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Cold and Snowy Imbolc 2012

Monday, February 6th, 2012

On a cold and snowy day Hollow Hills Grove met to celebrate the festival of Imbolc, the feast day of the goddess Brighid.

This time of year is the time the sheep are giving birth and things are starting to stir within the earth. Ewes are lactating and this means that cheese and butter can be made and even though there are several weeks of winter left to survive, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is a time of increase.

Brighid is a Gaelic goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft and she is associated with holy wells and sacred flames. She is also a goddess of childbirth. In Ireland there are many holy wells dedicated to her and her fire centre is located in Kildare Ireland where a flame is kept lit and is tended for her.
Her association with candles, warmth and fires reminds us that spring is on its way and the sun will gently warm the earth soon.

We have the ritual indoors at the hearth to honour Brighid.

Hollow Hills Grove celebrates Brighid with offerings of butter, cream, whiskey and Guiness, which are traditional offerings. Also handmade items, stories and songs are also appropriate offerings to this goddess of creativity.

One of the traditions that Hollow Hills grove follows is the ritual of the Brighid’s Mantle (or Brighid’s Cloak or Brat Bhride ). We believe that if you hang the mantle outside over the night on Imbolc Eve, Brighid will come and bless the mantle with healing and protective powers for the coming year. We use a white cotton cloth and tear strips from it to give to Grove attendees and friends to use for their healing needs. We burn the old strips of cloth from the previous year.


Our lightly snow covered Brighid's Mantle hanging on a tree branch

As you can see, we didn’t expect to have a snowy Brighid’s Mantle this year, but we had two inches of snow overnight.

The omen for this ritual from the Wildwood Tarot was particularly good:

From the Nature Spirits we drew the card HARE

The meaning of this card is a beginning of a new cycle as indicated by the egg and hare depicted on the card. It also means an early start (we had an early start to spring that quickly ended with the snow!) and new beginnings. It also represents new growth.

From the Ancestors we drew the card WOODPECKER

The meaning of this card is a mystery heard but not seen and things hidden which we will discover. This omen is indicated by the green woodpecker depicted on the card. The green woodpecker seems more rare than it is because of its ability to hide in the trees.

From the Deities the card we drew was STOAT

This card represents renewal of an alert determination and realignment with the sacred will of the land. It also means secrecy and magical sensitivity and playfulness.The stoat has an ability to slip out of situations. This bright yellow and sunny card really seemed to represent the spirit of Imbolc.

All the attendees agreed that this ritual felt like a new and fresh beginning and the shedding of an unsatisfying recent past.

After the ritual we feasted and sat in front of the warm fireplace thanking the Kindred for our blessings.

Making Brighid’s Crosses

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Every year as a part of our Imbolc celebrations, Hollow Hills Grove makes Brighid’s Crosses. These are made to honour the Irish Celtic Goddess Brigit, Brid or Brighid, the Goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing. She is a hearth goddess and a goddess of the home. Brighid’s Holy Wells can be found in many places in the British Isles and Ireland, although her most famous is in Kildare. She is also the patroness of farm work and cattle, and protector of the household from fire and calamity. Brighid’s crosses are made to protect the house from fire and are a potent talisman.

The class starts with a practice session and we make our Brighid’s Crosses with straws. They are more pliable than the wheat we use, and it makes it easier to get a feel for how to form the crosses.

Practice Four Armed Cross Made of Straws

We get our materials from a local thatcher, which is a great way to use what remains of his inventory.

We soak the wheat in warm water until it becomes pliable and then we are taught how to weave three armed and four armed crosses. with and without wheat heads.

Three and Four Armed Brighid's Crosses

Christians consider Brighid’s crosses to be a Christian symbol, but it also resembles and possibly derives from the pagan sun wheel. Traditionally the cross is made from rushes or straw.

We hang our crosses in our homes after we bless them at our Imbolc ritual (this year Sunday February 5th – email us if you wish to attend!) to protect us until the next year.

Feeding the Nature Spirits

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Druids of Hollow Hills Grove got together and made suet and peanut butter treats for birds and other wildlife.

The Nature Spirits are very important to us as a Grove and many of us have gardens and/or live near woodland or parks. In this cold and dark time of the year, the birds, foxes and squirrels need high energy food to get them through the rest of the winter.

The Nature Spirits are those that swim, crawl, fly or walk on the earth. They are both seen an unseen. At every Hollow Hills Grove ritual we honour the nature spirits with offerings and other praise.

We combined melted suet with seeds, raisins, and mealworms to create a variety of treats that the animals could enjoy.

