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Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

After many months of admiring from afar, I finally signed up with author Lora O’Brien’s Irish Pagan School. Another polytheist I admire, Morgan Daimler, recommended Lora awhile back, and I’ve been eyeing her website with interest ever since. I’m trying one of the free courses, Learn the Lore, first. They are short, based around 10ish minute readings with videos. Very manageable, especially for someone like me who is trying to revive my academic side of Druidry. I’ve kept my daily devotionals, but I really want to keep learning and reflecting. Hopefully this can yank me from my doldrums.

I’m going to try and put my reflections on here as a way to hold myself accountable, and to start blogging more regularly.

Yesterday, I read and listened to the first half of Echtra Condla. It’s a story I had read before, in one of the anthologies I possess, but hadn’t really thought much about. First of all, I love listening to Lora read. I am grateful to listen to an Irish person tell the stories, and to hear how the names are pronounced.

I was tasked to reflect on my thoughts in regards to the native, Irish lore and the Christian influence on them. Do I read the mythology specifically for the Pagan elements? Do I look for Christian allegory? Does the latter bother me? Etc.

I’m comfortable reading lore and knowing that there is a Christian layer. It would be wonderful if we had unadulterated, native Irish mythology, of course, but I’m glad to have what we have. It creates an interesting puzzle. I may not catch all the Christian influence, but I feel that the Pagan elements are so strong that to simply dismiss tales like Echtra Condla would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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My dairy-free crepes turned out well! I didn’t have any lemon to squeeze over them, but I prefer powdered sugar anyway. Photo by Grey Catsidhe

I’ve also found that I appreciate knowing what my more recent Irish ancestors did and believed, too. Learning their beliefs is just as important when it comes to honoring my ancestors. It seemed like no coincidence that I started this on Pancake Day. While I’m not Catholic anymore, I decided to make some thin, crepe-style pancakes to honor my ancestral traditions. (I tried a dairy-free recipe, and they turned out really well!)

I’m looking forward to day two!

 

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My child has been a bit of a handful lately, especially in the evenings.  It’s probably a result of too many things packed into a week, fatigue, and the excitement of the holidays.  The last couple evenings have been particularly trying.

In our home, we talk about Santa as a spirit of generosity and giving; Santa does not deliver gifts to our house.  The spirit inspires us to give to each other.  We honor this seasonal spirit during our Twelve Days of Solstice observation with prayers of gratitude and offerings of milk and cookies.  Tonight, after my daughter was being exceptionally bratty about bedtime, I took a deep breath, and calmly explained what many people tell their children.  She’s aware that most of her peers think Santa himself brings gifts.  Today I shared another piece of that story – that parents tell their children Santa will not deliver gifts if he sees them being naughty.

“Right now,” I said, “I sense Santa’s disappointment because I am disappointed, and we are wondering if we should not give  you some of the gifts we’ve picked out.”

Of course, she did not like the sound of that.

Then I took it a step further.  I told her about Krampus.  I think most of you know who he is.  If you don’t recognize the name, go ahead and google him.

“Many of our ancestors believed in the Krampus.  He is kind of a mean looking spirit who punishes naughty kids around the holidays.  He puts them in a bag and beats them with his sticks!”

She became visibly shaken by this story.  She asked if Krampus is real.  Now, as an animist, I believe in spirits, but I also believe in the power of metaphor.  My husband is very agnostic, and he feels it’s also important that we show our child different sides of belief and thinking.

So I say what I always say.  “Some people believe in him.  No matter what, the story of Krampus exists for a reason.  Long ago, parents told their children that Krampus would do those things because winter is hard.  If children don’t listen to their parents, and if they don’t help with the house, they could get very sick or die.  Other people in the house could get sick and die.  It’s important that we take care of ourselves, keep our bodies and homes clean, and help to make life easier for each other.  So in a way, if you are naughty, you call naughtiness into the house.  Naughtiness, meanness, dirtiness – it’s kind of like a spirit.  We can get sick, we get stressed, we get upset.  Santa is a different kind of energy.  He is joy, safety, comfort.  We want that kind of spirit in the house, right?”

