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Archive for the ‘Druidism’ Category

If you’re a new parent like myself, you may wonder how you can introduce the Winter Solstice to your child, especially when he or she is still learning how to walk, talk, and get control of those little fingers! It can also be challenging when so much of what’s out there is wrapped up in Christmas, and you want to teach, embrace, and create traditions that are more Solstice-specific! Here are some of the things I’ve done or plan to do. Since all children are different, some activities may not be for your child. If you have suggestions, please feel free to share in the comments!

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

    • The most obvious thing to do is, of course, go outside and explore! What are the Nature Spirits doing at this time of year? Talk about it, even if it feels like a one-sided chat. Make snow people and snow fairies. Give seeds and fruit to the Nature Spirits.

 

    • Make some solar-themed, natural play dough!  I followed this recipe but I cut it in half and, instead of using factory-made food coloring, I put turmeric in the boiling water.  The result is a lovely pastel yellow.  Give your little one some sun-shaped cookie cutters if they’re ready for that!

 

 

    •  Make a Winter Solstice playlist.  Sing along and encourage your little one to participate in her own way – often through clapping or dancing!  Some of our favorites are an Irish instrumental version of “Deck the Halls,” “Santa Clause is Pagan Too” (by Emerald Rose), “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

 

    •  If you have a Solstice/Yule tree (or bouquet), include your toddler in its decorating.  This may seem obvious to some, but name all of the ornaments you put up.  Talk about why they’re special.  Discuss any ornaments or traditions that were passed down by your Ancestors.  Explain why things are done. Why does your family include a Yule log?  Why do you have a Yule goat?  Why do you light candles? You may want to simplify your explanations, but at least try.  It’s amazing how many children don’t ever even consider the reasons for our customs.

 

    •  At the moment, we’re not planning to tell Bee that Santa delivers gifts.  Rather, as an animist, I’m going to teach her what I genuinely believe – Santa is a spirit of generosity.  He whispers to us, inspiring us to give gifts to certain people.  We will give the spirit of Santa an offering of cookies on the Solstice.  After we open the gifts, we’ll thank Santa for inspiring so much generosity.  This way, as Bee ages, she can enjoy the overall Santa tradition with her peers and not ruin their own family practices.  And as the song goes, “Santa Claus is Pagan too…”

 

    •  There are so many Christmas specials for children to enjoy.  What about those of us who celebrate something different?  For toddlers, I highly recommend the episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood entitled “Snowflake Day.”  The Neighborhood of Make-Believe celebrates a secular winter holiday that honors working together, the gift of friendship, and light.  Bee adores Daniel Tiger, and, as it’s based on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, the show is so wholesome that I don’t mind her watching it from time to time.

 

    •  If you’re up for a small mess, make some sun and snowflake shaped sugar cookies for the Solstice.  Adults can frost the cookies and then toddlers can help add sprinkles.

 

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

    •  Although your child may not be ready for using safety scissors, he or she could certainly scribble on construction paper before you cut them out into suns or snowflakes for the window.

 

  • There are many winter-themed toddler books out there.  There are some lovely titles that include textures so children can explore winter concepts with multiple senses.  Bee’s current favorite is based on an old classic, “Frosty the Snowman!”
Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

    • Speaking of textures, don’t forget the fun of a treasure basket!  Ideas of objects to include: white pom-poms, or felted balls of wool for make-beileve snowballs;  some big pine cones; a safe Santa figure; seasonal felt deity dolls (Angus or Cailleach could be an option); deer figurines; paper snowflakes; a small white pine bough; a child-sized Yule log; an image of the sun; photos of past family gatherings, …

 

 

    • Include your child, as much as possible, in your seasonal ritual. Last year, Weretoad held Bee while I lead our rite. She listened and observed. When it came time to take an omen, we actually let her pull a card out. This year, we may let her try giving an offering. You are the best judge of what your child is ready for when it comes to ritual. In my opinion, it’s never too early to start if you want to raise your child in your spirituality. Even if you don’t want to raise them in one path but merely want to expose them to what is important to you, teaching and modeling how to behave during a ritual early on can lay an important foundation for later when you may want to bring your family to an open circle, or even another person’s wedding or funeral. Children are capable of behaving and participating in meaningful ways during Pagan rituals, but it must be something regularly seen and experienced. If you haven’t already, start this Winter Solstice!

