Tag Archives: sabbat

Yule – Incense, Oil and Soap Recipes

Incense, Oil and Soap Recipes

Yule Incense 1
2 tsp. Frankincense
2 tsp. Pine needles or resin
1 tsp. Cedar
1 tsp. Juniper berries

Yule Incense 2
3 tsp. Frankincense
2 tsp. Sandalwood
2 tsp. Chamomile
1 tsp. Ginger
1/2 tsp. Sage
A few drops of Cinnamon oil

Yule Incense 3
3 tsp. Pine needles or resin
3 tsp. Cedar
1 tsp. Bayberry
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Yule Incense 4
3 tsp. frankincense
A few drops orange oil
A few drops juniper oil
1 tsp. crushed juniper berries
½ tsp. mistletoe

Blend together and burn on charcoal.

Yule Incense 5
2 tsp. frankincense
2 tsp. pine needles
1 tsp. cedar
1 tsp. juniper berries
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. orange peel

Yule Oil
2 drops Cinnamon oil
2 drops Clove oil
1 drop Mandarin oil
1 drop Pine oil
2 drops Frankincense
2 drops Myrrh oil.

Yule Soap
1 cup grated unscented soap
1/4 cup hot water
1 tbsp. apricot oil
1 tbsp. chamomile
1/2 tbsp. rosemary
1/2 tbsp. ginger
6 drops frankincense oil
6 drops myrrh oil
3 drops cinnamon oil

Place grated soap in a heat-proof non-metallic container and add the hot water and apricot oil. Leave until it is cool enough to handle, and then mix together with your hands. If the soap is floating on the water, add more soap. Leave to sit for 10 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the soap is soft and mushy. Once the soap, water, and oil are blended completely, add the dry ingredients. Once the mixture is cool, then add the essential oils (essential oils evaporate quickly in heat). Enough essential oils should be added to overcome the original scent of the soap. Blend thoroughly and then divide the soap mixture into four to six pieces. Squeeze the soaps, removing as much excess water as possible into the shape you desire, and tie in a cheesecloth. Hang in a warm, dry place until the soap is completely hard and dry.

All Hallow’s Eve by Mike Nichols

All Hallow’s Eve

by Mike Nichols


Sly does it. Tiptoe catspaws. Slide and creep.“You don’t know, do you?” asks Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud climbing out of the pile of leaves under the Halloween Tree. “You don’t really know!”

But why? What for? How? Who? When! Where did it all begin?
—Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree

Samhain. All Hallows. All Hallow’s Eve. Hallow E’en. Halloween. The most magical night of the year. Exactly opposite Beltane on the wheel of the year, Halloween is Beltane’s dark twin. A night of glowing jack-o’-lanterns, bobbing for apples, tricks or treats, and dressing in costume. A night of ghost stories and séances, tarot card readings and scrying with mirrors. A night of power, when the veil that separates our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest. A “spirit night”, as they say in Wales.

All Hallow’s Eve is the eve of All Hallow’s Day (November 1). And for once, even popular tradition remembers that the eve is more important than the day itself, the traditional celebration focusing on October 31, beginning at sundown. And this seems only fitting for the great Celtic New Year’s festival. Not that the holiday was Celtic only. In fact, it is startling how many ancient and unconnected cultures (the Egyptians and pre-Spanish Mexicans, for example) celebrated this as a festival of the dead. But the majority of our modern traditions can be traced to the British Isles.

The Celts called it Samhain, which means “summer’s end”, according to their ancient twofold division of the year, when summer ran from Beltane to Samhain and winter ran from Samhain to Beltane. (Some modern covens echo this structure by letting the high priest “rule” the coven beginning on Samhain, with rulership returned to the high priestess at Beltane.) According to the later fourfold division of the year, Samhain is seen as “autumn’s end” and the beginning of winter. Samhain is pronounced (depending on where you’re from) as “sow-in” (in Ireland), or “sow-een” (in Wales), or “sav-en” (in Scotland), or (inevitably) “sam-hane” (in the U.S., where we don’t speak Gaelic).

Not only is Samhain the end of autumn; it is also, more importantly, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Celtic New Year’s Eve, when the new year begins with the onset of the dark phase of the year, just as the new day begins at sundown. There are many representations of Celtic Gods with two faces, and it surely must have been one of them who held sway over Samhain. Like his Roman counterpart Janus, he would straddle the threshold, one face turned toward the past, in commemoration of those who died during the last year, and one face gazing hopefully toward the future, mystic eyes attempting to pierce the veil and divine what the coming year holds. These two themes, celebrating the dead and divining the future, are inexorably intertwined in Samhain, as they are likely to be in any New Year’s celebration.

