Most of us are familiar with the various names for the Full Moon, but when I went looking for the names of the New Moon, I was a little surprised to find that there weren’t any. It seems odd that such a notable recurring event wouldn’t also have names to mark the passage of time, especially pre-calendar. I’ve talked before about non-traditional elemental associations and since this is one that I am making up, I thought I’d share my thought/creative process. For each month, I looked up several things, ranging from the history/origin of the month’s name and the deity(ies) they were associated with, as well as properties and other associations that go along with them. I also considered my own personal feelings and insights. Since this is a slice of my personal practice, how I interpret the months and times of year as the cycle turns plays a role in how I chose their names.
Because it’s the first of the year, let’s start with January. Even though, for many Pagans (myself included), January isn’t the beginning of the magickal year, it’s still ‘a’ beginning. I orient myself in the years’ planning starting in January, so for me, it is a beginning. Because I typically print of create my Moon Calendar by calendar year, and because my almanac runs from January through December, this is a logical starting point to me.
The Latin word for January is ianua, or door, since January is the door to the year. January’s deity is the Roman Goddess Juno. There’s some contention with that; apparently Janus was the original deity associated thought to be associated with January as He is the God of Beginnings and Transitions, but more recent research suggests it was, in fact, Juno. Because I am a woman, happily married and mother, the association with Juno speaks to me more. She is generally thought to be linked with protection of the state and of women, love, youth, fertility and vital force, marriage, and other complex roles. In particular, Juno’s name is associated with the Latin words iuvare, “to aid, benefit”, and iuvenescendo, “rejuvenate”, which could potentially connect her to the renewal of the new and waxing moon, which suggests that she may have been revered as a moon goddess. I like that idea. The word for January, or door, fits because in a way, Juno – and thus, January – can be seen as the guardian of the new year. She holds the doors to the year ahead, and as a gatekeeper, creates the way for the new path. For me, January is a time of beginnings – it’s when I reset my calendar, I’ve filed away things from the previous calendar year and get ready for the new year ahead. It’s a time of starting fresh, of making plans and setting goals and intentions – it’s sloughing off the previous year and starting anew. Because of those ideas and concepts, I’ve decided to call January’s New Moon the Renewal Moon.
Because of the potential length of this post, I am breaking it up into several parts. I will come back and edit the list below with the links to the other posts as I make them. For now, subscribe and you’ll get future posts in your inbox!
- January – Renewal Moon
- February –
- March –
- April –
- May –
- June –
- July –
- August –
- September –
- October –
- November –
- December –
- Black Moon (2nd New Moon in a month, also called the Secret Moon or the Finding Moon)
Do you have names for the New Moons? I’d love to read about it!
Last month, I posted about Lupercalia, and finding ways to make old holidays and traditions meaningful in today’s fast-paced world. Continuing in that vein, I thought I’d write about the ancient Roman festival of Matronalia. Traditionally, March 1st was the beginning of the new year, which made Matronalia was the first festival celebrated each year. That makes sense, considering that March is typically consistent with the beginning of Spring and the Earth coming back to life; ‘giving birth’, so to speak, to flowers and greenery after the long Winter sleep. Dedications to Juno, the Goddess of Birth and Motherhood and women in general, were made by everyone in Roman culture, from unmarried women, to new parents, to older women – everyone had reason to celebrate.
While Matronalia may be an ancient holiday, we have remnants of this festival in our own culture in Mother’s Day. Even though that’s absolutely a thing I make time for in May, as a mom myself, and as someone who works with women, birth and new mothers, I can’t help but like the idea of celebrating motherhood anytime the opportunity presents itself, and Matronalia, with the traditional celebration of these themes is a holiday very near to my heart.
One of the things I love about motherhood is the transformation. It’s not just ‘having a baby’ – there’s this whole world of transformation that goes on when a woman BECOMES a mother. It’s not something that happens to her; it’s a transition that she undergoes to become this whole other, new being. This is where the power and allure of Goddess-based worship lies for me; in the creative power that She both embodies and gifts to women, and the experience that I personally, as a woman, have undergone, and have witnessed in countless other women over the years.