 

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

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Snake Dreams

Today is my birthday, and it started with an odd dream.  All I can remember is that I was with family when, suddenly, we spotted two snakes slithering across the floor.  They were grey with lavender spots.  Someone (I can’t remember who – perhaps my own intuition) told me that they were venomous.  We all stood on chairs, watching them slither across the floor.  One of my cats – a large, black Norwegian forest cat – pounced on one and was bit in the paw.  I jumped from my chair to pick him up, but I woke shortly after and don’t know what happened next.

I’ve been rereading Diana Paxson’s Trance Portations in an attempt to once more start a regular trance practice.  Early chapters stress the importance of paying attention to our dreams, so I’ve been religiously keeping a dream journal.  As a result, dreams tend to stick in my memory after waking, and I contemplate their significance (if I feel any) for longer.

I’m not yet sure what to make of the dream I had, but snakes have continued to appear to me throughout the day!  Not live snakes, just… images in books, discussions with people at work…

Since it’s my birthday, I can’t help but think of the symbolism of snakes.  They shed their skin, thus rejuvenating themselves. As I enter a new year of life, I need to let go of anything that bogged me down last year and anything that is not useful to me.  I must embrace the opportunities ahead!

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Yesterday was spent with some wonderful friends, old and new. We honored An Cailleach and Angus, feasted, and celebrated the winter season.

2014 Winter Solstice Celebration | Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF.

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We did something different this year for our “Solstice tree,” although it looks more like a “Solstice bush.”  As you may remember from recent years, I’ve felt that I should not cut a tree down for the holidays.  I don’t have a fireplace or wood stove, and I don’t have enough storage to keep it around for Northern Rivers’ bonfires later on.  Since I rent, I can’t just leave a tree outside my apartment until such an occasion either.  If there’s a green waste day, it’s not in any of my rental info, and I don’t really trust my apartment complex when it comes to it…   My family also doesn’t want to use the fake, plastic trees that are mass-produced in factories.  We had been decorating a medium-sized potted dwarf spruce, but, unfortunately, our friend was not doing so well last year and didn’t survive.  I only have three potted evergreens left, and they’re all small – pretty much saplings.  When the dwarf spruce died, I decided that I am done buying potted trees until I have land where I can plant them.

This year, we decided to cut some low branches from a blue spruce.  At the Arbor Day event held by Thousand Island Land Trust this year, Weretoad and I learned that trees can get infections when their boughs hang low enough to touch the ground.  I also know, through my father’s input, my research, and observations in the wild, that deer pull the lowest branches off of evergreen trees to eat in the winter.   Perhaps the trees suffer a little, but it also seems like pruning is inevitable and helpful.  I know from gardening that many plants require regular pruning (natural or manmade) to grow.  To keep the branches robust, we’ve put them in a large, weighted vase with water.  Just as with any other bouquet, I’ll have to check it regularly to keep it looking nice.

So our “bouquet” of spruce boughs may not look like a traditional holiday tree, but it’s special to us.  It’s also easier to display all of the ornaments we’ve made or been gifted on the large boughs compared to a dwarf tree.  When the holiday season is over, the branches will be very easy for us to transport to the forest to decompose.

Our 2014 Solstice “Bouquet” – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Unwanted Family Traditions

Traditions are linked to rituals; they’re actions we engage in for some purpose.  Often, this purpose is to cement ties within a group and to connect with an important celebration.  There are many family traditions that are dear to me, and I am already passing them down to my daughter.  They are traditions that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and they symbolize part of what I perceive to be beneficial and, sometimes, deeply spiritual about an observation.  There are some traditions, specifically from my mother, that seemed like nothing more than silly superstition to me during adolescence.  As I grew and started to study and embrace my ancestral heritage, these traditions took on a new positive significance.  In addition, moving away from my mother found me embracing practices that were once trite seeming, possibly because I miss her and feel closer to her through maintaining them.  Often, it seems that traditions are informally handed down this way in modern American society.  Children either grow to embrace them through a combination of sentimentality and belief, or they abandon them entirely.

Abandoning a family tradition is simple enough when it’s a minor ritual.  When I altered my dinnertime prayer so that it reflected my polytheistic beliefs, there were some growing pains in that, but it was eventually accepted because I was still expressing gratitude*.  My decision not to observe Valentine’s Day is still looked at as a little odd but nobody in my family really cares.

