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Posts Tagged ‘Winter Solstice’

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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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The family altar with some Solstice decorations and offerings. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

 

I would like to wish everyone a magical Winter Solstice!  I woke up a little early today to welcome the sun as it rose in Northern NY. The sky, once dark, lightened.  I watched as the sun gilded the tree outside my window.  I slipped out of bed and went outdoors with an offering of wine for the reborn sun, thanking it for its warmth and light.  Last night, before bed, we made offerings of cookies to the sun, Santa, and our maternal ancestors.  Weretoad, Bee, and I made the cookies using sun, snowflake, and star cookie cutters.  The latter was actually an heirloom passed down for generations.  After everyone was up, we shared gifts, sang, danced, and had a meal of homemade waffles and local syrup.  We will spend the rest of the day having fun.  Later, we’ll reflect more on the light and dark.  I hope everyone finds hope and joy in the sun’s light.  With so much negativity in the world, we have to focus on our own lights and cultivate them to make a difference in our own, small ways.

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If you’re a new parent like myself, you may wonder how you can introduce the Winter Solstice to your child, especially when he or she is still learning how to walk, talk, and get control of those little fingers! It can also be challenging when so much of what’s out there is wrapped up in Christmas, and you want to teach, embrace, and create traditions that are more Solstice-specific! Here are some of the things I’ve done or plan to do. Since all children are different, some activities may not be for your child. If you have suggestions, please feel free to share in the comments!

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

    • The most obvious thing to do is, of course, go outside and explore! What are the Nature Spirits doing at this time of year? Talk about it, even if it feels like a one-sided chat. Make snow people and snow fairies. Give seeds and fruit to the Nature Spirits.

 

    • Make some solar-themed, natural play dough!  I followed this recipe but I cut it in half and, instead of using factory-made food coloring, I put turmeric in the boiling water.  The result is a lovely pastel yellow.  Give your little one some sun-shaped cookie cutters if they’re ready for that!

 

 

    •  Make a Winter Solstice playlist.  Sing along and encourage your little one to participate in her own way – often through clapping or dancing!  Some of our favorites are an Irish instrumental version of “Deck the Halls,” “Santa Clause is Pagan Too” (by Emerald Rose), “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland.”

 

    •  If you have a Solstice/Yule tree (or bouquet), include your toddler in its decorating.  This may seem obvious to some, but name all of the ornaments you put up.  Talk about why they’re special.  Discuss any ornaments or traditions that were passed down by your Ancestors.  Explain why things are done. Why does your family include a Yule log?  Why do you have a Yule goat?  Why do you light candles? You may want to simplify your explanations, but at least try.  It’s amazing how many children don’t ever even consider the reasons for our customs.

 

    •  At the moment, we’re not planning to tell Bee that Santa delivers gifts.  Rather, as an animist, I’m going to teach her what I genuinely believe – Santa is a spirit of generosity.  He whispers to us, inspiring us to give gifts to certain people.  We will give the spirit of Santa an offering of cookies on the Solstice.  After we open the gifts, we’ll thank Santa for inspiring so much generosity.  This way, as Bee ages, she can enjoy the overall Santa tradition with her peers and not ruin their own family practices.  And as the song goes, “Santa Claus is Pagan too…”

 

    •  There are so many Christmas specials for children to enjoy.  What about those of us who celebrate something different?  For toddlers, I highly recommend the episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood entitled “Snowflake Day.”  The Neighborhood of Make-Believe celebrates a secular winter holiday that honors working together, the gift of friendship, and light.  Bee adores Daniel Tiger, and, as it’s based on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, the show is so wholesome that I don’t mind her watching it from time to time.

 

    •  If you’re up for a small mess, make some sun and snowflake shaped sugar cookies for the Solstice.  Adults can frost the cookies and then toddlers can help add sprinkles.

 

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

    •  Although your child may not be ready for using safety scissors, he or she could certainly scribble on construction paper before you cut them out into suns or snowflakes for the window.

 

  • There are many winter-themed toddler books out there.  There are some lovely titles that include textures so children can explore winter concepts with multiple senses.  Bee’s current favorite is based on an old classic, “Frosty the Snowman!”
Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

    • Speaking of textures, don’t forget the fun of a treasure basket!  Ideas of objects to include: white pom-poms, or felted balls of wool for make-beileve snowballs;  some big pine cones; a safe Santa figure; seasonal felt deity dolls (Angus or Cailleach could be an option); deer figurines; paper snowflakes; a small white pine bough; a child-sized Yule log; an image of the sun; photos of past family gatherings, …

 

 

    • Include your child, as much as possible, in your seasonal ritual. Last year, Weretoad held Bee while I lead our rite. She listened and observed. When it came time to take an omen, we actually let her pull a card out. This year, we may let her try giving an offering. You are the best judge of what your child is ready for when it comes to ritual. In my opinion, it’s never too early to start if you want to raise your child in your spirituality. Even if you don’t want to raise them in one path but merely want to expose them to what is important to you, teaching and modeling how to behave during a ritual early on can lay an important foundation for later when you may want to bring your family to an open circle, or even another person’s wedding or funeral. Children are capable of behaving and participating in meaningful ways during Pagan rituals, but it must be something regularly seen and experienced. If you haven’t already, start this Winter Solstice!

 

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

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