December Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

The Anglo-Saxons called December and January Yule.
In one Yoruban region of Nigeria, Ogun, the Orisha who literally is iron, traditionally had an annual December Festival.
The Romans held a ritual for Neptune on December 1.
On the 3rd Roman women held a private rite for Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”), the earth fertility Goddess. Her priestess was called Damiatrix. There was a play, music, wine called “mother’s milk” and an offering of a pig. In this Mystery rite, sacred objects were shown to women only.
The 4th is dedicated to the Orisha of thunder, justice and courage Chango who repels all enemies and negativity.
Rural Romans asked Faunus, God of wilderness, on December 5 to bless the countryside and farmland. Worshipers built altars of sod where incense burned, made wine and other sacrifices and then joyfully danced in the fields. The Hymn to Faunus: “Guarantee me a fertile and bountiful year, and I will not fail in pouring a libation of wine to you… The valley resonates with the beat of music and dancing feet in your honor.”
On December 8th the Geledé Iyamí Oxorongá & Eshu Agbo festival is held in Brazil. An ancient mask ritual from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, it celebrates the power of sexuality. The Iyamí are the female Orishas and mothers, often called birds, while phallic Eshu represents male sexuality. Later under the influence of Christianity, the Iyamí became associated with evil witchcraft.
During the waning moon of the November-December lunar month was the Haloa, a fertility celebration of Demeter, Kore (a young Goddess similar to Persephone) and Dionysos in Athens. The new wine was tasted and a vegetarian feast (with fish) was served. Women brought models of female and male genitals and had raunchy, erotic discussions.
The lunar cycle of December-January was a very popular time for weddings in Greece.
On December 13 (or full moon) the Roman Senate honored the earth Goddess Tellus. Ceres, Goddess of grains, also received a banquet.
The 15th (or full moon) was dedicated to Roman God of the storage bin of harvested grain, Consus. His sacred animal the mule had races, while other mules, horses and donkeys rested with garlands around their necks.
On the 17th the Orisha Babalu-Aye is honored, for He grants healing especially of skin conditions, looks over those with smallpox and HIV/AIDS and brings us the abundance of the earth.
Rome’s Saturnalia, held from December 17 to 23, reminded people of the Golden Age of Saturn, a time of peace and prosperity. The statue of Saturn in His temple normally was bound, but He was freed now. After sacrifices held at Saturn’s temple, Romans changed into comfortable clothing for the banquet. For the next week official business stopped and stores closed, while parties and feasting took their place. As a misrule festival that allowed the oppressed some release, role reversals occurred: masters waited on children and slaves, while children and slaves led the rituals and attended the festivities. Pine boughs and wreaths hung over doorways and windows, with ornaments of stars, sun symbols and the 2 faces of Janus. Gifts were given, especially on Sigillaria, the last day of the Saturnalia. Saturn’s wife Ops (“plenty”) was honored on the 19th.
A couple days before the December-January full moon and continuing for 4 to 9 days was the Greek Lenaia (“feast of vats”). Statues of Dionysus Leneus were dressed in ivy and He received sacrifices. Attending the theatre was a large part of the holiday.
Roman festival for Epona was honored by the military horsemen on December 18. Epona is a Gaulish horse Goddess whose image was kept in stables and barns. Not only the protector of horses, She led people to the Afterlife.
December 21 is the Roman Angeronalia, a day of sacrifices to Angerona, Goddess of disease angina. Angerona also causes and stops anguish and anxiety. Her mouth is bound, because Jupiter covered it when Angerona told Juno of His infidelity. Jupiter ordered Mercury to take Angerona to Hades. Mercury seduced Angerona, and in the Underworld She gave birth to the Lares (household protectors). The Divalia was the secret rite of Angerona.
On the 23rd funeral rites were performed before the tomb of Roman Goddess Larentina, who may be connected with the Lares (household protectors). Offerings to Di Manes (the dead) were made by Priests.
The same day Dea Tacita (“silent Goddess”), an earth Goddess, received offerings in Her grove.
Yule is a Norse 12 day celebration of returning sunlight that starts on the night of the Winter Solstice or the evening of December 24. In Germany Frau Holle demands that all spinning be put away for the 12 days of Yule. Some Heathens interpret this to mean that there should be no work done during Yule. It probably has to do with the weaving of the new year’s fate by the Norns in this transitional time. The Yule log was as big as a tree, decorated with garlands of greenery and carried to the house in a happy procession. (Some Scandinavians lived in “long houses” which held a couple dozen people or more.) The log burned for 12 days. Pork, Frey‘s sacred animal, is eaten, with the belief that wishes said over it will be carried to the Gods.
The Anglo-Saxons called December 24 “Mothers Night.” Some Pagans speculate that it was to honor the Disir, the female ancestors; others think that it continues the worship of the popular Celtic-German Matres (“Mothers”), and others connect them with the three Norns, the Norse Goddesses of destiny. Each family is said to have their own Norns, who may be the Disir.
On December 25th ancient Romans celebrated Bruma, the winter solstice. In 273 CE it became the sacred day of Sol Invictus (“Unconquered Sun”), patron of soldiers. Emperor Constantine decreed Sunday a day of rest: “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.” Sol Invictus probably was imported from Syria. He is associated with the popular military God imported from Persia Mithras and the date may have become His birthday.
December 31st is commonly the Festival of the Yoruban Orixa Yemaya in Brazil. As the sun sets, people release little boats to the Pacific Ocean. The boats hold flowers, pastries, jewellery, white candles and other gifts to Yemaya.

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

November Pagan Holy Days Resources

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It’s usually posted on the 23rd.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

The Anglo-Saxons called November “blot month.” Blot means “blood” particularly sacrifices, given the deities to thank Them for the harvest season. All of the livestock that would not survive winter were slaughtered and their meat preserved. (In Indo-European cultures, as in West and Central Africa, most deities usually desire the blood “life force” of animals and share the meat with humans in a communal meal.)
The last 10 days of the October-November lunar month, as the moon waned smaller, the region of Greece named Attica held the Pompaia. A procession honored Zeus Meilichios (“Zeus the Kindly”) with a sheep sacrifice. The sheep’s fleece became the Sheepskin of Zeus, highly valued in Magickal purification rites.
The 1st is sacred to the lwas of the Ghede (the dead) and the graveyard: Baron Samedi and Manman Brigitte.
The Fet Ghede (Feast of the Dead) is a Vodou celebration of the ancestors on the 2nd. The Ghede (the dead) are lewd, funny, healing male lwaa. When they possess someone, they rub themselves with burning hot peppers, smoke cigars and wear sunglasses with one lens missing.
On the 11th the Orisha Ellegua is honored in New Orleans Voodoo, especially by business owners and gamblers.
November 13 (or the full moon) is the day of offerings to the central Italian Goddess of freed slaves, Feronia, who also had a temple in Rome. “The Goddess of Freedom” was originally an agricultural Goddess.
That same day Romans worshiped Pietas, Goddess of duty to the deities, Rome and one’s parents. Depicted as a young woman, Pietas was accompanied by a stork.
On November 15 the last powerful Heathen Anglo-Saxon King, Penda, died in battle. Although he worshiped the old deities, Penda believed in the freedom of religion and allowed Christianity in his kingdom.
In Rome on November 15 (or the full moon) was a ritual to Jupiter followed by a banquet.
In Germany when the first snows arrive it is said to be Frau Holle shaking her featherbed.
In New Orleans Voodoo the 22nd is dedicated to the Orisha Oshun, especially Her relationship with musicians.
There may be a connection between the ancient Norse hunting and oath God UllR and Saint Hulbert, whose feast day is November 22.
The 30th is the feast date for the Haitian watersnake lwa Simbi, a powerful but shy magician and herbalist.

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

October Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It’s usually posted on the 23rd so it arrives in time sent by snail mail.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

The Anglo-Saxon name for October translates into “Winter Nights.”
October comes from octo-, meaning 8. When the Roman year started in March, October was the 8th month. This also explains September (7), November (9) and December (10).
Roman Goddess Fides (“Good Faith”) was honored on October 1st (or the new moon). Fides was concerned with faithful relationships between deities and mortals.
The 1st is dedicated to the Orisha Oya in New Orleans Voodoo.
The dark moon of the September-October lunar cycle was the Chalkeia in Athens. Artisans offered baskets of grain to Greek smith God Hephaestus and the patroness of artisans Athene Ergane (“workwoman”). Weaving Athene’s robe for next year’s Panathenaia began.
October 4 is a day of fasting in honor of Roman grain Goddess Ceres. The next day the Pit of Ceres was opened for the second time of the year. The manes (the dead) could leave the Underworld. Businesses closed and weddings and battles were forbidden.
On the 7th Jupiter Fulgur (“Jupiter of daytime lightning”) and Juno Curitis were honored by Romans.
October 9th is the birthday of the Heathen Queen Sigrid the Proud. She refused to convert to Christianity to marry a powerful king, saying others may choose Christianity, but she would continue the religion of her ancestors. He called her a Heathen bitch and tried to kidnap and rape her, but her soldiers defeated him. She swore revenge. She married another king who later would be involved with her former suitor’s death. Heathens honor her commitment to her religion; women honor her for not changing just to get married. She may have been Polish royalty.
The Meditrinalia (“to heal”) on October 11 celebrates the end of Roman grape harvests. The God receiving offerings was probably Jupiter. Ill people made a libation of new and old wine, hoping that tasting it would cure them.
The 15th is dedicated to the Orisha Oya in New Orleans Voodoo.
On October 15 two-horse chariot races were held to honor Mars.
Winter Nights was an important holiday in Iceland, held in October, perhaps on a Thursday near the full moon after the autumn equinox. A blot was held for the Disir (female ancestors and perhaps Valkyries and Goddesses).
Rome held the Armilustrium on October 19 as the war campaign season ended. Mars was honored and the soldiers and their weapons, polluted by having killed other humans, were purified.
In 1st century CE Rome, initiation into the Mystery Religion of Isis took place during October 28-November 3. A beautiful procession was lead by initiates in fancy clothing. A female chorus in white spread flowers on the path. Next came the people carrying torches, then musicians, followed by a youth choir dressed in white. “Make way for the goddess,” Priests and Priestesses yelled. More people already initiated came next, wearing white linen. Men were shaved bald and women wore white silk veils. They rattled a sistrum (a ritual instrument kind of like a metal tambourine). The rituals of the Isia were secret. The devotees probably reenacted Isis’s grief as She searched for Her murdered husband, the green Underworld God of barley Osiris, and then Her joy when She recovered His severed body. With Her Magick Isis put Osiris back together and had sex, conceiving the important God Horus. Like the other Mystery Religions, it guaranteed a deity’s help and a great Afterlife. At an older time Romans prepared a model ship for Isis, Goddess of the life-giving Nile River. Devotees purified the boat with flame, egg, sulfur and chanting. After the boat was filled with gifts, people poured libations of milk and grain into the water. Finally the little ship was put in the water, sailing its gifts to Isis.
Samhain is the Old Irish name for the the New Year, celebrated at the first frost or the evening of October 31 and day of November 1 with much feasting and divination. Samhain may come from the word “assembly” or “summer’s end.” Cattle and their young male protectors returned. Animals that could not be kept over winter were slaughtered and preserved. The dark half of the year began. Remains discovered at ancient British Celtic temples show that animals were sacrificed around Samhain and Beltain. The Gauls acknowledged this time as the new year, too. Called Trinoxtion Samoni (“three nights of Samhain”), it probably became involved with the rebirth festival of Isis of the Roman Empire. Samhain is a transitional time when communication with the spirits is easiest.

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

Weekly & Lunar Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week, to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It is posted on the 22nd or 23rd usually.

