I like to take time and reflect at what I think of as the ‘betwixt time’; for now we are betwixt Lammas and Mabon on the ever-turning Wheel of the Year.
Soon the Wheel will make its final turn to Mabon. The mellow summer days drift towards autumn, as the heat of the Sun wanes, the air will be filled with the acrid smoke of bonfires and wood burning in the hearths send a sweet scent into the air. For all to soon the night will bring a chill that creeps into our homes as the mists creep across the land. The fields lie brown, the trees slowly begin to drop their leaves as they turn into glorious colours honouring the Goddess with their beauty.
Squirrels prepare their drays for their long winter sleep, busily collecting nuts to bury for the future as they prepare for the long months ahead. Hedgehogs build their homes, lining their beds with dry leaves, making it ready and cosy.
At the East Anglia Goddess Temple we welcome the Goddess Erce, Anglo Saxon/Celtic Goddess, pronounced ‘air-shay’. Erce is Old English for Earth Mother.
As the nights begin to draw in, we nestle in the comfort of our homes and the warmth and security that holds us in safety. Erce gives us safety and security.
Erce is the Goddess of the second harvest and She continues to bring the abundance that Habondia began at Lammas. The fruit on the hedgerows are ripe and ready to be picked. The orchards give the last of their fruit as late summer roses drop their velvety petals.
Erce is the ‘Gatherer’ and ‘Preserver’ of the last fruits of summer. She gathers us too, safe in our homes and preserves us in preparation for the cold winter months ahead.
She brings Her blessings on the land during its period of rest and sleep, protecting the animals of the Earth as well as the plants that are drawing back into the earth. For Erce rules over Earth Magic.
Erce can be found in the Tuatha De Danann, known as Eri. She was a virgin Goddess.
One day She was at the bank of a river when a man in a silver boat floated down to Her on a beaming ray of the Sun.
Eri was so overcome with emotion at the sight that the two fell into the boat and made love. The man probably an unnamed Sun God left Eri pregnant with Bres, who later became King of the Tuatha De Danann. The man also left Her a golden ring, (a Sun symbol) to remember him by.
Very little is written about Erce, but one of our students, James, found this charm: -
“The charm consists of a partially Christianized prayer and a day-long ritual that began at night with four sods taken from the field, to the root-mats of which a poultice was applied in the form of yeast, honey, oil and milk mixed with parts of all the good herbs that grew, save buckwheat and woody plants. In Christian times the sods were taken to mass and returned to the field before nightfall, each with a small cross planted in it. This was the extent to which the ritual was Christianized. Once more in the field, the healer faced the east, where the sun would rise, turning three times clockwise and calling upon the "holy guardian of the heavenly kingdom" to "fill the earth", that the crops would grow. A plough was then anointed with a "hallowed" mix of oil, paste, frankincense, salt and fennel, of which the imported frankincense lent a Christian element; a chant was then sung, beginning Erce, Erce, Erce eorþan modor, mother of earth". The field was then ploughed with a chant hailing "Erce, eorthan modor."
There is also this, the Merseburg Charm:
“Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth!
Hail to thee, Erce, Mother of Men!
Fields growing and thriving
Increasing and strengthening
Tall stems and fine crops
Both the bread barley
And the fair wheat
And all of the crops of the Earth
Hale may you be, Earth, Mother of Mortals
Grow pregnant in the embrace of God
Filled with food for Mortals’ use.”
We associate animals and creatures that live in the earth with Erce - foxes, badgers, moles, gnomes and dragons, as well as hedgehogs and pheasants, who are a common site in the fields at this time, as their plumage shines brightly in the empty fields. They are effective in attracting the hens, often three at one time. They are a symbol of creativity, sexuality, influence and magick.
The badger was regarded as the keeper of stories for the animal kingdom. It was revered for its wisdom, strength, courage and persistence. Because it is nocturnal it was thought to have magickal powers.
Foxes are always portrayed as cunning and clever, outwitting stronger and more powerful creatures. It was believed that witches could turn themselves into foxes. The Celts worshipped the Fox for its fiery coat and cunning nature.
We see hedgehogs more at this time of the year because they are active looking for food to store and leaves to make bedding.
To these animals we can add gnomes, mystical creatures that live in the Earth. The most common is the Forest Gnome who rarely comes into contact with people. While the Garden Gnome lives in old gardens and tells melancholy tales, Gnomes that live in the dunes are slightly larger than the Woodland Gnomes and wear drab clothing. The House Gnomes have the most knowledge of people, often able to speak our language; Gnome kings are chosen from House Gnomes. Gnomes love animals and will look after them, although they have an aversion to cats!
Next, Earth Dragons, who protects the earth, keeping it safe. They protect the animals that live within the earth.
We associate with Erce, nuts and berries, chrysanthemums, conkers and the chestnut tree, which is the first tree to come into bud and the first to drop its leaves. It is a tree of longevity. We also associate fossils that are found in the earth, creating nutrients that bring goodness and nourishment to plants, bringing the circle of life to completion.
Lastly we include the golden ring that Erce’s lover leaves Her. A ring is a continuous circle, not a beginning nor an ending. The giving and receiving of a ring symbolise never ending love. Gold has always been associated with the eternal, the incorruptible and the powers of the divine.
Erce’s colours represent the season and are brown and khaki.
Erce is the grandmother and preserver, nurturing us all, providing us with food, comfort and protection, grounding us in the safety of our home and the land. She loves us unconditionally, rejoicing in providing for us, content in our comfort and we are happy in the security of Her loving embrace.
In the East Anglia Goddess Temple, we watch the turn of the year from Samhain to Mabon that flows to Andraste in the centre of our Wheel. For all the Goddesses on the Wheel can be found within Her.
Copyright © Christine Watts 2022