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What a cute (and kid-friendly!) project!  I can envision folks making a new ghost each Samhain to represent a loved one who has passed away.  It could also be a wonderful way to decorate an ancestral altar in October and November.

DIY Finger-Knit Ghost Garland | Pretty Prudent.

Have fun!

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Just a quick share today. I’m super busy with appointments and breastfeeding!

My friend RavynStar shared this link on her FB last night. I found myself nodding in agreement and feeling frustrated with the status quo. Who knows what religion, if any, my daughter will embrace, but it’s annoying to think that she may have to deal with the same issues that I do as an adult. I’m not keen on “bashing Christianity,” but there’s a difference between that and constructive criticism about the culture surrounding most forms of Christianity in America. People who practice this religion are privileged. Just raising the question of who is and isn’t privileged can be a huge provocation to some people, but I’ve always found it a fascinating, if complex and often dangerous, topic. To make any progress in this area, we of minority beliefs need to reflect on the ways we are not as privileged. I didn’t even think of some until reading the list!

First take a look:

30+ Examples of Christian Privilege — Everyday Feminism.

Now, rather than sit around and complain about Christianity, how can we in the Pagan and/or Polytheistic communities react in a way that is productive and positive? How have other minority beliefs made strides in the right direction?

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I was very touched by this post from the blog “A Forest Door.”  There has been a lot of drama in the “Pagan” online community lately.  Paganism vs. Polytheism.  Secular Humanists Pagans/Atheist Pagans vs. theists.  Vegetarian Pagans vs. Omnivorous Pagans.  Pop culture icons as deities vs traditional Gods.  The list goes on and on, and, honestly, the topics aren’t new.  They come up every once and awhile.  It’s no surprise – they’re actually quite interesting!  Yet the drama and mental masturbation that result can be completely exhausting.  I’ve largely avoided these topics because I just don’t have the mental energy to deal with them right now.

So why did the aforementioned blog post make an impression on me?

The author is showing self-integrity.  There are plenty of people writing things that impact, or could impact, everyone in the Pagan community.  Or rather, there are a lot of people trying to do that (it’s very hard to please everyone)!  And that’s all well and good, but there are still plenty of us who want to focus on our own thing.  We’re not blogging to argue or persuade necessarily – we just want to share our thoughts.

The internet is a wonderful tool in that I’ve been able to connect with a variety of Pagan/Polytheistic folk with a wide array of perspectives of deity, magic, liturgy, cultural influence, etc.  A great many are fellow ADFers or people influenced by some degree of reconstructionism.  Many others are very “eclectic” for lack of a better word.  I get that and I respect it.  It’s not for me, though.  I always feel a bit awkward when getting to know a new eclectic Pagan (online or off).  Some are new to the scene and don’t realize there’s more out there than what is essentially Wicca.  Others have been eclectic for years and, in trying to be helpful, provide suggestions or interpretations to my experiences that are not of my own religious practice.  I appreciate that and find it interesting, but it’s always really awkward explaining how some things just don’t mesh with what I’m experiencing or my hearth culture.  And then there are folks who view deity differently and try to get into intense philosophical debates with me.  I’ve never been really interested in that…  I enjoy learning about different perspectives, but people who try to tell me how and what to believe are not individuals I enjoy spending time with.  And trust me – I have a great many friends who view deity differently and we get along fine because we are accepting of one another.

What I’m trying to say is that all of us are called to practice in our own way (if we want to practice a spirituality/religion at all).  It’s a beautiful thing!  I celebrate diversity and love joining others of different paths for their rituals, but I don’t want folks to feel bad or discouraged when I don’t want to incorporate something from their tradition into my own practices.  I also don’t want people to take terrible offense when I embrace history and place value on cultural authenticity rather than “whatever feels right.”  I’m not perfect and don’t claim to practice a purely Celtic path, but I try the best I can, and my efforts to infuse my spirituality with authentic Celtic tradition give what I do great personal meaning.   I also hope my own readers understand that what I write about is about my experiences in Druidism and Celtic-inspired spirituality.  I don’t feel my way is the only way.  I definitely don’t want people to look at this blog and think I’m the best representative for ADF or liberal Celtic Recons or Pagans or Polytheists, etc…  I want people to look at my blog and see what I do.  I keep this blog to record and share my experiences, inspiration, and things I’ve learned.  Maybe some of it will be useful to you, but if not, that’s fine too!  More than anything, I hope to inspire others seeking to live a Druidic life to do so in the best way for them!  My approach is: “This is what I learned in my research, this is what I feel about it, this is how I applied it to my life, and here are my results.  Now you try – if you want!”

