Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category
Mankind has always had a special relationship with the stars. In the modern world we explore them scientifically: searching for the answers to the Big Questions regarding the origins of life and the extent of the wider universe around us. We look up at the stars through veils of ambient electric lights and smog, wishing upon them still. We escape to the countryside to truly see the stars as best we may, watching them in place of the television sets which usually fill our nightly vision.
And in so doing we are continuing a bond man and womankind has had with the stars from the very beginning. For much of the time mankind has walked the earth, we did not know the stars as we know them to be today: huge balls of plasma energy strung out in space billions of light years away. Instead, we held them on high as something else, something magickal. In ancient societies, when the sun went down, there was the vast illuminated landscape of a starry sky lurking above them: mysterious and constant. It was a distinct part of their cultural worldview; its placement in the heavens and its occasional idiosyncrasies explained as part of ancient mythologies and religions. Imagine their wonder looking up at the night sky and imagining it looking right back at them.
And bear in mind, that without electric lights to dim the view, the night sky would have been distinctly brighter and filled with finer textures and gradients of colors and lights. The Milky Way not a slightly filmier band across the sky but a broad avenue of swirling colors stretching across an upside down starscape: a fitting pathway for the gods or divine river among the cosmos.
Shooting stars in particular hold a special place with the cosmic mythologies of most ancient civilizations. For the falling star represents an interaction between man and the divine. It represents something moving from a heavenly cosmic plain to the mortal, earthly world. It was probably with some surprise that upon tracking the falling place of a “star” to earth, they would discover a small crater filled with a glassy rock, which, today of course, we call a meteorite. Many cultures venerated meteor rocks as powerful magickal talisman, sent from the sky gods to the denizens of earth. The ancient Greeks believed that finding one would bring you a year’s worth of good luck and a wish; and it is from them that we have ultimately inherited the idea of wishing upon a star. Native American medicine men have been known to wear them as protective amulets, passing them down through generation after generation of shaman as symbols of their power. And temples throughout the ancient Mediterranean were in possession of meteorites, likewise holding them as sacred objects. Even in the modern world, a meteorite is one of the most venerated objects in contemporary monotheistic religious practices: the Black Stone of the Ka’baa. Believed to have been sent from God to Abraham and then passed down to Mohammad, the Ka’baa stone is technically a relic of all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and is the centerpiece of the holiest of holy Mosques in Mecca in modern Saudi Arabia, a former temple to the local Moon/Water God.
Falling stars have traditionally had a myriad of metaphysical and spiritual meanings behind them as well.
Stars are, in particular, frequently associated with the idea of the human soul. In the Teutonic mythology of central Europe, it was believed that every person was represented by a star which was attached to the ceiling of the sky by the threads of fate. And when Fate ended your story on earth, she would snip the thread attaching your star and it would fall, presaging your death. In Romania, there is a belief that the stars are candles lit by the gods (and later the saints) in honor of each person’s birth and that the brighter the star the greater the person. The falling star represents the soul’s final journey to the afterlife as it is being blown out and across the sky by the divine candle keepers. In these and other cultures, falling stars and meteor showers were celebrated ~ they honored the ancestors who had come before them, and in particular the newly deceased who were joining the ranks of the highly venerated generations who had come before.
Even in the Middle Ages after the triumph of Christianity, the pagan equation between shooting stars and the movement of souls could not be snuffed out entirely. And so it was vilified; the shooting stars were cast as the souls of evil and impious men being cast out of heaven and down into the bowels of the earth.
Shooting stars have and always will hold a special amazement to those viewing them. For their beauty alone they are worth staying up for. And if you’re ready for the long haul tonight or tomorrow night (August 12th and 13th respectively) and you live in the Northern Hemisphere~ you’re in luck! It’s the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower. Every year between August 9th and 14th, the Earth bumbles through the trail of rocky and icy debris left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle: creating one of the most dependable and spectacular arrays of shooting stars on earth. It has, undoubtedly, been witnessed by man for millennia; though the first recorded instance of it did not occur until 36 AD in China; with the first official scientific description of the shower occurring almost 2000 years later in Belgium in 1835.
