Rubens take on Ops

Rubens: Abundance

Last night we did our Lughnassadh, only we did it as a Roman festival to Ops Mater. For years we’ve celebrated Lughnasa as the death and rebirth of the Corn King– John Barleycorn must die and all that. But since we’ve learned that this is totally wrong, I’ve felt even more disconnected from my Celtic heritage than ever.  I am hoping that my last remaining Celtic holiday, Samhain, isn’t going to be more of the same as in– everything I know is wrong, I’ve been celebrating wrongly all these years with messed up ideas based on bad research by spotty authors who led us all astray en masse. Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasa– they’re all dead to me in the face of superior research. So what to do but look for Roman equivalents? If I can’t be a proper neo-Celtic pagan, and it seems pretty conclusive that I can’t, I can at least embrace my Western European Classic heritage.

So, Ops. We did our very best to construct an ADF style ritual, following the Core Order of Ritual, to this Sabine goddess of abundance, fertility and wealth. A Chthonic deity, she was at one time the leading goddess of the Sabines. There were two festivals for her in August, one on August 10th and another on the 25th, as well as a third in December. The Consus in OpiConsivia is a god who protects grain storehouses, especially underground ones.

The ritual itself was cobbled together from extant Roman ADF rituals on the website and prayers to Ops found there and elsewhere. We got the nine of pentacles/disks as our omen, an excellent omen for this ritual and one that greatly cheered up everyone present. I wish we would have had more music, but skipping the whole John Barleycorn/lord of the harvest theme made modern pagan music very difficult to find. Even the folksongs that we know, such as “Band o’ Shearers”, aren’t really the right flavor. Maybe by next year I’ll have found something different.

Some of my adjustment to ADF has been very rugged. The worst of it has been realizing my lack in things Celtic. But we move on, learn and grow. Ah, what the heck. Have a Band o’ Shearers on me! 😉


Happy Summer Solstice

The sun behind the Heel Stone at Stonehenge, s...

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Like its winter counterpart, Summer Solstice is a holiday that has been celebrated around the world since pre-Christian times. In the Christian era it became St. John’s day, but many of the traditions remain. Bonfires to ward off malignant spirits because the veil is thin, purification rituals, gathering of medicinal plants at their prime, all-night parties that start as vigils and end as revels.

Neopagans sometimes call this holiday Litha, after the Anglo-Saxon month that coincided with this time of year.  And because of Shakespeare, we all think of fairies on Midsummer, and delirious dreams and delights and tricks. It is perhaps another interpretation of the veil between worlds being thin, not only the veil between the spirit world and ours but also the fairy realm and ours as well.

I’ve been interested in the discussion going around various places about just what “midsummer” means. I’ve always read in scholarly sources that this is an Middle English usage of  “mid”, meaning “with” instead of the more usual “in the middle of”. Midwife has similar roots. This does not stop people from coming up with the most convoluted theories involving Celts, Astronomy, planting schedules and the like. I think in this particular case Occam’s razor is the way to go.

Even so, it is the middle of the long days and short nights time of year even if it isn’t the middle of summer. I live far enough south that this isn’t quite the same effect as it is in more northern latitudes, and so the inevitable mourning about the coming loss of sun is less sharp for me.  The shortening days are less a dramatic fading away and more of a subtle muting. I do very much miss the midsummer moon of my childhood in the north, though. The moonlight would be almost blindingly brilliant and make everything look so strange and high contrast. I could imagine fairies dancing in that sparkling moonlight world very easily.

For us, this is the beginning of the end of the nice weather, the entry into the time long, hot days that will burn out the garden and violent storms that punish the earth more than cool it. We’re entering a fallow time here, and that makes it almost upside down compared to my friends a little further north. Already we’ve eaten beans and the last of the cucumbers and radishes for now. We’ll have to wait for cooler weather to plant again.

It’s a good time to eat ripe summer fruit, stay up late to look at the stars, and let lazy dreams carry away the afternoon doldrums.  We’ll clear away the old vines and plan what we’ll do next.


Some people struggle with Imbolc. I struggle with Eostara. It seems to me to be one of the most muddled up days on the Pagan Wheel of the Year, followed closely by Litha. Why what should be fairly straightforward holidays of the equinoxes turn into such hot messes is a little beyond me. Eostara’s simply the beginning of Spring, Litha is Autumn (or vice versa if you’re southern hemisphere). And yet the myth-cycle seems to be weakest and the least supported for these holidays than anywhere else.

The other two “astronomical” holidays, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, Midsummer and Yule, seem to fare a little better.  I think that this is because Midsummer and Yule have been celebrated in popular culture fairly steadily. Like Halloween, they’re easier to Grok than the most esoteric holidays.

Easter muddies the waters with its eggs and bunnies and risen Christ. Everyone wants to find some convenient pagan correlate for each and every Easter symbol, until we’re buried under a bunch of junk from several different cultures all stirred together into Pagan Chinese Menu tradition. Pick one from column A and two from column B and a craft project from the grab bag, and poof, you have ritual!

I’m sorry that I’m more than a little cranky about it. I thought about celebrating Quinquartria, Minerva’s birthday at this holiday to have a hearth culture tie-in. But Minerva’s birthday isn’t a good correlation with Oestara, however seasonally appropriate it is. Lupercalia is probably closer, with its emphasis on fertility and such.

Ah well. For all of you celebrating Eostara, instead of being cranky about it, I hope you had a lovely beginning of spring.


Lots of people have been talking about the Imbolc/sheep/in the belly/of the milk thing recently, and also bemoaning that early February doesn’t seem much like “Spring”. I think I might be able to sort this out a little bit.

First off, a sign of impending Spring doesn’t mean that Spring is here now, it means that Spring is on its way. If you look, you can see signs that let you know that it won’t be long until it’s Spring. Here’s where the sheep come in. Sheep typically give birth in the Northern Hemisphere in March. In February, the pregnant ewes start developing the mammary tissue that they’ll need to support their lambs once they’re born. The lambs aren’t here yet, Spring isn’t here. Yet there’s a tiny hint in the changes in the ewes’ bellies to let you know warmer times are on the way.

If you’re a gardener, it’s like having peat pots in the greenhouse. You know the seeds are in there. You can’t see them, but you water them and care for them and keep them warm and safe until it’s time to put the seedlings out. There’s something truly delightful in those early days. It’s liminal time, when anything is possible and the world holds its breath for a moment in expectation of things to come.

Liminal time can be uncomfortable because it’s neither one thing nor the other. These are very powerful moments. You can learn a lot in liminal moments, or you can rush through them as quickly as possible to try to minimize the discomfort. There is great possibility for communing with the Divine in liminal times. And really, no amount of rushing or fussing will make Spring come faster.

Happy Imbolc!