Monday, February 28, 2011

Let Ostara Re-Awaken Your Pagan Spirit!

March is a very magickal, verdant month for Wiccans and Pagans and many other faith paths because of the expectation of the emergence of Spring, which has been a focal point of spiritual and secular celebrations for millennium.

For Pagans, it is one of the most exciting times of the year because of the Spring Equinox, which we celebrate with the Sabbat of Ostara, signaling the re-awakening of the Earth after the long slumber of late Fall and the deepening coldness of Winter. It is the core knowledge — faith — of Pagans that the Earth was not dead, but merely asleep and gathering its strength to burst forth with beauty and fertility.

In addition to Ostara, there are a lot of other days in March that provide opportunities to honor the Goddess and God, too. Each important date will be discussed below.

Spring is almost here, and as a resident of the North Eastern U.S., I am beyond thrilled because it has been the coldest and snowiest on record! True to the tradition, March has roared in here like a lion, and if we're really lucky, it will roll out like a lamb.

I look ahead to Ostara, on March 20 (it generally falls on the 20th or the 21st depending on the year) to celebrate the greening of the earth and fertility of all life. It is the time of the vernal equinox if of you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and it's a true marker that Spring has come. There are many different ways you can celebrate this holy Sabbat, depending upon your chosen tradition.

Most Pagans and Neo-Pagans agree its origins lie in the early Easter story as a Springtime sacrificial festival named after the Saxon Goddess Eostre, in which became "Ostara." With the celebration of this Spring festival, it is not surprising to find so many versions and legends with the accompanying twists and turns throughout most of the world, including German and Eastern European customs, and even in Asian and early Aztec rituals.

There are always so many ways to interpret the times and tides of nature, and all of our earliest ancestors who followed the Wheel of the Year would naturally observe and feel the fertility and literally visceral call of Spring that is present in every living creature. Ostara answers that call — to celebrate the Awakening Earth at the Spring Equinox!

The Ostara story is told through a variety of customs — through the foods we prepare and the manner in which we prepare our homes and gardens for the coming activities of spring and then summer. Ostara is a highly creative time — limited only by your willingness to try new spells, rituals and recipes.

March 4: 2:46 p.m. — New Moon

Pisces dominates this New Moon. There are five planets in the twelfth sign of the zodiac, immersing us in this subtle water sign – the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars and Uranus along with the asteroid, Chiron.

Where ever Pisces falls in your chart deserves your full attention on this lunation because if you have unfinished business there, now is the time to address it. If there ever was an ideal time to quietly sort through the matters of the house Pisces rules in your chart, this is it. Once the Aries volume starts cranking up, that’s it, folks! Remember Jupiter leads the way into Aries with Mercury following him on March 9 and the biggie, Uranus, on March 11.

Speaking of Jupiter in Aries, he is part of a small triangular formation with Mars in Pisces at the apex and the waning square to Pluto in Capricorn as the base. This gives Mars in Pisces far more edge than he usually has and normally mild mannered types could surprise their friends and co-workers by standing up for themselves and speaking out in defense of their cherished compassionate values. Pisces is often the champion of the underdog and those who cannot defend themselves. Besides most Pisces folks often have a Scorpio or three for back up, not to mention friends in high places (Pluto in Capricorn).

Pisces is often underestimated because they are chameleons, happy to show others the face they want to see while keeping far more to themselves. It has been said Pisces has a bit of all the signs within them and that’s why they are so good at blending in. Whimsical, amusing, generally kind and as tough as nails is a fair description of your average Pisces.

Saturn in Libra is in conjunction with the New Moon, providing support with reservations. Libra and Pisces are generally pretty friendly but they do have different priorities. Saturn in Libra is committed to fairness and equity from an intellectual perspective while the New Moon in Pisces illuminates the need for compassion first and foremost. Both parties can be satisfied though because compromise is in both Libra and Pisces vocabularies.

Venus is newly arrived in cool, detached Aquarius and forms no major aspects at this time. Venus in Aquarius can be described as faithful but not rigid and not given to jealousy. Love is more of an intellectual exercise than expression of passion under this influence. Besides, most of us will be too busy taking care of old business to make time for romance right now anyway.

This is a very focused New Moon chart with Saturn in Libra as the leading planet of a Bowl Pattern, making it easier than usual for normally languid Pisces to step up and get things done. Just remember to be kind and forgiving of others as you bustle around wrapping up all those loose ends!

March 8: Mardi Gras

In medieval times, a similar-type festivity to that of the present day Mardi Gras was given by monarchs and lords prior to the Christian Lent, in order to ceremoniously conscript new knights into service and hold feasts in their honor.

The landed gentry would also ride through the countryside rewarding peasants with cakes (thought by some to be the origin of the King Cake), coins (perhaps the origin of present day gifts of Mardi Gras doubloons) and other trinkets.

In Germany, there still remains a Carnival similar to that of the one held in New Orleans. Known as Fasching, the celebrations begin on Twelfth Night and continue until Shrove Tuesday.

To a lesser degree, this festivity is still celebrated in France and Spain. A Carnival season was also celebrated in England until the Nineteenth Century, originating as a type of "renewal" festival that incorporated fertility motifs and ball games which frequently turned into riots between opposing villages, followed by feasts of pancakes and the imbibing of alcohol.

The preparing and consumption of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (also known as "Pancake Day" or "Pancake Tuesday" and occurring annually between February 2 and March 9, depending upon the date of the Christian Easter) is a still a tradition in the United Kingdom, where pancake tossing and pancake races (during which a pancake must be tossed a certain number of times) are still popular.

One of the most famous of such competitions, which takes place in Olney, Buckinghamshire, is said to date from 1445. It is a race for women only and for those who have lived in the Parish for at least three months. An apron and head-covering are requisite. The course is 415 yards and the pancake must be tossed at least three times during the race. The winner receives a kiss from the Ringer of the Pancake Bell and a prayer book from the local vicar. "Shrove" is derived from the Olde English word "shrive," which means to "confess all sins."

March 13: 2:00 a.m. — Daylight Savings Time Begins

Remember to set your clocks forward (Spring Forward-Fall Back) one hour.

March 15 — The Ides of March

In ancient Rome, the calendar year began on March 15. The 15th of each of month was known as the ides, from a Latin word that indicates division of a month. At any rate, back in 44 b.c., the legendary emperor Julius Caesar summoned members of the Senate to meet in the Theater of Pompey on March 15. Previously, a soothsayer had warned Caesar to "beware the ides of March," but since not much had happened that day, Caesar felt confident attending a Senate session. After all, the men of the Senate were loyal to him, so how much harm could he possibly come to?

