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Archive for the ‘Christian Saints and Mystics’ Category

Be praised through all your creatures, especially through Brother Sun, who brings the day. You give light through him, and he is beautiful and radiant in his entire splendor!

I love you, Brother Sun. I am sorry that I have crucified you by polluting your sky. Please forgive me. Thank you for continually shining your love down upon me.

Be praised through Sister Moon and the stars. In the heavens you have made them precious and beautiful.

I love you, Sister Moon. I am sorry that I have crucified you by littering your multiverse. Please forgive me. Thank you for your silvery radiance and beautiful energy.

Be praised through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

I love you Brothers Wind and Air. I am sorry that I have crucified you by sending toxins into your life-breath. Please forgive me. Thank you for carrying seeds across the Earth and my prayers to the Spirit.

Be praised through Sister Water. You are useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

I love you Sister Water. I am sorry that I have crucified you by poisoning you. Please forgive me. Thank you for sustaining my life and washing my sins from Earth.

Be praised through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. You are beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

I love you Brother Fire. I am sorry that I have crucified you by being greedy for your energy. Please forgive me. Thank you for your warmth and strength.

Be praised through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

I love you Mother Earth. I am sorry that I have crucified you by contaminating your beauty. Please forgive me. Thank you for your love and the food you supply to all creatures.

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Welcome Imbolc, the return of the sun, a time of quickening in Mother Earth. New life not yet seen, deep in her belly, waiting to burst forth at the appointed time. It will not be long now.

Imbolc, also known as Oimelc, is Gaelic for “ewe’s milk” because this is the season when the milk begins to flow in the lambs and sheep. This is the 1st of 3 Spring Festivals (Imbolc, Ostara & Beltane).

Imbolc is closely associated with the Celtic-Irish goddess Brigid. Imbolc is sacred to Brigid because she is a goddess of fire, of poetry, and of healing, all things that go along with the creative powers of the onset of spring. Brigid is a powerful representation of the Maiden Goddess, and she has been almost perfectly preserved for us today by none other than the Roman Catholic Church. Rather than call her demon and risk the displeasure of all Ireland, they canonized Brigid and made her the patron saint of poetry and healing. This appeased the Irish, who at the time probably saw the Catholic saints as being very similar to gods themselves.

Imbolc was adopted by the Catholic Church as Candlemas, which later became known for Groundhog Day: “If Candlemass day be dry and fair, The half o winter’s to come and mair; If Candlemass day be wet and foul, The half o’ winter’s gane at Yule.”

In the deep of winter, when all lies dormant in the ground, it seems that there is no life to be found. But life is never fully vanquished. In the belly of Mother Earth, deep in her womb, there is life! Life waiting to burst forth at the appointed time.

So whether you watch for the groundhog to come out of it’s hole or you put a candle in your window to represent the Eternal Flame of the Maiden Goddess, may all of you have a moment of quiet in which to listen to the silence around you and feel her body beginning to stir.

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Few people know it, but Mary Magdalene is a Christian saint by the Catholic church.  Of course the most well-known thing she did according to the canon Bible, was being a woman that Jesus cast out seven demons, that turned her into a devoted and beloved disciple and later a forgotten apostle.  (Of course for many centuries, she was painted a scarlet woman and prostitute that Jesus saved by turning her from her sins, this was NOT true)!   She was also most famously, the first person who found Jesus’ empty tomb, greeted by the angel that announced that Jesus had risen and most importantly, she was the first to see the “resurrected Christ.”  She was scoffed at by the male apostles when she returned and happily announced that she had seen Jesus alive and well, as they couldn’t understand why Jesus would appear to Mary and not them if he were truly alive.  But all this aside, there is a even less known story that Mary Magdalene was part of and this was a great example of how Mary was as much a teacher of Jesus’ message as the other apostles. It also gives a background for why Christians are inclined to dye eggs at Easter.

Here is the story:

  
This ritual is more widely practiced by the Orthodox church than the rest of the world, but it wouldn’t hurt to make it part of your Easter ritual as a great way of mixing the pagan egg dyeing with a Christian root!  So when you are dyeing Easter eggs this weekend, dye a couple red, paint some crosses on them and give them to others as a sign of Christ’s resurrection.  “Christ is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed.”   Happy Easter!
Blessed be in Christ!

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Saint Lucy’s Day (or the Feast of Saint Lucia) is mainly celebrated in Scandinavia, parts of the United States and southern Europe. The Feast Day of Saint Lucia is celebrated on December 13. It is claimed that Lucy was one of the virgin martyrs. Legend has it that she was either beheaded or died when her neck was pierced by a sword during the reign of the Roman emperor, Diocletian. Legend also says that a famine ended on her feast day when ships, loaded with grain, sailed into the harbor.

