Autumn on the Air

According to the general populace, 1 March is considered to herald in the cooler season of autumn, bringing with it much appreciated relief from our hot southern summers.  This year our summer here in southern Australia has been somewhat comfortably mild which is a relief after the 2019-2020 summer season which saw many areas of the country ablaze – however is our unpredictable weather luring us into a false sense of security?

As we know however, anything could happen temperature wise during March. Whatever the case, there is definitely a chill in the air and the evening shades are closing earlier.

March heralds the autumnal equinox as the sun enters the sign of Pisces, which will be taking place around 8:07pm on 20 March. The word equinox is derived from a Latin word believed to mean “equal night”. In other words, where the hours of night and day are nearly equal in length. (They are not quite equal due to the wobble of the earth on its orbit.)

While the Northern Hemisphere enters the time where energy is manifesting for action at the spring equinox, here south of the equator it is repose after action at the autumn equinox.

We can take satisfaction in the work undertaken during the warmer months and reap the benefits.  Daylight saving will conclude at the end of the month and with it, the realisation that summer will be over.  While there are still a couple of weeks before the autumn equinox arrives, now is a good time to start making preparations for the colder winter months.

On Saturday, 20 March, I will be hosting a event that honours the autumn equinox here in Adelaide at The Connection Centre in North Adelaide. During this event we will be exploring the myths and folklore surrounding the autumn equinox, undergo a sacred journey in order to find balance in our lives, and create a special charm that will protect and guide us through the darker months of the year that we will empower. Tickets for this event can be found here.

The following is a wonderful seasonal poem by William Blake.

To Autumn
by William Blake (from Poetical Sketches, 1783)

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.
“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

Lughnasadh: The Wake of the Lord of the Grain

As the Wheel of the Year turns, those of us residing south of the equator find ourselves at the gateway to the autumn months and the darker months of the year.  Ironically, however, this gateway tends to herald in the hottest weather as if the sun is determined to cleanse and purify the southern lands through the element of fire before its departure is well and truly noticed. Traditionally, the sabbat celebrated is that of the first harvest, Lughnasadh (from the Irish Gaelic Lúnasa) or Lammas (from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, “loaf-mass”) and when “the feast of the first fruits” was observed.  In the agricultural year, Lughnasadh or Lammas also marked the end of the hay making season that had commenced as early as mid Summer.

According to Irish mythology, the festival of Lughnasadh were first observed by the God Lugh as a funeral feast and games in honour of his foster mother Tailtiu who had died from exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture.  Originally known as Óenach Tailten, these games were held at Tailtin in what is now County Meath and were considered to be similar to the ancient Greek Olympic Games in that they included ritual athletic and sporting contests. The Óenach Tailten also included fairs, the drawing-up of contracts, and matchmaking.  Trial marriages were also were conducted, where young couples joined hands through a hole in a wooden door.  These marriages lasted a year and a day, at which time the union could be made permanent or broken without consequences.  When the games were revived in the 20th century, they were known as the Tailteann Games

Here in central southern Australia, the hay and grain harvest has long been collect, and with the intensive weather at the start of the year (that brought an early and rather frightening start to the bush fire season), there is limited bounty to reap from my garden as corn, tomatoes, lettuce and celery all perished.  Yet, being a festival which can also be seen as a Wake for the Sacred King (the Lord of the Grain), this appears rather appropriate. 

A “Wake” (from the Old English wacan meaning to “wake up” or wacian “to be awake, keep watch”) was a custom in most Celtic countries in Europe for mourners to keep watch or vigil over their dead until they were buried.  At Lughnasadh, we prepare ourselves to observe the Wake of the Sacred King whose life has been sacrificed in order for ours to be strengthened.  And while the sun continues to entice us outdoors, we are reminded of the more festive aspect of this time of the year – the fairs, handfastings and feasts, as are expressed in the following poem, “The Rigs O’ Barley” by Scottish poet Robbie Burns:

It was on a Lammas night, when corn rigs are bonie,
Beneath the moon’s unclouded light, I held away to Annie:
The time flew by, wi tentless heed, till ‘tween the late and early;
Wi’ sma’ persuasion she agreed to see me thro’ the barley.

