Lammas, or Lughnasadh, falls in the middle of the zodiac sign Leo, the sign of fixed fire. The sun is still high in the sky and we see this season as the peak of summer, even though the days have been getting shorter since the Summer Solstice. It is high summer but like all of the cross quarter festivals, Lammas and Leo season bring a change in energy, so that we begin to become aware of the first stirrings of autumn. The fixed fire energy calls us to focus, to stop scattering our energy too widely and pay whole hearted (Leo rules the heart) attention to what we are most passionate about. We begin to gather in our harvests, both inner and outer, and Lammas is a time to celebrate the abundance and resources we have created and nurtured in the active half of the year.
Leo is our inner flame, our strength and vitality and the way we use them. Are we fuelling our inner flame or is it threatening to flicker out? Like all fire, our inner flame needs to be fed with creative nourishment and soul fuel, whatever form that might take for us. Leo is ruled by the Sun and shows us what we need to express to feel alive, to be our fullest, most fulfilled self. It’s time to let our inner sun shine, to get creative, to do what we enjoy and what brings us pleasure. Lammas is a time to make the most of the warmth and sunshine whilst it lasts. We celebrate the achievements of the solar cycle, the ways that the seeds which sparked into being at Winter Solstice have been nurtured and brought into manifestation.
Leo is associated with creativity and with play, reminding us of the importance of doing what feels good, of exploring our abilities and following our passions. This is a time to do what feels good rather than what we feel we “should” be doing, to celebrate what we’ve actually achieved, whether or not it was what we had planned. We can also acknowledge and celebrate the challenges we have faced, the mistakes or missteps we have become aware of and learned from, all of which help us to grow and to reach for our most authentic self, which is the key quest of Leo season.
Traditionally, fairs and games were held at Lammas, allowing folk to show off their skills in public and be recognised for their achievements. Folk with strong Leo energy often seek validation from others and whilst this is rewarding, learning to find this validation within is even more empowering. Leo is associated with pride and Lammas is a time to show off, to take pride in our achievements and the skills and talents we have developed and practised.
In the Irish tradition, Lammas is known as Lughnasadh and is associated with the god Lugh, who is the patron of human skills, reflecting Leo’s focus on our creative talents and abilities. He is the warrior king who both tests and inspires those around him, again both Leo attributes. Lugh declared that the Lammas games would be held each year in honour of his mother Tailtiu, the earth goddess who brought agriculture to Ireland but lost her own life in the process. The games in her honour ensure abundance and celebrate the skills and knowledge needed to transform the gifts of nature into food that nourishes us. Once again there is a parallel with Leo energy here, a reminder that we need to celebrate and honour our creative powers and talents, otherwise they fade and become barren.
In modern as well as ancient pagan tradition, Lammas is often associated with the sacrifice of the divine king, a symbolic cutting down of the masculine energy which reflects the shift from the proactive energy of the first half of the year to the more reflective seasons of autumn and winter. The divine king or queen is also a Leo archetype and can be understood psychologically as the need to sacrifice the ego and the need for external validation and connect with the true or authentic self, a key dynamic of the Leo journey.
Astrological Magic for Lammas
The sign of Leo is ruled by the Sun and making a physical connection with the sun allows us to connect with our inner solar fire. Sit in the sunshine on a warm day, perhaps at noon or alternatively just after sunrise. Bringing yourself into stillness and allowing your breathing to soften, become aware of the sun on your skin. Allow the warmth to move through and around your body, shifting any stagnant energy until you are glowing with golden light. Now bring your awareness to your heart centre, also ruled by Leo and the Sun because the Sun is the heart of our solar system, the bringer of life. Allow the warmth of the sun to move through your heart, so that it begins to shine, shining your light out into the world.
Tending a magical fire
Leo is the sign of fixed fire but of course fire is a moving energy which needs oxygen and fuel to stay alive. Lighting and tending an actual fire is a powerful way to connect with our inner fire, showing us how we can fuel and tend our own divine spark. If you have a safe place, such as a fire pit, build and light a fire as part of your Lammas celebrations. Gather plenty of fuel in advance, dry leaves and small twigs for kindling and larger sticks and even logs for when the fire becomes established. As you build and light your fire, reflect on the sparks of creative inspiration within you and what you need to do to help them get established. As your outer fire gathers strength, reflect on what is burning clearly for you and how it can fuel your growth. You could burn loose incense or herbs on your fire to add power to a magical intention, for example rosemary for clarity or basil for abundance. You can also throw dead petals or leaves on your fire as a banishing spell, naming what you wish to be burned away.
Sometimes it can feel challenging to take pride in our achievements, especially if we were raised to keep our light hidden for fear of seeming arrogant or entitled. And these can be the shadow side of Leo but if we don’t take pride in our own achievements, who will? Challenge yourself to write a list of everything you’ve achieved since Winter Solstice, everything you’ve learned, the gifts and the challenges, the moments of growth, the plans which came into manifestation, the things that happened while the plans were getting ignored. Once you’ve written your list, read it aloud. Perhaps share it with someone you trust, or simply read it alone, standing in the sunlight and speaking to the spirits, to the gods or the Great Mystery. As all witches know, words spoken aloud have power so don’t be afraid to shout it out!
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The Summer Solstice takes place when the Sun moves into the astrological sign of Cancer, marking the peak of solar energy when the Sun reaches it’s most southerly point on the horizon in the northern hemisphere. It marks a deep shift, half way through the solar cycle and from now on, the days begin to get shorter as the wheel turns towards the dark side of the year. The sign of cardinal water, Cancer is the sign of the mother, bringing a flow of connection to our emotional energy, our imagination and our intuition. In the cycle of the year, Cancer marks the beginning of the inner journey, as we turn our energy back inwards after the peak of the Summer Solstice. After the busy seasons of spring and summer, Cancer calls us to rest a little, to nourish our inner selves before the rush and energy of harvest arrive. Its a time to go with the flow, to allow nature and ourselves time to ripen and grow, nurturing our projects and giving them space to take on their true form. This is a time for gradual growth and stabilisation after the rush of spring and early summer energy. The dawn chorus has quieted, young birds have fledged and fruit is ripening on the trees.
