Beltane (Bealtaine)

DateEventOriginAttributeTimeDeity Honored
Apr. 30-May 1Celtic SummerCelticFeminineEveBilé

Beltane (“BEY-al-TIN-ah”) is celebrated from sunset of 30th April to sunset of 1st May, halfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. If working by the moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Taurus. “Beltane” is derived from Lá Bealtaine, an Irish Gaelic term meaning “Day of Beltane/May”. Some derives the word from the God Bel (“bright”) and the Irish Gaelic word tene (“fire”). This Major Sabbat marks the beginning of the Celtic Summer or the lighter half of the year. This is a time for acknowledging the impregnation of nature and for doing fertility rituals connected with the waxing power of the sun. Like Samhain, it is a time when the veil is thin between the worlds, a time to communicate with spirits, particularly at this time nature spirits. In the Lord and the Lady Narrative, Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, He desires the Goddess. They fall in love, lie amongst the grasses and blossoms, and unite. The Goddess becomes pregnant of the God.

The Daoine Sídhe were thought to be especially active at Beltane and the goal of many Beltane rituals was to protect humans from these beings, as well as from witches who may try to cause harm. Gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí. Beltane is a favored time to honor Bel, the Gallic God of the Sun and Cernunnos, the Gallic Horned God associated with fertility and vegetation. On Beltane eve, rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. The Celts would build two large fires, Bel Fires, lit from the nine sacred woods. The Bel Fire is an invocation to Bilé, the Celtic Sun God, to bring His blessings and protection to the tribe. The herds were ritually driven between two needfires (fein cigin), built on a knoll. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire, or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over flames or embers. The herds were driven through to purify, bring luck and protect them as well as to ensure their fertility before they were taken to summer grazing lands. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. Doors, windows, byres and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers, because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush; a thorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells. A Scottish legend tells that between Samhain and Beltane, The Cailleach rules on the world. Her retreat is celebrated by a Beltane cake.

Holy wells were often visited at Beltane, as Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness. Visitors to holy wells would pray for health while walking sunwise around the well. They would then leave offerings; typically coins or clooties. The first water drawn from a well on Beltane was seen as being especially potent. At dawn on Beltane, maidens would roll in the dew or wash their faces with it. It would also be collected in a jar, left in the sunlight, and then filtered. The dew was thought to increase sexual attractiveness, maintain youthfulness, and help with skin ailments.

Modern Celebration of Beltane

From the late 18th century to the mid-20th century, many accounts of Beltane customs were recorded by folklorists and other writers. John Jamieson, in his Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1808) describes the Beltane customs which persisted in the 18th and early 19th centuries in parts of Scotland, which he noted were beginning to die out. In the 19th century, folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912), collected the song Am Beannachadh Bealltain in his Carmina Gadelica, which he heard from a crofter in South Uist. As a festival, Beltane had largely died out by the mid-20th century, although some of its customs continued and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. In Ireland, Beltane fires were common until the mid-20th century, but the custom seems to have lasted to the present day only in County Limerick (especially in Limerick itself) and in Arklow, County Wicklow. However, the custom has been revived in some parts of the country. Some cultural groups have sought to revive the custom at Uisneach and perhaps at the Hill of Tara. The lighting of a community Beltane fire from which each hearth fire is then relit is observed today in some parts of the Gaelic diaspora, though in most of these cases it is a cultural revival rather than an unbroken survival of the ancient tradition. In some areas of Newfoundland, the custom of decorating the May Bush is also still extant. The town of Peebles in the Scottish Borders holds a traditional week-long Beltane Fair every year in June, when a local girl is crowned Beltane Queen on the steps of the parish church. Like other Borders festivals, it incorporates a Common Riding, an equestrian tradition in the Scottish Borders in Scotland. Since 1988, a Beltane Fire Festival has been held every year during the night of 30 April on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland. While inspired by traditional Beltane, this festival is a modern arts and cultural event which incorporates myth and drama from a variety of world cultures and diverse literary sources. Two central figures of the Bel Fire procession and performance are the May Queen and the Green Man.

Beltane and Beltane-based festivals are held by some Neopagans. As there are many kinds of Neopaganism, their Beltane celebrations can be very different despite the shared name. Some try to emulate the historic festival as much as possible. Other Neopagans base their celebrations on many sources, the Gaelic festival being only one of them. Neopagans usually celebrate Beltane on 30 April – 1 May in the Northern Hemisphere and 31 October – 1 November in the Southern Hemisphere, beginning and ending at sunset. Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice (or the full moon nearest this point). In the Northern Hemisphere, this midpoint is when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 45 degrees. Wiccans use the name Beltane or Beltaine for their May Day celebrations. It is one of the yearly Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, following Ostara and preceding Midsummer. Unlike Celtic Reconstructionism, Wicca is syncretic and melds practices from many different cultures. In general, the Wiccan Beltane is more akin to the Germanic/English May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as maypole dancing). Some Wiccans enact a ritual union of the May Lord and May Lady. As Beltane is the Great Wedding of the Goddess and the God, it is a popular time for Handfastings. Bonfires continued to be a key part of the festival in the modern era. All hearth fires and candles would be doused before the bonfire was lit, generally on a mountain or hill. Many observe the traditional bonfire rites, to whatever extent this is feasible where they live.

Celtic Reconstructionists strive to reconstruct the pre-Christian religions of the Celts. Their religious practices are based on research and historical accounts, but may be modified slightly to suit modern life. They avoid modern syncretism and eclecticism (i.e. combining practices from unrelated cultures). Celtic Reconstructionists usually celebrate Lá Bealtaine when the local hawthorn trees are in bloom. Many observe the traditional bonfire rites, to whatever extent this is feasible where they live. This may involve passing themselves and their pets or livestock between two bonfires, and bringing home a candle lit from the bonfire. If they are unable to make a bonfire or attend a bonfire ceremony, torches or candles may be used instead. They may decorate their homes with a May Bush, branches from blooming thorn trees, or equal-armed rowan crosses. Holy wells may be visited and offerings made to the spirits or deities of the wells. Traditional festival foods may also be prepared.

