Welcome to the first of eight celebrations of the solar festivals in Ireland. This is a compilation of information and reports from Tara Celebrations website up to 2017/18, when we reformatted the website and archived the old design. Each TC ceremony is run in awareness of the dominating energies of the current cycle, leading to an accumulated wealth of experience. We observe the festivals and attune our lives to seasonal changes. We cannot avoid the fundamental reality that we are effected by the place at which we live on earth. We shall, by discovering time qualities, enjoy what adds flavour and spice to our lives, expressed as physical phenomena, mental attitudes, emotions we undergo and spiritual intentions. For example, we find that Samhain, the onset of winter, is a good time for introspection and planting the seeds of new projects, allowing them to germinate over the darker months. Beltaine in May, on the other hand, carries the spring and summer energies and is a time to embark on projects requiring courage and energy.
Ceremony format â€“ there are no strict rules about this. Most activities include a consideration on the reason for meeting â€“ ie, stage in the annual cycle, intention of ceremony, setting aside a particular time and place when we can focus, smudge and light passed around, acknowledging the supportive energies in the various cardinal directions, natural elements, myth and legend, pre-planned activities, healing circle if appropriate, open heart contributions, any suitable information eg. next meeting, close directions and meeting, food and drink.
Samhain is a cross quarter day, a fire festival and astronomically occurs when a dawn sun appears in the south east, midway between the rising position at Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. Around Samhain the night sky is often very clear. The moon shines bright and the morning frosts come with the early dew. When we look at the winter night sky we need several minutes for our eyes to adjust. At first we see a few bright stars but after a time we realise the sky is full of stars. And so in life, we patiently adapt and eventually see the beauties around us. Samhain turning point, said to be three days duration, allows full appreciation of the emptiness between the end of one round and the start of the next. In our personal lives, there is time for self evaluation and analysis, followed by a process of investigation and review, then a return to 'normal' life, equipped to move into the next cycle. One of the arts of life is to know when to be quiet and rest and when to be active, when to allow the gestation of new beginnings to gently occur in darkness and when to assist change by pushing forwards, the new welcomed as cheerfully as we greet dawn's returning sun. We brace for winter with the security of Lughnasadh harvests. It is the beginning of the cold dark winter period. We welcome the darkness of winter and sit easily in her silent presence. Sometimes seen as a cold uncaring stark presence, full of emptiness and death and to a certain extent this is true. Nature begins her hibernation and withdraws life force from the trees so that they can survive through the tough conditions of winter. Supplies of food decrease, and animals take the opportunity for the long sleep of hibernation. However, Ireland has a mild winter compared to mainland Europe and food is usually available through the whole year, so few wrap up and doze the full winter away. Halloween revelries portray the wintry presence as frightening and ghoulish but this is an ego fear. We allow her to take from us that which no longer serves or that which is complete. This creates space so that we have room for new experiences but with the wisdom of those that have gone before. We can hang on to nothing, not feelings, not comforts, not tragedy or pain, nor our thought constructs, nor our possessions, not even our loved ones. The persona of Samhain is there to take from us on every level, great things and a thousand small things. We are all visitors, coming in with nothing and leaving with nothing. Letting go of everything familiar, no matter how comforting or painful it may be, is a daunting prospect. Samhain is the energy that we must yield to on a daily basis.
Concealment: Today, when we look at the shops we see masks of zombies, ugly witches, mummies and monsters etc. However, this is but a faint echo of the powerful underlying substance that we remember at Samhain. We recognise that in life we make many a mask, often concealing our own demons. Revelation: Exposing the skeleton and stripping away all that no longer serves the light. Just as in nature, the trees lose their leaves and become skeletal, to give them the ability to resist the biting winter winds, we reveal the bare bones and consider our inner monsters. For in knowledge of ourselves comes understanding and resilience. Recollection: Samhain eve, when the veils between this world and the next are very thin and the spirits of the dead wander, we recall and have gratitude for our ancestors, calling to mind the gifts we have received from them, and also the treasures that the land of Ireland shares with all generations. It was tradition to placate the spirits by leaving out some food or drink (for the pĂşca). We remember our ancestors, light a candle in the window and offer them token food and drink.
Destruction: The web of life is eternally woven, the wheel of life forever turns. The early days of the season of Samhain, often translated from the Irish as 'Summer's end', herald alpha and omega converging in the annual cycle. We take leave of the old year and for several days past and future meet at a location exposed through a rip in the fabric of time. The start of the year emerges through the black veil of death, the Underworld is glimpsed. The dead walk the land and the living wisely stay indoors, or daringly tread dangerous pathways with the unquiet souls. Death to new beginnings is a short step, a stage within the whole a journey towards the sovereign self. That means taking the next (first) step through death to becoming your divine ideal, the next grandest version of who you are, your divine sovereign self. The Samhain wake, when a rosary is recited for the departing soul, has the fire of blessed candles and holy water close to hand. Whilst the prevailing weather elements are water and wind, they are balanced by the human need for fire.