The Perseid meteor shower is named after its seeming origination in the nightsky from the constellation Perseus, itself named after the Greek hero of the same name. The stars which make up the constellation of Perseus have their own elaborate mythologies. In particular the star Algol; which, due to its variable eclipsing nature and unpredictable level of brightness was known first as the Gorgon’s Head after Perseus’ arch-nemesis the Gorgon Medusa, and then the Demon’s Head until it was simply just the Demon Star or the Ghoul Star (algol= al-ghoul). The shower was also later referred to in a more saintly manner. In medieval times they were called the Tears of St.
Lawrence in consideration of the fact that they would fall around his feast day on August 10th.
So if you can ~ go out late tonight or tomorrow night and watch the Perseids. Watch them and remember all those who have come before you to watch them down through the millennia. Watch them in honor of the souls they were said to represent. Watch them simply for the thrill of watching something so beautiful and cosmic and so beyond the human ken. Make some wishes. Catch one in your mind’s eye and never let it go.
Burke, J.G. 1986. Cosmic Debris: Meteorites in History. University of California Press.
Get outside this Tuesday and witness one of the most marvelous, magickal astronomical events of your lifetime!
Every eighty or so years, the orbits of the earth, the sun, and the planet Venus line up so that those of us here can view Venus sailing across the fiery depths of our central star. It happens as a paired event, so eight years ago you had a chance to watch the first half and over the 5th and 6th of June this week(depending on your location) you have a chance to watch this second, final half. Sadly, given the length of time between the sets, it is unlikely that the majority of the current world population alive to see the event today will live to see the next one in 2117 CE.
But why is this magickally significant? As a major, visible alignment of some very unlikely celestial orbits: transits are remarkable for the beauty of their phenomena and for the implications of the movement of their solar dance, both culturally and astrologically. And in this case, where it is a confluence between the sun, Venus, and the earth, there are a plethora of positive magickal symbolisms which can be extracted from their opportune meeting. And in 2012, the so-called year of the apocalypse: the more positive meanings that can be extruded to counterbalance the negative, the better!
‘Men are from Mars, Woman are from Venus.’
Popularized as a book title in the late twentieth century, this phrase already explicitly explained something most people inherently recognized about Venus: its femininity. From time immemorial, man and womankind has looked up at the planet Venus, burning brightly as the morning ‘star’ and associated it with womanhood and with love. The ancient Mesopotamians associated it with Inanna and Ishtar, their queenly goddesses of fertility and feminine wiles. The Greeks and Romans associated it with their goddesses Aphrodite and Venus, the latter of whom it gets its name directly of. The planet Venus is, indeed, the only feminine planet in our solar system ~ the rest of the planets are named after male mythological figures. Other than the singular stunning exception of Venus, only the moons of our planets reference female figures. Later associations between the morning ‘star’, a.k.a Venus rising and the association with dark forces like the Christian devil, were later attempts to villanize the sanctity of the brightly lit planet for earlier pagan cultures.
As a representative of feminine ideas of fertility and growth, its transit across the sun, as viewable from earth, has widespread implications of abundance and innovation for those on earth. Indeed, many of the previous known transits of Venus have occurred at peak times during the late Renaissance and Enlightenment. The last series of transits occurred just around the time various marvelous things were being invented, like the telephone. Unfortunately, the phenomena has only been seriously noted for its last four transits (i.e. since the invention of the telescope), though it has been passing us by all along and would have been potentially noticeable under certain circumstances. Any earlier mentions of it have yet to be reconciled with the historic event. However a lack of a historic record does not mean that the superstition and mythical meaning of the event went unremarked upon. It merely means that the modern world has not been able to hold on to this information.
It may also signal a high point in lovability. And may represent the need for mankind to focus in on preserving the own environment and womb of our friendly mother earth.
Whether you watch to support its myriad of magickal messages, or merely just to witness this most astounding of natural events (carefully though! Don’t ever look directly at the sun!): do try to catch a glimpse of this rare celestial phenomena!