Before the reform of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, the Julian calendar was in use. On the Julian calendar, December 13th was the shortest day of the year. The change to the Gregorian calendar altered that date to December 21st (Yule), but did not change Lucy’s feast day celebration, and she is forever associated with lengthening days and more sunlight.

Saint Lucy’s Day celebrations retain many pre-Christian midwinter elements and are based on the annual struggle between light and darkness. The pre-Christian holiday of Yule was celebrated in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. It is believed that the observance of the winter solstice, in the midst of the long, dark Nordic winter season, brought about many practices that remain in the Advent and Christmas celebrations today.

In traditional celebrations, Saint Lucy comes as a young woman with lights and sweets. It is one of the few saint days observed in Scandinavia. In some forms, a procession is headed by one girl wearing a crown of candles (or lights), while others in the procession hold only a single candle each. The girl with the crown of candles represents Saint Lucy and is to awaken the family from sleep. She offers a tray with coffee and cakes. The impersonation is called Lussibrud (Lucy bride) and her pastry is Lussekattor.

Because her name means “light” she became the great patron saint for the “light of the body”, which are the eyes. All over Christianity her help was invoked against diseases of the eyes, especially in danger of blindness. This is the reason why she is often pictured with a plate in hand on which lie two eyeballs.

“Lucy Fires” used to be burned everywhere in northern Europe on December 13. Into these bonfires people threw incense, and while the flames rose, trumpets and flutes were played to greet the changing of the sun’s course. These fires were greatly valued as a powerful protection against disease, demons and dangers, and people would stand nearby and let the smoke of the incense reach them, thus obtaining the desired “protection.” (hhmmm…sounds like witchcraft!)

Saint Lucy still holds the inspiring position of a saint whose very name reminds the faithful at the middle of Advent that her own “light” is only a reflection of the great “Light of the World” which is to start shining at Bethlehem on Christmas Day. It is as if she would say: “I am only a little flame in Advent showing you the way: “Behold, the Lord will come, and all His saints with Him, and on that day There will be a great light. Alleluia.”

LITURGICAL PRAYER: Hear us, O God, our salvation, as we rejoice on the feast of Saint Lucy, Thy virgin and Martyr, and grant us to learn the spirit of pious devotion.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe (Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) is a celebrated 16th-century icon of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. Our Lady of Guadalupe is known as the Patroness of all the American continents.

In 1531, a Marian Image appeared to an Aztec Indian named Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. While on his way to attend mass, Juan Diego heard sounds of chirping birds and beautiful music and wondered where it was coming from and its meaning. Then he heard a voice calling him. There she revealed herself to him as “the Ever Virgin Mother of the True God,” and made known her desire that a Shrine be built there to bear witness to her love, her compassion, and her protection. She sent him to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga in Mexico City to request her great desire.

The Bishop dismissed the humble Indian without paying attention to his story. Two more times the Marian Image appeared to Juan, requesting him to deliver the same favor. He did as she asked and finally the Bishop asked for a sign. So, Juan reported this to her and she promised to grant a sign the following morning.

On December 12, while on his way to bring a priest to his dying uncle, the Marian Image appeared to Juan Diego for a fourth time. She assured him of his uncle’s recovery and told him to gather fresh roses which he would find growing on the frosty summit of the rocky and barren hill. This done, she arranged the castilian roses in his tilma (cloak) and hurried him to the Bishop, giving him an account of their origin. This is what is known as “The Miracle of the pink roses.”

To the Bishop’s amazement, when Juan Diego opened up his tilma before him there was painted upon it a miraculous beautiful image of Our Lady exactly as she had appeared on Mount Tepeyac. The Bishop prostrated himself in veneration and soon after began the building of the Shrine on the top of Mount Tepeyac. The Basilica in Mexico City is the most important Shrine to the Blessed mother.

Juan Diego’s cloak, marvelously preserved, can still be seen behind the main altar in the new Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is near the original Basilica site she requested. Millions from all over Mexico and the world make their way to venerate the Blessed Mother and to implore her intercession.

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Saint Nicholas is the common name for Nicholas of Myra, a Saint and Bishop who lived in the 4th century in what is now modern-day Turkey.  He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, and was well-known for putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him.  This may be where we get our modern day “Secret Santa” gifts swaps.  The Dutch called Saint Nicholas “Sinterklaas” and this name became our English “Santa Claus”.  After Nicholas died, people in the region continued to give to the poor anonymously, and such gifts were still often attributed to Saint Nicholas. The Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated on December 6th. Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, children, and students.  Nicholas is also the patron saint of pawnbrokers.  Interesting, the three balls traditionally hung outside a pawnshop symbolize three sacks of gold!

