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Posts Tagged ‘Winter Solstice’

I’ve had a lovely weekend, and a great beginning to December.  I ended November by fulfilling a personal achievement – reaching my NaNoWriMo goal!  Between that and the busy holiday week previously, I needed this weekend to rest.  I’ve put my creative writing to the side for now, however a full moon meditation last night came with some very strong pushes to keep writing.  So, although I planned to take the month off, I don’t think that will actually happen.  Brighid says to write, so I must.  Today, however, I focused on catching up with grove business, housework, and taking a stroll through the cemetery behind my home.  That last bit was actually very helpful to my NaNoWriMo project as much of the plot revolves around a cemetery.

We’re getting into the holiday spirit here.  We picked up a wreath from a local farm today and adorned our door.  I’ve dappled with many arts and crafts, but making wreathes is something I haven’t really tried.  Perhaps I’ll make it a goal for next year.  I picked up some evergreen branches trees shed in our yard, but it wasn’t enough to make a wreath.  I brought them in to decorate my altar and shrine spaces, though.  I so enjoy bringing in some green.

Anyway, my daughter watches the Curious George Christmas special a lot, and it inspired her to make her own tree countdown, only for the Winter Solstice.  We had fun adding stars, snowflakes, hearts, red berries, and spirals.  It’s not terribly fancy, but it’s something special we did together, and it’s helping her learn about the calendar.

I hope your preparations are coming along well!

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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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Our Winter Solstice altar – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

I’m finally enjoying a somewhat lazy day today.  I slept in and have very little to do besides clean and work on some personal projects.  I did take advantage of my freedom and caught up on some grove business.  It gave me some time to reflect on what Northern Rivers Grove accomplished by offering our Winter Solstice ritual online rather than cancel due to threat of poor weather.    I would have preferred to enjoy a more physical gathering complete with our annual gift exchange and usual, delicious potluck, but doing this enabled us to keep with Isaac Bonewits’ vision of offering public rituals, even broadcasting them.  You can read more about the experience in the link above.  It was amazing to connect with a couple people, including a distance member, from other states.  We’re discussing the possibility of streaming more of our rituals.  Considering that older, more experienced groves (like Three Cranes) are doing it, it makes me really proud of what we are able to accomplish.

As we near the end of the secular year, and enter a new lunar phase at this critical time, I’ve been especially reflective about my spiritual development.  I realize that I’ve put a lot of my energy into transforming my protogrove into a grove, and facilitating as much as possible to keep us active despite some of the challenges we’ve collectively faced.  My personal spirituality started out really strong at the beginning of the year.  I was more actively working on study programs, but between work and motherhood (same old, same old, I know), I found myself putting grove business first to keep it healthy and growing.  I don’t really think that doing so has been detrimental.  It’s actually been extremely helpful in enabling me to develop my understanding of ADF liturgy, group magic, and divination.  Honestly, I think running a grove gives me an edge when it comes to completing certain exit standards in my education within ADF – so the work I put into Northern Rivers does not detract from my studies, but with my other life demands.

My concern is that I’ve let my hearth practice slip.  I’ve continued to keep up with my morning and evening devotionals for the most part.  I have brief lapses due to visiting family, illness, or other disruption to routine, but I’m proud of my discipline for the most part.  I had high hopes that I would really develop my trance skills.  I was for awhile, as documented here on my blog, but then I gradually did less and less.  Why?  Some of it has been laziness.  Why do I spend so much time staring at the abyss that is Facebook?  Some of it is that I’ve been incredibly inspired recently.  I’ve started to write fiction again – something I haven’t done with so much vigor and passion in years.  Of course, with the holidays, I’ve filled much of my remaining spare time with sewing and crocheting gifts.

I need to refine my discipline and rededicate myself to my personal practice.  Maybe an oath with repercussions is in order?  I also realize that I need to strengthen my bonds with Brighid and continue to give offerings of gratitude for all the inspiration she has blessed me with.  I’m envisioning magic to strengthen my creativity, crafting a trance tool that I’ve been dreaming of, and actually getting outside more.  All of these activities will feed my soul, make me a better Druid, and ultimately benefit my grove.

Be it so!

 

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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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Paper sun ornament made by my daughter. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Blessed Winter Solstice!  I hope you spend some time tonight reflecting on the gifts of the sun – warmth, light, and energy.  I’ve been talking to my daughter about what it all means, so making sun symbols is an obvious choice for a toddler Winter Solstice craft!  These simple sun ornaments can be decorations and gifts for loved ones.  Bee enjoyed making these, especially because it involved her new favorite hobby – finger painting!