As a feast of the dead, this was the one night when the dead could, if they wished, return to the land of the living, to celebrate with their family, tribe, or clan. And so the great burial mounds of Ireland (sidhe mounds) were opened up, with lighted torches lining the walls, so the dead could find their way. Extra places were set at the table and food set out for any who had died that year. And there are many stories that tell of Irish heroes making raids on the Underworld while the gates of faery stood open, though all must return to their appointed places by cockcrow.

As a feast of divination, this was the night par excellence for peering into the future. The reason for this has to do with the Celtic view of time. In a culture that uses a linear concept of time, like our modern one, New Year’s Eve is simply a milestone on a very long road that stretches in a straight line from birth to death. Thus, the New Year’s festival is a part of time. The ancient Celtic view of time, however, is cyclical. And in this framework, New Year’s Eve represents a point outside of time, when the natural order of the universe dissolves back into primordial chaos, preparatory to reestablishing itself in a new order. Thus, Samhain is a night that exists outside of time and, hence, it may be used to view any other point in time. At no other holiday is a tarot card reading, crystal reading, or tealeaf reading so likely to succeed.

The Christian religion, with its emphasis on the “historical” Christ and his act of Redemption 2000 years ago, is forced into a linear view of time, where seeing the future is an illogical proposition. In fact, from the Christian perspective, any attempt to do so is seen as inherently evil. This did not keep the medieval church from co-opting Samhain’s other motif, commemoration of the dead. To the church, however, it could never be a feast for all the dead, but only the blessed dead, all those hallowed (made holy) by obedience to God—thus, All Hallow’s, or Hallowmas, later All Saints and All Souls.

There are so many types of divination that are traditional to Hallowstide, it is possible to mention only a few. Girls were told to place hazelnuts along the front of the firegrate, each one to symbolize one of her suitors. She could then divine her future husband by chanting, “If you love me, pop and fly; if you hate me, burn and die.” Several methods used the apple, that most popular of Halloween fruits. You should slice an apple through the equator (to reveal the five-pointed star within) and then eat it by candlelight before a mirror. Your future spouse will then appear over your shoulder. Or, peel an apple, making sure the peeling comes off in one long strand, reciting, “I pare this apple round and round again; / My sweetheart’s name to flourish on the plain: / I fling the unbroken paring o’er my head, / My sweetheart’s letter on the ground to read.” Or, you might set a snail to crawl through the ashes of your hearth. The considerate little creature will then spell out the initial letter as it moves.

Perhaps the most famous icon of the holiday is the jack-o’- lantern. Various authorities attribute it to either Scottish or Irish origin. However, it seems clear that it was used as a lantern by people who traveled the road this night, the scary face to frighten away spirits or faeries who might otherwise lead one astray. Set on porches and in windows, they cast the same spell of protection over the household. (The American pumpkin seems to have forever superseded the European gourd as the jack-o’- lantern of choice.) Bobbing for apples may well represent the remnants of a Pagan “baptism” rite called a seining, according to some writers. The water-filled tub is a latter-day Cauldron of Regeneration, into which the novice’s head is immersed. The fact that the participant in this folk game was usually blindfolded with hands tied behind the back also puts one in mind of a traditional Craft initiation ceremony.

The custom of dressing in costume and “trick-or-treating” is of Celtic origin, with survivals particularly strong in Scotland. However, there are some important differences from the modern version. In the first place, the custom was not relegated to children, but was actively indulged in by adults as well. Also, the “treat” that was required was often one of spirits (the liquid variety). This has recently been revived by college students who go ‘trick-or-drinking’. And in ancient times, the roving bands would sing seasonal carols from house-to-house, making the tradition very similar to Yuletide wassailing. In fact, the custom known as caroling, now connected exclusively with Midwinter, was once practiced at all the major holidays. Finally, in Scotland at least, the tradition of dressing in costume consisted almost exclusively of cross-dressing (i.e., men dressing as women, and women as men). It seems as though ancient societies provided an opportunity for people to “try on” the role of the opposite gender for one night of the year. (Although in Scotland, this is admittedly less dramatic—but more confusing—since men were in the habit of wearing skirtlike kilts anyway. Oh well…)

To Witches, Halloween is one of the four High Holidays, or Greater Sabbats, or cross-quarter days. Because it is the most important holiday of the year, it is sometimes called “The Great Sabbat”. It is an ironic fact that the newer, self-created covens tend to use the older name of the holiday, Samhain, which they have discovered through modern research. While the older hereditary and traditional covens often use the newer name, Halloween, which has been handed down through oral tradition within their coven. (This often holds true for the names of the other holidays, as well. One may often get an indication of a coven’s antiquity by noting what names it uses for the holidays.)

