Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers.
By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
Annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, notably in the mountain areas. In cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried, this may take on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles.
People gather on the designated day and put flowers on graves and renew contacts with relatives and others. There often is a religious service and a picnic-like “dinner on the grounds,” the traditional term for a potluck meal at a church. It is believed that this practice began before the American Civil War and thus may reflect the real origin of the “memorial day” idea.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.
A magickal ritual from The Pagan Book of Hours might be appropriate for today. Here is is:
Feast of the Fallen Warriors
- Color: Red
- Element: Fire
- Altar: On a red cloth place a helmet over a skull. Set out four red candles and two crossed swords.
- Offerings: Candles. Written names of fallen warriors of the past, especially in one’s family.
- Daily Meal: Simple, plain food.
Invocation to the Fallen Warriors
Your blood lies spilled
Across all the lands of the world.
You stood and faced the enemy,
Whoever they were,
And perhaps you saw yourself
In his face,
And perhaps you did not.
Perhaps you fought
To save your kin and clan,
Perhaps for greed,
Perhaps for money,
Perhaps out of loyalty
To those you followed.
Whatever the reason,
You acquitted yourselves bravely
And did what you had to do
When it seemed right.
May your spirits rest peacefully,
And know we do not forget your glory.
(Chant in wordless harmonies as the swords are unsheathed, crossed in an arch over the altar, and resheathed again. All bow to the altar and extinguish the candles.)
Celebrating John Chapman, legendary American pioneer and folk hero who planted apple trees across the American Frontier. Chapman was born in Massachusetts, September 26, 1774, but Johnny Appleseed Day is celebrated on March 11th.
Chapman earned his nickname because he planted small orchards and individual apple trees during his travels as he walked across 100,000 square miles of Midwestern wilderness and prairie. He was a genuine and dedicated professional nurseryman, known for his generous nature, his love of the wilderness, his devotion to the Bible, his knowledge of medicinal herbs, his harmony with the Indians, and his eccentric nature, too.
Celebrate this holiday by doing something with apples. Decorate with images of apples, apple trees, and Johnny Appleseed himself. You might visit an orchard to pick apples, hold a pot luck feast with apple smoked pork and apple pie. You might even want to plant an apple tree in your yard.
Here is a blessing you can use:
Apples are sacred
As everyone must know.
We remember Johnny
Wherever apples grow.
So we say a blessing
Wherever they may be
Blessing on the apples
And Blessing on each tree.
About Johnny Appleseed
While the legend depicts Johnny Appleseed as a barefoot vagrant, cooking pot on his head, and roaming the landscape strewing apple seeds randomly, it is far more likely that he was more of an eccentric but skilled professional, establishing nurseries of apple trees, and selling his services progressively westward to landowners interested in planning orchards. He’d teach his clients how to establish an orchard, how to keep deer and livestock at bay, and once the nursery was thriving, he’d move on to the next person interested in planting orchards.
If he had to stay in one place for any length of time, he’d erect a teepee like structure and live humbly on the bare ground. It is said that his only possessions were the clothes on his back, a bowl and a spoon, and a cooking pot for his gruel.
He was a follower of Swedenborg and devoutly believed that the more he endured in this world the less he would have to suffer and the greater would be his happiness hereafter—he submitted to every privation with cheerfulness and content, believing that in so doing he was securing snug quarters hereafter.
In the most inclement weather he might be seen barefooted and almost naked except when he chanced to pick up articles of old clothing. Notwithstanding the privations and exposure he endured, he lived to an extreme old age, not less than 80 years at the time of his death—though no person would have judged from his appearance that he was 60. He always carried with him some work on the doctrines of Swedenborg with which he was perfectly familiar, and would readily converse and argue on his tenets, using much shrewdness and penetration.
Next time you bite into an apple, think of “Johnny Appleseed.”
Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States. It was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Several other places around the world observe similar celebrations. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated in a secular manner as well.
This is the perfect time of year for everyone around the world to be thankful for what they’ve been given.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes in complete silence. It’s best if you’re alone, and you close your eyes. Remove all problems from your thoughts for a moment. Push everything aside.
Then… think about what you DO have:
- Are you breathing? Yes, you are. Be thankful that you’ve been given LIFE…the biggest miracle of all.
