I didn’t wear the right footwear to trek into the woods behind my parents’ home, but I didn’t let that stop me. The house was chaotic and our schedule today is packed. I needed a moment, so I locked myself in my childhood room as I did as a teenager. The weather was springlike today. I found myself wondering why I brought my wool coat. I let the breeze waft over me as I faced the woods. I studied the gray branches of maple trees etched against a cloudless, cerulean sky.
I easily found myself transported to my inner grove. I walked the familiar trail to a mighty oak. On the right, a fire pit circled by smooth stones. The flame magically stays a manageable height. At the left is a semi-circle stone wall built into the river. Water seeps through openings, creating a small wading pool; not a well, by it’s what my mind has constructed in its place. I walk in and let my the energy of water and sun meet me in the center.
Just like that, all was well within and without. Even though I couldn’t easily go into the forest and my day was packed, I made the most looking through a window.
My husband and I shared our first date on Valentine’s Day about a decade ago. It was a few days after my third boyfriend broke up with me – following a Valentine’s Day dance, of all things. After encouragement from a friend, he rushed into the tutoring room on campus where I worked. He caught his breath and bashfully asked me to come over for dinner. I accepted his invitation since I thought he was cute and was starting to enjoy his company. At the time, I was exploring different Pagan paths, but he knew I had been working with a Wiccan circle. The clever guy decided on the topic of Wicca for a college research paper and asked to interview me for more information. (I like to remind him of his adorable plot from time to time.) He and his two brothers made dinner for two other girls and me. Then we played board games. It was really sweet and I’ll never forget that date, even though we didn’t become a serious couple for another month or so. After a couple years, we stopped celebrating Valentine’s Day. We were content to avoid the commercialism, and the Catholic overtones irritated me. I came to preferred the amorous, May holiday of Bealtaine instead.
Along came Bee…
Once more, another ambiguously secular holiday has arrived, and my daughter is entranced by the dominant culture. It’s hard to avoid Valentine’s Day. The colorful pink and red hearts, bears, and flowers quickly fill a festive gap left by Christmas. My daughter was excited about Imbolc, but she is a girly girl who absolutely adores anything pink. She’s learned about Valentine’s Day from several favorite kid shows and can’t stop talking about it.
So what to do?
I started to read more about Lupercalia, the Roman fertility celebration and ritual associated with Faunus. It’s very interesting, but not very child-friendly (except, of course, for making children)! And Valentine’s Day is associated with a Christian saint… Some of my readings spoke of the gradual transformation of Lupercalia to Candlemas, a day many equate with Imbolc… but I know that’s controversial as many insist that Imbolc is not the same as Candlemas despite some similarities. Besides, my family already celebrated Imbolc. I don’t feel it’s very similar to Valentine’s Day at all…
I have decided to keep it simple this year. My daughter can handle celebrating love in general. I have some treats for her, and we’ve enjoyed making paper hearts. Actually, it’s a great way to help her with her hand-eye coordination and scissor skills. I fold the paper in half, draw the half-heart shape, and she cuts. For our first round, she practiced writing ABCs – just the initial letter in names of people she loves. M for mama, D for daddy, etc… Today, we made hearts for the Three Kindreds and I let her hang them wherever she wanted. She knew who I was talking about because she would say, “Here Brighid! I made you a heart! This one is for the Ancestors. Look how happy the Ancestors are!” Makes my heart melt. I’m thinking about bringing her outside to make a birdseed heart in the snow for the Nature Spirits.
I’m really curious as to what other Pagan parents, especially those who follow a Celtic hearth culture, do at this time of year. Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Have you found any sources on how the Romanized Gauls may have participated in Lupercalia? Something else, if anything? Let me know in the comments!
Ugh. Sometime in December, my discipline and focus crumbled. I really fell off the trance train…
I’ve been working to reestablish my discipline over the last couple weeks. I started to reread Paxson’s “Trance-Portations” and am going through the exercises. I’m not rushing it. I really want to spend time on the foundational skills. I’ve been more mindful about my grounding, shielding, and visualization. I continue to do my Druid Egg shielding on mornings, but sometimes it’s difficult to visualize when I’m exhausted. (I haven’t been sleeping well lately… )
I started to participate in Sassafras Grove’s Brighid-Along to help me prepare for Imbolc. This has given me additional inspiration for my inner work. I did a very quick meditation on day one. Finding quiet time for meditation and trance has been challenging. My daughter’s sleep schedule has been really off lately, so by the time she falls asleep, I’m usually exhausted. I’ve decided that I won’t allow myself to wallow in the challenges and what I don’t feel able to accomplish. Rather, I’m going to adapt. If I can only meditate for a short time, I’m going to make that meaningful and really focus!
