Updated: Jan 23
A warm welcome to new subscribers and a big thanks to you the craft and curio community.
The great wheel is being struck again and today I will be writing about possibly one of my favourite Sabbaths - the first harvest, or in my native Slavic culture - The days of the Perun - the thunder god. Make a cuppa, get comfy, cause this blog post goes deep into folklore, sky gods, dragons and the lost sacred art of bread making.
You may have noticed travelling around our wide country how the colours are changing, the fields are golden brown now and the sun's light hangs lower in the sky and he has a slightly deeper yellow hue and all the vegetables and fruits are ripening, the apples, grapes, squashes and pumpkins are almost ready, honey is in abundance and the grain is being harvested.
The first harvest begins on the 2nd of February and the official date is on the 4th February, 12:27pm here in the Southern Hemisphere. This marks the cross quarter between summer solstice and autumn equinox.
Besides the fact we are 6 months ahead of the Northern Hemisphere here in the land of Oz, this Pagan harvest festival varies in dates and names throughout the world but every culture has a harvest king/god a harvest celebration and a grain/bread festival.
You may be familiar with the English sabbath of Lammas (which through Christianisation was turned into Loaf Mass) or the Celtic Festival of Lughnasadh (Loo-nah-saad) honouring the three headed God - and King of the tribes of Daanan - Lugh. He is the lord of smithing, specialty crafts and magick, good fortune and the harvest. He was regarded as both a saviour and a trickster, he was celebrated for his skills in craftsmanship and battle and was very skilled with a sword.
In Slavic Culture this time of the year is called The days of Perun honouring the Slavic God of creation, the thunder God - and it is very fitting that I am writing this during a Thunderstorm. The date Slavs begin to honour Perun are July 20 through to August 2nd (which translates to our Southern Hemisphere January 20 to Feb 2nd)
Perun shares qualities to the Thunder God Zeus, Jupiter and Thor among others that I will mention below.
He rules over the sky, thunder and creation, he is the god of good fortune, of smithing, of harvest tools, agriculture and weapons - and is very skilled with a sword... sound familiar?
It is in these days where a great battle reigns between Veles, the God of the underworld and the wintertime (Veles is represented by a snake or dragon); and Perun, the God of the heavens and summertime.
Above - Perun and Veles in battle
We see this battle between the thunder god and the snake/dragon represented in folklore, religion and art throughout antiquity. For example: Thor and the battle with Jörmungandr, Hercules killing the Dragon, St George and the Dragon. St Michael fighting the dragon, I too see this relationship in the story of St Patrick and the Snake, the story is repeated throughout the cycles of time, over and over all throughout every ancient culture in the world.
Above: St Michael battles the Dragon
Above: Hercules battles the Dragon
Above: St Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland
Notice how every depiction of our hero has him wielding some sort of sword, or staff or weapon.... interesting, huh? How many other stories do you know where a sun god or hero battles a serpent or dragon? It is the ever present battle between dark and light, good and evil, between the turn of the winter and summer, the wheel is struck again.
There is so much folklore surrounding each sabbath and I recommend that you research in accordance to your chosen path/pantheon/culture/folklore to get closer to knowing the underlying stories of what these sabbaths actually represent. The celestial power that is at the roots of each strike of the great wheel is powerful knowledge to harness.
This battle marks the beginning of Autumn, where Veles the God of wintertime will soon reign supreme and thus we mark and give thanks for the harvest; the grains, corn, apples, grapes, vegetables and fruits.
This celebration is held in honour of our Old Gods that taught us agriculture, and gave us seeds and taught us how to grow, tend, mill the grain to bake the bread that granted us the gifts of an abundant harvest that gives us strength and life.
The Ancient Slav's were most definitely a cult of ancestors. The folk lore is that we came from the Old Gods and that we are the descendants of them, that the ancestors die and become god-like is at the root of the cult of the ancestors, therefore we must honour them like gods and they will continue to assist, guide and protect us. Our Ancestors are the closest thing to the spirit world we have. Their bones and blood is ours, they walk within/with us. They want nothing more than to have us to succeed, be happy and healthy so that we create healthy, happy descendants so their bones and blood can go on. Setting bread, salt and water on the ancestral altar has been and still is the most important of bloodless sacrifices we can give to strengthen the bond between these worlds.
I am sure that if you look back on pagan ancestral practices that you will find the same throughout most cultures - venerating the dead was always the first ritual inside the home... Look around your home, do you have pictures of your deceased relatives on a shelf up high or on a mantlepiece above your fire place/heater/hearth? This is an instinctual ritual that is innate within us... These rituals then extend out into the community by honouring the old gods who taught us to work together and gave rules and lore to create societal morals and values. Bread played such a huge part in the lives of our ancient ancestors, you could say that life revolved around the grains in the fields. My ancestors would first give a sacrifice to the god/goddess of harvest in the field, sometimes with a human or animal sacrifice and pour libations of blood and wine onto the ground to ensure a good harvest, then they would till the soil, then sow the seed, then tend the growing, pray for rain and favourable weather, continue to give offerings, then harvest, then mill, then prepare and bake and then finally share the bread with all... This was such a sacred process - we certainly take this all for granted now as commercial bread making has become such a godless act...
