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We’re thinking about starting to decorate our home for the Winter Solstice today.  My daughter is very excited but there’s a little confusion, too.  Excuse me while I just share some of my thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve thought similar things, or perhaps you have ideas that could inspire me.
  She is now old enough to understand that Christmas is a thing. We enjoy watching popular kids shows together, so she’s been exposed to the dominant culture and she keeps talking about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… Now, I’m not against her knowing about Christmas. It’s actually really important to me that she understands the diversity of the world. Much of our extended family is Christian anyway, so she needs to know why they do what they do. But… can I just be honest with you guys and say it’s frustrating? She’s constantly talking about celebrating Christmas now. Whenever she talks about getting Christmas presents, I say something like, “Yes, you will get Solstice presents.” I’m trying to gently show her what we celebrate in our home.  I keep telling her that they are similar, because they are and I also want her to realize that, but we focus on winter and the sun.  Still, most of her kid shows talk about Christmas, so that word is on the fore of her mind.
 
On a related note, I’m still unsure what to do about Santa. Yes, I love the Emerald Rose song “Santa Clause is Pagan, Too” – I get all of that. My concern is that I don’t really want to delve into the tradition of pretending to be Santa. That hurt me when I was little. I’ve been telling my daughter that Santa is a spirit of generosity who inspires us to be giving to each other. I say he “whispers in our ears and tells us to get gifts for each other to make people happy.” She seems content with that, but I know that will be hard when she starts going to school. As it is, her cousin, raised in a Christian household, gets gifts specifically from Santa, which will one day create an awkward but ultimately educational experience.
 
I’m not sure that I want to honor Santa like Odin despite the suggested origins and similarities.  I experienced some very strong UPG in which Brighid became hostile towards me working closely with Norse deities.  I am fascinated with Krampus but don’t really know what to do with that right now aside from enjoying the costumes I see online.  I like to think of Santa like a tomte or nisse from Scandinavia. My husband has Norwegian heritage, so it feels really good to honor that with Yule/Winter Solstice in our usually Celtic-focused home without upsetting Brighid and without giving Odin casual attention only once a year.
I’ve done some research on winter traditions among the Celts, particularly Irish, and know there isn’t a lot to work with. I tend to focus on the sun and Angus because of Newgrange, and An Cailleach because of the difficult weather in Upstate NY. I also know about some of the traditions that came to Ireland through Christianization – putting a red candle in the window to help Mary and Joseph find their way, and giving Santa beer, for example.
Our household traditions grow and change as my daughter does.  I feel like some of my personal traditions exist because I’m clinging to something from my childhood while also trying to create something that makes sense in the context of my religion and lifestyle.  Winter Solstice has become strange to me, but still exciting.  It’s interesting, and I welcome the challenge because it forces me to really think and consider all I do, but it’s also frustrating because I don’t want my daughter to feel as bruised about it all as I was once upon a time.  I worry about her going to school and all the confusion that may bring.  Or maybe that’s me projecting my own confusions and frustrations onto her?  I’m still trying to figure that out as I’m sure many first generation Pagan parents are.
Time for me to dig out that story about Brighid and Santa from an old Oak Leaves…
What do you do for the Winter Solstice with your family?  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow ADFers and/or Celtic polytheists who have children.

 

 

I recently posted that my inner conflicts about celebrating secular Thanksgiving have come to a head and I no longer feel that I can participate.  I feel even more determined about my position today after reading about what happened last night to the Water Protectors on the frontline against DAPL.

It’s been an interesting experiment so far.  My family’s reaction has been milder than expected and this is partly to do with my father feeling over the holiday fuss and my sister having similar feelings as me.  (It doesn’t hurt that my niece is supposed to go to her father for the holiday so any sentimental argument to just get together with family quickly fell apart.  We wouldn’t feel complete anyway.)  My mother was the least happy with my announcement but understood.  I’m not sure what others in my family may feel.  Confusion or disappointment, perhaps, but I’m hopeful that knowledge of what I’m doing gets them talking and thinking.  I know the few co-workers who know about my position were taken aback at first then understood my reasons when thinking it over.  I’ve made it very clear that whatever anyone else decides to do is none of my business (outside of my own household), but perhaps some will join me in my own peaceful protest.  I’m staying home, eating a simple meal with my family, not investing in the industrial food complex that cashes in on such a harmful cultural myth, and certainly not going out to support commercialism on the day itself nor during Black Friday.  I’ll save all the fuss and energy for a holiday that is actually meaningful to me and my spiritual practice.  I give gratitude every holiday – I don’t need secular Thanksgiving. 

