Do take a moment to watch this short documentary by Jamie Chambers about the folk traditions of Scotland. In particular, it focuses on how old songs and places connect us to our ancestors. There are some interesting accounts of experiences with the spirit world and the Sight.
It is wonderful to see that these beliefs still exist in the lands that so inspire us, but it is sad, too, that they are dying out. We need to do our part to respect the cultures we learn from and preserve their traditions and language. It is a monumental task, and not one any one person can achieve. It must be a collective effort between all of us who practice the traditional ways – the artisans, bards, and liturgists.
As I wake up each day to darker and darker skies, I find myself thinking about the sun a lot. I can only imagine the reverence and hope my ancestors attached to its lengthening rays each day following the Winter Solstice. Adopting it as a central figure in my own Druidism seems more natural each year.
With that in mind, I decided to give a Winter Solstice twist to an old classic winter decoration. As you make your paper snowflakes, why not make one or three paper suns? I’m sure most of my readers know how to make a paper snoflake, and it’s the same process only making sure to include some solar rays on the outside. For those who are rusty, or if you’ve never made a paper snowflake, here’s what you do!
1) Take a square piece of sun-colored paper. I’m fond of yellow, personally.
2) Fold it in half, then in quarters, then in eights.
3) To help you achieve the circular look, as well as the solar rays, use a pencil to add a curve and points near the edge. I’ve found that simple ridges work best to keep the sun looking circular. I tried some longer, curvier sun rays and they made the finished piece look square…
4) Cut along the lines near the edge.
5) Add extra designs to your sun by cutting smaller bits away along the fold.
6) Unfold and display with or without snowflakes! If you want to flatten them after the folding process, simply put them between a couple towels and iron on a low setting.
Now, even if you wake up to a dark morning, there will still be a reminder of the sun’s warmth. To add further significance to the decorations, leave them up until the Summer Solstice, when the days start to grow shorter again. Put them into your ritual fires and contemplate the seasonal changes.
It started even before Bee was born – someone gave us a “Baby’s First Christmas” bib. Thankfully my Christian sister also has a little one and she gladly took it for use. Not that I would have thrown it away. Someone, somewhere would want it and get it through regifting, trade, or donation… But the point is, there are all these Christmas things geared towards babies and people want to give them to Bee. A family member wanted to buy her a dress for the holidays. I’m definitely not opposed to that. Red and green are very appropriate for the Winter Solstice, after all. Thankfully, this person went shopping with us and showed us a possibility. Sure enough, it had “Baby’s First Christmas” stitched across the chest. I tried to very gently remind this person, who should know better, that we don’t celebrate Christmas, though I’m sure the frustration in my voice was somewhat apparent. I don’t mean to come across as a big grinch, but it is tiring…
Now don’t get me wrong. I know these family members and friends are just being nice. Some might not fully realize that by embracing Paganism, I’m not celebrating Christmas. There are, after all, other Pagans out there who do for various reasons. But I do not. Maybe Bee will when she’s older, but right now, it’s not something we do in our home. Yes, of course, we will attend family Christmas gatherings, but that is out of a desire to be with family and not embrace Christmas. If Bee wants to get into it when she’s a little older, fine, but let me enjoy a few years sharing my beliefs with her first! To do otherwise just seems… disrespectful, no matter the good intentions. It would be like giving a vegan’s child a shirt that exclaims the virtues of beef. It’s poorly thought over, inappropriate, and a waste of your money!
I was listening to NPR on my way to work earlier this week and folks were talking about people buying gifts for their children, or buying gifts for other peoples’ children, and how it can be a tricky social trap given the steadily increasing diversity in our nation – and not just cultural and religious diversity, but also differing perceptions of what’s appropriate for genders, what materials are appropriate for their children, etc. It reminded me of the “Baby’s First Christmas” situation*.
People giving gifts to our children are, most of the time, completely innocent and just trying to do the best they can to brighten a little one’s day. Often they don’t even embrace the religious implications of Christmas; to them it’s merely another family holiday that celebrates love. Don’t misinterpret me; I’m all for love and am well aware of the similarities and shared attributes of Christmas and the Winter Solstice. I can forgive a coworker who literally doesn’t know any better, but for a family or friend to do so is just so frustrating and invalidating. I’ve been a practicing Pagan for years, and a Druid for about a decade! The grace period for forgetfulness has passed if you’ve known me most of my life! All I want is the same respect that I give to family who I know celebrate Christmas.
If people want to give gifts and celebrate family and friendship, then it’s so important to actually know your family and friends. Christmas and Winter Solstice both contain similar elements like gift giving, but neither are all about presents. The gifts are supposed to represent something greater – generosity, giving what’s needed, giving something that the person genuinely wants or would enjoy to demonstrate love and understanding. Instead, people in my family (with all the best intentions!) all too often just buy things to give. It’s like…tree fodder, I suppose. They want the space below the faux evergreen too look as festive as possible, and that means filling it with gifts. As I read articles about Black Friday, I know I’m not the only one whose family does that!
My husband and I are not fond of that at all. We’re also financially strained and have actually told family and friends not to buy us anything because we can’t participate this year. Reciprocity being important to me, my inability to also give gifts to extended family and friends would just make me feel awful. And honestly, it’s the natural continuation of something Weretoad and I started several years ago: reclaiming the Winter Solstice as a time of togetherness and fun traditions related to magic, rebirth, and winter rather than focusing so much on the gifts. We started a tradition of giving three largeish gifts and three small stocking stuffers – things we need, genuinely want, or could use. The small things are usually treats like organic chocolate or mustache wax. More often, our gift giving involves experiences like a trip to the theater or something handmade. We really put a lot of thought into our presents and we want them to be meaningful. Our gifts demonstrate that we truly know and respect each other. We’re not merely trying to give gifts for the sake of it.