The sign of Cancer calls us to turn inwards, beginning a process of reflection and inner work, of reflecting on how we are feeling and what we are dreaming. Cancer also symbolises the safe space where we can do this work, our home territory, the place where we can root ourselves in the people and places we love the most. Cancer is a sign deeply connected with the past, associated with memory and tradition and needing the sense of inner security those connections bring. Symbolised by the crab, those with strong Cancerian energy often prefer to approach a problem sideways on rather than engaging with it directly. Under the sign of Cancer, we tune into our instinctive knowledge and the patterns of response and feeling which are laid down early in our lives. Just like its ruler the Moon, Cancerian energy ebbs and flows, carrying us along on the flow of its tides and currents.
The Sun’s ingress into Cancer at the peak of its power can bring feelings of vulnerability as well as of confidence and illumination. We may be more sensitive than we expect around this time, tuning into our inner selves as well as our outer celebrations. Summer Solstice can be a bittersweet time as we acknowledge that the season of growth is coming to an end and that from now on, the energies of release are getting stronger. The solar consciousness is strong at Summer Solstice but Cancer allows us to acknowledge the power of our subconscious and our shadowy selves at this time too, balancing out the long bright days with an awareness of the power of night.
In some ways, the symbolism may seem at odds here – as the Sun reaches the peak of its energy, we move into a sign ruled by the watery Moon. In the west the Moon is generally seen as feminine whilst the Sun is masculine but this distinction is not as clear or “obvious” as it may seen. All around the world, there are many goddesses of the Sun and gods of the Moon and the insistence on a feminine Moon and a masculine Sun can be seen as having its roots in Victorian patriarchal interpretations of Greek and Roman mythology. In Celtic (Greine), Norse (Sunna), Baltic (Saule) and Slavic (Solnitse) mythology, the sun is female, the Mother goddess who warms the land and allows the crops to grow. In Brittany and Gaul, a number of goddess figurines have been found which have sun wheels carved on their breasts, belly and thighs, as if to emphasise the link between fertility and the sun. The goddess Sulis, associated with the hot springs at Bath, is a goddess of healing, whose name has its roots in the Celtic word for Sun. The warm waters of the springs were used for healing from very early times, bringing together water and solar imagery. In many mythologies, the Sun Goddess is said to descend into the waters of the sea at sunset, so that the warm Solstice sun rests in the waters of Cancer. Folk traditions of bathing in the early morning dew also bring together the fire energy of the sunrise and the water energy of the night time dew.
Astrological Magic for the Summer Solstice
The salt and water of the sea is a powerful combination for cleansing and this is a lovely meditation to allow you to relax and let go of any stagnant or negative energy. Coming into your sacred space, sit or lie down comfortably and allow your body to come into stillness. Imagine that you are on a beach, at the very edge of the sea, so that the waves lap around you (to a level you are comfortable with). As you focus your attention on the flow of your breathing, visualise the waves around you flowing in and out just as your breath flows in and out. Take a few minutes to find the rhythm and relax into it. As the water flows over your body and you breathe in, visualise the waves bringing light and clarity. As you breathe out and the water ebbs away, visualise it carrying away any tense or stuck energy, cleansing any parts of your body, mind or soul where energy might feel stagnant. When you feel ready, allow your awareness of the sea to ebb away and return to your everyday reality.
Immersing yourself in water is a powerful practice, bringing energies of cleansing as in the meditation above. You might be lucky enough to live close to the sea or a body of water (wild or otherwise) where you can paddle or swim, or you can simply enjoy relaxing in a ritual bath. Taking a ritual bath or shower allows you to use herbs associated with the sign of Cancer, such as jasmine, lemon balm and rose. Either way, be mindful as you immerse yourself into the water and if you’re able, move through it. Keep your mind clear and allow yourself to experience the sensation of water on your skin, what it feels like to be in a different element. Being in water takes us into a liminal space, between water and the air we breathe, between water and the earth we walk. Allow this liminal space to be a space for transformation, for releasing the past and making space for something new.
Creating a flower essence
Creating a flower essence brings together the bright, vivid energies of the Solstice and the more subtle energies of the sign of Cancer. Choose your flowers for their symbolism, whether you’re seeking to bring about an emotional shift or simply tune more deeply into your imagination and intuition. Elderflowers, vervain, yarrow, rose and comfrey are all in flower around the Summer Solstice and all carry energies of healing. Make your essence outside in the sunshine if you can, sitting in meditation with your chosen plant to help you attune to it’s energies. Then fill a small bowl, preferably glass, with spring water, and place it close to the plant. You can put some of the petals into the water if you like. When you sense that the essence is ready, thank the plant, remove the petals and pour the infused water into a dark bottle which is already half filled with alcohol or vinegar (which acts as a preservative). This is your Mother essence. Label the bottle clearly, including the name of the plant, the place the essence was made and the date. To use the flower essence, dilute 7 drops of the Mother essence in another half alcohol or vinegar / half spring water mixture. Take 3-4 drops at a time on the tongue for healing and inner balance.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website
I have written only a few blog post over the years, as I am not in the habit of doing it; although I suppose I would regard it as a bit like a one-way conversation, in which I need to anticipate what you might want or need to hear from me.
My new book “The Druid Garden” is written very much with two main groups in mind – the Pagan and wider spiritual community and Gardeners, with the intention of bringing the two together like on some kind of mental venn diagram. If you can change how you think about something, it changes how you will behave, so very much the book begins with trying to change perceptions.
