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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

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…

A paper heart made for the gods and goddesses.  Bee said the one-eyed face is a god and the other is a goddess.  Brighid got her own special heart.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

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!

 

 

 

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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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Instead of fireworks, we had a bonfire in the backyard. We did use a few sparklers which delighted my daughter. Plenty of sparkles without all the noise. She made an offering of birdseed to the Nature Spirits. I made offerings of drink to the Ancestors and Gods. I sprinkled juniper berries into the fire for Brighid. It was a simple but lovely night.

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Photo Mar 27, 2 30 22 PM

The beautifully colored St. Lawrence River at Alexandria Bay, NY.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

I went with my family to an Easter Brunch near the St. Lawrence River.  It felt like a homecoming in many ways; I hadn’t seen the river in a few months, and my heart swelled to see her.  Like a vibrant ribbon against brown fabric, the bright blue-green of the river certainly gave a spring feel to an otherwise sleepy land that hasn’t quite woke up after winter.

As I took in the majesty, I reflected on how lucky I am as a Pagan.  Sure, there were times in the past where I resented celebrating my Christian family’s holidays while they could barely remember mine.  Things have changed.  We’ve all grown.  My family has worked to show respect to me and my path.  I think it’s cute how my mother gives me Easter cards but crosses out her holiday’s name and writes “Spring Equinox” in its place.  It’s the little things, right?  It’s helped me feel more accepted, and I’ve become less threatened acting; more accepting myself.  I’ll be the first to wish them a “Happy Easter,” and I gave my niece Easter stickers in a basket with other goodies.

I thank the Kindreds for how lucky I am.  I sometimes get annoyed that my family doesn’t celebrate my holidays more, but they make gestures.  Honestly, I’m just happy to be together.  So many in Pagan traditions live in fear of their family finding out, or they’ve actually been isolated because of it.  Meanwhile, tempers are flaring in the Pagan and Polytheist communities, and the world at large is so full of hate and chest thumping…

I’m not sure how the world could become a more peaceful place, but I’m glad that my daughter and niece get to experience different traditions and see that we can still love one another and find commonalities.

 

 

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If  you celebrate anything in December, it’s usually a busy time.  Regardless of the positives experienced, I think it’s safe to assume that most people are worn out after it’s all said and done.  I certainly felt depleted!  Today, I restored myself physically, intellectually, and spiritually.

Northern NY is finally getting snow!  The roads have been a bit messy, but that didn’t keep me from visiting my massage therapist at Harmony Day Spa.    I  go every other month or so for a basic Swedish massage from Ashley, although I have received hot and cold stone therapy, as well as a sound healing technique she offers.  She’s absolutely amazing, and I always feel rejuvenated when I leave.  I always say, some women treat themselves to shoes or manicures – I indulge in massage.  My back loves me for it!

As for the intellection restoration, I’m putting my spare time to good use and delving back into the academic side of ADF’s advanced study programs.  I reviewed what I left off on, and I’m hoping to finish IE Myth before I go back to work.  I can’t make any promises, but I am hoping!  I’m also working on Divination 2. I spent some time today pouring through Carmina Gadelica looking for examples of auguries with some success!  It’s so fascinating, and is deepening my understanding and experience with the Druid Animal Oracle cards I love so much.

I restored myself spiritually but going to my altar earlier for my weekly ritual.  Yes, I’ve kept that up weekly, but after such a busy, extended weekend, returning to my sacred space felt really good.  Time away from home almost always disrupts my daily devotionals and other routines.  Furthermore, I worked to clean and sain my altar.  The space needed a good cleansing. Taking the time to remove dust, incense ash, cat fur, and candle wax felt like removing cobwebs in my mind.  Taking pride in one’s spiritual focal point is a way of showing good hospitality to the Kindreds who visit, and the act reaffirms one’s commitments.  As we move to the secular New Year, I will be doing a lot more cleaning – both physical and spiritual.

 

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I was up late preparing for my protogrove’s Autumn Equinox celebration, and I woke up earlier than usual on a Saturday to continue my preparations.  I’m not even leading today’s ritual, although I am performing several important parts.  I’m also leading the magical working: a grovemate’s mother blessing/saining ceremony.  There’s a buzz of excitement in the house.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m truly excited.

Remember when you were little and the holidays filled you with so much anticipation?  You could barely contain yourself as the day approached?  For me, I have vivid memories of planning Halloween costumes,  getting up early on Thanksgiving to watch the parade on TV, or impatiently counting down the days to Christmas.  Ah, the magic of childhood…

That never has to go away.  You may celebrate different holidays now, but you can approach them with that exuberance.