This is our “Weekly and Lunar Calendar” with new and full moon dates.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and other important information. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

In some of West and Central Africa the week is five days long, with six weeks forming a month. The names of the days of the Yoruban week are: 1. Ako-ojo. (First day.) 2. Ojo-awo. (Day of the Secret, sacred to Ifa). 3. Ojo-Ogun. (Ogun‘s Day.) 4. Ojo-Shango. (Shango‘s Day.) 5. Ojo-Obatala. (Obatala‘s Day.) To use this religious calendar, start at the new (not dark) moon. Then divide the 30 day lunar month into six weeks of five days.
Most days of the week are named after Roman deities or Their corresponding deities in Germanic Paganism. Sunday is for Sol Invictus or Norse Goddess Sunna who drives the sun’s chariot. Monday is for Roman moon Goddess Luna or the moon’s chariot driver, Norse God Mani. Tuesday is dedicated to Mars, war God who originally defended the boundaries the farm and the young city of Rome, or Tyr, Norse God associated with the laws that preserve society including duels. Wednesday is named for the messenger of the Gods Mercury, who rules over travel, commerce, communication, trickery, leading the dead and (through His association with Greek God Hermes) Magick, and Anglo-Saxon Woden (Odin), God of Magick, trickery, communication and death. (The most important day in Saxon Pagan England was Wednesday. Germans just call this Middle Day because Woden’s worship continued in Christian times.) Thursday (the most important day in Heathen Iceland) is devoted to Roman sky father Jupiter and Norse Thor, thunder God and friend of farmers. Friday is named after the Roman love and fertility Goddess Venus and the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of marriage (which meant managing a huge household) and spinning the yarn of fate, Frigga. Saturday is dedicated to Saturn, the God of right agricultural timing, limitations and structure. It became the Jewish and early Christian church’s Sabbath (day of rest), so in Heathen Iceland it was known as the day for doing laundry!
The Yoruban Orisha Eshu Ellegua and Haitian Vodou lwa Legba (originally from Kingdom of Dahomey) are always the first spirits to be honored in ceremonies, for They allow offerings to reach the other Orishas or lwas. When West Africans were forced into European culture, Their worship became Monday, 1st day of the week. (In many Catholic nations the last day of the week is Sunday, because in their mythology God rested on the last day on the week.)
Obatala/ Oxala is the Yoruban “white Orisha” of purity, divine order, wisdom and the sky often honored on Friday in Brazil, where Orisha is spelled Orixa.
Nana is a Vodoun (“deity”) from Dahomey often included in Brazilian Orixa religions. Mother of Dahomey’s deities, She is a grandmotherly, dignified, patient water Orixa often honored on Tuesday.
Omula, also known as Sopaka, Babalu-Aiye and other names, is Orixa of the earth, healing and smallpox. He’s also associated with HIV/AIDS and honored on Monday by many in Brazil.
Yemaya/ Iamanja (originally a Nigerian river Goddess) is the Yoruban Orixa of the ocean, sometimes considered the mother of the Orixas, honored in much of Brazil on Saturday.
Ogun, the Yoruban Orixa who is iron and all the farming tools and weapons it makes, is associated with soldiers, surgery, liberation, employment and clearing paths. He’s honored by many Brazilians on Tuesday. He is the ex-husband of Oya and also worshiped in Dahomey and Haitian Vodoun.
Chango/ Xango is the Orixa of thunder, law, justice, courage and was once king of the Yoruban city-state Oyo, honored on Wednesday by many Brazilians. He is married to Oya, Oshun and Oba.
Oshun/ Oxun is the Osun River in Nigeria. Yoruban Orixa of love, diplomacy, the arts, beauty and fertility, seductive Oshun is associated with fresh water, especially rivers, and often honored on Saturday by Brazilians.
Oya/ Yansa (originally the long Niger River, important for trade) is the Yoruban Orixa of the marketplace, cemetery, tornado, lightning and guide of the dead, honored on Wednesday in much of Brazil.
Ochossi/ Oxossi, the protective Yoruban Orixa of hunting and justice, is often honored in Brazil on Thursday.
Ossain is Orixa of magical and medicinal herbalism who lives in the woods, honored by some Brazilians on Saturday.
The loving rainbow serpent who changes genders is known as Oxumare in Brazil and often honored on Tuesday.
Pomba Gira spirits of Brazilian Umbanda are usually given offerings on Monday. Exu spirits of Umbanda are usually given offerings at midnight on Fridays.
The New Orleans Voodoo Saint Expedite is usually petitioned for help on Wednesdays.
Some occultists time their spells on days that are associated with different planets or spirits that support their Magickal intention.

In Roman tradition Juno is worshipped on the 1st of each month, originally the new crescent moon.
In the Scottish Highlands, people turned over silver coins in their pockets and praised the new moon when they first saw Her. The new moon was considered the most fortunate day and people often received hair cuts then.
A Celtic tribe in Portugal famous for its ferocity and hospitality worshiped a God whose name is lost to us. On the full moon an animal sacrifice was made at the front door of each home in His honor.

The only full Greek calendar we have is for the city-state Athens. The new year started on the new moon after the summer solstice. Start keeping track of the Greek lunar months from then. The first day of the month is Noumenia, when the crescent moon is first spotted. It was the holiest of days, when all deities received offerings. The deities prefer simple offerings like bread. On the next day offerings were made to Agathos Daimon (“Good Spirit”). He is a protective, generous household snake spirit. Day 3 was dedicated to the Goddess of all skills including military strategy Athene, Goddess of Athens.
Day 4 honored one hero, Herakles, and 3 deities: God of commerce, communication and Magick Hermes; imported romantic love Goddess Aphrodite, from a long tradition of Middle Eastern Goddesses of the planet Venus (the Morning Star and Evening Star) like Astarte, Ishtar and the ancient original, the Sumerian Inanna. (Hebrew followers of jealous Yahweh destroyed their version of this Goddess’s sacred groves); and Eros, love God who later because associated with homosexual relationships between older and younger men.
Day 5 was a break. Day 6 was dedicated to the worship of the virgin Goddess of midwives, Artemis, who hunts in the wild woodlands with Her band of nymphs. On day 7 Her bisexual twin brother Apollon, God of music, healing and prophecy, received His sacrifices. On day 8 the river, sea, earthquake and horse God Poseidon and the hero who founded Athens, Theseus, were honored. On the 30th day (dark moon) the imported Goddess of witchcraft Hekate was left food offerings at Y-shaped crossroads. Poor people took the food home after the ritual.

After Sunday Mass, Marie LaVeau the elder led dances in New Orleans’ Congo Square that mocked racism and politicians. She swayed in one place, moving with the snake wrapped around her, entering a deep trance. Slaves and free people of color danced to the drums and left offerings of food, drink and 3 coins for the spirits and the poor.

2019-2020 New & Full Moons The Dark Moon is the day before the New Moon. Remember that the new moon was determined by when it was first sighted. The new moon dates here obviously have not yet been seen by anyone because they are in the future. However, they should be a good prediction of when a Priest would see the first crescent moon if the sky was clear. During the full moon police and hospitals report more crime and accidents.

New Sat August 3 2019, Full August 15
New Sun September 1 2019, Full September 14
New Mon September 30 2019, Full October 13
New Wed October 30 2019, Full November 12
New Thu November 28 2019, Full December 12
New Sat December 28 2019, Full Jan 10 2020
New January 25 2020, Full February 9 2020
New February 24, Full March 9 2020
New March 25, Full April 8 2020
New April 24, Full May 7 2020
New May 23, Full June 5 2020
New June 22, Full July 5 2020
New July 21, Full August 3 2020
New August 20, Full September 2 2020
New September 18, Full October 1 2020
New October 17, Full October 31 2020
New November 16, Full November 30 2020
New December 15, Full December 30 2020

 

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

 

Steel Bars, Sacred Water is available directly from Gullveig Press at a lower price than at Amazon. All proceeds go to sending free copies to incarcerated Pagans. We have special bulk order and prison clergy/ volunteer prices and Australian discounts, as Amazon Australia does not carry the book. We will happily buy a prisoner a copy if you donate $12 U.S.! And remember to donate used paperbacks on almost any topic to your nearest books-to-prisoners organization. Many prisoners are functionally illiterate, so your donation will improve on average seven prisoners ability to read per book!

September Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It’s usually posted on the 23rd so you have a week for sending by snail mail.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon.

Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal! Gullveig Press is pretty swamped with projects – we just found an inmate with perfect spelling and grammar who has never used a computer to be our copy editor! While he’s in training and snail mail carries our work back and forth, it’s great that other individuals and groups are helping those in prison who can neither find nor afford decent Pagan resources. You rock!

The Anglo-Saxon name for September translates into “holy month,” possibly due to the many harvests.
The full moon started the very popular Greek Great Mysteries of Eleusis, a secretive initiation of rebirth that guaranteed a good Afterlife. It was based on Greek grain Goddess Demeter’s search for Her daughter Persephone.
On the 7th the Orisha Yemaya is celebrated for easing of sorrow, fertility, nurturing and protection of the home.
During September 6th to the 19th, Jupiter Optimus Maximus was celebrated with the Ludi Romani, the famous games of Rome. On the 13th (or full moon) a sacrifice was made to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, whose statues were dressed for the occasion. Tables of food were set before Them. The event was attended by every Senator.
A couple days before the dark moon, one neighborhood of Athens made sacrifices to Gaia, Greek Earth Mother, Hermes, and the nymphs (female nature spirits who are the daughters of Gaia or Zeus).
The 8th is sacred to Orisha Oshun as Our Lady of Charity.
Around the 6th day of the September-October lunar month, Athens may have offered some of the last year’s grain to Demeter before ploughing and sowing again.
Also around this time was a race held for Dionysos, Greek God of grapes and wine.
The 15th is sacred to Haitian lwa of romance and beauty Erzuli Freda.
On the 1st quarter moon of the September-October lunar cycle in Eleusis, Apollon was given sheep, male goat meat and other foods. A new eiresione (a sacred fertility symbol) was made and kept by the front door. An eiresione is an olive branch wound with wool yarn with hanging models of figs, cakes and jars of honey.
The next day Athens made offerings to the legendary Amazons.
After the September rye harvest, Lithuanian women would braid some grain tufts and lay the braid over an offering of bread and salt, saying, “Davei manei, Žemele, duodame ir tau.” (You gave for us, Mother Earth, we are giving for you, too.)

During the days before the full moon in the September-October lunar cycle, Greeks honored Demeter at the Thesmophoria, one of the rare times women could leave home without a male escort. Piglets, pine boughs and bread shaped like snakes and phalluses were offered on the first day. The next day women fasted, then feasted on the third and last day, drinking pomegranate juice. Goddess of a beautiful birth, Kalligeneia, was also worshiped.
Thesmophoria was celebrated throughout the Mediterranean for a long time. In Sicily its Priestesses were older, respectable women from noble families. A month before the rite they offered pigs to Ceres. On the first day of Thesmophoria a procession of women walked to the ritual huts where they stayed during the ritual. A Priestess had gathered the rotting remains of the pigs, which were put on the altar. The women mourned for Persephone. Reenacting Ceres searching for Persephone, the next night they wandered with torches, calling out at crossroads. On the last day they danced and sang and had feast which included phallic-shaped cakes, but forbid pomegranates.
On September 25th the Orisha Obatala of wisdom and purity is often honored in Lucumi.
According to Roman records, a Germanic tribe held a ritual on September 29 dedicated to a Goddess named Zisa in gratitude for victory. Popular theory thinks Zisa is wife of Tyr, who then was the sky father of the Germanic deities.
On the 29th the lwa Damballa Wedo is honored by those involved with Spiritualist Voodoo.
From September 29 to November 10, Latvian dead called Veļi were invited home for a feast. A male elder called the names of all the ancestors who had lived in the house that the living remembered. The spirits were scolded for not having helped the household enough and asked to do better this coming year. Together, the living and dead shared a meal. The dead were then rushed out, the house cleaned and, to protect the living, dirt was thrown in water.

