Latvian Ethnographic Signs and Meanings

The Latvian signs are observed as early as Stone Age, when simple lines were used to represent signs for protection, power and health. Through the ages, these ornaments evolved and were being used as decorative (yet still magical) elements in clothing, musical instruments and other important possessions of the household. This shift happened around 6th-7th century AD, and came into full blown ornamental elements from 8th century onwards. Though straight lines were now stylistically painted and became more fluid.

Throughout these ages, some symbols were lost, some remained, but their meaning had changed, and some new elements were introduced. It is also important to note, that the regional differences in the symbols and signs are observed throughout Latvia, however their meanings are largely the same.

The signs did not have particularly complex names, and relied upon visual cues for naming, however with the evolution of language, some were given names to reflect the Patrons they represent, or the qualities of the sign.

It is interesting to me, to see how some symbols are very rune-like, yet completely different in a sense that Latvian signs do not form an alphabet, and would not have been used in fortune telling. Rather, the signs were engraved or otherwise added to clothing, tools, musical instruments etc to give the wearer/user the attributes of this sign.

In recent years, the Latvian Signs have been an object of renewed interest, and has also returned to mainstream folk traditions. 

In this chapter, I will not be looking into the Patrons, deities etc. I will be dedicating a blog post to the Latvian Mythology and pantheon of deities. Instead, I will show you some of the Signs and their properties and uses.

So, without further ado, here are some of Latvian Signs:

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Latvian Gadskārtas (Wheel Of The Year)

As you can see the Wheel of the Year is not a singularly Wiccan/Pagan/Witch concept. The Latvian Wheel of The Year or ‘Gadskārtas’ as it is known is also constucted from 8 celebrations (Sabbats) in a year.
The difference between the wheels though, is that ‘Gaskārtas’ is based on having exactly 45 days between each celebration, and there being 9 days in a week. For the mathematically inclined, you will see that this only amounts to 360 days. These extra ‘missing’ days were added as extra celebration days to ‘Lieldienas’ (Ostara) and ‘Ziemassvētki’ (Yule). This way the calendar was aligned to the Solar Year, and was exactly the same every year.

To understand the need for such a calendar, I should explain a bit about Latvian folk. Historically, Latvians have been an agricultural and farming society, thus the ‘Gadskārtas’ reflect the solstices and climatic changes in nature, celebrating and worshiping the patrons of each point, and the significance of each period. The two main points of reference were of course the summer solstice ‘Jāņi’ and winter solstice ‘Ziemassvētki’, which were the longest day and the shortest day of the year respectively. These then formed the base for the Solar Calendar.

  • Between ‘Ziemassvētki’ and ‘Meteņi’ is the Winter Time;
  • Between ‘Meteņi’ and ‘Lieldienas’ is the Hard Snow Time;
  • Between ‘Lieldienas’ and ‘Ūsiņi’ is the Spring Time;
  • Between ‘Ūsiņi’ and ‘Jāņi’ is the Sowing Time;
  • Between ‘Jāņi’ and ‘Jēkabi’ or ‘Māras’ is the Hay Time;
  • Between ‘Jēkabi’/’Māras’  and ‘Miķeļi’ is the Autumn Time;
  • Between ‘Miķeļi’ and ‘Mārtiņi’ is the Spirit Time;
  • And between ‘Mārtiņi’ and ‘Ziemassvētki’ is the Ice/Frost Time.

Every celebration has associated symbols, Patron, food, drink as well as customs, songs, poetry and other associated folklore. The goal of the celebration was to appease the Patrons and to ensure good fortune, crop, fertility and overall well being of the household. The celebrations were usually held outdoors, in sacred sites near the households, and were celebrated as a group or family occasion.
I will explore each celebration in more detail as I will be preparing for them.

Of course, with the introduction of Christianity in Latvia, and the beginning of Gregorian Calendar, the Solar Year was no longer relevant, therefore the customs remained largely the same in rural areas, although the days of celebration were now fixed to set dates, and weeks no longer had 9 days in them. With Christianity also came a change in the worship of Patrons, and was replaced with the worship of Christian God, though still the customs of celebration remained largely the same. As time passed and society evolved, these customs became less and less relevant, and only the 4 solstices remained celebrated.

Image credit:
dom.lndb.lv
angelisgrove.wordpress.com

Prison

So, you think you are free.

Think again.

At home, at work, outside, inside, in your mind, body, soul. Are you truly free? Or are these all just prisons of different sizes? Some, like a panopticon. Some, like a free-roam prison, but always imprisoned.

