Reawakening- Reflections on Imbolg

So this winter has been wild. I saw a week or so ago that three cities in Ohio were among the 20 coldest in the US, one of which is our nearest metropolitan center. Early last week, schools and businesses were closing due to the extreme cold, and tonight we’re being told to look for 6-10 inches of snowfall. I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely feel like the Cailleach has her hands all over us this winter. It has been wild and unpredictable and extreme, yet I do see that coming to an end. It was in the 50’s over this past weekend, I totally felt like Brighid gave us a bit of a respite, a sign that, yes, this winter shall end.

Things have been a bit chaotic in our house, and so we didn’t celebrate Imbolg in any particular way. With having the poultry out at the in-laws, I do try to at least make time for some small rite to ensure their continued health and fertility (that’s my goal for this weekend). We just bought a house (closing next week!) and have been busily packing for our move. That, along with my return to school, E’s busyness at work, and the cabin fever and minor illness that has just lingered through the winter (sniffles, colds, and sinus issues), have just not made for a “good” time for celebrating. Though one could argue that it’s the perfect time to celebrate, we made it through the winter! I’m just not in the mood to be in charge of that celebration, and I think this is a hang-up all solitaries face.

But I have been reflecting on what it means to be pregnant at this time of the year. During my last pregnancy, I spent this time freaking out and going over all of my options (abortion, adoption, carrying to term), and didn’t spend much time thinking about how awesome it is to be pregnant at Imbolg.  We see the first signs of returning life, the first sheep are coming into their milk, soon we can put down our cold weather vegetables, and winter is nearly over! While winter itself is cold, we retreat into the warmth of our homes until we can reemerge into the bright warmth of summer, like a babe emerging from the womb. Due to the circumstances of my son’s birth, it is medically inadvisable for me to carry past my due date. So I know this baby will be here by Earth Day, we will be moved into our new home (hopefully) long before then, and we can take that time to welcome in the fullness of spring and the reawakening of the Earth. But for now, I can feel the baby getting bigger, and I know his time is coming, just like the Earth is awakening and preparing for another year of richness and abundance.

Samhain- In Review

I’ve had bits and pieces of this post lying around for the past month, and just now am finding the time to sit down and organize it all. Even starting as early as I did with my planning, Samhain still snuck up on me and I wasn’t totally prepared. Though, honestly, who is? But I would definitely call the celebrations a success.

So here’s how our family observance was going to go: I was going to wake up early and totally scour my house, saining as I went. A and I were going to spend the day listening to traditional and tribal music, make parshells, and go around in costume. Them I was going to cook a lovely dinner, lay out the Feast for the Dead, and eat with the family. After E and A went up to bed, I was going to bust out my drum, and do some meditating before launching into my solitary ritual service. Sounds like a wonderfully laid plan, right?

Here’s what really happened. A spent the previous week adjusting his sleep schedule from waking between 8 and 8:30 to around 6/6:30. I am not a morning person, ever, so waking up early was shot to hell. But we did get up, and what could have been cleaned in about an hour to an hour and a half, took a little over three. I’m convinced toddlers exist to disrupt cleaning. But the house was cleaned, if not sained, and ready for company. We did listen to some music, but then A decided he needed to watch every Thomas the Tank Engine movie ever made, so off went Pandora. We made no parshells, and my attempt at the masks I wanted to make flopped. But hey, the house was clean, and I kept the thought of the Ancestors foremost in my mind that day. I did make a lovely, delicious dinner, and invited the Ancestors in, and laid out leftovers as offerings outside for any Folk about that night. And then I crashed.

I did have the opportunity to attend ritual the next evening with a group that are Celtic/Norse influenced within a Neo-Wiccan/Eclectic framework. I absolutely loved their group dynamic, and the energy flow during the ritual. It began with calling the quarters and such, but there was an altar for the Dead, individual cleansing, deity invitations, and toasting, all of which I practice personally. Attending something like this that is led by a group that obviously has an understanding of the cultures and deities they were working with was a pleasant experience. Near the end, we went around and announced what our New Year’s resolutions were, and within the energy raised and the group focus, it felt binding. Mine is to find discernment and empowerment in the projects I undertake, to not let myself become overwhelmed, to let things flow away that I can’t control or worry over at that moment in time. So far, I’ve felt empowered, but not so discerning, because I still find myself taking on (what I feel to be) too much.

A few days later, I believe it was November 12th, we had our first snowfall of the year, and it was a real snow, not just a super light dusting that was gone by midmorning. I skimmed a bowl full of snow, and once it was filtered and melted, I ended up with about 6oz. of water. At least I now have water for saining.