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information.

Pagan Holy Days Calendar (Prisoner Resource)

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Hi! Gullveig Press sends an 18 page polytheist calendar to incarcerated Pagans for $2.25. However, if you have a Pagan pen pal in prison, we’d love for you to copy each month’s holidays and send them to your friend! Just tell them it’s from Heather Awen at Gullveig Press, please, and mention Steel Bars, Sacred Waters. (I even put that information at the beginning of the Introduction!) Each month’s calendar will be posted at least a week before the month begins. Snail mail can really sometimes be very slow.

Who needs an introduction to a calendar? Pagans! We’re working with lunar months, the Julian calendar and lots of stuff that doesn’t fit into our Gregorian calendar easily. Someone working with this calendar will need the new and full moon dates, which are at the end of this post.

I got the idea for this large project when someone in prison asked me about some very made-up holidays of Mabinogi deities. Evidently a group of Pagans were sending out a free calendar zine but not explaining that they invented it. It’s great to see other Pagans looking out for our incarcerated members of our community! But I hear the same complaints: Why can’t we get researched, high quality Pagan information? When you send information to people in prison tell them if it’s just your personal way or something your tradition does. If you researched using academic peer -reviewed papers, well-regarded modern polytheists’ blogs and books and history books from several decades, please tell them that the information is subject to change or it’s one theory. Help them understand that scholars constantly find new information and interpret old information in new ways.

The education system utterly failed many of these people which is why donating fiction and graphic novels along with non-fiction serious reading materials gives them a chance. Many are functionally illiterate which means that they can’t get a job that requires filling out an application or read well enough to be promoted to supervisors and other better paying positions.

(Dictionaries are the most requested books in prison. If your pen pal has some trouble writing and reading, consider buying them the inexpensive, new paperback Merriam-Webster Dictionary from Amazon. If mailing to Ohio state prisons, check from where prisoners can receive books since Amazon was banned recently. For all facilities it’s best to check anyway! Prisoners don’t have spell check or Wikipedia so a dictionary is helpful in general.)

If you send books and essays, discuss them in letters. Encourage their opinions and show your critical thinking skills. Ask them questions and show interest in their answers. Most have been convinced that they’re stupid when they just haven’t had anyone pay attention to how they learn and teach more about how to learn.

Introduction

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

There is a Pagan zine listing holy days for deities based on nothing historical. Frankly, the days are made up. The truth is that most ancient Pagan cultures used a lunar calendar AND a solar one. This means that the dates won’t match our calendar.

Ever notice that Jewish and Muslim holy times start on different solar days each year? They still follow traditional lunar calenders. Hinduism does the same. So does Easter. Our ancient Pagan calendars also had lunar festivals that happened at different times each solar year. Plus, each tribe, city or kingdom had their own variations and regional deities. Not all German tribes worshipped Hariasa, but we know She defended the city of Cologne. Each city in Egypt and Greece had their own mythology from before the cities were unified into Empires. In the huge Roman Empire, people often honored the deities of where they were born, the deities of where they had moved and the Imperial deities that everyone celebrated. Multicultural diversity in polytheism is normal.

The lunar year and solar cycle don’t match. It takes about 29 and 1/2 days for the moon to circle the Earth. It takes the Earth about 364 and 1/4 days to circle the Sun. A year of 12 lunar months leaves many days of the solar year not included in a calendar. This was solved kind of like how we fix the difference between our solar calendar and the real amount of time it takes for the Earth to circle the sun: we add an extra day to February each Leap Year. Ancients had their own versions of “Leap Year” usually by adding an extra month. Celtic Gauls in modern France had a five solar year calendar with 29 and 30 day long months. Periodically, an extra month was added so the lunar and solar calendars matched. The only complete Greek calendar we have is from the city-state Athens, which includes an extra month every 3rd, 6th and 8th year.

As in Islam, the Pagan month usually started at the first sighting of the new moon. New moons aren’t dark moons. The new moon is a slight crescent in the sky. The dark moon is the day before that when the moon never appears. Most astrological sources for the new moon actually are dates of the dark moon. The first Roman calendar was lunar and months began at the first sighting of the crescent moon. The first day of the Roman month is sacred to Juno, the Queen Goddess married to Jupiter. Roman holy days originally occurred from the new moon to full moon, never during the waning moon.

This calendar developed into a solar year a lot like the one we currently use. Today’s it’s called the Julian calendar. Juno’s new moon rites were moved to the first day of each solar month. Full moon sacred days were held on the 13th or 15th. Waxing moon rites were held on the 5th or 7th. We know the dates for many Roman festivals on the Julian calendar from the 1st to 3rd centuries CE.

But the Julian calendar was still not a perfect match with the actual solar year. By the late medieval era European nations were off by around 11 days. So, the modern Gregorian calendar with its Leap Year was created. The 2 calendars were 11 days apart. Different places began using the Gregorian calender at different times, causing a bit of chaos. Today we still use the Gregorian calender.

For modern Pagans seeking to worship on the same days as our spiritual ancestors, it can be tricky. Irish manuscripts stating Beltain is May 1st were written by Christian monks using the old, Julian calendar. On our Gregorian calendar Beltain is May 12th. The Anglo-Saxons first used a lunar calendar, but when they converted to Christianity they changed to the Julian calendar. The Germanic names of the Pagan months tell us what cultural events happened when in the year, but the Anglo-Saxon months also don’t exactly match with the months of our calendar.

As if this wasn’t confusing enough, until recently few Europeans other than Christian clergy were able to read. Rural people often relied on natural signs to guide them in timing rituals. The climate is different in different parts of Britain and Ireland, so agricultural events like Beltain probably happened at different times, like when the first hawthrown bush flowered. Other places looked to the stars. In Egypt when Sirius rose, people knew that the life-giving Nile River ruled by Isis would flood. Farmers in Iceland started sowing seeds when the Pleiades rose.

During a solstice the sun appears to stop moving for 3 days. This probably made people very anxious. Solstices were usually celebrated when people actually saw the sun began moving again. On December 25 and June 24 we can see that the sun’s journey has resumed. Evenings of December 24 and June 23 began many solstice celebrations.

Ancient Pagan religions were mostly communal and based on ancient traditions that almost no one questioned. Festivals in rural societies often included political and legal events. Instead of focusing on the individual, originally rites were more concerned with what kept people alive: the community and ecosystem. If Ares blessed His Greek city-state Sparta and you lived in Sparta, you were also blessed. Religion was woven into culture. Removing religion from culture unravels the ancient ways. Due to this, there’s no real way to reenact truly authentic cultural rites.

Many uprooted people in the highly mobile Roman Empire faced the same problem. One popular solution was to be initiated in secretive Mystery Religions. Replacing the old tribal community were the other initiated “brothers and sisters.” Likewise, modern people have created new initiation-based religions like Wicca and Lucumi. Others research and worship old deities, alone and sometimes in rather rare groups. Ancient rites are adapted for today’s culture. Keeping the traditional parts that work for our situation, we continue ancient religions in new variations.

What follows is a calendar based on “around when” ceremonies were held with brief explanations. Even in prison you can usually find ways to participate. Religion, for all its focus on tradition, has always been ever-changing. To stay relevant, religion must adapt to changing cultural norms, ecosystems, governments, trade partners, scientific discoveries, etc, while maintaining its cosmology (worldview).

It’s normal for polytheists to adopt deities from other cultures. The multicultural Roman Empire spread across Europe, the Mediterranean, the Near East and North Africa. Celts, Syrians, Egyptians, German mercenaries, Greeks and other peoples celebrated many Roman festivals and Romans flocked to many imported religions from other lands.

In the 1980s translation began on a 4th century CE Greek collection of Magick from the Greek-Egyptian city of Alexandria. It shocked scholars. Names of Jewish angels, secret titles for Jesus, Greek and Egyptian sacred words, symbols and deities plus parts of the Mystery Religions popular were combined in the spells. Magicians were obviously trading information, creating something new. Today Chaos Magick is similar.

As long as someone fulfills their vows to one religion, they are free to practice another. Ethnicity does not matter! The deities choose us. (New Orleans has a white Jewish vegan Voodoo Queen initiated in Haiti also trained in Western Ceremonial Magick.) Unless a rite is just for the initiated or for only men or women, worship Whomever calls you on the calendar.

The exception is the traditional religions of Native Americans. If you are invited to participate by a respected member of a tribe, that’s fine, but these ancient cultures have been raped and plundered for the benefit of white people for hundreds of years. To take more from people still literally struggling to stay alive and unassimilated into European -American culture is incredibly offensive. Cultural misappropriation pretends to value a culture while ignoring the struggles and values of the culture to make a commodity for money. Other examples include the predominantly white music industry’s treatment of African American artists, yoga classes taught as mere physical exercise without Hindu religious context and books on fictions like “Celtic Shamanism.” People in the dominant culture exploit other cultures for money without even providing financial and other practical support to those whom they’ve ripped off. Don’t be a culture vulture. If you have a traditional healing session or divination consultation with a trained African, Caribbean or Native American, pay the expected fee or what you pay a doctor.

(Today, the issue of men’s and women’s mysteries is being challenged by people born intersex (having or developing male and female genitals) or who identify as non-binary (neither male nor female). Gender was understood differently in other cultures. The Kongo Kingdoms had people Portuguese slavers called male but who demanded they were women. They had been clergy involved with funeral rites. Dahomey sold slaves who the Portuguese considered men who also insisted that they were women and wore women’s clothing. On the southern shores of the Baltic Sea 1st century CE Germanic Priests dressed in women’s clothes. Priests of the Near Eastern Goddess Cybele, in a devotional frenzy, cut off their testicles and penises as a sacrifice to their Goddess and then were dressed as women. The incredibly popular Greek God Apollon has many mythological lovers male and female. Images of people with both breasts and penises are found in Central European Celtic art. Greeks, Celts and other warrior cultures openly celebrated their gay lovers. A Roman Emperor even started a cult for his young, dead male lover that continues to have followers today. The participation of the LGBTQIA community is firmly established in ancient Paganism. However you gender or sexually identify, you’re welcomed by the majority of Pagans on the outside.)

The dates dedicated to the Orishas/ Orixas and lwas may differ from house to house. The dates honor Catholic Saints with whom West African spirits were secretly associated, but not everyone used the same Saints.

2019-2020 New & Full Moons The Dark Moon is the day before the New Moon. Remember that the new moon was determined by when it was first sighted. The new moon dates here obviously have not yet been seen by anyone because they are in the future. However, they should be a good prediction of when a Priest would see the first crescent moon if the sky was clear. During the full moon police and hospitals report more crime and accidents.

