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Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’

For some in America, at least in the North East, Imbolc is a perfect time to consider the rebirth of our gardens.  It’s at this time of year that seed catalogs make their happy appearance in our mailboxes, and we begin to browse and dream of green.  In the past, I simply dreaming.  I put my garden planning off until the Spring Equinox.  In Upstate NY, even that day is often quite cold…  As my experience with gardening grew, and as I started to pay more attention to other local gardeners, I realized last year that I was waiting too late.  The result has been a later harvest, and many plants that don’t tolerate summer heat bolt before I can truly enjoy their bounty.  Last year, I resolved that I would get my seeds for 2015 by Imbolc.

I’m adding action to my dreaming.  Yesterday, I ordered my seeds!  I decided to go with my standby, Pinetree Seeds, and a new one for me, Victory Seeds.  The last couple years, I’ve been disappointed with the success of my Pinetree seeds, but I wanted to give a few favorites another try.  I’m still learning so much, so user error is probable.  I’m excited to try Victory Seeds, though, and several small gardeners have recommended them.

The seeds I ordered for my container garden are:

  • Bouquet Dill
  • Calendula
  • Lemon Balm
  • Green Leaf Salad Bowl
  • Parisian Carrot
  • Tiny Tim Tomato
  • Extreme Bush Tomato
  • Dwarf Gray Sugar
  • Alibi Cucumber
  • Green Tiger Zucchini
  • Jambalaya Okra
  • Gecofure Basil
  • Lovage

Some of these are old favorites, like the cucumber, zucchini, and lemon balm.  Others are things I’ve been wanting to grow for some time, like calendula.  Okra is a veggie my husband and I fell in love with recently as I’ve been making vegetarian gumbos.  The variety I chose has a short germination time and is recommended for northern climates.  Other veggies I plan to grow are eggplants (I saved some seeds from last year’s dwarf variety), sage, and potato.  I may grow some more scarlet runner beans, since I saved some of those seeds, but I don’t like them for eating…  They’re a better ornamental, I think.  The humming birds and bees sure liked them, and we must keep the Nature Spirits happy, right?

My plan is to bless most of my seeds around Imbolc and start them around the Spring Equinox so that they’re big enough to slowly start hardening off around Bealtaine.

The wheel of the year is turning, and engaging in the food we eat is a great way to learn its mysteries and celebrate beyond the high days themselves.

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The big news in the North Country this week has been the weather. It was really disruptive of peoples’ work and school schedules, and it ended up forcing my family to change our grocery shopping habits. It also changed my devotional routine. After we were able to safely drive into town for food, and by the time we returned, it just wasn’t prudent to venture into the forest for my devotional rite. I miss my shrine and the cathedral of trees, but I don’t feel secure trudging through thigh-high snow after dark while the temperatures are so frigid.

I decided to do my ritual beneath the ash tree in front of my home. The result was a very quiet and quick rite. My neighbors were either away or busy in their kitchens. Everyone’s blinds were down, and I think the only one watching me was my black cat, Doyle, peeking through the window. The ritual followed the usual simplified COoR of the ADF tradition. The tree was the sturdy ash, the fire was the setting sun, and the water was the snow piled all around me, chilling me to the bone.   It was very easy visualize cold water flowing up through my legs. Taking deep breaths and letting tension and worry slip away, I felt the distant warmth of the sun slide down my body. Quiet prayers were said, offerings of fruit, grain, and whiskey were given, and I drew an omen for the week. The Kindreds gave me the salmon, which I interpreted as wisdom. I got a sense that there may be some challenges this week, so I will need to jump a little higher from the pond to get what I need, but it will help me on my journey.

Although I missed the forest, standing below the ash tree brought a great sense of peace. For the first time since moving in, I thought I even saw a bit of a face in the tree. Perhaps, through more frequent interactions, I’m opening up to its spirit, it is opening up to me, or both. Not that I expect trees to have human faces, but you know how our minds work when it comes to relating…

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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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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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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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