So how does one go about translating an ancient festival into modern-day practice?
Since my personal fascination with motherhood is where my focus is, that makes it easy for me to create a framework to work from to craft my own version of a Martonalia celebration. Depending on where you are in your path, your framework might start with a different focus; fertility, protection or even gratitude. If your focus is motherhood or birth/transformation, then you might start with looking for deities that appeal to you within that frame – those dealing with birth, protection, mothers, babies and the like. Juno, since it was Her festival originally, is the obvious deity of choice, but if you don’t follow a strictly Roman of Greek path, She might not work for you. Depending on your path and needs, you might feel comfortable including other deities that have meaning for you. Lucina (another name for Juno), Ilithyia, Demeter (Roman and Greek); Haumea (Polynesian); Renenet, Hathor, Bes, Heket, Iat, Isis and Taweret (Egyptian); Frigg and Freya (Norse); Danu (Celtic) all could have a place during your celebration.
From there, you may start gathering items that symbolize whatever the basis for your celebration is focused on: femininity, motherhood, fertility and the bounty that ‘mother earth’ provides, protection, gratitude – whatever feels right for your needs. You may also choose to represent things sacred to any of the deities you choose to invoke, like foods, flowers, animals, stones, shells, incense and other such tangible items that feel appropriate. Since this holiday festival celebration isn’t one that’s common today, you can really do whatever you like with it, as long as you do so respectfully.
For my personal celebration, I am taking the time this year to reflect on the changes that my life has undergone since becoming a mother, and in gratitude that it’s been a relatively easy transition. Since peacocks were one of the birds sacred to Juno, and figs were a favored food, I am decorating my altar with peacock feathers, and doing a simple ritual with incense made from dried fruits and honey, and a simple cakes and ale with milk and figs.
How are you celebrating Matronalia this year?
A friend of mine recently game me a name for something I’ve been making for a while, but calling something else. I’ve been making art shrines – little boxes full of paint, decoupage, paper, miscellaneous bric-a-brac, shiny and glittery things, handwritten notes, printed bits of paper, old torn up books… all arranged in some way that pleases me, but with a definite thought or concept tying the whole thing together. Her name for them, intent boxes, makes perfect sense, because that’s what they are – not so much ‘spells’ or ‘altars’, but similar to both and yet not quite either.
Well, she says ‘boxes’, I say ‘shrines’. Boxes, I would think, are more a home for a collection of things that you may gather and store for a purpose – things you can get out and touch and physically experience while meditating or to re-focus on your path when you may have wandered. I can see the value in creating such a box, with tangible reminders designed to be taken out and savored, or contemplated, on the path towards a goal. I have keepsake and ‘remembrance’ boxes that serve a similar function. Even my kids’ baby books have grown to the point of needing a box to keep them in because there are so many things filling them and falling out. For a tactile person, holding the physical memento or symbol of a goal can be a very powerful tool.
My version is more an art piece with intent built-in. This box, for example, is along the lines of ‘being kind to myself/yourself’. The mirror, with its persistent requirement of looking oneself in the eye (to see the ‘truth’ of yourself) is a prominent addition, with banishing oil in a vial (for banishing negative thoughts); a butterfly for transformation, Stella Maris for mercy and forgiveness, the key to unlock a brighter future… each element has both meaning and adds to the visual whole.
Another aspect of such a creation is the time and energy both spent on and invested in the box, itself. Energy work is a major part of my path, and it’s one of the reasons I choose to try to make most of my own tools – the energy I put into creating the tool literally makes it the tool I need it to be. My focus and intent and will imbue the tool or object with whatever my goal is, and I believe that makes it all that much more effective. There’s also the placement of the tool, whether on my altar or tucked away for use only in Ritual observances; this box, for example, is still tucked away in my art cabinet, because I am not quite ready to have it placed just yet. I’m still waiting for a final bit of inspiration to call it ‘done’ and figure out where it lives.
