Maighread

Maighread MacKay is an author and visual artist from the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada. She is a member of the Writer’s Community of Durham Region (WCDR), and the PRAC (Pine Ridge Arts Council) and Sisters in Crime, (Toronto). Her publishing credits include three books for children: Bedtime Treasures, The Mysterious Door and the Crystal Grove written under the name of Margaret L. Hefferman. Her novel Stone Cottage is her debut novel released in September by Solstice Publishing. Also, her story "Being Santa" was published in the 2015 edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas. She has also published articles for a variety of magazines, including most recently, the Durham Region online magazine – More 2 Life 4 Women and the WCDR publication Word Weaver.
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Mabon – Fall Equinox

 

 

mabon web

The fall equinox is celebrated as the second harvest. It is again the time of equal day and equal night, when we are moving to the dark time of the year. The days are getting shorter and the nights longer. We are moving into the dreamtime when all planting, growing, reaping activities decrease and we give thanks for the harvest that will allow us to eat during the winter. Originally, thanksgiving was celebrated at this time as a thanks for the harvest and the bounty of the summer.

In ancient Celtic traditions, this festival is known as Alban Elfed meaning Light of Autumn. It is a time of honouring the season, entertaining guests and feasting.

Mabon is the term used by modern neopagans. It is the harvest celebration having a component of going within and reflecting on what seeds we planted for our own personal growth last year, what harvest we have reaped and what seeds we will want to plant next year…what goals do we wish to accomplish in the coming year? It is also seen as a time of serving others and many pagans will offer to help at soup kitchens, give pet food to animal shelters, assist with food drives and such.

Lammas or Lughnasadh

Lammas or Lughnasadh

 

Lugh

Also known as the First Harvest, Lughnasadh celebrates the Celtic God, Lugh, with games (Nasad) and assembly. It is thought to have started as a wayfor Lugh to honour his foster Mother, Tailte, one of the Tuatha de Danaan.   This celebration was practiced mostly in Britain, Ireland and France (ancient Gaul) as Lugh was not a well known deity outside of the British Isles.  He is said by some to be a solar God; a God of the Harvest, craftspeople, and trade and commerce.  Traditionally, Teltown, in Ireland was the original site of Lughnasadh celebrations although there may have been earlier celebrations for the harvest held there prior to the worship of Lugh.  The festival began on or about July 15th and ended on or about August 15th with the full moon nearest August 1st being the actual day of the fire ceremony.  The festival was held to celebrate the first harvest.  When Christianity came to Ireland, the name of the festival was changed to Lammas meaning “loaf-mass”.  The grain that was gathered was ground into flour and baked into bread, the first of which was offered to the Church to celebrate the Mass.

Being a harvest festival that lasted a month, a great fair complete with games (as important in their times as the modern Olympic games) and the assembly of the High Kings of Ireland was part of the celebration.  It was here at Teltown that all of the kings were reconfirmed in their office.  The Stone of Fal was brought from Tara and each of the kings was required to find the Fal Stone during the festival or his reign would be over.

It was during this fair that marriages were contracted and petitions were presented to the Druids for judgement.

Couples could enter into a contract for a trial marriage for a year and a day.  An interesting custom comes to us from a 19th century writing.  It was said that at Larganeeny, near Teltown, there was a tall wall of stone in the hollow.  Young men and women would enter the hollow, the men on the north side of the wall and the women on the south side.  One by one the women would put their hands through a hole in the wall and a man would take hold of it on the other side neither one being able to see the other.  This would make the couple handfast for the time specified.  At next year’s fair, the couple would go to the Rath of Teltown, where it would be decided whether or not to make the marriage more permanent.   One of the factors that may have helped in the decision was whether or not a child had been born to the couple during the year.  If a child had been born, this was seen as proof of the Goddess’s blessings on the union and the marriage would probably be made more permanent.

The Druids were the Priests, Judges and Teachers of Celtic society.  In their many years of training they were taught the law of the tribes and clans.  The tribal law required that those who had been hurt during the crime, be it robbery, assault, murder or anything else, were to be recompensed for their loss by the perpetrator. This could be in the form of a fine which could include things that would be useful to the victim such as animals, fighting gear, household items or such.  For more severe crimes, the accused most likely would be banished from the clan.  Since capital punishment was not the usual form of punishment, a person might be set adrift in a boat in the Irish Sea with no oars or rudder.  His fate would be decided by the Gods.  Given the rough sea, most likely the person would drown.  Other crimes would elicit tasks which would place the person responsible for the crime in great danger.  If he survived the tasks and completed them in a set period of time, he would be ritually cleansed and then re-instated into the tribe.

Many of the games played at Lughnasadh included foot races, track and field competitions, archery, wrestling and events showing the prowess of the clan’s men.  Our modern Highland Games from Scotland probably descended from the Lughnasadh games.  Although these are now held at various times of the year, many are still held in the traditional time of early August.  Horses were very valuable to the ancient Celts.  The old Irish Kings were wedded to a mare, symbolizing the Goddess of Sovereignty, at their coronation.  Lughnasadh provided the clans with the opportunity to show off their prized horses in races, which were the main event of the festival.  Even today, events such as the Dublin Horse Show, the Connemara Pony Show or the Galway Races take place in late July or early August.

Interview by A.B. Funkhauser

Here is an interview I did this morning for author A.B. Funkhauser’s blog.

Interview by author A.B. Funkhauser

Enjoy.

 

Summer ArtFest

Join me on Saturday, July 18, 2015 for the Summer ArtFest in Brooklin, Grass Park. Great Day to be had by all.

