Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Celtic festival of Lughnasadh

This is the name of the ancient Celtic festival of the harvest. It celebrated the season for gathering the fruits of one's labors; the corn, oats, and grains, and planted summer bounty.
The name is derived from Lugh (pronounced 'loo'), a Celtic deity of light and wisdom. At Lughnasadh, bread from the first harvest was eaten in thanks. It is a time for appreciating what has come to
fruition to nourish and sustain you. A time of Thanksgiving. Baking, sharing, and eating bread is a wonderful way to celebrate this holiday. Even though Lughnasadh occurs at the warmest time of the
year, it marks the time at which days become noticeably shorter and thus is considered the starting point of the autumn quarter of the year. So, this can also be a time to consider which aspects of your
life you wish to preserve and which you would prefer to discard.

One of my favorite scholars and authors on things Celtic is Mara Freeman. The following is excerpted and edited from her explanation of the festival of Lughnasadh.
The Celtic harvest festival on August 1st takes its name from the Irish god Lugh, one of the chief gods of the Tuatha De Danann, an early Irish race. Lugh dedicated this festival to his foster-mother, Tailtiu, the last queen of the Fir Bolg (an earlier Irish race), who died from exhaustion after clearing a great forest so that the land could be cultivated. When the men of Ireland gathered at her death-bed, she told them to hold funeral games in her honor. As long as they were held, she prophesied Ireland would not be without song. Tailtiu’s name is from Old Celtic Talantiu, "The Great One of the Earth," suggesting she may originally have been a personification of the land itself, like so many Irish goddesses. At this time of year the earth gives birth to her first fruits so that her children might live. In later times, the festival of Lughnasadh was christianized as Lammas, from the Anglo-Saxon, hlaf-mas, "Loaf-Mass."
To celebrate Lughnasadh, hugh sporting contests were held on the scale of an early Olympic Games. Artists and entertainers displayed their talents, traders came from far and wide to sell food, farm animals, fine crafts and clothing, and there was much storytelling, music, and high-spirited revelry. In some places, a woman—or an effigy of one—was crowned with summer flowers and seated on a throne, with garlands strewn at her feet. Dancers whirled around her, touching her garlands or pulling off a ribbon for good luck. In this way, perhaps, the ancient goddess of the harvest was still remembered with honor.
Throughout the centuries, the grandeur dwindled away, but all over Ireland, right up to the middle of this century, country-people have celebrated the harvest at revels, wakes, and fairs – and some still continue today in the liveliest manner. It was usually celebrated on the nearest Sunday to August 1st, so that a whole day could be set aside from work. Because Lughnasadh is a celebration of the new harvest, people cooked special ritual and festive meals. Below is a traditional recipe you can make  today.

 The  Lughnasadh Bannock:
In Scotland, the first fruits were celebrated by the making of a 'bonnach lunastain' or Lunasdál bannock, or cake. In later times, the bannock was dedicated to Mary, whose feastday, La Feill Moire, falls on August 15th, two days later than the date of Lammas according to the old reckoning (and also the feast day of Mother Mary's Assumption in Christianity). A beautiful ceremony, which, no doubt, had pagan origins, attended the cutting of the grain (usually oats or bere.) In the early morning, the whole family, dressed in their best, went out to the fields to gather the grain for the ‘Moilean Moire,’ the ‘fatling of Mary.’ They laid the ears on a sunny rock to dry, husked them by hand, winnowed them in a fan, ground them in a quern, kneaded them on a sheepskin, and formed them into a bannock. A fire was kindled of rowan or another sacred wood to toast the bannock, then it was divided amongst the family, who sang a beautiful paean to Mother Mary while they circled the fire in a sunwise direction.
 Here is a modern recipe you can try:
            Pitcaithly Bannock
8 oz flour
4 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
1oz chopped almonds
1oz mixed candied peel
Set oven to 325F/Gas 3. Grease a baking sheet. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the sugar and butter and rub in to form a dough. Add the almonds and mix in the peel, making sure they are evenly distributed. Form into a thick round on a lightly floured surface and prick all over with a fork. Place on the sheet and bake for
about 45-60 minutes. Allow to cool and serve sliced thinly and buttered.
From: Country Cookery - Recipes from Wales by Sian Llewellyn.
© Mara Freeman 1998

Here is a really fantastic website that talks about all things Lughnasadh.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mary Magdalene Feast day

Today, July 22nd, is the Feast day of Mary Magdalene. She is an embodiment of the divine feminine. Not the prostitute of false legend. The Catholic Church declared her a repentant prostitute in the 6th century. In 1969 the Vatican reversed that proclamation. Nevertheless, the erroneous label oftentimes remains attached to Magdalene.