Is there escape? Can you become truly free? Can spirituality help you break out, or is it a momentary escape? A safe haven?

I’ve read many-a blog about how depression feels like. How one who does not have it could understand. Search, and ye shall find.

But here is a witch’s account.

Like a small, fragile, glass bowl that has been shattered on the floor. Even if someone picks up the pieces and glues them together, there will be some smaller pieces missing. Always missing.

And yet here you are, trying to pick up piece by piece, not knowing where anything goes.

Read about Kintsugi. A really beautiful concept – fixing broken pottery with gold.

But enough about depression…

Escape.

Sit down, meditate. Think. And think again. But not the negative thoughts. Think about true freedom – freedom of expression. Freedom you feel when things go right. Cling on to that feeling. ASK FOR HELP. From someone. Anyone! Have a talk with your Gods, Goddesses or Momma Nature. Tell everything that keeps your soul heavy.

You can think of enlightenment as a spiritual term, but I also think it “lightens” your soul. Allow yourself to be lifted. Escape the prison of your own negativity.

CHOOSE to be free. CHOOSE to receive positivity. CHOOSE life.

Become free. There is no prison. Just us, and our choices.

That’s all.

Blessed be!

Crossroads (an introduction to Wildwitchery)

Left – right, up – down, do – don’t, right – wrong. Crossroads have always symbolised a kind of ultimatum. You can’t move forward if you don’t follow a certain path of the crossroad.
 
I’m here to argue, that you can. And you should!
 
Wildwitchery is about the “walk on the wild side”, the “stepping away from the known” and taking the more difficult way. So is any path in Paganism. Your CHOICE to follow in this path is the very essence of you turning away from the crossroads and walking where so many have walked before, yet the path has never been laid out.
In essence, you lay your own path, gathering knowledge along the way, fighting with the weeds, smelling the flowers, appreciating the beasties you find along the way.
 
You may get lonely, as often, you walk this road alone. As you turn around to look back, you see many travelers walking down the graveled road, yet standing there and taking a deep breath, you realise – you are NEVER alone. And those who walk the graveled road, even though people surround them, often feel completely alone.
 
You may feel discouraged. Treading the overgrown grass, the mud and the grit, but then you stop, and at your feet you may just find beauty beyond all you’ve seen. Revel at the marvel of what the Earth looks like. Appreciate the tireless nature of the cycle of life. Let the water, the mud and the grass rejuvenate you and lift your spirits.
 
You may feel the happiest you’ve been. But you may also find out about the darkest parts of your soul. Check-in with yourself once in a while. Don’t hide from emotion, bask in its sheer delight. Wonder and happiness, anger and disappointment, sadness and relief – all these emotions are what make you – YOU. Feel the privilege of feeling, understand that this is what it means to be alive.
 
You may face tough decisions, and make some wrong ones too. Well, toughen up! Everyone’s journey can lead to dead-ends. Yours is the path that lets you see them as new beginnings. End of a cycle. Start of a new one. Yours is the path that welcomes mistakes – you grow through them, develop character, gain new insights. Never be ashamed of making a wrong decision. Take the time to see the lesson through to its end, take what you can from it, and then leave it behind.
Yours is the path that allows you to cleanse. Inside and out. Wash away the useless, keep only what is needed. Take time to cleanse – your space, your things, and yourself as well.
You may also feel like your path must stay secret. Well now, that’s up to you. Whether you share it or hide it, do it for you. Because this path is no one’s but yours.
So… When a crossroad is ahead of you, don’t pick right or left. Take a look around you and walk the wildwalk instead.
Blessed Be!28060994_1613766968716910_2625321405447777112_o

Loss

Loss – the fact or process of losing someone or something.

– Oxford Dictionary

We all have experienced a loss at one time or another. Whether it be loss of your beloved pen or indeed a loss of a dear friend, or a loved one. Loss can be significant or insignificant, however great losses are one of the most painful experiences a person can endure. There is a reason why “loss” originates from Old English ‘los’ – destruction.

As with many things in life, something must be destroyed in order for another thing to emerge. As pagans, we see this in the change of seasons, the never-ending life and death cycle, as well as in our ancestral teachings.

Significant physical loss can be overcome. Painfully. Over time. As they say “time heals all wounds”. But today I want to talk about another type of loss. Loss of faith.

*gasp*

How? We? NEVER!