I explained that it’s the same with school.  If you are a good student, you have a happier teacher, friends who want to play with you, a clean school, a safer school.  Being a good person who tries to help, rather than make like more difficult for others, is usually going to be happier.  There will always be exceptions, of course… but I think it’s important to understand the value of cooperation*.

That really clicked with her.  Do good things, attract good things.  Give good energy to cultivate it.

And you know what?  She calmed down.  Assured that we work hard to keep our home safe and positive, she finished her job for the night.  We went to her room, I read her a peaceful Winter Solstice story to remind her of the very happy energy about the occasion, said our prayers of good rest and protection, and it was great!  I reinforced just how enjoyable it was to quickly finish her bedtime chores so that we had time (and I had energy) to read a book and sing a song.

I’m not posting this to encourage other Pagan parents to go about things this way.  I just wanted to share my experience.  It was interesting. As I was talking to hwe, I realized I was verbalizing a belief that I hadn’t fully articulated in the past.  My relationship with Santa has evolved since I was a child, and I really felt close to that spirit tonight.  Krampus, too.  I don’t really think of him as a malevolent, evil being – definitely a spirit deserving of respect and distance.  But I felt I understood his purpose – to remind people of the importance of helping your family, working together to prepare for winter’s dangers, and to teach our children that there are consequences beyond simply losing a momentary pleasure like television privileges.  It was also probably one of the deepest conversations we’ve had about spirits, energy, ethics, and one’s reputation.

 

*Obviously, we want our daughter to feel comfortable with being independent, taking positive risks, not going along with peer pressure, etc.  But that’s a different sort of lesson.  I just wanted my daughter to brush her damn teeth.  LOL

 

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Emerging hyacinth.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

For the last decade or so, my Bealtaine celebrations have been punctuated by an explosion of green. Every year, I dance the Maypole, all the while taking note of the leaves finally reaching out in praise of sun and rain. This year, I did not dance the Maypole until the weekend after, but I spent the 1st welcoming signs of spring at my new home. This was our first Bealtaine here. My daughter helped me greet the flowers we planted in the autumn. We spent so much of March and April looking at their bed with longing; it was very satisfying to see them emerge and eventually blossom into a colorful display!  The bees certainly approved of our efforts.

Giving offerings to Airmed.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018.

When working with my garden and the plants who grow around my home, my mind and heart swing to Airmed, a goddess fraternally connected to our plant allies. We made a space for her. Bee helped put offerings of gratitude in the little bowls we put out on her stone.

Outside shrine for spirit allies.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

My husband helped me move this half barrel into a corner of our yard. This followed us from our last two apartments. I’ve been placing offerings into it for years, and I even buried my ferrets in it. Renting, I had no other choice! So the little ones follow me, joining our spirit allies. I usually plant foxglove or woodland tobacco in it.

Our May Bush.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2018

This is a new tradition for us – it’s something we couldn’t easily do at our apartment – make a May bush! Ours is slightly different from traditional Irish May bushes, mostly that it’s not Hawthorn and isn’t something we paraded around. However, we tied some cloth to the branches of this established bush – mostly ribbons Bee helped me choose. We danced around it, thanked the local spirits, and prayed for good luck upon our home, especially in regards to the productivity of the land we live upon.  It was a show of love and gratitude for the patch of land we call our home.  The bush has since burst into life.  We have decided to treat the ribbons as we do those of our grove’s Maypole – which is based on the tradition of my first grove, Muin Mound – we will remove the ribbons around Samhain and put them into the fire, thus returning the fertility to the land.

Each High Day, I think back to how I spent it as a renter.  I looked forward to owning my own home and having space to establish deeper relationships with the land.  I did what I could before, with container gardens, a failed attempt at worm bins, and delving deep into the apartment complex’s wooded land to make peace there… but now I can finally live out more of my dreams.  We planted seeds in the earth.  We planted trees and blueberry bushes in the earth.  We have a compost pile.  Finally, finally, I can start interacting with the yard I was so excited to work with when we moved in at the end of August last year.