So in summary, all I want is for those who know me well enough to know I do not celebrate Christmas, to respect that, and not turn my child into their Christmas cherub. Have faith in me that I will teach her about your holidays in time, that she will get to make up her own mind about these things eventually, but that I am raising her in a Druidic home. If you absolutely must give a gift to a Pagan parent’s child, put some thought into it and don’t make assumptions that a Christmas item is ok. Talk to the parent and really get to know his or her traditions. And before the little one gets bigger, ask about whether or not the parent will partake in the Santa tradition, and how, or if someone else from their religious background will be bestowing gifts. Nobody is asking you to memorize a narrative or understand every nuance – just enough not to put your foot in your mouth.
* I seriously relate to the gift-giving conundrum as I don’t want Bee to have a pile of plastic toys. But how do you politely tell people what you feel is appropriate for your child if they don’t ask? Especially if you don’t want to sound like you are criticizing others for where they shop and what they consume? And if you want to buy a gift for the children in your life that are not your own, here’s an excellent blog with dos and don’ts! Totally agree with the author.
Sniffles be damned- I felt pulled to the forest! The winter wonderland conditions were perfect and it’s been so long… So hubby watched Bee while I pulled my boots on and headed into the forest.
It always feels like visiting an old friend.
As always I brought offerings, along with the remaining mini pumpkins. The wee Nature Spirits will like them!
I was sad to see some pink spray paint on the tree I built a shrine under. There was some sporadically sprayed here and there in the general area, mostly in the form of sloppy initials. Hoodlums. I can’t believe I just typed that word, but it’s true. Hack marks here and there revealed that someone was also playing with a throwing axe. It’s a shame I have to share this sacred place with people who mar the trees. All the same, the trees are strong. They weather harsh winds and freezing rain on their branches. They teach me to be strong and continue to grow despite mistreatment and challenges I encounter. I must visit them more frequently now that Bee is a little older. I want to show them the respect elders are due, and maybe learn more from their silence.
I’m thankful for many things this year, especially my baby girl, but I want to take a moment to say how thankful I am for my protogrove, Northern Rivers. Why?
- We have grown at a surprising rate considering we’re so young. Clearly, we’re doing something well.
- We have a very active FB group. It’s unfortunate how many local Pagan groups start up then fizzle out because nobody is talking or planning anything.
- We follow through! We have had to change or cancel events once or twice, but otherwise we have something going on just about every month, even if it’s only for members. And even though protogroves in ADF aren’t expected to perform all eight high days publicly, we DO!
- Everyone is so talented. We’ve a plethora of artisans, budding liturgists, cooks, and some bards in the making! What’s more, people are willing to share their skills to make the protogrove a better community!
- We have fun together! My grovies have become such good friends that I often consider them my spiritual family.
- The group has been super supportive of me throughout pregnancy and into new motherhood. They never blink when I nurse in front of them, making our gatherings very comfortable for me. I really think that attitude will go a long way towards making our protogrove family friendly.
- The core of the group is all on the same page. We work really well together! Because of that, we’ve been able to keep the protogrove functioning, safe, and very active. The folk take Druidism seriously and mean to live it!
- We regard each other as equals. I’m the grove organizer but I work hard not to abuse that. The folk are very communicative and we all talk about issues before deciding anything. We work together and do our best to make Northern Rivers a welcoming community.
- Finally, everyone is so helpful! In the past, I read about groves that formed and fell apart because the grove organizer did all the work! Not so in Northern Rivers! Everyone pulls their own weight between planning ritual, setting up, cleaning up, making food for potlucks, making favors to give to guests, and organizing workshops. We are so blessed with a dedicated crew!
I raise a glass to my protogrove and pray we have many, many wonderful years together! Sláinte!
Have you ever heard of treasure baskets? They are a simple, wonderful, and magical idea for play. They are a large part of Montessori philosophy which embraces heuristic play. Here’s a great introduction to the concept, including suggestions.
I was inspired to make a treasure basket all about Druidism. Traditionally, treasure baskets are wide, rounded, and low for easy access, but I’m using a rectangular basket with a lid because it wasn’t being used for anything else. This Druidism treasure basket is very basic and as baby-friendly as possible right now while still avoiding plastics. Bee is only just starting to grasp and manipulate objects with her hands. She’s all about exploring with her mouth so things have to be safe*. The basket will grow and change as she does. Some of the items will likely move to a Waldorf concept – the nature table / play altar**!
- A paper skull for the ancestors.
- A fleece pink heart for the beloved dead (currently a favorite item).
- An extra Druid Animal Oracle card I had laying around for Nature Spirits, divination, and water since it depicts a seal.
- A wool ball I felted to symbolize Nature spirits and Brighid (sheep). It could also be a cloud for sky.
- A large seashell to represent the sea, Manannan, and the Nature spirits.
- A poof of yellow and orange mesh fabric to represent fire, sky, Brighid, and the Shining Ones in general.
In the Works:
- A general Goddess and God doll to represent the divine (duotheistic, I know, but I don’t want to be too prescriptive with her). Each will be made of a different texture to keep things interesting!
- A wooden teething tree. Her papa is responsible for this project!
- More treasure baskets! I plan to make/update one for each High Day! A Winter Solstice basket is already in progress.
* She will always be under supervision when playing with her treasure baskets. I feel nervous putting a shell in the mix, but it’s been cleaned and is too big for swallowing. So far, she just likes to look at it.
** Stay tuned as I explore and build a play altar with Bee!