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Posts Tagged ‘Samhain’

Yes, yes, I can already hear your impatient mutterings, wondering what “The Lion King” is doing on a blog about Celtic spirituality.  Well hold your horses (or zebras).

Earlier in the day, my daughter followed my husband into the garage to “help” him with something.  She emerged carrying my large plush adult Simba.  He’d been in a bag with my other “Lion King” toys, patiently waiting for the right time to come out.  We have limited space in the apartment, after all… Well, I took this as a sign that it was time to initiate her in the mysteries of my childhood. (“It is time,” as Rafiki would say.)  My husband and I grew up loving “The Lion King.”  I spent much of my childhood watching it, reading related books, singing along to the soundtrack, playing with the toys, and acting out various scenes with my friends.  You could say I was obsessed.  I had been eager to share it with my little one and continue the great “Circle of Life.”  I actually got a little emotional as that song played over the opening scene.  My daughter excitedly pointed out each animal, oohing and aahing over the presentation ceremony.  As the movie progressed, I brought out more of my old toys, and she excitedly engaged with them.  She danced to the songs and reacted emotionally to Mufasa’s death – more than I thought a two year old would.

As I watched, it hit me that this movie was probably my first exposure to ancestor veneration and the concept of how interconnected everything is.  Sure, “Bambi” had an equally emotional death scene, but “The Lion King” really went beyond death simply as a fact of life, and infused such spirit into the experience.  Not only are our beloved dead still with us in the natural world, passing through the food chain, but they are in the stars and even in us.  It can seem so obvious, but it’s really rather profound when you look at your reflection and see familiar features from ages past looking back at you.  When Mufasa tells Simba that he forgot who he himself was and, therefore, forgot his father, it’s quite profound.  We like to think of ourselves as individuals, but our actions and morals are something that are passed down to us, that we will pass on ourselves.  We honor our dead by living in a way that they would be proud of, and we hope our children will continue to live in a way that brings the whole family honor.  When I was older and more worldly, the Broadway musical version came out with even more songs to add further depth to the story.  One of the songs explored how intimately connected we are to our Ancestors and all life.  I remember starting to explore ADF Druidism, thinking on my Ancestors, and automatically singing “They Live in You.”  I thought of my grandmother, my great grandmother, and all the people I never met who had shaped my own parents.  They truly are alive in me – genetically and even in my value system.

As Samhain nears, and my daughter grows, it is good to know that an old childhood favorite can be a tool for discussion.  From the “circle of life,” to ancestor veneration, “The Lion King” is a great option for a Druid Movie Night with the little ones.  And hey, the Broadway song is definitely one you could add to your repertoire when giving offerings to your Ancestors.

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My Twitter pal Lady Althaea really inspires me.  Like other Pagans and Witches, much of her work focuses on keeping in touch with the land.  She does a lot of foraging and herbalism, and I feel like I don’t get out as much to explore like I used to.  Her posts on her blog and Twitter enchant me, and often inspire me to just seize the day and get outside.  We recently had a discussion about wood sorrel that reminded me I not only had a recipe for wood sorrel soup I wanted to try, but I had a big clump of it growing in my pea pots.  The pea plants were looking rather spent, so I took it as an opportunity to pull them, add more soil, rake it a bit, and plant more for the fall.  I also pulled up tons of wood sorrel for my soup.  The recipe comes from the book Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate by John Kallas.  It’s a wonderful introduction into foraging, focusing on the easiest to identify and prepare.  There are numerous photos to help you feel confident in your foraging. Best of all, many of the plants probably grow near your home, perhaps even sharing space with plants you are growing on purpose!

Anyway, I finally made the soup!  Oh, it was excellent.  Very onion-flavored, but the bits of wood sorrel gave it a real tart kick which I liked.  (For what it’s worth, I used potato instead of the thistle root.)

Wood sorrel soup. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Wood sorrel soup. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Other wonderful things are happening in my garden. The tomatoes are starting to ripen, I have some eggplant and even a zucchini on the way. A “surprise pumpkin” is taking shape – you know, the kind that grow out of jack-o-lantern guts!  It makes me excited for Samhain…  One of my favorite signs of August occurred recently – my sunflowers have opened!  I will let them go to seed.  I save some for more planting the following year, but I also use some as offerings over winter.

