Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Lupercalia and/or Valentine's Day!!

Valentines Day background.

Happy Lupercalia! and Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Lupercalia is the Roman festival celebrated around the 15th of February, some say the 13-15th. This was considered a fertility ritual and also a purification ritual. We do not know for sure which god(s) were celebrated, how it was celebrated or its true origins. Historians have made educated guesses as to what may have happened during this time.

Priests called the Luperci would participate in a ritual that included the sacrifice of goats and perhaps dogs. The priests would have the blood of the sacrifices smeared upon them and would then soak pieces of pelt in the blood. These pelts would then be used to "strike" people, especially women to keep them from being sterile and to promote fertility. 

The Romans started their new year around March or springtime, so the time before (in February) was a time to get rid of anything old and make way for the new. So this was also a time for purification and cleansing. 

The festival of Lupercalia is said to honor the she-wolf, Lupa, who found the abandoned twins, Remus and Romulus. She became their mother for the most part and suckled them to maturity. She took care of them like a mother would. 

This festival may have started around 753 BC and was thought to end around 1200 years later at the end of the 5th century AD. 

Lupercalia does have some associations to Valentine’s Day. This was a time of match making of couples. Alliances were made between families to strengthen bonds (whether romantic or political). Its association with fertility rites also gives this festival a tie to Valentine’s Day as today Valentine’s Day is mainly a festival or time for romance which may lead to personal fertility rites :). 

So whether you celebrate Lupercalia or Valentine’s Day, I hope you have a wonderfully magical day. May love always be in your heart.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras Magic

Laissez les bon temp roulet!! It is Mardi Gras Season or Carnival Time here in Louisiana. I live in South Louisiana, about 3 hours from New Orleans. And yes, other places in Louisiana have Mardi Gras celebrations as well :). I have to admit that it has been a long time since I have celebrated this occasion actually on the date of Mardi Gras. My family usually prefer to do a small town Mardi Gras, they can be just as fun and much more personal as most people know each other anyway. 

Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French. This is the time that precedes the Lenten season for Catholics. I was raised Catholic but of course found the goddess later in life and now she is my reason for being :). For most people this is a time of partying and having a good time: great food and music and bringing community together.  Our ancestors used this time as a way to go through all meat, dairy and other food items that were "outlawed" during lent. I am a Cajun, and my Acadian ancestors did not believe in wasting anything. Once lent began (with Ash Wednesday) there was no more partying. People were expected to sacrifice and spend the next 40 days (until Easter Sunday) in repentance and reflection. 

Mardi Gras season here starts on Epiphany or 12th Night (January 6th). The season is celebrated by many balls and parades. In Lafayette there approximately 36-40 Mardi Gras Krewes. A krewe is a group of people who get together for the purpose of celebrating the season. Some krewes consist of members of both men and women while others are restricted to either just men, just women or children only. 

This is a list of some of the krewes here:

Krewe of Phoenix
Krewe of Titon
Mystick Krewe of Apollo
Royal Order of the Unicorns
Krewe of Atlantis
Krewe of Xanadu
Krewe of Celts
Krewe of Olympus
Krewe of Wideload
Krewe of Camelot
Krewe of Oberon
Krewe des Chiens-yes we even have a krewe that celebrates our canine brother and sisters!

See anything familiar in these names? LOL. Maybe a little pagan oriented. Not all the krewes have names like this, but I thought it was interesting that a lot of the krewes are named after pagan themes (or names).

Just a few facts about Mardi Gras in my area:
The most popular food is the King Cake.  It is said this cake origins began in 12th Century France  where the cake would be baked on the eve of Epiphany. A small token of a baby is hidden in the cake. Whoever gets the baby is said to have good luck. Later it meant that you had to buy the next king cake to share :)

1869-1st formal Mardi Gras ball and parade
1897-King Attakapas (1st Mardi Gras King) was crowned
1934- Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association was formed. King Gabriel and Queen Evangeline were "born".

The traditional colors for Mardi Gras are purple symbolizing justice, gold symbolizing power and green symbolizing faith. 

Even though Mardi Gras is a prelude to a Catholic rite (the season of lent), we as pagans can still enjoy this season and celebrate it. Below is a list of correspondences I use to help me celebrate my pagan roots in Mardi Gras.

Symbols- beads, crowns, parades, masks, doubloons (coins thrown at parades)

Colors- (the colors can be given new meanings) purple for divinity, gold for happiness and success and green for fertility and prosperity

Food- King Cake or anything Cajun such as gumbo or jambalaya (anything that can feed a crowd as this is a time of community building as well)

Magical workings- simply honoring the ancient ones, fertility magic, purification rites (Mardi Gras leads into lent, which is a time of repentance and sacrifice), time to build on community relations, and just having a good old party-enjoying life.

Some deities that may work for this season are: Bacchus/Dionysus- gods of the vine; Bast- party goddess herself; Hathor- godess of music and dance; Asar/Osiris-god of agriculture (wine-beer); Renenutet- goddess of the harvest, especially grapes.

This year I unfortunately have to work on the actual day of Mardi Gras. I was able to celebrate earlier in the season by attending the Krewe of Apollo Ball and the Carencro Mardi Gras parade. Tonight when I get off of work I plan to honor the ancient ones with a toast to a great new year.

Happy Mardi Gras!!


Friday, February 1, 2013

Imbolc in Louisiana

This weekend is the sabbat of Imbolc/Oimelc. In the northern US, this is a time of winter and snow. Imbolc marks the beginning of Spring or the eventual return of Spring, depending on how you look at it. But here in Louisiana, we really haven't had a winter. At most, we had a week of winter with temps in the 30-40's. The rest of the time the temps have ranged from 40-70. Not exactly winter weather :). So sometimes it is a little harder for us to envision the coming of Spring, when it actually is here already. But we still find ways to celebrate the holiday.

Many people differ on what this word actually means. Some say "in the belly" or "ewe's milk". I think either can be used since this is a time that animals such as sheep and cows are pregnant and almost ready to give birth. The animals will of course begin lactating so they can feed their new broods. The Ancient Celts or at least a good portion of them were farmers and herders. Imbolc was one of their holidays celebrated. Probably the most celebrated deity at this time was Bridgit, goddess of "fire". Fire however is not necessarily referring to the heat of the fire or sun, but more along the lines of "light" or "enlightenment".  She is also linked to water as well due to the many sacred wells blessed in her honor. 

Many pictures of Bridgit show her with fire coming out of her head. This can be interpreted as the fires of inspiration and creativity. She is considered a triple goddess as she is the Goddess of Healing, Goddess of Inspiration (Poetry) and the Goddess of the Forge. 

There are many ways we can connect with Bridgit today. For example:

Healing: making your own tinctures or salves; learning about and growing your own herbs; energy healing, spiritual healing, midwifery (I actually have a coven sister who is in school for this now) :)

Inspiration/Creativity: of course writing or reading poetry, enjoying music and/or dance, learning something new, divination, etc.

Forge- includes smith-crafting, gold-crafting: which would include things like making your own jewelry, and any crafts you make for your home or practice.

Fire or water magic would also be appropriate at this time or any time when working with this goddess. 

Imbolc is also a time of new beginnings. This year my coven has decided to study the Celtic Pantheon. So of course for this sabbat we will be honoring Bridgit. We are also cleansing our sacred circle (which is located at my home) as well as ourselves, opening up to new beginnings. Dedication to the ancient gods is also on the agenda for this ritual.

I hope this new year brings you many new beginnings filled with happiness and beauty. May Bridgit always shine her love upon you. 

Blessed Imbolc to all.