Category Archives: Celtic

Bringing in the May

Image from our Fireweed 2021 wall calendar featuring artwork by Anahata Joy. Click for more info.

Many May Day customs involve flowers and green branches. Flowers are woven into wreaths to exchange as gifts between lovers or to hang on doors as decoration. Or flowers are placed in baskets and left on doorsteps for the recipients to find when they arise in the morning.

In Ireland, Beltane is the only safe day for wearing Irish lilacs. In France, the flower of May Day is the lily of the valley. Any wish made while wearing it comes true. The marsh-marigold or kingcup is called the herb of Beltane and is strewn against evil in the Isle of Man. Rosemary is another Beltane herb.

In England, there was a tradition of carrying about May garlands. At Horncastle in Lincolnshire, young boys carried May gads: peeled willow wands were wreathed with cowslips. In other parts of England, the garlands are small wooden crosses covered with flowers and greenery. But the hoop-garland is the most common: made from a framework of intersecting hoops so that the final effect is of a flower-covered globe. Sometimes a May Doll (sometimes said to represent Flora) is placed within or upon it. In Italy, the Bride of May carries the maggio, a green branch garlanded with ribbons, fresh fruits and lemons.

Sometimes flowers were given as messages: plum for the glum, elder for the surly, thorns for the prickly, and pear for the popular. In Lancashire, the flowers rhymed with their qualities. Any kind of thorn meant scorn (except for whitethorn or May), while holly was folly, briar for liars, rowan for affection and a plum in bloom rhymed with “married soon.” According to Porter, in Cambridgeshire, boys gave the popular girls sloe blossoms, while “the girl of loose manners had a blackthorn planted by hers’ the slattern had an elder tree planted by hers; and the scold had a bunch of nettles tied to the latch of her cottage door.” According to Hole, lime (which rhymes with prime) was a compliment and so was pear which rhymed with fair. The rowan (or quicken) since it rhymes with chicken was a sign of affection. But briar, holly and plum stood for liar, folly and glum while the alder (pronounced “owler” in some districts) rhymed with “scowler.” Other plants you did not want to receive included nettles, thistles, sloes, crab-tree branches and elders. Obviously there are some contradictions in this list, and some unkindness as well.

I find it interesting that the three plants most often associated with May Day: Sweet Woodruff, Lily of the Valley, and Hawthorn, all are connected in folklore with the heart. Summer is the time when Chinese medicine places the emphasis on strengthening the heart and the circulatory system. It also seems appropriate for the time of the year when we are focused on relationships and coupling.

References:
Field, Carol, Celebrating Italy, William Morrow 1990
Hole, Christina, A Dictionary of British Folk Customs, Granada Publishing 1976
Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press 1997
Porter, Enid, Cambridgeshire Customs & Folklore, 1969, quoted in Hutton


Waverly FitzgeraldWaverly Fitzgerald was a writer, teacher, and calendar priestess who studied the lore of holidays and the secrets of time for decades. She shared her research and her thoughts on her Living in Season website and in her book, Slow Time. Waverly passed away in December 2019 and is remembered for being kind, talented, and generous—especially in the aid she provided to many writers, both aspiring and well-established, with her wellspring of knowledge.

 

 


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Midweek Mindfulness with Michael J. Green: The Emergence — January 24, 2018

Celtic Blessings 2018 wall calendar

Image from our Celtic Blessings 2018 wall calendar featuring artwork by Michael J. Green. Click for more info.

The Emergence

Beneath the chaos and disorder of these days of purification, something is drawing ever closer, even as in the darkest of night the first glimmers of light announce the dawn. Pay heed and attend, for it is a birthing, a becoming, a returning. It is what the ancient people called The Emergence. Continue reading

New Coloring Book from Amber Lotus Publishing — Celtic Myth and Symbol: A Coloring Book of Celtic Art and Mandalas by Jen Delyth

Celtic Myth and Symbol coloring book

Sample coloring pageDownload a sample page from Celtic Myth and Symbol: A Coloring Book of Celtic Art and Mandalas by Jen Delyth and share your work with us on Facebook or Instagram!

Experience a personal connection with ancient Celtic mythology and symbolism as you weave color through intricate paths of knotwork, spiral patterns, and mandalas. These powerful symbols encourage us to go within as we meditate on their meanings.

Jen invites you to share the journey:

Celtic art is an intricate, enigmatic language that embraces interpretation. Limitless in creative variation, the ancient spiraling and intertwining patterns and symbols reflect the beat of the earth and the beauty, power, and spirit of nature. Energy flows from the center and unfurls in an infinite dance of possibility. Like the eternal knots, the great circle of life has no beginning and no end; seeds grow to be saplings and tall trees, which then return to the earth.

This art form is a living tradition. I immerse myself in crafting original designs and paintings, searching for simplicity, balance, and meaning within the ancient forms and stories and creating new designs that speak to us today. I grew up in Wales, an ancient land with an artistic culture spiraling back from the Celts to the first people. I find inspiration in my journey as an artist in the sacred patterns of my ancestors, where all is seemingly in motion, yet held in perfect balance.