Beltane Reference Guide

PronunciationBEY-al-TIN-ah
OriginCeltic
EventMarks the beginning of the Celtic Summer
TimeHalfway between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice
Traditional DateMay 1 (Northern Hemisphere) | November 1 (Southern Hemisphere)
Astrological TimingSun at 15o of Taurus (Northern) | Sun at 15o of Scorpio (Southern)
ConnectionMay Day (May 1), Walpurgis Night (Germanic), Roodmas (May 3)
Alternate NamesMay Day (Ásatrú), May Eve
Cultural NamesIrish Gaelic (Goídelc): Beltaine / Céad-shamh(ain) (“first (of) summer”) Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig): (Lá) Bealltainn, Bealltuinn Manx Gaelic (Gaelg): (Laa) Boaltinn/Boaldyn Welsh (Cymraeg): Calan Mai/Haf (“Beginning of May/Summer”) Proto-Celtic (Common Celtic): *belo-te(p)niâ (“bright fire”) Irish Reconstructionist: Bealtaine, Belteine
Spiritual FocusAbundance, creation, fertility, growth, love, psychic ability, purification, sexuality, union
Magickal FocusAbundance, cooperation, fertility, growth, love, manifestation, passion, protection, purification, union
Suggested WorkingsBuilding sacred fires, giving offerings, handfastings, protecting plants, animals, people and possessions, visiting sacred wells, walking the boundaries of one’s property, working with faeries
Female ArchetypesMaiden and Mother aspects of the Goddess, Earth Goddess, Goddesses associated with water, plants or animals
Male ArchetypesThe lusty young god getting ready to fertilize the goddess earth with his seed, Dying and resurrecting gods, Gods associated with fire, plants or animals, Green Man, Horned God, Lord of the Wild Wood, Sun gods
Celtic GoddessesDanu (Irish)
Celtic GodsBelenus (Gallic), Beli Mawr (Welsh), Bilé (Irish), Cernunnos (Gallic), Lugh (Irish)
ColorsBrown, Green, Pink, White, Yellow
HerbsLemon, Mint, Mugwort, Woodruff
TreesBirch, Hawthorn, Oak, Pine, Willow
FlowersDaisy, Ivy, Lily of the Valley, Rose, Violet
Incense & Oil ScentsFrankincense, Jasmine, Lemon, Mint, Pine, Rose, Woodruff, Ylang-ylang
Crystals & StonesBloodstone, Emerald, Rose Quartz, Sapphire
MetalsCopper, Gold, Silver
AnimalsBee, Cow, Dove, Frog, Rabbit
Tarot KeysThe Emperor, The Empress, The High Priestess, The Magician
Symbols & ToolsFlowers, Maypole, Priapic wand
FoodHoney, Light cakes
DrinksLemonade, May Wine (White Wine, Lemon Slices, Woodruff Milk)
ActivitiesBringing in the May by collecting foliage the night before and placing it in the home in time for the Beltane sunrise, decorating a May Bush, distributing May baskets, divination, feasting, fertility magick, handfastings and other romantic partnerships, lighting bonfires, making offerings to deities, ancestors and faeries, Maypole dancing, nature walks, purification ceremonies, protection rituals, sacred sex, singing, visiting wells
Acts of ServiceBeautifying a neighbor’s living quarters with fresh flowers and herbs, planting a tree, removing litter from an outdoor area, working on a community garden

Rite of Beltane

This rite can be included in your usual seasonal ritual order.

Additional items:

• 2 Green Candles

Declare the Statement of Purpose:

I am doing a rite today to celebrate Beltane
The holy day of sacred marriage
Between the Goddess and the God
As nature rejoices
In a blaze of color and life

Light the surrounding rituals candles. Then, pick up the chalice filled with wine, hold upwards and say:

Blessed be the sacred union
Which manifests in all creation
Behold the womb of the Mother
The entity from which all life flows
Blessed be the Lady!
The Holy Bride of Heaven and Earth
Come unite with The Lord
In the ancient rite of sacred marriage!

Now pick up the athame, hold upwards and say:

Behold the phallus of the God
Fruitful principle of the universe
Blessed be the Lord!
The Holy Groom of Heaven and Earth
Come unite with Thy Lady Goddess
In the ancient rite of sacred marriage!

Now, symbolically re-create the Great Rite. While slowly dipping the athame into the chalice, say:

Chalice to athame
As Goddess is to God
Father is to Mother
As man is to woman
Behold the sacred union!

Replace the chalice and athame back on the altar and say:

By this act of love, all life comes to be
By this act of faith, I proclaim my place
On the eternal cycle of life!

Now toast to the Lord and Lady by drinking from the chalice.

Witch Recipe: Scottish Beltane Cake

The Beltane Cake was a Scottish custom. It was divided into a number of pieces, and distributed in great form to the company. There was one particular piece which whoever got was called cailleach beal-tine (“the Beltane carline” – a term of great reproach). Upon his being known, part of the company laid hold of him and made a show of putting him into the fire; but the majority interposing, he was rescued. In modern times, the Beltane cake celebrates sexuality and bring out the sex Divine in everyone. It is a rich, intensely flavorful cake loaded with aphrodisiac ingredients.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Total Time: 1 h 15 min. (Preparation: 25 min. | Cooking Time: 50 min).

Ingredients:

• 1 ¾ Cups All-Purpose Flour
• ½ Tablespoon Baking Powder
• ¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
• ½ Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
• ½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
• ¾ Tablespoon Ground Ginger
• 3 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate
• ½ Cup Milk
• ¼ Cup Brandy
• ½ tsp. Vanilla
• ¾ Cups Butter
• 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
• 3 Eggs
• ¾ Cups Amaretto Liqueur
• Confectioner Sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350o F.
  2. Grease a large Bundt pan or spring-form pan
  3. Melt chocolate in a double boiler and set aside.
  4. Mix milk, brandy, and vanilla.
  5. Mix flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, and ginger in a separate bowl.
  6. Cream the butter, then add brown sugar and beat until fluffy.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time, into the butter mixture.
  8. Add cooled chocolate to the butter mixture.
  9. Add the flour mixture and milk mixture to the butter mixture a little at a time.
  10. Pour mixture into greased Bundt pan or spring-form pan.
  11. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
  12. Let cake cool for 20 minutes before removing from pan, then place it into a bowl (flat side up).
  13. Using a skewer, pierce the cake with 10-12 holes, being careful not to go all the way through.
  14. Pour 1/3 of the amaretto over the cake. When that is absorbed, pour another 1/3 amaretto; when absorbed, pour the remainder onto the cake. This will take several hours.
  15. When all of it has been absorbed, gently invert the cake onto a plate (flat side down).
  16. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar.
  17. Keep the cake covered until serving. It will get better if you wait 8-24 hours.