Gardening is something that has been happening forever, but only more recently has it become connected with the subject of ethics and understanding of how food, medicine, how we treat nature and each other are all linked with something that has generally been regarded as a hobby.
For the gardening hobbiest this book might help them to look at the world with fresh eyes and discover a different side to the physical world of nature – at least I am hoping that readers will take from this a more holistic and spiritually minded attitude towards their gardens and the wider environment.
Certainly, for a blog connected with Witchcraft, I don’t need to lecture you with information about the existence of spirit or the importance of herbs and what to use them for. There is a lot information in the book about uses of trees and plants on a magical and medicinal uses, but more importantly I have written about how to grow them and how to look after them. Another area I have looked at is how to connect and establish a working relationship with plants or their essence.
Gardening may come naturally to some Witches and Pagans, certainly for myself I just seemed to fall into it, and I do have ‘green fingers’ without fully comprehending how I acquired them. However, I realise that this is not the case with some people – others are attuned to humans, animals, the deceased, spirits etc far more than to plants and very few people have a very strong connection to everything in existence. Just as some many need help in learning to connect to the world of spirit, some others need help in connecting to the plant realm – and this is for whom I wrote this book.
We live in complex and challenging times, the Earth itself is threatened by our very existence due to our insane industrialised mode of living. Many areas of the established norms are being shaken and perhaps will be overturned in the near future. So, I would consider now to be a time for action, a time for stepping up to ‘be the change’ if we want to be part of creating a better world together. This can be done on many levels – through magic, art, personal interaction, prayer and also through practical actions such as political activism, helping someone in need, planting trees and sowing seeds.
In fact sowing seeds is a great metaphor for what lies ahead, I think. We do not know what the result of our actions will be, in fact we may not be around to see our deeds bear fruit in our own lifetime, just as an oak tree will mature long after we have planted an acorn. However, that does not really matter -if what we do now ultimately serves to make the world a better place then surely that is enough in itself?
Luke is a Druid, living and working as a horticulturist in Ireland. He has written several books spirtuality, environmentalism and poetry. His latest book is “The Druid Garden” published by Moon Books. You can see more of Luke’s work at lukeeastwood.com
The Spring Equinox, when day and night are equal all over the world, is marked by the Sun’s ingress, or entry, into Aries, the first sign of the zodiac. This is the astrological new year, when we move into the light, active half of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Our energy is turned outwards into the world, to grow and create and blossom, just like the nature around us. At Spring Equinox, we carry the seeds, lessons and growth of the winter season out into the world. Astrologically, we carry the seeds, lessons and growth of the previous cycle of the zodiac into the new cycle, allowing the divine spark of Aries energy to inspire us to action and movement.
The dragon energy of the earth is awakening at Spring Equinox and Aries symbolises our drive to create, to act and to change. It’s the impulse which moves us to action. In Vedic astrology, Aries is the thunderbolt arising from the primordial waters of Pisces, the new cycle born from the old, new conscious awareness born from the unconscious self. Nature is beginning to show her abundance at Spring Equinox as the sunlight increases, awakening the plant’s powers of photosynthesis and greening the landscape. All is rising, blossoming, blooming, even reproducing, as the world explodes with the Aries force of nature.
Aries is ruled by the planet Mars, known as a warrior god who fights for what he believes in (and sometimes apparently for the joy of it!). Mars symbolises our power to assert ourselves, to be an individual, to take action. The warrior energy of Aries calls us to know our own power – and to use it well, for our own growth and also to benefit others. Mars was originally a pastoral god of agriculture and the countryside, a link to the Green Man whose spark of growing energy is so apparent as the sap rises in the spring. In Babylonian times, this sign was known as the “Hired Labourer”, reflecting the busy agricultural season when extra help was needed for clearing the land and sowing new crops.
The traditional symbol of Aries is the ram and this first sign of the zodiac may also have been connected with the ewe goddess Seret in ancient Egypt, a symbol of fertility and nurturing new life. Hebrew mythology refers to Rachel as the Divine Ewe, the mother of the Holy Lamb. The lamb is a beautiful symbol of Aries energy, springing around the fields at this time of year and reminding us of the power of play. Aries is all about youthful enthusiasm, taking risks and trying out new things purely for the fun of it. The energy of Aries is both innocent and energetic, carrying a kind of purity which comes with the new cycle. The lack of experience can be a challenge but can also be a gift, helping us to avoid the traps of fear, self doubt and overthinking. If we don’t know what can go wrong, we’re much more likely to just take a leap, like a young child exploring the world for the first time. Aries is a pioneer, a risk taker, an adventurer, like the tarot Fool stepping off the cliff, free of burdens or expectations.
There’s a simplicity to this sign which is reflected in the newness of nature all around us. Like the newly risen sun or the newly unfurled leaves, Aries energy is full of promise. Aries also brings us the gift of present moment awareness, an ability to simply be where we are without worrying about where we’ve been or what comes next. Again, this may have been much easier when we were children but every year Aries brings us a reminder of the power of celebrating our existence, the wonder that is the nature around us and the simple joys of life.
Astrological Magic for Spring Equinox
A phoenix spell for rebirth
At Spring Equinox we celebrate the birth of the new astrological year – this spell allows you to honour and release the energies of the past cycle of the zodiac as well as embracing the rebirth of the new cycle. Its best done at dawn and ideally when the sun is visible, rising in a clear sky. If you can, light a small fire outside but if not, incense sticks corresponding to sun energies like orange, rosemary or frankincense are just as effective. Light your fire or incense and as you do so, name and visualise all that you want to burn away from the past season or zodiac cycle. As you watch them burn, you can write or create a call to the phoenix, calling in what you want to celebrate and the new life you want to bring into being at the Spring Equinox. Allow the incense or fire to burn out and wait for the ashes to cool, meditating on your intent. Once the ashes are cool enough to touch, scatter them to the wind as you speak or visualise your call. You may be aware of phoenix energies around you or you may see a sign in the coming days. Don’t forget to thank the phoenix for hearing you.
