Posts Tagged ‘Nature Spirits’
My little family is feeling under the weather, so I figured it was time to finally try my hand at making elderberry syrup. It’s an old herbal remedy to help prevent and cope with colds*. I followed Mountain Rose Herbs’ video recipe. As the mixture simmered, the divine aroma of berries, cinnamon, ginger, and clove wafted through the home. So not only can it help internally, but this simmering syrup will add a festive atmosphere to your abode when you may otherwise feel blah. According to European folk tradition, elder has been used to ward off negative spirits. So think of cooking it as a sort of spiritual fumigation. Yet another way to create a purifying fragrance without the use of incense during the winter months? Hmmm…
As for the syrup itself, it’s delicious. A whole cup of local honey will do that! Even my little Bee enjoys a teaspoon here and there…
*It is not meant to replace stronger medicines should the need arise.
Today I went to the forest to do a devotional. It’s a perfect day for that. The sky is clear, allowing the sun to hit the changing leaves. It makes them look like a brilliant flame!
As a precaution against hunters and bears, I donned a red jacket and, once I was in the forest, sang “We Approach the Sacred Grove” on my way to my little nemeton. When I got there, I circled clockwise, stopping before the oak tree. I then allowed myself to breathe and take in the beauty of my surroundings. I felt so at peace and thankful to be there. It’s something I look forward to each week. If I miss my walks for some reason, I do my devotionals inside, but there’s something extra special about doing them in the forest.
I called to Brighid as a Goddess of inspiration and as a gatekeeper. Like others in ADF, I have been experimenting with this portion of ritual and looking to the fire as the beginning of a ritual working upon reaching the sacred space. While I do not start fires in the forest, I look up to the sun as the great bonfire in the sky. I prayed to Brighid:
Lady Brighid, Goddess of flame,
I pray that your fire sparks the flames in my mind
Inspiring me to speak with truth, beauty, and eloquence.
I pray that your fire shines a light into the darkness,
Chasing away the negativity.
I pray that your fire’s smoke carry my prayers to the Other Worlds
And that you open the ways.
Lady Brighid – let the ways be open!
It is a work in progress. I feel that I tweak that process and prayer a little each time, but I like how it is working out.
I attuned with the fire, well, and tree, meditating on their symbolism and power. This is always very visceral for me when I’m outside. I focus on how I sense them. The sun’s warmth and light touches my face, the creek nearby often gurgles, or the sun glints off the raindrops on the leaves. The oak tree, which I lean on when I focus on the Two Powers, gives me strength and stability. The firm earth gives me a foundation on which to stand.
I sang to the Earth Mother, then bent to give her a kiss. Next, I prayed and gave offerings to the Three Kindreds, followed by special offerings for my spirit guide and patroness.
When I am in the woods, I meditate, but not the way I do inside. Being out in a forest, off a path, I need to be mindful of the possible dangers. I relax but generally don’t close my eyes. I stand against the oak tree and soften my gaze. I let myself truly open up to the sensations of the forest. My purpose in going to the forest is to commune with the land, with the Nature Spirits there, and praise the Kindred among the trees. I’m not trying to escape that in some way by visualizing an alternate grove. When I meditate in the forest, it is to fully immerse myself in that environment. When I leave, I carry that with me for all the times I pray and meditate inside. Going into the woods is like recharging a battery.
This is my favorite time of year, so naturally I’m over the moon when it comes to sharing it with my little one. It’s hard to enjoy traditions, old or new, with an infant, however. This year is a whole new experience! She’s able to interact with the world around her, so it’s a great time to introduce her to all things autumn. Here are some of the things we’ve been doing. Teaching little ones about the cycle of the year, the sacredness of Nature, and our holidays is as easy as seasonal pie!
Autumn Fun with a One Year Old
- Take nature walks and look at the trees. Say hello and even give them hugs. Point out the different colors.
- Pick apples, clumps of rowan berries, or acorns, and thank the trees for their bounty. In fact, get in the habit of always saying prayers of thanks with your child.
- Run through piles of crinkly leaves. (I’d love to make a labyrinth like these people did!)
- Show your toddler how dried leaves turn into dust when you crinkle them in your fingers.
- Visit a local apple cider press. Learn how apple cider is made (Bee was scared of the noisy machines), or at least smell that intoxicating aroma! Give your little one a tiny taste of an apple cider donut. Just a tiny one.
- Visit your local pumpkin patch and let your tot pick out her own pumpkin. Show her how varied pumpkins can be. The warty ones are especially fun to touch!
- We haven’t done this yet, but my plan is let Bee decorate her own pumpkin via finger painting. (There are some lovely toddler pumpkin ideas here.)