Are you willing to be brave and truthful? If so, you must admit, at one point or another, you experienced a loss of faith. Whether it be questioning your beliefs, converting to Paganism, or indeed, questioning Paganism (*gasp*).

If you have formally studied, you will know, that in order for you to be objective, you must be a critical thinker, thorough researcher, and most importantly, diligent fact checker. However, with faith, we accept that some of our questions will not be answered, and we believe what we believe because “that’s how it’s been” – tradition. After all, faith is

  1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
  2. strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

– Oxford Dictionary

So, how can we therefore NOT have questions? Why SHOULD we just accept and move on?

I believe loss of faith to be a very strong part of building foundations for your path. One cannot be blindly believing without having questioned their belief first.

I remember the very first time I questioned my faith. I was a teenager, driving past a church, and made a sign of cross. Then I thought about what I’ve been believing as a Christian. And I quickly came to a conclusion, that I have always subconsciously just done what I had to, without agreeing to the doctrines.
And so I set off on my path to discovery, being a believer in “something”, but not quite knowing what it was…
Then, I realised that I have always had a deeply profound respect and connection to nature and Earthly denizens. So came my exploration of the Earth-based religions and eventually Wicca, and eventually Paganism and later Green- and Hedge-witchery.
I felt like I had finally come home. Like I belonged. Like…I didn’t need to search any longer. And so I studied… Year and a day. And longer… I leaped head first, and was happy with it all.
However. The dark night of the soul had loomed silently and unannounced. I felt betrayed. Lost once again. The expression “silence is deafening” is probably the only verbal way to describe it accurately.
It was a hard lesson to learn. To keep believing, even though I had questions that would never be answered. But I also learned another lesson then.

YOU SHOULD NEVER STOP QUESTIONING.

The day you do – is the day you’ve lost your faith.

Religious belief, like history itself, is a story that is always unfolding, always subject to inquiry and ripe for questioning. For without doubt, there is no faith.

– Jon Meecham

And the faith that grows out of questioning is stronger than the faith born of blind acceptance. It can withstand the shocks of circumstance. Only he who questions it in utter honesty can grow in his comprehension of the truth.

– James Dillet Freeman

Blessed Be!

Rite of Passage

There are a few cornerstone moments in our lives – birth, marriage, arrival of children, death. We celebrate these using our religious/spiritual/folk rituals, in circles of friends and family;sharing the joy among the nearest and dearest.

Arnold Van Gepp described Rites of Passage as having three stages: “separation, liminality and incorporation”. At first, one must separate form a group (separation) to become a part of another group. The Rites can be pre-liminary (e.g. birth), threshold (e.g. confirmation) or post-liminary (e.g. death). Around the conventional religions, you can see these as a part of the religious journey e.g. communion in Christianity, Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Judaism, the Shahada for Muslims etc.

For most Pagans, Rites of Passage are few and far between – initiation, handfasting, death. As most on the Pagan journey are solitary practitioners, these Rites of Passage are also celebrated very intimately, and are not widely acknowledged.

These spiritual Passages often signify a deeply intrinsic, conscious change for the Pagan practitioner, and thus should be celebrated and acknowledged. The Rites signify a change, and as humans, we need significators to fully embrace change.

So, wherever you are on your path – take some time. Celebrate your path, your choices, your change. Share it with others and let the World sing with you!

Blessed Be!

 

Where are you?

Where are you? When are you? How long… How much… How many…

In a world obsessed with measurements, we find ourselves constantly striving to do more, be more, source more, give more! So when we finally stop for a minute, we are often faced with immediate questioning – where, how, when, why?

So… where have I been?

This little Witchy has been brewing up a storm. I have been reflecting, growing, changing – both physically and mentally – preparing to pass my knowledge on to someone who is yet to learn the weird and wonderful ways of our World.

The more I think about it, the stranger it seems…the concept of time and our obsession with it. As well as our everlasting need for more (of everything).

The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.

Oxford Dictionaries: Time

Just as above, we are progressing. As individuals, as population, as World, and as a whole. However, is it fair to measure this? How can something so abstract be measured by the tick-tocking of a clock? Are we not capable of taking things in their own stride, and stop worrying? Would a World be in a better place if we were not so obsessed with measuring and scaling everything?

And then we come to my favourite – more.

Why do we need more? Of what do we need more of? Can we not be content with just enough?

So today, I invite you to express some gratefulness over what you have, and mindfully accept that that is enough.

Blessed Be!