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People planted baby trees to celebrate Arbor Day. Specialists taught them how to do it properly to ensure the survival of the trees. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

Yesterday I joined my friend Miss Corinne to celebrate Arbor Day with her organization The Thousand Islands Land Trust.  It was a really excellent event held at their Zenda Farm Preserve  just outside of Clayton, NY.  Admission was free and included information about planting and caring for trees, local wildlife, and local conservation efforts.  Volunteers were able to help plant trees throughout the preserve.  Children (and the young at heart) were able to see live animals from the local zoo and organic farm, participate in a community art project, and make seed bombs and peanut butter pinecone bird feeders!  Those last activities were what I volunteered to help with!  It was messy but a lot of fun.  Not many people knew what seed bombs are (Miss Corinne shared some information about that on her blog if you don’t either) so it was really exciting to share that with adults while the little ones played with the clay.  I think it’s a great activity to get children excited about gardening, and it can spiral up into a greater awareness of creating habitats for pollinators, urban renewal, and even permaculture!  Several boy scouts in attendance made as many as they could! Kudos to Miss Corinne for putting together a great activity table!

Seed bomb and pinecone bird feeder station. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

 

 

Community art project featuring bark from old trees and leaves painted by local children who attended the event. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

Everyone enjoyed the visiting animals, including this wood turtle! He moved surprisingly fast and seemed very excited to see people. Other animals at the event included a kestrel, a python, and a very friendly goat. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

If you live in the North Country, you should definitely bookmark The Thousand Islands Land Trust’s event calendar.  There are hikes, kayak excursions, gardening, and wildlife viewing opportunities for young and old alike.  They’re ways to connect to and even help with local conservation – something that I feel should be very important to Druids.  Many are free to attend which is wonderful for people (like myself) who struggle with money over the summer but still want to have fun along the beautiful St. Lawrence River.  I can’t wait to sign my little one up for some of their exciting kid treks!

While at the Arbor Day event, I saw many signs of spring.  Nature called, as she frequently does to pregnant ladies, but the farm preserve’s toilet was out of order.  I took a little hike into the forest to find a special tree, and along the way I noticed several trout lily leaves and even some trillium leaves!  They’ll be blooming soon!  Those are always a sure sign to me that winter is definitely over.

After returning home, I saw another sign of spring in the form of a stowaway.  That’s right – I had a tick on me!  I discovered it when I itched my expanding belly.  The darn thing was hiding on the underside of my stomach where I can’t easily see!  In all my years of running around forests, I’d never been bit by a tick before, and I naturally freaked out because I don’t want to get Lyme disease – especially while pregnant!  Weretoad carefully removed it with tweezers but, because we were both new to this, he killed and removed it from the house.  I guess it’s recommended you put it in a bag just in case you need to test or identify it.  He thinks it was a dog tick rather than deer, and my father agrees based on the description. It was still flat, thus it hadn’t been on long enough to engorge itself – which, from what I read, is when you’re at risk of catching the disease.  I hope and pray everything is ok!  This pregnant lady doesn’t need that extra worry…

Yet there’s a sign of spring in Northern NY if there ever was one – the ticks are awake.  Just a little reminder that, along with the beauty, there are those who we consider outsiders.  They’re an essential part of creation but boy, they can be a pain!

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Now this is very interesting and worth the read!  Is there a connection between the Spring Equinox,  the Cailleach, and Sheela-na-gig?

 

Tairis: Sheelah’s Day.