Once supplies are bought, the end result is a higher quality suet block than can be bought in the store and is it also cost effective – buying seeds in bulk as well as your own suet is cheaper than buying the ready made suet blocks at the garden centre. Plus, you have the satisfaction of having made them yourself.

Melting the suet and mixing in seeds is very easy and the end result sets quickly in the refrigerator and should be stored in a cool place.

We talked about the different birds and the kinds of food they like to eat. Some are seed eaters, some eat fruit, some eat dried and fresh worms. Some birds are not picky at all and will eat a little of each of those. Depending on the types of seeds you get will determine the kinds of birds you will attract.

Foxes have a sweet tooth and love raisins and peanuts.

Squirrels love monkey nuts, hazel nuts and other nuts you may have on hand.

In the end, we made 10 pine cones coated with peanut butter and nuts, 6 bread sticks covered with peanut butter and seeds and 13 suet and seed/insect/raisin blocks. They worked out well, and we all have enough food for the birds and other creatures for the rest of the winter.

November Blessing Rite

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

The Druids of Hollow Hills Grove met for our first monthly Blessing Rite. We have just started doing these and will do one each month in addition to our High Day rituals and Arts and Lore meetings.

Our Blessing Rites are a bit different than the High Day rituals. They are more casual and will give people a chance to meet us without all the stress of the normal preparations for the High Days. It will also be a a time when attendees can honour a Nature Spirit, Ancestor or Deity of their choice by drinking a toast to them and then inviting them into the sacred space.

I toasted fox, my grandmother and the Goddess Hecate. I toasted fox because he has been a totem animal for the last 5 years. I toasted my grandmother because she lived a full and exciting life and taught me to treat people well for who they are and not the colour of their skin, their sexuality or their religion. I toasted the Greek goddesss Hekate because she is the keeper of the keys and lady of the crossroads. She is helping me open doors and explore a path that is important to me. We drank our toasts from a horn – and the toasts and drinking was with cherry cider. Other people toasted and honoured an Ancestor, a Nature Spirit and a Deity as well.

We also have a chance to put a candle or talisman on the altar and bless it – I used a candle shaped like a butterfly to represent me and some changes I am going through. Other people brought candles and talismans. We raised and directed energy into the items with a Tibetan Bell.

Our omens for this ritual were as follows (Kevin read from the Wildwood Tarot):

Nature Spirits
Six of Wands – Harvest
A gift of fruitfulness from the Nature Spirits, together with a reminder that we can only continue to take from Nature if we also give to Nature.

Seven of Stones – Healing
The spiritual influence of the Ancestors will help to heal any physical or emotional sickness.

Ace of Cups – Waters of Life
The ancient wisdom is available to us, and will sustain us spiritually, as water sustains life.

It was a low key evening and we were able to honour those that mean a lot to us as well as ask from return blessings from the Three Kindreds. We will be doing this monthly and hope you will join us!

Samhain 2011

Monday, November 14th, 2011

The Druids of Hollow Hills Grove met on a moonlit night to honour the Irish Celtic Goddess, The Morrighan. The Morrighan is a complex goddess of death, sovereignty, prophecy, and sex. She is the Goddess who can be with you at the moment of death to help you transition to the Otherworld. She often appears in the form of a raven or a crow and will appear on the battlefield to take warriors “home” to the Otherworld. She’s a perfect goddess for this time of year – the time of year when we honour both our ancestors and the veterans (alive and dead) of war.

In addition to her life transitional aspects, she also, as a goddess of sovereignty can be seen to give aid to kings/rulers and as a goddess of the land because of her connection to cattle – the most important livestock to the early Celts. To the Celts cattle were a form of money and many great battles were fought over cattle.

To praise The Morrighan we gave her poppy seeds (as a symbol of death and the Otherworld in many cultures, and because we have given them to her in previous rituals and she seemed to like the offering!) , Guinness, whiskey, and butter (to honour her connection to cattle). Offerings were given, poems were read and The Morrighan was honoured. Also honoured were personal deities, the Nature Spirits, and Ancestors.

Hollow Hills Grove Samhain Altar With Offerings 12 November 2011

As a part of every ritual we take an omen by various means. The seer for our ritual was Kevin and he used the Greenwood Tarot.

