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Posts Tagged ‘altars’

Bealtaine is one of my favorite holidays.  One reason is simply because, unlike the Spring Equinox, Bealtaine truly brings the warmer weather to Northern NY.  Another reason for my fondness is that it’s basically my unofficial Pagan anniversary.  I don’t know exactly when I started the conversion process, but my first experiences with two Pagan groups that shaped my practice occurred on two separate Bealtaines.  I get really excited about the High Day.

 

A small coven invited me to celebrate with them this weekend, but that didn’t work out for health reasons.  My husband and I contemplated visiting our friends at Muin Mound Grove, but we ultimately decided to stay closer to home and rest.  A marathon Bealtaine would have been fun, and would have taken me back to my college days when such a feat would energize rather than exhaust me.  Nowadays, I’m a little more subdued, and my daughter keeps me so busy that I’m worn out before we even leave the house!  I know many Pagan families with older children who are able to take long trips in order to attend multiple gatherings or festivals – I look forward to doing that again down the road.

So, staying home, I focused on the home.  I cleaned it as best as I could, although I admit it’s never entirely clean.  There’s always something in progress in my kitchen… I’m very hearth-centered, so I suppose that makes sense! I cleaned my altars, which Bee found fascinating as it gave her a chance to look at everything.  We decorated our family altar with symbols of the season.  We even made a little May bush with fallen birch and apple branches.  We each picked colored ribbons to tie to the branches.  It looks very festive!

In addition to making dinner, I made some scones on Bealtaine eve.  We offered some to the Good Folk.  This morning, I made pancakes as my mother told me my grandmother always made pancakes on the first of May.  I love learning about and continuing family traditions, especially when they somehow line up with my High Days!  Of course, an offering of said pancakes was made.

We did a little ritual the night before in which we gave offerings to the Kindreds and the Good Folk.  We jumped over our altar candle for blessings and purification.  Bee thought this was great fun.  She wore the flower circlet I crocheted, a tutu, and her new ballet slippers – she’s quite the performer!  This morning, it’s raining, so I just collected the rain water for purification and healing work.  I made offerings to the only flowers blooming right now – lovely purple ground ivy – and picked a few sprigs to offer to the Good Folk on my doorstep.

Simple and sweet, but certainly inspired by tradition and full of fun and meaning for my family.  Now we will look forward to the big protogrove celebration next weekend!

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

 

Although it’s started to feel like Spring in Northern NY, there aren’t any flowers yet. If you’d like to get your little ones excited about the coming season and want to add some color to your altars and nature tables, here’s a craft I came up with.  It will take a few hours or a couple of days depending on how long you let the stems dry, but that lesson in patience can easily relate to waiting for real flowers to sprout and bloom.  It also encourages hand-eye-coordination and practice with colors.  My daughter is almost three, and she really enjoyed this activity.  She loves seeing her art on our family altar!  It makes her feel part of the celebration.

Materials:

  • popsicle sticks
  • non-toxic green paint
  • brushes
  • lots of rags or paper towels to clean up (inevitable!)
  • a variety of colorful ribbons cut into small strips (older children practicing their cutting skills could help with this part)
  • tacky glue
  • a vase, flower pot, or basket for display

Process:

  1. Give your little one a few popsicle sticks, green paint, and a brush.  Encourage him or her to paint them, and talk about stems and their color.  Let these dry for a few hours or overnight.  Discuss patience and what that means.  Maybe use this time to plant some seeds for real flowers!
  2. Once the stems are dry, show your child all the pretty ribbon petals.  Maybe look at some photos of flowers for inspiration, and show how the petals look.
  3. Adults can put a small dot of glue at the top of each stick.  Toddlers can then place a petal.  Keep adding glue and petals until the child feels it’s done.  If your child is anything like mine, they will look a bit wabi-sabi.  That’s okay!
  4. Repeat for each stick and let dry for a few hours.
  5. Display on your altar or nature table, or give as seasonal gifts!

