maandag 28 mei 2012

The ancestors on my altar

In my last blogpost I told you guys and gals about the pretty celtic skull I had bought for the ancestral altar I want to make when we actually have room for it XD. So for now, the ancestors have to settle for a permanent spot on my normal altar. I don't think they mind :) I redo my altar almost every sabbath, more if I feel like it. I really view my altar as a representation of not just nature and the seasons, but also me and what I am working with/on at the moment. So I thought it fitting to give my ancestors a small spot for themselves. So here is a picture of my altar as it is;

The petals are for the upcoming Litha feast. Litha, to me, is a festival of love and happiness. And also the festival where me and my fiancé got handfasted six years ago! The altar setup like this doesn't really change much, the elements have their own corners filled with gemstones and other things that fit with their element. Feathers for Air, shells for Water, a candle for Fire and a couldron filled with ivy and a giant pinecone for Earth. The two faeries on the altar are also always there and represent the light and the darkness, of myself and of the path. On the pentacle rests a golden sun, symbol of summer, with an apofylite on top, a strong energy channeler.
The purple wand resting against the mirror is the wand I work with most. I made it myself out of a butterfly bish and then painted with several shades of purple. It also has swirls and leaves on it :) The oracle cards are the Wild Wisdom of the Faerie Oracle by Selina Fenech. The cards speak of connections to other species and races, letting go (of fear), opening new doorways and of the ancestors and the others who have come before me. I thought them very fitting.

A closeup of my small ancestral corner. The skull is resting on top of the white rose petals. White (glass) runes surround it. Wunjo for happiness, Othala for birthright and home, Gebo for gifts of the Gods, Thorn for protection, Ansuz for communication between realms and Mannaz for me and 'the people'. I didn't know what else to do when I had this laid out, but I new I needed something. I started searching in my books what kind of herbs I could offer to my ancestors. Many sources talk about 'feeding' your ancestors by offering them herbs and incense.
In my books I couldn't find anything, so I went with instinct. Chamomile for the connection to 'the beloved dead' as they are called. Marjoram for me and my bloodline. My name is Marjolijn, which is the Dutch name for the herb Marjoram, be it spelled a bit differently. Normally it's spelled Marjolein. I thought it very fitting to represent me and my family. The last are Juniperberries for protection and connection to the divine. Next to the skull and the herbs sit a small candle inside an offering dish. So there you have it! Ancestral altar, part one!

There will be more on my ancestors as I search for them, which is not an easy task. However, I promise next blogpost will be another Faerie Fashion Feature! ;)

Love and Leaves,
Marjolijn Ashara

vrijdag 25 mei 2012

Keltfest 2012

How fast time goes. I had no idea it had already been fourteen days since my last post. My apologies. In my defense I've been quite busy :) But only with fun and good things :)
Music Village by Fantasymedia

Last sunday me and my Greenwood mates went to Keltfest, an annual Celtic festival here in the Netherlands. Like every year it was laid back, relaxed and joyfully pagan. :) I love Keltfest, walking around on that festival is like walking around in a community of like-minded people. Everybody is happy and relaxed and friendly!

We were very lucky in terms of the weather. They had predicted rain and rain and more rain. Which there was, just not on Keltfest. While other parts of our small country were battling the water, we had sunshine and heat. Go Keltfest! I had rained the day before though, so the terrain was one giant mudpool. Which they turned to their advantage by roping off a small portion and calling it a 'Swinepool' anyone who wanted could jump in and wrestle of just roll around XD
The Greenman by Brigid Ashwood

The plan was to perhaps follow some lectures in the big tent. They were doing a 'Greenman experience' where you would meet the Greenman in meditation. After of course some much needed information about this elusive mythological figure. Unfortunately the experience wasn't for free and since the money fairy has yet to show her face, we didn't attend. I hope to get the uportunity another day, perhaps at Castlefest...