Cobweb: Autumn and Winter hedges are decorated in delicate spider's webs, glistening in the sun, millions of sparkling dew drops like pearls on a expensive necklace. We are reminded of the symbolism of the spider, the perseverance of spinning its web, but that the beauty of the web can be deceiving and brings death to the entrapped fly.
Fire: The Bon(e) fire is a tradition used for bringing heat and light into the cold and dark, for burning up the dead matter that we carry around. In days past the agricultural year centered around cattle and livestock. At Samhain they were brought into stockades and evaluated. Those animals too weak to survive the Winter were marked for death. Their flesh would fill the winter cooking pots. At some periods these were regarded as sacrificial animals, the bone fires referring to their burning bones. Particularly at Martinmas one animal would be killed and shared at a meal with family and community.
Tara: Legends refer to the inauguration of the Ard Ri, the High King, at Tara at Samhain. As part of this, he is said to have taken a processional route onto the Hill. We can experience this entryway into an untried stage, a different reality, walking up the Banqueting Hall. There is a belief this is the birth canal on Tara, a place of transformation into a new beginning. You are enclosed, inhibited between the high walls, with only glimpses through gaps to ancestral tombs, until, at the southern end, a steep slope rises up and suddenly, at the top, you are exposed, all can see you and you can see an all round view of the wider landscape. Like opening a door, this moment is a metaphor for revelation of opportunities that have always existed in our lives but which we have never seen before. In the longer black nights of Samhain, as we walk up the Banqueting Hall, because our sideways view is restricted, we look up into the dark skies and notice the moon phases. The Pleiades, a constellation of stars containing a few particularly bright distinct ones, the actual number varying on the skill of the human eye, rise again at Samhain. Also called the Seven Sisters they are visible at sunset and sunrise, and, like the sun at noon, are overhead at midnight.
Hill of Ward (Tlachtga): Anciently and now revived, the sacred Samhain Eve fire is lit here and the rekindled flame brought across country to Tara, a ridge clearly visible on the horizon. Tlachtga is one of the four corners of the old province of Meath, the others being Uisneach in the west, Tara and Teltown in the south east.
Earthworks on the Hill of Ward comprise a four banked hill fort, a ceremonial place, a spiritual centre acknowledged by the early Christians, for the first church in Athboy was built nearby. A holy well on the slopes held magical properties for the High King of Tara. It is said that he would be protected from evil and danger by a ritual using this water. Yew Tree Cloister, Gormanstown: Said to be over 300 years old the local story of the cloister is that Lord Gormanston created the yew walk for his daughter to enjoy and to persuade her not to become a nun. The entrance is reminiscent of an old beehive. The sunshine outside and the sounds of children playing fill the air, but once you step inside there is a definite feeling that this is a special place. It is one of those feelings that you have to be there to experience. The main sense is one of peace and protection inside the cloister. Perhaps those intertwined branches are like the ancestors protective embrace and how we all are connected and linked together. Again, connecting with that feeling of community that was inside.
Loughcrew: If you want to meet the ethereal Cailleach there, and the weather is good, as the light fades walk up these steps and onto the hillside
Cailleach: The female diety / energy associated with winter time is the Cailleach, the old wisdom face of the spring and summer goddess Brigid. To represent the transfer from maiden to crone we imagine the goddess changing from the flowery dress of summer into a dark cloak of winter. This is the energy that brings change and death to all those outmoded ideas, and ways of living, that no longer serve us. Yet, the Cailleach energy prepares us for rebirth and new life when the winter time is over. Sliabh na Cailleach (Loughcrew) is one of her residences. Now she is said to leave her high place,descending to the fertile pastures. In some tales the young goddess is imprisoned in the mountains. Shops display green faced witches, grotesque with blackened teeth. Disguised the wise woman hides out everywhere, emblematic that we should never to take anything at 'face value'. Samhain draws our attention to remembering our dead and honouring their presence in our lives, in order that we can move on and maintain the flow of life. And we are not limited to doing this just at Samhain. We need the profound wisdom that comes from incorporating the stages of mourning: shock, for however much we are expecting a death, it always comes as a surprise, distress at the manner of the death may be suppressed when we have to deal with the practicalities of the funeral and burial, sadness, when we externalise and feel sorrow that the person mourned no longer enjoys the gift of life themselves, sadness, when we internalise and feel sorrow that we will no longer be able to share our lives with them, guilt that we could have better supported them in their lives, or guilt that we were not at the passing moments, and finally comes the equilibrium of acceptance, and we can rejoin our own mysterious adventure of life's journeys. We realise that these souls are gone, but not forgotten. We do not forsake our ancestors, or our descendants, for we know that outside space and time we are all united as one. At many of these stages streams of tears flow and / or raging anger arises. This time of year provides an opportunity to review notable deaths in your own life. In mindful reflection or in a journal take some time to consider what happened at these events. Have you really dealt with and experienced all the stages of grieving, or did you miss out on one? If there are some unfinished issues surrounding a death you may like to create a small fire ceremony of release and transformation as described above. Follow the Samhain teaching that after the introspection new life will emerge, in fact, hidden in the darkness, it is already activated. All Souls: “The Three Nights of the End of Summer” are 31 October, All Saints' Day on 1 November followed by All Souls. This is a day of prayer for the ancestors, and particularly our own families. Light a candle and place it in the window to welcome them. Set a place at table for them. The Celts had a wonderful system of triads, this one appropriate for Samhain : Three purposes for the return of souls to this world: to collect into the soul the properties of all being, to acquire knowledge of all things, to acquire the power to overcome chaos. St Malachy - Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair: 3 November - St Malachy's feast day. Founder of the first Irish Cistercian abbey at Mellifont in 1142, Malachy had a vision prophesying the last 112 Popes. This reminds us that Samhain is a time when revelations may come in strange enigmatic short phrases, in transcendent states, as Malachy supposedly received them.