For more general information, as well as where and when to try to catch the transit, and how best to watch it, check out the Transit of Venus website devoted to the event.
For more information on the astrological meaning of the transit and its historical confluences, check astrologist Alison Chester-Lambert’s excellent blog out on the topic.
For more information on the science of the transit, including an explanation of the orbits which results in its rarity, check out the BBC’s video on the topic and look forward to the eventual digital premiere of their documentary Horizon: The Transit of Venus.
Caption for top photo: Botticelli’s 1486 painting The Birth of Venus depicts Venus rising fully grown from the sea, just as the morning star, the planet Venus, rises from the sea at the distant horizon.
Garlic and superstition have gone hand in hand for millennia. A tasty, natural curative –garlic’s power as a magickal protective charm and as a potent remedy has remained strong from ancient times through to the present day.
Worried about vampires? No problem. Carry some garlic and decorate your doors and windows with it. The use of garlic to protect against these pop culture prevalent denizens of the night is perhaps the most ubiquitous use of the aromatic bulb known today.
But its usage as a form of apotropaic or warding magick is far more ancient. The ancient Egyptians would utilize it to protect the sanctity of contracts and oaths. Medieval miners would carry it down to the mines with them to ward against evil spirits like the invisible and mischevious German kobolds. The pungent odor and easily portable bulb and cloves of the garlic plant ( allium sativum) made and, indeed, still make it, an ideal charm against evil in all of its multiple forms. Its Sanskrit name Rasona or Lasuona actually means ‘Slayer of Monsters.’ But not all of the monsters it protected against were of the fiendish variety. More often then not, it was the monstrous interior medical ills that garlic was utilized to protect against.
The second century AD Roman physician Galen of Pergamon labeled garlic as a ‘theriac’ or antidote which eventually translated into its widespread usage in imperial Roman medicine as a universal panacea or curative. In Ayurvedic medicine, one of the earliest ongoing systems of homeopathic curatives, garlic was utilized as an aphrodisiac, stimulant, and charm against virulent diseases like smallpox. Indeed, the sulfur and selenium components within the garlic bulb which presumably originated as a defense mechanism against hungry predatory animals result in garlic’s scientifically recognized properties as a valuable antiseptic, which does indeed aid in protecting against bacteria, inflammation, and viruses. Recent studies indicate that the consumption of garlic may help prevent against certain types of cancer. Garlic was recognized early on for its curative powers, but we are only just exploring the tip of the iceberg of what its wonderful biological magick can do for our own biological systems.
Biomagick aside, my particular favorite fact in the litany of garlic’s history (some of which is included above and others of which you will encounter in Sacred Mists fabulous Herbalist Course ) relates to its ritual usage. Garlic was once the primary offering to the great Greek goddess of magick herself: the mighty Hekate. The third century BCE philosopher Theophrastus recorded in his botanical texts Enquiry into Plants and On the Causes of Plants how garlic would be offered at crossroads and in front of the three-faced statues dedicated to Hekate found at such places.
SO the next time you throw a bit of delicious garlic into your cooking, take a second to speculate about the long legacy of interaction between garlic and humankind. For at least five thousand years men and women have consumed this tasty plant and utilized it in their magico-medicine practices. It is a tradition of tastiness and superstition predating biological scientific fact, one which you are continuing by adding it into your daily diet.
Each year the event gets bigger and more countries are joining in to raise the awareness in their homelands. For the 2010 event, said to be the biggest that will take place since the event started in 2007, there are a total of 121 countries officially supporting the event and 812 worldwide landmarks participating. Countries sign up with the WWF to let them know they will take part and what monuments will be involved. This year you’ll find world monuments like Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tokyo Tower, and the Eiffel Tower, along with Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus and the London Eye all in London going dark for Earth Housr. Here in the states the Empire State Building, the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and Niagara Falls and a handful more will also be taking part.