The best part of the day was the closing concert. A band we'd never heard of; Celtica, pipes rock! And oh my, how they rocked indeed. A very pleasant surprise that had us dancing in the mud and singing along loudly. They had us laughing by their rendition of famous heavy metal songs on bagpipes. One of the women was fire poi-ing on stage and the bassist suprised everyone when his basguitar turned into a flamethrower.... which the poi woman then used to light her poi... It was awesome! We bought one cd of the two they had and it has already been played more times than I can count. We hope to see them again soon! Here, have some smoke on the water and Scotland the Brave! :D

I did buy something... I've been playing with the idea to make an ancestral shrine in our home. Not that we have room for it, but it's been in my head for a while now. So when I found this beautiful ornate Celtic skull, made from resin, I couldn't resist. Luckily it wasn't that expensive, so I had to have it! It's quite small, but very beautiful and will make an amazing center piece for the altar. I already have some ideas for the rest of the layout but we simply don't have space. So it'll have to wait until we move into a bigger house. I can't wait, I think it will be beautiful.

The piece I did here on the blog about Nehalennia and the idea of the ancestral shrine inspired me to dig deeper into my own (spiritual) ancestry. I've been searching, digging and writing about the Gods and Goddesses that we used to worship here in the Netherlands. I never knew we had this many local Gods and Goddesses. Not much is known about them, but so far I've managed to put some very interesting info together. It is in Dutch, but I'm hoping to translate it once it's done and then of course share it with you all!

Love and Leaves,
Marjolijn Ashara

donderdag 10 mei 2012

The Art of: Mickie Mueller

Time for another Art feature! One of my favourite artists, Mickie Mueller. I am in love with the feel of her paintings and of the amount of love and thought she puts into every piece. If I had the money, pagan paintings of her would cover every inch of my house ;) They show the way I feel about nature, paganism and witchcraft. Mickie's artwork inspires me to search, to look beyond what we see every day. Everytime I hit a rut in my craft, Mickie's inspirational art urges me to move forward. Please enjoy a few of my favourite pieces my Mickie Mueller!

Lady of the Forest

Celtic Heather
Wisdom in the Woods
Heal the Earth
Voice of the Trees Oracle - Back design

So far Mickie Mueller has done the art for three Oracle decks. The Well Worn Path and the Hidden Path, both in collaboration with Raven Grimassi. Her last Oracle deck is the Voice of the Trees oracle. This is her first solo project and boy, did she go all out. The deck is an Ogham deck and in the accompanied book she writes how she took a little piece of each tree and blended that into her paints as she painted each card. So even though you're holding paper, you're still holding a tiny piece of the tree in your hands.

For more on Mickie Mueller, check out her website, or better yet, her blog for all updates! She also has an etsy shop!

Love and Leaves,
Marjolijn Ashara

dinsdag 8 mei 2012

Nehalennia, Dutch Goddess of the North Sea

I live about an hour away from Scheveningen, a seaside resort that looks out over the North Sea. Together with my friends we visit the beach and stare out over the sea. We come to feel the wind in our hair, taste the salt on the wind and feel the soft sand between our toes. I look for seashells and smoothed out stones. So far I've gathered quite a few and am planning to make a Seaside Runeset out of them :).

Surf's Up, our favourite surfing movie.
My friend had the crazy idea that she wanted to learn how to surf. Since that's something me and my fiancé always wanted to try we, very enthousiastically, said yes! Yesterday was the day that we went surfing. It was awesome and hilarious. My muscles ache and I can't lift my arms anymore, but it was totally worth it. I didn't stand on the board, I had a hard enough time just laying on it, but that's alright. I had a lot of fun and my fiancé is a natural. His second wave he stood up and rode to shore... He's awesome!

On the 3rd of May, my fiancé's birthday, we also went to the beach, to visit the Sea Life zoo they have there. We also had the idea to make an offering to the Dutch Sea Goddess Nehalennia, to ask for good weather and beautiful waves when we went surfing. We drew a bindrune in the sand and placed a charged stone in the center. Then we waited and watched as the waves took our offering to sea. The weather yesterday was splendid, warm, with the sun shining on our faces. There was no wind, but still beautiful waves rolled to shore. Perfect weather for surfing!

So today, I wanted to tell you all a bit more about our Goddess of the Sea!

Nehalennia. She is probably the best known Goddess of the 'Low Countries'. She is also the Goddess we know most about. (which still isn't much) She was most probably a Goddess of safe sea travel, a Mothergoddess and sometimes seen as a Goddess of death and rebirth.