We often use the closeness of spirit to scry the future, by staring into a bowl of water or mirror. Weather forecasting does not disturb the ancestors. Go out at midnight and determine the amount of cloud covering the moon. Many warn of much rain in the coming months. Dagda: Often translated as 'the Good God', he is named in many surviving manuscripts, including the Coir Anmann, as Eochaid Oll-athair - Great Horse Father - and Ruadh Ro-fessa â€“ Red One of Great Knowledge. His many names remind us of our concealments, how we show the world different aspects of our personalities. Samhain is all about disguises and revealing these hidden attributes. Perhaps by connecting to Dagda at Samhain we may understand these a little better. Aes SĂdhe: In a reality, parallel to our own, this group of supernatural beings live in many of the ancient monuments of Ireland. This fantastic otherworld's portals are open at Samhain and there may be much to-ing and fro-ing. In the Hosting of the Sidhe verse by W.B.Yeats, he warns us that 'The Host is riding from Knocknarea...' 'The Host is riding twixt night and day...' If any crops have not been harvested they may be spoiled by these Fairy people, or taken by them. They are to be treated with respect. Macha: Associated with Emain Macha in Armagh ( Ard Mhacha) where she is buried. This is another site where myths and stories in the Annals meet the human realms in archaeological monuments. Red Branch Knights and Ulster Cycle tales are based here, and Macha is central as a crow/raven goddess of sovereignty and war. One of the Morrigan triple goddess grouping, with her sisters Badb and Anu, she flies the souls of the dead to the Otherworld. Notice the 3 links of Samhain. Tlachtga: The legendary daughter of Mogh Ruith (druid, wizard - Ruith refers to a wheel). Their story is a confused mixture of Christian and ancients tales, with mythical battles and a visit to Jerusalem. Tlachtga (Earth Spear), was buried where she died in childbirth, at The Hill of Ward. She gave birth to three sons, Doirb, Cumma and Muach of three fathers. A prayer or meditation with her would be connecting with transformational energies of release / rebirth of this time. Maeve at Tara: The cairn on the top of Knocknarea in Sligo is said to be the burial place of Queen Maeve, She Who Intoxicates, whose story is related in the tale of Tain Bo Cualnge. Maybe this is the same Maeve as Medb Lethderg (Maeve of the Red Side) who is connected to Rath Maeve, southernmost of the visible monuments on the Tara ridge, or perhaps it is another altogether. The sources of the myths and legends of this goddess are lost in the soft mists that often blanket this Hill in Meath. In the ancient traditions of High Kingship, Samhain is the time when the sacral King married the voluptuous Goddess of the Land, here identified as Maeve. This will ensure a bountiful harvest for next year. It would seem probable that the successful inauguration would be celebrated with a great Feast. If you are a monarch why not enjoy the advantages - good food and genteel company? Maeve is also Queen of the Ancestors, as the soul / spirit of the goddess is grounded in her marriage to the human King. Many of the goddesses of Ireland are Sovereignty goddesses, representing the land, but perhaps Tara is the place to explore this concept more than any of the other places - the relationship between the female and the male, the spiritual / human interface, etc.
