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Posts Tagged ‘Pagan parenting’

Ghost Flowers at Otter Creek Preserve.  Once upon a time, I had no idea what these were.  I didn’t merely shrug and forget – I took photos and looked them up after a hike.  Now I can easily identify them.  It’s a great feeling. – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

I read an article today that captured the spirit and concern of one of my recent posts.  It relates to Britain specifically, but I see a similar disconnect between people and nature in the United States.  It amazes me how many adults (who have lived in Upstate NY all their lives) don’t know the difference between an oak and a maple tree.  These are some of the most common trees around!  Or they can’t name any of the wildflowers that grow near them.

It’s really… strange to me, I guess, but then I think of all the other skills I’m surprised people lack.  Like…hearing that someone intends to throw out a shirt because a button fell off…  Say what?  Reading the article linked above made me realize how lucky I was as a child to learn about the nature around me.  My parents and even grandparents were very involved and passed down their wisdom – the names of plants and animals, how to garden, what not to touch, and even some wild edibles.  I’m always trying to add to that knowledge and pass on more to my own daughter.

There’s definitely some privilege there.  I understand that I was very lucky to have involved parents.  They could afford for my mother to stay home and raise my sister and me.  My father had a good job with benefits so he didn’t need to take any more employment.  My grandparents lived close and were able to retire, giving them plenty of time to teach me and my sibling how to sew, paint fences, weed, press flowers, etc.  Not only did we have access to green space, but we were surrounded by it and actively went on weekend excursions into the Adirondacks to learn more.  We went to the library and museums.  I realize not everyone is able to do those things for a variety of reasons.

I’m thinking about how I can help improve the situation.  Continuing to talk with my daughter about the plants and animals around us is a huge priority to me.  Reading and getting outside as I discussed in that recent post to improve my own understanding, for sure.  Perhaps I should do more with my own grove?  Going on a nature walk together and pooling our collective knowledge would be a great activity.  (Honestly, I want us to get out more together anyway.)  As a teacher, perhaps I should take my students outside.  Perhaps we’ll take advantage of the wooded trail on campus and keep a weekly or even monthly nature journal to improve their writing skills…  Simply getting outside and taking the time to observe can be so powerful*.  There are many possibilities.  Every little bit counts.

What are you doing to improve your connection to nature?  What else could you do to pass on your knowledge to others?

*I once took some little kids out on the playground with magnifying glasses just to observe the insects and spiders.  After calming them, they were entranced by a bumblebee, admitting that they never actually looked at one up close before.  It was one of the most amazing, humbling, and emotional experiences to me as a teacher.

 

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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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We’re thinking about starting to decorate our home for the Winter Solstice today.  My daughter is very excited but there’s a little confusion, too.  Excuse me while I just share some of my thoughts.  Perhaps you’ve thought similar things, or perhaps you have ideas that could inspire me.
  She is now old enough to understand that Christmas is a thing. We enjoy watching popular kids shows together, so she’s been exposed to the dominant culture and she keeps talking about Christmas, Christmas, Christmas… Now, I’m not against her knowing about Christmas. It’s actually really important to me that she understands the diversity of the world. Much of our extended family is Christian anyway, so she needs to know why they do what they do. But… can I just be honest with you guys and say it’s frustrating? She’s constantly talking about celebrating Christmas now. Whenever she talks about getting Christmas presents, I say something like, “Yes, you will get Solstice presents.” I’m trying to gently show her what we celebrate in our home.  I keep telling her that they are similar, because they are and I also want her to realize that, but we focus on winter and the sun.  Still, most of her kid shows talk about Christmas, so that word is on the fore of her mind.
 
On a related note, I’m still unsure what to do about Santa. Yes, I love the Emerald Rose song “Santa Clause is Pagan, Too” – I get all of that. My concern is that I don’t really want to delve into the tradition of pretending to be Santa. That hurt me when I was little. I’ve been telling my daughter that Santa is a spirit of generosity who inspires us to be giving to each other. I say he “whispers in our ears and tells us to get gifts for each other to make people happy.” She seems content with that, but I know that will be hard when she starts going to school. As it is, her cousin, raised in a Christian household, gets gifts specifically from Santa, which will one day create an awkward but ultimately educational experience.
 
I’m not sure that I want to honor Santa like Odin despite the suggested origins and similarities.  I experienced some very strong UPG in which Brighid became hostile towards me working closely with Norse deities.  I am fascinated with Krampus but don’t really know what to do with that right now aside from enjoying the costumes I see online.  I like to think of Santa like a tomte or nisse from Scandinavia. My husband has Norwegian heritage, so it feels really good to honor that with Yule/Winter Solstice in our usually Celtic-focused home without upsetting Brighid and without giving Odin casual attention only once a year.
I’ve done some research on winter traditions among the Celts, particularly Irish, and know there isn’t a lot to work with. I tend to focus on the sun and Angus because of Newgrange, and An Cailleach because of the difficult weather in Upstate NY. I also know about some of the traditions that came to Ireland through Christianization – putting a red candle in the window to help Mary and Joseph find their way, and giving Santa beer, for example.
Our household traditions grow and change as my daughter does.  I feel like some of my personal traditions exist because I’m clinging to something from my childhood while also trying to create something that makes sense in the context of my religion and lifestyle.  Winter Solstice has become strange to me, but still exciting.  It’s interesting, and I welcome the challenge because it forces me to really think and consider all I do, but it’s also frustrating because I don’t want my daughter to feel as bruised about it all as I was once upon a time.  I worry about her going to school and all the confusion that may bring.  Or maybe that’s me projecting my own confusions and frustrations onto her?  I’m still trying to figure that out as I’m sure many first generation Pagan parents are.
Time for me to dig out that story about Brighid and Santa from an old Oak Leaves…
What do you do for the Winter Solstice with your family?  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow ADFers and/or Celtic polytheists who have children.