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A lovely green corner in Ireland. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

Last year started what is clearly becoming a tradition for me.  As March is Irish Heritage month, I take it as a time to reflect on and honor the sovereignty Goddess of Ireland – Ériu.  Chelly has also been focusing on her and shares some wonderful musings in her latest post.  I was inspired and reminded of my desire to spend some time meditating on Ériu, so I shuffled my pregnant behind to my altar for some quality time with the Triple Goddess of Ireland.

My novice studies of Irish lore lead me to agree with Chelly on the nature of Ériu.  She is not to be underestimated as the Milesian Donn found out.  Yet she is also welcoming to those who honor and respect her. I certainly felt a sense of homecoming when I made it to Ireland a couple years ago.  I long to return but until I can, I must be content to connect with that bit of land at a distance.  I decided that tonight would be a good night to meditate on her and give her some offerings.

Saying my words of praise, pouring offerings, and holding a memento from her land, I slipped into a very light trance.  I envisioned myself surrounded by the mist created by the Two Powers of fire and water.  I wouldn’t let myself go too deeply as I worry about the implications of doing so while pregnant and still a novice to that practice.  My stretching belly kept me from separating too much from my body anyway.  It is taut, and breathing deeply is less comfortable than normal.  Yet I was able to visualize myself in Ireland once more.  I saw myself at Tara, saw the rolling green hills around the mounds, and the clootie tree near the hedge.

Tara in Ireland. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

I found myself staring at the Lia Fáil, and suddenly Ériu was there!  I saw her as a beautiful woman with fair skin and long, wavy hair the color of sunlight on the River Boyne.  Here eyes were as brown as the dirt and she wore a gown green like the rolling hills.  She smiled at me and welcomed me back to her whenever I could come.  As a Druid in America, I often fret about working with very local deities such as Ériu, but she reminded me not to lament over the distance and that she was always part of me.  Images came to me of ancestors eating the crops from her soil, filling them with energy and life.  Some of these ancestors came to America, bringing about my existence.  They flow in my blood, blood energized in part by the land of Ireland.  What’s more, she showed me my ancestor’s grave – the ancestor buried in Watertown, NY.  The soil of Ériu became the flesh, blood, and bones of her people.  Some of those people, like my ancestor, are now in the soil here, thus intermingling with the land here in America.  “I am part of the whole world,” she seemed to say.  An Earth Mother linked to all other Earth Mothers, rolling on the globe of our greater Earth Mother.  I now imagine a circle of dancing women bringing life and change as they weave around a central bonfire, individual and yet connected always by the forces of this planet…

She faded out over the sea but left me feeling at peace and connected.

And now my baby is kicking and I think about all the ancestors, land spirits, and Earth Goddesses making up this new little one.  Are any of us really new?  Seems to me that we’re recycled.  We are a continuation – it is the hope we have that springs anew each time.

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A figurine from my mother and baby’s first photo on our family altar.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012

I can’t remember the first time I considered raising a future child Pagan.  When I started down the polytheistic path, I was still quite young and wasn’t even sure I wanted to have kids.  I have memories of seeing the topic on forums and noticed a divisiveness about it.  People either felt strongly for or against it.  Little has changed!

I fall into the former category.  I intend to raise my child in a Pagan household.  I’ve come to see that this means different things to different people, and a lot of it probably has to do with our own experiences of childhood and religion.  As I’ve explained before, I was raised Roman Catholic.  I went to church on Sunday mornings (eventually Saturday evenings) with my parents.  I did the sacraments right on up through confirmation (when I was starting to feel it as all a personal charade to please my family).  I experienced religious education, family pressure, and that fun little guilt that comes along with Catholicism.  Somehow I emerged from it as an independent thinker, as a proponent of pluralism, as a tree-hugging Pagan.

