that is important. It is a time spend time in the darkness where we can to let go of everything that is finished so that we can make space for what is to come.

Bearing this in mind I journeyed to ask my guides for a ceremony that could be easily adapted by people looking for a way to celebrate this year and this is what they gave me:

Whether you plan to celebrate outdoors or indoors, spend some time collecting up some of the bounty that nature has left you, golden leaves, fallen twigs, stones, whatever catches your attention, and use it to create an altar or mandala that can provide a focus for you.

Remember that when you collect gifts from the earth it is always good to leave a gift or offering in return.

Sit quietly in front of your creation and tune in to the energy of nature and the earth at this time.

Call to you any of your own guides and set up the sacred space around you in whatever way feels right.

Within that sacred space be still and go deep within yourself, deep into the darkness and see what insights you are given, just be still and let thoughts or ideas bubble up. Then follow your intuition as to what, if anything, you need to do here.

When you have learnt all you can then light a candle and sit in reflection if that feels right, if not perhaps you are now guided to celebrate in some way; maybe dance, song or music.

When everything is finished or feels complete thank your guides and close your circle to end the ceremony.

Creative Fire vs Wild Fire

imageI have always known that fire can both feed and destroy but until recently had only ever had first hand experience of fire as a force that is creative. The last couple of weeks though I have seen the other side, the wild destructive, all consuming side of fire. It’s been a hard lesson for me but one that I believe will stay with me for a very long time.

The first thing I should explain is that there is a lot of fire in my energy anyway, usually balanced and dampened nicely by earth which is my predominant energy. I work with fire all the time, I love having fire around my room when I am healing, I use fire to release things I no longer feel are serving me, I sit close to fire, dream into the flames, always have fire present when performing ritual or ceremony and it has never failed to fulfilled its role as creative fire for me.

I am at present training as a Bard with the OBOD and have so far spent time working with earth, water and air. The week before last I was ready to begin working with fire, something I was really looking forward to. As part of the training each element is begun with a ritual that helps me to connect with whichever element I am to be working with. The ritual went well and I was very comfortable with it all until at the end as I was meditating on the fire within my fire bowl. The energy of fire ran along the ground, into my body and my energy field and for a few moments I actually became fire.

As I stood up after the ritual my abdomen felt uncomfortable and within hours I had cystitis. My pharmacist when dispensing my medicine blamed it on ……too much heat.

The following week I spent two days passing on the Munay Ki rites to a student. These are given and received as seeds that are then fed with….fire! Probably not the most sensible thing to have been doing but it’s hard to reschedule work sometimes.

Since then fire has continued to blaze inside me bringing some things to light that might otherwise have been hidden but also continuing to create problems for me as I have been completely out of balance.

I have been working hard with the elements of water and earth, especially water, to try and calm down the fire raging through my being. I have avoided any contact with fire, the energy of fire and also direct sun wherever possible. Gradually things are now settling down but I know I’m still not quite there yet.

August 1st was Lughnasadh, chance to hold a ceremony to mark the cross quarter fire festival, the turning of the wheel and to call down the God of Light and Fire. I gave this a miss, finding instead other ways to mark the point in time and recognise its significance for me and my life.

An Ovate in the OBOD that I was ‘chatting’ to online, explained my recent experience as being like the difference in the Norse tales between Loki and Utgard-Loki or creative fire and wild fire; wild fire is so ravenous it will eat everything and even consume itself.

I hope that the fire in me is now almost under control. I am being patient before I continue my work with the element for although I love fire I have discovered first hand, the dangers, the risks involved and even though I need its energy to feed the seeds I am sowing in my life now I really do not wish to be consumed by it.

Pagan Blog Project – Fire

imageFire is my favourite element to work with. It’s the one I feel drawn to most, closest to in many ways and the one I always go to first when I need to release, clear or transform anything.

As a shamanic healer, fire is also very important in my work I am not sure I could manage without it. When I am working I always light candles around my room knowing that they will combine with everything else I do to form a layer of protection around me. I am especially careful to place them in corners and the darker areas of my workspace so the fire surrounds me.

Without fire I would not be able to work with sage as fire is necessary to light the bundles. The smoke from the sage is then used to clear energy and space.

Fire is always part of any ritual or ceremony that I do, be it on my own or with others. This may be as simple as having a candle lit in the centre of the space I am working with or as complex as having a fire pit with fire blazing in the centre of the circle. I am not sure that I have ever held ceremony or carried out ritual without fire being present.

When working with Munay Ki fire is always used to feed the rites and to energise the archetypes in the harmony rite.

When making Despachos, a form of prayer bundle, I often use fire to send the prayers and intentions on to the spirits rather than bury the bundles and work with earth.

When I wish to release something, to let go, in order to make space for something new I use fire to burn the old and transform the energy that has been held there. There is something really empowering about writing down what you need to let go of and then watching it turn to ashes as the fire eats it up. Equally though when I want to bring in something new I use fire to energise whatever it might be, again writing it down and giving it over to the fire but this time using fire as a driving force.

Fire is, in my mind, the most transformative of all the elements and although it needs to be handled with care so that it does not run wild and become destructive it is also remarkably easy and flexible to work with.