These suggestions can be adapted and used as visionary imaginings in meditation, as solo events in our own homes or as group activities when we come together as community. Ancestral energies, which served their life purpose, can be carried on linear time from the past into our own lives and into those of our descendants. Sometimes these energies can cause obstacles and imbalances in the pathways of the future. We now take the opportunity, at this special time of year, to express our love, compassion and gratitude, and bless our ancestors for whatever they may have done, thought, said, felt or experienced. Energy is never lost, but it can be transformed. Our intention now is to recognise anything that needs to be healed in our ancestral lineage, in order that we may experience joy, love, abundance, health, happiness, strength, support, beauty, calm, freedom and humour in our own lives. Releasing ancestral patterns: Firstly gather old leaves in a basket. Now consider that we all carry ancestral patterns. Many of these transmit wisdom and are useful in our lives. But there are others, such as jealousies, anger and addiction, that served whoever introduced them to the family, but which are not of our own path. Take leaves from the basket and spread a small pile in front of you. Symbolically, the fallen leaves represent non-serving ancestral patterns and personal issues carried within our families. We clear away those so that we walk unburdened into the future. Using a broom sweep them aside, from left to right. We finish by walking forwards, through the cleared uncluttered path, moving into our new selves and our long term wishes. The leaves can be gathered and burnt on a fire. A path for the Wisdom of our Ancestors: The celebration aim is on aligning ourselves with our ancestors. Meditate to focus and clear any energies that need removing. A path is created using fallen leaves which we walk through. Then write any words or messages received onto paper. Crystals are cleared and energized. Clear pure intentions are put into the
crystals to assist the ancestors to bring their wisdom to us. The crystals and intentions are placed on the path to create the wisdom energy. Walk the path again aware of and sharing in the wisdom for your own highest good.
Cleaning our homes: Brush away the old energies, as well as the dust and dirt. Balance the spring clean with an autumn one. Intentionally sweep away the old year and sweep in the new. Releasing what no longer serves: One participant takes the role of the Cailleach and they light a small fire with the intention that it is transformational for the highest good of all. In ceremony we prepare by deciding what we wish to release; physical ills or objects, opinions, emotional difficulties, spiritual bonds and issues. To empower and ground this release we write short details on slips of paper, or choose an object that will burn, such as a dead leaf, and silently tell the leaf etc what we are releasing. We now welcome the Cailleach, but as she comes in, representing the new year, she is taking from us our slips of paper, leaves, or whatever we have used to release into. This at first may seem more threatening and frightening than she really is. This may be challenging to accept but if we yield she may surprise us. For every one statement the Cailleach takes from us she will gift us with one seed of equivalent or greater value. The Cailleach will then bind and bless all she has gathered, all that is complete, unserving or dead and bring them to her fire of transformation where all is transmuted into light. After offering our dead things into the fire and creating space we pause in silence, as does the earth in winter. In meditation we recognise a clear unlittered void. To complete our thanks, welcome, surrender, transformation, silence and remembrance we actively jump into the new year energies by leaping through the fire. Planting seeds: An empty pot, representing the void, is filled with compost. The source of this compost are the leaves, fallen from their parent's branches and stems, shed like tear drops, as if plant life is weeping at the loss of summer. But there is no sadness here as those dead leaves have a purpose, form compost and provide rich nourishment for continued growth, ensuring future survival. In nature there must be death in order that there be life. Samhain is the time when all activity takes place in the dark, underground. Everything is apparently at rest. Yet, roots are forming and there is growth.
We place seeds into the compost. Each seed planted carries an intention, and for each we send a personal and group blessing and affirmation that it will grow to fruition. We welcome in the new year energies and all the potential they hold. It is at this point we see the logic of letting go earlier on. Retaining the resources of our own family lineage: Much wisdom and knowledge comes to us from our blood relatives. DNA carries physical characteristics, traits, and skills that aid us during our lifetime. Recognising and embodying them is an important part of the releasing and clearing we do at Samhain. We do not throw the baby out with the bath water. In order to prepare for the new beginnings, we concentrate and gather all these sustaining and nurturing flows. This can be done by standing up and stretching out your arms. Bend down, raising energy from mother earth, by stretching out then pulling your arms up to chest height. Do the same with a forwards motion for your ancestral lineage, and draw them back in a hug. We integrate and magnify these blessings in our hearts, sharing with the world, spreading our arms wide. The web of life: We take a silent moment to remember our dead and offer them a blessing and prayer. We place ourselves in the web of life in relation to; our ancestors, our place of ceremony, giving us a sense of time and place. Draw a spider's web of a central circle, standing for ourselves, and 8 lines radiating outwards. These represent the 8 divisions of the year and anchor the web in time. Now draw linking strands around the centre. Each strand of the web represents and commemorates an ancestor, departed relatives and friends as well as the unknown dead. As we do this, we bless them all with love and light. Photos and memorabilia of our ancestors, tokens of what they represent to us, are a useful addition to aid this connection. The web drawing is then set in a suitable place and a spirit plate of food left on it with a light. When ready silently pray for their highest good and wipe the board clean, releasing them and yourself, knowing you start the new year with a clean slate. In a group setting, a web can be created by tying a rope together, each linking into a circle. This represents the uninterrupted circle of life between all beings and can be used in a simple dance to send out healing energies. We send thanks and acknowledgement to our ancestors across the web of time.