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Summer Solstice

Oak_king_by_Ironshodthe_holly_king_by_hikari_ryu1

Summer Solstice

In the northern hemisphere, Summer Solstice is on June 20th or 21st, depending on your time zone. It is the day when the sun reaches its furthest point north of the equator (the Tropic of Cancer). In 2015, Solstice, here in eastern Canada, comes in on June 21st at 12:39 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on June 21st. The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice). It is the longest day of the year and a time to celebrate the coming warmth of summer. It is a time of enchantment when, the veil of the year is at its thinnest, the fairies are most active, and the entrance to the Otherworld opens. The other holiday where the veil is thin is Samhain.

There is often confusion regarding whether June 21st is the beginning of summer or as in Pagan traditions, mid-summer. In Canada and the U.S., June 21st is regarded as the first day of summer. This is because we are moving into the warmest time of the year; a time when the kids are out of school; most people take some form of family holidays and generally a time to be outdoors and enjoying the sunshine. Referring to the Solstice as a “mid-summer” celebration has nothing to do with the heat or activity at the beach. It is because it is the mid-way point between the equinoxes when the light and dark are in balance. After Summer Solstice the light begins to decrease and move towards darkness. Although the temperature is at its highest, the days do begin to get shorter. Ancient peoples, who spent more time outdoors than we do, were acutely aware of this annual ebb and flow of daylight, which are anchored at the Summer and Winter Solstices.

In Celtic tradition, it is the time of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. They are seen as the dual aspects of the male Earth deity, one ruling the waxing year, the other ruling the waning year. The Oak King, who is the light twin, rules from Midwinter to Midsummer. Summer Solstice is the point where his power is the strongest, but his light is beginning to wane and the Holly King is gaining strength. By the time of Samhain, the Holly King’s strength is supreme and the Oak King “dies”. He is not really dead, he merely withdraws, some say to Caer Arianrhod, the Castle of the ever-turning Silver Wheel, which is also known as the Wheel of the Stars. This is the enchanted realm of the Goddess Arianrhod where the god must wait and learn before being born again. Arianrhod means “silver wheel” and the castle is the Aurora Borealis. She is the Goddess of the astral skies and there She rules as Goddess of reincarnation. The Holly King rules the dark half of the year from Midsummer to Midwinter. At Winter Solstice, the Oak King is again reborn and gathers strength until Beltane, when he rules supreme until, again, at Summer Solstice he starts to wane. This is not a conflict of “good” versus “bad”, but of dark versus light. As the year wanes and light moves to darkness, only to be reborn at Mid Winter and move to back light, so too, in a natural cycle our lives move to the realm of the dead, only to be reborn another time.

Many other cultures celebrate this time of the year. Ancient Rome chose this time to celebrate the Goddess Juno, Queen of the heavens and protector of women. She is the Patroness of marriage and the month of June is named after her. Vesta, Goddess of the hearth fire was also honoured. The doors of her temple were thrown open and the married women of Rome would make offerings in the form of salted grain meal. In ancient Mesopotamia, the Goddess Ishtar and her lover Tammaz were celebrated at Midsummer. In Greece, the day was sacred to Hera (the Greek equivalent of Juno) as well as Athena, and Adonis.

Some of the customs associated with Midsummer are bonfires, rolling wheels, torchlight processions, gathering plants, seeking healing or practicing divination.

As at Beltane, bonfires are very prevalent at Solstice. The bonfire was built in a round shape on a sacred spot near a holy well, on a hilltop or on a border of some kind. It was lit on Midsummer’s Eve to ward off evil spirits. A Tudor poem reflects its meaning:

When midsomer comes, with havens and bromes they do bonefires make,
And swiftly, then the nimble young men runne leaping over the same.
The women and maydens together do couple their hands.
With bagpipes sounde, they daunce a rounde; no malice among them stands.

People danced around the fires and often jumped through them for good luck. A branch was lit and passed over animals to protect them from fleas, ticks and disease. Children were even passed over the bonfire to protect them from illness during the coming winter. Ashes from the fire were spread on the fields for fertility. They were also used to make charms to cure different diseases.
One fun tradition that still survives is the rolling wheel. Wheels were covered in straw, set on fire and then pushed down a hill to represent the sun rolling through the heavens. If the fire goes out before getting to the bottom of the hill, it is said there will be a good harvest. If it reaches a stream at the bottom of the hill, it is said to bring good luck to the village.

Torchlight processions were held in many areas. They were used for protection and blessing. In farmer’s fields, after the procession, they would be attached to fences and left to burn all night. The ashes were then spread on the fields to increase crop fertility.

Since this is a celebration of the wonderful sun, here are a few things that you could include in your festivities:

• Watching the sun rise
• Marking a special time when the sun reaches its zenith
• Re-enact the battle of the Oak and Holly kings
• Torchlight parades
• Leaving food or trinkets for the faeries
• Any water ritual
• Using fire in your ritual
• Giving thanks for the growing vegetation and for the farmers that grow our food
• Gathering herbs to be used for healing

Some fun tidbits of old folklore about summer are:

Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer.–Estonian proverb

When the summer birds take their flight, goes the summer with them.

If it rains on Midsummer’s Eve, the filbert crops will be spoiled.–Unknown

One swallow never made a summer.

Easterly winds from May 19 to the 21 indicate a dry summer.

If there are many falling stars during a clear summer evening, expect thunder. If there are none, expect fine weather.

Reference: MidSummer by Anna Franklin

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My Latest Book:

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I am delighted to announce my new book Murder at Mother's was published in June 2017 by Stones Throw Publishing and is available in hardcopy and on Kindle at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Read Murder at Mother's reviews on Goodreads.


Murder at Mother's has been featured on a number of book blogs. Find them here.

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Maighread Mackay is a Member of the Visionary Fiction Alliance.

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