New Sat August 3 2019, Full August 15
New Sun September 1 2019, Full September 14
New Mon September 30 2019, Full October 13
New Wed October 30 2019, Full November 12
New Thu November 28 2019, Full December 12
New Sat December 28 2019, Full Jan 10 2020
New January 25 2020, Full February 9 2020
New February 24, Full March 9 2020
New March 25, Full April 8 2020
New April 24, Full May 7 2020
New May 23, Full June 5 2020
New June 22, Full July 5 2020
New July 21, Full August 3 2020
New August 20, Full September 2 2020
New September 18, Full October 1 2020
New October 17, Full October 31 2020
New November 16, Full November 30 2020
New December 15, Full December 30 2020

Celtic Festival Calender: Abnoba & the Celtic Artemis/Diana

abnoba
Abnoba by Alexandra Rena

Celtic and Roman Deity Differences in the Roman Empire

This is part of my series where Festivals for Roman deities are linked with the Celtic deities associated with those Roman deities. For example, a Roman Festival for Minerva is a Brythonic Festival of Sulis, or the 2 week Festival of Aesculapius includes possibly the most popular, longest-worshipped Gaulish deity Telesphorus. Once the Celtic tribes and cities were conquered by Rome and made part of the Empire, the Celtic leaders and merchants would have learned the Roman year, which was filled with religious festivals. Even if Celtic people at that time ignored the festivals (highly unlikely for the cities of Gaul and Iberia, Celtic men in the Roman military and Celtic slaves) it gives modern Celtic polytheists a calendar for honoring many deities. We’re rarely lucky enough to know the date of a Celtic deity’s festival from an ancient Celtic culture – Erudinus may be our only one.

Many people believe that the Romans forced the names of their deities onto the Celtic deities, but scholars have shown that the Celtic people made the association between the deities on their own. This would explain why so many Celtic Gods are associated with Mars in one place and with Mercury in another. Even where Celtic people eventually forgot the Celtic titles of their deities, worship often continued under a Roman name. This is explored more in depth in the upcoming post on the “native” Vulcan and “native” Venus.

Celtic deities don’t have a lot of specialization, aside from smiths and healers. They provide everything a member of the tribe could need. There’s no ancient Gaulish, Gaelic, Celtiberian, Brythonic or other type of Celtic pantheon. Tribes were affected by place and shared history, which is reflected in the hundreds of Celtic deities whose names we know. There’s no God of only war, Goddess of only love, etc. Usually Celtic deities are in a couple: the tribal chieftain good at everything and the river/land Goddess of the bioregion. The Roman artisans mixed Celtic, Greek and Roman symbols together, providing us with an understanding of how the Celtic person who paid for the sculpture described the deity.

Usually the Goddess in the couple might have crows and ravens symbolizing scavengers who eat the dead on the battlefield or the funeral platform, or a horse associated with leading the dead to the Realm of the Ancestors. The God often holds a spear and shield, a hammer or club. He is sometimes accompanied by a hunting hound, although a few Goddesses are depicted with dogs. (The lap dog who sometimes sits on the lap of one of the Matres is possibly a way women warmed an abdomen with painful menstrual cramps.) Goddesses might be depicted with a cornucopia of fruits and grains of abundance and also have the crow of death in war; as the land, She’s Who provides and Who the people fight for keeping. This makes it difficult to say “Oh, She’s the Goddess of health (or the hearth or the harvest).”

At first neither the Romans nor the Celts probably knew very much (if anything) about the other culture’s deity. It would have taken a few generations before the cults became uniquely, regionally syncretic. Hymns and myths about the Roman deities would be taught by the poets and in theaters and Roman naturalist statues of their deities taught Roman and Greek symbolism. When depicted by a Roman sculptor, Celtic Gods often wore a cape and held a spear in one hand, shield in the other, much like a Celtic chieftain.

(When a large mitigating Gaulish warband attacked the Oracle of Delphi it was recorded that the men laughed at the statues of the Gods, unable to image deities in human form. As it was a brutal journey there and about to become much worst, and because we don’t know what Greek person present would have understood why the Gauls were laughing, and because the only the Greeks left a written record of this attack, this may be inaccurate. Archeology has recovered ancient Celtic statues of deities in northern Gaul and Scotland. The Celtic deity statue was made from a large pole and had a roughly cut faces and large genitalia. Their eyes were glass and some wore torcs. In northern Gaul the wood statues seem to have stood in the center of a square or rectangular open sacred space outside. The ground was packed by people walking or dancing around the pole.)

Celtic sacred groves by rivers were considered healing sites to the Romans, who built their healing spas by fresh water. Were deities with Roman healing temples like Nodens (the earliest form of the name of the Mabinogi Gods Nudd and Llud and the Old Irish God Nuada) originally healing deities or did They gain that function from the Romans? The huge healing sanctuary at Trier dedicated to Lenus Mars (a Belgae tribe’s primary God) was by a river probably because rivers and valleys (the same word in Gaulish) tended to be an important Goddess. Lenus Mars defended His people in that land, including from plagues, but the Romans added the dorms for sick pilgrims. Even though Lenus was associated with Mars, His battles were now focused on disease. This should remind us that how the Celts understood Roman deities like Mars was not the same as how the Romans understood their deities. (This is somewhat similar to a Dahomey native in Haiti worshipping python lwa Damballa with symbols of St. Patrick. That St. Patrick is nothing like what the Catholic church would recognise.)

“(T)he locals selected particular elements from in-coming cultures, endow these with religious meanings different from those they possessed in Graeco-Roman culture and then creatively merge these with indigenous traditions to create totally new forms….”
– Ralph Haussler, How to identify Celtic religion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul

It took a few generations to build the Romano-Celtic cults and I imagine that when they did, many Celtic people made offerings to their own deities during the festival of the related Roman deity. Even if they didn’t, for people who are resurrecting the worship of Gaulish, Iberian Celtic and/or Brythonic deities and seeking a calendar for rituals, this provides a lot of structure to adapt as desired. The Celts, typical for polytheists, brought in worship of “foreign” deities, like the Roman Mercury and Hercules. A Celtic Pagan need not worry about honoring only deities of one culture, as the Celtic tribes seem to have had varied pantheons based on the bioregion and tribal history. Many Southern Gauls adopted Apollon and Hermes from the Greeks in the 5th century BCE, so the lunar calendar from Athens may also have appropriate days for worship.

A Gaelic Reconstructionist worshipping Brig and Aine would seem very strange to ancient Gaelic tribes, when Brig was the Goddess of Leinster and Aine was the Goddess for Munster. No matter how we try, we won’t be able to recreate the pantheons ancient Celts knew; so many deities are lost to us in spite of knowing over 200 names. Also, those in Belgae had strong relationships with the North Sea Germanic tribes (the People of Ingvi-Frey), while those in Gaul adopted Venus, Goddess of gardens. How this would have continued if Christianity never appeared is impossible to guess except that some deities of new trade partners would have been become part of a Celtic people’s lives. Inclusive polytheism would have continued, especially as people traveled, married and had new bioregions to survive. Different cults would have formed around labor guild unions, river valleys, heroes and heroines, and a diverse understandings of past cults melded into rituals for modern needs. (Kinda like today’s well researched reconstruction -based polytheism!)

The Nemoralia and “Native” Diana

On August 13 (originally the full moon) Romans celebrated the Nemoralia. “‘Twas the season when the vault of heaven bends its most scorching heat upon the earth … and now the day had come when the torch smoke rises from Trivia’s [Diana’s] grove … and the [torch] lights twinkle on her lake” (Statius Silvae 3.1.55-57 LCL). This ritual for Diana was also known as the Festival of Torches, held at at Lake Nemi. Diana was know by many titles including Mistress of the Beasts, Grand Midwife, Goddess of the Moon, Lady of the Wilds, Guardian of the Oak, Friend of the Nymph, and the Protector of Maidens, many of which come from Her merging with attributes of the Greek Artemis.

On Diana‘s Festival, slaves and women were allowed to attend the ritual instead of working. All who participated washed their and decorated it with flowers. Diana’s sacred hunting hounds were also given garlands of flowers. All hunting was forbidden. The people walked in a religious procession to Her grove and lake (which most Celtic peoples would have understood from their own rituals). Diana received offerings of clay stags, ripe fruits and statuettes of mother and child. Her worshippers wrote their prayers on tablets or ribbons which were tied to trees. Later the popular festival was held on August 15, which possibly is why August 15 became the Christian Feast of the Assumption, the main holiday honoring Mary.

In his recent paper A Landscape of Resistance?, Ralph Haussler discusses the possibility of a Celtic interpretation of Diana in northern Italy: 

“The goddess Diana is often associated with a villa context, as goddess of hunting. But we should not forget that Artemis/Diana has more profound meanings which we might need to consider when trying to understand her distribution pattern in the Transpadana and Liguria: besides a cluster in Novarese and Lombardy, we also find her between Turin and Ben. Can she have been an interpretatio of an indigenous deity? In this respect, there is a dedication from Casalino (Novara) where Diana is associated with the Matronae. But we also find a sanctuary for Diana at Savigliano (Cuneo). It was organised by priestesses of the local pagus, magistrae pagi, suggesting that this was an extra-urban sanctuary, a civic cult of the local ciuitas.  Unlike many of our previous example, this sanctuary is not in a more marginal, hilly location, but it is situated in the plain, at the centre of a heavily centuriated area. Does this mean that
we are dealing with a Greco-Roman style Diana? Perhaps not since Diana seems to be a local phenomenon: nearby at Fossano, for example, we find a dedication to the ‘august’ Diana, but with the interesting formula sub asci, – a Celtic formula that is well attested in Transalpine Gaul and might therefore support the goddess’s more ‘native’ perception. And just north at Chieri / Carreum-Potentia, we find Diana again in a votive dedication Fonti Dianae Victoriae (‘to Fons, Diana, Victoria’ or ‘to the sacred spring of Diana and Victoria’?)….”

Another “native” Celtic Diana/Artemis Goddess was worshipped in Galatia, both in Camma where Her Priestess resided and further west. In Camma Her ritual focused on the hunt. Money was paid for every animal killed in the hunt, which was used for the Goddess’s Feast. The money also paid for Her sacrifice in gratitude for Her generosity. The ritual was similar to the Nemoralia in that dogs wore crowns made of flowers. Again we learn of a Celtic Goddess whose name was forgotten but who kept Her own identity.

Abnoba: Goddess of Mountain, the Danube and the Black Forest

Abnoba is a wonderful example of a Celtic Goddess of place. She is the mountain where the Danube River begins with the the Breg river, the Abnobaei montes are in the Baar foothills of the Swabian Alb near Furtwangen im Schwarzwald. Her name appears to have a connection with water, which would very likely be the Danube. The Danube was an incredibly important Celtic source of transportation, trade, food and life itself. Many deities are thought to be named for the Danube, including the Gaelic Danu. Abnoba was primarily worshipped in the Black Forest region.

As the source of the Danube, Abnoba had to be very important. In some ways She could have been viewed as the source of life. She may have served as the typical Celtic Sovereignty Goddess, with Her domain once associated with a tribe we don’t know. To the people in the area Abnoba must have had some maternal, royal and protective qualities much like Goddesses of other rivers. Her association (to the Romans) with Diana was probably because of Abnoba‘s importance in the Black Forest and Diana‘s home in the woodlands.

While many Romans honored Diana while far from home on August 13th, the Gauls in the Imperial military probably joined in the rite, while focusing on Abnoba. The Roman soldiers probably focused on Diana‘s powers over the hunt or the health of pregnant wives in Rome. The Celts don’t seem to have any deities related to the moon, so that aspect of Diana was probably not important to them. The roles of Guardian of the Oak, Mistress of the Beasts and Lady of the Wilds seem to fit Abnoba the best, while She would have been still much more. The forest, the river and the mountains – all of these and their benefits to humans are the gifts that are Abnoba.

Why Worship Deities of Distant Bioregions

For those of us not living in the Black Forest, how can we honor Abnoba? Maybe more important to others is why would we? Celtic religion is very place-based. However, so is Greek religion and Pagans outside of Athens worship Athena. The Orishas from different parts of Yorubaland have become a neo-Yoruban pantheon where the river Orishas Oba, Oshun, Oya and Yemaya have changed to meet the needs of their worshipers. We worship the deities Who care for us and there is no reason why Abnoba would not care for you any less than Athena or Ogun care for other people an ocean away from Their original home.