To affirm and carry ancestral acknowledgements and gifts (wisdom) into the future put a mark, such as cross, on a stone to represent an ancestor (such as you would on a grave stone). The stone is then placed into the mandala web of life, so that it touches the ground. The stone connects to the gifts of our ancestors (DNA etc) and the gifts that the homeland shares with us (in this instance Ireland). Masks: To embody our metaphorical false mask, the persona we show to the world which is not really us, we create a paper mask, drawing on it symbols, patterns, adding colours, feathers, beads, or nothing. This represents the damaged ego holding us back. We then rip the mask apart, tearing it into pieces, releasing this false mask so that our true self can be shown to the world. The torn mask is then thrown into a fire, transforming that which no longer serves. The paper burns to represent the death and transformation of our inner dead. Chanting out the Old Year: Bid SlĂĄn to the old year and bless her for all the gifts brought to us chanting â€œgurbh maith agatâ€?, a thank you
for both the positive and negative. The vibration echoes through ourselves and through the land. Brigid, donning her black winter mantle, becoming the Cailleach of winter, represents a death. Keening, the death wail, is a tradition; a poetical lament and howl for the loss. Passing through the doorway: At the turn of every season our journey into the next phase of the annual cycle can be quite sudden. One day we feel that the natural energies have changed. There is a difference to the air, to the life force in the animals and plants, and within ourselves. To celebrate this event we can walk across a metaphorical threshold. We create an entranceway, a magical doorway, by placing a stick on the ground. The winter season begins with passing over this, then picking up and breaking the stick. With this action we realise that the transition is our own and that only one person will ever pass through this entry. The doorway is destroyed, a powerful statement that you have embarked on your chosen journey, no one else can walk this path as it is your path, your life. Gift of Light - Tunnel, Cailleach and Circle: Everyone is asked to bring a torch. In ceremony the Cailleach blesses her lamp and candles at the central fire. She lights the lamp. Two lines of people create a tunnel of hands linked as an arch. The tunnel represents the darkness we often travel through in order to reach the light. Going into the darkness we become blind to our surroundings, there is a fear of the unknown and we need courage. We remember where and what we have been, recollect our own identity and, in the uncertainty, discover a faith in self and a trust in others. Thus, each walks through the tunnel and is met by the Cailleach, holding the lit lamp. She hands each person a candle symbolising the ancient gift of light passed down from our ancestors. The circle is complete when the last has walked down the tunnel and the Cailleach has joined in. She then tells everyone to light their torch, the 21st century gift of light. Re-claiming the Cloak of Sovereignty: Part of the legendary ritual of Kingship at Tara was the candidate king taking a cloak that should magically fit him. We honour our sovereignty, our divine essence, by placing a cloak of sovereignty on our shoulders and recognising the bigger version of self. Pictured below is the Cloak of sovereignty with added bling.
Ancient peoples, across Western Europe and into the wider world, describe the land as feminine with attributes not only of the emotional and spiritual woman, but also the physical woman. The earth itself is formed into breast like hills, crevices and rounded womblike bowls. Hence the earth is highly potent and active, likened to a goddess on whom we depend for the very staples of life. If the people are to have good healthy crops and abundant harvests then the land herself must be healthy and abundant, nurtured and cared for. And this woman whose generosity we require is energetically not a young inexperienced maiden or a wise crone grandmother
but a fully active mature parent. The manifest action is for her to be in perfect union with the decision maker and protector for the community, that they become benevolent mother and father of the district. To do this the ideal is that they are a couple. And so the ruler marries the earth goddess. Once the concept of the ruler as 'king' is recognised then the women by his side will be the 'queen' and the concept of Sovereignty arises. The king is sovereign of the human world and the goddess is sovereign of the natural earth world. This concept is, of course, a recognition of the the balance of feminine and masculine attributes within ourselves. We all embody both imprints physicallly in our hormones. What qualities of our own personality do we find in the concept of sovereignty? Take a moment to consider these and record them as they will be used in the following ceremony. Firstly the male, guarding and protecting, then the female, caring and nurturing. Stereotypes and archetypes for sure, but no harm or shame in recognising these different qualities. Bring to mind the cartoon superheros. These characters are exaggerations, but their attributes universal and guidelines for every day life. Superman (friendship), Superwomen (beauty), Popeye (strength), Mighty Mouse (does the job), Inspector Gadget (flexibility), Marge Simpson (unconditional love), Shrek (integrity), Princess Leia (resilience). The embodiment of the aspects of becoming a sovereign do not have to be handed to someone else, they are not 'out there' held by a person deemed greater than us. Each one of us carries the qualities of sovereignty. The sovereign self affords us an opportunity to try a new way of life, to emulate traits we find desirable in someone inspirational, become a new individual, become the next grander version of yourself and it need not be a gravitas task, so make sure to bring your sense of humour! At Tara the local goddess Maeve (Medb) is connected to honey, and the area known as the Banqueting Hall also has the name Teach Miodhchuarta (translated from the Irish as mead circling hall). If you can obtain mead, a drink made from honey, you might