- Sing fun songs about the season. An easy one, which goes to the tune of “10 Little Indians,” goes like this:
One little, two little, three little pumpkins.
Four little, five little, six little pumpkins.
Seven little, eight little, nine little pumpkins.
Ten little pumpkin pals!
- Find milkweed seeds and make wishes together when you blow them away.
- Pick the last of the harvest together. Let your little one eat a few goodies fresh from the vines. Bee loves cherry tomatoes.
- Wave goodbye to the Canada geese as they fly south.
- Make a Samhain playlist and dance to it together.
- Last year, I chose what my child was wearing for Samhain. This year, although Bee can’t exactly articulate what she wants to dress as herself, I decided to make a costume based on something she really loves – cats! Sure, I could dress her up as a favorite fantasy character, but I would rather she recognize what she’s pretending to be.
- Read interactive books about the season together. I just gave her I Love You, Little Pumpkin, and she adores it. It introduces the idea of dressing up, which is one of the most easily accessible childhood traditions. She especially likes the little mirror at the end of the book.
- If you haven’t already, make an ancestral altar. Visit it often as a family. If possible, take a trip to a family grave. Pray to the Ancestors together, and make offerings.
- Make some delicious applesauce and enjoy it together.
- When you wake up to morning frost, tell your toddler a simple story about An Cailleach. They may not understand everything, but it builds a foundation. I simply say, “Oooh, An Cailleach is waking up! Soon, she’ll bring winter back!”
What are some of your favorite ways to share Autumn and Samhain traditions with your little one? I can’t wait to add to my list and do even more sophisticated things with Bee next year!
When life gets busy – go to the forest.
When there is drama at protogrove events – go to the forest.
When you question why you are trying to build community – go to the forest.
When your thoughts won’t let you be – go to the forest.
The oak tree will teach you how to reach to the upper and lower worlds.
The oak tree will teach you to weather your storms.
To oak tree will inspire strength.
The secrets are there in the forest. Your purpose is there in the forest.
You will catch your breath in the forest.
Life will make sense again.
We had planned to attend the Central New York Pagan Pride Day today, but in what seems to be a continuation of a pattern I’m only starting to see, health issues got in the way of socializing with a wider group of Pagans. Wellspring was thwarted by surgery; the Fairy and Earth festival cut short by extremely painful cramps; and now PPD is not happening for us because we all have colds. I’ve been keeping mine controlled by drinking tea whenever possible, but my little one is fussier, and it’s a long day out in the cold wind with a miserable child. If we lived closer, I would have gone on my own for an hour or so, but it’s so much driving, gas, and, as a result, money to commit for only a short time… So I made the difficult decision to miss it for the second year in a row (last year Bee was still an infant and it was raining the entire time). While it’s disappointing since I was looking forward to seeing old friends, attending a workshop on Manx folklore, the drum circle, and such, I now realize that I needed this day very much. It’s been a very stressful, busy few weeks. My spiritual life has been stymied by mental and sometimes physical exhaustion. I hadn’t been to the forest in ages…
So I changed that. Sniffles be damned! I went into the forest and reacquainted myself with the trees. I’ve found that the old place I gravitated towards to make offerings no longer feels right. It is too high traffic in some ways. It’s too near the entrance to the forest. Too convenient for others to access. By others, I mean those who don’t understand what I’m doing and move stones, leave trash, or spray-paint the trees. Most people view the forest as a sort of playground, not a sacred place, let alone a home to millions of other lives. The old place needs healing and attention, but sometimes a Druid just wants to reconnect and feel at peace.
I felt called to the opposite end of the forest, so I let myself wander there. I felt particularly drawn to the rocks and their lichens. I noticed the fallen hickory and acorn shells. Autumn is a wonderful time to learn about the tree population in the forest. Prior to today, I hadn’t realized how many shagbark hickories are in the forest!
I found myself drawn to an oak tree. I collected numerous acorn crafts for a project and then realized that I’d found a small grove of trees – the oak, an old hemlock, a hickory, and some maples. They formed a near perfect circle. The lyrics, “We approach the sacred grove,” left my lips and I found myself circling clockwise. I made offerings and the wind rushed through my hair, filling me with joy. I felt myself entranced by the swaying trees, especially the majestic maples towering above, already changing from green to golden and crimson.
I found a new quiet place to commune with the forest, and I left with a pocketful of acorn caps, and a handful of litter. I feel reinvigorated and ready for the coming week. I feel more connected to the land, to my Druidism, and to my spirit. I think my nasal passages even felt a little clearer! I miss seeing my friends and exploring other perspectives, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit the forest and be alone with my thoughts. Today I was a proud Pagan in the woods.