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Posts Tagged ‘Autumn Equinox’

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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Apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Upstate New York is known for its delicious apples. Each autumn, orchards roll out their red, yellow, and green goodness, cider presses offer their ambrosial best, and folks everywhere delight at the numerous confections produced in kitchens across the land.  When fresh apples appear in mounds at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, when the cider presses open, that is when autumn has officially arrived, and this little Druid rejoices!

While I’ll join my fellow grovies on Saturday for a formal ritual to honor and thank the Earth Mother for her bounty, I’ve spent my Autumn Equinox eating a homemade meal with my little family and enjoying the harvest of apples – including some from a tree right outside my home! I’ve already dehydrated some for snacking.  Today I decided to do something simple and quick – apple sauce.

It’s such a simple dish – a large batch of apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon.  Recipes say that last ingredient is optional, but you’re a strange one if you omit it.  Blended together, the aroma wafts through the home, the most welcomed autumn incense you could dream up.  While the plant world is dying or preparing for sleep, the smell of apples is youthful energy unleashed!

Homemade goodness. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Unlike store-bought applesauce, the homemade variety, fresh off the stove, tastes like apple pie filling without the crust.  All the good stuff – the heart and soul of the autumn season.  The only thing more gastronomically titillating is pumpkin pie filling.  Oh, mama… Speaking of mamas, there’s something very motherly about apple sauce to me.  Perhaps it’s because one of my first childhood memories is of watching my grandmother make it using apples straight off her tree – apples I helped to pick and sort.  As my baby salivated and smiled at the sugary treat of apple sauce, I realized that I was passing along yet another North Country tradition, one that goes back generations to the Old World.

Drying apple head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Another apple tradition, one that I’ve never tried before, is drying apple heads to make dolls.  As someone who enjoys making dolls and learning about traditional arts, I don’t know why it’s taken me this long.  Using an apple that had a massive bruise on one side (normally I’m not a fan of wasting food, but this one was going to get thrown in a hedge anyway), I carved a face, inserted peppercorns for eyes, and placed in my oven on a low setting. It’s still drying nicely, and my hope is to make an offering for our Autumn Equinox celebration this weekend.

I hope your own harvest celebrations have been equally sweet and inspiring!   May your harvest invigorate your heart, mind, and soul, and may it reconnect you to your Ancestors and the rhythms of Nature!

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Original pattern and photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Autumn’s arrival means I have to prepare my garden for the colder temperatures. I realized that I had the same garden flag out since the Spring Equinox. I’ve grown fond of having a splash of color flying in my garden, but tulips and bees just won’t cut it for this time of year. Rather than buy something cheap and made in a factory, I decided to make something myself. I’m really proud of how it turned out, and wanted to share it with my readers!  What’s more, I decided to share my Goddess pattern in case you want to try making one yourself.

To make a flag, choose what fabric you’d like.  I used a stiff canvas for the background and some Autumn colored quilting fabric for the Goddess herself.  Trace the Goddess pattern onto the quilting fabric and cut out exactly.  For the flag, use the Goddess to determine the size and shape you’d like.  You can be fancy like myself, make a long triangle, or stick with a basic rectangle.  Cut two.  Pin the fabric Goddess, right side out, onto one of the flag pieces.  Applique stitch all the way around.  Pin the two flag sides together, right sides in, and stitch around all but the top edge.  Turn it right side out and iron.  Fold the top down, creating a wide enough entrance for your flagpole, and stitch.

Now you have a lovely, homemade flag to welcome the Autumn season!

If you make a flag using my Goddess pattern, I would love to see it.  I’m thinking about making another one winter, spring, and summer, since the Solstices and Equinoxes feel more about the Earth, Nature, and their changes.  For Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasadh, I see myself utilizing more cultural symbols.

Happy sewing, happy harvest, and blessed Autumn Equinox!

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As part of Northern River’s Autumn Equinox ritual, we had a baby saining ceremony for Bee.  The rite was inspired by material gathered by Alexander Carmichael in Carmina Gadelica.  In the highlands, Pagan ceremony blended with the Christian idea of baptism.  Baptism was seen as a powerful force of order among those people.  It was the first initiation into the community and the Christian faith (191).  Baptism was valued so highly, and failure to receive one was such a frightening prospect that special cemeteries were set apart for the babies who died before receiving such a blessing.  Sad little places, they were often rocky and hard to get to.  “It was thought,” Carmichael explains, “that such a child had no soul; but it had a spirit, and this spirit, taran, entered into a rock and abode there, and became mac talla (son of rock), which is the Gaelic term for “echo” (190).  To me, that language suggest a fear of ghosts and/or angry spirits.

Although sainings have some of the familiar acts of a Christian baptism, it is to be viewed as more a blessing and protective charm rather than any sort of dedication to a specific religion.  The tradition seems to come from the midwives, or knee-women, who performed their own baptism prior to that given by the priests (189).  This was likely done for fear of infant mortality and how seriously the community viewed baptism as demonstrated above.  However, these midwife baptisms have language that suggests they’re carried over from earlier traditions.  There’s protective language against fairies and gnomes, for example (192).  Indeed, if  you read my earlier post about childbirth traditions in Ireland and Scotland, you’ll know that a fear of changelings was also very real to our ancestors.  To protect against otherworldly abduction, newborns were “handed to and fro across the fire three times, some words being addressed in an almost inaudible murmer to the fire-god.  It was then carried three times sunwise around the fire, some words being murmered to the sun-god” (189).