Making your own magical incense brings together the fire energy of Aries with the strong airy energy which is so often present in the turbulent winds of the Equinox. Mixing equal parts of resin and dried herbs, along with a few drops of essential oil (just enough to hold the dry ingredients together), makes a loose incense which you can burn on charcoal discs. An incense for Aries at the Spring Equinox might include frankincense or copal resin, pine or juniper oil and dried nettle, hawthorn, blackberry or birch leaves. It can be burned as part of your Spring Equinox celebrations and / or as a spell to carry away stagnant energies (many of the herbs associated with this time of year have cleansing properties, including the ones suggested here) as well as carrying your new vision and intentions for the coming cycle.
Sacred movement is a great way to tune into the fiery energy of Aries and to become aware of your own energy and inner flame as well as clearing away any stagnant energy from the still winter season. Whatever level of physical activity you’re able to do is just fine, whether its simple sitting stretches, walking, dancing, running – whatever feels good for your body right now. The important thing is to do it mindfully, to be aware of the movement and the energy moving around your body. Listen to your body and let it move you, rather than the other way around.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website
Imbolc is the first cross quarter festival of the new solar cycle and of the calendar year, falling half way between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Astrologically, it comes midway through the sign of Aquarius, the sign of fixed air. Aquarius is idealistic, visionary and far-thinking. During Aquarius season, we are called not only to align ourselves with collective energies but to contribute to and even change them. Aquarius is the sign of potential, of breaking away from what has been established to try something new, even radical. This is one of the most inclusive of all the signs, reaching for genuine equality and breaking away from hierarchy and tradition, honouring honesty and original thinking. Aquarius energy is about the greater good, the bigger picture, about remembering that there’s more to life than our individual journey. As individuals, we are all part of a wider pattern and Aquarius asks us to acknowledge that pattern and do what we can to fulfil the potential it, and we, carry.
Nature is beginning to awaken at Imbolc and as the days lengthen and the light begins to return we find a sense of clarity and an ability to open up, to stretch mind and body and let go of the sometimes stifling energy of winter and too much time spent indoors. Aquarius is clear cold skies full of stars, the purity of a landscape covered in snow and ice. We can imagine standing on a mountain or a high hill, seeing the land curve away below us, gaining a sense of perspective as we stand above and reach beyond our everyday concerns. Aquarius brings energy from the unconscious and makes it conscious, just as our new vision emerges at Imbolc and we begin to make plans to manifest all the inner growth and change of the winter season in our outer reality.
Traditionally, Aquarius is known as the water bearer and the image for the sign shows a person (for Aquarius is above all a sign of humanity) carrying a jug or urn, allowing the water to flow. Aquarians are often seen as detached or even reserved, expressing themselves through the intellect rather than their feelings and this is often true. But they carry their feelings as well as their ideals, pouring them out for the benefit of humanity. As the Water Bearer, Aquarius contains and observes feelings, seeking to avoid overwhelm and chaos. Their role as the water bearer brings Aquarius an association with fertility and the seeds of life which resonates with the emergence of new life at Imbolc, the beginning of a new phase of growth. The ancient symbol of the urn is associated with the Sumerian goddess Gula, goddess of healing and childbirth, as well as with the Egyptian Nut, the star goddess who poured the milky way from her breasts and the waters of life from her womb to bring humanity into being. The urn of Aquarius has also been associated with the cauldron of Cerridwen, symbolising not just personal transformation but the ability to use that transformation in service of a greater good.
Aquarius is co-ruled by two planets, with Saturn as the traditional ruler and Uranus as the modern. Uranus is the great awakener, mirrored in the awakening of the land at this time. The dynamic between these two great planetary energies describes the mythology of the season. Saturn is the Cailleach, the powerful crone goddess of winter who brings the cold and the frost, still powerful at Imbolc. And Uranus is the process of awakening, of breaking out of the frozen energies of winter to make space for new growth and understanding. At Imbolc we pay attention to the lightning flash of Uranian intuition, the deep inner knowing which shows us the path ahead or at least the first steps along it. Aquarius energy honours independence and self reliance, and so can be associated with virgin goddesses, in the ancient sense of a woman unique and true to herself. Athena, Isis, Minerva and Aphrodite have all been associated with this sign, carrying the potential for fertility as well as staying true to themselves. Aquarius energy is also sometimes associated with the Fates, the weavers of reality who remind us that our personal journey is woven into a much greater whole.
Astrological Magic for Imbolc
We’ve all gazed at the sky and found shapes in the clouds and it’s easy to extend this and make it a divination practice. As with any divination, start by framing a clear but open question. Make sure its focused enough to give you the answer you need, without being so complicated it’s too difficult to hold in mind. To perform your divination, find a place with a clear view of the sky, whether its a hill top close to home or simply the view from an upstairs window. Gaze at the sky and allow your attention to rest on it gently, at the same time as bringing your attention to your breath. As your breath in, know that you are taking in the air around you, and as you breath out, offer your energy in exchange with the sky before you. When you feel ready, ask your question clearly, ideally out loud. Allow your eyes and your mind to rest on the sky before you and let yourself settle. Don’t be in a rush to “see” the answer, instead engage with your intuition and your feelings. You may see visible images in the clouds or you may see them in your mind. Either way, allow yourself plenty of time to receive your message. When you’ve finished, write about the experience in your journal and perhaps eat a little food to ground yourself.
