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Posts Tagged ‘arts and crafts’

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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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Weretoad and I had another fun evening carving turnips, an old Irish Samhain tradition.  I carved a face because I’m old fashioned.  My husband, who is often more humorous than I am, couldn’t come up with any ideas, so he decided to label his vegetable.  Last year, I was given a pumpkin carving kit, and that made creating a face so much easier (I imagine it made Weretoad’s letters easier to carve as well)! As detailed in my tutorial last year, I hallowed the inside out with a sturdy metal spoon.  We added the innards to some roasted veggies.  Yum!

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Apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Upstate New York is known for its delicious apples. Each autumn, orchards roll out their red, yellow, and green goodness, cider presses offer their ambrosial best, and folks everywhere delight at the numerous confections produced in kitchens across the land.  When fresh apples appear in mounds at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, when the cider presses open, that is when autumn has officially arrived, and this little Druid rejoices!

While I’ll join my fellow grovies on Saturday for a formal ritual to honor and thank the Earth Mother for her bounty, I’ve spent my Autumn Equinox eating a homemade meal with my little family and enjoying the harvest of apples – including some from a tree right outside my home! I’ve already dehydrated some for snacking.  Today I decided to do something simple and quick – apple sauce.

It’s such a simple dish – a large batch of apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon.  Recipes say that last ingredient is optional, but you’re a strange one if you omit it.  Blended together, the aroma wafts through the home, the most welcomed autumn incense you could dream up.  While the plant world is dying or preparing for sleep, the smell of apples is youthful energy unleashed!

Homemade goodness. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Unlike store-bought applesauce, the homemade variety, fresh off the stove, tastes like apple pie filling without the crust.  All the good stuff – the heart and soul of the autumn season.  The only thing more gastronomically titillating is pumpkin pie filling.  Oh, mama… Speaking of mamas, there’s something very motherly about apple sauce to me.  Perhaps it’s because one of my first childhood memories is of watching my grandmother make it using apples straight off her tree – apples I helped to pick and sort.  As my baby salivated and smiled at the sugary treat of apple sauce, I realized that I was passing along yet another North Country tradition, one that goes back generations to the Old World.

Drying apple head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Another apple tradition, one that I’ve never tried before, is drying apple heads to make dolls.  As someone who enjoys making dolls and learning about traditional arts, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long.  Using an apple that had a massive bruise on one side (normally I’m not a fan of wasting food, but this one was going to get thrown in a hedge anyway), I carved a face, inserted peppercorns for eyes, and placed in my oven on a low setting. It’s still drying nicely, and my hope is to make an offering for our Autumn Equinox celebration this weekend.

I hope your own harvest celebrations have been equally sweet and inspiring!   May your harvest invigorate your heart, mind, and soul, and may it reconnect you to your Ancestors and the rhythms of Nature!

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Original pattern and photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Autumn’s arrival means I have to prepare my garden for the colder temperatures. I realized that I had the same garden flag out since the Spring Equinox. I’ve grown fond of having a splash of color flying in my garden, but tulips and bees just won’t cut it for this time of year. Rather than buy something cheap and made in a factory, I decided to make something myself. I’m really proud of how it turned out, and wanted to share it with my readers!  What’s more, I decided to share my Goddess pattern in case you want to try making one yourself.

To make a flag, choose what fabric you’d like.  I used a stiff canvas for the background and some Autumn colored quilting fabric for the Goddess herself.  Trace the Goddess pattern onto the quilting fabric and cut out exactly.  For the flag, use the Goddess to determine the size and shape you’d like.  You can be fancy like myself, make a long triangle, or stick with a basic rectangle.  Cut two.  Pin the fabric Goddess, right side out, onto one of the flag pieces.  Applique stitch all the way around.  Pin the two flag sides together, right sides in, and stitch around all but the top edge.  Turn it right side out and iron.  Fold the top down, creating a wide enough entrance for your flagpole, and stitch.

Now you have a lovely, homemade flag to welcome the Autumn season!

If you make a flag using my Goddess pattern, I would love to see it.  I’m thinking about making another one winter, spring, and summer, since the Solstices and Equinoxes feel more about the Earth, Nature, and their changes.  For Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasadh, I see myself utilizing more cultural symbols.

Happy sewing, happy harvest, and blessed Autumn Equinox!

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I’m not sure if Sarah Lawless knows just how much she inspires and influences so many of us on our various spiritual paths. When she posted this amazing photograph of her kitchen, I was struck by how beautifully natural it all was.  I’ve been living in my new apartment for a little over a year and struggling with finding a good place to dry my herbs.  In my old apartment, I used to tie everything into bundles and hang them on curtain rods in the windows.  It was just too much sun, too much dust, and it looked dreadful…  I’ve looked at various drying racks for sale but money is not something I give away easily these days.  So when Sarah shared that window into her world, I thought, “Of course!  A branch hung on a wall!”  How natural, how sensible, how affordable, and how witchy and Druidic.  What’s more, I had a dried branch in the garage.  I found it a few years ago and something about it said, “Take me home!  You’ll need me one day!”  Today was the day.

I lovingly removed as much bark as I could and made an offering to Airmed.  Bee helped me harvest some of the herbs in our garden today, as well as some chili peppers.  While she napped, I wrapped some wire at different sections on the branch so that attaching herbs would be easier.  I decided to hang the branch in my bedroom near my altar.  Not only is near near my ritual space, but it will be one of the last things I see when I go to sleep, and one of the first I see upon waking.  I’ll (hopefully) be less inclined to let herbs sit and accumulate dust like I used to when they hung in a seldom used room.

I know I still have much to learn about herbalism.  The drying branch may not be the most ideal in the long run, or I may need to just suck up and put paper bags on my herbs.  I would also like to make a drying screen for individual leaves and blossoms one day.  In the meantime, I think this is a big improvement! 

 

My new herb-drying branch, inspired by Sarah Lawless. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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Colorful legs for colorful fairies. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

It’s been awhile, but the fires of inspiration have started to glow strongly in my head. I’m very excited to start making dolls again! Slowly yet surely, one body part at a time…

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Back before I had Bee, I researched crane bags and then made what I called a “motherhood crane bag” to keep with me through labor.  Since then, I have been meaning to make a general Druidic crane bag to have with me when conducting rituals.  My friend and grovie, Tara Loughborough, inspired me to make a large one that can not only hold sacred objects I want to keep near, but also contain my offerings and divinatory tools for the rites.  

So, over the course of several weeks, I drafted an original pattern for a bag, selected colors, and put it together.  It was important to me that I use earthy tones.  Green is my favorite color and reminds me of the forest.  The oak leaf, while representing the wisdom and strength of the Druidic path, is orange to represent the flame of Brighid – my patron Goddess.  As has become a custom in Northern Rivers Protogrove, it’s already decorated with some pins – our Folk of the Protogrove pins, my ADF Dedicant pin, and others that I or others made or bought to commemorated different spiritual events.

 I’m very proud of how it turned out and it’s already accompanied me to a ritual!  

Autumn Oak Crane Bag. Made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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