With such an important holiday, Witches often hold two distinct celebrations. First, a large Halloween party for non- Craft friends, often held on the previous weekend. And second, a coven ritual held on Halloween night itself, late enough so as not to be interrupted by trick-or-treaters. If the rituals are performed properly, there is often the feeling of invisible friends taking part in the rites. Another date that may be utilized in planning celebrations is the actual cross-quarter day, or Old Halloween, or Halloween O.S. (Old Style). This occurs when the sun has reached fifteen degrees Scorpio, an astrological “power point” symbolized by the Eagle. The celebration would begin at sunset. Interestingly, this date (Old Halloween) was also appropriated by the church as the holiday of Martinmas.

Of all the Witchcraft holidays, Halloween is the only one that still boasts anything near to popular celebration. Even though it is typically relegated to children (and the young-atheart) and observed as an evening affair only, many of its traditions are firmly rooted in Paganism. Incidentally, some schools have recently attempted to abolish Halloween parties on the grounds that it violates the separation of state and religion. Speaking as a Pagan, I would be saddened by the success of this move, but as a supporter of the concept of religion-free public education, I fear I must concede the point. Nonetheless, it seems only right that there should be one night of the year when our minds are turned toward thoughts of the supernatural. A night when both Pagans and non-Pagans may ponder the mysteries of the Otherworld and its inhabitants. And if you are one of them, may all your jack-o’-lanterns burn bright on this All Hallow’s Eve.

Most Recent Text Revision: Monday, May 2, 2005 c.e.

Text editing courtesy of Acorn Guild Press. Document Copyright © 1986, 1995, 2005 by Mike Nichols.

Samhain – Incense, Oils & Soap

Incense, Oil and Soap Recipes

Samhain Incense 1
1 tsp. crushed Mugwort Leaves
1 tsp. Frankincense Tears (small resin chunks)
1 tsp. Myrrh Resin (small chunks)
2 tsp. crushed Rosemary Leaves

Samhain Incense 2
2 tsp. frankincense
2 tsp. sandalwood
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. gum arabic
1 tsp. myrrh
½ tsp. bay
½ tsp. thyme
¼ tsp. jasmine flowers
¼ tsp. rose petals

Samhain Incense 3
3 tsp. Rosemary
3 tsp. Pine
3 tsp. Bay
3 tsp. Apple
2 tsp. Patchouli Oil

Samhain Incense 4
1 tsp. rowan berries
1 tsp. blackthorn wood
½ tsp. galangal
½ tsp. chervil
½ tsp. vervain
½ tsp. parsley
3 tsp. myrrh

Blend together and burn on charcoal

Samhain Incense 5
3 tsp. frankincense
2 tsp. sandalwood
2 tsp. mugwort
1 tsp. sage
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. lavender

Samhain Oil

1/2 dram Pine Oil
1/4 dram Frankincense oil
1/4 dram Patchouli oil
a/4 dram Lavendar oil
Mix well and bottle.

Samhain Oil 2
3 drops Rosemary oil
3 drops Pine oil
3 drops Bay oil
3 drops Apple oil
2 drops Patchouli oil
Use almond oil as the base

Samhain Soap
1 cup grated unscented soap
1/4 cup hot water
1 tbsp. apricot oil
1 tbsp. mugwort
1/2 tbsp. nutmeg
6 drops frankincense oil
6 drops sandalwood oil
3 drops lavender

Place grated soap in a heat-proof non-metallic container and add the hot water and apricot oil. Leave until it is cool enough to handle, and then mix together with your hands. If the soap is floating on the water, add more soap. Leave to sit for 10 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the soap is soft and mushy. Once the soap, water, and oil are blended completely, add the dry ingredients. Once the mixture is cool, then add the essential oils (essential oils evaporate quickly in heat). Enough essential oils should be added to overcome the original scent of the soap. Blend thoroughly and then divide the soap mixture into four to six pieces. Squeeze the soaps, removing as much excess water as
possible into the shape you desire, and tie in a cheesecloth. Hang in a warm, dry place until the soap is completely hard and dry.