There are many ways Abnoba cares for us. Abnoba is present in the pure spring water of mountaintops, something incredibly valuable if we look at how much money people pay for it. Of course, clean water is worth much more important than a dollar amount, but people sometimes forget how much they are interacting with the deities. When you buy mountain spring water, you’re paying for the goodness that is Abnoba. (It would be much better for the all life if no one used plastic and instead properly filtered their own water and carried it in a metal bottle, or better yet water sanitation was done with Living Machines and tap water was clean and safe.) I don’t walk 5 miles to get safe drinking water and carry it back another 5 miles; do you? But we would, like many people affected by Climate Chaos, if we had to because water is that valuable.

For hunters, Abnoba could be an important Goddess of the hunt. Anyone against mountaintop removal mining could pray to Abnoba as She probably is offended by the dangerous harm caused by greed and fossil fuel addiction. People living deep in a forested area fed by a powerful river and those who live in high elevations where large rivers begin may develop a natural relationship with Abnoba just because they live where She’s used to being called. (Bear Mountain in California comes to mind.)

Isis had a temple in Britain where Her sacred Nile is nowhere to be found. Obviously deities are carried by their worshipers wherever they go. We don’t know the different myths about Abnoba which definitely would have changed over the generations, but She must have qualities that transcend place. Her devotees may make a pilgrimage to Her place of origin, and I hope that people do learn about the bioregional and cultural homes of the deities they worship. It’s the greatest way to understand the deity who has no mythology (along with linguistics and archeology).

But you may have a connection to Abnoba simply because She chose you.

Ritual Suggestions

Your Festival of Abnoba should feature clean drinking water. I would wash my hair in a way that won’t posion the water. A very small amount of baking soda massaged in the roots for the oil, rinsed clean, and an apple cider vinegar after rinse for the acidic shrine really works. A castile soap like Dr Bronners and a lemon juice rinse for blonde squeaky clean hair or a rosemary infusion for a healthy scalp and lush darker hair also works wonders. Shampoo is basically dish detergent. Real soap does not make bubbles of lather. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put in the water supply or on your skin, especially when honoring nature deities. It’s hypocritical. Deities are impressed by what we do. To moisturize hair, leave in light-weight jojoba oil on the ends or use coconut oil to turn frizzy into ringlets.

Dogs should definitely be honored, as the Celts valued their hunting hounds greatly. If you have any canine companions whom you want to include, get them a treat. (If you have many dogs or Pagan friends with dogs, you might schedule a quick rite at a dog park.)

As for flowers: the flower industry uses a few dozen times more pesticides than the agricultural sector! I wouldn’t let that near my altars (or my planet if I had that power). Try the farmers market, your or a friend’s flower garden or a wild field, careful to not take more than 10% of any species or kill any endangered species.

For those who are able, a hike or ski lift to the top of a mountain might be the best place to make an offering to Abnoba. (In Vermont ski lifts often run in summer.) Woodlands are also good places. (Remember to stay covered and check for ticks! Lyme disease and other tickbourne diseases are horrible! I speak from horrible experience!)

If inside, build an Abnoba altar with something to represent a mountain (photograph, pile of peddles, etc) and a bowl or cup of fresh, purified water. (Rain water might be fine, but check about the water quality of any local streams or rivers – if it’s bad, a very Celtic service offering would be to volunteer in river clean up work).

Have a bowl for your libations that you can pour outside later and a plate, tray, bowl or basket with your offerings. Ritually broken metal or glass bead jewelry (good sacrifices for Celtic Goddesses in general) and organic fruit are fine offerings. Carved wooden or ceramic stags add another Celtic layer to the offering, as Celtic people probably would not know the myth about Actaeon and may have thought about the deer Her forest gave the hungry. (Please don’t use the plastic-y “oven bake” modeling “clay” as it’s really toxic.) As deities change, maybe Abnoba likes Black Forest cake for all I know!

The traditional “circle the holy” procession three times sunwise is a good start for most Celtic rites. You may want to use traditional Celtic percussion of rattles and little bells (probably sewn onto clothing). Try chanting Abnoba to become more receptive to Her.

Next praise Her, say what you know about Her, and thank Her for the gifts She’s always provided human beings. Water is fundamental for life. We know that intellectually but don’t always act like it. We are made of water. Transportation along rivers meant information, trade goods, contact with new people. Trees hold the top soil of fertile soil, are the “lungs of the Earth” (with bluegreen algae), prevent heat waves, talk to other trees through their roots in the “wood wide web”, feed their children saplings through their roots and are home to an incredible amount of life, even when dead.

Tell Abnoba the offerings are for Her. Write your wishes in pencil on a strip of organic linen (or cotton) and thank Her again, knowing that She’ll be working on them if they fit Her needs, too, and will be best for you. Put the cloth with your offerings.

Circle your altar again clockwise, and gather the offerings, libations and cloth for a trip outside. You may want to go to a nearby river for this. Otherwise bury the jewellery and pour the libation into the soil. Then loosely tie your wishes to an oak or the tree that feels right to you.

Of course a financial offering to a dog rescue organization or shelter is highly appropriate! Adopting a dog if your housing, schedule and finances will allow you to be a good caretaker could be another modern offering. Planting native trees that you will protect or donating to an organization working successfully to end deforestation is a logical sacrifice for Abnoba and Diana, too.

 

Selected Bibliography

Bernstein, Francis, Classical Living: Reconnecting with the Rituals of Ancient Rome. Harper Collins e-books (2007)

Butler-Ehle, Hester, Fieldstones New Shoots from Stony Soil, 2nd Edition by Hester Butler-Ehle

Cunliffe, Barry, Britain Begins. Oxford University Press (2013)

Cunliffe, Barry, The Ancient Celts. Oxford University Press (1997)

Ellis, A. B., The Yoruba-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa. 1894.

Filan, Kenaz, The Haitian Vodou Handbook: Protocols for Riding with the Lwa. Destiny Books (2

Haussler, Ralph, A Landscape of Resistance? Cults and Sacred Landscapes in Western Cisalpine Gaul, STUDI E RICERCHE SULLA GALLIA CISALPINA
26, Roma tra il Po e le Alpi: dalla romanizzazione alla romanità ATTI DEL CONVEGNO, Venezia 13-15 maggio 2014, Giovannella Cresci Marrone

Haussler, Ralph, How to identify Celtic religion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul, Divinidades indigenas em analise, J. d’Encarnacao (ed), (2008)

Haussler, Ralph, Interpretatatio Indigena: Re-Inventing Local Cults in a Global World, Mediterraneo Antico, xv, 1-2 (2012)

Macculloch, J.A., The Religion of the Ancient Celts, Edinburgh: T. & T. CLARK (1911)

Mierzwick, Tony, Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today. Llewellyn (2018)

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

Rankin, David & d’Este, Sorita, The Isles of Many Gods: An A-Z of the Pagan Gods & Goddesses worshipped in Ancient Britain during the first Millennium CE through the Middle Ages. Avalonia (2007)

Ross, Anne. Pagan Celtic Britain. Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago (1967)

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, translated by Myles Dillon, Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover (2000)

Sweet, James H., Domingos Álvares: African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. The University of North Carolina Press (2011)

Sweet, James H., Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. The University of North Carolina Press (2003)

 

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West and Central Africa’s Gay & Transgender History: the jinbandaa

First, I apologize for using the word “Africa” like it is a nation, when I mean the Kongo, Angola, Fon, Gbe and Ewe peoples of the West coast and Central Africa. Second, I apologize for saying “gay and transgender” just because gender in those cultures did not match with 16th century European binary genders. We unfortunately don’t know exactly how these members of society were understood, just that they existed and were accepted, so I choose sexual and gender identity words closest to the descriptions we have. I just wanted a title that might grab more search engines to educate more people.

There’s quite a lot of homophobia in many African Diaspora Religions. I actually saw a Palo website say that no gay people could join the religion because the Kongo people had no knowledge of homosexuality. Frankly, that is bullshit. The person actually wrote that because the Kongo didn’t understand what the Portuguese meant by homosexual (which would have been said in a derogatory way), the Kongo didn’t have any queer people. In reality, the Kongo understanding of a jinbandaa and their Priest function would not have matched that of a Catholic Portuguese “sinful sodomite.”

There are a lot of people interested in Lucumi, Palo, Vodou, “African” Umbanda, obeh, hoodoo and other African Diaspora Religions in prison. Many learn about them from incarcerated Cuban initiates and by sharing books. I buy high quality books and print academic papers for a book club and we have moved deeper into the African roots of these religions. (There’s only so many times one can read the same descriptions of the neo-Yoruban pantheon!)

One truly amazing find are the two books by James H. Sweet, published by the University of North Carolina Press. Both are unlike anything I’ve read, focusing on specific tribal peoples’ contributions to forming a new “African” culture before the much studied Yoruba latecomers to Brazil.

His book Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World details the life of a Mina Priest of Sakpata, the vodun of the earth and smallpox, from modern-day Mahi in Benin. The Priests were captured by King Agaja of Dahomey and sold into slavery because they were a threat to his bloody reign of terror. The young man who would become known as Domingos Álvares was the child of two Priests of Sakpata and inherited their role during a time of warfare and culturally diverse overflow of refugees. As part of that war he was sold to Portuguese slavers and began a life of attempting to recreate that religious and social community in Brazil. Before being sent to the Inquisition in Lisbon, Portugal, his (and other African diviners and Priests and Priestesses from the Mina region and the Kongo) ways of ritual were recorded. It’s an amazing book for people interested in the origins of the African Diaspora Religions of Brazil or the regional Traditional African Religions destroyed and later reconstructed by the royal family of Dahomey (who used Yoruba Orishas as their primary new pantheon). It’s the biography of a spiritual ancestor.

But here I want to focus on the lie of a heterosexual-only African norm. The paragraphs below are from Sweet’s remarkable Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. It’s another book I highly recommend although it has less actual ritual detail.

“One noteworthy case occurred in the middle of the sixteenth century in the Azores and in Lisbon. Antônio, slave of Paulo Manriques, arrived on Ilha Terceira from his homeland of Benin some time in 1556. Upon his arrival, he immediately assumed the uncertain gender identity that he maintained in Benin. Refusing to wear the clothes that his master gave him, Antônio instead chose to dress in a white waist jacket buttoned down the front, with a vest made from an old woolen cloth that he found in his master’s stables. On his head, he wore a tightly wrapped white linen, topped off by a hat. To all who saw him, he appeared to be a woman.

“By profession, Antônio worked as a prostitute who went by the name Vitória. In order to lure men, Vitória made a variety of winks and gestures “like a woman.” But he was also observed removing his hat and bowing “like a man.” He apparently had a thriving business, since seven or eight men could sometimes be seen waiting outside of the little house where he worked. But within a year of his arrival in the Azores, Antônio’s ambiguous gender identity became widely known, and the scandal of his transvestism gained the attention of the Inquisition.

“During his interrogation before the Inquisitors in Lisbon, an interpreter was needed to translate, since Antônio/Vitória had not yet mastered Portuguese. He admitted to “sinning” with five men, three in Lisbon and two in the Azores. When the Inquisitors asked him whether many people believed that he was a woman, he responded that he was a woman and that men gave him money for his services. Antônio also claimed that he had the orifice (buraco) of a woman. The Inquisitors asked him if he created this orifice or if it was the result of some sickness, but Antônio claimed that he was born with it. Indeed, he stated that “there were many in his country who had the same buracos who were born with them.” Antônio ultimately was subjected to a medical inspection to determine whether he was “man or woman or hermaphrodite.” The examination showed clearly that Antônio “had the physical character of a man, without having any buraco nor other physical characteristic of woman.” For committing the “abominable sin of sodomy against nature,” Antônio was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the king’s galleys.