Unfortunately, Caesar had enemies within his own Senate, and upon his arrival, several members of a group known as the Liberatores fell upon him and stabbed him to death. Some notable names were in the group, particularly Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcus Junius Brutus, the son of Caesar's lover. They claimed that their actions were not treasonous, but in fact tyrannicide.

In 1599, when Shakespeare wrote his famous play, he made sure to include the seer's cautionary line about being wary on the date, and thus the term "beware the ides of March" has come to bring about a sense of impending doom. He also attributed an equally famous line to the dying emperor, "Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar."

Falling just a week or so before the Ostara holiday, some members of Religio Romana celebrate an ides ritual each month, because the ides are sacred to the god Jupiter.

In the U.S., the ides often coincide with windy or very unpredictable and powerful weather. I can remember watching the limbs of trees being whipped about, and feeling the life force of the planet so strongly in my body that I wanted to run around wildly, too!

March 17: St. Patrick's Day

While St. Patrick's day is not officially recognized as a "National" Holiday, it is certainly one of the most recognized celebrations in the U.S. Celebrations began in Boston, MA in the year 1737. Irish immigrants missed their home country and with the help of the Catholic Church they came to honor the arrival of Spring with the legend of St. Patrick bringing Christianity to Pagan Ireland.

As the legend goes, St. Patrick was born in Kilpatrick Scotland in 387. His real name was believed to be Macwyn Succat. His parents were of Roman high rank. At 16, he was captured by Irish Marauders and sold as a slave to chieftain Milchu in Dalaradia. Milchu was a Druidical High Priest, leaving Patrick to tend sheep in the fields. Patrick remained in captivity for 6 years.

He learned the Celtic language as well as all the facets of Druidism. However, as he remained a slave, he grew in his belief in Christianity and prayed to the Christian God. Finally, one day he fled, traveling 200 miles and boarded a ship and sailed to Britain.

Patrick stayed in Britain for 18 years bring Christianity to various cultures through war and conquering lands. Pope Celestine allowed Patrick to return to Ireland and bring Christianity to the country and named him "patritius" derived from "ater civium" meaning "father of the people." A legend says that St. Patrick chased all the snakes out of Ireland. With Ireland being an island, there actually were no snakes to begin with. Patrick's chasing out the snakes is in reference to chasing out the Druid's, Ireland's indigenous religion.

As the legend continues, in 433, Patrick fought in Ireland with the Druids and was able to infiltrate the culture since he knew the language of the ancient pagan religion. Legend has it that St. Patrick died on the 17th of March 460 and this is the reason he is honored on this date. However, the Spring Equinox occurs anywhere from the 19th to the 22nd of March. Celebrating St. Patrick's day on the 17th was actually symbolic of the famous legend where Patrick arrived on Tar hill and lit the ritual fire before the Druid priests arrived and overtook the site.

Another symbolic act of Patrick overtaking Ireland's Druid heritage involves his use of the Shamrock (three-leaf clover). It is said that Patrick used the clover to explain the Trinity of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, the shamrock (Persian word for three-leaf clover), known as a "Seamroy" to Ireland, was a symbol used in Druidism to explain the three faces of the Goddess found in the Moon: Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

All the symbols used in St. Patrick's Day celebration are pagan in origin. The wearing of the green is associated with Ireland's green fields and nickname "Emerald Isle." The Leprechaun is the face figure of the Faeries known in Ireland.

The legend of the Leprechauns is that they know all the secrets of hidden treasures. Their affiliation with shoe-making, rainbows, and pots of gold is really symbolic of them being earth elemental spirits. They are the spirits that take raw material to work and shape it into something useful for humans. Trolls are the raw materials, found in their raw state, in their original locations.

Leprechauns are one of the many tribes belonging to the Faerie gods known to pagan Ireland. They live in the Land of Faeries known as "Tir Non Og" which lies in the West. The Irish originally called all faeries the Tuatha de' Danann, a pantheon of gods from which Lugh and Danaan were a part, and are my personal sacred pantheon. Other such faerie gods include the high king "Fin Bheara." He is known to be skilled a the game of chess and running the hunt.

There are also the Banshee, angels of death. They are beautiful women in white or sometimes seen as old hags. They can be heard before seen because they are mournful. Their responsibilities are actually like guardian angles in that they help the deceased reach their designation. There are variety of others including: Lhiannon Sidhes (The faerie sweethearts), Phookas, Fir Darrig, Merrows (Faerie mermaids), Roanes (The Seal People), and the Glaistigs (Female Water Spirits).

Each family has his/her own protective Faerie spirit according to ancient Ireland and Druid tradition. These family spirits are cared for, fed, and given gifts. to do this strengthens the spirit and in time one can actually communicate with his/her spirit faerie. Among other things, one can learn the dame of his/her family spirit faerie and acquire favors.

The myth of finding gold at the end of the rainbow contains hidden meanings because in ordinary reality there is not end of a rainbow. Rainbows are circular. They are created by water particles in the sky. A rainbow can only be seen in the morning and late afternoon when the sun is closer to the horizon. The rainbow will be found opposite the sun. To see a rainbow, the seeker must be between the sun and the area of the sky where the water particles reside. It is hard to see the full circle of the rainbow because in order to see the rainbow at all, we can only see it from an angle. It is not visible straight on perpendicular. IF one can solve the puzzle of the rainbow being circular and how a pot of gold can be at the end of a circle when there is no end to a circle, then he/she will achieve the winnings of a pot of gold.

March 19: 1:10 p.m. — Full Moon
Stonehenge Moon

Casting a circle creates sacred space to worship, meditate, heal, create and commune with the spiritual realms. The Full Moon in Virgo occurs just before Ostara. Ancient henges, temples and ziggurats feature archways that frame the light from the rising sun on Spring Equinox.

Although modern Pagans haven't built the next Stonehenge, gatherings begin with a circle-casting ritual to create sacred space that is oriented to and defined by the cardinal directions, just like the ancient henges.

The solitary practitioner may wish to obtain a floor mat and paint a cross on it. Orient the cross to the points of the compass and meditate on each quadrant's elemental association and symbols.

At the coven gathering, dedicate gifts to each directional element as the circle is cast. In particular, honor the East and the equinoctial rising Sun. Emphasize that the circle is a sacred space where coven members have gathered to encounter the divine, to rise above their daily selves and connect with the seasons, the pulse of the turning Earth, the light of the revolving Moon. This bond is at the heart of Pagan and Earth spirituality.

