The last few months have been pretty chaotic and upsetting, but things feel like they’re finally settling down into some semblance of normal again. Tonight was the first full moon esbast I’ve really been able to sit down and devote some time to since Yule. My mother got sick towards the end of last year, and died in January. Through the last couple of weeks of her life, we knew she was going to die, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. In any case, that has been the source of a lot of rumination, contemplation, questioning and general introspective inquiry for me over the last few months.
It’s also been an interesting time for talking to my children. They’re not little anymore, so discussions about in-dept spiritual concepts have a much different flavor to them now than they used to. It’s interesting to see how their ideas about death, dying, the after;life and spirituality are unfolding and what they think about those concepts. It’s also interesting to me how very different they are from each other with regard to their thought processes and general spiritual ideas.
I have been working on creating a little outdoor space in my yard lately; I repainted some old patio furniture and bought a lovely bright umbrella for the table. It’s been nice to have diner outside, and gives me a pretty, dedicated space to meditate and/or commune with nature, especially when I feel like going outside at night. This evening was one such occasion; I brought my esbat journal and affirmation cards, incense and tea to my little spot and just bathed in the moonlight. Then I took a walk around my yard and mentally mapped out some future plans I’d like to implement for outdoor living spaces. The moon was so pretty and bright – I love walking around outside under the full moon!
I have been meaning to re-plant an herb garden, but haven’t followed through with it for various reasons. After my mom crossed over, it seemed like a good time to make those plans blossom. As part of my grief self-care and healing process, I have been buying plants and herbs. I love green growing things; I’m not super great at keeping them alive past a certain point, but I really love them. It’s been healing, because my mom had quite the green thumb and also loved her plants, so it’s almost like sharing this with her. In addition to garden basics like basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and catnip, I added several variations of common varieties, like lime basil and purple basil; hot & spicy oregano; several varieties of mint (spearmint, sweet mint, peppermint and chocolate mint); and other staples like lemon balm and be balm, succulents, bell and jalapeno peppers, and quite a few greenery plants and flowers as well.
When my mom died, my aunt brought me a cabinet that belonged to my grandmother. She had been keeping it for my mom (who inherited it when my grandmother died). My grandmother collected all kinds of dolls, and the cabinet is where they lived. I re-purposed it into my herbal and apothecary cabinet, with the top housing my living room altar. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full altar in a public space in my house; my main altar is in my bedroom. Right now, it’s just a generic altar, but I’m planing for it to become more of a family space. I’m sure that with time, it will take on a life of its own as we add to it.
I spent some time the other day making honey incense. It’s been a long time since I’ve made incense; I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the process. It’s really easy, and can basically be customized with either what you have on hand, or for specific purposes. I made a prosperity and protection blend for Beltane. This has a lovely sweet scent, and doesn’t smoke a lot; it just kinda smolders, which is nice if you have allergies.
Homemade Springtime Prosperity & Protection honey incense
1 tsp comfrey leaf
1.5 tsp lavender flowers
1 tsp orange peel
.5 tsp fenugreek seed
2 white sage leaves
.75 tsp. frankincense powder
1 tsp copal tears
honey (aprox 1.5 tsp)
Grind all dry ingredients. I put everything in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the larger bits are about evenly sized, then move to an electric finder and give everything a spin – just enough to get a rough sand-like texture. Then pour into a small bowl and add honey, sparingly. You inky need enough honey to bind the ingredients together so they’ll hold the ball shape. Roll and place on parchment paper to dry in a cool, dark place. You can use them immediately, but the are better when dried and aged. Burn by placing a ball onto a lot charcoal disc.
I’ve also been spending time with my cards. I read with the Medieval Scapini Tarot, and have been experimenting with different ways to read. This was a year forecast reading, which I’ve never attempted before. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months.
Litha, or Midsummer, is the mid-point of the year – the Summer Solstice – a time of balance and transition from the light half of the year to the dark. One of my favorite myths is that of the Oak King and the Holly King, and Midsummer is the counterpart to Yule (or Midwinter). At Litha, the Oak King is slain and the Holly King rises up to lay claim to the latter half of the year. That’s not really relevant to this post, because although I love the retelling of that story at the vital points during the year, this Litha is all about housekeeping.
I have been remiss in my home-blessing duties; however much I try to re-frame ‘chores’ into ‘home blessings’ or ‘creating sacred space’, the fact is that I am just not a great housekeeper. There are always more interesting things to do than scrub the cabinet fronts or clean the ceiling fans… and so every once in a while it gets so bad that to not take the time to do some deep cleaning is just… well it’s just time to clean. And so this is where I have found myself now,coming up on Litha.
I really felt the need to ‘brighten’ things up – it felt dark and gloomy, and I know it’s my lack of attention to the space that’s allowing those energies to pile up, so I started in our living room. I went through an intense decluttering phase a few months ago, and though I did very well with cleaning the stuff out of the places it was cluttering up, I never got so far as to actually take the things out of my house. So they’ve been sitting in a corner, sucking up space and energy. Much of that’s actually, truly gone now, either out into the proper closet/storage spaces or tossed out into the rubbish bins. A few things made their way into the car to be taken to new homes, but the end result is amazing – so much brighter and cleaner and ‘light’ feeling! Sadly, even knowing how amazing ‘clean’ feels doesn’t help motivate me to be a better housekeeper much of the time… but I digress.