I feel a lot of it had to do with my parents.  My father is fiercely independent.  Although his family was the biggest influence in my religious upbringing, he also values the American Constitution and the rights it promises us.  Although he initially had difficulty understanding my decision, he’s come to see it as my right to practice how I believe.  He also taught me much about respecting nature by planning various excursions to the Adirondacks and explaining the power of fire.  My mother is what I describe as liberal Catholic.  She introduced me to polytheism and magical thinking without even realizing it.  She taught me to pray to different saints with different concerns and she valued the divine feminine in Mary.  To this day, she keeps an altar to Saint Theresa in her bedroom.  She kisses the ancestors’ photos before bed.  She taught me that, when you find a fuzzy seed, that it’s from Santa Claus’ beard and, if you make a wish and blow it, the wish will go to him in the North Pole.  She taught me to believe in unicorns and the rights of even the smallest creatures.  She taught me to use the sky to divine the next day’s weather.  They both encouraged me to read, to write, to explore exactly what I was into – which turned out to be fairy tales, mythology, and ancient civilizations.  And they wondered how I came to Paganism!  Most importantly, they showed me love no matter what, which is why I believe I have a healthy, open relationship with them and a positive perspective on raising kids in a spiritual atmosphere.

When I say “raising a child Pagan,” I mean that he or she will be living their life in a largely Pagan household.  As someone who lives Paganism, I know that my child will see it and wonder about it.  There is no hiding my Druidic beliefs at home!  I have altars throughout the house, indoors and out.  I pray before dinner, before travel, before bed.  I leave offerings frequently.  I talk to the plants and I sing songs to the Gods.  The child will have a right to know, to be included.  Ancient and modern, Druidism was/is a tribal religion.  It is based on community and, although there are many solitary practitioners, the bulk of Druids come together to celebrate, even if it’s once a year.  My child will come with us to the High Day rites to sing, to pray, to laugh, and learn with the rest of us.  The child will be living Paganism because I live Paganism.  I can’t just stop being who I am.  My plan is not to isolate the child from other beliefs, to scare him or her into Paganism, nor to insist on it.  How could I?  My agnostic husband comes to the High Days but does not keep an altar.  He is respectful and supportive of my religion – and our child will also wonder about that.  He or she will be exposed to my husband’s way of thinking too, just as should be!  And the beauty of the Pagan community is that it is so diverse!  They child will be brought up in a world of varied thought and practice, seeing, I hope, that it is healthy and okay to think outside the box.

My plan for raising my child is quite simply inspired by how my parents raised me, although with more spiritual exploration and no hellfire sermons.

What It Shouldn’t Be :

  • Isolation from other spiritual paths
  • Threatening should the child show curiosity in other faiths
  • Indoctrination towards only one way of thinking
  • Boring or without consideration of child development
  • Forceful – if a child doesn’t show interest in a topic, make sure he or she understands enough to be aware but don’t press.  Not every person is destined to be a bard, an artisan, a historian, a warrior, a priest, etc!

What It Should Be:

  • Full of exploration – independent and with parental support 
  • Inclusive – involve extended family and friends who come from different walks of life.  Look at the Koran, light a menorah, visit a Buddhist temple, admire pentacles in jewelry and apples, and explore science museums.  Find the connections, marvel at the beauty, and model how a mature, well-adjusted adult behaves with others, even when you don’t believe the same things.
  • Respectful of elders – This will extend into respect for the ancestors once the child is old enough to really understand who they are.
  • Safe feeling – the child should know we will love him or her no matter what spirituality is embraced as a teen or adult
  • Full of honest discussion – children should understand your path but also know that not everyone believes the same way.  Children should feel safe questioning and disagreeing. Again, model how to do this with respect!
  • Celebratory and respectful of nature – regardless of spiritual path, a good Druid will raise a child to be aware of the environment, the interconnections, and the seasonal changes
  • Sex-positive in a way that takes into account the child’s development, safety, boundaries, and own self-worth
  • Fun – learning about life, nature, Druidism, and other religions should be joyful
  • Artistic – self-expression is an essential part of Druidism, and carries over into other facets of life and other spiritual paths.  Help your child find his or her voice!
  • Based on virtuous behavior – I will teach the child the nine Druidic virtues but, as he or she ages, we’ll compare them to other systems (that of Asatru, the ten commandments, the noble truths, etc) in the hopes of finding commonalities.  When paired with literature and personal experiences, children will soon develop a sense of empathy towards the world – one that can extend beyond a religious practice.
  • Magical – let children revel in the magic of the world.  Make wishes on dandelion seeds, plant love into the garden, stir healing into daddy’s soup.  Read fairy tales, folk tales, and mythology.  Talk about your dreams and encourage imagination.
  • Balanced – while teaching simple magic, don’t ever forget to teach science.  Name the plants, name the animals, look at the stars, and give magical and scientific explanations.  When you don’t know the answer, model how to find it.
  • Patient – children aren’t ready for everything right away.  Learn about developmental levels, pay attention to your child’s interests, and don’t automatically include your child in every Pagan practice.  Remember that kids sometimes just want to play on their own and may not be ready or interested in quiet meditation or involved magic.

