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Posts Tagged ‘Yule Along’

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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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Our Winter Solstice tree for the year! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013. Somehow twinkles were added… Oh well. It works.

The Ninth Day of Yule was dedicated to the evergreen trees. We remember the trees outdoors, home to other beings and shelter from the cold. They are a source of food for many such as the white tailed deer. Many people still use the white pine for tea as well which is  a great source of vitamin c in the winter.  Plenty of people chop down live trees and bring them in to decorate.  Sara Lawless shared her wonderful tradition of giving her tree, which she calls a sacrificial tree, offerings.  She then uses it as fuel and in her various herbal and craft creations.  I can definitely get behind that!  The folks at Muin Mound Grove don’t cut down a whole tree.  Rather, they give offerings then take off the top of one of the larger trees.  They do this very carefully so as to not permanently damage it.  This is also a sacrificial tree because, after the Winter Solstice, it is hoisted up their Maypole for Bealtaine, and then cut and given to the Samhain bonfire.  It’s a beautiful tradition that is tied directly to their land.  Weretoad, Bee, and I bring in our little potted dwarf spruce.  It’s wind damaged on one side, and the ornaments don’t hang on it like they would a larger tree…  So it may look rather pathetic to some!  It’s become a tradition in our home, though, and it works well considering we only have so much space.  We love it and enjoy decking it out with a handful of meaningful ornaments.  This year we added some new decorations that were gifted to us by loved ones, including several grovies!  On the Ninth Day of Yule, we spoke words of thanks and praise and put our gratitude and love into a cup of water.  We gave the water to the tree and drew our omen for September.

Observing the Twelve Days of Yule continues to be a positive practice.  It’s helped me get back into a regular routine and has made devotionals a family affair.  My husband has joined me each night and held the baby.  They’ve both helped with divination, and Weretoad is even learning the words.  It means so much to me!

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I hope everyone has been enjoying their Yuletide season!  We just returned from a lovely visit with family.  It is always difficult for me to keep up with rituals when I return home, but I did my best to be mindful of the days.

The Sixth Day of Yule

This day was dedicated to the house spirits which was apt because we prepared to leave home.  I did my best to tidy up a little and made offerings to the house spirits and prayed that they protect everything while we were away.  Upon returning, we gave another offering in thanks for that protection.

The Seventh Day of Yule

My family celebrates Christmas.  Some are Christian and attend mass, while others are agnostic or atheist and embrace it as a secular holiday.  Observing the Twelve Days of Yule has helped me better reintegrate the day into my own practices.  As so many have already said, gift giving is an ancient winter custom and, when you have family who celebrate Christmas, it’s difficult to avoid doing it ont he 25th of December!   This was a day to honor the spirits of generosity and abundance.  For me, that would include the modern amalgamation that is Santa and An Dagda of the Tuatha dé Danann.  While I did not get to make an offering until returning home, the spirits of generosity were very much present.  We received many lovely gifts and I had fun giving my family some handmade items such as this table runner I quilted for my mother.

Photo Dec 25, 1 55 46 PM

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

The Eighth Day of Yule

A time to honor the spirits of snow and ice!  Driving home from our visit, lake effect snow started to hit our region.  Big fluffy flakes have been falling upon the land, covering the crusty layer of ice from earlier in the week.  The North Country hasn’t fully thawed out.  The ice still clings to buildings and trees.  Many of the later are still bent over and, in some cases, broken.  I looked out the car window and thought about An Cailleach and all of her power.  The snow and ice is all at once beautiful and destructive.  These weather conditions are good reminders for the many seemingly opposite qualities of magic, myth, and nature.

I had hoped to go for a walk in the snow today, but scheduling, slippery ice, and baby care made that difficult.  We poured offerings for An Cailleach inside and spoke words of praise.  

 

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Seed, herb, and apple mandala. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Today is the fourth day of Three Crane Grove’s “Yule Along,” and I’m still following! Today is a day to honor the Nature Spirits. Here in Northern NY, it’s certainly a good day to do that. We’re experiencing a big ice storm. The ice casing everything outside is literally 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick! Nature is both beautiful and deadly. Many people have been or still are without power. (Thankfully, we still have power and a warm hearth and home… but the lights have flickered a bit…) Many trees outside are bowed over with the weight of the ice. Many are broken. The roads are slick and people are urged to stay in except in cases of emergency. Days like today give me pause. Despite the cold, the freezing rain, and the miserable conditions outside, Nature will persevere. The plants will be reborn in the spring, and there will still be deer, lady bugs, chickadees, and coyotes when the ice melts. How do they survive? It just amazes me.