It is the mysterious and spontaneous exploration of color that brings me the most delight. The Celtic scribes made their own paints by mixing egg white with organic pigments from plants and the earth. Touches of finely ground rare gemstones or of precious gold leaf added brilliance to their intricate illuminated vellum manuscripts. I mix creamy egg yolk with many of the same natural pigments the ancient Celts used. We are fortunate today to have a seductive array of different colors, paints, inks, pens, and pencils to channel our creativity as we bring beauty and personal expression to our art.

I invite you to share in this creative journey — to discover the joy of personal expression with the sensual and often enchanting process of bringing these designs to life with color. I believe that as we connect more deeply with the ancient Celtic language of spirals, knotwork, mandalas, symbols, and patterns, we can experience the gentle meditative focus that often comes with following the twists and turns — to the center and out again — of these mystical patterns.

Ysbryd!
— Jen Delyth Continue reading

Art for Life

Colors. Images. Words. Art can be a very personal expression. Having beautiful art in our homes and work spaces can serve as a focal point of calm during chaotic times or ignite passion in us to move into action. Art can be a reminder of who we are or who we strive to become.

At Amber Lotus Publishing, we are fortunate to be able to spend our time contemplating art – discussing, researching, and discovering. Art that we hope will infuse clarity, joy, and inspiration into our calendars. When we develop our calendars, we fall in love with the art and the message. It’s exciting to create a story for the year to mark our journey around the sun – one month at a time. Twelve pieces of art in celebration of that journey or to be touchstones along the way.

We are honored to work with a host of extraordinary artists, illustrators, photographers, writers, and thinkers. Here is a bit more about just three of them:

The Mindful Art of Thich Nhat Hanh 2018 wall calendar

Click to see more images from the 2018 calendar.

Thich Nhat Hanh
New for 2018, The Mindful Art of Thich Nhat Hanh wall calendar features the Zen calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh – affectionately known as Thay (“teacher”). His work is a joyful, fluid expression of his artistry and a timeless interpretation of Buddha’s teachings. Thay uses the calligraphy as a meditation; his hand and the brush merge to become one. Each serene stroke conveys a sense of mindfulness, energy, and love. With his calligraphy, Thay invites you to breathe in, to bring your mind back to your body, and to be present in the moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh has dedicated his life to the art of mindful living. Born in 1926, this Vietnamese Buddhist monk, scholar, poet, artist, peace activist, and prolific author is a beloved and revered global spiritual leader. His powerful teachings and best-selling books have reached an audience of millions around the world. For more than fifty years, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a pioneer of “Engaged” or “Applied” Buddhism, which applies ancient Buddhist wisdom to contemporary issues. He teaches that only through living in the present moment can we approach peacefulness – in ourselves and in the world. Now known as the “Father of Mindfulness,” he is the man Martin Luther King called “an apostle of peace and nonviolence.”

Celtic Mandala 2018 wall calendar

Click to see more images from the 2018 calendar.

Jen Delyth
The Celtic Mandala wall calendar presents the magical knot weavings of Welsh artist Jen Delyth. Jen’s intricate paintings and illustrations are founded in her deep connection to her Celtic heritage and are a personal journey into the language of ancient Celtic mythology and symbolism. In its 16th year of printing, this wall calendar is a beloved bestseller.

Inspired by the spirit in nature, Jen’s artwork appeals to those who seek meaningful, profound images that express deep and essential aspects of the Celtic tradition. This tradition has its own ancient roots in the cultures of Neolithic and Paleolithic peoples who came before them. It continues to evolve and is – most important to many today – a living tradition.

Jen elaborates, “Although I am not affiliated with any particular branch of Celtic spirituality, my work often focuses on an expression of my deep love and respect of nature and all its mystery. The Celtic tradition expresses a wealth of wisdom and understanding of the natural world – of plants and animals and also the inner world of active imagination and our psyche. Working with the patterns, sacred images, and myths of the ancient Celts renews my connection between the past and the present, the inside and the outside, the seen and the unseen – life in all its mystery and interconnectedness, through art and story.”

Spirit Horses 2018 wall calendar

Click to see more images from the 2018 calendar.

Tony Stromberg
The gorgeous Spirit Horses wall calendar features extraordinary portraits of horses, both wild and domestic, by renowned photographer Tony Stromberg. Each luminous image is paired with quotes from great teachers and writers exploring equine wisdom and the love of these magnificent creatures.

For more than two decades, Tony Stromberg made his mark as a successful advertising photographer. Yet a quiet but gnawing voice eventually drew him out of his commercial roots and deep into the soul of the West. What he had gained in reputation he felt he was losing in quality of life. Just before the turn of the millennium, he began his pilgrimage away from the frenetic world of advertising and into a world possessing a respect for nature and the land. Since then, he has spent much of his time learning the nuances of his most beloved equine companions in their natural environment. “The spirit of the horse,” says Stromberg, “is a magnificent teacher to humanity.”

Our most enduring companions, horses teach us about honesty and authenticity because they know no other way of being. They teach us about collaboration over dominance. And they teach us to respect and honor the unknown as opposed to fearing it and trying to destroy it. In both their physical and archetypal forms, horses help bring us back to something wild and unrestrained, reminding us of a sense of freedom many have forgotten.