I also spent some time in the kitchen, enlisting the kids’ help in deep cleaning everything from the ceiling (and fan) down; cabinets, appliances, counters, organizing drawers, floors… all of it. Our table sits in a corner, and the actual corner tends to be a catch-all spot (for my things, especially) but even that’s now clean and tidy. There’s a little left to do; we’re supposed to clear out the living room and get a new sofa and coffee table soon, and I have a feeling paint will soon follow, depending on the colors of the new furniture, but even just those few changes have really shifted the feel of the space.
Litha and the Full Strawberry Moon both fell on Monday, so I did a simple ritual with the kids. I bought new Goddess and God candles and a new working candle for my altar, and changed the decor to reflect the warmer colors of summer. We also did something new; we set up a family altar in the living room. We have had a shelf with a smaller, less conspicuous altar space in there, and directional candles have always been at the cardinal points of the room, but now there’s an actual, dedicated altar there too, and set for Litha with deity candles and a family offering bowl. After our morning routine, we tidied things up, then smudged the house inside and out and laid new salt barriers on the windows and doors, walked the boundaries and left offerings for the border spirits. Afterwards, we spent a little time on Intentions and spellwork for the waning half of the year, celebrated the Moon, and had strawberry shortcake with sweet red wine.
How are you celebrating Midsummer this year?
Ever hear the phrase, ‘once in a blue moon’? Well, get ready, because Friday’s Esbat is awash in the energy of the Blue Moon! In actuality, blue moons (using the most common understanding of ‘the second full moon within a one-month calendar period’) aren’t anything super special in a mystical sense; we wouldn’t have them at all were it not for the calendar we use. But we do have them, and because of the rarity (the next one won’t be until 2018), that makes them a special thing. If you keep track of such things, upcoming Blue Moons will be on:
31 January, 2018, 31 March, 2018, and 31 October, 2020.
Looks like Samhain 2020 is going to ah-maz-ing, right?
There’s a second definition for Blue Moon as well that is much more uncommonly heard, but is the ‘real’ definition, which is truly much more rare:
the original definition is that a Blue Moon is the third full Moon in an astronomical season with four full Moons. A normal year has four astronomical seasons – spring, summer, fall (autumn), and winter – with three months and normally three full Moons each. When one of the astronomical seasons has four full Moons, instead of the normal three, the third full Moon is called a Blue Moon. more here
The ‘real’ definition is slightly more complex, and can understand why the more simplified version caught on (even though it’s technically a mistake). If you’re a stickler for technicalities, the next Blue Moon as defined by astronomical season will be next year:
21 May, 2016; 18 May, 2019; 22 August, 2021 and 19 August, 2024.
Regardless of which definition you prefer, this is still a Full Moon, with all the bells and whistles that come with celebrating one. I love the Full Moon Esbat. I absolutely adore being outside when the moon is full. The night feels so alive and everything is soft and dreamy with a beautiful moon-lit glow. The moon at its fullest is so bright – I love the feeling of being out; bathed in it. It’s a great time for cleansing; I set out stones and crystals and jars of water to make Moon Blessed water and re-charge the stones and jewelry that I wear. Everything gets cleansed and grounded and waits for the next part of the cycle.
Traditionally, the Full Moon is a time of culmination and completion. What was started with the New Moon this cycle finds its apex of energy at the Full Moon, before winding down over the next two weeks and starting the cycle anew. I find the Lunar Cycle ideal for short-term goals; a naturally occurring 4-week cycle that grows, peaks, wanes and starts again feels to me like a natural timetable and guide for such things. The two-week span between the Full Moon and the New Moon is a time of rest, reflection and preparation for me. While I don’t adhere strictly to traditional correspondences for spell work, there are some things I am fairly meticulous about and my interpretation of the Esbat Celebrations is one of them.
I don’t know if anyone else does this; I’ve never read it or heard it being done and haven’t heard of it being part of any established tradition, but I use the Black and Blue Moons in a similar manner as the traditional Lunar Cycle. The cycle begins with a Black Moon, and reaches culmination at the Blue. In my opinion, for the least amount of confusion, you should use the same definition for both, i.e.: if you’re using the definition of Blue Moon to mean the 2nd Full Moon in a month, then your definition of Black Moon should be the second New Moon within a month. That’s my personal preference for this type of longer-term planning, and so with this Blue Moon, what was set into motion with the last Black Moon (March 30, 2014) reaches its climax. The next Black Moon of this kind will be October 30, 2016 (which is the night before Samhain – so cool!!), with culmination expected January 31, 2018. I will have the months between now and October of next year to rest (energetically speaking), reflect on my intentions and results, and plan and prepare for the next long-term goal.