2 granules frankincense – protection, spirituality
2 parts chrysanthemum petal – protection from malevolent forces
2 parts cedar – protection, purification, healing, money
1 part myrrh – protection, healing, spirituality, purifies and creates peaceful space
1 part lavender – purification, happiness, love, peace, harmony, healing
1 part sandalwood – protection, healing, spirituality
1 part cinnamon – success, healing, psychic powers
1/2 part clove – prosperity, drawing of money, protection, purification
1 sprig rosemary – purifying, cleansing, protection, healing, mental power, knowledge
3 white sage leaves – Immortality, longevity, wisdom, protection, wishes
3 drops orange oil – love, luck, divination

Autumn Equinox Ritual

Autumn Equinox Ritual

– Mark the circle and cardinal points
– Light the altar candles and cardinal points

Place Athame point into salt, saying:
“I consecrate and bless this salt in the names of the Lady of the Moon and the Lord of Death and Resurrection, so it may be purified for use in this rite.”

Place Athame point into water, saying:
“I consecrate and cleanse this water in the names of the Lady of the Moon and the Lord of Death and Resurrection, so it may be purified for use in this rite.”

Pick up Athame (starting in East), draws the circle about those within, saying:
“O circle be a place of peace, love and truth. Be a shield against all evil and a place of protection that shall preserve and contain the energies I shall raise within thee. I do bless thee and consecrate thee in the names of the Lady and the Lord.”

Add Salt to Water, sprinkle the circle.
Add incense to brazier, Cense the circle.

Smudge yourself (for purification)

Go to East, raise Athame pointing to the East, saying:
“Hear me guardians of the East, look now upon me, guide and protect me in this rite.”

Draw an invoking pentagram.
(Repeat for all directions)

Raise your arms saying:

“O Horned One, the Sun King, God of the Harvest and Lord of Death and Resurrection, your seed has provided a bounty that has greened the earth and filled the fields. As the warmth of summer wanes and the air turns to chill and darkeness, as you begin your descent to the Underworld, bestow your blessings on my circle.

O Great Goddess, the giver of life and harvest, your body has provided abundance and beauty. As you begin your restful slumber bless me with your wisdom.

Lord and Lady I thank you for all that you have blessed me with and ask that you give me the strength in the new year to plant seeds of joy, happiness and love and to banish all misery and hate.”

“Pour some wine into your cup and hold the Athame between both hands and slowly lower the blade into the cup, saying:
“The Male and the Female, joined in love, peace and happiness”

Pour some wine out for libation, saying:
“As the Gods provide for us, let us give to them”

Drink the wine and sit in quiet communion with the God and Goddess

When you feel the time is right get up and thank the God and Goddess for attending the Rite.

Then go to the East, raise Athame pointing to the East saying:
“Guardians of the East, thank you for attending my rite. Let me live with peace and love in my heart.”

Draw banishing pentagram
(repeat for all other directions)

The Rite is ended

Extinguish the Cardinal Points and the altar candles.

– Lady Pagan

Yule Blend (loose incense)

I didn’t get a chance to post this before Yule, but didn’t want to forget to post it for next Yule 😉

Our Yule Blend:
Frankincense: Sun – Protection & Spirituality
Myrrh: Moon – Protection, Healing, Spirituality
White Oak: Sun – Protection, Health, Money, Healing, Potency, Fertility, Luck
Bay: Sun – Protection, Psychic Powers, Healing, Purification, Strength
Cinnamon: Sun – Purification, Prosperity
Sage: Jupiter – Longevity, Wisdom, Protection, Wishes
Rosemary: Sun – Protection, Love, Lust, Mental Powers, Purification, Healing, Sleep, Youth
Juniper Berries: Sun – Protection, Love, Health
Nutmeg: Jupiter – Luck, Money, Health, Fidelity
Pine: Mars – Healing, Fertility, Protection, Money
Holly: Mars – Protection, Luck, Dream Magic
– Lady Pagan/The Pagan Musings

What is Imbolc?

What is Imbolc?

Imbolc is a holiday 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 Day. Today, there are many churches around the world which bear her name.