We received the following messages:

From the Nature Spirits
King of Cups – Reindeer

The card shows two reindeer between them is a shelter made from bones and hide and a patch of fly agaric mushrooms. The card illustrates our dependence on nature and recalls the harsh time of the Ice Age when our ancestors depended totally on the natural world for food, clothing, and shelter. Shamans used to drink the urine of the reindeer after it had eaten fly argaric mushrooms in order to obtain the hallucinogenic effect without suffering the toxins which the reindeer could break down.
The message is that we still depend on the natural world for survival and that we should remember this and take care of our environment.

From the Ancestors
King of Arrows – Lynx

The card shows an adult and a juvenile lynx. The lynx is a fierce protector of its young.

The message is that we must remember the lessons learned from the Ancestors and the protection we enjoy because of sacrifices made on our behalf.

From the Deities
Six of Wands – Harvest

The card shows an abundant selection of fruits and nuts (hazelnuts, acorns, apples, blackberries, elderberries, rowan berries.)

This is a time of harvest and the message is that if we have planted wisely, our present situation is a result of our previous actions.

This gives us much to ponder until the next High Day rite.

In front of the warming fire, we shared hot mulled wine as our Waters of Life, which is where we asked for a boon or blessing from the Kindred in return for the gifts and offerings we freely gave.

We also did an Ancestor’s litany where we recited the names of loved ones or admired ones who have gone before and rang a bell after each name was mentioned. This solemn ceremony was a simple but effective way for us to connect with those who have gone before.

We ended our ritual with everyone feeling closer to one another and we also learned a lot about one another. We praised the Kindreds and we received their blessings in return. Isn’t this what it is all about?

Candle Making 101

Monday, May 9th, 2011

On April 9th members and friends of Hollow Hills Grove got together to learn to make basic candles. The class was taught by Kevin. Not only is he our webmaster, he also makes great candles! We can use these candles for persnal use and also for upcoming rituals.

Kevin took us through the many steps involved in basic candle making.
He started off by explaining all of the different types of wax, moulds (plastic, silicone, and metal), colours, scents, wicks and wick bases. He even gave us money making tips for making our own moulds and holders.

We melted wax in a double boiler over an electric single burner hob.

Then we started the slow process of filling the moulds with the coloured and scented liquid wax.

Kevin taught us several ways of adding wicks and wick bases.

In all, we were each able to make several small candles in various sizes, colours and scents to take home. We even made some floating candles!

Soon, we will be having an “advanced class” to teach us other techniques!

Hollow Hills Spring Equinox Ritual 2011

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Hollow Hills Grove held their Spring Equinox ritual on Sunday 27th March in honour of Ostara.

Held outside, with warm, spring-like weather gracing our ritual, we began with offerings of oats to the Earth Mother and mead to Wodanaz, anglo-saxon god of poetry.

Outsiders were gifted ale in return for non-interference of our workings, and the sacred fire, well and tree were given incense, a crystal and cider respectively.

Our chosen gatekeeper was Heimdall, dweller at the Rainbow Bridge, who was offered mead, and next the three kindreds were welcomed in and given seeds and mead.

Ostara, our chosen deity of the occasion, was also offered mead, and during our personal offerings she was given chocolate rabbits (in lieu of finding chocolate hares!) as a token symbol of her leporid companion.

The Druid Oracle was used for our interpretive omen and the following cards were drawn:

Nature spirits: Adder – named Nathair, representing transformation, healing and life energy. Druids sometimes called the adder, Nathar, and in Ireland it was thought that the term “snakes” referred to the indigenous Pagan inhabitants, whom St Patrick converted to Christianity, thus “driving out the snakes from Ireland”. Snakes are totems of the earth goddess and sky god.

Ancestors: Salmon – named Bradan, the salmon represents knowledge, wisdom and inspiration. The salmon was regarded as very sacred and teaches us to recapitulate our lives to find wisdom with an attitude of openness and innocence, rather than with strong-headed determination.

Pantheon: Fire Dragon – named Draig-tein, the fire dragon represents transmutation, mastery and energy. The fire dragon brings us vitality, enthusiasm and courage – fuelling the inner fire to accomplish tasks.

After sharing the waters of life, our magical working was the dying of eggs. Eggs represent new life, as heralded by the coming of Spring, with the vibrant colours reflecting the new, fresh blooms becoming evident around us after a long period of dark, grey, brown stillness.

Our magical eggs.

Our Spring Equinox altar.

Imbolc 2011

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Hollow Hills Imbolc ritual dedicated to Brigit was held on Sunday 6th February 2011, with 3 full grove members and 3 guests present. As is usual for our Imbolc ritual, we held it inside, before a blazing open log fire.

Opening the ritual with an offering to the Earth Mother of flowers, we then called upon Brigid, in her Goddess of Creativity aspect, to bestow bardic assistance upon us and offered her whiskey poured upon the fire.

