Yule Gift Blessing

Lots of people ask me what the difference is between Yule and Christmas.

The truth is, aside from the theological reasons for celebrating the Winter Solstice that distinguish us, the answer is, not much.  As you may know, most Christmas traditions actually have European Pagan origins.

But there are little things I do to remind me that I am celebrating my holiday.  One of the nicest ways to do this is to bless your Yule gifts before giving them away.  This can be as simple or elaborate as you wish.  The full moon before Yule is a nice time, but really any time will do.

I love wrapping and thinking of creative ways to make gifts beautifully presented, so I start there, by being mindful of the person to who will receive the gift while I am preparing it.

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I love our home, and I am so grateful to have it, but one thing I regret is not insisting on a fireplace.  What kind of witch doesn’t have a hearth in her home?!  So I have had to discover some creative ways to bring the warmth of fire into our home during the Yule season.  One of my favorites is the cauldron fire method.

If you’ve never tried this, it’s lovely to include in almost any ritual, but particularly for Yule and Beltane, when the fire has a special meaning.  Just be careful!  Anytime you’re dealing with flames and combustibles, it’s prudent to be extra cautious.

You’ll need some rubbing alcohol that is atleast 91%.  Simply fill a firesafe bowl with salt.  I always use the mortar part of my marble mortar and pedestal, which doubles nicely as a firesafe cauldron.  Soak the salt in alcohol.  It should have the consistency of wet sand.  Be sure to light with a long fireplace match or lighter.  

It will burn for about 5-10 minutes.

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Toss some Yule incense in to create a lovely smoke blessing.  I used this blend from Moody Moon’s, available here.

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Use an incantation or Yule blessing you like, or simply make up a spontaneous series of positive thoughts.  Take time to meditate on the flame and enjoy the warmth of the hope-fire.

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Yule Project

My first Yule project of the year.  I like to make my seasonal decorations whenever possible rather than the pre-made ones.  It’s more personal, and you can customize it for your space.  A lot of the pagan sabbat decorations you see on Pinterest and Etsy are sort of Old World traditional, which can be beautiful, but my home is very modern and I’d like to think I represent the more modern pagan, too.

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This is an easy project.  I used mini canvases I found on sale at Michael’s, but you can use box-style picture frames or even shoebox lids.  The letters are available at the craft store, too.  I just painted them white.  Then I covered the canvas with complimentary craft paper and fabrics and voila.

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Samhain Night

Happy Samhain, everyone!  Here’s some finishing touches from our decorating this year.

Love the red shoes!  I think using things that you already have or can borrow in creative ways makes you display look really authentic and original.  The lace pumpkin was a fun and easy project, too.

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These were just upcycled peanut butter jars with some leaves and brown satin ribbon.

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Plastic spiders in the porch light!  I totally fooled my husband.

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Snow White: The Dark Side

Two weekends ago, I grabbed two models and a stylist and headed out to an apple orchard to shoot this macabre version of Snow White.  I’ve always loved this fairytale for its pagan themes:  the witchy queen, the emphasis on apples, reincarnation, beauty ideals, death, transition, ect.

An apple orchard seemed like the perfect setting (it’s also just a beautiful place to be this time of year).

Hope you enjoy this set as much as I enjoyed creating it!

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Apple Butter Harvest Festival

I’m going to try to keep you guys updated on all my harvest season celebration activities, and hopefully inspire you to do some of your own.  This is one of my favorite festival seasons.  I always torn between wanting to savor the season, and do everything all at once!   This weekend, we were off to the Apple Butter Festival in West Virginia.  It was super fun!

From a nature walk with my brother:

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Love this little girl’s face paint.  Do me!!

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Apples!!

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Pumpkins!

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Esbat

It’s after midnight under a blood moon. An eclipse is hurling towards us through deep space at million miles an hour. Everything is at once silent and deafening.  At this hour, under these conditions, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who are awake, and those who are not-awake.

“Do you ever get that feeling? When it all just starts moving through you at the speed of light?”

“What?”

“You know. The euphoria of eternity.”

“No. I don’t know. Maybe.”

“I think that’s what keeps me awake at night more than anything else.”

“Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to be trapped in that mind of yours.”

“You have no idea.”:

Samhain Altar 2014

It’s “our” time of year!

I like to get my Samhain altar rolled out at the beginning of the month and generally leave it there until after Thanksgiving.

I am here to show you that you can create a gorgeous Samhain altar without spending a ton of money.  Most of these items came from the dollar store.

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Here’s a good example.  I printed a demask pattern and used it with a rectangle of black construction paper as a matte for the 31, then framed it from a cheap frame I picked up at Dollar Tree.  I really like the challenge of using dollar store stuff for crafts and making things out of it that don’t look like they came from dollar store.

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The pedestal and pumpkin/apple display is also a Dollar Tree project.  I got candlesticks and spray-painted them black to display the glittery apple and pumpkin, also from the dollar store.  Apples and pumpkins are, of course, iconic symbols of the Samhain festival.  I love the glitter versions.  They add a touch of sparkle.  The candlesticks also help vary the height of the display and make it more visually appealing.

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I am 100% guilty of the “put a bird on it” syndrome.  But these little ravens are soooo  cute, you can put them on anything and they are, once again, available at the dollar store during the fall season.  Ravens are symbolic of what ties this world with the next, a very important feature of the Samhain season, when Wiccans believe that the “veil between worlds” thins and communication with the Other Side is easiest.

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I’m all about doing these “fusion” style altars.  Like most neopagans, I have interests in a wide array of traditions, and one of my favorites is the Egyptian pantheon.  I wanted to blend this pantheon with the Wiccan traditions, so next to the standard goddess statue, I put this statue of Anubis.  Anubis is associated with his role in death and mummification, making him a very appropriate symbol for the Samhain season.  I got him on a trip to Cairo with my husband and I display him every year with this in mind.

Incorporating items with significance to both the holiday and your personal experiences is a great way to use what you have and make the display more uniquely you.   The pentacle was my very first DIY pagan project from years and years ago and is a standard on my altar all year long.

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As a nod to this Egyptian theme, I also included this beautiful altar cloth given to me by a friend many years ago.  The gold onks match beautifully with the base gold fabric underneath it.

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