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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

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Sun shimmering on ice. Photo by M. A. Phillips 2020

As my path is bound to the land, I continually work to pay attention to the seasons. In Druidry and other polytheistic paths, we tune into the cycles. Tradition emphasizes agricultural shifts, but they are always linked to whatever song the bioregion is singing at the time.

In elementary school, teachers taught us about the four seasons. I don’t doubt that my parents taught me first, but I distinctly remember dividing a circle into four equal parts and filling it with different colored balls of scrunched up tissue paper in a primary classroom. Yellow flowers, green leaves, orange leaves, and white snow. As I grew up and embraced a polytheistic view, everything become more complex. In a good way!

Many of us modern Pagans subscribe to some form of the Wheel of the Year. I’m not here to untangle that cultural knot, but there’s no denying many of us celebrate roughly eight holidays. Some may practice more or less depending on cultural focus. Then there is the emphasis some place on the lunar cycle.

This time of year, where I live, it is still winter. While others around the globe post photos of flowers or spring floods, we have a foot or two of snow on the ground. In my opinion, February is the hardest month. Many of us in Upstate New York are at our limit of tolerance for the white stuff. Even while I strive to find the silver lining and embrace the Winter Crone’s lessons, her teaching is arduous and painful at times. February brings more daylight. The sun melts the snow, but the temperatures drop below zero at night. Each morning, there’s a new layer of ice. The photo above is my driveway. It’s a sheet of hazardous winter glass hungry for broken bones. To get to my car, I’ve started wearing a pair of ice fishing cleats.

Our winter is more nuanced than a picturesque Christmas card. December, January, February, and March each have their own defining characteristics. The Winter Crone performs a different spell for each and alters her teachings. Paying attention to the subtle changes can enrich our daily practice. As we develop a ritual of mindful observation each month or lunar cycle, we should start to notice patterns – seasons within seasons. These will fuel our traditional practices and perhaps inspire new customs.

 

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Today it was 1° Fahrenheit in my neck of the woods. The air hurt my face. While knowing that temperatures can and will dip lower didn’t make it any more comfortable, a delivery raised my spirits.

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Unboxing succulents! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2020

A pagan acquaintance recently posted about her subscription through Succulent Studios. In an age where there are subscription boxes for everything under the sun, the concept of receiving baby plants intrigued me. I don’t need any more plastic, shirts, jewelry, or candy, but I always want plants. I think it’s my nostalgic longing for gardening that sets in each winter.

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A “blue burrito” succulent. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2020.

I didn’t subscribe until I read more. The company strives to be as earth-friendly as possible. They don’t use plastic in their packaging which is something I value. They grow their succulents organically, and the pots are biodegradable. All the same, I’m eager to find them new containers. Follow my Instagram to see where I ultimately place them!

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Elegant blue chalksticks. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2020.

I tried to be really hip and video my unboxing, but I was seriously awkward. My final take begins with a really inappropriate sounding sigh. Then my husband pointed out I filmed it vertically. I guess I live up to my blog title! Perhaps I’ll record next month’s arrival. I’m already excited to welcome more green friends to my home!

EDIT: If anyone is interested, I have a referral code from Succulent Studios. It’s good for $5 off a box. Code = HQduA8slwwB

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Turning on the Heat

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The inside of one of our baseboard heaters. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019

Last weekend, my husband and I performed an annual ritual: cleaning the heaters and turning on the heat. We were extra thorough this year. He dismantled and even removed them from the wall to perform additional maintenance. I cleaned the inside, wiping the metallic vertebrae that distributes heat.

I used this time to reflect on how we warm our home in the colder months. For better or worse, the house we bought uses electric heat. As I understand it, we’re lucky to be on municipal power. The warmth doesn’t come from a central flame, but it is heat all the same – and that, in my spirituality, is Brigid’s power.

