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Eostre, the Pagan precursor to Easter

SanzieneWheel of the Year – Ostara

By Dylan Greenley

When spring approaches, even folks who enjoy winter time usually greet the first buds of flowers and first signs of warmth with a smile. People feel enlivened when the Earth begins its cycle of regeneration. The turn to spring is celebrated by those who practice the pagan and wiccan traditions on the holiday, or sabbat, known as Ostara. Let’s learn a little more about this time of year.

Ostara falls on the Spring Equinox. The previous holiday, Imbolc, had occurred six weeks prior and celebrated the promise of life stirring within the still-cold earth. Now, Ostara is the time to begin celebrating that promise being fulfilled as we continue to experience more light and warmth.

The Spring, or Vernal, Equinox occurs between March 19 and 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere, and September 20-23 in the Southern Hemisphere. The sun is at 0 degrees Aries, and as we know, it is one of the two times in the year when there is an equal amount of dark and light. The other time of equal dark and light of course is the Autumn Equinox, occurring six months later, on the opposite spoke of the Wheel of the Year.

The word Ostara, also known as Eostre, refers to a fertility Goddess. There are different claims as to which tradition this Goddess comes from (the origins are Germanic or Norse), and how much about her has been made up by modern pagans. She does appear in the writings of the medieval scholar Bede, so we know there’s some history to her legend. No matter, the thoughts and energies she provokes are engrained in the spring lore. With her attendant symbols of eggs, chicks, lambs and rabbits, we find clear examples of how the pagan traditions continue through the secular symbology of the modern Western world.

In terms of the male energies, the young God is represented now; curious, passionate, untamed, and unimpressed with status or title. Thus, the trickster archetype runs through these times, represented in various traditions as Coyote, Raven, Brer Rabbit (prototype of Bugs Bunny), The Fool of the Tarot, and the young son of the faery King. Following this, it’s no coincidence that April Fool’s day is right after Ostara.

Any warm days can be taken advantage of to spend longer amounts of time in Nature and perform prayers and rituals outdoors. If you have a green thumb, it’s time to start preparing the soil for your spring herb garden.

Indoors on your altar, you can keep living plants, branches, seeds, colored eggs, representations of rabbits and hares, and of course anything else that seems appropriate to you. This is a good time to cleanse your living area by burning sage. Rituals can use milk and honey as symbols of the season.

As we greet this time in the Wheel of the Year when light surpasses darkness, the following are commonly used:

Herbs: Any flowers of spring. Peony, Iris, Woodruff, Violet, Gorse, Daffodil, Jonquils, Olive, Peony, Iris, Narcissus.

Incense: Any floral. Rose, Strawberry, Jasmine.

Colors: Pale purple, pale green, yellows, pink.

Stone: Jasper.

The Ostara sabbat is a time of rejuvenation. As the Earth rises from the slumber of winter, so do our spirits. This is when we do our final spring cleanings and begin to put our refreshed goals into action. We honor the regenerative powers of Mother Earth. Celebrate it as you wish with gatherings of loved ones and devotional spells, but also know that simply walking outside and appreciating the awakening earth is celebration enough as we greet Ostara.

About the author

Dylan Greenley has been studying and practicing pagan spirituality for several years, with an emphasis on Celtic traditions. He wants to disseminate solid information on the subject and hopes you have enjoyed this article and perhaps learned something new!

Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?Wheel-of-the-Year—Ostara&id=7140638] Wheel of the Year – Ostara

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A Witch’s Grimoire – Create Your Own Book of Shadows

A grimoire (or book of shadows) is a sort of Wiccan recipe book that includes spells and incantations, but also much more

By Judy Ann Nock
Adams Media/Provenance Press 2005
246 pp., $12.95

According to the web site www.religioustolerance.org, “the fastest growing religion (in terms of percentage) is Wicca – a Neopagan religion that is sometimes referred to as Witchcraft. Numbers of adherents went from 8,000 to 1990 to 134,000 in 2001. Their numbers of adherents are doubling about 30 months.” The author of A Witch’s Grimoire: Create Your Own Book of Shadows, Judy Ann Nock, is a Wiccan high priestess who shares her extensive knowledge and experience in this pagan primer – a sort of witchcraft 101.