(Although if there’s a nearby peaceful protest on the day itself, I may consider going out to that.)

So what am I doing besides simply boycotting the holiday?  Merely saying I won’t celebrate only has so much impact.  I already explained that I feel limited in what I actually can do, and I’m sure many can relate to me but want to do something.  I decided to donate what I would have spent on Thanksgiving food.  A fellow ADFer recommended this collection to help feed Lakota families who are struggling to make ends meet, so I sent some to them.  It’s probably a bit late to contribute to that at this point, but there are other options on the site to help Indigenous people.  Of course, I highly encourage those who want to help (and who can help monetarily) to make donations to the Water Protectors themselves.  They need money for supplies, legal fees, and now medical equipment.

 

 

 

Trance 1: A Lull

We experienced a very beautiful full moon recently.  Several people commented that they felt an intense amount of energy related to it.  Normally I feel very energetic around full moons, but this month found me exhausted, drained, and even a little ill feeling.  To be sure, November has been a stressful month for many of us.

My trance practice has been very minimal the last few weeks.  I’m not proud of that, but I’ve been feeling out of it.  Work has me exhausted.  The news has me exhausted.  My daughter has been ill which has me exhausted.  Today, at a grove business meeting, I opened by pouring a few random objects out for people to view.  I asked everyone to choose an object that represents where they are in their study programs, Druidism, or even just their involvement with the group.  I chose the wine cork because I felt like I was just staying buoyant.  I wasn’t really progressing anywhere, but I was maintaining my spiritual practice to the best of my ability.

I suppose I should look on the bright side and celebrate that I haven’t just completely stopped maintaining my relationships with spirit allies, but I am disgruntled that I haven’t done more to finish the study programs I’m working on.  I’m annoyed with myself for not doing more towards my trance studies in particular.

I’ve continued to visualize my Druid egg around me in the mornings as a way to shield.  Some days I can see and feel it really clearly; others I’m barely awake and feel like I’m going through the motions.  I’ve continued to try and do my yoga on the weekends.  Last week I had a much-needed massage.  I feel like that cleared away some of the cobwebs.  Today felt particularly good as I mindfully went into my yoga, focusing on each of the Three Realms as I moved from the ground, through tree, and reached to the sky.  Perhaps, as the moon wanes, the ennui will decrease and I can meditate on what intentions to set for the new moon.

Today I meditate on the nine virtues to help me cope with what happened; with the direction my country takes. I call to the Kindreds for their guidance. 

I need wisdom to stay rational and to help  guide me through history’s spiral. May I share my wisdom with others to help them as needed. 

I need vision to be the change I wish to manifest and to help me focus on hope and peace. 

I need courage to stand up for the oppressed. 

I need piety to stay connected and anchored in the sacred through any turmoil. 

I need integrity if my ideals and values are challenged. 

I need perseverance to get through today and the next four years though bile continues to rise in my throat. 

I need moderation so that I continue to live lighter upon the Earth Mother even when society may take take take greedily. 

I need hospitality to give of myself to help those in need. 

I need fertility so that I stay and create positive change within my own community and country. 

Kindreds, hear my prayer and grant me the strength I need for this day and all days ahead. 

I posted this on my private FB feed today, but I decided that I wanted to share it here too.  If you are a friend or you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been very supportive of the Water Protectors in North Dakota.  You know I’ve been sharing news stories that, otherwise, many may not be exposed to on television.  I have not done anything on my blog, so I wanted to share this because, every year, I seem to do an annual grumble about Thanksgiving.  So ’tis the season!  Seriously, though, I feel very strongly about this.  It feels hypocritical.

I shared this link to “The Women of Standing Rock are Midwifing a Global Movement” and said this on it:

“A nation isn’t defeated until the hearts of their women are on the ground.” Powerful words. Watch the videos in the link.

Going into the month of November, ideas swirl in my mind. I think of Thanksgiving, something that has, symbolically, become more unsavory as I grow and learn. Autumn Equinox is when my immediate family and my people get together to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest – literal and metaphorical. This other day of gratitude in November is so tied up with the dominant culture’s damaging lies, perpetuating the idea that everyone got together and it’s all okay. I don’t think I can do that this year, not anymore, not even as a facade to make family happy, when this is happening. Even if it only gets my family to think about it more… but imagine if more of us said no. We didn’t go to or tune into Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade; we didn’t buy all those turkeys and canned sweet potatoes; we didn’t fuel the greed machine by participating in Black Friday. Imagine the message that would send… I think that’s something I need to consider doing and sticking to this year. If not now, when?