 

My Favorite Resources:

To end with, I want to share some of my favorite websites on alternative parenting.  They’ve been very helpful in informing my perspective!

Offbeat Families – I was a huge, huge fan of Offbeat Bride when I was getting married, so it was only natural for me to turn to her other blog featuring families!  This site is great.  There are so many resources on different kinds of families, different styles of parenting and, you guessed it, religious pluralism!  It’s very inspiring and worth checking every few days.

Ozark Pagan Mamma – This fellow ADFer has been raising Pagan kids and blogging about her experience!  She shares a lot of wonderful seasonal crafts which I look forward to doing with the wee one.  In addition, she sometimes shares child-friendly explanations for holidays, the Pagan Otherworld, the Three Kindreds, etc.  I’m happy to have found a blog devoted to raising Pagan kids written by an ADFer.

Pagan Dad - Written from a male Wiccan perspective, this blog is still very informative since he’s had to deal with similar issues that I’m now considering – raising children Pagan, to “do” Santa or not, seasonal activities, etc.

Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom – Although not exclusively about parenting, Mrs. B has posted several things on seasonal ideas, introducing magic, and book reviews.

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Tonight is my night to keep Brighid’s flame.  I keep an altar for her over the stove which was looking a little grimy so I set about cleaning it as best as I could before saying my prayer and lighting the beeswax candle.

Sarah Lawless recently posted about a ritual and discussed cleaning up as part of the process.  It really grabbed my attention because I feel I need to work on that aspect of my spirituality right now.  I feel I’m always saying this in every other entry, but my life has been very busy recently.  Falling behind on household chores is a common occurrence, especially at this time of the year when there are so many reasons to travel and see family.  And all that clutter – the waiting pile of laundry, the unorganized papers on the dining room table, the unwashed dishes on the side of the sink – they contribute to this feeling of malaise.  I can’t help wondering what people with perpetually clean homes are sacrificing to maintain that image!

Just as Sarah touches on in her beautiful ritual reflection, cleanliness plays a role in many cultural rituals.  Several books I’ve read on ancient Celtic cultures include suggestions that they were very clean people in their time.  Knowing the emphasis ancient and modern Druids place(d) on hospitality, I know it’s something I’ve been weak on.  If a friend randomly showed up on my doorstep, I would want to invite them in but would feel so embarrassed at the state of things.  It’s not fun to feel that way.  Yet I invite my spirit allies into my home frequently!  One could argue spiritual beings are beyond caring about such material concerns, but my feeling of discomfort and even despair at the clutter can’t be ignored.  Liturgical order, ritual dance, and traditions like Feng Shui all exist because of some perceived need for order and some sense that what exists in the physical realm will be reflected in the spiritual.  There is a time and place for the opposite, but my home does not feel like the appropriate locale!

This weekend will begin the start of a rearranging in my home.  I need to make room for some new furniture which requires a whole new layout.  It’s stressful, on the one hand, but also exciting.  We needed to be forced into this.

I’m especially excited to move my altar back into its original home of the “art room.”  I’ve never been entirely comfortable with it in the bedroom, a place of repose compared to the very active energy of the art room.  All too often, my desire to ritualize is disrupted by my husband’s right and need to sleep.  I’ve never fought with him on that, and he has never given me a hard time about doing devotionals at night, yet I always feel a bit on display or internally rushed just so we can all settle down.  That was never the case in the art room…  Another issue was the clutter in the bedroom.  I feel as if there’s an endless shuffle of laundry constantly encroaching on my sacred corner. It is hard to get into a ritual mindset when one nearly trips over a misplaced hanger.

