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Posts Tagged ‘traditions’

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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We already went to the cider mill a couple weeks ago. It’s become an important autumn tradition to my family since we moved up here. The apple cider and donuts are decadent! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

Today is the Autumn Equinox.  It was chilly when I went outside to perform my morning devotional.  The leaves are changing.  Apples are ready to harvest in Upstate NY.  Be that as it may, our afternoons have felt particularly summery lately.  It’s tempting to run off to the beach this weekend, but I think we’ll return to our favorite local cider mill instead.

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The oak tree starting to change over our work-in-progress compost pile. Time to toss more brown matter on top! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

We’re mostly settled into our new home. There are still some boxes to sort through and rooms to organize, but at least we’re all moved in! As with all of life’s great changes, moving has disrupted my personal practice. I’m only starting to reestablish my routines, but it’s been difficult when my altar is still in a state of flux. That said,  I have everything I need  to engage with my spirit allies and give gratitude. That’s a huge part of what the Autumn Equinox means to me – giving thanks for what we’ve harvested all season.

 

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My outdoor shrine at the moment. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

In the meantime, I’ve set up an evolving shrine in my backyard.  The yard is one thing I’ve “harvested” that I’m particularly grateful for. It may not be acre upon acre of forest, but it’s safe for my daughter and relatively private. I have shaded areas thanks to some lovely trees, and I have sunny spaces for a garden. I plan to plant a small grove of trees in the back. There is a lot of untapped magical potential in the land. As much of nature prepares to sleep, I’m excited to see what will grow in the spring. I look forward to working with the land to create even more fertile spaces for my family and the nature spirits who already live here.

I’m grateful to my little container garden. We had a good harvest of potatoes and snow peas this year. I also have a decent pot of sage, and even some dill. We grew more tomatoes last year; moving really distracted me from carefully tending the garden as usual. Still, I’m pleased with what we have and the lessons I learned.

Finally, I’m grateful for the house itself! Last year, I didn’t think home ownership would be in the cards for another decade. My husband and I have worked so hard paying off debt, managing our money, and making ends meet. I may not have much of a literal harvest this year, but what did come into fruition is pretty darn spectacular!

I hope my readers have a very blessed Equinox!

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A mandala painted on a stone from Lake Ontario and gifted to my husband. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

For me, the Summer Solstice is a time of endings and beginnings. Vacation begins for me and many others in my field. Students go home. Several of my students moved on and I may never see or hear from them again. That was a hard pill to swallow as I had grown especially fond of some of them. We got to know each other over several years, and they were such good kids. The kind of youth that give me hope for the future. I’m so proud of them, and they taught me just as much as I taught them, I’m sure.  Such is the nature of working with kids in any capacity – they grow up and we must stand back to watch them fly.

“Rent” for Manannan mac Lir.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.


My routine changes over the summer. I suddenly have more time and energy. While teaching is in my blood and very much a part of my Druid identity, a long vacation definitely gives me time for other things that I am equally passionate about. My family feels up to taking more walks, and we have more daylight in which to do so. We spend more time playing outside, working on the garden, and visiting beloved mountains, rivers, and lakes.  I start meditating more – deeper, longer meditations that bleed over into trance states.  Just thinking about it makes my heart beat with anticipation.

Our Summer Solstice bonfire.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017.

Of course, there was, and will be, plenty of ritual involved. We had a bonfire Summer Solstice evening. It was just very casual, although I did sing as I kindled the flame. Later today, I’ll gather with my grove for a larger, more formal celebration. We’re once more honoring Manannan mac Lir and thanking him for the blessings of water.  The summer brings more opportunities for gathering with like-minded people to laugh, sing, and dance around fires.

Last night marked the New Moon. The omens for the day focused on change and, later, working with my own wildness to make me and my community a better person. I was struggling with some confidence issues earlier in the day. In transitioning from work-me to free-time me, and in the stress of all I had to accomplish to pass that threshold, I got a little goofy acting and put my foot in my mouth. I regretted it later, feeling foolish. I often worry how others see me. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what that means, how I want to be seen, and how to be true to myself. I did some midnight magical work in the garden to help me grow as a person.

I call my blog “The Ditzy Druid” for a reason. I can be a little quirky sometimes. It’s part of who I am. I don’t take myself too seriously.  After seeing “Moana,” I told my husband that I want to grow up to be like her grandmother, the self-professed “village crazy lady.” Despite her eccentricities, she is respected and loved. I think I usually maintain that balance, but we all know that our energies ebb and flow. I was a bit hyped up on all the new beginnings and got a bit silly. That said, I feel much better after my working last night, and sleep, the blessed medicine. The old saying is true: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Be you.  (But I also keep thinking about the words of Aaron Burr from Hamilton, “Talk less, smile more.”)

(For a little more on celebrating you and growing in confidence, I highly suggest you check out my friend Jen Rose’s blog entry on wearing what makes you feel amazing.)

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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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