Materials:

  • card stock
  • finger paints (warm colors)
  • a sun stencil – I used a sun/flower shaped cookie cutter
  • a pencil
  • scissors
  • a hole punch
  • yarn
  • other materials to decorate further if desired

Let your child attack the card stock with sun colored finger paints – yellow, orange, red, etc.  Bee enjoyed mushing the colors together to see how they interacted.  We let it dry for a few hours.  Next, I used cookie cutters to trace sun shapes before cutting them out with scissors.  Bee wanted to decorate them more.  I was amazed at her style – she drew a dot or line on each sun ray, and added some pretty decent spirals for her age!  We punched holes in them for yarn so they can be hung from tree branches.  I wrote a little message on the back and we are giving some as gifts from her to loved ones!  She personally picked out each sun, naming the recipients.

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Despite how sick I was feeling last week, I decided we ought to decorate our tree. We bought a potted tree this year, with the intent to keep her around. My husband brought our box of decorations out, and we hung all our memories. This is the first year that my daughter was visibly excited and able to participate. I put my Winter Solstice playlist on and really enjoyed myself, heavy cough and all.

Somewhere between the felt stars a grovie made and the stained glass Santa my late aunt painted, I realized that my family only really comes together to decorate a centerpiece for the Winter Solstice. My husband and I have always carved pumpkins for Samhain, but those go outside. We’ve almost always dyed eggs for the Spring Equinox, but not for decoration.

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Decorating our potted tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Many people share photos of their altars decked for the upcoming High Day. Outside of the Winter Solstice, and temporary altars my protogrove sets up, I don’t do a lot of seasonal decorating for the holidays. I sometimes put a couple things out on my own, but it’s not really a family affair.  Hanging memories on the boughs of an evergreen is symbolic and so very appropriate for a holiday that has come to symbolize light, family, and togetherness in the darkest times. Decorating with loved ones helps to focus our mental energy on the power and significance of each festival. It doesn’t require a lot of expensive, mass produced knickknacks either! Any holiday is a good time to embrace handmade heirlooms, traditional crafts, and what is naturally available outside.

I recently looked back at my spiritual accomplishments the previous year. Now for a resolution! In the hopes of furthering my own understanding and appreciation of all the holidays I celebrate, and to help engage my family, I am going to make a point to decorate our hearth altar for each season and occasion. I’m sure my toddler will love it!  Yes, this may mean yet more “altar porn” on the internet, but really, what Pagan doesn’t love it?

 

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December is such a busy month.  Despite my best efforts every year, my Druidic studies and routines become disrupted because of family celebrations.  Thankfully, my little tribe celebrated the Winter Solstice, but my usual morning routine of prayers, grounding, and shielding kind of went on the back burner…  Which is a shame because, Gods know, I need that shielding during such stressful times!  Furthermore, I started to feel disconnected from protogrove friends.  Everyone gets so busy in December, and not everyone had been able to attend our last ritual.  Even though I’m celebrating the season with people I love, I’m not often with individuals who understand me spiritually like my grovies.

All of this was weighing on my mind when I decided that I would get back on track today.  That meant a trip to the forest!  Oh, how I had missed it.  As soon as I crossed the threshold of bare thorn bushes and burdock, I felt all of my cares just float away, carried by the wind through the hemlocks.  The woods bring a certain clarity which is necessary during such busy times.

I made offerings of seed, grain, fruit, wine, and song.  I opened myself up to the energies of the forest.  I let the fires of the upperworld shine upon me, the waters of the underworld flow within me, and the strength of the oak grow beside me and support me.  I reflected on the protogrove omens from Samhain and the Winter Solstice.  There was a definite sense that people needed some time to rest and attend to their own matters.  We can’t always focus on protogrove matters, after all.  The group wouldn’t function if we didn’t also have time to ourselves, to tend to our own hearths and homes.  Rather than let that bother me, I needed to accept it as I do the quiet of the garden and the forest during the winter.  All things naturally wax and wane.

Today’s devotional omen really gave me some hope, though.  I drew the dog, cu.  To me, this signaled loyalty and friendship. I’m going to focus on that this week, and even cultivated it this evening when I briefly saw a couple of grovies to show support for them during a difficult time.  After all, Druidism isn’t all about ritual – it’s also about living a virtuous life.  Part of that is supporting friends in good and rough patches.

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