In Bulgaria, there is a custom that Baba Marta, Grandmother March, arrives to herald the coming of spring. She is, in folk custom, as cranky and unpredictable as any old woman. The tradition is to make little dolls or tassels of red (for health) and white (for new beginnings) from yarn or thread called Martenitsi. People wear them around their wrists, give them to friends, or tie them to branches. If they are dolls, the martenitsi are called Pizho (the male in white) and Penda (the female, in red). These scare away bad spirits and bring luck.
Traditionally one wears these martenitsi on the body- you can simply braid red and white yarn together, and tie it around your wrist, from March first until you see the first signs of spring. I guess I can set mine out now, since I have seen the daffodils pushing their green spikes up through the leaves on the garden!
Once you see signs of spring- whatever and whereever it is in your area, tie them to a favorite tree as a blessing for the orchard. (I think this image is of a tree that’s been around for several years.) I find these a reminder that Nature is not something we control, we can only live with her, and be polite and respectful, because she has moods, and while she may be wonderful and love us, like grandmother, she is more powerful than we are, and we have to go along with what she decides to dole out.
Please don’t be intimidated by the really cute images- simple tassels or braided yarn will do just fine. Some people simply like to play with crafts.
I don’t know about you, but I am happy with the coming of spring!
This year our theme is holding space, Stillness, Waiting, Holding, Silence, exploring what’s beneath…. The harder it is to learn to do that, to find that quiet and still space, the more it is needed, both by the world and within ourselves. When you start practicing it, you may find it hard, that’s your first clue that it’s not “doing nothing”. The results may take a while to notice. After all, when you preserve something, the proof that your effort was successful cannot be determined until time has passed and it’s still good. Trust that this pause we are taking is doing us and the world good.
Some years our themes are easy to embrace, for example Joy or Healing or Balance (a bit more challenging). I have to admit that Change was a pretty challenging theme. But often we find more in the more challenging themes, just as we often learn our greatest lessons from the challenges we face. Next year’s theme is going to be Stillness, Waiting, Holding, … as an image: Ice.
We are going to be exploring finding what we learn from Silence, what is under the surface, the benefits of slowing down, the drawing power of emptiness, and what we gain in waiting. When the molecules of water slow down, water becomes ice, and we can see it’s inner structure. Dr. Emoto’s images of water that had been charged with different energies made it possible for everyone to see how those energies were locked into the water, even when most people don’t have the ability to feel it when the water is in liquid form. Film has made it possible for us to slow things down and see what we couldn’t when something is moving faster than we see. Perhaps this is what meditation does for us as well.
When we scry in a crystal or in water, we look deep into the material that light usually passes through; looking deeper puts us in the right state to perceive more deeply. When the sun shines on the surface of water, who knows what’s going on below the surface? We can see what’s under the surface when the water is still, but not when the surface is rough.
Let us explore contradictions: how the same ice that makes it impossible for us to travel the river in our boats, makes it possible for us to cross it on foot or skates. How the frost that blights the blossom, preserves food so it can be eaten later. Let us learn what we hear in Silence, what we learn from saving things for later. Let us hold space for others and for ourselves, and find the crystal form of our centers.
Here we are in the quiet time of the year. In the Middle Ages, we’d be in the roisterous 12 Days of Christmas, and coming out of the long month of Advent fasting; these days we are exhausted by the holiday partying that has been going on all December and ready to “nest” in a quiet week after Christmas and before New Years. This gives us an opportunity to think back over the past year, and forward to the coming year.
We all speak of the “veil thinning” at Samhain (and Beltain), but it isn’t just one dangerous night, it’s like the ebb and flow of the tide, coming in and going out, the season of spirits crossing over more easily begins (for some) the Full moon before Samhain and continues until after Yule. That’s quite a “high tide” of spiritual activity. In the dark of winter, it was dangerous to go out because you might fall victim to the Wild Hunt. Even safe at home you had better remember to make offerings to your house spirits, those creatures who help you every year.
The traditional story is of a housewife who buried the lump of butter in the porridge one Christmas Eve so that when he came to get it, the Nisse thought she’d neglected to add it. In annoyance, he killed the family cow. Then he went back and ate the porridge, discovering the hidden butter. It was now too late to save the cow, so he magickally switched a neighbor’s cow for their dead one. In the morning, the farmer went out to milk and discovered his neighbor’s cow in his barn. Returning it to his neighbor, they found the exchange that had been made, and eventually figured out it was because of the error of the wife. So make sure you let your house or barn wight know that they are appreciated! “
The light is returning, but we have yet to reach the latest sunrise of the year (that happens around two weeks after Solstice, whereas the earliest sunset happens about two weeks before Solstice, making Solstice the shortest DAY of the year.) This is a great time of year to pause and reflect and try to be in touch with the spirits of many sorts while the veil is still thin.
Cromniomancy – In some parts of the world, the first day of December is the traditional time for young girls to perform the ancient art of cromniomancy (divination by onion sprouts) to find out the name of their future husband.
To find out who your future husband will be, take some onions and upon each one carve or write a different man’s name. Place the onions near a fire and the man whose name is on the onion that sprouts first will be the one.