Witch Craft: Making a Miniature Maypole

For centuries, Beltane or May Day rituals welcomed the arrival of spring in Germany, England, Sweden and other European countries. Americans have adopted the custom to pay tribute to nature and celebrate the change of seasons. Each May 1, according to tradition, revelers plant a tree trunk or wooden pole in the ground and decorate it with flowers and colorful ribbons. Dancers hold the ends of the ribbons and circle the pole, creating an intricate braided pattern as they go. To bring the spirit of this charming springtime ritual into your home, create a miniature maypole for tabletop display.

Supplies:

• Wooden disk, 12-inch-by-1-inch
• Sharpened pencil
• Dowel, 1/2-inch-by-12-inch
• White craft glue
• Sheet moss
• Satin ribbons in assorted colors, 1/8-inch-by-16-inch
• Dowel cap with 5/8-inch hole, 1-inch diameter
• Small silk flowers in assorted colors

Instructions:

  1. Make a pilot hole through the center of the wooden disk with a drill. Make sure the hole is large enough to hold the dowel snugly.
  2. Apply craft glue to the disk and cover it with pieces of sheet moss, taking care not to cover the hole. Allow the disk to dry completely.
  3. Glue one edge of each ribbon to one end of the dowel, spacing the ribbons evenly. Squeeze a small amount of glue into the dowel-cap hole and place the cap on the ribbon-covered end of the dowel. Apply glue to the other end of the dowel and insert it into the hole in the wooden disk. Let the glue dry.
  4. Glue small flowers to the dowel cap, covering it completely. Glue a few flowers on the top and sides of the moss-covered disk. Let the glue dry.
  5. Twist the ribbons around the pole, creating a woven pattern that covers the top 2 inches of the dowel. Drape the loose ribbons toward the edges of the disk and glue a small flower on the end of each ribbon.

Tips: When displaying the miniature maypole on a table, scatter additional silk flowers around it or place it within a spring wreath. Celebrate the progress of spring by continuing the ribbon pattern down the pole, weaving a small section each day.

Further Reading: Beltane by Melanie Marquis (2015)

Ostara (Meán Earrach)

Sorry for being so late…

DateEventOriginAttributeTimeDeity Honored
March 19-20Spring EquinoxNorseMasculineDayAengus Óg

Ostara (“OH-star-ah”) is celebrated on March 19-20, during the Spring Equinox. “Ostara” is derived from *austrō, a Proto-Germanic word meaning “dawn”, itself a descendant of the Proto-Indo-European root *aus-, meaning “to shine”. The Irish Reconstructionist name of this festival is Meán Earrach (“Middle of Spring”). This Minor Sabbat marks the middle of the Celtic Spring, but is actually the astronomical beginning of spring, manifested by the return of warmth and light of the sun. This is a time for acknowledging the awakening of the seed and also balance, renewal and rebirth in our lives. Light and dark are here in balance, but the light is growing stronger. The days grow lighter and the earth grows warmer. It is a time of birth, and of manifestation. Rites are best performed at dawn or dusk, that time between light and dark. This is the time of spring’s return, the joyful time, the seed time, when life bursts forth from the earth and the chains of winter are broken. It is a time of balance when all the elements within must be brought into new harmony. In the Lord and the Lady Narrative, the Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility, bursting forth from Her sleep, as the God stretches and grows to maturity. He walks the greening fields and delights in the abundance of nature. The Goddess and God impel the wild creatures of the Earth to reproduce. In the Oak King and the Holly King Narrative, the sun begins to wax again and the Holly King slowly regains his strength until he once again defeats the Oak King at Midsummer.

Fertility is a major theme for that festival. Ostara/Ēostre is also the name of the Saxon/Germanic goddess of dawn, rebirth and spring. Her lights are carried by hares and she represents spring fecundity, love and carnal pleasure that lead to fecundity. The egg is also associated with Ostara, as the egg is a symbol of creation and represents the cyclical rebirth of nature, equated with the gods. Reincarnation is represented by the return of the goddess Ēostre awakening from her winter hibernation, signaling the renewal of life. In the old times, eggs were left at the graves of the beloved deceased, as a way of calling for their rebirth and return. During Ostara, the Irish celebrated Aengus Óg, the young god associated with physical love and spring time. During sunrise, the Celtic Druids celebrated the Vernal Equinox on hilltops and centered on growth and the renewal of life. The Gauls feasted during Dius Aratri (“Day of the Plough”).

In Northern Europe, Easter imagery often involves hares and rabbits. The first scholar to make a connection between the goddess Eostre and hares was Adolf Holtzmann in his book Deutsche Mythologie. In his late 19th-century study of the hare in folk custom and mythology, Charles J. Billson cited numerous incidents of folk customs involving hares around the Easter season in Northern Europe. Billson said that “whether there was a goddess named Ēostre, or not, and whatever connection the hare may have had with the ritual of Saxon or British worship, there are good grounds for believing that the sacredness of this animal reaches back into an age still more remote, where it is probably a very important part of the great Spring Festival of the prehistoric inhabitants of this island”.

Modern Celebration of Ostara

The concept of *Ostara as reconstructed by Jacob Grimm and Adolf Holtzmann has had a strong influence on European culture since the 19th century, with many fanciful legends and associations growing up around the figure of the goddess in popular articles based on the speculation of these early folklorists. In some forms of Germanic neopaganism, Ēostre (or Ostara) is venerated as part of the neopagan Wiccan Wheel of the Year. Regarding this veneration, Ēostre is associated with the coming of spring and the dawn, and her festival is celebrated at the spring equinox. Because she brings renewal, rebirth from the death of winter, some Heathens associate Ēostre with Iðunn, keeper of the apples of youth in Scandinavian mythology.

Known as Alban Eilir to modern Druid traditions, this holiday is when light and darkness are again in balance, with light on the rise. It is a time of new beginnings and of life emerging further from the grips of winter. Alban Eilir is at the point of balance between Imbolc and Beltane, is at the point of balance too between day and night, and it is a perfect time to open to the quality of balance in our own lives.