For our purposes, Rev. Skip Ellison of Muin Mound Grove performed the saining.  It was important to us that he do it because he married us a few years ago.  He asked that the Three Kindreds protect Bee.  He gave us an iron ring to keep near her to ward off malignant spirits.  I carried a candle around her as she was held by my husband. She was then given splashes of water, “wavelets,” to symbolically bestow various qualities.

A waveflet for thy form,
A wavelet for thy voice,
A wavelet for thy sweet speech;

A wavelet for thy luck,
A wavelet for thy good,
A wavelet for thy health;

A wavelet for thy throat,
A wavelet for thy pluck,
A wavelet for thy graciousness;
Nine waves for thy graciousness” (Ellison, 147).

Baby Bee after her saining. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

It was decided that I would carry my daughter from person to person in the circle to receive their blessing. Indeed, this is traditional. Carmichael wrote, “At this function and feast the child is handed from person to person around the company, going deiseil, in a sunwise direction. Every person who takes the child is required to express a wish for its welfare. The wish may be in prose or in verse, but preferbably in verse and original if possible” (191) because poetry has the tendancy to endure.  Amazingly enough, Skip’s granddaughter, Dragyonfly, wrote an amazing song for Bee which she sang during this portion! We were given a copy of the lyrics as a gift. What a treasure!

Acorn favors I made for guests. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

It was important to me that I show my saining guests hospitality in the form of a favor. I made several felted acorn ornaments for people to bring home. They’re reminders of their witnessing her blessing and what it meant. The basket was with us during the whole Autumn Equinox and saining ceremony so they could soak up all that goodness. I gave them out after feasting.

Baby Bee enjoying a fun bear blanket from Tara with a friend. So far, it’s the biggest blanket my daughter owns! Definitely good fort material! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Bee received several lovely gifts from people in addition to the song. Grovies gave her blankets and clothing. My mother gave her a cute fox coat and some money that we plan to use for a highchair. My sister and niece gave Bee a wonderful book about nature spirits and an original painting. My little family is truly blessed!

A beautiful quilt made by my grovies in Muin Mound. Everyone chose fabric and/or made their own squares. I have some truly talented friends! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

An amazing painting by my sister for our little Bee! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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Blessed Autumn Equinox!

Here – have a festive cookie!

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May your harvest be full of blessings!

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Local Harvest – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

My family has grown and I feel pulled to add greater emphasis to our holiday observations.  I’ve always expressed my excitement for Samhain and Winter Solstice through decorating, but I want to explore that with the other High Days as well.  If my daughter is anything like I was as a youngster, it will add joy to her own life.  As our holidays emphasize nature and the agricultural cycle, the decor will also help to educate her about Druidism and the world she lives in.  Furthermore, taking the time to do this helps me to engage in my tradition.

The centerpiece of the Autumn Equinox is, both literally and conceptually, the cornucopia.  I placed it on our dining-room table to remind us of the blessings we’ve received.  I filled it with locally grown veggies – including two from my own garden!  Since taking the photo, I’ve added a tablecloth that I hemmed this afternoon.  It’s orange and adds a seasonal brightness to the home!

Seasonal Simplified Altar – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

I also added some seasonal color to my main altar.  I used a garland of faux leaves and, despite being fake, they look nice!  And if my cats go after them, they won’t get sick or make a huge mess.

In addition to my decorating, I’ve been listening to my Autumnal playlist.  It includes tracks such as “Mabon” and “Equinox” by Omnia, “Golden Apples” by Faun, and “Leaves that are Green” by Simon and Garfunkel.  It’s a decidedly mellow playlist, which seems to fit this time of year.  It’s a contemplative time as we approach the season of death and sleep.  It’s a time to count one’s blessings and accept the changes underway.  The magic and excitement that balance with Samhain’s sense of saddness hasn’t fully been realized yet.  The will come as the harvest winds down and the veil thins…

Next on the list – planning my family meal!  Stay tuned.

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Homemade Apple Crisp – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Sure, it was hot and humid earlier this week, but we’re once more experiencing the crisp, cool weather of autumn. And thank goodness! I’m ready for it.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’m a new mother and trying to find ways to live my spirituality that don’t always include lengthy rituals, quiet meditation or trance, and are safe and inclusive for little ones.  My journey is highlighting something I believed before having a baby – your whole life is infused with opportunities to engage spiritually.  We just need to open our eyes and hearts!

What better way to honor the seasonal changes than to enjoy local food?  At this time of year in NY state, that means apples!  Last weekend we visited the Burrville Cider Mill to purchase some of the most delicious cider and donuts you could ever hope for, along with a half-peck of apples.  We’ve been enjoying them fresh all week, but I’ve been working on the liturgy for Northern Rivers Protogrove’s upcoming Autumn Equinox ritual.  It got me in the mood for something baked.  My favorite autumn apple dessert?  Apple crisp.  So simple and yet packed with the flavors, scents, and memories of many happy autumns.  Before enjoying some with my husband, I offered a bit to my ancestors.  I wouldn’t have so many wonderful traditions to enjoy if it hadn’t been for them!

What autumn treats are you enjoying?

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