In some parts of Europe, Saint Nicholas was also known as the Shaggy Goat, the Ash Man and Rider, all of which are reflective of earlier pre-Christian influences that were blended in with the figure of Saint Nicholas.  After the reformation, Saint Nicholas’ wardrobe began to change, maybe as a reflection of the change from the Roman church, and he started to wear a red suit with fur.

So how did gift giving move from December 6th to December 25th?  There are many pre-Christian deities who celebrate their “birthdays” on December 25th, including Mithras and Horus.  Both Mithras and Horus were Sun Gods, heralding the coming sun after the long winter and Yule season.  All of the major Christian holidays have their roots in a pre-existing pre-Christian holiday, and December 25th was no different.  By simply shifting the Saint Nick story a few weeks, it was easier to capture the attention of the non-Christian audience and hopefully boost church membership!

Many people still celebrate Saint Nicholas on December 6th in a variety of ways.  Some people let their children open one of their Christmas presents on that day then open the rest on December 25th.  Some choose that day to give gifts to the less fortunate in their community.  Children are encouraged to set out their shoes on the prior evening and awaken to find a small gift has been left for them.  Giving ornaments and small gifts, blessing the less fortunate, secret gift giving and family parties are all ways to celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas.

Not coming from an orthodox family, I was not raised to know the tradition of Saint Nick.  This year, my family will be surprised when I start a new tradition for them!

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Hildegard
Hildegard von Bingen: Mystic, Poet, Scientist, Visionary, Composer, Feminist, Author, Philosopher, Abbess, Naturalist, Counselor, Linguist, Physician, Herbalist…..Witch?

Hildegard von Bingen left humanity a treasury in her written works on many various topics. Instead of repeating what can already be found about von Bingen through any search engine or library, I thought it interesting to look more toward her teachings found in her book Physica. As a 12th Century Woman, von Bingen combined Mystical Christianity with Natural Folk Remedies, her own personal herbal experience, and Divine Visions. Science is now catching up and verifying what von Bingen had already written:

• She promoted a balanced diet and tooth-brushing with aloe and myrrh, both of which have been found to have antibacterial, decay-preventing properties.

• She was the first to recommend bilberries for respiratory complaints.

• She prescribed burdock to treat cancerous tumors. Centuries after von Bingen prescribed burdock, the herb’s reputation as a tumor treatment spread to Russia, China, India and the Americas. Burdock was used as ingredient in alternative cancer treatments until the late 1950s.

• She recommended valerian as a tranquilizer and to aid in sleep

• She prescribed celery seed to treat gout. Gout is formed by a buildup of crystal-forming uric acids; celery was found to reduce uric acid levels and to have anti-inflammatory qualities.

• She prescribed horehound for coughs. Centuries later Russian and German studies proved that horehound contains a compound called marrubiin, which is an expectorant. It was used in over-the-counter cough remedies in North America until 1989.

• She prescribed licorice for stomach and heart problems. Contemporary herbalists still prescribe licorice to treat indigestion.

Having lived in the 12th Century, Hildegard von Bingen escaped the Burning Times. If she had lived after the 1300s, she most likely would have been put to death for being a Witch. After 1300, the image of the herbalist changed from helpful wise woman to evil witch. Popular medieval, theological and social tradition was dominated by beliefs that held women responsible for sin. Also, it was generally the women who took responsibility for their families’ healthcare, and many were highly skilled in effective, natural remedies. These wise women served as nurses, midwives, herbalists, and counselors to the women, children, and poverty-stricken of their communities. They made home visits and traveled from village to village, sharing their expertise with neighbors and succeeding generations. Healing arts were thought to be influenced by magic and astrology, and working with herbs and potions often fell under official suspicion in times of plague and disorder. Another factor was that these authorities realized that the women posed a threat to the budding medical profession and to some Christian beliefs, as they gained economic power. At this time physicians received university training under the control of the church, and only males were admitted to study. Their training included the rite of exorcism, the use of holy water, and blessings. Many wise women’s remedies were more effective. This was proof enough, for most authorities, that the women consorted with the devil. Some scholars conclude that women who lived alone, were old, ugly, vocal, or who owned property independently, were especially vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft. An herbalist in a monastery usually passed muster as a Christian, but a wise woman in a village who drew customers away from the monastery might be condemned as a “witch,” in league with the devil, and strangled or burned by church and state authorities looking for a scapegoat. After the Burning Times, herbalists like von Bingen were nearly forgotten. Herbalists were replaced by the “witches” of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who threw poisonous herbs into their bubbling cauldron. The Burning Times failed to eradicate herbalism; they only succeeded in driving it underground.

