VERNAL EQUINOX 2107, my "BLIAHDNA" - Wheel of the Year shrine,
with stick broken at exactly 6:29 AM EDT, Monday March 20th
Over the years, you may have seen me posting pictures like this on my blog or Facebook and, although some of you already may know the significance of this custom, some of you may not. "Custom?"... Yes, "The Breaking of the Stick" - - "but why do that? - Is it an ancient practice?"
My old article "The Power of the Impending Moment" sums up most of the idea here and introduces you to the tradition of the breaking of the stick at the sacred moment of the unique Earth/Sun relationship we pass through on every solstice and equinox. My idea of its core principle, the Sanctity/Veneration Feedback Loop, shows up in that article as well and in detail more recently in a post on this blog in November 2016.
"Ancient?" Although I first started this tradition in my own personal practice in the 1980's and incorporated it into my Grove Work in the 90's, I am not aware of a historical precedent for this ritualized action. This I'll assume is most possibly due to the fact that it was only recently that we have pocket timepieces that could with certainty mark a moment within the seconds of the minute of one's special moment de jour. I used to use the shortwave radio time signals from WWV at the Bureau of Standards in Ft.Collins CO - but nowadays, the times shown on anyone's cell-phone are reliably accurate to deep-down within the fractions of one single second. Yes, being within The Seconds of The Minute of the sacred event itself... that's what makes it especially powerful for me and the others who have adopted it or practices similar to it.
Yes, there it is, the imprint of the Sacred Moment, preserved in the broken ends of the stick, and clothed with all the import of that moment.
Its utility in your Rites of the Wheel: This is why to me that, if, as is usually the case, your public rite is not held on the true day of the solstice or equinox, bringing the Broken Stick (wrapped/enshrined) to the rite and announcing its principle and importance, before revealing it at the right moment, and dipping the broken ends together into the Grail of the rite and using the wet ends to individually bless the Folk, that one can potently bring Sacred Time and its spiritual inferences right down to a very personal level in our rites.
So, as it is that I've been doing this four times a year since the 1980's, yes, I've accumulated A Lot of Broken Sticks. In all that time I never have gotten around to doing the one cool thing I'd always mused on doing: binding the sets of sticks together on a wooden wheel or grapevine wreath to represent at least one whole solar cycle of The Wheel. Inevitably the new ones shove the older ones out of centrality on my shrine/altars - and, even with my fitful attempts to tag them, I've been consistently inconsistent to the point where I've not yet tagged and stored even one set of four to make a wheel. Yet I do treat the old ones with reverence and I have long had a special repository for them though: my Kiste ("Sacred Basket") of the Mysteries. Below you see me offering them from it into the Brushwood Nemeton Fire during my ordination to the ADF Druid Priesthood in May of 2002...
Those whose blood-lines lead down to you are "one's Ancestors".
Among your ancestors are those considered "one's Honorable Ancestors". As well but separately there are those who would be deemed your "Dishonorable Ancestors".
Whom is it then that decides the "honorable" or not? Is it a distinction only made or makeable by your own soul's inherent ethical code? That's a tough one and serious food for thought.
It remains my earnest contention that one commits a direct offence to "Your Ancestors" in using the term "ancestor" in the myriad of EUPHEMISTIC forms so commonly found in use by my dear friends in ADF and elsewhere. I feel that it is important for us to reexamine our usage of terms like "Ancestors of Heart" and "Ancestors of Spirit".
You can't choose your relatives, and you can't choose "Your Ancestors".
You can chose among The Dead though. And among those is the host of the Honorable and Honored Dead, and therein are those, not of our blood, but whom we all revere and hope to emulate due to the superlative nature of their works and words.
Words like these are important...
The solution here for us in ADF is to do the boolean thing and make it all so much simpler by saying "The DEAD" when that's what we mean - which, IMO, means for us to start doing it about ten times more than we've been doing up until now. And yes, once you go back far enough in the generations, we do all share the same, albeit remote, ancestry.
So then, can I interest any of you in my campaign to re-educate our pagandom regarding this godzawful "Ooooh it's Imbolc, it's SPRINGTIME!!" - stuff?
When my own astronomically-informed, folk-calendrically obsessive heightened seasonal sensitivity collides with what I perceive as sloppy Pagan scholarship, I literally flinch at every instance of the above that I encounter.
Y'see, there's a thousand years of folk references from Britain, Scotland, and the Continent (and who knows how much from preliterate times,) reinforcing the popularity of the Candlemas weather tradition of this likely being the midpoint in the span of winter's weather.
The old Irish references to Imbolc being the "beginning" of spring stand as an anomaly in relation to this larger body of European lore and IMO it's likely to the fact that the winters are far more mild in Ireland due to it being embraced in the warm waters of the "North Atlantic Drift" (related to the Gulf Stream). And, yes, I understand that American Neopagans find utility in this early spring reckoning since many of them live in the US' south and southwest...
Regardless, the February Crossquarter is neither a strictly Irish property, nor is the old Irish take on winter's run appropriate to the majority of the "Celtic" lands. For most them and most folks folks now, the February Crossquarter is the BEGINNING of the END of Winter and not so much the "beginning of spring".
( check back here later, I may expand this post further...
2.) It mostly all started with this quote from the Irish hero tales:
"No man will travel this country," she said, "who hasn't gone sleepless from Samain, when the summer goes to it's rest, until Imbolc, when the ewes are milked at spring's beginning; from Imbolc to Beltine at the summer's beginning and from Beltine to Bron Trogain,* earth's sorrowing autumn.”
That’s Emer, reproaching Cu Chulainn, in the Irish tale “Tochmarc Emire” (The wooing of Emer), from a 15th Century text possibly copied from a 10th Century original. This is the oldest citation known for a fourfold description of the Irish year… / * “Bron Trogain” is generally assumed to be a name for Lughnassadh.
3.) Let's not forget that the cultures that contemporary scholars deem "Celtic" were first developing around 1100 BCE, deep in central Europe (Austria and thereabouts,) and expanded westward, reaching and Celticizing Britain and then finally coming to Ireland last, between 600-400 BCE.
Solstice:Either of the two extremes of the Earth’s constant 23.4° axial-tilt, relative to the sunlight falling on its surface. Only at the Summer Solstice is the Earth’s north pole tilted the full 23.4° towards the Sun... and only at the Yule Solstice is it tilted the full 23.4° away from the Sun.
Equinox:The Spring or Autumn quarter begins for the Northern Hemisphere as the Earth’s terminator, the boundary line between night and day, crosses the North and South Poles simultaneously. Therefore, with the Earth’s day/night boundary line briefly poised over both poles, only at these times of year are the hours of night and day equal anywhere on the globe.
Crossquarter:Here defined as the moment in time precisely half-way between an adjacent solstice and equinox.
Bliadhna:(Scots Gaelic,) Pronounced “BLEE-an uh”,
“the ring of the year” -or- “the wheel of the year”.
For a downloadable / printable PDF of the above charts,
Study that little chart for a bit and you'll be throwing bricks at your TV set (like me) in no time!
Note: My apologies to our friends living far-south of the equator in the South Temperate Zone. The crescents there will seem opposite to those shown on guides based on the view from the Northern Hemisphere since we each consider the other as being"upside-down, standing on one's head"! - e. ALERT: THE GREAT AMERICAN TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE of 2017 IS COMING UP THIS SUMMER on MON. AUG. 21st !! For info, START HERE...
IMO, It's not really exaggerating to refer to this as a "once in a lifetime" event that few of us would want to miss...
============================================================ For the full DRUIDS' ALMANAC, there's always a link on this blog's page-header, or, CLICK HERE