Neopagans observe Ostara by honoring the spring critters, like rabbits, hares, ducks, chickens, sheep and goats. During Ostara, participants do both solitary and communal rituals, including egg races, egg hunts, egg painting, and egg eating. A common tradition is the egg decorating and the egg hunt, popularized in the United States by the president Abraham Lincoln and now strongly associated with the Christian Easter. The egg (and all seeds) contains ‘all potential’, full of promise and new life. It symbolizes the rebirth of nature, the fertility of the Earth and all creation. In many traditions the egg is a symbol for the whole universe. The ‘cosmic’ egg contains a balance of male and female, light and dark, in the egg yolk and egg white. The golden orb of the yolk represents the Sun God enfolded by the White Goddess, perfect balance, so it is particularly appropriate to Ostara and the Spring Equinox when all is in balance for just a moment, although the underlying energy is one of growth and expansion. Pagans celebrate Ostara with various rituals celebrating fertility, nature and new growth. Egg races, egg hunts, egg eating and egg painting are common activities. A man and a woman might be chosen to act out the roles of Spring God and Goddess, playing out courtship and symbolically planting seeds. This is a good time of year to start your seedlings. If you grow an herb garden, start getting the soil ready for late spring plantings. Celebrate the balance of light and dark as the sun begins to tip the scales, and the return of new growth is near.

Many modern Pagans mark Ostara as a time of renewal and rebirth. Take some time to celebrate the new life that surrounds you in nature–walk in a park, lay in the grass, hike through a forest. As you do so, observe all the new things beginning around you–plants, flowers, insects, birds. Meditate upon the ever-moving Wheel of the Year, and celebrate the change of seasons. In modern day living Ostara is also good time to start taking action on the ideas and goals you started thinking about around Yule and Imbolc. What you plant during Ostara will be ready to be harvested during the coming summer months and the sabbats of Beltane, Midsummer and Lughnasadh. Ostara is a time for balance and a good occasion for new beginnings and fresh opportunities. It is a good time to freshen up your home and life. Take time to do some spring cleaning. Cleaning isn’t just limited to your home. Take some time to declutter and clean up areas where you spend a lot of time, like your car, your computer or your work office.

Role plays with a man and a woman as god and goddess of spring show courtship rituals representing planting of seeds. There are also rebirthing rituals and earth meditation to get closer with nature. Other Ostara meals include mint chutney, roasted lamb, deviled eggs, peep ambrosia, spring sprout salad, and surprise lemon bread. Neopagans also celebrate by eating fresh spring foods like sprouts, dandelion greens, and nettles. Some undertake a fast during this period, to clear away the toxins of the winter. Many Wiccans plant an herb garden (for later use in spells) on Ostara. Home altars might feature spring flowers, seeds, jasmine or flowery incense, and the gemstone of jasper.

Ostara Reference Guide

PronunciationOH-star-ah
OriginNorse
EventMarks the middle of the Celtic Spring; Astronomical beginning of Spring
TimeDuring the Spring Equinox
Traditional DateMarch 19-20 (Northern Hemisphere) | September 22-23 (Southern Hemisphere)
Astrological TimingSun at 0o of Aries (Northern) | Sun at 0o of Libra (Southern)
ConnectionEaster (March or April), Lady Day (March 25)
Alternate NamesĒostre, Summer Finding (Ásatrú)
Cultural NamesOld Norse (Icelandic): *Ôstara, Ostarâ / Ôstarmânoth (“Month of April”) Old English (Pagan): Eastermonað/Ēosturmōnaþ (“Month of April”) Old English (Anglo-Saxon): Ēostre/Ēastre/Ēastor, austr (“Rising of Light”) Proto-Germanic (Common Germanic): *Austrō (“to shine”), *austrōn (“Dawn”) Welsh (Cymraeg): Alban Eilir (“Vernal Equinox” or “Light of the Earth”) Irish Reconstructionist: Meán Earrach (“Middle of Spring”), Meán Earraigh
Spiritual FocusBalance, birth, change, fertility, growing in strength, light, new beginnings, rebirth, rejuvenation
Magickal FocusAbundance, balance, change, fertility, growth, lust, new beginnings, new love, passion, prosperity, purification 
Suggested WorkingsBonfires, creating outdoor sacred spaces and altars, divination focused on the coming year, bringing balance to one’s life, planning and creating fairy/flower/vegetable gardens, purifying and protection the home and all who live there including animals
Female ArchetypesMaiden aspect of the Goddess, Goddess of fertility, Mother of the Earth
Male ArchetypesGod in the form of a young and lustful man who will soon become the father, God of the Wild, Green Man
Celtic GoddessesBlodewedd (Welsh), Epona (Gallic), Guinevere (Arthurian)
Celtic GodsAengus Óg (Irish), Cernunnos (Gallic), The Dagda (Irish), Mabon (Welsh)
ColorsGreen, Light Blue, Pink, Silver, Violet, White, Yellow
HerbsReed (Broom), High John the Conqueror, Irish Moss, Lemongrass
TreesAlder, Apple, Hawthorn
FlowersApple Blossom, Columbine, Crocus, Daffodil, Daisy, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Jonquil, Lilac, Narcissus, Orange Blossom, Primrose, Rose, Tulip, Violet
Incense & Oil ScentsApple Blossom, Columbine, Crocus, Daffodil, Daisy, Honey, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Jonquil, Lilac, Narcissus, Orange Blossom, Primrose, Rose, Rain
Crystals & StonesAgate, Aquamarine, Bloodstone, Rose Quartz
MetalsSilver
AnimalsBee, Boar, Butterfly, Chick, Hedgehog, Horse, Rabbit, Ram, Robin
Tarot KeysThe Empress, The Fool, The Magician, The Priestess, Strength, Justice, The Star
Symbols & ToolsBaskets, Eggs, Hare, Seeds
FoodAsparagus, Dill, Eggs, Honey, Lamb, Lettuce, Radishes, Seafood, Spring Onions
DrinksMead, Drinks that come in spring colors
ActivitiesBlessing seeds, cascarones, coloring eggs, egg hunts, home blessings, making plans for the year, painting or carving runes, preparing a garden, spring cleaning, start seedlings, starting garden plants indoors
Acts of ServiceAssisting with the homeless, litter pick-up, community gardening or farming

Rite of Ostara

This rite can be included in your usual seasonal ritual order.

Additional items:

• 3 Candles (Green, Yellow and Purple)
• A Bowl of Milk
• A Bowl of Honey or Sugar

Declare the Statement of Purpose:

I am doing a rite today to celebrate Ostara
The Spring Equinox, the time of balance
The time to exhale after the long darkness
I am here to welcome the time of light
I am here to honor Aengus Óg
And the healing energies
That are beginning to flow through
The soil beneath me, in the plants around me
And in the heavens above me

Light the green candle, to symbolize the blossoming earth. Say:

The Wheel of the Year turns once more
And the vernal equinox arrives
Light and dark are equal
The earth awakes from its slumber
And new life springs forth once more

Next, light the yellow candle, representing the sun. Say:

The sun draws ever closer to us
Greeting the earth with its welcoming rays
And the sky fills with light and warmth
The sun warms the land beneath our feet
And gives life to all in its path

Finally, light the purple candle, representing Aengus Óg. Say:

Spring has come! For this, I am thankful!
In the fertile fields waiting to be planted
In the sky above us, and in the earth below us
I thank you, Aengus Óg,
For all you have to offer me
Welcome, light and spring!

