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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

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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An offering of locally made whiskey for An Cailleach.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

We had an unseasonably spring-like Imbolc, but An Cailleach isn’t done with us yet!  Northern NY will experience some seriously frigid temperatures tonight into tomorrow, and we’re experiencing lake effect snow today.  Visibility has been pretty poor around my home.  Many local businesses and offices closed or never opened today, and I was fortunate enough to stay home.  Perhaps that colors my judgement today, but I try to stay positive about the winter weather.

Since I’m an animist and a polytheist, I find it really difficult to moan too much about what Nature does. It just feels seriously disrespectful. Sure, I grumble a bit when I have to brush and scrape the car, then drive in potentially hazardous conditions… but if I want to maintain a healthy relationship with Nature and the spirit realm, I need to find the silver lining and give gratitude for blessings known and unknown.  I need to accept Nature’s rhythms to truly learn and grow in my Druidism.

An Cailleach surely blesses us with snow.  Northern climates need this as it will help with the later harvest.  It helps to control populations of parasites and disease carrying critters.  Many seeds require cold to germinate later.  Furthermore, the snow and cold teachers us humility and patience.  In our modern world, so full of conveniences, few things shake humanity out of the illusion of control like difficult weather!  And really, I feel quite blessed to live in a place that experiences an occasional ice storm or blizzard compared to hurricanes or tsunamis.  Man oh man, it must be hard to find the blessings in that! (I’d be curious if readers in other climates and locations have found blessings and would be willing to share.)

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Snow Day Snowman – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

A snowy day is a great day to get in touch with your inner child, too.  Having a little one forces me to reconnect with the whimsy of winter!  Taking the time to catch snowflakes on our tongues, make snow fairies, and build snowmen is still so much fun!  (Although rolling balls for snowmen really makes me feel my age.  Choose the pain you’d like to experience later – knees or back!)

After making offerings to the Nature Spirits and playing in the snow, it’s so nice to come inside, peel off those wet gloves, and enjoy some hot cocoa.  My husband makes a delicious batch from scratch!  As I hold the mug, I feel Brighid’s warmth flowing into me.  I feel gratitude for the lessons and blessings that come with enjoying An Cailleach’s wintry weather and Brighid’s warm, sheltering hearth.

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Everyone goes crazy for pumpkin spice everything in the autumn.  Don’t misunderstand – I enjoy pumpkins too.  I love using their innards to make an orzo dish, cookies, or pie.  Of course, I love to roast the seeds.  But if pressed to choose, my favorite autumn flavor comes from apples.

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These apple fritters might not look fancy, but they tasted good! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

I took some time this weekend to turn several apples my family picked into jelly.  I decided it was a perfect opportunity to try the apple fritter recipes from the book Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen.  The batter is a simple mixture of flour, salt, egg, and milk.  Allen suggests using a deep fryer, but a frying pan with a layer of oil works as well – and it’s what our ancestors would have used*.  My family tries to eat healthy as much as possible, so we don’t do enough frying to validate us purchasing a deep fryer.  I used a wide frying pan.  It was definitely difficult, as the batter stuck to the bottom.  The results weren’t as pretty as they would have been in a deep fryer, but they were tasty!  I added a dusting of confectionary sugar.  The apple fritters tasted like a cross between baked apple and fried dough.  Definitely a nice treat!  As a bonus, all the cooking I did warmed the house up.  Perfect on a snowy, October day…

* The cookbook didn’t specify, but I suspect apple fritters weren’t an ancient treat…  Any thoughts?

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Offerings of love, corn, oats, tea, and an apple at the foot of the oak tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

As promised, I brought An Cailleach fresh, homemade bread. I wanted to make it extra special for the Winter Hag, so I stamped it with a snowflake cookie cutter before baking. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Our snow girl. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

The blizzard in Northern NY stopped this afternoon and we had some time to go out and clean up. The sun even came out for a bit! Bee and I took advantage of this to have some fun in the snow. We made a big pile and, inspired by this fun post I found on Pinterest, made a snow girl with an offering of birdseed and corn in her arms.

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