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Samhain Snow

I woke up this morning, opened the bedroom curtains, and beheld my first snow of the year.  You can see it just starting to frost the Earth in the photo below.

I find it appropriate, somehow.  The ancient Celts saw Samhain as the end of the light half of the year – the summer months – and the beginning of the dark half of the year – the winter.  Although Samhain comes with the promise of new life, it is full of death.  The leaves are dying.  The creatures that cannot find shelter, hibernate, or migrate are dying.  Our ancestral spirits wander the Earth.  The pooka is about, waiting for his share of the harvest.  Anything left on the vine tomorrow will be his.  They will assume the shape of death and no longer be good for humans to eat. The snow is the final touch.  To me, it is the Earth Mother snuffing out the flame of summer for good.  It burned brightly this year, but now it is time for the green world excepting (of course, the strong and magical evergreens) to rest until next year.

The wheel of life turns.

My Samhain plans?

I used a rotting pumpkin to create ZOMBIE PUMPKIN!  The nails just make it for me.  🙂
On a more serious note, I moved my altar – including my ancestor shrine.  I hung photos of various ancestors on the wall (Weretoad’s grandfather was wobbly until Weretoad himself fixed the frame).  I included a wall sconce on which I can light candles and leave small offerings.  I would like to make or find a small shelf on which I could place larger offerings.  I will probably move items on my main altar to create a dumb supper for our ancestral spirits tonight.
Last night I attended Muin Mound Grove’s celebration.  We cleaned the nemeton, put our jack-o-lanterns around the hedges, and honored the ancestors, as well as Dagda and the Morigan, through fire, song, libation, and sacrifice.  The omens were good.  They spoke of building community and protection from the spirits.  
Inside we had a wonderful feast of corn and black bean salad, red beans and rice, lasagna, pumpkin bread, cranberry and orange bread, carrots, pumpkin seeds, and apple pie.  A portion of each was given to the ancestors first.  
Blessed Samhain to you and yours!

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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As I recently posted, my stomping grounds are becoming increasingly winter-like.  There is the promise of a short Indian Summer this week.  I encourage you to make the most of it and enjoy the last bit of Autumn magic!

  • Admire the leaves.  Observe the changes and marvel at the magnificence of nature.  
  • Play in the laves!  Rake them into piles and jump into them.  Enjoy their earthy scent.  Collect a few to press or rub with crayons.  Try to identify them and add these to your nature journal.
  • If you don’t have a nature journal – MAKE ONE!  It’s a wonderful way to observe the magic that is all around you every day!
  • Keep track of the wildlife around you.  What birds are still around?  Have the robins left yet?  Have you seen any Canada geese flying south?
  • Pick or buy some locally grown apples and bake them.  Inhale their perfume as they cook…  Drink their juice and spice it up!  Warm cider will fill you with autumn’s spirit for sure!
  • Visit the farmers’ market before it ends for the season.  Observe what produce is available.  Try and make more meals with the food that’s in season and really connect with the agricultural cycle.  Thank the Earth Mother for her bounty.  Thank the Nature Spirits before they nurture you.  Envision the alchemy that occurs in your kitchen with each meal.  
  • Build an ancestral altar.  Pray to your ancestors and meditate on death and transformation.
  • Start to dream of the activities you can do during the dark half of the year.  Create a mental list of crafts to create, recipes to cook, card or board games to play, and books to read.
  • Preserve some food.  This is something I want to try more of in the future.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I’ve returned from Canada, dear readers! Ottawa, to be specific.  Yes, Weretoad and I finally got our passports in order and took advantage of our extreme proximity to our northern neighbors.  Ottawa was an absolutely beautiful city.  I could compare it to other cities I’ve been to, but that wouldn’t be fair.  It would be easy to say how similar it is to London due to the Parliament, references to Victoria, and red-coated guards,  but that overlooks the obvious influence of France, Ireland, the Netherlands, America, and many other countries.  I felt really at home in Ottawa.  There was so much culture!  The city was surprisingly very bilingual.  I’ve never been to an urban area that was so, so friendly to pedestrians and bikers.  Weretoad and I stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast owned by a Swiss couple.  It was in an excellent area near the Byward Market – a place similar to Boston’s Quincy Market.  We were close to organic/fair trade/local groceries, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques.  I was in heaven.  I want to live there.  Oh if only immigration weren’t so daunting…