Meditate on the three flames and blend the milk and honey together while saying:

I make this offering to the earth
As thanks for the many blessings I have received
And those I shall someday receive

Witch Recipe: Ostara Honey Cake

A wonderful recipe to honor Spring Equinox or Ostara, is the making of Honey Cakes. This wonderful recipe is to honor the great faeries of the land. In the Middle Ages you would make enough of these cakes to eat, but also to share with your faery friends, for if you didn’t they would raise havoc unto you and your family until you share an equal amount of food with them at the Summer Solstice.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total Time: 1h 45 min. (Preparation: 15 min. | Cooking Time: 60-90 min).

Ingredients:

• 1 Cup Pure Honey
• 1 Cup Applesauce
• 3 Eggs
• 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
• ½ Teaspoon Clove
• ½ Teaspoon Nutmeg
• 2 Cups Flour
• ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
• 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
• 1 Cup Strong Brewed Coffee

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 320o F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the first three ingredients.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, spices and baking soda.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the wet stuff, alternating with the coffee; beat well.
  5. Pour into a greased 9″ × 13″ pan (or, alternatively, three 8″ × 8″ square pans).
  6. Bake at 325o F for 60-90 minutes for the large pan (60 minutes for the three smaller pans)
  7. Just watch for it to be spongy and golden brown. 

Witch Craft: Egg Decorating with Natural Dyes

Ostara is a time of fertility and rebirth, and few things symbolize this as well as the egg. By coloring them with bright pinks, blues and yellows, we’re welcoming the colors of spring back into our lives, and saying farewell to winter. However, a lot of commercially available egg-dying products are made from chemicals. They may not be toxic, but on the other hand, you might not have a clue what the ingredients are. You can try using natural sources to get a variety of shades, and really celebrate the colors of the season.

Supplies:

• Eggs
• A cauldron filled with water
• White vinegar (2 tsp)

Instructions:

  1. Plan on only doing about 3-4 eggs at a time. You’ll need them to have room to bob around in the pan, and not be piled on top of one another. Before starting, poke a small hole with a pin or needle in the end of each egg. This will help keep them from cracking while they boil.
  2. Start your water boiling. Use enough to cover about an inch over the tops of the eggs, but don’t put them in the pan yet. Add 2 tsp of white vinegar, and bring the water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add 3-4 eggs using a slotted spoon. Next, add your coloring material.
  3. To color your eggs, add one of the following items. You’ll have to experiment a little to see how much to add, but try different amounts to get different shades of each color. Once you’ve added your coloring (see below), allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. After they’ve boiled, carefully remove the eggs from the pot with your slotted spoon and place them on a paper towel to dry. If you’d like them darker, you can allow them to sit overnight in the pot of dye, but the vinegar can weaken the eggs’ shells.
  5. When the eggs have dried completely, dab a little bit of vegetable oil on a paper towel and “polish” the eggs to give them some shine.
  6. Keep your eggs refrigerated until it’s time to hide them, eat them, or show them off to your friends. Never eat eggs that have been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.

Natural Coloring:

• Red/Pink: Paprika
• Purple: Concentrated grape juice (about half a can)
• Yellow: Skins of a half dozen yellow onions
• Gold: Curry powder or turmeric
• Beige: Coffee grounds
• Light Green: Frozen chopped spinach (1/3 to 1/2 package)
• Blue: Frozen blueberries with juice (1 Cup)

Tips: If your kids are more into the coloring than the eating of Ostara eggs, consider brushing your colored eggs with a thin layer of glue, and then sprinkling some glitter on top. Use a wax crayon to make designs and sigils on the eggs before dying. The waxed area will appear as white once you’ve finished.

Further Reading: Ostara by Kerri Connor (2015)

Witchy Room Tour Update!

It’s been two years since my last Witchy Room Tour, a lot have changed since then. My room has more of a Dark Academia aesthetic! I think the light is better in this one, compared to the last, and I hope you’ll enjoy sneaking in my sacred center!

Altar Cleaning for Imbolc

I still need to find the best way to completely remove wax stains, but it is not too bad, and I like that it doesn’t feel too clean. I decided to change the symbol at the center, under the cauldron. I had the symbol for the Wheel of the Year since 2013, but now that I joined OBOD, I decided to go with Awen instead. Happy Imbolc! /|\

Introductory Gwersi 1-2 (Bardic Grade)

I don’t think I’ll review all the Gwersi, but I might comment on my favorites.

Introductory Gwers 1 (Bardic Grade)
The first Gwers start on a high note! I’m impressed with the short but highly informative historical background on the Ancient Celtic Religion and the birth of Druidism. I’ve read many historical books about the Celts, and this introduction is remarkable! Anybody reading these pages will probably wants to further their research with other books, but these words are so great that they light the spark of the need of discovery and learnings. Well done OBOD!

Introductory Gwers 2 (Bardic Grade)
What a fascinating read, again! This one explain the role of the bards, which I knew almost nothing, apart from movies or TV series (Dandelion from The Witcher is my instant favorite!). They also continue with the history of the druids, and most notably explain the Bardic Schools and teachers. The read was so fascinating that I had to look on Internet and books I own to continue my learnings. In my opinion, a well made Gwers will do just that: teach you about a subject that might have been unknown to you, plant a seed, and will makes you want to look further to explore the subject deeper. This is the last of the introductory Gwersi, and now I move ahead with the first Bardic Gwers!

Imbolc (Imbolg)

DateEventOriginAttributeTimeDeity Honored
Jan. 31-Feb. 1Celtic SpringCelticFeminineEveBrighid

Imbolc (“IM-mbolg”) is celebrated from sunset of 31st January to sunset of 1st February, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. If working by the moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Aquarius. “Imbolc” is derived from i mbolg, an Irish Gaelic term meaning “in the belly” and is sometimes named Oimelc (“ewe’s milk”). This Major Sabbat marks the beginning of the Celtic Spring. This is a time for acknowledging the Deities associated with fire and for cleaning the home. The first stirrings of the coming of Spring can be seen, as the first flowers (snowdrops and winter aconite) begin to appear. Seeds which have lain dormant within the Earth over the cold Winter months begin to stir with life, as yet unseen. At Imbolc we celebrate the Waking Light of the soul. Our spirits begin to quicken as we anticipate the rebirth of Nature. Now is the time for the banishing of Winter and the welcoming of Spring. In the Lord and the Lady Narrative, Imbolc marks the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the God. The lengthening periods of light awaken Her. The God is a young, lusty boy, but His power is felt in the longer days. The warmth fertilizes the Earth.

Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It is believed that it was originally a Pagan festival associated with the goddess Brighid and that it was Christianized as a festival of Saint Brigid, who is thought to be a Christianization of the goddess. Fire is one symbol associated with Imbolc. For the Celts, this was a time for processions with candles to honor to the Triple Goddess Brighid. Brighid’s Crosses were made and a doll-like figure of Brighid, called a Brídeóg (“Young Brighid”), would be paraded from house-to-house. On Imbolc Eve, Brigid was said to visit virtuous households and bless the inhabitants. As Brigid represented the light half of the year, and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence was very important at this time of year. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brighid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brighid was also invoked to protect homes and livestock.

The holiday was a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Families would have a special meal which typically included food such as colcannon, sowans, dumplings, barmbrack or bannocks. Often, some of the food and drink would be set aside for Brigid. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. A spring cleaning was also customary. Visitors of holy wells would pray for health while walking ‘sunwise’ around the well. They would then leave offerings, typically coins or clooties. Water from the well was used to bless the home, family members, livestock and fields. Weather divination was performed by the Celts with the help of a hedgehog to know if winter was to end before April.

Modern Celebration of Imbolc

From the 18th century to the mid-20th century, many accounts of Imbolc or St Brigid’s Day were recorded by folklorists and other writers. They tell us how it was celebrated then, and shed light on how it may have been celebrated in the past. Imbolc or Imbolc-based festivals are held by some Neopagans. As there are many kinds of Neopaganism, their Imbolc celebrations can be very different despite the shared name. Some try to emulate the historic festival as much as possible. Other Neopagans base their celebrations on many sources, with historic accounts of Imbolc being only one of them. Neopagans usually celebrate Imbolc on 1 February in the Northern Hemisphere and 1 August in the Southern Hemisphere. Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox (or the full moon nearest this point). In the Northern Hemisphere, this is usually on 3 or 4 February. Other Neopagans celebrate Imbolc when the primroses, dandelions, and other spring flowers emerge. On February 2, Groundhog Day is a modern custom that keep the weather omen tradition using this animal.

Celtic Reconstructionists usually celebrate the festival when the first stirrings of spring are felt, or on the full moon nearest this. Many use traditional songs and rites from sources such as The Silver Bough and The Carmina Gadelica. It is a time of honoring the Goddess Brigid, and many of her dedicants choose this time of year for rituals to her. Wiccans and Neo-Druids celebrate Imbolc as one of the eight Sabbats in their Wheel of the Year, following Midwinter and preceding Ostara. In Wicca, Imbolc is commonly associated with the goddess Brigid and as such it is sometimes seen as a “women’s holiday” with specific rites only for female members of a coven. Among Dianic Wiccans, Imbolc is the traditional time for initiations. An Imbolc tradition held by Witches to this day involves placing a lighted candle in each and every window (or every room) of the house, beginning at sundown, and allowing them to continue burning until sunrise in honor of Brighid and of the Sun’s rebirth. Some Witches covens hold candle-making parties and try to make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day. This is also the traditional time for Pagan initiations.

One way to bring the magic of Brigid into your homes at Imbolc is to make a Brideog. This was traditionally undertaken by the men in the home and the little Brideogs were hung over the doors of people’s homes to protect their home and their family from fire and lightening. Brideogs are made with straw or rushes twisted into the shape of a doll, wrapped in white fabric to represent a little dress and decorated with the first flowers, greenery from the garden, and other pretty things you find in nature. Brigid crosses were also made at this time of year and may be familiar if you had a country childhood. Straw which has been soaked overnight is woven around a frame made of sticks. Hang your Brigid cross wherever you like in your home, but children’s were usually hung over their bed. It was believed that a Brigid cross tucked under the mattress helped aid conception, and they were used to bless seed before planting in spring.

Another Imbolc tradition, as with many Celtic celebrations, is the lighting of fires. Fires celebrated not only the Fire Goddess Brigid, but also recognized the returning power of the sun. Lighting a fire is a good opportunity to gather with friends and family, and reflect, share and laugh together. Imbolc was also a time of feasting so you might want to make some food you can cook in the fire, and toast some marshmallows. Imbolc is a celebration of the awakening natural world and a time of cleansing. Now is the perfect time for a good spring clean of your home, usually undertaken before Imbolc Eve. Get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home and stagnating the energy, and scrub all the surfaces down thoroughly. If you can bear the cold, open all the windows and let some refreshing clean air flow through your home. Traditionally, Imbolc was a time for visiting holy water; a spring or a well, to both purify us and bring fertility to our dreams. Why not set off on an adventure together as a family to find some water near your home: a river, stream, or well. If the water’s clean, splash some over yourself as you set your intention to cleanse and purify. Glennie Kindred suggests dipping a piece of ribbon in the water and then hanging it from a nearby tree to carry messages of hope and healing. She also reminds us to thank the spirits of the place you visit and pick up any rubbish you see nearby as an act of gratitude.