I have created others; one that I made several years ago still hangs on the wall by my bed. It’s focus is on both unlocking and honoring the creativity that I rediscovered during an art course I took. The shrine was the final project, presented at the end of the class. It is one of the first things I see when I wake up in the morning, and it’s been very inspiring.
Do you create similar ‘boxes’?
There’s something I really enjoy about making old celebrations new again, and so this year I am taking a stab at honoring some of the long forgotten (or transformed) holidays a little more modern. Obviously, the historically ‘accurate’ traditions probably won’t translate well into today’s accepted celebratory rituals… sacrificial goats are a little hard to come by around here and we’re rather fond of our pup, so that’s clearly out. Plus, what would the neighbors say? The boys are also not keen on public displays of either dancing or nudity, so we’ll have to skip those parts as well. It occurs to me that, while the turning of animal skins into leather might be a useful skill, creating lashes with which to chase and hit young women is also going to have to be forfeit as we don’t generally condone violence, and definitely prohibit violence towards women … so again, a more modern interpretation in necessary, I think.
Apparently, not even the Romans knew the origins of the festival, or even which deity it was associated with; they just that it was a thing and they celebrated it with enthusiasm. That makes it a little hard to find modern-day associations, but there are some that seem obvious to me, even if they’re not historically accurate. Since the word ‘lupercalia’ is derived from both Greek and Latin, and where we find modern words for wolf, it seems natural to me that the deities associated with wolves and other canines would be the focus at this time of year. Whatever your chosen pantheon, there’s likely a deity that is associated with wolves: Fenrir for the Norse; Anubis for the Kemetic/Tameran; The Morrigan for the Celtics; Cerberus for the Romans; Pan for the Greeks; Inari (Kitsune, Dakini) for the Shinto, Hindu and Buddhist … there are others as well, but those are some of the ones I am more familiar with.
Fairly consistent with historical practice, these deities also are associated with themes of fertility, protection, ensuring good favor and good fortune. According to the oldest records, Lupercalia was a festival designed with rites ‘to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility’. That’s pretty common at this time of year, with Spring on the horizon – Imbolc is just passed, with ‘waking the Earth/Goddess’ and preparing the ground for seed to be sown, love is in the air as animals come out of hibernation and look for mates, Valentine’s Day is celebrates (with it’s historical ties to Lupercalia and other Pagan festivals)… even though this is an ‘ancient’ holiday, we’re not as far removed from it as it might seem on the surface!
So how does one translate traditional celebrations into modern day observances? Starting with the obvious, exploring Lupercalia and its connection to wolves is a logical beginning. Wolves symbolize strong family connections, loyalty, communication and stand as guardians. Spring is a time of planning and sowing, and so introspective questions arise:
- Are my goals clear?
- Am I communicating my intentions?
- Am I guarding my space to ensure that I am able to work effectively on achieving my goals?
Taking the themes popular in the Spring, my deities of choice are The Morrigan and Fenrir. The Morrigan is probably more well-known for her associations with ravens, but she’s also known to take the form of a wolf in folklore. Her role as a Mother Goddess, protector and fierce warrior is well-known, and in the context of my path at this point in my life, appropriate. Fenrir is also a strong figure, tasked with overcoming Odin at Ragnarok. As Odin could be seen as the personification of Wisdom, defeating ‘wisdom’ to make the world anew is an interesting concept.
This Lupercalia, then, is celebrated with meditation and introspection, with a focus on honestly considering my needs and goals, moving forward with making plans for the coming year and making sure I am clearly communicating what I need in my life to accomplish them. It’s not flashy, but it does feel ‘right’, and that’s all one can ask!
Have you tried taking/making meaning from old traditions?
I really miss the alphabetical challenge that the Pagan Blog Project was doing – though I understand why they stopped, it was a fun challenge, and even though I don’t think I completed one of them ‘on time’, it did keep me writing. So I thought I’d do a modified version of it just for myself, with a more-or-less weekly alphabetical update.
I also found another site with monthly blog prompts, at Mom’s a Witch. I’ll probably work some of those in over the course of this coming year as well.