Early Christian writings , the apocryphal writings, reference Mary Magdalene - these are various early Christian writings proposed as additions to the New Testament but rejected as the major canons (the officially accepted books of the Bible). In these writings, Mary Magdalene is depicted as a leader, and the one whom Jesus loved above his other disciples. They call her the apostle of the apostles. Several Gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary written in the early 2nd century, reveal Magdalene as the one Jesus asks to teach the other disciples the unique knowledge he has imparted to her. The canonical Gospels of John and Mark report Magdalene as the first to discover the burial tomb of Jesus to be empty. She is the first to see him and to speak to him after he has risen. Recently discovered ancient literature has led to speculation that Magdalene was a specially instructed disciple who continued to proclaim Jesus' message after his death. There is also evidence that she was the cherished wife of Jesus, and mother to his children, a discovery that many find controversial despite the indications that this is so.

I have listed my favorite writings about Mary Magdalene below. Most are scholarly or research oriented. A few are fictionalized accounts of the recent findings about her. Of note are the works of Margaret Starbird. The information in her book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar transformed my life, and it also changed my husband after he read it. Margaret began this particular book with the intention of disproving the speculations about Mary Magdalene as the special apostle, and the wife of Jesus. Her research convinced her otherwise. Additionally, a wonderful website filled with information on Mary Magdalene can be found at The south of France in particular and even the town of Glastonbury, England, are filled with the history and legend of Mary Magdalene.

On the Isle of Mull of Scotland, in the small village of Dervaig, there is a stained glass window in the Kilmore Church. It is said to be Mary Magdalene and Jesus. A pregnant Mary Magdalene.

Immediately below the stained glass, there is a Gospel text. It reads: "Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her". This statement was made by Christ, and refers to Mary Magdalene. It is found in the Gospel of Luke, ch.10, v.42.

Mary Magdalene - book titles worth looking into.
You may find some of your classic favorites…are there any you’d like to recommend and add to the list?

Holy Blood, Holy Grail - Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln
Mary Magdalene: Beyond the Myth - Esther De Boer
Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus,  Mary Magdalene, and Constantine - Bart D. Ehrman   
The Magdalen Manuscript - Tom Kenyon and Judi Sion
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle - Karen L. King
The Moon Under Her Feet – Clysta Kinstler (a novel)
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene - Jean-Yves LeLoup
The Secret Magdalene - Ki Longfellow   (a novel)
I Remember Union: The Story of Mary Magdalene - Flo Aeveia Magdalena
St. Mary Magdalene - Tau Malachi 
The Church of Mary Magdalene: The Sacred Feminine and the Treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau - Jean Markale
The Expected One and The Book of Love - Kathleen McGowan (novels)
The Gospels of Mary: the Secret Tradition of Mary Magdalene the Companion of Jesus - Marvin Meyer and Esther De Boer
The Woman with the Alabaster Jar: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Grail - Margaret Starbird
(Starbird has also written The Goddess in the Gospels and Magdalene's Lost Legacy and many more.)
The Underground Stream: Esoteric Tarot Revealed - Christine Payne-Towler (emphasis on Gnostic, Holy Blood, Magdalene themes)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Goddess Magic in Avalon: a ritual of re-membering

My newest novel (releases August 1), Carry on the Flame: Destiny's Call Book One, takes place in modern day Glastonbury, England. Glastonbury has also been known through the ages as the mythical Isle of Avalon, the Enchanted Isle, Ynis Witrin, and the Celtic Otherworld. It is indeed an enchanted land of rejuvenation and regeneration. Some even say the legendary King Arthur sleeps the peace of death there, waiting for the right time to return. With mystery and magic, Glastonbury calls out to many of us to re-member. To come together again and embrace the divine feminine, as well as the sacred feminine modalities that exist within all of us, man or woman. These include the qualities of being receptive to inner wisdom, authority, and guidance, but even more so the alchemical power of love inherent in our very cells. The Holy Grail. This is the divinity in matter; embodied love.