like to create your own beverage of sovereignty, combining the sweetness with water from a holy well, one of the bottled waters from Ireland, or your own local water. Pure frankincense with no black or brown impurities can be added to the drink. Traditionally this resin was used in ceremonies of nativity, especially spiritual rebirth. If unable to obtain the pure frankincense you might like to burn the essential oil or incense sticks. Set up a central focus of a candle (fire), your prepared drink (liquid), an incense cone or stick (air) and a crystal, rock or stone (earth). Have ready also a stick that you can break. Add anything you want to this basic format. When ready bring awareness to the four elements: Light the candle, representing the sacred fire of transformation. Take a sup of your liquid, representing the sacred waters of life that flow through the heart and body. Light the incense stick or cone, representing the mists and smoke that curl through the atmosphere and show us the invisible air. Hold for a moment the crystal, rock or stone representing the solidity of earth. If you are so minded you might enjoy a link to the Sovereign goddesses of the land of Ireland, which include the triple goddesses Fodla, Banba and Eriu, as well as the Cailleach. Now take the first and next steps on your divine journey. Place your stick on the floor. In your imagination visualise this as a magical doorway that only one person â€“ you - will ever pass through. The journey begins. Step over the stick. When you have done this the doorway is ritually destroyed, pick up your stick and break it in half. A powerful statement that you have embarked on your chosen journey, no one else can walk this path. Now take a moment to honour your sovereignty, your divine essence. Either do this actually or imagine you are holding a cloak. Beside you is a pile of shining stars made of golden thread. All those qualities you identified with the superheroes can be recognised in your own life. Read them again, out loud if you like, with a statement claiming them for yourself, such as: 'I am...' I am resilient,
I have integrity,
I am flexible,
I accept and offer unconditional love.
As you say the words and name each merit visualise picking up a star and either sewing or sticking it onto the cloak. When you have finished your list, pick up the starry sparkling cloak of sovereignty and place it on your
shoulders, recognising the bigger version of self. Sit in meditation, wrapped in your real or metaphorical cloak, for as long as you like. When complete acknowledge all those items that have supported you in this ceremony by mentally thanking them. Quench the candle, pour any left over drink on earth, allow the stick or incense to burn away, and replace the earth element where found or cleanse it. The broken doorway stick should be transformed by burning, throwing it into a river or burying in the ground.
Barmbrack The fruit loaf, (bĂĄirĂn breac meaning speckled loaf), conceals a ring, a coin and other trinkets. If you are lucky enough to find the ring, before you swallow it, it is a sign you will find love in the ensuing year. Available from all good Supermarkets if you are not a baker. Spiced soul cakes are a treat, round and flat, with raisins or sultanas, plus spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, they often have symbolic spirals cut into their tops. Rose hip syrup recipe for winter comfort: 3lb's of hips, put into a saucepan, cover with water and let them boil until they are almost soft. Then to each pint of juice, allow a pound of sugar, and boil together for about 15mins, the liquid turns to syrup,it's best left to mature after bottling, for a short while. Remove the hairy fruits before boiling and use stainless steel pans. Pumpkin: Carving vegetables into grotesque faces and fun shapes is a Samhain speciality and pumpkin has become a favourite, although traditionally turnip was popular. Turnip also feels more appropriate as it is a root vegetable, coming from the underworld.
Nuts and Berries: Another of the preparations for the long winter nights is the last harvest, when acorns, hazels, and burnished brown chestnuts, are gathered for storage. What we have sown in Spring, nurtured in Summer and harvested will support us through the bleak, cold days. And we must not delay, for in November the fairies breathe on every growing plant, blighting any nuts and berries remaining in the hedgerows and woodlands. In some parts of the country Michaelmas is the latest, the pesky fairies have done their worst, and the berry harvest is inedible.
Food and light for the ancestors: An apple symbolically provides food for their journey to the after life or Otherworld and and a candle light guides their way.
Above - Bridging the River Boyne at Bective Where we're going nobody knows, Where we're going all life flows. The Birds know it, The Trees know it, The River knows it. At Tara Celebrations the foundation of each celebration involves the Master of Ceremonies identifying a theme that is strongly present in the current cycle. They then set up and create the 'ritual' wherever and with whatever they sense fits the day. They meditate or tune into what place and time feels appropriate to hold a get together to acknowledge this theme. A running order would usually include most of the elements as set out below. The format at the event includes an explanation and understanding of the season's energies, attributes and qualities and place in the cycle of the year. A central focus is created of symbolic items relevant to the intentions of the gathering. The cardinal directions and natural elements are acknowledged in order to orientate ourselves in time and place. Activities designed to celebrate the outer and inner realms are shared by all, and may include song, dance, story telling, meditations, crafting and traditional rituals. These are followed by Open Heart when participants contribute anything they feel inspired to share, not
necessarily directly connected to the season. Thanking, blessing and closing the connections made is important. All is rounded off with an Irish phrase such as ‘Sin é’, that's it. Tea and cake or appropriate seasonal food is then available to ground people before journeying home.