March 20, 6:21 pm – Ostara/Spring Equinox

Ostara Correspondences

Animals/Mythical Creatures — Unicorn, merpeople, Pegasus, rabbit/Easter bunny, chicks, swallows, snakes
Gemstones — Rose quartz, moonstone, amethyst, aquamarine, bloodstone, red jasper
Incense/Oil — African violet, lotus, jasmine, rose, magnolia, sage lavender, narcissus, ginger, broom, strawberry
Colors/Candles — Gold, light green, grass green, robin’s egg blue, lemon yellow, pale pink, anything pastel
Tools/Symbols/Decorations — Colored eggs, baskets, green clothes, shamrock, equilateral cross, butterfly, cocoons, sprouting plants; violets, lily, spring wildflowers, new clothes, lamb, hare/rabbit
Goddesses — Eostre (Saxon Goddess of Fertility), Ostara (the German Goddess of Fertility), Kore, Maiden, Isis, Astarte (Persia, GrecoRoman), Ishtar (Babylonian), Minerva (Roman), Youthful Goddesses. Faerie Queen, Lady of the Lake (Welsh-Cornish), the Green Goddess
Gods — Hare, Green Man, Youthful Gods, Warrior Gods, Taliesin, Lord of the Greenwood (English), Dagda (Irish), Cernunnos (Greco-Celtic), Pan (Greek), Adonis (Greek)
Essence — Strength, birthing, completion, power, love, sexuality, embodiment of spirit, fertility, opening, beginning
Dynamics/Meaning — The God comes of age, sexual union of the Lord & Lady, sprouting, greening, balance of light and dark
Purpose — Plant and animal fertility, sowing
Rituals/Magick — Spellcrafting, invention, new growth, new projects, seed blessing
Customs — Wearing green, new clothes, Celtic bird festival, egg baskets coloring eggs, collecting birds eggs, bird watching, egg hunts, starting new projects, spring planting
Foods — Light foods, fish, maple sugar candies, hot crossed buns, sweet breads, hard boiled eggs, honey cakes, seasonal fruits, milk punch, egg drinks
Herbs — Acorns, celandine, tansy, cinquefoil, crocus, daffodil, dogwood, Irish moss, ginger, honeysuckle, iris, jasmine, rose, hyssop, linden, strawberry, violets
Element/Gender — Air/male
Threshold — Dawn

Every year at Ostara, everyone begins chatting about a goddess of spring known as Eostre. According to the stories, she is a Teutonic goddess associated with flowers and springtime, and her name gives us the word "Easter," as well as the name of Ostara itself.

However, if you start to dig around for information on Eostre, you'll find that much of it is the same. In fact, nearly all of it is Wiccan and Pagan authors who describe Eostre in a similar fashion. Very little is available on an academic level. So where does the Eostre story come from?

Eostre first makes her appearance in literature about thirteen hundred years ago in the Venerable Bede's Temporum Ratione. Bede tells us that April is known as Eostremonth, and is named for a goddess that the Anglo-Saxons honored in the spring. He says:

"Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month.

After that, there's not a lot of information about her, until Jacob Grimm and his brother came along in the 1800's. Jacob said that he found evidence of her existence in the oral traditions of certain parts of Germany, but there's really no written proof.

Interestingly, Eostre doesn't appear anywhere in Norse mythology, in the poetic or prose Eddas, so one could make the argument that she's not a Norse goddess at all... but she could certainly have belonged to some other tribal group in the Germanic areas. It's fairly unlikely that Bede, who was a scholar as well as a Christian academic, would have just made her up. However, it's equally possible that Bede simply misinterpreted a word at some point, and that Eostremonth was not named for a goddess at all, but for some other spring festival.

So, did Eostre exist or not? No one knows. Some scholars dispute it, others point to etymological evidence to say that she did in fact have a festival honoring her. Regardless, she has come to be associated with modern-day Pagan and Wiccan customs, and certainly is connected in spirit, if not in actuality, to our contemporary celebrations of Ostara.

The Sabbat

As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals.

The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit).

The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time.

Embrace Ostara as a point of balance in your life, a moment in time where both dark and light and night and day are in harmony before the light is victorious and carries us on to the bounty of summer pleasures. Ostara is packed with rituals, spells, recipes, crafts, and customs to celebrate the awakening earth.

Rituals and Ceremonies

Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Ostara, but typically it is observed as a time to mark the coming of Spring and the fertility of the land. By watching agricultural changes — such as the ground becoming warmer, and the emergence of plants from the ground — you'll know exactly how you should welcome the season.

Below are some suggested rituals. I will not address foods, because they are so varied and well-known, they are based on Spring flavors, and lost of sweets! Remember, make this Sabbat (and all Pagan celebrations, for that matter) uniquely yours. Change any of the elements to adapt them to your faith paths, and have a blessed Ostara!

Ostara Spells

The Spring Equinox, called Ostara by most Pagans and Wiccans, is a day of perfect balance between night and day, darkness and light, slumber and awakening. Many craft traditions, covens, and solitaries have devised their own rituals for awakening Mother Earth at this time. Many of these can be traced back to England.

One common practice is to walk through a natural area, tap the earth three times with a staff or wand, and make a joyful noise to welcome the Goddess's return. This ritual is performed three times in keeping with the sacred number of many of the Pagan sects from western European countries. Now is not only a good time to awaken Mother Earth, but also to awaken ourselves.

To awaken your own body, mind, and soul to spring's rebirth, give back to Mother Earth some of the things we've taken from her. Plant a tree, herb garden, or flowers. Feed her animals and birds.

Sex is always a great way to celebrate any Wiccan Sabbat, but it is especially appropriate on Ostara. Take time to have a very special, and sacred union with your partner, and give thanks for the glories of being so alive – so very alive – in each other's arms. As a sex-positive bisexual woman, no Ostara celebration would be complete with a truly orgasmic celebration! (For variety, you can always have your blessed encounter privately outdoors where you will not be discovered.)

As you do any of these things, consecrate your offering or activity by saying:

Mother Earth,
Goddess we walk upon,
May my gifts be of value
Even after I'm gone.
Today, while I'm here,
May my offering be,
An act of love
for you from me.

Sabbat Rite

Ostara is a time of equal parts light and dark. At Mabon, we have this same balance, but the light is leaving us. Today, six months later, it is returning. Spring has arrived, and with it comes hope and warmth. Deep within the cold earth, seeds are beginning to sprout. In the damp fields, the livestock are preparing to give birth. In the forest, under a canopy of newly sprouted leaves, the animals of the wild ready their dens for the arrival of their young. Spring is here.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varied

Here's How:

For this ritual, you'll want to decorate your altar with symbols of the season. Think about all the colors you see in nature at this time of year — bright daffodils, crocuses, plump tulips, green shoots — and incorporate them into your altar. This is also a time of fertility in the natural world — the egg is the perfect representation of this aspect of the season. Symbols of young animals such as lambs, chicks, and calves are also great altar adornments for Ostara.