I was introduced to Glastonbury when I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s classic novel The Mists of Avalon. I fell in love with Marion’s depiction of Avalon, particularly the holy well we now call Chalice Well. When I became ill in the 1990’s and was off work, I took the opportunity to move to England. I lived in Glastonbury for 13 months and quickly discovered that Glastonbury is no ordinary town in the Somerset plains of England. I invite you to explore the true nature of Glastonbury and its Chalice Well with me. It is Glastonbury’s heart that I most want to share with you.

This primordial wellspring has been venerated for eons. Its red tinged waters are not only curative but also considered potent transducers of the spiritual energy of the land. Legends have grown and have been forgotten over the centuries, each in their time claiming the fabled wellspring as their own. The most recent legend, two thousand years old, speaks of a chalice – Jeshua the Christ’s drinking cup from his Last Supper, the one used to collect his blood as he died on the cross. The chalice was said to be buried by the well, thus giving the wellspring its contemporary name of ‘Chalice Well.’ Christian accounts blended with the Arthurian romances of the Middle Ages, to leave their mark on Glastonbury. King Arthur and his adored Guinevere were said to have been buried on the grounds of the nearby Glastonbury Abbey ruins located in the center of the town. Despite the romantic and Christian overlay, I feel the innate heart of Glastonbury belongs most to those who see and feel the Goddess present in the natural features of the land itself. (Kathy Jones, the local Goddess historian in Avalon, has authored many books on the subject of the Goddess in Glastonbury).

While living there and visiting the gardens nearly every day, I experienced inspiring dreams and waking visions. I studied the folklore and legend, and its sacro-magical knowledge. And during that time, I began to write my Goddess of the Stars and the Sea series about priestesses who had lived in Glastonbury, the ancient isle of Avalon, throughout its history. Because this land and its sacred sites captivated my heart, my soul, and my imagination, Glastonbury’s Chalice Well Gardens provides the setting for much of my new novel, Carry on the Flame.

Though I am back in the USA now, I remain entranced with these sacred sites of Avalon – not only the Chalice Well Gardens, but also the mysterious conical hill called by the Celtic name the ‘Tor.’ My Goddess of the Stars and the Sea novels are imbued with the transformative energy of the Goddess in this land. She is the evolutionary force of embodied love. And I believe love embodied is the way forward for humankind during the dark and troubling times of today’s world.

So, I invite you to explore Avalon and see what it ignites within you through my two minute video, Goddess Magic in Avalon: a ritual of re-membering. In the video you will ‘take a walk’ through these legendary gardens as well as the mysterious Tor hill, accompanied by the ancient call of my “Avalon Priestess” poem, and evocative music.

After you watch my video, please do let me know of your experiences and what it ignites within you. Please leave a comment here on my blog, or let me know your experiences via my Facebook author page, and feel free to share it with people you think would enjoy it, too.

Enjoy the ritual of this multi-sensory video experience!

Friday, July 15, 2011

If you create the space the muse will come

I don’t write every day. I write most days. And I have written eight or more hours a day for days in a row when inspiration comes strongly. That creative inspiration can be all consuming...and I love that feeling, that passion, that juiciness!

I find this quote from Joseph Campbell crucial to the days I write:

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don't know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe
anybody, you don't know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative
incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

And this gem  from Jan Phillips always inspires me:
I believe from her book entitled, "Marry Your Muse" c 2002
 The Artist's Creed
I believe I am worth the time it takes to create
    whatever I feel called to create.

I believe that my work is worthy of its own space,
    which is worthy of the name Sacred.

I believe that, when I enter this space,
 I have the right to work in silence, uninterrupted,
    for as long as I choose.

I believe that the moment I open myself to the gifts of the Muse,
       I open myself to the Source of All creation
   and become One With the Mother of Life Itself.

I believe that my work is joyful, useful and constantly changing,
 flowing through me like a river with no beginning and no end.

I believe that what it is I am called to do will make itself known
    when I have made myself ready.