 

 

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My daughter chose the colors and then wanted to add extra features with a marker.  She also poked it on the top of its head, but it still works!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

When Samhain / Halloween decorations and materials started showing up at the craft stores, I snatched up one of those small, papier mâché skulls.  At the time, I didn’t have a project in mind, but I knew something would come to me.  It wasn’t until my daughter was playing with it that we stumbled upon its purpose, which makes sense given the (very informal) research I’ve been doing on rattles.  She put some toys inside the skull and shook it.  She said she wanted to make a rattle like her egg shaker.  I thought that was a brilliant idea.

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Gathering materials.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

Materials:

  • A papier mâché skull
  • tissue paper cut or torn into small pieces (a toddler will happily help you tear)
  • dry beans, beads, small stones, or other filling to create the rattle sound
  • modge podge or tacky glue
  • a paint brush or two
  • an old plate or tray
  • markers for additional decoration

Pour some glue or modge podge into your old plate or tray.  Using the paintbrush, work a layer of adhesive onto the skull.  Bee wanted a paintbrush too, so we worked together.  As you paint, smooth pieces of tissue paper over the glue. Make sure you put your dry beans (or other filling) into the skull.  Gradually cover the openings in the skull with several layers, taking care not to puncture the wet tissue paper. You may want to do the top first, let that dry, and then do the bottom for easier handling.  Once the whole piece is dry, you may want to decorate the skull to bring out its features. We did not add a final layer of gloss, but I think it would be a good idea to preserve your piece.

I enjoyed making this instrument for a variety of reasons.  It was a fun, easy project to complete with my daughter.  At three, she’s learning to cut, so she had fun practicing with scissors and tearing tissue paper of her choosing.  It’s a great use for wrinkled, torn tissue paper  if you’re like me and try to reuse everything until it’s falling apart.  I would like to make more rattles year in different colors – white and black, perhaps.  It could be a fun grove craft project.

The skull rattle joined us at my grove’s Samhain celebration.  Bee and I played it while we chanted.  It doubles as a seasonal decoration.  We’ll have to keep our eyes open for more papier mâché shapes appropriate for other celebrations.

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I traveled to Lake Placid with my husband and daughter this past weekend. On our way, we stopped to climb Mt. Arab near Tupper Lake, NY. It’s a small mountain, but the trail is maintained, it’s very family-friendly, and the view is worth it.  Plus, it’s part of the Tupper Lake Triad!  Completing it will motivate us to hold onto our dream of becoming 46ers (someday)!


We had a picnic lunch near the summit. We were blessed with a beautiful autumn day – it was even a little warm.  Something about sitting on bare mountain makes me feel closet to Mama Earth.

There’s a fire tower at the top, allowing for even more spectacular views of some of the high peaks of the Adirondacks in the distance. The photos doesn’t do it justice, unfortunately!  Bee grew fearful of the wind up in the fire tower, so I didn’t get to gaze out as long as I would have liked. Luckily, there are plenty of rocky areas with views such as the first image I shared. I could have sat there for while; I would have loved to meditate. Unfortunately, due to the agreeable weather on a weekend, it was a busy destination. Between that and Bee’s antsy toddler antics, I didn’t have a lot of time for quiet contemplation.

Still, it was a great opportunity to get outside and commune with nature in one of my favorite places on Earth. Bee did a fantastic job climbing the mountain. My husband carried her for a bit to the summit, but she did most of the mile round-trip hike independently. I’m so proud of her!  There was plenty of nature to inspire all of us – huge boulders, some with interesting patterns, tiny mushrooms, woodpeckers, and, or course, the magnificent autumn foliage!

Even though I didn’t get to treat the hike like a spiritual, stress-free retreat, I realize how lucky I am to take my family on such excursions. We are healthy, we have transportation, and we have weekends off to enjoy the outdoors together.  We live relatively close to the amazing Adirondacks!  This is the foundation, and I hope it helps Bee continue to form a meaningful relationship to the natural world.

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I’m generally not a fan of weather magic. Nature is full of give and take. Calling rain from one area to another could be detrimental if that other area also needed it. And nobody wants flooding… So what to do when there’s already a drought? I suppose praying for rain isn’t wrong. We do need it, after all…  

My daughter and I drew some rain clouds and rain on the sidewalk. I then chanted:

Rain rain

Come our way. 

Water the plants. 

Don’t delay!

Wet the Earth. 

Make some mud. 

Maybe a storm. 

Just don’t flood! 

Even better if we get some today rather than Saturday when I’ll be out all day at the FAE Fest!

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Wild 
Grain – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

Each Lughnasadh, I strive to harvest some of the wild grain from the hedges. Not only is harvesting grain traditional at this time of year, but I save it so my protogrove has something with which to weave Brighid crosses during Imbolc, six months later.  With the amount of snow we get in January and February, we won’t have any access to the nice green reeds traditionally used in Ireland!   So preparing for Imbolc is part of my Lughnasadh.  It makes sense – we harvest so that we are prepared for the coming months, after all!

My daughter was such a big help this year.  She’s learning to use scissors, so I let her use a child’s pair to cut the grass.  Bee enthusiastically embraced the task. It’s so nice to share seasonal traditions with her.  (I also found some blue vervain while we were out – a happy find!)

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