As a small offering for any small creatures out looking for something to eat that isn’t encased in ice, I made a little mandala out of seeds, dried apples, and herbs. The act of making a mandala, however simple and rustic mine is, required me to take off my gloves to place the items. I stooped over for a few minutes to do this and, while it wasn’t that long, it was time enough to meditate on the survival of our brother and sister Nature Spirits.  I wish them strength and thank them for inspiring my own strength.

And just to give you an idea of the ice we have, here are a couple photos:

One of our potted trees, completely iced over. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

A spiral of ice. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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Potion

Our beloved Potion. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 20??

 

Last night, we lost a very special little friend.  Potion the ferret has been one of our furry companions since my undergrad years.  I fell in love with her at a pet shop one day and couldn’t resist.  I had been researching ferrets already and was hoping to give one a home.  This particular ferret came from a breeder in Canada and was the only one at the independent pet store.  She was so tiny then…  And boy, was she a handful.  For such a little thing, she could sure bite.  She drew blood on more than one occasion, and it was only through the patient but stern training of my husband (who was still my boyfriend at that time) that she learned to trust us and have fun without chomping down.  After that, she was one of the most gentle little souls in our home.  She played with the cats, loved to explore inside the couch, and was always happy to lick our ears after a shower.  Later in life, she would show that same gentleness with our baby.  When she was younger, she regularly performed her “ferret war dance” with many a cluck.  Because ferrets are social animals, we brought home a friend for her – Puck.  They were the best of friends, although they also got into little spats.  It was a riot to watch them bounce around together…

When Puck passed away in the summer of 2012, it seemed like a little bit of Potion’s spark went with her.  Her friend was gone and she had less to do when we were away in the day.  We continued to take her out as often as possible and she still seemed in pretty good health.  She loved to chase and be chased by our little cat Samus.  When she got tired, she’d find a quiet place to hide and fall asleep.  This was always rather annoying because it happened before I needed to put her in her cage for the night.  It was a ritual that inevitably belated our bedtime. We used to have to coax her out by shaking a container of treats or gently kicking at the couch.  Sometimes she’d nip me through the fabric which always made my husband laugh.  She was gentle but could be a little spitfire too!

After I had my baby girl, we weren’t able to spend as much time with Potion.  We still took her out every night, but because we moved into a bigger house and had to attend to the baby, we kept her in our bedroom.  After a little while, I noticed that she was less active and seemed to be out of character.  She didn’t bounce and cluck like she used to.  She was losing fur and showing all the signs of the diseases that plague ferrets, especially the elderly.  It was everything Puck had experienced, but at a very rapid and sudden pace.  She continued to hide and fall asleep every night.  Some days it was hard to find her again.  I always feared I’d stumble upon her already dead.  I made a special point to tell her I loved her and gave her extra cuddles before bed just in case.  Puck’s death was a surprise and I’ve always felt bad that I wasn’t able to say goodbye…

A few nights ago, I noticed Potion was really out of sorts.  She didn’t seem to be eating or drinking as much.  Her stool was different.  She hardly wanted to move. I cuddled her close and stroked her head, looking into those little beady eyes that always shimmered with so much love.  I felt awful for not being able to do more for her.  Between all of our debt and medical bills, we just didn’t have the money to take her to the vet for tests that would only tell us what we already knew.  We opted to offer her the best comfort we could until the quickly approaching end.  We modified her cage so she didn’t have to climb to reach anything.  I carried her with me to the sink and gave her water right out of my hand.  We gave her soft treats which she still showed a great love for.

Last night I cuddled her close and whispered my love to her.  I noticed a couple of her nails looked long so I trimmed them to try and keep her comfortable.  I helped her into her hammock , stroked her little head, and said goodnight.

This morning I found her cold and still.  I pray she didn’t suffer long and I hope she knew how loved she was.  I hope she knew how much joy she brought to us even though the end was hard and she did not get as much of our attention after the baby.  Because it was anticipated, I don’t feel as shaken as I did when Puck passed away.  I had time to really come to terms with it.  I also firmly believe that Puck was waiting for her.  A few nights ago, she did something she’s never done – something that was Puck’s specialty: she stole something rubbery- my husband’s nice earbuds.  I was struck by how odd it was for her.  It’s like she was playing with Puck.  And last night, before going to bed, I picked up my baby and randomly started to sing “Reunited” by Peaches.  I feel like Puck was here, waiting to be reunited with her old friend.  And indeed, when the ground thaws, I will put Potion next to puck in the moon garden.