Starting with ‘A’, this week’s post is on Air in the North, Part II. A while back, for one of the other PBP posts, I did the original Air in the North post, but I’ve learned more since then and thought it was worth another post. I also met another few people who put Air in the North, which was really cool, since most of the people I practice with on a regular basis keep to traditional elemental directions.
At Pagan by Design, the article starts off with acknowledging the discrepancy and sometimes conflict among different Pagan paths regarding elemental and directional correspondences. There are a lovely few paragraphs that indicate other Pagan cultures and paths that use additional directional and elemental correspondences (of note, Chinese, with fire, wood, metal, earth and water). I particularly like the Celtic and Gaelic preference of North, East, South, West, Above, Below, Within; and the concept of the Spirit being divided into 3 – Light, Dark, and Soul. I’ve written Druidic-inspired Rituals, using only three correspondences: Land Sea & Sky; and have participated in Native American-inspired Rituals where we did a Medicine Wheel rather than a traditional Quarter Call.
Part of my preference for Air in the North comes from thinking along these lines:
The North improves mental wisdom, discovery, and logic in an illuminating fashion. Knowledge accumulated through our lives is purified, as if a swift breeze blew away all dust and confusion. We prepare for intellectual illumination as these winds sweep into our awareness. It seems that gusts of enlightened, intellectual processes of “knowing” blows into our lives.
I was also particularly intrigued to find that the Lakota People also associate North and Air. I am not Lakota, but I’ve learned a bit about them over the past few years as one of my good friends is of Lakota heritage, and identifies with some of the spiritual paths and practices of the People. That makes total sense to me, as the Dakotas would be among the first territories to feel the chill of the Northern Winter storms – Air would absolutely make sense coming from the North for them, which is a big part of my feeling that Air belongs in the North for me as well.
After a lengthy explanation of why traditional correspondences exists and speculation as to how they came about, Pagan’s Path ends with this:
For you, the wind might be warm instead of cold. The waters might be cool instead of warm. What do you “feel” when you think of each element? Does the fire rise or flicker? Does the Earth rise or spread out upon a vast land? Make your own saying and then think about where these elements fit within the cardinal directions of your location. Is it cold in the North or the South? Does the warm water flow to the South or East? Does the sun represent your fire? If so, when it rises in the East or sets in the West? Does the Earth rise up to greet you in the mountains of the East, West, or maybe some other direction? These are the things that make you connected to the elements, the directions and the Divine Energy around you. It’s not how your friend feels, or your partner thinks, or what your Teacher says is right or wrong. None of those outside forces are going to be there when YOU sit down to do a working or to commune with the Divine world around you. So this is your time to think about where you are, and what you believe. You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.
That, I think, is one of the key elements as to how ‘being Pagan’ works. “You have the answers within yourself. Just sit down, meditate a little and ask your higher self what goes where and why.” This, exactly.
Though I am pretty vocal about my preferences, I don’t have to have Air in the North to be part of a Ritual Circle. I have, and do, function just fine when someone whose correspondences differ from mine leads Ritual. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that my practice is enriched by being part of Circles where things are vastly different form how I normally do them. Being exposed to new things always adds an element of wonder to my experience within that Circle, and I have always come away from that experience with something to take back to my practice (or know with certainty that something is ‘not for me’).
If you keep non-traditional correspondences, I’d love to hear form you – what they are and why you have them!
“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Yule is the Winter Solstice as well; traditionally a time of rest – settling in with kith and kin by the fire, counting blessings and weathering out the last of winter. Though I’m in the Southern United States, and our temperatures reach to 80’s (F) sometimes, the sentiments are the same – gathering close to freinds and family, and counting ourselves fortunate.
Another observation that I feel is important to do is ‘Walking the Boundaries’. Every year, on the Quarter Days (Yule, Ostara, Litha & Mabon), I walk the boundaries of our property and leave Thanks and Offerings to the boundary spirits for continued good-will and protection. We share the land with Those Who Came Before, so we try to honor them with a little something.
If you’re so inclined, feel free to use the same promt and write your own blog post. Be sure to link back!