I journeyed as I was writing this to ask my helpers for a fire ceremony that could be used in the Spring and this is what I was given to share here:

Collect up twigs, dried leaves and small branches that have fallen over the winter
In a safe place to light a fire use the wood to make a pyramid shape and the leaves as fuel to light the fire but do not light it yet.
Collect up a bundle of twigs and hold them so they form a small brush
Use the brush to clear a circle around your wood pyramid. If you are used to casting a circle as part of your practice, begin in the East and cast your circle as you brush.
As you brush hold the intention to create sacred clear space in which to work.
When you have brushed your circle move to sit facing East, direction of Spring and new beginnings.
Call in the energy of the East, in your own way, asking it to work with Fire in the space you have created.
Light your fire using your breath to help bring it to life.
Once your fire is lit, again working with your breath, speak your intentions into the fire. Ask for whatever you wish to bring in to be energised by fire.
Visualise your intentions coming to life as fire carries them, bringing energy to them as it does so.
When you are finished wait until the fire burns away to ash and is safe to leave. While you are waiting you could continue to visualise your intentions becoming reality.
When the fire is no more and has finished its work thank the element of fire for working with you.
If you have cast a circle then make sure you close it before you leave.

Pagan Blog Project – Cleansing

Extracted from Shaman Corner Blog Post – Moon Books Blog

February was originally named after the Latin februum, which means Purification which is another name for cleansing. Purification or cleansing rituals called Februa were always held on February 15th which in the old lunar calendar was full moon.

The idea of February being a month of purification, a time where we can cleanse ourselves, purify our body, mind and spirit before moving into the new energy and new beginnings that come with Spring seems to fit.

I often use fire ceremony at other times of the year to cleanse and transform, to let go of the old and to make way for the new. I have many different ways of doing this, but as this is a new way of thinking about February for me, I decided to journey to ask my guides for a fire ritual that could be used at this time of year for the purpose of purification. I was given a lovely ritual but to my surprise it was one that used all four elements and not just fire.

As I stepped into my journey I noticed I was dressed in white and wearing a headdress of willow. Within a shamanic journey everything is symbolic so I have interpreted the white dress as representing the holding of the intention to be purified and the willow headdress as needing to be flexible with the ritual. In my journey I made use of a stream, river stones, fallen leaves and soil and as I know I wont always have these to hand, I have been flexible and have adapted the ritual so it may be used more easily.

February Purification Ritual

  • Holding the intention to be purified, shower or bathe until you feel that your physical body has been completely cleansed. Allow the water to away anything that you are able to release.
  • Continue to hold the intention to be purified
  • Take river stones, smooth pebbles from the beach or smooth stones from the garden and build a base for your fire.
  • On top of the stones build a small fire using wood you have gathered if possible.
  • Light the fire.
  • If indoors, a base could be made of small stones or crystals and a candle or night light set on top of them to represent fire.
  • Collect leaves that have fallen from the trees and which have been lying underneath them.
  • Drop handfuls of leaves onto the fire so that they create smoke.
  • Indoors bundles of dried herbs such as sage, sweetgrass, lavender or rosemary, which are good for cleansing could be used to create smoke. These could also be added to the fire outdoors too of course.
  • When there is enough smoke step into it so that it can cleanse the energy body.
  • As air moves the smoke follow its movements, turning, twisting, dancing until the smoke has permeated every part of the energy body.
  • If indoors then hands or a feather can be used to brush the smoke through the whole of the energy body.
  • When the energy body feels completely purified pick up a handful of earth and sprinkle it over the fire to douse the smoke. Make sure the fire is completely out.
  • If indoors earth or sand can be used in the same way.
  • Finish by thanking everything that has been used in the ritual for helping with the purification.

This ritual could be used at any time of the month but perhaps the full moon, which is always a good time for letting go, would add extra energy to the ritual

Spring……or not

Spring …….or not

I’m sitting writing this shortly after Imbolc. The wind has been howling, seas are wild, tides high and villages, towns and cities are under water. This morning our power went off and we were literally left in the dark.

Imbolc in the Celtic tradition is when we see the first signs of spring and in Ireland it is still taught in schools that February 1st is the first day of spring, although the term Imbolc is unlikely to be used. Many is the year though that the weather has had other ideas, although none as bad as this one.

Having lived most of my life in England where 1st March is more likely to be considered the first day of Spring, with it being the start of the three Spring months, March, April, May, the annual disappointment that February brings rain, winds and very occasionally here, snow, has taken some getting used to.

So why then is this belief so out of line with the seasons and the Gregorian calendar?

Imbolc marks what is in the Celtic calendar a cross quarter day, a fire festival and the time that the crone gives up the icy grip she has on nature to make way for the maiden. Traditionally it falls mid way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox although nowadays it usually settles around the 1st or 2nd February.

The pagan goddess associated with Imbolc is Brigid, the Celtic fire goddess but when Christianity reached these shores she was appropriated by the church and her mantle passed to St Brigid, born in Co. Louth, who founded a monastery in Kildare and lived out her days there. Imbolc was then renamed as St Brigid’s Day.

A St Bigid’s Cross has since become a well known symbol of Ireland. It is made from a specific type of rush and the making of it is still taught today. Many homes especially in rural areas would have a St Brigid’s cross hanging in them to protect from fire. When I first came to live in Ireland I was taught how to make one and told that I should make a fresh one each year to hang in the rafters of my house, that way it would be sure never to burn down. I still have a St Brigid’s cross hanging in my home.

So where am I in all of this, brought up with the Gregorian calendar but living with the Celtic?

I’m caught in the middle and like many hedge my bets. I celebrate Imbolc by sowing the seeds of what I wish to grow in the coming year, working with fire and water to assist me. This year standing out in the garden with a gale blowing around me I also called upon the element of air. But I find it very hard to ever think of this as Spring.

For me this is the time when the earth begins to wake up, stirring occurs and yes the crone loosens her icy grip although she often doesn’t entirely loose it. I like to think of the maiden as a seed being sown under the mantle of winter with all the protective covering that winter brings, a bit like the seeds I have just sown. I see her cosy there, protected, warm and safe, given time and nourishment by the earth so that when March comes she really is ready to step forth and become Spring.