It’s hard when you first step on a spiritual path that is different from your family’s, but I think that’s especially so when you’re embracing a minority religion and you are clueless on the community around you.  During my days as a solitary eclectic practitioner, finding my way, I would honor the holidays by myself in my bedroom or, sometimes, in the forest.  The initial buzz of taboo a converted Catholic might feel wore off, and I was left, instead, with a bit of sadness.  Sometimes, it felt too much like an obligation.  Of course, those of us who walk these paths embrace a self-imposed obligation to revive and maintain the old ways, but it shouldn’t be begrudgingly.  We should leave behind the “12 Pains of Christmas” attitude when moving over to the Earth-Centered paths.

Finding community changed everything for me.  Suddenly I wasn’t alone.  I found a spiritual family!  Of course, I’m sure it’s perfectly possible for a solitary practitioner to celebrate the holidays with joy, but for me it didn’t work.  I needed that community.  As a child, I planned Halloween costumes with my parents.  I watched that Thanksgiving parade with my sister.  I counted down the days to Christmas with my family and friends.  Each was followed by celebrating with others, and I crave that community. In my humble opinion, since Druidism is a tribal religion by nature, these very community-centric celebrations are experienced best with others, sharing in the joy.  Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that, even if my family isn’t Polytheistic or Pagan, we all connect in our appreciation of picking out pumpkins, drinking apple cider, making snowmen, planting in the spring, and that first dip in the river after a seemingly endless winter.  You may not have ritual with your biological family, but you can still celebrate together.

Whether you are part of a grove or not, find your joy and excitement.  Really meditate on what you’re doing and why.  Create an appropriate playlist and fill your home with mirthful sound.  Plan a special, seasonal meal and decorate with plants and harvest to connect with the land.   Plan important magical workings for the day and truly anticipate it.  Embrace the day as a child would.  If you’re like me and you have a child, think about what he or she will remember down the road.  What pleasant nostalgia will fill her heart when she sees the seasons change?

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Dandelion Cookie Offering. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I seem to post about food an awful lot, and I hope you’ll forgive me. Harvesting, making, and preserving food plays such an important role in our religious traditions and holidays.

I recently recognized what has become a family tradition in early May – harvesting and cooking with dandelion flowers. In fact, I know we had a huge harvest of dandelions around Mother’s Day last year because I have an adorable photo of Bee, dressed up for the day, sitting in our backyard surrounded by lovely yellow dandelions!  It was around that time that we made dandelion cookies.

On Saturday, after treating myself to a fabulous hot stone massage, we returned home, then Bee and I gathered some dandelion flowers.  Day by day, I’m teaching her to respect nature, how Mama Earth provides food for us, how we work with other creatures like the honeybees, and how to express our gratitude.  Seeing her grow in her knowledge and vocabulary is just magical.

When the cookies were done baking, I saw that one looked like a heart.  Immediately, I knew I wanted to give that one back as an offering to the Earth Mother.  Bee picked a few too many flowers, so we gave those back as well.  Between the birds, the ants, and the rain we had last night, the cookie is indeed going back into the Earth Mother.

Land, Sky, and Sea.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Land, Sky, and Sea. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I’ve had such a lovely Mother’s Day today.  We had breakfast in my favorite cafe in Clayton, NY, then spent some time at Grass Point State Park.  We put our feet in the river for the first time this year, and it felt amazing.  It was like a homecoming.  While Bee and her father played on the slides, I sat under some willows, where the land met the river, and meditated for a little bit.  I watched the honeybees pollinating the flowers all around me, watched the terns swoop through the air, listened to the St. Lawrence River whisper against the sand.  Nearby, plants grew, an otter carcass decayed, and seabirds sang over the small, rocky islands.  Everything, everyone, was part of the Earth Mother, and I was there with them.  Just as she nourishes me, I nourish my daughter.  One day, we will nourish others in the great cycle…  I sang to the River Spirit who is part of the Earth Mother.

It is just so beautiful and ineffable.  Cookies, flowers, songs, and prayers are but a simple expression of my love and gratitude.  Later, I did the work – I mixed new, organic potting soil with homemade compost.  Filled the pots, preparing them for homegrown veggies and flowers for our pollinator allies.  Working with the Earth Mother, working to improve my involvement with the Earth Mother, with my brother and sister Nature Spirits…  Still so much to do, so much to learn…

Whenever I do a devotional, I pray:

Earth Mother, may my greatest offering be my daily attempts to walk lighter upon you…

Every day, I learn more and grow more in my understanding, just like my daughter…

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