In addition, you'll need the following:

Three candles — Yellow, green, and purple
A bowl of milk
A small bowl of honey or sugar

Perform this ritual outside if at all possible, in the early morning as the sun rises. It's spring, so it may be a bit chilly, but it's a good time to reconnect with the earth. If your tradition normally requires you to cast a circle, do so now.

Begin by taking a moment to focus on the air around you. Inhale deeply, and see if you can smell the change in the seasons. Depending on where you live, the air may have an earthy aroma, or a rainy one, or even smell like green grass. Sense the shift in energy as the Wheel of the Year has turned.

Light the green candle, to symbolize the blossoming earth. As you light it, say:

The Wheel of the Year turns once more,
and the vernal equinox arrives.
Light and dark are equal,
and the soil begins to change.
The earth awakes from its slumber,
and new life springs forth once more.

Next, light the yellow candle, representing the sun. As you do so, say:

The sun draws ever closer to us,
greeting the earth with its welcoming rays.
Light and dark are equal,
and the sky fills with light and warmth.
The sun warms the land beneath our feet,
and gives life to all in its path.

Finally, light the purple candle. This one represents the Divine in our lives — whether you call it a god or a goddess, whether you identify it by name or simply as a universal life force, this is the candle that stands for all the things we do not know, all those things we cannot understand, but that are the sacred, the mysteries in our daily lives.

As you light this candle, focus on the Divine around and within you. Say:

Spring has come! For this, we are thankful!
The Divine is present all around,
in the cool fall of a rain storm,
in the tiny buds of a flower,
in the down of a newborn chick,
in the fertile fields waiting to be planted,
in the sky above us,
and in the earth below us.
We thank the universe* for all it has to offer us,
and are so blessed to be alive on this day.
Welcome, life! Welcome, light! Welcome, spring!

Take a moment and meditate on the three flames before you and what they symbolize. Consider your own place within these three concepts — the earth, the sun, and the Divine. How do you fit into the grand scheme of things? How do you find balance between light and dark in your own life?

Finally, blend the milk and honey together, mixing gently. Pour it onto the ground around your altar space as an offering to the earth**.

As you do, you may wish to say something like:

I make this offering to the earth,
As thanks for the many blessings I have received,
And those I shall some day receive.

Once you have made your offering, stand for a minute facing your altar. Feel the cool earth beneath your feet, and the sun on your face. Take in every sensation of this moment, and know that you are in a perfect place of balance between light and dark, winter and summer, warmth and cold — a time of polarity and harmony.

When you are ready, end the ritual – or, if you are a consenting adult, move to the next delicious step, Sacred SEX!


* Instead of "the Universe", feel free to insert the name of your patron deity or the gods of your tradition here.
** If you're doing this rite indoors, take your bowl of milk and honey and pour it in your garden, or around your yard.

Protect Your Home and Family

The not-so-humble egg is arguably the most pervasive symbol of the worlds spring festivals, Ostara included. Within its shell is contained all the archetypal connections humanity has ever held with life, death, and life renewed. This eternal cycle of rebirth at spring is a major theme in the spring holidays of virtually every one of the worlds religions, from the most ancient Pagan expressions of spirituality to the most modern sects of Christianity.

How did the egg — particularly the chicken egg — get appointed to this lofty position of symbolizing a universe full of new life? Like many of our modern holiday customs, the eggs place in spring spiritual rites is derived from the way our ancestors observed the natural world around them and honored their deities through these natural occurrences. With modern refrigeration, factory farming, and a fast-moving global marketplace making a variety of food abundant to us year round, its hard for us to fully comprehend that food was once a seasonal commodity that as impossible to obtain when the natural conditions allowing it to be produced were unavailable.

The eyes of a laying hen and the amount of light she receives are the components responsible for her ability to produce eggs. A hen lays eggs when the retina, the part of the eye that captures light and images, is stimulated for periods of twelve hours or more by sunlight. When that light stimulation ends, so does her laying cycle. Because fire, the only source of light for our ancestors, was not a strong enough light to fool the hens retina, there were no fresh eggs for a full six months out of every year.

Though the scientific connection between light stimulation and laying cycles would be not known for many more centuries, their laying pattern was still reliable. Hens could be counted on to begin producing fresh eggs at the spring equinox and cease producing them around the autumnal equinox, a holiday period associated with dying and death and imagery opposite that of Ostara. As the world bloomed and greened anew each Ostara, the abundance of fresh eggs made them a natural symbol of new life.

In Asia, red-colored eggs are on occasion offered at funerals and births to symbolize the natural cycles of life, death, and rebirth. In the Ukraine, eggs called krashanka sometimes dyed in shades of bright yellow are eaten to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. More elaborate eggs, called pysanky, are decorated to use as talismans of fertility, prosperity, and protection. In places as diverse as west-central Africa and the southern Appalachian Mountains of the U.S., eggs are buried near cemeteries to encourage reincarnation.

Protective Egg Charm

What you need:

An egg (or several, one for each member of your family)
A mini spell candle in white, green or yellow

Traditionally cinquefoil leaf and dogwood are used as a filling, but you can vary this depending on where you live and your personal protective arsenal of herbs. Take an egg and, by poking small holes at each end of it, empty it out.

Light your candle, and when it has gone down at least halfway, fill the egg with your protective herbs, then seal the holes with wax from your candle.

Decorate the egg with symbols from Runes or other symbols of protection, and the names of each member of your family or you can leave it natural. Gather a nice basket full of fresh grass and flowers, and display it prominently.

our home, family and property will be protected.

Rabbit in the Moon

February 3 marked the beginning of the Chinese Year of the rabbit, and since Ostara is coming up, it's a good time to look at how the "Ostara bunny" came to be. As has been said, the name for this Ostara actually comes from that of the Teutonic lunar Goddess, Eostre.

Her chief symbols were the bunny for fertility and because the Ancient Ones who worshiped her often saw the image of a rabbit in the full moon and the egg representing the cosmic egg of creation.

It is commonly believed that this is where the customs of "Easter Eggs" and the "Easter Bunny" originated, but if you dig deeper you'll find Rabbit Lore going back to the Pre-Aztec Era

Rabbit Moon

The Moon Rabbit (also called the Jade Rabbit) lives on the moon. Dating back as far as 278 BC and based on pareidolia that identifies the markings of the moon as a rabbit. The story exists in many cultures, particularly in East Asian folklore, where it is seen pounding in a mortar and pestle.

In Chinese folklore, it is often portrayed as a companion of the moon goddess Chang'e, constantly pounding the elixir of life (immortality) for her; but in Japanese and Korean versions it is just pounding the ingredients for rice cake.