Thanksgiving is a whole other issue.   It has nothing to do with patriotism, although I’m certain many of my readers come from families who would decry any aversion to the holiday as unpatriotic**. To my kin, Thanksgiving is a family holiday, and the mere suggestion that I don’t want to celebrate it is often criticized by loved ones who, I must stress, have the best of intentions.  They sympathize with my reasons, but insist that the holiday has evolved and is all about family, togetherness, and, of course, gratitude.  While I understand that, and even embrace that spirit, I still find the tradition of observing Thanksgiving with a capital T to be morally objectionable simply because of the history.

Full disclosure – I do, according to family records, have an indigenous ancestor.  She comes from the Cree people and married another ancestor, a French trapper.  I claim this ancestor out of love and respect, and desire to know more about her, but I don’t lay any claim to Cree culture, nor Native culture at large.  I periodically try to inform myself, and I find that this happens a lot around November especially.  The same old, mangled cultural narrative*** comes out and, not only is it whitewashed and incomplete – it’s offensive!  Every year, I strive to learn more about the history and, just as important, I learn about contemporary Native issues.  I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, nor do I claim perfection, but I am trying to better myself, and CAORANN has been a very helpful resource for me, as someone on the Druidic path.  I find myself agreeing with the concept of The National Day of Mourning.  I guess I just feel that perpetuating a false history is offensive to my Ancestors of blood and place, and doing so on a day of gluttony while actual Native brothers and sisters suffer in poverty is offensive.  I feel that doing so while also glamorizing factory farmed turkey consumption, and using the whole day as a threshold into a season of excessive consumerism, to be absolutely abhorrent and antithetical to my entire spirituality.  I have a difficult time explaining this to my family in part because some of them just want to have a fun day to get together, and Thanksgiving is as good an excuse as any to them.  While they don’t attempt to censor my displeasure, they often look at me as curmudgeon.

Look.  I’m not trying to downplay the importance of celebrating the harvest either.  And heck, I enjoy pumpkin pie more than I should!  Gratitude towards the Earth and those who labor to feed others is incredibly worthy of celebration, and I already feel that I celebrate various thanksgivings during numerous harvest festivals.  In fact, the entire modern Pagan calendar could be viewed, in part, as a series of thanksgivings.  They have meaning for me.  They do not offend me or my moral principals.

I don’t entirely know how to deal with this issue.  I don’t want to observe Thanksgivng anymore, but I also love seeing my family.  This year, at least, we’re having our dinner two days later…  but it’s still a Thanksgiving observation in man ways.  Can I, raised in this tradition, ever break free of it?  Can I positively share this alternative view with my daughter, who will attend a public school, without marginalizing her?  It’s likely I couldn’t get out of the whole mess without hurting some feelings…  Yet I feel that, one of these days, perhaps when Bee is older, we’ll start a new tradition.  I’d like to attend a National Day of Mourning protest one day to learn more and express my solidarity.  I want to do things because they have real meaning to me.  I want my daughter to see that I value truth, fellowship, and the Earth.

It’s a complicated issue, but I can’t help but dwell on these thoughts each November…  I thank you, dear readers, for indulging me as I get this off my chest.  One thing I’m thankful for?  I live in a country where I’m free to express my feelings of discontent!

*Changing or eliminating a prayer before dinner will, of course, vary in acceptance.  I am not attempting to diminish any negative experiences felt by my more agnostic or atheistic readers.

** If any of my readers feel that way about me now, we’ll just have to respectfully disagree.  

*** I refuse to call it a myth.  Such usage, in my opinion, diminishes the sacred quality of what mythology actually is.

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Offerings of love, corn, oats, tea, and an apple at the foot of the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

As promised, I brought An Cailleach fresh, homemade bread. I wanted to make it extra special for the Winter Hag, so I stamped it with a snowflake cookie cutter before baking. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Our snow girl. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

The blizzard in Northern NY stopped this afternoon and we had some time to go out and clean up. The sun even came out for a bit! Bee and I took advantage of this to have some fun in the snow. We made a big pile and, inspired by this fun post I found on Pinterest, made a snow girl with an offering of birdseed and corn in her arms.

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