Some of the ancestors on my father’s side, including the woman whose grave I recently visited, came to Ottawa from England and Ireland.  Some of them moved to NY State, but others undoubtedly stayed there and worked on the Rideau Canal.  As we toured the various historical sites, we learned that many Irish immigrants came to Ottawa for work – hundreds died there and were buried in mass graves.  They were honored with the beautiful statue pictured above near the Bytown Museum – a building that many insist is haunted by Irish ghosts (myself included after a frightening incident Friday evening!).

The Celtic spirit was not buried beneath the streets with the bodies.  Although the English and French fusion is often most noticeable, the Irish influence on Ottawa is still alive and well.   Walk towards any destination and you’re likely to run into a pub.  I was thrilled to stumble across this lovely little place in the Byward Market area – The Druid Pub. The photo is a bit small on the blog, but if you look you can make out the awen on the sign.  Weretoad and I visited The Druid after dinner on Saturday night.  I had a pint of Harp beer* while Weretoad sipped some coke – we watched a hockey game and listened to a band play – mostly contemporary stuff.  I wish there had been some traditional Irish music – but I suppose we’ll have to go back for that another day.  The closest we got to Irish ditties were U2 covers.

Follow Rue Elgin towards the Museum of Nature, and you’ll come across The Manx Pub.  Clearly the Irish aren’t the only Celts with a hold on Ottawa!  Although we weren’t able to visit the pub this visit, I had Weretoad take a photo of their amazing signs.  Look at the Manx cats and the beautiful Manx triskelion!  I definitely want to check this place out next time.

* Guinness isn’t vegetarian…

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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My husband and I had the day off so we decided to drive into the city and visit the grave of my great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother.  She was the last Irish immigrant on my father’s side, so I was pretty amazed to find out that she spent her final days in the North Country.  My grandfather, who practices genealogy, really wanted me to visit her grave (not that he had to convince me – I was excited to visit and pay my respects).  When he first found it ages ago, he put up a stink because it was in a neglected, old cemetery that had become overgrown.  The way he spoke, I excepted that Weretoad and I would have some weeding to do.  When we arrived we were delighted to see that the city has been taking care of the site.  It’s been mowed and fenced off.  My ancestor’s resting place is shaded by a large tree with dark berries.  I’ve been trying to identify it from photos but I think I’ll have to visit again to confirm…

I got the feeling that my ancestor was definitely at peace.  There was no negativity about the area at all.  Several animals (mostly chipmunks) had happily claimed the land as their own.  One even had a den under another grave stone.  Touching my ancestor’s name and gravestone was interesting for me.  My blood came from this woman and she ties me to Ireland.  I thanked her for inviting me to visit and invited her to visit me in dreams or visions should she ever want to talk.  I left her a small pumpkin gourd as a gift.  I promised to return.  The area is so easy to reach – I hope to bring the rest of the family there someday soon.

Do you have a day off?  Take a moment to visit your ancestors.  Bring them a gift.  Talk to them.  You don’t have to perform an intricate ritual to connect with the spirits of the past.  Some might call my adventure positively mundane.  Me?  I thought it was magical.  🙂

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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I have pumpkins. Samhain is officially on its way.  Life is good.  🙂


Now…  I just need to make plans to find my ancestor’s grave.  Soon.  




( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Hail to Isaac!

I have a few other entries I would like to write, but today I must reflect on the passing of ADF’s beloved founder, Isaac Bonewits.