A famous poet of the Tang Dynasty period, Li Bai, relates how: "The rabbit in the moon pounds the medicine in vain" in his poem "The Old Dust " about a White Rabbit in the Moon making the elixir of immortality.

In the poem, a monkey, an otter, a jackal, and a white rabbit resolved to practice charity on the day of the full moon (Uposatha), believing a demonstration of great virtue would earn a great reward.

When an old man begged for food, the monkey gathered fruits from the trees and the otter collected fish, while the jackal wrongfully pilfered a lizard and a pot of milk-curd.

The rabbit, who knew only how to gather grass, instead offered its own body, throwing itself into a fire the man had built. The rabbit, however, was not burnt. The old man revealed himself to be the God and, touched by the rabbit's virtue, drew the likeness of the rabbit on the moon for all to see. It is said the lunar image is still draped in the smoke that rose when the rabbit cast itself into the fire.

Similar legends occur in Mexican folklore, where people also identified the markings on the moon as a rabbit.

According to an Aztec legend, the god Quetzalcoatl, then living on Earth as a man, started on a journey and, after walking for a long time, became hungry and tired. With no food or water around, he thought he would die. Then a rabbit grazing nearby offered himself as food to save his life. Quetzalcoatl, moved by the rabbit's noble offering, elevated him to the moon, then lowered him back to Earth and told him, "You may be just a rabbit, but everyone will remember you; there is your image in light, for all men and for all times."

Another Mesoamerican legend tells of the brave and noble sacrifice of Nanahuatzin during the creation of the fifth sun. Humble Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself in fire to become the new sun, but the wealthy god Tecciztecatl hesitated four times before he finally set himself alight to become the moon.

Due to Tecciztecatl's cowardice, the gods felt that the moon should not be as bright as the sun, so one of the gods threw a rabbit at his face to diminish his light. It is also said that Tecciztecatl was in the form of a rabbit when he sacrificed himself to become the moon, casting his shadow there.

A Native American (Cree) legend tells a different variation, about a young rabbit who wished to ride the moon. Only the crane was willing to take him.

The trip stretched Crane's legs as the heavy rabbit held them tightly, leaving them elongated as crane's legs are now. When they reached the moon Rabbit touched Crane's head with a bleeding paw, leaving the red mark cranes wear to this day. According to the legend, Rabbit still rides the moon to this day.

Lucky Rabbit Spell

An Olde English custom is to repeat: "Rabbits-rabbits-rabbits" before going to sleep on the last day of the month to bring prosperity and luck to you and your home. The following describes this practice.

HARE OR RABBIT: SAYING AT CHANGE OF MONTH – 1920 'Folklore' 319. According to several correspondents in the 'Westminster Gazette' (Spring of 1919) the following belief is common in many parts of Great Britain, with local variants: To secure good luck of some kind, usually a present, one should say 'Rabbits' three times just before going to sleep on the last day of the month, and then 'Hares' three times on waking the next morning.1982 Woman c.50 (Stockton-on-Tees, Co. Durham)

The first words you say for a lucky month are 'white rabbits.' If you can remember to say that 12 times a year, you'll have a very lucky year...If you say 'black cats' on the last night of the month and 'white rabbits' the next morning, you will get a present before the month is out." From "A Dictionary of Superstitions" (Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York, 1989).

March 30, 3:48 pm to April 23, 5:04 am - Mercury Retrograde

Mercury will go retrograde in the sign of Aries on March 30th and will be in that sign the entire period of its retrograde journey. If there was a zodiacal hot spot this would be it. As Mercury does its retrograde dance in Aries, it will be accompanied by Jupiter and Uranus and joined by Mars on the 2nd and Venus on the 21st.

Even the Sun and Moon will join in at the New Moon on the 3rd. We can expect many Aries themes to be highlighted. Some of them might be: Independence, hot-headedness, anger, individuality, identity and much more.

Aries is a fire sign and means to burn up whatever is in the way of new growth. On the positive side think, ‘crocus’ on the negative side think, ‘aggression.’

The truth is that everything needs a push to get born. This is true for babies and democracies as well as fruits and vegetables of all sorts not to mention ideas. Aries is a sign that likes to go at life head first.

The interesting thing about the New Moon is that it will be exactly opposite Saturn. This suggests that for every action there is a consequence. Mercury retrograde seriously seconds that concept. So think before you act but don’t be overly passive. Change is inevitable just consider the consequences first.

Days on which to pay special attention to Aries themes are the 3rd because of the New Moon (consider the consequences of all intentions); 9th when Mercury conjuncts the Sun (be still and listen to your heart); 11th when Mercury conjuncts Jupiter (temper opinions with wisdom); and the 19th when Mercury conjuncts Mars (act impulsively now, pay later).

— Danu's Daughter

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pagan Roots of Valentine's Day

The pagan roots of Valentine's Day are difficult to trace, but let's celebrate it the Wiccan way with spells, rituals, love and sex with your significant other!

With Spring now on the wing, my winter-weary heart turns to the siren call of Valentine's desire. I want nothing more than to snuggle and cuddle with my partner, and to give myself over to the pleasure of our bodies.

Note: As a Wiccan who is also bi-sexual, it is important to honor and respect the coupling of all adults, regardless of gender orientation.

Sadly, the card and chocolate industries have hijacked this holiday until there no way to know where the sentiment ends, and the commercialism begins.

As an Eclectic Wiccan, I try to refocus away from the secular and back onto the spiritual. The Goddess we all celebrated on Imbolc is ready to extend her blessings to your Valentine's Day celebrations.

I redress my home altar with appropriate colors, then work some candle magick giving thanks for the people in my life that I love, and asking that my heart opens to receive additional relationships.

As a Wiccan, I adhere to the faith's most basic precepts:

"Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust...Mind the Threefold Law ye should – three times bad and three times good...Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an it harm none, do what ye will."

This means that I perform NO rituals to compel someone to love me. Instead, I perform rituals that send love into the Earth, and give gratitude to the Goddess and God for the love that continues to blossom in my life.

This is also a time that some Pagans and Neo-Pagans perform hand-fasting ceremonies outdoors, akin to marriage ceremonies.
February has long been associated with love and romance, going back to the days of early Rome. Back then, February was the month in which people celebrated Lupercalia, a festival honoring the birth of Romulus and Remus, the twin founders of the city. As Lupercalia evolved and time went on, it morphed into a festival honoring fertility and the coming of spring.

But, isn’t Valentine’s Day a Christian day, named after a Christian saint? When we consider the matter more closely, we don’t find a strong relationship between Christian saints and romance. There is a lot of debate and disagreement among scholars about the origins of Valentine’s Day. We’ll never be able to disentangle all of the cultural and religious threads in order to reconstruct a complete and coherent story, but the pagan connections to the date are much stronger than the Christian ones.