Whiskey was offered to honour the fire, as well as Ogma, our chosen gate-keeper, and the three kindreds. The Outsiders were given beer, taken into the garden, in the hopes of leaving us in peace during the rite, and a crystal offered to honour the sacred well, and flaked barley for the sacred tree.

The omen was drawn from the Green Man Tree Oracle deck, which was a brand new deck, never used before. The three cards drawn were as follows:

Nature spirits: Holly – symbolising passions fuelling action and heeding us to temper passion into a useful, positive action, rather than letting one’s heart rule one’s head in a negative manner, and to consider the implications of our actions.

Ancestors: Birch – birch tells us that foundations are important and if we make a good start with whatever we undertake, the outcome will be our desired result. Birch drives out negative spirits enabling us to make a fresh start – appropriate for spring as this is the time of new beginnings.

Deities: Willow – this represents harmony, flow, vitality, connectivity and inspiration. The deities are telling us to be connected to them, and each other, and the world around us, and to access inspiration and be transformed. Another very apt card as Brigid is also a goddess of inspiration.

Our formal work was the welcoming of Brigid into our homes, and to accept a piece of Brigid’s blessed mantle. We asked for healing for loved ones, and protection for those about to enter perilous situations.

The ritual complete, deities and spirits thanked, we headed towards our regular post-rite feast to enjoy the company of friends once again.

Yule 2010

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

On 18th December 2010, Hollow Hills celebrated the Winter Solstice with Slavic deities for the ritual.

Our honoured deity for the occasion was Dažbog, a Slavic solar deity, a very apt choice in welcoming the return of the sun. The ritual was held inside, in front of a blazing log fire, also very traditionally symbolic at Yule in welcoming heat and light back to the earth and into our lives.

Perun, Slavic god of thunder and lightning,  was invited to be our gatekeeper, Mokosh, goddess of fertility, shearing, spinning and weaving, was chosen to represent Mother Earth. Domoviye (singular: domovoi) were also honoured, as these are house spirits in Slavic folklore, typically represented as small masculine beings, often completely covered in hair.

Offerings of Polish vodka were given, and members made Yule pomanders from oranges and cloves as tributes to the sun-god.

The weather over the Yule period was extremely cold and harsh, with severe snowfall in many parts of the UK. However, a few days after our ritual, the snow began to melt and temperatures rose slightly. Perhaps we can take this as a sign from Dažbog that our offerings were accepted and in return he has graced us with the first tendrils of warmth dispersing the icy chills of winter?

Samhain 2010

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

23rd october 2010 saw the Hollow Hills Samhain celebration taking place. On a beautiful full moonlit evening, members and guests gathered at 7.30pm to honour The Morrigan, Phantom Queen, Goddess of battle, strife and fertility, as well as to pay homage to our ancestors – those who have gone before us, imparting wisdom and knowledge to those that follow through the ages.

We began with a prayer and offering of Indian corn to the earth, followed by whiskey for Ogma, who was our requested bardic assistant for the ritual. Ale was given to the outsiders, and Lugh was called upon to act as gatekeeper.

The kindreds, ancestors and deities were offered whiskey with offerings including cream, pumpkin seeds and butter presented to The Morrigan. Our formal working was in the form of wishes which were written onto paper and placed in a Jack Pumpkinhead wicker man, constructed by Kevin and Doreen. This wicker man was then burnt, and the wishes carried into the night to be received by the deities and hopefully borne into fruition within the coming year.

The omen was read using tarot cards and were as follows:

Nature Spirits – (first card) 3 of arrows (swords) – representing jealousy, negativity. After more offerings were made, a second card was pulled, 5 of wands, reminding us that the power of nature is a force to be respected.

Ancestors – 5 of pentacles – endurance – keep honouring the ancestors, for one day we too will become ancestors.

Pantheon – page of arrows (swords) – the woodpecker, a tenacious creature that works hard and digs deep to achieve what it needs. The deities are telling us to work hard and dig deep within ourselves to become close to them.

Some shared stories of beloved family and friends that have now passed into the realms of the otherworld, toasts were made and gifts given in their honour. All the while under the gaze of the full moon, shining bright upon our gathering during the entire time.

Although approaching winter, the weather remained dry for the evening, and not too chilly, although most of us welcomed returning inside after the ritual ended to partake of warm food, flowing mead and lots of laughter amongst the good company of friends.

Hollow Hills Samhain 2010 altar

Jack Pumpkinhead - receptacle for our wishes and goals