Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Esbat and Sabbat

For those who don’t know, Esbats are our full moon celebrations, and Sabbats are the eight seasonal festivals on the Wheel of the Year.

The night of the Supermoon on the 19th was wet and overcast here; there was never a chance of seeing that full moon, which was so unusually close to the earth. Yet the rain was timely, as that night had been designated worldwide, by an environmentally conscious online group, as a time to honour water and perform rituals to bless the world’s water. We were advised to go and fill bottles with water from a river or lake, then put the full bottles on our altars to receive blessings ongoingly.

I’m too old to go traipsing around the countryside looking for the nearest accessible body of water! Instead I stood out in the rain, cast circle, spoke a blessing, and held out a small blue glass bottle for the rain to fall into it.

It was very fine rain that night, so the bottle didn’t fill up. I stood it upright in the garden against the wooden boundary of a herb bed, resting securely in a little hollow in the soil.  We have had several sharp showers since then, but they have been brief; the bottle is only about one-sixteenth full — and it’s a tiny bottle. This is going to take time. Never mind; I can bless it where it stands. The herb garden, private and enclosed, protected by the neighbours’ trees, has become my favourite place for ritual. That corner of it can be a special altar to water for the time being.

The night of the full moon was closely followed by Mabon (we being in the Southern Hemisphere). The loosely-knit group of Pagans we’ve been celebrating Sabbats with this last year has gone into temporary hiatus, as we and others have found ourselves dealing with pressing personal matters all at the same time.  We think of each other at such times, and send greetings, but for those without easy access to other gatherings, our celebrations at present are solitary or in couples.

LightStar and I kept things simple. It being Mabon, a harvest festival, we each made a list of the things we were glad to have harvested in the last little while. Most but not all of them were intangibles. We have arrived at much enjoyment of life on a day-to-day basis.

Mabon takes place at the Autumn Equinox, when the light and dark are evenly balanced. After that, the lengthening of the darkness into Winter begins. Darkness is a time for spells of banishment, so it was also appropriate to list the things we wanted to release and be rid of.

Then we went out into the herb garden, again in very fine rain, cast circle, and declared to the elements our thanks for our harvest and our intention to release the unwanted items. My cast iron cauldron, which lives outside, had a little water in the bottom even though it had been under shelter. I tried to burn the harvest lists; it was difficult as they got wet. So I made a virtue of necessity, thanking the fire and water which had already touched the paper, then crumpling what was left of it into a tight ball and throwing it into the air, finally burying it in the earth, thanking air and earth too.

My cauldron is an old Dutch oven with a lid. The lid was dry, so I inverted it and burnt on it the lists of items to be released. I wanted just fire for that, to release them without delay. Fire is the quickest energy. They burnt right down to ash. Two tiny bits of paper took more time to burn after the rest had gone. I looked, and saw that they were the single items from each list which the person concerned had most trouble letting go of! But burn they did, all the way, taking only a little longer than the rest.

LightStar thought of another thing to release, so he shouted it confidently into the air, arms outstretched in the appropriate gesture.

Then we opened the circle, came inside and made love. No, it wasn’t Beltane, but lovemaking is always an appropriate conclusion to magickal work. ‘All acts of love and pleasure,’ says the Goddess, ‘are My rituals.’

Just now I brought the cauldron inside, scrubbed it, coated it inside and out with olive oil, and put it in a slow oven to re-season.  It shall live indoors in future, when it’s not in use.

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