Perhaps, in the future, I will mentally prepare myself for this yearly rite. Maybe I’ll write a formal prayer with rhyme and meter to recite as I perform my chore. Perhaps I’ll do it some cold winter day as I reflect on how blessed I am to live in a cozy home. This year,  I didn’t make the connection that this could be a sacred act until I was in the middle of it.

As I turned the dial on each unit, I quietly prayed to Brigid – a simple declaration of gratitude for her warmth and safety. Though I lamented my lack of foresight, I walked away feeling satisfied – and warm.

 

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I felt stressed the last couple of weeks. Work has been a major contributor to that, but I also credit the extreme cold. It meant a lot of time inside, shielded from the sun. When the temperatures rose to the 40s this weekend (yay, heatwave!), I heard the call of the forest and needed to get out. I knew it was time when my family was getting on my last nerve.  Thus, I retreated into the woods.  I walked down the trail, admiring the mingling deer and snowmobile tracks.  I delighted in the songbirds joyfully welcoming the sun through the clouds.

I felt that I could breathe.

True to my Sagittarian sign, I’m frequently beset by wanderlust.  I crave exploration and adventure, and simply trudging around the forest on my own can satisfy that.  I slipped off the trail and just stood, staring up at the canopy of the arboreal cathedral. I felt so free and rejuvenated.

With the forest fresh in my heart, I’m ready for another week.

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I was brushing off my car, the wind whipping my hair around my face, when I caught myself silently grumbling about winter.  I actually really like winter, but I dislike driving in lake effect snow, and I don’t know of anyone who enjoys brushing off their car. As true as that is, I stopped the moment I realized that I was mentally whining and started to think about what I enjoy about the season.

  • Walks in a quiet, frosted forest.
  • Seeing animal tracks.
  • Big, fluffy flakes.
  • Feeding the birds in the cold of winter.
  • How prominent the evergreens become in our landscape.
  • The way the light hits icy water just right, making it look like crystal.
  • Frosty patterns on glass.
  • Dusty snow that easily falls away from the car on busy mornings.
  • How most insect pests hibernate or die from the cold.
  • Clear, gelid starlight.
  • Making snow people and snow fairies with my daughter.
  • Throwing snowballs at my husband, and dodging his retaliations.
  • Cozy evenings in with my family.
  • The anticipation and celebration of snow days.
  • The way my daughter’s eyes grow wide with wonder at the sight of snow.
  • How tough I feel for surviving Upstate NY winters every year.

Reflecting in this way made the challenges more bearable.  I hope I can still do this when January, February, and early March inevitably challenge us with even colder, icier days.

What are your favorite aspects of winter?

 

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An Cailleach is wide awake and busy! We woke to a winter wonderland.  My daughter got that excited, magical look in her eyes, and her chief goal for the day was go go outside and sled.  As for myself, I knew I had to make offerings to An Cailleach and get into the trees.

I had already made an offering of bread yesterday.  My UPG is that the goddess loves homemade bread, and she often demands it.  I thanked her for the upcoming beauty and lessons, and I prayed that she would be gentle to my family this year.

Today, after making some offerings at my altar as part of my daily devotional, I brought some maple whiskey outside and poured an offering to her.  I have a bowl in my garden shrine area.  It was full of snow, so it felt very appropriate. I then brought offerings of birdseed, peanuts, and apple outside for the nature spirits, including something for the deer who are sacred to An Cailleach.

The forest pulled me, so I let my feet carry me onto the ATV trail.  There were fresh tracks, but it was delightfully quiet when I was there – quiet save for the pleasant chirp of birds seeking food and a small, gurgling creek I hadn’t known was there before.  The silence of winter gives us the opportunity to explore forests in ways we can’t, or won’t, in the warmer months when they are filled with thorns, tall grass, ticks, mosquitoes, and such. I’m still getting to know the woods around my new home, and I’m glad I gave in to my wanderlust just a bit.

A gurgling stream created a meditative spot in the woods.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

 

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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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