As Pagans, we celebrate the cycles of nature through the Wheel of the Year as well as the cycles of our very own lives. Ritual, blessings and magick are an integral part of the birth of a child, the dawning of adolescence, being joined in marriage, entering the elder phase of our lives, or saying goodbye to those we love as they pass into the next world. All of these are major life events. But what about the day we were born? A birthday is also an important annual life event. It is a day in which to celebrate all of our successes, to make peace with our mistakes and failures, and to say goodbye to who we were and to welcome and rejoice in who we are becoming. We give thanks for the wisdom we have gained and make wishes for the coming year. It is a day usually already full of ritual, whether it is birthday party, a dinner at a favorite restaurant, a day of beauty at the salon or spa, or a getaway to the mountains or the beach. We are showered with blessings from friends and family through cards, gifts and well wishes. A cake with candles, sometimes too many candles, is the way in which we end the day, blowing out the tiny flames after we wish upon them and sharing the sweetness with those gathered around us. A birthday is a celebration of the cycle of our life, of the Wheel of our Year, and can be a very magickal time indeed.
There’s a reason that the greeting card business is a multi-million dollar industry. There is real magick in a birthday card. A birthday card brings wishes for good health, future prosperity, and joy in the coming year. It lets those we love know how they have touched our lives. It evokes smiles, laughter and sometimes even tears. We can spend hours at the card store trying to find the perfect card, the perfect words for a loved one. But the magick of a birthday card can be strengthened by making it more personal. Just make one yourself. Using photos, pictures cut from magazines, or pictures printed from the internet that depict things special or dear to the person, decorate the front of a folded piece of paper or cardstock. If you are particularly artistic, draw a picture. Then write a message inside the card. It can be a poem, a blessing or just some personal words that say how important that person is to you and what you wish for them for the future. As you are making the card, send positive energy into it. Visualize the person for who the card is intended happy and healthy. Put the card in an envelope and seal it with a special sticker or ink stamp and, as you do this, imagine that your love and well wishes are sealed inside the envelope to be released to that person when they open it. A homemade card can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. The thought put into it and the love with which it is made shines through and surrounds the person with positive energy.
Wrapping a gift can also be full of magick. The color of the wrapping paper and ribbon can wrap a gift in magickal intentions. Use green for prosperity and luck, white for happiness and protection, yellow for wisdom and creativity, pink for love and friendship, or blue for peace and healing. Plain colored wrapping paper can also be personalized by using ink stamps, drawings or pictures. If the birthday person is Pagan, you may want to decorate the paper with magickal symbols. Depending on the gift, seal birthday wishes with it in the wrappings. For example, if the gift is a small kitchen appliance, think about that the healthy loving meals that appliance will help make for the person. Perhaps it is a book by their favorite author. Imagine that book bringing them peace and relaxation.
Everyone loves a birthday party. Our friends and family gather together to celebrate us, to reminisce with us, and to share their wisdom with us. Amid the average party events, think about adding a bit of magick to the celebration. Ask everyone attending the party to write a wish for the guest of honor on a slip of paper. Place the wishes in a small charm bag and seal the bag with a white ribbon or string. The person can then carry this throughout the year with them. If it is a child’s birthday, have the children attending draw a picture of the birthday boy or girl on small squares of construction paper. Tell them to draw pictures in which he or she is happy and safe. Again, place them in a charm bag. The child can then tuck the bag in a place in their bedroom to bring them happiness and protection throughout the year.
Then there is the birthday cake. It is a tradition most of us have to celebrate a birthday in which we share the sweetness of the day with those around us. A homemade birthday cake can be infused with well wishes as the ingredients are mixed and have love and comfort baked into it. But a store bought cake can also be filled with magickal intentions. Once again, think about colors and be sure the icing is of the colors that correspond with the intentions. In my Pagan household, a round birthday cake is preferred as it represents the cycle of life, the wheel of person’s year. We place four representing the four elements – green for Earth, yellow for Air, red for Fire and blue for Water – in the four quarters of the cake and a white candle at the center for Spirit or Ether. This white candle is the birthday wish candle which carries our wishes into the magickal realm to be made true. The birthday guy or gal concentrates on the white candle as “Happy Birthday” is sung. When the wish is made and the candles blown out, I take the white candle, place it in a small bowl full of sand or soil and relight it. I allow it to burn all the way down and then take it outside to place the contents of the bowl remains in the garden with a few crumbs of cake as an offering. If the person celebrating the birthday is not Pagan, you can still do this but instead of allowing the white candle to burn itself out, place it in the charm bag of well wishes after it is blow out and cooled to add that person’s wishes to those of all who celebrated with them.
My own birthday is just a few days away. I am suspended between times, between places, and the veil of my own world is thinning to allow my 43-year old self pass on to reveal my 44-year old self. I am sad to see many years behind me but yet am excited to find out what happens next. I find myself reflecting upon the birthdays of yesteryear and those yet to come, upon the gifts and cards that touched me deeply over the years, and upon those who have celebrated with me in years past and are no longer here to celebrate with me now. I tend to get very thoughtful around my birthday, always have and always will. It is part of the celebration of me, who I was, who I am and who I am becoming, of the wheel that is my life. Perhaps that is the greatest birthday magick of all.