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Posts Tagged ‘Yule’

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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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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My Family Gets Me

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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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A blessed Winter Solstice to my readers! The sun is reborn and we rejoice in the lengthening days!

Hoof prints guide me. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Yesterday was a hard day for us because of Potion’s passing.  But we persevered and, after a long day of work, delved into preparations for today.  There were gifts to finish, floors to clean, and evergreens to be collected.  Although an ice storm was on the way, and the ground was already starting to freeze, Potion’s death made me want to take a walk in the woods even more.  As I told my father, who offered to come with me, sometimes I like to go alone.  Getting away from other people and spending some silent time with the trees can be very meditative.  It also allowed me to get in touch with my spirit guide.  The snow was crusted over and hard, but I followed the deer tracks in and around the woods.  I made offerings to my spirit guide and the local Nature kin.  I collected the evergreens from the ground, considering them gifts from the deer who pull the branches down to feed.  I have no need to cut from the actual trees.

A basket full of green! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

I added the greenery to my altar and over my hutch where my Yule goat and wooden sun hang out. In the future, when I have more time, energy, and Bee is old enough to help, I would love to gather enough to make big garlands to drape over the dining room window and along the stairway.

Following Three Crane Grove’s Twelve Days of Yule, yesterday was for remembering mothers. I put some special mementos and photos on my altar to pay homage to my ancestral mothers and the spirit of motherhood. I also took some me-time and had a warm, relaxing shower. Offerings were poured and words were said.

My altar grows ever more festive! Photo by Weretoad, 2013.

I was very excited to stay up and keep vigil for the sun, but between the emotional exhaustion, all the prep for today, and general infant care, I found myself increasingly exhausted. I went to bed but set an alarm and was able to greet the sun in my own way – singing “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison with Bee grinning ear to ear!  This was followed by some more napping, a breakfast of waffles, our gift exchange, watching “Love Actually,” and our Winter Solstice feast!  My wonderful husband, who is an amazing baker, made me a pecan pie as a gift.  I made a spinach and mushroom quiche.  Not pictured are the roasted potatoes I made or the salad my father put together!

Our Winter Solstice Feast. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Now we’re relaxing and hoping not to lose power from the big ice storm. It gives me a lot of extra time to finish crafting gifts for family. Speaking of that, if you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas or activities to do with little ones, take a peek at these great suggestions:

Pagan Ozark Mama teaches you how to make a “Yule Heart.”  If you are influenced by a Heathen hearth culture, check out her delightful wooden Sleipnir tutorial!

8 Magical crafts to gift or adorn your Solstice tree from The Magic Onions.  Here’s 8 more that use natural materials found in the wild!

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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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