The sky was blue, the wind was still, the moon was shining clearly;
I set her down, wi’ right good will, amang the rigs o’ barley
I ken’t her heart was a’ my ain; I lov’d her most sincerely;
I kissed her owre and owre again, among the rig o’ barley.

I locked her in my fond embrace; her heart was beating rarely:
My blessings on that happy place, amang the rigs o’ barley.
But by the moon and stars so bright, that shone that hour so clearly!
She ay shall bless that happy night, amang the rigs o’ barley.

I hae been blythe wi’ Comrades dear; I hae been merry drinking;
I hae been joyfu’ gath’rin gear; I hae been happy thinking:
But a’ the pleasures e’er I saw, tho three times doubl’d fairley
That happy night was worth then a’ among the rig’s o’ barley.

CHORUS
Corn rigs, an’ barley rigs, an’ corn rigs are bonie:
I’ll ne’er forget that happy night, among the rigs wi’ Annie.

Source: Robert Burns Country

Hail to the Sun God – it is the Summer Solstice

As the sun completes is southward journey, it rests briefly over the Tropic of Capricorn before moving northward again.  When it enters the astrological sign of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere, we know that the sun is at its highest and brightest, and that the time of the summer solstice has arrived.  However, as I write this, rain is starting to fall – but that is okay, the garden is grateful in receiving whatever rain is about at this time of the year.

For the Ngarrindjeri people of the lower Murray River and Coorong in South Australia, the warmth associated with Luwadang continues.  As the sun increases in strength, it dries the land, allowing it to be haunted by the call of ravens, the bird that is often associated with death in many cultures around the world.

Within contemporary witchcraft, the God, in his guise as the Sun or Solar God, is now at the height of his power.  Ever increasingly, he has been letting us know of his strength.  This show comes at a cost and while it will be some time before we actually notice, from the summer solstice onwards, the power of the Sun God slowly begins to wane.  This darkness, however, is not perceived in a negative sense, because it is needed to ensure the fertility of the land.  Still, in doing so, the Sun God sows the seeds of his own death.

The Goddess is depicted as either showing the early signs of pregnancy from her union at Bealtaine with the God (the fertility cycle of the divine does not necessarily follow the same allotted time of humans), glowing as many expectant mothers do, or her pregnancy is well advanced (as depicted by the Empress found within many tarot decks).  All around us the earth shows its magnificent bounty, full of life and busy with activity.  Flowers are in full bloom, bees buzz around the garden busily collecting pollen for the production of honey.  It is said a sign of a healthy garden is the number of bees that it attracts.

The Goddess, in her aspect as the Mother, Gaia, is on the verge of sharing her bounty with us.  However, there is also a death in life aspect at this time of the year that is often overlooked. We humans, regardless of our spiritual beliefs in the afterlife, still tend to fear the process of death, the transition from one plane to another.

Within the bountiful produce are the seeds that will sustain life, feeding us throughout the colder months as well as being available for planting in the Spring to repeat the cycle.  After the pollination and fertilization of the beautiful flowers we so admire, they will die.  But this is the natural cycle of things, of life.  In their death, the flowers release their previous seeds that fall to earth in order to create new life.  It can be difficult to connect to the fact that the time of waxing is coming to an end and the waning time is almost upon us when we are surrounded by so much bounty and life seems to be at its fullest.

Summer is a time of beauty and love, energy and strength, and rejoicing in the warmth of the sun.  Daylight saving time encourages us to spend longer hours outdoors, often socialising with family and friends.  As we enjoy this carefree time, celebrating life and the triumph of light, we do not want to think about the rest of the cycle, that of death, as we will be reminded of that only too readily when the temperatures continue to climb skyward.

The above is an excerpt from Dancing the Sacred Wheel by Frances Billinghurst.

The summer solstice is a time to reflect on the growth of the season – not only the seeds that have been planted within the earth but also those planted within our own souls.  It is also a time of cleansing and renewal, a time of celebrating creativity in all its many expressions, as well as joyous love and growth that surrounds us.

Summer Solstice
(by Cheryl Ban, 1998)
Brown earth lay blanketed beneath
the weight of white snow
People hold within their heart
the promise of light
Light that overcomes the night
Igniting fire
That burns a hole
all the way to the hot dry summer fields
The hope that the light holds in winter
becomes in summer
the knowing of the sun’s pathway back again
We poise on the edge of these great turnings
Balanced night and day
Ah for a moment …

Preparing for Spring

As the seasonal Wheel of the Year turns, it is not too long away before spring arrives. Even before Mid Winter my garden had been preparing itself with a display of early spring flowers.