However, we first have the question of “what exactly is a grimoire?” Nock describes a grimoire (or book of shadows) as “a sort of Wiccan recipe book that includes spells and incantations, but also much more. A book of shadows may also contain dreams, poems, invocations, revelations, inspirations, and lore.” In some ways, it is also a journal where one can record impressions as they follow the pagan path, a nature-based religion.

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If one is new to the Craft, he or she can use A Witch’s Grimoire as a workbook – there are plenty of exercises suggested, with room in the book to write individual answers to the thought-provoking questions that are presented here. For example, calling the directions is a basic skill in the Craft. Nock gives plentiful information about the unique attributes of the east, south, west and north and urges the reader to acquire experiential knowledge and not just book-knowledge.

More advanced teachings, such as channeling and various meditations, are also shared in what is evidently a sincere, from-the-heart book in which Nock clearly wants the reader to grow spirituality as a result of carrying out the exercises. This text is also jam-packed with new age knowledge, including touching upon the chakras, magical qualities of gemstones and crystals, the ritual use of herbs, and even dream interpretation. For those wanting information on more crafty things like spellwork and candles, it’s all there as well – a full table of color correspondences for candlework along with what days of the week are most conducive to specific needs.

Now back to that “create your own book of shadows” part of the title…Nock takes that quite literally and gives detailed instructions to making your own recycled paper and binding your own special book! However, the author also takes into account that even a three ring binder purchased at a stationary store will be sufficient as long as the magical intent is there. Nock also provides various secret alphabets such as the Faerie Runes for those to help create a more mystical-appearing book of shadows. And speaking of physical appearances, Nock’s book itself is just gorgeous – ragged-edged pages are wedged between an antiqued cover, suggesting this is a tome filled with ancient knowledge which, in this reviewer’s opinion, is indeed the case.

A Witch’s Grimoire: Create Your Own Book of Shadows
Review by Diane Saarinen

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Healing Magic: A Green Witch Guidebook

By Robin Rose Bennett
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc, 2004
192 pp., $12.95

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When reading Healing Magic, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living, you should know two things: Bennett’s definitions for “green witch” and “guidebook.”  Green witches, she writes, “have a special love for the plants and trees of the earth, and are often gifted in working with them as gardeners, herbalists, artists and teachers.” And:  “this guidebook is a map made up of words, stories, songs, rituals, recipes, instructions, invitations, meditations, trance journeys, warnings worth heeding, and heart-centered teachings.”  Sound like a bold claim?  Bennet, however, does not disappoint in this delightful book filled with…well, all of the above!  And I would even add, then some.

Prefaced by a wonderful foreword by wise woman Susun S. Weed, the book jumps right into practical suggestions to reconnect with the earth, including simple ways to draw in earth energy and communing with plants and trees.  As the author describes living for many years in New York City, and then moving to the country, she has a balanced viewpoint regarding practicing magic in urban settings, something missing in many books of the same ilk.  As long as there is a park nearby, there is no reason that one cannot connect with nature…and Bennett gives many tips for doing so, based on personal experience with her own group of green witches.

Moon magic and herbal magic are discussed at length, with the author’s expertise being particularly in working with herbs and plants.  We are given the magical properties of lavender and mugwort, for example, and even trees as well!  The author then moves on to spells and rituals.  Many of the spells incorporate the herbs, plants and trees we have already learned about earlier in the book.  The author does a fine job of explaining the ethics of spellcasting – for example, in working with love spells, it is never a good idea to focus on one specific individual as that would be manipulative, but to focus on the qualities one would like to find in a potential lover.  I liked the way Bennett set up one love spell so much that it was Xeroxed and sent to a friend who is currently in the market and looking, so to speak!

This book is well-written and full of many personal tales, which I found enjoyable.  Ultimately, Bennett shares a philosophy where magic is meant to enhance life:  “You will never lack for challenges in this world, but by celebrating your kinship with the living magic of the elements, you will stay in touch with what is real within and around you.  There is great freedom in this.  Being in relationship with what exists beyond this lifetime can ground and center you so fully that you can create good relationships with your neighbors, like-minded or not, and engage the life you’re living with more trust and less fear.  Always remember, life isn’t about practicing magic; practicing magic is about living.”