Bread making is completely industrialised and all commercial grains in the bread making process have been genetically modified and heavily sprayed with glyphosate for the last 70 years. There have been studies performed and it was concluded that no matter if you were celiac or a little sensitive or experienced nothing negative at all from gluten - that all candidates tested experienced a reaction to the gluten in bread. We all have developed elevated anti-bodies to gluten and grains, which in turn have caused a pandemic of leaky gut issues that have lead to the myriads of autoimmune dis-eases. This has all been caused by the adulteration of this once sacred process - it's a crime and I am cranky about it because I too have an auto-immune dis-ease no thanks to it and I am not OK with gluten or pseudo grains like corn or sorghum at all - I can't even touch a crumb of gluten and can't simply bake a delicious loaf of white bread for this specific occasion. Not to matter! This is why I use witchcraft to go within myself and heal without using the system because I am a problem solver, the knowledge of how to heal is within me and I will now share with you a gluten and grain free bread that I developed for my father so I call it (Gluten Free) GrandFather bread.
GrandFather bread Serves 12 slices or Makes 8 buns Prep Time: 5 minutes Bake time: 35 minutes
Peheat fan forced oven to 175 celcius
1 cup buckwheat flour OR Almond meal
3/4 cup arrowroot flour
1/2 cup of milled white rice flour OR milled golden flax seed flour
1/3 cup coconut oil (not melted)
1/4 cup chia seed
1/4 cup filtered room temp water
3 free range eggs
2 tablespoons brown rice malt syrup
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
I made mine in a thermomix but you can blend with a cake mixer
Put chia seed into mixer, add water and eggs. Beat together until fluffy. (Thermomix 20 seconds, in reverse, speed 3)
Add the rest of the wet ingredients and beat well until the coconut oil is dispersed through. (Thermomix 20 seconds, in reverse speed 3) Add the dry ingredients and beat until a dough forms. (Thermomix 30 seconds, in reverse speed 3)
Grease a bread pan or line with parchment paper if making a loaf and pour mixture into the pan spreading evenly, you may add poppy seeds or sunflower seeds, or carve a solar symbol on top. Place the tin into the warmed oven bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
If you're making buns, line a tray with parchment paper, grease your hands with olive oil and shape a ball and place it on the tray, do this again for each bun. You can also shape one large round bread on a lined baking tray - I like to carve a solar symbol on top. Sprinkle poppy seeds, or sunflower seeds on top.
Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. You can get creative with this recipe, sometimes I add garlic powder, herbs and spices like parsley and basil, a little more seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds through the mix and I reckon you could put dried fruit through it too.
They were delicious with Coconut oil and Honey! I simply had to give them hot and fresh to my ancestors.
Baking bread is simply one of the things you can do for this festival, there are many ways to celebrate the first harvest. Let's take a look at symbols, colours, herbs, rituals etc, first.
Ways to Celebrate:
Look to nature, what colours are prevalent right now? Gold, Bronze, Yellow, Green, Brown, Orange.. You can build and decorate an altar with the following: Symbols: bowls, grains, bread, corn and corn dollies, gourds, scythe/sickle, sunflowers and sunflower seeds, sun wheels, weapons, axes, mjolnir, hammers, agricultural tools, bells, vajra, drums, furs. Animals: Calves, Crow, Pigs, Roosters, Salmon
Candle Colours: Bronze, Green, Gold, Light Brown, Orange, Yellow, plain beeswax is a wonderful way to honour our little friends the bees...
Crystals & Stones: Citrine, Golden Topaz, Lodestone, Moss Agate, Obsidian, Peridot, Tiger’s Eye, Yellow Aventurine
Incense & Oils: Basil, Frankincense, Rose, Rosemary, Sandalwood
Herbs & Flowers: Apple Leaf, Basil, Blackthorn, Clover, Goldenrod, Heather, Ivy, Marigold, Peony, Poppy, Rose/Rose Hips, Rosemary, Sunflower, Vervain, Yarrow
Trees: Apple, Oak, Eucalyptus
Rituals: Decorate your home and altar in the colours of The First Harvest It's a Summer festival, so pack a picnic or have a BBQ or feast with your family and friends, get all the harvest foods you can and go outside! Honour the sun and it's warmth and gifts. Leave an offering outside for Mother Earth
Cook a meal in your cauldron
Build an altar to your ancestors and offer them bread with fruits and jams, and mead or wine - for it is during the darker parts of the year that we can feel their presence more...set a place for your ancestors at your ritual dinner or BBQ and load up their plate with food and wine.
Perform a ritual honouring the sun and give offerings
Perform a ritual honouring the land and give offerings
Craft a Corn dolly and feed her
Learn a new skill, craft or instrument
Craft something out of the bountiful things available to us in nature, such as weave a basket, create a wreath or gather a bunch of wildflowers. Create a sun wheel Harvest herbs and create a Harvest Tea or Harvest saining blend Harvest fruits such as grapes, berries or apples Make pies and carve a little sun wheel into the base of the dough Make Jam and preserves
Thank a farmer and gift them some beer, cheese and wine!
Honour the deities associated with the sabbath such as Lugh, Thor, Perun, Cerridwen, Rhiannon etc. Create a ritual oil with the herbs of the season.
Watch the sun rise or set
Perform a drum circle
Go outside during a thunderstorm and play drums, chant, ring bells and honour the Lord of the thunderbolts and heavens! This is truly powerful as you can build the energy and feel the electricity in the air - it's one of my favourite things to do with my kids. Hail Perun!
So that's it my beautiful Magi folk, thanks for sticking around and reading this blog it was a long one! May you have a wonderful Sabbath whatever you do! Til' the next time I write. Rock on, witches.