Water Magic – a cleansing bath or shower
The element of water is often strong at Imbolc, either in the form of ice and snow, the cold rushing waters as the ice and snow begin to melt, or the rain which brings floods and fertile mud. We can allow these waters to carry away stagnant energy, cleansing and purifying us ready for a new season of growth. A cleansing bath or shower is a powerful way to do this as well as a great way to incorporate magical practice into your daily rhythm. Mixing herbs and a few drops of essential oils with Epsom salts as a skin scrub works to detoxify on every level. Suggestions for a cleansing herb mixture include juniper, traditionally used for both cleansing and protection, with antiseptic and circulation stimulating properties. Vervain is also a powerful herb of cleansing and protection with the added benefit of increasing divine inspiration. As you wash yourself with your herb mixture, visualise any stagnant energy flowing away down the plughole, leaving you sparkling inside and out.
Observing the stars opens us up to an awareness of patterns and the wider web of life, reminding us of our place in the universe. Spend some time simply observing, watching the stars as they wheel through the heavens, the patterns shifting and changing from our perspective as the earth turns beneath us. Then pick one star to make a focus for your meditation, perhaps a particularly bright star or one that you spot regularly. Visualise the light of the star in it’s long journey to reach earth and feel the bright white light bathing you in pure, clear energy. Offer the energy of your breath in exchange and know that you too are made of star stuff, that we are all part of the same universe.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website
When I was first learning witchcraft and magick my teacher at the time taught me that you can only become so powerful using your own personal energy. Eventually you must seek the aid of the spirits. That is where powerful magick lies. You must call upon and work with a variety of spirits in order to manifest change in the world and the Universe. I have kept these words to heart my entire magical career. Many years later I still think of this wisdom. The Universe is filled with many spirits. There are more spirits in the Universe than there are people or animals. It will help our magick a great deal if we call upon them in magick. Even better, we should have a relationship with them. Pagans have always called upon the spirits. Indigenous healers and shamans create bonds with a variety of spirits in order to seek wisdom and heal the community. Witches from all over the world speak of having animal familiars and calling up the dead for magick. Ceremonial magicians summon the spirits of the angels and planets to create change in the world as well.
There are many different kinds of spirits that the witch seeks to work with. There are gods and goddesses, angels, and planetary spirits of the heavens. There are our ancestors and the hidden company of the below worlds. There are also faeries, elves, animal spirits, and plant spirits who dwell within the land itself. I think it is very helpful for witches to begin with the spirits of the land when they are first learning to work with spirits. It has often been said that we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience. This is a powerful statement. In patriarchal religions it is often taught that the earth is bad or sinful but the heavens are godly and holy. In paganism and witchcraft the earth is seen as our holy mother who gave life to us all. We are also taught that we are incarnated on earth in order to have physical experiences to help us spiritually evolve. The earth is sacred just as the heavens are sacred.
As pagans and witches we celebrate the earth and her cycles. We celebrate the moon cycles and her mysteries. The moon has the power to change the tides of the oceans and affect human emotions and our psychic abilities. We also celebrate how the sun relates to the earth with her different seasons and energies. We honor the planting season, the growing season, the harvest season, and the dark season. All these energies of the earth are important for our survival. It is important to remember that to us magical folk, we see energies as spirits. In fact, we know that all things upon the earth have a spirit. Everything from human beings and animals to trees, rocks, clouds, and rain all have spirits. I remember it this way, just as human bodies have a spirit so to do all Lphysical things of nature have a spirit. These spirits we can call into our spells and rituals for powerful magick.
There are many spirits of the land that we can begin a relationship with. Every tree has its own spirit. Every rock, stone, and crystal has its own spirit. Every flower and plant has its own spirit. Yes, even the rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans have their own spirits. These beings are sacred and they will teach you so much about natural magick, paganism, and witchcraft. Our physical bodies are of the earth so the spirits of the earth can help us heal our bodies. We must eat, sleep, and have shelter, so these land spirits can help us obtain these things that we need. The spirits of the land can especially teach us the magical and healing properties of herbs, crystals, stones, and trees. Human teachers and books are great, but it’s far more powerful to learn from the spirits themselves. Who better to teach you about nature magick than nature?
Over the last thousand years we have lost our connection to the spirits of the earth. It’s only the few witches, Spirit Walkers, and faery doctors who have retained the remnants of this sacred knowledge. It seems that the more industrial we have become the more we have lost our connection to the spirits of the land. The big question now is how do we reconnect to the spirits of the land?
Anyone can have a relationship with the spirits of the land. You can be from the country, city, or suburb, and you can still gain land spirit allies. The only thing you need to do is be willing to put some time into cultivating a friendship with these spirits. The first thing you will need to do is learn about the geographical history of the land where you live. Even in a city, the land has a rich history of nature spirits. You will need to go online and research what the land was like before it became a metropolitan area. The reason for this is because many times even after the natural land has gone the spirits still remain. If you live in the countryside or suburb it is more likely that the original spirits still inhabit the land. It will help you a great deal to learn the history of the land you live on. What happened there? Did it always look like it does now? Were there any changes?
The next step in establishing a relationship with the land spirits in learning to tune into them and connect. Go outside and take a few breaths. Imagine your heart chakra opening up and being open to the energies of the land. How do you feel? What scents do you smell? What does the land look like? What do you hear? Spend some time simply connecting to the energies of the land. Try not to judge your experience. Just feel. Just breathe. Do this exercise during the day and at night. I will tell you that the energies are very different from day to night. Always remember to journal your experiences.
Once you have spent a few days connecting with the energies of the land it is a good idea to leave offerings. Offerings can be water, food for the animals, wine or ale, bread and honey, or anything you think is appropriate. Even though bread and honey is traditional, remember that bread is not good for animals to eat. By the way, if an animal eats food offerings this is a sign that your offerings were accepted. However, if animals do not eat your offerings it’s ok because the spirits received the energies of the offering. When we give offerings to the spirits of the land we are establishing an energetic and spiritual connection. Think of it like this, when we do something nice for a friend they will know you care about them and want to do something for you.