This time of the year however there can appear to be a degree of false hope as the worse of the winter weather is often still to come. One thing that we do know for certain however is that life is starting to stir again.

Within contemporary witchcraft the first of the two spring festivals is Imbolc (Im-bulk), derived from the Irish Gaelic that means “in the belly” referring to the potential of all life that is in the belly of the Great Mother (Mother Earth), but also the pregnancy of other animals, particularly cattle and sheep, who give birth to their young around this time.  An alternative word is Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk”.  Although here in South Australia the lambs are often born around the autumn equinox to ensure that there is enough Winter grass for them to eat, in other parts of the country, and particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Imbolc heralds the birthing season for lambs.

Within contemporary witchcraft, the Goddess is often considered to be in her Maiden, or youthful aspect, while the God is in his Young Stag aspect. Their innocent reflects the lightness of the energies around them at this time of the year.

Nothing is so beautiful as spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look like low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes lightning to hear him sing;
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
George Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

In the Northern Hemisphere, Imbolc falls around 1st February and is often connected with the Goddess Brighid, or Brid (pronounced “Bree” or “Breeid”), who later become known as Saint Brigit. Spanning both paganism and Christianity, Brighid/Brigit is renown for her healing, and protection, with her sacred shrine still be utilised today in Kildare, County Meath in Ireland. 

As a way of marking and honouring Imbolc, I will be holding a special Celebrate Imbolc – The Celtic Festival of Spring at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre on Saturday, 1 August 2020, where participants will not only learn about the historical origins of this Celtic festival, but they will connect with the Maiden Goddess through empowering meditations.

We will also be making our own protective Cros Bride (Brigit’s Cross) that will be empowered through sacred ceremony, and discover how to connect with the healing energies of St Brigit through candles that have been lit from her sacred flame at Kildare.

Tickets are only $50 (plus Eventbrite fees) and are available through this link.

All attendees go in the draw to win a copy of my book In Her Sacred Name: Writings on the Divine Feminine.

Saturday, 1 August 2020 from 11am to 3pm
Location: Riverdell Spiritual Centre, 51 Clifford Road, Hillier SA 5116

Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere

The timing of the winter solstice is marked when the sun reaches its furthest north position in the sky and starts to move back towards the south.  As it does, it marks one of the main turning points in the year, the others being the equinoxes as well as the summer solstice (that occurs in December).  The timing for the winter solstice this year is today, Sunday, 21 June at 7:13 am (ACST time).  From this moment onwards, days start becoming longer and night times shorter.  However with the worse of the winter weather yet to arrive, this thought is not often the first that comes to mind.

In ancient Europe the winter solstice (the timing of which in the Northern Hemisphere takes place in December) was seen as a time of celebration.  The Romans had a week-long celebration called Saturnalia during which all wars had to stop and courts did not try criminals.  Later this festival became Dies Natalis of Sol Invicti, or the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, celebrated on 25 December each year.

Within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft, this is the time when the God is reborn and emerges from the Underworld, where he passed into at Samhain.  His rebirth will bring warmth and fertility back to the land. 

The eve of the winter solstice, however, belongs to the Goddess who is likened to a hibernating animal, residing deep within the Underworld as she readies herself for the pending birth of her son.  The child conceived at the festival of Bealtaine, which marks the commencement of summer, is about to be born. This birth is also the sign that life is about the return to the earth once again after many bleak months of winter.  Just as she labours to bring forth her son, the “Child of Promise”, the young hero, we also wait with much anticipation for the sun to appear.  The rebirth of the sun confirms that darkness will be overcome by light and we step into the waxing half of the year. We are reborn. The year is new.

The following “Solstice Prayer” by Thorn Coyle reflects the anticipation of waiting for the first rays of the sun to appear over the horizon:

We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun.
We wait in the dark for the light to appear,
Mother, give birth to our brother the Sun!
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of newness.
We wait. We watch.
Out of the cold comes the promise of day!