A drawing of a votive stone.
The texts clearly visible.
In 1645 a large part of the Zeelandse Dunes in Domburg were eroded due to a huge storm. What they found were altarstones or votive stones dedicated to the Goddess Nehalennia. These stones dated back to the second and third century BC. They also find the remains of a Temple. Which suggests that there once was a Temple dedicated to Nehalennia there. Although it is still not known whether this Goddess was Celtic or Gemanic, it is known that the Romans in the area worshipped this Goddess. The texts on the votive stones are in Latin. Therefore it is thought that Nehalennia is the name the Romans gave to the Goddess. The stones found in Domburg were displayed in the church, which turned into a sort of museum. However in 1848 lightning struck the church tower, burning it to the ground. Most stones were distroyed.

In 1970 a fisherman at Colijnsplaat in Zeeland noticed four large stones in his fishing net. He decided to take them to shore and showed them to a lot of people. They recognized the name Nehalennia, which was still readable on one of the stones. In the years after this discovery they excivated more of these votive stones, together with pieces of building materials. Suggesting that here too, once a Temple dedicated to the Sea Goddess stood.

To this day they have found over 200 of these votive stones. A large amount of them are exhibited in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden. They have an entire floor dedicated to these beautiful statues. In Colijnsplaat they rebuild the Temple. It opened in 2005 and is a place of education, but you can also make an offering to the Goddess.

There are a few symbols that are common on the votive stones for Nehalennia. Most of them depict a woman clad in robes, either sitting on a throne or standing on a ship. In her lap she has a basket filled with either apples or loaves of bread. Next to her we often find a dog, looking up at the Goddess.
On most of the votive stones found, there are texts. Usually we find a name. Sometimes we also see the place where the person who has offered the stone came from. Sometimes it states that person's job and the reason for his journey. Followed by an expression of his gratitude towards Nehalennia for a safe journey. The shortref V.S.L.M. is often found. It's Latin; V(otum) S(olvit) L(ibens) M(erito), which means something like 'his promise repaid, pleased and with reason'. People from all over the region came to the Temples to pay their respects to Nehelennia and ask for a safe sea voyage. Upon their safe return they would sacrifice the votive stones to her. They would have been painted once, but the paint has been eroded by the waters. Sometimes they find scraps of paint on the surfice of the stones. In the Archeon in the Netherlands they have a painted replica of one of the stones.

Reconstruction of a votive stone.
the Archeon, the Netherlands.
The symbols on the stones tell us a lot about what kind of Goddess Nehalennia is. In art, a woman sitting on a throne is a woman of great importance. A lot of Goddesses are depicted while sitting on a throne. The ship tells us that she was a Goddess of the Sea and of travel. Apples stand for wisdom as well as abundance and the Mother aspect. The loaves of bread show us that she is the Goddess of the land, as well as the sea. The dog can mean either loyalty, or is a symbol of death. Sometimes Nehalennia is seen as a version of Hel. The dog would then be one of her hounds, guarding the underworld. A dog is also a protector of man, something this Goddess is also. One thing we don't the symbolism of yet, is her clothing. She is often depicted wearing flowing robes which fall to the floor. However, she also wears a capelet, something that is unique to this Goddess. In no other Roman depictions we find this specific piece of clothing. It was once thought that it was part of Zeeland's folk costume. Since the Zeeland's folk costume as we know it didn't come into view until the 18th century, this has been proven incorrect. Why she wears capelet is a mystery.

I've only had the pleasure of working with Nehalennia once, since it was the Matron Goddess of one of our ex-coven members. I do, however, plan on learning more on this truly Dutch Goddess and hope to visit the new Temple one day.

I hope I've awakened your interest into the myth and magic of the Low Counties. May Nehalennia bless your travels and your land.

Love and Leaves,

dinsdag 1 mei 2012

Faerie Fashion Feature - Bibian Blue's Spring collection 2012

As you might have noticed in the last few posts, I'm a total sucker for wings. Butterfly wings in particular, however I love all types, angel, gossamer, steampunk, you name it. So when I saw these dresses from the 2012 Spring Collection of the Spanish designer Bibian Blue... oh my... I think I squeed...

I just love the flowyness of these dresses. They're whimsical and look like they were made in a fairytale, but they still look rocker-chic at the same time. Amazing! I also love love love the details. The shoes, the cravat-like necklaces, the shoulder thingy, so cool. But not just her wing dresses are amazing, the rest of the 'Crystal Flowers' collection is just as dreamy and whimsical.

For more on this amazing designer, visit her blog!

Love and Leaves,
Marjolijn Ashara