 

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Last year, I took a personal day on the Winter Solstice. This year, I used one for Samhain and don’t feel right asking for tomorrow given various things happening at work. I’m mildly resentful tonight as I work myself exhausted trying to make tomorrow a fun and memorable day for my family. I still have things to do for family and friends who celebrate Christmas instead, but I’m ready for our family celebration. I even have dinner ready to cook in the crock when I get up. That way, I can return from work and just relax (while sewing and crocheting some gifts). 

Working tomorrow means no attempt at a vigil tonight, but we did continue with some new traditions from last year. We made sun and snow sugar cookies. I read Bee a Solstice book before bed, then sang her the Pagan “Silent Night.” We made an offering of a cookie to our Ancestral Morhers, turned off all the lights, and thought about the longest night, darkness, the sun, and rebirth. 

I’m exhausted, but it’s worth the effort. Enjoy your longest night! Whether you stay up or rise early to greet the reborn sun, may you take a moment to give thanks for the miracle that is the sun and our very existence as we loop around him each year. 

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Three Cranes Grove is doing their annual 12 Days of Solstice-Along starting tomorrow!  Like other ADF Druids, I try to follow along in some capacity each year.  Now that my daughter is a little older and more aware, I wanted to do something different to make it very kid-friendly and also help us keep track of the days.  Browsing the internet, I saw that several people make paper chain advent calendars, so I thought – why not!?  It’s something the two of us made together using some of her construction paper.

It was also a fun way to review numbers with her. I wrote a number (1-12) on each strip of paper. She added decorations of suns, snowflakes, and happy faces. Inside each loop, there is a very short description for the day’s focus. I basically followed past “Solstice Alongs,” but I changed the 11th night from “Bringing in the Boar” (which I always struggled with) to a night to honor the Ancestors.

Here’s my plan this year:

12/20 Mother’s night/Solstice vigil – Call my mother, make offerings to ancestral mothers, take a relaxing shower (since I’m a mother), and make a point to discuss darkness when we turn off all the lights before bed. Vigil? On a work night? Haa…. I wish.  Maybe we’ll make some paper suns tonight.

12/21 Solstice Day – I will rise and get ready for work, but take some time to greet the sun with prayers and offerings.  We’ll later have my family gathering with feasting. I told my daughter we will celebrate the sun’s birthday today. We will exchange gifts.

12/22 Nature Spirits – We’ll take a walk outside and give offerings to the spirits.  Perhaps we will wassail the trees?

12/23 Feast of Fools –  I think we’ll emphasize doing fun, goofy things, and in the spirit of Saturnalia, we’ll let our daughter make some big decisions. Oh boy…

12/24 House spirits – We’ll make offerings to the house spirit (first time here!) and tidy up a bit.  We’ll also give an offering to the spirit of generosity in the form of Santa Clause.

12/25 Sun Child – I read that the original creator of the Solstice Along tweaked this day to honor the sun child. We will make offerings to Angus this day and visit family for their other celebrations.

12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – We’ll plan to take another walk outside and make offerings to An Cailleach.

12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – We’ll make special offerings to the trees. If we didn’t wassail earlier, we’ll do it today for sure!

12/28 God/desses of the household (Brighid) – We’ll honor Brighid and thank her for keeping our home warm.

12/29 Shining ones – We’ll honor the gods and goddesses our tribe honors at the main altar.

12/30 Honor Ancestors – This was the “bringing in the boar” day, but I’ve decided to make this an occasion to honor all my ancestors.

12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, and saining the home.

I hope that making the chain will help my daughter feel more involved.  I’ll share some reflections later!  Best of luck as you prepare for your own celebrations.

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We put up our Winter Solstice tree last night. My daughter was so excited. This is the first time in many years that we’ve had a large tree or used lights. The new LEDs are supposed to be better… Having a young child made us nostalgic, so my husband and I felt the tug to add more of the seasonal whimsy to our home, for better or worse.