About Amber Lotus Publishing — We Plant Trees!
Based in Portland, Oregon, Amber Lotus Publishing is proud to be a carbon-negative independent publisher with a dedication to environmental stewardship. As of December 2016, Amber Lotus Publishing had funded the planting of 650,000 trees.

Amber Lotus has been a Gold Certified Green America member since 1993. Green America certifies businesses that are committed to using business as a platform for social change. Green businesses adopt principles, policies, and practices that improve the quality of life for their customers, employees, communities, and the planet.

Today our team is an extended family of ten people, including a martial artist, a jazz singer, bibliophiles, musicians, writers, belly dancers, gardeners, bicycle enthusiasts, plus a whole host of talented, creative, inspiring contributors. We strive to consistently offer products that are authentic and distinctive to bring you a sense of the eternal by nurturing your heart, renewing your soul, and expanding your mind.


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Beltane — The Dance of Spring

Celtic Mandala

Image from our Celtic Mandala 2019 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth.

Ceilidh – The Dance
Excerpt by Jen Delyth from the Celtic Mandala 2017 wall calendar — Within ancient and modern spiritual traditions, dance is a metaphor for life, an ancient choreography moving with the rhythm of the earth to the music of the cosmos. Within Celtic tradition, the Ceilidh is a gathering to celebrate music, storytelling, and dance. The long winter nights are passed to the music of the fiddle, the whistle, and the beat of the bodhran drum. Traditional Celtic dances weave intricate patterns of circles, spirals, and squares in arrangements of threes and fours – a dynamic expression of the eternal knot. In ritual dances such as the annual Beltane Maypole dance, men and women weave ribbons in ancient spiral patterns around the sacred tree to raise and manifest the fertile earth energies. Morris dancers continue the tradition of shaman dances. They wear antler headdresses and costumes of red and white representing the colors of the Otherworld. Their clogs, sticks, and bells stamp out rhythms in circular and square patterns in celebration of the ancient Horned God of fertility and strength. The Lord of the Dance is one of the oldest gods of the natural world. Within the Christian religion, he is still honored as the force at the center of our spiritual and metaphysical lives. Continue reading

Mabon: Autumn Harvest

As a calendar publisher, we immerse ourselves in information about all kinds of holidays and their related traditions. Changes of the season are especially ripe with many celebrations around the world. Today is the Autumnal Equinox also known to some as Mabon. Here’s a bit more about Mabon:

Image from our Celtic Mandala 2018 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth. Click for more info.

Archaeological findings of prehistoric cultures in the British Isles reveal that important festivals observed the year’s equinoxes and solstices. In ancient history, Celtic peoples observed these days as the four Quarter Days: Ostara (Vernal Equinox), Litha (Summer Solstice), Yule (Winter Solstice), and Mabon (Autumnal Equinox). Today, Wiccans and Neo-pagans, who draw many traditions from Celtic culture, retain the Mabon tradition. Some communities refer to the day simply as “autumn harvest” or “autumn sabbat. ” Continue reading

Midweek Mindfulness with Michael J. Green: Be As a Candle — March 2, 2016

Celtic Blessings 2016 wall calendar

Image by Michael J. Green from our Celtic Blessings 2016 wall calendar. Click image for more info.

Be As a Candle

Never has our world been rendered so alive with glitter and temptation as it is today. And so it is that amidst these delights, only a few who pass through are taken by a longing for the simple and the still.

Do we even know of such a hunger? Are we simply wanderers, or would we be pilgrims? Window-shoppers or seekers? Have we the gift of sacred yearning, and are we those who truly hunger?

If we nod our heads and murmur yes, then know that it is given and charged in these days of distraction that a few must now begin the task of turning away from the ten thousand glitters. And in this turning we turn to the heart, That which is secret and shining and simple.

Be wary, then, but wise, and a witness to the changeless Truth.

O Friend, O one with yearning face, Become as a candle now, A candle in a windless place!

And you shall Blessed Be.

— Michael J. Green


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The Flame Endures: Brigid the Saint

Image by Jen Delyth

Image from our Celtic Mandala 2019 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth. Click for more info.

Imbolc is a time to celebrate the coming of spring and is also the feast day of Saint Brigid (February 1). We’re delighted to share a post from Lunaea Weatherstone, a long-time Amber Lotus contributor and author of Tending Brigid’s Flame: Awaken to the Celtic Goddess of Hearth, Temple, and Forge. The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of Tending Brigid’s Flame. ~Amber Lotus

Why include a saint in a book largely intended for Pagan readers? To put it plainly, it’s because the saint and the goddess are one and the same. She never left. No other Western goddess has an unbroken history of worship. No other goddess has been clung to so passionately by her devotees, no matter what other canons of faith they accepted. To write a book about Brigid without including her saint aspect would be denying half her powers:

  • The power of endurance
  • The power of practical love
  • The power of bridging differences

As a Pagan, there was a time when I assumed that the goddess Brigid had simply been co-opted and whitewashed by the Church into something more manageable, less powerful. I see it somewhat differently now. Continue reading