“Antônio’s admission that there were many in his country who were anatomically endowed with buracos is an indication that there were others who also took on the dress and mannerisms of women. The role of these transvested individuals in sixteenth-century Benin is difficult to discern from the records, but they seemingly constituted a third gender category that was completely unfamiliar to the Portuguese. Antônio’s gender and sexual choices were apparently an accepted part of Benin society, an integral part of Antônio’s identity which the Portuguese sought to erase because he was a “sodomite.” Acts of sodomy had long been punishable by death in Portugal, but the Portuguese reserved their greatest contempt for passive partners like Antônio, the rationale being that male penetration was a “natural” act, while male reception was not. These social and cultural vacuums in the Western mentality affected Africans and their descendants in profound ways, confining them to sexual, gender, and family categories that were, in many cases, completely alien to them.

“The narrowness of Western gender constructions is brought into even sharper focus when we examine another third-gender category, this one from Central Africa. In the same 1591 denunciation of Joane de Guiné in Bahia, Matias Moreira also denounced a man named Francisco Manicongo to the Portuguese Holy Office. Moreira stated that he had seen Francisco walking the streets of Bahia dressed as a woman and that Francisco was renowned among blacks as a “sodomite.” Moreira went on to claim that he had traveled for a long period of time in the lands of Angola and Congo. During these travels, he had witnessed some of the “pagan Negroes” dressing like women. According to Moreira, these cross-dressing men performed the role of the woman in acts of sodomy. In fact, these cross-dressers were so prevalent in Central African society that there was even a word for them in the “language of Angola and Congo,” jinbandaa.

“Unbeknownst to Moreira, the term jinbandaa in Central Africa did not carry the same negative moral connotations that the terms “sodomite” or “nefarious sinner” carried in Christian Europe. Instead, the significance of jinbandaa was to be found in Central African religious beliefs. According to Malcolm Guthrie, the word stem mbándá means “medicine man,” and throughout Central Africa words similar to jinbandaa implied religious power. In fact, several revealing descriptions from the Angolan coast in the seventeenth century suggest that quimbanda sodomites were a discrete and powerful caste in Angolan society. As early as 1606, the Jesuits in Angola described “chibados,” who were “extremely great fetishers, and being men went around dressed as women and they had by great offense called themselves men; they had husbands like the other women, and in the sin of sodomy they are just like devils.” Writing in 1681, Captain Antônio de Oliveira Cadornega commented at length on the status of “sodomites” along the Angolan coast:

There is also among the Angolan pagan much sodomy, sharing one with the other their dirtiness and filth, dressing as women. And they call them by the name of the land, quimbandas, [and] in the district or lands where they are, they have communication with each other. And some of these are fine feiticeiros (sorcerers), for they beget everything bad. And all of the pagans respect them and they are not offended by them and these sodomites happen to live together in bands, meeting most often to give burial services. . . . This caste of people is who dresses the body for burial and performs the burial ceremony.

“Cadornega reveals three important points regarding the Angolan quimbandas. First, he suggests that they were a discrete social group that lived together in “bands.” Second, the quimbandas were respected by others in the community. In fact, the Capuchin priest, Antônio Cavazzi, who was a resident of Angola from 1654 to 1667, wrote that “there is not a Jaga [Imbangala], whether captain in war, or peaceful aldeia [village] chief, who does not try to keep some of them [the quimbandas] to watch over him, without the counsel and approval of such, he will not dare to exercise any act of jurisdiction, nor take any resolution.” The quimbandas were apparently the final spiritual arbiters in political and military decisions. Finally, the quimbandas were not only considered “fine feiticeiros,” but they performed traditional burial ceremonies, thereby exercising a wide range of spiritual roles. Taken together, these three points produce a compelling argument for the religious power and respectability of Angola’s transvested “homosexual” community, a community that clearly set itself apart from the rest of society, apparently as one of the many kinlike divining and healing societies that were prevalent in seventeenth-century Central Africa.

How transvested homosexuals became powerful religious figures in Central Africa is an interesting question, but that is not our primary concern here. More important for us is the question of the jinbandaa’s transition to slave life in the Americas. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century sources suggest that in Central Africa the jinbandaas were a group of religious leaders who carved out their own “third-sex” (gender defined) living space in the society. But the spiritual capacity of the transvested homosexual was so universally known that they were referred to not by their patterns of dress or by their sexual behavior, but by their roles as religious leaders. Only when these Africans encounter the Western world do we begin to see the breakdown of the gender-defined organization of this kinlike, transvestite, religious society. This disjuncture between the gendered, religious space in Central Africa and the lack of such a space in the diaspora indicates several sobering things.

“First, those transvested homosexuals who were brought to Europe and its colonies as slaves were isolated not only according to race, but also according to their gender and their sexuality. Given the evidently small numbers of jinbandaas in the diaspora, there was no way for them to replicate their gender-defined communities in their new surroundings. Second, Western/Christian prejudice and repression against the feminine and against the passive homosexual contributed to the attrition of a seemingly well-defined African gender category that defied Western norms. And finally, the institutional foundation that gave this collection of transvested homosexuals religious power all but disappeared. Because they could no longer meet collectively to share knowledge and affirm their religious power, their powers were effectively diluted. Indeed, in Brazil, the very meaning of the term jinbandaa was transformed, at least within the white community. Rather than referring to an individual with religious power, the term jinbandaa became synonymous with the passive “sodomite.”

“Despite the powerful forces of Western cultural hegemony, we should still recognize the lens through which someone like Francisco Manicongo, or Antônio from Benin, addressed their individual gender and sexual identities. Even against the riptides of Western gender, sexual, and religious norms, Francisco and Antônio continued to see themselves in much the same ways that they had seen themselves in their homelands. Just as most Westerners could not conceive of identifying themselves as anything other than either man or woman, Francisco could not conceive of identifying himself as anything other than the transvested jinbandaa. And Antônio could not conceive of himself as anything other than one of the many from Benin who had buracos like his. Thus, they each shed the clothing given to them by their masters and continued to dress and act as women, seeking out male partners with little, if any, regard for the fact that they were committing mortal sins. Though their individual identities may have endured for some time, the kinlike groupings that sustained and affirmed them in their ethnic homelands were obliterated, leaving them as isolated and alone as those who left behind their natal kin.”

If you are African American, African Caribbean or African Brazilian (and other South American countries), some of your ancestors are probably from these cultures. If you are Black and gay or transgender and have yet to find a connection between the two identities, or are of any ethnicity and denied initiation into an African Diaspora Religion, I sincerely hope that this helps. The discrimination against the queer community was absorbed from Christianity and Islam, not these indigenous peoples.

Happy Gay Pride Month!

 

Bibliography

Sweet, James H., Domingos Álvares: African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World. The University of North Carolina Press (2011)

Sweet, James H., Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. The University of North Carolina Press (2003)

Eostre: Anglo-Saxon Dawn Goddess of April Ritual

Eostre Shrine of Heather Awen 2019
2019 Eostre Shrine, all materials explained in essay. Heather Awen

 

 

Prologue

I have a deep relationship with Eostre from when I lived nowhere near wood stove smoke and could spend from 3 or 4am until 6 or 7am outside. The carbon monoxide poisoning every day was lessened by the low temperature at which I set the thermostat during the night, so at 3 or 4 am I was brighter eyed (but with no bushy tail), and the Babesia blood parasites and Lyme disease gave me some relief when I first woke up.

Sitting outside every dawn in all weather (under a tiny porch roof in cold rains) I because very familiar with Eostre. Animals are so active then that it was often thrilling: the possum who walked over my foot; the fawn so close I could have touched it; locking eyes with a red fox for what felt like an out of body (or fully IN body) experience; and my regular companion, a very trusting skunk who seemed to think the same of me. I heard returning birds sing, seeking mates, and watched their young learn to fly.

And every day, no matter what, Eostre decorated the sky any way She chose. Like sand paintings, Her art of indigo, purple, pinks, oranges, greenish blues or shades of grey disappeared into Sunna’s bright white-yellow. It inspired me as an artist: it doesn’t matter who sees it or how the final piece looks, it’s the process and commitment to daily creating that matters.

I don’t know how my ancestors thought of Eostre. Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Swedes, Frisians and other Germanic peoples settled Britain aside from Wales (Welsh is Old English for “strangers”) and Gaelic Dal Riada. They most certainly had their own pantheons and religious customs. Many deity names may have been similar, but coming from different ecosystems and separated by time, local variations would have existed. Who brought Eostre to their new island home?

(To learn about the Anglo-Saxon cosmology, I recommend the free pdf versions of Bob Trubshaw’s books, available at Heart of Albion Productions, https://hoap.co.uk/catalogue.htm#aswv)

It frustrates me when I see Norse Heathens try to force continental deities into their pantheon. How many times have I read that the Belgic Goddess Nehalennia of the Morini tribe (from the Celtic word for sea) whose temples have been uncovered under the beach sands in modern Zeeland, Holland, is Idun? Why the dwarf Goddess Who is the power of immortality found in the apples that keep the deities young and immortal? Merely because Nehalennia in many of the 160+ stone images of Her holds apples – like dozens of other Goddesses in Roman-made or Roman-influenced art. Different tribes had different deities and mythology based on their history and bioregion. Nehalennia exists where She is needed.

My father’s side has many recorded newcomers to England: Offa/Uffi the Gentle, King of the Angles whose grandfather Wihtlaeg is a grandson of Woden; the Iclingas dynasty of Mercia in the 7th and 8th centuries; Queen Osyth, sister of Mercia’s King Penda (famous as the last great Heathen king in Britain), who married King Nechtan of Alba (Dal Riada); Princess Elfrida of England born in Wessex 877; Athelred Mucil, Ealdorman of the Gaini in Mercia; Oslac Wihtgarsson, royal cupbearer of Wessex; and King Wihtgar of the Isle of Wight who married into the Irish royal family of Ossory. What might Eostre mean to them? The converted ones, what customs did they continue during Christian Holy Week without knowing why?

Eostre

The Anglo-Saxon Goddess for whom the month of April is named, Eostre, has Her linguistic roots in the word East. The most holy direction for Indo-European people, this is where the stars, moon, and, most importantly for life to continue, the Sun rises. All things in the Northern Heavens turn from the East to the South and around to the West. The farthest North is an area of constant darkness and mystery. The Order of the World, the Xartus, is for the Shining Ones (the meaning of the proto-Indo-European word from which we get “deities”) to come to us from the East. (Planets in retrograde are the common exception.)

Usas is the Vedic Goddess of the Dawn, a cousin perhaps to Eostre. The Rig Veda offers many hymns to Usas. It is important that you do not confuse Vedic religion with Hinduism. I have noticed that some Pagans, hoping to better understand their own pantheons, look to Hinduism. Hinduism replaced the Priesthood religion of the Vedic deities. Priests seem to have become corrupt and the Vedic deities were demonized, demoted or otherwise greatly changed in Hinduism. Once you move away from the Vedas, you’ve moved into Hinduism. The farther you move to modern times, the more any proto-Indo-European similarities have vanished.

We have no ancient prayers to Eostre, just a name and a month. As her name is the basis for Easter the only movable holy time in the Christian faith, and the Anglo-Saxon calendar is a solar-lunar combination, we can figure out Eostre’s time of celebration. The first Sunday after full moon after the spring equinox is Easter, so Eostre’s festival was probably the first full moon after the spring equinox.