It’s always fun to hang ornaments. I treat it as a ritual. We put on some seasonal music. This year, it was the Nutcracker. My daughter is absolutely obsessed with it. She doesn’t know that we’re going to see it around my birthday. An experiential birthday gift for me, and an early Solstice gift for her and my husband.

As we listened to Sugar Plumb Fairies, flowers, snowflakes, and rampaging mice dance, we reminisced about each ornament. Every trinket is a reminder of someone or an occasion. There are some of my childhood ornaments that take me back to a simpler time, but also connect me to my daughter in new ways. We both love Simba, now.  There are ornaments to commemorate events, such as my first Solstice with my husband and our wedding. There are handmade gifts from friends – crocheted snowflakes, felted stars, painted dragons, sculpted ferrets, thread-wrapped fairies and mermaids… There’s the Santa ornament hand painted by my late aunt. The tree becomes an altar to our happiest times. Illuminated by light, we gather together with loved ones, and we tell the stories of winters past. For the next twenty-five days, we will put gifts for the important people in our lives below the boughs.

The whole process encompasses the spirit of the season for me. Magic. Togetherness. Light. Giving. Gratitude. The promise of renewal. Preparing is half the fun.  And this year, we added a new ornament already – a little Clara holding her Nutcracker Prince.  It will represent another memory.

Our 2017 Winter Solstice tree.  Yes, that is a Yule Goat.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

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I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and it’s largely because I’ve been so busy with projects. For one, I’m all about costumes. As a large part my family’s celebration involves dressing up, I put a lot of time and energy into costumes for my daughter and myself. I’ve also needed to finish editing and revising the book I had been working on for about a year. As today is November 1st, NaNoWriMo kicks off, and I’m participating! I wanted to finish the first book before beginning the sequel. It feels very appropriate to start a new spiritual year with a new writing project to feed my soul.  An omen from my Ancestors spoke directly about listening to my inner call, after all.

I also completed refinishing a cabinet that became my altar in our new home. I made it my goal to have it up and ready by Samhain, and it feels good to have accomplished that. It is in our kitchen, the spiritual center of the home. There are still things I want to do to improve the area. I intend to hang my tree tapestry over it, and I would like to install a small shelf or two nearby to act as shrines.  But having it up, painted, and filled with all my tools helps me feel more settled.

Our jack-o-lanterns kept away all the mischievous boogies.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

We kept our tradition of carving pumpkins. I also carved a turnip for inside and outside our home. I brought one up to the border between us and the cemetery, but I waited until sunrise Samhain morning. Last night, after my sleepy trick-or-treater fell asleep, I went outside to peek at the land under the light of the moon. I could just barely make out the headstones, but something kept me from going up there. They wanted their space, it seemed.  When I placed the turnip at the border, I made sure to also bring offerings of drink and apple for the dead who wish us no ill.  I still need to go for a walk in the cemetery itself.

 

Set up our Ancestor shrine just in time!  Photo by Grey Catsideh, 2017.

Along with my main altar, I also got the Ancestor shrine sorted. I have some photos to hang, but it’s mostly the way it was at the old apartment. My daughter helped me make offerings, both last night and this morning. I made pancakes for breakfast today, and she got a little bowl for all of us to put some in. She also stood with me before the shrine to welcome the beloved dead and thank them for their continued guidance and protection. While she slept, I did divination as is traditional. It looks like a good year is in store for us. I certainly pray that comes to pass!

Our Samhain festivities will continue this weekend when we gather with our grove to celebrate.  It’s always an emotional ritual as we call to the newly deceased.  I think I should add a box of tissues to our supply box…  Still, it will be cathartic.  If we don’t confront death head on, life is unbalanced.  Besides, we have much to celebrate, too!  Our beloved dead come back to us, and we have much to learn from them.

I hope my readers have a blessed Samhain as well!

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