Know that I will not judge those of you who still want to gather with your family. Being with family is always a good thing. Giving thanks is always a good thing. Do use the time to discuss and meditate on the cultural symbolism of the day, though. You cannot ignore that, especially with everything going on. I can’t leave my home, my family, and my job to join the protest – even somewhat local gatherings.  I have responsibilities in the form of loans and rent to pay.  I keep lamenting that I don’t have enough money to send the Water Protectors to help them maintain their camps and pay their legal fees, but what if we didn’t spend some money on factory farmed turkeys (or Tofurkeys in my case) and, instead, sent that to the camp?  What if we all did that act?

Either way, if you support the Water Protectors like I do, let’s send a strong message this November and show our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters that our love of the Earth, the Nature Spirits, and Ancestors of Place is not just lip service.

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My daughter chose the colors and then wanted to add extra features with a marker.  She also poked it on the top of its head, but it still works!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

When Samhain / Halloween decorations and materials started showing up at the craft stores, I snatched up one of those small, papier mâché skulls.  At the time, I didn’t have a project in mind, but I knew something would come to me.  It wasn’t until my daughter was playing with it that we stumbled upon its purpose, which makes sense given the (very informal) research I’ve been doing on rattles.  She put some toys inside the skull and shook it.  She said she wanted to make a rattle like her egg shaker.  I thought that was a brilliant idea.

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Gathering materials.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Materials:

  • A papier mâché skull
  • tissue paper cut or torn into small pieces (a toddler will happily help you tear)
  • dry beans, beads, small stones, or other filling to create the rattle sound
  • modge podge or tacky glue
  • a paint brush or two
  • an old plate or tray
  • markers for additional decoration

Pour some glue or modge podge into your old plate or tray.  Using the paintbrush, work a layer of adhesive onto the skull.  Bee wanted a paintbrush too, so we worked together.  As you paint, smooth pieces of tissue paper over the glue. Make sure you put your dry beans (or other filling) into the skull.  Gradually cover the openings in the skull with several layers, taking care not to puncture the wet tissue paper. You may want to do the top first, let that dry, and then do the bottom for easier handling.  Once the whole piece is dry, you may want to decorate the skull to bring out its features. We did not add a final layer of gloss, but I think it would be a good idea to preserve your piece.

I enjoyed making this instrument for a variety of reasons.  It was a fun, easy project to complete with my daughter.  At three, she’s learning to cut, so she had fun practicing with scissors and tearing tissue paper of her choosing.  It’s a great use for wrinkled, torn tissue paper  if you’re like me and try to reuse everything until it’s falling apart.  I would like to make more rattles year in different colors – white and black, perhaps.  It could be a fun grove craft project.

The skull rattle joined us at my grove’s Samhain celebration.  Bee and I played it while we chanted.  It doubles as a seasonal decoration.  We’ll have to keep our eyes open for more papier mâché shapes appropriate for other celebrations.

I’m proud to say that I did my Three Realms Yoga* yesterday and this morning.  I went downstairs before anyone else, opened the curtains in the windows facing the back forest, and moved through my poses.  It rained all day Saturday, and today is a sunny autumn day.  The difference in weather mixed with two days worth of my yoga meant for some different focuses and perceptions.  Saturday was all about water below and above.  Today it was feeling the moisture in the Earth Mother and the warmth coming down from the sky.  Both days had me looking ahead at transforming birch trees, resiliant and flexible in the wind.  I’ve been reflecting on Autumn, Samhain, dying, and rebirth.

Starting the day outside or looking outside, focusing on the natural changes, helps me stay connected to the changing seasons and how that interacts with the holidays I celebrate.  I’m working on visualizing the energies flowing through me as I move and feeling how the currents change with the year.

Later, I went to my altar and did a purification and consecration working on a bell I purchased at a local metaphysical shop.  Although I did not perceive any negativity about it, I find that doing this ritual is a good practice and helps me connect with each tool’s inner spirit.

Working through Trance 1 is helping me to deepen my magical practice.  I held the bell and opened myself up to learn her name and commune with her to instill my purpose into the tool.  The omens after the magical working were very positive, and indicative of the wealth and joy this new tool will bring to my Druidry.

 

 

*I may have called it “Two Powers Yoga” in the past, but I’ve started to think of it differently.