February 14th and Juno Fructifier or Juno Februata

The Romans celebrated a holiday on February 14th to honor Juno Fructifier, Queen of the Roman gods and goddesses as well as goddess of marriage. In one ritual, women would submit their names to a common box and men would each draw one out. These two would be a couple for the duration of the festival (and at times for the entire following year). Both rituals were designed to promote not only fertility, but also life generally.

February 15th and Feast of Lupercalia

On February 15, Romans celebrated Luperaclia, honoring Faunus, god of fertility. Men would go to a grotto dedicated to Lupercal, the wolf god, located at the foot of Palatine Hill and where Romans believed that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a she-wolf. The men would sacrifice a goat, don its skin, and run around, hitting women with small whips, an act which was supposed to ensure fertility.

Lupercalia, or "Wolf Festival," was partly in honor of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled the infant orphans, Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. The religious ceremonies were directed by the Luperci, the "brothers of the wolf (lupus)", a corporation of priests of Faunus, dressed only in a goatskin. As Lupercalia evolved and time went on, it morphed into a festival honoring fertility and the coming of spring. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, a possibly earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February its name.

Lupercalia's Love Lottery

For part of the celebration, young women would place their names in an urn. Eligible men would draw a name and the couple would pair of for the rest of the festival — sometimes even longer. As Christianity progressed into Rome, the practice was decried as Pagan and immoral, and done away with by Pope Gelasius around 500 C.E. Although recently there's been some scholarly debate about the existence of the Lupercalia lottery, it's still a legend that brings to mind ancient matchmaking rituals — perfect for this time of year!

A More Spiritual Celebration: Around the same time that the love lottery was being eliminated, Gelasius had a brilliant idea. Why not replace the lottery with something a bit more spiritual? He changed the love lottery to a lottery of the Saints — instead of pulling a pretty girl's name from the urn, young men pulled the name of a saint. The challenge for these bachelors was to try to be more saint-like in the coming year, studying and learning about the messages of their individual saint.

St. Valentine, Christian Priest

According to one story, Roman emperor Claudius II imposed a ban on marriages because too many young men were dodging the draft by getting married (only single men had to enter the army). A Christian priest named Valentinus was caught performing secret marriages and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution, young lovers visited him with notes about how much better love is than war — the first “valentines.” The execution occurred in 269 CE on February 14th.

St. Valentine, Second and Third

Another Valentinus was a priest jailed for helping Christians. During his stay he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and sent her notes signed “from your Valentine.” He was eventually beheaded and buried on the Via Flaminia. Reportedly Pope Julius I built a basilica over his grave. A third and final Valentinius was the bishop of Terni and he was also martyred, with his relics being taken back to Terni.

Christianity Takes Over Valentine’s Day

In 469, emperor Gelasius declared February 14th a holy day in honor of Valentinus (remains unclear which Valentinus) instead of the pagan god Lupercus. This allowed Christianity to take over some of the celebrations of love and fertility which had previously occurred in the context of paganism. Pagan celebrations were reworked to fit the martyr theme — Christianity did not approve of rituals that encouraged sexuality. Instead of pulling girls’ names from boxes, both boys and girls chose the names of martyred saints from a box.

Valentine’s Day Turns to Love

It wasn’t until the Renaissance of 14th century that customs returned to celebrations of love and life rather than faith and death. People began to break free of some of the bonds imposed upon them by the Church and move towards a humanistic view of nature, society, and the individual. Moving towards more sensual art and literature, there was no shortage of poets and authors connecting the dawning of Spring with love, sexuality, and procreation.

Modern Valentine's Day Around the end of the 18th century, Valentine's Day cards began to appear. Small pamphlets were published, with sentimental poems that young men could copy and send to the object of their affections. Eventually, printing houses learned there was a profit to be made in pre-made cards, complete with romantic pictures and love-themed verse. The first American Valentine cards were created by Esther Howland in the 1870's, according to Victorian Treasury. Other than Christmas, more cards are exchanged at Valentine's Day than any other time of the year.

Valentine’s Day and Divination

As with so many other holidays that have pagan roots, divination came to play an important role in the development of modern Valentine’s Day. People looked to all sorts of things, primarily in nature, in order to find some sign about who might become their mate for life — their One True Love. There were also, of course, things which came to be used to induce love or lust.

That is why modern Wiccans often employ methods of divivination like Tarot Cards, scyring, and lucid dreaming to envision their true loves!

Commercialization of Valentine’s Day

Today, capitalist commercialism is the biggest aspect of Valentine’s Day. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on chocolate, candies, flowers, dinners, hotel rooms, jewelry, and other gifts used to celebrate February 14th. There’s a lot of money to be made from people’s desire to commemorate the day. Only Christmas and Halloween come close in the way that modern commercialism has transformed and adopted an ancient pagan celebration.

Valentine’s Day as a Pagan, Commercial Holiday

Valentine’s Day is no longer part of the official liturgical calendar of any Christian church; it was dropped from the Catholic calendar in 1969. It’s not a feast, a celebration, or a memorial of any martyrs. A return to more pagan-like celebrations of February 14th is not surprising — and neither is the overall commercialization of the day. Millions of people all over the world celebrate Valentine’s Day in one fashion or another, but it’s unlikely that even one of them celebrates it in an even remotely religious manner.

This has resulted in some backlash among religious leaders in some societies. Some of the negative reactions are due to the pagan and commercialized elements, but some must be attributed to the long-term Christian character of the day.

In India, Hindu nationalists threatened anyone caught observing any Christian holidays, including Valentine’s Day. Some young lovers ccaught in public together on Valentine’s Day were even assaulted. Government officials in Saudi Arabia prohibited Muslims from doing anything at all associated with Valentine’s Day.

A few Christians seem to be interested in restoring some semblance of religion to Valentine’s Day, though not in any traditional sense. They don’t want to use it as a means for memorializing saints, but as a means to evangelize. In Kansas, for example, Christians sent roses to high school girls that were accompanied by Bible verses. It’s not clear whether they were trying to reclaim a lost Christian holiday or merely trying to appropriate a secular, commercial holiday for their own purposes.

The truth, though, is that American culture has so taken over Valentine’s Day that no amount of Bible verses will be able to change things. Commercial interests make so much money from Valentine’s Day that they aren’t going to accept any changes that won’t lead to even more profits. Christians helped make Valentine’s Day a cultural holiday, and now it’s entirely out of their hands.

I, however, refuse to accept this. As a Wiccan, I find Valentine's Day the perfect day to honor the Gods and Goddesses, as well as the earth, from where all love begins.