There is an association with youth and renewal in some German Easter folk practices, like wearing white and bathing the face with dew early on Easter morning. The Indo-European East/Dawn Goddess is always young and it makes sense that She is renewal. Oftentimes we read about deities and other MoreWorldly persons using dew gathered from healing plants to treat the ill; some believe this may be an early form of homeopathy. According to certain old documents, some herbs are meant to be collected when coated in the mysterious dew, a water out of nowhere. (The Manx Sea God Manannan Mac Lir’s chief physician Libra Primliaig gathers healing herbs while they still are covered with dew. Learn more in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners.)

It may be that the white birch tree is a symbol of the proto-Indo-European dawn Goddess. Perhaps it is because She shines like the white birch, or it may be because birch are “pioneer trees.” In forest succession, after a prairie has brushes, birch trees are usually the first tree to populate the area. Although they live about only 70 years, their deaths are important: the birch restores much needed nutrients to the land so the next wave of trees can grow into a forest. I keep birth twigs and fallen bark on my Eostre shrine.

Many associate Eostre will eggs. Chicken living in natural light lay more eggs when there’s more sunlight. As She ushers in the lengthening days, people would be grateful for the eggs. (Remember how far north England is to understand why now would be the time of returning light.) Because of the recently created Easter Bunny, She is also associated with rabbits. However, the Easter Hare is from no earlier than 17th century Germany. Hares are often considered magical animals, perhaps because they are commonly seen in the grey markings on the surface of the full moon.

Still, the rabbit with its prolific breeding seems to fit the season of general fertility, and so it stays. Deities evolve, their symbols, offerings, and reason why mortals pray to Them change. They’re never static. A look at the long-recorded Kemetic, Greek, Roman or Hindu mythologies will show how the deities will always adapt with us. A study of the many changes in the Yorubaland Orishas as They were once worshipped in West Africa led by Priestesses and Priests, then worshipped by slaves informally and secretly in the Americas often associated with Catholic and Freemason societies, and now in formal neo-Yoruba religions with Priests and Priestesses often from the Iberian peninsula illustrates the way deities adapt to our circumstances.

I like to take lines from the hymns to Usas from the Rig Veda as my basis for my Eostre Hymn. Then I adapt the words to fit the spring as well. By then I’ve gotten that “holy feeling” and tap deeper into what my community and culture needs. They’re interwoven as more specific prayers, along with my praise and understanding of Eostre. I’ve included this year’s Eostre Hymn and some of the ancient Hymns to Usas. After Agni, the Vedic fire God whose flames consume the sacrifices to the deities, the next deity hailed by the Vedic Priests was Usas. She is generally considered benevolent, but there a mention of how each day basically brings us closer to death. Yet there’s also a mention of the ancestors long gone who saw the dawn as well. The cycle continues.

My ritual:

Food offering: organic local beef, organic local sheep milk yogurt, organic local goat cheese, loaf of heavy multigrain bread, organic cabbage, organic hard candies, a few organic animal crackers to represent animal sacrifice, fresh purified water

(Beef was a food for the wealthy in Anglo-Saxon society and loaves of bread were common, often with stew. The Romans brought wheat and cabbage to Britain centuries earlier. But it was the sheep’s milk yogurt that Eostre seemed to call for the most. I didn’t even know anyone made that, but when I mentioned it to my mother she said that she actually just found some. Fermented foods were very common in all cultures because they basically are the natural way to have probiotics. Sauerkraut, for example, helps digest heavy sausages. Fermented drinks made with diary were popular across all of Northern Europe until recently. Yogurt, if it’s real, will have cultures growing in it that balance the important intestinal bacteria. The most common non-meat sacrifice in the Vedic religion was clarified butter, ghee. As the proto-Indo-European people were pastoralists to whom cattle are wealth and that mindset continued into even the runes, a variety of dairy products are usually good offerings.)

Other biodegradable offerings: 3 amber beads (from 1970s necklace made with amber from Latvia, bought second hand from Latvian Etsy shop), 1 turquoise bead (from a friend; I do NOT endorse mining companies!), and a few glass or ceramic beads (recycled, made Fair Trade in India, or someone ‘s destash ie second hand)

Everything will be offered to the land. (Do not leave meat or dairy offerings in populated areas because they will attract animals most people consider pests that can be very disruptive. Someone will probably kill them.)

Heather Awen, out of the window
Out my window, rain and rising rivers

The snow has *just* melted here in northern Vermont. It rains, another river flood warning in effect. A couple weeks ago we saw robins. Mud season has been in full effect for a while and will continue.

Around 5:20am I start gathering Her food, singing Her name in what feels like an endless loop. I am not thinking anything. It feels good to be lost in movement and music. Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, herniated back discs and leg muscle – I don’t normally stand much.

The food and bead offerings are arranged with my Eostre shrine items: three eggs, a decade old, decorated by a neighbor and her children; the top of a ceramic bunny I’ve had since I was an infant, finally too broken to repair; found birch sticks and bark; feathers of pheasant from an amazing and beautiful autistic Roma poetess born in April; and the glass bead shrine I made Eostre. Starting with an original one of a kind rabbit pendant someone made and gave me, it has the colors from darkest night to sunrise, with a yellow songbird. By moving through them, I can remember the power of Eostre. (I make and sell customized bead shrines that are sturdy enough to take on your travels and hold in bed while sick. Prices are determined by the cost of materials; one with a donated earing as the pendant is going to cost much less than one with a $25 Taranus Wheel.)

Eostre Shrine close up, Heather Awen
Eostre Shrine close up, Heather Awen

Once everything is organized, I face east and say my Eostre Hymn. I can feel a friend of mine faraway standing next to me. I don’t know what he’s doing exactly but it adds a little necessary oomph with hand movements and heart energy.

Eostre Hymn

Arise and greet mighty Eostre, Goddess of Renewals, Maiden of Light and Life and Herald of Sunna’s Season!

The Fair, the Bright has come with her white offspring; now the dark winter returns to her dwelling. Akin, immortal, following each other, changing their colours both the heavens move onward.

Following the Wyrd laid before Them, alternately they travel. Fair-formed, of different hues and yet one-minded, Night and Dawn, Winter and Spring clash not, neither do they travel.

Eostre, harnessing her wagon with purple oxen, injuring none, returns with perpetual riches. Opening paths to happiness, the Goddess shines, praised by all, giver of every blessing.

With changing tints she gleams in double splendour while from the eastward she displays her body. She travels perfectly the path of Order, nor fails to reach, as one who knows, the quarters.

In the sky’s borders she has shone in splendour; now to our great joy the Goddess throwns off the veil of darkness. Awakening the world with purple horses, on her well-harnessed chariot Dawn approaches.

Bringing all life-sustaining blessings with her, showing herself she sends forth brilliant lustre. Breasts bare, Eostre fills our world with returning Life-giving light, and flowers are soon to follow.

It is Eostre who opens the portal to the birds, migrations ending, eggs laying, songs glorious as if to welcome the Mother of Sexuality, Fertility and Mortality. It is Eostre who opens the portal for Sunna to bring us warmth and well being.

Although we share only limited springs with you, Eostre, please think kindly of us. We offer food and gifts to the daughter of the Heavens; May You be pleased with our generosity, although Yours is so much greater.

From times prehistoric You have kept the cycles of the Sun moving in harmonic perfection. Today we remember all you offer, all you are, and where we fit in your turning seasons. Let us feel the change You bring and be healed, be whole, be wholesome.

May your light and fair blessings reach our collective and individual dungeons of despair, isolation, oppression and ignorance. Grant us all the creativity and will power to follow your path of freedom; let us be uplifted by your eternal chances to match the design of the Deities.

Please look down to us with eyes full of love and extend your glory deep into our bodies, strong, healthy, holy, blessed. Usher in the time of gentle rains, bright sun, and great growth. Bless our farmers and our eagerness for an honorable life.

May Eostre whose auspicious rays are seen resplendent round about, Grant us great riches, fair in form, of all good things, wealth which light labour may attain.

Life continues, cycles continue, each morning, each spring another chance to understand, to create, to design, to live in abundant joy with the Order of the Deities.

May They beckon to us the way of Xartus; May we gracefully embrace this holy union.

Thank you. I give to Eostre, I give to the goodness in myself, and I give to the love that still and always will exist within my species. Thank you, O Heavenly Mother.

At the end I pull a rune. I naturally use the Anglo-Saxon runes with the Northumbrian ones included. (I have removed the Cweard rune because no one knows what the word even means.)

I have to think about why I’m taking an omen. Am I asking if She’s pleased? The runes aren’t great for yes/no answers. She’s satisfied. I feel it. We’re good. So what’s the message from Eostre for which I need an omen? As it’s a seasonal festival, I ask for an omen about how the spring will be for me.

Rune of Spring, 2019, Heather Awen
Rune of Spring, 2019, Heather Awen

The answer is Wynn. Joy of having enough. Joy of a home, good health, prosperity and happiness. Troubles will be few. Gratitude will be important for my mental well being. Wish comes from the related “wunsch” and for the Goths “wunjo” (the rune’s Scandinavian name) meant “bliss.” The different meanings and the lines of the Rune Poem remind me of the power of oxytocin, the comfort, bonding hormone released during breast feeding, orgasms and grooming/ wanted, non-sexual touch. There’s a needed willingness to feel content in Wynn because my culture values struggling over satisfaction. Blame it on the intense mixture of Calvinist Christianity with capitalism, but happiness is scorned as laziness, and ghosts of Scottish Presbyterian and Dutch Reformist self-loathing is woven deeply in my recent family Wyrd.

I embrace joy.

 

Ancient Hymns to Usas

Here are some hymns to Usas directly copied from the e-book version The Complete Rig Veda (English), translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith, published by Classic Century Works. All… oddities are in the original.

HYMN XLVIII. Dawn.
1 DAWN on us with prosperity, O Usas, Daughter of the Sky, Dawn with great glory, Goddess, Lady of the Light, dawn thou with riches, Bounteous One.
2 They, bringing steeds and kine, boon-givers of all wealth, have oft sped forth to lighten us. O Usas, waken up for me the sounds of joy: send us the riches of the great.
3 Usas hath dawned, and now shall dawn, the Goddess, driver forth of cars Which, as she cometh nigh, have fixed their thought on her, like glory-seekers on the flood.
4 Here Kanva, chief of Kanva’s race, sings forth aloud the glories of the heroes’ names,— The. princes who, O Usas, as thou comest near, direct their thoughts to liberal gifts.
5 Like a good matron Usas comes carefully tending everything: Rousing all life she stirs all creatures that have feet, and makes the birds of air fly up.
6 She sends the busy forth, each man to his pursuit: delay she knows not as she springs. O rich in opulence, after thy dawning birds that have flown forth no longer rest.
7 This Dawn hath yoked her steeds afar, beyond the rising of the Sun: Borne on a hundred chariots she, auspicious Dawn, advances on her way to Men.
8 To meet her glance all living creatures bend them down: Excellent One, she makes the light. Usas, the Daughter of the Sky, the opulent, shines foes and enmities away.
9 Shine on us with thy radiant light, O Usas, Daughter of the Sky, Bringing to us great store of high felicity, and beaming on our solemn rites.
10 For in thee is each living creature’s breath and life, when, Excellent! thou dawnest forth. Borne on thy lofty car, O Lady of the Light, hear, thou of wondrous wealth, our call.
11 O Usas, win thyself the strength which among men is wonderful. Bring thou thereby the pious unto holy rites, those who as priests sing praise to thee.
12 Bring from the firmament, O Usas, all the Gods, that they may drink our Soma juice, And, being what thou art, vouchsafe us kine and steeds, strength meet for praise and hero might.
13 May Usas whose auspicious rays are seen resplendent round about, Grant us great riches, fair in form, of all good things, wealth which light labour may attain.
14 Mighty One, whom the rsis of old time invoked for their protection and their help, O Usas, graciously answer our songs of praise with bounty and with brilliant light.
15 Usas, as thou with light to day hast opened the twin doors of heaven, So grant thou us a dwelling wide and free from foes. O Goddess, give us food with kine.
16 Bring us to wealth abundant, sent in every shape, to plentiful refreshing food, To all-subduing splendour, Usas, Mighty One, to strength, thou rich in spoil and wealth.