The Child of Promise is the new sun, which is small and weak at this time of the year, but will grow stronger as the sacred Wheel of the Year turns.  As such, the winter solstice is a time for celebrating new beginnings and to focus on what you wish to bring into your life.

Sources: Sydney Observatory

Why Samhain is not the “New Year”

The following is adapted from Dancing the Sacred Wheel where I brought to the reader’s attention that the assumption that Samhain was the Celtic “new year” and therefore has been adapted as such into modern paganism.

The “new year” assumption is believed to have originated from an interpretation made by 19th century antiquarian, Sir John Rhys, in his “Hibbert Lectures” presented in 1886. In these lecture, Sir John interpreted comments made by Julius Caesar on Gaulish Druidic timekeeping as Samhain being perceived as the Celtic New Year due to “the Celts reckoned Dis the father of all and regarded darkness and death as taking precedence over light and life.  So in their computation of time, they began with night and winter and not with daylight and summer.  This is probably the key to reckoning years as winter.”

Being the first scholar of Celtic studies at Oxford University, Sir John’s interpretation does not appear to have been questioned, despite P.W. Joyce commenting in A Social History of Ancient Ireland (1903) that “O’Donovan stated in 1847 (Book of Rights 1ii) that the season with which the Pagan Irish began their year could not be (then) determined”.

Sir John’s incorrect interpretation was never challenged resulting it appearing in what today are now considered to be “classical” works, including The Golden Bough where Sir James Frazer recorded that “… the Celts would seem to have dated the beginning of the year from [Samhain] rather than Bealtane.”  Sir James also concluded that “ … we may with some probability infer that [the Celts] reckoned their year from Hallowe’en rather than Beltane.”

By the 1950s, this inaccuracy was considered fact, as pointed out in T.G.E. Powell’s The Celts (1958). 

Jon Bonsing of Caer Australis however has not only queried Sir John’s assertion but also attempts to correct it by pointing out that was no indication whatsoever of Caesar stating that the Celts considered “that winter, death and darkness took any precedence over summer, life or light” as Sir John talked about in his “Hibbert Lectures”.

Caer Australis further indicate that there is a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that Bealtaine was actually considered to be the start of the Celtic year, at least within the Irish tradition.  It was on the eve of Bealtaine that the Tuatha de Danaan arrived on Irish shores, as well as being the time when the great gathering of chiefs occurred at Uisneach, Co. Westmeath.  In 405 CE, during the reign of Dathi, conflict arose between the Pagan Irish and the Christians, resulting in St Patrick lighting his famous Paschal fire at Slane just prior to the lighting of the sacred Bealtaine fires.

Various Celtic heroes were believed to have been born around Bealtaine, providing further evidence of the importance of this festival, and in particular that of the “divine son”.  For example, within the Mabinogian, an entire episode is devoted to the birth of Gwri Golden Hair at Calan Mai (the first day of summer).  Caer Australis indicate that this epithet for Pwyll was given “ … because ‘what hair was on his head was as yellow as gold’.  No wonder his hair is ‘golden’, for no other imagery would be appropriate for the symbolic birth of the sun.”

If that is not evidence enough to at least query the assumption of any historical evidence of Samhain being the Celtic New Year, within the mythos contained within contemporary witchcraft relating to the sabbats do not allow for this. The sabbats, as I explained in Dancing the Sacred Wheel, follow the journey of the God. It is at Samhain when the God descends into the Underworld take up his guise as the Dreaded Lord of the Shadows at Samhain. As his rebirth occurs at the winter solstice coinciding with the renewal of the solar cycle, it makes more sense for the winter solstice to be considered the “new year”.

Imbolc – Return of the Maiden

The earth is in the slow process of returning back to life after the long winter’s sleep with the first tendrils cautiously making their appearance.  There is the likelihood of frosts, but despite this, early flowers are pushing their way to the surface – snowdrops, dwarf hyacinths, jonquils, early irises and even daffodils are appearing, making the statement that spring is on its way.  A fragile warming of the air can be felt as winter, usually the season of rest and withdrawal, comes to an end.  This is the time of uncertainty as the spirit reawakens, welcoming back the Maiden of Spring.