So, remember your own spiritual link to your partner, and spend some quality time between the sheets to reinforce that sacred union. We often enjoy tantra or Tantric inspired Wiccan love-making. Experiment for what is best for you and your beloved, that's often more than half the fun!

(Here's a great book if you don't know much about Tantric Sex and want a quick course: Tantric Sex for Women: A Guide for Lesbian, Bi, Hetero and Solo Lovers.)

— Danu's Daughter

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February: When Spring and Love Emerge

Just when it feels like the snow will never melt and your blood will never warm, Wicca provides a Sabbat and a month to remember that the Wheel of the Year will always turn.

Imbolc, celebrated on February 2, is a Sabbat with a variety of names, depending on which culture and location you’re looking at. In the Irish Gaelic, it’s called Oimelc, which translates to “ewe’s milk.” It’s a precursor to the end of winter when the ewes are nursing their newly born lambs. Spring and the planting season are right around the corner.

The Romans Celebrate

To the Romans, this time of year halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox was known as Lupercalia. For them, it was a purification ritual in which a goat was sacrificed and a scourge made of its hide. Thong-clad men ran through the city, whacking people with bits of hide. Those who were struck considered themselves fortunate indeed. This is one of the few Roman celebrations that is not associated with a particular temple or deity. Instead, it focuses on the founding of the city of Rome, by twins Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf — in a cave known as the "Lupercale."

The Feast of Nut

The ancient Egyptians celebrated this time of year as the Feast of Nut, whose birthday falls on February 2 (Gregorian calendar). According to the Book of the Dead, Nut was seen as a mother-figure to the sun god Ra, who at sunrise was known as Khepera and took the form of a scarab beetle.

Christian Conversion of a Pagan Celebration

When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was hard to convince people to get rid of their old gods, so the church allowed them to worship the goddess Brighid as a saint — thus the creation of St. Brigid's (Brighid) Day. Today, there are many churches around the world which bear her name.

Purification and Light

For Christians, February 2 continues to be celebrated as Candelmas, the feast of purification of the Virgin. By Jewish law, it took forty days after a birth for a woman to be cleansed following the birth of a son. Forty days after Christmas – the birth of Jesus – is February 2. Candles were blessed, there was much feasting to be had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed a little brighter.

Love and Courtship

February is known as a month when love begins anew, in part to to the widespread celebration of Valentine's Day. In some parts of Europe, there was a belief that February 14 was the day that birds and animals began their annual hunt for a mate. Valentine's Day is named for the Christian priest who defied Emperor Claudius II's edict banning young soldiers from marrying. In secret, Valentine "tied the knot" for many young couples. Eventually, he was captured and executed on Feb. 14, 269 C.E. Before his death, he smuggled a message to a girl he had befriended while imprisoned — the first Valentine's Day card.

A Celtic Connection

Serpents in the Spring

Although Imbolc isn't even mentioned in non-Gaelic Celtic traditions, it's still a time rich in folklore and history. According to the Carmina Gadelica, the Celts celebrated an early version of Groundhog Day on Imbolc too – only with a serpent, singing this poem:

Thig an nathair as an toll
(The serpent will come from the hole)
la donn Bride
(on the brown day of Bride (Brigid or Brighid)
Ged robh tri traighean dh’an
(though there may be three feet of snow)
Air leachd an lair
(On the surface of the ground.)

Among agricultural societies, this time of year was marked by the preparation for the spring lambing, after which the ewes would lactate (hence the term "ewe's milk" as "Oimelc"). At Neolithic sites in Ireland, underground chambers align perfectly with the rising sun on Imbolc.

The Goddess Brigid (Brighid)

Like many Pagan holidays, Imbolc has a Celtic connection as well, although it wasn’t celebrated in non-Gaelic Celtic societies. The Irish goddess Brigid (Brighid) is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth. To honor her, purification and cleaning are a wonderful way to get ready for the coming of Spring. In addition to fire, she is a goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.

Brigid (Brighid) is known as one of the Celtic "triune" goddesses — meaning that she is one and three simultaneously (Triple Goddess: Maiden, mother and crone). The early Celts celebrated a purification festival by honoring Brigid (Brighid), or Brid, whose name meant "bright one."

In some parts of the Scottish Highlands, Brighid was viewed as Cailleach Bheur, a woman with mystical powers who was older than the land itself. Brighid was also a warlike figure, Brigantia, in the Brigantes tribe near Yorkshire, England. The Christian St. Brigid was the daughter of a Pictish slave who was baptised by St. Patrick, and founded a community of nuns at Kildare, Ireland.

In modern Wicca and Paganism, Brigid (Brighid) is viewed as the maiden aspect of the maiden/mother/crone cycle. She walks the earth on the eve of her day, and before going to bed each member of the household should leave a piece of clothing outside for Brigid (Brighid) to bless. Smother your fire as the last thing you do that night, and rake the ashes smooth. When you get up in the morning, look for a mark on the ashes, a sign that Brigid (Brighid) has passed that way in the night or morning. The clothes are brought inside, and now have powers of healing and protection thanks to Brigid (Brighid.)

Correspondences for the Sabbat

Animals/Mythical Creatures — Firebird, dragon, groundhog, deer, burrowing animals, ewes, robin, sheep, lamb, other creatures waking from hibernation

Gemstones — Amethyst, garnet, onyx, turquoise

Incense/Oil — Jasmine, rosemary, frankincense, cinnamon, neroli, musk, olive, sweet pea, basil, myrrh, and wisteria, apricot, carnation

Colors/Candles — Brown, pink, red, orange, white, lavender, pale yellow, silver

Tools/Symbols/Decorations — White flowers, marigolds, plum blossoms, daffodils, Brigid wheel, Brigid’s cross, candles, grain/seed for blessing, red candle in a cauldron full of earth, doll, Bride's Bed; the Bride, broom, milk, birchwood, snowflakes, snow in a crystal container, evergreens, homemade besom of dried broom, orange candle anointed in oil (see above)can be used to symbolize the renewing energy of the Sun’s rebirth.