Imbolc Reference Guide

PronunciationIM-mbolg
OriginCeltic
EventMarks the beginning of the Celtic Spring
TimeHalfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox
Traditional DateFebruary 1 (Northern Hemisphere) | August 1 (Southern Hemisphere)
Astrological TimingSun at 15o of Aquarius (Northern) | Sun at 15o of Leo (Southern)
ConnectionSaint Brigid’s Day; Candlemas; Groundhog Day (Feb. 2)
Alternate NamesOimelc, Charming of the Plow (Ásatrú), February Eve
Cultural NamesIrish Gaelic (Goídelc): i mbolg (“in the belly”) / oimelc (“ewe’s milk”) Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig): Là Fhèill Brìghde (“Brighid’s Day”) Manx Gaelic (Gaelg): Laa’l Breeshey (“Brighid’s Day”) Welsh (Cymraeg): Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau (“Lady Festival of Candles”) Proto-Celtic (Common Celtic): Eumelc (“first milking”) Irish Reconstructionist: Imbolg, Lá Fhéile Bríde (“Brighid’s Day”)
Spiritual FocusBeginnings, preparation, patience, awakening, thrift, newness/renewal, child-like delight in all things, innocence, change, emergence from sleep/hibernation, cleansing, spouting seeds, fertility, transitions
Magickal FocusProtection, birth/rebirth, transformation, youth, well-being, emergence, awakenings
Suggested WorkingsCleansing, divination, healing
Female ArchetypesMaiden aspect of the Goddess, the Goddess in the form of young mother tending to her growing child
Male ArchetypesGod in the form of a child exploring the world, the innocence of the masculine
Celtic GoddessesArianrhod (Welsh), Brighid (Irish), Danu (Irish)
Celtic GodsDian Cécht (Irish)
ColorsGreen, Pink, White, Yellow
HerbsAngelica, Basil, Blackberry/Bramble, Cinnamon, Grain, Reed, Wormwood
TreesBlackthorn, Cedar, Rowan, Sycamore
FlowersCrocus, Daffodil
Incense & Oil ScentsCedar, Peppermint, Styrax, Basil, Cinnamon
Crystals & StonesAmethyst, Turquoise, Rutilated Quartz
MetalsAntimony, Brass, Gold
AnimalsCow, Groundhog, Lark, Robin, Sheep, Snake, Swan
Tarot KeysDeath, The Empress, The Star
Symbols & ToolsBrighid’s Cross, Corn Dollies, Brighid’s Bed, Candles, the Cauldron, Broom/Besom, Whistle
FoodDried Fruits, Grains, Potatoes, Cornmeal, Dried/Salted Meats, Cheese, Pickled or Canned Foods, Nuts, Eggs
DrinksAll Dairy Products, Ale, Mead, Cider
ActivitiesMaking a corn dolly, making a Brighid’s Cross, candle making, candle blessing, making fortune cookies, dedicate new magickal tools, blessing of animals, blessing of new projects, divination, fireworks
Acts of ServiceClear snow/ice from public walkways, gather blankets for the needy, clear and prepare a community garden or flower bed for planting, clean the home of a physically limited person

Rite of Imbolc

This rite can be included in your usual seasonal ritual order.

Additional items:

• 1 Red Candle
• A Brighid’s Cross
• A Bowl of Milk

Declare the Statement of Purpose:

I am doing a rite today to celebrate Imbolc
It is the promise of the return of warmth
And I am honored by the presence of Brighid
In the midst of my world I light the fire
Where the sacred and the mundane meet
Under the care of the Triple Brighid
I call to Brighid, the flame on the hearth.
Come to me, bless me with your presence
I call to Brighid, inspirer of poets
I call to Brighid, strength of smiths
I call to Brighid, power of healers
Come to me, bless me with your presence
Lady Brighid, come in, come in, come in
You are thrice welcome!
Burn in my midst, O fire of Brighid
Opening to the sacred world
One who inspires my every deed
Center of the spiral unfurled

Light a red candle for Brighid, saying:

Be my priestess, Brighid, drawing the gods near
And conveying my offerings to them

Pour milk into the offering bowl for Brighid, saying:

Mother Brighid, unite me with everyone
For by worshiping at a common hearth
we are made one family, one people
Brighid is in my midst!

Take the bowl of water and spray the Brighid’s Cross, saying:

Bless this cross, Gentle Brighid
And with it the homes to which it go
And with it the ones who enter the home
And with it all that occurs within

Put down the bowl.

Witch Recipe: Brighid’s Imbolc Oatcake

The Celts believed that Brighid traveled throughout the countryside on February Eve (Jan. 31) to bless the people, their homes, and their livestock. Brighid was associated with protection and healing and bringing fertility to women, crops, livestock, and the artistic imagination. In preparation for Brighid’s visit, farmer’s wives made some kind of special dish: apple-cake, dumplings, colcannon, fruit cakes, or oat cakes. Brighid was the patroness of cattle and dairy work, so dairy products – in particular, butter – featured prominently. People left offerings of cake or bread and butter on the windowsill for refreshment during her visit. They often left a sheaf of corn as well, for the white cow who accompanied her on her rounds. In addition, the chewy bread-cakes called Brighid’s Oatcake have been fed to children in Ireland for years, in the belief that vigorous chewing would strengthen their young jaws. The children of today like them because they are fun to eat. And because they are low in fat and high in fiber, they are definitely healthful. The loaf is cut in quarters, or “farls” before it is baked.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings (1 quartered loaf, 4 farls)
Total Time: 50 min. (Preparation: 15 min. | Cooking Time: 30-35 min).

Ingredients:

• 2 Cups Uncooked, Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats (not instant)
• 1 ¼ Cups Buttermilk
• 2 ½ Cups Sifted Bread Flour
• 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
• ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
• 1 Teaspoon Salt
• Vegetable Oil Spray

Directions:

  1. A day ahead, combine the oats and buttermilk in a small bowl.
  2. Blend thoroughly, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The next day, preheat oven to 350o F.
  4. Remove the oat mixture from the refrigerator.
  5. Combine the bread flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  6. Slowly add the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon 20-30 times, or until you have a smooth dough.
  7. Grease a baking sheet with the oil spray.
  8. Turn the dough onto the baking sheet.
  9. Use your hands to form a round, cake-shaped loaf about 1-inch thick.
  10. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 4 quarters.
  11. Move the quarters apart slightly, but keep them in the original round shape.
  12. Bake until the cakes are light golden brown and firm to the touch, 30-35 minutes.
  13. Cool slightly on a rack, and serve with butter and jam or preserves.

Witch Craft: Brighid’s Cross

At Imbolg, the Maiden aspect of the Goddess might be represented in a great variety of ways. One representation of the Goddess is Brighid’s Cross. Although the original design may well have been made from rushes, wheat versions have been recreated for centuries. For Imbolc, make a cross for each room in the house to invite the blessings of the Goddess into them.

Supplies:

• 28 long, large diameter Wheat straws without heads (or flexible Reed or Grasses)
• 4 pieces of string about 6″ long

Instructions:

  1. Soak straws in a tub of cool water for half an hour, then wrap in a towel for another 15 minutes.
  2. Position two straws to make a plus sign, placing the horizontal straw on top (fig a).
  3. Pull the upper section of the vertical straw down on top of its other half (fig. b).
  4. Turn the weave 90 degrees counterclockwise (fig c).
  5. Repeat to fold down the straw that is now vertical (fig. d).
  6. Turn the straws 90 degrees counterclockwise again (fig. e).
  7. Add the next straw by placing it to the right of the vertical folded straw and under the horizontal folded straw (fig. f).
  8. Fold the added straw, turn the straws once again (fig. g).
  9. Add the fourth and final straw to this round in the same fashion (fig. h and fig. i).

