moon

Moon Days

When I went to buy my pocket diary for 2018, I noticed many of them had the first day of the week as Sunday. This was disturbing to me, as I think of Monday as the start of the week and Sunday as the end. When I look at my page a week diary, I like to see what I have planned for my weekdays and weekend in one glance. I don’t want to have to turn a page to see what is happening on Sunday.

As I checked diary after diary I was losing hope that I would find a diary with my preferred formatting. Finally, at the bottom of the pile, I found one! I was so happy – especially as the cover was black. In fact it’s exactly the same brand as my 2017 diary. I’ll have to start looking much earlier for my 2019 diary as it seems I’m not the only one who wants to start their week on Monday.

Starting the week on Monday is more than just a way of staying in tune with the common separation of working and leisure days. Monday is named after the Moon and, as it is lunar cycles that resonate most with me, it seems fitting that I begin my week on the Moon’s Day. I was happy that 2018 began on a Monday as it reconfirmed my lunar commitment. January 1st was also the eve of the Cancerian Full Moon. The monthly lunar cycle is very time specific so you need to make sure you know where the Moon is in your time zone. When I give Moon cycle dates they are for Melbourne, Australia. Having January 1st fall on a Monday and on the eve of a Full Moon is a wonderfully powerful way for me start a new year.

As part of my new year celebrations I am going to try a ritual which I just found out about. I caught up with one of my friends a couple of days ago and she told me she spent New Year’s Eve in a forest with a group of “alternative” friends. 🙂 Sitting by a campfire they introduced her to a ritual called “Rose, Thorn, Bud.” The rose represents what came to fruition in the year just passed, the thorn represents the snags that held us back and the bud symbolises a seed that has been planted and will hopefully bloom in the new year. After telling me her Rose, Thorn and Bud revelations Jenny eagerly asked me what I thought mine were. I thought about it and gave her an answer, but what I was really thinking was that it was a beautiful ritual and I wished I knew about it before New Year’s Eve and not after!

Luckily, living a Pagan life means there are many times of the year when we can celebrate a symbolic New Year’s Eve. The upcoming Capricornian New Moon is one such time. It’s a perfect night to devise your own version of a Rose, Thorn and Bud ritual.

Pagans love ending their rituals with food and drink. I thought I would make it easy by combining the two in a cherry and wine offering. Cherries are part of the Rose family so they are a perfect food to enjoy after a Rose, Thorn and Bud ritual.

Cherries in Red Wine

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Ingredients
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine (I used Shiraz)
1 cup pitted fresh cherries (about 225g / 8oz)

Instructions
Bring the water and brown sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan.
Add the red wine and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the cherries and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat.
Cover and allow to cool before refrigerating until cold.
Serve in cups so you can drink the wine after you’ve eaten the cherries.

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Moon Over Easter

The March Equinox has come and gone, which means Easter is on its way. Easter is a Moveable Feast that takes place on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon on or after the March Equinox. I’m using the term March Equinox because its seasonal attribute depends on the hemisphere you are in. In the southern hemisphere it’s the Autumnal Equinox. In the northern hemisphere it’s the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. As Easter is based on northern hemisphere seasons, it is a Spring Festival. Which explains the rabbit and the eggs.

What isn’t really explained is why there are often two Easters – one for Western Christians and one for Eastern Orthodox Christians. The answer is simple (well actually it’s not even slightly simple!). While the above formula is used by both, Western churches use the Gregorian calendar and Eastern churches use the Julian calendar. Plus, there are differences in how the Equinox and the Full Moon are defined. Eastern churches use the Astronomical Equinox and Full Moon, while the Western churches use a set date (March 21) for the Equinox and an Ecclesiastical Moon, which comes from a church calendar.

To make it a bit more confusing, Eastern Easter is always after Passover, because Jesus celebrated Passover before he was executed. Western Easter doesn’t worry about that in what appears to be a search for simplicity. So what does that all mean? Well this year Western Easter will be celebrated on Sunday March 27th and Eastern Orthodox on Sunday May 1st.

The one question that never gets answered for me is – “Does the Easter Bunny visit on both Easters?” 🙂 Just in case the answer is “yes”, here is a recipe for Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting topped with Candied Carrots.

Easter Bunny Cupcakes

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Ingredients
for the carrot cupcakes
1 + 1/3 cup plain flour
1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 + 1/4  teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups peeled and grated carrot

for the candied carrots
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1 cup peeled and grated carrot

for the cream cheese frosting
1 cup (225g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered (icing) sugar, sifted

optional
mini chocolate Easter eggs for decoration

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 12 paper cases.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and frothy.
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the oil, vanilla and carrot.
Fold in the flour mix until just combined.
Using an ice-cream scoop, spoon the batter evenly into the paper cases.
Bake for 10 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While cupcakes are cooling, make the candied carrots by placing the sugar and water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the carrots and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove carrots from the syrup and place in a heatproof bowl. Cook syrup for a further 10 minutes or until reduced. Pour syrup over carrots and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 110C / 230F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Drain the carrots and spread in a thin layer on prepared tray. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until they start to harden. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. They will harden more when cooling.

While carrots are cooling make the cream cheese frosting by creaming together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract in a medium sized bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until frosting reaches a piping consistency. Spoon icing into a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

Sprinkle a small amount of the candied carrot onto each cupcake.
Decorate with mini chocolate easter eggs if desired.