As for effectiveness, I can say that my life has undergone some fairly radical changes over the last year and a half, and those changes are in line with the goals/plans/intentions I set. I am not naive enough (or ‘faithful’ enough?? Is that even the right word??) to think that ‘it’s all because of spell work’. I do make choices that are in line with my goals, and live my life in a proactive way – my actions match my intentions. I believe that hard work and a life in harmony with realistic goals set make a works of difference in what a person is able to achieve. But there’s an element of luck or fortune or favor there, too. Call it what you will, but hard work can only take you so far and the extra ‘spark’ – wherever it comes from – helps.
The next Black Moon of the other type (3rd of 4 within an astronomical season) won’t be until August 21, 2017 (with the Blue Moon May 18, 2019). I haven’t personally used this type of moon for this purpose, but I feel like it would probably work as well. If you’re into long-term goal-oriented spellcasting, consider giving the Black/Blue Moon cycle a try to see how it works out for you. I’d be interested in hearing from you if you do (or have done this before).
Brightest Blue Moon Blessings,
I haven’t done many Esbat posts, so with the full moon coming up tonight, I thought I would talk a bit about the Full Worm Moon. March is the beginning of Spring (with the New Moon falling on Ostara this year), and so my theme this month is ‘Awakening’. Much like the ground is coming alive with the promise of new life, I feel like I am ‘awakening’ a more proactive part of myself – part of me that’s been sleeping.
With my housekeeping purge on-going, I feel energized (except for yesterday, when a nap won out over finishing up in my closet), and like I’ve accomplished something – or maybe something big is on the horizon.
As the Moon’s energy wanes, it’s a good time to send things away – in this case, that’s in the very literal sense of releasing hold on possessions and items that no longer serve a goal or to make my spirit happy. In other ways, it’s a release of the stagnation that the end of winter always brings.
Today, I’ll be taking down my altar, cleaning everything and setting it back up. That’s the last task in my ‘Step 1’ of my plan for March’s ‘Sacred Space’ blog. I am also going to set out a couple of jars to make Moon Blessed Water, and charge my crystals. It’s been a while since I’ve taken care to fully celebrate the Full Moon Esbat. I’m looking forward to marking it in a memorable way.
To recap, I have given myself a challenge – to spend the month of March cleaning, purging and minimizing the spaces in my house. I set several dates and steps, and gave myself a timeline. This is the first step, and updates. Here’s the challenge:
Step 1: Bedroom – What’s my goal here? This is my personal space. I don’t share it with anyone (other than my husband), and my kids don’t often come into my room. My altar and cabinet of curiosities (herbs, oils, books, etc.) are all kept in there, and I want that space to be inviting and refreshing for my spirit. Practically speaking, I also need to move my clothes from the laundry room into my closet (which is currently full of old crafting supplies). Here’s what needs to be done:
clear out closet remove craft supplies & confine to one box create space for clothing
- clear off bookshelves (get rid of hard copy books that I have in digital form)
- clean out trunk &
organize herbs onto shelves
- clear nightstand drawer of clutter
go through bathroom closet (de-clutter makeup, beauty supplies, etc.)
- TIME FRAME: 4 days (March 2-5)
I am adding:
- go through clothes & cull things that don’t fit, that I don’t like; hang what’s left
smallclothes (bras, panties, socks and other ‘small’ things); assigned to baskets on a shelf in the closet
- at home clothes (yoga pants/tee shirts/swimwear)
- outerwear (coats/jackets, etc.); remove to laundry room for now with plans to move them to the hall closet next week to free up space in bedroom closet
sort shoes & cull;put what’s left in the closet (and work on finding a shoe-storage solution that works in *tiny* spaces)
- sort purses/bags & cull; put what’s left in the closet (neatly)
- clean, re-set altar
Tuesday, March 3 update: I’ve cleaned out my closet! It’s empty! I was a little ambitious with my expectation that I could get my craft stuff down to one box; I forgot just what was in those boxes (keepsakes and a quilting project that I am saving for sometime when my kids are out of my house). I DID get my sewing down to one box (not including thread and notions – but I am working on it), and took an entire box of crafting supplies out and put it in the office to be sorted and put away in the correct spaces.
I took all of my clothes out, and am going to be sorting them tonight and tomorrow, and getting things on hangers. I also covered the shelves in fabric, and added baskets for my smallclothes to go into. I am also leaving space for my collection of purses, shoes and work supplies that should rightly be housed in my closet.
This part of the project was honestly the most overwhelming – the part I was dreading. But I got it all out, and threw out FOUR garbage bags (kitchen-sized) of junk, which included a lot of old sewing projects and fabric I’ve been hanging on to, and a pair of black heels that I have never worn because they hurt my feet (but they’re SO pretty!!). I’m pretty impressed with myself.
The more I get rid of, the more I WANT to get rid of!
I will edit this post to reflect what Friday holds; for now (late Wednesday night, when I am posting this), I am going to focus on work tomorrow, then work on the rest of my bedroom in the evening, and will be in celebration mode Friday.