Theme – The Phoenix An ancient legendary golden / red feathered bird celebrating birth, life, death and rebirth. This unique bird's spirit reminds us of the flight of the soul. It is appropriate to delve deeper into this myth at the start of the annual cycle at Samhain, Summer's end, when the harvest gathering finishes and we cross the threshold into winter. We acknowledge death, our ancestors and All-hallows-Eve, 31 October. At this liminal period the veils are thin and the past walks the land.
As always the mythical stories weave a complex web, depending which source you read. Much information comes from Herodotus, a Greek philosopher. The Phoenix has many suggested homelands, including Arabia or Ethiopia, where it lives for five hundred, one thousand or other lengths of time. Whichever, it is always a long period. During its life the Phoenix builds a nest, or some say it's funeral pyre, of aromatic woods, such as cedar. On the end year it lays an egg in the nest, then dies. A Phoenix is born from this egg. An alternative is that the bird lies on the lit pyre and miraculously emerges from the flames reborn into the next cycle. The supernatural Phoenix is often linked to the factual crow or raven, the distinctive black birds connected to death. In some way imitating Eastern legends, it is said to land in a hot place, such as embers of a fire, and flap its spread wings, apparently bathing in the heat. Of course the movement of the wings would re-energise the fire and the bird flies off to avoid burning. In Irish mythology, the harsh croak of the raven echoed across the slain bodies on the battlefield. The triple goddess Morrígan took the form of a raven, and it is said she alighted on the shoulder of the warrior Cú Chulainn after his death, a protector on this occasion. Yet, at the same time, this harbinger of death is honoured for its wisdom and knowledge and also connected to the Cailleach, the crone goddess of winter.
Place â€“ Phoenix Park (PĂĄirc an Fhionnuisce), Dublin
When translating from one language to another there is always a problem of spelling and pronounciation and the riddles of Irish / English names abound. Phoenix in this context is usually taken as not referring to the mythical bird, but to a mis-hearing of fhionnuisce or fionn uisce, a clear well, referring to a spring which rose in the Park and became a fashionable Spa. However, according to Greek legends the Phoenix lived in Arabia, near a cool well. Each morning at sunrise the bird would bathe in the well, singing a beautiful song, which the sun god would stop and listen to before starting the daily journey across the sky. Thus there is a ancient connection between the Phoenix and wells. Phoenix Park in Dublin is a large public park, a green oasis in the city, where the animals, snakes, penguins and elephants of Dublin Zoo, the President of Ireland and the American Embassador all live together with the deer, human joggers, Papal Cross and the ancestral ghosts of the neolithic people who made their home on this land nearly three thousand years ago. There are open woods, hidden glens, flower gardens, streams and large ditches, a newly restored Victorian Vegetable Garden at Ashtown Castle and many trails and roadways. Fallow deer graze amongst the broadleaved ash, oak, sycamore and beech, whilst visitors drink tea in a Victorian room next to the Band Hollow, where summer music entertains the crowds.
Time â€“ Sunrise As the sun rises over the eastern horizon we welcome this new year. (photo is dawn at Tara on 1st November)
Centre A collage of seasonal red berries with hedgerow cobweb, crystal skull recalling death and wisdom of the ancestors, fungi that lives on detritus, the discarded remains of the growing season, transforming it into nutrition for the next cycle and a black swan, recalling that we glide onwards into winter's dark days.
Cardinal Directions We call to the North, to the skeletons of winter. I am winter. Wide skies and open landscapes expose what has been hidden. The assets laid down in the times of plenty will now sustain us in these dark and barren times. I cannot conceal my wisdom of the cycle of continuance. I nurture the planners and the planning of life. We call to the East, to the freshness of spring. I am spring. I gurgle and flow with youth. Young lambs play by my side and watch while their mothers drink. Fledgling birds scoop my droplets into their beaks, their first taste of cool refreshing water. I nurture the beginners and beginning of life. We call to the South, to the heat of summer. I am summer. I shine brightly with wholeness, hanging high in the sky. The land grows warm under my gaze. Flowers bloom bright colours, leaves expand and the air is dancing. I nurture the growers and growing of life. We call to the West, to the fruitfulness of autumn. I am autumn. I rest amongst the quiet mists, shrouded in the radiant patchwork landscape. The hedges and fields abound with cobwebs and fallen leaves. I am round, full and ripe on my branch. I rejoice in the abundant crops. I nurture the gatherers and the gathering of life. Elements Blessed be the precious and preserving air, by which we are given life.
Symbolised by blowing a bird whistle.
Blessed be the precious and preserving water, by which we are cleansed. Symbolised by raised umbrellas.
Blessed be the precious and preserving fire, by which we are warmed.
Torches light our pathway in the dark night
Blessed be the precious and preserving earth, by which we are sustained.
Earth element symbols of gnome and crystal
Activities Blessing the earth.