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Offerings to the Peacemakers

An offering of incense at my ancestral altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

To honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I decided to make an offering at my ancestral altar and give thanks to my ancestors, of blood, heart, and place, who have worked to make the world a better place for all of humanity.  In particular, I called on the peacemakers who have worked towards equality and love.  May their spirit continue to inspire the living.

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I honor and work with the Three Kindreds: the Nature Spirits, Gods and Goddesses, and the Ancestors.  The later tends to fall to the sidelines all too often in my daily practice, which is very unfortunate.  I pride myself and my tradition for paying better  attention to the beloved dead, but I know I have room for improvement.  And since most cultures who venerate ancestors share the belief that they are more likely to help you than the other spirits due to their vested interest in the tribe, it makes sense to keep that hospitality flowing!

A fellow ADFer really inspired me by posting about having coffee with her ancestors.  I’m not much for coffee, but I could surely share tea!  The only problem was that my ancestor altar had become a tiny corner on my bookshelf which is relegated to a hard to reach corner in our new place.  Boo!

It suddenly occurred to me that I had space over the hutch my father refurbished for me!  What’s more, it is in the dining room where I can enjoy a cup of tea with my ancestors!  And not only that, they can join us for every meal!  (Talk about super convenient for Samhain!)

My ancestral altar, all moved in to the dining room. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

After I moved the altar to its new home, I felt called to make some Irish soda bread.  I never made traditional soda bread before, so I searched for a manageable recipe.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it without raisins or caraway seeds, but it came out wonderfully!  And of course, the first piece went to the ancestors.  Today, as Bee and I enjoyed our breakfast, I shared some tea with my ancestors, invited the beloved dead, and delved into some Celtic studies.  It occurred to me the ancestors were talking to me through the history book…  How appropriate.

My first attempt at baking traditional Irish soda bread! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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My time is limited and, as a result, I haven’t felt pulled to make the very detailed, large dolls I made prior to pregnancy.  Those will come again, but I’ve recently found myself returning to my roots and making dolls with very simple shapes.  Some may view that as backwards, but something Phillip Carr-Gomm said in the latest Druidcast really spoke to me.  He compared the movement of people back to religions inspired by very ancient myths to salmon returning to their spawning ground and taking part in a cycle rebirth.  Not only did it make sense to me in regards to Druidism’s place in the modern world, but it dawned on me that I was experiencing the same thing in my art.  Motherhood has transformed my life in ways that I’m only just beginning to understand.  It is impacting my art.  Everything has to be reborn in this new phase of my life.

You may have seen the Waldorf-inspired gnomes I’ve been making for my daughter.  They are akin to my early exploration of doll making.  Limbs are very complicated and so I’m not bothering with them so much right now.  Recently I’ve been wanting to spend less time on constructing the form and more on adding soul.  I decided to make a new Brighid doll for my altar.  I’ve said this many times, but I’m a proponent of using your talents to make your own ritual tools.  For me, the desire to create representations of deities for my altars is what brought me to doll making in the first place.  I retired my original Brighid doll.  She was very top-heavy and required a metal and wooden stand.  With baby just months away from walking, it seemed like a safety hazard.  Brighid has a new home upon my altar and in a form that matches my evolving understanding of her.  She is more voluptuous, draped in a tartan cloak “pined” with a Celtic knot button to represent her smithcraft and art in general.  Although I did not make limbs in the usual sense, her hand peeks out from her cloak to magically hold her sacred flame, something I needle felted using dyed sheep wool (also very appropriate for this Goddess).

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I’m rather happy with how she turned out.  As I worked on this Brighid doll, the Goddess sent her inspiration to me and I’ve already started to dream up another doll to represent another Goddess I’ve been working with.  In the meantime, I’m planning to ritually consecrate this doll in Brighid’s name to create a “home away from home” for her, thus facilitating communication.

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A blessed Winter Solstice to my readers! The sun is reborn and we rejoice in the lengthening days!