Purification and Light:

For Christians, February 2nd 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 2nd. Candles were blessed, there was much feasting to be had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed a little brighter.

Love & 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 14th 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 (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 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 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.

Brighid is known as one of the Celtic “triune” goddesses — meaning that she is one and three simultaneously. The early Celts celebrated a purification festival by honoring 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, 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 Brighid to bless. Smoor 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 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 Brighid.


Sacred Fire

Sacred Fire
This article was written by Ellen Evert Hopman

The Goddess in the Sun
Modern Paganism is heavily influenced by Greek and Roman mythology, and as a result certain assumptions are made, such as the idea that the Sun is male and the Moon female. A careful study of indigenous traditions will reveal that this wasn’t true for many—or possibly most—cultures on planet Earth. In Egypt, the Sun was within the eye of the great lion Goddess Sekhmet or within the cow Goddess Hathor at night and reborn from the womb of Hathor each morning. The Egyptians also associated the Sun with Bastet or Bast—Lady of Flame, Eye of Ra, divine protectress of the pharaoh, whose sacred animal was the house cat.

Germanic cultures had Sunna and Frau Sunne while the Norwegian Goddess Sól traversed the heavens in a chariot drawn by the horses Arvak and Alsvid.

The Lithuanians and Lativans had Saule, the Finns Paivatar or Beiwe. The Hungarians had Xatel-Ekwa and the Slavs had Solntse. For the Arabs she was Al-Lat. In Australia she was Bila or Walo. In India she was Bisal-Mariamna or Bomong and in Sri Lanka, Pattini.

The ancient Hittites had Wurusemu, the Babylonians had Shapash. Among Native American cultures she was Unelanuhi to the Cherokee, Wal Sil to the Natchez, Malina to the Inuit and Herkoolas to the Miwok.

In Japan the Sun Goddess Amaterasu is still regarded as the Goddess of the Universe, from whom the emperor is descended.

In Ireland she was Grian (the Moon was her sister) and her path through the heavens was a central tenet of Celtic cosmology. To move “deiseil” or “sunwise” around a place or an object brought the greatest luck. When one engaged in ritual or processed around a sacred object, such as a holy well or a standing stone, it was important to move around it deiseil, in order to go with the flow of the universe.

A sunwise procession around a place or thing in Ireland was called “cor deiseil.” In the Hindu tradition a sunwise procession is called “pradaksina” and is said to bring luck and prosperity. Moving with the Sun was a common facet of Indo-European culture.

Moving anti-clockwise, widdershins or “tuathamail” (Gaelic) was considered very unlucky because it meant you were deliberately going “against the flow” of nature. In fact, invading armies would approach a fort tuathamail and the inhabitants would know that they were under attack.

Fire Deities of the Celts
The two most popular deities of the ancient Celts were Brighid/Bride/Brigantia and Lugh/Lugus/Llew. Both were deities of brightness and fire. Lugh was not a Sun God as is popularly supposed; he represented brilliance in craft and in thinking and was called “master of every art.” Similarly, Brighid was a Fire Goddess, mistress or patroness of arts. She was a Goddess of Healing, Smith Craft (a magical art in ancient times), and Poetry, and also a patroness of mothers (because to be a mother was to be a mistress of every art to at least a small extent).

Brighid was the Goddess invoked at Imbolc, the great Fire Festival of February 1 that celebrated the lactation of the ewes. Lugh gave his name to the festival of Lughnasad, the Fire Festival of the first fruits of the harvest, originally funeral games in honor of Lugh’s foster mother.

In Irish tradition the Sun was also known as “Áine Clair,” or Áine the Bright. She could appear to mortals as an old woman, a young princess, a mother, or a mermaid. “Áine Chliach” lived in a hill (Cnoc Áine). At Summer Solstice bundles of straw, or “cliars” were tied to poles, lit on fire, and carried around her hill. The cliars were then carried through the fields, around the cattle herd, and along boundaries to bless the land with Áine’s fire.

Making Offerings to Sacred Fire
In Celtic religious practice it was essential to make offerings to fire, water, and land. Offerings placed into an earthen pit or into water went down to the Sidhe Realm (Fairy Realm) of the ancestors. Offerings placed at the base of a rock or tree fed the Land Spirits, and offerings placed into a ritual fire went up to the Sky Realm of the Gods. Each of these methods had a powerful magic of its own, but I will focus on Fire offerings here.