So bring on the fresh start!  Bring on the clean, tidy vibes!

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I’m an English Druid, this soil very much part of my psyche, and the rivers of my home feel like part of my blood. A sense of connection to the land itself is absolutely intrinsic to my Druidry, and if asked to explain what I do ‘priest of the land’ is a description I feel comfortable with. The landscape of the British Isles can seem to be hardwired into what the word ‘Druid’ means. Tara and Stonehenge, Avebury, Glastonbury, Anglesey… these settings evoke Druidry. Orders from beyond these shores claim Welsh, Irish and Avalonian influences even though they are far from the ‘motherland’. You could be forgiven for thinking that to be a Druid is to be a priest, very specifically, of this landscape, and that to live beyond these shores means having your work cut out. I don’t think that’s the case at all.

I’ve been to America twice. The first time, I remember those early views of the landscape as I flew in over the east coast and the absolute sense of enormity. Looking at maps gives a person no sense at all of how huge America is. England has been densely populated for a very long time. We don’t have much in the way of untouched landscapes, but America does. The sense of wildness, and vastness, struck me.

A few days after that landing, I was on a beach, attempting a bardic initiation. Planning it from the comfort of home, I’d rather arrogantly imagined it would be easy. I knew from the moment my feet touched soil that I had a very steep learning curve ahead of me. This was not my land. It was not in my bones, and my ancestors were not part of it. I did not have the rivers in my blood. I had never heard the voices of the spirits of place. The sense of being a small thing in a big place and totally out of my depth, was educational to say the least. I was lucky, though, the beach was used to people, and welcoming enough, tolerant of a lone Druid from another place who had not got sufficient time to really learn to feel any of it properly.

To be a priest of the land, is to be the priest of the specific bit of land you are engaging with. I’d say as a general rule it’s probably wherever you can walk to from where you live. You may find there’s a core, that you really belong to, a wider landscape where you feel passably at home and a point somewhere beyond that where it all starts to get a bit alien.

Every landscape has spirits. Every land has power, sacredness and a need for service. What your landscape may not have, is stories. One of the things that makes the iconic places of the British Isles seem so powerful, is the number and richness of the stories attached to them. However, most of the UK is not in the Isle of Avalon and doesn’t have a stone circle or other mythic place in easy walking distance. I spent a decade in a more industrial landscape where stories of place where few, and I found engaging with the land hard work. I grew up in a place rich with story.

It is through stories that we connect to the land. If your landscape doesn’t have the kind of mythic, powerful tales to make it equivalent to Stonehenge, the answer is simple: Make them up. Invent them. All stories were made up by people, either out of pure imagination, or based on shreds of history, or weaving the two together in ways absolutely designed to give future historians nasty headaches. If your landscape does not have myths, then the greatest service you can perform, is to invent a few. Getting into the details of how to do that would need another blog in its own right, at the very least, but I wanted to seed the idea, because I think it’s a very important one.

Druidry is an international movement. No one outside the UK should ever feel that their landscape is somehow less important, or that their connection to the land less meaningful. Wherever your land is, that’s where you are a Druid. And in truth, there is no definite historical connection between the ancient Druids and most of the UK sites associated with them, although I think a pretty decent case can be made for Anglesey. It’s just stories. Future Druids, wherever you happen to be, can have stories of Druidry in your landscape, if you create them. Listen to the land, and the stories will come, because that’s very much in the nature of stories. They turn up when you’re paying attention, and sometimes when you aren’t as well.

Anyone interested in exploring the subject of modern Druidry’s relationship with ancestry, I’d like to point you at my book Druidry and Ancestors.