In case you’re wondering, no – I’m not planning to bring any more ferrets into my home.  Not now, anyway.  They are adorable and clever, it’s true.  They make me laugh and have so many good qualities.  They really do make great pets, however they really need a lot of attention and care – something I just can’t do with a baby.  So if you’re interested in caring for ferrets, please know that they need a lot of work.  Think about your current lifestyle as well as what you aspire for.  Think about whether or not you’ll have room in your budget for the end of life care they often need.  I didn’t think about that in college but I did the best I could …

As we enter the second day of the 12 Days of Yule and I place mementos of her around my Ancestral altar, I’m reminded of how precious life is.  No matter what you celebrate, take some time to show everyone in your life, including your smallest family members and friends, that you love them.  You never know when they will be called to the Otherworld.

 

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YuleAlongDay1

Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

If you read my post from yesterday about getting ready for the Winter Solstice, you’ll remember that I’m (virtually) joining with the Three Cranes Grove to take part in their annual Yule Along.  Today is the day to begin and welcome the winter wanderer.  Since a day to celebrate winter and snow comes later, I felt that, although An Cailleach fits the role of winter wanderer, she is better suited to the later.  Instead, my family gave offerings to Manannán mac Lir.  As a gatekeeper deity, it seemed fitting to honor him as we start our winter festivities.  We prayed that he help us focus on the Kindreds and the truly important aspects of the season rather than becoming distracted by anything that would close the doors on our spiritual connections – gift anxiety, family drama, baking stress…

We also decided to adopt a tradition our German grovie Holda taught us.  Each day of the Yule Along (essentially the “Twelve Days” everyone sings about), we’ll draw a card that corresponds to one month of the coming year.  Tonight we drew a card for January 2014.  The boar brings tidings of challenges but also the warrior spirit, indicating that we have what it takes to survive.

You’ll notice I haven’t had a chance to decorate my altar yet.  By the time we finished dinner, it was dark out and we needed to get groceries for our feasting! Thankfully, my other grovie Tara gave each of us a rock painted with mistletoe!  That is on my altar and standing in for all the beautiful greenery I’ve yet to collect.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow.  It is “Mother’s Night” and I’m going to honor my own mother, my ancestral mothers, prepare the home and, somehow, make some time for myself.

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I’ve decided to try and reinvigorate my spiritual practice by joining the Three Cranes Grove and their “Yule Along”.  They came up with a Norse-inspired schedule but have invited others to experiment with their own hearth cultures.  So as I prepare for my normal Winter Solstice celebration, I’m also preparing for several days worth of spiritual work.  It will likely consist of a lot of offerings and prayers.  If possible, I will meditate.  My plan is to work with my husband to set aside some time each night for quiet contemplation and togetherness.  No tv, no video games, no movies, no social networking.  Thankfully, this falls during my holiday vacation so I will have more free time throughout the day!

As I gear up, I am going to make sure I have enough offerings.  I’m also going to add some seasonal decor to my altar in the form of evergreen boughs.  Finally, I am planning my family Solstice meal.  This year, I’m preparing to make a quiche.  Weretoad has expressed an interest in making pecan pie – one of my favorites!  I also want to start some new Solstice traditions that Bee can enjoy for years to come – family games, story telling, and maybe some singing.

Here is the rough draft of my schedule:

12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer – I am going to make offerings to Manannán mac Lir as the gatekeeper, tidy up the home, and mentally prepare myself

12/20 Mother’s night/Solstice vigil (which I can totally do because it happens on a WEEKEND!) – Call my mother, make offerings to my ancestors, especially my ancestral mothers, take a relaxing shower (since I’m a mother), and get ready for vigil

12/21 Solstice Day – family gathering with feasting and honoring Angus

12/22 Nature Spirits – take a walk outside and give offerings

12/23 Feast of Fools – not sure what to do here yet…  Thoughts from fellow ADFers who have done the Yule Along before?

12/24 House spirits – offerings and tidying up

12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – offerings to An Dagda and time with family

12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – another walk outside and offerings made to An Cailleach

12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – special offerings to the evergreen trees

12/28 God/desses of the household (Brighid) – offerings made at her shrine in my kitchen, meditation if possible

12/29 Shining ones – offerings at the main altar

12/30 Bringing in the boar (Lugh – deities/spirits concerning oaths) – offerings made

12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – a celebration with friends

1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time, putting evergreens back outside, cleaning the home, and thanking the gatekeeper

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