By turning the lights out (and your computer and other non-essential items that are using electricity) you, along with millions of other people the world over, as working together in solidarity to show a symbolic desire to work together and to call to action a need to heal and change the state of the home we all share; Earth. For us as Pagans this is even more important and something that every Pagan, regardless of your specific tradition, should embrace and participate in with enthusiasm. Many times we become so caught up in the pomp and circumstance of the Craft, our covens and Pagan communities, that we forget that, at our core, we are an EARTH-based path, here working for and honoring the hear, guarding the Great Mother and working to heal and protect her.
This year, turn our your lights, shut off your TVs and computers, and spend this hour healing the earth with the lights out. Put together a small ritual of thanks and honor to Gaia, take time to connect to the deep core and emotions held within her and send healing energy to her. Light a green candle and surround yourself and the earth in white light for protection and healing, take time to think of a place within your local community or a sacred space in nature that you’d like to send healing energy to and direct your thoughts there. Get together with your friends and covenmates and have an Earth Hour drum circle and drum the healing heartbeat of the Earth. Gather together with your children and, by candlelight, at a fireplace or by a bonfire, tell them stories and myths about the Gods and Goddesses of the Earth. Invite the gnomes to come out from their caves and deep spaces within the Earth and make them an offering while sending healing energy to them.
Educate yourself about Earth Hour by visiting the website and learn ways that you can make a difference, and on Saturday March 27th, from 8:30pm – 9:30pm be part of this important hour. As Pagans we cannot let this hour each year go by without purpose. We cannot ignore it by feeling it’s an inconvenience or because we don’t want to be bothered. This is a moment were hundreds of millions of people, regardless of their religion, becomes a little Pagan for an hour and help to honor the Earth and acknowledge that we need to heal her. Do not disappoint your Mother!
Earth Teach Me to Remember
by John Yellow Lark
Earth teach me stillness
as the grasses are stilled with light.
Earth teach me suffering
as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility
as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth Teach me caring
as the mother who secures her young.
Earth teach me courage
as the tree which stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation
as the ant which crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom
as the eagle which soars in the sky.
Earth teach me resignation
as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth teach me regeneration
as the seed which rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself
as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness
as dry fields weep in the rain.
Much of my family suffers from seasonal allergies. They are on and off throughout the year, and aren’t limited to one particular season. Pollens, molds, you name it!
In my constant quest to provide natural relief and immune boosters to my family, I have recently been focusing on a particular area that, so far, has brought about noticeable relief:
Not just any honey. You have to be careful! You must seek out a local apiary that sells fresh, LOCAL, honey that is harvested and bottled seasonally and you must eat that honey in significant amounts to aid your immune system to develop antibodies to fight off the histamines that are jolted into action when your local pollens and molds start appearing during the various seasons throughout the year.
There is a blood test you can request to have done through your physician that will give you a complete outline of what you are allergic to, and what you are not, on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest. They test for everything imaginable and you may really be surprised at the findings. In our tests, we found that the most significant allergens in our family were from eucalyptus, mustard and flower pollens. I went to our local apiary, owned by a family friend of over 35 years, and told him about the findings. He immediately gave us 5lbs of each type of honey – eucalyptus and wild flower, both collected and bottled over the past year from local hives within a 30 mile radius.
I started adding the honey to virtually everything they ingested – hot and cold tea, coffee, cereal, on toast, drizzled over baked squash, sweet potatoes, spoonfuls for the heck of it, over vanilla ice cream, in milkshakes, on peanut butter sandwiches, the list goes on.
Guess what? The symptoms have decreased so noticeably that we have almost completely eliminated the need for over the counter medications like Zyrtec, etc. Breathing is easier and sleep has become more restful instead of incessant sneezing, itchy eyes, and clogged nasal passages. It has really worked for us and I plan on keeping it up.
The other good news? Local honey is relatively inexpensive – just $5.00 per pound here in our Valley. Just be absolutely sure that it’s LOCAL honey you’re getting, and not just locally bottled. Most of the honey on the market is from China and while it might taste good, is not giving you the health benefits of local allergen immunity, beyond all of the other benefits of eating local foods.
Give honey a try! Don’t assume it’s not working if you don’t see immediate relief. It takes time for your body to build its immune system. Just keep it up and soon you may find that your seasonal allergies have lessened and you feel overall better than you have in the past.