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March 20, 2015 Spring Equinox
Feb. 4 Imbolc (Entering Spring, Ipchun) blessings!
JANUARY 6TH – FEAST OF THE GODDESS PERCHTA
BEAUTIFUL LADY OF LIGHT and HIDEOUS PROTECTOR HAG by Diane Horton
Deep in the bitterly freezing winter, in the domain of the Southern Germanic Tribes, when you wrapped yourself in everything you could find to maintain some inner body heat, including cloaks you had spun for yourself and your family, and animal skins, when you prayed that the amount of food you were able in the summer and fall to hunt, forage, raise, dry and cure would last until the spring, when shamanic ritual was used to both protect and make well your body and mind, there lived the Goddess Perchta.
Perchta (or Berchta) means “Bright One, “Shining One” and “Bride of the Sun”. She is the fire in the winter. She is the Light returning at the Solstice, and as such is a Sun Goddess. She is Goddess Mother who taught spinning and weaving. She is wild and a shape shifter. She has one foot which is a swan or goose foot which remains so always. She is the Guardian of Animals, the Lady of the Beasts. She is associated particularly with wolves, black and gray dogs, and the snowy barn owl. People see her as white, wearing a white cloak, having long, flowing white hair, floating or drifting across the fields like a mist. Perchta came to Her people to protect them from death by cold and by hunger, both of which were yearly dangers.
Some consider Holda (Holle or Hulda) her Sister in the Northern Germanic Tribes. Holda’s festival began on the 24th of December and went for 12 days until January 6th. January 6th was Perchta’s festival day. But before the uniting of the Germanic tribes, Perchta’s festival time was in all the days between the Solstice and the 6th of January. Perchta is a Goddess of the Place In-Between. The time between the longest, darkest night and the time when the sun could actually be seen to be making the light of the day longer. During that time of spiritual danger, Perchtenlauf was enacted, and still is to this day. It is believed to have been continuously performed at this time of year since before history began to be recorded in that region. There are two types of “perchten” – the good and beautiful, enacted by women with wooden masks portraying beauty, and the frightening, terrible perchten enacted by men with hideous wooden masks with fangs and horns. During the nights of this post-Solstice time, the men with the hideous masks will go through people’s homes scaring away all possible evil spirits and then the women will come through and bless the houses. It is thought to be a time when spirits are abroad because it is also the time of The Wild Hunt. Perchta leads The Wild Hunt, gathering all the spirits of those who have died that year and driving them to the Other World. She flies through the skies with the moaning and wailing spirits trailing behind her. She also gathers to her the souls of unbaptized children and babies and carries them tenderly, lovingly to Her beautiful place to protect them and give them an eternal home. It is speculated that this annual ritual of Perchtenlauf is a remnant of an ancient shamanic initiation ritual, of which there is no information remaining. Such a powerful representation of the Light and the Dark Goddess Mother, who banishes dangers and takes into her care those innocents who die so young!
Frau Perchta very specifically insists that fish and dumplings be eaten on her day, January 6th to honor Her. When people did, they were blessed, and when they did not, the story was Perchta would come in their sleep and split them open, take out their entrails and stuff their belly with straw and pebbles. She wasn’t fooling around. The same fate awaited those who were not industrious, kind and loving, and women who neglected their spinning. To those who are good and faithful, Perchta appears as a beautiful Goddess of Light blessing them with good health and prosperity. Often they would find a silver coin in a bucket or in a shoe the next day. To the evil-hearted, deceitful and wicked, Perchta appears as a ferocious demon with fangs, horns and a wild eye. In that shape, She will always protect Her people from harm, both physical and spiritual.
In the time between the Solstice and Jan 6th, there were days of both fasting and feasting. Today is Perchta’s feast day. In later years, pancakes were prepared and eaten on Perchta’s feast day and special care was taken to make a plate for her and leave it outside.
May we all behold The Shining One today, coming to us all in winter white, bearing loving gifts of good health and prosperity for this New Year! Blessed Be!
c. Diane Horton 2014
Fashioning Wreaths (A Solstice Poem)
Fashioning wreaths for our lost dreams
(dead lovers all),
We utter prayers through spinster lips
too parched to cry.
Remembering what brought
Us to this mourning place,
As chill winds all around whisper,
“Wrap your wounds in moist and
Fertile soil as you sift through ruins
For possibilities not yet decayed.”
Our gathering receptacles are full,
Still, we cannot change the past
And turn to face the Dark Side of the Moon…
Soul on ice, can this be Light,
Elusive Conqueror of Dark?
Sing ye “Hark!” as Sol does rise
Reclaimer of the Northern skies.
Sing, also, “Joy on Earth! “ in praise of Sun’s rebirth.
Jenna Farr Ludwig
The Longest Night…
I am a child of Winter.
I was the second child in my family born on December 25.
My mother had years of traditions that placed Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and two birthday cakes with separate birthday presents on Christmas morning.
Yet, what I honor and love is the longest night of the year, the Blessed Winter Solstice
My time was spent at a grandmothers home tucked into a tiny town in the Wisconsin countryside
Resting on the shores of a beloved lake, usually semi frozen
Water in any form is my element.
We were far from artificial light that dims the night sky and stars from view. I could see them all on a clear night.
Cold with sometimes fallen snow, I simply was bundled to stay outside on this treasured night.
If cloudy, my love and awe were not dampened.
I have cherished this dark all of my life.
Others will celebrate a birth tonight,
I start that tomorrow, revering both Mother and child.
This is my tradition.
I claim it as only my own.
I light no candles.
No fires are burned.
Know this night on its own terms. It needs no illumination. That time will come soon enough.
If I must , I speak only in whispers.
Better to hear the silence.
No rush, no hurry, just being enveloped by that which is wrongly declared hostile.
This is my home.
Give me a north wind with many long winter nights.
I will relish them until I no longer exist.
For in this night, in this darkness, a hibernation of the senses,
I meet my soul from a time I have yet to know.
She is old, wearing life on her face,
always fierce, sometimes stark,
I love her deeply.
She can be found here, on this, the longest night.
Blessings to all
Christmas, the birth of Christ
from the “virgin” Mary
has nothing to do with me
as a crowning occurs
between my two bent legs
nine months later after
my egg procured sperm
Source: Welcoming, Inanna Publications (2009).
This Christmas I got… hives
an allergic response
to this patriarchal, capitalist celebration
Lying down on the couch today
peering out the large class doors of my balcony
I see a huge cloud picture
of a woman lying down
with orange sunlight shining through
the sky trying to cheer me up
on this 8th day of Soulstice
Previously published posts in Return to Mago:(Essay) The Divine Mother and the Holy Child: The Inner Meaning of Christmas by Harita Meenee