Samhain I- The Ancestors

It’s October, yay! I don’t feel so bad about posting about Samhain, since it is less than a month away now. As a huge fan of Halloween (in secular practice), I always get really excited around this time of year. Which is something I think surprises my husband even now; he didn’t celebrate Halloween growing up (you know, because it’s Satanic), and I feel awful for him because it’s such a part of our pop culture. But now I’m faced with the dilemma of actually explaining Samhain to him, the kid who’s mom thought dressing in costume and begging for candy is all about the devil. And if you skim through some of the more readily available pagan books and possibly some of the more widely read websites, you see a lot of repeat and fairly shallow info on the holiday. Its the end of harvest season, the slaughter festival, the feast of the dead, and the time to look to the Crone/Dark Mother/pick your “dark” goddess.

While all of these tags have some merit, and I for one am very much not a subscriber to the idea of Maiden/Mother/Crone, none of them really delve into the meat or the “why” of any of these. So I’m going to commit a major research faux pas, and start delving a bit into my understanding of Samhain without citing my sources (I’m taking a day out of the house, and typing from a coffee shop), but I will try to remember to come back and add them in when I have a moment.

I want to start with feasting the dead, welcoming the Ancestors into our homes and honoring their life, death, and enduring wisdom. I know that there are some within the Reconstructionist movements that use the concept of ancestor worship/reverence as a front for racism. This is disgusting, and I think an awful, terrible concept. One should never be ashamed, ridiculed, or turned away from a spiritual path on something so trivial as ethnicity. With that being said, I believe that one of the ways we connect with our ancestors is through blood meditations. No, this does not involve slicing open my skin and bleeding myself to connect with any blood relatives in my past. For me, I combine visualization, rhythmic pulsing/drumming (recorded, because I don’t own a drum), and a dark room. It’s about turning my focus inward, finding myself, then reaching into my past through my blood to connect to the Ancestors. Now if you’re not of Western European descent, how does that work? I would argue that no matter our ethnicity, we share a common ancestor at some point. We also are impacted by archetypal Ancestors, who we can reach through ourselves but may not be blood relation. We know of instances of adoption and fostering Celtic Ireland and Britain, and my thoughts are that everyone that embraces a cultural spirituality is being adopted into the tribe (I do plan on addressing the concept of Outsiders this month). So we all share a collective ancestral tie. And just because your immediate ancestors may not be of Celtic descent, so what? That makes them no less important to you and your practice. While I, as a Pagan drawing inspiration from Celtic Ireland, Scotland, and Britain, chose a specific cultural group, its the mores and ethics that were held and have a rooted meaning in the culture that have kept me here. I just don’t think people should feel that they can’t embrace Celtic-based Paganism solely because they aren’t of that lineage.

While we say Samhain places a large focus on ancestor worship, how many of us actually see that as a part of many Samhain celebrations and rites? I know I haven’t, but I don’t have a connection to a diverse Pagan population. For me, worship and veneration of the Ancestors is the focal point of Samhain, especially those we have lost throughout the previous year. Samhain is about welcoming long-lost, and perhaps long-forgotten, family in for the feast, and assuring them of their continued legacy so they may rest easy until Beltane. Growing up, when I thought about death and heaven, I used to get really worked up about dying and being lonely. I obviously didn’t feel a personal connection to the Christian concept of God, so there really wasn’t a source of comfort in being with God. I knew my mom and dad, and all four of my grandparents (three of whom are still living), and numerous aunts and uncles. I felt really connected with my family, and to me, death was a wall between us. After finding a Pagan path, I’ve retained that connection (and actually felt more spiritually attached to my living family than ever before), but I’ve also discovered and developed a lifeline to my deceased family. We talk about the thinning Veil at Samhain, this is the time when we can use this spiritual lifeline to find our way to our Ancestors and help them to find us. It’s about finding and honoring family, the hospitality for each other, and the reassurance of enduring life and love. I honestly cannot think of a Pagan holiday more family focused than Samhain, and it just astounds me that it seems to be the hardest to find family-friendly rites for.

The heart of our Samhain rite in our household is inviting the Ancestors in for the feast, especially my husband’s wonderful great-grandmother who we lost this past April. Our son is so blessed to have so many living relatives (6 great- and step-great-grandparents, both sets of grandparents, numerous great-aunts and -uncles, an aunt and two uncles, and lots of extended cousins), and I want  him to grow up knowing this connection is deep and spiritual, and it lasts well beyond this thing we call death.