Imbolc (also spelt Imbolg) is the first festival of Spring, and is usually celebrated around 31st July or 1st August in the Southern Hemisphere, when the sun moves 15 degrees into Leo.  It is Irish-Gaelic and translated to mean “in the belly” referring to the potential of all life that is in the belly of the Great Mother (Mother Earth), but also the pregnancy of other animals, particularly cattle and sheep, who give birth to their young around this time.  An alternative word for Imbolc is Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk”.  Although here in South Australia the lambs are often born around the Autumn Equinox to ensure that there is enough winter grass for them to eat, in other parts of the country, and particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Imbolc heralds the birthing season for lambs.

The Crios Bridghid (Brighid’s Cross) is believed to have originated in the Connemara, located on the western side of Ireland and were traditionally made from reeds, rushes or straw.  The reeds were braided into a rope and formed into a circle, which was believed to hold protective powers.  Those who jumped through. Over time the circle became likened to a swastika cross, and it was believed to be a representation of the sun or even a fire wheel.  Once made, the cross would be placed over the doorways of houses, stables and barns, for protection and prosperity for the coming year.

You are invited to celebrate Imbolc – The Celtic Festival of Spring at the Riverdell Spiritual Centre (Hillier) on Saturday, 1 August 2020.
:: Connect with the Maiden Goddess through empowering meditations
:: Explore the journey of Brigid from Goddess to Saint
:: Make your own Crios Bridghid (Brighid’s Cross) that will be empowered through sacred ceremony
:: Discover how to connect with the healing energies of St Brigit through making your own healing candle.

All attendees go in the draw to win a copy of
In Her Sacred Name: Writings on the Divine Feminine.

Date: Saturday, 1 August 2020
Time: 11am to 3pm
Investment: $50.00
Venue: Riverdell Spiritual Centre, 51 Clifford Rd, Hillier SA 5116

Payment must be received by 20 July 2020 as there are limited places available.

Direct payment via Bank Transfer to:
Account Name: Frances Billinghurst
BSB: 325185
Account Number: 03146790
Please put your name for reference.

Southern Samhain and the Halloween Witch

As the Wheel of the Year turns, 30 April marks the time of Samhain here in the Southern Hemisphere, the time of the year when we gather together to remember our ancestors of both kith and kin. What is probably the most sombre of all the seasonal observances, the Southern Samhain falls just after ANZAC Day, the day on which Australia and New Zealand pause to remember those who have given their lives in the many global conflicts.

A number of years ago, the Broadway musical, “Wicked” is in town around the Southern Samhain, complete with all the stereotypes of what witches are often depicted as looking like. As such I thought it might be timing to share a poem that I initially came across about 10 years ago, The Halloween Witch by “Angel”.

Each year they parade her about,
the traditional Halloween Witch.
Misshapen green face, stringy scraps of hair,
a toothless mouth beneath her deformed nose.
Gnarled knobby fingers twisted into a claw’
protracting from a bent and twisted torso
that lurches about on wobbly legs.

Most think this abject image
to be the creation of a prejudiced mind
or merely a Halloween caricature.
I disagree,
I believe this to be how Witches were really seen.

Consider that most Witches:
were women,
were abducted in the night,
and smuggled into dungeons or prisons under the
secrecy of darkness
to be presented by light of day
as a confessed Witch.

Few if any saw a frightened normal looking woman
being dragged into a secret room filled with
instruments of torture,
to be questioned until she confessed to anything
suggested to her
and to give names or what ever would stop the
questions.
Crowds saw the aberration denounced to the world
as a self-proclaimed Witch.
As the Witch was paraded through town
en route to be burned, hanged, drowned, stoned
or disposed of in various other forms of Christian love
all created to free and save her soul from her depraved body

the jeering crowds viewed the results of hours of torture.
The face bruised and broken by countless blows
bore a hue of sickly green.
The once warm and loving smile gone
replaced by a grimace of broken teeth and torn gums
that leers beneath a battered disfigured nose.
The disheveled hair conceals
bleeding gaps of torn scalp from whence
cruel hands had torn away the lovely tresses.
Broken twisted hands clutched the wagon for support,
fractured fingers with nails torn away
locked like groping claws to steady her broken body.
All semblance of humanity gone
this was truly a demon,
a bride of Satan,
a Witch.