I never had the pleasure to meet him in person, but like many others in the Pagan community, I was profoundly influenced by his work.    When I was a complete novice, I understood that he was a VIP*.  It wasn’t until my friend Parallax lent me her copy of Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism that he truly inspired me.  At the time I was searching for something.  Wicca wasn’t it for me** and I was feeling a pull from my Irish ancestors.  Through his vision of modern Druidism, and the organization he founded – Ár nDraíocht Féin – I found a spiritual home.    With that came a real sense of belonging and community.  I wish I could have met him in person on this plane to thank him.

His other books I read, NeoPagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals That Work, The Pagan Man: Priests, Warriors, Hunters, and Drummers, and most recently Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic were all incredibly influential on my spirituality.  NeoPagan Rites facilitated my understanding of the importance of well-thought-out liturgy and the effect that good theater can have on one’s psyche.  My husband originally wanted to read The Pagan Man and, while I don’t think he got very far, I read the whole thing, reveling in the exploration of the spiritual male in a Pagan world that seems so focused on the female.  It’s probably strange for a woman to say that, but hey – I’m just as drawn to the Gods as I am to the Goddesses!  I loved that Bonewits created such an important resource for men seeking spiritual guidance within Paganism.  FinallyI picked up Real Magic at the most recent Wellspring Gathering.  As some of you may remember, I’m working though ADF’s Initiate Program, and am trying to complete Magic 1. Isaac’s first book really changed the way I thought about magic.  His exploration of magic as divided into a spectrum of skill rather than morality was especially formative for me.

One of my Live Journal friends, prophet_maid, commented on the awkwardness she feels about mourning a celebrity, and that’s very much what Isaac was/is within the Pagan community.  I never met him and yet I felt profoundly moved by his life and death.  It seems strange to mourn for someone I never met, but to those of us in ADF, he was an elder – a spiritual father, even.  He shared his vision and paved the way for us.  I can’t exactly articulate what that means to me, but it was powerful enough that I lit candles and prayed for him to my patrons.  I now consider him one of my ancestors to be honored.  As prophet_maid said of herself, Isaac shaped me into the woman I am today and that cannot be ignored.

If any of you weren’t able to participate in the rolling coins movement to help pay for his medical costs, I urge you to make a donation.  I couldn’t give much during the rolling coin drive, but I did what I could because I respect him as an elder and know how hard it is for a family when someone passes away due to cancer.  My aunt died at 40 from bone cancer, and it was an expensive ordeal, in part because she spent her last months at home with the help of Hospice.  Giving a tiny bit to his family is probably the best way to honor him as an ancestor at this point.

Isaac, I thank you for your influence and inspiration.  May you continue to guide us as an ancestor and may we honor you in all we say and do!

* “Very Important Pagan,” of course!
** Bonewits was a practicing Wiccan, I believe, and also authored a book or two on the religion.  He was actually very educated on numerous forms of Pagan religion.  


[ Photo from ADF’s website.  It was taken by Ava Francesca.]
( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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Ancestor Worship

I was going to go on an adventure today in the forests around Watertown.  My plan was to follow the map made by my grandfather to find my ancestor from Ireland who settled in this area.  But it’s been rainy on and off all day.  Normally that wouldn’t deter me, but my grandfather really wanted a photo of me and the headstone.  Truth be told, I wanted to take pictures anyway, but the wet weather is not good for my husband’s nice camera.  I also wanted to take the video camera and film it.  Same issue – rain and a video camera are probably not a good mix.  It would have been nice to visit my ancestor’s grave near Mother’s Day, but c’est la vie.  I’m hopeful for next weekend.  I would really like to go before the weather gets too humid and buggy.  Not to mention, my grandfather instructed me that it gets very overgrown where the graves are so once things really start to grow, it will be very difficult to locate.  Failing spring, there’s always late fall.  It would be really appropriate to go there around Samhain.  I’d love to build a small cairn and leave some flowers as an offering.

[ For my LJ friends, please visit me at: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ ]

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