Seasons of the Witch – Legends and Lore, Ancient Holidays
And Some Not So Ancient!
Today Is …
Festival of our Lady of the Snows. Celebrate with a snow cone or a big glass of ice water.
“Egyptian; Festival of the Dead” ~ Offerings were given in the Necropolis in a sunset ceremony.
Loch-mo-Naire: Each year on this date, it was believed that the waters of Scotland’s Loch-mo-Naire became charged with miraculous magickal powers to heal all who drank it or bathed in it. For many years it was a custom for those who visited Loch-mo-Naire to toss in a coin of silver as an offering to the benevolent spirits that dwelled within the lake.
The Lady of the Lake – On the first Sunday in August, the Welsh used to make pilgrimages to Llyn y Fan fach (a lake near Llanddeusant in Dyfed) to watch for the annual reappearance of the fairy from this lake who married a mortal but returned to the lake the third time he struck her. Before she left, she bequeathed her knowledge of herbal medicine to her sons, who became the ancestors of the renowned physicians of Myddfai.
When I visited Wales many years ago, I made a special pilgrimage to Myddfai (although not in August). It was a pretty little village but not a soul was around, not even a dog or a cat, although it was the middle of the day. I have to believe it is indeed an enchanted place. Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Tiu Chen (Laying Down Needles), Weaver Woman – On the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, the Chinese honor the Weaver Woman who wove the robes of the deities. All needlework is admired on this day. Girls put a needle into a bowl of water and look at in the sunlight. They inspect the fineness of the shadow and the patterns it makes (of flowers or clouds) for predictions of the quality of their needlework.
At this time of the year, the star Vega (known to the Chinese as the Maiden) seems to cross the Milky Way (which the Chinese called the Bridge of Magpies) and join the star Altair (known as the Cowherd). The myth which explains these stellar movements tells about how the Cowherd and the Maiden were going to be wed. She was so happy she stopped weaving. The Sun-God ordered a flock of magpies to bridge the Heavenly River and ordered the Cowherd to cross to the other side. Now the two only meet once a year on this day, when the Magpies form a bridge for the Maiden to cross. But she cannot do so if it rains, so women pray for clear skies. They also ask the Maiden for skill in needlework and make offerings to her of cakes and watermelons.
Tun Li-Ch’en has a slightly different version of this legend, which he says is often enacted as a play on this holiday. The Spinning Damsel (identified with the constellation Lyra) was banished from Heaven to earth where she met and married the Oxherd (identified with the constellation Aquila). When she was forced to return to Heaven, he tried to follow but was blocked by the Milky Way. Only once a year, when magpies form a bridge over the Milky Way, can they see each other again.
Chang Chin-ju writes that in the Tang dynasty, one Buddhist deity was depicted as a baby holding a lotus flower and laughing. On the seventh of the seventh, which he calls a festival for unmarried women, boys parade through the streets holding lotus flowers. He thought this might be connected to the idea that the lotus (a symbol of fertility because of its many seeds) helps mothers produce boys. Li-Chen records a similar custom on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month (see August 11). My guess is that two holidays are getting confused here. It makes sense that the 7th of the 7th is a festival for unmarried women, whose specialty is needlework (much like St Catherine, patron of spinsters and spinners) while the carrying of the lotus leaf may have more to do with rebirth.
Blackburn, Bonnie & Leofranc Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Byrd, Deborah, “Sky-Watching Center,” www.earthsky.com/features/skywatching
Chang Chin-ju, translated by Jonathan Barnard, “Lotus, Flower of Paradise,” www.sinorama.com.tw/en/8607/607038e3.html
Li-Chen, Tun, translated by Derk Bodde, Annual Customs and Festivals in Peking, Peking: Henri Vetch, 1936
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Remember the ancient ways and keep them sacred!
Live each Season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. ~Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)
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