Last night, I meditated on Brighid during, and ended up walking into my inner grove where one of my spirit guide was waiting. (I’m starting to look for other words to describe them…I’ve seen fetch used by several people focused on European traditions, but I need to do more research.) We talked a little, reconnecting. I had felt him reaching out to me a lot over the week, so I knew he was waiting.
My plan is to start posting on my blog again to keep myself accountable.
Ever since Muin Mound Grove made candles with old candle wax for an Imbolc workshop years ago, I decided that I should try my hand at the hobby. It felt so right given my growing relationship with Brighid. A friend of mine made candles for awhile – huge, beautiful pieces of art, really. She gifted some to me, and the care she put into them… They were and are full of magic, whether she believes in that or not. I don’t think she’s made any for awhile, but they really inspired me. A grovemate made some in tins last year and gifted one to me before she moved away. I remember telling her that I kept meaning to try my hand at it again, and she was very encouraging.
This Winter Solstice, some family members thoughtfully gave me gift cards to arts and craft stores. I used some of the money toward a candle making kit. It was a very simple kit with enough ingredients to make six soy votives in glass candle holders. I broke into it today and had a lot of fun. Before I started, I made an offering to Brighid as I consider this devotional work.
The kit was very easy to use. I know I need to improve my method of securing the wicks to their dowels. Soy was very easy to work with, and I always prefer soy to paraffin, but I know I want to focus mostly on beeswax as it is one of the safest, cleanest waxes to use. I also know there are several beekeepers in the area, and working with a local, sustainable material that supports local bee populations is incredibly important to me. I’m not concerned with scents so I did not use the vanilla scent block that came with the kit. I’m not sure what it’s made out of and I’m very concerned with the purity of ingredients. As I learn, I may experiment with using natural fragrances for magical purposes, but I’m a huge fan of that simple beeswax smell.
I have a growing list of tools I need to improve as well as other things I want to try. I’m hoping to pop in the local antique store this week. The owner has some kitchen bowls that aren’t too much money, if I remember correctly. That way I could reuse older materials without contaminating my kitchenware.
My next goal is to make simple hand-dipped candles for Imbolc, and my grove is also talking about making some soy crystal candles for our holiday workshop.
‘Tis the season for new beginnings and new activities, and as the wheel turns toward Imbolc, it’s such an appropriate time for me to learn these skills and incorporate them into my practice.
As we near the end of the secular year, and enter a new lunar phase at this critical time, I’ve been especially reflective about my spiritual development. I realize that I’ve put a lot of my energy into transforming my protogrove into a grove, and facilitating as much as possible to keep us active despite some of the challenges we’ve collectively faced. My personal spirituality started out really strong at the beginning of the year. I was more actively working on study programs, but between work and motherhood (same old, same old, I know), I found myself putting grove business first to keep it healthy and growing. I don’t really think that doing so has been detrimental. It’s actually been extremely helpful in enabling me to develop my understanding of ADF liturgy, group magic, and divination. Honestly, I think running a grove gives me an edge when it comes to completing certain exit standards in my education within ADF – so the work I put into Northern Rivers does not detract from my studies, but with my other life demands.
My concern is that I’ve let my hearth practice slip. I’ve continued to keep up with my morning and evening devotionals for the most part. I have brief lapses due to visiting family, illness, or other disruption to routine, but I’m proud of my discipline for the most part. I had high hopes that I would really develop my trance skills. I was for awhile, as documented here on my blog, but then I gradually did less and less. Why? Some of it has been laziness. Why do I spend so much time staring at the abyss that is Facebook? Some of it is that I’ve been incredibly inspired recently. I’ve started to write fiction again – something I haven’t done with so much vigor and passion in years. Of course, with the holidays, I’ve filled much of my remaining spare time with sewing and crocheting gifts.
I need to refine my discipline and rededicate myself to my personal practice. Maybe an oath with repercussions is in order? I also realize that I need to strengthen my bonds with Brighid and continue to give offerings of gratitude for all the inspiration she has blessed me with. I’m envisioning magic to strengthen my creativity, crafting a trance tool that I’ve been dreaming of, and actually getting outside more. All of these activities will feed my soul, make me a better Druid, and ultimately benefit my grove.
Be it so!