Photo Aug 13, 6 09 03 PM

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

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My dragon pumpkin. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I had a wonderful Samhain with loved ones. My husband and I carved pumpkins, with the help of Bee (who enjoyed scooping out seeds and guts). I used some of the insides to make pumpkin orzo for dinner the day of. My sister and niece visited and, since the little ones can walk, we took them trick-or-treating to a few nearby homes in my neighborhood. I don’t think indulging in a few sweets from time to time is a bad thing, so I let Bee nibble some chocolate. We returned to our own home to hand out treats to other children – candy, pretzels, and stickers. I was really happy to share this old tradition with my daughter.

Before dinner, I said a prayer to our Ancestors and made an offering of food to them, placing it on our shrine. We shared stories of the Ancestors and enjoyed each other’s company.

I felt bad that I completely forgot about keeping my flame to Brighid… I was really distracted by entertaining my family and preparing for our Samhain ritual the next day. I did make an offering to Brighid at the ritual, though… It’s always difficult when my flamekeeping shift falls on a High Day.  I haven’t felt any anger from Brighid; she’s pretty forgiving and I do make offerings to her frequently.  I’m trying my best, after all!  I’m sure she’s aware of my resolve to do a better job next time.

The ritual with Northern Rivers went really well. It was cold and even a little rainy, but we went outside and circled a cozy bonfire.  I enjoyed time with my grovies, making new friends, and honoring our Ancestors.  Our bonds grow stronger and stronger!  We’re hoping to work on our bylaws and turn into a fully-fledged grove soon!

Weretoad’s dapper skull jack-o-lantern. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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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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When life gets busy, I tend to feel that my spirituality comes out of focus. Socializing, driving from place to place, and my day job all distract me from my studies. Being a mother and keeping my home is exhausting. So often, I find myself snuggled in a bathrobe, on the couch, watching something on Netflix.  When I log on to the internet, I see others in my tradition discussing the various ADF study programs that they’re working through, and I think of how long it’s taking me…  I’m about ready to give up on trance and magic for now.  I just can’t seem to adhere to a routine with my fussy toddler teething so frequently.  It can be really discouraging…

When I went into the forest to do my devotional on Sunday, I found myself dwelling on everything I wasn’t doing enough of: practicing meditation or trance, magical work, studying Irish, studying herbalism…  My ritual itself felt a little melancholy.  It was such a chilly, overcast day. All the lovely autumn colors from the last couple weeks had blown away. Ravens chuckled in the distance, reminding me at once of An Morrigan and her connection to death.  The veil is thin, Samhain is coming, and the natural world both dies and prepares for slumber.

Once inside, I gradually began to realize all the ways that I am living and growing spiritually.  I am doing my best to maintain a positive relationship with the Kindreds by giving offerings and saying prayers of gratitude.  I practice simple, practical forms of magic – folk magic, kitchen magic, basic shielding and grounding.  I may not be actively studying Irish each day, but I’m learning when I can.  I may not be reading as much as I used to, but I’m fitting that in when I can as well.  I’ve started to journal each Sunday afternoon, and my liturgy journal shows growth and reflection.  Most importantly, I’m sharing the joy of life’s most basic magic with my daughter.  We sing and dance to music, delight in simple stories, and enjoy expressing our creativity with art.  We explore nature together, and her complete awe in everything has awakened something deep inside me.  Lately, a majority of the books I read are my child’s.  We read them together – fiction and non-fiction, verse and prose.   She hears my prayers and sees me make offerings.

My Druidism is growing as fast as an oak, which is okay.  The experience of tending to my little acorn is just part of my journey.  It is teaching me to be patient and nurturing, and to reconnect to the world’s most primal and joyful magic.

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Rowan tree in Alexandria Bay, NY.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Rowan tree in Alexandria Bay, NY.   The leaves haven’t really changed, but the berries are bright red!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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!

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It arrived! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I’m ashamed to say that I never read the late Adler’s groundbreaking book, Drawing Down the Moon.  The news of her sudden death moved me to order it immediately.  I needed to read it; I needed to honor one of our community’s elders – now ancestors.  I had admired her as a journalist on NPR, now I definitely needed to explore this other side of her.

It arrived today!  I’m very excited to start.  I’m not sure how I will fit it in with my other projects – the various ADF study programs, sewing, crocheting, and managing a protogrove…  but I’m committed to finish it by Samhain.  In fact, I invited my grovies to join me in reading or rereading it with me.  We’ll periodically discuss things that jump out at us on our Facebook group, and have a final discussion towards the end of October.  We’ll then honor her further at our Samhain ritual.

I can’t believe it took me this long…

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