Central log where we bless the earth with mead - mead for the goddess Maeve ('she who intoxicates'), whose name is said to be derived from the same source word. Mead is a sweet alcoholic drink of honey, spices and water, nectar of the gods, reminding us of the flowers of spring and summer, of the buzzing of busy bees, solitary and hive. Gently pouring the liquid onto the wood we give thanks for its gift as a tree, nurturing us with oxygen and clearing carbon dioxide, its shade in the summer, for the diversity of all insects, animals and birds that lived and sang amongst its branches. Like the phoenix, after a long life, it will now die, to be transformed and reborn as a seedling then sapling, into a new tree, continuing the cycle of life. Standing at the Crossroads.
We stand at the crossroads, formed naturally in the photo by the tree planting. Here is the perfect place to make the decisions of what to leave behind and what to take into the future. Memories. In quiet contemplation we recall stories of those that have inspired us during the year. We remember physical achievements and pains, certificates we gained after hours of study, joys of holidays and tears of regret and loss. With this information brought to mind we can then.... Release of the old. We choose up to three things that we want to let go off, leave behind in the 'old' year - feelings, worries, bad habits, something entirely positive that is over now and finished. It could be a person you really (but really!) don't want to have contact with any more... it's about leaving this behind, but it's a definite choice. So only things you're sure about letting go of. We place these intentions into dried leaves. This woodland path is where we release our past. The red, yellow and orange leaves providing a fiery natural hearth. Here they will decompose and be transformed, integrating into healthy compost.
Witch's Ladder 'Something Good to Do' to then hold at home and have it work for you. You may create this keeping in mind a specific intention as you make it. That may be protection during the cold winter challenges, extra aid to achieve a seasonal project or as a counter for blessings or prayers. The colours of the threads and feathers may be symbolic to you, enhancing the intentions. Collect 9 feathers. The feathers need to be collected by you only (so no sending out other people to find them) and they need to be from different birds (but they can be from 9 crows... just not from one and the same crow. as in: no getting one's one and only hen and steal 9 feathers from her). They can be from any bird but not peacocks or black roosters. Size of feathers doesn't matter, we would advise not microscopic tiny, but they can be small, too.
3 equal lengths of wool are plaited and then 9 feathers inserted and knotted into the cord. This takes care and concentration helping to focus the wishes. Healing the Red Thread This meditation offers the opportunity to utilise powerful personal energies with universal unconditional love. Hallowe'en - All-Hallows-Even (evening) - a time to appreciate our ancestors, honour and treasure their lives as part of our heritage. We do not judge or reject their life experiences and our family patterns. However, we transform any that are carried by the red thread of life that do not serve us. Imagine a cobweb, made of red threads. But this cobweb is traumatised, torn and damaged. It carries the issues or problems that were not dealt with by our ancestors, or not fully resolved, such as deceit, bribery, revenge, violence and all forms of disrespect. There are so many ways in which human hurts human. Each pain of mind, body, emotion or spirit is a tear of the web. From the Bible - Jeremiah - The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge. Ancestral energies, which served their life purpose, can be carried on linear time from the past into our own lives and into those of our descendants. Sometimes these energies can cause obstacles and imbalances in the pathways of the future.
We now take the opportunity, at this special time of year, to express our love, compassion and gratitude, and bless our ancestors for whatever they may have done, thought, said, felt or experienced. Energy is never lost, but it can be transformed. Our intention now is to recognise anything that needs to be healed in our ancestral lineage, in order that we may experience joy, love, abundance, health, happiness, strength, support, beauty, calm, freedom and humour in our own lives. We send thanks and acknowledgement to our ancestors across the web of time. They laughed and they cried, They walked the land with pride. They were gentle, they were kind, They were much maligned. They were joyous, full of fun, Yet they carried sword and gun. They were beaten, they were hurt, Kicked underfoot like dirt. They were cruel, they were tough! Enough. In your own time, notice your breathing, the deep breathing you’ve got slowing down by half. Become aware of your body in its meditation position. Become aware of your environment and gradually, in your own time, open your eyes. Open Heart Inspired by the Whooper Swan's arrival from the Arctic and grunts of rutting stags.
Thanking, blessing and closing the connections Trees and humans are held on the earth by the mysterious action of gravity. This is a 'good thing' as it keeps us within the protective shield of the earth's atmosphere. And we need that to survive, for we are basically children of the air. Humans exist through the constant flow of breath in our bodies. If we floated off into outer space, with no oxygen tank on our backs, we would die. Yet we are also on a planet held by gravity in our spiralling galaxy, which is part of the unimaginable Universe. During meditation and ceremony we ensure our firm connection between these two, earth and the cosmos. We now stop moving through the rarefied etheric expansive spiritual atmospheres and become anchored, like a boat in safe harbour, at one physical place. We close the circle, thank and bless our connections to all guides, guardians, beings, times and realms made during this ceremonial. ‘Sin é’, that's it.