At this point you can go further in your understanding and connection to the land spirits. One of my favorite things to do is to perform an energetic heart connection to the spirits of the land. It’s a very easy technique but so powerful. Find a tree, rock, bush, or plant that you are spiritually attracted to. Leave a little offering of water or wine. Place your dominant hand on the tree, rock, bush, or plant. Now send a beam of love from your heart to the spirit at the center of the natural object. Now, wait a few moments. In response, the natural object will send a beam of energy to your heart. Keep sending the energy back and forth. You can also speak to the land spirit. Introduce yourself and speak with the spirit just as you would to anyone. Spirits sometimes speak directly to your mind in words, but sometimes they don't. They may speak to your heart and you may feel what they are feeling. This is good because it's simply a different way of communicating. By doing this technique over time you will learn to speak the language of the land spirit. Once this is done and you feel that your relationship with the spirits of the land is strong you may invite them into your spells and rituals for powerful magick and healing.
Written by Chris Allaun
Facebook: Chris Allaun: Author. Teacher. Healer
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Astrologically, the Winter Solstice is when the Sun moves into Capricorn as well as marking the longest night and the seed point of the return of the light. This year the Solstice will be especially powerful, with a Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn at 0° of Aquarius on the same day. This conjunction happens every twenty years and always marks a shift in society, a shift which is likely to be heightened this time as this is the first Great Conjunction in an air sign after many decades of conjunction in earth signs. Simply put, this means that the Solstice this year marks the potential seed point of a whole new era, a shift away from materialism, money and the physical towards more innovative ways not just of thinking but also of organising society and understanding ourselves.
Saturn is also the ruler of Capricorn so carries special power at this time of year. Of course, we all know him as Old Father Time but the stark and sometimes limiting energy of Saturn is also carried by the goddesses of winter, the Crone goddesses who remind us of the wisdom and power of maturity. For me, Saturn is often the Old Bone Mother, who strips us bare of masks and exposes our deepest self. Capricorn energy is all about structures and Saturn forces us to examine our inner and outer structures. If they are not strong enough, or if they are too strong and have become calcified, they are torn down, broken apart. And so we learn our lesson, and so we build new and more flexible structures.
In Scotland, the goddess of winter is the Cailleach, who forms the land by dropping rocks from her creel as she strides across the mountains. The mountain is a powerful symbol for Capricorn energy, the slow steady ascent to a goal which may often seem out of reach. Capricorn is known as one of the most ambitious signs and also the most likely to succeed, for Capricorn folk know the value of hard work and are willing to take the time they need to get where they want to go. Capricorn is the sign of cardinal earth, taking the initiative to bring the dreams and visions of Sagittarius, the preceding sign, into manifestation This is the spark of light which is reborn at the Winter Solstice, the active principle which carries our energy out into the world.
Nature slows down in winter, retreating back into the earth to gather and replenish her strength. But she too carries the initiating earth energy of Capricorn, for the new spring buds are already on the trees and deep in the earth, early bulbs are sending out their first shoots. Deepening our roots at this time of year will sustain us, just as it does the nature around us, until the days lengthen and the light returns. Since Samhain, we have been seeking out the seeds of the next cycle in the fertile dark. The spark of energy as the sun is reborn at the Solstice is the beginning of the return of outwardly focused activity and we can take our first tangible steps in manifesting our new vision.
Capricorn is the sign of the goat and in Scandinavian tradition, the Yule goat was traditionally made from the last sheaf of corn at the harvest and saved for the Winter Solstice celebrations, carrying the energy of the last solar cycle into the new solar cycle. The Yule goat was also a quiet spirit who made sure that winter celebrations were carried out properly and a figure who brought presents for the children, either as Father Christmas’s helper or more likely in its own right before the tradition of Father Christmas became popular. The Yule goat may be linked to the worship of the god Thor and is also known from ancient proto-Slavic beliefs and early medieval traditions. It also formed a part of the tradition of wassailing or carolling, with folk going from house to house dressed in costumes, singing songs and playing pranks. The custom of wassailing has been revived in recent years here in the UK as a way of honouring the gifts of the land and especially the fruit trees, and usually takes place early in January, still under the sign of Capricorn. There are also links here with the tradition of the mumming play, trickster energies at work at what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world”. Capricorn is often seen as a serious sign, but it carries a wry and self deprecating humour which is reflected in these trickster traditions. There’s also the Roman festival of Saturnalia, when the convention and hierarchy normally deeply valued by Capricorn are turned upside down for a few days.
Winter Solstice is a time when we connect with our extended family, reflecting the Capricorn need to embrace tradition and honour the past, the Yule traditions passed down through the generations.. In the cold and dark of winter, we return to Capricorn values of security and stability, rooting down into what we value the most. We feast to remind ourselves that abundance will return, to nature and to the world, invoking the Capricorn cornucopia or Horn of Plenty.
Astrological Magic for the Winter Solstice
Meditating in silence
Although we celebrate the return of the light at the Winter Solstice, this is still a time of dark and quiet. Take some time to sit in silence and in darkness. Notice how it feels – do you resist it and long to turn on a light? Can you sink into the creative potential of it? After a while, light a candle, perhaps speaking an intent for the coming cycle. Pay attention to the shadows as well as the light and honour the whole.
Honouring our limits and exploring our potential
Capricorn and its ruler Saturn are associated with boundaries and limits, energies which contain us but might also hold us back. Use the following journal prompts as starting points for some free writing to explore your own inner and outer structures;
How do I limit myself and why? Where do these limits come from?
What mountains am I climbing? What will happen when I reach the summit?
What do I seek to manifest in the new solar cycle?