HYMN XLIX. Dawn.
1 E’EN from above the sky’s bright realm come, Usas, by auspicious ways: Let red steeds bear thee to the house of him who pours the Soma, juice.
2 The chariot which thou mountest, fair of shape, O Usas light to move,— Therewith, O Daughter of the Sky, aid men of noble fame today.
3 Bright Usas, when thy times return, all quadrupeds and bipeds stir, And round about flock winged birds from all the boundaries of heaven.
4 Thou dawning with thy beams of light illumest all the radiant realm. Thee, as thou art, the Kanvas, fain for wealth, have called with sacred songs.

HYMN CXIII. Dawn.
1 This light is come, amid all lights the fairest; born is the brilliant, far-extending brightness. Night, sent away for Savitar’s uprising, hath yielded up a birth-place for the Morning.
2 The Fair, the Bright is come with her white offspring; to her the Dark One hath resigned her dwelling. Akin, immortal, following each other, changing their colours both the heavens move onward.
3 Common, unending is the Sisters’ pathway; taught by the Gods, alternately they travel. Fair-formed, of different hues and yet one-minded, Night and Dawn clash not, neither do they travel.
4 Bright leader of glad sounds, our eyes behold her; splendid in hue she hath unclosed the portals. She, stirring up the world, hath shown us riches: Dawn hath awakened every living creature.
5 Rich Dawn, she sets afoot the coiled-up sleeper, one for enjoyment, one for wealth or worship, Those who saw little for extended vision. All living creatures hath the Dawn awakened.
6 One to high sway, one to exalted glory, one to pursue his gain, and one his labour: All to regard their different vocations, all moving creatures hath the Dawn awakened.
7 We see her there, the Child of Heaven apparent, the young Maid, flushing in her shining raiment. Thou sovran Lady of all earthly treasure, flush on us here, auspicious Dawn, this morning.
8 She first of endless morns to come hereafter, follows the path of morns that have departed. Dawn, at her rising, urges forth the living him who is dead she wakes not from his slumber.
9 As thou, Dawn, hast caused Agni to be kindled, and with the Sun’s eye hast revealed creation. And hast awakened men to offer worship, thou hast performed, for Gods, a noble service.
10 How long a time, and they shall be together,—Dawns that have shone and Dawns to shine hereafter? She yearns for former Dawns with eager longing, and goes forth gladly shining with the others.
11 Gone are the men who in the days before us looked on the rising of the earlier Morning. We, we the living, now behold her brightness and they come nigh who shall hereafter see her.
12 Foe-chaser, born of Law, the Law’s protectress, joy-giver, waker of all pleasant voices, Auspicious, bringing food for Gods’ enjoyment, shine on us here, most bright, O Dawn, this morning.
13 From days eternal hath Dawn shone, the Goddess, and shows this light to-day, endowed with riches. So will she shine on days to come immortal she moves on in her own strength, undecaying.
14 In the sky’s borders hath she shone in splendour: the Goddess hath thrown off the veil of darkness. Awakening the world with purple horses, on her well-harnessed chariot Dawn approaches.
15 Bringing all life-sustaining blessings with her, showing herself she sends forth brilliant lustre. Last of the countless mornings that have vanished, first of bright morns to come hath Dawn arisen.
16 Arise! the breath, the life, again hath reached us: darkness hath passed away and light approacheth. She for the Sun hath left a path to travel we have arrived where men prolong existence.
17 Singing the praises of refulgent Mornings with his hymn’s web the priest, the poet rises. Shine then to-day, rich Maid, on him who lauds thee, shine down on us the gift of life and offspring.
18 Dawns giving sons all heroes, kine and horses, shining upon the man who brings oblations,— These let the Soma-presser gain when ending his glad songs louder than the voice of Vāyu.
19 Mother of Gods, Aditi’s form of glory, ensign of sacrifice, shine forth exalted. Rise up, bestowing praise on our devotion all-bounteous, make us chief among the people.
20 Whatever splendid wealth the Dawns bring with them to bless the man who offers praise and worship, Even that may Mitra, Varuna vouchsafe us, and Aditi and Sindhu, Earth and Heaven.

HYMN LXI. Usas.
1 O Usas, strong with strength, endowed witli knowledge, accept the singer’s praise, O wealthy Lady. Thou, Goddess, ancient, young, and full of wisdom, movest, all-bounteous! as the Law ordaineth.
2 Shine forth, O Morning, thou auspicious Goddess, on thy bright car awaking pleasant voices. Let docile horses of far-reaching splendour convey thee hitherward, the goldencoloured.
3 Thou, Morning, turning thee to every creature, standest on high as ensign of the Immortal, To one same goal ever and ever wending now, like a wheel, O newly-born, roll hi ther.
4 Letting her reins drop downward, Morning cometh, the wealthy Dame, the Lady of the dwelling; Bringing forth light, the Wonderful, the Blessed hath spread her from the bounds of earth and heaven.
5 Hither invoke the radiant Goddess Morning, and bring with reverence your hymn to praise her. She, dropping sweets, hath set in heaven her brightness, and, fair to look on, hath beamed forth her splendour.
6 From heaven, with hymns, the Holy One was wakened: brightly to both worlds came the wealthy Lady. To Morning, Agni, when she comes refulgent, thou goest forth soliciting fair riches.
7 On Law’s firm base the speeder of the Mornings, the Bull, hath entered mighty earth and heaven. Great is the power of Varuna and Mitra, which, bright, hath spread in every place its splendour.

HYMN LXXX. Dawn.
1 THE singers welcome with their hymns and praises the Goddess Dawn who bringeth in the sunlight, Sublime, by Law true to eternal Order, bright on her path, red-tinted, far-refulgent.
2 She comes in front, fair, rousing up the people, making the pathways easy to be travelled. High, on her lofty chariot, all-impelling, Dawn gives her splendour at the days’ beginning.
3 She, harnessing her car with purple oxen. injuring none, hath brought perpetual riches. Opening paths to happiness, the Goddess shines, praised by all, giver of every blessing.
4 With changing tints she gleams in double splendour while from the eastward she displays her body. She travels perfectly the path of Order, nor fails to reach, as one who knows, the quarters.
5 As conscious that her limbs are bright with bathing, she stands, as ’twere, erect that we may see her. Driving away malignity and darkness, Dawn, Child of Heaven, hath come to us with lustre.
6 The Daughter of the Sky, like some chaste woman, bends, opposite to men, her forehead downward. The Maid, disclosing boons to him who worships, hath brought again the daylight as aforetime.

HYMN LXIV. Dawn.
1. THE radiant Dawns have risen up for glory, in their white splendour like the waves of waters. She maketh paths all easy, fair to travel, and, rich, hath shown herself benign and friendly.
2 We see that thou art good: far shines thy lustre; thy beams, thy splendours have flown up to heaven. Decking thyself, thou makest bare thy bosom, shining in majesty, thou Goddess Morning.
3 Red are the kine and luminous that bear her the Blessed One who spreadeth through the distance. The foes she chaseth like a valiant archer, like a swift warrior she repelleth darkness.
4 Thy ways are easy on the hills: thou passest Invincible! Se1f-luminous! through waters. So lofty Goddess with thine ample pathway, Daughter of Heaven, bring wealth to give us comfort.
5 Dawn, bring me wealth: untroubled, with thine oxen thou bearest riches at thy will and pleasure; Thou who, a Goddess, Child of Heaven, hast shown thee lovely through bounty when we called thee early.
6 As the birds fly forth from their resting places, so men with store of food rise at thy dawning. Yea, to the liberal mortal who rernaineth at home, O Goddess Dawn, much good thou bringest.
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Lucumi in Prison

I’ve been lucky enough to have a pen pal who knows a ton about African Diaspora Religions and we’ve shared loads of papers, books, art and information. It’s really hard to find someone well educated but not dogmatic about these religions with whom to discuss them. There’s an Ifa reading Priest from Cuba also in the prison, but he speaks Spanish, we speak English, so I only get bits and pieces of how he practices in prison. He’s also teaching us how to tell the many conmen online claiming to be trained but just wanting money from the real deal. His father was involved with different Palo traditions and said what I thought after reading a couple books about it: “no good!” (Does anyone worship Kongo spirits as beautiful powers like the lwa or Orishas without mixing them with the Orishas as if they’re interchangeable? Seriously looking for Kongo based religion!)

Prison doesn’t really allow anything. It’s a soul crushing, dead end world of its own and anything you own can be taken just out of spite. Some Chaplains do their job of meeting the legal needs of inmates, but when you took a vow as a Pentecostal Evangelical Christian Minister to covert as many people as possible, you are not going to do your job as a prison Chaplain. Most Pagans in prison have never seen photos of altars or art of deities. That’s why Steel Bars, Sacred Waters has about 100 images. It’s hard to envision a future if you literally can’t visualize one. With even juice banned (it could be fermented into booze), what do incarcerated Pagans do?

O.K. Mojo gave me some examples of how he practices Orisha worship.

Blue Gatorade Yemaya Bath and Floor Wash

Leave the blue Gatorade on your Yemaya altar for 7 days for Her to bless. Mix the Gatorade with tap water. Use to wash your floor and door for Her blessings. Do a hand bath from feet to head if asking Her to bring something into your life. (A  hand bathe is like a sponge bath except you have no sponge.) Do a hand bath from head to feets to have Her remove something. Wash your head in it to purify your ori. (You can use Orange soda for Oshun.)

Milk Obatala Floor Wash and Bath

This comes from the Cuban Priest. Wash your cell floor with the milk finishing at the door, while praying to Obatala for purification and wisdom. Then wash your body with the remaining milk. Wrap your head in something white like a T shirt. Go to sleep and let it dry overnight. In the morning rinse yourself off the best you can. (You are supposed to get a daily shower, but it’s more like every other day in these chaotic prisons. Meals are similar – You might get one; you might not.) Wash your floor again, but with water.

Chapstick Candles

If you have no way to get candles but need a white one, let’s say for honoring your egun (ancestors), buy a stick of Chapstick. Twist the bottom until the entire stick is out. Cut it off at the base. Cut a vertical line along the Chapstick to push your wick into. (The wick can be any string that will burn.) Charge it with your prayers. Put the candle on your sink for safety and light it. Praise your ancestors. It will burn quickly and might be smoky depending upon the wick. The sink might hide it from the guards, but you could go to the Hole – no mattress, no clothes, no blanket – for this. This depends on if the guard is paying attention, “phoning it in”, flirting with another guard or inmate, or selling illegal cell phones or drugs. Knowing the temperament and goals of the guards is highly recommended. (It’s a low pay, long hour job. The Grey Market is different but usually well established at every facility.)

The ingenuity of Pagans who are not allowed any items that their religions require continually impresses me. On the outside I have met Pagans who for years say they’ll make a shrine when they have the money to hit up Michael’s, place a few Etsy orders, and buy half the supplies available at an online occult shop. My experience is that these Pagans are procrastinating because they are afraid that the deities are real, or they don’t know what they actually believe so they don’t really have a religion. With all my limitations from having Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Pagans in prison inspire me to keep looking far out of the box for ways I can celebrate my deities!