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Posts Tagged ‘Pagan parenting’

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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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016


This year, I’ve started to notice how many Nature Spirits interact with my garden. I’ve always observed frogs, toads, birds, sometimes snakes, and a variety of invertebrates in and around my garden pots, but this year there’s greater significance to their presence.  Upstate NY is experiencing a drought watch, and our family garden, watered once or twice a day depending on the heat, has become a refuge for several, such as the frog pictured above.  This guy has been in our garden for a couple weeks, hiding in the shade, and enjoying the moisture.  I suppose he would rather hang out in a very sheltered environment with plenty of food and water rather than risk crossing the very dry, very scratchy, very open yard that separates my garden and the marsh.  Honestly, that’s looking awfully dry this year as well…
Someone at work gave my husband a bird feeder as a gift a couple years ago.  Last year, I didn’t notice any birds using it.  I continued to add water and clean it as best as I could.  I’ve kept that up this year, and I have noticed so many birds taking advantage of the water.  There’s a robin family who lives in a cherry tree near our garage.  The mother and father frequently visit.  We also have a hummingbird feeder, a gift my husband gave me, and there’s a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds who often stop for a drink.  There’s even a sap-sucker woodpecker who likes to have a sip every so often!   It makes me happy to see animals benefiting from our garden, especially when there’s been so little rain.

My garden is also a shrine to the local spirits.  Our fairy garden grows as a representation of this.  My sister introduced me to Fairy Garden Chest, and we decided to try it out for something fun.  My daughter was so excited to get the box.  I usually don’t go in for mass-produced things for my fairy garden, but my sister was really excited about it.  I like to make houses and buy handmade, most of the time.  Those factory-made-things we have are often given to us, although I have a soft spot for gnomes and sometimes can’t help myself…   Creating this little pot was a project for me and Bee.  We transplanted some chicks and hens, and added some blue aquarium rocks.  A neighbor got rid of a fish tank months ago, and he spilled some of the stones in the driveway.  They sat there forever, so we decided to repurpose them.  Bee added some pretty stones she liked, and then the fairy moved in with her gazebo and watering can.  While making it, Bee was very concerned about making the garden fairies happy.  This brings about a lot of age-appropriate discussion on The Good Folk, respect, and safety.  I don’t actually see the tiny winged statues as accurate representations of them, but I like the whimsy it adds to my garden.  I suppose, if anything, I see them as more representative of the plant spirits.  It provides a nice focal point, something that I see as valuable for toddlers who may struggle with abstract concepts.  And, again, pretty.  We make offerings in the fairy garden.  We only put things out that are safe for Nature Spirits – a bit of something we baked, some milk, bird seed, herbs…  Each time, Bee either gives a hug to the trees, or waves to the statues.  It’s adorable.  I can’t help but think of how I interacted with statues of Mary and St. Francis at my old Catholic church…

As I witness more corporeal Nature Spirits in and around the garden, and as the plants are productive and happy seeming, I get the feeling that the Good Folk and other local spirits are happy with us, or at least we haven’t offended them much.  There have been a couple times where I saw what looked like a person standing in the garden. Each time, they vanished when I fully turned to see.  There weren’t any neighborhood children around, no sound of their coming or going, and Bee was either inside or with me.  Both times it happened, I was very shocked and felt my body buzz.  Neither time did I feel threatened. Since this doesn’t happen often, and I am able to complete everyday tasks, I don’t think I’m losing my mind. There have been occasions in the wood where similar happened, and I instantly felt that I needed to leave.  This has been very different… more positive.  I hope I can continue to please or, at least, not upset the local spirits.

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