Goddesses – Virgin Goddess, Venus, Diana, Februa, Maiden, Child Goddess, Aradia, Athena, Inanna, Vesta, Gaia, Brigid, Selene (Greek), Branwen (Manx-Welsh)

Gods — Young Sun Gods, Pan, Cupid/Eros(Greco-Roman), Dumuzi (Sumerian)

Essence — Conception, initiation, insight, inspiration, creativity, mirth, renewal, dedication, breath of life, life-path, wise counsel, plan, prepare

Dynamics/Meaning — First stirring of Mother Earth, lambing, growth of the Sun God, the middle of winter

Purpose — Honoring the Virgin Goddess, festival of the Maiden/Light

Rituals/Magick — Cleansing; purification, renewal, creative inspiration, purification, initiation, candle work, home and temple blessings, welcoming Brighid, feast of milk and bread

Customs — Lighting candles, seeking omens of Spring, storytelling, cleaning house, bonfires, indoor planting, stone collecting, candle kept burning dusk till dawn; hearth re-lighting

Foods — Dairy, spicy foods, raisins, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, poppyseed bread/cake, honey cake, pancakes, waffles, herbal tea

Herbs — Angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, celandine, clover, heather, myrrh, all yellow flowers, willow

Element/Gender — Earth/female

Threshold — Midnight

February 2, 8:31pm — New Moon

This year the New Moon in Aquarius on February 2, coincides with Imbolc, the date on the Celtic calendar marking the beginning of spring and the return of the light. For those of us who live in the northern latitudes visibly longer days are reason enough to celebrate.

Aquarius is noted for a quirky approach to life, usually more interested in looking ahead than dealing with the boring routines so dear to its fellow fixed sign, Taurus. They are extremely good at seeing trends in the collective but need to post reminders to take out the garbage and feed the cat. And they do usually prefer cats to dogs because cats are far more independent minded . . . just like Aquarians.

A New Moon in Aquarius encourages everyone to consider their next step and where they would like to be down the line. This New Moon looks quite good for that with a supportive trine from Saturn in Libra to help keep the focus on the practical side of things, reining Aquarius’s tendency to go for the idealistic solution no one can afford. An energizing conjunction between Mars and the Luminaries is wonderful for firing up enthusiasm for new projects, especially those that benefit the collective. If you have planets or Angles from 12 to 15 degrees in the fixed signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius), you are likely to get a boost from this lunation.

Uranus, Aquarius’s ruler, is still in Pisces forming aspects to Mercury in Capricorn, Venus in Sagittarius and Neptune in Aquarius creating an exciting blend for producing innovative thought and sparking the imagination. Hopefully pragmatic Mercury in Capricorn will take notes before Venus drags Uranus and Neptune off to the nearest party. This configuration will affect everyone with planets and Angles from 26 to 29 degrees in all the signs!

Speaking of Venus, she is footloose and fancy free in Sagittarius and the square to Uranus in Pisces just underscores her need for autonomy. The sextile from Neptune to Venus turns on the romance and is wonderful for creating atmosphere. This can be lots of fun for those already in committed relationships looking for a little something to rekindle the romance but not so good for those out looking for their soul mate. After her extended stay in passionate Scorpio, Venus just wants to enjoy the moment and flirt to her heart’s content, not get into deep discussions about whether or not you know each other from a past life.

Jupiter is revving up his engines in Aries and enthusiastically extolling the benefits of taking action and hitting the road. This is a huge blessing for all you fire signs out there and I hope you are starting to feel like life is worth living again. However, the waxing square between Jupiter and Pluto in Capricorn (exact on February 25). When these two were square last summer, Saturn in Libra was on hand to keep their combativeness in check and tone down the rhetoric – something Jupiter in Aries is full of. This time around, they will be going at each no holds barred. If you have planets or Angles from 4 to 7 degrees in Cancer or Libra in particular, you might find yourself embroiled in a heated discussion or two. Cardinal types who enjoy confrontations will be fine but more sensitive types may want to maintain a low profile for the duration.

The overall tone of this New Moon will be set by Saturn in Libra due to Saturn’s role as leading planet in the Bowl Chart Pattern, aided by the trine to the luminaries. Those who choose to compromise rather than confront will find Saturn can be a good friend and supporter. Brushing up on the old listening skills is also highly recommended rather than getting locked up preparing more arguments. Libra seeks healthy debate with ALL sides represented before reaching an equitable decision. Please keep in mind the result benefiting the greatest number of people will seldom make those at the far ends of the bell curve happy.

February 3 — Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-year cycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the! household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2011 is the Year of the Golden Rabbit, which begins on February 3, 2011 and ends on January 22, 2012. The Rabbit is the fourth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 animal signs. The Rabbit is a lucky sign. Rabbits are private individuals and a bit introverted. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are reasonably friendly individuals who enjoy the company of a group of good friends. They are good teachers, counselors and communicators, but also need their own space.

According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves. It is a time for negotiation. Don't try to force issues, because if you do you will ultimately fail. To gain the greatest benefits from this time, focus on home, family, security, diplomacy, and your relationships with women and children.

Make it a goal to create a safe, peaceful lifestyle, so you will be able to calmly deal with any problem that may arise.

Not many people know that the Rabbit is the symbol of the Moon, while the Peacock is the symbol of the Sun, and that together, these two animal signs signify the start of day and night, represent the Yin and Yang of life. It is said that anyone making supplications for wishes to be fulfilled are certain to get what they want... and in the Year of the Rabbit, the wish-granting aspect of the Sun and the Moon combined is multiplied. The Moon is YIN and this is the Yin of Heaven, signifying magic. Thus on each of the Full Moon nights of this year, go out into your garden to gaze into the Full Moon and visualize plenty of Moon dust and Moon glow flowing into you, filling your whole body with bright white light and granting you fearlessness, love and courage. This will not only strengthen your inner "Chi" energy, it will also bring wisdom into your life.

February 14 — St. Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day Card Spell

Supplies: Valentine's Day Card, Pen, One Candle — Red (for passion) or pink (for romantic love)

Write the name and your desire onto the Valentine's Day card. Take the candle and drip wax to seal the envelope with the card inside. Place this special spell in the same drawer where you keep your underwear. Within four months you should hear from your beloved and of his/her intentions!

February 18, 2:36 am — Full Moon

Moon of the Guardian Sphinx

The Sphinx, a composite human-lion creature, symbolizes this Leo Full Moon. Sphinxes guard passageways by posing a riddle the traveler must answer to gain entry. Pirvate groups create sphinx-like barriers with passwords, secret handshakes, and marked tokens. When a coven gathers, casting a sacred circle creates further protection. members may safely reveal their magickal identities by sharing a true name.

As this Full Moon nears, the solitary practitioner may develop personal emblems and passwords. Design a unique magickal glyph to use when signing petitions or boons. If one has not yet ben found, seek a true name.

For a coven craft, design or choose an emblem. Make clay disks for each member and one extra. Poke a hole for a string, and inscribe the group emblem. Bake or fire the disks and string as necklaces. Hand a disk-amulet to each member. Place the extra disk on the altar, on or near a focal statue or Goddess candle, to indicate the coven is divinely protected. If a member has chosen a true name, confirm the new identity with a ceremony. Discuss methods to protect the group, and strengthen the circle-casting ritual.

~A portion of the above is adapted from: Llewellyn's 2011 Witches' Datebook

— Danu's Daughter