I revere this Halloween Crone
and hold her sacred above all.
I honor her courage and listen to her warnings of the
dark side of man.
Each year I shed tears of respect
when the mundane exhibit their symbol of Christian
love.

Samhain – Online Ritual

With social distancing still occurring, the May Gathering Around the Cauldron, scheduled to take place on Thursday, 7 May 2020, will be adapted into an online format and will involve the livestreaming of a Samhain ritual (being the recent sabbat here in South Australia).

This online live streaming will be offered free on the Temple of the Dark Moon’s Facebook page from 7pm ACST (Australian Central Standard Time). For anyone wishing to be more actively involved in the Samhain ritual from their own sacred space, a 11 paged colour A4 fact sheet about Samhain is now available to purchase securely through Paypal for the sum of only $7 AUD.

The fact sheet provides information about the sabbat from a historical perspective, include a sabbat related craft to make, correspondences, and the meaning of the sabbat on a more deeper psychological level, as well as a copy of the ritual that will be used on the night. It should pointed out, however, that as the ritual contained within the fact sheet is based on the one that the Temple of the Dark Moon actually uses, there are certain parts we are not able to make public in the ritual context. This does not take away from the purpose of the ritual being made available. For those attending on Thursday night, the ritual will be live streamed in its entirety.

To receive your copy of the Temple of the Dark Moon’s Samhain Fact Sheet in readiness of next Thursday’s ritual, orders must be received before 5.30pm ACST on 7 May 2020. Names will also go into a draw for a prize that will be announced after the ritual.

Any orders received after that time will be sent out after the ritual has concluded.

ANZAC Day – A National Day of Honouring Ancestors

The 25th April is a special day for Australia and New Zealand for this is ANZAC Day (an acronym standing to “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), the day which marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by these two countries during the First World War.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula (Turkey), under a plan by British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill in order to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
        (“For the Fallen” by  Laurence Binyon )

The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish Army commanded by Mustafa Kernal (later known as Atatürk).  What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties – some 21,255 British, soldiers, 10,000 French, 8,709 Australian, 2,721 New Zealanders, and 1,358 from India (which was under British rule at the time).
The date, 25th of April, was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916; in that year it was marked by a wide variety of ceremonies and services in Australia and New Zealand, a march through London, and a sports day for the Australian and New Zealand soldiers in Egypt.  The small New Zealand community of Tinui, near Masterton in the Wairarapa, North Island, was apparently the first place in New Zealand to have an ANZAC Day service, when the then vicar led an expedition to place a large wooden cross on the Tinui Taipos (370 metre high large hill/mountain, behind the village) in April 1916 to commemorate the dead. A service was held on 25 April of that year.

With the coming of the Second World War, ANZAC Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians and New Zealanders lost in that war as well and in subsequent years. The meaning of the day has been further broadened to include those killed in all the military operations in which the countries have been involved.

Erroneously perceived by some as a day that “glorifies” war, ANZAC Day actually represents the opposite – it is a time of remembrance and reflection that, like our ancestors, without the sacrifice of those men and women, our life today could very well be extremely different.  As with the commemorations that are held at Gallipoli are also marked by the Turkish people, ANZAC Day also offers an opportunity to extend the hand of friendship in due respect to those who once were our enemies in an attempt that the lessons from the past are finally learnt.

My great uncle Manuel Vieira, WW1 NZ Rifleman died at Ypres, Belgium in 1971, aged 22 years

For the contemporary witch, it is interesting to note that ANZAC Day falls just prior to the timing of Samhain here in the Southern Hemisphere that marks the gateway to winter and the darker months. Observance of this sabbat, especially within my own teachings and practice, focuses on our ancestors whether they be of direct lineage, magical and/or spiritual lineage, or who have simply influenced us along our journey.

It is a time of showing respect to those who have gone before for it is their influence (both negative and positive) that has shaped us into the person we are today. As we step into the space of inner contemplation, it is our responsibility as to how we will utilise that influence.

For the Fallen
(A poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon and was published in London in the Winnowing Fan; Poems of the Great War in 1914. The verse, which became the League Ode was already used in association with commemoration services in Australia in 1921)

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children
England mourns for her dead across the sea,
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again,
They sit no more at familiar tables of home,
They have no lot in our labour of the daytime,
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires and hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the night.

As the stars shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are stary in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.