Healing Magic, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living
by Robin Rose Bennett
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc, 2004
192 pp., $12.95

Review by Diane Saarinen


The Art of Magical Thinking

by Melanie Marquis

Books like The Secret and The Law of Attraction have opened our minds to the power of wishful thinking, but is hope and positivity really enough to create the lives we desire? Is there perhaps a secret behind The Secret, something more we need to do or be aware of in order to fully harness our innate abilities to think our way to success? What we need is a plan, a map for the creative mind to follow.  Lucky for us, that map has already been made, though it is found in a surprising place—in the mysterious art of magic.

Magic is simply the act of creating changes in reality through the use of the mind, transforming and directing energies in ways that are beneficial. At its core, magic is a form of hands-on, interactive prayer, and it can be adapted to fit in with most belief systems. Choose a single goal and follow this simple four-step plan for making it happen—the whole process can be completed fairly quickly, and if successful, you should see results soon. The magic will give your goals a real power-boost to help get you over any humps and bumps in the road toward your dreams.

Step 1: Open Your Magical Mind

Do you meditate? If so, you already know how to accomplish step one of the magical process. Opening your magical mind means being in a relaxed state of open, expanded awareness, your consciousness directed outward as you push any mundane worries and woes away. How you achieve this state is up to you. You might meditate for a few moments, concentrating on your breathing and silencing the mind. You might instead choose to enjoy a relaxing bath, imagining any anxieties flowing out of your body and into the water. Many people like to take a short walk, finding that Nature itself is enough to calm the mind and soothe the soul.

Step 2: Power Up

Next, it’s time to power up, gathering resources and extra energy to help fuel the magic. Find a quiet place in your home or outside where you won’t be disturbed while you raise your power. As a spiritual being, you’re connected to the divine energy that runs throughout existence, and this unifying force, this common thread of living consciousness, is what magical power is made of. We can connect to this power in many ways, and as unique beings, we each have our own individual relationships to what we might call the divine essence, the higher powers, Spirit, Goddess, or God. Do whatever you usually do that puts you in touch with a higher power, be it saying a prayer, admiring a tree, or calling on the elemental forces of Nature. You can also gather additional energy for the magic by lighting candles, placing houseplants or fresh flowers nearby, or laying out some crystals or other stones that appeal to you. If the space you’re working in is feng-shui friendly, your magic will get a natural boost.

Step 3: Express Your Purpose

The next step is to express your purpose—the intent of the magic, the goal you would like to achieve. You can state your goal out loud, write it on a piece of paper, scratch a symbol representing your wish into the side of a candle, draw a picture or play act a scene of what it will look like when you achieve your outcome, or any other method you can think of that you feel expresses your idea successfully. Simply envisioning your desired outcome clearly and vividly is often sufficient. Be sure (and this is important!) to put your desires in positive terms, focusing on the outcome you want and thinking of it as if it has already come true. For example, instead of writing the phrase, “I want to travel more,” write instead, “I will travel more.”

Step 4: Release the Magic

Now it’s time for the final step, releasing the magic. Visualize the energy within you and surrounding you, and consciously push that energy outward, releasing it into the wider universe and willing it to do its work. Trust in your mind’s natural ability to accomplish this. If you prefer, you can instead direct the energy into a piece of jewelry, a stone, or other token—this will create a talisman or “good luck charm” you can carry with you. Once the magic has been released, put it out of your mind. You’ll notice results soon as new opportunities and resources begin to manifest. Remember that the job of the magic is to remove obstacles and clear the way forward; it’s always up to you to take the next steps!

The Magical Life

Magic is empowering; it puts us in the driver’s seat and reminds us that we alone are in charge of our personal journey. By unlocking the power of your magical mind, you’ll have the extra fuel needed to make your dreams and goals reality. Certainly, magic can’t solve every problem, but it can and will help put the odds for success more in your favor. Who couldn’t use better odds?

Melanie Marquis is the founder of United Witches global coven and the author of The Witch’s Bag of Tricks (June 2011, Llewellyn Publications), a book about going further down your own unique path through personalized, powerful magic. Visit her online at http://www.melaniemarquis.com

Melanie Marquis
[email protected]