Spellcraft with clay
Shaping our intent with clay is a great way to represent slow building energy and create results which will last. Focus on an issue which will need time to manifest or be resolved and for which you want to create lasting results. Shape your clay to represent that intent, visualising the results as you work. You can carve images or symbols to build layers of energy. Air dry or oven dry clay can be painted once its dry, so you can add some colour magic as you decorate it. When it’s finished, leave your figure somewhere it will remind you to take the concrete actions you need to bring your intent into manifestation.
Time in nature
Spend some time outdoors, walking or simply being out in nature. Try to make it a reasonable period of time, as long as you can bear without getting too cold. Capricorn energy builds slowly and takes its time and taking our time is a powerful magic in itself. Pay attention to the bare bones of nature, noticing the shapes of the trees and of the landscape. Seek out signs of the dying year in the seed heads and bare branches and also signs of the new cycle in the leaf buds on the trees. Allow yourself to sink deeply into the energies and sensations of your own body as well as the rest of nature.
Feeding the birds spell
This spell tunes us in to the energies of give and take, the resources around us. Many of us feed the birds in winter and this simply everyday action is a great way to integrate our magical practice with our everyday rhythms. Whether we’re putting out food in your garden, filling a window feeder or scattering food in a suitable corner of a local park, we can make it an offering to the deities and spirits we work with and to the land which sustains us. Before you put the food out, charge it with energies of abundance and thriving. Then as you scatter the food, give thanks for the abundance you’ve received, offering it back to the land and to life.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website
As one of the cross quarter festivals, Samhain falls during the zodiac sign of Scorpio and indeed some people celebrate astrological Samhain when the Sun is exactly half way through Scorpio, on November 7th this year. Scorpio is the sign of fixed water, intense and passionate. All of the water signs are feelings-driven and sensitive and Scorpio can take this to extremes, carrying us deep into the shadowy realms of the emotions, tuning us in to a deep well of feeling. Scorpio energy is profoundly tuned in to the cycle of life, death and rebirth, our power to transform ourselves and the world around us. This is a sign of willpower, courage and determination, where we learn from deeply felt experience. We cannot transform ourselves simply by reading about it, we need to put the work in, on both the inner and the outer levels. In Scorpio season our intuition and imagination are strong as we turn inwards, learning from the deep instinctive knowledge we carry in our bones.
We connect with our ancestors at this time and Scorpio carries the energies of our emotional inheritances, the patterns handed down to us through our family line. Shifting these can be painful but is powerful work with the potential to liberate our ancestors as well as ourselves. Scorpio is the sign of elimination as well as regeneration and during Scorpio season we can slough off old energies, emotional patterns which no longer serve our growth. Both Samhain and Scorpio urge us to embrace energies of release, to honour the necessity of death, to allow our creative selves a fallow period. Scorpio is the release from form, which we see in the nature around us at Samhain. The trees have, for the most part, shed their leaves, plants wither and die as winter approaches, animals hibernate or retreat to find shelter. But a closer look at the skeletal trees reveals the buds already developing in anticipation of the following spring. This is a season of both creation and destruction and the two are inextricably linked. The Samhain fires were lit for purification, to purge negative energy and leave the way clear for a new beginning and Scorpio partakes of this same dynamic.
At Samhain, the nights are longer than the days and Scorpio energy reminds us that darkness is important, it’s the crucible from which all is born, the source of our creative power. At Samhain, as the Sun travels through Scorpio, we can connect with all of our darknesses - the personal, the natural and the collective. It’s a time of mystery and transformation, of metamorphosis and healing. In the stillness of Samhain night, in the deep waters of Scorpio, we can sit with our darkness, giving our attention to our shadow self, our inner processes. We consider what is reflected in the waters of the unconscious, especially this year with Mercury also retrograde in Scorpio at Samhain. Mercury retrograde in Scorpio brings us an awareness of how our unconscious selves affect our conscious awareness and our everyday lives. Scorpio pulls us deep into the source of our emotional responses, often conditioned from a very young age, and asks us to examine them, to acknowledge their power. In Scorpio season, we are plunging into the still pools and submerged feelings at the heart of ourselves, seeking understanding and buried treasure.
Each sign of the zodiac is ruled by a planet and the modern ruler of Scorpio is Pluto, or Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Pluto, due to his links with the Roman god of wealth Pluton, also rules buried treasure and hidden abundance. In embracing our shadow self, we may also awaken our bright shadow, the luminous parts of ourselves we often give away for fear of not fitting in. Our creativity, our desire and ability to speak out, our most passionate self expression, all of these can be reborn in Scorpio season. This is a deeply liminal time, the pause for breath as the old year recedes and the new awaits birth at the Solstice.
Scorpio energy is linked to gods and goddesses of the underworld, the Dark Mother who rules over
life, death and rebirth. The Babylonian goddess Tiamat, often represented as as dragon, made Scorpion women to guard the passage to the underworld. Tiamat was linked to the primordial ocean, source of all life, the deep waters and powerful tides of Scorpio. The goddess Hekate can also be linked with Scorpio energies, both in her modern guise as the goddess of witchcraft and thresholds and her older form as a version of the Great Mother, ruling birth, death and rebirth. All journeys to the Underworld, right back to Inanna in Sumerian times, are associated with Scorpio energy, as well as the deities encountered there, such as Ereshkigal, sister to Inanna (but quite likely actually a much older deity). We also see the energies of Scorpio in Dark Mother goddesses, the Black Madonna of Christian tradition and the Veiled Isis of Egypt and modern day occultism.