In Physica, Hildegard von Bingen expounded in nine areas of healing: Plants, Elements, Trees, Stones, Fish, Birds, Animals, Reptiles, and Metals. She spoke of both the medicinal and the magickal properties of these items. Many descriptions read like something one would find in a witch’s book of spells. The follwing are excerpts from Physica:

PLANTS

Lady’s-thistle has a coolness in it and is very useful. Anyone who has a stitch in his heart, or pain in any other part of his body, should take lady’s-thistle and a little less sage, and reduce them to a juice in a little water. When he is tormented by the stitch, he should immediately drink this, and he will be better.

A woman who suffers inordinately with great menstruation at the wrong time should place betony in wine, so that its flavor passes into the wine. She should drink it often, and she will be cured.

A person who is unwillingly forgetful should pound stinging nettle to a juice, and add a bit of olive oil. When he goes to bed, he should thoroughly anoint his chest and temples with it. If he does this often, forgetfulness will diminish.

The person should take mugwort and express the juice. To the juice he should add a smaller amount of honey. He should spread this on the afflicted area, then cover it with egg white, and tie it with a cloth. He should do this until he is better.

ELEMENTS

The air situated near the moon and stars wets the heavenly bodies, just as terrestrial air enlivens and sets in motion the earth.

Water is from a living source. One who wishes to have hard, healthy teeth should take pure, cold water into his mouth in the morning, when he gets out of bed. He should hold it for a little while in his mouth so that the mucus around his teeth becomes soft, and so this water might wash his teeth.

If someone is overwhelmed by numbness, another person should take a bit of the earth from the right and left side of the bed where the sick person’s head is, and in the same way take earth from near the person’s right and left foot. While he is digging it he should say, “You, earth, are sleeping in the person _____.” And he should place the earth which had been taken from both sides of the patient’s head under his head, until it grows warm there. In a similar manner, he should place the other earth under his feet, so that it might receive heat from them. When the earth is placed under his head and feet, this should be said, “You, earth, grow and be useful in this person _____, so that he may receive your vital greenness, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who is the all-powerful, living God.” This should be done for three days.

TREES

When in springtime the first shoots of the apple tree burst forth, tear off one little branch without cutting it with iron, and draw a strap of deer hide back and forth over the break in the tree and the branch, so that it becomes damp with sap. When you sense that there is no more moisture, then hack, with very tiny blows, this broken spot with a small knife, so that more of the moisture flows out. By drawing the deer hide strap over the same place and on the same branch, drench it with as much sap as you can. Then put it in a damp place, so that it may absorb even more sap. Anyone who has pain in his kidneys or has trouble urinating should gird himself with this strap, over his naked flesh, so that the sap which it drew in from the apple tree might pass into his flesh, and he will be better.

When the cedar is green and has sap, a splenetic person should pound some of the branches and wood of this tree, breaking it down into a powder. With cooked honey, he should make an electuary from it. He should eat it in moderation with a meal, and his spleen with recover its health.

STONES

A person who desires to have good understanding and knowledge should place a sapphire in his mouth every morning, upon getting out of bed and while fasting. He should hold it in his mouth long enough for it to absorb the saliva which moistens it. He should take it from his mouth, then warm a bit of wine in a metallic vessel over the fire. He should hold the stone in the vapor of that wine so that, by sweating, it becomes damp. Then he should lick off some of that moisture and the saliva, which had heated the stone, and swallow it, and he will have pure understanding and knowledge.

For a person possessed by the devil, pour water over chrysoprase, and say, “O water, I pour you over this stone in that power by which God made the sun as well as the hastening moon.” Give that water as a drink to the one possessed, in whatever way you are able, since he will be unwilling to drink it. For the whole day the devil will be tortured within him, will become weaker, and will not be able to manifest his powers in him, as he had done before. Do this for five days. On the fifth day prepare a bit of bread, with the same water poured over it, and give it to him to eat in whatever way you can. If the demon is not fierce, he will depart from that person.

If a person carries an agate with him, he should place it next to his bare skin, this warming it. Its nature will make this person capable, judicious, and prudent in speech, because it is born from fire and air and water.

If blood flows from someone’s nose, one should heat wine, place carnelian in it, and give it to him to drink. The blood will cease to flow.

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