Hoof prints guide me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Yesterday was a hard day for us because of Potion’s passing.  But we persevered and, after a long day of work, delved into preparations for today.  There were gifts to finish, floors to clean, and evergreens to be collected.  Although an ice storm was on the way, and the ground was already starting to freeze, Potion’s death made me want to take a walk in the woods even more.  As I told my father, who offered to come with me, sometimes I like to go alone.  Getting away from other people and spending some silent time with the trees can be very meditative.  It also allowed me to get in touch with my spirit guide.  The snow was crusted over and hard, but I followed the deer tracks in and around the woods.  I made offerings to my spirit guide and the local Nature kin.  I collected the evergreens from the ground, considering them gifts from the deer who pull the branches down to feed.  I have no need to cut from the actual trees.

A basket full of green! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

I added the greenery to my altar and over my hutch where my Yule goat and wooden sun hang out. In the future, when I have more time, energy, and Bee is old enough to help, I would love to gather enough to make big garlands to drape over the dining room window and along the stairway.

Following Three Crane Grove’s Twelve Days of Yule, yesterday was for remembering mothers. I put some special mementos and photos on my altar to pay homage to my ancestral mothers and the spirit of motherhood. I also took some me-time and had a warm, relaxing shower. Offerings were poured and words were said.

My altar grows ever more festive! Photo by Weretoad, 2013.

I was very excited to stay up and keep vigil for the sun, but between the emotional exhaustion, all the prep for today, and general infant care, I found myself increasingly exhausted. I went to bed but set an alarm and was able to greet the sun in my own way – singing “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison with Bee grinning ear to ear!  This was followed by some more napping, a breakfast of waffles, our gift exchange, watching “Love Actually,” and our Winter Solstice feast!  My wonderful husband, who is an amazing baker, made me a pecan pie as a gift.  I made a spinach and mushroom quiche.  Not pictured are the roasted potatoes I made or the salad my father put together!

Our Winter Solstice Feast. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Now we’re relaxing and hoping not to lose power from the big ice storm. It gives me a lot of extra time to finish crafting gifts for family. Speaking of that, if you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas or activities to do with little ones, take a peek at these great suggestions:

Pagan Ozark Mama teaches you how to make a “Yule Heart.”  If you are influenced by a Heathen hearth culture, check out her delightful wooden Sleipnir tutorial!

8 Magical crafts to gift or adorn your Solstice tree from The Magic Onions.  Here’s 8 more that use natural materials found in the wild!

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Have you ever heard of treasure baskets?  They are a simple, wonderful, and magical idea for play.  They are a large part of Montessori philosophy which embraces heuristic play.  Here’s a great introduction to the concept, including suggestions.

I was inspired to make a treasure basket all about Druidism.    Traditionally, treasure baskets are wide, rounded, and low for easy access, but I’m using a rectangular basket with a lid because it wasn’t being used for anything else.  This Druidism treasure basket is very basic and as baby-friendly as possible right now while still avoiding plastics.  Bee is only just starting to grasp and manipulate objects with her hands. She’s all about exploring with her mouth so things have to be safe*.  The basket will grow and change as she does.  Some of the items will likely move to a Waldorf concept – the nature table / play altar**!

 

Current Contents: 

  • A paper skull for the ancestors.
  • A fleece pink heart for the beloved dead (currently a favorite item).
  • An extra Druid Animal Oracle card I had laying around for Nature Spirits, divination, and water since it depicts a seal.
  • A wool ball I felted to symbolize Nature spirits and Brighid (sheep).  It could also be a cloud for sky.
  • A large seashell to represent the sea, Manannan, and the  Nature spirits.
  • A poof of yellow and orange mesh fabric to represent fire, sky, Brighid, and the Shining Ones in general.

In the Works:

  • A general Goddess and God doll to represent the divine (duotheistic, I know, but I don’t want to be too prescriptive with her).  Each will be made of a different texture to keep things interesting!
  • A wooden teething tree.  Her papa is responsible for this project!
  • More treasure baskets!  I plan to make/update one for each High Day!  A Winter Solstice basket is already in progress.

 

* She will always be under supervision when playing with her treasure baskets.  I feel nervous putting a shell in the mix, but it’s been cleaned and is too big for swallowing.  So far, she just likes to look at it.

** Stay tuned as I explore and build a play altar with Bee!

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