Tips: Continue to add folded straws. Avoid letting them bunch up or lie on top of those in a previous round. Instead, build the weave outward, resting the straws side by side. At first, you may find it difficult to hold the arms together and at right angles, but as the weave gains substance, this will prove easier. Just remember to watch for gaps and fill them by repositioning and tightening the straws as necessary. When all 28 straws have been incorporated, tie each arm off about 4 inches from the center of the design. Trim the ends of the straws and threads. 

Further Reading: Imbolc by Carl F. Neal (2015)

OBOD Update: That was quick!

Oh yes!!! I received my first OBOD package, after only 9 days, with the introductory material and the first Gwersi! I can’t wait to jump at it this weekend! Also, I’m so grateful to have the first festival booklet, Imbolc, just in time for February 1st! I’m so impressed by how fast the OBOD team managed this! What an amazing feeling right now! /|\

UPDATE: Just discovered the CD in a corner of the packaging! I knew we had to receive a Meditation and Pronunciation Guide CD, but I supposed it was for another time. I’m glad I carefully inspected the envelope before recycling it!

I’m now a member of OBOD!

I have been a Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) member starting in 2013, but I hadn’t renewed my membership in 2020… I was looking for something else. And now, it seems that I have found my new home: the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (OBOD). ADF was great in a sense that I could read a lot on various Indo-European Pagan practices, but when I connected with the Celtic path, I still had to read or report on other practices that I wasn’t feeling any connection at all. That’s why I had big troubles finishing the Dedicant Path, or should I say, edit the text to include a variety of customs that I had chosen to ignore. I wanted to only talk about the Celtic/Irish customs, or the Tuatha Dé Dannan. To me (and this is only my opinion), Druids are Celtic. Not Nordic, Hellenic, Vedic, or anything else. Each of these paths have names for their spiritual members/leaders. If I want to be a Heathen, I’ll study in a Nordic tradition like Ásatrú or Odinism. If I want to be a Druid, I prefer if it’s based on Celtic traditions and mythologies. I have read many books on comparative religions, and even if others traditions are interesting, I don’t feel the connection to any of them. So, with OBOD, it seems that they are highly focused on Celtic traditions. Still, I’ll have to adapt my very Irish centered practice to include some Welsh elements, but it feels right to me. Anyway, I am about to receive my first package from the Bardic Course, and I’ll keep the blog updated with my future studies! To be continued…

The Order of the Court Cards in the Thoth Tarot

It is well known that the Thoth tarot order of the court cards goes like this: Princesses, Princes, Queens, and Knights. However, some tarotists, me included, begins to question that typical order. In 1898, Aleister Crowley joined the esoteric Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Thoth Tarot certainly derives from the Golden Dawn principles, and the description of their Tarot deck is found in the Book T – The Tarot. The court cards are titled as Knaves, Kings, Queens and Knights. At first glance, it seems that Crowley changed ‘Knave’ for ‘Princess’, and ‘King’ for ‘Prince’. The following excerpts are for the Swords court cards:

Knight of Swords: A WINGED Warrior with crowned Winged Helmet, mounted upon a brown steed. His general equipment is as that of the Knight of Wands, but he wears as a crest a winged six-pointed star, similar to those represented on the heads of Castor and Pollux the Dioscuri, the twins Gemini (a part of which constellation is included in his rule). He holds a drawn sword with the sigil of his scale upon its pommel. Beneath his horse’s feet are dark-driving stratus clouds.

Queen of Swords: A GRACEFUL woman with wavy, curling hair, like a Queen seated upon a Throne and crowned. Beneath the Throne are grey cumulus clouds. Her general attire is as that of the Queen of Wands, but she wears as a crest a winged child’s head. A drawn sword in one hand, and in the other a large, bearded, newly severed head of a man.

King of Swords: A WINGED King with Winged Crown, seated in a chariot drawn by Arch Fays, represented as winged youths very slightly dressed, with butterfly wings: heads encircled by a fillet with a pentagram thereon: and holding wands surmounted by pentagrams, the same butterfly wings on their feet and fillets. General equipment as the King of Wands: but he bears as a crest a winged angelic head with a pentagram on the brows. Beneath the chariot are grey nimbus clouds. His hair long and waving in serpentine whirls, and whorl figures compose the scales of his armour. A drawn sword in one hand; a sickle in the other. With the sword he rules, with the sickle he slays.

Knave of Swords: AN AMAZON figure with waving hair, slighter than the Rose of the Palace of Fire. Her attire is similar. The Feet seem springy, giving the idea of swiftness. Weight changing from one foot to another and body swinging around. She is a mixture of Minerva and Diana: her mantle resembles the AEgis of Minerva. She wears as a crest the head of the Medusa with serpent hair. She holds a sword in one hand; and the other rests upon a small silver altar with grey smoke (no fire) ascending from it. Beneath her feet are white clouds.

While it seems that the Golden Dawn order of the ranks is “Knave, King, Queen, Knight”, it seems rather unfitting, based on the medieval hierarchy, to put the King under a Knight and the Queen. Also, the images from the RWS are similar as the ones used in the Thoth deck. The King of the Rider-Waite Tarot sit in a throne while the Prince of the Thoth Tarot is on a chariot. Both Knights, however, are riding a horse and looks the same, which seems appropriate to assume that these cards are equivalent. The Page and the Knave have many similarities too, so that correspondence is not contested. I’m certain a whole thesis could be done on the subject, but in short, my new preferred order of the court cards in the Thoth Tarot is “Princess, Knight, Queen, Prince” which I easily compare with the “Knave, Knight, Queen, King” of Book T, or the classic “Page, Knight, Queen, King” of the RWS deck.

What are your thoughts about this?

Welcome 2021!

Really happy that 2020 is over and done, but I know 2021 won’t be an easy ride either, at least, not for the first half. However, there is some good news coming our way, if you like historical tarot or oracles! Lo Scarabeo published their Catalog for 2021 last month, and let me tell you that it this is going to be a costly year! Here’s what on my wish list:

  • Anima Antiqua #9: Naibi Di Giovanni Vacchetta
  • Anima Antiqua #10: Tarot Steinberger
  • Etteilla Tarot (Reprint)
  • Symbolic Tarot of Wirth
  • Folk Cards of Destiny – Oracle Cards
  • Medieval Fortune Telling Cards – Oracle Cards
  • Grand Tableau Lenormand – Oracle Cards