I also blog most days at www.druidlife.wordpress.com

By Nimue Brown

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Hello to all my visitors, new and old!  Today, I’m taking part in The Bewitching Home Blog Party, hosted by the lovely Witch of Howling Creek!  The theme is adding magic to domestic tasks be they cooking, cleaning, decorating, etc.   To be honest, this all snuck up on me!  I’ve been a busy gal with work, organizing events for the Druidic Study Group, and attempting to keep my home tidy!  Despite how busy and stressful life has been, I’ve been thinking a lot about Samhain and, in particular, my ancestors this month.  The ancestors are never far from my thoughts.  They are honored at each high day and I have a special altar for them where I make offerings from time to time.  My extra attention to them this month is partly because my study group is focusing on that Kindred now, and also because, I think, the veil is thinning and they are making their presence more known.  As we approach Samhain, I’m planning to put some extra effort into keeping my home tidy.  It is believed that ancestors can visit when the veil is thin.  I should make my home as welcoming and comfortable as I would for any corporeal visitors!

Now my usual readers know I’m an artsy-craftsy sort of lady.  I love to make things for regular household use as well as magical objects.  I decided to share a basic sewing tutorial with you on this special occasion.  Today we’ll be making an ancestral altar cloth so you can create a very special place of honor for your visiting dead this season.  It’s the perfect blend of magic meets seasonal decor!

For supplies you’ll need some fabric, pins (check out the adorable witch hat pin cushion made by my friend Brighde Indigo), thin yarn or embroidery floss, thread, paper scissors, fabric scissors, tracing materials, an embroidery needle, and a sewing needle or sewing machine.  Now let’s think about the fabric for a moment.  You need enough of a base fabric to cover your altar.  You may go out and buy some fabric to make a simple table cloth, or you may use one you already have on hand.  I chose to use a white table cloth I made a few years ago.  I haven’t been using it and wanted to give it new life.  Appropriate, no?You will be appliquéing four skulls onto the corners of your altar cloth.  Choose a color that works well with your base fabric.   Since my table cloth was a white faux satin, I used some scrap black satin I had laying around.  I decided to use red thread and thin yarn for the applique and blanket stitch border.  White, black and red are colors I associate with the dead.  White symbolizes the bones and new life; red the blood or life force; and black is the mystery surrounding death as well as the dark Earth we all rest in for a time.  Choose colors that suit your own ancestral beliefs!
Trace four skulls on your coordinating fabric using the Skull_pattern I’ve provided (that’s where the paper scissors come in handy!)       Cut the skulls out but be sure to leave enough room around the tracing – as photographed.  You will trim away excess after appliqueing.  Fold the skulls in half to cut the eyes and nose out.    I did not choose to cut out the mouth.  Rather, I stitched to show teeth.  You’ll see what I mean later!
Pin the skulls, right side up, in the corners of your table cloth.
Although you may applique by hand (using a blanket stitch), it’s much easier to use a machine – especially if you’re using a fabric as fray-happy as satin!    I’m still new to applique, so I apologize for the sloppiness of it.  Here’s a great tutorial from Design Sponge.  They used interfacing – something I didn’t have on hand.  After this project, I can see why it’s so important.  It stiffens the fabric and keeps it in place.  You can still make this altar cloth without it, but I’m warning you it will be a bit annoying!  Use the smallest zig-zag setting your machine has and have at it!  Notice, I used the zig-zag stitch in the mouth area.  I love how toothy it looks!  I then trimmed the fabric around the stitching.  Smaller scissors would have made it easier but, again, using what I have on hand!  As I worked, I chanted to the ancestors.  When the applique was complete, I hand-stitched around the edges using the yarn.  I chose to use the blanket stitch – it’s simple and added just enough extra color.
After the altar cloth was complete, I consecrated it in ritual.  Notice the red border!  I’m very pleased with how it turned out!
Now it sits upon my special Samhain Ancestral altar – providing a cozy spot for them to rest and feast if they visit.
Be sure to check out all the other wonderful posts in this fun blog-party!  All other participants are sharing their links in the comments of the original post.  There are other tutorials, giveaways, recipes, and lots of inspiration!

EDIT:  I just now realized that the skull pattern turned out to be HUGE.  It’s really not supposed to be that big…  You’ll need to minimize it to fit your altar cloth.  Or, I suppose, you could make some really large ones!

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