This Blog is Terrible (But Samhain is Coming!)

For anyone reading my ramblings, I really must apologize for how awful my blog looks. The sad thing is, I work in design (I know, yikes!). Sadly, while this little project is usually dearest to my heart, it often gets pushed to the side for the bigger, more important projects. My dear, wonderful husband (who I could happily flail for this) decided to move everything around in our shared office space, and completely disrupt all of my organization (even though I work solely out of the house, while he doesn’t). So for the past two months, very little progress has happened on any of my projects. I have laid plans however, to free myself some time to really get down and reorganize everything, which will hopefully lead to a prettier, better blog and more content. I also spent much of August praying to the porcelain god after having found out we are expecting another baby in April. To all the women who work through severe morning sickness, bless you, you are an inspiration to us all. And the one’s who don’t understand just how terrible this can be, I loathe and envy you. I was never this sick with A, to the point where I couldn’t function.

But autumn is finally here in Ohio (yay!), and that means Samhain is coming!! Sorry, we didn’t celebrate Mabon, A’s birthday usually falls on the first day of autumn, and I’m still wiped out from his party last Sunday (2-year-old birthday parties are surprisingly demanding). Since Mabon isn’t one of my “big” holidays, it kind of gets swept under the rug (also, I’m lazy and I hate balancing more than I have to). But I am gearing up for our first Samhain celebration as a family! I’m such a backslider pagan, I was always on top of the holidays before having a family, but these past two years have just been figuring out parenthood and marriage. I did tell myself when A was two or three, I would begin teaching him about my spiritual beliefs, because while I want him to be well-rounded, I do want to instill morals and values from my spirituality. Obviously, I think they’re important. So E (my husband) and I will be spending some time discussing our approach to raising A in our separate spiritualities without feelings of condemnation and guilt. But I’ve started planning our Samhain festivities, and am planning on recording much of what we do to share online. Keep an eye out sometime between Nov. 2 and Nov. 9 for that (though I hope to have some more posts before then).

Hopefully I will get into a more disciplined routine of posting, and this blog will look better by the end of next week. Now I need some pumpkin coffee and to start cleaning my office.

Being Thankful… All the Time!

So I realize Thanksgiving was, what, three weeks ago, and I never posted anything about it. But that’s okay, because even though it’s wonderful to set aside a day to give thanks for all that we have and the people we share our lives with, we should be celebrating and honoring all those things and people EVERYDAY. And right now, while we’re right around the half-way point between America’s two largest holidays, let’s take a moment to be thankful for the people we love, and take joy in celebrating our lives with them. I love this time of year; it seems like joy is infectious. But after the New Year is done, we all seem to come down from the Christmas/Thanksgiving high, and go back to being cantankerous old farts. This is one of the reasons I feel personal spiritual practices are so important; when we make time for our own beliefs, we make time to really focus on the things most important to us. Feeling obligated to participate in the same weekly ritual established by someone else doesn’t really force you to reflect on your beliefs, or to grow as a spiritual person. It’s just a mindless droning, which we need sometimes, but it’s stagnant, it lingers, it doesn’t compel us to do mighty things in our lives. But personal spiritual practices are first hard to establish, and then hard to stick too. I’m as bad as anyone when it comes to that, I “let life get in the way”. But life shouldn’t get in the way, our spirituality should get in the way of our lives. We should set out to live our beliefs every day in the things we do, and the way we interact with the world. And when we can do this, when we learn to walk thankfully through each and every day, then we will know bliss.

Happy Holidays, anyone who actually reads this. Whatever holiday you celebrate (we do a secular Christmas, and I am planning for a minor Yuletide).

Spring Cleaning

For me, spring cleaning is starting here, on the good ole’ interwebs. I’ve been meaning to get writing about my spirituality (a form of CR), my thoughts on parenting and religion (first baby’s coming in September), and some craftings, rites, and recipes. So here I am, attempting to clear out the mental clutter that seems to work its way into my brain every winter. But now the weather seems to be turning around, the snow is melting, and I’m getting more energized (thank you, second trimester)! Got all the potted plants sitting in the bright sunshine and started a more frequent watering cycle to bring them back from hibernation, made it into the veggie garden this past weekend between rainshowers to turn the soil, and as long as this weekend’s weather follows the forecast, we should start digging for the expanded garden. So its time to break out all the house and garden blessings for the spring, set up the new garden altars, and begin the composting/offerings again for a healthy bounty. Also with the coming of this baby, its time to start researching and writing any rites for quickening and birth, along with teaching CR and hedgecraft from the get go. Time to get down and dirty with it, again.