- Do you have loved ones? Be thankful that they are in your life.
- Do you have a roof over your head – even if it’s hard to pay for? Be thankful for that… many people don’t.
- Are you starving? No? Be thankful that you have food to eat. There are millions starving around the world that would love to have some food from your cupboard.
Think for a moment how lucky you are to be alive… even if it’s not always easy.
Eriskegal, great black mother of the House of Dust,
you who wait at the end of every life,
cast your dim black gaze upon the just
and, blinking once, give them rebirth.
While November is the eleventh month on modern calendars, it was once the ninth, as evidenced by the Latin number novem. In the United States, November contains one of the oldest national holidays – Thanksgiving.
Actually, festivals of gratitude combine with late harvest festivals in many parts of the world; at this time people pray for divine providence and give thanks for the earth’s bounty. Other predominant festivals during early winter months include commemorative rites for the dead and rituals that protect individuals or whole communities from evil influences.
For people living in four-season climates, the snows begin to accumulate and winter winds decorate the windows with frosty reminders of the outside chill. Because of this, magic for continued health is fitting during November, as are spells and charms for protection.
Wintery months also seem to be a time for introspection – to us divination tools for foresight and preparation, to seek guidance within, and to ask the Goddess for a special spiritual vision to carry us through the last months of the year.
Source: 365 Goddess
Image from: 2008 Witches Calendar
Independence Day (July 4th) is the “birth” of the United States is celebrated by Pagans and non-Pagans alike. Many patriotic Witches honor and give thanks to Lady Liberty, and perform magickal spells and rituals for the benefit of the country.
The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by delegates from the 13 colonies in 1776. The Declaration of Independence is America’s revolutionary Charter of Freedom and the document upon which the nation’s founding principles were established.
The Second Continental Congress actually made its decree for freedom on July 2, 1776, signing the Lee Resolution. Two days later, on July 4, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence and the alarm for freedom was sounded at Independence Hall with the Liberty Bell.
It was on August 4, 1776, after delegates of the Continental Congress had signed the document, that The Declaration of Independence was made official. John Adams’ famous letters to his wife, Abigail, on the 3rd of July, 1776, capture the spirit of the time. Writing from Philadelphia, he said,
Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.”
I am apt to believe (this day) will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.
Here is a brief excerpt from The Declaration of Independence. You can read the full text of the Declaration of Independence at www.archives.gov:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
- Themes: Freedom; Perspective; Overcoming; Health; Power; Destiny; Air Element; Movement
- Symbols: Feathers (not Eagle – gathering these is illegal)
- Presiding Goddess: Mother of All Eagles
About the Mother of All Eagles:
On the warm summer winds, Eagle Mother glides into our reality, carries us above our circumstances, and stretches our vision. Among Native Americans, the Eagle Mother represents healing, her feathers often being used by shamans for this purpose. Beyond this, she symbolizes comprehension, finally coming to a place of joyfully accepting our personal power over destiny.
To Do Today:
On this day (June 20), in 1982, President Reagan declared Bald Eagle Day to honor the American emblem of freedom. In Native American tradition, this emblem and the Eagle Mother reconnect us with sacred powers, teaching us how to balance our temporal and spiritual life on the same platter.
Find a new, large feather for an Eagle Mother talisman. Wrap the pointed end with cloth crisscrossed by leather thongs or a natural fabric ribbon. Each time you cross the leather strings, say:
______ bound within;
when released by wind, let the magick begin.
Fill in the blank with the Eagle Mother attributes you desire, then have the feather present or use it in rituals or spells to disperse incense, thereby releasing its magic on the winds.
From 365 Goddess
Bill of Rights Day honors the ratification of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which occurred on December 15, 1791. These laws protect basic human rights, including freedom of religion, speech, and peaceable assembly. Franklin D. Roosevelt first proclaimed Bill of Rights Day in 1941. Occurring on December 15 each year, it is a day for people to fly the U.S. flag and to reflect upon the significance of these amendments.
It might also be a great day to write your own “Bill of Rights” and begin a process of taking better care of yourself, protecting your personal time, your right to inner happiness, and, if necessary, put a stop to relationships that are not in your own best interests. You could give yourself permission to say “no” from time to time. Remember, you can’t take care of others if you don’t first take care of yourself.