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Posts Tagged ‘Winter Solstice’

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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Even though I had to work during the Winter Solstice, I made the most of it by greeting the sun from my darkened office.  I put on “Here Comes the Sun” and sang along.  It was an offering and a devotional. When the song ended, I stood in quiet contemplation at the blue sky streaked with yellow and blush.  Later, I poured wine, gave bread, lit candles, and had a lovely feast with my family before opening gifts.

Today, I once more thought of the sun as I rose for work.  Today, he was hiding behind gray clouds.  I was reluctant to go in since it was snowing a lot and the roads were dangerous.  When I reached work, I was distracted by prayers of gratitude for making it in safely.

In keeping with our 12 Days of Solstice, we’re honoring the Nature Spirits today at my home. It’s hard to ignore the beings of the season when they’re literally smacking you in the face and piling up in front of your home.  The spirits simultaneously threaten our lives with ice and kiss our cheeks with cold.  Now that I’m home safe and off the roads, I look forward to taking a walk  in the woods later.  There’s something calming about the frosted, still trees in such weather.

When I returned home yesterday, I saw a deer at the entrance of the trail.  She was eating a pumpkin left there.  I immediately knew where I would later make offerings to An Cailleach.  This morning, I left my home to hear the call of an owl before I headed out into her storm.  The Winter Crone is definitely all around us. She is on my mind quite a bit this time of year.  She calls, as she does each wintertime, demanding my attention.  She teaches humility.

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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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Solstice Countdown 

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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