Astrological Magic for Samhain
Scrying and divination
Scorpio energy has a deep rooted urge to know, to penetrate the mystery and discover hidden knowledge. The already thin Samhain veil is thinned even further by Mercury retrograde in Scorpio this year, making it an especially good season for scrying and divination. Many people do a tarot, oracle or rune reading for the coming year at Samhain. Or you can take a more intuitive approach, scrying in the flames or smoke or the Samhain fire or in a bowl of water, allowing images to form and speak to your intuition.
Astral travel, deep meditation and shamanic journeying
Scorpio season is the time for inner travels, for journeying to the Otherworld in our preferred way. Whether you use a drum or drumming recording or a different method of altering your consciousness, the path to the Otherworld is clearer than usual at this liminal time. Travel to seek help, to offer help, or simply to make a connection.
Working with dreams
Our dreams also bring a powerful connection to the Otherworld and keeping a dream journal by writing down what you remember when you wake is a powerful practice. We can also consciously seek to incubate a dream by meditating on a question or issue as we fall asleep, asking our guides that we receive insights in our dreams. Over time we build up a kind of personal library of symbols which allow us to interpret our dreams more easily.
The dark time of the year is the natural time to work with our shadow selves, facing and learning from our fears, investigating our conditioned emotional responses. By journaling or meditating on our shadow we gain self knowledge as well as the power to transform and grow. This can be intense work so keep some clear boundaries in place, casting a protective circle around yourself as you work and making sure to ground yourself with food and drink afterwards.
A Scorpio ritual for release
Cathartic rituals to let go of toxic energy are especially powerful at this time of year. A simple ritual for release allows you to honour everything which has brought you to where you are today, acknowledging its power before letting go of those energies which no longer serve your growth. This ritual can be done any time between Samhain on October 31st and astrological Samhain on November 7th.
Gather some loose incense to burn on charcoal or loose herbs, an unlit candle and a fireproof container.
Extinguish all the lights in the house, open the windows to let the darkness in and simply sit with it. Allow yourself to become comfortable with the lack of light, to see and to feel the beauty in the darkness.
Holding your herbs or incense in your hand, summon all those energies from the year that you are ready to release – stagnation, sorrow, pain, negativity. Pour them into your herbs, noticing that without the emotional impact you attach to them, they are simply energy.
When you are ready, light a candle and use it to light your charcoal or fire, throwing the herbs into the flames, allowing the energy to transform and be released.
Re-light all your candles from the flames and turn your awareness towards the light and fire of Sagittarius, which will come in due time.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website
Astrologically, the Autumn Equinox is marked by the Sun moving into the sign of Libra, at 2.30pm on 22nd September this year here in the UK. Just as the sun is rising and setting at the midpoint between it’s most northern and southern positions, and the days and nights are of equal length, the sign of Libra marks the midpoint of the cycle of the zodiac, the fulcrum on which the whole annual solar cycle balances. The first six signs, from Aries through to Virgo, describe the individual journey of learning about the self. Libra is the first sign to look beyond the individual and begin to form relationships with external energies, with other people and also with the world around us. This is the beginning of our connection to society, starting with our one to one relationships. Libra season, heralded by the Autumn Equinox, is a time to check in with those relationships, to pay attention to the people who mean the most to us and the connection between us.
Like the often turbulent weather at this time of seasonal transition, Libra carries an energy of balance which can bring plenty of movement as we work to bring ourselves and the world around us into balance. We may be moving between polarities and even extremes, so that whilst Libra is known as the sign of peace, balance and harmony these are not static states but rather ideals which shift and change as we grow and as the world around us shifts and changes.
Libra is the sign of cardinal air, bringing a proactive energy to her ideals, making this a good time for activism and working for social justice. Justice is an abstract ideal in the sign of Libra but also a lived reality, bringing a kind of karmic energy into play. Libra asks us to act with integrity, to be honest with ourselves as well as with others about the consequences of our actions, to do what is right even if it’s not the easiest option. Libra reminds us that the personal is political, asking to make our choices with integrity and an awareness of collective energies and the divine order.
Libra also brings a connection to the harvest energy of the Equinox, as we take stock of our achievements and review our choices. This is the sign where the self meets the other, showing what is being mirrored back to you by your circumstances or the people around you. There’s no need for judgement, of ourselves or of others, but we can accept what is and use it as fuel for our growth. Autumn Equinox is a time to celebrate and honour our emotional, spiritual and psychic harvests as well as the physical.
The sign of Libra is linked to ancient goddesses of justice like the Egyptian Maat, the spirit of natural order who weighed the hearts of all those who died and decided whether they would move on. The heart in this case is the symbol of morality and right action, linking Maat to the Libran association with love and relationships. She is called “Guardian of the truth and justice of the universe, Guardian of the rhythm and order of the cosmos”. In Greek mythology, Themis was the powerful goddess of Justice, birthing both the Horae, the daughters of seasonal time and also the Moirae, the three sisters of Fate. September 21st to October 20th, when the sun was in Libra was known as the reign of Mother Justice. The goddesses Ishtar and Inanna were also associated with justice and the divine order and indeed in ancient times, justice was the province of the Great Mother in her avenging or mediating aspect. Justice as an abstract concept of law and order is a much more recent invention and Libra has rulership over both.
The shadows are lengthening as the Equinox approaches and again they hold a clue for our inner work and our spiritual practice. Libra season is a great time to work with our shadow as we move into the dark season of the year, reflecting on who we are and the version of ourselves that others are reflecting back to us. We might be taking ownership of projections or acknowledging the parts of ourselves that we’ve hidden or denied, allowing us to build more authentic relationships as well as finding inner healing.
Libra season call us to learn to balance the outer world with our inner world, the light with the dark. Libra energy calls us to reconcile opposites and dualities – the seen and unseen, the known and unknown, the active and the receptive. As the cycle of the zodiac moves from an individual focus to look outwards for the first time, we may be considering the personal lessons we’ve learned and how we can take them out into the world.
Astrological magic for the Autumn Equinox