A few weekends ago, Bridey and I went to a retreat called W.O.M.A.N. – ‘Women of Magick and Nature‘. I’d learned about it earlier this year, and had been looking forward to going for some time. Despite how ‘connected’ I tend to think I am, it always surprises me to stumble upon some gem of knowledge or activity or event that is totally new to me. WOMAN has apparently been around for years, though it’s gone by several different names and changed leadership over the years – but the spirit of the gathering is in tact (at least I hope so – what I brought home from the experience was absolutely wonderful).
Over the course of the weekend, I got to meet so many bad-ass Texas witches – who have been around for years and both been instrumental in shaping the Pagan community in Southeast Texas and guiding the women who will come after them. I love that the traditions that started within Texas are being passed on, and at the same time, new life and vitality and ideas are breathed into them as new ones learn and adopt and grow. It felt good – being part of a group that, with each change of name and hands, both honors what came before while accepting and facilitating the changes to come. It’s a process that’s on-going… not without moments of frustration and sadness for what was lost, I’m sure, but overwhelmingly with love and excitement for that which is yet to come.
One of the things I was surprised to find is how much I enjoyed talking with the older women at this retreat. Having a community with a more diverse mix of ages is something that I hadn’t realized I was lacking. I remember sitting underneath the kitchen table while my mother and grandmothers and aunts and great-aunts (both those by blood and those by choice) would sit around talking and shelling peas, or playing cards. I always assumed that I would have that when I grew up, and I suppose in some ways, I do – but there were often elements of faith discussed in those kitchen-table gatherings and that’s the part that’s been lacking. It was energizing to be in an environment where spiritual ideas and concepts were so openly discussed and considered.
In my friend group, I am one of the oldest there – my kids are older, I’ve been married for the longest… I don’t have anyone to learn from. That’s not to say that I know everything, or that those with less time on the clock can’t or don’t have things to teach me – they absolutely do, and I eagerly accept their teaching just as readily as I do that from elders – but it’s not the same as being taught/mentored by an older woman. There’s something about the way an older woman imparts her knowledge – not universally, of course – personalities are what they are, but in general, the wisdom of years has something unique to offer, and I’ve missed it.
It was lovely being around so many women who wanted to teach and to learn from them. There’s something about the Pagan community, about the willingness to teach and be taught, that I don’t see in other religious communities. Whereas other communities all look to a single leader or group of leaders, at events like this, the floor is open to anyone who has something to offer. We had classes and workshops all weekend long, from divination, to crafts, to astrology… it was really interesting and fun to be part of. I felt like there was plenty of room for everyone’s time and differing opinions were heard and no one was belittled or told that they were ‘wrong’… it was such a great atmosphere.
One of the things I learned that I just love is a style of stone divination. Basically, you choose small stones, one for each planet in the solar system, plus ones for the sun and moon, and (to start with), a stone to represent yourself. Using either traditional or personal correspondences for the planets/stones, cast the stones within a circle (a 3’ loop of leather cord, or on a cloth or other surface with a defined edge). Depending on your preference, you can read the stones with the center point as the present, moving outwards for a timeline, or as the edge of the circle closest to you being the present, moving further along the timeline as you move away form yourself. Stones that are closest to ‘you’ (your signifier in the spread) have more of an effect, or their influence is in play, while those farther away from you have less influence. That’s a very (very) simplistic explanation, but gives the gist of the method. It’s also highly adaptable and open to various personalizations. We were left with the instruction, “Make it your own!”, so I did.
And then, there were the rituals. I won’t go into detail, simply because I feel like those were special times to me, and private. But these ladies went all out for planning and preparation, and it was really just awesome to be part of it.
I am so glad that I went. I struggle with anxiety issues, and as a child, I’d have passed an opportunity like this up. I’d have wanted to go, and been regretful for bowing out, but the stress and dread of meeting new people and participating would have been too much, so I’d have declined or bowed out when it came time to leave. I am so glad that I’ve worked through a lot of those issues. It was still hard to walk into a room in progress (we arrived mid-class), but without a doubt, this was one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time and I am so glad that I got to share the experience. There’s another retreat in the Spring, and I am hoping that I get to go!