I believe that the time I spend creating my art is as precious
    as the time I spend giving to others.

I believe that what truly matters in the making of art
 is not what the final piece looks like or sounds like,
    not what it is worth or not worth,
but what newness gets added to the universe
in the process of the piece itself becoming.

I believe that I am not alone in my attempts to create,
and that once I begin the work, settle into the strangeness,
the words will take shape, the form find life, and the spirit take flight.

I believe as the Muse gives to me, so does she deserve from me:
    faith, mindfulness and enduring commitment.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mar - What are the origins of the word sea?

My novels are part of the Goddess of the Stars and the Sea series. Though this Goddess's name, and the inspiration for the title of my book series came through inspiration, it seems this is no accident.The word sea has several language roots. Mar, mer, and mari all mean the sea. In Latin, the word mare means the sea. Think of all of the modern words derived from these roots - mermaid, marina, marine, to name a few. Now, put these word roots and their meanings together and you will find some fascinating legend and historical correlates.

+Mari  is one of the most ancient names of the Goddess. It means Mother Sea.
+Stella Maria means Star of the Sea. It is the epithet of the goddesses Isis, Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus, Mari-Anna, and the Virgin Mary

+In legend, Stella Maria's star was Venus or Sirius (I have also seen it as listed as the Pleiades, and that is the star formation featured in my novels).
+Stella Maria is often depicted as dressing in a blue robe with pearly foam edging.

+Mari-Anna also means Sea Goddess and Ishtar.
+Stella Maris is the title that first belonged to Ishtar. She was known as the Goddess of the Sea, Lady of Compassion, Provider, Protector, Regeneratrix, Keeper of the Mysteries, and the one who manifested as Magdalene.
+Mari-Ishtar anointed, or Christened, her doomed god Tammuz when he went to the underworld where he would rise again at her bidding. That is to say, she made him a Christed one. Anointing is symbolic of Sacred Marriage.

+The ancient title of the North Star was Stella Maris, Star of the sea, Star of love, Star of Compassion.
+The root of the name Mary means love, compassion, giving, flowing, and also sea.

The Tarot Star depicts stars that pour out the water of Life, revering the earth.
Tara means star (White Tara, Irish Tara).

What fascinating connections!
Goddess of the Stars and the Sea
from the book cover of The Awakening: Rebirth of Atlantis by Jodine Turner

Christal Banister artist.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Love is an infinite Sea whose skies are a bubble of foam.
Know that it is the waves of Love that turn the wheels of Heaven,
Without Love, nothing in the world would have life.
How is an inorganic thing transformed into a plant?
How are plants sacrificed to become rich with spirit?
How is spirit sacrificed to become Breath,
One scent is potent enough to make Mary pregnant?
Every single atom is drunk on this Perfection and runs towards It
And what does this running secretly say but " Glory be to God."

~Rumi (from Andrew Harvey "Light upon Light")

A beautiful poem. My Goddess of the Stars and the Sea novels resonate with its message. 
I'll share the early meanings of the word 'sea' in my next post. It's quite fascinating!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Return of the Black Madonna - alchemy of the heart

Every archetype has its seasons. They come and go according to the deepest, often unconscious, needs of the psyche both personal and collective. Today the Black Madonna is returning." - Matthew Fox, "Return Of The Black Madonna," 2006

The Black Madonna, a centuries old icon, can be seen in churches throughout Europe and even in North America. She is the representation of the Divine Feminine as the Divine Mother of transformation. She holds human suffering in the alchemy of Her heart. She is in the trenches with humanity - loving, inspiring, nourishing, promoting growth and change in all of us. She is the divinity inherant in our bodies, in all physical matter.

I have visited the sites of many Black Madonnas - in France, Ireland, England, Italy. One of my favorite is the Black Madonna of Oropa, high in the mountains of northern Italy. See a photo of Her, and read more about her here:

Friday, July 1, 2011

free gift- Womb Meditation

I’d like to offer you a free gift.

My Womb Meditation is an introduction to working with the power of your womb space, (the fire in your belly if you are a man), as a profound connection to the Goddess of the Stars and the Sea, the evolutionary force of embodied love. The therapeutic tones of the meditation’s background music resonate specifically with this intention.

Enjoy, and let me know how you like the meditation!