The Autumn Queen

I have often wondered about the concept of the Triple Goddess and her relationship to women’s cycles. Traditionally, the Triple Goddess is envisioned as the Maiden, Mother and Crone. These three phases are supposed to correspond to the three phases of a woman’s life which are symbolically linked to three blood mysteries; menarche/menstruation, childbirth and menopause. As a number of my female friends are about to celebrate their 50th birthdays and are also experiencing the beginnings of menopause, I began to wonder whether they were indeed entering the time of the Crone or some intermediary stage. When I interact with women who are much older – say in their late 70’s and beyond – there is a depth of wisdom and solitude that I do not find in my younger friends. It appears to me that women in their late 40’s and early 50’s are being prematurely hastened into the role of the Crone way before their time.

As a woman in the middle of the “Mother” phase I always felt as though there was another phase of my life to explore before becoming the Crone. In some ways, by focussing solely on female biology, the Triple Goddess, as a metaphor for female transitions, can be limiting. Interestingly, the Triple Goddess is not only linked to the number three but also to the number four. The Triple Goddess is connected to the phases of the Moon and the Seasons which all have four aspects. The Waxing New Moon is the Maiden and associated with Spring, the Full Moon is the Mother and linked to Summer and the Dark Moon is the Crone and corresponds to Winter. However, one Season and one Moon phase are missing from this scenario; Autumn and the Waning Moon. This omission made me consider that one phase of a woman’s journey may also be missing.

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Synchronistically, it was at this time that I discovered a book called “The Women’s Wheel of Life: Thirteen Archetypes of Woman at Her Fullest Power” by Elizabeth Davis & Carol Leonard. They too discovered that one phase of a woman’s life journey may be repressed by focussing on a three-phase cycle. Significantly, this revelation came to Carol Leonard whilst painting a mural depicting the four Seasons represented by four dancing Goddesses. Although Spring, Summer and Winter Goddesses were easily visualised as Maiden, Mother and Crone, Carol found it difficult to envision an Autumn Goddess. What she eventually created was “an image of a queenly woman, draped in rich robes of deep red and gold, holding a base of harvest goods”. She named this aspect of the Seasonal Goddess the Matriarch. When Davis and Leonard offered the image of Woman as Matriarch to a workshop “all the women in their middle years unanimously said, “Yes!” and breathed a collective sigh of relief”. Is it time to expand our notion of a Triple Goddess and unveil a fourth face? I would say “Yes!”

A Four-Fold Goddess corresponds to other Spiritual Traditions that utilise four-fold concepts. Many religions invoke the four directions – South, East, North and West – or the four elements – Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Some forms of Witchcraft follow a Seasonal calendar that includes four Major Sabbats – Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas – and four Minor Sabbats – Autumn Equinox, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Other Witches follow a Lunar cycle celebrating the four phases of the Moon – First Quarter, Full Moon, Last Quarter and Dark Moon. Astrology utilises the four elements and Tarot also has four suits – Pentacles, Swords, Wands and Cups which also relate to the four elements. The Four-Fold Goddess can be linked to any and all of these systems.

The hidden fourth face of the Goddess is also a particularly powerful aspect of a woman’s life journey. Rather than go straight from the Summer Full Moon phase – a time dedicated to nurturing others, to the Winter Dark Moon Crone phase – a time of impending withdrawal from the world, the Autumn Waning Moon Queen allows us an intermediary time where we can not only reflect on our lives but also have some say in world affairs. The Autumn Queen phase allows us the time to enjoy our own personal power in the world. As women we have probably spent most of our time nurturing others but now the time has come to nurture ourselves. The biggest challenge for women is coming into contact with our own power. Perhaps by harnessing the power of our Autumn Queen our task may be simpler.

By focussing on a three-fold rite of passage intimately connected to our biology, we may miss one of our more powerful passages – our initiation into Autumn Queens.

I am looking forward to moving into the role of Autumn Queen, for although I love the idea of being a Crone, I do believe it is a role related to a much later stage in our lives.

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I wrote this article 15 years ago at the ripe old age of 35. So if you’re good at maths you’ll see that I’ve reached my Autumn Queen stage – I’ve turned 50! Do I still believe the words I wrote all those years ago? Do I still feel we need an Autumn Queen archetype? Yes I do!

The lead up to my 50th birthday was not what I had planned. I had envisioned massages, facials, manicures and much needed pedicures. Instead my birthday was shadowed by the illness and death of one of my beloved dogs. The Crone had come to take something away from me and I wasn’t ready. When I looked into her face through my tears I knew one thing – I was no Crone. I wasn’t ready to quietly slip into a time of self-reflection, acceptance and withdrawal. I was leaving the Mother stage behind with the death of one my children and I was fighting all the way – for him and for myself. There was no way I could transition from a Mother to a Crone without an intermediary phase. For me that phase is the Autumn Queen. As befits an Elder Goth, I took on the Autumn mantle of the Queen shrouded in death and darkness. I embraced becoming an Autumn Queen with great sadness but also with great wonder. Against the odds I had a wild 50th birthday. It was in fact the best birthday I have ever had. For one weekend I put aside all my worries about others, all my pain and all my fears for what the future held. For one weekend I really lived in the moment. I concentrated on having a fabulous time and made sure I was a pampered and well looked after Autumn Queen. It felt wonderful. And it’s only the beginning of my journey.