The High Holy Days of the Celts (Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasad, and Samhain) were all called Fire Festivals. A large bonfire (or in the case of Imbolc, candles) was featured at each of these celebrations. Offerings were made to the fires, such as butter, sacred woods, aromatic herbs, whiskey, and oils, as prayers were spoken and petitions made to the Gods.

Beltaine offered a unique opportunity for purification by fire. At this Fire Festival the cows were led between two sacred bonfires, so close that when a white cow passed through them her hair would be singed brown. This ritual was done to purify the cows as they left the farm and made their way to their summer pastures in the hills.

At Beltaine and Samhain hearth fires were put out as everyone waited for sacred flames to arrive, brought by torch-bearers. In Ireland the Beltaine fires were lit from the great Fire Altar at Uisneach, home of the Arch-Druid, at Samhain from a fire near Tara.

Hearth Fire
Sacred fire was also honored on a daily basis in the home. Hearth fires were often made with peat, because wood was too expensive and hard to obtain. Every housewife acted as a Priestess when she “smoored” the fire each night, carefully covering the embers to keep until dawn. As she did so she would utter a prayer such as this one from the Hebrides of Scotland:

Smáladh an Teine (Smooring the Fire)
The sacred Three
To save,
To shield,
To surround
The hearth,
The house,
The household,
This eve,
This night,
Oh! This eve,
This night,
And every night,
And every night,
Each single night,
Till white day shall come to the embers.
Traditional, Carmina Gadelica 84 and 85 (adapted)
(From Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore, by Ellen Evert Hopman, Pendraig Publishing, 2011)

Baby Blessings
Burning peat embers were used bless newborn babies and calves, carried in a shovel around the mother and child three times, asking the fire to protect them.

A Scottish Fire Blessing for a newborn child was done by filling a basket with bread and cheese and wrapping it in clean linen. The baby was laid on top of the bread and cheese; the oldest female present would carry the basket around a fire three times sunwise, and then suspend the basket briefly over the fire. Then the “bairnie” (baby) was put into its cradle as the bread and cheese were distributed to everyone who had helped with the birth.

Communal Fires
One of the most powerful of fire rituals was the “Tein-eigin,” or Need-fire. Such a sacred fire would be constructed by the entire community when the whole area was threatened, for example by a cattle disease. The fire was started by friction and had to be made by nine times by nine married men, who would remove all metal from their persons before starting (such as coins, watches, and jewelry). Sacred woods (such as willow, hazel, alder, birch, ash, yew, elm, apple, pine, and oak) were used, or the fire could be made from only oak.

Every home in the area would put out their own hearth fire and then re-kindle a new fire from the flames of the Need-fire. Then they would put to boil water from a holy well or sacred spring. Once the water had boiled it was taken from the flames, cooled, and sprinkled on people and animals to heal them.

Fire Temples and Fire Altars
I have written a new novel, the third in a trilogy of Druid novels, called Priestess of the Fire Temple: A Druid’s Tale (Llewellyn, March 2012). In the novel I explore the idea of a Fire Temple. We know that such temples once existed in every province of Ireland and that Saint Brighid based her famous temple in Kildare on an earlier Pagan model. These temples were sacred precincts where a perpetual fire was kept by Druids. Petitioners with needs would come to the temples to have their questions answered.

I explore the idea of the Fire Altar in the first two novels, Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey and The Druid Isle.

References and further reading:
Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations, Lindisfarne Press, New York, 1992
Hopman, Ellen Evert. Priestess of the Fire Temple: A Druid’s Tale, Llewellyn, Minnesota, March 2012
Hopman, Ellen Evert. Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey, Llewellyn, Minnesota, February 2008
Hopman, Ellen Evert. The Druid Isle, April 2010
Hopman, Ellen Evert. Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore, Pendraig Publishing, Los Angeles, California, 2010
Ó’Duinn, Sean. The Rites of Brighid Goddess and Saint, The Columba Press, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, 2005

About the Author:

Ellen Evert Hopman (Massachusetts) has contributed to several Pagan journals and is a popular author of Druidry-related titles. A former teacher at the Grey School of Wizardry, Hopman has been active in American Druidism since 1984. She is a member of the Grey Council of Mages and Sages, co-founder and former co-chief of the Order of the Whiteoak (Ord na Darach Gile), a master herbalist, and a registered herbalist of the American Herbalists Guild.